The gospel & 1844: are they compatible?

1844

Why the gospel and 1844 are not compatible?

  • Seventh-day Adventist’s teach that in 1844, Christ began a work of judgment. This doctrine is their special gospel message to the world, and the reason for their existence. Ellen White said this teaching is the ‘foundation’ and ‘central pillar’ of the Advent faith (The Great Controversy, p. 409). Is this message compatible with the Biblical gospel?

Let’s see what the Bible teaches about the gospel

  • The gospel is called ‘the gospel of Christ’: It is about Jesus Christ’ (Romans 1:3).

  • The gospel is about Jesus Christ fulfilling the Old Testament: He fulfils its law and prophecy (Matt. 5:17).

He fulfils the law because He is the reality of all Jewish sacrifices and ceremonies.

His fulfils the law because His perfect obedience to God is the righteousness which the law demands of the human race.

  • The gospel is about a finished thing: His last words on the cross were ‘’It is finished’’. It is the good news of Christ’s finished work.

He ‘made atonement for sin’ (Rom 3:25), ‘destroyed death’ (2 Tim. 1:10), and ‘defeated the devil’ (Hebrews 2:14).  Man’s lost dominion has been restored in this one man, Jesus, ‘who reigns over all principalities and powers’ (1 Cor. 15:25).

  • The Bible presents the gospel as a historical thing that is done and finished.

‘Let me now remind you, dear brothers and sisters, of the Good News I preached [past tense] to you before. It is this Good News that saves you. Christ died for our sins, just as the Scriptures said. He was buried, and he was raised from the dead on the third day, just as the Scriptures said’’ (1 Cor. 15:1-4).

‘He cancelled the record of the charges against us and took it away by nailing it to the cross. In this way, he disarmed the spiritual rulers and authorities. He shamed them publicly by his victory over them on the cross’ (Col. 2:14,15)

‘When he had cleansed us from our sins, he sat down in the place of honour at the right hand of the majestic God in heaven’ (Hebrews 1:3)

The New Testament gospel is not presented as if it were an Old Testament promise of what God will do. It is message of what He has done. If anyone preaches about a gospel not already finished, it is not the gospel (Gal. 1:8).

  • The Gospel is a final thing: ‘Long ago God spoke many times and in many ways to our ancestors through the prophets. And now in these final days, he has spoken to us through his Son’ (Heb. 1:1-2).

God did everything for our salvation when He acted in Christ. Christ is God’s final word to man. For there is no hint that the New Testament Christians are waiting for the Spirit (latter rain), the sealing, the verdict of the final judgment. They only wait for the Son of God to come from heaven (1 Thess. 1:10).

Hence, until Jesus comes, there is no way to go on from hearing the gospel to some higher knowledge of the gospel message or some more profound experience of God (latter rain).

  • The gospel is a complete thing: ‘For I have not hesitated to proclaim to you the whole counsel or teachings of God’’ (Acts 20:27).

We need to guard against the idea that since we are in the last days, we need to preach aspects of Christ’s redemptive work which were not proclaimed by the apostles.

  • The proclamation of the gospel of Jesus is a last day event:’But now, once for all time, he has appeared at the end of the age to remove sin by his own death as a sacrifice’’ (Hebrew 9:26).

Calvary therefore was a last day event. The outpouring of the Spirit to proclaim the gospel took place at Pentecost, which was a fulfilment of what Joel preached would take place in the last days (Acts 2:16, 17).

  • The gospel is an all-sufficient thing: It gives us eternal life (John 5:24; 3:16); it gives us the seal of God which is the Holy Spirit (Eph 1:13); No new testament believer waits for the Spirit, but by the Spirit he waits for the Lord (Rom. 5:5). In Christ, believer is now perfect, without fault, blameless in God’s sight (Col. 1:20).

It is denial of the gospel to talk about a future character perfection, sealing, as if there is something above and beyond hearing the gospel that has already been given to the New Testament church.

  • The gospel is a clear and certain thing: It is not a mystery or hidden thing. ‘’If the Good News we preach is hidden behind a veil, it is hidden only from people who are perishing. Satan, who is the god of this world, has blinded the minds of those who don’t believe. They are unable to see the glorious light of the Good News. They don’t understand this message about the glory of Christ..’’ (2 Cor. 4:3-4).

