Monday, November 28, 2011

The Two Covenants

Sabbath School Today
With the 1888 Message Dynamic
The Gospel in Galatians
Lesson 10: "The Two Covenants"

Have you ever taken a detour, a shortcut that took more time than if you had gone the long way around the mountain by the established route? That was the choice of the ancient church of Israel by making their old covenant promise (Ex. 19:8; 24:7). Modern Israel are repeating their history. The Bible is history. An understanding of our own modern history from the 1888 era will help us mature in our glorious day-of-at-one-ment truth of God's everlasting covenant.
The apostle Paul was the first Jew, aside from Jesus, to understand the long national nightmare of the Jewish church's ups and downs of revival and reformation failures, which ended in the rejection and crucifixion of Christ. Paul told the story of the two covenants in Israel's history to the Galatians who had fallen into the old covenant "works of the law" trap (Gal. 4:21).
The pressing question of the Galatians was: Who are the legitimate children of Abraham? The circumcision party from Jerusalem claimed that they were Abraham's children because of their "works of the law" (Gal. 4:21). Paul says that Abraham's legitimate descendants "are the children of promise" (vs. 28).
Galatianism is an old covenant "under the law" relationship with God. It is wholly man-made. The concept is saying over and over, "we must be more faithful, we must pray more, we must do more missionary work, we should witness more, we should watch fewer soap operas, spend less time at sports, we should watch our diet more, etc., etc." But it is to such self-centered egotists who take the Lord's name upon their lips in the final judgment by saying, "Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name?," that Christ declares the shocking news, "I never knew you" (Matt. 7:21-23).
Abraham is "our father" (Rom. 4:1-16). As the story goes, Abraham had two sons; one by a bondwoman and the other by the freewoman. The one son "born after the flesh" with Hagar the bondwoman was Ishmael. The other son born of Sarah the freewoman was Isaac "by promise."
The birth of Ishmael was wholly a man-made scheme. Through unbelief Sarah and Abraham rejected God's promise of a son. They permitted a third party to enter their marriage and Abraham declared to God that Ishmael, the fruit of that union "born after the flesh [unbelief]" (Gal. 4:23), was the legitimate son of promise (Gen. 17:18). But God said, No! "I will establish my covenant with" Isaac (vs. 19).
Finally, Sarah and Abraham repented, chose to believe the new covenant promise of God, and Isaac, "the child of promise," was born (Gal. 4:28; Heb. 11:11). Ishmael's disposition was "a wild ass man; his hand will be against every man" (Gen. 16:12, R.V.). Isaac's character was Christlike (Gen. 26:13-22). "These" two women and their twosons "are the two covenants" (Gal. 4:24).
The two covenants are not two plans of salvation: old covenant "obey and live" before the cross, and new covenant believe and live after the cross. The two covenants are not matters of two dispensations, one before and one after the cross. The two covenants are two understandings of God's people through the ages, two opposite perceptions of God's plan of salvation, not two time "dispensations" that He has used as experiments to save sinners.
The two covenants are not two plans of salvation: old covenant "obey and live" before the cross, and new covenant believe and live after the cross. The two covenants are not matters of two dispensations, one before and one after the cross. The two covenants are two understandings of God's people through the ages, two opposite perceptions of God's plan of salvation, not two time "dispensations" that He has used as experiments to save sinners.
The covenant at Sinai was the fruit of the flesh, of distrust and unbelief in God, just as was the plan that introduced Hagar and brought forth Ishmael (Gal. 4:24). And just as Hagar and Ishmael, the bondwoman and her son, had to be cast out, and the whole scheme that brought them in had to be utterly repudiated, so the covenant from Mount Sinai had to be cast out, and all that brought it in had to be utterly repudiated (Gal. 4:30).
The covenant at Sinai was faulty because of its promises (Heb. 8:7). The people promised "all that the LORD hath spoken we will do" (Ex. 19:8). The "fault [was] with them" and their promises (Heb. 8:8). He who promises the righteousness must produce the righteousness. For sinners motivated by egocentric concerns, righteousness is impossible.
Why should we fasten upon the necks of our children the whole old covenant scheme of making promises to God which "gendereth to bondage" (Gal. 4:24)? [1] It teaches them self-dependence. It's directly responsible for the numerous backslidings that occur in the church, the loss of youth, the spiritual confusion that produces Laodicea's "wretched" lukewarmness (Rev. 3:14-21). Teach them to choose to believe God's promises.
Paul says that the whole scheme of salvation by works coming out of old Jerusalem is a covenant in which people, knowing only the natural man and the birth of the flesh, seek, by their own inventions and their own efforts, to attain to the righteousness of God. It can only produce "bondage with her children" (Gal. 4:25). That is because old Jerusalem is married to her husband, the "old man" of the flesh (Rom. 7:3; 6:6).
There are good sincere people who believe in old covenant principles of revival and reformation in God's church. They cite the reformations of Kings Jehoshaphat, Hezekiah, and Josiah as a good ideal, not stopping to realize that they all failed ultimately. God's true "church," the church of Old Testament times, the church of those good kings, immersed as it was in the old covenant, ended up crucifying the Lord of glory.
Trust motivated by egocentric concerns masquerades itself as the worship of Christ. Self-centered trust manifests its true character just as Ishmael "persecuted him that was born after the Spirit, even so it is now" (Gal. 4:29). The old covenant spirit of self-sufficiency hates the agape-love of one who identifies with the Crucified One.
The 1888 message teaches us to make a choice and "cast out" the old covenant (Gal. 4:30). Get rid of it. By choosing to glory in the cross, the "old man" to whom we have been married "is crucified unto me" (Rom. 6:6; Gal. 6:14). We become a part of the "Jerusalem which is above," "the mother of us all" (Gal. 4:26). This is the "wife [that] hath made herself ready" for her marriage with the Lamb (Rev. 19:7).
The joyous news is that the ancient and modern church which has been mired down in her marriage to old covenant unbelief for so long, and apparently has borne so many like children of bondage, has finally grown up out of her infantile ways of making promises to do everything just right. She has finally learned to believe God's promises of love. Joined to her new Husband, Christ, she "hath many more children" than she ever had with her former "husband" of "the flesh" (Gal. 4:27, 23).
--Paul E. Penno
[1] "The knowledge of your broken promises and forfeited pledges weakens your confidence in your own sincerity and causes you to feel that God cannot accept you" (Steps to Christ, p. 47).
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The Two Covenants: Pastor Paul

