Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Growing in Christ

Sabbath School Today
With the 1888 Message Dynamic 
Growing in Christ
Lesson 5: "Growing in Christ"

We have sold ourselves into the servitude of sin and are under "the curse of the law" (Gal. 3:13). We live in "fear of death" with a "lifetime subject to bondage" (Heb. 2:15). As slaves of sin we are daily subjected to the "principalities and powers" of this world (Col. 2:15). We owe an insurmountable legal debt to the universal law of justice as compulsive sinners. We are literally buried in debt. But like the "creditor which had two debtors" and "frankly forgave them both" God has forgiven us "much" (Luke 7:41, 42). We sing, "Redeemed, how I love to proclaim it!" The 1888 message helps us appreciate what our redemption cost the Saviour. [1]
"Ye are bought with a price" (1 Cor. 6:20). "The redemption that is in Christ Jesus is the worthiness or the purchasing power of Christ." [2] What is the purchasing power of Christ? He is the One and only "Son" of the Father. The Divine Christ "is life, original, unborrowed, underived." [3] He is the Creator. But the Redeemer must also be one with those redeemed. He "took upon Him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men" (Phil. 2:7). The Infinite Son of God is one with us. We have been "purchased" "at infinite cost." [4]
First, Christ has purchased the whole world of sinners by paying their debt of sin. The "grace of God that bringeth salvation hath appeared to all men" (Titus 2:11). Christ gave "Himself [as] a ransom for all" (1 Tim. 2:6). The word for ransom used here is the compound word "substitute-ransom" and indicates that an exchange actually took place. Waggoner writes that Christ "bought not a certain class, but the whole world of sinners." [5]
Second, Christ has paid our real debt of eternal death by suffering God-forsakenness on the cross. "Christ hath redeemed us from the curse of the law [disobedience to the law], being made a curse for us" (Gal. 3:13). Sin earns the wages of death--the real thing--goodbye to life forever. It was the Torah which taught that anyone hanged on a tree was "accursed of God" (Deut. 21:23).
As the corporate head of the human race Christ satisfied the universal law of justice by His death on behalf of sinners. "Christ exhausted the penalty and provided a pardon." [6] "The fallen race" is "redeemed from the curse of sin." [7] "For all have sinned, ... being justified freely by His grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus" (Rom. 3:23, 24). With His blood, as our "second Adam," He redeemed, purchased, reclaimed, restored to favor, emancipated, delivered, released from death, liberated, the entire corporate human race.
Third, "principalities and powers" formerly entrenched in our sinful nature, evil habits, and darkness of soul that rendered us incapable of obedience, have been "spoiled," gotten "rid of," defeated (Col. 2:15). Slaves of evil appetites, drugs, and darkness of soul are delivered from these demonic powers that held them captive, says Paul. You are free from all these "principalities" that dragged you down! Like captives conquered in a Roman war they are displayed "openly" as in a triumphal procession of victory.
What was "contrary to us" that was taken "out of the way, nailing it to His cross" (Col. 2:14)? "There is a law which was abolished, which Christ 'took out of the way, nailing it to His cross.' Paul calls it 'the law of commandments contained in ordinances.' This ceremonial law, given by God through Moses, with its sacrifices and ordinances, was to be binding upon the Hebrews until type met antitype in the death of Christ as the Lamb of God to take away the sin of the world." [8]
In another passage Ellen White goes deeper into the spiritual significance of Paul's idea. It's more than the Jew-Gentile alienation that was a local problem two thousand years ago. Ellen White sees that Paul is speaking of the spiritual problem in our own hearts today:
"The mercy seat upon which the glory of God rested in the holiest of all, is opened to all who accept Christ as the propitiation for sin, and through its medium they are brought into fellowship with God. The veil is rent, the partition walls broken down, the handwriting of ordinances cancelled. By virtue of His blood the enmity is abolished. Through faith in Christ Jew and Gentile may partake of the living bread." [9]
While it is true that the ceremonial law with its provisions about "meat" and "drink" and the "new moon" was abolished by the sacrifice of Christ, obviously she saw that is not all that Paul intended to say. Why was it that abolishing the ceremonial law "disarmed principalities and powers, ... triumphing over them in it" (Col. 2:15)? To say that the ceremonial law was nailed to the cross is correct; but what lies beneath the surface here?
