Tuesday, September 30, 2014

"James, the Lord's Brother"

Sabbath School Today

With the 1888 Message Dynamic 

The Book of James

Lesson 1: "James, the Lord's Brother"


Beginning a new series of studies on James, we need a new and refreshing understanding from the 1888 perspective. James is a perplexing figure in the early first century church. He wrote only one letter preserved in the Scriptures in contrast to Paul who is represented by fourteen letters.

James was the older stepbrother of Jesus by Joseph's first marriage. He, along with his siblings, did not "believe in Him [Jesus]" (John 7:5). When Jesus went out to minister to the multitudes in Galilee, James thought, "He is beside [insane] Himself" (Mark 3:21). Early in His ministry the Jews in Judea hated Jesus; nevertheless, "His brethren" urged Him to "show Thyself to the world" (John 7:3-4) at the Feast of Tabernacles. If Jesus had followed the counsel of James, it would have prematurely ended His ministry.

James' treatment of his younger Brother was a constant source of grief and perplexity for Jesus during His growing-up years at home in Nazareth. "This bitter spirit of prejudice and unbelief" in His messiahship "was most cutting to the heart of Jesus." [1]

Undoubtedly the turning point for James was at the time of Jesus' resurrection appearance to the "five hundred brethren" at which time "He was seen of James" (1 Cor. 15:6-7). The convincing power of Jesus' return from the dead was the tide that turned James' unbelief.

Herein is revealed the love of God. It was demonstrated for all to see at the cross. Jesus' made the decision to go to hell for James, the sinner--to pay his wages of sin. But the Father could not permit Satan the victory of claiming Jesus a captive of the tomb. Such love must return to life. So the power of the resurrection from eternal death was manifested in Jesus. The faith of James in His Brother being the Saviour was founded on the love of God.

James was in the upper room at Pentecost, in "one accord in prayer" along with "Mary the mother of Jesus, and with His brethren" (Acts 1:14). The greater miracle at Pentecost was the truth articulated by Peter, that they were guilty of the body and blood of the divine Son of God, "whom ye have crucified, both Lord and Christ" (2:36). "Ye denied the Holy One and the Just, and ... killed the Prince of life" (3:12-15).

This was the "early rain" message of Pentecost that brought James to his moment of truth. Side by side with the devastating conviction of known sin came the conviction of Christ's forgiveness. Here at the very beginning of the Christian church was "high fidelity" Christian experience! We are awaiting the "latter rain." What is the difference from the "early rain"? It is the 1888 message of Christ crucified which the Holy Spirit uses to convict of all sin, both known and unknown, in order to prepare a people for translation.

By the time of the Jerusalem council, James emerged as the leader of the dominate force within the Christian church, Jewish Christianity (Acts 15:13). For the most part, the apostles remained in Jerusalem focusing their ministry to their fellow Jews. Consequently, James and his colleagues had a very successful mission, with large numbers of Jews joining the followers of the Messiah. They were permitted to bring with them circumcision and "keep[ing] the law of Moses" (15:5).

This precipitated a crisis with the Gentile mission to which God had ordained the Apostle Paul. At Antioch, where there were many Greek-speaking Jews, Paul taught salvation by faith in the Saviour of the world. But "certain of the sect of the Pharisees which believed" "from Judaea" taught, "ye cannot be saved" without circumcision (Acts 15:5, 1). [2] In other words, salvation is by faith, but there is something else you must do. In Paul's view, this was "another gospel" (Gal. 1:6).

The crisis came when Peter, who had been accustomed to eating with the Gentiles, compromised himself in front of the "false brethren" from Judea, and he would not be seen eating with the uncircumcised (Gal. 2:12). Paul could not permit disunity in the church resulting from the error of this false gospel. So he went to those "who seemed to be somewhat in conference," "James, Cephas, and John, who seemed to be pillars" (2:6, 9).

James, who was zealous for the law of Moses, recognizing the Holy Spirit had also been given to the Gentiles, announced the sensible decision of the council regarding Paul's mission to the non-Jewish world. They would not be troubled with circumcision or the law of Moses, but out of deference for the Jewish Christians in the diaspora, the Gentiles should be taught not to eat bloody meat offered to idols (Acts 15:20).

