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Third Quarter 2017 (June 24–September 29)
COMMENTARY ON THE GOSPEL IN GALATIANS
Week 10: August 26–September 1
COMMENTARY ON "The Two Covenants"
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).
Saturday, August 26
Today’s lesson confuses grace with law. There is no “law of grace” in any context, old or new testament. That is an absurd paradigm to even address. In both the old and new testaments you have law and gospel. I feel it is healthier to look at them paradoxically rather than systematically. The law always demands total perfection in word thought and deed (Matt 5:49). The gospel gives Christ himself to satisfy that requirement on our behalf. Both are true at the same time.
It is also strange that the author identifies legalism as the primary issue of Galatians. This just isn’t the case at all. At the outset of the book Paul is calling out a false gospel (gal 1:8-9). There were heretics in the flock at the time that you had to be circumcised to be saved. Does the author avoid this because SDA teach that you have to keep the sabbath to be sealed in the end times? I don’t know, but it would explain a lot.
Sunday August 27
The second half of this lesson is just patently false. God never required Adam to keep the Sabbath day in any context.
"And on the seventh day God ended his work which he had made; and he rested on the seventh day from all his work which he had made. And God blessed the seventh day, and sanctified it: because that in it he had rested from all his work which God created and made. These are the generations of the heavens and of the earth when they were created, in the day that the LORD God made the earth and the heavens, And every plant of the field before it was in the earth, and every herb of the field before it grew: for the LORD God had not caused it to rain upon the earth, and there was not a man to till the ground." Genesis 2:2-5 KJV
Notice there is no place in which Adam is commanded to keep the Sabbath. We see God keeping it for sure, but he never instructs Adam to do it. There is other evidence for this as well, notice that later in Genesis 39 Joseph is tempted by Potiphar’s wife. He knows it’s wrong and ends up in jail due to his refusal. Curious that he didn’t have any sabbath issues as a slave though? Especially since Egypt had a ten day week at the time.
If the author wants to insist there is a covenant in genesis 2 that’s fine. Not a place I would focus but it does have the general elements of one. Adam and Eve are told not to eat the fruit or they will die. That’s a condition and a promise. If you want to insist the fruit is a sign then go right ahead. I wouldn’t because then it makes the sign and condition the same thing.
The covenant one should highlight in this section of Genesis is in chapter 3 where we are promised Christ. This is an unconditional covenant whereby the sign is the virgin birth and the promise is the crushing of the head of the snake. Good stuff, too bad it was only barely hinted at in this lesson.
Monday August 28
My only issue with this lesson is they don’t seem to go anywhere with it. They point out that covenants are a thing and that God makes the promises and kind of leave it there. I’ll take the opportunity to talk about covenants. Maybe you have heard of them maybe you haven’t.
Below is a brief overview of most of the covenants in the Bible. Some people try to wash them together, but I want the reader to notice that some of these covenants are conditional and some are not, so logically they are not all the same.
Tuesday August 29
The only condition of the Abrahamic covenant is the very gospel itself. There is nothing Abraham could do to muster up more faith and make this promise more sure. God promised it would happen and that’s it. The author seems to imply in his question at the end that the sufferings in our personal lives are due to a lack of faith. So muster up more faith then and everything will be okay I guess.
Not true, the bible teaches that faith is a gift from God (Eph 2:8). You can’t muster up more for yourself, you can’t earn it by doing anything good. Only God can give it to you and that’s what you have. The way the author teaches this the reader is directed to look inward to themselves for faith rather than to Christ and him crucified. The only thing you are going to find staring at your navel is the blackness of your sinful heart. Look instead to Christ and what he has done for you, and know that it truly is finished just as Jesus said.
Wednesday August 30
The author is just flat out wrong in this lesson. I would hate to think he knows better and is just lying because this error is an obvious one to anybody that has read the whole Bible at least once through in their life. I’ll put the best construction on it though and assume they are just ignorant. Here is the sentence I’m talking about:
“He does not ask the Israelites to promise to do anything to earn His blessings; instead, they are to obey as a response to those blessings”
Just read once through Leviticus 26 and you will know how absurd that sentence is. To make my point I’ve assembled two rather obvious prooftexts below.
