Friday, April 01, 2011

“In the Loom of Heaven”

Second Quarter 2011 Adult Sabbath School Lessons

For the week of March 27 – April 2, 2011

(PDF Link)

The world has a saying: “The clothes make the man.” Humans tend to judge each other based upon outward appearances – the cost of the fabric with which we cover the body weighs more in the scale of approval than the character of the man.

In heaven’s economy, the opposite is true. Jesus and the angels see each individual as “clothed” in garments which reflect the inner character. Those who feel no need – who are satisfied with what they can accomplish in the way of good works, may wear designer suits, but if they could look through God’s eyes they would see that they are actually clothed in tattered, filthy garments which can neither be repaired nor cleansed from ugly stains.

Only those who see Jesus – those who really come to know Him, can begin to have a sense of the beauty of His character. This awakening leads the honest heart to long for something better. Our lesson this week focuses on the imagery of Christ’s beautiful, white robe of righteousness which is woven in the loom of heaven, and offered to every one of God’s children, free of charge. This robe not only transforms the wearer, it guarantees him eternal life and admission to the heavenly courts. And yet, as unbelievable as it may sound, many people refuse to accept the gift. They prefer their rags.

To help us understand this object lesson better, we call to our aid another analogy.

Let’s say a man named Jim just found out he has metastatic cancer. Left untreated, the cancer will kill him. Jim is in shock. Then his doctor says, “If you’re willing to undergo radical surgery and follow through with the prescribed treatment, your cure is 100% guaranteed.”

“That’s fantastic,” Jim says, “but how much will it cost? I have no medical insurance and no money in savings. Even the government health care plan won’t cover this.”

Jim’s surgeon places his hand sympathetically on Jim’s arm and says, “Jim, I have a fund for patients with needs such as yours. Here’s a check that will cover the bill for all the expenses related to your treatment and care.” Jim’s mouth drops open. The check is for $250,000, and it’s signed by his surgeon!

Now this story is just made up, but let us say that Jim hurries to the bank with his check, deposits the money, and then goes out with his friends and spends lavishly on parties and entertainment. We would say Jim is a fool to waste that gift which was intended to save his life. Yet that is the choice we make when we despise the life-saving gift of righteousness given to us in Christ.

In the New Testament, the Greek word translated “imputed” means to reckon, count, compute, calculate, and/or count over.

In Romans, Paul says Abraham believed God and it was “imputed” to him as righteousness (Romans 4:22).

In our story, we could say that the check Jim received from the surgeon was imputed to him. The amount covered the entire cost of treatment. Like the righteousness of Christ imputed to us, however, that gift will accomplish its purpose only as we submit to the treatment prescribed by the Great Physician. This treatment is analogous to accepting the imparted righteousness of Christ. Abraham accepted that gift atop Mt. Moriah. The Heavenly Surgeon’s knife cut deeply into his own heart, but the purpose was redemptive. Abraham came down the mountain freed from the cancer of sin and clothed in white raiment of immeasurable value.

Because we cannot possibly pay the infinite cost for our redemption, our Savior has imputed His righteousness to us. He has paid the price for our salvation. Yet He does not force medical intervention without our consent. Only by submission to His faithful care can we be freed from the soul-destroying cancer of sin.

Our sickness is so profound that it has eaten through our skin and putrified our clothes. Our outer garments (actions) are marred by motives of sin from within. In Leviticus, Moses wrote of clothing tainted by leprosy: “If the plague has spread in the garment, either in the warp or in the woof, in the leather or in anything of leather, the plague is an active leprosy. It is unclean. . . . the garment shall be burned in the fire” (Leviticus 13: 51, 52).

The work accomplished by Christ in behalf of man is more than to pay the penalty for a broken law; it includes the bringing of man into harmony with that law. He "gave Himself for us, that He might redeem us from all iniquity, and purify unto Himself a peculiar people, zealous of good works" (Titus 2:14). For this it became necessary not only that righteousness should be imputed to us, but imparted to us; not only that Christ should live for us, but that He should live in us; not only that we should be "justified by faith " (Romans 5:1), but that we should be "sanctified by faith" (Acts 26:18). So the Word was made flesh and dwelt among us (and we beheld His glory [His character], the glory [the character] as of the only begotten of the Father), full of grace and truth" (John 1:14). Angels could convey messages for God, and could do deeds for God, but only the Son of God could reveal the righteousness of God by being God.

--William Warren Prescott, The Bible Echo Articles, May 4, 1896, page 130

And we have it further, "Buy of me gold tried in the fire, and white raiment that thou mayest be clothed." And you remember the description that we have already had of that raiment. The figure is, "that garment that is woven in the loom of heaven, in which there is not a single thread of human making." Brethren, that garment was woven in a human body. The human body--the flesh of Christ--was the loom, was it not? That garment was woven in Jesus; in the same flesh that you and I have, for He took part of the same flesh and blood that we have. That flesh that is yours and mine, that Christ bore in this world--that was the loom in which God wove that garment for you and me to wear in the flesh, and He wants us to wear it now, as well as when the flesh is made immortal in the end!

--A. T. Jones, General Conference Daily Bulletin, February 9, 1893

As we study this quarter’s lessons, may we be inspired to relinquish our rags and accept the spotless garment of Christ’s righteousness which will make us fit for the companionship of angels.

--Patti Guthrie