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Third Quarter 2014 (July–September)
COMMENTARY ON THE TEACHINGS OF JESUS
Week 1: June 28–July 4
COMMENTARY ON OUR LOVING HEAVENLY FATHER
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.
Note: Unless otherwise stated, all biblical quotes are from the English Standard Version (ESV).
Day One, Sabbath Afternoon, June 28: Introduction
Today begins the first day of the first lesson of a new quarter where the focus is on the direct teachings of Jesus Christ who is the eternal Son of God. To distinguish the ‘God of Heaven’ from himself who is also fully God, Jesus refers to him as both his Father and ours. We must keep in mind that Father is far more than just a name. In Scripture names have meaning that give us understanding who the person is. In-other-words, as we explore the meaning of ‘our Loving Heavenly Father’ we will learn more about God. Keep in mind that real understanding can only come through the Bible, the inspired written word of God illumined for us through the ordained work of the indwelling Holy Spirit when we receive the application of the atoning blood of our Savior shed at Calvary. Only then can a person truly learn who God is, John 16:5-15.
If we are to have an accurate true understanding of the teachings of Jesus Christ we must be very careful to know what is actually recorded in Scripture not altered with extra-biblical teaching. In the original languages of the Bible words can have very precise meaning. Even though our conversation in this ‘modern’ age often makes use of expressions with approximate or undefined meaning, this is not true of God’s inspired Word.
Here is the very first sentence of today’s lesson: ‘Jesus delighted to speak of God as the Father’.
While the Old Testament uses the word ‘delight’ in its various forms many times this word is used only one time in the New Testament, Romans 7:22. While you may personally think Jesus was delighted to speak of God as the Father Scripture doesn’t record him as having this motive for saying this.
Shifting our focus somewhat by examining ‘delight’ as used in the Old Testament we find that the root Hebrew word means ‘to bend’ or ‘to wag ones tail’. This is an obvious allusion to a pet of ours who wags his tail in an expression of joy by being around us which illustrates our delight when we truly worship God.
Since Jesus Christ the Son of the Father is himself wholly God it isn’t likely he would do this and may be the reason why there is no record of him using this word in the New Testament.
A totally different but similar expression is used by God the Father at the baptism of Jesus:
And when Jesus was baptized, immediately he went up from the water, and behold, the heavens were opened to him, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and coming to rest on him; and behold, a voice from heaven said, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased.” (Matt. 3:16-17)
Day Two, Sunday, June 29: Our Father in Heaven
The quarterly lesson theme for today is that it is important to “have a right attitude toward God” because (God) the Father is located in heaven.
The lesson also asserts that the mission of Jesus was to “complete the revelation that God had made of Himself in the Old Testament”.
Point #1: God is sovereign.
It is entirely proper to address God as ‘our Father in Heaven’ in the way Jesus encouraged us to pray, Matt. 6:9-13. What makes this even more appropriate is to understand that Jesus the Son of God who is fully God has been seated at the right hand of the Father since his ascension into heaven, Mark 16:19; Romans 8:34. However, what motivates us to have a right attitude toward our Creator God in heaven is that he is the one and only absolute sovereign of the universe.
In the book of Job God referred to Job as ‘a righteous man’ yet the lesson even Job needed to learn was to change his own attitude towards God, to know and humbly accept the awesome sovereignty of God.
God’s challenge to Job he reveals to us his absolute sovereignty:
Then the LORD answered Job out of the whirlwind and said: “Who is this that darkens counsel by words without knowledge? Dress for action like a man; I will question you, and you make it known to me. “Where were you when I laid the foundation of the earth? Tell me, if you have understanding. (Job 38:1-4)
Job’s humble response:
Then Job answered the LORD and said: “I know that you can do all things, and that no purpose of yours can be thwarted. ‘Who is this that hides counsel without knowledge?’ Therefore I have uttered what I did not understand, things too wonderful for me, which I did not know. ‘Hear, and I will speak; I will question you, and you make it known to me.’ I had heard of you by the hearing of the ear, but now my eye sees you; therefore I despise myself, and repent in dust and ashes.” (Job 42:1-6)
Point #2: The real mission of Jesus.
To say Jesus’ mission was to complete the revelation of God while here on earth is utter nonsense. Certainly he told us many things about the Father in heaven but that was not the reason he was born in a manger in Bethlehem, lived among fallen mankind and died at Calvary. He came in person here on earth to do something fallen sinful man could not do for himself. The penalty of sin is death which we could not pay and survive death. Jesus came to earth as a sinless person to die in our place, defeat death and come back by his own power from the grave three days later. That was his mission and that is what he did.
