Thursday, December 29, 2005

Upcoming Conference in Hayward, CA

The 1888 Message
Spiritual Encouragement for You

December 29-31, 2005
(Thursday evening - Saturday night)

Hayward Seventh-day Adventist Church
26400 Gading Road, Hayward, California
Church phone: (510) 782-3422

Thursday evening: 7:00 p.m.
Friday: 9:30 a.m. (all day and evening)
Sabbath: 9:15 a.m. (all day and evening)

Pastor Paul Penno, Robert J. Wieland
Arlene Hill, Dan Peters


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Wednesday, December 28, 2005

Sabbath School Insights No. 14, Qtr 4-05

Special Insights No. 14

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 Communion and Conduct” 


As we say goodbye to our fourth quarter’s Sabbath School Lessons, we do not say goodbye to Paul’s beautiful letter to the Ephesians. It has become our life long friend. We shall often re-read it. It’s the purest Good News and deserves a lifetime of our love.


The Lesson Study Guide by John M. Fowler has been excellent historic SDA instruction. Our weekly contributions have supplemented these truths with “insights” from the “most precious” “beginning” of the Loud Cry and the latter rain message that the Lord sent to us in 1888.


There is special “good news” about the “helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit,.... [and] praying always,.... being watchful.” It’s not a difficult battle we have to fight. Many new Christians are afraid that they can’t hold up. But the assurance of Jesus still holds good even while we face the last great conflict: “My yoke is easy, and My burden is light” (Matt. 11:30). Why does He say that for these trying times? Could He be deceiving us? No! The “third angel’s message in verity” is GOOD News, not Bad!


Paul describes all this in military language that fits the Roman soldier’s daily armor. When he has slept for the night and rises in the morning, the first thing he meets is all that armor laid in his path—he can’t take a step unless he sees it and is reminded to put it on. So the love (agape) of Christ is so constant that He is personally concerned about each of us getting up in the morning! If we read Isaiah 50:4 we see that He takes the initiative to confront us the moment we wake up every morning—“here’s your armor—put it on!” He has an intimate care for you. Unless we have banished the Holy Spirit from our consciousness (which God forbid!), He daily reminds us anew of our need for a spiritual “helmet” and “sword.” You don’t start your new day by dialing His telephone; He starts your new day by ringing yours! Let’s learn to listen! This Good News is so good that many hesitate to believe that the Lord loves them so much that He actually takes the initiative in meeting them individually each new morning.


When Paul asks the brethren and sisters to pray for him that in his witnessing he might “speak boldly, as I ought to speak,” he is revealing how every true ambassador for Jesus constantly feels unworthy of the blessing of the Lord to be a teacher or a pastor, or even to know how to visit a sick person or give an effective simple Bible study. If you forget how much is your need, you fall flat on your face even though the people may unwisely praise you.


“Wrestling” in this warfare appears to be very painful and difficult. It is, but only if you forget Jesus. Kneel with Him in Gethsemane, hear Him cry to His father, see Him sweat those drops of blood; “watch with Me one hour” He says. Alexander the Great’s soldiers loved each battle for they knew they would win with him as their commander. We can love these “battles”!


Now, let’s review how the message of Ephesians contains the unique, long-lost 1888 truths that must yet lighten the earth with glory (Rev. 18:1-4):


1.  The Father has chosen us, predestined us to be saved, adopted us “in Christ,” granted us the gift (more than mere offer) of justification in Him (1:3-7; 2:4-9, 13). We can refuse through unbelief, but if we do not resist, He will bring us all the way into the New Jerusalem (see Steps to Christ, p. 27). This is not forcing everyone to go to heaven, no; but Christ is already “the Savior of all men, especially of those who believe” (1 Tim. 4:10). Don’t “despise” or “sell” your birthright He has given you!


2. The great dimensions of the love (agape) of Christ are revealed in His sacrifice, in His life, and His death on His cross (3:14-18). When we learn to appreciate those dimensions of His love, we are prepared for translation at the second coming of Jesus (vss. 19-21), because to be “filled with all the fullness of God” is the ultimate. That’s why Ephesians belongs with Daniel and Revelation as present truth for these last days!


