Saturday, October 27, 2012

The Problem and Solution for the Church

This is a special insight by my good friend Michael Duncan.

Although I grew up attending a Seventh Day Adventist church, I never considered myself to be saturated with the culture.  My parents were new to the church having joined through an evangelistic crusade around the year I was born and almost all of my education was received in public schools. There is no question our environment and upbringing shape our perspective and I am no exception.  My degree of connection and separation with the church made me feel somewhat like both an insider and outsider resulting in a curiosity which lead to a good deal of study on my own. In the course of my study, experience and observation in the church, I have come to a certain conclusion and that is this: 

For all the high ideals and Biblical orthodoxy the church represents, we continually come face to face with the weaknesses and failings of the church. Unfortunately the origin of these issues is not understood and without properly understanding the real problem, we are unlikely to find the solution. 

The root of the problem is a failure to clearly understand and apply the most important teaching of the Bible which is Justification by Faith in Jesus Christ.  I have discovered there is a war going on inside and outside of the Seventh Day Adventist Church over what is essential to salvation and most members are largely unaware of it.  As incredible as that may sound; to dismiss this is to be sidetracked into focusing on the symptoms rather than addressing the real problem.  It is precisely because we have been so proud as to assume we already clearly comprehend what the Bible says about salvation that we have come to neglect, distort or misunderstand this teaching much to our own detriment and the evidence is abundant.

Undeniably, controversies exist in the church over issues ranging from regional conferences to dress and adornment to the investigative judgment and subjects in between.  But if there is one thing I am convinced of it is this; the central issue is not women's ordination; the central issue is not worship styles, the central issue is not even the nature or inspiration of the "Spirit of Prophecy". The central issue is our understanding of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. This leads to the core question, “What must I do to be saved?”.  It becomes increasingly clear that there is nothing more important than our comprehending the meaning and purpose of the cross.  Everything else is a side issue designed by the enemy to distract and divide.   This is evidenced by the mixed feelings of bitterness and confusion among many youth and adults toward the message. 

Our historical understanding of the gospel was largely shaped by a reaction to the teaching of "cheap grace".  In the 1800's many churches were proclaiming that God's law had been done away with.  While correctly and necessarily combating such false ideas, we overcompensated to such a point that a pioneer expressed, "We have preached the law until we are as dry as the hills of Gilboa that had neither dew nor rain." An overemphasis on sanctification led to the de-emphasis of the Bible truth that we are saved entirely by grace alone, through faith alone, because of Christ alone.   Fortunately, God sent the message of Christ and His Righteousness in the late 1800's to correct the problem.  Unfortunately, we have yet to fully grasp or appropriate the blessing.

In 1924, former General Conference President Arthur G. Daniels published a book entitled Christ Our Righteousness clearly asserting that this message  “had not been received, proclaimed or given free course as it should have been to convey measureless blessing to the church”.

In 1978 an Anglican theologian and clergyman named Geoffrey Paxton published a book entitled "The Shaking of Adventism" - a documented account of the struggle over the teaching of justification by faith.  As a non-Adventist, the author demonstrates a credible understanding of the history and issues involved.  He accurately concludes that it is a good thing that there should be a stirring among Adventists regarding the subject of righteousness by faith and that it would be a blessing for every church to be equally concerned with this most important subject.

A faithful proclamation of the all sufficiency of Christ’s sacrifice, the necessity of grace and the righteousness of faith would have protected us from the accusations of legalism, fanaticism, perfectionism, cultism and other ills that plague us.  I can say this from experience.  Through an unbalanced or incomplete teaching of the gospel we become mired in a self-preoccupied religious experience characterized by guilt, frustration and fear and consistently lack the assurance of salvation. Thankfully all of this is replaced by a sense of God’s love, abundant joy and peace of mind as we come to understand the truth of forgiveness and acceptance in Christ.

Every truth entrusted to the Seventh Day Adventist church including the Sabbath, the state of the dead, the second coming, the mark of the beast, the pre-advent judgment and the sanctuary are only understood clearly when we see them as connected to and an expansion of the central truth of the atonement of Christ in His plan of salvation. 

