Tuesday, June 21, 2011

“Clothed in Christ”

Insight #13, June 25, 2011
Second Quarter 2011 Adult Sabbath School Lessons
“Clothed in Christ”
For the week of June 19-26, 2011
"But put ye on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make not provision for the flesh, to fulfill the lusts thereof" (Rom. 13:14).
What lies behind Paul’s imperative?  What did he present in his gospel message that would give his readers reason to desire this "putting on" of Christ? Why would they want to give up what they already had? What would make them desire to stop going with the flow of their fleshly desires?
This verb "put on" follows an interesting and enlightening thread of imagery in the New Testament. From objects that illustrate spiritual realities—the putting on of garments and armor (Matt. 22:11; Rom. 13:12), to the realities themselves (Col. 3:12); from the clothing of divinity that meets our deepest need at present (Luke 23:49; Gal. 3:27), to the new humanity that will be the crowning act of God's recreation of the human race (1 Cor. 15:53; 2 Cor. 5:3), we begin to see a pattern in the fabric of salvation. It reminds us of Jesus' seamless garment (John 19:23), cast over humanity.
Wrapping the garment illustrates how God embraces us. We learn how "to sink into" Christ’s embrace (as Thayer defines the verb), for purposes of salvation.  The "putting on" of this gift is not merely an external contact or experience.  Consider the following description of "that unselfish love which is the very atmosphere of the unfallen universe" (Ellen White, Steps to Christ, page 30). "In the matchless gift of His Son, God has encircled the whole world with an atmosphere of grace as real as the air which circulates around the globe. All who choose to breathe this life-giving atmosphere will live and grow up to the stature of men and women in Christ Jesus" (Ibid. p. 68). 

Note the scope of the process: first the universal, life-giving atmosphere (like a robe that has "encircled" us), then the choice to internalize this gift (with the implied on-going choice). Finally, the ultimate goal of restoration to the full image of God in Jesus.
In this context, Paul comments to the Galatians that they had "put on Christ" (Gal. 3:27).  “All [were] under sin" (3:22), "under the law" (3:23; 4:5).  We were "children" (babes; 4:1, 3), "servants" (slaves; 4:1, 7), "in bondage" (4:3).  God gave "the promise by faith of Jesus Christ" (3:22), and then sent "forth His Son, made of a woman, made under the law, to redeem them that were under the law" (4:4, 5).  The intended human response to this divine initiative of faith working by love, is to be born as "children of God by faith in Jesus Christ" (3:26), to "receive the adoption of sons" (4:5).  It is then Paul affirms that we "have put on Christ" (3:27), and are "no more a servant, but a son" (4:7).  Elsewhere Paul describes the ongoing process of maturing, "that we henceforth be no more children" (babes, Eph. 4:14), but grow "unto the measure of the stature of the fullness of Chris." (Eph. 4:13).
That which God did for the human race through the birth, life, death, and resurrection of Jesus, shown in promise and type for millennia, and expressed in reality 2000 years ago, is the foundation for the entire process.  This gospel has a vital end-time message and purpose.  Tuesday’s lesson notes, "Indeed, how we respond to Christ’s first coming will decide what happens to us at His second coming!"  And how we respond is proportionate to our appreciation of the dimensions of what He accomplished at that first coming.
"Putting on" Christ must be seen as a response to what He has put on for us.  This clothing He provides at infinite cost to Himself.  "To be clothed in Christ" describes the seamless garment He has cast over the entire human race--woven in the loom of heaven, every thread of divine origin.  We are His! His seamless process of covering us must not be torn.  The faith that preserves its integrity must be traced carefully, prayerfully, from Author to recipient, from Beginning to end, "from faith to faith" (Rom. 1:17).Our topic of the putting on of Jesus is real at every stage.  Though at times we speak of "put on" as an act of hypocrisy, play acting, or falseness, the putting on of salvation is as real at each step as the other in unreal.
Consider these realities in light of four steps.  Do not forget the Genesis 1 and 2 background.  Man was created in the image of God, with life from the hand and breath of the Creator, with oneness between man and woman, with dominion over the entire earth.  And by their inexplicable decision to believe and follow the lie Satan told, all was lost.

