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Jesus calls us and loves us, and I love how Jesus deals with Peter after his fall. I thought about how important a lesson this is for me, as well:

 "Before his fall, Peter was always speaking unadvisedly, from the impulse of the moment. He was always ready to correct others, and to express his mind, before he had a clear comprehension of himself or of what he had to say. But the converted Peter was very different. He retained his former fervor, but the grace of Christ regulated his zeal. He was no longer impetuous, self-confident, and self-exalted, but calm, self-possessed, and teachable. He could then feed the lambs as well as the sheep of Christ's flock." {The Desire of Ages, page 812, paragraph 5}

Some will read this and draw from it what is not the point. To say that Peter was never converted before "his fall" clearly is not the case, as when in the upper room, Peter was so overwhelmed by the thought of Jesus washing His feet, that Peter proposed that Jesus should also wash his hands and head as well. "Simon Peter saith unto him, Lord, not my feet only, but also my hands and my head. Jesus saith to him, He that is washed needeth not save to wash his feet, but is clean every whit: and ye are clean, but not all." (John 13:9-10). The eleven disciples had been converted (hence Jesus words, "ye are clean", but Judas had never made a full surrender to Christ, as the "not all" is a reference to Judas.

But we see something here in that Peter many times AFTER his conversion was doing or saying things that revealed self, not Christ. "Peter was always speaking unadvisedly, from the impulse of the moment. He was always ready to correct others, and to express his mind, before he had a clear comprehension of himself or of what he had to say." How is it with us? Is it once converted, always converted? If we say something unadvisedly from impulse (like Moses did when he struck the rock), does this mean we have never been converted before? No--but we need a re-conversion--to return to the Lord. After we have fallen and returned to the Lord, we are to be humble and remember the lesson of our CONTINUAL NEED OF JESUS TO DO ANY GOOD THING.

If we have fallen into sin after our conversion and baptism, we need the foot washing; we need the converting, sanctifying grace of Jesus continually. Without Him abiding in the heart, we are liable to do what Peter did--and fall in either small or large ways. But whenever we allow self to rise up, and we neglect Jesus, He no longer remains on the throne of the heart, and He calls and lovingly knocks to come back in there (Revelation 3:20), to abide with us and impart to us all of the fruits of the Spirit so that not one is missing. Let us learn the lesson. My prayer is that I will not speak unadvisedly or do anything without Jesus working in and through me. Let us look to Jesus and allow Him to guide us as He abides in the heart that is fully surrendered (converted) to Him.
Thursday December 21

Now Is Our Salvation

“And that, knowing the time, that now it is high time to awake out of sleep: for now is our salvation nearer than when we believed” (Rom. 13:11).

As we have stated all quarter, Paul had a very specific focus in this letter to the Romans, and that was to clarify for the church at Rome - especially the Jewish believers there - the role of faith and works in the New Covenant context. The issue was salvation and how a sinner is deemed righteous and holy before the Lord. To help those whose whole emphasis had been on law, Paul put the law in its proper role and context. Although, ideally, Judaism even in Old Testament times was a religion of grace, legalism arose and did a lot of damage. How careful we as a church need to be that we don’t make the same mistake.

Read Romans 13:11-14. What event is Paul talking about here, and how should we be acting in anticipation of that event?

How fascinating that Paul was talking here to the believers, telling them to wake up and get it together because Jesus was coming back. The fact that this was written almost two thousand years ago doesn’t matter. We must always live in anticipation of the nearness of Christ’s coming. As far as we all are concerned, as far as our own personal experiences go, the Second Coming is as near as the potential for our own death. Whether next week or in 40 years we close our eyes in death, and whether we sleep only four days or for 400 years - it makes no difference to us. The next thing we know is the second coming of Jesus. With death always potentially just around the corner for any of us, time is indeed short, and our salvation is nearer than when we first believed.

Although Paul doesn’t deal much in the book of Romans with the Second Coming, in the Thessalonian and the Corinthian letters he covers it in much more detail. After all, it’s a crucial theme in the Bible, especially in the New Testament. Without it and the hope it offers, our faith is really meaningless. After all, what does “justification by faith” mean without the Second Coming to bring that wonderful truth to complete fruition?

If you knew for certain that Jesus was coming next month, what would you change in your life, and why? If you believe you need to change these things a month before Jesus comes, why shouldn’t you change them now? What is the difference?

Friday December 22

Further Thought: “In the Bible the will of God is revealed. The truths of the Word of God are the utterances of the Most High. He who makes these truths a part of his life becomes in every sense a new creature. He is not given new mental powers, but the darkness that through ignorance and sin has clouded the understanding is removed. The words, ‘A new heart also will I give you,’ mean, ‘A new mind will I give you.’ A change of heart is always attended by a clear conviction of Christian duty, an understanding of truth. He who gives the Scriptures close, prayerful attention will gain clear comprehension and sound judgment, as if in turning to God he had reached a higher plane of intelligence.” - Ellen G. White, My Life Today, p. 24.

“The Lord . . . is soon coming, and we must be ready and waiting for His appearing. Oh, how glorious it will be to see Him and be welcomed as His redeemed ones! Long have we waited, but our hope is not to grow dim. If we can but see the King in His beauty we shall be forever blessed. I feel as if I must cry aloud: ‘Homeward bound!’ We are nearing the time when Christ will come in power and great glory to take His ransomed ones to their eternal home.” - Ellen G. White, Testimonies for the Church, vol. 8, p. 253.

Discussion Questions:

    In class, go over the question at the end of Thursday’s study. What were the answers that people gave, and how did they justify them?

