Thursday, October 17, 2019

Lesson 3: God’s Call

Sabbath School Today
With the 1888 Message Dynamic

Ezra and Nehemiah
Lesson 3: God's Call


Our lesson theme is on "God's Call," discovering and fulfilling God's purpose for our lives, individually and corporately as a church. Let's give this some consideration in terms of how it relates to the 1888 message.

There are those who say that Ellen White never called for denominational repentance of the church or its leaders--not even once. Whether she did or not, it is the Lord Jesus Christ who calls for it.

What are we to do with Ellen White's repeated statements that the 1888 message was rejected? Should all these statements be ignored? If Seventh-day Adventists accept the record found in The Ellen G. White 1888 Materials (the following abstracts are taken from this source), how can they escape the truth that the message was rejected? The fact there was rejection led to her persistent calls to consider the path that they were on, repent, turn around, accept the message.

Clearly and repeatedly her counsels are directed to "leading brethren," "men in high positions of trust." "Leading brethren" in that day amounted to the General Conference. The tone of these many pleas is serious in the extreme. Every call to heed God's voice is based upon the need for repentance. Terrible judgment-day expressions are used such as: "Men in responsible positions have manifested the very attributes of Satan" (p. 1525). Solemn calls are the norm of her letters containing the overtone of repentance:

"The false ideas that were largely developed at Minneapolis have not been entirely uprooted from some minds. Those who have not made thorough work of repentance under the light God has been pleased to give to his people since that time, will not see clearly, and will be ready to call the messages God sends a delusion" (p. 1010).

But the counsel for repentance was not just in letters to individuals. There are serious compelling words calling the entire church to repentance. This is clear in her written message read to the General Conference assembled in Battle Creek, March 12, 1890:

"In the fear and love of God I tell those before whom I stand to-day that there is increased light for us, and that great blessings come with the reception of this light. And when I see my brethren stirred with anger against God's messages and messengers, I think of similar scenes in the life of Christ. ... The leaders of the people to-day pursue the same course of action that the Jews pursued. ...

"The Lord has been calling his people. In a most marked manner he has revealed his divine presence. But the message and the messengers have not been received but despised. ...

"In rejecting the message given at Minneapolis, men committed sin. They have committed far greater sin by retaining for years the same hatred against God's messengers, by rejecting the truth that the Holy Spirit has been urging home" (pp. 906, 907, 911, 913, 914).

Could any call for repentance be more specific? How could the church be more included than in a call made at a General Conference session?

Similar pleas for repentance went to the church through the Review:

"Since the time of the Minneapolis meeting, I have seen the state of the Laodicean Church as never before. I have heard the rebuke of God spoken to those who feel so well satisfied, who know not their spiritual destitution. ...

"Those who resist the messages of God through his humble servant, think they are at variance with Sister White, because her ideas are not in harmony with theirs; but this variance is not with Sister White, but with the Lord, who has given her work to do." (p. 695; RH 8-26-90).

Can anyone deny that this is a call to repentance given to the church as a whole through the Review?

The average reader must conclude that these do seem to be "authoritative calls from Ellen White." Over the next decade these calls were repeatedly made with reference to Minneapolis and the terrible loss God's people sustained. Indeed, the very message of 1888 has a built-in call for repentance. No one can be "misled" to heed this call (p. 152).

And so--Who calls for repentance? The Lord Jesus is the One standing at the door making the call to "the angel of the church of the Laodiceans, ... be zealous therefore, and repent" (Rev. 3:14, 19).

--Paul E. Penno

Pastor Paul Penno's video of this lesson is on the Internet at:

"Sabbath School Today" is on the Internet at:

Thursday, October 10, 2019

Lesson 2: Nehemiah

Ezra and Nehemiah
Lesson 2: Nehemiah


Nehemiah was a wonderful man, if for no other reason than that he has a book in the Bible named for him. That's an honor for anyone!

The Lord blessed him wonderfully; everything he did was a success. It was his job to direct the rebuilding of the broken down walls of Jerusalem, walls that the Babylonians had broken many years before when the Lord's people had been punished for their idolatry and exiled to Babylon.

Tobiah and Sanballat were Nehemiah's enemies who opposed him relentlessly. Nehemiah stood firmly for the law of the Lord, no compromise. He led the people in the straight path of obedience to the law of the Lord. He was successful in leading them to re-build the walls of Jerusalem; he re-instituted the Feast of Tabernacles that had not been kept by Israel for hundreds of years since the days of Joshua the son of Nun.

And Nehemiah clearly perceived the deceit of those enemies of Israel. Nehemiah begged the Lord repeatedly not to forget how wonderful he (Nehemiah) had worked. For example, "God, remember this to my credit, and do not wipe out of Your memory the devotion which I have shown in the house of my God and in His service!" (13:14, The Revised English Bible). He ends his book with this plea to the Lord, "God, remember me favorably!" (vs. 31, REB).

Nehemiah worked so hard for the Lord. And the Lord was "not unrighteous to forget [his] work and labor of love, which [he had] shewed toward His name" (cf. Heb. 6:10). The Lord gave him a book in His Bible! We are inspired by his devotion.

