Friday, September 08, 2017

1888 Glad Tidings : Insight #11 September 9, 2017

Third Quarter 2017 Sabbath School Lesson
"Freedom In Christ"
September 9, 2017
Freedom in Christ, the title of our lesson this week, encapsulates the entire Gospel in just those three words. In turn, it represents the primary underlying theme of Paul's writings in the New Testament as his goal was to preach and teach the everlasting gospel whenever he wrote and wherever he went.
It is important, therefore, that we examine this lesson and Paul's writings closely since we are told by Ellen G. White (TM 91/92) that "The Lord in his great mercy sent a most precious message through Elders Waggoner and Jones" and "This is the message that God commanded to be given to the world"—why?, because it represents "the Third Angel's message in verity" and is the everlasting gospel that needs to be shared with the world before Christ can come, a restoration of the everlasting Gospel that Paul and the disciples were sharing.
When we look at the word, "Freedom", questions arise immediately. Whose freedom? Freedom from what? When does that freedom occur? Why are we being freed? How much did that freedom cost? Who paid for it?
This week we are going to look at the answers to these questions and others as we examine some of the writings of Ellen G. White, Jones and Waggoner and their consistency on this topic.
The other two words, "in Christ" are equally important and represent a common thread thru the New Testament and with Paul, in particular, "in Christ" was at the core of his message. We need look no further than the words of Jesus, himself, "Abide (remain) in me, and I will abide (remain) in you." (John 15:4). In order for us to abide or remain "in Christ", we must already be in Him, which is exactly what Christ did for the human race on the Cross. Paul, explains this clearly in many places, with Romans being a good example.
In Romans 5:12 we read "Therefore, just as sin entered the world through one man and death through sin, and in this way death came to all men, because all sinned" and so Adam, representing mankind, we see in vs. 18, brought condemnation to the entire human race: "Consequently, just as the result of one trespass was condemnation for all men".
Therefore, we needed a Saviour, Christ, to become the Second or Last Adam representing mankind, becoming as us, for us, in every way, including taking upon Himself our sinful human nature, yet without sin, leading a perfect life completely surrendered to His Father's will.
Thus, we see in Romans 5:17, "how much more will those who receive God's abundant provision of grace and of the gift of righteousness reign in life through one man, Jesus Christ". Then, in vs. 18 we read: "so also the result of one act of righteousness was justification that brings life for all men". And in vs. 21: "so also grace might reign through righteousness (Christ's) to bring eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord". Thus, it is through Christ and in Christ we all have the gift of eternal life, ours to accept or reject.
Continuing in Romans 6:3, "all of us who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into His death" and vs. 5 "If we have been united with Him like this into His death, we will certainly also be united with Him in His resurrection. For we know that our old self was crucified with Him so that the body of sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves to sin—because anyone who has died has been freed from sin". How beautiful! Our death "in Christ" on the Cross has freed us from sin. In vs. 8, we see that "Now if we died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with Him. For we know that since Christ was raised from the dead, He cannot die again: death no longer has mastery over Him. The death He died, He died to sin once for all, but the life He lives, He lives to God".
Now, having seen that, in Christ and through Christ, all have been given the gift of freedom from slavery to sin, let's look at some quotes that help us to see what this means to your life and mine. In Galatians 5:1, we read that Christ has set us free and are admonished to stand fast. And in Galatians 5:13 we are warned against using our freedom as an opportunity for the flesh. Despite criticisms to the contrary, the Gospel which is encompassed by this most precious message given to us in 1888, is anything but cheap grace. 
As Waggoner says in Glad Tidings, p. 113, "Before faith comes we are shut up under sin, debtors to the law. The faith of Christ sets us free, but as we are set at liberty the admonition is given us, "Go and sin no more." John 8:11 We have been set at liberty from sin, not at liberty to sin. How many make a mistake here. Many sincere people imagine that in Christ we are at liberty to ignore and defy the law, forgetting that the transgression of the law is sin (1 John 3:4). To serve the flesh is to commit sin "because the carnal mind is enmity against God; for it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be."(Romans 8:7) The apostle warns us not to misuse the liberty which Christ gives us and bring ourselves into bondage again by transgressing the law. Instead of this, we should by love serve one another, for love is the fulfilling of the law."
