Sabbath, July 5, 2008
Every day we hear about attacks on human life and of people being killed somewhere in the world; the earth is continuously receiving innocent human blood and tears of pain. God’s gifts of life and peace have been lost sight of, while long ago His Word noted: “The way of peace they know not; and there is no judgment in their goings: they have made them crooked paths: whosoever goeth therein shall not know peace.” Isaiah 59:8. This is the case not just with unbelievers; even people who claim to know God and call themselves by His name sometimes have the same problems. For this reason, referring to Jerusalem, Jesus said: “If thou hadst known, even thou, at least in this thy day, the things which belong unto thy peace! but now they are hid from thine eyes.” Luke 19:41, 42.
What is the way of God that so many people don’t know? How may we find it and rejoice in the wonderful gift of peace? The Holy Scriptures speak about “the gospel of peace.” Ephesians 6:15. Do we know what God means by this? Do we long to live accordingly, or do we think there are times when it is permissible for Christians to resort to violence or to take up weapons and fight against their neighbor? What way has the Lord chosen for human beings? What great blessings come to those who choose to live in His way?
Ever since ancient times, it has been revealed that God’s way of salvation is through the sacrifice of Christ. This is the “gospel of peace,” the message which brings peace between man and God and between man and his neighbor. The Holy Scriptures call it also simply “the gospel,” or “the gospel of Christ,” “the gospel of the kingdom,” “the gospel of grace” and “the gospel of God,” or even “the everlasting gospel.” Although there are different expressions for it, it is always the same gospel, about which the apostle Paul wrote: “For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth; to the Jew first, and also to the Greek.” Romans 1:16.
This is the key to the plan of salvation, the way of God for you, for me, and for everyone. It is the gospel that we need to know and live. If we walk in it, we will be following our Redeemer and receiving His blessings. “He who is shod with the preparation of the gospel of peace will walk as Christ walked. He will be able to speak right words, and to speak them in love. He will not try to drive home God’s message of truth. He will deal tenderly with every heart, realizing that the Spirit will impress the truth on those who are susceptible to divine impressions. Never will he be vehement in his manner. Every word spoken will have a softening, subduing influence.” –Evangelism, p. 174.
May the lessons for this quarter help us to understand that the gospel of peace is the way God uses to save human beings, and may we follow in His footsteps in order to live constantly in harmony with that gospel and reap the rich rewards of its great blessings.
– The Brethren of the General Conference
“He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the hearts of men;
yet they cannot fathom what God has done from beginning to end” (Ecclesiastes 3:11, NIV).
Man’s original dignity
1. What was God’s plan in the creation of man? In whose supreme likeness was he made?
“And God said, Let us make man in our image, after our likeness: and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth. So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them.” Genesis 1:26, 27.
“Man came from the hand of his Creator perfect in organization and beautiful in form. The fact that he has for six thousand years withstood the ever-increasing weight of disease and crime is conclusive proof of the power of endurance with which he was first endowed. And although the antediluvians generally gave themselves up to sin without restraint, it was more than two thousand years before the violation of natural law was sensibly felt. Had Adam originally possessed no greater physical power than men now have, the race would ere this have become extinct.” – CounselsonHealth, p. 19.
2. What noble dignity characterized man’s being?
“Lo, this only have I found, that God hath made man upright; but they have sought out many inventions.” Ecclesiastes 7:29.
“Created to be ‘the image and glory of God’ (1 Corinthians 11:7), Adam and Eve had received endowments not unworthy of their high destiny. Graceful and symmetrical in form, regular and beautiful in feature, their countenances glowing with the tint of health and the light of joy and hope, they bore in outward resemblance the likeness of their Maker. Nor was this likeness manifest in the physical nature only. Every faculty of mind and soul reflected the Creator’s glory. Endowed with high mental and spiritual gifts, Adam and Eve were made but ‘little lower than the angels’ (Hebrews 2:7), that they might not only discern the wonders of the visible universe, but comprehend moral responsibilities and obligations.” –Education, p. 20.
“God made man upright; He gave him noble traits of character, with no bias toward evil. He endowed him with high intellectual powers, and presented before him the strongest possible inducements to be true to his allegiance. Obedience, perfect and perpetual, was the condition of eternal happiness. On this condition he was to have access to the tree of life.” –Conflict and Courage, p. 13.
Intimate relationship with God
3. What intimate relationship existed at the beginning between God and man?
“And they heard the voice of the Lord God walking in the garden in the cool of the day: and Adam and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the Lord God amongst the trees of the garden. And the Lord God called unto Adam, and said unto him, Where art thou? And he said, I heard thy voice in the garden, and I was afraid, because I was naked; and I hid myself. And he said, Who told thee that thou wast naked? Hast thou eaten of the tree, whereof I commanded thee that thou shouldest not eat? … Unto Adam also and to his wife did the Lord God make coats of skins, and clothed them.” Genesis 3:8-11, 21.
“To Adam in his innocency was granted communion, direct, free, and happy, with his Maker. After his transgression God would communicate to man through Christ and angels.” –The Story of Redemption, p. 51.
“Adam and Eve received knowledge through direct communion with God; and they learned of Him through His works. All created things, in their original perfection, were an expression of the thought of God. To Adam and Eve nature was teeming with divine wisdom. But by transgression man was cut off from learning of God through direct communion and, to a great degree, through His works.” –Education, pp. 17, 18.
Peace in the animal kingdom as well
4. What relationship existed at the beginning between man and animals? When He gave man the dominion over all life forms on earth, was it God’s plan that man should kill the animals and use them for himself?
“And out of the ground the Lord God formed every beast of the field, and every fowl of the air; and brought them unto Adam to see what he would call them: and whatsoever Adam called every living creature, that was the name thereof. And Adam gave names to all cattle, and to the fowl of the air, and to every beast of the field; but for Adam there was not found an help meet for him.” Genesis 2:19, 20.
“And God said, Behold, I have given you every herb bearing seed, which is upon the face of all the earth, and every tree, in the which is the fruit of a tree yielding seed; to you it shall be for meat.” Genesis 1:29.
“While they remained true to God, Adam and his companion were to bear rule over the earth. Unlimited control was given them over every living thing. The lion and the lamb sported peacefully around them or lay down together at their feet. The happy birds flitted about them without fear; and as their glad songs ascended to the praise of their Creator, Adam and Eve united with them in thanksgiving to the Father and the Son.
“… They held converse with leaf and flower and tree, gathering from each the secrets of its life. With every living creature, from the mighty leviathan that playeth among the waters to the insect mote that floats in the sunbeam, Adam was familiar. He had given to each its name, and he was acquainted with the nature and habits of all.” –Patriarchs and Prophets, pp. 50, 51.
5. Did the law of the jungle–that the more powerful animals kill and eat the weaker ones–exist at that time? What wonderful conclusion did God express concerning the creation?
“And God said, Let the earth bring forth the living creature after his kind, cattle, and creeping thing, and beast of the earth after his kind: and it was so. And God made the beast of the earth after his kind, and cattle after their kind, and every thing that creepeth upon the earth after his kind: and God saw that it was good.”
“And to every beast of the earth, and to every fowl of the air, and to every thing that creepeth upon the earth, wherein there is life, I have given every green herb for meat: and it was so.”
“And God saw every thing that he had made, and, behold, it was very good.” Genesis 1:24, 25, 30, 31.
In translating Genesis 1:24, 25, some versions of the Bible use the terms “wild animals” or “wild beasts,” which may give the impression that God created particular animals to be ferocious or evil. It is important to emphasize that this cannot be, because the last sentence of verse 25 is written in the affirmative: “And God saw that it was good.” These verses designate three kinds of animals: cattle, reptiles, and animals of the field. The first are the domestic livestock; the second, reptiles in general; and the third, the animals which roam freely in the fields or in the forests. Thus, there were no ferocious or evil animals in Eden, but only domestic animals, reptiles, and those creatures which roamed freely. For this reason, other versions do not use the terms “wild animals” or “wild beasts” but simply “beasts of the earth.” The same expression–“beasts of the earth”–is used in Genesis 2:19, 20; 3:1, where we may also understand that these were not evil beasts (see Seventh-day Adventist Bible Commentary, vol. 1, comments on Genesis 1:24, 25).