Monday, November 21, 2011

Paul's Pastoral Appeal

Lesson #9 | Paul's Pastoral Appeal | 11/26/11

How does a pastor deal with conflict in his church? For that matter, how does a prophet deal with an offshoot movement? “Paul’s pastoral appeal” is an effort at conflict resolution (Gal. 4:12-20).

Paul reminds the Galatians that his missionary approach was to become a Galatian to the Galatians—“I am as ye are” (vs.12). He fit in with them. He spoke their language. He ate at their table. He lived among them. Insofar as possible, without compromising Christian ethics, he lived as a Galatian.

Now, Paul writes, “be as I am.” And how is Paul? “I am crucified with Christ” (Gal. 2:20). Paul has so completely chosen to identify with the Crucified One that it is no longer Paul who lives, but Christ who lives in him. He lives the at-one-ment life by the faith of the Son of God. This is why their enemy stance toward Paul is no offense to him. Paul’s ego is dead in Christ (Gal. 4:12).

Physically speaking Paul was not “easy on the eyes” when he commenced preaching the gospel in their midst. But the gospel he proclaimed was “in demonstration of the Spirit and power” (1 Cor. 2:4), so that the people saw Christ crucified among them. The Galatians received Paul as a messenger of God, even as they would have received Jesus. And accepting Christ, they were filled with the power and joy of the Holy Spirit (Gal. 4:14).

But now all that has changed. “The blessedness ye spoke of” is gone (vs. 15), which is the blessing of Abraham. The blessing of knowing that Christ had redeemed them from the curse of the law through the promise of the Spirit, which is righteousness by faith activated by agape-love, has been lost. The Galatians have been “bewitched” by the false gospel of “the Pharisees which believed” (Gal. 3:1; Acts 15:5).

The counterfeit gospel teaches that once launched into salvation by faith in the Messiah, one must do something in order to continue in salvation; namely, “the works of the law.” And once the door has been opened just a crack for faith to be motivated by egocentric concerns, there is no end to the idols one must obey in order to be saved, including the worship of spirits on calendar days from which bondage the Galatians had been delivered (Gal. 4:9, 10).

