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Thursday: Without the Deeds of the Law — 15 Comments

  1. The lesson states "Paul’s point is that although obedience to the law is not the means of justification, the person who is justified by faith still keeps the law of God and, in fact, is the only one who can keep the law. An unregenerate person who has not been justified can never fulfill the requirements of the law." Which law? Desire of Ages page 762

    “The law requires…righteousness, a righteous life, a perfect character; and this man has not to give. He cannot meet the claims of God’s holy law. But Christ, coming to the earth as man, lived a holy life, and developed a perfect character. These (merits!) He offers as a free gift to all who will receive them. His life stands for the life of men. Thus they have remission of sins that are past, through the forbearance of God. More than this, Christ imbues men with the attributes of God. He builds up the human character after the similitude of the divine character, a goodly fabric of spiritual strength and beauty. Thus the very righteousness of the law is fulfilled in the believer in Christ. God can ‘be just, and the justifier of him which believeth in Jesus’.”

    Again, the order of events is this:

    (1) The kindness of God leads us to repentance
    (2) The truth about His character of love and His trustworthiness wins us back to trust.
    (3) When we are won back to trust, our hearts are set right
    (4) Back to His original design (justification by faith!) 
    (5) Then we open our hearts to him and He pours out his Holy Spirit and we get a heart transplant
    (6) He reproduces the perfect character Christ achieved through His life, death, and resurrection in us

    Mrs White agrees;

    “By His perfect obedience He has made it possible for every human being to obey God's commandments. When we submit ourselves to Christ, the heart is united with His heart, the will is merged in His will, the mind becomes one with His mind, the thoughts are brought into captivity to Him; we live His life. This is what it means to be clothed with the garment of His righteousness. Then as the Lord looks upon us He sees, not the fig-leaf garment, not the nakedness and deformity of sin, but His own robe of righteousness, which is perfect obedience to the law of Jehovah." {Christ Object Lessons page 311}

    If you wonder if or how this false law construct and penal substitution theology hardens hearts and prevents real heart transformation from taking place (having a form of godliness but no power), Mrs White describes it this way:

    “Today a large part of those who compose our congregations are dead in trespasses and sins. They come and go like the door upon its hinges. For years they have complacently listened to the most solemn, soul-stirring truths, but they have not put them in practice. Therefore they are less and less sensible of the preciousness of truth. The stirring testimonies of reproof and warning do not arouse them to repentance. The sweetest melodies that come from God through human lips—justification by faith, and the righteousness of Christ—do not call forth from them a response of love and gratitude. Though the heavenly Merchantman displays before them the richest jewels of faith and love, though He invites them to buy of Him “gold tried in the fire,” and white raiment” that they may be clothed, and “eyesalve” that they may see, they steel their hearts against Him, and fail to exchange their lukewarmness for love and zeal. While making a profession, they deny the power of godliness. If they continue in this state, God will reject them. They are unfitting themselves to be members of His family." {Counsels for the Church page 67.3}

  2. The lesson states, but many Christians have misunderstood and misapplied this text. They say that all one has to do is to believe, while downplaying works or obedience, even obedience to the moral law.
    In essence, obedience the God’s Law should be simply done out of love, other than just ‘believing’, ‘doing it because I have to’ or ‘because others may see me’ – but because of the Holy Spirit’s infilling love and stirring power that replaces my spiritual lethargy and lukewarmness with zeal. There should be no other motivation that is not driven by love.
    Believing is almost passive, so what, if I believe? James 2:19 - You say you have faith, for you believe that there is one God. Good for you! Even the demons believe this, and they tremble in terror.
    Some years back, when my kid was in Primary school, she had stolen something valuable from a classmate. When I had gotten the call from the school Principle, I could not stop crying. The hurt, anger and embarrassment I felt was so deep especially in front of the other child’s parents. I disciplined her later at home, for she knew the rules and I didn’t expect her to do that. But I also knew that I had to fix it somehow, her dad & I replaced the stolen item with a much later version with all the fixes, much more impressive than the previous one. You could imagine the kid’s face & everyone else’s with their “wow” and “cool” now that she had her old one back and additionally a new and better one. We knew that we didn’t have to replace it with a better one, but I could remember the pain and rejection my daughter felt when she sat at the back of the classroom, head down on her desk. Probably crying, because no one wanted to befriend the thief in class. My heart broke seeing my child like that, I had to redeem her, I had to save her friendship with the girl whom she had stolen from. I had to intervene and speak to her teacher and classmates on her behalf, apologizing and pleading for them not to judge her lapse of judgement. I told them that she was a lovely girl, and as her mum, I believed she would never do that again, all the while she listened at the back of the classroom with her head down. That evening was one we would remember for a long time, she hugged me and we both cried. She told me that she loved me and never wanted to hurt and embarrass me like that again. She knew her dad and I did what we did because we loved her so much. She repented and knew now the cost of disobedience was much more than the quick thrill of sin.
    I can’t imagine the hurt and pain I cause to God and to Jesus who sacrificed Himself for me, if I choose not to obey and indulge in sin every time. I love Him that I must try my best daily, at least, not to earn personal justification or salvation (because I know I never can), but to know it makes Him happy and imagine Him smile because that is how I show Him that I love Him. As He would hurt when we are hurt (physically & spiritually by sin), we should hurt when He hurts when we choose to sin.

