Saturday, January 12, 2019

Lesson 2: Among the Lampstands

Lesson 2: Among the Lampstands

 

Revelation describes the ultimate culmination of the plan of salvation that God has been trying to explain throughout the scriptures. The focus of the book is on the many facets of Jesus and His relationship with His church. The 1888 message gives the clearest explanation of how Christ fulfills His mission to make His bride ready for the great celestial wedding.

Revelation 1:12-18 (which parallels Daniel 10:5-12) gives a comprehensive description of Christ's person as seen in vision by both Daniel and John. Space allows us to consider only a few of the details.

Christ's feet are described as being like burnished bronze. Metal is polished (burnished) by rubbing it to a shiny reflective surface. Ancient Israel used bronze or copper to make looking glasses or mirrors. Exodus 38:8 tells us that the ladies who served the tabernacle builders donated their looking glasses to be melted down to make the base of the bronze laver. The priests were required to wash their hands and feet in the laver when they entered the sanctuary "that they may not die" (Ex. 30:21).

In the sign language of the scriptures, mirrors illustrate a function of God's law (James 1:23-25, 2 Cor. 3:17, 18). Perhaps the significance of Christ's shining feet suggests that His law is still in effect in His government. "The humanity of Jesus of Nazareth is the celestial Mirror in which we see reflected both God's Ideal for mankind and the condition in which we really are."[1] When we understand the humanity of Christ, we see the incarnation of love and realize our natures can never achieve the perfection that the law requires. Because His government is still based on His law, we can never be a part of it without help. 

It was to provide this help to us that Christ, who was immortal, came in the likeness of sinful flesh. E. J. Waggoner, one of the 1888 "messengers," explains this in simple terms: "We cannot understand how Christ could be God in the beginning, sharing equal glory with the Father, before the world was, and still be born a babe in Bethlehem. The mystery of the crucifixion and resurrection is but the mystery of the incarnation. ... We cannot understand how He could create the world from nothing, nor how He can raise the dead, nor yet how it is that He works by His Spirit in our own hearts; yet we believe and know these things." [2]

This inability to understand can be a stumbling point with many. They want to understand the mind of God before they can "believe and know these things." Mostly, the difficulty is a matter of control. It is so difficult to truly accept "not I, but Christ." Yet, Christ is not only our High Priest, He must also be our King. The Greek word translated "robe" in Revelation 1:13 is used to describe priestly attire, but it was wrapped with a golden girdle which is kingly apparel.

Another aspect of the imagery of Christ's feet is that feet symbolize dominion. In Job 1:7, Satan brags to God that he had come from roaming the earth and "walking around on it." God did not challenge the possessory implication of Satan's statement. In Daniel 7:12-14, the Ancient of Days gave the kingdom and the power and the dominion to "one like a Son of Man." At the cross, Christ redeemed and ransomed the human race; we now belong to Him. Christ is not trespassing when He walks among His churches. He has won the right to be there.

 As Ruler of this world, Christ has consecrated a specific way to save mankind, as explains A. T. Jones, the other 1888 "messenger": "For He 'gave Himself for us.' Titus 2:14. This 'price' was paid for every soul that is on earth, and for every one who ever was or ever shall be on earth; for 'He died for all.' Having died for all; having paid the wondrous price for all; having given Himself for all, it is certainly a fact that all are His. ... And as our whole self is sin and sin only, in order to get us, in order to buy us, He had to buy our sins also ... because He bought us with that great price, so also our sins are His." [3]

It is ironic; we are not responsible for resolving our own sin problem. Someone may say, but the formula is "if we confess our sins, He will forgive them" (1 John 1:9). They also misinterpret James 2:14 as supporting a "balanced" view of faith and works.

But Paul is clear that "by grace are ye saved through faith, and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: not of works, lest any man should boast" (Eph. 2:8, 9). Would James or John contradict Paul? "The apparent conflict (it troubles many) is resolved as clear as sunlight: salvation is totally of grace through faith, but the 'faith' is not dead; it's a living faith 'which works.' Its fruit: obedience to all the commandments of God (Gal. 5:6)." "There's no 'balance' between righteousness by faith and righteousness by works. (Laodicean lukewarmness, hot and cold water 'balanced,' this confusion is Laodicea's problem.)" [4]

Christ is not only our forgiving High Priest, but He has also earned the right to be our King and Ruler. Our works count for nothing because He has done it all. Praise God for His overwhelming grace.

--Arlene Hill

Endnotes:
[1] Leslie Hardinge,With Jesus in His Sanctuary, p. 110; American Christian Ministries, (1991).
[2] E. J. Waggoner, Christ and His Righteousness, p. 27; Glad Tidings ed. (1999).
[3] A. T. Jones, The Consecrated Way to Christian Perfection, pp. 5, 6; Glad Tidings ed. (2003).
[4] Robert J. Wieland, "Dial Daily Bread," July 28, 2012.

Notes:
Pastor Paul Penno's video of this lesson is on the Internet at: https://youtu.be/IdjRolpAMWo

"Sabbath School Today" is on the Internet at: http://1888message.org/sst.htm


Friday, January 4, 2019

Lesson 1: The Gospel From Patmos

Lesson 1: The Gospel From Patmos

 

What is the relationship between Revelation and the 1888 Message?

Ellen White says there is a very close relationship between the 1888 message of Christ's righteousness and the general features of the prophecies of Revelation.

There may be "matters of minor importance that call for careful study and corrections," she says; but "the great waymarks of truth, showing us our bearings in prophetic history, are to be carefully guarded, lest they be torn down, and replaced with theories that would bring confusion rather than genuine light." [1]

Why Was Ellen White So Concerned in 1896 About Adventist Futurism?
It was apparent to her then that the "most precious message" of the 1888 era was "in a great degree" meeting with determined resistance and rejection. [2] In her understanding, the basic prophetic understandings of our people at that time were correct and properly conceived so as to lighten the earth with the glory of the loud cry message if only our brethren had accepted the further light of the 1888 message of Christ's righteousness.

