Friday, November 9, 2018

Lesson 6: Images of Unity

Sabbath School Today
With the 1888 Message Dynamic

Images of Unity
Lesson 6: Images of Unity


 "Behold, how good and how pleasant it is for brothers to dwell together in unity! It is like the precious oil upon the head, coming down upon the beard, even Aaron's beard, coming down upon the edge of his robes. It is like the dew of Hermon, coming down upon the mountains of Zion; for there the Lord commanded the blessing--life forever" (Psalm 133:1-3).


The Bible is full of metaphors but none is more important for the church than the 1888 message's concept that we are all "in" Christ. All other metaphors are developed out of that basic concept. To understand this, there are some hints in David's psalm quoted above. He connects unity to the "oil" as the vehicle which connects "brothers." How do we come to understand that we are all brothers and how does that unify us? The answer is in the sacrifice of the cross.

Christ laid aside His divinity ("emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond servant, and being made in the likeness of men," Phil. 2:7). Notice, He did not abandon his divinity, He laid it aside. In other words, He didn't use it to help Him during His earthly ministry. Many find this difficult to believe because He performed miracles and never sinned. Christ came to demonstrate to the world and watching universe that the Holy Spirit can indwell "sinful flesh" so completely, that "our life will be a life of continual obedience" as if "carrying out our own impulses." [1]

Why did Christ have to lay aside His divinity? The Bible teaches that it is unethical for someone to be punished for another's wrong. Ezekiel 18:20 makes it very clear: "The person who sins will die. The son will not bear the punishment for the father's iniquity, nor will the father bear the punishment for the son's iniquity; the righteousness of the righteous will be upon himself, and the wickedness of the wicked will be upon himself." Since the first Adam brought the entire human race into sin, the only solution was the eternal (second) death; no human sacrifice could pay this penalty and be resurrected. That required the death of Someone with the poawer to resurrect, but Divinity cannot die.

To resolve this dilemma, Hebrews 10:5 says, "Therefore, when He comes into the world, He says, 'Sacrifice and offering Thou hast not desired, but a body Thou hast prepared for Me" In order for God to save us through Christ He had to qualify Christ to be our Savior. God did this by combining the divine life of His Son with the human Adamic life and uniting the two in the womb of Mary. Corporately, the entire race, out of all the created beings in the universe, was united with Divinity. We did not deserve this, but our magnificent and gracious God made this supreme sacrifice.

"None but the Son of God could accomplish our redemption; for only He who was in the bosom of the Father could declare Him. Only He who knew the height and depth of the love of God could make it manifest. Nothing less than the infinite sacrifice made by Christ in behalf of fallen man could express the Father's love to lost humanity." [2]

"By His life and His death, Christ has achieved even more than recovery from the ruin wrought through sin. It was Satan's purpose to bring about an eternal separation between God and man; but in Christ we become more closely united to God than if we had never fallen. In taking our nature, the Saviour has bound Himself to humanity by a tie that is never to be broken. Through the eternal ages He is linked with us." [3]

The angel told Mary that Jesus' conception would be accomplished by the Holy Spirit which "will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; and for that reason the holy offspring shall be called the Son of God" (Luke 1:35). Mary's pregnancy was not initiated by an ordinary man, but by the Holy Spirit. Thus, humanity and divinity were combined her womb.

"If He were not of the same flesh as are those whom He came to redeem, then there is no sort of use of His being made flesh at all. More than this: Since the only flesh that there is in this wide world which He came to redeem, is just the poor, sinful, lost, human flesh that all mankind have; if this is not the flesh that He was made, then He never really came tothe world which needs to be redeemed. [4]

When Jesus told Nicodemus we must be born again, He meant born of the Spirit, just as the Spirit caused His conception in the womb of Mary. David must have recognized something of this mechanism when he could think of nothing to compare his joy to except the anointing oil which inaugurated Aaron's high priestly imagery. That oil was given so lavishly that it fell onto his beard and cloths, all the way to the hem of his garment. Again, the imagery was echoed when Mary Magdalene found there was so much of her gift of oil that she had to use her hair to catch the excess.

The imagery is continued at Pentecost when the Holy Spirit was poured out on the earth to facilitate Christ's high priestly ministry, which He began at His ascension. The imagery parallels the lavish oil of Aaron, which resulted in the outpouring of the Holy Spirit so that the believers at Pentecost were anointed with the oil which anointed Jesus in heaven.

The result of the outpouring of the Holy Spirit, if accepted in the heart of the believer results in the washing of regeneration. David saw this when his mind went to the "dew of Hermon" which washed Zion.

Imagery and metaphor are wonderful vehicles to help us understand the plan of salvation. David's Psalm 133 describes that only the oil of the Holy Spirit and the washing of regeneration can accomplish unity among believers. By accepting our position in Christ, we realize we stand equally with all believers. Whatever degree of unity is necessary to protect the church will flow naturally from that.

