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Chapter 19. Writing the Law On the Heart

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"For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, saith the Lord; I will put my laws into their mind, and write them in their hearts: and I will be to them a God, and they shall be to me a people" (Hebrews 8:10).

A Perfect Design Cut

An engraving is an artistic print made from a metal plate. There is first a design cut and then impressions or prints can be formed.

"Forasmuch as ye are manifestly declared to be the epistle of Christ ministered by us, written [engraved] not with ink, but with the Spirit of the living God; not in tables of stone, but in fleshy tables of the heart" (2 Corinthians 3:3).

When you become a new creature and the Holy Spirit moves in, He starts making an engraving out of your mind based on the original design of Jesus. This original design was cut when Jesus came to earth as a human. He lived in the same human body that we possess and worked out how to keep God's law as a human through divine help.

"He could not come in the form of an angel; for unless He met man as man, and testified by His connection with God that divine power was not given to Him in a different way to what it will be given to us, He could not be a perfect example for us. He came in humility, in order that the humblest being upon the face of the earth could have no excuse because of his poverty, or ignorance, and say, Because of these things, I cannot obey the law of Jehovah. Christ clothed His divinity with humanity, that humanity might touch humanity; that He might live with humanity and bear all the trials and afflictions of man. He was tempted in all points like as we are, yet without sin. In His humanity He understood all the temptations that will come to man" (MS 21, 1895). {7BC 925.1}

Because Jesus made the original design cut by His own life example, it can be reproduced in other humans. The above text (2 Cor. 3:3) points out that the engraving is not made in stone, like God did when He wrote out His law for the Israelites, but it is made in your heart. As the character of Jesus (the original design cut), which is expressed in His law and summarized in the word "love", is engraved onto your heart (the impression or print), you start keeping God's law, naturally.

"This is the covenant that I will make with them after those days, saith the Lord, I will put my laws into their hearts, and in their minds will I write them" (Hebrews 10:16).

When the law is written on your heart in the new covenant, it is obeyed because you want to. It becomes a natural part of your being, and habitual.

Prior to moving in, the Holy Spirit would guide you by giving you right thoughts and ideas, which you would then decide whether or not to accept and implement into your life. But, His power was limited or restrained because He could not dwell inside you. Now that He's allowed inside, He can help you desire the good and implement your decisions, reaching and modifying places that you never could on your own. He integrates good principles into you so they are natural to you.

Promises you can count on

In order to determine which law is to be engraved on your heart, it is important to understand the "Old" and "New" Covenants as outlined in the Bible. The Old Covenant was offered to the Israelites at Mt. Sinai. They needed it's detailed instruction and intense symbolism because they had spent so many years in slavery and lost much of the knowledge of God.

"Another compact--called in Scripture the 'old' covenant--was formed between God and Israel at Sinai, and was then ratified by the blood of a sacrifice. The Abrahamic covenant was ratified by the blood of Christ, and it is called the 'second,' or 'new,' covenant, because the blood by which it was sealed was shed after the blood of the first covenant. That the new covenant was valid in the days of Abraham is evident from the fact that it was then confirmed both by the promise and by the oath of God--the 'two immutable things, in which it was impossible for God to lie.' Hebrews 6:18.... But if the Abrahamic covenant contained the promise of redemption, why was another covenant formed at Sinai? In their bondage the people had to a great extent lost the knowledge of God and of the principles of the Abrahamic covenant. In delivering them from Egypt, God sought to reveal to them His power and His mercy, that they might be led to love and trust Him... But there was a still greater truth to be impressed upon their minds. Living in the midst of idolatry and corruption, they had no true conception of the holiness of God, of the exceeding sinfulness of their own hearts, their utter inability, in themselves, to render obedience to God's law, and their need of a Saviour. All this they must be taught" (Patriarchs and Prophets 371.3).

