Friday: Further Thought ~ Contrary Passages?
Further Thought: Read Ellen G. White, “A Great Gulf Fixed,” Pages 260-271, in Christ’s Object Lessons; “Calvary,” Pages 749-752, in The Desire of Ages; and “Teachers as Examples of Christian Integrity,” p.504, in Fundamentals of Christian Education.
“In the parable of the rich man and Lazarus, Christ shows that in this life men decide their eternal destiny. During probationary time the grace of God is offered to every soul. But if men waste their opportunities in self-pleasing, they cut themselves off from everlasting life. No afterprobation will be granted them. By their own choice they have fixed an impassable gulf between them and their God.” — Ellen G. White, Christ’s Object Lessons, p. 260.
“When those early Christians were exiled to mountains and deserts, when left in dungeons to die with hunger, cold, and torture, when martyrdom seemed the only way out of their distress, they rejoiced that they were counted worthy to suffer for Christ, who was crucified for them. Their worthy example will be a comfort and encouragement to the people of God who will be brought into the time of trouble such as never was.” — Ellen G. White, Testimonies for the Church, vol. 5, p. 213.
This week, we have put some nails in the coffin of false and immature understanding of the state of the dead doctrines, haven't we? We can gaze out on the lofty eminence of truth on the debris of misunderstanding and proclaim we have got it right. Why won't people listen to us?
If we have come to the end of this week's study and if that is all we have got from this week's lesson, then we have probably missed the point. It is not about being right! It is about what difference it makes to us. I have been in situations where I have discussed our state of the dead doctrines with others. At the end of the discussion, they dismissed my crystal clear argument with, "So what?"
The simple fact of the matter is that we cannot produce a resurrected Jesus to show the world that this whole thing works. We live in a world of "doubting Thomases". They want to touch. If they cannot touch it, they won't believe it.
Then I read what Paul had to say:
The "touch experience" is ours to give, when we are "in Christ".
Do you remember a series of lessons only a couple of years ago (2019, Q3) called, "The Least of These ...". Some commenters on this blog expressed the idea that those lessons were a bit light on; they lacked good doctrinal substance. I submit that within those lessons was the very core of Christian communication. The "touch experience" that is so essential for communicating the Gospel is available when we "live in Christ."
Let me refer back to my comment on Lesson 3, Tuesday’s lesson, about the biblical view of human nature. Lesson 3 helps us understand the nature of the human condition that death is the reverse process of life. We were created by dust and will return to dust when our days are numbered on earth. We don’t have a conscious spirit that lives on apart from the body, but the spirit (breath of life) returns to God who gave it. How did God give His spirit? Let's look back how God made Adam a living soul, by breathing life into him (CPR). Christ the creator is the power source. When you turn the light switch off (in this case death), the living power returns back to the power source (Jesus’ breath).
As I think about the brave reformers of the past, standing up to church dictatorship and man-made tradition, it is a prime example of dying for your faith. These brave souls saw the Bible truths are worth dying for because Christ died on their behalf, for them to be saved. Today’s postmodern generation has a flexible religion, saying they believe in God, but don’t go to church. This type of attitude and behavior lacks faith in the Lord. And, when one’s faith is lacking, one will easily give in to the enemy and temptation. Even more so, a denunciation of God and a worthless faith will lead to a life and death decision of not fully believing in Bible truths, making the belief not worth dying for its cause.
Unfortunately, we have Christian believers who died for a false bible teaching because of a lunatic leader brainwashing innocent souls to follow his man-made teachings instead of Christ’s teachings. An example is the infamous Heaven’s Gate teaching, where innocent people committed suicide in October 1996, believing that a comet was a heavenly transport to God’s kingdom. The central belief of the group was that followers could transform themselves into immortal, extra-terrestrial beings by rejecting their human nature, and that they would ascend to heaven, referred to as the "Next Level" or "The Evolutionary Level Above Human". This is what happens when a Christian believer does not understand the biblical human condition and the state of the dead.
The bible story of Moses asking Pharaoh to let God’s people go is a prime example of refusing to believe in God when the evidence is clear. Every plague that happened in Egypt should have been a witnessing event for Pharaoh to believe in God. Instead, Pharaoh refused (hardened) to believe in the True God after witnessing the powerful plagues. The same thing happened with the Jewish leadership in not believing that Jesus was the Son of God and the true Messiah after hearing and witnessing the resurrection of Lazarus. And Jesus forewarned the Jewish leadership about their evil hearts hardening and closing their ears from hearing the truth by giving them a parable about the Rich man and Lazarus. Jesus, resurrecting Lazarus, should have been a perfect example for non-believers to believe in the True God because the evidence was clear. Even better yet, Jesus rising out from the grave was the perfect and best evidence for non-believers to believe in Jesus Christ.
The Gospel is the living witness and evidence that Jesus is alive, but many refuse to believe in the Bible truth and its teachings. When we turn away from the truth (Jesus) then we risk (endanger) ourselves hardening our hearts repeatedly. And, when the heart is deeply hardened and rooted firmly, it will no longer be able to hear the voice of the Holy Spirit calling the sinner to repent. If the sinner cannot repent and turn away from their sins, they will commit the unpardonable sin (an unpardonable sin is a sin that is not forgiven because the sinner didn’t confess and repent of it). How can we protect ourselves? We protect ourselves by (1) talking, (2) listening, and (3) connecting to Jesus (please read my comment from lesson 8 Sunday’s question).
