Wednesday, April 30, 2014

“Christ and the Sabbath”

Insights #5 May 3, 2014
Second Quarter 2014 Adult Sabbath School Lessons
"Christ and the Sabbath"
For the week of May 3, 2014

"For by Him all things were created that are in heaven and that are on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or principalities or powers. All things were created through Him and for Him. And He is before all things, and in Him all things consist." Col 1:16,17.

The "all things" in Colossians chapter 1 includes the Sabbath. But in our study this week we explore the special way the Sabbath is linked to our relationship, our understanding of the character of Christ, and thus of God, whom He came to reveal. And the link of the Sabbath with the creative and redemptive power of God is unmistakeable.

As Seventh-day Adventists, who believe in the imminent return of the Lord of the Sabbath, we must realize that we have just scratched the surface of the truth of the Sabbath. We are familiar with the counsel of the True Witness in Revelation 3 that we are blind to just how much we need from Christ, the Lord of the Sabbath. The Sabbath itself is the means by which the revelation and transformation of the power of God in our lives is to be manifested.

Perhaps no better chapter in Scripture provides insights into how the righteousness of Christ is revealed in the Sabbath than Isaiah 58. We are counseled that this chapter is present truth for us:

"The fifty-eighth chapter of Isaiah contains present truth for the people of God.  Here we see how medical missionary work and the gospel ministry are to be bound together as the message is given to the world. Upon those who keep the Sabbath of the Lord is laid the responsibility of doing a work of mercy and benevolence. Medical missionary work is to be bound up with the message, and sealed with the seal of God."--Manuscript 22, 1901.  (Ev 516.4)

As we see in the multitude of Sabbath healings that Christ performed, the love of God is revealed in practical acts of benevolence. In Isaiah 58 we find that the Loud Cry includes a rebuke for God's people who do not yet have the religious experience of the indwelling Christ - that which the Sabbath is to provide.
"Cry aloud, spare not;
Lift up your voice like a trumpet;
Tell My people their transgression,
And the house of Jacob their sins.

"Yet they seek Me daily,
And delight to know My ways,
As a nation that did righteousness,
And did not forsake the ordinance of their God.
They ask of Me the ordinances of justice;
They take delight in approaching God." Is 58:1,2.

The extent to which we fail to see the truth of the righteousness of Christ as the indwelling power given as a gift to humanity in the presence of Christ is the extent to which our religious experience will fall short of true religion and remain self focused, as we see in verses 3-6.  Breaking the yoke (vs 6) includes correcting the wrongs of resisting the spirit of God.

Just as surely as we believe in Jesus Christ and do His will, not exalting self, but walking in all humility of mind, just so sure will the Lord be with us. But He despises your fierce spirit. He is grieved with the hardness of your hearts. Pray Him to give you a heart of flesh, that can always feel and be touched with human woe; a heart that will not turn a deaf ear to the widow or to the fatherless; that has bowels of mercy for the poor, the infirm, and the oppressed; that loves justice and hates robbery; that will not make a difference in your favor but will consider the needy. Then the promises revealed in Isaiah 58 will be experienced by you.

But you will need to make straight paths for your feet, lest the lame be turned out of the way. We are surrounded by the lame and halting in faith. Then help them, not by halting yourselves, but by standing like men--firm, tried, proved men--firm as a rock for principle. I know that a work must be done for the people or many will not receive the light of the angel which is sent from heaven to fill the whole earth with his glory.  

"Do not think that when the latter rain comes you will be a vessel unto honor to receive the showers of blessing--even the glory of God--when you have been lifting up your souls unto vanity, speaking perverse things, secretly cherishing the roots of bitterness you brought to Minneapolis, which you have carefully cultivated and watered ever since. The frown of God will surely be upon every soul who manifests a spirit so unlike the spirit and mind of Christ. There is work to do in your own individual hearts, else you will sow tares. When the Lord touches your lips with a live coal from off His altar, then the trumpet of every true watchman will give a certain sound--very different from that which we have heard." (1888 Materials, p. 946)

It is these works of relieving those burdened down by the lies of Satan in regard to the character of God that are needed, along with genuine medical missionary work in relieving the physical needs of others. In the revival of medical missionary work that we are witnessing today, we must have the healing balm of the 1888 message!

