Thursday, December 25, 2008

“Atonement and Universal Harmony”

The basic idea that our Lesson 13 author wishes us to get is in part 3 of the questions for Friday, December 26: “Think about what God offers us” (emphasis added).

Let’s revise that statement to say, “Let’s think about what God GIVES us ...”

The Lesson dwells on the “cosmic” wonders of the new life that God provides in the resurrection and in the process of translation at the second coming of Christ. Eternal life will be a new kind of life, life shared with the Father and His vast universe.

That eternal life begins even now; we do not have to wait until the resurrection to know this new quality of life:

(a) We begin even now to live “in Christ,” which means we share His thinking and His loving concern for others.

(b) We see people now with new vision—we see them as He sees them.

(c) That means we love even the unlovable people, because the love we have for them has become agape.

(d) Fear has been cast out of our thinking, which means we no longer fear anyone or what anyone can do to us (that’s a huge step forward!). Fear is not the reason why we keep the Sabbath or pay tithe, etc. The love (agape) of Christ motivates us to live for Him and not for self.

(e) We can think differently about people who have annoyed us, or shown contempt for us; in other words, our “enemies.” We see them as little children who have been harmed by the wrong education they have received; and we are enabled to “see” them for what they could be if their “education” had been Christlike.

(f) The whole world has become “new” and now we walk “in newness of life” (Rom. 6:4). Fear having been eliminated “in Christ,” we are free to grow and develop our hitherto buried talents. No one is stamping on the little new plants that have just begun to germinate!

(g) Please remember the seven great promises that the Lord makes to us in the New Covenant, in Genesis 12:2, 3. The Lord made those promises to Abraham; but they are also made one hundred percent to you.

(h) Now believe them!

And walk out in liberty (Gal. 5:1).

Robert J. Wieland

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Atonement and the Cross of Christ: “United to 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. And this I say, that the covenant, that was confirmed before of God in Christ, the law, which was four hundred and thirty years after, cannot disannul, that it should make the promise of none effect. For if the inheritance be of the law, it is no more of promise: but God gave it to Abraham by promise ... And if ye be Christ’s, then are ye Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise” (Gal. 3:16-18, 29; emphasis added in this and the following texts).

“Whereby are given unto us exceeding great and precious promises: that by these ye might be partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust” (2 Peter 1:4).

“Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature [lit., act of creation]: old things are passed away; behold all things are become new” (2 Cor. 5:17).

“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who hath blessed us with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ: according as He hath chosen us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before Him in love: having predestinated us unto the adoption of children by Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the good pleasure of His will, to the praise of the glory of His grace, wherein He hath made us accepted in the Beloved. In whom we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of His grace” (Eph. 1:1-7).

“For ye are all the children of God by faith in Christ Jesus” (Gal. 3:26).

“Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus” (Phil. 2:5).


Christ, as creator, was representative of the human race. Adam, as the first created and father of the human race (for we were all in him when he was created; Gen. 25:23), was also representative of the human race. When Adam sinned, he took upon him fallen sinful human flesh and a fallen sinful human mind (a change of flesh and a change of mind from the sinless flesh and sinless mind that he had before he sinned) and passed those changes to his posterity. These changes, particularly the change of flesh, being relatively permanent, caused the human race to take on a new and different form from what it was as created, therefore Christ could no longer represent it; and Adam, having sold out to Satan, handed the race over to Satan, thus disqualifying himself as representative. This left Satan as the apparent representative of the human race—as conqueror. Consequently, if the race was ever going to be saved, a new representative had to come forward immediately. As creator, Jesus was responsible for what happened; thus it fell upon His shoulders to fix it. And so He did, through the promise in Genesis 3:15.

For Jesus to continue to represent the human race, He had to become one of, and one with, those He wanted to represent (Hebrews 2), and then gain sufficient support (Job 1). These things He did by taking upon Himself fallen sinful human flesh, the very same as we have, and by wooing us, encouraging us to receive His sinless mind (Phil. 2:5) that had conquered, and does conquer, all the cravings of fallen sinful human flesh. Christ partook of our fallen sinful human flesh that we might partake of His divine nature, thus becoming one with Christ, having been in Him from before the foundation of the world.

Christ, having sinless mind and sinless body, took upon Himself fallen sinful human flesh, retaining His sinless mind. We, having fallen sinful human flesh and a fallen sinful human mind, can choose to take upon ourselves the sinless mind of Christ, retaining our fallen sinful human flesh until Jesus comes the second time. Jesus differs from us in only one respect; He was born with His sinless mind intact (which still could sin as Adam’s sinless mind did sin). We, having been born with fallen sinful human mind, receive Christ’s sinless mind when we believe. Thus we become a new creation.

Baptism is a public acknowledgement of a union with Christ previously forged (Acts 8:26-38), acknowledging that we have died with Him, been resurrected with Him, and now believe His promise to give us the experience of His perfect life in us (Rom. 6:3, 4). Galatians 3:27 does not imply that the baptismal candidate had not put on Christ before he was baptized, only that if he were baptized he had put on Christ (at some time). The inheritance of righteousness (right doing) was given to Abraham and to his Seed by promise. As long as we are in the Seed and believe in Him, we also receive the dispensing of that promise in our experience. When we believe the promises of God we become partakers of the divine nature.

As we, by so believing, remain in Christ, we become a new creation—yes the original word translated “creature” in 2 Corinthians 5:17 really means “creation” (as is so stated in the NIV), in that God has re-created us into followers of Him, controlled by a new mind—something we were not before. This slight difference in translation takes us one step further away from the possible articulation of holy flesh, as the idea of “creature” might imply, for the only thing that changes in us at conversion is our mind; our flesh stays the same. Rather than being a permanent change, as the concept of holy flesh might lead us to believe, we can change our mind at any moment according to our own whim. If we are to hold a steady course within God’s plan for us, we need to claim His promise to hold us with a hand that will never let go (Isa. 41:13; 42:6). We are the only ones who can take ourselves out of Christ and thus throw away our birthright, as Esau did. Having placed us in Christ before the foundation of the world, God, by so doing, predestined us to believe (unless, of course, we choose not to, for God will not force us against our will), for being adopted as children (and taking God’s name as “Christians”) is what happens when we believe. Then it is time to be baptized and join the church—a physical acknowledgement of what has already happened. The choice is yours. Will you believe?

