Lesson 24 | Sabbath, 14 December 2019
“The righteousness of God was revealed in the gospel. In it was made known the method by which man was to be reconciled to God. Notwithstanding the justice of God, and the guilt of the transgressor of His holy law, a way was devised whereby satisfaction could be made to the law by the infinite sacrifice of the Son of God. The typical offerings of the old dispensation pointed men forward to the Lamb of God that should die on Calvary’s cross, when type would meet antitype in the death of God’s dear Son. From Adam’s time through successive generations the sacrificial offerings were pointing forward to Christ, and men’s faith was fixed on an offering of infinite value. By faith, patriarchs and prophets depended upon God, who was dealing with them through Christ.” –Signs of the Times, August 5, 1889.
The gospel and God’s righteousness
1. How did the apostle Paul define the gospel of Jesus Christ? What is revealed in it?
Romans 1:16, 17 For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth; to the Jew first, and also to the Greek. 17For therein is the righteousness of God revealed from faith to faith: as it is written, The just shall live by faith.
“The law reveals to man his sins, but it provides no remedy. While it promises life to the obedient, it declares that death is the portion of the transgressor. The gospel of Christ alone can free him from the condemnation or the defilement of sin. He must exercise repentance toward God, whose law has been transgressed; and faith in Christ, his atoning sacrifice. Thus he obtains ‘remission of sins that are past’ and becomes a partaker of the divine nature. He is a child of God, having received the spirit of adoption, whereby he cries: ‘Abba, Father!’” –The Great Controversy, pp. 467, 468.
2. Is justification a personal achievement coming from one’s own merits, or is it the pure gift of God’s grace? If it is by grace, why is it impossible for it to come from one’s own works or human merit?
Romans 3:24; 11:6 Being justified freely by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus…. 11:6And if by grace, then is it no more of works: otherwise grace is no more grace. But if it be of works, then is it no more grace: otherwise work is no more work.
“Here the truth is laid out in plain lines. This mercy and goodness is wholly undeserved. The grace of Christ is freely to justify the sinner without merit or claim on his part. Justification is a full, complete pardon of sin. The moment a sinner accepts Christ by faith, that moment he is pardoned. The righteousness of Christ is imputed to him, and he is no more to doubt God’s forgiving grace.” –Our Father Cares, p. 290.
Israel and the Gentiles’ search for righteousness
3. Did Israel, which received the law and knew God’s will, attain to righteousness? What about the Gentiles, who had not received the written law? Did they receive the righteousness of Jesus by faith?
Romans 9:30, 31 What shall we say then? That the Gentiles, which followed not after righteousness, have attained to righteousness, even the righteousness which is of faith. 31But Israel, which followed after the law of righteousness, hath not attained to the law of righteousness.
“At His baptism the heavens were opened, and the glory of God in the similitude of a dove like burnished gold hovered over the Saviour, and a voice came from heaven, saying, ‘This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.’ But the nation to whom Christ came, though professing to be the peculiar people of God, did not recognize the heavenly treasure in the person of Jesus Christ. They had had light upon light, evidence upon evidence…. ‘Esaias is very bold, and saith, I was found of them that sought Me not; I was made manifest unto them that asked not after Me. But to Israel He saith, All day long I have stretched forth My hands unto a disobedient and gainsaying people.’ Romans 10:20, 21.” –The Youth’s Instructor, August 22, 1895.
4. Why did Israel not receive the true righteousness given by God? What obstacles hindered both the people and the rulers from receiving the gift of righteousness?
Romans 9:32, 33 Wherefore? Because they sought it not by faith, but as it were by the works of the law. For they stumbled at that stumblingstone; 33As it is written, Behold, I lay in Sion a stumblingstone and rock of offence: and whosoever believeth on him shall not be ashamed.
“A legal religion can never lead souls to Christ; for it is a loveless, Christless religion. Fasting or prayer that is actuated by a self-justifying spirit is an abomination in the sight of God. The solemn assembly for worship, the round of religious ceremonies, the external humiliation, the imposing sacrifice, proclaim that the doer of these things regards himself as righteous, and as entitled to heaven; but it is all a deception. Our own works can never purchase salvation.” –The Desire of Ages, p. 280.
“While we are to be in harmony with God’s law, we are not saved by the works of the law, yet we cannot be saved without obedience. The law is the standard by which character is measured. But we cannot possibly keep the commandments of God without the regenerating grace of Christ. Jesus alone can cleanse us from all sin. He does not save us by law, neither will He save us in disobedience to law.” –Faith and Works, pp. 95, 96.
5. In trying to establish their own righteousness, what mistake did the Jews make? Although they had zeal for the Lord, what did they lose?
Romans 10:1-3 Brethren, my heart’s desire and prayer to God for Israel is, that they might be saved. 2For I bear them record that they have a zeal of God, but not according to knowledge. 3For they being ignorant of God’s righteousness, and going about to establish their own righteousness, have not submitted themselves unto the righteousness of God.
“As a nation, the people of Israel, while desiring the advent of the Messiah, were so far separated from God in heart and life that they could have no true conception of the character or mission of the promised Redeemer. Instead of desiring redemption from sin, and the glory and peace of holiness, their hearts were fixed upon deliverance from their national foes, and restoration to worldly power. They looked for Messiah to come as a conqueror, to break every yoke, and exalt Israel to dominion over all nations. Thus Satan had succeeded in preparing the hearts of the people to reject the Saviour when He should appear. Their own pride of heart, and their false conceptions of His character and mission, would prevent them from honestly weighing the evidences of His Messiahship.” –Prophets and Kings, pp. 709, 710.
The aim of the law
6. Was the purpose of the law to put man in a position to achieve righteousness by his own works or to guide him to Christ, who would give man His own perfect righteousness by faith?
Romans 10:4 For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to every one that believeth.
Galatians 3:24; 2:16 Wherefore the law was our schoolmaster to bring us unto Christ, that we might be justified by faith…. 2:16Knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the law, but by the faith of Jesus Christ, even we have believed in Jesus Christ, that we might be justified by the faith of Christ, and not by the works of the law: for by the works of the law shall no flesh be justified.
“Christ is the end, or purpose, of the law. The law condemns the sinner, and thus drives him to Christ for righteousness.” –Signs of the Times, August 5, 1889.
The Greek word telos in some versions of Romans 10:4 is translated “termination”; in other translations, “end,” which in English may indicate “termination” or “goal.” In other versions in various languages, telos is translated “goal,” meaning that Christ is the “goal” or “intent” of the law. Because the term telos may have more than one meaning, in every case it is necessary to understand the word in the light of the Biblical context. What is Jesus teaching regarding the law–that He is its termination? No! Matthew 5:17; Luke 16:17. This shows that Jesus is not the termination of the law, but its goal, the One who carries it out it with complete obedience (cf. Matthew 3:15) and through His example helps others to reach the same goal.
“The law given upon Sinai was the enunciation of the principle of love, a revelation to earth of the law of heaven…. God had revealed the purpose of the law when He declared to Israel, ‘Ye shall be holy men unto Me.’ Exodus 22:31.” –Thoughts from the Mount of Blessing, p. 46.
Prophecy of the righteous Servant
7. How did the prophets point out that righteousness would come from the “righteous Servant”? Since the law is unable to justify anyone, to whom must we turn for justification?
Psalm 143:2 And enter not into judgment with thy servant: for in thy sight shall no man living be justified.
Isaiah 53:11 He shall see of the travail of his soul, and shall be satisfied: by his knowledge shall my righteous servant justify many; for he shall bear their iniquities.
Acts 13:37-39 But he, whom God raised again, saw no corruption. 38Be it known unto you therefore, men and brethren, that through this man is preached unto you the forgiveness of sins: 39And by him all that believe are justified from all things, from which ye could not be justified by the law of Moses.
“Ever before Him, Christ saw the result of His mission. His earthly life, so full of toil and self-sacrifice, was cheered by the thought that He would not have all this travail for nought. By giving His life for the life of men, He would restore in humanity the image of God. He would lift us up from the dust, reshape the character after the pattern of His own character, and make it beautiful with His own glory.” –The Ministry of Healing, p. 504.
“What sustained the Son of God during His life of toil and sacrifice? He saw the results of the travail of His soul, and was satisfied. Looking into eternity, He beheld the happiness of those who through His humiliation had received pardon and everlasting life. His ear caught the shout of the redeemed. He heard the ransomed ones singing the song of Moses and the Lamb.” –The Acts of the Apostles, p. 601.
For additional study
“When the law was proclaimed from Sinai, God made known to men the holiness of His character, that by contrast they might see the sinfulness of their own. The law was given to convict them of sin, and reveal their need of a Saviour. It would do this as its principles were applied to the heart by the Holy Spirit. This work it is still to do. In the life of Christ the principles of the law are made plain; and as the Holy Spirit of God touches the heart, as the light of Christ reveals to men their need of His cleansing blood and His justifying righteousness, the law is still an agent in bringing us to Christ, that we may be justified by faith.” –The Desire of Ages, p. 308.
“The law of ten commandments is not to be looked upon as much from the prohibitory side as from the mercy side. Its prohibitions are the sure guarantee of happiness in obedience. As received in Christ, it works in us the purity of character that will bring joy to us through eternal ages. To the obedient it is a wall of protection. We behold in it the goodness of God, who by revealing to men the immutable principles of righteousness, seeks to shield them from the evils that result from transgression.” –Selected Messages, book 1, p. 235.
“As received in Christ, it [God’s law] works in us the purity of character that will bring joy to us through eternal ages.” –The Faith I Live by, p. 83.