  3. We always need to remember what we call Law and Grace are but two aspects of the character of God. So what is called "Law" is really a description of the character of a person who is like Jesus. How do we become like Jesus? By spending time with Jesus until we desire to be like Him and allowing Him to change our hearts.

  4. The dictionary defines justify to show or prove to be right or reasonable. Justified is the past tense which show that all the requirements have been met. For example, according to the laws of the USA, for a person to run for President he or she has to meet certain criteria. Once those are met, the person is justified and can run for presidency (he or she may not win) but was justified.

    Similarly with God's people, in the past, there were certain things you must meet to be identified as a child of God: circumcision, born or adopted as a Jew, follow the laws, etc. etc. Now, Paul said we can be justified to be called God's people by just believing in Jesus as the Messiah.

    Justification is the process to make a person justified. This process varies throughout the ages and now, it is by exercising faith in Jesus (which has a number of activities, such as, if you have faith, show me your faith by your works, as James clarified).

    • True. Too bad we want to think of the law like the kind of laws we make (rules) where God's laws are created. Law of love, law of gravity, law of thermodynamics etc. Those laws cannot change. Our laws can.

  5. A wounderful answer Steven. I apreciate the detail. Paul answers the misinterpritstion of Romans 3:28 in Romans chspter 6. I won't go into it because that will be covered in a later lesson I do believe. Thanks for the excelent illumination of what it truly means to be a Christian.

    • I second your affirmation John of Stephen's answer. The growing number of Amens to Stephen's post suggests that what he is outlining is resonating with a growing number of people - praise God for that. Could it be that a Reformation is being worked by God's Spirit in these last days?

      • And atleast now we no longer see the discord that we have been seeing in past days; especially on Sunday; as a result of strange doctrines. There is harmony, praise be to God.

  6. Justification by faith without the deeds of the law clearly says that deeds are not needed for justification. It's because if good deeds are required for justification, no human would be justified and saved as "All have sinned". However, this statement only says that good deeds are not required, but never says that good intentions are not required. This observation is consistent with Paul's dismissive attitude toward external actions. To Paul, one's inward intentions are more critical than outward actions (as he has unequivocally said in I Corinthians 13:1-3). It does not mean that good intentions would guarantee salvation, but it means that intentions must work with Christ's Grace. It's what Ellen G. White implied by writing "It is the work of God in laying the glory of man in the dust, and doing for man that which it is not in his power to do for himself." Man has intended and tried to live by the law but could not do it and failed. The phrase "In his power to do" includes the words "TO DO", which is contrary to the words "NOT TO DO". If man does not do trying to abide by the law, White's statement would not apply.

    This interpretation hopefully can resolve the ages-old debate about justification by faith or by works--which has resulted from the failure to consider the role of intentions. Without considering intentions, it's extremely extremely difficult or even impossible to say that a cold-blooded monster who never intended to keep the law should not be punished. If God would not punish such an unrepentant criminal, and if Christ would forgive such a monstrous evil person, the whole universe would have witnessed a grave injustice. Of course, on the other hand, if he has TRIED hard to live by the Word of God but failed and repent, then I believe he would be justified by faith and not by the deeds of the law.

    • Hi Joel.

      The point you make about our heart attitude (intentions) is an important part of the overall picture.

      As 1 Sam 16:7 hilights (and is consistent with a core principle consistently reflected throughout scripture), man looks on the outward appearance but God looks at the heart. This suggests that heart motivation/intention is something that God pays a great deal of attention to - as you propose.

      This is not the whole story of the justification/salvation process (which is a multidimensional phenomenon that we will spend eternity studying into) - but it is an important part. Thanks for bringing that awareness to the discussion.

      • Phil,
        I agree with you that the justification/salvation process is a lot more comprehensive and complex than the pieces that I have highlighted. Thank you.

    • Joel, I think that justification means to not only be forgiven for our transgressions but to be brought into conformity with God and His law of Love.


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