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Third Quarter 2017 (June 24–September 29)
COMMENTARY ON THE GOSPEL IN GALATIANS
Week 13: September 16–22
COMMENTARY ON "The Gospel and the Church"
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 1: Sabbath Afternoon, December 17, 2011 - Introduction
Weeks focus verse
“So then, as we have opportunity, let us do good to everyone, and especially to those who are of the household of faith." Galatians 6:10,
Saturday's lesson addresses the issue of reaping and sewing. The author begins by relating the principals of potato farming to illustrate that giving our best will produce the best results. The author then encourages church members to put others before themselves. The author ends the study by saying that, "understanding that we are saved by grace should make us humble, and more patient and compassionate in how we treat others."
In Adventism, creating a harvest for the Lord is about personal effort and devotion to doing good, obeying rules, and evangelizing non-Adventists. Adventists are called to vindicate God by showing that His law is good and can be kept through the "restraining power of the Holy Spirit" and one's love for the Lord. This is not a Biblical teaching, nor is it the role of the Holy Spirit to "restrain" believers from sinning (See Monday's commentary for more on that).
Scripture does not tell believers to put their best "effort" into producing fruit or a harvest for the Lord. It does however say to live out their faith by the power of the Spirit working in us. Jesus is clear, in order to bear fruit we must abide in the LORD and the Word of God. The work of convicting hearts and transforming lives is the work of the Holy Spirit. Jesus commands believers (those born from above through faith) to abide in the Lord and be generous with the seed the Lord provides them.
"Already you are clean because of the word that I have spoken to you. Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me. I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing." John 15:3-5 (emphasis mine)
"He who supplies seed to the sower and bread for food will supply and multiply your seed for sowing and increase the harvest of your righteousness. You will be enriched in every way to be generous in every way..." 2 Cor. 9: 10-11a
As we abide in the Lord and the word of God, we are supplied with seed for sowing. The sowing will be the natural outcome of a life lived in Christ.
"For God is working in you, giving you the desire and the power to do what pleases him." Philippians 2:13 (emphasis mine)
In the following passage, Paul gives believers instructions for life in the body of Christ. Notice how he ends his list of expected behavior by saying that God is faithful and He will do these things in the believer:
"We ask you, brothers, to respect those who labor among you and are over you in the Lord and admonish you, and to esteem them very highly in love because of their work. Be at peace among yourselves. And we urge you, brothers, admonish the idle, encourage the fainthearted, help the weak, be patient with them all. See that no one repays anyone evil for evil, but always seek to do good to one another and to everyone. Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. Do not quench the Spirit. Do not despise prophecies, but test everything; hold fast what is good. Abstain from every form of evil. Now may the God of peace himself sanctify you completely, and may your whole spirit and soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. He who calls you is faithful; he will surely do it." 1 Thess. 5: 12-24 (emphasis mine)
That we must put our best effort into doing good in order to supply a harvest for the Lord is a twist on the calling of Christians in scripture. Yes, we are to do good to one another, but this is the natural outcome of the fruit of the Spirit in the life of the believer, not something we produce by our "knowledge" as the author suggests. The teaching that our "understanding" of grace should create humility, patience, compassion etc., gives glory to the "obedience" of the believer. Further, to associate the fruit of the Spirit with "understanding" denies the presence of spiritual fruit in the life of the mentally compromised or young child. More importantly, it robs the glory from the One who is working in us to produce the fruit for the harvest. This "works" method of pleasing the Lord is born out of the denial of the regenerated human spirit and of reliance upon physical bodies to comprehend truth and act accordingly in order to remain in right standing and be saved. We must keep God on the throne. He does the work in and through man to produce His harvest. Apart from Him, we do nothing of eternal value. Let us not forget the words of Jesus in Matthew:
"On that day many will say to me, 'Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?' And then will I declare to them, 'I never knew you;" Matt 7: 22-23a, (emphasis mine).
Doing good deeds from a place of knowledge rather than the indwelling work of the Spirit runs a high risk of sowing to the flesh (see Thursday). A response to the gospel that causes one to purge the conscience by maintaining something Jesus "started" is not natural response to the true gospel but a good indication that it is another gospel. We see in the Matthew 7 text that what we do in the name of Jesus is not what saves us and is not how we make our selves known to God. So, how then are we known by God?
"But knowledge puffs up while love builds up. Those who think they know something do not yet know as they ought to know. But whoever loves God is known by God." 1 Cor. 8: 1b-3 (emphasis mine)
It is not by our human "understanding" that we are able to produce the fruit of the Spirit and it is not by "understanding" that we generate love for God. It is by spiritual regeneration, the indwelling life of the Holy Spirit, and through our Abiding in the LORD that the unnatural love for God and man in our hearts is born and the Holy Spirit is free to will us to act according to God's purpose. Some of the most intellegant atheists can articulate the gospel better than far too many Christians. Salvation is not about "knowing" it is about believing and trusting.
Paul is encouraging believers to examine their lives for the fruit that comes from life in Jesus. We encourage you to do the same. Are the deeds in your life done from a place of knowing you ought to be doing them, or is it from the outpouring of the work of the Holy Spirit in your life? Are they driven by guilt or conviction? Pray now and ask Jesus to show you what is from Him, and what is from your attempts to please Him. Examine your heart and consider submitting all of your efforts for maintaining righteousness to the Lord Jesus. He is all you need for salvation. Once you allow Jesus to be your righteousness you will truly begin to see His work in your heart and see how it will flow out into your life. Trust Him. He will not fail you.
Day 2: Sunday, December 18, 2011 - Restoring the Fallen
The author begins the study by referring to the "lofty" expectations Paul gives in Galatians 5:16 (where he encourages believers to walk by the Spirit), then expresses relief in the more "realistic" requirement of 6:1 (to restore those caught in sin). The author discusses the nature of the sin this passage has in view and the responsibility of believers to the person caught in it. This is done through a word study of the Greek words, "paraptoma" which means "sin", and "katartizo" which means, "to mend" or "put in order". The author refers to the one caught in sin as, "the fallen" in today's lesson.
The title of this section is "Restoring the Fallen." This likely conveys the Adventist Great Controversy understanding that when a Christian stumbles into sin he returns to the fallen pre-converted state until he "returns" to Christ. This title gives us concern right from the start and so we will spend most of our time there.
