Friday, December 25, 2015

Lesson 13: Lessons From Jeremiah

Sabbath School Today

With the 1888 Message Dynamic


Lesson 13: Lessons From Jeremiah

"THE LORD OUR RIGHTEOUSNESS" (Jer. 23:6) is a moniker of the 1888 message. [1] What does it mean?

Proclaiming true justification by faith has always been the Lord's method of meeting apostasy. That is how Paul met the Galatian apostasy. Jeremiah presented "THE LORD OUR RIGHTEOUSNESS" to ancient Judah. Isaiah was the gospel prophet. We misunderstand Elijah's ministry unless we see that he proclaimed a reconciling message to Israel that "turned their heart back again" and healed alienation (1 Kings 18:37; Mal. 4:5, 6). The Lord's methods of healing are not blood, thunder, lightning, and earthquakes that shatter the rocks. To "cry aloud" effectively is through that "still, small voice" of pure gospel truth. Understand and proclaim God's pure Good News!

The Lord has something special for His people living in the very end of time: "To him who overcomes I will grant to sit with Me on My throne, as I also overcame and sat down with My Father on His throne" (Rev. 3:21). He ministers this special privilege now when sin and temptation seem stronger and more alluring than ever before and when we humans are still weaker and more susceptible to falling.

In these last days, therefore, the Savior taking our fallen, sinful flesh, becomes a more precious truth than ever before. His overcoming is not only an example to us. An example is useless if you don't know how to follow it! Our Example becomes our training-Exemplar. He identifies with you and you identify with Him. Your temptation becomes His temptation; and your failure becomes His concern. Your success is His victory, for you are joined in a yoke with Him, and He does the pulling of the heavy weight. Our job is to stay with Him and to cooperate with Him, yielding our will to Him. Don't ever leave the happy yoke that binds you to Him. That's the best place to be, forever.

Christ knew that in these last days Satan would lead multitudes of human beings into drug addiction, alcoholism, crime, lust, child abuse, homosexuality, pornography, fornication, adultery, bulimia--all temptations that seem irresistible because we have a sinful nature. The lost sheep has strayed further from the fold than ever before, but the Good Shepherd goes further than ever before "until He finds it." This means that as a divine Psychiatrist He probes ever more deeply into the why of our last-day weaknesses, and provides full healing. Sin abounding means that there is grace much more abounding.

Jeremiah and Paul speak of "the righteousness" of Christ (Rom. 3:21-26; 5:18). This significant phrase implicitly requires the understanding that in His incarnation Christ took the fallen, sinful nature of man. The reason is obvious.

"Righteousness" is a word that is never used of beings with a sinless nature. We read of "holy" angels or unfallen angels, but never of righteous angels. Adam and Eve before the fall were innocent and holy, but never do we read that they were righteous. They could have developed a righteous character if they had resisted temptation, but righteousness has become a term that means holiness that has confronted temptation in sinful human nature and has perfectly overcome. And that is what Christ as the true God-man has done.

The word means justification, and something that is sinless can not need justification. The innate meaning of the word is straightening something that is crooked, correcting something that is unjust.

One who has only a sinless nature would be holy, but could not be said to be righteous. Christ was sinless, but He "took" our sinful, crooked nature and in it lived a perfect life of holiness. This gives Him title to that glorious name, "THE LORD OUR RIGHTEOUSNESS" (Jer. 23:6).

Therefore Jude says He "is able to keep you from stumbling, and to present you faultless before the presence of His glory with exceeding joy" (vs. 24). Revelation corroborates this promise by displaying a people who stand "without fault before the throne of God." Thus He can say of His people, "Jerusalem will ... be called, The LORD Our Righteousness" (Jer. 33:16).

The secret of their overcoming is not a special works program of trying harder than ever before. It is the recovery of a purer faith than any former generation have attained, a previously unrealized intimacy of sympathy with Christ, a heart-appreciation of Him, a "surveying" of His cross with all the melting of frozen hearts that follows. Nothing else but that contrite concern for the honor of Christ can "keep you from falling." Selfish concern, fear of hell, working for reward in heaven, will fail.

Ellen White was overjoyed when she heard the message of justification by faith from the lips of A. T. Jones and E. J. Waggoner. To her this clear teaching was consonant with the message of the three angels: "The hour of His judgment is come" and our Priest is cleansing the heavenly sanctuary. What connection is there between justification by faith and the cleansing of the heavenly sanctuary by Jesus our High Priest?

The answer is that since 1844 Jesus has been performing the Day of Atonement ministry--the final blotting out of sins. But before the sanctuary could be cleansed in heaven the temple of His people on earth must be cleansed. The source of sin pollution must be ended in His people. The honor of God and the integrity of His covenant were at stake. God has the solution to the problem of sin. The gospel of Jesus Christ can forgive sins, and His righteousness has the power by virtue of the Holy Spirit to cleanse the soul temple. This God has promised in His everlasting covenant (Jer. 31:33).

So when she heard this message she recognized in it the power and force of the gospel which would prepare God's people to stand with a pure character in the day of Christ's second coming. They would be a living testimony for God through the crisis hour. They would be part of the 144,000 who would be translated without seeing death at His return. They would be a living testament to the power of God unto salvation from sin. Living in sinful flesh, tempted, tried and afflicted, the mystery of godliness would be revealed in them--"Christ in you, the hope of glory" (Col. 1:27).

--Paul E. Penno

[1] "God looks upon His Son dying upon the cross and is satisfied, and Jesus is called 'the Lord Our Righteousness.' Then let the sinner by faith appropriate the merits of the blood of a crucified Redeemer to his own case--'the Lord my righteousness.'" Ellen G. White, "Experience Following the 1888 Minneapolis Conference," The Ellen G. White 1888 Materials, p. 375 (Manuscript 30,1889).

Note: "Sabbath School Today" and Pastor Paul Penno's video of this lesson are on the Internet at:

Raul Diaz