Wednesday, May 20, 2020

1888 Message Study : Creation: Genesis as Foundation—Part 1



When I consider Your heavens, the work of Your fingers, the moon and the stars, which You have ordained, what is man that You are mindful of him, and the son of man that You visit him? Psalms 8:3-4, NKJV.


"In the Beginning…"

In order to have wisdom regarding our purpose and place in this world, the meaning of life in the here and now, we must know our end. To know our end, we must know our beginning. God's Word provides this foundation for us.

LORD, make me to know my end, And what is the measure of my days, That I may know how frail I am. Psalms 39:4, NKJV.

God did not evolve. He pre-existed His creation, and none of His creation can evolve to be Him. The Omega is not a point of evolutionary arrival for humanity, but a Divine being taking humanity under His wings - Jesus as the revelation of God, willing to go to the second death experience of the cross to rescue mankind, to bring "many sons to glory." Satan desired to "be like the Most High," but not like God in who He really is, that is, Love.

Understanding that our beginning as described in the Bible is a creative act of love, fleshed out in amazing design and detail, gives meaning and purpose to life. In contrast, evolutionary thought is founded on the lie of self-love, mere existence for survival. In short, no Creator = no meaning.


The Days of Creation

So teach us to number our days, That we may gain a heart of wisdom. Psalms 90:12, NKJV.

God not only created us, and gave humanity a beginning. He also set up the measure of our existence. Interestingly, the literal week was given to humanity before the fall of man. It was a way that our lives could measure with the life of God. But after the fall, measuring time has a different purpose.

How do we measure time? From one point in time to another, counting the number of seconds, minutes, hours, days, weeks, months, years, decades, centuries, and millennia. Of course, decades is the most we can personally measure. We have limited time and recognizing that fact is foundational to wisdom. Why?

Because we don't have millennia to resolve the sin problem. We need a re-creation, and now!

"Now you are created new in Christ Jesus. He says so. Thank Him that it is so. What! will you be an evolutionist on that verse? That is the present tense, 'We are His workmanship,' we are created in Christ Jesus unto good works. Are you? The word is spoken. It is the creative word. How much time are you going to allow between that word of God, and your being created new? Of the creation in the beginning, you said that any man who allows even a minute to pass between the word and the thing, is an evolutionist. What are now as to this word of God, which creates men in Christ Jesus unto good works? Are you an evolutionist here? Come, let us all be creationists.

"Do you not see that in this way it will not require a long, tedious, wearing process to be made ready to meet the Lord in glory? So many people are looking at themselves. They know that, in the nature of things, it must take them an exceedingly long time to get fully ready to meet him. If it is done by evolution, it will never be done. But when it is done by creation, it will be both surely and quickly done. That word I have before referred to is the word everyone here may take to himself: 'While so many are hovering about the mystery of faith and godliness, they could solve the matter by proclaiming abroad [by telling it out], "Jesus Christ is my portion forever."'

"Do you see how much we have been evolutionists? Shall we quit? Come now, let us be creationists, and be done with it. Let us be Sabbath-keepers truly. Let us believe the Lord. He speaks forgiveness. He speaks a clean heart. He speaks holiness, He creates it. Let Him create it in you. Stop being an evolutionist, and let that creative word work for you, let that creative energy work in you, that which the word pronounces; and before you leave this house, God can get you ready to meet Him. Indeed, in that very thing you do meet Him. And when you have thus met Him, and do thus meet Him every day, are you not then ready to meet Him? Do you believe that? You believe He made the worlds when He spoke, that light came by His word when He spoke, and that the leper was "immediately" cleansed when He spoke; but with yourself you think considerable time must elapse between the time when the word is spoken and the fact is accomplished. O, why will you be an evolutionist? Creation, creation,—that is the thing. March 7, 1899 ATJ, ARSH 148.


The Sabbath and Creation

Far from being merely "the Jewish Sabbath," the Sabbath was designed by God to teach man his complete and total dependence on the loving Creator for everything. After the fall of man into the lie of self-dependence (immediately causing death without Divine intervention), the lesson remained as part of the plan to redeem mankind.

"What a Sabbath that must have been for Adam! To look upon the earth in its perfect beauty, fresh from the hand of God, to behold His works, and hold communion with God Himself and heavenly angels, was a privilege such as our minds cannot grasp. Although Adam had received dominion over all, he was doing nothing to contribute to the perfect work, beyond being what God had made him. Not a single flower, or animal, or creeping thing owed anything to his care. The world was absolutely perfect, so perfect that there was no room for improvement, and its Maker delighted in His work. The fact that Adam was now called to spend his first entire day in rest was to teach him that he was not expected to carry the burden, that all things could be beautiful and perfect without his moving a finger, and that he was to cast the whole burden of his position on the Lord.

"Adam was also to learn for himself on that Sabbath day that the God who had made him 'very good' was able to keep him so, without Adam's contributing anything to the goodness. Adam's part was to rest in the Lord and allow full and free play to the power which had done its perfect work. As long as he should 'remember the Sabbath day,' Adam would understand his true relation to God, and would continue to rest in Him. But Adam and Eve forgot that Sabbath day and its lesson. Satan tempted them to think that by taking the course he advised, they would do better for themselves than God had done for them, and that they would become as gods. They believed the lie. They forgot that God's work was perfect, and that they could not improve on it. They thought to better their position, and they fell. If they had remembered the Sabbath day, they would not have fallen.

"Now, if we are to reverse their fall, in our own experience, we must not repeat their mistake. We must 'remember the Sabbath day to keep it holy.' Then we shall understand that we can do nothing for ourselves, and that it is God alone Who can make us holy, as He made Adam in the beginning, and only He Who can keep us holy. 'Moreover, also I gave them My Sabbaths, to be a sign between Me and them, that they might know that I am the Lord that sanctify them. Ezekiel 20:12.

