Sabbath School Today
With the 1888 Message Dynamic
The Teachings of Jesus
Lesson 6: "Growing in Christ"
This Sabbath School Today is presented to round out and clarify what it is to grow in Christ, not necessarily to cover what the quarterly has already discussed. The 1888 "most precious message" emphasizes that we are to look only to Christ, and that it is by His word that Christ abides in the heart. In 1890, two years following the 1888 General Conference in Minneapolis, this article by Ellet J. Waggoner was published in The Signs of the Times. The article has been condensed to fit our format.
In the book of Colossians occurs this exhortation: "Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom" (Col. 3:16). This text, rightly understood, solves the problem of Christian growth and living. Let us, therefore, spend a few moments to see how much is involved in it.
There is a power in the word of God, far above that of any other book, which cannot be doubted. Through the prophet Jeremiah, the Lord rebukes the false prophets, who speak their own words instead of the words of God, and says: "What is the chaff to the wheat?" says the Lord. "Is not My word like a fire?" says the Lord, "And like a hammer that breaks the rock in pieces?" (Jer. 23:28, 29). And the same prophet thus relates his experience when he was reproached because of the word of the Lord: "Then I said, "I will not make mention of Him, nor speak anymore in His name." But His word was in my heart like a burning fire shut up in my bones; I was weary of holding it back, and I could not" (Jer. 20:9).
The word hidden in the heart protects against sin. "Your word I have hidden in my heart, that I might not sin against You" (Psalm 119:11). And of the righteous we read that "The law of his God is in his heart; none of his steps shall slide" (Psalm 37:31). Jesus, also, in his memorable prayer for his disciples, said, "Sanctify them by Your truth. Your word is truth" (John 17:17).
The word of the Lord is the seed by which the sinner is born again. We read of our heavenly Father, that "Of His own will He brought us forth by the word of truth, that we might be a kind of first fruits of His creatures" (James 1:18). And the Apostle Peter says: "Since you have purified your souls in obeying the truth through the Spirit in ... having been born again, not of corruptible seed but incorruptible, through the word of God which lives and abides forever" (1 Peter 1:22, 23). So we learn that, while those who are Christ's are born of the Spirit, the word of God is the seed from which they are developed into new creatures in Christ. The word, then, has power to give life. "For the word of God is living and powerful" (Heb. 4:12), and the psalmist prays to be made alive according to the word, and then says: "Your word has given me life" (Psalm 119:25, 50).
This is stated very plainly by Jesus himself in John 6:63: "It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh profits nothing. The words that I speak to you are spirit, and they are life." This shows that the power of the Spirit of God dwells in the word of God.
With the knowledge that the word of God is the seed by which men are born to a new life, and that the hiding of the word in the heart keeps one from sin, we may more easily understand 1 John 3:9: "Whoever has been born of God does not sin, for His seed remains in him; and he cannot sin, because he has been born of God." How simple! There is in the word the divine energy, which can transform the mind, and make a new man: "put on the new man which was created according to God, in true righteousness and holiness" (Eph. 4:24). Of course the word can do this only for those who receive it in simple faith. If the soul that is born again retains the sacred and powerful word, it will keep him a new creature. The word is as powerful to preserve, as it is to create.
Jesus gave us an illustration of this. When tempted on every point by the devil, His sole reply was, "It is written," followed by a text of Scripture that met the case exactly. The Christian who would stand fast must do the same thing. There is no other way. This is an illustration of David's words, "By the word of Your lips, I have kept away from the paths of the destroyer" (Psalm 17:4).
It is this of which we read in Revelation 12:11, where, in speaking of the casting down of the "accuser of our brethren," the heavenly voice says: "And they overcame him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony." This does not mean, as some have carelessly assumed, the word of their testimony in meeting, but the word of the testimony in which the psalmist found so great delight. They overcame Satan by the blood of the Lamb, and by the word of God.
