Tuesday, November 27, 2012

"The Church: Rites and Rituals"

Sabbath School Today
With the 1888 Message Dynamic 
Growing in Christ
Lesson 9: "The Church: Rites and Rituals"
Rather than "rites and rituals," the Seventh-day Adventist Church uses the term "ordinance" when commemorating Christ's baptism, and the Lord's Supper, which is preceded by the "ordinance of preparation," [1] the washing of feet. In Ellen G. White's writings, marriage and tithing are also included as ordinances. [2] (These will be discussed later in the quarter.) Several 1888 "most precious message" dynamics are found in the three ordinances discussed in this lesson, among them: God's agape love for us, the practical godliness truth implicit in the ministry of the heavenly High Priest in the Most Holy Apartment, the power of the Holy Spirit, the two covenants, the nearness of our Saviour, and the concept of justification by faith. Please keep these in mind as you study not only this little essay, but foremost, the Bible and the writings of the Spirit of Prophecy. May we all receive insights into these truths is our prayer.
Baptism: When Jesus came to John asking for baptism, he refused. Jesus had to give him a Bible study there in the water, convincing John that He was the antitypical Lamb of the daily service. "Then he suffered Him" (Matt. 3:15).
Two lambs were offered "daily" on the altar of burnt offering, morning and evening, in behalf of everyone within the boundaries of Israel. "Strangers" and Gentiles were included as the beneficiaries. No repentance was required, no confession; no questions were asked; the lambs were "offered continually," whether anybody believed or not (Ex. 29:38-42). All you had to do was to be a human being, and you were under the umbrella of God's abounding grace. This was the gospel by "moonlight" (Rev. 12:1). As we come to the "sunlight" of the New Testament, the meaning is made clear: "God was in Christ, reconciling the world unto Himself" (2 Cor. 5:19). The daily service of the two lambs was a ministry for the whole world.
When Jesus was dripping wet from His baptism in the River Jordan, a Voice came from heaven, saying, "This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased" (Matt. 3:17). So, when the Father put His arms around Jesus, at the same time He put His arms around you, too. Ellen G. White has written, "The word spoken to Jesus at the Jordan ... embraces humanity. God spoke to Jesus as our representative. With all our sins and weaknesses, we are not cast aside as worthless. 'He hath made us accepted in the Beloved.' Eph. 1:6. The glory that rested upon Christ is a pledge of the love of God for us" (The Desire of Ages, p. 113).
The day after Jesus was baptized, John introduced Him, saying, "Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world!" (John 1:29). Not "maybe," "perhaps," or "He takes away the sin of a few." Why this universal sacrifice of atonement? "He is the propitiation for our sins: and not for ours only, but also for the sins of the whole world" (1 John 2:2). Those promises and that declaration are the New Covenant to your soul.
The "incense" offered on the altar of incense daily or continually was also a type of a universal ministry of intercession. Only the blood of Jesus continually ministered keeps this wicked world from being destroyed (Rev. 8:3-5; when He ceases to minister His blood, then will come the time of trouble). Thank God He still ministers today in the Most Holy Apartment! That has to be Good News!
The Ordinance of Preparation: When the disciples entered the upper room the pitcher, basin, and towel were there, in readiness for the feet washing, but no servant was present, so it was the disciples' duty to perform it. But each of the disciples, yielding to wounded pride, determined not to act the part of a servant. By their silence they refused to humble themselves. The disciples made no move toward serving one another. Jesus waited to see what they would do. Then He rose from the table, took a towel, and girded Himself. With surprised interest the disciples looked on, and in silence waited to see what was to follow. "After that He poureth water into a basin, and began to wash the disciples' feet, and to wipe them with the towel wherewith He was girded." This action opened the eyes of the disciples. Bitter shame and humiliation filled their hearts. They understood the unspoken rebuke, and saw themselves in a new light.
