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‘Sabbath School Lesson’ Category

Sabbath School Lessen 5. Discipling the Sick

Sabbath School Lessen 4. Discipling the Children

Lesson 12: “The Cosmic Conflict Over God’s Character”

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When a prominent leader we trust is arraigned in court, the case attracts front-page or prime-time TV coverage. Can you think of a case that would attract more attention than the trial of the century? What kind of publicity would there be if God Himself were on trial?

Prophecy calls for a message to rivet the attention of the billions who “dwell on the earth.” The phrase implies that while mundane matters absorb people’s attention, an announcement will startle them and command their attention: “Fear God, and give glory to Him, for the hour of His judgment is come” (Rev. 14:6).

Whose Judgment? Ours, or His? We have long thought it was only ours, and have seen the message as bad news, a stern warning of being taken to court unless we shape up. We tremble with terror at the idea.

But the original language of the first angel’s message allows a different understanding. The “hour of His judgment” can also mean the hour when God Himself is to be judged. Rather than being the Accuser, He has become the Accused in the dock. And He needs a defense. Read the rest of this entry »

The Sanctuary Lesson 8: “Christ, Our Priest”

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Many people wonder, What is Christ, our High Priest, doing now in the heavenly sanctuary? Is He on vacation, or absorbed in work in some other corner of His great universe? Is He serious that “the tabernacle of God is [to be] with men” (Rev. 21:3)? The 1888 message idea of the cleansing of the sanctuary relieves minds of this perplexity. Read the rest of this entry »

Sabbath School Today Lesson No 3 – “Sacrifices”

 

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“I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service” (Rom. 12:1).

Notice that our memory text does not say that we are to sacrifice ourselves–we cannot do that, but we are crucified with Christ. He alone is the Sacrifice for the whole world. It does say that we are to “present our bodies.” The word “present” means placing the offering beside the altar facing God in the Most Holy Place and leaving it at the disposal of God. This is not an act of doing, but it is an evidence of faith. Read the rest of this entry »

The Sanctuary

 

 Lesson 2: “‘Heaven’ on Earth”

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The reason for the existence of the Seventh-day Adventist Church is to proclaim the sanctuary truth to the world. It is the third angel’s message. If this truth is simply about some other-worldly, abstract, philosophical notion, having nothing to do with our day-to-day lives, then it loses its “presiding power” in our lives. [1] If the sanctuary truth is our Divine mandate for the church’s existence, then it is imperative to establish its veracity and authenticate its reality in heaven. Read the rest of this entry »

Lesson 13: “The Promised Revival: God’s Mission Completed”

 

Revival & Reformation

 

Lesson 13: “The Promised Revival: God’s Mission Completed”

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Our church leadership is obviously exhorting us to “revival and reformation” in this quarter of Sabbath School lessons. This is but an extension of a recent thrust in this regard since the 2010 General Conference in Atlanta. But this is only the latest cycle of “exhortations” since 1888.

Why these repeated appeals to “revival and reformation”? Is the nature of “R&R” temporary only to be necessarily restarted again and again? Or has the True Witness a permanent solution for our spiritual “lukewarmness”?

Our lesson 13 on “The Promised Revival” presents many good things from the Bible on “the Latter Rain.” It rightly identifies the gospel of “God’s message of love and truth” with the angel of Revelation 18:1. [1] A number of encouraging quotations scattered throughout the lesson from the Bible and the Spirit of Prophecy indicate the victorious outcome. Read the rest of this entry »

Glimpses of Our God

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Lesson 12: “Love Stories”

Our Sabbath School lesson asks: “How are we to understand the loving side of God?” Perhaps the most obvious examples, as our quarterly points out, are memorable marriages in the Bible. These marriages begin with Adam and Eve, and end with the most glorious marriage event in the history of the universe: the marriage of the Lamb and His Bride.

Adam and Eve: In each of these memorable marriages (or “romances” as our quarterly puts it) there is a key principle which, if we will receive it, brings healing and stability to every marriage. Beginning in Genesis we read: “… the Lord brought [Eve] to the man [Adam].” This is not suggesting that one should go to sleep and then the Lord will–presto–bring you a wonderful spouse all ready to be yours. The common sense idea is that you ask for, you trust, you expect, you wait for the Lord to lead the two of you together. The lesson from Adam and Eve is that the Lord God takes an active, personal interest in your life. Let Him do the leading and your union will be lasting.

