Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Christ, the End of the Law

Sabbath School Today
With the 1888 Message Dynamic 
Christ and His Law
Lesson 7: Christ, the End of the Law
The 1888 message clarifies the relationship of grace to a legal justification effected at the cross. In other words, the message clarifies the relationship between law and grace. Does "mercy" require a legal justification? No, the correct word must be "grace." One can show mercy to a suffering animal, but grace involves a moral, spiritual, and legal quality. There is a vast difference.
Some Christians have objected to the idea that Christ effected a legal justification for "all men" by His sacrifice on the cross. They have said that His sacrifice only made a provision of grace for all men and therefore grace is not effective until one believes in Jesus.
These brethren have not realized that such a position is the essence of antinomianism, because we can't have grace without a legal foundation for it. God's holy law has been transgressed by the sinner; grace cannot now be extended to him unless the just demands of that broken law are first satisfied in his behalf. Why?
First, let us define "grace." Ellen White says it is "unmerited favor." [1]
Only sinners can receive grace, not sinless beings such as the unfallen angels. [2]
Why? Only sinners have broken God's law. Grace was never understood until after the fall. [3] Grace therefore is directly related to God's broken law.
The common antinomian, perhaps evangelical, idea is that God doesn't mind if we have broken His law; He can simply overlook our sin, be merciful, pardon us cheaply, and by His sovereign authority He can forget about His broken law. It's not important. But the idea of grace without that law being upheld and satisfied is the teaching of the popular churches. What does His grace accomplish for "all men"? They are "justified by His grace" (Titus 3:7). Therefore, if we tell someone that he can be justified without that law being satisfied by a legal justification, we are teaching antinomianism whether we realize it or not.
Here is the reason why grace requires justification: "The righteousness of God without law is manifested, ... even the righteousness of God which is by faith of Jesus Christ unto all [unbelievers] and upon all them that believe [believers]: for there is no difference: for all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God; being justified freely by His grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus: whom God hath set forth to be a propitiation through faith in His blood, to declare His righteousness for the remission of sins that are past, through the forbearance of God. To declare, I say, at this time his righteousness: that he might be just, and the justifier of him which believeth in Jesus" (Rom. 3:21-26).
The Greek verb translated "have sinned" is in the aorist tense, meaning "all sinned," that is, at some given point in time. We all sinned "in Adam," when he sinned. The phrase "being justified" is a participle that relates the justification to the time when "all sinned."
Therefore this passage is parallel with Rom. 5:12-18 which tells us that what Adam did to bring condemnation upon the human race Christ reversed by bringing justification upon the human race: "If through the offence of one many be dead, much more the grace of God, and the gift by grace, which is by one man, Jesus Christ, hath abounded unto many ... By the righteousness of one the free gift came upon all men unto justification of life." And Paul goes on to say in the same passage that "grace did much more abound" by the fact that this "justification of life" has been given to "all men" (vs. 20).
Thus the justification and the grace are linked together, and cannot be separated: "The law worketh wrath: for where no law is, there is no transgression. Therefore it is of faith, that it might be by grace" (Rom. 4:15, 16). Do you see it? The "wrath of the law" must be satisfied before there can be grace. When someone is "under the law" he cannot be "under grace" (Rom. 6:14).
Paul goes on to explain that we cannot be under grace unless first "God has sent His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, and for sin, condemned sin in the flesh" (Rom. 8:3). Thus when Christ satisfied the broken law by His sacrificial death, by necessity He effected a legal justification for all men. Otherwise we could not even live so as to have another trial.
That broken law is satisfied only by the righteousness of Christ. The point is that law cannot be satisfied by a righteousness that is effected instead of us, but only to us. In other words, Christ must enter the corporate stream of fallen mankind, and fully identify with us. This does not deny the substitutionary aspect of Christ's sacrifice. It only defines it more clearly.
When that "wrath" of the law was poured upon Christ in the sinner's behalf, He has "tasted death for every man." Upon Him was laid "the iniquity of us all." Unless we recognize this truth, we lapse into cheap grace, even while declaiming against it. It was "by the grace of God [that Christ] should taste death for every man" (Heb. 2:9).
This is very expensive grace. If all Christ endured was the "rest" which we call death, that is, a sweet sleep as a brief relief, then it necessarily becomes cheap grace. But if He endured the equivalent of the second death, the complete pouring "out of His soul unto death," the real thing, the giving of Himself unto eternity, going to hell in our behalf, then it is extremely expensive grace. Christ's sacrifice on the cross as accomplishing infinitely more than "merely deferring" the original punishment for sin. "The punishment or wages of sin--eternal death" was neither "waived," "deferred," nor "delayed," but was inflicted totally on Christ.
This is the only foundation on which grace can rest. Grace that does not rest on Christ's complete sacrifice must be "cheap grace." He actually and truly paid the debt of every man's sin, and therefore fully died the second death of "every man." Thus there is no reason for any human soul to die that second death except for his own personal unbelief, his refusal to appreciate what Christ has actually (not provisionally) accomplished for him on the cross (John 3:17-19). This view of the cross may take one's breath away, but we see it as stark Bible truth, the "objective gospel." This truth is practical godliness, for it motivates the human heart to do what nothing else can do--to live "henceforth" not for self, but for Him.
There is evidence that Ellen White agrees. She says that it is Christ's death that gives efficiency to His grace. "His grace can act with unbounded efficiency." [4] In other words, there could be no grace apart from His death.
This grace was so expensive that it is impossible to "measure" what it cost Heaven to give it. Grace was paid for by a price impossible to measure. "The grace given cost Heaven a price it is impossible for us to measure." [5]
Again, that grace is inseparable from law. "That precious grace offered to men through a Saviour's blood, establishes the law of God." [6] She says it's a "deception" to speak of grace without the law being satisfied. Brethren would never dream of disparaging the law of God. But if they seek to establish grace apart from a legal justification, they are unwittingly falling into this trap that Ellen White speaks of:
"It is the sophistry of Satan that the death of Christ brought in grace to take the place of the law. ... That precious grace offered to men through a Saviour's blood establishes the law of God. Since the fall of man, God's moral government and His grace are inseparable. They go hand in hand through all dispensations." [7]
"The gospel of Christ is the Good News of grace, or favor, by which man may be released from the condemnation of sin and enabled to render obedience to the law of God." Ellen White says that grace releases from condemnation. "The gospel of Christ is the Good News of grace, or favor, by which man may be released from the condemnation of sin and enabled to render obedience to the law of God." [8] Paul says that the legal justification effected at the cross releases from condemnation (Rom. 5:18), then the two truths must go together. We may conclude therefore, that the grace manifested through the cross is founded upon the legal justification effected there.
--Paul E. Penno
Endnotes (Ellen G. White):
[1] Christ's Object Lessons, p. 394.
[2] God's Amazing Grace p. 10; In Heavenly Places, p. 34.
[3] God's Amazing Grace, p. 10.
[4] That I May Know Him, p. 69.
[5] In Heavenly Places, p. 220.
[6] The Faith I Live By, p. 89.
[7] Faith and Works, p. 30.
[8] Mind, Character and Personality, vol. 2, p. 563.
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