--Arlene Hill

[1] Ellen G. White, The Desire of Ages, p. 668.
[2] Ellen G. White, Steps to Christ, p. 14.
[3] The Desire of Ages, p. 25.
[4] A. T. Jones, The Consecrated Way to Christian Perfection, p. 41; Glad Tidings ed. (2003).

Bible verses are from the New American Standard Bible.

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

"Sabbath School Today" is on the Internet at:

Friday, November 2, 2018

Lesson 5: The Experience of Unity in the Early Church

Sabbath School Today
With the 1888 Message Dynamic

Oneness in Christ
Lesson 5: The Experience of Unity in the Early Church


During this quarter, millions of Christians around the world are giving special study to unity within the church. We're studying what the Bible speaks of as unity within the church. Christ prayed for it (John 17:20, 21). Paul said that Christ's agapewill produce it (Eph. 4:13-16). The very doctrine of God demands it (vss. 2-6). But we have to face reality: churches often have disagreements and divisions, even within one denomination and even within one church body.

In a church that has for 150 years stood for creation in 6 days, a literal reading of Genesis 1, 2, etc., there are now powerful voices advocating evolution. And there are divisions about women's ordination, about music in church worship services, etc. And for many, "the blessed hope" of the soon second coming of Christ is receding into the background, and a materialistic earthly millennium is taking its place.

Why does disunion seem to flourish so? And how can the church enlighten the earth with glory if it is in a divided state? And what can bring the true unity Christ prayed for? There is a solution.

If God is real and if His Bible is true, it follows that God has a solution for the problem of disunity.

God will bring His people into unity. That which to doubters today seems impossible, the Holy Spirit will accomplish.

He brought the disunited eleven apostles into unity before the Day of Pentecost. They were "with one accord in one place" (Acts 2:1). That was "the former rain," and the "latter rain" is promised to be even greater.

God cannot use force to accomplish it. For Him to burn down the churches or strike them with lightning, wouldn't solve the root problem.

Ephesians tells us the solution: for those "tossed to and fro and carried about with every wind of doctrine," is the message of agape(4:14, 15). Such a message is the objective gospel, the message of what Christ accomplished, the pure biblical truth of justification by faith.

Christ has promised solemnly that if He is lifted up on His cross, that is, if His agapeis clearly proclaimed, He "will draw all men unto [Himself]," and that of course is perfect unity (John 12:32). Let the leadership of a church that is being fragmented receive that most precious message of Christ's righteousness; the miracle of unity will be as certain as day follows night.

"Pentecost" is a big word to Christian people. It came 50 days after Christ's resurrection. The disciples met together to pray and study for 10 days previous, so that by the time that the Day of Pentecost arrived, they were finally in total harmony and unity, "in one accord" (Acts 2:1). May the Lord hasten the day when His modern "apostles" will finally be in "one accord" in their understanding of the truth of the gospel!

A great blessing came on that day. The true and genuine "gift of tongues" was manifest so that everyone from all parts of the world who were gathered in Jerusalem heard the glad tidings in his own language so he could clearly understand it. The Holy Spirit was given in a fullness that has never since been equaled.

What was it about the message of Pentecost that had such tremendous power that 3000 were converted, truly converted, in a day?

Was it something that even Paul did not as clearly articulate? Ellen G. White has said, "Great truths that have lain unheeded and unseen since the day of Pentecost, are to shine from God's word in their native purity" (Fundamentals of Christian Education, p. 473; 1897).

Is there a "great truth" that shone clearly on the Day of Pentecost that even the apostle Paul did not preach? Yes, there is one: Speaking to that great crowd of thousands of people from many nations and languages, Peter boldly declared that theyhad crucified the Son of God: "Therefore, let all the house of Israel know assuredly, that God hath made that same Jesus, whom ye have crucified, both Lord and Christ" (Acts 2:36). A few days later he told them, "Ye denied the Holy One and the Just, ... and killed the Prince of life" (Acts 3:14, 15). Nothing in Paul's epistles is quite so strong, so directly confrontational!

What happened on the day of Pentecost? A repentance deeper than has ever been known. The murder of the Son of God is the greatest sin ever committed; repentance for that sin is the greatest a human heart can ever know. Do you think it might be possible that Peter's sermon applies to us today?

--Paul E. Penno

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

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Thursday, October 25, 2018

The Key to Unity

Sabbath School Today
With the 1888 Message Dynamic

Oneness in Christ
Lesson 4: The Key to Unity


Chaos. It's becoming the defining word for the world we live in. The Middle East has been at war for more than twenty years, with Syria nearly annihilating their own civilian population. Politics, whether in the United States or Europe has become a divisive, almost uncivil enterprise. Some nations are on the brink of financial chaos. Society is divided on many levels: women's liberation movement against any form of male leadership; LGBTQ+ against the Christians; Democrats against the Republicans in a caustic battle for power; a rising liberal youth segment against anyone older than 30. Central Africa has seen civil war at unprecedented levels, with famine and plagues exacerbating the situation for the populace.

