Christ, the End of the Law

Stephen Terry


Commentary for the May 17, 2014 Sabbath School Lesson


“…as he thinketh in his heart, so is he…” Proverbs 23:7, KJV

A close friend begins acting strangely. Convinced that they are ill, we call 911 for an ambulance. However, another friend remembers that a doctor lives in the neighborhood and runs to fetch him. In a few moments, the doctor arrives with his black bag of remedies. Examining the patient, he determines that she is running a fever and gives her some aspirin to bring the fever down. “That should do the trick,” he says.

But after a few moments, red splotches appear on her skin. “Obviously an allergic reaction,” he says and gives her an antihistamine for the splotches. But instead of getting better, she begins to vomit. “I have something for that,” he reassures everyone and gives her an anti-emetic. In spite of his best efforts, however, she expires just as the ambulance arrives. When the cause of death is later determined, it is discovered that the patient had accidentally ingested poison and death occurred because the doctor was treating only the symptoms and not the disease. While this is just a parable, it illustrates a point that has spiritual applications as well.

Some Christians, like the doctor in the parable, appear to be specialists at treating symptoms. Their answer for every struggling Christian is the same: a good dose of obedience. Never mind that when they apply this remedy, they lose as many as they save. Like a mentally-sick physician, they blame the patient for expiring rather than their lack of skill. Worse, they even cast a black stain on the character of God by calling such losses “The Shaking,” implying that God would drive His sheep from Him just as they are doing. For such Christians, it is always “The Law! The Law! The Law!” as though this were the sum and total of all God is and desires.

In order to understand the problem, perhaps we should look at the problem of sin. It is true that John related sin to law-breaking.[i] However, in historical context, John was a Jew looking at Christianity from a Jewish context where the Law was supreme, at times placing the Law even above issues of compassion and grace. In contrast to the legalism of many Jewish Christians, Jesus was often accused of being a law-breaker. Perhaps it was because of this that He felt it necessary to reassure those present for His Sermon on the Mount that He was not attempting to destroy the Law.[ii] Nonetheless, His apparent disregard for obedience by healing on the Sabbath when people very easily could have been healed on any other day raised the ire of some in His day. They felt that He should be focusing on the symptom of disobedience and not on the diseases He healed. Some continue to feel the same today.

Perhaps this is related to how they see the origin of sin in the first place. Some look at the Garden of Eden and the original sin[iii] and see only an issue of obedience. God said don’t do something. Adam and Eve did not obey what God said. Therefore sin is disobedience. If sin is indeed simply a transgression of the Law, then this would seem to be correct. However, we have a bit of a problem when we examine the teachings of Jesus. He taught that sin exists before there is any act of disobedience.[iv] If this is true, then in order to see the sin of Adam and Eve we have to look before the act of disobedience occurred. When we do look there, we find that the sin was not eating the fruit. That was only the symptom that told us that sin had been working in their hearts. The actual sin was distrust. This distrust caused them to rely on the words of the Serpent rather than what God had told them. It was this distrust that also caused them to hide from God later when He sought them in the Garden.

Perhaps we can test the validity of this idea by returning to the life of Jesus. When a wealthy, young man came to Jesus, he assured Jesus that he was perfectly obedient to the Law.[v] However, Jesus revealed to him that just as Adam and Eve trusted the Serpent rather than God, so this young man trusted his wealth rather than God. This also seems to illustrate that obedience is not the answer, trust is. When there is trust, there is no question of obeying or not obeying. We only know that we trust what God does, thinks or asks. We don’t even consider it a question of obedience.

This may be hard to understand from a human perspective because mankind is not trustworthy.[vi] Because we cannot read hearts as God is able to do, we often look for acts of obedience to an agreement to assure us that someone is trustworthy. We have gone from verbal agreements to handshakes and finally to written contracts in order to bind ourselves to obedience. Yet, in spite of all of this, the courts are clogged with actions resulting from the untrustworthiness of the parties involved.

