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Lesson 11 *June 7-13

The Apostles and the Law

Sabbath Afternoon

Read for This Week's Study: Rom. 3:31, 6:15, Acts 10:9-14, John 15:1-11, James 2:1-26, Heb. 3:7-19, Jude 5-7.

Memory Text: Therefore the law is holy, and the commandment holy and just and good (Romans 7:12, NKJV).

With so much evidence for the continued validity of God's law, why do so many Christians argue against it?

First, some (as we have seen) look at certain New Testament texts that condemn a false understanding of the law's function but conclude that the problem is with the law itself. As a result, they claim that the Ten Commandments are not obligatory for those under the New Covenant.

Second, others are so convinced that the Sabbath is not binding on Christians that, in order to justify this position, they claim that all the commandments have been crucified with Jesus on the cross.

Third, some argue that the other nine commandments are in effect but that the fourth, the seventh-day sabbath, has been superseded by Sunday, which is kept in honor of the resurrection of Jesus.

Numerous problems exist with all these positions. This week we'll look at the attitude of Christ's apostles concerning the law, because surely if it were to have been nullified or modified after Christ's death, the apostles would have known something about it.

*Study this week's lesson to prepare for Sabbath, June 14.

Sunday June 8

Paul and the Law

Paul, it has been said, was the true founder of Christianity. That is wrong, of course. Though Paul contributed much to our theological understanding of Christian doctrine, including 13 of the 27 New Testament books, practically all the teachings in his writings can be found elsewhere in Scripture. The main reason why some claim that Paul started a new religion is the misconception over his teaching about law and grace.

Look at the following texts: Rom. 3:28; 6:14; 7:4; and Gal. 3:24-25. From a first glance, why isn't it hard to see why some think that these verses nullify the law?

Read in isolation, these texts definitely give the impression that the law is no longer relevant for the Christian. However, all these verses belong to a broader context that we must see in order to understand what Paul is truly saying.

Examine the passages in which each of the above texts occurs, paying special attention to Romans 3:31, 6:15, 7:7-12, and Galatians 3:21. How do these verses, as well as the context as a whole, help us to better understand Paul's point about the law?

For those who don't understand the concept of justification by faith, Paul may seem to be contradicting himself. In the same breath he claims that the Christian is not under the law; yet, the same Christian is obligated to keep the law. The problem is solved when we remember that God demands righteousness from those who claim to be in relationship with Him. The standard of righteousness is His law. However, when people measure up against His law, they fall short and are therefore condemned by the law. If the law were the means to salvation, then none would have any hope of eternal life. The hope of the Christian is not found in the law but in Jesus Christ, who not only kept the law perfectly but through God's miraculous power allows believers to share in His righteousness (Rom. 8:3-4). The Christian can now serve the law of God with a free conscience because Christ has taken away the law's condemnation (Rom. 7:25-8:2). The grace that comes through Christ does not release us from the law but rather compels us to obey it.

Monday June 9

Peter and the Law (1 Pet. 2:9)

Peter was one of Jesus' closest apostles. Among the first selected, Peter was present at many of the major events in the ministry of Jesus. It was he who, at Caesarea Philippi, made the declaration that Jesus was the Messiah; and Peter followed his Savior to the house of Caiaphas on the night that Jesus was arrested and tried. And on the morning when the resurrected Jesus appeared to the disciples by the sea, it was Peter who received specific instructions regarding the ministry of Christ. When the first group of believers gathered on the day of Pentecost, Peter was the chief spokesperson. Certainly, if the law had been changed in any way, Peter would have known.

What does Acts 10:9-14 tell us about Peter's adherence to the Jewish law after Jesus' ascension? If Peter thought this way about laws concerning food, what can we imagine his view was on the perpetuity of the Ten Commandments?

Peter received his vision several years after the ascension of Jesus. As a result of the disciples' preaching, thousands of Jews had already accepted Jesus as the Messiah. There is nothing in the biblical record to suggest that the content of the Christian message included instructions to reject the law. In a powerful way, the incident in Acts 10 demonstrates that the earliest Christians fully identified with their Jewish roots.

Compare 1 Peter 2:9 with Exodus 19:6. What is the context of Exodus 19:6?

