Friday, December 29, 2017

Lesson 13. Christian Living

Sabbath School Today
With the 1888 Message Dynamic

The Book of Romans
Lesson 13. Christian Living


The Books of Daniel and Revelation sparked the 1844 Second Advent Movement. The prophecies pointed to a "remnant" with the "third angel's message" preparing the way of the Lord's return. The Lord promised to send this people the "latter rain" and "loud cry," "a teacher of righteousness" (Joel 2:23; the words "former rain moderately" in Hebrew are "the teacher of righteousness"), with a message indited by the Holy Spirit that would join with the third angel (Rev. 18:1-3). [1]

The books of Romans, Galatians, and Ephesians on righteousness by faith are for the maturation of God's people. God fulfilled His promise of giving the latter rain in 1888 without His people pleading for it. Though the message of the cross, justification, and sanctuary in harmony with the law of God were "spurned" then, the "good news" is that it is recoverable by the gift of repentance which Jesus promises to Laodicea (Rev. 3:19).

The pure truth of the gospel changes lives. The acid test of correct doctrine is that it changes minds and hearts and behavior toward each other. Justification by faith applied to some of the most difficult "in-house" issues facing the church brings unity of belief and practice. This is Paul's theme in Romans 14-16.

The church is a mix of cultures, socio-economic classes, and races. Paul's "church plants" are startups made of brand new converts from the eastern Roman Empire and ethnic Jews. Some Christians are "strong," others are "weak" concerning ethical matters (Rom. 15:1). However, they have all been united together because of Christ. They have entered the course, "101 Cross-centered Life" in the "University of the Body of Christ." They will now learn what it means to live the cross daily with Jesus. It will require them to eat lots of "humble pie."

Health reform was given to God's people as righteousness by faith. It is the appropriate fast, which God has appointed for all those who believe they are living in the Day of Atonement. The self-denial that is built-in to eating a simple diet is necessary for a people who are anticipating their High Priest's exit from the Most Holy Place.

Eating foods was problematic for many early Christians because most of it had been offered to idols before going to the farmer's market (Rom. 14:2-4, 20-23; Acts 15:20; 1 Cor. 8:4). So many tender consciences turned to a vegetarian diet to avoid eating meat offered to idols.

Someone who believes they can eat any and all things God has created for food may have a spirit of ridicule toward those whose conscience will not allow them to consume all things. Religious liberty in the matter of eating is to be extended to all. Unfortunately for a good cause, many who embrace a vegan diet condemn those that eat a broader-based regime, and thus separate themselves from the Spirit of Christ. Any work of reform that has lost the spirit of love for others is an unprofitable parade of human vanity.

Man's "esteem" of a day (Rom. 14:5) does not make it God's day of rest. God's seventh-day Sabbath clearly has the seal of God upon it (Gen. 2:3; Ex. 20:11; Eze. 20:12, 20). So Paul is not addressing the issue of the seventh-day Sabbath observance (Rom. 14:5, 6). The Roman church had a contingency of Jewish Christians who still clung to the annual sabbath days of observance which could fall on any day of the week. The Gentile Christians would not have such loyalties to observe these days.

The fact that Paul connects the "esteem" or "regarding" of days with "eating" is a further linkage to the annual festival days of Jewish observance (Rom. 14:6). Eating played a vital role in the rites of keeping the ceremonial sabbaths (Lev. 23).

This text does not really solve the issue of whether the Jewish holy days are viable sabbaths for Christians to observe today. Elsewhere Paul declares them "shadows" of "the body of Christ" (Col. 2:16, 17). It would be blasphemy to continue animal sacrifices when Christ's body has already been crucified for us. Why establish "shadow" observances when we already have the reality of Christ to whom they pointed? No amount of ritual observances is going to establish Christ in the heart. They certainly didn't accomplish that for the Jewish nation as a whole in Christ's day. They ended up missing their Messiah and crucifying Him.

The level of intra-church judging which the apostle is addressing is equal to the life or death decisions which Christ makes in the final judgment. We have no business trespassing in His courtroom (Rom. 14:10). God the Father has transferred all judgment to the Son (John 5:22, 27). Jesus says, "I came not to judge the world" (12:473:17). Jesus has proclaimed the "word" which is the law and the gospel. "The word that I have spoken, the same shall judge him in the last day" (12:48). Thus "the judgment seat of Christ" is the law and the cross.

In that awesome day of final accounting following the final resurrection of the wicked at the close of the millennium, the law on tables of stone and the cross will be presented to them. [2] Then the unconscious record of one's life from within will clearly be brought to view for each to see. There will be an unprecedented acclamation of unity on the lips of every one that God has done everything possible to give salvation to all, but the lost refused their gift (Rom. 14:11).

The purpose of "the judgment seat of Christ" is ultimately to hold everyone accountable to God (vs. 12). Christ's purpose in the judgment is to vindicate whoever will permit Him to seal them with His agape.

Many are sealing their final judgment daily (John 3:18). Through the gospel "we" proclaim, souls will make their decision for life or death (Rom. 14:13). If our gospel is "bad news" about what we must do in order to be saved, people will conclude that they weren't cut out for salvation. If our gospel is "good news" of Christ's gift of salvation to all regardless of pre-existing qualifications, then it is a savor of life to those who do not hinder it.

