Chapter 22 - The Law of Holiness

The law of Christ and the two covenants have thus far been considered from the objective standpoint only; that is, as revelations made to man. So far as the old covenant is concerned, this is sufficient. Its laws were simply written in a book, and this writing by Moses was sealed and confirmed to Israel by the two “tables of testimony” on which God himself wrote that part of the Law that all Israel heard him speak. But the new covenant, embodied in our New Testament, is more than an external revelation; it is a “better covenant.”
Jeremiah was the first inspired writer who distinctly mentioned the new covenant, and this he placed in sharp contrast with the Mosaic covenant. (See Jer. 31:31-34.)
According to Hebrews 8:8-13 where this prophecy is quoted, Christ established this new covenant. This new covenant is not the Decalogue. It consists of moral laws; for only moral laws can be inscribed in the heart, producing moral revolution in human character.
Originally, this perfect law was written in man’s heart—inscribed in his very nature. This original law constituted the moral image of God in man, but it became largely effaced from the human heart as a result of the Fall, so that men, far from God, do not “know” him in that intimate relationship that existed in Eden. In the “new covenant,” however, all this is restored.
In perfect salvation the laws of God are written in our hearts. The writer to the Hebrews quotes the prediction of Jeremiah concerning this writing and applies its fulfillment thus: “He hath perfected forever them that are sanctified. Whereof the Holy Ghost also is a witness to us” (10:14-15|Bible:Heb 10:14-15). Under the old covenant the laws of God were placed in the second, or inner, room of the tabernacle; under the new covenant they are placed in our hearts. In the holy of holies of the tabernacle all the laws of God were placed—written in a book, and sealed and confirmed by the divine “tables of testimony.” Likewise, in entire sanctification, in addition to the perfect writing of God’s laws in our hearts, “the Holy Ghost also is a witness to us.” Our Decalogue now is the Holy Ghost—the exclusive work of God.
Paul says that we “have put on the new man, which is renewed in knowledge after the image of him that created him” (Col. 3:10). “And that ye put on the new man, which after God is created in righteousness and true holiness” (Eph. 4:24). This work is completed in us in entire sanctification, the perfecting grace of God, and is therefore identical with the restoration of God’s law in the soul (Heb. 10:14-17).
Let us define more particularly this original, universal, moral law. Since in its restoration it is identified with “righteousness and true holiness” in the wholly sanctified, or perfected, soul, evidently in the Edenic state it was comprehended in man’s perfect moral nature. Now what was it?
Jesus gives us an analysis of this subject in the following conversation: “Then one of them, which was a lawyer, asked him a question, tempting him, and saying, Master, which is the great commandment in the law? Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself. On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets” (Matt. 22:35-40).
This is the “great” original law, given in two divisions: (1) love to God; (2) love to man. Christ did not quote the Decalogue, for these commandments are not in the Decalogue, but he went back to the fountainhead of all truth.
Now, this perfect love—Godward and manward—was the original law of man’s being. It was “first,” both in importance and in point of time. The new covenant restores to us in perfection this divine principle; for when the law of God is written in our hearts we are “made perfect in love” (I John 4:18); “God dwelleth in us, and his love is perfected in us” (vs. 12). “The love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost which is given unto us” (Rom. 5:5). So complete, so perfect, is this moral principle within, that the Apostle exclaims, “Love is the fulfilling of the law” (13:10). Love is the “more excellent way” of the gospel (I Cor. 12:31; 13).

Objective Law

“On these two commandments comprising the one original law of love hang all the law and the prophets” (Matt. 22:40). The Decalogue was not that original law; it was not “first”; it was only hung on that law. “All the law and the prophets” did not constitute that higher law, but were only later additions. In other words, all objective revelation of whatever form or nature is not that original law, but is only an expression of that higher law, adapted to human conditions. Therefore the New Testament itself, as a book, is not that law, but only an expression of it, adapted to the present condition of things. Baptism, the Lord’s Supper, foot washing, healing of the sick, caring for the poor and needy, and other things contained in it are clearly limited to the present order and are not adapted to the angels or to the redeemed saints in the heavenly world hereafter. For this reason, as I have previously shown, divine revelation has been of necessity progressive; and this also explains why some things commanded of God in one age of the world have been withdrawn at a later date; and why an entire system, like the Mosaic, has been abolished and superseded by another and better system. “There is made of necessity a change also of the law” (Heb. 7:12).
The design of objective revelation, then, is to exhibit the divine principle of love to God and to man. In the Mosaic dispensation this was accomplished (as well as could be done through sinful men) by means of an elaborate politico-religious system adapted to that age. But in the gospel dispensation the law of perfect love is placed in the very hearts of the redeemed; therefore, no coercive law is necessary in order to secure its manifestation. “If a man love me, he will keep my words,” says Jesus (John 14:23). Pure love flows out spontaneously to God our Creator and to all men, even our enemies. This is “righteousness and true holiness.”

