Friday, April 4, 2008

The Cross and Seventh-day Adventist Preaching

by Bill Brace

No one should be able to preach the cross like a Seventh-day Adventist!

Now that may sound rather boastful at first glance; however, let me explain what I mean. Well, first of all, let me explain what I don’t mean. I don’t mean that a Seventh-day Adventist is better equipped to describe all the “blood and guts” (pardon my expression) that are a part of the crucifixion. Let’s leave that to those who believe the more graphic you are, the more you can impact the senses of the recipient of the description—be it a movie-maker or a preacher.

No, I have made my initial statement in the context of what has been given to this remnant church as the gospel message in the setting of the Most Holy Place ministry of Jesus. To be honest, I’m burdened about this and have been for years.

Maybe a little story can illustrate my stated concern. About two decades ago I had a visit one Sabbath in my church from a woman who had been a schoolmate of mine far too many years earlier. She shared with me that she had been away from the Seventh-day Adventist Church for a period of time but during the interim had attended the services of another Christian denomination. Her next comment left me saddened. She observed, “I had to go to another denomination to discover the gospel, and now I’m back.”

Her words immediately impressed me to begin a self-examination of my sermons. That not so coincidental meeting occurred just about the same time I was beginning to feel that God had bestowed upon my denomination and yours a uniqueness of message. I was growing in my conviction that we were more than just a voice in the wilderness attempting to get the world to listen to the truthfulness of the Sabbath, the state of the dead, or the health message. (Those truths are important, mind you!) No, the gospel had not been left solely to the Billy Grahams of the Christian community and then later to the evangelical spokespersons from the mega-churches. (Let them preach what they have.) No, the greatness of the gospel, and in its fuller and fullest bloom, had been bestowed upon the most unlikely of people—the little flock of Seventh-day Adventism who had been given the sanctuary message.

About that same time I came upon a statement from the Spirit of Prophecy that I had probably read dozens of times but never noticed its significance. It is a simple sentence that says, “The mystery of the cross explains all other mysteries.”[1] (Yes, Ellen White is a theologian par excellence!) All right, but what is the mystery of the cross? With this question in mind, I began to more earnestly study the cross; again, not so much from the context of its physicality but from its meaning, its significance and, especially, its accomplishments for both us and the Godhead in light of the universal Great Controversy.

Let me further mention just one example as a partial explanation of what I mean: our understanding of the second death brings a richness and depth to the sacrifice of Jesus that is without parallel in our modern Christian world. It is the full revelation of God’s agape love. Such a truth has a power within it to cause our own hearts to be “strangely warmed” and, consequently, to incite us to proclaim the cross as it has not been preached since the disciples of the first century. In addition, it gives broader meaning to every doctrine we teach. It is not intended to lift up Christ to the depreciation of the doctrines as some have perhaps thought and taught lately. It is the message, the significance, and the accomplishment of the cross—the gospel—in every doctrine.

Friend, I commend unto you the cross. And then preach it, not as others do in a limited way, but in a manner that will prepare a people, not for death, but for translation and for the final vindication of the character of God!

[1] Ellen White, The Great Controversy (Mountain View, Calif.: Pacific Press, 1911), 652.

1 comment:

Johnny Workentine said...

That the center point of the gospel, rather than laws.