What Was Wrong With Sinai?
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For these are the two covenants: the one from Mount Sinai which gives birth to bondage, which is Hagar— Galatians 4:24 NKJV 

Obedience to the Law of God

What did Paul mean by Mount Sinai? Many believe he was referring to the Ten Commandments. Was he? Paul speaks favorably of the Ten Commandments in Ephesians 6, and I doubt he would do so if he really thought they led to bondage. Paul also mentions Hagar. Instead of referring to the Ten Commandments, is Paul referring to a Hagar-like attitude at Sinai?

Hagar represents the man-made covenant or man-made promises. Hagar was not really at fault, and God promised to bless her, but Abraham used Hagar to try to help him get the promised child by the works of his own flesh, instead of trusting God’s promise.

Likewise at Sinai the people promised three times,

“All the Lord has spoken we will do.” Exodus 19:8, 24:3, 24:7.

Their promises are like the “Hagar” mentality. The people were trusting their own promises and works of the flesh, instead of trusting God to work in and through them. When Paul referred to Sinai in Galatians 4:24 instead of the the law of Ten Commandments, he mentions Hagar. In Hebrews Paul explains that the problem at Sinai was the people were making their own promises, instead of trusting God’s.

For if that first covenant had been faultless, then no place would have been sought for a second. Because finding fault with them, He says: “Behold, the days are coming, says the Lord, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah— not according to the covenant that I made with their fathers in the day when I took them by the hand to lead them out of the land of Egypt; because they did not continue in My covenant, and I disregarded them, says the Lord. For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, says the Lord: I will put My laws in their mind and write them on their hearts; and I will be their God, and they shall be My people. Hebrews 8:7-10 NKJV

Paul promotes the Law and says it is to be written on our hearts. The Law was not the problem at Sinai. The problem, Paul says, is how the people tried to establish the Law. They were depending upon themselves instead of God’s promises. Remember Joshua telling Israel that they could not serve the Lord in Joshua 24:19, but they went on and promised they could anyway? 

So Joshua said to the people, “You are witnesses against yourselves that you have chosen the Lord for yourselves, to serve Him.” Joshua 24:22 NKJV

Joshua sees the people are making the same mistake made at Sinai. In Galatians, Paul sees the Galatians making that same mistake. They thought they could earn God’s favor. They thought they could rely on their own promises to keep the Law. By trusting the strength of their own promises they were making the “Hagar” mistake, just like Abraham. The commandments are good, and while we can’t keep them in the strength of our own promises, what is impossible with us is possible with God. Remember what we read last quarter?

by which have been given to us exceedingly great and precious promises, that through these you may be partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust. 2 Peter 1:4 NKJV

Abraham trusted the works of his own flesh with Hagar, instead of trusting God’s promise. The problem at Sinai was that the same Hagar mentality was present. Paul wants the Law written on the Galatians’ hearts as well as our hearts, by trusting God instead of the works of the flesh. 

Amen!(44)

Comments

What Was Wrong With Sinai? — 19 Comments

  1. Wonderful lesson..let us not repeat the same mistake .in wha ever we do God must be our focal point.

    Amen!(4)
  2. A question please, when our pastors orders new believers to raise their hands before baptism as they read down the Adventist fundamentals....don't we repeat the same mistake of "hagar" promise as paul warns? Somebody answer me..

    Amen!(1)
    • I believe that we can do all things through Jesus, I can not depend on me to do the right thing, that was the big mistake that they made, they said: Everything that the Lord said "we" will do it, they forgot to ask God for help, to surrender their wills to the Lord, instead they trusted on their own strength, big mistake!

      Amen!(3)
    • Jane

      The purpose of the baptismal vows is to induct an individual into the Adventist church. It is the reason why there has to be a vote to accept that prospect into membership.

      That is not God's way. When you join the body of Christ and become part of the family of God, only God can give or reject the person, and Jesus clearly says in John 6:37 that He accepts all who come to Him.

      If you ever listened to the reciting of, and responding to the baptismal vows that precede a baptism, it sounds eerily similar to Exod 19:9 when the people vowed - All that the Lord spoke we will do. We call on these dear souls to promise to do things. However, I have never heard the pastors invite the candidates to put their trust in Jesus and He will lead and direct in all of their lives. Such a foundational and complete statement will obviate the need to have the candidates commit to supporting the church with tithes and offerings, abstain from unhealthy meats and drink, commit to the prophetic presence in the church, keeping the Ten Commandments including the Sabbath, etc. The power to do all these things is from the Holy Spirit. Yet that is never a part of the vows, and if it were, a statement to that effect is all that is necessary.

      Amen!(3)
      • As William pointed out, it's a heart matter. God *wants* us to affirm our agreement with His truth, I believe.

        That was true at Sinai. (See Deuteronomy 5:28-29 where God expresses approval of the people's response at Sinai, but points out the defect in their hearts.) It is true today.

