“Your way, O God, is in the sanctuary; who is so great a God as our God?”
“The subject of the sanctuary was the key which unlocked the mystery of the disappointment of 1844. It opened to view a complete system of truth, connected and harmonious.”
The Great Controversy, 423
As we begin this study, there is a concept that we need to understand. That concept is this: the sanctuary, the third angel’s message, the plan of redemption or new covenant, Christ the great center – all these terms refer to different facets of one great truth, the truth of God’s divine, omnipotent plan to redeem fallen man, to restore in man His image.
Our beginning quote from Inspiration gives us several critical pieces of information that will be the focus of our study. It says that the subject of the sanctuary is a complete system of truth. If something is complete, nothing more is needed. Nothing can be added. Nothing can be taken away, and still have completeness. This inspired statement also says the subject of the sanctuary is connected. Spend some time pondering and trying to grasp the meaning of that word, and what God is trying to communicate to us through that word. And then, lastly, these sentences declare that the subject of the sanctuary is one of harmony – it is in agreement, accord, coherence, with itself.
This study begins in the book Education from the chapter entitled “Mental and Spiritual Culture,” which begins on page 123, and is grand and beautiful in the significance of its words.
We need to have a context for the paragraphs we want to study, which we find in the first three sentences of the chapter. “For the mind and the soul, as well as for the body, it is God’s law that strength is acquired by effort. It is exercise that develops. In harmony with this law, God has provided in His word the means for mental and spiritual development.” We read here that in His holy word, we find the means for both the development of our mental faculties and for spiritual growth. Also stated is the fact that this is gained only through effort. These sentences introduce the focus of the chapter – mental and spiritual development.
In the next few paragraphs this thought is expanded, broadened, deepened and explained. Then follows the paragraph on which we are going to focus. It says, “In its wide range of style and subjects the Bible has something to interest every mind and appeal to every heart. In its pages are found history the most ancient; biography the truest to life; principles of government for the control of the state, for the regulation of the household [marriage and family life]—principles that human wisdom has never equaled. It contains philosophy the most profound, poetry the sweetest and the most sublime, the most impassioned and the most pathetic. Immeasurably superior in value to the productions of any human author are the Bible writings, even when thus considered; but of infinitely wider scope, of infinitely greater value, are they when viewed in their relation to the grand central thought. Viewed in the light of this thought, every topic has a new significance. In the most simply stated truths are involved principles that are as high as heaven and that compass eternity.” Education, 125.
The beauty, the grandeur, the depth, the breadth, the meaning in this paragraph gives food for a long period of prayerful thought and contemplation.
“The Bible contains all the principles necessary.” That means every aspect of life, every subject. There is tremendous food for thought just in that phrase. The Bible is immeasurably superior in value to the productions of any human author.
Let’s continue and we will read an astonishing and beautiful truth: “… but of infinitely wider scope, of infinitely greater value, are they when viewed in their relation to the grand central thought. Viewed in the light of this thought, every topic has a new significance. In the most simply stated truths are involved principles that are as high as heaven and that compass eternity.”
Oh, my friends, we add to immeasurable, the word infinitely. Another word with no comparison.0 Nothing even comes close. The Bible, when considered and understood in relation to the grand central thought is of infinitely greater value. Why? Why is its relation to the grand central thought so important that God says in this light it has infinitely greater scope and value? This question also is answered in the paragraph itself. It is because “in the most simply stated truths are involved principles that are as high as heaven and that compass eternity.”
Only through the understanding, acceptance and cooperation with this great central thought is salvation, life eternal, possible! Is it important to know what the grand central thought is? Yes. It is of vital, eternal consequence.
What is the grand central thought? Must human mind and wisdom define the grand central thought? No. Inspiration provides it in the very next paragraph. We read,
“The central theme of the Bible, the theme about which every other in the whole book clusters, is the redemption plan, the restoration in the human soul of the image of God. From the first intimation of hope in the sentence pronounced in Eden to that last glorious promise of the Revelation, ‘They shall see His face; and His name shall be in their foreheads’ (Revelation 22:4), the burden of every book and every passage of the Bible is the unfolding of this wondrous theme—man’s uplifting—the power of God, ‘which giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ’ (I Corinthians 15:57).” Education, 125, 126.
