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This weeks lesson is remarkably accurate in many of its details, primarily in its assertion that Jesus is the eternal, divine, never-had-a-beginning Son. It also stresses that He was fully God and fully man. These points are essential for understanding who Jesus is and what He came to do.
It is at that point of what He came to do that the lesson takes a turn away from orthodoxy.
The lessons in the daily studies are less direct and more subtle in teaching the Adventist worldview than some have been, although there are some sentences that reveal the foundation. The more specific Adventist teachings, however, are found in the Teachers Comments.
Son of Man and Son of God
The best of people will inevitably fall short. No leader, except for Jesus, is infallible.In Sunday and Mondays lesson, Jesus two titles, Son of Man and Son of God, are discussed. The lesson states that while Jesus called Himself the Son of Man, he did not use Son of God for Himself. He accepted the title, but did not use it for Himselflest He be stoned to death.
This supposed reason Jesus didnt call Himself Son of God is speculation. Scripture never says nor implies that it was from avoiding being killed that he didnt use this name. In fact, nothing could be farther from the truth. Jesus systematically revealed His identity, and it wasnt subtle or implied as the lesson states.
This idea, that Jesus was coy about revealing His true identity, was something I grew up believing, and for years I wondered why He was not more direct that He was when speaking with the Jews. It was not until I began to closely study the book of John about three years ago that I realized Jesus deliberately DID reveal His true identityjust not in ways a typical irreligious or Adventist person would understand Him. The Pharisees, however, the religious Jews of His day would and did understand what He was doing.
Jesus ministry was marked by signs (we tend to call them miracles, but the book of John specifically calls them signs when theyre labeled at all) to reveal His identity. Jesus deliberately went through His life doing the things that the Old Testament said the Messiah would do. He made the blind to see, the lame to walk, the deaf to hear, and the dead to live. Moreover, He demonstrated His own intrinsic power over nature by calming the storms, turning water to wine, and causing a great catch of fish to be waiting on the other side of the apostles boat. As the Jews watched Him, they KNEW only God could do what He did.
Moreover, as Jesus spoke of His Father, His indivisible unity with Him was clear. The lesson states that Jesus subordinated Himself as a man, thus having to submit to the Fathers will. The Bible, however, is very clear that His submission was not about his humanity but about His divinity and about His identity as the eternal Son. Jesus did not become subordinate only when He became a man; He did the Fathers will eternallybut the Fathers will is inseparable from His will. John 5:19-24 has Jesus describing His relationship with the Father, and the relationship He describes is not about God and man; its about Father and Sonthe eternal Father and Son, a relationship which continued while Jesus was on earth.
The lesson states on page 19 that Jesus submission to the Father was functional because He had subordinated Himself as a man for a specific purpose, a specific goal. When one spends time with the verses from John 5 and 14 that are listed, however, the truth is clearly seen: Jesus was completely in union with the Father, and He completely submitted to the Father without losing any of His eternal power. He limited His glory during His time in a mortal body, but His relationship with the Father was not changed.
Tuesdays lesson, the first of two on Jesus divine nature, again states that Jesus did not state His Messiah-ship in order to avoid being killed. Again, Scripture is clear that He DID very deliberately and clearly reveal His divine nature. In fact, it was the clarity of His revelation that made the Pharisees rejection of Him so serious. Jesus life was spent confirming the Old Testament as the Word of God, the eternal, unchangeable word that always comes true. Jesus spent His ministry demonstrating that He Himself was the one POINT of the Old Testament. He is the one the Law and Prophets and the Psalms foreshadowed. He Himself confirmed the reliability of Scripture and confirmed His own identity and also Gods faithfulness. He, the Messiah, had come.
The Pharisees problem was that He didnt seem to be the kind of person they expected the Messiah would be. Many people, however, from the disciples to the Samaritans in John 4 to Nicodemus did believe Him. They desired to know truth, and they recognized Jesus as God because only God could teach and do as Jesus did.
Thursdays lesson reveals the bottom line of Adventisms view of salvation. In a quotation from Patriarchs and Prophets, Ellen White says, The broken law of God demanded the life of the sinner. In all the universe there was but one who could, in behalf of man, satisfy its claims. Since the divine law is as sacred as God Himself, only one equal with God could make atonement for its transgression. None but Christ could redeem fallen man from the curse of the law and bring him again into harmony with Heaven.
