Friday, August 18, 2017

Lesson 8. From Slaves to Heirs

Sabbath School Today
With the 1888 Message Dynamic

The Gospel in Galatians
Lesson 8. From Slaves to Heirs

 

In Sunday's lesson the quarterly sums up Galatians 3:25-26: "In the same way that a master's son was under a pedagogue [tutor] only as long as he was a minor, Paul is saying that those who come to faith in Christ are no longer minors; their relationship with the law is changed because they are now adult 'sons' of God."

In ancient times, wealthy aristocrats were able to hire people to care for their children, thereby avoiding some of the more tedious aspects of child rearing. The pedagogue might have been a slave in the household, but during his minority the child was expected to obey his father's slave without question.

The pedagogue was expected to teach and mold the child into an educated, mature adult who had learned the rules of a very rigid and complicated society. If pleased with the results, the father would officially name the son as his heir.

In Galatians 3:19-25 Paul explains that the inheritance comes to us in Christ because God promised it, not that we gain the inheritance by keeping the law. Paul asks the question, "Why the Law then? It was added because of transgressions. … The Scripture has shut up all men under sin, that the promise by faith in (the King James Version uses the better translation, "of") Jesus Christ might be given to those who believe. But before faith came, we were kept in custody under the law, being shut up to the faith which was later to be revealed. Therefore the Law has become our tutor to lead us to Christ, that we may be justified by faith. But now that faith has come, we are no longer under a tutor."

Jesus alluded to this concept when He told Nicodemus that receiving faith, the faith of Jesus, requires us to accept our position in Christ as the second Adam. No amount of law-keeping could ever accomplish the rebirth the human race was given at the incarnation of Christ. The first Adam received his DNA from God and those codes provided the combinations that make up every human being born since. When he and his DNA counterpart, Eve, decided to rebel against God their very nature was changed, bent toward self-centeredness.

Whether this change was accomplished at the DNA level, we aren't told, but it somehow changed humanity at a level so fundamental that the self-centered nature was the only nature Adam had to pass on to his progeny. The solution to the sin problem needed to reach that fundamental issue, otherwise humans were kept in custody under a law they had no power to keep. Then there was the issue of paying the penalty for sin which is permanent death. Obviously, divine intervention was the only thing that would solve these problems.

Brilliant in its simplicity, the loving selfless agape of our God would be united with the first Adam's nature (the altered one that needed redeeming). Then, humanity could be joined with Christ as "sons," and the sinless life He lived, the second death He died, and His triumphant resurrection could be imputed and imparted to those who believe through the powerful influence of the Holy Spirit.

Unfortunately, there is a conflict in the present day church about whether Christ could have been incarnated in the "likeness of sinful flesh" and still be without sin. "It is interesting to note that the official declaration of 1872 on the human nature of Christ remained unchanged until 1931. At that time it was changed to express with different words the same basic conviction. 'While retaining His divine nature, He took upon Himself the nature of the human family, and lived on the earth as a man.'" [1] It wasn't until 1950 that our church changed this fundamental belief to what it is now.

"As our study will verify, the work of redemption can be explained only with the proper understanding of the divine-human person of Jesus Christ. To be mistaken about Christology is to be mistaken about the work of salvation as accomplished in human beings, by Christ, through the process of justification and sanctification." [2]

The issues debated at the General Conference Session in Minneapolis in 1888 did not involve the nature of Christ. Ellen White settled in her Christology as early as 1874 when she wrote, "The great work of redemption could be carried out only by the Redeemer taking the place of fallen Adam." [3]

E. J. Waggoner did not attempt to modify or challenge Ellen White's position on the nature of Christ. "Waggoner's great achievement was not only to reintroduce the principle of justification by faith in the Adventist Church but also to apply Christology to the work of salvation. For Luther, justification by faith was purely a legal transaction. The Formula of Concord confirms this point of view: 'All of our righteousness is outside of us; it dwells entirely in Jesus Christ.' For Waggoner, on the other hand, justification includes the action of Christ in man to make him righteous (Rom. 5:19, KJV) through the power which God grants to him who believes in Christ and receives Him in his heart (John 1:12, KJV). [4]

It is essential to understand the process of overcoming, because Jesus has promised to all seven of the churches that overcomers will be granted the right to sit with Him on His throne. That is Christ's inheritance, and ours as well in Him.

The first few chapters of A. T. Jones' book The Consecrated Way confirms that Ellen White and Jones and Waggoner, the 1888 "messengers," were in complete agreement on the issue.

"Before the end comes, and at the time of the coming of Christ, there must be a people on earth, not necessarily large in proportion to the number of inhabitants of earth, but large enough to be known in all the earth, in whom 'all the fullness of God' will be manifest even as it was in Jesus of Nazareth. God will demonstrate to the world that what He did with Jesus of Nazareth He can do with anyone who will yield to Him." [5]

--Arlene Hill

Endnotes:
[1] J. R. Zurcher, Touched With Our Feelings: A Historical Survey of Adventist Thought on the Human Nature of Christ, Review and Herald Publishing Assoc., p. 48 (1999).

