Monday, October 24, 2011

Old Testament Faith by Pastor Paul Penno

Old Testament Faith by Pastor Paul Penno (notes)

Plays and skits of the crucifixion have been popular in churches and public venues for some time now. Passion plays depicting the final scenes of Christ’s trial and crucifixion. They are major productions with an individual portraying Christ—even on a wooden cross. Observers testify with much feeling—it was a tear jerker. Do such portrayals get us closer to the truth of the grand sacrifice of Christ?
In Gal. 3:1 Paul said to the Galatians, “O foolish Galatians, who hath bewitched [spiritualism] you, that ye should not obey the truth, before whose eyes Jesus Christ hath been evidently set forth [openly and graphically], crucified among you?” Spiritualism is the worship of idols—whether they be objects of wood and stone or man-made doctrines of righteousness. The common denominator is that “man” controls the content that’s pleasing to him whether he is aware of that fact or not. With spiritualism what “I” want is firmly in place. It is spiritualism because Lucifer invented this religion with its many-headed forms (Isa. 14).
The Galatians were “bewitched” or spiritualized by the idea that believing in Christ the Messiah was not good enough for salvation, they must add to it the power of man’s obedience to be circumcised. If one drop of arsenic is added to a gourmet meal it becomes deadly. As a consequence the Galatians were behaving foolishly and it was divisive.
The word “obey” is hupokeo which means to “listen.” Hupo means underneath. The idea is to bend down low so that your ear can listen. Under Paul’s proclamation of they had “listened” to every syllable of the “good news.”
The apostle was moved by the Holy Spirit as he told the people the meaning of Christ’s dying on His cross. He told it so graphically that they forgot who they were and where they were: they were present at Calvary. Their ears had been turned into eyes. They saw the Son of God dying their second death, at the hands of people whose hard, hateful, revengeful hearts were the same as theirs. And the sight of that divine blood being shed “before their eyes” by what was in truth themselves, finally got through. Their hearts were broken, melted, subdued. For Moslems to murder their own is one thing; but it is another thing to watch yourself murder the Son of God! There is no awakening, no realization, in the universe that so moves a human heart as does that consciousness. Punishments, jail sentences, rebukes, are powerless to change such hearts. A wise writer 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]
“This only would I learn of you, Received ye the Spirit by the works of the law, or by the hearing [listen with faith] of faith?” (Gal. 3:2). Now the most astute Bible student in the world is Satan himself; he fears the Bible. If people can learn to understand and love it, Satan knows his hold on them is broken. He does not like this Letter to the Galatians. So he has done his best to confuse the idea of faith. He doesn’t mind if Paul talks about it here 21 times and 37 times in Romans, and you read it for 100 years so long as you don’t know what Paul means by the word “faith.”
The key definition is found in chapter 3, where Paul links the experience of faith with the crucifixion of Christ (vss. 1, 2). He calls it “the hearing of faith,” the listening, the experience of understanding, perceiving, appreciating. Paul sees the cross as not only a legalistic maneuver on God’s part to satisfy the judicial claims of the broken law (it is that, for the law demands punishment). But Paul sees far more in the crucifixion of Christ than that. The idea behind all those 21 uses of the word “faith” is a heart-melting, heart-humbling, awe-inspiring appreciation for what led the Son of God to sacrifice Himself for us. There were many Roman crucifixions that went on all the time, but this was different. Paul was awe-struck that the infinite, divine Son of God had been murdered by humanity, and yet it was love for us that led Him to surrender to humanity’s bitter hatred like that. Christ was ascending the throne of His people’s hearts by the avenue of crucified love. Life can no longer be the same for Paul. He cries out, “I am crucified with Christ!” From now on, I am “crucified unto the world and the world is crucified unto me” (2:20; 6:14). That is what Paul means by his word “faith.” Unless your human heart is made of stone, it will be captivated by such love,—and such faith will be yours.
It is the work of the Holy Spirit to convict of sin and righteousness. He does this by means of the much more abounding grace of God’s love revealed at the cross. “Are ye so foolish? having begun in the Spirit, are ye now made perfect by the flesh?” (Gal. 3:3). The Galatians were being seduced by the doctrine of “holy flesh”. By obedience to “the works of the law” they would become perfect. They were looking to the law for salvation. When man looks at the law to become perfect, his conceptions of righteousness are inferior to “the righteousness of God.” The law is a perfect description of God’s righteousness, but it cannot convert the heart of a sinner. The law has the power to condemn the sinner, but not to change him. The law is “spiritual” and must be interpreted by the Holy Spirit to the sinner’s heart through the prism of the cross of Christ who is the only “righteousness of God.”
