Thursday, April 30, 2020

Lesson 5: By Scripture Alone--Sola Scriptura

Sabbath School Today
With the 1888 Message Dynamic

How to Interpret Scripture
Lesson 5: By Scripture Alone--Sola Scriptura


The 1888 message is all about "sola scriptura"--the Bible "alone" as its source. The message is not opinion or imagination, but was gleaned from God's holy Word by two men who were avid Bible students.

The General Conference Session that was held at Minneapolis in the fall of 1888, opened with a Bible Institute that convened October 10. The general business session began on October 18 and ran more than two full weeks, ending on Sunday November 4. This church conference was one of the most significant meetings ever convened by the church. At those meetings, God attempted to shed light on the fact that the church leaders had succumbed to legalism in their presentation of the message of Christ's second coming.

The leaders, especially George I. Butler, Uriah Smith, and J.H. Morrison, arrayed their influence against A. T. Jones and E. J. Waggoner, two young men from California. Butler had been president of the Seventh-day Adventist Church since 1872. Smith was the first secretary of the General Conference, elected in 1863 and served in 1876 as the General Conference treasurer. Smith began working in the offices of Advent Review and Sabbath Heraldin 1853 and became its editor in 1855, a position he was repeatedly elected to for more than 45 years.

Jones and Waggoner were considered "up-starts" and untrained in theology. Jones served in the army, and during that time he developed a passionate interest in ancient history. Beginning in 1887, Jones became the editor of the American Sentinel,the magazine that eventually became the church's official organ of the religious liberty department of the church (Libertymagazine). In 1897, Jones was appointed editor of the Review and Heraldmagazine. He held this position until 1901. Uriah Smith worked as his associate editor. From 1901 to 1903, Jones served as president of the California Conference. Waggoner was a medical doctor, who in 1883 stopped practicing medicine and became the assistant editor for the Signs of the Times, serving under his father.

The opposers of the message presented at the 1888 General Conference Session claimed that Jones was cocky, arrogant and lacked respect for the older brethren who had been at the head of the work for many years. They considered Waggoner's views on the law in Galatians chapter 3 to be Biblically unsound, and a detriment to the Adventist evangelism work because, to Butler and Smith, it undermined their foundation for preaching the Sabbath commandment.

Because Waggoner had published an article in the Signs of the Timesthat was strongly opposed by Smith and Butler, "the law in Galatians" became the topic of controversy at Minneapolis. When A. T. Jones and E. J. Waggoner were challenged on their presentation of the Gospel of Jesus Christ and His righteousness as the only source of our salvation, they stood before the Minneapolis conference delegates and presented their case entirely from Scripture.

In reply to their opponents at that conference Jones and Waggoner stood before the delegates with their open Bibles, nothing more. Waggoner read a verse, and then Jones read a verse, and so it went until they had presented the entire message from their Bibles alone. It would do us well if we dwelt upon the verses they presented, studying them deeply, just as Waggoner and Jones did. It was through a deep, prayerful, Holy Spirit-led study of these verses that they arrived at the truths they presented at Minneapolis. When we become thoroughly conversant in these verses--having knowledge and experience in them--then we will be able to defend the message of Christ and His righteousness against any dissenter.

Waggoner opened their presentation by reading Jeremiah 23:5-7. Jones followed by reading Ephesians 2:4-8. Waggoner: Galatians 2:16-21; Jones: Romans 11:1-33. Waggoner: Romans 1:14-17; Jones: Romans 2:12-29. Waggoner: the whole of Galatians chapter 3; Jones: the whole of Romans chapter 3. Waggoner: Galatians 5:1-6; Jones: Romans 9:7-33. Waggoner: the whole of Galatians chapter 2; Jones: Romans 4:1-11. Waggoner: the whole of Romans chapter 5; Jones: Romans 1:15-17. Waggoner: Romans 8:14-39; Jones: 1 John 5:1-4. [1]

When Jones and Waggoner completed their readings, they calmly took their seats without further comment. The men gathered in that small church in Minneapolis were stunned into silence.