But the issue of circumcising the Gentile Christians did not go away in the early church. In an expression of unity from the Gentile mission with the Jewish church Paul collected an offering and presented it to James (Acts 21:18). But James' concern was "many thousands of Jews there are which believe; and they are all zealous of the law" (21:20). James said, you "teachest all the Jews which are among the Gentiles to forsake Moses, saying that they ought not to circumcise their children" (21:21). [3] Paul, could you not extend an olive branch to these zealots by sponsoring four Nazarites who must complete their vows? Would you accompany them to the Temple and offer a purification sacrifice? (21:23-24). [4]

As a concession to James, Paul took this action. His presence in the Temple caused a riot among the Jews and Paul was beaten and put under arrest for his safety by the guards. Thus James, the moderate church politician, in seeking to appease the zealots in the Jewish church, put Paul in harm's way, and precipitated his loss to the Christian Church. [5]

James was the leader of the largest Christian Church and consequently had a broad influence over the early church-at-large. His faith started out with the right motivation of divine love. However, through a series of compromises, he was responsible for bringing into the church Jews who believed in the continuing observance of the laws of Moses--in others words, Jesus plus works. Thus James lost the dynamic motivation for faith by trusting in what self must do in order to be saved. James lapsed into the error of the old covenant,--what we must do for salvation.

Christ's evaluation of the first church, Ephesus, is "thou hast left thy first love" (Rev. 2:4). James presided over that church. As such, his one letter in the New Testament stands as a warning for future generations of compromising "the truth of the gospel" (Gal. 2:5). Can we find the 1888 dynamic for faith in the book of James?

--Paul E. Penno

[1] Ellen G. White, "Some Shall Depart from the Faith," Advent Review and Sabbath Herald, May 8, 1888.

[2] "Judaizing teachers were opposing the work of the apostle, and seeking to destroy the fruit of his labors. ... It was impossible, by scriptural arguments, to overthrow the doctrines taught by Paul; hence they resorted to the most unscrupulous measures to counteract his influence and weaken his authority. They declared that he had not been a disciple of Jesus, and had received no commission from him; yet he had presumed to teach doctrines directly opposed to those held by Peter, James, and the other apostles. Thus the emissaries of Judaism succeeded in alienating many of the Christian converts from their teacher in the gospel" (Sketches from the Life of Paul, p. 188).
[3] Paul "could not count upon the sympathy and support of even his own brethren in the faith. ... Some, even of the apostles and elders, had received [unfavorable] reports as truth, making no attempt to contradict them, and manifesting no desire to harmonize with him" (Ibid., p. 207).

"Instead of doing justice to the one whom they had injured, [the elders at Jerusalem] still appeared to hold [Paul] responsible for the existing prejudice, as though he had given them cause for such feelings. They did not nobly stand in his defense, and endeavor to show the disaffected party their error; but they threw the burden wholly upon Paul. .. They continued to cherish prejudice against him, they were constantly working to counteract his influence" (Ibid., pp. 211, 213).

[4] One of the offerings made in purification of the Nazarite was a "lamb of the first year without blemish for a sin offering" (Num. 6:14). This indicates that Jewish Christians continued to sacrifice animals after the Crucifixion. To worship God through an animal sacrifice was an inherent contradiction and denial of worshiping God through "the Lamb of God."
[5] "Had the leaders in the church fully surrendered their feelings of bitterness toward the apostle, and accepted him as one specially called of God to bear the gospel to the Gentiles, the Lord would have spared him to them to still labor for the salvation of souls. He who sees the end from the beginning, and who understands the hearts of all, saw what would be the result of the envy and jealousy cherished toward Paul. God had not in his providence ordained that Paul's labors should so soon end; but he did not work a miracle to counteract the train of circumstances to which their own course gave rise. ...

"How often would the Lord have prolonged the life of some faithful minister, had his labors been appreciated. But if the church permit the enemy of souls to pervert their understanding, so that they misrepresent and misinterpret the words and acts of the servant of Christ; if they allow themselves to stand in his way and hinder his usefulness, the Lord removes from them the blessing which he gave" (Ibid., pp. 231-232).