Even the natural world seems stirred to chaotic levels. The Pacific has seen more cyclones with wind speeds greater than 155 miles per hour this year than any other on record. The Atlantic ocean has produced two catastrophic storms in a matter of weeks. Earthquakes, volcanoes erupting, fires destroying vast swathes of western United States forests and some towns. It seems that the very earth is revolting.

"For nation shall rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom; and there shall be famines, and pestilence, and earthquakes in diverse places. All these are the beginning of sorrows" (Matt. 24:7, 8).

Our study this quarter is unity. How can unity be accomplished in the face of such chaos? Unity in today's world seems to be akin to the proverbial "black swan." Juvenal, the Roman poet of the first century, advanced the philosophical theory that applied to events that were so rare as to be considered nearly impossible. He called such events a "black swan." His phrase caught on, and the truism held for nearly 1700 years--no one had ever seen a black swan until a Dutch explorer discovered one in western Australia in 1697. We have been proclaiming the "soon coming" of Jesus for 175 years, but for many people, it seems like that proverbial black swan, something the world will never see, or least, something that we will never see in our lifetime.

The last message to be given to the world engulfed in chaos, is the message of God's unfathomable love. That Love, "so loved the world" that it was willing to sacrifice itself so that others might live. "From the foundation of the world" this Love has unstintingly laid itself down for us. God "ordained" or "predestined" to be saved, every human being who would ever be born on this planet. "[God] hath chosen us in Him [Christ] before the foundation of the world" (Eph. 1:4). Peter wrote that we have been [past tense] "redeemed with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot, Who verily was foreordained from the foundation of world" (1 Peter 1:19, 20). Paul wrote in his first letter to Timothy, that Christ is "the Saviour of all men, especially of those that believe" (1 Tim. 4:10).

As soon as sin entered this world, Christ stepped between the living and dead, giving His own life, that the human race would continue through Adam. Adam and Eve did not die that afternoon in the Garden (see Gen. 2:17) because the Substitute was found--Christ, the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world (Rev. 13:8). "As soon as there was sin, there was a Saviour. Christ knew that He would have to suffer, yet He became man's substitute. As soon as Adam sinned, the Son of God presented Himself as surety for the human race, with just as much power to avert the doom pronounced upon the guilty as when He died upon the cross of Calvary." [1]

Now, imagine what would have happened if no substitute had stepped forward that afternoon. God had stated emphatically (Hebrew doubling, "die, you shall die") that the day Adam sinned was the day he would die. If Adam had reaped the just punishment for his rebellion, then the human race would have ceased to exist that very afternoon. We are only still here six millennia later because of the infinite love of our God.

This truth is the essential meaning of that complicated sounding phrase, "legal justification." Standing before the broken law, Christ stepped into Adam's "shoes" and assumed complete responsibility for the crime Adam committed, and accepted the just punishment to be inflicted upon Himself. To do this, Christ had to also, one day, assume the nature of fallen Adam.

Corporately, as the "Last Adam," Christ took upon His sinless nature the nature that needed redeeming, and as corporate mankind, He lived a perfect life, and then took that perfect life and offered it on the cross of Calvary. "Because we thus judge, that if One died for all, then were all dead" (2 Cor. 5:14). And as Christ is the "Lamb slain from the foundation of the world," His "one just act" (see Rom. 5:15-19) emancipated the entire human race. [2] Thus, the Godhead canceled the death penalty for every human being--"especially those who believe." For the many who will not believe, "there remaineth no more sacrifice for sins, but a certain fearful looking for of judgment and fiery indignation" (Heb. 10:26, 27).

What a message we have been given to share with the dying world--a world in chaos, that is looking for love in all the wrong places! God loves you with an intimate, personal, undying love that will not let you go, unless you resist and chose to run away. Such good news, when shared with people who are searching for relief from the troubles of this world, will bring unity "in Christ" when they learn to appreciate what has already been done to save them eternally from sin. They don't have to "get better" first, before God will love them. They are already "beloved" in Christ who gave His life for them, and "adopted" them into His family (Eph. 1:3-5).

The "goal" of unity is not some future reward in heaven that we must diligently work for.The goal is Christ! Learning from Him how to consistently behave like a child of the King of the universe, as we grow daily into the likeness of His character, "till we all come, in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ" (Eph. 4:13). [The additional comma after the word "come," is intentional. It places the emphasis of Paul's words on the goal of Christ--the Perfect Man--rather than on our "faith." All punctuation in the Bible is translator supplied.]

The key to unity, is not more agreement between individuals or in church councils. True unity will happen when individuals rally behind the great truths of the 1888message that, when accepted in its fullness, will allow heaven to open its doors and pour out the long-awaited Latter Rain upon a penitent and humbled people. Not everyone wants to be united, and it's a pipe dream to think all will be united. Disunity arises from a sinful, selfish heart that most of the world will cling to right up to the very end.

