Tuesday, November 29, 2011

“The Two Covenants”

Fourth Quarter 2011 Adult Sabbath School Lessons “The Two Covenants” For the week of November 27 – December 3, 2011

This week we have a beautiful presentation of the 1888 view of the two covenants presented in our Sabbath School quarterly. It sweeps away the confusion of years of misunderstanding and explains the covenants in the simplest manner possible. As I studied this lesson, “every fiber of my heart said, ‘amen’”. Lesson ten is truly a blessing.
Sabbath afternoon’s study tells us, “The two covenants are not matters of time; instead, they are reflective of human attitudes.” The popular understanding has long been that the primary issue distinguishing the covenants is whether one lives before the cross or after the cross. This was the understanding of some of our pioneers. Jones and Waggoner presented a more accurate understanding. “These two covenants exist today. The two covenants are not matters of time, but of condition. Let no one flatter himself that he cannot be bound under the old covenant, thinking that its time has passed” (E. J. Waggoner, The Glad Tidings, p. 100).

Sunday’s lesson explains the fundamental elements of a covenant. Waggoner said it this way:
The covenant and promise of God are one and the same . . . God’s covenants with men can be nothing else than promises to them . . . . After the Flood God made a “covenant” with every beast of the earth, and with every foul; but the beasts and the birds did not promise anything in return (Genesis 9:9-16). They simply received the favor at the hand of God. That is all we can do—receive. God promises us everything that we need, and more than we can ask or think, as a gift. We give Him ourselves, that is, nothing. And He gives us Himself, that is, everything. That which makes all the trouble is that even when men are willing to recognize the Lord at all they want to make bargains with Him. They want it to be an equal, “mutual” affair—a transaction in which they can consider themselves on a par with God…

The gospel was as full and complete in the days of Abraham as it has ever been or ever will be. No addition to it or change in its provisions or conditions could possibly be made after God’s oath to Abraham. Nothing can be taken away from it as it thus existed, and not one thing can ever be required from any man more than what was required of Abraham. -- E. J. Waggoner, The Glad Tidings, p. 71-73

Monday’s lesson brings us to the “Abrahamic covenant” and reinforces the message of Waggoner cited above. God promised Abraham everything. Yet Abraham was not required to promise anything. The word of God says, “And he believed in the LORD; and he counted it to him for righteousness” (Genesis 15:6). This is the secret of entering the new covenant—believing God as Abraham did. You will notice that the narrative presented in Genesis reveals that this was an active faith. Abraham’s faith in God led him to finally offer up the promised son, expecting that God was able to raise him from the dead (Hebrews 11:19). This was true faith! Monday’s lesson also mentions the remarkable lengths to which God went to confirm the covenant to Abraham. “For when God made promise to Abraham, because he could swear by no greater, he sware by himself, Saying, Surely blessing I will bless thee, and multiplying I will multiply thee. And so, after he had patiently endured, he obtained the promise. For men verily swear by the greater: and an oath for confirmation is to them an end of all strife. Wherein God, willing more abundantly to shew unto the heirs of promise the immutability of his counsel, confirmed it by an oath: That by two immutable things, in which it was impossible for God to lie, we might have a strong consolation, who have fled for refuge to lay hold upon the hope set before us” (Hebrews 6:13-18). God pledged His very existence as the guarantee of the covenant. The symbols of His presence passed between the dead bodies of the animals which God had instructed Abraham to prepare (see Genesis 15). This is God’s assurance that he is well able to accomplish everything that He has promised.