The following summer, Mrs. White was asked whether she endorsed the message presented by Jones and Waggoner and her reply was: "When Brother Waggoner brought out these ideas in Minneapolis, it was the first clear teaching on this subject from any human lips I had heard, excepting the conversations between myself and my husband. I have said to myself, It is because God has presented it to me in vision that I see it so clearly, and they [the church leaders who were in opposition] cannot see it because they have never had it presented to them as I have. And when another presented it, every fiber of my heart said, Amen." [2]

Ellen White called the message of Christ and His righteousness that Jones and Waggoner taught at Minneapolis in 1888 "the most precious message," because it brought "more prominently before the world the uplifted Saviour, the sacrifice for the sins of the whole world. It presented justification through faith in the Surety; it invited the people to receive the righteousness of Christ, which is made manifest in obedience to all the commandments of God." [3]

This statement flies in the face of those who claimed during that time of early opposition that Waggoner's view on the law in Galatians destroyed their foundation for presenting commandment-keeping, especially Sabbath-keeping. Ellen White recognized that when we believe the message we will become commandment-keepers by faith, and not commandment-keepers by works, striving to keep the law in our own power. In his treatise on the Book of Galatians, Waggoner wrote that we "become doers of the law." This is what "righteous" means--a doer of the law by faith in the power of Christ to work out His own character in our lives. "How shall we become doers of the law, and thus escape wrath, or the curse? The answer is, 'He who through faith is righteous shall live.' By faith, not by works, we become doers of the law! 'With the heart man believeth unto righteousness.' (Romans 10:10)." [4]

Today many voices are being raised proclaiming that overcoming sin is an impossibility, and some even claim that overcoming is not necessary for "salvation." God just "declares" us saved and that's enough to get us a "ticket" into heaven at the second coming of Christ. These voices tell us that there is no such thing as a "final generation" through whom God will demonstrate His righteous character of love to the dying world. The increasing argument is that no character change is necessary; no true heart obedience is required. But people who make this claim are "false guideposts."

"I have no smooth message to bear to those who have been so long as false guideposts, pointing the wrong way. If you reject Christ's delegated messengers, you reject Christ. Neglect this great salvation, kept before you for years, despise this glorious offer of justification through the blood of Christ and sanctification through the cleansing power of the Holy Spirit, and there remaineth no more sacrifice for sins, but a certain fearful looking for of judgment and fiery indignation." [5]

Let us be like A. T. Jones and E. J. Waggoner, diligent students of the Bible, searching for the deep things of God that we may present them clearly to anyone who asks us. In this way, we will be true Protestants and able to stand in the final hours of this earth's history.

--Ann Walper


[1] From R. T. Nash, "An Eye Witness Account," Manuscripts and Memories of Minneapolis 1888, p. 35.
[2] Ellen G. White, Manuscript 5, 1889, 10; Sermon, Rome, New York, June 19, 1889.
[3] Ellen G. White, Testimonies to Ministers, pp. 91, 92.
[4] E. J. Waggoner, The Glad Tidings, p. 58.
[5] Testimonies to Ministers, p. 97.

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

Many of Pastor Penno's sermons are on YouTube in Spanish. Just type pastor paul penno en español in the search bar.

"Sabbath School Today" is on the Internet at:

Thursday, April 23, 2020

Lesson 4: The Bible--the Authoritative Source of Our Theology

Lesson 4: The Bible--the Authoritative Source of Our Theology


The disciples asked Jesus the question, "When shall these things be? and what shall be the sign of Thy coming, and of the end of the world?" (Matt. 24:3). He replied: "Take heed that no man deceive you. For many shall come in my name, saying. I am Christ; and shall deceive many" (vss. 4 and 5). "There shall arise false Christs, and false prophets, and shall show great signs and wonders; insomuch that, if it were possible, they shall deceive the very elect" (v. 24).

The very fact that there are hundreds of different church theologies, all claiming to be right, is in itself one of the signs that Jesus foretold. People are puzzled by the fact that there are so many different religions. They cannot all be right! In the theological confusion that prevails, many people are being deceived as Jesus said they would be.

In order to avoid being deceived, we must study for ourselves the clear teachings of the Holy Bible. "To the law and to the testimony: if they speak not according to this word, it is because there is no light in them" (Isa. 8:20). "Thy word is truth" (John 17:17). Not miracles and wonders, nor the size of the churches, but teaching of theological truth is the test by which we are to know which is the right way.

We want to encourage you to ask God to give you a "hunger and thirst after righteousness" as Jesus said (Matt. 5:6), a desire to know the theological truth that He has revealed in His word, the Bible. It's "blessed" to sense that hunger for Bible truth that is stronger than our natural-born infatuation with fictional portrays and sports. It's impossible to know "the love of the Father" (which is all-important) if our love is "for all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life" (1 John 2:15, 16).

