Thursday, September 21, 2017

Sabbath School Lesson # 13 |"The Gospel and the Church"

Lesson 13: The Gospel and the Church

Sabbath School Today
With the 1888 Message Dynamic

The Gospel in Galatians
Lesson 13: The Gospel and the Church


"Hasty readers are likely to think that there is a division between [Galatians] chapters 5 and 6, and that the latter part treats of practical, spiritual life, while the first part is devoted to theoretical doctrines. This is a great error.

"The object of this letter is clearly seen in this closing portion. It is not to furnish ground for controversy, but to silence it by leading the readers to submit themselves to the Spirit. Its purpose is to reclaim those who are sinning against God by trying to serve Him in their own weak way, and to lead them to serve indeed in newness of Spirit. All the so-called argument of the preceding portion of the letter is simply the demonstration of the fact that 'the works of the flesh,' which are sin, can be escaped only by the 'circumcision' of the cross of Christ--by serving God in Spirit and having no confidence in the flesh."

Brethren, if a man is overtaken in any trespass, you who are spiritual
should restore him in a spirit of gentleness. Look to yourself, lest you
too be tempted (Gal. 6:1, Revised Standard Version).

"When men set out to make themselves righteous, pride, boasting, and criticism lead to open quarrels. So it was with the Galatians, and so it will always be. It cannot be otherwise. Each individual has his own conception of the law. Having determined to be justified by the law, he reduces it to the level of his own mind so that he may be the judge. He cannot resist examining his brethren, as well as himself, to see if they are up to his measure. If his critical eye detects one who is not walking according to his rule, he at once proceeds to deal with the offender. The self-righteous ones constitute themselves their brother's keeper to the extent of keeping him out of their company lest they should be defiled by contact with him. In marked contrast with this spirit, which is all too common in the church, is the exhortation with which this chapter opens. Instead of hunting for faults that we may condemn them, we are to hunt for sinners that we may save them." [1]

Bear one another's burdens, and so fulfil the law of Christ (vs. 2).

"The law of Christ" is fulfilled by bearing one another's burdens, because the law of Christ's life is to bear burdens. "Surely He has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows." Whoever would fulfill His law must still do the same work for the strayed and fallen.

"In all things it behooved Him to be made like unto His brethren. ... For in that He Himself hath suffered being tempted, He is able to succor them that are tempted" (Heb. 2:17, 18, King James Version). He knows what it is to be sorely tempted, and He knows how to overcome. Although He "knew no sin," He was made even to be sin for us "that we might be made the righteousness of God in Him" (2 Cor. 5:21). He took every one of our sins and confessed them before God as His own.

"Even so He comes to us. Instead of upbraiding us for our sin, He opens His heart to us and tells us how He has suffered with the same hardship, pain, sorrow and shame. Thus He wins our confidence. Knowing that He has passed through the same experience, that He has been down to the very depths, we are ready to listen to Him when He talks about the way of escape. We know that He is talking from experience.

"The greatest part therefore of the work of saving sinners is to show ourselves one with them. It is in the confession of our own faults that we save others. The man who feels himself without sin is not the man to restore the sinful. If you say to one who is overtaken in any trespass, 'How in the world could you ever do such a thing? I never did a thing like that in my life! I can't see how anybody with any sense of self-respect could do so,' you might far better stay at home. God chose one Pharisee, and only one, to be an apostle. And he was not sent forth until he could acknowledge himself to be the chief of sinners." [2]

In Acts 26:13-15, Saul of Tarsus was having a battle with his conscience. The Holy Spirit pressed into his soul the constant conviction of sin. For him to go on in his mad campaign against Jesus and His followers, he must repress all the convictions and promptings of the Holy Spirit. This was "hard" on him, and it could have led to severe physical and emotional disorders.

The Lord loved him so much that He actually made it "hard" for Paul to destroy himself through impenitence. And when Saul became the apostle Paul, he never forgot the lesson. Ever afterward he was to teach that it is easy to be saved and hard to be lost if one understands and believes the "Good News." Thus, in the words of Jesus, His burden is "easy," and to oppose His salvation is "hard."

Such is the meaning of "righteousness by faith," and the 1888 messengers caught the idea of Jesus and Paul. This was a unique feature of their message, seldom articulated today. Our youth are continually bombarded with the idea that it's hard to follow Jesus, and it's easy to follow the devil. In fact, the idea is entrenched in the minds of many Seventh-day Adventists like the Rock of Gibraltar.

Adventists have been accused, and sometimes rightly so, of teaching that Christ will be full of murderous vengeance when He returns the second time. Evangelists have represented Him as coming with some kind of mysterious cosmic machine gun that emits a lethal ray to murder all His enemies. But the 1888 message presented no such distortion of God's character. The angels told the apostles that it will be "this same Jesus" who returns a second time (Acts 1:11). Sinners will have changed, not He. They will be hardened, not He.

If one smokes cigarettes for years and then comes down with lung cancer or emphysema, can he say, "God has destroyed me"? Truly, "every man who is destroyed will destroy himself."

Note how in one short paragraph Ellen White says seven times that the unsaved are lost solely because of their own choice, and not through any arbitrary expulsion inflicted on them by the Lord:

(1) A life of rebellion against God has unfitted them for heaven. (2) Its purity, holiness, and peace would be torture to them; (3) the glory of God would be a consuming fire. (4) They would long to flee from that holy place. (5) They would welcome destruction, that they might be hidden from the face of Him who died to redeem them. (6) The destiny of the wicked is fixed by their own choice. (7) Their exclusion from heaven is voluntary with themselves, and just and merciful on the part of God. [3]

If we want to, can we make salvation hard? Yes, if we eclipse the cross of Christ, then we must admit that it becomes terribly hard to be saved. Motivation to consecration and devotion dries up. Temptation to evil becomes overpowering in its appeal. The Saviour becomes "a root out of a dry ground," and His gospel contains "no beauty that we should desire him." Duty becomes a burden, obedience difficult, reading the Bible is boring, prayer is empty, Sabbath-keeping is boring. This is the pathetic "Christian experience" of many church members.

A. T. Jones says: "We have constantly the opportunity to sin. Opportunities to sin are ever presented to us ... day by day. But it stands written: 'Always bearing about in the body the dying of the Lord Jesus.' 'I die daily.' ... the suggestion of sin is death to me ... in Him." ... As certainly as He is crucified, I am crucified; as certainly as He is dead, I am dead with Him; as certainly as He is buried, I was buried with Him; as certainly as He is risen, I am risen with Him, and henceforth I shall not serve sin" [4]

Perhaps the familiar fact of power steering in our cars can help us sense this. Try to steer a car with power steering when the engine is not running. It's hard to turn the wheel.  But if the engine is running, then even a child can twist the steering wheel this way or that. The power makes it easy.

But still, as driver, you must do something. You must choose which way you want to go. The engine can never relieve you of that responsibility. You can never sit in your car, fold your arms, and say, "Take me to the post office." But once youchoose to turn right or left and apply ever so little effort to turn the wheel, immediately the power mechanism goes to work and makes the task easy. This is a fascinating mechanism for it illustrates the gospel.