Only when we understand the truth for ourselves are we transformed into effective dispensers of God’s grace to others. I have found the book of Romans and Galatians to most systematically unfold the gospel.  These two books were expounded in their entirety by the two young ministers God used to bring the message of Christ and His Righteousness to the church in General Conference session more than a century ago (Jones and Waggoner).  I have found no more exciting or more important study in all the Bible.  I trust you will be richly blessed as I have in seeking to understand the cross. May we all grow in grace and in the knowledge of our wonderful Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. 

 I’d like to share a few thoughts below.  Additional references, including scripture and supporting material are attached. I think you will find illuminating and refreshing. Reflect upon the following: 

·         The law of God was never given as a means to salvation but to show us our need of Christ. 
·         The justification effected at the cross is the basis of our salvation and not sanctification. 
·         The sacrifice of Christ which justifies us covers all of our sins past, present and future.
·         Sanctification, though important, does not add anything to our Justification.
·         Sanctification is actually the evidence or result of accepting justification by faith. 

For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God:  Not of works, lest any man should boast.  Eph 2:8-9

In His Love,


Friday, October 26, 2012

Commentary: Remission

This week the commentary is a repeat. The reason for this is that
this commentary is very relevant to this week's lesson. may it be a
blessing to all.


I have met several patients of cancer in my life. Some of them have
gone through surgery or other kinds of therapy to get rid of the
cancerous tissue. On more than one occasions the treatment was
successful. But, the doctor's never said that the patients were
cured. The doctors always said that the patients were in remission.
I wondered what that meant. And as I found out, I realized that
remission from a disease is very similar to how God deals with Sin.
Let us talk a little about cancer and remission, and after this we
will make the parallels between Sin and cancer, and being in remission
from a disease and Sin.

Cancer refers to a class of diseases. Therefore, it is unlikely that
there will ever be a single "cure for cancer" any more than there will
be a single treatment for all infectious diseases. Cancer can be
treated by surgery, chemotherapy, radiation therapy, immunotherapy,
monoclonal antibody therapy or other methods. The choice of therapy
depends upon the location and grade of the tumor and the stage of the
disease, as well as the general state of the patient (performance
status). There are challenges inherent in some of the treatment that
can limit its effectiveness. The effectiveness of chemotherapy is
often limited by toxicity to other tissues in the body. Radiation can
also cause damage to normal tissue. Complete removal of the cancer
without damage to the rest of the body is the goal of treatment.
Sometimes this can be accomplished by surgery, but the propensity of
cancers to invade adjacent tissue or to spread to distant sites by
microscopic metastasis often limits its effectiveness.

That is why it is not said that a person is to be cured of cancer, but
that the cancer is in remission. A remission is a temporary end to
the medical signs and symptoms of an incurable disease. Remission is
the state of absence of disease activity in patients known to have a
chronic illness that cannot be cured. It is commonly used to refer to
absence of active cancer or inflammatory bowel disease when these
diseases are expected to manifest again in the future.

Sin, this side of eternity, is like cancer in that it can be treated
but it does not disappear. As long as we live in this earth, those
who live by faith can stop committing Sin; however their sinful nature
is still alive. As long as we live in this Earth, Sin is always a
threat. Just like cancer can show its ugly face when and where you
least expect it, so can Sin when not held in check. It is always
present and always fighting for the upper hand. But, as long as we
subject ourselves to the Jesus treatment, Sin will be in remission.
This is what Peter talks about Jesus in Acts 10:43,

Acts 10:43 To Him give all the prophets witness, that through His name
whosoever believeth in Him shall receive remission of sins.

There is a similar expression in John 3:16, "…that whosoever believeth
in him should not perish, but have everlasting life." The verb
believeth in the Greek is in the continual present. This means that
it should read as such, "whosoever continually believes in Him …"
Also, the Greek word for believe here is the same for faith. So,
"whosoever continually has faith – believes, trust, has confidence …"
So, the remission of Sin comes through believing and so does
righteousness. We know this from Genesis 15:6,

Genesis 15:6 And he believed in the LORD; and he counted it to him for

Ellen White said that "The law demands righteousness, and this the
sinner owes to the law; but he is incapable of rendering it. The only
way in which he can attain righteousness is through faith" (Selected
Messages, book 1, p. 367). So, now we see that there is a
relationship between remission of Sin, "not perishing, but having
everlasting life," and being righteous. Believing causes all three.
So, this means that those who are righteous by continually believing,
experience remission of Sin, and eventually receive incorrupt and
immortal bodies (1 Corinthians 15:53).

