The beauty about counterparts that I love is that once we make a connection between two parts, in this case bones and law, the connection has no end. We can continue learning at any depth we wish to go. We will now go to when bones are first formed and see what more we can learn about God’s Law and His love.
The first skeleton we have (as a baby in the womb) differs markedly from the skeleton we have as an adult. Why is this? Is this just so babies can be flexible enough to make it through the birth canal, or is there a deeper lesson? We believe there is a deeper lesson— that God wants to teach us how law initially becomes active and effective in the new birth experience.
IN THE BEGINNING
By 12 weeks the human fetus possesses a complete skeleton, but there is not yet a single bone in its body! The fetal skeleton is entirely connective tissue (principally hyaline cartilage with most of the “bones” of the skull and face of fibrous membrane). However, by the time the baby grows into an adult nearly all the cartilage will be dissolved and replaced by a more appropriate type of connective tissue.
This whole system is a model for the adult skeleton. But why must this first skeleton be replaced? Why is it inadequate for the adult? As we find answers to these questions we shall begin to understand and appreciate how law – the very character of God – becomes the foundation for all right actions.
THE PRIMITIVE SKELETON
The original skeleton is a far cry from the fully developed one. The fetal bones are limp and rubbery. They lack a vascular network, are void of essential mineral salts, and fall drastically short of the intense organization of osseous tissue. These three characteristics must be present and active for cartilage to be replaced by the more sophisticated osseous tissue. Only when the latter is completely hardened and matured (ossified) can our skeleton bear the greatest stress, endure the most extreme pressures, and fully perform its intended purposes.
This primitive skeleton accurately describes man’s condition before having a knowledge of God’s moral code. In Bible language he is one “without the law”. An enviable position? On the contrary! It is no secret that newborns are weak, vulnerable, irresponsible, not coordinated, of poor judgment, and incapable of serving others. We should not want anyone to long remain in that limited state!
1 Corinthians 3:1-3 GNB As a matter of fact, my friends, I could not talk to you as I talk to people who have the Spirit; I had to talk to you as though you belonged to this world, as children in the Christian faith. I had to feed you milk, not solid food, because you were not ready for it. And even now you are not ready for it, because you still live as the people of this world live. When there is jealousy among you and you quarrel with one another, doesn’t this prove that you belong to this world, living by its standards?
Hebrews 5:12-14 CEV By now you should have been teachers, but once again you need to be taught the simplest things about what God has said. You need milk instead of solid food. People who live on milk are like babies who don’t really know what is right. Solid food is for mature people who have been trained to know right from wrong.
Fortunately God designed this condition to be replaced. During the infant, childhood, and teenage years the bones slowly develop and grow. By the time we are 25 to 30 years of age the fetal skeleton has been completely replaced with only a few areas yet to finish ossification (see Chapter 9). It’s a curious fact that God has set this age range (25 to 30 years) as the beginning limit for those who were to minister for Him.
25 for Levites Numbers 9:24
30 for those with special ministries Numbers 8:3,23,30
30 was also the age when Jesus began His ministry.1 Was God trying to tell us something about development of law and character? (Finish this chapter before you answer!)
THERE IS POWER IN THE BLOOD
The fetal skeleton initially has no internal vascular network of its own. The cartilage cells receive their nourishment by diffusion from blood vessels just outside the cartilage model, the perichondrium. Growth and repair take much longer in these cells than in muscle or bone tissue because the transfer of nutrients and waste between blood and cartilage cells is slow and inefficient. Eventually these cartilage cells will enlarge, become old, and die, leaving empty spaces. These will then be filled by blood vessels from the nearby perichondrium. It is at this point, when its internal blood system begins to form, that the fetal skeleton starts taking on the characteristics of true bone.
As was mentioned in the last chapter, blood is the life of the flesh. The blood carries the vitalizing power of the body as well as the necessary materials for growth and repair. Blood also helps remove wastes and maintains a proper internal environment. And God’s word says that blood symbolizes the power of God unto salvation, Christ’s work in behalf of man, His merits.
I John 1:7 The blood of Jesus Christ cleanses us from all sin.
