Friday, November 17, 2017

1888 Glad Tidings : Insight #7 November 18, 2017

"Overcoming Sin"
November 18 2017
Paul extends his discussion of righteousness by faith to include the true fruits of faith, and the working of true righteousness in one's life. You often hear many people say "We are saved by grace", but often grace is not sufficiently understood. For many, grace means that God saves people and forgives them, but they limit the work of righteousness to that of a legal, forensic transaction, without an accompanying heart change revealed in the life.
Romans 6:
1 What shall we say then? Shall we continue in sin, that grace may abound?
2 God forbid. How shall we, that are dead to sin, live any longer therein? 
When we believe in Christ as our Savior and our righteousness, true faith leads to a change of heart, through the power of the Holy Spirit, and the life of Christ lived in us, and we experience progressive victory over sin and sanctification of character. True faith works by love, (Gal. 5:6), and purifies the soul. (2 Cor. 7:1). Paul is now dealing with an issue that is at the heart of the Gospel, the Sanctuary message, and the experience, ultimately, that God's people are called to fully experience at the end of time. Jesus did not come to save us in our sins, but from them, both in terms of the penalty for sin, the power of sin in our characters, and ultimately, the presence of sin in our natures. I have heard many say, "You can't stop sinning", but Paul understand that as we identify with the cross and the death of Christ, symbolized in baptism, we truly can rise to a new life. 
3 Know ye not, that so many of us as were baptized into Jesus Christ were baptized into his death?
4 Therefore we are buried with him by baptism into death: that like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life.
5 For if we have been planted together in the likeness of his death, we shall be also in the likeness of his resurrection:
6 Knowing this, that our old man is crucified with him, that the body of sin might be destroyed, that henceforth we should not serve sin.
7 For he that is dead is freed from sin.
8 Now if we be dead with Christ, we believe that we shall also live with him:
9 Knowing that Christ being raised from the dead dieth no more; death hath no more dominion over him.
As Galatians tells us, if we walk in the Spirit, we will not fulfill the lusts of the flesh. We can identify fully with Christ and His death to sin, so that we no longer need to serve the principle of sin, or self. Greater is He that is within you, than he which is in the world. There is nothing too hard for God. 
11 Likewise reckon ye also yourselves to be dead indeed unto sin, but alive unto God through Jesus Christ our Lord.
12 Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal body, that ye should obey it in the lusts thereof.
13 Neither yield ye your members as instruments of unrighteousness unto sin: but yield yourselves unto God, as those that are alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness unto God.
14 For sin shall not have dominion over you: for ye are not under the law, but under grace.
We are not "under the law" as believers. What does this mean? It means we are trusting in the merits of Christ, instead of seeking salvation by works of the law, and thus we are not under either the condemnation, or power, of the law, for we have been freed through the life, death, and resurrection of Christ. 
We have been called to holiness, to character perfection. Many struggle with that concept, but as Mary, we can say, "so be it." We can allow God to perform what He has promised, to write His law in our hearts. The Gospel is linked with the heavenly sanctuary, and ultimately, the Most Holy Place, where we experience the life of Christ en grafted into our hearts and minds forever. Perfection is both a goal, and also a present moment possibility. The next time you are tempted to sin, don't. That is all we have, the next moment, and we can live a life of freedom in the next moment, trusting in God, and "working out", what He has first worked within. 
16 Know ye not, that to whom ye yield yourselves servants to obey, his servants ye are to whom ye obey; whether of sin unto death, or of obedience unto righteousness?
17 But God be thanked, that ye were the servants of sin, but ye have obeyed from the heart that form of doctrine which was delivered you.
18 Being then made free from sin, ye became the servants of righteousness. 
22 But now being made free from sin, and become servants to God, ye have your fruit unto holiness, and the end everlasting life.
This is the true Gospel, a gospel which gives us victory over sinning, and the fruit of holiness in the life. Paul wants everyone to experience the true power of love in our lives.
The Lord in His great mercy sent a most precious message to His people through Elders Waggoner and Jones. This message was to bring more prominently before the world the uplifted Saviour, the sacrifice for the sins of the whole world. It presented justification through faith in the Surety; it invited the people to receive the righteousness of Christ, which is made manifest in obedience to all the commandments of God. Many had lost sight of Jesus. They needed to have their eyes directed to His divine person, His merits, and His changeless love for the human family. All power is given into His hands, that He may dispense rich gifts unto men, imparting the priceless gift of His own righteousness to the helpless human agent. This is the message that God commanded to be given to the world. It is the third angel's message, which is to be proclaimed with a loud voice, and attended with the outpouring of His Spirit in a large measure.
~Pastor Tom Cusack

