Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Lesson 6: Victory in the Wilderness

Sabbath School Today
With the 1888 Message Dynamic
Rebellion and Redemption
Lesson 6: Victory in the Wilderness

Christ is the new Head of the entire human race. "All men" are naturally "in Adam" in a very real sense for all are descended from him—the Bible says we are all by nature, by birth, "in Adam." But now, because Christ as the Son of God has fired the first Adam from his job of being head of the human race and taken over as the new Head of the human race, we are all in a real sense "in Christ."
An example is seen in the baptism of Christ. When He came up, dripping wet, out of the River Jordan and the Father said, "This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased," at the same time the Father "embraces humanity." Jesus was putting His arms around the entire human race! "God spoke to Jesus as our representative." [1] You are all like My beloved Son! You are now one family!
This means in plain language that when Christ died on His cross, the broken law of God (which demands death to the transgressor) has no claim upon you, for Christ died for your sins and you were "in Him" when He died. And Paul had the deep insight to sense that what that means is that you died "in Christ." If Christ had not died for you, you would have died. That's the sense in which "all died" when He died.
Jesus had a job description given Him by the Father: Defeat Satan in humanity; deliver the human race from this captivity of sin. Enter the fray where the problem is. Take on His sinless nature (brought with Him from heaven) the same fallen, sinful flesh that all humans have (they have all succumbed to Satan's onslaughts of temptation). And with no "exemption," and with no "bullet-proof vest," Jesus entered into the same battlefield where we have all lost the struggle. And right there He "condemned," defeated, outlawed, conquered, crushed, trampled on sin 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.
Now what will happen because of His victory: "That the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us who do not walk according to the flesh but according to the Spirit" (Rom. 8:4). That phrase "righteous requirement" is one word in the original, dikaiomata, which means the righteousness that has its origin in Christ but has been imparted to the believing human being. Here again is the cardinal truth of the 1888 message: it is possible for human beings by the faith of Jesus to overcome sin, to "condemn" it in our fallen flesh, and to be ready in one generation for the second coming of Jesus—something no other group has attained in all past history. God had intended that Christ should return in that 1888 era generation.
But this is not the heresy of "perfectionism." This overcoming victory will not be a work of the flesh, or be motivated by fear or pride, or even a selfish hope of reward. It will be the work of grace which abounds much more than all the sin the devil can invent in these last days.
Hebrews describes how this works: "Inasmuch then as the children [that's we] have partaken of flesh and blood, He Himself likewise shared in the same, that through death He might destroy [Greek, paralyze] him who had the power of death, that is, the devil, and release those who through fear of death were all their lifetime subject to bondage. For indeed He does not give aid to angels [who have a sinless nature], but He does give aid to the seed of Abraham" (Heb. 2:14, 15).
We never dare to suggest that Christ had a sinful nature. He had a sinless nature; but He "took" on that sinless nature our sinful nature.
Why? "Therefore, in all things He had to be made like His brethren, that He might be a merciful and faithful High Priest in things pertaining to God, ... for in that He Himself has suffered, being tempted, He is able to aid those who are tempted" (Heb. 4:17-18).
This is the glorious 1888 gospel of hope that many have been hindered from seeing. But the Lord gave it to Seventh-day Adventists, and Ellen White said that "God commanded [it] to be given to the world." [2] It presented a Christ who knows how the sinner is tempted and can save Him from the lowest hell. "We do not have a High Priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but was in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin" (Heb. 4:15).
It has been generally assumed that getting serious about overcoming means hard work. But the 1888 message has good news. Here's a sample: "Jesus came to the world, and put Himself in the flesh, just where men are; and met that flesh, just as it is, with all its tendencies and desires; and by the divine power which He brought by faith, He 'conquered sin in the flesh,' and thus brought to all mankind that divine faith which brings the divine power to man to deliver him from the power of the flesh and the law of sin, just where he is, and to give him assured dominion over the flesh, just as it is." [3]
"He who takes God for the portion of his inheritance, has a power working in him for righteousness, as much stronger than the power of inherited tendencies to evil, as our heavenly Father is greater than our earthly parents." [4]
If a people were to receive such a message wholeheartedly, would it not prepare them for translation at the coming of Jesus? (See 1 Thess. 4:16, 17.)
—Paul E. Penno
[1] The Desire of Ages, p. 113.
[2] Testimonies to Ministers and Gospel Workers, p. 92, 1896; The Ellen G. White 1888 Materials, vol. 3, p. 1337.
[3] A. T. Jones, "Studies in Galatians. Gal. 5:16-18," Advent Review and Sabbath Herald (Sept. 18, 1900), p. 600.
[4] E. J. Waggoner, The Everlasting Covenant (1900), p. 66.