3. Christ took our fallen, sinful flesh, yet “abolished in His flesh the enmity” that is natural for all of us for we have the same flesh which He took (2:15; Heb. 2:14). That truth ushers us into the Most Holy Apartment of the sanctuary where Christ is performing His final work of reconciling hearts to God. This is most precious present truth! We hunger for it!


4. If we find it difficult to forgive “and be kind to one another, tenderhearted,” all we have to do is to remember, yes remember, “just as God in Christ also forgave you” (4:32). Again we look at Him on His cross! It is He who “sanctifies” us, and we cooperate with Him. We LET Him do it! We stop hindering Him!


May the Lord bless your new life of love for Ephesians!

Robert J. Wieland


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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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Wednesday, December 14, 2005

Sabbath School Insights No. 12, Qtr 4-05

Special Insights No. 12

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 Warfare”


There is an intense wrestling match underway in the heart and mind of every son and daughter of Adam. The war is not primarily an external battle with worldly influences and hostile people (flesh and blood) under Satan’s generalship who might oppose you, but it is an internal battle that has its roots in the Fall in Eden. Seldom do we hear that the real enemy that must be conquered is our own self. It is true that we are being agitated by unseen wicked powers, but they depend own controlling our lower nature infected with the law of sin.


The Quarterly made a slight allusion to this internal battle in the recommended scripture texts on the lesson’s title page, but no further comments were made on Romans 7:15-20. We will briefly examine this warfare that Christ endured and conquered, just as every child of Adam may be victorious by uniting with the omnipotence of Christ for the glory of His name.


Paul and the Man in Romans 7. There is an assertion by some that the man in Romans 7 is Paul in his unconverted state who wants to serve the law but finds that the law of sin in his members always seems to overrule the determination of his mind. Others assert that this desperate man is Paul in his converted state. Clearly the man is converted to the holiness of God and His law. Ellen White suggests that Paul found the victory in the Lamb of God who comes in the likeness of sinful flesh and who takes away the sin of the world.


“[Paul] longed for the purity, the righteousness, to which in himself he was powerless to attain, and cried out, ‘O wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me from this body of death?’ Romans 7:24, margin. Such is the cry that has gone up from burdened hearts in all lands and in all ages. To all, there is but one answer, ‘Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world.’ John 1:29” (Steps to Christ, p. 19).


The Law of Sin in Romans 7. The hopeless predicament of man’s fallen nature is succinctly summarized in Romans 7 with phrases such as “sin that dwells within me,” and “I see another law in my members warring against the law of my mind, and bringing me into captivity to the law of sin which is in my members.” God provides the solution for those who desire to be “delivered from this body of death.” For those who abide in Christ “the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus” will set them “free from the law of sin and death” (Rom. 8:2).


The basis for this deliverance could only have been accomplished by uniting the human nature infected with the law of sin with the divine nature of the Son of God, which resulted in the incarnation of the Son of God. Although the divine prerogatives of the Son of God were laid aside, His inherent divinity qualified Him to unite with and partake of the divine power of His Father. So God sent “His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, on account of sin: He condemned [the] sin in the flesh” (vs. 3). The definite article “the” is employed in the Greek text to emphasize the condemnation of the “law of sin” dwelling in fallen man, not simply the generic problem of sinning. [If you would like supplementary information on the “likeness of sinful flesh,” it is presented below.]


Divinity Combined with Humanity. The contention is often set forth that if Christ took a human nature infected with the law of sin then he would, of necessity, have had to sin. But every child of Adam comes into the world not only infected with sin, but also disconnected from God and divine power. At the very inception of the incarnation, the incarnate Son of God was perfectly united with His Father’s divine power. He came into the world differently than every other child of Adam. This is why he is our Savior. “In Christ is life, original, unborrowed, underived. ‘He that hath the Son hath life.’ 1 John 5:12. The divinity of Christ is the believer's assurance of eternal life” (The Desire of Ages, p. 530). Yes, Christ began life with a distinct advantage over every other child of Adam. But that same advantage is given to all who choose to abide in Christ. The sinner may begin life anew, in Christ, united with divine power.