A thoughtful view of Nehemiah's story demonstrates Old Covenant thinking. He desperately desired to bring about revival and reformation in Israel's experience. But he presided over an Old Covenant revival. He never recovered New Covenant justification by faith. He was sincerely blind to the faith which Abraham had experienced. The problem was not that they had an "organization;" it was their heart-alienation.

Nehemiah in his devotion to the Spirit of Prophecy--zealous in following every detail as he knew it--especially Deuteronomy. Nehemiah meticulously obeyed the written word.

Like Nehemiah, is it possible for us as Seventh-day Adventists to think we are super-loyal to "the Spirit of Prophecy" while at the same time rejecting its living demonstration? That actually happened in 1888; our brethren were replaying Nehemiah's example. In rejecting that "most precious message" "sent from heaven" they imagined they were loyal to Ellen White's past writings while setting aside the Lord's living message. [1]

Are we replaying Israel's Old Covenant revivals and reformations? Sober reflection forces an answer: as a body we are as lukewarm now as we were a century ago. When "we" "in a great degree" and "in a great measure" rejected that "most precious" New Covenant truth that came in the 1888 era, "we" locked ourselves into "many more years" of an Old Covenant detour as surely as did Israel at Sinai. [2]

The faith-experience of the New Covenant was the main focus of leadership-opposition to the 1888 message. While they opposed Jones and Waggoner, they actually preferred the essential motifs of the Old Covenant. Ellen White was shown in vision that these revered leaders were wasting their time trying to urge a view different from Waggoner's, for she was "shown" that he was right. [3] Especially in 1890 and on until 1907 the opposition to the 1888 Good News view of the two covenants won the day. [4]

Old Covenant ideas have continued to predominate in our experience. Our revivals and reformations have followed the pattern of those of Israel, including the time of Ezra and Nehemiah. Not yet have we as a church body truly recovered the New Covenant message which "we" largely rejected a century ago. The famine predominates alike in both orthodox and "independent" ministries.

Who can estimate the confusion and tragic apostasies that have come because of the unsatisfied hunger within the church (and the world) for that "most precious" gospel?

When that New Covenant message is rescued from the oblivion of the archives, God can feed it like heavenly manna to our famishing world.

We are blessed by the knowledge of the New Covenant: we are not even thinking of any reward the Lord will give us; we don't beg Him like Nehemiah to remember all our "good" works; we are constrained by the love (agape) of Christ "henceforth" to realize that if Jesus died for us "all," then we all died "in Him," so that we can claim nothing for ourselves but to share that grave with Jesus, and then in sheer joyous gratitude devote all our lives to Him. If some angel someday should try to give us a crown of glory, we will throw it at Jesus' feet.

--Paul E. Penno

[1] See, for example, Uriah Smith's and G. I. Butler's letters to Ellen White of Feb. 17, 1890, and Sept. 24, 1892; Manuscripts and Memories of Minneapolis 1888, pp. 152-157, 206-212 (Pacific Press Publishing Assn., 1988). The Lord not only sent "prophets" to Israel, but "messengers" also (2 Chron. 36:16).
[2] See Letter 184, 1901; Evangelism, p. 696.
[3] See Ellen White Letters 30, 59, 1890; also George Knight, Angry Saints, pp. 75, 76, 92, 93.
[4] See Sabbath School Lessons, Third Quarter, 1907; letter of A. T. Jones to their author, R. S. Owen, Feb. 20, 1908.

Pastor Paul Penno's video of this lesson is on the Internet at:

"Sabbath School Today" is on the Internet at:

Thursday, October 3, 2019

Lesson 1: Making Sense of History: Zerubbabel and Ezra

Lesson 1: Making Sense of History: Zerubbabel and Ezra


The memory text for this week's lesson tells us that the Persian king Cyrus commanded Ezra "to build Him [God] a house at Jerusalem which is in Judah" (Ezra 1:2, NKJV). The return of Israel from exile was about the restoration of God's sanctuary truth. The same is true of the 1888 message.

The 1888 message as brought by A. T. Jones and E. J. Waggoner and endorsed by Ellen G. White, was the beginning of a profound and glorious revelation of the gospel as the fulfillment of truth, in harmony with and parallel to the unique doctrine of the cleansing of the sanctuary.

Seventh-day Adventists, rejoice in the truths that made us a people distinct from the Sunday-keeping Evangelicals and the Seventh Day Baptists.

Then why are so many Seventh-day Adventists today giving up the sanctuary message?

Why, for example, does an editor of our very fine Commentary now repudiate it? The sanctuary truth is said to be a "liability." Many of our pastors and church leaders also inwardly doubt it, even though they stay in the closet as church employees.

What they have understood as the sanctuary message has always been only a cold theological doctrine. It never became a heart-gripping, heart-melting truth. They never learned to love the message. It left them cold, and probably in many cases, worse than that, the Investigative Judgment left them dominated by nightmarish fear.

They saw Christ's ministry in the Most Holy Apartment as a court trial where our very existence is jeopardized. A rejection slip in the Investigative Judgment was a consignment to hell. So this distorted view of the doctrine was not mere theological trivia; its side effect to them was spiritual terror.

But the issue could not be more important to understand.The most disturbing statement Ellen White ever made makes simple common sense. It is a brief passage [1] where she says that if we reject a change in Christ's sanctuary ministry in 1844, we lay ourselves open to a deception of the false christ posing in place of the True One, putting on a show that is complete with miracles. By now, the counterfeit has become extremely sophisticated.

