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First Quarter 2015 (January–March)
COMMENTARY ON PROVERBS
Week 7: February 7-13
COMMENTARY ON DEALING WITH FIGHTS
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, Feb. 7: Introduction
The lesson expresses a foundational truth with this statement:
'Proverbs again denounces the deception of appearances.'
The issue of appearances is two-fold. There is the apparent behavior of others around us and then there is the question of how honest we publically portray our own true self.
We can never judge the heart condition of others but we should know the true condition of our own salvation. We must be able to judge what is or is not sin and apply that judgment to our own lives. For that to happen we must know what is the meaning of the word of God versus what is merely man's commentary. This is especially true when your theology is largely founded upon something more than just the Holy Bible.
Take the example of smoking which is a big part of the Adventist health message. It is obvious that this habit is bad for a person's health. How would you react if you discovered another Adventist smoking. Do you really believe someone is polluting the temple of the Holy Spirit if you see them smoking? That is, what does Scripture have to say about our physical health as it relates to salvation versus official Adventist teaching on the subject? Is it really their health or their salvation you are concerned for or is it the appearance of what they are doing? Now reverse this. If you struggle with this habit do you consider it merely a health issue or do you see this as something affecting your salvation? Do you candidly share with others your shortcomings or do you 'fake it' and keep these things to yourself?
And, why is it so important to portray the appearance of having overcome the habit of smoking before you become an Adventist while orthodox Christian institutions have very effective programs that address this or the many other addictive habits by first focusing on becoming a born-again Holy Spirit indwelt Christian as the path to true freedom? True external appearance follows upon the internal heart condition of a person and not the other way around.
Truly changing and overcoming an addiction, whether it be apparent or hidden, along with any other form of sin, has one and only one solution which is centered on first becoming a Christian and where you submit yourself to the Lordship of Jesus Christ:
So I find it to be a law that when I want to do right, evil lies close at hand. For I delight in the law of God, in my inner being, but I see in my members another law waging war against the law of my mind and making me captive to the law of sin that dwells in my members. Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, I myself serve the law of God with my mind, but with my flesh I serve the law of sin. (Rom. 7:21-25)
An associated problem is the Adventist concept of the human spirit, where our spirit is thought to be nothing more than air God breathed into Adam, which ignores the fact that Adam and Eve's had spirits that died on the day they sinned, Gen. 2:15-17. This is why Jesus told Nicodemus that "your spirit must be reborn" (born again) before you can join the kingdom of God and have eternal life, John 3:1-15. Only as you submit to Jesus will you experience victory over sin through his work the of sanctification in your life. The point is that sinners are unable to change by their own power when they are dead in their sins, meaning their human spirit needs to be born again. If you are not born again and indwelt of the Holy Spirit then you are left with merely acting out what isn't real within your heart.
Day Two, Sunday, Feb. 8: Sin and Friends
Today we are examining what we should do instead of spreading gossip by focusing on these two quotes from Proverbs:
Whoever covers an offense seeks love, but he who repeats a matter separates close friends. (Proverbs 17:9)
Good sense makes one slow to anger, and it is his glory to overlook an offense. (Proverbs 19:11)
While it certainly included the situation where you know of a conflict between two other parties, taken together these two quotes also includes when you are the offended person. Proverbs advises us on how we are to respond when we know of when someone harms another person. Regardless of the situation the problem is between the two involved in the conflict. Your 'first response', tempered by the nature of what has happened, should be to seek to resolve this privately, whether you are the victim or not, instead of making a publically spectacle of the incident. Furthermore, unless you are a party to the incident you may not fully know what really happened. Be slow to anger and show your godly love by how you respect the privacy of others by not spreading gossip.
And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him. (Col. 3:17)
Be watchful, stand firm in the faith, act like men, be strong. Let all that you do be done in love. (1 Cor. 16:13-14)
Day Three, Monday, Feb. 9: Be Just!
The theme for today is justice. The lesson begins by defining the Hebrew biblical understanding of God's justice which is good but only addresses one side of God's justice.
While the follow up questions do allude to a more complete understanding God's justice it needs to be clearly stated.
The following quoted definition comes from the Holman Bible Dictionary:
'Nature of justice: Justice has two major aspects. First, it is the standard by which penalties are assigned for breaking the obligations of the society. Second, justice is the standard by which the advantages of social life are handed out, including material goods, rights of participation, opportunities, and liberties. It is the standard for both punishment and benefits and thus can be spoken of as a plumb line. “I shall use justice as a plumb-line, and righteousness as a plummet” (Isaiah 28:17).'
Notice that this quote references Isaiah 28:17. When you turn to Isaiah it is helpful to study the whole chapter to retain the context and a fuller understanding of God's justice.
The lesson is correct in saying God's justice is 'coupled' with his other attributes such as love, charity and righteousness.