"Satan tempted Adam and Eve to forget the Sabbath, and in order that he might obliterate the knowledge of the Sabbath and so ensure that men should not remember it, he has caused the church of which he gained control, to transfer the weekly rest day from the seventh to the first that Satan desires in this way to break the connection between us and the power that was revealed in making a perfect man, at the beginning. But God has caused light to shine upon Satan's work, and He is calling men back to worship Him in spirit and truth, and to enter into His rest. The observance of the first day, in its very nature, represents the error of substituting man's work for God's. The observance of the seventh day, in spirit and truth, stands for faith in God's finished work, in His creating and redeeming power, and for the ceasing from our own works. Hebrews 4:3, 4, 10. Therefore 'remember the Sabbath day to keep it holy.'" August 20, 1903 EJW, PTUK 530-31.


Creation and Marriage

While the Sabbath teaches us about our utter dependence upon God for all things, marriage, the other divine institution inaugurated at Creation teaches us God's great love for us and the responsive love He so desires. Solomon, the wisest man who ever lived, was mystified by "the way of a man with a maid." Proverbs 30:19, KJV. Likewise, the love relationship that God desires with each of His children remains mysterious, but amazing nonetheless. The school of marriage can make us more effective in sharing the love of God revealed in the Gospel.

"Marriage, a union for life, is a symbol of the union between Christ and His church. The spirit that Christ manifests toward His church is the spirit that the husband and wife are to manifest toward each other. If they love God supremely, they will love each other in the Lord. . . . In their mutual self-denial and self-sacrifice they will be a blessing to each other. . . .

"God wants the home to be the happiest place on earth, the very symbol of the home in heaven. Bearing the marriage responsibilities in the home, linking their interests with Jesus Christ, leaning upon His arm and His assurance, husband and wife may share a happiness in this union that angels of God commend. Marriage does not lessen their usefulness, but strengthens it." FLB 259.


Creation, the Fall, and the Cross 

Therefore, just as through one man sin entered the world, and death through sin, and thus death spread to all men, because all sinned. Romans 5:12, NKJV.


For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ all shall be made alive.
1 Corinthians 15:22, NKJV.


Death from the beginning has been an enemy, not a tool of the Creator to advance His Creation in some kind of theistic evolution. This has implications for grasping the fundamentals of the everlasting gospel.

"It was not that Jesus Christ came from outside, and simply stepped into our place as an outsider; but by joining Himself to us by birth, all humanity was brought together in the divine head, Jesus Christ. He suffered on the cross. Then it was the whole family in Jesus Christ that was crucified. 'For the love of Christ constraineth us; because we thus judge, that if one died for all, then were all dead,' or as the Revised Version says, 'All died.' 2 Corinthians 5:14. What we want in our experience is to enter into the fact that we did die in Him. But while it is true that Jesus Christ paid the whole price, bore every grief, was humanity itself, yet it is also true that no man receives benefit from that except he receives Christ, except he is born again. Only those who are twice born can enter into the kingdom of God. Those who are born in the flesh, must be born again, born of the Spirit, in order that what Jesus Christ did in the flesh, we may avail ourselves of, that we may really be in Him." January 6, 1896 WWP, BEST 5.


~Todd Guthrie

Thursday, May 07, 2020

1888 Message Study : Why Is Interpretation Needed?




Have you ever had a discouraging or depressing day or experience, and turned to the Bible for a promise or verse that would encourage you and lift your spirits out of darkness? I'm sure we all have. In my younger, and hopefully less insightful youth, I'd occasionally practice a method of Bible study that I've heard others use too – unfortunately. It's the, "close your eyes – pray – let the Bible fall open – point your finger blindly at a verse" method. Anybody else ever tried that method? I've actually heard some encouraging testimonies using this method – although I'd NEVER recommend it today.


One not so encouraging story using this method went as follows:


1st verse – "Judas . . . went out and hanged himself."  Matthew 27:5

          -not too encouraging, so let me try this again, and pray again – harder.


2nd verse – "Then Jesus said to him, 'Go and do likewise.'"  Luke 10:37

          -Wow, two in a row! Ok, Lord, I'll try this one more time!


3rd verse – "Jesus said to him, 'What you do, do quickly.'"  John 13:27

          -Oh no! Three strikes and you're out!


Clearly, this method has some pretty significant drawbacks. Our lesson is entitled, "Why is Interpretations Needed?", and our opening illustration makes that point. Approaching the Bible as above, which many of us have probably tried at one time or another, is not using the Bible the way God intended us to use it. The Bible is not a good luck charm.


A pastor tells the story of a Bible study group he was involved in where one of the women admitted to an illicit relationship with someone other than her husband. She justified the relationship by quoting Paul in Ephesians 4:24, "put on the NEW MAN".


Another youth pastor tells the story of a young man in his congregation who wanted to date one of the young women in the youth group, whose name was Grace. He saw his Biblical mandate in 1 Timothy 6:21, "Grace be with you."


While these true stories and illustrations are obvious to most of us, they make the point of "why is interpretation needed". Primarily because our fallen human nature will use ANY means possible or necessary to preserve self and it's position and desires. We will twist, abstract, diminish, exalt, avoid, quote, and misquote – consciously or subconsciously – any and all Bible verses to support our position, our status (think of those defending slavery misusing the Bible), our self-identity, our "group", etc.


Remember, Satan was quoting Scripture in his temptations of Jesus. He was mis-using actual Bible verses to tempt Jesus to fall in to his kingdom. Our fallen natures will do no less to preserve our "selves", at the expense of God's kingdom. Jesus said to His disciples that people would put them out of church, and even kill them, and believe that they were doing God's service, because they didn't know God (John 16:2-3). These will be Bible (or other "scriptures") quoting people who in the end times will believe they are doing God's will.


But they won't have interpreted the Bible correctly. This is why interpretation is needed. While we would all agree with the statement that, "God said it. I believe it. And that settles it for me.", we can see from all the above evidence that we need wisdom and principles and humility to see what the Bible is trying to communicate to us through the lens of our fallenness.


It has been accurately said that, "reading is bringing meaning to words." So, the "meaning" we bring to the words is critical. When the Bible was originally written, there were no verses, no chapter divisions, no punctuation, and there were no spaces even between the words. And all the words were in capital letters. Take for example the "interpretation" of the following phrase.




