Wednesday, May 20, 2020

Lesson 8: Creation: Genesis as Foundation--Part 1

Sabbath School Today
With the 1888 Message Dynamic

How to Interpret Scripture
Lesson 8: Creation: Genesis as Foundation--Part 1

 

The book of Genesis contains or anticipates all of the truths found in the Bible. In spite of accusations that the stories are myths, our culture borrows freely from it. The question, "am I my brother's keeper," is still a common phrase, though few know its origin. Many other examples come to mind. Some secular universities even teach creation concepts in science classes under the names "creationism" or "intelligent design." Christians know that the word of God contains a power that attends no other written or spoken word. Perhaps students who study this biblical book, even if taught as myth, will come to hear the voice of God.

God begins His written record with simple words: "in the beginning." We might ask, "the beginning of what?" All creation necessarily has a beginning, but God is eternal and has no beginning. Thus, even though the book begins with "in the beginning" it cannot be referring to God's beginning. This book answers the perennial question, "how did we get here?" That alone justifies including the Genesis account as part of legitimate study.

Jesus Christ Himself is the Beginning (Col. 1:18). He is the beginning of the creation of God (Rev. 3:14). He is the power of God, and the wisdom of God (1 Cor. 1:24). He is the one speaking in the eighth chapter of Proverbs saying, "The Lord possessed Me in the beginning of His way, before His works of old. I was set up from everlasting, from the beginning, or ever the earth was" (Prov. 8:20-23). The words "set up" come from a single Hebrew word meaning "anointed." This word is also used in the second chapter of Psalms, "But as for Me, I have installed My King upon Zion, My holy mountain. I will surely tell of the decree of the Lord: He said to Me, 'Thou art My Son, today I have begotten Thee.'" (Psalm 2:4-7, New American Standard Bible).

How can Jesus be the beginning of creation? It is true that the fleshly body of Jesus had not yet been prepared "in the beginning." However, God is eternal, and He speaks of things that happen in points of time as if they already exist since He cannot lie. In Genesis 3:15 God promised the world a Redeemer Who would accomplish the necessary things to restore fallen mankind to a direct communion with God.

"For Seventh-day Adventists, the book of Genesis is of special significance. Not only does it explain and justify their keeping of the seventh-day Sabbath as a people united in a covenant with the God of Israel, it also substantiates their 'advent' hope, when the world will be restored to its original 'Genesis' state. It is noteworthy that nearly all Seventh-day Adventists beliefs are both found in and founded on this book: the seventh-day Sabbath ... the unity of human nature ... conditional immortality ... the Law of God ... the great controversy ... salvation ... substitutionary atonement ... the practice of tithe ... the ideal of a plant-based diet ... the distinction between clean and unclean meats ... the meaning of baptism (1:1-3; cf. 1 Peter 3:21), the cosmic significance of the sanctuary doctrine ... the creation ... the Trinity ... the responsibility of mission to the nations ... and the gift of prophecy (3:15; 20:6)." [1]

It is generally accepted that Moses wrote the first five books of the bible of which Genesis is the first. Before the flood people relied on their memories to pass down stories to the next generation. Adam lived for almost a thousand years, so he could verify stories as they were handed down. If anything was written before the flood, nothing has been found. Mankind's life expectancy quickly diminished after the flood. The Genesis account makes no attempt to provide a complete history of everyone in the world before or after the flood, but focuses on the people who believed in the one true God. After the flood, the focus is on Abram, one of apparently few humans who still believed in a single, all-powerful God. He is chosen to begin the nation that Jehovah would use to demonstrate to the world just Who He is and how He deals with humans.

God called Abram out of Ur, in the Chaldean area at the southwest portion of Babylonian territories. Ur is on the Euphrates river just west of where it joins with the Tigris river, which continues south emptying into the modern day Persian Gulf. These geographic locations still exist, mutely testifying to the accuracy of the Genesis record. The Tigris and Euphrates were originally identified in Genesis 2:10-14 as the third and fourth rivers that arose from the river that God placed in Eden. It seems significant that God did not allow the cataclysmic dynamics of the flood to obliterate two of the four rivers originally placed in the antediluvian world.

Our Quarterly asks the question "What difference does it make to know that you were created by God?" (p. 65). This question goes to the value of a human being. We are told that humans were created in "the image" of God. There is tremendous encouragement in knowing that. Much more value can be given to a human created by God, in His image, compared to the theory that a piece of slime slid off a ledge in some primeval forest and somehow triggered an evolutionary advantage to that particular piece of slime resulting in development of the human race.

Two institutions, marriage and the Sabbath, were created by God at the end of creation week. The concept of "rest" is inherent in both. Since we know that Adam was created on the sixth day, he did not need to rest from labor, but God wanted him to enter into God's rest. The Sabbath was created so mankind could have an entire 24-hour period where he did not need to "labor and do all your work." That is a very practical reason to enter into God's rest, but there are always spiritual aspects in His design. He knew that in addition to physical rest we needed mental rest as well. Focusing our thoughts on our Creator is an essential part of rest, yet so often humans completely ignore this to their detriment.

"But God always was and is everywhere present; why then do not all people have rest?--For the simple reason that as a general thing men do not recognize His presence, nor even His existence. Instead of taking God into account in all the affairs of life, most people live as though He did not exist. 'Without faith it is impossible to please Him; for he that cometh to God must believe that He is.' Heb. 11:6. This shows that the general inability to please God, and so to find rest, arises from practical unbelief that He exists." [2]

The "rest" inherent in marriage also has practical and spiritual implications. "In Christ we have the rest and the inheritance; but in order to be made partakers of Christ we must 'hold fast the beginning of our confidence steadfast unto the end.' Heb. 3:14." [3]There is no rest out of Christ, either in marriage or on the Sabbath. It is significant that in order to adequately create "man in our image" two separate beings were required.

The relationship of marriage is also used to represent the relationship Jesus wants to have with His church. Yet Christ told the disciples, "These things I have spoken to you, that in Me you may have peace. In the world you have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world" (John 16:33).

A happy marriage is one in which the husband and wife are committed to making things work even though there will be "tribulation." The knowledge that both respect their marital commitment produces a restful relationship. Likewise, Christ has fulfilled His commitment to the church. He made promises to restore the broken relationship to Adam and Eve. He worked out a righteousness that the bride requires to "make herself ready" and paid the penalty for sin at the cross. All the bride needs to do is enter into that rest by faith.

--Arlene Hill

Endnotes:
[1] Jacques B. Doukhan, Seventh-day Adventist International Bible Commentary,p. 22.
[2] Ellet J. Waggoner, The Everlasting Covenant: God's Promises to Us, pp. 283-284; Glad Tidings ed., 2002.
[3] Ibid., p. 288.

Notes:
Pastor Paul Penno's video of this lesson is on the Internet at: 
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NXLvWsFVivg

Many of Pastor Penno's sermons are on YouTube in Spanish. Just type pastor paul penno en español in the search bar.

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

Thursday, May 7, 2020

Lesson 6: Why Is Interpretation Needed?

Lesson 6: Why Is Interpretation Needed?

 

"Interpretation"

To interpret means to explain what is unintelligible,--to put that which is vague and mysterious into plain language.

The Bible Plain. But the Bible does not stand in need of this. It is simple and plain to those who are simple enough to believe just what it says, without trying to make it fit their ideas.

Light. David said, "Thy Word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path" (Psalm 119:105). A light is for the purpose of making other things clear; but a light which could not be seen without the aid of another light, would not be much of a light.

All Light. Even the most difficult portions of the Bible are for the purpose of giving light. "We have also a more sure word of prophecy; whereunto ye do well that ye take heed, as unto a light that shineth in a dark place, until the day dawn, and the day star arise in your hearts" (2 Peter 1:19). "At that time Jesus answered and said, I thank Thee, O Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because Thou halt hid these things from the wise and prudent, and hast: revealed them unto babes" (Matt. 11:25).

The Difficulty. How is it, then, that people find such difficulty in understanding the Bible? It is because there is a settled conviction in the minds of most people that the Bible does not mean what it says. Accordingly people will go everywhere except to the Bible, to find out the meaning of the Bible. They get from some source or other an idea of what the Bible means, and then try to fit the language of the Bible to that idea. This makes necessary a "system of interpretation;" and as different classes of people have different ideas, so there are different systems of interpretation, and all tend to obscure the light.

Teachers. Is there, then, no need of teachers? Indeed there is. The gift of teaching is third in order of the gifts of Christ, and is above the gift of working miracles. See 1 Corinthians 12:28. But remember that it is a gift of the Spirit. Teaching the Bible properly does not consist in "interpreting" it by human wisdom, but in "comparing spiritual things with spiritual" (1 Cor. 2:12, 13), by the aid of the Spirit, whose office it is to guide into all truth (John 16:13).

Example of Christ. Jesus, the great Teacher, who was anointed with the Holy Spirit for the purpose of preaching the Gospel to the poor, occupied His time in directing the minds of the people to the Word. They could not understand it because they had glossed it over so much with human speculation and tradition. See Matthew 15:3, 6-9; John 5:46, 47.

