Guests: and

Theme: “God’s Nature: The Basis of Atonement”

Leading Question: “Why is the cross of Christ so crucial for the Christian faith?”

If we accept all that Scripture claims for God, we are faced with a number of dilemmas that stem from our human limitations: Is the cross some kind of transaction that was necessary in order for God to accept us into his kingdom? Did the cross somehow “persuade” God to save humankind? This lesson seeks to explore the meaning of the cross within the framework provided by what the Scriptures tell us about the character of God.

1. An Eternal God.  Read Psalm 90 and ask how we know God’s nature and character.  Do we believe certain things about God because Scripture says so, or do the statements of Scripture match what we intuitively believe God should be and is? Is it reassuring or troubling to affirm that God has always been there and always will be?  Is there anything that could shake your conviction about God’s eternal nature?

2. A Loving God. Is God’s gift of himself in the person of Jesus Christ the most powerful evidence of his love? To what extent is the sense of our need of redemption inherent in our fallen human nature? How does the cross meet that sense of need?

C. S. Lewis suggests that the doctrine of “redemption” is the significant factor in drawing a person to Christ and that the hope of “restoration” is likewise crucial:

The earliest converts were converted by a single historical fact (the Resurrection) and a single theological doctrine (the Redemption) operating on a sense of sin which they already had — and sin, not against some new fancy-dress law produced as a novelty by a “great man,” but against the old, platitudinous, universal moral law which they had been taught by their nurses and mothers.  The “Gospels” come later, and were written, not to make Christians, but to edify Christians already made. – C. S. Lewis, The Screwtape Letters [1961], p. 108; ch. 23, par. 3

Ellen White points to John 3:16 as the most significant passage in Scripture relating to our salvation:

Good news! Good news! ring throughout the world!  “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only-begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life”  This lesson is one of the greatest importance to every soul that lives; for the terms of salvation are here laid out in distinct lines. If one had no other text in the Bible, this alone would be a guide for the soul.  – Testimonies to Ministers, 370

3. God as Creator and Redeemer. If God is known as Creator (e.g. Psalm 100; John 1:1-3),  would he be more likely to redeem a fallen creation or to wipe it out and start again?  The story of the flood suggests the idea of a fresh start; the cross points to redemption.  How does one correlate those two perspectives?

4. A Holy God. How  is God’s holiness related to the reality of a fallen creation?  Does God turn away in horror, or draw near to save?  Habakkuk 1:13 says that God’s eyes are too pure to look upon evil.  How does that apply to the story of the Fall (Gen 3) where God simply comes looking for his children?

How can we explain the idea that our ultimate status in the kingdom is described in Matthew 25 as being directly linked with our helpfulness to others?  Does that mean that some people are saved because of their “goodness”?  Note these remarkable quotations from Ellen White’s Desire of Ages:

Christ on the Mount of Olives pictured to His disciples the scene of the great judgment day.  And He represented its decision as turning upon one point.  When the nations are gathered before Him, there will be but two classes, and their eternal destiny will be determined by what they have done or have neglected to do for Him in the person of the poor and suffering. (Desire of Ages, 637)

Those whom Christ commends in the judgment may have known little of theology, but they have cherished His principles. Through the influence of the divine Spirit they have been a blessing to those about them. Even among the heathen are those who have cherished the spirit of kindness; before the words of life had fallen upon their ears, they have befriended the missionaries, even ministering to them at the peril of their own lives.  Among the heathen are those who worship God ignorantly, those to whom the light is never brought by human instrumentality, yet they will not perish. Though ignorant of the written law of God, they have heard His voice speaking to them in nature, and have done the things that the law required. Their works are evidence that the Holy Spirit has touched their hearts, and they are recognized as the children of God. (Desire of Ages, 638)