"Then [after they do these works of mercy and necessity] shall thy light break forth as the morning, and thine health shall spring forth speedily: and thy righteousness shall go before thee; the glory of the Lord shall be thy rereward" (Isaiah 58:8).  {1SM 99.3}  
"We are to put into practice the precepts of the law, and thus have righteousness before us; the rearward will be God's glory. The light of the righteousness of Christ will be our front guard, and the glory of the Lord will be our rearward. Let us thank the Lord for this assurance. Let us constantly stand in a position where the Lord God of heaven can favor us. Let us consider that it is our high privilege to be in connection with God--to be His helping hand."  (1SM 99.4)

Explore the rest of Isaiah 58 and see how this week's lesson comes alive for your Sabbath School class!
-Todd Guthrie

For Further reading:

December 10, 1900

"The Sabbath and Salvation" The Bible Echo 15, 50.

God is the Creator of all things. That fact constitutes His right to rule. "Know ye that the Lord He is God; it is He that hath made us, and we are His." Ps. 100:3. "The Lord is a great God, and a great King above all gods. In His hand are the deep places of the earth; the strength of the hills is His also. The sea is His, and He made it; and His hands formed the dry land. O come, let us worship and bow down; let us kneel before the Lord our Maker. For He is our God." Ps. 95:3-7. The last proclamation of the everlasting Gospel which is to be preached just before the end, "to every nation, and kindred, and tongue and people" as a witness to all nations, the announcement the fulness of which is to make ready a people prepared for the coming of Christ, is this: "Fear God, and give glory to Him, for the hour of His judgment is come; and worship Him that made heaven, and earth, and the sea, and the fountains of waters." Rev. 14:7. But this knowledge is just that which the Sabbath is designed to keep in our mind. "He hath made a memorial for His wonderful works." Through His work we have salvation; in the works of His hands we triumph; therefore the Sabbath, which makes known to us the wonderful, finished works of the Lord, is that which reveals to us to the full the sanctifying power of God. Thus it is the seal of God, which the Holy Spirit will put upon all true believers who live till the coming of the Lord. And as the forgiveness of sins, when fully appreciated, brings with it the healing of all diseases, and the healing of the body is the outward, visible sign of Christ's power to cleanse from sin, it was most fitting that some of the most wonderful works of healing should take place on the Sabbath day. It was to show that the Sabbath brings God's perfect root to both soul and body.   Whatever God blesses He makes a means of blessing. "God blessed the Sabbath day, and hallowed it." He sent it forth on its mission of carrying blessing to mankind. It is a truth that God has poured out His blessings freely on all men; the very possession of life is the blessing of the Creator; but it is the Sabbath that makes known to mankind the fulness of God's blessing. It brings with it to all who accept it for just what it is, the knowledge of such a blessing as they never before dreamed of, no matter how long they have had experience as Christians. It was given in Eden, and pertains to Eden, and brings the joy of Eden with it. It is, in fact, a remnant of Eden left in this sin-cursed world, to win us to Eden restored. In it we find the power of the world to come. "If thou turn away thy foot from the Sabbath," says the Lord, "from doing thy pleasure on My holy day; and call the Sabbath a delight, the holy of the Lord, honourable; and shalt honour Him, not doing thine own ways, nor finding thine own pleasure, nor speaking thine own words; then shalt thou delight thyself in the Lord; and I will cause thee to ride upon the high places of the earth, and feed thee with the heritage of Jacob thy father [and that heritage is Christ]; for the mouth of the Lord hath spoken it." Isa. 58:13, 14. Oh then, "taste, and see that the Lord is good." Accept His perfect rest,-His Sabbath,-and keep it, and know now the joy of the Lord. -E. J. WAGGONER. (December 10, 1900 EJW, BEST 795-6.)

"My heart rejoiced as I heard the people acknowledge that they were obtaining an education in faith which they had never had before, and that Jesus was precious to their souls. They said that they had never before known by an experimental knowledge what the love of God was, but now they had heard, they had believed, and they would go forth to preach as they had never before preached the merits of a crucified and risen Saviour. They felt that indeed they had had a new conversion. Their souls were free, their sins forgiven, the love of Jesus was in their hearts. The tenderness of heart, the contrition of spirit that makes evident the work of the Holy Spirit and grace of Christ in the soul. The Sabbath came to us as a joy, a blessing. We hailed the Sabbath with grateful hearts as the best Sabbath we had ever enjoyed. The half-past five meeting commenced where the evening meeting closed. Every heart seemed to respond to the love of God, and souls were burdened to express the precious love they had found."  (1888 286.3)  

