The Review and Herald


May 23, 1899

The Law Exalted by Christ


Christ had altogether a higher, broader conception of the law than had the rabbis. He himself had inspired prophets and holy men of old to testify of the spiritual character of the law. Christ was the foundation of the whole Jewish economy. In the sacrificial offerings, type was to meet antitype in his life in the world, and in his death upon the cross for the sins of men. “Of which salvation the prophets have inquired and searched diligently, who prophesied of the grace that should come unto you: searching what, or what manner of time the Spirit of Christ which was in them did signify, when it testified beforehand the sufferings of Christ, and the glory that should follow. Unto whom it was revealed, that not unto themselves, but unto us they did minister the things, which are now reported unto you by them that have preached the gospel unto you with the Holy Ghost sent down from heaven; which things the angels desire to look into.” RH May 23, 1899, par. 1

The rabbis, the priests and rulers, had ceased to look beneath the symbol for the truth that was signified by their outward ceremonies. The gospel of Christ was prefigured in the sacrificial offerings, and Levitical types. The prophets had high, holy, and lofty conceptions, and had hoped that they would see spirituality of doctrine among the people in their day; but one century after another had passed by, and the prophets had died without seeing their expectations realized. The moral truth that they presented, which was so significant to the Jewish nation, to a large degree lost its sacredness in their eyes. As they lost sight of spiritual doctrine, they multiplied ceremonies. They did not reveal spiritual worship in purity, in goodness, in love for God and love for their fellow men. They kept not the first four or the last six commandments, yet they increased their external requirements. They knew not that One was among them who was prefigured in the temple service. They could not discern the Way, the Truth, and the Life. They had gone into idolatry, and worshiped external forms. They continually added to the tedious system of works, in which they trusted for salvation. RH May 23, 1899, par. 2

In his sermon on the mount, Christ stripped away the mass of rubbish that had been wrapped about the law of God, and gave no honor to their human traditions. He proclaimed the true character of the law, revealing it as he had given it in Eden and from Mount Sinai. He presented it in its elevated character as binding upon all ages and conditions of men, as a law that will never lose its force in time or eternity. Christ lived the law, and his life of purity and holiness was a constant rebuke to the religious teachers of the day. His example condemned their godless lives. Addressing his disciples, he said: “Except your righteousness shall exceed the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, ye shall in no case enter into the kingdom of heaven.” Not only did the scribes and Pharisees violate the law of God themselves, but they led men to accept their words, to practise their human inventions, and follow their precept and example. They taught for doctrines the commandments of men. They desired to define to the smallest details the requirements of the law, and this led them to accumulate a mass of human sayings. These maxims they taught to the people as principles of the law, and thus they confused the faith and corrupted the morals of those whom they led into idolatry by their perversion of truth. RH May 23, 1899, par. 3

There was great need that the Lawgiver himself should explain the true meaning of the law; and in his sermon on the mount, Christ expounded its principles. The religious teachers of the day had treated eternal realities as if they were trifles, and had exalted their own sayings and inventions, which had no place in God's law, as the only religion. In presenting their sacrificial offerings in their temple worship, they were as actors in a play. Christ condemned their corruption, which they called religion, and declared of them that they knew not the Scriptures nor the power of God. RH May 23, 1899, par. 4

Christ presented before the people the holiness of the law. He summed it up in these words, “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, ... and thy neighbor as thyself.” This represents the whole duty of men to God and to their fellow men. This same law had existed in Eden before there was a people known as Jews, and it had been proclaimed on Mount Sinai to the Israelites by the Lord Jesus Christ. It had not been originated simply for their obedience, but was proclaimed anew to them as the living oracles of God. The law of God is the expression of his goodness and love, the transcript of his character. There is no power in the law to pardon the transgression of law; but the tidings of salvation through a Mediator was the only hope for the transgressor. “God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” RH May 23, 1899, par. 5

Through the plan of salvation the law holds its dignity in condemning the sinner, and the sinner can be saved through the propitiation of Christ for our sins, “in whom we have redemption through his blood, even the forgiveness of sins.” The law is not changed in any particular to meet man in his fallen condition. It remains what it ever has been,—holy, just, and good. “The law of the Lord is perfect, converting the soul.” It is a righteous law, one to be respected and honored; for it convicts the sinner of his sin, and convinces him of his need of a Saviour. It is then that he exercises repentance toward God, and faith toward our Lord Jesus Christ. RH May 23, 1899, par. 6

Paul describes his experience, saying: “I was alive without the law once: but when the commandment came, sin revived, and I died.” He saw his need of a Saviour. Looking into the great standard of righteousness, he saw himself a sinner in the light of the law. But as he looked into the face of Christ, he could say, with full assurance: “This is a faithful saying, and worthy of all acceptation, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners; of whom I am chief.” He could rejoice in the fact that provision had been made for his redemption, through the merits of the blood of the only begotten Son of God, and that pardon could be written against his name. It was evident to him that the law did not abate one jot of its justice, but through the atoning sacrifice, through the imputed righteousness of Christ, the repentant sinner stands justified before the law. RH May 23, 1899, par. 7

