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Why should one find comfort in any statement concerning the sinning of Old Testament saints? Suppose there were none in those days who did not occasionally “miss the mark;” does that prove that in this Holy Ghost dispensation of Gospel light and truth, with an open Bible, illuminated with the Holy Spirit, and a present Savior, who came to “save His people from their sins,” we have to “commit sin every day in word, thought and deed”?
We must remember that we are living in a better day than they lived in.
There are many places in the Word which show us that we have better privileges and opportunities than Old Testament saints had. The measure of one’s light is the measure of his responsibility. The more light and opportunity we have the more will God require of us. The more grace we have in our hearts the easier can we live above the world and sin. Surely the grace of today exceeds that of Solomon’s time. It is no excuse for us if those of former years did not do as they should have done. We are in a day of better things. We will notice some of these better conditions.
1 . A better Testament and better promises. “But now hath He obtained a more excellent ministry, by how much also He is the mediator of a better covenant (Testament) which was established upon better promises.” “For if that first covenant had been faultless, then should no place have been sought for the second.” Hebrews 8:6-7.
The New Testament and its promises, according to this Scripture, are better than the Old Testament and its promises. Not that they of the Old are false, but the New has more light and power and glory and salvation. We should not throw away the Old. It is helpful today. It did the work God intended it to perform in its day. But a new order of things has come. A new dispensation has burst in upon the world. The power of the Holy Ghost has come and brings in more light and glory. Adam Clarke, in speaking of this text, says: “His office of priesthood is more excellent than the Levitical; because the covenant is better, and established upon better promises; the old covenant referred to earthly things; the new covenant to heavenly. The old covenant had promises of secular good; the new covenant of spiritual and eternal blessings. As far as Christianity is preferable to Judaism; as far as Christ is preferable to Moses; as far as spiritual blessings are preferable to earthly blessings; and as far as the enjoyment of God throughout eternity is preferable to the communication of earthly good during time, so far does the new covenant exceed the old.”
Everything in the realm of grace that is connected with this dispensation is more calculated for our betterment and salvation than things of the former dispensation. That was the shadow; this is the substance.
Adam Clarke says: ‘The better hope, which referred not to earthly, but to spiritual good, not to temporal, but eternal felicity, founded on the priesthood and atonement of Christ, was afterward introduced for the purpose of doing what the law could not do, and giving privileges and advantages which the law would not afford.”
3 . A better salvation. “For the law, having a shadow of good things to come, and not the very -image of the things, can never, with those sacrifices which they offered year by year continually, make the comers thereunto perfect.” Hebrews 10:1.
Contrasting this with Hebrews 10:14, “For by one offering He bath perfected forever them that are sanctified,” we see that the possibilities of the old dispensation of grace fell far short of the grace today. The shadow of good things, with those sacrifices offered then, could not make the people perfect, says the apostle. But, here and now, under the offering of Jesus Christ, there is opened up a way for Christian perfection. So, we have a better salvation now than in Solomon’s Jay.
Under this head Adam Clarke says: “Such is the Gospel, when compared with the law; such is Christ, when compared with Aaron; such is His sacrifice, when compared with the Levitical offerings; such is the Gospel remission of sins and purification, when compared with those afforded by the law; such is the Holy Ghost, ministered by the Gospel, when compared with its types and shadows in the Levitical service; such the heavenly rest, when compared with the earthly Canaan. Well, therefore, might the apostle say, the law was only the shadow of good things to come.”
Summing up, therefore, the facts that we have today a better testament, better promises, a better hope, and a better salvation, we are persuaded that we must live a better life than was expected of those who lived when Solomon spoke the words under consideration. That we have better things, to place it beyond any question of doubt, we refer to Hebrews 11:40: “God having provided some better things for us.” Then, if we have these better things, we should not measure ourselves with those of the other dispensation, who had so much less opportunity. Instead of hunting up some Old Testament loophole to crawl through, as an excuse for sinning, we should be where Paul could say to us as he did to those in Hebrews 6:9: “But, beloved, we are persuaded better things of you, and things that accompany salvation, though we thus speak.”
