Friday, May 23, 2014

Lesson 8: The Law of God and the Law of Christ

Sabbath School Today
With the 1888 Message Dynamic 
Christ and His Law
Lesson 8: The Law of God and the Law of Christ

Some theologians try to set up a divide between the law of God and the law of Christ. They say the law of God is the legalism of the Old Testament and the law of Christ is love in the New Testament. They argue that Jesus abrogated God's law. He taught "a newcommandment I give unto you, That ye love one another; as I have loved you" (John 13:34). How does the 1888 message help us to resolve this false dichotomy?
First, Jesus said, "keep My commandments" (John 15:10). Jesus claims the law as His.
Second, Jesus helps us to see that the commandments have a deeper or "new" meaning in view of the fact that "I have loved you" (John 13:34). The motivational force of His law is agape,--the Divine, self-sacrificing love. Again He emphasizes, "Keep Mycommandments" and "ye shall abide in My love" (John 15:10).
Third, any attempt to distinguish the law of God from the law of Christ creates division between the Father and His Son. Jesus says, "I and my Father are one" (John 10:30). One of the 1888 messengers, E. J. Waggoner, concludes that "the law of God is the law of Christ." [1]
So we ask, How has Christ "loved you"? (John 13:34). To answer this question it's important to understand what Jesus accomplished on His cross. The 1888 message helps us to focus on this theme in the Scriptures.
God's good news is very good news. The Son of God accomplished far more on His cross than most people think because He abolished death (2 Tim. 1:10). He saved the world (John 4:42). He gave the gift of eternal life to "all men" (John 3:166:33). He died the second death for "every man" (Heb. 2:9). Thus He forgave the sins of the world (Eph. 1:7).
Eternal life begins here now (1 John 5:12). We are adopted into the family of God (Eph. 1:5). The burden of guilt is lifted (Rom. 8:1). Christ has become our "last Adam," reversing the condemnation brought upon us by the "first Adam" (Rom. 5:15-18). A new motivation possesses us--agape (2 Cor. 5:14, 15).
Thus it becomes easy to be saved and hard to be lost if we believe truth (John 3:16-19). Jesus said it and we must not discount His words. "My yoke is easy" (Matt. 11:29). We may not have thought of the law in this way, but the yoke of Christ is His commandments. Waggoner writes, "He who seeks to cast off the law of the Lord, is rejecting the yoke of Christ." [2] A yoke is what joins oxen together in labor. So the commandments join us to Christ in service for God to humanity.
Jesus said, "I delight to do Thy will, O My God: yea, Thy law is within My heart" (Psalm 40:8). "I came down from heaven, not to do Mine own will, but the will of Him that sent Me" (John 6:38). He invites us to "bear with Me the yoke of service for the glory of God and the uplifting of humanity, and you will find the yoke easy and the burden light." [3]
The rich young ruler asked, "Good Master, what good thing shall I do, that I may have eternal life?" (Matt. 19:16). Jesus bade him keep the commandments. The ruler replied, "All these things have I kept from my youth up: what lack I yet?" (Matt. 19:20). Then Jesus invited him, "If thou wilt be perfect, go and sell that thou hast, and give to the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven: and come and follow Me" (Matt. 19:21). The commandments involve following Jesus in service to the poor from an unselfish heart, but the young man loved his riches.
The all-important question in the Judgment will be, Have we learned to love? Not how many "works of the law" we have toted up. Jesus separates the sheep and the goats on that one score of true love (Matt 25:31-46).
In John's magnificent chapter on agape--love reveals the test of whether or not we know God: "Everyone that loveth is born of God, and knoweth God. He that loveth not [with agape] knoweth not God" (1 John 4:7, 8).
The Apostle enjoins us to "bear ye one another's burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ" (Gal. 6:2). But how can we "fulfill" the law of Christ in doing so?
"Consider thyself lest thou also be tempted" (tried, or burdened is the meaning of "tempted," Gal. 6:1). In other words, put ourselves in that suffering person's place; to tell that person that we are doing so will be to him or her a distinct element of encouragement.
The best of mountaineers have achieved their summits with a guide. Sir Edmund Hillary reached the summit of Mt. Everest with his mountain guide Sherpa Tenzing. The Sherpa's live in high altitudes year-round. The mountains are their home and workplace. They are acclimated to the thin air and physically fit. Both Hillary and Tenzing needed each other for their near superhuman achievement.
Ellen White writes: "We must be bound together by the cords of truth and love. Let us press together, allowing nothing to weaken the bonds of union, so that if one should slip and fall, others can lift him up. We must not think that no responsibility rests upon us in the case of our brother; but we should ever manifest the tenderest interest in one another's welfare, and should seek to be helpful to those around us. Being thus bound together, and to the great heart of Infinite Love, the powers of darkness cannot harm us." [4]
The Lord Jesus taught us to pray The Lord's Prayer, in which we plead with the Father, "Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven." Giving our hearts in compassion for someone suffering, even far away, is the Father's will being "done."
A close network exists between heaven and earth that is far more intricate than anything on our computer's Internet on earth; our "bearing ... one another's burdens" strengthens the ties between heaven and earth. Every thought and prayer of compassion brings earth and heaven closer in anticipation of when the entire universe is reconciled to God and at last the Father's will can "be done in earth."
In giving Jesus to the world, the Father has given Himself, too; "God [is] in Christ, reconciling the world unto Himself" (2 Cor. 5:19).
At present, the situation does not seem (after 2000 years) that the blessed work has made much progress; the world is still "at enmity against God" (Rom. 8:7); the reconciliation is largely yet future.
But the Book of Revelation does not close until it assures us that the earth is to be "lightened with the glory" of a final message of reconciliation: "I saw another angel come down from heaven, having great power; and the earth was lightened with His glory."
--Paul E. Penno
[1] E. J. Waggoner, "A Lesson for All Time," Signs of the Times, July 4, 1895.
[2] Ibid.
[3] Ellen G. White, Thoughts from the Mount of Blessing, p. 16. Cf.The Desire of Ages, p. 329.
[4] Ellen G. White, "Christian Helpfulness," Signs of the Times, Dec.10, 1885.
Note: “Sabbath School Today” and Pastor Paul Penno’s video of this lesson are on the Internet at:
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