Commentary on "The Gospel and the Church"
Day 2: Sunday, December 18, 2011 - Restoring the Fallen
The author begins the study by referring to the "lofty" expectations Paul gives in Galatians 5:16 (where he encourages believers to walk by the Spirit), then expresses relief in the more "realistic" requirement of 6:1 (to restore those caught in sin). The author discusses the nature of the sin this passage has in view and the responsibility of believers to the person caught in it. This is done through a word study of the Greek words, "paraptoma" which means "sin", and "katartizo" which means, "to mend" or "put in order". The author refers to the one caught in sin as, "the fallen" in today's lesson.
The title of this section is "Restoring the Fallen." This likely conveys the Adventist Great Controversy understanding that when a Christian stumbles into sin he returns to the fallen pre-converted state until he "returns" to Christ. This title gives us concern right from the start and so we will spend most of our time there.
Christianity uses the term "fallen" in relationship to the state of unregenerate man post-Eden up until the new birth. Once man is born from above, scripture teaches that although the flesh is death, the spirit is life (Romans 8). We are made right with God through the propitiation of Christ and are counted as righteous on the merit of His finished work of redemption. The regenerate man is adopted as a Child of God and ceases from his working for (or to maintain) salvation, thus entering into God's rest (Hebrews 4:10). While sin is inevitable for humankind, it does not remove God's child from the Grace of His Father. Being "caught" by sin does not reverse the new birth. To believe that it does is evidence of a wrong view of what it means to be being born of the Spirit (see Monday's commentary for more on the state of man and the new birth). If we do not understand that Jesus did what we could not do in our fallen state, and cannot do even as believers, then we do not understand the gospel of scripture.
Adventist doctrine treats the new birth like a returning to the Eden state; man's past record is expunged and he is given a clean slate. He "gets" to start over, only this time he must avoid sin or he falls like the first Adam and must remember each sin and confess it in order for the blood of Jesus to apply toward the transgression. Many Adventists teach that if Adam and Eve sinned and were lost in their perfect state, certainly Christians can be lost through their sin as well. Again, this shows a lack of understanding of what Jesus did for humankind (see Monday). Our sin is the very thing that qualified us for salvation, how could it then also disqualify us? Hebrews 5:9 calls our salvation an "eternal salvation." Which literally means, "deliverance from the power and effects of sin, continued without intermission" (Merriam-Websters Online Dictionary). To say that we can undo what Christ did for us, truly denies the power of the Cross and Resurrection. Salvation is eternal because the sacrifice (Jesus) is eternal and when we believe in Him, His eternal sacrifice is applied to us for all eternity. This covers all of our sin, past, present, and future. When we believe the truth of Jesus, the gospel of our salvation, we immediately have an intercessor in Jesus forever—something Adam and Eve did not have in their perfect state. We receive the gift of salvation in full the moment we receive Christ. It is not "to be announced" based on our work.
"Consequently, he is able to save to the uttermost those who draw near to God through him, since he always lives to make intercession for them." Hebrews 7:25
"We have this as a sure and steadfast anchor of the soul, a hope that enters into the inner place behind the curtain, where Jesus has gone as a forerunner on our behalf, having become a high priest forever after the order of Melchizedek." Hebrews 16:19-20
Adventism teaches that once man has converted to the "truth" and keeps and upholds God's Law to vindicate His character to the watching worlds, then he is on the "narrow path". However, when he sins he has chosen evil and falls from grace and salvation until he repents and his sin is blotted from a book that keeps record of the sins of believers. Ellen White teaches that each time man chooses sin over the Law (or the prompting of the human conscience manipulated by the power of the Spirit) he becomes harder to be saved and more aligned with Satan (see Friday's quote). Adventism is not a gospel of good news, it is a gospel of works. It is impossible to not sin while we are in the flesh. E.G. White's gospel is one of hopelessness which holds the Law up as the central focus of human obligation, arguably, making it a focus of worship. It is Christ who is high and lifted up, not the Mosaic Law.
In Romans 7, Paul is writing to believers and he is clear that the flesh is at war with the inner being.
"So I find it to be a law that when I want to do right, evil lies close at hand. For I delight in the law of God, in my inner being, but I see in my members another law waging war against the law of my mind and making me captive to the law of sin that dwells in my members. Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, I myself serve the law of God with my mind, but with my flesh I serve the law of sin." Romans 7:21-2h
Paul is speaking to the fact that we still live in the flesh. While we live in the flesh we will fall into sin. If we could overcome sin while in the flesh there would have been no need for a savior. John the Apostle wrote about the believer overcoming, in both Revelation and an epistle. In 1 John he clearly states that what overcomes is our faith resulting in New Birth, not our mastery over our sin.
"For everyone who has been born of God overcomes the world. And this is the victory that has overcome the world— our faith." 1 John 5:4
That being said, when a believer is caught in sin, we can know that this does not mean they have returned to their fallen state. Scripture says that the regenerate man is a new creation. We do not have the power to create or reverse God's creation. We are called, then, to bring aid to our injured brothers and sisters. This does not place us in a position of risking our own salvation, but we do risk sinning and compromising our fellowship with the Lord if we do not do it in the power of the Holy Spirit.
Imagine that you are standing in a spiritual war zone. A flaming dart from Satan has hit one of your fellow comrades. Your platoon sergeant calls on you to run into enemy fire and give aid to your comrade, while responding you must take care to avoid being hit by a flaming dart yourself.
"Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil. For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. Therefore take up the whole armor of God…In all circumstances take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming darts of the evil one…praying at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication. To that end keep alert with all perseverance, making supplication for all the saints," Ephesians 6:11-13a, 16, 18 (emphasis mine).
As Christians, we are brothers and sisters in a Holy family through Christ Jesus. We are responsible to love sacrificially, support and care for one another, and hold each other accountable to the Word of God. In Galatians 6:1-3 Paul is calling the family to attention and into account for their responsibility to one another and the commands of Christ.
Concerning the author's comments on the lofty expectations of walking in the Spirit, we encourage you to skip ahead to Monday's commentary. We believe that after a better understanding of the new birth and the work of the Holy Spirit in the life of the believer, it may become easier to see how this call is only possible through the new birth. It is impossible to restore a believer in the manner this passage teaches us to unless we are walking in the Spirit. Otherwise, we heap good old-fashioned self-righteous condemnation onto our fellow brother or sister when we confront them. We must rely on the Holy Spirit for all that we do.
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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