"The Law in the Book of
by George I. Butler (1886),
"The Gospel in
the Book of Galatians"
by Ellet J. Waggoner (1888).
The Subject of the Two Laws Considered
What law is the principle subject of the apostle’s discourse in the epistle to the Galatians? Is it the moral law? or the typical remedial system and laws peculiarly Jewish? Perhaps there has never been a theological question in all the history of our work concerning which there has been so much disagreement among our ministry and leading brethren as this. Such differences have existed more or less with varying phases, singe the rise of the message, and at times have been discussed with more or less warmth. At other periods they have been tacitly left untouched. Generally, a mutual forbearance has been exercised, so that bitterness of feeling between brethren has been avoided.
Leading brethren have been on both sides of the question. In the early history of the work, it is probable that quite a majority of them accepted the view that the moral law was the main subject of Paul’s consideration in the book of Galatians. But there came quite a change in this respect at a later period, when some of our leading brethren, to whom our people have ever looked as safe counselors in questions of perplexity, gave up the view that the moral law was mainly under discussion, and took the position that it was the ceremonial law. Many others who have come later to act a part in the work, have accepted the latter view with strong confidence. It would be quite difficult to ascertain the comparative strength in numbers on either side; but to the best of the writer’s judgment (and his opportunities of forming a fair opinion have not been meager), he would say that at the present time at least two thirds of our ministers hold the latter opinion.
For half a score of years past, the question has lain quite dormant. Not that either of the classes referred to have changed their opinion. By no means. But there has seemed to be an avoidance of the question quite largely, and a desire to spare the feelings of those holding an opposite view as much as possible; so that the law in Galatians has not been dwelt upon in articles coming before the public through our periodicals and publications as much as it otherwise would have been.
We say this has been the case quite largely until within a comparatively brief time. But the writer acknowledges considerable surprise that during the last year or two the subject has been made quite prominent in the instructions given to those at Healdsburg College preparing to labor in the cause; also in the lessons passing through the Instructor, designed for our Sabbath-schools all over the land, and in numerous argumentative articles in the Signs of the Times, our pioneer missionary paper, thus throwing these views largely before the reading public not acquainted with our faith. Thus, strong and repeated efforts have been made to sustain the view that the moral law is the subject of the apostle’s discourse in the most prominent texts under discussion in the letter to the Galatians.
Now we are not disposed to find fault with the spirit in which the articles are written, or to say that the matter has not been managed ably on the part of those engaged in it. Indeed, we are free to admit a keen perception, yea, a degree of admiration, of the tact and ability displayed in bringing this controverted question of long standing, held in abeyance for a time, before our people in the manner mentioned. It shows a degree of shrewdness in planning to carry the views of the writers and actors which, if exerted in a better way, might be truly commendable.
But we decidedly protest against the bringing out of controverted views in the manner indicated, concerning matters upon which our people are not agreed. It violates a principle well understood in the practice of this body, which has usually been regarded with respect. It has been taught by high authority that where such differences exist, at least on the side of a minority, they should either be held without giving them much publicity, or be brought before our leading brethren and acted upon by them. Then it would be time to publish them, and not before.
But even if it were thought consistent to publish controverted views to a reasonable degree, we should still protest against doing it in the manner mentioned. It seems very objectionable to us, to urgently teach views not held by a majority of our leading brethren, to our college students who are preparing to go out and labor in the cause. We do not believe our denominational institutions of learning were established for any such purpose. Our work has been noted for unity; but unity will not be increased by such methods. There are plenty of things which can be taught without going into controverted fields. We conceive that the fact that such differences have been made prominent in teaching these young minds, must tend to give them a less favorable impression of the character of our work than if an effort had been made to make our differences as small as possible.
So of the lessons going through the Instructor, in which those points have been presented. To our personal knowledge, and from the reports of leading ministers, in many places throughout the field a great amount of argument and controversy has been indulged in over this question of the law in Galatians, often with heat and contention. When such positions are taken on controverted points, the fact that they are published in our denominational journals, and hence are believed to be the views of all our people, leaves an unjust impression in the minds of those who study the lessons, concerning the larger number of those in the cause who hold opposite views. It is taking an unfair advantage. Our Sabbath-school lessons should teach only views held by the large body of our people.
The same principle applies to articles published in our pioneer paper. They should represent only the views of the body, and not ventilate views held by any writer, however strongly he may hold them, when he knows they are not the views of the body, or the principal portion of our people. To pursue the opposite course would be far more objectionable in our pioneer paper than in the Review, the organ of the church. The former was established by our people as an agency through which to introduce our views to the public, who are supposed to be unacquainted with them. Every one would have the strongest reason to suppose that articles coming from the pioneer paper of the denomination, established by the, church to teach its special views, were indorsed by the body. But such is not the case with the articles in question. The application of texts in Galatians quoted and commented upon in the Signs, is not the opinion of the body or a majority of our people, and has not been for years; and those writing them certainly ought to know this. The Signs is a paper with a large circulation. It comes under the observation of many of our ablest opponents. By this course of the managers of the Signs, they must become aware of the fact that there is a difference in our public teaching upon this subject; and they will doubtless use such knowledge to our detriment. Indeed, I have known it to be done years in the past by an able disputant in a debate in Iowa, who brought out the fact that we teach differently on this subject.
We claim to be a united people, and to teach but one doctrine. It has been a great cause of regret for years among our best brethren that this difference of opinion exists among us; and the course of the Signs must tend to make this difference far more prominent than it ever has been before; and many outside of our ranks will become acquainted with the fact who never would have known it had not the editors of the Signs repeatedly pressed their views of this subject through, its columns. Whatever may be, the opinion entertained concerning this subject of the law in Galatians, it seems to the writer there can be but one opinion among the careful, thoughtful believers concerning the propriety of publishing in our pioneer paper doctrines not generally held by the large majority of our people.
Believing strongly, as we do, that the law principally considered in Galatians is the typical remedial system, which passed away at the cross, and is not the moral law, and feeling that an unfair advantage has been taken in urgently teaching the contrary opinion to our young people preparing to labor in the cause, and in making our Instructor lessons and pioneer paper mediums for teaching an opposite view, and hoping to add some information which will be valuable upon the subject, we have felt it not only proper but a duty to bring the subject before the General Conference of our people, the only tribunal in our body where such controverted questions can be properly considered and passed upon.
The Subject of the Two Laws Considered
The question before us is one of interpretation. In the brief letter of the apostle Paul to the Galatian church, we have at the commencement some historical facts given concerning himself and his apostleship, and an argument concerning “the law,” and in the latter part, practical instruction concerning various Christian duties.
Running all through the epistle are expressions in which the apostle finds fault with them for their course of conduct after he left them, caused by Jewish teachers who had led them astray, so that they had really taken positions contrary to the gospel of Christ. In these censures the apostle makes constant reference to some law concerning which the Galatians had taken a wrong position.
As a people, we believe that there are two laws, or systems of law :
We hold the former to be ever binding upon man, while the latter passed away.
Our inquiry is now as to which of these laws the apostle has principally in view in the letter to the Galatians. The question is an important one, and is therefore well worthy of consideration. Truth, for its own sake, is important concerning the meaning and application of any scripture; and the truth concerning the law in Galatians is especially so, because the apostle’s references to the law in this letter are used by our opponents as a strong support to their Antinomian doctrines. It is evident that the position which is a truthful exposition of the apostle’s argument is in every way preferable, and will be easier to defend than one which is erroneous. It will enable us to meet our opponents more successfully, and thus the great system of truth which we hold will be strengthened.
All our people ought to greatly desire that we come to a unity of position on this subject.
We hold that the letter to the Galatians was written to meet one of the greatest difficulties with which the gospel had to contend in the apostle’s days. This difficulty was the opposition of Judaizing teachers and disciples who still taught the obligation of the ceremonial law, and of circumcision and those laws connected with it which served to separate between Jews and Gentiles. These confused the minds of the disciples, and obscured the great principles of the gospel, virtually destroying it.
We find constant reference to the work of this class of teachers in Paul’s writings and in the Acts of the Apostles, as we shall see. Indeed, it may well be doubted whether a large portion of the early church who were Jews before conversion ever fully realized the scope and extent of the gospel in setting aside those laws peculiarly Jewish. They clung to them, and were zealous for them long after they were abolished at the cross. To Paul we are in debt, through the blessing of God, for the only full explanation of the proper relation of these laws to the plan of salvation and the gospel; and he himself was looked upon with great suspicion by many of the Hebrew converts, because he plainly taught the abrogation of many things which they continued to hold sacred.
Nor is this to be wondered at when we take a view of the past history of that people, and the special influences which had been at work for fifteen centuries. We cannot well realize the peculiar circumstances surrounding the early church, and the special influences with which they had to contend, without looking at the causes which led to them. We will briefly notice these.
Because the mass of mankind had gone into idolatry, and utterly apostatized from God, the Lord chose Abraham and his descendants to be his peculiar people. They were such till the cross. He gave them the rite of circumcision—a circle cut in the flesh—as a sign of their separation from the rest of the human family. In process of time, after special experiences and training, he gave them a land peculiarly their own, and built about them, by special laws, ordinances, rites, and services, a wall of separation, which has made them a distinct people even to the present day. The sign of circumcision to the Jew implied and embraced all this. It was the one rite which separated the Jews from the Gentile world. This is shown by the fact that any Gentile could become a proselyte, and be entitled to all the privileges of the nation, by being circumcised and uniting with them. Without this, in the old economy no man could come under the provisions of salvation; with it, all the hopes, promises, covenants, laws, light, and privileges of the Israelite were his. Hence circumcision implies all those privileges specially Jewish. The term was used in this well-understood sense. The circumcised were God’s peculiar people. The uncircumcised were all the rest of the world. Hence for a man to drop circumcision was really to cast aside all the peculiar blessings and privileges of the Jews, and to lower himself to a level with the rest of the world he so much despised; while to maintain it, was to maintain all his supposed superiority. Hence we see what was involved in the controversies over circumcision in the early gospel church.