To those who think they find it "hard" to be saved, Ellen White gives us some helpful counsel: "Many are inquiring, "How am I to make the surrender of myself to God?" You desire to give yourself to Him, but you are weak in moral power, in slavery to doubt, and controlled by the habits of your life of sin. Your promises and resolutions are like ropes of sand. You cannot control your thoughts, your impulses, your affections. The knowledge of your broken promises and forfeited pledges weakens your confidence in your own sincerity, and causes you to feel that God cannot accept you; but you need not despair. What you need understand is the true force of the will. This is the governing power in the nature of man, the power of decision, or of choice. ...

"The power of choice has been given to men; it is theirs to exercise. You cannot change your heart, you cannot of yourself give to God its affections; but you can choose to serve Him. You can give Him your will; He will then work in you to will and to do according His good pleasure. Thus your whole nature will be brought under the control of the Spirit of Christ; your affections will be centered upon Him, your thoughts will be in harmony with Him." [5]

The only difficult thing in being a true Christian is the choice to surrender self to be crucified with Christ. We are never called to be crucified alone--only with Him.

But, thank God, it is a million times easier for us to be crucified with Christ than it was for Him to be crucified alone for us! Behold the Lamb of God, and it does indeed become easy. Even if this still seems hard, don't ever forget that it remains much harder to go on fighting against love like that, and beating off the persistent ministry of the Holy Spirit, in order to be lost!

--From the writings of Robert J. Wieland
and others as noted

[1] E. J. Waggoner, The Glad Tidings, a verse-by-verse study of Galatians, pp. 124, 125; CFI ed. (2016).
[2] Ibid., pp. 127, 128.
[3] Ellen G. White, The Great Controversy, p. 543.
[4] A. T. Jones, 1895 General Conference Bulletin, p. 353.
[5] Ellen G. White, Steps to Christ, p. 47

Pastor Paul Penno's video of this lesson is on the Internet at:

"Sabbath School Today" is on the Internet at:

Raul Diaz

Thursday, September 14, 2017

Lesson 12: Living by the Spirit

Sabbath School Today
With the 1888 Message Dynamic

The Gospel in Galatians
Lesson 12: Living by the Spirit


If you're going to climb Mount Everest you need a guide. If this movement is to stand victorious on Mount Zion it needs the latter rain of the Holy Spirit (Rev. 14:1). To follow the Lamb wherever He goes without guile on their lips and stand without fault, the 144,000 will have overcome even as He overcame in tempted "sinful flesh" (Rev. 14:4, 5; 3:21; Rom. 8:3). These are individuals who reflect the agape-love of Jesus. Although they are not equal to the Pattern, yet as a body they perfectly identify with the Crucified One.

Sinless living in sinful flesh is a precious "good news" morsel of truth identified by the 1888 message. It would be bad news indeed, if in the Great Controversy Satan has invented something that the gospel of Jesus Christ cannot overcome. If the power of the gospel cannot overcome sin in our flesh, then Jesus will be eternally ashamed and defeated before the universe. Therefore, Jesus needs a "last generation" who demonstrate "the power of God unto salvation" from sin and not in sin (Rom. 1:16).

God's everlasting covenant promise to Abraham is "the blessing." This involves "the promise of the Spirit through faith" (Gal. 3:14).

You are invited to go on a "walk in the Spirit" (Gal. 5:16). "What our human nature ["flesh," KJV] wants is opposed to what the [Holy] Spirit wants, and what the [Holy] Spirit wants is opposed to what our human nature ["flesh"] wants. These two are enemies, and this means that you cannot do what you want to do" (Gal. 5:17, Good News Bible). What are the things you cannot do? Are they bad things or good things?

There are many Christians who teach that you cannot do the good things you want to do because of this constant "enmity" of the flesh against the Holy Spirit. So they feel doomed to endless defeat, and sincerely believe the Bible agrees with them. "My craving is so great I can't help giving in! The 'flesh' is master of my life!" They have Galatians 5:17 backwards.

Who is stronger, "the flesh" or the Spirit? If "the flesh" is stronger, that's really bad news; but if the Spirit is stronger, that's good news. If the great power of the Holy Spirit and all of heaven is in that Spirit, and He's striving against your sinful flesh, and still you cannot do the good things you'd like to do, can you think of any news that would be worse than that?

The 1888 message idea is: you go for a walk with the Holy Spirit and let Him hold you by the hand which He has promised to do. You let Him, even though the battle is raging in your heart, and your sinful flesh is constantly tempting you to do or say evil things. You can't do or say evil things because the Holy Spirit is stronger than the flesh.

This does not mean that you have no part in the battle. Your part is to choose to say "No!" to the temptation (Titus 2:11). [1] God has given us the power of choice; the Holy Spirit is forbidden to control you without your consent! When you make the choice, then you invite the Holy Spirit to demonstrate that He is stronger than your sinful flesh. And God is free to work!

When the mighty Holy Spirit guides your life, you are "under grace"-motivation which is the opposite of being "under the law"-motivation (Gal. 5:18; Rom. 6:14). With either motivation you are under an obligation. The old covenant "under the law"-motivation is a constant tension and conflict with the law. It is faith motivated by the fear of punishment and the hope of reward. It is a motivation that appears to comply with the law outwardly, but on the inside there is rebellion.

God did us a favor when He gave us the Apostle Paul who was both a brilliant man and an honest humble man, which is a rare combination. Paul describes what our "flesh" is like in Galatians 5:19-21. God sent "His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, and for sin, condemned sin in the flesh" (Rom. 8:3). Jesus came right into the cesspool of our life. He was tempted in all points like we are, yet without sin (Heb. 4:15).

Faith, which is "under grace"-motivation, "sees" what Paul is talking about when he uplifts and honors the sacrifice of Christ (Gal. 4:1). Having fully identified Himself with you, you are invited to fully identify with Christ (Gal. 2:20).

To "walk in the Spirit" is to bear "the fruit of the Spirit [which] is love [agape]" (Gal. 5:22). Agape is totally alien to "the flesh" and is an import from our Husband High Priest in the Most Holy of the heavenly sanctuary. This means we have not one-percent of inherent righteousness. Righteousness is ours by faith through Holy Spirit.

Agape, which is the "fulfilling of the law," comes by faith directed to its source in our day of atonement (Rom. 13:10). That source is our healing Psychiatrist whose office is set up in the holiest of all.

The second advent movement was rooted in a restoration of the love of God. It is the climax of a sequence of divinely led reformatory movements to restore the gospel of Jesus Christ and prepare a Bride for translation and the coming of her Groom.

Christ opened to view the source of her love by following their High Priest in through the open door of the Most Holy of the heavenly sanctuary (see Rev. 3:7). "Those who rose up with Jesus would send up their faith to Him in the holiest, and pray, 'My Father, give us Thy Spirit.' Then Jesus would breathe upon them the Holy Ghost. In that breath was light, power, and much love, joy, and peace." [2] The 1844 Advent people were a Spirit-led, agape motivated, charismatic movement. It was to restore the meaning of agape in the commandments of God and the faith of Jesus through its life, teaching and evangelism (see Rev. 14:12).

