Friday, July 21, 2017

Sabbath School Lesson # 4 |"Justification by Faith Alone"

Lesson 4. Justification by Faith Alone


Sabbath School Today
With the 1888 Message Dynamic

The Gospel in Galatians
Lesson 4. Justification by Faith Alone

 

Five hundred years ago, in 1517, an Augustinian monk named Martin Luther shook the European theological world by making the claim that righteousness was by faith alone. After intense study of the Books of Galatians and Romans, he claimed that righteousness was not dispensed through the church or administered by priests or popes but was the productof faith. This fall, Christian organizations around the world are commemorating Luther's theological upheaval, including Roman Catholicism.

Luther's view on faith as the means of salvation has become the uniting theme between Protestantism and Catholicism as evidenced in a 1994 ecumenical document, known as "Evangelicals and Catholics Together," signed by leading Evangelical and Roman Catholic scholars in the United States. The Roman Catholic Church began its celebration of the Reformation a year ago when Pope Frances traveled to Sweden, where he joined leaders of the Lutheran World Federation in Lund for an ecumenical prayer service on October 31 and November 1, 2016.

When Luther made his stupendous claim that salvation was by "faith alone" it sparked not only the Protestant Reformation, but also the Roman Catholic Counter-reformation and the eighteen-year-long Council of Trent. At that time, how a person received justification and became righteous was the fundamental theological dividing line. Rome condemned "sola fide" and proclaimed anathema upon all who accepted it as truth. That ban has never officially been lifted by Rome. The theological trend since 1994 in reaching hands across the gulf to unite with Rome on this one point is in reality overturning the Protestant Reformation, just as Rome planned from the beginning.

The vital point that Martin Luther missed in his declaration of "sola fide" is that humans make no contribution to the salvation process. Our "faith" and our "works of faith" have no merit and produce no righteousness. If I am saved through my faith in Jesus, then all the focus is on me and my ability to maintain that "faith" long enough to get into heaven. Focusing on me and what I can to do through "obedience to the law" to help Jesus get me through the Pearly Gates is a subtle denial of the plain Biblical teaching that in me is no good thing (see Rom. 7:18).

Ellet J. Waggoner saw this clearly: "The Pharisees are not extinct; there are many in these days who expect to gain righteousness by their own deeds. They trust in themselves that they are righteous." However, the "convicted sinner tries again and again to obtain righteousness from the law, but it resists all his advances. It cannot be bribed by any amount of penance or professedly good deeds." It is absolutely true that "deeds done by a sinful person have no effect whatever to make him righteous, but, on the contrary, coming from an evil heart, they are evil, and so add to the sum of his sinfulness." [1]

"Since the gospel is contrary to human nature, we become doers of the law not by doing but by believing. If we worked for righteousness, we would be exercising only our own sinful human nature, and so would get no nearer to righteousness, but farther from it. But by believing the 'exceeding great and precious promises,' we become 'partakers of the divine nature' (2 Peter 1:4), and then all our works are wrought in God." [2]

Neither Luther, nor Calvin, nor Arminius ever caught so much as a glimpse of the concept of true legal justification. For all these reformers, great as their work was in beginning to restore truth from the Bible and to remove the paganism that had crept into the church during the millennium prior to the Reformation, they never comprehended the full depth of Christ's sacrifice or the true meaning of faith. The Reformer and thus the Evangelical view of salvation is egocentric because it begins with man's need for eternal security.

Therefore, in the Evangelical view justification is the reward of a person's faith. It teaches that faith is "trust" in the sense of grasping for an assurance of personal security from an angry God who must be appeased through repentance and penance before He will bestow grace and salvation. This explanation of justification as a judicial act of accounting in the record books of heaven, wherein the unrighteous man, still unrighteous, is declared righteous while he continues indulging in sinful motivation, denies the message of Daniel 8:14 and Revelation 14:12, and is responsible for the long delay of Christ's second coming.

Such a view of God is a gross distortion of His holy character of agape--His self-sacrificing, other-centered love that motivated the Godhead to declare the everlasting covenant that would send the Son to save the world from sin. That "sending" was from the foundation of the world; Christ is "the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world" (Rev. 13:8). "As soon as there was sin, there was a Saviour. Christ knew what He would have to suffer, yet He became man's substitute. As soon as Adam sinned, the Son of God presented Himself as surety for the human race, with just as much power to avert the doom pronounced upon the guilty as when He died upon the cross of Calvary." [3] This is justification as God intends it to be preached, and a true heart-appreciation of this fact will break the hard-hearted sinner's resistance to God's wooing. "Faith does not make facts. It only lays hold of them." [4]

Salvation by faith alone is an absolute Biblical truth, but concessions to relativism and postmodernism's humanistic (man-centered) view are undermining what the Apostle Paul wrote in Romans, Galatians, and Ephesians about the vital truth of justification and righteousness by faith. Our memory text this week inadvertently points out this shift in thinking. Quoting the English Standard Version, it says: "And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me." If you are familiar with the King James Version you might have noticed the change of a single word. It's a subtle change, and many persons feel that it is an insignificant difference.

In the King James Bible the text reads: "and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave Himself for me." The change of one little two-letter word makes a profound difference in meaning. The author of our Quarterly illuminated the difference in his book, Galatians, A Fiery Response to a Struggling Church.

"For Paul faith is not just an abstract concept--it is inseparably connected to Jesus. In fact, the Greek phrase translated twice as 'faith in Jesus Christ' in Galatians 2:16 is far richer than any rendering can really encompass (see Rom. 3:22, 26; Gal. 3:22; Eph. 3:12; Phil 3:9). In the Greek the phrase literally means 'the faith of Jesus' or 'the faithfulness of Jesus.' It reveals the powerful contrast the apostle makes between the works of the law [i.e., legalism] and the work Christ accomplished on our behalf. For Paul, the primary emphasis is not our faith in Jesus, but Jesus' faithfulness. Thus the issue is not our works versus our faith--that would almost make our faith meritorious, which it is not. Rather, faith is only the conduit by which we take hold of Christ. We are justified, not on the basis of our faith, but on the basis of Christ's faithfulness." [5]

Christ was faithful to the everlasting covenant made between the members of the Godhead before sin entered this world. From that covenant made in heaven, through His life of suffering in fallen human flesh, and finally His endurance of the anguish of Gethsemane and the shame of the cross, Christ never once faltered in His faithfulness to the everlasting covenant promise to save mankind from sin. He was faithful to His word. And it is the evidence of His faithfulness revealed in the Scriptures that we cling to when we believe that He is able to "keep [us] from falling, and present [us] faultless before the presence of His glory with exceeding joy" (Jude 24).

It is this faith that every human being has been given (Rom. 12:3). It is this faith that once allowed to work in us, will produce the necessary righteousness that will fit us for heaven. "The proud heart strives to earn salvation; but both our title to heaven and our fitness for it are found in the righteousness of Christ. The Lord can do nothing toward the recovery of man until, convinced of his own weakness, and stripped of all self-sufficiency, he yields himself to the control of God. Then he can receive the gift that God is waiting to bestow. From the soul that feels his need, nothing is withheld." [6]

You might argue that this is a tiny point, a subtle difference; nothing to really worry about. It is after all, only a two-letter word! How can it have any significant importance to my salvation?

