The Everlasting Gospel
(Leviticus 1, Hebrews 7, Matthew 22, Revelation 14)
Introduction: Our study of James has been a bit unusual, right? You heard from me things you rarely hear. James is part of the Bible, yet I would challenge what he wrote, and suggest that what he meant was something different than what it appeared that he said. The reason for this is that James writes things that seem inconsistent with the rest of Bible, especially inconsistent with the writings of Paul. The main concern is what James writes about grace. His statement in James 2:24, that we are justified by our works and not faith alone, and his statement in James 2:21 that Abraham was considered righteous when he offered Isaac as a sacrifice, take some explaining. Let's end our study of James by jumping into a review of what the entire Bible teaches about the means of our salvation!
- Sacrificial System
- Read Leviticus 1:3-4. You know about the Old Testament system of sacrifices, right? The sinner took an animal (commonly a sheep, goat or bull) and offered it as a sacrifice. What does this text say is the purpose of the sacrifice? ("It will be accepted on his behalf to make atonement for him.")
- Atonement for what? (That person's sins.)
- Read Psalms 40:6-8 and John 1:29. How do you understand the text in Psalms? (It is a prophecy about Jesus coming. John the Baptist understood this, for his statement says that Jesus is the "Lamb of God" and He "takes away the sin of the world.")
- How did Jesus take away the sin of the world? (He was the atonement for our sins. Romans 3:22-26. Just like the sacrificial system took away the sins of the person through the death of an animal, so the death of Jesus on our behalf takes away our sins.)
- Read Hebrews 7:22-27. What is the "better covenant" mentioned here? Is it a new system? (It is a "better" system. The general idea of the system is not new at all. It is the same idea: sin is taken away by the death of another. Sin is not overcome by our good works. The better idea is that Jesus offered Himself once as the sacrifice for our sins, and in that way He is infinitely better than the death of millions of animals. Jesus is also our High Priest in heaven interceding on our behalf based on His sacrifice.)
- As you consider the Old Testament sacrificial system, did God ever operate a sin-dispensing system based on works? (No! God's followers were never told to perform some work, or to try harder until they got it right, if they wanted their sins forgiven. It has always been a system of atonement by the death of a substitute. In the general design of the system, there is no change. It has simply become ( Hebrews 7:22) "better!")
- Look again at James 2:24. Do you see how this statement by James, if understood to mean that we are justified by our works, is contrary to the entire scheme of the Bible, Old Testament and New? (What James must mean is that a measure of the genuine nature of faith is that it produces a change in us.)
- Read Ezekiel 37:26-28. What kind of covenant does God enter into with us? (An "everlasting covenant." A covenant that involves the sanctuary system and the concept that God makes us holy, we don't make ourselves holy by our works. Salvation by grace is the backbone of the entire Bible, and this basic idea never changed, it just got infinitely better when it was fulfilled by Jesus.)
- Kingdom Parable
- Read Matthew 22:1-2. What does Jesus say is the real topic of this story? (The Kingdom of Heaven.)
- Read Matthew 22:3-5. According to this story, how would you enter the Kingdom of Heaven? (Respond to the invitation.)
- Why didn't these people enter the Kingdom of Heaven? (They were too busy with life to pay attention to either invitation.)
- Read Matthew 22:6-7. What is different about this invited group? (They were hostile to God and His invitation.)
- What do you think about the King's reaction?
- Read Matthew 22:8. Jesus suggests that we have to "deserve" to enter the Kingdom of Heaven. That sounds like we need to merit heaven. What "merit" is Jesus describing here? (Accepting the invitation. Ignoring it because you are too busy or too angry keeps you out of the Kingdom.)
- Read Matthew 22:9-10. What is the key to entering the Kingdom of Heaven? (Accepting the invitation.)
- Jesus makes a point about an irrelevancy: what is irrelevant to coming to the wedding? (Whether you were good or bad. What made the difference was accepting the invitation.)
- Read Matthew 22:11-12. What is the obvious answer to the King's question? (I was picking up a gallon of milk at the neighborhood grocery store when I got invited. I had no idea I was going to visit you, the King, today - much less show up at your wedding feast!)
- What does the fact that the man was "speechless," as opposed to giving the speech I just suggested, tell you about a missing fact? (The King obviously supplied the wedding garments. None of this group of invitees were prepared to come to the King's wedding.)
- Read Matthew 22:13-14. "Many are invited, but few are chosen." Consider Jesus' story and tell me how we are "chosen" to enter the Kingdom of Heaven? (Accepting the invitation, and accepting the wedding garment.)
- We started out looking at the sanctuary system for dealing with sin. How is this wedding story like the sanctuary system? (You had to accept the offer. You had to pay attention. You came to the temple, you brought a lamb (an animal) to take your place, and you accepted that the death of the animal substituted for your own death for your sins.)
- This seems too easy, right? Let's dig a little deeper. Why did the business and field people ( Matthew 22:5) not come? (Their work was their priority.)
- Is work your priority?
- Is the Kingdom of God your priority in all of your decisions?
- Another group, those who mistreated God's servants ( Matthew 22:6), did not come. Why? (They were hostile. They gave their allegiance to another king or to themselves.)
- Are you hostile to the work of God?
- Look again at Matthew 22:11-13. The fellow who accepted the invitation, but who did not put on the wedding garment, is an interesting case. Why would he not put on a free garment from the King? (I can think of two reasons. He liked his own clothes better. Or, he thought it was improper to accept the gift from the King, he would show his worth by putting together his own great costume.)
- Are you a friend of the work of God, but determined to make your own robe of righteousness?
- Kingdom Judgment
- Read Revelation 14:6-7. This end-time message refers to the "eternal gospel." What is that gospel? (Worship God the Creator, fear and glorify God because a judgment is coming.)
- How would we "fear" and "glorify" God? (If we believe God's view of life is correct, if we desire to draw others to God through our life, that means we live in a certain way. I think this is what James means when he says, "faith without deeds is useless" (James 2:20).
- Read Revelation 14:8. What is the "adultery" issue? (A foolish (like being drunk) failure to be faithful to God. You are too busy with work. You are hostile to the gospel.)
- Read Revelation 14:9-10. Who loses in the judgment? Who is like the fellow tossed out of the wedding banquet?(Those who reject God's invitation, and instead accept the invitation of Satan. This is reflected in their thoughts and their actions ("his mark on the forehead or on the hand").)
- Friend, will you accept the invitation of God today? Don't be too busy. Don't be hostile. God offers a free gift. Don't be deceived into believing that you must work for salvation, because your own robe will not be sufficient. Instead, as James tells us, accepting grace by faith results in a people who fear and glorify the One who saved them by His infinite sacrifice.
- Next week: we begin our study of the book of Proverbs.