Our freedom from sin was an important topic in Ellen White's writings as we see in the following commentary:
"When Satan was triumphing as the prince of the world, when he claimed the world as his kingdom, when we were all marred and corrupted with sin, God sent his messenger from heaven, even his only-begotten Son, to proclaim to all the inhabitants of the world: I have found a ransom. I have made a way of escape for all the perishing. I have your emancipation papers provided for you, sealed by the Lord of heaven and earth. You may have freedom upon the condition of faith in Him who is able to save unto the uttermost all who come unto God by Him. A ransom has been provided at infinite cost, and it is not because there is any flaw in the title which has been purchased for lost souls that they do not accept it. It is not because the mercy, the grace, the love of the Father and the Son are not ample, and have not been freely bestowed, that they do not rejoice in pardoning love, but it is because of their unbelief, because of their choice of the world, that they are not comforted with the grace of God. It is their love of disobedience, their pleasure in sin, their enjoyment of rebellion, that have blunted their perceptions until they fail to discern the things which make for their peace. If they are lost, it will be because they will not come unto Christ that they might have life." {ST June 6, 1895, par. 8}
"God waits to bestow the blessing of forgiveness of sins, of pardon for iniquity, of the gift of righteousness, upon all who will believe in his love and accept of his salvation. Christ is ready to say to the repenting sinner: "Take away the filthy garments from him.... Behold, I have caused thine iniquity to pass from thee, and I will clothe thee with change of raiment. And I said, Let them set a fair miter upon his head. So they set a fair miter upon his head, and clothed him with garments." "Thus saith the Lord of hosts: If thou wilt walk in my ways, and if thou wilt keep my charge, then thou shalt also judge my house, and shalt also keep my courts, and I will give thee places to walk among these that stand by." Christ is the connecting link between God and man. The blood of Jesus Christ is the eloquent plea that speaks in behalf of sinners. The blood of Jesus Christ cleanseth us from all sin." {ST June 6, 1895, par. 9}
AT Jones shares similar thoughts in his writings including the following examples:
"If you are in slavery, it is only because you do not know that you are free. That, indeed, is the common condition of mankind. Freedom, full and complete, has been purchased for all. The great emancipation proclamation for the race has been issued, over a name and seal that stand for all power and authority. The only thing necessary for any man is that he shall accept his freedom." {March 18, 1897 ATJ, AMS 162.5} 
"If the slaves of the South had refused to accept the freedom offered them in the proclamation of President Lincoln,—if they had chosen to remain just as they were, refusing to believe that they had been set free, or waiting for some law to be enacted compelling them to be free, they might have remained slaves until this day. In some instances they did, through ignorance, remaining until long after the edict of emancipation went out. But the vast majority were willing to take the freedom it brought them. They immediately took their liberty. But people are very much aloof to the soul liberty which is just as truly theirs." {March 18, 1897 ATJ, AMS 162.6} 
"By the sacrifice on the cross, the Lord has purchased this liberty for every individual so that it becomes to each a free gift. But not unless it is accepted. By accepting this it becomes the high prerogative of every person . . . always the dictates of his will and conscience." {March 18, 1897 ATJ, AMS 162.7} 
'This, of course demands faith in the person. It is faith that sustains the individual in personal freedom. His will being always to do that when he simply obeys the dictates of conscience as unto the Word, and leaves the results with God." {March 18, 1897 ATJ, AMS 162.8}"
Notice in this quote the connection between our liberty and God's agape love:
"For, brethren, ye have been called unto liberty; only use not the liberty for an occasion to the flesh, but by love serve one another. For all the law is fulfilled in one word, even in this: Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself." {September 11, 1900 ATJ, ARSH 584.6} 
Every soul, in being called unto Christ, is called to liberty; and every soul who receives Christ is delivered from bondage, in to the glorious liberty of the sons of God. Jesus Christ came into the world only to set men free, and to plant in their souls the genuine principle of liberty. And this liberty with which Christ made men free is liberty actuated only by love. It is a liberty too honorable to allow itself to be used as an occasion to the flesh, or as a cloak of maliciousness. It is a liberty led by a conscience enlightened by the Spirit of God. It is a liberty in which he who has it, is made free from all men, yet it makes him who receives it so gentle by love that he willingly becomes the servant of all, in order to bring them to the enjoyment that same liberty. This is freedom indeed: this is the freedom which Christ gives to whomsoever believes in him: for "whom the Son makes free is free indeed." {September 11, 1900 ATJ, ARSH 584.7} 
And thus "all the law is fulfilled in one word, even in this: Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself." This, because all that law, of which this "one word" is but one of the two great principles upon which the whole hangs,—that law is itself "the law of liberty." {September 11, 1900 ATJ, ARSH 585.1}"
EJ Waggoner also emphasizes our freedom in Christ repeatedly, and here explains how Christ has opened the prison doors through the Cross:
"The prison door is open; the shackles are loosed. This is the glad tidings of the Gospel to the fallen children of men. Jesus Christ has repealed the law of the realm of bondage, which is the "law of sin and death." Rom. viii. 2. He has substituted in its place the "law of the Spirit of life." He has overcome Satan, and overcome the world, so that all the power of evil in Satan and in the world is made subject to His will, expressed in this law of the Spirit of life." {November 30, 1893 EJW, PTUK 551.1} 
Why then are not all men free? Ah, freedom has come to them, but they do not know it. Like the poor slave who (as we are told) was kept in bondage by his wicked master in the Southern States of America long years after the emancipation proclamation by President Lincoln, so mortals are kept in ignorance now of that greater emancipation proclamation contained in the Gospel of Jesus Christ. They are kept in ignorance by their wicked master, the devil. He does not want anyone to know that there is freedom and light and life in Christ. He could not prevent this freedom to man; so he tries to prevent them from receiving it by keeping them in ignorance of it. {November 30, 1893 EJW, PTUK 551.2} 
But the message to you, reader, and to all who hear the glad tidings of the Gospel, is, the freedom is here. Life and immortality are here; they have been brought to light through the Gospel. 2 Timothy 1:10. The work of liberation is not a future work, but one already accomplished. It only waits your acceptance. If you say as did Paul, "O wretched man that I am, who shall deliver me from this body of death?" you may also say, "I thank God, through Jesus Christ our Lord." The deliverance is yours, if you will take it. The prison door is open; will you walk out, or remain in your bondage? {November 30, 1893 EJW, PTUK 551.3}"
Another important thought in this week's lesson is found in Galatians 5:5, "For through the Spirit, by faith, we wait for the hope of righteousness." This is Christ's righteousness which comes to us with the Holy Spirit as we experience the gift of freedom from the bondage of sin. As Waggoner explains in Glad Tidings. p.111: 
"Don't imagine that this verse teaches that having the Spirit we must wait for righteousness. Not by any means. The Spirit brings righteousness. 'The Spirit is life because of righteousness', Romans 8:10, 'When He comes, He will convince the world of sin and of righteousness', John 16:8. Whoever receives the Spirit has the conviction of sin and of the righteousness which the Spirit shows him that he lacks, and which the Spirit alone can bring.
What is the righteousness which the Spirit brings? It is the righteousness of the law. Romans 8:4 This we know, for we know that the law is spiritual. Romans 7:14.
What, then, about the "hope of righteousness" for which we wait through the Spirit? Notice that it does not say that we through the Spirit hope for righteousness. Rather, we wait for the hope of righteousness by faith, that is, the hope which the possession of righteousness brings.
….The Spirit brings righteousness. He is Christ's representative, the means by which Christ Himself, who is our righteousness comes to dwell in our hearts. John14:16-18. Therefore, the hope which the Spirit brings to us is the hope of an inheritance in the kingdom of God, the earth made new. The righteousness which the Spirit brings to us is the righteousness of the law of God. Romans 8:4; 7:14. By the Spirit it is written in our hearts instead of on tables of stone. 2 Corinthians 3:3."
And so, as we conclude, may all of us come to appreciate the freedom from the bondage of sin that is a gift to all for which The Father, The Son, and the Holy Spirit have paid an infinite price. May we have a burning desire to share this good news of the everlasting gospel wherever and whenever God may lead us. 
~John and Monica Campbell