Wednesday, October 26, 2011

“Old Testament Faith”

Fourth Quarter 2011 Adult Sabbath School Lessons
“Old Testament Faith”
For the week of  October 23-29, 2011
"CHRIST hath redeemed us from the curse of the law. . . that the blessing of Abraham might come on the Gentiles through Jesus Christ; that we might receive the promise of the Spirit through faith" (Gal. 3:13, 14).  
We are redeemed from the curse of the law, in order that we may have the blessing of Abraham; and we receive the blessing of Abraham, in order that we may receive the promise of the Spirit.  Without being redeemed from the curse of the law, we cannot have the blessing of Abraham.  And without the blessing of Abraham, we cannot have the promise of the Spirit….However much a person may desire the gift of the Spirit, and however much he may ask, he cannot have it unless he has the blessing of Abraham first.
Not that the Lord does not want to give his Spirit to whomsoever asks; not that he fixes a hard standard, and compels every one, as a sort of penance, to come to that, or else he will not give his Spirit.  No, no; but because that for the Lord to give his Holy Spirit to any person who has not the blessing of Abraham would be only to put his seal upon sin, and baptize sin for righteousness.  This, of course, God never can do…
It is, therefore, all-important to know what the blessing of Abraham is, and to have it in possession.  To all such the Holy Spirit is freely given without measure….The blessing of Abraham is the key that opens into the fulness of the Holy Spirit: with this we may enter freely, and enjoy all his treasures; without this we must stand without, and, even though longing for it, can never obtain.   
What, then, is the blessing of Abraham?  In that same chapter of Galatians, verse 9, we read: "They which be of faith are blessed with faithful Abraham."  They which be of faith are blessed,—the blessing comes by faith.  And they "are blessed with faithful Abraham."  Abraham obtained the blessing by faith.  Faith itself is not the blessing; it is by faith that the blessing is received.  It has to be so; for, "Whatsoever is not of faith is sin."  
So, then, the blessing came to Abraham by faith…what did Abraham receive by faith?—"Abraham believed God, and it was accounted to him for righteousness" (verse 6).  The blessing that Abraham received by faith was righteousness. Is righteousness by faith, then, the blessing of Abraham?—It looks like it, doesn't it?   
Let us see whether this will hold good: "What shall we say then that Abraham our father, as pertaining to the flesh, hath found?" (Rom. 4:1).  We know he found a blessing: for the Scripture speaks of the "blessing of Abraham," and it comes on us through Jesus Christ.  
If we are correct in thinking that righteousness by faith is the blessing of Abraham, then when the Scripture would tell us what Abraham found, we should expect it to take up this thought first of all.  It is even so; for the Scripture proceeds (Rom. 4:2): "For if Abraham were justified [counted righteous] by works, he hath whereof to glory; but not before God."  Anything in which a man cannot glory before God is no blessing at all.  And as if Abraham had been counted righteous by works, he could not have gloried before God, it is perfectly plain that righteousness by works is not the blessing of Abraham.  
What then? "What saith the Scripture?—Abraham believed God, and it was counted unto him for righteousness.  Now to him that worketh, is the reward not reckoned of grace, but of debt.  But to him that worketh not, but believeth on him that justifieth [counteth righteous] the ungodly, his faith is counted for righteousness."  This, then, is righteousness by faith—exactly what Abraham found.  Abraham found a blessing; righteousness by faith, then, must be the blessing of Abraham.  
But does the Scripture speak of this as a blessing, in such a way that we may be perfectly sure that just this is the blessing of Abraham? Read on: "Even as David also describeth the blessedness of the man unto whom God imputeth righteousness without works."  The word says that Abraham received a blessing by believing God. And then, continuing directly on that subject, the same word says that David describes the blessedness of the man who receives what Abraham received.  It is certain that there was only "blessedness" in what Abraham received; what Abraham received was righteousness, and he received it by believing God; therefore it is certain that righteousness by faith is the "blessedness," the blessing, of Abraham.   
How does David describe the blessedness of Abraham, and of all other men who receive what Abraham received?—Thus: "Blessed are they whose iniquities are forgiven, and whose sins are covered.  Blessed is the man to whom the Lord will not impute sin."  
The word "forgiven" is made up of "for" and "given."  When iniquities are "forgiven," something is given for them.  What is it that is given for them?—Righteousness, to be sure; for God has set forth Christ "to declare his righteousness for the remission of sins that are past."  And, blessed are they "whose sins are covered."  "He hath covered me with the robe of righteousness."   
What is imputed to the man to whom sin is not imputed?—Righteousness only; for he is describing the man "unto whom God imputeth righteousness."  God gave Abraham righteousness for his iniquities; him who was sin, God covered with the robe of righteousness; and to him the Lord imputed righteousness instead of sin.  It was all the righteousness of God, through and through.  This is what Abraham received, and he received it by faith.  There was in it blessedness to Abraham.  And David describes the blessedness of all other men who receive it.  This, then, is the blessing of Abraham.  But the Scripture tells it yet again: "Cometh this blessedness then upon the circumcision only, or upon the uncircumcision also?  for we say that faith was reckoned to Abraham for righteousness."  There can be no shadow of doubt, therefore, that the righteousness of God which is by faith is in very truth the blessing of Abraham.  
Have you the blessing of Abraham?  Where did you get the righteousness that you claim, and upon which you depend for acceptance and approval with God?  Did you get it from God himself?  Did you get it by believing God? or did you get it by doing your best?....If you have any other righteousness than the righteousness of God, then you have none at all.  It is the righteousness of God, and that alone, which men must seek.  None other will avail.  "Seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness."  It is a free gift to every soul in the world.  "Being justified [counted righteous] freely by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God has set forth. . . to declare his righteousness for the remission of sins that are past."  "Even the righteousness of God which is by faith of Jesus Christ unto all and upon all them that believe; for there is no difference."  
Abraham believed God, and it was imputed to him for righteousness.  "Now it was not written for his sake alone, that it was imputed to him; but for us also, to whom it shall be imputed, if we believe on him that raised up Jesus our Lord from the dead."  And you do believe on him.  Then accept his righteousness freely, and in all its fullness, as freely and fully as it is given.   
The righteousness of God, which is by faith, is the blessing of Abraham.  They which be of faith are blessed with faithful Abraham.  Thank the Lord for it, and thus accept the blessing of Abraham.  For Christ has redeemed us from the curse of the law,—he has done it,—that the blessing of Abraham might come on us.  Please do not, by unbelief, keep that blessing away.  Cast away unbelief.  Believe God, and let the blessing of Abraham, the righteousness of God, flow in, and fill all the life with its power and its sweet savor.  
--A. T. Jones, Advent Review and Sabbath Herald page 646

