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THE SABBATH DAY
THE JEWISH SABBATH AND THE LAW OF WHICH IT WAS A PART
Though our views are widely different from those of most Christian people on this subject, yet let us say, we are very glad that one day of each week is set apart for rest from business and for the worship of God, without regard to which of the seven days is thus observed, or by what law or lawgiver it was appointed. We greatly enjoy the day, and think it not only a blessing to those who use it for worship and study, but also for those who use it merely as a day of rest and recreation from toil, to enjoy the beauties of nature, or to visit with their friends and families as they cannot do on other days.
But we must totally dissent from the idea of Sabbath common to the majority of Christian people, for two reasons. First, because if their claim that we are under the Law, of which the Sabbath day observance was a part, were true, the day they keep as a Sabbath, is not the day mentioned in that command. They observe the first day, and the command designated the seventh day of the week. If the command is binding at all, it cannot be changed, any more than any other of those commands can be changed. Second, If bound to the Law, we object to the keeping of the Sabbath in any other than the strict way in which its keeping was therein prescribed. If the command is binding upon us, the manner of its observance, its very essence, is no less binding. If the strict observance of it has passed away, surely whatever destroyed its strict interpretation destroyed the command entirely. So then, it should be observed with all its former strictness, so that even the gathering of sticks on that day would be punishable with death, now as then, (Num. 15:32-36.) and on the day prescribed and observed then, or else it has no binding force whatever: unless it can be shown that God, the giver of that Law, changed it himself. Men have no right to change God’s laws; no, not if an angel from heaven sanctioned it.
The Law stands exactly as it was given and applies only to those to whom given, or if it is claimed that it was altered in any degree, or made applicable to other people, the evidence should be no less clear and positive than that of its original giving at Sinai: and no such evidence of its change to another day, or another people, nor of any relaxation of its original severity, exists. On the contrary we shall find abundant proof that it was neither altered nor amended, but fulfilled and set aside, abolished by our Redeemer.
We claim that God never authorized a change in the Law; that not one jot or tittle of it could fail, until all should be fulfilled. (Matt. 5:18.) We claim on Scriptural testimony, that our Lord, as the man Christ Jesus, was born under the Law, a Jew, and fulfilled its every requirement, and thus fulfilled it as a whole. He became the heir of its promises or covenants, and „redeemed them that were under the Law”—the Jewish nation—from the condemnation which that Law brought upon them all, because of their inability to live up to its requirements.
Many Christians fail to recognize, that in the beginning of the Gospel age, the church was composed of converts from both Jews and Gentiles. The Jews as a nation had been released (typically) from the Adamic curse, or condemnation, and put under the Law given at Sinai, as a covenant under which they were to have life if obedient. The Gentiles (heathen) was the name by which all the great bulk of the human family was known, except this one little nation, which God typically justified by typical sacrifices, and placed again on trial under the Law given at Sinai. The Law proved valueless to them so far as giving them the hoped-for life was concerned, though it as a schoolmaster taught them some good lessons. Consequently Jews and Gentiles were both under condemnation when our Lord came. Both were condemned to death—the Jew by the Law from which he had expected so much, but which, because of the weakness of his flesh he was unable to comply with, was condemned as unworthy of life; while the Gentiles were condemned to death under the original sentence upon father Adam, from which they had in no sense escaped, not even typically as the Jew had.
Both Jew and Gentile, therefore, needed deliverance from the same curse, condemnation, viz., death; and the Deliverer whom God provided was sufficient for both, and in the one sacrifice of himself he accomplished the redemption of both, and reconciled both unto God in one body by the cross. (Eph. 2:16.) For the Jew, by fulfilling all the demands of the Law, he gained all the promises which that Law offered; and by his death for that people he redeemed them all from its curse or penalty—death; and ended that typical covenant. The ending of that covenant and the redeeming of that people from its curse or condemnation, took place at the same time, and was accomplished by the same sacrifice, that paid the ransom (the corresponding price) for Adam and all who were still under the curse of death through him; because our Lord was the representative not only of the Jew, but was also at the same time a representative of all mankind. Thus we see further, that had our Lord not been born under the Law, he could have redeemed all others yet under the Adamic condemnation, but the Jew, under a special law and its special condemnation, would not have been benefited. Hence God’s arrangement that salvation should be of the Jews, (John 4:22) in order that His special typical dealings with them as a people should work them no injury.
So then we see that none were made free from the Law except Israelites who had been under it, and consequently there is an error in the thought of those who sing and apply to themselves the words—
„Free from the Law, O happy condition:
Jesus hath died and there is remission.
Cursed by the Law and bruised by the Fall,
Christ hath redeemed us once for all.”
An Israelite after the flesh, converted, could properly express this sentiment, but no one else, except it be understood to apply to the church as a whole, some of whom were redeemed from the curse of the Law, and some from the curse of the Fall.
When the Apostle declares, „Christ is become the end of the Law, for righteousness to every one that believeth,” he evidently refers to those who were under the Law—Jews. But we can apply the same principle to all, thus: The first Law against which Adam sinned, and whose penalty brought death upon all, like the one which the Jews failed to keep, was a law of obedience to the will of God. The principles or knowledge on which the obedience was based with the Jew, was the Ten Commandments written upon tables of stone, but in Adam’s case it was the knowledge of God’s will written in the heart, in that he had been created a mental and moral likeness of God. The penalty or curse for the violation of both of those laws was the same, death: so while the Jew was redeemed from the curse of the one given at Sinai all other men were redeemed from the curse of the original Law violated in Eden.
