Wednesday, May 03, 2006

Sabbath School Insights No. 6, Qtr 2-06

Special Insights No. 6

First Quarter 2006 Adult Sabbath School Lessons

“Families in the Family of God”

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

“The Baptism of the Holy Spirit”


In reviewing thoughts on the baptism of the Holy Spirit, Wednesday’s lesson brings out a very good point. God is not inconsistent with Himself. The Holy Spirit will not contradict the Son in His work. Jesus says in John 6:28 and 29 that the work of God is to believe. And in Galatians 5:5 and 6, Paul tells us that believing (or faith—the same Greek root) works by agape. So, since God’s voice has within it inherently, the power to do what it says (Gen. 1:3), we can expect and rely upon that Word of God (only) to accomplish what He says in us who are nothing without Him (Rom. 4:17, Heb. 11:3), resulting in the Christian actually doing the works of God and possessing His righteousness dwelling within. This is the baptism of the Holy Spirit, the indwelling of the power of God bringing the new birth experience to the Christian. (Caveat: be careful how you refer to being born again because of what 1 John 3:9 says that means. The same can be said about claiming to being baptized by the Holy Spirit or being indwelt by God.)


And it is God’s Word that accomplishes His work in us. In Galatians 3 Paul tells the Galatians that they have made a shift in their thinking. They have apparently begun to rely on their “own merits,” to try to accomplish the works of God through their own initiative. We can do that today. In fact it is called Laodicea (Revelation 3). It is the fabric of a people who have become complacent in their own accomplishments, taking credit for themselves as if the accomplishments of the past were of their own doing and leaving God in the dust as they try to accomplish more on their own. And like peter we look back into the boat as if to say, “see what I am doing?”—while we begin sinking into the depths of self-righteousness. This is probably the greatest danger we have as a church.


And it is God’s Word only that accomplishes His work in us. It behooves us to remind ourselves constantly what we would be without God. Those reminders are everywhere. Just look at the newspapers—full of bad news. What we see in the news is what each of us would be doing without the word of God to hold us as He holds the worlds in space. Yes, God will hold us with His word as He holds the rest of the universe together—with a hand that will never let go. Let us remind ourselves of that constantly.


“Consider Abraham: ‘He believed, and it was credited [NIV] to him as righteousness” (Rom. 4:3, James 2:23). What did he believe? He believed the Word. He believed the word of God—and because he claimed God’s promise to make him into the Christian he needed to be to inherit the new earth—something he was not before—he was able to go forth each day with full confidence that today was going to be the best day yet, because God was in control of his life. How about you? Will you let God do that for you? Believe His Word. Believe that God’s word only can do what it says. Expect God’s word only to do what it says. And depend on God’s word only to do what it says—in you! Today! Right now! We can do this too because Galatians 3:8 reminds us that God had told Abraham that all nations would be blessed through him—and when God credits or accounts something, because His word is in it, and because it is the Word that has the power inherent within itself to create what it says—you are blessed today because you are a member of “all nations.”


The “works of the law” are only man’s attempt to accomplish God’s “work” in his own way and in his own strength—that old covenant experience of “All that you say we will do.” We need, rather, to fall on our knees and claim God’s promise to us as Abraham did. We need to tell God something like this: “I don’t know how you are going to make a Christian out of me because, from my perspective and from the perspective of what you have for me to do, it looks impossible. But you have promised to do it. And I claim your promise and hold you to your word. Now I go forth acting as if you have, are, and will complete your promise in me. Thank you for your power.” —This is the prayer of faith.


Now, Paul did not have a word for legalism, so he called this the “works of the law,” as in keeping the letter of the law, but not the spirit of it. But believing, expecting, and depending on God’s word is keeping the Spirit of the law, for this is the baptism of the Holy Spirit, who, by the way, keeps both the letter and the spirit of the law as only God can. Let Him do it in you. As Galatians 3:5 says, “He therefore.... ministereth to you the Spirit.” Go ahead, let Him do it. The just shall live by faith. You have been justified (made just or righteous; see Romans 5), and it will come true in your experience when you believe God’s promise—His Word.


In Galatians 3:1 and 2 Paul tells us how to receive the Holy Spirit. “O foolish Galatians, who hath bewitched you, that ye should not obey the truth, before whose eyes Jesus Christ hath been evidently set forth, crucified among you? This only would I learn of you, Received ye the Spirit by the works of the law, or by the hearing of faith?”


Let’s let A.T. Jones, one of the 1888 messengers, have the final word:


“Again he spoke: ‘And God said, Let there be lights in the firmament in heaven..... and it was so,’

“Again he spoke: ‘And God said, Let the earth bring forth the living creature,....  and it was so,’

“Thus it was that ‘by the word of the Lord’ all things were created. He spoke the word only, and it was so: the word spoken, itself produced the thing.

“Thus it was in creation. And thus it was in redemption: he healed the sick, he cast out the devils, he stilled the tempest, he cleansed the lepers, he raised the dead, he forgave sins, all by his word. In all this, also, ‘he spake, and it was.’

“And so he is the same yesterday, and to-day, and forever. Always he is the Creator. And always he does all things by his word only. And always he can do all things by his word; because it is the very characteristic of the word of God, that it is possessed of the divine power by which itself accomplishes the thing which is spoken.

“This is why it is that faith is the knowing that in the word of God there is this power, the expecting the word itself to do the thing spoken, and the depending upon that word itself to do what that which the word speaks..... Are you cultivating faith?” (Lessons on Faith, p. 18; pp. 9, 10 new ed.).

Craig Barnes


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