It is a subtle distinction that caused the Reformation to falter and stall for 500 years. We don't need to go back to Reformation theology, we need to return to what the Lord sent us in 1888. The message brought to us through A. T. Jones and E. J. Waggoner is a distinct message that uplifted the Saviour as the sin-pardoning Redeemer who is the sacrifice for the sins of the whole world. "This is the message that God commanded to be given to world," not warmed-over Evangelicalism that focuses on human effort, where "faith" is a grasping for reward that rejects the truth that forgiveness and the blotting out of sin is the whole point of the Gospel. The message of Christ and His righteousness proclaimed by Waggoner and Jones "is the third angel's message in verity, which is to be proclaimed with a loud voice, and attended with the outpouring of His Spirit in a large measure." [7]

The message of the cross "lays the glory of man in the dust" and is offensive to the proud heart. The apostle Paul gladly submitted to the "offence" saying, "I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I but Christ liveth in me: and the life I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave Himself for me" (Gal. 2:21). "The cross conveys to us the knowledge of God because it shows us His power as Creator. Through the cross we are crucified to the world and the world to us. By the cross we are sanctified. Sanctification is the work of God, not of man. Only His divine power can accomplish the great work." [8]

--Ann Walper

Endnotes:
[1] Ellet J. Waggoner, Christ and His Righteousness, pp. 66, 70, 63 (Glad Tidings ed., 1999).
[2] Ellet J. Waggoner, The Glad Tidings, p. 56 (CFI ed., 2016).
[3] Ellen G. White, "Lessons From the Christ-Life," Review and Herald, March 12, 1901.
[4] The Glad Tidings, p. 107.
[5] Carl P. Cosaert, Galatians: A Fiery Response to a Struggling Church, p. 42 (emphasis in original), Review and Herald Publishing Association (2011).
[6] Ellen G. White, The Desire of Ages, p. 300.
[7] See Ellen G. White, Testimonies to Ministers and Gospel Workers, pp. 91, 92.
[8] The Glad Tidings, p. 141.

Notes:
Pastor Paul Penno's video of this lesson is on the Internet at: https://youtu.be/HKjh2GIgum4

"Sabbath School Today" is on the Internet at: 1888message.org/sst.htm


 RR
Raul Diaz

Saturday, July 15, 2017

Friday, July 14, 2017

Lesson 3. The Unity of the Gospel

Sabbath School Today
With the 1888 Message Dynamic

The Gospel in Galatians
Lesson 3. The Unity of the Gospel



Unity--how people in a church can truly believe the same thing--is
important, because Jesus said that the only way the world can be
brought to believe in Him is when His followers "all may be one; ...
that the world may believe that Thou hast sent Me" (John 17:21).
Something He calls "Thy truth" is the only thing that will unite them
(vs. 17).

Paul calls it "the truth of the gospel" (Gal. 2:5, 14). The success or
failure of Christ's mission for the world therefore depends on that
"truth" bringing His people who profess to "keep the commandments of
God and the faith of Jesus" into one (Rev. 14:12). Is that "truth of
the gospel" so simple and clear that it appeals to honest hearts with
a similarly powerful logic?

Take the problem of Genesis 1: Christ and His apostles accepted that
"the truth of the gospel" required sincere, honest hearts to believe
that God created the earth in six literal days. People who insist they
are equally sincere understand the idea of six literal days to be
ancient mythology; science makes such belief naive, they say.

Take the problem of Jesus Himself: when He became incarnate, did He
"take" the sinless nature of the unfallen Adam, thus breaking the
genetic line of His descent from the real Adam? Or did He accept the
working of the great law of heredity and enter the stream of humanity
by taking our fallen, sinful nature yet living a sinless life? Here
again is disunity; the assumption is that unity is an impossibility.
Or is it?

Paul's plea for the church members in Corinth to "speak [teach] the
same thing, and that there be no divisions among you," that they "be
perfectly joined together in the same mind" is not idle talk (see 1
Cor. 1:10). This is God's ideal for His church, and a little known
prediction in an out-of-date book entitled Historical Sketches states
categorically that such blessed heart- and mind-unity will be realized
in the church before Jesus returns: "They will see eye to eye in all
matters of religious belief. They will speak [teach] the same things."
[1]

Why does disunion seem to flourish? And how can the church lighten the
earth with glory if it is in a divided state? And what can bring the
true unity that Christ prayed for?

There is a solution! If God is real and if His Bible is true, it
follows that God will bring His people into unity.

What today seems impossible, the Holy Spirit will accomplish. He
brought the disunited eleven apostles into unity before the Day of
Pentecost. They were "all with one accord in one place" (Acts 2:1).
That was "the former rain," and the "latter rain" is promised to be
even greater. But God cannot use force to accomplish it.

Ephesians gives us the solution, the key to finding true harmony: for
those "tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of
doctrine" is the message of agape (Eph. 4:14, 15). Such a message
tells what Christ accomplished, the pure biblical truth of
justification by faith. Agape is a different kind of love that listens
to each other carefully so as not to misrepresent each other,
"endeavoring to keep the unity of the [Holy] Spirit in the bond of
peace" (vs. 3). No more misquoting each other so as to win an
argument.

The subject of 1888 holds for Seventh-day Adventists (and even some
non-Adventists!) the charm of an unsolved mystery. Until the full
truth is known as to the history and content of the message, the world
church can never be diverted from an earnest desire to know the facts.

The truth is so simple that even a child can grasp it: The Lord sent
the "beginning" of the latter rain in the 1888 message; it would have
led to the finishing of the work in that generation had it been
accepted; and the same enmity against God that led the Jews to reject
their Messiah led our brethren of a past generation to reject the
gracious light that God sent. This simple A-B-C truth will evoke a
response from Seventh-day Adventists the world around, and pave the
way for unity to prevail as the church prepares for her final
conflict. Dissension and strife melt away in the light of the 1888
gospel message.

Implicit in the 1888 message itself is the concept of loyalty to the
principles of church organization. This is because the message calls
for repentance and expresses firm confidence that the call will
eventually be heeded. Never does the message call for rebellion, or
for establishing a new organization or offshoot.

If we do not resist the Holy Spirit, He will bring us into a blessed
unity of heart and mind. As E. J. Waggoner wrote:

"Remember that there was no difference of opinion among the apostles
nor in the church as to what the gospel is. There were 'false
brethren,' it is true; but inasmuch as they were false, they were no
part of the church, the body of Christ, which is the truth. Many
professed Christians, sincere persons, suppose that it is almost a
matter of necessity that there be differences in the church. 'All
cannot see alike,' is the common statement. So they misread Ephesians
4:13 (KJV), making it seem that God has given us gifts 'till we all
come into the unity of the faith.' What the Word teaches is that 'in
the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God,' we
all come 'unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the
fullness of Christ.' There is only 'one-faith' (vs. 5), the faith of
Jesus, as there is only one Lord." [2]

Christ has promised solemnly that if He is lifted up on His cross,
that is, if His agape is clearly proclaimed, He "will draw all peoples
to [Himself]," and that of course is perfect unity (John 12:32). If
the leadership of a church that is being fragmented receives the
precious message of Christ's righteousness, the miracle of unity is as
certain as day follows night.