"See Fundamental Belief No. 3, Seventh-day Adventist Yearbook (1931). This same declaration was adopted by the Fall Council of 1941 and included in the Church Manual (1942), where it remained unchanged through various editions up to 1980."
[2] Ibid., p. 49.
[3] Ellen G. White, Review and Herald, "Redemption--No. 1," Feb. 24, 1874.
[4] Zurcher, p. 73.
[5] E. J. Waggoner, The Everlasting Covenant, International Tract Society, London, p. 366; as quoted in Zurcher, p. 73.

Notes:
Pastor Paul Penno's video of this lesson is on the Internet at: https://youtu.be/EhStl5Uecr0

"Sabbath School Today" is on the Internet at: http://1888message.org/sst.htm


Thursday, August 10, 2017

Sabbath School Lesson # 7 |"The Road to Faith"

Lesson 7. The Road to Faith


Sabbath School Today
With the 1888 Message Dynamic

The Gospel in Galatians
Lesson 7. The Road to Faith

 

"Wherefore the law was our schoolmaster to bring us unto Christ, that we might be justified by faith" (Gal. 3:24). Probably everyone has experienced a school teacher who was impossible to please and made difficult assignments. No matter how hard you worked, you could never--at least in that teacher's mind--produce anything that was worthy of top marks. It probably discouraged you from ever thinking you could attain perfection in that course; the demand was too high.

Many people look at God and His law in the same way. They see Him as setting before us an impossible task when He says, "Be ye therefore perfect even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect" (Matt. 5:48). Many believe that the demand for character perfection (to overcome all sinful propensities and inclinations) is too high a goal for our sin-filled nature. As a result, Paul's plea in 2 Corinthians 5:20, 21--"be ye reconciled to God. For He hath made Him to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in Him"--is viewed as advice to modify our relationship with God rather than it being an admonition to overcome sin.

It is thought that Paul's counsel is addressing the need for a "good relationship" with God as the only thing needed, and this "good relationship" is the road of faith, leading to spiritual renewal. With this view we're told that the "relationship" must be maintained through Bible study, prayer, and good works. But think about this idea for a moment. In this situation, who has the burden to maintain the "relationship"? Who is responsible for making sure that the connection between God and the individual stays firmly plugged together?

The idea of "maintaining a relationship with God" is a subtle form of old covenantism. Even if you answered that last question by saying, Well, it's me and God together that makes the relationship work, you will still be placing yourself under the old covenant. Salvation is not a partnership.

"That which makes all the trouble is that even when men are willing to recognize the Lord at all they want to make bargains with Him. They want it to be an equal, 'mutual' affair--a transaction in which they can consider themselves on a par with God. But whoever deals with God must deal with Him on His own terms, that is, on a basis of fact--that we have nothing and are nothing, and He has everything and is everything and gives everything." [1]

"Here is no play on words. The issue is vital. The controversy is over the way of salvation, whether by Christ alone, or by something else, or by Christ and something or somebody else. Many people imagine that they must save themselves by making themselves good. Many think that Christ is a valuable adjunct, a good Assistant to their efforts. Others are willing to give Him the first place, but not the only place. They regard themselves as good seconds. It is the Lord and they who do the work." [2]

When "the glory of man is laid in the dust" then we are ready to be in-filled with Christ's perfect character through the work of the Holy Spirit. "According as His divine power hath given unto us all things that pertain unto life and godliness, through the knowledge of Him that hath called us to glory and virtue: whereby are given unto us exceeding great and precious promises: that by these ye might be partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust" (2 Peter 1:3, 4). This is the only way we can become righteous "doers of the law." We humbly let the faith of Jesus that has been given to every man "work out" in our lives (Rom. 12:3; Phil. 2:12; Gal. 2:16). In this way we "become doers of the law, not by doing but by believing" the precious promise of God to us. [3]

The "partnership" of our salvation lies in the Godhead and Their everlasting covenant that makes righteous all who will believe Their promise to us. "For when God made promise to Abraham, because He could swear by no greater, He sware by Himself ... Wherein God, willing more abundantly to shew unto the heirs of promise the immutability of His counsel, confirmed it by an oath: that by two immutable things, in which it was impossible for God to lie, we might have a strong consolation, who have fled for refuge to lay hold upon the hope set before us" (Heb. 6:13–18).

