Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Sabbath School Insights No. 4, Qtr 2-07

Special Insights No. 4

Second Quarter 2007 Adult Sabbath School Lessons

“The Bible for Today”

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

The Bible Is Reliable


It is not enough merely to understand that the Bible is reliable. Neither is it enough to believe that God would preserve His written word down through the ages—as important as these concepts are! Not only did God preserve the writing of the Bible, He sent His Son to preserve the fact of His written word. (After all, the proof of the pudding is in the eating, isn’t it?) Jesus was, among other things, the keeper (Heb: shamar, watch, guard, cherish) of His word. He kept the law of God in utter perfection; and He did it in the same fallen sinful flesh that you and I have, thus proving His power to keep His word. God’s word has inherent within it the power to create what it says (Genesis 1). Christ Himself relied on the power of God’s word (John 8:28).


It is not enough to believe that God preserved his written word in His own Son. If that were the case, there would be no reason for us to be on this planet today, except that had Christ’s perfect life in fallen sinful human flesh been enough, the millennium would have ended a thousand years ago, and God’s people would have already had a thousand years of inhabiting the new earth! If Jesus’ life alone were enough to complete the plan of salvation, it would have been completed at the cross. (Note that God has given a complete salvation, it is the plan of salvation that is not yet completed.)


God wants to preserve His written word and His living word in you and me—today! This is how He proves completely that it is possible to keep God’s law; and He does it in fallen sinful human flesh—ours! God is preparing a people to be ready to receive the Lord when he comes to receive His kingdom—when He comes to receive His bride at the close of His office work in the most holy place in the heavenly sanctuary—that work of removing the sins of the people, that the bride might be granted her clothing of fine linen clean and white—the robe of righteousness—so that she might be ready. We should not look for someone to do God’s work for is, because He will do it in us (and through us).


“For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to every one that believeth. For Moses describeth the righteousness which is of the law, That the man which doeth those things shall live by them. But the righteousness which is of faith speaketh on this wise, Say not in thine heart, Who shall ascend into heaven? (that is, to bring Christ down from above:) Or, Who shall descend into the deep? (that is, to bring up Christ again from the dead.)  But what saith it? The word is nigh thee, even in thy mouth, and in thy heart: that is, the word of faith, which we preach” (Rom. 10:4-8).


Christ reminds us in Matthew 5:20 that we must somehow get over the hump described in Revelation chapter 3 of the pharisaical attitude of the Laodicean Church. “Our righteousness” must exceed that pharisaical Laodicean self-righteousness before God can preserve His word in us, for God intends that His word shall be preserved in His people for all eternity. This is why sin will not rise up a second time.


God’s people in the last days will be an example to the universe, for they will have received the righteousness of Christ, which is made manifest in obedience to all the commandments of God. Remember, God’s word has inherent within it the power to create what it says—even in you! That is in the message that God sent to us in 1888:


“The Lord in His great mercy sent a most precious message to His people through Elders Wagoner and Jones. This message was to bring more prominently before the world the uplifted Saviour, the sacrifice for the sins of the whole world. It presented justification through faith in the Surety; it invited the people to receive the righteousness of Christ, which is made manifest in obedience to all the commandments of God.” (Testimonies to Ministers and Gospel Workers, pp. 91, 92; emphasis supplied).


It is to be proclaimed in the persons of His believers. Let us hear what A. T. Jones, one of the 1888 messengers, had to say about it:


“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 devils, he stilled the tempest, he cleansed the lepers, he raised the dead, he forgave sins, all by his word. In 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 that which the word speaks.


“The teaching of faith is the teaching that such is the nature of the word of God; the teaching of people to exercise faith is the teaching them to expect the word of God to do what it says, and to depend upon it to do the thing which is by it spoken; the cultivating of faith is by practice to cause to grow confidence in the power of the word of God itself to do what in that word is said, and dependence upon that word itself to accomplish what the word says.


“And ‘the knowledge of what the Scripture means when urging upon us the necessity of cultivating faith, is more essential than any other knowledge that can be acquired.’


“Are you cultivating faith?” (Lessons on Faith, p 18, John O. Ford ed.; emphasis original).


“Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect” (Matt. 5:48).


God sees you now as perfect in Christ by His word. When you believe, then it begins to become real in your experience, thus proving the Bible.

Craig Barnes


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Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Sabbath School Insights No. 3, Qtr 2-07

Special Insights No. 3

Second Quarter 2007 Adult Sabbath School Lessons

“The Bible for Today”

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

Bible Prophecy Fulfilled


The First Advent Prophecy and Time Fulfillment. Both Isaiah and Daniel prophesied of the coming of the Messiah. Isaiah gives information about the mission of Jesus and. Daniel predicts the very time when He would be anointed by the Holy Spirit for His mission, and also the time of His crucifixion. Predictions from these two books undoubtedly strengthened the faith of Jesus both in the early years of His ministry, and especially during the closing scenes of His life.

