January 15 - 21
Christ's Assurance of Justification by Faith
READ FOR THIS WEEK'S STUDY: Mark 2:5-12; Matt. 20:10-16; Luke 18:1-14; 15:11-32; John 8:1-11; 1:29.
MEMORY TEXT: "For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the would through Him might be saved (John 3:17, NKJV).
KEY THOUGHT: We learn precious lessons from the life and teachings of Jesus about salvation from guilt and the power of sin. To the surprise of His contemporaries. Jesus taught that God justifies a repentant sinner here and now.
THE TRANSFORMING POWER OF DIVINE FORGIVENESS. The blessed truth of Jesus' teaching is that it brings more than a new idea about God's relationship with humanity. It also imparts God's transforming power, and establishes a personal communication between Him and the believer in Christ. Jesus teaches that justification by faith in Him brings reconciliation with God and the joy of salvation. He taught that divine justification or forgiveness is not simply a legal bookkeeping in heaven, but also a new empowerment to live with God. The merciful Father looks for the reflection of His grace and love in the life of His children. The crucial question of Jesus is, "Shouldn't you have had mercy on your fellow servant just as I had on you?" (Matt. 18:33, NIV).
"God's forgiveness is not merely a judicial act by which He sets us free from condemnation. It is not only forgiveness for sin, but reclaiming from sin. It is the outflow of redeeming love that transforms the heart."—Thoughts From the Mount of Blessing, p. 114.
What does Jesus teach about forgiveness of sins in Luke 18:14 and John 8:11?
Forgiveness of sins by God is more than a declaration of amnesty or canceling our debt to God. It is also God's pronouncement of setting us right with Him, of restoring us in righteousness before Him. This is called by Jesus "justification." This is also a key idea in the covenant of God with Israel. It contains two vital aspects, which are graphically portrayed in Zechariah's vision of the high priest Joshua and the Angel (see Zech. 3:1-7). Here we see that God's forgiveness, or justification, consists first of taking away Joshua's filthy clothes (v. 3), and second, of giving him "rich garments" and a "clean turban" (vs. 4, 5, NIV). This illustrates the full truth of divine forgiveness, or justification. It contains two divine transactions, which together show that God treats us as if we had never sinned! That is marvelous grace! Stunning mercy! Human logic cannot comprehend this; it only can be accepted by faith. Justification remains forever the gift and glory of God.
How did Jesus confirm that He possessed the divine authority to forgive sins? Mark 2:5-12?
Jesus performed this amazing miracle of healing the paralytic in Capernaum in order to teach the message that He came with the power to forgive sins, especially for those who have lost all hope and were sunk in despair. It took the power of the Creator to restore health to the dying body of this person. "Yet it was not physical restoration he desired so much as relief from the burden of sin if He could see Jesus, and receive the assurance of forgiveness, and peace with Heaven, he would be content to live or die, according to God's will. The cry of the dying man was, Oh that I might come into His presence!"—The Desire of Ages, p. 267.
From this important story we learn that in the eyes of Jesus His Messianic mission was primarily to restore men and women to God through the forgiveness of sins.
Discuss the significance of forgiveness in the way John the Baptist introduced Jesus to the people. John 1:29.
Meditate on the promise of forgiveness in Psalm 103:2, 3. Have you experienced Jesus' taking away your guilt and forgiving your sins? What difference does this make to you?
Which two truths about forgiveness did Jesus teach in His parable recorded in Luke 18:1-8?
1. (Who receives forgiveness) ___________________________________________
2. (When one receives forgiveness) ______________________________________
From the very start, Jesus emphasized that God's saving grace was offered "today," not just at death or in the last judgment (see Luke 4:21; 19:9)! Christ wanted to emphasize this forgotten or misapplied message in the parable of the forgiven tax collector. To the surprise of the Pharisees and the people. he "went home justified before God."
How did Jesus teach that justification means full reconciliation with and restoration to God? Luke 15:11-32.
In the parable of the "lost son" Jesus dealt with the problem of all who have wandered far away from God, to live for themselves. It shows that the initiative for our redemption comes from the Father's love, which draws His lost children back home. Only when the son realized his father's love, did he find hope and decide to return home. Paul confirmed that "God's kindness leads you toward repentance" (Rom. 2:4, NIV). "So it is the assurance of God's love that constrains the sinner to return to God."—Christ 's Object Lessons, p. 202.
"In his restless youth the prodigal looked upon his father as stern and severe. How different his conception of him now!"—Christ's Object Lessons. p. 204. Here we find the assurance that God is eager to receive every repentant sinner! God even loves the sinner before he or she repents.
How did Christ teach that forgiveness, truly appreciated, results in grateful love? Luke 7:40-48.