Again, in the original, no spaces between words. Does the above read, "God is no where", or, "God is now here". The answer would require "interpretation".


Who is speaking? Job's friends might say to Job that "God is no where" for example. Whereas Moses on Mount Sinai might say, "God is now here."


What is the context? As one wise apologist has said, "Never read a Bible verse!". And his point is that we should never take a Bible verse out of the surrounding "context" and misuse it. A verse without a context is a pretext – meaning – don't come and pick out a Bible verse just to fit your preconceived notions without taking in to account the setting of the particular verse.


Note how Ellen White was acutely aware of this principle as brought out in our lesson:


"In your study of the word, lay at the door of investigation your preconceived opinions and your hereditary and cultivated ideas. You will never reach the truth if you study the Scriptures to vindicate your own ideas. Leave these at the door, and with a contrite heart go in to hear what the Lord has to say to you. As the humble seeker for truth sits at Christ's feet, and learns of Him, the word gives him understanding. To those who are too wise in their own conceit to study the Bible, Christ says, 'You must become meek and lowly in heart if you desire to become wise unto salvation'.


Do not read the word in the light of former opinions; but, with a mind free from prejudice, search it carefully and prayerfully. If, as you read, conviction comes, and you see that your cherished opinions are not in harmony with the word, do not try to make the word fit these opinions. Make your opinions fit the word. Do not allow what you have believed or practiced in the past to control your understanding."  {MYP 260}


These prejudices, biases, and misinterpretations, lay at the foundation of the rejection of the 1888 message by some of our sincere Adventist pioneers:


"An unwillingness to yield up preconceived opinions, and to accept this truth, lay at the foundation of a large share of the opposition manifested at Minneapolis against the Lord's message through Brethren Waggoner and Jones. By exciting that opposition, Satan succeeded in shutting away from our people, in a great measure, the special power of the Holy Spirit that God longed to impart to them. The enemy prevented them from obtaining that efficiency which might have been theirs in carrying the truth to the world, as the apostles proclaimed it after the day of Pentecost. The light that is to lighten the whole earth with its glory was resisted, and by the action of our own brethren has been in a great degree kept away from the world."  {1888 1575.2}


Why is interpretation needed?  For one, to lay aside "preconceived opinions", and accept truth as the Holy Spirit presents it to us. We are all at risk of this failure, irrespective of our current "fund of knowledge", and Sunday's lesson calls our attention to this danger. And the consequences 132 years ago were that the beginning of the latter rain and the fullness of the Loud Cry were "kept away from the world"! May we not succumb to similar misinterpretation and pride of opinion today.


While there is much, much more that could be said about appropriate and wise interpretation, I would direct our readers to William Miller's principles of interpretation (attached as a separate file to this email). This seminal figure in the early Advent movement worked out significant founding principles, prophecies, and doctrines with His Bible and a concordance. A rich study in God's Word awaits you with these simple tools, with prayer, and with a humble spirit that the Holy Spirit can speak to.


~Bob Hunsaker


William Miller's Principles of Interpretation

Thursday, April 30, 2020

1888 Message Study : By Scripture Alone — Sola Scriptura




Sola Scriptura, two words that so easily roll off the tongue but is a concept that was radically unheard of in the early days of the Protestant Reformation. Yet, this became the foundational principle to this movement and can only truly be understood in a reformation context. If Sola Scriptura dies, the Protestant Reformation dies with it.

The Bible sets the stage for the need for this declaration of the reformers as it foretold an apostasy from the apostolic church. Passages, like Daniel 7, 8 and 9, point to a religious power that would make changes to the biblical times and laws. Paul speaks of a falling away that was to come and that a man of sin would be revealed (2 Thessalonians 2:1-12). And John coined the name antichrist in speaking of these same developments. (1 John 2:18, 19 and 4:1-3)

These passages and others were foretelling of a world that the reformers would find themselves living in. This quotation from the pen of Ellen White captures this.

"The voice of Luther, that echoed in mountains and valleys, that shook Europe as with an earthquake, summoned forth an army of noble apostles of Jesus, and the truth they advocated could not be silenced by fagots, by tortures, by dungeons, by death; and still the voices of the noble army of martyrs are telling us that the Roman power is the predicted apostasy of the last days, the mystery of iniquity which Paul saw beginning to work even in his day." (Signs of the Times; Feb 19, 1894)

Consider the early apostolic church, starting with Jesus in AD 27 and continuing on with the apostles after His death and resurrection. With the gift of the Holy Spirit, 3000 were added to the church in a day followed by another 4000 soon after. The work of a handful of men gifted with the Spirit of God was said to "have turned the world upside down" (Acts 17:6).

Christianity spread to much of their world over the next few hundred years. The church, however, did not form without opposition. There was great persecution of the early church as well as problems with false teachers and doctrinal assaults.

While "turning the world upside down" had a major impact, it is estimated that the Pre- Constantinian Roman Empire was at best 5% Christian and more realistically around 2%. This would be about the same density of Christianity in India or China today. In other words, it was not the popular movement that "turning the world upside down" might suggest. While the church made great strides it by far was not a majority phenomena.

In the Post-Constantinian world the church went from being the persecuted faithful minority to becoming an accepted popular majority. It is estimated that up to 70% of the Roman world population became Christian. What changed? First persecution vanished, next Christianity became the state sponsored religion and finally the church's teachings accommodated pagan ideas which many of the citizens of the Roman Empire held. Some have described the church of this age as filled with "half converted pagans."

This transition didn't take place overnight. Church formation primarily occurring from the time of Jesus through the few centuries following with gradual and incremental moves away from the apostolic church as the years passed. At the conversion of Constantine in AD 321 the church then switched to primarily a deformation phase. The deformation then proceeded like a downward spiral until we can see the Roman church reaching an all-time low becoming so unlike the apostolic church that honest individuals within the church started speaking up and protesting with greater and greater clarity. Of that time, when the reformation started to emerge, the following could be said of the religion of the day.