“There was to be no death in Eden.” –Counsels on Diet and Foods, p. 81.
“The diet of the animals is vegetables and grains…. God provided fruit in its natural state for our first parents. He gave to Adam charge of the garden, to dress it, and to care for it, saying, ‘To you it shall be for meat.’ One animal was not to destroy another animal for food. –Counsels on Diet and Foods, p. 396.
6. What holy invitation is therefore extended to everyone today?
“And to esteem them very highly in love for their work’s sake. And be at peace among yourselves.” 1 Thessalonians 5:13.
“A Christian will not pursue a course of bickering and contention with even the most wicked and unbelieving. How wrong to indulge this spirit with those who believe the truth and who are seeking for peace, love, and harmony! Says Paul: ‘Be at peace among yourselves.’” –Testimonies for the Church, vol. 2, p. 163.
“God is leading a people out from the world upon the exalted platform of eternal truth, the commandments of God and the faith of Jesus. He will discipline and fit up His people. They will not be at variance, one believing one thing, and another having faith and views entirely opposite; each moving independently of the body. Through the diversity of the gifts and governments that He has placed in the church, they will all come to the unity of the faith. If one man takes his views of Bible truth without regard to the opinion of his brethren, and justifies his course, alleging that he has a right to his own peculiar views, and then presses them upon others, how can he be fulfilling the prayer of Christ? And if another and still another arises, each asserting his right to believe and talk what he pleases, without reference to the faith of the body, where will be that harmony which existed between Christ and His Father, and which Christ prayed might exist among His brethren?” –Christian Experience and Teachings of Ellen G. White, pp. 201-203.
7. Is peace an involuntary product of sinful human nature? What are we counseled in order to achieve it?
“And that ye study to be quiet, and to do your own business, and to work with your own hands, as we commanded you.” 1 Thessalonians 4:11
“Follow peace with all men, and holiness, without which no man shall see the Lord. Hebrews 12:14
“Objectionable traits of character, whether hereditary or cultivated, should be taken up separately, and compared with the great rule of righteousness; and in the light reflected from the word of God, they should be firmly resisted and overcome, through the strength of Christ. ‘Follow peace with all men, and holiness, without which no man shall see the Lord.’” –Fundamentals of Christian Education, p. 136.
“We should never give to the world the false impression that Christians are a gloomy, unhappy people. If our eyes are fixed on Jesus, we shall see a compassionate Redeemer, and shall catch light from His countenance. Wherever His Spirit reigns, there peace abides. And there will be joy also, for there is a calm, holy trust in God.” –The Desire of Ages, pp. 152, 153.
An object lesson
One day in heaven
The joy of one day in heaven will be a reward for all our sufferings and problems in this world. We find a very inspiring illustration in what was written by Mr. Earl D. Sims when he returned to the home of his childhood after serving as a missionary in an eastern country for sixteen years.
“After many years of hard labor in a foreign country, suffering many privations and dangers, living isolated from all other missionaries during a time of war, and without being able to satisfy even the most basic necessities of life, I returned home to see my old mother and the other members of my family.
“After traveling for a number of weeks by boat and some days by train, I arrived in my home town. As I stepped down from the train and met my sister, whom I had not seen for many years, and who was no long a child, but a young woman twenty years of age, I felt an overwhelming joy.
“As we neared our home, I saw my mother standing at the door waiting eagerly for us. I ran and embraced her. Oh, what happiness to be home again with my beloved mother who gave me life! This made up for all the sufferings and sadness of my heart during the sixteen years that we had been separated.”
As I read these words, I recalled what heaven means to those who have worked and suffered in this world. “One day in heaven will be reward enough for all the vicissitudes of life in the service of God.” Truly, the presence of God, the love of Jesus Christ, the company of the angels and the redeemed of all ages, and the peace of paradise will dry every tear and comfort every heart forever.