See our "How to Make Friends for God" lesson index plus extra resources on our 2020 Third Quarter Index
The Book of James
Lesson 13 December 20-26
Read for This Week's Study: Heb. 4:2; Ps. 130:3-4; Luke 15:11-32; Rom. 3:24-26; Heb. 10:1-4; Rev. 14:12.
The LORD has appeared of old to me,
(Jeremiah 31:3, NKJV).
Yes, I have loved you with an everlasting love;
therefore with lovingkindness I have drawn you
In our study of James, we have
looked at a number of issues
connected with the gospel and made some comparisons with other biblical
authors. It is not always easy to understand clearly how what James
says fits with other parts of Scripture, especially when it comes to
something as central as the gospel itself, but as we saw, it does. And
this is very important, too, because the gospel is the foundation of
our last-day commission to preach
the everlasting gospel . .
. to every nation, and kindred, and tongue, and people (Rev.
In this, our final week, we will focus on basic questions
the everlasting gospel, which is
salvation by faith, a belief taught all through the Bible, including
The crucial point to remember is that the Bible does not contradict itself, especially on something as basic as salvation. By finishing the quarter with a look at how the gospel appears in the Bible, we can better see how James fits this larger picture of God's plan of redemption.
*Study this week's lesson to prepare for Sabbath, December 27.
Sunday December 21
For we also have
had the gospel preached to us, just as they
did; but the message they heard was of no value to them, because those
who heard did not combine it with faith (Heb.
This verse is startling in its implications. Foremost is that
the gospel, not simply
but the good news, was preached in the Old
Testament. Second, it was preached then just as in
New Testament times. There is no hint that there was any difference in
the message itself. The problem, therefore, was not with the
message but with the way it was heard.
Today, too, different people can hear the same gospel message very
differently. How crucial, then, that we surrender ourselves in utter
faith to the teaching of the Word so that when the gospel is preached,
we hear it correctly.
Look at the following verses and summarize the gospel message in each:
Ps. 130:3-4; Ps. 32:1-5
Did you notice a common refrain? God intervenes to save us; He
forgives our sins and puts
enmity in us toward sin
so that we can be
willing and obedient (Isa. 1:19).
One (Jesus) died for the many, bore their (our) iniquities, and
justifies the undeserving. The new covenant is different from the old
covenant because the law is written in the heart, and sins are
no more (Heb. 8:12).
In short, forgiveness and the new birth
are a package: justification and sanctification
represent God's solution to the sin problem. These passages could be
multiplied, for the message is the same throughout the Bible: despite
our sin, God loves us and has done all that is possible to save us from
How can we, as people who believe in the importance of keeping the law, protect ourselves from the error of believing that law-keeping is what justifies us? Why is that not always so easy to do?
Monday December 22
Some have a very hard time finding the gospel in the Gospels!
The teachings of Jesus can seem legalistic but
only if we fail to hear the rest of the story.
Most people in Israel at the time of Jesus considered themselves to be
in a good position before God. They supported the temple by paying the
required tax and offering the appropriate sacrifices. They abstained
from unclean food, circumcised their sons, kept the festival days and
the Sabbaths, and generally tried to keep the law as taught by their
religious leaders. Then John came and cried
and be baptized. Furthermore, Jesus said a new birth was needed (John
3:3, 5) and that
except your righteousness shall
righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, ye shall in no case enter
into the kingdom of heaven (Matt.
5:20). In other words,
Jesus was saying,
You need what you do not have. Your works
are not good enough.
Read Luke 15:11-32, 18:9-17. How do these parables illustrate the gospel?
In the parable of the prodigal son, the son is lost and does
not know it. Eventually he begins to see his father's love in a new way
and longs to return. His pride is gone. Hoping for acceptance as a
servant, he is astonished to be lavished with honor by his father. The
relationship is not just restored. It is transformed. A similar
reversal of expectations appears in the second parable. The
Pharisee is ignored by God, while the
collector is not only accepted but leaves justified, forgiven, and free
Both stories help us to see God more clearly, as a Father and
as a Justifier of the ungodly. When He describes the cup of crushed
My blood of the covenant, which is poured out for
many for forgiveness of sins, Jesus suffers as the real
Passover Lamb, the death that should have been ours (Matt. 26:28, NASB;
compare Mark 10:45). Thus, salvation is free to us because
paid the full price for it.