The dynamic of the Spirit is the means by which Paul achieved all that he did in every area: his speech, his actions, and his signs and wonders. When Paul "fully preached the gospel of Christ" the cross was a present reality for those who heard. They forgot about all present distractions and were transfixed upon "the Saviour of the world." It was such preaching that the Holy Spirit confirmed with "signs and wonders" (Rom. 15:19). Miracles attested to the truth of the gospel proclaimed.

Similarly, in the final glorification of God through the proclamation of the cross, "Servants of God, with their faces lighted up, ... will hasten from place to place to proclaim the message from heaven. By thousands of voices, all over the earth, ... Miracles will be wrought, the sick will be healed, and signs and wonders will follow the believers." [3]

What is "the revelation of the mystery, which was kept secret since the world began" (Rom. 16:25)? "The mystery" is the revelation of Jesus Christ Himself, as He was revealed in Paul's preaching, and as He is revealed in you and me as we proclaim the gospel.

The gospel was made known to men from Adam down, and they had a measure of the knowledge of the gospel. But when Christ Himself came, and revealed God in Himself, to the children of men--it was never revealed and understood before as it was revealed and understood at that time. When the apostles were sent forth to preach it as it then was revealed, they preached it in a fullness and a clearness in which it was never preached before (vs. 26).

Now Christ proclaims the mystery as our High Priest from the heavenly sanctuary. It is the gospel which is clearly consistent with the work of cleansing our lives from sin that He seeks to accomplish there. This involves a work of judgment which is the vindication of Laodicea. He gives her the gift of agape that she might grow up in the full stature of a Bride worthy to stand by the side of the Lamb in the wedding.

The Gospel plan originated in the mind of God in eternity past; patriarchs, prophets, and apostles have worked in unison in making it manifest; and "in the ages to come" it will be both the science and the song of the redeemed (vs. 27). What a magnificent conclusion! It reaches from eternity to eternity. The Gospel of God is the wisdom of the ages!

--Paul E. Penno

[1] See also, Ellen G. White, Testimonies for the Church, vol. 6, p 19.
[2] See Ellen G. White, The Great Controversy, p. 666.
[3] Ibid, p. 612.

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Friday, December 22, 2017

Lesson 12. Overcoming Evil With Good

Sabbath School Today
With the 1888 Message Dynamic

The Book of Romans
Lesson 12. Overcoming Evil With Good


Many people feel distressed by the idea of "overcoming" all evil in their lives, even saying that it is impossible for anyone, except Christ, to resist all the devil's temptations. The argument is that while we can resist some things easily and never be burdened by them at all, other temptations are just too much for our fallen characters.

E. J. Waggoner expressed it this way: "We know that many have this idea, first, because we have heard them say so, and second, because there are such multitudes of professed Christians who show the working of no greater power than their own." "We have heard many people tell how hard they found it to do right; their Christian life was most unsatisfactory to them, being marked only by failure, and they were tempted to give up in discouragement." [1]

The message God sent through A. T. Jones and E. J. Waggoner in 1888 is the answer to the predicament of wanting to live a good Christian life and seeming always to fall short. The message of Christ and His righteousness presented in Romans chapters 4 through 8 culminates in Romans 12:1-3--the apostle Paul "beseeching" everyone to submit to the grace, mercy, and power of God. The apostle Paul wrote that we are to "present [our] bodies"--and minds--as "a living sacrifice to God, which is [our] reasonable service." What God calls us to is "reasonable"; He would not say "be ye perfect" if it were impossible.

In the previous eleven chapters of the Book of Romans, Paul presented the logical arguments for why we should heed God's call to righteousness in Christ Jesus: we're all sinners in need of the Saviour. In chapter 12 he begins to make the application to the individual believer. In saying that we are to present our bodies and minds as a living sacrifice to God, Paul is telling us that we are to be transformed through a "renewing"--a renovation, a complete change for the better--that is effected by the Holy Spirit in our lives on a continual, daily basis.

Through the power of God we are to overcome every besetting sin that plagues us. "An overcomer is one who gains victories. The inheriting is not the overcoming; that is only the reward for overcoming. The overcoming is now; the victories to be gained are victories over the lusts of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life--victory over self and selfish indulgences. ... Now how may we gain continual victories in our spiritual warfare? Listen to the beloved disciple:--'For whatsoever is born of God overcometh the world; and this is the victory that overcometh the world, even our faith.' 1 John 5:4." [2]

We are to "present" our lives to God as a living sacrifice. It is "living" because our faith grows, "from faith to faith" as we learn how powerful the Holy Spirit is when we call upon Him to defeat Satan's temptations. At the beginning of his letter to the Romans, Paul said that God's people are to live by faith (Rom. 1:16, 17). Here at the beginning of chapter 12 he states that "every man" has been given, not just "a" measure, but the full measure of faith--the faith of the Son of God.

When Christ came to this world He exercised His faith in the Father's power, saying, "I can of Mine own self do nothing" (John 5:30). Through faith in His Father's power, "[Christ] has met the chiefest foe of all and has vanquished him singlehanded. Those who follow Him invariably go forth conquering and to conquer." [3] The faith that is freely given to us completely defeated Satan at every point. This powerful gift of faith is ours to exercise and cultivate until we meet Jesus face to face at the second coming.

