Constructing a Christ-Centered Adventist Faith, Part 2: Did Jesus Put an End to the Law?

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Constructing a Christ-Centered Adventist Faith, Part 2: Did Jesus Put an End to the Law?

“For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to everyone who believes.”[1]

This scripture has often been used to try to prove that now that we are under a new covenant the law of God is no longer something that we need to follow. I was watching a debate recently where the 10 Commandments were being discussed, and a Christian man who believed in this type of interpretation stated that there was no longer any external code of law needed for Christians and that we only need to do whatever is loving and shows God’s character. Fortunately for us as Seventh-day Adventists, we know that the same book of Romans that the scripture above is taken from previously states, “Do we then make void the law through faith? Certainly not! On the contrary, we establish the law.”[2]

 

Answers like these are normally what is used to combat assertions that the law has been done away with. And they have worked well to keep us as Adventists secure in our theological correctness, which is great. But it doesn’t help us to truly understand what Paul meant when he said that Christ is the end of the law. Normally when giving a Bible study this passage is only mentioned in order to answer the objection it seems to pose on the surface. As we jump into our second part of the Christ-Centered series I want to discuss the power of actually leading with a verse like this when talking about the law of God, and how it helps to keep the discussion focused on Jesus.

 

Christ is the End of Legalism

“For they being ignorant of God’s righteousness, and seeking to establish their own righteousness, have not submitted to the righteousness of God.”[3]

 

Looking at this verse, which comes just before the statement that Christ is the end of the law, helps us to understand that the topic at the beginning of Romans 10 is legalism. Most of the Jews of Paul’s day were still trying to earn their salvation through personal works and did not believe that Jesus had anything to do with being saved.

 

So, Paul makes the bold statement that Christ came to put an end to any thought that righteousness could be attained by trying to keep the law in our strength. Only the power of grace, which is obtained through faith, can enable anyone to live their life in harmony with God’s law. This is made clear by the verses immediately preceding Romans 10:

 

“What shall we say then? That the Gentiles, who did not pursue righteousness, have attained to righteousness, even the righteousness of faith; but Israel, pursuing the law of righteousness, has not attained to the law of righteousness. Why? Because they did not seek it by faith, but as it were, by the works of the law.”[4]

 

Starting off by showing that righteousness does not come from a legalistic keeping of the law, but by faith in Jesus, takes the pressure off of the person who may be unfamiliar with, or even antagonistic toward, the fact that the 10 Commandments are still binding.

 

Normally we start a study on the law with a bunch of scriptures that prove that it hasn’t been done away with. We start at Genesis and go all the way through Revelation showing that the law has always, and will always be, something we should live by. Then we quickly throw-in at the end that we can only keep the law by the power of Jesus. But our goal should always be to keep the focus on Jesus from beginning to end. This will help people to have a healthy love and respect for God’s law, rather than a debilitating dread and disgust for it.

 

Now, where do we go from Romans 9 and 10? Most people don’t realize or have doubts and questions about, what righteousness the book of Romans is talking about. Let’s allow Jesus to give us the answer Himself.

 

What Does Jesus Say About Righteousness and the Law?

 “For I say to you, that unless your righteousness exceeds the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, you will by no means enter the kingdom of heaven.”[5]

 

When I was still an atheist back in 2012, I had reached a stage where I was giving the Bible a chance. As I read about the law in the book of Exodus I felt like I was already doing pretty good, even though I didn’t even believe in God. I thought I treated my parents pretty well. I never murdered anyone and didn’t intend to. I didn’t cheat on my girlfriend. I wasn’t a thief. This checklist seemed like a piece of cake! But then I was led to read the New Testament and came to the Sermon on the Mount.

 

Jesus speaks of a deeper righteousness in this sermon than I found in Exodus 20, and yet He is still talking about the same commandments that were given on Mt. Sinai. Jesus was the master of pulling old truths out of the garbage heap and making them sublime and beautiful again. Ellen White says it like this:

 

“Christ in His teaching presented old truths of which He Himself was the originator, truths which He had spoken through patriarchs and prophets; but He now shed upon them a new light. How different appeared their meaning! A flood of light and spirituality was brought in by His explanation.”[6]

 

As Christ goes on in Matthew 5 to describe what type of righteousness we need to possess to enter the kingdom of heaven, He begins to magnify the 10 Commandments. He speaks of murder not in terms of the mere physical act, but in terms of angry and negative thoughts toward others. He speaks also of adultery, not in terms of the physical act, but in terms of the lustful thoughts, we indulge toward another.