So then as it stands to-day, the Jew’s covenant or Law, though they are not aware of it, is at an end, as much as though it never had been given them. It never gave them the blessings they had hoped for through it, and now they are free from it. The Jew born since that law covenant ended, is now, with all the rest of the world, under the penalty of the first disobedience—the death penalty. The ransom FOR ALL has been given, but its benefits are only applicable to those who believe, and thus far the believers are only a few compared with the mass of mankind. This few have escaped from all condemnation of all broken laws, while the remainder—the world in general—still continues under the original condemnation. He that believeth is passed [Reckonedly] from death unto life (John 5:24) while he that believeth not is damned [condemned]—”condemned already.” (John 3:18) He was condemned six thousand years ago, and has not escaped the condemnation that is on the world. (Rom. 5:16.) The only ones who have escaped from this condemnation so long upon all, are referred to by Paul (Rom. 8:1), „There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh but after the spirit.”
These are the free ones; free from all laws and all penalties—free indeed. „If the Son shall make you free, ye shall be free indeed.”—John 8:36.
But can it be that God has released these entirely from both the Law given in Eden and that given at Sinai? Just so; being justified and released from its former condemnation by the death of Christ, and having received his spirit of love for and obedience to God, so long as they are in Christ they are free: free to abide in him, by continued submission to his will, the essence of which is LOVE, to God and to man. All who come into Christ submit themselves to his will and voluntarily make it their law; and those who willingly violate this law will cease to „abide in him” and will be „cast forth” (Jno. 15:6) as dead branches. Through him our best endeavors to do his will are acceptable, and we have thus passed out of condemnation to death into justification to life so long as we abide under the blood of the covenant. In no other way could any be accepted by God; for the law given in Eden was one that required obedience, and that given at Sinai demanded the same. And since we know
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that God could not give an imperfect law, (James 3:11.) and we could not obey a perfect one fully, we see the necessity for our being freed from all law and accepted through Christ.
Thus we see that those in Christ, whether they were Jews or Gentiles, are in no sense under the Law given at Sinai—neither the ceremonial laws relating to typical fasts and feasts and sacrifices, nor those graven upon stones termed the „Ten Commandments.” The sanctified IN CHRIST JESUS need no such commands. Love to God and men, laid down by Jesus and the apostles, is the only rule under which the new creature in Christ is placed; and it is the very essence of his new mind—the spirit or mind of Christ.
THE LAW ON TABLES OF STONE
Look at those commandments given to the Jew, singly, and see if it would not be useless to address such commands to the saints.
I. „Thou shalt have no other gods beside me.” What saint would think of such a thing?
II. „Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image, nor the likeness of any form that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth: thou shalt not bow down thyself unto them nor serve them; for I am a jealous God visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children, unto the third and fourth generation of them that hate me; and showing mercy unto thousands of them that love me and keep my commandments.” For whom is such a law needful? Surely not to the saints in Christ who love the Lord with all their heart, soul, and strength, and who are laying down life itself in his service.
III. „Thou shalt not take the name of the Lord thy God in vain; for the Lord will not hold him guiltless that taketh his name in vain.” Again we remark, Surely none of the saints will have any desire to blaspheme or profane their Father’s name, but the reverse, they are laying down their lives to glorify his name.
IV. This we will examine last.
V. „Honor thy father and thy mother: that thy days may be long upon the land which the Lord thy God giveth thee.” This is distinctively an earthly promise of the land, while the promise to the saints is not long life here but hereafter. He that sacrifices his life, lands, etc., becomes in Christ heir to the heavenly promises. Such, too, having the spirit of Christ, delight to honor their earthly parents, but especially to do the will of their Father in heaven.
VI. „Thou shalt do no murder.” Do not the saints delight to bless others and do good even to those who despitefully use them and persecute them? If so where would be the propriety in telling such that they must not murder—must not do the thing farthest from their desires? It would be useless to say the least.
VII. „Thou shalt not commit adultery.” The sanctified in Christ Jesus who walk not after the flesh but after the spirit of Christ, could not thus wrong others.
VIII. „Thou shalt not steal.” Do the
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saints desire to steal? Do they desire to defraud others? Is it not rather their spirit to „labor, working with their hands that they may have, to give unto the needy?
IX. „Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbor.” How could one of the sanctified in Christ thus injure his neighbor? It would be entirely foreign to the Spirit of Christ—the spirit of truth, and would prove that the one who knowingly and willingly bore such false testimony, had not the spirit of Christ and was none of his. (Rom. 8:9.)
X. „Thou shalt not covet thy neighbor’s house, thou shalt not covet thy neighbor’s wife, nor his man-servant, nor his maid-servant, nor his ox, nor his ass, nor anything that is thy neighbor’s.” Covetousness is wholly foreign to the spirit of Christ, and to the extent that the spirit of Christ dwells richly in his members, they will be free from covetousness. The spirit of sacrifice having in the saints taken the place of self-love, covetousness is forestalled.
All these commands were proper and suitable enough to the Jew to whom they were given, or would be suitable to any fallen man, but not to any new creature in Christ, whose very nature, as new creatures, is to do right; yet because of the weakness of the flesh they cannot do perfectly even though they desire and endeavor to do so. But though we can easily keep the outward letter of this law, yet under our Lord’s teachings we see that it really means more than its surface indicates: that he who hates a brother without a cause has the murder spirit and is a murderer and he that desires to commit adultery lacking only the opportunity is in heart an adulterer, (Matt. 5:28) and he who loves and serves money and spends time and talent for it, more than in God’s service, is an idolater. Our Redeemer’s teaching regarding the obligations under that Law is—”Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, mind, soul, and strength, and thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself.” From this we see that even we who are in Christ with all our holy desires and aims could not keep that Law according to this our Master’s definition of it, because our new mind is hindered by the weakness of the sin-degraded and marred earthen vessel—the flesh. We should find it impossible to get rid of inherited selfishness, so as to be able to love our neighbor as ourselves, or even to love and serve God with all our hearts and talents, much as our new minds might choose and seek to obey this, the spirit of the Law.