The fruit of the Spirit is given by Jesus in His capacity as our Priest in the Most Holy. The true second Pentecostal movement of the latter rain is those who by faith follow Him there. The movement will finish with a great manifestation of signs and wonders than on the day of Pentecost. [3]

Jesus reveals a unique understanding of justification by faith from the holiest. The 1888 message was indeed "special," a further development of justification by faith parallel to and consistent with the unique Adventist idea of the cleansing of the heavenly sanctuary. It was "the beginning" of the message of Revelation 18 and thus initial "showers from heaven of the latter rain." [4]

Since the true Spirit of God only comes from our High Priest in the Most Holy and thus far we have not impressed upon other Christians the importance of the sanctuary truth, it motivates us to study the 1888 message so that we can share it with them in a convincing manner.

—Paul E. Penno


[1] Titus 2:11, 12 in the New International Versionis very clear: "The grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men. It teaches us to say 'No' to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age."
[2] Ellen G. White, Early Writings, p. 55.
[3] "Servants of God, with their faces lighted up and shining with holy consecration, will hasten from place to place to proclaim the message from heaven. By thousands of voices, all over the earth, the warning will be given. Miracles will be wrought, the sick will be healed, and signs and wonders will follow the believers" (Ellen G. White, The Great Controversy, p. 612).
[4] The Ellen G. White 1888 Materials, p. 1478.


Pastor Paul Penno's video of this lesson is on the Internet at:

"Sabbath School Today" is on the Internet at:



Monday, September 4, 2017

Sabbath School Lesson # 11 |"Freedom in Christ"

Lesson 11: Freedom in Christ

Sabbath School Today
With the 1888 Message Dynamic

The Gospel in Galatians
Lesson 11: Freedom in Christ

One of the more valuable aspects of the 1888 message is the honest approach it takes regarding sin. It never excuses or minimizes that sin is completely offensive to a holy God. E. J. Waggoner focuses on the essence of the sin problem when he uses the example of the crippled woman (Luke 13:10-13). Her condition is called a "spirit of infirmity" (Revised Standard Version; "sickness," New American Standard Bible). Sin deforms all of us just as the woman was crippled. When Jesus healed her He said, "you are freed from your infirmity" (vs. 12, emphasis added).

Many tend to underestimate the power sin has over us, especially when we believe sin to be specific acts. It is easy to convince ourselves we can control our actions, but we laugh at the alcoholic who claims he or she can quit drinking any time. Many of us know there are things in our lives we need to clean up, but the pressure isn't great enough to compel us to change, maybe someday.

There are even folks who nervously attend lectures at Seventh-day Adventist gatherings where the big question is whether the Sunday laws are getting closer. The unspoken but misguided idea is that when the laws start to be enforced we can tuck ourselves back into church so we don't have to give up anything in the interim. The parable of the ten virgins tells us this will not work.

Returning to the crippled woman, Waggoner explains: "Now note how accurately this describes our condition before we meet Christ:

"(1) We are bound by Satan, 'captured by him to do his will' (2 Tim. 2:26). 'Everyone who commits sin is the slave of sin' (John 8:34) ...

"(2) We have a 'spirit of infirmity' and can in no wise lift ourselves up or free ourselves from the chains that bind us. It was when we were 'without strength' that Christ died for us (Rom. 5:6, King James Version). These two words 'without strength' are translated from the very same word that is rendered 'infirmity' in the story of the woman whom Jesus healed." [1]

When Jesus told the woman she was freed from her infirmity, there were no conditions, but she did have to believe she was healed. "Faith does not make facts. It only lays hold of them ... the liberty wherewith He makes us free is the liberty that existed before the curse [of sin]." [2] "Now the truth is stated that if a person does anything with the hope of being saved by it, that is, of getting salvation by his own work, Christ is 'of no advantage to him.' [Gal. 5:2]. If Christ is not accepted as a complete Redeemer, He is not accepted at all." [3]

Like the Judiazers told the Galatian Christians, "Many have an idea that they must do some part of the work alone. They have trusted in Christ for the forgiveness of sin, but now they seek by their own efforts to live aright. But every such effort must fail ... It is by communion with Him, daily, hourly,--by abiding in Him,--that we are to grow in grace. ...

"Consecrate yourself to God in the morning; make this your very first work. ... Each morning consecrate yourself to God for that day. Surrender all your plans to Him, to be carried out or given up as His providence shall indicate. Thus day by day you may be giving your life into the hands of God, and thus your life will be molded more and more after the life of Christ." [4]

This is frustrating to people who want the reassurance of seeing their Christian experience progressing. It's simply a day-by-day choice to let God direct everything in their lives. So is this just a passive life, no plans required, just bump along life aimlessly? Yes, in the sense that we don't plan things without God, but no in the sense that we follow the plans God has already developed for us.

Waggoner caught the idea: "Think of it! God Himself has wrought the good works with which we are to appear before His throne. And how are we to get them?--Simply by trusting Him; by appropriating those good works by faith. God Himself comes to dwell with those who believe His word, and He lives out His own life in them. This thought is enough to fill every soul with love and joy and confidence. ...

"The secret of the whole matter is to acknowledge that in us dwells no good thing, and that God alone is good, that we are nothing, but that He is everything; that we are weakness, but that power belongs to God, ... Christian activity comes only through passive submission to God, as the clay is passive in the hands of the potter." [5]

The Galatian Christians had rejoiced in the freedom of the true Gospel that allows us to rest in Christ, but legalistic and intolerant people had tried to take that freedom away by adding a requirement other than faith in the Gospel.

"God's law is the truth (Psalm 119:142), and the Galatian brethren had started out to obey it. They succeeded in the beginning but later on had been hindered in their progress. 'Why? Because they did not pursue it through faith, but as if it were based on works. They have stumbled over the stumbling stone' (Rom. 9:32). Christ is the way, the truth, and the life, and there is no stumbling in Him. The perfection of the law is in Him, for His life is the law.

"The cross is and always has been a symbol of disgrace. ...The offense of the cross is that the cross is a confession of human frailty and sin and of inability to do any good thing. To take the cross of Christ means to depend solely on Him for everything, and this is the abasement of all human pride. Men love to fancy themselves independent. But let the cross be preached, let it be made known that in man dwells no good thing and that all must be received as a gift, and straightway somebody is offended." [6]

Freedom is a fragile thing because it cannot be forced. God cannot use force, so He uses His love to draw us to Him. Lay hold of that, don't resist.

--Arlene Hill

[1] Ellet J. Waggoner, The Glad Tidings, a verse-by-verse study of Galatians, p. 106; CFI ed. (2016).
[2] Ibid, p 107.
[3] Ibid, p. 110.
[4] Ellen G. White, Steps to Christ, pp. 69, 70.
[5] Waggoner, Christ and His Righteousness, pp. 173, 174; Glad Tidings ed. (1999).
[6] The Glad Tidings, p. 113.

