1. The Law Our Schoolmaster

By John Thiel, Walking in the Light of 1888 Conference, Study 1, mp3

We are to walk in the light that came down from heaven in 1888. And you consider this; it’s a subject 120 years old. And why walk in the light of something that was addressed 120 years ago? Why address the matter such a long time after? We have already been made aware that the light of the Revelation 18 angel came back then; and that was the beginning of this angel and the beginning of the light that would swell into a loud cry. So as we contemplate that reality, why has it taken 120 years? and why have we, to all human observation, seen such little impact of that message in the ranks of the majority of Adventism? The Lord in His mercy, according to Testimonies to Ministers, p. 91-92, gave a most precious message; and to do what? To bring more prominently the Lord Jesus to us.

The perils of the last days are upon us. {TM 79.3}

This was written in 1895. Why was that written? Because in 1892 the mark of the beast was already being established, as we see from the statements of A. T. Jones in the General Conference Bulletin of 1893.

The perils of the last days are upon us. Satan takes the control of every mind that is not decidedly under the control of the Spirit of God. Some have been cultivating hatred against the men whom God has commissioned to bear a special message to the world. They began this satanic work at Minneapolis. Afterward, when they saw and felt the demonstration of the Holy Spirit testifying that the message was of God, they hated it the more, {Ibid.}


…because it was a testimony against them. They would not humble their hearts to repent, to give God the glory, and vindicate the right. They went on in their own spirit, filled with envy, jealousy, and evil surmisings, as did the Jews. They opened their hearts to the enemy of God and man. Yet these men have been holding positions of trust, and have been molding the work after their own similitude, as far as they possibly could. {Ibid.}

Here we have the understanding as to why so long since 1888. History has repeated itself. Jesus was repulsed by the Pharisees, and the same Jesus that was held up prominently before the people in 1888 was repelled by those who were holding leading positions; and they were doing a satanic work in Minneapolis and they continued it thereafter.

By exciting that opposition Satan succeeded in shutting away from our people, in a great measure, the special power of the Holy Spirit that God longed to impart to them. The enemy prevented them from obtaining that efficiency which might have been theirs in carrying the truth to the world, {1SM 234.6}

If they had received that, they would have been able to carry the truth to the world,

…as the apostles proclaimed it after the day of Pentecost. The light that is to lighten the whole earth with its glory was resisted, and by the action of our own brethren has been in a great degree kept away from the world. {Ibid.}

I ask the question, Why has it not been such an impact if back then this impact was being presented? Because by the action of our own brethren it has been in a great degree kept away from the world. It was being tossed around within the ranks of Adventism, and it lost its power in the discussion of the subject as a theological argumentation. And this is the reason why we are still on this planet now and there has been no manifest awareness on the part of Adventists in general that we are on the very last experience.

But we want to pick it up and be the people who are aware and alert to where we stand right now. We want to understand the reason for the opposition. Here Sister White identifies the main reason for this opposition:

“The law was our schoolmaster to bring us unto Christ, that we might be justified by faith” (Galatians 3:24). In this scripture, the Holy Spirit through the apostle is speaking especially of the moral law. The law reveals sin to us, and causes us to feel our need of Christ and to flee unto Him for pardon and peace by exercising repentance toward God and faith toward our Lord Jesus Christ. {1SM 234.5}

An unwillingness to yield up preconceived opinions, and to accept this truth, lay at the foundation of a large share of the opposition manifested at Minneapolis against the Lord’s message through Brethren [E.J.] Waggoner and [A.T.] Jones. {1SM 234.6}

What was the foundation? They had some preconceived opinions about the schoolmaster. And when Sister White wrote this, that the schoolmaster is especially speaking of the law—the Ten Commandments—the Spirit of God through Sister White was giving these leaders a real good wallop, because they were arguing in defense of their belief that the schoolmaster was the Mosaic law, the law of symbols that led us to Christ. But Sister White, under inspiration, says, No; the apostle was specifically speaking about the moral law. There was the opposition.

Now, if this was at the root of the opposition, if this was the reason why this beautiful message was slowed down to this point in time 120 odd years after, it does us well to take a full look at this and pick up enthusiastically where they had left off, to come to the 1888 fruition as it was intended, howbeit 120 years after. But 120 years after? Does that ring a bell? How long did God have to wait for the antediluvians? So He has had to wait for us, the Adventist people, exactly the same amount of time—120 years.

The Law in Galatians

Let us examine where the hitch was on this subject.