So then, as we could not be acceptable under that Law, we are made free from it entirely and put under the rule of love to God and our fellow man: and our best heart-endeavors to fulfill this law of love, are accepted as a perfect fulfillment of his law of love, and all we lack is continually compensated for out of the fullness of Christ—which is imputed to us.
So then ye are not under law but under grace—favor. (Rom. 6:14.) You are not acceptable with God because there is no fault in you, but because favor covers your unwilling imperfections of thought, word and deed.
So far as these Ten Commandments are concerned, there is no question that they were given only to Israel after the flesh. The preface in Exod. 20:2 shows this, saying, „I am the Lord thy God which brought thee out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage.” So too in repeating them again Moses declares (Deut. 5:1-5.) „Hear, O Israel, the statutes and judgments which I speak in your ears THIS DAY, that ye may learn them and observe to do them. The Lord our God made not this covenant with our fathers, but with US, even us who are all of us here alive this day. The Lord spake with you face to face—saying” etc. etc. Also, see Ezek. 20:10-13 and Neh. 9:12-14.
THE FOURTH COMMANDMENT
Consider now the IV. Commandment given to the Jew, written upon tables of stone:—”Remember the Sabbath day to keep it holy. Six days shalt thou labor and do all thy work; but the seventh is a Sabbath unto the Lord thy God: in it thou shalt not do any work, thou nor thy son, nor thy daughter, thy man-servant, nor thy maid-servant, nor thy cattle, nor thy stranger that is within thy gates: for in six days the Lord made heaven and earth, and sea, and all that in them is, and rested the seventh day: wherefore the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and hallowed it.”
This command merely enjoins idleness on the seventh day of each week. It does not say to cease from ordinary work and engage in spiritual work, as many of its advocates seem to suppose; but on the contrary it prohibits all kinds of work. Many who think themselves bound by this command, neither REST on the seventh day nor on the first day of the week, which without orders they make an effort to keep instead of the Seventh day which the Law appointed for those under it. On the contrary, to very many the first day is as busy a day as any. The ruling under the Law, was, that any one who even picked up sticks or kindled a fire was a violator of this command and must be put to death. (Num. 15:32-36. Exod. 35:3.) How many of those who claim to keep this commandment do far more work in the way of cooking, etc.—they, their sons, and their daughters, their men-servants and maid-servants? If that law is now in force, and if it has by any means gotten beyond the Jew on whom alone it was put, so as now to cover Christians, then every Christian violates it repeatedly, and is worthy of death for each offense, for „they that violated Moses’ Law died without mercy.”—Heb. 10:20.
But some one will ask, Was not the Sabbath observed before the giving of the Law? and does not the reference to God’s resting on the seventh day prove that the Sabbath was observed from the time of creation? We answer, No; during all the two thousand years from Adam to Jacob, the record shows no command to keep the Sabbath, not even a hint on the subject. The Mosaic or Law dispensation began with Israel, the night they left Egypt. The Passover was the first feature of Law instituted; and it was instituted that night. And that Law covenant is continually referred to as dating from that time „When I took them by the hand to lead them out of the land of Egypt.” Heb. 8:9, Jer. 31:32.
The observance of the seventh day as a rest day, or Sabbath, was instituted as a part of the Law of God some two weeks before the formal giving of that Law in tables of stone at Mt. Sinai, namely, at the giving of the manna, in the wilderness, where a most favorable opportunity occurred for giving them an object lesson in the double supply of manna on the sixth day, and none on the seventh. But from the entire account it is evident that it was something new to the Israelites. Its explanation
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to them, (Exod. 16:22-30) as well as Moses’ uncertainty in the case of the first transgression of this law (Num. 15:32-36.), prove that it was new, that it had not been known among them or their fathers previously. The reason given for this command, to observe the Sabbath because God had rested on the seventh day—after the six days of creation, could not be understood by Israel, as we can now understand it in the light of the New Testament. They probably got the idea that God was weary after the six days work of creating, and rested as they did; but we see and will shortly show that he rested in a very different way, and for a different reason.
INFLUENCE OF THE LAW AMONG EARLY CHRISTIANS
In the introduction of the Christian dispensation, the new church was composed largely of proselytes from the old Jewish church; and these, used from childhood to the requirements of the law of Moses, could scarcely realize the greatness of the change which there occurred. They were continually adding Christ’s teachings and his law—of love, to their Mosaic Law, thus adding to their already too heavy burden, instead of accepting of the sacrificial death of Christ as the atonement for their sins under the Law, and as the end of that Law Covenant which had always condemned them. (Rom. 10:4; 3:20,28.) It is not surprising when we remember their early prejudices in favor of the Law, that the spirit of truth was able to guide them but slowly into the full truth on this subject. Even the Apostles were slow to learn, and we find Peter so slow to follow the lead of the spirit, that he had to be taught by a special vision that Gentiles needed no longer to become Jews and conform to the Law of Moses before they could share divine favor, but that they had access to God through Christ’s cleansing work regardless of the Law.
Some complained to the other apostles and brethren about Paul’s recognition of Gentiles and this brought the question before them all, and led to an investigation, and others learned their first lesson as Peter had by hearing from him of God’s dealings in the matter. „When they heard these things they held their peace and glorified God, saying, Then hath God also to the Gentiles granted repentance unto life.”—Acts 11:18.
