Commentary on "Jesus and the Johannine Letters"
Day 7: Friday, July 3, 2009
The last day's lesson has a quotation from Acts of the Apostles and ends with two thought questions, one addressing the preceding quote and one which asks how many people, attracted to the beauty of the Adventist message, have "never accepted it because of the lack of kindness, grace, and love expressed by the church. We can and must do better."
Since today's lesson is essentially quoting from E.G. White, I will address the quotation from her in the E.G. White quotes for Day 6. It is from Manuscript Releases, vol. 5, pp. 112, 113:
"The world's Redeemer passed over the ground where Adam fell because of his disobeying the expressed law of Jehovah; and the only begotten Son of God came to our world as a man, to reveal to the world that men could keep the law of God. Satan, the fallen angel, had declared that no man could keep the law of God after the disobedience of Adam. He claimed the whole race under his control.
"The Son of God placed Himself in the sinner's stead, and passed over the ground where Adam fell, and endured the temptation in the wilderness which was a hundredfold stronger than was or ever will be brought to bear upon the human race. Jesus resisted the temptations of Satan in the same manner that every tempted soul may resist, by referring him to the inspired record and saying, 'It is written.'
"Christ overcame the temptations as a man. Eery man may overcome as Christ overcame. He humbled Himself for us. He was tempted in all points like as we are. He redeemed Adam's disgraceful failure and fall and was conqueror, thus testifying to all the unfallen worlds and to fallen humanity that man could keep the commandments of God through the divine power granted to him of heaven. Jesus the Son of God humbled Himself for us, endured temptation for us, overcame in our behalf, to show us how we may overcome; He has thus bound up His interest with humanity by the closest ties, and has given the positive assurance that we shall not be tempted above that we are able….
"The world's Redeemer came not only to be a sacrifice for sin but to be an example to man in a holy human character.…
"We are ever to be thankful that Jesus has proved to us by actual facts that man can keep the commandments of God, giving contradiction to Satan's falsehood that man cannot keep them. The Great Teacher came to our world to stand at the head of humanity, to thus elevate and sanctify humanity by His holy obedience to all of God's requirements showing it is possible to obey all the commandments of God. He had demonstrated that a lifelong obedience is possible."
The above quote demonstrates clearly the bottom line problem with Adventist theology and soteriology. First, Jesus did not come to the world to demonstrate that man could keep the law. Scripture nowhere makes any such claim. Rather, both Mark 10:45 and Matthew 20:28 state that "the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many."
Jesus came to die. He did not come to uphold the law and show we can keep it. He came to fulfill the law, the prophets, and the Psalms (Matthew 5:17; 5:18; 12:17; 13:35; 21:4; Luke 24:44). Adventism teaches that Jesus came to defend the law and uphold it, but the Bible says that He came to fulfill the law, to die as our Substitute, and to set free those held in bondage to the fear of death (Hebrews 2:15).
Moreover, the Bible never says that Satan accuses God of giving a law that could not be kept. This underlying component of the whole Adventist great controversy paradigm has its source in Ellen White, not the Bible.
Further, while Jesus definitely did come as a man and experience temptation as a man, he did not come to show us that as men we, too, can keep the law. For one thing, Jesus did not come as a man in sinful flesh. He had no sin. Moreover, Jesus came with a living spirit, not by nature an object of wrath. He was the only human ever born who did not have to be born again. He was born spiritually alive, conceived by the Holy Spirit. All the rest of us must be born of the Spirit when we accept His subsitutionary life, death, and defeat of death. He most certainly did have an advantage we do not have. He did NOT have a sin-nature!
In addition, Jesus' temptation in the wilderness was not a demonstration for us. He had fasted for 40 days and nights before being tempted, and His temptation was ordained by God . The Holy Spirit led Him to the wilderness to be tempted. The fast was no more our example than was His temptation. His temptation was, at least in part, a fulfillment of Israel's failed function. Jesus was the "prefect Israel". Where they had failed in the wilderness and wandered for forty years, Jesus suffered for forty days and then resisted the temptations Israel had failed: self-indulgence, idolatry, and a lust for power. Jesus, the Perfect Israelite and the Promised One, demonstrated there in the desert that He was the expected Messiah. He was what the nation of Israel had failed to be. He Himself was, as He told the Samaritan woman, God's salvation which comes from the Jews (John 4:23-25).
Not only this, but Ellen White's casual statement that Jesus testified to "unfallen worlds" that humanity could keep the commandments of God through divine power is patently untrue. First, there is no suggestion in the Bible that there are any "unfallen worlds" with sinless inhabitants. Romans 8:19-23 clearly states that all creation (that includes all things—no "unfallen worlds" are excepted) was subjected by God to decay and groans, waiting for its deliverance from its bondage to decay which all creation will experience when the children of God are finally glorified. There are no unfallen worlds.
Jesus never "proved to us by actual facts that man can keep the commandments of God, giving contradiction to Satan's falsehood that man cannot keep them." Jesus, the Son of God and Son of Man, the only Sinless One, kept the commandments of God. Romans 6 and 7 describe the ongoing dilemma of our having living spirits inside dead bodies after we are born again. These still-dead bodies (see Romans 8:10-11) still have deep tendencies and genetic predispositions to sin. It is not sinlessness and perfect commandment-keeping which God desires; it is the contrite, repentant heart and our placing ourselves at the foot of the cross, completely dependent upon our Substitute who gives us Himself and credits His own personal righteousness to our account.
Romans 3:21 is crystal clear that the righteousness which God credits to us is a righteousness "apart from the law" but which was foretold by the law and by the prophets. Never does God ask us to expunge sins from our flesh in order to merit His grace or to stay saved. Rather, all the Bible's admonitions to put away sin come AFTER people are saved and eternally secure, filled and sealed with the Holy Spirit. We are saved while we are dead in our sin (Ephesians 2:4-6) and given Christ's life. Only after being saved and eternally secure are we admonished to give up sin and live by the Spirit (see Romans 8).
Jesus did not demonstrate "that a lifelong obedience was possible." Rather, He made it possible for to have life because of His obedience and in spite of our disobedience. The gospel is astonishing: God saves us entirely on the basis of Jesus' finished substitutionary work. He completes in us what He begins (Phil .1:6), and He keeps us safe and secure (John 10:29), and no one can snatch us from Him. Our law-keeping is never part of our salvation.
The law was fulfilled in Jesus. We are judged not on the basis of the law or of our sin; we are judged on the basis of Jesus. Are we in Him, or are we not? Does He or does He not know us?
There is no greater thing than knowing Jesus. All reality becomes clear as we give up our rationalizing and accept the clear words of Scripture and allow the Lord Jesus to forgive us and change us. He alone can reshape our worldview and teach to live in reality. But He is faithful.
You can trust Him.
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