Friday, November 10, 2017

1888 Glad Tidings : Insight #6 November 11, 2017

Sabbath School Insight #6
"Adam and Jesus"
November 11, 2017
Romans 5 is very important in the points expressed as a part of the 1888 Message.  Paul has established the truth of Righteousness by Faith alone.  Salvation is by faith alone, in the merits of Christ, obtained for the human race through His love and grace.  Romans 5 then goes further to look at the issues of Adam vs. Christ, and the results of both lives in the history of sin and salvation.
The issues raised in Romans 5 and the realization of what Jesus accomplished for the human race, corporately and legally, in the redemption of mankind, has been discussed in many avenues in our church in the last few years, and I feel a deep responsibility that people understand what Jesus did, and did not do, through His life, death, and resurrection. Justification, received by faith, results in forgiveness of sins, power to stand, and hope in the glory of God, or His character reproduced in us.
I Corinthians 15:1-4 reveals the Gospel, the birth, life, death, and resurrection of Christ.  Man did not, and cannot contribute to this finished work of redemption.  We are called, in John 6:28-29, to believe in Christ as the Savior of mankind.  When we place faith in Christ, we have peace, freedom from condemnation, and the promise of a changed heart through the power of love in the Holy Spirit.  See Romans 5:1-5, Romans 8:1.
Paul reveals the history of the First and Second Adam, and the results of their lives on the problem of sin in the human race.  Jesus came to rewrite the history of the human race, and to undo what Adam did in the fall into sin.
God took the initiative in our salvation, dying for the human race while we were His enemies.  We were saved from wrath by Him.  This is true historically, as well as in terms of present assurance and future reality.  Adam and Eve should have perished due to their sin, but because of the intervention of God, mankind had a second chance to return to loyalty and allegiance to God.  When we are in right standing with God, we have peace, and the hope of eternal life, through the grace and forbearance of God.
Paul expresses the truth that due to Adam's sin, condemnation came upon the human race, in him as the head of the human race.  In the same way, justification unto life came upon all men, through the Victory of Christ at the Cross.  What does this mean, and what does it not mean?  I Timothy 4:10 tells us that Christ is "the Savior of ALL men, especially those that believe."  
Jesus saved us all,
in Him as the Head of Humanity or the 2nd Adam, in paying the redemption price, saving the world, in Adam. 
We have quotes in inspiration that reflect the Biblical point.
See Selected Messages, I, p. 252. 
"In assuming humanity Christ took the part of every human being, He was the Head of Humanity.  A being Divine and human, with His long arm He could encircle humanity, while with His Divine arm, He could lay hold of the throne of the Infinite."
Letter 67, 1902.
"Christ came to the earth and made an offering of such value that He redeemed the race." Ministry of Healing, p. 90.
"With His own blood He has signed the emancipation papers of the race." Letter 136, 1902.
"The world does not acknowledge that, at an infinite cost Christ has purchased the human race.  They do not acknowledge that by creation and by redemption, He holds a just claim to every human being.  But as the redeemer of the fallen race, He has been given the deed of possession, which entitles Him to claim them as His property."
Romans 5:18 Therefore as by the offence of one judgment came upon all men to condemnation; even so by the righteousness of one the free gift came upon all men unto justification of life.
The entire human race was legally justified, unto life, redeemed from the penalty of sin, and reconciled to God through Christ's death.  This, of course, does not mean that every human being, in their own personal spiritual experience, are "born again."
What Christ has accomplished for every human being, in order to be personally experienced, must be united with total faith and surrender in the merits of Christ for His freedom from condemnation in the judgment. When we do so, we stand before God as though we have never sinned, and moreover, He changes the heart, brings us back into right relationship, gives us a new heart and a new spirit, causes us to walk in His commandments, and fills us with His love.
Mankind must, themselves, be reconciled to God in their hearts and minds.  We are to submit by faith to the righteousness of God, which alone is our title to Heaven.  God promises to sanctify the character of those who believe in Christ. 
We are all in the water, drowning, in our experience, before Christ.  God has purchased the lifeboat, given us the life preserver, and our name is inscribed on a seat in the "ark" of salvation.  We are called to enter into Christ, by faith, and to abide in Him.
Waggoner on Romans.   "Justification of Life." -- "By the righteousness of One the free gift came upon all men unto justification of life." There is no exception here. As the condemnation came upon all, so the justification comes upon all. Christ has tasted death for every man. He has given himself for all. Nay, He has given himself to every man. If it came upon only those who have some special qualification, then it would not be a free gift.  p. 5, Para. 44, [WROM]. It is a fact, therefore, plainly stated in the Bible, that the gift of righteousness and life in Christ has come to every man on earth. There is not the slightest reason why every man that has ever lived should not be saved unto eternal life, except that they would not have it. So many spurn the gift offered so freely.  p. 5, Para. 45, [WROM].
~Pastor Tom Cusack