The Walk to Emmaus. When He walked with the two disciples to Emmaus, "He expounded unto them in all the Scriptures the things concerning Himself" (Luke 24:27). That is, as they had been slow of heart to believe, He set the Scriptures so plainly before them that they could not help seeing them as they were, and, referring to the matter, they said, "Did not our heart burn within us, while He talked with us by the way, and while He opened to us the Scriptures?" (verse 32).

The Opened Word. That is what is wanted. Let the Scriptures be opened. "The opening of Thy words giveth light" (Psalm 119:130). For they themselves are light. "It giveth understanding to the simple." What is necessary is that we should consider what the Lord says, and He will give us "understanding in all things" (2 Tim. 2:7).

Rest on the Word. Before the crucifixion Jesus had told the disciples these things. He had spoken plainly of His coming decease. But the difficulty was that they did not listen to what He said. Their thoughts were on their own plans, their own ideas as to how it ought to be, and notwithstanding the plainest statements, they did not hear what He told them. Now, when the Lord had been removed from their sight, and they failed to recognise Him on the walk to Emmaus, He directed their minds to the Word, and they saw what they could not see before because they listened to it without preconceived opinions and plans of their own. It is evident that "their eyes were holden that they should not know Him" in order that their faith might rest on the Scriptures alone, and that having found Christ and His life in the Word their faith might stand when His visible presence was removed from them.

--Ellet J. Waggoner, one of the 1888 "messengers"
The Present Truth, vol. 11, no. 38, (Sept. 19, 1895), pp. 593, 594.

Notes:
Pastor Paul Penno's video of this lesson is on the Internet at: 
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CvqzZooyJZw

Many of Pastor Penno's sermons are on YouTube in Spanish. Just type pastor paul penno en español in the search bar.

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

Thursday, April 30, 2020

Lesson 5: By Scripture Alone--Sola Scriptura

Sabbath School Today
With the 1888 Message Dynamic

How to Interpret Scripture
Lesson 5: By Scripture Alone--Sola Scriptura

 

The 1888 message is all about "sola scriptura"--the Bible "alone" as its source. The message is not opinion or imagination, but was gleaned from God's holy Word by two men who were avid Bible students.

The General Conference Session that was held at Minneapolis in the fall of 1888, opened with a Bible Institute that convened October 10. The general business session began on October 18 and ran more than two full weeks, ending on Sunday November 4. This church conference was one of the most significant meetings ever convened by the church. At those meetings, God attempted to shed light on the fact that the church leaders had succumbed to legalism in their presentation of the message of Christ's second coming.

The leaders, especially George I. Butler, Uriah Smith, and J.H. Morrison, arrayed their influence against A. T. Jones and E. J. Waggoner, two young men from California. Butler had been president of the Seventh-day Adventist Church since 1872. Smith was the first secretary of the General Conference, elected in 1863 and served in 1876 as the General Conference treasurer. Smith began working in the offices of Advent Review and Sabbath Heraldin 1853 and became its editor in 1855, a position he was repeatedly elected to for more than 45 years.

Jones and Waggoner were considered "up-starts" and untrained in theology. Jones served in the army, and during that time he developed a passionate interest in ancient history. Beginning in 1887, Jones became the editor of the American Sentinel,the magazine that eventually became the church's official organ of the religious liberty department of the church (Libertymagazine). In 1897, Jones was appointed editor of the Review and Heraldmagazine. He held this position until 1901. Uriah Smith worked as his associate editor. From 1901 to 1903, Jones served as president of the California Conference. Waggoner was a medical doctor, who in 1883 stopped practicing medicine and became the assistant editor for the Signs of the Times, serving under his father.

The opposers of the message presented at the 1888 General Conference Session claimed that Jones was cocky, arrogant and lacked respect for the older brethren who had been at the head of the work for many years. They considered Waggoner's views on the law in Galatians chapter 3 to be Biblically unsound, and a detriment to the Adventist evangelism work because, to Butler and Smith, it undermined their foundation for preaching the Sabbath commandment.

Because Waggoner had published an article in the Signs of the Timesthat was strongly opposed by Smith and Butler, "the law in Galatians" became the topic of controversy at Minneapolis. When A. T. Jones and E. J. Waggoner were challenged on their presentation of the Gospel of Jesus Christ and His righteousness as the only source of our salvation, they stood before the Minneapolis conference delegates and presented their case entirely from Scripture.