Of course, when God has provided so much better things than those of old, He certainly would require better things of us. So, we say, What if it does say at that time, “For there is no ma n that sinneth not,” it is no excuse for us to sin today. But some one may say, “Even if the standard was not so high then as now, they did not live up to their own requirements, for it says, “There is no man that sinneth not.” Certainly, if they did not live up to their light, they would be counted sinners as well as we. But to say that Solomon meant that there was no one on earth hut sinners in the sense of willful transgressors, committing known sin constantly, is to fly in the face of all reason, as well as of the Word of God itself. If it be true that all were sinners in this sense, then there was not a saved person on earth. But we know that God did have His children on earth at that time. We might mention some, but any able student will call them to mind. Solomon himself was in a good state of grace when he made use of that statement. To say that there was not a person on earth in his natural state that did not commit sin would be true of that day, and also of ours. Or, to say that there were none that did not commit sins of ignorance would be true. Then, what did Solomon in can? We do not believe that he meant any of these classes: that there were none who did not commit known sin, or none in their natural state, or none who did not commit sins of ignorance. If these texts were rightly understood we are sure they would appear far different from what they now appear to many.
We are fully persuaded that Revelation Daniel Steele has given the proper exegesis of the texts in his book, “Love Enthroned.” The following is his exposition: “Did not Solomon in prayer at the dedication of the temple (1 1 Chronicles 6:36) tell Jehovah that ‘there is no man which sinneth not,’ and does he not repeat the declaration in Ecclesiastes 20, ‘for there is not a just man on earth that doeth good and sinneth not”? We answer that Solomon, when correctly interpreted, as he is in the Vulgate, the Septuagint, and most of the ancient versions, gives no countenance to sin.
These all read, ‘may not sin.’ The Hebrew language, having no potential mood, uses the indicative future instead. The context must determine the real meaning. The context is nonsense in King James’ version, using an if where there is no room for a condition. ‘If any man sin, for every man sins.’ Let me illustrate the absurdity of this translation: At the laying of a comer stone of a lunatic asylum, the Governor in his address is made by the reporter to say, ‘If any person in the Commonwealth is insane, for every person is insane, let him come here and be cared for.’ We should all correct the blundering reporter and say may become insane, instead of is insane, in order to make the Governor talk sense. Correct the reporter or translator rather, of Solomon and let him talk sense also, and you will hear him say, ‘If any man sin, for there is no man who is impeccable, who may not sin.’
This criticism applies to the quotation from Ecclesiastes also.”
A note from Clarke’s Commentary on this text from 1 Kings will give additional weight to the argument. He says: “This text has been a wonderful stronghold for all who believe that there is no redemption from sin in this life; that no man can live without committing sin, and that we cannot be entirely freed from it till we die. “1. The text speaks no such doctrine; it only speaks of the possibility of every man sinning, and this must be true of a state of probation. “2. There is not another text in the divine records that is more to the purpose than this. “3. The doctrine is flatly in contradiction to the design of the Gospel; for Jesus came to save His people from their sins, and to destroy the works of the devil. “4. It is a dangerous and destructive doctrine, and should be blotted out of every Christian’s creed. There are too many who are seeking to excuse their crimes by all means in their power; and we need not embody their excuses in a creed to complete their deception by stating that their Sins are unavoidable.”
Surely there is enough in the Word to encourage any one to seek a better experience than a sinning religion. To seek to Justify sin by the Word of God shows a very low state of religion, to say the least. To measure one’s self by others, especially those of less opportunity, shows great weakness of Christian character. Christ is our pattern; He will lead us aright. Besides Him there are enough saints in all dispensations to incite any one to holy ambitions and purity of life and heart.