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“Oh, the unspeakable greatness of that exchange,—the Sinless One is condemned, and he who is guilty goes free; the Blessing bears the curse, and the cursed is brought into blessing; the Life dies, and the dead live; the Glory is whelmed in darkness, and he who knew nothing but confusion of face is clothed with glory.” Trailady

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Thursday, March 12, 2020

Were the Pharisees under the Law?


“But before faith came, we were kept under the Law, shut up unto the faith which should afterwards be revealed.” (Gal. 3:23).

The first question to ask is, “What does it mean to be under the Law?” I believe that there is a big misconception about this.

The answer comes from the context. “Christ hath redeemed us from the curse of the Law, being made a curse for us: for it is written, Cursed is every one that hangeth on a tree.” (Gal. 3:13).

Being under the Law is a shortened version of being under the curse of the law. But what does it mean to be under the curse of the Law?

The curse of the Law was the consequence for transgressing the Law. Moses in a long warning itemized all that would come to the nation if they grew tired of obeying the Lord, and after all that He would do to remind them of its high standard and blessings, they would continue their flirting with the other nations and the god of the nations, and the god’s religion. When they would ultimately break their covenant with the only true God, then down would come the hammer and the sentence upon them. This is found in Deuteronomy 28, and its prototype in Leviticus 26. Just to know that the Lord was serious when He warned the children of Israel in no uncertain terms, we have more warnings from the prophets, Isaiah 28 and Jeremiah 4 and his book of Lamentations.

Paul used hanging on a tree to describe the curse of the Law. “And if a man have committed a sin worthy of death, and he be to be put to death, and thou hang him on a tree: his body shall not remain all night upon the tree, but thou shalt in any wise bury him that day; (for he that is hanged is accursed of God;) that thy land be not defiled, which the LORD thy God giveth thee for an inheritance.” (Deut. 21:22,23). From this Paul may have given the rule, “Them that sin rebuke before all, that others also may fear.” (1Tim. 5:20).

Hanging on the tree did not constitute the curse. Hanging on the tree was a representation of Jehovah’s and the judge’s sentence of capital punishment against the transgression of the Law. The curse was firstly) the law’s warning, and secondly) the sentence from the judge. But, for everyone to know the results of transgression, and to drive home to them the seriousness of the Law, the carcass was hung up for all to witness and fear.

Striking fear of the curse of the Law was simply to prepare the transgressors and weed out the most determined rebels from those who kept their heart and mind open to the Spirit of God, so that “thy land be not defiled”. It was to preclude total anarchy that this provision was given. “Because sentence against an evil work is not executed speedily, therefore the heart of the sons of men is fully set in them to do evil.” (Ecc. 8:11).

This principle is eternal.

“Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him.” (1Jn. 2:15).

“Ye adulterers and adulteresses, know ye not that the friendship of the world is enmity with God? whosoever therefore will be a friend of the world is the enemy of God.” (Jas. 4:4).

Only through a new heart and mind and spirit can we break from the world’s overwhelming influence and the power of the god of this world.

“For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus hath made me free from the law of sin and death. 
For what the Law could not do, in that it was weak through the flesh, God sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, and for sin, condemned sin in the flesh: 
That the righteousness of the Law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit.” (Rom. 8:2-4).

And it was proper to make the transgressor’s body public because the hanging was balanced by only remaining on the tree while the view of it was possible. After the sun would set, leaving the body up would represent a totalitarian government of abusive laws of the land, such as the other nations had because Satan was their god, and Baal (Moloch) was his representative.

Baal was Zeus and Jupiter and Osiris, and every other chief god of the nations’ pantheons. They all represented Satan, who was using them to keep the nations captive under his abusive thumb. But, even in Jehovah’s punishments His justice was always mixed with mercy. He would have been contradictory to His Law if He had, without mercy, executed punishments for its transgression.

“What mean ye that ye beat my people to pieces, and grind the faces of the poor? saith the Lord GOD of hosts.” (Isa. 3:15). Such appeals to His people who were copying the other nations were renewed presentations of His Law. The widows, the fatherless, the poor, the strangers, etc., i.e., the helpless and needy, were ever on His heart, as they were the ones most likely to enter the kingdom of God. The last should be seen as first, but His people were not thinking like Him because His Law had ceased from being in their hearts. The law of the flesh, Satan’s almost universal law of sin in the world, was in their hearts.

