|*October 22 - 28
|Old Testament Faith
Read for This Week's Study:
|Gal. 3:1–14, Rom. 1:2, 4:3, Gen. 15:6, 12:1–3, Lev. 17:11, 2 Cor. 5:21.
|A little boy had made a little
boat, all painted and fixed up beautifully. One day someone stole his
boat, and he was distressed. In passing a pawnshop one day he saw his
boat. Happily he ran in to the pawnbroker and said, ‘That is my
little boat.’ ‘No,’ said the pawnbroker, ‘it is
mine, for I bought it.’ ‘Yes,’ said the boy,
‘but it is mine, for I made it.’ ‘Well,’ said
the pawnbroker, ‘if you will pay me two dollars, you can have
it.’ That was a lot of money for a boy who did not have a penny.
Anyway, he resolved to have it; so he cut grass, did chores of all
kinds, and soon had his money.
“He ran down to the shop and said, ‘I want my boat.’ He paid the money and received his boat. He took the boat up in his arms, and hugged and kissed it, and said, ‘You dear little boat, I love you. You are mine. You are twice mine. I made you, and now I have bought you.’
“So it is with us. We are, in a sense, twice the Lord’s. He created us, and we got into the devil’s pawnshop. Then Jesus came and bought us at awful cost—not silver and gold, but His precious blood. We are the Lord’s by creation and by redemption.”—William Moses Tidwell, Pointed Illustrations (Kansas City, Mo.: Beacon Hill Press, 1951) p. 97.
*Study this week's lesson to prepare for Sabbath, October 29.
The Foolish Galatians
Read Galatians 3:1–5. Summarize below what Paul is saying to them. In what sense could we be in danger of falling into the same spiritual pitfall, of starting out right and then falling into legalism?
Several modern translations have tried to capture the sense of Paul’s words in verse 1 about the “foolish” Galatians. The actual word Paul uses in Greek is even stronger than that. The word is anoetoi, and it comes from the word for mind (nous). Literally, it means “mindless.” The Galatians were not thinking. Paul does not stop there; he says that, because they are acting so foolishly, he wonders if some magician has cast a spell on them. “Who has bewitched you?” His choice of words here may even suggest that the ultimate source behind their condition is the devil (2 Cor. 4:4).
What baffles Paul so much about the Galatians’ apostasy on the gospel is that they knew salvation was rooted in the Cross of Christ. It was not something that they could have missed. The word translated “portrayed” or “set forth” (KJV) in Galatians 3:1 literally means “placarded” or “painted.” It was used to describe all public proclamations. Paul is saying that the Cross was such a central part of his preaching that the Galatians had, in effect, seen in their mind’s eye Christ crucified (1 Cor. 1:23, 2:2). In a sense, he’s saying that, by their actions, they are turning away from the Cross.
Paul then contrasts the current experience of the Galatians with how they first came to faith in Christ. He does this by asking them some rhetorical questions. How did they receive the Spirit, meaning how did they first become Christians? And from a slightly different perspective, Why did God give the Spirit? Was it because they did something to earn it? Certainly not! Instead, it was because they believed the good news of what Christ had already done for them. Having begun so well, what would make them think that now they had to rely upon their own behavior?
|How often, if ever, do you find yourself thinking, I’m doing pretty well. I’m a pretty solid Christian, I don’t do this and or I don’t do that . . . and then, even subtly, thinking you’re somehow good enough to be saved? What’s wrong with that picture?
Grounded in Scripture
So far, in his letter to the Galatians, Paul has defended his gospel of justification by faith by appealing to the agreement reached with the apostles in Jerusalem (Gal. 2:1–10) and to the personal experience of the Galatians themselves (Gal. 3:1–5). Beginning in Galatians 3:6, Paul now turns to the testimony of Scripture for the final and ultimate confirmation of his gospel. In fact, Galatians 3:6–4:31 is made up of progressive arguments rooted in Scripture.
What does Paul mean when he writes about the “Scripture” in Galatians 3:6–8? Consider Rom. 1:2, 4:3, 9:17.
It is important to remember that at the time Paul wrote his letter to the Galatians there was no “New Testament.” Paul was the earliest New Testament writer. The Gospel of Mark is probably the earliest of the four gospels, but it likely was not written until around the time of Paul’s death (A.D. 65)—that is, about fifteen years after Paul’s letter to the Galatians. So, when Paul refers to the Scriptures, he has only the Old Testament in mind.
The Old Testament Scriptures play a significant role in Paul’s teachings. He does not view them as dead texts but as the authoritative and living Word of God. In 2 Timothy 3:16 he writes, “All Scripture is given by inspiration of God.” The word translated “inspiration” is theopneustos. The first part of the word (theo) means “God,” while the second half means “breathed.” Scripture is “God-breathed.” Paul uses the Scripture to demonstrate that Jesus is the promised Messiah (Rom. 1:2), to give instruction in Christian living (Rom. 13:8–10), and to prove the validity of his teachings (Gal. 3:8, 9).
It is difficult to determine exactly how many hundreds of times Paul quotes the Old Testament, but quotes are found throughout all his letters, except his shortest ones, Titus and Philemon.
