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Insight #6 May 12, 2018
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SECOND QUARTER 2018
SABBATH SCHOOL INSIGHT #6
MAY 12, 2018
THE “CHANGE” OF THE LAW
 
The real New Testament “change” of the law was Messiah as a human for the first time keeping the law, thus changing the relation of the entire human race to the law. His faith established the law, and His love fulfilled the law.[1] These comprise His righteousness, which He gives to all in that He “believes all things”[2] about them (what they can be in His plan), and in that He “loves” them more than Himself.[3] In this way, as the last Adam He redeemed “them that were under the law.”[4] What does this new relation to the law mean for every human, especially those that respond to His faith with faith, and to His love with love? And what has happened when, in spite of this infinite gift of “all the riches of the universe,”[5] typified from Eden, some have felt they could equal this extravagance in some creaturely way?

One group who “change” the law is blinded on creature merit. They think they can keep the law, and thus trust “in themselves that they [are] righteous, and [despise] others.”[6] Jesus illustrated them in a parable of a Pharisee who boasted of his goodness but ended unjustified. Later the former Pharisee Paul confessed he had “blameless” “righteousness which is in the law.”[7] But then he met Messiah, and encountered the commandment in His sinless, unselfish life and substitutionary death. Paul saw his own covetousness and realized that when Messiah died for the sins of the world, he was included. His proud, Pharisaical ego died.[8]

As he realized that this new, last Adam reversed the sin and condemnation that the first Adam brought on all men,[9] Paul could enter for the first time into the deep battle against the sin and condemnation residing in his first-Adam nature, the flesh, with the freedom that came through “no condemnation” in Jesus.[10] He found the sin dwelling in him had a paralyzing effect on the law of God. But he also found God’s solution. "The law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus” made him “free from the law of sin and death” which was in his body. This law of life was at work in Messiah Himself when He came “in the likeness of sinful flesh.” Paul affirmed that Jesus’ victory over sin and death “condemned sin in the flesh” and brought “justification of life”—freedom from condemnation, enabling “the righteousness of the law” to “be fulfilled in us” by the Spirit dwelling in us, where the sin dwells. The result is a walk “after the Spirit” and “not after the flesh.”[11]

The Pharisee’s misuse of the law becomes evident in one’s battle with indwelling sin. In their failure to grasp what Jesus’ mission was, they “change” the law by shrinking it and dishonoring it. Jesus came to correct that—“to magnify the law and make it honorable.”[12] And thus the “change” of the law in Jesus is the only way the condemnation inherent in sin can be turned for any Pharisaical human into the full life that results from the justification that the faith of Jesus brought. When one truly believes this (Jesus’ creative faith meeting a believer’s responsive faith), the blessing of probationary life turns into eternal-life blessings, and one, like Paul, can relegate their own “law righteousness” to the dung heap.

Another group who “change” the law is also based on creature merit. These mistakenly think they can improve on God’s stipulations of worship. As prophesied,[13] these arose within Christianity, claimed God’s prerogatives, and attempted to alter the worship elements of God’s law. What unfolded was an ingenious (and lengthy but limited) amalgamation of pagan philosophies and practices with God’s law.[14] The gospel given Paul by revelation remains the only bulwark against the sophistries of this counterfeit of Christianity. For the “gospel of Christ” wherein “the righteousness of God [is] revealed from faith to faith” is held back and hindered by these who reject the lessons of the Creator God. These end up changing “the truth of God into the lie,” and worshiping and serving “the creature more than the Creator.”[15] This is the end-time worship scenario that Revelation addresses at length.

The revelation of Messiah in His earthly life addressed this error. His teaching and example affirmed “the commandment of God” with its “doctrine” in the face of their worship-destroying “tradition” which was nothing but “the commandments of men.”[16] In his teaching of Messiah’s “gospel” that revealed “the mystery of God” with His faith that roots, builds up, and establishes us, Paul warned of these man-made teachings of “philosophy and vain deceit, after the tradition of men”—“after the commandments and doctrines of men”—not “after Christ.” These “spoil” us from experiencing Messiah’s “fullness of the Godhead” and our completeness “in Him.”[17] Man-made teachings cannot free us from condemnation.

Revelation shows messengers with the victorious final message—“the everlasting gospel” that is the only effective antidote to the law-changing “wine of Babylon” that intoxicates the world. Those carrying this final call to “worship Him that made” (as revealed in the fourth commandment) are noted to “keep the commandments of God and the faith of Jesus”—“the law and the gospel going hand in hand.”[18] Their life witness unmasks the deception involved in this attack on God’s character by redefining his law with pagan traditions, and by presuming to promote His faith while rejecting His word on everything from creation to redemption.[19]

This last message of mercy is carried by a Laodicean church that has finally opened the door to Jesus, accepting His diagnosis and remedy. As Paul found the answer for his wretchedness in Jesus, so the final passages of Revelation reveal a Laodicea which has the eye salve, seeing her true condition in herself and the true solution in Jesus; she has the gold, knowing the faith of God is the answer to her unbelief,[20] and the love of God is the answer to her love waxing cold;[21] she has the white raiment, accepting His righteousness as the only there is, to cover her lack of it.[22]
 
Summary of the Role of the Law in the Gospel
The law, being a description of what love does and does not do, helps us to see what God is really like. But in so seeing, we also see how unlike Him we are as a result of Eve and Adam rejecting the truth of the image of God in which they were made, while believing the lie that by taking for themselves they could be like God. Instead of making them like Him, they lost, almost completely, the likeness they did have. So, the law has two sides: a description of righteousness, what faith and love look like, and a description of their lack, what it looks like to be “under the law.” Jesus came under this law in His incarnation, by identifying with us, but in a victorious way. He overcame sin in the suffering of temptation, by condemning sin while justifying the sinner. He overcame death in the suffering of death, by the resurrection from the dead. The law is in partnership with Jesus, actually being an expression of His heart, letting us know our need, so we can be led to the Lawgiver Who is also the Redeemer. In Jesus’ birth, life, death, and resurrection, He fulfilled the law that it might be fulfilled in us—the image of God restored in us by the abiding Spirit.
 
