January 22 - 28
Paul's Experience and Teaching of Assurance
READ FOR THIS WEEK'S STUDY: Rom. 3:19-28; 4:1-8; 5:1; 8:1, 14-17; Phil. 3:1-11; Gal. 2:15-21; 3:1-14; 1 Thess. 1:5.
MEMORY TEXT: "Therefore we conclude that a man is justified by faith apart from the deeds of the law" (Romans 3:28, NKJV).
KEY THOUGHT: The arresting new light for Saul was the discovery that Jesus was the true Messiah of Israel and that righteousness before God comes exclusively by faith in Him; and through Him comes the gift of the Holy Spirit.
THE HEART OF THE MATTER. There is a basic difference between salvation according to Israel's Scriptures and that which had developed in Pharisaic Judaism. Jesus and the apostles did not reject Moses, the Psalms, and the Prophets, but their misinterpretation. Christ protested against the merit-seeking piety of the Pharisees in His Sermon on the Mount (Matt. 5-7). Paul explained his new insight about salvation and holiness in his letters to the churches in Rome, Galatia, and Philippi. These letters provided the renewing power for the Reformation of the medieval church in its theology and piety during the sixteenth century. These letters still challenge the church today to stay on course in preaching, teaching, and living the simplicity of the apostolic gospel.
The primary motivation of the Protestant Reformers was of a pastoral nature: to restore the believer's assurance of salvation! This remains the central core of the end-time message to prepare a people for the second coming of Christ. The threefold message of Revelation 14 centers in the "everlasting gospel" (v. 6, NKJV).
What caused Paul to emphasize the doctrine of justification by faith In Christ? Phil. 3:1-11.
Paul's background was that of a strict Pharisee. He had conscientiously striven to attain a righteousness that fulfilled the law of Moses to the letter. One ancient Jewish tradition says: "Great is the Law, for it gives life to them that practice it both in this world and in the world to come."—Pirke Aboth 6:7, in The Mishnah (H. Danby: Oxford University Press, 1967), p. 460. As far as legalistic righteousness was concerned, Saul of Tarsus considered himself "faultless" (Phil. 3:6, NIV). But on his way to Damascus a radical change took place in his conviction and zeal for the law of Moses. This occurred when he heard the voice of the risen Lord, asking him, "Saul! Saul! Why do you persecute me?... I am Jesus of Nazareth, whom you are persecuting" (Acts 22:7, 8, NIV). Soon afterward Paul "baffled the Jews living in Damascus by proving that Jesus is the Christ" (Acts 9:22). Clearly, Paul's Damascus experience had brought a fundamental change in his theology of the law and salvation. He now saw the law from Christ's perspective and became zealous for Christ as the only way for salvation.
How does Paul explain his new doctrine of justification by faith in Christ? Rom. 3:27, 28; 4:4, 5.
How were Abram and David assured of their salvation? Gen. 15:6; Ps. 32:1, 2 (compare with Rom. 4:1-3, 6-8).
Paul's theological exposition centers on the concept of God "crediting" or reckoning righteousness to the repenting sinner who trusts in Him. This concept is, not just a legal idea, but a covenant requirement in the law of Moses (Lev. 6:1-7). Paul is greatly concerned to show that his message of God's imputation of Christ's righteousness to the repenting sinner is in basic harmony with the way of salvation outlined in the Hebrew Scriptures (see Rom. 3:21).
"Christ's righteousness is accepted in place of man's failure, and God receives, pardons, justifies, the repentant, believing soul, treats him as though he were righteous, and loves him as He loves His Son. This is how faith is accounted righteousness"—E. G. White Comments, SDA Bible Commentary, vol. 6, p. 1073.
How did Paul receive the gospel, and what did he gain through it? Gal. 1:11, 12, 15, 16; Phil. 3:8, 9.
False teachers, who had come from Jerusalem. were confusing the churches in Galatia by urging the Gentile converts to observe the ceremonial laws of Moses. This was a violation of the decision of the general council at Jerusalem. "In the Galatian churches, open. unmasked error was supplanting the gospel message. Christ. the true foundation of the faith, was virtually renounced for the obsolete ceremonies of Judaism."—The Acts of the Apostles, p. 385. Paul exposed the error of substituting religious ceremonies for experiencing the free grace of God.
How did Paul agree with Isaiah 64:6, NIV, that "all our righteous acts are like filthy rags"? Phil. 3:8. What did Paul contrast in Galatians 2:21?
"The righteousness that before he had thought worth so much was now worthless in his sight. His own righteousness was unrighteousness. . . ."
"He would know for himself the power of the Saviour's grace. He trusted in His power to save even him. who had persecuted the church of Christ."—E. G. White Comments, SDA Bible Commentary, vol. 7, p. 905.
A closer look at this important verse shows that Paul did not place the law in opposition to the grace of God. Rather, he contrasts law and grace if they are used as way's of salvation. He states that "if righteousness could be gained through the law, Christ died for nothing" (NIV). In other words, to use the law of God in order to gain salvation is a misuse of the law. There are not two ways of salvation. Christ is the only way (see John 14:6). The law was given to reveal sin and thus the indispensable need for God's grace.