The clear message of the gospel is Christ is the promised one who died to take away our sins so that all who believe find forgiveness and life everlasting (John 3:16).

  • The gospel is a decisive thing: Those who obey the gospel are sealed and given life eternal. Those who disobey the gospel are judged already (John 5:24). This means that the final judgement is mysteriously present in preaching of the gospel (John 3:18). God doesn’t require any further judgement to decide who are his children.

1844 : does it match up with the Biblical gospel?

  • The date 1844 and the teaching on the two-phased ministry of Christ in the heavenly sanctuary are the nerve center of Adventism. From this teaching comes a plethora of teachings like the investigative judgment, the remnant church, the special sealing, the latter rain, and Spirit of prophecy (Ellen White).

Because the gospel given to the apostles was a finished, complete thing, and no future addition to that gospel was implied, SDA teaching on 1844 actually denies the gospel. The SDA pioneers, and members do not appear to understand the gospel.

  • Consequently, even today, the SDA gospel is being preached as a promise of what God will do for us if we fulfil certain conditions, and not as something finished! For example, He will blot out our sins if we pass the investigative judgment that began in 1844. If we keep the Sabbath, we will receive the seal of God. He will help us overcome every character defect so that we can receive the latter rain.

It’s no exaggeration to say that SDA community has lived and continue to live as an Old Testament community with a gospel of promise than a New Testament community with a gospel of something already finished.

  • The Old Testament revelation God gave through Moses, Daniel was veiled. But this was revealed or unveiled in the New Testament because ‘God has spoken’ (Hebrews 1:2) the final word about the essential meaning of the Old Testament. This means we must interpret the Old Testament in the light of the New Testament. SDA’s generally do the reverse.

When the New Testament declares Dan 7:14, ‘He was given all authority’ was fulfilled in Christ (Matt. 28:18), we must not go beyond God’s final word.

  • Since Aaron went into holy of holies in the earthly sanctuary, SDA’s reasoned that Christ must have gone into heaven to do the same. SDA’s do not get that the book of Hebrews contrasts between type (symbol) and antitype (real) more than the parallels. Unlike Aaron, Christ made atonement ‘once and for all’ and then went into the presence of God (Heb. 1:3). That’s why Hebrews says nothing about a two-phased ministration in heaven.

The book of Hebrews know nothing about a further ministration to prepare His children for his coming, because, ‘For by that one offering he forever made perfect those who are being made holy’’ (Hebrews 10:14).

  • Christ’s intercession in heaven is not that of an Aaronic priest standing before God to offer the blood. His intercession is that of a king seated on His throne, exercising the rights and titles gained by His finished work.

The 1844 teaching implies that the apostolic gospel was not complete, that it did not contain all the light necessary to prepare the church for translation. All this is opposed to the gospel ‘once for all entrusted to the saints’’ (Jude 3), which was a gospel containing all necessary things to prepare people for the Christ’s coming (Rom. 5:1).

  • What can we say about 1844? It rests on one solitary text – Daniel 8:14. There is no New Testament confirmation of either the date 1844, or the new phase of Christ’s work in heaven.

The truth is SDA’s have not been able to convince a single recognised Biblical scholar that their interpretation of Daniel 8:14 is worthy of a second thought. There is not an adventist in ten who would feel comfortable ‘proving’ the 1844 doctrine from the Bible. Yet SDA’s have to hold on to it, because it alone justifies the existence of Adventism as a movement with a special message.

  • Instead of a pre-advent judgment beginning in 1844, the New Testament knows only one pre-advent judgment. It is the apostolic gospel (John 3:17-19). By this gospel, all men are tested and are thereby declared righteous or guilty.

It’s time for SDA’s to wake up, and embrace the true gospel. For the gospel is about Jesus, something He finished, therefore it is final, complete, an end time event, all sufficient, clear, and decisive!

Adapted from: Are the gospel and 1844 theology compatible? By R. Brinsmead

SDA’s Twist Three Angel’s Messages

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Have SDA’s got the Three Angel’s Messages right?