Read the rest of this entry »

Lesson 12: “Living by the Spirit”

Sabbath School Today

The Gospel in Galatians

Lesson 12: “Living by the Spirit”

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If you’re going to climb Mt. Everest you need a guide. If this movement is to stand victorious on Mt. Zion it needs the latter rain of the Holy Spirit (Rev. 14:1). To follow the Lamb wherever he goes without guile on their lips and stand without fault, the 144,000 will have overcome even as He overcame in tempted “sinful flesh” (Rev. 14:4, 5; 3:21; Rom. 8:3). These are individuals who reflect the agape-love of Jesus. Although they are not equal to the Pattern, yet as a body they perfectly identify with the Crucified One.

Sinless living in sinful flesh is a precious “good news” morsel of truth identified by the 1888 message. It would be bad news indeed, if in the great controversy Satan has invented something that the gospel of Jesus Christ cannot overcome. If the power of the gospel cannot overcome sin in our flesh, then Jesus will be eternally ashamed and defeated before the universe. Therefore, Jesus needs a “last generation” who demonstrate “the power of God unto salvation” from sin and not in sin (Rom. 1:16).

God’s everlasting covenant promise to Abraham is “the blessing.” This involves “the promise of the Spirit through faith” (Gal. 3:14).

You are invited to go on a “walk in the Spirit” (Gal. 5:16). “What our human nature wants [KJV = “flesh”] is opposed to what the [Holy] Spirit wants, and what the [Holy] Spirit wants is opposed to what our human nature [“flesh”] wants. These two are enemies, and this means that you cannot do what you want to do” (Gal. 5:17, Good News Bible). What are the things you cannot do? Are they bad things or good things?

There are many Christians who teach that you cannot do the good things you want to do because of this constant “enmity” of the flesh against the Holy Spirit. So they feel doomed to endless defeat, and sincerely believe the Bible agrees with them. “My craving is so great I can’t help giving in! The ‘flesh’ is master of my life!” They have Galatians 5:17 backwards.

Who is stronger, “the flesh” or the Spirit? If “the flesh” is stronger, that’s really bad news; but if the Spirit is stronger, that’s good news. If the great power of the Holy Spirit and all of heaven is in that Spirit, and He’s striving against your sinful flesh, and still you cannot do the good things you’d like to do, can you think of any news that would be worse than that?

The 1888 message idea is: you go for a walk with the Holy Spirit and let Him hold you by the hand, which He has promised to do. You let Him, even though the battle is raging in your heart, and your sinful flesh is constantly tempting you to do or say evil things. You can’t do or say evil things because the Holy Spirit is stronger than the flesh.

This does not mean that you have no part in the battle. Your part is to choose to say “No!” to the temptation (Titus 2:11) [1] God has given us the power of choice; the Holy Spirit is forbidden to control you without your consent! When you make the choice, then you invite the Holy Spirit to demonstrate that He is stronger than your sinful flesh. And God is free to work!

When the mighty Holy Spirit guides your life, you are “under grace”-motivation, which is the opposite of being “under the law”-motivation (Gal. 5:18; Romans 6:14). With either motivation you are under an obligation. The old covenant “under the law”-motivation is a constant tension and conflict with the law. It is faith motivated by the fear of punishment and the hope of reward. It is a motivation that appears to comply with the law outwardly, but on the inside there is rebellion.

God did us a favor when He gave us the Apostle Paul who was both a brilliant man and an honest humble man, which is a rare combination. Paul describes what our “flesh” is like in Galatians 5:19-21. God sent “His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, and for sin, condemned sin in the flesh” (Rom. 8:3). Jesus came right into the cesspool of our life. He was tempted in all points like we are, yet without sin (Heb. 4:15).

Faith, which is “under grace”-motivation, “sees” what Paul is talking about when he uplifts and honors the sacrifice of Christ (Gal. 4:1). Having fully identified Himself with you, you are invited to fully identify with Christ (Gal. 2:20).

To “walk in the Spirit” is to bear “the fruit of the Spirit [which] is love [agape]” (Gal. 5:22). Agape is totally alien to “the flesh” and is an import from our Husband High Priest in the most holy of the heavenly sanctuary. This means we have not one percent of inherent righteousness. Righteousness is ours by faith through the Holy Spirit.

Agape, which is the “fulfilling of the law,” comes by faith directed to its source in our day of atonement (Rom. 13:10). That source is our healing Psychiatrist whose office is set up in the holiest of all.

The second advent movement was rooted in a restoration of the love of God. It is the climax of a sequence of divinely led reformatory movements to restore the gospel of Jesus Christ and prepare a Bride for translation and the coming of her Groom.

