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Second Quarter 2015 (April–June)
COMMENTARY ON THE BOOK OF LUKE
Week 1: March 28–April 3
COMMENTARY ON THE COMING OF JESUS
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 28: Introduction
The lesson does a good job of introducing 'The Book of Luke' but it should be pointed out that it is normally known as 'The Gospel According To Luke' with it being one of four gospels that outlines the works or 'acts' of our Savior Jesus Christ during his earthly ministry that led to Calvary and the salvation of fallen sinners. Luke initially records the gospel account of the acts of Jesus which he then follows up with an account of 'The Acts Of The Apostles' where he is an eyewitness to much of what he records.
Instead of focusing on the lesson introduction this is a good time to address the phrase, "keeping Sunday is not from the Bible", which is fundamental to the theme of this week's 'Inside Story, A Divine Encounter'.
In Exodus 20 God is speaking to the Hebrew people from Mt. Sinai specifying the conditions of the covenant he makes between himself and them. The 'Ten Commandments' of this covenant was representative of all that the Jewish people agreed they would obey. If they did so they would be blessed. If they failed and refused to repent of their sins then there would be adverse consequences. Central to the Ten Commandments of this covenant was to remember and rest on the Sabbath Day. It was not given to them as the day they would be required to worship God.
The Sabbath, instead of being a day of worship which many falsely claim it to be, was given to Israel as a day of rest in remembrance of when they were slaves in Egypt during a time they had no rest. Rest on the Sabbath day was never about what day to worship God. For those who were bound by the requirements of the Old Covenant the question of worship was centered on the debate of where to worship God, not when. When the 'woman at the well' asked this very question notice how Jesus responded:
Jesus said to her, “Woman, believe me, the hour is coming when neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem will you worship the Father. You worship what you do not know; we worship what we know, for salvation is from the Jews. But the hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father is seeking such people to worship him. God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth.” (John 4:21-24)
In the time of Jesus' ministry here on earth the question concerning worship was focused on where to worship God, not when.
The Prophet Jeremiah spoke of a new covenant which would replace the broken old (Mosaic) covenant God made with Israel:
“Behold, the days are coming, declares the LORD, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and the house of Judah, not like the covenant that I made with their fathers on the day when I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt, my covenant that they broke, though I was their husband, declares the LORD. (Jer. 31:31-32)
Under the New Covenant formally announced by Jesus Christ on the night he was betrayed, Orthodox Christians find their rest in the person of Jesus:
Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” (Matthew 11:28-30)
For further reference read Hebrews chapter four and understand that 'Today' is the time to find rest in the person and work of Jesus Christ. Rest is no longer about a certain day. Worship never was about a certain day.
Day Two, Sunday, March 29: "An Orderly Account"
The last paragraph in today's lesson raises some interesting questions related to what is 'God breathed' inspired Scripture:
"Luke, an inspired author of Scripture, used other material in his writings. Very interesting! Obviously, that use of other sources doesn’t negate the inspiration or authority of what he wrote. What lessons should that have for us as Seventh-day Adventists regarding the question of how inspiration, either canonical or noncanonical, works on inspired writers?"
The lesson author is attempting to justify the writings of Ellen G. White on the grounds that since Luke used sources other than his own direct observations in writing the Gospel of Luke then so can she. However, before this implied comparison can be considered valid her recorded words must be subjected to the same strict rules of what is canon as that of Luke's written works which have been included in Scripture.
We must be very clear on what is or is not canon according to the definition we find in Scripture, the understood truthful inspired word of God, the Holy Bible. In that way we can test the written works of Ellen G. White against the biblical standard or what is or is not the inspired revelations of God.