While the Galatians enjoyed this blessedness, its fruit appeared in the love, which they showed to Paul. This love was the very self-sacrificing love of Christ—the abundant love of God shed abroad indeed in the heart, by the Spirit, which they had received. Seeing the apostle in need of eyes, they would gladly have plucked out their own and given them to him, if such a thing could have been done (vs. 15).

But now, what a change! From that height of blessedness they are driven back into such a condition that Paul is obliged to appeal to them: “Am I therefore become your enemy, because I tell you thetruth?” (vs. 16). This is the mark of the Galatian. It is the mark of the man who professes to be a Christian justified by faith, but does not have the righteousness of God, which is by faith of Jesus Christ. Whoever tells him the truth he considers his enemy.
The Galatian considers himself “rich, and increased with goods, and have need of nothing” (Rev. 3:17). When the prophet warns him that he is not in “the truth of the gospel,” he rejects the Spirit of Prophecy. The mark of Galatianism is the rejection of the prophetic gift. It is the mark of man and worldliness to persecute the messenger of truth and consider him the enemy.

Galatianism is the mark of the carnal mind that is at enmity with God (Rom. 8:7). Pride does not like the “most precious message” which uplifts and honors the Crucified One. Self does not wish to submit in repentance at the foot of the cross. “Many” in the one true denominated church of Christ did this in the 1888 era and the attitude of the “fathers” is perpetuated to this day whenever the message is proclaimed. [1] Our history of rejection of justification by faith united with the cleansing of the sanctuary truth is justified with the argument that the church did accept righteousness by faith and corrected its legalistic course. Therefore, the church has no need to repent.

However, the Spirit of Prophecy tells us otherwise. “We may have to remain here in this world because of insubordination many more years, as did the children of Israel; but for Christ’s sake, His people should not add sin to sin by charging God with the consequence of their own wrong course of action. [2]

Who has created this disunity in the church? Is it the one who has proclaimed “the truth of the gospel” or is it the Agitators who advocate righteousness by “the works of the law”? Is it the Spirit of Prophecy that creates division or is it those who reject what the prophet writes?
Paul squarely acknowledges the zeal of those who teach faith and works. They are the “offshoot movement” that teaches separationism out of selfish motives. He writes: “These teachers of a counterfeit gospel have great zeal to win you over to their side so you can be fellow fanatics with them in an offshoot program” (Gal. 4:17). [3]

You want to be zealous? Then be zealous for a good cause. Is the gospel a self-propelled vehicle? Or does its proclamation and propagation depend on church members (and pastors!) constantly being prodded by church leaders into action? “Lay Activities” leaders in churches can testify: to get much done it takes constant “promotion.”

The New Testament letters of the apostles reveal a strange lack of such works “promotion.” They chronicle amazing activity, but seldom if ever were believers prodded or whipped into action. Their zealous activity was simply assumed; it was natural. Their gospel was a “self-propelled vehicle.” Why?

Their message had the power built-in. Nobody needed to be whipped into action. The motivating force was greater than that of a steam engine, for the power was implicit in the news about the sacrifice of the Son of God. He burst upon everyone’s consciousness as “the Lamb of God,” a blood-sacrifice offered by God. Examples: “For I determined not to know any thing among you, save Jesus Christ, and him crucified” (1 Cor. 2:2). “God forbid that I should glory, save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ” (Gal. 6:14).

Someone must travail before children are brought forth (Gal. 4:19). Herein lies the danger in human planning, in the work of God, lest human wisdom devise short cuts in methods of world evangelism, which to a lukewarm church seem very acceptable. It is easy to sit in a comfortable pew and give offerings. It appears to provide fuel for the continued operation of evangelistic machinery, 21st Century devised, labor-saving and man-power saving in its skillful design to “finish the work” in the shortest possible time with the least possible man-power and travail of soul. If an invention of a clever committee could be made to give life, then verily righteousness would come by evangelistic inventions. No running to and fro, and no knowledge that shall be increased in the time of the end will ever take the place of that “travail in birth” on the part of soul winners, “until Christ be formed in” the converts.

If modern methods of spiritual obstetrics are discovered which obviate the old-fashioned travail, which the church of old endured when she brought forth her children, it may be doubted whether Christ is formed indeed within the “converts.” No “push-button” warfare will close the great battle between Christ and Satan. The old hand-to-hand fighting, heart-to-heart wrestling in the Spirit against principalities and powers, alone can bring triumphs of faith.

