Tuesday, September 28, 2010

"Story and History"

"Story and History"

This quarter's lessons take seriously the stories of the Bible as history. The authors are to be commended for such a worthy endeavor. Why? The modern "Adventist" shows little or no interest in our history. Historians, librarians, and Ellen G. White Estate custodians tell us that the least visited section of the bookshelf has to do with church history.

Why is there such a lack of concern for learning from the past on the part of church members and leaders, young and old? There's no way we can go against Jesus' assessment of the present-day church, she senses no need. "Thou sayest, I am rich, and increased with goods, and have need of nothing" (Rev. 3:17). Why change if things appear to be going well?

Willing ignorance or even unwitting misunderstanding of sacred history is terribly dangerous. George Santayana wisely said, "A nation that does not know history is fated to repeat it." Ellen White put it even more strongly: "The Lord has declared that the history of the past shall be rehearsed as we enter upon the closing work" [1]. "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" [2]. What lessons can modern Israel learn from ancient Israel's revivals and failures?

By a series of miracles God delivered Israel from Egyptian bondage in order to bring them into the land which He had promised their fathers. The present truth for them was to "Go up ... and possess it" (Num. 13:30). Their response to God's message was, "We be not able. ... (Num. 13:31). Instead of believing God's new covenant promise, they focused on the law of self-preservation motivated by fear, which is the basis of their old covenant. Their sin of self-centeredness was so great that the Lord's message for them now was, "Go not up." The whole generation must wander and die in the wilderness forty years.

Likewise, Jesus came to the Seventh-day Adventist Church in the 1888 General Conference Session as a Lover to present the heart-melting truth of the cross, through His delegated messengers, A. T. Jones and E. J. Waggoner. God would finish the work and send Jesus for the ripened harvest. 1888 marks the beginning of the long-awaited outpouring of the latter rain and the loud cry.

History and inspiration are clear that the latter rain and loud cry were "resisted, and by the action of our own brethren has been in a great degree kept away from the world" [3].

This is the primary reason for the long delay in the finishing of our gospel commission. The Lord has not delayed His return; we have delayed it. There is no problem facing this worldwide church as serious as our relationship to the Holy Spirit, the third Person of the Godhead. The Lord's inspired messenger said of the 1888 experience: "I know that at that time the Spirit of God was insulted" [4].

Why didn't Ellen White at any time up to her death prepare her own inspired version of a re-examination of 1888 and call for corporate repentance? For the same reason that Moses, during the forty years of Israel's wandering up until his death, never called for a renewed attempt to conquer Canaan through re-doing the Ai campaign. Israel must wander the full forty years. Why continually harp on Kadesh? This people's sin was very deep and could never be truly eradicated during their lifetime. Only a fresh generation (with the exception of Caleb and Joshua) could be as "little children" faith-wise.

From 1888 through about 1901, Ellen White did indeed repeatedly call for denominational repentance beginning with the leadership in Battle Creek. She expressly said that what she hoped to see accomplished at the 1901 conference was a spiritual revival and reformation that would reverse the 1888 unbelief [5].

By the close of the year 1901 a conviction had apparently begun forming in her soul that led up to the heartfelt confession in the January 15, 1903 letter to Jesse Arthur: "The result of the last General Conference has been the greatest, the most terrible sorrow of my life. No change was made" [6].

Ancient Israel's failure to enter the promised land started with their old covenant promise, "All that the LORD hath spoken we will do" (Ex. 19:8). When that generation died in the wilderness, the new generation crossed the swollen Jordan by faith in God's promise-covenant (Joshua 3:17). For a brief moment these young people learned the lesson of their forefathers' failure and repented knowing that they too could commit the same error.

Granted, none of these experiences of repentance were permanent or complete, but God's character was constantly exercised in leading His organized people into repentance. "Where is the fold where no wolves will enter? I tell you ... the Lord has an organized body through whom He will work. There may be more than a score of Judases among them ... but the great Teacher seeks to give lessons of instruction to correct these existing evils. He is doing the same today with His church. He is pointing out their errors. He is presenting to them the Laodicean message. ... The Lord has had a church from that day, through all the changing scenes of time to the present period. ... The Bible sets before us a model church. They are to be in unity with each other, and with God" [7].