Paul, most easily led of the spirit, got clear views on the subject earliest, and had to oppose others among the apostles less strong and spiritually clear-sighted. (Gal. 2:11.) Jerusalem was long considered the centre of the Christian religion, the largest number and oldest believers and apostles living there, and as Paul got clearer and clearer views of the changed condition of things and preached the truth, some prejudiced ones wanted to know whether the brethren at Jerusalem would concur in the advanced views, and Paul and Barnabas and others went up to Jerusalem to lay the matter before them and to bring back a report. A great debate and examination of the question on all sides followed. Peter and James finally agreeing with Paul, influenced the entire council. Peter reminded them of God’s wonderful dealing with Cornelius, whose heart was purified or justified and made acceptable to God through faith in Christ, and not through keeping the Law, and urged, „Now therefore why resist ye God to put a yoke [Moses’ Law] upon the neck of disciples which neither our fathers nor we were able to bear.” James said, „My judgment is that we should not burden them which from among the Gentiles are turned unto God.” Then the council so decided and sent a written message to the confused Gentile believers, saying:—
„We have heard that certain ones who went out from us [here] have troubled you with words subverting your souls [destroying your faith], saying, ‚Be circumcised and keep the Law‚—to whom we gave no such commandment. … It seemed good to the Holy Spirit and to us to lay upon you no greater burden than these necessary things: That ye abstain from meats offered to idols, and from blood, and from things, strangled, and from fornication.”—Acts 15:9-29. And even these things though they were good as advice, we shall see by further testimony were so much law that no one had a right to place upon any made free by Christ.—nor are these stated as law, with penalties, etc.
Paul’s principal failure was in allowing them once to overpersuade him on this very matter of Moses’ Law.—Acts 21:18-28. Here overcome for a time by the opinions and weakness of those apostles whose home was in the centre of Judaism, and whose progress in following the lead of the spirit into the full truth had been less rapid than his own, Paul erred greatly.
Paul’s course was a brilliant one, and his great work was known far and near, and everywhere it exasperated the prejudiced Jews. So when he came to Jerusalem for the last time to see the Apostolic brethren, and had given them a detailed account of his great work among the Gentiles, they were glad and glorified God. Their Jewish prejudices did not blind them, but they were too prudent (Matt. 11:25.) and said unto him, „Thou seest brother, how many thousands of Jews believe; and they are all zealous for the Law: and they are informed concerning thee, that thou teachest all the Jews that are among the Gentiles to forsake Moses [law] saying, That they ought not to circumcise their children, neither to walk after the customs”—common to the Jews.
The difficulty with the apostles at Jerusalem was that in their anxiety to make converts to Christ, they had failed „to declare the whole counsel of God,” and had kept themselves as well as others from growing in grace and knowledge more rapidly, in their desire to fasten the law, to the Gospel, as a bait to catch Jewish fish. And now that Paul was come, whom they knew to be very outspoken, they feared he would drive off some of their only half-converted thousands, and that thus the cause might seem to lose some of its prestige, its seeming prosperity. Really far better would it have been had the company been hundreds instead of thousands, and thorough out-and-out furnished and equipped soldiers of the cross.
How many to-day as teachers are filling church rolls with thousands by compromising with the World as James and others did with the Jewish prejudices concerning the law! How much injury it is doing now as then, and how careful some are now not to scare the goats out from among the sheep lest the numbers and influence would be less! Ah! What a great mistake!
They said further to Paul: It will not be long until the masses of the people learn of your presence; therefore at once take such steps as will lead them to think that you are misrepresented, and that you are still a faithful Jew and law-keeper: take with you therefore four men of our company here which have a vow on them, and go into the Temple and both purify thyself according to the Jewish custom, and also pay the temple tax for these others, so that the Jews and Jewish Christians seeing you thus bearing the expense of others as well as conforming to the Law yourself, may conclude that you are very zealous for the Law, and that you certainly were misrepresented in the reports which reached them of your preaching. This seems to
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be the substance of their argument. See Acts 21:18-26.
Alas! that grand, noble, bold Brother Paul should let slip so favorable an opportunity for testifying as he afterward did to the Galatians (5:2-6) that whosoever justified (purified) himself by the Law and circumcision, Christ would profit him nothing. It was the grandest opportunity Paul ever had of setting straight the brethren at Jerusalem. But overcome for the moment by the influence and prominence of those who made the request, Paul yielded, and committed the only act of weakness marking his long and noble record—he went into the Temple and pretended to be a law-keeper and to trust in the typical purifyings, and misused some of the Lord’s money in the insincere forms, and all to no purpose: to his own discredit and tribulation, merited no doubt as a chastisement.
Similar besetments surround us all to-day: how often many teaching brethren are tempted now, as were James and the Elders at Jerusalem, to keep back part of the truth in the endeavor to swell numbers and influence; how many are tempted as Paul was, to consent to unwholesome advice for the sake of peace, and because of love and respect for brethren. Instead, each should have been anxious only to please the „Head of the body,” and to declare the whole counsel of God.
