Tuesday, September 02, 2014

“The Law of God”

Insights #10 September 6, 2014
Third Quarter 2014 Adult Sabbath School Lessons
"The Law of God"
For the week of September 6, 2014

A right understanding of God's use of law, and our relation to it, stood at the center of the opposition to the message that God sent to us at Minneapolis in 1888.  Satan has always tried to portray the law of God as an attempt by God to limit our freedom.  Satan has attempted – quite successfully both on earth and in heaven – to portray God as controlling, manipulative, restrictive, and micro-managing, and that God has used laws to accomplish His purposes.

In the garden of Eden, in Gen.3, Satan through the serpent, stated that God was being restrictive and confining in that God wouldn't let Adam and Eve eat from ANY tree in the garden.  Whereas God had given tremendous liberty to eat of anything they wanted except one tree, Satan made God appear controlling by saying they couldn't eat anything.  Satan had the same argument up in heaven.  In Job 4, Satan spoke to one of Job's friends in a night vision, and said that God up in heaven didn't have any faith in His angels.  From this we glean, again, that Satan was portraying God as controlling and restrictive.  If God had trusted them, He would have given His angels more freedom, less restriction, less law.

God's law has always been one of heart experience over external behavioral compliance.  Both in heaven and on earth, God has always wanted our law keeping to occur because the law is written on our hearts, minds, and characters, not merely as a behavioral acquiescence motivated by hope of reward or fear of punishment.  This was the experience of the angels up in heaven.  The idea that God had a law was almost a new thought to them when Satan brought it up.  "But in heaven, service is not rendered in the spirit of legality. When Satan rebelled against the law of Jehovah, the thought that there was a law came to the angels almost as an awakening to something unthought of. In their ministry the angels are not as servants, but as sons.... Obedience is to them no drudgery. Love for God makes their service a joy. So in every soul wherein Christ, the hope of glory, dwells, His words are re-echoed, "I delight to do thy will, O my God: yea, thy law is within my heart."  {Mar 79.7}

This same controversy continued in our 1888 history and down to our day.  A. T. Jones and E. J. Waggoner, and Ellen White, were all attempting to promote a heart motivated obedience, and not merely an external behavioral compliance.  Those opposed to God's messengers felt that this was a dangerous downplaying of the law's significance.  All mention of law that might have a potentially negative connotation in the New Testament they said referred to the ceremonial law and not the moral law.  Jones and Waggoner and Ellen White all affirmed that the law generally referred to both the moral and ceremonial laws – especially in Galatians and Romans.  God's use of law has always been as a revelation of His love for us – whether it is moral or ceremonial.  All laws were never a means of salvation, but a revelation of what salvation looks like – and that is true for both the moral and ceremonial laws!

Ellen White said it this way:

"The law was our schoolmaster to bring us unto Christ, that we might be justified by faith" (Galatians 3:24). In this Scripture, the Holy Spirit through the apostle is speaking especially of the moral law. The law reveals sin to us, and causes us to feel our need of Christ, and to flee unto Him for pardon and peace by exercising repentance toward God and faith toward our Lord Jesus Christ.  {1MR 130.2}

An unwillingness to yield up preconceived opinions, and to accept this truth, lay at the foundation of a large share of the opposition manifested at Minneapolis against the Lord's message through Brethren Waggoner and Jones. By exciting that opposition, Satan succeeded in shutting away from our people, in a great measure, the special power of the Holy Spirit that God longed to impart to them. The enemy prevented them from obtaining that efficiency which might have been theirs in carrying the truth to the world, as the apostles proclaimed it after the day of Pentecost. The light that is to lighten the whole earth with its glory was resisted, and by the action of our own brethren has been in a great degree kept away from the world.  {1MR 130.3}  

The law of ten commandments is not to be looked upon as much from the prohibitory side, as from the mercy side. Its prohibitions are the sure guarantee of happiness in obedience. As received in Christ, it works in us the purity of character that will bring joy to us through eternal ages. To the obedient it is a wall of protection. We behold in it the goodness of God, who by revealing to men the immutable principles of righteousness, seeks to shield them from the evils that result from transgression.  {1MR 130.4}  

We are not to regard God as waiting to punish the sinner for his sin. The sinner brings the punishment upon himself. His own actions start a train of circumstances that bring the sure result. Every act of transgression reacts upon the sinner, works in him a change of character, and makes it more easy for him to transgress again. By choosing to sin, men separate themselves from God, cut themselves off from the channel of blessing, and the sure result is ruin and death.  {1MR 131.1}  

I am asked concerning the law in Galatians. What law is the schoolmaster to bring us to Christ? I answer: Both the ceremonial and the moral code of ten commandments.  {1MR 131.4}

May we in our understanding, in our experience, and in our sharing, reveal a picture of the law as beautiful as this.  May God's law be respected and appreciated and treasured as it should be, not as a burden, but as the true blessing that it is.

Raul Diaz