In fact, a love for the word of God is an absolute miracle for any of us, because no one is born with it; it must be acquired as a gift of the Holy Spirit. If you are praying for a new luxury car, your prayer may or may not be answered as you want; but for sure, if you pray for the dear Lord to give you that hunger for biblical theology, He will respond positively. But don't pray like a child asking for something from the toy storewhich tomorrow he forgets he ever wanted; be serious, be persistent. Let the Lord see that you mean business.

And while you are praying, remember to ask for God to give you good common sense to go along with your "hunger for righteousness" that will enable you to distinguish between solid biblical theological truth and the multitude of clever counterfeits that the devil is constantly prompting people to come up with. There are people who are wiser and better informed than you; "he that walketh with wise men shall be wise" (Prov. 13:20). But some people who think they know the Bible and love to talk (and write!) their ideas are fools, for "in the multitude of words there wanteth not sin" (Prov. 10:19). Ask God to give you grace to tell the difference. John says, "Believe not every spirit, but try [test] the spirits whether they are of God" (1 John 4:1).

The evidence that we truly believe in Him will be seen in the quality of the spiritual food, or refreshing "water of life," that we share with others. It's what Paul said is "the truth of the gospel" (Gal. 2:5), which is "the power of God unto salvation" (Rom. 1:16). New Covenant truth is the explosive "gospel." This is what we're beginning to see as a result of believing this important aspect of the 1888 message.

A prayer that is according to the will of God (1 John 5:14) and therefore sure to be answered in our behalf is a prayer for understanding of the pure truth of the New Covenant in contrast to the Old; the Old leans toward bondage (Gal. 4:24). For sure, that is not "water of life"! Only the New Covenant has life in it.

--Paul E. Penno

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

Many of Pastor Penno's sermons are on YouTube in Spanish. Just type pastor paul penno en español in the search bar.

"Sabbath School Today" is on the Internet at:

Thursday, April 16, 2020

Lesson 3: Jesus and the Apostles’ View of the Bible

Lesson 3: Jesus and the Apostles' View of the Bible

"Jesus and the Law"

Ellen White declared in 1889, that before 1888 "we" had "preached the law until we [were] as dry as the hills of Gilboa that had neither dew nor rain." [1] "We" thought we were doing great, fulfilling Revelation 12:17 and 13:12: we were the wonderful "remnant" distinguished by "keeping the commandments of God." Then came 1888!

During those pre-1888 years we lacked what later came as "a most precious message." The gospel was far better than "we" had thought it could be.

The basic theme that permeates what we hear in pulpits and at camp meetings is that in order to be saved there are three things we must do: (1) Read the Bible, (2) pray, and (3) witness. The theme is played almost endlessly, "Maintain your relationship with the Lord," which means get up in the morning, read something devotional, and pray. Once we get far enough along that we have what we think is a "relationship," it's commonly understood that maintainingit is the believer's job.

And here's where we often fall down. We forget or we get too busy, and then it seems the Lord is far away. And of course it's all our fault, isn't it? So … enter Old covenant guilt. Ever since Early Writingswas written (1850) we had been praying for the Lord to send the "latter rain." And now at last in 1888 He did so with refreshing advance "showers" in a message that startled and even alarmed "us."

The question naturally arises, How does the 1888 message (which Ellen White endorsed so heartily) relate to God's law? Does it proclaim cheap grace? Does it encourage disobedience to the law of God? Does the message lower church standards? Does it dwell too much on the cross of Christ and what happened there, and then neglect to remind us of our works, the obedience we must continually demonstrate?

We know that Ellen White was overjoyed to hear A. T. Jones and E. J. Waggoner present the message. She declared it to be the clearest presentations of the gospel she had heard publicly "for the last 45 years." [2] She also said that if they had not brought the message, we wouldn't have had it, meaning that the Lord laid a burden on them He had not laid on her. [3] If in any way their message weakens obedience to God's law, it could not be "precious," let alone "mostprecious." What made her so happy was that their understanding of justification by faith was fresh, unique, and dynamic. It set the law before the people in its true light. She was painfully aware that the views held by the Sunday-keeping Evangelical churches denigrated God's law, declaring either (1) that it had been abolished at the cross or (2) it was impossible for us fallen humans to obey. Either way, this popular view of justification by faith was employed to refute the Sabbath truth. She rejoiced that the 1888 message presented the Ten Commandments as ten promises—glorifying obedience.

God's Ten Commandments Become Good News!

Rightly understood, the Ten Commandments, which people have long thought spoil our fun ("Don't do this!" or "Don't do that!"), turn out to be ten categories of Good News if we understand why God gave them. This discovery is lifting heavy burdens from tired hearts all over the world.