Yes, John 5:29 is a great supporting verse to harmonize with Philippians 1:23. Though the 1st resurrection and the 2nd resurrection are one thousand years between two events gives further proof and evidence about the human nature of death (state of the dead). For example, I had a gastroscopy last August and I was put under to sleep through general anaesthetic. When I woke up, I thought nothing happened, but the procedure was all done. I was unconscious (unaware) of the time between the start of the procedure and the end of the procedure. So for me, the timeline in between the procedure was a twinkling of an eye as if time stopped and time resumed again when I woke up from sleep (death).
I am glad that Maurice chose this wonderful Scripture passage – Col. 1:26-27; it gives me hope that we will all accept that it is our God who is the true Author and Finisher of our faith.
Since I think there are no passages in Scripture which are truly ‘contrary’ to the Truth revealed in them, I was a bit uncertain about what I would learn. I have learned that ‘contrary’, in this case, is used in the context of ‘contrary to the SDA ‘interpretation’ of the passages’ and that the Scripture verses have been examined in that light – I appreciate learning about the different interpretations.
For a few years now, I have recognized that it is best to have the mindset of not 'proving’ what I believe is right; it goes a long way to keeping my relationships amicable. I have also learned that there is nothing more counterproductive to effectively ‘spreading God’s Word’, than a person who, in their sincere religious fervor, pressures others to ‘listen(submit)’ to his/her personal convictions.
I learned as well that it takes a while for spiritual convictions to 'take hold' in a person’s life, and that it's best to couple conversation with expressions of compassion and understanding about the state the other person is experiencing. Questions need to be patiently answered and silence filled with prayer.
At the cross, Jesus Christ accepted the sinner at the end of a life lived in unrighteousness; knowing the sinner’s heart and accepting Him at that moment provides a wonderful example how God's Love works. Knowing that He knows the heart of man, we can share apparent 'contrary passages' found in the Word of God patiently and not press for immediate results.
Hi, Brigitte. Thanks for the helpful, excellent thoughts. I agree with you that there are no passages in Scripture that are truly contrary to the truth. Nevertheless, when these lessons speak of "contrary passages," I don't think that means passages that are contrary to some private Seventh-day Adventist interpretation. (I'm not sure that you actually meant to suggest such a thing.) I believe it means passages that may appear, or are often interpreted, to be contrary to the clear teachings of Scripture on a particular topic. I wonder if we couldn't find a better description for them than "contrary passages."
Have a great day!
Many years ago, I had a discussion with a friend about the state of the dead, that is, “soul sleep.” During our discussion, it became clear to me that all of the texts pulled out of context to “prove” a doctrine, stripped them of their true meaning. The testament of the authors of the Bible is that we might “know the true God, and Jesus whom he has sent” as a gift of his incredible love. (John 17:3.) That is life as nothing else is. It is for this reason that the Bible cannot and must not be a book of proof texts.
Charles Spurgeon once preached a sermon in which he said,
If I am “preaching” doctrine through word and deed instead of Christ, I have grossly missed the mark. No “preaching” of any doctrine is complete without specific and earnest efforts to bring the Gospel to sinners. A religious doctrine that cannot bring the Gospel to sinners is no doctrine at all. I wish it could be said that all the doctrinal discussions I have had brought “the Gospel to sinners.” But it is said that it did not matter the topic, a Spurgeon sermon would inevitably lead to Christ, sooner not later.
The lessons and the resulting discussions of this quarter have brought this decided truth home to me of a certainty. In the science of salvation, I hope to bring it into the practice of my life.
Thanks for this reminder, Richard. We are so blessed to have a cohesive understanding of Bible doctrines that presents a beautiful picture of our self-sacrificing, loving God. Every doctrine, rightly understood, contributes to that picture. And, if we cannot present a doctrine in a way that uplifts Christ, we would do better not talking about the doctrine at all, because Christless doctrine does more harm than good.
That said, correct doctrine is important because it presents a true picture of our beautiful God. The problem is that sometimes we forget the goal and "being right" can get in the way of being righteous.
May we all learn to uplift Christ at all times in our words and in our actions!
Hello, Richard – I am so glad to read your clear statement to bring out how important it is to distinguish between proselytizing by “preaching doctrine” and ‘bringing the plain Gospel to sinners’ -- those who have not yet accepted Jesus Christ to be their Savior. I agree that when ‘texts are pulled out of context to “prove” a doctrine, it often strips them of their true meaning.’ If one does not recognize this, the conversation can quickly turn into a religious debate contest to find out who is the winner.
It has been very important to me for a while now, regardless the topic of a religious conversation or discussion, to always keep the ‘bigger picture’ – Salvation, the Love of God and His Son’s devotion to Him, in mind. It helps me to always stay attuned to the subtle signals related to 'circumstances' in which the Spirit provides help for God’s Word to remain most effective.
And yes absolutly, I agree with Richard. When we discuss this topic with others, I pray that Christ remains the center. I pray that through it all, they may get the message of Ephesians 2:4-10, and of course many other text supporting the Gospel in Christ Jesus.
Now preaching only Christ in our evangelistic series, does not mean we leave out instruction on our beliefs, our beliefs have Christ as the the center of every one of them. That is why our beliefs are not secret, or proprietary. Through it all, we let others know of whom we believe in, Jesus Christ as our Saviour, the One who created us anew, so that we can do His biding.
'Remain in the flesh' and 'depart' in Philippians 1:23 is another two metaphors or phrases that do not stand alone. Since we know the state of the dead, and we know the circumstances due to Paul's cruiciples, and we see the context of his letter-sermon in Philippians 1:19-26, we know Paul was talking about being alive in Christ, or dead in Christ.