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Raul Diaz

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Lesson 13: "The Second Coming of Jesus"

                               Sabbath School Today
With the 1888 Message Dynamic 
The Teachings of Jesus
Lesson 13: "The Second Coming of Jesus"
Our denominational name, Seventh-day Adventist, proclaims our mission. Thus the prophetic destiny of Adventists will be successful at the second advent of Christ. Our mission is to invite the multitudes of the nations to the wedding by means of the clearest "everlasting gospel" of all. If this be the case, then our message and purpose is to prepare a Bride ready to reciprocate her Husband's love for her at His coming. There never was a bride who feared her husband. The bride welcomes the coming of her husband. [1]
If, as a denominated, distinct people from the churches of the earth, we give up our sanctuary truth,--the kernel, and not the husk,--we have no way to be prepared for the coming of the Bridegroom. It is possible to lose the sanctuary truth while still using the terms causing us to think that we believe it.
It's time to face up to our fears about Christ's return. In our final lesson of this quarter, "The Second Coming of Christ," it is clear what our fears are. It involves the very "kernel" of Adventist "present truth," the sanctuary.
How is it possible that as our Lesson proclaims, "our passion for Christ's return is stronger than ever"; and yet further on we read, "the Second Coming is never farther away than a moment after our death"? [2] What was implicitly taught in the lesson on "Death and Resurrection" is made explicit in this 13th Sabbath lesson; namely, "His coming is never more than a moment after we die." [3]
There is not a word about "translation" of the living who are prepared to welcome Jesus' coming. The best that we can hope for is death and then resurrection when He comes. Is this the "present truth" of the sanctuary? What motivation lies beneath this focus on the resurrection?
"The first resurrection" is "blessed and holy" (Rev. 20:6). Since 1844, there are many in this special, elite class. What wonderful comfort to know that the death of our beloved is not the end, but a peaceful rest until Jesus' voice awakens them at His return.
But is this "the present truth" of our Day of Atonement? If we lose sight of the unique understanding of Seventh-day Adventists regarding the everlasting gospel,--which is "the cleansing of the sanctuary,"--we become like all the rest of Protestantism in our motivation for the kingdom.
This focus strictly on the resurrection is not much different in motivation than what is taught by the pre-tribulation rapture. The idea is, believers do not go through the final tribulation, but are quietly taken away by the "secret rapture." The underlying motive is a fear of the tribulation and a desire to escape it. The same motivation is in Protestantism's focus on death as the door to heaven.
The emphasis in our Lesson, "our passion for Christ's return," is fatal if we teach that death is the preferred way to Christ's return. Why? Because there is an underlying fear of the crisis ahead--the events surrounding the close of probation--and, primarily, a fear of Christ's second coming.
It's time to ask ourselves the question: Is the second coming of Christ Good News? Or is it Bad News? Is there a hidden alienation that exists between Adventists and their desire to see Jesus return? The resurrection as the way to the second coming exposes this hidden, motivational fear. Will the real Adventist stand up?
Is our understanding of the sanctuary truth a preparation to die; so that we can come up in the first resurrection, and thus escape the tribulation through the "underground route" to the second coming? If so, then we have reverted to a pre-1844 view of righteousness by faith.
For eighteen hundred years, Christ, our High Priest, was ministering a gospel in order to prepare people to die and come up in the resurrection. Because of the kindergarten status of disciples through long ages, Christians believed, more often than not, of fear of hell and hope of reward.
But subsequent to 1844, Christ is no longer in the first apartment of the sanctuary. In His divine capacity as Master Teacher, there is revealed the fuller, more complete understanding of "the everlasting gospel," which has not been comprehended since the days of the Apostles. Day of Atonement faith is no longer motivated by fear, but divine agape. "God is leading out a people. He is cleansing and fitting up a people for translation." [4] The "cleansing and fitting up" is the agape motivation for faith.
There is a widespread idea in our midst, which is an outgrowth of Calvinism, that God has predetermined the time for Christ's second coming as a fixed date. But Jesus taught that the timing of His coming is conditional and dependent upon the faithfulness of God's people. Jesus' parable of the farmer teaches that "the grain ripens" and "immediately he puts in the sickle, because the harvest has come" (Mark 4:26-29; cf. Rev. 14:14, 15).
The actual time of Christ's second coming depends on the "harvest" getting ripe, that is, on God's people being ready for His coming. Do we need a special preparation to be ready? The factor that makes the difference is "the latter rain" outpouring of the Holy Spirit. It's not a "works trip," but a "faith trip." This message of "the latter rain" began in 1888. It is the Spirit that ripens the grain, but He cannot if we will not let Him.
If there should be any lingering, hidden sin in the hearts of believers, it would surely be revealed at Christ's coming for "our God is a consuming fire" (Heb. 12:29). Obviously, Jesus loves us too much to come if we're not ready. If He came when we're not ready, we would only be consumed by the brightness of His coming (2 Thess. 2:8).
Furthermore, sin both known and unknown causes fear. Shortly before Christ's return, "the mark of the beast" will be the most fear-inducing test that God's people must pass. God's answer to the mark of the beast is the seal of God. The wonderful truth is that Jesus removes our fear and its root cause which is sin, by an appreciation of His much more abounding grace (the fullness of Divine love and the cross).
The time of trouble turns out to be the "engagement" period with our Husband-to-be. It's as though we are camping in lion-infested territory with Jesus, and the last vestiges of lingering fear are removed from us by our consent.
All the dead must remain prisoners in their graves until the Life-Giver returns, for only the Son of God can resurrect them. Therefore everything depends on a people getting ready for Him to come! The Good News is that the Holy Spirit is working night and day, seven days a week, preparing a people for Christ's soon coming. Are you letting Him work?
--Paul E. Penno
Endnotes:[1] Thus our mission and message go hand-in-hand. Many believe getting the most numbers is the fulfillment of our mission. However, the mission is not merely to gather in the largest numbers, but to prepare the "Bride" by means of a Spirit-indited message.
[2] "The Teachings of Jesus," Sabbath afternoon and Wednesday lessons, pp. 149, 153 (Teacher's Edition); pp. 104, 108 (Standard Edition).
[3] Wednesday's lesson, p. 153 (Teacher's); p. 108 (Standard).
[4] Ellen G. White to Friends at Hanover, New Hampshire, Feb. 18, 1863; Letter H-012.
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Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Fwd: Fw: Sabbath School Today, Lesson 12, Quarter 3-14