But Brother Paul’s wavering course was only momentary, and we have abundant proof of this in his various epistles to the churches, in which he repeatedly sought to counteract the teachings and influence of some who were overthrowing the foundation, bringing in another gospel, another version of the good news, namely, that believers in Christ would be saved if they kept the Law. (The other apostles also got more clear gradually, so that the epistles of Peter, James and John fully coincide with those of Paul, and give no uncertain sound on this all important point, that Christ is become the end of the Law to every one who believeth.) And it is because this same error has continued since, and is even to-day opposing the cross of Christ as the redemption price, and claiming that we are justified not „by faith in his blood,” but by keeping the Law as Christ kept it, that it is needful now, to show that the Law never was given to any except Israel after the flesh; and it did them no good except to show them their inability to justify themselves, and as a schoolmaster to point them to Christ as the end of the Law to every one that believeth. Paul’s epistle to the Galatians was written expressly to counteract this Law teaching, which was subverting the true faith in Christ and pointing men away from the cross of Christ, to a hope of acceptance with God by keeping the Law. This he calls „another gospel,” yet really not another, for there can be but one,
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hence it was a perversion of the real gospel. (Gal. 1:7-9.) And here Paul points out what we have already shown, that he knew that the Apostles at Jerusalem had at first only a mixed gospel, and that he went up to see them on the occasion mentioned in Acts 15:4, by revelation, to communicate to them that fuller, purer, unmixed gospel, which he already had been able to receive, and which he had been teaching: and, he says, he communicated it to them privately lest their reputation should hinder them from receiving the truth—and even then they compelled Titus to be circumcised, (Gal. 2:2-5.) though this would not have been insisted on, had it not been for some who stole into their confidence to spy out their liberties. Thus the unconverted additions hindered the true seed, as always.
It is further along in this same epistle that Paul tells of Peter’s vacillation on the question of the Law (Chap. 2:11-16) and his words of reproof to Peter—We who are Jews [under the Law] knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the Law, but on account of faith in Christ, even we have believed in Christ that we might be justified by faith in Christ, and not by obedience to the Law—why then should we attempt to fetter others, or bind ourselves longer by that which has served its purpose and has ceased as a covenant—has passed away.
Oh foolish Galatians! who has deluded you? As many as are trusting to obedience to the Law are under its condemnation or curse. Christ hath redeemed us [Jews] from the curse of the Law that the blessing of Abraham might come to the Gentiles through Christ Jesus, and that we [Jews] might receive the spirit through faith. And surely God’s covenant with Abraham made four hundred and thirty years before the Law was given, cannot be annulled by that Law.—Gal. 3:1,10,13,17.
Next, Paul answers a supposed inquiry as to what was the object of the Law, and why it was given if not necessary to the attainment of the Abrahamic promises. He says the Law was added because of sin, to manifest sin in its true light—that sin might be seen to be a great and deep-seated malady—to act as a school teacher pointing Israel to Christ as a good and only Physician who could cure their malady. But this Law schoolmaster was not intended to hold dominion over us [Jews] always, but only until the remedy should come, and to prepare some at least to receive the great Physician.
As children are under nursery laws and subject to teachers until an appointed time, so were we [Jews] under the Law, and treated as servants rather than as sons. We were kept under the Law which is to govern the World in the next age, though we were the heirs through whom, according to the promise, the others were to be blessed. But in the fullness of time God sent forth his Son, made of a woman, made under the Law, to redeem them that were under the Law that we [Jews] being liberated, might receive the adoption of sons. And so also, because ye [who were not under the Law, but were Gentiles or heathens] are [also now] sons [therefore] God hath sent forth the spirit of his son into your hearts. We were sons under tutelage and ye were of the servant class, but now you and we who are accepted of God in Christ, are fully received into sonship and heirship, and neither of us are subject to the Law.—Gal. 3:19-4:7.
Tell me, ye that desire to be under the Law—do you not understand what the Law is? It is a bondage merely at present, and this is allegorically shown in Abraham’s two sons. Abraham becomes here a figure of God; Sarah the real wife is a figure of the real covenant of blessing, out of which the Christ should come as heir of all, to bless the world. For a long time Sarah was barren; so too for a long time the real covenant of God brought forth no fruit—until Christ Jesus. Hagar the servant of Sarah in the meantime was treated as Sarah’s representative, and her son as the representative of Sarah’s son. Hagar represented the Law covenant, and fleshly Israel was represented by her child Ishmael. For the time they represented the true covenant and the true seed of blessing, though they were always really servants—child as well as mother. When the true son of the real wife, the heir, was born, it was manifest that the son of the bondwoman was not the heir of promise. And to show that the Law covenant was not to have any rule over the spiritual sons of God, Hagar was not allowed to become the governess of Isaac, but in his interest was dismissed entirely.—Gal. 4:21-31.
The Apostle’s argument based on this allegory, is, that we brethren as Isaac was, are the seed to whom the promise was made; we are not children of the bondwoman, the Law Covenant, but children of the Covenant of Grace born free from the slavery and conditions of the Law. And not only so born, but the Law is entirely put away from us, and has nothing whatever to do with us. „Stand fast therefore in the liberty wherewith Christ hath made us free, and be not entangled again with the yoke of bondage”—the Law. „If ye be led of the spirit ye are not under the Law.”—Gal. 5:1,18.
But Paul asks—”Shall we sin [wilfully] because we are not under the Law?” (Rom. 6:15.)—because we are sons and heirs and no longer commanded, Thou shalt and thou shalt not? Shall we take advantage of our liberty to break away into sin? No, no; as SONS begotten of the spirit of adoption, partakers of the spirit of holiness, the spirit of the truth, we delight to do our Father’s will; and the law of obedience to his will is deeply engraven upon our hearts (Heb. 8:10 and 10:15,16). We gladly sacrifice our lives in opposing sin and error, and in forwarding righteousness and truth; hence we answer emphatically, We will not take advantage of our liberty from law, to commit sin.
