Sabbath School Lesson Review 2017 Quarter 4 Lesson 5
Sabbath School Lesson 2017 Quarter 4 Lesson 5 Friday
So, if possible, when you come to a verse like “Abraham had faith in God and it was reckoned unto him as righteousness,” don’t immediately let cash registers ring. You see, that’s only one way of reading that verse. It could mean, “Abraham trusted God, and God said, ‘That’s good.’ That’s what I want. That’s what I’m looking for. You’re my friend. And I will save all my friends.’” And there are no legal connotations to that at all. Though of course the great majority of theologians for hundreds of years have read these words and phrases as legal. There is another way.
Then how do we win people, but by talking about God to them. But don’t just make claims. Say, “Here’s the evidence. Look at the way he treats sinners—Simon, and Judas, and all the rest. That’s the kind of God he is. He’s not only powerful, but he can be trusted to use his power in such a way that some of us are won to trust.” Abraham trusted God, and God said, “That’s good.” Or, Abraham trusted God, and cash registers rang, and there was imputing of things. Well, the language is in there. How are we to understand it? Romans is the best place to discuss it. But the best way to understand Romans is to read the rest of Paul’s epistles, one after the other.
But, why then the law? It was added to protect us until we had better understanding and better motivation. We thank God for the rules he gave us. Some are very stern. We needed them. But we must understand that they were emergency measures. Now look at Romans 3:31: “Does this mean, what we’ve been saying, that by this faith we do away with the Law? No, not at all; instead we uphold the Law.” (Good News Bible) Thank God for it because we needed it. Now Paul makes it plain that the rules are for the misbehaving members of the family. Look at that remarkable verse, 1 Timothy 1:8, 9 We know that the law is good if a man uses it properly [it can be misused]. We also know that law is made not for good men but for lawbreakers and rebels, the ungodly and sinful. (NIV) And the Phillips translation of the same passage: “We also know that the law is not really meant for the good man, but for the man who has neither principles or self-control.” If you have principles and self-control, you are led by the Holy Spirit, and you don’t need to be told to love God and to love each other. That is God’s ideal.
Now, the same understanding is true of the whole sacrificial system, which was certainly not against us to be taken out of the way. It was for us to teach things we needed to know. Most especially were the sacrifices given to remind us of sin and its consequences, how serious it was. Look at Hebrews 10:3, 4: “But in these sacrifices there is a reminder of sin year after year [that’s its function]. For it is impossible that the blood of bulls and goats should take away sin.”
One of the charges of Satan is that God has lied that death is the result of sin. Is he beginning to answer that all through here; Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers and Deuteronomy? Though the ultimate answer is not until Calvary, is it? The fact that sin and death are related is a very important point in the great controversy. Look at Hebrews 10:3 to see if the New Testament so interprets it. That would be of great consequence to us. Look at Hebrews 10:3. Now, we really need to read all of Hebrews, or certainly the few chapters leading up to 10, but here is the heart of it, “In these sacrifices there is a reminder of sin, year after year.” Now there’s an interpretation. In the sacrifices which involved death and the participation of the sinner in that death; think of all that was involved, that was a reminder of sin year after year, not a solution. That’s made very plain in Hebrews, isn’t it? If it was a solution, there would have been no need for Christ to come. But it served as a reminder, which means it said something. Just as the Sabbath is a reminder week after week of something of great consequence, so the sacrifices were a reminder of something. Isn’t communion a reminder, isn’t foot-washing a reminder, of Thursday evening in the upper room?
Now is God, as he is revealed in Jesus in the New Testament, is he really gentler than in the Old Testament? The only remedy for that is to go through the sixty-six, it seems to me, and note how much tenderness there is in the Old Testament. Things you’ve preached on many times: God in his vineyard. How tenderly that is told, “What more could I do for you?” Or “How have I wearied you, my people?” Of course, the whole book of Hosea is so moving. Or elsewhere, God says, “Anyone who touches you touches the apple of my eye.” That is sometimes translated, “Anybody who hurts you, my people, sticks his finger in the eye of the Almighty.” That would hurt! And God says, “That’s the way I feel about you.” One of the most impressive, though, is God’s treatment of David. Now, David sinned enough to be disfellowshipped periodically from this SDA Church, and yet God says to his son Solomon, “Solomon, obey me in all things, just as your father David did.” That is one of the most generous things in the whole Bible, so I want to use it when we talk about the subject of perfection
Does God want us to avoid him in the hereafter because he has been so forgiving? Because we would be uncomfortable in his presence, in fear that perhaps he might bring up the subject of our sinful past? Mere pardon is no guarantee that he won’t do that. So God not only forgives, he also treats us as if we had never sinned. More than that, he even treats us as if we had always been his loyal children. How do we know that to be true? Is that based on a promise? Now, a promise is only a claim. Is there evidence and demonstration in Scripture that God not only forgives us, but he will treat us as if we have always been his loyal children? Look how God spoke to Solomon about his father, David in 1 Kings 9:3, 4: “The Lord said to him [Solomon] . . . ‘If you walk before me in integrity of heart and uprightness, as David your father did. . . .’”(NIV) Integrity of heart? Uprightness? Think of all the things that David did! And yet, because David had been set right with God and had been won back to trust and had received a new heart and a right spirit, God describes sinful David as if he had always been his loyal son. He did it to David. He is willing to do it to every one of us.
Now we all in the ordinary, legalistic course of events ought to die, and if God let us die, it would prove the truthfulness of his words. But God did not ask us to prove that he told the truth. It was essential that the universe know that the consequences of the wages of sin is death, and to know that it is Satan who has lied when he says that is not true. God had told the truth. This had to be demonstrated. And back in Romans 3, Paul has said that God showed his Son publicly dying to answer that question, to demonstrate that God is righteous in having apparently overlooked men’s former sins. “The wages of sin is death” has always been true; it always will be true. Disorderly rebelliousness in God’s orderly universe will result in death. But the truthfulness of that has been demonstrated by God himself, he doesn’t ask us to do it.
We usually use 1 John 3:4, and we usually translate that, “Sin is the transgression of the law.” But that’s a rather expansive translation of one word. And it tempts one to put the Ten Commandments up on the wall and say, “Well, I haven’t broken that one, and that one, and that one, and that one, so this has been a rather good day.” Paul used to look down the Ten, and on a Tuesday night when he knelt to pray, he could say, “This has been a good day. I haven’t murdered anybody. I haven’t committed adultery today. I haven’t stolen today. I haven’t broken the Sabbath, because it was Tuesday anyway. I thank Thee, Lord, I am not like this publican over here.” And then he looked at the tenth, and he realized he had been breaking them. Because sin in 1 John 3:4, is not “the transgression of the Law.”
The Greek says “sin is lawlessness.” Sin is a state of mind. It’s an attitude. And that’s what is here. “Whoever knows what is right to do and fails to do it, to him it is rebelliousness.” “Lawlessness” is the literal Greek word in 1 John 3:4. Moreover, when you think of the fact that it’s God who has told us what to do, and everything he has asked us to do is for our best good, and if we do not do it, that suggests distrust. And you remember in Romans 14, the last verse: “Whatever is not of faith and trust is sin.” Sin is a breach of trust. And I think we would protect ourselves from a rather mechanical understanding—or misunderstanding of sin, if we put these three verses together instead of one. Romans 14, James 4 and 1 John 3. “Sin is lawlessness.” “Sin is knowing what you ought to do but not doing it.” “Sin is a breach of trust.” And I think they’re all in harmony there, aren’t they? You could even put Malachi with it: “Cursed be the cheat.” Not that God hates cheats. He just can’t help cheats. He can’t save and heal cheats.
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