Tuesday’s lesson focuses on a time when Abram’s faith waivered. The fruit of his union with Hagar is a long standing object lesson showing the terrible results of unbelief. “Thus Abraham was brought to depend upon and trust in the naked promise of God alone, for all that the promise contained. And if Abraham had stood there from the first and refused Sarai's suggestion with regard to Hagar, there would have been no such family trouble as came between Sarai and Hagar; Ishmael never would have been born; and Abraham would never have been called to offer Isaac. Had he from the first "staggered not at the promise of God through unbelief" (Romans 4:20), but been strong in faith, giving glory to God, fully persuaded that what he had promised he was able also to perform, righteousness might have been imputed to him throughout” (A. T. Jones, Review and Herald, July 3, 1900).
On Wednesday’s lesson: “Instead of responding to God’s promises in humility and faith, the Israelites responded with self-confidence.” Waggoner says, “In short, the law was given to show them that they had not faith and so were not true children of Abraham, and were therefore in a fair way to lose the inheritance. God would have put His law into their hearts even as He put it into Abrahams’ heart, if they had believed. But when they disbelieved, yet still professed to be heirs of the promise, it was necessary to show them in the most marked manner that heir unbelief was sin. The law was spoken because of transgression, or (what is the same thing) because of the unbelief of the people” (E. J. Waggoner, The Glad Tidings, p. 74).

The church today is composed of those represented by Isaac as well as those represented by Ishmael. Therefore, Thursday’s lesson warns, “As spiritual descendents of Isaac, we should not be surprised when we suffer hardship and opposition, even from within the church family itself.”

Friday’s summary cannot be better stated: “The stories of Hagar, Ishmael, and the children of Israel at Sinai illustrate the foolishness of trying to rely upon our own efforts to accomplish what God has promised.” If only we could honestly believe this summary. 

--Mark Duncan

Friday, November 25, 2011

“Paul’s Pastoral Appeal”

Fourth Quarter 2011 Adult Sabbath School Lessons
Paul’s Pastoral Appeal”

For the week of  November 20-26, 2011
 
Can we separate our understanding of the gospel, from how we treat other people?  Can our theology and our relationships actually be “separate”?  Is it really possible to have right theology and wrong attitudes?  Is there a cause-effect relationship between how we see God relating to us through the gospel, and how we relate to others in our daily lives?  This is what Paul desperately wants us to understand in this week’s lesson.  If you have ever wondered within yourself, “how come my relationships with others are so superficial or negative, when I know so much truth (theology)”, then this lesson is for you – and me!

Throughout Galatians, Paul has been presenting the theological case for the “right” gospel, in terms of covenants, illustrations (Hagar and Sarah, Isaac and Ishmael, Jerusalem above and earthly Jerusalem, Mt. Zion and Mt. Sinai, etc.), justification by faith versus justification by works, etc.  All vital truth, but truth that may leave us feeling intellectually edified, but experientially dry.  In our passage this week, Paul will reveal to us the interpersonal, emotional, and experiential consequences of bad theology – of a wrong experience of the gospel.

The foundation is laid in Gal. 4:8-9.  “Before you Gentiles knew God, you were slaves to so-called gods that do not even exist.  So now that you know God . . .  , why do you want to go back again and become slaves once more to the weak and useless spiritual principles of this world?” (NLT).  Notice what Paul is saying.  Before the Gentile Galatians became Christians, they were idol worshipers – they didn’t know God.  But now he is asking them why they want to go back to that religious system.  But we know from the rest of Galatians, that they weren’t going back to idol worship, but were becoming legalists.  So Paul is essentially telling the Galatians (and us), that legalism and paganism are the same.  While superficially, legalism and paganism look quite different – for example, Hinduism (idol worship) compared with dry formal obligatory Christian worship (legalism) – the reality is that they are exactly the same in their picture or perception of God.

In both paganism and legalism, the basic idea is that something we do – or someone else does – change God’s attitude or stance or feelings towards us.  Rather than the true gospel understanding that salvation is all about God changing our attitude or stance or feelings towards Him.  In paganism, the offerings we bring, or sacrifices we make, cause the god(s) to relate to us in a more favorable manner.  In legalistic Christianity, the right behaviors or right theology or our faith/repentance/confession, etc, cause God to relate to us more favorably.  Or, more subtly, what Jesus does for us (interceding on our behalf), or did for us (at the cross), causes God to love us more, or be more merciful towards us, or to relate to us in a more positive manner.  In all these ideas, the basic fundamental principle is that something or someone outside of God causes Him to relate to us in a more favorable or generous or positive manner.
But now, in our passage for today, Paul is going to explain to the Galatians and to us, that the consequence of viewing God as the party in salvation  needing to be changed, versus, recognizing that we are the ones that God is trying to change, is evidenced in how we relate to others.

