January 8 - 14
The Work of Christ: Our Assurance
READ FOR THIS WEEK'S STUDY: John 4:25, 34; 19:30; 2 Cor. 5:14-21; Eph. 1:4; Heb. 6:19, 20; Acts 17:31.
MEMORY TEXT: "This is a faithful saying and worthy of all acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am chief"(1 Timothy 1:15, NKJV).
KEY THOUGHT: Jesus was consumed by one overriding sense of mission: to fulfill and complete the work of seeking and saving the lost.
CHRIST'S LIFE, DEATH, RESURRECTION, AND INTERCESSION: OUR ASSURANCE. Christians believe not only in Jesus Christ as the Son of God but also in His redemptive work for humankind in His life, death, resurrection, and heavenly intercession. This belongs to the essential core of the gospel. The true meaning of the work of Christ is not dependent on any one-sided or speculative theory made about it by theologians. That would leave us in the clutches of doubt and uncertainty. The testimony of the Holy Scripture is clear, sufficient, and authoritative for the humble seeker after divine revelation. The gospel of Christ is the sole, final, and true viewpoint of the unity of Christ's work. Only the illumination of the Holy Spirit imparts the spiritual insight into the redemptive significance of Christ's work (1 Cor. 2:14). "The acceptance of the Saviour brings a glow of perfect peace, perfect love, perfect assurance."—Christ's Object Lessons, p. 420, emphasis supplied. This week, let us focus on the assurance we have in Christ's work as our King, suffering Servant, Mediator, and Judge.
What was Christ's first task on our behalf after His baptism? Mark 1:12, 13. Explain its cosmic importance.
Christ's victory over Satan and his temptations shows that His mission was first to conquer the ruler of this world and to establish Himself as the rightful King of humanity and the earth. "The demonic [aspect] is absolutely essential in understanding Jesus' interpretation of the picture of sin and of man's need for the Kingdom of God. Man is in bondage to a personal power stronger than himself. At the very heart of our Lord's mission is the need of rescuing men from bondage to the satanic kingdom and of bringing them into the sphere of God's Kingdom."—G. E. Ladd, A Theology of the New Testament (Grand Rapids, Mich.: Eerdmans, 1974), p. 53.
How did Christ, after His victory over Satan, announce and manifest His Messiahship? Luke 4:16-21.
Jesus pointed His fellow Jews to His unique mission, as outlined in the prophecies of Isaiah regarding the "year of the Lord's favor" (Isa. 61:2). He announced its actual fulfillment in His work as the God-sent Messiah: "Today this Scripture [Isa. 61:1, 2; 42:7; 49:8, 9; 58:6] is fulfilled in your hearing" (Luke 4:21, NIV). Immediately Jesus began to drive out evil spirits from some (Luke 4:31-44), to release others from the power of sin (Luke 5:1-32), and to set all free from bondage to traditions (Luke 5:33-6:11). Significantly, even the demons acknowledged: "You are-the Holy One of God!" (Luke 4:34), and "You are the Son of God!" (Luke 4:41). This means that the demons recognized in Jesus the presence of a supernatural person, of the holy God Himself. Thus Jesus demonstrated His power to redeem all who are oppressed by the power of sin and Satan. Jesus did this in fulfillment of God's promises in Isaiah 61 and 58. "The mercy revealed in every act of His life testified to His divine anointing."—The Desire of Ages, p. 241. It is important to note that Jesus not only proclaimed the year of release but accompanied His words with acts of release. In a certain sense, the year of Jubilee has begun because the Kingdom of God came in Jesus Christ.
"The works of Christ not only declared Him to be the Messiah, but showed in what manner His kingdom was to be established."—The Desire of Ages, p. 217.
What caused John the Baptist to doubt the Messiah's mission? Matt. 11:2-6. What causes you to doubt? How can Jesus help you?
How did Christ understand His mission as the suffering Servant of Isaiah 53? Mark 8:31.
Bible scholars point to four specific prophecies or "songs" regarding the "Servant of Yahweh," which progressively describe the work of the Messiah (Isa. 42:1-6; 49:1-6; 50:4-9; 52:13-53:12). Jesus saw His whole life and death in the light of the Servant prophecies of Isaiah (see Luke 22:37). Shortly after Peter had confessed that Jesus was the God-sent Messiah and Son of God, Jesus began to disclose that He "must" suffer much, be rejected, and be killed. His emphasis on "must" did not mean a surrender to some unavoidable fate, but His willing submission to God's will for the redemption of humanity (see Matt. 26:39, 42).
What did Jesus mean by saying that He had come to give His life "as a ransom for many"? Mark 10:45, NIV.
"Ransom" is a synonym for "ransom price" (1 Cor. 6:20), or substitutionary redemption. This is emphasized by the expression "for many," which is literally "instead of many." Bible scholars widely recognize that this saying of Jesus in Mark 10:45 clearly refers to Isaiah 53:11, 12, which predicts that the Servant of the Lord would bear the sin of "many" and thus will "justify many." Jesus again indicated that His coming death would be beneficial for many when He said He voluntarily would lay down His life "for the sheep" (John 10:11, 15, 17, 18).
