(Update 2014 Q4 Introduction)
The introduction to the lesson points out in the third paragraph, that Martin Luther considered the book of James to be an “epistle of straw.” Luther relegated James, Jude, Revelation and Hebrews to the back of the Bible and stated he couldn’t find Christ in these books and didn’t consider them part of Scripture. (mostly useful for devotions but not for doctrinal value)
The lesson rightly points out in the fourth paragraph of the introduction, “Luther’s emphasis on Paul’s epistles, especially Romans and Galatians, and his rejection of James for anything more than devotional value, has influenced a large segment of Christian thinking through the centuries.” [It sure has]
First I want to point out Luther was a hero of the reformation, a man of God used by God, but not a perfect person, a human being with limited understanding who didn’t come to resolve all the distortions that had infected Christianity over the centuries.
I expect to see Luther in Heaven and we owe Luther a lot, but Luther was coming from a position in which there was so much distortion that infected Christianity, it wasn’t really possible for him singly and alone to break free of it all, but he did a great job of opening the door so to speak to this process.
How has Christianity been influenced by the rejection of James and the three other books by Luther?
a) Emphasis on thoughts and not experience. Basically having the right beliefs, or holding the right doctrines.
b) The loss of the larger view of a controversy involving the entire universe over God’s trustworthiness. Basically it’s almost expunged when you get rid of those four books.
c) The focus on a self-centered read of Scripture, it is all about me and MY salvation. (Have I been saved? Christ died to pay for MY sins, and it put US at the center rather than putting God and His character and His government and His methods at the center)
d) In reaction to the infection of imposed law with all its arbitrariness, a legal religious emphasis, frequently referred to as penal substitution which focuses on legal pardon, legal solutions, legal adjustments and devalues or ignores actual transformation and regeneration of people.
(if you look at much of Christianity today, what is salvation? if someone is asking “Have you been saved?” what are they asking? “Have you accepted Jesus?” “have you had the payment made on your behalf? have you had your sins purged from the record books of Heaven, ?” some legal thing that you’ve done…. ,they are not primarily asking have you been healed in your heart and mind to live like Jesus…)
Division and factions as Christians focus on the right legal and proper interpretation of a verse, doctrine, prophecy, rather than identifying God’s design protocols and principles for living
Any other examples or thoughts?
Recently, I have noted, that I personally have become uncomfortable with some theories/language being used in the Sabbath School Lesson. When I research mostly what our founders researched and stated has a different meaning than what we can find in our Sabbath School Lesson. I believe I was impressed by the Holy Spirit to create this website to provide alternative point of view on what the Sabbath School Lesson is printing.
Disclaimer: I’m not stating that I get everything right, God is infinite we are finite, I hope we can all remain teachable. Each day on this website, I will post comments under each daily lesson for additional reading and thoughts. These thoughts may or may NOT be shared or approved by the original authors of the Sabbath School Lesson.
Furthermore, you can find us on facebook at www.facebook.com/sabbathschoolquarterly
Here are some examples to make my point;
For instance, if we say we don’t believe in “penal substitution” some individuals allege we don’t believe in the substationary nature of Christ’s death, which of course is not true. This appears to happen because the people who make such allegations seem to consider “penal substitution” the only possible way for Christ to be our substitute. So, I thought I would provide this blog, which may be of benefit to many of you, our readers, if you find yourself confronted with similar concerns.
· Denying Penal Substitution does NOT mean denying the substitutionary nature of Christ’s death
· Denying God punished Jesus at the cross does NOT mean Jesus avoided God’s wrath
· Denying God placed every sin ever committed upon Jesus does NOT mean Jesus did not become sin for us, He did
· Denying Christ paid a legal penalty does NOT mean Christ did not pay an infinite price, He did
The key difference is how one understands God’s law. Individuals who make allegations like those cited above, tend to see God’s law as “imposed,” like human law, rules dictated without inherent consequence, which requires the ruling authority to police breeches in the law and punish the guilty.