Additional Sabbath School resource material:

E. J. Waggoner
The Gospel in the Book of Galations 
   (find under Ellet J Waggoner in the EBOOKS list)
The Glad Tidings

A. T. Jones
Ellen G White CD-ROM - search "Galatians" under A. T. Jones
Starts with: "Studies in Galatians" Advent Review and Sabbath Herald, 76, 34 , pp. 540, 541. {August 22, 1899 ATJ, ARSH 540.1}

Ends with: "Studies in Galatians. Gal. 6:11-18" Advent Review and Sabbath Herald 77, 46 , p. 728. {November 13, 1900 ATJ, ARSH 728.1}

Thursday, October 20, 2011

“Justification by Faith Alone”

Fourth Quarter 2011 Adult Sabbath School Lessons
“Justification by Faith Alone”
For the week of October 15-21, 2011

Our lesson for this week is entitled “Justification by Faith Alone.”  Let’s begin with the memory verse – Galatians 2:20.  The KJV here, and in verse 16, is true to the original language Paul used.  Consider 2:20, starting with the last part first.  It reads: “the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me.”  Here we are informed that we live, not by our faith in Jesus, but rather we live by His faith: the “faith of the Son of God.”  Most people do not believe in Jesus, yet they are alive and that is solely by “the faith of Jesus.”

Christ’s faith points two ways. While on earth He exercised faith in God the Father.  Jesus also directs His faith toward the human race.  He has faith in you.  Do you believe this?  Consider the following weighty thought: “Christ, the heavenly merchantman seeking goodly pearls, saw in lost humanity the pearl of price.  In man, defiled and ruined by sin, He saw the possibilities of redemption…. God looked upon humanity, not as vile and worthless; He looked upon it in Christ, saw it as it might become through redeeming love” (COL 118).

Let’s turn now to the first half of Gal. 2:20: “I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me.”  Paul wrote this in poetic form that begins and ends with Jesus. It is called an envelope construction. This is what it looks like:

                I was crucified together with       
                but I am living
                not I
    but living in me                            

In this verse we observe that when Christ was crucified we were likewise crucified with Him.  This informs us that Christ was/is our Representative.  Whatever He did while He lived and died on earth, He represented us.  Our sins called for the death penalty.  When Jesus died He exhausted that judicial decision that was against us.  He was made to be sin itself “that we might become the righteousness of God in Him” (2 Cor. 5:21).  Christ’s death on the cross is the basis of the teaching of “justification by faith alone.”  This is so because it was in His death that we were justified legally (Rom. 5:9, 18; 4:25).

