The law and the gospel are two irreplaceable components of God’s plan to redeem fallen man. The law shows what sin is, and the gospel saves the repentant sinner from sin and eternal death. The Scriptures do not mention these two terms in the first chapters of Genesis, but both of them existed before Eden. Furthermore, while the Old Testament does not mention the word “gospel,” its broad scope (God’s great love, grace, promises, justification, and salvation) permeates every book. Virtually every page of the Holy Scriptures gives evidence of the plan of redemption carried out by the Lamb of God, who “was foreordained before the foundation of the world.” 1 Peter 1:20. In His great love and grace, the Lord has “chosen us in Him before the foundation of the world.” Ephesians 1:4.
The gospel attests that justification and salvation are not granted on the basis of human merit but as the free gift of God’s grace. This was present in the promise given in Eden concerning the Seed of the woman, who would bruise the serpent’s head (Genesis 3:15), as well as in the testimony given of Abraham, who “believed in the Lord; and He counted it to him for righteousness.” Genesis 15:6. The great subject of justification that is presented in the New Testament has its foundation in the Old Testament. The prophet Habakkuk stated that “the just shall live by his faith.” Habakkuk 2:4. The law and the gospel are thus presented in the Old Testament as linked to each other.
In the many different churches, how many believe that the Old and New Testaments are in full harmony, teaching that salvation is received by grace through faith? Not many. A great number teach that there were two different systems, one for the time of the patriarchs and prophets (salvation being achieved by obedience to the law) and the other for the time of the New Testament (salvation by grace). This is one of the many errors that have been spread throughout the world.
The Spirit of prophecy states: “There is no discord between the Old Testament and the New. In the Old Testament we find the gospel of a coming Saviour; in the New Testament we have the gospel of a Saviour revealed as the prophecies had foretold. While the Old Testament is constantly pointing forward to the true offering, the New Testament shows that the Saviour prefigured by the typical offerings has come. The dim glory of the Jewish age has been succeeded by the brighter, clearer glory of the Christian age.” –(Signs of the Times, July 29, 1886) Seventh-day Adventist Bible Commentary, vol. 6, p. 1095.
“Good works can never purchase salvation, but they are an evidence of the faith that acts by love and purifies the soul. And though the eternal reward is not bestowed because of our merit, yet it will be in proportion to the work that has been done through the grace of Christ.” –The Desire of Ages, p. 314.
This is not the only problem. The next one is the opposite–the assertion that the writers of the New Testament taught that the law of God was abolished by Jesus’ death on the cross and believers are free from obeying it. “But not once,” Sister Ellen G. White writes, “has Christ stated that His coming destroyed the claims of God’s law. On the contrary, in the very last message to His church, by way of Patmos, He pronounces a benediction upon those who keep His Father’s law: ‘Blessed are they that do His commandments, that they may have right to the tree of life, and may enter in through the gates into the city.’ Revelation 22:14.” –(Signs of the Times, July 29, 1886) Seventh-day Adventist Bible Commentary, vol. 6, p. 1095.
“His law is the transcript of His character. It is the standard that all must reach if they would enter the kingdom of God. No one need walk in uncertainty…. The law of God is not abolished. It will live through the eternal ages. By Christ’s death it was magnified, and sin was exposed in its true light.” –In Heavenly Places, p. 137.
“The moral law was never a type or a shadow. It existed before man’s creation, and will endure as long as God’s throne remains. God could not change or alter one precept of His law in order to save man; for the law is the foundation of His government. It is unchangeable, unalterable, infinite, and eternal. In order for man to be saved, and for the honor of the law to be maintained, it was necessary for the Son of God to offer Himself as a sacrifice for sin. He who knew no sin became sin for us. He died for us on Calvary. His death shows the wonderful love of God for man, and the immutability of His law.” –(Review and Herald, April 22, 1902) Seventh-day Adventist Bible Commentary, vol. 6, p. 1097.
Let us remember that salvation was always and still is given by grace through faith. The Old and New Testaments are not in opposition to each other, and the law and the gospel are in complete harmony. The law defines sin, and the gospel of Jesus Christ saves the repentant sinner from sin. Without God’s law, sin is not condemned and there is no need of grace. Those who deny the validity of the law indirectly deny grace.
“The law and the gospel are in perfect harmony. Each upholds the other. In all its majesty the law confronts the conscience, causing the sinner to feel his need of Christ as the propitiation for sin. The gospel recognizes the power and immutability of the law. ‘I had not known sin, but by the law,’ Paul declares. The sense of sin, urged home by the law, drives the sinner to the Saviour. In his need man may present the mighty arguments furnished by the cross of Calvary. He may claim the righteousness of Christ; for it is imparted to every repentant sinner.” –(Review and Herald, April 22, 1902) Seventh-day Adventist Bible Commentary, vol. 6, p. 1096.