"To everyone who remembered the oath of God to Abraham it was a revelation of the wondrous greatness of God's promise; for all the righteousness which the law demands He has sworn to give to everyone who trusts Him. ... God's precepts are promises; they must necessarily be such, because He knows that we have no power! All God requires is what He gives." [4]

The wonderful good news of the everlasting covenant of Christ and His righteousness is that we are not under any burden to produce righteousness in our lives. The burden is not on our shoulders, but has been laid upon the shoulders of our Saviour. We are not "under the law" to keep every precept and example through our own power (which we don't possess anyway). We are not "under the law" as receiving just condemnation from the broken law, because Christ was made "to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in Him" (2 Cor. 5:21).

"There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit. For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus hath made me free from the law of sin and death. For what the law could not do, in that it was weak through the flesh, God sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, and for sin, condemned sin in the flesh: that the righteousness of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit" (Rom. 8:1-4).

It is the faith of Christ working in and through us that produces the required righteousness. "The Scripture hath concluded all under sin, that the promise by faith of Jesus Christ might be given to them that believe" (Gal. 3:22). The everlasting covenant promise comes to us by the "faith of Jesus Christ" that has been given to us (again, mark that little two letter word "of"). The "Scripture" Paul is referring to in this verse are the writings of what we now call "the Old Testament" which were the only "holy writings" at that time through which knowledge of sin could be known (Gal. 3:19; Rom. 7:7). The righteousness of Christ has been preached from the time Adam fell.

The controversy over the law in Galatians that arose in 1886 concerned which law Paul was discussing in the focus verses of our lesson this week. Was the "schoolmaster" the ceremonial law, the moral law, or was it both? Which law is it that brings us under condemnation, the ceremonial or the moral law? Which law is it that must be kept to make one righteous? The Judaizing Christians to whom Paul addressed this letter had the same confusion.

In 1886 and the following years, George I. Butler, Uriah Smith, and others considered that the law Paul was referring to in Galatians 3:21-25 was the ceremonial law. To support their position, Butler compared the discussion in Galatians to the history of the early church found in Acts 15, claiming that the context of Paul's discussion concerned the "ceremonial" matters of idol worship, diet (consumption of animals with their blood), and fornication (Acts 15:19, 20, 28, 29). Butler's foundational argument was that "this has been Paul's subject thus far in this letter." Butler based his argument in favor of the ceremonial law on the fact that Paul was addressing circumcision in the previous chapters of Galatians. [5]

However, circumcision was never part of the ceremonial (sanctuary) law. When God gave Abraham the rite of circumcision it was intended as an object lesson that would teach Abraham and his descendants the uselessness of their efforts to fulfill God's everlasting covenant promise through their own works. Circumcision, or cutting of the flesh, showed that the "flesh profiteth nothing" (John 6:63; Gal. 5:6). Salvation requires a circumcision of the heart, which is the work of God (Deut. 30:6; Col. 2:11, 12).

Therefore, "the only possible way in which anybody can be under sin is by that law by which is 'the knowledge of sin' (Rom. 3:20; 7:7); by that law which is 'the strength of sin' (1 Cor. 15:56); that law of which 'sin' itself is 'the transgression.' (1 John 3:4). That law is the law which says, 'thou shalt not covet.' (Rom. 7:7-13). And it is the law of God, the ten commandments. This is so certain that there can be no question about it." [6]

The problem Paul was addressing in his letter to the Galatians was not that "the Jews were teaching [the Gentiles] to break the [ten] commandments, but because they were putting their trust in something besides Christ, and the man who does that cannot keep from sin, no matter how hard he tries." [7]

Addressing the crux of Butler's argument, Waggoner asked: "Do you mean to intimate by this [claim that the law in Galatians 3:18-21 is the ceremonial law] that there was ever a time when any people could approach God except through Christ? If not, then language means nothing. Your words seem to imply that before the first advent men approached God by means of the ceremonial law, and that after that they approached Him through the Messiah; but we shall have to go outside the Bible to find any support for the idea that anybody could ever approach God except through Christ. Amos 5:22; Micah 6:6-8, and many other texts show conclusively that the ceremonial law alone could never enable people to come to God." [8]

If the ceremonial law was not the means through which persons in the Old Testament approached God, what then was the purpose of the sanctuary rituals? "In order that man might realize the enormity of sin, which would take the life of the sinless Son of God, he was required to bring an innocent lamb, confess his sins over its head, then with his own hands take its life, a type of Christ's life. This sin-offering was burned, typifying that through the death of Christ all sin would finally be destroyed in the fires of the last day." [9]

How are the Ten Commandments a "schoolmaster"? In itself, the Ten Commandment law has no mercy and can do nothing toward making anyone righteous, no matter how hard we try to keep them. Their purpose is to act as a mirror of God's perfect character, and when we look into them we see just how dirty our face really is. At Sinai they were "added" in written form, in "more explicit detail," because of the hardness of the people's hearts. "It was given under circumstances of the most awful majesty as a warning to the children of Israel that by their unbelief they were in danger of losing the promised inheritance." [10]