Galatians 3:21 [Is] the law then against the promises of God? God forbid: for if there had been a law given which could have given life, verily righteousness should have been by the law. 22 But the scripture hath concluded all under sin, that the promise by faith of Jesus Christ might be given to them that believe. 23 But before faith came, we were kept under the law, shut up unto the faith which should afterwards be revealed. 24 Wherefore the law was our schoolmaster [to bring us] unto Christ, that we might be justified by faith. 25 But after that faith is come, we are no longer under a schoolmaster.

Can you see the hitch? How can the Ten Commandments be the schoolmaster if when you have faith you are no longer under the Ten Commandments? That was their conflict. Explore with me the experience of what Apostle Paul addressed in this scripture. Walk with me in the light of what was rejected back then.

When you read the Ten Commandments in their spiritual amplification and from the heart you want to keep them, how well do you succeed? Be honest with yourself. You read their impact and you think, Oh, yes, I want to keep them. And what did the children of Israel say when the Ten Commandments were given from Mount Sinai? They shook in their boots and they said, Yes, everything that the Lord has asked, we will do and be obedient.

Galatians 3:21 [Is] the law then against the promises of God?

God forbid; the Ten Commandments were given of God.

Galatians 3:21 …for if there had been a law given which could have given life, verily righteousness should have been by the law. 22 But the scripture hath concluded all under sin, that the promise by faith of Jesus Christ might be given to them that believe.

Here is the powerful suggestion that although the Ten Commandments were given, they were not given that the sinner would have life originally intended by that law. It says that then the sinner should have righteousness by the law. But the scripture hath concluded all under sin. And the only way by which we can come to righteousness is not by those Ten Commandments; it is by the faith of Jesus Christ to be given to them that believe.

Let the apostle enlarge it for us now in the following scripture, and we will seek to apply what he is saying to a living appreciation:

Romans 7:7 What shall we say then? [is] the law sin?

Notice, he is talking about the Ten Commandments.

Romans 7:7 God forbid. Nay, I had not known sin, but by the law: for I had not known lust, except the law had said, Thou shalt not covet.

So what did the law do?

Romans 7:8 But sin, taking occasion by the commandment, wrought in me all manner of concupiscence.

What is meant here? You tell a child, Don’t touch that, and what will the child do? It will go and touch it. That’s exactly what the law does to us, because it rouses in you all manner of concupiscence. You get the picture?

Romans 7:8 For without the law sin [was] dead.

If the law wouldn’t have told me I wouldn’t have done it, but I have a condition that when the law tells me something I’m going to do the very opposite to what the law says.

Romans 7:9 For I was alive without the law once: but when the commandment came,

What happened? The discovery of my sinfulness.

Romans 7:9 …sin revived, and I died.

Oh no

Romans 7:10 And the commandment, which [was ordained] to life, I found [to be] unto death. 11 For sin, taking occasion by the commandment, deceived me, and by it slew [me].

Sin taking occasion by the commandment:

— Don’t touch!
— I will touch.

— Do this!
— I won’t;

Because a sinner has got a repulsiveness against God’s commandments.

Romans 7:12 Wherefore the law [is] holy, and the commandment holy, and just, and good. 13 Was then that which is good made death unto me? God forbid. But sin, that it might appear sin, working death in me by that which is good; that sin by the commandment might become exceeding sinful.

You are convicted, you are a sinner. The law of God tells you what a sinner you really are, because it brings out the worst in you. If the law wouldn’t be there I wouldn’t know I’m a sinner; I wouldn’t know what I’m really made of, that I will do exactly the opposite to what I know I should be doing. And that law being the law of God’s justice, what does it demand? As it identifies the sin in me, what does the law demand?

Ezekiel 18:4 Behold, all souls are mine; as the soul of the father, so also the soul of the son is mine: the soul that sinneth, it shall die.

Do you like the Ten Commandments? The Ten Commandments condemn me to death. They don’t give life at all; they don’t give righteousness. They give justice. That is what they do. And how does this actually unfold in living experience?

We are not to regard God as waiting to punish the sinner for his sin. The sinner brings punishment upon himself. His own actions start a train of circumstances that bring the sure result. Every act of transgression reacts upon the sinner, works in him a change of character, and makes it more easy for him to transgress again. By choosing to sin, men separate themselves from God, cut themselves off from the channel of blessing, and the sure result is ruin and death. {6BC 1085.6}

That is how this condemning law actually brings the point that the sinner that sins shall die. It’s not that God is there as an arbitrator and says, You’re going to die for this! It is because, as we break the law, something inside of me starts to react and works in me more and more a character of defiance, and makes it more easy for me to transgress again. And by choosing to do this in reaction, we separate ourselves from God and cut ourselves off from the channel of blessing, and the sure result is ruin and death. That’s how it happens. And what a horrific discovery. So as the law comes, what happened?