Yet we face the influence of former prominent Seventh-day Adventist thought leaders who repudiate these insights about a difference in Christ's high priestly ministry. It may not be their fault that they feel this way. Ministers and leaders in our past generally have taught them the sanctuary message divorced from the special enlightenment of the 1888 message. The most precious message was hijacked when the Lord "sent" it.

Ellen White told us in 1896 that "by the action of our own brethren [the light] has been in a great degree kept away from the world"and "from our people." [2] So let's be charitable to these current sanctuary message rejectors, and "consider others lest we also be tempted." These people among us who today are rejecting the sanctuary message very likely never grasped the 1888 message. They grew up and went through academy, college, and university without anyone teaching them either the message or its history. To this day none of our schools offers a course in the 1888 message. Anyone who gets it does so by accident.

The message lifts the unique Seventh-day Adventist sanctuary message out of confusion and perplexity and clothes it in the bright garments of Christ's righteousness, that is, the gospel seen as very good news.

There are two books that warm the heart through unique sanctuary ideas in the 1888 message:

Waggoner's The Glad Tidings is where you can learn the difference between the Old Covenant and the New Covenant. It's the discovery that the Gospel is very good news. It grips your heart. You can see justification by faith as far more than a cold theological formula. It's good news far beyond pastors and leaders who don't see the Sabbath truth, nor the sanctuary doctrine, nor the truth about sleeping saints awaiting the resurrection "in Christ."

God has many people in the Sunday-keeping churches living up to all the light they have. They simply don't see the 1888 idea of justification by faith because they don't see that in death man sleeps until the resurrection, and they don't know how to follow Christ in His closing work of atonement in the Most Holy Apartment. Both ideas are essential to justification by faith as it is "present truth" today.

There's also Jones's The Consecrated Way to Christian Perfection with a new perspective. The main idea is that the heavenly sanctuary can never be "cleansed" until first of all the hearts of God's people are cleansed. That's simple! And it's far more than a legalistic accounting trick whereby God looks the other way while we continue sinning. The missing factor is supplied by a new and clearer grasp of justification by faith, which Ellen White saw makes the 1888 message become "the third angel's message in verity." [3]

How does the 1888 message lead us to fall in love with the Seventh-day Adventist sanctuary message?

The cleansing of the heavenly sanctuary makes a difference in practical day-by-day living.If it's impossible for the sanctuary in heaven to be "cleansed" or "justified" or "made right" (Daniel 8:14) until the hearts of God's people on earth first are cleansed, then that has an important conclusion: Christ as our High Priest is specializing now in convicting His people of previously unknown sin. As sin each is seen and forsaken for His sake day by day; the special work of cleansing goes on. The High Priest plans for it to become complete. And He wants it to be soon. He'll do it if His people don't resist Him.

You can get your Old Testament history lesson from the Quarterly. But let's make these lessons on Ezra and Nehemiah practical by viewing them through the beauty of the 1888 message!

--Paul E. Penno

[1] Ellen G. White, Early Writings, pp. 55, 56. It is developed further on pages 260, 261.
[2] Ellen G. White, Selected Messages, book one, p. 235.
[3] Ellen G. White, Review and Herald, April 1, 1890.

Pastor Paul Penno's video of this lesson is on the Internet at:

"Sabbath School Today" is on the Internet at:

Thursday, September 26, 2019

Sabbath School Today, Lesson 13, Quarter 3-19 - - Gmail

Sabbath School Today
With the 1888 Message Dynamic

The Least of These:
Ministering to Those in Need

Lesson 13: A Community of Servants


Our final lesson in this series, "The Least of These," is suggestive of some important themes highlighted by the 1888 message.

For example, in Monday's lesson entitled, "A Servant Remnant," we find an encouraging example of self-emptying love. God's agape love is a possibility for sinful man through Christ. Christ can dwell in human hearts by faith, and we can learn to serve Him from love and not from selfish motives. But has anyone ever done so?

One was Moses. Israel had "committed a great sin" in that they had made and worshipped a golden calf. The Lord proposed to Moses that he step aside. "Let Me alone," He said, "that I may destroy them and blot out their name from under heaven; and I will make of you a nation mightier and greater than they" (Deut. 9:14). To take the place of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob as the progenitor of the "chosen people"! What a great honor! This proposal would guarantee Moses' salvation and his everlasting honor.

Naturally, it was a severe temptation to him. So far as Israel was concerned, he could reason that he had no obligation toward them, for they had sinned and deserved to perish. But Moses did something totally contrary to our natural human nature.

He proposed that someone else's name be blotted out from under heaven--his own, if Israel could not be forgiven: "If You will forgive their sin--but if not, I pray, blot me out of Your book which You have written" (Ex. 32:32). Moses' love was stronger than his desire for personal security in heaven, or for eternal life and honor. Can you imagine?

Another man who knew that same self-emptying love was Paul: "I could wish that I myself were accursed from Christ for my brethren, my kinsmen [relatives] according to the flesh, who are Israelites" (Rom. 9:3, 4).

So long as our predominant motive for following Christ is our own desire for personal security, we will fail of receiving the "mind of Christ" and thus come short of bearing the cross. Christ was no "opportunist;" neither were Moses nor Paul. Neither are His people who "follow the Lamb wherever He goes."