Christianity uses the term "fallen" in relationship to the state of unregenerate man post-Eden up until the new birth. Once man is born from above, scripture teaches that although the flesh is death, the spirit is life (Romans 8). We are made right with God through the propitiation of Christ and are counted as righteous on the merit of His finished work of redemption. The regenerate man is adopted as a Child of God and ceases from his working for (or to maintain) salvation, thus entering into God's rest (Hebrews 4:10). While sin is inevitable for humankind, it does not remove God's child from the Grace of His Father. Being "caught" by sin does not reverse the new birth. To believe that it does is evidence of a wrong view of what it means to be being born of the Spirit (see Monday's commentary for more on the state of man and the new birth). If we do not understand that Jesus did what we could not do in our fallen state, and cannot do even as believers, then we do not understand the gospel of scripture.
Adventist doctrine treats the new birth like a returning to the Eden state; man's past record is expunged and he is given a clean slate. He "gets" to start over, only this time he must avoid sin or he falls like the first Adam and must remember each sin and confess it in order for the blood of Jesus to apply toward the transgression. Many Adventists teach that if Adam and Eve sinned and were lost in their perfect state, certainly Christians can be lost through their sin as well. Again, this shows a lack of understanding of what Jesus did for humankind (see Monday). Our sin is the very thing that qualified us for salvation, how could it then also disqualify us? Hebrews 5:9 calls our salvation an "eternal salvation." Which literally means, "deliverance from the power and effects of sin, continued without intermission" (Merriam-Websters Online Dictionary). To say that we can undo what Christ did for us, truly denies the power of the Cross and Resurrection. Salvation is eternal because the sacrifice (Jesus) is eternal and when we believe in Him, His eternal sacrifice is applied to us for all eternity. This covers all of our sin, past, present, and future. When we believe the truth of Jesus, the gospel of our salvation, we immediately have an intercessor in Jesus forever—something Adam and Eve did not have in their perfect state. We receive the gift of salvation in full the moment we receive Christ. It is not "to be announced" based on our work.
"Consequently, he is able to save to the uttermost those who draw near to God through him, since he always lives to make intercession for them." Hebrews 7:25
"We have this as a sure and steadfast anchor of the soul, a hope that enters into the inner place behind the curtain, where Jesus has gone as a forerunner on our behalf, having become a high priest forever after the order of Melchizedek." Hebrews 16:19-20
Adventism teaches that once man has converted to the "truth" and keeps and upholds God's Law to vindicate His character to the watching worlds, then he is on the "narrow path". However, when he sins he has chosen evil and falls from grace and salvation until he repents and his sin is blotted from a book that keeps record of the sins of believers. Ellen White teaches that each time man chooses sin over the Law (or the prompting of the human conscience manipulated by the power of the Spirit) he becomes harder to be saved and more aligned with Satan (see Friday's quote). Adventism is not a gospel of good news, it is a gospel of works. It is impossible to not sin while we are in the flesh. E.G. White's gospel is one of hopelessness which holds the Law up as the central focus of human obligation, arguably, making it a focus of worship. It is Christ who is high and lifted up, not the Mosaic Law.
In Romans 7, Paul is writing to believers and he is clear that the flesh is at war with the inner being.
"So I find it to be a law that when I want to do right, evil lies close at hand. For I delight in the law of God, in my inner being, but I see in my members another law waging war against the law of my mind and making me captive to the law of sin that dwells in my members. Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, I myself serve the law of God with my mind, but with my flesh I serve the law of sin." Romans 7:21-2h
Paul is speaking to the fact that we still live in the flesh. While we live in the flesh we will fall into sin. If we could overcome sin while in the flesh there would have been no need for a savior. John the Apostle wrote about the believer overcoming, in both Revelation and an epistle. In 1 John he clearly states that what overcomes is our faith resulting in New Birth, not our mastery over our sin.
"For everyone who has been born of God overcomes the world. And this is the victory that has overcome the world— our faith." 1 John 5:4
That being said, when a believer is caught in sin, we can know that this does not mean they have returned to their fallen state. Scripture says that the regenerate man is a new creation. We do not have the power to create or reverse God's creation. We are called, then, to bring aid to our injured brothers and sisters. This does not place us in a position of risking our own salvation, but we do risk sinning and compromising our fellowship with the Lord if we do not do it in the power of the Holy Spirit.
Imagine that you are standing in a spiritual war zone. A flaming dart from Satan has hit one of your fellow comrades. Your platoon sergeant calls on you to run into enemy fire and give aid to your comrade, while responding you must take care to avoid being hit by a flaming dart yourself.
"Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil. For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. Therefore take up the whole armor of God…In all circumstances take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming darts of the evil one…praying at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication. To that end keep alert with all perseverance, making supplication for all the saints," Ephesians 6:11-13a, 16, 18 (emphasis mine).
As Christians, we are brothers and sisters in a Holy family through Christ Jesus. We are responsible to love sacrificially, support and care for one another, and hold each other accountable to the Word of God. In Galatians 6:1-3 Paul is calling the family to attention and into account for their responsibility to one another and the commands of Christ.
Concerning the author's comments on the lofty expectations of walking in the Spirit, we encourage you to skip ahead to Monday's commentary. We believe that after a better understanding of the new birth and the work of the Holy Spirit in the life of the believer, it may become easier to see how this call is only possible through the new birth. It is impossible to restore a believer in the manner this passage teaches us to unless we are walking in the Spirit. Otherwise, we heap good old-fashioned self-righteous condemnation onto our fellow brother or sister when we confront them. We must rely on the Holy Spirit for all that we do.
Day 3: Monday, December 19, 2011 - Beware of Temptation
Today's Lesson focuses on Galatians 6:1. The author discusses Paul's urgent counsel to believers, to restore those caught in sin and to take care to not fall into sin themselves. The author reminds the readers that they (Christians) have a "sinful nature that is opposed to God," when attempting to admonish spiritual pride.
We will be spending more time on this lesson due to some essential truths that we must address. In a statement made near the end of the lesson, the author writes of Christians,
"The sobering fact is that we all have the same sinful nature—a nature that is opposed to God. Thus without the restraining power of God's Spirit, we could stoop to just about any sin, given the right circumstances."