Should we inquire into the reasons why God thus separated the descendants of Abraham from the rest of the world, as the rite of circumcision implied, we may readily discover them. Every effort of the Almighty to maintain a pure people in the earth had in length of time seemed to fail. At the flood all had gone astray save Noah and his family, and the destruction of the mass of the race thus became necessary in order to start anew. Another great defection made the destruction of the cities of the plain necessary. Scarce any but Abraham remained true to their allegiant in his time. So God now adopts a more effectual method. He takes the painful rite of circumcision as a separating sign, and builds a wall around his people, protecting them in a measure from the inundation of evil coming from the outer heathen world, thus preserving a seed, a church, till Messiah should come and inaugurate a more effective system with which to bless mankind. The object was noble, and such as was worthy of a wise, benevolent Creator.
This people, thus protected, were made the recipients of numberless blessings. God intrusted to them his holy law, with his holy Sabbath,—inestimable blessings!—which gave them an infinitely clearer view of moral duty than was possess by the most enlightened nations around them. He made rich provisions for their temporal good in the fertile country bestowed upon them. Had they been obedient, he would have made them the highest of the nations. He gave them rich promises, instructed them by holy prophets, and caused the Messiah to be made manifest through their race. They were indeed a most favored nation.
But these great blessings, which should have made Israel a humble, grateful people, full of love to God, they perverted, and became proud, boastful, supercilious, stiff-necked, and selfish, looking down upon all others, and feeling that they were the only ones God regarded. They filled up the measure of their iniquity by crucifying their long-promised Messiah. So selfish were they that they could not appreciate the spirit of love to all, which so overflowed from his precious life.
Then came the cross, when all their special privileges, with circumcision as their representative and sign, were swept away. They had forfeited them by disobedience and rebellion. The time and event, the limit to which they reached, had come. Their iniquity, in view of the light they had received, was even greater than that of the nations around them. There was no propriety, therefore, in still keeping up the wall of separation between them and others. They all stood now upon the same level in the sight of God. All must approach him through the Messiah who had come into the world; through him alone man could be saved.
But did the Jews take kindly to this new order of things?—Far from it. The thing that maddened them most of all was the intimation that their special privileges were taken away. These had served to exalt them in their own eyes, and they had used them for ages to exalt themselves above others. They had been very zealous in proselyting among the nations because of this superiority. And now to have this lowly Nazarene and his poor, despised followers, who had never been honored as learned or talented, place them on the same level with others, was like destroying their whole stock in trade. Their sacred privileges and special blessings were the only things they had to boast of. They were oppressed by the Romans, and despised by the Greeks as being ignorant of philosophy, and not generally liked by the nations because of their pride and vain glory. To take away their only claim of being God’s peculiar people was more than they could endure.
Their hatred was especially bitter against the apostle Paul, because he, more than any other, clearly defined and demonstrated this fact. He was the apostle to the Gentiles, which made it necessary for him to make this fact prominent. He pointed them to Christ as their only hope. Thy had nothing to gain from circumcision and the special privileges it represented. Hence we see the Judaizing teachers representing the various sects of zealots among the Jews and the Hebrew disciples who were not willing to accept the truth as Paul taught it, opposing him, following him from city to city, persecuting and in many instances trying to kill him. They were exceedingly zealous for circumcision and the law of the fathers. The hardest battle the great apostle had to fight was upon this very ground.
There were really two leading questions which required special attention as the gospel went among the Gentiles beyond the confines of Judaism. The special circumstances that had surrounded the Jewish people for ages in the past, made these questions prominent, now that the new order of things was introduced, and Jews and Gentiles stood alike upon the same basis. One was the binding claims of the law of God upon all mankind, and the special fact connected with it that the Jews were condemned by that law as sinners, and hence needed a Saviour just as much as others.
The other was the fact already referred to—the cessation at the cross, of the types and services pointing to Christ, with the special privileges granted to Israel as God’s peculiar people, symbolized by circumcision. Until these positions were well understood, and the great principles growing out of them were thoroughly comprehended, the gospel could never acoomplish its destined work in the world; the Christian system would be in disorder and confusion.
For Jew and Gentile alike to have a Saviour, both alike must be sinners. Thus both could come into one brotherhood, and constitute one family. But this could not be if this middle wall still stood as a separation between them. Hence it must be thoroughly understood that this was broken down. Both of these facts were unpalatable to the Jew. He greatly disliked to be reckoned a common sinner with the hated Gentile. He strenuously contended also for circumcision and its attendant privileges. Hence it was necessary that both of these great facts should be faithfully developed, and the underlying reasons given for this new arrangement. Paul was the man specially raised up of God to do this work.
We shall claim that in the epistle to the Romans he fully considers the former question, and in the letter to the Galatians, the latter. We cannot agree with some who claim that the design, scheme, or argument in the two epistles are substantially the same. We freely. admit that there are expressions alike in both; but we believe that the main line of argument and the ultimate object in view are widely different, and that many of the similar expressions used are to be understood in a different sense, because the argument of the apostle demands it.
In the other epistles of Paul these facts are adverted to; but in none of them is the argument anywhere near so fully developed. It does not look reasonable on the face of it that the apostle would have principally the same object in view in two different epistles. These were written by direct inspiration of God, to be the special guidance of the Christian church. He was bringing out the great principles which should serve as the governing influence of the church for all future ages. We therefore believe it to be an unreasonable view that both have the same design. In the epistle to the Romans, after a few preliminary remarks, Paul sets before us the condition of the heathen world, and how they came to forget God, and their terrible degradation. They certainly needed a Saviour. Yet they were amenable to the law of God; for it had originally been “written in the heart” at creation, and some remnant of the work of it still remained.
But the Jews had a great advantage, inasmuch as the “living oracles” were directly placed in their keeping. They had constant access to them, but had as constantly transgressed them. The apostle plainly proved all of them to be under sin. All had gone astray. None did good, no not one. He concludes: “What then? are we [Jews] better than they?—No, in no wise; for we have before proved both Jews and Gentiles, that they are all under sin.” Every mouth was stopped, and all the world became guilty before God. The law was not “made void,” but “established.”
The apostle proceeds in a most lucid and powerful argument to show the agency of the moral law in the plan of salvation in all its various relations to the sinner; the necessity of faith in Christ in order that the law-breaker may be justified; its agency in the death of the old carnal man; and its necessity as a standard of right-doing which the repentant sinner alone can reach by the assistance of Christ through the Holy Spirit. To the Epistle to the Romans we ever look for the most complete and thorough exposition of the law of God in its relation to the plan of salvation and the ultimate justification of the repentant transgressor of it.
But is the scheme of the letter to the Galatians the same? Does the apostle have in view the same object? We think he had a widely different end in view. Instead of trying to impress upon Jew and Gentile alike the obligation of the moral law as his main object, he has constantly in view a class of Judaizing teachers who had troubled the disciples, and introduced doctrines which subverted the principles of the gospel. The believers had been turned away from the faith by these teachings, to “another gospel.” They had loved the great apostle when they first received the truth, with a fervency which would have prompted them to pluck out their eyes for him; but through the influence of these disturbing teachers, that love had been almost lost. Paul was greatly grieved at this sudden change in their feelings and views. Throughout the whole epistle he constantly refers to it, reproaching them for their sudden change, and appealing to them to return to their former position.
What was the change in them of which he complains so strongly? Was it that they had kept the moral law so well—had observed the Sabbath, refrained from idolatry, blasphemy, murder, lying, stealing, etc.—that they felt they were justified by their good works, and therefore needed no faith in a crucified Saviour? or was it that they had accepted circumcision, with all it implied and symbolized, the laws and services which served as a wall of separation between Jews and Gentiles, and the ordinances of the typical remedial system? We unhesitatingly affirm it was the latter.
In indorsing the former remedial system of types and shadows, they virtually denied that Christ, the substance to which all these types pointed, had come. Hence the error was a fundamental one in doctrine, though they might not realize it. This was why Paul spoke so forcibly, and pointed out their error with such strength of language. Their error involved practices which were subversive of the principles of the gospel. They were not merely errors of opinion.
Let us notice a few expressions of the apostle, scattered through Galatians, before we come to an examination of the epistle itself. This will serve to bring out the point more clearly:—
“O foolish Galatians, who hath bewitched you, that ye should not obey the truth?” Chap. 3:1.
“But now, after that ye have known God, or rather are known of God, how turn ye again to the weak and beggarly elements, whereunto ye desire again to be in bondage?”
“I am afraid of you, lest I have bestowed upon you labor in vain.” Chap. 4:9, 11.
“Behold, I Paul say unto you, that if ye be circumcised, Christ shall profit you nothing. For I testify again to every man that is circumcised, that he is a debtor to do the whole law.” Chap. 5:2, 3.
“Ye did run well; who did hinder you that ye should not obey the truth?” Verse 7.
“As many as desire to make a fair show in the flesh, they constrain you to be circumcised; only lest they should suffer persecution for the cross of Christ.” Chap. 6:32.
We do not here quote these texts to make an argument upon them. We reserve them for their proper connection when we examine the epistle point by point. We present them now as an illustration of what was specially occupying the apostle’s thoughts from one end of the epistle to the other. He apparently could not keep out of his mind the fundamental errors into which these children in .the faith were fallen. These errors of doctrine he had to meet wherever he met a Jew. Throughout his whole Christian life he had to fight them. Because of the bitterness of feeling entertained by the Jews in sustaining their claims to superiority because of these separating laws involved in circumcision, Paul had to endure whippings, imprisonment, insult, hatred, a long captivity, and, worst of all, see multitudes of those he desired to save, of his own kinsmen according to the flesh, lost forever. Their ears were closed against him and the precious gospel he preached. He would willingly have died to save them; but their ears were closed against the gospel because he could not sustain those separating laws which served as a line of demarcation between the Jew and the Gentile. This question with Paul, therefore, was a live question, one ever before him. Hence all through the book of Galatians it is constantly brought to view. Circumcision and the remedial system connected with the old dispensation are constantly in his mind from the commencement in the first chapter till his close in the last.
There are, no doubt, several references to the moral law in the epistle.
Indeed, we do not see how it could well be otherwise while discussing a remedial system providing pardon in figure for violation of that law. In some places the apostle uses arguments which will embrace that and all systems of law, and which may and do refer to and include both. But we emphatically deny that the law of God is the leading subject under consideration in this letter. GALATIANS 1:1-9
We now propose to examine the whole epistle consecutively, having a relation to this subject. To enable the reader to easily follow us, we will quote the language of the apostle.