But, when we come back to the call of the first angel of Revelation 14 and worship “him who made the heavens, earth and seas…”; when we come back to worship the Designer and reject the dictator view of God, everything changes.
God’s law is NOT like a Roman emperor. God is Creator, Builder, Designer, and His law is the law upon which life is constructed to operate, on all levels, physical, relational, moral. Deviate from this design and one takes oneself out of harmony with how the Designer constructed life to exist, if God does nothing, then death ensues.
Thus, once Adam sinned, mankind was deviant from God’s design, “dead in trespass and sin,” in a terminal condition. (Eph 2:1) If the Designer doesn’t intervene humankind will die, from sin. “Sin when full grown brings forth death.” (James 1:15) It is as simple as that.
Jesus, then, becomes our substitute, by taking our condition upon Himself in order to heal and cure the condition. “God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.” (2Cor 5:21) It is by his wounds, his sacrifice that “we are healed.” (Isa 53:5)
Thus, when we understand God’s law, His design for life, the law of love, we recognize our sinfulness, our sinful state, our deviant condition is out of harmony with how He built life to operate. Further, we recognize Christ took up this “terminal” condition and He fixed what Adam’s sin did to humanity.
Jesus destroyed the infection of fear and selfishness and established God’s perfect law of love within the humanity He assumed. Thus, He became sin, suffered the horrible pain this condition brings, yet through the ordeal loved perfectly thereby purifying and perfecting the humanity He assumed. But He did not have individual acts placed upon Him that were then individually punished by some external cosmic authority.
But, if one accepts the lie of the little horn, the change to God’s law, that God’s law is like manmade law, imposed without inherent consequence, one falsely believes that deviation from God’s design requires the lawgiver to impose punishment. Therefore, one falsely believes that the nature of Jesus’ substitutionary death was not for healing, but to pay an imposed legal penalty. Further, one falsely believes God actually used His power to execute Jesus on the cross, punishing Him for each individual act of sin ever committed. Isaiah prophesied we would misunderstand, “Surely he took up our infirmities and carried our sorrows, yet we considered him stricken by God, smitten by him, and afflicted.” (Isa 53:4)
Note, Jesus took up our “infirmities” our sick state, in order to heal and cure; yet we would misunderstand and think God was striking Him. Those who promote penal substitution teach this lie, that God, in order to be just had to strike Jesus.
Yes, Jesus did experience God’s wrath upon sin, when God abandoned Jesus to experience what Jesus had chosen, to go through the cross as our substitute. Note, what Jesus cried out, “My God, My God, why have you forsaken me.” (MT 27:46) Not, “Why are your torturing me? Or “executing me?” Jesus didn’t avoid the wrath of God, which is God’s letting go to reap what one has chosen. (See Romans 1:18-31) Yet, God also never laid a hand upon His Son.
Because God’s law is the design template upon which life is constructed, because humankind after Adam was deviant from this design and in a terminal condition, because humanity is incapable of remedying this situation (in other words putting ourselves back into harmony with God’s design), God sent His Son to do this work for us. This would cost the Godhead more than we will ever know, but it was not a legal price paid to the heavenly treasurer. It was the price necessary by our condition to free us from Satan’s lies and our own carnal nature.
An analogy would be the high price someone pays when they donate a kidney to a loved one dying of renal failure. Yes, the person who donates a kidney pays a price, but it is not a legal price. Likewise, our situation, our condition, required fixing; the only way to do that was by the exercise of a human brain. Jesus became human to do this for us, and it cost Him beyond measure.
So, next time someone suggests we don’t believe in the substitutionary nature of Christ’s death, feel confident in your answer. Christ is our substitute in fixing what Adam’s sin did to humanity, restoring God’s law of love back into humanity, and thereby procuring the Remedy which heals all who trust Him, recreating within each of us a new heart and right spirit, so that it is no longer I that live but Christ lives in me. Through Christ, we become partakers of the divine nature and reconciled into unity with God. (Ezek 36:26, Gal 2:20, 2Pet 1:4). Please feel free to comment!