Wednesday, December 07, 2005

Sabbath School Insights No. 11, Qtr 4-05

Special Insights No. 11

Fourth Quarter 2005 Adult Sabbath School Lessons

“Ephesians: The Gospel of Relationships”

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

“Christian Relationships”


The Scriptures covered this week are Ephesians 5:21-33, 6:1-9. Here the overriding and guiding principle is Christian submission in the home, in the church, and in the social structure of whatever society is present at any given time in earth’s history. This lesson deals with “the obedience of faith” that comes from believing the revelation of the “mystery of God” (compare Rom. 16:25-26).


History reveals that Christianity, in general, has a bad record of interpersonal relationships. It was not always that way. In the early church, believers were known by pagans as those who had been with Jesus (see Acts 4:13). And they noted how they loved one another as commanded by Jesus (John 15:12).


There is a relationship between what we believe and how we behave toward one another. The message and experience of righteousness by faith will be depicted in our lives. If our faith comes from a heart that appreciates Jesus, our relationships with family and community will be observable in our treatment of people. On the other hand, if faith is merely an intellectual exercise, or a doctrine to be defended, it will be expressed in the way we relate negatively to others in our attitudes, words, and actions.


In chapter six Paul likens the church to a soldier. In the latter part of the chapter he writes about the gospel armor and frontline fighting which is “the good fight of faith.” Ephesians 6:1-9 presents the boot-camp training in the Lord’s army for children and parents, also for slaves and masters, to prepare them for coming battles, especially the last one. As soldiers, children are to obey their parents; as commanders, parents are to properly discipline and instruct their children (Eph. 6:1-4).


What does this military metaphor have to do with the study of relationships? Much in every way. The relationships even in Christian homes and churches are more like a battlefield, rather than what they should be. All too often persons lay out their strategy for control. It is either “my” authority or none. “My way or the highway,” as one pundit opined.


These lessons are especially for us, because both Heaven and Hell are about to be let loose on planet earth in the last great battle between Christ and Satan, just before Heaven’s General triumphantly enters earth’s atmosphere. Those who submit to Heaven’s orders will come off more than conquerors through Christ, while those who force their way upon others shall be unsheltered from the wrath of hell. If God’s people were as devoted to one another as Christ is to the Church, there would be no submission problem.


If our families, or our churches, are like a war zone the military armor presented by Paul (Eph. 6:13-17) is the only way to bring peace. Peace is first of all the absence of fighting. Then comes a sense or feeling of peace. Both come from heart-felt belief in the message of Christ and His righteousness. This is because the work of Christ’s “righteousness will be peace, and the effect of righteousness quietness and assurance forever.” “Having been justified, by faith we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ” (Isa. 32:17; Rom. 5:1).


Christ’s righteousness is always manifested in Christian households where husbands and wives are submissive to one another and where children are obedient to their parents. Christ’s righteousness is vital to the well being of society, because as the home functions for good (or for ill), so goes the church, the city, the state, and the nation.


The home is under attack today, both from within and from without. The only hope is through the humbling message of Christ and His justifying righteousness that lays the glory of men and women in the dust and then does for them that which they cannot do for themselves (see Testimonies for Ministers and Gospel Workers [TM], p. 456).


In Ephesians 5:21-33 Paul likens the church to a wife and Christ to a husband. Here he deals with the what and the how of submissiveness regarding husbands and wives in their loving relationship to one another. Wives are to submit to their husbands as the church submits to Christ. Husbands are to love their wives as they love their own bodies. And husbands are to love their wives as Christ loves the church and submitted Himself to the death of the cross for her. Jesus was obedient unto death for His body, the church. He now lives to make her holy and clean. He will someday present her to Himself as a glorious bride without spot or wrinkle. All stains in her character will be removed; all wrinkles in her character will be ironed out. Today we are either in the washing machine or on the ironing board, to learn lessons, especially, of submission to one another as the fruit of justification by faith.


A lesson for God’s people in the last days is to be learned, because in the last remnant of time there will be abuses of authority that have never been witnessed before in human history. The only hope for anyone in the last days will be in Christ, our righteousness, our strong tower of defense. He is our argument, our doctrine, our mighty weapon. The message of hope, in Christ, must penetrate the world as God commanded 117 years ago (TM 91-92), in order to prepare His people for whatever situation they find themselves in the trying times ahead. We have seen only the tip of the iceberg of man’s capability of inhumanity when the enemy of God has complete control of those who reject God’s last saving message for this end time of the world.


On the other hand, Joel paints a word picture of those soldiers of peace who accept the counsel of righteousness by faith from the true Witness: “They run like mighty men; they climb the wall like men of war; everyone marches in formation, and they do not break ranks. They do not push one another; everyone marches in his own column. And when they lunge between the weapons, they are not cut down” (2:7-8).


What a picture of God’s army of believers! Having been mightily shaken, they now march in exact order with no breaking of ranks. This will be brought about by the instructions of the Holy Spirit in the Loud Cry of the third angel (see Early Writings, pp. 270-271). The weapons of hell will have no effect on the soldiers of the Lord’s army clothed in His armor.


In that day there will be no arguments over who is in control of family or church. No boasting of who is greatest. God’s message of Christ’s righteousness will produce humility of heart and it will produce loving submission to one another, beginning in the home, then in the church, and after this in every segment of society. This is the relationship produced by the righteousness of Christ. “Belivest thou this.”

Gerald L. Finneman


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