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Third Quarter 2017 (June 24–September 29)
COMMENTARY ON THE GOSPEL IN GALATIANS
Week 7: August 5–11
COMMENTARY ON "The Road to Faith"
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).
Sabbath Afternoon, Aug. 5: Introduction
The quarterly lesson theme is established with this statement in today's lesson:
"Without the law, we would have no gospel. It’s hard, really, to understand the gospel without the law."
Of course, within Adventism, reference to "law" means law that is centered around the 'Ten Commandments' which is only a part of the Mosaic Old Covenant law.
It needs to be stressed that Paul quickly outlines both his theme and his authority for defending the Biblical gospel. Only then does he develop his theme, word by word and line by line, in an orderly expository manor building concept upon concept. Paul does not confuse the development of his presentation by jumping around, back and forth from verse to verse as the lesson author does in the lessons for this week.
Paul's theme found within Galatians chapter three really began with quarterly lesson's week five and six where our train of thought is also forced to jump 'all over the map' instead of making these lessons an orderly presentation of the epistle of Galatians. Obviously the quarterly lesson author's goal is to 'guide' the student into believing Adventist theology rather than simply letting Paul's text develop contextually through the guiding of the Holy Spirit.
As an introduction to this commentary, lets turn back to what the Prophet Jeremiah records concerning a coming new covenant that would replace the Old Mosaic covenant along with the law contained within it:
“Behold, the days are coming, declares the Lord, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and the house of Judah, not like the covenant that I made with their fathers on the day when I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt, my covenant that they broke, though I was their husband, declares the Lord. But this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, declares the Lord: I will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts. And I will be their God, and they shall be my people. And no longer shall each one teach his neighbor and each his brother, saying, ‘Know the Lord,’ for they shall all know me, from the least of them to the greatest, declares the Lord. For I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more.” (Jer. 31:31-34)
• There would be a new covenant unlike the old covenant. On the night Jesus was betrayed he announced the beginning of this covenant. This means that Jesus replaced the old covenant along with the law contained within it at Calvary.
• The old covenant is a broken covenant, meaning it must be replaced. The covenant, the whole covenant would be gone. That literally means all the laws recorded in the first five books of the Old Testament of the Bible have been replaced with another kind of law.
• The broken Mosaic old covenant shows us that without the faith of Abraham it is impossible to please God. Therefore it is important to understand that Abraham's faith was the founded upon the certain knowledge that he could do nothing to help God do what only God could do.
• In the new covenant God's law is 'another kind of law' which Jeremiah declared would be written on his people's hearts instead of recorded in a book. There will come a time when the Hebrew people as a nation will accept Jesus as their promised Messiah thereby fulfilling this part of Jeremiah's prophecy.
• On the night of the Lord's supper, the very day he was betrayed and crucified, Jesus announced the fulfillment and beginning of Jeremiah's New Covenant prophecy, thereby perfectly fulfilling at Calvary the requirements of the Old Covenant, meaning all the written law it contained.
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. (Rom. 8:1-4)
• Christians, Jew and Gentile alike, are free from the "law of sin and death" which was the law, the whole law, of the obsolete Old Covenant. There will come a time when God's law will be written on the hearts of the Hebrew people instead of being recorded in a book.
• Paul was referring to something infinitely more significant we are free of than just 'ceremonial law' when he speaks of "the law of sin and death".
Now back to the epistle of Galatians. What Paul writes in chapter three is built upon Gal. 2:15-21:
We ourselves are Jews by birth and not Gentile sinners; yet we know that a person is not justified by works of the law but through faith in Jesus Christ, so we also have believed in Christ Jesus, in order to be justified by faith in Christ and not by works of the law, because by works of the law no one will be justified. (Gal. 2:15-16)
Paul's point is, you cannot return to practicing the works of the Old Covenant law and still be placing your faith in the works of Jesus Christ who alone perfectly and completely fulfilled the requirements of the Old Covenant law. This is what you must understand before you can grasp the meaning of what Paul teaches in chapter three.
Sunday, Aug. 6: The Law and the Promise
The lesson for today is centered on Gal. 3:21.
The lesson begins with this 'put-down' of those who appose Adventist teaching however this is more opinion rather than being founded upon biblical evidence:
"Sensing that his comments might lead his opponents to conclude he had a disparaging view of the law or that his comments about the priority of God’s promises were just a veiled put-down of Moses and the torah...."
The lesson for today is actually pretty good until the real agenda is revealed with this pair of questions:
"Though the law cannot save us, what great benefits does our adherence to it have for us? That is, what practical good have you experienced in your own life through obedience to God’s law?"