This statement does a lot to reveal the fact that Adventist doctrine builds on a foundation which does not understand the nature of man, the nature of sin, the meaning of what it is to be born again, or the role of the Holy Spirit in the life of the believer. Without having these things clear, the rest of scripture is going to be very confusing, consequently requiring an interpreter, a natural place for a false prophet to fit in. Furthermore, when we are able to see what scripture says about these things, passages that once found their place in the "metaphor box" suddenly have profound, significant meaning. We believe that the false teaching about the nature of man (and consequently the nature of God) in Adventism is where the deception begins.
The Nature of Man
"So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them," (Gen. 1:27).
One of the most significant ways that we can understand man being made in God's image is by the fact that we have a spirit. A teaching that is not only denied by Seventh-day Adventism but also taught to be one of the great heresies of "Apostate Protestantism". Today, we are going to see what scripture says about this.
John 4:24a says, "God is spirit…" This is very clear. It says that He is spirit—not that He has a spirit. Adventism teaches that God has a body. This belief is unique to Adventism and a small handful of other unorthodox religious groups. If, in fact, being made in God's image is about our physical appearance then we run into all sorts of problems when we take into consideration the obvious differences between genders. It also limits God's ability to be Omni-present, or for the fullness of God to indwell man upon regeneration. The most significant evidence against this teaching is that while scripture will use references to body parts when discussing God's work in human history, it does not teach that God has a body. When we realize that God is spirit, it becomes easy to see in scripture that a part of our being made in His image is our spirit nature.
One Seventh-day Adventist website (http://calimesasda.com/#/home/uniqueness-of-adventism) does a good job of explaining the Adventist opinion of this issue. Under the heading, The "Uniqueness of Adventism" it states (emphasis mine):
"In contrast to the Greek idea that has influenced many Christian thinkers down through the ages, (that we are "spirits" or "souls" that inhabit bodies) we believe that we are indeed "whole" people, with all the various aspects of our lives (physical, mental, emotional, relational, etc.) interconnected and inseparable. We don't just have bodies, we are bodies (without a separate full consciousness apart from a real physical existence)."
Now, with that in mind, we will take a look at Ezekiel 36:26a-27a, which was written long before Greek Ideas influenced anyone:
"And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you… And I will put my Spirit within you." (Emphasis mine)
The Hebrew word used for spirit in both the case of our new spirit, and God's Spirit, is "ruwach". Adventism teaches that this word is actually referring to breath. This comes from their interpretation of Genesis 2:7,
"Then the LORD God formed man of dust from the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living being."
The Hebrew word used for "breath" here is, "nĕshamah" which is also translated as spirit. After the LORD breathed spirit into man, he became a living "being". The word for being is "nephesh" which means soul or self. Now, even if this passage were saying that what God breathed into man was oxygen, it does not do away with the rest of scriptures references to the spirit of man. The text in Ezekiel cannot mean that He will give us new oxygen. Let us look at more scripture.
In Hebrews 12:9, God is called the Father of spirits,
"Besides this, we have had earthly fathers who disciplined us and we respected them. Shall we not much more be subject to the Father of spirits and live?"
Another passage of scripture that helps with this issue is Romans 8:16. Let us first see what the passage says, then we will insert Adventist understanding into it:
"The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God,"
We would like to note that the word used here for spirit is the Greek word, "pnuema" and is again the same word used for the Holy Spirit and for man's spirit. Now, let us place the Adventist understanding of the word "spirit" in the text:
"The Spirit himself bears witness with our (breath) that we are children of God…"
This just does not work. Nor does it work to inject "attitude" or "disposition" into this passage as I have also heard some do. Here are a couple other passages that make much more sense when we understand the truth about man's spirit.
"…For we walk by faith, not by sight—we are of good courage, I say, and prefer rather to be absent from the body and to be at home with the Lord," (2 Corinthians 5:7-8).
This scripture clearly shows that we do have something that exists apart from our flesh. Understanding that the regenerate spirit returns to Christ upon death brings whole new meaning to the text in Psalm 116:15,
"Precious in the sight of the LORD is the death of his saints."
These are but a few of many examples that show that man is created as a spirit-being. When we see this truth, the rest of the story unfolds brand new to those who have seen scripture through Adventist eyes. Let us now look at the sin-nature of man.
The Nature of Sin
To understand the sin-nature of man, we must understand the fall. Back again to Genesis:
"And the LORD God commanded the man, saying, "You may surely eat of every tree of the garden, but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die." Genesis 2: 16-17 (emphasis mine).
"…she took of its fruit and ate, and she also gave some to her husband who was with her, and he ate. Then the eyes of both were opened, and they knew that they were naked. And they sewed fig leaves together and made themselves loincloths." Genesis 3:6b-7
"And they heard the sound of the LORD God walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and the man and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the LORD God among the trees of the garden." Genesis 3:8
God said, "…for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die." God is not a liar, and on the day they ate the apple, they did die. They died a spiritual death. They were cut off from God and they hid. Ever since that day, man has been born in the likeness of Adam, born with a dead spirit—and ever since that day, man has hidden from truth apart from the drawing of God.
Ephesians 2: 1-6 says:
"And you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit (also, pneuma) that is now at work in the sons of disobedience—among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind. But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ— by grace you have been saved…" (emphasis mine).
When reading these passages without understanding the human spirit, it all becomes more metaphors. Some rationalize these passages by saying that, "the day they ate the apple they began dying" or that being "dead in our trespasses" means that we are living on death row waiting to die because of our trespasses; neither of which are what the scriptures say. It is worth noting here that Eve sinned by listening to the snake pontificate about what God really meant. It is not our job to explain God's intentions, but to believe what He says; even when we cannot make it fit with what we think we already know.
When we understand that we are born spiritually dead in need of reconciliation with God even without ever "transgressing the law" (simply because of our nature) scripture comes to life. Passages that once were confusing make sense when viewed in the light of truth. No longer is it difficult to understand texts like these:
"And Jesus said to him, ‘Follow me, and leave the dead to bury their own dead,'" (Mat. 8:22),
"Now he is not God of the dead, but of the living, for all live to him," (Luke 20:38).
In order to properly understand our sinful nature and our relationship to God before the new birth, we must be able to see that man apart from God is spiritually dead in need of regeneration. Fallen man is still in the image of God, he does still have a spirit, but it is dead and doomed to hell. Without the new birth, we cannot be saved. No amount of special knowledge, good deeds, or law keeping can bring about spiritual regeneration. This is the miraculous, creative, life giving work of God alone.
