Darrel: This week the seven billionth life began breathing on this earth. What do you think about that?”
Matt: Terrible, terrible news. Population growth is all messed up because most of the new lives are starting out in poverty with no education. You know where that leads.
Matt: The smart end up ruling the ignorant and we end up with a massive fiefdom.
Darrel: But Jesus will come before that happens.
Matt: Only if we get busy and fulfill our duty to spread the gospel to everyone.
Darrel: So, it’s up to us.
Matt: In a bee’s eye! How can we take responsibility for reaching the world when the population that is growing the fastest is the population that couldn’t begin to understand our doctrines if they wanted to and if we put them in front of them in big letters?
Darrel: Come on. God can work miracles.
Matt: Our church is a miracle. The Adventist religion has been constructed as a beautiful but complex web of Bible-based beliefs. Even the highly educated among us wrestle with basic beliefs. How can we reach the uneducated, the illiterate, the mentally handicapped, and the poverty-smitten when we barely understand the church’s message ourselves?
Darrel: Truth be told, we can’t. But that’s good news in a way.
Matt: Good news that we’re going to fail the gospel commission?
Darrel: No, no, no. That’s not going to happen. Good news because it requires us to focus on the message that propels all biblical belief: God’s love shared with others.
Matt: And it can be simple enough that anybody can understand?
Darrel: That simple. That profound. And that beautiful.
[Discussion Questions for Priority of the Promise November 2, 2011]
1. A covenant or a will? In our daily lives, are we more likely to be called to honor a contract (covenant)? or a will? Which of these requires two or more parties to agree to its terms—a contract or a will? Did God choose to issue a statement of His unchanging will to Abraham? Why? Or why not? Suppose a family member dies, and when the will is read you are not happy because you weren’t included. Can you change the will to include your name? Who were named as the beneficiaries in the will God spelled out to Abraham? How, then, can that document include you and me? Or does it?
2. Extremes. Is a view you hold ever seen by fellow believers as an “extreme” position? Do fellow church members (others, of course!) ever veer from one extreme to another? What was the result in the minds of his listeners (including us today) of Paul’s arguing so brilliantly that we are saved by faith and not by works? What did Paul do to counteract an extreme position he have seemed to have taken on this issue? What is the danger of too much emphasis on works and not enough on faith? What about depending too much on faith and not at all on works? Which extreme (faith or works) are Christians most tempted to hold today?
3. The law is dead. Has a Christian of another faith ever expressed pity for you because you don’t believe that the law is dead? Are you ever tempted to turn such comments into a judgment about that person’s soundness of mind? Is there a better approach? Discuss. Does Galatians 3:19 clearly apply to the end of the ceremonial law? Explain what Paul means in Galatians 3:22 where he says, “Scripture has locked up everything under the control of sin, so what was promised…through faith might be given to those who believe.”
4. The purpose of the law. Paul speaks clearly in Galatians 3 about the purpose of the moral law. What is that purpose? What did the coming of Christ change about the moral law? What benefit does the moral law have to you as a Christian? What was the purpose of the ceremonial law? How did Christ’s life on earth affect the ceremonial law? If you can’t know sin without law, why would you search for a better understanding of the ceremonial and moral laws?
5. Timeless law. God gave the law at Mount Sinai until (see Gal 3:19) “the Seed to whom the promise referred had come.” Doesn’t this clearly state that the Ten Commandments stood without question from Mount Sinai in the desert until Jesus’ birth in Bethlehem? If that doesn’t mean the law ended with the death of Jesus, what is the meaning? Do we still need the law to point out our sins to us? Is there anything about the Ten Commandments that is outdated or unnecessary? Or is it timeless? Discuss.
6. Absolutely not. How can it be, as Paul states, that there is no conflict between the law itself and the promises to those who obey the law? Is there anything guiding the Christian life that is more important than the moral law? You and I may keep all ten commandments. Does that mean we qualify for the promise given to Abraham by God nearly 2,500 years ago? As important as obedience is, does cheerful compliance to whatever God asks of us lead to a deeper state that is far more important than obedience itself? Describe.
7. Close to God. Do you ever marvel at the closeness of Abraham or Moses or David or Elijah and other Bible characters to God Himself? Have you ever longed to experience a similar closeness in your life? Like Paul, can you and I develop a deep and personal relationship with God? Is it wrong to think of God not only as our Redeemer but also as our eternal Friend? Can our relationship with God be valid without obedience?