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Creation and Fall

FOURTH QUARTER 2018

SABBATH SCHOOL INSIGHT #1

OCTOBER 6, 2018

“CREATION AND FALL”

 

In preparing for the Insights this week, I came across a 1929 article, "Covenant of Grace," by W. W. Prescott, which fits very nicely with this week's lesson theme. Brother Prescott loved and preached the "most precious message" of Christ our righteousness. May these words be received as a fresh revelation of Jesus and His love, a token of the abundant rain that is yet to come. Looking unto Jesus is our only hope for Oneness in Christ, the theme for this quarter's lessons.

 

The Covenant of Grace

 

When I become confused over the apparent chaos in world affairs, and am perplexed over some of my own trying experiences, and a suggestion of doubt about the love of God arises in my mind, I find an antidote for such a poisonous atmosphere by thinking of Jesus and Calvary. God does love us. His thoughts toward us are "thoughts of peace." Jeremiah 29:11. He has given us full proof of His love. What more could He do for us that He has not done? Isaiah 5:4. "What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who is against us? He that spared not His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all, how shall He not also with Him freely give us all things?" Romans 8:31, 32. Away with doubt and fear! "Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on Thee; because he trusteth in Thee." Isaiah 26:3."O Jehovah, Thou art my God; I will exalt Thee, I will praise Thy name." Isaiah 25:1.

 

In considering the wondrous love of God as revealed to us in redeeming us from sin and its dreadful consequences, it may throw light upon the whole problem of His manifested grace if we give some thought to the divine purpose in creating us. This is clearly stated in the Scriptures. God speaks of His sons and daughters as those "whom I have created for My glory." Isaiah 43:7. And He further says of Israel, "Thou art My servant; Israel, in whom I will be glorified." Isaiah 49:3.

 

Creation was an act of love on the part of a holy God in bringing into existence beings who could reveal the glory of His own love. Love formed us in His own image, that we might love. Genesis 1:26. Hence the fundamental law of our being, and the very purpose for which we have been redeemed, was expressed by our Lord when He was asked to distinguish between the commandments in the law: "Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second like unto it is this, Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself. On these two commandments the whole law hangeth, and the prophets." Matthew 22:37-40. In our relation to God nothing can take the place of this love. "If I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and if I give my body to be burned, but have not love, it profiteth me nothing." 1 Corinthians 13:3. A burning body cannot be substituted for burning love. And why? Because God made us to reveal His character of love by living with Him in the atmosphere of His love; anything short of this will not satisfy the heart of God.

 

Sin banishes love and genders hatred. Sin seeks to abolish the law of love to God and man, and to put in its place the law of selfishness. Sin has no time or place for the worship of God, but sets up the idolatry of self. Sin must be dealt with in order that the purpose of God in our creation may not be thwarted, but that the image of God may be restored in us. And God has dealt with sin.

 

Man was originally crowned with glory and honor, and given dominion over the world (Psalm 8:5; Genesis 1:26), empowered to reign upon a throne of love; but distrust of God dethroned him, and he became the slave of sin. The purpose of God in the gospel is to restore man to his place on the throne by renewing the love of God in his heart, and so enabling him to conquer selfishness; "He that overcometh, I will give to him to sit down with Me in My throne, as I also overcame, and sat down with My Father in His throne." Revelation 3:21. Love is the all-conquering power, and love will win.

 

The source and ground of our salvation is the grace of God, which is love dealing with sin. The assurance of this love manifested in saving grace is made known to us in the promises of God, which constitute the covenant of grace. The fundamental promises, designated as the "new covenant," are thus expressed; "Behold, the days come, saith the Lord, that I will accomplish [margin] a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah; not according to the covenant that I made with their fathers in the day that I took them by the hand to lead them forth out of the land of Egypt; for they continued not in My covenant, and I regarded them not, saith the Lord. For this is the covenant that I will covenant [margin] with the house of Israel after those days, saith the Lord; I will put My laws into their mind, and on their heart also will I write them: and I will be to them a God, and they shall be to Me a people: and they shall not teach every man his fellow citizen, and every man his brother, saying, Know the Lord: for all shall know Me, from the least to the greatest of them. For I will be merciful to their iniquities, and their sins will I remember no more." Hebrews 8:8-12.