The Horror of the Law

Romans 7:9 For I was alive without the law once:

Everything went sweet, thank you very much;

Romans 7:9 …but when the commandment came, sin revived, and I died.

Horrors of horrors—I thought the Ten Commandments would be for my benefit. It’s going to kill me. My reactions will take me to death. And look how Apostle Paul vivifies this in the followings verses. He explains it in his own experience as he came face to face with this:

Romans 7:14 For we know that the law is spiritual: but I am carnal, sold under sin.

He had to discover that. You and I have to discover it.

Romans 7:15 For that which I do I allow not: for what I would, that do I not; but what I hate, that do I. 16 If then I do that which I would not, I consent unto the law that [it is] good.

I know the Ten Commandments are right; but there is this terrible thing inside of me. I want to do what the Ten Commandments tell me; everything that the Lord has said I will do and be obedient. This is what the children of Israel expressed.

Romans 7:16 Now then it is no more I that do it, but sin that dwelleth in me. 18 For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh,) dwelleth no good thing: for to will is present with me; but [how] to perform that which is good I find not.

I’m helpless! But remember, it is for helpless souls that God wants to come.

Romans 7:19 For the good that I would I do not: but the evil which I would not, that I do. 20 Now if I do that I would not, it is no more I that do it, but sin that dwelleth in me. 21 I find then a law, that, when I would do good, evil is present with me. 22 For I delight in the law of God after the inward man: 23 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. 24 O wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me from the body of this death?

How did Apostle Paul discover that he was a wretched man? By trying to keep the commandments. Should he have never tried to keep them? On the contrary; God’s church is called upon to uphold the law; and we are all called to try to keep them; but for a purpose: to discover how sinful we are. It is a schoolmaster that leads us to ask the question, I am so wretched! who can help me?? Do you know this kind of experience? If you don’t, you still have to go through a bit more hell yet.

Galatians 3:21 …if there had been a law given which could have given life, verily righteousness should have been by the law.

It can’t give me life. I can’t get righteousness from the law. And as the people of God and also many other people come up to the moral standards of life, people despair entirely.

The Three Reactions to the Law of God

  1. The first reaction to it, so common today; is that they declare: “Oh, you’re trying to get to heaven by keeping the law. The law has been nailed to the cross! you don’t have to worry about the law.” So we don’t have to worry about the Seventh-day Sabbath; and we don’t have to worry about “Thou shalt not kill;” we can go to war; we don’t have to worry about the marriage bond, because if it doesn’t work out you can go and marry again, when it says that’s adultery. And so all these different laws are being thrown out the door, because it is a despairing message. That’s the first reaction.
  2. There is another reaction: “Oh well, I give up. I give up my faith; I can never reach it. I give up and I’m just going to plunge myself into self-indulgence around me.”
  3. And the other one: “I will keep the law like Saul of Tarsus.” This is yet another way out.

Some people nail the law to the cross; other people give up faith entirely because the law really condemns them, “so I’m never going to make it anyway;” they throw it out the door for good. But here is the one who really believes he can do it, Saul of Tarsus.

Saul of Tarsus

Philippians 3:4 Though I might also have confidence in the flesh. If any other man thinketh that he hath whereof he might trust in the flesh, I more: 5 Circumcised the eighth day, of the stock of Israel, [of] the tribe of Benjamin, an Hebrew of the Hebrews; as touching the law, a Pharisee; 6 Concerning zeal, persecuting the church; touching the righteousness which is in the law, blameless.

I will paraphrase this: “I’ve been born a Seventh-day Adventist reformer; I’m of the stock of Adventism; I am an Adventist of the Adventists; according to the law, I’m a real fighter for it; and concerning the righteousness in the law, I’m blameless.” That is the way you get out of the condemnation of the law. You weave your own idea about yourself. All those three positions exist in the world around us today.

The Law Won’t Leave You Alone!