"God brought them to Sinai; He manifested His glory; He gave them His law, with the promise of great blessings on condition of obedience: 'If ye will obey My voice indeed, and keep My covenant, then . . . ye shall be unto Me a kingdom of priests, and an holy nation.' Exodus 19:5, 6. The people did not realize the sinfulness of their own hearts, and that without Christ it was impossible for them to keep God's law; and they readily entered into covenant with God. Feeling that they were able to establish their own righteousness, they declared, 'All that the Lord hath said will we do, and be obedient.' Exodus 24:7. They had witnessed the proclamation of the law in awful majesty, and had trembled with terror before the mount; and yet only a few weeks passed before they broke their covenant with God, and bowed down to worship a graven image. They could not hope for the favor of God through a covenant which they had broken; and now, seeing their sinfulness and their need of pardon, they were brought to feel their need of the Saviour revealed in the Abrahamic covenant and shadowed forth in the sacrificial offerings. Now by faith and love they were bound to God as their deliverer from the bondage of sin. Now they were prepared to appreciate the blessings of the new covenant" (Patriarch and Prophets, 371.4).

"The terms of the 'old covenant' were, Obey and live: 'If a man do, he shall even live in them' (Ezekiel 20:11; Leviticus 18:5); but 'cursed be he that confirmeth not all the words of this law to do them.' Deuteronomy 27:26. The 'new covenant' was established upon 'better promises'--the promise of forgiveness of sins and of the grace of God to renew the heart and bring it into harmony with the principles of God's law. 'This shall be the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel; After those days, saith the Lord, I will put my law in their inward parts, and write it in their hearts. . . . I will forgive their iniquity, and will remember their sin no more.' Jeremiah 31:33, 34.... The same law that was engraved upon the tables of stone is written by the Holy Spirit upon the tables of the heart. Instead of going about to establish our own righteousness we accept the righteousness of Christ. His blood atones for our sins. His obedience is accepted for us. Then the heart renewed by the Holy Spirit will bring forth "the fruits of the Spirit." Through the grace of Christ we shall live in obedience to the law of God written upon our hearts. Having the Spirit of Christ, we shall walk even as He walked. Through the prophet He declared of Himself, 'I delight to do Thy will, O My God: yea, Thy law is within My heart.' Psalm 40:8. And when among men He said, "The Father hath not left Me alone; for I do always those things that please Him.' John 8:29." (Patriarch and Prophets, 371.1-372.2).

There was no fault with the covenant made at Mt. Sinai. It was needed in order to reveal truths to the Israelites that had been lost during their captivity. The reason it failed, was because the people failed to keep their end of it. They failed because they didn't rely on God for their power through faith, but relied on their own efforts in response to their own promises. This is outlined in detail in the book of Hebrews.

"But now hath he obtained a more excellent ministry, by how much also he is the mediator of a better covenant, which was established upon better promises" (Hebrews 8:6).

"For finding fault with them, he saith, Behold, the days come, saith the Lord, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah" (Heb. 8:8 ).

"But Israel, which followed after the law of righteousness, hath not attained to the law of righteousness. Wherefore? Because they sought it not by faith, but as it were by the works of the law. For they stumbled at that stumblingstone" (Romans 9:31-32).

Old Covenant: An agreement between the Israelites and God that outlined ceremonies to be conducted, which illustrated how the coming Messiah makes atonement when the 10 commandments are broken and how He empowers individuals to keep the 10 commandments.

The ceremonial laws outlined in the Old Covenant were in place to point forward to a redeemer who would offer His own blood for atonement. The people failed by losing sight of the Messiah and making these ceremonial laws an end in themselves, and thus attempting to atone for their own sins. In the New Covenant, God promises to enable you to keep your promises.

"For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, saith the Lord; I will put my laws into their mind, and write them in their hearts: and I will be to them a God, and they shall be to me a people" (Hebrews 8:10).

He promises to give you the power to keep His commandments by writing them on your heart. As you believe Him and trust His promises, you will see your desires and habits change. Your part is submission to Christ's will and cooperation with the Spirit's work.

Jesus replaces the old system of sacrifices and ceremonies, by having been your sacrifice and by ministering for you as your high priest. In fact, Jesus is the new covenant (Isaiah 42:6). Jesus' ongoing ministry in the new covenant includes the giving of a new heart, which involves writing His law on this new heart to accomplish the transformation of character in you.