Friday, November 03, 2017

1888 Sabbath School Insight

Sabbath School Insight #5
November 4, 2017

Was Abraham justified by his works? James 2:21. Or was he justified by faith and not by works? Romans 4:1-6. Our study this week is central to understanding Paul's theology of righteousness by faith alone, using a very practical example, that of the life of Abraham. Is salvation by faith alone? Is it faith plus works? Or is it a third option, that brings into the play the issue of good works in the life of the person of faith?
The Laodicean condition is self-righteousness. The Jews of Paul's day had the same issue. Romans 9-10, which we will study further in a subsequent lesson, clearly state that the Jews sought salvation by work of the law, instead of faith, and trusted to their own righteousness, instead of surrendering to the righteousness of God.
The phrase "righteousness of God" refers to a divinely produced righteousness in the perfect life and atoning sacrifice of Christ, then offered as a gift to the human race, having accomplished the legal justification of the race "In Christ" as the Head of Humanity and the Second Adam. I have often heard, after preaching on the beautiful truth and miracle of righteousness by faith, "yes, but we ALSO have to obey." That is another form of faith plus works. The Jews in the first century argued for circumcision and the keeping of the law as the means to obtaining justification, and men continually wrestle with the question of their "part" in the plan of salvation.
Romans 4 presents three phases in the plan of salvation.
The promise of divine blessing (the promise of grace.)
The human response to that divine gift.
The divine pronouncement of righteousness credited to those who believe (Justification.)
Paul, in Romans 5, of course reveals the resulting experience of a changed heart and the divine implanting of the Holy Spirit, all predicated on the Justification unto Life obtained for all mankind, to be received by faith alone.
When we understand Romans 4, we begin to truly appreciate salvation as a miracle, as something beyond man's ability to produce through human effort, and the unspeakable gift that Christ is to the human race. We also begin to see very clearly the universality of the gospel to both Jew and Gentile, as Abraham is the "father of us all." This clearly negates dispensationalism, the theology that drives the "secret rapture", and the idea that there is more than one Gospel and one Plan of Salvation.
Paul brings out that in the Old Testament, Abraham believed and it was credited to Him as righteousness, to illustrate that the Old Testament, as well as the new, present the one gospel of grace. Hebrews 4:2 tells us that they had the same Gospel preached to them that we have. To keep a balanced perspective, Romans 3:31 points out that faith does not make void the law of God, but establishes it, because the New Covenant promise, the experience of salvation, was available in the OT as well. See Psalm 40:8, Psalm 37:31, Deuteronomy 5:29, Deuteronomy 6:6. The OT people had the same gospel we do, and the Gospel granted to Abraham was the same given to Israel at Sinai, typified in the sanctuary services which prefigured the atoning sacrifice of Christ.
Be ye mindful always of His covenant; the word which He commanded to a thousand generations;16 Even of the covenant which He made with Abraham, and of His oath unto Isaac; 17 And hath confirmed the same to Jacob for a law, and to Israel for an everlasting covenant,
1 Chronicles 16:15-17
Salvation is by grace and not of debt. Paul is arguing that if man had to work to obtain his salvation, it would eliminate the reality of grace, and make the basis of salvation the debt man owed God through sin. He shows that Abraham experienced justification by faith before He was circumcised making it impossible that circumcision was the means of obtaining the grace of God.
And being fully persuaded that, what He had promised, He was able also to perform." Romans 4:21
Faith in God is revealed in this text, that we place implicit trust in God, in full surrender that what God has promised, He will perform. COL, p. 333.
"All His biddings are enablings" The key verse which harmonizes faith and works is Galatians 5:6… "A faith which works by love." Faith works by love and purifies the soul. True faith produces an experience of heart change, giving us new motives, a new focus, and the power of the Gospel to make us sons and daughters of God. Ephesians 2:10. "For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus UNTO good works, which God has foreordained that we should walk in them."
A "hidden treasure" in this chapter is the fact that God honors Abraham's faith, in stating that He did not stumble in unbelief, but was strong in faith. Yet doesn't that trouble you? The fact is, Abraham DID stumble in unbelief, with Hagar, resulting in the birth of Ishmael, who along with his mother had to eventually be cast out of the camp. The good news is that when we finally gain victory over the unbelief of our life, God does not remember our sin, or hold it against us, but rejoices in the victory. I find tremendous comfort in that aspect of Romans 4.
Therefore it is of faith, that it might be by grace; to the end the promise might be sure to all the seed; not to that only which is of the law, but to that also which is of the faith of Abraham; who is the father of us all. Romans 4:16
Christ is the surety of the promises of God.
~Tom Cusack
Raul Diaz