"Popery is the religion of human nature, and the mass of humanity love a doctrine that permits them to commit sin, and yet frees them from its consequences. People must have some form of religion, and this religion, formed by human device, and yet claiming divine authority, suits the carnal mind." (Signs of the Times; Feb 19, 1894)

The Waldenses and their forerunners were present all along trying to hold to the Bible's teachings. Then standing up for a return to scripture was John Wycliffe (1320's-1384), the Morningstar of the reformation. He was a forerunner of Sola Scriptura. Wycliffe had come to regard the scriptures as the only reliable guide to the truth about God, and maintained that all Christians should rely on the Bible rather than on the teachings of popes and clerics. He went on to translate the entire Bible into the common language of the people.

From Wycliffe to Huss and then to Luther an awakening to scripture continued to emerge. Sola Scriptura came to the forefront of the reformation and marked the foundational principle of the movement. "When enemies appealed to custom and tradition, or to the assertions and authority of the pope, Luther met them with the Bible and the Bible only. Here were arguments which they could not answer;" (GC 132). This guiding principle would take the church from the depth of the deformation through the gradual incremental process of reformation and ultimately to restoration and the return of Christ.

Ellen White was firmly established in the protestant preserving principle of Sola Scriptura as illustrated by the following statement:

"But God will have a people upon the earth to maintain the Bible, and the Bible only, as the standard of all doctrines, and the basis of all reforms. The opinions of learned men, the deductions of science, the creeds or decisions of ecclesiastical councils, as numerous and discordant as are the churches which they represent, the voice of the majority, — not one or all of these should be regarded as evidence for or against any point of religious faith. Before accepting any doctrine or precept, we should demand a plain "Thus saith the Lord" in its support.

Satan is constantly endeavoring to attract attention to man in the place of God. He leads the people to look to bishops, to pastors, to professors of theology, as their guides, instead of searching the Scriptures to learn their duty for themselves. Then, by controlling the minds of these leaders, he can influence the multitudes according to his will." (RH, June 7, 1906)

By the time the Advent Movement emerges all of the Protestant Churches still claimed Sola Scriptura. Yet, there were many churches with varying teachings. How can they all believe in Sola Scriptura yet drastically differ doctrinally? The answer is, while claiming to be under the banner of Sola Scriptura, they had in effect departed from it. The moment this happens the reformation stops for them and whereever along the reformation continuum they are at the time there they stay. For some were Lutheran, for others Calvinists, for others Methodist, and so forth.

Ellen White comments on a reason for the doctrinal divide:

"The truths most plainly revealed in the Bible have been involved in doubt and darkness by learned men, who, with a pretense of great wisdom, teach that the Scriptures have a mystical, a secret, spiritual meaning not apparent in the language employed. These men are false teachers. It was to such a class that Jesus declared: "Ye know not the Scriptures, neither the power of God." Mark 12:24. The language of the Bible should be explained according to its obvious meaning, unless a symbol or figure is employed. Christ has given the promise: "If any man will do His will, he shall know of the doctrine." John 7:17. If men would but take the Bible as it reads, if there were no false teachers to mislead and confuse their minds, a work would be accomplished that would make angels glad and that would bring into the fold of Christ thousands upon thousands who are now wandering in error." (GC 598)

A.T. Jones put it this way:

"The Bible comes to us as the Word of God…...And whosoever will receive it as the Word of God, will find it to be that…

When the Bible is taken this way and treated thus, no one will have any difficulty whatever in understanding it. And for any man not to take it this way, and not to treat it thus: that is for any man to say that the Bible does not mean what it says, and that it is left for the man himself to say what it means—this is only to claim that he knows better than God just how it ought to have been said, and just what should have been meant. In other words, he puts himself in the place of God.

When the Bible is taken just as it says, and is allowed to mean exactly what it says because the Author of it knew well enough what he wanted to say to be able to say just what he meant, it is all plain enough." (AMS May 6, 1897)

Waggoner approached scripture this way as illustrated in the following:

"The will of God is our sanctification. 1 Thessalonians 4:3. He willeth that all men should be saved, and come to the knowledge of the truth. 1 Timothy 2:4. And He "worketh all things after the counsel of His own will." Ephesians 1:11. "What! do you mean to teach universal salvation?" We mean to teach just what the Word of God teaches, — that "the grace of God hath appeared, bringing salvation to all men." Titus 2:11, R.V. God has wrought out salvation for every man, and has given it to him; but the majority spurn it, and throw it away." (The Glad Tidings, p 13,14)

When the church stays faithful comparing scripture with scripture and takes the word of God just as it reads, approaches it with a heart willing to do as it teaches, the reformation will continue for us and will bring restoration to completion for the church. We all would do well to approach scripture this way and take it as the living Word letting it speak for itself rather than try to fit scripture into preconceived theological models.

Now, as we bring this to a close, it bears to mention the relationship of Sola Scriptura and the Spirit of Prophecy. Sometimes the idea of Sola Scriptura is used as an argument by some against using Spirit of Prophecy. I have found that many times when the Sola Scriptura argument is used this way it is because the individual does not agree with Spirit of Prophecy and uses the "Bible only" banner to silence the prophet of God.

Never did Luther or any reformer use the idea of Sola Scriptura to exclude inspiration. History shows clearly that sola scriptura was to lift up the inspired writings over tradition and the teachings of men. It was never a cry against the writings of an inspired prophet of God. But men today who want to hold to traditions or man-made views of scripture and the gospel, wrongly use a Sola Scriptura banner to quiet the inspired voice of the prophet.

Remember that the scripture of the New Testament authors referred to was the Law, the Prophets, and the Psalms (Old Testament). This means that until there was a Cannon of scripture, all of the New Testament authors would have been extra-scriptural (outside of scripture) inspiration. We would never say of the early church that they should not have read Paul, quoted Paul, or based their doctrine on Paul. Paul was authoritative and he was an extra-biblical inspired source in their day. Likewise, a contemporary prophet of God is not and will never be in the cannon of scripture. They will always be extra-scriptural inspiration in our day as Paul was in his.