“2. And all the brethren which are with me, unto the churches of Galatia:
“3. Grace be you, and from God the Father, and from our Lord Jesus Christ,
“4. Who gave himself for our sins, that he might deliver us from this present evil world, according to the will of God and our Father:
“5. To whom be glory forever and ever. Amen.
“6. I marvel that ye are so soon removed from him that called you into the grace of Christ unto another gospel:
“7. Which is not another; but there be some that, trouble you, and would pervert the gospel of Christ.
“8. But though we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel unto you than that which we have preached unto you, let him be accursed.
“9. As we have said before, so say I now again, If any man preach any other gospel unto you than that ye have received, let him be accursed.”
Before he has proceeded a dozen lines in his introduction, Paul bursts out in strong language concerning the great theme which was in his mind.
What is it that has prompted this patient, meek, humble servant of God to pour forth so suddenly such an outburst of holy indignation. Not another letter of his can be found in which he commences with such vehemence and apparent impatience. And we may be sure he would not indulge in them here but for great provocation and a clear sense that some very dangerous doctrine, calculated to greatly mar the Christian system, was being promulgated. The gospel was being “perverted” and undermined, and other means of salvation substituted.
Would such language have been in place if these Jewish teachers had been trying to have them keep the ten commandments very strictly, and the Galatians were following such instruction closely, neither killing, lying, committing adultery, nor stealing, thinking thus to be justified by their good works? To our mind such a conclusion would be absurd. But if these teachers were trying to lead the Galatian brethren to adopt circumcision with its attendant typical remedial system, virtually doing away with the great sacrifice on Calvary, then such language would be very much in place.
We must bear in mind also how Paul was constantly beset by this same class of teachers, as we shall see. They came near taking his life at Damascus, when he first believed in Christ. Multitudes in Jerusalem thirsted for his blood, and even swore they would never eat or drink till they had killed him. They met him in every city he entered, stirring up the people against him. And now in his absence, with their Jewish notions of circumcision, they had turned away his beloved children in the Lord. No wonder the righteous indignation of the apostle is aroused!
“11. But I certify you, brethren, that the gospel which was preached of me is not after man.
“12. For I neither received it of man, neither was I taught it, but by the revelation of Jesus Christ.
“13. For ye have heard of my conversation in time past in the Jews’ religion, how that beyond measure I persecuted the church of God, and wasted it:
“14. And profited in the Jews’ religion above many my equals in mine own nation, being more exceedingly zealous of the traditions of my fathers.
“15. But when it pleased God, who separated me from my mother’s womb, and called me by his grace,
“16. To reveal his Son in me, that I might preach him among the heathen; immediately I conferred not with flesh and blood:
“17. Neither went I up to Jerusalem to them which were apostles before me; but I went into Arabia, and returned again unto Damascus.
“18. Then after three years I went up to Jerusalem to see Peter and abode with him fifteen days.
“19. But other of the apostles saw I none, save James, the Lord’s brother.
“20. Now the things which I write unto you, behold, before God, I lie not.
“21. Afterwards I came into the regions of Syria and Cilicia;
“22. And was unknown by face unto the churches of Judea which were in Christ:
“23. But they had heard only, That he which persecuted us in times past now preacheth the faith which once he destroyed.
“24. And they glorified God in me.”
In this quotation Paul begins by again referring te the proofs of his divine call to the apostleship, a fact to which he refers over and over in this letter. Evidently these Judaizing teachers had disparaged him and his position, and exalted the apostles at Jerusalem far above him, because he taught that these special Jewish distinctions were set aside.
He next refers to his former zeal in the “Jews’ religion,” or in “Judaism,” as it is translated in the Diaglott. “Ye have heard of my conversation,” or course of life, “in time past in Judaism,” and how I “persecuted the church of God, and wasted it.” He “profited in Judaism” above his equals, being” more exceedingly zealous of the traditions of his fathers.”
Why does the apostle present this striking reference to his former experience in Judaism as a zealot and a persecutor, in his argument with the Galatian brethren?—Because it was wonderfully in place. These Judaizing teachers were leading the brethren back to the very doctrines Paul had discarded, telling them they must be circumcised, and keep up the wall of separation, or they could not be saved, as we shall soon see.
But had not Paul been over all that ground before? Had he not profited in this kind of religion more than any in his nation? Had he not excelled them all in his zeal for these very things they were trying to sustain? Could these teachers or the brethren they were leading astray hope to practice or comprehend those doctrines as well as he had, with his great ability, erudition, and remarkable zeal?—Certainly not. But when Christ revealed himself to Paul, on the road to Damascus, he had seen the utter unprofitableness of all these peculiar doctrines of Judaism by which they were now trying to be saved.
The great light of Christianity had fully delineated the purpose and design of ail those ordinances for the past. Should they now go back to those things which Paul had fully explored, understood, and discarded, and cast aside the glorious light which he had received by direct revelation from the Lord, and preached to them? Preposterous! If they should, they would be going back from light into darkness. These were considerations which Paul’s reference to his former experience must have fastened upon the minds of the Galatian brethren.
But what were these doctrines of Judaism to which he refers, and for which he was so zealous before his conversion? Was it a special zeal for the doctrines of the moral law which so distinguished him, and led him to persecute the church? No Seventh-day Adventist will claim that. No doubt the disciples whom he persecuted, kept that law much better than he did or his associates. So far as we know, the Jews themselves never claim that the principles of the ten commandments are peculiar to their nation. They believe all men are morally bound to keep them, the Sabbath included. They well know there is nothing Jewish about that law. But it was the claims of another law, involving “the traditions of the fathers ” and Jewish superiority and exclusiveness, circumcision, and kindred ordinances, and salvation through Judaism and its doctrines, and not through Jesus, which roused Paul to such a pitch of zeal. His leading design in writing this letter was to set before them the folly of their Judaizing defection.
In the remaining part of this quotation; the apostle continues the narration of his personal experience, presenting his course of action after his conversion. He was called of God to preach Christ “among the heathen.” He had a divine call to this special work which no other apostle had to the same degree. He did not receive his knowledge of Christian doctrine from the church at Jerusalem or the apostles, but from direct revelation. And though he did spend fifteen days with Peter three years after his conversion, yet it was not through him or any human authority that he received his commission. God’s providence separated Paul hugely from the leading influential men in the church, and by special illumination prepared him to take a leading position in bringing the gospel to the heathen world. His former experience and education and thorough knowledge of Judaism had prepared his mind to comprehend all it could accomplish for humanity.
When the light of the gospel was fully revealed to him, he was thoroughly equipped to meet the opposing Judaizing teachers found in every city, and expose their weakness, and bring the light of the gospel in all its fullness to the Gentile world. No other apostle was prepared to do such a work in this direction as Paul. In this letter to the Galatian believers he refers to these things that they may understand his thorough qualification as an apostle, which these false teachers had tried to belittle.
“2. And I went up by revelation, and communicated unto them that gospel which I preach among the Gentiles, but privately to them which were of reputation, lest by any means I should run, or had run, in vain.
“3. But neither Titus, who was with me, being a Greek, was compelled to be circumcised:
“4. And that because of false brethren unawares brought in, who came in privily to spy out our liberty which we have in Christ Jesus, that they might bring us into bondage:
“5. To whom we gave place by subjection, no, not for an hour; that the truth of the gospel might continue with you.”
The circumstances mentioned in this connection unmistakably identify this visit with the one mentioned in Acts 15. The questions agitating the minds of the disciples in both cases are the same. The circumstances mentioned are the same. The parties or persons referred to are substantially the same. The chronology of both is the same. And no other recorded visit of the apostle will harmonize the statements of the chronology of this visit but the one recorded in Acts 15. Conybeare and Howson, in their “Life and Epistles of the Apostle Paul,” present an exhaustive argument in favor of this view, in which every objection to it everurged, is considered and answered. They declare that “the majority of the best critics and commentators” agree in the identity of these visits. For lack of space we cannot enter into a lengthy argument to prove this. It is not necessary. Most likely none of our brethren will question this; but those who wish to examine this point fully, we refer to the seventh chapter of Conybeare and Howson’s valuable work. Dr. Clarke and many other commentators, and Sr. White also, sustain this view.
To obtain a comprehensive view of this visit and its significance, we notice the corresponding facts in Acts 15:
After reaching Jerusalem, and giving an account of their past labors, the record continues:
These Judaizing teachers were everywhere stirring up trouble. Paul and Barnabas had great “dissension and disputation” with them. They followed on the track of these apostles who were preaching specially to the Gentiles, disturbing those converted, and unsettling their faith in that which these apostles preached. They crept in “privily to spy out the liberty” which the disciples had in Christ, constantly thrusting in their Jewish notions. They were determined to bring the believers “into bondage” to their notions of the obligation of Jewish laws and customs. The extent to which they carried their teachings is clearly set forth in these scriptures. They said: “Except ye be circumcised,” and keep the law of Moses, “ye cannot be saved.” All the Gentile world, then, must be circumcised and really become Jews. All those rites, services, and customs in Moses’ law must be obeyed. In this case the glorious light and freedom of the gospel must be circumscribed to the narrow bounds of Jewish bondage.
It is no wonder Paul declares, “We gave place by subjection” to them, “no, not for an hour.” He, saw, at a glance that the integrity of the whole gospel system was at stake. If these Jewish positions were to stand, and be generally accepted, Christ could not be the promised Messiah, and his death was in vain. Faith in him was not the saving principle. They were to be saved by circumcision and the services of the law of Moses. The well-being of the Christian church demanded, and the system of faith in Christ which he taught required, that this question should be settled once and forever. It was the turning-point in the history of the Christian church, between liberty and bondage, Jewish narrowness and exclusiveness and the freedom which is in Christ Jesus. The gospel never could accomplish its mission to the ends of the earth with such a burden placed upon it. The circumstances of the case required, and a special revelation from the Lord directed, that this momentous question be brought before the highest tribunal of the church for settlement,—a general conference of the believers at Jerusalem.
