Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Sabbath School Insights No. 9, Qtr 4-06

Special Insights No. 9

Fourth Quarter 2006 Adult Sabbath School Lessons

“Beginnings and Belongings”

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

“The Triumph of Faith”


According to respected Oxford Bible chronology, Abraham was born in 1996 B.C., entered Canaan in 1921 B.C. Shem was still alive for many years after Abraham was born, but it appears that Abraham was the outstanding worshipper of the true God in the younger generation of the time. Jewish history tells of his loyalty even as a child to the God who made the moon, seeking to help his father Terah who still worshipped the moon in the old city of “Ur of the Chaldees.” In fact, says Jewish history, Abraham as a monotheist made himself unpopular in Ur so that God’s call to him to leave coincided with their banishing him from their city. If even Terah was still an idolater in spite of Shem living somewhere, and if his age prevented Shem from being the aggressive “evangelist” of the day, it appears that Abraham was indeed God’s sole witness to his generation.

Abraham is very important! If he were to fail in his witness, could it be that the knowledge of God and His plan of salvation might disappear from the world? It makes you tremble to think of it. Jesus and the apostles publicized Abraham as the “father” of all who believe. He was the world’s example of what it means to believe in God. The gospel of justification by faith will live or die with Abraham.

The Bible story of Abraham is no glowing hagiography concealing his sins and mistakes. His half-lies to the pharaoh of Egypt about Sarah his wife being his “sister,” and again the same failure of faith in his affair with Abimilech (slow learner?), are all told openly. Not a very good beginning for the world’s “father” in believing.

Then he demonstrates old covenant half-and-half faith (which ends up as legalism) in his attempt to help God keep His fantastic promise that he shall be the “the father of many nations” by suggesting to God that he make Eliezer, his trusted servant, his legal heir. God emphatically refuses this lame old covenant effort to help Him.  No, God says; “one who will come from your own body shall be your heir” (Gen. 15:2-4).

But Abraham still doesn’t get the point. Again he stumbles and staggers in unbelief. “Your own body” means with Sarah his lawfully wedded wife, because away back in Eden God has decreed that man and wife shall be “one flesh.” No third party shall enter that “one flesh” intimacy. But Sarah is a bundle of old covenant unbelief; she bitterly blames God for her failure to be able to get pregnant (16:2). She comes up with the bright idea (popular among the surrounding nations) of adopting her Egyptian servant girl Hagar and constituting Hagar’s offspring as hers and again helping God out of His dilemma. If Abraham is to be “the father of all who believe,” true faith should have had some discernment to recognize the fallacy of this counterfeit “faith.” But he falls headlong into this trap.

Still, God has already “made [him] a father of many nations” by calling “ things which do not exist as though they did” (Rom. 4:17), so God is caught in this blunder. He has promised Abraham to bless his descendants, and Ishmael is one of them, though not “the child of promise” as Isaac was later to be; but God must bless him too. (Hence the terrible aftermath of Middle East hatred and strife, especially between the Palestinians and the Israelis. Poor Abraham! You will have buckets of tears to shed in the final judgment, even though you will personally be saved.)

Someone wrote me recently saying good things about Hagar; it wasn’t her fault all this happened. She was a slave and couldn’t say anything. There is nobleness to her character and she did believe in God. Her offspring have necessarily been “blessed.”

But Abraham has got himself in a tight spot; he has already been “declared” to the world and to the universe that he is to be the “father of many nations” in faith, and he must live up to that divinely given reputation, or God Himself is in trouble. If he fails utterly and completely in the end, God Himself will be disgraced. Somebody else wrote me recently complaining that it was cruel and unfair of God to subject Abraham to that final test of his faith when he was 120 in being commanded to offer up Isaac his “only son” (Gen, 22:1, 2). Abraham should have challenged God on this issue, the writer suggested, because He had always condemned this barbaric, pagan custom.

Think a moment; if Abraham had refused, he would have proved God wrong. We can’t say God was proud, but God has risked His reputation on Abraham, and the plan of salvation, too. He has already risked it all on Job, whom Satan declared would surely “curse [God] to [His] face” if He permitted Satan to torture him sufficiently (the Geneva Conventions didn’t apply; Job 1:11). But Job has passed the test; now Abraham is a new category of risk. He too must suffer this excruciating test, or the entire story fails.