Notice the language of how the Galatians related to Paul early in their Christian experience – “you received me as an angel of God, even as Christ Jesus” – 4:14, “you would have plucked your own eyes out and given them to me” – 4:15.  But notice how they relate to Paul now as they have changed their theology away from genuine justification by faith (God is trying to change me), to legalism (Jesus and/or I change God’s attitude towards me) – “Have I become your enemy” – 4:16, “I am afraid for you” – 4:11, etc.  A change in their gospel (i.e. a change in how they understood God related to them and how He was saving them) resulted in a change in how they related to their close friend to whom they owed their very salvation.  They now viewed their friend as an enemy.
What is the most sensitive test of our understanding of the gospel?  If I surveyed you, or fellow Seventh-day Adventists, or other Christians, and I asked them how many believed in justification by faith versus how many believed in salvation by works, we know that every hand would go up for the former.  If I asked on the other hand, how many of us truly – deep down in our hearts – love our enemies, could we raise our hands?  How many of us demonstrate patience with those who disagree with us in Sabbath School class, or with the pastor who doesn’t see things the way we do?  How many of us demonstrate genuine Christian love and patience and tolerance towards our husband or wife?

We may feel that while we aren’t living up to the standard of Christ in our experience, at least we understand the truth theologically.  But is it possible, that our experience and relationships with others are a more sensitive marker of our true level of gospel understanding.  Is it our theology that is ahead of our experience, or our experience that should be sounding warning bells about our real theological understandings?

In Galatians chapter four, Paul is telling the Galatians that in their attitude and feelings towards him, they are merely seeing the fruit of their misunderstanding of the gospel.  The evidence of who they really are isn’t contained in what they think they know, but the evidence of what they actually know is contained in how they relate to and treat others.

The final evidence of this reality will play out in the end of time when one group will think they are Christ’s representatives and will think that they understand the gospel, but the truth will be seen in their desire to destroy those who disagree with them (Rev.13:15-17, Jn.16:1-2).  While another group will be willing to give up their lives if it would help save their enemies (Rev.12:11).

What you believe about God and salvation has real, inherent consequences that will be manifest in how we relate to others.  And this may be below our conscious thinking level.  May we be changed by beholding God in Jesus Christ, so that our experience can teach us what we actually know about God, rather than believing that right theology and wrong experience are compatible.
--Bob Hunsaker

Saturday, November 12, 2011

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"No Longer Under the Schoolmaster"

"No Longer Under the Schoolmaster"