—Paul E. Penno

[1] Ellen G. White, “Many will not be convinced because they are not inclined to confess.” Diary, Feb. 27, 1891.
[2] Letter Ellen G. White to Percy Tilson Magan (Dec. 7, 1901). Last Days Events, p. 39.
[3] Robert J. Wieland, Galatians for Today’s Youth: A Free Paraphrase (2003), p. 15.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Lesson 8: "From Slaves to Heirs"

Lesson 8: "From Slaves to Heirs"

Who are the legitimate children of God who stand to gain the inheritance promised to their father Abraham? Are the children only Abraham's circumcised descendants or are they the children of "faith"? This is the burning question in Galatians.
Paul's unequivocal answer is that "the children of God" are those who identify with the crucified Messiah, Jesus Christ (Gal. 3:26). These are the true Jews--whether they have Jewish blood coursing through them or Gentile blood.
The true children of God are identified through baptism into Christ. The outward form of baptism is a heart-expression of having "put on Christ" (vs. 27). In other words, like a garment which fully envelops the body so that the person is no longer seen. It is only Christ that is seen in the baptized individual. There is no respect of persons with God, nor with those who are the children of God. It is only the character of Christ that counts, which is by faith of Jesus Christ (vs. 28).
There is only one Descendant of Abraham who is elected for salvation and that is Christ (vs. 29). He stands to inherit God's promise to Abraham. We come into the inheritance through identification with Christ by baptism.
One of the "big ideas" of "adoption" in the 1888 message is found right here in Galatians. It explodes in people's hearts like sticks of spiritual dynamite. Paul uses the illustration of a little barefoot boy who runs around the great estate of a wealthy rancher who has slaves. The slaves boss the little boy around and tell him when to go home, etc. And he obeys them (Gal. 4:1). But the amazing thing is that this child is the son of the great owner himself! Now, says Paul, when that little boy grows up, he becomes the owner and then he bosses the slaves around!
As long as we don't know who we are, don't know our true identity, all the devils in hell can torment us and boss us around; but when you are ready to believe that "in Christ" you are adopted as a son or daughter and you are indeed the lord of the estate, your spiritual or psychological servitude is at an end.
So you and I have been subject to the tyranny of the "elements of the world," evil spirits, until we hear and receive the Good News that God sent forth His Son made of a woman, made under the law, to redeem us (vss. 3, 4).
What's the point? God does not regard unconverted people as wolves to be shot down as soon as possible; no, but He regards them as sheep, not in the fold to be sure, but still sheep--lost sheep. They need to be converted, to be born again, yes; but all the while God considers them to be heirs to His estate because He sent forth His Son to be "made of a woman" as we are all "made of a woman." He has adopted the human race "in Christ."
You are not to think of yourself as an outsider, says Paul. Because of Christ's sacrifice, you are now "in the family," adopted (Eph. 1:5), loved all the while as the prodigal son was loved. But you didn't know it; you felt ostracized, estranged, alienated, lost, rejected; but God did not regard you as estranged or alienated. He reconciled you to Himself "in Christ." Now, says Paul, "be ye reconciled to God."
Servants do not stand to gain the inheritance, only sons (Gal. 4:7). A servant is under an old covenant compulsion to promise to do everything just right. It's that self-centered motivation that hopes to gain a reward. But the "self" has then become the "god" (with a little "g").
For "many" ignorance of God is bliss. They feel that being completely self-sufficient and self-directed is ultimate freedom. The reality of human nature is that there is no end to the depravity to which the sinful nature can tempt a person and lead them into inextricable bondage. Self is a cruel barbaric idol.
To know the self-sacrificing God at the heart of the universe and see Him as mankind's best friend and then to turn one's back completely on agape is sheer madness. The "beggarly elements" which Paul has alluded to as "the elements of the earth" are the tribal deities of the heathen Galatians that were thought to oversee the nations on behalf of God (vs. 9). They are "weak" in that they are merely figments of the imagination. When push-comes-to-shove they only motivate out of fear.
The real danger here of the Galatians yielding to the Pharisaic believers on the point of circumcision for salvation is that by putting it within the power of man to do something for his salvation, there is no end to the "idols," both old and new, that the human heart may create as necessary for salvation. The door is now open for them in forsaking Christ to return to their former manner of pagan beliefs and practices.
"How turn ye again?" Paul asked the Galatians. They had been heathens converted to Christ. And now they were returning to heathenism. They were not returning to the practices of Judaism. Judaism had not been their ancestral worship.
Modern interpreters almost invariably impose an anti-sabbath bias upon verse 10: "Ye observe days, and months, and times, and years." However, the Galatian backsliders were not returning to seventh-day Sabbath-keeping from which they had come. They were actually forsaking the Sabbath rest. They were exchanging the rest of Christ in the Sabbath for calendrical observances connected with their former pagan worship of their ancestral deities (Deut. 18:10).
Our status as the children of God is compared to the "adoption" process. It is both a legal adoption and a receiving of the adoption. God has legally adopted the entire alienated race as His "sons." In order "to redeem them that were under the law [everyone]" (Gal. 4:5) "God sent forth His Son, made of a woman, made under the law" (vs. 4). God paid an infinite price ["redeem"] to legally reach the hearts of estranged sinners.
The word "made" is pregnant with enormous meaning. The Father sent the Son of God and made Him the Son of man through Mary. Jesus was made through his parentage with the same DNA we all are made of when we come into the world. "In all things it behoved Him to be made like unto His brethren. ... In that He Himself has suffered being tempted, He is able to aid those who are tempted" (Heb. 2:17, 18).
Jesus was made with an "ego" that suffered the same tension and conflict of what one ought to do, being "under the law," as is fallen man. "I [My ego] can of mine own self do nothing: as I hear, I judge: ... I seek not mine own will, but [the conflict is implicit] the will of the Father which hath sent me" (John 5:30). Here is the acute, agonizing temptedness of sinlessness (Heb. 4:15). No compromise with Christ's perfect sinlessness is inherent in this understanding of Galatians 4:4. Never once, in thought, word, or deed, did Christ yield to the desperate clamor of self.
All of the legal matters with respect to the law have been cleared up by Christ's death for all. The adoption papers of sinner-aliens have been signed and ratified by the crucified One. He is the Heavenly Parent who has adopted the race of sinners. Such divine love appeals to estranged sinners to "receive the adoption" (vs. 5).
The evidence by which you may know that you have "received" the adoption is if you can call your Heavenly Father, "Daddy." It's the Holy Spirit who initiates such terms of endearment (vs. 6).
--Paul E. Penno
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Saturday, November 12, 2011

