Wednesday, September 28, 2005

Sabbath School Insights No. 1, Qtr 4-05

Special Insights No. 1

Fourth Quarter 2005 Adult Sabbath School Lessons

“Ephesians: The Gospel of Relationships”

(Produced by the Editorial Board of the 1888 Message Study Committee)

“The Church at Ephesus





Welcome to three months of study of Ephesians! What motivated Paul to such devotion to Christ? That’s what we want to learn this new Quarter as we study “Ephesians.”


The intensity of his devotion to the Lord makes people afraid. They think it may be fanaticism. If he gets to heaven on a first-class ticket, let him have all the grand mansions in the New Jerusalem that he deserves. Ordinary people can’t match such all-out devotion; they want a third-class ticket—just so they end up somewhere inside, maybe to sleep on the grass; a shack somewhere would be fine just so long as it’s inside the pearly gates. Leave us alone in our comfortable semi-devotion.


Actually, these people don’t know it, but what they want is the “lukewarm” path that Jesus speaks of “to the angel of the church of the Laodiceans” (Rev. 3:15, 16; a closer rendering of the Greek would be, “You make Me so sick at My stomach, I feel like throwing up!”).


This half-and-half spirit disappoints Jesus, for Paul’s devotion to Christ was the appropriate response of any believing sinner to the tremendous self-sacrifice of Christ in giving Himself for us. Water merely reached its own level in Paul.


May the lessons this quarter be so clear that many will be privileged to see what Paul saw; for it was what he saw that motivated him.


The source that stirs him is the extravagant love of Christ for him and for us: “The love of Christ constrains us” (vs. 14; cf. KJV). Paul saw clearly what that love means. Its dimensions have captured his soul; nothing the world can offer him henceforth can compare.


Transcending the vagaries of emotion that is up one day and down the next, solid logic has captured Paul’s soul forever: “We judge thus: that if One died for all, then all died” (vs. 14), Just that simple!


It’s an inescapable equation: all men belong to be dead! All men would be dead if One had not died for them. That puts “all men” under a common obligation, and Paul simply recognized the truth of it.


He has reckoned that he does not belong to himself. What he realizes he deserves is only the grave, so everything he has that is better than a grave has to be a gift of God’s grace occasioning joy and gratitude.


Here is the Paul who writes this letter “to the Ephesians.” He has to share the treasure he has found “in Christ.”


Paul had been a thorough-going fanatic. A steel armor encased his heart. He tasted the depths of a hellish hatred of the Messiah. Living before our time, no one has ever known more intimately the “dragon’s rage with the woman [and].... the rest of her offspring, who keep the commandments of God and have the testimony of Jesus Christ” (cf. Rev. 12:17), than Saul of Tarsus.


If he had not been converted when he was, he would very likely have authored the most devilish books of anti-Christ theology in the teachings of the Great Apostasy of the Dark Ages which he described (2 Thess. 2:1-10).


In a flash, all the learning of his Jewish scholarly past came into focus in that vision: Jesus of Nazareth is the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world! That “light.... brighter than the sun” was a vision of the cross of Christ. Every brain cell was flooded with an intensity of brilliant light; decades of distorted, perverted twistings of biblical truth suddenly were clarified. A panorama flashed like a bright video before his soul’s eyes—“Christ and Him crucified.”


That vision on the road to Damascus explains his life-long obsession with the preaching of the cross. Thank God, he is proclaiming it to us also in these last days as we now open the Letter to the Ephesians.


Taken from the new book, EPHESIANS: YOU’VE BEEN “ADOPTED,” by Robert J. Wieland. Available from the 1888 Message Study Committee, (269) 473-1888, Special introductory price: $6.95 pus S&H.


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Wednesday, September 21, 2005

Sabbath School Insights No. 13, Qtr 3-05

Special Insights No. 13

Third Quarter 2005 Adult Sabbath School Lessons

“The Spiritual Life”

(Produced by the Editorial Board of the 1888 Message Study Committee)

“King of Kings and Lord of Lords”



1. Jesus always said that He was “meek and lowly in heart” (Matt. 11:29). Why now does He change His personality and choose to come in the grandest arrival of the most exalted Person ever known in the history of the universe?


Answer: This is not His personal choice. This high honor has been conferred upon Him: “Wherefore God also hath highly exalted Him, and given Him a name which is above every name,.... that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord to the glory of God the Father” (Phil. 2:9-11, KJV). This is a development in sacred history that He dare not refuse to participate in, because in reality it is “to the glory of.... the Father,” says Paul.


2. Why should the Father grant this unprecedented honor to Jesus?


Answer: Because Jesus is the only Person in all the wide universe who has “poured out His soul unto death” (Isa. 53:12). There have been many people in history who have given their lives in order to help or save others—for example unselfish soldiers in wars. No one in time and eternity has chosen to sacrifice himself as Jesus did, for others.


3. There have been many unselfish people in history who have given their lives for the good of others, or to save them from death, as for example soldiers in battle. Why is this death of Jesus so special? For example, we in this country owe our peace and tranquility to brave men who died in wars like our Revolutionary War, our Civil War, World Wars I and II, etc. Is it because Christ was divine, and everybody else has been merely human?


Answer: As “Emmanuel,.... God with us,” only Christ was capable of “pouring out His soul unto death.” No merely human person could ever do it! All that any purely human person could ever do for someone else was to go to sleep for him, for death is a sleep (John 11:11-14; 1 Thess. 4:16, 17). Jesus only was both human and divine. Only a divine person could “pour out His soul unto death.”


4. Why? Will the answer tell us why Jesus is to be so very highly honored?


Answer: The death unto which Jesus “poured out His soul” was very different than the death we know that comes to all. It was not the death that soldiers die on the battlefield. It was the second death.


5. But what is so different about the second death, and the first death that we all know? Is it because the second death must take place in a lake of fire? If so, Jesus didn’t die that way! (Cf. Rev. 20:12-15).


Answer: We distort the meaning of that passage in Revelation if we conclude that the anguish of the lost will be the Fahrenheit or Centigrade temperature of the fire. The second death is not merely physical torture. The pain will be the judgment of verse 12 when the sacred books are “opened” and the lost finally see themselves as they have been all along. The horror of self-condemnation that results will be unimaginable, far worse than fire.


6. Does God inflict this torture on these unfortunate people?


Answer: Some who love the Bible say yes, some say no. For the lost, it will in reality be their own conscience that can’t help but see the contrast between their sinful character and the character of Christ. In that final hour, God doesn’t need to press home on those people the truth: they will see it in the most stark reality they have ever known. The Great Controversy says they will be horrified to sense their own judgment (pp. 666-668). They will welcome the fire that will end their soul agony.


7. Has anyone in the past ever felt that same agony of soul?


Answer: Yes, the Son of God felt just what they will feel. It was when He cried out on His cross, “My God, why hast Thou forsaken Me?” (Matt. 27:46). So terrible was His anguish that He felt the curse of God (Gal. 3:13). He was “made to be sin for us, who knew no sin” (2 Cor. 5:21). Because He endured this ultimate level of suffering, it is right that He be acclaimed “King of kings and Lord of lords.”


8. Does our Lesson 13 tell us the reason why Christ’s second coming seems to be so long delayed?


Answer: No; it takes a neutral stance. Scholars debate back and forth whether there has been any kind of delay; some feel that the Lord is well pleased with our progress and that we as a church are fulfilling our duty so well that we are “right on schedule.” Some believe that the Father has pre-appointed a time for Christ to return, and nothing can delay or hasten it. Some believe that Peter tells us it is in our power to hasten it (2 Peter 3:12). Ellen White quotes that statement: “By giving the gospel to the world it is in our power to hasten our Lord’s return [then she quotes Peter]..... Had the church of Christ done her appointed work as the Lord ordained, the whole world would before this have been warned, and the lord Jesus would have come to our earth in power and great glory” (The Desire of Ages, pp. 633, 634).


9. Is there some relationship between the 1888 message and the long delay in Christ’s return?


Answer: Yes; she declares that the Lord sent the 1888 message as “the beginning” of the long awaited Loud Cry of Revelation 18, which also meant, she says, that He sent with it incipient “showers from heaven of the latter rain” (Review and Herald, Nov. 22, 1892; Special Testimonies, Series A, No. 6, p. 19). She declared in 1893 that the gospel commission could have been completed by then if “our” 1888 unbelief had not interfered (General Conference Bulletin, 1893, p. 419).


10. Before Christ can be declared and crowned “King of kings and Lord of lords,” is a repentance of His people to become a present blessing?


Answer: Yes; Ellen White declares in the context of the 1888 message that “there will be great humbling of hearts before God on the part of every one who remains faithful and true to the end” (Ms. 15, 1888; quoted in A. V. Olson, Through Crisis to Victory, p. 297).


11. What studies await us in our next Quarter of Lessons?


Answer: Heart-warming, good news messages from Paul’s “most precious” letter to the Ephesians. This letter from Paul firmly supports the unique concepts that permeate the 1888 message of Christ’s righteousness.

