The Matchless Charms of Christ

Chapter 4

The Law In Galatians

It may appear to the reader that the theme is changed in this chapter from the love of Christ to the justice of the law; but you will not find this to be true if you read the whole chapter. It is the purpose of this chapter to establish that all that has been presented thus far is the foundation for a correct understanding of the law in Galatians.

As the students of 1888 and Christ Our Righteousness realize, the law of Galatians 3 was the specific subject around which most of the controversy of that time revolved. Both before and after 1888 it seemed to arouse controversy and severe disagreement.

Let us first review those controversial verses:

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. But the scripture hath concluded all under sin, that the promise by faith of Jesus Christ might be given to them that believe. But before faith came, we were kept under the law, shut up unto the faith which should afterwards be revealed. Wherefore the law was our schoolmaster to bring us unto Christ, that we might be justified by faith. But after that faith is come, we are no longer under a schoolmaster. Galatians 3:21-25.

For many years Adventists had explained, taught, and preached that the schoolmaster was only the ceremonial law and not the Ten Commandment Law. Now (1888) an Adventist minister was teaching that it was also the Ten Commandment Law. The question then is: Why teach law-keeping and Sabbath observance if we are no longer under the ten commandments? It appeared that Waggoner was destroying the law and any obligation to observe it. However, he was still a faithful Sabbath keeper and observer of the whole law. Why? If we are no longer under the law, why obey it?

Several years later Ellen White agreed with him and supported this interpretation in writing:

I am asked concerning the law in Galatians. What law is the schoolmaster to bring us to Christ? I answer: Both the ceremonial and the moral code of ten commandments.[1]

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.[2]

For many decades following the era of 1888, most Adventists taught that the schoolmaster was only the ceremonial law and not the ten commandment law. Somehow, this teaching on the schoolmaster was buried or neglected. In more recent years, several Adventist theologians have taught that the schoolmaster is the ten commandment law and have based their views on these quotations. By now many of our ministers have learned this interpretation.

In this process, it has not been made clear (at least from the knowledge of this writer) why we should observe the law since we are no longer under it. The attempts to explain this are rather strained and vague and not specifically an answer to this question.

Some have quoted the earlier statement of Ellen White that this debate about the schoolmaster and this interpretation were not of that degree of importance. By 1896, she apparently thought it was of the greatest importance.

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. 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, 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.[3]

"This truth" must be that the schoolmaster is the moral law. (See context Selected Messages, Vol. 1 p. 233.) It produced "a large share of the opposition ... at Minneapolis against the Lord's message." And "that opposition" "shut away" "in a great measure the special power of the Holy Spirit." That opposition prevented them from obtaining the efficiency in carrying the truth to the world.

These words describe what many Adventists would term "the Latter Rain of the Holy Spirit and the Loud Cry of the Third Angel." And of course as all students of the 1888 message know, Ellen White did term that message as the beginning of the Loud Cry.

The loud cry of the third angel has already begun in the revelation of the righteousness of Christ, the sin-pardoning Redeemer. This is the beginning of the light of the angel whose glory shall fill the whole earth.[4]

Several have written to me, inquiring if the message of justification by faith is the third angel's message, and I have answered, "It is the third angel's message in verity."[5]

If one is to believe and accept these statements as truth, then one must conclude that the teaching that the schoolmaster is the ten commandment law is of extreme importance and great urgency. Most important of all we must find the answer to the question: if we are no longer under the ten commandment law, why the need to observe it? This is the primary reason for this book.

Obviously, if the Spirit of Prophecy fulfills the purposes for which prophets wrote, the answer should be found in her writings and the answer has been there for many years.

Strangely, before she agreed in writing with Waggoner, she wrote the answer to the question and problem which his teaching produced. Notice her criticism of the manner in which we had preached the law:

... You will meet with those who will say, "You are too much excited over this matter. You are too much in earnest. You should not be reaching for the righteousness of Christ, and making so much of that. You should preach the law." As a people, we have preached the law until we are as dry as the hills of Gilboa that had neither dew nor rain. We must preach Christ in the law, and there will be sap and nourishment in the preaching that will be as food to the famishing flock of God.[6]

Apparently, something was wrong with the way in which we had been preaching the law. Many have read and quoted this statement for years. Some then assume that we must discontinue the emphasis on the law. It is also assumed that preaching Christ our righteousness should take the place of it and that will fulfill Ellen White's recommendations.

But she did not express such ideas. While her suggested correction is related to Christ our righteousness, it is quite different from these suggested remedies.

Immediately following the criticism of the manner in which we preach the law is this statement:

We must preach Christ in the law, and there will be sap and nourishment in the preaching that will be as food to the famishing flock of God.[7]

The remedy for the dryness in preaching the law is to "preach Christ in the law." Here is the key. It may seem rather vague, and difficult to comprehend what she means. How does one preach Christ in the law? She explains this in other articles found in our periodicals. "The Relation of Christ to the Law Is Not Understood" is the title of her article in the Review and Herald for Feb. 4, 1890. Scattered excerpts from this article state:

We have only glimmering light in regard to the exceeding breadth of the law of God. The law spoken from Sinai is a transcript of God's character. Many who claim to be teachers of the truth have no conception of what they are handling when they are presenting the law to the people, because they have not studied it; they have not put their mental powers to the task of understanding its significance ... they do not understand the relation of Christ to the law and cannot present it in such a way as to unfold the plan of salvation to their hearers.