"... it is clear that if the man is awakened by the law to keener consciousness of his condition, and the law continues goading him, giving him no rest, shutting up every other way of escape, the man must at last find the door of safety, for it stands open. Christ is the city of refuge ... in Christ alone will the sinner find release from the lash of the law, for in Christ the righteousness of the law is fulfilled, and by Him it is fulfilled in us." [11]

--Ann Walper

Endnotes:
[1] E. J. Waggoner, The Glad Tidings, a verse-by-verse study of Galatians, p. 71, CFI ed. (2016).
[2] Ibid., p. 69, emphases in original.
[3] See ibid., p. 56.
[4] Ibid., p. 77, emphasis in original.
[5] G. I. Butler, The Law in the Book of Galatians, Is It the Moral Law or Does It Refer to That System of Laws Peculiarly Jewish?, Review and Herald, Battle Creek, Mich., p. 37 (1886).
[6] A. T. Jones, Studies in Galatians, April 3, 1900.
[7] E. J. Waggoner, The Gospel in the Book of Galatians, A Review, Oakland, Calif., p. 11 (1888).
[8] Ibid., pp. 11, 12.
[9] S. N. Haskell, The Cross and Its Shadow, pp. 20, 21 (1914).
[10] The Glad Tidings, pp. 73, 74.
[11] Ibid., p. 82, emphasis in original.

Notes:
Pastor Paul Penno's video of this lesson is on the Internet at: https://youtu.be/fbCJI5lDioc

"Sabbath School Today" is on the Internet at: 1888message.org/sst.htm


 RR
Raul Diaz

Wednesday, August 2, 2017

The Priority of the Promise

Sabbath School Today
With the 1888 Message Dynamic

The Gospel in Galatians
Lesson 6. The Priority of the Promise

 

When man makes a will, once it is ratified no feature of it can be altered either by adding to it or subtracting from it (Gal. 3:15). God made out His will and promised Abraham and his special "Seed" ("Descendant") the new earth in righteousness, and then "confirmed" it by the sacrifice of Christ (vs.17). [1] When God passed through the sacrificial victim, He swore to Abraham by His very life and throne to fulfill every promise He made (Gen. 15:17, 18). God's promise and oath doubly ratified the unchangeable nature of His covenant given to Abraham (Heb. 6:15-18).

According to Galatians this means there is only One person who has ever been promised eternal life and that is Christ. God didn't say the promise was to Abraham's "seeds" ("descendants"), plural; but to his "Seed" ("Descendant"), singular, who is Christ (Gal. 3:16). Christ is the Savior of the world and He put everyone into Himself when He died on the cross.

God would have all men to be saved in Christ and all the legal issues have been cleared up for that to occur, but no man would be happy to walk through the Pearly Gates merely on a legal basis unless His heart was fully reconciled to God. If He hated Christ he'd look for the nearest exit (Prov. 8:36). How do we learn to love Christ? He said, "Abide in me" (John 15:4). Jesus says, Stay where I put you.

The messianic Jews in Galatia contended that God revealed a new feature at Mount Sinai in addition to His promise to Abraham. "We" must believe in the Messiah and obey the Law which God spoke to our ancestors 430 years after Abraham (Gal. 3:17). What was going on in Galatia was a repetition of what happened at Mount Sinai when Israel made their old covenant promise to God to do everything just right. Ancient Israel made a "bargain" or "contract" with God.

It happened like this. God said, "If ye will obey [listen to] my voice indeed, and keep [cherish] my covenant" you will be my "peculiar treasure" on the earth (Ex. 19:5). [2] Abraham listened to God's everlasting covenant and responded with a hearty "Amen" of faith and God forgave his sin and made him righteous (Gen. 15:6). The righteousness of the unwritten law was included in God's covenant. But Abraham's children responded to God's covenant with their own pledge: "All that the Lord hath spoken we will do" (Ex. 19:8). Their self-motivation for entering into a "relationship" with God was abundantly clear in their old covenant promise. [3]

The Apostle Paul was the first Jew aside from Jesus to recognize the problem of the old covenant in the Israelite church and the up-and-down nature of all its historical revivals and reformations (Gal. 4:23-25). It's our problem too. "The knowledge of your broken promises and forfeited pledges weakens your confidence in your own sincerity, and causes you to feel that God cannot accept you; ... What you need to understand is the true force of the will ... the power of decision, or of choice. ... The power of choice God has given to men." [4]

If the entrance of God's law coming 430 years after Abraham alters His covenant, then God's government would be overthrown. What was God's purpose for emphasizing the law at Mount Sinai? "It was added [spoken] because of transgressions" (Gal. 3:19). [5] At Sinai the people had self-righteously proclaimed their power to keep the law and did not realize their need of Christ. It was the great sin of self-sufficiency on their part. "Moreover the law entered, that the offense might abound" (Rom. 5:20). Their old covenant necessitated the "spoken" law written on tables of stone. It was never in God's original plan since He didn't have to do that for Abraham. God simply wrote His law upon Abraham's heart and mind (Heb. 10:16, 17).