The new covenant revival did not last long with ancient Israel because the template had already been set and passed on from generation to generation, from mind to mind, of faith motivated by egocentric concern. It is the natural-born default position. It resulted in the lowest point of Israel's descent from being the tail rather than the head as far as the nations of the earth were concerned. "Every man did that which was right in his own eyes" (Judges 17:6).

The lesson says the Israelites "were influenced negatively by the surrounding culture." (Wednesday, Sept. 29). Absolutely, when they did not believe God's everlasting covenant of love promised through their Surety, Christ, the vacuum was filled by all sorts of self-pleasing outside philosophies which enslaved them.
The clamor for a king like all the other nations was a rejection of God's rulership (1 Sam. 8:6). God permits them to make their own choice, but Saul is a mere reflection of their own spiritual state. In the course of time Saul's kingship is demoralizing and without vision.

David was the Lord's anointed because he is "a man after mine own heart" (Acts 13:22). David identified with God's self-sacrificing love. After his anointing David did not press any claim to the throne by overthrowing Saul, but allowed God to bring about His promise after years of persecution and patient faith.

Of all the kings of Israel David was the only one who understood the new covenant. You can't truly believe in the forgiveness of sins unless your soul is humbled in the dust by realizing the enormity of sin itself. David pleaded, begged, for cleansing of soul, not just legal "pardon" (Psalm 51:10). He realized that the "bloodguiltiness" of his soul included guilt of the blood of the Son of God (Psalm 51:14, 4; compare Acts 2:36). David consecrated the rest of his life to missionary, soul-saving work, a new career (Psalm 51:12, 13). Did he know that God had "accepted" him? Yes; he realized that no Band-aid could help him; he had been saved from the deepest hell itself.

The Bible record in 2 Kings and 2 Chronicles vividly portrays the nature of old covenant revivals, just as they are even today. They may produce spectacular results--but only for a brief time. All egocentric motivation is old covenant in principle. The new covenant motivation is based on freedom, a heart response to the love (agape) of Christ that "constrains" to willing service to Him, not imposed by fear of punishment or even by hope of reward.

The people of God at Mt. Sinai rejected the glorious new covenant God wanted them to appreciate (Ex. 19:4-6), and fastened upon themselves the bondage of the old covenant (vs. 8). It marked their history ever after.

Will the old covenant effect a lasting "revival and reformation"? History says, No. King Hezekiah in Jerusalem led the nation in a powerful old covenant "revival and reformation," doing everything exactly right according to the law (2 Kings 18 to 20). Wonderful! But it all fell apart in the succeeding reign of his son, Manasseh (ch. 21). Then Hezekiah's grandson Josiah came to the throne (ch. 22-23:30). Again, another old covenant revival and reformation, wonderful. But it all fell apart with the death of King Josiah, and from then on it was downhill all the way to national ruin (2 Chron. 36).

How can we as followers of Jesus get through this ever-present barrier of the love of self? How can we as individuals learn how to die to self? More serious yet--how can we as a corporate body, as a church, be "crucified with Christ"? Is it possible now?

Before Jesus can come, His people must learn the lessons of all past history and grow up. Jesus likens their getting ready to a farmer's crop growing up and maturing until it is ready for harvest (Mark 4:26-29). The growing up makes it possible for Him to come the second time to "reap" the "harvest" (Rev. 14:14, 15). But the "crop" cannot become mature until "the latter rain" of the Holy Spirit's outpouring comes (Joel 2:23, 24). Nothing can be more important than for the church to seek the blessing of the latter rain (Zech. 10:1).

And where is the good news? The latter rain is a message of "much more abounding grace," a clearer view of what the Saviour of the world has done for us, a revelation of His love (agape) that "constrains" every honest-hearted soul to live unto Him and not unto self (2 Cor. 5:14, 15), so that this truth can "lighten the earth with glory" (Rev. 18:1-4).