The Spirit of Prophecy gives us the following enlargement on this third point:

The Pharisee felt no conviction of sin. The Holy Spirit could not work with him. His soul was encased in a self-righteous armor which the arrows of God, barbed and true-aimed by angel hands, failed to penetrate. {COL 158.1}

See what God’s law is trying to do with the angels? Shooting the barbed arrows to break this impenetrable wall of self-righteousness. All three of those cases—the one who says the law is nailed to the cross and I just believe in Jesus and everything is fine; the one who says, No,  it’s too much, I can’t, I might as well give up; and the Pharisaical approach—all these three cases are addressed in the following statement. Because while they are all doing this, the law won’t leave them alone.

Against every evildoer God’s law utters condemnation. He may disregard that voice, he may seek to drown its warning, but in vain. It follows him. It makes itself heard. It destroys his peace. If unheeded, it pursues him to the grave. It bears witness against him at the judgment. A quenchless fire, it consumes at last soul and body. {Ed 144.5}

We have a good understanding of this already, because this kind of conscience-smiting behaviour makes people become legalistically antagonistic against each other. And it will finally destroy each one of them because the fire they will kindle will destroy each other, and God will add His to it. This is the reality of the horror of the impact of the Ten Commandments. But of these three options there is a fourth one:

The Fourth Option

As we read, if unheeded, this voice pursues him to the grave. There lies between the lines an answer. If the law keeps on hounding me like this and keeps on taking away my peace and keeps on destroying my happiness inside of myself, won’t I heed it, according to Galatians 3:24? What is it trying to do?

Galatians 3:24 …the law was our schoolmaster [to bring us] unto Christ, that we might be justified by faith.

Here the meaning of the schoolmaster is self-evident. What is the law doing? It keeps on pestering me and annoying my conscience and taking away my peace. This is what the school master is—someone who keeps on reminding you, “You are not doing what you are meant to be doing. Come on, here, this way. That’s what you are supposed to be doing.” It follows me! it takes away my peace; it ruins my happiness! Praise the Lord! because it is the schoolmaster that takes away my happiness to lead me to the happiness that comes from the righteousness of Christ.

Psalm 38:1 O LORD, rebuke me not in thy wrath: neither chasten me in thy hot displeasure. 2 For thine arrows stick fast in me, and thy hand presseth me sore. 3 [There is] no soundness in my flesh because of thine anger; neither [is there any] rest in my bones because of my sin. 4 For mine iniquities are gone over mine head: as an heavy burden they are too heavy for me. 5 My wounds stink [and] are corrupt because of my foolishness. 6 I am troubled; I am bowed down greatly; I go mourning all the day long. 7 For my loins are filled with a loathsome [disease]: and [there is] no soundness in my flesh. 8 I am feeble and sore broken: I have roared by reason of the disquietness of my heart. 9 Lord, all my desire [is] before thee; and my groaning is not hid from thee. 10 My heart panteth, my strength faileth me: as for the light of mine eyes, it also is gone from me.

If you go to a counsellor today with those words, what will they say to you? “Stop putting yourself down; come on, be cheerful, it’s alright; become a Pharisee, become someone who says, No, the law is nailed to the cross; but don’t give up, don’t throw yourself into the pit.” They try to boost your ego. But this is not the way out. It is the purpose of the law to make me think and feel like that. Tell me, is this what you have done underneath? You have kept up a fairly good front? and you don’t know the true servant of God knows what’s going on underneath. You know, when someone is all cheerful in front of me, I know there is lots of ugliness underneath, because the Lord has shown me. It is here in the word of God. A good strong front doesn’t pass with the Lord. You are hiding behind bamboo curtains.

Psalms 38:15 For in thee, O LORD, do I hope: thou wilt hear, O Lord my God.

Here is the answer: not to try to get out from underneath this terrible burden; but just come to the Lord, saying, I am hoping that You will help me. Remember the words of Romans 7:24? That is the attitude, as we read it here also in Psalms: I am so wretched! who shall save me out of this terrible state? The law of God will keep on pestering me until I will hang like a wet rag over a bar. This is where He wants me. Instead of nailing the law to the cross, Apostle Paul did what he cried out for. He said: Who can help me? I need help; I need some way out of this. And after those words, He follows up with the next statement:

Romans 7:25 I thank God…

What is the next word? This is a very important word.

Romans 7:25 I thank God through Jesus Christ our Lord.