Millions of Christians are encouraged in Sunday's lesson to review Paul's brilliant chapter on the church and its members being united with Christ, the church is "the body of Christ," "not one member but many." "As the body is one and has many members, but all the members of that one body, being many, are one body, so also is Christ." (1 Cor. 12:12-14)

There is no English word to describe the idea of "body." There is the Latin idea of corporate, which comes from corpus, "body." It is impossible to appreciate what mature union with Christ or reconciliation with Him means (the "final atonement," in other words) without grasping Paul's idea. "All the members ... being many, are one body" means they bear a corporate relationship to one another. "We were all baptized into one body" describes the corporate unity of the church.

But there is more than unity: "the foot, ... the ear, ... an eye, ... God has set the members, each one of them, in the body just as He pleased." Here is corporate diversity. "The eye cannot say to the hand. 'I have no need of you.'" Here is corporate need. No one member can despise another.

God has built something else into the body: "God composed the body, having given greater honor to that part which lacks it, that there should be no schism in the body." Here is corporate balance. The purpose? "That the members should have the same care for one another" as the parts of a human body have a corporate concern. "If one member suffers, all the members suffer with it." Here is corporate pain. "If one member is honored, all the members rejoice with it." Here is corporate joy (1 Cor. 12:15-26).

The whole functions as "the body of Christ," He being the head. A paralyzed body does not obey the impulses of the head, for it is sick. If the corporate body of Christ does not carry out the will of its Head, its sickness is what the Bible calls sin. It is both an individual and a corporate guilt. The remedy has to be both individual and corporate repentance. Christ's call to Laodicea to repent is the last in the Bible; it is the focal point of Revelation. All the victories that follow assume an overcoming, repentant, reconciled remnant church at-one-with Him in a heart and life commitment that is complete. It is a growing up into Christ that is symbolized by the Bride making herself "ready," no longer content to remain the self-centered child she was (Rev. 19:6-9). It is no secret that Satan would like to sabotage such a vindication of Christ.

The human body illustrates this inspired corporate relationship. If you stub your toe on a sharp rock, your whole body feels the pain and sympathizes with the injured member. If it could speak, the leg would share the guilt of projecting the toe against the stone; the other leg wishes it had taken more of the weight so as to lessen the injury; the eye wishes it had been more observant; the hands cooperate by rubbing the wounded toe; the whole body halts to care for its injured member.

A disease-carrying mosquito bites the finger. The resultant disease of malaria affects more than the finger, because the blood stream carries the parasites throughout the body. One comes down with a corporate disease.The medicine prescribed provides a corporate healing. Sin is a corporate disease of the human race which is represented in Scripture as "one man" infected by it, for "in Adam all die" (1 Cor. 15:22). "By the one man's offense death reigned" (Rom. 5:17). Apart from Christ, no human being is intrinsically better than another for "all alike have sinned" (Rom. 3:23, The Revised English Bible).

We need the imputed and imparted righteousness of Christ 100%. But we instinctively recoil against this, for we feel that surely we have something good in us. But Scripture is emphatic: "In me (that is, in my flesh) nothing good dwells" (Rom 7:18). This means that the sin that another human has committed, anyone could commit if Christ had not saved us from it. The righteousness of Christ cannot be a mere add-on to our own good works, a slight push to get us over the top. Our righteousness is all of Him, or it is nothing. This was the stumbling-block in 1888 and still scandalizes many today. Apart from the grace of a Savior, the sins of the whole world could be mine if I had the "opportunity" to be in the shoes of other people, to be tempted as they in their circumstances.

We are thankful for such practical Christianity brought to our attention by this quarter's Sabbath School lessons. Next quarter we turn our attention to the Old Testament books of Ezra and Nehemiah.

--Paul E. Penno

Pastor Paul Penno's video of this lesson is on the Internet at:

"Sabbath School Today" is on the Internet at:

Thursday, September 19, 2019

Lesson 12: To Love Mercy

Sabbath School Today

Lesson 12: To Love Mercy


There are many Scripture texts regarding mercy. Our lesson quotes Micah 6:8: "He has told you, O man, what is good; And what does the Lord require of you but to do justice; to love kindness and to walk humbly with your God." The word "kindness" is used for "mercy." James has this to say: "For judgment will be merciless to one who has shown no mercy, mercy triumphs over judgment" (James 2:13, New American Standard Bible). "But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, reasonable, full of mercy and good fruits, unwavering, without hypocrisy" (James 3:17, NASB).

There are many attributes that comprise mercy. Our lesson this week describes many ways to show that one loves mercy. We should be open and receptive to any circumstance God brings into our lives to care for others, but there is an irony to all this activity. Like the condition of Israel during the reign of King Ahab, all this "religious" activity can become infected with pride and legalism.

Most Christians know that we can't earn our way to heaven, but the counterfeit of Baal worship, like with Israel, is exceedingly clever. Whenever a church is fighting about howto worship, rather than the spirituality of worship, they probably have a pride problem. There are churches that have split over the color of the carpet. That's not a spiritual issue.