This means that, just as in the past, there will continue to be opposition to God's final message to the dying world--the message of Christ and His righteousness. But when God finally has a people--that mysterious 144,000--who are willing to give up on self and "follow the Lamb wherever He goes," then the Latter Rain will fall upon that "especially-who-believe" group of people.

Everyone will not be the recipients of this blessing from heaven. "Onlythose who are living up to the light they have will receive greater light. Unless we are daily advancing in the exemplification of the active Christian virtues, we shall not recognize the manifestations of the Holy Spirit in the latter rain. It may be falling on hearts all around us, but we shall not discern or receive it." [3]

--Ann Walper

[1] Ellen G. White,Review and Herald, March 12, 1901.
[2] See Ellen G. White, The Ministry of Healing, p. 90.
[3] Ellen. G. White,Testimonies to Ministers and Gospel Workers, p. 507.

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

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Wednesday, October 17, 2018

Lesson 3: "That They All May Be One"

Sabbath School Today
With the 1888 Message Dynamic

Oneness in Christ
Lesson 3: "That They All May Be One"


Almost every Sabbath School class can be split on Bible issues such as what nature did Christ "take" in His incarnation, or what is the unique Adventist idea of the cleansing of the sanctuary, or what is justification. The good news of our overcoming "even as [Christ] overcame" is often denigrated as the heresy of "perfectionism." "Independent ministries" and independent publications are legion. Our interpretations of the prophecies of Daniel and the Revelation are variant and contradictory.

Our leaders wistfully ask with reference to the earth-lighting fourth angel's message of Revelation 18, "How can we light the world with the glory of the three angels' messages if we are busy fighting among ourselves?" Some times in our Sabbath School Lessons, Christlike unity is spoken of, as "it-would-be-nice-if." Is Jesus still praying His prayer of John 17? The nearer we come to the end of the world, the more we seem to be riven asunder by our heart convictions of what is truth. Most pastors now refuse to preach about the solid Seventh-day Adventist core truths that established our identity.

What is the only effective solution?

Jesus asked His Father to "sanctify them through Thy truth: Thy word is truth. ... For their sakes I sanctify Myself, that they also might be sanctified through the truth. ... I pray ... that they all may be one ... that the world may believe that Thou hast sent Me" (vss. 17-21). In other words, Revelation 18 is a mere fantasy unless we come into unity in the simple experience of believing revealed truth.

In the celebrated 1848 Sabbath Conferences our pioneers on their knees wrestled their "sanctified" way through to solid truths that established this church. They resolved the Great Disappointment confusion by whole-heartedly embracing the truth of the sanctuary doctrine.

But the Lord Jesus saw that after a few decades the truth was still largely an intellectual conviction. A dead formalism was gripping the church and its ministerial or pastoral leadership. Therefore in 1888 "in His great mercy" He "sent a most precious message" which He intended should bring us into a perfect heart and intellectual unity, prepared for the final movement of Revelation 18. For many decades the full truth of what happened was carefully concealed from our knowledge as Ellen White's testimonies regarding "1888" were buried in her Ellen G. White Estate Vault and research was discouraged. In 1987, preparatory to a grand Centennial in 1988, the White Estate published in four huge volumes, The Ellen G. White 1888 Materials, every word that she had written about "1888." The total is 1821 pages.

The result: we find that numerous times she likens "our" denominational reaction to that "most precious message" as "just like the Jews'" reaction to Jesus Christ. She compares the same raw unbelief that plagued ancient Israel in the days of Korah, Dathan, and Abiram, to our disunity of unbelief regarding the Lord's leading in the 1888 message. [1] This spirit was not one-hundred percent, but it was "in a great measure" and "in a great degree." [2] The result was decisive in that it turned away the gift of the latter rain and prevented that generation from witnessing the events of Revelation 18.

A genuine faith includes within itself a belief of the truth. Ellen White declared that the time will come when Seventh-day Adventists will be totally united in their heartfelt belief of theological truth, as it was in our pioneer beginning. There will be no more split Sabbath School classes or divided churches. Speaking of "those who are engaged in proclaiming the last solemn message to a dying world," she says, "although possessing different temperaments and dispositions, they will see eye to eye in all matters of religious belief. They will speak the same things; they will have the same judgment; they will be one in Christ Jesus." [3]

Ancient Israel's problem was rebellion against the Lord's leading; it's ours, too. But the Holy Spirit is giving the gift of denominational repentance: "Then the work will move forward with solidity and double strength. A new efficiency will be imparted to the workers in every line. Men will learn of the reconciliation from iniquity which the Messiah has brought in through His sacrifice. The last message of warning and salvation will be given with mighty power. The earth will be lightened with the glory of God, and it will be ours to witness the soon coming in power and glory, of our Lord and Saviour." [4]

--Paul E. Penno

[1] The Ellen G. White 1888 Materials, p. 600.
[2] Ellen G. White, Selected Messages, book 1, p. 235.
[3] Ellen G. White, Historical Sketches, p.124.
[4] Ellen G. White, Medical Ministry, p. 185.