The message of first importance:
Now I would remind you, brothers, of the gospel I preached to you, which you received, in which you stand, and by which you are being saved, if you hold fast to the word I preached to you— unless you believed in vain. For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures, and that he appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve. (1 Cor. 15:1-5)
A warning to not preach anything that adds to or takes away from the pure simple gospel:
I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting him who called you in the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel—not that there is another one, but there are some who trouble you and want to distort the gospel of Christ. But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach to you a gospel contrary to the one we preached to you, let him be accursed. As we have said before, so now I say again: If anyone is preaching to you a gospel contrary to the one you received, let him be accursed. (Gal. 1:6-9)
Day Three, Monday, June 30: Revealed by the Son
Today the focus is on the importance of knowing our Father in heaven but doesn’t answer the question of how this is possible. This leaves us with the unstated idea that maybe we will have eternal life if we know enough about God. The secondary theme seems to be a promotion of the Adventist concept of ‘The Great Controversy’ with the allegation that Satan has challenged ‘the character of God’.
Point #1: The introductory paragraph makes this claim with John 17:3 as a supporting reference; “Nevertheless, our priority should be to know God, because eternal life is to know the Father”. Let’s take a moment and examine this statement in light of the surrounding verses, the context, of John 17:3 to understand what Jesus was really teaching.
When Jesus had spoken these words, he lifted up his eyes to heaven, and said, “Father, the hour has come; glorify your Son that the Son may glorify you, since you have given him authority over all flesh, to give eternal life to all whom you have given him. And this is eternal life, that they know you the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent. I glorified you on earth, having accomplished the work that you gave me to do. And now, Father, glorify me in your own presence with the glory that I had with you before the world existed. (John 17:1-5)
Turning back to chapter thirteen you will see that the setting is the night of ‘The Lord’s Supper’ and the events that led to his death at Calvary. By the Jewish way of reckoning the start of a day this was the day of his death for ‘the sins of the world’. The lesson reference verse is part of Jesus’ prayer to God his Father in heaven. The danger of taking this one verse out of context is that a person could be led to believe that all one must do to gain eternal life is to know who ‘the heavenly Father’ is. If you include the previous verses and the context of this prayer of Jesus’ you will understand that his death at Calvary was to make his payment for mankind’s debt of sin. His death at Calvary, along with nothing else, gives us eternal life. Our salvation and eternal life is totally and solely a work of Jesus Christ at Calvary. How much we may know or not know intellectually about our loving Heavenly Father in heaven is not what Jesus is proclaiming. Instead Jesus is teaching us of a relationship, where because we have eternal life, we intimately know the only true God and Jesus whom he sent.
Point #2: As establish yesterday God is the one-and-only absolutely sovereign of all creation which means he answer to none. To paraphrase what he said to Job; “Where were you when I created the universe and all that is in it”?
Now we will consider the reference used to support the lesson theme that we are ‘to know the Father in Heaven’:
Thus says the LORD: “Let not the wise man boast in his wisdom, let not the mighty man boast in his might, let not the rich man boast in his riches, but let him who boasts boast in this, that he understands and knows me, that I am the LORD who practices steadfast love, justice, and righteousness in the earth. For in these things I delight, declares the LORD.” (Jer. 9:23-24)
What this quoted passage establishes is that a wise person will boast in one thing only, that he knows the LORD whose attributes include love, justice and righteousness. Keeping in mind what Jesus said in his prayer to his Father, we need salvation (eternal life) before we can ‘know’ the Father in heaven. Since the definition of ‘LORD’ includes the understanding that our Father in heaven is totally sovereign there is none who can or would dare bring a charge against our heavenly Father.
The lesson brings in the unbiblical ‘Great Controversy’ theme by saying “Satan’s main attack has been against the character of God”. This is extreme nonsense and blatant heresy. Satan is nothing more than a created being who Jesus calls ‘the father of lies’, John 8:44.
In the lesson reference verses, John 14:7 & 9, Jesus simply says that salvation is only through him and if you ‘had known’ him you would also ‘know’ the Father in heaven. To know Jesus and his Father in heaven is to understand the words of Jesus when he says “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me”, verse 6.
Day Four, Tuesday, July 1: The Love of Our Heavenly Father
Today’s lesson opens with this statement: ‘Jesus came to emphasize what the Old Testament had already affirmed: the Father looks at us with incomparable love (Jer. 31:3, Ps. 103:13)’.