New Covenant: An agreement between the believer and God that outlines how to atone for breaking the 10 commandments through believing in Christ's sacrifice and ongoing ministration to save you from the penalty of breaking His law, and by putting faith in Christ's promise to change your character so you desire to and are empowered to keep the 10 commandments from the heart.

"Another compact--called in Scripture the 'old' covenant--was formed between God and Israel at Sinai, and was then ratified by the blood of a sacrifice... The only means of salvation is provided under the Abrahamic [new] covenant" (The Faith I Live By 78.2-5).

A change in law

This transition from the system of ceremonies to Jesus' ministration is referred to as a change in law, decrees or ordinances (Ephes. 2:15, Col 2:14, Hebrews 7:12). Since Christ ratified the New Covenant when He died on the cross, the old covenant is no longer needed. It pointed forward to, or was a shadow of, Christ's death and ministry and its ordinances were abolished.

"Blotting out the handwriting of ordinances that was against us, which was contrary to us, and took it out of the way, nailing it to his cross" (Col 2:14).

"Having abolished in his flesh the enmity, even the law of

commandments contained in ordinances

; for to make in himself of twain one new man, so making peace" (Eph 2:15).

The laws that changed were the laws that Moses wrote regarding ordinances of the sanctuary as shown in the above texts. They are distinct and separate from the law of 10 Commandments that God wrote. The law that changed had to do with shadows of things to come.

"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).

"Let no man therefore judge you in meat, or in drink, or in respect of an holyday, or of the new moon, or of the sabbath days [feasts]: Which are a shadow of things to come; but the body is of Christ" (Colossians 2:16-17).

The earthly sanctuary with its ceremonies and sacrifices was all about types, or shadows, symbolizing what Christ would do in the plan of salvation. For example, the passover lamb was sacrificed on the 14th day of the 1st month, and Jesus died on the cross on the 14th day of the 1st month. Also, the feast of Pentecost (a yearly feast/sabbath, which is separate from the weekly Sabbath - Lev. 23:37-38) was celebrated every year symbolizing the future day when Jesus would pour out the Holy Spirit, which occurred on that very same day of Pentecost. It makes sense that these ceremonial laws would no longer be needed once Jesus began His ministry to fulfil them. However, the 10 commandments do not contain shadows or symbolisms and was not the law that needed to be changed.

Furthermore, the law of ceremonies and earthly sanctuary services, was only put in place because the Law of 10 Commandments was broken:

"Wherefore then serveth the law? It was added because of transgressions, till the seed should come to whom the promise was made; and it was ordained by angels in the hand of a mediator" (Galations 3:19).

Remember, you can't have transgression (sin) without a law (1 John 3:4). The law that already existed, in the above text, was the 10 Commandments, and the law that was added because of sin was the Book of the Law or the Law of Ordinances/Ceremonies. Thus, the Old Covenant and the New Covenant both came into existence only because the law of 10 commandments was broken.

The death of Christ reveals the immutable, unchangable and everlasting nature of His law. Of tremendous import is the concept that Christ died to save us from sin. Since sin is the transgression of the law (1 John 3:4), then if the law is done away with, there would be no sin (Rom. 4:15). If there is no sin, then Christ need not have died.

Key Point:
The 10 commandments are central in both covenants. Both covenants are based upon the 10 commandments and both wouldn't have been needed unless the 10 commandments were broken. The difference is that one points you to eternal life and the other provides eternal life.

Truly keeping God's law

Living in the new covenant means that you believe in Christ's sacrifice to cleanse you when you break the 10 commandments, and that you put your faith in Christ's promise to change your heart so you can keep the 10 commandments. Remember, you cannot keep God's commandments in your own power. You need a new heart that is connected to Christ in order to be successful.

Having the Law Written On the Heart: The fulfillment of God's new covenant promise to change your thought patterns so that you understand truth, naturally obey Him and enjoy doing the things He commands.

Truly keeping the commandments is done from the heart. It is keeping the law in the Spirit (believing it whole-heartedly), not just the letter (performing it outwardly). Jesus taught that if you hate your brother, it is just as wrong as killing him. He summarized all of the commandments under the word "love".

"Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets" (Matthew 22:37-40).

