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Second Quarter 2014 (April–June)
COMMENTARY ON CHRIST AND HIS LAW
Week 11: June 7–13
COMMENTARY ON THE APOSTLES AND THE LAW
Following is a combined commentary on the material included in the Bible Study Guide with references as necessary to the supplemental passages included in the E. G. White Notes for the Sabbath School Lessons.
Christians in general have a misunderstanding of the Law and its purpose. It was always, and still is, intended as the guide for righteousness. In the end, we will be judged by the Law.
Even with so much evidence for the continued validity of God’s law, so many Christians argue against it.
The term “law” is used in various ways in the New Testament, however it is never used to define the 10 Commandments alone. When the term “law” refers to the Old Covenant, it is referring to all of the Law: Torah. Torah contains 613 commands. Adventism teach that the 613 commands were broken down into three categories: moral, civil, and ceremonial, and that the 10 Commandments are God’s moral law.
While we agree that there are eternal moral principles that represent God’s nature and character, we would disagree that the 10 Commandments are our guide for righteousness in the New Covenant.
This information is a necessary backdrop for understanding the impossible nature of keeping the Law, but more importantly, to define a significant difference between the Old Covenant and the New Covenant.
You see, the Law never produced righteousness. It was never intended for that purpose. Instead, the Law can only condemn you. You can never attain a lifestyle that adequately makes the mark of “law-keeping”.
Grace is not in place for those places where you fall short.
Grace is the answer to our condition.
“For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, so that no one may boast” Ephesians 2:8, 9
The author of the commentary cites several New Testament texts to support the notion that Law-keeping is not only necessary, but was taught by the apostles.
One of these examples is found in Acts 10:9-14. I encourage you to read the entire story which does not end at verse 14. Indeed, verse 15 says this:
“Again a voice came to him a second time, “What God has cleansed, no longer consider unholy.”
In other words, as you read this story, you get the distinct impression that God has indeed changed something in a radical way. At the very least, the food laws of the Old Covenant were revoked by God Himself through this vision. But, as we read on in Acts 10, we see that the application of the vision has to do with accepting Gentiles into the fold of God’s people. They were no longer to be considered profane.
This is a glorious picture of the grace of God. Did the Gentiles suddenly keep the Law? Did they finally win God over enough that He would offer them the Law?
May it never be, in the words of Paul. The Gentiles, just as the Jews, could not achieve salvation. Were it not for the kindness of God, and His gift of Grace, every one of us would continue to be “shut up under sin”. Galatians 3:22
Another example cited by the author is Galatians 3:24, 25, and also various texts from Romans 3, 6, and 7. The author maintains that Paul teaches something “seemingly contradictory”. He says, “In the same breath he [Paul] claims that the Christian is not under the law; yet, the same Christian is obligated to keep the law.”
Is that really what Paul said? Did Paul contradict himself? Just step back for a moment and ask yourself if that makes sense.
The commentary goes on to make the case that what Paul means by this contradiction is simply that the Law no longer condemns us. Instead Jesus took the condemnation of the Law. Now we simply live by it without fear of condemnation.
But, I would urge you to look at these clarifying texts from Galatians 3:
“You foolish Galatians, who has bewitched you, before whose eyes Jesus Christ was publicly portrayed as crucified? This is the only thing I want to find out from you: did you receive the Spirit by the works of the Law, or by hearing with faith? Are you so foolish? Having begun by the Spirit, are you now being perfected by the flesh? Did you suffer so many things in vain—if indeed it was in vain? So then, does He who provides you with the Spirit and works miracles among you, do it by the works of the Law, or by hearing with faith?”
You see, Paul did not contradict himself. The opening statement of Galatians 3 clarifies Paul’s position on the Law.
So, what is he actually saying in Galatians 3:24, 25?
“Therefore the Law has become our tutor to lead us to Christ, so that we may be justified by faith. But now that faith has come, we are no longer under a tutor.”
Simply put: We now have God’s Holy Spirit to not only instruct on righteousness, but Jesus IS our righteousness. Rather than being required to keep the Law which can only bring a curse upon us (see verses 10-14), we are released from it’s curse of condemnation and are free to live by the Spirit.
Grace is not merely a ticket dispensed to us upon our asking forgiveness of sin.
Grace is a free gift given to us by God for no reason other than His great love. Grace offers us righteousness in Christ Jesus not because we live by the Law, but because we CANNOT live by the Law. Jesus did what we can never do. He did not leave us the Holy Spirit so that we can be good Law-abiders. He gave us the Spirit so that we can be free to walk in Him without fear, without accusation, and without condemnation.
Many believe that a grace focus gives Christians the license to live in sin. However, it is that belief which keeps those people in bondage to the Law.
Romans 8:1, 2 is what some consider the highest peak on the tallest theological mountain in Scripture:
“Therefore there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. 2 For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has set you free from the law of sin and of death.”
You see, the Law has not quit its job of condemnation. Indeed, it IS the law of sin and death. Thanks be to God that there is a different way to righteousness: through faith in Jesus Christ. Simply because of the love of God, He freely offers us Christ’s righteousness in place of our own human effort to keep His Law.
In the end, at the judgement, we will not be judged by the Law. We will be judged by whether we believed in the Lord Jesus Christ and His finished work on the cross. My answer will be simple: yes. How about you?