Tuesday, January 1, 2013

"Jesus, Creator of Heaven and Earth"

Sabbath School Today
With the 1888 Message Dynamic 
Lesson 1: "Jesus, Creator of Heaven and Earth"

How do we know that Christ is the Creator since no one was there to witness the beginning of the earth? The 1888 message provides the answer as we begin a course of excellent studies on creationism.
The foundational truth about creation is the divinity of Christ. "God created" (Gen. 1:1). Representing the Father, Christ created the heaven and the earth. "In the beginning was the Word ... and theWord was God"--capital "W." "All things were made by Him" (John 1:1, 3). "By Him [Christ] were all things created ... in heaven ... and ... in earth" (Col. 1:16). So when we read "in the beginning God," we know it was Christ (Gen. 1:1).
Creative power is the distinguishing mark of divinity. The "gods" are vain because they "have not made the heavens and the earth" (Jer. 10:11). But God "hath made the earth by His power" and "wisdom, and .. the heavens" (Jer. 10:12). Christ is "the power of God, and the wisdom of God" (1 Cor. 1:24). E. J. Waggoner concludes, "only as we acknowledge and worship Christ as the Creator do we acknowledge His Divinity." [1]
Such a strong declaration of the divinity of Christ by Waggoner may come as a surprise to some who have the impression that the 1888 messengers were Arians like the rest of their Adventist contemporaries. Arianism is the idea that Christ was a created being who had a "beginning" or who was "born" in the distant past. Ellen White writes of the "most precious message to His people through Elders Waggoner and Jones" that "they ["His people"] needed to have their eyes directed to His divine person. ..." [2] Some of the strongest statements regarding the full deity of Christ from any Seventh-day Adventist up to 1890 were made by E. J. Waggoner. [3] It was after 1888 that Ellen G. White wrote her most forceful statements. [4]
There is a twofold reason why an understanding of the full deity of Christ is essential: (1) to be the Creator, Christ must have "life in Himself" [5]; and (2) only the Creator qualifies to be the Redeemer. [6]
How did Christ create? "By the word of the Lord were the heavens made; and all the host of them by the breath of His mouth" (Psalm 33:6). "'In Him was life,' (John 1:14) even endless life." [7] What a word is this!
Why could only the Creator be the Redeemer? There is a world of comfort in the first sentence of the Bible. "In the beginning God created" (Gen. 1:1). Some have thought that redemption is a greater act of God than creation, but they are one and the same. It takes just as much creative power to save a soul from addiction to sin as it does to create the world and the universe.
Christ is Redeemer by virtue of His power as Creator. We read that "we have redemption through His blood, even the forgiveness of sins," because that "by Him were all things created" (Col. 1:14, 16). If He were not Creator, He could not be Redeemer.
The Psalmist prayed, "Create in me a clean heart, and renew a right spirit within me" (Psalm 51:10). The apostle says, that "if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature" (2 Cor. 5:17) or a new creation. We read, "For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: ... For we are His workmanship,created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained, that we should walk in them" (Eph. 2:10).
Compared with God, man is "less than nothing, and vanity" (Isa. 40:17). In him "dwelleth no good thing" (Rom. 7:18). Now the same power that in the beginning made the earth from nothing, takes man, if he is willing, and makes of him that which is "to the praise of the glory of His grace" (Eph. 1:6).
How do we know how the worlds were made? "Through faith we understand that the worlds were framed by the word of God, so that things which are seen were not made of things which do appear" (Heb. 11:3). Faith gives special knowledge. This knowledge is not speculation or uncertainty. Faith teaches that God spoke by His all-powerful word and the worlds came into existence in all their matter and energy.
Where does faith come from? The cross of Christ is the source of faith. The fact of the cross reveals the love of God to every individual in the world. Faith is motivated by the love of the cross (John 3:16). Therefore, faith knows that the universe was created by God's word.
Christ does not exist in any other form than the Crucified One. It is by the cross that everything is sustained, for "in Him all things hold together" (Col. 1:17, NIV). But for the cross there would be universal death. There would be no plants, no family, no pets.
"The heavens declare the glory of God; and the firmament showeth His handiwork" (Psalm 19:1). No pen can describe and no artist's brush can depict the wondrous glory of the heavens; yet that glory is but the glory of the cross of Christ. The power of God is seen in the things that are made, and the cross is the power of God. How can we ever think of glorying in anything else?
Seldom has this glory of the cross been clearly discerned. All too often the usual concept of Calvary's sacrifice is that of a judicial maneuver exacted by divine vengeance, a penalty vicariously paid, an offering made to placate the offended anger of God or to satisfy cold divine justice.
It's no wonder that the doctrine of the atonement, thus presented, leaves many untouched. Gratitude, contrition, and love are unawakened. Only a sense of personal security is achieved, much as one feels when he has signed a business insurance coverage against risk.
Mary Magdalene's great repentance was truly normal, the model for all Christians, the love which led to her repentance was itself that of the model Christian. The awakening of such love in the human heart is the great end Christ longed to achieve by His suffering on Calvary. The cross satisfied all the legal demands of a broken law, but it also works creative miracles on human souls.
The gospel has lost none of its power. Liberated from the confusion of error, it will again accomplish in millions of human hearts the same glorious work accomplished in the heart of Mary.
Jesus' words "I, if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw all [men] unto me" (John 12:32) will come to fruition in the amazing prophecy of Revelation 18:1-4 of an angel coming down from heaven to lighten the earth with glory, and a heavenly voice penetrating to the inner consciousness of every human being, "Come out of [Babylon], My people!"
--Paul E. Penno
[1] Ellet J. Waggoner, The Gospel in Creation (1893), p. 15.
[2] Ellen G. White, Testimonies to Ministers, pp. 91, 92, quoted from a letter to O. A. Olsen May 1, 1895, written from Hobart, Tasmania.
[3] See "Appendix B: Was Waggoner an Arian or Trinitarian?" Robert J. Wieland, The 1888 Message: An Introduction (1997), pp. 174-179.
[4] Eric C. Webster, Crosscurrents in Adventist Christology (1984), pp. 66-74.
[5] Ellet J. Waggoner, Christ and His Righteousness (1890), p. 22.
[6] "The fact that Christ is a part of the Godhead, possessing all the attributes of Divinity, being the equal of the Father in all respects, as Creator ... is the only force there is in the atonement. It is this along which makes redemption a possibility" (ibid, pp. 43, 44). "Our object in this investigation is to set forth Christ's rightful position of equality with the Father, in order that His power to redeem may be the better appreciated" (ibid, p. 19).
[7] E. J. Waggoner, "The Call of Abraham. The Test of Faith," The Present Truth, July 2, 1896.
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