The gospel of Jesus Christ "is the power of God unto salvation ... for therein is the righteousness of God revealed from faith to faith" (Rom. 1:16, 17). "This expression has been the subject of much learned discussion by theologians, and very few of them are agreed as to its meaning. The fact that learned men are disagreed in regard to it, need not frighten us from it with the thought that it cannot be understood, for we read that things hidden from the wise and prudent are revealed unto babes."

The Lord's specially delegated messenger goes on, "The gospel is the power of God unto salvation to everyone that believeth, because it makes manifest the righteousness of God. ... By the gospel the fruits of righteousness are made to appear in the life of the believer." [4] This is the essence of the message God sent through E. J. Waggoner and A. T. Jones in 1888--the righteousness of Christ manifested in His faithful followers.

For too long we have been praying for the outpouring of the Latter Rain, while we're still infected with a dead formalism, not having the righteousness which is of faith through a heart appreciation of the great sacrifice that the Godhead made to save us from our sins. To continue in a life of sin, not only is a denial of the power of God over Satan, it is trampling upon our crucified Redeemer and putting Him to an open shame (Heb. 6:6). "Heaven's glorious ladder [Christ] is let down in every man's path, barring his way to vice and folly. He must trample upon a crucified Redeemer ere he can pass onward to a life of sin." [5]

God calls us to a "living sacrifice" not the dead works of formalism; not another forty-day plan for revving our spiritual engines, or a longer list of promises to obey and love Him, or any other systematic program intended to cure our spiritual lethargy. "This evil spirit of dead formalism has spread itself far beyond the bounds of the organized Papacy. It is the bane of the profession of Christianity everywhere today; and even the profession of the Christianity of the third angel's message has not entirely escaped it. It is to be the worldwide prevailing evil of the last days up to the very coming of the Lord in glory in the clouds of heaven." [6]

In 2 Timothy 3:1-5, Paul writes an astounding list of terrible sins that are all prevalent in today's society. But the most astonishing of all is that Paul warns us that the people committing these sins are in the church! They "have a form of godliness, but [are] denying the power" of God that should be outworking in their lives as they overcome every evil with the goodness of God's righteousness.

We are not to be "conformed to this world, but transformed by a renewing of our mind" (Rom. 12:2). God calls us to be transformed in mind because the mind is the source of our character. We are to let Christ's "mind" be our mind (Phil. 2:5), and then He will live out His life through us.

Is this really so important? Yes--the whole point of overcoming is not so we can get to heaven, but that we can demonstrate to the watching universe that God's ways are superior to Satan's, and that Satan is a defeated foe. By faith we overcome all evil in our lives and proclaim the goodness of our Saviour. Then God can finally point to His faithful few and say, "Here are they that keep the Commandments of God and the faith of Jesus." Then we will have vindicated the character of God in the final hours of the great controversy. And then Jesus will come to defend His own in that ultimate showdown between evil and good, and Satan and sin will be destroyed in the lake of fire (Rev. 19:11-16; 20:14, 15).

--Ann Walper

[1] E. J. Waggoner, "Living by Faith," The Bible Students Library, Dec. 1, 1890, pp. 2, 4.
[2] Ibid., pp. 4, 5.
[3] Ibid., p. 6.
[4] Ibid., pp. 9, 10.
[5] Ellen G. White, "Among the Churches--St. Helena," Signs of the Times, Jan. 26, 1882.
[6] A. T. Jones, "A Dead Formalism," Bible Echo, Feb. 4, 1895.

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Friday, December 15, 2017

Lesson 11. The Elect

Sabbath School Today
With the 1888 Message Dynamic

The Book of Romans
Lesson 11. The Elect


Paul, the God-appointed apostle to the Gentiles, has his heart set on the salvation of his fellow Jews (Rom. 10:1). It is good to be zealous in the work of God. The problem is, like so many today, a preacher wants to run off as fast as he can to the next appointment, and when he gets there, he has no good news from the Lord (vs. 2). And so the correct knowledge of God becomes a key theme throughout Romans 10 and 11.

The ignorance of the Jews centers on God's way of justification (vs. 3). The Jews have tried to make themselves morally right through their self-inspired law-keeping. However, they have taken a detour around Christ.

The vital knowledge necessary for being straightened out is by faith in Christ (vs. 4). The endless debates centering on the phrase "end of the law" are all futile in their efforts to abrogate the law of God. It is contrary to Christ who came to establish the law (Psalm 40:8; Matt. 5:17). The ultimate point or thing at which the law directs its view, the object intended to be reached or accomplished, is righteousness. Christ is the only righteous One having faced the incessant temptations of the flesh and defeating them. Ellet J. Waggoner, one of the 1888 messengers, writes:

"'Now the end of the commandment is charity out of a pure heart, and of a good conscience, and of faith unfeigned.' [1 Tim. 1:5]. The word here rendered 'charity' is often rendered 'love,' and is so rendered in this place in the New Version [R.V]. In 1 John 5:3 we read: 'This is the love of God, that we keep His commandments;' and Paul himself says that 'love is the fulfilling of the law.' Rom. 13:10. In both these texts the same word (agape) is used that occurs in 1 Tim. 1:5. ...