The Old Testament references in the above lesson quote tell us nothing as to the specific reason Jesus came to live among fallen mankind. Certainly the Father loves us as mentioned in John 3:16 & 17 but those Old Testament references don’t tell us what Jesus’ mission here on earth was.
While admonishing the conduct of the Philippian church the Apostle Paul has this to say about the ministry of our Savior Jesus Christ:
Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. (Phil. 2:4-11)
Our Savior Jesus Christ did not come to live among men simply to tell us more about his Father in heaven. He came to die on Calvary. The gospel message as outlined by the Apostle Paul in the following passage was why Jesus lived here among men:
For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures, and that he appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve. Then he appeared to more than five hundred brothers at one time, most of whom are still alive, though some have fallen asleep. Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles. Last of all, as to one untimely born, he appeared also to me. (1 Cor. 15:3-8)
Because of the love of the Father in heaven Jesus came to give eternal life to those who accept the pure simple gospel message. Because it was a complete total victory over death he ascended into heaven and sat down in the most holy of places at the right hand of the Father nearly two thousand years ago.
He is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature, and he upholds the universe by the word of his power. After making purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high, having become as much superior to angels as the name he has inherited is more excellent than theirs. (Heb. 1:3-4)
Day Five, Wednesday, July 2: The Compassionate Care of Our Heavenly Father
The love and compassion of our heavenly Father for each of us is revealed throughout Scripture.
The theme text for today is Matt. 6:25-34 and is part of the teaching of Jesus we normally refer to as the ‘Sermon on the Mount’ which begins back in chapter five. In Matt. 5:3, we see Jesus is preaching to those who would join “the kingdom of heaven”. If you are one who has responded to the gospel message we have spoken of earlier and have joined the ‘kingdom of heaven’ this teaching is for you.
One overall impact when you study the whole of the Sermon on the Mount is that in this present life those who have responded to the gospel message of Jesus Christ do not escape the consequence of living here in this present evil world. Rather, our loving compassionate Father in heaven gives us promises that we will grow in sanctification knowing we are secure ‘in the arms of our Savior’ regardless of our circumstances or the tribulations we face.
If you truly love God ‘all things work for good’:
Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words. And he who searches hearts knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God. And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified. (Romans 8:26-30)
Today’s theme passage begins with the phrase; “Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life”. The key word ‘Therefore’ directs our attention back to the previous section beginning at verse nineteen where Jesus gives three reasons why it is better to trust God rather than ourselves or the things of this present age. So, we will look at why this passage begins with the word ‘therefore’ by look to the verses that came before ‘therefore’.
“Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” (Matt. 6:19-21)
When our life in this present age is over we will take nothing with us. Rather, lay up eternal treasures in heaven where in 1 Cor. 3:10-15 our treasures are called works that must survive the test of fire and are built upon nothing more or less than the foundation of our faith which is the gospel message of Jesus Christ as outlined earlier this week. Our works, even if they do not survive the test of fire, do not affect our eternal security in the kingdom of God.
“The eye is the lamp of the body. So, if your eye is healthy, your whole body will be full of light, but if your eye is bad, your whole body will be full of darkness. If then the light in you is darkness, how great is the darkness!” (Matt. 6:22 & 23)
In the following passage the Apostle John is referring to the teachings of Jesus concerning spiritual light that gives us spiritual heath:
This is the message we have heard from him and proclaim to you, that God is light, and in him is no darkness at all. If we say we have fellowship with him while we walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth. But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin. (1 John 1:5-7)
Consider this; is the spiritual lamp in your life the light of the blood of Jesus that cleanses you from all sin? Or, do you foolishly think any work of yours contributes anything towards your salvation in the sight of God?
“No one can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and money.” (Matt. 6:24)
The message is bluntly simple. You are either totally serving God or you are still part of this world system. There can only be one master in your life.
Day Six, Thursday, July 3: The Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit
Today’s quarterly lesson explores the relationship of our Father in heaven, Jesus Christ the Son of God who is our Lord and Savior and the Holy Spirit, all who are our one and only God. In recent years Adventist theologians have made a real effort to make the Adventist definition of the Godhead compatible with the orthodox Christian doctrine known as the Trinity.
The doctrine of the Trinity defines the mystery of who God is by acknowledging in accordance with Scripture that the Godhead is much more than that of function. It is one of relationship where they all are the one and only eternally existing God.
In the following passage, if what Jesus said of his relationship to the Father in heaven wasn’t true he would have been guilty of blasphemy. The Jews understood and were ready to stone him:
“The works that I do in my Father’s name bear witness about me, but you do not believe because you are not among my sheep. My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand. My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all, and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father’s hand. I and the Father are one.” The Jews picked up stones again to stone him. (John 10:25-31)
The doctrine that exposes the Arian roots of Adventism is the belief that Jesus was once known as Michael the Arch Angel the brother of Lucifer who is now called Satan. This is heresy. Jesus has always been the Son of God and was never the brother of Lucifer.
The Word that became flesh:
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made. In him was life, and the life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it. (John 1:1-5)
In the Gospel of John Jesus is known as the Word who was both with God and was God from the very beginning of time. Jesus is our Creator as all things were made through him. This would include Lucifer who certainly is not the brother of the Son of God.
The preeminence of God’s Son:
Long ago, at many times and in many ways, God spoke to our fathers by the prophets, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed the heir of all things, through whom also he created the world. He is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature, and he upholds the universe by the word of his power. After making purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high, having become as much superior to angels as the name he has inherited is more excellent than theirs. For to which of the angels did God ever say, “You are my Son,” (Heb. 1:1-5)
In the book of Hebrews God declares Jesus is the Son of God who is infinitely superior to any and all angels. Therefore we must conclude Jesus was himself never an angel and certainly could not have been the brother of Lucifer as depicted in the Great Controversy world view.
Day Seven, Friday, July 4: Further Study
This is part of a quote taken from the writings of Ellen White which sets the theme for today:
“In order to strengthen our confidence in God, Christ teaches us to address Him by a new name, a name entwined with the dearest associa¬tions of the human heart...God our Father.”
This can only be in reference to the Lord’s Prayer found in Matt. 6:9-13 or possibly Luke 11:2-4 where Jesus gives this instruction.
Since the Lord’s Prayer is where Jesus gives Christians the instruction to direct their prayers to ‘our Father in Heaven’ it is appropriate to turn to this section of Scripture and see for ourselves why Jesus is giving us this instruction. The following passage precedes the ‘template’ prayer we are to pattern our own prayers after:
“Beware of practicing your righteousness before other people in order to be seen by them, for then you will have no reward from your Father who is in heaven. “Thus, when you give to the needy, sound no trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may be praised by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward. But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your giving may be in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you. And when you pray, you must not be like the hypocrites. For they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and at the street corners, that they may be seen by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward. But when you pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you. “And when you pray, do not heap up empty phrases as the Gentiles do, for they think that they will be heard for their many words. Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him. (Matt. 6:1-8)
In the Matthew version of the Lord’s Prayer Jesus gives multiple warnings about how not to pray. He then introduces the concept of directly addressing God as “our Father in heaven” yet says nothing about why this would “strengthen our confidence in God”. In the Luke shorter version Jesus was simply asked how to pray.
In Hebrews 9:1-14 we see that those who were covered under the Old Covenant could only approach God through a Levitical priest and the High Priest would only enter into the Holy of Holies once a year after purification had been made through the offering of the prescribed sacrifices. At the death of our Savior Jesus Christ at Calvary he became our eternal Great High Priest, his shed blood forever eliminated the need for animal sacrifices and at his death the veil that separated the Holy of Holies from the Holy place in the earthly temple in Jerusalem was torn away proclaiming that the children of God now have eternal direct access to the Father in heaven.
What Jesus was teaching in the Sermon on the Mount which the Lord’s Prayer is a part of is that through his coming shed blood at Calvary for the remission of our sins he was introducing a New Covenant where we would have direct access to God and we would address him as ‘our Father in heaven’ in the same way little children approach their earthly father. This was something revolutionary and never heard before.
In the New Testament we find the term ‘Abba’ used in three places, the first being found in the Gospel of Mark where Jesus was praying his own prayer on the night he was betrayed:
And he said, “Abba, Father, all things are possible for you. Remove this cup from me. Yet not what I will, but what you will.” (Mark 14:36)
The word ‘Abba’ is an Aramaic word that would most closely be translated into English as ‘Daddy’ or ‘Papa’ and is a very tinder term a small child would say to a loving earthly father.
Here are the other two places where we find this term:
And because you are sons, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, “Abba! Father!” So you are no longer a slave, but a son, and if a son, then an heir through God. (Gal. 4:6-7)
So then, brothers, we are debtors, not to the flesh, to live according to the flesh. For if you live according to the flesh you will die, but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live. For all who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God. For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, “Abba! Father!” The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs—heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him. (Romans 8:12-17)