“Have ye suffered so many things in vain? if it be yet in vain” (Gal. 3:4). “Is your tremendous experience all for nothing? How could such a taste of true faith ever be in vain?” With the Holy Spirit come the fruits of the Spirit. All those who live the gospel will suffer persecution (2 Tim. 3:12). Having shared in the sufferings of Christ they are now departing from Him. They are insensibly pursuing the law for righteousness in their search for salvation while at the same time disobeying “the righteousness of God” which is Christ.
“He therefore that ministereth to you the Spirit, and worketh miracles among you, doeth he it by the works of the law, or by the hearing of faith?” (Gal. 3:5). “Someone gave you the experience of receiving the Holy Spirit; you knew first-hand the mighty changes that faith produces in human hearts; was he a guru imposing on you a philosophy of do’s and don’ts? Or did you receive the glorious blessing by simply listening with contrite faith?”
“The faith of Jesus Christ, and that alone, saves the soul, at the beginning and at the end and all the way between.” “The power, the virtue, to fulfill the law is in the faith, which is received as the free gift of God through Jesus Christ. And this neither frustrates the grace of God nor makes void the law of God. On the contrary, it magnifies the grace of God, and establishes the law of God. It is the true righteousness by faith.”[2] “For in Jesus Christ neither circumcision availeth any thing, nor uncircumcision; but faith which worketh by love” (Gal. 5:6). It is not faith and works, but “faith which worketh by love.” And as love is the fulfilling of the law, then in Christ nothing avails but faith which fulfils the law—not faith and the fulfilling of the law, but faith which fulfils the law.
“Even as Abraham believed God, and it was accounted to him for righteousness” (Gal. 3:6).
Another time in history when the same “gospel preached” was “mixed with faith”; Abraham’s experience. 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”). He too, like the Galatians, “received the Spirit.” His faith was counted to him for righteousness (Gen. 15:6).
Abraham has won his undying fame not because of any “work” which he did, but because he believed that something that was obviously “dead” would live immediately (pre-day-of-resurrection) because of the promise of the Lord. And that was his “dead” sexual powers to sire offspring.
It was an effort of choice that Abraham made to believe what God had said when everything looked impossible.
And not only was Abraham called to believe that his own “dead” body could sire offspring; there was “the deadness of Sarah’s womb” (vs. 19) to be confronted. Abraham had to believe for himself and then he also had to believe for her! “He staggered not at the promise of God through unbelief; but was strong in faith, giving glory to God” (vs. 20).
The entire unfallen universe marveled at his faith and glorified God because of it. They rejoiced that now it was proven for all to see, that fallen, sinful, naturally unbelieving man, can overcome and can think and believe in harmony with the mind of God.
“Know ye therefore that they which are of faith, the same are the children of Abraham” (Gal. 3:7). Who are the true descendants of Abraham? Who receive the inheritance of the promises made to Abraham? Said the Judaizers, Those who are circumcised like Abraham and his whole family. Paul is trying to rob you who your inheritance.
But that argument is fallacious in that Abraham received that which makes sure the promised inheritance before he was circumcised by the faith of Jesus. That which makes sure the inheritance is the righteousness of Christ. So, then, all who are “of faith” are the children of Abraham.
 “And the scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the heathen through faith, preached before the gospel unto Abraham, saying, In thee shall all nations be blessed” (Galatians 3:8). God preached the true and only gospel to Abraham. It was the faith of Jesus. It was the same gospel which Paul preached. Abraham was justified by faith while yet a heathen. Justification by faith is not faith and circumcision, but faith without circumcision. “So then they which be of faith are blessed with faithful Abraham” (Galatians 3:9).
Well, the Judaizers said, even though Abraham was justified by faith, he was still circumcised afterward; so must the Gentiles be today in order to be saved. But circumcision was never part of God’s original plan.
After God had given Abraham His covenant and pledged His very life to honor it, Abraham believed the gospel. But afterward through unbelief of God’s promise Abraham “Abram hearkened to the voice of Sarai (Gen. 16:2), and had Ishmael with Hagar. After Mount Moriah when Abraham offered his son Isaac, by faith in the promise of God, he was circumsized as a reminder of his mistake of unbelief. And circumcision was a reminder to all his family and descendants not to make the same mistake.
If Abraham had been faithful to that which he received from God by faith, he never would have been circumcised. And it is equally certain that when any one, receiving by faith in Christ alone, as Abraham received it, that which Abraham received, he needs not to be circumcised. 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” (Patriarchs and Prophets, p. 364).
“For as many as are of the works of the law are under the curse: for it is written, Cursed is every one that continueth not in all things which are written in the book of the law to do them” (Galatians 3:10). All who are motivated by egocentric concern are under the curse which is legalism. Why, because the law is bad? No, because disobedience to the law is the curse. Sin means death. One would have to obey the law all of his life with the purest agape-motive in order to earn salvation. For this sinner this is an impossibility for he has not continued “in all things . . . written in . . . the law to do them.”