Moral Law

This original, universal law of holiness is world law. Moral law exists in the nature of things; whereas a law that must first be made by external authority, or command, in order to become a law at all, is not a moral law. Therefore all laws of God that have originated by his command or decree are ceremonial; for in order to become laws at all they had to be first revealed objectively to man. On the other hand, all moral law existed subjectively in man originally; and this primitive writing, as we have shown, has to a great extent remained in him until the present day and is restored to its perfect condition in Bible holiness.

Ceremonial Holiness

Since “righteousness and true holiness” describes man’s inward, moral nature originally and also in redemption, it is evident that holiness in its true sense belongs exclusively to him, so far as earthly objects are concerned. It is noteworthy that under the new covenant this term is applied, almost without exception, to the redeemed person. No external things can be holy in this moral, or true, sense.
The holiness of things, so often referred to, especially in the Old Testament, never could be more than a mere external, ceremonial holiness, a sort of consecration, or dedication, to a religious use. No actual change was made in the nature of the things so dedicated. Thus, we read of “holy temple,” “holy ark,” “holy vessels,” “holy altar,” “holy veil,” “holy Sabbath.” None of these was holy in the nature of things, but at some time or other had to be made holy in order to become holy at all; therefore, these things were not moral in any respect, but were simply objects or observances ceremonially holy, made such by God’s appointment or decree.

An Example of Ceremonial Holiness

In order to show the plain teachings of the Word and to make this subject entirely clear, I will select one particular example of ceremonial holiness—the Sabbath. This selection is made for two reasons: (1) because it furnishes material for illustrating the entire subject of ceremonial holiness; (2) because of the particular emphasis on the Sabbath given by nearly all classes of Christians. I will consider the subject in chronological order—the seventh-day Sabbath first, and then the first-day Sabbath.
The Sabbath is classed again and again with all the other holy days, feasts, and ceremonial observances of the Law, heading the list of sacred days (Num. 28; Lev. 23:1-3; I Chron. 23:31; II Chron. 2:4; 8:13; 31:3; Neh. 10:33). On these holy seventh-day Sabbaths all the other “holy” things of the Law were brought into use—priesthood, altar, vessels, tabernacle, sacrifices. Hence, in harmony with this general classification, the Sabbath stands in the Decalogue, “the covenant,” as the representative of all other ceremonial observances.
Does the Sabbath rest upon the basis of nature, or simply upon divine appointment? “The sabbath was made for man” (Mark 2:27). Then, if God had not “made” it a holy Sabbath, it would never have been holy time; hence the sabbatic law was ceremonial, not moral; it is never termed “moral” in the Bible. There is nothing in nature to make one day different from another.

The Object of Law Ceremonies

All the ceremonial observances of the Law served a distinct purpose. In Colossians 2, where they are summed up as holy days, new moons, and Sabbath days, Paul says they “are a shadow of things to come; but the body is of Christ” (vss. 16-17). This shows that they occupy a typical relation. The writer of Hebrews represents the Law as “having a shadow of good things to come, and not the very image of the things” thus foreshadowed (10:1). Some ceremonies of the Law served a double purpose, being memorials of past events as well as types of something future. For example, the Passover, which commemorated the miraculous preservation of the Hebrews from death when the first born were slain in Egypt, also pointed forward to “Christ our passover … sacrificed for us” (I Cor. 5:7). Likewise, the Sabbath had a sort of threefold signification: (1) it commemorated the deliverance of Israel from Egyptian bondage, and (2) God’s rest at the close of the creative period; (3) it was also a “shadow of things to come,” meeting a fulfillment under the gospel of Christ, as we shall now see.
Paul names the Sabbath as one of the things that were “a shadow of things to come” (Col. 2:17). What can the Sabbath typify? It must symbolize something in another department that bears a certain analogy to it. Where shall we look for its fulfillment? Let us first observe its position in the type, then we can tell exactly where to look for its position and signification in the antitype. The Sabbath was inscribed on the tables that were placed in the ark. This is set forth in the Scriptures as representative of the new covenant laws in our hearts in the gospel age (Heb. 8:9-10). Therefore, the antitype of the Sabbath is also in our hearts. It cannot represent another literal Sabbath, for that would destroy the true relation of type and antitype. Besides, a literal day cannot be written in a person’s heart. Not one of the Old Testament ceremonies represented literal ceremonies under the gospel, but every one met a spiritual fulfillment; accordingly, the Sabbath commandment must also reach its fulfillment antitypically in something spiritual in the heart. The literal Sabbath was bodily rest; the spiritual sabbath is—what? Soul rest. Praise the Lord! Our great Redeemer, who has established the new covenant, said: “Come unto me, all ye that labor and are heavy laden and I will give you rest.… And ye shall find rest unto your souls” (Matt. 11:28-29). “His rest shall be glorious,” exclaimed the prophet (Isa. 11:10), and all the blood-washed can reply that it is even so.
Consider Hebrews 4:4-10. The following facts appear so clear in this passage that they cannot be overlooked:
1. The Israelites, with their seventh-day Sabbath, did not obtain true rest.
2. Those who entered Canaan under Joshua did not obtain it after they were established in Canaan.
3. David prophesied concerning “another day,” interpreted by the inspired writer as the gospel day, which came “after so long a time.”
4. “Today”—the gospel day—”there remaineth therefore a rest “the keeping of a sabbath,” margin to the people of God.”
5. This rest, or sabbath, is spiritual in its nature, for it is obtained by faith—”We which have believed do enter into rest” (vs. 3).
6. This spiritual rest, or sabbath, is the direct antitype of the seventh-day Sabbath: “For he that is entered into his rest, he also hath ceased from his own works, as God did from his” (vs. 10). Notice carefully this sixth point. When God ceased the work of creation, he ceased once for all. Likewise, in obtaining this spiritual sabbath, we cease perpetually from our own works, as God did from his. This makes our sabbath a perpetual one. Our “own works,” from which we must cease forever in order to enter into this rest that “remaineth to the people of God,” include everything that is contrary to rest—self, self-efforts, sins, and all. It is by faith that we “enter into rest.”
Reader, the true sabbath of the gospel dispensation is not the observance of any literal day. We have a perpetual sabbath, a rest to the soul.
Since our sins are all gone and we have indeed “entered into his rest,” we are able to “serve him without fear, in holiness and righteousness before him, all the days of our life” (Luke 1:74-75). Every day is a day of holiness to the true Christian, because in the gospel dispensation holiness is not attached to one day out of seven, but pertains to the man himself; and he must live holily every day in the week. And when he really understands the subject, he “esteemeth every day alike” (Rom. 14:5), so far as moral things and holiness are concerned.

