Thursday, August 10, 2017

1888 Glad Tidings : Insight #7 August 12, 2017

INSIGHT #7 AUGUST 12, 2017
Third Quarter 2017 Sabbath School Lesson
"The Road to Faith"
August 12, 2017
Read for this week's study: Gal. 3:21–25; Lev. 18:5; Rom. 3:9–19; 1 Cor. 9:20; Rom. 3:1, 2; 8:1–4.
Memory Text: "Scripture has confined all under sin, that the promise by faith in Jesus Christ might be given to those who believe" (Galatians 3:22, NKJV).

Recently I wrote to one of the major critics of Seventh-day Adventists this statement, in response to their stated, printed belief that SDA's have the "Galatian" problem, namely, seeking to be justified BY keeping the Law. This is what I said. "It is intellectually and morally dishonest to state that the Seventh Day Adventist churches officially teach salvation BY keeping the law. It is a straw man that does not exist, for the church has NEVER officially taught salvation by works of any kind, let alone the Moral Law of God." I am, of course, referring to our stated Fundamental Beliefs, which do reflect some of the concepts of righteousness by faith. We endeavor in the 1888 Message Study Committee to elucidate to the fullest degree the Most Precious Message, which will lighten the earth with its glory. This message even further presents the truth of Righteousness by Faith alone. Of course, there have been those in church history, and today, who teach legalistic concepts, and the committee exists because of the issues which were raised in 1888, and which in our experience as a church always needs to be remembered, bringing about a true Christian experience based on faith in the merits or righteousness of Jesus Christ alone. What was the Galatian problem, and what was Paul's concern, and what is the true Gospel? Previous lessons have addressed this, but I am convinced that the next two lessons, both of which I am writing, are key to Paul's theology and concerns. Galatians 3:11 is very clear, as is Galatians 2:16, 20.

Gal 3:11 But that no man is justified by the law in the sight of God, it is evident: for, The just shall live by faith.

Gal 2:16 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.

Gal 2:20 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.

We have seen Paul's theology, that we are justified "by the Faith OF Jesus." His act of faithfulness accomplished the redemption of the race, as our Head of Humanity, the Second Adam. The corporate, legal justification of the human race, if believed, results in the justification of the individual, by the faith of Christ. Christ took all humanity into Himself.

What is the Gospel? The Gospel is the birth, life, death, and resurrection of Christ, accomplishing a gift of salvation for the human race, rescuing us from the second death, giving us probationary time, resulting in "justification unto life" all accomplished by His act and experienced by our belief in the wonderful truths of what Christ has done for every man.

I Timothy 4:10 "For thus we labor and suffer reproach, because we trust in the living God, who IS the SAVIOR of ALL men, especially those who believe".

What is the "road to faith?" My response is to ask a question. Do you mean the Faith of Jesus, the belief in the gospel that we all have an opportunity to exercise, or the object of faith, Jesus Christ Himself?

Jeremiah 31:3 tells us, as does John 12:32, that God draws us to Christ, to the cross to hear the unspeakable good news of the "gift" of Christ's righteousness, to be received, and experienced daily, by faith alone.

Many object to this concept of faith alone, saying there must also be obedience, there must also be good works, etc. The beauty of the 1888 Message, in addition to the incredible sacrifice Christ made for all, is the truth that the Message links the cross to the heavenly sanctuary, making it possible for all to obey God's commandments, as Christ fulfills His Heavenly Sanctuary ministry, by interceding for us, by sending us the Holy Spirit, by guiding us into all truth, by living out His life in us, and by writing His law, His character, in our hearts.

The path of the Faith of Jesus is the path of a perfect life and atoning sacrifice.

The path of response to His gift is through His drawing us to the cross, and our response to the salvation message. The path to Christ Himself is the opportunity we have, to love because He first loved us, to have both an intelligent understanding and a heartfelt appreciation for the cost of Calvary, to thus fall in love with Christ, to recognize His incredible heart of mercy, grace and love, and to walk with Christ again as we once did in the Garden, and as we will for all eternity. The road includes the law, for one simple reason. The Law reflects the character of Christ, and the Gospel enables us to experience Christ in the Law.

Sunday's Lesson - "The Law and the Promise"
The mistake many make, and which the Judaizers made, is to assume that man's part in the plan of salvation is to "do" something. In the first century, it was faith plus circumcision. The Roman Catholic will say "faith plus works." When Jesus was asked about works, this was his response. John 6:28 Then said they unto Him, What shall we do, that we might work the works of God?

John 6:29 Jesus answered and said unto them, This is the work of God, that ye believe on Him whom He hath sent.