This is a summary of the accepted criteria used to determine the canon of New Testament Scripture:
The Gospel According to Luke was accepted as canon because it adheres to at least points #2, #3 and #4. For our examination of the writings of Ellen White they will be subjected to Truthfulness, point #3 of what is canon by examining what she has written concerning 'Sabbath Keeping' found in that portion of the Old Covenant law known as 'The Ten Commandments', since 'Sabbath Keeping' is central to Adventist doctrine as illustrated by this Ellen G. White quote:
I saw that the Sabbath commandment was not nailed to the cross. If it was, the other nine commandments were; and we are at liberty to break them all, as well as to break the fourth. I saw that God had not changed the Sabbath, for He never changes. But the pope had changed it from the seventh to the first day of the week; for he was to change times and laws [Daniel 7:25]. (Ellen White, A word to the Little Flock, page 18, paragraph 3, and Early Writings, page 32, paragraph 3)
Ellen White's words contradict these biblical passages whereas the writings of Luke do not contradict other Scripture:
And you, who were dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made alive together with him, having forgiven us all our trespasses, by canceling the record of debt that stood against us with its legal demands. This he set aside, nailing it to the cross. He disarmed the rulers and authorities and put them to open shame, by triumphing over them in him. Therefore let no one pass judgment on you in questions of food and drink, or with regard to a festival or a new moon or a Sabbath. These are a shadow of the things to come, but the substance belongs to Christ. (Colossians 2:13-17)
Likewise, my brothers, you also have died to the law through the body of Christ, so that you may belong to another, to him who has been raised from the dead, in order that we may bear fruit for God. For while we were living in the flesh, our sinful passions, aroused by the law, were at work in our members to bear fruit for death. But now we are released from the law, having died to that which held us captive, so that we serve in the new way of the Spirit and not in the old way of the written code. (Romans 7:4-6)
Either the Ten Commandments, 'Sabbath Keeping' and the rest of the Old Covenant law were nailed to the cross or they were not. Which are you going to believe, Scripture or Ellen G. White? Does she or does she not violate the biblically founded rules of what has been included in Scripture?
Day Three, Monday, March 30: "Call His Name John"
The lesson for today has this statement:
"The birth stories of John and Jesus have parallels. Both are miracles: in the case of John, Elizabeth had gone well past the child-bearing age; in the case of Jesus, a virgin was to bear the child. The angel Gabriel announced both birth promises. Both announcements were received in a spirit of wonder, joy, and surrender to God’s will. Both babies were to grow and become strong in the Spirit (Luke 1:80, 2:40)."
Since God is spirit and God created mankind in his own image (John 4:24 & Gen. 1:27) then it follows that Adam and Eve were both created with a living human spirit patterned after the image of God. Also keep in mind that on the day they sinned they died, Gen. 2:16 & 17. Since they did die on the day they sinned yet lived with physical life for many years afterwards it could only have been their spirit that died on that day.
Therefore, in the case of John the Baptist, the correct rendering of Luke 1:80 is that his own human spirit (lower case 's') is that which became strong. The lesson is wrong to render his spirit as Spirit because upper case 'S' refers to the Holy Spirit.
Jesus Christ, 'born of a woman' while also fully man (but without a fallen sin nature) was always fully God, John 1:1; 10:30. Since God declares that he is spirit this can only mean Jesus and the Holy Spirit are both the one and only same God together with the Father. And, since Jesus Christ has always been fully God this can only mean to include the Holy Spirit. While Jesus is said to have grown in wisdom it does not say he grew in his spirit which for him is the Holy Spirit. As Luke said, he: ...increased in wisdom and in stature and in favor with God and man. (Luke 2:52b)
This would explain how Jesus was able to amaze the temple teachers in the account of when his parents went looking for him:
After three days they found him in the temple, sitting among the teachers, listening to them and asking them questions. And all who heard him were amazed at his understanding and his answers. And when his parents saw him, they were astonished. And his mother said to him, “Son, why have you treated us so? Behold, your father and I have been searching for you in great distress.” (Luke 2:46-48)
In contrast, John the Baptist like all other sinners needed more than just to have his sins atoned for. His dead spirit he was born with needed to be 'born again' (brought to life and grow) in order for him to be in the kingdom of God, John 3:1-16.
Day Four, Tuesday, March 31: "Call His Name Jesus"
The lesson focuses on the name of "Jesus" which, of course, is simply an English word which means 'Savior' or Messiah and is the one promised in Gen. 3:15 for the redemption of mankind.
The lesson quotes Luke 1:31 from the NKJV version of the bible instead of the older KJV or a more modern version such as the ESV. If you read just verse 31 in the NKJV without including verse 32 you are in the possible danger of believing something not true concerning the divinity of Jesus Christ:
'Six months after Gabriel announced to Zacharias the coming birth of John, he announced to Mary of Nazareth an even greater miracle: that a virgin will “ ‘conceive . . . and bring forth a Son, and shall call His name Jesus’ ” (Luke 1:31, NKJV).'
The Angel Gabriel was announcing to the virgin Mary that she would have a son (which should have been rendered with a lower case 's') via the Holy Spirit who would come upon her. A lower case 's' leaves open the possibility that her and Joseph would have other children. This rendering is where heresy could enter in because of the possibility that it implies God has other sons unless you consider the next verse. Luke 1:32 clarifies to her that this one unique child of hers would be the Son (upper case 'S') of God. 'A son' that Mary would give birth to is in reference what was happening to Mary whereas verse 32 tells us this son of hers would uniquely be 'the (only) Son' of God.