The mission of the Seventh-day Adventist Church is ”to proclaim the everlasting gospel embraced by the three angels’’ messages’ (Revelation 14:6-12).

Interestingly, most SDA’s do not have a clue about the meaning of the Three Angel’s Messages. Just talk to a lay member. Not just that. SDA’s have built a mission statement based on a twisted interpretation of Revelation and the three angels. Here’s how it goes.

What do SDA’s teach on the three angels of Revelation 14? 

  • SDA’s teach that the first angel’s message was proclaimed and fulfilled in 1843/1844, through those (Millerites) who  were preaching the soon coming of Christ:

Ellen White, SDA prophet, wrote: ”Prophecy was fulfilled in the first and second angels’ messages. They were given at the right time [1844] and accomplished the work” (Ellen White, Early Writings, p. 235).

Further, when Revelation 14 says ”the judgement is come” (Rev 14:7), SDA’s teach that God began judging and investigating the righteous from 1844.

  • SDA’s teach that the second angel’s message is a call for Christians attending non-Adventist churches (referred to as Babylon) to leave those churches and join the true remnant church–the Seventh-day Adventists.

Ellen White wrote: ‘’As the churches refused to receive the first angel’s message, they rejected the light from heaven and fell from the favor of God(Spiritual Gifts, vol. 1, p. 134).

  • SDA’s teach the third angel’s message is a warning against receiving the Mark of the Beast, which is said to be worship on Sunday.

The Sabbath is the great test question. It is the line of demarcation between the loyal and true and the disloyal and transgressor. … It is the seal of the living God” (Ellen White, Selected Messages Book 3, p. 423)

Problems with SDA teachings 

Fulfilled in 1844?

  •  The Bible says the 3 angels messages were to go:

“…to every nation, and kindred, and tongue, and people” (Rev. 14:6).

  •  But the Millerite Movement in 1844 was largely confined to the Northeastern United States, southeastern Canada, and perhaps 2,000 to 3,000 followers in Britain, and a handful of believers in a few scattered places in Europe.

    How could a message that reached less than 1% of the world’s population–mainly English speakers–be a fulfilment of a prophecy that was to go “to every nation, kindred, tongue, and people“?

Judgment of the righteous in Revelation?

  • There is not a hint anywhere in Revelation 14 of a judgment upon the righteous or any investigation of the righteous. This is a SDA invention. The judgment is a judgment of vengeance and punishment of the wicked. In the book of Revelation, the souls of the martyrs (righteous) are heard crying out for vengeance/judgment:

    ”How long, O Lord, holy and true, dost thou not judge and avenge our blood on them that dwell on the earth?” (Rev. 6:1)

  • Hence, the ‘judgement is come’ is not for the righteous, but the wicked. The Bible is very clear that believers will not come into condemnation: ”Whoever hears my word and believes him [Jesus] who sent me has eternal life and will not be judged [condemned] but has crossed over from death to life” (Jn 5:24).
  • True, the Bible says God will judge both the righteous and the wicked. Since, judgement is mysteriously present in preaching of the gospel (John 3:18), those who disobey the gospel are judged already (John 5:24). Hence, God doesn’t require any further investigation to decide who are his children.
  • If there is a time for judgement, it is at his appearing, and not before or from 1844. : ‘I solemnly urge you in the presence of God and Christ Jesus, who will someday judge the living and the dead when he appears to set up his Kingdom‘ (2 Timothy 4:1)

SDA’s have no basis contextually to say that the judgement specifically in Revelation is on the righteous, and there is certainly no investigative judgement. The context points to a judgment of the wicked.

Are all the protestant churches Babylon?

  • In Revelation 18, Babylon ”is the great city as a woman who commits fornication with the kings of the earth” (Rev. 18:3).

The great city…is…where our Lord was crucified” (Revelation 11:8). All Christians agree that Jesus was crucified in Jerusalem, which is what the Bible refers to as Babylon.

  • Moreover,  speaking about “Babylon”, it says that “in your streets flowed the blood of the prophets and of God’s holy people and the blood of people slaughtered all over the world” (Rev. 18:4). Sound familiar? It should. Jesus Christ said:

As a result, you will be held responsible for the murder of all godly people of all time” (Matt. 23:35).  “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones God’s messengers!” (Matt. 23:37).

