So far in our studies in Galatians we have reached the end of the fourteenth verse of the third chapter. And in this study we have been brought about five times, by different lines of reasoning, to the fact that the coming of Christ—the sacrifice of Christ, and the work of Christ—brings salvation to the Gentiles just where the Gentiles are, and not where the Jews are; that the special claims of the Jews are now passed, and that, instead of the Gentiles being required to meet Christ in the field of the Jew, even the Jew himself must now meet Christ in the field of the Gentile, and not in the field of the Jew.
Over and over it has been seen that the Jews claimed justification by law, while the truth of the gospel is, and always was, justification by faith. Laws were given to the Jews by the Lord; yet the object of these never was that those to whom they were given should be justified by the laws: the giving of those laws was but the consequence of their transgression and their unbelief, and that they might the better attain to righteousness by faith. As they went further into darkness by unbelief and transgression, God in mercy followed them with further means that, if by any means, he might bring them to a true and clear faith in Jesus Christ.
Consequently, if they had maintained the true faith which Abraham had before he was circumcised, —faith which works the works of God, and which, therefore, keeps the commandments of God, —the keeping of the commandments of God and the faith of Jesus, —none of these other laws, not even the written form of the law of God, would ever have been added. They would have kept the commandments of God and the faith of Jesus. For “if man had kept the law of God, as given to Adam after his fall, preserved by Noah, and observed by Abraham, there would have been no necessity for the ordinance of circumcision. And if the descendants of Abraham had kept the covenant, of which circumcision was a sign, they would never have been seduced into idolatry, nor would it have been necessary for them to suffer a life of bondage in Egypt. They would have kept God’s law in mind, and there would have been no necessity for it to be proclaimed from Sinai, or engraved upon the tables of stone. And [even when God’s law had been engraved upon the tables of stone] had the people practiced the principles of the Ten Commandments, there would have been no need of the additional directions given to Moses” (“Patriarchs and Prophets” page 364).
But the sole object of all these laws, when they were added, was faith in Christ, and not works of law. And, therefore, when Christ had come, who was the sole object, aim, and purpose of all the laws and statutes that had been given by the Lord—when these had all met and found their purpose in him, and he had showed the grand glory of the true and clear faith of God, it is, of all things, extravagant to claim justification by law, as did “the Pharisees, which believed” (Acts 15:5), and who had confused the Galatians who believed in Christ, by insisting that, in order to be saved, they must be circumcised and keep the law. This was made clear by Paul in his appeal to Peter before them all, when he said, “If thou, being a Jew, live after the manner of Gentiles, and not as do the Jews, why do you compel the Gentiles to live as do the Jews?” That is, if you have abandoned the ground of the Jews in order to be justified, it is the right thing to do, and have gone over to the ground of the Gentiles, how can it be required of the Gentiles to abandon their ground and go over to that of the Jews, which, as we ourselves have confessed, must be abandoned by even us who by nature belong on the ground?
Next he followed this thought back to Abraham himself, and showed that even Abraham was justified by faith, and received all the promises, and became heir to the inheritance, by faith alone, without circumcision, or any other of the laws, which were given to the Jews.
He next showed that even to those who were circumcised and had all these laws, these things were of no profit, and availed, only when they walked “in the steps of that faith of our father Abraham, which he had being yet uncircumcised.” So that, even with themselves, and through all their day, and forever, “they which are of faith are blessed with faithful Abraham.”
Next he demonstrates by the Scripture that those who are of the works of law, those who go about by the law to be saved, and to be justified by law, are under the curse; and that Christ is come, and “hath redeemed us from the curse of the law,” from the curse of our own works; and that he did this in order “that the blessing of Abraham might come on the Gentiles.”
In all this it has been shown over and over that the Gentile meets Christ in the field of the Gentile, and not in the field of the Jew. It is also demonstrated over and over that the Jew meets Christ not in the field of the Jew, but also in the field of the Gentile; exactly where the Gentile meets him, where Abraham met him, and where all, alike, and forever, must meet him—in the glorious field of “the commandments of God, and the faith of Jesus.”
All this, too, gives added emphasis, and sets in a fuller light, those two expressions in the word of Peter at the council in Jerusalem on this question, when he, telling the assembly that God had made choice of him among the apostles that the Gentiles by his mouth “should hear the word of the gospel, and believe,” and then said: “God, which knows the hearts, bear them [the Gentiles] witness, giving them the Holy Ghost, even as he did unto us; and put no difference between us and them [note, not between them and us, but “between us and them”] purifying their hearts by faith.” He then appealed to them: “Now therefore why tempt ye God, to put a yoke upon the neck of disciples, which neither our fathers nor we were able to bear? But we believe that through the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ we shall be saved, even as they.” Note again that Peter by the Holy Spirit, said not that they shall be saved even as we, but “We shall be saved even as they.” The means of salvation to the Gentile, and not to the Jew, is the supreme standard of salvation. We, Jews, shall be saved even as they, the Gentiles, are saved. And they were saved, without law, being justified by faith. They must be so justified; for they did not have any of these laws, as had the Jews, by which to be justified, if that had been the way. And so we, the Jews must be justified even as they must be justified—by with without any works of any law, even though we had all the laws that ever were.
There was a time when the Gentile could meet Christ in the field of the Jew; but that time is past. It passed by the fact of the Jews rejecting Christ, even though it had not passed by any other means. But it also passed by the coming of Christ as the object, purpose, aim, completion, and fullness, of all these laws that must of necessity be given to the Jews because of their unbelief and transgression. And since that time is doubly past, in which the Gentile could meet Christ in the field of the Jews: and since it is more than doubly so that now the Jew must meet Christ in the field of the Gentile there is no other name, nor other means, by which either Jew or Gentile must be saved but by the name of Jesus Christ through faith in his name.
It must be borne in mind always that in all this there was no question raised nor any point made as to the value of any law in itself: the sole question was, and is, as to any value or use of any law in justification. Justification is by faith, not by law: by faith which is of God, and, so, which works by the love of God, which is the keeping of the commandments of God. And so of all who catch the thought of God as it is in the book of Galatians, it can truly be written, “Here are they which keep the commandments of God, and the faith of Jesus.”
[Advent Review and Sabbath Herald | January 2, 1900]