SABBATH SCHOOL INSIGHT #8
"The Law of God and the Law of Christ"
May 24, 2014
Our lesson this week rightly reminds us that there is no difference between the Law of God and the Law of Christ. Wednesday’s lesson draws our attention to what it means to “fulfill the law of Christ.” E. J. Waggoner, one of the Lord’s appointed messengers that Ellen White identified as bringing a “most precious message,” had a powerful passage in the book, The Glad Tidings, his commentary on the book of Galatians. This passage from The Glad Tidings is commenting on Galatians 6:1-2. I’ve never read a better commentary on this passage. May we strive, under the truth and power of the Holy Spirit to live up to this ideal.
“Brethren, if a man is overtaken in any trespass, you who are spiritual restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness, considering yourself lest you also be tempted. 2 Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.” Gal.6:1-2 (NKJV)
"The Law of Christ." Glad Tidings, p.124-128, by E. J. Waggoner
When men set out to make themselves righteous, pride, boasting, and criticism lead to open quarrels. So it was with the Galatians, and so it will always be. It cannot be otherwise. Each individual has his own conception of the law. Having determined to be justified by the law, he reduces it to the level of his own mind as well as himself to see if they are up to his measure. If his critical eye detects one who is not walking according to his rule, he at once proceeds to deal with the offender. The self-righteous ones constitute themselves their brother's keeper to the extent of keeping him out of their company lest they should be defiled by contact with him. In marked contrast with this spirit, which is all too common in the church, is the exhortation with which this chapter opens. Instead of hunting for faults that we may condemn them, we are to hunt for sinners that we may save them.
To Cain, God said, "If you do well, will you not be accepted? And if you do not do well, sin is crouching at the door; its desire is for you, but you must master it." Genesis 4:7. Sin is a ravenous beast, lurking in secret, watching every opportunity to spring upon and overcome the unwary. Its desire is to us, but power has been given us to master it. "Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal bodies." Romans 6:12. Nevertheless it is possible (not necessary) for the most zealous ones to be overtaken. "I am writing this to you so that you may not sin; but if anyone does sin, we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous; and He is the expiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the sins of the whole world." 1 John 2:1,2. So, even though one may stumble, he is to be restored and not thrust farther away.
The Lord represents His work by the case of the shepherd who seeks after the one sheep that has gone astray. The work of the gospel is an individual work. Even though under the preaching of the gospel thousands accept it in one day as the result of one discourse, the success is because of its effect on each individual heart. When the preacher in speaking to thousands addresses each one individually, he is doing the work of Christ. So if a man be overtaken in a fault, restore him in the spirit of meekness. No man's time is so precious that it is wasted when devoted to the salvation of one single person. Some of the most important and glorious truths that we have on record as uttered by Christ were addressed to only one listener. He who looks after and cares for the single lambs of the flock is a good shepherd.
"God was in Christ reconciling he world to Himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation." 2 Corinthians 5:19. "He Himself bore our sins in His body." 1 Peter 2:24. He did not impute our trespasses to us, but took them all on Himself. "A soft answer turns away wrath." Proverbs 15:1. Christ comes to us with gentle words, not harshly chiding us, in order that He may win us. He calls us to come to Him and find rest, to exchange our galling yoke of bondage and heavy burden for His easy yoke and light burden.
All Christians are one in Christ, the Representative Man. Therefore "as He is so are we in this world." 1 John 4:17. Christ was in this world as an example of what men ought to be and of what His true followers will be when wholly consecrated to Him. To His disciples He says, "As the Father has sent Me, even so I send you." John 20:21. To this end He clothes them with His own power through the Spirit. "God sent the Son into the world, not to condemn the world, but that the world might be saved through Him." John 3:17. Therefore we are not sent to condemn, but to save. Hence the injunction, "If a man be overtaken in any trespass . . . restore him." This is not to be limited to those who are associated with us in church capacity. We are sent as ambassadors for Christ to beseech men to be reconciled to God. 2 Corinthians 5:20. No higher office can be found in heaven or earth than that of ambassador for Christ, which is also the office of even the lowliest and most despised soul that is reconciled to God.
