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First Quarter 2015 (January–March)
COMMENTARY ON PROVERBS
Week 11: March 7–13
COMMENTARY ON LIVING BY FAITH
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, March 7: Introduction
This opening paragraph of the lesson expresses the Adventist concept of 'Living by Faith':
'So many voices call to us from so many directions. How do people know what is right and what is wrong? The answer is found in God and His written revelation. We must learn to rely on God and to obey His Law. The rest then will follow by itself.'
According to the Adventist fundamental belief number eighteen, the written works of Ellen G. White "are a continuing and authoritative source of truth which provide for the church comfort, guidance, instruction, and correction". In practice her words are considered at least equal to that of Scripture for a Seventh-day Adventist.
The overall purpose of this commentary is to show that to live by faith the only reliable source for understanding to do so is the Holy Bible.
How do we live by faith? To live eternally depends upon what or who you place your faith. The lesson is correct in saying that the answer can only be found in 'in God's written revelation' if we take that to mean the Holy Bible and include nothing else along with Scripture for understanding what that faith is. When we speak of living by faith that can only mean someone whose faith is founded solely upon the works of our Savior and Lord Jesus Christ:
"...This Jesus is the stone that was rejected by you, the builders, which has become the cornerstone. And there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.” (Acts 4:11-12)
In order to consider to consider what Scripture means by 'there is salvation in no one else' we need to go back in time and consider what God means when he said mankind was created "in our image", Gen. 1:26. Keep in mind that God is spirit and can only be worshiped in the spirit, John 4:24. Therefore it is clear, unlike the creatures we were to have dominion over, we were created with a living spirit patterned after the likeness of God. Next, we need to consider what it means when God said anyone who ate of 'the tree of the knowledge of good and evil', Gen. 2:15-17, would die on the day they ate of it. Since they did eat they did die on that very day, yet they didn't experience physical death until many years later. What died was their spirits. The Adventist concept of our spirit being simply some kind of atmospheric air God breathed into Adam is nonsense. Why? Because the day they sinned Adam and Eve's spirits died yet they didn't stop breathing air and they didn't die physically until many years later.
Turn your focus to the words and works of Jesus and take note of what he said about the need for a sinner's spirit to be "born again" in relation to his metaphor concerning the working of the Holy Spirit:
Jesus answered, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God. That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. Do not marvel that I said to you, ‘You must be born again.’ The wind blows where it wishes, and you hear its sound, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit.” (John 3:5-8 ESV)
The point here is that unless your human spirit has been born again you are not in the kingdom of God. And, if you are not in the kingdom of God you do not have and probably don't understand what true faith is. Real faith must be placed upon Jesus Christ and the finished complete work of Jesus Christ at Calvary:
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 Corinthians 15:1-5)
Notice carefully that this passage lists the death, burial and resurrection as the foundation of a Christian's salvation. For your faith to be real there is no work of your own you can add to this Scripture passage.
Real faith means this:
And the jailer called for lights and rushed in, and trembling with fear he fell down before Paul and Silas. Then he brought them out and said, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?” And they said, “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved, you and your household.” (Acts 16:29-31)
Day Two, Sunday, March 8: Keep the Law
The assertion being made in today's lesson is that wisdom means to obey the eternal laws of God.
It is certainly true that to not obey God is sin.
The real issue isn't about whether or not we should obey God. What is of concern is that within Adventist theology it is asserted that there are certain moral laws of the covenant God made with Israel at Sinai which are still binding upon Christians since they are assumed to be the recognized 'eternal laws of God'.
There are several reasons why the Mosaic Laws contained within the Sinaitic Covenant God made with Israel are not the eternal laws of God which apply equally to all mankind:
The Mosaic Laws are the conditions that must be obeyed only by those who are covered by the Sinaitic Covenant. To be entitled entry into this covenant first the Jewish men had to be physically circumcised. However circumcision, the sign of the covenant God made with Abraham, was first given to Abraham 430 years before the existence of the Sinaitic Covenant and the laws contained in this covenant.
This is as close as Scripture comes to expressing what could be inferred to as the 'eternal laws of God':
But when the Pharisees heard that he had silenced the Sadducees, they gathered together. And one of them, a lawyer, asked him a question to test him. “Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?” And he said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.” (Matthew 22:34-40)
The Prophet Jeremiah told of a time when there would be a New Covenant with the laws of God written on the hearts of those who would be covered by this covenant, Jer. 31:31-34. Laws of a covenant that has been replaced cannot be called 'the eternal laws' of God.
The Sinaitic Covenant had both a starting point and an ending point in time. Therefore the requirements (the laws) of this covenant cannot be considered eternally existing from the time of creation, Gal. 3:15-18; Rom. 7:1-6.