Sabbath School Today

With the 1888 Message Dynamic 

The Teachings of Jesus

Lesson 12: "Death and Resurrection"


A nagging sense of hunger disturbs many. "I wonder if the 1888 message is important enough to take my time?" It is. It's what the hungry Adventist heart is yearning for. The reason why hits you like a clap of thunder. That message, given over a century ago, was the "beginning" of a soul-winning explosion unprecedented since the early days of Christianity. It was the initial "showers of the latter rain from heaven," the Good News refreshment for which a drought-stricken world was famished.

It was to "lighten the earth with glory," a light that would penetrate to honest hearts in Islam, Hinduism, Catholicism, Protestantism, paganism, yes, worldwide. A "voice from heaven" would speak to every human soul, "Come out of Babylon, My people!" fulfilling the long-awaited prophecy of Revelation 18. The message would have added a "mighty" fourth angel to our Church's former logo of the three angels.

Since the first-century apostles turned their "world upside down," no message has ever done a work like that, although the 1844 Midnight Cry came close. The Lord seriously wanted to prepare a people right then to meet the final issues of earth's history. The agenda was not "Get ready to die," but "Get ready for translation."

I bristle when I hear someone say (in all good intention), "Everybody has to die someday," when the Bible says precisely the opposite: "Listen, ... we shall not all die" (1 Cor. 15:51, Good News Bible, it's a good translation; our King James Version says, "We shall not all sleep").

The inspired apostle Paul wants to make doubly sure we don't misunderstand: "I do not want you to be ignorant ... concerning those who have fallen asleep." He goes on to explain that there will be a generation of people who "are alive and remain until the coming of the Lord" (1 Thess. 4:13, 15, New King James Version).

The "showers of the latter rain" that began in 1888 were a special gift in the form of a message. It is to prepare God's people for meeting Jesus, and being changed at His coming without suffering death. It's "translation," which Enoch experienced (Heb. 11:5). The latter rain "ripens the grain for the harvest."

Sadly, our lesson seems to focus on our resurrection, assuming that we will all die. Also, there is no mention of Christ's second death, which is the overarching concept for the gospel truths of the 1888 message: Christ has already accomplished something for every human being. He died the second death for "every man," and thus elected "all men" to be saved. In that sense, it is true that "He saved the world." [1]

When Christ gave His blood for the sins of the world, He redeemed the lost human race. No one is exempt from intimate involvement, because "He by the grace of God [tasted] death for everyone" (Heb. 2:9). In other words, He died every person's second death, His final punishment for sin.

And He did all this before we had any chance to say yes or no. Jesus has involved Himself with every human soul at the deepest level of his being, that hidden source of his intimate personal fear of eternal death. Christ's sacrifice has already "delivered" him from that fear which has enslaved him through "all [his] lifetime." [2] (The sinner can resist and reject, and thus be lost; Christ will force no one to be saved.)

Christ's sacrifice has reversed for all men the "condemnation" which came upon us all "in Adam." He literally saved the world from the premature suicide that sin would have brought upon us. So every loaf of bread is stamped with His cross. "Never one, saint or sinner, eats his daily food, but he is nourished by the body and blood of Christ." [3] When this grand 1888 truth comes into focus, we see it in the Bible: "The bread of God is He who comes down from heaven and gives life to the world. .. The bread that I shall give is My flesh, which I shall give for the life of the world" (John 6:33, 51).

"God's act of grace is out of all proportion to Adam's wrongdoing. ... And again, the gift of God is not to be compared in its effect with that one man's sin; for the judicial action, following upon the one offence, issued in a verdict of condemnation, but the act of grace, following upon so many misdeeds, issued in a verdict of acquittal. ... It follows, then, that as the issue of one misdeed [Adam's] was condemnation for all men, so the issue of one just act [Calvary] is acquittal and life for all men" (Rom. 5:15-18, NEB).

Here is power to motivate! But what is the practical result of believing this Good News? We were on the outs with God, at enmity with Him; now we see Him as a Friend. In other words, we have "received the atonement," which means we are reconciled to Him. (Rom. 6: 7-11). We experience justification by faith, which is a change of heart. We've been redeemed from eternal death! It's like someone on death row who gets a last-minute reprieve. So, says Paul, "present yourselves to God as being alive from the dead." The burden is lifted from the weary heart when such "peace with God" flows in. From now on, no sacrifice is too difficult to make for the One who has already saved you from hell. (Rom. 6:13; 5:1).

A. T. Jones sums it up well: "When Jesus Christ has set us all free from the sin and the death which came upon us from the first Adam, that freedom is for every man; and every man can have it for the choosing. The Lord will not compel any one to take it. ... No man will die the second death who has not chosen sin rather than righteousness, death rather than life." [4]

The great Protestant Reformation of justification by faith has prepared untold numbers of precious souls to die prepared to come up in the "first resurrection" (see Rev. 20:6).

The resurrection of the dead in Christ depends upon the second coming of Jesus. And the second coming is contingent upon a people who are prepared for translation. The 144,000 are the graduates of Christ's school, who have let Him do His perfect work of agape in their characters. We err if we think that it is "our" blessed hope. The Bride will think only of her Husband's "blessed hope."

Christ wants to return because He loves His people who have gone to their rest over the centuries, and He wants to be reunited with them. They can be happy in the kingdom of God forever. Now we've come to the time when the Holy Spirit will reveal a clearer understanding of truth that prepares people for translation at the second coming of Jesus (see 1 Thess. 4:16, 17).

"Let us thank the Lord that He is dealing with us still, to save us from our errors, to save us from our dangers, to keep us back from wrong courses, and to pour upon us the latter rain, that we may be translated. That is what the [1888] message means--translation--to you and me. Brethren, let us receive it with all the heart, and thank God for it." [5]

--From the writings of Robert J. Wieland

[1] Please see Revelation 2:11; 20:6, 14; Hebrews 2:9.

[2] Heb. 2:14, 15; cf. E. J. Waggoner, The Glad Tidings, pp. 13, 104.
[3] Ellen G. White, The Desire of Ages, p. 660.
[4] A. T. Jones, General Conference Bulletin, 1895, p. 269.
[5] Jones, General Conference Bulletin, 1893, p. 185.

