Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Christ's Church and the Law

Christ and His Law
Lesson 12: Christ's Church and the Law
The 1888 message is Christ our righteousness. Christ is our Lawgiver. Righteousness by faith is the love of Christ manifest in the lives of sinful humans who have learned to appreciate what it cost Him to give His life for us. Agape is Divine love uniquely revealed in this world by the faith of Jesus whose service to mankind is the embodiment of the law of God.
God's holy law was given to the "holy pair" in the Garden of Eden. In all their innocence Adam and Eve were clothed with the radiant light of God's love. Divine love is expressed in freedom of choice. Love must be tested so that the innocent ones might develop character.
The church in the Garden was "commanded" to worship the Creator. "Thou shalt not eat of" "the tree of the knowledge of good and evil" (Gen. 2:16, 17). God's will for them was to know only good. They were not to know evil. Our first parents worshipped by believing the Good News of God's character of love. God promised to protect them from the horror of evil. "In the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die" (Gen. 2:17). They believed His Word.
The temptation of the serpent was to deceive them into believing that God was not only good, but also evil. The deception was that when God said, "thou shalt surely die." He withheld from them the knowledge, "ye shalt not surely die" (Gen. 3:4). The serpent's purpose was not an outright attack on God's commandments, but to confuse truth with error.
By commingling these two opposites,—"surely die," "not surely die"; "good and evil,"—the serpent's three deceptions were woven together into one strand: (1) There will be no death, for Eve believed the serpent that man's nature is immortal; (2) "knowing good and evil" is essential, for there is a conjunction of opposites; and (3) "ye shall be God," for divinity dwells within every immortal human soul and only awaits self-realization. Thus the church failed the test of God's commandments in the beginning because of unbelief.
Now the church needs righteousness by faith. The church lost its original holiness of God's garments of love. There is no innate righteousness, and so God provides a sacrifice and clothes them with the skin of an animal. God teaches Adam and Eve about their Saviour, "the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world" (Rev. 13:8). Christ pardons the sinful church and imparts His righteousness.
The church is to worship God by faith in "the Descendant" of the woman. The sacrifice of Jesus is the "enmity" (Gen. 3:15) that breaks up the alliance that sinners have with "that old serpent, called the Devil, and Satan" (Rev. 12:9). But the cosmic controversy that Christ has with Satan is welcome in the world and plays itself out in the conflict between the "seed" [church] of the woman and the "seed" [followers] of Satan.
Cain's descendants, "the daughters of men" (Gen. 6:2), came to God by an offering of their own merits (Gen. 4:3). "The sons of God" worshipped God through the merits of Christ's blood (Gen. 4:4). The other descendants of Adam and Eve heartily repented of Eve's folly and maintained a firm loyalty to the original truth of God. They became the progenitors of an unbroken line of generations of faithful worshippers of God who believed that man had forfeited immortality by rebellion against Him and could obtain it only through faith in a divine Saviour to come and in His sacrifice.
"The Gospel message was given by Adam, Seth, Enoch, Methuselah, and Noah. Abraham in Canaan, and Lot in Sodom bore the message, and from generation to generation faithful messengers proclaimed the coming One." [1]
"Enoch was a representative of Christ." "That God who walked with Enoch was ... Christ." "The message" of Christ and the law was "preached by Enoch, and his translation to heaven ... were an argument that Methuselah and Noah could use with power to show that the righteous could be translated." [2]
Abraham made God so happy, He declared that all who embraced the same faith that he had must inherit the whole earth for an everlasting possession with everlasting life to go along with the gift! He promised him and all his descendants to become a great nation, the "head and not the tail," the outstanding example to all the world of what God's salvation is all about. God's church on earth is to evangelize the world. Corporately they are to honor His name before all the pagan nations.
But Israel largely failed. Even their best leaders blew it. God gave King Saul great military success with his sword; but it went to his head. Even David who praised the Lord in all his Psalms brought dishonor.
Solomon's vast wealth and wisdom went to his head. Kings such as Hezekiah and Jehoshaphat for whom the Lord wrought great miracles sullied their life record with tragic mistakes of pride. The prophets all longed for a national repentance that never came until Israel crucified their Messiah.
Now God has a world church through whom He longs to glorify His name before a bewildered, confused modern world in gross darkness. There is good news: what Jesus died to accomplish will yet be achieved in His church—when they can pour contempt on all their pride.
The basic thesis of Satan's six thousand year legal spree on earth has been his contention that it is impossible for fallen sons and daughters of Adam to lives totally in harmony with God's holy law. He has gleefully welcomed all the evidence that has tarnished the record of God's professed people all through the ages.
The time of trouble cannot come until God's people experience a finally effective revival and reformation. Satan doesn't want that blessing ever to come. It is not in his interest for the coming of Christ to be anywhere near soon.
True to form, the "dragon" will lose his cool once he sees a genuine demonstration of complete loyalty to Christ. Once let a people learn to overcome "even as" Christ "overcame," so that God can truthfully say of them, "Here are they that keep the commandments of God and the faith of Jesus," and Satan will explode (Rev. 12:17). The time of trouble will be his final temper tantrum.
But it will be his final undoing, as well. Again, as at Calvary, he will expose himself. Christ will accept the gauntlet flung down before Him. He will consider Satan's enmity against God's people as personally directed against Himself. The mark of the beast will be an overt attempt to rid the earth of God's people, Satan's "final solution" for what is to him the righteousness "problem." This "remnant" who truly keep God's commandments are a threat to him, a demonstration that his entire program has been wrong from the beginning.
Remember, getting ready for the time of trouble is not a legalistic works program. It's a matter of being finally reconciled to God through Christ's sacrifice, receiving "the final atonement." [3] It's the complete devotion to Him that is involved in a bride submitting to a husband whom she dearly loves.
Wouldn't it be supremely selfish of us to say "No" to His invitation? And wouldn't it imply a pretty serious lack of trust in Him for us to be afraid of the future with Him?
Paul E. Penno
Endnotes:[1] Ellen G. White, "Things New and Old," The Present Truth, June 4, 1903, pp. 353-354.
[2] Ellen G. White, "Christ in All the Bible," The New York Indicator, June 30, 1909, p. 1.
[3] Cf. Early Writings, pp. 244, 254; The Great Controversy, p. 480.
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Raul Diaz