New Testament Ceremonies

The new covenant, while placed in the hearts of God’s people, is not to be hidden there. We have a particular relationship with each other and with a world of sinners. For this reason God has seen fit to give us in this dispensation a system of ceremonial observances designed as channels of expression, through which we manifest openly our redemption, faith, love, hope, and the spontaneous worship of our hearts.
The ceremonial observances of the gospel, however, do not possess the rigidity of the Law system. Peter describes that system as “a yoke upon the neck of the disciples, which neither our fathers nor we were able to bear” (Acts 15:10). The ceremonies of Christ are no such yoke as that, but they are a yoke, nevertheless. “It is good for a man that he bear the yoke in his youth” (Lam. 3:27). Jesus says, “Take my yoke upon you” (Matt. 11:29). There are obligations under the new covenant dispensation, and these we must take. The Lord, however, has given us this comforting assurance: “My yoke is easy, and my burden is light” (vs. 30).
Special reasons for New Testament ceremonies were given in chapters 13, 14, and 15 (particularly in chapter 15, under the subhead, “The Purpose of Ordinances” ), hence a brief reference to the three ordinances will be sufficient in this place.
Four specific things experienced and enjoyed by the new covenant believer require open and public manifestation:
1. Our individual salvation—our personal acceptance of Christ and the authority and law of his kingdom is declared openly in the rite of water baptism.
2. The procuring cause of redemption—the ground of all salvation, and the basis of our hopes, present and future, is the atonement. The Lord’s Supper, or Communion, is the outward symbol of this.
3. The depth of that true and special love which exists between us as the real disciples of Christ—Christ’s “new commandment.… That ye love one another; as I have loved you” (John 13:34)—is outwardly and visibly expressed by the ordinance of foot washing, as shown in chapter 15 of this work.
4. Our worship and our faith. The worship, praise, and devotion experienced by every saved believer requires external expression, and the faith of the gospel by which he has been saved must be preached to all men, as Christ has commanded; therefore the necessity of public worship. It is certainly in accordance with the law of Christ that his people should at intervals gather together in his name (Matt. 18:20). In order to do this they must have a place and a time to assemble. That the apostolic church had regular public services is shown by the Scriptures. “Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is” (Heb. 10:25).
If it is necessary that there be in the Christian dispensation an institution to commemorate the great fact of Christ’s death, then it is positively necessary that there also be something to commemorate the greatest of all events—his resurrection. For “if Christ be not risen, then is our preaching vain, and your faith is also vain” (I Cor. 15:14). All the New Testament institutions are distinctively Christian; not one is borrowed from the old dispensation. And if the Sabbath was given to commemorate the completion of natural creation, how appropriate that the day of Christian worship should commemorate the resurrection of Christ, who thus stands at the head of the new and spiritual creation!
The first meeting of the disciples after the resurrection took place on the first day of the week (John 20:19-20).
The second meeting was just one week later (vs. 26).
A little later we have the mention of a notable meeting of the church. “And when the day of Pentecost was fully come, they were all with one accord in one place” (Acts 2:1). Pentecost came on the morrow after the Jewish Sabbath (Lev. 23:15-16), therefore it was on Sunday, the first day of the week.
Another meeting of the Christian church on Sunday is mentioned as taking place at Troas, in Asia Minor. “Upon the first day of the week, when the disciples came together to break bread, Paul preached unto them” (Acts 20:7). Here we have the Communion service on the first day. Now, this meeting did not occur just because the Apostle happened to be there that day, for he was there a number of days (vs. 6). But on the first day of the week they came together, and the facts and the language fairly imply that they were in the habit of doing this—“Upon the first day of the week, when the disciples came together to break bread.”
In the second century we find Justin Martyr saying: “And on the day called Sunday, all who live in cities or in the country gather together to one place, and the memoirs of the apostles or the writings of the prophets are read, as long as time permits.… And they who are well-to-do, and willing, give what each thinks fit; and what is collected is deposited with the president, who succors the orphans and widows, and those who … are in want.”—First Apology of Justin, Chap. LXVII
The day of the resurrection was so glorious to the Christian church that it was ever afterwards called “the Lord’s day.” And it is appropriately thus designated. “The Lord’s Supper,” commemorating his death, is distinctively Christian; therefore the day of worship, commemorating his resurrection, must be “the Lord’s day.” “I was in the Spirit on the Lord’s day” (Rev. 1:10). All subsequent Christians called Sunday “the Lord’s day.”
That Sunday was intended to be the worship day of the Christian church is further shown by the fact that God himself placed his approval and seal upon it by making it the day of divine revelation, both to the church itself and to the world. On that day Christ revealed himself and the startling fact of his resurrection to the assembled disciples (John 20:19). On that day he revealed himself specifically to Thomas, one of the Twelve (vss. 26-29). On that day the Holy Ghost dispensation began; the Holy Spirit himself was revealed to the sons of men in a new capacity; the church was ordained and set in order, clothed with the gifts of the Spirit. On that day the Apostle John in the Isle of Patmos was “in the Spirit” and received the wonderful visions of the Apocalypse. Every new, special, and glorious thing on record that God made known to the Apostles in the new dispensation was revealed on the first day of the week. It is “the Lord’s day,” and therefore it was the Lord’s revelation day.
From this fountainhead of regular weekly worship on the first day of the week, established by Christ and the Apostles, we can easily trace in a continual stream the same custom during all the ages.