Some day, somewhere, someone will understand the "everlasting gospel"
of Jesus Christ so clearly that "another angel" will come down from
heaven "having great power" and will "lighten the earth" with the
glory of that full-orbed truth. Multitudes who now sit in darkness
will see a great light and will come to it (Rev. 18:1-4; Matt. 4:16).

And it won't be only "some one" who understands; there will be many
who are in heartfelt union, around the world, of "every nation, and
kindred, and tongue, and people" (Rev. 14:6). No more theological
squabbles!

Those who will understand the gospel and be in union will receive "the
seal ... of our God in their foreheads" (Rev. 7:1-4). They will
graduate out of old covenant living into the bright sunlight of the
new. The old covenant will no longer produce "bondage" in them, but
they will "stand fast in the liberty wherewith Christ hath made us
free" (Gal. 5:1). They will overcome where ancient Israel stumbled and
fell. Instead of "crucifying Christ afresh and bringing Him to an open
shame" (Heb. 6:6), they will surrender self to be "crucified with Him"
(Gal. 2:20).

But must this glorious triumph of the gospel await a future
generation? Are there some out there who long to see the victory come
now?

--From the writings of Robert J. Wieland

Endnotes:
[1] Historical Sketches of the Foreign Missions of the Seventh-day
Adventists: Practical addresses delivered by Mrs. E. G. White to the
Swiss Conference and the European Missionary Council held at Basle in
September 1885; "Unity Among Laborers," p. 124.
[2] Ellet J. Waggoner, The Glad Tidings, a verse-by-verse study of
Galatians, p. 37, CFI ed. (2016).

Notes:
Pastor Paul Penno's video of this lesson is on the Internet at:
https://youtu.be/w5M9CXdw30c

"Sabbath School Today" is on the Internet at: 1888message.org/sst.htm



--



Raul Diaz
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Friday, July 7, 2017

Sabbath School Lesson # 2 |"Paul's Authority and Gospel"

Lesson 2. Paul's Authority and Gospel


Sabbath School Today
With the 1888 Message Dynamic

The Gospel in Galatians
Lesson 2. Paul's Authority and Gospel

 

The first five verses of Galatians contain the whole gospel. Paul never wastes a chance to remind people of the basics of the gospel. Wrapped into his greeting he mentions that the Lord Jesus Christ gave Himself for our sins to deliver us from the evil in the world, and the Father raised Him from the dead.

There it is, the gospel in a nutshell. Paul is emphatic that people understand the true gospel because there had been attacks against his preaching. From a human standpoint, Paul had much going against him. To the Pharisees, he was a traitor. He had been one of their most promising students, having an intellect and zeal that made him stand out. He had helped in the stoning of Stephen, the first Christian martyr. Now he renounced all that and was preaching the gospel they hated, and exposing their treachery and complicity in the crucifixion of Christ. He had definitely earned the hatred of the Pharisees, so it was no surprise they were willing to use every trick to undermine him. The leadership in Jerusalem must have been behind the people that followed him trying to undermine his preaching.

The attacks came on various fronts. It was easy to attack his authority as an apostle, since that title was reserved for those who had actually walked with Jesus when He was physically on earth. Paul countered this by saying he was personally tutored by Jesus while in Arabia (Gal. 1:17). It is likely this story was scoffed at by those who didn't want to believe. Were there any witnesses to this or was it just something Paul concocted to gain people's confidence? Even today, people are skeptical when evangelists claim to have direct revelations from God.

In addition, it was easy to raise doubt in the minds of Jewish people by accusing Paul of preaching against the law when he taught that righteousness did not come from law keeping, but by faith alone in the saving grace of Jesus Christ. People who rely on their good works for assurance of salvation react with satanic hatred and anger when anyone teaches grace. This is where the Galatians were deceived. People that Paul called "false brethren" (Gal. 2:4) accused Paul of preaching an incomplete gospel. Yes, the grace Christ accomplished was good but it wasn't enough, circumcision was also necessary. Although the issues we face today are different from circumcision, any human effort done to attempt to please God is not genuine faith, but rather a fear of punishment or hope of reward. Many who teach the concepts of faith alone, especially as embodied by the message given to our church in 1888 face the same hatred and anger because it places human glory where it belongs, in the dust.

The same things that had made Paul such a favorite to the Pharisees, caused consternation and suspicion among the newly established churches he was trying to plant and nourish. Even with a direct order from God to take Paul in, Ananias questioned this telling God, "Lord, I have heard from many about his man, how much harm he did to Thy saints at Jerusalem; and here he has authority from the chief priests to bind all who call upon Thy name" (Acts 9:13, 14). This concern and suspicion must have been a factor for Paul to overcome at every town that knew of his reputation.

He was apparently also criticized for his intellect. Even today, there are many who object to having to make even the smallest effort to understand some of the deeper aspects of the gospel. They claim, "if it isn't simple, it isn't the gospel." There must have been those people who complained that Paul was too hard to understand, but Peter called them "untaught and unstable" (2 Peter 3:16). We are told that the plan of salvation is so deep we will study it for eternity. If the gospel is simple it couldn't hold our interest and concentration to study it indefinitely.

From a human standpoint, it does seem reasonable to wonder if God knew what He was doing when He chose someone with so much "baggage" that predictably would compromise his ministry. It's no different today. There are many who are afraid to study the message of righteousness by faith, citing their belief that A. T. Jones and E. J. Waggoner later "lost their way." Two contemporary authors have written, "We are faced here with a unique problem":

"The especially difficult question is why should God choose as special messengers those who would later become unsound in the faith? Why should He permit the bearers of His sharply contested message to go astray when their apostasy would only confirm the opposition to that message? ... God's footsteps may be mysterious, but that is no reason why we should carelessly misunderstand this strange providence.

"To suppose that the Lord made a strategic mistake in choosing Jones and Waggoner is unthinkable, for He never errs in counsel. ...

"Inspired evidence suggests an answer to our questions, and indicates that:

"(1) Jones and Waggoner were not 'carried away' by any 'extreme views' regarding the righteousness of Christ, but they were driven away by persistent and unreasoning opposition of the brethren whom God sent them to enlighten.

"(2) Ellen White recognized the seriousness of the opposition to them personally and to their message, and fixed the ultimate blame for their later failure 'to a great degree' upon the opposing brethren.

"(3) The Lord permitted the sad event to take place as a test to the opposing brethren; and the failures of the 1888messengers have had the effect of confirming 'us' in a state of virtual unbelief. ... It seems that the Lord is such a Gentleman that He apparently goes out of His way to provide hooks for us to hang our doubts on if we want them. He does not want any of us to receive the latter rain unless we are fully heart-committed to Him and to His truth. ...

