Thursday, January 28, 2010

"The Fruit of the Spirit is Patience"

This week’s lesson focuses on the fruit of the Spirit called patience. When a Seventh-day Adventist hears the term “patience” his/her mind quickly goes to Rev. 14:12. “Here is the patience of the saints here are they that keep the commandments of God and the faith of Jesus.” This is a statement concerning the final generation, those who have “washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the lamb” (Rev. 7:14).

James wrote:

“But let patience have its perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing” (James 1:4*).

This is what the one hundred-forty four thousand have done. They have developed the attribute which will particularly be seen in characters of the final generation, “patience”.

Thus we should understand and appreciate that description in Revelation 14:12 of the final generation:

Here is a call for the endurance of the saints, those who keep the commandments of God and their faith in Jesus (ESV).

Here is the perseverance of the saints who keep the commandments of God and their faith in Jesus (NAS).

This calls for patient endurance on the part of the saints who obey God's commandments and remain faithful to Jesus (NIV).

The last generation must endure “a time of trouble, such as never was since there was a nation” (Dan. 12:1). That will call for patient endurance. And “he [we might add “and only he”] that endureth to the end shall be saved” (Matt. 24:13). The 1888 Message was sent to prepare a people to stand in that time. What is it about the message that particularly relates to the development of patience? There are at least two elements of the message which specifically relate to this subject.

The message was a message concerning the righteousness of Christ. Christ came to reveal the righteousness of God (See Romans 3:26). God described Himself in Exodus 34:6-7

And the LORD passed before him and proclaimed, "The LORD, the LORD God, merciful and gracious, longsuffering, and abounding in goodness and truth, keeping mercy for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, by no means clearing the guilty, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children and the children's children to the third and the fourth generation." (Exodus 34:6-7)

Notice the term “longsuffering”. It means to suffer long without manifesting an impatient, intolerant attitude. In other words it is a synonym for “patience”. God Himself is patient. Therefore, when Jesus came to reveal the righteousness of God, He came to reveal among other qualities, the patience of God. And therefore, the message of the righteousness of Christ must be a message that reveals and cultivates patience in those who hear and believe.

As we understand the history of that message, we are again called to take note of the patience of God. Even though He was despised and rejected in the 1888 era, and the message has been resisted and rejected by some ever since, God is still patiently working with His church. He is still knocking at the door and calling them to repentance. Patience is a very large element of the 1888 message and history.

Another aspect of the 1888 message which relates to patience is a concept which has grown out of an understanding of the message and its history. That concept is corporate repentance. The best way to cultivate patience, when dealing with erring brothers and sisters, is to engage in corporate repentance on their behalf. One cannot have a repentant spirit on behalf of someone who is in error and be impatient with them at the same time.

As we understand that Jesus experienced repentance on our behalf (see “As Many as I Love”, Chapter 5, Robert Wieland), as we see the righteousness of God revealed in this attitude, we begin to realize that there is no reason why we should not repent on behalf of those who err or even sin against us. “All have sinned and come short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23). We are all in the same “boat”. We are all made of the same “dough”. If the sinless One could repent on behalf of a sinner, surely a fellow sinner can repent on behalf of another sinner.

Thus instead of censure and condemnation, we will manifest patience and forgiveness toward those who err, even in the most grievous and severe manner. This is what it means to wear the robe of Christ’s righteousness. This is a prominent characteristic of the “saints”.

*All scripture quotes are from the King James Version unless otherwise noted