This message is based on 2 Corinthians 3 and on A.T. Jones’ 26th sermon at the 1895 General Conference Session.
“Ye are our epistle written in our hearts, known and read of all men: Forasmuch as ye are manifestly declared to be the epistle of the Messiah ministered by us, written not with ink, but with the Spirit of the Living God; not in tables of stone, but in fleshly tables of the heart. And such trust have we through the Messiah to God-ward: Not that we are sufficient of ourselves to think any thing as of ourselves; but our sufficiency is of God; Who also hath made us able ministers of the New Covenant; not of the letter, but of the spirit: for the letter killeth, but the Spirit giveth life. But if the ministration of death, written and engraven in stones, was glorious, so that the children of Israel could not stedfastly behold the face of Moses for the glory of his countenance; which glory was to be done away: How shall not the ministration of the spirit be rather glorious? For if the ministration of condemnation be glory, much more doth the ministration of righteousness exceed in glory. For even that which was made glorious had no glory in this respect, by reason of the glory that excelleth. For if that which is done away was glorious, much more that which remaineth is glorious. Seeing then that we have such hope, we use great plainness of speech: And not as Moses, which put a veil over his face, that the children of Israel could not stedfastly look to the end of that which is abolished: But their minds were blinded: for until this day remaineth the same veil untaken away in the reading of the old testament; which veil is done away in the Messiah. But even unto this day, when Moses is read, the veil is upon their heart. Nevertheless when it shall turn to the Lord, the veil shall be taken away. Now the Lord is that Spirit: and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty. But we all, with open face beholding as in a glass the glory of the Lord, are changed into the same image from glory to glory, even as by the Spirit of the Lord.”
~ 2 Corinthians 3
Is it God’s intent to give us a Law that kills us? Not at all. That we the idea that the children of Israel had–that God took them out to the wilderness to kill them, and that His thunderings in the mount were meant to threaten them; they did not like this god (their conception of God in their minds), but they served him out of fear to try to preserve their lives. This god was Satan, who is the God of death. But YAHUAH (Jehovah) is the God of life. “God is a Spirit” (John 4:24) and “the Spirit giveth life” (Verse 6 of our text).
So then the problem was with the people not with YAHUAH God.
“What kind of ministration was it? It was a ministration of self, was it not? But what is self? It is of enmity; it is sin … In the sanctuary, in their offering the sacrifices whom were they serving? Satan. What was the ministration then? It could be nothing else than a ministration of death. They were doing just the work that Satan desired them to do, taking a course to impeach the character of God and cause the people to view Him as a tyrant” (A.T. Jones, The Third Angel’s Message, No. 26, 1895).
Satan had no problem with the people professing to believe in God’s Law. Satan loves it when unconverted people join God’s church. It is his favorite thing of all. They adopt a form of religion, and Satan exults over this. It is in this way that he can impeach God’s character from both the church and the world. God is seen to be a tyrant like himself, and so Satan steps into that and receives all the worship, for it is his character of enmity against God and His Law. The god that is worshiped is seen to be one that demands laws that are very difficult to be kept (which they are without the Spirit and when many man-made laws are added to them) and that he is just waiting for someone to fall into sin so that he can kill them. This blood-thirsty god can only be appeased by a constant round of external ceremonies.
But that is not YAHUAH the God of heaven.
“Hath YAHUAH as great delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices, as in obeying the voice of YAHUAH? Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, and to hearken than the fat of rams. For rebellion is as the sin of witchcraft, and stubbornness is as iniquity and idolatry” (1 Samuel 15:22-23).
What does it mean to ‘obey’? In Hebrew, the word is ‘shama’, which means most directly means “to hear” (according to both Strong’s and Brown-Driver-Briggs’). It simply means to hear the living Words of God, believing that they themselves, by the power of the Spirit which is in them, will accomplish just what they say from the mouth of YAHUAH. Anything more than this is creature merits, self-exaltation, the spirit of Satan, rebellion, which leads to death. The children of Israel took part in this rebellion, because they did not simply obey, or hear, the voice of YAHUAH and allow Him through His power to receive the glory of righteousness. Paul calls it “the obedience of faith” (Romans 16:26), thus making obedience equivalent to faith. It is righteousness by faith, and “their righteousness is of Me, saith YAHUAH” (Isaiah 54:17).