In other words, combined with the prophetic understanding of our people at that time, the proclamation of the 1888 message could have finished the gospel commission in that generation. At no time did Ellen White express a need for a new interpretation of Daniel and Revelation. Rather, she pleaded for a much more diligent comprehension of the prophecies as "the chain of truth in the prophecies" was searched out by the diligent, prayerful study of our pioneers.

Her warnings of false doctrines creeping in became more insistent after 1888. We see the justification for these warnings in the present prophetic confusion in this church. The prospect of an utterly disunited "pluralism" wreaking further confusion is disheartening to anyone who longs for the church to "press together."

It is general knowledge that there is vast confusion today regarding these prophecies. Where is the "genuine light"? We are told:

"Especially should Daniel and the Revelation have attention as never before in the history of our work. ... When we as a people understand what this book [Revelation] means to us, there will be seen among us a great revival. ... When the books of Daniel and Revelation are better understood, believers will have an entirely different religious experience. ... The Lord will bless all who will seek humbly and meekly to understand that which is revealed in the Revelation." [3]

These solemn calls for deeper study of the prophecies do not imply that we need a new model of interpretation which must either deny or supplant the understanding that the Holy Spirit gave to our pioneers.

It was during the 1888 crisis that Ellen White said, "Many things intended to deceive will come, bearing some of the marks of truth. Just as soon as these shall be set forth as the great power of God, Satan is all ready to weave in that which he has prepared to lead souls from the truth for this time." [4]

According to Ellen White's inspired counsels, nothing would please the enemy more than to see Seventh-day Adventists inventing new schemes of interpretation of Daniel and Revelation, splintering themselves off into fragments, reapplying the time prophecies, and thus creating confusion and hindering the work of soul-winning. New members would be devastated if novel theories are urged upon them and they encounter prophetic confusion in the church!

Tampering with the "great waymarks of ... our bearings in prophetic history" will produce "confusion." "A sleepless adversary" is at work to distort those prophetic understandings. "Faith ... is undermined" when these "events in the train of prophecy that had their fulfillment away in the past are made future." Acknowledging that these past understandings were correct for their time but applying them again "to the future" is also an example of confusion.

What Is the Best Hope For Resolving Our Prophetic Confusion?
In the light of Ellen White's clear counsels, how could any new invention of prophetic interpretation find general worldwide acceptance in this our generation? It will be impossible to convince the world church to scuttle The Great Controversy, which will continue in a convincing way to refute all new interpretations and re-applications of the prophecies. The Holy Spirit has set a seal of approval on that book.

Our disunity should lead us to be deeply embarrassed to the point of fasting, prayer, and corporate humiliation. Our only hope is to "press together" in a deeper appreciation for the "great prophetic waymarks" that have built this Seventh-day Adventist Church from its earliest days.

Numerous attempts by those who say, "This is truth. I have new light." are fueled by a sense of bewilderment at the long delay in the return of Christ. "We need a new interpretation of the prophecies" is the cry. But the true key to understanding this long delay, far beyond when the generation that saw "signs" in the heavens should have witnessed His return, is explained by the 1888 history.

No honest mind can read Matthew 24:34, Mark 13:30, and Luke 21:32 without recognizing that the Lord's original intention was that the same generation which experienced the Great Disappointment of 1844 should witness the fruition of "the blessed hope." The rejection of the 1888message was totally contrary to Heaven's gracious plan, and to the expectations of angels.

The prophetic scenario which prevailed in the 1888 era has again come back into place on the stage of current history. A 70-year detour wherein Russian Communism appeared to displace the Papacy as the "beast" of Revelation 13 has now come to an end. The principal characters again occupying center stage in the world's spotlight are a revived Romanism as the "first beast," a powerful United States as the two-horned beast (a Protestantism sidling ever closer to Rome), a renascent Islam, and exploding Spiritualism. It is prophetic deja vu.

It's time once more that "a most precious message" at last come into its own as the Lord intended. It must go unsuppressed and unopposed to the world church, and thence to enlighten the world at large.

--Paul E. Penno

Endnotes (Ellen G. White):
[1] Selected Messages, book 2, p. 101.
[2] Selected Messages, book 1, pp. 234, 235.
[3] Testimonies to Ministers and Gospel Workers, pp. 112-114.
[4] Selected Messages, book 2, p. 92 (1894).

Notes:
Pastor Paul Penno's video of this lesson is on the Internet at: https://youtu.be/u2u_g7CyP1s

"Sabbath School Today" is on the Internet at: http://1888message.org/sst.htm


Thursday, December 27, 2018

Lesson 13: Final Restoration of Unity

Lesson 13: Final Restoration of Unity

 

Think of it!--the resplendent KING OF KINGS, AND LORD OF LORDS coming in the clouds of heaven, surprising His enemies in the very act! He will come to rescue those who are loyal to Him. Then the moment of truth will have come for all earth's inhabitants.

The Book of Revelation pictures that final scene: "These shall make war with the Lamb, and the Lamb shall overcome them: for He is Lord of lords and King of kings" (Rev. 17:14).

"I saw heaven opened, and behold, a white horse; and He that sat upon him was called Faithful and True, and in righteousness He doth judge and makes war. His eyes were as a flame of fire, and on His head were many crowns; and He had a name written, that no one knew, but He Himself. He was clothed with a [robe] dipped in blood; and His name is called The Word of God. ... Out of His mouth goeth a sharp sword, that with it He should smite the nations: and He shall rule them with a rod of iron" (Rev. 19:11-15).

For centuries, millions have endured--and continue to endure --wars, plagues, crime, grinding poverty, and unending fear. No one can say that God has brought this awful load of suffering on the world--man has done this!