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Ellen G. White Estate, Inc.

"No Longer Under the Schoolmaster"

"No Longer Under the Schoolmaster"

In ancient Greece, the truant schoolboy, who with truancy in his heart played hooky, avoiding the responsibility of learning the lessons appropriate and needed for his betterment and future good might meet with the startling presence of his custodian, the slave assigned by his parents to oversee his activities.  This servant was given a special task of helping the lad to discover his need of educational advancement and his responsibility to his parents, as well as to enforce upon him their good pleasure concerning the management of his young life.  This custodian, called in Greek, the "pedagogos", was often empowered by parents to reprove, instruct, and punish the child should he be found in insubordination to their will and instructions.  The rebellious truant boy might, no doubt, be roundly condemned and whipped by the consciencious custodian, as he attempted to impress upon the youth the importance of his responsibilities.  So is the Law of God to the sinner.  The law has a specific role, according to Gal. 3, of being our pedagogue or custodian to lead us to Christ.  While the law is identified as our "schoolmaster" in the King James Version, it is actually Christ who is truly our "schoolmaster" or teacher in Paul's parable.  While we are cavorting at the swimming hole of sin, wasting away our capabilities and shunning responsibility, the Law custodian, at the good will of God, the parent, condemns and punishes us.   It is a loving purpose.  God wishes for us to have a good future, even eternal life.  But we must have righteousness for this to be.  So the law stands to condemn us as long as we are away from Christ; for it is certain that the only way we may have righteousness is not from the Law custodian who is not prepared or capable of doing that work, but only from our true School Teacher, Christ.  As long as we are running away and resisting, the servant persistently does his duty, cajoling, encouraging, inducing, blocking, confronting, reproving, and otherwise inhibiting our freedom of movement.  To use Paul's terminology, the Law is there to shut us up, imprison us or otherwise confine us until faith comes unto righteousness.  The custodian is not there to make the truant comfortable, but highly uncomfortable.  So, the Law's condemnation of sin must be presented faithfully before the sinner.  It's claims must be upheld.   The Holy Law of God still demands obedience.  This is the condition of eternal life.  Its claims derive from the highest Authority over us to whom we shall ultimately have to give an account.    Perhaps the skillful pedagogue/custodian might appeal to the heart of the Greek child, his sense of honor and love for his parents.  At last, the child sees the goodness of the command and perceives that what is required is in his best interest.  Now he feels ashamed of dishonoring his parents and sorry for disappointing them.  The faithful custodian escorts the humbled child to school.  Once the child has become connected to the School teacher in faithful school attendance, the pedagogue's task has been accomplished.  Nevertheless, He will stand by if perchance, the student should change his mind and try to slip away from class, which, of course, would once again place him at discord with his parents desires concerning his future well-being.  When the child is at school, then the custodian has no problem with him.  The child is fulfilling that which is required of him.  He is not condemned.  He is no longer "under" the mistakenly-titled "schoolmaster".  So with us, only when we, becoming ashamed of our rebellious ways and perceiving the love of a Divine Parent come to Christ, the Saviour from Sin, thus fulfilling in our lives through faith in Christ the right doing of the Law, that the Law can release us.  When we have obtained in Christ the right-doing that the Law faithfully demands, then the Law custodian will have no problem with us.  We meet its approval.  Then we are at peace with our Custodian.  The Law custodian itself will witness before our Divine Parent, that our schoolday and school responsibilities of righteousness have been met.  Then, we are no longer condemned or punished.  We are no longer under the Law because Faith, Righteousness by Faith, has come. 