The merits of Christ’s blood must be applied to the soul. PP 277
The lack of a vascular network within the fetal skeleton not only describes a soul ignorant of God and His ways, but also portrays one without the atoning blood applied in his behalf.2 This primitive model, however, does not represent one who has rejected Christ, but, more accurately, one who has never known Him. God oftentimes has “winked” at our ignorance.3
Lamentations 3:22 It is of the LORD’S mercies that we are not consumed.
The Bible places a great curse and woe onto those who have known God’s saving grace, who have submitted to His directives and received His blessings, and then turned back to their primitive condition of being “without the law.”4
The popular phrase “Ignorance is bliss” hardly has any validity when we consider this aspect of the fetal framework. The lack of a vascular system would prevent the little body from ever standing, walking, lifting, chewing food, or doing a thousand other things we adults do with a mature skeleton. If that is bliss, let me off!
Spiritually speaking we would be totally dependent on others to feed us the “milk of the word.”5 We would be incapable of responding to the needs of others (our “bones” could not support any weight). We would also have a most difficult time getting rid of guilt or a nagging conscience (as cartilage cannot easily be washed of its own metabolic wastes). Bliss?
Remember, without the merits of Christ’s blood applied, even sins done in ignorance likely will not be covered or removed from the soul. This is why truth must come in with the blood, to show us the right paths. As the body grows, the baby’s first skeleton becomes inadequate and must be replaced. Knowledge, truth, light will enter the soul, and the life and character must change to be in harmony with it.
Sins that were once sins of ignorance, because of the blindness of the mind, can no more be indulged in without incurring guilt. GW 162
Only by blood, however, can these changes take place physically and spiritually. How utterly dependent we are on the merits of Christ! This is the first step in growing up into Christ. But a vascular network is not present in the original fetal skeleton, nor is a dependency on the merits of Christ present in a worldling. Self-sufficiency is the theme to such a person.
LEARNING TO DO
As we discussed in Chapter 3, the mineral salts in the bones equate with knowledge or truth, and it is the mineral salts that give bone its rigidity. Salt is an inorganic element and inorganic elements are found in the atmosphere, earth, and sea. So with knowledge. It can be intellectual (his head is in the clouds), or practical (let’s get down to earth), or feeling (spirit) based6 (I feel it must be right). Because the minerals used in the bones are of the earth,7 we will conclude the knowledge considered is of a practical nature. We are encouraged in this direction by Scriptures as well.
James 2:14-18 CEV My friends, what good is it to say you have faith, when you don’t do anything to show that you really do have faith? Can that kind of faith save you? If you know someone who doesn’t have any clothes or food, you shouldn’t just say, “I hope all goes well for you. I hope you will be warm and have plenty to eat.” What good is it to say this, unless you do something to help? Faith that doesn’t lead us to do good deeds is all alone and dead! Suppose someone disagrees and says, “It is possible to have faith without doing kind deeds.” I would answer, “Prove that you have faith without doing kind deeds, and I will prove that I have faith by doing them.”
James 1:27 Pure religion and undefiled before God and the Father is this, To visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction, and to keep himself unspotted from the world.
The enemy of progress and all true development is ignorance. Lack of knowledge is damaging8 and leads many into oppression.9 The gospel is a progressive message that guides us away from ignorance and self-destruction.10 To refuse to give the gospel message to others is to keep from them truth that would free them from many evils.11 Sin has its deadly effect whether we are aware of it or not.
Great changes are soon to take place in the world, and everyone will need an experimental knowledge of the things of God. 5T 273
But an acquaintance with facts and theories, however important they may be in themselves, is of little real value unless put to a practical use. There is danger that those who have obtained their education principally from books will fail to realize that they are novices so far as experimental knowledge is concerned 4T 546
When it comes to vague, rubbery concepts becoming firm, reliable principles that we can build a life on, the emphasis is on obtaining an experimental knowledge in the practical things of God. True effectiveness in this life, whether in the world or for the kingdom of God, will be proportional to the practical Godliness previously gained. This is not about a head religion!
Here’s another counterpart conclusion: As truth, or the experimental knowledge of it, solidifies us in God’s law (the effect of true witnessing), so mineral salts give rigidity and firmness to bone. The primary fetal skeleton lacks this level of maturity, as does the unconverted person void of an experimental knowledge in the ways of God.