And Abraham does pass the test; thereby he “saw [Christ’s] day, and was glad” (John 8:56). He knew as much as any of us mortals can learn, what it meant for the Father to give His only Son for eternity, for us; it wasn’t only a loan of 33+ years. He gave Him to the horrors of hell. Abraham tastes a tiny bit of that self-sacrificing love.

Abraham at last confirms God’s faith in humanity. We can overcome! God will have a people, 144,000 in number, all “Abrahams” who have overcome as he did (Rev. 3:20; 14:1-5). All will enter the New Jerusalem through one of the gates of Abraham’s descendants.

Our Lesson touches on the birth of Isaac as a “triumph of faith.” Sarah and Abraham were indeed “one flesh” as husband and wife. But they were also one in their old covenant unbelief, overcoming together in the end again as “one.” Abraham laughs derisively at the promise of God, in sinful unbelief (Gen. 17:17); then when Christ promises in her hearing in the tent that “according to the time of life” (9 months) she, Sarah, will bear a son, she laughs in unbelief, derisively, flippantly. But as the wife of Abraham, the father of the faithful, she must also become “a mother of nations” (17:16).

She needed a direct sharp rebuke from the Visitor, Christ, for lying in His presence (18:15), before she was able to discern the fatal nature of her bitter unbelief. Hebrews 11:11 supplies the missing link in the Genesis story: she repented, and “through faith ... received strength to conceive ...” and bear Isaac. There was laughter when the child was born, but laughter smothered in mutual tears of repentance for weary decades of old testament unbelief.

Finally, our Lesson touches on the beautiful story of chapter 24. There were seven steps to Isaac’s happy marriage: (1) Choose a believer (vs. 3). (2) Let the Lord “send His angel before” you (vs. 7). (3) Pray for guidance before you take a step (vs. 12). (4) Believe the Lord has already “appointed” one for you, in His love (vs. 14). (5) Be virgins, both of you (vs. 16). (6) Be sure the in-laws to-be recognize the Lord’s leading (vs. 50). (7) Enjoy lasting love in your marriage (vs. 67).

Our Lesson Quarterly majors on the idea of “crime-does-not-pay-but-obedience-does. The Lord wants us to grow in the concept that faith and obedience bring honor to Christ, a motivation that transcends our own egocentric concern. That was the main appeal that permeates the 1888 message that “the Lord in His great mercy sent” to us long ago, which still awaits acceptance and understanding. Thank the Lord—we can still learn and also overcome.

Robert J. Wieland


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Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Sabbath School Insights No. 8, Qtr 4-06

Special Insights No. 8

Fourth Quarter 2006 Adult Sabbath School Lessons

“Beginnings and Belongings”

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

“Faith and Frailty”


It must be God’s foresight that we are given this particular Sabbath School Lesson right now on this weekend—the greatest shopping days of the year in America, after Thanksgiving. We can hardly wait to be done with Thanksgiving so we can plunge into the orgy of Christmas, in fact it’s now overtaking Halloween.

Now we have set before us along with our shopping spree (in God’s love), the story of Sodom and Gomorrah. Sobering.

Jesus is concerned for us; wild pagan winter solstice holidays are encroaching on our remembering that we live in the cosmic Day of Atonement. (Some churches go wild with Christmas decorating and parties.) Jesus reminds us again that “as it was in the days of Lot: they ate [Thanksgiving feasting], they drank, they bought, they sold, they planted, they built [all harmless ‘occupy ‘til He come’ activities]; but on the day ... it rained fire ... from heaven, ... even so will it be in the day when the Son of Man is revealed” (Luke 17:26-30).

Our Lesson lets Ellen White say a few words. She links “us” together with our worldly neighbors (note the italicized us): “The world is largely given up to the indulgence of appetite; and the disposition to follow worldly customs will bring us into bondage to perverted habits,—habits that will make us more and more like the doomed inhabitants of Sodom. I have wondered that the inhabitants of the earth were not destroyed, like the people of Sodom and Gomorrah” (the last page of your Lesson 8; Billy Graham said the same publicly some years back).