In ancient Greece, the truant schoolboy, who with truancy in his heart played hooky, avoiding the responsibility of learning the lessons appropriate and needed for his betterment and future good might meet with the startling presence of his custodian, the slave assigned by his parents to oversee his activities.  This servant was given a special task of helping the lad to discover his need of educational advancement and his responsibility to his parents, as well as to enforce upon him their good pleasure concerning the management of his young life.  This custodian, called in Greek, the "pedagogos", was often empowered by parents to reprove, instruct, and punish the child should he be found in insubordination to their will and instructions.  The rebellious truant boy might, no doubt, be roundly condemned and whipped by the consciencious custodian, as he attempted to impress upon the youth the importance of his responsibilities.  So is the Law of God to the sinner.  The law has a specific role, according to Gal. 3, of being our pedagogue or custodian to lead us to Christ.  While the law is identified as our "schoolmaster" in the King James Version, it is actually Christ who is truly our "schoolmaster" or teacher in Paul's parable.  While we are cavorting at the swimming hole of sin, wasting away our capabilities and shunning responsibility, the Law custodian, at the good will of God, the parent, condemns and punishes us.   It is a loving purpose.  God wishes for us to have a good future, even eternal life.  But we must have righteousness for this to be.  So the law stands to condemn us as long as we are away from Christ; for it is certain that the only way we may have righteousness is not from the Law custodian who is not prepared or capable of doing that work, but only from our true School Teacher, Christ.  As long as we are running away and resisting, the servant persistently does his duty, cajoling, encouraging, inducing, blocking, confronting, reproving, and otherwise inhibiting our freedom of movement.  To use Paul's terminology, the Law is there to shut us up, imprison us or otherwise confine us until faith comes unto righteousness.  The custodian is not there to make the truant comfortable, but highly uncomfortable.  So, the Law's condemnation of sin must be presented faithfully before the sinner.  It's claims must be upheld.   The Holy Law of God still demands obedience.  This is the condition of eternal life.  Its claims derive from the highest Authority over us to whom we shall ultimately have to give an account.    Perhaps the skillful pedagogue/custodian might appeal to the heart of the Greek child, his sense of honor and love for his parents.  At last, the child sees the goodness of the command and perceives that what is required is in his best interest.  Now he feels ashamed of dishonoring his parents and sorry for disappointing them.  The faithful custodian escorts the humbled child to school.  Once the child has become connected to the School teacher in faithful school attendance, the pedagogue's task has been accomplished.  Nevertheless, He will stand by if perchance, the student should change his mind and try to slip away from class, which, of course, would once again place him at discord with his parents desires concerning his future well-being.  When the child is at school, then the custodian has no problem with him.  The child is fulfilling that which is required of him.  He is not condemned.  He is no longer "under" the mistakenly-titled "schoolmaster".  So with us, only when we, becoming ashamed of our rebellious ways and perceiving the love of a Divine Parent come to Christ, the Saviour from Sin, thus fulfilling in our lives through faith in Christ the right doing of the Law, that the Law can release us.  When we have obtained in Christ the right-doing that the Law faithfully demands, then the Law custodian will have no problem with us.  We meet its approval.  Then we are at peace with our Custodian.  The Law custodian itself will witness before our Divine Parent, that our schoolday and school responsibilities of righteousness have been met.  Then, we are no longer condemned or punished.  We are no longer under the Law because Faith, Righteousness by Faith, has come. 

Thursday, November 10, 2011

The Road to Faith

Fourth Quarter 2011 Adult Sabbath School Lessons
“The Road to Faith”
For the week of  November 6 - 12, 2011
 
“But the scripture has concluded all under sin, that the promise by faith of Jesus Christ might be given to them that believe” (Galatians 3:22)
 
It seems imperative that we consider this week’s study of Galatians 3:21-25, in the light of Paul’s epistle to the Galatians themselves.  The conflict was brought on by the Judiazers’ efforts to bring the Galatians back to the works of the flesh in keeping the law.  In effect, the Judiazers were arguing that it is faith plus works that saves you, while, the gospel, as taught through Paul stated that it is through faith by grace that you have been saved, “and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God so that none may boast” (Ephesians 2:8, 9).
 
Paul stated the core of the issue in Galatians 2:20: “Not I, but Christ.”  There is nothing that the Galatians could do to be saved, no amount or type of work, no outward change of behavior, nothing could save them.  Only Christ, crucified, can save.  In the very promises given to Abraham (and to us) the blessing was (and is) enfolded.  The promises were positive – Yea and amen!  “For by faith ye (we and they) stand” (2 Corinthians 1:20, 24).
 
In Galatians chapter 3, Paul asks the question, “Who has cast a spell on you?  How did you receive the Holy Spirit – by working the works of the law, keeping the ceremonial law, and striving your utmost to keep the moral law?  Or, did you receive it by the hearing of faith” (Galatians 3:2, 3)?  What could Paul possibly mean by “the hearing of faith,” and what does this have to do with the law? 
 
Simply stated, the law is a transcript of the mind of God.  It is the way that He thinks distilled into a format that human beings can understand.  Jesus Christ is the embodiment of the law – it’s principles lived out.  He is the law on display.  According to the scripture, mankind’s nature is desperately deceitful and wicked – bent to self-will, self-preservation. We do not understand or know our errors and weaknesses because they are hidden from us.  Therefore, by ourselves we cannot keep the mindset of God, for it is alien and foreign to us.  To attempt to think or behave as God does, without His Spirit working in us, is to assume we are His equals. 
 
