Tuesday, October 09, 2012

“Revelation and God Revealed in It ”

Insights #02 Oct. 13, 2012
Fourth Quarter 2012 Adult Sabbath School Lessons
“Revelation and God Revealed in It ”
For the week of Oct. 13, 2012
Revelation and God Revealed in It

                My first and still fondest memory of my early experience in the Seventh-day Adventist Church, in the middle 1980’s, was the degree of intensive Bible study I encountered amongst the members who befriended me, shared with me, and led me further in the church.  We cannot afford to lose that zeal, focus, priority, and valuing of God’s Word.  We ought to be studying our Bibles as never before, and to be searching, most of all, not for doctrinal truth, but for the “matchless charms of Jesus Christ” revealed throughout the Scriptures.
                The word “Scriptures” refers to the Written Word, and it is the Scriptures that Jesus quoted and utilized in his teaching and preaching.  Some cite the text in Thessalonians that says we should heed to the “traditions”, whether written or spoken, to refer to the dual channels of the Word of God written, and that of the “sacred traditions” of the church.  However, as we understand in our Protestant heritage there must be a test or standard to measure all truth, and that standard is the Word of God.  If all that was said or preached was also considered equal to the Bible, then there would be no standard to test those teachings and preachings.  The Spirit of Prophecy is also to be measured against the Scriptures, as the “lesser light” leading us to the greater light.  As Ellen G. White said near the end of her life, “I commend to you this book.”  We need never to lose such a heritage from the Protestant Reformation, but more importantly, as we have such access to the Bible and other Christian materials, to be diligent to be found approved in our knowledge of God’s Word to us.
                God communicates to human beings in many ways, such as His “small still voice”, nature, divinely inspired personal experiences, etc. but His greatest revelation, other than the obvious of Jesus Christ Himself, is His Word which is our guide and standard throughout our lives. 
                The Bible proclaims that it was not given merely by men, but men moved by the Holy Spirit.  God inspired their minds to communicate His message, and it is infallible in its message, intent, and plan of Salvation. 
                As II Timothy 3:16 states, All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, or “god breathed”, and is profitable for every aspect of the Christian life, thoroughly perfecting us unto every good work.  A Roman Catholic apologist would argue that the text states that the Bible is “profitable”, but not sufficient, and thus we need additionally the “Sacred Traditions” of the church to fill out all that is needed.  Yet the text itself argues against such a conclusion.  The text is saying that “all” Scriptures are inspired by God, thus every verse in the Bible is inspired, and is profitable towards correction, instruction, etc.  The total effect of the profit of each individual passage is that we may be thoroughly perfected unto every good work, and thus, the total Bible is sufficient, from the benefits of all those profitable verses.  If we can be perfected from the Bible, then there is no other writings that are necessary. 
                That of course begs the question of Ellen White’s writings.  She herself stated that we did not need her writings if we really knew the Scriptures.  Yet, because of our fallen condition, and the human tendency to become entrenched in traditional patterns of thinking, the prophetic gift is of great value to us in showing the depth of meaning in the Scriptures.  They are truly a “lesser light” leading us to the greater light.  My experience with the Spirit of Prophecy has led me to want to study the Bible ever more.  Mrs. White’s writings are “authoritative”, as we state in the Fundamental Beliefs, but that does not mean we consider her writings to be equal to Scriptures, but that the prophetic gift lends an authority and power to her writings, as she speaks with conviction of her understanding of the total revelation of God’s character, will, and plan revealed in Scriptures. 
                There are those who argue that Jesus Christ, rightly seen as the center and ultimate focus of all Scriptures, for they “testify” of Him, and His matchless love, holiness, righteousness, justice, mercy, and truth, eliminates the need for study of other issues such as prophecy, doctrine, etc.  Yet, Matthew 4:4 calls us to live by “every word of God”.  This protects against the ecumenical tendency to “unite on the doctrines held in common”, and to essentially disregard or discount the rest.  We could never sanction such an ecumenical unity, for to do so would be to betray the Bible and the Word who gave it to us. 
                We understand that the nature of inspiration in the Bible is that of thought inspiration, as God moved upon the minds of the writer to communicate as God desired.  We do not hold to a verbal inspiration model because we recognize that God worked with men of varying experience, education, and understanding of truth.  God works through fallible human beings to accomplish His infallible will. 
                The prophetic gift operates in the same fashion as the writers of the Canon.  God worked to reveal thoughts and ideas, occasionally through visions and dreams, and then led the prophet to write or have transcribed the intent that God had through the revelation. 
                It is important to express the central truth that the primary objective of all of God’s revelation is to reveal Christ, the Gospel, the “righteousness of God”, and the plan God has to restore us to His glory, or character.  Jesus Christ is the center of all the Bible, and we should be “looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith.”  By beholding we become changed.  The Bible is not, as some claim, a “dead letter”, but a living organism, worked by the Spirit to move on the human heart, if open, to receive Christ and His love.
                We hold to the truth of the Godhead, the unity of three co-eternal persons, who are all deeply invested in our salvation and redemption.  Some of the early Seventh-day Adventist pioneers held to a different view, avoiding the errors they felt were understood in the idea of the “Trinity.” We were moved over time to develop a correct view of the issue. We do not teach the same position as the Roman Catholic, and our view today is completely correct and Biblical.  (I would urge you to read a book entitled, Defending the Godhead, by Vance Ferrell.  He has done a good job in the discussion.)  The fact that some of the early SDA pioneers taught differently is often used as a criticism against the adventist church.  Yet God takes people as they are and then leads them into all truth by His Spirit, and the reality that the church grew in their understanding should not be used as a criticism, for growth is a positive outcome, and obviously the church was being led by the Spirit of God.
                One of the central truths of the Bible is the truth that God is Creator.  It doesn’t attempt to prove God’s existence, leaving the responsibility for God’s revelation to fallen man to God, in the remaining beauties of His creation, in the dealings He has with each human being, in the work on the heart by the Holy Spirit.  As the lesson states, “Conviction about the existence of God cannot come from rational arguments alone. The Bible teaches that a person is convinced of God’s existence through personal experience with Him as the Holy Spirit impresses one’s heart and mind with the fact of His existence. In many cases, people may come to believe in God first; only after, then, do they start to build a logical and intellectual foundation for faith in a God whom they cannot see.”  Without doubt, the Bible reveals a God who is greatly involved with humanity. The whole great controversy scenario is, really, about how the Lord is working to save humanity from the clutches of sin and Satan. From the first act of the earth’s creation (Gen. 1:1) to the cross (John 19:18) to the recreation of the earth (2 Pet. 3:12, 13), the Bible shows us unequivocally the Lord’s intimate activity with humanity.”
                “In His word, God has committed to men the knowledge necessary for salvation. The Holy Scriptures are to be accepted as an authoritative, infallible revelation of His will. They are the standard of character, the revealer of doctrines, and the test of experience. ‘Every scripture inspired of God is also profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for instruction which is in righteousness; that the man of God may be complete, furnished completely unto every good work.’ 2 Timothy 3:16, 17.”-Ellen G. White, The Great Controversy, pp. 8, 9.  These words from the Great Controversy are a deep study for us, to be intimately involved with the Word of God, and allowing the Spirit, or the life of Christ, to live out that Word of Life in us.  The Word of God is to become “engrafted” into our minds, characters, lives, forever.
-Thomas R. Cusack