Sabbath School Lesson Review 2017 Quarter 3 Lesson 11
Sabbath School Lesson 2017 Quarter 3 Lesson 11 Friday
Now in chapter 5, Paul reviews what he said. “You see brethren, for freedom Christ has set us free.” How about John again; “If only you knew the truth, the truth would set you free. Stand fast therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery.” That would mean rejecting the truth and the good news, and accepting Satan’s lies about God.
“Now I, Paul, say to you that if you receive circumcision, Christ will be of no advantage to you. I testify again to every man who receives circumcision, that he’s bound to keep the whole law,” if you want to go back to that old system. “You are severed from Christ, you who would be justified by the law. You have fallen away from grace, and all that brings to us. For through the Spirit, by faith, we wait for the hope of righteousness. For in Christ Jesus, neither circumcision nor uncircumcision is of any avail, faith, trust, working through love. You were running well.” Evidently, when he first came with the good news, they loved it, and they rejoiced in the new freedom of knowing the truth about God.
“But who hindered you from obeying the truth? This persuasion is not from him who called you.” Wasn’t from me, wasn’t from God, wasn’t from the Holy Spirit. “A little leaven leavens the whole lump. I have confidence in the Lord, that you will take no other view than mine.” Now once again –is that arrogant? It’s only with respect to the truth about God that Paul is willing to say such daring words.
“If anyone disagrees with my picture of God, He’s wrong.” Is it alright to be that sure? Is it alright to say, “I have confidence that you will take no other view than mine”? Ellen White says that “In the day that we’re all called singly and alone to give a reason for the hope that is in us, we must not only know the truth, but know that we know it. Isn’t that what Paul is demonstrating here, that I’m confident that you’ll take no other view than mine. I’d stake my life on the position I’ve taken about God.
“And he who is troubling you will bear His judgment, whoever he is. But if I, brethren, still preach circumcision, why am I still persecuted? In that case, the stumbling block of the cross has been removed.” You see, to abandon circumcision and accept the good news that the cross represented was dangerous. Paul risked his life because of what he taught on this subject. “I wish those who unsettle you would mutilate themselves.”
We’ve discussed that before, and maybe the version in front of you has that very dramatically stated. “For you were called to freedom, brethren.” He keeps coming back to this, doesn’t he? “If only you knew the good news, the truth, you would feel free. Only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh.” He always does this. After he’s emphasized freedom, in due course he has to caution them, “Now don’t misunderstand what I mean.”
You remember when he kept emphasizing in Romans, “We’re not under law, we’re under grace”, and so on? Eventually he had to say “Now, does faith abolish law? God forbid, on the contrary, faith establishes law.” And you remember in Romans 12, he says we’re not under law but under grace, “Shall I therefore sin, because I’m not under law but under grace? God forbid, on the contrary, those who have accepted the truth about our gracious God will be the least likely to act in a rebellious, unloving way.
For the spirit of love and truth has brought them the good news about the graciousness of God.” And that is the opposite of sin and rebellion. “But through love,” he says, “be servants of one another. For the whole law is fulfilled in one word.” Now, are we reading Romans or Galatians here? Do you remember Romans 13:8, 10? Doesn’t he cover much of the same ground as in Romans? “You shall love your neighbor as yourself. But if you bite and devour one another, take heed that you are not consumed by one another.” That’s really clear, isn’t it?
I believe that the essence of legalism is preoccupation with our legal standing with a legal, legalistic God. And so many Christians are preoccupied with their legal standing, because they don’t really know God. They don’t realize that He is a gracious God who is not preoccupied with our legal standing.
Like the father of the prodigal son, he’s very preoccupied with our welfare and whether or not we will come home. Unfortunately, the word “legalism” is often misused. So I will repeat it: The essence of legalism is preoccupation with one’s legal standing with God.
Could a person believe and accept, for instance, Christ’s sacrifice in his or her place —could he or she think of that in such a way that they would in effect be a legalist?
- Yes, this is something to say very carefully. But I really believe that’s true. If you believe Jesus died primarily to adjust our legal standing with a God who is preoccupied with our legal standing, you are a legalist. And this means that you no longer take the blood of bulls and goats to God to adjust your legal standing—and I’d want to say this very reverently—you now take him the blood of his son and say, “Will this adjust my legal standing?” He would say, “That’s good; now, you’ve brought me the right blood.” This is legalism.
So if the purpose of our idea or our experience of salvation is meeting a legal requirement or it satisfies a legal requirement, it becomes a matter of legalism. That’s the devil’s sad perversion. He has actually taken the death of Christ, which is a monument to freedom and suggests that God is not preoccupied with our legal standing; the devil has turned that into just another ceremony to adjust legal standing.
In other words, those who misunderstood the ceremonies in Old Testament times but then became Christians, applied the same misunderstanding to the cross and to the blood of Christ. It’s just that now they have better blood and more persuasiveness with the Father to adjust their legal standing. It sounds terrible to say that.
It seems to me that the meaning and the problem of legalism to a much broader perspective, a very important perspective. It is certainly something to think about. It supports the devil’s charges that God is arbitrary, exacting, vengeful, unforgiving, and severe. See, all legalism is based on the conception that God has to execute those who disobey him. Therefore, it follows that forgiveness will take care of it. That’s what produces legalism.
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