A simple definition of Baal-worship, both ancient and contemporary, is this: the worship of self disguised as the worship of Christ. It's the assimilation of the thinking of "nations" around us in modern "Babylon," thus Baal worship is subtly combined with the true worship of the Lord. This problem is unwittingly promoted in churches by calling for constant activity. The apostasy is unconscious. Like a frog in warm water that gradually gets hot until he is boiled, we are unconscious of the falling away (see 2 Thess. 2:3, 4). Laodicea is described as being so blind they don't see they are naked (Rev. 3:17). How can a people in this condition be expected to love and show mercy?

This was ancient Israel's condition when Elijah was sent to King Ahab to announce that God was sending a three-year famine. Like the loving but wise parent of a stubborn child, God sent the famine in His great mercy in order to get Israel to wake up to its true condition.

It is important to understand that "Elijah" did come as a real person, but he is also a symbol. God honored the faith of the honest Jews of Christ's day and sent them "Elijah" in fulfillment of Malachi's promise because they sincerely expected that the coming of their Messiah would be "the great and dreadful day of the Lord" (Mal. 4:3). Even the disciples of Jesus wondered "who" and "where" their "Elijah" was. Jesus told them not to look into the future, but that "Elijah" for their day had already come in the person of John the Baptist (see Matt. 11:7-14).

But John's day was not "the great and dreadful day of the Lord." That day is now, in the time of Laodicea. Therefore we may expect "Elijah" to come as a message in the same way that John's message was the fulfillment of Malachi's promise. This message was to come as a shaking message that will "slay" the modern prophets of Baal.

"I asked the meaning of the shaking I had seen, and was shown that it would be caused by the straight testimony called forth by the counsel of the True Witness to the Laodiceans [Rev. 3:14-21]. This will have its effect upon the heart of the receiver, and will lead him to exalt the standard and pour forth the straight truth. Some will not bear this straight testimony. They will rise up against it, and this will cause a shaking among God's people." [1]

Is it possible that when "Elijah" is sent via a "most precious message," the church will be so involved in "do good" works that she does not recognize what God is trying to tell us? The last two verses of the Old Testament tell us of the only hope this strife-torn human race has: the coming of Elijah. God says, "I will send you Elijah the prophet before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the Lord. And he will turn the hearts of the fathers to the children, and the hearts of the children to their fathers" (Mal. 4:5, 6).

These are not idle words, God said this promise. The sacrifice of Jesus Christ on His cross is the only reconciling agency in existence; therefore it follows that the coming of Elijah must be proclaiming the message of Jesus Christ in all His reconciling power. It will be what unbelieving hearts find almost inconceivable: a proclamation of what the Bible calls "the atonement" that will work miracles of grace worldwide. The mention of "fathers" and "children" means the entire human race in all our multi-ethnic, multi-cultural alienations. A blessed unity will be realized as people kneel together at the cross of the Son of God, at last "beholding" or perceiving its full significance.

Reconciliation is the same as "atonement." The prophecy of Daniel 8:14 tells us we are living in the great antitypical Day of Atonement which precedes the "great and dreadful day of the Lord." Therefore it becomes clear that Elijah's work and message will be found in the unique remnant church truth of the cleansing of the heavenly sanctuary.

That raises the question: has our neglect of that truth (as a people) forced "Elijah's" message to take refuge with what we call "outsiders" like the "widow of Zarephath"? Or hidden as Obadiah hid some prophets of the Lord from Jezebel? We know that the bulk of God's true people are still in "Babylon."

"Infidelity has been making its inroads into our ranks; for it is the fashion to depart from Christ, and give place to skepticism. With many the cry of the heart has been 'We will not have this Man to reign over us' [Luke 19:14]. Baal, Baal, is the choice. The religion of many among us will be the religion of apostate Israel, because they love their own way and forsake the way of the Lord. The true religion, the only religion of the Bible, that teaches forgiveness only through the merits of a crucified and risen Saviour, that advocates righteousness by the faith of the Son of God, has been slighted, spoken against, ridiculed, and rejected." [2]

If we call ourselves lovers of mercy, it means more than feeding the homeless, and all the other good things that are needed in the world. Lovers of mercy love the message God sent to His church in His "great mercy."

When Ellen White came to her 60s she eagerly welcomed the message brought by two young men to the General Conference Session in 1888 that conveyed a more clear understanding of justification by faith, the beginning of the Loud Cry of Revelation 18. She exclaimed with enthusiasm, it's initial "showers from heaven of the latter rain" (her words). [3] She wrote:

"The Lord in His great mercy sent a most precious message to His people through Elders [E. J.] Waggoner and [A. T.] Jones. This message was to bring more prominently before the world the uplifted Saviour, the sacrifice for the sins of the whole world. ... For years the church has been looking to man, and expecting much from man, but not looking to Jesus, in whom our hopes of eternal life are centered. Therefore God gave to His servants a testimony that presented the truth as it is in Jesus, which is the third angel's message, in clear, distinct lines." [4]

Activities of mercy to others are important, but our mission as a people is to give the third angel's message clearly as no other church has. Are we hiding this precious message by ignoring it, or have we perverted it with subtle concepts of works woven into our truth? Fortunately, God is merciful and patient. He will bring His church through to the end.

--Arlene Hill

[1] Ellen G. White, Testimonies for the Church, vol. one, p. 181.
[2] Ellen G. White, Testimonies to Ministers and Gospel Workers, pp. 467, 468.
[3] The Ellen G. White 1888 Materials, p. 1478.
[4] Testimonies to Ministers and Gospel Workers, pp. 91-93.