A. T. Jones on “The Law Without Christ, and With Christ”
Only in Christ can the law be understood. Christ is God's own exposition and explanation of his own law. Nobody but God can fathom or reveal the wide meaning of his law. In Christ, God has done this. Whoever, therefore, would understand the law of God, must study not the law, but Christ,—not the law as it is in the law, but the law as it is in Christ. To study the law as it is in the law is to court destruction. To study the law as it is in Christ is to court salvation.

"By understanding the law in connection with Christ, receiving him by faith as his substitute and surety, man sees himself a prisoner of hope. The truth as it is in Jesus is an acquaintance with the holy, just, and good law of God, as this law is elevated, and its immutability demonstrated, in Christ."

Christ is God's own explanation of all law—moral, ceremonial, natural, or what not. Then study Christ, and Christ alone. In studying Him, and Him alone, you are studying everything that can ever be known; for He is the truth, and "in Him dwelleth all the fulness of the Godhead bodily. And ye are complete in Him."[23]
 
E. J. Waggoner on “Civil Government and the Law of God”
"And he shall speak great words against the Most High and shall wear out the saints of the Most High, and think to change times and laws; and they shall be given into his hand until a time and times and the dividing of time." Daniel 7:25. The apostle Paul, writing by inspiration of God, sets forth the Papacy as "that man of sin" "that opposeth and exalteth himself against all that is called God, or that is worshipped; so that he sitteth in the temple of God, setting himself forth as God." 2 Thessalonians 2:4, R.V.

These characteristics are met in every case where men think that they can enforce the law of God. For to say that men can enforce the law of God, is to say that man has the power of God; and that is for those who make the laws to set themselves forth as God. So, every nation that enforces religion by law puts itself in the place of God. But when a nation puts itself in the place of God, it turns the attention to just that degree away from God, since it is not indeed God, and has none of His attributes; therefore, such enforcement of religion is nothing else than idolatry. Therefore, we find that the professed enforcement of even the Christian religion is heathenism. The union of Church and State, or the union of religion and the State, which is the same thing, is the very essence of Paganism.[24]
 
~Fred Bischoff
 
[1] Romans 3:31; 13:10
[2] 1 Corinthians 13:7
[3] John 3:16; Philippians 2:5-8
[4] Galatians 4:4, 5
[5] Ellen White, Christ’s Object Lessons, page 118.2
[6] Luke 18:9-14
[7] Philippians 3:6
[8] Romans 7:7-9; 1 John 2:2; 2 Corinthians 5:14
[9] Romans 5:16, 18
[10] Romans 7:14 to 8:1; the word “condemnation” in 8:1 Paul used only two other times, in 5:16, 18, both to describe what Adam brought, as a background for what Jesus brought—a new relation to law call justification.
[11] Romans 8:2-11, in light of 5:18; 7:17, 20, 23
[12] Isaiah 42:21
[13] Daniel 7:25, Acts 20:29, 30, 2 Thessalonians 2:4, 1 Timothy 4:1, and Revelation 13:4-7
[14] See Ellen White, The Great Controversy, page 49.2, for an excellent one-paragraph summary of this process, before and after Constantine.
[15] Galatians 1:11, 12; Romans 1:16-25. Note the reciprocity of faith—the implied dynamic “from [the] faith [of Jesus] to [the] faith [of the believer].” Rejecting this gospel is what leads to “the lie” (the definite article is in the Greek of 1:25) of creature worship that Revelation details prophetically.
[16] Matthew 15:6-9
[17] Colossians 1:23 to 2:10, 22; do a word study on paradosis (tradition) and didaskalia and didache (doctrine).
[18] Revelation 14:6-12; Ellen White, The EGW 1888 Materials, page 217.3; this is the “gospel … obedience of faith” (Romans 16:25, 26).
[19] For a recent example of this philosophy and technique, see “The Easter Effect and How It Changed the World” by George Weigel that explicitly repudiates the seventh-day Sabbath worship, and claims a first-century origin of Sunday in Christianity. (https://eppc.org/publications/the-easter-effect-and-how-it-changed-the-world/; accessed 5/3/18). Research also the influence of Pierre Teilhard de Chardin on the Catholic view of evolution.
[20] Romans 3:3, 4
[21] Revelation 2:4; 1 John 4:19; Matthew 24:12-14
[22] Isaiah 54:17
[23] Advent Review and Sabbath Herald, March 8, 1898, page 156.5-7; paragraph 6 quotes Ellen White in Review, February 8, 1898 par. 5, from an article “The Truth Revealed in Jesus.”
[24] The Present Truth, January 26, 1893, page 20.8&9