Given this though, it is absolutely true that Ellen White referred to herself as the lesser light and referred the church back to scripture over and over again. This reminds me of what Jesus did to Cleopas and his friend on the road to Emmaus and again to the disciples as a group after that. He taught them from the scriptures. He wanted them to see what was written and help them see the narrative that they were missing in scripture. In the same manner we need to know the Bible for ourselves and teach others from the scriptures. Let it be said of us, that beginning from Genesis through Revelation, we expounded on all things concerning Him.

In this age of ecumenicalism and many competing voices that surround us may we not let the Protestant Reformation die with us. May we hold to scripture alone and find within the pages of this book Christ alone Who is not socially distant from us but has drawn closer than a brother. Who by His sacrifice for the world, He has justified all by His grace alone and stands ready to fully cloth us with His righteousness by His faith alone. And thereby allowing Him to lighten the world with His glory alone.

Sola Scriptura

Solus Christus

Sola Gratia

Sola Fide

Soli Deo Gloria


~Kelly Kinsley

Thursday, April 16, 2020

1888 Message Study : Jesus And The Apostles' View Of The Bible




"And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us" (John 1:14).  "He laid aside His royal robes, clothed His divinity with humanity, stepped down from the royal throne, that He might reach the very depth of human woe and temptation, lift up our fallen natures, and make it possible for us to be overcomers,--the sons of God, the heirs of the eternal kingdom." – Christian Education p. 120.

I picture the childhood of Jesus so beautifully described in the book, Desire of Ages by Ellen White.  I imagine Him as a young child, first being read to and early learning to read the sacred scrolls for Himself.  I envision Him listening intently to portions of the Scriptures read each Sabbath in Nazareth's synagogue.  From the Scriptures Jesus learned of the creation of the world, the fall, the flood, and the history of His own people, the nation of Israel.  He became well acquainted with the law, the Psalms and wisdom literature, the prophecies of the Messiah to come, and the plan of redemption.  Surely the story of Abraham and Isaac on Mount Moriah must have captivated His heart.  "My son, God will provide for Himself a lamb for a burnt offering" (Genesis 22:8).

Picture Jesus walking in the temple precincts on His first Passover visit to Jerusalem.  "For the first time the child Jesus looked upon the temple.  He saw the white-robed priests performing their solemn ministry.  He beheld the bleeding victim upon the altar of sacrifice.  With the worshipers He bowed in prayer, while the cloud of incense ascended before God.  He witnessed the impressive rites of the paschal service.  Day by day He saw their meaning more clearly.  Every act seemed to be bound up with His own life.  New impulses were awakening within Him.  Silent and absorbed, He seemed to be studying out a great problem.  The mystery of His mission was opening to the Savior.– Desire of Ages, p. 78. 

The boy Jesus returned to Nazareth where He spent the next eighteen years in relative obscurity.  "And Jesus increased in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and man" (Luke 2:52).

Yet from His earliest days Jesus faced conflict.  "In every gentle and submissive way, Jesus tried to please those with whom He came in contact.  Because He was so gentle and unobtrusive, the scribes and elders supposed that He would be easily influenced by their teaching.  They urged Him to receive the maxims and traditions that had been handed down from the ancient rabbis, but He asked for their authority in Holy Writ.  He would hear every word that proceeds from the mouth of God; but He could not obey the inventions of men.  Jesus seemed to know the Scriptures from beginning to end, and He presented them in their true import.  The rabbis were ashamed to be instructed by a child.  They claimed that it was their office to explain the Scriptures, and that it was His place to accept their interpretation.  They were indignant that He should stand in opposition to their word.– Desire of Ages, p. 85.

"The Scriptures of the Old Testament were His constant study, and the words, 'Thus saith the Lord,' were ever upon His lips." – Desire of Ages, p. 84.

We can see from all four gospels that the Living Word's earthly identity was tied to the Written Word.  The Old Testament informed Jesus when His public ministry would begin, the duration of His earthly ministry, the nature of His work, and the year, day, and hour of His death.  He would die on Passover and rise the third day, the Feast of First Fruits.  He knew how He would die.  "And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of man be lifted up: that whosoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life" (John 3:14, 15).

Themes and passages from the Old Testament are so interwoven in the gospels that it is impossible to appreciate and grasp their content apart from the Old Testament.  This is true of the rest of the New Testament as well.  Besides numerous Old Testament passages the New Testament writers and Jesus quote and reference, allusions abound.  The New Testament is rich with Old Testament typology.  Many of the Old Testament stories foreshadow the life and experiences of Jesus as well as His church.

Jesus is the new Moses.  He is the new Israel who fathers a spiritual nation.  He is the temple.  Jesus comes as the second Adam.  His three temptations - lust of the flesh, lust of the eyes, and pride of life (1 John 2:16) were the very temptations that overcame our first parents (Genesis 3:6).

Jesus redeems Israel's wilderness failures.  The Israelites had repeatedly revealed a lack of faith as evidenced by their murmuring, complaining, and rebelling.  It is of interest that Jesus quotes from Deuteronomy where Moses reviews Israel's wilderness sojourn (Genesis 8:3, 6:16, 10:20).

"Jesus met Satan with the words of Scripture.  'It is written,' He said.  In every temptation the weapon of His warfare was the word of God.  Satan demanded of Christ a miracle as a sign of His divinity.  But that which is greater than all miracles, a firm reliance upon a 'Thus saith the Lord,' was a sign that could not be controverted.  So long as Christ held to this position, the tempter could gain no advantage." – Desire of Ages p. 120.

That the disciples of Jesus were familiar with the Hebrew Scriptures is evident in Philip's words to Nathanael.  "We have found Him of Whom Moses in the Law and also the Prophets wrote" (John 1:45).  For three and a half years the disciples of Jesus beheld "His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth" (John 1:14).

They were members of the inner circle.  They believed Jesus was the promised Messiah.  However, their biases, education, misunderstanding of the prophecies, worldly aspirations, and false expectations set the disciples up for the bitterest disappointment.

He had prepared them for what lay ahead.  "Then He took unto Him the twelve, and said unto them, 'Behold, we go up to Jerusalem, and all things that are written by the prophets concerning the Son of man shall be accomplished.'" (Luke 18:31).

