Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Lesson 12: Paul: Mission and Message

Sabbath School Today

With the 1888 Message Dynamic

Biblical Missionaries

Lesson 12: Paul: Mission and Message


This Was Paul's Message!

The Book of Acts tells why the gospel was so successful at the time of the apostles. A consistent theme seems to emerge: they told the world that they had rejected and crucified the Son of God. This realization resulted in an enormous sense of guilt: what sin or crime could be worse than that?

For example, at Pentecost, Peter said: "God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Christ" (Acts 2:36). Immediately came the heart-broken cry, "What shall we do?" (vs. 37). Then when Peter and John healed the paralytic, Peter again said, "You denied the Holy One and the Just, ... and killed the Prince of life, whom God raised from the dead" (3:14, 15). You couldn't yawn and sit on the fence when you heard a charge like that!

A sudden glimpse of the significance of the cross converted Saul of Tarsus (Acts 9:5, 6; 26:13-15), and empowered him to proclaim the truth more powerfully than any of the Eleven who had witnessed the actual event.

One exception to apostolic success is Paul's ministry in Athens as described in Acts 17. God's faithful servant suffered a humiliating rebuke in his evangelism crusade in the great city of Athens. He made the mistake of trying to match philosophy with philosophy, trying to meet the Athenian scholars on their own ground. There was no mention of the cross. The result: near failure in soul-winning, although a few did respond.

But from Athens Paul went to the immoral city of Corinth, where he "determined not to know anything among [them] except Jesus Christ and Him crucified" (1 Cor 2:2). This was Paul's message! A lesson for us?

This Is the 1888 Message!

"During the fall of 1882, at the age of 27, E. J. Waggoner [one of the 1888 "messengers"] had an experience that he would later describe as the turning point of his life. Sitting under a camp meeting tent one dismal rainy afternoon in Healdsburg, California, listening to the gospel presented by Ellen G. White, he suddenly saw a light shining about him, and the tent illuminated as though the sun were shining. He had a distinct 'revelation of Christ Crucified' for him. He later wrote that it was revealed for the first time in his life that God loved him, and that Christ gave Himself for him personally--that it was all for him. The light that shone on him that day from the cross of Christ became the guide in all his Bible study. He resolved that the rest of his life would be devoted to discovering the message of God's love for individual sinners found in the pages of Scripture, and making that message plain to others (Waggoner to Ellen G. White, Oct. 22, 1900)." [1] This is the heart and soul of the 1888 message!

Waggoner and the Apostle Paul both saw that the revelation of love in the last days was "Jesus Christ and Him crucified." That was not extremism; it was only a "reasonable service" that they saw as appropriate to the extravagant love Christ had shown for them. It was agape, not ordinary human love.

Paul wasn't lukewarm!

The love (agape) of Christ compelled [constraineth, KJV] him. When he said "One died for all," he reasoned that it had to mean that "all died," so that "those who live" cannot in peace of conscience go on living "for themselves." They are constrained henceforth to "live for Him who for their sake died and was raised to life" (2 Cor. 5:14, 15, REB). Paul saw something that set him on fire for the Lord until that last hour in the Roman Mamertine prison when he laid his head on the block before the executioner, and died for the One who had died for him. "God forbid that I should glory except in the cross," he had said. No glorying in his own response, or his own faith, or his own obedience. That's why he wrote these words:

"The grace of God and the gift that came to [the] many by the grace of the one man, Jesus Christ [in the Greek the many means all people]. ... The judicial action, ... following on so many misdeeds, resulted in a verdict of acquittal. ... The result of one righteous act is acquittal and life for all" (Rom. 5:15-18, REB).

The Word "Gospel"

The word "gospel" is a common one that covers all kinds of ideas. But what the apostles actually preached is the only valid, authentic idea. What they said must be read in their own context, fully, not partially read and distorted to a wrong definition of that word.

Paul said that a correct understanding of the word "gospel," if it is believed, "is the power of God to salvation" (Rom. 1:16). It converted very "difficult" people when Paul preached it (1 Cor. 6:9, 10).

What happened at Corinth under Paul's preaching will happen again on a worldwide scale in the proclamation of the Loud Cry of Revelation 18. So, let us discover what the "gospel" was that Paul preached there.

He tells us: "When I came to you, [it] was not with excellence of speech or of wisdom. ... I determined not to know anything among you, except Jesus Christ and Him crucified" (1 Cor. 2:2). Was that a fanatical "trip" he was on, preaching boring sermons? If so, why did the people crowd in to hear him, and then embrace his "gospel" with "power"? There's an answer: there is something in "the truth of the gospel" (Gal. 2:5, 14) of the cross that triumphs over all the imitation, false "gospels" Satan can invent.

"Christ crucified" meant infinitely more than anything the world's great thinkers could come up with: the apostles' idea was that He died the world's second death. That was an idea no one had ever thought of at that time; no one had imagined that there was a love anywhere in the universe so great as that.

Even today, among the vast concourse of professed Christians, there are precious few who conceive of such an idea. But it moved hearts and motivated people to take up their cross, and follow Him "wheresoever" He led.

It's a Winning Message!

In these last days when sin and selfishness are so rampant, the Lord Jesus will be honored by "144,000" (figurative or literal) who "follow the Lamb [the crucified, risen Christ] wherever He goes. ... They are without fault before the throne of God" (cf, Rev, 14:1-5). Whoever they are, there will be such a people who will glorify Christ! We might be surprised who will end up in that group; let's walk humbly before Him.

The message that must now go to all the world is that "Loud Cry" message of Revelation 18. It's not only a warning message; it's a winning message--it's of Christ and Him crucified.

--From the writings of Robert J. Wieland

[1] Duffield, Ron, "History of E. J. Waggoner's The Everlasting Covenant.