 

That which clearly distinguishes the new covenant, the covenant of grace, from the covenant made with the fathers at Sinai, is that it consists wholly of promises made by God Himself, instead of being a compact based upon mutual promises. Both covenants have reference to the same law, and the object sought in both cases is the same-obedience to that law. In the old covenant the blessings were conditioned upon the promise of the people (Exodus 19:8), who relied upon their own power to fulfill that promise, not realizing their need of a mediator; in the new covenant all depends upon the promises of God, and a mediator is provided. And so we read: "Now hath He obtained a ministry the more excellent, by so much as He is also the mediator of a better covenant, which hath been enacted upon better promises." Hebrew 8:6. The new covenant, the covenant of grace, is as much better than the old covenant, the covenant of works, as the promises of God are better than the promises of man.

 

But the moral law, which is to be written in the heart, is the law of love. It is the expression of the very nature of the God of love as interpreted to us in the life and teachings of Christ, Who said, "I have kept My Father's commandments." John 15:10. To keep this law is to love as God loves. To the natural heart this is impossible, and so God has promised to give us a new heart: "A new heart also will I give you, and a new spirit will I put within you." Ezekiel 36:26. In harmony with this provision is the prayer of David: "Create in me a clean heart, O God; and renew a steadfast [margin] spirit within me." Psalm 51:10. We may call this conversion, or regeneration, or the new birth, or the new creation; but in any case, it is the impartation of a new life from God, that life which is love, and is revealed in loving. Those who have this experience are "partakers of the divine nature" (2 Peter 1:4), and that nature is expressed in obedience to the divine law of love.

 

When the principle of love is implanted in the heart, when man is renewed after the image of Him that created him, the new covenant promise is fulfilled, 'I will put My laws into their hearts, and in their minds will I write them.' And if the law is written in the heart, will it not shape the life? . . . Here is the true test. If we abide in Christ, if the love of God dwells in us, our feelings, our thoughts, our purposes, our actions, will be in harmony with the will of God as expressed in the precepts of His holy law." {1929 WWP, SOTW 83.1} 

 

And this experience is guaranteed to us by the promise of God, and is provided for us through the indwelling of the Holy Spirit, the Spirit of love: for we know that "the love of God hath been shed abroad in our hearts through the Holy Spirit which was given unto us." Romans 5:5. "Salvation is of Jehovah." Jonah 2:9.

 

Obedience to the law of love is not a hardship, not a burdensome duty imposed upon us as the price of blessing from God, but the fruit and the test of our fellowship with God through the Spirit. But at the same time, it is the absolute condition of maintaining our standing before God.

 

"At the very root of the relation of a creature to his God, and of God admitting the creature to His fellowship, lies the thought of obedience. . . . In the promise of the new covenant it takes the first place. God engages to circumcise the hearts of His people-in the putting off of the body of the flesh, in the circumcision of Christ-to love God with all their heart, and to obey His commandments. The crowning gift of Christ's exaltation was the Holy Spirit, to bring salvation to us as an inward thing. The first covenant demanded obedience, and failed because it could not find it. The new covenant was expressly made to provide for obedience. To a life in the full enjoyment of the new covenant blessing, obedience is essential."

 

The enabling power for such a life of obedience is ministered to us in this most helpful promise: "I will put My Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in My statutes, and ye shall keep Mine ordinances, and do them." Ezekiel 36:27. This means simply that God in Christ has personally assumed the responsibility for our life of love and obedience, according to the covenant promise which He has made in these words: "I will give them one heart and one way, that they may fear Me forever, for the good of them, and of their children after them: and I will make an everlasting covenant with them, that I will not turn away from following them, to do them good; and I will put My fear in their hearts, that they may not depart from Me." Jeremiah 32:39, 40. This is the gospel of the grace of God. This is the covenant of grace. Here is the distinguishing feature of Christianity as interpreted to us by Inspiration. By promise and by oath God has pledged Himself as the Saviour of those who trust in Him, that "we may have a strong encouragement, who have fled for refuge to lay hold of the hope set before us." Hebrews 6:18. "Jehovah, Thou wilt ordain peace for us; for Thou hast also wrought all our works for us." Isaiah 26:12. Blessed assurance! Strong encouragement indeed!