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

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Friday, October 12, 2018

Lesson 2: Causes of Disunity

Sabbath School Today
With the 1888 Message Dynamic

Oneness in Christ
Lesson 2: Causes of Disunity


How people in a church can truly believe the same thing (be in unity) is important, because Jesus said that the only way the world can be brought to believe in Him is when His followers "all may be one, ... that the world may believe that You sent Me" (John 17:21). Something He calls "Your truth" is the only thing that will unite them (vs. 17). Paul calls it "the truth of the gospel" (Gal. 2:5, 14). The success or failure of Christ's mission for the world therefore depends on that "truth" bringing His people who profess to "keep the commandments of God and the faith of Jesus" into one (Rev. 14:12).

Take the problem of Genesis 1. Christ and His apostles accepted that "the truth of the gospel" required sincere, honest hearts to believe that God created the earth in six literal days. People who insist they are equally sincere understand the idea of six literal days to be ancient mythology; science makes such belief naive, they say.

In a church that has for more than 150 years stood for creation in six days, a literal reading of Genesis 1, 2, etc., there are now powerful voices advocating evolution. There are divisions about women's ordination, about music in church worship services, and on. And for many, "the blessed hope" of the soon second coming of Christ is receding into the background, and a materialistic earthly lifestyle is taking its place.

Then there's the problem of Jesus Himself. When He became incarnate, did He "take" the sinless nature of the unfallen Adam, thus breaking the genetic line of His descent from the real Adam? Or did He accept the working of the great law of heredity and enter the stream of humanity by taking our fallen, sinful nature yet living a sinless life? Here again is disunity; the assumption is that unity is impossible. Or is it?

Why does disunion seem to flourish so? And how can the church enlighten the earth with glory if it is in a divided state? And what can bring the true unity Christ prayed for?

There is a solution. If God is real and if His Bible is true, it follows that God has a solution for the problem of disunity. God will bring His people into unity. That which to doubters today seems impossible, the Holy Spirit will accomplish. He brought the disunited eleven apostles into unity before the Day of Pentecost. They were "with one accord in one place" (Acts 2:1). That was "the former rain," and the "latter rain" is promised to be even greater. God cannot use force to accomplish it. For Him to burn down the churches or strike them with lightning, wouldn't solve the root problem.

Ephesians tells us the solution: for those "tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine," is the message of agape(4:14, 15). Such a message proclaims what Christ accomplished, the pure biblical truth of justification by faith. Christ has promised solemnly that if He is lifted up on His cross, that is, if His agapeis clearly proclaimed, He "will draw all peoples to [Himself]," and that of course is perfect unity (John 12:32). Let the leadership of a church that is being fragmented receive that "most precious message" of Christ's righteousness; the miracle of unity is as certain as day follows night.

Is it possible for Seventh-day Adventist theologians to originate today among themselves a message that again would be the "beginning" or continuation of the latter rain and the loud cry? Must we re-study and accept the 1888 message before we can recover the latter rain which has been so long delayed?

If the Lord was capable of sending "a most precious message" to His people through the 1888 "messengers," Elders E. J. Waggoner and A. T. Jones, He is surely capable of sending such a message through any chosen instrument He may select today. But problems arise immediately!

Why hasn't He already done so? Why the long delay of decade after decade?

Again, it is no secret that many of our theologians and ministers claim to be preaching "righteousness by faith" accurately and clearly. Why does it seem that rarely two of them can agree? Jones and Waggoner maintained a remarkable harmony in their message, even when separated from each other by thousands of miles, for about a decade or more.

Is it reasonable that the Lord would grant additional light to His people while they continue to neglect or even despise light that He has already given them? We don't know for sure; but one thing issure, it would be absolutely contrary to His manner of working in past ages. For example, we could as well argue that He should send the Jews a new "Messiah" while they continue to reject the One He already sent them two thousand years ago. Most of us would agree that the Jews at the Wailing Wall praying for the Messiah to come would do well to study the New Testament documents that tell how the Lord already sent Him to them!

If the message of justification by faith as taught by the 16th century Reformers is "the third angel's message in verity," why didn't the Lord in 1888refer our people to theminstead of sending the message He did send by Jones and Waggoner?

One thing is crystal clear: The Lord Jesus Christ calls upon the "angel of the church of the Laodiceans" to "repent." What can such "repentance" mean for the remnant church? "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]

What can bring unity to the remnant church? Some say it is impossible; the best we can hope for is a "shaking," and disunity until probation closes.