"If ye love me, keep my commandments" (John 14:15).

"There are two errors against which the children of God--particularly those who have just come to trust in His grace--especially need to guard. The first, already dwelt upon, is that of looking to their own works, trusting to anything they can do, to bring themselves into harmony with God. He who is trying to become holy by his own works in keeping the law, is attempting an impossibility. All that man can do without Christ is polluted with selfishness and sin. It is the grace of Christ alone, through faith, that can make us holy. The opposite and no less dangerous error is that belief in Christ releases men from keeping the law of God; that since by faith alone we become partakers of the grace of Christ, our works have nothing to do with our redemption. But notice here that obedience is not a mere outward compliance, but the service of love. The law of God is an expression of His very nature; it is an embodiment of the great princple of love, and hence is the foundation of His government in heaven and earth. If our hearts are renewed in the likeness of God, if the divine love is implanted in the soul, will not the law of God be carried out in the life? When the principle of love is implanted in the heart, when man is renewed after the image of Him that created him, the new-covenant promise is fulfilled, 'I will put My laws into their hearts, and in their minds will I write them' Hebrews 10:16. And if the law is written in the heart, will it not shape the life? Obedience--the service and allegiance of love--is the true sign of discipleship. Thus the Scripture says, 'This is the love of God, that we keep His commandments.' 'He that saith, I know Him, and keepeth not His commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him.' I John 5:3, 2:4. Instead of releasing man from obedience, it is faith, and faith only, that makes us partakers of the grace of Christ, which enables us to render obedience" (Steps to Christ - 59.4 - 60.2).

"When the law of God is written in the heart it will be exhibited in a pure and holy life. The commandments of God are no dead letter. They are spirit and life, bringing the imaginations and even the thoughts into subjection to the will of Christ. The heart in which they are written will be kept with all diligence; for out of it are the issues of life... It is their pleasure to deal justly, to love mercy, and to walk humbly before God." (This Day With God, 146.1)

"God has given us the rule of conduct which every one of His servants must follow. It is obedience to His law, not merely a legal obedience, but an obedience which enters into the life, and is exemplified in the character" (The Desire of Ages 523.1).

God's law should be looked at from the positive side, instead of as a negative restriction. For it is truly a safeguard of life.

"That law of ten precepts of the greatest love that can be presented to man is the voice of God from heaven speaking to the soul in promise, 'This do, and you will not come under the dominion and control of Satan.' There is not a negative in that law, although it may appear thus. It is DO, and Live." (The Faith I Live By 95.2).

"What a God is our God! He rules over His kingdom with diligence and care, and He has built a hedge--the Ten Commandments--about His subjects to preserve them from the results of transgression. In requiring obedience to the laws of His kingdom, God gives His people health and happiness, peace and joy. He teaches them that the perfection of character He requires can be attained only by becoming familiar with His Word" (God's Amazing Grace 61.2).

Keeping God's Law by nature

A covenant, by it's very definition, is an agreement between two parties. Therefore, the law is not written on the heart of those who do not agree to it. God does not force people to agree with His concepts of law, and He certainly doesn't force people to keep His law. Writing the law on people's hearts without their consent would be force. It is only as a person agrees to let go of their selfishness that they enter into the new covenant with God.

It is comforting to note, that those who have not yet heard of Christ, can benefit from this new covenant process as well, if they are willing to give up their selfishness in response to the Holy Spirit's promptings.

"For not the hearers of the law are just before God, but the doers of the law shall be justified. For when the Gentiles, which have not the law, do by nature the things contained in the law, these, having not the law, are a law unto themseleves: Which shew the work of the law written in their hearts, their conscience also bearing witness, and their thoughts the mean while accusing or else excusing one another" (Romans 2:13-15).

Many have recognized the revelation of God in the works of creation and providence, and respond to the Holy Spirit's promptings to do good. Thus, they actually do know Christ because they know His character and respond to His witness (the Holy Spirit). They are doing "by nature" the things contained in the law. The law referred to here is the moral law, as it wouldn't make sense for people to perform, by nature, the many activities and ceremonies related to the sanctuary service and whole Mosaic law.