Saul did not commence a raid against the law in order to justify a life of sin; but when his mind was enlightened in regard to the claims of the law of God, he saw himself a sinner, a transgressor of the law. His sins were brought before him, and what was the result? Did he commence a tirade against the law which showed him that he was a transgressor? Is it in his heart to crucify that law? Oh no! he crucified the carnal mind which rises in enmity against the law of God. “Sin revived,” says Paul, “and I,” not the law, “died.” Oh! when will professed Christians awake to see the brink of the precipice they are standing upon in refusing to acknowledge the claims of the law of God? {RH, March 8, 1870 par. 11}

You see what those have done who have crucified the law? They are on the brink and precipice of destruction. When we feel the law doing this to us, don’t crucify the law, don’t give up, don’t become a Pharisee; flee into the arms of the Lord Jesus Christ. The schoolmaster brings condemnation, warning, and follows me with a nagging conscience strike. Why is the schoolmaster doing it? Because it wants to lead me to the release mechanism—Jesus Christ. What death did the apostle die instead of crucifying the law? The death of the carnal mind. What did he say? He didn’t crucify the law. What did he crucify?

Galatians 2:19 For I through the law am dead to the law, that I might live unto God.

What did he do?

Galatians 2:20 I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me.

Here is the through. What must I do? I must be crucified with Christ. This is the through through which I will be released from this wretched condition. So he found the faith. The law is our schoolmaster that leads us to Christ. Before this Christ experience could take place, the schoolmaster had to pester me; he had to nag me and take away my peace, so that I might find the faith.

Galatians 3:23 …before faith came, we were kept under the law, shut up unto the faith which should afterwards be revealed.

How to Find Faith

While I am still in this state of trying to meet up with the moral expectations as I am, I do not have faith. I don’t have faith. I might believe that the Ten Commandments are right, but I don’t have faith, because the law is the schoolmaster that takes me to faith.

Galatians 3:25 …after that faith is come, we are no longer under a schoolmaster.

Because I have reached what the schoolmaster wanted me to gain—to discover that Jesus is the answer. How did Paul find faith? By the schoolmaster. The schoolmaster was attempting to bring him to live by the faith of Jesus Christ. Not the faith in Jesus Christ; the faith of Jesus Christ. There is the remedy:

When the mind is drawn to the cross of Calvary, Christ by imperfect sight is discerned on the shameful cross. Why did He die? In consequence of sin. What is sin? The transgression of the law. Then the eyes are open to see the character of sin. {6BC 1110.8}

The Law, the Law, the Law

Are you following what is being uttered here? The mind looks to the cross after it has been bombarded with the law, the law, the law, and with imperfect sight Christ is discerned on that shameful cross. Why did He die? The imperfect sight says, What is happening there? He died because of sin? What is sin? Sin is the transgression of the law. What? Isn’t Jesus sinless? and He died because of transgression of the law? And then the eyes are open to see the character of sin.

The law is broken but cannot pardon the transgressor. It is our schoolmaster, condemning to punishment. Where is the remedy? The law drives us to Christ, who was hanged upon the cross that He might be able to impart His righteousness to fallen, sinful man and thus present men to His Father in His righteous character. {Ibid.}

Here is something to enter into. This is not just a theory; this is an experience which I know you are actually able to identify with. How many of us have been struggling through these horrifying experiences? Here is this beautiful picture of remedy laid out before us—the atonement of Jesus Christ on the cross. What is He hanging there for? Because He actually experienced, not just the consequence of the transgression of the law, but you and me. And now it strikes, What have I done to Him? And why has He done that? So that now through Him I might have His faith, that I might come to faith. This is the light of 1888. This is what was rejected. And can you see why? Because proud leaders of Adventism are no different than Pharisees; and the Pharisees rejected Christ because it unveiled to them their true decrepit condition, and they said, He is not right; I am not as bad as that!

And this is what every counsellor of today will tell you, You are not that bad really; come one, you’re a good little boy, a good little girl. This is nonsense. The children and adults need to understand that we are all bad boys and girls. The only way that we can find true happiness and true goodness is by accepting that fact and coming to Jesus and letting Him press it into my understanding that He is there with me, bad boy, dying because of me, with me. This is what Apostle Paul discovered. He said: I thank God through Jesus Christ. That is the 1888 message which we will continue to uplift so that we may be able to embrace it and walk in it. So let us follow very carefully as we continue to explore the ongoing discovery of the faith of Jesus Christ. When I am in this deplorable law-condemned condition, which Jesus shared with me, how did He get out of it? This is how we will continue into the future.



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Posted on 07/04/2010, in The 1888 Message, Walking in the Light of 1888 (Conference) and tagged . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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