(1) We need life and faith due to sin's nature and consequence.  God placed humanity into the hands of the pre-incarnate Jesus Christ.  This act of faith was the first covering that kept us alive, and in imparting faith gave us freedom to choose.
(2) Sin separated us from God. He God reunited humanity with divinity as He clothed His Son with humanity.  So God asks us to choose to be free, and to unite our humanity with the divine nature Jesus brought.
(3) We need the Spirit in our ongoing battle with the flesh. God revealed a garment of righteousness in His Son in the likeness of sinful flesh. This demonstrated the power of "the law of the Spirit of life" (Rom. 8:2) all the way to "the death of the cross" (Phil. 2:8). So God intends for us to be free to live in the Spirit, not the flesh.
(4) "The law of sin and death" keeps us wretched in ourselves (Rom. 7:23 to 8:2). We need a new body. God raised up His Son, clothed with a glorious body. He confirmed His victory, bringing a justifying covering to humanity (Rom. 4:25).  So God intends in the complete restoration of man for us to live free of sinful flesh.  Those who have been eagerly embracing His covering each step of the way will all be changed "in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump" when we "put on incorruption" (1 Cor. 15:52, 53). We will "be clothed upon with our house from heaven" (2 Cor. 5:2) that is "fashioned like unto His glorious body" (Phil. 3:21).
Paul in Eph. 4:20-25 addresses this picture of Christ's covering.  Those who have "learned Christ, ... heard Him, ... been taught by Him, as the truth is in Jesus" will see "the new Man, which after God is created in righteousness and holiness of the truth" (literal).  We will see God giving Himself as a covering for the human race in self-sacrificing faith and love.

Will we rend the garment with our unbelief?  Will we take His gift of life and reject the law of life?  Will we accept whatever legal benefit we have received in this expensive, expansive fabric and be content with a legal religion with no heart?  Will we accept His Gift given at infinite cost, and not become givers, insisting instead on living in the pettiness of our selfishness?  Or will we follow the threads of His garment from their origin in His infinite heart of love to their glorious purpose of our restoration in His image--"righteousness and holiness of the truth"?