 

Another feature of the new covenant, the covenant of grace, which marks its superiority over the old covenant, is that it has a gloriously efficient Mediator, even Jesus the Son of God. We have not come to Mt. Sinai, but to Mount Zion, and "to Jesus the Mediator of a new covenant" (Hebrews 12:24); to Jesus Who has shared with us in our experiences of temptation (Hebrews 4:15) and knows our need: "for there is one God, one mediator also between God and men, Himself man, Christ Jesus, Who gave Himself a ransom for all." 1 Timothy 2:5, 6. Through His mediation all the blessings of the new covenant are ministered unto us. By His life of suffering obedience, culminating in His death on the cross, He has made atonement for our sins. Exalted at the right hand of God and sitting upon the throne of grace, He has "become the surety of a better covenant" (Hebrews 7:22), and through His mediation the gifts of God are supplied to us, and all the requirements of God are wrought in us. Through His mediation the covenant of grace, instead of being a mutual agreement, is resolved into His "precious and exceeding great promises" (2 Peter 1:4), of which He Himself is the yea: "for how many soever be the promises of God, in Him is the yea: wherefore also through Him is the Amen, unto the glory of God through us." 2 Corinthians 1:20. Apart from His mediation, we should be utterly helpless, "having no hope and without God in the world." Ephesians. 2:12.

 

But someone may feel like suggesting, "You are making it too easy for the transgressor by placing all the responsibility for success in the Christian life upon God." Do not misunderstand me. There is one thing which God does not do, and which He does not permit any other person to do. He has given to us freedom of will, and He will not disregard it. I can say No to God, and He will be governed accordingly, but I must take the inevitable consequences. In this sense I am the arbiter of my own destiny. I can make my own choice. This privilege and its meaning were recognized by Moses, the man of God, when he solemnly declared to the people, "I call heaven and earth to witness against you this day, that I have set before thee life and death, the blessing and the curse: therefore, choose life, that thou mayest live, thou and thy seed." Deuteronomy. 30:19. There is no power which will compel us to choose to commit sin. There is no power which will compel us to choose to do righteousness. We alone are responsible for the choice which we make. Therefore, we commit no sin without first consenting to it, and an act is charged against us as sin when we consent to do that which we know to be contrary to the will of God.

 

Judas was a traitor at heart before he actually betrayed his Lord. He deliberately chose to do the infamous deed, for we read that "he consented, and sought opportunity to deliver Him unto them in the absence of the multitude." Luke 22:6. We imitate Judas when we consent to commit a known sin. The will determines our way of life.

 

"Everything depends on the right action of the will. The power of choice God has been given to men; it is theirs to exercise. You cannot change your heart, you cannot of yourself give to God its affections; but you can choose to serve Him. You can give Him your will; He will then work in you to will and to do according to His good pleasure. Thus, your whole nature will be brought under the control of the Spirit of Christ; your affections will be centered upon Him, and your thoughts will be in harmony with Him."

 

Such are the results of making a right choice.

 

I do not need to be told that the god of this world will use every possible means to keep us from choosing to serve God. I know it in my own experience. He paints the glories of the world in glowing colors, and promises all that the natural heart desires, if we will only choose to worship him. But we must not forget that "there is no truth in him," and that "he is a liar, and the father thereof." John 8:44. In his service all joy ends in bitterness of soul, all selfish pleasure destroys the capacity to love, and all hope is quenched in everlasting despair. Do not listen to his fables of deceit.

 

From the first promise of victory over the serpent, made in Eden (Genesis 3:15), to the last promise of the advent of our Lord in glory to reward those who have been redeemed by His loving mercy (Revelation 22:12), we are dealing with the covenant of grace. The call to us now, as to His people of old, is, "Come ye, and join yourselves to Jehovah in an everlasting covenant that shall not be forgotten." Jeremiah. 50:5.

 

"Saving faith is a transaction, by which those who receive Christ join themselves in covenant relation with God."

 

Let each one of us say with absolute sincerity, "Into this covenant of a wholehearted love in God and in me I do with my whole heart now enter." Thrice blessed is he who will thus accept the inestimable blessings of the covenant of grace. {1929 WWP, SOTW 79 - 86}

 

~Patti Guthrie