Friday, May 30, 2014

“Christ, the Law and the Gospel”

Insights #9 May 31, 2014
Second Quarter 2014 Adult Sabbath School Lessons
"Christ, the Law and the Gospel"
For the week of May 31, 2014
The enemy of God and man attempts to separate the grace from law, justice from mercy and obedience from faith. At times he appears to be successful, but appearance is not reality. His efforts have been an utter failure. God's grace brings us into harmony with His holy law. The law reveals how crooked we are; grace comes in and straitens us out. Grace teaches us to say "No" to transgression of the law and "Yes" to the righteousness of the law. Read this in Titus 2:12, 13, NIV – Grace "teaches us to say "No" to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age, while we wait for the blessed hope…"

Likewise faith and obedience are inseparable. Faith always obeys. Paul begins and ends his letter to the Church in Rome with "the obedience of faith" (Rom 1:5; 16:26). In the Greek the words are exactly the same and in the same word order: "obedience of faith." And to the Galatians he wrote faith through love works (Gal 5:6). Faith comes to effective expression through love. There is no creature merit in either faith or work, not even in faith which works. Friday's lesson states succinctly:

"Let the subject be made distinct and plain that it is not possible to effect anything in our standing before God or in the gift of God to us through creature merit. Should faith and works purchase the gift of salvation for anyone, then the Creator is under obligation to the creature."Faith and Works, pp 19-20. (Read the rest of the paragraph).

Justice and mercy have been under attack by the enemy as well as the law and the gospel, and faith and obedience. There is nothing in the universe by which finite minds can compare the ripping of the divine attributes within God Himself. Lucifer, in heaven, drove a wedge between God's sovereign attributes of justice and mercy. He thought the gulf separating justice and mercy could not be spanned. Notice what happened: "Justice and Mercy stood apart, in opposition to each other, separated by a wide gulf." (General Conference Bulletin, October 1, 1899).

Col 1:20 states that on the cross Christ's death reconciled things in heaven as well as on earth. It was on the cross that Justice and Mercy kissed each other (Psa 85:10) or in other words, they were reconciled.
"He [Jesus] planted his cross midway between heaven and earth, and made it the object of attraction which reached both ways, drawing both Justice and Mercy across the gulf. Justice moved from its exalted throne, and with all the armies of heaven approached the cross. There it saw One equal with God bearing the penalty for all injustice and sin. With perfect satisfaction Justice bowed in reverence at the cross, saying, 'It is enough.'….
His object was to reconcile the prerogatives of justice and mercy, and let each stand separate in its dignity, yet united. His mercy was not weakness, but a terrible power to punish sin because it is sin; yet a power to draw to it the love of humanity. Through Christ Justice is enabled to forgive without sacrificing one jot of its exalted holiness." (General Conference Bulletin, October 1, 1899).

Both the law and the gospel have also been viciously attacked by the devil. He convinces many to believe that anyone who obeys God's law is under the "old Jewish law." Some will state that they are "New Testament Christians" and not under the Old Testament law of ten commandments. However, Jesus said that the "Scriptures" testified of Him (John 5:39). (At that time the only Scriptures in existence were the Old Testament writings). Jesus continued: "If you believed Moses, you would believe Me; for he wrote about Me. But if you do not believe his writings, how will you believe My words?" (John 5:46–47). From these verses in John 5 we may safely conclude that if a person is not an "Old Testament Christian" it is impossible to be a "New Testament Christian."

Both gospel and grace are proclaimed in the Old Testament. (Gal 3:8; Gen 6:8). As soon as there was sin, there was grace. Grace was waiting to take Adam by the hand as soon as he fell. "Grace … was given to us in Christ Jesus before time began" (2 Tim 1:9). This is the gospel.

    It was at Calvary, in Jesus, that everything which seemed opposite and contradictory came together in union as one, never to be separated again. Eternity will unfold, and reveal to us the oneness between the gospel of grace and the law, justice and mercy, and obedience and faith.

Consider why the Cross makes no change in the Law or obedience or justice. The law uttered amid the terrors of Sinai was spoken by the lips of Jesus whose life the law was and is. And from Him came the stream which was at that moment flowing—His own life given for, and to, the people. He was the Rock that was struck and from Him came the law and the stream of life that poured forth its life to all who drank. We will close with Waggoner's words:

"The Cross, with its healing, life-giving stream was at Sinai, and hence the Cross cannot possibly make any change in the law. The life proceeding from Christ at Sinai as at Calvary, shows that the righteousness which is revealed in the Gospel is none other than that of the ten commandments. Not one jot nor one tittle could pass away. The awfulness of Sinai was at Calvary, in the thick darkness, the earthquake, and the great voice of the Son of God. The smitten rock and the flowing stream at Sinai represented Calvary; Calvary was there; so that it is an actual fact that from Calvary the ten commandments are proclaimed in the identical words that were heard from Sinai. Calvary, not less than Sinai, reveals the terrible and unchanging holiness of the law of God, so terrible and so unchangeable that it spared not even the Son of God when "He was reckoned among the transgressors." But however great the terror inspired by the law, the hope by grace is even greater; for "where sin abounded, grace did much more abound." Back of all stands the oath of God's covenant of grace, assuring the perfect righteousness and life of the law in Christ; so that although the law spoke death, it only showed what great things God had promised to do for those who believe. It teaches us to have no confidence in the flesh, but to worship God in the Spirit, and to rejoice in Christ Jesus. Thus God was proving His people, that they might know that "man doth not live by bread only, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of the Lord doth man live." E. J. Waggoner, The Everlasting Covenant (1900) 310-311.
-Jerry Finneman

Raul Diaz