Why did Paul reject "the works of the law," mentioned three times in Galatians 2:16, NKJV? in Paul's theology "works of the law" are by definition works of merit-seeking, and thus works of self-righteousness that are "under a curse" (Gal. 3:10. NIV). Paul included in the word law. as used in Galatians. "both the moral law . . . and the ceremonial law."—SDA Bible Commentary, vol. 6. p. 949.
Contemplate Galatians 2:20. What is your motivation for a sanctified life?
What does Paul mean by "faith in Christ Jesus"? Rom. 3:21-27.
The common view is that Paul's expression "by the faith of Jesus Christ" (Gal. 2:16) means "by faith in Jesus Christ." Many scholars now defend the literal translation "by the faith or faithfulness of Jesus Christ" (Phil. 3:9; Rom. 3:22; Gal. 3:22; [Eph. 3:12). This view recognizes that Paul continues the Hebrew meaning of faith, which includes faithfulness ['emunah], as can be seen in Habakkuk 2:4.
Paul then would point to the basis of the gospel: the faithfulness that Christ rendered to God the Father in His life and death. The faith of the believer is then a response to Christ's faithfulness (Rom. 3:22; Gal. 3:22; Phil. 3:9) and acceptance of His perfect obedience of faith. The believer in Christ is justified on the basis of the faithfulness of Christ and "not by observing the law" (see Gal. 2:16). Paul contrasts Christ's obedience with Adam's disobedience in Romans 5:18, 19, and draws the conclusion that 'just as through the disobedience of the one man the many were made sinners, so also through the obedience of the one Man the many will be made righteous" (NIV).
How does Paul indicate that faith in Christ brings also a moral renewal and a sanctified life? Gal. 2:17-20.
The fundamental change of heart and motivation comes by accepting Christ in the heart of the believer. The entire passage of Galatians 2:15-21 shows that justification and sanctification are inextricably united and together form an unbreakable whole in Christ. The center of Paul's message is, therefore, not the one or the other aspect or doctrine, but being "in Christ." He uses this unique phrase more than 160 times. Being "in Christ" and "with Him" is much better experienced than explained. It refers to an intimate relationship of the believers, individually and collectively, with the crucified and risen Lord. It stands in a contrasting parallel with being "in Adam" (Rom. 6:3-6; 1 Cor. 15:22; 2 Cor. 5:17). Paul even states that "God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus" (Eph. 2:6, NIV). This points to more than a momentary feeling in the Life of Christians. It refers to their objective status that was sealed in baptism (Rom. 6:4).
|How has the life of Christ been manifested in your daily life? How will you demonstrate the fruit of the Spirit during this week?|
How does Paul connect the certainty of being children of God with the work of the Holy Spirit? Rom. 8:14-17.
This inner witness of the Spirit adds a unique confirmation to our faith in Christ. The believer receives a Heaven-born conviction, given by the Spirit's testimony to our spirit. This provides the divine assurance of our acceptance by God. "No less an authority than God Himself in His Spirit has assured us—and continues to assure us—that we are His children."—C. E. B. Cranfield, The Epistle to the Romans, vol. 1 (Edinburgh: T. and T. Clark, 1977), p. 402.
How does John's Gospel connect being children of God to being born of the Spirit? John 1:12, 13; 3:5, 6.
"It is impossible for finite minds to comprehend the work of redemption, Its mystery exceeds human knowledge; yet he who passes from death to life realizes that it is a divine reality. The beginning of redemption we may know here through a personal experience. Its results reach through the eternal ages."—The Desire of Ages, p.173.
"While we sorrow on account of sin, we are to rejoice in the precious privilege of being children of God."—The Desire of Ages, p. 300.
On what condition is the Holy Spirit imparted to the believer? Gal. 3:2, 5; Acts 2:38, 39.
It is the same condition as receiving justification (Rom. 3:28). This indicates that justification and the Spirit of God are given together at the same time to the believer in Christ. "To all who have accepted Christ as a personal Saviour, the Holy Spirit has come as a counselor, sanctifier, guide, and witness. The more closely believers have walked with God, the more clearly and powerfully have they testified of their Redeemer's love and of His saving grace."—The Acts of the Apostles, p. 49.
|How do you apply this statement in your daily life and witness? "There is no limit to the usefulness of one who, by putting self aside, makes room for the working of the Holy Spirit upon his heart, and lives a life wholly consecrated to God."—The Desire of Ages, p. 250.|
Why do believers need assurance of being adopted by God? How does that affect their witness for Him? Rom. 8:14-17; Gal. 4:6, 7; Acts 1:8.
As the disciples were preparing themselves they "felt their spiritual need, and cried to the Lord for the holy unction that was to fit them for the work of soul-saving. They did not ask for a blessing for themselves merely. They were weighted with the burden of the salvation of souls. They realized that the gospel was to be carried to the world, and they claimed the power that Christ had promised."—The Acts of the Apostles, p.37.