"If ye walk in my statutes, and keep my commandments, and do them; Then I will give you rain in due season, and the land shall yield her increase, and the trees of the field shall yield their fruit." Leviticus 26:3-4 KJV
"And if ye shall despise my statutes, or if your soul abhor my judgments, so that ye will not do all my commandments, but that ye break my covenant: I also will do this unto you; I will even appoint over you terror, consumption, and the burning ague, that shall consume the eyes, and cause sorrow of heart: and ye shall sow your seed in vain, for your enemies shall eat it. But if ye will not hearken unto me, and will not do all these commandments;" Leviticus 26:14-16 KJV
Simply stated, if they keep the law then God will bless them, if they do not keep it then he will curse them. It doesn’t say they will still receive the blessing no matter what as the author implied. This is not the case at all with the New Covenant. Christ has shed his blood for us and his gifts cannot be earned. What we see in the old covenant here is type and shadow of what Christ has fulfilled for us. Where the Israelites failed showing their need for a savior Christ has succeeded crushing the head of the snake.
The Galatians error here was that they were turning to types and shadows of this new covenant rather than just embracing the substance they were living in. In effect, when you cling to a shadow of Christ, like the sabbath or circumcision, you are denying with your actions that Christ has even come at all. You are saying that you are still waiting for your messiah. We don’t need to wait he already came, we can embrace the reality of it rather than shadows.
Thursday August 31
I am going to be honest, I just don’t see anything relevant popping out of the page here. The question at the end sticks with you a bit and can be interacted with but instead of that I’d like to take a moment to build on some points that I’ve touched in prior dates.
Notice how there are different covenants in scripture as I pointed out above? Did you notice that they can’t bleed together either? Due to the fact that some are conditional and some are not they have to be seen as separate covenants. Here is the thing, the ten commandments are only part of the Mosaic Covenant. They do have a special place in Christian tradition, I get that. But Biblically speaking they have no place at all in the new covenant as a single unit. I can prove that:
“9 Nothing was in the ark except the two tablets of stone which Moses put there at Horeb, when the Lord made a covenant with the children of Israel, when they came out of the land of Egypt…. 21 And there I have made a place for the ark, in which is the covenant of the Lord which He made with our fathers, when He brought them out of the land of Egypt.” 1 Kings 8:9, 21 NKJV
“1 Then indeed, even the first covenant had ordinances of divine service and the earthly sanctuary…. 4 which had the golden censer and the ark of the covenant overlaid on all sides with gold, in which were the golden pot that had the manna, Aaron’s rod that budded, and the tablets of the covenant” Heb 9:1,4 NKJV
“7 For if that first covenant had been faultless, then no place would have been sought for a second. 13 In that He says, “A new covenant,” He has made the first obsolete. Now what is becoming obsolete and growing old is ready to vanish away.” Heb 8:7, 13 NKJV
This doesn’t mean we don’t have law in the new covenant. We do, it is very similar in fact. But the thing to understand is you don’t approach the law of the new covenant already having the contents of the old covenant law in your hands. You reconstruct the law in the new covenant, and what is left out simply doesn’t apply to us today.
If you really like the form and flow of the ten commandments though, here is where you can find them in the New Covenant (after the cross). All except for the fourth that is.
Friday September 1
Friday we are left with a passage of Ellen White. She say something strange about halfway through that I would like to take a closer look at:
“The people did not realize the sinfulness of their own hearts, and that without Christ it was impossible for them to keep God’s law; and they readily entered into covenant with God. . . . Yet only a few weeks passed before they broke their covenant with God, and bowed down to worship a graven image” Ellen G. White, Patriarchs and Prophets, pp. 371, 372
Notice that she teaches Christ made it possible for us to keep the law. Not as obvious in the passage they cited, but it comes out more clear in some of her other writings.
“The glory of Christ is his character, and his character is an expression of the law of God. He fulfilled the law in its every specification, and gave to the world in his life a perfect pattern of what it is possible for humanity to attain unto by cooperation with divinity.” EGW, Signs of the Times, Dec. 12, 1895
“When Christ gave His life for you, it was that He might place you on vantage ground and impart to you moral power.” EGW, Manuscript Releases, vol. 14, p. 74.
That’s one of the important things to understand about Adventism. They don’t believe Jesus did it for you, they believe he gives you a kind of sin booster shot that helps you pull it all off yourself. As Paul said in the very book they claim to be teaching us out of:
"But though we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel unto you than that which we have preached unto you, let him be accursed." Galatians 1:8 KJV