Thursday, March 20, 2003
Insights to Lesson 12: "Covenant Faith," March 15-21, 2003
Thank God that the topic this Quarter has been "The Covenants." We have long needed to understand this truth. Our Quarterly has had many inspiring thoughts in it. Lesson 12 brings clarity to the world church rather than confusion.
Thank God it says that "salvation is a gift," and that it doesn't say that salvation is an "offer." If salvation is merely an offer, that means it is nothing unless we accept the offer. Then it would have to follow that our salvation is ultimately due to our own initiative. The Bible is clear: salvation is free as the sunshine; Christ died for "every man;" He died every man's second death. None of us has done anything to help save ourselves.
But Sunday's lesson also brings us back into some confusion again: "The Old Testament way of salvation under the Mosaic covenant is no different from the New Testament way of salvation under the new covenant. Whether in the Old or New Testament, old or new covenant, salvation is by faith alone" (Sunday).
Here the thought is expressed again as in last week's lesson that "God ordained" salvation to be for the Israelites under the Old Covenant through "animal blood." It postulates two methods of salvation, one under the Old Covenant that was valid up until the cross, when the New Covenant finally came into force at the death of Christ.
True, after expressing these Old Covenant ideas the Quarterly always adds a caveat that there is a better way to come through the New. But this idea that the two Covenants are really the same in two dispensations is confusion confounded, the source of worldwide lukewarmness.
Not one sin was forgiven, not one sinful heart was cleansed, by the ministry of animals' blood! The people thought so, but only because of the massive confusion they brought upon themselves by using the Old Covenant idea at Sinai. Any sin in Old Testament times that was truly forgiven was forgiven only by the blood of Christ.
Individuals in old Israel could understand the New Covenant--such as David after his sin with Bathsheba. He knew well that "Thou desirest not sacrifice; else would I give it" (Ps. 51:16). Apparently he didn't offer even a turtledove as atonement for that double sin of adultery/murder! No animal blood could wash away that sin!
David understood that the New Covenant was already in force at the Garden of Eden. Forgiveness of sin was only through the "Lamb that was slain from the foundation of the world."
Some Good News: Thank God that our Lesson 12 lets Ellen White tell us what faith is--that long quote from Testimonies, vol. 2, pp. 212, 213 (Sunday's lesson). If your heart longs for a fresh burst of heavenly light, read that entire chapter from p. 200 through p. 215. That was first published in the 1860s. It demonstrates how she could say at Minneapolis in 1888 when for the first time she heard Jones and Waggoner present the New Covenant "light," "I have been presenting it to you for the last 45 years--the matchless charms of Christ. This is what I have been trying to present before your minds" (1888 Materials, pp. 348, 349). Then when she heard them, she rejoiced that at last here were two Seventh-day Adventist ministers who understood what happened on Christ's cross. When the hearts of ministers are humbled thereby, the hearts of their hearers will be won to Christ. Even youth will respond.
The full blessings of the New Covenant message still await us in future. "The third angel's message in verity" will reveal the significance of the cross of Christ. God's plan in 1888 was that every Seventh-day Adventist church become the place where hungry-hearted people in Babylon could come and learn what Jesus accomplished there, and what His ministry means to them in the Most Holy Apartment of the heavenly sanctuary. As the Holy Spirit blessed the apostles after Pentecost, so "our" ministry would have been blessed after 1888 (Selected Messages, book one, pp. 234, 235). God's people are still in Babylon; the Voice calling "Come out of her My people" would have sounded clearly in the 1888 New Covenant message going worldwide from every one of our churches. As The Great Controversy says, honest-hearted people everywhere would have responded in wonder (cf. pp. 611, 612). The world would never again have said that Seventh-day Adventists "preach the law, the law, but not Christ."
When God "counted [Abram's embryonic] faith for righteousness" (Gen 15:6), did that mean that He would never test Abraham to make sure that His "counting" was valid? No, the "test" had to come in Genesis 22, when God asked him to offer his only son Isaac. We must beware of the popular Old Covenant idea that our profession of faith triggers an automatic "counting" of us as already perfect in fact while we are content that it be not so; the pre-Advent judgment merely determines that God didn't make a mistake when He "counted" our faith for righteousness. Our works will testify that it was genuine.
Thus the New Covenant truth will prepare a people to be ready for Christ's coming, to stand before Him truly "without guile, . . . without fault" (Rev. 14:5), not merely assumed to be, but actually so "in Christ." And that "blessed hope" is not the heresy of "perfectionism." It's the cleansing of the sanctuary--the New Covenant in full fruition.
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