--Fred Bischoff

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

More Clothing Imagery

Second Quarter 2011 Adult Sabbath School Lessons
“More Clothing Imagery”
For the week of June 12 - 18, 2011
This week’s lesson is a look at clothing contrasts revealing infinite spiritual realities.  The Bible abounds in symbolism using ordinary thing to express great spiritual truth. Jesus takes ordinary sinners like us, and transforms us from rebels into Kings and Priests, “Heirs of God and joint-heirs with Christ.” (Rom. 8:17)
Biblical concepts proclaimed with pen and voice by Ellen White, Jones, Waggoner, and W. W. Prescott form a foundation for an understanding of clothing imagery.
·        Jesus, the Son of God, took upon His sinless nature our sinful, fallen nature. He lived without sin in this nature, to qualify as our Savior, and to be an example for the believer. (Heb. 1, 2; 4:14-16)
·        Jesus has given “justification of life” (Rom. 5:18) to everyone in the world, giving them the opportunity to choose eternal life. His Spirit pleads with them to accept Him until their death or the close of probation (Rom. 3:24, 25).  God calls us to proclaim this message of reconciliation in Christ to every person in the world (2 Cor. 5:19-21).
·        When Jesus is received personally, in heartfelt gratitude and love, a glorious peace is experienced.  The Holy Spirit begins transforming the individual into the likeness of Jesus.  The believer receives the image of Christ through beholding Him by study and meditation. As we come to know God, the light spreads through sharing our personal testimony (Rom. 3:26; 5:1-10; Eph. 2:6-8; 2 Cor. 3:17, 18).
·        Taking our burden of sin and self-righteousness, He works in us, if we permit. Through Him we may live so as to uplift Jesus and the Father before others; relating to them as He did (Phil. 2:12, 13).  So long as we consent to be in Christ, we have the guarantee of eternal life (Phil. 1:6; 1 John 5:11, 12).
·        God calls each person in the church and the world to an experience of deepening repentance, revival, and reformation.  Then the Holy Spirit will return in latter rain power, working through us to hasten the coming of Jesus (Rom. 2:4; 3:26; Acts 2:1-4).
The love of Christ compels us to live for Him who died for us (2 Cor. 5:14, 15).  Theory alone is insufficient.  “Not everyone who says to me ‘Lord, Lord’ shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of my Father.  Many will say to Me in that day, ‘Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your name, cast out demons in Your name, and done many wonders in your name?’ Then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you. Depart from Me you who practice lawlessness’” (Matt. 7:21-23). Faith is an action word.
“Who Touched My Clothes?” Jesus’ union with His father was so close that divinity could not be concealed.  So the woman with the issue of blood “said, if I may but touch His clothes, I shall be made whole” (Mark 5:28). 
Hebrews 1 portrays Jesus as the divine Son of God, one with His Father.  Chapter 2 portrays Him as the Son of Man, with our fallen mortal nature.  He accomplished our salvation through total dependence on His Father.  He said, “I can of myself do nothing” (John 5:30).  So it is with us.
“He laid Aside His Garments.” In laying His garments aside, He revealed the hiding of His power.  The followers of Jesus will claim the Father’s power as Christ did.  He laid aside His divine prerogatives that He might experience what we experience. He lived with our temptations, trials, and rejection, that we might experience His victory and joy (Heb. 12:1, 2).
“Nor Rend His Clothes” “And Moses said to Aaron, and Eleazar and Ithamar his sons, ‘Do not uncover your heads nor tear your clothes, lest you die, and wrath come upon all the people’” (Lev. 10:6; Lev. 21:10).  
As a representative of God’s perfection, the High Priest could not rend His holy garments regardless of the cause.  Self must be denied that God might be all and in all. “For the death that He died, He died to sin (self serving) once for all; but the life that He lives, He lives to God.  Likewise you also, reckon yourselves to be dead unto sin but alive unto God” (Rom. 6:10, 11).
Garments of Mockery Jesus could endure what He did for us because His character was pureagape. “And the (Roman) soldiers twisted a crown of thorns and placed it on His head, and they put on Him a purple robe.  Then they said, ‘Hail, King of the Jews.’  And they struck Him with their hands” (John 19:1-3).  With no spiritual discernment, they saw Him only as a deluded fanatic.  Are we willing to be considered as such for Him?
“They Parted My Garments”  The One who knew no sin was “made sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him” (2 Cor. 5:21).
As he hung on the cross, the His last earthly possessions – the clothes on His back, were stripped from Him and divided among the clueless soldiers.  The seamless garment, symbol of His righteousness, became an object of gambling. Even so, it was evidence of His Lordship  (Ps. 22:18).
The crucifixion which is death to human ambition, is life to every believer (see Signs of the Times, August 9, 1905).
--Lloyd Knecht

Wednesday, June 08, 2011

“The Wedding Garment”