Should not God be "democratic" and allow this planet to go on living in rebellion against His government and His universe? There is a ready answer. He has already done so--He still waits since the fall of man in Eden, hoping for repentance and reconciliation. He cannot and has never abandoned any "remnant" of His people who appreciate His character of love and respond accordingly. They are the ones who rightfully "inherit the earth" (Matt. 5:5).

But now in this present day, God looks down upon the earth and sees as plainly as we do that man has nearly ruined this habitat. It is evident that selfishness and sin make human life almost intolerable in many nations on earth.

The Lord tries again and again to save us. He is pleading in the most sublime, compassionate language, saying to every human soul, "'As I live,' saith the Lord God, 'I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked; but that the wicked turn from his way and live: turn ye, turn ye from your evil ways! For why will ye die?'" (Eze. 33:11). Love could not be more eloquent, or more persistent.

How will the lost feel when at last they actually see the face of Him whom they have persistently resisted and rejected? For those who have urged and supported the mark of the beast, just to look in His eyes will itself be torment "with fire and brimstone" (Rev. 14:9-11). The original language expresses the idea of their beholding in a flash the awful reality of their having rejected the One who suffered hell in order to save them. They can't stand it. The horror of their final realization of guilt tortures every cell of their souls.

The Lord never intended that the sight of His loving face should do that to anyone. While it is true that "our God is a consuming fire" (Heb. 12:29), it is only to sin that the revelation of His love is so destructive. If a human being persistently clings to any sin as a vine clings to a tree, the physical sight of Him who is love incarnate must also be instant destruction.

But Jesus promises that "the pure in heart ... shall see God" (Matt. 5:8). They "shall dwell with the devouring fire, ... with everlasting burnings" (Isa. 33:14). As Christ walked in Nebuchadnezzar's fiery furnace with the three Hebrew youth who believed Him, so He will save those physically who have already permitted Him as Saviour to save them spiritually from sin.

The enemy will capitulate. Even Satan himself at the end of history will openly, publically confess before the inhabitants of earth, and the intensely interested universe, his hopeless rebellion, and welcome the destruction that will mean that the great controversy is finally over: "And every creature which is in heaven, and on the earth, and under the earth, and such as are in the sea, and all that are in them, heard I saying, 'Blessing, and honor, and glory, and power, be unto Him that sitteth upon the throne, and unto the Lamb, for ever and ever!'" (Rev. 5:13).

The second coming of Christ is not the end of happiness or of our delight in the flora and fauna of earth, but the beginning of a renewal of life without pain and death, both for man and for the planet: "Behold, I create new heavens and a new earth: and the former shall not be remembered, nor come into mind. But be ye glad and rejoice for ever in that which I create. ... The wolf and the lamb shall feed together, ... They shall not hurt nor destroy in all My holy mountain," saith the LORD (Isa. 65:17-25).

In the final judgment every human being will see that God could not have been more fair, more patient, more compassionate than He has been: "God so loved the world, that he gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life. For God sent not His Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through Him might be saved. ... And this is the condemnation, that light is come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light" (John 3:16-19).

Rightly understood, the world has never heard any better good news than the glorious second coming of Christ: "The grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men. It teaches us to say 'No' to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age, while we wait for the blessed hope--the glorious appearing of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ, who gave Himself for us to redeem us from all wickedness and to purify for Himself a people that are his very own, eager to do what is good" (Titus 2:11-14, New International Version).

What a bargain for "all men"! This godly grace has already come to you. The hardest thing we have to do is to say "No" to sinful temptation, but this grace actually teaches us to say it.

Believe the powerful good news, and immediately the second coming becomes your "blessed hope." "It … will not prove false. Though it linger, wait for it; it will certainly come and will not delay" (Hab. 2:3, NIV). At any time when He comes, the waiting will seem to have been short!

Worldwide, "the grace of God" is working night and day "to purify for Himself a people that are His very own." The nightly TV anchors may not tell us about this, but it is the most important news in the world, and it is good.

--Paul E. Penno

Notes:
Pastor Paul Penno's video of this lesson is on the Internet at: https://youtu.be/ixPN3qnPZZk

"Sabbath School Today" is on the Internet at: http://1888message.org/sst.htm


Wednesday, December 19, 2018

Lesson 12: Church Organization and Unity

Sabbath School Today
With the 1888 Message Dynamic

Oneness in Christ
Lesson 12: Church Organization and Unity

 

The only times we read that Jesus mentioned His "church" were twice--Matthew 16:18 and 18:17. He used the word ecclesia, which means "called out," a people designated and separated from the world, defined and denominated in a form that the world could recognize as an entity.

The apostles called ancient Israel a "church in the wilderness" (Acts 7:38), and we read that Israel was a visible organization that the world could see as God's denominated people.

Paul thought of a beautiful illustration of what the church is--it's a "body." "Now ye are the body of Christ, and members in particular ... in the church" (1 Cor. 12:12-28). In his brilliant depiction of the relationship of the church and its members to Christ, Paul considers the church to be the "body of Christ" which "is not one member, but many" (vss. 27, 14). "As the body is one, and hath many members, and all the members of that one body, being many, are one body: so also is Christ" (vs. 12). "By one Spirit are we all baptized into one body, ... The body is not one member, but many" (vss. 13, 14). Paul describes the corporate unityof the church.

There is no English adjective that can be used to describe this relationship of the body to the head, or of the various members of the body to each other. Hence it is necessary to employ a Latin derivative as an adjective to describe this "body" relationship: corporate. (The word comes from the Latin corpus, meaning "body.") For example, "all the members of that one body, being many, are one body" (vs. 12). They bear a corporate relationshipone to another.

In Revelation 12 we see the history of the true church and the identification of the "remnant" church. Through the ages she is symbolized as a "woman." After the horrors of 1260 years of papal persecution, she emerges as from a tunnel, now identified as "the 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" (vs. 17).