All sinners utterly fail to keep the Mosaic Laws perfectly, Rom 3:23; Isa. 64:6. Jesus teaches us that the real 'eternal laws of God' are infinitely more impossible for a sinner to perfectly obey than the 'minimal standards' of the Sinaitic Covenant, 1 John 3:15; Matt. 5:28.
When Jesus announced a New Covenant his commands replaced the written conditions (laws) of the Old Covenant, 1 Cor. 11:23-26. Jesus' teaches us that his commands go far beyond the written law of the Old Covenant by his teaching of the Parable of the Good Samaritan, Luke 10:25-37.
The purpose of the Mosaic Law is to show what sin is, Gal. 3:19; Rom. 7:7.
It is sin, not the failure to keep the Mosaic Law, that produces death, Rom. 7:13-18
The only possible way a sinner can experience true victory over sin is to submit to the lordship of Jesus Christ where you submit yourself to his ongoing growing sanctification, Rom. 7:19-25.
Day Three, Monday, March 9: Seek the Lord
The lesson refers to Romans 7:7-13 and Galatians 3:24 and even stresses 'reading in context'. Then, with reference to Proverbs 28:5 asks; What is the key for us to “understand all”?
Jesus Christ clearly said that one of the important roles of the Holy Spirit is that of leading a person into all truth, to those he gives the gift of the Holy Spirit, John 15:26 & 16:1-15.
Due to faulty theology as already outlined this week, Adventist do not recognize the role of Jesus' gift of the Holy Spirit in bringing your sin-deaden human spirit life thereby inducting you into the kingdom of God. Unless you have been born-again of the Holy Spirit you cannot know or understand the deep meaning of God's word.
Day Four, Tuesday, March 10: Words for the Rich
The lesson asks us what we are being warned against in this passage:
Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world—the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and pride of life—is not from the Father but is from the world. And the world is passing away along with its desires, but whoever does the will of God abides forever. (1 John 2:15-17)
While the lesson make excellent points concerning the rich and powerful, 1 John 15-17 is not directed exclusively towards them. We must remember that when the Apostle John says "do not love the world" he is addressing all Christians whether they be rich and powerful or they be of any other status in life.
What the 1 John 2:15-17 passage is really teaching is to have 'the love of the Father' within you so as to not lust after the 'things of the world'. Since John is addressing Christians it is certain he is speaking to those who have experienced the benefits of the gospel message of Jesus Christ's death at Calvary.
The Epistle of Galatians stresses the importance of not teaching and believing 'another gospel', Gal. 1:9. Central to this is to understand that Christians, those who are saved by the New Covenant blood of Christ are dead to the works of the law which is liken wearing a ' yoke of slavery':
For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery. (Gal. 5:1)
Those who 'walk by the Spirit' are no longer under the Old Covenant Law:
But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. For the desires of the flesh are against the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh, for these are opposed to each other, to keep you from doing the things you want to do. But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law. Now the works of the flesh are evident: sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these. I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God. But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. (Gal. 5:16-24)
Day Five, Wednesday, March 11: Handbook for the Poor
In addressing the condition of the poor it is recognized that because we all come progeny of Adam and Eve we have all been created equal.
And God saw everything that he had made, and behold, it was very good. And there was evening and there was morning, the sixth day. (Genesis 1:31)
However, according to the standards of this world's system contaminated by sin not all are rich and powerful. Many suffer because of the evil that exists in this present world.
This is but two passages that show our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ is very much concerned about the poor of this world:
“The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord's favor.” (Luke 4:18-19)
Jesus said to him, “If you would be perfect, go, sell what you possess and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me.” When the young man heard this he went away sorrowful, for he had great possessions. (Matt. 19:21-22)
Having treasures in heaven is far different from having treasures in this present life. As followers of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ we can expect 'riches' of greater value than the world's temporal measure of being rich and powerful:
And what more shall I say? For time would fail me to tell of Gideon, Barak, Samson, Jephthah, of David and Samuel and the prophets—who through faith conquered kingdoms, enforced justice, obtained promises, stopped the mouths of lions, quenched the power of fire, escaped the edge of the sword, were made strong out of weakness, became mighty in war, put foreign armies to flight. Women received back their dead by resurrection. Some were tortured, refusing to accept release, so that they might rise again to a better life. Others suffered mocking and flogging, and even chains and imprisonment. They were stoned, they were sawn in two, they were killed with the sword. They went about in skins of sheep and goats, destitute, afflicted, mistreated—of whom the world was not worthy—wandering about in deserts and mountains, and in dens and caves of the earth. And all these, though commended through their faith, did not receive what was promised, since God had provided something better for us, that apart from us they should not be made perfect. (Heb. 11:32-40)
Jesus addresses anxiousness by those who are lacking in their daily needs, Matthew 6:25-34:
“Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life? (Matthew 6:25-27)
As we learn and understand how God views all sinners whether they be rich and powerful or not there is one thing above all else that we should value and rejoice in. Consider what Jesus told these returning evangelist:
The seventy-two returned with joy, saying, “Lord, even the demons are subject to us in your name!” And he said to them, “I saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven. Behold, I have given you authority to tread on serpents and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy, and nothing shall hurt you. Nevertheless, do not rejoice in this, that the spirits are subject to you, but rejoice that your names are written in heaven.” (Luke 10:17-20)
These returning evangelist were rejoicing in the power they had experienced over 'even the demons'. Jesus response was to caution them to rejoice instead in knowing that their names were written in heaven. All the power in the world cannot equal 'God given power' yet even this is surpassed by the joy of knowing your name is written in heaven, Rom. 8:31-39.