Since Paul's book of Romans is a more in depth exposition of the theme than what is presented here in Galatians we will first turn there. In Romans chapter seven where Paul is specifically addressing Jewish Christians, Rom. 7:1, when he says; "Or do you not know, brothers—for I am speaking to those who know the law". Continuing on through to verses 6. Paul makes it clear that these Jewish Christian brothers "have died to the law through the body of Christ" because when one party in a covenant dies the other party is free from the binding conditions (the "law") of the covenant. If you happen to be a Jewish Christians you are free from this covenant, all the covenant, not just certain limited requirements of the covenant.
Furthermore, Gentiles were never included in this covenant that God only made between himself and the Hebrew people. It is important to notice and understand that it is the Old Covenant and not just certain suppose laws (also known as the conditions of the covenant) that is now obsolete because of Jesus' atoning death at Calvary. There are no longer any benefits for adhering to the law contained in the Old Covenant.
Now lets return to and focus on what Paul is teaching us in Gal. 3:21, underlined in this passage:
Why then the law? It was added because of transgressions, until the offspring should come to whom the promise had been made, and it was put in place through angels by an intermediary. Now an intermediary implies more than one, but God is one. Is the law then contrary to the promises of God? Certainly not! For if a law had been given that could give life, then righteousness would indeed be by the law. But the Scripture imprisoned everything under sin, so that the promise by faith in Jesus Christ might be given to those who believe. (Gal. 3:19-22)
At the end of this chapter Paul defines our faith in Jesus:
And if you are Christ's, then you are Abraham's offspring, heirs according to promise. (Gal. 3:29)
Our faith, the same faith as Abraham's, is founded upon the promise that the coming Messiah would come through his line of a son, Isaac, whose mother was Sarah, Romans 4 & Gen. 17.
For those who claims this is an advocation of lawlessness we must understand that the very opposite is true. In Eph. 2:1-10 we learn that instead of sinning, our salvation in Jesus Christ leads to true good works. It is a question of sequence. Eternal salvation comes first which then produces true good works centered on the Jesus' gift of the indwelling Holy Spirit, Rom. 8:1-11.
Monday, Aug. 7: "Kept Under Law"
The lesson opens with this statement:
"In Galatians 3:23, Paul writes that “before faith came, we were kept under the law.” "
The lesson is correct when is says that "the faith" in Gal. 3:23 "is most likely a reference to Jesus Himself" but fails to arrive at the orthodox understand that our Christian faith points back to Abraham's faith in God's unconditional promise of the coming Messiah fulfilled by Jesus Christ.
In the face of all evidence to the contrary the lesson author wants to retain portions of the obsolete Old Covenant law that Paul says "was our guardian" and even directs our attention to verse 24:
Now before faith came, we were held captive under the law, imprisoned until the coming faith would be revealed. So then, the law was our guardian until Christ came, in order that we might be justified by faith. But now that faith has come, we are no longer under a guardian, for in Christ Jesus you are all sons of God, through faith. (Gal. 3:23-26)
Tuesday, Aug. 8: The Law as Our "Guard"
The lesson is still jumping around, now by backtracking to verse 19:
Why then the law? It was added because of transgressions, until the offspring should come to whom the promise had been made, and it was put in place through angels by an intermediary. Now an intermediary implies more than one, but God is one. (Gal. 3:19-20)
The lesson begins well by saying "the law does not nullify or abolish God’s promise made to Abraham" but then muddles the issue by introducing questionable secondary issues and by not asking one obvious question; What were the transgressions of the Hebrew people that led to the giving of the law which came long after God's unconditional promise he made to Abraham?
Since God is truth and does not lie, God's unconditional promise he made to Abraham is eternal and cannot be altered by the subsequent actions of others.
After God so dramatically took the Hebrew people out of slavery in Egypt they should have no longer doubted the absolute power of God. The transgressions, before and after the giving of the Old Covenant Mosaic law centered on when they despaired at the report of the 'Ten Spies' who said “We are not able to go up against the people, for they are stronger than we are.” (Num. 13:31)
For forty years I loathed that generation and said, “They are a people who go astray in their heart, and they have not known my ways.” Therefore I swore in my wrath, “They shall not enter my rest.” (Ps. 95:10-11)
What Scripture teaches is that when your faith is placed upon the Gospel of Jesus shed blood at Calvary, you have already entered into God's eternal rest. What Paul means when he says; "until the offspring should come" is that the law no longer has a place in our rest because Jesus is our rest.
Wednesday, Aug. 9: The Law as Our Schoolmaster
The lesson for today is very good until it inserts this quote from Ellen G. White:
“In this Scripture [Gal. 3:24], the Holy Spirit through the apostle is speaking especially of the moral law. The law reveals sin to us, and causes us to feel our need of Christ and to flee unto Him for pardon and peace by exercising repentance toward God and faith toward our Lord Jesus Christ.”—Ellen G. White, Selected Messages, book 1, p. 234.