Paul and Barnabas, the special apostles to the Gentiles, and a company of the brethren went up from Antioch to attend it. They took Titus with them. He was an example and an illustration of the whole question, an uncircumcised Greek, but a devoted Christian. What would the brethren do with him? Would they receive him as a brother in the common faith? or would they cast him aside, and refuse to own him as one of them until he should receive this old test of Jewish discipleship—circumcision? Was the test of Christianity to be the same as that of Judaism? or was a heart made pure by faith in a crucified Saviour to be the test? Paul could not, in any possible way, have brought the matter home more forcibly than he did by taking the devoted Titus with him.
It is impossible for us, after eighteen centuries of Gentile freedom, to realize the intense interest which centered in this contest which was to be decided by the Council. It seemed to the Hebrew converts, who had been strict Pharisees, that everything which they had held sacred in their past experience was now to be swept away. For centuries subsequent to the captivity, scattered as they were among the Gentiles; they had struggled to maintain their distinctive national characteristics under great difficulties. They had been hated for it, and often persecuted. And now these were all to be swept aside, and they be placed on a level with the Gentiles, against whom they had guarded themselves so strictly. The reason of their blindness was because they failed to discern the vast importance of the death of Christ. Had they realized this as Paul did, all would have been plain.
No wonder there was much “disputation” and heat manifested as they approached the solution of this great question. Paul, like a wise manager, had held private consultations with the apostles and leading brethren. When they came to consider the subject they could not fail to see that his position was the only sound one, the only possible one to take. Peter in the Council rehearsed the facts connected with the conversion of Cornelius, the first plain instance of Gentile conversion. In this case God had given the witness of the Spirit as a divine evidence of acceptance without circumcision. What testimony could have been stronger than this? And large numbers of others had been converted, and received the same evidence. Should they now go backward, and impose a yoke of bondage upon these disciples after God had given them the same Spirit the Hebrew disciples had received? This would be highly absurd.
Then Paul and Barnabas recounted the wonderful instances of divine power attending their ministry among the Gentiles. Many had received the gospel, and mighty miracles had been wrought, giving evidence that God was with them in their work; no apostle had performed greater miracles. They had not required these Gentiles to be circumcised. Would it now be reasonable to set aside all these evidences of divine sanction and refuse to accept them as disciples by erecting the old wall of separation? Preposterous!
These were arguments which the Jewish disciples, zealous for Moses’ law, found it hard to answer. Finally James, the brother of our Lord, arose, a man of venerable appearance and great sanctity, usually called “James the Just.” He was acting as the presiding officer on this occasion. He presents other strong reasons in behalf of the position of Paul and Barnabas, and then the decision of the Council is rendered:
Thus this momentous question was settled, and gospel liberty gained a great victory. The Gentile believers could become members of the family of Christ Jesus without obedience to the ritual law.
Circumcision, the badge of Jewish exclusiveness, was set aside. Titus was not “compelled to be circumcised,” and the Jewish zealots were decidedly snubbed. What a vast load this Council lifted off from the church! What a terrible incubus would have fallen upon it had the decision gone the other way! Paul must have returned to Antioch with a light heart.
But what have this Council and its decision to do with the question we are considering—the law in Galatians? It has everything to do with it. The very same question precisely which came before the Council is the main subject of the apostles letter to this church. If the moral law is the main subject of the epistle, why did Paul bring in the work of the Council at Jerusalem?
Will any Seventh-day Adventist claim
that the moral law was the subject considered by that Council?
Was it the moral law which Peter characterizes as “a yoke … which neither our fathers nor we were able to bear?”
Were the moral and ceremonial laws all mixed up and confounded in the Council?
Did the decision of that body set aside the laws against stealing, lying, Sabbath-breaking, and murder?
We all know better. The Council took no cognizance whatever of the ten commandments. There was no dispute about their universal obligation. But not so concerning the Jewish law. That was in dispute. Paul, then, in Galatians, making the subject of Moses’ law prominent, brings in this Council at Jerusalem as a most forcible evidence of the wrong position of the Galatian church. It is the ceremonial and not the moral law that he has in view.
To take any other position concerning his reference to this Council would be to claim that Paul had no proper ideas of a logical argument; for assuredly if he was trying to prove to the Galatians the binding obligation of the moral law, and their justification through faith for its transgression, there would be no force whatever in prominently referring to the decision of a council which limited its consideration to an entirely different law. The view we advocate makes Paul’s argument perfectly logical and consistent throughout. The opposite view breaks it up, and renders it illogical.
“7. But contrarywise, when they saw that the gospel of the uncircumcision was committed unto me, as the gospel of the circumcision was unto Peter;
“8. (For he that wrought effectually in Peter to the apostleship of circumcision, the same was mighty in me toward the Gentiles;)
“9. And when James, Cephas, and John, who seemed to 26
be pillars, perceived the grace that was given unto me, they gave to me and Barnabas the right hand of fellowship; that we should go unto the heathen, and they unto the circumcision.
“10. Only they would that we should remember the poor; the same which I also was forward to do.”
But all was changed at this Council. They fully discerned his mission, and saw that the Holy Spirit had placed this work of reaching the Gentile world especially under his charge. The views he had taught were now fully accepted by the apostles and the church at large, at least in theory. Paul and Barnabas’ now received the right hand of fellowship, signifying that their course was fully approbated. They were sent on their mission to “the heathen,” while Peter still continued to act a leading part among the Hebrew portion of the church. A wonderful victory had been gained for the cause of truth taught by Paul in this great crisis.
The prominence of this question in the apostolic church may be discovered from the fact that no other general Council of like character ever occurred in the early church. From this time onward, the whole burden of the work of the gospel, as its history is given in the book of Acts, seems to have been among the Gentiles. This Council gave great encouragement to the work among the heathen. The main interest of the history of the church centers in Paul’s labors from this point. These facts, as cited by the apostle in his letter, must have had great force with the Galatian brethren, who had now fallen under the influence of these same Judaizing teachers.
We do not see how his argument could be more forcible. Paul substantially said to them, Are you going back to the ceremonial law and circumcision, after the great Council at Jerusalem has decided against them, and after the doctrines I have taught and my special mission to the Gentile world have been fully approbated by the apostles at Jerusalem and the whole church of believers? Will you follow these false teachers rather than the whole church? It must have been a most convincing appeal.
“l2. For before that certain came from James, he did eat with the Gentiles: but when they were come, he withdrew and separated himself, fearing them which were of the circumcision.
“13. And the other Jews dissembled likewise with him; insomuch that Barnabas also was carried away with their dissimulation.
“14. But when I saw that they walked not uprightly according to the truth of the gospel, I said unto Peter before them all, If thou, being a Jew, livest after the manner of Gentiles, and not as do the Jews, why compellest thou the Gentiles to live as do the Jews?
“15. We who are Jews by nature, and not sinners of the Gentiles,
“16. Knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the law, but by the faith of Jesus Christ, even we have believed in Jesus Christ, that we might be justified by the faith of Christ, and not by the works of the law: for by the works of the law shall no flesh be justified.
“17. But if, while we seek to be justified by Christ, we ourselves also are found sinners, is therefore Christ the minister of sin? God forbid.
“18. For if build again the things which I destroyed, I make myself a transgressor.
“19. For I through the law am dead to the law, that I might live unto God.
“20. I am crucified with Christ; nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me.
“21. I do not frustrate the grace of God: for if righteousness come by the law, then Christ is dead in vain.”
At first Peter lived as Paul did, eating with the Gentiles, and paying no attention to the Jewish laws and customs. But when some of the disciples from Jerusalem came down to Antioch, who were still zealous for all the requirements of Moses’ law, Peter withdrew, and no longer acted as before. The current became so strong in that direction that even Barnabas, Paul’s companion, was carried away with the rest. It took a man of great nerve and stamina and intelligent, conscientious convictions, like Paul, to withstand the pressure of influence brought to bear on this occasion.
This shows how strong the feeling was in behalf of the customs of Judaism in the early church. It is astonishing that after the decisions of the Council such an eminent man as Peter was in the church, and one who had acted in the Council with Paul in behalf of the same positions concerning Moses’ law which Paul had held, should be so soon swept under this influence. And still more so that Barnabas, the companion of Paul, who had participated with him in his experience among the Gentiles, and strongly contended for the same positions, should also fall under the influence of these Judaizing teachers.
These wonderful inconsistencies, however, only show the pressure of influence brought to bear in behalf of these national distinctions at that time in the church, which centered at Jerusalem. This influence made the call of a great council necessary. And though the decision had been wholly in favor of the truth as Paul held it, yet the spirit of national caste still remained. Such influences are the very hardest to overcome of any with which poor human nature has to contend.
We have illustrations of the same principle, in a measure at least, in our day, in the feelings of many white people toward those who have been in slavery in the past; and in India in the distinctions of caste. When parties from both sides are converted to Christ, it seems impossible even then to get those in the higher position to associate socially with those from the lower classes. This was even more the fact in the case of Jewish and Gentile converts, and was especially the case in regard to eating together. Says Conybeare and Howson, p. 178:
As Peter said to Cornelius it is “an unlawful thing for a man that is a Jew to keep company, or come unto one of another nation.”Acts l0:28. The great charge against him upon his return to Jerusalem was, “Thou wentest in to men uncircumcised, and didst eat with them.” Acts 11: 3. And though the principles on which the decisions of the Council were based, would overthrow such views theoretically, yet the feeling still existed, and even Peter and Barnabas had not strength at all times to stand before it.
It may well be doubted if the churches of Judea and Jerusalem ever fully recovered from this feeling; for in Paul’s last visit the same feelings existed so strongly that he, with James’ advice, gave up to it in a measure, and participated in some of the services of the ceremonial law, and in consequence was captured in the temple, and suffered a long imprisonment. Acts 21. The obligation of the ceremonial law was really involved in this eating question just as truly as in the questions concerning circumcision, which came before the Council; only it was a little different phase of it.
That Paul should have rebuked the apostle Peter in such a public manner as he did on this occasion, shows that he must have considered the issue an exceedingly important one, involving the integrity of the system of gospel teaching which he preached. Simon Peter had long been among the foremost of the apostles. Taught by the Saviour himself, the “gospel of the circumcision” had been specially “committed” to him, as that of the uncircumcision had to Paul. Great miracles had been wrought by him. The whole Christian church looked up to him as rather the leading man in it. Christ had greatly honored him. He was doubtless an older man than Paul; yet Paul, the junior laborer, usually a very meek and humble man, publicly reproved this eminent apostle to his face.
