The teaching of Christ in the gospel is in perfect harmony with the teaching of Christ through the prophets in the Old Testament. The prophets spoke through the messengers of Christ in the Old Testament as much as the apostles voiced His messages in the New Testament, and there is no contradiction between their teachings. But Satan has ever worked and is still working with all deceivableness of unrighteousness to make the word of God of none effect. He seeks to make mysterious that which is simple and plain. He has had long experience in this work. He knows the character of God, and through his subtlety he has captivated the world. It was through making the word of God of none effect that sin was brought into the world. Adam believed the falsehood of Satan, and through his misrepresentation of the character of God, Adam’s life was changed and marred. He disobeyed the commandment of God, and did the very thing the Lord told him not to do. Through disobedience Adam fell; but had he endured the test, and been loyal to God, the floodgates of woe would not have been opened upon our world.
Through belief in Satan’s misrepresentation of God, man’s character and destiny were changed, but if men will believe in the word of God, they will be transformed in mind and character, and fitted for eternal life. To believe that “God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life” (John 3:16), will change the heart, and reproduce in man the image of God.
As many are today, so (before his conversion) Paul was very confident in an hereditary piety; but his confidence was founded on falsehood. It was faith out of Christ, for he trusted in forms and ceremonies. His zeal for the law was disconnected from Christ and was valueless. His boast was that he was blameless in his performance of the deeds of the law; but the Christ who made the law of any value he refused. He was confident that he was right. He says: “I verily thought with myself, that I ought to do many things contrary to the name of Jesus of Nazareth. Which thing I also did in Jerusalem: and many of the saints did I shut up in prison, having received authority from the chief priests; and when they were put to death, I gave my voice against them” (Acts 26:9, 10). For a time Paul did a very cruel work, thinking that he was doing God service; for he says, “I did it ignorantly in unbelief” (1 Timothy 1:13). But his sincerity did not justify his work, or make error truth.
Faith is the medium through which truth or error finds a lodging place in the mind. It is by the same act of mind that truth or error is received, but it makes a decided difference whether we believe the word of God or the sayings of men. When Christ revealed Himself to Paul, and he was convinced that he was persecuting Jesus in the person of His saints, he accepted the truth as it is in Jesus. A transforming power was manifested on mind and character, and he became a new man in Christ Jesus. He received the truth so fully that neither earth nor hell could shake his faith.
There are many who cry, “Believe, only believe.” Ask them what you are to believe. Are you to believe the lies forged by Satan against God’s holy, just, and good law? God does not use His great and precious grace to make of none effect His law, but to establish His law. What is the decision of Paul? He says: “What shall we say then? Is the law sin? God forbid. Nay, I had not known sin, but by the law. … For I was alive without the law once: but when the commandment came, sin revived, and [the commandment then ended?—No.] I [Paul] died. … Wherefore the law is [standing directly in the way of my having liberty and peace?—No.] holy, and the commandment holy, and just, and good” (Romans 7:7–12).
The Law Cannot Pardon
Paul learned that there was no power in the law to pardon the transgressor of law. “By the deeds of the law there shall no flesh be justified” (Romans 3:20). “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” (Romans 8:3, 4).
The Lord saw our fallen condition; He saw our need of grace, and because He loved our souls, He has given us grace and peace. Grace means favor to one who is undeserving, to one who is lost. The fact that we are sinners, instead of shutting us away from the mercy and love of God, makes the exercise of His love to us a positive necessity in order that we may be saved. Christ says, “Ye have not chosen me, but I have chosen you, and ordained you, that ye should go and bring forth fruit, and that your fruit should remain” (John 15:16).
When Adam fell, provision was made for his restoration. In due time Jesus, the Prince of life, came to our world to enter into controversy with the powers of darkness. In this world Satan had an opportunity to exhibit the result of the working out of his principles of freedom from all law, and Christ, by His unswerving obedience to His Father’s commandments, made manifest the result of practicing the principles of righteousness. In accordance with his principles of evil, Satan harassed the Son of God with fierce temptations, and finally brought Him to the judgment hall, that He might be condemned to death without cause. The confederacy of evil moved upon the hearts of men to work out the principles of evil. Christ and Barabbas were presented before the multitude. Barabbas was a notable robber and murderer; Christ was the Son of God. Pilate looked upon the two, and thought there would be no hesitation in the choice of Jesus. The marks of nobility, intelligence, and purity were plainly revealed in His countenance, in marked contrast to the coarse features of Barabbas. He asked, “Whether of the twain will ye that I release unto you? (Matthew 27:21). And the hoarse cry of the infuriated mob was heard, calling, “Barabbas.” “Pilate saith unto them, What shall I do then with Jesus which is called Christ? They all say unto him, Let him be crucified. And the governor said, Why, what evil hath he done? But they cried out the more, saying, Let him be crucified” (Matthew 27:22, 23).
Satan Defeated by Christ’s Death
In this choice the principles of Satan were made manifest; and the hosts of heaven, and all the worlds that God had created, judged that Satan was an accuser of the brethren, a liar, and a murderer. In heaven and among the unfallen worlds the question of Satan’s deceiving power, of his malignant principles, was settled, and the perfect purity and holiness of Christ, who was bearing the test and trial in behalf of fallen man, was forever proved. Through the development of Satan’s character and principles, he was forever uprooted from the affection of the unfallen worlds, and the controversy concerning his claims and the claims of Christ was forever settled in heaven. The righteousness manifested in the character of Christ was forever to be the anchor, the saving hope, of the world. Every soul who chooses Christ can say with faith, “The Lord my righteousness.”
Christ was “despised and rejected of men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief: and we hid as it were our faces from him; he was despised, and we esteemed him not. Surely he hath borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows: yet we did esteem him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted. But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him, and with his stripes we are healed” (Isaiah 53:3–5).
The grace of Christ and the law of God are inseparable. In Jesus mercy and truth are met together, righteousness and peace have kissed each other. In His life and character He not only reveals the character of God, but the possibility of man. He was the representative of God and the exemplar of humanity. He presented to the world what humanity might become when united by faith with divinity. The only-begotten Son of God took upon Him the nature of man, and established His cross between earth and heaven. Through the cross, man was drawn to God, and God to man. Justice moved from its high and awful position, and the heavenly hosts, the armies of holiness, drew near to the cross, bowing with reverence; for at the cross justice was satisfied. Through the cross the sinner was drawn from the stronghold of sin, from the confederacy of evil, and at every approach to the cross his heart relents and in penitence he cries, “It was my sins that crucified the Son of God.” At the cross he leaves his sins, and through the grace of Christ his character is transformed. The Redeemer raises the sinner from the dust, and places him under the guidance of the Holy Spirit. As the sinner looks upon the Redeemer, he finds hope, assurance, and joy. Faith takes hold of Christ in love. Faith works by love, and purifies the soul.
Selected Messages, Book 1, 345–349.