"(4) The practical results of the investigative judgment will require that the remnant church, before the time of final victory, come to see the truth of the message and its history and recognize Jones' and Waggoner's work from 1888-96 for its true value, the 'beginning' of the latter rain and the loud cry." [1]

Ellen White admonished "Let no soul complain of the servants of God who have come to them with a heaven-sent message. ... He sees the temperament of the men He has chosen. He knows that none but earnest, firm, determined, strong-feeling men will view this work in its vital importance, and will put such firmness and decision into their testimonies that they will make a break against the barriers of Satan." [2]

"It must be said to their credit that Jones and Waggoner did not renounce faith in the God of Israel. They never became infidels or agnostics or atheists. They never gave up the Sabbath or their lifelong devotion to Christ. In today's climate of church fellowship they would still be members in good and regular standing. Their sin was that they lost faith in the corporate body of the church and its leadership. They were not confident of denominational repentance. They came to doubt human nature; hence Jones' bitterness and the failings of their own human nature. The enemy will press us sorely to repeat their failure. But we need not give in!" [3]

--Arlene Hill

Endnotes:
[1] Robert J. Wieland and Donald K. Short, 1888 Re-examined: 1888-1988--The Story of a Century of Confrontation Between God and His People, pp. 116-117 (1987).
[2] Ellen G. White, Testimonies to Ministers and Gospel Workers, pp. 410, 413.
[3] 1888 Re-examined, p. 119.

Notes:
Bible texts are from the New American Standard Bible.

Pastor Paul Penno's video of this lesson is on the Internet at: https://youtu.be/jUY3iuUcV20

"Sabbath School Today" is on the Internet at: 1888message.org/sst.htm

 RR
Raul Diaz

Friday, June 30, 2017

Lesson 1. Paul: Apostle to the Gentiles

Sabbath School Today
With the 1888 Message Dynamic

The Gospel in Galatians
Lesson 1. Paul: Apostle to the Gentiles

 

Have you learned to love the Book of Galatians? Or is it dull, boring, confusing, to you? It has been the spark that has ignited glorious reformations in people's lives since the time of Martin Luther. So you should learn to make friends with it, to love it, to let your heart revel in its powerful good news.

How does a lukewarm, sensual, half-worldly, half-cold, half-hot person get to be "on fire" like Paul? The answer is Galatians. People wonder why Galatians could have such gospel dynamite in it that it one time turned Europe upside down.

It is quite evident that the Third Angel's Message hasn't turned the world upside down. Yet, our quarterly maintains that we have accepted the 1888message. The statement of the "acceptance theory" of the 1888 message of righteousness by faith is made in the quarterly with these words: "Through the study of Galatians, E. J. Waggoner and A. T. Jones helped the Adventist Church rediscover the truth of righteousness by faith in the 1880s and 1890s" (The Gospel in Galatians, p. 2 [2017]).

The word "rediscover" is the operative word. This cannot be maintained in view of what Ellen White wrote: "An unwillingness to yield up preconceived opinions, ... [occurred] at Minneapolis against the Lord's message through Brethren [E. J.] Waggoner and [A. T.] Jones. By exciting that opposition Satan succeeded in shutting away from our people, in a great measure, the special power of the Holy Spirit that God longed to impart to them. ... The light that is to lighten the whole earth with its glory was resisted, and by the action of our own brethren has been in a great degree kept away from the world." [1]

The church has yet to identify justification by faith with the at-one-ment with God sanctuary truth. To date justification is viewed, as do other denominations, with a mere legal transaction that doesn't affect the heart alienation with God. The church would be turned upside down if it captured the "big ideas" in Galatians that explode in people's hearts like sticks of spiritual dynamite. We must study and learn the message of Galatians--what Christ accomplished for us by His sacrifice on the cross, the good news of the atonement, which is the new covenant.

The one who wrote Galatians was the former Saul, a murderous "thug," the end product of Israel's old covenant unbelief. How ironic, that Saul should participate in the stoning of Stephen, the prophet. This event signaled the end of the 490 years of grace extended by God to His people (Dan. 9:24). God's patient forgiving mercy terminated for the "Jewish church." Its national apostasy in the worship of "self"--manifested in its ceremonialism (Acts 7:48-50)--drove away the Spirit of God (vs. 51). This resulted in national ruin and the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 A.D. by the Romans. But Christ plucked a brand from the fire,--the Pharisee Saul,--before its collapse.

Saul was a microcosm of the centuries-long old covenant unbelief of the ancient Israelite church in which they promised God to do everything just right (Ex. 19:8; cf. Heb. 8:7, 8). Christ Himself had instituted all the rites and ceremonies after they made their old covenant with God at Mount Sinai. God's intent with these "shadows" of the gospel was to lead them back to "the faith" in His promise of the everlasting covenant. But the leadership and scholarship of that day did not know the meaning of these types and shadows and failed to identify their Messiah--the suffering Crucified One--when He came into their midst.

The significance of Stephen's defense speech before the "council" and "high priest" was God's last warning and appeal to the leadership of His church to repent for their idolatrous history culminating in the murder of "the Just One" (Acts 7:52). The "council" had accused Stephen of teaching lawlessness (Acts 6:13); but they were the idolaters cherishing murder in their hearts (Acts 7:53). Stephen proclaimed the law and the gospel of the cross of Christ, which pricked their hearts. They chose to reject the Spirit's gift of repentance that Stephen announced. They took up stones to kill him. The leadership's decision sealed their fate as a nation. They would no more listen to the still small voice of the Spirit. They committed the unpardonable sin by attributing the work of the Spirit through Stephen to the work of the devil (cf. Matt. 12:22-32).

The young Saul was part of the council that participated in the stoning of Stephen. The shining face of Stephen and his forgiving spirit toward his executioners made a profound impression upon Saul (Acts 7:60). [2] Jesus had prayed for them all, "Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do" (Luke 23:34; Acts 6:15-7:60). And that was Stephen's last sermon. We have the sermon recorded. There was no self in it. No "prophet of Baal" could preach such a sermon.

Saul, too, resisted the Holy Spirit, and gave in to the "group think" of his superiors of the Sanhedrin. He concluded with them that Stephen was a blasphemer and that Christians were followers of an imposter messiah. Saul believed Stephen was a libertine and a destroyer of the law of God.

Saul now sought to gain the favor of his colleagues by following their example in the murder of Stephen. By obtaining letters of recommendation from the high court in Jerusalem he designed to go out to the synagogues and, with their support, persecute the followers of Jesus. This was Saul's purpose when journeying to Damascus.

But the Lord Jesus arrested him on the road with the blinding vision of His exalted position in heaven as a result of His crucifixion (Acts 26:13). The Lord Jesus asked him, "Saul, Saul, why persecutest thou me?" (Acts 9:4; 26:14). Writes Ellen White, "Christ here identifies Himself with His people." [3] Saul was sincerely deceived by Satan. In doing the work of Satan he thought he was doing the work of God. He was actually re-crucifying the Son of God afresh in the person of His saints.

Christ said to Saul: "It is hard for thee to kick against the pricks" (Acts 26:14). The Lord put obstacles in his path to make the wrong way seem like kicking against the ox goads. Yes, the Lord made it "hard" for Saul to be lost by speaking to his conscience.