 

When I began to look at the law from this perspective as an atheist, I began to feel some deep conviction that I wasn’t as good as I thought I was. It was this perspective on the law given in the Sermon on the Mount that eventually led me to believe in God. Jesus presented a code of ethics that not only convicted but inspired me. I felt that if everyone lived as Jesus told us to in those chapters, the world would be a perfect place. After reading the 10 Commandments this way, and choosing to make the transition from atheism to Christianity, I could truly say with the psalmist, “The law of the Lord is perfect, converting the soul.”[7]

 

The Witness to the World

 “Therefore be careful to observe them; for this is your wisdom and your understanding in the sight of the peoples who will hear all these statutes, and say, ‘Surely this great nation is a wise and understanding people.’”[8]

 

A major part of bringing out the beauty of Christ in the law is showing the power it has to make us better representatives of Him. Long before the Word became flesh, we see from the scripture above that God taught His people the importance of keeping the law, not only for their good but so that unbelievers would want to get to know the true God.

 

It’s interesting that Jesus, in the Sermon on the Mount, was talking about His followers being the light of the world right before He begins to show the deeper meaning of the Commandments (Mat 5:14-16). Right after Jesus finishes talking about how we are to glorify God by our good works He says these words: “Do not think that I came to destroy the Law or the Prophets. I did not come to destroy but to fulfill.”[9]

 

Jesus taught people the truth about His Father not only by His teachings but by the way He lived His life. When Jesus sent out His followers after His resurrection telling them to be His witnesses and to make disciples of all nations, it did not mean that they were to go out and do nothing but preaching. Living our lives according to God’s righteous law is a witness in itself.

 

Paul once again gives us the perfect picture of how we are to do this in Galatians 2:20: “I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me.”

 

Jesus spoke of love being one of the greatest evidences that people were following the true God (John 13:35). It is well known that Jesus summed up the law as love for God and love for our neighbor (Matthew 22:37-40). How powerful a witness it is then, when, by allowing the righteousness of the law to be fulfilled in us (Romans 8:4), we show to the world that our God is love (1 John 4:8).

 

Conclusion: The Beauty of the Law

When people see that Jesus is seeking to help them live in a way that will not only make their lives better but the lives of those around them better, talking about the law of God is so much easier. Especially when we lead with the fact that they are never left to do this on their own, and that it is not a means of earning their salvation. Taking away the pressure of legalism right away helps tremendously in leading people to see the beauty of God’s Commandments.

 

It’s still amazing to me 8 years later that I was converted from atheism not by prophecy, although it’s now one of my favorite things to study. Not by a scientific debate. Not even by the story of the cross. But I was converted by Jesus masterfully breaking down the law, and bringing out its true elegance.

 

I believe that the end of time is going to come down to everyone making a final decision concerning the Commandments of God and the faith of Jesus. Let us make the decision easier for people by always putting Christ in the center.

Read the rest of this series!

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Notes.

[1] Rom 10:4 All scriptures are taken from the New King James Version

[2] Rom 3:31

[3] Rom 10:3

[4] Rom 9:30-32

[5] Mat 5:20

[6] Ellen White, Christ’s Object Lessons, Pg. 127

[7] Psa 19:7

[8] Deut 4:6

[9] Mat 5:17

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About the author

Tony Dennis

Tony Dennis is from Sacramento, California, and spent most of his life as an atheist. His big dream, when he was young, was to become a professional poker player. He was converted to Seventh-day Adventism when he was 21 years old by reading the book Steps to Christ. He went on to graduate from the Pacific Union Conference’s school of evangelism, SOULS West. He has been a teacher now at SOULS West for the past three years, teaching classes on Daniel, Revelation, and the Sanctuary. He has also recently started a YouTube channel entitled By Every Word to help young people understand and apply the Bible to their lives.