"While as a member of the human family He was mortal, as God He was the fountain of life for the world. He could have withstood the advances of death, and refused to come under its dominion; but voluntarily He laid down His life, that He might bring life and immortality to light. He bore the sin of the world, endured its curse, yielded up His life as a sacrifice, that men might not eternally die."—The Desire of Ages, p. 484.
How did Paul preach that Christ had paid a complete ransom for all humankind? Rom. 3:25; 1 Tim. 2:3-6.
"Christ took the form of a servant, and offered sacrifice, Himself the priest, Himself the victim."—The Desire of Ages, p. 25.
What does Jesus want us to learn from Him? Matt. 11:28-30.
"The 'yoke' is Jesus' yoke, not the yoke of the law; discipleship must be to him.. . . The 'rest' he promises is not only for the world to come but also for this one as well."—D. A. Carson, in the Expositor's Bible Commentary (Grand Rapids. Mich.: Zondervan, 1984), vol. 8, p. 278.
Jesus invited every human being to come to Him, because all are "weary and burdened" with the burden of sin. The heavier the burden, the more blessed is the rest He offers to those who place their burdens on Him. The rest of grace comes, however, with: "Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me." This means that we must be willing to enter the school of Christ, to learn how to become "gentle and lowly in heart" as He is. Christ's words impart a transforming power to those who truly accept them. "Those who take Christ at His word, and surrender their souls to His keeping, their lives to His ordering, will find peace and quietude. Nothing of the world can make them sad when Jesus makes them glad by His presence."—The Desire of Ages, p. 331.
What was the main thing that Christ taught about the coming of His kingdom in the Beatitudes? Matt. 5:1-12.
Jesus explained: "The kingdom of God is within you" (Luke 17:21, NIV). What did He mean? The kingdom of God is represented by Christ as the king. Where He is, there is the kingdom or reign of God. His blessings represent the saving power of God. Now that the King has come and stands in their midst, the kingdom of God is within their reach. And it is, if they are willing, within their hearts.
We accept Christ when we accept His words! Christ is and speaks the Word of God. Divine power and love dwell in His words. To receive the words of Christ in faith imparts power to obey. "The word of God is the only steadfast thing our world knows. It is the sure foundation. 'Heaven and earth shall pass away,' said Jesus, 'but my words shall not pass away.' Matthew 24:35."—Thoughts From the Mount of Blessing, p. 148.
|How did Christ illustrate the importance of His words? For what purpose were they spoken? Matt. 7:24-27. What assurance did the words of Christ bring to your heart when you began to trust them?|
When was the Son of God appointed as the Mediator between God and humanity? Rev. 13:8; 1 Pet. 1:20, 21.
Satan had misrepresented God as being "severe and unforgiving" (The Desire of Ages, p. 22), as "hard and exacting" (Christ's Object Lessons, p. 204), a concept that destroyed all assurance and joy of salvation. As the perfect representative of the Father, Christ offered the world a true picture of God. He could do this because He lived in the closest communion with the Father from eternity (John 1:2; 17:5, 24), "in the bosom of the Father" (John 1:18, NKJV). Christ, therefore, could fully explain the will and nature of God (John 1:18, NASB). In the face of Christ, people could see "the light of the knowledge of the glory of God" (2 Cor. 4:6, NIV). He was "the radiance of God's glory and the exact representation of his being" (Heb. 1:3). On the other hand, Christ is the perfect Representative of the human race, the "second Adam" (see 1 Cor. 15:47). He shares in the flesh and blood of humanity (Heb. 2:14), and "learned obedience from what he suffered" (Heb. 5:8).
Why was it necessary for Jesus to become "flesh" and to live in perfect obedience to God? Rom. 8:3, 4; Heb. 2:14-18.
The apostolic gospel places equal emphasis on the Resurrection and on the cross of Christ. The Epistle to the Hebrews instructs us that after Jesus had tasted death "for everyone"(2:9), He was "brought back from the dead" as the "great Shepherd of the sheep" (13:20). This reveals the progress of God's saving activity beyond the cross. The Resurrection was not an end in itself. Christ was appointed by God "to be high priest in the order of Melchizedek" (Heb. 5:10, NIV). Great emphasis is placed on the fact that the risen Christ is now seated "at the right hand of the Majesty in heaven" (Heb. 1:3; 8:1), so that He might become "a merciful and faithful high priest" (Heb. 2:17).
What is Christ's work in our behalf as our high priest? Heb. 2:18; 4:15, 16; 7:25; 8:1.
The first work of Christ after His enthronement in heaven was to send the Holy Spirit to His disciples. This was the token "that He had, as priest and king, received all authority in heaven and on earth, and was the Anointed One over His people."—The Acts of the Apostles, p. 39.
What did Jesus teach about Himself being appointed as the Judge of all people? Matt. 7:21-23; John 5:22, 27.