Day Six, Thursday, March 12: Loving the Truth
This is the theme passage for today:
The coming of the lawless one is by the activity of Satan with all power and false signs and wonders, and with all wicked deception for those who are perishing, because they refused to love the truth and so be saved. (2 Thessalonians 2:9-10)
Notice that, according to this passage, those who love truth will be saved. Therefore it is imperative to know what truth is and where to find truth.
The lesson includes this Ellen White quote:
“Whatever line of investigation we pursue, with a sincere purpose to arrive at truth, we are brought in touch with the unseen, mighty Intelligence that is working in and through all. The mind of man is brought into communion with the mind of God, the finite with the Infinite. The effect of such communion on body and mind and soul is beyond estimate.”—Ellen G. White, Education, p. 14."
In the interest of pursuing the love of truth we will compare the phrase; "body and mind and soul" as used in this Ellen White quote to the biblical concept, covered earlier this week, that mankind was created 'in the image of God'. Earlier this week it was established that mankind was originally created with a living body, spirit and soul patterned after the image of God.
Orthodox Christian doctrine, as expressed in the following New Testament verses, define the meaning of having been created in the 'image of God' to mean that mankind was originally created with a living body, spirit and soul patterned after God's own image. Furthermore, when Adam and Eve sinned, on the very day they did so, it is their human spirit that died.
Now may the God of peace himself sanctify you completely, and may your whole spirit and soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. (1 Thess. 5:23)
For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart. (Heb. 4:12)
Death, the result of sin, has been 'passed on' (imputed) to all mankind:
Therefore, just as sin came into the world through one man, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all sinned—for sin indeed was in the world before the law was given, but sin is not counted where there is no law. Yet death reigned from Adam to Moses, even over those whose sinning was not like the transgression of Adam, who was a type of the one who was to come. (Rom. 5:12-14)
Day Seven, Friday, March 13: Further Study
We need to explore the meaning of this Ellen White quote versus what Scripture teaches by focusing on her use of the phrase; "Religion brings man into personal relation with God":
“The laws of God have their foundation in the most immutable rectitude, and are so framed that they will promote the happiness of those who keep them. . . . Religion brings man into personal relation with God, but not exclusively; for the principles of heaven are to be lived out, that they may help and bless humanity.”—Ellen G. White, Sons and Daughters of God, p. 267."
Broadly speaking it is understood that religion has to do with how a person relates to God or how to please God. In practice, this normally involves adopting a sets of beliefs about who God is and what one must do to please God.
Religion that God finds pleasing is defined here:
If anyone thinks he is religious and does not bridle his tongue but deceives his heart, this person's religion is worthless. Religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world. (James 1:26-27)
According to James' epistle religion that is pure and undefiled before God is something a person does. The real question should be; can a sinner come into a personal relationship with God through one's own will power, deeds or any kind of self effort?
In John 3:1-8 Jesus teaches that unless we have a spiritual birth we cannot join the kingdom of God. To be in God's kingdom is equivalent to having a personal relationship with God. Jesus teaches that this is something not possible for man to do:
And Jesus said to his disciples, “Truly, I say to you, only with difficulty will a rich person enter the kingdom of heaven. Again I tell you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the kingdom of God.” When the disciples heard this, they were greatly astonished, saying, “Who then can be saved?” But Jesus looked at them and said, “With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.” (Matt. 19:23-26)
Salvation, to join the kingdom of God and come into a personal relationship with God, is impossible for sinners to accomplish by any kind of self-works because all sinners fall short of the glory of God, Rom. 3:23.