For many years, there was never a problem in comparing Christ and the Law—one was a reflection of the other. Careful Adventists would say no one can present the law without the gospel, or the gospel without the law, especially when one understands the Great Controversy theme and what God wants to achieve in His plan of salvation.
But after 1957, Adventists had a paradigm shift! In a few short years, both the “law” and “Christ” were given new theological dimensions. “Law” became, generally speaking, only a mirror of what God is like plus Calvin's second purpose for the law--the restraint of evil. Christ's death became the most important part of His life on earth—His death promised forgiveness for sins. Believe it, and nothing more would be needed! But the essential component of character development in the salvation process was suddenly omitted!
Much has been written about this dramatic “fork in the road.” The fundamental cause was the well-intentioned desire to convince Calvinist/Evangelical scholars that Adventists were in agreement with them on biblical essentials. (All this has been examined in Bull and Lockhart's Seeking A Sanctuary, (Indiana University Pres, 2006).
Adventists generally have understood God's plan for rescuing men and women involves that wonderful cooperation between God's part through His Holy Spirit and human cooperation through their will—the joy of willing obedience. Here, of course, we part company with Calvinist/Evangelicals who believe in the predestination of those who are either saved or lost.
For Adventists, the Cross is that mighty, unrepeatable Shout to the universe that erases Satan's lies about God, demonstrates how far God Himself will go to save sinners, even to shedding His blood as “ransom” for everyone who will accept our Lord's invitation to “come home,”--and be no longer a wandering sheep.
Thus, the Cross is the “means” to that priceless “end”—the uplifting, refining, ennobling of the man and woman who chooses to live forever (Christ/Law).
All this begins in the biblical story of how God has been trying to persuade men and women since Adam and Eve that His way back to Eden restored is their willingness to respond to His “way back,” to His call to “come home.”
This is where the “Law” comes in. Ah, Moses' chief challenge in leading the huge number of Israelites out of pagan Egypt was to teach in clearest terms what it meant to be loyal and obedient to a very personal God—and not to inanimate flies and frogs:
“Then it shall come to pass, because you listen to these judgments, and keep and do them, that the Lord your God will keep with you the covenant and the mercy which He swore to your fathers.” Deut. 7:12, NKJV.
Wow! Who on earth ever had such a promise—and all the Israelites had to do was to “obey” (to respond faithfully as friend to friend). All that sums up “Law.”
In the New Testament, the relationship between men and woman with their God/Lord was identical:
“Nor do they light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a lampstand, and it gives light to all who are in the house. Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven.
“Do not think that I came to destroy the Law or the Prophets. I did not come to destroy but to fulfill. For assuredly, I say to you, till heaven and earth pass away, one jot or one tittle will by no means pass from the law till all is fulfilled. Whoever therefore breaks one of the least of these commandments, and teaches men so, shall be called least in the kingdom of heaven; but whoever does and teaches them, he shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven.” Matthew 5:16-19, NKJV.
What is more than interesting is that a person in the OT and in the NT, including us today, could believe all the above and still miss the point of all this information! They may know the words but miss “the good news!” They could know all this information without experiencing salvation power to “glorify” their Father in heaven.
Not easy getting this “good news” across to those who were “experts” in knowing the Scriptures! Think of the many OT scholars in our Lord's day—they even memorized the OT! But Jesus got to the heart of what these experts lacked: “The Father, who sent me, also testifies on my behalf. You have never heard his voice or seen his face, and you do not keep his message in your hearts, for you do not believe in the one whom he sent. You study the Scriptures, because you think that in them you will find eternal life. And [But] these very Scriptures speak about me! Yet you are not willing to come to me in order to have life.” John 5:37-40, GNB
Wow! Graduate degrees in theology or philosophy may not be the best way to learn the truth about God as “the Father who sent Jesus!” In other words, we too can “study” the Scriptures and miss all this good news! Learn all we can about the Man from Nazareth and still miss the Truth about the God who runs the universe!
It seems we must do better than these experts did. Those wily Pharisees and Sadducees were really “Saturday-keepers,” most faithful tithe payers and knew “healthful” living to a fault. Yet, those people who did all this, also crucified Jesus!
For Adventists today, Revelation 14 is a laser beam into our purpose for existing. In some way, telling the truth about God will be the “good news” that the honest and the willing will hear, perhaps for the first time; for some, amidst all their Bible knowledge, they finally will “get it!” For some, “they have learned how to “endure” (patience in life's struggles) as they learned how to “keep the commandments of God and the faith (trust in) of Jesus.” (Rev. 13:17). Christ/Law—Law/Christ
Something fundamental is going on here. The last message to the “world” is not the seventh-day Sabbath, or where we go when we die—all that is taken for granted. After all, the “gospel” was first given we to those who knew all that! What was needed in the first century AD was the “good news” of what God was really like—the very same “good news” that the world needs today.
This “good news” is exactly what Jesus had been trying to tell the disciples for three years—that humanity's God is not the stern judge or exacting Bookkeeper that all pagans and most Christians have made Him out to be. He us not the Blow-torch God who, in the end, “gets even” with all those who have refused His offer for their salvation.
What then is our Father God like? “This is eternal life that they may know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent.” John 17:3, NKJV.
Imagine what would happen if every man, woman and child that we know would think of “God” as our Heavenly Father, not as our Cosmic Judge who never forgets anything. Our Father who has never shut the front door—who has been calling us back home as soon as we were born. One who doesn't wait for us to make that first step!
We can love and trust a God like that—it is the path toward eternal life. He is the God that Bible students in Christ's day missed! Let us not make the same mistake today by separating the Law (the mirror of Christ's life) from Christ (the law embodied)—not only in our theology but also in our lives as the Holy Spirit is “growing” us daily—this is God's formula for preparing us to live forever!