We are not under Law but under favor (Rom. 6:14.) through Christ, hence we delight also to show forth a similar favor, bearing one another’s burdens and thus fulfilling the „law of Christ”—love. Christ’s word is our law—not a law of bondage, but of liberty. Whoso looketh into the perfect law of liberty and continueth therein [free], being not a forgetful hearer, but one who exercises his liberty, this man shall be blessed truly thereby. Such fulfill the royal law—love and liberty.—Jas. 1:25.
This law of love to God and our fellowmen which we delight to obey to the extent of our ability, not of compulsion, but of a willing mind as partakers of the spirit of Christ, is the only LAW with which we have to do. While it entirely ignores the Mosaic Law, its thou shalt, and thou shalt not, and its penalty of death: yet really it accomplishes far more than the Mosaic Law; for with his heart ruled by love for God and man, who would desire to dishonor God or to injure his fellow-man? But as of the Mosaic Law it was true that its utterances were only to those under it—Israelites—for „whatsoever the Law saith it saith to them who are under the law” (Rom. 3:19.)—so of the Law of Love, it speaks only to those who are under it, and these are only the consecrated believers in Christ. It is a law of liberty, in that all who are under it, are under it from choice. In this it differs greatly from the Law put upon fleshly Israel as a nation, in which individually they had no liberty or choice, but were born under bondage to that Law. Our Law is also the Royal Law; because the „little flock” developed under this law of liberty and love is the royal family—the divine family, selected under their Lord and Head to be heirs of God, joint heirs with Jesus Christ—partakers of the divine nature.
During the Millennial age, after this little flock is completed, the law of liberty and love will again be superseded by a law of commands and threats and penalties; because then the dealing will be with enemies, with sinners, who will require coercion and „ruling with a rod of iron” until they shall learn the exceeding sinfulness and undesirableness of sin. The new Covenant will be like the old Law Covenant in many regards, but will have a priesthood able as well as willing to help and lift up to perfection every one sincerely repentant of sin and desirous of holiness.
Those now being selected as members for the body of Christ, are only such as delight to do God’s will, sons of God and „brethren of Christ” having this likeness of Christ. And at the close of the Millennial age, when the rod of iron shall have broken the proud hearts, and shall have caused the stiff knees to bend in obedience, or else cut them off as incorrigible, willful sinners,—then the law of love and liberty will again be virtually in force—over all God’s creatures; for all who shall be permitted to enter upon that grand age of perfection following the Millennial reign of Christ will first have been tested, and will have given abundant proof that they delight to do God’s will and that his righteous law is continually their hearts’ desire.
The Sabbath, then, no less than the other commandments of the Mosaic dispensation, never was over us Gentiles, and is at an end to every Jew that believeth in Christ as his Redeemer from its condemnation and penalty.
Some will claim that it was Circumcision that Paul referred to, as being abolished, being superseded by circumcision of the heart. Yes, we answer, that is true, but it is also true that every element of the Law was abolished. In proof of this we cite the fact that Abraham and Isaac were circumcised (Gen. 17:24; 21:4.) and that the Law at Sinai was not given for four hundred and thirty years afterward. And Paul’s language clearly and distinctly shows that this four hundred and thirty years later law, was the one that was added because of sin until Christ, the promised Seed, should come. (See Gal. 3:17,19,23-25;
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4:4-7.) This proves exactly what Law Paul referred to, as already shown.
Others, to avoid the force of the Apostle’s arguments, divide Moses’ Law into moral and ceremonial laws, but wholly without authority, and claim that the ceremonial law passed away, and that the moral law represented in the Ten Commandments is still in force. The Scriptures do not thus divide it; but if they did, we have the Scriptural proof that what our friends call the „moral law” was made an end of by Christ. Thus: When the Apostle wrote to the new Gentile converts respecting the law—determined not to put upon them the yoke of the Law which they as Jews had been unable to keep—and contradicting certain teachers who had said that they „must be circumcised and keep the Law,” James remarked incidentally that the law of Moses to which they referred was that „read in the synagogue every Sabbath day:” and we know that the Ten Commandments were thus read. Compare, Acts 15:9-11,24,28,29 and 19-21.
THE NEW COVENANT VS. THE LAW COVENANT
Again, the Apostle repeatedly refers to the Law, which he said had passed away, as the Covenant which God made with Israel through Moses. He points to the fact that Christ is the mediator of a new covenant, more favorable every way to the necessities of sinners. He shows that all along, God, by speaking to the prophets of a coming New Covenant, had indicated his intention of superseding the Law
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Covenant which they had found to be a covenant which condemned them all to death „a covenant of death,” because they were unable under the weakness of the flesh to fulfill its just requirements—by some other covenant more favorable to them; and he shows that the New Covenant is now in force, having been sealed by the blood, the death of Christ—”the blood of the new covenant.” His logical reasoning is that when the new covenant came into effect, the former or old covenant must of necessity have ceased—must have vanished away entirely.—Heb. 8:6-9-13. Nor are we in doubt as to what constituted that covenant which was ready to pass away: It was the covenant made with their fathers in the day when God took them by the hand to lead them out of the land of Egypt. (Heb. 8:9.) And it was not merely the ordinances that constituted that covenant; for he expressly tells us that the ordinances (ceremonies) were added to it as incidentals saying: „Verily the first [or former] covenant had also ordinances of service.” Then follows a description of the typical tabernacle, its furniture and sacrifices. (Heb. 9:1-20.) These ordinances went with that Law Covenant; but that the ordinances and ceremonies were not the covenant itself, is clear, and proven beyond question by Moses’ statement of it Deut. 5:1-21. Here he recites the Ten Commandments (and makes no reference to the ordinances which accompanied it) and declares this to be the covenant made with them at Mount Horeb.
