Tuesday, August 14, 2012

"Living Holy Lives"

Sabbath School Today
With the 1888 Message Dynamic 
1 and 2 Thessalonians
Lesson 7: "Living Holy Lives (1 Thess. 4:1-12)"
Any contemporary study of "holy living" must include the context of the unique Seventh-day Adventist doctrine of the cleansing of the heavenly sanctuary. The verses in Paul's epistle to the Thessalonians, in which he discusses "sanctification" and "holiness," can be projected down through time to 1888 when a "most precious message" was presented at the General Conference Session. This message switched "gears" from the idea that people were to prepare to die, to a new dynamic: the preparation for translation at the coming of the Lord.

Ellen White recognized that this message of Christ's righteousness restored the "presiding power" of the sanctuary message to the "hearts of believers." [1] She saw that the joining of the Adventist truth of the cleansing of the sanctuary with a more complete view of justification by faith was like the confluence of two rivers that had flowed separately but now joined to produce a tide that could bear the ship safely to port. She saw in the 1888 message the glorious means of divine grace provided to make a people ready for the coming of the Lord.   She recognized that "union with Christ" meant union with Him in His closing work of atonement. She saw the clear distinction from His work in the first apartment, where the "door" was now "shut." [2]

The 1888 message made the cleansing of the sanctuary to be a practical subject. This is how the two great rivers, the sanctuary truth and justification by faith, joined together. The message not only called for holy living; it also provided the means. The cleansing of the heavenly sanctuary is a work that includes the people and extends to them. It provides for the perfection of their character in Christ on the one hand; and on the other hand in the final destruction of sin and sinners and the cleansing of the universe from all taint of sin. It is Christ fully formed in each believer. The sanctuary itself cannot be cleansed so long as God's people continue to pour into it a constant stream of sinning. The stream will be stopped at its source in the hearts and lives of God's people. The ministry of Christ in the Most Holy Apartment does make "the comers thereunto perfect" (Heb. 10:1) and does perfect "forever them that are sanctified" (vs. 14).

The sinner is not "made righteous" by an infused merit that does away with the sinful nature. [3] He still has it, but he is no longer a slave to it. He has no merits of his own, as he has no good works of his own; but to be reconciled means he is "made obedient." This is the 1888 idea of being "made righteous." The sinner has "received the atonement" (Rom. 5:1-11) and his deep-seated enmity against the law has been removed by the "mighty argument of the cross." [4] In justification by faith "the love of Christ constraineth us" and becomes the new motivation to holy living (2 Cor. 5:14, 15). Lukewarmness is done forever! Grace being stronger than sin, the 1888 messengers, A. T. Jones and E. J. Waggoner, grasped the astonishing idea that it's easy to be saved and hard to be lost if one understands and believes "the truth of the gospel" (see Gal. 2:5, 14).

Ellen White was overjoyed when she heard the two messengers tell this. She clearly said the message went beyond what she called "the good old doctrines," for it was "fresh light." This "justification by faith" will be "fresh" to us and to the Evangelical world for it's "the third angel's message in verity." [5]

"Every fiber of my heart said amen," she said, because here at last was the unique, distinct Seventh-day Adventist idea of the everlasting gospel "which is made manifest in obedience to all the commandments of God," [6] including the seventh. Thus it had to go beyond that of the popular Sunday-keeping churches.

"The theme that attracts the heart of the sinner is Christ, and him crucified. On the cross of Calvary, Jesus stands revealed to the world in unparalleled love. Present him thus to the hungering multitudes, and the light of his love will win men from darkness to light, from transgression to obedience and true holiness. Beholding Jesus upon the cross of Calvary arouses the conscience to the heinous character of sin as nothing else can do. It was sin that caused the death of God's dear Son, and sin is the transgression of the law. On him was laid the iniquities of us all. The sinner then consents unto the law what it is good; for he realizes that it condemns his evil deeds, while he magnifies the matchless love of God in providing for him salvation through the imputed righteousness of Him who knew no sin, in whose mouth there was found no guile." [7]

"That God has a sanctuary in the heavens, and that Christ is priest there, cannot be doubted by anyone who reads the Scriptures. ... Therefore it follows that the cleansing of the sanctuary--a work which is set forth in the Scriptures as immediately preceding the coming of the Lord--is coincident with complete cleansing of the people of God on this earth, and preparing them for translation when the Lord comes. ... The life [character] of Jesus is to be perfectly reproduced in His followers, not for a day merely, but for all time and for eternity." [8]

In all past ages "the Lamb's wife" has never yet made herself ready. How can the heavenly Bridegroom get His church's attention? Can He bring His people to attention by an unprecedented fear-motivated demand for holy living? The answer has to be in the text: "To her [His bride-to-be] was granted that she should be arrayed in fine linen, clean and white: for the fine linen is the righteousness of saints" (Rev. 19:8).

No, the means the Lord will employ will not be a thunderclap from heaven or an earthquake, but a tender, quiet, heart-warming message of "the righteousness of saints." A message that woos the heart--"righteousness by faith," the Bridegroom coming close in an appeal, a gentle touch of truth.

--Compiled from the writings of Robert J. Wieland

Endnotes (from Ellen G. White, unless otherwise noted):
[1] Evangelism, pp. 224, 225.
[2] Selected Messages, book 1, pp. 374; 62, 63.
[3] "Can any man live a sinless life?" I have been asked. No, but Christ can. "I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me." I have demonstrated that I can do nothing. The wages of sin is death, and so I must die, and let the Lord take the management. The first man showed his impotence, and now the second man Adam comes in, and in Him God's power is fully revealed. There is only one man and that is the Lord Jesus Christ: for there is only one seed. By the obedience of one many are made righteous. We become men indeed, perfect men, only as we are in him (E. J. Waggoner, cited in Robert J. Wieland, A Brief Look at "1888," p. 15).
[4] See Testimonies for the Church, vol. 4, p. 375.
[5] Review and Herald, April 1, 1890.
[6] Testimonies to Ministers and Gospel Workers, pp. 91, 92.
[7] The Ellen G. White 1888 Materials, p. 1074.
[8] Ellet J. Waggoner, The Everlasting Covenant, pp. 365-367.
Please forward these messages to your friends and encourage them to subscribe. 

"Sabbath School Today" is on the Internet at: http://1888mpm.org

To subscribe send an e-mail message with "subscribe" in the body of the message to sabbathschooltoday@