The apostle Paul had a far better education than the other apostles, other than what Jesus gave to him. The apostles had three and a half years with Jesus, but they did not have anything like the apostle Paul’s knowledge of the Scriptures and of the history of Israel. The three and a half years that the apostles had with Jesus could be compared to the two years in which Ellen White tells us that Paul was personally instructed by Jesus in the desert of Arabia before he set out upon his ministry. The instruction by Jesus, added to the background of information that Paul had, gave him an advantage.
He understood some things more quickly and more fully than the other apostles, for example: the difference between the two laws, the moral law and the ceremonial law. I did a little exercise once that was an eye opener to myself. I isolated every New Testament witness from Jesus, John the Baptist, then all the New Testament writers, Matthew, Mark, Luke, John, Paul and so on. I put to each writer, as it were, the question: What do you have to say about the two laws? From every single one, except the apostle Paul, the answer was absolute silence. If you did not have the writings of the apostle Paul in the New Testament, you would have no way of knowing that the ceremonial law is passed away. He is the only one who ever mentioned it.
A possible exception is in Acts 15:10. Peter made a statement which could be understood to mean that the ceremonial law was passed away. “Why tempt ye God, to put a yoke on the neck of the disciples, which neither we nor our fathers were able to bear.” We presume that he was talking about the ceremonial law as misinterpreted by the priesthood of his time, which was indeed a yoke, very, very difficult to bear.
The apostle Paul understood clearly how the doors of the church were to be opened to the Gentiles. Paul tells us in the first two chapters of Galatians how Peter was having a little trouble with that concept, even though he had been involved in God’s instruction on the matter. If you go to Romans 10 and 11, you see how Paul reaches into his knowledge of the writings of Isaiah to show that this was right and proper and was entirely in harmony with God’s great plan of salvation.
There is one more thing that the apostle Paul understood better than the other apostles—the destruction of the city of Jerusalem and the temple. “Now,” you may say, “all the disciples knew that. They were talking to Jesus about it on the Mount of Olives when Jesus said that ‘there will not be left one stone upon another.’” Yes, they understood that, but they thought it was going to be at the second coming of Christ. I do not think that Paul made that mistake. And here I am not just relying on my own thinking, I am borrowing a thought from Elder M.L. Andreason. Some of you older folks may remember Elder Andreason. He was one of the finest Bible scholars we ever had in our church—a very great and good man. He believed that the apostle Paul wrote the book of Hebrews because he knew that the temple was going to be destroyed and he knew what an awful shock that would be to the Jewish Christians. The Jewish people, even though they became Christians, loved that temple. It was to them the symbol of Israel. Paul realized that they needed some help, otherwise they would become confused and disheartened and perhaps even discouraged when that temple was torn down, which was to be only a short while ahead. Se he set out to show, in the book of Hebrews, that we have something better.
I believe the word better is the key word in the book of Hebrews. In this book you find the words better, higher, more excellent, and more perfect.
In the first chapter of Hebrews, Paul begins by arguing that Christ is better than the angels. “God, who at sundry times and in divers manners spake in time past unto the fathers by the prophets, hath in these last days spoken unto us by His Son, whom He hath appointed heir of all things, by whom also He made the worlds; who being the brightness of His glory, and the express image His person, and upholding all things by the word of His power, when He had by himself purged our sins, sat down on the right hand of the Majesty on high; being made so much better than the angels.” Hebrews 1:1-4. He quotes from Psalm 110:5, and says, to what angel did the Lord ever talk like that, like he talked to His Son? In Hebrews 1:6, you see that “all the angels of God worship Him.” In verse seven and in verse 13, quoting again from Psalm 110, he makes a reference to the angels. To what angel did He ever say, “Sit on My right hand, until I make Thine enemies Thy footstool”?
In chapter 3, Paul goes on to argue that Christ is better than Moses. He compares Moses to the one who is faithful in the house, but he says that Christ is the Son of the Builder of the house. And that puts him higher than Moses.
