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BIBLE STUDY NINE

The Dynamics of the Constraining Power of Agape

A. INTRODUCTION

Both Jones and Waggoner sensed in a unique way that since all of Godís biddings are enablings, it is easy to be saved and hard to be lost if one understands and believes the full truth of the gospel. Righteousness is by faith, totally so, and not by works. If one has the genuine faith, the righteousness is sure to be seen in the life, because the faith is itself dynamic. 1 Nothing else produces righteousness. They saw righteousness by faith as dynamic in that it is (a) the truth that completes the great gospel commission, (b) is the latter rain, (c) was "the beginning" of the loud cry, and (d) prepares a people for translation. The only difficult aspect of salvation is learning to believe how good the Good News is, because unbelief is ingrained in our carnal human heart. But they understood that "God has dealt to every person a measure of faith" which needs only a personal choice in order to exercise it.


B. THE BIBLE EVIDENCE

Matthew 14:30. Peter could not save himself; he had to let Jesus save him. As drowning victims fight lifeguards, Peter could have resisted Jesusí saving him.

Matthew 11:28-30. An often-misunderstood text in Adventism: Jesus says that for those who come to Him, His "yoke is easy" and His "burden is light."

Acts 26:14. In contrast. He assures Saul of Tarsus that resisting His grace is "hard." Conventional wisdom in Adventism usually says the opposite.

Matthew 6:8, 36, etc. Jesus represents God as a loving heavenly Father. The real issue at stake: what kind of character is He? Is He trying to keep struggling people out of heaven, or is He trying to prepare them to get them in?

Isaiah 63:9. God is represented as "bearing" and "carrying" His people "all the days of old." 2 His constant saving activity is given to them, not merely offered.

2 Corinthians 5:19. He stops at nothing in order to save them, short of forcing the will.

Psalm 23:1-3. A primer lesson in being a Christian is to believe that you are His sheep, and He is your Shepherd. Your duty is to follow, to let Him lead you.

Romans 1:16. The true, pure gospel in this Day of Atonement has dynamite "power."

Romans 5:19, 20. While it is true that "sin abounds" in these last days, appealing to children and youth especially, it is also true that "the Lord in His great mercy sent a most precious message to His people" which reveals how a true understanding of His gospel reveals grace that "much more abounds."

Ephesians 2:8, 9. Rightly understood, this text does not support the "do-nothing" slander. Scripture teaches that manís part in the salvation process indeed is faith. 3

Galatians 3:1-6. "The hearing of faith" is manís part, contrasted with "works of the law." Note that the hearing of faith is prompted by seeing Christ "evidently set forth crucified among you." No egocentric motivation was involved.

Isaiah 50:4, 5. As practical godliness, how does this concept encourage us?

  1. The Lord God takes the initiative in creating a "relationship" with us.
  2. He awakens us "morning by morning."
  3. He takes the Lead to teach us, as in a school. Thus He also seeks to maintain the "relationship" He has already established with us.
  4. If we do not resist or "turn away," His purpose will be fulfilled in us. 4
  5. Your "phone" is ringing every morning; God is on the line.
  6. Our part therefore is to respond positively, by genuine faith, to His initiative.

2 Corinthians 5:13-15. The reason why itís easy to be saved and hard to be lost if one understands and believes the agape of Christ:

  1. The heart-response is so intense that some think believers are insane.
  2. Agape constrains, motivates.
  3. Not emotionalism, but calm sanctified reason "judges" the issue.
  4. The believer realizes that since One died for him, otherwise he would be in his eternal grave.
  5. The idea of being "alive from the dead" explains his exuberance (Romans 6:13).
  6. Living for self becomes impossible for an honest heart if the cross is seen and appreciated. Paul is a demonstration of that "constraint" of agape.
  7. The ongoing daily motivation is supplied by "a fresh look at the cross." 5

John 12:31, 32. If youth and church members believe it is "hard" to follow Christ, it is because Christ has not been "lifted up" before them as He truly is, on His cross.

Galatians 3:1. Paul presented Him thus to the Galatians, and they received "the Spirit."


C. SUMMARY

"The everlasting gospel" of the third angelís message of Revelation 14 and the loud cry of Revelation 18 is the message of the "much more abounding grace" of the Lord Jesus that is greater than the power of abounding sin. This is what makes the third angelís message to be powerful Good News. A fear motivation is not the correct understanding of it.


D. CONCLUSION

The Seventh-day Adventist Church desperately needs to understand more clearly the power that is built-in to the gospel in this cosmic, antitypical Day of Atonement. People need a better understanding of the character of God.

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Notes

  1. "With the heart man believeth unto righteousness" (Romans 10:10). [return to study]
  2. The text does not say that no effort is required of us, but establishes the oft-repeated premise of Scripture that "salvation is of the Lord" (Jonah 2:9). Whatever we do in cooperation with Him is done by His grace and His enabling. [return to study]
  3. It is imperative that "faith" be correctly defined and that its definition not be distorted by attempts to make faith become a work so that "salvation by faith" becomes salvation by works. Faith is a human heart response to the revelation of Godís agape in the gift of Christ. Such a definition of faith reveals its dynamic quality for the truth is always a "faith which works," not "faith and works." [return to study]
  4. Compare Steps to Christ p. 27, "If [the sinner] does not resist, he will be drawn to Jesus." [return to study]
  5. There are no Bible texts that contradict what Jesus says in Matthew 11:28-30. But some read contradiction into the following: "Strait is the gate and narrow is the way that leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it" (Matthew 7:14). "Strait" or "narrow" does not mean "difficult" (the NKJV mistranslated the Greek thlibo). A narrow path is not difficult; all you have to do is drop your "baggage" of self. "Strive to enter in at the strait gate," says Jesus (Luke 13:24). A healthy person enjoys striving more than being a couch potato; he enjoys breathing, eating, and activity. The agape of Christ supplies the healthy love of striving, and His yoke is "easy" because He bears it with us. [return to study]


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