“For his God doth instruct him to discretion, and doth teach him. 
For the fitches are not threshed with a threshing instrument, neither is a cart wheel turned about upon the cummin; but the fitches are beaten out with a staff, and the cummin with a rod. 
Bread corn is bruised; because he will not ever be threshing it, nor break it with the wheel of his cart, nor bruise it with his horsemen.” (Isa. 28:26-28).

“People grind grain to make flour, but they don't grind it forever. As God does in punishing people, a worker might drive his wagon over the grain to remove the hulls, but he does not allow the horses to crush it.” (Isa 28:28) ERV

“Wheat and barley are pounded, but not beaten to pulp; they are run over with a wagon, but not ground to dust.” (Isa 28:28) CEV

“For thus saith the high and lofty One that inhabiteth eternity, whose name is Holy; I dwell in the high and holy place, with him also that is of a contrite and humble spirit, to revive the spirit of the humble, and to revive the heart of the contrite ones. For I will not contend for ever, neither will I be always wroth: for the spirit should fail before Me, and the souls which I have made.” (Isa. 57:15,16).

Truly, “this also cometh forth from the LORD of hosts, which is wonderful in counsel, and excellent in working.” (Isa. 28:29).

“He will not always chide: neither will He keep His anger for ever. 
He hath not dealt with us after our sins; nor rewarded us according to our iniquities. 
For as the heaven is high above the earth, so great is His mercy toward them that fear Him. 
As far as the east is from the west, so far hath He removed our transgressions from us. 
Like as a father pitieth His children, so the LORD pitieth them that fear Him. 
For He knoweth our frame; He remembereth that we are dust.” (Psa. 103:9-14).

But, being under the curse of the Law is even a bigger picture.

“Christ hath redeemed us from the curse of the Law, being made a curse for us.”

“By one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned” (Rom. 5:12), because then  “we were … sinners” (Rom. 5:8). Ever since, “we were enemies” (Rom. 5:10) to God and He was our enemy, alienated from us. We were “without Christ, being aliens from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers from the covenants of promise, having no hope, and without God in the world.” (Eph. 2:12).

“But God commendeth His love toward us” (Rom. 5:8), and “Christ died for us” (Rom. 5:8). Finally, Adam’s curse of God’s Law, the “wrath of God” (John 3:36) was lifted from humanity, because “we were reconciled to God by the death of His Son”, and “shall be saved by His life.” (Rom. 5:10). 

In a bigger picture the whole human race is a transgressor, which is why Jesus came to take our place in damnation. And mortal death has remained the public visual to remind us of the Day of Judgment and represents the damnation that will attend that terrible tribunal.

“Knowing therefore the terror of the Lord, we persuade men…. For whether we be beside ourselves, it is to God: or whether we be sober, it is for your cause. 
For the love of Christ constraineth us; because we thus judge, that if one died for all, then were all dead: 
And that He died for all, that they which live should not henceforth live unto themselves, but unto Him which died for them, and rose again.” (2Cor. 5:11-15).

“Wherefore the law was our Schoolmaster to bring us unto Christ, that we might be justified by faith.” (Gal. 3:24).

So, is Galatians simply a history lesson for us today? Was the situation of the first generation church, initially largely composed of Jews, only what Galatians 3:24 speaks of? Many denominations interpret it that way because they don’t believe anyone sitting in a pew is under the condemnation of the Law of God. They love to quote, “There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit.” (Rom. 8:1). But, have they gone through what Paul did in Romans 7, which enabled him to have the Romans 8:1 experience? Have they been convicted by the Law, and humbled into the dust? No, they haven’t because their doctrine says that the Law was nailed to the cross. But, that is a wresting of the Paul’s statements, as Peter attested was going on in his day.

“And account that the longsuffering of our Lord is salvation; even as our beloved brother Paul also according to the wisdom given unto him hath written unto you; 
As also in all his epistles, speaking in them of these things; in which are some things hard to be understood, which they that are unlearned and unstable wrest, as they do also the other scriptures, unto their own destruction. 
Ye therefore, beloved, seeing ye know these things before, beware lest ye also, being led away with the error of the wicked, fall from your own stedfastness.” (2Pet. 3:15-17).