The New Birth & The Role of the Holy Spirit
"Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God.'" – Jesus Christ (John 3:3)
In Adventism, "born again" is understood as repentant man with a new commitment to God and Christianity (See Sunday's commentary). It is a metaphor for choosing to live a new life. This is why re-baptism is common practice. People backslide and feel as though they must recommit their efforts to Christ and choose to be re-baptized. However, scripture shows us that our being born again is a work of God, not of man.
1 Peter 1:3, says that God causes us to be born again,
"Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead…" (emphasis mine).
John 1: 13-14, says that being born into God's family does not happen by the will of man but by the work of God.
"But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God, who were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God."
Jesus is clear about what the new birth is:
"That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit," (John 3:6).
Again, the word used here for spirit is, "pnuema". He uses the words twice to show that they are the same substance. Flesh births flesh, but Spirit births spirit; not breath, not attitude—spirit.
When we are born again, we are hidden in Christ. We are clothed in the regal robes of Jesus. Our salvation has nothing to do with our works— bad, or even good—but with the Great Work of Jesus Christ, Wonderful Counselor, Prince of Peace, Everlasting Father—Mighty God.
Now, scripture teaches us that there are two kingdoms: the kingdom of darkness in which Satan is the Father (John 8:44), and the Kingdom of the Beloved Son, in which mighty God is the Father. We have already seen that unregenerate man is born spiritually dead and in the kingdom of darkness. Now, let us look at what Colossians 1:13-14 says happens when we are made alive in Christ through the new birth:
"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." (emphasis mine).
So then, how are we born again? Our only role in our salvation is to believe in Jesus Christ's finished atonement on the cross of Calvary and accept His gift of payment for sin on our behalf.
"In him you also, when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and believed in him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit, who is the guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it, to the praise of his glory," (Ephesians 1:13-14).
When we place our faith in the Messiah, the Holy Spirit indwells us. He is the guarantee of our inheritance in Jesus Christ and we enter His rest as promised in Hebrews 4:1. Our salvation is not given based on our behavior or works, our salvation is given based on our faith in the finished work of Jesus. This does not mean that we are free to sin and forget God. If we are truly born again, the Spirit is in us and it is Him who wills us to live according to God's purpose (Phil. 2:13). When we are in Christ, we are a new creation (2 Cor. 5:17) and we are no longer under the law of sin and death but the law of the Spirit of Life (Romans 8).
It is not the role of the Holy Spirit to "restrain" us from sin. While we are in the flesh, we will continue to sin (Romans 7). However, the Holy Spirit does reveal sin in our hearts and lives, and convicts us of Gods will and purpose for us. He empowers us to live to the glory of God and He glorifies God in all He does. He also guides and comforts us as we wait for That Day. Jesus clearly explains the role of the Holy Spirit in the world and in the life of the believer in the gospel of John (16: 8-15).
Responding to the leading of the Holy Spirit is what will keep us on level paths. If we choose to ignore the cognitive dissonance that we experience when we are not acting according to Gods word, we will find ourselves fading from intimate fellowship with God. We cannot compromise our salvation once we are born again because it is not attained by our works but by Christ's work. However, our fellowship with God will be compromised if we fail to obey and abide in Him and His word.
In conclusion, as Christians, we are still temped and we still have the propensity for sin (Romans 7). Paul's warning to believers to be careful to avoid the temptation to sin is valid. However, it is incorrect to believe that this temptation comes because we are inherently "opposed to God" as believers. Temptation comes from our corrupt flesh (Romans 7), yet when we are born again our spirit is alive and kept in Christ and we are reconciled to God. We are adopted into the family of God and are no longer "opposed to God." We can know that we are saved. We are in Christ, and that is our new identity.
Day 4: Tuesday, December 20, 2011 - Burden Bearing
In today's lesson the author spends the majority of the study discussing the different types of burdens Christians may face as well as the obligation of believers to both carry and share another's burdens. The author states that not allowing others to aid us in our need is a form of human pride and claims that this is what Paul was teaching in verse 3. The author ends the lesson by stating that God's comfort is made manifest through the body of the church and then quotes Evangelical pastor, John Stott to solidify his point.
"God's comfort was not given to Paul through his private prayer and waiting upon the Lord but through the companionship of a friend and through the good news that he brought." John Stott
The study begins by incorrectly stating that the Greek word for "Burden" in verse 5 is "Baros," which if true would create a contradiction within the passage. This appears to be a typo since tomorrow's quarterly lesson deals correctly with this word. The word used in verse 5 is, "φορτίον" or "phortion", which refers to the personal load of human conscience or responsibility. The Greek word, "Baros", is actually found in verse two. This word describes a burden beyond that which we are personally responsible for. It means a heaviness or trouble. This is the burden that Paul is calling the church to carry for one another.
The author states that in verse three Paul is admonishing believers against an attitude of self-sufficiency that would keep them from allowing others to aid them in their burdens. He states that by not allowing others to carry our burdens we keep them from fulfilling that which God has called them to. There is actually nothing in this section that indicates that Paul is making this point. In fact, Paul is speaking to those who should be doing the helping not to those in need of it. In verse three, Paul admonishes the spiritually proud by stating that if anyone thinks more of himself than he ought he is deceiving himself. In light of the call to help those caught in sin, it would make sense that Paul is expanding on his point that believers must take care to not fall into sin themselves. Paul further admonishes the believers to examine their work so they can take accountability for what is theirs, and carry their own load as the Greek word, "phortion" would indicate.
The final point the author makes is that God's comfort is made manifest through the church and not through personal prayer and waiting on the Lord. While it is true that one of the significant ways God's comfort is manifested to believers is through the body, it is only one way. We find comfort in the peace provided to us through the Holy Spirit, and the promises in the Word of God. We must not only depend on comfort from man. It is far too easy to forgo the word of God to pick up the phone or go online.