What were the evil "principalities and powers" that were "triumphed over" at the cross? The problem was "enmity" in human hearts, which Ellen White recognizes in her phrase, "The enmity is abolished" so that we "are brought into fellowship with God." That enmity indeed was "against us"! The Greek word translated "handwriting" ischeirographon, which means "a document written by hand." In Paul's day the word referred to a legal document or bond signed by a debtor--a mortgage, in our language. The "blotting out" was the washing of the water-soluble ink, thus erasing the handwritten evidence of the debt. Perhaps the clearest modern equivalent for us would be the burning of a mortgage with the resultant sense of exultation that no more debt hangs over us.
Did Christ accomplish something like this for us on His cross? Paul's vigorous thought says, yes. His immediate context is his exulting praise to God for "having forgiven you all trespasses" (vs. 13). Then in the same sentence, he explains how Christ forgave us all our trespasses--it was by "blotting out the handwriting of ordinances that was against us, which was contrary to us, and took it out of the way, nailing it to his cross" (vs. 14). Knowing how Paul loves to glory in the cross of Christ, it becomes clear that he is speaking of the record of our trespasses being blotted out. It was a legal document which was indeed truly "against us, .. contrary to us," and which was erased and taken "out of the way" at the cross.
What was "abolished" at the cross was the fear-laden enmity and guilt generated by unbelief. Thus circumcision and "the law of Moses" came to an end at the cross; but in principle something more fundamental also came to an end there, says Paul--sin itself was conquered, with its resultant alienation from God.
Christ indeed redeemed the entire human race by His sacrifice, "abolished [the second] death," uprooted the fear that haunts mankind, has "drawn the sting of all the powers ranged against us," chained Satan and his evil "principalities" to His triumphal chariot in His victory procession, cancelled the "handwritten" record of our trespasses which we ourselves had signed as our indebtedness to be paid for by our own second death, and reversed the "condemnation" that came on "all men" in Adam, pronouncing on "all men" a glorious "verdict of acquittal."
There is deliverance from every vestige of Satan's tyranny over our souls. That is the idea which is at the heart of the "third angel's message in verity"--deliverance from the galling yoke of sin. It is possible for a people to prepare for the second coming of Christ! [10]
--Robert J. Wieland with Paul E. Penno
[1] "You may say that you believe in Jesus, when you have an appreciation of the cost of salvation. You may make this claim, when you feel that Jesus died for you on the cruel cross of Calvary; when you have an intelligent, understanding faith that his death makes it possible for you to cease from sin, and to perfect a righteous character through the grace of God, bestowed upon you as the purchase of Christ's blood." Ellen G. White, "How Do We Stand?"The Advent Review and Sabbath Herald (July 24, 1888).
[2] E. J. Waggoner, "Being Justified," The Present Truth 8, 21 (Oct. 20, 1892), p. 324.
[3] Ellen G. White, The Desire of Ages, p. 530.
[4] Ellen G. White, Seventh-day Adventist Bible Commentary, Vol. 1, p. 1095.
[5] E. J. Waggoner, Christ and His Righteousness, p. 80 (Glad Tidings ed.).
[6] Ellen G. White, Amazing Grace, p. 139.
[7] Ellen G. White, Thoughts From the Mount of Blessing, p. 104.
[8] Ellen G. White, "The Law of God Perpetual," Bible Echo (April 16, 1894).
[9] Ellen G. White, Seventh-day Adventist Bible Commentary, Vol. 5, p. 1109 (Letter 230, 1907).
[10] "In Christ's perfection of character was found the ransom for the sinner, the way in which the rebel against God might be reconciled to God. Those who will submit to the drawing power of Christ, may be justified by a just God." Ellen G. White, "Truth Revealed to the Humble," Signs of the Times (Dec. 11, 1893).
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