In the letter to the churches in Galatia the concept of justification by faith alone is presented in verse 16.  The context of this verse is connected with  the denial of “the truth of the gospel,” not only by the “false brethren” (Gal. 2:2,5), but also by Peter (v 14).  The central “truth” of the gospel is justification by faith alone.  The “false brethren” denied this truth and they caused Peter deny it.  On several previous occasions Peter had eaten with Gentiles.  But, at Antioch, when pressure was placed on him by “false brethren,” he separated himself from the Gentiles, “fearing them” (v 12).  This strong emotion moved him to separate from the Gentiles, leading other believing Christian Jews to likewise withdraw from the Gentile believers.

Peter’s hypocrisy was so influential that even Barnabas was overwhelmed and was carried away with the dissimulation.  The pretended motive was loyalty to the law, but it really was because of fear of the Judaizers.  Paul immediately sprang into action.  He confronted Peter and rebuked him severely and publicly (See Gal. 2:16 and the following verses.

In verse 16 we have the first time, in this letter, where Paul uses the words justification and faith together.  This verse is another poetic structure different from the one in verse 20.  It is known as a chiasm, constructed with parallel corresponding segments pointing to the center of the structure. It is organized with its corresponding segments A:A; B:B; C:C each step drawing us to the center “D” which addresses faith in Jesus alone:

The Chiastic Structure of Gal. 2:16

          A)  “Knowing that a man is not justified
                 B)  by the works of the law,
                     C)  but by the faith of Jesus Christ,
                         D)  even we have believed in Jesus Christ,
                    C)  that we might be justified by the faith of Christ,
                B)  and not by the works of the law: for by the works of the law
          A)  shall no flesh be justified.”

This verse shows that justification comes through “the faith of Jesus.”  This is expressed twice, in the “C” segments.  Then the center clause “D” states that “we have believed in Jesus Christ” which, in turn, leads directly to the corresponding thought in the second “C” “that we might be justified by the faith of Christ.”

Not only does justification come from Jesus, His faith also is given to us.  When we receive Him by faith alone He brings His justification and His faith with Himself.  The faith of Jesus is our justification.  It is found in Christ alone.  Justification can be separated neither from Jesus, nor from His faith in God which He exercised while living on earth.

Jones recognized that we must note precisely what this verse says: “Both expressions [faith of Jesus and believing in Jesus] are used in direct connection, and used in a way that makes it impossible that they should be taken as meaning the same thing.  And taken for exactly what they say, again there is told the splendid truth that it is ‘the faith of Jesus’ that brings to us and gives to us the justification, the righteousness which we receive by believing in Jesus” (A.T. Jones, The Medical Missionary, p. 89).

Waggoner wrote similarly in an article based on Gal. 2:16.  He stated, “Much is lost, in reading the Scriptures, by not noting exactly what they say.  Here we have literally, ‘the faith of Christ,’ just as in Rev. xiv. 12 we have ‘the faith of Jesus.’  He is the Author and Finisher of faith. Heb. xii. 2” (E.J. Waggoner, “The Present Truth United Kingdom,” February 10, 1898, p. 85).

 “Justification by Faith Alone” is not merely for this week only, but this “truth of the gospel” permeates the entire letter to the Galatians.  This truth is enclosed in the term “grace” which begins and ends the epistle (see 1:3 and 6:18).  God’s grace is placed at the beginning and ending of this letter containing the teaching of “justification by faith alone.”  This truth from the epistle to the Galatian churches is for us today.
-- Jerry Finneman

Additional Sabbath School resource material:

E. J. Waggoner
The Gospel in the Book of Galations 
   (find under Ellet J Waggoner in the EBOOKS list)
The Glad Tidings

A. T. Jones
Ellen G White CD-ROM - search "Galatians" under A. T. Jones
Starts with: "Studies in Galatians" Advent Review and Sabbath Herald, 76, 34 , pp. 540, 541. {August 22, 1899 ATJ, ARSH 540.1}

Ends with: "Studies in Galatians. Gal. 6:11-18" Advent Review and Sabbath Herald 77, 46 , p. 728. {November 13, 1900 ATJ, ARSH 728.1}

Available at your local Adventist Book Center or online:



Wednesday, October 12, 2011

The Unity of the Gospel

Fourth Quarter 2011
Adult Sabbath School Lessons
“The Unity of the Gospel”
For the week of October 9 - 15, 2011

Fourteen years after his initial visit with Peter and James (Galatians 1:18, 19), Paul returns to Jerusalem to attend a church council.  This would have been seventeen years after his conversion, (about A.D. 51).  The date and the agenda clearly indicate that this is the Jerusalem Council over which James presided (Acts 15).  Paul’s reason for appearing before the Council was to communicate "unto them that gospel which I preach among the Gentiles” (Galatians 2:2).
In the past there had been "certain men which came down from Judaea, which taught the brethren, and said, Except ye be circumcised after the manner of Moses, ye cannot be saved.  When therefore Paul and Barnabas had no small dissension and disputation with them, they determined that Paul and Barnabas, and certain other of them, should go up to Jerusalem unto the apostles and elders about this question" (Acts 15:1, 2). 