When Peter referred to his audience as a royal priesthood, a holy nation (NKJV), they would have recalled instantly the story of the giving of the law at Sinai. As the heirs of Israel, they were expected to abide by the terms of the covenant made explicit in the law of God. So, immediately after reminding the people of their status, Peter urges them to live lives of righteousness (1 Pet. 2:11-12). He also warns his audience to be wary of false teachers promoting a law-free gospel (2 Pet. 2:21, 3:2).

Remember how badly Peter messed up; and yet, look at the grace extended to him. How can we learn (1) to extend that kind of grace to others and (2) to accept grace for ourselves when we mess up?

Tuesday June 10

John and the Law

John is second to Paul in the number of books contributed to the New Testament. This is the same John who wrote the Gospel, three letters, and the book of Revelation. Like Peter, he was among the first disciples Jesus chose, and he also had a special relationship with Jesus. Because of his closeness to Jesus, he is often referred to as John the Beloved. Judging from the ending of his Gospel (John 21:25), John knew a lot of personal information about Jesus. Surely one who was as close to Jesus as John would have known if Jesus had set aside God's law.

Read John 15:1-11 and 1 John 2:3-6. What do these verses together tell us about how we should relate to God's commands?

Toward the end of His earthly life, Jesus could testify to His disciples that He had been faithful to His Father's commandments, and, as a result, had remained in His Father's love (John 15:10). Jesus did not see the commandments as negative obstacles to be dismissed or discarded; rather, He saw them as guidelines for a loving relationship with Him and with other people. When John, the beloved disciple, reminds Christians of their obligation to God, he uses the same language of love and unity that Jesus does in the Gospel. In fact, John understood that love has always been the essence of the law (for example, 2 John 6). A person cannot claim to be keeping the law if he or she is not involved in loving relationships with God and other people.

The law of God requires that we love our fellow men as we love ourselves. Then every power and action of the mind must be put forth to that end-to do the greatest amount of good. . . . How pleasing to the Giver for man to hold the royal gifts of the soul so that they shall tell with power upon others! They are the connecting link between God and man, and reveal the Spirit of Christ and the attributes of heaven. The power of holiness, seen but not boasted of, speaks more eloquently than the most able sermons. It speaks of God, and opens to men their duty more powerfully than mere words can do.-Ellen G. White, Manuscript Releases, vol. 20, p. 138.

What is your own experience with the link between law and love? That is, on a personal practical level, how is love expressed by obedience to God's law?

Wednesday June 11

James and the Law

Do they not blaspheme that noble name by which you are called? If you really fulfill the royal law according to the Scripture, You shall love your neighbor as yourself, you do well; but if you show partiality, you commit sin, and are convicted by the law as transgressors (James 2:7-9, NKJV).

There is only one book in the New Testament that is attributed to James. While the author does not stipulate which James he is, it is generally accepted that the letter comes from James, the brother of Jesus. Though perhaps at first skeptical about Jesus' Messiahship (John 7:5), James eventually rose to an influential leadership position in the New Testament church (Acts 15:13, Gal. 1:19). Again, if Jesus had intended to abrogate the divine law, His own brother certainly would have known.

Read James 2:1-26. What is the basic message of the chapter? Why would James summarize the law as he did in verses 7-9, only then immediately to say what he said about keeping all the commandments? How do these verses show the link between love and obeying God's law?

Misunderstanding Paul's teaching on the law, some argue that James and Paul are opposed to each other regarding the role of the law. The major point of contention is over the place of works in salvation. Paul declares that we are saved by grace through faith apart from works (Eph. 2:8-9), while James emphasizes that faith without works is dead (James 2:26, NKJV). These statements are not contradictory; James is merely expressing in a forceful manner what Paul had said numerous times about grace not nullifying the law. Like Paul in Romans 13:9, James fully understands that the essence of God's law is love (James 2:8). No one can truly claim to keep God's commandments if he or she does not demonstrate practical acts of love.

Thursday June 12

Jude and the Law

Jude, one of the shortest books in the New Testament, is believed to have been written by another brother of Jesus. While the author refers to himself as a slave of Jesus Christ, he does admit to being the brother of James. Because Matthew gives James and Jude as names for two of Jesus' four brothers (Matt. 13:55), the Jude (sometimes called Judas) of this brief epistle is generally accepted to be the Savior's brother. As with all the other biblical writers we have studied, Jude would have known if Jesus had set the law aside.