Friday, October 27, 2017

1888 Glad Tidings : Insight #4 October 28, 2017

Justification by Faith

Imagine with me: a man was suffering with cancer and had to undergo chemotherapy. Things seemed to progress as testing showed his tumor had decreased in size. Before the tumor had definitively disappeared, his oncologist ended his chemo treatments. Puzzled and bewildered, the man asked himself several questions, "Did I miss something?" "Why would my doctor do such a thing?" "Is this regular protocol?" "Did things get worse all of a sudden?" "If this is the case, how long do I have to live?"
Confused, the man asked to speak to his doctor for an explanation as to why he stopped the treatments. The man could not believe the doctor's response, "You do not require any more chemotherapy because I have declared your cancer (to be) in remission.  As far as I am concerned you have no more tumors. I declare you, 'healed.'"  As the doctor completed his explanation, the man, who was initially curious, turned disbelieving and then progressively angry. He yelled, "Are you insane? If the tumors aren't gone, how can you declare me anything?" I daresay, most of us would have a similar response. This scenario begs the question, would you rather be declared healed or would you prefer to actually be healed?
The popular interpretation of justification by faith is that we are declared righteous, not made righteous. How does God really work this -- is the thing really true because He declares it so, or does He declare it because it is true? Does God declare something without it being true? Unlike our Doctor from the story above, God is not insane. God does not declare things unless they already are. One example of this is in Genesis 1 (for another example cf father Abraham). At almost every stage of Creation God saw that what He did was good. At the end, in Genesis 1:31, He declared it again,
            God saw all that he had made, and it was very good.
This concept of only declaring could be in part from the definition of righteous. According to a previous Sabbath School lesson, 
What is this idea of "justifying," as found in the text? The Greek word dikaioo, translated justify, may mean "make righteous," "declare righteous" or "consider righteous." The word is built on the same root as dikaiosune, "righteousness," and the word dikaioma, "righteous requirement." Hence, there is a close connection between "justification" and "righteousness," a connection that doesn't always come through in various translations. We are justified when we are "declared righteous" by God.
Before this justification, a person is unrighteous, and thus unacceptable to God; after justification, he or she is regarded as righteous, and thus acceptable to Him.
You will notice that the author(s) of the lesson chose "declare righteous" instead of "make righteous."  The question again is, would you rather be declared righteous or made righteous? (Which is more accurate?) Especially, since God is fully capable of making us righteous. Ellen White makes reference to this issue in the following quote,
"Righteousness is obedience to the law. The law demands righteousness, and this the sinner owes to the law; but he is incapable of rendering it. The only way in which he can attain to righteousness is through faith. By faith he can bring to God the merits of Christ, and the Lord places the obedience of His Son to the sinner's account. Christ's righteousness is accepted in place of man's failure, and God receives, pardons, justifies, the repentant, believing soul, treats him as though he were righteous, and loves him as He loves His Son."—Ellen G. White, Selected Messages, book 1, p. 367. 
"...Everything was lost by sin; man forfeited his title to every blessing. It is only by divine grace, through the infinite sacrifice of Christ that we could be reinstated in the favor of God, and be permitted to enjoy His gifts. We are not our own. Christ has bought us with His precious blood, and we belong to Him."
RH Dec. 14, 1886 par. 8.
Being that God is able to make us righteous we can interpret the text from Romans chapter 3 as, "Therefore we conclude that a man is made righteous by faith without the deeds of the law" (Romans 3:28).  The question is will we let Him?
~Raul Diaz

