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First Quarter 2014 (January–March)


Week 4: January 18–24


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

In this week’s commentary we will not discuss the discipling of children within the context of the Seventh-day Adventist world-view; instead we will look at what it means to disciple children within the reality of scripture. First, however, a few words about the lesson.

As a parent of young children I am well acquainted with the desire to know what God’s word says about discipling children. While I didn’t expect to find biblical instruction from the Sabbath School lesson (since life-style expectations and the bible are interpreted through the teachings of false prophet, Ellen G. White) I was still struck by the fact that the lesson was vacant of any biblical instruction for parents or teachers. Certainly children were the subject of the lesson, but the content was primarily focused on Ellen G. White’s extra-biblical teachings on the childhood and ministry of Jesus, the value of children, and the sin of child abuse. The only imperatives on discipling children came from Friday’s lesson in another quote from Ellen G. White admonishing parents to see their children as members of God’s family who they are “educating for Heaven”—certainly bolstering support for early childhood indoctrination through the Adventist education system.

There is much that can be said about each day’s lesson, but to keep it brief I would like to address only a few of the most concerning statements made by the author. In Monday’s lesson the author writes that the character of Christ was shaped in part by His childhood experiences and the community of people who surrounded Him. Not only is this not found in scripture, but the implication is that humans had a role in shaping the “flawlessly attractive character” of God incarnate. This is a dangerous lie and it flows naturally from a world view that says that Jesus was just like us and is an example to us in all things. The Holy character of Christ came from the fact that He is God incarnate! The Lord Jesus Christ is intrinsically incapable of sin.

In Wednesday’s lesson the author writes, “…we should do all we can to instill in children a knowledge of God and His love, and nothing can do that more than by revealing that love to them through our love, our kindness, our compassion and our care.” While Christians are certainly called to love, to be compassionate, and to care for others, we are not taught that knowledge of God is transmitted to others by our behavior. On the contrary, knowledge of God is only given through the sacred words of scripture given to us by God. If we are to instill in our children the knowledge of God, then we must teach them to seek Him on the pages of scripture.

The sad irony in this week’s lesson is that while the author admonishes members to protect children from abuse, the reality is that Seventh-day Adventism is spiritual abuse. At the close of this week’s commentaries I will provide resources to support this claim as well as spiritually abusive quotes from letters written by Ellen G. White to her three young boys. First, however, I would like to share what God’s word says about discipling children. To do this, we must review the human condition and the gospel that gives us life which then enables us disciple others.

Born Dead

“For if by the transgression of the one, death reigned through the one, much more those who receive the abundance of grace and of the gift of righteousness will reign in life through the One, Jesus Christ. So then as through one transgression there resulted condemnation to all men, even so through one act of righteousness there resulted justification of life to all men.” Romans 5:17-18

“And you were dead in your trespasses and sins, in which you formerly walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, of the spirit that is now working in the sons of disobedience. Among them we too all formerly lived in the lusts of our flesh, indulging the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, even as the rest.” Ephesians 2:1-3

There is no way around it, the human condition since the fall of man is 100% depraved. I will never forget when my grandfather, on his deathbed, raised his finger into the air and told me, “The Bible says that all men have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, but I know one man who never sinned. Do you know who that was?” The obvious answer to me was Jesus. Imagine my surprise when he told me that while that is true, He was not the only one. He began to explain to me that his brother who died as a baby never had a chance to sin. My heart broke. Not only did my grandfather just assert that scripture was untrustworthy, he also revealed to me the fact that he did not understand the depravity of man. Without understanding the depravity of man, one cannot understand their need for a savior because they will always believe that there is something they must do to participate in their own salvation. This conversation further clarified to me why in his last days my grandfather was so worried that he had not done enough to be saved. I know now that this was not unique to him; this is the experience of many who live under the world-view of Ellen G. White.

Scripture tells us that all people since Adam are born dead. Death reigned through Adam, and we are all by nature children of wrath. At our conception we are born in sin. We are told in Genesis that on the very day that Adam and Eve ate of the fruit, they died. We know they did not die a physical death on that day; what died was their living spirit. From that time on we have all been born with dead spirits, after the likeness of Adam.

When we truly understand the depravity of man, we begin to see that we cannot rise above our nature. We cannot bring our own spirit to life any more than Lazarus could have walked out of his tomb by his own will. The only one who can reverse this death is the life-giver Himself. This is why Jesus told Nicodemus that only those who are born of the Spirit can see and enter the kingdom of God (John 3).

As much as we love our children deeply, we do them no favors to assume that they are born innocent, little members of God’s family. In many ways they are innocent according to human standards. However, when they are weighed on the scale of a Holy God, they too stand condemned. It is their inheritance from Adam, and the only One who can save them from certain damnation is Jesus, the Christ—the Son of the Living God.


