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    May 6, 1886

    “Under the Law” The Signs of the Times, 12, 17.

    E. J. Waggoner

    One of the peculiarities of the human mind is that while it readily grasps a pleasing story or a fable, it refuses to accept truth until it is compelled to. So strong is this tendency toward error, that mental philosophers are obliged to take it into account. One of Bacon’s rules for avoiding erroneous conclusions is the following: “In general, let the student of nature take this as a rule, that whatever the mind seizes and dwells upon with particular satisfaction is to be held in suspicion.” The converse would teach that truth will naturally be repelled and rejected. And this is just what the Bible says: “The natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God.” 1 Corinthians 2:14. “The carnal mind is enmity against God; for it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be.” Romans 8:7. “For out of the heart proceed naturally evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, blasphemies.” Matthew 15:19. These things are directly opposed to the law of God; and therefore, as a general thing, before men will accept the truth of the Bible concerning the law, every feature must be made perfectly clear. It is not enough that the principles be unfolded, but the harmony of all the texts bearing on the subject must be shown.SITI May 6, 1886, page 263.1

    Accordingly we find it necessary to devote special explanation to Romans 6:14 and kindred texts. That text reads thus: “For sin shall not have dominion over you; for ye are not under the law, but under grace.” So strong is the natural tendency to reject truth, that in spite of the overwhelming evidence already produced to show that the law is to all eternity binding upon every created rational being, many people will seize upon the expression, “Ye are not under the law,” and claim that there are some, at least, who have no duty to keep it. The readiness with which this view is seized and dwelt upon, should alone arouse suspicion as to its justice. But that there may be no chance for an honest doubt, we propose to examine not only this text, but every text which contains the phrase, “under the law.”SITI May 6, 1886, page 263.2

    In Romans 6:12 the apostle gives this exhortation: “Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal body, that ye should obey it in the lusts thereof.” We have already learned that “sin is the transgression of the law.” 1 John 3:4. Therefore when the apostle tells us not to sin, he virtually tells us not to transgress the law. But this is an evidence that the law is binding upon us; and therefore we are assured that the statement in verse 14 cannot mean that the law has no claims upon us.SITI May 6, 1886, page 263.3

    Again: The apostle continues: “Neither yield ye your members as instruments of unrighteousness unto sin; but yield yourselves unto God, as those that are alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness unto God.” Romans 6:13. This is but a repetition of the argument presented in the preceding paragraph. For he says we must not sin, that is, must not transgress the law; and again, that we must yield our members as instruments of righteousness. Now righteousness is obedience to the commandments of God. See Deuteronomy 6:25; Psalm 119:172; Isaiah 51:6, 7, which have already been explained. So the 13th verse is an exhortation not to transgress the law, and another exhortation to keep the law, both of which amount to the same thing, and show that the apostle recognizes the fact that the law is in existence and is to be obeyed.SITI May 6, 1886, page 263.4

    Then comes the conclusion: “For sin shall not have dominion over you; for ye are not under the law, but under grace.” Verse 14. Notice a few facts and necessary conclusions. 1. Since “sin is the transgression of the law,” the absence of sin must indicate obedience to the law. Therefore when the apostle says to any persons, “Sin shall not have dominion over you,” it is an evidence that they are keeping the law. 2. Those over whom sin has no dominion are those who are not under the law. “Sin shall not have dominion over you; for ye are not under the law.” The fact that sin has no dominion over them is an evidence that they are “not under the law.” Therefore, to be “not under the law” is equivalent to being free from the dominion of sin. 2. But we have already seen that to be free from the dominion of sin represents a state of obedience to the law; therefore, to say that one is “not under the law” is equivalent to saying that he is keeping the law.SITI May 6, 1886, page 263.5

    These propositions will stand the test of any criticism, and they demonstrate that the apostle’s argument is based on the fact that the law is in full force, binding upon all, and that there are but two classes of people; those who keep the law, and those who transgress it. Those who keep the law are not under it, and of course those who transgress it are under it. In other words, those over whom sin has dominion are under the law; and those over whom sin has not dominion, are not under the law.SITI May 6, 1886, page 263.6

    In harmony with this, the apostle continued “When then? Shall we sin, because we are not under the law, but under grace? God forbid.” Verse 15. That is, Shall we transgress the law because we are not under it? By no means. Keep from under it, by refraining from sin.SITI May 6, 1886, page 263.7

    Thus far we have not shown the full force of the terms “under the law,” and “not under the law,” but have simply shown that they do not indicate that any persons are outside the jurisdiction of the law; that those “under the law” are violating it, while those “not under the law” are obeying it. The next two verses give us a clew to the real force of the terms. They read thus: “Know ye not, that to whom ye yield yourselves servants to obey, his servants ye are to whom ye obey; whether of sin unto death, or of obedience unto righteousness? But God be thanked, that ye were the servants of sin, but ye have obeyed from the heart that form of doctrine which was delivered you.” Verses 16, 17. “Whether of sin unto death, or of obedience unto righteousness.” Sin, the transgression of the law, brings death. “For the wages of sin is death.” Romans 6:23. Every one who sins is under condemnation of death; and since, as has been abundantly proved, those who sin are “under the law,” it follows that “under the law” is an expression meaning, Under the condemnation of the law. Now see how aptly this meaning fits verses 14 and 15. Ye are not under the condemnation of the law, but under the grace of God. Shall we sin, then, because we are not by the law condemned to death? No, indeed; for that would at once bring us again under condemnation. Let us keep from sinning, and then we shall be no more condemned.How are we freed from the condemnation which the law brings? “Being justified freely by his [God’s] grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus; whom God hath set forth to be a propitiation through faith in his blood, to declare his righteousness for the commission of sins that are past.” Romans 3:24, 25. Having accepted Christ, his righteousness is imputed to us, which makes us clear before the law, and we are then subjects of the grace, or forbearance of God.SITI May 6, 1886, page 263.8

    Take an illustration from human affairs. Here is a man that has been convicted of murder. The law of the State forbids murder, and therefore it condemns the man. The murderer is then “under the law,” because the hand of the law is upon him. Nothing that he can do will avert the threatened punishment. He may be sorry for his crime, and may resolve never to break the law again; but that will make no difference. He has already broken the law, and must suffer the penalty. But now, through the intercession of powerful friends, and because of his repentance and his promises of future obedience, the Governor is induced to pardon the criminal. Now he is no longer under the law,-a condemned prisoner,-but a free man. He is free by virtue of the grace or favor of the Governor. Therefore he may be said to be “under grace.” The question now arises. Is he at liberty to commit murder, because he is not under the law, but under the grace of the Governor? Everybody says, No, indeed. He is now under even greater obligation to keep the law than he was before, because he is the subject of the Governor’s special favor; and that favor would not have been extended to him, but for his promise to henceforth keep the law.SITI May 6, 1886, page 263.9

    And as sin brought condemnation and death, so, when we are cleared from sin and condemnation, continued obedience, or righteousness, brings eternal life through Christ. This is indicated by the expression, servants “of obedience unto righteousness” (Romans 6:16) and, “the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.” Romans 6:23.SITI May 6, 1886, page 264.1

    In closing this preliminary study of the term, “under the law,” the reader can profitably compare with what he has read, the following verses:-SITI May 6, 1886, page 264.2

    “Therefore as by the offence of one judgment came upon all men to condemnation; even so by the righteousness of one the free gift came upon all men unto justification of life. For as by one man’s disobedience many were made sinners, so by the obedience of one shall many be made righteous. Moreover the law entered, that the offence might abound. But where sin abounded, grace did much more abound; that as sin hath reigned unto death, even so might grace reign through righteousness unto eternal life by Jesus Christ our Lord.” Romans 5:18-21. E. J. W.SITI May 6, 1886, page 264.3

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