The identification of “Babylon” leaves no room for any doubt. On the authority of Jesus Christ himself, “Babylon” was old Jerusalem, not some other past, present of future city or non-Adventist churches.

Sunday is the mark of the beast?

  • Contrary to SDA teachings, the third angel’s message warning on the mark of the beast has nothing to do with a day of worship (Saturday). Not once in the New Testament is Sunday ever referred to as the Mark of the Beast. The Seal of God is the Holy Spirit, not a sign of an obsolete covenant God made with Israel. “Having believed, you were marked in him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit..” (Ephesians 1:13). Jesus and His Apostles emphasized that true Christianity is a matter of the heart. The Mark of the Beast are those who do not have the Holy Spirit. See: Sabbath in the Bible 

Seventh-day Adventism has elevated an obscure and easily-misunderstood passage in the book of Revelation to a position of prime importance to their church. Unfortunately, they have misinterpreted the meaning of this passage, resulting in a twisted and warped understanding of their relationship to other Christian churches.

SDA’s twist Revelation!

  •  John explains repeatedly in his book of Revelation that it deals with things that were about to happen shortly after the book was written.

”This is a revelation from Jesus Christ, which God gave him to show his servants the events that must soon take place” (Rev. 1:1). See also: Rev. 2:5, 16; 3:11; 22.

  • In the SDA mind-set, all those inspired expressions become meaningless, since Adventists claim that ‘soon’ means exactly the same as ‘distant’, ‘remote’ or ‘indefinite’. Naturally, that’s utter nonsense. When God caused the false prophet Balaam to predict Israel’s future, he knew very well the difference between ‘soon’ and ‘distant in time’ (Num. 24:17), and when God told Daniel about the future, he specified that a significant portion of his prophecy was for distant times (Dan. 8:26; 12:4, 9).

Revelation can be a daunting book

  • The author said ”Do not seal up the prophetic words in this book” (Rev. 22:10) because the events were shortly to come to pass, so I take him at his word that a good part of the book refers to 1st century events. However, I leave open the door for the latter half of the book to be more geared towards the time of the end. I also will acknowledge that some of the prophecies may have dual fulfilment—the first fulfilment being in the 1st century, and then a repeat and more complete fulfilment at the end of time.

Is your view on sin narrow?

RepentCross

If your understanding of sin is narrow, then your understanding of God’s law, His grace, and your love for others will also be narrow.

Here’s the truth about the gravity our sin condition, the high standard of His law, the unfathomable depth of His grace and Christ’s sacrifice.

God’s definition of sin is broad

  • Everything that is not from faith is sin’ (Romans 14:23)
  • Turning away from God through unbelief is sin (Hebrews 3:12)
  • Not doing what you know is right is sin (James 4:17)
  • Doing wrong without knowing is sin (Leviticus 5:17)

Breaking God’s commandments is sin (1 John 3:4)

  • God’s commandments are not just the ten commandments, but all the moral commands stated in the Bible
  • The Rich Young Ruler thought he kept all the commandments of God, but Jesus said it wasn’t ‘complete’ because he did not care for the poor according to his financial ability (Matt. 19). Taking care of the poor is a moral command
  • The story of the rich young ruler shows the impossibility of earning one’s salvation by following a list of commandments (Mark 10:26)
  • James 2:9 states if you show favoritism or discriminate anyone, you have broken all the commandments

Even our human nature is sinful from birth

‘See, I was born in sin and was in sin from my very beginning’ (Psalms 51:5). Our sinful human nature can produce only one thing naturally. Sin! That’s why we need to be born again. More on this later

We cannot view sin as merely a list of dos and don’ts

  • Since, everything that is not from faith is sin, every action and attitude that we do without faith in God’s promises is sin
  • Therefore, we cannot view sin as merely a list of dos and don’ts
  • One of Satan’s most successful lies is that sin can be limited to a manageable list of dos and don’ts
  • This is so satanic and dangerous because it causes thousands of christians to think that things are OK between them and God because they avoid one list of don’ts and practice another (much shorter) list of do’s (ex: church going, returning offerings, not committing murder literally etc); but in fact may be sinning all day long