Friday, October 20, 2017

1888 Glad Tidings : Insight #3 October 21, 2017

Fourth Quarter Sabbath School Lesson
"The Human Condition"
October 21, 2017

 One of the lessons that Paul seeks to remind us of in the book of Romans is the fundamental commonality of humanity's moral condition. Paul's purpose, as God's ambassador, is not to remind us of our true fallen condition in order to cause discouragement, guilt, shame, or embarrassment. Paul's purpose is to give us an accurate diagnosis so that we can trust the Great Physician regarding our condition as well as the treatment.
           Romans 3:23 reminds us that, "all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God". As we know from previous study, God's glory is His character (Ex. 33). And God's fundamental character trait is love (1 John 4). So in saying that all have sinned, Paul is confronting us that we've all fallen short of representing God's love to others in the world around us – spouses, children, parents, friends, coworkers, strangers, and enemies.
           We've lived, to one degree or another, lives motivated by self-interest, self-preservation, and self-promotion. Even in our religiosity, or performance of benevolent deeds, we need to be sensitive to whether our motives are solely and purely for the benefit and blessing of others, or are they tainted by the desire for affirmation and appreciation of others for our good behavior and generosity.
           Paul is saying that we've all sinned – we've fallen short of a pure, undiminished, and untainted revelation of God's love to those around us. Consequently, we've all been – to varying degrees – the victims and victimizers of others. We've damaged others and they've damaged us. We've damaged ourselves. True love and faithfulness, that are unchanging, are an extremely rare commodity in the social economy of today's world. In contemporary culture, love so-called, is transitory and conditional and based on self-interest. The world's "love" is really selfishness hidden under the garment of pleasant temporary emotionalism.
           This condition of self-love at the expense of true love for others dates back to our human parents, Adam and Eve. Both were led into "sin" by an appeal to self-love. Eve under the guise of self-promotion, and Adam under the guise of immature and blind emotionalism. Adam's chief concern was what he would be losing. True love would have moved him to give himself for her, not to join her in the descent of self-interest.
           Satan appealed to them by causing them to mistrust the goodness and love of God. The serpent's message was basically that God is self-preserving (God is holding back this amazing fruit from you because He doesn't want you to elevate to His exalted sphere), and therefore you need to take care of yourself. God can't be trusted as His basic instinct is self-interest, not love and self-sacrifice for you.
           So it makes sense that if the basic origin of sin (anti-love) is distrust of God's goodness and lovethe remedy would be an overwhelming message of God's actual goodness and love. And so, Rom. 2:4 tells us that the goodness of God does in fact lead us to repentance! 
Notice how Dr. Waggoner develops this thought in Waggoner on Romans:
"The goodness of God leads men to repentance. Therefore the whole earth is full of incentives to repentance, for "the earth is full of the goodness of the Lord." Ps. 33:5. "The earth, O Lord, is full of Thy mercy." Ps. 119:64. God may be known through His works, and "God is love." All creation reveals the love and mercy of God.
And we need not try to improve on the Scriptures, and say that the goodness of God tends to lead men to repentance. The Bible says that it does lead them to repentance, and we may be sure that it is so. Every man is being led toward repentance as surely as God is good. But not all repent. Why? Because they despise the riches of the goodness and forbearance and long-suffering of God, and break away from the merciful leading of the Lord. But whoever does not resist the Lord, will surely be brought to repentance and salvation."
           As we all see – to some degree – how we have fallen short of the glory of God. May we see that God's remedy for the virus of sin is repeated overdoses of the goodness of God. We need to see, more and more and more, the goodness or righteousness of God as manifested in Jesus Christ. We need to take our medicine every day – at least "a thoughtful hour each day" – of the healing dose of Jesus' life and death. This medicine will enable us to be changed by beholding (2 Cor. 3:18), and to grow up into the fullness of the measure of the stature of Christ (Eph. 4:13). Healing is possible, but not by looking merely at where we are, but by looking continuously at Jesus – and change will come. God is faithful and will perform it! (1 Cor. 10:19)
~Bob Hunsaker