“He who grasps this thought has before him an infinite field for study. He has the key that will unlock to him the whole treasure house of God’s word.” Ibid., 126.
What beauty, what grandeur we find in these few sentences. What food for thought is found therein. God tells us to believe something only on the testimony of two or more witnesses. On this subject there are not just two, or three, or four, but many witnesses. But for the sake of space we will briefly consider two more quotes beautiful in simplicity and clarity on this subject.
This first paragraph gives us a setting for the one we wish to study. “There is nothing more calculated to strengthen the intellect than the study of the Scriptures. No other book is so potent to elevate the thoughts, to give vigor to the faculties, as the broad, ennobling truths of the Bible. If God’s word were studied as it should be, men would have a breadth of mind, a nobility of character, and a stability of purpose rarely seen in these times.” Steps to Christ, 90.
Here is the crucial thought: “But there is but little benefit derived from a hasty reading of the Scriptures. One may read the whole Bible through and yet fail to see its beauty or comprehend its deep and hidden meaning. One passage studied until its significance is clear to the mind and its relation to the plan of salvation is evident, is of more value than the perusal of many chapters with no definite purpose in view and no positive instruction gained.” Ibid.
Did you comprehend that? If we do not study each passage until we understand its significance and its relation to the plan of salvation, we have gained no positive instruction. We may have gleaned wonderful knowledge and understanding for temporal benefit, but we have not gained positive instruction for eternity.
What subjects are covered in the Bible? History, biography, government, marriage and family, philosophy, poetry. In fact, Inspiration tells us, “The Bible contains all the principles that men need to understand in order to be fitted either for this life or for the life to come.” Education, 123. There is no subject of life that is not covered in the Bible.
“The Sabbath school should be a place where the jewels of truth are searched for and rescued from their environment of error, and placed in their true setting in the framework of the gospel. … Sacred and eternal principles connected with the plan of salvation have long been lost from sight, but they must be restored to their proper place in the plan of salvation, and made to appear in their heavenly light, and penetrate the moral darkness in which the world is enshrouded.” Counsels on Sabbath School Work, 12, 13.
What are the jewels of truth spoken of here? They are simply the divine instructions for living a happy, peaceful, successful life. Sometimes we call them beliefs or doctrines. Again we find that these must be placed in the framework of the gospel—the plan of salvation—or they are in an environment of error.
Let us reason together now. Of what eternal value, in reality, is any belief that is disconnected from God’s plan and desire for our salvation? God has an intensity of interest in healing the broken relationship with mankind that mortal mind cannot comprehend. We are told over and over again that this interest, this purpose is the central theme, the grand central thought of the Bible. It is the theme of every passage, every book of the Bible. Dare we value any less, dare we place any less importance on this theme, this purpose, this goal than does the great God, the Creator, the Redeemer, the Sanctifier?
Let us remember what He says. The word of divinity is, “of infinitely wider scope, of infinitely greater value, are they when viewed in their relation to the grand central thought. Viewed in the light of this thought, every topic has a new significance. In the most simply stated truths are involved principles that are as high as heaven and that compass eternity.”
I know that old habits and thought patterns are difficult to change. But, we claim to worship and have faith in the great Creator of the universe. Does He not have the power, the ability to help us? Pray. Ask Him for help. Tell Him you want to understand every jewel of truth, every passage of His word and its significance and relation to His plan of salvation. Make a commitment, with faith in His promises, to study, to contemplate, to chew carefully and thoroughly, His great revelation to mankind. Commit that with the aid of His Holy Spirit that you will study His word as He has instructed. Study one passage at a time. Study for a depth of understanding that “infinitely” surpasses the “immeasurable” benefit of the scriptures gained through the Bible from a temporal viewpoint. Study for that eternal benefit, the benefit of the grand central thought—your redemption.
(Unless appearing in quoted references or otherwise identified, Bible texts are from the New International Version.)
Brenda Douay is a staff member at Steps to Life. She may be contacted by email at: firstname.lastname@example.org.