Christ's relation to the law is but faintly understood. ... We should understand the relation of Christ to the moral law. ... We should dwell on the law and the gospel, showing the relation of Christ to the great standard of righteousness.

In May she wrote:

There should be deep searching of the Scriptures that the ministers of God may declare the whole counsel of God. The relation of Christ to the law is but faintly comprehended. Some preach the law, and feel that their brethren are not doing their whole duty if they do not present the subject in the very same way in which they do. These brethren shrink from the presentation of justification by faith, but just as soon as Christ is discovered in his true position in relation to the law, the misconception that has existed on this important matter will be removed. The law and the gospel are so blended that the truth cannot be presented as it is in Jesus, without blending these subjects in perfect agreement. The law is the gospel of Christ veiled; the gospel of Jesus is nothing more or less than the law defined, showing its far reaching principles.[8]

In the Review and Herald for November 18, 1890 she wrote:

The law of God is the only genuine standard for the measurement of character. Christ displayed to the world by his life and teaching, by his divine character; what obedience to the law means.

When one recognizes that Mrs. White understood the law to be a transcript of God's character, then we find other articles in 1890 which speak of Christ in the law such as "Christ Revealed the Father," Signs of the Times, 1/7/1890; "God Manifest in Christ," Signs of the Times, 1/20/1890.

Thus in one year at least six articles were calling attention to Christ's relationship and connection with the moral law. All of this was written within two years after the controversy over the law in Galatians at Minneapolis in 1888. What was she telling us in these articles?

Perhaps the finest explanation of what she meant came in 1895 in the article entitled "Christ The Impersonation of the Law," Signs of the Times, March 14, 1895:

The Lord Jesus came to our world to represent the character of his Father. He came to live out the law, and his words and character were daily a correct exposition of the law of God.

... Jesus was a living manifestation of what the law was, and he revealed in his personal character its true significance.

The Lord Jesus gave to men a representation of the character of God in his life and example. The law of God is the transcript of the character of God. And in Christ they had its precepts exemplified, and example was far more effective than the precept had been.

... Jesus was a living illustration of the fulfillment of the law, but his fulfilling it did not mean its abolition and annihilation. In fulfilling the law, he carried out every specification of its claims.

... Of Christ it was written, "He will magnify the law, and make it honorable." How did he do this?--He lived out the law in the sight of the heavenly universe, in the sight of unfallen worlds, and in the sight of sinful men.

Other articles described Jesus and the law in these terms: "He was a living representation of the law of God."[9] From an article entitled "The Law Revealed in Christ" she writes "He was the embodiment of the law of God."[10] Again she wrote an article, "The Law Revealed in Christ," "His character is an expression of the law of God."[11] "In human nature he lived the law."[12] "He made a living application of that law."[13]

She is telling us in all of these descriptions, that Jesus was the living law. He was not a description of the character of God as was the ten commandments on tables of stone, but a demonstration. He is the law personified; walking, breathing, talking in our humanity. While it is the same law as the law written on stone, how different it is when seen in Jesus.

So when the ten commandment law, the schoolmaster, brings me to Christ and faith is come, I am no longer under the moral law on stone, but I am under Christ, Who is the same law with a new dimension which we will see in a later chapter.

When the schoolmaster (the ten commandment law) brings me to Christ and I am no longer under the schoolmaster, Christ, the Living Law says: "Follow Me." Matthew 4:19. It is impossible to follow Jesus and not keep God's law, for Jesus declared, "I have kept my Father's commandments ..." John 15:10.

So when Ellen White spoke of putting Christ in the law, she referred to the righteousness or righteous character of Jesus which was His obedience to the law. This is what she had termed "the matchless charms of Christ." Therefore when we put Christ in the law we put His perfect character in the law and when the moral law brings one to Christ, it brings us to Christ our righteousness, His perfect obedience to the law. When the law is received from this perspective it too is "matchless charms." When this is discovered and experienced we too will say with David, "I delight in thy law, O how I love thy law! It is my meditation all the day." Psalm 119:70, 97.


  1. Selected Messages, Vol. 1, p. 233.
  2. Selected Messages, Vol. 1, p. 234.
  3. Selected Messages, Vol. 1, p. 234-235.
  4. Review and Herald, 11/22/1892; also Christ Our Righteousness, by Daniels, p. 62.
  5. Review and Herald, 4/1/1890; also Christ Our Righteousness, by Daniels, p. 64.
  6. Review and Herald, 3/11/1890.
  7. Review and Herald, 3/11/1890.
  8. Review and Herald, 5/27/1890.
  9. Review and Herald, 1/7/1890.
  10. Signs of the Times, 11/15/1899.
  11. Signs of the Times, 7/3/ 1907.
  12. Signs of the Times, 11/29/1899.
  13. Review and Herald, 4/5/1898.