"…do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus." Philippians 4:6-8 (emphasis mine)
"Remember your word to your servant, in which you have made me hope. This is my comfort in my affliction, that your promise gives me life." Psalm 119:49-50 (emphasis mine)
"Let your steadfast love comfort me according to your promise to your servant." Psalm 119:76 (emphasis mine)
"So the church throughout all Judea and Galilee and Samaria had peace and was being built up. And walking in the fear of the Lord and in the comfort of the Holy Spirit, it multiplied." Acts 9:31(emphasis mine)
"Now may our Lord Jesus Christ himself, and God our Father, who loved us and gave us eternal comfort and good hope through grace, comfort your hearts and establish them in every good work and word." 2 Thessalonians 2:16-17 (emphasis mine)
As discussed in Monday's commentary we saw that one of the roles of the Holy Spirit in the life of the believer is to comfort the church. It is wrong to imply that praying and waiting on the Lord will not bring comfort to the believer. The Holy Spirit is our comforter:
"But the Comforter, which is the Holy Ghost, whom the Father will send in my name, he shall teach you all things and bring all things to your remembrance, whatsoever I have said unto you." (John 14:26).
A quick survey of the writings of David and it is clear that the manifestation of the Lord's comfort is not limited to human interaction. While this may not be what the author is claiming, it needs to be stated that God brings comfort to His children regardless of the obedience of men. That beings said, we are commanded to fellowship together, love sacrificially, carry one another's burdens, and be built up together in the truth.
1 Believers are called both to carry one another's burdens, and to carry each ones own load.
2 A significant role in the life of the believer is to be "present" in fellowship with the body of Christ. Through this process, God does bring comfort to His children.
3 Man cannot limit God; His comfort is not only made manifest through people but also through the Holy Spirit and the scriptures. None of these three sources of comfort should be neglected in the life and works of the believer.
Day 5: Wednesday, December 21, 2011 - The Law of Christ
Today's lesson discusses the meaning of the phrase, "the law of Christ" in verse two. The author states that it is an incorrect interpretation to say that a new law replaced the law given at Mount Sinai. The author writes that, "‘fulfilling the law of Christ' is another reference to fulfilling the moral law through love." The author states that the "moral law interpreted by love continues to play an important role in the Christian life. This is the epitome of what Jesus taught during His earthly ministry and also practice through His life and even in His death. In bearing the burdens of others, we are not only following in the footsteps of Jesus, we are also fulfilling the law." After dealing with the law of Christ, the lesson then deals with the apparent contradiction of 6:2 and 6:5 (see Tuesday's commentary for our comments on this matter).
Scripture means what it says. If we come across something that confuses our understanding on an issue, we must do a couple things. We must first pray for the Holy Spirit to teach us and we must be willing to be wrong about our original interpretation. We must look at the context of the passage within the chapter as well as within the entire letter. Then look to see what the rest of scripture has to say about the issue. If you have access to a Greek translation/dictionary (there are several online) it is helpful to consider the original language. What we must never do, is turn to the all the "wisdom of man" to explain the passage and then choose the interpretation that best fits our (possibly inherited and unexamined) theological framework.
Context in Galatians
The context of the passage is that Paul is teaching believers how to fulfill the law of Christ: to love one another, to bear one another's burdens and do good to others, especially to those who are in the body of Christ.
The context of the letter is that Paul is admonishing the church in Galatia for "deserting Christ" by accepting a yoke of slavery from the Mosaic Law resulting in their adding to the gospel of Grace, which is not the true gospel of Jesus Christ but another gospel.
"I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting him who called you in the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel" Galatians 1:6
"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. I do not nullify the grace of God, for if righteousness were through the law, then Christ died for no purpose…" Galatians 2:15-17, 21
Paul is also teaching that the Mosaic Law (given 430 years after the promise made to Abraham) kept man in slavery until Jesus Christ came and established a new order: that man would be justified by grace (God's unmerited favor) through faith, thereby nullifying our former guardian and establishing Jesus Christ as our righteousness.
"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," Galatians 3: 23-25a (emphasis mine).
"But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law." Galatians 5:18
This does not mean that believers are free to intentionally sin. Jesus Christ came with new as well as expanded commandments: "believe in me", repent, be born again, be baptized, participate in the LORDS supper, love God and man as Christ loved us, serve the body of Christ…etc. For more on this, see tomorrow's commentary. Paul tells us in Galatians that what matters for inclusion in the gospel of Grace is that we are a new creation (born from above).
"For neither circumcision counts for anything, nor uncircumcision, but a new creation." Galatians 6:15 (emphasis mine).
What does other scripture reveal about this?
We see the phrase, "new creation" also in 2 Corinthians 5:17:
"Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come." (emphasis mine)
We talked about what it is to be in Christ on Monday, but for a refresher we will go to Ephesians 1:13,
"And you also were included in Christ when you heard the message of truth, the gospel of your salvation. When you believed, you were marked in him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit." (emphasis mine)
Once we are born from above we are included in Christ and are a new creation. We are no longer captive to the law of sin and death but are set free by the Spirit of life.
"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." Romans 8:1-2 (emphasis mine)
In Hebrews we see that Jesus Christ is our high priest after the order of Melchizedek. This is a new priestly order. Jesus ushers in a new law:
"Now if perfection had been attainable through the Levitical priesthood (for under it the people received the law), what further need would there have been for another priest to arise after the order of Melchizedek, rather than one named after the order of Aaron? For when there is a change in the priesthood, there is necessarily a change in the law as well." Hebrews 7:11-12
Listen to the words of God quoted in Hebrews 8:8-9a:
"Behold, the days are coming, declares the Lord, when I will establish a new covenant with the house of Israel and with 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."
What covenant did God make with their fathers after bringing them out of Egypt?
"And Moses summoned all Israel and said to them, "Hear, O Israel, the statutes and the rules that I speak in your hearing today, and you shall learn them and be careful to do them. The LORD our God made a covenant with us in Horeb. Not with our fathers did the LORD make this covenant, but with us, who are all of us here alive today. The LORD spoke with you face to face at the mountain, out of the midst of the fire, while I stood between the LORD and you at that time, to declare to you the word of the LORD. For you were afraid because of the fire, and you did not go up into the mountain. He said: 'I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery. ‘You shall have no other gods before Me….'" Deuteronomy 5: 1-7 (emphasis mine)
This is clearly the covenant given by Moses at Mount Horeb, also known as Mount Sinai. This is where God gives the Law to Israel; 430 years after the promise made to Abraham. Adventists say that the "Moral Law" (defined as the 10 commandments) is eternal. While we can agree that God is eternally good, it makes no sense to say that the law itself is eternal. Only God is eternal, He has created everything else. To say the law is eternal is to make a graven image out of it. The law is not God. Furthermore, what need would there be in heaven for commands concerning adultery? Why do Adventists say that the Sabbath commandment was instituted at creation if they also say it is a part of the eternal law? What has been instituted can not be eternal. The Holy Spirit says in Hebrews 8 that the new covenant He will establish will not be like the Mosaic covenant, which scripture clearly states includes the 10 commandments—the tablets of the covenant.