The law was spoken to the Jews (and therefore to us) to bring us to the end of self; to bring us to the realization that our own efforts will never stop us from coveting (lusting), telling white lies, dishonoring the Sabbath, and having false gods.  Through David, Jesus said the law is perfect and Paul said it is good and just and righteous.  But to those whose standard of conduct does not measure up, it brings condemnation and death.  Thus to mankind, the law is an instrument of measurement.  The means of correction is the Spirit.
 
The work of the Holy Spirit is to help us come to the end of self.  There we realize that anything and everything we can do is incorrect or incomplete.  It is likely wrong, insufficient or inconsistent.  It is not ‘do all you can, and the Lord will make up the difference.’  That is the erroneous idea of Christ plus I, and is incompatible with the concept of ‘Not I, but Christ.’  The scripture states that our best ideas, plans and dreams are still motivated and contaminated with self.  It is so difficult to let self die.  Yet if self does not die, Christ cannot live His life in us.  In effect, we cannot have His mindset or love what He loves (I Corinthians 2:16).  The road to faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God (Romans 10:17).  It is not by any self-propelled thought or action.
 
We have traditionally defined sin as the transgression of the law; but Paul also defines it this way: “Whatsoever is not of faith is sin” (Romans 14:23).  Thus, whether we have willfully, deliberately and in a premeditated manner broken God’s law such as King David did when he took Bathsheba and killed Uriah, or if we simply acted outside of faith as did Abraham when he took Hagar as his concubine and sired Ishmael, we have sinned. 
 
What was Abram’s failure?  What was his sin?  It was that of unbelief; he did not continue believing that God would fulfill His promise.  He did not remain standing by faith.  The promises given to him could only be received through the portal of faith.  Love works no ill to his neighbor (Romans 13:10), but Abram almost irreparably hurt Hagar, Sarai, and Ishmael (and his descendents) as well as Isaac (and his descendents).  Through unbelief, Abram broke the law of love (agape), upon which the 10 commandments are predicated.
 
While the law (an instrument of measurement) could not make Abram a full (settled), righteous believer, love (agape) could.  Faith, activated by the goodness of God’s love, purified his soul (SM v.1 pp396), and righteousness was the result; His name was changed to Abraham and his faith was found to be pure gold, tried as it were in the fire.
 
Maybe that is one of the reasons the Galatians (and we) were so willing to return to the ‘keeping of the law’ as an outward standard of righteousness.  Faith has to be tried, and they, like us, don’t like the fire.  Initially, Abram’s faith was tried as he waited for the birth of an heir.  Then it was tried further when he conceived the son of bondage by Hagar, and discovered that Ishmael was not considered by God to be ‘the’ heir of promise.  Many more years went by before Sarah received supernatural strength to bear Isaac, ‘the son of promise’ from above.  And then, in what to Abraham must have seemed like an incomprehensible nightmare, he is asked by God to slay the son of God’s promise.  What anguish and torture of soul must have been his.  What doubts must have filled his mind regarding the divine command to slay Isaac.  After all, would God really ask his servant to do something so apparently against the law?  Surely Abraham was tempted to disbelieve that it was God’s voice that he heard.  And yet as we know, it was indeed God’s command.  Abraham and Isaac yielded willing submission and were found faithful.
 
Faith comes by hearing the Word, eagerly and willingly, determined to obey it even before we know what is required of us.  To Him, who has promised, we say, ‘yea’, and ‘amen’! 
 
