Whosoever committeth sin transgresseth also the law: for sin is the transgression of the law -- 1 John 3:4.
To many minds the origin of sin and the reason for its existence are a source of great perplexity. They see the work of evil, with its terrible results of woe and desolation, and they question how all this can exist under the sovereignty of One who is infinite in wisdom, in power, and in love. Here is a mystery of which they find no explanation. And in their uncertainty and doubt they are blinded to truths plainly revealed in God's word and essential to salvation. There are those who, in their inquiries concerning the existence of sin, endeavour to search into that which God has never revealed; hence they find no solution of their difficulties; and such as are actuated by a disposition to doubt and cavil seize upon this as an excuse for rejecting the words of Holy Writ. Others, however, fail of a satisfactory understanding of the great problem of evil, from the fact that tradition and misinterpretation have obscured the teaching of the Bible concerning the character of God, the nature of His government, and the principles of His dealing with sin.
It is impossible to explain the origin of sin so as to give a reason for its existence. Yet enough may be understood concerning both the origin and the final disposition of sin to make fully manifest the justice and benevolence of God in all His dealings with evil. Nothing is more plainly taught in Scripture than that God was in no wise responsible for the entrance of sin; that there was no arbitrary withdrawal of divine grace, no deficiency in the divine government, that gave occasion for the uprising of rebellion. Sin is an intruder, for whose presence no reason can be given. It is mysterious, unaccountable; to excuse it is to defend it. Could excuse for it be found, or cause be shown for its existence, it would cease to be sin. Our only definition of sin is that given in the word of God; it is "the transgression of the law;" it is the outworking of a principle at war with the great law of love which is the foundation of the divine government -- Great Controversy, pp. 492, 493.
By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God, and keep his commandments -- 1 John 5:2.
The law reveals to man his sins, but it provides no remedy. While it promises life to the obedient, it declares that death is the portion of the transgressor. The gospel of Christ alone can free him from the condemnation or the defilement of sin. He must exercise repentance toward God, whose law has been transgressed; and faith in Christ, his atoning sacrifice. Thus he obtains "remission of sins that are past" and becomes a partaker of the divine nature. He is a child of God, having received the spirit of adoption, whereby he cries: "Abba, Father!"
Is he now free to transgress God's law? Says Paul: "Do we then make void the law through faith? God forbid: yea, we establish the law." "How shall we, that are dead to sin, live any longer therein?" And John declares: "This is the love of God, that we keep His commandments: and His commandments are not grievous." Romans 3:31; 6:2; 1 John 5:3. In the new birth the heart is brought into harmony with God, as it is brought into accord with His law. When this mighty change has taken place in the sinner, he has passed from death unto life, from sin unto holiness, from transgression and rebellion to obedience and loyalty. The old life of alienation from God has ended; the new life of reconciliation, of faith and love, has begun. Then "the righteousness of the law" will "be fulfilled in us, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit." Romans 8:4. And the language of the soul will be: "O how love I Thy law! it is my meditation all the day." Psalm 119:97.
"The law of the Lord is perfect, converting the soul." Psalm 19:7. Without the law, men have no just conception of the purity and holiness of God or of their own guilt and uncleanness. They have no true conviction of sin and feel no need of repentance. Not seeing their lost condition as violators of God's law, they do not realise their need of the atoning blood of Christ. The hope of salvation is accepted without a radical change of heart or reformation of life. Thus superficial conversions abound, and multitudes are joined to the church who have never been united to Christ -- Great Controversy, pp. 467, 468.
For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments: and his commandments are not grievous -- 1 John 5:3.
Adam and Eve dared to transgress the Lord's requirements, and the terrible result of their sin should be a warning to us not to follow their example of disobedience....There is no genuine sanctification except through obedience to the truth. Those who love God with all the heart will love all His commandments also. The sanctified heart is in harmony with the precepts of God's law; for they are holy, just, and good.
