Thursday, June 12, 2008

The Power of His Resurrection

The Greek word anastasis (resurrection) literally means "to stand up again." Satan knocked down the human race through sin, and at the Tree of Knowledge he stood on the neck of his conquered victims declaring that he was stronger than God. However, at the moment Adam sinned and should have died eternally, Christ stepped between the dead (Adam) and the living (God), thus placing the entire human race on an extended probation[1] (see RH March 12, 1901; Letter 22, Feb. 13, 1900; SDA BC vol. 7-A, pp. 16-17). The promised power of Christ's resurrection was seen in that first instance of justification in the Garden of Eden. "Sin shall not have dominion over you" (Rom. 6:14).

Jesus "was delivered for our offenses, and was raised again for our justification." Rom. 4:25. "And if Christ be not raised, your faith is vain; ye are yet in your sins." 1 Cor. 15:17. His resurrection from the equivalent of the second death (unlike the resurrections of Jairus's daughter, the widow of Nain's son, and even Lazarus), proved that Satan has no power to make us continue living a life of sin (see Desire of Ages, pp. 209-210).

Paul tells the Philippians that he wants to be "found in Him, not having mine own righteousness, which is of the law [old covenant legalism], but that which is through the faith of Christ, the righteousness which is of God by faith" (Phil. 3:9). Commenting on this verse, E.J. Waggoner stated: "The power by which a man is made righteous is the power of the resurrection. This power of the resurrection, which works righteousness in a man, is the surety of the final resurrection to immortality at the last day by which he enters upon his inheritance." (Waggoner on Romans, p. 91).

Speaking of the promised inheritance in the New Earth, Waggoner wrote: "The inheritance is one of righteousness … Now the man who thinks that he himself can get righteousness out of the law, is in reality trying to substitute his own righteousness for God's righteousness. In other words, he is trying to get the land by fraud." (Ibid., p. 88).

Waggoner's position is that the old covenant idea of man's supposed ability, by means of "faith" or "good works," to add to God's work of salvation is really attempting to obtain the promise through a lie. "Works of the law" (legalism) don't add one iota to the salvation equation (Gal. 3:18, 21-22; 4:21-26; Glad Tidings, pp. 66, 70-72). "Since the gospel is contrary to human nature, we become doers of the law not by doing but by believing. If we worked for righteousness, we would be exercising only our own sinful human nature, and so would get no nearer to righteousness, but farther from it." (The Glad Tidings, p. 56; see also E.G. White, Faith and Works, p. 24).

Beginning in July 1886, E.J. Waggoner began expounding a view of the two covenants that was out of sync with the view held by the majority of the church's leadership. The men who objected to Waggoner's position claimed that grace was being asserted at the expense of the law. They saw Waggoner's position on the "law in Galatians" as an attack on the church's long-held position on the moral law and the Sabbath. If the "law in Galatians" was "primarily" the moral law, then these men assumed that their defense for Sabbath keeping would be "nailed to the cross," just as our opponents claim. It was this dispute that set the prevailing attitude for the 1888 Minneapolis General Conference session.

How does this tidbit of history relate to this week's study? Monday's lesson focuses on the story of the two disciples who encounter the resurrected Jesus as they travel the road to Emmaus (Luke 24:13-32). Concerning this the Adult Teacher's Guide makes this statement: "What this account should teach us is that it's important that we not superimpose our own desires, our own wishes, our own expectations, on our understanding of doctrine. We need to be surrendered to what the Word of God teaches, even if it teaches things that aren't exactly as we like."

The Quarterly further points out that these disciples "were so focused on their disappointment that they failed to see the enlightenment and clarity that were right in front of them." Then it asks a few pertinent questions: "In what similar ways do we disregard the Holy Spirit? In what ways have things been presented so clearly to us and yet, at the time, from our own hardness of heart, we completely missed them? How can we learn to avoid making similar mistakes again?"

The majority of the leadership of the church rejected the truth on the covenants that Waggoner attempted to present during the years 1886-1896 because it differed from their own expectations concerning doctrine. The heart of the "most precious message" is the distinction between the old and new covenants; between believing God's everlasting covenant promise, or relying on man's promises to obey. In a letter dated March 8, 1890, Ellen White wrote to Uriah Smith: "Yourself, Brother Dan Jones, Brother Porter and others are spending your investigative powers for naught to produce a position on the covenants to vary from the position that Brother Waggoner has presented." In contradistinction to the position held by Smith and G.I. Butler, Ellen White later wrote to Smith referring to the law in Galatians 3:24, saying: "In this Scripture, the Holy Spirit through the apostle Paul is speaking especially of the moral law." (1888 Materials, pp. 604, 1575).

Why did the message incite so much opposition? "An unwillingness to yield up preconceived opinions, and accept this truth, lay at the foundation of a large share of the opposition manifested at Minneapolis against the Lord's message through Brethren Waggoner and Jones." What was lost by the opposition? "By exciting that opposition, Satan succeeded in shutting away from our people, in a great measure, the special power of the Holy Spirit that God longed to impart." (Ibid.).

When we are willing to die to self, to self importance, and preconceived opinions, then the Holy Spirit will raise us from the dead and give to our Movement power for finishing the work.

" … The spiritual energies of His people have long been torpid, but there is to be a resurrection from apparent death. By prayer and confession of sin we must clear the King's highway. As we do this, the power of the Spirit will come to us. We need the pentecostal energy. This will come; for the Lord has promised to send His Spirit as the all-conquering power." (Gospel Workers, pp. 307-308).

—Ann Walper


Ellen G. White comments on why Adam did not immediately die, as God said he would: "Why was not the death penalty at once enforced in his [Adam's] case?—Because a ransom was found. God's only begotten Son volunteered to take the sin of man upon Himself, and to make an atonement for the fallen race. There could have been no pardon for sin had this atonement not been made." RH April 23, 1901; SDA BC vol. 1, p. 1082. Please note that the atonement was made at the beginning of earth's history, as soon as Adam sinned, and that the "fallen race" was included in Adam when he was ransomed.