Sabbath School Today
With the 1888 Message Dynamic
The Teachings of Jesus
Lesson 1: Our Loving Heavenly Father
In the days of Christ, He was clear that "salvation is of the Jews" (John 4:22); the true church was that Temple in. Jerusalem which He said was "My Father's house" (John 2:16). But He split that "church" wide open with controversy.
If you had been living there you would have wondered how this lowly man from Nazareth could be right and the great theologians and leaders in the Temple could be wrong. But that was the way things were. Honest people were perplexed; they watched and listened and pondered, just like you today.
Jesus cleared things up for us all: "My doctrine is not Mine, but His who sent Me. If anyone wants to do His will, he shall know concerning the doctrine, whether it is from God, or whether I speak on My own authority. He who speaks from himself seeks his own glory; but he who seeks the glory of the One who sent Him is true, and no unrighteousness is in Him" (John 7:16-18). That settled it for every honest-hearted person: the teachings of Jesus separated the people into two classes --those who ended up crying "Crucify Him!" and those who believed in Him and took up their cross to follow.
And now today His teachings will again separate the world into two classes: those who accept "the mark of the beast" and those who receive "the seal of God" (Rev. 7:1-4; 17:14). You and I today are choosing sides.
This week Christ invites us to explore what He taught about His Father. He may correct misunderstandings about His Father's character. "Christ's favorite theme was the paternal tenderness and abundant grace of God."  E. J. Waggoner characterizes the "Father" as the "sweet name" Jesus taught us "to call the great God." Our heavenly Father is infinite. At first thought, this truth may tempt us to wonder if the comfort He can give us is real and effective; how can it be if the Father is an infinite being?
The 1888 message helps us see the true character of our Father. Don't forget that He was also the "our Father which art in heaven" to Jesus during His years of sojourn with us in this human life. Whatever the Father was to Jesus, He is the same to us. His being infinite does not in the least lessen the personal attention He gives to us each one.
If we trace God's agape-love back before time and creation, before God's desire to make humans in His image, there existed love within the family of the Godhead. The Father has always had a Son to love from eternity, and the Son has always expressed His love of the Father by choosing to subordinate Himself to the Father. The Holy Spirit loves the Father and the Son and likewise does the Father and the Son love the Holy Spirit.
Sometimes we humans have had earthly fathers who left us confused and bewildered at the word "father." But Jesus came on a mission to this earth specifically to reveal to us the family of the Godhead. "All things have been delivered to Me by My Father, and no one knows the Son except the Father. Nor does anyone know the Father except the Son, and he to whom the Son wills to reveal Him" (Matt. 11:27). Here is marvelous instruction in self-denial, which is the highest wisdom. Everything is delivered into the hands of Christ, and He uses the power only to reveal the Father to men, while He Himself remains unknown. We speak of knowing Christ, but in knowing Him we learn only the character of God. In seeing Him, we see God. Jesus said to Philip, "He who has seen Me has seen the Father" (John 14:9).
He "emptied Himself" that the Father might appear. In all the universe no one knows the Son, except the Father. That was and is the sacrifice of Christ. Looking down upon fallen humanity, His heart was filled with love and pity, and He said to the Father, "I will declare Your name to My brethren" (Heb. 2:12). So He was content to be despised and unknown, to be misunderstood and rejected, without any complaint, knowing that the Father understood Him.
When God the Father was confronted with a world [that is, in Adam] that had sinned and rebelled against Him; did He drop a bomb on them? No; He did what the unfallen universe thought was unthinkable: He frankly forgave them and granted the sinners a judicial verdict of acquittal.
Now the Father was free to treat sinners as though they had never sinned. The name for this action is grace.
Romans 5 describes what happened: The Father's "act of grace is out of all proportion to Adam's wrongdoing. For if the wrongdoing of that one man brought death upon so many, its effect is vastly exceeded by the grace of God and the gift that came to so many by the grace of the one man, Jesus Christ" (vs. 15, New English Bible).
This marvelous gift of grace does not belittle the seriousness of the sin that we have committed; the true dimension of the guilt of our sin is the murder of the Son of God.
What kind of sacrifice can balance that account of our guilt? Someone holy and innocent must take our place and "pay the price of guilt."
This is a legal or judicial "verdict of acquittal" that Christ accomplished for us and gave us as a gift. The 1888 message focused on this precious truth like a laser beam. The Father so loved us that He gave us His only Son to die our second death. All He asks from us is to "believe" what He has done. And that word "believe" means to express a heart-felt appreciation for what it cost Him to save us. And that heart-appreciation melts the stony heart, and changes us --that is, converts us.
The Bible invites us to "think of God." And when we do, it is not to think of Him as some merely infinite electronic-like intelligence that pervades the universe, but we are to think of Him as Someone infinitely close and personal --"Our Father which art in heaven. ..." (Matt. 6:9).
Your personal memories of your earthly father may be deficient, but the heavenly Father is not limited by your personal, individual deficiencies; He has a road or route direct to your individual human heart and He invites you to "believe" in Him in His fullness of love (agape).
--Paul E. Penno