In chapter 5, verses 4 and 5 and onward, he argues that Christ is better than Abraham. He says that because Abraham paid tithe to Melchisedec and Jesus is a priest after the order of Melchisedec, Jesus is better than Abraham. Then as a sub-point, he says, the Levites descended from Abraham, so Jesus is better than the Levites. In Hebrews 5:4,5 Jesus is better than Aaron. Then in Hebrews 7:19, “For the law made nothing perfect, but the bringing in of a better hope did; by the which we draw nigh unto God.” “By so much was Jesus made a surety of a better testament.” Verse 22. Then, in Hebrews 8:1, he considers the sanctuary and says that we have a better sanctuary, one that is made without hands, in the kingdom of God. He goes on to say we have a better High Priest. Look especially at Hebrews 8:6, “But now hath he obtained a more excellent [better] ministry, by how much also he is the mediator of a better covenant, which was established upon better promises.” So it is better, better, better all the way through.
Now, let us look back over this for just a moment. Jesus is better than the angels. Jesus is better than Moses. Jesus is better than Aaron and the Levites. Jesus is better than Abraham. We have a better hope. We have a better testament. We have a better sanctuary. We have a more excellent ministry, a better covenant and better promises. And then he settles in on the point, a better Sacrifice. Look back to Hebrews 7:26,27, “For such an high Priest became us, who is holy, harmless, undefiled, separate from sinners, and made higher than the heavens; who needeth not daily, as those high priests, to offer up sacrifice, first for His own sins, and then for the people’s: for this He did once, when He offered up Himself.” He is going to pick up this thought and enlarge on it in about fifteen more verses, which we want to notice. The sacrifice is better because it only had to be made once.
In Hebrews 9:23,24, Paul is talking about the dedication of the earthly as compared to the dedication of the heavenly tabernacle. “It was therefore necessary that the patterns of things in the heavens [those are the earthly things, of course] should be purified with these [that is, with the blood of calves and goats and so forth]; but the heavenly things themselves with better sacrifices than these. [When you meet someone who says, “What are you talking about, ‘cleanse the heavenly sanctuary’? How could anything defile the heavenly sanctuary?” you just show them Hebrews 9:23.] For Christ is not entered into the holy places made with hands, which are the figures of the true; but into heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God for us.” Hebrews 9:24.
Take your pencil in your hand and be prepared to do a little marking. We are going to show you the words once in contrast with the word often. I would like to suggest that you circle the word once and underline the words that mean repeated, frequent or often. Beginning with Hebrews 9:25-10:3; “Nor yet that he should offer Himself often, as the high priest entereth into the holy place every year with blood of others; for then must He often have suffered since the foundation of the world: but now once in the end of the world hath he appeared to put away sin by the sacrifice of himself. And as it is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment: so Christ was once offered to bear the sins of many; and unto them that look for Him shall he appear the second time without sin unto salvation. For the law having a shadow of good things to come, and not the very image of the things, can never with those sacrifices which they offered year by year continually make the comers thereunto perfect. For then would they not have ceased to be offered? [They would not make sacrifices again if the first sacrifice was fully adequate, fully complete.] because that the worshippers once purged should have had no more conscience of sins. But in those sacrifices there is a remembrance again made of sins every year.” [Verses 4-9 are parenthetical. We are going to skip those.] Let us read verses 10-14: “By the which will we are sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all. And every priest standeth daily ministering and offering oftentimes the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins: but this man, after He had offered one sacrifice for sins for ever, sat down on the right hand of God; from henceforth expecting till his enemies be made His footstool. For by one offering he hath perfected forever them that are sanctified.”
What is Paul trying to prove? He is trying to prove that you do not compare the sacrifice of Christ with the sacrifice of an animal, except in a symbolic sense. The animal sacrifices made on earth were right; they were good, but they cannot be compared with the sacrifice of Christ, which only had to be made once. The reason it only had to be made once is that it was fully adequate; it was not weak or faulty in any way; it was absolutely perfect and complete. We need to take note of this and notice how carefully our beloved messenger to the remnant, Ellen White, followed the thinking and the writings of the apostles, especially of the apostle Paul, because she writes about the sacrifice of Christ in the very same way that Paul did. Unfortunately, this has not always been understood correctly by her readers.
I want to show you something that may surprise some of you if you have not had occasion to study into this. The writer of the book Seventh-day Adventists Believe, religiously followed the language of Ellen White. Let us settle something in our minds before we go any further. Ellen White wrote in Selected Messages, book 1, 20: “Different meanings are expressed by the same word; there is not one word for each distinct idea.” Would you consider for a moment the word fast. If a horse can run with speed, he is fast. If you tie him to the tree so he cannot run at all, he is fast to the tree. If you go without food, that is a fast. If a woman has loose morals, she is fast. Just think of all the different ways the word fast is used. Take, for example the word gamble. This is one of the most frequent little tricks that you will hear some people use, and it is strictly a trick. You are talking about the gambling dens in Las Vegas, shall we say, and a person says to you, “Do you gamble?” Gamble is being defined as the playing of a game of chance. You say, “No, I do not gamble.” He switches definitions and says, “You gamble every time you cross the street.” Now gamble is being defined as the acceptance of an unavoidable risk. That is quite different from playing a game of chance. You see that kind of thing in the writings of people who are either careless or deceitful; I do not know which. We will leave that to the Lord. But to switch definitions of a word in the middle of a discussion without telling the reader that you are changing your definitions, creates confusion.
Now Seventh-day Adventists should not have any trouble with the idea that people in different groups use the same words with different meanings, because their heads are filled with Adventist jargon. (Jargon is what the English teachers call this sort of thing.) For example: What does “the work” mean to you? You know what it means—taking the third angel’s message to all the world; that is “the work.” Now, if you walk up to an Episcopalian minister and ask him what “the work” means, will he tell you that it is taking the third angel’s message to all the world? I do not think so. “Are you going to have a part in the loud cry?” You ask someone who is not an Adventist that question and see what kind of a look they give you. The finishing of the message, the loud cry, the work, the truth, to take stand for the truth, the Spirit of Prophecy, to have an effort—these are examples of Adventist language. “Brother so and so had an effort down in a certain city.” You tell some non-Adventist that and see what kind of a blank look you get. We Seventh-day Adventists have a lot of words that we use with our own definitions.
Now, Ellen White uses certain words that Calvinists use, but she does not use them with Calvinistic definitions. Get that clear before we start. She is not using these words with Calvinistic definitions; she is using them with Pauline definitions (The definitions given by the apostle Paul.) For example, here are eleven references in which Ellen White uses the word atonement and puts with it the word made:
“He bore the curse of the law for the sinner, made an atonement for him.” God’s Amazing Grace, 117
“He has made an atonement for us.” In Heavenly Places, 71
“Christ has made an atonement for the sins of the world.” Lift Him Up, 245
“Christ has made an atonement for you.” Medical Ministry, 44
“But Christ has made atonement for every sinner.” Seventh-day Adventist Bible Commentary, vol. 4, 1178
“Jesus has made atonement for all sins of ignorance.” Seventh-day Adventist Bible Commentary, vol. 5, 1145
“He made an atonement for every repenting, believing soul.” That I May Know Him, 100
“The Saviour made an atonement for the fallen race.” Signs of the Times, Dec. 17, 1902
Look carefully at this one. This combines making and made:
“He has withdrawn from human sight into the immediate presence of God. There he is making intercession for those who by faith come to God. He presents them to the Father, saying, ‘By the marks of the nails in My hands, I claim pardon for them. I have made an atonement for them.’” Signs of the Times, December 30, 1903
He makes atonement by pointing to the cross saying, “I have done it. I have made it.” He does not shed his blood again before the Father’s throne.
“Jesus…made an atonement for us.” Manuscript Releases, vol. 14, 81
“He has made an atonement for sin.” Battle Creek Letters, 56
Now some examples for the words full atonement still using a Pauline definition.
“Christ made a full atonement.” Lift Him Up, 345
“How full the atonement of the Savior for our guilt! [Notice the language.] The Redeemer, with a heart of unalterable love, still pleads [not sheds] His sacred blood in the sinner’s behalf.” Testimonies, vol. 4, 124
“The precious blood of Christ was of such value that a full atonement was made for the guilty soul, and this was to Paul his ‘glory.’” Signs of the Times, November 24, 1890
In the next quote, Ellen White is talking about the soldiers outside the tomb of Christ and how they could not face the heavenly messenger sent to relieve the Son of God from the debt of sin for which He had become responsible:
“And for which He had now made a full atonement.” Youth’s Instructor, May 2, 1901
The word complete.
