Refresh: Begin with prayer. Ask for the Holy Spirit to open your heart to new understanding and for God’s character to be revealed.
Read: Romans 5:12-21 in The Message (MSG). Note 1–3 insights or questions.
Reflect: A word to those who think keeping the Law of God perfectly would save them from Adam’s curse . . .
Typically, when an Adventist looks at the word “law” in the Bible, their mind goes straight to the Ten Commandments. That’s not usually what the Bible writers were referring to.
To Paul, in the book of Romans, the Law of God was Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy. The Law was all the stories and all the written prohibitions and laws in these books. It was every word that made up the Torah, also known as the first five books of the Old Testament.
Notice one law that is hotly debated in the Roman church isn’t a law found in the Ten Commandments. It’s found in the Genesis story of Abraham, written in Genesis 17. It was the law of circumcision found in the Torah, which represented an everlasting covenant (according to the text). To a Jew, this law was just as important as any of the big ten.
For the sake of my Adventist friends who don’t think most of the Torah applies to them anymore, but who do have a traditional reverence for the Ten Commandments, let’s focus on them for a moment. Some would say that perfectly keeping the Ten Commandments is the basis for our salvation. If we could just keep those ten perfectly, we’d be sinless and we’d have our ticket stamped for the streets of gold.
What we sometimes fail to realize is that the Ten Commandments are the very minimum that I can do for God or for my fellow man. Not the maximum.
The least I can do for you is not kill you. The very minimum I can do for my neighbor is not sleep with his wife, or lie about him, or steal from him. The least I can do for God is to not make a ceramic frog and bow down to it and call it God. The least I can do for Him is to remember to rest and focus on Him just one day a week.
Beyond that, keeping the Ten Commandments is a relatively easy thing to do. I don’t want to murder people. I don’t want to steal. I don’t want to bow down to a manmade object and worship it. I’m not interested in my neighbor’s wife. I love taking a day off and spending it with God and family. I don’t want to break the Ten Commandments. So I don’t. Some might argue about my commandment-keeping abilities, but even if I did keep the big 10 perfectly, it wouldn’t save me.
Keeping the Ten Commandments, or the rest of the law for that matter, has no power to save me. It can’t save me. The law is powerless with regard to salvation. In another book, Paul calls the Ten Commandments “the ministry that brought death” and “condemnation” (2 Corinthians 3:7). The law doesn’t save us. It just serves as a written record to help us not do stupid, rebellious things.
Jesus is the fulfillment of the law and can do what the law is powerless to do. A relationship with Him reverses the condemnation that the law foists upon us. And for those who haven’t been trapped under the law? Jesus saves them from the results of their rebellion apart from the Law.
The law can’t save us. Only Jesus can do that.
Recalibrate: If the law can’t save me, why should I keep it?
Respond: Pray for God to take the law out of your hands and place its core principles in your heart.
Research: Read this article and consider the difference between the spirit of the law and the letter of the law.
Remember: “As one trespass led to condemnation for all men, so one act of righteousness leads to justification and life for all men” (Romans 5:18, ESV).
Mark Witas is the lead pastor at Pacific Union College Church in Angwin, CA. Originally from the Pacific Northwest, Mark has served as a youth pastor, Bible teacher, college and academy chaplain, and lead pastor in the United States and Canada for the last 33 years. He has also authored four books: Born Chosen, Live Out Loud, Portals, and Just Jesus.
During a meal today, give your child a bite of food that they don’t like so much. Maybe it’s smashed peas or broccoli. Tell them that just like that food tastes icky to them, sin made the world icky. Then give them a bite of something sweet, something they really like! Now tell them that Jesus came to get the icky tastes out of our mouths and the icky taste of sin out of the world to make it sweet again!
What are some of your favorite foods? Pretend you really love chocolate chip cookies! They are so yummy! But instead of chocolate chips, someone put a bunch of peas in the cookie dough and baked it up! That would be kind of gross, huh? God made us in His image as the perfect cookie. Sin is kind of like the peas and got added to the cookie dough and made it icky. It messed up the cookie recipe. Jesus fixed the recipe so we can have yummy cookies again! Find a recipe that you would like to try and make with your parents today.
Imagine you are drowning. You look up from the water and, as you see the sun fading away, you think, “Well, this is it!” Which of the following options would you pick for rescue: 1. Someone throwing you a lifeguard manual with all of the training guidelines mapped out in detail, or 2. Having a lifeguard jump into the water to pull you out? The answer is simple; we would all choose the lifeguard. Jesus is the lifeguard. He wrote the laws, He kept the laws, and He is the fulfillment of the laws. In other words, He wrote the book of guidelines and has kept them all. Keeping the laws yourself will never save you. Why? Because no matter how hard any of us tries, we cannot save ourselves with knowledge. The only one who can save us from drowning in our sin is the One who perfectly knew the law, perfectly kept the law, and died on behalf of all who have failed to do either.