Tuesday, February 28, 2012

“The Bible and History”

First Quarter 2012 Adult Sabbath School Lessons
"The Bible and History"
For the week of  February 26 – March 3, 2012
To most people, history is the rise and fall of nations.  Babylon, Media-Persia, Greece and Rome.  When I think of history I think of people – specific people that follow one another in a chain.  Their stories are woven together in a single cloth.  They have a common thread running through their lives, connecting them. 
The title of this lesson will probably make most people think about Daniel 2.  It makes me think of people:  Luther, Latimer, Patrick, Columba...  All of these men, and many more literally hung their lives on the word of God.  These men expected much of their God, and God honored their trust, doing great things through and for them. 
"The enemy of righteousness left nothing undone in his effort to stop the work committed to the Lord's builders.  But God 'left not Himself without witness' (Acts 14:17).  Workers were raised up who ably defended the faith once delivered to the saints.  History bears record to the fortitude and heroism of these men.  Like the apostles, many of them fell at their post, but the building of the temple went steadily forward.  The workmen were slain, but the work advanced.  The Waldenses, John Wycliffe, Huss and Jerome, Martin Luther and Zwingli, Cranmer, Latimer, and Knox, the Huguenots, John and Charles Wesley, and a host of others brought to the foundation material that will endure throughout eternity.  And in later years those who have so nobly endeavored to promote the circulation of God's word, and those who by their service in heathen lands have prepared the way for the proclamation of the last great message--these also have helped to rear the structure" (Ellen White, Acts of the Apostles,page 598).
As you know, Jesus sent out His disciples to start spreading the Word at Jerusalem, and then in Samaria, and then to the ends of the earth.  This is where we will pick up the thread of "history."  You will remember Paul and his work in Antioch.  One of the groups of people that the Antioch church ministered to was the Celts.  When we think of Celts we think of Ireland, but this was a small group that had moved down into Galatia.  They took the gospel message home.  So the gospel reached Ireland, England and Wales.  Patrick was used of God to spread the gospel's influence all throughout Ireland.  
Columba started a training school on the island of Iona.  His mission was the evangelization of Scotland.  Following him was Dinooth, who ministered in Wales, and Aidan in England.  Finan and Coleman carried the flag through the first marshal charges of Catholicism.  Though for awhile the gospel light flickered, it did not go out, but rose up brighter.  "In Scotland the seeds of truth scattered by Columba and his colaborers had never been wholly destroyed.  For hundreds of years after the churches of England submitted to Rome, those of Scotland maintained their freedom.  In the twelfth century, however, popery became established here, and in no country did it exercise a more absolute sway.  Nowhere was the darkness deeper.  Still there came rays of light to pierce the gloom and give promise of the coming day.  The Lollards, coming from England with the Bible and the teachings of Wycliffe, did much to preserve the knowledge of the gospel, and every century had its witnesses and martyrs" (Ellen White, Great Controversy, page 249).
Wycliffe is sometimes called the "morning star" of the reformation.  He was a teacher at the university in Oxford, England.  Wycliffe started translating the Bible from the ancient languages into the English language. "In a work, On the Truth and Meaning of Scripture, he expressed his intention to translate the Bible, so that every man in England might read, in the language in which he was born, the wonderful works of God" (Ellen White, Great Controversy, page 87).  "[Wycliffe] lived to place in the hands of his countrymen the most powerful of all weapons against Rome--to give them the Bible, the Heaven-appointed agent to liberate, enlighten, and evangelize the people. He had placed in the hands of the English people a light which should never be extinguished.  In giving the Bible to his countrymen, he had done more to break the fetters of ignorance and vice, more to liberate and elevate his country, than was ever achieved by the most brilliant victories on fields of battle" (Ellen White, Great Controversy, page 88).
It was through the writings of Wycliffe that John Huss, of Bohemia, was led to renounce many of the errors of Romanism and to enter upon the work of reform.  Thus in these two countries, so widely separated, the seed of truth was sown.  From Bohemia the work extended to other lands.  The minds of men were directed to the long-forgotten word of God.  A divine hand was preparing the way for the Great Reformation" (Ellen White, Great Controversy, page 96).
Huss, an ardent reformer in Czech Republic, died at the stake for his faith. "...Luther was a German priest.  While reading the works of Huss, he found that the great truth of justification by faith, which he himself was seeking to uphold and teach, had been held by the Bohemian reformer.  'We have all,' said Luther, 'Paul, Augustine, and myself, been Hussites without knowing it. God will surely visit it upon the world,' he continued, 'that the truth was preached to it a century ago, and burned'" (Ellen White, The Great Controversy, page 140).
While in Rome doing penance, Luther was climbing a tall staircase on his knees, crying and praying over and over as he climbed.  This monk had been studying the Bible.  As he climbed a verse came to mind.  "The just shall live by faith."  These few words struck him with such startling clarity that he jumped up and ran down the stairs and back to his Bible to study and pray.  What he learned from the Bible, he began to share at the university in Wittenberg.  Students, inspired and empowered by the Word of God, took what they learned home with them, and taught others. In this way, the reformation spread everywhere.
"While Luther was opening a closed Bible to the people of Germany, Tyndale was impelled by the Spirit of God to do the same for England" (Ellen White, Great Controversy, page 245).
Tyndale speaking to a priest said, "If God spare my life, ere many years I will cause the boy who driveth the plough to know more of the scriptures than you do" (Anderson, Annals of the English Bible, page 19).  Tyndale finished his translation of the New Testament into English.  He was betrayed by a friend and burned at the stake, but the door had been opened, and the Bible was free and available to everyone in England.
The Methodist Church was founded by John Wesley, an Anglican Minister.  Following a difficult and discouraging mission trip to America, Wesley questioned his faith.  In 1738, at the age of 34, John Wesley attended an evening worship service in London which moved him deeply.  In his journal, Wesley described his "Aldersgate experience:"
"In the evening I went very unwillingly to a society in Aldersgate Street, where one was reading Luther's preface to the Epistle to the Romans.  About a quarter before nine, while the leader was describing the change which God works in the heart through faith in Christ, I felt my heart strangely warmed.  I felt I did trust in Christ alone for salvation; and an assurance was given me that He had taken away my sins, even mine, and saved me from the law of sin and death" (The Journal of John Wesley, May 24, 1738).
Wesley went on to travel more than 250,000 miles and preach 40,000 sermons all across England.  His followers became known as Methodists because of their methodical Bible reading, praying and worshiping.
Ellen White grew up Methodist.  When William Miller was preaching about the second coming of Jesus, she accepted the Advent message.  She was one of the early leaders of the Seventh-day Adventist church.  As God's special messenger for our day, Ellen White has left us with an abundance of valuable counsel to help us prepare for the coming of our Lord and Savior.
E. J. Waggoner and A. T. Jones were Seventh-day Adventists, and co-laborers with Ellen White in the late 1800's.  Over and over again, Ellen White endorsed the messages given by Jones and Waggoner during this time as "light from heaven," – a special message from God for His last-day people.  
Waggoner wrote a wonderful book about Galatians entitled The Glad Tidings, which I have found to be encouraging, helpful and faith building.  Jones was also a prolific writer, and was instrumental in preventing the establishment of a national Sunday law in the US in 1889.
"The Vaudois and the Huguenots, Wycliffe and Huss, Jerome and Luther, Tyndale and Knox, Zinzendorf and Wesley, with multitudes of others have witnessed to the power of God's word against human power and policy in support of evil. These are the world's true nobility.  This is it's royal line.  In this line the youth of today are called to take their places" (Ellen White, Education, page 254).
Now the torch is being passed to you.  You are the next link in a chain that runs all the way back to Christ.  Will you do your part faithfully, so that God's work in the earth can be finished, and Jesus can come soon for those He loves? 
--Justina Thomas
Author's note:  In writing this article I'm acutely aware that not the half has been told.  As Paul said "Time would fail me, to tell of Latimer and Erasmus, Lucian, and many, many more.  They are all intricately connected.  Each one helps, interacts with, and affects the others. 
 For further study:
·        The Great Controversy, by Ellen White
·        Truth Triumphant, by B.G. Wilkinson
·        They Took John's Torch, by Maud O'neil.
·        Ellen G. White Writings, Comprehensive Research Edition (Avaliable athttp://www.adventistbookcenter.com/browse.tpl 

Raul Diaz