We may be sure this never would have been done had not Paul felt very deeply in his soul that the occasion demanded it because a great principle was to be vindicated. Peter “was to be blamed.” It was at an important crisis, just as the great principle of gospel liberty was struggling for the supremacy in the church against the desperate, persistent efforts of those who were determined to impose the yoke of Jewish ritual bondage upon the necks of the Gentile converts. Peter, through fear of man, permitted himself to be placed on the wrong side of this question, dragging Barnabas and nearly all the Jews present along with him. Paul was forced by his regard for truth to speak out, even to reprove his brethren of great influence older than himself. Paul well knew that if such examples as these were to be followed, the cause of God would be hindered. If Jew and Gentile Christians could not eat together, how could they ever make one body, one family in Christ? It would be impossible. This rebuke was deserved. God sustained Paul’s reproof, and has permitted this historical fact to stand on the page of inspiration, showing the weakness of one of his most eminent servants. Peter never attempted to answer, for he well knew no answer could be given.
Why does Paul bring up this circumstance in his letter to the Galatian brethren?—Because it was a case exactly in point. They were going back to the same principles and practices for which Peter had been justly rebuked. Their course had been condemned, even in one so high as the great apostle Peter; and he had submitted to the reproof as just. Should they now, under the influence of a similar troublesome class of Judaizing teachers, continue in a wrong course which had demanded and received such a rebuke?—Certainly not.
Question: Did this course of Peter involve the question of the ten commandments? Had it the slightest reference to them? Were they under consideration in any sense whatever in this transaction?—By no means. The whole matter related to the law of types and uncleanness, the obligation of the law of Moses. The moral law was not involved.
Let us now consider Paul’s remarks to Peter and those who had followed him. “If thou, being a Jew, livest after the manner of Gentiles [as he had been doing before certain came from Jerusalem] and not as do the Jews, why compellest thou the Gentiles to live as do the Jews?” This, of course, was a wonderful inconsistency, caused solely by Peter’s fear of man, lest his influence among the Jewish disciples should be lessened. He knew he would likely be called in question for his course when he returned to Jerusalem.
We must remember, of course, that these words were spoken in reproof to those who recognized the Jewish laws of uncleanness as still in force. These were intimately associated with, and really a part of, that great typical remedial system which passed away at the cross.
Peter and Barnabas well knew that though all their earlier lives they had regarded and obeyed them, yet that fact did not afford salvation.
They themselves, all of them strict Jews in the past, had to be saved by faith in Christ. How preposterous, then, to set up this old typical standard of ceremonies and “divers washings, and carnal ordinances, imposed on them until the time of reformation,” for the Gentiles to obey, as in effect they had been doing at Antioch in refusing to eat with Gentiles! If these old provisions of Moses’ law would not save such devout men as Peter, Barnabas, and Paul had been, could they be any benefit to the Gentiles who had never regarded them?—Certainly not.
That our explanation of verses 15, 16 is correct, these quotations clearly prove. Paul in his reproof is referring directly to the wrong course of Peter and Barnabas, who virtually acknowledged the requirements of the laws of eating and drinking in refusing to eat with the Gentiles.
Peter and Paul both had shown that those laws were destroyed, by eating with the Gentile converts on terms of equality. But Peter and Barnabas, in refusing to eat with the Gentiles, had now recognized them as still being in force. Therefore by their own acts they made themselves “transgressors,” literally “violators of law” (original Greek), i.e., sinners. What effect, then, had their faith in Christ had upon them? According to their course of conduct, they had first recognized the insufficiency of these ceremonial laws to save them by believing in Christ, no longer regarding those laws which had passed away.
But now Peter had gone back and recognized those laws as binding, and commenced to observe them again. What effect, then, had his faith in Christ had upon him? It had simply led him to violate a law he now acknowledged. Hence this would make Christ the minister of sin; he would not be sufficient for salvation. Christ had led him to break a law he now felt obliged to keep. This old law concerning uncleanness must be kept in order to salvation. Against such a false position Paul utters an emphatic, God forbid! It is evident from this that those Jewish converts felt that they must keep those laws which were abolished at the cross, in order to be justified; while Christ was the only source of Paul’s justification.
We cannot admit that in these words addressed to Peter, showing him the folly and inconsistency of the position he had assumed in refusing to eat with the Gentile Christians, there is the slightest reference to the moral law. Though there are expressions which are similar to those used in Romans and other scriptures which in those places refer to the moral law, yet that proves nothing certain. We are perfectly free to admit that if some of these expressions were used where the premises of the apostle’s argument had been considering the moral law, they might properly enough apply to that. But such is not the case here, and hence similarity of expression proves nothing. To get the sense of a writer’s thought, the connection must be considered, the facts upon which the argument is based, and the objective point of it.
We have had here nearly two entire chapters in this letter, about one third of the whole epistle, and hitherto we have not had a single reference to the moral law; but through it all constant reference is made to the other law, that of Moses. And immediately preceding these expressions are the plainest references to the subject in his reproof to Peter on the question of defilement in eating. Does the moral law cover such ground? Had Peter destroyed that and then built it up again? Which of the ten commandments would have been violated in eating with the Gentiles? Were these Jewish disciples forcing such a pressure to oblige the Gentiles to keep the laws of the decalogue? We all know that such conclusions are perfectly absurd.
To suppose, then, that Paul had reference to the moral law in the expressions, “ not justified by the works of the law,” and “I through the law am dead to the law,” etc., is to pervert the whole argument of the apostle, implying that while all through the Galatian letter thus far he had been referring to the ceremonial law, and reproving Peter for sustaining it by example, he suddenly turned away from the subject in hand, and brought in an entirely different law, which had no relation to the subject before him. Such a violent assumption is entirely inadmissible. It is wholly unnecessary. The argument of the apostle as we have presented it, is entirely consistent with itself, with all the facts thus far brought to view in the letter, and with his main object in writing to that church. Paul was strenuously contending for the liberty of the Christian church against Judaizing teachers who wanted to again impose the yoke of bondage which neither he nor his fathers were able te bear.
It must be attained through the help of Christ. How foolish, then, were Peter and Barnabas and these Jewish disciples under a pressure to go back and recognize this old yoke of bondage, which they themselves had once destroyed? It had always been “weak,” “unprofitable,” “carnal.” It could never “take away sin.” Why, then, should these men revive it. Paul’s argument was triumphant for the occasion, and Peter made, no reply.
A word further concerning “justification.” We fully believe the Epistle to the Galatians, as well as the Epistle to the Romans, proves the necessity of being justified by faith for our transgressions of the moral law, and the absolute impossibility of being justified by future obedience to any law for our sins of the past. But in that age there were two laws supposed by some to be in force; and there were even more who looked to obedience to the ceremonial law, with its circumcision, types, shadows, and multitude of observances, for justification, than to the moral law. And this was natural, for in it had been contained the typical remedial system of the past dispensation. All the virtue it possessed was the fact that it pointed to Christ. Most likely many did not discern this, and thought obedience to its provisions alone would take away sins. After Christ came, and it lost all its virtue, they still looked to it for justification. To correct this error was the main object of Paul’s letter to the Galatians.
The mistake of our brethren is in trying to prove that the Galatians were seeking justification through obedience to the moral law, whereas they were really seeking it through obedience to the Mosaic law. We believe the term “works of the law” refers to the ceremonial law in almost if not every instance where it is used,
“2. This only would I learn of you, Received ye the Spirit by the works of the 1aw, or by the hearing of faith?
“3. Are ye so foolish? having begun in the Spirit, are ye now made perfect by the flesh?
“4. Have ye suffered so many things in vain? if it be yet in vain.
“5. He therefore that ministereth to you the Spirit, and worketh miracles among you, doeth he it by the works of the law, or by the hearing of faith?
“6. Even as Abraham believed God, and it was accounted to him for righteousness.
“7. Know ye therefore that they which are of faith, the same are the children of Abraham.
“8. And the Scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the heathen through faith, preached before the gospel unto Abraham, saying, In thee shall all nations be blessed.
“9. So then they which are of faith are blessed with faithful Abraham.”
We claim that the historical facts which we have thus far noticed, and the argument which follows in chapters three and four, are intimately and logically connected; are really parts of Paul’s special effort to correct the errors into which the Galatian church had fallen, and an answer once and forever to the persistent efforts of these Judaizing teachers to bind the yoke of ceremonial observances upon the Gentile church. As one proof of this we here adduce the conclusion of Paul’s argument in the beginning of chapter five: “Stand fast therefore in the liberty wherewith Christ hath made us free, and be not entangled again with the yoke of bondage. Behold, I Paul say unto you, that if ye be circumcised, Christ shall profit you nothing. For I testify again to every man that is circumcised, that he is a debtor to do the whole law. Christ is become of no effect unto you, whosoever of you are justified by the law; ye are fallen from grace,” etc. Here we have the leading conclusion of Paul’s lengthy argument in chapters three and four.
We have quite carefully noticed the first division of his letter, with three historical references:
(1.) His account of his own religious experience in Judaism—how weak and unprofitable it was, though he excelled all others in zeal for and proficiency in it;
(2.) His reference to the Council at Jerusalem, and its decisions against the position the Galatian brethren had taken in regard to circumcision;
(3.) His public reproof of Peter for weakly going back to the ceremonial law.
All these refer wholly to that law. Then follow his argument and the conclusion reached. This last, we see, relates to precisely the same subject.
The revised version renders the first verse as follows: “O foolish Galatians, who did bewitch you, before whose eyes Jesus Christ was openly set forth crucified?” the clause “ that ye should not obey the truth,” being omitted. The Diaglott is substantially the same, there being nothing in the literal Greek text to answer to that expression. “ Foolish Galatians, who hath bewitched you?” literal Greek, “misled by delusive pretenses.” Here wrong practices seem to be intended. It is not likely Paul would have used such an expression, and spoken in such cutting language, if these Galatians had been making a special point of keeping the ten commandments very strictly, thinking that by so doing they would be justified by their good works. He would have spoken in milder language if their practice had been right, and simply their views of doctrine wrong. But how natural such an expression after his threefold reference to the ceremonial law in reproving them for going back to those “weak and beggarly elements.” Paul had preached a crucified Saviour to them as their only hope. He made known unto all nothing but “Christ and him crucified.” What folly, to go back to the yoke of bondage again!