Without the Law’s condemnation, there can never be and exceeding conviction of exceeding sinfulness, and an exceeding need for an exceedingly great Saviour. There can be no “ God be merciful to me a sinner”, while we “[stand] afar off”, and “not lift up so much as [our] eyes unto heaven, but [smite] upon [our] breast” (Luk 18:13). Only by being powerfully convictged of sin by the strong word of God, and having our pride totally demolished, do we hear Jesus say of our repentance, “I tell you, this man went down to his house justified rather than the other: for every one that exalteth himself shall be abased; and he that humbleth himself shall be exalted.” (Luke 18:14).

Who exalts himself? Everyone who refused to accept Paul’s opening salvo on the issue of salvation.

“Now we know that what things soever the law saith, it saith to them who are under the law: that every mouth may be stopped, and all the world may become guilty before God.” (Rom. 3:19).

Everyone who rejects the justice of God.

“yea, let God be true, but every man a liar; as it is written, That thou mightest be justified in thy sayings, and mightest overcome when thou art judged.” (Rom. 3:4).

Paul never abrogated the Law of God. This verse he quoted from the Old Testament, as he was so apt to do since it was the only “scripture” (2 Tim. 3:16) of the day. Paul’s quote in Romans 3:4 came from Psalm 51.

“For I acknowledge my transgressions: and my sin is ever before me. Against thee, thee only, have I sinned, and done this evil in thy sight: that thou mightest be justified when thou speakest, and be clear when thou judgest.” (Psa. 51:3,4).

Paul had considered himself free from condemnation until the Law started a sequence of events that led to his conversion.

“For I was alive without the law once: but when the commandment came, sin revived, and I died. 
And the commandment, which was ordained to life, I found to be unto death. 
For sin, taking occasion by the commandment, deceived me, and by it slew me. 
Wherefore the law is holy, and the commandment holy, and just, and good. 
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.” (Rom. 7:9-13).

Paul couldn’t deny the authority of God’s Law. Therefore, he was caught in the grip of the wrath of God against him and his great sinfulness. Nothing would exorcise the guilt and power of sin over him. Finally the Schoolmaster put him in the dust with the cry as Paul went into the grave. “O wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me from the body of this death?” (Rom. 7:24).

Now he was ready for an exceeding great Saviour.

“Wherefore the law was our schoolmaster to bring us unto Christ, that we might be justified by faith.” (Gal. 3:24).

“All that the Father giveth me shall come to me; and him that cometh to me I will in no wise cast out.” (John 6:37).

“I thank God through Jesus Christ our Lord.” (Rom. 7:25).


“And the grace of our Lord was exceeding abundant with faith and love which is in Christ Jesus.” (1Tim. 1:14).

So, back to the question we started with. “Were the Pharisees under the Law?”

Did they end up with what Paul ended up with? Salvation? No. paul explains this because they believed that their works could buy them salvation.

“But Israel, which followed after the law of righteousness, hath not attained to the law of righteousness. Wherefore? Because they sought it not by faith, but as it were by the works of the law. For they stumbled at that stumblingstone.” (Rom. 9:31,32).
But, it goes deeper than a simple use of good works to gain God’s acceptance, to propitiate (appease) His wrath.

We see something happening in the gospels. We hear a young man very confident in his goodness. He was convicted for a moment of his tremendous sinfulness, but he still had too many stones in his rocky heart. And he couldn’t take the heat of the Spirit’s trying of his faith through the quick and powerful word of God.

And a certain ruler asked him, saying, Good Master, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?” (Luke 18:18).

“” ().

Thou knowest the commandments, Do not commit adultery, Do not kill, Do not steal, Do not bear false witness, Honour thy father and thy mother.” (Luke 18:20).

his answer was so telling of his disposition toward the Law.

And he said, All these have I kept from my youth up.” (Luke 18:21). But, had he? Had he ever gotten a view of himself as God sees him? Isn’t that the starting point, the main purpose of the Law? God’s petrifaction of man’s pride. “that every mouth may be stopped, and all the world may become guilty before God.”

No, this proud Jew had never gone there. He had never seen himself as a publican.

But, what had been seen by the Judge and the Judge’s Son? “Isa 3:15  What mean ye that ye beat my people to pieces, and grind the faces of the poor? saith the Lord GOD of hosts. 
” (). The Hebrews had inculcated the standards of the heathen. Babylon had been their teachers for 1,000 years. They had lost David’s first love. They had been in and out of captivity and harassment by the servants of Satan. Their spiritual eyesight had gone dark.