Pastor Paul Penno's video of this lesson is on the Internet at:

"Sabbath School Today" is on the Internet at:

Raul Diaz

Friday, September 1, 2017

Sabbath School Lesson # 10 |"The two Covenants"

Lesson 10. The Two Covenants

Sabbath School Today
With the 1888 Message Dynamic

The Gospel in Galatians
Lesson 10. The Two Covenants


Have you ever taken a detour, a shortcut that took more time than if you had gone the long way around the mountain by the established route? That was the choice of the ancient church of Israel by making their old covenant promise (Ex. 19:8; 24:7). Modern Israel is repeating their history. It's time to learn the Bible and our own modern history and mature in our glorious "day-of-at-one-ment" truth of God's everlasting covenant.

Aside from Jesus, the first Jew to understand the long national nightmare of the Jewish church's ups and downs of revival and reformation failures ending in the rejection and crucifixion of Christ was the Apostle Paul. Paul told the story of the two covenants in Israel's history to the Galatians. They had fallen into the old covenant "works of the law" trap (Gal. 4:21).

The pressing question of the Galatians was: Who are the legitimate children of Abraham? The circumcision party from Jerusalem claimed that they were Abraham's children because of their "works of the law" (4:21). Paul says that Abraham's legitimate descendants "are the children of promise" (4:28).

Galatianism is an old covenant "under the law" relationship with God. It is wholly man-made. The Galatian concept is saying over and over, "we must be more faithful, we must read our Bible more, we must pray more, we must do more missionary work, we should witness more, we should watch less TV and spend less time at sports, we should watch our diet more, etc., etc." But it is to such self-centered egotists who take the Lord's name upon their lips in the final judgment by saying, "Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name?" that Christ declares the shocking news, "I never knew you" (Matt. 7:21-23).

As the two covenants' story goes, Abraham had two sons: one by a bondwoman and the other by the freewoman. The one son "born after the flesh" (Gal. 4:23) with Hagar the bondwoman was Ishmael. The other son born of Sarah the freewoman was Isaac "by promise."

The birth of Ishmael was wholly a man-made scheme. Through unbelief Sarah and Abraham repudiated God's promise of a son. They permitted a third party to enter their marriage and Abraham declared to God that Ishmael, the fruit of that union "born after the flesh [unbelief]," was the legitimate son of promise (Gen. 17:18). But God said, No! "I will establish my covenant with" Isaac (vs. 19).

Finally, Sarah and Abraham repented, chose to believe the new covenant promise of God, and Isaac, "the child of promise" was born (Gal. 4:28; Heb. 11:11). Ishmael's disposition was "a wild-ass man, his hand against every one" (Gen. 16:12Young's Literal Translation). Isaac's character was Christlike (Gen. 26:13-22). "These" two women and their two sons" are the two covenants" (Gal. 4:24).

The two covenants are not two plans of salvation: old covenant "obey and live" before the cross, and new covenant believe and live after the cross. The two covenants are not matters of two dispensations, one before and one after the cross. The two covenants are two understandings of God's people through the ages, two opposite perceptions of God's plan of salvation, not two time "dispensations" that He has used as experiments to save sinners.

The covenant at Sinai was the fruit of the flesh, of distrust and unbelief in God, just as was the plan that introduced Hagar and brought forth Ishmael (Gal. 4:24). And just as Hagar and Ishmael, the bondwoman and her son, had to be cast out, and the whole scheme that brought them in had to be utterly repudiated, so the covenant from Mount Sinai had to be cast out, and all that brought it in had to be utterly repudiated (4:30).

The covenant at Sinai was faulty because of its promises (Heb. 8:7). The people promised "all that the Lord hath spoken we will do" (Ex. 19:8). The "fault [was] with them" and their promises (Heb. 8:8). He who promises the righteousness must produce the righteousness. For sinners motivated by egocentric concerns, righteousness is impossible.

Why should we fasten upon the necks of our children the whole old covenant scheme of making promises to God which "gendereth to bondage" (Gal. 4:24)? [1] It teaches them self-dependence. It's directly responsible for the numerous backslidings that occur in the church, the loss of youth, the spiritual confusion that produces Laodicea's "wretched" lukewarmness (Rev. 3:14-21). Teach them to choose to believe God's promises.

Paul says that the whole scheme of salvation by works coming out of old Jerusalem is a covenant in which people, knowing only the natural man and the birth of the flesh, seek, by their own inventions and their own efforts, to attain to the righteousness of God. It can only produce "bondage with her children" (Gal. 4:25). That is because old Jerusalem is married to her husband, the "old man" of the flesh (Rom. 7:3; 6:6).

There are good sincere people who believe in old covenant principles of revival and reformation in God's church. They cite the reformations of Kings Jehoshaphat, Hezekiah, and Josiah as a good ideal, not stopping to realize that they all failed ultimately. God's true "church," the church of Old Testament times, the church of those good kings, immersed as it was in the old covenant, ended up crucifying the Lord of glory.

Trust motivated by egocentric concerns masquerades itself as the worship of Christ. Self-centered trust manifests its true character just as Ishmael "persecuted him that was born after the Spirit, even so it is now" (Gal. 4:29). The old covenant spirit of self-sufficiency hates the agape-love of one who identifies with the Crucified One.

The 1888 message teaches us to make a choice and "cast out" the old covenant (Gal. 4:30). Utterly repudiate it. By choosing to glory in the cross, the "old man" to whom we have been married "is crucified unto me" (Rom 6:6; Gal. 6:14). We become a part of the "Jerusalem which is above" "the mother of us all" (Gal. 4:26). This is the "wife [that] hath made herself ready" for her marriage with the Llamb (Rev. 19:7).

The joyous news is that the ancient and modern church which has been mired down in her marriage to old covenant unbelief for so long; and apparently has borne so many like children of bondage; has finally grown up out of her infantile ways of making promises to do everything just right. She has finally learned to believe God's promises of love. Joined to her new Husband, Christ, she "hath many more children" than she ever had with her former "husband" of "the flesh" (Gal. 4:27, 23).

--Paul E. Penno

[1] "The knowledge of your broken promises and forfeited pledges weakens your confidence in your own sincerity, and causes you to feel that God cannot accept you" (Ellen G. White, Steps to Christ, p. 47).

Pastor Paul Penno's video of this lesson is on the Internet at:

"Sabbath School Today" is on the Internet at:

Raul Diaz

Friday, August 25, 2017

Sabbath School Lesson # 9 | "Paul's Pastoral Appeal"

Lesson 9. Paul's Pastoral Appeal

Sabbath School Today
With the 1888 Message Dynamic

The Gospel in Galatians
Lesson 9. Paul's Pastoral Appeal


How does a pastor deal with conflict in his church? For that matter, how does a prophet deal with an offshoot movement? "Paul's pastoral appeal" is an effort at conflict resolution (Gal. 5:12-20).

Paul reminds the Galatians that his missionary approach was to become a Galatian to the Galatians--"I am as ye are" (Gal.4:12). He fit in with them. He spoke their language. He ate at their table. He lived among them. Insofar as possible without compromising Christian ethics, he lived as a Galatian.

