Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Lesson 4: "Being and Doing"

Sabbath School Today

With the 1888 Message Dynamic 

The Book of James

Lesson 4: "Being and Doing" 

James 1:22 tells us, "... be ye doers of the word" (King James Version). The New American Standard Bible renders it, "But prove yourselves doers of the word." Moffatt translates it, "Act on the word."

Become "doers of the Word" or "do the Word." What's the difference? It isn't complicated. It's as simple as the old and new covenants. When Israel first promised "All that the Lord has spoken we will do!" (Ex. 19:8, NASB). They had just arrived at Sinai but the Lord had not yet given them the Ten Commandments. They really had no idea what God was asking of them, but whatever it was they thought they would do it.

This seems pathetically naive considering how Israel's history demonstrates they failed miserably. Their promises were prompted by their slave mentality. A slave is expected to act on his master's orders regardless of his own will. The old saying "ours is not to reason why, but just to do or die" describes a slave. When humans think of God as their slave master, there is constant conflict between the will of God and the will of the human. When our first parents chose to do things their way in the Garden of Eden, that conflict was embedded in our genetic heritage. Adam and Eve had been at peace with God before their choice, but after, conflict was inevitable.

We misunderstand James when we think his epistle is a "how to" book of helpful hints to the happy Christian life. We interpret his sublime instruction to become "doers" of the Word as "do the word." We believe he is giving instructions on what to do, when he is really telling us what to be.

When the brethren met at the A.D. 51 Council in Jerusalem, it was James, the brother of Christ, who "chaired" the meeting (Acts15:13). He allowed everyone to finish speaking then did a summation and offered a solution. The issue was whether the new Gentile converts needed to be circumcised in order to be saved. Paul and Barnabas withstood the promoters of this idea as bringing in a different gospel. The controversy was between the real gospel and a counterfeit. He recommended that circumcision not be required but that the new converts abstain from food offered to idols, from fornication, eating animals killed by strangulation, and eating blood. This seemed good to the brethren, but the issue didn't die. Throughout Paul's ministry, subversive Jews followed him, trying to give people a counterfeit gospel.

There are at least two major ways to counterfeit the pure gospel of freedom in Christ. One is to claim that freedom means no restrictions so the believer need not cooperate with the Lord in recreating our sinful hearts. We can go on sinning until Jesus comes and then, a magical change happens in the twinkling of an eye.

The other counterfeit is ordinary legalism cloaked in more Christian than Jewish terms. These legalistic Christians make the same mistake the Jews made by thinking that if we are outwardly correct God won't notice we haven't given Him our heart.

Taking an example from Paul's day, let's imagine someone brings food offered to idols to the potluck table at the agape feast. The head deacon knows where the food came from so he quietly removes it. The person who brought the food still doesn't understand the restriction, and even though the deacon's action prevented him from eating the forbidden food, he was doing the will of the deacon, not himself. The point is, God wants our actions or non-actions to flow from a recreated heart. He can't accept even correct actions that flow from an unrepentant mind trying to trick people and God into thinking the actions are genuine.

This makes most folks nervous. They say, "don't we have to do something while waiting for God to change our heart?" True, there is something, but it isn't trying harder to be good.

E. J. Waggoner, one of the 1888 "messengers," expressed these concepts so clearly and simply in an 1890 article in The Signs of the Times:

"In the sixteenth verse of the third chapter of Colossians occurs this exhortation: 'Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom.' This text, rightly understood, solves the problem of Christian living. ... That there is a power in the word of God, far above that of any other book, cannot be doubted. ... The word hidden in the heart protects against sin. ... The word of the Lord is the seed by which the sinner is born again. ... While those who are Christ's are born of the Spirit, the word of God is the seed from which they are developed into new creatures in Christ. The word, then, has power to give life. ... This is stated very plainly by Jesus Himself in John 6:63: 'It is the spirit that quickeneth; the flesh profiteth nothing; the words that I speak unto you, they are spirit, and they are life.' This shows that the power of the Spirit of God dwells in the word of God.

"With the knowledge that the word of God is the seed by which men are begotten unto a new life, and that the hiding of the word in the heart keeps one from sin, we may easily understand 1 John 3:9: 'Whosoever is born of God doth not commit sin; for His seed remaineth in him; and he cannot sin, because he is born of God.' ... Of course the word can do this only for those who receive it in simple faith. But the word does not lose any of its power. If the soul thus born again retains that sacred, powerful word by which he was begotten, it will keep him still a new creature. It is as powerful to preserve as it is to create. ... The Spirit is given to bring truth to remembrance, in time of trial; but that which one has not learned he cannot remember. But if he has hidden the word in his heart, the Spirit will, in the hour of temptation, bring to his remembrance just that portion which will foil the tempter.

"Many people earnestly long for Christ to come and dwell in their hearts, and they imagine that the reason why He does not do so is because they are not good enough, and they vainly set about trying to get so good that He can condescend to come in. They forget that Christ comes into the heart, not because it is free from sin, but in order to free it from sin; and they possibly never realized that Christ is in the word, and he who will make it a constant companion, and will yield himself to its influence, will have Christ dwelling within. He who has hidden the word in his heart, who meditates in it day and night, and who believes it with the simple faith of childhood,--such a one has Christ dwelling in his heart by faith, and will experience His mighty, creative power." [1]

--Arlene Hill


[1] Excerpted from Christ and His Righteousness, "The Holy Spirit Works Through the Word," pp. 152-157, Glad Tidings ed.; originally published as "The Indwelling Word," The Signs of the Times, July 14, 1890.

Note: "Sabbath School Today" is on the Internet at: http://1888mpm.org

Raul Diaz