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Raul Diaz

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Lesson 11: "The Sabbath"

Sabbath School Today
With the 1888 Message Dynamic 
The Teachings of Jesus
Lesson 11: "The Sabbath"
The Sabbath is a revelation of Christ and a sign by which those who cherish it know that the Lord is the One who makes them righteous and sanctifies them. Christ is the Word and so all Bible teaching is the teaching of Jesus. His word is truth and life.
Only those who believe with the faith of Jesus can enter into His Sabbath. Israel could not enter because they would not believe: "And to whom did He swear that they would not enter His rest, but to those who did not obey? So we see that they could not enter in because of unbelief" but "we who have believed do enter that rest" (Heb. 3:8, 9; 4:3).
So it is that the Sabbath contains within it the creative power of God, the rest of God, the blessing of God, the presence of God, which makes holy, and the continuing indwelling presence of God, which sanctifies. Therefore we find that:
The Sabbath is a reminder of Christ's power as Creator: It is the reminder of His creative power manifested. It is a sign between Him and His people forever, "for in six days the Lord made the heavens and the earth, and on the seventh day He rested and was refreshed" (Ex. 31:17).
We find in Christ the creative power of God: Creative power is the same as redemptive power, therefore redemption is creation--they are one and the same. The first thing that Jesus is to the sinner in this world is Creator (Redeemer), making the sinner a new creation. "If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation" (2 Cor. 5:17). "Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me" (Psalm 51:10). So the work of God in salvation is creation.
The Sabbath is Christ's rest: "For He has spoken in a certain place of the seventh day in this way: 'And God rested on the seventh day from all His works'" (Heb. 4:4). We have seen that only those who believe can enter His rest. God is Spirit so therefore His rest is a spiritual rest.
We find in Christ God's rest: "For he who has entered His rest has himself also ceased from his works as God did from His" (Heb. 4:10). Rest is a gift, therefore it is written: "Come unto me, ... and I will give you rest" (Matt. 11:28). Spiritual rest is only received by faith.
The Sabbath holds Christ's blessing: "Then God blessed the seventh day and sanctified it, because in it He rested from all His work which God had created and made" (Gen. 2:3).
We find in Christ God's blessing: "God, having raised up his Servant Jesus, sent Him to bless you, in turning away every one of you from your iniquities" (Acts 3:26). And "God the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ" (Eph. 1:3). It is God who blesses us and turns us from our sins.
In the Sabbath is Christ's holiness: Only the presence of God can make anything holy. Moses, attracted by the sight of the bush burning yet not being consumed, turned aside "to see this great sight." "So when the Lord saw that he turned aside to look, God called to him from the midst of the bush and said, 'Moses, Moses!' And he said, 'Here am I.' Then He said, 'Do not draw near this place. Take your sandals off your feet, for the place where you stand is holy ground'" (Ex. 3:4, 5). That place was made holy ground solely by the presence of Him in the bush, just as the presence of the Lord made holy the seventh day, the Sabbath, when He rested on it and in it from all His works.
We find in Jesus the presence of God that makes us holy: It is written: "At that day you will know that I am in My Father, and you in Me, and I in you" (John 14:20). And "God willed to make known what are the riches of the glory of this mystery among the Gentiles: which is Christ in you, the hope of glory" (Col. 1:27). It is the presence of Christ that makes holy, and His continuing presence sanctifies.
Elder Robert J. Wieland often remarked that: "Righteousness is the result of Christ's holiness meeting and conquering sin in our flesh." So we see that it is Christ in us that makes us righteous, and His righteousness is only received by His faith.
"The work of righteousness will be peace, and the effect of righteousness, quietness and assurance forever. My people will dwell in a peaceful habitation, in secure dwellings, and in quiet resting places" (Isa. 32:17, 18). Herein is the Sabbath!
Ellen G. White wrote that the Sabbath points to Christ "as both the Creator and the Sanctifier." Moreover, "I gave them My Sabbaths, to be a sign between Me and them, that they might know that I am the Lord that sanctify them ... (Ezek. 20:12). Then the Sabbath is a sign of Christ's power to make us holy" (The Desire of Ages, p. 288).
The Sabbath has in it Christ's sanctification: He not only blessed the seventh day, but sanctified it that His presence might dwell in it. Christ's presence makes holy, but His continuing presence is what sanctifies.
All the above is what is found in Christ; for the Sabbath rest is the culmination of the everlasting covenant--of the gospel which is "Christ in you, the hope of glory." The good news of the gospel is that all that is found in Christ is now your own experience because of Christ in you.
We find in Jesus God's abiding, indwelling presence which sanctifies us: For it is written: "If anyone loves Me, he will keep My word; and My Father will love him, and We will come to him and make Our home with him" (John 14:23); and "Whoever confesses that Jesus is the Son of God, God abides in him, and he in God" (1 John 4:15); "For you are the temple of the living God. As God has said: I will dwell in them and walk among them. I will be their God, and they shall be My people" (2 Cor. 6:16).
So we see that the Sabbath stands as God's sign of a completed work. It is the sign of a completed work at creation and a sign of the completed work of His secondary creation, the cross.
Ellet J. Waggoner wrote: "The power it took to create the world and all things that are in it, the power that keeps all things in existence, is the power that saves those who trust in it. This is the power of the cross" (The Glad Tidings, p. 140).
But to be made just or righteous means that self must die. We cannot kill self, but there is good news here too: "I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me" (Gal. 2:20).
We know from the Sabbath that Christ's presence makes holy--which is to make righteous, and His continuing presence within completes the sanctification.
Waggoner commented that justification is the highest state man can have on earth, and that sanctification is nothing more than this same justification moving forward over time. Christ's righteousness brings rest. Christ's righteousness is Sabbath.
Sanctification is the completed work of Christ manifested in the individual. Rest follows completed work. Spiritual rest follows completed spiritual work. The image of Christ is completely formed in the believer so that when God looks at the believer He sees His reflection.
"For thus says the Lord God, the Holy One of Israel: 'In returning and rest you shall be saved; in quietness and confidence shall be your strength'" (Isa. 30:15).
"So you see when God set up the Sabbath, he had set creation all before man to start with, and man could see God in creation. But, the Lord wanted to get nearer to man than that; man could study creation and find a knowledge about God. But God wanted him to have the knowledge of God. In creation he could know about Him; in the Sabbath he would know Him; because the Sabbath brings the living presence, the sanctifying presence, the hallowing presence, of Jesus Christ, to the man who observes it indeed" (A. T. Jones, 1893 General Conference Bulletin, pp. 136, 137).
Christ is the Sabbath and all that it is and means. When Christ's presence dwells within then we begin to know God and enter into His rest.
--Daniel Peters
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Monday, September 8, 2014