Only such ones are called upon to restore the erring. None others can do it. The Holy Spirit alone must speak through those who would reprove and rebuke. It is Christ's own work that is to be done, and only by the power of the Spirit can anybody be a witness to Him.
But would it then not be great presumption for anybody to go to restore a brother? Would it not be as much as claiming that he himself is spiritual?
It is indeed no light matter to stand in Christ's place to any fallen man. The design of God is that each one should take heed to himself: "Look to yourself, lest you too be tempted." The rule here laid down is calculated to work a revival in the church. As soon as a man is overtaken in a fault, the duty of each one is not straightway to talk to somebody about him, nor even to go directly to the erring one himself, but to ask himself, "How do I stand? Am I not guilty if not of the same thing of something equally bad? May it not even be that some fault in me has led to his fall? Am I walking in the spirit, so that I could restore him and not drive him farther away?" This would result in a complete reformation in the church, and it might well be that by the time the others had got into condition to go to the faulty one he might also have recovered himself from the snare of the devil.
In giving directions how to deal with one who has committed a trespass (Matthew 18:5-18), the Saviour said, "Truly, I say to you, whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven." Verse 18. Does this mean that God pledges Himself to be bound by any decision that any company of men calling themselves His church may make? Certainly not. Nothing that is done on earth can change God's will. The history of the church as we have it for nearly two thousand years is a record of mistakes and errors, of self-aggrandizement and of putting self in the place of God.
What, then, did Christ mean? He meant just what He said. His instruction shows that He meant that the church should be spiritual, filled with their spirit of meekness, and that everyone who spoke should "speak as the oracles of God." Only the word of Christ should be in the heart and mouth of all who deal with a trespasser. When this is the case, it follows (since God's word is settled forever in heaven) that whatever is bound on earth must necessarily be bound in heaven. But this will not be the case unless the Scriptures are strictly followed in letter and in spirit.
"The law of Christ" is fulfilled by bearing one another's burdens, because the law of Christ's life is to bear burdens. "Surely He has borne our grief’s and carried our sorrows." Whoever would fulfill His law must still do the same work for the strayed and fallen.
"In all things it behooved Him to be made like unto His brethren . . . . For in that He Himself hath suffered being tempted, He is able to succor them that are tempted." Hebrews 2:17, 18, KJV. He knows what it is to be sorely tempted, and He knows how to overcome. Although He "knew no sin," He was made even to be sin for us that we might be made the righteousness of God in Him." 2 Corinthians 5:21. He took every one of our sins and confessed them before God as His own.
Even so He comes to us. Instead of upbraiding us for our sin, He opens His heart to us and tells us how He has suffered with the same hardship, pain, sorrow and shame. Thus He wins our confidence. Knowing that He has passed through the same experience, that he has been down to the very depths, we are ready to listen to Him when He talks about the way of escape. We know that He is talking from experience.
The greatest part therefore of the work of saving sinners is to show ourselves one with them. It is in the confession of our own faults that we save others. The man who feels himself without sin is not the man to restore the sinful. If you say to one who is overtaken in any trespass, "How in the world could you ever do such a thing? I never did a thing like that in my life! I can't see how anybody with any sense of self-respect could do so," you might far better stay at home. God chose one Pharisee, and only one, to be an apostle. And he was not sent forth until he could acknowledge himself to be the chief of sinners.
It is humiliating to confess sin, but the way of salvation is the way of the cross. It was only by the cross that Christ could be the Saviour of sinners. Therefore, if we would share His joy, we must with Him endure the cross, despising the same. Remember this fact: It is only by confessing our own sins that we can save others from their sins. Only thus can we show them the way of salvation; for it is he who confesses his sins that obtains cleansing from them and so can lead others to the fountain.