In the second verse and onward, the apostle proceeds to contrast the work of faith in Christ which had been preached to them, with the “works of the law.” Did you receive the Spirit by the works of the law, or the hearing of faith? Are ye so foolish, having begun in the Spirit, as to now seek to be made perfect by the flesh? Have all your sufferings from persecution been in vain, if it be yet in vain? Does he that works miracles among you do it by the works of the law, or by the hearing of faith?
Those were all very pertinent questions. What does the apostle mean by the term “works of the law”? Does he mean keeping the Sabbath, and refraining from swearing, lying, stealing, murder, and adultery? or does he mean acts of obedience to the ceremonial law, which had been abolished? We all believe there are two separate, distinct laws brought to view in the Bible. Paul must have had one or the other in view. Both had “works” connected with them. The law of rites had an immense amount of these, so that they constituted a “yoke of bondage” grievous to be borne, which Paul claimed had passed away.
Much turns on the meaning we attach to this expression “works of the law,” in the. discussion of the law in Galatians. The sense in which it is used in any given scripture, must be determined from the connection and the subject of discourse. None of us can deny that there are two laws, and that both of them have “works” connected with them; and this same apostle in different places discourses upon each of them. It will not do, therefore, to conclude that in every case where the term “works of the law” occurs, it must needs refer to obedience to the law of God. We claim that it usually refers to the other.
Which class of works are referred to in these verses? Our reasons for understanding it to refer to circumcision, etc., are as follows:
l. This has been Paul’s subject thus far in this letter.
2. He has not spoken of the moral law previous to this, but has spoken many times of the ceremonial law.
3. He uses the same term in chap. 2:16, in reproving Peter, “because he was to be blamed,” when he recognized the laws of defilement, a few verses previous to this. There the reference to the works of the ritual law are unmistakable. He must use the term here in the same sense, to be consistent with his own argument.
4. In the question, “Received ye the Spirit by the works of the law?” the language would imply that when they did receive the Spirit, they did not perform the works of the law. This would be an absurd conclusion if applied to the moral law; for they would not have received the Spirit had they not kept it. But the language is perfectly appropriate when applied to the ritual law.
5. It is evident that the term being “made perfect by the flesh,” in verse 3, is an expression meaning the same as the term doing the “works of the law,” found in verse 2. But this would be improper language when speaking of obedience to the moral law. The ten commandments are not fleshly. With our view, the argument is connected and logical throughout. In verse 4 he speaks of their persecutions for the gospel’s sake. In chap. 6:12 we see they could have avoided this by obedience to this ceremonial law. Then the offense of the cross would have ceased. In that case, if circumcision was accepted, all their persecutions had been for naught, and their embracing the gospel was useless. Circumcision and the ceremonial law were the saving ordinances. Christ’s death could not save them without these. Such conclusions Paul shows were the result reached, if the positions assumed by the Galatian brethren were right.
He next refers to the case of Abraham, and how faith saved him. He did not obtain his righteousness by obedience to any such laws ; but through faith. The gospel was preached to him, and he believed in the coming Seed. We become the children of Abraham by imitating ,his course. He believed in Him that was to come. We believe in Him that has come. In doing this, God will bless us as he did faithful Abraham. How foolish, then, the course of these Galatians, who were “bewitched” by these Judaizing teachers, to go back to circumcision, and virtually cast aside their faith in Christ!
“11. But that no man is justified by the law in the sight of God, it is evident: for, The just shall live by faith.
“12. And the law is not of faith: but, The man that doeth them shall live in them.
“13. Christ hath redeemed us from the curse of the law, being made a curse for us: for it is written, Cursed is every one that hangeth on a tree.
“14. That the blessing of Abraham might come on the Gentiles through Jesus Christ; that we might receive the promise of the Spirit through faith.”
The language is not, Cursed be he that continueth not in all things written in the ten commandments to do them, as it doubtless would have been, had Paul had only the moral law in view. But the curse applied to any and all violations of the ceremonial law as well; for that was written in the book. Indeed a very large part of the “book of the law” was devoted to the ceremonial portion and to the civil law of the Jews.
It is impossible to circumscribe this language to the transgressions of the moral law alone; for we know the “book of the law” contained more. We have no objection to the claim that the heaviest part of the curse would fall upon the violator of the moral law. But while the whole “book of the law ” remained in force, the curse would also apply to violations of that. Therefore it was proper for Paul to refer to this in his argument. If these Galatians were going to reestablish the whole Jewish system, which would be the logical result of their action in adopting circumcision, they must thereby bring themselves under a curse. They well knew they had not always continued “in all things … written in the book of the law to do them.” Instead of obtaining a blessing in their new departure from the faith of the gospel, they were bringing upon themselves a curse by going back to that ritual law.
“But that no man is justified by the law in the sight of God, it is evident: for, The just shall live by faith” Justification by the law is here used in the sale sense as in chap. 2:16, where Paul is reproving Peter for not eating with the Gentiles, thus raising up again what he had formerly thrown down.
Also in chap. 5:3, 4: “For I testify again to every man that is circumcised, that he is a debtor to do the whole law. Christ is become of no effect unto you, whosoever of you are justified by the law; ye are fallen from grace.” The connection in both these cases shows what law he was talking about. These Galatians were going back to the old, abolished remedial system for justification. The Judaizing teachers had told them they could not be saved by Christ without it. They virtually cast aside Christ as their Saviour. They were “fallen from grace.” But Paul taught the folly of this. There was no law in the universe ever given which would justify the breaker of it. “The law is not of faith: but, The man that doeth them shall live in them.”
Any law enacted by competent authority, demands perfect obedience while it remains in force. This principle is true of moral, ceremonial, and civil laws alike. But as this has never been fully done, another provision must be made. God has provided it in justification by faith. The ceremonial law and the remedial system connected with it never did present adequate provisions for pardon and justification. The blood of bulls and goats could never take away sin. All the multitude of services, ceremonies, “divers washings, and carnal ordinances” were imposed only “ until the time of reformation.” How foolish, then, for these Galatians to go back again and set up that abolished law by which to obtain justification! This seems to be the reasoning of the apostle.
“Christ hath redeemed us from the curse of the law, being made a curse for us: for it is written, Cursed is every one that hangeth on a tree.” The original word rendered “redeem,” means to “buy from, redeem, or set free.”—Greenfield. (He quotes this text as an illustration.) We accept this statement to its fullest extent. Our friends who claim that the moral law is the subject of Paul’s discussion in this epistle, make their strongest argument, we think, upon this text. We wish to go with them as far as we can consistently.
We are perfectly willing to admit that the curse brought to view in this text, from which Christ redeems his people, principally includes transgressions of the moral law; and that the words, “ Depart from me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire” (Matt. 26:41) refer to the time when the curse of God will fall upon the sinner who fails to exercise faith in Christ and be thus “redeemed” from this curse. But how far does this go in setting aside our position upon the law in Galatians?—Not far, we think.
In order to have a clear, connected view of the apostle’s argument, we must keep before us all the circumstances of time and place. He stood at the time of transition from the old dispensation to the new. But very few up to this time had realized that there was any great transition. They did not comprehend that those laws which had distinguished God’s people for nearly two thousand years were to pass out of existence. Their feelings revolted at the thought. It took a long time for the bulk of the Hebrew church to take in this thought. They supposed these laws were still binding. They did not comprehend all that was contained in the death of Christ. God had to raise up Paul as a special instrument, and inspire him especially with light to make this subject clear.
To them Paul’s argument sounded very different than it does to us, after eighteen centuries of Gentile influences. They would be likely to understand that the curse of the law would also apply to those who did not obey the law of Moses. And who will dare say that the curse would not apply to violators of the law of Moses contained in the “book,” while that law was in force? It most assuredly would. But “Christ hath redeemed us [literally, set us free] from the curse of the law” by being made a curse himself by hanging “on a tree.” What force would this have to the Galatian church?—Very great force. They, were trying to remove the curse of condemnation from themselves, so they could be “saved ” by being circumcised, and going back to the abolished law of Moses for their justification. Paul told them, and proved it, too, from the Scriptures, that the death of Christ alone furnishes redemption. They were entirely wrong in their anticipations. This conclusion is in perfect harmony with Paul’s whole argument.
Vrs 14. Abraham received a great blessing through his faith in the promised Seed. We receive the same blessing by imitating his conduct; by believing on Him that has come, who demonstrated his Messiahship by fulfilling all the conditions set before him in the Scriptures. We receive the Spirit by accepting him. The Galatians did not obtain the Spirit through their obedience to the law of Moses. They received it when faith in Christ as their only Saviour was cherished.
“16. Now to Abraham and his seed were the promises made. He saith not, And to seeds, as of many; but as of one, And to thy seed, which is Christ.
“17. And this I say, that the covenant, that was confirmed before of God in Christ, the law, which was four hundred and thirty years after, cannot disannul, that it should make the promise of none effect.
“18. For if the inheritance be of the law, it is no more of promise: but God gave it to Abraham by promise.
“19. Wherefore then serveth the law? It was added because of transgressions, till the seed should come to whom the promise was made; and it was ordained by angels in the hand of a mediator.”
The promise was not to “seeds” (plural), but to his “seed” (singular), showing that the promise was not fulfilled in all of Abraham’s descendants according to the flesh, but that it was to be met in the one descendant, Christ the heir. And this promise, properly confirmed by God, cannot be set aside by a law given four hundred and thirty years after.
The promise has the precedence in time and importance. And this promise of the “seed,” Christ, is the foundation of our hope of the future inheritance. Our hope of that does not originate with this law made four hundred and thirty years later. How foolish, then, that the Galatians should ignore the promise, and go back to that law for their hope of salvation, thus virtually setting aside Christ, the real foundation of their hopes for future good. The great fact that God gave the inheritance by promise to Abraham through this Seed, four hundred and thirty years before this law was given to which they looked for justification, conclusively shows their folly in basing their hopes upon this law.