"When God speaks of a "new" covenant, it means he has made the first one obsolete." Hebrews 8:13a
"He cancels the first covenant in order to put the second into effect." Hebrews 10:9b (emphasis mine)
In Hebrews 9:1-4 the writer describes the old covenant (which is called obsolete) and again clearly includes the 10 commandments written in stone.
"That first covenant between God and Israel had regulations for worship and a place of worship here on earth. There were two rooms in that Tabernacle. In the first room were a lampstand, a table, and sacred loaves of bread on the table. This room was called the Holy Place. Then there was a curtain, and behind the curtain was the second room called the Most Holy Place. In that room were a gold incense altar and a wooden chest called the Ark of the Covenant, which was covered with gold on all sides. Inside the Ark were a gold jar containing manna, Aaron's staff that sprouted leaves, and the stone tablets of the covenant." (emphasis mine)
What are the tablets of the covenant?
"Then Moses turned and went down the mountain. He held in his hands the two stone tablets inscribed with the terms of the covenant. They were inscribed on both sides, front and back. These tablets were God's work; the words on them were written by God himself." Exodus 32:15-16 (emphasis mine)
"Once again the Lord wrote the Ten Commandments on the tablets and gave them to me. They were the same words the Lord had spoken to you from the heart of the fire on the day you were assembled at the foot of the mountain. Then I turned and came down the mountain and placed the tablets in the Ark of the Covenant, which I had made, just as the Lord commanded me. And the tablets are still there in the Ark." Deut. 10:4-5 (emphasis mine)
The writer of Hebrews clearly includes the Mosaic Law given on Mount Sinai in the old covenant, which is called "obsolete" ("no longer in use or no longer useful." Merriam-Websters Online Dictionary).
Many Adventist struggle with this because they believe that this would mean Christians are free to go on sinning. This is because Adventists are not taught that there is a Law of Christ that is different from the Mosaic Law. They cannot be taught this because it would destroy the pillars of Adventism. Believers are certainly not free to go on in intentional sin. Through regeneration, the Holy Spirit works in us to will us to act in accord with God's purpose for us. Before the new birth we are under the law of sin and death and man is not under the law of Christ until He is born again (Romans 8). The new law has several names: A new covenant (Jer.31:31); the law of faith (Rom.3:27); the law of the Spirit of life (Rom.8:2); the law of righteousness (Rom.9:31); the law of Christ (Gal.6:2); the new testament (Heb.9:15); the perfect law of liberty (Jam.1:25); the royal law (Jam.2:8); the holy commandment (2Pet.2:21). See Monday's commentary to understand how we are made new as believers.
We do not have the time to show from all of scripture how Jesus fulfilled the Mosaic Law and the Prophets, or how Christians are not under the Mosaic Law. However, we encourage you to pray that the Holy Spirit would illuminate scripture and show you the truth. Romans is a wonderful place to start, and if you find yourself confused about whether or not the Law is divided into two sections (as Adventism teaches), we encourage you to read Hebrews in one sitting. Sometimes it helps to listen to an audio bible while you read along.
The original language
"Ton nomon tou Xristou", or "the law of Christ" means exactly what it says. "Nomon" is correctly translated "law." If this text were talking about fulfilling a "principal" or "command" of Christ the word used would be "entole" which means instruction or command.
In the Sabbath school quarterly the author writes;
"‘fulfilling the law of Christ' is another reference to fulfilling the moral law through love…moral law interpreted by love continues to play an important role in the Christian life. This is the epitome of what Jesus taught during His earthly ministry and also practiced through His life and even in His death. In bearing the burdens of others, we are not only following in the footsteps of Jesus, we are also fulfilling the law."
Man is not to "interpret" God's "moral law" (known as the 10 commandments within Adventism) through "love" or anything else. Jesus fulfilled the Torah: the Law and the Prophets. Interpretation of scripture is the work of the Holy Spirit. The words of this author may sound nice, but they are simply the ideas or "interpretation" of man and not based on the word of God. For the author to write that the "law of Christ" is the Mosaic Law given at Mount Sinai and interpreted through love, then write here that we are capable of fulfilling that law, is to nullify the grace of God and the atonement of Jesus Christ. We cannot fulfill the Mosaic Law before or after the new birth. If we could, we would have no need for a savior. When scripture says we "fulfill the law of Christ" it is talking about something entirely different.
Day 6: Thursday, December 22, 2011 - Sowing and Reaping
The author begins by saying that man can ignore God "or even flout His commandments" but he cannot "outwit" God will one day judge him for his actions. The lesson then moves into the issue of sowing to the flesh and sowing to the spirit. The author gives the stories of Annanias and Sapphira, and Judas Iscariot as examples of sowing to the flesh, and the examples of sowing to the spirit are of Jesus being lead into the desert to be tempted and Daniel refusing to eat from the kings table. The lesson ends with a quote from Timothy George's commentary on Galatians, which states that Christians must do good to the family of God and all of mankind, remembering that all of man is made in the image of God so that we do not fall victim to such sins as, "racism, sexism, tribalism, classism, and a thousand other bigotries..."
First, it is important that we do not skip over verse 6 of this passage as the SS lesson did. In this verse, Paul tells Christians to support the person who is teaching them the word. Nowhere in the NT is there a command to give a 10 % (or any %) tithe to a central location that would manage the gifts and apportion them to the apostles. Instead, we see two things. In Acts 5 we see believers selling their things and "laying them at the feet" of the Apostles (those who were teaching them). We also see a command for believers to take a collection on the first day of the week (Sunday) when they would gather for worship. Free will offerings were given in obedience to the Holy Spirit working in their hearts to give as they were able and impressed to. For more information on giving in the New Covenant, see this link: http://www.cultwatch.com/tithing.html
Ignoring God vs. Flouting His commandments
Now, the lesson begins by making the point that, "people may ignore God or even flout His commandments…" (emphasis mine) and states that man will be judged for his actions. The fact that the author writes of "ignoring God" and "flouting His commandments" as two separate issues is extremely telling of the Adventist yoke to the old covenant. We know that when Adventists speak of God's commandments, they have the 10 commandments in view. When God's commandments are defined this way, then the split makes a bit more sense. It is possible to keep the 10 commandments and ignore God. However, when one realizes that God's commandments in the New Covenant are the commandments of Jesus Christ (God in the flesh) then the idea that "ignoring God" is a different issue from "flouting His commandments" makes no sense at all.