Love is the fulfilling of the law (Rom. 13:10) and since only the doers of the law (Rom. 2:13) are just before God, then those unwillfully ignorant of the written word of God and Christ's sacrifice, can still be cleansed and saved if they submit to the Holy Spirit so the law can be written on their hearts. This is why Christ stressed the importance of cooperating with the Holy Spirit, even above cooperating with Himself.

"Wherefore I say unto you, All manner of sin and blasphemy shall be forgiven unto men: but the blasphemy against the Holy Ghost shall not be forgiven unto men. And whosoever speaketh a word against the Son of man, it shall be forgiven him: but whosoever speaketh against the Holy Ghost, it shall not be forgiven him, neither in this world, neither in the world to come" (Matt. 12:31-32).

"Those who had spoken against Jesus Himself, not discerning His divine character, might receive forgiveness; for through the Holy Spirit they might be brought to see their error and repent. Whatever the sin, if the soul repents and believes, the guilt is washed away in the blood of Christ; but he who rejects the work of the Holy Spirit is placing himself where repentance and faith cannot come to him" (Ye Shall Receive Power 36.2).

The new creature loves the law of God and understands the everlasting principles of love it embodies. Keeping the law becomes natural and enjoyable.

"For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments: and his commandments are not grievous" (1 John 5:3).

"I delight to do thy will, O my God: yea, thy law is within my heart" (Psalms 40:8).

"The light shining from the cross reveals the love of God. His love is drawing us to Himself. If we do not resist this drawing, we shall be led to the foot of the cross in repentance for the sins that have crucified the Saviour. Then the Spirit of God through faith produces a new life in the soul. The thoughts and desires are brought into obedience to the will of Christ. The heart, the mind, are created anew in the image of Him who works in us to subdue all things to Himself. Then the law of God is written in the mind and heart, and we can say with Christ, 'I delight to do Thy will, O my God.' Ps. 40:8" (The Desire of Ages 175.5).

God's law is eternal

Since no lawbreakers will be found in heaven, it makes sense that a critical part of God's restoration of us would involve a way to empower us to keep His commandments. The Bible reveals that His commandments are unchanging.

"For verily I say unto you, Till heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law, till all be fulfilled" (Matt 5:18).

"Do we then make void the law through faith? God forbid: yea, we establish the law" (Romans 3:31).

Prophecy shows that God's law is still in force during the last days of this earth's history when God's followers will keep His commandments. But, they keep them through faith, as a result of believing in and cooperating with God's work in them, and because they love God and delight to do right.

"Here is the patience of the saints: here are they that keep the commandments of God, and the faith of Jesus" (Revelation 14:12).

"And the dragon was wroth with the woman, and went to make war with the remnant of her seed, which keep the commandments of God, and have the testimony of Jesus Christ" (Revelation 12:17).

"Blessed are they that do his commandments, that they may have right to the tree of life, and may enter in through the gates into the city" (Revelation 22:14).

Even in the new earth, just like in the beginning when this world was first created, the Sabbath of the fourth commandment remains:

"For as the new heavens and the new earth, which I will make, shall remain before me, saith the LORD, so shall your seed and your name remain. And it shall come to pass, that from one new moon to another, and from one sabbath to another, shall all flesh come to worship before me, saith the LORD" (Isaiah 66:22-23).


  • The 10 commandment law is distinct from the Law of Moses.
  • The 10 commandments are central in both the old and new covenants.
  • Both the Old and New Covenants were only needed because God's law of 10 commandments was broken.
  • The Old Covenant was designed to point people to the New Covenant. When the New Covenant was ratified, the Old was no longer needed.
  • Those living in the New Covenant will be led by the Holy Spirit to keep the 10 commandments.

Key Point:
The difference between the Old and New Covenants is that one points you to eternal life and the other provides eternal life.

Those who attempt to be "good" without Christ's help, are repeating the mistakes of the Israelites. Their promises just won't be good enough. On the other hand, in the New Covenant, God makes keeping His law of 10 commandments part of your being by writing them on your heart, thus imprinting Christ's character onto you. This is at the very core of character development.

Next Bible Term: Cleansing The Conscience
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