The Sabbath School Bible Study Guide is published by Pacific Press Publishing Association, which is owned and operated by the Seventh-day Adventist church. The current quarter's edition is shown above.
Official Adventist Resources for week 11:
Support this project
If you would like to support this website, please click on the following link to donate online or you may mail your check to: Life Assurance Ministries, PO Box 905, Redlands, CA 92373. Mark your check "Bible Studies."
First Quarter 2014 (January–March)
COMMENTARY ON DISCIPLESHIP
Week 11: March 8–14
COMMENTARY ON DISCIPLING SPIRITUAL LEADERS
Following is a combined commentary on the material included in the Bible Study Guide with references as necessary to the supplemental passages included in the E. G. White Notes for the Sabbath School Lessons.
Commentary on this week's lesson
This week’s lesson, “Discipling Spiritual Leaders”, is an apologetic for the Adventist church structure more than it is a biblical lesson on making leaders.
Jesus has excluded no one from the work of being His witnesses and of making disciples. If we are born again, we must and will be His witnesses. Jesus said in John 15:
“I am the true vine, and my Father is the vinedresser. Every branch in me that does not bear fruit he takes away, and every branch that does bear fruit he prunes, that it may bear more fruit. Already you are clean because of the word that I have spoken to you. Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me. I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing. If anyone does not abide in me he is thrown away like a branch and withers; and the branches are gathered, thrown into the fire, and burned. If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. By this my Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit and so prove to be my disciples. As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Abide in my love. If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father's commandments and abide in his love. These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full.
“This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends. You are my friends if you do what I command you. No longer do I call you servants, for the servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all that I have heard from my Father I have made known to you. You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit and that your fruit should abide, so that whatever you ask the Father in my name, he may give it to you. These things I command you, so that you will love one another.
“If the world hates you, know that it has hated me before it hated you. If you were of the world, the world would love you as its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you. Remember the word that I said to you: ‘A servant is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted me, they will also persecute you. If they kept my word, they will also keep yours. But all these things they will do to you on account of my name, because they do not know him who sent me. If I had not come and spoken to them, they would not have been guilty of sin, but now they have no excuse for their sin. Whoever hates me hates my Father also. If I had not done among them the works that no one else did, they would not be guilty of sin, but now they have seen and hated both me and my Father. But the word that is written in their Law must be fulfilled: ‘They hated me without a cause.’
“But when the Helper comes, whom I will send to you from the Father, the Spirit of truth, who proceeds from the Father, he will bear witness about me. And you also will bear witness, because you have been with me from the beginning” (John 15).
Jesus said that those who abide in Him—and He clearly taught that this “abiding” means being born again (Jn. 3:3-6)—will be recognized as His disciples, and moreover, they will be hated for their loyalty and defense of Jesus. The quarterly’s talk of “spiritual leaders” is vague and a bit pompous; those who are doing the work of the witnessing and defending Jesus are the average, everyday believers. And they will suffer. There is no such thing as a true disciple of Jesus who does not suffer. Jesus IS the knife that divides between the most intimate family relationships (Matt. 10:34-36).
Jesus further taught that His true disciples will serve one another and follow His example of sacrificial love. People are not canvassed for positions of spiritual leadership; God equips each true believer with at least one spiritual gift, and He gives the gifts of evangelism, teaching, and preaching. When Jesus gave the example of foot-washing, He said,
“Truly, truly I say to you, the servant is not greater than his master, and he who is sent is not greater than the One who sent him” (Jn. 13:16).
Elder and deacon requirements
Finally, Paul outlined the qualifications for elders and deacons. If anyone desires the work of being an elder or a deacon, he must meet all of these requirements:
The saying is trustworthy: If anyone aspires to the office of overseer, he desires a noble task. Therefore an overseer must be above reproach, the husband of one wife, sober-minded, self-controlled, respectable, hospitable, able to teach, not a drunkard, not violent but gentle, not quarrelsome, not a lover of money. He must manage his own household well, with all dignity keeping his children submissive, for if someone does not know how to manage his own household, how will he care for God's church? He must not be a recent convert, or he may become puffed up with conceit and fall into the condemnation of the devil. Moreover, he must be well thought of by outsiders, so that he may not fall into disgrace, into a snare of the devil.
Deacons likewise must be dignified, not double-tongued, not addicted to much wine, not greedy for dishonest gain. They must hold the mystery of the faith with a clear conscience. And let them also be tested first; then let them serve as deacons if they prove themselves blameless. Their wives likewise must be dignified, not slanderers, but sober-minded, faithful in all things. Let deacons each be the husband of one wife, managing their children and their own households well. For those who serve well as deacons gain a good standing for themselves and also great confidence in the faith that is in Christ Jesus.
I hope to come to you soon, but I am writing these things to you so that, if I delay, you may know how one ought to behave in the household of God, which is the church of the living God, a pillar and buttress of the truth. Great indeed, we confess, is the mystery of godliness:
He was manifested in the flesh, vindicated by the Spirit, seen by angels, proclaimed among the nations, believed on in the world, taken up in glory. (1 Timothy 3)
Importantly, the most significant qualification for being an elder or a deacon is understanding and embracing the “mystery of godliness”. A man who does not know the reality of the biblical gospel and the nature and identity of the Lord Jesus is not qualified to be an elder or a deacon. Moreover, any organization that makes someone an elder without believing and knowing the basics of the gospel is not a true part of the church. The church is the pillar and buttress of the truth—and that truth is only the truth taught in Scripture, not the truth organized and taught by an extra-biblical prophet. (And it must be noted here that Paul only describes the offices of elder and deacon as being held by men.)
All believers are called to make disciples of all nations. No Christian is exempt—and this disciple-making requires that those being discipled are true believers in the biblical gospel. There is no other kind of disciple allowed in Scripture.