Paul further refers to that covenant, now passed away, as the „Ministration of death, written and engraven in stones,” which Moses communicated to the people. (2 Cor. 3:7-12.) Thus he shows that the Ten Commandments written in stones was the covenant which was unto death, and which had passed away, giving place to the New Covenant. Paul’s further argument here is in harmony and is profitable: He reasons that if God introduced that covenant with so much pomp and glory, he will introduce the new covenant with glory far surpassing its type? Moses’ face shone with glory, will not the Christ, of which Jesus is the head and the church the body, be more glorious then? And if the typical must be vailed from the sight of Israel, surely the glory far excelling that must also be vailed, when the antitype, the New Covenant, is promulgated to the world by the great antitype of Moses—the Christ.
But Paul argues that we (the body of Christ) already, before the coming of our glory, are authorized ministers of this new covenant to every one who now has an ear to hear. We cannot indeed preach to others, nor yet ourselves keep the very letter of that perfect new covenant; for in the present condition of imperfection this is not possible; but we can conform as nearly as possible to its spirit. For the letter of it would condemn us, but the spirit of it is acceptable through Christ; and when that which is perfect is come, that which we can now fulfill only in spirit and intent, we then shall fulfill in its very letter, joyfully.—2 Cor. 3:7-12,5,6.
Coming again to the Fourth Commandment we find that while it like all of those Commands never was given to Gentiles, but to Jews only, yet belonging to the old Covenant it is no longer in force even over the Jews. And while there would be nothing wrong in our observing any day in the week, or several of them as days for the worship of God and the special study of His Word, yet if any one should observe any day to fulfill this part of the Mosaic Law, or with the intent thus to merit divine favor and the reward of life, he would be ignoring Christ, and the New Covenant through his blood. So too with all the other nine commandments. To obey them as the Jew did, hoping thereby for everlasting life, is to fail as the Jew failed, only to learn by and by that „by the obedience of the Law shall no flesh be justified”—that no fallen being can keep that Law. To trust to the Law, is to trust to works, for justification, and is useless. Faith in Christ as the fulfiller of the Law and the justifier under the new covenant of every one that believeth, is the only ground of our acceptance with God.
Speaking of the tendency to go back to the Law, Paul says to the Galatians (4:9-11) „I am afraid for you, lest I have bestowed upon you labor in vain” [lest my teaching of the New Covenant become useless to you]. After that ye have known God, or rather have been recognized by God [as sons], how can you turn again to the inferior rudiments intended for the world [in the next age], and which now are powerless to help you? Why do you desire to be in bondage again? Your observance of days, and months, and times, and years, indicates that you do not realize your liberty from that old covenant.
In his letter to the Colossians he urges them also, to appreciate and guard their liberty in Christ. He urges, that because Christ had abolished the originally written dogmas [of the Law] nailing them to his cross, therefore you should let no man judge you in food, or drink, or in respect of a festival, or of a new moon, or of Sabbaths, which are but shadows of realities, now coming to pass through Christ.—Col. 2:14-17.
CONSIDERATION FOR THE WEAK BROTHER
In Rom. 14:1-13, the Apostle puts this question in another light. He says we should remember that we are not all alike strong in the faith. Some weak in the faith can see that Christ is our Redeemer, but cannot as yet realize the liberty we have in Christ. For one realizes his liberty in eating whatever agrees with him, while another one who is weak [in bondage] eats vegetables only, lest he should violate some law which he thinks himself under. Each should learn to grant the other full liberty of conscience; the stronger should not despise the weaker, nor should the weaker judge others by himself. It should be sufficient for us to know that God accepts even of the weakest ones. So it is also with reference to the observance of days: One man esteemeth one day above another, while another esteems all days alike. Let each carry out fully the conviction of his own mind.
The Apostle does not teach here as so many suppose from the common translation that each should make up his mind and stick to it right or wrong; nor does he teach that one is as right as the other. On the contrary he urges growth into the full liberty of Christ, but counsels patience and consideration on the part of the stronger for the weaker. He approves of the stronger, and plainly states that the brother who thinks himself under a bondage regarding meat, or regarding Sabbath days, fast days, etc., is the weak brother. But he urges that if such a weak brother observes such a bondage not as an attempt to keep the Law and to justify himself before God ignoring Christ’s redemption-sacrifice, but because he thinks that our Lord the Redeemer wishes him to be bound by such ordinances, then the stronger ones should not rail at, or make light of his conscientious weakness, but rather receive him fully as a brother, trusting that discipline and experience and growth in grace and knowledge will gradually bring him to the liberty which others might reach more quickly.
For if the stronger brethren by sarcasm and influence were to force the weaker ones to use a liberty they did not realize, it would be forcing them into sin; for any violation of conscience is sin. So then the weaker brethren must be left to the liberty of their conscience and should be received as brethren, and the truth alone must gradually educate them. So then the body may be full of charity and unity, each one carrying out the convictions of his own mind as to the Lord’s will, and each seeking to grow in grace and knowledge out of childhood’s weakness into manhood’s strength as rapidly as possible, being developed as he feeds upon God’s Word.—Heb. 5:13,14.
The Apostle again refers specially to the observance of days as a sign of weakness, childishness, and lack of development: He says (Gal. 4:10,11), „Ye observe days, and months, and times, and years. I am anxious on your behalf lest my labor for you has been in vain.” He recognized by these weaknesses for the things commanded by the Law, an evidence that they were not coming up to the liberty of sons of God, but going backward to the servant condition, to say the least (See verses 6 to 9 and 19 to 31.), and he was even fearful that this weakness and failure to realize the liberty of sonship, this subservience to the Law, might lead them to reject the true gospel that Christ
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gave himself for our sins, and to accept as a gospel that which would be no good news at all—that Christ would save them if they kept the Law.—Gal. 1:4-8 and 5:2.
