Tuesday, May 21, 2013

"Trusting God's Goodness (Habakkuk)"

Sabbath School Today
With the 1888 Message Dynamic
Major Lessons From Minor Prophets
Lesson 8: "Trusting God's Goodness (Habakkuk)"
"The LORD is in His holy temple" (Hab. 2:20), and "the just shall live by His faith" (vs. 4).
Habakkuk is a tiny book tucked away in an obscure spot in the Old Testament where few people ever see it. The key to the Book of Habakkuk is the clarity of the 1888 message. The "present truth" of Habakkuk is the "joining together [of] the true biblical idea of justification by faith with the unique idea of the cleansing of the heavenly sanctuary. This is a Bible truth that the world is waiting to discover. It forms the essential element of truth that will yet lighten the earth with the glory of a final, fully developed presentation of 'the everlasting gospel' of Revelation 14 and 18." [1]
"The subject of the sanctuary was the key which unlocked the mystery of the disappointment, showing that God had led his people in the great Advent movement. It opened to view a complete system of truth, connected and harmonious, and revealed present duty as it brought to light the position and work of God's people." [2]
"Christ, His character and work, is the center and circumference of all truth. He is the chain upon which the jewels of doctrine are linked. In Him is found the complete system of truth." [3]
Habakkuk's opening cry of "How long?" is reminiscent of the same question posed in Daniel 8:13,14: "Then I heard a holy one speaking; and another holy one said to that certain one who was speaking, 'How long will the vision be, ...' And he said to me, 'For two thousand three hundred days; then the sanctuary shall be cleansed.'"
There is something about justification by faith and the sanctuary truth that the whole world is about realize. Habakkuk wrote a big idea with these words: "the LORD is in His holy temple. Let all the earth keep silence before Him" (2:20). This sanctuary truth is to command the attention of the whole earth in silence!
The Quarterly rightly stated in Monday's lesson that: "Habakkuk 2:2-4 is one of the most important passages in the Bible. Verse 4, in particular, expresses the essence of the gospel." And "Verse 4 is a summary statement of the way of salvation and of the biblical teaching about justification by faith."
We have seen though that the 1888 "most precious message" is the combining of justification by faith and the unique Adventist doctrine of the cleansing of the sanctuary. By and through the faith of Jesus we are justified by His faith. It is not as some would have us to believe, just credited to us, but is actual in its creative work of love making of us "new creatures." "And thus it is that for the sins which we have actually committed, for the sins that are past, His righteousness, is imputed to us, as our sins are imputed to Him. And to keep us from sinning, His righteousness is imparted to us in our flesh, as our flesh, with its liability to sin, was imparted to Him." [4]
"'Behold, his soul which is lifted up is not upright in him; but the just shall live by his faith' (Hab. 2:4). Faith and humility are inseparable. We ask again, 'Why does a man exercise faith in Christ?' Simply because he feels a need of Christ; he has no confidence in his own strength, and feels that without Christ he must perish. It is not natural for the human heart to acknowledge another as superior. 'The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked.' Independence, boastfulness, and self-conceit are natural to the human heart. But 'if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature.' He became a new creature in consequence of acknowledging his wretched sinfulness, and pleading for mercy through Christ." [5]
The phrase "His faith" refers to "the faith of Jesus." Jesus is the author and finisher of faith--faith originates with Him and there can be no other faith than His (Heb. 12:2). There is "one Lord, one faith, one baptism" (Eph. 4:5). This "one faith" is the faith of Jesus. It is dealt to each man as a gift (Rom. 12:3). Faith is not a part of man's natural equipment; this is why God deals the faith of Jesus to each one of us. If man had his own faith, there would be no need to give it to us. It is said to be "our faith" because of the location from which it is exercised--from within us.
The faith that "the just shall live by" is the very same faith of Jesus, which He exercised over and over again while on earth. It is tested, tried and true. It is strong and invincible. His faith has overcome and conquered all sin in our flesh--it is a victorious faith working through love and fulfilling the righteous requirements of the law within us (Rom. 8:3, 4). Galatians 5:6 teaches us that it is "faith working through love" that accomplishes all things, not us. All genuine obedience is motivated by His faith, and therefore there is no chance for us to be lifted up, since the act of obedience is not our personal action, but is the action of His faith, and yet credited to us as our own.Muscles like faith are good, but neither one is of much help if not used.