    The question of how we are to be good citizens and good Christians can be very complicated at times. If someone were to come to you seeking advice about standing for what he or she believed was God’s will - even though it would put him or her in conflict with the government - what would you say? What counsel would you give? What principles should you follow? Why is this something that we should proceed on only with the utmost seriousness and prayerful consideration? (After all, not everyone thrown into the lions’ den emerges unscathed.)

    What do you think is harder to do: to keep strict adherence to the letter of the law or to love God and love others unconditionally? Or could you argue that this question presents a false dichotomy? If so, why?

    As we near the end of this quarter, talk about in class what you have learned from the book of Romans that helps us to understand why the Reformation was so important. What did Romans teach us about what we believe and why we believe it?

Tuesday December 19

The Christian and the State

Read Romans 13:1-7. What basic principles can we take from this passage about the ways in which we are to relate to the civil power of government?

What makes Paul’s words so interesting is that he wrote during a time when a pagan empire ruled the world - one that could be incredibly brutal, one that was at its core corrupt, and one that knew nothing about the true God and would, within a few years, start a massive persecution of those who wanted to worship that God. In fact, Paul was put to death by that government! Yet despite all this, Paul was advocating that Christians be good citizens, even under a government like that?

Yes. And that’s because the idea of government itself is found throughout the Bible. The concept, the principle of government, is God-ordained. Human beings need to live in a community with rules and regulations and standards. Anarchy is not a biblical concept.

That being said, it doesn’t mean that God approves of all forms of government or how all governments are run. On the contrary. One doesn’t have to look too far, either in history or in the world today, to see some brutal regimes. Yet even in situations like these, Christians should, as much as possible, obey the laws of the land. Christians are to give loyal support to government so long as its claims do not conflict with the claims of God. One should consider very prayerfully and carefully - and with the counsel of others - before embarking on a path that puts him or her in conflict with the powers that be. We know from prophecy that one day all of God’s faithful followers will be pitted against the political powers in control of the world (Revelation 13). Until then, we should do all that we can, before God, to be good citizens in whichever country we live.

“We are to recognize human government as an ordinance of divine appointment, and teach obedience to it as a sacred duty, within its legitimate sphere. But when its claims conflict with the claims of God, we must obey God rather than men. God’s word must be recognized as above all human legislation. . . .

“We are not required to defy authorities. Our words, whether spoken or written, should be carefully considered, lest we place ourselves on record as uttering that which would make us appear antagonistic to law and order. We are not to say or do anything that would unnecessarily close up our way.” - Ellen G. White, The Acts of the Apostles, p. 69.

Wednesday December 20

Love One Another

“Owe no man any thing, but to love one another: for he that loveth another hath fulfilled the law” (Rom. 13:8 ). How are we to understand this text? Does it mean that if we love, we have no obligation, then, to obey the law of God?

As Jesus did in the Sermon on the Mount, Paul here amplifies the precepts of the law, showing that love must be the motivating power behind all that we do. Because the law is a transcript of the character of God, and God is love, to love, therefore, is to fulfill the law. Yet, Paul is not substituting some vague standard of love for the precisely detailed precepts of the law, as some Christians claim. The moral law is still binding, because, again, it is what points out sin - and who is going to deny the reality of sin? However, the law truly can be kept only in the context of love. Remember, some of those who brought Christ to the cross then ran home to keep the law!

Which commandments did Paul cite as examples that illustrate the principle of love in law-keeping? Why these in particular? Rom. 13:9, 10.

Interestingly, the factor of love was not a newly introduced principle. By quoting Leviticus 19:18, “Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself,” Paul shows that the principle was an integral part of the Old Testament system. Again Paul appeals to the Old Testament to support his gospel preaching. Some argue from these texts that Paul is teaching that only the few commandments mentioned here are in effect. If so, does this mean, then, that Christians can dishonor their parents, worship idols, and have other gods before the Lord? Of course not.

Look at the context here. Paul is dealing with how we relate to one another. He is dealing with personal relationships, which is why he specifies the commandments that center on these relationships. His argument certainly shouldn’t be construed as nullifying the rest of the law. (see Acts 15:20, 1 Thess. 1:9, 1 John 5:21). Besides, as the New Testament writers point out, by showing love to others, we show our love to God (Matt. 25:40; 1 John 4:20, 21).

Think about your relationship with God and how it is reflected in your relationships with others. How big a factor is love in those relationships? How can you learn to love others the way God loves us? What stands in your way of doing just that?
Lesson 12 December 16-22

Overcoming Evil With Good

Sabbath Afternoon

Read for This Week’s Study: Romans 12, 13.

Memory Text: “Be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God” (Romans 12:2).

Powever much Paul is seeking to disabuse the Romans of their false notions of the law, he also calls all Christians to a high standard of obedience. This obedience comes from an inward change in our heart and mind, a change that comes only through the power of God working in a person surrendered to Him.

Romans contains no hint that this obedience comes automatically. The Christian needs to be enlightened as to what the requirements are; he or she must desire to obey those requirements; and, finally, the Christian should seek the power without which that obedience is impossible.

What this means is that works are part of the Christian faith. Paul never meant to depreciate works; in chapters 13 to 15 he gives them strong emphasis. This is no denial of what he has said earlier about righteousness by faith. On the contrary, works are the true expression of what it means to live by faith. One could even argue that because of the added revelation after Jesus came, the New Testament requirements are more difficult than what was required in the Old. New Testament believers have been given an example of proper moral behavior in Jesus Christ. He and no one else shows the pattern we are to follow. “Let this mind be in you, which was also in” [not Moses, not Daniel, not David, not Solomon, not Enoch, not Deborah, not Elijah] “Christ Jesus” (Phil. 2:5).

The standard doesn’t - can’t! - get higher than that.

Study this week’s lesson to prepare for Sabbath, December 23.

Sunday December 17

Your Reasonable Service

With chapter 11, the doctrinal part of the book of Romans ends. Chapters 12 through 16 present practical instruction and personal notes. Nevertheless, these concluding chapters are extremely important because they show how the life of faith is to be lived.

For starters, faith is not a substitute for obedience, as if faith somehow nullifies our obligation to obey the Lord. The moral precepts are still in force; they are explained, even amplified in the New Testament. And no indication is given, either, that it will be easy for the Christian to regulate his or her life by these moral precepts. On the contrary, we’re told that at times it could be difficult, for the battle with self and with sin is always hard (1 Pet. 4:1). The Christian is promised divine power and given assurance that victory is possible, but we are still in the world of the enemy and will have to fight many battles against temptation. The good news is that if we fall, if we stumble, we are not cast away but have a High Priest who intercedes in our behalf (Heb. 7:25).

Read Romans 12:1. How does the analogy presented here reveal how we as Christians are to live? How does Romans 12:2 fit in with this?

In Romans 12:1, Paul is alluding to Old Testament sacrifices. As, anciently, animals were sacrificed to God, so now Christians ought to yield their bodies to God - not to be killed but as living sacrifices dedicated to His service.

In the time of ancient Israel, every offering brought as a sacrifice was examined carefully. If any defect was discovered in the animal, it was refused, for God had commanded that the offering be without blemish. So, Christians are bidden to present their bodies “a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God.” In order to do this, all their powers must be preserved in the best possible condition. Although none of us are without blemish, the point is that we are to seek to live as spotlessly and as faithfully as we can.

“Be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind (Romans 12:2). In this way the Apostle describes (Christian) progress; for he addresses those who already are Christians. The Christian life does not mean to stand still, but to move from that which is good to that which is better.” - Martin Luther, Commentary on Romans, pp. 167, 168. What does it mean to move from the good to the better in the Christian life?

Monday December 18

To Think Soberly

We have talked a great deal this quarter about the perpetuity of God’s moral law and have stressed again and again that Paul’s message in the book of Romans is not one that teaches that the Ten Commandments are done away with or somehow made void by faith.

Yet, it’s easy to get so caught up in the letter of the law that we forget the spirit behind it. And that spirit is love - love for God and love for one another. While anyone can profess love, revealing that love in everyday life can be a different matter entirely.

Read Romans 12:3-21. How are we to reveal love for others?

As in 1 Corinthians 12 and 13, Paul exalts love after dealing with the gifts of the Spirit. Love (Greek agape) is the more excellent way. “God is love” (1 John 4:8 ). Therefore, love describes the character of God. To love is to act toward others as God acts and to treat them as God treats them.

Paul here shows how that love is to be expressed in a practical manner. One important principle comes through, and that is personal humility: a willingness of a person “not to think of himself more highly than he ought” (Rom. 12:3), a willingness to “give preference to one another in honor” (Rom. 12:10, NASB), and a willingness not to “be wise in your own opinion” (Rom. 12:16, NKJV). Christ’s words about Himself, “Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart” (Matt. 11:29), catch the essence of it.

Of all people, Christians should be the most humble. After all, look at how helpless we are. Look at how fallen we are. Look at how dependent we are, not only upon a righteousness outside of ourselves for salvation but also on a power working in us in order to change us in ways we never can change ourselves. What have we to brag of? What have we to boast of? What have we in and of ourselves to be proud about? Nothing at all. Working from the starting point of this personal humility - not only before God but before others - we are to live as Paul admonishes us to in these verses.

Read Romans 12:18. How well are you applying this admonition in your own life right now? Might you need some attitude adjustments in order to do what the Word tells us here?
Friday December 15

Further Thought: Read Ellen G. White, “Before the Sanhedrin”, pp. 77-79; “From Persecutor to Disciple” pp. 112-114; “Written From Rome”, pp. 474, 475, in The Acts of the Apostles; “Reaching Catholics”, pp. 573-577, in Evangelism; “What to Preach and Not to Preach”, pp. 155, 156, in Selected Messages, book 1.

“Notwithstanding Israel’s failure as a nation, there remained among them a goodly remnant of such as should be saved. At the time of the Saviour’s advent there were faithful men and women who had received with gladness the message of John the Baptist, and had thus been led to study anew the prophecies concerning the Messiah. When the early Christian church was founded, it was composed of these faithful Jews who recognized Jesus of Nazareth as the one for whose advent they had been longing.” - Ellen G. White, The Acts of the Apostles, pp. 376, 377.

“Among the Jews are some who, like Saul of Tarsus, are mighty in the Scriptures, and these will proclaim with wonderful power the immutability of the law of God. . . . As His servants labor in faith for those who have long been neglected and despised, His salvation will be revealed.” - Page 381.

“In the closing proclamation of the gospel, when special work is to be done for classes of people hitherto neglected, God expects His messengers to take particular interest in the Jewish people whom they find in all parts of the earth. As the Old Testament Scriptures are blended with the New in an explanation of Jehovah’s eternal purpose, this will be to many of the Jews as the dawn of a new creation, the resurrection of the soul. As they see the Christ of the gospel dispensation portrayed in the pages of the Old Testament Scriptures, and perceive how clearly the New Testament explains the Old, their slumbering faculties will be aroused, and they will recognize Christ as the Saviour of the world. Many will by faith receive Christ as their Redeemer.” - Page 381.

Amen. And, it is the privilege of Seventh-day Adventists who have been given great light to educate the Jew, as well as to love him.

Discussion Questions:

    As God’s law, and especially the Sabbath, comes into sharp focus in the last days, is it not reasonable to think that the Jews - many of them as serious about the Ten Commandments as Adventists are - will have a role in helping to clarify some issues before the world? After all, when it comes to Sabbath keeping, Adventists in contrast to the Jews are “the new kids on the block.” Discuss.

"New kids" is a funny way to put it. God's faithful servants are way beyond the Jews in understanding the ten commandments, especially the Sabbath. Many Jews still do not understand the "Lamb" had to die.

    Of all churches, why should the Adventist Church be the one most successful in reaching out to Jews? What can you or your local church do in seeking to reach Jews in your community?

The "Seventh-day" Adventist Church can teach the Jews what their religion is all about. We have much in common with them that other churches do not. What does a Jew think of Isaiah 53? How many Jews have you heard explain Isaiah 53? I have never heard one who still rejects Christ as Messiah.

    What can we learn from the mistakes of many in ancient Israel? How can we avoid doing the same things today?

Trust not in the arm of flesh, but in Christ and His Word. And, a whited sepulcher is putrid and rotten on the inside. How is your heart today? Has it been cleansed from sin? Is self alive and well, or is Jesus in possession of the whole heart? The Jews did not understand the plan of salvation. Satan had deceived the people of God so that when Jesus came to His own, they knew Him not. How is it today?  Why are we still here after over a hundred and fifty years?

Satan has had 2,000 years to plan for our day. Name a few deceptions he has brought into God's church today. Is this keeping some from serving God with the whole heart? How can we avoid these deceptions that have come into God's last day church? When Jesus tells us to repent in chapter three of the Book of Revelation, does He tell us how we can come to repentance? If so, share with your Sabbath School class what we can do in order to get this repentance? Is there a relationship between what Jesus says in Revelation three and what He told Nicodemus he must do in order to be saved?

Thursday December 14

The Salvation of Sinners

Paul’s love for his own people is clearly apparent in Romans 11:25-27. How hard it must have been for him to have some of his countrymen fight against him and against the truth of the gospel. And yet, amid it all, he still believed that many would see Jesus as the Messiah.

And so must we today. Many priests and rulers in Christ's day who did not believe prior to the cross were converted afterwards. So, we also hope and pray that many who reject truth today, will soon repent and help finish the work set before us which ought to have been completed many years ago.

Read Romans 11:28-36.

 11:28   As concerning the gospel, [they are] enemies for your sakes: but as touching the election, [they are] beloved for the fathers' sakes. 
 11:29   For the gifts and calling of God [are] without repentance. 
 11:30   For as ye in times past have not believed God, yet have now obtained mercy through their unbelief: 
 11:31   Even so have these also now not believed, that through your mercy they also may obtain mercy. 
 11:32   For God hath concluded them all in unbelief, that he might have mercy upon all. 
 11:33   O the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! how unsearchable [are] his judgments, and his ways past finding out! 
 11:34   For who hath known the mind of the Lord? or who hath been his counsellor? 
 11:35   Or who hath first given to him, and it shall be recompensed unto him again? 
 11:36   For of him, and through him, and to him, [are] all things: to whom [be] glory for ever. Amen. 


How does Paul show God’s love, not just for the Jews but for all humanity? How does he express here the amazing and mysterious power of God’s grace?

He states that all have had unbelief, but through God's mercy both Gentile and Jew can be converted. He states that through the mercy of
Gentiles, some Jesus will be saved. How about an example of grace saving a Jew? How was Saul the Persecutor saved? It was through the grace of a Christian disciple. How did Stephen reveal grace to Saul? We may do the same not only for Jews, but for Gentiles, and even fellow church members.

Through Romans 11:28-36, although a contrast is made between Jews and Gentiles, one point stands clear: God’s mercy and love and grace are poured out upon sinners. From even before the foundation of the world God’s plan was to save humanity and to use other human beings, nations even, as instruments in His hands to fulfill His divine will.

Carefully and prayerfully read Romans 11:31.

 11:31   Even so have these also now not believed, that through your mercy they also may obtain mercy. 

What important point should we take from this text about our witness, not just to Jews but to all people with whom we come in contact?

We are either a savor of life unto life or death unto death. When we sin a known sin, what kind of witness are we? Do we hurt Jesus openly when we sin? Why do we still sin, if God has promised He will not allow us to be tempted beyond what we can bear (1 Cor. 10:13)?

No doubt, through the centuries, had the Christian church treated the Jews better, many more might have come to their Messiah. The great falling away in the early centuries after Christ, and the extreme paganization of Christianity - including the rejection of the seventh-day Sabbath in favor of Sunday - certainly didn’t make it any easier on a Jew who might have been drawn to Jesus.

How crucial, then, that all Christians, realizing the mercy that has been given to them in Jesus, display that mercy to others. We cannot be Christians if we do not (see Matt. 18:23-35).

What if we repent of this sin? Must we repent in order to have salvation? What if we just sinned one time toward a Jew? Do we still lose our salvation? I think so until we repent? But, the authors of the lesson have said one sin does not change our status before God.   :(   What does God say?  Through the Prophet Ezekiel:

 3:20   Again, When a righteous [man] doth turn from his righteousness, and commit iniquity, and I lay a stumblingblock before him, he shall die: because thou hast not given him warning, he shall die in his sin, and his righteousness which he hath done shall not be remembered; but his blood will I require at thine hand. 
 3:21   Nevertheless if thou warn the righteous [man], that the righteous sin not, and he doth not sin, he shall surely live, because he is warned; also thou hast delivered thy soul.

Maybe these verses do not mean what they say? Maybe the translators made a mistake? Then let us see if the Prophet Ezekiel said the same thing again.

18:26   When a righteous [man] turneth away from his righteousness, and committeth iniquity, and dieth in them; for his iniquity that he hath done shall he die.

Does God mean what He says, that the wages of one sin is spiritual death? I have heard somewhere that when God repeats Himself, it is important. Do you think He may have inspired Ezekiel to say this truth one more time?

 33:13   When I shall say to the righteous, [that] he shall surely live; if he trust to his own righteousness, and commit iniquity, all his righteousnesses shall not be remembered; but for his iniquity that he hath committed, he shall die for it. 

Seems God knew where His church would be today and made sure the Prophet Ezekiel spelled it out for us. The wages of one sin is death. We do not have life when we sin a known sin, until or when we repent, if we repent.

Is there someone to whom you need to show mercy, who perhaps doesn’t deserve it? Why not show this person that mercy, no matter how hard that might be to do? Isn’t that what Jesus has done for us?

If one is not abiding in Christ, he cannot show mercy to others. Our fallen nature does not allow us to love those who do not deserve to be loved. If one is truly converted, then He will obey the law of God. He will love God supremely and his neighbor as himself. If he does not then he does not have life. The sinner does not have salvation unless he has truly repented a repentance not to be repented of. In other words, unless the heart is fully surrendered to Christ, self is alive and well and the sinner does not have salvation, no matter who teaches otherwise.
Wednesday December 13

All Israel Shall Be Saved

Read Romans 11:25-27.

 11:25   For I would not, brethren, that ye should be ignorant of this mystery, lest ye should be wise in your own conceits; that blindness in part is happened to Israel, until the fulness of the Gentiles be come in. 
 11:26   And so all Israel shall be saved: as it is written, There shall come out of Sion the Deliverer, and shall turn away ungodliness from Jacob: 
 11:27   For this [is] my covenant unto them, when I shall take away their sins. 

What great events is Paul predicting here?

Christians have been discussing and debating Romans 11:25-27 for centuries now. A few points, however, are clear. For starters, the whole tenor here is that of God reaching out to the Jews. What Paul is saying comes in reply to the question raised at the beginning of the chapter, “Hath God cast away his people?” His answer, of course, is no, and his explanation is (1) that the blindness (Greek porosis, “hardness”) is only “in part,” and (2) that it is only temporary, “until the fulness of the Gentiles be come in.”

What does “the fulness of the Gentiles” mean? Many see this phrase as a way of expressing the fulfillment of the gospel commission, in which all the world hears the gospel. “The fullness of the Gentiles” has come in when the gospel has been preached everywhere. The faith of Israel, manifested in Christ, is universalized. The gospel has been preached to all the world. The coming of Jesus is near. At this point, then, many Jews start coming to Jesus.

Another difficult point is the meaning of “all Israel shall be saved ” (Rom. 11:26). This must not be construed to mean that every Jew will by some divine decree have salvation in the end time. Nowhere do the Scriptures preach universalism, either for the entire human race or for a particular segment. Paul was hoping to save “some of them” (Rom. 11:14). Some accepted the Messiah, and some rejected Him, as it is with all people groups.

Commenting on Romans 11, Ellen G. White speaks of a time “in the closing proclamation of the gospel” when “many of the Jews . . . will by faith receive Christ as their Redeemer.” - The Acts of the Apostles, p. 381.

“There is a mighty work to be done in our world. The Lord has declared that the Gentiles shall be gathered in, and not the Gentiles only, but the Jews. There are among the Jews many who will be converted, and through whom we shall see the salvation of God go forth as a lamp that burneth. There are Jews everywhere, and to them the light of present truth is to be brought. There are among them many who will come to the light, and who will proclaim the immutability of the law of God with wonderful power.” - Evangelism, p. 578.

Take some time to think about the Jewish roots of the Christian faith. How could a selective study of the Jewish religion help you to better understand your Christian faith?

We study the Jewish religion every day we read the Bible. There is no difference between the Jewish religion and the Christian religion, they are one and the same. If the lesson is telling us to study what the Jews of today believe, then this is sad. We know more about the Jewish religion than do most Jews, unless they are truly converted and are Seventh-day Adventists.

Tuesday December 12

The Natural Branch

Read Romans 11:11-15.

 11:11   I say then, Have they stumbled that they should fall? God forbid: but [rather] through their fall salvation [is come] unto the Gentiles, for to provoke them to jealousy. 
 11:12   Now if the fall of them [be] the riches of the world, and the diminishing of them the riches of the Gentiles; how much more their fulness? 
 11:13   For I speak to you Gentiles, inasmuch as I am the apostle of the Gentiles, I magnify mine office: 
 11:14   If by any means I may provoke to emulation [them which are] my flesh, and might save some of them. 
 11:15   For if the casting away of them [be] the reconciling of the world, what [shall] the receiving [of them be], but life from the dead? 

What great hope does Paul present in this passage?

That he loves his fellow Jews and that because they rejected Christ, as a people, the Gentiles were granted the honor which had been entrusted to the Jews. He is hopeful that many Jews will accept Christ in the end.

In this passage, we find two parallel expressions: (1) “their [the Israelites’] fulness” (Rom. 11:12) and (2) “the receiving of them [the Israelites]” (Rom. 11:15). Paul envisioned the diminishing and the casting away to be only temporary and to be followed by fullness and reception. This is Paul’s second answer to the question raised at the beginning of this chapter, “Hath God cast away his people?” What appears to be a casting away, he says, is only a temporary situation.

Read Romans 11:16-24.

 11:16   For if the firstfruit [be] holy, the lump [is] also [holy]: and if the root [be] holy, so [are] the branches. 
 11:17   And if some of the branches be broken off, and thou, being a wild olive tree, wert grafted in among them, and with them partakest of the root and fatness of the olive tree; 
 11:18   Boast not against the branches. But if thou boast, thou bearest not the root, but the root thee. 
 11:19   Thou wilt say then, The branches were broken off, that I might be grafted in. 
 11:20   Well; because of unbelief they were broken off, and thou standest by faith. Be not highminded, but fear: 
 11:21   For if God spared not the natural branches, [take heed] lest he also spare not thee. 
 11:22   Behold therefore the goodness and severity of God: on them which fell, severity; but toward thee, goodness, if thou continue in [his] goodness: otherwise thou also shalt be cut off. 
 11:23   And they also, if they abide not still in unbelief, shall be grafted in: for God is able to graft them in again. 
 11:24   For if thou wert cut out of the olive tree which is wild by nature, and wert grafted contrary to nature into a good olive tree: how much more shall these, which be the natural [branches], be grafted into their own olive tree? 

What is Paul saying to us here?

Be not proud or you too will be cut off as were the Jews. If a Gentile can be grafted into the Jewish religion (same as ours today), then how much more can a Jew be successfully grafted back into the religion he came out of! The leaders perverted the religion, but that does not change the scrolls which contained the gospel truth. We today know more than they did about their religion. But, when there are converted Jews, they will gladly learn what it is that they were supposed to learn before they put to death the Son of God, their Messiah.

Paul likens the faithful remnant in Israel to a noble olive tree, some of whose branches have been broken off (the unbelieving ones) - an illustration he uses to prove that “God hath not cast away his people” (Rom. 11:2). The root and trunk are still there.

Into this tree the believing Gentiles have been grafted. But they are drawing their sap and vitality from the root and trunk, which represent believing Israel.

What happened to those who rejected Jesus could happen also to the believing Gentiles. The Bible teaches no doctrine of “once saved, always saved.” Just as salvation is freely offered, it freely can be rejected. Although we have to be careful of thinking that every time we fall we are out of salvation, or that we aren’t saved unless we are perfect, we need to avoid the opposite ditch as well - the idea that once God’s grace covers us, there is nothing we can do, no choices we can make, that will take the provision of salvation away from us. In the end, only those who “continue in his goodness” (Rom. 11:22) will be saved.

Amazing! "we have to be careful of thinking that every time we fall we are out of salvation..."  No, not at all. When we sin, we still are filled with the Holy Spirit, we are still abiding in Christ and He in us? When we sin, fall, of course we still have life? Where is Jesus when we sin a known sin? Sounds to me like the lesson is teaching that Jesus is still in possession of the heart, and the unrepentant sinner still loves Jesus with the whole heart. This is what Paul calls "another gospel." And, Paul has nothing good to say about those who bring another gospel into God's church.

Shall we present all of the truths in Scripture that contradict the above stated "gospel", that one may sin and retain salvation? We have been for many years. If you believe this, then you need to study for yourself. Cease trusting in many and turn to Christ and His Word. The church remains in a Laodicean condition for the same reason Israel remained in a Laodicean condition, they have believe a lie. There is a revival taking place in the church. There are two groups being formed. Those who love Jesus supremely and those who do not. The truth will do the separating. The rebellion taking place is painful, but it serves the purpose of showing that there is a deeper problem in the church. How can so many leaders be so far removed from the Word of God? It is because the church has trusted in others to feed them instead of going directly to God and His Word.

Read Romans nine again after praying for God to reveal the truth. No need for commentary. Trust in the Holy Spirit to reveal the truth about who it is that has life and who does not.  If you believe God sent a prophet to His last day church, then good. If not, then you have no spiritual discernment. If you know the Spirit of Prophecy is inspired of God, then what will you do with this statement that contradicts the the statement made in today's lesson? "When we live by faith on the Son of God, the fruits of the Spirit will be seen in our lives; not one will be missing." Desire of Ages pg 676.

No believer should boast of his or her own goodness or feel any superiority over his or her fellow human beings. Our salvation was not earned; it was a gift. Before the Cross, before the standard of God’s holiness, we all are equal: sinners in need of divine grace, sinners in need of a holiness that can be ours only through grace. We have nothing of ourselves to boast about; our boasting should be only in Jesus and what He has done for us by coming into this world in human flesh, suffering our woes, dying for our sins, offering us a model for how we are to live, and promising us the power to live that life. In it all, we are completely dependent upon Him, for without Him we would have no hope beyond what this world itself offers.

Amen. The problem is that it is inconsistent with other statements made in today's lesson. If God gives power to live His life, then why is there still sin? Of course someone can sin and repent, but what if he does not repent? How long before he does not have eternal life? A day, two days. a week, or a year? And which sins reveal a separation between Christ and man? Stealing a loaf of bread? Adultery? Homosexuality? Murder? That the lesson has been teaching us all quarter is that we can murder and retain salvation. What Sabbath School has been teaching us for many years is that we can sin a known sin and still have Jesus abiding in us. What heresy! We do not have Christ when we sin a known sin. Where is Jesus when we sin a known sin? He stands outside of the heart, knocking wanting back in. We do not have life until we invite Him back into the heart. That means we repent of our sin. We do not have life when we do not have Jesus in the heart. We do not have Jesus in the heart if we love something else more than Him. When we sin, we love something more than Jesus.

Soon, the Intercessor will step out of the heavenly sanctuary and there will be no more opportunity for forgiveness. Are you ready for this? The time is coming very soon! Let us behold Jesus that we might learn of Him who gave all for us that we might live. It is by beholding His grace that we are converted. We need to die daily if we want to remain in connection with our Savior. It is a hard lesson to learn when leaders are teachings something contrary to this. If you think all is well, then you have not learned the lesson of Israel of Old who trusted in their leaders rather than looking to Christ and His Word.

The rebellion in the church is not the real problem, as serious as it is. There is an underlying problem, not understanding the gospel of grace and its power to transform sinners into saints. God has allowed the rebellion that the true seeker after truth might know who is teaching truth and who is not.

Monday December 11

The Election of Grace

Before we go onto chapter 11, let us look at some verses which were skipped over in chapter ten that are important to our discussion.

 10:10   For with the heart man believeth unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation. 
 10:11   For the scripture saith, Whosoever believeth on him shall not be ashamed. 
 10:12   For there is no difference between the Jew and the Greek: for the same Lord over all is rich unto all that call upon him. 
 10:13   For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved. 
 10:14   How then shall they call on him in whom they have not believed? and how shall they believe in him of whom they have not heard? and how shall they hear without a preacher? 
 10:15   And how shall they preach, except they be sent? as it is written, How beautiful are the feet of them that preach the gospel of peace, and bring glad tidings of good things! 
 10:16   But they have not all obeyed the gospel. For Esaias saith, Lord, who hath believed our report? 
 10:17   So then faith [cometh] by hearing, and hearing by the word of God. 
 10:18   But I say, Have they not heard? Yes verily, their sound went into all the earth, and their words unto the ends of the world. 
 10:19   But I say, Did not Israel know? First Moses saith, I will provoke you to jealousy by [them that are] no people, [and] by a foolish nation I will anger you. 
 10:20   But 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. 
 10:21   But to Israel he saith, All day long I have stretched forth my hands unto a disobedient and gainsaying people.

We notice here that all is not just about keep the law without Christ. Here we find that God is not happy with a people who do not keep the commandments. Isaiah calls them "a disobedient" people, and that "they have not all obeyed then the gospel." And, for our benefit, a people who have not obeyed the gospel of grace (see Revelation 3:14-22), he wrote how it that we might be given power to obey the commandments of God: "   So then faith [cometh] by hearing, and hearing by the word of God. 

As we read we see that God wants the heart, the whole heart. And, it is by beholding Jesus in Scripture that our faith becomes saving faith. The heart is given fully to God when we behold His love (grace) for us while we were yet sinners. "with the heart man believeth unto righteousness." Yes, it is when we believe with the whole heart that we receive (have imputed and imparted) the righteousness of Christ. Believe and share the whole gospel of grace that transforms the life at conversion.

Read Romans 11:1-7.

  11:1   I say then, Hath God cast away his people? God forbid. For I also am an Israelite, of the seed of Abraham, [of] the tribe of Benjamin. 
 11:2   God hath not cast away his people which he foreknew. Wot ye not what the scripture saith of Elias? how he maketh intercession to God against Israel, saying, 
 11:3   Lord, they have killed thy prophets, and digged down thine altars; and I am left alone, and they seek my life. 
 11:4   But what saith the answer of God unto him? I have reserved to myself seven thousand men, who have not bowed the knee to [the image of] Baal. 
 11:5   Even so then at this present time also there is a remnant according to the election of grace. 
 11:6   And 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. 
 11:7   What then? Israel hath not obtained that which he seeketh for; but the election hath obtained it, and the rest were blinded   

What common teaching does this passage deny clearly and irrevocably?

That because one belongs to a people entrusted with the truth, does not mean they are saved. It is by the acceptance of grace that a man is saved. In Israel there were some, a remnant, that accepted the grace of God and were transformed in character to truly reflect the character of God. They are called "the election." They were His true witnesses. The vast majority had been deceived by the priests and teachers of the day. They had not been transformed by grace, as were "the election" who were saved, "the rest were blinded." Notice what the ones who were saved are called. The election. We are not talking just about "roles," but about "salvation" also.

In the first part of his answer to the question, “Hath God cast away his people?” Paul points to a remnant, an election of grace, as proof that God has not cast away His people. Salvation is open for all who accept it, Jew and Gentile alike.

A remnant of saved. All others were cast away.

It should be remembered that the early converts to Christianity were all Jews - for example, the group that was converted on the Day of Pentecost. It took a special vision and miracle to convince Peter that the Gentiles had equal access to the grace of Christ (Acts 10); compare Acts 15:7-9) and that the gospel was to be carried to them, as well.

Read Romans 11:7-10.

 11:7   What then? Israel hath not obtained that which he seeketh for; but the election hath obtained it, and the rest were blinded 
 11:8   (According as it is written, God hath given them the spirit of slumber, eyes that they should not see, and ears that they should not hear;) unto this day. 
 11:9   And David saith, Let their table be made a snare, and a trap, and a stumblingblock, and a recompense unto them: 
 11:10   Let their eyes be darkened that they may not see, and bow down their back alway. 

Amen. The "election" accepted the grace of God, but the rest did not and were blind to their need and the power of grace to transform the life.     Let their eyes be darkened, that they see not; and make their loins continually to shake. Psalm 69:23. Let them ignore the light if they choose. Blindness has come upon modern Israel also. Read Revelation 3:14-22.

Is Paul saying that God purposely blinded to salvation the part of Israel’s population that rejected Jesus? What’s wrong with that idea?

The Bible says many are called, but few choose to be saved. Why? Because pride stands in the way, and there is a sacrifice that is too great. Self will not die.

In Romans 11:8-10, Paul quotes from the Old Testament, which the Jews accepted as authoritative. The passages that Paul cites represent God as giving to Israel a spirit of slumber, preventing their seeing and hearing. Does God blind people’s eyes to prevent them from seeing light that would lead them to salvation? Never! These passages must be understood in the light of our explanation of Romans 9. Paul is not talking of individual salvation, for God rejects no one group en masse for salvation. The issue here, as it has been all along, deals with the role that these people play in His work.

From Acts:

 28:26   Saying, Go unto this people, and say, Hearing ye shall hear, and shall not understand; and seeing ye shall see, and not perceive: 
 28:27   For the heart of this people is waxed gross, and their ears are dull of hearing, and their eyes have they closed; lest they should see with [their] eyes, and hear with [their] ears, and understand with [their] heart, and should be converted, and I should heal them. 
 28:28   Be it known therefore unto you, that the salvation of God is sent unto the Gentiles, and [that] they will hear it. 

It is a matter of salvation. The lost choose to reject the truth.

What is so wrong with the idea that God has rejected en masse any group of people in terms of salvation? Why is that counter to the whole teaching of the gospel, which at the core shows that Christ died to save all human beings? How, for example, in the case of the Jews, has this idea led to tragic results?

God allowed His Son to suffer our sins while we were yet sinners that we might have opportunity to know Him and be transformed from sinner to saint. Though our sins be as scarlet, they shall be as while as snow. Jesus loves even the worst of sinners. He died to save them. The Jews thought that they only could be saved, and thus neglected to minister to the Gentiles. They were a Laodicean people. Read chapter three of the Book of John and see a Jewish leader who thought he was just fine when in fact he was lost. Jesus did not leave him without telling him he needed to be converted, and telling him how to be born again of the Spirit. What must we do in order to be transformed?
Sunday December 10

Christ and the Law

Read Romans 10:1-4.

 10:1   Brethren, my heart's desire and prayer to God for Israel is, that they might be saved. 
 10:2   For I bear them record that they have a zeal of God, but not according to knowledge. 
 10:3   For they being ignorant of God's righteousness, and going about to establish their own righteousness, have not submitted themselves unto the righteousness of God. 
 10:4   For Christ [is] the end of the law for righteousness to every one that believeth. 

Keeping in mind all that came before, what’s the message here? How could we, today, be in danger of seeking to establish our “own righteousness”?

All that has come before reveals what Paul is saying to those who were deceived as he was about the plan of salvation. He did not know He needed a Savior in order to keep the law of God. Read Romans seven and you will understand what Paul is saying to his former brethren. They have zeal as he did when he was persecuting Christians, but they do not have knowledge of the true gospel that saves by grace and empowers the repentant sinner to keep the commandments of God. It is through Christ that we are transformed in nature and saved from eternal death.

Legalism can come in many forms, some more subtle than others. Those who look to themselves, to their good deeds, to their diet, to how strictly they keep the Sabbath, to all the bad things they don’t do, or to the good things that they have achieved - even with the best of intentions - are falling into the trap of legalism. Every moment of our life, we must keep before us the holiness of God in contrast to our sinfulness; that’s the surest way to protect ourselves from the kind of thinking that leads people into seeking their “own righteousness,” which is contrary to the righteousness of Christ.

Yes, we must behold Jesus continually, and by beholding Him we will become changed. It is an intellectual and a spiritual truth, that by beholding we become changed. Read 2nd Corinthians  chapter three, verse eighteen. If we want to be His witnesses in this world that is soon to perish, we must reflect His character. The only way we can keep His Commandments and reveal all of the fruits of the Spirit, is to be filled with the Holy Spirit which comes when we give the whole heart to Christ.

When we believe and teach that only those who are truly converted can keep the commandments correctly, from the heart, and they will when converted, we are not teaching legalism. When we allow Christ to take possession of the whole heart, then we will not sin a known sin. In order to maintain this power to resist temptation to sin, we must maintain our connection with Christ, for without Him, we can do no good thing.

Romans 10:4 is an important text that catches the essence of Paul’s entire message to the Romans. First, we need to know the context. Many Jews were “going about to establish their own righteousness” (Rom. 10:3) and seeking “the righteousness which is of the law” (Rom. 10:5). But with the coming of the Messiah, the true way of righteousness was presented. Righteousness was offered to all who would fix their faith in Christ. He was the one to whom the ancient ceremonial system had pointed.

Even if one includes in the definition of law here the Ten Commandments, it doesn’t mean that the Ten Commandments were done away with. The moral law points out our sins, our faults, our shortcomings, and thus leads us to our need of a Savior, our need of forgiveness, our need of righteousness - all of which are found only in Jesus. In that sense, Christ is the “end” of the law, in that the law leads us to Him and His righteousness. The Greek word for “end” here is telos, which also can be translated as “goal” or “purpose.” Christ is the final purpose of the law, in that the law is to lead us to Jesus.

To see this text as teaching that the Ten Commandments - or specifically the fourth commandment (what these folks really mean) - are now nullified is to draw a conclusion that goes against so much else of what Paul and the New Testament teach.

Do you ever find yourself proud of how good you are, especially in contrast to others? Maybe you are “better,” but so what? Compare yourself to Christ, and then think about how “good” you really are.

Yes, Paul is speaking of legalism. But, the church today, while it does indeed see legalism within, the predominant heresy is not formal legalism, but a false gospel that teaches we can be saved without being transformed in nature. Many believe, because they have been taught, that we are saved when we commit a known sin. This is the great heresy in the church today. Thus, we must, as we read Paul's writings, understand the whole gospel and everything he taught. He did not teach that we are saved in sin but from sin. Let Us include in our teaching the Full Gospel not just one side of it. '

It is true that the law cannot save, it convicts of sin in all who do not love God supremely. It reveals the character of God, a character that He both imputes and imparts to the repentant sinner. So, let us learn the truth that true conversion brings forth a radical transformation of character right then and there. Yes, there is much to learn and much that needs to be changed. But, that does not mean there has not been a radical transformation of nature when Christ indwells the heart. We still lives in fallen flesh, but the flesh is not allowed to take control when Christ sits on the throne of the heart. "But I keep under my body, and bring it into subjection: lest that by any means, when I have preached to others, I myself should be a castaway." 1 Cor. 9:27. What does Paul mean when he says "castaway"?  Think about what it means to you and me when we do not keep the body (flesh) under the control of a mind possessed by Christ.

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