However, the response of many is to point to our major text, Galatians 3:21-25, and point out that the SCHOOLMASTER is no longer needed, thus we don't need the Moral Law anymore, and of course, by extension, we do not need the Sabbath. Yet they would admit, if honest, that the commandments are restated in the New Testament, that Scriptures such as I Cor. 7:19, John 14:15, the Sermon on the Mount, Revelation 14:12, 12:17, 22:14, all speak of "keeping the commandments", and both Revelation 12:17 and Hebrews 8:10, in speaking about the commandments, or the law in the heart, are in the context of sanctuary imagery, including the Ark of the Covenant, and any Hebrew mind or anyone familiar with the OT sanctuary would know that such a reference in relation to commandments or the law is referring to the Tables of the Law which were contained in that Ark. Paul asks a question. 

"Is the law then contrary to the promises of God?" (Gal. 3:21, ESV). Paul's response is a strong "NO". Why not? God gave both the Law and the Promise, and He does not contradict Himself. Was the Law and the Covenant given to Abraham the same Covenant? Many are not sure. I would like to share a text. I Chronicles 16:15-17.

I Ch 16:15 Be ye mindful always of his covenant; the word which he commanded to a thousand generations;
I Ch 16:16 Even of the covenant which he made with Abraham, and of his oath unto Isaac;
I Ch 16:17 And hath confirmed the same to Jacob for a law, and to Israel for an everlasting covenant,

Israel at Mount Sinai was not given a legalistic covenant, that would guarantee they would all be lost, for no one can obtain salvation through law keeping. Hebrews 4:2 is clear. "For unto us was the gospel preached, as well as unto them: but the word preached did not profit them, not being mixed with faith in them that heard it." The "them" is referring to Israel in the wilderness experience, thus implying which we know to be true, that they had the promise to Abraham, typified in the types and shadows of the sacrificial system, also taught in the blood over the door lintel in Egypt, that salvation comes through the blood of Christ, the sacrifice for the sins of the whole world. The God they met was the God of "Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob".

Paul said, in Galatians 3:12, the "law is not of faith". The point being made is that justification is not through the law, it is through the faith of Jesus, and our response to His gift. The Jews wanted to merit justification through obedience to the law.

Some misused texts such as Lev. 18:5 and others which speak about the conduct God called His people to, and assume that "life" comes by observing those principles of the law. The Bible is clear that we are "dead" in trespasses and sins, and a dead person cannot "do anything" to be spiritually alive. We have been called to a "holy calling", but only AFTER we have received Christ.

John 1:12 "But as many as received Him, to them gave He power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on His name."

Glad Tidings, p. 75. "In Him (Christ), the carnal mind, the rebellious mind, is taken away, and the mind of the Spirit is given in its stead, "in order that the just requirements of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit." Romans 8:4. We may be partakers of the divine nature. 2 Peter 1:4.

Many think like the Judaizers, that we must "do" something in order to be saved. I SM 353. "There is a need for watchfulness against sin and temptation, but these will come NATURALLY when the soul is kept by the spirit of God through faith. Duty becomes a delight and sacrifice a pleasure…This is walking in the light, as Christ is in the light." Truly, we must be born again. Even the "doing", while we play a role in surrender to God, is a miracle of grace. Obedience is the fruit of faith. Faith obeys.

Monday's Lesson - "Kept Under the Law"
Galatians 3:23 "Before faith came, we were kept under the law." The literal Greek reads, "before THE faith came." This is speaking about the object of faith, or Jesus Christ, and His faithfulness.

What does the phrase "under the law" refer to? First, we must establish that the OT people were NOT to obtain salvation by keeping the law, or through their own "righteousness". Paul is clear that the gospel as seen in the promise of Abraham, and the law, given centuries later, did NOT disannul the promise. The law was never a Gospel, it was God's will for the life of one who experienced the Gospel. The Law is God's promise to us, repeatedly stated in the Bible, as reflecting the character of God, which is love, and which is placed in our hearts by the Holy Spirit. Romans 5:5.

The phrase "under the law" actually has two connotations in Pauls' writings. The major point is to be under the condemnation of the law, which is only taken away by the grace of God in His mercy. The second is to view the law as a "means" of salvation, and this was the essence of the Judaizers problem. The law + something else. Anyone seeking salvation by keeping the law remains under its condemnation for we have "all sinned" and are continually coming short of the glory of God. Once we sinned once in our lives, our only hope was a miracle of grace, or we would face eternal death. No amount of obedience, once we have sinned, could EVER equal the everlasting righteousness, and atoning sacrifice of Christ. Thus, according to Christ's Object Lessons, p. 333, "All His biddings are enablings." The Law itself is in the promise.