Born Again

“…the testimony that God has given concerning His Son… is this, that God has given us eternal life, and this life is in His Son. He who has the Son has the life; he who does not have the Son of God does not have the life. These things I have written to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, so that you may know that you have eternal life.” 1 John 5:10b-13

“Truly, truly, I say to you, he who hears My word, and believes Him who sent Me, has eternal life, and does not come into judgment, but has passed out of death into life.” John 5:24

“In Him, you also, after listening to the message of truth, the gospel of your salvation—having also believed, you were sealed in Him with the Holy Spirit of promise, who is given as a pledge of our inheritance, with a view to the redemption of God’s own possession, to the praise of His glory.” Ephesians 1:13-14

“But God, being rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in our transgressions, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved),” Ephesians 2:4-5

When we learn and believe “the message of truth” (not just an interpretation of it, but the gospel “according to scripture” [1 Cor. 15:1-5]) we are born again. Our spirit is given life by the Spirit of God. While Adventism claims that the “concept” of the human spirit originated in Greek mysticism, a look at the scriptures easily refutes their position. This new birth was prophesied of in Ezekiel 36:26, 27 where God promises a time when not only will He give man a new spirit, but He will also put His own Spirit within man. Romans 8:16 tells us that when this happens, God’s Spirit testifies with our new spirit that we are children and heirs of God.


Called to Serve

“And Jesus came up and spoke to them, saying, ‘All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.’” Matthew 28:18-20

Once we belong to God, we are called to make disciples. We cannot be disciple-makers until we are born again and adopted into the family of God. If we have been taught rightly we understand that we are to observe all that the Lord Jesus Christ commands us in scripture.

“Fathers, do not exasperate your children; instead bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord.” Ephesians 6:4

“All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness;” 2 Timothy 3:16

“…so that they (older women) may encourage the young women to love their husbands, to love their children, to be sensible, pure, workers at home, kind, being subject to their own husbands, so that the word of God will not be dishonored.” Titus 2:4-5

The divinely inspired scriptures reveal to us the will and instruction of our Lord Jesus Christ. In them we see that parents are to train and instruct their children in the scriptures. When we do this faithfully, our children will understand the fallen nature that they inherited and the salvation that is offered to them through the finished work of the Lord Jesus Christ.

Shortly after being born again I was beginning to understand the work that the Lord called me to concerning my children. My daughter was a baby, and my son was in the height of his “terrible threes”. He is a strong-willed young man and when it came to naptime he often went into full rebellion. By this time my husband and I had already shared scripture with him and talked a great deal to him about his nature and his need for a savior, and he had prayed and asked Jesus to be his Lord. I will never forget the day, as he cried on his bed with great sadness, he said through his wails, “I want to obey you, mommy, but I just can’t do it!” In that moment, by the grace of God (because I was beside myself after all that led up to this) I saw an opportunity to disciple my son in what it means to see our helpless state and to submit our will to the Lord Jesus—something we can only do after we are born again. I told my son that I completely understood him. The look that came into his eyes was a bit like relief. I told him that I knew what it was like to want to obey God but to find that I am completely helpless to make the right choice. His wails turned to sniffles and surprise came over his face. As we talked that afternoon we shared together the agony of the human experience for those who long to obey God but who fall terrible short. We talked about the gospel again and he understood in a new way why it had to be Jesus, the God-man, who secures and keeps his salvation. In those precious moments, a 3-year-old boy and a 30-year-old woman gloried together in the hope we have in Jesus. In a strange sort of way our age difference didn’t matter. There we were, brother and sister in Christ, thanking Jesus for what He did for us. By the end of our talk my son asked if he could pray with me. When we were done he had new tears in his eyes as he said, “Mommy, it is true! Jesus did help me! I feel Him helping me!” My heart swelled with joy as I saw the faithfulness of Jesus to confirm to my son that He is real and that He knows him and loves him.

Discipling children, I am learning, is not about creating obedient children who listen the first time and can pop out bible verses they don’t understand on command. It’s about relying on the promised presence of Jesus to show us how to love them for Him and trusting Him to redeem our mistakes as we submit them to Him. It requires humility, patience, and a lot of prayer; and ultimately, the ability for our children to see and respond to scripture comes from the Holy Spirit. My prayer for my children is that they would grow in their knowledge of the Lord and in their love of His word. I pray that they would understand their nature and their need for Him and that they would learn what it means to live a life of obedience to Him.

As it is the prayer of my heart that my children would grow to love scripture, I cannot help but take seriously the high call that God has given me as their mother in Titus 2:4,5. It is overwhelming and here again I am faced with my helplessness, but the Lord Jesus promises that He is with me always, and when I remember His word I can walk one step at a time in the direction of obedience to Him. I want you to look again at this passage and this time read slowly the words that follow “so that”.

“…so that they (older women) may encourage the young women to love their husbands, to love their children, to be sensible, pure, workers at home, kind, being subject to their own husbands, so that the word of God will not be dishonored.” Titus 2:4-5


Spiritual Abuse and Ellen G. White

Now that I have shared a bit (certainly not exhausting the issue) about what scripture says concerning the discipling of children, and I’ve shared a bit of personal experience discipling my own son, I want to direct you back to the lesson. The author was clearly concerned with the seriousness of child abuse, and for that I am grateful. However, as mentioned at the beginning of the commentaries, Seventh-day Adventism is spiritual abuse.

One of the elements of spiritual abuse is the inappropriate use of authority. One way we see this in Adventism is in the hierarchy of church leadership and the unbiblical authority given to their prophet, Ellen G. White, who is used to interpret scripture and God’s will to the organization’s members (see fundamental belief # 18). Adventist’s claim that Ellen G. White was given special knowledge to pass on to God’s “remnant people”. Her visions have reinterpreted scripture and created a pre-creation story that has created a different gospel and a different Jesus from scripture. Since Ellen G. White had special knowledge and insights concerning God, the pillars of Adventism are completely dependent upon her interpretation of reality and of scripture. Disagree with Ellen, and you can lose your job as a pastor in the Seventh-day Adventist organization.

“Ultimately, spiritual abuse is based on a denial of one of the most precious pillar doctrines of Protestant Christianity, namely, the priesthood of the believer. This doctrine teaches that, while church leaders and spiritual teachers are appropriate and helpful (Eph. 4:11-12), every individual believer has the Holy Spirit and has direct access to God (Romans 14:4-5; 1 John 2:27). Thus, every believer has a right to discern the will of God through the Scriptures and the leading of the Spirit without needing a human “priest” to intercede to God for him or her.” (Mending the Soul, by Steven R. Tracy, p. 32)

One of the characteristics within a spiritually abusive system is called “performance preoccupation”. This is when our spirituality is measured by external performance (Matthew 15:1-12). While many Adventists will admit that this is an issue in their organization, they will often follow this up with the idea that it is a personal issue for some people, not something that the church teaches. I too once believed that was the case. That is, until I read the letters that Ellen G. White wrote to her own small boys. Below are a few excerpts from these letters as well as a link where you can find them in their context as well as many more of her letters.

“When you do wrong don't conceal your wrong, but heartily and honestly confess it. This I believe you will do. I have confidence in you that you have tried to do it. Continue to do so, and we shall love you better than if you kept your wrongs concealed. God loves honest-hearted, truthful children, but cannot love those who are dishonest... Many times I ask myself the question, Will my dear children be saved in the kingdom? I cannot bear the thought of their being shut out of the City with the wicked. I love my children, but God says that only the good and holy can be saved. And if you will overcome your wrongs, love one another, and be at peace among yourselves, the Lord will bless and save you.”

“The Lord loves those little children who try to do right, and he has promised that they shall be in his kingdom. But wicked children God does not love. He will not take them to the beautiful City, for he only admits the good, obedient, and patient children there. One fretful, disobedient child, would spoil all the harmony of heaven. When you feel tempted to speak impatient and fretful, remember the Lord sees you, and will not love you if you do wrong. When you do right and overcome wrong feelings, the Lord smiles upon you. Although he is in heaven, and you cannot see him, yet he loves you when you do right, and writes it down his book; and when you do wrong, he puts a black mark against you. Now, dear Willie, try to do right always, and then no black mark will be set down against you; and when Jesus comes he will call for that good boy Willie White, and will put upon your head a wreath of gold, and put in your hand a little harp that you can play upon, and it will send forth beautiful music, and you will never be sick, never be tempted then to do wrong; but will be happy always, and will eat of rich fruit, and will pluck beautiful flowers. Try, try, dear boy, to be good. Your affectionate Mother.”

These letters reveal Ellen G. White’s misrepresentation of the God of scripture. When tested by God’s Word we can clearly see her lack of understanding of the attributes and character of God, of His plan and work of salvation on our behalf, and of the nature and extent of the forgiveness He offers. Furthermore, these letters reveal her own conditional affection for her boys as well as her disturbing ideas about God’s conditional love. For more, see the link provided above.

If the “prophet” of Adventism (see Tuesday’s lesson) is so wrong about God and His word, why would you trust your understanding of the Lord Jesus and the gospel of scripture to her or any religious institution that says that you need them to have “full truth”?

My prayer is that you will stop relying on the Sabbath School lesson to teach you. Stop depending on the misinformation of a false prophet and a toxic and abusive authoritarian religious system. I urge you to pray for the Lord Jesus to show you the truth about Him by His Spirit through His Word.

For more on spiritual abuse and Adventism see here:


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