God’s standard of law is so high; no fallen man can measure up to it always

  • His standard of law is so high that it is humanely impossible for any fallen man to measure up. Perhaps occasionally, but not all the time. In Greek, Romans 3:23 is actually saying ‘all have sinned and continue to fall short of God’s standard’
  • It this standard of law that we have broken, are guilty of, condemned for, and deserving death (Romans 6:23)

His standard of love towards others is also high

  • A lawyer asked Jesus, what must I do to inherit life (Luke 10:25). Then Jesus recited the story of the good Samaritan. The lesson from the story was you must show perfect love to your neighbour, wherever, or whoever they may be all the time. This is humanly impossible to do all the time.
  • This parable teaches once again the impossibility of earning one’s salvation. The standard, which is perfect love, is too high; you can’t manufacture such God kind of love.

Narrow view of sin leads some to believe they can ‘do’ the law and inherit life

  • Because some have a narrow view of sin, and law, they like the rich young ruler, pharisees and that lawyer still think that they can DO the law to inherit eternal life
  • Only way to be saved by the law is to keep the law perfectly—every moment of every day for your entire life
  • “But those who depend on the law to make them right with God are under his curse, for the Scriptures say, “Cursed is everyone who does not observe and obey all the commands that are written in God’s Book of the Law” (Galatians 3:10)
  • People have a tendency to just cherry-pick a handful of things out of the law like the Sabbath (if you are a Sabbath keeper), offering giving, not stealing literally etc. But what Paul is saying, you can’t cherry-pick the law. If you’re going to earn righteousness under the law, it’s all the commandments (love others unconditionally, help the poor, don’t discriminate, every single one of them etc), and if you fail in one slightest detail ever in your life, then you are under a curse, and you are condemned.
  • If you think you can be saved by ticking a few commandments, you are in for a surprise. ‘Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!’ (Matthew 7:23)
  • If we don’t understand the seriousness of sin, the standard of his law, and how we don’t measure up to God’s standard, we will never understand our dangerous-sinful-hopeless-condition, why Jesus came, why He died, why we need a savior, what he accomplished by His death, and how we can walk righteously.

Because we cannot pay for our sins, God turned over our sins to Jesus

  • Sin separated us from God, and created a bridge between us and Him (Isaiah 59:2), but Jesus took away our sins on the cross (1 Peter 2:24). God punished Jesus for our sins (Isaiah 53:5), and ‘brought us back to himself through Christ’ (2 Corinthians 5:18)
  • Apart from Christ we are separated from God, condemned, lost. But ‘Christ united us with God‘ (Eph 2:6). We were united with God the moment we repented for our sins, trusted Jesus that He was punished for our sins, our death, our law breaking, and believed that His sacrifice is sufficient to save us.
  • When we repented, our sins were completely forgiven. ‘There is now no condemnation for them that belong to Jesus’ (Rom 8:1). The law no more condemns us because it already condemned someone else: Jesus. ‘You are complete in Him’ (Col. 2:10)
  • Since we have broken God’s law, there is no way our good deeds could offset our bad deeds. ‘For if keeping the law could make us right with God, then there was no need for Christ to die’ (Gal 2:21). Only Jesus can save us and He did save us from the punishment by taking the punishment for our sins.

In God’s plan, we receive righteousness on the basis of faith

  • I am “found in Him, not having a righteousness of my own derived from the Law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which comes from God on the basis of faith” (Philippians 3:9).
  • We receive the righteousness of God apart from the law, meaning it doesn’t come from obeying the law. It comes from another place; it comes from Jesus Himself. It’s His righteousness.
  • God’s credits his Son’s righteous life on this earth as our righteousness by exchanging it for our sins the moment we repent, tell him we have messed up,  and confess we can’t measure up to His standard, and put our trust in Him! In that very moment, we are declared righteous in God’s presence as a gift of God’s grace (Romans 4:3). This is the good news! This is radical. This is grace. This is something only God thought up in his heart. Not man. Please don’t lower grace to your standard.