With the end of the Dark Ages, inventions began pouring out of fertile minds. The horror of slavery began to be abolished; the little nation of ex-British colonies began to prosper in the New World; Christian people awakened as from a long sleep--the second coming of Christ was near. The world had embarked on what the Bible describes as "the time of the end." A preparation for the return of Jesus Christ became to intelligent people a reasonable "blessed hope." Through unmistakably divine leading, the message began to go worldwide.

Hearts responded and capable people did things. Clearly blessed by the Holy Spirit, a message joining together the gospel of Jesus with the ideals of healthful living worked wonders in tired, sickly people; the world's finest health institution (for then) was established in Battle Creek, Michigan, where even European royalty crossed the Atlantic to come. There the "West's" finest Christian publishing house was established. What the apostles after Pentecost longed for seemed to be on the verge. A solemn but joyous sense that the world had entered into the cosmic Day of Atonement gripped hearts worldwide. The "blessed hope" of the imminent return of Christ made life here below a taste of heaven.

For a century and a half that church has been identified by divine inspiration as the Seventh-day Adventist denomination, which had its roots in the Great Disappointment of 1844 and the reformations that followed in succeeding decades until its formal organization in 1863. Throughout the years of Ellen White's long lifetime, she constantly identified the Seventh-day Adventist Church as that "remnant." Yet even in her day there were unfaithful leaders and pastors who taught error and even apostasy, whom she rebuked, corrected, and sometimes even denounced.

Then it was discovered that Christ's message to the seventh church of history had become applicable: the church was "Laodicea," the one whose worldly lukewarmness made the Lord so nauseous that He felt like throwing up (Rev. 3:14-21). Now a battle rages in people's minds and hearts: is that last organization into a "body of Christ" doomed to eventual failure? Or is a corporate repentance possible (and sure)? Can the dream be recovered?

The 1888 General Conference brings us to our modern times; we learn that our own brethren virtually "rejected Christ" and "insulted" [1] the Holy Spirit in negative reactions against the message that was the "beginning" of the latter rain. This also occurred before any of us were born; but it is not enough to write off this history as past and not realize how we would do the same if we had the "opportunity" unless we specifically repent of that sin.

The Lord Himself, not an official committee nor an independent ministry, will "shake" this church, cleanse and purify it. But He has to have human agents with whom to work. The reason why the final events have not yet taken place may well be that those who do "sigh and cry" are doing so negatively instead of positively. To "sigh and cry" does not mean to wring one's hands in despair; it means to do something to help. Of ourselves we are powerless to stem the rising tide of evil, but we can seek to save every soul that our sphere of influence may touch.

All believers in Christ need the discipline of fellowship with a larger number of brethren and sisters whose association can be used by the Holy Spirit for the maturing of their Christian experience. (The Lord sees that one way we must learn to "gather warmth" is from "the coldness of others." [2]).

May we plead with the Lord, in this time of the cleansing of the sanctuary, to grant us the precious gift of corporate repentance--the discernment to see how the sins of others would be our sins but for the grace of a Saviour, to discern how they could be our sins if we were subjected to the same pressures and temptations they have had to meet. We need Christ's righteousness 100 percent, not less. When He has a people who can so humble their hearts before heaven, He can begin to work. 

The bottom-line issue is denominational repentance. The "bride" of Christ is repeatedly declared to be His church. She has indeed been unfaithful to her true Lover, but she can repent. Many in leadership have maintained for decades that "we" do not need such repentance; other despairing people have maintained that denominational repentance is needed but is impossible. But Christ calls for it; His vindication requiresit; our history demonstrates the need for it; and prophecyassuresit.

Does it seem impossible that a spirit of contrition shall be poured out on a leadership congested by organizational complexity? The more involved the church becomes with its multitudinous entities, the greater is the danger of its huge collective self choking the simple, direct promptings of the Holy Spirit. Each individual catching a vision is tempted to feel that his hands are tied--what can he do? The great organizational monolith, permeated with formalism and lukewarmness, seems to move only at a snail's pace. Aside from this "Spirit of grace and supplication," the nearer we come to the end of time and the bigger the church becomes, the more complex and congested is its movement, and the more remote appears the prospect of repentance.

But let us not overlook what the Bible says. We need to remember that long before we developed our intricate systems of church organization, the Lord created infinitely more complex systems of organization, and yet "the spirit ... was in the wheels" (Ezek. 1:20). Our problem is not the complexity of organization; it is the collective love of self. And the message of the cross can take care of that!

--From the Writings of Robert J. Wieland

Endnotes:
[1] Examples of Ellen White's use of these expressions are: Counsels to Writers and Editors, p. 30; Through Crisis to Victory, pp. 279, 280, 290, 301; Special Testimonies to the Review and Herald Office, pp. 16, 17; Testimonies to Ministers and Gospel Workers, pp. 96, 97, 294; Fundamentals of Christian Education, p. 472; MS 24, 1890.
[2] Ellen G. White, Testimonies for the Church, vol. 5, p. 136.

Notes:
Pastor Paul Penno's video of this lesson is on the Internet at: https://youtu.be/HDHtBxc4VkY

"Sabbath School Today" is on the Internet at: http://1888message.org/sst.htm


Friday, December 7, 2018

Lesson 10: Unity and Broken Relationships

Sabbath School Today
With the 1888 Message Dynamic

Oneness in Christ
Lesson 10: Unity and Broken Relationships

 

When we appreciate what it took for the Father and Jesus to forgive us sinners, then we will find it in our hearts to forgive others their sins toward us.

The "good news" that salvation in Christ is not a mere provision, but a fact; that Christ is not merely offeredto every man, but givento every man; that the Lord loves us so much that we cannot be lost unless we resist the Holy Spirit; that it is easy to be saved and hard to be lost, in view of this great salvation; that when Christ died on the cross, He actually did something for "every man"; that it is God who takes the initiative in effecting our salvation, and that it is impossible to be lost unless we take the initiative in resisting and rejecting what He has effected for us; and that justification by God's free grace is effected for "all," God in Christ reconciling the world unto Himself, not imputing their trespasses unto them, "all men" owe even their physical life to Christ's sacrifice and by His stripes they are healed.

This all sounds like "good news" to me. But the world does not know or understand it because no one is telling it to them, or at least very few are; and those in the remnant church who should understand it and proclaim it powerfully and effectively are themselves confused by conflicting concepts of justification by faith. Here are several Scripture passages which support the 1888 view:

"We have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous: and He is the propitiation for our sins: and not for ours only, but also for the sins of the whole world" (1 John 2:1, 2). "Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us, and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins" (1 John 4:10). Truly this "propitiation" applies to "all men." It is more than a mere "provision," for "never one, saint or sinner, eats his daily food, but he is nourished by the body and the blood of Christ. The cross of Calvary Is stamped on every loaf." [1] "Our Saviour Jesus Christ ... hath brought lifeand immortality to light through the gospel" (2 Tim. 1:10).

The "propitiation" therefore is already effective for "all," "saint or sinner." "All men" live because of it. It is the basis for justification. Only because of the "propitiation" is it possible for God to overlook "the sins of the whole world" and send His "rain on the just and on the unjust", and open His hand, to satisfy "the desire of every living thing" (Matt. 5:45; Psalm 145:16).

Christ "is the propitiation for our sins: and not for ours only, but also for the sins of the whole world" (1 John 2:2). The text does not say that provisionally, possibly, maybe, perhaps, Christ will be the propitiation for the sins of the whole world if and when and not until the sinner "accepts." Christ already is that propitiation. This grand "provision" of the cross is "set forth to be a propitiation through faith in his blood" (Rom. 3:25). When the "propitiation" is "set forth" to the sinner and he believes it, then he experiences justification by faith.

"When we were yet without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly,... God commendeth His love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. ... When we were enemieswe were reconciledto God by the death of His Son" (Rom. 5:6-10).

The death of Christ made effective a lawful justification applicable to all men. Legally, "all men" were justified, because He died for "all" (2 Cor. 5:14, 15). He satisfied the demands of the law for sinners. And He died for them "while we were yet sinners" (Rom. 5:8). "When" we were still "enemies, we were reconciled ..." (Rom. 5:10).

That sounds like a blatant contradiction, doesn't it? How can you be "reconciled" while you are still in enmity? The answer is: we were justified legallyby a sacrifice made for "all men" (Rom. 5:18), and the reconciliation is included.

But think about it, legal justification and "receiving the atonement" are two different things. We receivethe atonement [reconciliation] only when we believe. "We have now received the atonement [reconciliation]," Paul says in Romans 5:11,when we are "justified by faith" (verse 1). To confuse legal justification with justification by faith will not help us finish the work in this generation; it will set our clock back to the 16thcentury, and lead to antinomianism. Instead of completing the Reformation begun by Luther and Calvin, such confusion will only retard its progress.

"Therefore as by the offence of one [Adam] judgment came upon all men to condemnation; even so by the righteousness of Onethe free giftcame upon all men unto justification of life" (Rom. 5:18).

Again we have what appears to be a contradiction! How can Paul contrast the "judgment" which came by Adam upon "all men to condemnation" with the "free gift ... unto justification" coming likewise"upon all men"? The vast majority of "all men" certainly do not exhibit any of the fruits of "justification by faith"!

The answer to this apparent contradiction is simply to say that that is true--"all men" do notexhibit the fruits of justification by faith because they have not been justified by faith. They have only been justified legally;and the simple fact that they live is evidence of that legal justification. "All men" would not be able to draw even one breath if that forensic justification were not effective for them. The very fact they live is proof that Christ died for them, and is the "propitiation" for their sins.

Here is where the "gospel" comes in. We are commissioned by the Lord to "go into all the world" and tell "all men" that they have been justified. We are to bear "good news." God has no chip on His shoulder against them. He is not imputing their trespasses unto them. The propitiation is already a fact, not a mere provision. And when some believe, that moment they are "justified by faith."

"If One died for all, then were all dead: and that He died for all, that they which live should not henceforth live unto themselves ..." (2 Cor. 5:14, 15).

All wouldbe dead if He had not "died for all." The grave is what we deserve. The very fact "all" live is evidence that a forensic justification has been effective for them in that "our Saviour Jesus Christ ... hath brought life... to light through the gospel" (2 Tim. 1:10). "Life" has thus been provided for "all men" who deserve only death. More than this, those who appreciatethe "Light, which lighteth every man that cometh into the world" (John 1:9), those who "believe," for themChrist Jesus also "hath brought immortalityto light through the gospel" (2 Tim. 1:10).

"God was in Christ, reconciling the world unto Himself, not imputing their trespasses unto them" (2 Cor. 5:19).

Clearly, God does not "impute" any man's trespasses unto him until he rejects Christ. Therefore, the only sin for which anyone will be condemned in the Judgment is the sin of unbelief, that is, the sin of not appreciating the sacrificewhich effected a legal justification for all. [2] When Christ died, He did something for every man, woman, and child in the world. He was "the true Light, which lighteth every man that cometh into the world" (John 1:9). This "Light" is not a mere provision--it is effective. "In Him was life; and the life was the light of men" (verse 4). No one, saint or sinner, ever knows a moment of joy, ever smiles, but by virtue of the sacrifice of Christ. This is "news" the world needs to hear; and for those who believe it, it is "goodnews."

"For all alike have sinned, and are deprived of the divine splendor, and all are justified by God's free grace alone, through His act of liberation in the person of Christ Jesus" (Rom. 3:23, 24, New English Bible).

This "all" means what it says, for it harmonizes with the other passages. The New English Biblecorrectly translates the Greek "justified," which is a present participle with the word "all" as its proper subject. Since God's grace is "free," it must be equally manifested to "all." If it is a mere provision subject to certain conditions it cannot be described as "free." But this "justification by God's free grace alone" obviously must be forensic, for "all men" do not believe it and receive it.