"And Jesus came and said to them, ‘All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age." Matthew 28:18-20 (emphasis mine)
After Jesus resurrection, He sent the disciples to all nations (including gentiles for the first time) and told them to teach them all He had commanded them. He did not tell them to teach the Law, which gentiles would have needed if they were to live by it. Jesus Christ fulfilled the law, He did not divided it into new categories of "fulfilled" and "binding" as Adventists teach. Under the New Covenant Jesus gave us many new and expanded commandments. He also established a new entrance (baptism) and remembrance sign (the Lords Supper), as well as a new seal of the covenant (Holy Spirit). Some of the critical commandments of the new covenant include: believe in the Son of God, repent, be born again, love God and our neighbors as Christ has loved us, be baptized into the Father, Son and Holy Spirit and remember the Lord with the Lord's supper. In no way is this exhaustive. We are commanded to abide in Jesus, in the Word, to fellowship, to pray without ceasing, to worship in spirit and truth, take up our cross, follow Jesus, fear God, to not be anxious, to be humble, to love our enemies…etc. For more on the commandments of Jesus, see John Piper's book: "What Jesus Demands from the World". When one sees that the commandments of God spoken of in the New Testament (including Rev. 14:12) are the commandments given by Jesus Christ (the Great "I AM", Almighty God in the flesh and not simply His finger), it becomes impossible to make ignoring God and flouting His commandments two separate issues!
Sowing to the Flesh
The author then goes on to discuss sowing to the flesh as opposed to sowing to the Spirit. The examples in the quarterly of sowing to the flesh did a good job of showing people who had their own self-interest in mind. However, it is so very important to note that sowing to the flesh does not always look or feel so obviously wrong. Even those who are doing the sowing may not be able to see that they are not sowing to the Spirit without abiding in God's word and learning from the Holy Spirit. The mind is a part of the flesh and in Ephesians 2: 3 we see that a part of sowing to the flesh is carrying out the desires of the mind. Far too often, it is tempting to question what God "really meant" as the serpent did in Eden, or to explain difficult doctrine with, "the god I serve would never___." Man must be careful to keep God on the throne or he runs the risk of finding himself among the godless. In second Timothy, we see a list of characteristics of godlessness. To be godless one does not have to have all of these characteristics. That point is clear by the fact that brutal, treacherous people do not have the appearance of godliness.
"For people will be lovers of self, lovers of money, proud, arrogant, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, heartless, unappeasable, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not loving good, treacherous, reckless, swollen with conceit, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, having the appearance of godliness, but denying its power. Avoid such people. For among them are those who creep into households and capture weak women, burdened with sins and led astray by various passions, always learning and never able to arrive at a knowledge of the truth." 2 Timothy 3: 2-7 (emphasis mine)
Another example of sowing to the flesh (which was a surprise to those who did the sowing) is given in Matthew 7: 21-22.
"‘Not everyone who says to me, 'Lord, Lord,' will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. On that day many will say to me, 'Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?'"
Sowing to the flesh is not always "neatly packaged" into identifiable "sin boxes" such as sexual immorality, gossip, murder, drunkenness, adultery, thievery, coveting, malice and the like. One of the things scripture has revealed to us since leaving Adventism is that religious idolatry and self-righteousness are sins that keep people feeling relatively good about them selves (while simultaneously keeping them in fear), and sometimes keep them from saving faith in the Lord Jesus. For us, the 10 commandments (especially the 4th) had become our "graven image". Sabbath keeping was our "eternal-life raft". Through God's word we eventually began to see truth and knew God was telling us to go to a Christian church that met on Sunday. It was very confusing. In order to obey God, we had to disobey God? Well, that only made sense if Sabbath was our God. The Lord Jesus, through His word (starting with Galatians in fact) opened our eyes to see that we were not bound by the Law and that we needed to leave the shadow to follow the substance. Walking away from the Sabbath meant trusting that Jesus really is the only one whose work counted for our salvation. Our religious idol and self-reliance on maintaining salvation was sowing to the flesh. In Galatians 1:6 Paul says that to look back to the Old Covenant (even to do what we think or are taught is right) is to desert Christ! Our most sincere understanding or justifying of our beliefs cannot change reality. Either we are trusting in Jesus as revealed by the Holy Spirit in scripture, or we are not.
Salvation is a Gift Not a Reward
An important fact in the matter of sowing and reaping, which Adventism does not teach, is that our sowing and reaping is not about Salvation. Salvation is a gift that we receive the moment we believe and are born from above! There is nothing we can do to earn or even maintain our salvation—it is a gift and it is ours forever.
"For the gifts and the calling of God are irrevocable," Romans 11:29 (emphasis mine).
A gift cannot be a reward because we earn rewards by our work. Scripture is clear, salvation is a gift of God!
"Now to the one who works, his wages are not counted as a gift but as his due." Romans 4:4 (NLT)
"For everyone has sinned; we all fall short of God's glorious standard. Yet God, with undeserved kindness, declares that we are righteous. He did this through Christ Jesus when he freed us from the penalty for our sins. For God presented Jesus as the sacrifice for sin. People are made right with God when they believe that Jesus sacrificed his life, shedding his blood… Can we boast, then, that we have done anything to be accepted by God? No, because our acquittal is not based on obeying the law. It is based on faith. So we are made right with God through faith and not by obeying the law." Romans 3:23-25, 27, 28 (emphasis mine)
"For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast." Ephesians 2:8-9
"For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to everyone who believes." Romans 10:4
So What are these Rewards About?
Salvation is our gift. Period. However, scripture does speak of rewards for our works. These rewards are for those who belong to salvation and we receive them once we are in Heaven.