The Creator of heaven and earth is a moral God who created us to live in a moral universe. The Scriptures declare that God will exercise His prerogative of judging the world in righteousness. The fact that Jesus solemnly announced that He would be the judge of Israel was a shock to the Jewish leaders. This can be seen in a most dramatic way in Christ's response to the charges that He had violated the Sabbath (John 5:16-30). Before the Sanhedrin, Jesus claimed equal rights with God in doing a work as equally sacred as what God is doing (John 5:17). "The priests and rulers had set themselves up as judges to condemn Christ's work, but He declared Himself their judge, and the judge of all the earth."—The Desire of Ages, p. 210.
By what standard will Christ judge His people? John 12:48-50; 15:22-24; Matt. 25:40, 45.
These passages disclose that Christ will judge us by our accountability to God and to others. The definitions of sin and righteousness, therefore, become of vital importance. The gospel of Christ teaches us that both definitions have to be oriented to the life and words of Jesus, instead of to the moral law by itself, separated from Christ. Christ is the embodiment of God's law and grace. Those who keep the letter of the law but reject Him stand condemned before God. "Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because he has not believed in the name of God's One and Only Son" (John 3:18).
"Because He has tasted the very dregs of human affliction and temptation, and understands the frailties and sins of men; because in our behalf He has victoriously withstood the temptations of Satan, and will deal justly and tenderly with the souls that His own blood has been poured out to save,—because of this, the Son of Man is appointed to execute the judgment."—The Desire of Ages, p. 210.
|Why is it so reassuring to believe that Christ will be our Judge? Zech. 3:1-7; Rom. 8:1, 30, 33, 34. How do you view the judgment knowing that Jesus is not only your Judge but also your Sacrifice, your mighty Advocate, and your sympathizing Friend?|
FURTHER STUDY: Study more about the work of Christ in Isa. 61:1, 2; Matt. 12:29, 30; 25:31-34; John 1:18; 12:48-50; Rev. 1:12-18. Read The Desire of Ages, chaps. 12, 21, and 31, for a deeper appreciation of the work of Christ on our behalf. "Christ was treated as we deserve, that we might be treated as He deserves. He was condemned for our sins, in which He had no share, that we might be justified by His righteousness, in which we had no share. He suffered the death which was ours, that we might receive the life which was His."—The Desire of Ages, p. 25.
With apostolic authority Paul summed up the gospel this way: "God our Savior wants all men to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth" (1 Tim. 2:3-4). What a wonderful assurance of God's redemptive will for us! God has done all He could to restore us into favor with Him. He provided His own Lamb, "who takes away the sin of the world!" (John 1:29, NIV).
We need the Old Testament to teach us what the work of the Messiah is all about, even when we know from the New Testament who the Messiah is. From the prophets we learn that He was to be the greatest Prophet (Deut. 18:18, 19), the eternal King (Rev. 19:11-16), and the only Lamb and High Priest of God (Isa. 53; Ps. 110:1, 4). The greatest surprise of all came when Jesus solemnly announced that He was also appointed to be the Judge of all and would decide who would enter the kingdom of God and who would not! (Matt. 7:21-23; 25:31-46; John 5:22, 27).
No wonder that Peter exclaimed, "And we have the word of the prophets made more certain!" (2 Pet. 1:19, NIV).
SUMMARY: We have seen this week a variety of aspects of Christ's work. The different aspects do not contradict but complement each other. We must guard ourselves from choosing a particular work of Christ to the neglect or denial of the others. Together they testify of the unity and wealth of the saving work of Christ to give His assurance of salvation.
Every week we read stories of how God works through the lives of His people. But we seldom learn "the rest of the story." Recently we received updates on two stories that appeared in "Inside Story."
When Greg and Jodie Bratcher taught English in Magadan, Russia, Alexander, one of their students, expressed his belief in logic rather than in God. One day as he and Jodie walked past the new Adventist church, Jodie said, "The winter snows are late this year. The believers are praying that God would hold back the snows until the roof of the new church is in place." Alexander said that it was merely chance that the snows were late.
Jodie told Alexander, "I am praying that God will hold back the snow to prove to you that God exists and cares about us." Every day for two weeks they walked past that church on snowless roads. Then the day after the church roof was snowproof, they walked home through two feet of snow!
Alexander responded, "You won." But Jodie assured him that it was God who had won.
The Bratchers left Magadan before Alexander made a decision for Christ. But they prayed for him. Recently they received word that Alexander has been baptized—into the church that God had protected from the snows.
Rustico grew up in a poor family in the Philippines. He enrolled in Mountain View College to study theology. He worked long hours to pay his school fees. After graduation he worked as a lay pastor, caring for 12 congregations in the mountains. Riding a bicycle, he could meet with three congregations each Sabbath. During the week he met with lay leaders of the congregations. Thus he could visit each of his 12 churches once a month.
Although no appeal was made for help, generous readers sent gifts to help Rustico purchase a motorbike.
Today Rustico is a full-time pastor with 13 churches. He sold the used motorcycle and bought one built for mountain trails. "Without this motorcycle," he says. "I could not get to some of the villages I serve except to walk."
In just four years he has baptized more than three hundred new believers and planted two new churches. To the unnamed donors. Rustico says, "Thank you!"
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