"Behold, we are going up to Jerusalem; and the Son of Man will be delivered to the chief priests and scribes, and they will condemn Him to death, and will deliver Him to the Gentiles to mock and scourge and crucify Him, and on the third day He will be raised up"  (Matthew 20:18, 19).

"You know that after two days the Passover is coming, and the Son of Man is to be delivered up for crucifixion."  (Matthew 26:2).

"Verily, verily, I say unto you, that ye shall weep and lament, but the world shall rejoice: and ye shall be sorrowful, but your sorrow shall be turned into joy" (John 16:20).

"They could not tolerate the thought that He in whom all their hopes centered should suffer an ignominious death.  The words which they needed to remember were banished from their minds; and when the time of trial came, it found them unprepared.  The death of Jesus as fully destroyed their hopes as if he had not forewarned them.– Great Controversy 594.  "We had hoped that it was He who was going to redeem Israel" (Luke 24:21).

"And He said to them, 'O foolish ones and slow of heart to believe in all that the prophets have spoken! Ought not the Christ to have suffered these things and to enter into His glory?'  And beginning at Moses and all the prophets, He expounded to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning Himself" (Luke 24:25, 26).

Their response? "Were not our hearts burning within us while He was speaking to us on the road, while He was explaining the Scriptures to us?" (Luke 24:32).  Their sorrow had indeed turned to joy!

Matthew, Mark, and John all record details of Jesus's appearances to the women and disciples after His resurrection.  However, it is Luke who includes Jesus "opening their understanding, that they might comprehend the Scriptures" (Luke 24:45).

"And he said unto them, 'These are the words which I spoke to you, while I was yet with you, that all things must be fulfilled which were written in the law of Moses, and in the Prophets, and in the Psalms, concerning Me'" (Luke 24:44).

Jesus had pointed out the harmony between the Old Testament and Himself in John 5 when brought before the Sanhedrin for healing a man on the Sabbath.  "The Scriptures testify of Me.  Moses wrote of Me" (John 5:39-47).

Other witnesses also testified of Jesus.  John the Baptist (the messenger sent to prepare the way for the Christ, exalt the Lamb of God, and preach a message of repentance), the works that Jesus did, and the Father (manifesting Himself through the indwelling of the Holy Spirit) were the other three witnesses - four witnesses (John 5:31-47).

These four that testified of Jesus - the written word, the Holy Spirit, the righteous works of Jesus, and the testimony of John the Baptist we can see in Luke 24.  Jesus explained how everything about His life and death was a fulfillment of the Scriptures.  He told His disciples that He would send the Promise of the Father upon them, the Holy Spirit.  They would be witnesses, eye witnesses, yes, but also witnesses as to the transformation that the gospel had wrought in their own lives.  They were to preach repentance and remission of sins.  They were to preach a crucified and risen Savior.  They were to preach present truth.  And all of the above is just what happens in the book of Acts.

Of course, many parallels exist between the disciples' experience and the history of the Seventh-day Adventist Church.  The Advent believers were bitterly disappointed on October 22, 1844 when Jesus did not return.  Some abandoned their former faith while others searched the scriptures anew.  Believers were led to a true understanding of the Heavenly Sanctuary and Christ's ministration therein.  They were directed to other precious bible truths as well.

As John the Baptist was sent to prepare a people for Christ's first coming so Ellen White was chosen as the messenger of the Lord to prepare a people for His second coming.  In the 1880's the Lord sent two messengers with the message of Christ our righteousness, the message that was to lighten the earth with God's glory.  History bears out how this message was received by most of the leadership.

The rejection of John the Baptist and His message by Israel's leaders led to their rejection of Jesus as the Messiah. "'This is He, of Whom it is written, Behold, I send my messenger before thy face, which shall prepare thy way before thee.  For I say unto you, among those that are born of women there is not a greater prophet than John the Baptist: but he that is least in the kingdom of God is greater than he.'  And all the people that heard him, and the publicans, justified God, being baptized with the baptism of John.  But the Pharisees and lawyers rejected the counsel of God against themselves, being not baptized of him" (Luke 7:27-30).  There is a great lesson to be learned here.

We need to appreciate and take to heart the marvelous light God has showered upon His church.  And we need repentance.  We are living in unprecedented times, and probation is soon to close.  According to the bible and the Spirit of Prophecy devastation and calamities will continue to increase.  We are also going to see supernatural occurrences that will be hard to resist or gainsay.  How quickly events could unfold that will try our faith to the utmost.

What will see us through the coming storm?  "None but those who have fortified the mind with the truths of the Bible will stand through the last great conflict.– Great Controversy p. 593.  God has shed great light upon His Holy Word through the Spirit of Prophecy and the 1888 message.  He waits with longing desire to pour out His Spirit so the world may be lightened with His glory.  Received, the message of Christ our righteousness will bring transformation of character that will testify to its divine origin.

Many of us are familiar with the following quotes, but notice how the same witnesses that testified of Jesus in John 5 (all four are in perfect agreement) are present in these passages - Messengers sent with present truth, the righteousness of Christ, the Holy Spirit, and the Scriptures.  All lift up Jesus.

"The Lord in His great mercy sent a most precious message to His people through Elders Waggoner and Jones.  This message was to bring more prominently before the world the uplifted Savior, the sacrifice for the sins of the whole world. It presented justification through faith in the Surety; it invited the people to receive the righteousness of Christ, which is made manifest in obedience to all the commandments of God. Many had lost sight of Jesus. They needed to have their eyes directed to His divine person, His merits, and His changeless love for the human family. All power is given into His hands, that He may dispense rich gifts unto men, imparting the priceless gift of His own righteousness to the helpless human agent. This is the message that God commanded to be given to the world. It is the third angel's message, which is to be proclaimed with a loud voice, and attended with the outpouring of His Spirit in a large measure." – The Ellen White 1888 Materials pp. 1336-1337.

"The Lord has raised up Brother Jones and Brother Waggoner to proclaim a message to the world to prepare a people to stand in the day of God. The world is suffering the need of additional light to come to them upon the Scriptures, -- additional proclamation of the principles of purity, lowliness, faith, and the righteousness of Christ. This is the power of God unto salvation to everyone that believeth. Many will be moved and humbled."– The Ellen White 1888 Materials pp. 1814-1815.