“But that no man [person, remember anthropos in Greek means man or woman in Greek] is justified by the law in the sight of God, it is evident: for, The just shall live by faith” (Galatians 3:11).
Martin Luther was well on his way to being the Mother Theresa of his day, even climbing Pilate’s so-called staircase on his knees in order to earn merit toward being a saint. Then he suddenly remembered that the Bible says, “The just shall live by faith.”
To be “just” is to be made “righteous”. As Stephen declared Christ is “the Just One” (Acts 7:52). So the only faith that is righteous is Jesus faith. The one made righteous shall live by Jesus’ faith (Hab. 2:4).
As we near the end of earth’s history, the world will be confronted with two great systems of salvation: (a) by works, and (b) by faith. # (a) will be so wonderfully impressive that we read in Revelation 13 that “all the world [will] wonder after the beast.” Gaining merit by works is the secret that drives karma, the thinking of vast multitudes of Hindus, and Buddhists. It seems so reasonable. And multitudes of Christians are caught up in it, too. It’s the same as law-righteousness, “obey and live.” Your obedience becomes the focus of your attention. And in all the doing of your good works, you never get to know Jesus.
The problem with the “goats” in that final day when they meet Jesus will not be that they didn’t do enough “good works”—they insist that they had done all kinds of them. Jesus just has to say sadly, “Sorry, I never knew you.” It was something else that motivated you to do all those good works. Matthew 7:23. Let’s spend some time with the Lord, know Him; then let’s do all the good works His love inspires us to do.
“And the law is not of faith: but, The man that doeth them shall live in them” (Galatians 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”. But for sinners this is an impossibility and therefore their only remedy is “faith.”
“Christ hath redeemed us from the curse of the law, being made a curse for us: for it is written, Cursed is every one that hangeth on a tree” (Galatians 3:13).
You cannot understand what the cross means unless you understand verse 13. You say, Oh, I know what the cross means. It’s driving nails through your wrist bones and through your ankle bones and they take off all your clothes and they string you up naked there and people come by and they laugh at you. And kids get off school early and they come by and throw rotten eggs and tomatoes at you. It’s terrible. That’s not the death of the cross.
You could endure all of that including the physical pain. You could hang there on that cross and you could smile at the people if you knew that God was with you. Yes. And that is exactly what Jesus did not know. We’ve got to get to the reality of the cross. It wasn’t the physical pain. It wasn’t the shame. The Romans always strung them up naked. You can understand that from reading Psalm 22. There are two Hebrew words there for clothing. They parted my garments. It’s both His outer clothes and His underclothes. They took it all off. No artist has ever painted Christ on the cross correctly.
You can look it up in Deuteronomy. But what Moses said was. If you have been convicted of a capital crime and the punishment is death, and the judge says, I sentence you to die by having your head chopped off you can be so thankful. Thank you dear God. Because you can pray, O God, forgive me for my crime. And you can die happy that God has forgiven you. Or if the judge says, I sentence you to die by having a sword thrust through your heart you can be so happy.
But if the judge says, I sentence you to die by hanging on a tree. You cannot pray. God will not hear you. Moses said straight out, He that is hanged on a tree is cursed of God.
Do you remember when Absalom rebelled against David. Somebody saw when Absalom rode his mule under a tree. His head got caught in the branches of a tree. And the mule just kept on going and left Absalom hanging there in the tree. Somebody saw that and ran and told Joab.
He said, “Why didn’t you kill him?”
Joab grabbed his bow and arrow and ran pell mell. And he shot Absalom through the heart. Because he knew straight off that this was a sign from the God of heaven. Absalom was cursed of God. And according to Moses Absalom will never come up in the first resurrection.
Now that curse Christ took upon Himself not like you carry a bag on your back or you ladies carry a purse on your arm. He bore that curse in His own body. In His whole nervous system He felt Himself forsaken of God.
He was not a TV actor. Now he’s got a teleprompter and tells Him, Now’s the time to wail ‘My God, why have you forsaken me?’ Now’s the time to say that. No way.
From His own broken heart the Son of God cried out, “My God.” He couldn’t say, My Father. Because the connection between Him and the Father was gone. All talk of “Abba, Father” was gone.  He was now a lost sinner. A goner.
Why? you say. Ellen White says, He could not see through the portals of the tomb. Hope did not present for Him His coming forth as a conqueror. He died the second death. That’s the length and breadth and height and depth of the agape of Christ.
“That the blessing of Abraham might come on the Gentiles through Jesus Christ; that we might receive the promise of the Spirit through faith” (Galatians 3:14). “That blessing of Abraham is the righteousness of God, which can come only from God as the free gift of God, received by faith.” “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 Pet. 3:13).
The Holy Spirit now is the down payment. “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).