Because of those insisting that circumcision was necessary for salvation, Paul had taken Titus, an uncircumcised Gentile, to this Council.  The Jews tried to compel Titus to be circumcised.  The issue was great for had these legalists prevailed, the rite would have been imposed upon all Gentiles, and this would have been a rejection of the gospel itself.  Paul vehemently opposed all such madness, labeling it as salvation by works.  Circumcision was at this time an insignificant thing, but when insisted upon as something necessary to salvation, it would become a thing of bondage.  If he gave way in one little aspect, it would have opened the door for a whole flood of legalistic practices to enter the church.  Therefore, Paul declared that circumcision was not to be made an issue.  The controversy was between the true gospel and a counterfeit gospel; between liberty in Christ or bondage to Satan.  God wants a surrendered heart, while man prefers some symbolic ritual to which he can point as a reason why he should be saved.

All of the "works of the flesh" are sin and "they which do such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God" (Galatians 5:19, 21).  One Christian scholar and theologian has declared: "Sin is a bondage, and to teach men to put their trust in a false hope, which will cause them to rest satisfied in their sins, thinking that they are free from them, is simply to fasten them in bondage" (E. J. Waggoner, The Gospel in Galatians, p. 10).  Many Christian churches falsely proclaim: "You don't have to concern yourself with allowing Christ to come into your life.  You need not let Him make you obedient to His word."  The people are led to trust in a false hope that God will save people "in" their sins, rather than "from" their sins (Matthew 1:21; Romans 6:1, 2).  They continue in their sins, believing that there is no real victory to be had.

There are two extremes to which people gravitate, and the Devil doesn't care which of the two a person chooses;  trying to be saved through some type of work, or the false hope that one can be saved while living in deliberate disobedience to God's word.
Those presenting a perverted gospel were not true Christians, but were "false brethren."  Jesus had warned His church of "wolves" in "sheep's clothing" (Matthew 7:15).  These wolves exist in the church today.  Notice, however, that Paul never did say that because there are false brethren in the church, get out of it, or because there are hypocrites in the church, don't go.  Rather, he says that there are false brethren in the church and we must be aware of it - and stand up to them - and present the truth, so that error will not prevail within the church.
Paul said that he did not give these false brethren so much as an hour "that the truth of the gospel might continue with you."  Do you desire the truth of the gospel to continue?  If so, then imitate the Bereans, who studied diligently to find out whether the teachings they heard were grounded firmly in the Bible.  Then affirm truth, but speak out against the errors of a perverted gospel.
When Paul saw Peter doing something he should not have been doing, Paul went to him face-to-face.  There is a very important lesson to be learned here.  If you ever see a brother or sister at fault, always confront them to the face, or personally.  What a tremendous amount of grief, heartache, and conflict would be avoided, if we would only follow this Bible principle.  Even the pagan king, Nebuchadnezzar, when he heard that Meshach, Shadrach, and Abednego would not obey his command to worship an image, did not simply believe the report, but confronted them to the face and asked, "Is it true" (Daniel 3:14).  Should not the disciples of Jesus do as much?
Peter’s "dissimulation" and hypocrisy weakened the church.  This weakness on the part of beloved and respected leaders, left a painful impression on Gentile believers and cast a stumbling block before them.  Left to ourselves, we are all apt to waver from fidelity to God out of an undue regard for pleasing people.   We must keep Christ ever before us and never forget the influence of our bad examples upon others.  Because of Peter's hypocritical actions, Barnabas and others followed suit.  The church of Christ was threatened and the heart of Christ pained.
When we see someone who is not walking "uprightly according to the truth of the gospel,"  we must first make sure our problem is not our own likes, dislikes, ideas and preferences.  If you think a brother or sister is wrong, and you can not plainly substantiate your concern from the word of God, leave them alone.  But if you see them walking contrary to what you know to be the word of God, you dare not remain silent or your own soul will be in peril.  It will become evident to heaven and earth that you can "not be the servant of Christ."
Peter preached one thing and practiced another and the church suffered.  Some merely stumbled at the inconsistency, while others followed on into deeper error and hypocrisy.  This action on the part of Peter and the others was not only a denial of the gospel, but it was a virtual denial of Christ.  Peter was present at the Jerusalem Council when it was declared that circumcision was not necessary to salvation and therefore not to be made an issue (Acts 15:1-24).  He had encountered this situation before when God had clearly revealed to him that he was not to consider any one class of people as "common or unclean" (Acts 10:28).  He had even declared that he understood "that God is no respecter of persons: But in every nation he that feareth him, and worketh righteousness, is accepted with him" (Acts 10:34, 35).  Clear testimony had been borne by the Holy Spirit, the other apostles, and the corporate church body that there was to be no distinction between Jew and Gentile, and that righteousness is by faith alone in Christ Jesus.  In light of all this, Peter and others withdrew themselves from the uncircumcised Gentile believers.  This discrimination was in effect saying, "Except ye be circumcised... ye cannot be saved" (Acts 15:1).
The teaching that faith in Christ is essential, but insufficient, lies at the heart of this great heresy.  Belief that certain meritorious works must be performed in order to receive salvation strikes at the very heart of the gospel, and therefore, Paul addressed the problem head on.
Remember, that although Jesus prayed for unity among His followers “we cannot surrender the truth in order to accomplish this union; for the very means by which it is to be gained is sanctification through the truth. Human wisdom would change all this, thinking this basis of union too narrow.  Men would effect a union through conformity to popular opinions, through a compromise with the world. But truth is God's basis for the unity of his people” (Ellen White, Gospel Workers page 391).  In writing of the early Christians, God’s messenger wrote: “If unity could be secured only by the compromise of truth and righteousness, then let there be difference, and even war” (Ellen White,  The Great Controversy, page 45).
--Todd Guthrie