This statement is completely twisted. If the law is as sacred as God Himself, there would be four eternal beings, not One expressed in three Persons. The law is not comparable to God. Rather, the law was Gods gracious revelation of His will for Israel. The law, according to the explanation in Romans 7, is no more equal to God than a last will and testament is equal to the person who wrote it.
Jesus did not come to fix a problem between a between a broken law and sinners. Rather, He came to fix a severed relationship between sinful humanity and Godbetween man and Himself. It was not the law per se that demanded the death of the sinner, although it did state that consequence. It was God Himself who demanded the death of sinners.
This lesson also states that only the life of the Son of God was enough to pay for our sin. The way this lesson presents this Adventist understanding is deceptive. It was not the life of the Son of God that was required. God the Son, the eternal, divine God the Son, did not have to die. Humanity had to die.
Because sin was a human problem, it was a human who had to die. A God dying could not settle the sin problem any more than an animal sacrifice could settle it. It was MAN who sinned, and MAN had to die.
The astonishing love that God showed was not that He martyred Himself but that He, in the Person of the eternal Son, took a mortal human body so He could be the human sacrifice that could pay for human sin. Hebrews 2 explains this mystery:
For it was not to angels that God subjected the world to come, of which we are speaking. It has been testified somewhere, What is man, that you are mindful of him, or the son of man, that you care for him? You made him for a little while lower than the angels; you have crowned him with glory and honor, putting everything in subjection under his feet.
Now in putting everything in subjection to him, he left nothing outside his control. At present, we do not yet see everything in subjection to him. But we see him who for a little while was made lower than the angels, namely Jesus, crowned with glory and honor because of the suffering of death, so that by the grace of God he might taste death for everyone.
For it was fitting that he, for whom and by whom all things exist, in bringing many sons to glory, should make the founder of their salvation perfect through suffering. For he who sanctifies and those who are sanctified all have one source. That is why he is not ashamed to call them brothers, saying, I will tell of your name to my brothers; in the midst of the congregation I will sing your praise.
And again, I will put my trust in him. And again, Behold, I and the children God has given me.
Since therefore the children share in flesh and blood, he himself likewise partook of the same things, that through death he might destroy the one who has the power of death, that is, the devil, and deliver all those who through fear of death were subject to lifelong slavery. For surely it is not angels that he helps, but he helps the offspring of Abraham. Therefore he had to be made like his brothers in every respect, so that he might become a merciful and faithful high priest in the service of God, to make propitiation for the sins of the people. For because he himself has suffered when tempted, he is able to help those who are being tempted (Hebrews 2:5-18).
Jesus had to be human not primarily to be able to understand us and sympathize with us; He became human in order to pay for human sin. Verse 14 says, Since therefore the children share in flesh and blood, he himself likewise partook of the same things, that through death he might destroy the one who has the power of death, that is, the devil, and deliver all those who through fear of death were subject to lifelong slavery.
Jesus had to be human to die a human death for sin, and He had to be God in order to be able to carry the weight of the sin of the world. As a man, He suffered far more than any other human will ever suffer because He was also our Creator and took into Himself all our sin.
The Adventist idea that Jesus humanity was about becoming credible to us, showing us His willingness to suffer and the lengths to which He would go to suffer for us is not at all what His humanity was about. It was, plain and simple, a complete and everlasting identity with fallen humanity so He could die the human death His own law required.
Balance and Jesus Complementary Natures
On page 24 of the Teachers Comments is a question, How does a balanced appreciation of who God is draw the human soul toward accepting Jesus as Savior?
This question reveals the unbiblical nature of Adventist theology. Balance is not a scriptural concept. It is a Buddhist concept, however. In fact, when my husband worked at Loma Linda School of Dentistry, he used to do work for a faculty member who was Buddhist. He was a very nice person, and Richard enjoyed talking to him. One day, however, this dentist told Richard that if he had a really good day at work in which he taught well and had great success with his students, he had to go out that night and do something bad in order to be balanced. He explained that balance was necessary in order to have a stable, quality life; one cant be too good or too bad, or the balance would be thrown off.
The Bible never asks us to balance our concepts of Jesus divinity and humanity. This reality is a mystery which we cannot understand; we can only accept it because the Bible says it is so. It is not maintaining a balance in our minds between thinking of Jesus as human and also as God that keeps us from being either afraid of Him or too casual about Him.
This statement explains the lessons point: Christs deity demonstrates that humans cannot save themselves. A Person outside of ourselves must do that which we could never do for ourselves. Christs humanity demonstrates that god understand our trials and temptations. Jesus lived inside our skin. these are the fundamental concepts that must be kept in focus (P. 26).