Craig Barnes

Supplemental Quotations to Help in Your Study

“[Christ] was made in the likeness of sinful flesh, not in the likeness of sinful mind. Do not drag His mind into it. His flesh was our flesh, but the mind was “the mind of Christ Jesus.” Therefore it is written: “Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus.” ... But what kind of mind is ours? O, it is corrupted with sin. ...” (A. T. Jones, 1893General Conference Bulletin, 1893, Sermon 17).

“By His obedience to all the commandments of God, Christ wrought out a redemption for men. This was not done by going out of Himself to another, but by taking humanity into Himself. Thus Christ gave to humanity an existence [flowing] out of Himself. To bring humanity into Christ, to bring the fallen race into oneness with divinity, is the work of redemption. Christ took human nature that men might be one with Him as He is one with the Father, that God may love man as He loves His only-begotten Son, that men may be partakers of the divine nature, and be complete in Him” Selected Messages, book 1, pp. 250, 251).

“There has come into the church at Battle Creek a spirit that has no part in Christ. It is not a zeal for the truth, not a love for the will of God as revealed in His word. It is a self-righteous spirit. It leads you to exalt self above Jesus and to regard your own opinions and ideas as more important than union with Christ and union with one another. You are sadly lacking in brotherly love. You are a backslidden church. To know the truth, to claim union with Christ, and yet not to bring forth fruit, not to live in the exercise of constant faith--this hardens the heart in disobedience and self-confidence. Our growth in grace, our joy, our usefulness, all depend on our union with Christ and the degree of faith we exercise in Him. Here is the source of our power in the world.

“Many of you are seeking honor of one another. But what is the honor or the approval of man to one who regards himself as a son of God, a joint heir with Christ? What are the pleasures of this world to him who is daily a sharer in the love of Christ which passes knowledge? What are the contempt and opposition of man to him whom God accepts through Jesus Christ? Selfishness can no more live in the heart that is exercising faith in Christ than light and darkness can exist together. Spiritual coldness, sloth, pride, and cowardice alike shrink from the presence of faith. Can those who are as closely united with Christ as the branch to the vine, talk of and to everyone but Jesus?

“Are you in Christ? Not if you do not acknowledge yourselves erring, helpless, condemned sinners. Not if you are exalting and glorifying self. If there is any good in you, it is wholly attributable to the mercy of a compassionate Saviour. Your birth, your reputation, your wealth, your talents, your virtues, your piety, your philanthropy, or anything else in you or connected with you, will not form a bond of union between your soul and Christ. Your connection with the church, the manner in which your brethren regard you, will be of no avail unless you believe in Christ. It is not enough to believe about Him; you must believe in Him. You must rely wholly upon His saving grace” (Testimonies for the Church, vol. 5, pp. 48, 49).


Thursday, December 11, 2008

“Benefits of Christ’s Atoning Sacrifice”

Christ’s “Atoning Sacrifice” accomplished the work He came to this world to do. His work was to save people from their sins (Matt. 1:21), and He finished that work (John 17:4; 19:30).

In Romans 1:16 Paul says that the “gospel of Christ” is the “power of God unto salvation.” In 1 Corinthians 1 and 2, Paul equates the “cross of Christ” and Jesus Christ crucified with the “gospel.”

As I contemplate “Christ’s Atoning Sacrifice” I see it as the complete “gospel.” It encompasses His birth (incarnation), life, death, and resurrection. On the cross Jesus said, “it is finished,” and He rested on the Sabbath day. His resurrection on the first day of the week was proof that his atoning sacrifice was perfect and complete (Rom. 4:25). Romans 6:7 indicates that the cross event accomplished our justification, so it must be perfect and complete as well.

In answer to the first question in Sunday’s lesson, the resurrection and ascension are intrinsically linked to the atoning sacrifice and they are proof of it. The resurrection marks the beginning of the next phase of Christ’s work in accomplishing the restoration of His “saved” people. “Christ’s atoning sacrifice” can be illustrated by comparing it to the foundation of a very tall and large building. The gospel is the foundation of biblical teaching.

As the perfect and complete atoning sacrifice made the resurrection and ascension possible, so it makes Christ’s heavenly mediation possible. Without shed blood there can be no sprinkled blood. Please remember the “Day of Atonement” service. The sins (or record of sins) dealt with were forgiven sins that had gone before into the sanctuary. The blood used represented the blood shed on the cross of Christ (His atoning sacrifice).

Because the resurrection and ascension marked the beginning of the mediation phase of Christ’s work, that work had to be centered in heaven. Christ ascended to heaven (Acts 1:8-11), and He is mediating as our High Priest in heaven (Heb. 8:1, 2). As illustrated in the earthly “Day of Atonement,” Christ mediates with His shed blood in the Heavenly Sanctuary, which brings us to Wednesday’s lesson.

Just as the “Lamb slain from the foundation of the world” preserved Adam’s earthly life for a few years, so mediation of Christ in heaven preserves and enhances life to some degree today for at least two reasons. (1) God in His mercy will never take away man’s power of choice. (2) God preserves the life of His “choosing” children so they can experience the “mind of Christ” and bring glory to God by their example. (The notes on Wednesday’s lesson answer the question well.)

I hope we are beginning to see that the earthly and heavenly ministries are a complete work for the restoration of humanity. If humanity never hears or understands that “work,” no change or restoration could take place. The work of the Holy Spirit is to communicate “salvation” to mankind. John 16:8 emphasizes the importance of the Holy Spirit’s work. Without His work, final salvation would not take place. However, the Holy Spirit is not our redeemer and He is not our co-redeemer. We still have the power of choice, to accept or resist. May I remind you that our “choice” is not our savior either?