        Amen!(1)
    • They may be vows but let them be the desires and the asking that God will write them upon our hearts, so that we might live them to glorify Him.

      Amen!(1)
    • I do believe in our heart as we are making the vows we are saying, through Christ who strengtheneth me I will keep these vows. Phillipians 4:13. We can't even be pardoned without the Holy Spirit. As we are making our vows we need to behold the Lamb of God which taketh away the sins of the world. John 1:29. Undeniably Paul made vows, keep the ten, and strived to be a respectable Christian, Jew, and Roman. Acts 24:16. The early Church had vows. The Galatians were getting away from and adding to Christian vows, is what Paul was talking about in Galations 4:24. Like William said, they were working righteousness in and of themselves. Our Adventist vows are not the problem, it is sometimes us when we fail to rely on Christ righteousness.

      Amen!(1)
    • Baptismal vows are the creed of the church being administered, an oath of allegiance to an organization, the ticket to membership in the “Remnant”. It is as if you cannot belong to the church body unless all these things are added to Christ. The root of all this is likely a fear letting the “wrong” type of people into the church, engendered by the belief that membership in a religious organization is somehow synonymous with being part of the body of Christ, that is, with salvation. The same heresy has existed in the church through all ages (see Isaiah 1:13 for example).

      You might try this thought experiment: Imagine you are at the Jordan River and John the Baptist has just baptized you. Can you imagine him administering baptismal vows as a condition for belonging to the body of Christ? I cannot.

      Amen!(1)
      • Richard, I'd like to start by addressing your thought experiment. Please consider the audience to John the Babtist's sermons: They were mainly Jews well familiar with biblical teachings. Secondly, there may have been some Gentiles, possibly soldiers, who also knew the teachings for which the Jews stood. And John's baptism signified only cleansing from sin and did not grant membership into any body of believers. Thus the baptism of John is not a direct parallel to baptism today.

        Fast-forward to the 18th Century and the beginnings of the Seventh-day Adventist Church. The small group of believers was so put off by the thought of church formality and organization that they determined not to have a formal organization at all. But that soon proved to create more problems than it solved when all sorts of people claimed to be Adventists with a message from the Lord. So the believers determined that they needed to have some way of identifying genuine Seventh-day Adventists ministers. And ministerial credentials were born. How do you suppose they determined who would get these credentials?

        Then, for similar practical reasons, the body of believers had to organize formally. And they needed criteria regarding who "belonged" to this organization, seeing there were hundreds of denominations even back then, professing to be followers of Christ. Believers back then determined they would never have a "creed," because they believed revelation of truth to be progressive, with "present truth" from God for each ages. This is still the official stance of the church, even though the attitude towards our fundamental beliefs can be rather creed-like. Thus I cannot support your calling baptismal vows "the creed of the church."

        Now I want to ask you a question: Did our spiritual forebears make a mistake by organizing and agreeing on a set of beliefs? Where would we be today, if they had not organized and agreed on a set of beliefs?

        Amen!(1)
      • As for "the belief that membership in a religious organization is somehow synonymous with being part of the body of Christ," that would appear to be an individual choice. As you suggest, this faulty attitude has a long history, and we can fall for it as easily today as did God-believers thousands of years ago. And I suppose you can blame it "on the church" since you and I and the rest of us here compose "the church." So if that's our attitude, we are guilty.

        Maybe we should change our attitude!

        Amen!(1)
  3. There's nothing the matter with Sinai! Sinai was just fine for Moses and all who faithfully followed, and hoped for their salvation through his son and they loved God. But Sinai was a burden and imposition for those who refused God's gift of salvation. These are the ones to whom Paul directs the rhetorical question re "What was wrong with Sinai". Sinai was never meant to give salvation as the physical child, whether of Abraham, Hagar or Sarah or Eve, could never give salvation. Only the son of God! And to whomsoever of humanity,he wills his son to be born. Hagar was not the person he wills his son to be born- As a consequence; salvation could never come through Hagar.

    Amen!(3)
    • Similarly, salvation can never come through law-keeping. We cannot keep the law to be saved. We say that we keep the law because we are saved. But that is really saying that we need to keep the law to maintain our salvation. Or even if we say that keeping the law is a natural result of being saved, that concept is never found in the New Testament. The law we are always referring to is the Ten Commandments. Paul came to realize that the law of Christ is the "law" under which we operate after coming to Christ. 1 Cor 9:21.

      Amen!(2)
  4. It is fine to ascribe motives of the baptismal vows as "organizing and agreeing on a set of beliefs." However, there is the risk that the new believer may confuse the agreeing on a set of beliefs with what is needed to become a member of Christ's body at large.

    I am reminded by Paul's rhetorical question in Gal 3:1-4, when he asked "having begun in the Spirit, are you now being made perfect by the flesh?" If we let the new believer rely on the Spirit at the start of the Christian experience, he/she begins on solid ground and gets his perspectives in the right order. When we let that new believer start with vows thinking that these are the entry requirements into the kingdom, we are being, and encouraging the new believer to be "foolish" as Paul gently points out.