No one who truly loves and fears God will continue to transgress the law in any particular. When man transgresses he is under the condemnation of the law, and it becomes to him a yoke of bondage. Whatever his profession may be he is not justified, which means pardoned.
"The law of the Lord is perfect, converting the soul." Through obedience comes sanctification of body, soul, and spirit. This sanctification is a progressive work, and an advance from one stage of perfection to another.
Let a living faith run like threads of gold through the performance of even the smallest duties. Then all the daily work will promote Christian growth. There will be a continual looking unto Jesus. Love for Him will give vital force to everything that is undertaken. Thus through the right use of our talents we may link ourselves by a golden chain to the higher world. This is true sanctification, for sanctification consists in the cheerful performance of daily duties in perfect obedience to the will of God.
When it is in the heart to obey God, when efforts are put forth to this end, Jesus accepts this disposition and effort as man's best service, and He makes up for the deficiency with His own divine merit -- My Life Today, p. 250.
And now I beseech thee, lady, not as though I wrote a new commandment unto thee, but that which we had from the beginning, that we love one another. And this is love, that we walk after his commandments. This is the commandment, That, as ye have heard from the beginning, ye should walk in it -- 2 John 5, 6.
In general, Protestants have affirmed belief in the binding force of the moral law, or Ten Commandments, a position SDAs recognise as being in harmony with the teachings of Scripture. But when SDAs insisted that the fourth commandment requires observance of the seventh day of the week as the Sabbath as a logically inevitable corollary, they encountered the vigorous assaults of certain groups who insisted that such Pauline passages as Col. 2:14-17 indicate the abolition of all OT law in the Christian Era, including the moral law. SDAs, in turn, called attention to the sharp distinction between the moral and the ceremonial law, as to character, function, and binding force in the Christian Era. For instance, in a book entitled The Law of God (1854) J. H. Waggoner called attention to the following: "Under the Jewish dispensation were incorporated two kinds of laws. One was founded on obligations growing out of the nature of men, and their relations to God and one another, obligations binding before they were written, and which will continue to be binding upon all who shall know them, to the end of time. Such are the laws which were written by the finger of God on the tables of stone, and are called moral laws.
"The other kind, called ceremonial laws, related to various outward observances which were not obligatory till they were commanded, and then were binding only on the Jews till the death of Christ" (pp. 120, 121).
Elsewhere he says of these two laws: "By comparison, we find that two different laws are spoken of in the New Testament: one which is not made void through faith in Christ, which he came not to destroy; and another which he blotted out, and nailed to his cross" (ibid., p. 73; cites Matt. 5:17, 18 and Col. 2:14-16 to illustrate this distinction).
Concerning these two laws, J. N. Andrews wrote: "The law within the ark was that which demanded atonement; the ceremonial law which ordained the Levitical priesthood and the sacrifices for sin was that which taught men how the atonement could be made" (The Two Laws, p. 28).
"Surely these two codes should not be confounded. The one was magnified, made honourable, established, and is holy, just, spiritual, good, royal; the other was carnal, shadowy, burdensome; and was abolished, broken down, taken out of the way, nailed to the cross, changed, and disannulled on account of the weakness and unprofitableness thereof. Those who rightly divide the Word of truth will never confound these essentially different codes, nor will they apply to God's royal law the language employed respecting the handwriting of ordinances" (ibid., pp. 31, 32) -- Seventh-day Adventist Encyclopaedia.
And the dragon was wroth with the woman, and went to make war with the remnant of her seed, which keep the commandments of God, and have the testimony of Jesus Christ -- Revelation 12:17.