Friday, November 11, 2011

Sabbath School Today
With the 1888 Message Dynamic

The Gospel in Galatians
Lesson 7: “The Road to Faith” [1]

Have you ever made a bad deal and bought a “lemon”? You had to throw good money after bad on a five-year loan. Every check written brings out an inner “tension” over a deal gone sour. Israel made a bad covenant with their faulty promises at Mt. Sinai and paid for it ever since with a constant conflict over the law of God (Heb. 8:7, 8).

In four short verses Paul contrasts the two covenants as two different experiences. These two covenant experiences have a radically different relationship to the law of God. Paul draws upon two occupations from his contemporary world of the correctional officer and the schoolmaster in order to illustrate his point (Gal. 3:22-25).

God’s original plan with His covenant to Abraham was “the promise by faith of Jesus Christ” (3:22). Abraham believed God’s promise because God proclaimed to him the heart-moving grand sacrifice of the Saviour. “The covenant ... was confirmed ... in Christ” (3:17). The clearest revelation of God’s love for sinners is the crucifixion of Christ.

The cross is the faith of Jesus. God “preached before the gospel unto Abraham” (3:8). When God proclaims the good news it is never incomplete. It is a full exposition of the message of the cross (it “was confirmed before of God in Christ”, 3:17). It was this saving truth which Abraham heard and converted his heart so that he was stirred by agape-love to believe.

Likewise, it was the faith of Jesus Christ which God proclaimed to Israel at Mt. Sinai. When in unbelief in God’s provision and care for them in the wilderness Israel murmured against Moses, the Lord instructed him to strike the rock and water gushed forth bringing with it life to all who drank. Paul understood that Rock, Mt. Sinai, to represent the smitten and crucified One. “And did all drink the same spiritual drink: for they drank of that spiritual Rock that followed them: and that Rock was Christ” (1 Cor. 10:4). So, in a vivid and practical way God proclaimed their very life was a gift to them by virtue of Christ’s sacrifice. This was the ever-present cross of “Calvary at Sinai.” [2]

Christ is the reality to which every sacrificial lamb pointed since Adam sinned in the garden and God covered him with the animal skin. It is by “the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot: who verily was foreordained before the foundation of the world” that anyone enjoys life (1 Peter 1:19, 20).

Now when God proclaimed all of this to the children of Abraham and they still did not see their need of Christ as did their father, in their self-sufficiency they proclaimed themselves as righteous enough to fulfill the conditions of their old covenant (Ex. 19:8). Their promise to do everything just right was not God’s plan. He did not have to write His law on tables of stone for Abraham. Abraham believed and God wrote His principles of moral truth on his heart that was moved by the love of the great sacrifice.