[1] Ellen G. White, Maranatha, p. 99.
[2] A. T. Jones, “Studies in Galatians. Gal. 3:2-5,” Advent Review and Sabbath Herald, 76, 46 (November 14, 1899), p. 737.

Old Testament Faith by Pastor Paul Penno

It is one thing for Moslems to humiliate, taunt, and murder another Moslem. It is quite another thing for you to murder the Son of God. A Moslem 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.
God sent “a most precious message” [1888] 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. 21:20, 21). 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. 2:14). 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, means to bend down low to hear every syllable] the truth.” It was “by the hearing [listen with faith] 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 (Gal. 3:11). “The Just shall live by faith” (vs. 11, quotation from Hab. 2:4). Habbakuk’s messianic prophecy predicted Jesus’ life and death as the singular righteousness by faith.
When the Galatians “saw” 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.
A wise writer 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.”
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 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” (Galatians 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 an impossibility and 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” (Patriarchs and Prophets, p. 364).
Another time in history when the same “gospel preached” was “mixed with faith” was Abraham’s experience (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. “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 Pet. 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).

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Justification by Faith Alone by Pastor Paul Penno (notes)

You can never breathe easy having unsettled legal matters hanging over your head. Sarah Jane Olson found that out trying to live incognito for twenty-five years after attempting to bomb police. She had a debt to pay to society. As sinners we owe a debt to the universal Law which we cannot pay and still live. How can our bitter conflict with the law be resolved?
In Paul’s confrontation with Peter at Antioch over the latter’s break in fellowship with the Gentiles, Paul argued that all the advantages given the Jews as custodians of the law, the covenant, the Temple, etc., were of no avail in putting them right with God (Gal. 2:15). They were equally as much sinners as were the Gentiles who did not have these privileges. Hence, all their Jewish’ law-keeping did not achieve the purpose of justifying them as sinners.
Three times Paul emphasizes that “a man is not justified by the works of the law” in verse 16. There is no do-it-yourself law-keeping program that can legally settle up a Jew’s accounts with the Law. The problem with law-keeping is the “flesh”. The Jew’s natural-born self-centeredness renders it impossible to fulfill the law. The same is true of the Gentile “for by the works of the law shall no flesh be justified” (vs. 16). “No man is justified by the law in the sight of God” (Gal. 3:11). “Works of the law” are egocentrically-motivated (flesh) concerns for legal righteousness. They are forced by eros-love rather than constrained by agape-love. They are produced by a “body of sin” (Rom. 6:6). Such “works” are dead, because they spring from a heart that is alienated from God (Heb. 6:1; 9:14). They are works produced by a sinful heart and they result in death. Such is the plight of the Jew with his law,—whether it be the moral law or the ceremonial law.
So if “no flesh”, Jew or Gentile, is justified by “the works of the law”, then how are we justified? Twice in verse 16, Paul says, “we might be justified by the faith of Christ”. Here the object upon which “faith” is directed is not Christ. This is not a reference to our faith in Christ. Therefore, one may not conclude that we are justified by a self-produced faith of sufficient merit so that it becomes a “work” which connects with Christ.
Rather “a man” is justified by “the faith of Christ”. “The faith of Jesus Christ” is subjective. In other words, it is Christ’s faith. This is a direct link with the third angel’s message where John describes “the patience of the saints” as those who “keep” “the faith of Jesus” (Rev. 14:12). “No flesh” is justified by “the works of the law.” The reverse truth is all “flesh” are justified by “the faith of Jesus.” The “a man” of vs. 16 is both Jew and Gentile. “The ‘all men’ who are sinners are not put right with God by any good thing they can do, but ‘by the faith of Jesus’ ([Gal.] 2:15-19).”[1] “The faith of Jesus” equals legal justification for Jews and Gentiles.
“The faith of Jesus” is “His grand sacrifice.”[2] Christ’s death is the justification of the race. “Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do” (Luke 23:34). “That prayer of Christ for His enemies embraced the world. It took in every sinner that had lived or should live, from the beginning of the world to the end of time. Upon all rests the guilt of crucifying the Son of God.”[3]
The greatest revelation of God’s love is the sacrifice of Christ. Since Christ’s love is infinite, He gives Himself completely to every sinner in the world as though he were the only one in the whole universe. He is “the true Light (life), which lighteth every man that cometh into the world” (John 1:9).
Faith is “a heart appreciation of His grand sacrifice.”[4] Christ’s faith, sacrifice, and love are the evidence for our faith,—“even we have believed in Jesus Christ” (vs. 16). We are saved by “the faith of Jesus.”
Technically speaking we are not saved by “our faith in Jesus.” If that were the case, then faith would be a meritorious “work”. We live and breathe because of “the faith of Christ.” This is the legal justification of the human family. And when the Holy Spirit reveals that to the sinner he is “born again” and believes in Christ. Thus “faith” is a fruit of the Spirit who reveals “the faith of Jesus Christ” to the sinner (“the fruit of the Spirit is . . . faith,” Gal. 5:22). If “faith” is the fruit, then it is not the root. The root of salvation and life is Jesus Christ.