Jesus is coming soon!  We stand on the borders of the Heavenly Canaan.  The world needs to hear of and see demonstrated in the lives of true believers the power of the everlasting gospel.

The Loud Cry. — "During the loud cry, the church, aided by the providential interpositions of her exalted Lord, will diffuse the knowledge of salvation so abundantly that light will be communicated to every city and town. The earth will be filled with the knowledge of salvation. So abundantly will the renewing Spirit of God have crowned with success the intensely active agencies, that the light of present truth will be seen flashing everywhere." -- Review and Herald, Oct. 13, 1904.

A Present-Truth Message. — "We thank the Lord with all the heart that we have precious light to present before the people, and we rejoice that we have a message for this time which is present truth.  The tidings that Christ is our righteousness has brought relief to many, many souls, and God says to His people, "Go forward."-- Review and Herald, July 23, 1889.

~ Martha Ruggles

Thursday, April 09, 2020

1888 Message Study : The Origin and Nature of the Bible



Memory Text: "For this reason we also thank God without ceasing, because when you received the word of God which you heard from us, you welcomed it not as the word of men, but as it is in truth, the word of God, which also effectively works in you who believe".
1 Thessalonians 2:13, NKJV

The "antichrist" is called the "man of lawlessness" in 2 Thessalonians 2.  This is a warning of the ever-growing antiauthoritarian attitude that has and will prevail in the world.  I have seen this in action recently, in which I had several people attending evangelistic meetings I either conducted or organized say that they "believed" the Sabbath but would wait for final events to unfold before making a decision.  I realized that the real problem is the authority of Scriptures itself for many, and their relationship to that authority.

Jones and Waggoner rightly perceived that the Roman Catholic "Christ" is the Antichrist, who virtually excuses and indulges sin by presupposing that it is "impossible" for anyone who is in sinful flesh to live without sinning. Catholicism as "the man of sin" "opposeth and exalteth himself above all that is called God" by insisting that sin must be perpetuated in the universe. It can never be "condemned … in the flesh," and Satan must, therefore, emerge from the "great controversy" triumphant. And if the understanding God's remnant people have of Christ is also beclouded so that He is "afar off" to them, they too must perpetuate sin because they will never be able to overcome it even by the grace of Christ: Such a theology is the result of both a wrong understanding of the character of God and the power of the Gospel, as well as a very poor understanding of the authority of Scripture, as well as the power of the Word of God.

The way we see and understand the origin and nature of Scripture greatly impacts the role that the Bible plays in our lives and in the church at large.  How we interpret the Bible is significantly shaped and influenced by our understanding of the process of revelation and inspiration.  When we want to understand Scripture correctly, we first need to allow the Bible to determine the basic parameters of how it should be treated.  The spiritual truths of the Bible will not be known and understood correctly by atheistic methods that approach the Bible as if God did not exist.  Instead, our interpretation of Scripture needs to take seriously the divine-human dimension of God's Word.  Hence what is needed for a proper interpretation of Scripture is that we approach the Bible in faith rather than with methodological skepticism or doubt.  John 7:17 tells us that if we are willing "to do His will, he shall know of the doctrine, whether it be of God, or whether I speak of myself."  The Bible is encouraging us to approach the Scriptures with a right attitude, that they came from a Heart of Infinite Love, that they are inspired in a way that a secular book is not, and that it is authoritative as it represents the Will of God.

This week we will look at some foundational aspects of the origin and nature of the Bible that should impact our interpretation and understanding of it.

2 Peter 1:20 Knowing this first, that no prophecy of the scripture is of any private interpretation.

2 Peter 1:21 For the prophecy came not in old time by the will of man: but holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost.

These texts tell us that the origin of scripture is through the inspiration of God the Father and the Holy Spirit.  They did not come from any "private interpretation", meaning, through any human invention apart from the divine intervention of God.

As the lesson tells us, rather than being "cunningly devised fables" (2 Peter 1:16), the prophetic message of the Bible is of divine origin, and thus it is truthful and trustworthy.  "Holy men of God spoke as they were moved by the Holy Spirit" (2 Peter 1:21, NKJV).  God was at work in the process of revelation, where He made known His will to selected human beings.

Direct verbal communication between God and particular human beings is an inescapable fact of the Scriptures.  This is why the Bible has special, divine authority, and we need to take the divine element into consideration in our interpretation of the Scriptures.  Having our Holy God as their ultimate author, the biblical books are aptly called "holy Scriptures" (Romans 1:2; 2 Timothy 3:15).

They were given for practical purposes, too.  They are "useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that all God's people may be thoroughly equipped for every good work" (2 Timothy 3:16, 17, TNIV).

We also need the help of the Holy Spirit to apply to our lives what God has revealed in His Word.  According to the apostle Peter, the interpretation of the divinely revealed Word of God is not a matter of our own opinions.  We need God's Word and the Holy Spirit to rightly understand its meaning.

Scripture also says, "Surely the Lord God does nothing, unless He reveals His secret to His servants the prophets" (Amos 3:7, NKJV).  The biblical words for "revelation" (in its various forms) express the idea that something previously hidden has now been disclosed or unveiled and thus becomes known and made manifest.  As human beings, we need such an uncovering, or revelation, for we are sinful beings, separated from God because of our sin, and therefore dependent upon Him to know His will.

2 Peter 1:20-21 is used by RCC apologists to argue that the problem of Protestantism is that they do not have an "infallible teaching magisterium", but "privately interpret" the Bible themselves, individually.  However, they need to recognize that everyone "privately and personally" encounters and engages printed or spoken material and makes a judgment as to whether or not it is accurate.  That is why the important element is not a supposed source of "infallibility" but a close connection and dependence on the Holy Spirit.  That is why 1 John 2:27 says, "But the anointing which ye have received of him abideth in you, and ye need not that any man teach you: but as the same anointing teacheth you of all things, and is truth, and is no lie, and even as it hath taught you, ye shall abide in him."  While the teaching gift is helpful, a person does not "need" for any man to teach him, if he learns to truly trust in the Holy Spirit.