Read carefully Galatians 3:6–14. Identify the passages he quotes from the Old Testament in those verses. What does that tell us about how authoritative the Old Testament was?
|Do you at times find yourself thinking that one part of the Bible is more “inspired” than other parts? Given Paul’s statement in 2 Timothy 3:16, what’s the danger of going down that path?
Reckoned as Righteous
Why do you think Paul first appeals to Abraham as he looks to the Scriptures to validate his gospel message? (Gal. 3:6).”
Abraham was a central figure in Judaism. Not only was he the father of the Jewish race, but Jews in Paul’s time also looked to him as the prototype of what a true Jew should be like. Many not only believed that his defining characteristic was his obedience but that God had declared Abraham righteous because of that obedience. After all, Abraham forsook his homeland and family, he accepted circumcision, and he was even willing to sacrifice his son at God’s command. That’s obedience! With their insistence on circumcision, Paul’s opponents certainly argued along these same lines.
Paul, however, turns the tables by appealing to Abraham—nine times in Galatians—as an example of faith instead of law-keeping.
Consider Paul’s quotation of Genesis 15:6. What does it mean when it says that Abraham’s faith was “counted . . . to him for righteousness”? (See also Rom. 4:3–6, 8–11, 22–24.)
Whereas justification was a metaphor taken from the legal world, the word counted or reckoned is a metaphor drawn from the domain of business. It can mean “to credit” or “to place something to one’s account.” Not only is it used of Abraham in Galatians 3:6, but it occurs another 11 times in connection with the patriarch. Some Bible versions translate it as counted, reckoned, or imputed.
According to Paul’s metaphor, what is placed to our accounts is righteousness. The question is, however, On what basis does God count us as righteous? It surely cannot be on the basis of obedience—despite what Paul’s opponents claimed. No matter what they said about Abraham’s obedience, Scripture says that it was because of Abraham’s faith that God counted him as righteous.
The Bible is clear: Abraham’s obedience was not the ground of his justification; it was, instead, the result. He didn’t do the things he did in order to be justified; he did them because he, already, was justified. Justification leads to obedience, not vice versa.
|Dwell on what this means—that you are justified not by anything you do but only by what Christ has done for you. Why is that such good news? How can you learn to make that truth your own; that is, to believe it applies to you, personally, no matter your struggles, past and even present?
The Gospel in the Old Testament
“And the Scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, preached the gospel beforehand to Abraham, saying, ‘In you shall all the nations be blessed’” (Gal. 3:8, ESV). Paul writes that not only was the gospel preached to Abraham, but it was God who preached it; so, it must have been the true gospel. But when did God preach the gospel to Abraham? Paul’s quotation of Genesis 12:3 indicates he has in mind the covenant that God made with Abraham when he called him in Genesis 12:1–3.
Read Genesis 12:1–3. What does this tell us about the nature of the covenant that God made with Abraham?
The basis of God’s covenant with Abraham centered on God’s promises to him. God says to Abraham four times, “I will.” God’s promises to Abraham are amazing because they are completely one-sided. God does all the promising; Abraham promises nothing. This is the opposite of how most people try to relate to God. We usually promise we will serve Him, if only He will do something for us in return. But that is legalism. God did not ask Abraham to promise anything but to accept His promises by faith. Of course, that was no easy task, because Abraham had to learn to trust completely in God and not in himself (see Genesis 22). The call of Abraham illustrates, therefore, the essence of the gospel, which is salvation by faith.
Some mistakenly conclude that the Bible teaches two ways of salvation. They claim that in Old Testament times salvation was based on keeping the commandments; then, because that did not work very well, God abolished the law and made salvation possible by faith. This could not be farther from the truth. As Paul wrote in Galatians 1:7, there is only one gospel.
What other examples can you find in the Old Testament of salvation by faith alone? See, for instance, Lev. 17:11, Ps. 32:1–5, 2 Sam. 12:1–13, Zech. 3:1–4.
|We often hear the phrase “cheap grace.” Yet, it’s a misnomer. Grace isn’t cheap—it’s free (at least for us). But we ruin it when we think that we can add to it by our works or when we think we can use it as an excuse to sin. In your own experience, which one of these two ways are you more inclined to lean toward, and how can you stop?
Redeemed From a Curse (Gal. 3:9–14)
Paul’s opponents were no doubt stunned by his bold words in Galatians 3:10. They certainly did not think themselves to be under a curse; if anything, they expected to be blessed for their obedience. Yet, Paul is unequivocal: “For as many as are of the works of the law are under the curse; for it is written, ‘Cursed is everyone who does not continue in all things which are written in the book of the law, to do them’” (NKJV).
Paul is contrasting two completely different alternatives: salvation by faith and salvation by works. The covenant blessings and curses outlined in Deuteronomy 27 and 28 were straightforward. Those who obeyed were blessed, those who disobeyed were cursed. That means if a person wants to rely on obedience to the law for acceptance with God, then the whole law needs to be kept. We do not have the liberty to pick and choose what we want to follow; nor should we assume that God is willing to overlook a few mistakes here and there. It is all or nothing.