Thursday, September 4, 2014

SST #10 | "The Law of God" | Pastor Paul Penno

"The Law of God"

Sabbath School Today

With the 1888 Message Dynamic

The Teachings of Jesus

Lesson 10: "The Law of God"


The dynamic truth of God's everlasting covenant formed the foundation of the 1888 message. The old covenant motivation of fear of hell and hope of reward is what it means to be "under law." The new covenant motivation is a heart appreciation for Jesus' love that caused Him to go all the way to hell for you on the cross. This is what it means to be "under grace."

Understanding the new covenant is the heart preparation for receiving the "seal of God" and discerning the "mark of the beast" crisis. The new covenant is vital for the Fourth Angel, "having great power; and the earth was lightened with His glory" (Rev. 18:1), to unite with the three angels having "the everlasting gospel" (Rev. 14:6).

God's promise in the everlasting covenant is to write "My laws into their hearts, and in their minds" (Heb. 10:16), which is parallel to the cleansing of the sanctuary truth. Our heavenly High Priest purifies the character of His Bride with agape in readiness for the last plagues, the time of trouble, so that she may stand by her Husband's side, ready for His second coming in consuming fire.

But thus far in "our" 170 [since 1844] year history of development, "our" faith is in the first apartment of the sanctuary. For 1800 years Christ performed a wonderful ministry there preparing people to die in order to come up in the first resurrection at His second coming. But He is not there anymore. Now He is in the second apartment, preparing the character of His Bride for translation without seeing death at His coming.

His corporate body, the church, resisted the call to the wedding in 1888. Until this rejection of Christ is clearly understood and its subsequent history of repeated refusal to receive His love recognized, there will be no reconciliation with Him. Systemic repentance at every level of the church regarding our history must occur in order to clear the alienation of our hearts with Christ.