Robert J. Wieland


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Wednesday, September 14, 2005

Sabbath School Insights No. 12, Qtr 3-05

Special Insights No. 12

Third Quarter 2005 Adult Sabbath School Lessons

“The Spiritual Life”

(Produced by the Editorial Board of the 1888 Message Study Committee)

“Lord of Our Service”



Service cannot be separated from Christ’s righteousness. The Lord of Our Service is “The Lord Our Righteousness.” This is the name by which we shall be called (Jer. 33:15). Jesus became “The Lord Our Righteousness” by becoming Servant of all. It was spoken of Him by the Father: “My righteous Servant shall justify many” (Isa. 53:11). It was Christ’s glory to become God’s justifying Servant. In this work of justification He glorified the Father. Christ’s act of service was His righteousness in justifying us by His death (Rom. 5:18, 9; 4:25). The Servant’s work of justification is the glory that will illuminate the world under the “Loud Cry” of Rev. 18:1 as “the Lord Our Righteousness” becomes the Lord of our service.


There is another glory contending for supremacy in these last days. This is brought to our attention in Rev. 18:2 describing Babylon’s complete fall from God’s grace. But we must not be misled here. Babylon, possessed by devils taking up full habitation within her, presenting a counterfeit social gospel, will appear to be all glorious within and without. This devil possession will not appear as some hideous monstrosity for the devil is dressed up as an angel of glorious light (see 2 Cor. 11:14).


Originally, Lucifer, as God’s servant, was the number one created light bearer of God’s reflected glory. He became Satan because he sought the glory that belongs to God alone. He wanted it all. He deliberately turned away from the true glory of service and coveted lordship apart from servanthood.


Jesus came to earth as Servant of all and thus glorified His Father and the government of heaven. He did this by investing the glory given Him back into the One who gave it. As a result He has been exalted far above Satan on the basis of humility in service. God’s glory is His service to fallen man. And it follows that a believer’s glory is heaven’s reflected light revealed in service to God and to mankind. In summation, righteousness by faith is about sharing in the glory of God, and reflecting it back to Him in service.


By the Lord Jesus all Christian service consists. Christian service is simply Christ, the indwelling and outliving Christ. “To me to live [serve] is Christ” (Phil. 2:21). Service is simply Jesus, more of Jesus and less of self. He is Lord of our service, not just a teacher, not just an example, of how to serve.


By Jesus, “the Lord Our Righteousness,” our service consists. “He who abides in Me and I in him,” said Jesus, “the same bears much fruit: for without Me you can do nothing” (John 15:5). It is not what is done for Him, in service, but by Him that counts. How much of our activity really proceeds from Him? Sometimes we think our service depends on us, our effort, our organization, our enthusiasm. We need to get our eyes onto His sufficiency and off our efficiency.


By Him all service consists. We are His witnessing servants, not His lawyers. “We preach not ourselves but Christ Jesus the Lord” (2 Cor. 4:5); not our service. I read of a church with a “JESUS ONLY” sign on its front. A storm blew out the first three letters, one night, and left “US ONLY.” That has happened in more ways than one these days. We are Christ’s servants, not His Lord. The basis of service is Jesus, our only Lord. Our service is a witness to and for Him. Some saintly professors have no witness, no service, no testimony, only an argument of “us only.” But, the mark of true service is “love to all the saints,” [and also to the ungodly of whom, at times, it easier to love than the saints]. This service springs only from “faith in Christ Jesus” (Col. 1:4).


It is possible to serve, and to not serve God without knowing it. In the parable of the great judgment day (Matt. 25:31-46) when persons, represented either by sheep or by goats, are asked what they did in the person of the needy of earth, neither group knew what they were doing or not doing. Those who were asked about the things they did not do to Christ in the person of the destitute of earth didn’t know they were serviceless. Likewise, those who did serve the Lord didn’t know it. To their surprised delight they learned they were serving Him!


In the time of the pre-Advent judgment and upon those who serve the Lord of service, in faith and faithfulness, will shine the glory of Rev. 18:1. From that reflected light of Christ’s righteousness will come heaven’s last invitation of mercy to believers still residing in Babylon, but not possessed by the glittering sophistries of spiritualism, “Come out or her My people” (Rev. 18:4). Truly, this will be “the Lord’s doing and it will be marvelous in our eyes.”


Jesus, the Lord Our Righteousness, is the Lord of Our Service, and our service is simply Christ and His glorious righteousness indwelling and outliving.

Gerald L. Finneman


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Wednesday, September 07, 2005

Sabbath School Insights No. 11, Qtr 3-05

Special Insights No. 11

Third Quarter 2005 Adult Sabbath School Lessons

“The Spiritual Life”

(Produced by the Editorial Board of the 1888 Message Study Committee)

“Lord of Our Worship”



Worship and the 1888 Message


One of the privileges of being a Seventh-day Adventist is the opportunity to engage prophetic events through the lens of history. President Harry Truman once said the only new thing in the world is the history you don’t know. Sadly, too many of us seem unable to grasp the depth and gravity of just why God willed this Movement into existence.


