Lou Venden: Human beings have a tendency to focus on our own salvation. You have referred to how our salvation needs to be seen in the larger perspective. What I’m wondering is, how does this perspective affect Christian belief in general? Does it make a difference?
Graham Maxwell: I don’t think it minimizes our Christian beliefs in any way, it rather makes them more significant. As I mentioned earlier, the gospel takes on a much broader meaning in the larger view. But that’s not all. Some of us regard the Sabbath as a privilege to observe and a great blessing. A typical approach to the Sabbath is preoccupied with what God has done for our own salvation and what God has done for this planet. But if you limit your understanding to this planet, then the Sabbath was given before sin. And as such it is merely a test of our obedience, to show God’s authority and test our willingness to obey.
In the larger view, however, the Sabbath was given to man after sin entered the universe. Then it’s no longer an arbitrary test of obedience. It’s a great gift that God gave to remind us of all the things the Bible associates with the Sabbath. Things like the freedom and the perfection of Eden, and the freedom that He gave to all of His creatures. God’s rescue of His people in the Exodus. And then the events of crucifixion week. The seventh-day Sabbath is connected with all of those.
Similarly, the law in the larger view is God’s emergency measure to help us. Paul specifically says that in Galatians 3:19. Take, for example the tree of knowledge of good and evil. They were not to eat the fruit of that tree in the garden. In the narrower view, which is preoccupied with what God has done for us on this planet, God said, “don’t touch that tree” before sin. And that would simply be a test of their obedience, or so it’s often explained. But in the larger, great controversy view, they were told not to go near that tree after sin entered the universe. With that in mind, the tree was not so much a test of obedience as something given to protect us. You see, God permitted Satan to tempt Adam and Eve, but Satan was only allowed to approach them at the tree. God was not limiting them, He was limiting Satan! You see, the more one takes the larger view, the less arbitrary God’s requirements, measures, and provisions look. He simply looks a whole lot better in the great controversy view.
Lou: This definitely helps us understand the reason and the meaning behind God’s actions and, at times, lack of action. But this leads me to one final question, “If God won the war at Calvary, then why isn’t it over? Why is it still going on? In fact, why didn’t it end when God threw Satan and his angels out of heaven?”
Graham: Obviously the expulsion of Satan from heaven was a victory, a physical victory. But God was not satisfied with that alone. There were still unresolved questions and wonderings among His family. And so He waited. But when Jesus said, “It’s finished,” something was finished. And Revelation indicates He was recognized in heaven as having won the war (Rev 5:6-14). So why does He still wait? Is it that the war has been won in the minds of His children throughout the universe, but not here on this planet? We’re still trying to make up our minds. And it’s essential that we not only make up our minds, but be so settled into it that we cannot be moved during the terrible events that will happen before the second coming. It is in mercy that He waits.
Lou: I’m sure we’ll have more on this as the series progresses. Tell us about the next chapter.
Graham: The next chapter deals with the question, “What Went Wrong in God’s Universe?” What went wrong in the family? It will be a fresh look at sin in the larger setting of the great controversy. Sin is much more than just breaking the rules, it is a breakdown of trust and trustworthiness. This will take us to the heart of the issue in the war. Until we know what’s gone wrong, how can we understand God’s efforts to set things right?
Note from Jon Paulien: This blog concludes chapter one of Conversations About God, my edited transcript of a 1984 series of lectures followed by questions involving Graham Maxwell and then-pastor Lou Venden. I will begin sharing chapter two shortly.