Wednesday, November 09, 2005

Sabbath School Insights No. 7, Qtr 4-05

Special Insights No. 7

Fourth Quarter 2005 Adult Sabbath School Lessons

“Ephesians: The Gospel of Relationships”

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

“God’s Mystery: The Universal Fellowship”



The Jews had the grandest resume/endorsement from God of any people on earth. As our Lesson reminds us, they were a “holy people,.... chosen.... to be a people for Himself, a special treasure above all the peoples who are on the face of the earth” (Deut. 14:2). But Israel ran with this and developed the most exclusionary culture the world had known. Why? Their natural human hearts were as sinful as of anybody else.


They translated the Gospel into the very opposite of what love is (agape) and were so proud they actually hated the rest of the world. God had chosen them to be His missionary people to reach the world with Good News; they became the most anti-Good News people the world has ever known, even murdering the Author of the Gospel (a lesson for all who profess to follow Him!). Israel’s story is the most astounding violation of founding-principle any nation has ever demonstrated.


It is most astonishing because the Lord had proclaimed to their “father” Abraham the seven promises that make the New Covenant (Gen. 12:2, 3), which included the assurance that “you shall be a blessing” to all nations. From their first beginning, Israel were to be a missionary people. When they came out of slavery in Egypt and arrived at Mt Sinai, they turned the New Covenant on its head and invented their own Old Covenant to take its place, promising obedience like fickle Peter’s later promise never to “deny” His Lord (Matt. 26:33, 34). Like Peter, ancient Israel fell flat on their face.


Our Tuesday’s Lesson notes that it is “not to this world only but to the universe [that] we are to make manifest the principles of [Christ’s] kingdom.” While we are doing it, could we also “make manifest [those] principles” to the current Jews and Palestinians in constant bloody conflict? We probably think of ourselves as too insignificant to make an appreciable impact on Ariel Sharon and Abbas. But is that God’s intention? Am I thinking a “big idea” too big for reality (cf. Evangelism, p. 169, “preach so that the people can catch hold of big ideas”)? Can the teaching of Seventh-day Adventists electrify the world? Can it hit the front pages of newspapers and get on the evening news? Can it “lighten the earth with glory”(Rev. 18:1, 2)? Can we be what the Lord told Abraham his descendants would be—“a blessing” to all nations, including Israel, the Palestinians, and Iraq? Are we somebody important-to-be?


The answer has to be an unswerving YES!

Such a “big idea” does not convert the world—that won’t happen, we know, but for sure it’s a proclamation of truth so clear that it acts upon warring populations as that “other angel ascending from the east, having the seal of the living God.” “With a loud voice” he commands the four angels to hold their four winds of warfare, hatred, and strife, until God “seal[s His] servants.... on their foreheads” (Rev. 7:1-3). (An “angel,” remember, = a “most precious” message.) Don’t let the message be muffled—there may be tragic consequences.


The sealing message has a direct effect on the “holding” of terrorism and international strife. Two world wars, for example, can testify to negligence in proclaiming that special message which prepares a people for the close of probation—the sealing message. “In a great degree” it eluded us. Our God-given task is specific: prepare a people for the second coming of Christ and do it in this generation. If we will do so, the Lord has promised He will do his part: He will tell those “four angels,” “Hold, hold, hold, hold!” their “four winds” until the sealing work is completed (Early Writings, p. 38). Tuesday’s lesson emphasizes that this should happen now, not wait another century for us to wake up and do it.


What does Paul’s letter to the Ephesians have to do with this work?

Much, because Ephesians 3 in particular is concerned with God’s people reaching the zenith of character development which means being “filled with all the fullness of God” (vs. 19). That’s not perfection of the flesh (which is a heresy!) but Christlikeness of character—manifested in the church as a body. That’s why Ephesians belongs with Daniel and Revelation; it’s a message for the last days proclaimed by the Bride-to-be of Christ. Tuesday’s lesson zeroes in on this idea of something happening in the church which is also “through the church”(Eph. 3:10)—repentance in and of the church as a body. Long said to be impossible, it has to come, and it will. Our Seventh-day Adventist church in Germany and Austria is demonstrating how it can come; they have hit the papers.


That means the sealing message is not proclaimed by a handful of zealots scattered almost invisible in the church, but it’s by the corporate body of the church. It means the church will at last be united in their understanding of the message! In other words, Tuesday’s Lesson makes clear that it’s God’s purpose that the entire body of the church be united in their heart-appreciation for the sacrifice of Christ as no corporate body in history has been so united, so grown-up in their understanding of the atonement. At last, they comprehend something—what it cost the Son of God to save this world. And that constrains them.


What Sunday-keeping churches just can’t see.

Paul’s prayer is that we might comprehend the grand dimensions of this agape-love of Christ (3:14-19). It’s no fault of theirs they can’t see it—the false doctrine of natural immortality they inherited from Romanism (and eventually paganism) hides their eyes from “comprehending” the kind of death Christ died on His cross. We have yet to become united in our understanding of what happened there, but the Holy Spirit is working. We have a unique New Covenant message to proclaim to “all nations.” It will arrest the attention of every honest soul in the world.


This week, may the Lord bless as we study deeply into what it’s all about. Ephesians has truth woven into it that is electrifying. Claim the “eyesalve” of discernment that Jesus has promised to give you on condition of repentance (Rev. 3:18, 19).

Robert J. Wieland


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