"Blessed are you when people hate you and when they exclude you and revile you and spurn your name as evil, on account of the Son of Man! Rejoice in that day, and leap for joy, for behold, your reward is great in heaven; for so their fathers did to the prophets." Luke 26: 22-23 (emphasis mine)
We see from this passage that we will receive rewards in Heaven and not that the reward is Heaven. In the next passage, you will see that the rewards we reap in Heaven are about our work on earth. It is important to note that this is speaking to born again believers whose foundation is the Jesus Christ of the Bible, not an extra biblical variation of Him (2 Cor. 11:3-4). The things built out of lasting material are the things we sow to the Spirit, those that are burnt up are the things we sow to the flesh. Notice that things sown to the flesh do not affect our salvation.
"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 Corinthians 3:11-15, emphasis mine)
The only way a person can sow to the Spirit is to be born of the Spirit because we must have the Jesus Christ of scripture as our foundation. As we sow to the Spirit God will produce a harvest and we will be rewarded in Heaven. If a person is not born again then they do not store up treasure in Heaven, though the Lord might use them for His purpose.
Another interesting thing to note. Just after Jesus talks about those who did mighty deeds in His name without being known by Him (in Matthew 7), He talks about building on a proper foundation.
"Therefore whoever hears these sayings of Mine, and does them, I will liken him to a wise man who built his house on the rock: and the rain descended, the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house; and it did not fall, for it was founded on the rock. But everyone who hears these sayings of Mine, and does not do them, will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand: and the rain descended, the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house; and it fell. And great was its fall." Matthew 7:24-27 (emphasis mine)
Those who were doing mighty deeds (works) in His name, were not building on a foundation of Faith in Jesus Christ for their salvation. They had the appearance of godliness as we saw above but ultimately denied the power of Jesus Christ to save to the uttermost. Here we see that it is possible to build a house on a foundation other than Jesus Christ, even if we say, "Lord, Lord." Have you ever driven through a housing development where every house looks the same? There is no way to know by looking at the house if the foundation is good or not. Here Jesus teaches that the foundation is revealed by how the house reacts to external stress. Are you building your house on a foundation that says you must build in order to maintain its strength and reliability? Or is your house built on the solid foundation of Jesus Christ which sustains testing fire and saves even if your house is burnt up? These two foundations are not compatible. Pray and examine your heart. Ask Jesus to show you what motivates you and reveal the truth to you about what you believe.
In conclusion, it is critical to understand that Salvation is a gift that must be received by faith in Jesus Christ as revealed through the gospel of scripture only (1 Cor. 15:1-5, Gal. 1: 6). Part of what it means to have faith in Jesus is to trust Him with your present physical life and with your eternal life. Believe what He says and do not question and analyze him as Eve did with the serpent. Take Him at His divine word. Jesus paid the price for your sin; you do not have to. There is no penance to be made, there is no proving yourself worthy, Jesus loves you so much that he died for you just as you are and if you believe this He counts you righteous now. We must not arrogantly wave our flag of obedience to show that we are aligned with God. Sacrifices He does not seek, but a contrite and believing heart are pleasing to the Lord. Examine your heart. Consider that to say that you have "faith" in Jesus without trusting that He did what scripture says He did, because you hold onto the doctrines of "educated men", is not having saving faith. Pray and ask the Lord to give you eyes to see where you do not trust Him and repent of any personal attempts of maintaining the gift of salvation so that you can finally accept the gift. If you read about reaping and sowing and see rewards as eternal life, then you do not yet know what Jesus did for you. Say a prayer now. He is faithful and He loves you.
Day 7: Friday
Friday ends with a quote from Ellen G. White as well as list of topical discussion questions.
The discussion questions are designed to create conversation that encourages pontificating about things that should be left to the LORD and the word of God to reveal. This cultural norm among Adventists is one of the subtle ways man keeps his intellect on the throne rather then submitted to the Word of God. Far too often Sabbath school classes are lead with "thought provoking" questions rather than with clear text-by-text teaching that involves studying context and language. These quarterly questions are also designed to lead the reader to consider moving into action regarding the call to "do good." A wonderful intention, but empty without the new birth that can only occur through trust in the true gospel of Jesus Christ—alone.
It is sad for us to see deep and exciting truths of the week's passage so neglected. We do understand that the true context can only be seen in light of the true gospel. This lesson was not a careful expository study of Galatians but a mental exercise through a maze of proof texts and moral lessons extrapolated by the careful and intentional leading of the quarterly writer and Sabbath school leaders. We encourage you who are questioning to consider putting down your man made Sabbath school quarterly for three months and simply read scripture only. Pray that the Holy Spirit would begin to teach you and take away any preconceived ideas about the meaning of the scripture you are reading. Consider seriously, why would such a challenge be damaging to your walk with Jesus? If your only source for truth is the Bible and you allow the Holy Spirit to teach you (putting away your presuppositions created by the GC worldview), then if Ellen. G. White is biblical you would only be lead back into your religion. If she were not though, imagine what God has in store for you!
It is our deep conviction through testing Ellen G. White against scripture that she is a false prophet and that it is impossible to "disown" her and remain Adventist. A simple disavow of her teachings and a deep commitment to the Adventist culture is a weak and dangerous stance. Without careful study of the word and the history of the organization, it is impossible for Adventists to know what among the pile of doctrines they hold onto come from her visions and her great controversy teachings, and what is sola scriptura. Because we view EGW as a false prophet, we will only address her writings with the use of scripture.
"But false prophets also arose among the people, just as there will be false teachers among you, who will secretly bring in destructive heresies…" 2 Peter 2:1a "Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, for many false prophets have gone out into the world." 1 John 4:1
"If anyone teaches a different doctrine and does not agree with the sound words of our Lord Jesus Christ and the teaching that accords with godliness, he is puffed up with conceit and understands nothing. He has an unhealthy craving for controversy and for quarrels about words, which produce envy, dissension, slander, evil suspicions," 1 Timothy 6:3-4
"For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions, and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths." 2 Timothy 4:3-4
" I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting him who called you in the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel— not that there is another one, but there are some who trouble you and want to distort the gospel of Christ. But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach to you a gospel contrary to the one we preached to you, let him be accursed. As we have said before, so now I say again: If anyone is preaching to you a gospel contrary to the one you received, let him be accursed." Galatians 1:6-9