The Sabbath School Lessons in the Fourth Quarter present some concepts from the letters of the apostle Paul regarding the law that may be difficult to grasp. Nevertheless, it is important to study them along with those that seem somewhat easier to understand. As we study all of these things, let us pray for light and connect everything with the truths found in the Revelation regarding the faithful remnant: “And the dragon was wroth with the woman, and went to make war with the remnant of her seed, which keep the commandments of God, and have the testimony of Jesus Christ.” “Here is the patience of the saints: here are they that keep the commandments of God, and the faith of Jesus.” Revelation 12:17; 14:12.
These very important Biblical subjects–the law and the gospel–are essential parts of the plan of redemption, so it is essential to get a firm grasp of them at this time. Let us cherish this opportunity, pray for divine guidance, and humbly ask for wisdom so that the study of these lessons will result in a great blessing for every believer.
–The brothers and sisters of the General Conference and the Ministerial Department
Sabbath, July 6, 2019
Lesson 1 – The Gospel in Eden
“Ever since the fall of man, Christ had been the Revealer of truth to the world. By Him the incorruptible seed, ‘the word of God, which liveth and abideth forever,’ is communicated to men. 1 Peter 1:23. In that first promise spoken to our fallen race in Eden, Christ was sowing the gospel seed.” –Christ’s Object Lessons, p. 37.
1. In addition to giving him life, what else did the Lord give to man in Eden? In what wonderful environment did He place him?
Genesis 1:28; 2:8, 9 And God blessed them, and God said unto them, Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth, and subdue it: and have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over every living thing that moveth upon the earth…. 2:8And the Lord God planted a garden eastward in Eden; and there he put the man whom he had formed. 9And out of the ground made the Lord God to grow every tree that is pleasant to the sight, and good for food; the tree of life also in the midst of the garden, and the tree of knowledge of good and evil.
“Adam was crowned king in Eden. To him was given dominion over every living thing that God had created. The Lord blessed Adam and Eve with intelligence such as He had not given to any other creature. He made Adam the rightful sovereign over all the works of His hands.” –God’s Amazing Grace, p. 40.
“The Lord placed our first parents in the Garden of Eden. He surrounded them with everything that could minister to their happiness, and He bade them acknowledge Him as the possessor of all things. In the garden He caused to grow every tree that was pleasant to the eye or good for food;…” –Counsels on Stewardship, p. 65.
2. What great responsibility was assigned to him? Compliance with what divine prohibition would demonstrate his loyalty and obedience and enable him to grow spiritually? In a garden full of delicious food, was the divine requirement something difficult?
Genesis 2:15-17 And the Lord God took the man, and put him into the garden of Eden to dress it and to keep it. 16And the Lord God commanded the man, saying, Of every tree of the garden thou mayest freely eat: 17But of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, thou shalt not eat of it: for in the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die.
“Very happy were the holy pair in Eden. Unlimited control was given them over every living thing. The lion and the lamb sported together peacefully and harmlessly around them, or slumbered at their feet. Birds of every variety of color and plumage flitted among the trees and flowers, and about Adam and Eve, while their mellow-toned music echoed among the trees in sweet accord to the praises of their Creator.
“In the midst of the garden, near the tree of life, stood the tree of knowledge of good and evil. Of this tree the Lord commanded our first parents not to eat, neither to touch it, lest they die. He told them that they might freely eat of all the trees in the garden except one; but if they ate of that tree they should surely die.” –Spiritual Gifts, vol. 3, p. 35.
Temptation and fall
3. What leading question did the tempter voice when the woman came close to the forbidden tree? What lie did the deceiver speak?
Genesis 3:1, 4, 5 Now the serpent was more subtle than any beast of the field which the Lord God had made. And he said unto the woman, Yea, hath God said, Ye shall not eat of every tree of the garden?… 4And the serpent said unto the woman, Ye shall not surely die: 5For God doth know that in the day ye eat thereof, then your eyes shall be opened, and ye shall be as gods, knowing good and evil.
“Satan would convey the idea that by eating of the forbidden tree, they would receive a new and more noble kind of knowledge than they had hitherto attained. This has been his special work with great success ever since his fall, to lead men to pry into the secrets of the Almighty, and not to be satisfied with what God has revealed, and not careful to obey that which He has commanded. He would lead them to disobey God’s commands, and then make them believe that they are entering a wonderful field of knowledge, which is purely supposition, and a miserable deception. They fail to understand what God has revealed, and disregard his explicit commandments, and aspire after wisdom, independent of God, and seek to understand that which He has been pleased to withhold from mortals. They are elated with their ideas of progression, and charmed with their own vain philosophy; but grope in midnight darkness relative to true knowledge. They are ever learning, and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth.” –Spiritual Gifts, vol. 3, pp. 40, 41.
4. How did the woman react to what she viewed as fascinating possibilities? What was the tragic consequence of the first couple’s direct disobedience?
Isaiah 43:27, first part Thy first father hath sinned….
Genesis 3:6, 7 And when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was pleasant to the eyes, and a tree to be desired to make one wise, she took of the fruit thereof, and did eat, and gave also unto her husband with her; and he did eat. 7And the eyes of them both were opened, and they knew that they were naked; and they sewed fig leaves together, and made themselves aprons.