Perversion of New Testament Ceremonies

Originally, the Lord’s day was simply a day of worship. The day itself possessed no more holiness than any other day; therefore the true Christians, in full light, esteemed “every day alike” in this respect (Rom. 14:5), though assembling together for worship on the first day of the week, as I have shown. Later, however, when the great apostasy began, and men began to lose sight of true spiritual things, they also began to attach more and more importance to external things and attribute to them the greatest degree of holiness and veneration. In this manner the simple worship day of the Christians became idolized as a holy Sabbath day in the place of the Jewish Sabbath of the old dispensation.
Shall we change our day of worship from the example set by the Apostles, simply because of these extremes concerning Sunday keeping and Sunday holiness? No! The same apostasy perverted other institutions of the gospel as well. The Catholic priest takes the bread and the wine and (as Romanists say) converts these elements into the actual body and blood of the Lord, then falls down and worships them. Some Protestants also have adopted nearly the same belief and practice.
If people desire to worship the bread in the sacrament or to worship Sunday as a sacred Sabbath day, that is their own responsibility. But we should take the same things and use them in the Bible way, because they are useful and necessary. The bread and the wine in the Communion do not differ in their nature from other elements of the same kind; they are merely put to a different use. So also the Lord’s day is the same to us as are all other days, except in this, that, following the apostolic example, we put it to a different use. Morally, there is no difference. No New Testament ordinance or ceremony is termed “holy.” New Testament holiness is “true holiness” (Eph. 4:24) and pertains not to things, but to redeemed men and women.
“Brethren, ye have been called unto liberty; only use not liberty for an occasion to the flesh, but by love serve one another” (Gal. 5:13). Freedom from legal bondage, however, must not be allowed to cause us to take extreme positions—positions that will rob us of the true spirit of worship and devotion on the first day of the week, or that will lead us to ignore or trample on the religious convictions of other sincere, conscientious Christians. We must learn well to practice the lesson of Romans 14:1-6, so that, though we “esteem every day alike,” we can patiently bear with, and “despise not,” the one who is so “weak in the faith” that he “esteemeth one day above another.” Paul set a good example: “Unto the Jews I became as a Jew, that I might gain the Jews.” This he did for the sake of his influence and for the sake of the cause of Christ.

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