Wednesday, June 30, 2010

"Paul and Rome"

During the "beginning" of "the latter rain" of the 1888 era, Ellen G. White is reported to have said, "Let us have all of Romans and all of Galatians." [1] The "most precious message" is "the third angel's message in verity." In other words, it is an understanding of justification by faith which is parallel to and consistent with the cleansing of the heavenly sanctuary. Of all the books of the Bible, Romans most clearly explains justification by faith. Ellen White understood that the companion books which give the greatest light on Revelation 14:6-12, the third angel's message, are Romans and Galatians.

The cleansing of the heavenly sanctuary is practical truth. In other words, it involves the purification of the hearts of God's people, so that they experience the atonement with God. They have seen the heart-warming truth of the love of God revealed in Jesus' cross. They realize that if Christ had not died for all, then all would be dead. They can no longer live for themselves, but the agape motivation becomes living for Jesus and His Father. They would not willingly choose to bring disrepute upon the Heavenly family into which they have been adopted. This is the real meaning of justification by faith.

Most can identify with the Apostle Peter's characterization of his brother Paul's writings, that there are "some things hard to be understood" (2 Peter 3:16). With that discouraging word can we understand the Book of Romans much less the Book of Revelation? Actually it's only the honest-hearted believer of God's promises who can understand Romans. It's the "unlearned and unstable" who misconstrue Paul's writings to their own perdition.

It was to such folks that the Apostle Paul wrote his letter to the church at Rome. They were "not many wise men after the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble" (1 Cor. 1:26). They were honest, candid believers. There were probably retailers, skilled craftsmen, day laborers, tradesmen, landscapers, even servants with a few upper class, and maybe a civil servant or two. It was to these kinds of people that Paul wrote. He wasn't trying to shoot over their heads. He wrote simply and directly in order for them to understand. So this is an encouragement for us to "dig in" and apply our minds to some of the nourishing food of the Scriptures.

It was Martin Luther who declared Romans "the clearest Gospel of all" and he was right. The Gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John are the eyewitness' accounts of the incarnation, life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. For the most part the Gospels do not explain the deeper meaning of the "good news" and the cross. God revealed the deeper meaning to Paul, and Romans is the "key" to understanding the atonement. John's Revelation of Jesus Christ as the "Lamb" (25 times)--the Crucified One--is the Gospel for the closing age of the Christian era. However, the Revelation cannot be understood without the Book of Romans.

Luther's heart was strangely warmed as he read Romans and saw the truth that "the just shall live by faith." His Catholic training had directed him to receive grace through the sacraments which would motivate him to do good works that would make the "connect" with God. His agony of conscience was how to know when he had done enough good works. To Luther the joy of discovering that God justifies the ungodly by faith alone, was a great release from self-centered bondage in sin.

Luther was on the right track in restoring God's love to the Christian church. However, his successors over-analyzed justification by faith to the point where it became a stale, mysterious, book transaction, light-years away from the human heart; whereby, when one had enough faith, God made the necessary adjustments in the books of heaven based on Calvary, and the sinner was justified and forgiven his sins. Thus God experienced the atonement with sin. The atonement was for sins because the sinner believed in the cross.

Such professorial teaching was nothing more than against the law of God's cosmic love. God is not interested in harmony with sin. Christ did not die in order to justify ongoing sin in perpetuity. That is the pagan view of the atonement which has been absorbed into the Christian church. The idea that the sinner can have "faith" to the degree that God sees evidence in one's prayers, Bible study, witnessing, etc. (all of these things are good when properly motivated by agape) and thus forgives the sinner is a concept of the atonement that comes straight out of heathenism.

Paul wrote to the Romans, "Grace to you and peace from God our Father, and the Lord Jesus Christ" (Rom. 1:7). The only way that Paul could write that sinners could call "God our Father," is because God's gift of the atonement in Christ Jesus reconciled the human race unto Himself. The whole human race of sinners has been legally adopted into the Heavenly family. Now it's for us to recognize this fact and receive the divine revelation of the atonement. [2]

We have been "called to be saints." A saint is one set apart from the world of self-centeredness. Legally, Christ has justified "all" (Rom. 5:18, 19) so that God can "call" everyone to such a blessed, exalted state.

Who among us is not tired of sin? Who is not weary of the continual degradation of sin's bondage? Do you want to know what hell on earth is? "Blessed is he that watcheth, and keepeth his garments, lest he walk naked, and they see his shame" (Rev. 16:15). Hell on earth is the embarrassment of having one's sins publicly exposed. Jesus never intends for anyone to face such agony.

Paul saw that Christ came "in the likeness of sinful flesh" with a "self" that needed denial. Such temptations that He felt from within are such that we all feel. To sense the pull of sin is not sin itself (James 1:14, 15). Yet, He "condemned sin in the flesh; that the righteousness of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit" (Rom. 8:3, 4). The righteousness of the law fulfilled in us is the atonement. It is the practical meaning of the cleansing of the sanctuary. It is true justification by faith. It is Christ's gift to us as our High Priest in the holiest of all. Thus Romans is an invitation into the Most Holy Place with Christ.

--Paul E. Penno


[1] Letter E. J. Waggoner to O. A. Olsen [n.d.].

[2] "The atonement of Christ was not made in order to induce God to love those whom He otherwise hated; it was not made to produce a love that was not in existence; but it was made as a manifestation of the love that was already in God's heart ... We are not to entertain the idea that God loves us because Christ has died for us ... The death of Christ was expedient in order that mercy might reach us with its full pardoning power, and at the same time that justice might be satisfied in the righteous substitute" (Ellen G. White, "Christ Our Complete Salvation," Signs of the Times, May 30, 1895)


For an excellent companion book to these studies, please see Waggoner on Romans: the Gospel in Paul’s Great Letter, by E. J. Waggoner. You may access the complete book at:

For Jack Sequeira sermons on Romans click here: MP3; Windows Media; Real Audio--------------------------------------------------------
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Friday, June 25, 2010

Commenatry: Walking like Jesus

Walking like Jesus


A compound word is a word composed out of two or more words.  You combine two or more independent words to create a new word.  The word, for example, milkman, is composed out of milk and man.  The word could be interpreted as a man made out of milk.  Of course, it means the man that carries the milk.   The fruit called blueberry, is made out of blue and berry.  The meaning of course is that it is a bluish fruit. 


In English to walk is not a compound word, but it is in the Biblical Greek.  The word for walk in the Greek is peripateo.  It is a compound word from the words peri and pateo.  The word peri means 1) about, concerning, on account of, because of, around, near.  The word pateo means to tread; a) to trample, crush with the feet; b) to advance by setting foot upon, tread upon.  Put the two words together and you end up with, 1) to walk; a) to make one's way, progress; to make due use of opportunities; b) Hebrew for, to live; 1) to regulate one's life; 2) to conduct one's self; 3) to pass one's life. 


Peripateo is the word used by the New Testament writers to talk about walk.  This word is used many times to admonish us to tell us how to conduct ourselves or not.  We are encouraged to walk by faith, walk in the Spirit, to walk as Jesus walked, to walk in Jesus, etc (2 Corinthians 5:7; Galatians 5:16; Colossians 2:6).  We also are encouraged on how not to walk.  For example, to walk not like the gentiles walked (Ephesians 4:17).  Paul and John give extensive explanations as to what they mean by this walk (Ephesians 4: 20 – 5: 21).  In none of these explanations do the apostles use walking in a literal sense.  It is not about the kind of motion that Jesus' legs and feet had.  It is not about the kind of shoes or sandals Christ wore.  It is not even about where He literally went in the land where He lived.  Ellen White elaborates on this,


"Many feel that it would be a great privilege to visit the scenes of Christ's life on earth, to walk where He trod, to look upon the lake beside which He loved to teach, and the hills and valleys on which His eyes so often rested. But we need not go to Nazareth, to Capernaum, or to Bethany, in order to walk in the steps of Jesus. We shall find His footprints beside the sickbed, in the hovels of poverty, in the crowded alleys of the great cities, and in every place where there are human hearts in need of consolation.


"We are to feed the hungry, clothe the naked, and comfort the suffering and afflicted. We are to minister to the despairing, and to inspire hope in the hopeless.


"The love of Christ, manifested in unselfish ministry, will be more effective in reforming the evildoer than will the sword or the court of justice. These are necessary to strike terror to the lawbreaker, but the loving missionary can do more than this. Often the heart that hardens under reproof will melt under the love of Christ."—Ellen G. White, The Ministry of Healing, pp. 105, 106


As we can see from Ellen White's quote walking as Jesus walked is about living as Jesus lived. Jesus lived doing His Father's will.  He lived doing good deeds to benefit others.  Jesus lived praying for others.  Jesus lived loving others.  Of course the only way we can do this is by dying to self and letting Christ through the Holy Spirit to dwell in you and reign supremely.  Only then you walked as He walked. 

Raul Diaz

Friday, June 18, 2010

Commentary: Is the Health message a Third Institution?

Is the Health message a Third Institution?


Among the many definitions of the term institution one of them has to do with customs or traditions in our society.  In this sense an institution is defined as a custom or system that is considered an important or typical feature of a particular society or group, usually because it has existed for a long time.  Other similar definition is worded as such: a significant practice, relationship, or organization in a society or culture.  Lastly, a third definition of institution in the same context: a custom that for a long time has been an important feature of some group or society.  Some examples given in these definitions are: the institution of marriage, the institution of the family, the institution of slavery, etc. 


It is in this context that we as Seventh Day Adventist believe that there are two institutions that prevail from the days before the fall into Sin, those are:  Marriage and the Sabbath.  Adam and Eve were married by God before the fall; they remained married after the fall.  People have been marrying ever since.  Of course, this vital institution has been under attack by Satan ever since.  Unfortunately, he has pretty much been successful.  We now see the consequences of that.


Satan has displayed the same kind of hatred against the Sabbath.    This is a day that celebrates God as Creator and Redeemer of the world.  It was instituted before the fall.  It was ratified through Moses in the Ten Commandments.  And, Christ kept it even in His death.  He died Friday afternoon and was not resurrected until after sunset the next day.  Unfortunately, Satan has been very successful in convincing the majority of the world that Sunday is the day of rest.  We today see the consequences of that, also. 


Could it be that the health message is a third institution we receive from before that fall into Sin.  There are very similar patterns between these three practices.  All three were instituted by God.  We know that Satan has also convinced people of eating things and in ways outside of the parameters established by God before the fall into Sin.  We read in Genesis 1:29,


"Then God said, "I give you every seed-bearing plant on the face of the whole earth and every tree that has fruit with seed in it. They will be yours for food" (Genesis 1: 29).


Ellen White refers to this diet in the following quote,


"In order to know what are the best foods, we must study God's origi­nal plan for man's diet. . . . Grains, fruits, nuts, and vegetables . . . pre­pared in as simple and natural a manner as possible are the most healthful and nourishing. They impart a strength, a power of endurance, and a vigor of intellect that are not afforded by a more complex and stimulating diet."—Ellen G. White, The Ministry of Healing, pp. 295, 296.


The Lord gave manna to the Israelites in the wilderness (Exodus 16:15); a very simple yet nutritious and satisfying food.  We see Daniel and his friends preferring a simple, low-fat, low-sugar vegetarian diet (Daniel 1:8).  The subsequent chapters show the consequences of their choice.  By the way, their goal was not merely to live seven years longer and take more holiday trips; they wanted to keep their minds clear to comprehend the teaching of the Holy Spirit in an era of solemn significance. 

Today we still struggle with this issue.  Just like God was interested in what Adam and Eve ate, He was interested in what Daniel and His friends ate.  Could it be that he is interested in what we eat today?  If He was not interested He would had not given Ellen White to preach to us the Health Message.  How do we know it still matters?  Most of what she said in her writings about food has now been proven true by scientific research.  As with Marriage and the Sabbath we have seen – perhaps live - the consequences of not following God's original plan.  Will we allow the Holy Spirit to lead us in the direction of following what could be the third institution we get from the Garden of Eden?

Raul Diaz

Friday, June 11, 2010

Commentary: Only Jesus Can

Only Jesus Can


In Luke 10:38 – 42 we find a famous interaction between Jesus, Martha, and Mary.  Let us read it,


Luke10:38 Now it came to pass, as they went, that he entered into a certain village: and a certain woman named Martha received him into her house.

Luke10:39 And she had a sister called Mary, which also sat at Jesus' feet, and heard his word.

Luke10:40 But Martha was cumbered about much serving, and came to him, and said, Lord, dost thou not care that my sister hath left me to serve alone? bid her therefore that she help me.

Luke10:41 And Jesus answered and said unto her, Martha, Martha, thou art careful and troubled about many things:

Luke10:42 But one thing is needful: and Mary hath chosen that good part, which shall not be taken away from her.


Notice that it was not the fact that Martha was busy that Jesus reproved.  It was her focusing and worrying about the cares of life.  Jesus told the disciples in the Sermon of the mount to "Take no thought for your life, what ye shall eat, or what ye shall drink; nor yet for your body, what ye shall put on. Is not the life more than meat, and the body than raiment?" (Matthew 6:25). Why did Christ tell them to Therefore take no thought, saying, "What shall we eat? or, What shall we drink? or, Wherewithal shall we be clothed?" and "Take therefore no thought for the morrow: for the morrow shall take thought for the things of itself. Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof" (Matthew 6:31, 34).


Because, "your heavenly Father knoweth that ye have need of all these things" (Matthew 6:32), and He is more than willing to provide them.  So, Jesus admonished them to "seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you" (Matthew 6:33).


Those who seek first the Kingdom of God are the ones who chose to be good ground when the seed of the Word fell on them.  They are they "which in an honest and good heart, having heard the word, keep it, and bring forth fruit with patience (Luke 8:15). In contrast, "are those which fell among thorns … which, when they have heard, go forth, and are choked with cares and riches and pleasures of this life, and bring no fruit to perfection" (Luke 8:14).  They did not have the patience to develop the fruit.  And, this is because they lost hope that the One who had promised them to fulfill His promise would actually do it. 


An optimistic person says, "Yes, I can."  So when God does not bring to fruition that which He said he would as fast as they would, they take matters in their own hands.  A person that walks by faith puts His trust on God.  He says, "I can do all things through Christ Who strengthens me," because, "with God all things are possible" (Philippians 4:13; Matthew 19:26).  These people trust God even if Christ did not fulfill His promise in their lifetime (Hebrews 11:39). 


Martha must have realized that her optimism was not enough.  She thought to ask the Lord.  But, instead of asking the Lord of "working out the impossible" to work things out, she sought to have her sister's help.  Ask, yourself this question, whose help would you rather have?  In whom would you rather place your hope?   In other words, it is as if Martha told Jesus, "My sister and I can make it happen."  And, Christ replied, "No Martha, only I can."

Raul Diaz

Friday, June 04, 2010

Commentary: A Little Thing Causes a Big Disaster

A Little Thing Causes a Big Disaster

The flight plans were set (a fictional story).  Leave from Sao Paulo at a certain time.  Arrive at New York 6 hours later.  All the controls in the plane seem to be working fine.  Except no one noticed the compass was off by one degree.  Six hours later the controls were saying the plane should be above the New York landscape but the plane was above water.  What happened?  One small degree set a flight path hundreds of miles away from its intended destination. Something small can lead us far away.   A little thing caused big consequences. 

Our lesson has a story with a similar premise.  Let us read it,

A young man purchased a pleasure boat with a nice little motor and trailer. The unit appeared clean and satisfactory, and—being purchased secondhand—it was not too expensive. Eager to try out his new acquisition, he took some friends and rode out to the public slip and launched the boat. It ran well, and the group made their way to a small island off the mainland in Lake Ontario.

Beaching the little boat, they explored the island and returned to the boat to head home. A short distance out, a splashing sound alerted them to the fact that they were taking on water. Quickly, the boat capsized, dumping the three friends into the chilly waters. A most for­tunate rescue forestalled serious repercussions. What had happened? A single rotted timber was found in the base of the hull that, with the wave action on the beach, had led to a split in the wood. Just one bad piece, out of all the others, was enough to overturn the boat.

The excellent Golf player Tiger Woods recently had a huge scandal of marital infidelity and sexual promiscuity.  When asked why he did it, he said the he thought that after all these years of a self-sacrificed and disciplined life he was entitled to enjoy a little indiscretion.  One little indiscretion has led to dozens of alleged indiscretions.  Tiger Woods has fallen from grace and like him many others.  The cases of unethical behavior prompted a prominent business owner to approach a leadership "Guru" and ask him to write a book on business ethics.  The "Guru" laughed and told him there is no such thing as business ethics.  The Business owner looked puzzled.  So, the Guru explained what he meant, "Ethics is something you either have or you don't.  You have it in all things or you do not have it at all." 

All these men and women who have violated the trust given to them have at least one thing in common.   They had access to abundance.  Ellen White speaks of this,

"Our danger is not from scarcity, but from abundance. We are con­stantly tempted to excess. Those who would preserve their powers unimpaired for the service of God, must observe strict temperance in the use of His bounties, as well as total abstinence from every injuri­ous or debasing indulgence."—Ellen G. White, Counsels on Diet and Foods, p. 29.

We always want more.  Many of us grow to believe we are entitled to it.  But, how can we stop this?  How can we be standards of integrity and ethical behavior?  How can we stop something small in our lives to cause a big disaster? 

The Bible says that there is only one way to do this.  Ephesians 3:14-21 gives us the answer,

 Ephesians 3:14-21 

14For this cause I bow my knees unto the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ,

 15Of whom the whole family in heaven and earth is named,

 16That he would grant you, according to the riches of his glory, to be strengthened with might by his Spirit in the inner man;

 17That Christ may dwell in your hearts by faith; that ye, being rooted and grounded in love,

 18May be able to comprehend with all saints what is the breadth, and length, and depth, and height;

 19And to know the love of Christ, which passeth knowledge, that ye might be filled with all the fulness of God.

 20Now unto him that is able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that worketh in us,

 21Unto him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus throughout all ages, world without end. Amen.


So much is promised us in these texts.  If we allow Him, the Holy Spirit can strengthen us from within; that is, He can change us, not like some cosmetic sur­gery but more like heart surgery, something working deep within us. And this change comes to us by faith, by knowing the reality of God's love for us. The Lord seeks a complete transformation in our lives; He desires that we be "filled with all the fulness of God." Notice, too, that unlike many self-help and New Age philosophies, Paul is not talking about our tapping into some innate power found within us. No, the power that "works in us" is the power of God, who can do more, "exceeding abundantly above" than all we ask or think.  The question is are we allowing Him to, or are we letting our carnal natures rule instead?


So the Holy Spirit strengthens us with the power of God.  Paul says in Romans 1:16, "For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth; to the Jew first, and also to the Greek."  This power of God that saves us and renews our mind into the likeness of Christ – our model of integrity – is the Gospel.  What is the Gospel?  It is the good news of the birth, life, death, and resurrection of Jesus.   We have new life in Christ.  When we by faith continually accept this, the Holy Spirit then turns our corrupt hearts into hearts of integrity.

Raul Diaz