Mighty doors swing on small hinges and it was on the issue of the "added" law in Galatians 3:19 that proved the hindrance for "many" to receive "the most precious message" of the uplifted Savior during the era of the 1888 Minneapolis General Conference and following. Writing to Uriah Smith in 1896, Ellen White stated that in Galatians 3:19-24, "the apostle is speaking especially of the moral law." "An unwillingness to yield up preconceived opinions, and to accept this truth, lay at the foundation of a large share of the opposition manifested at Minneapolis against the Lord's message through Brethren [E. J.] Waggoner and [A. T.] Jones." [6]

The leading scholars of the 1888 era were Uriah Smith, D. M. Canright, and George I. Butler. They all understood the "added law" as the ceremonial law of Moses which was done away with at the cross. They took this position because the evangelicals of their day used Galatians 3:19 as evidence that the "added law" was the Ten Commandments which were introduced at Mount Sinai and abolished when Jesus died. The leading brethren believed that Jones and Waggoner's proposal of the moral law in Galatians 3 would undermine the denomination's position on the seventh-day Sabbath and the immutability of God's law.

Rather than limiting the duration of the moral law until the first advent of Christ, Paul writes that it endures "… till the Seed should come to whom the promise was made. ..." (Gal. 3:19). The law continues its function of revealing the knowledge of sin and driving the sinner to the Savior until Abraham's Descendant "shall possess the gate of His enemies" (Gen. 22:17). Christ's enemies as well as Satan are removed at the second coming (Rev. 19:11-21).

The law was contained in unwritten form in the promises that God made to Abraham. Abraham received the righteousness of the law by faith in Christ. His genuine faith manifested itself in obedience to all the commandments of God (Gen. 26:5). When Abraham had Christ he had the living law, but without Christ the law is powerless and cannot convey any life whatsoever to the sinner. All the law can bring is condemnation and death. The law describes what righteousness, love and acceptable behavior is, but it cannot produce it. Thank God the law is given to us "in the hand of a Mediator" (Gal. 3:19).

--Paul E. Penno

Endnotes:
[1] On Abraham's inheritance of "the world" and a "better country" see Romans 4:13 and Hebrews 11:10, 16.
[2] "Obey" in the Hebrew is shamea meaning "to listen." "Keep" in the Hebrew is shamar meaning to "cherish."
[3] See Ellen White's characterization of Israel's self-centered motivation in her words, "feeling that they were able to establish their own righteousness." Then she writes, "they broke their covenant with God" (Patriarchs and Prophets, p. 372).
[4] Her definition of "faith" is the God-given power of choice to believe God's covenant and cease from making our old covenant promises to obey (Steps to Christ, p. 47).
[5] The word "added" is the Greek word prostithemi, which means "spoken" as in Hebrews 12:19.
[6] Selected Messages, vol. 1, p. 235. The law here is not exclusive of the ceremonial law.

Notes:
Pastor Paul Penno's video of this lesson is on the Internet at: https://youtu.be/yxbQj3vftsk

"Sabbath School Today" is on the Internet at: 1888message.org/sst.htm

--

Friday, July 28, 2017

Lesson 5. Old Testament Faith

Sabbath School Today
The Gospel in Galatians
Lesson 5. Old Testament Faith

It is one thing for Muslims to humiliate, taunt, and murder other Muslims. It is quite another thing for you to murder the Son of God. A Muslim can die crying out, "Allah is great," and go to heaven. The Son of God died crying, "My God, why have you forsaken Me?"

There are no plays or skits of the crucifixion in churches that can portray the crucifixion of Jesus. Observers of passion plays depicting the trial and death of Jesus say they are "tear jerkers." But all the visuals of physical torture do not graphically reenact the meaning of the cross.

In 1888 God sent "a most precious message" to His church which honored and uplifted the cross of Jesus. Christ bore the "curse of the law" in His body for every man on the tree (Gal. 3:13). Disobedience to the law exacts its own wages which is death,--the real thing,--goodbye to life forever.

Moses had written: Whoever is hung on a "tree" "is accursed of God" (Deut. 21:22, 23). If one were convicted of a capital crime and sentenced to decapitation, he could be so thankful. Then he could ask God to forgive him with the assurance of pardon. But if one were convicted of a capital crime and sentenced to be hung, he could not ask for divine pardon. He died a God-forsaken death.

Jesus died the sinner's second death with no hope of a resurrection. God "made Him to be sin for us" (2 Cor. 5:21). He bore our guilt and self-condemnation in His nerve center on a tree. Jesus "taste[d] death for every man" (Heb. 2:9). He died your death. Your sin murdered the Son of God.