One of the "good news" ideas of the 1888 message is: easy to be saved, hard to be lost when God reveals His love (agape) to you. You live because One died in your place; agape now motivates you. "All along the road that leads to [eternal] death there are pains and penalties, there are sorrows and disappointments, there are warnings not to go on. God's love has made it hard for the heedless and headstrong to destroy themselves." [4]

When the enthroned Christ stopped Saul on the road the antagonist asked: "Who art thou, Lord? And He said, I am Jesus whom thou persecutest" (Acts 26:15). This was Jesus' self-revelation of the ever-present cross to Saul. Regarding this event Ellen White makes an insightful comment: "In the glorious Being who stood before him he saw the Crucified One." [5]

The Holy Spirit convicted Saul's heart by means of the cross of Christ. Saul experienced a heart-melting appreciation that the Messiah is "the Crucified One." Now all the prophecies, types and shadows of the ceremonial system came alive for him as pointing to "the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world" (John 1:29).

Later, Saul received the laying on of hands by Ananias. Thus Saul/Paul was ordained as Christ's "chosen vessel ... to bear [His] name before the Gentiles, and kings, and the children of Israel" (Acts 9:15). Above all, Paul was called to be the Apostle to the Gentiles. In his speech before Agrippa, the call to a Gentile mission constitutes the center of Paul's conversion account. Paul is sent forth as the servant and witness of Christ (Acts 26:16).

--Paul E. Penno

Endnotes:
[1] Ellen G. White, Selected Messages, book 1, pp. 234, 235 [Letter 96, 1896].
[2] See also Ellen G. White, Acts of the Apostles, pp. 115, 116.
[3] Ibid., p. 117.
[4] Ellen G. White, Thoughts From the Mount of Blessing, p. 139.
[5] Acts of the Apostles, p. 115.

Notes:
Pastor Paul Penno's video of this lesson is on the Internet at: https://youtu.be/dzb8hVVVqWU

"Sabbath School Today" is on the Internet at: 1888message.org/sst.htm

 RR
Raul Diaz

Friday, June 23, 2017

Sabbath School Lesson # 13 | "Major Themes in 1 and 2 Peter"

Major Themes in 1 and 2 Peter

Sabbath School Today
With the 1888 Message Dynamic

"Feed My Sheep": First and Second Peter
Lesson 13. Major Themes in 1 and 2 Peter

 

Consider the case of the church member who lives in a hedonistic culture. The gospel has been preached unto him; he is intelligent, he understands it; he believes it (or says he does); but he doesn't live it, doesn't render obedience to the Lord in ways he knows are God's will for him. He nods his head to every sermon or Bible study. Yes, and comes to church. But just doesn't do the things that the Bible says to do. What's wrong?

Some have tried to help him with portrayals of the "time of the end," and the coming "seven last plagues," and the horror of the "mark of the beast." It just doesn't faze him.

Ellet J. Waggoner, one of the 1888 messengers of the gospel whose mind was guided by the Holy Spirit, says of this kind of case: "I still insist that you don't believe." What does he mean? There is something defective in his idea of justification by faith. Waggoner goes on: "The price that was paid for us was [Christ's] own blood--His life. ... 'redeemed ... with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot' (1 Peter 1:18, 19). ... He 'gave Himself for us' (Titus2:14), ... 'for our sins' (Gal. 1:4). ... 'While we were yet sinners, Christ died for us' (Rom. 5:6, 8). ... The price paid was infinite." [1] In other words, it's impossible to believe this and go on transgressing the will of God in your life--"you don't believe," says Waggoner.

When Peter writes that we are "redeemed ... with the precious blood of Christ" it was God's Messiah, of the Old Testament prophecies, who died. An unfortunate view of some regarding the Messiah is that we have a divine Savior who ministered on earth for 33 years, and then, when it came time for Him to die as God's sacrificial Lamb, He withdrew His divine self so that only a human corporeality paid the price.

But the corrective to this is found in Peter's response to Jesus' question, Who do men say the Son of Man is? Peter replies, "Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God" (Matt. 16:16). It is the Son of God who died and paid our ransom from slavery to death. Divinity did not die. The Christ is the "lamb without blemish and without spot" who died.

Why did Peter and John call Him the "Lamb of God"? Is He only the human son of Mary, or is He indeed the divine Son of God? John says further that He is "the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world" (Rev. 13:8). Is the Lamb the Son of God? Peter says the blood of the Lamb is "precious" and that could hardly be said if the Lamb is merely human. "Ye were redeemed ... with the precious blood [life] of Christ, as of a Lamb without blemish ..." (1 Peter 1:18-20).

Due to their belief in the natural immortality of the soul, Evangelicals and Catholics believe that only the human Christ died. Some even deny this, boldly stating, "Christ did not die on the cross!" Their belief requires the understanding that Christ went to "Paradise" "today" with the pardoned thief, so that He did not really die on the cross at all.

Then what difference does the death of the Son of God make with regard to God's forgiveness of sinner's obtained at the cross? The 1888 concept of justification by faith provides us with a greater appreciation for what it cost God's Son. Herein lies the motive power for our faith which works by His love. Ellen White saw something in it that Luther and Calvin never saw: It "is made manifest in obedience to all the commandments of God." [2] That was no superficial statement on her part, for "agape is the fulfilling of the law" (Rom. 13:10). "Precious blood" is that which "having not seen, ye love; in whom, though now ye see Him not, yet believing, ye rejoice with joy unspeakable and full of glory: receiving the end of your faith, even the salvation of your souls" (1 Peter 1:8, 9).

In other words, genuine justification by faith is "rooted and grounded in agape," because faith is a heart appreciation of it. Catholics and Protestants cannot clearly see this beautiful truth. Why?

No one who believes the natural immortality of the soul can possibly have an adequate appreciation of agape--"adequate," in the sense of preparing the grain for the harvest. We are not talking about those millions or billions who have prepared for death--Adventism is concerned about a preparation for translation at the second coming of Jesus, or it is nothing.

Martin Luther believed the truth about the nature of man and thus could begin to break down the synthesis of agape and self-centered love that Augustine had developed. But his followers reverted to the pagan-papal doctrine, as did Calvin, and even the Wesleys.

Parallel with the Day of Atonement comes a restoration of agape [3]; but the popular churches do not see it, though they use words for love. The theologians such as Anders Nygren, Michael Harper, or Leon Morris in their books on agape are not able to sense the real significance of what happened on the cross. But agape is a revelation of truth that comes only from Christ's ministry in the second apartment of the heavenly sanctuary. [4] The popular churches do not by faith follow Him there; and thus, they cannot comprehend agape, because they believe in the natural immortality of the soul. The Evangelical doctrines of justification by faith therefore cannot comprehend the full truth of the cross of Christ. They cannot understand how He died the second death for the human race.

It is not possible to understand the length, breadth, depth, and height of agape while one believes in the natural immortality of the soul. If Christ knew that He needed only to endure a few hours of agony before being re-united with His Father in a disembodied spirit, that would destroy the meaning of the cross. In reality, He saw the cavern of an eternal grave stretching before Him, with no hope of a resurrection.

Who is that One Person of all history who has been in hell? Actually, He came out of it again, which no one else will ever do once they get there! At Pentecost, Peter said that David spoke of Jesus, "Thou wilt not leave My soul in hell, neither wilt Thou suffer Thine Holy One to see corruption" (Psalm 16:8-11; Acts 2:25, 27). So Christ went all the way to "hell," the second death in order to pay our ransom.