It seems impossible that the church could ever be united on teachings of "righteousness by faith" as advanced by Sunday-keeping Reformers and theologians. Not only do we find almost hopeless disagreement among themselves, but we also find serious cautions expressed by Ellen G. White concerning undue confidence in the Reformers' positions. While it is true that "the great doctrine of justification by faith" was "clearly taught by Luther," it is obvious that the Lord's servant means by that statement that he taught it "clearly" for his day and under his circumstances. Elsewhere she makes clear that Luther did not preach "the everlasting gospel" in the setting of "the last days." "This message [the first angel's] is a part of the gospel which could be proclaimed only in the last days, for only then would it be true that the hour of judgment had come." [2]

But what the 16th century Reformers never did, Jones and Waggoner went on to do. They built upon this foundation a grand edifice of biblical truth that is unique and distinctly Seventh-day Adventist as a completion of the Reformation begun long ago. They developed a message of righteousness by faith parallel to and consistent with the unique Adventist truth of the cleansing of the sanctuary.

"The message of Christ's righteousness" that is to lighten the earth with glory is ministered from the Most Holy Apartment of the heavenly sanctuary, where Christ our High Priest is completing His work of reconciliation on this antitypical Day of Atonement. This required a clearer view of Christ's sacrifice on His cross, and of His righteousness manifested in human flesh, clearer than had ever been seen before.

In summation, any message of righteousness by faith which succeeds in uniting the world church must be: (a) biblical; (b) in harmony with the writings of Ellen G. White; and (c) in harmony with Seventh-day Adventist Church history.

Therefore, it seems that the only reasonable basis for unity is indeed the 1888 message itself. It is (a) biblical, for Jones and Waggoner relied entirely in Scripture; (b) in complete harmony with Ellen White's writings, and enjoys her unequivocal support and endorsement in forcefulness and emphasis completely unprecedented in her long prophetic career; and (c) Seventh-day Adventist history points unmistakably in that direction as the path to repentance in fulfillment of our Lord's command.

"Let us thank the Lord that He is dealing with us still, to save us from our errors, to save us from our dangers, to keep us back from wrong courses, and to pour upon us the latter rain, that we may be translated. That is what the [1888] message means--translation--to you and me. ... Let us receive it with all the heart, and thank God for it." [3]

Remember: Truth never causes disunity; only error does.

--From the Writings of Robert J. Wieland

[1] Life Sketches of Ellen G. White, emphasis added.
[2] Ellen G. White, The Great Controversy, pp. 253, 356.
[3] A. T. Jones, General Conference Daily Bulletin, 1893; "The Third Angel's Message No. 9"; p. 185.

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

"Sabbath School Today" is on the Internet at:

Thursday, October 4, 2018

Lesson 1: Creation and Fall

Sabbath School Today
With the 1888 Message Dynamic

Oneness in Christ
Lesson 1: Creation and Fall


Not a few are deeply concerned about disunity in the church. Leadership through the mainstream church media are appealing for tolerance. Liberal media say the church is "facing its worst threat to unity in many decades." A church consisting of 20+ million adherents worldwide of such diversity might be expected to face challenges.

We are told that it's man's fault that disunity with God was welcomed to earth. It is God who seeks to bring healing to the rift through His Good News.

But every beautiful truth that God teaches us in His Bible has been twisted and distorted by the master enemy, Satan, to bring about disunity among God's people. Satan's clever deceptions have even been injected into the teaching of God's new covenant (Thursday's lesson).

The truth as the Bible teaches it is so simple that a child can easily grasp it. God's 1888 "messengers" saw it clearly from the Word. When God Himself makes a "covenant," it is always a simple, straightforward promise on His part. No gimmicks, no small print, no "bargains" struck, no "ifs" that can be used to get Him off the hook so He can wriggle out of keeping His promise. In fact, when God makes a "covenant," He goes the second mile and swears an oath that puts His own life and His throne in pawn if He doesn't do what He promises (see Gen. 15:7-18; Heb. 6:13-20). That promise of God was made to Abraham, and confirmed by His solemn oath. God would give him the whole earth for "an everlasting possession" together with the righteousness necessary to inherit it.

When the Lord promised Abraham, He stipulated no "bargain" or "transaction" terms. It was a give-and-take relationship--God would do all the giving, and Abraham would do all the taking. And how did Abraham "take" the blessing? Totally by faith. Abraham "believed in the Lord; and He counted it to him for righteousness" (Gen. 15:6; remember, we are Abraham's "children"). "Abraham believed" His promises--a heart-melting appreciation of the love of God that has redeemed humanity at the cross. Such faith is the kind that is alive, which "works." It reconciles alienated hearts to God and therefore at the same time reconciles their hearts to His holy law.

But for nearly 4000 years both Abraham and his descendants have twisted and distorted this simple good news. Abraham proposed to God that he help Him out of His difficulty by adopting Eliezer, a slave, to be his "heir" (15:2-4). God said No! Then Sarah, embittered because she couldn't get pregnant, proposed that she help God out of His difficulty by adopting a slave-girl's son from Abraham as her own (16:1-4). Again God said No! (17:1-19). The Lord insisted that everything would be His doing 100 percent.