“By taking humanity and combining it with divinity, He was able to meet every demand of the law of God, to overcome every objection which Satan had made prominent as standing in the way of man’s obedience to God’s commandments”(14 MR, p. 83).


“He came as a helpless babe, bearing the humanity we bear. ‘As the children are partakers of flesh and blood, he also himself likewise took part of the same.’ He could not come in the form of an angel; for unless He met man as man, and testified by His connection with God that divine power was not given to Him in a different way to what it will be given to us, He could not be a perfect example for us. He came in humility, in order that the humblest being upon the face of the earth could have no excuse because of his poverty, or ignorance, and say, “Because of these things, I cannot obey the law of Jehovah.” Christ clothed His divinity with humanity, that humanity might touch humanity; that He might live with humanity and bear all the trials and afflictions of man. He was tempted in all points like as we are, yet without sin. In His humanity He understood all the temptations that will come to man” (MS 21, 1895; SDA Bible Commentary, vol. 7, p. 925).


“Satan had claimed that it was impossible for man to obey God’s commandments; and in our own strengfth it is true that we cannot obey them. But Christ came in the form of humanity, and by His perfect obedience He proved that humanity and divinity combined can obey every one of God’s precepts” (Christ’s Object Lessons, p. 314).


The key ingredient for success in the Christian warfare is what “God did in sending His own Son in the like ness of sinful flesh” and by so doing He condemned the sin in the flesh. The victory is yours by uniting your humanity with His divinity. “Speak comfort to Jerusalem, and cry unto her, that her warfare is ended, that her iniquity is pardoned” (Isa. 40:2). A. T. Jones and E. J. Waggoner, in proclaiming the “most precious message” in the aftermath of the Minneapolis 1888 General Conference, were most articulate and explicit in setting forth this fundamental truth of the gospel.

John W. Peters


 “Likeness of Sinful Flesh”

For Further Study


From the contextual flow of the passage (Rom. 8:3), even without the definite article (“the”), the ordinary reader would naturally come to the conclusion that God conquered the problem of the “law of sin” in the flesh (sinful nature) through the gift of His Son coming in the likeness of sinful flesh. The equivalency of man’s sinful nature with Christ coming in the “likeness of sinful flesh” appears to be the thrust of the following two statements.


“‘For what the law could not do, in that it was weak through the flesh,’—it could not justify man, because in his sinful nature he could not keep the law,—‘God sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, and for sin, condemned sin in the flesh: that the righteousness of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit.’ Rom. 5:1; 3:31; 8:3, 4” (Review and Herald, Oct. 17, 1907).


The sinful nature of man was weak, and he was prone to the transgression of God’s commandments. Man had not the power to do the words of God; that is why Christ came to our world, that He might give him moral power. There was no power in heaven or in earth but the power of Christ that could deliver from the [sentence illegible in original]. He came to meet the difficulty and to remove it. His own arm brought salvation. God sent forth His Son in the likeness of sinful flesh that He might condemn sin in the flesh and reveal the fact to heaven, to the worlds unfallen and also the fallen world, that through the power of divine grace, through partaking of the divine nature, man need no longer stand under the curse of the law or remain in transgression” (14 MR, p. 82).


The word, “likeness” (homoioma), has been the subject of much theological debate, but should simply be understood as it is in Philippians 2:7 where He came “in the likeness of men.” He came as real man, but not simply just a man; He was also God manifest in the flesh, deity and humanity combined. Therefore the word likeness is enjoined to emphasize the uniqueness of Jesus Christ. The same rationale for the word, “likeness,” applies to Romans 8:3 as well. We are warned against making Christ “altogether human, such as one as ourselves.” Thus Paul invoked the word, homoioma, not only in reference to His deity, but also to set Him forth as “holy, harmless, undefiled, and separate from sinners” in taking our fallen sinful flesh (Heb. 7:26).


“The incarnation of Christ has ever been, and will ever remain a mystery. That which is revealed, is for us and for our children, but let every human being be warned from the ground of making Christ altogether human, such an one as ourselves; for it cannot be. The exact time when humanity blended with divinity, it is not necessary for us to know. We are to keep our feet on the Rock Christ Jesus, as God revealed in humanity” (SDA Bible Commentary, vol. 5, p. 1128).


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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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