Friday, October 13, 2017

1888 Glad Tidings : Insight #2 October 14, 2017

Fourth Quarter 2017 Sabbath School Lesson
"The Controversy"
October 14, 2017
    The controversy in the early church was addressed especially in letters to churches in Galatia and the church in Rome. In both cases the issue was over the same principle – the conflict over righteousness by faith and righteousness by works; of justification by Christ alone or by legalism; by the power of God or by human backbone and unbending stiff-necked religion. The principle of contention, then, was as it is today: "How is a person justified?" Millennia ago Job ask the same question, "How can a man be righteous before God?" Job 9:2. The principle remains the same, but the application of the principle changes because of varying circumstances and conditions.
    The controversy came to a head in Paul's day because he and Barnabas taught justification by faith in Christ alone to the Gentiles, who responded extraordinarily to the preaching of this gospel. The power of God was working mightily through Paul who received and presented the message of justification directly from heaven. The enemy of God and man was alarmed. He knew that by some means he had to bring the preaching of the gospel to an end or at least to bring it to a standstill. If he could not, then his movement would plummet and eventually collapse. So, he goaded some Pharisees to resist the gospel. These were professed believers, "Pharisees who believed" (Acts 15:5). These emissaries of Satan followed Paul from place to place tearing down what he had previously built up.
    Their teaching was, "Unless you are circumcised according to the custom of Moses, you cannot be saved." Acts 15:1. This sentiment was expressed in the first Council of the Christian Church at Jerusalem. Those Pharisees made circumcision a salvation issue. But this was "a different gospel" a perversion of "the gospel of Christ." Galatians 1:6-7. And it is evident that the doctrine of those Pharisees reached the church in Rome as well as the churches in Galatia. Those gospel perverters had some very strong Bible texts to support their false premise. We will consider two passages familiar to them. The first was Genesis 17:11-14. In its first instance circumcision was a token of Abraham's unbelief in God's promise. In the performance of this ceremony the testimony was given that the carnal nature – the flesh – must be "cut off," not as a method of salvation, but as an act of faith in God's promise that He will do for a person that which he can not do for themselves. Circumcision became a "seal of the righteousness of the faith which Abraham had while still uncircumcised." Romans 4:11.
    If a person refused to be circumcised, he was to be "cut off from his people" (Genesis 17:14). This was a capital offence. This was strong evidence for the Pharisees who were peddling a works righteousness program of justification. The second passage they based their theology on is found in Exodus 4:24-26. Moses on the way back to Egypt was struck down with which appeared to be a terminal illness. Zipporah, Moses wife, knew exactly what to do. She circumcised the second boy with a stone and thus saved Moses life (vs 25). Evidently, she was very tenderhearted and was painful for her to see the firstborn child circumcised. Consequentially, she influenced Moses convincing him to not circumcise their second son. But when she saw Moses nearly dead, she immediately performed the ceremony herself.