And here is where the battle has raged these thousands of years. We are all "born in sin," inheriting a sinful nature (Psalm 51:5; Rom. 7:14-17). It's easy notto believe. Faith humbles our hearts! The result? We ourselves have invented the "old covenant," our promises to God. Somehow we must help save ourselves!

Don't you wish when you were younger you had understood that God's great promises to Abraham were to you also. Nobody told us! Our whole life would have been different. All that God promised Abraham was precisely what worries us. (Teens are the most worried people on earth.) We wanted to be "a great nation," that is, we want to be "somebody." We don't want to be just a number in humanity. We want to live for a purpose, to amount to something.

Are we sinful? Of course we are! But the desire to be "somebody" is also God-given; and He wants every person to hear His promise, "I will make of you somebody important!"

We also need to hear Him tell us, "I will bless thee." That will lift a load of fear from our hearts. And yes, we want to hear Him tell us that He will make our name "great" in some meaningful way. We don't want to be a glob of jelly, a "blah" person. We want to be "some one" in others' eyes!

And yes, sinful though we are, we do indeed dream of God doing for us what He promised to do for Abraham, "And thou shalt be a blessing." From our dawn of consciousness we dream of becoming something for God. We don't know how, but we want to be a useful person in God's great plan for the world. Oh, we can be so happy if we know that all along God is promising us these wonderful things He promised Abraham!

All seven of those fantastic promises in Genesis 12:2, 3 will rejoice our hearts if only we know that God is telling us all that! We can stand taller and walk more sprightly when we know His promises are for us. We can study better, develop our abilities more efficiently.

And best of all, if we know that God is promising us that someday we will fellowship with Christ in "all families of the earth being blessed," that by His grace we will be an agent He can use in some little but meaningful way to convey that "blessing" everywhere we will go--oh, the new covenant will make all the difference in our thinking and lives. Don't you think it will go a long way in healing disunity in the church?

Now, how about passing on those new covenant promises to someone else?

--Paul E. Penno

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

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Friday, September 14, 2018

Lesson 11. Arrest in Jerusalem

Sabbath School Today
With the 1888 Message Dynamic

The Book of Acts
Lesson 11. Arrest in Jerusalem


One can easily imagine how it must have felt for Paul to be among his own brethren when they repeatedly refused to understand the good news he was trying to give to them. What a frustrating situation! No matter how he changed the way he approached his presentation of the truth, it slammed up against the brick wall of preconceived opinions (Acts 13:42-45; 14:2; 19; 15:1, 2; 17:5, 6; 32; etc.). Then along comes a trusted confidant who advised him to "just compromise a little, no one will think it matters in the long view." How often are we tempted to compromise truth for the sake of convenience or political correctness? We see it taking place all around us in the church today.

Because of pride and the stubbornness of preconceived opinions, compromise and its resulting confusion have plagued God's church from the beginning, and will continue until finally a faithful few will wake up, wipe the fog from their spiritual glasses and repent of their Laodicea blindness.

"Because of a failure to appreciate the 1888 message, far back in the 1890s there was a tendency to confuse Quaker author Hannah Whitall Smith's The Christian's Secret of a Happy Life with true righteousness by faith, (cf. General Conference Bulletin, 1893, pp. 358, 359). ... Through the decades there have been prominent examples of this confusion over Roman Catholic concepts of piety and the 'interior life.'" [1]

Most of us have heard the adage: "a drop of arsenic will poison the whole cup of tea." Several events in our history have contributed their drops of arsenic to our collective thinking. The "drop of arsenic" that the Jewish Christians were attempting to add was that circumcision, or any "works of the law" had merit.

"It is a grave mistake on the part of those who are children of God to seek to bridge the gulf that separates the children of light from the children of darkness by yielding principle, by compromising the truth." [2]

Even though the early church, under the power of the Holy Spirit's work on their hearts, in its first "general conference" session in Jerusalem, had come to a consensus on the issue of the "how" of salvation—through faith alone (see Acts 15:20-29), it remained a major point of dissension between the Jewish and Gentile believers. The Jewish followers of Jesus had been admonished to not put the burden of circumcision (or any "works") upon the Gentile converts.

Ancient Egyptians, Ethiopians, Syrians, and Phoenicians all practiced circumcision. Why did God command Abraham to circumcise the males in his household? The purpose of God was not to mimic the pagans, but to put a spiritual purpose on a common practice. God's intent was to forever remind Abraham and his descendants that the works of the flesh can not fulfill the promise of God, and in fact, will produce only more unrighteousness. Abraham listened to Sarah and thought he could produce the "child of promise" through a slave woman. Just as his descendants did at Sinai when they thought that through their own efforts they could do "all the Lord commanded," Abraham rashly took the whole responsibility upon himself to produce the child of promise. That one miscalculation resulted in a disaster that we are still experiencing to this day.

