Thursday, September 29, 2011

Paul: Apostle to the Gentiles

Fourth Quarter 2011 Adult Sabbath School Lessons
“Paul, Apostle to the Gentiles”
For the week of  September 25 – October 1, 2011
(PDF Link)

Have you ever been wronged – perhaps even criminally – by someone who failed to realize the heinous nature of their crime?  We have wronged God in this way many times.

Because the hearts of all men everywhere are naturally “deceitful, and desperately wicked,” men are often incapable of realizing their guilt or repenting of their wrong actions.  Such was the mindset of Saul, whose hatred of Christians led him to wreak “havoc of the church, entering every house, and dragging off men and women, committing them to prison” (Acts 8:3).

While believing himself to be carrying out God’s will, Saul was actually an instrument in the hands of Satan. Those who read the story of Saul’s early life will conclude that he, though well-intended, did not know what spirit inspired his actions.  In His infinite mercy and wisdom, Jesus revealed Himself to Saul on the road to Damascus. Saul was stunned by the revelation that he was persecuting none other than Jesus Christ, Savior of the world and Creator of the universe.  This revelation changed him from Saul to Paul.

This quarter, the world church of Seventh-day Adventists will study Paul’s letter to the Galatians.  The letter hits close to home. In it Paul marveled that the Galatians were “turning away so soon from Him who called you in the grace of Christ, to a different gospel” (Galatians 1:6).  He exclaimed, “Who has bewitched you that you should not obey the truth, before whose eyes Jesus Christ was clearly portrayed among you as crucified” (Galatians 3:1)?  It was to correct this “bewitchment” that Paul wrote this letter.  The letter was included in the Bible because the Lord saw that this tendency to adopt a false gospel would jeopardize the church to the end of time.

In the 1888 era, Seventh-day Adventists, like the Galatians before them, had turned away from Christ to a false gospel.  We had “the truth” but we had lost sight of Christ in the truth.  To restore Christ to the heart and center of Adventism, the Lord in His great mercy sent a message for our church through Brothers Waggoner and Jones at the 1888 session in Minneapolis and thereafter.  Much of the Scriptural basis for the messages they gave was based on their study of the writings of Paul, and the letter to Galatians in particular. As we examine our history, sad details are forthcoming:

 “Those who resisted the Spirit of God at Minneapolis were waiting for a chance to travel over the same ground again, because their spirit was the same.  Afterward, when they had evidence heaped upon evidence, some were convicted; but those who were not softened and subdued by the Holy Spirit's working, put their own interpretation upon every manifestation of the grace of God, and they have lost much…But all the universe of heaven witnessed the disgraceful treatment of Jesus Christ, represented by the Holy Spirit. Had Christ been before them, they would have treated him in a manner similar to that in which the Jews treated Christ” (Ellen White, Special Testimonies for Ministers and Workers #6  p. 19).

 We read further: “Some have been cultivating hatred against the men whom God has commissioned to bear a special message to the world.  They began this satanic work at Minneapolis.  Afterward, when they saw and felt the demonstration of the Holy Spirit testifying that the message was of God, they hated it the more, because it was a testimony against them.  They would not humble their hearts to repent, to give God the glory, and vindicate the right.  They went on in their own spirit, filled with envy, jealousy, and evil surmisings, as did the Jews” (Ellen White, Testimonies to Ministers, page 79).

 “An unwillingness to yield up preconceived opinions, and to accept this truth [the gospel in Galatians], lay at the foundation of a large share of the opposition manifested at Minneapolis against the Lord's message through Brethren [E.J.] Waggoner and [A.T.] Jones.  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 to them.  The enemy prevented them from obtaining that efficiency which might have been theirs in carrying the truth to the world, as the apostles proclaimed it after the day of Pentecost.  The light that is to lighten the whole earth with its glory was resisted, and by the action of our own brethren has been in a great degree kept away from the world” (Ellen White, Selected Messages, Volume 1, pages 234, 235).

 The Lord has a way of bringing us back over the same ground again and again until we finally learn our lesson.  While many today believe that the church accepted the Latter Rain message, which God gave to Brothers Waggoner and Jones, a candid look at the inspired commentary suggests otherwise.

 In the back of our quarterly we find many resources to aid our study of Galatians. To this list you may wish to add two additional titles: E.J. Waggoner's heart-warming commentary on Galatians, The Glad Tidings, and A.T. Jones' Studies in Galatians, a compilation of articles written by Jones and published in the Review and Herald from July 25, 1899, to November 13, 1900.

 “In every church in our land, there is needed confession, repentance, and reconversion.  The disappointment of Christ is beyond description.  Unless those who have sinned speedily repent, the deceptions of the last days will overtake them” (Ellen White, Review and Herald, December 15, 1904 ).

Please join me in praying for our church this quarter.
--Patti Guthrie