But this cannot be done except by those who have the word of God abiding in them. The Spirit is given to bring truth to remembrance, in time of trial; but that which one has not learned he cannot remember. But if he has hidden the word in his heart, the Spirit will, in the hour of temptation, bring to his remembrance just that portion which will foil the tempter.
Every Christian can testify as to the power of the word at such times. When inclined to congratulate himself on some real or fancied superior attainment, what a powerful check are the words, "For who makes you differ from another? And what do you have that you did not receive? Now if you did indeed receive it, why do you boast as if you had not received it?" (1 Cor. 4:7). Or when harsh and bitter thoughts are struggling within for control, the power to quell those turbulent emotions lies in the words, "Love suffers long and is kind; love does not envy; love does not parade itself, is not puffed up; does not behave rudely, does not seek its own, is not provoked, thinks no evil" (1 Cor. 13:4, 5). Or when provoked almost beyond endurance, how the gentle rebuke, "a servant of the Lord must not quarrel but be gentle to all" (2 Tim. 2:24), helps one to be calm. Add to this the many "exceeding great and precious promises" which bring victory to every soul that grasps them by faith. Thousands of aged Christians can testify to the miraculous power resting in a few simple words of the Scriptures.
Now where does this power come from? The answer is found in the words of Christ: "The words that I speak to you are spirit, and they are life" (John 6:63). What spirit are they? The apostle Peter, speaking of the prophets, says that it was the Spirit of Christ that was in them. So, the power of the Spirit dwells in the word; yes, Christ Himself dwells in the word, for He is the Word.
Who can understand the mystery of inspiration? He who understands the mystery of the incarnation, for both are the same. "The Word became flesh." We cannot understand how Christ could be all the fullness of the Godhead, and at the same time be in the form of a servant, subject to all the infirmities of mortal flesh. Nor can we understand how fallible mortals could write the Bible, and yet it is the pure unadulterated word of God. But it is certainly true that the power that was in the Word that was made flesh is the power that is in the word that the apostles and prophets have written for us.
Now we can begin to appreciate more the power residing in the word. "By the word of the Lord the heavens were made, and all the host of them by the breath of His mouth" (Psalm 33:6). Christ, by whom the worlds were made, upholds them "by the word of His power" (Heb. 1:3). The power that resides in the words of revelation is the power that could speak the worlds into existence, and can keep them in their appointed places.
It is by so doing that we bring Christ Himself into our hearts. In the fifteenth chapter of John, the Lord exhorts us to: "Abide in Me, and I in you" and then a few verses later He says, "If you abide in Me, and My words abide in you" (John 15:4, 7). It is by His word that Christ does abide in the heart; for Paul says that "Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith" (Eph. 3:17); and "faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God" (Rom. 10:17).
Many people earnestly long for Christ to come and dwell in their hearts, and they imagine that the reason why He does not do so is because they are not good enough, and they vainly set about trying to get so good that He can condescend to come in. They forget that Christ comes into the heart, not because it is free from sin, but in order to free it from sin; and they possibly never realized that Christ is in the word, (for He is the Word), and that he who makes it a constant companion and yields himself to its influence, will have Christ dwelling within. He who has hidden the word in his heart, who meditates in it day and night, and who believes it with the simple faith of childhood,--such a one has Christ dwelling in his heart by faith, and will experience His mighty, creative power.
Is there not something inspiring in this thought? When we come to God in secret prayer, and the Spirit brings to our remembrance some precious promise or needed reproof, is it not encouraging to know that as we accept them, Christ is coming into the heart with the same power that brought the worlds from nothing? Does it not clothe the word with new dignity? No wonder David ever sounded its praises. May the thought that God is in the word be a fresh incentive for us to gain time and strength to feed upon the source of divine strength--it is thus that we live and grow in Christ.
--Prepared by Daniel H. Peters
[From "The Indwelling Word," The Signs of the Times, July 14, 1890.]
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