In reply to their opponents at that conference Jones and Waggoner stood before the delegates with their open Bibles, nothing more. Waggoner read a verse, and then Jones read a verse, and so it went until they had presented the entire message from their Bibles alone. It would do us well if we dwelt upon the verses they presented, studying them deeply, just as Waggoner and Jones did. It was through a deep, prayerful, Holy Spirit-led study of these verses that they arrived at the truths they presented at Minneapolis. When we become thoroughly conversant in these verses--having knowledge and experience in them--then we will be able to defend the message of Christ and His righteousness against any dissenter.

Waggoner opened their presentation by reading Jeremiah 23:5-7. Jones followed by reading Ephesians 2:4-8. Waggoner: Galatians 2:16-21; Jones: Romans 11:1-33. Waggoner: Romans 1:14-17; Jones: Romans 2:12-29. Waggoner: the whole of Galatians chapter 3; Jones: the whole of Romans chapter 3. Waggoner: Galatians 5:1-6; Jones: Romans 9:7-33. Waggoner: the whole of Galatians chapter 2; Jones: Romans 4:1-11. Waggoner: the whole of Romans chapter 5; Jones: Romans 1:15-17. Waggoner: Romans 8:14-39; Jones: 1 John 5:1-4. [1]

When Jones and Waggoner completed their readings, they calmly took their seats without further comment. The men gathered in that small church in Minneapolis were stunned into silence.

The following summer, Mrs. White was asked whether she endorsed the message presented by Jones and Waggoner and her reply was: "When Brother Waggoner brought out these ideas in Minneapolis, it was the first clear teaching on this subject from any human lips I had heard, excepting the conversations between myself and my husband. I have said to myself, It is because God has presented it to me in vision that I see it so clearly, and they [the church leaders who were in opposition] cannot see it because they have never had it presented to them as I have. And when another presented it, every fiber of my heart said, Amen." [2]

Ellen White called the message of Christ and His righteousness that Jones and Waggoner taught at Minneapolis in 1888 "the most precious message," because it brought "more prominently before the world the uplifted Saviour, the sacrifice for the sins of the whole world. It presented justification through faith in the Surety; it invited the people to receive the righteousness of Christ, which is made manifest in obedience to all the commandments of God." [3]

This statement flies in the face of those who claimed during that time of early opposition that Waggoner's view on the law in Galatians destroyed their foundation for presenting commandment-keeping, especially Sabbath-keeping. Ellen White recognized that when we believe the message we will become commandment-keepers by faith, and not commandment-keepers by works, striving to keep the law in our own power. In his treatise on the Book of Galatians, Waggoner wrote that we "become doers of the law." This is what "righteous" means--a doer of the law by faith in the power of Christ to work out His own character in our lives. "How shall we become doers of the law, and thus escape wrath, or the curse? The answer is, 'He who through faith is righteous shall live.' By faith, not by works, we become doers of the law! 'With the heart man believeth unto righteousness.' (Romans 10:10)." [4]

Today many voices are being raised proclaiming that overcoming sin is an impossibility, and some even claim that overcoming is not necessary for "salvation." God just "declares" us saved and that's enough to get us a "ticket" into heaven at the second coming of Christ. These voices tell us that there is no such thing as a "final generation" through whom God will demonstrate His righteous character of love to the dying world. The increasing argument is that no character change is necessary; no true heart obedience is required. But people who make this claim are "false guideposts."

"I have no smooth message to bear to those who have been so long as false guideposts, pointing the wrong way. If you reject Christ's delegated messengers, you reject Christ. Neglect this great salvation, kept before you for years, despise this glorious offer of justification through the blood of Christ and sanctification through the cleansing power of the Holy Spirit, and there remaineth no more sacrifice for sins, but a certain fearful looking for of judgment and fiery indignation." [5]

Let us be like A. T. Jones and E. J. Waggoner, diligent students of the Bible, searching for the deep things of God that we may present them clearly to anyone who asks us. In this way, we will be true Protestants and able to stand in the final hours of this earth's history.

--Ann Walper

 

Endnotes:
[1] From R. T. Nash, "An Eye Witness Account," Manuscripts and Memories of Minneapolis 1888, p. 35.
[2] Ellen G. White, Manuscript 5, 1889, 10; Sermon, Rome, New York, June 19, 1889.
[3] Ellen G. White, Testimonies to Ministers, pp. 91, 92.
[4] E. J. Waggoner, The Glad Tidings, p. 58.
[5] Testimonies to Ministers, p. 97.

Notes:
Pastor Paul Penno's video of this lesson is on the Internet at: 
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Puaf-WdyZHE

Many of Pastor Penno's sermons are on YouTube in Spanish. Just type pastor paul penno en español in the search bar.