Pastor Paul Penno's video of this lesson is on the Internet at:

"Sabbath School Today" is on the Internet at:

Thursday, September 12, 2019

Lesson 11: Living the Advent Hope

Sabbath School Today
With the 1888 Message Dynamic

The Least of These:
Ministering to Those in Need

Lesson 11: Living the Advent Hope


The "Advent Hope" is centered on the second coming of Christ. That "hope" has its foundation in the cleansing of the heavenly sanctuary message found in Daniel 8:14 that motivated our pioneers to self-sacrificing zeal in preaching the three angels' messages. They were certain that before Christ could come again, His ministry as our High Priest must be brought to an end.

We have frequently referred to the statement from The Consecrated Way to Christian Perfection in which A. T. Jones stated that "the very first work in the cleansing of the sanctuary was the cleansing of the people." Referring to Daniel 9:24, Jones went on, "It is plain that the transgression must be finished, and the end of sins and reconciliation for all iniquity must be made, and everlasting righteousness must be brought in, in the heart's experience of every believer in Jesus, before the cleansing of the true sanctuary can be accomplished." [1]

The cleansing of the sanctuary depends on the "finishing of transgression" or the "finishing of sin" in the lives of God's people. As long as we continue to sin and continue to pray for our sins to be forgiven, we keep Jesus "employed" in his "job" as our High Priest. He cannot finish His work there in the heavenly sanctuary until He has finished His work here in the hearts of His people, to purify unto Himself a living witness of the power of God over Satan and sin.

From this we see that we must learn what "living the Advent hope" really means. We cannot enter the kingdom of God without the faith of Jesus Christ. They go hand in hand, and are the summation of the third angel's message that will result in God's declaration: "Here are they that keep the Commandments of God and the faith of Jesus" (Rev. 14:12). In this verse we learn what is essential to our Advent hope. We find two elements in this verse: Commandment keeping and the faith of Jesus. We cannot keep the Commandments of God without the faith of Jesus.

There is much discussion concerning the apostle Paul's use of the phrase "faith ofJesus" in Galatians 2:16, 21; Ephesians 4:13; and the "beloved" apostle John's use in Revelation 14:12. What does "faith of Jesus" mean? Is it literally His faith? Does the faith of Jesus mean His actual faith that He exercised while living on earth in fallen human flesh, or is it our faith in Jesus? Is the "gift of faith" in Romans 12:3 literally the faith of Christ given to "every man," or is it our "believing" in Jesus that constitutes "faith"? Is this even very important for us to grasp, or are we merely creating argument for argument's sake?

"It is commonly said that theological harmony is impossible in the church until after the second coming of Christ. Theologians just must squabble, we think; teachers must disagree; pastors must preach against each other; you're not smart unless you demonstrate where you differ with everyone else. Paul says no; this 'one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one Spirit' means what it says. We are to 'grow up' out of our pitiful childishness into 'the unity of the faith.' Christ is not divided.

"That means a development of character that brings God's people unto the enormously high standard of the Son of God Himself--'a perfect man, … the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ.'" [2]

Was the "faith of Jesus" important to the two men who first preached the "1888" message? Was it even a part of the message at that time?

"When the Lord had given to my brethren [A. T. Jones and E. J. Waggoner] the burden to proclaim this message I felt inexpressibly grateful to God, for I knew it was the message for this time. The third angel's message is the proclamation of the commandments of God and the faith of Jesus Christ. The commandments of God have been proclaimed, but the faith of Jesus Christ has not been proclaimed by Seventh-day Adventists as of equal importance, the law and the gospel going hand in hand. I cannot find language to express this subject in its fullness."

Here we read that the message brought to us through Waggoner and Jones was unique, focusing on both Commandment-keeping and the faith of Christ. It had not been preached in its fullness prior to this time.

"'The faith of Jesus.' It is talked of, but not understood. What constitutes the faith of Jesus, that belongs to the third angel's message? Jesus becoming our sin-bearer that He might become our sin-pardoning Saviour. He was treated as we deserve to be treated. He came to our world and took our sins that we might take His righteousness. Faith in the ability of Christ to save us amply and fully and entirely is the faith of Jesus." [4]

"In chapter one of Ephesians our apostle/author almost loses himself in his efforts to do justice to the grand dimensions of what Christ did. No language, his or ours, has words adequate to portray it. The quality of our Christian experience, our happiness in Christian living, and our fruitfulness, depend on how adequately we grasp this reality of truth. Grasp only a smattering and we are mired in spiritual frustrations. Learn to 'glory' in it all, to appreciate it, then 'the world has been crucified to [us] and [we] to the world' (Gal. 6:14). A thousand weary ups and downs in following Jesus become one unending triumph." [5]

But when you attempt to teach "perfection" of character through the "faith of Jesus" you immediately face opposition. You are accused of preaching "perfectionism" which is legalism, and not the gospel. "Someone may ask, 'Is that the heresy of perfectionism?' No. 'Perfectionism' is indeed a heresy, but this is not it; the heresy part is the idea of perfection of the flesh. The flesh never becomes perfect until Jesus comes." [6] Teaching "perfection" of our characters so that Jesus may finish His work in the heavenly sanctuary is not the same as teaching the heresy of "perfectionism."