--Paul E. Penno

[1] Selected Messages, book 2, p. 390.
[2] Life Sketches, p. 196.
[3] Selected Messages, book 1, p. 235.
[4] Manuscript Releases, vol. 15, p. 83, Letter S24, 1892; The Ellen G. White 1888 Materials, p. 1043.
[5] See The General Conference Bulletin, April 12, 1901.
[6] Manuscript Releases, vol. 13, p. 122.
[7] Manuscript 21, 1893.
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Thursday, September 23, 2010

"All the Rest Is Commentary"

The Books of Daniel and Revelation sparked the 1844 Second Advent Movement. The prophecies pointed to a "remnant" with the "third angel's message" preparing the way of the Lord's return. The Lord promised to send this people the "latter rain" and "loud cry," "a teacher of righteousness" (Joel 2:23, the words "former rain moderately" KJV, in Hebrew are "the teacher of righteousness"), with a message indited by the Holy Spirit that would join with the third angel (Rev. 18:1-3, Testimonies for the Church, vol. 6, p. 19). Righteousness, as presented in the books of Romans, Galatians, and Ephesians, matures the faith of God's people. God fulfilled His promise of giving the latter rain in 1888 without His people pleading for it. Though the message of the cross, justification, and the sanctuary in harmony with the law of God, were "spurned" then. The "good news" is that it is recoverable by the gift of repentance which Jesus promises His people (Rev. 3:19).
The pure truth of the gospel changes lives. The acid test of correct doctrine is that it changes minds and hearts and behavior toward each other. Justification by faith applied to some of the most difficult "in-house" issues facing the church brings unity of belief and practice. This is Paul's theme in Romans 14-16.

The church is a mix of cultures, socio-economic classes, and races. Paul's "church plants" are start-ups made of brand new converts from the eastern Roman Empire and ethnic Jews. Some Christians are "strong," others are "weak" concerning ethical matters (Rom. 15:1). However, they have all been united together because of Christ. They have entered the course "Cross-centered Life 101" in the "University of the Body of Christ." They will now learn what it means to live the cross daily with Jesus. It will require them to eat lots of "humble pie."

Health reform was given to God's people as righteousness by faith. It is the appropriate fast which God has appointed for all those who believe they are living in the Day of Atonement. The self-denial that is built-in to eating a simple diet is necessary for a people who are anticipating their High Priest's exit from the Most Holy Place.

Eating foods was problematic for many early Christians because most had been offered to idols before retail in the farmer's market (Rom. 14:2-4, 20-23; Acts 15:20; 1 Cor. 8:4). So many tender consciences turned to a vegetarian diet.

Someone who believes they can eat any and all things God has created for food may have a spirit of ridicule for those whose conscience will not allow them to consume all things. Religious liberty in the matter of eating is to be extended to all. Unfortunately for a good cause, many who embrace a vegan diet condemn those that eat a broader-based regime, and thus separate themselves from the Spirit of Christ. Any work of reform that has lost the spirit of love for others is an unprofitable parade of human vanity.

Man's "esteem" of a day (Rom. 14:5) does not make it God's day of rest. God's seventh-day Sabbath clearly has the seal of God upon it (Gen. 2:3; Ex. 20:11; Eze. 20:12, 20). So Paul is not addressing the issue of the seventh-day Sabbath observance (Rom. 14:5, 6). The Roman church had a contingency of Jewish Christians who still clung to the annual sabbath days of observance which could fall on any day of the week. The Gentile Christians would not have such loyalties to observe these days.

The fact that Paul connects the "esteem" or "regarding" of days with "eating" is a further linkage to the annual festival days of Jewish observance (vs. 6). Eating played a vital role in the rites of keeping the ceremonial sabbaths (Leviticus 23).

This text does not really solve the issue of whether the Jewish holy days are viable sabbaths for Christians to observe today. Elsewhere Paul declares them "shadows" of "the body of Christ" (Col. 2:16, 17). It would be blasphemy to continue animal sacrifices when Christ's body had already been crucified for us. Why establish "shadow" observances when we have the reality? No amount of ritual observances is going to establish Christ in the heart. They certainly didn't accomplish that for the Jewish nation as a whole in Christ's day. They ended up missing their Messiah and crucifying Him.

The level of intra-church judging which the apostle is addressing is equal to the life or death decisions which Christ makes in the final judgment. We have no business trespassing in His courtroom (Rom. 14:10). God the Father has transferred all judgment to the Son (John 5:22, 27). Jesus says, "I came not to judge the world" (John 12:47; 3:17). Jesus has proclaimed the "word" which is the law and the gospel. "The word that I have spoken, the same shall judge him in the last day" (John 12:48). Thus "the judgment seat of Christ" is the law and the cross.

