The Review and Herald

548/1902

October 14, 1890

The Object of Christ's Teaching

EGW

The object of Christ's teaching was to educate his hearers, and to instill right ideas into their minds. In his sermon on the mount he presented the law of God in its true character. The law had been misapprehended, misapplied, and burdened with exactions which destroyed its force, and made it a dry form, without vital power. The Jews covered up the holy precepts of Jehovah with meaningless prohibitions. RH October 14, 1890, par. 1

The Lord Jesus had precious truth to open before his disciples, but he could not unfold it to their minds until they were in a condition to comprehend the significance of what he desired to teach. Their limited comprehension of truth made it difficult for them to understand his wonderful character and mission. For the traditions and doctrines of men become so inwrought in their life-teaching, that it seemed impossible for them to apprehend the thoughts of God. Christ knew that his disciples must have the treasure-house of truth opened before them, for to them were to be committed his words and works to present to the world. The life and character of Christ were living epistles of the truths he taught, and by his example he inspired faith in his followers. He presented himself as the One referred to by the prophets, especially stating, “They wrote of me.” He came to represent the Father; he was the brightness of his glory, the express image of his person. He was the subject of all the lessons he gave his disciples, the theme to which their attention must be riveted. He was the great center of all, and faith in him was to bring eternal life to all who would receive him. When he presented before them illustrious persons, it was simply to impress them with the fact that he was greater than all the wise and great of earth. He sought to make them understand the significance of the rites of the Jewish church, and as their dull comprehension became more and more enlightened, he impressed them with the thought that he was the originator and substance of all truth. The types and rites of the Jewish church were all connected with himself; he was the glory of the whole system. Everything that was attractive, either in nature or revelation, was found in him; he was the all-absorbing theme of patriarchs and prophets,—the first and the last, the Alpha and the Omega of all things. RH October 14, 1890, par. 2

Though he unfolded great and wonderful things to the minds of his disciples, he left many things unsaid that could not be comprehended by them. At his last meeting with them before his death, he said, “I have yet many things to say unto you, but ye cannot bear them now. Howbeit when he, the Spirit of truth, is come, he will guide you into all truth.” Earthly ideas, temporal things, occupied so large a place in their minds, that they could not then understand the exalted nature, the holy character, of his kingdom, though he laid it out in clear lines before them. It was because of their former erroneous interpretation of the prophecies, because of the customs and traditions of men, presented and urged upon them by the priests, that their minds had become confused, and were hardened to truth. RH October 14, 1890, par. 3

What was it that Jesus withheld because they could not comprehend it?—It was the more spiritual, glorious truths concerning the plan of redemption. The words of Christ which the Comforter would recall to their minds after his ascension, led them to more careful thought and earnest prayer that they might comprehend his words and give them to the world. Only the Holy Spirit could enable them to appreciate the significance of the plan of redemption. The lessons of Christ, coming to the world through the inspired testimony of the disciples, have a significance and value far beyond that which the casual reader of the Scriptures gives them. Christ sought to make plain his lessons by means of illustrations and parables. He spoke of the truths of the Bible as a treasure hid in a field, which, when a man had found, he went and sold all that he had, and bought the field. He represents the gems of truth, not as lying directly upon the surface, but as buried deep in the ground; as hidden treasures that must be searched for. We must dig for the precious jewels of truth, as a man would dig in a mine. RH October 14, 1890, par. 4

In presenting the truth to others, we should follow the example of Jesus. He did not present a great mass of truth, to be accepted all at once. He led the inquiring mind from truth to truth, from lesson to lesson, opening up the significance of the Scripture, as they were able to bear it. In every age the truth appropriate for the time, and essential to character and life, must be revealed in this manner. If any one—however much he may know—takes the position that he has all the truth, that nothing more is essential for him, he makes a great mistake, and will meet with terrible loss. The command, “Go forward,” is ever to be obeyed. We are not to retrograde, not even to stand still, but to advance, step by step, following the Light of the world. RH October 14, 1890, par. 5