Christ's forgiveness of Mary preceded her grateful love. Her act was the fruit of Christ's forgiving grace. Christ was grieved when the forgiven Simon neglected to show his gratitude by words and deeds of love.
Contemplate Luke 7:36-48 again. With whom can you identify, Mary or Simon, in their reactions to Jesus' presence? How can your answer help you in your relationship with Christ?
To what question of Peter's did Christ reply with the parable of the unmerciful servant? Matt. 18:21.
Jesus taught His disciples to pray, "Forgive us our sins, for we also forgive everyone who sins against us" (Luke 11:4, NIV). or as we forgive others (Matt. 6:12). These words can be misinterpreted, as if to say that God's forgiveness depends on ours. However, "we are not forgiven because we forgive, but as we forgive."—Christ's Object Lessons, p. 251. Jesus made this very plain in Matthew 6:14, 15. In other words, if we are unforgiving, we cut off the very channel through which we receive mercy from God. The merciful love of God that we receive must flow through us to others in a spirit of compassion. Jesus taught this lesson in His parable of the unmerciful servant, telling us never to become tired of forgiving those who ask us for forgiveness.
How did the king in the parable hold accountable his unforgiving servant? What specific question expressed the king's expectation? Matt. 18:32-34.
"Nothing can justify an unforgiving spirit. He who is unmerciful toward others shows that he himself is not a partaker of God's pardoning grace. . . . It is true that he may once have received forgiveness: but his unmerciful spirit shows that he now rejects God's pardoning love. He has separated himself from God, and is in the same condition as before he was forgiven. He has denied his repentance, and his sins are upon him as if he had not repented."—Christ's Object Lessons, p. 251.
Sometimes we set a limit to our forgiveness of others, like three times or even seven times. But Jesus counsels, "If your brother sins, rebuke him, and if he repents, forgive him. If he sins against you seven times in a day, and seven times comes back to you and says, 'I repent,' forgive him" (Luke 17:3, 4, NIV). God's forgiving mercy must be the measure of our forgiveness of others. Divine forgiveness is and remains God's prerogative and sovereign possession, even after we have received it. To experience the joy of God's grace propels us to reveal it to others.
|"Jesus said to her, 'Neither do I condemn you; go and sin no more'" (John 8:11, NIV). What do Jesus' words to the woman caught in adultery tell you about the responsibility of a forgiven person?|
What kind of people were invited to the wedding? What does this tell you about the king? Matt. 22:10; Luke 14:21.
"In this parable [Matthew 22], as in that of the great supper [Luke 14], are illustrated the gospel invitation, its rejection by the Jewish people, and the call of mercy to the Gentiles."—Christ 's Object Lessons, p. 307. Jesus predicted that three calls would go out from the king to invite guests to the royal banquet (Matt. 22:3, 4, 8-10). The first call came from Christ and His disciples. The second call came from the Spirit-filled apostles after the crucifixion and resurrection of Christ. The reaction of the Jews was "a great persecution" against the apostolic church at Jerusalem (Acts 8:1, NIV). The predicted judgment came in A.D. 70, when the city was destroyed and the nation scattered (see Matt. 22:7). The third call of God went out through the gospel to the Gentiles. The king said, "The wedding banquet is ready, but those I invited did not deserve to come. Go to the street corners and invite to the banquet anyone you find" (Matt. 22:8, 9).
"The king's servants welcome the people when they enter the palace and tell each guest to put on wedding clothes made for the occasion. The king invites the people, and he expects them to put on the clothes he provides. By wearing the wedding garment furnished by the king, no one reveals poverty or misery. Every guest can hide his social and economic status behind the clothes received from the king."—S. J. Kistemaker, The Parables of Jesus (Grand Rapids, Mich.: Baker Book House, 1980), p. 104.
What was the meaning of this royal gift of the wedding garment? Matt. 22:11, 12; compare Rev. 3:18; Isa. 61:10. What kind of people are represented by the guest who refused to wear the provided wedding garment? Why does this guest remain "speechless"? Matt. 22:12, 13.
All depends on the proper interpretation of the "wedding garment." If we understand this through Revelation 3:4, 5, 18, where Christ provides the necessary white clothes, then it means that He offers us His own righteousness by grace. This implies that a rejection of Christ's righteousness is a declaration of self-righteousness, to the effect that one does not sense the need for His sacrificial death and atoning blood.
|What impact does the wearing of the "wedding garment" have on your attitude and behavior?|
Why was it so hard for the laborers who labored all day to accept the generosity of the landowner toward the ones who labored little? How did comparing themselves with the others contribute to such attitude? Matt. 20:10-16.