Now, Paul writes, "be as I am." And how is Paul? "I am crucified with Christ" (Gal. 2:20). Paul has so completely chosen to identify with the Crucified One that it is no longer Paul who lives, but Christ who lives in him. He lives, breathes, and eats the at-one-ment life by the faith of the Son of God. This is why their enemy stance toward Paul is no offense to him. Paul's ego is dead in Christ (Gal. 4:12).

Physically speaking Paul was not "easy on the eyes" when he commenced preaching the gospel in their midst. But the gospel he proclaimed was "in demonstration of the Spirit and of power" (1 Cor. 2:4), so that the people saw Christ crucified among them. The Galatians received Paul as a messenger of God, even as they would have received Jesus. And accepting Christ, they were filled with the power and joy of the Holy Spirit (Gal. 4:14).

But now all that has changed. "The blessedness ye spake of" is gone (Gal. 4:15), which is the blessing of Abraham. The blessing of knowing that Christ had redeemed them from the curse of the law through the promise of the Spirit, which is righteousness by faith activated by agape-love, has been lost. The Galatians have been "bewitched" by the false gospel of "the Pharisees which believed" (Gal. 3:1; Acts 15:5).

The counterfeit gospel teaches that once launched into salvation by faith in the Messiah, one must do something in order to continue in salvation; namely, "the works of the law." And once the door has been opened just a crack for faith to be motivated by egocentric concerns, there is no end to the idols one must obey in order to be saved, including the worship of spirits on calendar days from which bondage the Galatians had been delivered (Gal. 4:9, 10).

While the Galatians enjoyed this blessedness, its fruit appeared in the love which they showed to Paul. This love was the very self-sacrificing love of Christ--the abundant love of God shed abroad indeed in the heart, by the Spirit which they had received. Seeing the apostle in need of eyes, they would gladly have plucked out their own and given them to him, if such a thing could have been done (Gal. 4:15).

But now, what a change! From that height of blessedness they are driven back into such a condition that Paul is obliged to appeal to them: "Am I therefore become your enemy, because I tell you the truth?" (Gal. 4:16). This is the mark of the Galatians. It is the mark of the man who professes to be a Christian justified by faith, but does not have the righteousness of God which is by faith of Jesus Christ. Whoever tells him the truth he considers his enemy.

The Galatian considers, "I am rich, and increased with goods, and have need of nothing" (Rev. 3:17). When the prophet warns him that he is not in "the truth of the gospel," he rejects the Spirit of Prophecy. The mark of the Galatian is the rejection of the prophetic gift. It is the mark of man and worldliness to persecute the messenger of truth and consider him the enemy.

Galatianism is the mark of the carnal mind that is at enmity with God (Rom. 8:7). Pride does not like the "most precious message" which uplifts and honors the Crucified One. Self does not wish to submit in repentance at the foot of the cross. "Many" in the one true denominated church of Christ did this in the 1888 era and the attitude of the "fathers" is perpetuated to this day whenever the message is proclaimed. [1] Our history of rejection of justification by faith united with the cleansing of the sanctuary truth is justified with the argument that the church did accept righteousness by faith and corrected its legalistic course. Therefore, the church has no need to repent.

However, the Spirit of Prophecy tells us otherwise. "We may have to remain here in this world because of insubordination many more years, as did the children of Israel; but for Christ's sake His people should not add sin to sin by charging God with the consequence of their own wrong course of action." [2]

Who has created this disunity in the church? Is it the one who has proclaimed "the truth of the gospel," or is it the agitators who advocate righteousness by "the works of the law"? Is it the Spirit of Prophecy that creates division, or is it those who reject what the prophet writes?

Paul squarely acknowledges the zeal of those who teach faith and works. They are the "offshoot movement" that teaches separationism out of selfish motives. He writes: "These teachers of a counterfeit gospel have great zeal to win you over to their side so you can be fellow fanatics with them in an offshoot program" (see Gal. 4:17).

You want to be zealous? Then be zealous for a good cause. Is the gospel a self-propelled vehicle? Or does its proclamation and propagation depend on church members (and pastors!) constantly being prodded by church leaders into action? "Lay Activities" leaders in churches can testify: to get much done it takes constant "promotion."

The New Testament letters of the apostles reveal a strange lack of such works "promotion." They chronicle amazing activity, but seldom if ever were believers prodded or whipped into action. Their zealous activity was simply assumed, it was natural. Their gospel was a "self-propelled vehicle." Why?

Their message had the power built-in. Nobody needed to be whipped into action. The motivating force was greater than that of a steam engine, for the power was implicit in the news about the sacrifice of the Son of God. He burst upon everyone's consciousness as "the Lamb of God," a blood-sacrifice offered by God. Examples: "For I determined not to know any thing among you, save Jesus Christ, and Him crucified" (1 Cor. 2:2); "God forbid that I should glory, save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ" (Gal. 6:14).

Someone must travail before children are brought forth (Gal. 4:19). Herein lies the danger in human planning, in the work of God, lest human wisdom devise short cuts in methods of world evangelism, which to a lukewarm church seem very acceptable. It is easy to sit in a comfortable pew and give offerings that provide fuel for the continued operation of evangelistic machinery, 21st Century devised, labor-saving and man-power saving in its skillful design to "finish the work" in the shortest possible time with the least possible man-power and travail of soul. If an invention of a clever committee could be made to give life, then verily righteousness would come by evangelistic inventions. No running to and fro, and no knowledge that shall be increased in the time of the end will ever take the place of that "travail in birth" on the part of soul winners, be they ministers or laity, "until Christ be formed in" the converts.

If modern methods of spiritual obstetrics are discovered which obviate the old-fashioned travail which the church of old endured when she brought forth her children, it may be doubted whether Christ is formed indeed within the "converts." No "push-button" warfare will close the great battle between Christ and Satan. The old hand-to-hand fighting, heart-to-heart wrestling in the Spirit "against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places" (Eph. 6:12) alone can bring triumphs of faith.

--Paul E. Penno

[1] "Many will not be convinced because they are not inclined to confess." The Ellen G. White 1888 Materials, p. 895 (Diary, Feb. 27, 1891).
[2] Letter Ellen G. White to Percy Tilson Magan (Dec. 7, 1901); Last Day Events, p. 39.

Pastor Paul Penno's video of this lesson is on the Internet at:

"Sabbath School Today" is on the Internet at:

Raul Diaz

Friday, August 18, 2017

Lesson 8. From Slaves to Heirs

Sabbath School Today
With the 1888 Message Dynamic

The Gospel in Galatians
Lesson 8. From Slaves to Heirs


In Sunday's lesson the quarterly sums up Galatians 3:25-26: "In the same way that a master's son was under a pedagogue [tutor] only as long as he was a minor, Paul is saying that those who come to faith in Christ are no longer minors; their relationship with the law is changed because they are now adult 'sons' of God."

In ancient times, wealthy aristocrats were able to hire people to care for their children, thereby avoiding some of the more tedious aspects of child rearing. The pedagogue might have been a slave in the household, but during his minority the child was expected to obey his father's slave without question.