--Raul Diaz

Monday, November 07, 2011

Thursday, November 03, 2011

The Priority of the Promise

Insight # 06, November 5, 2011
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Fourth Quarter 2011 Adult Sabbath School Lessons
“Priority of the Promise”
For the week of  October 30-November 5, 2011
 
Jesus said, “I can of mine own self do nothing (John  5:30).  If we understand and truly believe this one statement, it will clear away the confusion relating to the law, the promise, and righteousness by faith.  Christ could do nothing of Himself, yet He toppled the kingdom of evil.  How can this be?  It is because He knew and received and rested in the promise.  He believed the Father.  Read it in His own words:  “…The words that I speak unto you I speak not of myself: but the Father that dwelleth in me, he doeth the works.  Believe me that I am in the Father, and the Father in me: or else believe me for the very works' sake.  Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that believeth on me, the works that I do shall he do also; and greater works than these shall he do; because I go unto my Father.  And whatsoever ye shall ask in my name, that will I do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son (Philippians 4:10-13).   
 
Galatians  2:16-20 clarifies further:  “Knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the law, but by the faith of Jesus Christ, even we have believed in Jesus Christ, that we might be justified by the faith of Christ, and not by the works of the law: for by the works of the law shall no flesh be justified….I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and 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.” 
 
When speaking to the Jews, Jesus used Abraham as an example of one who received the faith, the life of God, and rested in the Promise.  
 
E. J. Waggoner says it well in The Glad Tidings beginning on page 69.
 
[Abraham] is the one to whom the Gospel of world-wide salvation was preached.  He believed, and received the blessing, even the blessing of righteousness.  All who believe are blessed with believing Abraham.  They who are of faith, the same are the children of Abraham.  Christ hath redeemed us from the curse, in order that the blessing of Abraham might come on us.  "To Abraham and his seed were the promises made."  "If the inheritance be of the law, it is no more of promise; but God gave it to Abraham by promise."  Thus it is clear that the promise to us is the promise that was made to Abraham,--the promise of an inheritance,--and in which we share as his children.  Christ hath redeemed us from the curse, that we might receive the inheritance of righteousness.  Christ through the eternal Spirit offered Himself without spot to God, to purge our consciences from dead works to serve the living God; because "He is the Mediator of the new covenant, that by means of death . . . they which are called might receive the promise of eternal inheritance" (Hebrews 9:14,15). 

"Now to Abraham and his seed were the promises made.  He saith not, And to seeds, as of many; but as of one; and to thy Seed, which is Christ."  There is
here no play upon words; the issue is a vital one.  The controversy is over the way of salvation, whether it is by Christ alone, or by something else, or by Christ and something or somebody else.  Many people imagine that it is by them,--that they must save themselves by making themselves good.  Many others think that Christ is a valuable adjunct, a good assistant to their efforts; while others still are willing to give Him the first place, but not the only place.  They regard themselves as good seconds.  It is the Lord and they who do the work.  But our text shuts off all this assumption and self-assertion.  Not seeds, but the seed.  Not many, but one. "And to thy Seed, which is Christ."  Christ is the One.  

We hear much about the "spiritual seed" and the "literal seed" of Abraham.  If that contrast meant anything at all, it would mean a fanciful seed as opposed to a real seed.  The opposite of spiritual is fleshly, and the fleshly seed, as we shall see later on, is not the real seed, but only a bond-servant, to be cast out, having no share whatever in the inheritance.  So there is no fleshly seed of Abraham. The spiritual seed, however, is a literal, or real, seed, even as Christ is "a quickening Spirit," and yet most real.  It is possible for men walking about in the body, in this world, to be wholly spiritual, and such they must be, or else they are not children of Abraham.  "They that are in the flesh can not please God."  "Flesh and blood doth not inherit the kingdom of God.  "There is only one line of descendants from Abraham, only one set of real children, and they are those who are of faith,--those who, by receiving Christ by faith, receive power to become sons of God.  

But while the Seed is singular, the promises are plural.  It is not merely one specific promise that was made to Abraham and his Seed, but promises.  God has nothing for any man that was not promised to Abraham; and all the promises of God are conveyed in Christ, in whom Abraham believed.  "For how many soever be the promises of God, in Him is the yea; wherefore also through Him is the Amen, unto the glory of God through us” (2 Corinthians 1:20). 