The lesson has us turn to John 8:1-11 where we read of the woman guilty of adultery who was brought before Jesus by the scribes and the Pharisees. This account is an excellent illustration of the whole justice of God. According to the "Law of Moses" God's justice seemed to demand that she be stoned to death immediately. However, according to the same Law, before such a sentence is carried out the charge of adultery must be supported by the testimony of two or more witnesses, Deut. 17:6. However, the scribes and the Pharisees violated the same law because both the guilty man and woman must be charged and both put to death, Deut. 22:22. Whatever their secret sins may have been, the failure to bring both offenders before Jesus was a public display of their collective sin that was in violation of the same law the scribes and Pharisees were giving the appearance of upholding.
After sending her accusers 'packing' Jesus was then free to reveal the full justice of God by speaking compassionately with the adulterous woman who made no pretence of being guiltless. Legally, according to the Law of Moses, Jesus would have been only one witness against her and choose not to censure her. Yet, being the Son of God he certainly knew of her guilt. Instead, he quietly said "go and sin no more".
Instead of exercising the punitive side of justice he revealed himself to her as the Messiah who had the authority to forgive her sins, as he was the one who would soon to die for the sins of all the world. The death of Jesus' at Calvary is the ultimate display of the compassionate side of God's justice.
“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him. Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God." (John 3:16-18)
Day Four, Tuesday, Feb. 10: Words, Again
The theme for today is: 'the power of words' both for good and for evil. The lesson brings out some important points found in Proverbs chapter eighteen that establishes the power of our words.
For our commentary we will take this opportunity to focus on Jesus Christ who is called the Word of God in Scripture:
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. And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth. (John 1:1-5 & 14)
The Apostle John makes the point in the opening verses of the Gospel of John that Jesus has always existed even before time begin, that he is 'very God himself and that all inspired Scripture is an expressing of who he is.
This has a major implication on the validity of the writings of Ellen G. White that support Adventist theology which we will explore by beginning with this passage:
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. (Hebrews 1:1-4)
While Jesus Christ is the source of all Scripture he no longer speaks to us 'by the prophets'. From the time of his incarnation and life among us that led him to Calvary he has spoken directly to fallen mankind. Please 'fill in the blanks' of how this affects the unique teachings of Adventism that rely so greatly upon the writings of Ellen G. White.
Also, the last book of the Bible is the last "revelation of Jesus Christ". It was given to the Apostle John who had personally known and been with Jesus:
And the angel said to me, “Write this: Blessed are those who are invited to the marriage supper of the Lamb.” And he said to me, “These are the true words of God.” Then I fell down at his feet to worship him, but he said to me, “You must not do that! I am a fellow servant with you and your brothers who hold to the testimony of Jesus. Worship God.” For the testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy. (Revelation 19:9-10)
Jesus is the Word of God and the last book of the Bible is his direct revelation to mankind. Therefore only Jesus can be called "The Spirit of Prophecy". Anything else is heresy.
Since there is power in all words, whether for good or for evil, we need to take note of this final warning:
I warn everyone who hears the words of the prophecy of this book: if anyone adds to them, God will add to him the plagues described in this book, and if anyone takes away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God will take away his share in the tree of life and in the holy city, which are described in this book. (Revelation 22:18-19)
Day Five, Wednesday, Feb. 11: Two Sides to a Story
A fool takes no pleasure in understanding, but only in expressing his opinion. (Proverbs 18:2)
This quote from the lesson, with reference to Prov. 18:2, expresses the intent of today's lesson:
"Fools are so sure of themselves and so eager to express their own opinions that they are not interested in learning from others. Their closed minds go along with their open mouths. This is a deadly combination. How careful we need to be that we don’t find ourselves doing the same thing, especially on a topic that we are convinced we are right about."
Experience reveals that when two parties are in a confrontation over a matter there is often 'two sides to a story'. This simply means that at least 'one side of the story' is not complete because 'truth' will not contradict 'truth' for truth to have absolute meaning.
If truth isn't absolute then this verse could not be true:
Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. (John 14:6)
Knowing that truth is ultimately an absolute let's consider where 'two sides to the story' has no place in our search for truth such as in the discussion of doctrines central to the biblical faith of Christians. To do that let's consider the unique Adventist doctrine of Investigative Judgment which was adopted as a way to explain why Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ failed to return on Oct. 22, 1844. William Miller's calculations were central at arriving at this date starting with Daniel 8:14. Theologians realize there must be a biblical link between Daniel 8:14 and this date for it to have significance other than to show publically who is a fool. Desmond Ford challenged this doctrine which culminated in the "Glacier View" event held in August of 1980 and resulted in him being fired. Yet his challenge was not met then nor since. We have been waiting almost thirty-five years now for critically needed biblical support for this doctrine.
