Weekly Insights about the Quarterly Lessons from the 1888 Message Study Committee.
Thursday, September 10, 2020
1888 Message Study : Sharing the Story of Jesus
"SHARING THE STORY OF JESUS"
"These things I have written to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, that you may know that you have eternal life, and that you may continue to believe in the name of the Son of God."
1 John 5:13
As we contemplate the topic for this week's study, this quote from Ellen White comes to mind: "Every true disciple is born into the kingdom of God as a missionary. He who drinks of the living water becomes a fountain of life. The receiver becomes a giver. The grace of Christ in the soul is like a spring in the desert, welling up to refresh all, and making those who are ready to perish eager to drink of the water of life." DA 195.2. Note what she says, "He who drinks of the living water becomes a fountain of life…The grace of Christ in the soul is like a spring in the desert, welling up to refresh all…". Sharing the story of Jesus is our privilege. As a church we believe that we are living in the time of the end, the cosmic Day of Atonement, the hour of the cleansing of the sanctuary. Therefore, we read Ephesians with the knowledge that we are living in a time of unprecedented crisis. We have been called to preach the everlasting gospel to every nation, tribe, tongue, and people for such a time as this. The fact is, the good news is better than we think and this week we start with Ephesians.
Ephesians 2:1-10, a favorite of every child of God says, "And you He made alive, who were dead in trespasses and sins, 2 in which you once walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit who now works in the sons of disobedience, 3 among whom also we all once conducted ourselves in the lusts of our flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, just as the others. But God, who is rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, 5 even when we were dead in trespasses, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), 6 and raised us up together, and made us sit together in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, 7 that in the ages to come He might show the exceeding riches of His grace in His kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. 8 For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, 9 not of works, lest anyone should boast. 10 For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them."
Having exercised his rights as a Roman citizen, Paul was taken to Rome as a prisoner and this book is written from prison in Rome. Ephesians 3:1, "For this reason I, Paul, the prisoner of Christ Jesus for you Gentiles" and Ephesians 4:1, "I, therefore, the prisoner of the Lord, beseech you to walk worthy of the calling with which you were called", confirm the Epistle was written from prison. During this time all manner of evil was rampant and amidst this chaos the apostle Paul was inspired to write this awesome book. In fact, this book has been called "the Alps of the New Testament". Speaking about the specific text in this week's lesson Ellen White says this: "God, Who is rich in mercy, for His great love wherewith He loved us, even when we were dead in sins, hath quickened us together with Christ, ... and hath raised us up together, and made us sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus: that in the ages to come He might show the exceeding riches of His grace in His kindness toward us through Christ Jesus. Such are the words in which "Paul the aged," "a prisoner of Jesus Christ," writing from his prison house at Rome, endeavored to set before his brethren that which he found language inadequate to express in its fullness—"the unsearchable riches of Christ," the treasure of grace freely offered to the fallen sons of men. The plan of redemption was laid by a sacrifice, a gift." 5T 730.1,2.
We want to share Jesus with the world and what it means to be saved by "the exceeding riches of His grace" and what it means that this salvation is "not of ourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works."
From Adam, we have all inherited a fallen nature. It was and still is the natural thing for us to "walk according to the course of this world". We "once conducted ourselves in the lust of our flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh,…and were by nature children of wrath." "But God"! These are two of the most powerful words in Scripture. These two words set up a contrast. What is it that moves God to act? The apostle immediately answers. "But God, Who is rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, 5 even when we were dead in trespasses…". Our misery called out His mercy! We were dead, BUT GOD; we were by nature children of wrath, BUT GOD; we were without strength, BUT GOD; we were His enemies, BUT GOD; we were aliens from the commonwealth of Israel BUT GOD, strangers from the covenants of promise, without hope, BUT GOD; Satan may seem triumphant, BUT GOD! The world needs to hear the story of Jesus. Paul was so amazed at this indescribable gift that his own testimony in 1 Timothy 1:14, 15 says, "And the grace of our Lord was exceedingly abundant, with faith and love which are in Christ Jesus. 15 This is a faithful saying and worthy of all acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am chief."
Another significant part of the good news is in verses 8 and 9. "For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, 9 not of works, lest anyone should boast. Note that the text does not say that we are saved by faith. If this was the case, we would be making faith into works. The text does say, "For by grace you have been saved through faith", faith being an appreciation of the grace of God, and that saving grace was revealed at the cross of Jesus Christ. Grace does not wipe out the reality of obedience to the commandments. "For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men, 12 teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly in the present age". Titus 2:11, 12. What are the dimensions of this grace? "Moreover, the law entered that the offense might abound. But where sin abounded, grace abounded much more, 21 so that as sin reigned in death, even so grace might reign through righteousness to eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord." Romans 5:20, 21. This is why Paul could say in Ephesians 2:10, "For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them."
A.T. Jones says this: "By grace are ye saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God." Ephesians 2:8. By grace are ye saved, because it is the grace, that isthe favor of God, that brings salvation. That favor being given freely and without measure to every one of us, bringing salvation to all, so the salvation of God is free to all men. To every one of us it is given freely, without measure and without reserve." ARSH April 24, 1894, page 264.1
"Though all this be true, the Lord will never compel any man to take it. God has made man free, too, and therefore every man is absolutely free to accept this salvation or to reject it, as he chooses. God does not want and will not have any unwilling service. And therefore it is that "by grace are ye saved through faith." Faith is for us to exercise. Therefore, it is written: "Choose you this day whom ye will serve." "Whosoever will, let him take the water of life freely." God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life." ARSH April 24, 1894, page 265.1
"And God has given the faith too. For did we not read above that "by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God"? And is it not written in another place, "Looking unto Jesus the author and the finisher of our faith"? And yet again: "Faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God"? Jesus Christ is the Author of faith; the word of God is the channel through which it comes; and God gave both Jesus and the word,—or rather, in giving Jesus He gave the word, and in giving the word He gave Jesus,—so that in every sense, faith is the gift of God." ARSH April 24, 1894, page 265.2
"And He has given faith to every man. For it is written: "Say not in thine heart, Who shall ascend into heaven? (that is, to bring Christ down from above): or, Who shall descend into the deep? (that is, to bring up Christ again from the dead). But what saith it? The word is nigh thee, even in thy mouth, and in thy heart; that is, the word of faith, which we preach." Romans 10:6-8. "Think soberly, according as God hath dealt to every man the measure of faith." Chapter 12:3. Thus, God has put faith into the mouth and into the heart of every man." ARSH April 24, 1894, page 265.3 ATJ
All the forgoing is the basis of our testimony - what God has done for us in Christ Jesus. Importantly, of the 10 verses that we have focused on, only 3 are on our life before Christ. The remaining 6 verses of Ephesians 2:1-10 are focused on Jesus Christ and what He has done for us and wants to do in us. This gospel transformed the disciples. John together with his brother, were "Boanerges", the "sons of thunder." John would go on to say, "Behold what manner of love the Father has bestowed on us, that we should be called children of God!" 1 John 3:1. "That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked upon, and our hands have handled, concerning the Word of life — 2 the life was manifested, and we have seen, and bear witness, and declare to you that eternal life which was with the Father and was manifested to us — 3 that which we have seen and heard we declare to you…" 1 John 1:1-3. Peter could not help but share what he had received. "Then Peter said, "Silver and gold I do not have, but what I do have I give you: In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, rise up and walk." He preached truth boldly at Pentecost and 3000 souls were added to them that day. It changed the man with the unclean spirit ravaged by demons, so much so that chains and shackles, "neither could tame him". After Jesus healed him, he was left "sitting and clothed and in his right mind". We all need what that demoniac received that day from Jesus. This is the story of Ephesians 2:1-10. The demoniac went out and shared the story of Jesus!
I John 5:11-13 says, "And this is the testimony: that God has given us eternal life, and this life is in His Son. 12 He who has the Son has life; he who does not have the Son of God does not have life. 13 These things I have written to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, that you may know that you have eternal life, and that you may continue to believe in the name of the Son of God. We have assurance today, as long as we "receive abundance of grace and of the gift of righteousness."
Perhaps this passage from Paul in Ephesians 3:8, 9 is a good place to end. "To me, who am less than the least of all the saints, this grace was given, that I should preach among the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ, 9 and to make all see what is the fellowship of the mystery, which from the beginning of the ages has been hidden in God Who created all things through Jesus Christ".
"Our Lord designed that His church should reflect to the world the fullness and sufficiency that we find in Him. We are constantly receiving of God's bounty, and by imparting of the same we are to represent to the world the love and beneficence of Christ. While all heaven is astir, dispatching messengers to every part of the earth to carry forward the work of redemption, the church of the living God is also to be co-laborers with Christ. Jesus Himself, in His infinite mercy, is working on human hearts, effecting spiritual transformations so amazing that angels look on with astonishment and joy. The same unselfish love that characterizes the Master is seen in the character and life of His true followers. Christ expects that men will become partakers of His divine nature while in this world, thus not only reflecting His glory to the praise of God, but illumining the darkness of the world with the radiance of heaven. Thus, will be fulfilled the words of Christ: "Ye are the light of the world." 5T 731.1 Amen!