So, when we read things like "your faith has made you whole," we know that it was the faith of Jesus, exercised by and within the individual and counted as if it were their own.
It is the faith of Jesus that makes a man righteous by making him a doer of the law, and a new creation. Here is the patience of the saints who keep the commandments of God through the faith of Jesus (Rev. 14:12). This making of man to be just or righteous, is the cleansing of sin from that man's very being--this is intimately connected to the cleansing of the sanctuary. Man's sins must stop entering the sanctuary in order for it to be cleansed.
The just shall live by the faith of Jesus! (Hab. 2:4; Rom. 1:17). It is "one faith." There is no other faith.
Why is the key to the Book of Habakkuk the clarity of the 1888 message? Because the 1888 message is all about presenting to "the world the uplifted Saviour, the sacrifice for the sins of the whole world." It presents "justification through faith" and invites "people to receive the righteousness of Christ, which is made manifest in obedience to all the commandments of God. ... All power is given into His hands, that He may ... imparting the priceless gift of His own righteousness to the helpless human agent. This is the message that God commanded to be given to the world. It is the third angel's message, which is to be proclaimed with a loud voice, and attended with the outpouring of His Spirit in a large measure." [6]
Alonzo T. Jones on this: "The finishing of the mystery of God [Rev. 10:7] is the ending of the work of the gospel. And the ending of the work of the gospel is, ... the taking away of all vestige of sin and the bringing in of everlasting righteousness--Christ fully formed--within each believer, God alone manifest in the flesh of each believer in Jesus; .. The cleansing of the sanctuary extended to the people, and included the people, as truly as it did the sanctuary itself.
"In order for the sanctuary to be cleansed and the course of the gospel service there to be finished, it must first be finished in the people who have a part in the service. ... The sanctuary itself could not be cleansed until each of the worshipers had been cleansed. ... Therefore the very first work in the cleansing of the sanctuary was the cleansing of the people." [7]
Ellet J. Waggoner on this: "When Christ covers us with the robe of His own righteousness, He does not furnish a cloak for sin, but takes the sin away. And this shows that the forgiveness of sins is something more than a mere form, something more than a mere entry in the books of record in heaven, to the effect that the sin has been canceled. The forgiveness of sins is a reality; it is something tangible, something that vitally affects the individual. It actually clears him from guilt; and if he is cleared from guilt, is justified, made righteous, he has certainly undergone a radical change. He is, indeed, another person." [8]
"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." [9]
While the Lord is in His holy temple, let all His people be justified by His faith. Let Him forgive the sin and take it away. When His people allow themselves to be humbled, God's grace and love will seal them unto righteousness forever! Then "the earth will be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the LORD, as the water covers the sea" (Hab. 2:14).
The 1888 message presented in this little book of Habakkuk is nothing less than the goodness of God in action to save His people. "You went forth for the salvation of Your people" (Hab. 3:13).
Q: "How long?" A: "In the days of the sounding of the seventh angel, when he is about to sound, the mystery of God would be finished, as He declared to His servants the prophets" (Rev. 10:7).
--Daniel H. Peters
[1] Robert J. Wieland, Ten Great Gospel Truths, pp. 34-39.
[2] Ellen G. White, The Spirit of Prophecy, vol. 4, p. 268.
[3] E. G. White, Our High Calling, p. 16.
[4] Alonzo T. Jones, "The Faith of Jesus. The Nature of Christ," Advent Review and Sabbath Herald, Jan. 22, 1901, p. 56.
[5] Ellet J. Waggoner, "Faith and Humility," The Signs of the Times, June 2, 1887, p. 326.
[6] E. G. White, Testimonies to Ministers and Gospel Workers, pp. 91, 92.
[7] A. T. Jones as quoted in Wieland, op. cit.
[8] E. J. Waggoner, Christ and His Righteousness, p. 74 (Glad Tidings ed.).
[9] E. J. Waggoner as quoted in Wieland, op. cit.
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