The law is righteousness, but could never bring life, for life is only in Christ. Seeking life through the law is death, condemnation, legalism and failure. Seeking for life in Christ produces the law in the heart, as we have been revived unto spiritual life, and love actuates our hearts and minds and "love is the fulfilling of the law." Romans 13:10

Tuesday and Wednesday's Lessons - The Law as our "Guard" and as our "Schoolmaster"
The law does not nullify the promise of God, and it is not against the promise of God. What is the role of the law? Paul says the law was "added" because of transgressions. He uses three words to expand on this concept. "Kept", "shut up", and "School Master". We need to remember, first, that God did not give the law to Israel to be a curse. God said there would be "blessings" for obedience. God wanted Israel to be the "head" and not the "tail". The School Master, in Greek, is the pedaigogos, the custodian, the one who kept the student in line, often by rather harsh disciplinary means. One did not have freedom while under the supervision of the custodian. The law leads us to Christ, informs us of sin, and through the Spirit, convicts us of sin, righteousness, and judgment. The law was given to impress the mind with the Holiness of God, and thus our need for supernatural help, moving us out of self- reliance, to utter dependence by faith in God, through Christ. It was meant to "break" us of pride and self-esteem, which can never exist in the true perception of the love at Calvary. The sacrificial system obviously pointed out the promise of an atoning sacrifice. Once we have Christ, there is no condemnation for those in Christ. Romans 8:1. We have peace, the continual promise of forgiveness, and the promise to cleanse us of all unrighteousness. I John 1:9. We have passed, in experience, from death to life. As we have Christ, we have Christ in the law, and the promise to be a "new creature". In Christ, nothing can condemn us. We have joy, peace, and freedom in Christ, and the guilt, fear, condemnation, etc. is gone, replaced with the "peace" of Justification, received by faith. God did not get rid of the sin problem by getting rid of the law. He provided a way by which the guilty can get rid of their guilt. Glad Tidings, p. 81. Sin still IS the transgression of the law. I John 3:4. Therefore, the law still IS. Obviously, we still all need a Savior, and continual forgiveness for the times we still fall and transgress the law. If the law was eliminated, as some claim, let us consider these points. The NT still defines sin as transgression of the law, Jesus Himself preached on the deep spiritual depths of the meaning of the law, and the NT lists the Ten Commandments, including the Sabbath, as seen in Acts 13, 16, and 18, and I Cor. 7:19, as well as Revelation 14:12, and 12:17 thus Christ in the law, therefore the NT is clear, the law was not eliminated. Jesus said "If you love me keep my commandments." The word for commandments is "entole", referring to all of Jesus' teachings. What did He teach? He taught the deep spiritual implications of the law, and thus our need for a supernatural answer to the sin problem. We continually need instruction, not only in what is righteousness, but in what is the answer to the sin problem, and that is a substitutionary sacrifice. Once we have Christ, by faith, we are free from sin and its condemnation.

Thursday's Lesson - "The Law and the Believer"
Rom 6:14 "For sin shall not have dominion over you: for ye are not under the law, but under grace." This is the essence of Paul's argument in this section of Galatians. Sin no longer has dominion over the Christian, either in terms of condemnation, or in terms of power. We are free unto righteousness, peace, mercy, joy, real freedom. The Bible has equivalent expressions for the Christian walk.

"Christ in me, the hope of glory."

"Christ, who lives in me."

"Love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Spirit."

"The Law is written in the heart and mind."

Christ is the Truth, and the Truth shall set you free. In that freedom, we are called to a "holy calling", and a life that is pleasing to God. I Thess. 4:1. "Furthermore then we beseech you, brethren, and exhort you by the Lord Jesus, that as ye have received of us how ye ought to walk and to please God, so ye would abound more and more." We walk by abiding in Christ, by faith. "If you abide in me, and I in you, you will bear fruit, for without me you can do NOTHING." John 15:5. We desire to reflect the Character of God, and thus we keep our eyes on Christ, for "by beholding, we become changed." By desiring to please God and reflect His character, we willingly and lovingly behold Him, the matchless charms of Jesus Christ.

Friday's Lesson
We are told in inspiration that "in principle, all of the OT is still in effect."

I have placed that quote here, to emphasize that Jesus was the foundation of the entire Jewish economy, and that all the practices that reflect the moral code are also binding on us, and thus, promised to us, through Christ. The types and shadows are fulfilled in Christ, and yet their meaning is still also relevant, as they point out aspects of the entirety of the plan of salvation. In principle, (I emphasize "in principle") all of the OT is still in effect. They are also impossible to keep, any of them, without the transformation of heart and mind that is a miracle. Moreover, salvation will always be based on what Christ has done. We are "unprofitable servants." Luke 17:10. We choose to do God's will, out of love, not to seek merit.

Our experience in the judgment is based on trust in the merits of Jesus Christ alone. He draws us to Him, He wins our hearts, He forgives us our sins, He changes our hearts, and He keeps us by His grace and faithfulness, as long as we place our trust completely in Him. May you totally, and truly, experience the peace that passes all understanding, through faith in Christ.
~Pastor Thomas Cusack