Wednesday, October 05, 2011

“Paul’s Authority and the Gospel”

Fourth Quarter 2011 Adult Sabbath School Lessons
“Paul’s Authority and the Gospel”
For the week of  October 2 - 8, 2011

Authority is defined as the power or right delegated or given to determine, adjudicate, or otherwise settle issues or disputes.  Authority is also defined as: the right to control, command, or to issue commands and to punish for violations.  This is usually determined by a ranking official. From this definition arises the question of who gives the authority and whether or not it is recognized and accepted by others.

For example, a warrant is a written document certifying or authorizing its bearer to make an arrest, search and or seize property, or carry a judgment into execution. The ‘letters’ Saul took to Damascus were similar to a warrant.  We read in Acts 9:1–2, “And Saul, yet breathing out threatenings and slaughter against the disciples of the Lord, went unto the high priest,” “And desired of him letters to Damascus to the synagogues, that if he found any of this way, whether they were men or women, he might bring them bound unto Jerusalem.”

As a member of the Sanhedrin, Saul had authority; and when he left for Damascus he secured letters from the ‘church leaders’ to persecute the Christians there.  The idea was to arrest and bring them to Jerusalem to be punished (Acts 22:5).  Those letters which authorized him to carry out his duty, no doubt identified him, listed his credentials, his target audience, intention and purpose. Most assuredly the documents were signed and sealed with the signet of the Sanhedrin. Saul could probably have carried out his work without the written authorization of the Sanhedrin’s ‘letters’, but his conduct would likely have been criminal.

For example, walking around with a gun holstered to your hip is probably illegal in most cities. However, carrying a badge identifying you as law enforcement officer makes bearing a gun legal.  Those letters were Saul’s badge, giving him the authority to carry out his duty with force.

In contrast, upon his conversion, Paul did not have a visible letter when he was sent to the gentiles. Instead, the Lord, spoke to Paul the contents of the Invisible letter.  We read in Acts 26:16-18, “But rise, and stand upon thy feet: for I have appeared unto thee for this purpose, to make thee a minister and a witness both of these things which thou hast seen, and of those things in the which I will appear unto thee;” “Delivering thee from the people, and from the Gentiles, unto whom now I send thee,” “To open their eyes, and to turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan unto God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins, and inheritance among them which are sanctified by faith that is in me.”

This invisible letter identified Paul as the one sent, the Lord as the Sender, the gentiles as those to whom Paul was being sent.  The stated intention: to open their eyes to the truth, and its purpose: to reconcile them back to Christ.

Instead of force, which was Paul’s method prior to his conversion, Paul used love and reasoning.  On more than one occasion, Luke says that Paul went to the temple and reasoned with anyone who would listen (Acts 17:1-4; 18:3-5; 18:18-20; 24:24-25).  Acts 17:1-4 says that many believed by Paul’s reasoning, and in Acts 18:3-5 it says that some were persuaded.  The Greek rendering uses the same word for both belief and persuaded: peitho.  Peitho is the root word for faith: pistis; this implies no force was used.  Saul/Paul used the respective methods of those whose authority he possessed.

