BIBLE STUDY NINE
The Dynamics of the
Constraining Power of Agape
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
Peter could not save himself; he had to let Jesus save him. As
drowning victims fight lifeguards, Peter could have resisted
Jesusí saving him.
An often-misunderstood text in Adventism: Jesus says that for those who
come to Him, His "yoke is easy" and His "burden is
In contrast. He assures Saul of Tarsus that resisting His grace is
"hard." Conventional wisdom in Adventism usually says the
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?
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.
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
The true, pure gospel in this Day of Atonement has dynamite
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
"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?
- The Lord God takes the
initiative in creating a "relationship" with us.
- He awakens us "morning by morning."
- 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.
- If we do not resist or "turn away," His purpose
will be fulfilled in us. 4
- Your "phone" is ringing every morning; God is
on the line.
- 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:
- The heart-response is so
intense that some think believers are insane.
- Agape constrains, motivates.
- Not emotionalism, but calm sanctified reason
"judges" the issue.
- The believer realizes that since One died for him,
otherwise he would be in his eternal grave.
- The idea of being "alive from the dead"
explains his exuberance (Romans 6:13).
- 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.
- 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.
Paul presented Him thus to the Galatians, and they received "the
"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.
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
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"With the heart man believeth unto righteousness" (Romans
10:10). [return to study]
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]
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]
Compare Steps to Christ p. 27, "If [the sinner] does not
resist, he will be drawn to Jesus." [return
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]