“Wherefore then serveth the law?” that is, this law of which he is speaking, what was its object or purpose? What use did it serve? “It was added because of transgressions, till the seed should come to whom the promise was made: and it was ordained by angels in the hand of a mediator.”
This verse is a great central illuminator in the apostle’s argument. He here gives us the design of that law of which he was speaking, the time when given, the point to which it extended, the agencies by which it was brought into existence, and the reasons why it was given. If these conditions reasonably, naturally apply to the moral law, then our friends who hold that view concerning the law in Galatians should have the benefit of the evidence. Let us examine this scripture carefully. What law is intended by these expressions?
1. It is reasonable to suppose that this reference to the law will be in harmony with Paul’s argument in the preceding part of the letter, which clearly brings to view the ceremonial law and not the moral law.
2. This law was given four hundred and thirty years after the promise to Abraham. Could it, therefore, be the same as “my commandments, my statutes, and my laws” which Abraham kept? Gen. 26:5. They were evidently the moral law; hence this is not.
3. This law was “added because of transgressions.” The original word signifies “to pass by or over; to transgress or violate.” This law, then, had been “added” because some other law had been “passed by,” “transgressed,” or “violated.” It was not “added” to itself because itself had been “violated.” This would be absurd if applied to the moral law; for none of us claim there was any more of the moral law really in existence after the ten commandments were spoken than there had been before. They all existed before, though Israel may have been ignorant of portions of them. If the word rendered “added” in both the old and revised versions be rendered “appointed,” as some do render it, the conclusion is equally clear. It could not properly be said that the moral law was “appointed four hundred and thirty years after Abraham, when we see that it existed and he fully kept it at that time. It would be absurd to suppose this law was “added” to itself. It does apply reasonably to another law, brought in because the one previously existing had been “ violated.” A law cannot be transgressed unless it exists; for “where no law is, there is no transgression.”!
4. The law “added because of transgressions ” unmistakably points to a remedial system, temporary in duration, “till the seed should come.” The moral law is referred to as the one transgressed. But the “added” law, of which Paul is speaking, made provision for the forgiveness of these transgressions in figure, till the real, Sacrifice should be offered.
5. “Till the seed should come,” limits the duration of this remedial system, beyond all question. The word “till,” or “until,” ever has that signification. The “added” law, then, was to exist no longer than “till the seed should come.” This the language unmistakably declares. Did the moral law extend no farther than the full development of the Messiah? No Seventh-day Adventist will admit that. But this was precisely the case with the other law.
6. The “added” law was “ordained by angels in the hand of a mediator.” All agree that this “mediator” was Moses, who went between God and the people. The original word for “ordained” is rendered “promulgate” by Greenfield, who cites this text as an illustration. Was it true that the ten commandments were “ordained, or promulgated,” “by angels” in or by the hand of Moses? God himself spoke them with a voice that shook the earth, and wrote them with his own finger on the stone tablets. But the other law was given through angels, and written in a “book” by the “hand of Moses.”
If the reader desires to see some of the instances where the same expression substantially is used when speaking of the “law of Moses,” we refer him to Lev. 26:46; Num. 4:37; 15:22, 23; and especially Neh. 9:13, 14, where the distinction is clearly made between the laws which God spoke and the “precepts, statutes, and laws” given “by the hand of Moses.” Many others might be cited. These reasons seem very clearly to prove that the law concerning which the apostle is speaking, is the law of Moses written in a book, especially the typical remedial system.
Our friends who hold the view that it is the moral law, of course make every effort possible to avoid this conclusion. They claim that the typical law was also in existence long before the law was given on Sinai; that it was recognized when the patriarchs offered sacrifices, even from the time of Abel, and that it would be as proper to speak of the “ordaining” of the moral law at Sinai as of the ceremonial, since both had a previous existence; that the principles of both laws had been lost sight of through sin and the captivity in Egypt. We know this is measurably true. But there remains this difference: the language unmistakably refers to a remedial system. “It was added because of transgressions.” A previous law existed to be transgressed, and this added law was to provide a temporal remedy “till the seed should come.” This language can never reasonably apply to the moral law; but it does apply to the ceremonial. No matter whether added at Sinai or as soon as man sinned in the Garden of Eden, it remains true of the typical remedial system that it was “added because of transgressions,” but is not true of the moral law.
We also contend that the typical remedial system was not really “ordained” before Sinai and understood by the people in any such sense as the moral law was. We admit they did make offerings of beasts in sacrifice, and knew of some other services afterward incorporated into the law of Moses. But as a system it was not known to any such degree as were the principles of the ten commandments. We can find constant references to these, where persons well understood their existence. Cain knew very well he had broken God’s law and was guilty. Abraham kept these statutes, commandments, and laws. The antediluvians and Sodomites were destroyed as “sinners;” i.e., transgress of them. Joseph understood as well as we the wickedness of adultery, and would not commit this “great wickedness, and sin against God.” Enoch and Noah were “perfect” men and “walked with God.” They must, therefore, have been well acquainted with the principles of the moral law.
But by far the largest portion of the typical remedial system owed its vary existence to the time of Moses. The passover, the new moons, the sanctuary services other than offerings, the day of atonement, the pentecost, the special laws concerning uncleanness, the feast. of tabernacles, various death penalties, the immense number of ordinances, etc, growing out of the priesthood work of the Levites and the civil laws of the Jewish nation, the special offerings connected with the scape-goat, and many other things too numerous to mention here connected with that system, were never heard of, indeed had no existence, before the book of the law was given. They were “ordained” at that time, as Paul indicates.
Another argument, a very late invention, designed to avoid the conclusion that the “added” law terminated at the cross, we briefly notice. It is the claim that “the seed” has not yet come, and will not come till the second advent of Christ. It would be hard for the writer to really think that any believer in Christ would take that position, had we not read it in our own beloved Signs of the Times, of July 29,1886. It is seriously argued through two or three columns that the expression “till the seed should come to whom the promise was made” cannot be fulfilled till the promises made to the Seed are fulfilled. A large number of these are cited. But does the language indicate this? The coming of the Seed is one thing, and the fulfillment of the promises made to that Seed quite another thing. If the Seed never comes till the promises made to hin are fulfilled, we shall have to wait a long time for the coming of the Seed; for some of them reach through eternity.
“For unto us a child is born [the birth of this child by the woman, and his development until an offering for the sins of men is provided, is the coming of the Seed], unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counselor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace. Of the increase of his government and peace there shall be no end, upon the throne of David, and upon his kingdom, to order it, and to establish it with judgment and with justice from henceforth even forever.” Isa. 9:6, 7.
The promises to this Seed, many of them, reach beyond the second advent,—as does this one,—even into eternity. So, according to this reasoning, we may wait to all eternity for the Seed to come. But the apostle, in the expressions used, does not say promises, but “promise,” referring directly to the promise made to Abraham. But in the promise made to Abraham (Gen. 12:l-7; 17:l-8; both promises are really one), he agrees to make him and his seed a blessing to all the nations of the earth, and to give him the land of Canaan, which Paul, in Rom. 4:13, enlarges to include all the “world.”
Shall we conclude that a part of this promise is not already in process of fulfillment? Are not the nations of the earth already being greatly blessed in that seed by virtue of the way of salvation being opened to them all, and because of the precious influences of the gospel? Who dare deny it? If a part of these promises are being fulfilled in this present state, then according to that writer’s own reasoning the Seed has already come. If we must wait till all that promise made to Abraham is fulfilled before we look for the Seed, then the Seed cannot come till the end of the one thousand years; for the land is not inherited by Abraham till that time. The earth is a waste, a howling wilderness, for one thousand years after Christ comes. We can but regard such a position as this as utterly untenable and absurd.
The coming of the Seed is one thing, and the fulfillment of the promises after the Seed comes, quite another. Indeed, of necessity the Seed must come before any of the promises made to the Seed could be fulfilled. A portion of them are already being fulfilled; hence the Seed has already come. Paul says (verse 16), “And to thy seed, which is Christ.” The “seed” and Christ, then, are one and the same. Therefore if the “seed” has not come, Christ has not come, in which case we are all in our sins, lost, without hope. To such preposterous conclusions does this position in the Signs lead.
Again, if the Seed does not come till the second advent, as the existence of the law was to terminate when the Seed came, if that law is the moral law, we must of necessity conclude that God’s law ceases when Christ comes the second time—a conclusion but little less erroneous than the one which teaches its abrogation at the first advent.
But why are such astonishing and erroneous positions as this taken?—To escape in some way the conclusion of Gal. 3:19, that this “added” law was to terminate at the cross. The Seed has come, born of a woman, the God-man, partaking of our nature. He can never become to all eternity any more “the seed of the woman” the promised “seed of Abraham,” than he is already. We should like to have any one tell us how Christ becomes any more like the seed of Abraham” at the second advent than he was at the first? Is he to be born again of another descendant of the great patriarch? The whole idea is preposterous.
This promised Seed made his great sacrifice for the race, by which they are being blessed, and there this “added law” terminated.
Verse 20: “Now a mediator is not a mediator of one, but God is one.
“22. But the Scripture hath concluded all under sin, that the promise by faith of Jesus Christ might be given to them that believe.
“23. But before faith came, we were kept under the law, shut up unto the faith which should afterwards be revealed.
“24. Wherefore the law was our school-master to bring us unto Christ, that we might be justified by faith.
“25. But after that faith is come, we are no longer under a schoolmaster.
“26. For ye are all the children of God by faith in Christ Jesus.
“27. For as many of you as have been baptized into Christ have put on Christ.
“28. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female: for ye are all one in Christ Jesus.
“29. And if ye be Christ’s, then are ye Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise.”
It was not against the promises of God, but rather designed to provide a temporary help to the people till in the “fullness of time,” when the “seed should come,” and the promises through the Seed should begin to be fulfilled. During all this time preceding the coming of the Seed, this promise of the Seed was the great hope of the people. The law given four hundred and thirty years after, by the same God who made the promise, of course would not stand in the way of, or set aside, a most glorious promise given by a God who could not lie.
