Thursday, March 5, 2015

Lesson 10: "Behind the Mask"

Sabbath School Today
With the 1888 Message Dynamic
Proverbs: Words of the Wise
Lesson 10: "Behind the Mask"
Ellen White wrote, "Those who will never admit that they are wrong, feel injured when reproved, and bring forth reasons as numerous as vain, to justify themselves." All the prayer in the world won't change them and they receive no reformation. "They do not see that they are defective, and are satisfied with their own erroneous way of doing, and think that every one else should be as satisfied with them as they are with themselves."
After citing Solomon's words, "Seest thou a man wise in his own conceit? there is more hope of a fool than of him" (Prov. 26:12), Ellen White continues: "The great Teacher has his human agents, whom he terms under-shepherds; and to these, under his direction, he commits the work of setting things in order." [1]
Today church historians and leaders say that the message A. T. Jones and E. J. Waggoner brought to the church in 1888 was old light that was eventually accepted, albeit belatedly, by the majority of that era and continuing on to the present day. This raises the question, is the light of the Revelation 18 message "new light" or "old light"?
In one sense it is indeed "old light" because Solomon says "there is no new thing under the sun" (Eccl. 1:9). Even Jesus did not teach "new light." But oh, by any human standard of evaluation His message was "precious new light" for this dark world! "As something strange and new, [Christ's] words fall upon the ears of the wondering multitude." [2] Ellen White often said virtually the same regarding Jones' and Waggoner's message.
For years there has been an obsession with the idea that the 1888 message was not "new light" but was merely a re-emphasis of what the Protestant churches taught in the 19th century. Yet Ellen White never identified it as a "re-emphasis," and such a position requires logically that the Protestant churches taught "the third angel's message in verity."
No generation of God's people have ever been translated without seeing death; never before has "the harvest of the earth" been "ripe" for the Saviour's sickle (Rev. 14:15). It was the Lord's intention that the 1888 message prepare a people for translation and for the harvest. Would that not require that the message be more mature and developed than any previous generation had ever perceived?
The answer: the light of the loud cry message contains truths that were not enunciated by Luther, Calvin, Wesley, Moody, Spurgeon, Billy Graham, etc.--not even by the Apostle Paul.
While Ellen White says that Luther taught justification by faith "clearly," she also states that he did not proclaim the full gospel as it must yet be proclaimed, for "this message is a part of the gospel which could be proclaimed only in the last days. ... The Reformers did not proclaim it." [3] If the Reformers did not proclaim that full gospel, did they have all the light?
It is proper therefore to recognize that the message that is to prepare the grain for harvest must include "a part of the gospel" which the Reformers did not proclaim. "The gospel" is righteousness by faith, and the third angel's message in verity is the same. The light which the Reformers did not see and proclaim would obviously be "new light" so far as the people of 1888 were concerned.
Ellen White adds the shocking statement, "Paul, as we have seen, did not preach it." Preach what? "A part of the gospel which could be proclaimed only in the last days." [4] That "part of the gospel" is not cold mathematical calculations of the 2300 days. The genius of the 1888 message was its relation of justification by faith to the unique judgment hour truth of the cleansing of the sanctuary. "Paul ... did not preach it." The cleansing of the sanctuary is surely "a part of the everlasting gospel."
She says that Jones and Waggoner "discovered the precious ore in the rich veins of truth ... that have been hidden for ages." [5] No "precious ore" is ever "new," because it is always old ore that has been buried in the earth since creation. But by all the standards of human communication, something "discovered" that the world has never seen before is "new."
Ellen White was impressed with this reality concerning Paul. She says that "great truths that have lain unheeded and unseen since the day of Pentecost, are to shine" in the future. [6] Since when? Luther's day? Paul's day? No. "Since the day of Pentecost." Therefore it follows logically that there are some "great truths" "of the gospel" that Paul did not teach, because the day of Pentecost preceded Paul's ministry.
Then why did Ellen White say that the 1888 message was not "new light"? The answer is obviously in her context. She is defending the message against its critics who derided it as "novel" or false doctrine dreamed up by two young enthusiasts; and her appreciation of the message later grew until she could identify it as the message of Revelation 18:1. That larger appreciation must illuminate her earlier statements.
If we experience justification by faith, "we have peace with God ... because the love [agape] of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Spirit, ... we have now received the atonement [reconciliation with God!], ... as sin hath reigned unto death, even so might grace reign through righteousness unto eternal life by Jesus Christ our Lord" (Rom. 5:1, 5, 11, 21).
All these blessings are wrapped up in the experience of justification by faith. Which is why E. J. Waggoner, editor of The Signs of the Times, once said correctly that "there is but one thing in this world that a man needs, and that is justification" to be ready for the coming of Christ. [7] Why? It includes what is commonly thought to be sanctification! He had a correct idea of what faith is--a heart appreciation of agape, of what really happened at the cross of Christ. This is the sanctuary truth. A former alienated heart is now reconciled to God.
--Paul E. Penno
[1] Ellen G. White, "Words to the Young," The Youth's Instructor, August 31, 1893.
[2] Ellen G. White, Thoughts From the Mount of Blessing, p. 6.
[3] Ellen G. White, The Great Controversy, p. 356.
[4] Ibid.
[5] Ellen G. White, "The Darkness Comprehended It Not," Review and Herald, June 3, 1890.
[6] Ellen G. White, Fundamentals of Christian Education, p. 473, 1897.
[7] E. J. Waggoner, "How Righteousness Is Obtained," The Signs of the Times, May 18, 1891, p. 255.