The process of Inspiration reveals to us that God works through the mind of fallible human writers, inspiring them to write according to His will.  As 2 Timothy 3:16 tells us, all or every scripture is given by inspiration, and is profitable for teaching, Christian growth, and correction.  They are able to make us "wise unto salvation" and perfect, thoroughly equipped unto every good work.  Thus, there is no need for an "oral tradition" in addition to Scriptures.  Each scripture is profitable, and the sum total of all Scriptures is to thoroughly perfect and equip us.  Thus, the rallying cry of the Protestant Reformation, Sola Scriptura is totally valid.  As the Scriptures were more and more thoroughly developed, one was then accountable for more and more light.  The argument against Sola Scriptura is twofold.  1) The Early Church did not have all the Scriptures yet.  That is true.  God expected them to live up to the light they had, while the NT Canon unfolded.  2) If Sola Scriptura was effective, how do you explain 25,000 protestant denominations?  Sola Scriptura is not a method of interpreting scripture, but a statement as to the source of truth.  The confusion in varying beliefs is not due to Sola Scriptura, but in not allowing the Bible to interpret itself, and not allowing the Holy Spirit to "lead" into ALL truth, but to stay rigid in traditions, without the full surrender needed.

"The Bible points to God as its author; yet it was written by human hands; and in the varied style of its different books it presents the characteristics of the several writers.  The truths revealed are all 'given by inspiration of God' (2 Timothy 3:16); yet they are expressed in the words of men."
—Ellen G. White, The Great Controversy, p. 7.

What is the importance of "written" words?  We need to remember that Jesus, in the wilderness, met the temptations of Satan with "it is written."  The term "scriptures" is repeatedly utilized, and it comes from the Greek word "scripto" which refers to written material.  2 Thessalonians 2:15 is often used to argue for both an oral and a written tradition, but if one reads 2 Thessalonians 2:5, they will notice that Paul said that while He was with them, He "told" them the things he subsequently wrote down.  That is how the NT Canon was developed.  As it was being written, the apostles preached and taught, and ultimately, the Holy Spirit led in the development of the NT Canon with the writing of Revelation, and the Canon was closed.  No preaching, no tradition, is needed beyond the truths of God's word, for all the reasons given in 2 Timothy 3:15-17.  Jesus condemned traditions such as "Corban" and some argue that He only condemned "human traditions", not "church traditions", but the traditions Jesus condemned were those of the religious leaders, who had added to scripture.  Thus, Jesus said in Mark 7:7-8 "Howbeit in vain do they worship me, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men. Mark 7:8 "For laying aside the commandment of God, ye hold the tradition of men."

The lesson tells us "Why did God command that His revelation and inspired messages be written down?  The obvious answer is so that we will not forget them so easily. The written words of the Bible are a constant reference point that directs us to God and His will.  A written document usually can be preserved better and be much more reliable than oral messages, which must be told again and again.  The Written Word, which can be copied again and again, also can be made accessible to many more people than if it were spoken only.  Last, we can speak to a limited number of people at one time in one place, but what is committed to writing can be read by countless readers in many different locations and continents, and even be a blessing numerous generations later.  In fact, if people can't themselves read, others can read a written document aloud to them.

Jesus is the Word become flesh.  Ultimately He is the Word of God, and the source of all the Bible's truths.  He is the outworking of the Word, in life and character.  Of course, every comparison has its limits. Jesus Christ and the Holy Scripture are not identical.  The Bible is not an incarnation of God.  God is no book.  God in Jesus Christ became human.  We love the Bible because we worship the Savior proclaimed in its pages.

The Bible is a unique and inseparable divine-human union.  Ellen G. White saw this clearly when she wrote: "The Bible, with its God-given truths expressed in the language of men, presents a union of the divine and the human.  Such a union existed in the nature of Christ, Who was the Son of God and the Son of man.  Thus it is true of the Bible, as it was of Christ, that 'the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us.' John 1:14."
—Ellen G. White, The Great Controversy, p. 8.

We are to approach the Bible from a faith perspective, and yet, the Bible also says that faith comes by hearing the Word of God.  Thus, our study and living the Word of God deepens our faith.  Something miraculous takes place in the human mind to begin to look to God for truth.  I was converted at the age of 35.  I had had some religious exposure in the Lutheran Church as a child, but I had no interest or respect for the Word of God.  Life experiences led me to turn to God as my Savior.  Seventh-day Adventists clearly have expressed this insight into the supernatural origin of Scripture in the first fundamental belief of the Seventh-day Adventist Church, which states: "The Holy Scriptures, Old and New Testaments, are the written Word of God, given by divine inspiration.  The inspired authors spoke and wrote as they were moved by the Holy Spirit.  In this Word, God has committed to humanity the knowledge necessary for salvation.  The Holy Scriptures are the supreme, authoritative, and the infallible revelation of His will.  They are the standard of character, the test of experience, the definitive revealer of doctrines, and the trustworthy record of God's acts in history. (Psalms 119:105; Proverbs 30:5, 6; Isaiah 8:20; John 17:17; 1 Thessalonians 2:13; 2 Timothy 3:16, 17; Hebrews 4:12; 2 Peter 1:20, 21.)"

As essential as the Bible is to our faith, it alone would be of no real spiritual value to us were it not for the influence of the Holy Spirit in our hearts and minds as we read and study it.

"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. . . .  Yet the fact that God has revealed His will to men through His word, has not rendered needless the continued presence and guiding of the Holy Spirit.  On the contrary, the Spirit was promised by our Saviour, to open the word to His servants, to illuminate and apply its teachings.  And since it was the Spirit of God that inspired the Bible, it is impossible that the teaching of the Spirit should ever be contrary to that of the word."
—Ellen G. White, The Great Controversy, p. 9.

You will seek God, and find Him, when you seek for Him with all your heart.  Approach the Bible as though it is a life and death situation, for it truly is.  God bless!

~Pastor Tom Cusack