We are repeating our 1888 history today. There was a time when the inspired pen wrote these words about our pulpits and evangelism: "we have preached the law until we are as dry as the hills of Gilboa." [1] "We" thought we were doing great, fulfilling Revelation 12:17 and 14:12; we were the great "remnant" distinguished by "keeping the commandments of God." Then came "1888."

In 1888 "our" leading brethren resisted the everlasting covenant as presented by A. T. Jones and E. J. Waggoner, because they thought there was too much emphasis on grace and not enough focus on obedience to the law. Leaders felt the 1888 understanding of the covenant was just like the Evangelicals who taught that grace does away with the law.

But Ellen White saw the implications of the law and the covenants in 1888. She was overjoyed to hear it, said it was the clearest presentation of the gospel she had heard publicly "for the last 45 years." [2] She also said that if those two young messengers had not brought the message, we just wouldn't have had it, meaning that the Lord had laid a burden on them He had not laid on her. If in any way their message weakens obedience to God's law, it cannot be "precious," let alone "most precious." [3]

What made her so happy was that at last it set the law before the people in its true light. The young messengers' understanding was fresh, unique, dynamic. She was painfully aware that the Sunday-keeping Evangelical churches denigrated God's law, declaring either that it had been abolished at the cross or was impossible for us humans to obey. Either way, the popular view of justification by faith was employed to refute the Sabbath truth. She rejoiced that "1888" finally portrayed the ten commandments as ten promises glorifying heart-obedience. [4]

"1888" was clear this way: Justification by faith is far more than a legal declaration. The legal declaration of "acquittal for all men" was made at the cross (John 12:32, 33; Rom. 3:23, 24; 5:15-18). Anything accomplished there cannot be restricted or denied to anyone because Christ's sacrifice was universal. "1888" took a giant step further: faith in Jesus makes the believer "manifest ... obedience to all the commandments of God." [5]

Justification by faith now became a personal experience. The heart of the one who believes is reconciled to be at-one with God. And furthermore: since no one can be reconciled to God and at the same time not be reconciled to God's holy law, it follows (says Ellen White) that genuine justification by faith makes the believer demonstrate obedience to the Sabbath commandment.

Thus "1888" was the first powerful message in Adventism that joined "the faith of Jesus" to God's law. It produces the kind of non-egocentric obedience that will enable "His people to stand in the day of God." That's why it was the initial "showers from heaven of the latter rain" and "the beginning" of Revelation 18:1-4 that will close the great gospel commission.

All "obedience" which is motivated by fear of punishment or by a hope of reward is the "righteousness" of the Pharisees. [6] Outward compliance with the law when the heart is unreconciled is the lukewarmness plague of the world "church of the Laodiceans." This was the problem which "the Lord in His great mercy" sought to heal by sending "1888." That's why the new covenant was its focal point of controversy with the brethren.

Jones and Waggoner caught a vision of the cross in the third angel's message. They glimpsed a bit of the light that will lighten the earth at last.

--Paul E. Penno

Endnotes:[1] Ellen G. White, "Christ Prayed for Unity Among His Disciples," Advent Review and Sabbath Herald (March 11, 1890).
[2] The Ellen G. White 1888 Materials, pp. 348, 349.
[3] Ellen G. White, Testimonies to Ministers and Gospel Workers, p. 91.
[4] The Seventh-day Adventist Bible Commentary, vol. 1, p. 1105 (1896).
[5] Op. cit., p. 92.
[6] In Monday's lesson a very significant question is asked: "How can we obey God's commandments wholeheartedly without falling into similar hypocrisy [of the Jews] and legalism?" Unfortunately, the lesson never answers the question and fails to point the student to the cleansing of the sanctuary truth of agape. Jesus points the way by saying, "except your righteousness shall exceed the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, ye shall in no case enter into the kingdom of heaven" (Matt. 5:20). Legalism is faith motivated by fear and hope of reward in exchange for actions performed, and, as such, is egocentrically motivated [old covenant]. How ironic then that in Tuesday's lesson the fear motive meets with approval by these words, "If this warning ["pluck out an eye or cutting off a hand"] scares you, good. It should!" The "under grace" motivation for faith is agape which "exceed[s] the righteousness of the scribes." There is no egotism in agape. Thus "love is the fulfilling of the law" (Rom. 13:10).

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Raul Diaz