Wednesday, December 14, 2005

Sabbath School Insights No. 12, Qtr 4-05

Special Insights No. 12

Fourth Quarter 2005 Adult Sabbath School Lessons

“Ephesians: The Gospel of Relationships”

(Produced by the Editorial Board of the 1888 Message Study Committee)

“The Christian Warfare”


There is an intense wrestling match underway in the heart and mind of every son and daughter of Adam. The war is not primarily an external battle with worldly influences and hostile people (flesh and blood) under Satan’s generalship who might oppose you, but it is an internal battle that has its roots in the Fall in Eden. Seldom do we hear that the real enemy that must be conquered is our own self. It is true that we are being agitated by unseen wicked powers, but they depend own controlling our lower nature infected with the law of sin.


The Quarterly made a slight allusion to this internal battle in the recommended scripture texts on the lesson’s title page, but no further comments were made on Romans 7:15-20. We will briefly examine this warfare that Christ endured and conquered, just as every child of Adam may be victorious by uniting with the omnipotence of Christ for the glory of His name.


Paul and the Man in Romans 7. There is an assertion by some that the man in Romans 7 is Paul in his unconverted state who wants to serve the law but finds that the law of sin in his members always seems to overrule the determination of his mind. Others assert that this desperate man is Paul in his converted state. Clearly the man is converted to the holiness of God and His law. Ellen White suggests that Paul found the victory in the Lamb of God who comes in the likeness of sinful flesh and who takes away the sin of the world.


“[Paul] longed for the purity, the righteousness, to which in himself he was powerless to attain, and cried out, ‘O wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me from this body of death?’ Romans 7:24, margin. Such is the cry that has gone up from burdened hearts in all lands and in all ages. To all, there is but one answer, ‘Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world.’ John 1:29” (Steps to Christ, p. 19).


The Law of Sin in Romans 7. The hopeless predicament of man’s fallen nature is succinctly summarized in Romans 7 with phrases such as “sin that dwells within me,” and “I see another law in my members warring against the law of my mind, and bringing me into captivity to the law of sin which is in my members.” God provides the solution for those who desire to be “delivered from this body of death.” For those who abide in Christ “the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus” will set them “free from the law of sin and death” (Rom. 8:2).


The basis for this deliverance could only have been accomplished by uniting the human nature infected with the law of sin with the divine nature of the Son of God, which resulted in the incarnation of the Son of God. Although the divine prerogatives of the Son of God were laid aside, His inherent divinity qualified Him to unite with and partake of the divine power of His Father. So God sent “His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, on account of sin: He condemned [the] sin in the flesh” (vs. 3). The definite article “the” is employed in the Greek text to emphasize the condemnation of the “law of sin” dwelling in fallen man, not simply the generic problem of sinning. [If you would like supplementary information on the “likeness of sinful flesh,” it is presented below.]


Divinity Combined with Humanity. The contention is often set forth that if Christ took a human nature infected with the law of sin then he would, of necessity, have had to sin. But every child of Adam comes into the world not only infected with sin, but also disconnected from God and divine power. At the very inception of the incarnation, the incarnate Son of God was perfectly united with His Father’s divine power. He came into the world differently than every other child of Adam. This is why he is our Savior. “In Christ is life, original, unborrowed, underived. ‘He that hath the Son hath life.’ 1 John 5:12. The divinity of Christ is the believer's assurance of eternal life” (The Desire of Ages, p. 530). Yes, Christ began life with a distinct advantage over every other child of Adam. But that same advantage is given to all who choose to abide in Christ. The sinner may begin life anew, in Christ, united with divine power.


“By taking humanity and combining it with divinity, He was able to meet every demand of the law of God, to overcome every objection which Satan had made prominent as standing in the way of man’s obedience to God’s commandments”(14 MR, p. 83).


“He came as a helpless babe, bearing the humanity we bear. ‘As the children are partakers of flesh and blood, he also himself likewise took part of the same.’ 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; SDA Bible Commentary, vol. 7, p. 925).


“Satan had claimed that it was impossible for man to obey God’s commandments; and in our own strengfth it is true that we cannot obey them. But Christ came in the form of humanity, and by His perfect obedience He proved that humanity and divinity combined can obey every one of God’s precepts” (Christ’s Object Lessons, p. 314).


The key ingredient for success in the Christian warfare is what “God did in sending His own Son in the like ness of sinful flesh” and by so doing He condemned the sin in the flesh. The victory is yours by uniting your humanity with His divinity. “Speak comfort to Jerusalem, and cry unto her, that her warfare is ended, that her iniquity is pardoned” (Isa. 40:2). A. T. Jones and E. J. Waggoner, in proclaiming the “most precious message” in the aftermath of the Minneapolis 1888 General Conference, were most articulate and explicit in setting forth this fundamental truth of the gospel.

John W. Peters


 “Likeness of Sinful Flesh”

For Further Study


From the contextual flow of the passage (Rom. 8:3), even without the definite article (“the”), the ordinary reader would naturally come to the conclusion that God conquered the problem of the “law of sin” in the flesh (sinful nature) through the gift of His Son coming in the likeness of sinful flesh. The equivalency of man’s sinful nature with Christ coming in the “likeness of sinful flesh” appears to be the thrust of the following two statements.


“‘For what the law could not do, in that it was weak through the flesh,’—it could not justify man, because in his sinful nature he could not keep the law,—‘God sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, and for sin, condemned sin in the flesh: that the righteousness of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit.’ Rom. 5:1; 3:31; 8:3, 4” (Review and Herald, Oct. 17, 1907).


The sinful nature of man was weak, and he was prone to the transgression of God’s commandments. Man had not the power to do the words of God; that is why Christ came to our world, that He might give him moral power. There was no power in heaven or in earth but the power of Christ that could deliver from the [sentence illegible in original]. He came to meet the difficulty and to remove it. His own arm brought salvation. God sent forth His Son in the likeness of sinful flesh that He might condemn sin in the flesh and reveal the fact to heaven, to the worlds unfallen and also the fallen world, that through the power of divine grace, through partaking of the divine nature, man need no longer stand under the curse of the law or remain in transgression” (14 MR, p. 82).


The word, “likeness” (homoioma), has been the subject of much theological debate, but should simply be understood as it is in Philippians 2:7 where He came “in the likeness of men.” He came as real man, but not simply just a man; He was also God manifest in the flesh, deity and humanity combined. Therefore the word likeness is enjoined to emphasize the uniqueness of Jesus Christ. The same rationale for the word, “likeness,” applies to Romans 8:3 as well. We are warned against making Christ “altogether human, such as one as ourselves.” Thus Paul invoked the word, homoioma, not only in reference to His deity, but also to set Him forth as “holy, harmless, undefiled, and separate from sinners” in taking our fallen sinful flesh (Heb. 7:26).


“The incarnation of Christ has ever been, and will ever remain a mystery. That which is revealed, is for us and for our children, but let every human being be warned from the ground of making Christ altogether human, such an one as ourselves; for it cannot be. The exact time when humanity blended with divinity, it is not necessary for us to know. We are to keep our feet on the Rock Christ Jesus, as God revealed in humanity” (SDA Bible Commentary, vol. 5, p. 1128).


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