Paul continues in verses 25-28 to discuss justification, proceeding from the forensic justification effected for "all" to the experiential justification which brings "remission of sins" "throughfaithin His blood." And because faith is counted for righteousness, God can "be just and the justifier of him which believeth in Jesus." This involves a change of heart! Justification by faithis not merely forensic, a judicial "declaring" millions of light-years away. It includes remissionof sins! "Remission" is not a mere entry in a legal record, without relation to the heart of the sinner. "Remission" is the actual taking away of the sin, accomplished in justification by faith.

--Paul E. Penno

Endnotes:
[1] Ellen G. White, The Desire of Ages, p. 660.
[2] Cf. ibid., p. 58.

Notes:
Pastor Paul Penno's video of this lesson is on the Internet at: https://youtu.be/TU6qd2gdFGQ

"Sabbath School Today" is on the Internet at: http://1888message.org/sst.htm



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Thursday, November 29, 2018

Lesson 9: The Most Convincing Proof

Lesson 9: The Most Convincing Proof

 

Is it possible to sort out the truth in this cacophony of voices that we hear today? Jesus says yes: "You shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free" (John 8:32). Ellen White also voices an encouraging yes: "The house of Israel [the organized church] is to be imbued with the Holy Spirit, and baptized with the grace of salvation. Amid the confusing cries, 'Lo, here is Christ! Lo, there is Christ!' will be borne a special testimony, a special message of truth appropriate for this time, which message is to be received, believed, and acted upon. ... Falsehoods will be urged upon the attention of God's people, but the truth is to stand clothed in its beautiful, pure garments" (Review and Herald, October 13, 1904).

_______________________________________

The history and content of the 1888 message are of keen interest to Seventh-day Adventists around the world. Ellen White has said repeatedly that failure to understand and to accept that message has greatly retarded the progress of the church and delayed the triumph of the "everlasting gospel" message.

In our modern day, schisms, apostasies, fanaticisms, conflicting interpretations of the prophecies, the inroads of the so-called "new theology" [and current divisions on women's ordination and other issues] have plagued the church. The resultant loss of ministers and members has been heavy. These many problems are related to confusion and misconception of the 1888 history and message.

Those who believe the New Testament recognize that the Jews rejected and crucified their Messiah. If the Jewish nation should wish to get right with God, would it not be a good idea for them to understand that mistake and repent of it?

If we wish to get right with the Lord, would it not be wise for us to understand our history and accept His gift of repentance? "We have nothing to fear for the future, except as we shall forget the way the Lord has led us, and His teaching in our past history" [1] It would follow logically that we have everything to fear if we forget our past and disregard "His teaching in our past history."

A true understanding of the gospel is precisely what this sin-cursed world desperately needs to know. After Christianity has professed to proclaim the gospel for two thousand years, the agony and evil in the world appear to be getting worse. Millions who want to believe in God feel forced to doubt that He exists or that He cares. Could it be that the pure gospel has not yet been proclaimed as it should be?

Surprising as it may be, there is more than one gospel: (a) the pure truth that Paul and the apostles preached which he calls "the grace of Christ," and (b) there is a counterfeit gospel which he says is "another gospel: which is not another," but a perversion of "the gospel of Christ." According to Paul's strong words, "any other gospel" than the true one Christ gave ends up being a "curse" (Gal. 1:6-9).

The reason why the enemy of Christ specializes in perverting the gospel is because he knows that the true one is "the power of God unto salvation" (Rom. 1:16), just as good food is healthful nourishment to one's body. But a little arsenic mixed in one's diet is lethal. In the final judgment all will see that the world's continual agony has been the direct result of a perversion of the gospel which "Babylon" has foisted on mankind (Rev. 18:24).

The truth is that the Lord has given us a special message of Good News that people must learn to believe. The Lord never called Seventh-day Adventists to preach legalism to the world. Our special commission is to recover and proclaim the precise Good News that is already "the salvation of God" and which prepares a people for the second coming of Christ. In fact, the message of the three angels of Revelation 14:6-12 is in a unique sense "the everlasting gospel" for the last days. It must be the best Good News the world has ever heard.

Can the Seventh-day Adventist Church ever come into unity in knowing and accepting this Good News message?If it is the true "remnant" church of Revelation 12:17 and 14:12, the answer has to be, Yes. If grace is stronger than sin, then truth has to be stronger than error, and the Holy Spirit must be stronger than the flesh, and light must be stronger than darkness. We do not say "if" because we doubt; we would rather say, "Because it is the remnant church," the answer has to be yes. "Mind will be arrayed against mind, plans against plans, principles of heavenly origin against principles of Satan. Truth in its varied phases will be in conflict with error in its ever-varying, increasing forms, and which, if possible, will deceive the very elect." [2] Note: the "elect" are not deceived. "Truth in its varied phases" will overcome "error in its ... increasing forms." That's Good News!

Ellet J. Waggoner has written: "The union of the Father and the Son is union of Spirit. We cannot comprehend this union, but we may know that it is not a forced union, but that it results from their very nature. They have one life. Their thoughts and purposes are the same, not because they come together and compare notes and agree to be alike, but because one life is in them both. So the union of believers is to be a vital union, or it is not any union at all. It is not accomplished by strife and debate and decisions of majorities, but by yielding the mind to Christ and hearing His voice. They are to be united by the mind and Spirit of Christ. The life of the Father and the Son in each member of the church will produce the most perfect union in the whole body. ...

"This gives no ground for the idea that there may be divisions in the church of Christ, one division believing one thing, and another division believing and practising another thing. God has 'tempered the body together, ... that there should be no schism in the body (1 Cor. 12:24, 25). 'There is one body, and one Spirit, even as ye are called in one hope of your calling; one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is above all, and through all, and in you all' (Eph. 4:4-6). The apostle's exhortation is, 'that ye all speak the same thing, and that there be no divisions among you, but that ye be perfectly joined together in the same mind and in the same judgment' (1 Cor. 1:10). But let it be borne in mind that this union is not artificial, but natural; not the human nature, however, but the divine nature. ...