    These two instances were proof texts that circumcision of the flesh was absolutely necessary for salvation. How could Paul doubt such proof texts as these? However, what the Pharisees did not understand was the fact that Jesus fulfilled the ceremonial circumcision by His death. Christ was "cut off" from life! Daniel 9:26. The term "cut off" here, in Daniel, is the same term used in the case of Zipporah and in that of Abraham regarding circumcision as found in Exodus 4:25 and Genesis 17:14.   
    The "Pharisees that believed" ignored the real meaning of circumcision which was, a sign of salvation – a sign of justification by faith and of the new birth. Outward circumcision was to be a pictogram of the heart for both men and women. The heart was to be circumcised as illustrated by its physical counterpart in the circumcision of the flesh. As presented in Deuteronomy 30:6 and 10:16, Paul cut through the fog of false doctrine and revealed the true significance of circumcision when writing to the Roman church by stating: "…Circumcision is that of the heart, in the Spirit, not in the letter…" Romans 2:29.
    And further, as Paul affirmed that to be circumcised, in its true meaning, is to be crucified with Christ as brought forth in his letter to the church in Colosse: "In Him you were also circumcised with the circumcision made without hands, by putting off the body of the sins of the flesh, by the circumcision of Christ." Colossians 2:11.
    In that Jerusalem Council mentioned earlier and recorded in Acts 15, Peter came to the aid of Paul in the controversy over salvation. He did this by relating his experience of a dream sent by God to instruct him about uncircumcised Gentile believers (Acts 15:7-21). Gentiles as taught by Jews were unclean and so could not be associated with. But God disagreed with this and convinced Peter of this false doctrine.
    However, Peter later while under pressure abandoned his belief at Antioch because of the strong influence of those Pharisees who professed belief in Christ, but were in reality "false brethren" who turned the gospel of Christ into a false gospel. Paul was at that meeting and rigorously and publicly rebuked Peter (see Galatians 2:14-16). Paul set forth the true gospel, the only gospel, of salvation when he spoke to Peter about justification by faith.
    Paul stated in certain terms, you know "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." Galatians 2:16 (KJV). The following is a chiastic structure of this vital truth of the gospel as given by Paul:
A.  a man is not justified by the works of the law,
B. but by the faith of Jesus Christ,
  B/ even we have believed in Jesus Christ, that we might be justified by the faith
of Christ,
    A/ and not by the works of the law: for by the works of the law shall no flesh be justified.
    The controversy continues today. It is the same in principle, but the application has changed. The issue is still justification by the faith of Jesus, believed and made a part of the experience of the believer as the work of God for him, and by him as he believes in Christ alone for justification, This is opposed by legalists who resist this wonderful good news and in its place insist on their own merits in some fashion, using Bible proof texts, as did the "Pharisees who believed" in their works of circumcision as a means of salvation.
~ Jerry Finneman

Friday, October 06, 2017

The Apostle Paul In Rome

Fourth Quarter 2017 Sabbath School Lesson
"The Apostle Paul In Rome"
                    October 7, 2017