The Bible tells us we must recognize that we are guilty, by nature children of wrath (Eph. 2:3) and repent. It teaches us that we must believe that Jesus took our sin into Himself and died the death meant for us. When we believe this, that Jesus blood shed on the cross cleanses us from sin, we are regenerated and sealed at that moment by the indwelling Holy Spirit (Eph. 1:13-14).
There is no mental balance we are to maintain. Moreover, the two things the lesson says we have to balance are not biblical. Jesus divinity and humanity were not demonstrations of anything. Rather, His incarnation was a gracious reality that our Creator humbled Himself for the purpose of taking the Fathers wrath on our behalf and dying so He could forgive us our sin.
On page 28 of the TeachersComments is this passage: However, when Christs suffering is uncovered and we glimpse His limp body nailed to a jagged wooden cross, exposed to the elements, abandoned by His closest associates, we reject Satans lies. Christ gains credibility, and we begin to trust this faithful Friend. Christ is no longer an aloof, otherworldly, inconsiderate intelligence but, rather, a fellow Prisoner, albeit One who has the resources to escape the cell of death.
This comment is full of twisted truth. First, Satans lies are not what were fighting. Our salvation or eternal punishment has nothing whatsoever to do with Satan. We are born guilty, spiritually dead, because we are Adams offspring. He died when he ate the fruit, and we inherit his spiritual death (Eph. 2:1-3). We are born with dead spirits in mortal bodies, and we have absolutely no way out of eternal death unless we believe in the Son and His sacrifice. Satan is not even a player in this scenario. We are guilty of human sin, and we are estranged from God. We can only be reconciled through the blood of Jesus, and we must repent and receive His sacrifice for us and acknowledge Him as our Savior and Lord.
Second, seeing Jesus limp body on the cross has nothing at all to do with our response to Him. Our response is not to be seeing Him as a faithful friend who would do that for us it is supposed to be bowing the knee in complete repentance and reverence as we see He is our Savior, the one who condemned us to death, paying the price and justifying us by His own blood. His blood is what SAVES us. We are eternally lost unless we accept His blood shed on our behalf.
Third, Jesus is not a fellow Prisoner. He was never a prisoner. We are the prisoners, born spiritually dead and in need of a new birth. Jesus was NEVER spiritually dead. He was conceived by the Holy Spirit and, from the moment of His conception, He was spiritually alive as a human. He was the only human ever born who did not have to be born again.
He willingly took a mortal body, a body that had to die, in order to be the sacrifice for human sin. But He was NEVER a sinner, not even a potential sinner, because He was spiritually alive, and because He was also God the Son. This is a mystery we cannot explain, but it is what Scripture tells us, and we must believe it.
He, never a prisoner, took our mortality on Himself and suffered in every way we suffer not to make us sympathetic to Him or to find Him credible, but to carry to the cross all human suffering and sin and to REDEEM it through His death and resurrection.
The Lord Jesus died a human death and rose from death because it never had a claim on Him. He became sin for us (1 Cor. 5:21), but He Himself was without sin. He willingly died; His spirit separated from His body when He died, but death could not hold Him because He had the Life and the power to overturn death.
Jesus resurrection changed everything. His death paid for human sin, and His resurrection restored LIFE to humanity. Now, when we receive Jesus sacrifice for our sin, we are born again with His resurrection life (Romans 8). Moreover, we receive the guarantee of our own resurrect bodies in the Person of the Holy Spirit who indwells us and gives us new life!
When we receive Jesus and His death and resurrection which fulfilled every point of the law, our relationship with the law ends. Galatians 2:17 says,
For through the Law I died to the Law, so that I might live to God.
Romans 7 also explains this change of relationship to the law through the death of Jesus and through our new life in Jesus.
Jesus did not die to exonerate the law. He died to redeem us from the curse of the law of sin and death. The laws purpose was to point to Jesus and to reveal to man his own intractable sin. Jesus fulfilled the law, and when we receive His blood shed for us, we are no longer condemned. The terms of the law to do apply to us because we have been transferred out of the laws domain the domain of darkness into the kingdom of the Beloved Son (Col. 1:13).
It is Jesus whom we honor. Jesus is the One we serve. Jesus is the Way to the Father. The law condemned us. Jesus gives us life.
Third Quarter 2014 (July–September)
COMMENTARY ON THE TEACHINGS OF JESUS
Week 2: July 5–11
COMMENTARY ON THE SON
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.