"Christ desires unity, but He does not try to force it, because the unity which is essential is the unity of growth into Christ, and growth cannot be forced. The religion of Jesus is love, and force kills love. Where there is no love there is no righteousness; ..." [3]

We want to "win" not merely "warn" those with whom we are in disagreement. We live in a time fraught with tremendous significance; we are living this side of the greatest world movement that has ever happened in 6000 years of history--the earthis to be "lightened" with the glory of that fourth angel of Revelation 18. The "beginning" of that wonderful work came in 1888.

Let me encourage you: Be true to the truth; defend it, but do so with Christ-like words, in a generous spirit.

--From the Writings of Robert J. Wieland

Endnotes:
[1] Life Sketches of Ellen G. White, p. 196.
[2] Ellen G. White, Testimonies to Ministers and Gospel Workers, p. 407.
[3] Ellet J. Waggoner, "Unity and Uniformity," The Present Truth, April 20, 1893.

Notes:
Pastor Paul Penno's video of this lesson is on the Internet at: 
https://youtu.be/CSXig2A_fV4

"Sabbath School Today" is on the Internet at: http://1888message.org/sst.htm


Friday, November 23, 2018

Lesson 8: Unity in Faith

Sabbath School Today
With the 1888 Message Dynamic

Oneness in Christ
Lesson 8: Unity in Faith

 

The Quarterly begins with a snapshot of the controversy of 1888, but the image is blurred, and must be brought into proper focus.

Yes, there was discussion about just which tribes constituted the ten horns of Daniel 7. However, the controversy and "hostile attitudes" began two years before, and remains with us to this day. In 1886, E. J. Waggoner wrote a commentary on the covenants that focused Galatians 3:24 on Christ instead of the law. The General Conference leadership took exception to Waggoner's position because they saw it as undermining the foundation of their argument in support of the perpetuity of the Sabbath. Their attitude was, throw out the law and you throw out support for the Sabbath truth! Waggoner was not throwing out the law. He was instead placing the law where it belonged. The goal was not perfect law-keeping, but the perfect righteousness of Christ as the only source of our salvation.

When Ellen White came down on the Waggoner and Jones' side of the debate, the older and "more experienced brethren" became upset. A. G. Daniells later wrote that she had to stand "almost alone" against nearly the entire General Conference in her defense of Waggoner and Jones' position on righteousness by faith in Christ alone. [1] The elder brethren's feet were firmly set in the concrete of their "stand by the old landmarks" position. They could not accept that two young men with practically no theological experience could have been chosen of God, and given "divine credentials" [2] to teach them--the theologically experienced brethren--concerning the everlasting covenant and righteousness by faith.

As the argument continued through the years following Minneapolis, in 1890 Ellen White wrote to Uriah Smith that he, Dan Jones, and "Brother Porter" were "spending [their] investigative powers for naught to produce a position on the covenants to vary from the position that Brother Waggoner has presented. ... The covenant question is a clear question and would be received by every candid, unprejudiced mind ... You have turned from plain light because you were afraid that the law question in Galatians would have to be accepted." [3]

Ellen White wrote, "In the manifestation of the power that lightens the earth with its glory [referring to Rev. 18:4 under the power of the latter rain], they [the opposers of the 1888 message] will see only something which in their blindness they think dangerous, something which will arouse their fears and they will brace themselves against it. Because the Lord does not work according to their expectations and ideas, they will oppose the work."[4]

Tuesday's lesson discusses our unique sanctuary doctrine. We most assuredly must stand firmly on our distinctive and essential doctrines--the work of our High Priest for His people, and the cleansing of the heavenly sanctuary. This is our "essential doctrine" that called us out in 1844, and separates us from all other denominations in the whole world. But when was the last time you heard a sermon on Sabbath morning on any aspect of the sanctuary? [5] There are other people who keep the Sabbath, who long for the coming of Christ in clouds of glory, and who understand the non-immortality of the "soul" of man. But no other people understand the ministry of our High Priest in purifying a "peculiar people" who will defend His character of love before a disintegrating world on the brink of self destruction.

During the same time when God was seeking a people upon whom He could rain down the blessings from heaven, Satan was fast at work creating a counterfeit theory of righteousness so deceptive that it captured the minds of many of God's "elect." This deception was rooted in pantheism, taught by J. H. Kellogg at Battle Creek, and infected some of the "brightest stars" of the church at that time. It was a theory that made the sanctuary unneeded baggage in man's quest for holiness.

"Any man who seeks to present theories which would lead us from the light that has come to us on the ministration in the heavenly sanctuary, should not be accepted as a teacher. A true understanding of the sanctuary question means much to us as a people." [6] These words were written in the context of the pantheism crisis precipitated by the teachings of Kellogg on the nature of God. "If God is an essence pervading all nature, then He dwells in all men; and in order to attain holiness, man has only to develop the power within him." [7]

The crisis that confronted the church at the turn of the last century (the "alpha"), will raise its head again (as the "omega") just before Christ returns. Many people will be confused about our distinctive doctrines, and will be led to abandon the sanctuary truth and all that is part of that truth (e.g., the investigative judgment; cleansing and transformation of our characters before the second coming).