Jesus admonished us, "But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and His righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you." (Matt. 6:33). And He said, "Verily I say unto you, Whosoever shall not receive the kingdom of God as a little child, he shall not enter therein." (Mark 10:15). We must learn to "keep the faith of Jesus" as a little child, not continually questioning and debating. Faith and truth can easily become lost in "vain philosophy" when we doubt previously cherished beliefs and church doctrines in an effort to accommodate the world's view.

"The kingdom of God is that realm and dominion, that place and order of authority and government, in which God is king. Where God is king the rule, the authority, the power, the law--the whole order of things--is His alone; else it is not the kingdom of God in truth. In the kingdom of God, God is king of all and in all that is there. Where God is king there is no room for any other authority or law or order of things. He is not king in a divided kingdom; no one can serve two masters. In this it is always God manifest in Christ by the Holy Spirit--the Godhead--that is meant." [7]

If we hope to reach the "high calling" that God has put before us, we must learn our lessons concerning faith and that includes overcoming all sin in this life, before the second coming of Jesus. "Know ye not that the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God? Be not deceived" (1 Cor. 6:9, 10), and then Paul wrote a list of grievous sins that are common in our world today, and ends with "but ye are washed, but ye are sanctified, but ye are justified in the name of the Lord Jesus, and by the Spirit of our God." Both our justification and sanctification are found in the "faith of Jesus" given to us by the Holy Spirit.

Paul also wrote that "the kingdom of God is not in word, but in power." (1 Cor. 4:20). Salvation from sin is not words only, but a reality in the life of each and every one who will allow the Holy Spirit to accomplish His cleansing work in the perfection of our characters so that we may worship God in "spirit and in truth," and be ready for translation to the kingdom of God at the second coming of Jesus. We must learn now to submit our whole life, heart and mind, to the power of the Holy Spirit. In this way we are freed from the fear of judgment and death, and can live now in the kingdom of God while still on this earth. The sorrows, pains, evils, and injustices of this world will have no effect on us because we "look for a city which has foundations, whose builder and maker is God" (Heb. 11:10).

The apostle Paul wrote that the true gospel, which is the message of Christ's work in His human flesh while on earth, and in His High Priestly ministry in heaven is "for the perfecting of the saints." It is the message that will bring "unity of the faith, and of knowledge of the Son of God, unto the perfect Man, unto the measure of the statute of the fullness of Christ" (Eph. 4:12, 13). "This is Christlike perfection of character. The Bible does not even claim perfection of Christ's flesh. As a Carpenter, He was a careful workman, and faithful; but must we say that He never bent a nail or hit His thumb? Hebrews says He learned 'perfection' by the 'things which He suffered' (5:8, 9). … It takes your breath away … forever, as it were. That is love (agape), says Paul! How can you ever hold back an ounce of devotion from Him?" [8]

"When you're perplexed about whether a message you hear or read comes from God or is a counterfeit from the Enemy, just watch and see: does it build up the church? … But let us beware of ridiculing the idea of overcoming sin, because it's what Christ died to accomplish in His people! It's the final fruit of His work as High Priest in the second apartment of His heavenly sanctuary, the time of its ultimate cleansing on this antitypical Day of Atonement. It's His work going forward just now. It's His ministry of the 'growing up' of His people that they may no longer be immature, 'tossed about' by confusion, but may 'grow up' before His coming." [9]

This is what it means to experience and "live the Advent hope" in this present evil world!

--Ann Walper

[1] A. T. Jones, The Consecrated Way to Christian Perfection, pp. 120, 121; Glad Tidings ed. (2003).
[2] Robert J. Wieland, Ephesians: You've Been "Adopted," p. 73; Glad Tidings ed. (2005).
[3] The Ellen G. White 1888 Materials, p. 217; cf. Selected Messages, vol. 3, p. 172.
[4] The 1888 Materials, ibid.
[5] Wieland, Ephesians: You've Been "Adopted," p. 20.
[6] Ibid., p. 73.
[7] A. T. Jones, The Medical Missionary, vol. 18; April 14, 1909.
[8] Wieland, Ephesians: You've Been "Adopted," pp. 73, 72.
[9] Ibid., pp. 73, 74.

Pastor Paul Penno's video of this lesson is on the Internet at:

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Thursday, September 5, 2019

Living the Gospel

Lesson 10: Living the Gospel


After nearly two millennia since Paul wrote his letter to the Ephesians, there are still depths of truth in it that we all have yet to penetrate fully. In our memory text we read the exactly-right formula of salvation--we are saved "not of works" but "by grace ... through faith, and that not of [ourselves]; it is the gift of God" (2:8). When we say that we are "saved through faith" we don't want to give the impression (or have the idea) that our own exercise of faith is the cause or the means of our salvation. No one in the hereafter will boast, "Yes, the Lord saved me, but I did my part: I did the work required, I believed--that's why I'm here. I helped save myself." Utterly wholehearted thanks will pour out of our souls for all time and eternity. (To believe is not a work!)

"For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; 
it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast" (Eph. 2:8-9).

Here we have the classic, inspired formula that forever ends all controversy and confusion! Paul, no angel could have said it more plainly! You have cleared up all the controversy that has raged through the centuries about "faith and works."

