Editorial – Types and Shadows, Part II

In Colossians 2:14–17, Paul speaks about a law. This passage, garbled in some Bible translations and often used by theological opponents of Seventh-day Adventists as proof texts as to why Christians do not need to keep the Sabbath, requires detailed review.

For this law, Paul gives a number of clear specifications and descriptions: (1) He says that Jesus has “wiped away that which was against us,” called the (2) “handwriting of the decrees or ordinances.” (3) These decrees or ordinances “were contrary to us.” The Greek word used means to be opposed, hostile, contrary, in opposition or opposition to someone or something. (4) This law was taken out of our midst and (5) nailed to the cross. (6) He disarmed or despoiled the rulers and authorities, exposing them and publicly triumphing over them in the cross. (7) Therefore, do not let anyone judge you in food, (8) in drink, (9) in respect of a feast, (10) of a new moon, (11) or of Sabbath or Sabbaths, (12) which things are a shadow of things about to be, (13) but the body is of Christ. (Verses 18–23 help provide contextual understanding of these verses.)

We will consider each of these specifications:

(1) According to the New Testament, it was the ceremonial law, not the moral law, which was against us. For example, Peter refers to the ceremonial law (circumcision symbolized the whole law) as a yoke which neither our fathers nor we were able to bear. (Acts 15:10.) Paul refers to it as a yoke of bondage. (Galatians 5.) The moral law, or Ten Commandments, is never referred to as a yoke of bondage but is described as a law of liberty. (James 2:10–12.)

(2) The Ten Commandments are never referred to in Scripture as being handwritten. This one fact alone proves conclusively that Paul is not here referring to them. The Ten Commandments were written by the finger of God, and not by human hand. (Exodus 24:12; 31:18.)

(3) The ceremonial law was declared by the apostles to be “contrary to us,” but the moral law is described as being given to us because God loves us, and it is not burdensome to keep. (1 John 5:3; Deuteronomy 33:2, 3.)

(4) The Ten Commandments are described as impossible to ever be taken away (Luke 16:17; Psalm 89:34), but this law is taken away. We know, therefore, that this law cannot be the Ten Commandment Law.

(5) The New Testament is definite about which law was nailed to the cross. Paul says, in Galatians 3, that there was a law added because of transgression. As explained in the previous editorial, there could not even be transgression without the moral law. The law added, because of transgression, was the ceremonial law, which was only to exist until the coming of Christ. Also, Paul says that this added law was commanded through messengers, or angels, in the hand of a mediator. He says that a mediator is not of one, but God is one. This again proves that he was not talking about the Ten Commandment Law, because it was not given through angels or messengers, nor ordained in the hand of a mediator. This law was given by God Himself, not through messengers, and it existed before there was a mediator or a need for one. (Galatians 3:19, 20.) Therefore, the law that was nailed to the cross would have to be the ceremonial law.

(7) Colossians 2:16 begins with the word, “therefore.” The context is clear that Paul is talking about the ceremonial law, not the Ten Commandments. “Therefore,” shows that what he says next continues to refer to the ceremonial law.

(8–11) Each of these descriptions would have to be referring to the ceremonial law. To make this fact absolutely certain, Paul says, in verse 17, “which things are a shadow of things to come.” The ceremonial ordinances, whether new moons, feast days, or yearly sabbaths (these yearly sabbaths were “beside the sabbaths of the Lord,” Leviticus 23:4–38), were all shadows of things to come, but the seventh day Sabbath was never a shadow of things to come. It was a memorial of creation, as distinctly stated in Exodus 20:8–11.

Children’s Story – How It Was Blotted Out

For many years I had been a follower of strange gods, and a lover of this world and its vanities. I was self-righteous, and thought I had religion of my own which was better than that of the Bible. I did not know God and did not serve Him. Prayer was forgotten, public worship neglected; and worldly morality was the tree which brought forth its own deceptive fruit.

But when I married and our boy was growing up, our love for him made us very concerned about his welfare and future career. His questions often puzzled me and the sweet, earnest manner in which he inquired of his poor sinful father to know more about his Heavenly Father, and that “happy land, far, far away,” of which his nurse had taught him, proved to me that God had given me a great blessing in the child.

A greater distrust of myself and a greater sense of my inability to assure my boy of the truth contained in the simple little prayers that I had learned from my mother in childhood gradually caused me to reflect. Still, I never went to church, had not even a Bible in the house. What was I to teach my boy, Christ and Him crucified, or the doctrines I had tried to believe?

One of his little friends died, then another, then his uncle. All these deaths made an impression on the boy. He rebelled against it; wanted to know “why God had done it.” It was hard that God should take away his friends; he wished God would not do it. I, of course, had to explain the best I could.

One evening he was lying on the bed, and my wife and I were seated by the fire. She had been telling me that Willie had not been a good boy that day, and I had reproved him for it. All was quiet, when suddenly my son broke out in a loud crying and sobbing, which surprised us. I went to him, and asked him what the matter was.

“I don’t want it there, father; I don’t want it there,” said the child.

“What, my child, what is it?”

“Why, father, I don’t want the angels to write down in God’s book all the bad things I have done today. I don’t want it there; I wish it could be wiped out,” and his distress increased. What could I do? I did not believe, but yet I had been taught the way. I had to console him, so I said,

“Well, you need not cry; you can have it all wiped out in a minute if you want.”

“How, father, how?”

“Why, get down on your knees, and ask God, for Christ’s sake, to wipe it out, and He will do it.”

He jumped out of bed, saying, “Father, won’t you come and help me to pray?”

Now came the trial for me. The boy’s distress was so great, and he pleaded so earnestly, that I, the man who had never once bowed before God in spirit and in truth, got down on my knees beside that little child and asked God to wipe away his sins; and perhaps, though my lips did not speak it, my heart included my own sins too. We then rose, and he lay down in his bed again. In a few moments more he said,

“Father, are you sure my sins are all wiped out?”

Oh, how my response reacted upon my unbelieving heart, as the words came to my mouth, “Why, yes, my son; the Bible says that if from your heart you ask God for Christ’s sake to do it, and if you are really sorry for what you have done, it shall be all blotted out.”

A smile of pleasure passed over his face, as he quietly asked,

“What did the angel blot it out with? With a sponge?”

Again was my whole soul stirred within me, as I answered, “No, but with the precious blood of Christ. The blood of Christ cleanseth from all sin.”

The fountains had at last burst forth. They could not be checked, and my cold heart was melted within me. I felt like a poor guilty sinner, and, turning away, said, “My dear wife, we must first find God, if we want to show Him to our children. We cannot show them the way unless we know it ourselves.”

And in the silent hour of the night I bowed beside my dear boy, and prayed, “Lord, I believe, help thou mine unbelief!” My wife, too, united with me, and we prayed jointly for ourselves and our child. And God heard our prayers, and received us, as he always does those who seek him with the whole heart.

Adapted from Sabbath Readings for the Home Circle, by M. A. Vroman, South Lancaster Printing Co., South Lancaster, Massachusetts, 1905, 166–169.