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    January 21, 1895

    “A Dead Formalism” The Bible Echo 10, pp. 23, 20.

    ATJ

    A. T. JONES

    IT is eternally true that the only way in which we can ever possibly be separated from this world or from the people of this world, is by the presence of God going ever with us. “So shall we be separated from all the people that are upon the face of the earth.”BEST January 21, 1895, page 20.1

    Just here is the point where a dead formalism enters and takes the place of living faith. People want to be the Lord’s; they want to serve the Lord; they want to go to heaven; and knowing that this requires separation from the world, they “try to give up the world.” But instead of finding the living presence of the Lord by having faith, which of itself would accomplish all that is required and all that the heart can rightly desire, they undertake to separate themselves from the world and from the things that are in the world. This they hope to do by professing religion, joining the church, practicing the forms of religion, and “doing their best” to keep the commandments and obey the Scriptures. Not having the living presence of Christ in the heart to accomplish of itself the will of God and to work the works of God, they hope to supply the lack by practicing of themselves the forms of religion. But all this is only the form of godliness without the power, and can never bring peace to the mind nor rest to the heart.BEST January 21, 1895, page 20.2

    The profession of religion without the living presence and power of Christ in the heart and manifested in the life, is only a dead formalism. It matters not though it be profession of Christianity itself, and a practice of all the forms of service and of worship that pertain to Christianity; if Christ Himself is not a living presence and power in the heart and life, giving life to all the forms of service and of worship in which we engage, then it is all simply an outward service of mere forms and is therefore only a dead formalism.BEST January 21, 1895, page 20.3

    The forms even of Christianity can never give life to the observer of them. No; life is found only in Christ Himself, by a living faith. And having by living faith found Him who alone is life, He then is life to us and to all the forms too. Then all the service, and all the forms of service of Christ are always a delight. But to practice the forms of God’s service with the hope of getting life, instead of because we have the life of God, is a wearisome and vain procedure and a profitless business.BEST January 21, 1895, page 20.4

    The Lord gave the sign of circumcision as a seal of the righteousness which was obtained by faith without being circumcised. But they not having the righteousness which is by faith, sought to obtain it by circumcision itself. The outward sign of the presence of the Lord and his righteousness within, they made to take the place of that which it only signified. Circumcision was thus put in the place of Christ. And therefore in the nature of things, circumcision was looked upon and counted as the greatest of all things. And it was strictly logical that the rabbis should teach, as they did, that circumcision alone was “as great as all the other commandments;” and indeed that it was greater than creation itself, because God had created heaven and earth in order that men might be circumcised. See Farrar’s “Life and Work of Saint Paul,” pp. 226, 428.BEST January 21, 1895, page 20.5

    Again, the Lord gave His law—the ten commandments—first to give the knowledge of sin and cause it to “become exceeding sinful” that they might appreciate Christ, the Saviour from sin (Romans 7:13; 5:20, 21); and secondly, to witness to the righteousness of God obtained without the law and by the faith of Jesus Christ. Romans 3:20-22. Therefore the tabernacle in which the law was preserved was called “the tabernacle of witness” (Acts 7:44); the ark in which the law rested was “the ark of the testimony;” and the tables on which the law was written were called “the tables of the testimony.” Testimony is the evidence which a witness gives; and therefore the ark of the testimony was the ark of witness, and the tables of the testimony were the tables of witness, as the tabernacle was the tabernacle of witness, and all because they held the law of God which was the witness to the righteousness of God which they were to obtain by faith in the mediation of Him whom all the services of the tabernacle typified.BEST January 21, 1895, page 20.6

    But they not having righteousness by faith of Christ, sought to obtain it by works of the law. Not submitting themselves to the righteousness of God, they went about to establish their own righteousness. Romans 10:3. Not having the presence of Christ in the heart to work the righteousness of God in the life and so fulfill the righteousness of the law in them, and seeking to accomplish righteousness themselves by the law, they perverted the law from the purposes for which God gave it, to purposes of their own—purposes for which God never gave it and never intended it at all.BEST January 21, 1895, page 20.7

    The ten commandments as men see them in the letter are but “the form of knowledge and of the truth”—the form of righteousness. Romans 2:20. He who looks at the law itself, and seeks to do it as he sees it, is seeking but a form of righteousness at the best. It is true that the law, even in the letter, is the perfect form of knowledge and of truth; but still it is thus only the form of it. And though a man conform perfectly to it as he sees it, still his service would be but a perfect formalism and he but a perfect formalist—such as was Saul of Tarsus. Philippians 3:16.BEST January 21, 1895, page 20.8

    But in Christ as the perfect life of the perfect form. As it is written, “The law was given by the hand of Moses; but the reality and grace was by the hand of Jesus Messiah.” John 1:17. (Syriac). That is, while in the law as it is in the letter and as men see it, is the form of knowledge and truth, in Christ is the very reality. Finding Him we find the very life of the law; for He is the living law itself. In Him we find all the depth and meaning of the law as it is in truth—the very righteousness of God Himself, which the law demands and which alone it will accept of us, but which it can never find in us till it finds Christ there. And finding Him in us, it witnesses to the righteousness of God which we have in Him.BEST January 21, 1895, page 20.9

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