“Our first parents were led into sin through indulging a desire for knowledge that God had withheld from them. In seeking to gain this knowledge, they lost all that was worth possessing. If Adam and Eve had never touched the forbidden tree, God would have imparted to them knowledge–knowledge upon which rested no curse of sin, knowledge that would have brought them everlasting joy. All that they gained by listening to the tempter was an acquaintance with sin and its results. By their disobedience, humanity was estranged from God and the earth was separated from heaven.” –The Ministry of Healing, pp. 427, 428.
5. What other results followed? What did the Lord provide them for clothing, representing Christ’s atoning blood?
Genesis 3:9, 10, 21 And the Lord God called unto Adam, and said unto him, Where art thou? 10And he said, I heard thy voice in the garden, and I was afraid, because I was naked; and I hid myself…. 21Unto Adam also and to his wife did the Lord God make coats of skins, and clothed them.
Zechariah 3:4 And he answered and spake unto those that stood before him, saying, Take away the filthy garments from him. And unto him he said, Behold, I have caused thine iniquity to pass from thee, and I will clothe thee with change of raiment.
“The divine presence was manifested in the garden. In their innocence and holiness they had joyfully welcomed the approach of their Creator; but now they fled in terror, and sought to hide in the deepest recesses of the garden.” –Patriarchs and Prophets, p. 57.
“A fig-leaf apron will never cover our nakedness. Sin must be taken away, and the garment of Christ’s righteousness must cover the transgressor of God’s law. Then when the Lord looks upon the believing sinner, He sees, not the fig leaves covering him, but Christ’s own robe of righteousness, which is perfect obedience to the law of Jehovah. Man has hidden his nakedness, not under a covering of fig leaves, but under the robe of Christ’s righteousness.” –The Upward Look, p. 378.
A preventative measure
6. What was necessary to keep the man and his wife from becoming eternal transgressors?
Genesis 3:22-24 And the Lord God said, Behold, the man is become as one of us, to know good and evil: and now, lest he put forth his hand, and take also of the tree of life, and eat, and live for ever: 23Therefore the Lord God sent him forth from the garden of Eden, to till the ground from whence he was taken. 24So he drove out the man; and he placed at the east of the garden of Eden Cherubims, and a flaming sword which turned every way, to keep the way of the tree of life.
“They were informed that they would have to lose their Eden home. They had yielded to Satan’s deception and believed the word of Satan, that God would lie. By their transgression they had opened a way for Satan to gain access to them more readily, and it was not safe for them to remain in the Garden of Eden, lest in their state of sin they gain access to the tree of life and perpetuate a life of sin. They entreated to be permitted to remain, although they acknowledged that they had forfeited all right to blissful Eden. They promised that they would in the future yield to God implicit obedience. They were informed that in their fall from innocence to guilt they gained no strength but great weakness. They had not preserved their integrity while they were in a state of holy, happy innocence, and they would have far less strength to remain true and loyal in a state of conscious guilt. They were filled with keenest anguish and remorse. They now realized that the penalty of sin was death.” –The Story of Redemption, pp. 40, 41.
Promise of the coming Redeemer
7. In what beautiful promise did the Lord present mankind’s redemption from the slavery of Satan, sin, and death?
Genesis 3:15 And I will put enmity between thee and the woman, and between thy seed and her seed; it shall bruise thy head, and thou shalt bruise his heel.
Revelation 5:9 And they sung a new song, saying, Thou art worthy to take the book, and to open the seals thereof: for thou wast slain, and hast redeemed us to God by thy blood out of every kindred, and tongue, and people, and nation.
“The first intimation of such a hope was given to Adam and Eve in the sentence pronounced upon the serpent in Eden when the Lord declared to Satan in their hearing, ‘I will put enmity between thee and the woman, and between thy seed and her seed; it shall bruise thy head, and thou shalt bruise His heel.’ Genesis 3:15.
“As the guilty pair listened to these words, they were inspired with hope; for in the prophecy concerning the breaking of Satan’s power they discerned a promise of deliverance from the ruin wrought through transgression. Though they must suffer from the power of their adversary because they had fallen under his seductive influence and had chosen to disobey the plain command of Jehovah, yet they need not yield to utter despair. The Son of God was offering to atone with His own lifeblood for their transgression. To them was to be granted a period of probation, during which, through faith in the power of Christ to save, they might become once more the children of God.” –Prophets and Kings, pp. 681, 682.
For additional study
“The Saviour’s coming was foretold in Eden. When Adam and Eve first heard the promise, they looked for its speedy fulfillment. They joyfully welcomed their first-born son, hoping that he might be the Deliverer. But the fulfillment of the promise tarried. Those who first received it died without the sight. From the days of Enoch the promise was repeated through patriarchs and prophets, keeping alive the hope of His appearing, and yet He came not. The prophecy of Daniel revealed the time of His advent, but not all rightly interpreted the message….
“But like the stars in the vast circuit of their appointed path, God’s purposes know no haste and no delay.” –Christ Triumphant, p. 34; A Call to Stand Apart, p. 5.