The word righteous is a synonym for just. So, the expression
justification by faith means, made righteous by continually believing.
So, Paul tell the Galatians,

Galatians 2:16 Knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the
law, but by the faith of Jesus Christ, even we have believed in Jesus
Christ, that we might be justified by the faith of Christ, and not by
the works of the law: for by the works of the law shall no flesh be

True justification by faith always produces law keeping Christians.
And, since the law is summed up (fulfilled) in Love (Romans 10:13),
true justification by faith always produces people that love God above
all things and their neighbor as themselves (Galatians 5:14).

Raul Diaz

Friday, October 19, 2012

Whose image will they see?

Whose image will they see?

In the past people most transactions were bartering.  I’ll give you 4 of these for 6 of those.  But now most transactions are done with money.  Most countries today have their own currency, or money; although, many countries in Europe have a common currency.   Typically, money has two ways of existing: one is through electronic transaction, i.e credit cards, debit cards, etc.  The other way – the old way - is by using paper or coins.  Paper and money have distinct ways of identifying them.  Yes, most countries have different size, shape and color paper and coin money.  But, also within the country, the money whether paper or coins have their distinct identifying marks. 

Here in the United States there are different amount denominations for both paper and coins.  Our paper currency is all the same shape, size, color, and similar design; they have different images drawn into them.  For the connoisseur, looking at the image can tell them the denomination of the paper bill.  All images however, tend to be of important characters of American history, such as dead presidents.  The coins also are distinct.  They have the same shape, but different sizes and different colors on some cases.  Also, like their paper counterpart, the also have different images.  Each respective size is a respective denomination.  In some coins, however, the image can tell you the year they were minted.  With all the differences in the coins, there is no way of mistaking it for the currency of another nation.  Anyone that sees it can identify it as American money.   The coin and paper represent a value of money that is yours as long as it is in your possession.  However, the coin and paper themselves are owned by the United States Government (Some would argue this point). 

This fact of someone owning the coins is not new.  Even in Roman days, the emperor owned the coins.  No one could doubt that, the image of Caesar – the Roman Emperor – was on the coin.  We know this from sources such as History or archeology.   The Bible also tells us about the image of Caesar in the Roman coins.  Let us read the account,

Matthew 22: 15 Then went the Pharisees, and took counsel how they might entangle him in his talk.
Matthew 22: 16 And they sent out unto him their disciples with the Herodians, saying, Master, we know that thou art true, and teachest the way of God in truth, neither carest thou for any man: for thou regardest not the person of men.
Matthew 22: 17 Tell us therefore, What thinkest thou? Is it lawful to give tribute unto Caesar, or not?
Matthew 22: 18 But Jesus perceived their wickedness, and said, Why tempt ye me, ye hypocrites?
Matthew 22: 19 Shew me the tribute money. And they brought unto him a penny.
Matthew 22: 20 And he saith unto them, Whose is this image and superscription?
Matthew 22: 21 They say unto him, Caesar's. Then saith he unto them, Render therefore unto Caesar the things which are Caesar's; and unto God the things that are God's.
Matthew 22: 22 When they had heard these words, they marvelled, and left him, and went their way.

Before this incident Christ had exposed the hypocrisy of the.  So, they sought revenge.   They thought that about trapping Jesus to make Him look bad, even criminal.  They counseled with the Herodians - their bitter enemies who now had their enmity to Christ in common.  The idea was that if Christ said it was legal to pay taxes, then He would be against God’s word according to the Pharisees.  But, if Christ said that it was not legal, then they could accuse Him to the Roman authorities.  Their plan failed.  Ellen White says about Christ's reply,

Christ's reply was no evasion, but a candid answer to the question. Holding in His hand the Roman coin, upon which were stamped the name and image of Caesar, He declared that since they were living under the protection of the Roman power, they should render to that power the support it claimed, so long as this did not conflict with a higher duty. But while peaceably subject to the laws of the land, they should at all times give their first allegiance to God. {DA 602.4} 

A Christian writer wrote, ‘Give your money to Caesar; it has his image on it, and thus it belongs to him. But give yourselves to God. You bear his image, and you belong to him.’  With this in mind, we see that in verse 22 Christ asked whose image and superscription was on the coin.  They all replied Caesar’s.  So, it was evident that the coin belonged to Caesar.  Can people by looking at us say, “You have God’s image and superscription on you, you belong to Him?”  To see ourselves as coins is not that big of a stretch.  Christ used a coin to describe us in the parable of the lost coin (Luke 15: 8-10).  If Christ were to hold us up as He did the coin, and asks the crowd, “Whose image and superscription do you see?, What would the crowd answer, “Your own (Christ’s) or Caesars.”     Christ said to the disciples that others will know that you are my disciples by your love for one another (John 13:35).  Can others say that about us?  Our character is the image and superscription that tells others who do we belong to.  What will it say about us?

Friday, October 12, 2012

God as Cherry Pie

God as Cherry Pie

We are going to review some grammar. A noun is a name. A proper noun is someone’s name. An improper or common noun is every other name. For example, Ana is a female. Ana is a proper noun. Female is a common noun. Now you will notice that before female is the letter “A”. In this case the letter “A” is really a word that gives a description to the word female. “A,” in this case, is an article.

An article is a word (or prefix or suffix) that is with a noun to indicate the type of reference being made by the noun. Articles specify the grammatical definiteness of the noun. The articles in the English language are “the” and “a/an,” and (in some contexts) some. “The” is a definite article. A definite article indicates that its noun is a particular one (or ones) identifiable to the listener. An indefinite would be the opposite. Let us see some examples in sentences, “The children know the fastest way home.” This sentence refers to specific children and a specific way home; it contrasts with the much more general observation that: Children know the fastest way home. The latter sentence refers to children in general, perhaps all or most of them. Likewise, “Give me the book” refers to a specific book whose identity is known or obvious to the listener; as such it has a markedly different meaning from “Give me a book,” which does not specify what book is to be given.

When I have guests and I offer them pie, I can say, “I have pie.” This sentence can mean that I either have more than one or less than one. If I say, “I have a pie,” it is clear that I mean I have one complete pie. If I happen to ask one of my guests, “Would you please bring the pie,” it is clear that we are talking about a specific one, and we assume it is also complete.

If I cut the pie into three equal parts (three slices), I still have a complete pie. I can call it, “a pie,” or “the pie.” The moment I take a slice out, it is no longer a complete pie. Therefore, I can only speak about it in terms of “pie” or “what is left of the pie.” The three slices make up the one pie. Although, each slice is distinct from another, all three slices are made of the same material: same crust, same filling, and possibly the same frosting. So, while the slice is pie, it is not the pie. The pie is all three slices together.

With this in mind let us talk about the Godhead. Yes, earthly metaphors are limited, but they can shed light on Divine reality. The verses from our lessons tell us that, God spoke of Himself as plural (Genesis 1:26, 3:22, 11:7; John 1:1-3, 18; 20:28; 2 Corinthians 13:14; Matthew 28:19). Yet, The Bible is clear that God is the Father, God is the Son, and God is the Holy Spirit, and the three are One: "The LORD our God is one LORD" (Deut. 6:4). The one who believes the Holy Bible thinks of God as one, prays to God as one, and worships God as one, not three gods. And he praises God for His love in revealing Himself to us and adopting us in Christ as His children, so that we are no longer "orphans," "aliens … and strangers from the covenants of promise, having no hope, and without God in the world" (John 14:18; Eph. 2:12).

The following Ellen White's statement on the God head is clear as sunlight:

"The Father is all the fullness of the Godhead bodily, ... invisible to mortal sight. The Son is all the fullness of the Godhead manifested. ... 'the express image of His person.' ... The Comforter ... is the Spirit in all the fullness of the Godhead, making manifest the power of divine grace to all who receive and believe in Christ as a personal Saviour. There are three living persons of the heavenly trio; in the name of these three great powers--the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit--those who receive Christ by living faith are baptized, and these powers will co-operate with the obedient subjects of heaven in their efforts to live the new life in Christ" (Special Testimonies, Series B, No. 7, pp. 62, 63 (1905); Evangelism, pp. 614, 615).

God is a union of three different persons with three different but supportive and complementary roles. They are not three different divine roles displayed by one Person (that is modalism). Nor are there three gods in a cluster (that is tritheism or polytheism). The one God (“He”) is also, and equally, “They,” and “They” are always together, always closely cooperating. And, as all three were involved in the Creation of this planet, all three are involved in the redemption of man. All three are love (agape)(1 John 4: 8, 16). They are corporately of the same essence. The essence of agape is the self-denying and self sacrificing disposition. It is always other centered; therefore it always gives and never calls attention to itself (1 Corinthians 13: 4 - 5). The Father gave the Son and glorified Him (John 3: 16; 8: 54); the Son made Himself subject to the Father and glorified the Father, not Himself (John 5: 30; 6: 38; 14: 1 – 3). The Father and the Son sent to us the Holy Spirit (John 14: 16, 26; 15: 26; 16: 7); the Holy Spirit in turn testifies of the Son, not Himself (John 15: 26). Finally, the Father also testifies of Jesus: for example when the Father said, “This is my Son in whom I delight” (John 5: 31; Matthew 3: 17; 17: 5).

Friday, October 05, 2012



As an adjective the word proof can mean: able to resist or repel.  (It is often used interchangeably with resistant.  However, proof is a higher level than resistant.)  It is often used in compound words as a suffix.  Some examples are windproof (impervious – not allowing entrance - to wind); waterproof (impervious to water); bulletproof (impenetrable to bullets); fireproof (resistant to fire).  As the title suggests our focus is fireproof.  When something is fireproof it means that although flames are around the object the object will not burn, scorch, melt, etc. 

Humans are not fireproof; in fact, burns can be lethal.  But, somehow, God can work it for some that when they “walkest through the fire, [they] shalt not be burned; neither shall the flame kindle upon [them]” (Isaiah 3: 2).  This came true a few years after with Daniel’s friends.  If we recall Daniel’s friends refuse to bow to Nebuchednezzer’s golden statue.  And, in fury, Nebuchednezzer ordered they be thrown in a fiery furnace.  This furnace was so hot, that those who through the worthy Hebrew’s in died burnt themselves.  We, then, hear the fateful words from the King.  Let us read the rest of the account from the book of Daniel,

Dan 3:24 Then Nebuchadnezzar the king was astonied, and rose up in haste, and spake, and said unto his counsellors, Did not we cast three men bound into the midst of the fire? They answered and said unto the king, True, O king.
Dan 3:25 He answered and said, Lo, I see four men loose, walking in the midst of the fire, and they have no hurt; and the form of the fourth is like the Son of God.
Dan 3:26 Then Nebuchadnezzar came near to the mouth of the burning fiery furnace, and spake, and said, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, ye servants of the most high God, come forth, and come hither. Then Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, came forth of the midst of the fire.
Dan 3:27 And the princes, governors, and captains, and the king's counsellors, being gathered together, saw these men, upon whose bodies the fire had no power, nor was an hair of their head singed, neither were their coats changed, nor the smell of fire had passed on them.

Nebuchednezzer was so impressed it moved him to praise the God of the Hebrew youth, “Blessed be the God of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, who hath sent his angel, and delivered his servants that trusted in him, and have changed the king's word, and yielded their bodies, that they might not serve nor worship any god, except their own God…because, there is no other God that can deliver after this sort” (Daniel 3: 28 – 29).  God protected these three.  They were able to walk in the fire like Lucifer before his fall; when he “walked up and down in the midst of the stones of fire in the fire” (28: 14).  The teacher’s section of our quarterly states that, Lucifer walked with impu­nity among these burning stones, unburned and impervious to the flame. He was “fire­proof.”  But at the final consummation of the great controversy, Satan will be flammable and will burn until he is nonexistent. This contrast is similar to Daniel’s friends in that those who put them in the fire were not fireproof, they died immediately.  Those who walked by faith walked in the fire, and those who did not walk by faith were burnt.
Sin is not fireproof; it is, if fact, flamable.  Being that our God is a consuming fire, we have one of two alternatives: allow Him to refine us in the furnace of affliction during this probationary period, purging the dross from our characters until the pure gold of His image shines through, or refuse to yield and endure the refining process in the lake of fire; both choices burn up the sin in us. But, one consumes only the sin and results in eternal life; the other consumes us and ends in eternal death. 

We need to remember that the everlasting fire is in heaven and not in hell (Isa 33:14). In heaven, God’s people will be forever “fireproofed ” (Isa 33:15). God has sent His message that, if believed, will both purge and make us “fireproof.” It is the message of His righteousness presented in the most alluring terms in His counsel to Laodicea (Rev 3:18). Those only who are made righteous by faith in Christ alone will be made fireproof that will last throughout eternity.