His righteousness is the result of the living words coming into contact with the human heart that hears. And even the hearing, or faith, itself is of YAHUAH, for in the Third Angel’s Message (Rev. 14:12) and also written in Galatians and Romans it is called “the faith of Jesus”. So both righteousness and the faith to hear righteousness are free gifts. The faith of hearing, or obedience, is the faith that Jesus lived on this earth who was in our sinful flesh, totally depending upon His and our Father for righteousness. This was more than just an example for us but a gift for us. The same faith that Jesus exercised, even that which was in “the mind of the Messiah” (1 Cor. 2:16), He gives to us to put into our mind.
“Ye have not received the spirit of bondage again to fear; but ye have received the Spirit of adoption, whereby we cry, Abba, Father. The Spirit itself beareth witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God” (Romans 8:15, 16).
Salvation is so simple, but Satan has brought in all sorts of sophistries to veil it from our eyes. He wants us to look to the forms of religion themselves instead of to the end, or goal, or objective, that they point to, and that is the Lord Jesus, who is our Sacrifice and our sanctifying Spirit; then we have liberty. But Satan wants us to keep us in bondage. Nothing is wrong at all with the forms of the Law. It is all “holy, and just, and good” (Romans 7:12). It is glorious in its purpose of bringing us to the Messiah, who is all the more glorious than the shadow that points to Him.
The form, or “the letter”, without the fullness of Him is the problem, and it is not a problem at all with the Law; again, the problem is with us, the people. The form, or letter, of the Law has a glorious purpose in bringing us to the Messiah, and this is what its whole intention is as our “Schoolmaster” (Galatians 3:24). The Schoolmaster, the Law, is saying to us, “Come with me. I will bring you to the Teacher of Righteousness (the Messiah). He is altogether lovely. He is your righteousness, your all in all. His living Words “are Spirit, and they are life” (John 6:63); but my words, my letters, are dead forms without Him fulfilling them (filling them full) with His Spirit that gives them life.”
But the problem is that we look at the Law and we try to do it ourselves. Instead of it being our Schoolmaster to bring us to the Messiah, we think that we do not need a Schoolmaster and use the Law to minister to ourselves—our sins. This is not obedience at all. If we would but hear the words instead of trying to do them first, and if we would see what the shadows mean rather than looking to the shadows themselves, reading them in prayer so that we are connected to the power source, then the Law would be filled with the Spirit. It would be the “ministration of the Spirit”; it would minister in bringing to us the righteousness and life of the Messiah—the very substance of what the form is communicating to our heart’s ears.
Without the Spirit of the Law who fills it in our hearts, it is an empty form and becomes “the ministration of condemnation”, “the ministration of death”, for without faith we are veiled from seeing the righteousness in it and the only righteousness left to see is self-righteousness, which is no righteousness at all. “There is none righteous, no, not one: There is none that understandeth, there is none that seeketh after God. They are all gone out of the way, they are together become unprofitable; there is none that doeth good, no, not one” (Romans 3:10-12).
In our sinful flesh that we all have from the first Adam there is no hope. But that is all we have if we are not obedient—that is, if we do not respond to the faith of Jesus that He places upon our hearts. We are left with this form. And this form we try to fill with our own traditions and ceremonies, and it becomes an entirely different system called “the ministration of death”. We try to do what is commanded and what we add to it and we may think that we are doing pretty good, but now that this form is placed into an entirely different system, it is no longer the Law of God but “the law of sin and death” (Romans 8:2). There is no real righteousness in it, which only “the Spirit of the Lord” can produce. This entire system of self-righteousness becomes a system of idolatry, for it is rebellion against God, for there can either be faith or rebellion.
“Faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the Word of God” (10:17). Rebellion is to not hear the Word of God—either by refusing to do it or by trying to do it ourselves. “Rebellion is as the sin of witchcraft, and stubbornness is as iniquity and idolatry.” What is witchcraft? It is the belief that we have magical powers to concoct something ourselves. In spiritual terms, it is concocting our own righteousness, thinking we have the powers within ourselves to produce the righteous thing. It is not a light thing to God because he knows where it leads: death. What is idolatry? It the worship of external forms, looking to the creature instead of the Creator for life and acceptance, and thus stubbornly resisting the Spirit of the Lord who would give us just what we need to fill our empty sin-sick souls.
