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Fourth Quarter 2014 (October–December)
COMMENTARY ON THE BOOK OF JAMES
Week 5: October 25–31
COMMENTARY ON LOVE 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.
Note: Unless otherwise stated, all biblical quotes are from the English Standard Version (ESV).
Day One, Sabbath Afternoon, Oct. 25: Introduction
The theme verse for this week comes from James 2:13:
So speak and so act as those who are to be judged under the law of liberty.·For judgment is without mercy to one who has shown no mercy. Mercy triumphs over judgment. (James 2:12-13)
As we study the Epistle of James keep in mind that James is Specificatlly addressing Jewish Christians (James 1:1) who because they are who they are model their behavior on the then existing Scriptures. James is using what they already know to instruct them on the true behavior that must be practiced and seen by those who are in the kingdom of God. James message is that true faith must and should reveal itself in the behavior of those who possess this faith without detailing the source of that faith.
To do this the lesson focuses our attention on the meaning of the Good Samaritan account found in Luke 10:30-37 however we should back up a bit and include verses 25 through 29 to acquire the context.
The lesson author does well by having us consider the very words of Jesus by examining the message of the Parable of the Good Samaritan in response to the lawyers first question; “What must I do to inherit eternal life?”
Jesus initially replied with the question; “What is written in the Law: How do you read it?”
The lawyer then said; “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind and your neighbor as yourself”.
Jesus’ response at the point was to say; “You have answered correctly; do this and you will live”. The implication is that this is the one thing the lawyer was not doing.
The lawyer, wanting to justify himself, then asked; “And who is my neighbor?’ where upon Jesus gives us the parable of the Good Samaritan to show that ‘our neighbor’ is much more than what the lawyer understood from the law he was quoting. This account is one of the examples where the teaching of Jesus went far beyond the requirements of the written Mosaic Law. For the lawyer and other legalistic Jews it was considered an anathema for a Jew to associate with Samaritans. According to the revolutionary teaching of Jesus however unless the lawyer could love the Samaritans he would not have eternal life. The question the lawyer if he was an honest seeker of God’s truth would have been to ask; “How can I change and love someone I don’t love?”
For our own understanding let’s review a related encounter where Jesus told the Pharisee named Nicodemus that you must be “born again” of the spirit to enter into the kingdom of God and have eternal life, John 3:1-21.
By comparing these two biblical accounts of the teaching of Jesus we conclude that for us to ‘love our neighbor’ as Jesus was teaching the lawyer was not possible without first being ‘born again’ and led by the Holy Spirit.
Here Jesus gives the concept of loving one another as a ‘new command’:
When he had gone out, Jesus said, “Now is the Son of Man glorified, and God is glorified in him.·If God is glorified in him, God will also glorify him in himself, and glorify him at once. Little children, yet a little while I am with you. You will seek me, and just as I said to the Jews, so now I also say to you, ‘Where I am going you cannot come.’ A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” (John 13:31-35)
James, in his epistle, is simply telling Jewish Christians, those whose human spirits have been ‘born again’ by the indwelling Holy Spirit, that they are to openly display this kind of love that only comes by having a ‘born again’ relationship with God.
As a Seventh-day Adventist there is a problem. You don’t maintain the biblical belief that you have a dead human spirit that needs to be ‘born again’ because you don’t have an understanding of what died on the day Adam and Eve sinned, Gen. 2:15-17.
Day Two, Sunday, Oct. 26: The Man in Gold
The theme for today is an excellent one, that of the divisive sin of partiality. It is directed towards but is not limited to a Christian’s relationship within the Body of Christ as outlined in James 2:1-4 and continues on through to verse 13.
In verse eight it says; ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself’. James is concerned with far more than what happens during a gathering of Christians during a time of worship. What is said in the lesson is good but ignores the many ways the ‘sin of partiality’ can and does occur within the Seventh-day Adventist denomination.