THE PLACE FOR ORDER
Our counterpart lessons continue.
The third difference in the fetal framework from that of the adult is its order and arrangement of cells. Hyaline cartilage is composed of a matrix of very fine white fibers and a protein called chondrin. Embedded in this fabric are small chambers (called lacunae), which house the cartilage cells (chondricytes). The cells are the intelligent, living, active part of the fetal skeleton. The general pattern, however, is a sporatic, random placement of cells. Order and regularity do not seem to be a necessary part of the program at this point, just as it shouldn’t be in the newborn and the first few years of childhood. However, as the fetus grows into infancy and later into childhood, greater demands will be placed upon it and order must prevail!
We see this around us so often. When something is in its infancy, organization is not that important. But as it grows and expands the need for order, regulation, and method increases. This was the case in the early Apostolic church.12 It is the case of new businesses today, and in the birth of nations.13 It is also a principle of God’s kingdom. Order is as much a sign of growth and God’s favor as is birth itself. So let’s not think that lack of organization or regulation is an evidence of God’s control, that the church must not smack of order and organization for the “Spirit” to reign.14 Such a church is just still in its infancy!
Order is the law of heaven, and it should be the law of God’s people on earth. TM 26
As our numbers increased, it was evident that without some form of organization there would be great confusion, and the work would not be carried forward successfully. To provide for the support of the ministry, for carrying the work in new fields, for protecting both the churches and the ministry from unworthy members, for holding church property, for the publication of the truth through the press, and for many other objects, organization was indispensable. ibid
Specially designed cells called osteoblasts and osteoclasts orchestrate the placement or removal of mineral salts in the bones. The positioning of the salts is not left to chance. God ordained that intelligent organisms do this work. So it is in our life. Knowledge, to be of the highest order, must be subject to organization, method, regulation. And to help us in this sensitive work, God ordained special messengers, with much experience, intelligence, and power to come to our aid.
Human agencies as hand helpers are to work out the knowledge and use the facilities of heavenly beings. By uniting with these powers that are omnipotent, we are benefited by their higher education and experience. Thus as we become partakers of the divine nature and separate selfishness from our lives, special talents for helping one another are granted us. This is Heaven’s way of administering saving power. 6T 456, 457 (1900)
Order denotes the presence of an authority. Someone is in charge. Orderliness does not happen by chance. When Christ comes into our life as a Saviour, bringing with Him the wonderful merits of His atoning blood, He also comes as our Teacher, showing us how to grow and serve and prepare for the future. But besides these He also comes as our Lord and Master, instructing us where to go, what to do, when to stop and rest. He brings order and efficiency into our lives –as long as we submit to His authority.
Organization requires an organized and orderly mind, and a willingness to be “put in our place”. This does not appeal to the selfish, I-want-to-do-it-myself heart of the proud and unconverted.
KEEPING IN TOUCH
The organization that eventually prevails in the skeletal system is a lesson in itself. Where cartilage cells appear to have a “free style” in their arrangement, osseous cells submit to a rigid and predictable placement. These latter cells are located in hollow cavities (lacunae) arranged in concentric circles around tiny tubes (Haversian canals). In addition, the bone cells (osteocytes) have many little arms or processes that reach through minute spaces to touch those of nearby bone cells. In this way materials can move rapidly between the Haversian canals and the bone cells. What is in these tubes that is so important? Blood vessels!
Can you see the lesson? The very nature of law demands order and submission. But central to that intense system are the merits of Christ. God’s holy law is not a lifeless set of rules intended to dominate our every move. Jesus says His commandments are not painful.15 Rather they are richly interspersed with that which will nourish, satisfy, and heal. The law must ever be associated with Christ’s ministries for us or we are preaching a false Gospel.
The blood of Christ in ever-abiding efficacy is our only hope; for through His merits alone we have pardon and peace. When the efficiency of the blood of Christ becomes a reality to the soul through faith in Christ, the believer will let his light shine forth in good works, in bringing forth fruits unto righteousness. YI September 22, 1892, par. 3 }
Why did God design the little arms of the newly formed bone cells constantly to reach toward the blood-filled canals? Not just to get nourishment for growth, but perhaps also to teach us an important lesson in the spiritual realm.