So God spoke His law from Mt. Sinai amidst the fire and lightning, the earthquake and death-boundary, in order to impress upon sinners their utter weakness and lack of power to keep their promises to obey—their old covenant. First, God by means of “the Scripture” “concluded [locked up] all under sin” (Gal. 3:22). The law condemns the sinner. The law is the “correctional officer” who is given the responsibility of securing the death-row inmate for his punishment. Second, the law was given to drive them to “the promise [the new covenant] by faith of Jesus Christ” (vs. 22).

It isn’t the Jews only that are “kept under the law, shut up” (3:22). Through the entire flow of the passage Paul has been writing to Jews as well as Gentiles. He especially refers the “we” to the Gentiles (3:14; cf. 3:28, 29). [3] Paul writes “we have before proved both Jews and Gentiles, that they are all under sin” (Rom. 3:9, see also Rom. 11:32, “shut them all up together in unbelief”).

To be “under the law” is identical with being “under sin.” The problem with being “under the law” is not with the law itself. It is unbelief in God’s promise of the faith of Jesus that perpetuates the constant tension with the law.

Another illustration Paul uses for the purpose of the law is as a “schoolmaster [disciplinarian] to bring [drive] us unto Christ” (Gal. 3:24). The law is like the Roman “tutor” who had the “child” in “bondage” as a minor before he came of age to receive the inheritance (Gal. 4:1, 2). The future estate owner was put under a disciplinarian whom he would later own.

The law was put in charge of sinners to drive them to the covenant in Christ by the converting power of the Holy Spirit in order that they might experience justification by faith—the forgiveness of sins. When the “schoolmaster” law has driven the “child” to “the promise by the faith of Jesus Christ” then he is “justified by faith.” The righteousness of Christ reconciles his alienated heart to God and brings him into harmony with the law of God so that the law is actually a witness to that fact.

“Is the law then against the promises of God?” (Gal. 3:21). No, the law is in the covenant of God just as it was for Abraham who “believed in the LORD; and He counted it to him for righteousness” (Gen. 15:6). When God gives his character of agape-love to the believer he is “no longer under [in conflict with] a schoolmaster” (Gal. 3:25).

Two different experiences of the two covenants are described in Galatians 3:22-25. The two covenants are not matters of time, either before the cross or after. One may have an old covenant experience after the cross as well as another have a new covenant experience before the cross. The self-sufficient old covenant promise to do everything just right, places one in a constant tension of I ought to do this, I ought to do that, with the law of God.

God has given the capacity to every one to choose belief in His covenant promise. Christ alone brings freedom from the self-enslaving bondage to the law into the sunlight freedom of harmony and peace with the law and God. These two covenant experiences of bondage and freedom are irrespective of time either before or after the cross. At any time one may move from the old dispensation of unbelief into the new dispensation of faith.

This unique insight of the 1888 message goes far beyond Babylon’s understanding of the two covenants. The counterfeit view of Galatians 3 is that the “schoolmaster” law was abolished with the old covenant “obey and live” when Jesus died on the cross. The counterfeit view says that “under grace” there is no seventh-day Sabbath in the new covenant.

Such an unbiblical “dispensational” theory is a doctrine of men. This argument was used by the late Pope to abolish the true Sabbath and promote Sunday observance as the new covenant Sabbath. What a pity that evangelicals and some ex-Adventists are doing the same thing!

When you finally wake up after a wasted life and you realize that you’ve blown nearly all your original “capital,” you feel despondent. You’ve gone through one or two divorces, you’ve ruined your health by dissipation, your family have lost confidence in you, you need a job (and the strength to work at one if you can get it), and the loneliness you feel is oppressive. Maybe you have left some criminal record behind you. You feel that God has forsaken you. The “good news” is that Christ takes you by the hand and leads you out of old covenant despair into the freedom of His life-giving love.
Paul E. Penno

[1] According to Galatians 3:22, this is better titled, “The Promise of Faith.”
[2] See Paul E. Penno, Calvary at Sinai (2001).
[3] A big point is made in the Sabbath School quarterly of the “we” in Galatians 3:23 being “the Jews who were kept ‘under the law’ before the coming of Christ.” The Gospel in Galatians (Teacher’s edition), p. 80 (Monday’s lesson). But this tends toward a “dispensational” view of the two covenants as will be explained.