Conservative Christians are steeped in the idea that we must be punished for our sins, we must pay the price. But Peter teaches the idea known as the gospel, a concept of good news that says that Christ has already endured the punishment for our sins. He has paid the price, "exhausted the penalty" [5], because "The Lord hath laid on Him the iniquity of us all" (Isa. 53:6). "His own self [He] bare our sins in His own body ... by whose stripes ye were healed" (1 Peter 2:24). "Christ ... hath once suffered for sins, the just for the unjust, that He might bring us to God" (1 Peter 3:18). What does that mean for the world of sinners? Christ has already borne his or her punishment. It is over! There is now no fearful looking for judgment. According to Peter, if only the sinner can hear and believe this good news he will be transformed by Christ's forgiveness.

--Paul E. Penno

Endnotes:
[1] E. J. Waggoner, Christ and His Righteousness, Glad Tidings ed., pp. 83; 79, 80 (1999).
[2] Ellen G. White, Testimonies to Ministers and Gospel Workers, pp. 91, 92.
[3] See Ellen G. White, Early Writings, pp. 55, 56.
[4] Ibid.
[5] Ellen G. White, Selected Messages, book 1, p. 340.

Notes:
Pastor Paul Penno's video of this lesson is on the Internet at: https://youtu.be/WXBFRjtMMdk

"Sabbath School Today" is on the Internet at: 1888message.org/sst.htm

 RR
Raul Diaz

Friday, June 16, 2017

Lesson 12. The Day of the Lord

Sabbath School Today
With the 1888 Message Dynamic

"Feed My Sheep": First and Second Peter
Lesson 12. The Day of the Lord

 

Peter warns that "in the last days scoffers will come" (2 Peter 3:3), motivated by sinful desires and teaching: the world always continues in a steady state, without God's intervention, without catastrophes, without end. They ridicule, "Where is the promise of His coming?" (vs. 4). The scoffers prefer "walking after their own lusts" and are uncomfortable with moral and spiritual prodding in view of the day of the Lord. They teach that everything stays the same, but Peter teaches catastrophe: The world is "kept" for the day of judgment and destruction of ungodly people (vs. 7). Just as the fallen angels were kept for judgment (2 Peter 2:4), the unrighteous are also kept for judgment (vs. 9), and darkness is kept for the false teachers (vs.17).

How do you prepare for the day of the Lord and the seeming delay of the end? We puny people are impatient because our life span is so short. But God operates on a vastly different timetable, a day with Him is like a thousand years (2 Peter 3:8). So the Lord is not late as some understand slowness.

Another reason for the delay is that God is "not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance" (vs. 9). You are one of those who have been "called." It depends on how you respond to the call as to whether you are "chosen." Christ has chosen all who will choose Him. Our "election" is not something mysterious that depends upon the whim or fancy of God. God is voting for us, and Satan is voting against us; and it thus depends on our own vote which way the election goes! Those who simply choose Christ will be enabled by His grace to be faithful to the end. God waited patiently in the days of Noah. But His patience is not forever, for the flood did come.

One more point: "The day of the Lord will come like a thief" (2 Peter 3:10). A thief comes unexpected. The day of the Lord is the second coming of Christ and all the catastrophic events associated with it.

The practical consequences of belief in the day of the Lord is, What kind of people ought you to be? The question is answered by Peter: "What manner of persons ought ye to be in all holy conversation and godliness" (vs. 11).

So Peter urges us, "Looking for and hasting unto the coming of the day of God" (vs. 12). Can believers really hasten that day, in spite of how God experiences time?

Has Jesus' coming been delayed? (1) Has the Father inexorably fixed the time of His coming so that His people can neither hasten nor delay it? Or, (2) can His people hasten His return as 2 Peter 3:12 suggests, "Looking for and hasting unto the coming of the day of God ..."? The original can be understood as either (a) longing for its coming or (b) as hastening its coming. Those who believe the Father has fixed the date inexorably hold to (a). Those who believe we can delay His coming hold to (b).

Jesus makes clear that the Father alone knows the time of His second coming (Mark 13:32), but that does not mean that He has fixed the time as Calvinist predestination. He has "appointed" the time in the sense that it is contingent on the completion of the gospel commission: "This gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in all the world for a witness unto all nations; and then shall the end come" (Matt. 24:14). The when is up to us.

The character of God is implicated in this question. If He has fixed the time, then He has deceived His people by repeated messages telling them that it is "near." Some argue that when He says "know ye that it is near, even at the doors," He means something different than all human language means by "near," but again that implies deception. If I tell a hungry person that lunch is "near" when I mean next week, I have deceived him.

What does Christ's Object Lessons, p. 69, mean which says: "When the character of Christ shall be perfectly reproduced in His people, then He will come to claim them as His own"?

It must mean what it says. What it speaks of is not an impossibility. It's what Christ died to make possible and what He lives and ministers in the Most Holy Apartment of the heavenly sanctuary to accomplish. Objections logically deny the possibility for human beings to "overcome even as [Christ] overcame" (Rev. 3:21). In this last hour of the great controversy, we must not deny the plan of salvation and rob the Son of God of His power and glory to save people from sin.

Has Christ's return been "delayed"? Ellen White seems to recognize that there has been a delay: "God's unwillingness to have His people perish has been the reason for so long delay." [1] "The coming of the Lord is delayed." [2] "He [Jesus] delays His coming." [3] "For forty years did unbelief, murmuring, and rebellion shut out ancient Israel from the land of Canaan. The same sins have delayed the entrance of modern Israel into the heavenly Canaan. ... It is the unbelief, the worldliness, unconsecration, and strife among the Lord's professed people that have kept us in this world of sin and sorrow so many years." [4]

But five years later, the Lord sent the initial showers from heaven of the latter rain and the "beginning" of the loud cry message that must lighten the earth with glory. Speaking of the unbelief manifested at and after 1888, she said: "If every soldier of Christ had done his duty, if every watchman on the walls of Zion had given the trumpet a certain sound, the world might ere this have heard the message of warning. But the work is years behind. What account will be rendered to God for thus retarding the work?" [5] "Retarding" sounds like "delay."

What is clear is that the second coming of Christ cannot take place until the "marriage of the Lamb is come." And Revelation 19:1-9 makes clear that the only reason that "marriage" has not taken place is that His Bride "hath [not] made herself ready," for when she does make herself "ready," the heavenly Bridegroom will not tarry. Thus this question involves the character of Christ Himself. Does He love that Bride-to-be? Does He want to come?

--Paul E. Penno

Endnotes:
[1] Testimonies for the Church, vol. 2, pp. 192, 194.
[2] Manuscript Releases, vol. 10, p. 268; Letter 84, 1886.
[3] Manuscript Releases, vol. 10, p. 265; MS 5, 1876.
[4] Evangelism, p. 696; MS 4, 1883.
[5] General Conference Daily Bulletin, Feb. 28, 1893, p. 419.