When you repented and believed in Jesus, you were born again

  • When we repented for our sins and our inability to save ourselves, and accepted Jesus as our perfect sacrifice, sin bearer, savior, Lord, He came into our life and we were born again. Jesus gave us a new birth, a new start in life. Our past is just that. Past. We can now look forward to living changed, righteous, and joy filled lives as we have Jesus living in us now.
  • ‘When we believed, we were sealed with the Holy Spirit‘ (Ephesians 1:13). This seal is the guratanee that tell us we are now God’s children, we are empowered, we have eternal life, we will inherit what God has promised us (2 Corinthians 1:22).

Without the new birth, you can’t enter the kingdom of God nor walk righteously

  • Unless one is born again, he cannot enter God’s kingdom (John 3:3).
  • We need to be born again, because when we were born into this world, we were born spiritually dead; this was the result of Adam’s fall. When they died that day eating the fruit (Genesis 2:17), they died in a real sense. Their spirit or spiritual nature died. Therefore, all Adam’s children are born into this world ‘dead’ (Eph 2:5) or with a dead ‘spirit’. They are dead to the things of God, dead to the voice of the Holy Spirit. They can’t hear God speak to them.
  • Nicodemus was a Sabbath keeper. Pharisees were Sabbath keepers. They kept a narrow list of commandments, and were satisfied that they met God’s standard. However, they were not born again. Their spirit or spiritual nature was still dead. That’s why they failed to meet the weightier matters of the law like justice, mercy, faith (Matthew 23:23), taking care of the poor, and helpless according to their financial ability. They didn’t even know they were sinning.
  • People who are not born again may keep a narrow set of laws and judge other people on external things like church going, offering giving, etc. but their hearts are far from God. They have an outward form of religion, but they have not changed from the inside out, because they were never born again.

There is more than forgiveness in God’s plan

  • When Jesus lives in us, He comes out in our actions, attitudes and affections. He empowers us to bear fruits of righteousness. He fulfills the righteousness requirement of the law in us (Romans 8:4) as His Spirit guides us.
  • The law tells us this. How messed up we are every time we look at it because it’s standard is so high (Romans 3:20). We have never kept its demand constantly, every moment, every day.
  • Those who have a narrow view of law will never see their true state from the law. The Pharisees never saw this. Therefore, they never really saw the need for a savior to take away their sins.
  • However, the Holy Spirit is our guide now, and not the law (Gal 3:25). We are ‘led by the Spirit’ (Romans 8:14). When the Spirit guides, He puts us in tune with all the moral principles of God. We become sensitive to others. We become gentle, kind, patient. We become more and more like Jesus.
  • The law may change people from the outside. But only the Spirit changes us from the inside out.
  • While the Spirit guides us, we will read and study God’s word to see if we are following all his teachings and not cherry picking a few things.
  • When you have Jesus, you have the fruit (singular) of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22-23). Notice, its not fruits, its fruit. When you have the Spirit, you have the entire basket of fruits: ‘love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law’.
  • Against such things there is no law means there is no law that can produce this fruit. There’s no legalism or external religious observances that can produce this. It’s a fruit of the Spirit.
  • If you only have one or two of the fruits, that means you were not born again! Probably you never understood how sinful you are before a Holy God, and his law! You didn’t truly repent. Therefore, you were not born again.

Conclusion:

  • If you are not trusting Christ for forgiveness and are not resting in his daily work on your behalf, then none of your actions comes from faith, but every one of them (even the most noble) is sinful and an insult to the infinitely trustworthy God.
  • Here’s the good news: Jesus took away your sins, and gave you new life. He died your death. His death wasn’t just a demonstration of love or death of a martyr. He died in your place so that he can take you home.
  • Following Jesus is not following a set of narrow laws. It is having a relationship with Him, trusting what he did on the cross, believing that His sacrifice is sufficient payment for your sins, trusting him daily to do what is right in your life, and making His word your authority for living. As you trust him, you are empowered to obey him, honour him, and live a holy life. No matter what life may throw at you, you can face it, because your future is secure in Him, and His finished work.

When you understand how high God’s standard of law is, and how sinful you are, only then can you really appreciate grace and the sacrifice of Christ.

When you receive His grace, only then can you really demonstrate the same kind of grace, love, kindness, and gentleness to others.

