Friday, August 28, 2015

Lesson 9: Peter and the Gentiles

Sabbath School Today
With the 1888 Message Dynamic
Biblical Missionaries
Lesson 9: Peter and the Gentiles

This "Sabbath School Today" will focus on the reception of Christ, through the Holy Spirit, that will fit any person who is willing to receive the promise of the Father, which is the mystery of godliness, or "Christ in you, the hope of glory." It is seldom preached, because since 1888 "our works and our efforts" have taken priority over the gift of the Holy Spirit.
The memory verse addresses individual repentance, baptism, and the gift of the Holy Spirit. Quoting a section from Sunday's lesson we see that it is teaching witnessing without first being filled with the Holy Spirit: "Jesus' last words before His ascension were of a missionary nature: 'Ye shall be witnesses unto Me in Jerusalem, and in all Judea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth' (Acts 1:8). Here, again, we see the mandate to spread the gospel into all the world."
All the words of Jesus must be taken as He spoke them: Acts 1:8 begins, "But ye shall receive power, after that the Holy Spirit is come upon you: and ye shall be witnesses unto Me ... ." Quoting only a part of a verse changes the meaning of the entire thought. Jesus is saying to the disciples that after receiving the Holy Spirit they will be witnesses; while that part is not mentioned, we are urged to go out and witness for Jesus. This is an emphasis on our works for salvation and not salvation by faith.
This order of things is very important! Note that Jesus Himself places the order of things in this manner: (1) The reception of power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you (which is the promise of the Father), and only then (2) would they be able to be witnesses to the ends of the earth.
Here it is plain that we are not to go out and do witnessing or launch any endeavor for missions asking God to bless until after we have received power from the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit is God's fitting the individual for witnessing, missions, and translation at the Second Coming.
Ellet J. Waggoner put it this way: "'For all the promises of God in Him are yea, and in Him Amen, unto the glory of God by us' (2 Cor. 1:20). It is by these 'exceeding great and precious promises' that we are 'made partakers of the Divine nature.' [2 Peter 1:4]. The glories of the world to come will be but the revealing of that which we have now in the personal presence within us of the Lord Jesus Christ. The only hope of glory is Christ in us." [1]
Waggoner goes further and defines the "personal presence" of Christ: "By the Spirit, His own personal presence, He can come to every man on earth and fill the heavens as well ... ." [2] We see that receiving the Holy Spirit is the mystery of God, "Christ in you, the hope of glory" (Col 1:26, 27). This alone prepares us for witnessing.
While this lesson looks at Cornelius, the Council of Jerusalem, Peter and his vision, Pentecost and gentiles, it leaves aside the only requirement for the power to witness and that is the reception of the Holy Spirit--the personal presence of Jesus. Without this presence there is no amount of witnessing or missionary work that will be acceptable to God. (See Matt. 25:41).
A. T. Jones writes: "Before He left them, Jesus said to His disciples that they should be witnesses unto Him 'both in Jerusalem, and in all Judea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth' [Acts 1:8].
"And this was spoken to His disciples for all time; He intended that, in each generation, His disciples should bear witness unto Him, even unto the uttermost part of the earth.
"His disciples of that time did this in their generation: their faith was spoken, and spoken of, 'throughout the whole world;' the gospel which they preached 'was preached to every creature under heaven' (Col. 1:23).
"The reason of this was that they had the power to do it. Jesus said to them, 'Ye shall receive power, after that the Holy Spirit is come upon you; and ye shall be witnesses unto Me ... unto the uttermost part of the earth.'
"The Holy Spirit did come upon them; they did receive power. And having power to be witnesses unto the uttermost part of the earth, it was easy so to witness.
"And that is true yet. Any church that has the power to witness unto Christ to the uttermost part of the earth can witness unto the uttermost part of the earth. It will not be difficult to do what she has the power to do.
"The only reason that the church in any age has not witnesses in that age to the uttermost part of the earth, is simply because she did not have the power to do it. That is what she existed for; but she could not do it, because she did not have the power. And she did not have the power because she would not have the Holy Spirit come upon her. [Ellen G. White wrote: "I can never forget the experience which we had in Minneapolis (at the 1888 General Conference Session), or the things which were then revealed to me in regard to the spirit that controlled men, ... They were moved at the meeting by another spirit, and they knew not that God had sent these young men, Elders Jones and Waggoner, to bear a special message to them, which they treated with ridicule and contempt, ... I know that at that time the Spirit of God was insulted. [3] ]
"Now, in this day and age, the church must witness unto Christ unto the uttermost part of the earth. That is solely what she exists for. But she can not do it without the power. Men may talk and plan and work till doomsday; but the thing can never be done without the power to do it. And the power to do it lies solely in having the Holy Spirit come upon the disciples.
"And when the Holy Spirit does come upon us, making us witnesses, then He also Himself is a witness with us. ...
"The Holy Spirit witnesses with the believer who witnesses that Christ is risen from the dead, and is alive and at the right hand of God, to shed forth repentance, forgiveness, and power. ...
"We today are expected to witness to this same thing. We must witness that He is risen, and is alive today. We must witness that He is at the right hand of God, exalted to be a prince and a Saviour, to give repentance to Israel and forgiveness of sins. We can do it.
"We can do it because we know Him, the living Saviour, with whom we live. We can do it because He lives with us. We can do it because we know that He is in us, and we in Him; and this we know by the Holy Spirit, which is given us. We can do it because He has given us the power, in giving us the Holy Spirit." [4]
A simple illustration, taken from one of my Recovery Groups in the past, brings home this point. Addicts hear only what they want to hear, and to illustrate this we did this silly illustration in the group.
A group member was selected and asked to take the vacuum cleaner that was in the corner of the room, and to vacuum the dirt off the carpet. Everything was available to make this a simple and successful task. There was the vacuum cleaner, the electric cord (which was wrapped neatly on the handle), a person willing to do the work, and a floor that needed cleaning.
The group member was told to begin, but to leave the vacuum unplugged. They could if they wanted to make the sound of the vacuum cleaner with their voice--"rum-rum"!
The person began to "vacuum the floor," going back and forth, back and forth. Everyone could see the effort and work that was being expended to complete this simple task. The person vacuuming was very careful to go the "ends of the room" in their useless efforts to clean the floor--without being plugged into the source of power that makes vacuuming successful. Even though they knew it wouldn't work, they kept at it!
The same thing is being urged by this lesson: Go and do something important, but do it without the power. In both cases the efforts resulted in a lot of work and failure to complete the task.
--Daniel Peters
[1] Ellet J. Waggoner, "A Present Salvation," The Present Truth, May 18, 1893.
[2] Waggoner, The Glad Tidings, p. 46 (Glad Tidings ed.).
[3] Ellen G. White, Letter 24, 1892, to Uriah Smith; "The Message of 1888: An Appeal for Unity; The Need for the Indwelling Christ," The Ellen G. White 1888 Materials, p. 1043.
[4] A. T. Jones, The Advent Review and Sabbath Herald, Aug. 16, 1898 (some emphasis added).