Many Christians failed to see Paul’s authority as legitimate or authentic.  Therefore, they questioned the message he preached.  To them his apostolic badge was not real.  However, Paul asserted that his apostleship was granted not by man, nor by the laying on of the hands of men (as Judas’ replacement), but by Jesus Christ and the Father (Galatians 1:1).

In essence, Paul was saying that his experience of seeing the crucified and risen Lord (Acts 9) qualified him to be an Apostle as much as the selected twelve.  Since the word Apostle means one who is sent, Paul is declaring that whoever chose and sent the Apostles, also chose and sent Him, and therefore their message is the same.

Paul’s confidence is in proportion to the authority of the One who sent him and was evidenced by his confidence in that Authority and Power, "He whom God has sent utters the words of God" (John 3:34). Paul spoke with authority, and the words, which he spoke, were the commandments of God.  The Lord desires us to comprehend that although He chooses different men to do different work, each with their individuality and peculiarities, He has chosen them, and as such, they speak (or write) His Words.

This is true, not only of the apostles, but of everyone in the church, as each is commissioned to "speak as the oracles of God" (1 Peter 4:11).  All who are ‘in Christ’ are new creatures, having been reconciled to God by Jesus Christ; and all who have been reconciled are given the Word and ministry of reconciliation, so that they are ambassadors for Christ.  All who are ‘in Christ,’ speak for Christ.  So, when they, which are ‘in Christ,’ speak to other men and plead with them to be reconciled to God, it is as if Christ, Himself was pleading with men to be reconciled to Him (2 Corinthians 5:17-20).  Ambassadors of earthly governments have authority according to the power of the king or ruler whom they represent.  Christians have a higher authority, for they represent the King of kings and Lord of lords!

It is my prayer that the written letter we have been given by our heavenly Father will inspire with courage and faith those whom He has commissioned to lovingly communicate the gospel of Jesus Christ to a dying world.
-- Raul Diaz

Monday, October 03, 2011

The Dynamics of the Everlasting Gospel II by Pastor Jack Sequeira

The Dynamics of the Everlasting Gospel II

International Speaker Pastor Jack Sequeira returns October 7-15th, 2011 to:
Broadview Seventh-day Adventist Church (Website Contact)
3101 S. 25th Ave.
Broadview, IL

For map and Directions click here


DATES,  TIMES and Topics

Friday Oct 7th 7-8:30pm - God’s Show and Tell

Saturday Oct 8th 10am-12pm - The Fire that Consumes
Lunch 12:15pm-1:45pm
2:00pm-3:30pm Redemption Unfolded
Questions and Answers

Sunday Oct 9th 10am-12pm - Significance of the Courtyard
Refreshments 12:30pm-1:00pm
1:15pm-2:15pm - God With Us
Questions and Answers

Monday Oct 10th 7-8:30pm - You are God’s Temple

Tuesday Oct 11th 7-8:30pm - Christ Our High Priest

Wednesday Oct 12th 7-8:30pm - Cleansing of the Sanctuary

Thursday Oct 13th 7-8:30pm - Yom Kippur

Friday Oct 14th 7-8:30pm - Not I but Christ

Saturday Oct 15th - 10am-12pm -Redemption in a Nutshell
Lunch 12:15pm-1:45pm
2:00pm-3:30pm - The Gospel Vindicated
Questions and Answers

(It is an evangelism event.)

Saturday, October 01, 2011

What exactly IS righteousness by faith?

excellent foundation for this quarter's lessons

"Studies in Galatians"

What exactly IS righteousness by faith? -- 

Advent Review and Sabbath Herald, 76, 37 , pp. 588, 589.
IT was "certain of the sect of the Pharisees which believed" who had caused all the trouble in the churches in Galatia, and called forth a letter to the Galatians. It was these also who had troubled the brethren at Antioch, and raised there the controversy abroad on the council Jerusalem.  It was these who, even after the council, had caused Peter to swerve, at Antioch, from the truth of the Gospel, which, in turn, forced Paul to withstand him to the face. It was these of the sect of the Pharisees who spread a false gospel against the true, and subverted souls who were even already saved—as at Antioch and in Galatia. In a study of the Book of Galatians, it is, therefore, essential to know just what the sect of the Pharisees did hold.

When Jesus would give an illustration of "certain which trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and despised others," he chose "a Pharisee." And this Pharisee, even in praying, first thanked God that he was not like other men; and then presented himself to the Lord for approval upon what he had done. Luke 18:9-12. It is therefore perfectly plain that the one great peculiarity of the sect of the Pharisees was self-righteousness—claiming righteousness upon what they have done.