After spending a quarter studying Paul's letter to the Galatians, Seventh-day Adventists have the privilege of continuing the study of the gospel, this time in the book of Romans, during the fourth quarter of this year. It was the light from this book -- "The just shall live by faith" -- that pierced the mind of Martin Luther like a lightning bolt from heaven and freed him from the bondage of trying to earn his salvation. That was 500 years ago. The light of the reformation continues to shine with greater brilliance in each successive generation, and the study of the book that started it all will ignite a fire in the heart of every earnest seeker of truth.
Personally, I am thrilled with the opportunity before our world church to study Romans because of what the book means to me. Nearly three decades ago, friends invited my husband and I to attend a seminar on the book of Romans. The teacher, Pastor E. H. "Jack" Sequeira, was an "African bush pastor" of Indian descent who had devoted his post-conversion years in Africa to studying the gospel, especially the book of Romans. We listened with rapt attention that Sunday as Pastor Jack unfolded the gospel, chapter by chapter, beginning with Romans chapter one. By the time we got to chapter five, I felt like I had been struck by lightning! The gospel was unfolded in a way that was new and thrilling. On that day the "light of the knowledge of God in the face of Jesus" (2 Cor. 4:6) shone brightly in my heart and I experienced something akin to the disciples' description of their talk with Jesus along the road to Emmaus: "Did not our heart burn within us while He talked with us on the road, and while He opened the Scriptures to us?" Luke 24:32.
The book of Acts tells the amazing story of how God sent Philip to give a Bible study to an Ethiopian eunuch along the side of the road in the desert. When Philip met the man, he asked, "Do you understand what you are reading?"
The eunuch replied, "How can I, unless someone guides me?" "And He asked Philip to come up and sit with him."
The Bible says that Philip did just that, and "opened his mouth, and beginning at this Scripture, preached Jesus to him." That roadside Bible study led to the eunuch's baptism, and no doubt he became a teacher of the Word upon his return to Ethiopia. (See Acts 8:26-40).
It is God's purpose that one should teach another. We shouldn't feel humiliated that we don't understand the Bible. We are dependent upon the Holy Spirit to be our teacher, and the Spirit often uses other people to explain the Word. 
Romans is a book that many have found hard to understand. If you find yourself hungering for a deeper knowledge of the gospel, don't suffer alone! Utilize the resources with which God has blessed us to unlock the truths of the gospel.
Like the woman who lit a lamp to find the lost coin, Advent believers have been blessed with a divinely-inspired flashlight in which to search out the hidden gems of Scripture through the ministry and writings of Ellen White. And Sister White, in turn, urged that God had raised up two young men, Brothers
A. T. Jones and E. J. Waggoner to further explain the vast treasure of gospel truth centered in Christ.
Sabbath School Insights readers may wish to avail themselves of further study resources, such as Waggoner on Romans, a verse-by-verse exposition by E. J. Waggoner. His introduction to the book of Romans is included here in connection with our Sabbath School theme for this week:
"Inspiration assures us that in all of the epistles of Paul there are 'some things hard to be understood.' 2 Pet. 3:16. Perhaps this is the case with the Epistle to the Romans in a greater degree than with any other. But they are not impossible to be understood, and it is only the 'unlearned and unstable' who wrest them unto their own destruction.
  "Note that it is only those who wrest 'the other scriptures' to their own destruction who thus miss the point of Paul's writings. They who have a desire to understand and who read the simple promises of the Bible with profit, will not be among that number.
  "In beginning this study it will be an encouragement to the reader if he will remember that it is simply a letter written to the church in Rome. We can not suppose that the congregation in Rome differed from the great body of Christians in general. Of them we read that 'not many wise men after the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble, are called.' 1 Cor. 1:26. The truest followers of Jesus have always been among 'the common people.' So in the church in Rome there were doubtless shopkeepers, artisans, day laborers, carpenters, gardeners, etc., and many servants in the families of wealthy citizens, together with a few who might hold some position of rank. When we consider that it was confidently expected that people of this sort would understand the letter, we may be encouraged to believe that the same class of people can understand it now.
  "Paul's exhortation and assurance to Timothy form the best guide to the study of all his epistles, and the whole Bible as well: 'Consider what I say; for the Lord shall give thee understanding in all things.' 'God is his own interpreter.' The words of the Bible explain the Bible. This is why you should closely question the text so as to get at exactly what is said, in connection with what precedes and follows.
  "The notes that accompany the text in this study are designed to fix the student's attention more closely upon the word, and for the benefit of the casual reader. That the study of this epistle may be greatly blessed to those who pursue it, and that the word may become more highly esteemed by all because of the increased light that the Holy Spirit may cause to flash from it, is the earnest prayer of the writer" (from the introductory "Note to the Reader From the Author," Waggoner on Romans, E. J. Waggoner).
~Patti Guthrie