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

Thursday, April 23, 2020

Lesson 4: The Bible--the Authoritative Source of Our Theology

Lesson 4: The Bible--the Authoritative Source of Our Theology

 

The disciples asked Jesus the question, "When shall these things be? and what shall be the sign of Thy coming, and of the end of the world?" (Matt. 24:3). He replied: "Take heed that no man deceive you. For many shall come in my name, saying. I am Christ; and shall deceive many" (vss. 4 and 5). "There shall arise false Christs, and false prophets, and shall show great signs and wonders; insomuch that, if it were possible, they shall deceive the very elect" (v. 24).

The very fact that there are hundreds of different church theologies, all claiming to be right, is in itself one of the signs that Jesus foretold. People are puzzled by the fact that there are so many different religions. They cannot all be right! In the theological confusion that prevails, many people are being deceived as Jesus said they would be.

In order to avoid being deceived, we must study for ourselves the clear teachings of the Holy Bible. "To the law and to the testimony: if they speak not according to this word, it is because there is no light in them" (Isa. 8:20). "Thy word is truth" (John 17:17). Not miracles and wonders, nor the size of the churches, but teaching of theological truth is the test by which we are to know which is the right way.

We want to encourage you to ask God to give you a "hunger and thirst after righteousness" as Jesus said (Matt. 5:6), a desire to know the theological truth that He has revealed in His word, the Bible. It's "blessed" to sense that hunger for Bible truth that is stronger than our natural-born infatuation with fictional portrays and sports. It's impossible to know "the love of the Father" (which is all-important) if our love is "for all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life" (1 John 2:15, 16).

In fact, a love for the word of God is an absolute miracle for any of us, because no one is born with it; it must be acquired as a gift of the Holy Spirit. If you are praying for a new luxury car, your prayer may or may not be answered as you want; but for sure, if you pray for the dear Lord to give you that hunger for biblical theology, He will respond positively. But don't pray like a child asking for something from the toy storewhich tomorrow he forgets he ever wanted; be serious, be persistent. Let the Lord see that you mean business.

And while you are praying, remember to ask for God to give you good common sense to go along with your "hunger for righteousness" that will enable you to distinguish between solid biblical theological truth and the multitude of clever counterfeits that the devil is constantly prompting people to come up with. There are people who are wiser and better informed than you; "he that walketh with wise men shall be wise" (Prov. 13:20). But some people who think they know the Bible and love to talk (and write!) their ideas are fools, for "in the multitude of words there wanteth not sin" (Prov. 10:19). Ask God to give you grace to tell the difference. John says, "Believe not every spirit, but try [test] the spirits whether they are of God" (1 John 4:1).

The evidence that we truly believe in Him will be seen in the quality of the spiritual food, or refreshing "water of life," that we share with others. It's what Paul said is "the truth of the gospel" (Gal. 2:5), which is "the power of God unto salvation" (Rom. 1:16). New Covenant truth is the explosive "gospel." This is what we're beginning to see as a result of believing this important aspect of the 1888 message.

A prayer that is according to the will of God (1 John 5:14) and therefore sure to be answered in our behalf is a prayer for understanding of the pure truth of the New Covenant in contrast to the Old; the Old leans toward bondage (Gal. 4:24). For sure, that is not "water of life"! Only the New Covenant has life in it.

--Paul E. Penno

Notes:
Pastor Paul Penno's video of this lesson is on the Internet at: 
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TCfZjSxyJCY

Many of Pastor Penno's sermons are on YouTube in Spanish. Just type pastor paul penno en español in the search bar.

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

Thursday, April 16, 2020

Lesson 3: Jesus and the Apostles’ View of the Bible

Lesson 3: Jesus and the Apostles' View of the Bible

"Jesus and the Law"

Ellen White declared in 1889, that before 1888 "we" had "preached the law until we [were] as dry as the hills of Gilboa that had neither dew nor rain." [1] "We" thought we were doing great, fulfilling Revelation 12:17 and 13:12: we were the wonderful "remnant" distinguished by "keeping the commandments of God." Then came 1888!

During those pre-1888 years we lacked what later came as "a most precious message." The gospel was far better than "we" had thought it could be.

The basic theme that permeates what we hear in pulpits and at camp meetings is that in order to be saved there are three things we must do: (1) Read the Bible, (2) pray, and (3) witness. The theme is played almost endlessly, "Maintain your relationship with the Lord," which means get up in the morning, read something devotional, and pray. Once we get far enough along that we have what we think is a "relationship," it's commonly understood that maintainingit is the believer's job.

And here's where we often fall down. We forget or we get too busy, and then it seems the Lord is far away. And of course it's all our fault, isn't it? So … enter Old covenant guilt. Ever since Early Writingswas written (1850) we had been praying for the Lord to send the "latter rain." And now at last in 1888 He did so with refreshing advance "showers" in a message that startled and even alarmed "us."

The question naturally arises, How does the 1888 message (which Ellen White endorsed so heartily) relate to God's law? Does it proclaim cheap grace? Does it encourage disobedience to the law of God? Does the message lower church standards? Does it dwell too much on the cross of Christ and what happened there, and then neglect to remind us of our works, the obedience we must continually demonstrate?

We know that Ellen White was overjoyed to hear A. T. Jones and E. J. Waggoner present the message. She declared it to be the clearest presentations of the gospel she had heard publicly "for the last 45 years." [2] She also said that if they had not brought the message, we wouldn't have had it, meaning that the Lord laid a burden on them He had not laid on her. [3] If in any way their message weakens obedience to God's law, it could not be "precious," let alone "mostprecious." What made her so happy was that their understanding of justification by faith was fresh, unique, and dynamic. It set the law before the people in its true light. She was painfully aware that the views held by the Sunday-keeping Evangelical churches denigrated God's law, declaring either (1) that it had been abolished at the cross or (2) it was impossible for us fallen humans to obey. Either way, this popular view of justification by faith was employed to refute the Sabbath truth. She rejoiced that the 1888 message presented the Ten Commandments as ten promises—glorifying obedience.

God's Ten Commandments Become Good News!

Rightly understood, the Ten Commandments, which people have long thought spoil our fun ("Don't do this!" or "Don't do that!"), turn out to be ten categories of Good News if we understand why God gave them. This discovery is lifting heavy burdens from tired hearts all over the world.

For example, when the commandment reads, "You shall not steal!" what it actually says is that God will save you from ever stealing even a shoelace! You'll never have a problem, even if you're alone in the treasurer's office with a million dollars on the desk. God will save you from stealing.

It is the talked-about topic in some of the highest placed circles of Bible scholars. As the Internet is a discovery that has revolutionized modern communications, so this discovery of Bible truth revolutionizes the preaching of the gospel worldwide. People are waking up as from a dream; the Ten Commandments have become Good News! 

Now at last we can experience the freedom that the Bible has been telling us but which seemed so difficult to understand: "Oh, how I lovethy law! [not many of us have ever felt thatway!] It is my meditation all the day [boring, we have thought!]. Thou, through thy commandments hast made me wiser than mine enemies; … I have more understanding than all my teachers, … I understand more than the ancients, … How sweet are thy words unto my taste … sweeter than honey to my mouth! [this will be a miracle!] Through thy precepts I get understanding; therefore I hate every false way" (Psalm 119:97-104). Most people have never begun to discover this joy. 

Even church-goers have usually had a love/hate relationship with the Ten Commandments. The law has seemed like a heavy burden, ten precepts carved in cold stone, heavy prohibitions that crush out all the joy of life. Everything that was fun doing seemed to be, "You shall not!" The Ten Commandments seemed like roadblocks in the highway of happiness.

Yet deep in our human hearts we have realized that it's wrong to break them; suffering must be the result either in this life or in the next. Yet we just couldn't know how to keep them, let alone love them. They seemed too hard.

Now comes this fantastic revelation: The Ten Commandments are actually ten assurances of victory. And what we have to do is different than the "Do this or else!" rules we have thought them to be: our job is to believethe Good News that God has embedded in them. Then faith will work to produce a loving obedience.

First comes an astounding disclosure: probably we have been misquoting the Ten Commandments without realizing what we've done. Whoever taught them to us since we were kids usually left out one verse that God put in at the very beginning, before any of the prohibitions. Leave it out and the Ten indeed become Bad News, a "yoke of bondage."

Here it is—the missing verse that belongs at the beginning of any true version of the Ten Commandments:

"And God spoke all these words, saying, 'I am the Lord thy God, 
which have brought thee out of the land of Egypt, 
out of the house of bondage'"
(Ex. 20:1, 2).

There are some dynamite-like truths implicit here that can shake the earth.

First, God tells us what His true name is: "The Lord." Second, this neglected verse tells us that He is everybody's God, "I am the Lord thy God." Third, in His Preamble God tells us that we don't belong in spiritual Egypt. Fourth, God has already delivered you "out of the house of bondage." Fifth, such Good News is true because the Son of God became incarnate.

"Godly fear" is appropriate for any true-hearted Christian.Jesus describes a group who will appear before Him in judgment at last. They think they have "kept the commandments." But Jesus must tell them sorrowfully, "I never knew you" (Matt. 7:21-23). What could have gone wrong? Their good "works" were "wonderful." 

Paul can help us understand this: these dear people had misunderstood what true commandment-keeping is. It doesinclude Sabbath-keeping, health reform, tithe-paying, all the good works we can think of; but it fails to be true obedience unless it is motivated by agape: "Love [agape] worketh no ill to his neighbour; therefore love [agapein the original] is the fulfiling of the law" (Rom. 13:10).

Popular Christianity, which teaches that we can be saved in sin rather than fromit, fails to grasp the import of agapebecause people generally hold to the natural immortality of the soul. The world needs to hear the "most precious message," which if proclaimed will be "Pentecost" over again.

--From the writings of Robert J. Wieland

Endnotes:
[1] Review and Herald, March 11, 1890.
[2] The Ellen G. White 1888 Materials, pp. 348, 349.
[3] Ibid., p. 608. Ellen White never claimed that she herself was bringing the message of the latter rain or the loud cry; she said that of their message.

Notes:
Pastor Paul Penno's video of this lesson is on the Internet at: 
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=70f4cnIo8R0

Many of Pastor Penno's sermons are on YouTube in Spanish. Just type pastor paul penno en español in the search bar.

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

Wednesday, April 8, 2020

Lesson 2: The Origin and Nature of the Bible

Lesson 2: The Origin and Nature of the Bible

 

Why are there so many versions of the bible? When the Godhead saw fit to send Jesus to this earth to be incarnated as a human being, God was trying to reveal Himself to us in a way that words cannot convey. Isn't that enough?

"The Bible, with its God-given truths expressed in the language of men, presents a union of the divine and the human. Such a union existed in the nature of Christ, who was the Son of God and the Son of man. Thus it is true of the Bible, as it was of Christ, that 'the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us.' John 1:14." [1]

Why is faith necessary to accept anything anyone (even God) says? When someone states that something is a fact, why should he or she be believed? An example of this is your name. How did you learn what your name is? Your mother, father, and extended family probably told you your name, and that has been attached to you ever since. What if they were wrong? Well, you say you trust your mother, father, and family to tell you the truth. That's where the "faith" comes in.

Since the Bible is an assembly of many different writers over a long period of history, why do we have a Bible limited to 66 books, to the exclusion of many other writings during the same period of time? Without going into detail, it is true that the early church leadership looked at many different writings before accepting the Bible we now have. There are people who believe the Bible has left some things out, such as the Apocrypha. A careful examination quickly shows us that these writings are not inherently consistent with the Bible writers.

An example of this is the Song of Solomon. Some folks think that book shouldn't be included in the Bible, claiming that there are no references to it in the New Testament. Let's see if that is true. In Song of Solomon, chapter 3, the bride begins a description of a troubled dream she had. She is seeking after her beloved but cannot find him. The rest of the book is a description of the deep feelings between a man and a woman who love each other and want to get married. That is an apt description of Christ who is waiting for His church to "make herself ready" but, because of apathy, she is delaying.

Jesus said "I am the door of the sheep. ... I am the door; if anyone enters through Me, he shall be saved, and shall go in and out, and find pasture" (John 10:7-9). In Revelation 3:20 Jesus says, "Behold, I stand at the door and knock; if anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and will dine with him and he with Me."

For years, scholars missed this obvious connection between an Old and New Testament book. It is evidence of God's patience that He made sure that the Song of Solomon be included in the Bible, even though, at the time, people didn't completely understand its significance.

Why should we believe the Bible writers were inspired just because they claim to be? How do we know what to believe? These questions usually come from people who haven't read much of the Bible, or they have read compilations of various verses that present a distorted view of the Bible. Most importantly, they have not had the experience of hearing the subtle promptings by the Holy Spirit as they read the word of God. This is personal, it cannot be shared.

It is impossible to understand the gospel without the Bible. The people who lived on this earth while Christ was here had the entire Old Testament but they failed to recognize Him. They hadn't experienced Him through the scriptures.

"Who has believed our message? And to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed? For He grew up before Him like a tender shoot, ... He has no stately form or majesty that we should look upon Him, nor appearance that we should be attracted to Him. ... He was pierced through for our transgressions, ... He was oppressed and He was afflicted, yet He did not open His mouth" (Isa. 53:1-7). This passage by itself should have been enough to identify Jesus as the predicted Messiah, but since they were expecting an earthly king, preconceived notions got in the way.

So many times people reject the Bible because of the preconceived notions they got from others. People believe that the Bible requires them to be good before they come to God. They are burdened and heavy-laden and don't see how they could ever be that good, so they avoid anything to do with "religion." It would be better if they would just read the Bible and worry about "religion" later. Jesus told the burdened and heavy-laden to simply come to Him and He would give them rest. What a shame that folks allow lies to prevent them from simply reading to see if the Bible really says what they have been told. They will never know the will of God for them if they avoid reading anything in the Bible. The minute these people suffer any difficulty, they blame God.

The will of God is therefore something to rejoice in and not something to be merely endured. Even though it involves suffering, it is for our good and is designed to work "for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison" (Rom. 8:28; 2 Cor. 4:17). 

"Here is the comfort of knowing the will of God. He wills our deliverance from the bondage of sin: therefore we can pray with the utmost confidence and with thanksgiving, for 'this is the confidence that we have in Him, that, if we ask anything according to His will, He heareth us: and if we know that He hear us, whatsoever we ask, we know that we have the petitions that we desired of Him' 1 John 5:14, 15, King James Version." [2]

There would be no 1888 message without the Bible. It is the essence of the "everlasting gospel." The Word of God will convince, convert, regenerate, sustain, and comfort every heart that receives it. If you are having trouble "believing," just keep reading His Word, and pray for discernment to understand what God is saying to you. God will always reward such a prayer.

--Arlene Hill

Endnotes:
[1] Ellen G. White, The Great Controversy, p. vi.
[2] E. J. Waggoner, The Glad Tidings, p. 14; CFI ed. (2016).

Notes:
Bible texts are from the New American Standard Bible, unless cited otherwise.

Pastor Paul Penno's video of this lesson is on the Internet at: 
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NNea1d2Fha0

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


Thursday, March 26, 2020

Lesson 13: From Dust to Stars

Sabbath School Today
With the 1888 Message Dynamic

Daniel
Lesson 13: From Dust to Stars

One discerning writer says that "it is often the case that trouble is greater in anticipation than in reality; but this is not true of the crisis before us. The most vivid presentation cannot reach the magnitude of the ordeal." [1]

Don't forget that Daniel adds some tremendous "good news" about this time of trouble: "And at that time shall Michael stand up, the great prince which standeth for the children of thy people: ... and ... thy people shall be delivered, every one that shall be found written in the book" (Daniel 12:1).

Michael is another name for Christ which means, "Who is like God?" The angel who was talking with Daniel probably used the name to emphasize the divine-human character of the mighty One who steps forward in the final crisis for the defense of His people. To "stand up" is an idiom to describe how a king takes over his throne and assumes complete control. The idea is clear: Jesus won't be asleep during the time of trouble!

For Him to "stand up" means that He will enter into a new nearness with His people, something never before realized. He will become a Bridegroom and they will become His bride. Revelation pictures the sublime excitement of this new relationship: "Let us be glad and rejoice, and give honor to Him: for the marriage of the Lamb is come, and His wife hath made herself ready" (Rev. 19:7). There is an intimacy in marriage that no other relationship can approach. And a bride not only loves her bridegroom; she can't help but respect and trust him implicitly. She is ready to go with him anywhere, even to perils. She will gladly share all his future experiences. She is even jealous to share his sorrows and pain.

No way will the Lord allow this coming time of trouble to take place until His people collectively "marry" Christ in that capacity as a bride. And this means for them a growing-up "to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ" (Eph. 4:13) like a bride is grown-up to be able to stand by the side of her bridegroom at the wedding.

A wedding means that now the bridegroom and bride will begin sharing life together. This explains how the coming time of trouble will be the "honeymoon" for Christ and His bride. They will get to know each other intimately as they share the excitement of that time. And if there is to be any pain and sorrow endured by God's people in the time of trouble, you can be sure that Christ will suffer it as much as they.

He is not the one who brings on the time of trouble; He will not cause it in any way. He would love to return the second time in perfectly peaceful circumstances; the time of trouble was never His idea. It is Satan's idea of a farewell party for the saints of God. It will be brought on entirely by the machinations of the wicked who let their hatred of God erupt into a final frenzy of rebellion. Christ will meet this head on as "Michael," the Son of God to be sure; but also the Son of man "not ashamed" to call us "brethren" (Heb. 2:14-18). He is a partaker of our "flesh and blood," the new Head of the human race, 100% human as well as 100% divine. Single-handedly He takes on the combined enmity of hell and of the apostate human race in the final defense of His people.

So we conclude this series of studies on the Book of Daniel with the standing up of "Michael"--the most solemn, awe-inspiring act humans have ever had a chance to see. All the Star Wars and Superman epics of fiction will be eclipsed by the grandeur of His final campaign when He sallies forth (Rev. 19:11-15).

--Paul E. Penno

Endnote:
[1] Ellen G. White, The Great Controversy, p. 622.

Notes:
Pastor Paul Penno's video of this lesson is on the Internet at: 
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vQtfeyWZ3Jg

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