Ellen G. White Writings

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The Signs of the Times

March 29, 1910

Christ and the Law

By Mrs. E. G. White

At a very early age Jesus began to act for Himself in the formation of His character, and not even respect and love for His parents could turn Him from obedience to God's Word. “It is written” was His reason for every act that varied from the family customs.

But the influence of the rabbis made His life a bitter one. Even in His youth He had to learn the hard lesson of silence and patient endurance. His brothers, as the sons of Joseph were called, sided with the rabbis. They insisted that the traditions of the Jewish priests must be heeded, as if they were the requirements of God; and they were greatly annoyed at the clear penetration of Jesus in distinguishing between the false and the true. His strict obedience to the law of God they condemned as stubbornness.

They were surprised at the knowledge and wisdom He showed in answering the rabbis. They knew that He had not received instruction from the wise men, yet they could not but see that He was an instructor to them. They recognized that His education was of a higher type than their own. But they did not discern that He had access to the tree of life, a source of knowledge of which they were ignorant.

All through His ministry to this earth, Christ was a living representative of the law. No violation of its holy precepts was found in His life. Looking upon a nation of witnesses who were seeking occasion to condemn Him, He could say unchallenged, “Which of you convicteth Me of sin?”

In His sermon on the mount, Jesus did not dwell on the specifications of the law, but He did not leave His hearers to conclude that He had come to set aside its requirements. He knew that spies stood ready to seize upon every word that might be wrested to serve their purpose. He knew the prejudice that existed in the minds of many of His hearers, and He said nothing to unsettle their faith in the religion and institutions that had been committed to them through Moses. Christ Himself had given both the moral and the ceremonial law. He did not come to destroy confidence in His own instruction. It was because of His great reverence for the law and the prophets, that He sought to break through the wall of traditional requirements which hemmed in the Jews. While He set aside their false interpretations of the law, He carefully guarded His disciples against yielding up the vital truths committed to the Hebrews.

The Pharisees prided themselves on their obedience to the law; yet they knew so little of its principles through every-day practise, that to them the Saviour's words sounded like heresy. As He swept away the rubbish under which the truth had been buried, they thought He was sweeping away the truth itself. They whispered to one another that He was making light of the law. He read their thoughts, and answered them, “Think not that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets: I am not come to destroy, but to fulfill.” Here Jesus refutes the charge of the Pharisees. His mission to the world is to vindicate the sacred claims of that law which they charge Him with breaking. If the law of God could have been changed or abrogated, then Christ need not have suffered the consequences of our transgression. He came to explain the relation of the law to man, and to illustrate its precepts by His own life of obedience.

God has given us His holy precepts, because He loves mankind. To shield us from the results of transgression, He reveals the principles of righteousness. The law is an expression of the thought of God; when received in Christ, it becomes our thought. It lifts us above the power of natural desires and tendencies, above temptations that lead to sin. God desires us to be happy, and He gave us the precepts of the law that in obeying them we might have joy. When at Jesus’ birth the angels sang,

“Glory to God in the highest,
And on earth peace, good-will toward men” they were declaring the principles of the law which He had come to magnify and make honorable.

When the law was proclaimed from Sinai, God made known to men the holiness of His character, that by contrast they might see the sinfulness of their own. The law was given to convict them of sin, and reveal their need of a Saviour. It would do this as its principles were applied to the heart by the Holy Spirit. This work it is still to do. In the life of Christ the principles of the law are made plain; and as the Holy Spirit of God touches the heart, as the light of Christ reveals to men their need of His cleansing blood and His justifying righteousness, the law is still an agent in bringing us to Christ, that we may be justified by faith.

“Till heaven and earth pass,” said Jesus, “one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law, till all be fulfilled.” The sun shining in the heavens, the solid earth upon which you dwell, are God's witnesses that His law is changeless and eternal. Tho they may pass away, the divine precepts shall endure. “It is easier for heaven and earth to pass, than one tittle of the law to fail.” The system of types that pointed to Jesus as the Lamb of God, was to be abolished at His death; but the precepts of the Decalogue are as immutable as the throne of God.

Since “the law of the Lord is perfect,” every variation from it must be evil. Those who disobey the commandments of God, and teach others to do so, are condemned by Christ. The Saviour's life of obedience maintained the claims of the law, and showed the excellence of character that obedience would develop. All who obey as He did, are likewise declaring that the law is “holy, and just, and good.”

Jesus takes up the commandments separately, and explains the depth and breadth of their requirement. Instead of removing one jot of their force, He shows how far-reaching their principles are, and exposes the fatal mistake of the Jews in their outward show of obedience. He declares that by the evil thought or the lustful look the law of God is transgressed. One who becomes a party to the least injustice, is breaking the law, and degrading his own moral nature. Murder first exists in the mind. He who gives hatred a place in his heart, is setting his feet in the path of the murderer; and his offerings are abhorrent to God.

The plan of redemption contemplates our complete recovery from the power of Satan. The command, “Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect,” is a promise. God's ideal for His children is higher than the highest human thought can reach.

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