The pedagogue was expected to teach and mold the child into an educated, mature adult who had learned the rules of a very rigid and complicated society. If pleased with the results, the father would officially name the son as his heir.

In Galatians 3:19-25 Paul explains that the inheritance comes to us in Christ because God promised it, not that we gain the inheritance by keeping the law. Paul asks the question, "Why the Law then? It was added because of transgressions. … The Scripture has shut up all men under sin, that the promise by faith in (the King James Version uses the better translation, "of") Jesus Christ might be given to those who believe. But before faith came, we were kept in custody under the law, being shut up to the faith which was later to be revealed. Therefore the Law has become our tutor to lead us to Christ, that we may be justified by faith. But now that faith has come, we are no longer under a tutor."

Jesus alluded to this concept when He told Nicodemus that receiving faith, the faith of Jesus, requires us to accept our position in Christ as the second Adam. No amount of law-keeping could ever accomplish the rebirth the human race was given at the incarnation of Christ. The first Adam received his DNA from God and those codes provided the combinations that make up every human being born since. When he and his DNA counterpart, Eve, decided to rebel against God their very nature was changed, bent toward self-centeredness.

Whether this change was accomplished at the DNA level, we aren't told, but it somehow changed humanity at a level so fundamental that the self-centered nature was the only nature Adam had to pass on to his progeny. The solution to the sin problem needed to reach that fundamental issue, otherwise humans were kept in custody under a law they had no power to keep. Then there was the issue of paying the penalty for sin which is permanent death. Obviously, divine intervention was the only thing that would solve these problems.

Brilliant in its simplicity, the loving selfless agape of our God would be united with the first Adam's nature (the altered one that needed redeeming). Then, humanity could be joined with Christ as "sons," and the sinless life He lived, the second death He died, and His triumphant resurrection could be imputed and imparted to those who believe through the powerful influence of the Holy Spirit.

Unfortunately, there is a conflict in the present day church about whether Christ could have been incarnated in the "likeness of sinful flesh" and still be without sin. "It is interesting to note that the official declaration of 1872 on the human nature of Christ remained unchanged until 1931. At that time it was changed to express with different words the same basic conviction. 'While retaining His divine nature, He took upon Himself the nature of the human family, and lived on the earth as a man.'" [1] It wasn't until 1950 that our church changed this fundamental belief to what it is now.

"As our study will verify, the work of redemption can be explained only with the proper understanding of the divine-human person of Jesus Christ. To be mistaken about Christology is to be mistaken about the work of salvation as accomplished in human beings, by Christ, through the process of justification and sanctification." [2]

The issues debated at the General Conference Session in Minneapolis in 1888 did not involve the nature of Christ. Ellen White settled in her Christology as early as 1874 when she wrote, "The great work of redemption could be carried out only by the Redeemer taking the place of fallen Adam." [3]

E. J. Waggoner did not attempt to modify or challenge Ellen White's position on the nature of Christ. "Waggoner's great achievement was not only to reintroduce the principle of justification by faith in the Adventist Church but also to apply Christology to the work of salvation. For Luther, justification by faith was purely a legal transaction. The Formula of Concord confirms this point of view: 'All of our righteousness is outside of us; it dwells entirely in Jesus Christ.' For Waggoner, on the other hand, justification includes the action of Christ in man to make him righteous (Rom. 5:19, KJV) through the power which God grants to him who believes in Christ and receives Him in his heart (John 1:12, KJV). [4]

It is essential to understand the process of overcoming, because Jesus has promised to all seven of the churches that overcomers will be granted the right to sit with Him on His throne. That is Christ's inheritance, and ours as well in Him.

The first few chapters of A. T. Jones' book The Consecrated Way confirms that Ellen White and Jones and Waggoner, the 1888 "messengers," were in complete agreement on the issue.

"Before the end comes, and at the time of the coming of Christ, there must be a people on earth, not necessarily large in proportion to the number of inhabitants of earth, but large enough to be known in all the earth, in whom 'all the fullness of God' will be manifest even as it was in Jesus of Nazareth. God will demonstrate to the world that what He did with Jesus of Nazareth He can do with anyone who will yield to Him." [5]

--Arlene Hill

[1] J. R. Zurcher, Touched With Our Feelings: A Historical Survey of Adventist Thought on the Human Nature of Christ, Review and Herald Publishing Assoc., p. 48 (1999).

"See Fundamental Belief No. 3, Seventh-day Adventist Yearbook (1931). This same declaration was adopted by the Fall Council of 1941 and included in the Church Manual (1942), where it remained unchanged through various editions up to 1980."
[2] Ibid., p. 49.
[3] Ellen G. White, Review and Herald, "Redemption--No. 1," Feb. 24, 1874.
[4] Zurcher, p. 73.
[5] E. J. Waggoner, The Everlasting Covenant, International Tract Society, London, p. 366; as quoted in Zurcher, p. 73.

Pastor Paul Penno's video of this lesson is on the Internet at:

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Thursday, August 10, 2017

Sabbath School Lesson # 7 |"The Road to Faith"

Lesson 7. The Road to Faith

Sabbath School Today
With the 1888 Message Dynamic

The Gospel in Galatians
Lesson 7. The Road to Faith


"Wherefore the law was our schoolmaster to bring us unto Christ, that we might be justified by faith" (Gal. 3:24). Probably everyone has experienced a school teacher who was impossible to please and made difficult assignments. No matter how hard you worked, you could never--at least in that teacher's mind--produce anything that was worthy of top marks. It probably discouraged you from ever thinking you could attain perfection in that course; the demand was too high.

Many people look at God and His law in the same way. They see Him as setting before us an impossible task when He says, "Be ye therefore perfect even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect" (Matt. 5:48). Many believe that the demand for character perfection (to overcome all sinful propensities and inclinations) is too high a goal for our sin-filled nature. As a result, Paul's plea in 2 Corinthians 5:20, 21--"be ye reconciled to God. For He hath made Him to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in Him"--is viewed as advice to modify our relationship with God rather than it being an admonition to overcome sin.

It is thought that Paul's counsel is addressing the need for a "good relationship" with God as the only thing needed, and this "good relationship" is the road of faith, leading to spiritual renewal. With this view we're told that the "relationship" must be maintained through Bible study, prayer, and good works. But think about this idea for a moment. In this situation, who has the burden to maintain the "relationship"? Who is responsible for making sure that the connection between God and the individual stays firmly plugged together?

The idea of "maintaining a relationship with God" is a subtle form of old covenantism. Even if you answered that last question by saying, Well, it's me and God together that makes the relationship work, you will still be placing yourself under the old covenant. Salvation is not a partnership.