For those familiar with Adventist theology you are aware that Ellen G. White said Jesus was once known as Michael the Archangel (EGW, Prophets and Kings, P. 572). Therefore we need to be very careful to read verses such as Luke 1:31 within their surrounding context and compare other reliable translations as needed to gain a clearer understanding of the original text that has been translated into English.
The Apostle John gives us some important information concerning the divinity of Jesus Christ in the beginning of his gospel were Jesus has the title of 'Word':
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. (John 1:1-3)
Jesus Christ, the Creator and eternally existing Word whom Mary gave birth to is the 'only Son from the Father'.
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 1:14)
Reading further, Apostle John quotes the testimony of John the Baptist:
(John bore witness about him, and cried out, “This was he of whom I said, ‘He who comes after me ranks before me, because he was before me.’”) For from his fullness we have all received, grace upon grace. For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. No one has ever seen God; the only God, who is at the Father's side, he has made him known. (John 1:15-18)
Jesus, who is now seated at the side of the Father, is called "God" in verse eighteen. Jesus was seated at the side of the Father at the time John wrote this gospel. See also Heb. 1:6 were Jesus is also said to be seated at the side of the Father. Jesus is begotten and worshiped by the angels "when he (the Father) brings the firstborn into the world".
Day Five, Wednesday, April 1: The Manger of Bethlehem
The lesson attempts to make the point concerning "the poverty of Jesus as seen in Luke 2:7":
And she gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in swaddling cloths and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn. (Luke 2:7)
The lesson uses the following passage to support the opinion that Jesus was born in poverty:
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. (Philippians 2:5-8)
God singled out Mary for reasons of his own choosing. We can gather from the context of what Scripture does say that both Mary and Joseph were righteous in the sight of God which is consistent with their humility. There is nothing in either Luke 2:7 or Phil. 2:5-8 to suggest that Joseph and Mary were parents living in poverty. Humble yes, but living in poverty no. Jesus was born in a manger simply because there was no other choice that his earthly parents could have made. Since God foreknows all things this speaks more of the character of God than the perceived poverty of Joseph and Mary.
Another important issue when God chose Mary to be the mother of Jesus was the fulfillment of some of the many prophecies concerning the coming Jewish Messiah. The genealogies of Mary's first born son, Matt. 1:1-17 & Luke 3:23-38, show that Gen. 3:15 was fulfilled at Calvary which said "he shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel". Jeremiah 23:5-6 was fulfilled because Jesus was born in the line of King David.
Day Six, Thursday, April 2: The Witnesses to the Savior
This is quoted from today's lesson:
'Read Luke 2:25–32. Note three points about the theology of salvation that Simeon brings to the fore: salvation is through Jesus; salvation is prepared by God; salvation is for all peoples—to the Gentiles as well as to Israel. How do these truths tie in with the first angel’s message of Revelation 14:6, 7?'
Now there was a man in Jerusalem, whose name was Simeon, and this man was righteous and devout, waiting for the consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit was upon him. And it had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not see death before he had seen the Lord's Christ. And he came in the Spirit into the temple, and when the parents brought in the child Jesus, to do for him according to the custom of the Law, he took him up in his arms and blessed God and said, “Lord, now you are letting your servant depart in peace, according to your word; for my eyes have seen your salvation that you have prepared in the presence of all peoples, a light for revelation to the Gentiles, and for glory to your people Israel.” (Luke 2:25-32)
According to Luke 2:30 where Simeon was addressing God, he said "...for my eyes have seen your salvation". This is far different from saying what the lesson says, that "salvation is through Jesus" unless you intend to mean through Jesus alone with none of your own works included. Jesus alone, because of his complete finished atoning work at Calvary is our salvation.
The angel of Rev. 14:6 & 7 speaks of 'an eternal gospel' to be proclaimed to all peoples. Since the eternal gospel is about the salvation of all sinners and Jesus alone is our salvation we need to understand how he is and always has been our salvation.
For no one can lay a foundation other than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ. (1 Cor. 3:11)
Jesus Christ himself is the foundation of the Christian faith.
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)
Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God. (Heb. 12:1-2)
Because of the gospel message of what he did at Calvary (his death, burial and resurrection) Jesus Christ alone is the author and finisher of our salvation.
Another caution that must be made concerns Simeon's words "a light for revelation to the Gentiles". