Our lesson this week has a most interesting title.
Paul is described by Ellen White as “except Him who spoke as never man spake, the most illustrious teacher that this world has known.” CC 366.
His clarity and forcefulness in presenting the gospel was essential to the success of the early church, in large part to the Reformation, and the Advent Movement’s destiny with the Minneapolis message. Of course, Paul himself had to deal with the practical outworking of the great rebellion as manifested in the pushback against the gospel in the many churches under his care.
Ellen G. White and the Rebellion
The themes found in this week’s lesson are inseparably bound to and informed by the 1888 message of Christ our Righteousness. And rejection of that message was declared by Ellen White to be rebellion:
“Long before the meeting at Minneapolis the leaven that is now working was at work. The spirit of disaffection was gathering strength up to that time. Since that time some have confessed their wrongs and have decidedly changed their attitude, and have not manifested the same spirit. For years previous they withstood the pleadings of the Spirit of God, and were aided in their rebellion by the great adversary of souls. But there are some in influential positions who are still seeking to leaven the minds of canvassers, and to influence those who assemble in conference meetings. They work contrary to truth and righteousness, making use of any and every expedient to carry forward their own ideas….In the name of the Lord God of Israel, I protest against this work.” EGW 1888 1369.
The Two Adams and Christ’s 2nd Death Victory
Many today still reject the “In Christ” motif’s implications for what God has done for all men. Let us review:
“Now what does it mean to us that Jesus Christ became the second head of this human family? It means this: Just as, when Adam was created, all the members of the human family were created in him, so also when the second man was created “according to God in righteousness and true holiness,” all the members of that family were created in him. It means that, as God saw in Adam all the members of the human family, so he saw in Christ, the second father of the family, all the members of the divine human family; so he saw in him all his sons, all his daughters, all his descendants; all that belong to the family. No matter whether they were born into the family or not. Before Jacob and Esau were born, God saw two nations there. No matter whether born into the divine-human family or not, yet God created in Christ Jesus, the new man, all the members of the divine-human family that should afterward be born into that family.” WWP - GCB February 4, 1895, p. 9.
“‘In Adam all die,’ both righteous and wicked, men and little children; and ‘so Christ shall all be made alive.’ 1 Corinthians 15:22. Christ does this for all, because no one is to blame for being the descendant of Adam, and thus mortal. When all have been made alive, it will be seen who are worthy to have life continued to them, and those who have died in their iniquity shall die the second time. Ezekiel 18:26. This is the death to which God had reference when he said to Adam, ‘In the day that thou eat this thereof, thou shalt surely die.’ That penalty has never been executed; through the kindness of God in Christ the execution of the penalty was stayed, in order to give fallen man another chance for his life. Christ tasted death for every man, and those who accept his sacrifice will escape the penalty for sin, but upon those who do not, it will fall grievously.” EJW - SITI February 5, 1885, p. 86.24
“The fact that we live, although we are sinners, is the assurance that deliverance from the sin is ours. ‘While there’s life there’s hope,’ says the adage. Yes, because the Life is our hope. Thank God for the blessed hope! The blessing has come upon all men; for ‘as by the offense of one judgment came upon all men to condemnation; even so by the righteousness of One the free gift came upon all men unto justification of life.’ Romans 5:18. God, who is ‘no respecter of persons,’ ‘hath blessed us with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ.’ Ephesians 1:3. It is ours to keep. If any one has not this blessing, it is because he has not recognized the gift, or has deliberately thrown it away.” - EJW - GTI 123.1
The Armor of God and the Church Building
The clear presentation of the Minneapolis Message was the true armor that God’s people needed to build up the church in the conflict ahead of them. The helmet of salvation given to and for all men, the faith of Jesus as our shield, the shoes of the true gospel of peace, the sword of the Spirit - trusting in God’s word to do exactly what it says, and the preaching the gospel of Jesus as the Truth that swallows up every other topic; these were the armor and equipment that were needed. Using other themes and interpretations, rejecting the message sent of God, would have terrible effects on the quality of the church structure and function, some of which we still see today.
Writing to Brother Lindsey, Ellen White draws a direct parallel with the experience of the 1888 era:
“‘For other foundation can no man lay than that is laid, which is Jesus Christ. Now if any man build upon this foundation gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, stubble: every man's work shall be made manifest: for the day shall declare it, because it shall be revealed by fire, and the fire shall try every man's work of what sort it is. If any man's work shall be burned, he shall suffer loss; but he himself shall be saved, yet so as by fire. Know ye not that ye are the temple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwelleth in you….’
“My brother, why do you cherish such bitterness against Elder A.T. Jones and Elder Waggoner? It is for the same reason Cain hated Abel. Cain refused to heed the instruction of God, and because Abel sought God, and followed His will, Cain killed him. God has given Brother Jones and Brother Waggoner a message for the people. You do not believe that God has upheld them, but He has given them precious light, and their message has fed the people of God. When you reject the message borne by these men, you reject Christ, the Giver of the message. Why will you encourage the attributes of Satan? Why will you and Brother Henry
despise God's delegated ministers, and seek to justify yourselves? Your work stands revealed in the sight of God. ‘Turn ye, turn ye, for why will ye die?’” EGW 1888 1352-3.
If we view the lessons topics in a chiastic pattern, we can turn our attention to the centerpiece of the lesson -
The Church as a Body
After Paul completes his discourse on church unity in 1 Corinthians 12, he pivots in verse 31 to the key of all unity that he will address in chapter 13.
“But earnestly desire the best gifts. And yet I show you a more excellent way.”
And what is that more excellent way? The power that holds all of the body of Christ together in true unity? What is it that brings maturity to the body of Christ, that brings an end to all rebellion - in the cosmos, and in us?
It is the agape love of God!
Loving Is Giving
“THE word ‘love’ is a common one. It is much used. Its meanings are many and various. Sometimes it implies nothing more than admiration. Often it indicates only greed. It may denote personal sentiment and individual affection between men and women. Frequently it is indicative of the most supreme type of selfishness. It often signifies gross immorality and base passion.
“In brief, our ideas of love have become so narrow and so low that if the word be analyzed in relation to the emotions, passions, and actions, to which it is for the most part applied, it will be found to express two of the worst traits of human life—selfishness and lust.
“Even at best, human love is often but little better than a form of selfishness. A man loves a woman—why?—Because of his desire to draw her to himself, to possess her,—to have her for his life companion,—to gain her to be exclusively his own.
“But the love of God is the absolute opposite of all these things. ‘God so loved. . . that He GAVE.’ With God loving is giving. ‘God is love.’ With the Eternal One to love is to give. ‘God is love.’ His life is nothing but love. With Him to live is to love, and to love is to give—living is loving, and loving is giving.
“Now, therefore, the supreme idea in the love of God is this—It is a love which gives. Any love which does not give is not the love of God at all. It is only human. It is earthly, sensual, devilish. Common affection is not true love. The test of all genuine love is that it has in it the element of giving—yea, that its very essence is self-sacrificial giving. In this, when a man loves a woman it is that he may give to her all human devotion.
“‘God so loved. . . that He gave.’
The word translated ‘love’ signifies ‘benevolent.’ The word ‘benevolent’ comes from two Latin words—bono, which means ‘rightly’ or ‘well,’ and volens, meaning ‘wishing.’ The word ‘benevolent’ is therefore defined as follows: ‘Having a disposition to do good; possessing or manifesting love to mankind, and a desire to promote their prosperity and happiness; disposed to give to good objects.’ Etymologically considered, benevolent implies wishing well to others, and beneficent, doing well. But by degrees the word ‘benevolent’ has been widened to include not only feelings but actions.
“From these definitions it is clear that the love of the Bible is a love that manifests itself in giving. More than this, right giving—the giving of the Bible—springs from right willing or wishing.
“There are many in the world who make expensive presents or gifts to others. There are wealthy men who give millions of dollars to different enterprises. Yet much of this giving is pure selfishness. God frowns upon it, because it does not proceed from right wishes, from noble desires of the heart. A gift may be made with the idea of gaining the favor of some one else. Such gifts, whether made to Christ's cause or to men, are displeasing to God. Many times lavish gifts are bestowed upon great enterprises because the giver desires to become well known and well thought of. This is naught but pharisaism. It is written: ‘Take heed that ye do not your alms before men, to be seen of them: otherwise ye have no reward of your Father which is in heaven. Therefore when thou doest thine alms, do not sound a trumpet before thee, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may have glory of men. Verily I say unto you, They have their reward. But when thou doest alms, let not thy left hand know what thy right hand doeth: that thine alms may be in secret: and thy Father which seeth in secret himself shall reward thee openly.’
“The love of God therefore is a love which gives—gives because of love and loyalty to the cause and object upon which it is bestowed. This giving love, and it alone, is the love of God.
“How many times has this and similar testimony been borne in a public social meeting: ‘I am very happy; I feel so much of the love of God in my heart; this faith grows more and more precious to me day by day.’
“And yet many who utter such words have absolutely no idea of the responsibilities of the love of God—the responsibility to give. He who does not feel the burden upon him to give of his life, to give of his God-intrusted talents, and to give of his property, of his money, to the suffering cause of God, does not know the love of God….” April 16, 1901 ATJ, ARSH 250,251.
The Third Angel’s Message
“Rom. 5:1, 5. ‘Justified by faith we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost which is given unto us.’ And that is charity. Supreme love. Acts 15:8, 9, ‘And God which knoweth the hearts, bare them witness, giving them the Holy Ghost, even as he did unto us, and put no difference between us and them purifying their hearts by faith.’ There is the love of God out of a pure heart.
“Heb. 9:14: ‘How much more shall the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without spot to God, purge your conscience from dead works to serve the living God?’ There is a clean conscience, brethren, and there is the love of God out of a good conscience.
“Then that faith which He gives, which He enables us to keep--the faith of Jesus which enables us to keep the commandments of God--there is the love of God by a faith unfeigned.
“Oh then the message of the righteousness of God which is by faith in Jesus Christ, brings us to, and brings to us, the perfect fulfillment of the law of God, does it not? [Congregation: ‘Yes.’] Then that is the object and the aim and the one single point of the third angel's message, is it not? [Congregation: ‘Yes.’] That is Christ. Christ in His righteousness. Christ in His purity. Christ in His love. Christ in His gentleness. Christ in His entire being. Christ and Him crucified. That is the word, brethren. Let us be glad of it; let us be glad of it. [Congregation: ‘Amen.’]
“So then when we have Jesus, when we have received Him by faith and the law stands before us or we stand before it and it makes its wondrous demand of charity, we can say, ‘Here it is. It is in Christ and He is mine!’ Out of a pure heart—'Here it is in Christ, and He has given it to me--a good conscience.’ The blood of Christ has created it in me. Here it is. ‘Faith unfeigned,’ the faith in Jesus. He has given it to me. Here it is. Then, just as Steps to Christ tells us, we can come to Jesus now and be cleansed and stand before the law without one touch of shame or remorse. Good. Brethren, when I have that which makes me at perfect agreement with the law of God, then I am satisfied, and cannot help but be glad that I am satisfied.” February 27, 1893 ATJ, GCDB 412,413.