Sabbath School Today
With the 1888 Message Dynamic
Lesson 3: The Law as Teacher
Children learn to recite the Ten Commandments. You know how children are--they'll cut corners if they can.
Well, they want to start with the third verse of Exodus 20, thinking that's where the Ten Commandments begin: "Thou shalt have no other gods before Me."
But, no! That's not where they start. They start with wonderful Good News. They don't start with a stern command, Don't do this! Or don't do that! They start with the Good News that our heavenly Father is so strong and powerful that He has already delivered us from horrible slavery in the darkness of Egypt: "I am the Lord thy God, which have brought thee out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage." That Good News of salvation from slavery is part of the Ten Commandments!
Church goers have usually had a love/hate relationship with the Ten Commandments. The law has seemed like a heavy burden, ten precepts carved in cold stone, heavy prohibitions that crush out all the joy of life. Everything that was fun doing seemed to be, "You shall not!" The Ten Commandments seemed like roadblocks in the highway of happiness.
Yet deep in our human hearts we have realized that it's wrong to break them; suffering must be the result either in this life or in the next. Yet we just couldn't know how to keep them, let alone love them. They seemed too hard.
Now comes this fantastic revelation: They are actually ten assurances of victory. And what we have to do is different than the "Do this or else!" rules we have thought them to be: our job is to believe the Good News that God has embedded in them. Then faith will work to produce a loving obedience.
First comes an astounding disclosure: probably we have been misquoting the Ten Commandments, without realizing what we're doing. Whoever taught them to us since we were kids usually has inadvertently left out one verse that God put in at the very beginning before any of the prohibitions. Leave it out and the Ten indeed become Bad News, a "yoke of bondage." Many, even preachers and teachers, have not seen the importance of that preamble verse. Even some who claim to specialize in preaching "the commandments of God and the faith of Jesus" have not seen it.
Here it is--the missing verse that belongs at the beginning of any true version of the Ten Commandments: "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 bondage'" (Ex. 20:1, 2).
To "fear God" does not mean to be afraid of Him, as we would fear an enemy, but to appreciate His forgiveness of our sins: "There is forgiveness with thee, that thou mayest be feared" (Psalm 130:4). It follows that to "fear God" is to love Him. When a person knows he is a sinner, and when he knows his sins are forgiven by the blood of our High Priest in the heavenly sanctuary, then he cannot help loving God. A person with such a "faith which worketh by love" (Gal. 5: 6) will "measure up" as a worshipper.
To love God is to keep His commandments, because "love is the fulfilling of the law" (see 1 John 5: 3; Rom. 13:10). In verse 19 of Revelation 11, John tells us that God's people see in the heavenly sanctuary "the ark of His testament." The law of God, traced in stone by the finger of God, is placed inside that ark as witness that God's law of love is the foundation of His government.
To believe that Good News changes the law of God from an Old Covenant set of impossible rules into a beautiful New Covenant gift of ten promises.
It's not, "Now you must do this and that and that, and then I will deliver you from the slavery of sin." God never makes bargains with us for He knows that we have a sinful, carnal mind or nature which is "enmity against God, for it is not subject to the law, neither indeed can be" (Rom. 8:7). The Old Covenant tells you what to doif you hope to be saved; the New Covenant tells you what to believebecause the Savior has already given Himself to save you. He has already died your second death instead of you. He has already paid the penalty for your sin. You wonder how can you know for sure? Simply take a breath: The life you now have is the proof that He wants you to enjoy eternal life "in Christ." If He had not died for you, you would already be eternally dead. So, thank Him!
--Paul E. Penno
Pastor Paul Penno's video of this lesson is on the Internet at:
Many of Pastor Penno's sermons are on YouTube in Spanish. Just type pastor paul penno en español in the search bar.
"Sabbath School Today" is on the Internet at: http://1888message.org/sst.htm