Sabbath School Reflections: Christianity Typified

Reflections on The Great Controversy chapters 22-24

Douglas Na’a
Sabbath School Reflections: Christianity Typified
Photo by Jaeyoung Geoffrey Kang on Unsplash
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 “And let them make me a sanctuary; that I may dwell among them” (Ex. 25:8).

One way to view the sanctuary is as a representation of the Christian journey.

The sanctuary had three sections—the outer court, the holy place, and the most holy place—so too does the Christian experience. Justification. Sanctification. Glorification. Or another way to put it is that the sanctuary teaches us that God has the power to save a sinner from the penalty of sin, the power of sin, and ultimately from the presence of sin.

The Christian Courtyard

It is important to begin by noting that in Genesis 3:8 Adam and Eve hid themselves from God as a result of sin. Sin has no power nor desire to seek God. Consequently, sin only produces fear and separation from God (cf. Is. 59:1, 2).

Salvation, therefore, is always initiated by God. “He first loved us” (1 John 4:19). And “the goodness of God leads you to repentance” (Rom. 2:4).

Inside each of the three sections of the sanctuary were pieces of furniture that represent the responsive act of the sinner to the moving power of God’s grace.

When sinners enter the courtyard, they can experience justification. The first piece of furniture they encounter is the alter of burnt offering also known as the alter of sacrifice. The sinner would lay their hands on the forehead of the lamb, confess their sin, then sacrifice the lamb. The apostle John writes in 1 John 1:9 “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins.” So when the sinner confessed, God forgave. Confession is not just informing God of what you did, but rather acknowledging and taking responsibility for what you did.

Next in the courtyard was the laver that contained water. This is where the priests would wash their hands and feet. The washing points to baptism. There are 2 types of baptism. Baptism of the Holy Spirit and baptism of water (see John 3:5). The baptism of the Holy Spirit is internal. The baptism of water is an external ritual. The two are connected and both are important in the salvation experience. Baptism is an outward sign of an internal transformation that has taken place in the life of the believer through the Holy Spirit.

When a person is baptized, they are uniting with Christ through the burial and death of the old man (see Rom. 6:4-6). When the person comes up out of the water they are uniting with Christ by resurrecting into a new life. These courtyard experiences are all part of justification.

The Christian Holy Place

Unfortunately, many today preach and teach that the Christian experience ends with justification alone.

A more thorough understanding of the sanctuary, however, teaches that the newly baptized Christian, who has responded to the grace of God by confession, repentance, and uniting with Christ through His burial and resurrection in the form of baptism must, like the priest, enter and experience the second section of the sanctuary called the holy place. In this compartment is represented the experience of sanctification. Now that a person has made a commitment to follow Christ in the courtyard, they need to remain in that commitment by growing, walking, and developing into Christ.

As the priest entered the holy place, there were three articles of furniture. To the right was the table of shewbread. Directly in front was the alter of incense and to his left were the seven golden candle sticks. What do they all represent?

In Scripture, Jesus is represented as the “bread of life,” a clear correlation to the table of shewbread. Furthermore, Christ has revealed Himself through His Word, thus making His Word the bread of life (cf. John 5:39). If we are to grow and develop into Christ, we must assimilate the Word of God by studying it. God’s Word has transforming power. When we study the Word with a sincere heart, transformation is guaranteed. King David declared in Psalm 119:11 “Your word I have hidden in my heart, that I might not sin against You.”

Praying for the Holy Spirit to give us insight into God’s Word is imperative. The alter of incense represents prayer (cf. Rev. 8:4). The growth and development of the Christian is impossible without prayer. Prayer must be connected to the reading and studying of God’s Word.

Moreover, as Ellen White so eloquently says,

“Prayer is the opening of the heart to God as to a friend. Not that it is necessary in order to make known to God what we are, but in order to enable us to receive Him. Prayer does not bring God down to us, but brings us up to Him.” (Steps to Christ p. 93).

Prayer will bring the Christian up to a higher and yet higher experience.

Sanctification is not complete without understanding and experiencing the third piece of furniture in the holy place, that is, the seven golden candlesticks. Jesus declares in John 8:12 “I am the light of the world.” He says further in Matthew 5:14 “Ye are the light of the world.” In other words, we are to be a light by witnessing for Jesus. The sharing of your faith is intimately connected with the growth of your faith. God develops our character when we share in His work.

The sharing of your faith is intimately connected with the growth of your faith.

Notice what Ellen White says about the impact sharing our faith has on our sanctification:

“God could have reached His object in saving sinners without our aid; but in order for us to develop a character like Christ’s, we must share in His work.”(Desire of Ages, p. 142).

The golden candlesticks in the sanctuary were to never go out. They were to burn continually. The same applies in the Christian life. Our witnessing and sharing of our faith to others is to never cease. Witnessing and evangelism are not an event, they are a lifestyle.

The Most Holy Place

Inside the third section of the sanctuary is the most holy place. One piece of furniture stands out in this apartment—the ark of the covenant, on which the presence of God rested. Much can be said about this magnificent piece of furniture. One thing that stands out is that inside the ark of the covenant was the law of God.

Satan has been successful in deceiving many to believe that it is a burden to keep the law of God. He has also convinced many to think that God’s law is no longer binding, and it is impossible to obey God’s ten commandments.

Yet the Bible describes God’s end time people that will be translated without seeing death as those that “keep the commandments of God and have the testimony of Jesus” (Rev. 12:17).

How is it possible to keep God’s law? One word: Grace.

Paul says in Romans 1:5 “We have received grace and apostleship, for obedience to the faith.”

Grace is more than just the forgiveness of sin. Grace is God’s empowerment in the Christian life to obey. Jesus’ appeal to any person that desires to be in heaven with Him is “If you love Me, keep My commandments” (John 14:15). So the third compartment points to the experience of glorification, which happens at the second coming of Jesus.

Douglas Na’a

Douglas Na’a is the director of Soul-winning and Leadership Training (SALT) a partnership between Southern Adventist University and It Is Written.