"That which makes all the trouble is that even when men are willing to recognize the Lord at all they want to make bargains with Him. They want it to be an equal, 'mutual' affair--a transaction in which they can consider themselves on a par with God. But whoever deals with God must deal with Him on His own terms, that is, on a basis of fact--that we have nothing and are nothing, and He has everything and is everything and gives everything." [1]

"Here is no play on words. The issue is vital. The controversy is over the way of salvation, whether by Christ alone, or by something else, or by Christ and something or somebody else. Many people imagine that they must save themselves by making themselves good. Many think that Christ is a valuable adjunct, a good Assistant to their efforts. Others are willing to give Him the first place, but not the only place. They regard themselves as good seconds. It is the Lord and they who do the work." [2]

When "the glory of man is laid in the dust" then we are ready to be in-filled with Christ's perfect character through the work of the Holy Spirit. "According as His divine power hath given unto us all things that pertain unto life and godliness, through the knowledge of Him that hath called us to glory and virtue: whereby are given unto us exceeding great and precious promises: that by these ye might be partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust" (2 Peter 1:3, 4). This is the only way we can become righteous "doers of the law." We humbly let the faith of Jesus that has been given to every man "work out" in our lives (Rom. 12:3; Phil. 2:12; Gal. 2:16). In this way we "become doers of the law, not by doing but by believing" the precious promise of God to us. [3]

The "partnership" of our salvation lies in the Godhead and Their everlasting covenant that makes righteous all who will believe Their promise to us. "For when God made promise to Abraham, because He could swear by no greater, He sware by Himself ... Wherein God, willing more abundantly to shew unto the heirs of promise the immutability of His counsel, confirmed it by an oath: that by two immutable things, in which it was impossible for God to lie, we might have a strong consolation, who have fled for refuge to lay hold upon the hope set before us" (Heb. 6:13–18).

"To everyone who remembered the oath of God to Abraham it was a revelation of the wondrous greatness of God's promise; for all the righteousness which the law demands He has sworn to give to everyone who trusts Him. ... God's precepts are promises; they must necessarily be such, because He knows that we have no power! All God requires is what He gives." [4]

The wonderful good news of the everlasting covenant of Christ and His righteousness is that we are not under any burden to produce righteousness in our lives. The burden is not on our shoulders, but has been laid upon the shoulders of our Saviour. We are not "under the law" to keep every precept and example through our own power (which we don't possess anyway). We are not "under the law" as receiving just condemnation from the broken law, because Christ was made "to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in Him" (2 Cor. 5:21).

"There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit. For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus hath made me free from the law of sin and death. For what the law could not do, in that it was weak through the flesh, God sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, and for sin, condemned sin in the flesh: that the righteousness of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit" (Rom. 8:1-4).

It is the faith of Christ working in and through us that produces the required righteousness. "The Scripture hath concluded all under sin, that the promise by faith of Jesus Christ might be given to them that believe" (Gal. 3:22). The everlasting covenant promise comes to us by the "faith of Jesus Christ" that has been given to us (again, mark that little two letter word "of"). The "Scripture" Paul is referring to in this verse are the writings of what we now call "the Old Testament" which were the only "holy writings" at that time through which knowledge of sin could be known (Gal. 3:19; Rom. 7:7). The righteousness of Christ has been preached from the time Adam fell.

The controversy over the law in Galatians that arose in 1886 concerned which law Paul was discussing in the focus verses of our lesson this week. Was the "schoolmaster" the ceremonial law, the moral law, or was it both? Which law is it that brings us under condemnation, the ceremonial or the moral law? Which law is it that must be kept to make one righteous? The Judaizing Christians to whom Paul addressed this letter had the same confusion.

In 1886 and the following years, George I. Butler, Uriah Smith, and others considered that the law Paul was referring to in Galatians 3:21-25 was the ceremonial law. To support their position, Butler compared the discussion in Galatians to the history of the early church found in Acts 15, claiming that the context of Paul's discussion concerned the "ceremonial" matters of idol worship, diet (consumption of animals with their blood), and fornication (Acts 15:19, 20, 28, 29). Butler's foundational argument was that "this has been Paul's subject thus far in this letter." Butler based his argument in favor of the ceremonial law on the fact that Paul was addressing circumcision in the previous chapters of Galatians. [5]

However, circumcision was never part of the ceremonial (sanctuary) law. When God gave Abraham the rite of circumcision it was intended as an object lesson that would teach Abraham and his descendants the uselessness of their efforts to fulfill God's everlasting covenant promise through their own works. Circumcision, or cutting of the flesh, showed that the "flesh profiteth nothing" (John 6:63; Gal. 5:6). Salvation requires a circumcision of the heart, which is the work of God (Deut. 30:6; Col. 2:11, 12).

Therefore, "the only possible way in which anybody can be under sin is by that law by which is 'the knowledge of sin' (Rom. 3:20; 7:7); by that law which is 'the strength of sin' (1 Cor. 15:56); that law of which 'sin' itself is 'the transgression.' (1 John 3:4). That law is the law which says, 'thou shalt not covet.' (Rom. 7:7-13). And it is the law of God, the ten commandments. This is so certain that there can be no question about it." [6]

The problem Paul was addressing in his letter to the Galatians was not that "the Jews were teaching [the Gentiles] to break the [ten] commandments, but because they were putting their trust in something besides Christ, and the man who does that cannot keep from sin, no matter how hard he tries." [7]

Addressing the crux of Butler's argument, Waggoner asked: "Do you mean to intimate by this [claim that the law in Galatians 3:18-21 is the ceremonial law] that there was ever a time when any people could approach God except through Christ? If not, then language means nothing. Your words seem to imply that before the first advent men approached God by means of the ceremonial law, and that after that they approached Him through the Messiah; but we shall have to go outside the Bible to find any support for the idea that anybody could ever approach God except through Christ. Amos 5:22; Micah 6:6-8, and many other texts show conclusively that the ceremonial law alone could never enable people to come to God." [8]

If the ceremonial law was not the means through which persons in the Old Testament approached God, what then was the purpose of the sanctuary rituals? "In order that man might realize the enormity of sin, which would take the life of the sinless Son of God, he was required to bring an innocent lamb, confess his sins over its head, then with his own hands take its life, a type of Christ's life. This sin-offering was burned, typifying that through the death of Christ all sin would finally be destroyed in the fires of the last day." [9]

How are the Ten Commandments a "schoolmaster"? In itself, the Ten Commandment law has no mercy and can do nothing toward making anyone righteous, no matter how hard we try to keep them. Their purpose is to act as a mirror of God's perfect character, and when we look into them we see just how dirty our face really is. At Sinai they were "added" in written form, in "more explicit detail," because of the hardness of the people's hearts. "It was given under circumstances of the most awful majesty as a warning to the children of Israel that by their unbelief they were in danger of losing the promised inheritance." [10]

"... it is clear that if the man is awakened by the law to keener consciousness of his condition, and the law continues goading him, giving him no rest, shutting up every other way of escape, the man must at last find the door of safety, for it stands open. Christ is the city of refuge ... in Christ alone will the sinner find release from the lash of the law, for in Christ the righteousness of the law is fulfilled, and by Him it is fulfilled in us." [11]

--Ann Walper

[1] E. J. Waggoner, The Glad Tidings, a verse-by-verse study of Galatians, p. 71, CFI ed. (2016).
[2] Ibid., p. 69, emphases in original.
[3] See ibid., p. 56.
[4] Ibid., p. 77, emphasis in original.
[5] G. I. Butler, The Law in the Book of Galatians, Is It the Moral Law or Does It Refer to That System of Laws Peculiarly Jewish?, Review and Herald, Battle Creek, Mich., p. 37 (1886).
[6] A. T. Jones, Studies in Galatians, April 3, 1900.
[7] E. J. Waggoner, The Gospel in the Book of Galatians, A Review, Oakland, Calif., p. 11 (1888).
[8] Ibid., pp. 11, 12.
[9] S. N. Haskell, The Cross and Its Shadow, pp. 20, 21 (1914).
[10] The Glad Tidings, pp. 73, 74.
[11] Ibid., p. 82, emphasis in original.