    Amen!(1)
  5. Hello Inge, I understand the necessity of organization as it relates to function. However, my experience is that organizations tend to lose sight of their functional objective and origin, only to focus on survival and growth of the organization. A physical analogy might be the cells in a person’s body. As long as a cell is dedicated to fulfilling its function to support the body there is no problem. But when a cell changes to focus on its own survival and growth, it becomes something dangerous to the body. We understand this to be cancer.

    So the question is: What is the intended function of baptismal vows? Are they to make a person a devotee of the church or a devotee of Christ? Jane’s question obviously reflects a concern of conscience, and Jennifer’s answer echoes that concern. Are the vows administered as a requisite to baptism into the body of Christ or as a requisite to church membership? These two requisites are not the same.

    When I look at the baptism of Greeks in Acts 11 and the baptism of the Philippian jailer and his family in Acts 16, I see converts outside of Judaism who were baptised into the body of Christ, and once in that body, they were instructed more fully in the Way, the Truth and the Life of Jesus Christ, their Lord and Saviour. Baptism is a public confession of devotion to Christ and joining his body, but is not synonymous with joining a religious organization. Yet joining an organization appears to be the objective of the baptismal process.

    In answer to the questions you posed, I would ask these questions:
    1) Is the body of Christ facing the same issues now as during the organization of the Seventh-day Adventist church?
    2) How does the organization and function of the SdA church support the body of Christ?
    3) What function do baptismal vows play in building up the body of Christ and devotion to Christ in this present age?

    Amen!(1)
  6. Richard

    You make a good point.

    As we peel away the onion skins we find the deep, yet often denied, understanding of our standing as a church. We internally believe that we the SDA church are the body of Christ. I have heard many sermons on John 10:16 where it is either overtly or subtly stated that "other sheep I have which are not of this fold; [the SDA Church] them also I must bring, [to the SDA church] and they will hear My voice; and there will be one flock [the SDA church] and one shepherd."

    Then you combine that with Rev 12:17 - "the rest of her offspring, who keep the commandments of God and have the testimony of Jesus Christ." This text has been used to prove that since we are essentially the only ones who uphold the Ten Commandments and the only ones with the Spirit of Prophecy, Rev 19:10, then we have to be THE fold, THE body of Christ. Given time, all other Christians will come to this fold.

    This supports our treatment of baptismal vows as dual entry into the church and the "fold."

    Isn't this what we silently believe?

    Amen!(0)
    • There is always going to be a tension between the notion of "Church" and the "Body of Christ". I do not pretend to know all the answers, but it helps me when I think of the Church as a body that has been charged with responsibility not give status or privilege. It is all too easy for us to become overly defensive about the church and our identity and in doing so create the impression that in the great heap of knowledge about Christianity, the church is all important. Rather the church is charged with spreading the Gospel - in other words it should be pointing to Jesus.

      We often get involved with the notions of "preparedness for baptism" and while I understand some of that attitude, I am also mindful that when i was baptized as a teenager, I still had a lot of growing to do. I am thankful for a church who extended me the Christian grace to grow into Christ, to live and learn and develop. When we understand the Gospel we should understand that it is our responsibility to share God's grace to all those who come to Jesus.

      Amen!(0)
      • Maurice, your comment on growing got me to thinking. God’s writing of his law of love on our hearts is the work of a lifetime. As we allow his work on our hearts, our understanding of his love goes deeper into every aspect of our lives and is reflected in our thoughts, words and acts toward others. Through rite of baptism by faith in the faithfulness of his Son, we are symbolically born into the Father’s family, and by his righteous acts of grace, we become conformed to his image—we become his children and are one with him.

        Can anyone imagine imposing vows of birth on an infant in the womb? By analogy to the new birth, it is just as preposterous to have the new Christian make vows of baptism as a condition of belonging to the church (that is, the family of God). Instead, the church body should be vowing to affirm their obligation to support the new believer as he begins and continues his life in the Father’s family, much as they would for a baby dedication. Think of how this kind of solemn vow could impact new and old believers in the church.

        As I considered baptism as a young adult, the enormity of committing to Christ nearly overwhelmed me. It was not until I understood it was his love working in my heart that qualified me for baptism and the Christian life—that is was his work, not mine—that I was strongly convicted (maybe even compelled) to be baptised.

        Unfortunately, the group think on the rite of baptism and the church (organization versus the body of Christ) confused me as a young Christian. The scandals that rocked the church, the perfidy of church leaders and the bitterness and opposition to those professing the righteousness of Christ as their only hope of salvation nearly ruined my faith—I wondered if Christianity was just a big con job. It was by all of this that God brought me to understand that religious organizations are not the body of Christ, and that these organizations have value to the Christian only as they as they follow Christ.

        Amen!(2)

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