Christ had expressed His love for His disciples. Their selfish spirit filled Him with sorrow, but He entered into no controversy with them regarding their difficulty. Instead He gave them an example they would never forget. His love for them was not easily disturbed or quenched. He had laid aside His royal crown and kingly robes, and had taken the form of a servant, one of the last acts of His life on earth.
By this act of our Lord this humiliating ceremony was made a consecrated ordinance. It was to be observed by the disciples, that they might ever keep in mind His lessons of humility and service. [3]
The Lord's Supper: That last meal that Jesus ate with His disciples illustrates the idea of "substitution" that the New Testament teaches (yes, and the Old Testament, too), a shared experience with Him. Jesus did not say to his disciples, I am eating this Bread instead of you, nor did He say, I am drinking from this cup instead of you. He ate with them, He drank with them; they ate and drank with Him. Using the clearest illustration possible of intimate oneness He represented His believers as "drinking My blood, eating My body." "Abide in Me, and I in you," He pleads. You are branches and I am the Vine (John 15:4, 5). "Ye shall know that I am in My Father, and ye in Me, and I in you." In sending the Holy Spirit to dwell with those who believe in Him, Jesus represents Himself as not leaving them orphans, "I will come to you" (14:20, 18). Open your heart, receive His Spirit; you receive Him.
Jesus does not want us to think of Him as separate from us, doing everything "instead of us," while we look on in childish wonder, uncomprehending. He did indeed die instead of us, He died our second death so we don't have to die our own second death--that is all true; but it is only part of the truth He obviously wants us to understand and experience. He wants intimate oneness with us where we enter into His feelings and His experience as a branch enters into the life processes of the Vine.
And then coming down to the last days of history just before Christ's return, Revelation introduces us to a oneness with Him even more intimate, even closer to our human understanding. We see how He wants us to sense an even deeper identification with Himself--a Bride's nearness to her Husband. Here is a shared experience with Him, one in which human pride can have no place. When "I am crucified with Christ" all my "glory" (yes, even pastoral!) is laid in the dust forever.
Since the cross the Father could "make His sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and send rain on the just and on the unjust" (Matt. 5:45). He was now free to treat "every man" as though he had not sinned. Now the truth of the Lord's Supper could make heartfelt sense: Christ Himself is "the bread of God … which ... giveth life unto the world" (John 6:33). "The bread that I will give," says Jesus, "is My flesh which I will give for the life of the world. ... Except ye eat the flesh of the Son of man, and drink His blood, ye have no life in you" (vss. 51, 53). This is equally true of "all men," believers and unbelievers alike. [4] Christ gave the gift of real life to the world, to the human race; if only "all men" would receive the gift with faith, it would be to them the beginning of eternal life.
But this truth articulated in the 1888 message does not mean that everyone will go to heaven. It is not the heresy of Universalism. By His sacrifice, Christ has given to every one of us the freedom to resist and reject what He has given us. And sadly, many do. The lost ask for their own final destruction. Those who are saved at last are simply those who gladly receive the gift.
God's plan was, that once Seventh-day Adventists could learn to proclaim this truth--what Christ has accomplished for the human race--then honest hearts would experience what the Bible calls "justification by faith." That's what the gospel accomplishes in hearts and lives changed forever. By proclaiming what Christ accomplished on His cross, the honest heart is won.
--From the Writings of Robert J. Wieland
and Ellen G. White as noted
[1] Ellen G. White, Counsels for the Church, p. 300.
[2] See Comprehensive Index to the Writings of Ellen G. White, p. 1929.
[3] Excerpted from Counsels for the Church, pp. 299-301.
[4] The Desire of Ages, p. 660. Written in the after-years of glow from the 1888 preaching.
Please forward these messages to your friends and encourage them to subscribe. 

"Sabbath School Today" is on the Internet at: http://1888mpm.org. Here you will also find videos of Pastor Paul E. Penno's Sabbath School classes on the current and previous lessons.

To subscribe send an e-mail message with "subscribe" in the body of the message to sabbathschooltoday@1888message.org