In that awesome day of final accounting following the final resurrection of the wicked at the close of the millennium, the law on tables of stone and the cross will be presented to them (The Great Controversy, p. 666). Then the unconscious record of one's life from within will clearly be brought to view for each to see. There will be an unprecedented acclamation of unity on the lips of every one that God has done everything possible to give salvation to all, but the lost refused their gift (Rom. 14:11).

The purpose of "the judgment seat of Christ" is ultimately to hold everyone accountable to God (vs. 12). Christ's purpose in the judgment is to vindicate whoever will permit Him to seal them with His agape.

Many are sealing their final judgment daily (John 3:18). Through the gospel "we" proclaim, souls will make their decision for life or death (vs. 13). If our gospel is "bad news" about what we must do in order to be saved, people will conclude that they weren't cut out for salvation. If our gospel is "good news" of Christ's gift of salvation to all regardless of pre-existing qualifications, then it is a savor of life to those who do not hinder it.

The dynamic of the Spirit is the means by which Paul achieved all that he did in every area: his speech, his actions, and his signs and wonders. When Paul "fully preached the gospel of Christ" the cross was a present reality for those who heard. They forgot about all present distractions and were transfixed upon "the Saviour of the world". It was such preaching that the Holy Spirit confirmed with "signs and wonders" (Rom. 15:19). Miracles attested to the truth of the gospel proclaimed. Similarly, in the final glorification of God through the proclamation of the cross, "Servants of God, with their faces lighted up ... will hasten from place to place to proclaim the message from Heaven. By thousands of voices, all over the earth, ... Miracles will be wrought, the sick will be healed, and signs and wonders will follow the believers" (op. cit., p. 612).
What is "the revelation of the mystery, which was kept secret since the world began" (Rom. 16:25). "The mystery" is the revelation of Jesus Christ Himself, as He was revealed in Paul's preaching, and as He is revealed in you and me as we proclaim the gospel.

The gospel was made known to men from Adam down, and they had a measure of the knowledge of the gospel. But when Christ Himself came, and revealed God in Himself, to the children of men--it was never revealed and understood before as it was revealed and understood at that time. When the apostles were sent forth to preach it as it then was revealed, they preached it in a fulness and a clearness in which it was never preached before (Rom. 15:16). Now Christ proclaims the mystery as High Priest from the heavenly sanctuary. It is the gospel which is clearly consistent with the work of cleansing that He seeks to accomplish there. This involves a work of judgment which is the vindication of Laodicea. He gives her the gift of agape that she might grow up in the full stature of a Bride worthy to stand by the side of the Lamb in the wedding.

The Gospel plan originated in the mind of God in the eternity of the past; patriarchs, prophets, and apostles have worked in unison to make it manifest; and "in the ages to come" it will be both the science and the song of the redeemed. "To God only wise, be glory through Jesus Christ for ever. Amen" (Rom. 16:27). What a magnificent conclusion! It reaches from eternity to eternity. The Gospel of God is the wisdom of the ages!
--Paul E. Penno

Note: Pastor Paul E. Penno has prepared a verse-by-verse study on Romans chapters 14, 15, and 16. If you would like a copy please respond to this e-mail and ask for "Romans 14-16." It is also available at: http://www.1888mpm.org/articles/romans-14-16-verse-verse-study
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Tuesday, September 14, 2010

"Law and Love"

Lesson 12: "Law and Love"

"I was always on my mind!" I had always loved me, and believed that if I didn't love me first, I couldn't love anyone else. Everything, absolutely everything, revolved around me and how I felt and thought about myself. My very best effort at loving was to have a fondness for another--true, it could be warm and wonderful for a time, but in the end I (or they) became fond of something else and followed that interest instead. I even had a desire for Jesus and the truth. My love (eros) was merely an expression of what is known as self-esteem.
The description of Lucifer's fall is the very definition of self-love and self-esteem. Hear the words of Scripture: "You [Lucifer] were perfect in all your ways from the day you were created till iniquity was found in you. ... Your heart was lifted up (in pride) because of your beauty" "How you are fallen from heaven ... For you have said in your heart: I will ascend into heaven, I will exalt my throne above the stars of God; I will also sit on the mount of the congregation ... I will ascend above the heights of the clouds, I will be like the Most High" (Ezek. 28:14-17; Isa. 14:12-14).

Lucifer is trying to become God. This is self-esteem expressed by the desire to displace God and actually murder Him. And we are born with this and all our best thinking and efforts have grown from this and can rise no higher than this. This is the drive behind our desire to do away with God, and the reason behind the need for the repentance of the ages.