• The result of having an unbiblical Remnant Belief:
In not understanding that Adam’s sin led to separation from God because of the death of the human spirit Adventist don’t understand that the basic need of all sinners is to be born again of their human spirit, Gen. 2:16-17 & John 3:1-8. In teaching doctrines that do not recognize how mankind was originally created in the image of God Adventist automatically have a unbiblical sense of superiority towards orthodox Christians whose human spirit have been born again of the Holy Spirit through acceptance of the pure simply Gospel,1 Cor. 15:1-5. The Adventist refusal to worship with born again Holy Spirit led Christians simply because of a different day of worship is an unwarranted form of partiality.
• Truly born again Adventist believers who seek to found their faith on Scripture alone:
Ultimately what defines a Christian has nothing to do with the human-devised organization they are a member of. This means many who are Seventh-day Adventist can be and truly are born-again believers who become aware that they have been gifted with certain gifts of the Holy Spirit. In 1 Cor. 12:1-13 we learn that it is the role of the Holy Spirit to personally lead all Christian Believers into an understanding of the Word of God. Ultimately this is not the biblical role of centralized church leadership outside of what Scripture teaches. Within Adventism there is great prejudice against anyone who sincerely questions Adventist doctrine even if it is nothing more than a case of wanting to understand and establish doctrine on the Bible and nothing but the Bible.
• The Adventist understanding of Apostasy:
When a born again Holy Spirit led person leaves Adventism on biblical grounds for orthodox Christianity it is very arrogant and prejudice to label that person as having left for reasons of apostasy when in fact the very opposite is true. It is an unwarranted assumption to label a person as an apostate without objectively examining their reasons for leaving.
• Overly focusing on “Right Conduct” and Appearance:
In a study of the Epistle of James it is very clear that the world should be able to recognize that you are a Christian by the way you live and conduct your life. Righteous conduct, however, is the result of having been born-again of the Holy Spirit and is not what produces that ‘new birth’ in Jesus Christ. One of the great fallacies of Adventism is to look down upon the sins of a person if it happens to be such things as smoking or an addiction to alcohol not understanding that in reality all Christians still sin even if it is not the big ones Adventist focus on, 1 John 1:8. To demand that you must overcome these certain sins before can join the Adventist denomination and then be considered a Christian defies the teaching of Scripture. It discriminates against a person for appearances only.
The only time a person is to be ‘set apart’ from other Christians is when their conduct would pollute the Church, the Body of Christ such as when someone is openly guilty of unrepentant sexual morality:
It is actually reported that there is sexual immorality among you, and of a kind that is not tolerated even among pagans, for a man has his father’s wife. And you are arrogant! Ought you not rather to mourn? Let him who has done this be removed from among you. (1 Cor. 5:1-2)
Day Three, Monday, Oct. 27: Class Struggle
In James 2:1-4 the sin of partiality was introduced through the example of giving more recognition and prestige to the rich and well-dressed versus the poor and shabbily clothed person. In verses five through seven James gives a compelling argument why godly people should be doing something much different.
The lesson makes some good points concerning the conflict between the rich and powerful and those who have no such influence or power. It should be pointed out that this whole concept of ‘class struggle’ is a worldly system of governing ourselves without acknowledging God and his Son Jesus Christ as the Lord and Savior of our lives. James is making the point that Christians are intended to be guided by the indwelling Holy Spirit and the “Royal Law”. They must live with a whole different focus. This being the faith the world should be able to see by the way we live. Look around and you will notice that it isn’t just the rich who are guilty of this sin. We should recognize that we all are born sinners and have a tendency to covet what others have, whether it be riches, possessions or power over others.
