Commentary on "Grace"
Day 3: Monday, May 11, 2009
Monday's lesson discusses some of the word pictures and symbolism that Scripture uses to describe the atonement, and as the author puts it, "the mystery of grace". The texts the author chooses to illustrate this idea, describe Jesus as "the Lamb of God" and as a "ransom". The author cautions against putting too much weight onto one particular symbol or word-picture, but states that the image of a ransom is a powerful one. He quotes Edward W.H Vick, Let Me Assure You (a Pacific Press Publishing Association book) saying, "Christ redeemed us from sin, that is, He bought us back from sin... What the metaphor intends is that a) the means of our salvation is costly and that b) we have passed from one state to another--from the state of slavery to the state of nearness to God." The lesson ends with the following question and thought, "Dwell on the implications of this idea that the Creator of the universe, the One who made all that is, voluntarily went to the cross as the only means of saving us from eternal ruin. Why should the reality of this truth heavily influence how we live? Think how foolish it is to let anything earthly turn us away from the Cross."
In the teacher's edition, under the section "Consider This," the following questions are also asked, "How does grace, like a digital camera, restore us to His likeness? What does it mean to be in His likeness?
First, let us address the quote by Vick and what it implies. In describing our redemption from sin, Vick says, "We have passed from one state to another--from the state of slavery to the state of nearness to God." This carries a very different message from the Bible. John 5:24 says:
"Truly, truly, I say to you, he who hears My word, and believes Him who sent Me, has eternal life, and does not come into judgment, but has passed out of death into life."
The transformation the Bible talks about is from a state of death to a state of life. Also, notice the present tense verb "has" in the text. The text does not say, "will have". In other words, for those who believe in Christ as their Lord and Savior, their eternity is secure; they have eternal life. Believers are not merely brought closer to God. The phrase "nearness to God" gives no impression of real hope or security. It also implies a lack of understanding of what it means to be born again.
When one is born again, God literally indwells the believer (1 Cor. 3:16, 1 Cor. 6:19, Rom. 8:9). This is more than just merely being near to God. Once we are born again, the Holy Spirit indwells us and the state of our spirits instantly change from being dead to being alive. Only when our spirits are made alive are we capable of living by the Spirit rather than living by the flesh. Without being born again, we are totally incapable of living godly lives. Understanding this spiritual transformation sheds clear light on the problems with the discussion questions at the end of the lesson. The question and statement of "Why should the reality of this truth heavily influence how we live? Think how foolish it is to let anything earthly turn us away from the Cross" is a moot point to those who have truly put their trust and faith in God. Furthermore, knowing the reality of Jesus voluntarily going to the cross on our behalf has nothing to do with whether we can live godly lives or not, or whether we can stay "focused" on Him. Knowledge and will power is not the key element in living godly lives. The only key to living godly lives comes by faith in Jesus' blood to cleanse our sins--past, present, and future--and being sealed by the Holy Spirit as a result of that faith (Ephesians 1:13). Once we are sealed by God's Spirit, and made alive, we are then capable of being able to yield and submit to His Spirit. It is the Spirit alone that causes the deep change in us. Not will power, perfect obedience, or even good intentions. The Spirit of life is greater than all the old habits of death. Although we may occasionally fail because we live in the flesh, because the power of the Holy Spirit is absolute, we have overcome the power of our flesh and death.
Romans 8:5-11 illustrates this clearly:
"For those who are according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who are according to the Spirit, the things of the Spirit. For the mind set on the flesh is death, but the mind set on the spirit is life and peace, because the mind set on the flesh is hostile toward God; for it does not subject itself to the law of God, for it is not even able to do so, and those who are in the flesh cannot please God. However, you are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if indeed the Spirit of God dwells in you. But if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he does not belong to Him. If Christ is in you, though the body is dead because of sin, yet the spirit is alive because of righteousness. But if the Spirit of Him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, He who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through His Spirit who dwells in you."
With that thought expanded, we can now address the questions in the teacher's edition: "How does grace, like a digital camera, restore us to His likeness? What does it mean to be in His likeness?" Genesis 1:26 says that we are made in God's image and likeness. When it says we are made in God's image, we cannot think of this as something physical. God is Spirit (John 4:24) and so He has no physical body or form. In His likeness, He has made us into beings who have spirits that could relate to Him and know Him. But as we discussed earlier, the only way we are capable of relating to Him is if we are made spiritually alive. Because of Adam's sin, we are all born spiritually dead (Eph. 2:1-3, 1 Cor. 15:22). So, in response to the questions asked in the teacher's edition: we are restored to His likeness by being made spiritually alive and this “restoration” is only possible through His blood, freely given through grace.
Copyright 2009 BibleStudiesForAdventists.com. All rights reserved. Revised May 7, 2009. This website is published by Life Assurance Ministries, Glendale, Arizona, USA, the publisher of Proclamation! Magazine. Contact email: BibleStudiesForAdventists@gmail.com.
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