Thursday, January 22, 2009

This week's lesson: the spirit of prophecy

On the face of it, this week's lesson should be pretty simple:

Major premise: God's people have "the testimony of Jesus" (Revelation 12:17).

Minor premise: "The testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy" (Revelation 19:10).

Conclusion: God's people will have "the spirit of prophecy" -- and since this gift was manifest in the work of Ellen White, that is just one more sign that we are God's people.

So far, so good -- and given the fact that many of our early critics were Calvinists, this would have been a handy way to refute their belief in "the cessation of signs."

Unfortunately, the members of your Sabbath School class will probably find a way to complicate things, asking questions such as:
  • "Is the 'testimony of Jesus' the truth we have about Jesus, or is it our faithfulness in proclaiming that truth?" (Hard to say -- you'll find good commentaries on both sides of this question.)
  • "Do Revelation 12:17 and 19:10 mean that any reference to 'the testimony of Jesus' is just another way of talking about the gift of prophecy, or do these verses mean that prophecy testifies about Jesus?" (I suspect the later -- especially when you note the parallels between these texts and Revelations 1:2, 14:12, and 20:4).
  • "How does the ministry of a woman who's been dead for 93-years prove that we are still God's people? Shouldn't there be another prophet? Could there be another prophet?" (Perhaps -- though the track record on this question hasn't been so good.)
In short, this could be an "interesting" lesson!

Some suggestions:
  1. Remember the promise of a "remnant" -- a promise that God will always have people who love and follow Him. Given the way we foul up, that's a powerful promise.
  2. Remember God's promise to be with His church, even to the end of time. Whatever guidance we need, in other words, He will provide as He sees fit.
  3. Remember that the clearest way to identify God's people is our obedience to His command that we love each other (John 13:35). And yes, this includes the way we treat each other in a Sabbath School class. As Ellen White noted:
It is not earthly rank, nor birth, nor nationality, nor religious privilege, which proves that we are members of the family of God; it is love, a love that embraces all humanity (Ellen White, Thoughts From the Mount of Blessing, 75, emphasis supplied).

1 comment: said...

Greg: Your concise and articulate messages are a breath of fresh air in our cyberworld. In this series of lessons, it helps to remember that the message is more important than the messenger, that the picture is more important than its frame. Seems that this emphasis would surely change the direction of many who focus only on the messenger. Courage and cheers, Herb