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General Conference Bulletin, vol. 1

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    IN order to preserve the connection, we will begin with the 14th verse. “Blotting out the hand-writing of ordinances that was against us, which was contrary to us, and took it out of the way, nailing it to his cross.” Fenton’s translation reads, “Washing out the record with the decrees which were against us.” The Syriac reads, “By his mandates he blotted out the handwriting of our debts, which [handwriting] existed against us, and took [it] from the midst, and affixed [it] to his cross.” This expression, “handwriting of ordinances,” is considered by some as referring simply to the ceremonial institutions of the Jews. I think that it has a much broader application, and includes everything that a man binds himself to do in order to get salvation from it. Parkhurst defines kirographon (handwriting) as follows: “A handwriting a note of hand. It signifies a sort of a note under a man’s hand, whereby he obliges himself to the payment of any debt.” So it takes in all the ordinances that the Jews had and trusted in, and it also takes in those that the Gentiles had. I will read an extract from “Life Sketches of Paul,” which touches on some of the rites an d observances of the Gentiles:—GCB February 15, 1895, page 165.6

    Also, the Gentiles were accustomed to eat the flesh of animals that had been strangled; while the Jews had been divinely instructed with regard to the food they should use. They were particular, in killing beasts, that the blood should flow from the body, else it was not regarded as healthful meat. God had given these injunctions to the Jews for the purpose of preserving their health and strength. The Jews considered it sinful to use blood as an article of diet. They considered that the blood was the life; and that the shedding of blood was in consequence of sin.GCB February 15, 1895, page 166.1

    The Gentiles, on the contrary, practiced catching the blood which flowed from the victim of sacrifice, and drinking it, or using it in preparation of their food. The Jews could not change the customs which they had so long observed, and which they had adopted under the special direction of God. Therefore, as things then stood, if Jew and Gentile came to eat at the same table, the former would be shocked and outraged by the habits and manners of the latter.GCB February 15, 1895, page 166.2

    The Gentiles, and especially the Greeks, were extremely licentious; and many, in accepting Christianity, had united it to their unsanctified natures, and continued to practice fornication. The Jewish Christians could not tolerate such immorality, which was not even regarded as criminal by the Greeks. The Jews, therefore, held it highly proper that circumcision, and the observance of the ceremonial law, should be brought to the Gentile converts as a test of their sincerity and devotion. This they believed would prevent the accession to the church of those who were carried away by mere feeling, or who adopted the faith without a true conversion of heart, and who might afterward disgrace the cause by immorality and excesses.GCB February 15, 1895, page 166.3

    All I wish to call your attention to, is that all the people had certain observances and ordinances the doing of which, would, as they thought, insure their salvation. Doubtless there were both Jews and Gentiles in most of the churches, and the tendency would be for each class to cling to its own traditions and customs, and hope for salvation largely through them, while outwardly professing Christianity. But Paul in this epistle aims to show that the Christian is complete in Christ. In him we are thoroughly furnished with all things, and so have need of nothing outside of him.GCB February 15, 1895, page 166.4

    It is true the Lord has given to the Jews ordinances; but they had placed their own construction upon them, and added their own traditions, thus making them in their spirit and manner of working essentially different from what God intended them to be. All through the book of Deuteronomy we read how the Lord instructed his people to be kind to the heathen, and to do kind acts for them. In performing these kind acts they would be brought in contact with the strangers. But the Jews by their traditions reasoned that these heathen were unclean, and they would themselves become unclean by contact with them. So they kept themselves wholly aloof, which was contrary to the expressed purpose of God. Thus they became narrow-minded and bigoted, and were led to reject the Son of God for doing the very things God had commanded them to do. And so we read in Matthew 15:3 that Jesus asked the Pharisees, “Why do ye also transgress the commandment of God by your tradition?”GCB February 15, 1895, page 166.5

    In Colossians 2:20 the same thought is brought out in somewhat different words. “Therefore if ye be dead with Christ from the rudiments (margin, elements) of the world, why, as though living in the world, are ye subject to ordinances.” What are the rudiments? — All vain methods of man’s devising that were used to obtain salvation. They thought they must keep God’s law as far as they could, and make up, as it were, for their transgressions and shortcomings, by sacrifices, by observing various rites and ceremonies, by abstaining from certain foods and drinks, by neglecting and punishing the body, by self-imposed worship, and thus establish their own righteousness before God. See Galatians 4:3, 9. We can employ such methods now, just the same as some people did then. Whenever we take our own ideas and understanding of things, and put them in the place of the thing itself, then we are resorting to the rudiments, the handwriting of the ordinances which is against us, and the result is a failure every time.GCB February 15, 1895, page 166.6

    When Paul wrote to the Romans, the great difficulty with the church was that they thought they could obtain salvation by works alone. The idea was, Do good things, and be saved. To meet that, Paul taught them justification by faith. But when he came to write to the Galatians, the case was somewhat different. Then the idea was winning favor that salvation came by faith and works. So the most prominent thought in the epistle to the Galatians is, that salvation is by faith, and faith alone. James wrote his epistle to correct another error. In his time it had come to be thought that salvation came by simply talking about faith. But he showed that the faith which saves a man is one that produces works. We meet the same things to-day. Some have thought that we could be saved by a theory of justification, but we must have a faith that works because there is life in it.GCB February 15, 1895, page 166.7

    “Let no man therefore judge you in meat, or in drink, or in respect of an holy day, or of the new moon, or of the sabbath days.” The Syriac reads, “Let no one therefore disquiet you about food and drink, or about the distinction of festivals, and new moons, and sabbaths.” Some have used this text against the Sabbath, but improperly. For Paul is not referring here to what God has commanded. He is talking about what men have brought in. I will read the passage in Fenton’s translation. “Therefore let no man condemn you about food and about drink, or about the division of a feast, or a new moon, or sabbaths, which are a shadow of the future.” The German translation brings out the thought of the text much better than our authorized version. As Elder Jones has looked this point up, we will ask him to give the results of his investigation.GCB February 15, 1895, page 167.1

    [Elder Jones gave the German rendering as follows]:—GCB February 15, 1895, page 167.2

    Let no man make a conscience for you over food or over drink or over appointed holidays or new moons or sabbaths; which is the shadow of them [the things] that were to come; but the body itself [that is, the thing that casts the shadow] is in Christ.GCB February 15, 1895, page 167.3

    Let you no man that aim [that is, the true Christian aim] frustrate (thwart or turn aside) that (or who) after their own whimsical (or peculiar) choice (or option) stride along in humility and spirituality of the angels that he never, not one, has seen, and is destitute of efficient cause (or reason) in his fleshly mind. [That is, he has no efficient cause for his course; but on his own whimsical choice, and that from his fleshly mind, he strides along instead of waiting in real humility and faith to be led by the Spirit of God. and he insists that everybody else must do exactly as he does or else they are not Christians and cannot be saved.]GCB February 15, 1895, page 167.4

    And holds not the Head [Christ] from whom the whole body through links and joints (helps, aids) conceives and holds together and thus consequently grows to the godlike greatness. For as ye now are dead with Christ from the institutions (or statutes) of the world, why let ye yourselves be caught with institutions, as though ye lived yet in the world? [They that say1This bracket is in the German text..] “Thou shalt that not lay hold on; thou shalt that not taste; thou shalt that not touch, or handle;” which itself after all under the hand is consumed [that is, it perishes and is gone with the mere handling or using]; and are men’s commands and teaching: which have an appearance [or the glitter] of wisdom through self-chosen spirituality and humility, and through that (or by that means) they the body do not spare, and the flesh do not honor unto being satisfied with necessaries of life.GCB February 15, 1895, page 167.5

    It is so easy for us to go to extremes, and take a position because it suits our own ideas of things. This is wrong, even though we may be on the right side of the question. If we only have our own idea, it becomes the same as a handwriting of ordinances or a tradition. This has been the trouble in teaching. In order to find what will suit our own ideas, we search all through the Bible and Testimonies, get together everything we can find that will strengthen the position we have taken, and then try to enforce it upon others.GCB February 15, 1895, page 167.6

    The gospel will bring in every principle, and give us well-balanced minds. And if we do not have the gospel and a close connection with Jesus Christ, we cannot have the principles that he wants us to have. We want to know what God says about a thing; not what some man says God says about it. Let us go to the Word, and find out for ourselves what he says to us individually. Christ is our head, and hence to him we must look for instruction.GCB February 15, 1895, page 167.7

    Turn to Romans 14:10: “But why dost thou judge thy brother? or why dost thou set at naught thy brother? For we shall all stand before the judgement seat of Christ.” Can I be my brother’s judge? No. But he may do something that I think he ought not to do. Very well, I can thank God that I do not have to do as he does. It is a privilege that we all have, to do what Christ the Head wants us to do; and let us not take that privilege away from any man.GCB February 15, 1895, page 167.8

    “Let us not therefore judge one another any more: but judge this rather, that no man put a stumbling block or an occasion to fall in his brother’s way.” Romans 14:13. Here is where we should be careful. “But if thy brother be grieved with thy meat, now walkest thou not charitably.” “For the kingdom of God is not meat and drink; but righteousness, and peace, and joy in the Holy Ghost.” The reason why so many people stumble on some of these principles is that they are not presented right. May the Spirit of God unite us so closely with Christ that all we do, whether eating or drinking, or anything else, will be done to his glory.GCB February 15, 1895, page 167.9

    Paul said of the circumcision, it availeth nothing. But when some of his brethren had ideas of its importance slightly different, he did not say, I shall stop right here till you all agree with me. No, he pushed the gospel with all his might. The nearer we come to Christ, the quicker will men’s ideas drop out of the way. The more we try to pull things away from men, the tighter they will hold them.GCB February 15, 1895, page 167.10

    No other book is so susceptible of both concentration and diffusion as is the Bible. Its every precept and illustration is expressed in the monosyllable love. Or on the other hand, every feature and phase of moral and spiritual life may be drawn from a single expression.GCB February 15, 1895, page 167.11

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