For example, when the commandment reads, "You shall not steal!" what it actually says is that God will save you from ever stealing even a shoelace! You'll never have a problem, even if you're alone in the treasurer's office with a million dollars on the desk. God will save you from stealing.

It is the talked-about topic in some of the highest placed circles of Bible scholars. As the Internet is a discovery that has revolutionized modern communications, so this discovery of Bible truth revolutionizes the preaching of the gospel worldwide. People are waking up as from a dream; the Ten Commandments have become Good News! 

Now at last we can experience the freedom that the Bible has been telling us but which seemed so difficult to understand: "Oh, how I lovethy law! [not many of us have ever felt thatway!] It is my meditation all the day [boring, we have thought!]. Thou, through thy commandments hast made me wiser than mine enemies; … I have more understanding than all my teachers, … I understand more than the ancients, … How sweet are thy words unto my taste … sweeter than honey to my mouth! [this will be a miracle!] Through thy precepts I get understanding; therefore I hate every false way" (Psalm 119:97-104). Most people have never begun to discover this joy. 

Even church-goers have usually had a love/hate relationship with the Ten Commandments. The law has seemed like a heavy burden, ten precepts carved in cold stone, heavy prohibitions that crush out all the joy of life. Everything that was fun doing seemed to be, "You shall not!" The Ten Commandments seemed like roadblocks in the highway of happiness.

Yet deep in our human hearts we have realized that it's wrong to break them; suffering must be the result either in this life or in the next. Yet we just couldn't know how to keep them, let alone love them. They seemed too hard.

Now comes this fantastic revelation: The Ten Commandments are actually ten assurances of victory. And what we have to do is different than the "Do this or else!" rules we have thought them to be: our job is to believethe Good News that God has embedded in them. Then faith will work to produce a loving obedience.

First comes an astounding disclosure: probably we have been misquoting the Ten Commandments without realizing what we've done. Whoever taught them to us since we were kids usually left out one verse that God put in at the very beginning, before any of the prohibitions. Leave it out and the Ten indeed become Bad News, a "yoke of bondage."

Here it is—the missing verse that belongs at the beginning of any true version of the Ten Commandments:

"And God spoke all these words, saying, 'I am the Lord thy God, 
which have brought thee out of the land of Egypt, 
out of the house of bondage'"
(Ex. 20:1, 2).

There are some dynamite-like truths implicit here that can shake the earth.

First, God tells us what His true name is: "The Lord." Second, this neglected verse tells us that He is everybody's God, "I am the Lord thy God." Third, in His Preamble God tells us that we don't belong in spiritual Egypt. Fourth, God has already delivered you "out of the house of bondage." Fifth, such Good News is true because the Son of God became incarnate.

"Godly fear" is appropriate for any true-hearted Christian.Jesus describes a group who will appear before Him in judgment at last. They think they have "kept the commandments." But Jesus must tell them sorrowfully, "I never knew you" (Matt. 7:21-23). What could have gone wrong? Their good "works" were "wonderful." 

Paul can help us understand this: these dear people had misunderstood what true commandment-keeping is. It doesinclude Sabbath-keeping, health reform, tithe-paying, all the good works we can think of; but it fails to be true obedience unless it is motivated by agape: "Love [agape] worketh no ill to his neighbour; therefore love [agapein the original] is the fulfiling of the law" (Rom. 13:10).

Popular Christianity, which teaches that we can be saved in sin rather than fromit, fails to grasp the import of agapebecause people generally hold to the natural immortality of the soul. The world needs to hear the "most precious message," which if proclaimed will be "Pentecost" over again.

--From the writings of Robert J. Wieland

[1] Review and Herald, March 11, 1890.
[2] The Ellen G. White 1888 Materials, pp. 348, 349.
[3] Ibid., p. 608. Ellen White never claimed that she herself was bringing the message of the latter rain or the loud cry; she said that of their message.

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

Many of Pastor Penno's sermons are on YouTube in Spanish. Just type pastor paul penno en español in the search bar.

"Sabbath School Today" is on the Internet at:

Wednesday, April 8, 2020

Lesson 2: The Origin and Nature of the Bible

Lesson 2: The Origin and Nature of the Bible


Why are there so many versions of the bible? When the Godhead saw fit to send Jesus to this earth to be incarnated as a human being, God was trying to reveal Himself to us in a way that words cannot convey. Isn't that enough?