"There is in it [pantheism] the beginning of theories which, carried to their logical conclusion, would destroy faith in the sanctuary question and in the atonement. I do not think that Dr. Kellogg saw this clearly. I do not think that he realized that in laying his new foundation of faith, he was directing his steps toward infidelity." [8]

Pantheism's theory is that all is one and all is god (monism). If all is god, then man is god. This idea was deceptively transformed into "Christ in you," a counterfeit to the Biblical teaching of "Christ in you, the hope of glory ... that we may present every man perfect in Christ Jesus." (Col. 1:27, 28). If all is god, then all is good, and the concept that sin separates us from God is denied, and salvation "from sin" loses all meaning. We don't need a Saviour if god is "us," as pantheism declares. All a person needs to do is "seek the god"--or "divine spark"--within each of us, by opening the mind through "mindfulness" meditation, controlled breathing, slowly repeating resonant syllables while attempting to obtain a "clear mind," and "focusing on the divine."

However, there is a vast gulf between this "new age" type of hypnotic meditation and the "meditate upon every Word of God" type of "thoughtful hour" we are counseled to do when "contemplating the life of Christ." "It would be well for us to spend a thoughtful hour each day in contemplation of the life of Christ. We should take it point by point, and let the imagination grasp each scene, especially the closing ones. As we thus dwell upon His great sacrifice for us, our confidence in Him will be more constant, our love will be quickened, and we shall be more deeply imbued with His spirit. If we would be saved at last, we must learn the lesson of penitence and humiliation at the foot of the cross." [9]

Notice: The focus is not on us, but on Christ's work of righteousness. Such deep contemplation may and should elicit a response from a broken and contrite heart. Tears may flow, heart rate quicken (rather than slow, as in "new age" meditation), as our mind reflects on the differences between our sinfulness, and the love and righteousness demonstrated by God in Gethsemane and on the cross.

Returning to our discussion on the sanctuary, we find that an essential element to the sanctuary doctrine is Christ, our High Priest, and His ministry in cleansing a people from all sin. The nature which Christ assumed in His incarnation is a necessary aspect of the sanctuary. If Christ was not "touched with the feelings of our infirmities" so that He could be "in all points tempted like as we are" (Heb. 4:15), then He does not qualify as our High Priest. In God's design in the earthly sanctuary, the priest was taken from among the people he was to represent in his work of intercession. The priest had common temptations and inclinations to sin; he "knew what was in man" (see for example John 2:25), and therefore was prepared to present the repentant petitions of fallen men and women before the throne of grace.

When Christ became human, in order to save the human race, He had to assume that which He was not. Even though Jesus took upon Himself the common inclinations and propensities of fallen flesh, never once did He indulge them, and never once did Jesus sin, not even by a thought. Therefore, Paul implores us, "let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus" because with that mind, we too can overcome all sin. [10]

"Now as to Christ's not having 'like passions' with us: In the Scriptures all the way through He islikeus andwithus according to the flesh. He is the seed of David according to the flesh [Rom. 1:3]. He was made in the likeness of sinful flesh [Rom. 8:3]. Don't go too far. He was made in the likeness of sinfulflesh, not in the likeness of sinfulmind.Do not drag His mind into it. His flesh was our flesh, but the mind was 'the mind of Christ Jesus.' Therefore it is written: 'Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus.' [Phil. 2:5]. If He had taken our mind, how, then, could we ever have been exhorted to 'let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus?' It would have been so already." [11]

If we would just "let" this mind be in us--stop fighting against the work of Holy Spirit to cleanse us--then Christ could finish His work in the heavenly sanctuary, and come to take His purified people home. The work of purifying a people must begin in the hearts of the people, which is the source of the fountain of sin that flows into the heavenly sanctuary.

"The service in the earthly sanctuary shows also that in order for the sanctuary to be cleansed and the course of the gospel service there to be finished, it must first be finished in the people who have a part in the service. ... The cleansing of the sanctuary, as to the sanctuary itself, was the taking out of and away from the sanctuary all the transgression of the people ... And this stream must be stopped at its fountain in the hearts and lives of the worshipers, before the sanctuary itself could possibly be cleansed. ... The ministry of Christ in the true sanctuary does take away sins forever, does make the comers thereunto perfect, does perfect 'forever them that are sanctified.'" [12]

Overcoming all sin in this present life through the power of Christ's faith alone working in us to "will and to do of His good pleasure," will produce the outworking of His love through us toward others (Phil. 2:12, 13). This is the goal of Christ's ministry in the heavenly sanctuary--the final display of God's power to transform our characters. Then we will be prepared to visibly display His character of love to the lost world. [13] It is this that will develop a united and "peculiar people" of whom He can declare: "Here are they that keep the Commandments of God and the faith of Jesus!" (Rev. 14:12).

--Ann Walper

Endnotes:
[1] See A. G. Daniells, The Abiding Gift of Prophecy, p. 369.
[2] Ellen G. White,Testimonies to Ministers, p. 91; Selected Messages, book 1, p. 259.
[3] The Ellen G. White 1888 Materials, p. 604; Letter 59, 1890.
[4] Review and Herald Extra, Dec. 23, 1890.
[5] An excellent source book for studying the sanctuary message isThe Cross and Its Shadow, by S. N. Haskell, who was a delegate to the 1888conference, and one of the few at that time who believed the Jones and Waggoner message.
[6] Ellen G. White, Manuscript 125, 1907, p. 6.
[7] Ellen G. White,The Faith I Live By, p. 40.
[8] Ellen G. White, Letter 33, 1904, par. 4.
[9] Ellen G. White,TheDesire of Ages, p. 83.
[10] See Robert J. Wieland'sThe Good News is Better Than You Think, CFI Book Division ed. (2018), pp. 13, 14, 24, 52, and 53 for a discussion of how we "let" Christ's mind be in us.
[11] A. T. Jones,"The Third Angel's Message No. 17," 1895 General Conference Bulletin, p. 327.
[12] A. T. Jones, The Consecrated Way to Christian Perfection, pp. 120, 121, Glad Tidings ed. (2003).
[13] See Ellen G. White,Christ's Object Lessons, pp. 415, 416.

Notes:
Pastor Paul Penno's video of this lesson is on the Internet at: https://youtu.be/Sdn9GeTx5yk

"Sabbath School Today" is on the Internet at: http://1888message.org/sst.htm