Notes:
Pastor Paul Penno's video of this lesson is on the Internet at: https://youtu.be/kAFU8KNPRSA

"Sabbath School Today" is on the Internet at: 1888message.org/sst.htm

 RR
Raul Diaz

Friday, June 9, 2017

Sabbath School Lesson # 11 | "False Teachers"

Lesson 11. False Teachers

Sabbath School Today
With the 1888 Message Dynamic

"Feed My Sheep": First and Second Peter
Lesson 11. False Teachers

 

In the Christian faith, there is a true principle: If false doctrine is proclaimed, people will believe it if no one refutes it with truth. When teachers came from the church headquarters in Jerusalem to the churches in Galatia teaching false doctrine, Paul the apostle vigorously refuted their error in his Letter to the Galatians. He was obeying the command of Jude who said: "I gave all diligence to write unto you ... and exhort you that ye should earnestly contend for the faith which was once delivered unto the saints" (vs. 3). The reason Jude gives is that false teachers had corrupted the truth of the gospel, and he was saying, Speak up for the truth!

Today some Christians shy away from "contention" for the gospel, saying, "we want peace and quiet." The common saying is true: All that is needed for evil to triumph is for good men to say nothing. When the Son of God became incarnate on this earth, He had only a brief lifetime, but He spoke up so vigorously for the truth that He changed the world. We are rapidly approaching the final struggle of the "great controversy" between Christ and Satan. It's too late in the day for anyone who loves Jesus to be content to be a spiritual coward.

But can anyone follow Christ truly and not be involved in warfare? Christ, who is heavily engaged in "the great controversy" says to us, "The disciple is not above his master, nor the servant above his lord. ... Think not that I am come to send peace on earth: I came not to send peace, but a sword. ... He that taketh not his cross, and followeth after Me is not worthy of Me" (Matt. 10:24, 34, 38). No room here for "couch potatoes"!

A current example of conflict that has raged in the minds and hearts for hundreds of years is "justification (or righteousness) by faith." The battle has been going on for most of the 2000 years since Christ. One entire book in the New Testament is devoted to the conflict--the Book of Galatians. There was no way one could be a Christian then and not take a side either for what Paul declared is "the truth of the gospel" or for the false teachers who came from "Jerusalem" to oppose him. And the battle has not subsided! Bring up the subject in almost any church or Bible class, and you will see the sparks fly. Must the conflict go on and on forever? Or can those who choose to believe in Christ resolve the conflict and come into genuine and lasting heart unity? Is the Bible clear? Or is the very source of our faith itself muddled and confused?

The rejection of the 1888 light opened the way for false ideas to enter under the guise of righteousness by faith. Indeed, if we turn from the genuine, nothing can prevent our grasping the counterfeit. A. T. Jones, at the 1893 General Conference Session showed how the mind devoted to self becomes the mind of Satan. He traced its development though paganism to the subtleties of Romanism. He said there are two kinds of justification by faith--a true and a counterfeit.

The counterfeit says that justification by faith is purely a legal pronouncement made millions of light years away that has no relation to our human heart; we verbally "accept Christ" and we start the heavenly machinery rolling. One's name is then entered in God's computer and our eternal social security benefits are then credited to our account. Our decision has initiated this process of legal acquittal. We were clever enough to put the coins in the washing machine. An element of pride can enter here; we initiated the process of our salvation. A perfect example of what Peter has told us: "While they promise [us] liberty, they themselves are slaves of corruption; for by whom a person is overcome, by him also he is brought into bondage" (2 Peter 2:19, NKJV).

Peter says that these false teachers smuggle in "destructive heresies" (2 Peter 2:1). One of the most distressing things about them was their denying the sovereign Lord who bought them. Christians are the property of Jesus because He bought them, as Peter says. The price He paid was His blood, His life (1 Peter 1:18, 19). The false teachers denied their Master by repudiating His ownership. This they did by their licentious conduct, returning to the slavery of sin.

The false teachers claimed to be liberated and enlightened. For them, Jesus was the messenger from the realm of light who came to awaken them to their true natures, to help them discover their true selves. He did not come to die but to inform, to reveal the great knowledge. He was not their Master, and they were not His slaves. Rather, they had the spark of divinity in themselves, just as Jesus did. They were not bound by any commands. Such was their gospel, and it was attractive. Peter says that they denied the Master who had bought them for the highest price imaginable and therefore owned them. The result of their impudence would be "swift destruction"--the judgment, even though they also denied that a judgment would take place (2 Peter 2:1).

The false teachers were popular--"Many will follow their destructive ways" (2 Peter 2:2)--and their immorality and that of their followers brought "the way of truth," meaning Christianity, "into disrepute."

Peter charges that an important motivation of the false teachers is greed--a covetousness for money, sex, and power (vs. 3). These teachers were especially adept at attracting women (2 Tim. 3:6), achieving control over their minds, their purses, their hearts, and their bodies.

How did they do it? With stories they made up (2 Peter 2:3), i.e., fabricated doctrines. Women and sensitive men were distressed and depressed by a harsh and oppressive world. The false teachers claimed to give the explanation of why things were as they were and how to be liberated from them. They claimed they had the real gospel, really good news that could restore the self-image and self-worth of people who felt devalued by the system. People were more than willing to pay to become one of the worthy.

But the 1888 messengers (E. J. Waggoner and A. T. Jones) counteracted these teachings with a new, liberating understanding of justification by faith:

(1) It makes the believer to become obedient to the law of God, not by eradicating his sinful nature but by enabling him to triumph over it: "God justifies the ungodly. ... It does not mean that He glosses over a man's faults, so that he is counted righteous, although he is really wicked; but it means that He makes that man a doer of the law. The moment God declares an ungodly man righteous, that instant that man is a doer of the law. ... It will be seen, therefore, that there can be no higher state than that of justification. It does everything that God can do for a man short of making him immortal, which is done only at the resurrection. ... Faith and submission to God must be exercised continually, in order to retain the righteousness--in order to remain a doer of the law." [1]

(2) Saving faith is a heart appreciation of the sacrifice of Christ: "In this blessed fact of the crucifixion of the Lord Jesus, which was accomplished for every soul, there is not only laid the foundation of faith for every soul, but in it there is given the gift of faith to every soul. And thus the cross of Christ is ... the very power of God manifested to deliver us from all sin, and bring us to God." [2]

(3) Genuine justification by faith is meaningless apart from appreciating how close Christ has come to us: "There is no element of weakness in the law; the weakness is in the flesh. It is not the fault of a good tool that it cannot make a sound pillar out of a rotten stick. ... Poor, fallen man had no strength resting in his flesh to enable him to keep the law. And so God imputes to believers the righteousness of Christ, who was made in the likeness of sinful flesh, so that 'the righteousness of the law' might be fulfilled in their lives. ... Christ took upon Himself man's nature, and will impart of His own righteousness to those who accept His sacrifice." [3]

(4) This special, unique message was intended by the Lord to prepare His people for translation: What means, then, this special message of justification that God has been sending these [seven] years to the church and to the world? ... This special message of justification which God has been sending us is to prepare us for glorification at the coming of the Lord. In this, God is giving to us the strongest sign that it is possible for Him to give, that the next thing is the coming of the Lord. [4]

The 1888 message broke through centuries of fog into a clearer view of the sunlit New Testament truth.

God invites you to come to Him and get the issue settled once for all, so that your mind and heart are clear and your feet are set on the solid rock. David said, "I waited patiently for the Lord; and He inclined unto me, and heard my cry. He brought me up also out of an horrible pit, out of the miry clay, and set my feet upon a rock, and established my goings" (Psalm 40:1, 2).

Give God a day of your life (on your knees if possible), and prayerfully read in an authentic translation of the Bible itself (no paraphrases or commentaries), and let the fog be blown out of your mind and heart. Make your choice to believe how good the Good News is. Don't be proud and jump to conclusions; test and re-test your convictions. We can trust the Bible! Just read it with simple common sense.

--Mainly from the writings of Robert J. Wieland

Endnotes:
[1] E. J. Waggoner, Signs of the Times, May 1, 1893.
[2] A. T. Jones, Review and Herald, Oct. 24, 1899.
[3] E. J. Waggoner, Bible Echo, Feb. 15, 1892.
[4] A. T. Jones, 1895 General Conference Bulletin, p. 367.

Suggested supplementary reading:
1. Robert J. Wieland and Donald K. Short, 1888 Re-examined, chapter 9, "A False Righteousness by Faith: Sowing the Seed of Apostasy," p. 100ff.
2. Robert J. Wieland, Grace on Trial: The Heartwarming Message the Lord "Sent" to Us in 1888, chapter 6, "If You Can't Understand It, It's Not the Gospel," p. 65ff.

Notes:
Pastor Paul Penno's video of this lesson is on the Internet at: https://youtu.be/YifHRmCpzM8

"Sabbath School Today" is on the Internet at: 1888message.org/sst.htm

 RR
Raul Diaz

Thursday, June 1, 2017

Lesson 10. Prophecy and Scripture

Sabbath School Today
With the 1888 Message Dynamic

"Feed My Sheep": First and Second Peter
Lesson 10. Prophecy and Scripture

 

For many faint-hearted Christians the second coming of Jesus is receding more and more into the background. For them the return of Jesus is being eclipsed by the darkness of the world.

The Apostle Peter sets forth two profound reasons why "the power and coming of our Lord" are not "cunningly devised fables" (2 Peter 1:16). The confirmation to Peter concerning the coming of Christ came when God spoke at the Mount of Transfiguration, "This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased" (Matt. 17:5). This was a foreshadowing of Christ's coming in the glory of His Father. At the transfiguration the apostles saw with their eyes and heard with their ears in miniature, a prescient forecast of Christ's coming. "The transfiguration stands for us, as it did for the apostles, a sure pledge of Christ's second coming in power and great glory. ..." [1]

But there is another evidence of Christ's coming, and that is the "more sure word of prophecy" because it is spoken by the Spirit of God. "It is possible that a person's eyes or earsmight deceive him, but there is no possibility of doubt in regard to the prophecy. And why not? Because it did not come 'by the will of man; but holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Spirit.' The prophecy, therefore, is as reliable as God Himself. There are very few things in this life upon which we can depend implicitly; how gladly, then, we ought to receive this sure word, and how eagerly we ought to search it." [2]

Peter uses the analogy of a light which shines in a dark place; we are in darkness until the day dawns. But we cannot understand the "sure word of prophecy" until it breaks through into our hearts like the dawning of the day when the morning star must arise in our hearts and illuminate God's character of glory to us.

The present age is called night. Paul says, "The night is far spent, the day is at hand; let us therefore cast off the works of darkness, and let us put on the armor of light" (Rom. 13:12). And this he says in view of the fact that it is high time to wake out of sleep, because our salvation is near. "The dawning of the day, and the rising of the Day-star, refer to the coming of Christ, who is 'the bright and Morning Star' (Rev. 22:16)." [3]

Just before the coming of the Lord, His Word is to be proclaimed, and His life is to be manifested, to an extent and with a power never before known. This will be the shining of the Day-star, which will usher in the perfect day, when "the Sun of Righteousness" will shine over all the land, and "the earth shall be full of the knowledge of the Lord, as the waters cover the sea" (Isa. 11:9).

Christ cannot come until the power and love of God have been demonstrated in the lives of His followers to the same degree as in His own life. God will show by means of the church,--that is, all true believers in Jesus,--His power to work perfect righteousness in sinful mortals, thus accomplishing a work even greater than that which Satan set himself to overthrow.

In his chapter 60, Isaiah is overjoyed to write about the time when the earth will be drenched with a special "light" of "the truth of the gospel." He says to God's people, "Arise, shine; for thy light is come, and the glory of the Lord is risen upon thee" (vs. 1). We have usually thought of this as the time when we will have more radio and television stations, greater technology for increased volume, so everybody in the world will at last hear what has been our traditional understanding of the message.

There is an identical "loud voice" in Revelation 14:9 and 18:1-4 that characterizes the last soul-winning ministry of all time. Will it be a greater noise level that will command the world's attention? We have talked, and prayed, and sung about it for generations. Have we assumed it will be a glorious and triumphant success for the church, to validate all our past labors? Millions who have gone to "sleep in Jesus" have dreamed of living in those awe-inspiring days when the earth will be "lighted."

But wait a moment: The Bible is not talking about an increased noise level, but of increased "light." It's to be a clearer grasp of what Paul repeatedly calls "the truth of the gospel" (Gal. 2:5, 14). Jesus said, "Ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free" (John 8:32). Greater light in understanding the gospel of righteousness by faith brings that freedom.

But if someone feels "rich and increased with goods" in his understanding of the message, it could mean he has no "hunger and thirst after righteousness" (see Matt. 5:6). Emotionalism can easily be mistaken for truth. The "glory" spoken of in Isaiah 60:2 and Revelation 18:1-4 will be a clearer grasp of justification by faith. We don't want to be blind to the light when the Lord sends it as the Jews were blind to their Messiah when He came. You can "follow" Jesus only if you "take up [your] cross daily" to be "crucified with Him" (Luke 9:23, Gal. 2:20).

Scripture prophesies a worldwide proclamation of pure gospel truth. We know it as the 1888 message. "The earth shall be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the Lord, as the waters cover the sea" (Hab. 2:14). "Living waters shall go out from Jerusalem" (Zech. 14:8). "Arise, shine; for thy light is come, and the glory of the Lord is risen upon thee. For, behold, the darkness shall cover the earth, and ... Gentiles shall come to thy light, and kings to the brightness of thy rising" (Isa. 60:1-3). "In the last days, saith God, ... on My servants and on My handmaidens I will pour out in those days of My Spirit" (Acts 2:17, 18). "I saw another angel come down from heaven, having great power; and the earth was lightened with his glory" (Rev. 18:1). It is great Good News!

--Paul E. Penno

Endnotes:
[1] E. J. Waggoner, Prophetic Lights (1888), p. 30.
[2] E. J. Waggoner, "The Sure Word," The Signs of the Times(Feb. 15, 1883), p. 77.
[3] E. J. Waggoner, "Testimony of the Centuries. The Sure Word," The Present Truth (Dec. 20, 1894), p. 803.

Notes:
Pastor Paul Penno's video of this lesson is on the Internet at: https://youtu.be/Nzt2RcIi6Mc

"Sabbath School Today" is on the Internet at: 1888message.org/sst.htm