Christ bore the penalty that would have fallen upon the transgressor; and through faith the helpless, hopeless sinner becomes a partaker of the divine nature, escaping the corruption that is in the world through lust. Christ imputes his perfection and righteousness to the believing sinner when he does not continue in sin, but turns from transgression to obedience of the commandments. Christ rendered perfect obedience to the law, and man could not possibly obey the holy precepts had it not been for the provision that was made for the salvation of the fallen sons and daughters of Adam. Clothed with the habiliments of humanity, Christ passed over the ground where Adam stumbled and fell. He became subject to the same temptations to disregard the word that God had spoken, and to accept the voice of the tempter, who had disguised himself as an angel of light. He met the wily foe's temptations, saying: “It is written, Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God.” He was assailed by the tempter on every point upon which we are tempted; but as man's substitute and surety, Christ redeemed Adam's disgraceful fall, and kept the way of the Lord. RH May 23, 1899, par. 8

Thus he placed the human family upon vantage-ground, identifying his interest with that of fallen man. The prince of fallen angels conducted the warfare against the only begotten Son of God. Evil angels leagued with evil men, and earth and hell arrayed their powers against him, in order to overcome him. Unrighteousness leagued against righteousness and truth, error and iniquity assailed the standard of righteousness. Satan imbued his instrumentalities with his own spirit, and men became agents in the deceptive work, playing the game for the life and character of every son and daughter of Adam. He carried out the same plan upon which he had entered in heaven. There he had succeeded in carrying with him a large number of angels, who sought with him to make of no effect the standard of righteousness. Since his expulsion from heaven, he has worked with unabated earnestness, with sleepless vigilance. RH May 23, 1899, par. 9

Jesus, the world's Redeemer, stands between Satan and every soul. “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” And those who lay their sins upon Christ through faith in his righteousness, will come off victorious. As our Mediator, Jesus was fully able to accomplish this work of redemption; but O, at what a price! The sinless Son of God was condemned for the sin in which he had no part, in order that the sinner, through repentance and faith, might be justified by the righteousness of Christ, in which he had no personal merit. The sins of every one who has lived upon the earth were laid upon Christ, testifying to the fact that no one need be a loser in the conflict with Satan. Provision has been made that all may lay hold of the strength of him who will save to the uttermost all who come unto God by him. RH May 23, 1899, par. 10

Christ receives upon him the guilt of man's transgression, while he lays upon all who receive him by faith, who return to their allegiance to God, his own spotless righteousness. Those who thus receive Christ can say, with the psalmist: “The law of the Lord is perfect, converting the soul: the testimony of the Lord is sure, making wise the simple. The statutes of the Lord are right, rejoicing the heart: the commandment of the Lord is pure, enlightening the eyes. The fear of the Lord is clean, enduring forever: the judgments of the Lord are true and righteous altogether. More to be desired are they than gold, yea, than much fine gold: sweeter also than honey and the honey-comb. Moreover by them is thy servant warned: and in keeping of them there is great reward.” With David we can pour forth the sacred song: “Good and upright is the Lord: therefore will he teach sinners in the way. The meek will he guide in judgment: and the meek will he teach his way. All the paths of the Lord are mercy and truth unto such as keep his covenant and his testimonies.” “Blessed is he whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered. Blessed is the man unto whom the Lord imputeth not iniquity, and in whose spirit there is no guile.” RH May 23, 1899, par. 11

Not only is man forgiven through the atoning sacrifice, but through faith he is accepted in the Beloved. Returning to his loyalty to God, whose law he has transgressed, he is not merely tolerated, but he is honored as a son of God, a member of the heavenly family. He is an heir of God, and a joint heir with Jesus Christ. Of those who are accepted in Christ, Jesus says: “And the glory which thou gavest me I have given them; that they may be one, even as we are one: I in them, and thou in me, that they may be made perfect in one; and that the world may know that thou hast sent me, and hast loved them, as thou hast loved me.” RH May 23, 1899, par. 12

What inexpressible love has the Saviour manifested toward the children of men! Not only does he take off the brand of sin, but he cleanses and purifies the soul, clothing it in the robe of his own righteousness, which is without spot, woven in the loom of heaven. He not only lifts the curse from the sinner, but brings him into oneness with himself, reflecting upon him the bright beams of his righteousness. He is welcomed by the heavenly universe, accepted in the beloved Son of God. What glory can fallen man, through repentance and faith, bring back to God! He accepts the law of Jehovah as his counselor, his reprover, his standard of character, and thus testifies to worlds unfallen and to this sinful world, that the law is immutable in its character, and has been exalted and honored by the death of Christ, the only provision through which man could be saved. O, how precious is the atoning sacrifice, because of that which it accomplishes! The cross speaks to the hosts of heaven, to worlds unfallen, and to the fallen world, the value which God has placed upon men, and of his great love wherewith he has loved us. It testifies to the world, to angels, and to men, the immutability of the divine law. The death of God's only begotten Son upon the cross in the sinner's behalf is the unanswerable argument as to the changeless character of the law of Jehovah. RH May 23, 1899, par. 13