At least since the mid-1970’s, nearly all Adventists in the developed world have enjoyed a relatively sound understanding of Justification by Faith; at the same time, most of us have not been quite as well-informed with respect to Sanctification—a doctrine which treads close to the old canard that anyone who cares about personal holiness or who possesses close lifestyle scruples must, by definition, be considered a legalist.
The first sentence of this quarter’s Sabbath School lesson also captures the most important point about Jesus’ teaching about God the Father: “Jesus delighted to speak of God as the Father.” We as Christians today can’t really recapture how shocking this must have been to His audiences. All our knowledge of Jesus and of Christianity is grounded in our confidence in His claim to have been the Son of God, so much so that we cannot, no matter how hard we try, recapture the original mindset of the Judeans of Jesus’ time.
A kingdom without a law would be an oxymoron, as is the notion of a ruler without rules. All communities and all relationships require guiding and defining principles to maintain health and vitality. Properly understood, law is life. Even secular scientists understand that all living things can only continue to function as they abide by various natural and physical laws. The same is true of our moral natures, as moral disharmony will lead to conflict and eventually death.
For many years, there was never a problem in comparing Christ and the Law—one was a reflection of the other. Careful Adventists would say no one can present the law without the gospel, or the gospel without the law, especially when one understands the Great Controversy theme and what God wants to achieve in His plan of salvation.
Verses 1-8 Hitherto none had been baptized into the Christian church but Jews, Samaritans, and those converts who had been circumcised and observed the ceremonial law; but now the Gentiles were to be called to partake all the privileges of God's people, without first becoming Jews. Pure and undefiled religion is sometimes found where we least expect it. Wherever the fear of God rules in the heart, it will appear both in works of charity and of piety, neither will excuse from the other.
We apologize that there is no commentary this week. The person who had agreed to write this week's commentary was deeply involved in the meeting of the Theology of Ordination Study Committee and was consequently was unable to write an essay.
Normal service will resume next week.
In our day, whenever Gospel and law or grace and law appear together in the same breath, law always takes a beating. Law condemns, but grace redeems. Now to see law viewed as some kind of culprit is an astonishing development, because in the Old Testament Torah is viewed as very good news indeed. The longest of the psalms, Psalm 119, is nothing but a celebration of Torah.
By the time Jesus was born, Judaism had become centered on the Torah. The word Torah means “teaching” and was used mainly to designate what was taught with authority -- that is, the five books of Moses. When the Jews of Alexandria translated the Pentateuch from Hebrew to Greek, beginning in the 3rd century B.C.E., Torah became Nomos, the Greek word for law. As the giver of the Law, Moses then came to be considered the greatest of the prophets.