In Col. 2:14-17 the Apostle declares the same truth with reference to the liberty of all who are in Christ, in respect to the Law: especially singling out the festivals, new moons and Sabbaths. He declares pointedly (verse 13) that those believers who had been Gentiles were pardoned fully and freely from all condemnation, while concerning those who had been Jews he says (verse 14), Christ blotted out the written Law which was against us [Jews], he removed it from our way, nailing it to his cross; having stripped away from the original [law] and its authorities [all obscurities] he made a public illustration of them [in his life of obedience to them] triumphing over them by it—[in obedience even unto death, even the death of the cross]. „Therefore,” reasons the apostle, because our Lord has made both you Gentiles and us Jews free in his own fulfillment of all, „permit no man to judge you in meat, or in drink, or in respect to an holyday, or of the new moon, or of the Sabbaths, which are shadows of future things, the substance of which belongs to the anointed.”—Col. 2:16,17.
The Sabbaths of the Law were shadows of something very precious to those in Christ—no less the Sabbath day than the Sabbath year, which we have already shown in its grand culmination, the Year of Jubilee, typified or foreshadowed the Millennial kingdom, the times of restitution of all things. The Sabbath day under the Law was solely and only a day of rest from work and typified or shadowed forth the rest from their own works, from all attempts at self-justification by their own imperfect works, of all who accept of the finished and perfect work of Christ as their Redeemer.
The Jews, and for that matter Gentiles also, who sought communion and fellowship with God, were continually striving to do something which would atone for their sins and open their communion and harmony with God; and the most earnest were „weary and heavy laden” and almost discouraged with their failure. It is to such that our Lord addressed himself saying to them, Come unto me and I will give you rest. (Matt. 11:28.) He lifts off the burden of sin and condemnation from every Jew under the written Law, and from every Gentile under the original Adamic condemnation, and gives all who come unto him in faith, true rest in the full assurance that He has „paid it all” for both Jew and Gentile—for all.
Have you this rest of faith in Christ, under no yoke but his yoke of love, which to all in him is easy, light, and pleasurable? If you have, then you have the REST of which Israel’s Sabbath was but a shadow or temporary figure, as far inferior to the real as their Passover was inferior to our Passover, and their sacrifices to our sacrifices, and their altar and candle-stick and table of shew-bread are inferior to ours. The realities in all these, are a thousand times grander than their shadows.
The Apostle makes this clear, in Heb. 4:1-11. He there shows that our present REST of faith in Christ, is but a foretaste of the coming perfect rest [literally Sabbath] when we shall be made fully like him and be with him where he is. Verses 3 and 10 speak of the rest already entered upon by believers, and verse 12 shows the future rest. The Sabbath day which could be observed anywhere, represented our present rest of mind which we can even now enjoy, while the Sabbath years and Jubilee which could be celebrated only in their own land, represented the rest which remains for us when we shall enter into our promised heavenly inheritance. Here too we learn how God rested. He was not weary of labor, and did not rest in the sense of recovering from fatigue.
The Sabbath, then, as commanded the Jew, must have been very different from the Sabbath observed by God, yet as suggested in the command there was a resemblance between their resting and God’s resting. The Apostle shows that the resemblance was not between it and the shadowy Sabbath which Israel observed, but between God’s rest and our real rest of faith: „For he that is entered into his rest, HE also hath ceased from his own works as God did from his.”
What resemblance then can be traced between our rest of faith in Christ, and God’s rest? The true Hebrews, under the Law worked, labored incessantly, to do good works acceptable to God, and were heavy laden with a sense of their failure to find acceptance with God: Gentiles also labored to help themselves out of the slough of sin and imperfection, but ineffectually; and now both Hebrews and Gentiles find rest as they find Christ; for he promises and will accomplish for both more than could have been hoped for by either. So we each give up working for ourselves and trust our salvation to a future life to Christ, and we now as restfull, saved ones, work not to save ourselves, but to serve our Lord. That is, those who believe in, and accept of Christ, as their Redeemer, thus „cease from their own works” and enter into rest, confidently trusting all to him.
The resemblance between this and God’s rest is marked. The sixth epoch, or „day” of creation, closed with the creation of man, and there God’s direct work ceased; for the six thousand years since and another thousand (the Millennium) to come (seven thousand years in all) Jehovah God has ceased (rested) from work, and has let humanity measurably take its own course in sin or degradation, leaving all the great work of restitution and perfecting, to be accomplished by
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Christ in the thousand years of his reign. Thus as our Lord said: „The Father worketh hitherto, and [now] I work.” (John 5:17.) The Father judged or tried the race in Eden in its representative Adam, and then left all in condemnation, entrusting the entire work of restitution to Christ. Now therefore, „The Father judgeth no man, but hath committed all judgment unto the Son.”—John 5:22.
At the end of this Seventh day (an epoch or „day” of seven thousand years) during which the Father rests, Christ having redeemed all the race and having restored all proved worthy of being called Sons of God, will present the world blameless and unreprovable, perfect, before the Father (1 Cor. 15:24-28, and Matt. 25:34). Thus we see, that we are now resting as God rested. God rested because in his plan everything was fully arranged for, so completely that it might be said „the works were finished from the foundation of the world.” (Heb. 4:3.) So we on coming into harmony with God through Christ, are able to see God’s plan as though completed, though its completion will require another thousand years, and we rest, confident of its final glorious outcome, as God does.
— September, 1887 —