In general, Protestants have affirmed belief in the binding force of the moral law, or Ten Commandments (see SB, Nos. 970-986), a position SDAs recognise as being in harmony with the teachings of Scripture. But when SDAs insisted that the fourth commandment requires observance of the seventh day of the week as the Sabbath as a logically inevitable corollary, they encountered the vigorous assaults of certain groups who insisted that such Pauline passages as Col. 2:14-17 indicate the abolition of all OT law in the Christian Era, including the moral law. SDAs, in turn, called attention to the sharp distinction between the moral and the ceremonial law, as to character, function, and binding force in the Christian Era. For instance, in a book entitled The Law of God (1854) J. H. Waggoner called attention to the following: "Under the Jewish dispensation were incorporated two kinds of laws. One was founded on obligations growing out of the nature of men, and their relations to God and one another, obligations binding before they were written, and which will continue to be binding upon all who shall know them, to the end of time. Such are the laws which were written by the finger of God on the tables of stone, and are called moral laws. "The other kind, called ceremonial laws, related to various outward observances which were not obligatory till they were commanded, and then were binding only on the Jews till the death of Christ" (pp. 120, 121). Elsewhere he says of these two laws: "By comparison, we find that two different laws are spoken of in the New Testament: one which is not made void through faith in Christ, which he came not to destroy; and another which he blotted out, and nailed to his cross" (ibid., p. 73; cites Matt. 5:17, 18 and Col. 2:14-16 to illustrate this distinction). Concerning these two laws, J. N. Andrews wrote: "The law within the ark was that which demanded atonement; the ceremonial law which ordained the Levitical priesthood and the sacrifices for sin was that which taught men how the atonement could be made" (The Two Laws, p. 28). "Surely these two codes should not be confounded. The one was magnified, made honourable, established, and is holy, just, spiritual, good, royal; the other was carnal, shadowy, burdensome; and was abolished, broken down, taken out of the way, nailed to the cross, changed, and disannulled on account of the weakness and unprofitableness thereof. Those who rightly divide the Word of truth will never confound these essentially different codes, nor will they apply to God's royal law the language employed respecting the handwriting of ordinances" (ibid., pp. 31, 32) -- Testimonies for the Church, vol. 2, p. 105.
Here is the patience of the saints: here are they that keep the commandments of God, and the faith of Jesus -- Revelation 14:12.
God had committed to His people a work to be accomplished on earth. The third angel's message was to be given, the minds of believers were to be directed to the heavenly sanctuary, where Christ had entered to make atonement of His people. The Sabbath reform was to be carried forward. The breach in the law of God must be made up. The message must be proclaimed with a loud voice, that all the inhabitants of earth might receive the warning. The people of God must purify their souls through obedience to the truth, and be prepared to stand without fault before Him at His coming -- Evangelism, p. 695.
In Revelation 14, men are called upon the worship the Creator; and the prophecy brings to view a class that, as the result of the threefold message, are keeping the commandments of God. One of these commandments points directly to God as the Creator. The fourth precept declares: "The seventh day is the Sabbath of the Lord thy God: . . . for in six days the Lord made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that in them is, and rested the seventh day: wherefore the Lord blessed the Sabbath day, and hallowed it." Exodus 20:10, 11. Concerning the Sabbath, the Lord says, further, that it is "a sign, . . . that ye may know that I am the Lord your God." Ezekiel 20:20. And the reason given is: "For in six days the Lord made heaven and earth, and on the seventh day He rested, and was refreshed." Exodus 31:17.
"The importance of the Sabbath as the memorial of creation is that it keeps ever present the true reason why worship is due to God"--because He is the Creator, and we are His creatures. "The Sabbath therefore lies at the very foundation of divine worship, for it teaches this great truth in the most impressive manner, and no other institution does this. The true ground of divine worship, not of that on the seventh day merely, but of all worship, is found in the distinction between the Creator and His creatures. This great fact can never become obsolete, and must never be forgotten."--J. N. Andrews, History of the Sabbath, chapter 27. It was to keep this truth ever before the minds of men, that God instituted the Sabbath in Eden; and so long as the fact that He is our Creator continues to be a reason why we should worship Him, so long the Sabbath will continue as its sign and memorial. Had the Sabbath been universally kept, man's thoughts and affections would have been led to the Creator as the object of reverence and worship, and there would never have been an idolater, an atheist, or an infidel. The keeping of the Sabbath is a sign of loyalty to the true God, "Him that made heaven, and earth, and the sea, and the fountains of waters." It follows that the message which commands men to worship God and keep His commandments will especially call upon them to keep the fourth commandment -- Great Controversy, pp. 437, 438.