That the thing promised, and the sum of all the promises, is an inheritance, is clearly seen from Galatians 3:15-18.  The sixteenth verse has just been noted, and the seventeenth verse tells us that the law, coming in four hundred and thirty years after the promise was made and confirmed, can not make it of none effect; "for if the inheritance be of the law, it is no more of promise; but God gave it to Abraham by promise" (verse 18).  What this promised inheritance is may be seen by comparing the verse just quoted with Romans 4:13: "For the promise, that he should be the heir of the world, was not to Abraham, or to his seed, through the law, but through the righteousness of faith."  And so, although the heavens and the earth which are now are "reserved unto fire against the day of judgment and perdition of ungodly men," when "the heavens being on fire shall be dissolved, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat," we, "according to His promise, look for new heavens and a new earth, wherein dwelleth righteousness (2 Peter 3:7, 12, 13).  This is the heavenly country for which Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob looked.

"Christ hath redeemed us from the curse; . . . that we might receive the promise of the Spirit through faith."  This "promise of the Spirit" we have seen to be the possession of the whole earth made new--redeemed from the curse; for "the creation itself also shall be delivered from the bondage of corruption into the liberty of the glory of the children of God."  The earth, fresh and new from the hand of God, perfect in every respect, was given to man for a possession (Genesis 1:27, 28, 31).  Man sinned, and brought the curse upon himself.  Christ has taken the whole curse, both of man and of all creation, upon Himself.  He redeems the earth from the curse that it may be the everlasting possession that God originally designed it to be, and He also redeems man from the curse, that he may be fitted for the possession of such an inheritance.  This is the sum of the Gospel.  "The gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord" (Romans 6:23).  This gift of eternal life is included in the promise of the inheritance, for God promised the land to Abraham and to his seed for "an everlasting possession” (Genesis 17:7, 8)  It is an inheritance of righteousness, because the promise that Abraham should be heir of the world was through the righteousness of faith. Righteousness, eternal life, and a place in which to live eternally,--these are all in the promise, and they are all that could possibly be desired or given.  To redeem man, but to give him no place in which to live, would be an incomplete work; the two things are parts of one whole, for the power by which we are redeemed is the power of creation,--the power by which the heavens and the earth are made new.  When all is accomplished, "there shall be no more curse" (Revelation 22:3). 

That the covenant and promise of God are one and the same thing, is clearly seen from Galatians 3:17, where it appears that to disannul the covenant would be to make void the promise.  In Genesis 17 we read that God made a covenant with Abraham to give him the land of Canaan--and with it the whole world--for an everlasting possession; but Galatians 3:18 says that God gave it to him by promise.  God's covenants with men can be nothing else than promises to them: "Who hath first given to Him, and it shall be recompensed unto him again?  For of Him, and through Him, and to Him, are all things" (Romans 11:35, 36).  It is so rare for men to do anything without expecting an equivalent, that theologians have taken it for granted that it is the same with God.  So they begin their dissertations on God's covenant with the statement that a covenant is "a mutual agreement between two or more persons, to do or refrain from doing certain things."  But God does not make bargains with men, because He knows that they could not fulfil their part.  After the flood God made a covenant with every beast of the earth, and with every fowl; but the beasts and the birds did not promise anything in return (Genesis 9:9-16).  They simply received the favor at the hand of God.  That is all we can do.  God promises us everything that we need, and more than we can ask or think, as a gift.  We give Him ourselves, that is, nothing, and He gives us Himself, that is, everything.  That which makes all the trouble is that even when men are willing to recognize the Lord at all, they want to make bargains with Him.  They want it to be a "mutual" affair--a transaction in which they will be considered as on a par with God.  But whoever deals with God must deal with Him on His own terms, that is, on a basis of fact--that we have nothing and are nothing, and He has everything and is everything, and gives everything.
 
(The material quoted above is also found in the “Words of the Pioneers” section on the Research Edition of the E. G. White CD.  Reference:  EJW, GTI 128.1 -132.1.)
 
--ht