Calvary At Sinai
Paul Penno, Jr.
Waggoner on Galatians (continued)
Waggoner was fully conscious of the controversial position he was taking on the law in Galatians 3. He observed: “Since some . . . have supposed that the third of Galatians refers principally to the ceremonial law, it may not be amiss to show briefly why it is impossible that the ceremonial law should be the subject of discourse in that chapter.”8
First, the ordinances never condemned anyone. They taught the gospel in the “Jewish age.” Second, neither we today nor the Gentile Galatians could be said to have been redeemed from the ceremonial law. But we Gentiles are under the condemnation of the moral law and locked up by it. It revealed all mankind to be sinners.9
The apostle Paul explained the relationship between the law and the promise: “And this I say, that the covenant, that was confirmed before of God in Christ, the law, which was four hundred and thirty years after, cannot disannul, that it should make the promise of none effect” (Galatians 3:17).
From these comments we can see that Waggoner did not understand the new covenant as beginning with the first advent of Christ. The new covenant was ratified by the blood of Christ. But “the covenant was confirmed in Christ to Abraham . . . in anticipation.”
“The commandments were the condition of the Abrahamic covenant. . . . Christ taught . . . obedience to the law. . . . Matthew 5:17-19; 19:17; Luke 16:17.”11
Waggoner’s further exposition dealt with Galatians 3:15: “. . . Though it be but a man’s covenant, yet if it be confirmed, no man disannulleth, or addeth thereto.” Waggoner explained: “It is admitted, even by antinomians, that the law of God was in full force until the death of Christ, and therefore Gal. 3:15 should convince them that it is in full force now.”12 So Waggoner was not a covenant dispensationalist and not an antinomian, though he agreed along with the antinomians that the law in Galatians 3 was the Ten Commandments. The antinomians attempted to do away with the law because they were covenant dispensationalists.
Where Waggoner really distinguished himself from his Adventist contemporaries was in seeing the covenant made by God with Abraham as “in every respect” the new covenant. The old covenant, on the other hand, was made by Israel’s promise to God as a nation at Sinai. Picking up the phraseology of Galatians 3:17 Waggoner asked:
For Waggoner the condition of the new covenant given to Abraham was the law of God. The condition was fulfilled by Christ who gave “the promise of the Spirit through faith” (Galatians 3:14). There was only one condition for salvation. Waggoner said: “Faith in Christ is the only condition of salvation.”14
He believed the whole church would be sold over to antinomianism if the ceremonial law interpretation of Galatians 3:19 was surrendered.
The idea of the law being “added” sounded like it just came into existence at Mount Sinai. No law-abiding Seventh-day Adventist would hear of such a thing. They believed the law was co-existent with God. It was no wonder then, that Butler and others viewed the “added” law as the typical remedial system given to Moses.
But Waggoner pointed out that the words “spoken” or “emphasized” were more precise than the King James Version translation “added” (Galatians 3:19). “It was spoken because of transgression.” Waggoner affirmed: “. . . the law was already in existence, and known to man, although only by tradition; but now the Lord added it in written form.”17
9. Ibid. [back]
10. E. J. Waggoner, “Comments on Galatians 3. No. 2,” ST 12, 27 (July 15, 1886), p. 423. [back]
11. Ibid. [back]
12. Ibid. [back]
13. Ibid. [back]
14. E. J. Waggoner, “Comments on Galatians 3. No. 3,” ST 12, 28 (July 22, 1886), p. 438. [back]
15. Ibid. [back]
16. G. I. Butler, Letter to Ellen G. White, June 20, 1886, Madison, Wisconsin. [back]
17. loc. cit [back]