From the entrance of sin into this world, for the most part, mankind has depended upon "self" to create a shield from sin's results. Adam's nakedness was covered with the work of his own hands in fashioning a fig-leaf garment. Cain thought that the works of his hands in tilling the soil should have been sufficient as a sin offering. Abraham thought that he was man enough to produce the promised child without exercising faith in God's creative power—just give him a fertile woman and he could accomplish the fact.

"Whoever trusts in himself is worshiping the works of his own hands instead of God, just as truly as does anyone who makes and bows down to a graven image." [3] But "to him that worketh is the reward not reckoned of grace, but of debt" (Rom. 4:4). "If we worked for righteousness, we would be exercising only our own sinful human nature, and so would get no nearer to righteousness, but farther from it." "So, then, we see that relying on the works of the law does not mean that one is doing the law." [4]

By the time Christ came to our world, the Jews had lost sight of the true meaning of circumcision. It had become nothing more than a religious tradition, a rite signifying entrance into the tribe of Israel. They supposed that it set them apart as God's "chosen people." They assumed that circumcision and the "works of the law" made them a special people in the eyes of God. But "God gave circumcision as a sign of faith in Christ. The Jews perverted it into a substitute for faith." [5]

The apostle Paul's referral to circumcision in his letter to the Galatians and elsewhere, was used "as the symbol of all kinds of 'work' done by men with the hope of obtaining righteousness. It is 'the works of the flesh,' as opposed to the Spirit." "That which was to be only the sign of an already existing fact was taken by subsequent generations as the means of establishing the fact." [6]

The argument in the early church, as it still is for many today, is the "how" of salvation. "The question is how to obtain righteousness—salvation from sin—-and the inheritance that comes with it. The fact is that it can be obtained only by faith—by receiving Christ into the heart and allowing Him to live His life in us." [7]

Genesis 15:6 tells us that Abraham "believed in the LORD; and He counted it [Abraham's faith in God's promise] unto him for righteousness." It was only when Sarah also surrendered herself and came to live by faith in the promise of God, that she was able to conceive—when she finally believed that God was faithful to fulfill His own promise to them. "By faith even Sarah herself, when she was unable to have children, received power to conceive offspring, even though she was past the age, since she considered that the One who had promised was faithful. Therefore from one man--in fact, from one as good as dead--came offspring as numerous as the stars of heaven and as innumerable as the grains of sand by the seashore" (Heb. 11:11, 12, Holman Christian Standard Bible).

God gave Abraham circumcision as a sign of the fact that "we have nothing and are nothing, and He has everything and is everything and gives everything." [8] Circumcision "had a special meaning to Abraham, continually reminding him of his failure when he tried by means of the flesh to fulfill God's promise. The record of it serves the same purpose for us. It shows that the 'flesh profiteth nothing' and is not therefore to be depended on." [9]

It should be forever settled that mankind's attempts to produce righteousness through any amount of "works of the law" can only result in a self-centered sense of achievement assumed to merit reward. Such has been the idea of paganism from the building of the tower of Babel. However, the biblical truth is vastly different. "If you would gather together everything that is good and holy and noble and lovely in man and then present the subject to the angels of God as acting a part in the salvation of the human soul or in merit, the proposition would be rejected as treason." [10]

Many today argue that "faith is my work"—it is human effort put forth in believing the promise of God to save us from sin. Is this true? "There is danger in regarding justification by faith as placing merit on faith. When you take the righteousness of Christ as a free gift you are justified freely through the redemption of Christ. What is faith? ... It is an assent of the understanding to God's words which binds the heart in willing consecration and service to God, Who gave the understanding, Who moved on the heart, Who first drew the mind to view Christ on the cross of Calvary. Faith is rendering to God the intellectual powers, abandonment of the mind and will to God, and making Christ the only door to enter into the kingdom of heaven." [11]

Please understand what this says: It is God who gives understanding; it is God who moves the heart and draws the mind to the grasp the reality of what took place on Calvary's cross. Like Abraham, all we can do is surrender our will and say, "Amen"—we believe and agree with God that salvation is all of Him and none of us.

--Ann Walper

[1] Robert J. Wieland, The Knocking At The Door, p. 73 (1983).
[2] Ellen G. White, Review and Herald, July 24, 1894.
[3] Ellet J. Waggoner, The Glad Tidings, p. 94; CFI ed. (2018).*
[4] Ibid., p. 56, emphasis in original.
[5] Ibid., p. 110, emphases in original.
[6] Ibid.
[7] Ibid., p. 109.
[8] Ibid., p. 71.
[9] Ibid., p. 109.
[10] Ellen G. White, Faith and Works, p. 24.
[11] Ibid., p. 25.
The Glad Tidings, a verse-by-verse study of Galatians, presents a beautiful demonstration of the power inherent in a pure Scripture message of righteousness by faith. To order your copy, please go to: 

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

"Sabbath School Today" is on the Internet at: