Commentary on "The Gospel and the Church"
Day 1: Sabbath Afternoon, December 17, 2011 - Introduction
Weeks focus verse
“So then, as we have opportunity, let us do good to everyone, and especially to those who are of the household of faith." Galatians 6:10,
Saturday's lesson addresses the issue of reaping and sewing. The author begins by relating the principals of potato farming to illustrate that giving our best will produce the best results. The author then encourages church members to put others before themselves. The author ends the study by saying that, "understanding that we are saved by grace should make us humble, and more patient and compassionate in how we treat others."
In Adventism, creating a harvest for the Lord is about personal effort and devotion to doing good, obeying rules, and evangelizing non-Adventists. Adventists are called to vindicate God by showing that His law is good and can be kept through the "restraining power of the Holy Spirit" and one's love for the Lord. This is not a Biblical teaching, nor is it the role of the Holy Spirit to "restrain" believers from sinning (See Monday's commentary for more on that).
Scripture does not tell believers to put their best "effort" into producing fruit or a harvest for the Lord. It does however say to live out their faith by the power of the Spirit working in us. Jesus is clear, in order to bear fruit we must abide in the LORD and the Word of God. The work of convicting hearts and transforming lives is the work of the Holy Spirit. Jesus commands believers (those born from above through faith) to abide in the Lord and be generous with the seed the Lord provides them.
"Already you are clean because of the word that I have spoken to you. Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me. I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing." John 15:3-5 (emphasis mine)
"He who supplies seed to the sower and bread for food will supply and multiply your seed for sowing and increase the harvest of your righteousness. You will be enriched in every way to be generous in every way..." 2 Cor. 9: 10-11a
As we abide in the Lord and the word of God, we are supplied with seed for sowing. The sowing will be the natural outcome of a life lived in Christ.
"For God is working in you, giving you the desire and the power to do what pleases him." Philippians 2:13 (emphasis mine)
In the following passage, Paul gives believers instructions for life in the body of Christ. Notice how he ends his list of expected behavior by saying that God is faithful and He will do these things in the believer:
"We ask you, brothers, to respect those who labor among you and are over you in the Lord and admonish you, and to esteem them very highly in love because of their work. Be at peace among yourselves. And we urge you, brothers, admonish the idle, encourage the fainthearted, help the weak, be patient with them all. See that no one repays anyone evil for evil, but always seek to do good to one another and to everyone. Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. Do not quench the Spirit. Do not despise prophecies, but test everything; hold fast what is good. Abstain from every form of evil. Now may the God of peace himself sanctify you completely, and may your whole spirit and soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. He who calls you is faithful; he will surely do it." 1 Thess. 5: 12-24 (emphasis mine)
That we must put our best effort into doing good in order to supply a harvest for the Lord is a twist on the calling of Christians in scripture. Yes, we are to do good to one another, but this is the natural outcome of the fruit of the Spirit in the life of the believer, not something we produce by our "knowledge" as the author suggests. The teaching that our "understanding" of grace should create humility, patience, compassion etc., gives glory to the "obedience" of the believer. Further, to associate the fruit of the Spirit with "understanding" denies the presence of spiritual fruit in the life of the mentally compromised or young child. More importantly, it robs the glory from the One who is working in us to produce the fruit for the harvest. This "works" method of pleasing the Lord is born out of the denial of the regenerated human spirit and of reliance upon physical bodies to comprehend truth and act accordingly in order to remain in right standing and be saved. We must keep God on the throne. He does the work in and through man to produce His harvest. Apart from Him, we do nothing of eternal value. Let us not forget the words of Jesus in Matthew:
"On that day many will say to me, 'Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?' And then will I declare to them, 'I never knew you;" Matt 7: 22-23a, (emphasis mine).
Doing good deeds from a place of knowledge rather than the indwelling work of the Spirit runs a high risk of sowing to the flesh (see Thursday). A response to the gospel that causes one to purge the conscience by maintaining something Jesus "started" is not natural response to the true gospel but a good indication that it is another gospel. We see in the Matthew 7 text that what we do in the name of Jesus is not what saves us and is not how we make our selves known to God. So, how then are we known by God? "But knowledge puffs up while love builds up. Those who think they know something do not yet know as they ought to know. But whoever loves God is known by God." 1 Cor. 8: 1b-3 (emphasis mine)
It is not by our human "understanding" that we are able to produce the fruit of the Spirit and it is not by "understanding" that we generate love for God. It is by spiritual regeneration, the indwelling life of the Holy Spirit, and through our Abiding in the LORD that the unnatural love for God and man in our hearts is born and the Holy Spirit is free to will us to act according to God's purpose. Some of the most intellegant atheists can articulate the gospel better than far too many Christians. Salvation is not about "knowing" it is about believing and trusting.
Paul is encouraging believers to examine their lives for the fruit that comes from life in Jesus. We encourage you to do the same. Are the deeds in your life done from a place of knowing you ought to be doing them, or is it from the outpouring of the work of the Holy Spirit in your life? Are they driven by guilt or conviction? Pray now and ask Jesus to show you what is from Him, and what is from your attempts to please Him. Examine your heart and consider submitting all of your efforts for maintaining righteousness to the Lord Jesus. He is all you need for salvation. Once you allow Jesus to be your righteousness you will truly begin to see His work in your heart and see how it will flow out into your life. Trust Him. He will not fail you.
Copyright 2011 BibleStudiesForAdventists.com. All rights reserved. Revised December 15, 2011. 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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