Looking forward in the Epistle of James we find this:
What causes quarrels and what causes fights among you? Is it not this, that your passions are at war within you? You desire and do not have, so you murder. You covet and cannot obtain, so you fight and quarrel. You do not have, because you do not ask.·You ask and do not receive, because you ask wrongly, to spend it on your passions. You adulterous people! Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Therefore whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God.·Or do you suppose it is to no purpose that the Scripture says, “He yearns jealously over the spirit that he has made to dwell in us”?·But he gives more grace. Therefore it says, “God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble.”·Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you. (James 4:1-8)
Day Four, Tuesday, Oct. 28: Loving Our Neighbors
This is the theme passage for today:
If you really fulfill the royal law according to the Scripture, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself,” you are doing well.·But if you show partiality, you are committing sin and are convicted by the law as transgressors. (James 2:8-9)
The lesson also references Lev. 19:17-18 & Matt. 5:43-45. While James does make reference to the existing written scriptures of his time, when he says “royal law” he is making the point that this command of God goes much deeper and beyond the Mosaic Law of the Old Covenant. In the Leviticus passage the command was to “love your neighbor as yourself” which is only directed to loving fellow Jewish neighbors whereas Jesus goes into much greater depth with his own command:
“You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’·But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you,·so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven. For he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust. For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same?·And if you greet only your brothers, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same? You therefore must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect. (Matt. 5:43-48)
While James doesn’t clearly articulate the difference between living under the New Covenant commands of Jesus versus the Old Covenant Mosaic Law, when you compare the James passage with Matt. 5:43-48 & Romans 7:1-6, you see that James understands and agrees with what the Apostle Paul was preaching and teaching. The unwritten law of the Holy Spirit, Rom. 8:1-11, is much more significant and meaningful than anything contained within the Old Covenant.
Day Five, Wednesday, Oct. 29: The Whole Law
The Adventist concept that a person needs to keep the whole (moral law only) Mosaic Law is centered on this passage:
For whoever keeps the whole law but fails in one point has become accountable for all of it.·For he who said, “Do not commit adultery,” also said, “Do not murder.” If you do not commit adultery but do murder, you have become a transgressor of the law. (James 2:10-11)
Notice that the ‘whole law’ means everything contained in that law, not just certain biblically undefined portions of that law.
James very clearly says that whoever attempts to keep the whole law, meaning all of the Old Covenant Mosaic Law, but fails on even one point is a transgressor of the whole law.
In the lesson it is acknowledged that the Mosaic Law is all the law contained in the first five books of the Bible. Adventist however claim that the written morals laws of the Old Covenant are still in force and that only the ceremonial laws of this covenant have been done away with under the New Covenant by the death of our Savior at Calvary. This is not biblically correct and it is not what Jesus said:
And he took a cup, and when he had given thanks he said, “Take this, and divide it among yourselves. For I tell you that from now on I will not drink of the fruit of the vine until the kingdom of God comes.” And he took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and gave it to them, saying, “This is my body, which is given for you. Do this in remembrance of me.”·And likewise the cup after they had eaten, saying, “This cup that is poured out for you is the new covenant in my blood. (Luke 22:17-20)
Jesus spoke of a New Covenant replacing the Old. The written Mosaic Laws were established through the ratification of the Old Covenant at Saini. The requirements, including all the written laws, of the Old Covenant were fulfilled by Jesus Christ at Calvary. All the requirements of the Old Covenant law, not just the ceremonial laws, were fulfilled by Jesus.
The first seven chapters of the book of Romans establishes that only Jesus Christ could fulfill and keep perfectly the requirements of the Old Covenant, for all sinners are born spiritually dead and unable to not sin. Then we come to Romans 7:1-6 which culminates with this verse:
Likewise, my brothers, you also have died to the law through the body of Christ, so that you may belong to another, to him who has been raised from the dead, in order that we may bear fruit for God. (Romans 7:4)
The law and commandments of God that Christians are to live by are outlined in Romans chapter eight.
There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.·For the law of the Spirit of life has set you free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death.·For God has done what the law, weakened by the flesh, could not do. By sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin, he condemned sin in the flesh,·in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit. (Romans 8:1-4)
While James doesn’t outline the commandments of the New Covenant as clearly as Paul he does have this to say:
So speak and so act as those who are to be judged under the law of liberty.·For judgment is without mercy to one who has shown no mercy. Mercy triumphs over judgment. (James 2:12-13)
Under what James calls “the law of liberty” he declares that “mercy triumphs over judgment”.
Day Six, Thursday, Oct. 30: Judged by the Law
This is the opening statement in today’s lesson:
‘Nothing is clearer than the teaching that we will be judged by the law based on what we have done, whether for good or for evil. At the same time, too, the Bible is also clear that through faith in Jesus, we are covered by His righteousness.’
