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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