Thursday, December 22, 2005

Sabbath School Insights No. 13, Qtr 4-05

Special Insights No. 13

Fourth Quarter 2005 Adult Sabbath School Lessons

“Ephesians: The Gospel of Relationships”

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

“The Christian Armor”



Our lesson is a continuation of Paul’s letter to the Ephesians in which he counsels his audience to apply the theological truths he has presented in chapters 1-4. Specifically, this portion dealing with the metaphor of Roman armor makes plain how knowing God’s message will prepare the believer for the conflict with evil and Satan. As believers this side of 1844 it is crucial that we understand how each spiritual weapon is exercised and interacts with the whole armor because of Christ’s work of cleansing the Heavenly Sanctuary.


“As the typical cleansing of the earthly was accomplished by the removal of the sins by which.... [the earthly sanctuary] had been polluted, so the actual cleansing of the heavenly is to be accomplished by the removal, or blotting out, of the sins which are there recorded. But before this can be accomplished there must be an examination of the books of record to determine who, through repentance of sin and faith in Christ, are entitled to the benefits of His atonement.....


“Those who are living upon the earth when the intercession of Christ shall cease in the sanctuary above are to stand in the sight of a holy God without a mediator. Their robes must be spotless, their characters must be purified from sin by the blood of sprinkling..... while the sins of penitent believers are being removed from the sanctuary, there is to be a special work of purification, of putting away of sin, among God’s people upon earth” (The Great Controversy, pp.  421, 422, 425).


It is imperative that this work of overcoming sin in the believer’s life, or blotting out of sin, be understood as a primary need for the spiritual armor Paul speaks of in our passage (Eph. 6:13). The alternative is to believe that we are to fight the good fight of faith as best as we can without any purpose. What good will it do us to believe in God if we cannot overcome the enemy?


Given this basis, the individual pieces of armor take on a fresh view.


The Belt of Truth: Just as the belt was the foundation of the soldier’s defense, so the truth is for the Christian. But note what Paul has identified as the truth:

1. We are predestined to be “holy and without blame” (1:4).

2. We are adopted by Jesus Christ (1:5).

3. We are “accepted in the Beloved” (1:6).

4. We have redemption through His blood and forgiveness (1:7).

These are not idle statements! They are reality in Christ. What firmer foundation could we have to dispel the lies of Satan?


The Breastplate of Righteousness: What has Paul said about Christ’s righteousness earlier?

1. We who were dead in sin have been made alive in Christ (Rom. 6:11, 1 Cor. 15:22).

2. We are Christ’s workmanship, created for good works (Eph. 6:13).


All our guilt and sin have been taken to the grave by our Savior. We are not righteous in ourselves, yet we are made obedient and alive in Christ. We need not fear our past or our weaknesses.


The Feet of the Gospel of Peace: What peace does the gospel bring that would prepare us to impact a sinful world?

1. Christ remains faithful to His covenant (Eph. 2:12) and draws all to Him because He has died to self as us as our substitute.

2. Christ has abolished the hatred, not just between Jew and Gentile, but first the enmity between man and God, which makes all reconciliation possible between all different factions among men (see A. T. Jones, 1895 General Conference Bulletin, sermon No. 11).


Our mission is to preach and facilitate peace because we are not at war with God, thus there is no need for strife with one another, contrary to Satan’s wishes.


The Shield of Faith: The shield is our defense against Satan’s doubts and temptations. But how does it defend us? Jesus asks us to BELIEVE.

1. Believe that what He has done is truly done.

2. Believe that He is able to do all that He has promised:

a. Deliver us from sin.

b. Establish His righteousness in our daily lives.

c. Empower us to reach the world with the gospel of peace.


How can Satan triumph over us if we truly appreciate Jesus for who He is and what He has done?


These weapons, with those we will study next week, equip us to fight the enemy who would rob us of our salvation from sin, from the heritage Christ has given us, and cripple us from sharing these blessings with others. Yet it must be repeated. Without our understanding of what the fight is about and the context in which it is waged, the weapons are feeble and unproductive. Notice how A. T. Jones and E. J. Waggoner (the “1888 messengers”) saw both the challenge and the glorious truth in Jesus:


“When Christ covers us with the robe of His own righteousness, He does not furnish a cloak for sin, but takes the sin away. And this shows that the forgiveness of sins is something more than a mere form, something more than a mere entry in the books of record in heaven, to the effect that the sin has been canceled. The forgiveness of sins is a reality; it is something tangible, something that vitally affects the individual. It actually clears him from guilt; and if he is cleared from guilt, is justified, made righteous, he has certainly undergone a radical change. He is, indeed, another person” (Waggoner, Christ and His Righteousness, p. 74, new ed.).


“If you are in any way connected with this world in spirit, in mind, in thought, in wishes, in inclinations.... a hair’s breadth, a connection with the world as thin as a hair, will rob you of the power that there must be in this call that will warn the world against this evil power of the world, so that they shall be utterly separated from it” (Jones, 1893 General Conference Bulletin,  p. 123).


“Brethren, He is a glorious salvation to those who are free from iniquity. Let Him cleanse us from iniquity now, that when His glory appears we will not be consumed, but changed into His glorious likeness itself. That is what He wants” (ibid., p. 115).

Robert Van Ornam


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