When the Galatians heard Paul proclaim the death of Jesus they were never the same. Paul preached the cross so openly and graphically before their "eyes" (Gal. 3:1) that they forgot who they were and where they were. Their "eyes" became "ears" to "obey [hupokeo, which means to bend down low to hear every syllable] the truth." It was "by the hearing [listening] of faith" (Gal. 3:2) that the Galatians received the Holy Spirit.

The Holy Spirit convicted the Galatians' hearts of sin with the truth that they had murdered "the Just [righteous] One" (Acts 7:52). "The Just shall live by faith" (Gal. 3:11; quotation from Habakkuk 2:4). Habakkuk's messianic prophecy predicted Jesus' life and death as the singular righteousness by faith.

When the Galatians "saw" that Jesus "gave Himself for them," they listened with "the hearing of faith." They identified with the crucified One. He had first loved them. He was their substitute who fully identified with their fallen humanity. Thus the Galatians experienced justification by faith being legally straightened out with the universal Law. The forgiveness of sins also melted their hearts with divine love so that they became at-one-with God.

Ellen White has said: "The theme that attracts the heart of the sinner is Christ, and Him crucified. ... Present Him thus to the hungering multitudes, and the light of His love will win people from darkness to light, from transgression to obedience and true holiness. Beholding Jesus upon the cross ... arouses the conscience ... as nothing else can do." [1]

Why were the Galatians "foolish" (Gal. 3:1, 3)? Because they were "bewitched" by spiritualism (vs. 1). Spiritualism is the man-made belief that god resides in idols of wood and stone. Spiritualism is any man-centered doctrine of righteousness. There are any number of false "gospels" and false christs with the common denominator of "I," which is the religion invented by Lucifer (Isa. 14:12-14). Doctrines of righteousness by faith which are motivated by self-love as opposed to faith motivated by agape (God's love) are forms of spiritualism.

The "foolish" Galatians turned from a cross-motivated faith to a faith motivated by perfection of "the flesh?" (Gal. 3:3). Believing in the Messiah is fine, but man must be circumcised in order to be saved. By "the works of the law" "flesh" obtains holiness. It was a "holy flesh" movement.

Does this mean the law is bad? No. The universal law of God as written on tables of stone are a perfect description of righteousness, but sinful "flesh" sees only a form of righteousness in the Law which is pleasing to self. Therefore "the flesh" cannot attain the "righteousness of God" by "the works of the law." Neither can the Law of God impart the "righteousness of God" to "the flesh."

"And the law is not of faith: but, The man that doeth them shall live in them" (Gal. 3:12). The law written on stone says "do" them and you shall live. The only condition on which the law as written can offer life is to "the doers of the law." Obey and live, disobey and die. But for sinners this is impossible; therefore the only remedy is "faith."

Since the faith of Jesus gives to the believer in Jesus the perfect keeping of the law of God, the perfect righteousness of God, there is "no necessity for the ordinance of circumcision." [2]

Another time in history when the same "gospel preached" was "mixed with faith" was Abraham's experience (Heb. 4:2; Gal. 3:6, 8). All that God did was simply proclaim to him His marvelous promises known as the new covenant, no threatened "curses" mixed in on pain of disobedience. Abraham simply "listened with faith" to this almost incredible good news (just what Paul told the Galatians was "the hearing of faith"). Abraham too, like the Galatians, "received the Spirit." His faith was "counted to him for righteousness" (Gen. 15:6).

The Judaizers said to the Galatians, Paul is trying to cheat you out of the inheritance promised to Abraham by not teaching you circumcision for salvation. You are not the children of Abraham unless you are circumcised.

Paul said Abraham was justified by faith while yet a heathen before he was circumcised (Gal. 3:8). Circumcision was never a part of God's original plan. It came in after Abraham's unbelief of God's promise in taking Hagar and siring Ishmael in order to "help" God out with the promised heir. Circumcision came in after Mount Moriah as a reminder to Abraham and his descendants of the mistaken idea that the promised inheritance comes by old covenant unbelief--faith and works.

"The blessing of Abraham" is for "the Gentiles." The blessing is Jesus Christ (Gal. 3:14). He is "the righteousness of God['s]" law (Rom. 3:22). "The promise of the Spirit" is the promised inheritance of the future life in righteousness dwelling on the earth made new. "We, according to His promise, look for new heavens and a new earth, wherein dwelleth righteousness" (2 Peter 3:13).

The Holy Spirit now is the down payment so the future inheritance is a present reality. "Ye were sealed with that Holy Spirit of promise, which is the earnest of our inheritance until the redemption of the purchased possession" (Eph. 1:13, 14).

--Paul E. Penno

Endnotes:
[1] Ellen G. White, Maranatha: The Lord Is Coming, p. 99.
[2] Ellen G. White, Patriarchs and Prophets, p. 364.

Notes:
Pastor Paul Penno's video of this lesson is on the Internet at: https://youtu.be/2DCs6hVnoio

"Sabbath School Today" is on the Internet at: 1888message.org/sst.htm


Friday, July 21, 2017

Sabbath School Lesson # 4 |"Justification by Faith Alone"

Lesson 4. Justification by Faith Alone


Sabbath School Today
With the 1888 Message Dynamic

The Gospel in Galatians
Lesson 4. Justification by Faith Alone

 

Five hundred years ago, in 1517, an Augustinian monk named Martin Luther shook the European theological world by making the claim that righteousness was by faith alone. After intense study of the Books of Galatians and Romans, he claimed that righteousness was not dispensed through the church or administered by priests or popes but was the productof faith. This fall, Christian organizations around the world are commemorating Luther's theological upheaval, including Roman Catholicism.

Luther's view on faith as the means of salvation has become the uniting theme between Protestantism and Catholicism as evidenced in a 1994 ecumenical document, known as "Evangelicals and Catholics Together," signed by leading Evangelical and Roman Catholic scholars in the United States. The Roman Catholic Church began its celebration of the Reformation a year ago when Pope Frances traveled to Sweden, where he joined leaders of the Lutheran World Federation in Lund for an ecumenical prayer service on October 31 and November 1, 2016.

When Luther made his stupendous claim that salvation was by "faith alone" it sparked not only the Protestant Reformation, but also the Roman Catholic Counter-reformation and the eighteen-year-long Council of Trent. At that time, how a person received justification and became righteous was the fundamental theological dividing line. Rome condemned "sola fide" and proclaimed anathema upon all who accepted it as truth. That ban has never officially been lifted by Rome. The theological trend since 1994 in reaching hands across the gulf to unite with Rome on this one point is in reality overturning the Protestant Reformation, just as Rome planned from the beginning.

The vital point that Martin Luther missed in his declaration of "sola fide" is that humans make no contribution to the salvation process. Our "faith" and our "works of faith" have no merit and produce no righteousness. If I am saved through my faith in Jesus, then all the focus is on me and my ability to maintain that "faith" long enough to get into heaven. Focusing on me and what I can to do through "obedience to the law" to help Jesus get me through the Pearly Gates is a subtle denial of the plain Biblical teaching that in me is no good thing (see Rom. 7:18).

Ellet J. Waggoner saw this clearly: "The Pharisees are not extinct; there are many in these days who expect to gain righteousness by their own deeds. They trust in themselves that they are righteous." However, the "convicted sinner tries again and again to obtain righteousness from the law, but it resists all his advances. It cannot be bribed by any amount of penance or professedly good deeds." It is absolutely true that "deeds done by a sinful person have no effect whatever to make him righteous, but, on the contrary, coming from an evil heart, they are evil, and so add to the sum of his sinfulness." [1]

"Since the gospel is contrary to human nature, we become doers of the law not by doing but by believing. If we worked for righteousness, we would be exercising only our own sinful human nature, and so would get no nearer to righteousness, but farther from it. But by believing the 'exceeding great and precious promises,' we become 'partakers of the divine nature' (2 Peter 1:4), and then all our works are wrought in God." [2]

Neither Luther, nor Calvin, nor Arminius ever caught so much as a glimpse of the concept of true legal justification. For all these reformers, great as their work was in beginning to restore truth from the Bible and to remove the paganism that had crept into the church during the millennium prior to the Reformation, they never comprehended the full depth of Christ's sacrifice or the true meaning of faith. The Reformer and thus the Evangelical view of salvation is egocentric because it begins with man's need for eternal security.

Therefore, in the Evangelical view justification is the reward of a person's faith. It teaches that faith is "trust" in the sense of grasping for an assurance of personal security from an angry God who must be appeased through repentance and penance before He will bestow grace and salvation. This explanation of justification as a judicial act of accounting in the record books of heaven, wherein the unrighteous man, still unrighteous, is declared righteous while he continues indulging in sinful motivation, denies the message of Daniel 8:14 and Revelation 14:12, and is responsible for the long delay of Christ's second coming.

Such a view of God is a gross distortion of His holy character of agape--His self-sacrificing, other-centered love that motivated the Godhead to declare the everlasting covenant that would send the Son to save the world from sin. That "sending" was from the foundation of the world; Christ is "the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world" (Rev. 13:8). "As soon as there was sin, there was a Saviour. Christ knew what He would have to suffer, yet He became man's substitute. As soon as Adam sinned, the Son of God presented Himself as surety for the human race, with just as much power to avert the doom pronounced upon the guilty as when He died upon the cross of Calvary." [3] This is justification as God intends it to be preached, and a true heart-appreciation of this fact will break the hard-hearted sinner's resistance to God's wooing. "Faith does not make facts. It only lays hold of them." [4]

Salvation by faith alone is an absolute Biblical truth, but concessions to relativism and postmodernism's humanistic (man-centered) view are undermining what the Apostle Paul wrote in Romans, Galatians, and Ephesians about the vital truth of justification and righteousness by faith. Our memory text this week inadvertently points out this shift in thinking. Quoting the English Standard Version, it says: "And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me." If you are familiar with the King James Version you might have noticed the change of a single word. It's a subtle change, and many persons feel that it is an insignificant difference.

In the King James Bible the text reads: "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." The change of one little two-letter word makes a profound difference in meaning. The author of our Quarterly illuminated the difference in his book, Galatians, A Fiery Response to a Struggling Church.

"For Paul faith is not just an abstract concept--it is inseparably connected to Jesus. In fact, the Greek phrase translated twice as 'faith in Jesus Christ' in Galatians 2:16 is far richer than any rendering can really encompass (see Rom. 3:22, 26; Gal. 3:22; Eph. 3:12; Phil 3:9). In the Greek the phrase literally means 'the faith of Jesus' or 'the faithfulness of Jesus.' It reveals the powerful contrast the apostle makes between the works of the law [i.e., legalism] and the work Christ accomplished on our behalf. For Paul, the primary emphasis is not our faith in Jesus, but Jesus' faithfulness. Thus the issue is not our works versus our faith--that would almost make our faith meritorious, which it is not. Rather, faith is only the conduit by which we take hold of Christ. We are justified, not on the basis of our faith, but on the basis of Christ's faithfulness." [5]

Christ was faithful to the everlasting covenant made between the members of the Godhead before sin entered this world. From that covenant made in heaven, through His life of suffering in fallen human flesh, and finally His endurance of the anguish of Gethsemane and the shame of the cross, Christ never once faltered in His faithfulness to the everlasting covenant promise to save mankind from sin. He was faithful to His word. And it is the evidence of His faithfulness revealed in the Scriptures that we cling to when we believe that He is able to "keep [us] from falling, and present [us] faultless before the presence of His glory with exceeding joy" (Jude 24).

It is this faith that every human being has been given (Rom. 12:3). It is this faith that once allowed to work in us, will produce the necessary righteousness that will fit us for heaven. "The proud heart strives to earn salvation; but both our title to heaven and our fitness for it are found in the righteousness of Christ. The Lord can do nothing toward the recovery of man until, convinced of his own weakness, and stripped of all self-sufficiency, he yields himself to the control of God. Then he can receive the gift that God is waiting to bestow. From the soul that feels his need, nothing is withheld." [6]

You might argue that this is a tiny point, a subtle difference; nothing to really worry about. It is after all, only a two-letter word! How can it have any significant importance to my salvation?

It is a subtle distinction that caused the Reformation to falter and stall for 500 years. We don't need to go back to Reformation theology, we need to return to what the Lord sent us in 1888. The message brought to us through A. T. Jones and E. J. Waggoner is a distinct message that uplifted the Saviour as the sin-pardoning Redeemer who is the sacrifice for the sins of the whole world. "This is the message that God commanded to be given to world," not warmed-over Evangelicalism that focuses on human effort, where "faith" is a grasping for reward that rejects the truth that forgiveness and the blotting out of sin is the whole point of the Gospel. The message of Christ and His righteousness proclaimed by Waggoner and Jones "is the third angel's message in verity, which is to be proclaimed with a loud voice, and attended with the outpouring of His Spirit in a large measure." [7]

The message of the cross "lays the glory of man in the dust" and is offensive to the proud heart. The apostle Paul gladly submitted to the "offence" saying, "I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I but Christ liveth in me: and the life I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave Himself for me" (Gal. 2:21). "The cross conveys to us the knowledge of God because it shows us His power as Creator. Through the cross we are crucified to the world and the world to us. By the cross we are sanctified. Sanctification is the work of God, not of man. Only His divine power can accomplish the great work." [8]

--Ann Walper

Endnotes:
[1] Ellet J. Waggoner, Christ and His Righteousness, pp. 66, 70, 63 (Glad Tidings ed., 1999).
[2] Ellet J. Waggoner, The Glad Tidings, p. 56 (CFI ed., 2016).
[3] Ellen G. White, "Lessons From the Christ-Life," Review and Herald, March 12, 1901.
[4] The Glad Tidings, p. 107.
[5] Carl P. Cosaert, Galatians: A Fiery Response to a Struggling Church, p. 42 (emphasis in original), Review and Herald Publishing Association (2011).
[6] Ellen G. White, The Desire of Ages, p. 300.
[7] See Ellen G. White, Testimonies to Ministers and Gospel Workers, pp. 91, 92.
[8] The Glad Tidings, p. 141.

Notes:
Pastor Paul Penno's video of this lesson is on the Internet at: https://youtu.be/HKjh2GIgum4

"Sabbath School Today" is on the Internet at: 1888message.org/sst.htm


 RR
Raul Diaz