 Maybe this is why God at times entered into covenants with people in the Old Testament, not because the covenant was anything, but because man’s basic problem was his lack of trust in God. Therefore, the only way man could understand that God was trustworthy was to see Him be obedient to a covenant. Unfortunately, while it revealed the trustworthiness of God, it also revealed mankind’s total untrustworthiness. Even the best among us failed to completely abide by the covenants we had with God. Moses struck the rock.[vii] David committed adultery.[viii] Elijah fled from Jezebel.[ix] These are only a few egregious examples among many. For this reason, there could be no salvation by the covenant of the Law, only a revelation of man’s sin,[x] his untrustworthiness as compared with the trustworthiness of God.

This failure to trust is at the root of how we treat others as well, not only God. If we do not trust God to care for us, then we will accumulate all that we can in an attempt to assure our own future, just like the wealthy, young man. We will perhaps see sharing that wealth as a threat to our own security, and compassion toward our fellow man will die. Sadly, we even see this with institutions and churches who, rather than trust in God, are constantly appealing for money, at times even from those who are least able to give: the poor, the infirm, and the elderly. As a panacea for the suffering they cause, they promise blessings from God that they neither own nor have the power to bestow. Ironically, when they do not receive gifts from their victims, they accuse them of not trusting God. Truly this is a pot calling the kettle black.

If no amount of obedience will save us, how do we restore the trust that is salvific? Perhaps we do so by trusting God and acting trustworthy ourselves. When we trust God we will have no fear of loss when we care for the sick, the hungry and thirsty poor, and the prisoner.[xi] We will not see them as a threat to our own well-being as we know God will take care of us, no matter what others might take from us.

Churches spend millions and millions of dollars to tell others about God, and when those individuals respond by joining the church, we immediately tap into their wallets to keep the perpetual evangelism machine going. All the while, we teach that obedience to church dogma will be the deciding factor that will save them on that great day when Jesus returns. Operated by obedience and greased by money those wheels will continue to turn until God himself puts an end to it. However, the gospel message is a simple message of compassion and grace. We share what we have with the less fortunate because this is what Jesus did for us. They are not the enemy. They are our reason to exist.

If we were trustworthy in caring for the needy among us, we would not need million dollar advertising budgets. Word of mouth would do all the advertising we would need. We would not need expensive multi-media campaigns to get our story out. Friends would tell friends of what they experienced at our hands. Perhaps this is why we feel we need those advertising campaigns, because friends are telling friends, and the story hasn’t been good. However, spin doctors are not the answer if people don’t trust us. Just like God, we need to prove ourselves trustworthy. If we did, what a fire we would light in the Earth. To others, we are not the large and elegant churches we build. We are not the beautiful music we play. We are not the healthy lifestyle we live. We are not even the Bible stories we can tell. We are simply who we are to them based on whether or not we are trustworthy in their time of need. Come to think of it, isn’t that who God is to us as well?



[i] 1 John 3:4

[ii] Matthew 5:17

[iii] Genesis 3

[iv] Matthew 5:28

[v] Matthew 19:16-22

[vi] John 2:24-25

[vii] Exodus 17:6

[viii] 2 Samuel 11

[ix] 1 Kings 19:1-9

[x] Romans 7:7

[xi] Matthew 25:31-46



This Commentary is a Service of Still Waters Ministry


If you wish to receive these weekly commentaries direct to your e-mail inbox for free, simply send an e-mail to:

Scripture marked (NIV) taken from the Holy Bible, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®. Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 by Biblica, Inc. All rights reserved worldwide. Used by permission. NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION® and NIV® are registered trademarks of Biblica, Inc. Use of either trademark for the offering of goods or services requires the prior written consent of Biblica US, Inc.




If you want a paperback copy of the current Sabbath School Bible Study Quarterly, you may purchase one by clicking here and typing the word "quarterly" into the search box.