Paul, in vs. 17, identifies himself with Peter’s “fearing” the circumcision party. “Is it possible, Peter, that in our seeking to be justified by Christ our fear-motivation could be exposed by withdrawing fellowship from the Gentiles? and, if so, wouldn’t it really show that we were selfish? The end result would be to misrepresent justification by Christ as lawlessness. By our inconsistent actions do we really want to give the impression to the Gentiles that Christ is a minister of sin?”
Peter may really have been thinking that by withdrawing fellowship from the Gentiles he was upholding the law. He was seeking to please “the certain c[o]me from James” (Gal. 2:12). The reality was his motivation of fear, selfishness, and exclusivism which prompted his actions were lawless.
The Holy Spirit was using Paul to convict Peter of unconscious sin. This was the convergence of justification by Christ and “the blotting out of sins” truth contained in the 1888 message. It is “the faith of Jesus” and His sacrifice that exposes this taproot of selfishness in order to provide the opportunity for repentance (Gal. 2:18). Fear and self-esteem are such subtle forces that when they finally catch up with their victim, he jettisons the message of the cross and succumbs totally to his egotism. Paul seeks to rescue Peter from committing spiritual suicide.
Paul argues, now Peter, let me share with you my personal testimony. I have been through the do’s-and-don’ts works program. I’m dead to it because the law condemned my do-it-yourself, self-help-plan to law-keeping. The law showed me how pathetically self-seeking I was. Freed from “self” I am now at liberty in Christ to live for God (Gal. 2:19).
The resolution of problems of exclusivism and selfishness resulting in division in the church is a nexus of heart-warming truths involving the identification of Christ with humanity, the grand sacrifice and how that results in the atonement of the sinner’s heart with Christ.
The universal problem is the unconscious sin—the self-centered ego. It is the sin of unbelief which refuses identification with Christ crucified. However, God has given the capacity to every man to choose identification with Christ crucified. The gift is “the faith of “the son of God” (Gal. 2:20).
The faith of Jesus was hammered out in real-time life temptations which the Son of God experience from out side himself as well as from within. He took our sinful flesh which is the common lot of all natural-born humans. He fully identified Himself by taking our faulty human equipment. He took a sinful “self”. “He was tempted in all points like as we are” (Heb. 2:15). Though taking our faulty equipment He rendered a perfect performance. “The faith of the Son of God” was the product of enduring temptation successfully—“yet without sin”.
Humanity is indissoluably connected with the first Adam so far as his sin is concerned. We are connected with the “last Adam” so far as the consequences of what He accomplished on His cross in His identification with sinners.
His perfect righteousness was not innate in the human flesh which He “took” or “assumed,” but it was by a perfect faith in His Father. He lived because He was righteous by faith.That’s why the Bible speaks of “the faith of Jesus.” His sacrifice is not a vicarious, “as if” He were one of us and yet being exempt from taking our sinful flesh. His sacrifice was a full identification with the common lot of humanity. “God made Him to be sin for us” (2 Cor. 5:21).
When Paul “saw” the One “who loved me, and gave Himself for me”, his heart was reconciled to Christ. His experience was at-one-ment with Christ. It was the revelation of Christ’s love in His sacrifice that moved Paul. Christ gave Himself up to hell—the God forsaken death—which the sinner rightfully deserves, in order that the sinner might live.
When Paul “saw” Christ’s substitution wasn’t make-believe but a shared identification with the sinner, his heart was melted and he identified with Christ. “I am crucified with Christ” (Gal. 2:20). Self cannot crucify self. God has given man the capacity to choose to identify with Christ crucified. It’s called “the faith of the Son of God.”
Paul says, My ego is dead. Self-love is not the motivating factor of my faith. “Nevertheless, I live.” Now the true individual lives by a faith motivated by agape as God originally created him. But it’s not the old ego that lives. “Christ liveth in me.” He is a “slave” of love, a heart appreciation of what it cost the Son of God to save him from hell itself.
Christ living in Paul does not mean “holy flesh”. Paul is not beyond temptation arising from within. If anything, the temptations become even more fierce. “The life which I now live in the flesh”, in day to day living in this wicked world, “I live by the faith of the Son of God” (Gal. 2:20). I identify with Him, says Paul; my heart is won; my heart is moved; He “loved me, and gave Himself for me.” Getting to heaven is no longer my main concern; responding to that love has become “the life I now live.”
Of course, the connection of Paul’s dialogue with Peter regarding “the faith of Jesus” and the third angel’s message is readily apparent (“keep” “the faith of Jesus,” Rev. 14:12). Revelation and Galatians are intimately connected. They are “present truth” for our time—old truth in the setting of our cosmic day of atonement.
Paul concludes his remarks to Peter by stating that “the grace of God” is our teacher (Gal. 2:21). What does it teach us in terms of salvation for the Jew as well as the Gentile? What did Christ accomplish on His cross? Peter’s actions of withdrawal from fellowship with the Gentiles teaches that not only must the Jews do something to be saved; namely, be circumcised and be obedient to the Law; but the same is required of the Gentiles.
What did Christ actually accomplish by His sacrifice on His cross? Some say He secured eternal salvation for some people, “the elect,” and damnation for everyone else. That can’t be true, because it “frustrates the grace of God” which is freely given to “all” (Gal. 2:20, 21; Rom. 3:23, 24).
Others say He “offered” eternal salvation to “all men,” but if sinners are stubborn and refuse it, then He actually accomplished nothing for them; it’s as though He did not die for them; their unbelief has made His sacrifice in vain. But this view also “frustrates the grace of God” for that grace is already given to “all men.” The sinner’s unbelief cannot “frustrate the grace of God.” Grace is something freely given to “all men.” The word “freely” denies any frustration of that grace.
Contemporary theology and church teaching frustrate “the grace of God.” Some say Christ died only for the “elect,” the few chosen ones. Others say that the grace of Christ’s sacrifice is freely offered to all who believe.[5] In other words, salvation isn’t really effective until one believes. This theology is a frustration of “the grace of God.”
In a sincere attempt to limit that grace, some teach that by His sacrifice Christ is the rich Giver who has given a credit card to “all men.” It is theirs to use if they choose—with unlimited extent. This sounds very good; but wait a moment. Suppose the sinner because of his unbelief refuses to use the credit card; then it has cost the Giver nothing, for all the credit deposited remains with Him. Suppose a rich man gives you a check for a million dollars, but in unbelief you refuse to cash it. What has the transaction cost him? Not a cent! He is still drawing his interest on the million dollars.
This idea which sounds so good actually ends up again “frustrating the grace of God.” Pursued to its logical end, it maintains that your salvation ultimately depends on your own initiative in cashing in on the credit card. Buried therein in the depths of that idea is a lurking legalism. Paul maintains that if righteousness in any way depends on our human initiative, then “Christ is dead in vain” (Gal. 2:21).
Someone wrote me an intriguing question: “How does the blood of Christ cleanse one from sin?” Is it by a cold-as-ice, dry-as-dust legal substitution of merit, like a bank transferring credit from one account to another? The merits of Christ’s perfection applied to the unworthy sinner so he goes scot-free? Like an insurance company’s policy? Is that the biblical doctrine of Substitution? Many assume so, and don’t wish to be disturbed into realizing that something far more profound is involved. Let’s face it: “the truth of the gospel” in Galatians is controversial, and has always stirred up the fires of persecution. Three (at least) passages in Galatians probe deeply into this idea of substitution and what the “blood” accomplishes (a) “I am crucified with Christ” (2:20). I identify with Him, says Paul; my heart is won; my heart is moved; He “loved me, and gave Himself for me.” Getting to heaven is no longer my main concern; responding to that love has become “the life I now live in the flesh [that] I live by the faith of the Son of God.” It’s “not I, but Christ.” He “lives in me.” A legal substitution? Yes, of course; but infinitely more than that. (b) Paul preached the cross so clearly, vividly, that the people saw themselves crucified with Christ (3:1-5). That is, unfortunately, rare preaching today! It wasn’t superficial emotionalism; it was heart-gripping truth as solid as granite. (c) “The truth of the gospel” produces in cold, selfish, world-loving, addiction-cursed hearts, a new passion: “God forbid that I should glory save in the cross” (6:14). Sometimes I “glory” in a Mozart Andante; it keeps going through my mind, night and day, I can’t get it out. Well, without a trace of fanaticism (which cold, persecuting hearts like to attribute to “the truth of the gospel”) the sacrifice of the Son of God has gripped the heart so that it has become the “new song” we sing night and day—a holy obsession forever. And here’s some Good News: such a new song can be “learned” (Rev. 14:3).
What does it mean to be “in Christ”? Says Paul: “We judge thus: that if One died for all, then all died” (2 Cor. 5:14). Were we “in Christ” when He died on the cross? Does that mean we go 50/50 with Him in saving ourselves? Paul adds, “I am crucified with Christ” (Gal. 2:20), “buried with Him through baptism into death” (Rom. 6:4), “united together in the likeness of His death,” “crucified with Him,” “died with Christ,” so that we are “alive to God in Christ Jesus” (vss. 5-11).
The “together” idea seems clear. As humans we are all “in Adam,” that is, when he sinned in Eden “we” sinned so that “in Adam all die” (1 Cor. 15:22). But likewise, “even so, in Christ shall all be made alive.” There has to be a legal framework of the gospel—Christ our “second Adam.”
But here’s another statement that many overlook. Right next to the “crucified with Christ” statement Paul reminds the Galatians: “Before [your] eyes Jesus Christ hath been set forth, crucified among you” (3:1). We “behold” Him so vividly that we identify with Him. A bond is established, we are “united” with Him. We empathize with Him; we realize that it is we who deserve to be crucified. “In Him” we kneel in Gethsemane with Him, intimately together.
We are not like careless children who have no solemn appreciation of what it cost Him to save us. When a child suffers agony, does not a parent suffer too? A parent enters into his child, as it were, feels with him, “identifies.” Christ on His cross dies our second death; what the word “faith” means is that we identify with Him, as though we are inside His own soul. We “reckon” ourselves “dead” with Him, says Paul (Rom. 6:11). It is clear in Ephesians 1: “in Him we have redemption through His blood,” not a heartless exchange as when we sign an insurance policy, but a heartfelt identity as a Bride forever identifies with her Bridegroom (Rev. 19:7, 8). Christ’s command to “abide in Me” expresses that closeness of intimacy.
ALL OF THIS IS BY FAITH ALONE, NOT AN IOTA OF MERIT ATTACHED THERETO. Our identity with Him is totally heart-appreciation, not 1/99, in no way self-salvation even .00000000001 percent.

[1] DDB 8-40-08.
[2] Robert J. Wieland, Galatians for Today’s Youth. A Free Paraphrase, p. 8.
[3] Ellen G. White, The Desire of Ages, p. 745.
[4] Galatians for Today’s Youth, p. 8.
[5] “He offers to us today that new history. . . .” “. . . God offers to us a new identity—the very identity of his Son.” Carl Cosaert, Galatians, pp. 42, 43.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Being Justified by Ellet J. Waggoner

Being Justified

Sabbath School Today
With the 1888 Message Dynamic 
The Gospel in Galatians
Lesson 4: "Justification by Faith Alone"

"'Therefore being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ' (Rom. 5:1). What does this mean? What is it to be justified? Both professors and non-professors often mistake its meaning. Many of the former think that it is a sort of half-way house to perfect favor with God, while the latter think that it is a substitute for real righteousness. They think that the idea of justification by faith is that if one will only believe what the Bible says, he is to be counted as righteous when he is not. All this is a great mistake" (E. J. Waggoner, The Signs of the Times, May 1, 1893).

Our Sabbath School lesson "wrestles" with those same questions, and in Wednesday's lesson arrives at a similar conclusion: " … an intellectual assent to the gospel is not enough, for, in that sense, "even the demons believe."

Something our lesson did not cover, however, is one of the main "gospel truths" concerning justification by faith: "The 1888 message is especially 'precious' because it joins together the true biblical idea of justification by faith with the unique idea of the cleansing of the heavenly sanctuary. This is a Bible truth that the world is waiting to discover. It forms the essential element of truth that will yet lighten the earth with the glory of a final, fully developed presentation of 'the everlasting gospel' of Revelation 14 and 18" (Ten Great Gospel Truths That Make the 1888 Message Unique, p. 34).

Justification by faith is greater than a legal declaration; it's the "dynamite" of the 1888 message. A correct motivation for serving Christ is another term for the dynamic of genuine justification by faith. It produces heart obedience to all the commandments of God. The truth of justification by faith in the 1888 message is the missing ingredient in both "historic Adventism" and the "new theology." Both generally follow the Arminian view, which in effect makes the sinner's salvation dependent on his own initiative.

