Friday, October 31, 2014

“Love and the Law”

Insights #5 November 1, 2014
Fourth Quarter 2014 Adult Sabbath School Lessons
"Love and the Law"
For the week of November 1, 2014

"Love is the fulfilling of the law" (Rom 13:10). Righteousness is conformity to the law of love, for all of God's "commandments are righteousness" (Psa 119:172). It is by faith in Christ alone who brings to us God's righteousness, which is His love. It is Christ who brings us into harmony with God's law of love.

God's law did not fall in the fall of man. And it does not become sin when we sin. The law is the measure of the righteousness of God; it witnesses to His righteousness (Rom 3:21). Because of Adam's fall, and our own, we are far below the righteousness of the law. Because of this we are now dependent upon Christ to raise us up to where its righteousness may be fulfilled in us (Rom 8:4). In the righteousness of Christ we obtain God's love and thus "love is the fulfilling of the law." Love – righteousness – is not a formula. It is embodied in a person and that Person is Christ. We receive righteousness – love – by receiving Christ by faith alone.

This love, this righteousness, becomes a way of life for the believer. This is the message of James. He must never be pitted against Paul and his message of righteousness by faith. It is Paul who wrote that love is the fulfilling of the law and James is in perfect harmony with this. He wrote, "If you really fulfill the royal law according to the Scripture, 'You shall love your neighbor as yourself' " (James 2:8).

Both James and Paul wrote about justification by faith. Paul wrote that justification by faith carries the law up front for all to see it in action. He says that it is only by justification by faith that the law of love is established (Rom 3:30-31). James wrote about what justification by faith is and is not.

Another example of what justification by faith is not is the faith of devils. They believe (James 2:19), but they are never justified by their belief. Why is this? Because their faith is historical only. They believe, and cannot deny, that Christ came and died for sinners. The faith that justifies is the faith that surrenders the will to Christ; that accepts Christ as the only way of salvation. Lucifer and his followers refused to surrender and to accept Christ as their Savior and they are now incapable of the faith that leads to repentance and justification. Consequently their belief does not tend toward righteousness and love. What's more is this: the fallen angels are incapable of loving one another. They cannot bridle their tongues. Without God's love they despise each other and unite only to attack the fallen race, especially the remnant people of God.

Humans who are justified by faith in Christ alone bridle their tongues. If one does not control his tongue his profession of religion is useless (James 1:26).

James wrote that you cannot "hold the faith of our Lord Jesus Christ … with partiality" (James 2:1). The faith of Jesus is blind to all caste societies whether made up of wealth, education, political influence, age or ethnicity. James gives several illustrations of what justification by faith is. Abraham and Rahab illustrate what justification by faith is. It is believing not only in the absence of feelings but against them as in the case of Abraham. Earlier James wrote that those who are justified by faith will care for the elderly and orphans and others in need (1:27).

We "all have sinned" and fall short of love, law and righteousness. All stand alike guilty before God. But everyone, of whatever race or class, can accept this saying: "the Son of Man has come to seek and to save that which was lost" (Luke 19:10). A church-going sinner is no better than a non-member sinner; a sinner who stands as a church-member, is no better than one who is outside. The sinner who has gone through the form of baptism is not better than the sinner who has never made any profession of Christianity. Sinners are sinners, whether in the church or out. Nevertheless we can thank God that Christ is the propitiation for our sins, as well as for the sins of the whole world (1 John 2:2).

There is good news and thus hope for the unfaithful professor of religion, as well as for the sinner who has never named the name of Christ. Both can be brought into harmony with God's law of love through Christ. Rahab's experience illustrates this fact.

It is through keeping the faith of Jesus that we are enabled to keep the commandments of God. To keep His commandments is to love Him supremely and to love our neighbor impartially. This means that we are to do good to those who do good to us and alsoto do good to those who try to do us in.

What, then, motivates our actions? Paul tells us that it is the love of Christ that motivates us; it "compels us, because we judge thus: that if One died for all, then all died; and He died for all, that those who live should live no longer for themselves, but for Him who died for them and rose again." He then concludes, "Therefore, from now on, we regard no one according to the flesh" (2 Cor 5:14-16).

Likewise, this is the message from James. "Mercy triumphs over judgment" (James 2:13). Again, Rahab is an illustration of this (James 2:25). She, along with the of us, deserves judgment, but God's mercy triumphs here and then we, in turn, as did Rahab, give mercy even to our enemies. This is the essence of obedience to the principles of the law of God.
Abraham's faith is another illustration of justification by faith. As stated above, his faith is the faith that believes not only in the absence of feelings but against them. This faith obeys even if it is against one's innermost feelings. In Christ only there is righteousness and strength. In Him there is justification and glory.

Waggoner wrote concerning man's great need:

There is but one thing in this world that a man needs, and that is justification – and justification is a fact, not a theory. It is the gospel.  That which does not tend to righteousness is of no avail, and not worthy to be preached.  Righteousness can only be attained through faith; consequently, all things worthy to be preached must tend to justification by faith.  E. J. Waggoner, "The Bible Echo and Australians Signs of the Times," Sept 1, 1891.

In the Lord there is righteousness and strength. In the Lord there is justification and glory. In the glory of heaven we will not look to the best deeds that we have done and thank God that we are justified because we have done so well. Our song of joy will be, "Unto him that loved us and washed us from our sins in his own blood" (Rev 1:5).
In closing consider the following:

Sin is the greatest of all evils, and it is ours to pity and help the sinner. There are many who err, and who feel their shame and their folly. They are hungry for words of encouragement. They look upon their mistakes and errors, until they are driven almost to desperation. These souls we are not to neglect. If we are Christians, we shall not pass by on the other side, keeping as far as possible from the very ones who most need our help. When we see human beings in distress, whether through affliction or through sin, we shall never say, This does not concern me. Ellen G. White, The Desire of Ages, p. 504.
-Jerry Finneman