"The power that accompanied the words of the speaker [Peter] convinced them that Jesus was indeed the Messiah...."
"But the Holy Spirit sent the arguments home to hearts with divine power. The words of the apostles were as sharp arrows of the Almighty, convicting men of their terrible guilt in rejecting and crucifying the Lord of glory."—The Acts of the Apostles, pp. 43-45.
How do we know that the fullness of the Spirit is available now to God's children? Eph. 5:18; Gal. 3:2, 5.
To be filled with the Holy Spirit is a command of Paul's for every Christian. The fullness of the Spirit was promised since Pentecost to all who are called by the Lord and who respond by faith to Him (Acts 2:39; 3:19). "It is not because of any restriction on the part of God that the riches of His grace do not flow earthward to men. If the fulfillment of the promise is not seen as it might be, it is because the promise is not appreciated as it should be. If all were willing, all would be filled with the Spirit."—The Acts of the Apostles, p. 50.
For what purpose does Christ bestow His Spirit in its fullness on you? Acts 1:8; Luke 24:46-49; John 16:14.
While the Spirit comes as our aid in the battle against sin, He provides added power for our witness to enlighten the earth with the glory of God, as promised in Revelation 18:1.
|How has the Holy Spirit enlightened and strengthened you when you spoke about Christ to others?|
FURTHER STUDY: Study Acts 2:14-39 to discover the theme of Peter's sermon on the day of Pentecost when he was filled with the Spirit. In that sermon Peter shared with his fellow Jews hope and assurance of salvation. Also study more about Paul's words on assurance of salvation in 1 Cor. 15:22; Col. 2:2; 3:1; Gal. 4:6, 7; 1 Tim. 1:16.
The background of Paul's zeal for God and his conversion near Damascus is told with captivating power in The Acts of the Apostles, chap. 12, "From Persecutor to Disciple."
"The conversion of Saul is a striking evidence of the miraculous power of the Holy Spirit to convict men of sin. He had verily believed that Jesus of Nazareth had disregarded the law of God, and had taught His disciples that it was of no effect. But after his conversion, Saul recognized Jesus as the one who had come into the world for the express purpose of vindicating His Father's law."—The Acts of the Apostles, p. 120.
"To the repentant sinner, hungering and thirsting for righteousness, the Holy Spirit reveals the Lamb of God that taketh away the sin of the world...."
"The Spirit is given as a regenerating agency, to make effectual the salvation wrought by the death of our Redeemer."—The Acts of the Apostles, p. 52.
"The presence of the Spirit with God's workers will give the proclamation of truth a power that not all the honor or glory of the world could give."—The Acts of the Apostles, p. 51.
SUMMARY: Paul's conversion to Jesus Christ near Damascus remains one of the strongest supports of the Christian faith. If Jesus could turn around such a determined opponent as Saul of Tarsus, He must be real. Saul's encounter with Christ and his assurance of salvation are based on the miraculous fact that Jesus had risen from the dead.
J. H. Zachary
"Bernd, can you do the electrical wiring on my new house?" Heiner asked his brother. Heiner was pleased that his brother, an electrician, agreed. When the job was done, Bernd stopped to see his brother on the way to a Sabbath evening evangelistic meeting.
Heiner was surprised to find his brother at the door, especially on the Sabbath. "I have come to collect my wages for wiring your house," Bernd said.
"How much do I owe you'?" Heiner asked, apprehensively, for he was short of cash.
"Change your clothes and come with me to the meeting tonight. That will be my fee." Relieved. Heiner agreed and hurried to change his clothes. One meeting in exchange for his brother's work was a good deal.
The meeting awakened in Heiner warm memories of his childhood when he had attended the Adventist Church with his mother and brothers. But he had not been to church for 20 years. Heiner returned the next night and every night of the series. Following the meetings Heiner was baptized. Then the brothers began praying for Heiner's wife, Carola. A year later, in 1982, she was baptized.
Heiner wanted to share his faith with others but was not sure how to start. He placed an ad in the local newspaper, inviting anyone interested in reading the Bible to come to his home. Soon he had a small group meeting each week. After several weeks three persons were baptized. Heiner and Carola prayed for three new persons to take their places.
In the l6 years since they began their home Bible meetings. Heiner and Carola have seen 50 persons join the family of God. They came because they saw the newspaper ad or were invited by friends.
Heiner and Carola have started a new church in a neighboring town. One family who came was from Kenya. They were baptized and eventually returned to Kenya, where they started a new church.
Heiner and Carola are working with four small groups. The work has grown so large that Heiner now trains other church members to lead out in some of the groups. Carola started a very successful women's ministry group in their church. "Our greatest joy comes from seeing what God can do to bring people to a new life," Heiner and Carola say. They should know; they themselves are the fruits of Heiner's brother's witness.
J. H. Zachary is international evangelism coordinator for The Quiet Hour, located in Redlands, California.
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