This “added” law would conduce to the same end by preparing the minds of the people for the full fruition of the promise. The promise that all the nations of the earth shall be blessed in this Seed the greatest hope ever vouchsafed to the race. This law was secondary to the promise, not “against” it. It was impossible, in the nature of things, for a law to be given which could give life to a race of sinners who had violated the divine law, the great moral rule which had ever been in force. The hope of the promised Seed, a more efficient agency than any law that could be given was provided by infinite wisdom to meet that want.
Doubtless many Jews believed that “life” could be obtained by obedience to the “added” law of types, ceremonies, offered beasts, and blood streaming down the altars. But they did not see clearly the object of this law. They did not realize that it was only a temporary arrangement, shadowing forth darkly in figures, types, and allegories, the coming of the Seed and his great sacrifice. And even after Christ had come and died, many did not comprehend it who professed to believe on him. They still said, “Except ye be circumcised,” and “keep the law of Moses,” “ye cannot be saved.”
This kind of teaching followed Paul wherever he went. God had raised him up with special reference to clearly explaining this great transition from the old to the new dispensation. And now he presents the matter to these Galatian brethren who had been bewitched by this Judaizing teaching. “If there had been a law given which could have given life, verily righteousness should have been by the law;” and the terrible sacrifice of the Son of God would not have been necessary. These Galatians had taken the contradictory position of believing in Christ, and at the same time going back for salvation to services which, if in force, would make his death unnecessary; looking for salvation to obedience to a law whose main object had been to point out Christ’s great sacrifice for sin.
“But the Scripture hath concluded all under sin, that the promise by faith of Jesus Christ might be given to them that believe.” The revised version and the Diaglott say, “shut up” all under sin. This is the meaning of the original Greek word. All are sinners, Jew and Gentile alike. All need a Saviour. Though the Jews had kept this “added ” law, and taught it to the Gentiles as necessary to salvation, yet they needed a SAviour just as much as did the Gentiles. How inconsistent, then, for the Galatians to go back to a law which would not save those who had kept it!
“But before faith came, we were kept under the law, shut up unto the faith which should afterwards be revealed.” Is this text speaking of individuals previous to conversion, under the condemnation of the moral law till faith in Christ dawns upon their hearts? or does it speak of Paul’s nation, the Jews, under guardianship as wards, under a provisional temporary system until Christ should come? Much turns upon which of these positions is the true one. We take the latter view unhesitatingly. The revised version reads: “But before faith came [the faith, margin], we were kept in ward under the law, shut up unto the faith which should afterwards be revealed.” Being “in ward,” Webster defines as “the state of being under guard, or guardianship,” “the condition of a child under custody.” The Diaglott renders it, “And before the coming of that faith, we were guarded under law, being shut up together for the faith being about to be revealed.”
There can be no question but that the text brings to view a peculiar provisional arrangement, a “guarding” of a body of people, a “shutting them up together,” an “enclosing of them,” as the original Greek word signifies, until a certain time is reached when “that faith” will be revealed. We confidently assert that the word “faith” here is not used in the sense of a person’s individual belief in Christ as a means of personal pardon for his sins, but is used in the sense of that great system of truth devised by God for the salvation of man—the belief in a crucified Saviour and kindred truths growing out of this central fact. Jude writes of the “common salvation,” and that we “should earnestly contend for the faith which was once delivered unto the saints.” Verse 3. We speak of keeping “the faith of Jesus.” Paul, in his closing words, said he had “kept the faith.” And in this same epistle to the Galatians he speaks of the faith which he preached (chap. 1:23), and of the “household of faith.” Chap. 6:10. Indeed, in a large number of instances where the word “faith” is used in the New Testament, it has this sense, as any one can see by taking his Concordance.
The Jewish people and all proselytes who had any regard for the God of the Hebrews, were thus kept under this provisional system of the “added” law, “shut up,” hedged about by national barriers of distinction, from the rest of the world. They could not eat with them or associate intimately with them. A “middle wall of partition” divided them from others. They were “enclosed,” guarded on the right hand and on the left, till the great system of faith in a crucified Saviour was “afterwards revealed” by the coming of the promised “seed.”
We would be much pleased to have our friends who hold that this “added” law was the ten commandments, tell us how the law against blasphemy, murder, lying, stealing, etc., “shut individuals up,” “guard” them “in ward,” in the relation of a “child to a guardian,” to a “revelation” to be made “afterwards.” But it is thought that in this verse the expression “under the law,” must refer to the sinner under the condemnation of the moral law. Lengthy arguments have been made in support of this; but we fail to see evidence to prove this position. We claim that this expression “under the law ” has two significations:
We read in Matt. 8:9 of “a man under authority, having soldiers under” him; i.e., authority was over him, and he was in authority over the soldiers, and each was to obey; not that he was under the condemnation of authority or the soldiers under his condemnation. “Under” in both cases is from the same word hupo. In Rom. 13:l we read: “The powers that be are ordained of God.” “Of, is from hupo; i.e. under the authority of God. In Gal. 4:2 we read of the child living “under [hupo] tutors and governors;” i.e., they have authority over the child, not that it is under their condemnation. Other illustrations might be given of the same sense. Indeed, the very nature of the expression itself signifies this, “under the law” simply meaning the law being above or having authority over the persons who were under it. This is the primary, simplest meaning of this term; and unless strong reasons can be adduced to the contrary, we should always give the expression this signification. Where reasons can be given to show that the sense requires us to understand it to mean the condemnation of the law, then we will so understand it, and not before. But evidently in the text we are now examining it means simply that the Jews were “shut up” under the authority of that typical remedial system, with its barriers, walls of separation, etc., till the system of faith should be revealed under which they could find salvation.
“Wherefore the law was our school-master to bring us unto Christ, that we might be justified by faith.” “Wherefore” “expresses a consequence” from his preceding reasoning. The original Greek word requires this, as Greenfield states. The law “was [ revised version, hath been] our paidagogos” (literal Greek), or pedagogue. The word occurs but three times in the New Testament, twice in this connection and once where it is rendered “instructor.” Greenfield defines it as follows: “A person, usually a slave or freed man, to whom the care of the boys of a family was committed, who trained them up and formed their manners, attended them at their play, led them to and from the public school, and, when they were grown up, became their companions, noted for their imperiousness and severity; in the New Testament, director, governor, instructor, leader. 1 Cor. 4:15; tropically spoken of the Mosaic law. Gal. 3:24,25.”
We have no person in our domestic or educational system in this age answering to this term. It is not properly a “school-master” or an “instructor” in the sense in which we would understand those terms. This person led the boys to school to be instructed by others. They did not continue to occupy this relation to them after the boys were grown to manhood. They merely held a temporary position, to pass away when the boys were fully developed. They were “noted for their imperiousness and severity.” They had the boys especially under their charge merely for a season. Does the holy eternal law of God, the “law of liberty,” occupy such a position as this? Is its relation to man that of a slave, an inferior, in any period of his life? Is it severe, “imperious,” because endued with a little temporary authority? Is its position merely a temporary one, lasting till the Christian is developed, and then ceasing its claims? Was it the office of the “paidagogos” after he got the boys to school, to then turn around and become their instructor, their supreme authority, ever after? Such views of the relation of God’s law to the sinner or any body else, would be manifestly absurd.
But this relation eminently fits if we apply it to that provisional temporary system of law in which the Jew and proselyte were “shut up,” “in ward,” till the “middle wall of partition” was “broken down.” It was a “severe” system, “yoke of bondage” which they could not bear, “against” them, and “contrary to” them.
Paul draws his conclusion from his reasoning in the previous verses, which we have examined. The moral law never led a man to Christ and left him. It always stays with him. We may be delivered from its condemnation; but its supreme authority must be regarded then as before. Its claims never leave us. There is nothing in that law about Christ, not a hint. All the law does, is to condemn those who break it, and justify those who keep it. It is the sense of guilt in the man’s conscience which is acted upon by the Spirit of God, which makes him go to Christ, not anything in the moral law itself. But this “added” law did lead to Christ. Every type, every sacrifice, every feast day, holy day, new moon, and annual Sabbath, and all the priestly offerings and services pointed out something in the work of Christ. They were as a body “shut up,” “guarded,” under the control of this “severe,” “imperious” pedagogue, till the great system of justification by faith was reached at the cross of Christ.
Mr. Greenfield could readily see that this pedagogue must be used as an illustration of the “Mosaic law.” It is strange that all others cannot see the same. “But after that faith is come, we are no longer under a [pedagogue, or ] school-master.” The coming of “that faith” is the full development of the great system of faith or truth growing out of the death of Christ. “We are no longer under a” “pedagogue,” i.e., no longer under his authority; his authority is no longer over us, because his office ceased when the“seed” came. Then all that accept Christ in his true character, are children of God. They are “baptized into Christ,” and hence “have put on Christ.”
What, now, does Paul conclude from these grand truths?—“ There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female; for ye are all one in Christ Jesus.” All national social barriers are broken down in presence of the liberty which is in Christ Jesus; that is, all stand on a level before God. The proud Jew must come to God through Christ, the same as the despised barbarian. The females are no longer to be divided off into different worshiping assemblies by a special court because God looks upon a man with so much more favor than upon a woman. The poor slave can come to the blessed Saviour just as freely as can the lordly master who pretends to own him. All God now requires is a humble heart, repentance and confession of sin, faith in the precious blood of Christ, and a determination to serve God and obey all his requirements; and God regards one class as well as another.
This may seem to us, eighteen centuries after these national and social distinctions have been swept away, as so plain a truth that it need not be demonstrated by an argument. But when Paul proclaimed it, it stirred up a bitterness in the minds of the supercilious Jews, of which we can scarcely conceive. They followed him everywhere, thirsting for his blood. The Jew had no thought of surrendering the preeminence they had so long held. The Greeks and Romans also exalted themselves as highly favored people. This great truth needed then, and has ever since, to be made plain to keep down pride, caste, and all social exclusiveness. This forcible statement of the equity of all before God, is clearly a conclusion of the apostle’s argument. To deny this, would be to charge the apostle with bringing in foreign matter in no wise related to his subject. But will our friends explain to us how this conclusion would grow out of his argument if it concerned the moral law? Did that law, in its relation to the sinner, create national distinctions between the Jew and Greek, bond or free, male and female?—Certainly not. But the ceremonial law did. It was the very agency which created them in circumcision and what it represented.