"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. And thus Christ is the end of the law." [1]

The law will not falsify the facts. It is a perfect description of righteousness. The law was given for life-giving purposes. Man sinned and he could not keep the law (Rom. 10:5). Any theory of justifying man's sin by a book transaction, which bypasses a change of heart and reconciliation to God and His law, is a legal fiction and rightly termed an anti-law gospel. It is the understanding which Christians have given to Moslems about how forgiveness of sins is obtained, and they consider it a fraud and hypocrisy.

God has not forgotten His purpose for the Jewish people (Rom. 11:1). The early Christian Church was formed with the nucleus of Jewish believers, Paul being prominent among them.

Again, Paul will cover the ground of chapter 9 regarding those who were "no people" (Rom. 10:19), yet included in the everlasting covenant (Rom. 11:2). Elijah stood a lone figure on Mount Carmel at the time of Israel's well-nigh complete apostasy into Baal worship. Elijah pleaded with the Lord in despair (vs. 3). Alone in the crisis amidst the church of Israel was the cross experience for Elijah.

Just because you can't see any visible means of encouragement and support doesn't mean that there isn't a true remnant (vs. 4). "I have reserved to myself seven thousand men, who have not bowed the knee to the image of Baal." Where were these seven thousand when Elijah needed them? Evidently they weren't willing to step forward at the showdown on Mount Carmel. It took one man, Elijah, to bring about revival and reformation to Israel. It must be the cross uplifted in order for the hearts of Israel to be turned to God. And unless the preacher himself experienced the cross, his message would have been fruitless. Any "self" in Elijah would have suited Satan's purposes, and muted Elijah's message of the cross.

The purpose of Paul's illustration of Elijah and the seven thousand is to frame the Gentiles as the "remnant according to the election of grace" (vs. 5). Grace is God's favor to the most unfavorable. God's foreknowledge elected the Gentiles to be saved in Christ as foreshadowed in the writings of Moses and the experience of Elijah.

If God's grace were given on the basis of merit, then it would not be grace. But the mere fact that it is freely given to all, including the Gentiles, establishes the fact that grace is a gift (vs. 6). The Gentiles weren't seeking after God, much less motivated to work for His favor, as were the Jews who were seeking to get their Father's attention.

There is such enslaving blindness in the self-centered motivation of seeking after God for a reward that Christ is completely blocked out (vs. 7). "Israel hath not obtained that which he seeketh for." Paul flat-out states what Israel's problem is: Israel "seeketh." There is the self-motivation of the old covenant.

The only miracle now that could prevent the complete and utter collapse of the Jews' salvation is to see something that they have never seen before (vs. 11). What God believes will happen for the Jew is that they will see He loves them in such a selfless way as demonstrated at the cross, just as He loves the Gentiles and gives them salvation through Jesus' sacrifice. Such divine love for the Gentiles will provoke the jealousy of His Israelites.

Paul is beside himself with the good news of much more abounding grace. He cannot contain himself (vs. 12). God's purposes of salvation to all men is never diminished by the failure of the Jewish-based mission. Christ has broken the treasure chest of heavenly riches for the Gentile-based mission and there is going to be a tsunami-like effect upon the Jews.

Paul may understand his apostolic office to be primarily for the Gentiles, but his fellow Jews are never far from his heart (vs. 13). Paul has a unique ministry to bridge the culture-gap that exists between Jew and Gentile. Mission impossible becomes mission possible only by uplifting the cross of Christ, which unites all peoples.

It would be a two-for-one success if Paul's Gentile mission could "provoke" the Jews to salvation. If they could witness the grace of God working in the lives of Gentiles, it might grab their attention (vs. 14). The shame and nakedness that comes from old covenant-inspired Jewish religion might be put in stark contrast with the sunlit new covenant grace and love that is saving the Gentiles.

Paul is living in tumultuous times for the church. How can he understand the church in perspective with the church of ancient Israel? His resolution is the continuity of both churches of the Old and the New Testaments, to view it as God's plan all along. Jewish unbelief in Christ frustrated that unstoppable grace. Because of their choice, of necessity, the progress of the gospel must not be hindered (vs. 15). The problem with Jewish unbelief in Christ is that it results in separation from God and ultimately death.

What is the remedy for spiritual death? The answer is found in the illustration of the good olive tree. Christ is the olive tree. Everything that is connected with Him who is the Root (the olives, the knob, the branches) is holy (vs. 16).

The Old Testament church was connected to Christ. However, some of its branches were broken off because of unbelief in Christ (vs. 17). Contrary to nature, a "wild olive tree" branch, the Gentiles, is grafted into the good olive tree. There it receives "of the root and fatness" of Christ.

Paul writes to the Gentiles, Don't ridicule the broken Jewish branches (vs. 18). Gentiles, you are not the load-bearing Stock of the tree. Christ is the Root of you. The broken branches were removed because the Arborist saw they were dead. You Gentiles may perceive it as God's purpose of making room for you to be grafted into Christ (vs. 19).

The real reason the branches died was because of unbelief (vs. 20). The reason you Gentiles were grafted in was because of faith motivated by Christ's agape. Don't revert to the default position of self-love, but continue in agape.

