Monday, September 24, 2012

"Keeping the Church Faithful"

Sabbath School Today
With the 1888 Message Dynamic
1 and 2 Thessalonians
Lesson 13: "Keeping the Church Faithful (2 Thess. 2:13-3:18)"

In closing his letter to us that we have been studying for the past quarter, Paul writes to the "brethren beloved of the Lord" that "God hath from the beginning chosen you to salvation" (2 Thess. 2:13). Does this mean that God has only chosen "believers" to be saved? Elsewhere Paul writes Timothy that it is God's desire for "all men to be saved, and to come unto the knowledge of the truth" (1 Tim. 2:4). But is God's choice for salvation based on one's own sanctified good works? "Sanctification" is understood as our obedience to the law, and God's "choice" is seen to depend on it. Does this mean that we are saved by grace and our good works of obedience? Is there a hidden catch here, some "fine print" that excludes some people from this Good News?
No. Instead of predestinating certain ones only to be saved, God predestinated to eternal life every one who was to be born.
Elsewhere Paul writes [1] that whom He predestinated He also called, and whom He called, He also justified, and whom He justified, He also glorified, and then proceeds to point out that this free-handed bestowal of the fulness of the Divine blessing upon everybody is in keeping with the gift of a Saviour. If God has predestined all men to life, how is it that any are lost? Certainly it is not God's fault. It is because men choose death rather than life, and salvation from sin has no attraction for them. But God not only calls men; He also justifies them and glorifies them, and He does not revoke His gifts and calling.
Paul simply assumes that his readers join him in responding to this wonderful love (agape) of God (2 Thess. 2:13, 16; 3:5). If we don't resist, we are included in the family. The happy thing is that those who respond are "predestined" to be changed into absolutely beautiful people "conformed to the likeness of his Son!" His predestination is progressive in the sense that sanctification by faith is a deepening repentance in view of Christ's one righteous justifying act on the cross.
Paul's emphasis on sanctification (2 Thess. 2:13, 17; 3:4) reminds us that we hear a lot about how after initial conversion to Christ, we must seek the second phase of salvation which is sanctification. The impression is left that once Christ has launched us with the new birth, then we must do all we can throughout the rest of our life in pursuing holiness. Some evangelicals call this the second blessing theology. The initial phase of forgiveness and justification is Christ's work, the next phase is our work for Christ.
What rejoiced Ellen White's heart most in hearing the more mature Gospel presented in our 1888 history was the union of justification by faith with sanctification by faith. [2]
What she heard was the unique understanding of Seventh-day Adventists regarding the sanctuary cleansing as justification by faith. The heavenly sanctuary can only be cleansed when the hearts of God's people are cleansed through the atonement message ("sanctification of the Spirit and belief of the truth," 2 Thess. 2:13). [3]
The third angel's message is, "Here is the patience of the saints: here are they that keep the commandments of God, and the faith of Jesus" (Rev. 14:12). In other words, it is the sanctuary message.
Referring to the message of Jones and Waggoner she said: Justification by faith is the righteousness of Christ manifest in obedience to all the commandments, which is the sanctuary message. [4] There is a union of justification with sanctification.
The evangelicals do not see this union because they do not understand the sanctuary message. They want to keep justification and sanctification separate or distinct. They view justification as the work of Christ in the past when He died on the cross. Christ atoned for our sins. When you believe that perfect work of Christ, you are legally set free from sin.
However, there is no experiential reconciliation of the alienated heart with God through believing this doctrine. If Christ atoned for our sin, then, in the strictest sense of the word, atonement means reconciliation and harmony with sin. Sin becomes a separate entity from the sinner, which God is OK with now because of the cross. Justification legally takes care of all past, present, and future sinning.
The atonement in this view of salvation is God's wrath against sinners being appeased by an offering which Christ makes to Him on behalf of sinners. In other words, God needs the atonement. The emphasis is not on man's need of atonement. There is nothing in this about alienated human hearts being reconciled to God. [5]
There are two phases in the plan of salvation, not three. The first phase was the legal work which was Christ's building the bridge of atonement by faith between the feeling of God-forsakenness and God hears. This was His sacrifice of Himself on the cross for the whole world. By this sacrifice He legally justified the whole race of sinners.
The second phase in the plan of salvation is when you hear this good news of Christ's gift of love and appreciate what it cost the dear Saviour, then you experience the heart-melting atonement of a reconciled heart. Justification by faith is the experience of the atonement with God. Sanctification is but the continued deepening appreciation for the cross. Moment by moment, day by day, self is crucified with Christ. One is justified by faith as Christ continues to impart His righteousness to the receptive sinner. There is no room at all for once-save-always-saved in the marriage of justification and sanctification.
--Paul E. Penno
[1] "Moreover whom He did predestinate, them He also called: and whom He called, them He also justified: and whom He justified, them He also glorified" (Rom. 8:30).
[2] "I have had the question asked, What do you think of this light that these men are presenting? Why, I have been presenting it to you for the last forty-five years--the matchless charms of Christ. This is what I have been trying to present before your minds. 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 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" (Ms. 5, p. 10, Sermon, Rome, New York, June 19, 1889; The Ellen G. White 1888 Materials, pp. 348, 349).
[3] She was asked, "What is justification by faith?" "Several have written to me, inquiring if the message of justification by faith is the third angel's message, and I have answered, 'It is the third angel's message in verity'" (The Review and Herald, April 1, 1890, quoted in Selected Messages, book 1, p. 372).
[4] "This message was to bring 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" (Testimonies to Ministers and Gospel Workers, pp. 91, 92).
[5] Note what Ellen White wrote about the counterfeit view of the atonement and the true view of the atonement. "The atonement of Christ was not made in order to induce God to love those whom He otherwise hated; and it was not made to produce a love that was not in existence; but it was made as a manifestation of the love that was already in God's heart ... We are not to entertain the idea that God loves us because Christ has died for us ... The death of Christ was expedient in order that mercy might reach us with its full pardoning power, and at the same time that justice might be satisfied in the righteous substitute" ("Christ Our Complete Salvation," Signs of the Times, May 30, 1895).
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