“God has accepted the offering of His Son as a complete atonement for the sins of the world.” The Faith I Live By, 91
“In the wisdom of God it was complete [the sacrifice of Christ].” Signs of the Times, December 30, 1889
“In every part His sacrifice was perfect; for He could make a complete atonement for sin.” The Youth’s Instructor, June 14, 1900
“We are to rejoice that the atonement is complete; Christ is our complete Saviour.” Review and Herald, November 11, 1890
“His atonement was complete in every part.” Signs of the Times, July 31, 1901
She is talking about quality, you see. “He made a complete sacrifice to God.” Faith I Live By, 50
Please notice carefully the language in the following quotation:
“He [Christ] planted the cross between heaven and earth, and when the Father beheld the sacrifice of His Son, He [the Father] bowed before it in recognition of its perfection. ‘It is enough,’ He said. ‘The atonement is complete.’” Seventh-day Adventist Bible Commentary, vol. 7A, 459
These quotations are talking about quality. The sacrifice is absolutely faultless. It is total; it is complete. Nothing more needs to be added to that sacrifice.
The word perfect.
“A perfect atonement was made.” Lift Him Up, 319
“Then a perfect atonement was made.” That I May Know Him, 73
Then we have the words making an atonement. This is the present tense, now.
“Now, while our great High Priest is making the atonement for us, we should seek to become perfect in Christ.” Great Controversy, 623
“And now, while the precious Saviour is making an atonement for us.” Maranatha, 275
Ellen White applies the words made atonement, full atonement, complete atonement, finished atonement and perfect atonement to the sacrifice, but there is one word that she never applies to the sacrifice, that is the word final.We have references of this type:
“So in the great day of final atonement and investigative judgment.” Great Controversy, 480
“The blood of Christ, while it is to release the repentant sinner from the condemnation of the law, was not to cancel the sin; it was to stand on record in the sanctuary until the final atonement.” Patriarchs and Prophets, 357
“His work as High Priest completes the divine plan of redemption by making atonement for sin.” Manuscript Releases, vol. 10, 157
“As the priests in the earthly sanctuary entered the Most Holy once a year to cleanse the sanctuary, Jesus entered the Most Holy of the heavenly, at the end of the 2300 days of Daniel 8, in 1844, to make a final atonement for all who could be benefited by His mediation, and to cleanse the sanctuary.” Spiritual Gifts, vol. 1, 161
Ellen White uses this language, but not with Calvinistic definitions. She is using Pauline definitions (definitions that she gathers from the apostle Paul), and she uses all of these words made atonement, full atonement, complete atonement, finished atonement and perfect atonement referring to the perfection of the sacrifice. Then she turns her attention to the priesthood and talks about the final atonement being made now, which, again, is strictly following Scripture.
If you turn to the book of Leviticus and read the first fifteen chapters, you will find there, eighteen descriptions of a person coming to the sanctuary with a sacrifice; in every one of those eighteen cases, it says the atonement is made. Then turn to chapter sixteen and you will find five statements that on the great Day of Atonement the high priest makes atonement for those very same people who brought their sacrifice every day throughout the year, and had atonement made for themselves. So, there is perfect Biblical background for describing what Jesus is doing now in the courts of heaven as “making an atonement.”
The apostle Paul was afraid that the people were fastening their faith to a building. What happens to your faith if the building is destroyed? What is the lesson for us?
- Do not fasten your faith to any building, any number of buildings or any worldwide aggregate of buildings. They may be swept away.
- Do no fasten your faith to a priesthood that may be swept away—a ministry, we would say, that may be swept away. If all of the ministers were gone, would that do anything to Jesus Christ? He is still there. Do not fasten your faith to a ministry that might be swept away.
- Do not fasten your faith to a church organization that might be swept away. I did not say will be swept away; I said might be swept away. I do not know, but I am prepared for anything now, as I see what is happening in the organization.
- Fasten your faith to Jesus Christ. He is better than all of these things.
- Fasten your faith to His Word and to His counsels, the Bible and the Spirit of Prophecy. You can sweep away the buildings; you can sweep away the organization; but you still have the Word of God.
- Fasten your faith to His promise that where two or three are gathered together, He will be present there; and that is the church. That is the highest, purest and best definition of the church.