"The third angel's message calls for the presentation of the Sabbath of the fourth commandment, and this truth must be brought before the world; but the great Center of attraction, Jesus Christ, must not be left out of the third angel's message. By many who have been engaged in the work for this time, Christ has been made secondary, and theories and arguments have had the first place. The glory of God that was revealed to Moses in regard to the divine character has not been made prominent. The Lord said to Moses, 'I will make all my goodness pass before thee.' 'And the Lord passed by before him, and proclaimed, The Lord, the Lord God, merciful and gracious, long-suffering, and abundant in goodness and truth, keeping mercy for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, and that will by no means clear the guilty.'"  (1888 1225.1)  

"The Sabbath meetings, the morning and evening worship in the home, the services held in the chapel, -- all should be vitalized by the Spirit of Christ. Each member of the sanitarium family should confess Christ openly and with gladness, expressing
the joy and comfort and hope that is written in the song. Christ is to be set forth as the Chiefest among ten thousand, and the One altogether lovely. He is to be set forth as the Giver of every good and perfect gift, the One in whom our hopes of eternal life are centered. If we would do this, all narrowness must be set aside, and we must call into exercise the love of Christ. The joy we experience in this love will be a blessing to others."  (LLM 245.6)

"Don't tell them the Sabbath the first thing, but let them see Christ, and then they will ask about the Sabbath. Let them see the Bible in the lives about them. Let them lead out and ask you questions and they will see that the Lord is working, and in this way God will manifest Himself through His people."  (PCO 134.1)

Raul Diaz

Monday, April 21, 2014

1888 Insight: “Christ and the Law in the Sermon on the Mount”

Insights #4 April 26, 2014
Second Quarter 2014 Adult Sabbath School Lessons
"Christ and the Law in the Sermon on the Mount"
For the week of April 26, 2014
As someone whose life has been changed by the 1888 message given by A. T. Jones and E. J. Waggoner, and endorsed by Ellen White, I always feel it is appropriate to share their ideas.  My words have no support or endorsement from a prophetic voice – but theirs do.  Our lesson this week is entitled, "Christ and the Law in the Sermon on the Mount."  We could write multiple books on the beautiful truths in the Sermon on the Mount.  Ellen White's opening line in "Thoughts from the Mount of Blessing" are these, "The Sermon on the Mount is Heaven's benediction to the world--a voice from the throne of God."  {MB vii.1}  Heaven's benediction = Heaven's final words to us.  It's as if God is saying what His final words would be if He were on His deathbed.  The Sermon on the Mount concludes with Jesus telling a parable about a wise builder and a foolish builder.  In the following article in Present Truth – 1895, E. J. Waggoner gives a beautiful exegesis of this parable.  It seems fitting to share this article from one of the 1888 messenger's himself.  May it bless you as it blessed me.
-Bob Hunsaker

"On Rock or Sand?"
The Present Truth.  November 7, 1895.
E. J. Waggoner

According to the words of Christ, we build upon the rock by hearing and doing His words.

"Therefore whosoever heareth these sayings of Mine, and doeth them, I will liken him unto a wise man, which built his house upon a rock: and the rain descended, and the floods came, and the winds blew, and beat upon that house; and it fell not; for it was founded upon a rock."

"And every one that heareth these sayings of Mine, and doeth them not, shall be likened unto a foolish man, which built his house upon the sand; and the rain descended, and the floods came, and the winds blew, and beat upon that house; and it fell: and great was the fall of it." Matt. vii. 24-27.
Abraham is a wonderful example of building on Christ by believing His word. God made a promise to Abraham, which, like all the promises of God, was in Christ. Then the record says of Abraham, "And he believed in the Lord; and He counted it to him to righteousness." Gen. xv. 6. There is something very peculiar about this expression "he believed in the Lord." The word rendered "believed" is from the Hebrew word "Amen." This word "Amen" in the Scriptures is not translated but simply transferred.

The root idea of the word is firmness. The idea of solidity and stability attaches to it. It has a variety of definitions, all carrying this thought. One definition is "to build, or depend, on." So, literally, Abraham built upon God, and it was accounted unto him for righteousness.
This gives a better idea of the Bible meaning of belief than is commonly held. People generally think that to believe is nothing more than assent. But believing the Lord is much more than this. It is to count that Word as the surest thing in the universe, since it is that which upholds the universe, and to press the whole soul, and all the hopes, upon it, even though everything appears contrary to it. It is to walk where there seems to be nothing, provided the Word of the Lord is there, knowing that it is a firmer foundation. The poet Whittier has thus expressed it:- {November 7, 1895 EJW, PTUK 705.6}
"Nothing before, nothing behind;
The steps of faith
Fall on the seeming void, and find
The rock beneath."

But note the fact that when Abraham built on the Lord it was counted to him for righteousness. The Lord never makes any mistakes in His reckoning. When Abraham's faith was reckoned to him for righteousness, it was because it was indeed righteousness. How so? Why, as Abraham built on God, he built on everlasting righteousness. "He is my rock, and there is no unrighteousness in Him." He became one with the Lord, and so God's righteousness was his own.

"The words of the Lord are pure words: as silver tried in a furnace of fire, purified seven times." Ps. xii. 6. Therefore he who builds upon the Rock Jesus Christ, by accepting His word in living faith, builds upon a tried foundation. So we read: "Wherefore laying aside all malice, and all guile, and hypocrisies, and envies, and all evil speakings, as newborn babes, desire the sincere milk of the word, that ye may grow thereby; if so be ye have tasted that the Lord is gracious. To whom coming, as unto a living stone, disallowed indeed of men, but chosen of God, and precious, 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 Scripture, Behold, I lay in Sion a chief corner stone, elect, precious: and he that believeth on Him shall not be confounded." 1 Peter ii. 1-6.

The force of this is not so clearly seen until we read the passage of Scripture which is quoted by the apostle, in connection with the one that we quoted from the Saviour's Sermon on the Mount. Recalling the latter, we read from the prophecy of Isaiah:-

"Therefore thus saith the Lord God, Behold, I lay in Zion for a foundation a stone, a tried stone, a precious corner stone of sure foundation: he that believeth shall not make haste. And I will make judgment the line, and righteousness the plummet; and the hail sweep away the refuge of lies, and the water shall overflow the hiding-place. And your covenant with death shall be disannulled, and your agreement with hell shall not stand; when the overflowing scourge shall pass through, then ye shall be trodden down by it. As often as it passeth through, it shall take you; for morning by morning shall it pass through, by day and by night: and it shall be nought but terror to understand the message." Isa. xxviii. 16-19, R.V.
Christ is the tried foundation. Righteousness is the plummet by which He is laid. His character is perfectly true and right. Satan has exhausted all his arts in trying to lead Him to sin, and was unsuccessful. He is a sure foundation. We build upon Him by believing His Word, as He Himself said. The floods will surely come. There will be an overflowing scourge that will sweep away the refuge of lies, and all who have built on a false foundation. The house built on the sand will certainly fall. When the storm begins to beat with fury, those who have made lies their refuge will flee for their lives as their foundation begins to totter; but the flood will carry them away. This is the picture presented by the two passages of Scripture.

But far different will it be with those who have built on the Rock of Ages. That sure foundation will stand every blast. Nothing can shake it. Those who have built on it cannot make haste. They have often proved that it is a sure refuge, and so they can calmly watch the torrent. They do not need to flee for their lives. Having built on the rock, they are as secure as the rock itself. And why? Because they are really a part of the Rock, for the Rock builds up all who build upon it.

Listen to the words of the apostle: "And now, brethren, I commend you to God, and to the word of His grace, which is able to build you up, and to give you an inheritance among all them which are sanctified." When one builds upon the Rock, the Rock itself, being a living Rock, grows up into them, so that the foundation and the building are all one piece. This is shown by many passages of Scripture, some of them which will at once occur to the reader. It is a wise man who now, every day, is building upon the Word. The storm is gathering, and it is for every one who would be safe in that day to make sure of his foundation.

Raul Diaz

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

“Christ and Religious Tradition”

Insights #3 April 19, 2014
Second Quarter 2014 Adult Sabbath School Lessons
"Christ and Religious Tradition"
For the week of April 19, 2014

Tradition: a doctrine or custom believed to have divine authority though not explicit in the Bible.

All major religions have traditions.  While Jesus consistently confronted them during His earthly mission, He didn't declare war on all traditions.  Christ honored and improved upon those that were helpful (John 2:10). Most of the time, however, whether by precept or example, Jesus exposed many of Judaism's highly prized traditions as poisonous weeds to be rooted out of His Father's garden (Matt. 15:13).

Jerusalem fell, not long after Christ's ascension, because she had imbibed the spirit of Babylon. The "gospel" prophet queried, "How is the faithful city become an harlot! it was full of judgment; righteousness lodged in it; but now murderers" (Isa. 1:21).  Thus the vast majorities of her traditions led men away from "the kingdom of our God, and the power of his Christ" (Rev. 12:10) and made these proselytes "twofold more the child of hell than yourselves" (Matt. 23:14) - murderers indeed! When religious traditions make its adherents twice as likely to be lost than before these souls were "found," the Savior would not and will not remain silent.