The law of pruning says, if something is no longer growing it is dead, remove it (vs. 21). Remember history. Don't let unbelief overtake you. Don't lose your first love.

God always makes something good out of a bad situation (vs. 22). Waggoner writes, "The Lord is goodness itself. He is love. He cannot at any time be any other than He is, and therefore He is just as good to one person as He is to another. He is equally good to everybody and just as good as He can be all the time. Therefore it is not because they have not been drawn by the love of God, that some are destroyed. It is because they have despised that love. Having hardened their hearts against God's love, the more He manifested His love to them, the harder they became. It is a trite saying that the same sun that melts the wax hardens the clay." [2]

Paul envisions a re-grafting of the dead branches when the Jews believe in the Root (vs. 23). The unnatural process of grafting from a wild to a good olive tree is a miracle of God's grace to the Gentiles (vs. 24). Likewise, the re-grafting process of the dead branches again to the good olive tree, is a miracle of God's grace. The Gentile engraftment project is so that "all Israel shall be saved" (vs. 26).

"There you have the whole story. The coming in of the ful[l]ness of the Gentiles, the filling up of the number of Israel, the conversion of both Jews and Gentiles. ... 'so all Israel shall be saved.' How shall all Israel be saved?--By the coming in of the Gentiles. Then will Israel be full, and the blindness will have passed away. Christ, the Deliverer, turns away ungodliness from Jacob, by saving Gentile sinners as well as sinners of the Jews." [3]

God's covenant is for all. The forgiveness of sins and Christ's righteousness to straighten us out contemplate the preparation to meet Him. "For this is My covenant unto them, when I shall take away their sins" (vs. 27).

--Paul E. Penno

[1] E. J. Waggoner, "Christ the End of the Law," The Bible Echo, Feb. 15, 1892, p. 87.
[2] E. J. Waggoner, "Justice and Mercy," The Present Truth, Feb. 23, 1893, p. 54.
[3] E. J. Waggoner, "The Fullness of the Gentiles," The Present Truth, March 20, 1902, p. 180.