Consequently everything that a Pharisee did, was done that he might obtain righteousness by the doing. And if there was anything that he was not inclined to do, he must force himself to do it, by a direct vow, and then still claim the merit of righteousness in the doing.

And it was the very righteousness of God that was claimed as the merit and the result of the doing; because it was the word of God that was followed, it was the command of the Lord that was obeyed, in the doing.

The word "Pharisee" is from "parash," which signifies "separated," or "set apart." The Pharisees were those who were separated, set apart, from the rest of the people by their superior righteousness, which was because they had done more than any others; and they were separated, set apart, unto God because it was in the doing of the law of God that their righteousness consisted.  Everything that God had commanded, required, or directed, must be done in order that righteousness may be obtained in the doing.  And to be perfectly certain that they could rightfully claim the righteousness when the thing was done, it was essential that every obligation must be performed so exactly right that there could be no question. And in order that this might be so, every requirement in the word of God was drawn out in divisions and subdivisions to the smallest minutiae, even to each particular letter of each word, each one to be scrupulously and ceremoniously performed. "The very raison d'etre of the Pharisees was to create 'hedges' of oral tradition about the law."—Farrar's "Life of Christ," Excursus 9, par. 1. These "hedges" were of course to protect the law from violation. They were assurances to the doer of them that in the doing of them he was preserved from violating the law, and that so he was a doer of the law.

This led to an utter perversion not only of every commandment and ordinance of the Lord, but of the very idea of every commandment and ordinance.

God had given the ten commandments, not as a means of obtaining righteousness by the doing of them, but (1) to give the true knowledge of sin, that forgiveness and salvation might be found by faith; and (2) to witness to the righteousness obtained by (that) faith.

This was shown (a) in the service that was commanded, and (b) in the very terms used in speaking of the tables of the law. (a) In the service commanded it was plainly said that when they had done anything against the commandments of the Lord concerning things which ought not to be done, and were guilty, they were to bring a sacrifice of a young bullock, and confess the sin, and with the blood the priest should make atonement for them, and it should be forgiven them. Lev. 4:13-21. Here were the ten commandments to give the knowledge of sin, and of the guilt; here was forgiveness and at-one-ment with God without the doing of the law, but solely through faith. (b) The term used in speaking of the was "the tables of the testimony;" the ark, in which was the law, was called the "ark of the testament;" and the tabernacle, in which was the ark, was called the "tabernacle of the testimony." Now testimony is the evidence borne by a witness; and that this is the meaning of the word here is certain by the fact that the tabernacle was plainly called "the tabernacle of witness." Num. 17:7,818:22 Chron. 24:6. The tables of the testimony were the tables of witness, which in itself testified that the law was intended, not to be a means of the righteousness of God obtained by it, but to be witness to the righteousness of God obtained without it.

God had given the ordinances of sacrifice and offering and burnt offering and offering for sin, not as a means of obtaining righteousness by them, but as expressions of the faith that obtained the righteousness of God without them—faith that obtained the righteousness of God through a sacrifice and offering already made by God, and promised to be sent in due time.

God had given circumcision, not as a means of obtaining righteousness by it, but as a sign of the righteousness of God obtained by faith and held by faith before circumcision was performed.

Thus the Pharisees perverted into works and righteousness by works, all that God had given to be of faith. All that God had given to be a blessing and a delight they turned into a burden and a yoke of bondage. And when it did not give peace to the straining and toiling workers, as it could not, to the many fine-spun distinctions drawn upon the plain word of God they yet further added a multitude of exactions of their own. To the Sabbath commandment alone there were added four hundred and one requirements. A whole treatise was devoted to hand-washings (Mark 7:1-5); another whole treatise was occupied with the proper method of killing a fowl. "The letter of the law thus lost its comparative simplicity in bound-less complications, until the Talmud tells us how Akibba was seen in a vision by the astonished Moses, drawing from every horn of every letter whole bushels of decisions."—Farrar.

Another evil was wrapped up in this: The facility of interpretation that was developed in drawing out the infinite variety of distinctions in sentences, in words, and even in letters, in order to discover the exact degree of obedience required to attain to righteousness, was readily employed in evading any obligation of the law of God that the covetous heart might desire. Mark 7:9-13Matt. 23:14-28. "We know the minute and intense scrupulosity of Sabbath observance wasting itself in all those abhoth and toldoth,—those primary and derivative rules and prohibitions, and inferences from rules and prohibitions, and combinations of inferences from rules and prohibitions, and cases of casuistry and conscience arising out of the infinite possible variety of circumstances to which those combinations of inference might apply,—which had degraded the Sabbath from 'a delight, holy of the Lord, honorable,' partly into an anxious and pitiless burden, and partly into a network of contrivances hypocritically designed, as it were, in the lowest spirit of heathenism, to cheat the Deity with the mere semblance of accurate observance. . . .