What hope can you take from each of these parables for yourself? In what ways can you relate to some of the people in them, and what should your answer tell you about what you might need to change in your spiritual life?
Tuesday December 23
Like many of his countrymen, Paul thought he was in good
spiritual standing. But then he saw Jesus as
the Son of God,
who loved me, and gave Himself up for me (Gal. 2:20, NASB).
Suddenly he saw himself not saved, but lost; not God's servant, but
God's enemy; not righteous, but the chief of sinners. The scales fell
from his eyes, in other words, in his reading of the Old Testament.
God's revelation, to him personally and through the Scriptures,
transformed his heart and changed his life forever. We will not
understand Paul's epistles until we recognize these basic facts, which
Read 2 Corinthians 3:14-16 in this light and then verses 2-6. What does Paul identity here as the crucial step?
The meaning of the old covenant becomes clear only
one turns to the Lord (vs.
Jesus is the way to
salvation. It all begins and ends in Him. Israel-by trusting in their
own obedience, as Paul did before his conversion-experienced the old
covenant as a minister of death. Why? Because
all have sinned
(Rom. 3:23), including the
people of Israel, and so the commandments
could only condemn them (2 Cor. 3:7).
By contrast, believers in Corinth
a letter of Christ . . . written not with ink but with
the Spirit of the living God, not on tablets of stone but on tablets of
human hearts (vs. 3, NASB).
Read Romans 1:16-17; 3:24-26. How does Paul define the gospel? What all do we receive through Christ by faith?
The gospel is the power of God to save all
who believe. Righteousness is based not on what we do but on
what Christ has done for us, which we claim by faith. It is a belief
from faith to faith (Rom. 1:17). What
Paul means by this is unpacked in the rest of Romans, the heart of
which is found at the end of chapter 3.
Through Christ we have redemption
(God has bought us back by paying for our sins), justification
(we are cleared of guilt and cleansed by grace), and forgiveness
(God accepts us back and
forgets our past sins).
Amazingly, God, through the sacrifice of Christ, proves Himself to be
just in justifying the ungodly who have put their faith in Jesus.
Wednesday December 24
The book of Hebrews describes the new covenant as
than the old covenant (Heb. 8:1-2, 6,
NRSV). The obvious question,
then, is Why did God establish the old covenant if it was
faulty? The problem, however, was not with the
with the response of the people to it.
Read Hebrews 7:19, 8:9, 10:1-4. What problems with the old covenant are mentioned?
did not remain faithful to the
covenant (Heb. 8:9, NIV)
but were disobedient and rebellious. This,
together with the fact that the animal sacrifices of the old covenant
could never take away sins (Heb. 10:4),
meant that the sin problem
the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once
for all could atone for sin, including those committed under
the old covenant (Heb. 10:10, NKJV; 9:15). And that was because
law made nothing perfect, but the bringing in of a better hope did; by
the which we draw nigh unto God (Heb.
7:19) through the
promise of the new covenant.
In one sense, the new covenant is not new at all because-since
the promise in Eden of the seed who would bruise the serpent's head-the
plan of salvation has always been predicated on the death of Christ,
Lamb slain from the foundation of the world (Rev. 13:8; see
also Jer. 32:40; Heb. 13:20-21; John 13:34).
The covenant of grace is not a new truth, for it
existed in the mind of God from all eternity. This is why it is called
the everlasting covenant.-Ellen G. White, The
Faith I Live By, p. 77.
On the other hand, as we saw with Paul, something special
happens when we turn to the Lord. God promised, in connection with the
I will put into their hearts reverence
for Me, so that they do not turn away from Me (Jer. 32:40,
NJPS). Without faith, bringing animal sacrifices was
almost like making
payment for sins. Gazing at Jesus instead, who
cross, despising the shame, and
who endured such
hostility from sinners against Himself (Heb.
reveals the immeasurable cost of sin and the good news that the cost
has been paid by Someone else
through the blood of the
everlasting covenant (13:20, NKJV). This
covenant transforms how we look at everything, such as the commandment
to love one another. It's not really new (Lev.
19:18) except in that we
are not just to love our neighbor as ourselves, but
as I [Jesus] have loved you (John
How can we ever learn to love others as Jesus has loved us?
Thursday December 25
But in the days of the voice of the seventh angel,
when he is about to sound, then the mystery of God is finished, as He
preached to His servants the prophets (Rev.