Arguing that there are two sides to the story of what happen at the "Glacier View" event does not resolve the original charge that the doctrine of Investigative Judgment is false because it lacks needed biblical support.
It is very true that where our sin-tainted self-interests are at stake we often tend to only view an issue from our limited understanding which has the potential of making any of us a fool.
Ultimately God is our only reliable source of truth because this is one of his attributes. Therefore the inspired Scriptures given to fallen mankind can be our only standard for knowing what is truth.
For truth to be what it is, truth can only be absolute.
By the definition of who is a fool introduced in today's lesson the Adventist leadership who have failed to provide biblical support for the doctrine of Investigative Judgment must certainly be prime examples of who are fools.
Day Six, Thursday, Feb. 12: Be Truthful
In the lesson it says:
"Lying, in and of itself, is bad enough; but doing it in court and under oath is even worse. In many countries perjury is a crime, and a serious one at that. The witness must therefore give a truthful testimony."
A false witness will not go unpunished, and he who breathes out lies will perish. (Proverbs 19:9)
Ex. 20:16 and Lev. 19:11-12 along with Prov. 19:9 makes it clear that being 'a false witness' is a serious sin. While lying seems to be clearly identified as a sin, one of the questions we should address; is it always wrong to tell a lie? While biblical examples of where lying has the appearance of being 'the right thing to do' is extremely rare we should consider the account of where Rahab protects the Hebrew spies by lying recorded in Joshua chapter two. She is honored by being listed (Matt. 1:1-17) as an ancestor of our Savior Jesus Christ and for her faith in the following verses:
And in the same way was not also Rahab the prostitute justified by works when she received the messengers and sent them out by another way? (James 2:25)
By faith Rahab the prostitute did not perish with those who were disobedient, because she had given a friendly welcome to the spies. (Hebrews 11:31)
When we compare the New Testament references to Rahab with the account found in Joshua we see that Rahab acted in faith through the knowledge and fear of the one true God of Israel. Scripture makes no observations concerning the lie she told. However in spite of telling a lie she was justified by her faith in God that compelled her to act in the defense of the Hebrew spies.
Since Scripture is clear that telling a lie is a sin what happens to this particular sin of Rahab's? And why are we so focused on just one of her sins when, as a prostitute, she obviously had sinned in many other ways. Like all other sinners she had a sin nature where her dead human spirit must be 'born-again' before she could have been declared justified by God and become part of the kingdom of God, John 3:1-15?
The Apostle Peter gives us an insight that applies to all sinners including Rahab when he was addressing the Jewish 'rulers, elders and scribes':
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)
Without resolving the question of whether or not it is ever ok to lie, we can conclude that when Rahab acted in faith and fear of the living God of Israel, as with all other sinners, she was declared justified by the coming shed blood of the Messiah Jesus Christ shed at Calvary. Her action of telling a lie in the very act of being declared justified illustrates for us that salvation is not about becoming perfectly sinless. Rather, we are saved only because our sins have been 'passed over' by the shed blood of Jesus.
Day Seven, Friday, Feb. 13: Further Study
Today's summary of this week's theme utilizes two excerpts from the writings of Ellen White to emphasize the evil of gossiping. This is the second of the two with her biblical reference to the words of Jesus underlined:
" “The children of these complainers listen with open ears and receive the poison of disaffection. Parents are thus blindly closing the avenues through which the hearts of the children might be reached. How many families season their daily meals with doubt and questionings. They dissect the characters of their friends, and serve them up as a dainty dessert. A precious bit of slander is passed around the board to be commented upon, not only by adults, but by children. In this God is dishonored. Jesus said: ‘Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto Me.’ Therefore Christ is slighted and abused by those who slander His servants.”—Testimonies for the Church, vol. 4, page 195."
The evils of gossiping is the summary topic for today which is supported by this quote. Scripture does say gossiping is an evil, Proverbs 11:12-13; 20:19.
However, when you read the context of Ellen's biblical quote, Matt. 25:31-46, Jesus says something that has nothing to do with gossiping:
"Then they also will answer, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and did not minister to you?’ Then he will answer them, saying, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to me.’ And these will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.” (Matthew 25:44-46)
If we move away from the topic of gossip and instead consider the 'feeding of others' that the quoted words of Jesus was referring to we have this interesting passage to consider where the admonition is to 'let your love be genuine', Rom. 12:9:
To the contrary, “if your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink; for by so doing you will heap burning coals on his head.” Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good. (Romans 12:20-21)
This would have at least been in keeping with the intended topic as it is the very antithesis of gossiping.
Consider also that there is a consistent definition of the word 'eternal' that should be objectively addressed.
Starting Friday, February 13:
Annual Former Adventist Fellowship Conference held in Redlands, California.
Livestreaming is available starting at 8:45 am (PST). The following link takes you to the landing page for the event: