Thursday, March 31, 2016

"The Son Of David"

INSIGHT #1 APRIL 2, 2016
Second Quarter 2016 Adult Sabbath School Lessons
"The Son Of David"
April 2, 2016

Matthew begins his book with the geneal­ogy of the Son of David – Christ Jesus. According to Paul, Jesus as "the Seed of David according to the flesh" is "the gospel of God" (Romans 1:1-3). The word for seed in the Greek is "sperma" with emphasis upon the ancestor's role as a leading figure in the ancestral human nature that Jesus inherited from David. Take the humanity of Christ out of your message and you will have no gospel for the sinner.

Christ always existed as God so His Deity is simply "declared" as a fact by Paul in verse 4 of Romans 1. The Gospel requires both Deity and humanity in order for Christ to be our Savior. His divine nature suffered in terms of infinity. The Infinite became finite. He took upon Himself humanity in order to die. He could not have died as God. So He was made of the seed of David thus taking mortality upon Himself in order to die for us and as us both as our Substitute and our Representative.

The kind of humanity Christ took is a great theological truth. But more than this, it also brings comfort to us who are frail and weak and tempted from within our fallen nature because of inherited tendencies to sin.

So, David's DNA – the nucleic acid in which genetic information is encoded was transmitted from David through Mary to Jesus. This is known as the law of heredity. This is the thrust of Matthew chapter 1. This is the hereditary linkage between Jesus and the rest of the race. "In assuming humanity Christ took the part of every human being" (1SM 252).

This brings us again to Matthew 1 where he names many from the royal line from which Jesus came. Royal, yes, but royal rogues. Not one of them had a saving characteristic in them. It was from this stock Jesus came. This reveals to us that He went to the weakest of the weak in His humanity so no one could charge Him with having in an advantage over us. And further, more than male gender is presented by Matthew. Besides Mary, four women in Jesus' genealogy are also presented (Matt. 1:1–17). This is unusual in Jewish geneal­ogies where the practice is to cite men only.

It is noteworthy that Tamar (v. 3), Rahab (v. 5), Ruth (v. 5), and Bathsheba (v. 6, named only as "Uriah's wife") were Gentiles. And, in the case of Tamar, Rahab, and Bathsheba, each was linked with acts of immorality. This record serves to remind us both that God has shown mercy to "unworthy" Gentiles in the past and also that the plan of God's salvation is not frustrated by human failure. This record also reveals that Jesus was the Savior of all mankind. He took upon Himself Gentile characteristics as well as Jewish. (Paul spoke of his own heritage – that he was "a Hebrew of the Hebrews" (Philippians 3:5). He was more Jewish than was Jesus).

The lineage of Jesus is checkered with some very dubious characters. If a selective genealogist wrote Christ's human family lineage, he might be inclined to leave unmentioned many or most of these men and woman. None are models of behavior, but they are reminders to us that the grace of God is often extended to the unlikeliest people who in turn may very well serve to advance His purposes in the world.

Ruth (as well as Mary, the mother of Jesus) is an exceptional case. She did not commit any acts of immorality as the other three. But she was a Moabite. From where did her hereditary line come? Her lineage is traced back to Moab, the son of Lot and his oldest daughter (Genesis 19:37). Ruth, as a Moabite, was the offspring of a child of incest. So Jesus is acquainted with those who have unmentionable skeletons in their hereditary closets. Jesus is a complete Savior. All of our committed sins were placed on Him (Isaiah 53:6) and also the hereditary inherited weaknesses were experience by Him also. He conquered all sin, both sin from without and hereditary tendencies from within.

A.T. Jones has this to say about His completeness: "O, he is a complete Saviour. He is a Saviour from sins committed, and the conqueror of the tendencies to commit sins." ("The Third Angel's Message", No. 14, General Conference Bulletin, 1895, pp. 266, 267).

Speaking about the importance of the fallen human nature Christ assumed, Jones teaches that "the salvation of God for human beings lies in just that one thing." (A. T. Jones, "The Third Angel's Message", No.  13, Ibid., 1895, p. 233).

Then too, E. J. Waggoner earlier made the connection between our justification and the fallen human nature Christ took upon Himself: "God sent His Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, to condemn sin in the flesh, that He might justify us." ("Bible Study in the book of Romans" #12, Ibid., 1891).

"The genuineness, and unlikeliness, of this genealogy," writes Michael Wilkins, "must have stunned Matthew's readers. Jesus' ancestors were humans with all of the foibles, yet potentials, of everyday people. God worked through them to bring about his salva­tion. There is no pattern of righteousness in the lineage of Jesus. We find adulterers, harlots, heroes, and Gentiles. Wicked Rehoboam was the father of wicked Abijah, who was the father of good King Asa. Asa was the father of the good King Jehoshaphat . . . , who was the father of wicked King Joram. God was working throughout the generations, both good and evil, to bring about his purposes. Matthew shows that God can use anyone—however marginalized or despised—to bring about his purposes. These are the very types of people Jesus came to save."—Zondervan Illustrated Bible Backgrounds Commentary: Matthew (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2002), p. 9.

Truly "the Son of David" is Jesus which means Savior and "he shall save his people from their sins" (Matthew 1:21).

To sum up what Matthew penned about Christ's heredity as the Son and the Seed of David along with the rest of His ancestors, there is some powerful good news. It is this – that no matter how fallen and broken a person may very well be, Jesus understands and feels what we go through. Not only does He feel with us, as us, He will heal us. There is nothing too hard for Him to accomplish. And He loves to fix broken people of whatever problems they are experiencing.

And He is not ashamed to call us brothers and sisters! (Hebrews 2:11) What a Savior!!

~Jerry Finneman

Tuesday, March 22, 2016


INSIGHT #13 MARCH 26, 2016
First Quarter 2016 Adult Sabbath School Lessons
March 26, 2016
For 6,000 years God has been unfairly blamed for the origin of sin, pain, and death because He created Lucifer. For 6,000 years His character has been maligned. Satan has portrayed God as being one like himself, selfish and self-exalting. For thousands of years, people have wondered: How can I love a God like that?"

But for those whose eyes have been open, even if they had never seen a Bible, they would have discerned "His invisible attributes," "being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and Godhead," so that they would be without excuse (Rom. 1:20). Nature itself reveals the kind of God who made us -- a God who has loved us with an everlasting love and drawn us with lovingkindness. Where do we see such a God portrayed?

I saw it today on the internet: the story of a Siberian husky whose owner was killed in an auto accident two years ago. The dog refuses to leave the scene of the accident. A photo showed the heart-broken animal sitting beside the road awaiting his master's return. Villagers bring him food and built him a small house, but no one has been able to draw him away from the place where he hopes to one day see his owner again. In this story we see a faint -- but real -- reflection of the pain that sin has brought to the heart of God from its inception. We see typified in this creature a glimpse of heaven's divine love weeps with unutterable sadness the eternal loss of one soul. 

Over and over the animal kingdom reveals glimpses of heaven's love and caring. Inanimate nature also reveals the self-giving quality of God's love. Everything exists to bless others. Nothing lives for itself in all creation save the selfish heart of man. What the world needs to see is a demonstration of God's agape love, not just in the natural world but in people! 

In these closing hours of earth's history it is the sacred calling and privilege of Seventh-day Adventists to proclaim the everlasting gospel in its fullness, pointing to Jesus as the Creator and Savior of all men. Heaven will be phenomenal, but never again will we have the privilege of sharing the gospel with the chance of winning souls for Christ. So there is something very special about probationary time. We can make a difference for eternity by revealing the love of Christ in our lives and by sharing the most precious message of Jesus to our dying world. 

The 1888 message was given to prepare us for translation. A crisis is just before us, and in that day we cannot afford to have false ideas of the gospel or to be depending partly upon self for salvation. We must be rooted and grounded in the love of Christ to survive.
Recently it had rained a lot in our part of the country. The rain came down in such torrents that the soil covering the trees' shallow root systems alongside the river washed away. With nothing left to cling to, giant trees have fallen into the river and washed into the lake near our home.
Paul prayed that "Christ [would] dwell in our hearts through faith; that [we], being rooted and grounded in love, may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the width and length and depth and height--to know the love of Christ which passes knowledge" (Eph. 3:17-19).

Eventually the whole world will know this love. At the end of the millennium the story of the human family will be portrayed in a vast panoramic display: the story of the fall, the plan of redemption, and Christ being lifted up on the cross. Each individual will recognize the loving voice of Him whom they despised. The vast multitude of people outside the city who have rejected Christ will sway in horror as they realize the truth of who God is compared to the lie of who they thought Him to be. The realization that their fate is sealed will bring unspeakable anguish to their hearts. And at that time, no one will be accusing God of creating evil or being the cause of suffering and pain. At that time it will be clear: Jesus was the Savior of all men; Jesus' gift was so complete that hearing the good news made it hard to be lost; Jesus identified so fully with each individual that His story was there's. His tender voice was the one they despised. They will understand that the price was paid so that none need have perished. Christ had prepared a home for them, but they rejected the gift and insulted the Giver.

"It is now evident to all that the wages of sin is not noble independence and eternal life, but slavery, ruin, and death. The wicked see what they have forfeited by their life of rebellion. The far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory was despised when offered them; but how desirable it now appears. 'All this,' cries the lost soul, 'I might have had, but I chose to put these things far from me. . . I have exchanged peace, happiness, and honor for wretchedness, infamy, and despair.' All see that their exclusion from heaven is just. In their lives they declared, We will not have this Jesus to reign over us.

"As if entranced, the wicked have looked upon the coronation of the Son of God. They see in His hands the tables of the divine law, the statutes which they have despised and transgressed. They witness the outburst of wonder, rapture, and adoration from the saved; and as the wave of melody sweeps over the multitudes without the city, all with one voice exclaim, 'Marvellous are Thy works, Lord God Almighty; just and true are Thy ways, Thou King of saints' (Rev. 15:3), and falling prostrate, they worship the Prince of life." SR pp. 425, 426.

This scene brings resolution to the onlooking universe, lost and saved alike. Jesus does not take His kingdom by force, even in the end. The wicked acknowledge Him as Supreme Ruler. Satan's attempt to stir them up ends in futility. The blame they have placed on Christ for earth's misery they now redirect to the true author of sin and suffering, Satan. In mercy, they are all consumed -- root and branch -- in the fire that cleanses the earth and the universe from sin. 

While God has no sympathy for sin, the Bible reveals that the saved will weep and mourn the loss of those who refused salvation in Christ. The wicked were objects of His supreme love and much-more abounding grace. The saved will mourn their loss, for "God will wipe away every tear from their eyes; there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying. There shall be no more pain, for the former things have passed away" (Rev. 21:4).

What makes today so incredibly special is that there is still hope for earth's billions. Christ has given us a mandate to share this Good News with earth's multitudes before it is too late. Do we share His hunger for souls? Please join me in praying that God will raise up laborers to share the incredible good news of Jesus and His love.

~Patti Guthrie

Friday, March 18, 2016

“The Church Militant"

Insight #12 March 19, 2016

First Quarter 2016 Adult Sabbath School Lessons
"The Church Militant"
March 19, 2016

(Church of Philadelphia)

The following is an adaptation of an article on the church of Philadelphia from the Berean Biblegroup. We begin by reading the verse in the NKJV of Revelation 3:7-8.

"And to the angel of the church in Philadelphia write, These things says He who is holy, He who is true, He who has the key of David, He who opens and no one shuts, and shuts and no one opens: I know your works. See, I have set before you an open door, and no one can shut it; for you have a little strength, have kept My word, and have not denied My name."

Adventists believe that there are two applications and, or audiences to whom the epistles of the Seven Churches were written. They are written to: 1) seven literal, first-century churches in Asia Minor; and regarding, 2) seven historical church eras. In each letter, Christ gives the admonition, "He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches" (Revelation 2:7, 11, 17, 29; 3:6, 13, 22). The seven letters represent either the attitudes or conditions of the leadership, as well as the organizational units and periods of each church body.

We read in verse 8, that Jesus Christ told the Philadelphians that they had only a little strength, a little power (dunamis). They had a small capability for wonderful works and mighty deeds, and a limited ability to get things done effectively. If they were dynamic, it was only on a small scale. The letter contains implications regarding the Philadelphian church that we may not have considered before.

Christ's statement that the Philadelphians have only a little strength is not necessarily a criticism. While the overall tenor of the letter is extremely positive, Christ is merely stating facts. The Philadelphians have only a small capability for miraculous work, a little physical or spiritual aptitude, and a small measure of effectiveness. Dunamis is not entirely lacking, but it is present in only a limited amount.
If we were to speak of the 'The Philadelphian' church as a person, then by the above account, the Philadelphian would probably not be the one healing people when his shadow passes by, such as one of the apostles did. Nor would he be the one moving mountains, prophesying of future events, or speaking in unfamiliar languages. He may not even have great speaking ability or a dynamic personality. This is not to say that power and effectiveness are entirely lacking, just that the Philadelphian would probably not have the same dramatic outworking we observe in other biblical figures.

Why is there only a small amount of dunamis? From the rest of the letter to Philadelphia, it does not appear that the low level of dunamis is due to any great failing or negligence in duties to God. On the contrary, the letter is a commendation because of faithfulness. A look at the Parable of the Talents can give us insight--

"For the kingdom of heaven is like a man traveling to a far country, who called his own servants and delivered his goods to them. And to one he gave five talents, to another two, and to another one, to each according to his own ability; and immediately he went on a journey" (Matthew 25:14-15).

The word ability in verse 15 is also dunamis. These verses affirm that 1) talents are given by God, and 2) apparently the bestowing of talents depends somewhat on the capability the person already possesses.

Perhaps part of the reason the Philadelphian does not have much dunamis, as viewed through this parable, is that God did not give Philadelphia many talents. Remember, if God has ordained that something be done, He will supply the power for it to be accomplished. If He has not given that power, it may be because it is His will that it not be accomplished. Along the same lines, it is interesting to note that Christ Himself was limited in the works—dunamis—He could perform because of the unbelief in some areas (Matthew 13:58; Mark 6:5-6)!  XXX

The two faithful servants doubled what was given to them, while the unfaithful servant produced nothing at all. Although the amounts were not as important as the growth, both faithful servants gave Christ a 100% increase on what He bestowed to them.

In this example, we can see the Philadelphian as the servant who received only two talents rather than five. It is possible that he did not possess the same natural ability as the one who received the five. However, even though he had fewer responsibilities, and the scope of what he stewarded was smaller, he was considered just as faithful. The Philadelphian may have had only a little ability, but with that ability he was able to keep God's word and not deny His name according to Revelation 3:8. His power enabled him to keep God's command to persevere (verse 10).

God was pleased with the Philadelphian church. We know from Hebrews 11: 6, that "Without faith it is impossible to please Him." The first two servants in the parable pleased God, therefore it can be said they had faith. Thus, we can conclude that Philadelphia did indeed exercise faith. But, as we peruse the letter further, we will see that the last church of the seven, Laodicea, does not have faith. In contrast to the church at Philadelphia, the Lord is so displeased with Laodicea that it makes Him sick to His stomach. He is so nauseated, that He feels like throwing up. Laodicea is as unfaithful as the one talent servant. Yet she considers herself rich in talents, knowledge and gifts.

The scripture says, to whom much is given much is required. And Christ said to the people of His day that the Ninevites would stand against that generation in the judgment. Why? It is because Nineveh had faith in the word of the prophet Jonah, while One greater than Jonah spoke to His own people, the Jews, and they received Him not. Philadelphia was given little, in contrast, Laodicea has been given much.

In 1893, Ellen White indicated that those who had resisted the 1888 message, and later repented, accepted the counsel of the Lord to Laodicea (1 MR 349). Conversely, those who ultimately rejected the 1888 message were guilty of rejecting the counsel of the Lord to the Laodicean church. When we read the last verses of Revelation chapter 3 we see that the Lord has not given up on Laodicea, but is chastening and rebuking her out of His deep love and desire to save her. There is hope that she will finally repent of her self-serving ways. Meanwhile, the Lord waits for that day to come. How long will we continue to disappoint Him?

~Raul Diaz

Raul Diaz

Friday, March 11, 2016

“Peter on the Great Controversy”

First Quarter 2016 Adult Sabbath School Lessons
"Peter on the Great Controversy"
 March 12, 2016
The Great Controversy is foundational in the entire study and experience of Righteousness by Faith.  Peter, both because of his overall experience with Christ and also because of his experience of denying Christ at the time of Christ's trial, had a valuable understanding of the need of true faith, of the importance of corporate as well as individual repentance, and the right understanding of righteousness by faith being both a perfect standing as well as a progressive experience of sanctified living and character.  His famous text in I Peter 5:8 reveals his understanding of the need or a true New Testament faith to be safe against the continual attempts of Satan to devour us and to snatch away our faith experience.  Peter understood the importance of believers to live a life that truly is representative and worthy of our high calling and election in Christ.  Peter experienced first hand the reality of the Great Controversy being waged in his own mind and life, and the importance of remaining faithful, as he eventually faced crucifixion himself.  As Revelation 12:11 points out, we overcome by the blood of the Lamb, by the word of our Testimony, and love not our lives more than Christ. 
          Peter envisions our Christian walk as progressive, and one which needs to continually remember our sinful condition.  Our true condition leads to our utter dependency upon Christ for His righteousness, and to see His life and promises fulfilled in us.  The entire human race was purposed by God for salvation, and those who believe especially experience the high calling and the joy of the work of participating in the proclamation of the Gospel.  The righteousness of Christ lays the glory of man in the dust, and the true message calls for such a belief as a part of true faith.  Christ is everything to us, His coming, nature, work, goal and victory embody a gospel experience of total faith in His faithfulness.  Christ is our righteousness, holiness, and redemption.  I Cor. 1:30.  It is Christ who redeemed the human race, who calls us to Him in love, who justifies, sanctifies, and glorifies us, as we cooperate through full surrender, experiencing His gift of repentance, loving obedience, and growing faith. 
"The gospel is God's remedy for sin; its work, therefore,  must be to bring men into harmony with the law--to cause the workings of the righteous law to be manifested in their lives. But this is wholly a work of faith--the righteousness of God is revealed from "faith to faith"-- faith in the beginning and faith to the end--as it is written, "The just shall live by faith."  E.J. Waggoner, Lessons on Faith p. 2
"There are too many who try to live the Christian life on the strength of the faith which they exercised when they realized their need of pardon for sins of their past life. They know that God alone can pardon sins and that He does this through Christ, but they imagine that having once been started they must run the race in their own strength. We know that many have this idea, first, because we have heard some say so, and second, because there are such multitudes of professed Christians who show the working of no greater power than their own. If they ever have anything to say in social meeting, besides the ever-recurring formula, "I want to be a Christian, so that I may be saved," they tell only of a past experience, the joy they had when they first believed. Of the joy of living for God and of walking with Him by faith, they know nothing, and he who tells of it speaks of a strange language to them. But the apostle carries this matter of faith clear through to the glorious kingdom in the following most forcible illustration: 
By faith Enoch was translated that he should not see death; and was not found, because God had translated him; for before his translation he had this testimony that he pleased God.    But without faith it is impossible to please him; for he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him. Heb. 11:5, 6."  Ibid, p. 3. 
          Peter understood "peer pressure" and the various temptations the world exposes us to in order to possibly see us compromise or lose our faith.  He encourages us to stay faithful and not back slide.  Peter would resonate as well with the truth of "corporate repentance", an attitude of corporate solidarity and humility, thus not allowing certain types of peer pressure to cause us to self righteously leave others in the church behind, in the mistaken idea of "saving yourself."  We are to exercise the Lordship of Christ and not respond TO pressure, but to influence others by our obedience to Christ and faithful witness in love to them.  A true New Testament faith of both an intelligent understanding and heart felt appreciation for Christ and His loving redemption enables us to avoid letting him down, and thus harming the experience of others as well.  As Hebrews 12 says, we have not yet struggled unto blood, striving against sin, and the Faith of Jesus, the life of Christ lived out in us, enables us to see victory over victory and to maintain our spiritual walk of faith. 
          Peter encouraged us towards a more sure word of prophecy, and He understood the "moral purpose of prophecy", revealing the ultimate victory of Christ and also in the course of a study of prophecy, having revealed to the mind the promises of God and the character growth that will take place we fulfull our rightful place in the history itself that is prophecy.  He calls us to make our "calling and election sure."  He urges us to be "partakers of the divine nature", and to escape the corruption of the world.
          Peter recognizes the true nature of "scoffing", namely, the unbelief of the human mind that is cherished by some, as they deny and resist the work of the Holy Spirit on the heart and life.  The true motivation is the secret desire to maintain the life of a love for the world and its pleasures and lusts.  Christ is coming soon, and will put an end to the mocking that is taking place, in the church, and without, regarding the nearness of that event.  We are to endure to the end in our faith in the Blessed Hope and the soon glorious appearing of Christ. 

~Pastor Tom Cusack

Wednesday, March 02, 2016

“Paul and the Rebellion”

Insight #10 March 5, 2016
First Quarter 2016 Adult Sabbath School Lessons
"Paul and the Rebellion"
March 5, 2016

Our lesson this week has a most interesting title.

Paul is described by Ellen White as "except Him who spoke as never man spake, the most illustrious teacher that this world has known."  CC 366.

His clarity and forcefulness in presenting the gospel was essential to the success of the early church, in large part to the Reformation, and the Advent Movement's destiny with the Minneapolis message. Of course, Paul himself had to deal with the practical outworking of the great rebellion as manifested in the pushback against the gospel in the many churches under his care.

Ellen G. White and the Rebellion

The themes found in this week's lesson are inseparably bound to and informed by the 1888 message of Christ our Righteousness. And rejection of that message was declared by Ellen White to be rebellion:

"Long before the meeting at Minneapolis the leaven that is now working was at work. The spirit of disaffection was gathering strength up to that time. Since that time some have confessed their wrongs and have decidedly changed their attitude, and have not manifested the same spirit. For years previous they withstood the pleadings of the Spirit of God, and were aided in their rebellion by the great adversary of souls. But there are some in influential positions who are still seeking to leaven the minds of canvassers, and to influence those who assemble in conference meetings. They work contrary to truth and righteousness, making use of any and every expedient to carry forward their own ideas….In the name of the Lord God of Israel, I protest against this work."  EGW 1888 1369.

The Two Adams and Christ's 2nd Death Victory

Many today still reject the "In Christ" motif's implications for what God has done for all men. Let us review:

"Now what does it mean to us that Jesus Christ became the second head of this human family? It means this: Just as, when Adam was created, all the members of the human family were created in him, so also when the second man was created "according to God in righteousness and true holiness," all the members of that family were created in him. It means that, as God saw in Adam all the members of the human family, so he saw in Christ, the second father of the family, all the members of the divine human family; so he saw in him all his sons, all his daughters, all his descendants; all that belong to the family. No matter whether they were born into the family or not. Before Jacob and Esau were born, God saw two nations there. No matter whether born into the divine-human family or not, yet God created in Christ Jesus, the new man, all the members of the divine-human family that should afterward be born into that family." WWP - GCB February 4, 1895, p. 9.

"'In Adam all die,' both righteous and wicked, men and little children; and 'so Christ shall all be made alive.' 1 Corinthians 15:22. Christ does this for all, because no one is to blame for being the descendant of Adam, and thus mortal. When all have been made alive, it will be seen who are worthy to have life continued to them, and those who have died in their iniquity shall die the second time. Ezekiel 18:26. This is the death to which God had reference when he said to Adam, 'In the day that thou eat this thereof, thou shalt surely die.' That penalty has never been executed; through the kindness of God in Christ the execution of the penalty was stayed, in order to give fallen man another chance for his life. Christ tasted death for every man, and those who accept his sacrifice will escape the penalty for sin, but upon those who do not, it will fall grievously." EJW - SITI February 5, 1885, p. 86.24

"The fact that we live, although we are sinners, is the assurance that deliverance from the sin is ours. 'While there's life there's hope,' says the adage. Yes, because the Life is our hope. Thank God for the blessed hope! The blessing has come upon all men; for 'as by the offense of one judgment came upon all men to condemnation; even so by the righteousness of One the free gift came upon all men unto justification of life.' Romans 5:18. God, who is 'no respecter of persons,' 'hath blessed us with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ.' Ephesians 1:3. It is ours to keep. If any one has not this blessing, it is because he has not recognized the gift, or has deliberately thrown it away." - EJW - GTI 123.1

The Armor of God and the Church Building

The clear presentation of the Minneapolis Message was the true armor that God's people needed to build up the church in the conflict ahead of them. The helmet of salvation given to and for all men, the faith of Jesus as our shield, the shoes of the true gospel of peace, the sword of the Spirit - trusting in God's word to do exactly what it says, and the preaching the gospel of Jesus as the Truth that swallows up every other topic; these were the armor and equipment that were needed. Using other themes and interpretations, rejecting the message sent of God, would have terrible effects on the quality of the church structure and function, some of which we still see today.

Writing to Brother Lindsey, Ellen White draws a direct parallel with the experience of the 1888 era:

"'For other foundation can no man lay than that is laid, which is Jesus Christ. Now if any man build upon this foundation gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, stubble: every man's work shall be made manifest: for the day shall declare it, because it shall be revealed by fire, and the fire shall try every man's work of what sort it is. If any man's work shall be burned, he shall suffer loss; but he himself shall be saved, yet so as by fire. Know ye not that ye are the temple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwelleth in you….'
     "My brother, why do you cherish such bitterness against Elder A.T. Jones and Elder Waggoner? It is for the same reason Cain hated Abel. Cain refused to heed the instruction of God, and because Abel sought God, and followed His will, Cain killed him. God has given Brother Jones and Brother Waggoner a message for the people. You do not believe that God has upheld them, but He has given them precious light, and their message has fed the people of God. When you reject the message borne by these men, you reject Christ, the Giver of the message. Why will you encourage the attributes of Satan? Why will you and Brother Henry
despise God's delegated ministers, and seek to justify yourselves? Your work stands revealed in the sight of God. 'Turn ye, turn ye, for why will ye die?'"  EGW 1888 1352-3.

If we view the lessons topics in a chiastic pattern, we can turn our attention to the centerpiece of the lesson -

The Church as a Body

After Paul completes his discourse on church unity in 1 Corinthians 12, he pivots in verse 31 to the key of all unity that he will address in chapter 13.

"But earnestly desire the best gifts. And yet I show you a more excellent way."

And what is that more excellent way? The power that holds all of the body of Christ together in true unity? What is it that brings maturity to the body of Christ, that brings an end to all rebellion - in the cosmos, and in us?

It is the agape love of God!

Loving Is Giving

"THE word 'love' is a common one. It is much used. Its meanings are many and various. Sometimes it implies nothing more than admiration. Often it indicates only greed. It may denote personal sentiment and individual affection between men and women. Frequently it is indicative of the most supreme type of selfishness. It often signifies gross immorality and base passion.

"In brief, our ideas of love have become so narrow and so low that if the word be analyzed in relation to the emotions, passions, and actions, to which it is for the most part applied, it will be found to express two of the worst traits of human life—selfishness and lust.

"Even at best, human love is often but little better than a form of selfishness. A man loves a woman—why?—Because of his desire to draw her to himself, to possess her,—to have her for his life companion,—to gain her to be exclusively his own.

"But the love of God is the absolute opposite of all these things. 'God so loved. . . that He GAVE.' With God loving is giving. 'God is love.' With the Eternal One to love is to give. 'God is love.' His life is nothing but love. With Him to live is to love, and to love is to give—living is loving, and loving is giving.

"Now, therefore, the supreme idea in the love of God is this—It is a love which gives. Any love which does not give is not the love of God at all. It is only human. It is earthly, sensual, devilish. Common affection is not true love. The test of all genuine love is that it has in it the element of giving—yea, that its very essence is self-sacrificial giving. In this, when a man loves a woman it is that he may give to her all human devotion.

"'God so loved. . . that He gave.'
The word translated 'love' signifies 'benevolent.' The word 'benevolent' comes from two Latin words—bono, which means 'rightly' or 'well,' and volens, meaning 'wishing.' The word 'benevolent' is therefore defined as follows: 'Having a disposition to do good; possessing or manifesting love to mankind, and a desire to promote their prosperity and happiness; disposed to give to good objects.' Etymologically considered, benevolent implies wishing well to others, and beneficent, doing well. But by degrees the word 'benevolent' has been widened to include not only feelings but actions.
"From these definitions it is clear that the love of the Bible is a love that manifests itself in giving. More than this, right giving—the giving of the Bible—springs from right willing or wishing.

"There are many in the world who make expensive presents or gifts to others. There are wealthy men who give millions of dollars to different enterprises. Yet much of this giving is pure selfishness. God frowns upon it, because it does not proceed from right wishes, from noble desires of the heart. A gift may be made with the idea of gaining the favor of some one else. Such gifts, whether made to Christ's cause or to men, are displeasing to God. Many times lavish gifts are bestowed upon great enterprises because the giver desires to become well known and well thought of. This is naught but pharisaism. It is written: 'Take heed that ye do not your alms before men, to be seen of them: otherwise ye have no reward of your Father which is in heaven. Therefore when thou doest thine alms, do not sound a trumpet before thee, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may have glory of men. Verily I say unto you, They have their reward. But when thou doest alms, let not thy left hand know what thy right hand doeth: that thine alms may be in secret: and thy Father which seeth in secret himself shall reward thee openly.'

"The love of God therefore is a love which gives—gives because of love and loyalty to the cause and object upon which it is bestowed. This giving love, and it alone, is the love of God.

"How many times has this and similar testimony been borne in a public social meeting: 'I am very happy; I feel so much of the love of God in my heart; this faith grows more and more precious to me day by day.'

"And yet many who utter such words have absolutely no idea of the responsibilities of the love of God—the responsibility to give. He who does not feel the burden upon him to give of his life, to give of his God-intrusted talents, and to give of his property, of his money, to the suffering cause of God, does not know the love of God…." April 16, 1901 ATJ, ARSH 250,251.


The Third Angel's Message

"Rom. 5:1, 5. 'Justified by faith we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost which is given unto us.' And that is charity. Supreme love. Acts 15:8, 9, 'And God which knoweth the hearts, bare them witness, giving them the Holy Ghost, even as he did unto us, and put no difference between us and them purifying their hearts by faith.' There is the love of God out of a pure heart.

"Heb. 9:14: 'How much more shall the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without spot to God, purge your conscience from dead works to serve the living God?' There is a clean conscience, brethren, and there is the love of God out of a good conscience.

"Then that faith which He gives, which He enables us to keep--the faith of Jesus which enables us to keep the commandments of God--there is the love of God by a faith unfeigned.

"Oh then the message of the righteousness of God which is by faith in Jesus Christ, brings us to, and brings to us, the perfect fulfillment of the law of God, does it not? [Congregation: 'Yes.'] Then that is the object and the aim and the one single point of the third angel's message, is it not? [Congregation: 'Yes.'] That is Christ. Christ in His righteousness. Christ in His purity. Christ in His love. Christ in His gentleness. Christ in His entire being. Christ and Him crucified. That is the word, brethren. Let us be glad of it; let us be glad of it. [Congregation: 'Amen.']

"So then when we have Jesus, when we have received Him by faith and the law stands before us or we stand before it and it makes its wondrous demand of charity, we can say, 'Here it is. It is in Christ and He is mine!' Out of a pure heart—'Here it is in Christ, and He has given it to me--a good conscience.' The blood of Christ has created it in me. Here it is. 'Faith unfeigned,' the faith in Jesus. He has given it to me. Here it is. Then, just as Steps to Christ tells us, we can come to Jesus now and be cleansed and stand before the law without one touch of shame or remorse. Good. Brethren, when I have that which makes me at perfect agreement with the law of God, then I am satisfied, and cannot help but be glad that I am satisfied." February 27, 1893 ATJ, GCDB 412,413.

~Todd Guthrie

Raul Diaz