Saturday, December 8, 2012

Patterns of Law & Grace


“The Law and the Gospel”
[Patterns of Grace]

December 8, 2012

Sabbath School Class
Larry R Evans

Introduction

“There is an old story about a navy warship that was heading through the fog one night when a distant, faint light appeared directly in their heading.  As they continued, it got brighter and the captain walked to the helm to assess the situation.  Abut that time a voice came over the radio and said, ‘Attention. Calling the vessel traveling eighteen knots on a 220 heading, adjust your course thirty degrees, immediately.’

The captain got on the radio and responded, ‘This is the vessel on the 220 heading.  You adjust your course thirty degrees.’

‘Negative, Captain.  You adjust,’ came the reply.

‘I am an admiral in the United Sates navy.’ Said the commander. ‘Who am I speaking to?’

‘I am an ensign in the U.S. Coast Guard.’

‘Then, I suggest you adjust your course.’

‘No, sir. I suggest that you adjust yours.’
‘We are a U.S. navy warship,’ said the admiral. ‘ You adjust.’

‘We are a lighthouse,’ said the ensign.’

Some things are just bigger than we are.  But that doesn’t mean that we always know that they are. . . . To live and flourish, we must bow to the things larger than us.”
(Dr. Henry Cloud in Integrity: the courage to meet the demands of reality,  pp. 239-240)

We sometimes approach this subject, “The Law and the Gospel”, in a polemical way – as if it were some kind forum for a debate.  We, of course, speak-up in defense of the seventh-day Sabbath—and rightly so.  I’d like to suggest, however, that like the admiral in our illustration our pride, our intelligence, our training all need to give way and listen to the principles behind why God says what He says.  This brings us to the crossroads of our own salvation.  Luther once said, “History is like a drunk man on a horse.  No sooner does he fall off on the left side, does he mount again and fall off on the right.”

{Some have accepted the gospel of legalism and they believe that salvation is by grace alone but sanctification comes by their own efforts of trying hard to be a good Christian.  In reaction to legalism and the devastation that it brings to other people, some have accepted the gospel of libertinism.  Libertines are folks who live the way they want and have skirted the Lordship of Christ and all that it means.} (excepted from Beyond Evangelical by Frank Viola)

Reflective Quiz

1.         The law brings joy.  (Ps 19:7,8; Rom 7:12, 21-25)  True and False

The first two chapters in the book of Psalms really serve as an introduction to the whole book.  Psalm 1 introduces us to the Lord’s instruction in wisdom.  The person of God’s choice lives by divine instruction and is not influenced by evildoers.  Psalm 1 introduces us to the ideal person.  Psalm 2, on the on the other hand, speaks of the rebellion of the nations and of the wicked, of the judgment they will face.  The very freedom God offers to them is perceived to be chains of bondage! (2:3)  In contrast to the wicked rulers of the earth, Psalm 2 introduces us to the ideal king—the Messiah. These two themes address multiple questions that are raised throughout the book.  In Psalm 1 the psalmist strongly contrasts the happiness of the godly with the condemnation of the wicked.  In the end, the way of wisdom will triumph!

Psalm 19 is part of this section (Book 1) which reveals God’s purpose in the world.  Notice Psalm 19:7,8,

7 The law of the Lord  is perfect,  reviving the soul.  The statutes of the  Lord  are trustworthy,  making wise the simple. 
8 The precepts of the  Lord  are right,  giving joy  to the heart.  The commands of the  Lord  are radiant,  giving light to the eyes. 

The theme of this entire chapter is about the impact that God’s wisdom makes upon both nature and man.  Remaining or choosing to stay within the wisdom of God brings joy.  Notice how the psalmist fights not to be controlled by sin.

12 Who can discern his errors?  Forgive my hidden faults. 
13 Keep your servant also from willful sins;  may they not rule over me.  Then will I be blameless,  innocent of great transgression.  (Ps 19:12,13)

That reminds us of Paul’s own experience as his nature struggled with the will of God.

21 So I find this law at work:  When I want to do good, evil is right there with me.  22 For in my inner being  I delight in God’s law;  23 but I see another law at work in the members of my body, waging war  against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin  at work within my members.  24 What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death?  25 Thanks be to God—through Jesus Christ our Lord!  So then, I myself in my mind am a slave to God’s law,  but in the sinful nature a slave to the law of sin.  (Rom 7:21-25)

So I ask you – Does the law bring joy or sadness & frustration?  In this case, does it really matter what law we are talking about? Why?

2.         Grace precedes law. (Gn 6:18; 8:20-9:17; Gn 12:1-3; 15:1-5; 15:18; Ex 19:4,5; 20:12)  True

Which comes first law or grace?  Why is the order important?
 See the study at the end of these notes in which we outline how God’s grace always precedes His expectations from us.

3.         We are justified by grace but sanctified by obedience. (Rom 3:10; 7:7; 1 Cor 6:11; Rom 6:4)  False

“There are those who attempt to ascend the ladder of Christian progress; but as they advance they begin to put their trust in the power of man, and soon lose sight of Jesus, the Author and Finisher of their faith. The result is failure—the loss of all that has been gained.  – Ellen White in Acts of the Apostles 532

Do you agree with the following statement? {Some have accepted the gospel of legalism and they believe that salvation is by grace alone but sanctification comes by their own efforts of trying hard to be a good Christian.  In reaction to legalism and the devastation that it brings to other people, some have accepted the gospel of libertinism.  Libertines are folks who live the way they want and have skirted the Lordship of Christ and all that it means.} (excepted from Beyond Evangelical by Frank Viola)

11 And that is what some of you were. [see vss 9-10]  But you were washed,  you were sanctified,  you were justified  in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.  (1 Cor. 6:11)

We are just as dependent upon Christ for our sanctification as we are for our justification. 

4.         The Sabbath was given to us so that we will be rested for next week’s work.  (Ex 20:1,2, 8-11; Deut. 5:12-15; Gn 2:1-3; Heb 4:9-11)   False

Note the quote in the SS quarterly:  “The Sabbath is not portrayed as a day of recuperation from those too weak to keep working day after day without rest.  It is portrayed rather as a stoppage good for everyone, for the purpose of refocusing on holiness (all concerns that stem from belonging to God, which is what holiness is) in order to enjoy God’s blessings of that day and its potential.” Douglas K. Stuart in The New American Commentary, Exodus, vol. 2, p.460)

Note the context of the Sabbath in the texts provided in the question above.  (Creation and the time of the exodus) No wonder, then, that the Sabbath is referenced in Heb. 4:9-11,

9 There remains, then, a Sabbath–rest for the people of God;  10 for anyone who enters God’s rest also rests from his own work,  just as God did from his.  11 Let us, therefore, make every effort to enter that rest, so that no one will fall by following their example of disobedience. 

Do we also need to give greater focus to holiness?  Is it possible to minimize holiness when we focus on just the physical rest afforded by having one day off in seven?

5.         Because Jesus is Lord of the Sabbath He has the authority to change the Sabbath from Saturday to Sunday. (Mk 2:27,28; Col 1:14-16; Heb. 4:3-9; Ps 119:151-152)  True

But why would He?  He is the Lord of the Sabbath (Mk 2:27,28) and certainly could make the changes He would thing necessary for our salvation.  He is the Creator and knows very well the nature of man and what is needed to restore him to His image.  Note Ps 119:152-152

150 Those who devise wicked schemes  are near,  but they are far from your law. 
151 Yet you are near,  O  Lord,  and all your commands are true. 
152 Long ago I learned from your statutes  that you established them to last forever.  (Ps 119:150-152)

If the law indeed has the purpose of helping man realize God’s purpose and how we have fallen, and the Sabbath is specifically designed to refocus our attention upon our Creator and Saviour and His calling us to true holiness would, it only sounds reasonable for the enemy of God to seek to destroy the very principles that are the foundation of His kingdom?

6.         The Sabbath is a sign of peace in a world filled with war.  (Matt 11:28; Isa 58:13,14)  True

The abuse of anything should not detract from its original design.  So it is true of God’s law and Sabbath.  Note the following words regarding the true meaning of the Sabbath.

“[Isa. 58:13-14 quoted] . . .To all who receive the Sabbath as a sign of Christ’s creative and redeeming power, it will be a delight.  Seeing Christ in it, they delight themselves in Him.  The Sabbath points them to the works of creation as an evidence of His mighty power in redemption.  While it calls to mind the lost peace of Eden, it tells of peace restored through the Saviour.  And every object in nature repeats His invitation, ‘Come unto Me, all ye that labor and are heavy-laden, and I will give you rest.’” Matt ll28.  Ellen G. White, The Desire of Ages, p. 289

The following are some study notes of mine I did along with this week’s Sabbath School lesson.  They are rough notes to myself but perhaps they may be helpful.  They are not meant to be final so I do risk even sharing them at this point.—LRE


Patterns of Grace & Law
Are grace and law really in opposition to each other or do they have a unique and complimentary role?  Do we see patterns in Scripture that reveal this role?

In the Bible God's gift of salvation comes wrapped in covenants, and grace and law are both integral parts of God's covenant.  Grace precedes law as a pattern of God's revelations for His people.

1.        When Noah faced the Flood, God gave him a means of deliverance.  Once the deliverance had been accomplished, God entered into a covenant with Noah and gave him instructions how to live after the Flood.
    God's "heart was filled with pain" (Gn 6:6) but in the midst of this pain God found Noah who was blameless and he "walked with God" (Gn 6:9)
    God promises to make a covenant with Noah. (Gn 6:18)
    Flood waters came and destroyed all but Noah's family and what he had taken aboard the ark. (Gn 7)
    God remembered Noah (Gn 8:1), Noah and all that was in the ark was saved from the flood waters (Gn 8:15-17
    Noah built an altar to The Lord (Gn 8:20)
    God makes a covenant with Noah and his descendants to never again to destroy the earth by water (Gn 9:8,11).
    Instruction: The rainbow is the sign of the covenant -- "between God and all living creatures of every kind on the earth." (Gn 9:16,17)
2.        When God called Abraham out of his home country to a new land, he extended grace to him first.
    In contrast to the builders of the Tower of Babel who sought to "make a name for ourselves and not be scattered over the face of the whole earth" (Gn 11:4) God calls Abram and He promises to give Abram not only a new name but a "great nation." (Gn 12:1-3)
    He journeyed out of his home country (Haran) to the land of Canaan. (Gn 12:4,5) a land given to him by God. (see Gn 15:7). 
    With the promise to make of Abram a great nation, yet he remained childless. (Gn 15:2)
    God's restates HIs covenant with Abram -- his offspring would be like the number of stars in the heavens. (Gn 15:5) Ratified through a ritual. (v.18)
    His name changed to Abraham (Gn 17:5) Everlasting covenant established with Abraham and future generations. 
    Instruction given for circumcision as a sign of the covenant. (Gn 17:10-14)
3.        When the time came for God to deliver the Israelites from slavery He freed them from Egypt and then presented them with the Decalogue as a means of preserving their personal freedom if they followed the directions given. 
    God's appearance to Moses, the issuing of Moses' call, the mission given to him were all signs that He would be with him.  (Ex. 2:9-12).  Signs of God's grace and intervention to take this people and make them "as my own people." (Ex. 6:7)
    The 10 plagues as signs of God's gracious intervention at work. (Ex. 7-13)
                      Consecration of first born.  Ritual showing what The Lord had done. (Ex. 13:8)
                      "A sign on your hand and a reminder on your forehead that the law of The Lord is to be on your lips." (13:9)
    Deliverance by crossing the Red Sea. (Ex. 14) Song of Moses exalts the grace of God's intervention. (Ex. 15)
    Feeding with manna and quail -- God's provision in the desert. (Ex. 16)
    Intervention to bring people to Himself (Ex. 19:4)
    Covenant conditions: obey and keep covenant and will become treasured possession and a kingdom of priests and a holy nation. (Ex. 19:5,6)
    Instruction in the context of God's past revealed grace:  the 10 Commandments given. (Ex. 20"1-17)
4.        In the climax of earth's history grace once again precedes instructions and judgment--repeatedly

    The issue clearly presented in Rev. 12:17  -- the battle lines drawn.
    Chap. 13 outlines the coercive actions of the beast power--forced worship even to the point of death.  Desires reminiscent of those outlined in Isa 14:12-14.
    Despite the oppression God extends His grace through 3 angels (14:6-12) to all who will respond to His invitation.
    Unlike in the days of Moses the Song of Moses precedes the plagues. (compare Ex 15 with Rev. 15)  The Song of Moses is a sign of deliverance, a sign of of God's active grace at work.    In this God's people are assured of their deliverance despite the oppressive experience they face.
    The plagues come as deliverance -- God's grace for some is God's judgment of others.
    Grace preceded instruction but the great instruction of Revelation comes in Rev. 19 where God's people rejoice in their deliverance and for being in the presence of God where they will be instructed for eternity!
Grace precedes understanding.  Grace precedes knowledge. Grace precedes God's expectations of us. Grace precedes deliverance. Grace never ends.

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