Second Quarter 2011 Adult Sabbath School Lessons
“The Wedding Garment”
For the week of June 5 - 11, 2011
The study guide links stories in Mathew 21 and 22 as the focus of our study this week. Please read two more passages that relate to these stories.
Isaiah 5:1-7
Now will I sing to my wellbeloved a song of my beloved touching his vineyard. My wellbeloved hath a vineyard in a very fruitful hill: And he fenced it, and gathered out the stones thereof, and planted it with the choicest vine, and built a tower in the midst of it, and also made a winepress therein: and he looked that it should bring forth grapes, and it brought forth wild grapes. And now, O inhabitants of Jerusalem, and men of Judah, judge, I pray you, betwixt me and my vineyard. What could have been done more to my vineyard, that I have not done in it? wherefore, when I looked that it should bring forth grapes, brought it forth wild grapes? And now go to; I will tell you what I will do to my vineyard: I will take away the hedge thereof, and it shall be eaten up; and break down the wall thereof, and it shall be trodden down: And I will lay it waste: it shall not be pruned, nor digged; but there shall come up briers and thorns: I will also command the clouds that they rain no rain upon it. For the vineyard of the LORD of hosts is the house of Israel, and the men of Judah his pleasant plant: and he looked for judgment, but behold oppression; for righteousness, but behold a cry
Luke 14:16-24
A certain man made a great supper, and bade many: And sent his servant at supper time to say to them that were bidden, Come; for all things are now ready. And they all with one consent began to make excuse. The first said unto him, I have bought a piece of ground, and I must needs go and see it: I pray thee have me excused. And another said, I have bought five yoke of oxen, and I go to prove them: I pray thee have me excused. And another said, I have married a wife, and therefore I cannot come. So that servant came, and showed his lord these things. Then the master of the house being angry said to his servant, Go out quickly into the streets and lanes of the city, and bring in hither the poor, and the maimed, and the halt, and the blind. And the servant said, Lord, it is done as thou hast commanded, and yet there is room. And the lord said unto the servant, Go out into the highways and hedges, and compel them to come in, that my house may be filled. For I say unto you, That none of those men which were bidden shall taste of my supper.
These stories show in a few words how a loving God chose and prepared people to give the gospel to a lost and dying world. God’s call to Abraham bequeathed to him everything contained in the everlasting covenant. Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob built altars and dug wells where ever they went spreading the good news.
Israel was chosen, delivered from Egypt, and offered Abraham’s everlasting covenant. God did not leave them even when they chose the “old covenant route.” He even forgave them for crucifying His Son, but there was nothing else He could do for them when they rejected the witness of the Holy Spirit.
The early New Testament Church took up the gospel call, but all too soon apostatized. Through the following centuries a few still carried “the banner.” The reformers gave the call for a time. In Revelation 10 we are told that another group “must prophesy again.” This group accepts the call. These become the “repairers of the breach.” When it was almost time for the “marriage of the Lamb,” God sent a most precious message to His people. It was to be the finishing touch, to lighten the whole world and prepare His “Bride” for the wedding. In this case it was the servants themselves who resisted the message. For this reason we are still here in this world.
This “history” of God’s love in action is of great importance, yet there may be a more important question to consider. Where do we stand individually with regard to these stories? There are many aspects of these stories that apply to our day. What part are we playing? What part should we play?
That “precious message” was a message of Christ and His righteousness. The wedding garment represents this righteousness. That wedding garment is as free as the invitation to the wedding! The question we must ask ourselves is “what are we doing with the wedding garment?” Are we trying to modify it? Are trying to make our own? As noted in Wednesday’s section of the lesson quarterly: “it is a matter of life and death.”
Let us be glad and rejoice, and give honor to him: for the marriage of the Lamb is come, and his wife hath made herself ready. And to her was granted that she should be arrayed in fine linen, clean and white: for the fine linen is the righteousness of saints (Revelation 19:7, 8).
These verses seem to indicate that there is a corporate aspect of this wedding garment. The whole group of saints make up the bride of Christ and they as a group have made themselves ready for this marriage.
He that is unjust, let him be unjust still: and he which is filthy, let him be filthy still: and he that is righteous, let him be righteous still: and he that is holy, let him be holy still. 
And, behold, I come quickly; and my reward is with me, to give every man according as his work shall be (Revelation 22:11, 12).
Verse 11 makes it clear that the names of those who will be saved are known before Jesus returns. Verse 12 tells us that Jesus brings the rewards when He returns. We need to make a clear distinction between salvation and reward(s). Salvation is a gift of grace received by faith (Ephesians 2:8, 9). Rewards are based on the works produced by genuine faith that works by love (Galatians 5:6).
Studying these stories can be overwhelming unless one has an assurance of salvation and an appreciation for what our Great High Priest is doing for us in the Heavenly Sanctuary. The gospel is good news for our salvation. It is also the power to keep our “robe” unspotted till that great day of our Lord’s return.
I pray that each one of us will look carefully at the importance of these stories and keep in mind just where we are in earth’s history.
--J. B. Jablonski