Sabbath School Today
With the 1888 Message Dynamic
The Book of Luke
Lesson 3: Who Is Jesus Christ?
The 1888 Message "Dynamic": In seeking us, Christ came all the way to where we are, taking upon Himself "the likeness of sinful flesh, and for sin, condemned sin in the flesh." Thus He is a Savior "nigh at hand, not afar off." He "is the Savior of all men," even "the chief of sinners."
Our lesson this week discusses a frequently asked question about Jesus: Who is He? This question has engrossed the minds of sincere theologians and pastors for the better part of several centuries. Hundreds, probably thousands of books have been written to answer this question, but the 1888 message provides an answer that brings Jesus out of the theological "fog" into the sunlight.
Who is He? "The Son of God," yes, 100% true, but there's more.
He was among us here on this planet some 2000 years ago. "He was in the world, and the world was made by Him, and the world knew Him not" (John 1:10). Does the world know Him better today? We hope so; there are people worldwide who preach Him.
In his The Glad Tidings (p. 10), E. J. Waggoner wrote: "All gospel teaching is based upon the deity of Christ. The apostles and prophets were so fully imbued with this truth that it appears everywhere in their writings. Jesus Christ is 'the image of the invisible God' (Col. 1:15). 'He reflects the glory of God and bears the very stamp of His nature' (Heb. 1:3). He was in the beginning with God and was God before the world was (John 1:1; 17:5). 'He is before all things, and in Him all things hold together' (Col. 1:17)."
But think of the people of Nazareth; once upon a time they loved Jesus as Mary's Baby and as a Child, not knowing of course who He was or is. The women would coo over Him as a Baby, and admired Him as a Teenager. He went back one time to visit them and to preach during their Sabbath worship service. He announced His "Physician speciality": "The Spirit of the Lord is upon Me, because He hath appointed Me to preach the gospel [Good News] to the poor; He hath sent Me to heal the brokenhearted, to preach deliverance to the captives [slaves], and recovering of sight to the blind [an Optician supreme], to set at liberty them that are bruised."
But all that human neighborly love they had once felt for Him turned sour and bitter, and they tried to throw Him over a cliff and kill Him when He announced to them that He was their Messiah (see Luke 4:16-29). What was once love had turned to become bitter hatred! If you have tasted it even a tiny bit, you can sympathize with Jesus in the pain He has had to feel.
Recognizing His identity still splits the church almost everywhere. We all agree on His divinity: He is the divine Son of the Father, the Creator of the universe, utterly sinless. But who is Jesus in regard to His incarnation? We are generally united in seeing Him as the Descendant of Adam; but the problem is--which Adam? The sinless one before he and Eve sinned? Or is He the descendant of the fallen, sinful Adam?
The issue is not whether or not Jesus was perfectly sinless in His incarnation: we have no misgiving regarding the perfect sinlessness of Jesus in His nature as a human in His incarnation. The issue is: did Jesus have to contend with, and condemn sin, in His human nature? This is the struggle all of us have. Or was Jesus "exempt" from this struggle, so that He had no battle with sin to "overcome"?
But Jesus is also "The Son of man." The Father "sent" His Son in "the likeness of sinful flesh, and for sin, condemned sin in the flesh" (Rom. 8:3). He became One of us, eternally to bear our human nature as well as His divine nature. That also is 100% true. But what has He accomplished by this great condescension and sacrifice?
The Father Gave Jesus a "Job Description"--Save the Lost World:
Jesus' "job description," when the Father sent Him down to this dark world, was: save that lost world! (See Rom. 8:3.)
1. Defeat Satan in humanity.
2. Enter the fray where the problem is.
3. Take upon Your sinless nature (brought from heaven), the same fallen, sinful flesh and nature that all humans have.
4. Then condemn or defeat sin there, in its last lair in the universe.
5. Deliver the human race from this captivity of sin.
6. Triumph in the "great controversy" over Satan.
With no "exemption," no "bullet-proof vest," Jesus entered into the same arena where we have all lost the battle. And right here in our human flesh and human nature He "condemned," defeated, destroyed sin. He came to where it had taken root--in human flesh. In our same flesh He won the great controversy with Satan, opened the gates of heaven for believing, repenting sinners, and rejoiced the hearts of all heaven. Christ did His work; He did "save the world."
But both "Babylon" and Laodicea fail to grasp that Jesus died the second death of every person who has ever been born: "He by the grace of God tasted [the second] death for every person" (Heb. 2:9). Not just our "sleep." The sacrifice on the cross was infinitely greater than we have been able to see. The teaching of natural immortality says Jesus didn't truly die the real thing, our wages of sin--death! Thus He didn't "pay it all."
Romans 8:4 tells what will happen now: "That the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit." Here is the cardinal truth of the 1888 message: human beings by the faith of Jesus will overcome sin, "condemn" it in our fallen flesh, and will become ready for the second coming of Jesus--something no other corporate group has realized in all past history.
Luke gives a vivid account of the Transfiguration. Jesus has been glorified on the Mount of Transfiguration, visiting with Moses and Elijah. Heavenly light. But now He returns to His daily life of ministry for suffering people. He continues His work in the Heavenly Sanctuary. As our High Priest He is making "intercession" for us (Rom. 8:34); and John compares Christ to "an advocate with the Father" (1 John 2:1). In other words, Jesus is a defense lawyer pleading our case "with the Father." Our divine Lawyer is working on our side.
In mercy to the remnant church (and the world), "the Lord in His great mercy sent a most precious message to His people" over120 years ago that told the saving truth in a clear way so simple that a child could understand. Christ took on His sinless nature our fallen, sinful nature, so that He might save the human race from sin. "Tempted in all points like as we are [tempted], yet without sin" (Heb. 4:15), He has delivered the whole human race from captivity to sin. He told His Father that He had "finished the work You gave Me to do" (John 17:4).
But that's not all the Good News: He will have a people who receive His faith and they will overcome also "even as [He] overcame." They will be those translated at Jesus' second coming (cf. Rev. 14:1-5; 1 Thess. 4:16, 17).
On the happiest page of the entire Bible (the last one), you and I are invited: "The [Holy] Spirit and the bride say, Come. And let him that heareth say, Come. And let him that is athirst, come. And whosoever will, let him take the water of life freely" (Rev. 22:17).
--From the writings of Robert J. Wieland