Wednesday, October 17, 2018

The Law and the Gospel

The Law and the Gospel

Memory Text: "Now by this we know that we know Him, if we keep His commandments. He who says, 'I know Him,' and does not keep His commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him" (1 John 2:3, 4, NKJV).

This verse presents a dilemma because depending on how you read it the emphasis could be on knowing Christ- (which would make keeping the law a fruit of knowing Him) or on keeping the law (which would make knowing Him a fruit of keeping the law).  Which one is it? 

We could try looking at the verse closer and see where it leads us.  Let us start within the expression, "that we know Him."  In John 17:3, Christ stated that knowing Him (and His Father) is eternal life.  In John 6, Christ says that eating His flesh and drinking His blood gives life.  When we eat and drink, we assimilate the food and beverages; it becomes part of us.  So, although we do not think about it in this manner, there is an intimate relation between food and us.  What we eat and how we eat will eventually be revealed.  This is akin to knowing someone, the more time you spend with them, the more the two assimilate each other. Finally, it will be evident that the two spend a lot of time together.  To those around Peter, it became apparent that Peter was with Jesus; Peter now spoke like a Galilean (Matthew 26:73).  Peter in many ways acted like Jesus.  So, Peter's speech was evidence that he was with Jesus.  Peter did not go around speaking like Jesus to prove that he was one of them.  It just came out.  When the disciples preached many said that it was evident that they had been with Jesus.  There was a transformation. 

The next expression is "Keeping the commandments."  Who are these that keep them? Paul identifies the just as those who keep the commandments (Romans 2: 13).  The words just and righteous are the same word in Greek.  Abraham was just.  How was Abraham just?  He believed God's words, and it was counted to Him for righteousness (Romans 4:3).  Now, if Abraham's faith made him just, and the just keep the commandments, it follows that only those who hear God's words and believe them (since faith comes through Hearing and hearing through the word) keep the commandments (Romans 10:17).  The best way to know someone is to hear what they say and seek to understand them. 

What are the commandments?  We could argue that they are the Ten Commandments.  We typically also call it the Law.  The Ten Commandments speak of things we would do for others, not ourselves.  Not one of the commandments says anything about how you are to treat yourself, but how you are to treat God and others.  Christ stated in Matthew 22: 37 - 40,

Mat 22:37 Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind.
Mat 22:38 This is the first and great commandment.
Mat 22:39 And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.
Mat 22:40 On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.

This is a summary of the commandments.  It says in essence, put God and others first.  This is what Jesus did, he put His Father and others first.  So much that He went to die on the cross, so others may live.  That is why the Father sent Him (Romans 5:8).  So, John puts it this way,

1Jo 3:16 Hereby perceive we the love of God, because he laid down his life for us: and we ought to lay down our lives for the brethren.

In the Gospel according to John 15: 10 – 17, Jesus is quoted saying that this is the commandment He gives to us,

John 15:10 If ye keep my commandments, ye shall abide in my love; even as I have kept my Father's commandments, and abide in his love…
John 15:12 This is my commandment, That ye love one another, as I have loved you.
John 15:13 Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.
John 15:17 These things I command you, that ye love one another.

And we see in this passage how laying down your life is related to abiding in Christ's love.  So, is love related to the commandments?  Paul gives the answer,

Romans 13:10 Love worketh no ill to his neighbour: therefore love is the fulfilling of the law.

How do we relate faith to all of these?  Sin is the transgression of the law (1 John 3:4).  Anything outside of faith is Sin (Romans 14:23).   So, anything outside of faith transgresses the Law.  We have concluded that the law, in essence, says to love God and others above yourself; so, not loving God and others above yourself – or loving yourself above others – is transgressing the law, and it is not of faith; therefore it is a Sin.  So, if love fulfills the law and does not transgress it, love is not Sin therefore love is of faith.  This means that since loving God and others above yourself is laying down your life, then it follows that only those who lay down their life for others, as Christ laid His life down for us, are just or righteous; they keep the law.  So, how do we know you know Christ?  Because you are willing to lay down your life for others as He laid His down for you. 

Friday, October 5, 2018

Elusive Righteousness

Elusive Righteousness
 
The Word elusive means: difficult to find, catch, or achieve; difficult to remember or recall; to elude capture, perception, comprehension, or memory; difficult to define or describe; be difficult to detect or grasp by the mind.  We use this word to describe something that may seem within grasp, but yet we can never reach it.  It could be used for that promotion or raise you never get.  In some organizations, a specific landmark amount of members is never reached.  It can be used for a fugitive or criminal that is hard to catch.  It is also used for a particular animal that is hard to hunt or fish.
 
There is a metaphor used in an old Spanish love song that I think illustrates this point well.  To tell the lover his or her love will always be unrequited, the singer makes this statement,
 
"The sea and the sky look equally blue
and in the distance, they seem to meet and unite,
better remember that the sky is always sky
that never, never will the sea reach."
 
The point is obvious, "As the sky is elusive to the sea, so am I to you."
 
God's ways are higher than ours.  God says through Isaiah "For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts" (Isaiah 55:9).  In the above metaphor, we are the sea, and the Lord is the sky.  We will never reach God.  That is why God sent His Son to reach us.  So anything from God is unattainable for us unless it is through Jesus.  That is why Paul says that "Therefore we conclude that a man is justified by faith without the deeds of the law" (Romans 3:28).  The word justified means to be made righteous; this means that man is made righteous by faith and not by attempting to obey the law in his strength.  Paul is saying that your effort to obey the law on your own will be futile and therefore you will never be righteous.  Righteousness will be elusive in your strength.  The more you try, the harder it gets to reach it. 
 
But, Paul makes it clear that being justified by faith does not make the law void, on the contrary, it exalts the law (Romans 3:31).  Then He uses Abraham as an example of how justification by faith works.  Paul says of Abraham,
 
Romans 4:1 What shall we say then that Abraham our father, as pertaining to the flesh, hath found?
Romans 4:2 For if Abraham were justified by works, he hath whereof to glory; but not before God.
Romans 4:3 For what saith the scripture? Abraham believed God, and it was counted unto him for righteousness.
 
Abraham was no exception in regards to how to become righteous.  It was not on his strength, but by faith.  He believed God's Word and this believing the Word was counted to Him as righteousness.  Ellen White says that Righteousness is obedience to the law (Selected Messages, book 1, p. 367); this means that when Abraham believed God's word, it was counted unto Him as obedience to the law.  It was faith that made Abraham a doer of the Law.  And, so it is with us.