"By loving words and by works of mercy, Christ bore down old traditions and man-made commandments, and presented the love of the Father in its exhaustless fullness.... He was revealing the image of God mirrored in himself. He presented to His hearers the truths of the prophecies, separating them from the obscure interpretations which the scribes and Pharisees had attached to them." {RH, March 5, 1901 par. 2}

This testimony of Jesus opens at least two major areas of concern that He had with the religious traditions of His day: Those that affected the people's view of the Father's character, and traditional but erroneous interpretations of Scripture. Confront these traditions He must, for confusion in these areas would be deadly.

Again, the problem with Judaism's weed-like traditions was that they choked out the truth (Matt. 15:3) and they sought to impose a system of securing righteousness which was both hypocritical and fatal (Matt. 15:6).

We may smugly chuckle at the traditions of old such as, "the washing of pots and cups: and many other such like things" (Mark 7:8) but sadly the Savior's concern in this area is not just a thing of the past for the past:

"Beware lest you read the word of God in the light of erroneous teaching. It was on this very ground that the Jews made their fatal mistake. They declared that there must be no different interpretation placed upon the Scriptures than that which had been given by the rabbis in former years; and as they had multiplied their traditions and maxims, and had clothed them with sacredness, the word of God was made of no effect through their traditions."  {RH, March 25, 1902 par. 4}

In towns that look perfectly healthy, many an epidemic "has been traced to decaying matter about the dwelling of some careless householder" (M.H. 276.4). Is it possible that the Laodicean malaise afflicting us is traceable to some mass of rotting theological traditions that have been carefully protected from the cleansing power of Scripture because they came down to us from great men of yore ?

"Many who read and even teach the Bible, do not comprehend the precious truth they are teaching or studying. Men entertain errors, when the truth is clearly marked out, and if they would but bring their doctrines to the word of God, and not read the word of God in the light of their doctrines, to prove their ideas right, they would not walk in darkness and blindness, or cherish error...  As we take up the study of God's word, we should do so with humble hearts. All selfishness, all love of originality, should be laid aside. Long-cherished opinions must not be regarded as infallible. It was the unwillingness of the Jews to give up their long established traditions that proved their ruin. They were determined not to see any flaw in their own opinions or in their expositions of the Scriptures; but however long men may have entertained certain views, if they are not clearly sustained by the written word, they should be discarded."  {RH, July 26, 1892 par. 3}

It appears that many dangerous, even damnable traditions, church policies, etc are linked by the testimony of Jesus to "selfishness" and "love of originality." Thus they arise from that foul source of Babylon's intoxicating teachings, traditions, maxims, and policies -- pride.
No teaching, long held idea, institution, nation or intelligent being can stand on the very thing that causes the fall (Prov. 16:8).

Let's bring it closer to home, shall we?

"The gospel of Christ, His lessons, His teachings, have had but very little place in the experience and the discourses of those who claim to believe the truth. Any pet theory, any human idea, becomes of the gravest importance and as sacred as an idol to which everything must bow."  {9MR 183.1}  
"This has verily been the case in the theory of the law in Galatians (note: replace with the theories of today). Anything that becomes such a hobby as to usurp the place of Christ, any idea so exalted as to be placed where nothing of light or evidence can find a lodgment in the mind, takes the form of an idol, to which everything is sacrificed." {9MR 183.2}  

Let us humbly pray that Jesus will weed out of our minds and hearts all "pet ideas", traditions and theories concerning salvation, God's character, "old landmarks", etc. replacing them with the eternal truths of God's word. For "those who believe the Word of God as it reads are walking in the light; for the Bible is its own interpreter."  {18MR 145.2}
-William Pergerson

Raul Diaz

Thursday, April 10, 2014

"Christ and the Law of Moses"

Insights #2 April 12, 2014
Second Quarter 2014 Adult Sabbath School Lessons
Christ and the Law of Moses
For the week of April 12, 2014
Another Look at John 8:1-11

Thursday’s lesson for this week looks at the story of the woman taken in adultery.  It affirms the truth that Christ lived a life in harmony with the law of God and the law of Moses.  Is there more that can be drawn from this story?  Let’s take another look.

Forgiveness Illustrated

“She just knew that she was doomed. No doubt existed as to her guilt, when the scribes and Pharisee dragged her from her lover’s arms, hurried her through the streets to the temple, and thrust her into the audience of the Savior. Then they said to the Master, ‘This woman was taken in adultery, in the very act. Now Moses in the law commanded us, that such should be stoned: but what sayest thou’ (John 8:4, 5)? This woman had no hope of reprieve. These hypocritical church leaders, hiding behind the force of the law, thought they had Jesus in a bind that He could not escape. They knew He preached the gospel of peace. They seemed to know that He desired mercy and not sacrifice. Yet they despised and resisted this attribute of God’s nature. Thus, they brought this woman to Him, and they thought they had Him cornered. They thought they had devised a perfect stratagem and that neither He nor this woman could escape. With her head bowed in shame and despair, she waited for the stones to fall. She had not a flicker of hope.

“This incident in the life of Christ provides a profound insight into the struggle going on behind the scenes. The casual observer sees a plot fomented by a few temple legalists to make life miserable for a weak and susceptible woman, but the real issues are much more profound. This apparently simple incident was in fact a significant chapter in the struggle between the Prince of Life and the prince of darkness. In this apparently simple but legalistic sparring match the most fundamental issues of the great controversy between Christ and Satan were being arbitrated. The enemy of souls had claimed that God could not be just and merciful at the same time. He had sought to set at variance the very elements of God’s nature. Thus, the accuser charged this woman with violating the law of both God and Moses. The question was a simple one to understand. Yet it posited a profound dilemma. Is it possible for Christ to uphold the law and at the same time save the sinner, the transgressor of the law?

“Jesus apparently ignored the scribes and Pharisees. The Bible says that He stooped down and began writing in the sand, ‘as though He heard them not.’ What a scene of grace! The accusers are demanding ‘justice’—demanding that this woman receive what she deserves, what the law demands, but Jesus begins writing in the sand as though He does not hear. He writes in the sand as though He does not care. He writes in the sand as though He does not understand. The accusers wait, and the woman also waits—breathless, nerveless, and hopeless. In each of our experiences are times when we seek the Lord in prayer. We call upon Him to honor the promises recorded in the Word, and it seems that He ignores us as He stoops to write in the sand. It seems He is writing in the sands of time, as though He does not hear, but He hears. It seems that He is writing in the sands of time, as though He does not care, but He cares. It seems sometimes that He is writing in the sand as though He does not understand, but He understands! ‘No one understands like Jesus.’ These moments of divine silence, these moments of apparent neglect, these moments of celestial apathy—these are moments of mercy. Sometimes, no doubt, the accuser demands that we be destroyed according to the letter of the law, and heaven is mercifully silent, seemingly inattentive, apparently uninterested. Yet the purposes of grace are steadily being fulfilled.

“The biblical narrative continues: ‘So when they continued asking him, he lifted up himself, and said unto them, He that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone at her’ (John 8:7).

“These words of Jesus came to this poor woman as a death sentence. If there had been any hope up to this point, all was surely banished now. Then Jesus stooped and continued to write in the sand. The scribes and Pharisees grew curious about the writing. They wondered why He seemed so unconcerned, so nonchalant, so preoccupied with His writing project. They pressed in close to read the writing, and when they had read it, being convicted in their hearts, they ‘went out one by one, beginning at the eldest, even unto the last’ (John 8:9).

“So when they were all gone, Jesus ceased writing and addressed the woman, saying, ‘Woman, where are those thine accusers? hath no man condemned thee’ (John 8:10)? Finally, this poor woman found the courage to raise her head and look around. She was amazed! They were all gone! Every one of her accusers had taken leave of the place. She responded to Jesus’ question in utter amazement and disbelief, ‘No man, Lord.’ Then Jesus said to her, ‘Neither do I condemn thee: go, and sin no more’ (John 8:11).

“What deliverance! What a promise! What a Saviour! The part that troubles some about this story, if they ever stop to think it through, is that it clearly illustrates forgiveness preceding the ‘requisite’ repentance and confession. In fact, the Bible provides no evidence of a confession. Yet it does provide evidence of justification. The woman was guilty. Of that, there is no doubt. The law condemned her. That is equally certain. Yet Jesus justified her. He lifted the condemnation flowing inevitably from the law and pointed her to the future, with the hopeful admonition, ‘Go, and sin no more’ (John 8:11).

“Can you imagine what she must have thought? Is it really possible? Can she really be not only pardoned but cleansed? Is it possible she can actually go and sin no more? Her heart seems to perceive the promise inherent in the Lord’s command. Surely, after having shown her such marvelous grace, He would not mock her with an impossible imperative. This must be the announcement of a mind-boggling but very real possibility. She perceives it, and she wants it. She wants to be cleansed. She wants to go and sin no more.

“The servant of the Lord describes what happened next:

The woman had stood before Jesus, cowering with fear. His words, ‘He that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone,’ had come to her as a death sentence. She dared not lift her eyes to the Saviour’s face, but silently awaited her doom. In astonishment she saw her accusers depart speechless and confounded; then those words of hope fell upon her ear, ‘Neither do I condemn thee: go, and sin no more.’ Her heart was melted, and, casting herself at the feet of Jesus, she sobbed out her grateful love and with bitter tears confessed her sins.1 
“Only after the woman had been assured that the condemnation had been lifted, did she fall at Jesus’ feet and, ‘with bitter tears confessed her sins.’2  In this beautiful illustration of how the process of redemption works, we see that the first phase of forgiveness led directly to a desire for the second phase. Pardon led to a desire for cleansing, and this sinner was cleansed. ‘This was to her the beginning of a new life, a life of purity and peace, devoted to God’.3   Some find it hard to believe, but the facts are there before us in plain language. The woman was pardoned before she confessed, and the pardon led to repentance, confession, and cleansing. Thus, we should understand that God’s charizomai (unconditional pardon) leads to aphiemi (cleansing).”
-Excerpt from The Message of the Latter Rain by Mark Duncan and Earl Peters p. 75-77.

1. E. G. White, Ministry of Healing, p. 89 (emphasis supplied).
2. E. G. White, Ministry of Healing, p. 89.
3. Ibid.

Raul Diaz

Thursday, April 03, 2014

1888 Insight:"Laws in Christ's Day"

Insights #1 April 5, 2014
Second Quarter 2014 Adult Sabbath School Lessons
Laws in Christ's Day
For the week of April 5, 2014
The primary emphasis of the second quarter of this year is the moral law of God. The lessons will be studied in the context of God’s law with interactions by persons, customs and traditions. This week’s lesson is foundational to the following lessons of the quarter. This lesson is about the laws that were in use in Israel during the days of Christ’s ministry on earth. Those laws were God’s moral, ceremonial and civic laws, Jewish Rabbinical and Roman laws all of which had a part in governing the conduct of people.

No government or church exists without law. Laws may be good or they may be bad. Some rulers believed, as some do today, that they were/are the law. These leaders became a law unto themselves. In Latin this is called “Rex Lex” (the king is law). They did things their own way and followed their own ideas about how to live instead of following what others were compelled to do by law. Instead of “Rex Lex” it should have been “Lex Rex” (the law is king). Kings as well their subjects should have been under “the rule of law.” Two illustrations of kings as “the king is law” follow.

King John of England thought he was above all law until the barons made him sign the Magna Carta in A.D. 1215. This was a charter guaranteeing political and civil liberties to the English people and which placed the King under English law along with every other Englishman. This was the beginning of “the rule of law” in England and followed later in the United States of America.

Another king, Louis XV (1710–1774) of France, was an absolute monarch. Because of his uncontrolled financial spending on his lavish desires France was led into bankruptcy. This was one of the contributing factors that led to the French Revolution 15 years later. His counselors saw the impending financial disaster directly ahead and they warned the king, but he selfishly replied, “Try to make things go on as long as I am likely to live; after my death it may be as it will.” “After me, the deluge!” (See GC 280-281). The deluge that came was the other end of the continuum from “the king is law” notion to the anarchists who rebelled against all law, order and authority. An almost identical situation exists today. Notice the following:

“[A]narchy is seeking to sweep away all law, not only divine, but human. The centralizing of wealth and power; the vast combinations for the enriching of the few at the expense of the many; the combinations of the poorer classes for the defense of their interests and claims; the spirit of unrest, of riot and bloodshed; the world-wide dissemination of the same teachings that led to the French Revolution--all are tending to involve the whole world in a struggle similar to that which convulsed France” (Ed 228).

As it is today, so it was in the days of Christ and the apostles. Roman law ruled, but it was corrupted by the Emperors. Paul, a Roman citizen, was protected by Roman law some of the time. But it was Nero who became a law unto himself and executed Paul along with many other Christians.

It was Paul before he died, knowing the corruption of Nero and Roman law, wrote “Let every soul be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and the authorities that exist are appointed by God” (Rom 13:1).

Before Paul, Jesus supported Roman tax law when a trap was set for Him, in the form of a Greek philosophical argument known as the “horns of a dilemma,” where the structure of the argument is supposed to force one into an either or situation. The trap that was set was over paying taxes. This is the argument as recorded in Matt 22:17: “Tell us, therefore, what do You think? Is it lawful to pay taxes to Caesar, or not?”

However Jesus was several intellectual steps ahead of those connivers.  

“But Jesus perceived their wickedness, and said, ‘Why do you test Me, you hypocrites? Show Me the tax money.’ So they brought Him a denarius. And He said to them, ‘Whose image and inscription is this?’ They said to Him, ‘Caesar’s.’ And He said to them, ‘Render therefore to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s’” (Matt 22:18–21).

Going back to the time before Jesus was born into the human family, Mary, his mother, along with Joseph had to travel to Bethlehem to register for the census that year which was the time when Jesus was to be born in that very place according to the prophecy of Micah 5:2. Joseph and Mary went to be registered in obedience to Roman law (Luke 2:1-7).

Let’s turn our attention, now, to the Jewish Rabbinical laws that were in effect in Israel during Christ’s lifetime on earth. You may read a brief summary of the Rabbinical laws in Wednesday’s lesson which we will not go into here. Jesus acted independently of those traditions, which had not foundation in Scripture. This was usually the great point of contention between Jesus and the scribes who misinterpreted God’s moral and ceremonial laws. The ceremonial laws became mere ritual ceremonies in which there was no value. (See DA page 84).

The Sanhedrin was the Supreme Court of Israel, which had to work under Roman law jurisdiction. This court dealt with both civic and religious issues. It was this court that illegally condemned Jesus. They charged Him with blasphemy. The court was in session during the night which was never supposed to happen. Members of the Sanhedrin attempted to follow the law concerning two witnesses whose testimony was supposed be nearly identical. But no honest witnesses were to be found. Jesus was condemned by His own testimony when He was put under oath and asked if He was “the Christ, the Son of God.” To that He replied, “It is as you said” (Matt 26:64). There were no defense attorneys in those days. It was the high priest’s duty to defend the accused against all witnesses until evidence upon evidence was presented that clearly demonstrated guilt on the part of the accused. But instead of the high priest doing his sacred duty, in the case against Jesus, he is the one who condemned Christ to death.

The procedures for capital cases were to illustrate concern for fairness. Defense for the accused was to be heard first and then the accusations were to follow. This did not happen in the case against Jesus. In capital cases, both trial and verdict were to be held during the day and thus open to more public scrutiny.

“In capital cases, the verdict of guilt (which was immediately followed by execution) had to be postponed one day because its consequences were irreversible. Hence these trials were not to be held on the eve of the Sabbath or a festival day” (San 4:1). See Baker Encyclopedia of the Bible.

This did not happen in the trial against Jesus.

“Sentence of death could never be carried out on the day on which it was given; a night must elapse so that the court might sleep on it, so that, perchance, their condemnation might turn to mercy. The whole procedure was designed for mercy; and, even from Luke’s summary account, it is clear that the Sanhedrin, when it tried Jesus, was far from keeping its own rules and regulations.”The Gospel of Luke. 2000 (W. Barclay, lecturer in the University of Glasgow, Ed.). The Daily study Bible series, Rev. ed. (275–277).

In capital cases, such as in the trial of Jesus, the trial must not precede the time of the morning sacrifice nor follow the time of the evening sacrifice, which time would be between 9 a.m. and 3 p.m. This was so the court proceedings would be under the ceremonial system of God to insure justice and mercy as reflected in the daily sacrifices for corporate Israel. Jesus received neither mercy nor justice. Not even simple justice.

All the laws mentioned in this week’s lesson – ceremonial, civic, Rabbinical, Roman and even God’s moral law were transgressed in securing the death of Christ. But it is a most glorious truth that Jesus emerging from that night of malignant questioning, having been mocked and scourged, still had utter confidence that His triumph was sure. His faith defied the facts. The faith of Jesus defied all the evidences, even the evidences of His feelings. The “faith of Jesus” believes not only in the absence of His feelings, but against them. He never for a moment believed that men in the end could defeat the purposes of God. He pledged His life on it.

In the crucifixion of Jesus, although all the laws that were twisted and pitted against Him, it actually magnified Christ’s power of the gospel after He rose from the dead. The moral law was also magnified in fulfillment of Isa 42:21 (KJV) because the plan of redemption was/is greater than all the twisting of justice and mercy by the manipulating carnal mind of man. This everlasting gospel and God’s moral law are inseparably linked in the last message of mercy that will go to the world. This message God initiated in Minneapolis a century and a quarter ago. He began it and He will finish it. He calls you and me to Himself to be a part of the movement that ushers in the “loud cry” again thus preparing people to stand in the day of the Lord’s appearing and in the days before His coming. What a privilege! Will you respond to His call?
-Jerry Finneman

Raul Diaz