This is what the Lord Jesus came to abolish. It was nothing that He created. The people had created the problem, so He came to correct it. His whole preaching ministry consisted of teaching the Spirit of the Law, which is love and comes from God alone. He often used simple lessons or demonstrations, oftentimes in parables, that only the meek and could understand. The proud idolaters of the Pharisees could never understand the principles of His kingdom, so just like the ceremonies of the Law, He spoke in a way that would not cast His precious gems of truth to the swine, so to speak. They would not value it but would walk all over it just like they did with His Law. God veils things from the proud in symbols and parables, which His Spirit impresses each heart to understand. He knows that the issue of the heart much more an issue of obedience, or faith, than of intellect. So really the veil over the heart is a choice. The veil is unbelief, and to all hearts who yield to the Holy Spirit will have the veil removed. True, symbols and parables and prophecies have veils, but the veil was not meant to remain; it is only stubborn unbelief that causes it to remain. “Therefore speak I to them in parables,” said Jesus, “because they seeing see not; and hearing they hear not, neither do they understand” (Matt. 13:13); in other words, those who cannot understand the parables could not understand truth in any form, for it is an issue of obedience, not intellect.
Here is the real issue expressed: “As the rain cometh down, and the snow from heaven, and returneth not thither, but watereth the earth, and maketh it bring forth and bud, that it may give seed to the sower, and bread to the eater: So shall My Word be that goeth forth out of My mouth: it shall not return unto Me void, but it shall accomplish that which I please, and it shall prosper in the thing whereto I sent it” (Isaiah 55:10-11). “Let all the earth fear YAHUAH: let all the inhabitants of the world stand in awe of Him. For He spake, and it was done; He commanded, and it stood fast. YAHUAH bringeth the counsel of the heathen to nought: He maketh the devices of the people of none effect. The counsel of YAHUAH standeth for ever, the thoughts of his heart to all generations” (Psalm 33:8-11).
What does YAHUAH “abolish” and “make of none effect”? His own counsel in Law? Nay, but the counsel of men. When YAHUAH speaks His living Word, it has power to do what it says and it will never do otherwise. The fear, or awesome appreciation, of YAHUAH is to simply acknowledge this and hear. Any reasoning out of this wholesome fear is not faith. Faith does not stop to reason how His Word can be. It does not stop to reason of any difficulties that are in His way. It does not stop to reason if there be any easier way. All personal interests are laid aside, and agape love takes over; making the way that seems hard to the flesh easy, the burden light. So is the faith of Jesus.
Jesus says, “My yoke is easy, and My burden is light” (Matt. 11:30). Sister White calls it “the yoke of obedience”, and we know that obedience is faith, and the only faith that counts is the faith of Jesus given to all as a gift; they just need to accept it.
“Many proclaim the Law of God abolished, and surely their lives are in keeping with their faith. If there is no law, then there is no transgression, and therefore no sin; for sin is the transgression of the law. The carnal mind is enmity against God, and it rebels against His will. Let it once throw off the yoke of obedience and it slips unconsciously into the lawlessness of crime” (4 Testimonies, 13).
The Law of God was not abolished at the cross; another law was abolished:
Our Saviour “abolished in His flesh the enmity, even the law of commandments contained in ordinances; for to make in Himself of twain one New Man, so making peace; And that He might reconcile both unto God in one body by the cross, having slain the enmity thereby: And came and preached peace to you which were afar off, and to them that were nigh” (Ephesians 2:15-17).
“To be carnally minded is death; but to be spiritually minded is life and peace. Because the carnal mind is enmity against God: for it is not subject to the Law of God, neither indeed can be” (Romans 8:6-7).
In both passages Paul is contrasting ‘enmity’ with ‘peace’, and both are in reference to the Law of God. But this is not the law that was abolished, Paul refers to “another law”…
“I delight in the Law of God after the inward man: But I see another law in my members, warring against the Law of my mind, and bringing me into captivity to the law of sin which is in my members.” But “the Law of the Spirit of life in the Messiah Jesus hath made me free from the law of sin and death” (7:22-8:2).
There are two men referred to, “the inward man”, which has the “New Man” the Messiah Jesus within, and the carnal man, or mind, which could also be called “the outward man”. The outward man contains the life of the first Adam, and is not subject to the Law of God, for it is prone to sin as it is also called the “sinful flesh” or “the flesh of sin”. But Jesus, through His faith of obedience, “condemned sin in the flesh” (v. 3) so that it did not contaminate His life in any way, shape, or form. The “inward man” contains this life of the second Adam, as a gift, but it can only operate as much as the human will allow. So that is up to us. If we choose to live according to the mind, the Spirit will fill us; if not, we are living in a form having no fullness, and we are not subject (or in compliance) with the Law of God. It is then rebellion, which is idolatry and witchcraft, for it is trying to concoct life where there is none; and it invites the evil spirit of Satan instead of the Holy Spirit of the Lord.
So it is “the law of sin and death” which is “the law of commandments contained in ordinances”, which is also “the handwriting of ordinances that was against us” in Colossians 2:14. The ordinances are not of God but of man. They are ordinances of sin, which leads to death. In that same chapter Paul calls these “ordinances” “the rudiments of the world” and “the commandments and doctrines of men” (vs. 20, 22). “Whenever, wherever, you have the enmity, you will have ceremonialism. You cannot get rid of the thing without getting rid of the enmity, and as certainly as that enmity is there” (A.T. Jones, The Third Angel’s Message, No. 26, 1895). The carnal man who has any kind of religion will create man-made rules and ordinances, church creeds, council decisions, etc., to make up for the lack of the fullness of the Spirit.
These things are all the sin of idolatry and witchcraft. But as the Protestant reformers have known, they can bring no peace. There can only be peace with God and His Law when the enmity has been taken away, and that has already happened for every man at Calvary. But the problem is that we do not believe, so it does not take effect in our lives. It is ours as a gift, but we do not receive the gift because we would rather live in the dark shadow of this world with no substance. The things of God are taken into a whole new system of idolatry and so they are no longer the Law of God. We have seen this perfectly with the Papacy. “He shall … think to change times and Law”—that is, take them out of the place where God has set them up, and bring them into a new environment that is not prone to the Spirit of God to fill them with His blessings. That is when they become “the commandments and doctrines of men”, and they are continually changed, for man always changes, but thus saith “YAHUAH, I change not” (Malachi 3:6).
We also covered last time how even atheists are involved in ceremonialism—that is, living in the form but not the fullness of a thing. Every blessing we enjoy on this earth was meant to be a Schoolmaster. Everyone on this earth, whether they are aware of it or not, study the Book of Nature as well as the Book of God’s Providence. Both are filled with blessings when received from the Giver of Life. But all that the carnal mind sees is the form. What God meant to be blessings becomes perverted into cursings of sin and death. It all is ceremonialism—going through the motions of life, appreciating only the form (what is seen with the senses) instead of the Spirit “that filleth all in all” (Ephesians 1:23). Hence, everyone on this earth that is not filled with the Spirit in the heart (the only place that the Spirit cannot go unless permitted) practices a law of ordinances that involves sin (idolatry and witchcraft) and only promises death. The Book of Nature reveals death all around us. As a Schoolmaster, it declares the sure result of sin. It also reveals evidences of God’s life all around us, thus declaring that there is a Higher Power. “And He is before all things, and by Him all things consist” (Colossians 1:17). Living in the form of these things daily witnessed in the Book of Nature without an acknowledgment of Him by which all things consist is practicing the ceremonial law that the Messiah abolished, which is enmity against God His “Law of the Spirit of life in the Messiah Jesus”.
The ceremonial law that the Jews were practicing when Jesus came was certainly not the same ceremonial law prescribed in the Torah. They had taken the things of God and transferred them to a man-made setting that would not allow for the Spirit of God. This is the law that was abolished. It is the law of sin, because it transgresses the Law of God, and it is the law of death, because death is the sure result of sin. Its ordinances have and will come to naught in the end, for there is no life outside of the constraints of God’s “perfect Law of Liberty” (James 1:25), for “where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty.”
The true ceremonial law that God created is a glorious shadow pointing to a much more glorious Saviour. Though A.T. Jones did not understand it fully in his time, the ceremonies remain in the Torah alongside all its non-ceremonial commandments and statutes as our Schoolmaster until the Seed comes to whom the promise is given (Galatians 3:19). It will be there to instruct us what is right so that we can hear God speak His righteousness to us to fill full His righteousness in us (Romans 8:4); and the way of Messiah as the typified Sacrifice is righteousness. We must learn the way of God, which is in His Sanctuary, that we may dwell with Him there, and Him with us here (in the temple of our body). All who thus obey the perfect Law of Liberty in the Spirit of the Lord, where there is liberty, are wearing the Messiah’s yoke of obedience. His peace is theirs, which the unconverted person cannot even imagine; but theirs is a life of continual toil and dissatisfaction, for they look only to the forms of this world, continually attaining but never satisfied having no fullness, no joyfulness, no rest. They have not heard the glad tidings by those who are in living in liberty from sin, including a multitude of nominal (name-only, form-only) Seventh-day Adventists. It is time that the world has heard, that it may be filled with the knowledge of the glory of YAHUAH. They must hear that this liberty is already theirs in the crucified and risen Messiah. And if they hear and believe, they will receive.
“O Zion, that bringest glad tidings, get thee up into the high mountain; O Jerusalem, that bringest glad tidings, lift up thy voice with strength; lift it up, be not afraid; say unto the cities of Judah, Behold your God!” (Isaiah 40:9).