Just a brief review: At the conclusion of the 2300 year prophecy in 1844, we find our heavenly High Priest, Jesus Christ, entering into His final phase of cleansing in the Most Holy Place in the Sanctuary. Prior to this transition the Protestant Reformation is in a more or less holding pattern for several hundred years. In fact, the church experientially is in decline as the Enlightenment has taken a dreadful toll on the church, particularly as commitment to objective truth begins to give way to subjective experience. Man and his accomplishments are increasingly celebrated as the Industrial Revolution picks up steam and Darwinism begins to take hold.


German theologian Frederic Schleimacher becomes the modern father of historical criticism, which interfaces well with the accomplishments of man. Because there is an axiom from the early church fathers, “As man believes, so a man worships,” society’s celebration of man’s accomplishments began to affect the church’s worship through a growing “revivalism” which tended to downplay heart repentance and reformation.


Into this vacuum steps the message of Adventism that directs man’s attention away from himself to his High Priest in heaven. However, there’s a problem, a major one! There was prophecy that directed us to Christ’s heavenly ministry, but was there to be more light that would enable God’s people to enter into the spiritual maturity needed for the final cooperation with Christ in His final work of cleansing? This maturity, I believe, must find its center in heart-felt worship, first individually, and second corporately.


While there wasn’t another timeline prophecy to follow, God didn’t leave His people languishing. In probably the most well-known quote of the 1888 era, Ellen While makes it clear that God sent through brothers Jones and Waggoner a “most precious message” (Testimonies to Ministers and Gospel Workers, p. 91). This was clearly not a dusted-off version of the evangelical teaching of justification by faith. This message provided deeper insights into the extent to which God went to save the human race. Martin Luther wasn’t privileged to understand the depth of the message and neither were the great Puritan theologians. Even John Wesley’s understanding of justification by faith had a tendency to keep its adherents in the Holy Place with the veil between them and the Savior in His final phase.


According to Ellen White, this “most precious message” clears away any misunderstanding as to the distinctiveness of the message by stating that the 1888 message is “justification by faith.... its fruit is unto holiness” (Review and Herald, Sept. 3, 1889, emphasis mine). Because it is a message delivered to God’s people that is MOST precious while Jesus is in the MOST holy place, it behooves the careful student to see the correlation between the message and Jesus’ presence in His final phase. “Fruit is unto holiness” is a profoundly simple “promise” of obedience, which is the essence of worship.


Thinking of worship as obedience by faith to the truth of the gospel enables one to experience worship personally and corporately in methods and ways that honor the presence of Jesus in the Most Holy Place. Only the message of 1888 can produce such worship! At the point of heartfelt belief in the gospel, all the differences in worship styles, whether they be dull or entertainment-driven, begin to drift away.


Unfortunately, the rigid legalism of 19th century Adventism began to give way in the 20th century to the gospel understanding of those who only knew Christ in the Holy Place. The evangelical gospel has a tendency to focus only on a truncated version of the finished work of Christ. It’s incomplete, for it sees not the actual identification of Christ with the human race, but only a vicarious substitution that keeps Christ at arm’s length from those He came to save. Because of this lack of sufficient identity with the human race, the believer develops, I believe, a greater sense of independence, which is increasingly reflected in the “culturally relevant” worship. Reverence and awe begin to drift toward a celebration of self. Because the Savior is kept at arm’s length through the evangelical gospel, man increasingly behaves as the children of Israel did with the golden calf when Moses and Joshua stayed “too long” on Mt. Sinai. Man left to himself will begin to reconfigure God in his personal life, and in no area is this more easily demonstrated than in corporate worship.


Satan knows that if he can suppress the 1888 message and keep it as a historical relic to be observed and not embraced with the heart, then he can continue to nudge the church toward a worship that will so redefine God that it will make Him as irrelevant as He became in the days of Elijah. Moreover, he knows that through generating man-centered worship he can keep our eyes off the ministry of Christ in the Most Holy Place. By keeping our eyes off the High Priest, we fail to grasp the message which, as already noted, is designed to mature a people that will result in Christ’s exit from this earth. For surely then, the Bride has made herself ready (Rev. 19:7).


Let us therefore remember that it does matter what methods we choose to worship our Lord in the Most Holy Place. He is a holy God as described by Isaiah 6. This must also be reflected even in our outreach attempts, as we should be aware that “what we win them with, we win them to.”


Surely in this time of unprecedented national tragedy, it is high time that an increasingly elevated view of God be revealed in our lives and worship. On the great typical Day of Atonement it was a time of sobriety and vigilance as God’s people followed the human High Priest in His work. Dare we do less as we follow the Divine/human High Priest in His final work? The 1888 message believed in the heart is the key to that maturing cooperation.

Dale Martin


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