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Raul Diaz

Friday, December 8, 2017

Lesson 10. Children of the Promise

Sabbath School Today
With the 1888 Message Dynamic
The Book of Romans
Lesson 10. Children of the Promise
A Verse-by-Verse Study of Romans 9 From the 1888 Message Perspective
The theme of Romans 9 is God's everlasting covenant. God made His promise to Christ, the guarantee of His covenant, and He elected the whole human race to be saved. Strict Calvinism teaches that God elected a special few to be saved. Islam, too, has its version of Allah's sovereignty of election. Arminian Protestantism says, God has offered salvation to everyone if they do something right first and believe. Paul taught the Truth of the Gospel: God has already given the election of salvation to everyone.
Paul's God-ordained ministry of the gospel is a demonstration of its practicality. "I say the truth in Christ, I lie not, my conscience also bearing me witness in the Holy Spirit, that I have great heaviness and continual sorrow in my heart. For I could wish that myself were accursed from Christ for my brethren, my kinsmen according to the flesh" (verses 1-3). In other words, Paul would give up his salvation for his fellow Jews who have missed their Messiah. God's love revealed in Christ's submission to the cross compels Paul to bear the curse of his brethren in the final judgment so that they may never have to suffer such self-condemnation.
Those for whom Paul is willing to make the sacrifice "are Israelites; to whom pertaineth the adoption, and the glory, and the covenants, and the giving of the law, and the service of God, and the promises; whose are the fathers, and of whom as concerning the flesh Christ came, who is over all, God blessed for ever. Amen" (verses 4, 5). And yet, for all these sacred privileges which should have led them to Christ, their blindness led them to crucify Him.
The privileges of the Jews consisted of: (1) "adoption" as children into the household of God; (2) "the glory" which pertained to the priesthood and Temple; (3) "the covenants" of their election to salvation; (4) "the law" which was ordained for life; (5) "the service of God" as missionaries to the world; (6) "the promises" of God; (7) "the fathers" as a heritage of patriarchal example; and culminating with, (8) Christ who came as one of them in "the flesh." These were the unmistakable privileges of being a Jew, which to a great extent were missed.
But God's Word never returns to Him void, because it is "not as though the word of God hath taken none effect. For they are not all Israel, which are of Israel" (verse 6). If Paul's ethnic brethren won't take the good news to the world, God has other plans that are already contained in His covenant promise.
Not all Abraham's children are the promised seed. "Neither, because they are the seed of Abraham, are they all children: but, In Isaac shall thy seed be called" (verse 7). In other words, Ishmael was not the promised seed. He was born after the flesh, i.e., through unbelief. Likewise, "They which are the children of the flesh, these are not the children of God: but the children of the promise are counted for the seed" (verse 8). Fancy Paul designating the Jews as children of Ishmael because of unbelief in Christ!
Who are "the children of the promise"? Paul now provides a series of Old Testament illustrations identifying who the true seed are. "For this is the word of promise, At this time will I come, and Sarah shall have a son [Isaac]. And not only this; but when Rebecca also had conceived by one, even by our father Isaac; (for the children being not yet born, neither having done any good or evil, that the purpose of God according to election might stand, not of works, but of him that calleth;) it was said unto her, The elder shall serve the younger" (verses 9-12). Prior to the twins' birth, God told Rebecca that Esau would defer to Jacob. God's foreknowledge saw the end from the beginning, but it did not preclude the choices that they both made. God's call to election of salvation is a gift in Christ to both Esau and Jacob. God simply foresaw from the womb that Esau would live by the self-motivation of works in rejection of Christ and that Jacob would overcome by faith through the love of Christ.
The Lamb of God was given from the foundation of the world for both men. God evangelized them with His self-sacrificing love. Both were prodigal sons of the Father's love. Only Jacob returned. Esau remained self-estranged in a far country. Thus the drawing power of God's love can even turn His own son into hatred. This is why "it is written, Jacob have I loved, but Esau have I hated" (verse 13). Esau perceived His Heavenly Father's love as hatred.
Therefore the question is asked, "Is there unrighteousness with God?" Should God be blamed for His love driving Esau away? "God forbid" (verse 14).
God doesn't stop loving anyone for fear that someone might reject Him for it. He pours on His mercy in ever greater measure to those who are resistant. "For He saith to Moses, I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I will have compassion. So then it is not of him that willeth, nor of him that runneth, but of God that showeth mercy" (verses 15, 16). God doesn't withdraw His grace from anyone who chooses to go astray. In fact, He pours it on tenfold more.
A good example of this is Pharaoh. "For the scripture saith unto Pharaoh, Even for this same purpose have I raised thee up, that I might show My power in thee, and that My name might be declared throughout all the earth" (verse 17). The king of Egypt at the time of Israel's enslavement was in a position of political and economic world dominance. God's purpose for Pharaoh was to give him salvation in the everlasting covenant so that his heart would be reconciled to God. He would be used of God along with Jacob's descendants to evangelize the whole earth. It is impressive that God wished to "cut short in righteousness" the great controversy between Christ and Satan in Pharaoh's day by lighting the whole earth with the true knowledge of God's character as revealed in the cross. God is not into delaying the inevitable demise of the kingdom of darkness. It is God's people who have delayed the inevitable.
If it was God's purpose to reach the heart of Pharaoh with the gospel of Jesus Christ, then there is no limit to the extent of God's mercy in reaching any hardened sinner. "Therefore hath He mercy on whom He will have mercy, and whom He will He hardeneth" (verse 18). Many harden their hearts to the gospel because they resist His much more abounding grace. The same sun that melts wax hardens clay! God's mercy must certainly be relentless for Paul states it is God's will to extend mercy to the sinner whether he yields or hardens his heart.
Having shown that it was God's purpose to make an end of sin in the days of Pharaoh, and the king resisted His mercy, God went on to Plan B in order to proclaim His glory throughout the earth through the descendants of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.
Like a good Calvinist someone might ask, Why should the sovereign God complain that His plans are foiled? "Thou wilt say then unto me, Why doth He yet find fault? For who hath resisted His will?" (verse 19). After all, says the determinist, God's will is irresistible, isn't it?