Christ said, “He that followeth me shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the light of life.” Light and life are associated together. John says further, “If we say that we have fellowship with him, and walk in darkness, we lie, and do not the truth.” Again Jesus said, “And I, if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw all men unto me. This he said, signifying what death he should die. The people answered him, We have heard out of the law that Christ abideth forever: and how sayest thou, The Son of man must be lifted up? who is this Son of man?” The idea that the Messiah was to die, did not harmonize with the teachings of the scribes and Pharisees, and the people made it manifest by this question that they had not received the light already given them in the teachings of Christ, that they did not understand the lessons given to Israel from the pillar of cloud and of fire. They had not searched the Old Testament Scriptures, but were clinging to the teachings of men, and this made it difficult for them to accept the words of Christ. Then Jesus said unto them, “Yet a little while is the light with you. Walk while ye have the light.” If they heeded this admonition, they could settle down, believing themselves rooted and grounded in doctrines which had been taught them by priests and scribes and rulers; they must go forward from truth to a greater comprehension of truth, finding a deeper meaning in the Scriptures, as they advanced in understanding. Christ was among them, and he was a living expositor of the word of God. Should they stand still, failing to advance in knowledge when such privilege was theirs, darkness would come upon them. And “he that walketh in darkness, knoweth not whither he goeth.” RH October 14, 1890, par. 6

How true it is that those who begin to criticise the message which God sends, do not realize that they are walking in darkness, that they are enshrouding their souls in the midst of unbelief; they think they are right in opposing the word and work of God. Said Christ, “While ye have light, believe in the light, that ye may be the children of light.” “But though he had done so many miracles before them, yet they believed not on him.” RH October 14, 1890, par. 7

The grace of Christ illustrated by the gradual unfolding of the day, from the early morning light to the full blaze of noon. Jesus revealed to his disciples all the truth that their minds were prepared to comprehend; but the meaning of his words cannot be fully appreciated, except as the Spirit of truth illuminates the mind, and leads on to an understanding of the truth appropriate for the time. Through the Spirit of God the mind is made ready to appreciate the sayings of Christ, to be impressed with the importance of his lessons. RH October 14, 1890, par. 8

Those who minister in word and doctrine, should be pure in heart, consecrated, soul, body, and spirit, to the work of Christ. If they are not in this condition, they will not receive the light as Christ reveals it; they will not conform their lives to the standard which God has given, and additional light will not be granted them, because they have not made a right use of that already given. When light is shed upon the mind, and the soul for a time is subdued under its influence, and then the truth is not incorporated into the life-practice, it will lose its force, and the man who is thus privileged will be left in a worse condition than before the light was granted him. He is represented as a slothful servant, as one who did not think the truth of heaven essential to salvation, given to be lived out and revealed to others with whom he should come in contact. RH October 14, 1890, par. 9

Jesus reproved his disciples because of their slowness of heart in comprehending the great and solemn truths he opened before them in relation to his sufferings, rejection, and crucifixion. Why was it they did not understand his plain utterances?—It was because these utterances were not in harmony with their former instructions. They had not felt that it was necessary to search the Scriptures for themselves in order that they might know whether the sayings of Christ were indeed truth. They did not realize that it would be vastly better to question the teachings of priests and rulers, than the words falling from the lips of the world's Redeemer. RH October 14, 1890, par. 10

As it was in the days of Christ, so it is in our own day. Many of our ministers fail of becoming what they might be, because they are willing to accept the opinions of others in whom they have confidence, instead of searching out the truth for themselves. They use the same arguments, present the same illustrations, as some other minister, but their sermons are as destitute of the Spirit of God as were the hills of Gilboa of dew or rain. If such ministers would be ready to listen to instruction, and then diligently search their Bibles, as did the noble Bereans, to see if these things are so, they would know for themselves, and their spiritual understanding would become enlightened, so that they could present truths from the Scriptures in clear, definite lines. Christ's promise is to every one who will search the living oracles with a humble heart, with willingness to obey the truth. He declares that his Spirit will open to the mind of the humble searcher the true significance of his word, and as these truths are cherished, and their vital importance is made plain to the understanding, the soul will be charmed, the heart filled with joy at finding a treasure whose value had not been suspected. RH October 14, 1890, par. 11