Pastor Paul Penno's video of this lesson is on the Internet at:

"Sabbath School Today" is on the Internet at:

Raul Diaz

Wednesday, August 2, 2017

The Priority of the Promise

Sabbath School Today
With the 1888 Message Dynamic

The Gospel in Galatians
Lesson 6. The Priority of the Promise


When man makes a will, once it is ratified no feature of it can be altered either by adding to it or subtracting from it (Gal. 3:15). God made out His will and promised Abraham and his special "Seed" ("Descendant") the new earth in righteousness, and then "confirmed" it by the sacrifice of Christ (vs.17). [1] When God passed through the sacrificial victim, He swore to Abraham by His very life and throne to fulfill every promise He made (Gen. 15:17, 18). God's promise and oath doubly ratified the unchangeable nature of His covenant given to Abraham (Heb. 6:15-18).

According to Galatians this means there is only One person who has ever been promised eternal life and that is Christ. God didn't say the promise was to Abraham's "seeds" ("descendants"), plural; but to his "Seed" ("Descendant"), singular, who is Christ (Gal. 3:16). Christ is the Savior of the world and He put everyone into Himself when He died on the cross.

God would have all men to be saved in Christ and all the legal issues have been cleared up for that to occur, but no man would be happy to walk through the Pearly Gates merely on a legal basis unless His heart was fully reconciled to God. If He hated Christ he'd look for the nearest exit (Prov. 8:36). How do we learn to love Christ? He said, "Abide in me" (John 15:4). Jesus says, Stay where I put you.

The messianic Jews in Galatia contended that God revealed a new feature at Mount Sinai in addition to His promise to Abraham. "We" must believe in the Messiah and obey the Law which God spoke to our ancestors 430 years after Abraham (Gal. 3:17). What was going on in Galatia was a repetition of what happened at Mount Sinai when Israel made their old covenant promise to God to do everything just right. Ancient Israel made a "bargain" or "contract" with God.

It happened like this. God said, "If ye will obey [listen to] my voice indeed, and keep [cherish] my covenant" you will be my "peculiar treasure" on the earth (Ex. 19:5). [2] Abraham listened to God's everlasting covenant and responded with a hearty "Amen" of faith and God forgave his sin and made him righteous (Gen. 15:6). The righteousness of the unwritten law was included in God's covenant. But Abraham's children responded to God's covenant with their own pledge: "All that the Lord hath spoken we will do" (Ex. 19:8). Their self-motivation for entering into a "relationship" with God was abundantly clear in their old covenant promise. [3]

The Apostle Paul was the first Jew aside from Jesus to recognize the problem of the old covenant in the Israelite church and the up-and-down nature of all its historical revivals and reformations (Gal. 4:23-25). It's our problem too. "The knowledge of your broken promises and forfeited pledges weakens your confidence in your own sincerity, and causes you to feel that God cannot accept you; ... What you need to understand is the true force of the will ... the power of decision, or of choice. ... The power of choice God has given to men." [4]

If the entrance of God's law coming 430 years after Abraham alters His covenant, then God's government would be overthrown. What was God's purpose for emphasizing the law at Mount Sinai? "It was added [spoken] because of transgressions" (Gal. 3:19). [5] At Sinai the people had self-righteously proclaimed their power to keep the law and did not realize their need of Christ. It was the great sin of self-sufficiency on their part. "Moreover the law entered, that the offense might abound" (Rom. 5:20). Their old covenant necessitated the "spoken" law written on tables of stone. It was never in God's original plan since He didn't have to do that for Abraham. God simply wrote His law upon Abraham's heart and mind (Heb. 10:16, 17).

Mighty doors swing on small hinges and it was on the issue of the "added" law in Galatians 3:19 that proved the hindrance for "many" to receive "the most precious message" of the uplifted Savior during the era of the 1888 Minneapolis General Conference and following. Writing to Uriah Smith in 1896, Ellen White stated that in Galatians 3:19-24, "the apostle is speaking especially of the moral law." "An unwillingness to yield up preconceived opinions, and to accept this truth, lay at the foundation of a large share of the opposition manifested at Minneapolis against the Lord's message through Brethren [E. J.] Waggoner and [A. T.] Jones." [6]

The leading scholars of the 1888 era were Uriah Smith, D. M. Canright, and George I. Butler. They all understood the "added law" as the ceremonial law of Moses which was done away with at the cross. They took this position because the evangelicals of their day used Galatians 3:19 as evidence that the "added law" was the Ten Commandments which were introduced at Mount Sinai and abolished when Jesus died. The leading brethren believed that Jones and Waggoner's proposal of the moral law in Galatians 3 would undermine the denomination's position on the seventh-day Sabbath and the immutability of God's law.

Rather than limiting the duration of the moral law until the first advent of Christ, Paul writes that it endures "… till the Seed should come to whom the promise was made. ..." (Gal. 3:19). The law continues its function of revealing the knowledge of sin and driving the sinner to the Savior until Abraham's Descendant "shall possess the gate of His enemies" (Gen. 22:17). Christ's enemies as well as Satan are removed at the second coming (Rev. 19:11-21).

The law was contained in unwritten form in the promises that God made to Abraham. Abraham received the righteousness of the law by faith in Christ. His genuine faith manifested itself in obedience to all the commandments of God (Gen. 26:5). When Abraham had Christ he had the living law, but without Christ the law is powerless and cannot convey any life whatsoever to the sinner. All the law can bring is condemnation and death. The law describes what righteousness, love and acceptable behavior is, but it cannot produce it. Thank God the law is given to us "in the hand of a Mediator" (Gal. 3:19).

--Paul E. Penno

[1] On Abraham's inheritance of "the world" and a "better country" see Romans 4:13 and Hebrews 11:10, 16.
[2] "Obey" in the Hebrew is shamea meaning "to listen." "Keep" in the Hebrew is shamar meaning to "cherish."
[3] See Ellen White's characterization of Israel's self-centered motivation in her words, "feeling that they were able to establish their own righteousness." Then she writes, "they broke their covenant with God" (Patriarchs and Prophets, p. 372).
[4] Her definition of "faith" is the God-given power of choice to believe God's covenant and cease from making our old covenant promises to obey (Steps to Christ, p. 47).
[5] The word "added" is the Greek word prostithemi, which means "spoken" as in Hebrews 12:19.
[6] Selected Messages, vol. 1, p. 235. The law here is not exclusive of the ceremonial law.

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