Christ opened to view the source of her love by following their High Priest in through the open door of the Most Holy of the heavenly sanctuary. [2] “Those who rose up with Jesus would send up their faith to Him in the holiest, and pray, ‘My Father, give us Thy Spirit.’ Then Jesus would breathe upon them the Holy Ghost. In that breath was light, power, and much love, joy, and peace.” [3] The 1844 Advent people were a Spirit-led, agape-motivated, charismatic movement. It was to restore the meaning of agape in the commandments of God and the faith of Jesus through its life, teaching, and evangelism. [4]

The fruit of the Spirit is given by Jesus in His capacity as our Priest in the Most Holy. The true second Pentecostal movement of the latter rain is those who by faith follow Him there. The movement will finish with a great manifestation of signs and wonders than on the day of Pentecost. [5]

Jesus reveals a unique understanding of justification by faith from the holiest. The 1888 message was indeed “special,” a further development of justification by faith parallel to and consistent with the unique Adventist idea of the cleansing of the heavenly sanctuary. It was “the beginning” of the message of Revelation 18 and thus initial “showers from heaven of the latter rain.” [6]

Since the true Spirit of God only comes from our High Priest in the Most Holy and thus far we have not impressed upon other Christians the importance of the sanctuary truth, it motivates us to study the 1888 message so that we can share it with them in a convincing manner.

Paul E. Penno

Endnotes:

[1] Titus 2:11, 12 in the NIV is very clear: “The grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men. It teaches us to say ‘No’ to ungodliness and worldly passions, and [it teaches us] to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age.”

[2] Revelation 3:7.

[3] Ellen G. White, Early Writings, p. 55.

[4] Revelation 14:12.

[5] “Servants of God, with their faces lighted up and shining with holy consecration, will hasten from place to place to proclaim the message from heaven. By thousands of voices, all over the earth, the warning will be given. Miracles will be wrought, the sick will be healed, and signs and wonders will follow the believers” (Ellen G. White, The Great Controversy, p. 612).

[6] The Ellen G. White 1888 Materials, p. 1478.

The Gospel in Galatians Lesson 7: “The Road to Faith”

The Gospel in Galatians

Lesson 7: “The Road to Faith”

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Have you ever made a bad deal and bought a “lemon”? You had to throw good money after bad on a five-year loan. Every check written brings out an inner “tension” over a deal gone sour. Israel made a bad covenant with their faulty promises at Mt. Sinai and paid for it ever since with a constant conflict over the law of God (Heb. 8:7, 8).
In four short verses Paul contrasts the two covenants as two different experiences. These two covenant experiences have a radically different relationship to the law of God. Paul draws upon two occupations from his contemporary world of the correctional officer and the schoolmaster in order to illustrate his point (Gal. 3:22-25).

God’s original plan with His covenant to Abraham was “the promise by faith of Jesus Christ” (3:22). Abraham believed God’s promise because God proclaimed to him the heart-moving grand sacrifice of the Saviour. “The covenant … was confirmed … in Christ” (3:17). The clearest revelation of God’s love for sinners is the crucifixion of Christ.

The cross is the faith of Jesus. God “preached before the gospel unto Abraham” (3:8). When God proclaims the good news it is never incomplete. It is a full exposition of the message of the cross (it “was confirmed before of God in Christ”, 3:17). It was this saving truth which Abraham heard and converted his heart so that he was stirred by agape-love to believe.

Likewise, it was the faith of Jesus Christ which God proclaimed to Israel at Mt. Sinai. When in unbelief in God’s provision and care for them in the wilderness Israel murmured against Moses, the Lord instructed him to strike the rock and water gushed forth bringing with it life to all who drank. Paul understood that Rock, Mt. Sinai, to represent the smitten and crucified One. “And did all drink the same spiritual drink: for they drank of that spiritual Rock that followed them: and that Rock was Christ” (1 Cor. 10:4). So, in a vivid and practical way God proclaimed their very life was a gift to them by virtue of Christ’s sacrifice. This was the ever-present cross of “Calvary at Sinai.” [2]

Christ is the reality to which every sacrificial lamb pointed since Adam sinned in the garden and God covered him with the animal skin. It is by “the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot: who verily was foreordained before the foundation of the world” that anyone enjoys life (1 Peter 1:19, 20).

Now when God proclaimed all of this to the children of Abraham and they still did not see their need of Christ as did their father, in their self-sufficiency they proclaimed themselves as righteous enough to fulfill the conditions of their old covenant (Ex. 19:8). Their promise to do everything just right was not God’s plan. He did not have to write His law on tables of stone for Abraham. Abraham believed and God wrote His principles of moral truth on his heart that was moved by the love of the great sacrifice.

So God spoke His law from Mt. Sinai amidst the fire and lightning, the earthquake and death-boundary, in order to impress upon sinners their utter weakness and lack of power to keep their promises to obey–their old covenant. First, God by means of “the Scripture” “concluded [locked up] all under sin” (Gal. 3:22). The law condemns the sinner. The law is the “correctional officer” who is given the responsibility of securing the death-row inmate for his punishment. Second, the law was given to drive them to “the promise [the new covenant] by faith of Jesus Christ” (vs. 22).

It isn’t the Jews only that are “kept under the law, shut up” (3:22). Through the entire flow of the passage Paul has been writing to Jews as well as Gentiles. He especially refers the “we” to the Gentiles (3:14; cf. 3:28, 29). [3] Paul writes “we have before proved both Jews and Gentiles, that they are all under sin” (Rom. 3:9, see also Rom. 11:32, “shut them all up together in unbelief”).

To be “under the law” is identical with being “under sin.” The problem with being “under the law” is not with the law itself. It is unbelief in God’s promise of the faith of Jesus that perpetuates the constant tension with the law.

Another illustration Paul uses for the purpose of the law is as a “schoolmaster [disciplinarian] to bring [drive] us unto Christ” (Gal. 3:24). The law is like the Roman “tutor” who had the “child” in “bondage” as a minor before he came of age to receive the inheritance (Gal. 4:1, 2). The future estate owner was put under a disciplinarian whom he would later own.

The law was put in charge of sinners to drive them to the covenant in Christ by the converting power of the Holy Spirit in order that they might experience justification by faith–the forgiveness of sins. When the “schoolmaster” law has driven the “child” to “the promise by the faith of Jesus Christ” then he is “justified by faith.” The righteousness of Christ reconciles his alienated heart to God and brings him into harmony with the law of God so that the law is actually a witness to that fact.

“Is the law then against the promises of God?” (Gal. 3:21). No, the law is in the covenant of God just as it was for Abraham who “believed in the LORD; and He counted it to him for righteousness” (Gen. 15:6). When God gives his character of agape-love to the believer he is “no longer under [in conflict with] a schoolmaster” (Gal. 3:25).

Two different experiences of the two covenants are described in Galatians 3:22-25. The two covenants are not matters of time, either before the cross or after. One may have an old covenant experience after the cross as well as another have a new covenant experience before the cross. The self-sufficient old covenant promise to do everything just right, places one in a constant tension of I ought to do this, I ought to do that, with the law of God.

God has given the capacity to every one to choose belief in His covenant promise. Christ alone brings freedom from the self-enslaving bondage to the law into the sunlight freedom of harmony and peace with the law and God. These two covenant experiences of bondage and freedom are irrespective of time either before or after the cross. At any time one may move from the old dispensation of unbelief into the new dispensation of faith.

This unique insight of the 1888 message goes far beyond Babylon’s understanding of the two covenants. The counterfeit view of Galatians 3 is that the “schoolmaster” law was abolished with the old covenant “obey and live” when Jesus died on the cross. The counterfeit view says that “under grace” there is no seventh-day Sabbath in the new covenant.

Such an unbiblical “dispensational” theory is a doctrine of men. This argument was used by the late Pope to abolish the true Sabbath and promote Sunday observance as the new covenant Sabbath. What a pity that evangelicals and some ex-Adventists are doing the same thing!

When you finally wake up after a wasted life and you realize that you’ve blown nearly all your original “capital,” you feel despondent. You’ve gone through one or two divorces, you’ve ruined your health by dissipation, your family have lost confidence in you, you need a job (and the strength to work at one if you can get it), and the loneliness you feel is oppressive. Maybe you have left some criminal record behind you. You feel that God has forsaken you. The “good news” is that Christ takes you by the hand and leads you out of old covenant despair into the freedom of His life-giving love.

Paul E. Penno
Endnotes:

[1] According to Galatians 3:22, this is better titled, “The Promise of Faith.”

[2] See Paul E. Penno, Calvary at Sinai (2001).

[3] A big point is made in the Sabbath School quarterly of the “we” in Galatians 3:23 being “the Jews who were kept ‘under the law’ before the coming of Christ.” The Gospel in Galatians (Teacher’s edition), p. 80 (Monday’s lesson). But this tends toward a “dispensational” view of the two covenants as will be explained.