"The Bible, with its God-given truths expressed in the language of men, presents a union of the divine and the human. Such a union existed in the nature of Christ, who was the Son of God and the Son of man. Thus it is true of the Bible, as it was of Christ, that 'the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us.' John 1:14." [1]

Why is faith necessary to accept anything anyone (even God) says? When someone states that something is a fact, why should he or she be believed? An example of this is your name. How did you learn what your name is? Your mother, father, and extended family probably told you your name, and that has been attached to you ever since. What if they were wrong? Well, you say you trust your mother, father, and family to tell you the truth. That's where the "faith" comes in.

Since the Bible is an assembly of many different writers over a long period of history, why do we have a Bible limited to 66 books, to the exclusion of many other writings during the same period of time? Without going into detail, it is true that the early church leadership looked at many different writings before accepting the Bible we now have. There are people who believe the Bible has left some things out, such as the Apocrypha. A careful examination quickly shows us that these writings are not inherently consistent with the Bible writers.

An example of this is the Song of Solomon. Some folks think that book shouldn't be included in the Bible, claiming that there are no references to it in the New Testament. Let's see if that is true. In Song of Solomon, chapter 3, the bride begins a description of a troubled dream she had. She is seeking after her beloved but cannot find him. The rest of the book is a description of the deep feelings between a man and a woman who love each other and want to get married. That is an apt description of Christ who is waiting for His church to "make herself ready" but, because of apathy, she is delaying.

Jesus said "I am the door of the sheep. ... I am the door; if anyone enters through Me, he shall be saved, and shall go in and out, and find pasture" (John 10:7-9). In Revelation 3:20 Jesus says, "Behold, I stand at the door and knock; if anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and will dine with him and he with Me."

For years, scholars missed this obvious connection between an Old and New Testament book. It is evidence of God's patience that He made sure that the Song of Solomon be included in the Bible, even though, at the time, people didn't completely understand its significance.

Why should we believe the Bible writers were inspired just because they claim to be? How do we know what to believe? These questions usually come from people who haven't read much of the Bible, or they have read compilations of various verses that present a distorted view of the Bible. Most importantly, they have not had the experience of hearing the subtle promptings by the Holy Spirit as they read the word of God. This is personal, it cannot be shared.

It is impossible to understand the gospel without the Bible. The people who lived on this earth while Christ was here had the entire Old Testament but they failed to recognize Him. They hadn't experienced Him through the scriptures.

"Who has believed our message? And to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed? For He grew up before Him like a tender shoot, ... He has no stately form or majesty that we should look upon Him, nor appearance that we should be attracted to Him. ... He was pierced through for our transgressions, ... He was oppressed and He was afflicted, yet He did not open His mouth" (Isa. 53:1-7). This passage by itself should have been enough to identify Jesus as the predicted Messiah, but since they were expecting an earthly king, preconceived notions got in the way.

So many times people reject the Bible because of the preconceived notions they got from others. People believe that the Bible requires them to be good before they come to God. They are burdened and heavy-laden and don't see how they could ever be that good, so they avoid anything to do with "religion." It would be better if they would just read the Bible and worry about "religion" later. Jesus told the burdened and heavy-laden to simply come to Him and He would give them rest. What a shame that folks allow lies to prevent them from simply reading to see if the Bible really says what they have been told. They will never know the will of God for them if they avoid reading anything in the Bible. The minute these people suffer any difficulty, they blame God.

The will of God is therefore something to rejoice in and not something to be merely endured. Even though it involves suffering, it is for our good and is designed to work "for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison" (Rom. 8:28; 2 Cor. 4:17). 

"Here is the comfort of knowing the will of God. He wills our deliverance from the bondage of sin: therefore we can pray with the utmost confidence and with thanksgiving, for 'this is the confidence that we have in Him, that, if we ask anything according to His will, He heareth us: and if we know that He hear us, whatsoever we ask, we know that we have the petitions that we desired of Him' 1 John 5:14, 15, King James Version." [2]

There would be no 1888 message without the Bible. It is the essence of the "everlasting gospel." The Word of God will convince, convert, regenerate, sustain, and comfort every heart that receives it. If you are having trouble "believing," just keep reading His Word, and pray for discernment to understand what God is saying to you. God will always reward such a prayer.

--Arlene Hill

[1] Ellen G. White, The Great Controversy, p. vi.
[2] E. J. Waggoner, The Glad Tidings, p. 14; CFI ed. (2016).

Bible texts are from the New American Standard Bible, unless cited otherwise.

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

"Sabbath School Today" is on the Internet at: