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Insights #1 Jan. 4, 2014
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First Quarter 2014 Adult Sabbath School Lessons
Disciples and Scripture
For the week of January 4, 2014
 
As pointed out in this week’s memory verse, the Scriptures testify of Jesus. And as He said, there were those who searched the Scriptures thinking that this exercise brought them life. The next verse records Jesus saying “But you are not willing to come to Me that you may have life” (John 5:40). The One who gives life was standing in their midst, but they refused to believe that “in Him we live and move and have our being” (Acts 17:28). Is this not true today? Are there people who search for all kinds of things, especially last day events, who miss Jesus altogether in their research? This is not to say we ought not to study the closing events of earth’s history, but if our study does not lead us to Jesus and His salvation something is not right.

The Scriptures of which Jesus spoke, and which testify of Him, are the Old Testament. They bear witness to Him. Every book, every passage of the Old Testament reveals something about Him. I recall a phone conversation with a theology student who called complaining about one of our elders who was conducting an evangelistic series at the time. Aware that the student was not settled into the truths we hold, the thought came to me that he was no longer a Seventh-day Adventist in his thinking. So I asked him if my observation was correct. He replied triumphantly, “I am a New Testament Christian.” Have you heard this sentiment before? Although there may be a triumphant declaration, there is an answer to this false idea.

Later in John 5 we find the answer. Jesus said, “if you believed Moses, you would believe Me; for he wrote about Me. But if you do not believe his writings, how will you believe My words?” (John 5:46–47). This is crystal clear. You cannot be a New Testament Christian if you are not an Old Testament Christian because the Old Testament testifies about Jesus. It is impossible to be a New Testament Christian if a person is not an Old Testament Christian. If we are disciples, of Christ, we will believe that Moses wrote of Him as God, Creator, Lawgiver and Redeemer. Those who do not believe this are not disciples, of Christ, for this is the message His disciples believe and proclaim.

This leads us to the question, “How Shall We Consider Christ?” This question was asked by E.J. Waggoner. (This is the chapter one title of his book Christ and His Righteousness.) Waggoner followed with the answer, “Just as He has revealed Himself to the world, according to the witness which He bore concerning Himself.”1 And witness He bore was that Moses wrote about Him.

Waggoner presented Christ first of all as God, the Creator, who later became part of His own creation – the flesh of mankind. Thus Christ’s righteousness is the righteousness of God.

The title of another chapter in his book is: “Is Christ a Created Being?” There were persons, both inside and outside the church, who claimed Christ was a created being. In 1865 Uriah Smith taught that Christ was created. He called Him “the first created being.”2 

However, he changed the wording in a later edition of his book on Revelation. In commenting on Rev 3:14 he wrote, “the language does not necessarily imply that he [Jesus] was created; for the words, ‘the beginning of the creation,’ may simply signify that the work of creation, strictly speaking, was begun by him.”3  The following year (about 5 years before he died) Smith wrote that Christ was “uncreated” but then went on to write that Christ’s deity evolved and that this evolution ceased when Christ came into existence through some kind of an evolutionary process (of which Smith did not explain nor give any evidence). Here is what he wrote: “With the Son, the evolution of deity, as deity, ceased. All else, of things animate or inanimate, has come in by creation of the Father and the Son – the Father the antecedent cause, the Son the acting agent through whom all has been wrought.”4

Be that as it may, it is well for us to consider Christ Jesus as the Uncreated One, the Almighty God, the One who created all things, who gave to us His law, who took our mortal nature in order to die that He might redeem and save us. As the God-Man, Jesus did not work miracles to prove who He was. He always directed His hearers to the word of God. He did not use the doubting “historical critical method” of interpreting Scripture like much of modern scholarship today does. He simply presented Scripture as fact. He presented the prophetic word. He also presented the law and the gospel as inseparable and His “word was with power” (Luke 4:32). Enemies could crucify Him, but they could not gainsay His claims about Himself.

When Jesus began His public ministry He based it on the prophetic word. Mark records this in chapter one where Jesus gave two declarations and a double command summarizing His message: “Jesus came to Galilee, preaching the gospel of the kingdom of God, and saying, ‘The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand. Repent, and believe in the gospel.’ ” (Mark 1:14-15). The second declaration was “the kingdom of God is at hand.” This kingdom is the kingdom of grace which is made up of “righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit” (Rom 14:17). Christ’s first declaration was “The time is fulfilled.”

The only time that could have been fulfilled is that part of the 70 week prophecy of Daniel in chapter 9 which states – “Know therefore and understand, that from the going forth of the command to restore and build Jerusalem until Messiah the Prince, there shall be seven weeks and sixty-two weeks…” (v 9). Daniel next prophesied Christ’s death – He would be “cut off, but not for Himself.” It was for us. The crucifixion of Christ was to occur during the last week of the 70 weeks – “in the middle of the week” (v 27). Jesus taught this to His disciples, but they could not or would not believe. He is still teaching this prophecy to His disciples of today. If we are His disciples we will teach this also.

After His death and resurrection Jesus shared with two of His disciples, on the road to Emmaus, the following: “ ‘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 24:25–27). Later that night Jesus spoke to the disciples hiding in the upper room: “These are the words which I spoke to you while I was still with you, that all things must be fulfilled which were written in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms concerning Me. And He opened their understanding, that they might comprehend the Scriptures” (Luke 24:44–45). After Pentecost Christ’s disciples studied and taught these things. So should we.

Following His two declarations, Jesus proclaimed a double command that summarized His message. This command is still true today: “Repent, and believe in the gospel.” The words “repent” and believe” are in the plural making this command corporate in nature. There is only one gospel, and that is everlasting (Rev 14:6). As such Jesus used the singular form of the word “gospel” in His first public proclamation. His last proclamation to His people includes both faith and repentance. As Counselor and True Witness He both counsels us to accept His faith – the “gold refined in the fire” and commands us to “to be zealous and repent” (Rev 3:18-19). His commands are not grievous. It is because He loves us that He calls for repentance. Notice this thought: “God loves His people who keep His commandments, and reproves them, not because they are the worst, but because, they are the best people in the world.”5  And this: “God rebukes His people for their sins that He may humble them and lead them to seek His face.”6

Is it possible for us to have evidence and assurance that we are disciples of Christ? Yes. Notice this thought:

“The surest evidence we have that Jesus is abiding in the soul temple is: There is a sensitiveness to sin, a tenderness of conscience, and a growing sense of the preciousness of Jesus. The name of Jesus seems full of fragrance. There is a living sense that the soul is connected with divine power, for the heart is in sympathy with His mind and purposes.”7

In closing, consider Waggoner’s rules for discipled Christians entitled: “Five Short Rules for Christians.”

1. Never neglect daily private prayer; and when you pray, remember that God is present and hears your prayers. Heb. 11:5.
2. Never neglect daily private Bible reading. All backsliding begins with the neglect of these two rules. John 5:39.
3. Never let a day pass without trying to do something for Jesus. Luke 5:13-15.
4. If you are in doubt as to a thing being right or wrong, go to your room and kneel down and ask God's blessing upon it. Col. 3:17. If you cannot do this, it is wrong. Rom. 11:23.
5. Never take your Christianity from Christians. 2 Cor. 10:12. Ask yourself, ‘How would Christ act in my place?’ and strive to follow him. John 10:27.”8
 
-Jerry Finneman
 

1. E. J. Waggoner, Christ and His Righteousness, (1890), p. 8.
2. Uriah Smith, Thoughts, Critical and Practical, on the Book of Revelation, (1865), p. 59.
3. Smith, Daniel and the Revelation, (1897), p. 400.
4. Smith, Looking unto Jesus (1898), page 13.
5. Ellen White, Testimonies for the Church, Vol 1, p. 569.
6. White, “The Advent Review and Sabbath Herald,” Feb 25, 1902.
7. White, Ms. 48, 1890, p. 9 and found in Manuscript Releases, Vol. Thirteen, p. 31
8. Waggoner, “Signs of the Times,” May 13, 1889, p. 277.