Monday, October 1, 2012

"The Great Controversy: The Foundation"

Sabbath School Today
With the 1888 Message Dynamic 
Growing in Christ
Lesson 1: "The Great Controversy: The Foundation"

What was the "original sin" that Lucifer committed in heaven? With millions around the world we embark on a course of studying the Seventh-day Adventist fundamental beliefs under the theme of "Growing in Christ." It prompts us to ask the question, What is "the mother of invention," the motivating power for all of our beliefs? [1]
The 1888 message focused the dynamic of truth on the divine-love of God (1 John 4:8). "The love of Christ constraineth us" because "one died for all, then were all dead" (2 Cor. 5:14). In other words, if One hadn't died for all, then all would be dead. So those who live simply cannot live for themselves "but unto Him which died for them" (vs. 15).
If the great controversy is "foundational" to our beliefs, What is the issue of conflict between Christ and Satan? It isagape versus self-love.
In heaven Lucifer asserted "I will exalt my throne," "I will ascend," "I will be like the most High" (Isa. 14:13, 14). He was jealous of Michael who was "like" God. Lucifer's selfish jealousy turned to hatred and murder (1 John 3:15; John 8:44).
Ellen G. White, a very wise writer, says that Lucifer's new idea of "the ... exaltation of self, contrary to the Creator's plan, awakened forebodings of evil in minds to whom God's glory was supreme." [2] This quiet, clever, secret "exaltation of self" would have gone on and on had it not been that some "minds" loyal to God were "awakened" to oppose it. They were the ones who started the "war in heaven"! They were not content to let this underhanded work proceed unopposed.
We can understand wars, riots, and rebellions on this earth, but war in heaven? Scripture is clear. "And there was war in heaven: Michael and His angels fought against the dragon [that is, took the initiative]; and the dragon fought and his angels, and prevailed not; neither was their place found any more in heaven" (Rev. 12:7, 8). Michael "protested" against Lucifer and thus commenced the war.
There is no suggestion that literal swords or guns were used. Two of three "parts" of the angels thought through the clever lies of Lucifer and his supporting angels, and rejected them; thus "their place" was no more "found ... in heaven" (vs. 8). Christ had already conquered Satan in a sinless nature at the time when "there was war in heaven."
Doubtless Lucifer began to see where his rebellion would lead. He saw that the crime he nurtured in his soul was a dark and ugly one--that of murdering the eternal Son of God. So terrible is one's devotion to the love of self!
Lucifer must have pondered long and earnestly the path he was choosing. Should he repent while there was still opportunity? If so, there could be only one way in which he might overcome the sin of his angelic soul--this wonderful "I" that sought to be "like the Most High" and to topple Him from His holy throne, would have to die. Self in Lucifer would have to be crucified.
A spiritual cross on which Lucifer must die to self was the only way out of his dilemma in his incipient war with God. All his pride, his ego, his precious, darling "I" that he had cherished, must perish willingly of his own free choice so that only truth, and right, and holiness might live. Lucifer came so near to yielding that he was able to grasp the significance of the one way of deliverance for him.
Then emphatically, indignantly, irrevocably, he rejected the idea. No cross for him! Once for all, intelligently and responsibly, Lucifer repudiated the idea of self-denial and self-sacrifice. He had gone beyond the point of no return. He had committed the "original sin." He would institute a new way of life for the vast universe of God--the love of the "I," the way of self-seeking, self-assertion, self-love. Thus Lucifer rejected the cross.
It was then that he became the devil and Satan, "that serpent of old, ... who deceives the whole world" (Rev. 12:9). A bright angel who hates the cross becomes God's (and our) enemy.
When Satan tempted Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden, his bait was the assurance that in transgression they would reach a higher life than they had been created to enjoy. "You will be like God," he promised (Gen. 3:5). This desire to be as God was the same that led to Satan's original sin in heaven.
Satan was not ignorant of the principle of the cross, but what he could not comprehend was the divine love revealed in the incarnate Christ that would lead Him to go all the way to the supreme sacrifice, and to do it voluntarily. The last malicious taunt flung at Christ was inspired by Satan--"Save Yourself, and come down from the cross!" (Mark 15:30).
The Everlasting Covenant was originally made to Adam and Eve (Gen. 3:15). God promised to "put enmity" where there would be no desire for good and right if God did not put it in the heart of everyone to some degree. When God made the promise to Adam and Eve it was Christ who was "slain from the foundation of the world" (Rev. 13:8). Christ became surety for the entire human race. He put Himself on the line to bring about all that He promised to Adam and Eve. God did not require from Adam and Eve a promise to obey Him, there is no record of any such transaction. All their power was gone.
Adam, with his eyes wide open, in full knowledge, knew that eating the forbidden fruit would be sin. "Therefore to him that knoweth to do good, and doeth it not, to him it is sin" (James 4:17). In unbelief he stepped out on forbidden ground. His very nature was changed by his willful choice. At that moment he was no longer capable of doing good. He was condemned to eternal death. Adam had sold out to Satan.
Satan was fully aware that Adam had given over his right of dominion to him. In the temptations of Christ, Satan reminded Jesus that all the "power and grandeur" of the world was his by Adam's choice, "for it has been made over to me. ..." (Luke 4:6, Moffat translation). It was impossible for Adam to right himself again because sin had entered the world. "By the offense of one judgment came upon all men," resulting in condemnation to an eternal grave (Rom. 5: 12, 18). No hope of life, no hope of even one bite of food, or a breath of air, or a glass of cold water. Not one single thing was ours by Adam's one choice.
God promised in the beginning that He would implant in human nature an "enmity between [Satan's] seed and her seed" [Eve's descendants] (Gen. 3:15). Ellen White said, "As far as evil extends, the voice of the Father is heard, bidding His children ... forsake the evil, and inviting them to receive the good." [3]
--Paul E. Penno
[1] This question is posed in the introductory thoughts for September 29. "Growing in Christ," Adult Sabbath School Bible Study Guide (2012).
[2] The Great Controversy, p. 494.
[3] Education, p. 27.
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