When Ellen G. White says "the apostle is speaking especially of the moral law" she exceeds what the Apostle Paul teaches and ignores what Jeremiah said. All the law of the Old Covenant was one indivisible whole law. It all together served a single purpose. Jeremiah prophesied that the law of the new covenant would be a new kind of law that would totally replace the broken old covenant law, Jer. 31:31-34. Jesus announces the beginning of this New Covenant at the Lord's Supper:
For I received from the Lord what I also delivered to you, that the Lord Jesus on the night when he was betrayed took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it, and said, “This is my body which is for you. Do this in remembrance of me.” In the same way also he took the cup, after supper, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood. Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me.” For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord's death until he comes. (1 Cor. 11:23-26)
The whole law was one law within the Old Covenant Jesus replaced by his shed blood. There is no justification for mentioning 'moral law' separately from the whole of the Old Covenant law.
The Apostle Paul does not make special mention of moral law. To him and any other orthodox Jew all the law was one law of the Old Covenant.
Thursday, Aug. 10: The Law and the Believer
Today's lesson open with this statement:
"Many have interpreted Paul’s comment in Galatians 3:25 as a complete dismissal of the law. This makes little sense, however, in light of Paul’s positive comments about the law elsewhere in the Bible."
The Apostles Paul said what he said and means exactly what he said. To argue with assumed logic and say "This makes little sense" is proof of nothing.
Paul, speaking as the Jew he is, clearly says the Mosaic law no longer has any place in the lives of the people of God because it is no longer our taskmaster.
Paul assures us that the law served a purpose, that purpose being to show what sin is and that all sinners fail to keep the law perfectly. Adherence to the law of the Mosaic covenant instead of having 'the faith of Abraham' is a legal arrangement wherein all who do so fail because all sinners are born dead of their spirit.
Only Jesus, the eternal Son of God, born sinless when the Holy Spirit came upon Mary could and did keep the provisions of the Mosaic Covenant as recorded in Leviticus chapter sixteen.
“Aaron is to offer the bull for his own sin offering to make atonement for himself and his household. Then he is to take the two goats and present them before the Lord at the entrance to the tent of meeting. He is to cast lots for the two goats—one lot for the Lord and the other for the scapegoat. Aaron shall bring the goat whose lot falls to the Lord and sacrifice it for a sin offering. But the goat chosen by lot as the scapegoat shall be presented alive before the Lord to be used for making atonement by sending it into the wilderness as a scapegoat. (Lev. 16:6-10)
The two goats that were presented before the Lord were both ritually perfect, pure and sinless pointing together for a sinless single sacrifice to atone for the sins of the world. By the casting of lots were the two goats chosen for their ritual part in the complete role of the Messiah's sacrifice at Calvary. Jesus' shed blood atoned for the sins of the world. Jesus also descended into a 'place unknown' and was resurrected three days later. The one great heresy of Adventism is to teach that Satan has any future part in our salvation which was completed at Calvary. It is Jesus Christ alone who took upon himself the curse of sin for our salvation:
For all who rely on works of the law are under a curse; for it is written, “Cursed be everyone who does not abide by all things written in the Book of the Law, and do them.” Now it is evident that no one is justified before God by the law, for “The righteous shall live by faith.” But the law is not of faith, rather “The one who does them shall live by them.” Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us—for it is written, “Cursed is everyone who is hanged on a tree”— so that in Christ Jesus the blessing of Abraham might come to the Gentiles, so that we might receive the promised Spirit through faith. (Gal. 3:10-14)
Friday, Aug. 11: Further Thought
The lesson for today focuses entirely upon a quote from Ellen G. White which beings with this:
“I am asked concerning the law in Galatians. What law is the schoolmaster to bring us to Christ? I answer: Both the ceremonial and the moral code of ten commandments. ..."
Yes the old covenant law was once "the schoolmaster to bring us to Christ" yet what Ellen White goes on to say is false.
Scripture does not separate the old covenant law into "the ceremonial and the moral code of ten commandments" as claimed by Ellen White. This law was a single whole law regardless of how anyone may wish to break it into categories. All these laws were part of a broken covenant having been made obsolete by the new covenant.
The whole old covenant law was given to point sinners to their need of Christ. As a custodian, it provided instruction about God and protection from evil. But like a disciplinarian, it also pointed out our sinfulness and brought condemnation. Christ frees us from the old covenant law’s condemnation and in its place writes His new covenant law upon our hearts.