Blessed are they that do his commandments, that they may have right to the tree of life, and may enter in through the gates into the city -- Revelation 22:14.
The affections of the pleasure lover are drawn away from heavenly to earthly things. He subordinates the glories of eternity to the engrossing interests of time. In his desire to possess earthly riches, the heavenly treasure is lost from view. The claims of the future life are disregarded, and the interests of this life hold sway. . . .
Christ brings the nobler world to view. He presents the advantages of citizenship in that city which hath foundations, whose builder and maker is God. He takes us to the threshold of infinity, and shows us its glories, declaring them to be within the reach of all who will live in harmony with the laws of God. Through obedience to the laws of Jehovah, the human family may become a united, happy family in the city of God; but there is no room there for those who have no regard for the will of the Lord. All who will may gain everlasting life, but they must gain it by accepting the law of God as their guide in this life instead of seeking to follow their own laws. . . . To those who will live a life that is in harmony with the Father, Christ will impart the virtues of His life.
Think ye that the commandment-keepers will be sorry, and mourn when the pearly gates of the Golden City of God are swung back upon their glittering hinges, and they are welcomed in? No, never. They will then rejoice, that they are not under the bondage of the law, but that they have kept God's law, and therefore are free from it. They will have right to the tree of life, a right to its healing leaves.
The God of heaven has placed a benediction upon them that keep the commandments of God.
He who has been faithful over the "few things" of earth, will be made ruler over "many things" in the eternal world of glory -- Sons and Daughters of God, p. 47.
For laying aside the commandment of God, ye hold the tradition of men, as the washing of pots and cups: and many other such like things ye do -- Mark 7:8.
The rules in regard to purification were numberless. The period of a lifetime was scarcely sufficient for one to learn them all. The life of those who tried to observe the rabbinical requirements was one long struggle against ceremonial defilement, an endless round of washings and purifications. While the people were occupied with trifling distinctions, and observances which God had not required, their attention was turned away from the great principles of His law.
Christ and His disciples did not observe these ceremonial washings, and the spies made this neglect the ground of their accusation. They did not, however, make a direct attack on Christ, but came to Him with criticism of His disciples. In the presence of the multitude they said, "Why do Thy disciples transgress the tradition of the elders? for they wash not their hands when they eat bread."
Whenever the message of truth comes home to souls with special power, Satan stirs up his agents to start a dispute over some minor question. Thus he seeks to attract attention from the real issue. Whenever a good work is begun, there are cavillers ready to enter into dispute over forms or technicalities, to draw minds away from the living realities. When it appears that God is about to work in a special manner for His people, let them not be enticed into a controversy that will work only ruin of souls. The questions that most concern us are, Do I believe with saving faith on the Son of God? Is my life in harmony with the divine law? "He that believeth on the Son hath everlasting life: and he that believeth not the Son shall not see life." "And hereby we do know that we know Him, if we keep His commandments." John 3:36; 1 John 2:3 -- Desire of Ages, pp. 395, 396.
For laying aside the commandment of God, ye hold the tradition of men, as the washing of pots and cups: and many other such like things ye do -- Mark 7:9.
