Wednesday, January 14, 2015

"A Matter of Life and Death"

Sabbath School Today
With the 1888 Message Dynamic
Proverbs: Words of the Wise
Lesson 3: "A Matter of Life and Death"
"For the commandment is a lamp, and the law a light; reproofs of instruction are the way of life" (Prov. 6:23). Our memory text reminds us that the final stand of the saints is because the faith of Jesus keeps all the commandments of God in us. This is so as a result of the truth stated in Galatians 2:20: "I have been crucified with Christ." This means I have died in this crucifixion, but the Apostle goes on to say, "it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God." Jesus kept all the commandments of God, He is living His life in me, through the Spirit, and as such Revelation 14:12 describes Christ's life in His people. His people live by faith and it is this faith of Jesus which works through love that obeys God's law.
The underlying principle of the commandments isn't about stealing, lying, or even killing. While God's law requires us not to be involved in these activities or thoughts, they are the very makeup and core of our humanity since the fall. Therefore, it is impossible for man, whether a heathen or a professed minister of God to abstain, by any amount of effort or desire, from these works of the flesh. The works of man are just that, the works of man.
When God "works" He signs His work with His name and seal. God does not sign any work He has not done, as that wouldn't be proper. Man signs what he does; God signs what He does, and in the end it is the seal of God not the signature of man that is the determining factor. Jesus' obedience to the law is the only obedience that is accepted by the law and therefore it can be sealed. Men's own obedience will never be accepted as all man's efforts come from him and not from faith, therefore all his efforts to keep the law are but sin: "For whatever is not from faith is sin" (Rom. 14:23).
Revelation 14:12 states that the commands of God are kept (or believed) because of and by the faith of Jesus. If man's efforts and merits were really even a consideration, John the Revelator missed a great opportunity to mention them here.
The commandments of God are the promises of God. "And God spoke all these words, saying: "I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery" (Ex. 20:1-2). God has already delivered everyone from sin and from their "darling" addictions. The problem appears to be that most accept the demands of the Law while denying the power of the Lawgiver to preform His own Law! This is the same as accepting creation but denying God's power to accomplish it. Where there is no power, there is no power. No amount of man's jumping up and down can produce what he does not naturally possess. Thus God promises us that because He has already delivered us, we shall not steal, we shall not commit adultery, etc. What wonderful news!
Paul confesses, "I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me" (Gal. 2:20). We have "died," yet the life that is within is that of Christ and He brings His obedience to us, for us and as us. Dead men are freed from sin (Rom. 6:7, 8, 14, 18, 22) and all the talk about how one feels if they commit adultery is merely a diversion--a statement of unbelief in the power of God. It is Christ from beginning to end. Period!
About man's involvement in his own salvation: "If you would gather together everything that is good and holy and noble and lovely in man, and then present the subject to the angels of God as acting a part in the salvation of the human soul or in merit, the proposition would be rejected as treason" (The Ellen G. White 1888 Materials, p. 816). The mark of every pagan or heathen religion is that man must do something to contribute to his own salvation.
E. J. Waggoner, one of the two messengers of the 1888 message wrote the following in The Glad Tidings, chapter 2. [1]These passages speak to the life and death matter of the commandments:
"Christ gives freedom from sin. His life is 'the perfect law of liberty.' 'Through the law comes knowledge of sin' (Rom. 3:20), but not freedom from sin. 'The law is holy, and the commandment is holy and just and good' (Rom. 7:12) because it gives the knowledge of sin by condemning it. It is a signpost, which points out the way, but it does not carry us. It can tell us that we are out of the way, but Jesus Christ alone can make us walk in it, for He is the way. Sin is bondage. Only those who keep [believe] the commandments of God are at liberty (Psalm 119:45); and the commandments can be kept only by faith in Christ. (Rom. 8:3,4).
"Therefore whoever induces people to trust in the law for righteousness without Christ simply puts a yoke upon them and fastens them in bondage. When a man convicted by the law is cast into prison, he cannot be delivered from his chains by the law which holds him there. But that is no fault of the law. Just because it is a good law, it cannot say that a guilty man is innocent.
"Moreover, there is not one who has strength to keep the law, for its requirements are great. While no one can be justified by the works of the law, the fault is not in the law, but in the individual. Get Christ in the heart by faith, and then the righteousness of the law will be there also. As the Psalmist says, 'I delight to do Thy will, O My God; Thy law is within My heart' (Psalm 40:8). The one, who would throw away the law because it will not call evil good, would also reject God because He 'will by no means clear the guilty' (Ex. 34:7). But God will remove the guilt, and will thus make the sinner righteous, that is, in harmony with the law.
"Much is lost by not noting exactly what the Scriptures say. In the original in Galatians 2:16 we have the 'faith of Christ' just as in Revelation 14:12 we have the 'faith of Jesus.' He is 'the Author and Finisher of our faith' (Heb. 12:2). 'Faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the Word of God' (Rom. 10:17), and Christ is the Word. God has 'dealt to every man the measure of faith' (Rom. 12:3) in giving Christ to every man.
"There is therefore no opportunity for anyone to plead that his faith is weak. He may not have accepted and made use of the gift, but there is no such thing as 'weak faith.' A man may be 'weak in faith,' that is, may be afraid to depend on faith; but faith itself is as strong as the Word of God. Christ alone is righteous. He has overcome the world. He alone has power to do it. In Him is all the fullness of God, because the law--God Himself--is in His heart. He alone has kept and can keep the law to perfection. Therefore, only by His faith--living faith, that is, His life in us--can we be made righteous.
"This is sufficient. He is a 'tried Stone.' The faith which He gives to us is His own tried and approved faith, and it will not fail us in any contest. We are not exhorted to try to do as well as He did, or to try to exercise as much faith as He had, but simply to take His faith, and let it work by love, and purify the heart. It will do it! (Gal. 5:6).
"'As many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, to those who believe in His name' (John1:12). That is, as many as believed on His name received Him. To believe on His name is to believe that He is the Son of God. To believe that He is the Son of God means to believe that He is come in the flesh, human flesh, our flesh. For His name is 'God with us.'
"So believing in Christ, we are justified by the faith of Christ, since we have Him personally dwelling in us, exercising His own faith. All power in heaven and earth is in His hands. Recognizing this, we simply allow Him to exercise His own power in His own way. This He does 'exceeding abundantly' by 'the power that works in us.'"
We began with this verse: "For the commandment is a lamp, and the law a light; reproofs of instruction are the way of life" (Prov. 6:23). And we close with the word of the Apostle John regarding our memory verse: "In Him was life, and the life was the light of men. And the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not comprehend it. And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth" (John 1:4-5, 14).
--Materials for this lesson have been compiled by Daniel H. Peters
from the writings of Ellen G. White, E. J. Waggoner, and the
overall writings and teachings of the 1888 message.

[1] The Glad Tidings, Glad Tidings Publishers edition; some italics have been added by the compiler.