Commentary on "The Apostolic Example (1 Thess. 2:112)"
Day 1: Sabbath Afternoon, July 28, 2012 - Introduction
The Key Thought is interesting because it contains what I like to call "SDA Code". Let's examine the statement:
By revealing what the true motive in ministry must be, Paul can help us all to examine our hearts and lives in light of the gospel.
If you have followed along in these lesson studies, you can probably pick out the code by now too. But in case you are new to this, consider the statement "examine our hearts and lives in light of the gospel." What do you think an SDA author means by this?
If you consider the true Gospel of Scripture, we are being asked to examine our lives in light of the fact that we are sinners who deserve death. Even if God only looked at the very best 30 minutes of our lives, we would still fall way short of His righteous standard. But God chose to offer the life of His only Son on the cross to die in our place that we might live. God offers this to us freely, without strings. If we believe in His Son, He promises to save us. He has forgiven all of our sins and considers us as if we were as righteous as Jesus was. Instead of the death we deserve, He gives us an inheritance in His kingdom. How does one "examine" their heart or life in light of this? The only answer I can see is a confirmation that, yes, I do fall short of His righteousness every minute of every day.
But Adventism has a slightly different gospel. The Adventist gospel includes the condition that we must learn to live like we deserve the gift (or else the gift will be taken away). Now what kind of person takes away something they gave as a gift? Yet that is exactly how SDAs view God when it comes to what is supposed to be the free gift of salvation. If your "gospel" says that your lives have to become worthy of God's grace, then this examination that is being proposed is asking whether you are living up to the righteousness of God, and if you aren't, what you need to be doing differently to get there.
There is a misconception that has been around as long as the church has existed that if you really are forgiven for all of your sins without any conditions regarding future behavior that believers will want to pursue sin even more. Paul addressed this several times in the letter to the Romans:
6:1-2a What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound? By no means!
6:15 What then? Are we to sin because we are not under law but under grace? By no means!
The person who thinks that an unconditional pardon would lead to more sin does not understand the new birth. We are changed. God dwells in us and changes what we want. Phil 2:13 tells us that "it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure." Our desire (or will) to follow Him comes from His work in us. And power to follow through on this desire ("to work") also comes from Him. It is in this light that Paul says in I Thess 2:12 that he "encouraged you and charged you to walk in a manner worthy of God, who calls you into his own kingdom and glory". We don't seek to walk in a manner worthy of God so that we might maintain our salvation. We seek to walk in a manner that is worthy of what we have already received. We have been adopted into the family of God. We bear His family name. We are encouraged and even challenged to live like members of our new family. Sure we stumble and struggle, But our Father isn't waiting to see how we act before He finalizes the adoption, we are already adopted. He stands by us and helps us learn how to live as members of this family.
Some of the results of these two very different approaches might look similar on the surface. But they are very different in the heart. The lesson is absolutely right about seeking to live our lives in a manner that has a positive influence on others. But it arrives at this conclusion through the entirely wrong means.
Copyright 2012 BibleStudiesForAdventists.com. All rights reserved. Revised July 24, 2012. This website is published by Life Assurance Ministries, Camp Verde, Arizona, USA, the publisher of Proclamation! Magazine. Contact email: BibleStudiesForAdventists@gmail.com.
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