Daniel foretold the time of Jesus’ public ministry. Shortly after His baptism in A.D. 27, He began preaching repentance for sin, and faith in the gospel. “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand” (Mark 1:15). The only time He could have been referring to was the seventy weeks/years of Daniel 9:25—“Know therefore and understand, that from the going forth of the commandment to restore and to build Jerusalem unto the Messiah the Prince shall be seven weeks, and threescore and two weeks” (prophetic time).

Luke Presents the Lord’s Mission by Quoting Isaiah. “There was delivered unto Him the book of the prophet Isaiah. And when He had opened the book, He found the place where it was written, ‘The Spirit of the Lord is upon Me, because He has anointed Me to preach the gospel to the poor; He hath sent me to heal the brokenhearted, to preach deliverance to the captives, and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty them that are bruised, to preach the acceptable year of the Lord” (4:17-19).

This was preached in Christ’s home church (synagogue) in Nazareth. At first the hearts of the congregation were strangely warmed, the air no doubt punctuated with fervent “Amens!” This was short-lived, however. When the people realized He addressed them in their lukewarmness, they became insanely incensed to the point of destroying Him.

In one of this week’s reading assignments (Isa. 52 - 53:12) we consider the opposition and rejection of His mission and message, but also of His victory in death. Not just His own nation was included in the rejection of His message of healing. Without exception every nation and every individual opposes Christ and His righteousness unless conversion from above transforms him.

In Isaiah 52:1-15, the prophet presents in outline form the work of Christ: (1) His ministry on earth; (2) His crucifixion; (3) His resurrection; and (4) His redemption, which startled nations.

Chapter 53 describes the Messiah’s sufferings, prophesied 800 years before “the Word was made flesh and dwelt among us.” Jesus died for those who hated Him.

53:6 is of particular interest. The confession given here is both corporate and particular: “All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way; and the LORD hath laid on him the iniquity of us all.” Here is portrayed the sinfulness of Adam’s race. However, not only has the race corporately gone away from the Lord, but “every one” with some specific and special aggravation has turned “to his own way.”

This passage is the confession of the individual sinner who has sinned without a single excuse against light particular to himself. There is a giving up of all claims to self-righteousness. The mark of genuine repentance and confession, while it associates with others of the same ilk, is very specific to each one for his or her particular sins of which the Holy Spirit convicts. The next thought is the most wrenching; at the same time the most hopeful for the lost sinner: “the Lord has laid on Him the iniquity of us all.” The very heart and soul of prophecy is contained in this verse.

To summarize: Christ took upon Himself every sin—both personal and corporate—and died (Isa. 53:6,11). Because of this everyone died in His death. Not one is excluded.  Verse 6 sheds light on the “all” and the “every”: “All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned, every one, to his own way; and the LORD has laid on Him the iniquity of us all.” This verse begins with the “all” of condemnation, but ends with the “all” of salvation. Jesus died for each one of us. Every sin of every individual was laid upon Him. This is the very heart of the Gospel—Christ died for Adam’s sin; Christ died for our sins; Christ died for my sins; Christ died for your sins.

Isaiah further prophesied of Christ’s crucifixion. “He was cut off out of the land of the living: for the transgression of my people was He stricken” (Isa. 53:8). Daniel used similar language: “after threescore and two weeks shall Messiah be cut off, but not for Himself” (Dan. 9:26). “But not for Himself.” No! Never! It was all for you and for me (emphasis supplied).

Daniel not only deals with the outline prophecies of four empires on earth, he prophesied of the opposition to Christ and to His message. We have space for only one illustration. In chapter two, after going step-by-step through the unfolding history of the four great empires, Daniel writes describing the amalgamation of clay and iron in the feet and toes of the image of which Nebuchadnezzar dreamed . The iron, of course, is  bnvthe metal monarchy of Rome’s pagan phase that followed the Republic. And we sing of the clay in that great hymn based on Isaiah 64:8—“O LORD, thou art our father; we are the clay, and thou our potter; and we all are the work of thy hand.” Clay is used to describe God’s people. God’s work is to mold and to fashion us according to His will, just as a potter molds clay.

However, the clay becomes “miry clay.” It represents especially Christianity that becomes watered down in the last days of earth’s history as it united to the New Imperial Rome that follows the dismantling of the Republic. All religions must have power to exist. Christianity must have God’s power. His power is centered in the gospel of the cross (Rom. 1:16; 1 Cor. 1:18). But when Christianity separates from God’s power it must join itself to the strongest power on earth, which, of course is the state.

This union of church and state depicted in the mingling of metal and mineral had a fulfillment in the Medieval church, and in the Protestantism of England. Not until the American Declaration of Independence and the Constitution of this Republic was a separation between church and state the law of the United States.

In the Last Days of Earth’s History. The completion of the amalgamation of iron and clay in Daniel’s prophecy was almost accomplished 119 years ago in America by the determined effort of various religious and non-religious entities. A bill to enforce Sunday sacredness was proposed by Senator Blair of New Hampshire in May 1888 and taken up again in the next session.

But something happened between those two sessions—Minneapolis.

There, when the message of Christ and His righteousness was not accepted by a majority to whom it was given, God had to stop the Blair Sunday Bill. He knew that without the “Loud Cry” of the Third Angel’s Message, His people could not stand under the onslaught awaiting them, should that Bill be enacted into national law.

He now invites all to “come” to Himself that the hatred might be lifted and peace and joy and righteousness fill the heart of those who respond, repent, and believe the “everlasting gospel.”

Gerald L. Finneman


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Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Sabbath School Insights No. 2, Qtr 2-07


Special Insights No. 2

Second Quarter 2007 AdultSabbathSchool Lessons

"The Bible for Today"

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

The Final Word

The young man Timothy had been raised from childhood on "the holy Scriptures"—the Old Testament,—by his mother and grandmother. Of these writings the Apostle Paul averred, "All Scripture is given by inspiration of God" (2 Tim. 3:16). The key Greek word is theopneustos, meaning God breathed out, not breathed in. God exhaled the writings of the Old Testament and by extension the New Testament.

God took the initiative with the prophets and apostles. Scripture proceeded from Him. This means that the prophets did not take up the pen to write by their own volition, motivated to unburden their hearts. It was God who compelled them to write.

By analogy it was God who formed the corpse of Adam from the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and man became a living soul. Without the inspiration of God, man would not be alive. The prophets and apostles of old could have written on their own volition, but their writings would have been merely human thoughts and words, inspiring as they might be.

However, when God initiated the process of Inspiration which acted upon the writer, the thoughts previously divinely revealed to the prophet by God, were the breathed-out life of God Himself, albeit through human writers. The writings were of a status and authority that superceded ordinary human writings, either Hebrew or Christian.

Just as the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, so God submitted His inscripturated word to human beings. The Scriptures do not represent His word in a way that God would write Himself with His own heavenly language, for human beings would be not be able to understand His foreign language. They would need an interpreter.

So in order to avert this step, God used human writers who voluntarily submitted to His movements upon them. They expressed God's thoughts in their own words, mannerisms, cultural expressions, etc., so that it might be understood in the time, place, and by the people, for whom God aimed His message. The literal words do not represent God's form of speech; except the words of the Ten Commandments and the exact reported words of Jehovah and Jesus. The words convey the exact thoughts of God and as such are the infallible word of God.

Those who appreciate the work of God surrounding the 1888 Minneapolis General Conference may be prompted to inquire, to what extent did God inspire his two messengers, A. T. Jones and E. J. Waggoner? Ellen White, who had the gift of prophecy, said they were "the Lord's delegated messengers" (Selected Messages, book 2, p. 102); "the Lord's messengers" (The Ellen G. White 1888 Materials, p. 1025); who bore "heavenly credentials" (ibid., p. 543). She said the Lord "sent a most precious message to His people through Elders Waggoner and Jones" (Testimonies to Ministers, p. 91). "God had sent these young men, Elders Jones and Waggoner, to bear a special message" (Manuscript Releases, vol. 15, p. 83). She spoke of "the rays of light which shone at Minneapolis" (1888 Materials, p. 1030). One might continue on and on with over three hundred of Ellen White's enthusiastic endorsements of what she heard during the 1888 era.

The writings and messages of Jones and Waggoner were never placed on the level of Holy Scripture. They were never equivalent to the writings of the Spirit of Prophecy. However, Ellen White's endorsements of Jones and Waggoner's message indicated that they had Heaven's approval within the time frame of the 1888 era.

The "most precious message" included:

* "The matchless charms of Christ" (1888 Materials, p. 348);

* The agape of God as understood in the light of the cross of Jesus (Eph. 3:18);

* The truth regarding the old and the new covenants as the people's promise and God's promise (Ex. 19:8; Gal. 3:14-16; 4:22-24), respectively;

* A Savior who has come near to us by taking our humanity and condemning sin in sinful flesh (Rom. 8:3);

* The gift of "justification of life" for the sins of the whole world (Rom. 5:18);

* Justification by faith in view of our High Priest in the most holy place of the heavenly sanctuary, preparing a people for His return (Heb. 10:16-20);

* The gift of repentance ministered by the heavenly Psychiatrist, removing the heart enmity against God in the body of the worldwide church of Laodicea (Rev. 3:19, 20).


Thank God, the Holy Spirit is still inspiring people to minister to us! Let us not neglect the "most precious message" He has entrusted to us."

Paul E. Penno


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Wednesday, April 04, 2007

Sabbath School Insights No. 1, Qtr 2-07

Special Insights No. 1

Second Quarter 2007 Adult Sabbath School Lessons

“The Bible for Today”

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

The Voice From Heaven



Welcome to a new 13 weeks of lessons, this time, “The Bible for Today.” No more repeated idle “speculation” in our Lesson Book as to what our Bible writer could have meant. No more sad weeping and wailing “gospel” of “don’t do like I did!” Now we will study what “holy men of God spoke as they were moved by the Holy Spirit” during their lives of fidelity to God’s truth (cf. 2 Peter 1:21). The Word will be clear.


In his early life Solomon quoted the Lord saying, “I will make known My words unto you” (Prov. 1:23). Now you can claim that promise for 13 weeks straight! The Holy Spirit awaits your invitation. (Incidentally, the 3rd Quarter of 2007 also has at least 12 weeks of Bible study awaiting us on 12 Bible marriages “for better or for worse.” So we have 6 months before us of blessed biblical growth in grace.)


Our 13 coming weeks will be a “University 101 class” in Bible truth; you can “grow” wonderfully in 13 dedicated weeks; take them seriously.


You may say, “But I am so busy working night and day at two or three jobs to support my family (as they want to be supported!) and I have little or no time for study.” Well, you have 13 Sabbath days (actually, if it’s true that “six days shalt thou labour and do all thy work,” the seventh day ought not to be spent in exhausted sacking out so you can’t hear the voice of the Lord speaking in His word, the Bible). And though we have our lovely spring in the Northern hemisphere, and we want to enjoy God’s beautiful out-of-doors, we can reserve a good time for study of the Word each Sabbath afternoon. Jesus was our Example; He was busy, too, but He took time for study of the Old Testament, all He had.


May we suggest: get a g-o-o-d leather-bound Bible with cross-references and hopefully a concordance included (a lifetime investment, costs less than a pair of shoes). Get a fine-pointed pen or pencil for writing little notes in your margins—the Book will become your personal biblos “friend” for your entire life. Your underlining of a word or phrase is not to color your Bible like a child’s color book; no point in blocking everything for emphasis. You just want to mark a little so as to help you find it again, as you surely will want to do.


An occasional thought or quote in our Lesson Book that strikes you can be carefully cut out and pasted in the back of your Bible (don’t go to excess on this); you won’t want to go anywhere this summer without taking that Bible “friend” with you; you won’t want to be separated from it even for a day! You’ll never know when the Holy Spirit will be calling you to “come to class” to learn some more (cf, Isa. 50:4, 5). “Thine eyes shall see thy teachers: and thine ears shall hear a word behind thee, saying, This is the way, walk ye in it, when ye turn to the right hand, and when ye turn to the left” (30:20, 21). Your “Teacher” for this “101 class” will never take a vacation; and when you get to know Him you’ll never want to be away from Him. He joins Himself to the Word, the Bible. You want to love Him? You will love Him no more no less than you love His Book, the Bible. They go together.


No university degree can make you as happy as a genuine knowledge of God’s Holy Bible. Everywhere you go in life from now on you will be a blessing to others (cf. Gen. 12:2, 3), because New Covenant living will coincide with a constantly growing, personal knowledge of the Bible. You will know Jesus Christ intimately as your divine Elder Brother, and you will know His Father as your Father; you will never feel alone. Thank Him for His gift to you—the Bible. “Abide with Him” therein.


Lesson One

Our authors, Jonathan and Kathleen Kuntaraf, have done excellent work in writing this Lesson book for us. We rejoice that in this first lesson we have a clear recognition of one of the most encouraging elements of the 1888 message of Christ’s righteousness: instead of our long-held and widespread belief that it’s our job to seek and find Him, the truth reveals Him as seeking us “until He find [us]” (cf. Luke 15:4). The atonement (reconciliation with God) is not the result of our diligent search for Him as of our heart being melted with appreciation for what it cost Him to find us.


So, we begin with the truth of Christ and Him crucified. May we end the quarter there also!

Robert J. Wieland

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