Friday, July 03, 2020

1888 Message Study : Why Witness?

THIRD QUARTER 2020

SABBATH SCHOOL INSIGHT #1

JULY 4, 2020

"WHY WITNESS?"

 

"If we receive the witness of men, the witness of God is greater; for this is the witness of God which He has testified of His Son. 10 He who believes in the Son of God has the witness in himself; he who does not believe God has made Him a liar, because he has not believed the testimony that God has given of His Son." 1 John 5:9-10, NKJV.

 

"That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked upon, and our hands have handled, concerning the Word of life-- the life was manifested, and we have seen, and bear witness, and declare to you that eternal life which was with the Father and was manifested to us— 1 John 1:1-2, NKJV.

 

God's love is revealed in the gospel, in His ultimate sacrifice of Himself in Christ, providing salvation for all mankind in Jesus. His love never gives up, therefore there are multiple opportunities for salvation of the individual.

 

To enter in to effective witnessing, we must ourselves have grasped and appreciated not only the magnitude of the love of God for the world, giving eternal life to all the race in Christ, but His love toward us individually. God revealed His love for mankind by indwelling the fallen sinful flesh that Christ took, to redeem it. When we know this love by personal experience, we can then share the ministry of Christ as He lives in us. Love is the highest and sweetest motivation.

 

Said another way, when our very identity is determined by who we are in Christ, then His happiness and joy are ours, and we experience deliverance through Him. We then rejoice with heaven over one sinner who repents, who turns to Him, to experience what we have personally witnessed.

 

The self-sacrifice of Christ, His Faith in humanity, is what drives our faithfulness. We can only be full of faith if we are full of Christ, accepting of His indwelling through the Holy Spirit.

 

As the church grasps and believes the magnitude, the comprehensive reach, the amazing gift that was given to the world in Christ, each member will be better equipped to experience and share this gift with others. This personal sharing will bring massive growth to the church.

 

The very best reason for witnessing is the love of God. The very best witness is the Holy Spirit in the heart.

 

E.G.White:

"Our influence upon others depends not so much upon what we say as upon what we are. Men may combat and defy our logic; they may resist our appeals; but a life of disinterested love is an argument they cannot gainsay. A consistent life, characterized by the meekness of Christ, is a power in the world." DA 141.5*

E.J. Waggoner:

"Now what books are necessary? Here I can give you exact and definite information. You need a fairly large library, not less than sixty-six books; but they are not very expensive, and I doubt not that you have them already. They are the books of the Old and the New Testament. It is absolutely impossible for you to learn to witness for Christ from any other books than these. I will not disparage commentaries, any more than the good men who have written them; but remember this one thing: You are called to be a witness, and a witness must tell what he knows, and must not repeat what somebody else has already said. You do not want to be a phonograph. Some other man may have given a good testimony, but that testimony is his, not yours. If he has written it down, then everybody can read it for himself, and he can continue to witness after he is dead. It is his own voice. But if you or I repeat that testimony, we are not witnessing, but are merely echoing. God wants fresh testimony from every individual, and not the repetition of what somebody else has said better than we can. If he could speak better than me, then it is folly for us to ape him. God sends us to tell what we have seen, even though it be but little. If we do not know much, then we cannot testify much; but the little that we know, if we do indeed know it, is just as effective as the same amount spoken by the most learned man in the world; and if we speak that which we do not absolutely know for ourselves as the direct revelation from God, then our talk is worse than useless. In such a case we cannot know but that we are leading the people astray." October 4, 1900 EJW, PTUK 628-9}.

 

"'Beloved, now are we the sons of God."' 1 John 3:2. 'As many as received Him, to them gave He power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on His name.' John 1:12. This is an altogether different state from that described in the third verse as 'children.' In that state we were 'a rebellious people, lying children, children that will not hear the law of the Lord.' Isaish 30:9. Believing on Jesus, and receiving the adoption of sons, we are described 'as obedient children, not fashioning yourselves according to the former lusts in your ignorance.' 1 Peter1:14. Christ said, 'I delight to do Thy will, O My God; yea, Thy law is within My heart.' Psalms40:8.

 

Therefore, since He becomes our substitute … literally taking our place, not instead of us, but coming into us, and living our life in us and for us, it necessarily follows that the same law must be within our hearts when we receive the adoption of sons.
 

The Witness of the Spirit

'It is the Spirit that beareth witness, because the Spirit is truth.' 1 John 5:6. 'Because ye are sons, God hath sent forth the Spirit of His Son into your hearts, crying, Abba, Father,' or, Father, Father. Oh, what joy and peace come with the entering of the Spirit into the heart as a permanent resident; not as a guest merely, but as sole proprietor! Being justified by faith we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, so that we 'joy in God,' rejoicing even in tribulations, having hope that never disappoints, because 'the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost which is given unto us.' Romans 5:1-5. Then we can love even as God does; we have the same love, because we have the Divine nature. 'The Spirit itself beareth witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God.' 'He that believeth hath the witness in himself.'" 1900 EJW, GTI 170-1.

 

*All emphases supplied.

~Todd Guthrie

Thursday, June 04, 2020

1888 Message Study : The Bible As History

https://www.1888msc.org/resources/ssi/2020-q2/the-bible-as-history

"THE BIBLE AS HISTORY"

 Memory Text: "I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage." Exodus 20:2 NKJV.

As we contemplate the memory text in context of the title of the lesson, I wonder if this text is the one that would have come to mind as the keynote text for the topic of the Bible as history. Certainly, there are many texts in the Bible that immediately and clearly bring our minds to history in the Bible. I will cite three examples here. The first is found in I Corinthians 10:9-11, "nor let us tempt Christ, as some of them also tempted, and were destroyed by serpents; 10 nor complain, as some of them also complained, and were destroyed by the destroyer. 11 Now all these things happened to them as examples, and they were written for our admonition, upon whom the ends of the ages have come." The second is Hebrews 12:1, "Therefore we also, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us." The last example is found in Acts 7 where Stephen is giving his address right before he is stoned. As you recall. Stephen takes his persecutors and all within listening distance on a journey through their entire history from Abraham to Moses, to their history of rebellion against God. He ends with these words in Acts 7:51-53, "You stiff-necked and uncircumcised in heart and ears! You always resist the Holy Spirit; as your fathers did, so do you. 52 Which of the prophets did your fathers not persecute? And they killed those who foretold the coming of the Just One, of whom you now have become the betrayers and murderers, 53 who have received the law by the direction of angels and have not kept it." These have obvious historical significance.

But these were not chosen for our memory text. Instead, we were given Exodus 20:2, "am the Lord your God, Who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage." Why this text and what is the purpose of history in the Bible? Ellen White has a quote which I use often and is found in many places in her writings. It is this, "In reviewing our past history, having traveled over every step of advance to our present standing, I can say, Praise God! As I see what God has wrought, I am filled with astonishment and with confidence in Christ as Leader. We have nothing to fear for the future, except as we shall forget the way the Lord has led us, and His teaching in our past history."  {RH, October 12, 1905 par. 22}. "We have nothing to fear for the future, except as we shall forget the way the Lord has led us, and His teaching in our past history".  The purpose of history is for us to see how God has led and His teaching in our past history which, according to the passage gives us confidence in Christ as our leader.

This is, I believe, brought out very well in our memory text. To the Israelites, the words of the memory text, particularly the first six words metonymic (shorthand) for the covenant that God made with Abraham and through him to them, his descendants. This is a crucial part of their history. Had they paid attention to those words, the journey to Canaan would have been a mere few days!!

So, let us look at those first six words. "I am the Lord your God." Here we are introduced to the kind of God Who acted in eternity past, in history. He is Yahweh, a covenant keeping God. Certainly, this should have evoked in the  minds of the Israelites on Mount Sinai, scenes of how the Lord kept the covenant made with Abraham in Genesis 15: 7-21 where God asked Abram to bring Him a heifer, a goat and a ram, each three years old, along with a dove and a young pigeon. When Abram brought them to Him and cut them in two and arranged the halves opposite each other in preparation for a sacrifice. God placed Abram into a deep sleep and showed him something in verse 13, "Know certainly that your descendants will be strangers in a land that is not theirs, and will serve them, and they will afflict them four hundred years." Abram is horrified. But God gives a promise, a covenant, that He will remember them. Let us pick it up in verse 17, "when the sun went down and it was dark, that behold, there appeared a smoking oven and a burning torch that passed between those pieces. 18 On the same day the Lord made a covenant with Abram, saying: "To your descendants I have given this land, from the river of Egypt to the great river, the River Euphrates— 19 the Kenites, the Kenezzites, the Kadmonites, 20 the Hittites, the Perizzites, the Rephaim, 21 the Amorites, the Canaanites, the Girgashites, and the Jebusites." His covenant? You will go into captivity, but I will come for you and give you an inheritance. Why? So that in them, all the families of the earth will be blessed." Sure enough they went into captivity for 400 years as foretold in Genesis 15: 13. But we know from later in Exodus that the Lord did come through even though they were repeatedly and persistently committed to doing evil. We can see the history of rebellious Israel through the wilderness years and beyond juxtaposed against the pleas of this covenant keeping God. Jeremiah captures this well in Jeremiah 3:14, "Return, O backsliding children," says the Lord; "for I am married to you. I will take you, one from a city and two from a family, and I will bring you to Zion." Then in Hosea 11:7, we have the lament of the Lord God saying "My people are bent on backsliding from Me."

So, in this memory text and particularly in the first 6 words , a request from God that as they go through their sojourn from Egypt, knowing their history, a history that included a faithful covenant keeping God would be critical to their success in carrying out their mission to the world. History in the Bible is truly "His Story". So as we read this chosen memory text and all of the historical record in the Bible, we are to see what God is like, a revelation of His character. The Lord God showed up to Moses in Exodus 34:6-7 and said this, "6 And the Lord passed before him and proclaimed, "The Lord, the Lord God, merciful and gracious, longsuffering, and abounding in goodness and truth, 7 keeping mercy for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, by no means clearing the guilty, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children and the children's children to the third and the fourth generation." When God showed up to answer Moses' question posed in Exodus 33:18, God gives Him an answer of what He is like. Therefore, you can trust Me Moses.

On Sabbath's lesson, the authors of the lesson state it this way, "The Bible is constituted in history. Biblical history moves in a linear direction from an absolute beginning, when God created all things, to an ultimate goal, when He will restore the earth at His Second Coming.Inherent in this statement has to be the way God will accomplish that goal. Genesis 1:1 says, "In the beginning, God…" That is history. What sort of God was He? Revelation 13:8 says that "He was the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world." This is our history. We have a self-emptying, self-sacrificing God Who wants to restore us in His image. As we review how God acts throughout the Bible and in modern history as a church, we can see the urgent plan He has for accomplishing His work on earth. We began with a text from I Corinthians 10:11, "Now all these things happened to them as examples, and they were written for our admonition, upon whom the ends of the ages have come."

Does that apply to us as Seventh-day Adventists? It would be well for us to specifically consider our own history as a people. Because when God reveals to us what He is like, a response is necessary from us in order for Him to carry out His plan of remaking us into His image so that we can see Him come again. I will use Ellen White as our history teacher.

"The Lord in His great mercy sent a most precious message to His people through Elders [E.J.] Waggoner and [A. T.] Jones. This message was to bring 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.  {LDE 200.1}

Many had lost sight of Jesus. They needed to have their eyes directed to His divine person, His merits, and His changeless love for the human family. All power is given into His hands, that He may dispense rich gifts unto men, imparting the priceless gift of His own righteousness to the helpless human agent. This is the message that God commanded to be given to the world. It is the third angel's message, which is to be proclaimed with a loud voice, and attended with the outpouring of His Spirit in a large measure.--TM 91, 92 (1895).  {LDE 200.2}

The message of Christ's righteousness is to sound from one end of the earth to the other to prepare the way of the Lord. This is the glory of God, which closes the work of the third angel."--6T 19 (1900).  {LDE 200.3}

What is in our history that is reminiscent of the Israelites? Sister White tells us this, "An unwillingness to yield up preconceived opinions, and to accept this truth, lay at the foundation of a large share of the opposition manifested at Minneapolis against the Lord's message through Brethren {E.J.} Waggoner and {A.T.} Jones. 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 enemy prevented them from obtaining that efficiency which might have been theirs in carrying the truth to the world, as the apostles proclaimed it after the day of Pentecost. 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." {1SM 234.6}

But we, by accepting our history as truth and repenting of it, can indeed cooperate with Christ in restoring this "linear direction from an absolute beginning, when God created all things, to an ultimate goal, when He will restore the earth at His Second Coming." For this to happen we cannot ignore history and keep on going. The story of the children of Israel tells us that. Repentance is crucial. It is my prayer that as we look at this week's lesson, we will stand in awe of our covenant keeping God Who will never leave us nor forsake us. As the Apostle Paul says in Romans 3:3,4 "For what if some did not believe? Will their unbelief make the faithfulness of God without effect? 4 Certainly not! Indeed, let God be true but every man a liar."

Praise God that even though history may be uncomfortable for us because of our rebellion, He does not cast us aside. He is indeed "The Lord, the Lord God, merciful and gracious, longsuffering, and abounding in goodness and truth."

Amen

~Andi Hunsaker

Wednesday, May 20, 2020

1888 Message Study : Creation: Genesis as Foundation—Part 1

https://www.1888msc.org/resources/ssi/2020-q2/creation-genesis-as-foundationpart-1

"CREATION: GENESIS AS FOUNDATION—PART 1"

 

When I consider Your heavens, the work of Your fingers, the moon and the stars, which You have ordained, what is man that You are mindful of him, and the son of man that You visit him? Psalms 8:3-4, NKJV.

 

"In the Beginning…"

In order to have wisdom regarding our purpose and place in this world, the meaning of life in the here and now, we must know our end. To know our end, we must know our beginning. God's Word provides this foundation for us.

LORD, make me to know my end, And what is the measure of my days, That I may know how frail I am. Psalms 39:4, NKJV.

God did not evolve. He pre-existed His creation, and none of His creation can evolve to be Him. The Omega is not a point of evolutionary arrival for humanity, but a Divine being taking humanity under His wings - Jesus as the revelation of God, willing to go to the second death experience of the cross to rescue mankind, to bring "many sons to glory." Satan desired to "be like the Most High," but not like God in who He really is, that is, Love.

Understanding that our beginning as described in the Bible is a creative act of love, fleshed out in amazing design and detail, gives meaning and purpose to life. In contrast, evolutionary thought is founded on the lie of self-love, mere existence for survival. In short, no Creator = no meaning.

 

The Days of Creation

So teach us to number our days, That we may gain a heart of wisdom. Psalms 90:12, NKJV.

God not only created us, and gave humanity a beginning. He also set up the measure of our existence. Interestingly, the literal week was given to humanity before the fall of man. It was a way that our lives could measure with the life of God. But after the fall, measuring time has a different purpose.

How do we measure time? From one point in time to another, counting the number of seconds, minutes, hours, days, weeks, months, years, decades, centuries, and millennia. Of course, decades is the most we can personally measure. We have limited time and recognizing that fact is foundational to wisdom. Why?

Because we don't have millennia to resolve the sin problem. We need a re-creation, and now!

"Now you are created new in Christ Jesus. He says so. Thank Him that it is so. What! will you be an evolutionist on that verse? That is the present tense, 'We are His workmanship,' we are created in Christ Jesus unto good works. Are you? The word is spoken. It is the creative word. How much time are you going to allow between that word of God, and your being created new? Of the creation in the beginning, you said that any man who allows even a minute to pass between the word and the thing, is an evolutionist. What are now as to this word of God, which creates men in Christ Jesus unto good works? Are you an evolutionist here? Come, let us all be creationists.

"Do you not see that in this way it will not require a long, tedious, wearing process to be made ready to meet the Lord in glory? So many people are looking at themselves. They know that, in the nature of things, it must take them an exceedingly long time to get fully ready to meet him. If it is done by evolution, it will never be done. But when it is done by creation, it will be both surely and quickly done. That word I have before referred to is the word everyone here may take to himself: 'While so many are hovering about the mystery of faith and godliness, they could solve the matter by proclaiming abroad [by telling it out], "Jesus Christ is my portion forever."'

"Do you see how much we have been evolutionists? Shall we quit? Come now, let us be creationists, and be done with it. Let us be Sabbath-keepers truly. Let us believe the Lord. He speaks forgiveness. He speaks a clean heart. He speaks holiness, He creates it. Let Him create it in you. Stop being an evolutionist, and let that creative word work for you, let that creative energy work in you, that which the word pronounces; and before you leave this house, God can get you ready to meet Him. Indeed, in that very thing you do meet Him. And when you have thus met Him, and do thus meet Him every day, are you not then ready to meet Him? Do you believe that? You believe He made the worlds when He spoke, that light came by His word when He spoke, and that the leper was "immediately" cleansed when He spoke; but with yourself you think considerable time must elapse between the time when the word is spoken and the fact is accomplished. O, why will you be an evolutionist? Creation, creation,—that is the thing. March 7, 1899 ATJ, ARSH 148.

 

The Sabbath and Creation

Far from being merely "the Jewish Sabbath," the Sabbath was designed by God to teach man his complete and total dependence on the loving Creator for everything. After the fall of man into the lie of self-dependence (immediately causing death without Divine intervention), the lesson remained as part of the plan to redeem mankind.

"What a Sabbath that must have been for Adam! To look upon the earth in its perfect beauty, fresh from the hand of God, to behold His works, and hold communion with God Himself and heavenly angels, was a privilege such as our minds cannot grasp. Although Adam had received dominion over all, he was doing nothing to contribute to the perfect work, beyond being what God had made him. Not a single flower, or animal, or creeping thing owed anything to his care. The world was absolutely perfect, so perfect that there was no room for improvement, and its Maker delighted in His work. The fact that Adam was now called to spend his first entire day in rest was to teach him that he was not expected to carry the burden, that all things could be beautiful and perfect without his moving a finger, and that he was to cast the whole burden of his position on the Lord.

"Adam was also to learn for himself on that Sabbath day that the God who had made him 'very good' was able to keep him so, without Adam's contributing anything to the goodness. Adam's part was to rest in the Lord and allow full and free play to the power which had done its perfect work. As long as he should 'remember the Sabbath day,' Adam would understand his true relation to God, and would continue to rest in Him. But Adam and Eve forgot that Sabbath day and its lesson. Satan tempted them to think that by taking the course he advised, they would do better for themselves than God had done for them, and that they would become as gods. They believed the lie. They forgot that God's work was perfect, and that they could not improve on it. They thought to better their position, and they fell. If they had remembered the Sabbath day, they would not have fallen.

"Now, if we are to reverse their fall, in our own experience, we must not repeat their mistake. We must 'remember the Sabbath day to keep it holy.' Then we shall understand that we can do nothing for ourselves, and that it is God alone Who can make us holy, as He made Adam in the beginning, and only He Who can keep us holy. 'Moreover, also I gave them My Sabbaths, to be a sign between Me and them, that they might know that I am the Lord that sanctify them. Ezekiel 20:12.

"Satan tempted Adam and Eve to forget the Sabbath, and in order that he might obliterate the knowledge of the Sabbath and so ensure that men should not remember it, he has caused the church of which he gained control, to transfer the weekly rest day from the seventh to the first that Satan desires in this way to break the connection between us and the power that was revealed in making a perfect man, at the beginning. But God has caused light to shine upon Satan's work, and He is calling men back to worship Him in spirit and truth, and to enter into His rest. The observance of the first day, in its very nature, represents the error of substituting man's work for God's. The observance of the seventh day, in spirit and truth, stands for faith in God's finished work, in His creating and redeeming power, and for the ceasing from our own works. Hebrews 4:3, 4, 10. Therefore 'remember the Sabbath day to keep it holy.'" August 20, 1903 EJW, PTUK 530-31.

 

Creation and Marriage

While the Sabbath teaches us about our utter dependence upon God for all things, marriage, the other divine institution inaugurated at Creation teaches us God's great love for us and the responsive love He so desires. Solomon, the wisest man who ever lived, was mystified by "the way of a man with a maid." Proverbs 30:19, KJV. Likewise, the love relationship that God desires with each of His children remains mysterious, but amazing nonetheless. The school of marriage can make us more effective in sharing the love of God revealed in the Gospel.

"Marriage, a union for life, is a symbol of the union between Christ and His church. The spirit that Christ manifests toward His church is the spirit that the husband and wife are to manifest toward each other. If they love God supremely, they will love each other in the Lord. . . . In their mutual self-denial and self-sacrifice they will be a blessing to each other. . . .

"God wants the home to be the happiest place on earth, the very symbol of the home in heaven. Bearing the marriage responsibilities in the home, linking their interests with Jesus Christ, leaning upon His arm and His assurance, husband and wife may share a happiness in this union that angels of God commend. Marriage does not lessen their usefulness, but strengthens it." FLB 259.

 

Creation, the Fall, and the Cross 

Therefore, just as through one man sin entered the world, and death through sin, and thus death spread to all men, because all sinned. Romans 5:12, NKJV.

 

For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ all shall be made alive.
1 Corinthians 15:22, NKJV.

 

Death from the beginning has been an enemy, not a tool of the Creator to advance His Creation in some kind of theistic evolution. This has implications for grasping the fundamentals of the everlasting gospel.

"It was not that Jesus Christ came from outside, and simply stepped into our place as an outsider; but by joining Himself to us by birth, all humanity was brought together in the divine head, Jesus Christ. He suffered on the cross. Then it was the whole family in Jesus Christ that was crucified. 'For the love of Christ constraineth us; because we thus judge, that if one died for all, then were all dead,' or as the Revised Version says, 'All died.' 2 Corinthians 5:14. What we want in our experience is to enter into the fact that we did die in Him. But while it is true that Jesus Christ paid the whole price, bore every grief, was humanity itself, yet it is also true that no man receives benefit from that except he receives Christ, except he is born again. Only those who are twice born can enter into the kingdom of God. Those who are born in the flesh, must be born again, born of the Spirit, in order that what Jesus Christ did in the flesh, we may avail ourselves of, that we may really be in Him." January 6, 1896 WWP, BEST 5.

 

~Todd Guthrie

Thursday, May 07, 2020

1888 Message Study : Why Is Interpretation Needed?

https://www.1888msc.org/resources/ssi/2020-q2/why-is-interpretation-needed

"WHY IS INTERPRETATION NEEDED?"

 

 

Have you ever had a discouraging or depressing day or experience, and turned to the Bible for a promise or verse that would encourage you and lift your spirits out of darkness? I'm sure we all have. In my younger, and hopefully less insightful youth, I'd occasionally practice a method of Bible study that I've heard others use too – unfortunately. It's the, "close your eyes – pray – let the Bible fall open – point your finger blindly at a verse" method. Anybody else ever tried that method? I've actually heard some encouraging testimonies using this method – although I'd NEVER recommend it today.

 

One not so encouraging story using this method went as follows:

 

1st verse – "Judas . . . went out and hanged himself."  Matthew 27:5

          -not too encouraging, so let me try this again, and pray again – harder.

 

2nd verse – "Then Jesus said to him, 'Go and do likewise.'"  Luke 10:37

          -Wow, two in a row! Ok, Lord, I'll try this one more time!

 

3rd verse – "Jesus said to him, 'What you do, do quickly.'"  John 13:27

          -Oh no! Three strikes and you're out!

 

Clearly, this method has some pretty significant drawbacks. Our lesson is entitled, "Why is Interpretations Needed?", and our opening illustration makes that point. Approaching the Bible as above, which many of us have probably tried at one time or another, is not using the Bible the way God intended us to use it. The Bible is not a good luck charm.

 

A pastor tells the story of a Bible study group he was involved in where one of the women admitted to an illicit relationship with someone other than her husband. She justified the relationship by quoting Paul in Ephesians 4:24, "put on the NEW MAN".

 

Another youth pastor tells the story of a young man in his congregation who wanted to date one of the young women in the youth group, whose name was Grace. He saw his Biblical mandate in 1 Timothy 6:21, "Grace be with you."

 

While these true stories and illustrations are obvious to most of us, they make the point of "why is interpretation needed". Primarily because our fallen human nature will use ANY means possible or necessary to preserve self and it's position and desires. We will twist, abstract, diminish, exalt, avoid, quote, and misquote – consciously or subconsciously – any and all Bible verses to support our position, our status (think of those defending slavery misusing the Bible), our self-identity, our "group", etc.

 

Remember, Satan was quoting Scripture in his temptations of Jesus. He was mis-using actual Bible verses to tempt Jesus to fall in to his kingdom. Our fallen natures will do no less to preserve our "selves", at the expense of God's kingdom. Jesus said to His disciples that people would put them out of church, and even kill them, and believe that they were doing God's service, because they didn't know God (John 16:2-3). These will be Bible (or other "scriptures") quoting people who in the end times will believe they are doing God's will.

 

But they won't have interpreted the Bible correctly. This is why interpretation is needed. While we would all agree with the statement that, "God said it. I believe it. And that settles it for me.", we can see from all the above evidence that we need wisdom and principles and humility to see what the Bible is trying to communicate to us through the lens of our fallenness.

 

It has been accurately said that, "reading is bringing meaning to words." So, the "meaning" we bring to the words is critical. When the Bible was originally written, there were no verses, no chapter divisions, no punctuation, and there were no spaces even between the words. And all the words were in capital letters. Take for example the "interpretation" of the following phrase.

 

"GODISNOWHERE"

 

Again, in the original, no spaces between words. Does the above read, "God is no where", or, "God is now here". The answer would require "interpretation".

 

Who is speaking? Job's friends might say to Job that "God is no where" for example. Whereas Moses on Mount Sinai might say, "God is now here."

 

What is the context? As one wise apologist has said, "Never read a Bible verse!". And his point is that we should never take a Bible verse out of the surrounding "context" and misuse it. A verse without a context is a pretext – meaning – don't come and pick out a Bible verse just to fit your preconceived notions without taking in to account the setting of the particular verse.

 

Note how Ellen White was acutely aware of this principle as brought out in our lesson:

 

"In your study of the word, lay at the door of investigation your preconceived opinions and your hereditary and cultivated ideas. You will never reach the truth if you study the Scriptures to vindicate your own ideas. Leave these at the door, and with a contrite heart go in to hear what the Lord has to say to you. As the humble seeker for truth sits at Christ's feet, and learns of Him, the word gives him understanding. To those who are too wise in their own conceit to study the Bible, Christ says, 'You must become meek and lowly in heart if you desire to become wise unto salvation'.

 

Do not read the word in the light of former opinions; but, with a mind free from prejudice, search it carefully and prayerfully. If, as you read, conviction comes, and you see that your cherished opinions are not in harmony with the word, do not try to make the word fit these opinions. Make your opinions fit the word. Do not allow what you have believed or practiced in the past to control your understanding."  {MYP 260}

 

These prejudices, biases, and misinterpretations, lay at the foundation of the rejection of the 1888 message by some of our sincere Adventist pioneers:

 

"An unwillingness to yield up preconceived opinions, and to accept this truth, lay at the foundation of a large share of the opposition manifested at Minneapolis against the Lord's message through Brethren Waggoner and 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 enemy prevented them from obtaining that efficiency which might have been theirs in carrying the truth to the world, as the apostles proclaimed it after the day of Pentecost. 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."  {1888 1575.2}

 

Why is interpretation needed?  For one, to lay aside "preconceived opinions", and accept truth as the Holy Spirit presents it to us. We are all at risk of this failure, irrespective of our current "fund of knowledge", and Sunday's lesson calls our attention to this danger. And the consequences 132 years ago were that the beginning of the latter rain and the fullness of the Loud Cry were "kept away from the world"! May we not succumb to similar misinterpretation and pride of opinion today.

 

While there is much, much more that could be said about appropriate and wise interpretation, I would direct our readers to William Miller's principles of interpretation (attached as a separate file to this email). This seminal figure in the early Advent movement worked out significant founding principles, prophecies, and doctrines with His Bible and a concordance. A rich study in God's Word awaits you with these simple tools, with prayer, and with a humble spirit that the Holy Spirit can speak to.

 

~Bob Hunsaker

 

William Miller's Principles of Interpretation