The cross gives a psychological profile of ourselves. It takes the pride of man and humbles it in the dust of the ground. "For I say, through the grace given unto me, to every man that is among you, not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think; but to think soberly, according as God hath dealt to every man the measure of faith" (Rom. 12:3).

Pride is an intoxicant. The sobriety test for pride is the cross. Praise God He has effectually given everyone "faith" in order to keep them sober if they so choose.

Everyone is born thinking "of himself more highly than he ought." It's called self-love, which is the taproot of sin and would, if left uncontrolled, push everyone else aside and even manifest itself in the murder of God in order to become number one. But the standard of agape powered faith appreciates the cost, which Christ paid on the cross in order to destroy self-love; and soberly evaluates every soul of equal value with the life of Jesus and that value is the basis for a healthy self-respect.

The antidote to this self-love is the love of God, agape. Agape is not self-promoting, but dares to step down lower. The cross is the irrefutable evidence of God's agape for sinners. On the cross, Jesus died the second death for all the world while all the world still hated Him. Agape is self-emptying, it is the compelling force that God uses to reach hearts. This love is the power of God unto salvation and will create in us all that is lacking. It crucifies self-esteem and replaces it with self-respect as each life is equal to the life of Christ who gave Himself for us. (See the booklet by Robert J. Wieland, The Word that Turned the World Up-Side Down.)
The word "therefore" (Rom. 12:1), gathers up everything in chapters 1 to 11 and brings them into sharp focus. Because of all that has preceded, he instructs us to "present" our bodies as living sacrifices to God. The word "present" is the same word used of Jesus when He was presented in the temple after His birth. We are to present our lives as a living sacrifice in this our cosmic Day of Atonement. It is Jesus' gift as our High Priest to cleanse our lives which He purchased on the cross. Then He can cleanse the heavenly sanctuary. Ellen White writes, "The correct understanding of the ministration in the heavenly sanctuary is the foundation of our faith" (Evangelism, p. 221).

This cleansing has everything to do with the Law of God as the standard. The only thing spiritually that we are consistent at is failure with our eros-focused faith. All our continued efforts to succeed at keeping the commandments of God with eros are frustrated. We do the same thing over and over again hoping for different results! Our eros love cannot keep the commandments of God.

An "intellectual strength [our ego stronghold as a church] has in it the seeds of defeat, for the 'time of trouble' must ultimately involve a confrontation with 'self' that 'the man of sin' might be revealed. For this reason the last conflict of the people of God ... has been compared to Jacob's experience. ... In the audience chamber of the Most High he became a victor. His confrontation was with himself. His ego was laid bare and his guilt was swallowed up before the One against whom he had sinned so grievously" ("Then Shall the Sanctuary be Cleansed," Donald K. Short, p. 58).

"The 1888 message is especially 'precious' because it joins together the true biblical idea of justification by faith with the unique idea of the cleansing of the heavenly sanctuary. This is a Bible truth that the world is waiting to discover. It forms the essential element of truth that will yet lighten the earth with the glory of a final, fully developed presentation of 'the everlasting gospel' of Revelation 14 and 18" (Ten Great Gospel Truths that Make the 1888 Message Unique, Robert J. Wieland: http://www.1888mpm.org/book/gospel-truth-10).

The story of Peter and Jesus by the seashore (John 21:15-17) is an example of this problem. Jesus asked Peter twice if he loved (agape) Him, and both times Peter answered that he only had (phileo), a brotherly love for Him. Now the third time Jesus asked, He used Peter's word, phileo. "Peter, do you even love me with a brotherly love?" Peter could no more produce agape with which to love than he could make the fish jump into his nets. In like manner we can no more keep the commandments of God with only an eros-love, than we can love Christ or one another. It takes the power of God--the agape of God to accomplish this.
The law of God convicts our eros-motivated faith, and yet we try to do the law so as to gain the prize and avoid the punishment, while agape-motivated faith sees the God of the law as most precious and thus the law is performed in him naturally.

"Be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind" (Rom. 12:2). The beauty of this statement lies in the meaning of the original Greek! The word "transformed" is referring to a change in nature. This does not mean for you to improve yourself, but it does recognize our utter inability and helplessness. This is the message of the cross--the abasement of all pride. It does mean having your very nature changed from what it is so that we are made partakers of the divine nature through the faith that works by agape (2 Peter 1:1-4; Gal. 5:6).
This transformation, is the "new creation" of 2 Corinthians 5:14-21. It takes place through the "renewing of our mind." How may our minds be renewed? In Philippians 2:5-8 Jesus steps down lower and lower, until He is obedient to death, even the death of the cross. (In The Word That Turned the World Upside Down Robert J. Wieland has written a beautiful account of these seven steps down that Jesus took.) This is agape.
With eros-motivated faith, we will always fail to keep the law of God. With agape-motivated faith we naturally will keep the law because it is in our new Holy Spirit energized nature to do so.

The renewing of our mind by agape results in the keeping of the law of God (Rom. 13:8-10). "Love (agape) does no harm to a neighbor; therefore love (agape) is the fulfillment of the law" (Rom. 13:10).

With all of this giving to us, God gave us each a measure of "the faith of Jesus" (Rev. 14:12; Rom. 13:3). This faith, working by agape, humbles us as we follow Jesus who stepped down. He thus saves us from ourselves.
Jesus says, "As many as I love (with a brotherly love), I rebuke and chasten. Therefore be zealous and repent" (Rev. 3:19). If the Laodiceans had agape, there would be no need of Jesus' appeal, "Repent." Laodicea's love is eros--a self-motivated love and this is why Jesus calls for a radical transformation. Jesus wants us to repent of our eros-centered faith.
--Daniel H. Peters

Note: Pastor Paul E. Penno has prepared a verse-by-verse study on Romans chapters 12 and 13. If you would like a copy please respond to this e-mail and ask for "Romans 12 and 13." It is also available at: http://www.1888mpm.org/articles/romans-12-13-verse-verse-study
Additional reading:* For "Clear Definitions of Agape and Faith," Robert J. Wieland's "Dial Daily Bread": http://www.1888mpm.org/blog/clear-definitions-agape-and-faith
* E. J. Waggoner on "Romans 12" and "Romans 13":

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 For the written version click here
 For a paraphrase on Romans click here

Friday, September 10, 2010

The Election of Grace: Romans 10 & 11 Verse-by-Verse

By Paul Penno.  Click here to read from the website.  Click here for the PDF.  

Thursday, September 9, 2010

The Election Of Grace

God has given "the righteousness which is of faith" (Rom. 10:6) to everyone. In fact, "The word is nigh thee," that is, "the word of faith" (vs. 8). Righteousness by faith has been given to every man. "God hath dealt to every man the measure of faith" (Rom. 12:3). The logical conclusion is that when one fixes his faith in Christ, choosing to believe, God can then dwell within the believer through the power of the Holy Spirit, effecting a change of mind (Phil. 2:5), dispensing the righteousness already prepared in advance for him (being "before ordained," KJV), into the experience of the believer (Eph. 2:10). This is why, in Romans 10:4, it says that Christ is the fulfillment of the law. Jesus, in the same fallen sinful human flesh that we all have, lived a perfect life, thus fulfilling the law in Himself as a heritage for the human race held in trust for each individual member. When we say "Yes" to Him, He can then fulfill that law in you and me--in our experience. This is not an offer--it is a promise, a gift. Claim that promise. Hold God to His Word. He loves it when you do this.

In the Bible, God is said to do what He does not prevent. For example, in Exodus 7 and 8 where it says that God hardened Pharaoh's heart it also says Pharaoh hardened his own heart. God did not prevent Pharaoh from hardening his heart, although He could have, but Christ died so that we all might have the power of choice. Pharaoh had the power to choose, and he chose of his own free will to harden his heart. And, later in history, Israel themselves, by their own free will, chose to slumber (Rom. 11:8). We also have the power of choice. Let us not harden our hearts but let us allow God to have control of our thoughts so that we might partake of the divine nature through His promise (Phil. 2:5; 2 Peter 1:4). In the meantime, don't blame God should the Bible say God does something that looks on the surface to be bad. The Bible is merely using a figure of speech.

Jesus Christ is the Root and the Trunk of the living Vine (the olive tree). We are the branches (John 15:1-5). The original (natural) branches were of the stock of Israel. Corporately, these branches were all cut off (at the stoning of Stephen), and afterwards the Gentiles began to be grafted in. If the fall of Israel resulted in the enriching of the world, and the diminishing of them the enrichment of the Gentiles, just think of what will happen when they accept the truth! (Rom. 11:12). If some of those from Israel (seeing the joy that you have in Christ) should be grafted in with you--that would be as life from the dead (vs. 15). And so Romans 11:20-21 makes sense, "… because of unbelief they were broken off, and thou standest by faith. Be not highminded, but fear: For if God spared not the natural branches, take heed lest he also spare not thee." None of us have any cause to boast, for we are all nothing without Christ. There is no difference between Jew and Gentile (Rom. 10:12). This is because we all can be grafted together to the same Vine (the good olive tree), standing together through faith in Jesus Christ, and partaking together of the blessings of spiritual Israel.
It is after this manner that all Israel shall be saved (Rom. 11:26). "And if ye be Christ's, then are ye Abraham's seed, and heirs according to the promise" (Gal. 3:29). All believers in Christ are accounted citizens of spiritual Israel, the seed of Abraham. The fullness of the Gentiles, the fullness of Israel ("overcomer"), the receiving of the fullness of the inheritance by both Christ and spiritual Israel will be fully accomplished together at the second coming of Christ.

E. J. Waggoner, one of the 1888 messengers, has this to say about how all Israel will be saved:

"In Romans 11 the apostle very forcibly illustrates the way in which the promises to Israel could be fulfilled, even though all the literal descendants of Jacob should forfeit their right to the inheritance. In the first and second verses he declares that God has not cast away his people. This might lead us to suppose that literal Israel are yet the chosen people of God, if he did not say in verse 5 that those that remain are 'according to the election of grace.' Then he represents Israel by an olive tree. Some of the branches have been cut off, and the Gentiles, a wild olive tree, have been grafted in. This grafting is contrary to nature, for the grafts partake of the root and fatness of the tame olive tree into which they are grafted, and bear the same kind of fruit. He warns those who are thus grafted in not to boast, since they stand only by faith, and that as the natural branches were broken off because of unbelief, so they may likewise be removed. The Jews, the natural branches, may become part of the tree, but if they do, it will not be as original branches, but as spiritual grafts. Thus the people of Israel are only a spiritual people,--those who are Christ's,--'and so all Israel shall be saved'" (The Present Truth, "The True Israel," July 5, 1888).

"Behold, his soul which is lifted up is not upright in him: but the just shall live by his faith" (Hab. 2:4). If salvation was merely an offer, there would still be something for us to do--and for us to boast about. But salvation is a free gift (Rom. 5:18). There is nothing about which we have to boast or be lifted up.
When any of us chooses to believe, the righteousness of Christ which is given to all men, becomes imparted righteousness in our individual experience. Justification by faith in Christ is the alienated heart receiving the atonement. The cross of Christ reconciles the sinner to God and brings him into harmony with the commandments of God. In fellowship with Christ, "the man which doeth those things shall live by them" (Rom. 10:5).

"'For what does the Scripture say? Abraham believed God, and it was accounted to him for righteousness' (Rom. 4:1-3). What was it that was accounted to Abraham for righteousness? He believed God. When God said a thing, Abraham believed it. He said 'that is so.' 'And he believed in the Lord, and he accounted it [his faith] to him for righteousness' (Gen 15:6).

"Now do you believe that Abraham became righteous in just that way? Honestly now, do you? Do you know that it was as simple a transaction as that? Suppose the Lord called you and me out tonight. No, He can do it without calling us out. He called Abraham out doors to show him the stars, but He can show us sins without calling us outdoors.

"Has He shown you a great many sins? Now He says, If you are able to number them, 'they shall be white as snow.' What do you say? Amen. Then what does the Lord say? 'You are righteous.' Are you? Do people become righteous as easy as that? Is it as simple a transaction as that? Yes, amen. Thank the Lord!
"The only thing that can keep you and me out of the kingdom of God is to tell the Lord that He lies" (A. T. Jones, Give Us This Day Our Daily Good News, No. 135; taken from 1893 General Conference Bulletin, pp. 378, 379).
--Craig Barnes
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For an excellent companion book to these studies, please see Waggoner on Romans: the Gospel in Paul’s Great Letter, by E. J. Waggoner. You may access the complete book at: http://www.1888mpm.org/book/waggoner-romans

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