"The truth of God's free grace had been almost lost sight of by the Jews. The rabbis taught that God's favor must be earned. The reward of the righteous they hoped to gain by their own works. Thus their worship was prompted by a grasping, mercenary spirit. From this spirit even the disciples of Christ were not wholly free, and the Saviour sought every opportunity of showing them their error."—Christ 's Object Lessons, p. 390.
The fundamental truth of the gospel of Christ is that salvation is offered to all people by God's grace alone! This still offends our moral sensibilities. We somehow feel that we must make ourselves worthy to receive eternal life, or at least show some moral goodness as the starting point for our acceptance by God. What would Jesus say to this natural human feeling? He may well reply, "So you also, when you have done everything you were told to do, should say, 'We are unworthy servants; we have only done our duty'" (Luke 17:10, NIV). Our good works and our obedience to the law do not merit eternal life. Our best works and moral character are not the basis or the title of our salvation.
The reward that God offers is a reward of grace, not of merit. "It is only through the unmerited grace of Christ that any man can find entrance into the city of God."—Christ's Object Lessons, p. 394.
Why were the laborers who were hired last, and who worked for one hour only, paid the same wages as those who worked the entire day? What does this tell you about the gracious employer? Matt. 20:12-15.
The traditional Protestant definition of grace is: the "undeserved" favor of God. This concept stands in opposition to the idea that we can merit a reward in proportion to our labor before God. It is derived from Paul's contrast between grace and works in Romans 11:6, "And if by grace, then it is no longer by works; if it were, grace would no longer be grace." The biblical concept of "reward" should not be equated with "merit."
|How does accepting that you are justified by grace alone affect your relationships with others?|
FURTHER STUDY: Read Matthew 6:1-6, 17, 18; 16:24-27; Acts 4:12; Luke 2:30. Read The Desire of Ages, chap. 62, "The Feast at Simon's House"; Christ's Object Lessons, pp. 150-163, "Two Worshipers"; and pp. 390-404, "The Reward of Grace." For a very instructive treatment of Christ's parable of the vineyard laborers, see Christ's Object Lessons, "The Reward of Grace," pp. 390-404.
"We ourselves owe everything to God's free grace. Grace in the covenant ordained our adoption. Grace in the Saviour effected our redemption, our regeneration, and our exaltation to heirship with Christ. Let this grace be revealed to others."—Christ 's Object Lessons, p. 250.
"The idea of doing anything to merit the grace of pardon is fallacy from beginning to end. 'Lord, in my hand no price I bring, simply to Thy cross I cling.'" —Faith and Works. p. 24.
SUMMARY: To understand the certainty of our salvation, it is best to identify salvation with the person of Christ. That is the way the New Testament does it. Our faith must therefore lay hold of Him, instead of trusting in theories about Him. He is the truth, the way, and the life. Christ is our all-sufficient assurance of salvation! His word of justification is the absolute certainty of our salvation.
J. H. Zachary
During the night the people of Adavaram village in India were awakened by a terrified scream. Eighteen-year-old Lakshmi had slipped out of her humble home and walked down the familiar path toward the rice paddy to relieve herself.
Suddenly she felt something brush her leg. She stopped, and in an instant a snake wrapped itself tightly around both her legs. Unable to walk, she fell to the ground. She screamed in terror.
Then she thought of Jesus, the God her neighbor had told her about. She called out, "Jesus, save me!" Immediately the snake loosened its grip and slithered away.
Lakshmi and her husband, Ramarao. were Hindus. But recently a friend of Lakshmi's introduced her to some Seventh-day Adventist relatives who live in a nearby village. These Adventist relatives began sharing their faith in the living God with Lakshmi, Ramarao, and other villagers. Lakshmi loved to sing the songs about Jesus. And little by little, the couple had become acquainted with the Creator God.
The day after the snake attack, an Adventist pastor visited the village of Adavaram. He invited people to join a Bible class. During the class Lakshmi told the group about her experience with the snake the night before and how Jesus had saved her from the snake. God had become very real to her.
In gratitude for saving her, Lakshmi and Ramarao gave a piece of land next to their home on which to build a church. When funds are available a church will be built on this land. Ramarao and Lakshmi are continuing their study of the Bible in preparation for baptism.
The pastor is convinced that God answered Lakshmi's cry in order to prepare the way for the people of this village to learn about Jesus. The Quiet Hour has opened a community center in Adavaram, where villagers can come to learn to read, learn about making healthful lifestyle changes, and to receive guidance in family planning. But most of all they can learn about the Savior who loves them and died for them.
Lakshmi (left). J. H. Zachary is international evangelism coordinator for The Quiet Hour, located in Redlands, California.
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