Ellen G. White has written extensively on the “Christ’s atoning sacrifice.” A few quotes follow, but I encourage you to look up some of her many uses of the phrase.

“With deep interest and grateful, wondering joy the brethren listened to Paul’s words. By faith they grasped the wonderful truth of Christ’s atoning sacrifice and received Him as their Redeemer. They were then baptized in the name of Jesus, and as Paul “laid his hands upon them,” they received also the baptism of the Holy Spirit, ...” (Acts of the Apostles, p. 283).

“Were it not for Christ’s atoning sacrifice, there would be nothing in us in which God could delight. All the natural goodness of man is worthless in God’s sight. He does not take pleasure in any man who retains his old nature, and is not so renewed in knowledge and grace that he is a new man in Christ” (Amazing Grace, p. 66).

“Our crucified Lord is pleading for us in the presence of the Father at the throne of grace. His atoning sacrifice we may plead for our pardon, our justification, and our sanctification. The lamb slain is our only hope” (ibid. p. 71).

“It is the constant realization of the preciousness of Christ’s atoning sacrifice in our behalf that qualifies us to point others to the Lamb of God that taketh away the sin of the world. We must become exponents of the efficacy of the blood of Christ, by which our own sins have been forgiven. Only thus can we reach the higher class” (Lift Him Up, p. 293).

At the beginning of this “Insight” I suggested that “Christ’s Atoning Sacrifice” was like a foundation. In fact it is the foundation and we are the building stones:

“Ye also, as lively stones, are built up a spiritual house, an holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices, acceptable to God by Jesus Christ. Wherefore also it is contained in the scripture, behold, I lay in Sion a chief corner stone, elect, precious: and he that believeth on Him shall not be confounded. ... ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people; that ye should show forth the praises of Him who hath called you out of darkness into His marvelous light: which in time past were not a people, but are now the people of God: which had not obtained mercy, but now have obtained mercy” (1 Peter 2:5-10, KJV).

My prayer is that we will submit to this truth and become complete in Christ both in truth and experience.

J. B. Jablonskifootech

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

“Atonement at the Cross”

God would rather die for us than live without us.

“... For in the day that you eat from it, you shall surely die” (Gen. 2:17, emphasis added).

Misunderstanding this instruction God gave to Adam and Eve makes it impossible to appreciate how much created beings depend on their Creator to sustain life. It is easy to fall into the trap of thinking that the human race and the systems needed to sustain life were started by God at creation, but He then left us to function on a kind of autopilot. There are many who consciously or otherwise believe they are doing fairly well with God out there somewhere, and if they don’t ask Him for much, He shouldn’t require too much of them.

This thinking ignores the phrase emphasized above: “in the day.” Why didn’t Adam and Eve die that day? The plan of salvation God announced to our first parents centered on the cross, which didn’t happen for 4,000 years in the future, but the Lamb that was slain is described as having been slain from the foundation of the world (1 Peter 1:20).

Ellen G. White writes: “He was the Redeemer before as after His incarnation. As soon as there was sin, there was a Saviour” (The Desire of Ages, p. 210).

“As soon as Adam sinned, the Son of God presented Himself as surety for the human race, with just as much power to avert the doom pronounced upon the guilty as when He died upon the cross of Calvary” (Advent Review and Sabbath Herald, March 21, 1901).

Another problem with this “autopilot” thinking, is that it makes it impossible to understand the cross, and it’s precursor, Gethsemane. Christ never sinned during His earthly life after assuming the likeness of sinful flesh because of an intense, direct connection with His heavenly Father. Approaching Gethsemane, He knew that connection was soon to be broken. If He had believed that His life could exist in an autopilot limbo-land, this separation would have meant little.

Sunday’s lesson interprets the Greek word translated “overwhelmed with sorrow” “to designate a high level of emotional distress, sadness, and anxiety.” This sorrow is measureless in intensity and depth, and the intensity was bringing Jesus to the second death—ultimate separation from God.

Christ’s separation from God was caused by His being made sin for us. His human nature shrank from the prospect: “Father, if it be possible, take this cup ... ” That cup contained the wrath of God (Rev. 14:10). Paul defines this wrath as God finally giving the persistently rebellious ones over to their own choices (Rom. 1:18-32).

While struggling with His Gethsemane decision, “the history of the human race comes up before the world’s Redeemer. He sees that the transgressors of the law, if left to themselves, must perish. He sees the helplessness of man” (ibid., p. 690). He makes His decision to save the rebellious world. He chooses to believe His sacrifice will be acceptable and looks forward to the day when the promises of the everlasting covenant will restore unity to the universe.

His prayer, recorded in John 17, reveals the triumph of His faith: “I glorified Thee on the earth, having accomplished [finished or consummated] the work which Thou hast given Me to do” (John 17:4, NAS). That prayer will actually be fulfilled when the Holy City is brought to earth.

“Christ presents to the Father the purchase of His blood, declaring: ‘Here am I, and the children who Thou hast given Me ... With unutterable love, Jesus welcomes His faithful ones to the joy of their Lord. The Saviour’s joy is in seeing, in the kingdom of glory, the souls that have been saved by His agony and humiliation. ... As the ransomed ones are welcomed to the City of God, ... the two Adams are about to meet. The Son of God is standing with outstretched arms to receive the father of our race—the being whom He created, who sinned against his Maker, and for whose sin the marks of the crucifixion are borne upon the Saviour’s form. As Adam discerns the prints of the cruel nails, he does not fall upon the bosom of his Lord, but in humiliation casts himself at His feet, crying: ‘Worthy, worthy is the Lamb that was slain!’ Tenderly the Saviour lifts him up and bids him look once more upon the Eden home from which he has so long been exiled ... The son of God redeemed man’s failure and fall; and now, through the work of the atonement, Adam is reinstated in his first dominion” (The Great Controversy, pp. 646-648).

This is Christ’s reward. This is the culmination of the atonement. The human race was taken into sin by the first Adam, but the Second Adam reversed that history and took all mankind “in Him” to the cross to die the second death penalty for sin, and “in Christ,” rewrote the condemnation into life for all. That all will not be ultimately saved will be the result of their persistent rebellious choice. Like Esau, they spurn the at-one-ment birthright secured at infinite cost. Truly, Christ could say, “It is finished.” Only our choice is yet to be accomplished. May we all be willing to accept our position in the Second Adam Who has done everything for us.

Arlene Hill

Friday, November 28, 2008

“Metaphors of Salvation”

In this week’s insight we will reverse the order of the daily topics. This method follows a series of steps in a definite order, reaching from the motivating love of God (Thursday’s lesson) to the end result which is reconciliation (Monday’s lesson). Redemption (Sunday’s lesson) will end the study with an illustration of the two phases of emancipation.

Thursday’s Lesson—The Display of God’s Love: There is special significance regarding the declaration of God’s love in the first three words of the first chapter in Patriarchs and Prophets and the last three words of the last chapter in The Great Controversy. The three words are “God is love.” This is the main theme in the conflict of the ages between Christ and Satan. By the end of the conflict, as stated in the last words of the book The Great Controversy, a chorus of voices coming from “all things, animate and inanimate, in their unshadowed beauty and perfect joy, declare that God is love.” (GC 678).

The cross of Calvary is heaven’s eternal declaration of the unchanging, unlimited and unconditional love of God. Paul clearly presents the love of God as revealed in the death of Christ: “God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” This is while we were “without strength, ... ungodly, ... enemies” (Rom. 5:8, 6, 11). The center of attraction not only of earth but also of heaven is the cross where Christ crucified is revealed in the midst of the throne as “a Lamb as though it had been slain” (Rev. 5:6).

By way of the cross we learn of the initiative and motivating love of God. “Look at the cross of Calvary. It is a standing pledge of the boundless love, the measureless mercy of the heavenly Father” (MS 154, 1897; 1SM 156). This love is foundational in the giving Christ as the expiratory sacrifice for our salvation.

Wednesday—Expiatory Sacrifice: The term expiatory is involved in Christ’s act of making atonement by His sacrificial death. An expiratory sacrifice means the point at which it ends. By His death on Calvary, Jesus lifted, legally, the condemnation and guilt incurred by the sin of Adam and the fallen race. Christ’s last emission of breath (“into your hands I commit my spirit”) was a testimony of His faith in God that one phase of the atonement was accomplished.

The death of Jesus provided the legal basis for salvation. In Romans three there is the most concentrated thought in Scripture dealing with God’s work of deliverance from the power and effects of sin. Let’s consider three metaphors of salvation as listed in that chapter. These three—propitiation, redemption and justification—come from the sanctuary, the market place, and the court of law.

Propitiation is the “focus on the means by which sins are forgiven having atoning power, bringing about reconciliation.” This figure of speech is also the focus “on the place where sins are forgiven by means of the blood from an atoning sacrifice placed there (the) place of forgiveness, place where God forgives sins, often translated mercy seat (HE 9.5). Friberg, T., Friberg, B., & Miller, N. F. (2000). Vol. 4: Analytical Lexicon of the Greek New Testament (emphasis original).

The mercy seat was a most important piece of furniture within the most holy place of the tabernacle and later in the temple. It was a gold cover placed on the ark of the covenant. It was there where typical corporate atonement was made for Israel on the Day of Judgment or Atonement. It was by means of the blood of the expiatory sacrifice that atonement was accomplished. Those two types came together in the sanctuary—the blood of the sacrifice and the mercy seat both symbolizing Christ. Jesus is both our Sacrifice and our Mercy Seat, our atoning cover. It took both symbols to illustrate the Christ’s work of atonement. This work consists of justification and cleansing. In Romans 3:25 the original word for reconciliation is used in relation to the means of the atoning justification while in Hebrews 9:5 the word is used as the place of atonement. These two verses take in the scope of atonement as the typical service illustrated.

Tuesday—Justification, Monday—Reconciliation: Justification is a legal term. In Romans 3:24 Paul presents God’s justification by grace as a gift to everyone. God’s justifying activity is universal in scope as presented there in relation to the “all” in the previous verse, that is, all those who “have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” This is a legal justification and corporate in nature in these verses. Those being justified in verse 24 are the “all” who have sinned in verse 23.

In the plan of salvation there is one justification only, but with two phases. The first was God’s work in Christ on the cross whereby He legally lifted the deserved condemnation from the fallen race (Rom. 5:9,18). (Compare this with the thought that Christ is the “Savior of the world,” John 4:42; 1 John 4:14. However, this does not mean everyone will be saved unconditionally. The Savior of the world must be permitted to dwell within a person who then personally experiences salvation.) The second phase of justification is accomplished when the conditions of faith and repentance are exercised by individuals who hear the good news of the gospel along with the heart searching claims of the law (Rom. 5:1; 2:4; 10:16,17; Gal. 2:23,24).

Genuine faith and repentance always lead to obedience to all of God’s commandments (1 John 5:3; 2 John 6). True, the law cannot justify (Rom 8:2). It convicts of sin and points to Christ as our justifying righteousness. The law testifies to the righteousness of God (Rom 3:21). This righteousness, in Christ, comes to us from God by means of Christ’s faith—“the faith of Jesus” (Rom. 3:22). Through the human race’s Representative’s faith God’s righteousness comes to everyone, to the first “all” of Rom 3:23 as well as to the second “all.” (The manuscript used for the King James Version is correct here in designating two categories of people by the two uses of “all”). It is because God’s justifying righteousness reaches to everyone that “all” live. Without it no one could possibly exist. But there is much more. God does not desire His righteousness to stop by providing mere temporary protection and life. He wants everyone to be not merely protected by His justifying righteousness. So He places it within “all” who will believe. God’s righteousness is an objective righteousness that is to be experienced subjectively only by those who believe.

As with justification, there are two aspects of reconciliation. The first occurred in the death of Christ, the second involves receiving that reconciliation. The first part of the formula is “God was in Christ reconciling the world unto Himself,” that is, “when we were enemies.” The second is accepting that reconciliation as Paul wrote, “be reconciled to God” (2 Cor. 5:19; Rom. 5:9; 2 Cor. 5:20).

Justification and reconciliation are the same. Both occurred when Christ died (Rom. 5:9, 10; 2 Cor. 5:19-21), but in our thinking, justification precedes reconciliation. The reason is: the legal condemnation, because of our guilt, had to be lifted before there could be reconciliation. The sin that separated God from man first had to be dealt with before reconciliation could take place. The fact that God “did not send His Son into the world” to condemn it (John 3:17), is revealed by Paul in his concluding words of Romans 5:18: “Therefore, as through one man’s offense judgment came to all men, resulting in condemnation, even so through one Man’s righteous act the free gift came to all men, resulting in justification of life.”

Sunday—Redemption: In conclusion, like justification and reconciliation, redemption has two aspects. First there is the legal act of redeeming or purchasing (1 Cor. 6:20; 1 Peter 1:18, 19); the second is the response of believing the first aspect. Just as President Lincoln initially enacted the Emancipation Proclamation, thereby setting slaves free legally, the slave had to believe the good news of that legal determination and he had to act upon it in order to experience liberty personally.
Gerald L. Finneman


Friday, November 21, 2008

“Born of a Woman—Atonement and the Incarnation”

Gnosticism is founded on the Greek principle of a dualistic existence that separates matter from spirit, the first being inherently evil, and the latter being divine. It assumes that all material things came into being through a fallen semi-god (demiurge), who ruled the imperfect world, that by its very existence, is antagonistic to the divine spirit. However, according to this belief there occasionally enters into the constitution of some men a divine spark that can be developed through gnosis and practice of special rites. Through gnosis, this special individual could escape the material world and become entirely “spiritual.”

Such a concept was being circulated among the early congregations in Asia, challenging the truth on the nature which Christ assumed in His incarnation. For the Gnostic Christian, the function of Christ was not to come as Savior to make an atonement for fallen humanity, and redeem from sin, but He was to enter this evil world and bring gnosis to mankind. By learning this mystical “knowledge” and following His example, a “oneness” with God could be obtained. The whole idea dwelt on “relationship” rather than the problem of sin and its repugnance to a holy God.

In his first letter, John told the congregations, “ye have heard that antichrist shall come” and this “hearing” came through Paul’s second letter to the Thessalonians (2:1-12), which was widely circulated among the early congregations. After John’s release from Patmos, he traveled among the churches of Asia, no doubt witnessing for himself the infusion of Gnostic philosophies into the truths being preached by the apostles. One of the truths which was being challenged through Gnostic teaching was the nature which Christ assumed in His incarnation. Denying the reality of the incarnation spawned a libertinism among the early believers that disputed the truth of overcoming sin in this life, which resulted in widespread loss of piety. Thus the truth of sanctification and victory over sin was falling into disfavor. Through such teaching, Christ’s atonement was being made of none effect.

John explicitly addressed this problem in his letters when he stated that the deceivers circulating among the churches denied that Jesus came in “the flesh” (Greek, sarx [1]). John wrote: “Beloved, believe not every spirit [i.e. person, or “living soul”], but try the spirits whether they are of God: because many false prophets are gone out into the world. Hereby know ye the Spirit of God: every spirit that confesseth that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh [sarx] is of God: and every spirit that confesseth not that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh [sarx] is not of God: and this is that spirit of antichrist, whereof ye have heard that it should come [through Paul’s teaching]; and even now already is it in the world” (1 John 4:1-3). Anyone who taught that Jesus did not assume the real fallen nature of His ancestor Adam was “antichrist,” plain and simple.

Prior to the preaching of Christ and His righteousness in a fuller measure, as A. T. Jones and E. J. Waggoner presented it at the 1888 general conference session in Minneapolis, the nature which Christ assumed was only a theological sideline. However, since the whole point of the Gospel is to bring to humanity the truth of God’s power over Satan and sin, the nature which Christ assumed took on a new and important dimension in the preaching of the Gospel. In the 1888 edition of The Bible Readings for the Home Circle, there was no mention of the nature of Christ, but by the 1914 edition E. J. Waggoner had made a significant contribution to the discussion under the new chapter “A Sinless Life”:

“The idea that Christ was born of an immaculate or sinless mother, inherited no tendencies to sin, and for this reason did not sin, removes Him from the realm of a fallen world, and from the very place where help is needed. On His human side, Christ inherited just what every child of Adam inherits,—a sinful nature. On the divine side, from His very conception He was begotten and born of the Spirit. And all this was done to place mankind on vantage-ground, and to demonstrate that in the same way, every one who is ‘born of the Spirit’ may gain like victories over sin in his own flesh. ... God, in Christ, condemned sin, not pronouncing against it merely as a judge sitting on the judgment-seat, but by coming and living in the flesh, in sinful flesh, and yet without sinning. In Christ, He demonstrated that it is possible, by His grace and power, to resist temptation, overcome sin, and live a sinless life in sinful flesh” (page 174; emphases in original).

A. T. Jones concurred in his Consecrated Way to Christian Perfection: “Only by His subjecting Himself to the law of heredity could He reach sin in full and true measure as sin truly is. ... Thus He met sin in the flesh which He took, and triumphed over it, as it is written: ‘God sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, and for sin, condemned sin in the flesh’.” Addressing the whole point of the atonement, Jones states: “If He were not of the same flesh as are those whom He came to redeem, then there is no sort of use of His being made flesh at all” (pp. 48, 41, and see also p. 42; emphases in original).

The Teacher’s Quarterly asks a most pertinent question: “What are the implications of Christ’s being the second Adam?” This question brings home the truth of the nature which Christ assumed for sinners bogged down in the mire of sin and rebellion. Because Christ took upon Him the fallen nature of Adam and was “tempted in all points like as we are, yet without sin,” we have the assurance of overcoming “even as He also overcame.” This is the crux of the Gospel’s good news! We don’t have a “savior” who dwells in some high and lofty place, afar off from the problem of sin, but rather we have an high priest who has been “touched with the feeling of our infirmities,” who knows how to “succor them that are tempted.” Thus when tempted, no matter by what, we can “come boldly to the throne of grace” and “in time of need” we can find grace, mercy, and power over sin (Heb. 4:15-16; Rev. 3:21; Heb. 2:18).

Because Jesus took upon Himself Adam’s nature after the fall, and in that nature “condemned sin in the flesh” (Rom. 8:3), He proved that Satan’s claims against the law of God are false. Then, in compliance with the covenant He had made with His Father before the world began (Rev. 13:8), Christ, as corporate mankind, took that fallen nature to the cross and paid the ultimate price for redemption from sin, crucifying the “old man” of sin, and setting humanity free from condemnation (Rom. 8:1-4; 6:5-17; Gal. 2:20). Can the “good news” get any better than this?

Ann Walper


[1] Sarx is defined as “the concrete form of human nature marked by Adam’s fall.” Karl Barth, Church Dogmatics, vol. 1, p. 151.

Friday, November 14, 2008

“Atonement in Symbols: Part 2”

God would rather die for us than live without us.

The Day of Atonement is evidence that God did not institute the sacrificial system to be a perpetual, endless cycle of fall, confession, and forgiveness without any conclusion.

The services performed daily for the corporate body of Israel provided for the transfer of sins into the temple, which by its many facets represents Christ. The Israelites were not expected to be present for the daily morning and evening sacrifices the priests offered for the entire camp. During the year, the only active participation was when the individual brought an animal to sacrifice for specific forgiveness. In both instances, the significance was the transfer of sin into the temple. Thus, it became defiled over the course of the year.

Similar to the daily ministry, at the cross almost the entire world was unaware of the existence of the event, and few of those who were aware understood its significance. Yet, on Him was laid the iniquity of us all (Isa. 53:6), regardless of our presence or identification with its significance. Mary Magdalene may have understood, but her statements in the garden on Sunday morning reveal she was not aware there would also be a resurrection.

The Day of Atonement was different from the daily ministry in that Israel was to afflict their souls, humble themselves and do no work (Lev. 16:29-31). This process started when the Feast of Trumpets began ten days before the Day of Atonement. Why the difference? It involves cleansing of the individual soul temple from sin, something God will never force. There will be a conscious and informed participation where the penitent will acknowledge his willingness for the Holy Spirit to do His work convicting of sin. The penitent will acknowledge his sin and acquiesce in the removal and transfer of those sins into the temple.

The camp was thus divided into two groups, those who participated by afflicting their souls, and those who did not. Logically, those who belonged to each group must be identified by a judgment, because the accuser of the brethren continually claims all of earth’s inhabitants as his. It was this concept of judgment that alerted the pioneers of the Seventh-day Adventist Church to the proper explanation of the 2300-day prophecy of Daniel 8:14. It is after this process in the cosmic antitypical day of atonement that Christ declares: “Behold, I am coming quickly, and My reward is with Me ...” (Rev. 22:12). Their decisions have all been made, and Christ has sealed His Bride. Those who refuse to participate in the cleansing process will receive the results of their choice (to be “cut off”).

Those who accept at-one-ment with Christ and allow Him to wash their robes will be given the right to the tree of life, and may enter by the gates into the City (Rev. 22:14). They are victorious over the beast, his image, and his number by submitting to the refiner’s fire and are entitled to stand on the sea of glass mixed with fire surrounding the throne of God (Rev. 15:2).

The Psalmist declares, “Thy way, O God, is in the sanctuary” (Psalm 77:13). The Day of Atonement demonstrates that new and living way, which Christ through His flesh has consecrated for us. He, coming in the flesh, identifying Himself with mankind in the flesh, has for us who are in this flesh consecrated a way from where we are to where He now is, at the right hand of the throne of the Majesty in the heavens in the holiest of all.

The sacrifices and the service of the earthly sanctuary could not take away the sins of men, and so could not bring them to this perfection. But the sacrifice and the ministry of the true High Priest in the sanctuary and the true tabernacle do accomplish this. This does take away utterly every sin. And the worshiper is so truly purged that he has “no more conscience of sins” (Heb. 10:2).

Isaiah experienced a personal Day of Atonement (Isaiah 6). In his vision, he saw God sitting on His throne (mercy seat) with six-winged seraphim (the ark). After recognizing his sin he confessed it, fearing that he was “undone.” Another expression for “I am undone” is “I am cut off,” the punishment for those who refused to participate in the Day. Isaiah submitted to the cleansing process where a burning coal was touched to his lips. This was declared to have taken away his iniquity and forgiven his sin.

Those who have overcome the beast’s system of self-worship are entitled to stand on the sea of glass (Rev. 15:2-4). They have exercised faith to follow Christ along the way He consecrated into His second apartment ministry. When the censor is cast down, there is no need for a mediator because in Christ they are already standing in the presence of God. They are now sealed “at one” with Christ, and in Him they are entitled to sing the song of Moses and the Lamb. Let us all eagerly welcome the refining process that results in at-one-ment.

Arlene Hill

Thursday, November 06, 2008

“Atonement in Symbols: Part 1”

God would rather die for us than live without us.

“... In these ceremonies, he [Satan] discerned a symbol of communion between earth and heaven. He set himself to intercept this communion. He misrepresented God, and misinterpreted the rites that pointed to the Savior. Men were led to fear God as one who delighted in their destruction. The sacrifices that should have revealed His love were offered only to appease His wrath” (The Desire of Ages, p. 115).

When the children of Israel demonstrated their slave mentality at Sinai and promised “all that the Lord has spoken we will do” (Ex. 19:8). It was inevitable that they would misunderstand the great collective symbol of the plan of salvation represented by the sanctuary.

“... And the placing of the tabernacle in the midst of the camp of Israel was an illustration, an object lesson and suggestion, of the truth that He would dwell in the midst of each individual.” Eph. 3:16-19. Some of that nation, in every age, saw in the sanctuary this great saving truth. But as a body, in all ages, Israel missed this thought; and stopping only with the thought of His dwelling in the tabernacle in the midst of the camp, they came short of having His own personal presence dwelling in their individual lives. Accordingly their worship became only outward and formal, rather than inward and spiritual” (A. T. Jones, The Consecrated Way to Christian Perfection, pp. 72, 73).

God used the symbol of the worthless foundling in Ezekiel 16 to symbolize the perversion Israel had made of His sanctuary symbols. The Lord adorned His Israel with temple symbols, gold, silver, fine linen, silk, and embroidered cloth, and He nourished her with fine flour, honey, and oil (vs. 13). Yet, she played the harlot and attributed these symbols as provided by her other gods. They refused to see that they were symbolic of God’s work of sanctification within them.

When Jesus began his ministry, He cast out the merchants who were selling the symbols of the sanctuary (John 2:12-22). The people had completely lost sight of their real significance. It was enough that they obtain an animal and perform the ritual of sacrifice because they had come to believe salvation was produced by the act itself, not the Sacrifice it represented. Israel believed that the presence of God was limited to the mercy seat within the man-made earthly temple.

Without a proper understanding of the covenants, we will repeat ancient Israel’s error regarding the significance of the sacrificial system. In the New Covenant, God promises to write His law on our hearts. Only God can change the sinful heart. Yet, we demonstrate our misunderstanding of this principle when we insist on using the ten commandments to force outward conduct regardless of genuine heart change. Do we not make the same error as Israel when we engrave the commandments on signs of various materials, even stone, and put them on the walls of our schools and churches or even bumper stickers? By our formal legalism, we demonstrate we are satisfied to have God in our midst, but not within us.

At the very end, when the fourth angel of Revelation 18 has lightened the entire earth with his glory, the merchants of the earth will weep and mourn “because no one buys their cargoes any more” (vs. 11). The cargo is defined in verses12 and13, and the articles described are basic furnishings of the temple. Even the merchants of religious symbols can no longer fool people that these are the real thing after they have seen God’s genuine glory.

The fourth angel of Revelation 18 enlarges the messages of the three angels of Revelation 14. The final gospel message disproves Satan’s claim that God cannot produce a people who have allowed God to so change their hearts that His character is perfectly reproduced in them. The symbol of His character is embodied in His law. Like Israel of old, we can pervert the symbols of the covenant of grace. The great symbolism of the Seventh-day Adventist understanding of the Daniel 8:14 cleansing of the sanctuary can be perverted into a complicated system of dates and sacrifices where the genuine message of heart-changing grace is lost in all the details. The ability to reproduce the 2300-day chart with all the trimmings will not save us. Even humble acceptance of the cleansing work of God in our hearts also does not save us, but only fits us for life in the heavenly economy of love.

The symbols all point to the Cross where God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself. That is what saves us. Dependence on anything else is a perversion.

Arlene Hill

Note: Bible texts are from the New American Standard translation.

Friday, October 31, 2008

“Atonement Announced”

We want to remember as we study these Sabbath School lessons on the “Atonement,” that the word is not a Latin term that is muddled in meaning. It’s pure, simple Anglo-Saxon that ordinary people can grasp immediately: it means to be “made one.”

And the alienation that it heals has been one-sided—we humans are the ones who were separated, or isolated; it’s “the carnal mind [that is] enmity against God” (Rom. 8:7).

He has always been reconciled to us, no “enmity” on His part. It was the Father who “so loved the world” that He “gave His only begotten Son” to demonstrate His one-ness with us (John 3:16). The giving was total, the emptying of Himself in so doing (see Phil. 2:5-8; “the death of the cross” was the death in hell itself—the second death).

“Enmity” is exceedingly painful to endure, especially when it separates two people who once loved each other and once were “one.” A divorce for example can be worse than death; if hatred has entered in where once only love ruled—the human spirit knows no bitterness worse.

The loving Father wants the whole universe to know that He is already reconciled to us sinners, and that His reconciling love heals the wounds such alienation brings.

When this News breaks on to the darkened alienated human heart, if the heart is honest it is melted with contrition: “Does He care about me? Is His divine heart wounded by my willful alienation from Him? Oh, I repent of my alienation from Him!”

The response of the believing heart is a million miles from being self-centered: fear of hell doesn’t enter in, and hope of reward is forgotten. The sublime words describe this joy: “We have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.”

By Him “we have access by faith into this grace wherein we stand.” No joy in the wide universe can equal this! The weight has been lifted. At last we realize that His “yoke is easy, and [His] burden is light” (Matt. 11:28-30).

From “henceforth” we serve the One who died for us not because of fear of hell or hope of reward in heaven, but solely because His love [agape] “constraineth us.” It’s the joy that is supreme in God’s universe.

The scholars can describe it as “atonement announced,” and that is good; the “announcement” is the Good News that Paul says “is the power of God unto salvation” (Rom. 1:16).

Its joy is just indescribable.

May you, dear reader, know it first hand; that’s a prayer offered for you from one thankful heart.

Robert J. Wieland


Thursday, October 23, 2008

Atonement and the Divine Initiative

Our Lesson emphasizes correctly that long before sin arose in God’s universe He had made a plan to deal with it when it should arise.

But let us remember that even though a “plan” had been devised, still the rise of sin brought immeasurable grief to the heart of the Father.

For example, the suffering that sin has brought to human beings is immense, beyond words.

That’s reason enough to long for the Lord to come back, to put an end to sin.

But the Lord Himself wants to come back soon, for we down here never suffer alone: “In all their affliction He [the Lord] was afflicted, and the angel of His presence saved them: in His love and in His pity He redeemed them; and He bare them, and carried them all the days of old” (Isa. 63:9).

Even among those whose hearts are not in unison with God, who suffer in darkness, those too are included in the suffering of the Lord. Even we, who are sinners by nature, can sympathize with the suffering of other people and also with the brute creation in their suffering. Paul says, “The whole creation groaneth and travaileth in pain together until now, and not only they, but ourselves also, which have the firstfruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, waiting for the adoption, to wit, the redemption of our body” (Rom. 8:22, 23).

And if the “whole creation” groans in pain, what about the Father? How He must suffer!

The key word that we need here is “appreciation,” one of Ellen White’s favorite words. There is no word for “appreciation” in our Greek New Testament, but its absence is an amazing revelation: its absence is very eloquent because the idea permeates the Letters of Paul.

Paul was obsessed with what happened on the cross of Jesus. Even though there was no one word to express it, his grasp of what the cross means needs the words “heart-appreciation.” He felt that his heart wasn’t big enough to express the idea he wanted to say; doubtless he would read Psalm 119:32, the prayer of David, “when Thou shalt enlarge my heart,” and long for his own shriveled up little worldly heart to be “enlarged” to appreciate “the breadth, and length, and depth, and height; and to know the love (agape) of Christ, which passeth knowledge, that [he] might be filled with all the fullness of God” (Eph. 3:17-19).

Christ took the initiative in coming to save us and in dying our second death on His cross. There is nothing we can do to repay Him; but it pleases Him when He can find a people who “appreciate” what He sacrificed for us!

Perhaps, even on His cross hanging there in the darkness just before He screamed, “My God, why have You forsaken Me,” the Father permitted Him to have a brief glimpse in prolepsis of the multitudes who would “appreciate” what He had done. Psalm 22, you remember, is the prayer that Jesus prayed as He hung on His cross, as though a stenographer took it down: He was permitted to know that “all the ends of the world shall remember and turn unto the Lord ... A seed shall serve Him. ... They shall come, and shall declare His righteousness unto a people that shall be born, that He hath done this” (Psalm 22:27-31; in the Hebrew, that last clause is one word only—the Hebrew word for “It is done!”).

Is your heart big enough to “appreciate” it?

Robert J. Wieland

Sunday, October 19, 2008

“The Fall Into Sin”

“By the word of the Lord were the heavens made; and all the host of them by the breath of His mouth. ... For He spoke and it was done; He commanded and it stood fast” (Psalm 33:6, 9). “Christ is primarily the Word of God, the expression of God’s thought; and the Scriptures are the Word of God simply because they reveal Christ” (Ellet J. Waggoner).

John tells us that, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God” (John 1:1).

Ellen White keeps it simple by directing us this way: “We are to take the Word of God as it reads, the words of Christ as He has spoken them” (Lift Him Up, p. 265).

God has given His Word to man to be received through the Holy Spirit. This Word of God is but an extension of the thought of God, which is but the expression of God’s mind. Thus man, receiving this Word, would be a constant partaker of the mind of God—fulfilling the Scripture to, “Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus” (Phil. 2:5).

“The LORD God planted a garden eastward in Eden; and there He put the man whom He had formed. And out of the ground the LORD God made every tree grow that is pleasant to the sight, and good for food. The tree of life was also in the midst of the garden, and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. ... Then the LORD God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to tend and keep it. And the LORD God commanded the man, saying, ‘Of every tree of the garden you may freely eat; but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die’” (Gen. 2:8, 9, 15-17).

To man in the garden there came another word—opposite the Word of God. This second word was the expression of a second thought, and this thought was the product of another mind. To receive this word would be to receive the thought expressed in the word; and to receive the thought was to be partaker of this second mind. This second word is always opposed to the simple Word of God.

“Now the serpent ... said to the woman” (Gen. 3:1-5). Here was the second word representing the second mind—here was this “theologian in a tree” trying to explain what God really meant by what He said.

Deception lies in attempting to explain what God means by what He has said. There is never any need for this. God’s Word means what it says, and it says what it means. As a teacher of the Word of God, use any amount of time needed to help people to see what the Word of God says, but never a moment trying to explain what it means.

The two ways were now before her; the two words, the two thoughts, and the two minds. She accepted the second word and the result was a reversal of her own nature. Satan and man now had the same mind.

“So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, that it was pleasant to the eyes, and a tree to be desired to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate. She also gave to her husband with her, and he ate” (Gen. 3:6). The fact that another mind had been received was apparent, for Eve was now seeing things that weren’t so.

She saw that this tree was not good for food; for apart from it grew “every tree that was ... good for food.” She saw that this tree was not pleasant to the eyes; for apart from this tree, “made the Lord God to grow every tree that was pleasant to the sight” (see Gen. 2:9). And this tree she saw was not “a tree to be desired to make one wise”—this has been demonstrated every minute from then until now!

If Eve had done the “simple thing” of staying with the first Word exactly as it was she could not have sinned. If she had said to Satan: “I don’t know whether the Word that I have cited means what you suggest it means, and I don’t care, but what I do know is what the Word says, and I shall take it for just what it says; and there I stand. I will not eat of the fruit of this tree because the Word says that I shall not.”

In this “simple thing” lies the power of the divine Word to keep the soul from sinning. To every person this “simple thing” is as true today as it was, and as it would have proved itself to be to Eve. The divine Word, simply held by Eve, would forever have kept her from sin. The Lord Jesus, in human flesh, was kept from sinning by simply holding to the divine Word. “Thy word have I hid in mine heart, that I might not sin against Thee” (Psalm 119:11). “The word is very near you, in your mouth and in your heart, that you may do it” (Deut. 30:14).

Eve’s sin was in not believing and holding to God’s simple Word. Her unbelief was made complete by her disobedience in eating from the tree.

Even so today, our Laodicean paralysis stems from the same issue faced by Eve at the tree of the knowledge of good and evil—will we do the “simple thing” and hold firmly to the Word of our Creator and thus be kept from sinning, or will we fall for the interpretations, explanations, and “enlightenments” from the “theologians in the trees”?

“But I fear, lest somehow, as the serpent deceived Eve by his craftiness, so your minds may be corrupted from the simplicity that is in Christ” (2 Cor. 11:3).

“Believe that Jesus means just what he says; take him at his word, and hang your helpless soul upon him” (Ellen G. White, Review and Herald, June 23, 1896).

Daniel Peters