Note: Acts 4:12 states that salvation comes only through the name of Jesus. Does the Spirit lead some to salvation through Jesus even though they have never heard of him? Romans 2:12-16 suggests that idea. In his Narnia tales, C. S. Lewis echoes that view in a dialogue between Aslan and the devout pagan Emeth after Emeth is startled to find himself in Aslan’s kingdom instead of in the kingdom of his god Tash:
But I said, Alas, Lord, I am no son of thine but the servant of Tash. He answered, Child, all the service thou hast done to Tash, I account as service done to me. Then by reason of my great desire for wisdom and understanding, I overcame my fear and questioned the Glorious One and said, Lord, is it then true, as the Ape said, that thou and Tash are one? The Lion growled so that the earth shook (but his wrath was not against me) and said, It is false. Not because he and I are one, but because we are opposites, I take to me the services which thou hast done to him. For I and he are of such different kinds that no service which is vile can be done to me, and none which is not vile can be done to him. Therefore if any man swear by Tash and keep his oath for the oath’s sake, it is by me that he has truly sworn, though he know it not, and it is I who reward him. And if any man do a cruelty in my name, then, though he says the name Aslan, it is Tash whom he serves and by Tash his deed is accepted. Dost thou understand, Child? I said, Lord, thou knowest how much I understand. But I said also (for the truth constrained me), Yet I have been seeking Tash all my days. Beloved, said the Glorious One, unless thy desire had been for me thou wouldst not have sought so long and so truly. For all find what they truly seek.  – C. S. Lewis, The Last Battle, 149

5. Restoration.  The conviction that God will restore the creation (e.g. Isaiah 11, Revelation 21-22) has been a powerful motivating force for believers. The classic Adventist vision of the restored universe is found in the closing paragraphs of Ellen White’s book, The Great Controversy (GC 676-78 [1911]):

    “I saw no temple therein: for the Lord God Almighty and the Lamb are the temple of it.” Revelation 21:22. The people of God are privileged to hold open communion with the Father and the Son. “Now we see through a glass, darkly.” [676/677] 1 Corinthians 13:12. We behold the image of God reflected, as in a mirror, in the works of nature and in His dealings with men; but then we shall see Him face to face, without a dimming veil between. We shall stand in His presence and behold the glory of His countenance.  {GC 676.4}

    There the redeemed shall know, even as also they are known. The loves and sympathies which God Himself has planted in the soul shall there find truest and sweetest exercise. The pure communion with holy beings, the harmonious social life with the blessed angels and with the faithful ones of all ages who have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb, the sacred ties that bind together “the whole family in heaven and earth” (Ephesians 3:15) – these help to constitute the happiness of the redeemed.  {GC 677.1}

    There, immortal minds will contemplate with never-failing delight the wonders of creative power, the mysteries of redeeming love. There will be no cruel, deceiving foe to tempt to forgetfulness of God. Every faculty will be developed, every capacity increased. The acquirement of knowledge will not weary the mind or exhaust the energies. There the grandest enterprises may be carried forward, the loftiest aspirations reached, the highest ambitions realized; and still there will arise new heights to surmount, new wonders to admire, new truths to comprehend, fresh objects to call forth the powers of mind and soul and body.  {GC 677.2}

    All the treasures of the universe will be open to the study of God”s redeemed. Unfettered by mortality, they wing their tireless flight to worlds afar–worlds that thrilled with sorrow at the spectacle of human woe and rang with songs of gladness at the tidings of a ransomed soul. With unutterable delight the children of earth enter into the joy and the wisdom of unfallen beings. They share the treasures of knowledge and understanding gained through ages upon ages in contemplation of God”s handiwork. With undimmed vision they gaze upon the glory of creation – suns and stars and systems, all in their appointed order circling the throne [677/678] of Deity. Upon all things, from the least to the greatest, the Creator”s name is written, and in all are the riches of His power displayed.  {GC 677.3}

    And the years of eternity, as they roll, will bring richer and still more glorious revelations of God and of Christ. As knowledge is progressive, so will love, reverence, and happiness increase. The more men learn of God, the greater will be their admiration of His character. As Jesus opens before them the riches of redemption and the amazing achievements in the great controversy with Satan, the hearts of the ransomed thrill with more fervent devotion, and with more rapturous joy they sweep the harps of gold; and ten thousand times ten thousand and thousands of thousands of voices unite to swell the mighty chorus of praise.  {GC 678.1}

    “And every creature which is in heaven, and on the earth, and under the earth, and such as are in the sea, and all that are in them, heard I saying, Blessing, and honor, and glory, and power, be unto Him that sitteth upon the throne, and unto the Lamb for ever and ever.” Revelation 5:13.  {GC 678.2}

    The great controversy is ended. Sin and sinners are no more. The entire universe is clean. One pulse of harmony and gladness beats through the vast creation. From Him who created all, flow life and light and gladness, throughout the realms of illimitable space. From the minutest atom to the greatest world, all things, animate and inanimate, in their unshadowed beauty and perfect joy, declare that God is love.  {GC 678.3}

Comments are closed.