The Faith of Jesus: But Paul says "a man [person] is not justified by the works of the law, but by the faith of Jesus Christ" (Gal. 2:16). Thus the 1888 message was the first powerful message in Adventism that joined "the faith of Jesus" to God's law. Here is the 1888 idea:

"The faith of Christ must bring the righteousness of God, because the possession of that faith is the possession of the Lord himself. This faith is dealt to every man, even as Christ gave himself to every man. Do you ask what then can prevent every man from being saved? The answer is, Nothing, except the fact that all men will not keep the faith. If all would keep all that God gives them, all would be saved" (Waggoner, Signs of the Times, Jan. 16, 1896).

What exactly is the "faith of Jesus Christ"? Ellen G. White has given us a clear definition:
"The third angel's message is the proclamation of the commandments of God and the faith of Jesus Christ. The commandments of God have been proclaimed, but the faith of Jesus Christ has not been proclaimed by Seventh-day Adventists as of equal importance, the law and the gospel going hand in hand. …

"'The faith of Jesus.' It is talked of, but not understood. What constitutes the faith of Jesus, that belongs to the third angel's message? Jesus becoming our sin-bearer that He might become our sin-pardoning Saviour. He was treated as we deserve to be treated. He came to our world and took our sins that we might take His righteousness. And faith in the ability of Christ to save us amply and fully and entirely is the faith of Jesus" (Selected Messages, book 3, p. 172; emphasis supplied).

Crucified With Christ: For "self" to be crucified with Christ does not mean a human effort to torture ourselves by an agonizing do-it-yourself crucifixion. It is always "with Christ." When Paul says, "I am crucified with Christ," he is not saying, "See what a strong Christian I am! I am nailing nails through my hands and feet, I am crucifying myself!" Rather he is saying, "My proud self is already 'crucified with Him." I have learned from Him--"I [too] am crucified with Christ." I kneel with Him in Gethsemane. Paul says, self in human nature is so strong that it was like sweating blood for Christ to say "No!" to self; but I, Paul, say "let this mind be in me, which was also in [Him]."

Self cannot live and reign any longer because His agape has annihilated the love of self. Honest human hearts identify with Christ on His cross. As with Him, the natural result is: self is crucified. The slightest taint of legalism "frustrates the grace of God" and denies the cross (2:20, 21).

Now, Paul goes on to say, "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." To respond any less than that, says Paul, would be to "frustrate the grace of God," and that I now refuse to do, he adds (vss. 20, 21).

When in verse 16 he says emphatically it's "not of works" he means not even 1 percent. His impassioned Letter to the Galatians is on one side of the perennial debate: "I do not frustrate the grace of God [even 1 percent 'works' will frustrate that grace!]: for if righteousness come by law, then Christ is dead in vain" (vs. 21). There's no "balance" between righteousness by faith and righteousness by works (Laodicean lukewarmness, hot and cold water "balanced;" this confusion is Laodicea's problem).

The Closing Work: Ellen White linked the message of justification with the work of the great High Priest in His "closing work of atonement" in the Most Holy Apartment. She said our people didn't understand this. Her messages to the ministers and the church after 1888 suggest she was obsessed with this aspect of what Jones and Waggoner had presented at the 1888 General Conference Session. She was excited; if the ministers and people would follow Christ in His closing work, the coming of the Lord would be very soon.* The High Priest can never cleanse the sanctuary in heaven until He can first cleanse human hearts here on earth.
The Good News! Paul points us to Christ's cross: in His sacrifice, was He motivated even 1 percent by egocentric concern for Himself? His assurance to the believing thief appears to say yes ("Hang on, fellow victim; you and I will be in Paradise today!"). But that was in the morning when the sun was shining; "at the sixth hour there was darkness over all the land," including the heart of the Son of God. He cried, "My God, why hast Thou forsaken Me?" He "poured out His soul unto death," even the second (Isa. 53:12). Not even 1 percent of an egocentric motivation—totally love for us, none for Himself. That was agape.

--Compiled mainly from the writings of Robert J. Wieland
* See the succession of statements in the Review and Herald, Jan. 21, 28; Feb. 4, 11, 25; March 4, 18; April 8, 1890. Ellen White's emphasis here is astounding.
Suggested reading:
1. Ellen G. White, "The Message of Justification by Faith," Testimonies to Ministers and Gospel Workers, pp. 91-94.
2. Ellet J. Waggoner, "Being Justified," The Signs of the Times, May 1, 1893:
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