We could say that Lot’s family were the “Seventh-day Adventists” of that day; the analogy fits well. Lot was the son of Haran, brother to Abraham himself (who, let’s say, was the General Conference of that day); Lot was “the church” set as a missionary agency in the great urban areas of the day, Sodom and Gomorrah. He thought of himself as we do in following the “Blueprint” in the book Evangelism, as he understood his duty at the time; he could well have assured Uncle Abraham, “You evangelize Canaan; I’ll evangelize the big cities in the Jordan valley; pray for us as we go there as missionaries to win souls.” Uncle A did pray; he even prayed with Christ personally and directly, begging Him to spare the wicked cities if “ten shall be found there” who are reconciled to God (Gen. 18:32). But “just Lot, vexed with the filthy conversation of the wicked [like our TV actors], ... that righteous man dwelling among them” (2 Peter 2:7, 8), did not succeed in his missionary enterprise. When the test came, Lot saw no good fruitage from his labors. Sobering!

There’s nothing wrong with the book Evangelism; but careful reading reveals that missionary activity is not good enough—there must be a clear understanding of the “everlasting gospel” itself which is to be preached in the great cities. Paul says that “God ... preached the gospel to Abraham” (Gal. 3:8) but says nothing about Lot understanding it. Lot was entranced with the money-making opportunities in those prosperous cities. If Abraham could pay tithe to Melchizedek, so could Lot; he would contribute to “the church” of the day by paying his better tithe he could pay down there where the money was more plentiful.

The “father of the faithful” had to learn how to believe!

So did his wife, Sarah. The Lesson recognizes that what they both did regarding the Hagar affair was wrong, yet seeks to understand how they might reasonably have concluded this was God’s will. A tricky problem we often face—how to understand what’s right when you could so easily reason yourself out of duty. But considering the terrible agony that has followed this act of unbelief on their part all these millennia (including the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians), their move in inviting Hagar in to their married intimacy was always dead wrong. When God promised that Abraham should be “the father of many nations,” that promise meant him and his wife Sarah, because God had made the two “one,” and he never ceased to regard them as one.

Even though at the time God did not specifically mention Sarah, in Genesis 17:19 He cleared it up by saying “Sarah your wife shall bear you a son indeed,” even “when she was past age” (Heb. 11:11). Sarah was always his wife in God’s sight, as Malachi tells us that “the wife of your youth” is always your wife (see Mal. 2:14-16).

The Lord’s quiet assurance that He would give Abraham a son by Sarah was an example of the Lord’s favorite way of doing things: calling “those things which do not exist as though they did” (Rom. 4:17). Sarah’s experience of her growth from unbelief to faith is a forever example of how the new covenant works. She was bitter; decades of disappointment had left their mark on her soul. She blamed God directly for her infertility (Gen. 16:2). She laughed in unbelieving derision when she heard the divine Visitor say that “according to the time of life” (nine months later) she would bear a son (18:10,12).

Her bitter unhappiness is seen in the harsh way she treated poor Hagar after Ishmael was born (vss. 5, 6). But Hebrews tells us that she experienced a genuine conversion somehow; “through faith” she “received strength to conceive” (11:11), faith being understood in its New Testament sense as a heart response of appreciation for the love of Christ. Her bitter unbelief had affected her physiologically; the mysterious factors that govern our reproductive system had been shut down by this unbelieving bitterness of soul; when she repented and the heart was melted, a change in her body took place. (It’s common knowledge that often today when a wife is barren, the couple’s adoption of a baby unseals her matronly instincts of love to allow a previously impossible pregnancy.)

The lesson the Lord sought to teach her is one we need to learn today: “Is anything too hard for the Lord?” (18:14). Our Lesson is not concerned with the practice of gynecologists today; we face a world alienated from God, “destroyed for lack of knowledge” (Hosea 4:6). How to give them the “knowledge” they need but they so often resist, is the problem of the ages. The gift of repentance which the world church needs so desperately in order for Heaven to renew Pentecost to us seems as elusive to us as pregnancy was to poor old Sarah; but the problems of the world church are not too “hard” for the Lord of today.

Sarah is our heroine as Abraham is “our father.” We are called to identify with Him; now let’s identify with her, and join her in letting our hard hearts be melted.

Robert J. Wieland


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Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Sabbath School Insights No. 7, Qtr 4-06

Special Insights No. 7

Fourth Quarter 2006 Adult Sabbath School Lessons

“Beginnings and Belongings”

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

“The Man Abram”


When God called Abram out of Ur of the Chaldees He sought to make him the nucleus of His church. God has ever called His people out of the world so that He may use them to evangelize the world. The church is to be in the world but not of the world.


And so God made a sevenfold promise to Abram. “The Abrahamic covenant is a covenant of grace and salvation.” “Now the Lord had said unto Abram, Get thee out of thy country, and from thy kindred, and from thy father’s house, unto the land that I will show thee; and (1) I will make of thee a great nation, and (2) I will bless thee, and (3) make thy name great; and (4) be thou a blessing; and (5) I will bless them that bless thee, and (6) him that curseth thee will I curse; and (7) in thee shall all the families of the earth be blessed” (Gen. 12:1-3, R. V.).


God literally promised Abram the world. Through him families would be benefited. God is in the business of building His spiritual nation by means of the church. These seven beatitudes are to be received by faith in the crucified Christ.


The Apostle Paul plainly states that God preached the Gospel of Christ to Abram. “The scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, preached beforehand the Gospel unto Abraham, saying, In thee shall all the nations be blessed. So then they which be of faith are blessed with the faithful Abraham” (Gal. 3:8, 9, R. V.).


Abram was a Gentile at the time God made this promise to him. He was not a Hebrew or Israelite. There was no such thing. So the promise of God was for Gentiles through the line of Abram.


The blessing included God’s justification of the Gentiles by faith. Abraham was faithful in believing God’s promise. He experienced the justification of God by faith. Likewise, along with God, he became a preacher of righteousness. And wherever he announced the good news of God’s deliverance and forgiveness of sins, Gentiles who believed were benefited by Christ.


The gospel message which God proclaimed to Abram was “In thee shall all the nations be blessed.” The Gospel is the power of God revealed in Christ crucified (1 Cor. 1:17, 18). God revealed to Abram “a distinct knowledge” “of the salvation that would be accomplished through Christ” (Patriarchs and Prophets, p. 125).


After Abram sojourned in Haran evangelizing the people of the environs a large number attached themselves to his entourage as fellow believers. Then Terah, his father, died and the Lord called him to journey onward to Canaan. It was here the Lord announced: “Unto thy seed will I give this land” (Gen. 12:7).


The promise of the land by God is to “thy seed.” Paul understood this seed to be Christ. “Now to Abraham and his Seed were the promises made. He saith not, And to seeds, as of many; but as of one, And to thy Seed, which is Christ” (Gal. 3:16). The heir of God’s promise to Abram is Christ. And so Abram was a firm believer in the fulfillment of God’s promises through Christ. He was a thorough-going Christian from the outset of his faith. God preached Christ crucified to Abram.


This promise of God was for all who would believe in Christ crucified like faithful father Abram. “For as many of you as have been baptized into Christ have put on Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female; for ye are all one in Christ Jesus. And if ye be Christ’s, then are ye Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise” (Gal. 3:27-29).


Please note that the covenant is explicitly called God’s promise. When God makes the promise, He underwrites its fulfillment. He expects no promises in return from the human side. His promise is to be believed.


It is of crucial note that the promise of the land delivered to Abram was never his to experience while he was yet living. For according to Stephen the prophet “... He gave him [Abraham] none inheritance in it, no, not so much as to set his foot on; yet He promised that He would give it to him for a possession, and to his seed after him, when as yet he had no child” (Acts 7:5).


God’s promise of salvation in Christ crucified was always connected with the inheritance of the land. And, yet, Abram never so much as set foot on the promised land. Did the promise of God fail? Not at all. For Abram believed not only in a crucified Redeemer, but also in a resurrected Lord.


The Apostle Peter announced: “Ye are the children of the prophets and of the covenant which God made with our fathers, saying unto Abraham, And in thy seed shall all the kindreds of the earth be blessed. Unto you first God, having raised up His Son Jesus, sent Him to bless you, in turning away every one of you from his iniquities” (Acts 3:25, 26). So Abram received the blessing of the land by faith in a crucified and risen Saviour. As God had proclaimed this wonderful gospel to Abram so he was faithful in teaching it to others.


Abram was so much a Christian that our Lord proclaimed to the Jews of His day, “Your father Abraham rejoiced to see my day: and he saw it, and was glad” (John 8:56). Abram was the original Christian. He truly lived in the gospel dispensation as verily as do we.


Furthermore, his faith was in Christ who is the true High Priest in the true heavenly tabernacle made without hands. Abram acknowledged the greater priesthood of Melchisedec, King of peace and righteousness, by paying tithes to him (Heb. 7:2). Melchisedec was a type of the priesthood of Christ (6:20). So Abram worshiped God not in tents made with hands, but through the spiritual service of the heavenly sanctuary. By faith Christ communicated His righteousness to our father Abram in a communion established upon a heart union which appreciated the sacrifice of the Son of God.


It was the message that the Lord in His great mercy sent to “us” in 1888 that clarified for us how the gospel of the New Covenant was proclaimed to Abram. The message defined what “faith” is—a heart response to the love revealed in the cross of Christ.

Paul Penno


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Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Sabbath School Insights Correction

Dear “Insights” Subscribers,


I’d like to share an e-mail we received concerning the use of an incorrect word in “Insights” No. 6 that was sent out yesterday:


“Take a look at the next to the last paragraph in this week’s Insight. The first sentence says: ‘God is pleading with His church to come away from the “fable” gospel that uses human logic to resist the idea that character transformation is  impossible this side of heaven.’


“It seems to me that it should read ‘possible’ rather than ‘impossible.’ It is those who oppose the Good News of 1888 who tell us it is impossible to overcome sin this side of the second coming.”


Pastor Donald A. Short

Georgia-Cumberland Conference


Thank you to Pastor Short and other thoughtful readers who brought this to our attention. We apologize for any confusion.


Carol Kawamoto

For “Insights”


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Sabbath School Insights No. 6, Qtr 4-06

Special Insights No. 6

Fourth Quarter 2006 Adult Sabbath School Lessons

“Beginnings and Belongings”

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

“The Earth After the Flood”


Why Noah Did Not Preach the 1888 Message


In Matthew 24, Jesus described that the last days before His coming, the earth would be “as the days of Noah.” We know that the message of righteousness by faith as proclaimed by Ellen G. White, E. J. Waggoner, and A. T. Jones in the 1888 era is the message for the church just before Christ’s coming. How is it different from the message Noah gave?


It isn’t that people are more receptive, or even more spiritually inclined. No, we who are on this earth now are capable of as much sin as that generation. Noah’s message was a familiar one, that of repentance. But the repentance needed in the final days of earth’s history is different from the call Noah made before the flood.


Picture yourself as part of Noah’s family: 120 years of ridicule that increased as the monstrosity your dad was building took on the unmistakable shape of a boat. At some point, you couldn’t explain it away as a weekend project gone bad. Your co-workers ridiculed you about your “nutcase” dad, suggesting that maybe you might be a chip off the old block. Gradually, your respect for the old man faded. He was out of step. The rest of the family was solid, they would go on the boat, but you had reservations. Why couldn’t things go back to they way they were 120 years ago?


But you’re scared by the supernatural phenomena of animals and birds coming two by two in an orderly column into the ark. Though you think your dad simplistic in his faith, you join your family just in case there might be something to this. The voyage is fearful when the elements are unleashed in ways that had been declared impossible by the best scientists. Yet, in spite of human predictions and logic, the tiny boat finally comes to rest without the loss of one.


You step out of the ark into a holocaust of a world and think privately, “what kind of a God can do this?” No landmarks, nothing like only six months before. Noah gives thanks to God for preserving them, and the families go about living life. God had chosen a farmer, not a carpenter to build the boat, so Noah did what he knew best, and went back to farming. He planted a vineyard.


The written record does not tell us whether God had forbidden the use of “strong” drink, so we must reserve judgment on Noah’s actions. It seems incongruous that a man of such strong faith would seek escape this way, but the record is clear, he got drunk. The story doesn’t focus on Noah, but on his sons’ reactions to his excesses. All three boys must have been brought up to respect their parents, but “the unnatural crime of Ham declared that filial reverence had long before been cast from his soul, and it revealed the impiety and vileness of his character” (Patriarchs and Prophets, p. 117).


If that is the case, why did Ham bother to listen to his father and seek refuge from the flood by entering the ark? Did he enter out of fear when the animals mysteriously came into the ark? Unlike his brothers, Ham chose not to respect his father. It is difficult to understand how someone who had gone through the cataclysmic events and the unmistakable manifestation of Divine power could become so degraded as to make light of his father’s condition. Perhaps all those mental reservations had eroded any faith he may have had. God was fearsome, exacting, and punishing. It was easier to deal with it by scorn and ridicule, finally declaring that He simply didn’t exist.


This gives us the clue to the difference between Noah’s message and the 1888 message. God knew that the outworking of sin had not reached the full demonstration embodied at the cross. Humanity would continue after the flood without any change in its nature.


God will destroy the earth again, not by flood, but by fire. The same scoffers and human-based logic are used to conclude that is impossible. But those who enter into the body of Christ, known as the church, at the end of time are called to a much higher commitment than was expected of the antediluvian world.


God will not risk the possibility of having a “Ham” in heaven. Even an uncontrolled drunken Noah would mar the unity in heaven. Many people joke that a heaven with nothing but sober and repressed people would really be more like hell. But unity and self-control are gifts that human beings must accept before they can be happy in heaven. God cannot risk the happiness of the entire universe by admitting into heaven all who came into the “ark” of the church unless their choice is genuine.


There are many who think that heaven is theirs if they simply believe; how they live their lives here on earth cannot be changed. God will get them into heaven, then all their inclinations and habits of sin will be removed, and everybody will live happily ever after. Those who live just before and through the coming of Christ are privileged to reach a much higher standard. It is in them that Christ will demonstrate the final effects of receiving the whole gospel. They are willing to relinquish the cultivated known sin, and have the courage to allow God to reveal even unknown sin to them, so all is given over to the Great Healer of hearts. There are no private mental reservations; all is placed before heaven for the free cleansing by the blood of the Lamb.


God is pleading with His church to come away from the “fable” gospel that uses human logic to resist the idea that character transformation is impossible this side of heaven. Rather, it is humble heart work that starts with acknowledgement of our sin and its implications at the cross. God must demand that those who make up the bride of His final church on earth be genuine in their allegiance to His Son, Jesus Christ. Without that, the Hams in the group will soon develop into a murmuring mixed multitude who carry the seeds of rebellion manifested by the tower of Babel.


“He [A. T. Jones] made the point that the Lord will not take our sins without our permission. God’s people must decide whether they would rather have their sins or Christ. But with the sealing work pending, the Lord will probe and bring up ‘sins to us that we never thought of before, that only shows that he is going down to the depths, and he will reach the bottom at last. ... He cannot put the seal, the impress of his perfect character, upon us until he sees it there. And so he has got to dig down to the deep places we never dreamed of, because we cannot understand our hearts’” (Donald K. Short, Then Shall the Sanctuary Be Cleansed, p. 43; quoting from the 1893 General Conference Bulletin).

Arlene Hill


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Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Sabbath School Insights No. 5, Qtr 4-06

Special Insights No. 5

Fourth Quarter 2006 Adult Sabbath School Lessons

“Beginnings and Belongings”

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

“Destruction and Renewal”


After studying the Sabbath School lesson on how God had created a perfect world, a woman asked me a painful question: “Why did Adam and Eve sin? If conditions were so good for them and they fell into sin what hope is there for me?”


Our study of Genesis has brought us to the third of three stories (Adam and Eve’s sin, Cain’s murder of Abel, and the Flood) that have the same plot: God provides blessings, mankind rebels, man reaps the consequences. Does this mean that sin was inevitable? For this woman, based on the apparent evidence, this is true, and it’s extremely discouraging. How can we deal with the “logic” that we are sinners, apparently doomed to continue as sinners? That such a condition will lead God to not only hold us accountable for our “inevitable” actions as sinners, but that He will destroy all unrepentant sinners as He did in the Flood, is bad news.


Temptation is defined in James 1:14, 15: “Each one is tempted when he is drawn away by his own desires and enticed. Then, when desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, brings forth death” (NKJV). Desire is two-sided in that it is controlled by our free choice, without which we are merely robots. When Adam and Eve gave in to temptation they gave in to their desires, which were contrary to God’s will. What makes their sin so unimaginable to us is that our Heavenly Father had done everything for them. He created the Garden, provided for their every need, and warned them about their vulnerability. He expressed His love for them through all that He did for them. With all this evidence of God’s love, how then could they disobey?


Not understanding the good news, it is easy to come to the same conclusion and discouragement as the woman asking the question. The good news that we often overlook or simply cannot believe is that through it all God was there! Whether it was with Adam and Eve in the Garden, with Cain, or with the people before the Flood, God was striving to prevent His people from committing sin! In each of these instances He was present to encourage and empower the tempted. They didn’t have to fall into sin; they freely chose to, but it was not inevitable. After Adam and Eve sinned, and when Cain killed his brother, God was there! Isn’t this good news?


Forgiveness is not just being sorry for what we’ve done, and being told all is forgotten. It includes full reconciliation and restoration, which is only through the revelation of God’s love for us. This will woo us back to Him, calming our fears by giving us evidence that: (a) we are not hopeless, (b) in spite of what we have done we are redeemable, and (c) He is able “to keep [us] from falling and to present [us] faultless before the presence of his glory with exceeding joy” (Jude 24, KJV).


It is (c) that “gnaws” at our faith. Christians understand that God considers us redeemable; Christ died for us on the cross. But the fear is that we will continue to do things that will create a barrier between us and God, causing Him one day to give up on us. This fear is based on a misunderstanding of God’s love. It wells up from a deep-seated self-centeredness.


God has done a wonderful thing in raising up a church that could tell the world that Jesus as our High Priest is working not just to declare us righteous but to make us obedient to His law by cleansing our hearts of all sin. He is developing our character (righteousness) by faith in His power over sin. Thus “self” is gotten out of the way, and fear is destroyed. It is comforting that our Father deemed it important to send a message of great hope through His “messengers,” E. J. Waggoner and A. T. Jones, that emphasized a Savior that was near at hand and not afar off. This message showed clearly the nature of God’s promises and the life of faith in those promises (the everlasting covenant) so that we would not live in the fear that we had not done enough to be saved.


You might be wondering what this has to do with the Flood. It is this: Jesus said that the last days will be like the days of Noah. If we question our chances of deliverance from sin because we are unable to change our ways of sin and rebellion, then imagine living in the times of Noah, knowing exactly what is going to happen; the boat will be built, the animals will come on board, the door will be shut, and the rain and flood will come. We wouldn’t be on the boat because we convinced ourselves we don’t deserve to be there. The stories of the fall of man from Genesis 3 to 11 are not told to discourage us. They tell of our failures, but also of God’s refusal to give up on us. This message is told over and over in the Bible record, as in Rom. 8:31-39:


“What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all, how shall He not with Him also freely give us all things? Who shall bring a charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies. Who is he who condemns? It is Christ who died, and furthermore is also risen, who is even at the right hand of God, who also makes intercession for us. Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? Yet in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us. For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities nor powers, nor things present nor things to come, nor height nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord”(NKJV).


Compare this truth with what took place among those who did not enter the ark:For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who suppress the truth in unrighteousness, because what may be known of God is manifest in them, for God has shown it to them. … Therefore God also gave them up to uncleanness, in the lusts of their hearts, to dishonor their bodies among themselves, who exchanged the truth of God for the lie, and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever. Amen.” (Rom. 1:18-25, NKJV).


Notice the process the wicked took for God to give them up. Even when they knew God they refused to glorify Him as God. The heart of the issue is knowing God as He really is. This is the line of demarcation between the saved and the lost. But also note that the work of knowing God is His work and the lost will be those who reject that knowledge of God. May Satan’s “logic” about our fear of never overcoming sin in Christ be forever banished.

Robert Van Ornam


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