If you have not received Him as your Savior and the Lord of your life. Then:

  • Confess your great sin, how you haven’t measured up to his high standard and know you deserve to be condemned for insulting Him by your lack of faith, and thinking you could measure up.
  • Repent, turn to Him and believe now in Jesus, that as your Savior who died to bear you sin and punishment, so you could live forever and walk in newness of life.
  • Take him as your only hope of salvation and acknowledge him as your only Lord.
  • Thank him for his forgiveness and His promise to be with you, and in you, and to empower you to do his will.
  • Trust him to do what is right in your life.

God’s law is holier, and His grace greater

Law
We often describe God’s law with these words. Perfect. Good. Holy. Righteous. But there is another word the Bible uses. Broad. The psalmist wrote:

“Your commandment is exceedingly broad” (New American Standard Bible, Psalm 119:96).

For Christians, there are at least three implications for God’s law being broad

First, God’s law is broad in the sense that it captures not just your actions, but also your attitudes, and affections. Why is this significant?

Pharisees thought no sin was committed until you killed a person (Matthew 5:21-22), or committed the act of adultery (Matthew 5:27-28), but Jesus said your attitudes and affections matter. Understanding that God’s law is broad meaning it includes not just the letter, but also the spirit, help us to relate accurately toward God’s law, and avoid having a narrow view of it’s moral requirements like the Pharisees.

Second, God’s law is broad in the sense that it captures everything to do with our relationship to God, and everything to do with our relationship to people. Jesus said that this broad law of relating to God and people is summarized in two greatest commandments.

You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind…You shall love your neighbor as yourself” (Matthew 22:37-39).

From the story of the Rich Young Ruler, we understand that he failed to see what love for your neighbour obligated him to do. Here’s how the story goes:

In Matthew 19, Jesus told the Rich Young Ruler, “If you wish to enter into life, keep the commandments.” The young ruler responded: “All these things I have kept; what am I still lacking?” Jesus said to him, “If you wish to be complete, go and sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you shall have treasure in heaven; and come, follow Me.”

The Rich Young Ruler thought he perfectly kept the commandments of God, but Jesus said it wasn’t so. He failed to see that love your neighbour as yourself obligated him to assist the poor and needy according to his financial ability.

The Bible says there will be people in the last days who were satisfied and convinced that they kept the law of Christ, when in fact they didn’t. This will be God’s reply to such people:

“Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. For I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, I was a stranger and you did not invite me in, I needed clothes and you did not clothe me, I was sick and in prison and you did not look after me.’ “They also will answer, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or needing clothes or sick or in prison, and did not help you?’ “He will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me” (Matthew 25:41-45).

We may keep the Sabbath, never take God’s name in vain, steal, kill, but we would still fall short of God’s broad law of love if we neglect other moral duties towards God and man that is revealed in His word. I cite a few of God’s moral commands toward our neighbour that are part of God’s broad law: accept one another (Rom 15:7), bear with one another (Col 3:13), serve one another (Gal 5:13), value one another (Philp 2:3), encourage one another (1 Thess. 5:11), pray for one another (James 5:16), forgive one another (Colossians 3:13), help the needy (Proverbs 22:9), show no favoritism (James 2:9).

James stated that if we offend even in one point such as discriminating or showing favoritism against our neighbour, we break the whole royal law.

“If, however, you are fulfilling the royal law according to the Scripture, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself,” you are doing well. But if you show partiality, you are committing sin and are convicted by the law as transgressors” (James 2:8-9).

Attaining this high standard of righteousness is impossible for man. The disciples understood this enormity of law’s requirement after Jesus’ conversation with the rich young ruler.

“When the disciples heard this, they were very astonished and said, “Then who can be saved?” And looking at them Jesus said to them, “With people this is impossible, but with God all things are possible” (Matthew 19:25).

Paul explained this to legalists who thought commandment keeping can save them:

“But those who depend on the law to make them right with God are under his curse, for the Scriptures say, “Cursed is everyone who does not observe and obey all the commands that are written in God’s Book of the Law” (Galatians 3;10)

Only way to be saved by the Law is to keep the law perfectly—every moment of every day for your entire life. People have a tendency to just cherry-pick a handful of things out of the Law like the Sabbath, tithes etc. But what Paul is saying, you can’t cherry-pick the Law. If you’re going to merit righteousness under the Law, it’s all the commandments (love others unconditionally, help the poor, don’t discriminate etc), and if you fail in one slightest detail ever in your life, then you are under a curse, and you are condemned.

The third implication of God’s law being broad is that it is impossible for man to meet this high moral standard of God’s righteousness. All our best efforts will produce righteousness that is below the law’s requirement and inadequate for salvation. Jesus warned:

But I warn you–unless your righteousness is better than the righteousness of the teachers of religious law and the Pharisees, you will never enter the Kingdom of Heaven!” (Matthew 5:20, NLT).

God says the right actions we produce by ourselves are in fact filthy (Isaiah 64:6). Further, He says all have sinned, continue to fall short, and are guilty of breaking His law of love, and deserving death (Rom 3:23).

So what does all this mean? How do we attain this broad standard of God’s righteousness, if we need this righteousness to live with God forever?

How do we become right with God?

The gospel or good news is that we don’t attain or earn this righteousness, because we can’t. We receive righteousness of God as a gift on the basis of faith. Paul wrote:

“…and may be found in Him, not having a righteousness of my own derived from the Law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which comes from God on the basis of faith” (Philippians 3:9, NASB).

We receive the righteousness of God apart from the law, meaning it doesn’t come from obeying the law.  It comes from another place; it comes from Jesus Himself. It’s His righteousness. So, Paul is saying I no longer count on my own righteousness through obeying the law; rather, I become righteous through faith in Christ, His righteousness. For God’s way of making us right with himself depends on faith.

Paul also wrote: “But now apart from the Law the righteousness of God has been manifested, being witnessed by the Law and the Prophets.” (Romans 3:21, NASB)

Paul also says this righteousness we receive is witnessed by the Law meaning God’s law witnesses this righteousness of God, and is fully satisfied that it is in harmony with itself.

So, we receive righteousness of God through faith in Christ, apart from counting on our own righteousness through obeying the law.

Two things happen to us when we receive this righteousness of God according to the Bible

First, when we repent of breaking His law and inability to keep it by ourselves and trust Jesus to save us, Jesus comes into our life, and He covers us with His righteousness. We are counted as if we were perfectly righteous, and we are declared innocent completely before God and His law. We call this justification, imputed righteousness – God declaring us righteous.

“But people are counted as righteous, not because of their work, but because of their faith in God who forgives sinners” (Romans 4:5, NLT)

Second, when Jesus came into our life, we were born again, and He took residence in our hearts through the Holy Spirit. Paul said it this way, “I myself no longer live, but Christ lives in me” (Galatians 2:20).

When Jesus lives in me, He will come out in my actions, attitudes, and affections. This way, Jesus helps us to keep the broad principles of His law (Romans 8:4) and avoid producing inadequate righteousness of the Pharisees, and Rich Young ruler etc.

In other words, as I trust Jesus daily, His Spirit will guide me and tell me where to go, what to do, who to help, by giving me the power to be like Jesus; and I will become more and more like Jesus. We call this sanctification, imparted righteousness – God making us righteous.

Praise God for Jesus! Our acceptance with God is all because of what Jesus did for us.He took the punishment for our sins (Isaiah 53:5) on the cross in which he had no share, so we can be saved by His righteousness which we have no share (Rom 5:19).

Summary

God’s law is holy, perfect, good but it is also broad. It captures not only our actions, but also our attitudes, and affections. It encompasses all the moral duties and commands stated in God’s word and deals with our relationship to God and man. Its standard is impossible for man to meet; our righteousness is like filthy garments, and all human effort will produce righteousness inadequate for salvation.

The gospel or good news is we receive righteousness of God as a gift on the basis of faith, and not by obeying the law. When we place our faith in His finished work on the cross, and trust Jesus that He took away our sins on the cross, we are counted in that moment as if we were perfectly righteous. In God’s plan, there is more. God wants us to be like Jesus. When Jesus lives in us, and we trust Him, He helps us to do the right thing and bear fruits of righteousness (Philp. 1:11).

Praise God for the gospel! Apart from Christ we are condemned, but with Him we are righteous.