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First Quarter 2014 (January–March)
COMMENTARY ON DISCIPLESHIP
Week 12: March 15–21
COMMENTARY ON THE HARVEST AND HARVESTERS
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 focusses on evangelism: how it looks, how it’s done, how to talk to those being evangelized, how much time to spend on evangelism compared to developing programs for members, waiting for and exercising authority, and what that authority looks like.
Once again, this entire week’s lesson is predicated upon a foundation that fails to identify the gospel, to make it central, and to recognize the fact and necessity of the new birth. Evangelism within Adventism is not biblical evangelism; it is proselytizing for group membership. Adventism does not teach or offer the true gospel, and efforts to make converts are fruitless in the end because the proselytes embrace a belief system that does not include the gospel.
The author attempts to use Jesus’ “methods” for training his apostles as a model for today’s Adventists. Jesus, however, did not use methods. He taught the truth, and He Himself did the work of sacrifice and resurrection so people could have new birth. He taught His disciples. Period.
Sunday’s lesson makes the point that many of the prominent disciples, then and now, have been “introduced to Christ” by unknown but faithful people. “Although these people were not prominent themselves,” the author says, “think how crippled God’s work might have been had they not faithfully witnessed about Jesus.”
God’s work is God’s work. It is not crippled by our obedience or disobedience. As Jesus said, if His disciples failed to call out praises of Him during His triumphal entry, the rocks themselves would cry out. God does not need us. Rather, He chooses to use us and gives us a part to play in His story.
We do not thwart God’s plan; He is sovereign, and He has no “Plan B”. What happens is His will. He is not limited by us or for us. He is in charge of the the universe. Our response to Him will yield fruit and rewards, either positive or negative, but it will not limit His work.
Tuesday’s lesson makes a point that must be challenged. The author takes the position that Jesus invested His disciples with divine power, an example of how we must empower those who work under our authority. The lesson transforms this amazing reality into moralizing about not micro-managing those under our influence but giving them freedom to exercise their own creativity and ideas.
Such a conclusion is completely off-track from the biblical record. First, the lesson states: “Through the Spirit, the Father invested Christ with divine power. Through the Spirit, Jesus likewise invests His disciples with divine power commensurate with their earthly assignments.”
God did not “invest” Jesus with divine power through the Spirit. Jesus was ALWAYS the eternal God the Son.
“For in Him all the fullness of Deity dwells in bodily form” (Colossians 2:9).
Jesus was fully invested with divine power from conception; there was no attribute of God which He lacked at any time throughout His life. He was, however, incarnated in a human body, and as a man, He did depend upon His Father. The Holy Spirit did descend upon Him at His baptism in a remarkable demonstration of the Trinity that marked the beginning of His ministry. Even so, He clearly taught that He was One with the Father. There was no separation of thought, action, word, or will. Ever. The Holy Spirit did not invest Him with divine power because He was already divine and possessed of every attribute and all the power of God. The Holy Spirit did rest on Him at His baptism and clearly demonstrate to everyone who saw that Jesus was God’s anointed, filled with the shekinah glory that previously had been limited to the Most Holy Place in the temple.
Moreover, Jesus’ authority was not a delegated authority in which God “allowed” Him to minister and speak according to His own ideas, creativity, and individuality. His authority was the consequence of His being God. Every word He spoke, every deed He did was the Father’s word and deed (John 12:49-50; 14:10-11). He was not allowed “autonomy”, nor are His disciples then or now given the freedom to do whatever they creatively decide to do. Oh, they may do what they dream up, but a truly born again Christian will be in complete submission to the Lord Jesus and will be responsive to His will and His word. He will surrender his own dreams and desires to the Lord Jesus and be open to receiving His marching orders. Paul said it this way,
I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect (Romans 12:1-2).
A true evangelist or disciple of the Lord Jesus will present Himself for service with the humility and openness of a soldier reporting for duty. A soldier does not decide which campaigns he’ll fight nor strategize how they will be organized. He simply reports for duty and does the job the officer gives him to do. Likewise, we humbly report for duty. We are not told to go be creative; we are told to trust Jesus and submit to Him. If we are bosses or employees under a boss, our orders are the same. We report to Jesus, and He givers us our job.
For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them (Ephesians 2:10).
Thursday’s lesson makes a point about not using abrasive language like “rebellious” or “depraved” to refer to the lost. Jesus, it states, did not call them such harsh terms, but He used the more merciful term “lost”.
This lesson betrays the fact that Adventism does not understand what depravity is nor the fact that we are ALL born depraved, spiritually dead, citizens of the domain of darkness under the leadership of Satan himself (Eph. 2:1-13; Col 1:13).
Without knowing and submitting to the gospel, we remain in the domain of darkness. No matter how sincere we are, we are eternally lost—dead—depraved unless we believe that Jesus became sin for us, died as our Substitute as a perfect sacrifice that God accepted as payment for our sin. Unless we recognize that we are by nature children of wrath, unable to seek, please, or know God and incapable of doing anything good and repent of that sin that defines us, we remain dead. But when we repent and believe in the completed atonement of the Lord Jesus on the cross, the cleansing power of His shed blood that never contaminates heaven with our sin but which cleanses us and washes all our sin away, and by His resurrection which forever broke the curse of death, we are born again; the Holy Spirit indwells us permanently and seals us.
Then, the Father transfers us out of the domain of darkness and places us into the kingdom of the Beloved Son, and we have life—eternal life—even though our bodies are still mortal. Our spirits, however, are fully and eternally alive and will never be separated from the Lord Jesus (Eph. 1:13-14; Rom. 8:38-39.
For a more clear and in depth explanation, with pictures, of what it means to be born dead and to be made alive by the risen Christ, click here: "He was raised so you will never die"