Habitually dwelling upon Christ and His all-sufficient merits increases faith, quickens the power of spiritual discernment, strengthens the desire to be like Him, and brings earnestness into prayer that makes it efficacious. GW 166
I DIE DAILY
This whole process of transformation from cartilage to bone begins with a death, the death of an inflated cartilage cell. You recall that though the fetal skeleton lacks an internal vascular network, it does contain an external one, the perichondrium. The blood vessels do not force their way into the rubbery matrix. As soon as a cartilage cell uses up its reserves and dies, the contents are reabsorbed into the system, leaving an empty space. It is at this point that the patient, omnipresent vessels grow into the newly formed gap, bringing with it a fresh life and an altogether new substance and direction. Nature does not long tolerate a vacuum! If we do not invite Christ into our lives, another spirit will fill the empty space.
Luke 11:24-26 When the unclean spirit is gone out of a man, he walketh through dry places, seeking rest; and finding none, he saith, I will return unto my house whence I came out. And when he cometh, he findeth it swept and garnished. Then goeth he, and taketh to him seven other spirits more wicked than himself; and they enter in, and dwell there: and the last state of that man is worse than the first.
This dying process may help us better understand Paul’s statement in 1 Corinthians 15:31, “I die daily.” The idea that the body gives in this most essential transformation is a continual dying off of the old system to give place for the new. The daily dying is not of the whole but of different parts of the old. When the Lord helps us gain a decided victory in overcoming self, we should not expect to have to face the same trials the next day and rehearse the conflict all over again.
It is a close test upon the courage of men and women to be brought to face their own sins and to frankly acknowledge them. To say, “That mistake must be charged to my account,” requires a strength of inward principle that the world possesses in but a limited degree. But he who has the courage to say this in sincerity gains a decided victory over self and effectually closes the door against the enemy. 4T 336
Dying daily does not mean starting at zero every day. It simply means a yielding of new areas of the old life to the heavenly currents. The transformation is a continual growth into righteousness, a building of grace upon grace and victory upon victory, until eventually the change is complete. How good and kind and patient the Lord is!
A LOOK INSIDE
So the bloodless, saltless, sporatically placed cartilage cells of the fetal skeleton must be replaced. How is it in your life? Do you believe that the merits of a risen Saviour have any bearing on the keeping of His laws? Are you ever seeking the master Teacher for a deeper experience in the ways of God? Are you willing to be submissive to the Lord’s order in your life, cheerfully taking up the duties and position He ordains? He is standing at your heart’s door, waiting to be invited in. 16 If you open your heart and are willing to submit to His lordship, as well as His saving graces, you can be assured that you are growing toward the high position God has for you. If not, you are possibly still in the fetal stage of growth and will not yet understand the true nature of gospel law and its benefits.
However, there is a warning in this good news. If you experience the futility and vanity of life and turn to help outside of God’s appointment, you may get some relief, but it won’t be lasting… or redemptive. God loves you, as you can see. Everything He does is based on that love. Even when He creates things. You will be a much happier pilgrim if you put your whole mind, heart, and soul in His very capable hands.
And don’t despair if the growth seems slow! God has only begun His new creation in you. As soon as you give Him a little room by giving up your pride and self-sufficiency He will fill it and bless you far beyond your wildest dreams! And if you continue to let Him do His thing, He will finish it!
Philippians 1:6 Being confident of this very thing, that he which hath begun a good work in you will perform it [make it perfect] until the day of Jesus Christ.
For more on bones, click here.
5I Peter 2:2
6Isaiah 57:20 But the wicked are like the troubled sea, when it cannot rest, whose waters cast up mire and dirt.
7 We are formed from the dust of the ground. Genesis 2:7
8 Hosea 4:6
9 Isaiah 5:13
10 Ignorance of health laws does not prevent us from getting sick. It is not a plea we can claim for exemption from illness.
11 John 8:32
12 Acts 6:3
13 Compare our federal regulatory body today to that of 1776.
16 Revelation 3:20