What could the Law do for them now? Only what it could do to Satan—create continual self-justification. Rather than being condemned by the Law, there was a blinded response to the rebukes of sin, “That’s not me. I don’t do that. And the rebuke is for somebody else.” And to the sparse, but concentrated, promises to repentance, “I do that. I deserve the promises.” They didn’t have ears to hear or eyes to see. It wouldn’t even dawn on them that they had a problem, so long as they measured themselves by themselves and compared themselves among themselves.

All these have I kept from my youth up”, was all that they could see.


Why haven’t the Testimonies for the churches had the effect that Jesus purposed them to have among the group preparing to be sealed? Isn’t the Spirit of Prophecy our Law? Don’t we have an authorized commentator on the Law and her authorized commentary on it? Why aren’t we sealed by now? Why were we never sealed by it?

The Spirit of Prophecy counsels were designed to give us the sealing. The sealing and preparation for Jesus’ return hung on the reception of the writings of our prophet. “…the counsel of the True Witness to the Laodiceans” “upon which the destiny of the church hangs….” Early Writings, p. 270.3.

She wrote,
“The solemn testimony upon which the destiny of the church hangs has been lightly esteemed, if not entirely disregarded.” Early Writings, p. 270.3.
“I saw that the testimony of the True Witness has not been half heeded.” Early Writings, p. 270.3.
“This testimony must work deep repentance; all who truly receive it will obey it and be purified.” Early Writings, p. 270.3.

“I asked the meaning of the shaking [of those who wrestled with it like Paul did in Romans 7] I had seen and was shown that it would be caused by the straight testimony called forth by the counsel of the True Witness to the Laodiceans. This will have its effect upon the heart of the receiver, and will lead him to exalt the standard and pour forth the straight truth. Some will not bear this straight testimony. They will rise up against it, and this is what will cause a shaking among God’s people.” Early Writings, p. 270.2

So, why did the rich, young, ruler turn away from his best Friend? Because he could never believe that he was guilty of Isaiah 3:15. If he had seen himself there, then the Spirit of God would have helped him see other scripture that applied to his character. This would have continued in the atmosphere of peace and glory, captured in the look of Jesus. “ Then Jesus beholding him loved him.” (Mark 10:21).

Jesus wasn’t setting the man up for a crushing defeat, knowing his heart. He wasn’t preparing them to be slammed. Jesus saw a potential disciple, and His ominpotent expression was typical of almighty divinity. But, as Messiah the Prince, He was trying, in all justice and mercy, to encourage of God but also trust in Him as all sufficient Mediator between God and man, the Search of hearts, who knows the mind of men and the mind of His Father.

This is what Jesus did to everyone, even to the Pharisees and all the religious leaders. But, for this potential disciple, he had to know himself, his infinite weakness, his infinite unworthiness before God, before he could be sent as a representative of heaven.

And this was the case with all the Jews, especially the leadership. They had a national pride that destroyed the eternal truth of a holy God and salvation of sinners. “We who are Jews by nature, and not sinners of the Gentiles.” (Gal. 2:15).

Therefore, the Jews were not under the Law. They never would put themselves under the curse of the Law. In their minds they had never been punished by captivity. Therefore the Law could never be their “schoolmaster to bring [them] unto Christ, that [they] might be justified by faith.” (Gal. 3:24).

They needed to resign. Just like King Saul should have resigned after his impeachment from Samuel. The Jews needed to put in their resignation papers as God’s most important representatives of Himself in the earth. They needed to lay down their high status of righteousness. They needed to exclaim, “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.” (Rom. 7:18). But they wouldn’t. They repeated history.

“For thus saith the Lord GOD, the Holy One of Israel; In returning and rest shall ye be saved; in quietness and in confidence shall be your strength: and ye would not.” (Isa. 30:15).

But, John 6:37 was never for them, “All that the Father giveth Me shall come to Me”; and, Proverbs 28:9 was forever upon them. “He that turneth away his ear from hearing the law, even his prayer shall be abomination.”

and “him that cometh to Me I will in no wise cast out” (John 6:37) couldn’t be their wonderful claim until they would go to the Schoolmaster and bring themselves to admit their failure in law-keeping, obedience. But, their doctrinal traditions forbade such a confession.
“He that believeth on the Son hath everlasting life: and he that believeth not the Son shall not see life; but the wrath of God abideth on him.” (John 3:36).

And John 3:36 is the third angel’s message in brief.

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