Jesus made no attempt to defend Himself or His disciples. He made no reference to the charges against Him, but proceeded to show the spirit that actuated these sticklers for human rites. He gave them an example of what they were repeatedly doing, and had done just before coming in search of Him. "Full well ye reject the commandment of God," He said, "that ye may keep your own tradition. For Moses said, Honour thy father and thy mother; and, Whoso curseth father or mother, let him die the death: but ye say, If a man shall say to his father or mother, It is Corban, that is to say, a gift, by whatsoever thou mightest be profited by me; he shall be free. And ye suffer him no more to do aught for his father or his mother." They set aside the fifth commandment as of no consequence, but were very exact in carrying out the traditions of the elders. They taught the people that the devotion of their property to the temple was a duty more sacred than even the support of their parents; and that, however great the necessity, it was sacrilege to impart to father or mother any part of what had been thus consecrated. An undutiful child had only to pronounce the word "Corban" over his property, thus devoting it to God, and he could retain it for his own use during his lifetime, and after his death it was to be appropriated to the temple service. Thus he was at liberty, both in life and in death, to dishonour and defraud his parents, under cover of a pretended devotion to God.
Never, by word or deed, did Jesus lessen man's obligation to present gifts and offerings to God. It was Christ who gave all the directions of the law in regard to tithes and offerings. When on earth He commended the poor woman who gave her all to the temple treasury. But the apparent zeal for God on the part of the priests and rabbis was a pretence to cover their desire for self-aggrandisement. The people were deceived by them. They were bearing heavy burdens which God had not imposed. Even the disciples of Christ were not wholly free from the yoke that had been bound upon them by inherited prejudice and rabbinical authority. Now, by revealing the true spirit of the rabbis, Jesus sought to free from the bondage of tradition all who were really desirous of serving God.
"Ye hypocrites," He said, addressing the wily spies, "well did Esaias prophesy of you, saying, This people draweth nigh unto Me with their mouth, and honoureth Me with their lips; but their heart is far from Me. But in vain they do worship Me, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men." The words of Christ were an arraignment of the whole system of Pharisaism. He declared that by placing their requirements above the divine precepts the rabbis were setting themselves above God -- Desire of Ages, pp. 396, 397.
This witness is true. Wherefore rebuke them sharply, that they may be sound in the faith; Not giving heed to Jewish fables, and commandments of men, that turn from the truth -- Titus 1:13, 14.
Those whom God has set apart as ministers of righteousness have solemn responsibilities laid upon them to reprove the sins of the people. Paul commanded Titus: "These things speak, and exhort, and rebuke with all authority. Let no man despise thee." There are ever those who will despise the one who dares to reprove sin; but there are times when reproof must be given. Paul directs Titus to rebuke a certain class sharply, that they may be sound in the faith. Men and women who, with their different organisations, are brought together in church capacity have peculiarities and faults. As these are developed, they will require reproof. If those who are placed in important positions never reproved, never rebuked, there would soon be a demoralised condition of things that would greatly dishonour God. But how shall the reproof be given? Let the apostle answer: "With all long-suffering and doctrine." Principle should be brought to bear upon the one who needs reproof, but never should the wrongs of God's people be passed by indifferently.
There will be men and women who despise reproof and whose feelings will ever rise up against it. It is not pleasant to be told of our wrongs. In almost every case where reproof is necessary, there will be some who entirely overlook the fact that the Spirit of the Lord has been grieved and His cause reproached. These will pity those who deserved reproof, because personal feelings have been hurt. All this unsanctified sympathy places the sympathisers where they are sharers in the guilt of the one reproved. In nine cases out of ten if the one reproved had been left under a sense of his wrongs, he might have been helped to see them and thereby have been reformed. But meddlesome, unsanctified sympathisers place altogether a wrong construction upon the motives of the reprover and the nature of the reproof given, and by sympathising with the one reproved lead him to feel that he has been really abused; and his feelings rise up in rebellion against the one who has only done his duty. Those who faithfully discharge their unpleasant duties under a sense of their accountability to God will receive His blessing. God requires His servants to be always in earnest to do His will. In the apostle's charge to Timothy he exhorts him to "preach the word; be instant in season, out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort with all long-suffering and doctrine." -- Testimonies for the Church, vol. 3, pp. 358, 360.