Guests: and

Potentially, this lesson week’s lesson is the most crucial one for God’s people today, for it highlights the two great questions confronting deeply religious people: How can we be good? And how can we be saved? The great temptation which our sin-infested culture places before us is to think that it is by being good that we are saved. As the saying goes, “Santa is making a list and checking it twice….” The truth God wants us to know is that when we discover God’s saving grace, realizing that it is his goodness that saves us and not our own, then we experience the kind of gratitude that enables us to be good.

Discussion Issues

Sometimes a single passage of Scripture can bring about a life-transforming knowledge of God. Here are three passages which have played that key role in many a transformation. Not all of us will respond the same way to each passage. But if we can learn to listen to each other and respect each other’s experiences, life in the church would be transformed.

1. Zechariah 3. Here the Lord is rebuking Satan on behalf of Joshua the high priest. This passage became a beacon light in Ellen White’s experience. An angel showed it to her during a moment of deep discouragement in 1880. She wrote about it in 1885 under the heading of “Joshua and the Angel” (5T 467-476), and revised it some 30 years later in Prophets and Kings in a chapter of the same title (PK 582-592). A comparison of the two passages reveals a striking omission and a striking addition in the later version. It is well worth the time discussing the implications of both:

Omission: “No sin can be tolerated in those who shall walk with Christ in white”(5T 472, omitted from PK).

Addition: “They may have imperfections of character; they may have failed in their endeavors; but they have repented, and I have forgiven and accepted them.” (PK 589, omitted from 5T). The PK statement is the only place in Ellen White’s published writings where this statement occurs.

[For further discussion see Alden Thompson, “Even the Investigative Judgment Can Be Good News,”Westwind (Winter, 1982), 4-7,11 (originally part of the Sinai-Golgotha series published in the Adventist Review. The article (and the series) can be accessed at the following location:

2. John 16:25-27. Embedded in that marvelous section of John’s Gospel, chapters 14-17, these verses can transform that frightening statement from the pen of Ellen White that has haunted an older generation of Adventists: “we are to stand in the sight of a holy God without a mediator” (The Great Controversy [1911], 425). The crucial verse is 16:27: “On that day you will ask in my name. I do not say that I will ask the Father on your behalf.” Note the placement and impact of the little word “not.” At least one edition of The Great Controversy has published that verse without the word “not,” and at least one elderly and well-known Adventist evangelist has declared that 16:27 without the “not” had been the keystone of his entire ministry. With the “not” the frightening passage about standing in the sight of a holy God without a mediator can be transformed from a threat into a promise. A tantalizing discussion question would be: Why would one person be blessed with the “not” missing, and another one blessed with it included?” The answer may be found in the contrasting views of the atonement, discussed in the previous lesson. With the “not” one hears the “subjective” atonement with Jesus introducing his Father to us; without the “not”one hears the “objective” atonement with Jesus introducing us to the Father. The first is vintage John, the second is vintage Paul.

Personal note from the author of the Probe Study Guide (Alden Thompson): These verses from John 16 played a key role in helping me envision myself as coming into judgment as a witness for God (a theodicy issue) rather than as the accused (a salvation issue). The relationship between theodicy and salvation will be addressed in next week’s lesson (#14). While my own natural home is the Gospel of John, the following chapters from Romans have become increasingly precious to me.

3. Romans 7-8. Chapter 7 contains Paul’s famous and anguished statement describing his inner turmoil; chapter 8 follows immediately with his exhilarating claim for liberation: “There is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus” (8:1). Here one finds the real source of vintage Paul and the “objective” atonement. Much anguish and conflict has been caused among Christians by those who want to make Paul sound like John (on the one hand), or make John sound like Paul (on the other). Both views are biblical, both preserve crucial truths, both must find a place in the church if the church is to be the full body of Christ. The following “diversity” quotes from Ellen White emphasize how important it is for us to listen to each other’s experience, rather than to seek to make them like our own.

The Bible Teacher
(Counsels to Parents and Teachers, 432-433)

In our schools the work of teaching the Scriptures to the youth is not to be left wholly with one teacher for a long series of years. The Bible teacher may be well able to present the truth, and yet it is not the best experience for the students that their study of the word of God should be directed by one man only, term after term and year after year. Different teachers should have a part in the work, even though they may not all have so full an understanding of the Scriptures. If several in our larger schools unite in the work of teaching the Scriptures, the students may thus have the benefit of the talents of several. {CT 432.1}

Why do we need a Matthew, a Mark, a Luke, a John, a Paul, and all the writers who have borne testimony in regard to the life and ministry of the Saviour? Why could not one of the disciples have written a complete record and thus have given us a connected account of Christ’s earthly life? Why does one writer bring in points that another does not mention? Why, if these points are essential, did not all these writers mention them? It is because the minds of men differ. Not all comprehend things in exactly the same way. Certain Scripture truths appeal much more strongly to the minds of some than of others. {CT 432.2}

The same principle applies to speakers. One dwells at considerable length on points that others would pass by quickly or not mention at all. The whole truth is presented more clearly by several than by one. The Gospels differ, but the records of all blend in one harmonious whole. {CT 432.3}
So today the Lord does not impress all minds in the [432/433] same way. Often through unusual experiences, under special circumstances, He gives to some Bible students views of truth that others do not grasp. It is possible for the most learned teacher to fall far short of teaching all that should be taught. {CT 432.4}

It would greatly benefit our schools if regular meetings were held frequently in which all the teachers could unite in the study of the word of God. They should search the Scriptures as did the noble Bereans. They should subordinate all preconceived opinions, and taking the Bible as their lesson book, comparing scripture with scripture, they should learn what to teach their students, and how to train them for acceptable service. {CT 433.1}

The teacher’s success will depend largely upon the spirit which is brought into the work. A profession of faith does not make men Christians; but if teachers will open their hearts to the study of the word, they will be able to aid their students to a clearer understanding. Let not the spirit of controversy come in, but let each seek earnestly for the light and knowledge that he needs. {CT 433.2}

In Contact With Others
(Ministry of Healing, 483 [opening lines in Chapter 41])

Every association of life calls for the exercise of self-control, forbearance, and sympathy. We differ so widely in disposition, habits, education, that our ways of looking at things vary. We judge differently. Our understanding of truth, our ideas in regard to the conduct of life, are not in all respects the same. There are no two whose experience is alike in every particular. The trials of one are not the trials of another. The duties that one finds light are to another most difficult and perplexing. {MH 483.1}

So frail, so ignorant, so liable to misconception is human nature, that each should be careful in the estimate he places upon another. We little know the bearing of our acts upon the experience of others. What we do or say may seem to us of little moment, when, could our eyes be opened, we should see that upon it depended the most important results for good or for evil. {MH 483.2}

Comments are closed.