This is, of course, bad news not only for Gentiles but for Paul’s legalistic opponents, as well, because we “all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God” (Rom. 3:23). No matter how hard we try to be good, the law can only condemn us as lawbreakers.
How did Christ deliver us from the curse of the law? See Gal. 3:13, 2 Cor. 5:21.
Paul introduces another metaphor to explain what God has done for us in Christ. The word redeem means “to buy back.” It was used as the ransom price paid to release hostages or as the price paid to free a slave. Because the wages of sin is death, the curse of failing to keep the law was often a death sentence. The ransom paid for our salvation was not insignificant; it cost God the life of His own Son (John 3:16). Jesus ransomed us from the curse by becoming our sin-bearer (1 Cor. 6:20, 7:23). He voluntarily took our curse upon Himself and suffered in our behalf the full penalty of sin (2 Cor. 5:21).
Paul cites Deuteronomy 21:23 as scriptural proof. According to Jewish custom, a person was under God’s curse if, after execution, the body was hung upon a tree. Jesus’ death on the cross was seen as an example of this curse (Acts 5:30, 1 Pet. 2:24).
No wonder, then, that the cross was a stumbling block for some Jews who could not fathom the idea that the Messiah was accursed by God. But this was exactly God’s plan. Yes, the Messiah bore a curse, but it was not His own—it was ours!
“Upon Christ as our substitute and surety was laid the iniquity of us all. He was counted a transgressor, that He might redeem us from the condemnation of the law. The guilt of every descendant of Adam was pressing upon His heart. The wrath of God against sin, the terrible manifestation of His displeasure because of iniquity, filled the soul of His Son with consternation. All His life Christ had been publishing to a fallen world the good news of the Father’s mercy and pardoning love. Salvation for the chief of sinners was His theme. But now with the terrible weight of guilt He bears, He cannot see the Father’s reconciling face. The withdrawal of the divine countenance from the Saviour in this hour of supreme anguish pierced His heart with a sorrow that can never be fully understood by man. So great was this agony that His physical pain was hardly felt.
“Satan with his fierce temptations wrung the heart of Jesus. The Saviour could not see through the portals of the tomb. Hope did not present to Him His coming forth from the grave a conqueror, or tell Him of the Father’s acceptance of the sacrifice. He feared that sin was so offensive to God that Their separation was to be eternal. Christ felt the anguish which the sinner will feel when mercy shall no longer plead for the guilty race. It was the sense of sin, bringing the Father’s wrath upon Him as man’s substitute, that made the cup He drank so bitter, and broke the heart of the Son of God.”—Ellen G. White, The Desire of Ages, p. 753.
| Even today in our own
church, some still have a hard time accepting salvation by faith alone,
that God’s grace, through Christ, saves us, apart from our works.
What’s behind the hesitancy of some to accept this crucial truth?
Paul spoke very strongly about the theological error of salvation by works. What does that tell us about the importance of good theology? Why should we, as a church, stand up, forcefully if need be, when error is being taught among us?
|From start to finish in the Christian life, the basis of our salvation is faith in Christ alone. It was because of Abraham’s faith in God’s promises that he was counted as righteous, and that same gift of righteousness is available for anyone today who shares Abraham’s faith. The only reason we are not condemned for our mistakes is that Jesus paid the price for our sins by dying in our place.
|I N S I D E Story
|Those Evil Christians
Tawgy slowed his steps as he neared his home in Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia. “Dear Father,” he prayed, “help my parents not to be angry with me for going to church instead of doing my chores. Help them to understand that I’m not trying to disobey them, but that I want to obey You.”
Thirteen-year-old Tawgy had been a Christian for only a few months, and his parents still were deeply concerned that he had joined “that evil sect.” Tawgy understood, for he, too, had heard the rumors that some extreme Christians committed suicide. He tried to convince his parents that he wasn’t at all involved with such an extremist group.
Tawgy was just 12 when his aunt invited him to visit the Adventist church with her. He didn’t want to go, but he felt obligated to obey his aunt, so he went. He enjoyed the meeting and liked the young pastor who spoke. Tawgy attended the rest of the meetings and accepted Jesus as his Savior. His parents tried to dissuade him from attending church and often gave him work assignments to keep him home on Sabbath, but he stood his ground.
Tawgy’s classmates shunned him when he began associating with boys who drank and smoked. But when he became a Christian his classmates thought that he had done something even worse! Tawgy stopped spending time with his former friends, and in time his classmates realized that he really had changed for the better. To his joy, Tawgy learned that four of his former friends also became Christians.
Always somewhat shy, Tawgy struggled to gain confidence. His church family has encouraged him, and now he finds it easy to talk to people. “My friends at church are like my family,” he says. “They pray for me and help me stay faithful to God when I’m weak. They make it easier for me to be the only believer in my family.”
The Adventist Church in Mongolia is just taking root. With fewer than 2,000 members, standing for one’s faith can be difficult. Please pray for the believers in Mongolia, and remember that your mission offerings are helping grow the church in regions such as Mongolia, one of the uttermost parts of the earth.
Tawgy (left) continues to study and share his faith in Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia.
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