It may be popular to say "we are saved by faith," but that is not the precisely accurate definition: rather, "by grace you have been saved." Faith is not far away: the grace operates "through faith." The latter is only the appreciation of the former.

When and where was the saving grace revealed?At the cross.This means, of course, that the blessed truth of the pure Good News of Ephesians says that it is easier to be saved at last, than to be lost--if only we appreciate how that grace is revealed--in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ

"For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, 
which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them" (Eph. 2:10).

The more we read, the more obvious the truth becomes: the "good works" are not inventions of our own; God "prepared" them "beforehand." They are "prepared" in the same way that ripe, delicious peaches were "prepared beforehand" before you even planted your peach tree. In the vast creation of God, the spiritual fruit of a converted heart is grander than the Lord's most magnificent physical creations. The Greek word rendered "prepared" is poiema,from which we derive our word "poem." Think of a beautiful poem--how was it "created"? From someone's gifted mind, or heart.

One of the gospel truths of the 1888 message is that it is actually easy to be saved and hard to be lost if one understands and believes how good the Good News is. The only difficult thing is learning how to believe the gospel. Jesus taught this truth.

Eternal life is promised to everyone who "believes" in Jesus: "If anyone keeps My word He shall never see death," He said (John 8:51). "He who hears My word and believes in Him who sent Me has everlasting life" (5:24).

But what does it mean to "believe" in Him? The Bible warns us of a massive counterfeit of "believing" in these last days (Matt. 24:23, 24, for example):

Genuine believing has to do with the Father givingHis Son for the world: "God so loved the world that He gave..." (John 3:16). He gave, not lentHim. That means a totality of giving and an eternity in its duration. It also means an appreciation of His dying for us because the only way we can "believe" is by seeing Him "lifted up" as Moses "lifted up" a snake on a pole "in the wilderness" (vss. 14, 15). That directs us to the kind of death that Jesus died--on a cross (12:32, 33).

Therefore, "believing" in Jesus means a heart-appreciation of the Father's giving Him and of Christ's giving Himself in dying for us our "second death" which we had earned for ourselves (cf. Heb. 2:9, Rev. 2:11). Such "believing" transforms the believer. It is a genuine new birth because the love of self is "crucified with Christ" (Gal. 2:20).

Genuine believing in Jesus means therefore that there is a well of "rivers of living water" springing up from within the depths of the heart of every true "believer" in Him (John 7:37, 38). That's what it means to believe in Jesus! You are a channel through which that "water of life" flows to thirsty people. We must ask seriously, Do I truly "believe" in Him? Lord, help my unbelief!

The last book of the Bible is clear: the only news God has for anyone at any time is Good News. The final message in Revelation 14 is "the everlasting gospel," which never means Bad News.

In the final proclamation, "the everlasting gospel" in the three angels' messages of Revelation 14:6-12, the Holy Spirit will be poured out in such fullness that He will convict people in the highest echelons of world leadership. Some are motivated to step out fearlessly and identify with the despised "remnant" who "keep the commandments of God and have the testimony of Jesus Christ" (cf. Rev. 15:2, 3; 12:17). The gospel commission will not be finished with a whimper but with a blaze of glory.

The "everlasting gospel" is such Good News that we sinful human beings have a difficult time believing how good it is. In fact, when Jesus tells us that His "yoke is easy and [His] burden is light" (Matt. 11:28-30), He is trying to tell us that our main problem is learning how to believe.

Ancient Israel could not enter their Promised Land because of unbelief (Heb. 3:18, 19; 4:6, 7). And Jesus speaks to all of us when He told the distraught father of the devil-possessed child, "If you can believe, all things are possible to him who believes" (Mark 9:23). A few minutes later, He had to tell the disciples why they couldn't cast out the devil in the child: "Because of your unbelief" (Matt. 17:20). He had already told the multitude that had gathered to watch that they were "faithless," and then He added that their unbelief was associated with "perversity," meaning that unbelief is serious business (vs. 17).

This is a dangerous subject, for fanaticism lurks just around the corner. We so easily think that if we had proper "faith," we could work miracles, speak with the tongues of angels, pick up poisonous snakes and let them bite us (Mark 16:17, 18), and "move mountains" (1 Cor. 13:2). But to be content to live in a humble home, and endure pain and poverty, is not necessarily "unbelief." Genuine, healthy faith is willing and happy to share with Christ His humiliation and sufferings.

If you haven't succeeded in reducing Mount Everest to the level of the Sahara desert, that doesn't mean you necessarily lack "faith." If you do work miracles, cast out devils, "prophesy" in Christ's name, and move mountains and do all kinds of wonderful works (see Matt. 7:22), you may still be "faithless" in that you have no genuinefaith. Satan is a genius at deceiving the whole world with "signs and wonders" (Matt. 24:24; Rev. 13:3).

So, what is that genuine faith? It is "comprehending" the grand dimensions of the love that led Christ to His cross (Eph. 3:17-19), identifying with Him there (Gal 2:20), getting "married" to Him because you want nothing else (2 Cor. 11:2; Rev. 19:7, 8), and taking up your cross to "follow the Lamb wherever He goes" (Rev. 14:4, 5).

Our "bread" to share today is "the everlasting gospel" (Rev. 14:6, 7).

--From the Writings of Robert J. Wieland


Pastor Paul Penno's video of this lesson is on the Internet at:


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