Although Jude makes reference to neither law nor commandments, his entire letter is about fidelity to God and the consequences of transgressing His law.

Read Jude 4. What is he saying here that is relevant to our whole discussion?

The very mention of grace demands the existence of law, because grace would not be necessary if there were no sin (Rom. 5:18-6:15). What these false teachers were saying was so bad that Jude equated it with denying the Lord Himself.

How does Hebrews 3:7-19 help to shed light on Jude 5-7? How do these verses together show us the relationship between obedience and faith?

In his own diplomatic style, Jude reminds his audience about the experience of the Israelites, who had been delivered from Egyptian bondage. God had demonstrated His strength to them and had even given them His law, but when they became unfaithful, they faced terrible consequences that came from being separated from Him. Jude makes it very clear that people can, indeed, fall away, and those who do will face judgment. Jude is as clear as is the rest of Scripture: all who claim to have faith must be willing to express that faith through an obedient life.

Read the book of Jude. Amid all his strong warnings, what promises can you discover there for yourself?

Friday June 13

Further Study: Read Ellen G. White, The Law in the Christian Age, Signs of the Times, August 5, 1886.

Why should the apostles teach repentance toward God? Because the sinner is in trouble with the Father. He has transgressed the law; he must see his sin, and repent. What is his next work? To look to Jesus, whose blood alone can cleanse from all sin. Faith in Christ is necessary; for there is no saving quality in law. The law condemns, but it cannot pardon the transgressor. The sinner must depend on the merits of the blood of Christ. Let him take hold of my strength, says our merciful Redeemer, that he may make peace with me, and he shall make peace with me. Our Lord declared that he would love most to whom most was forgiven; and he only will feel that he needs forgiveness who sees himself as he is, defiled by sin, a transgressor of God's holy law. He who has the fullest conviction of the sacred claims of the law, will most clearly see the enormity of his offenses, and will feel that he is indeed forgiven much.-Ellen G. White, Signs of the Times, August 5, 1886.

Discussion Questions:

  1. Carefully read the above statement by Ellen G. White. How does this excerpt shed light on the biblical teachings covered in this quarter? What does it mean that a sinner must depend on the merits of the blood of Christ?
  2. Dwell more on the warning in Jude 4. If the men are proclaiming the grace of God, they obviously are believers. Yet, Jude says that they are denying the Lord. What serious implications does this have for those who claim that God's grace nullified the law? When people claim the law was done away with, what are they really trying to get rid of?
  3. How does the denial of the law, or even of one of the commandments, play into Satan's hands as he seeks to overthrow the law of God?

Inside Story~  SSD Division: Philippines

Mohammad's New School

Mohammad looked at the old school building and wondered what his parents had done to him. Mohammad and his parents live in Zamboanga, a city in the southern Philippines.

A friend had told Mohammad's parents about the Adventist school, and they went to inspect it. They found an old building in serious need of repair. The school's principal assured them that the entire school would be replaced soon. But Mohammad's parents didn't see the leaky metal roof or the holes in the screens. They saw happy children who loved their teachers and teachers who really cared for the children. They decided to send Mohammad to the Adventist school.

Reluctantly Mohammad stepped into class wondering whether he would make any friends there. Even before class started, several children welcomed him. At lunchtime, some boys invited Mohammad to eat with them and join their games at recess. Maybe his new school wasn't so bad after all! He discovered Pathfinders and learned to love camping and mastering new skills such as knot tying.

Near the end of the school year, Mohammad's teacher announced that when they returned from summer vacation they would have a new school. The children gladly helped their teachers box up the textbooks, clear out the closets, and empty the shelves. Then on the first day of vacation, the students stood a distance away and watched their old school building tumble down.

When Mohammed returned after school break and saw the new school, he was amazed. Students gladly helped teachers unpack books and move in new desks. Mohammad likes the new school, but he now knows that the building isn't as important as what happens inside the classroom. "In this school I learned to love God in a new way," he says. "My parents are glad, and so am I."

One thing made Mohammad sad, however. He would soon graduate and go on to high school, and the new Adventist high school wasn't finished yet. "I'll miss the friends I've made here," he says. "I'll miss praying with them."

A recent Thirteenth Sabbath Offering is helping build the high school section of Zamboanga Adventist School. Perhaps Mohammad can study there after all.

Produced by the General Conference Office of Adventist Mission.  email:   website:

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