Where does man, the creature, get the nerve to tell his Creator to "step off"? "Nay but, O man, who art thou that repliest against God? Shall the thing formed say to Him that formed it, Why hast Thou made me thus?" (verse 20).
The inanimate clay has no "say" whether the artisan makes a perfect pot out of it or messes it up. "Hath not the potter power over the clay, of the same lump to make one vessel unto honor, and another unto dishonor?" (verse 21).
And now Paul applies the illustration to the case of his fellow Jews. "What if God, willing to show His wrath, and to make His power known, endured with much longsuffering the vessels of wrath fitted to destruction" (verse 22). God spent a long time believing that ancient Israel would overcome and take His name to the world. But instead they chose to thwart His purposes and ultimately acted out that hatred for God by trying to get rid of Him by murdering the Son of God. (They were but a mirror image of all humanity, including ourselves.) Their ultimate act of wrath against God was the occasion for God's wrath against sin being revealed by His Son bearing the curse which is the second death.
The Jewish leadership by and large rejected God's Messiah, and thus God's Plan B was thwarted; and so He turned to Plan C in order to reach the world with the good news about who He is. "And that He might make known the riches of His glory on the vessels of mercy, which He had afore prepared unto glory, even us, whom He hath called, not of the Jews only, but also of the Gentiles?" (verses 23, 24). The Gentiles were included all along in the election of God's everlasting covenant. The Jews were to have been the agency for evangelizing the Gentiles throughout the world. Now the Gentiles will be used of God to evangelize not only their own, but also the Jews.
Writing regarding the Gentiles, Hosea said: "I will call them My people, which were not My people; and her beloved, which was not beloved. And it shall come to pass, that in the place where it was said unto them, Ye are not My people; there shall they be called the children of the living God" (verses 25, 26). An Israelite, indeed, is an "overcomer" by the grace of God. Gentiles, by definition, are like Esau, they trust in the works of the flesh. By definition they "were not My people." But this does not exclude Gentiles from the covenants of God's promise. The same gift of salvation is given to them as is given to the Jew--the same as was given to Pharaoh. Paul envisions many Gentiles "called the children of the living God." He sees them as overcoming sin in Christ, just as Jacob who was renamed Israel.
Isaiah wrote of things that express hope for the future of Israel. The church of ancient Israel is in continuity with modern Israel. They rest in their graves awaiting the first resurrection. Israel today is to learn the lessons of all previous history in their "growing up" experience of becoming the Bride of Christ. "Esaias also crieth concerning Israel, Though the number of the children of Israel be as the sand of the sea, a remnant shall be saved" (verse 27). The remnant here are those who proclaim "the third angel's message in verity" as the unity of "the commandments of God and the faith of Jesus" (Revelation 12:14). The remnant will be the first fruits of God and the Lamb who finally reciprocate His love and are thus a mate who shall stand by His side.
From the human standpoint we are tempted to think that God's plan has been frustrated all the long ages of history. But God believes in the success of His Son's work in being "the Saviour of the world". "For He will finish the work, and cut it short in righteousness: because a short work will the Lord make upon the earth" (verse 28). It is God's work to finish. It is Christ's gift to cleanse His people. It has ever been and it is still His purpose to "cut it short in righteousness". It is the evil servant who says, "My Lord delayeth His coming" (Matthew 24:48). For us to give in to the temptation of thinking that it is up to us to finish the work of God on earth is to perceive it as human righteousness and not God's righteousness that will finish His work. To the degree that we fall into this failed way of thinking we perpetuate the delay of His coming.
The Seventh-day Adventist Church is the nexus from which the "remnant" "seed" shall emerge which "keep the commandments of God and the faith of Jesus." "And as Esaias said before, Except the Lord of Sabaoth had left us a seed, we had been as Sodoma, and been made like unto Gomorrha" (verse 29). This apt description of "a seed" in the scorched earth over which fire and brimstone has ravaged all life, gives hope, just as Christ was the promised "seed" in the manger of Bethlehem! It may appear that the truth of the Gospel, the true Christ, and the true Cross, have been completely eliminated from the minds of modern Israel. But one should never count God out! Nor what God can do with an honest heart like Elijah's.
What is Paul's final point? "That the Gentiles, which followed not after righteousness, have attained to righteousness, even the righteousness which is of faith" (verse 30). Justification by faith is a heart reconciliation to God which can only be effected by appreciating the cost of Christ's sacrifice on the cross. In it is no legalism for such faith is constrained by agape.
"Righteousness" is dikaiosune. The only righteous One is Christ. Notice how carefully Paul states this. The Gentiles "have attained to righteousness." Yet, it is "the righteousness which is of faith." The point: Christ's righteousness is appropriated by faith. It is His gift to Gentiles who were formerly unrighteous and incapable of straightening themselves out.
The Ten Commandments are a perfect description of God's righteousness which brings life in the keeping of them. "But Israel, which followed after the law of righteousness, hath not attained to the law of righteousness. Wherefore? Because they sought it not by faith, but as it were by the works of the law" (verses 31, 32). Paul is the only one who understands the failure of his brethren. They have sought the righteousness of the law through their old covenant promises to keep the law just right. Their self-motivated desire to be good in order to attain a reward has been a failure because self-dependence leads to an ever spiral downward into more bondage of trusting to self to obey, and this the law condemns.
The righteousness of the law is attained only by faith in Christ. "For they stumbled at that stumblingstone. As it is written, Behold, I lay in Sion a stumblingstone and rock of offence: and whosoever believeth on Him shall not be ashamed" (verses 32, 33). To have missed such a large "rock" in their pathway, the Jews had to have been completely blind to Christ their Messiah. It is not the fault of the "stumblingstone" that the Jews fell flat on their hands, and knees, and face all bloodied and bruised with abrasions.
They are still in God's promises of His everlasting covenant. They are elected to salvation in Christ. God's plan now is to provoke them through the ministry of the Gentiles. The Gentile-based evangelism is in continuity with the ministry of the church of the Old Testament and will certainly exceed it in glory to the One who deserves His reward for which He died.
--Paul E. Penno
Pastor Paul Penno's video of this lesson is on the Internet at:

"Sabbath School Today" is on the Internet at:

Raul Diaz

Friday, December 1, 2017

Lesson 9. No Condemnation

Sabbath School Today
With the 1888 Message Dynamic

The Book of Romans
Lesson 9. No Condemnation


After he described his despair in Romans 7, Paul found joyful hope in the good news of a Saviour who came all the way to where we are, that He might save us from our sins. "There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus. ... For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has made me free from the law of sin and death" (Rom. 8:1, 2). What does this mean? How deep and thorough is Christ's deliverance from our compulsive habits of sin?

"No condemnation" means release from our inner sense of divine judgment which has hung over us all our lives. Although these feelings of psychic wrong and maladjustment are deep and penetrating, "the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus" is even deeper and more far-reaching. A new principle delivers us from the tentacles of fear, guilt, and moral disorder that have enslaved our souls, even from our infancy.

No psychiatrist can accomplish such a profound healing of the human soul as can this "law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus." Wrongs and anxieties from childhood to adulthood, which counselors could not relieve, find inner healing from our Divine Psychiatrist. He who believes the true gospel enjoys the new birth, which is a power working in him or her for righteousness as much stronger than the power of inherited tendencies to evil.

A glorious reality is disclosed in Paul's presentation of our nigh-at-hand Christ which the 1888 messengers, E. J. Waggoner and A. T. Jones, picked up on. The reason why Christ has come so close to us is revealed here: "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. 8:3, 4).

The word "likeness" in the original means identical, the same as us. It cannot mean unlike or different from us. Christ who is fully God now became fully man, not with a substitutionary exemption from the human race in some way that insulates Him from our inner temptations, but in a shared sense. He built a divine-human bridge that spanned the gulf of alienation that sin has made, with foundations that reach all the way to the deepest root within the nature of the most helplessly lost sinner on earth.

In no way did He side-step reality by the deceit of an "exemption" from what we must battle with. Such a contrived exemption would negate the basic principle of righteousness by faith and contradict all of Scripture. Further, it would cast Christ in the role of a deceiver, pretending to conquer sin when He never even came close enough to fight the battle where sin is. Paul's intent is to present Christ as perfectly equipped to solve the problem of sin where it is--deep within our fallen nature. Here is the fortress where the dragon has made his last stand, and here is where Christ confronts Satan. Yet Christ remained perfectly sinless.

Christ had personal experience in fighting the same "war" that we fight. He took our flesh and "condemned sin" in it. Christ in Romans 8 meets the problem of the frustrated Laodicean man of Romans 7. The Old Covenant man of Romans 7, whose trust is motivated by "I, myself" serving the law, thus creating fear and tension with the law, meets the self-centered man with the New Covenant Christ of Romans 8, who gives a new motivation for faith--"no condemnation" and "the righteousness of the law ... fulfilled in us" (Rom. 8:1, 4).

Jesus explains to us how He "condemned sin in the flesh" which He took. He fought the same "war" that we must fight, with this tremendous difference: whereas we have been defeated, He won completely. Whereas we have been brought "into captivity to the law of sin," He brought the "law of sin" into captivity by condemning it. Through self-denial He "delighted" in God's will.

He opens a window into His heart and invites us to look within at the nature of the battle He fought there: "I seek not Mine own will, but the will of the Father which hath sent Me"; "I came down from heaven, not to do Mine own will, but the will of Him that sent Me" (John 5:306:38). Here He uses the same phraseology as did Paul in Romans 8:3--the Father "sent" Him on a mission. It involved inner conflict with temptation, not merely outer. Something had to be "condemned" within His nature--His "own will." Here is where His "war" was fought: He could not do the "will of the Father" except as He denied "Mine own will." There are those who start with horrified astonishment at the suggestion that Jesus had an inner conflict of that nature; but do not silence Him or suppress His own words.

The glory of Christ's righteousness is that it was not easy for Him. Behold the struggle in Gethsemane when He prays, "Not My will, but Thine, be done" (Luke 22:42). We cast contempt on His divine sacrifice if we insist that it was easy for Him, that it involved no inner struggle that drew from His brow that sweat of blood as He scratched the earth with His fingers and wept in agony until He made the final surrender, saying "No" to His own will and "Yes" to His Father's will for Him. The sinless Adam in the Garden had no such inner war between two wills: Jesus took upon Himself a struggle infinitely further down the road from that of the sinless Adam.

It was here in "the likeness of [our] sinful flesh" in the struggle in Gethsemane and at Calvary that the Son of God trampled on the head of the serpent. It is a mystery how the Son of God could ever feel "alienated" from His Father; but it is a fact that He did feel it on the cross, for He cried out, "My God, why hast Thou forsaken Me?" (Matt. 27:46). Although He felt this way, the truth is that the Father was not truly alienated from Him, for He was right there with Him, suffering with Him, for "God was in Christ, reconciling the world unto Himself" (2 Cor. 5:19). "God and His holy angels were beside the cross. The Father was with His Son. Yet His presence was not revealed." [1] It was by faith that Christ bridged the awful chasm of our alienation "in the body of His flesh." And we are reconciled if we "continue in the faith" which He pioneered (Col. 1:21-23).

The humanity of Christ means everything to us for it is intimately associated with the goal of the cleansing of the sanctuary truth. In Romans 8 Paul connected the post-Fall human nature of Christ, "in the likeness of sinful flesh," with its practical application to us. "That the righteousness of the law might be fulfilled in us" (Rom. 8:4). The word "righteousness" is dikaioma in the original. The usual word for righteousness is dikaiosune, which always means the righteousness of God, of Christ, imputed to the believer. But dikaioma is different--it's the actual righteousness of the believer, imparted, not merely imputed. (The lady wears a leopard skin coat, it's imputed, it's not hers; the leopard wears the same coat, it's imparted, a part of him.)

The reason why the long-awaited marriage (wedding) of the Lamb has not yet taken place is that His Bride hasn't gotten ready. He is ready, she is not. But Revelation 19:8 tells how at last the church will not only have imputed righteousness, but will have dikaioma: "To her was granted that she should be arrayed in fine linen, clean and white: for the fine linen is the righteousness of the saints." No, they won't save themselves and they won't have any merit; but their dikaioma will at last honor their Saviour, and will give Him "glory" (vs. 7). Do you want to get "ready"?

--Paul E. Penno

[1] Ellen G. White, The Desire of Ages, pp. 753, 754.

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

"Sabbath School Today" is on the Internet at:

Raul Diaz