Significantly, Revelation 10:7 is the only other verse in
Revelation (besides Revelation 14:6) that specifically refers to
preaching the gospel (the Greek word translated
to proclaim good news).
These two chapters are special for Seventh-day Adventists, because we
find our calling and commission described in them. In other words, God
has specifically commissioned us, in a way He has no other group, to
As we have seen, the gospel is the same from Genesis to Revelation. The law is the same. The covenant is the same. Jesus, Paul, and James all affirm that the gospel is the same one believed by Abraham (John 8:56, Rom. 4:13, James 2:21-23). Some have difficulty with this assertion only because they define the gospel more narrowly than Scripture. Abraham's obedient faith, however, originated through his foreseeing Jesus' sacrifice. We do not need to balance faith with works in order to be saved. Faith alone is sufficient, but it must not be an intellectual faith as the devils have, nor a presumptuous faith that claims the promises of God without complying with the conditions of salvation; rather it must be a faith that works.
Why are the references in Revelation 12:17 and Revelation 14:12 to keeping the commandments, and to the testimony and faith of Jesus, significant in the context of the everlasting gospel?
The decisive issue at the end of time is: whom will we worship
and obey? The God who
made heaven, and earth, and the sea,
and the fountains of waters? (Rev.
14:7). Or the beast and
his image? Obedience to the commandments (including the Sabbath)
through the faith of Jesus signifies those who remain faithful to the
end. True religion demands both faith and obedience.
"Though often in the midst of reproach and persecution, a
constant testimony has been borne to the perpetuity of the law of God
and the sacred obligation of the creation Sabbath.
truths, as presented in Revelation
14 in connection with -Ellen G. White, The
Great Controversy, pp. 453,
everlasting gospel, will distinguish the church of Christ at
the time of His appearing. For as the result of the threefold message
it is announced:
Here are they that keep the commandments of
God, and the faith of Jesus.
Friday December 26
Study: Read Ellen G. White,
The Loud Cry,
pp. 198-202, in Last Day Events.
We need to come up to a higher standard, to go
forward and claim our exalted privileges. We should walk humbly with
God, make no proud boasts of perfection of character, but in simple
faith claim every promise in the word of God; for they are for the
obedient, not for the transgressors of God's law. We are simply to
believe the testimony of God, and have entire dependence on him, and
all possibility of self-glory or pride will be removed. We are indeed
saved by faith, not by a passive faith, but by the faith which works by
love, and purifies the soul. The hand of Christ can reach the veriest
sinner, and bring him back from transgression to obedience; but no
Christianity is so lofty that it can soar above the requirements of
God's holy law. This would be beyond Christ's power to help, it would
be outside of his teachings and his example; for he says, -Ellen
G. White, Signs of the Times, March 31, 1890.
have kept my Father's commandments, and abide in his love,
and all who follow Christ will render obedience to God's holy law.
At the detention center we were searched, and police took our remaining invitations. Then the police officer took our names and addresses, and the names of the schools we attended. He hinted that our arrest would be reported to our school and could jeopardize our chances to attend college one day.
Meanwhile the woman returned to the church and told the members what had happened. The choir practice immediately became a prayer meeting as the believers sought God's protection for us.
My mother and the pastor went to the park and tried to find us, but no one knew where we had been taken. Then they went to the central police station and demanded to know where we were. At first the police said they didn't know, but the pastor insisted that the police find us immediately. After a few phone calls the officer told them that we were in the juvenile center a mile away.
Inside the room at the juvenile center some of the girls began to cry. We had been kept locked up for several hours without food or water. It was almost sunset, and so we started singing, and our courage grew. Then, from down the hall, I heard my mother's voice arguing with the officer who had arrested us.
After several minutes another police officer came in and told us we were free to go. But when we asked for the invitation cards, the police said we couldn't have them.
As we started walking toward the church, I stopped and pulled some invitation cards out of my sock, where I had quickly hidden them. I explained to my mother and friends that when the police weren't looking, I put invitations the desks at the police station.
Everyone laughed, and on the way back to the church we gave out the remaining cards.
When we arrived back at the church we were surprised at how many members had gathered to pray for us. Everyone listened as they told them what had happened. Then the group prayed once more, thanking God for keeping us safe. We especially prayed for the officer who arrested us and the police who guarded us, that God would direct them to come to the church and hear His message of freedom in Christ.
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