"Teachers who were on the high road to a casuistry which could construct 'rules' out of every superfluous particle, had found it easy to win credit for ingenuity by elaborating prescriptions, to which Moses would have listened in mute astonishment. If there be one thing more definitely laid down in the law than another, it is the uncleanness of creeping things; yet the Talmud assures us that 'no one is appointed and member of the Sanhedrin who does not possess sufficient ingenuity to prove from the written law that a creeping thing is ceremonially cleaned,' and that there is an unimpeachable disciple, at Jabne, who could produce one hundred and fifty arguments in favor of the ceremonial cleanness of creeping things.  Sophistry like this was at work even in the days when the young student at Tarsus set at the feet of Gamaliel."—Ib., "Life and Work of Paul," chap. 4, par. 2-6.

Thus the Pharisees in their exactions and ceremonialism had developed to perfection the self-love of self-righteousness in the merit of their own doings. A perfect illustration is found in what Rabbi Simeon, the son of Jochai, said: "If there were only thirty righteous persons in the world, I and my son should make two of them; and if there were but twenty, I and my son would be of the number; and if there were but ten, and I and my son would be of the number; and if there were but five, and I and my son would be of the five; and if there were but two, I and my son would be those two; and if there were but one, MYSELF should be that one.:—Emphatic Diaglott, atLuke 18:11.

"They had received unsanctified and confused interpretations of the law given them by Moses: they had added tradition to tradition; they had restricted freedom of thought and action until the commandments, ordinances, and services of God were lost in a ceaseless round of meaning less rights and ceremonies. Their religion was a yoke of bondage." "The views of the people were so narrow that they had become slaves to their own useless regulations." "This confidence in themselves and their own regulations, with its attendant prejudices against all other nations, caused them to resist the Spirit of God, which would have corrected their errors." "Thus, in their earthliness, separated from God in Spirit, while professedly serving him, they were doing just the work that Satan wanted them to do—taking a course to impeach the character of God, and cause the people to view him as a tyrant. In presenting their sacrificial offerings in the temple, they were as actors in a play. The rabbis, the priests and rulers, had ceased to look beyond the symbol of the truth that was signified by their outward ceremonies." They expected to derive righteousness acceptable to God from the performance of the ceremony of offering a symbol which, to them, was meaningless for any other purpose than as a means of gaining righteousness in the performance of the ceremony. The beginning and end, the all in all of the religion of the Pharisees, whether it related to the moral law, to the God-given ceremonial law, or to their own traditions, was ceremonialism, and ceremonialism alone. And Paul had been one of these Pharisees, of "the most straitest sect."

And this is what those "certain of the sect of the Pharisees which believed" thought to drag over and fasten upon Christianity. They wished to force even the divine faith of Christ into their low, narrow human ceremonialism. Oh, yes! it is well enough to believe in Jesus; but that is not enough: "except ye be circumcised and keep the law [their whole boneless system of interpretations of the law, moral and ceremonial, there whole mass of ceremonialism], ye cannot be saved." And that even when they had done all that the system of the Pharisees supply and demand it, they could not be saved, was confessed in the despairing cry of the rabbis: "If but one person could only for one day keep whole law, and not offended one point,—nay, if but one person could but keep that one point of the law which affects the due observance of the Sabbath,—then the troubles of Israel would be ended, and the Messiah at last would come."—Id., par. 3. And from every really conscientious heart it forced that other despairing cry, "O wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me from the body of this death?" Rom. 7:24.

But in his great mercy and his divine goodness, without requiring all the burdens and toil of the Pharisaic ceremonialism, and in answer to the longing cry of every burdened heart, the Messiah came, and brought to all men the free gift of the righteousness of God, and of his full salvation. This righteousness and this full salvation, Saul the Pharisee found, and it made him forever Paul the Christian, nevermore desire in the "righteousness which is of the law, but that which is through the faith of Christ, the righteousness which is of God by faith." And then, having in Christ perfect righteousness, full salvation, and the power of an endless life; having found in Christ the living gospel instead of the dead form of law; because he would never more admit the multitudinous exactions, the vain strivings, the hollow self-righteousness, and the false gospel of the Pharisees, he was persecuted, and his work in the gospel of Christ was opposed, till the day of his death, by "the Pharisees which believed," as well as by all the Jews, who did not believe, by false brethren as well as by open enemies.

And this it was that called forth the book of Galatians.