“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. And the scripture hath concluded [“shut up,” Greek] 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” (Gal. 3:21-23).
All were “shut up under sin.” And all were “under the law, shut up.” And the only possible way in which anybody can be under sin is by that law by which is “the knowledge of sin” (Rom. 3:20; 7:7); by that law which is “the strength of sin” (1 Cor. 15:56); that law of which “sin” itself is “the transgression” (1 John 3:4). That law is the law, which says, “You shall not covet” (Rom. 7:7-13). And that is the law of God, the Ten Commandments. This is so certain that there can be no question about it.
And it is equally certain that the ceremonial law of sacrifices and offerings never was intended to, and never could, shut up anybody under the law. On the contrary, that was for the time then present the way out from under the law. Notice the following example in illustration, from that ceremonial law: —
“If the whole congregation of Israel sin . . . and they have done somewhat against any of the commandments of the Lord concerning things which should not be done, and are guilty; when the sin which they have sinned against it, is known, then the congregation shall offer a young bullock for the sin, and bring him before the tabernacle of the congregation. And the elders of the congregation shall lay their hands upon the head of the bullock before the Lord: and the bullock shall be killed before the Lord. And the priest that is anointed shall bring of the bullock’s blood to the tabernacle of the congregation . . . and the priest shall make atonement for them, and it shall be forgiven them” (Lev. 4:13-20).
Now please look that all over, and consider it step by step: —
(a) The people sinned. How?
(b) They had done “somewhat against the commandments of the Lord.” What commandments of the Lord?
(c) The commandments of the Lord concerning things which should not be done.” What are the commandments of the Lord concerning things, which should not be done?
(d) Plainly enough these: “You shall have no other gods before me.” “You shall not make unto thee any graven image.” “You shall not take the name of the Lord thy God in vain.” “The seventh day is the Sabbath of the Lord thy God; in it thou shall not do any work.” “You shall not kill.” “You shall not commit adultery.” “You shall not steal.” “You shall not bear false witness.” “You shall not covet.”
(e) And when they had sinned by doing somewhat against any of these commandments, this law, of the Lord, they were “guilty.” And when the sin came to their knowledge, that guilt was the more impressed—“sin by the commandment became exceedingly sinful.” And so long as they remained in that attitude and in that place only, they were held under that guilt, “shut up under sin;” so long as they remained there only, they remained the more guilty, and “were kept under the law, shut up.” But they need not remain there “shut up under sin” and “kept under the law, shut up,” held “guilty.” They need not remain there, because—
(f) There was a way out. That way out, the only way out, was the way of the sacrifice and the blood of the offering, and the ministration of the priest who made “an atonement.”
(g) And when the sin was forgiven them, they were free. They were no longer guilty, no longer “shut up under sin,” no longer “under the law, shut up.” They were out and free; because they were at one with God, because of the at-one-ment made.
That whole course of the sacrifice and offering was the way of FAITH. It was the way of promise. And that way was for, and was available for, only those who were “guilty” of “sin,” and so were “shut up under sin.” That sacrifice and blood was the expression of faith in the sacrifice and blood of Jesus Christ. And that ministration of the priest, and the atonement made, was the example and shadow of the ministration of Christ, the great High Priest, and the atonement that he makes.
That whole course of sacrifice and offering was the way of the faith of Jesus Christ. That way of the faith of Jesus Christ was the way out for those who were “guilty” of “sin,” and so were “shut up under sin.” They were guilty of sin, and so “shut up under sin,” only because they had done somewhat against any of the commandments of the Lord concerning things, which should not be done. And those commandments were the Ten Commandments.
Therefore it is by the Scripture indisputable that by the law of the Ten Commandments, which showed them guilty, they were “concluded [shut up] all under sin, that [in order that, so that] the promise by faith of Jesus Christ might be given to them that believe.”
Now, did the sacrifice and offering bring them to faith? Or did faith bring them to the sacrifice and offering? —The only answer that there can be is that by all conceivable evidence faith brought them to the sacrifice. Can this possibly be doubted when it is written: “By faith Abel offered unto God a . . . sacrifice by which he obtained witness that he was righteous” (Heb. 11:4)? It was faith that brought to the offering of the sacrifice Abel and all the others who were ever accepted of God.
But what brought them to the FAITH that brought the sacrifice? —The knowledge of their sin—the conviction that they were “guilty.”
And what gave them the knowledge of their sin? What caused the conviction of their guilt? —Their having “done somewhat against any of the commandments of the Lord concerning things which should not be done.”
Thus “before faith came” they, as all others of mankind, “were kept under the law, shut up unto the faith which should afterwards be revealed.” They were “shut up unto the faith,” the faith expressed in the sacrifice and offering, because there was no other way out from their guilt of sin. And there was no other way out, because “there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved” (Acts 4:12).
[Advent Review and Sabbath Herald | April 3, 1900]