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