For Adventists that take time to meditate upon the consequences of what they believe this opening lesson statement should present an unresolvable conundrum. How do you reconcile that Christians are declared justified and called righteous by faith in the blood of Jesus Christ shed at Calvary on the one hand yet at the same time maintain belief in the doctrine of Investigative Judgment before you can know if you are to be admitted into the kingdom of God?
• Christians are dead to the Old Covenant Law and are not judged by law they are dead to.
In Romans 7:1-3 the Apostle Paul establishes the legal tenet that when one party to a contract, in this case those who had been covered under the Old Covenant, then the requirements of that covenant are no longer binding.
Likewise, my brothers, you also have died to the law through the body of Christ, so that you may belong to another, to him who has been raised from the dead, in order that we may bear fruit for God.·For while we were living in the flesh, our sinful passions, aroused by the law, were at work in our members to bear fruit for death.·But now we are released from the law, having died to that which held us captive, so that we serve in the new way of the Spirit and not in the old way of the written code. (Romans 7:4-6)
• The judgment of our good works we have been created by God to do is about rewards, not salvation.
In the following passages it is the saints of God who have accepted by faith the gospel message outlined in 1 Cor. 15:1-11 who are being addressed:
And so, from the day we heard, we have not ceased to pray for you, asking that you may be filled with the knowledge of his will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding,·so as to walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to him, bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God. May you be strengthened with all power, according to his glorious might, for all endurance and patience with joy, giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of the saints in light.·He has delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins. (Col. 1:9-14)
According to the grace of God given to me, like a skilled master builder I laid a foundation, and someone else is building upon it. Let each one take care how he builds upon it.·For no one can lay a foundation other than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ.·Now if anyone builds on the foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw— each one’s work will become manifest, for the Day will disclose it, because it will be revealed by fire, and the fire will test what sort of work each one has done.·If the work that anyone has built on the foundation survives, he will receive a reward.·If anyone’s work is burned up, he will suffer loss, though he himself will be saved, but only as through fire. (1 Cor. 3:10-15)
Our works that will stand the test of fire are only those works which are founded upon the Christian foundation of faith which is the pure simple gospel message of Jesus Christ. This is a critical reason you must not add to or take away from the gospel as there is only one gospel that leads to eternal life, Gal. 1:9.
Day Seven, Friday, Oct. 31: Further Study
As is the typical practice today’s lesson is centered solely upon Ellen White quotes with virtually no recourse to what Scripture actually teaches. For our commentary we will respond to what is asked in one of the discussion questions by pointing out how it is Adventist doctrinal beliefs which “are contrary to the principles of the biblical faith”.
Then the Lord answered Job out of the whirlwind and said: “Dress for action like a man; I will question you, and you make it known to me.·Will you even put me in the wrong? Will you condemn me that you may be in the right? ·Have you an arm like God, and can you thunder with a voice like his? (Job 40:6-9)
God does not vindicate himself to anyone or anything that he has created. It is heresy to claim there are righteous beings somewhere in the universe who are watching to see if God will proof his actions as righteous.
But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin. If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. If we say we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us. (1 John 1:7-10)
Jesus answered, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God. That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. Do not marvel that I said to you, ‘You must be born again.’ The wind blows where it wishes, and you hear its sound, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit.” (John 3:5-8)
No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us.·For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers,·nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Romans 8:37-39)
There is nothing that can separate you from the love of God.
And Aaron shall lay both his hands on the head of the live goat, and confess over it all the iniquities of the people of Israel, and all their transgressions, all their sins. And he shall put them on the head of the goat and send it away into the wilderness by the hand of a man who is in readiness.·The goat shall bear all their iniquities on itself to a remote area, and he shall let the goat go free in the wilderness. (Lev. 16:21-22)
Certainly we never confess our sins to Satan and neither did Aaron the priest. Jesus is the one who bore our sins at Calvary:
He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. By his wounds you have been healed.·For you were straying like sheep, but have now returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls. (1 Peter 2:24-25)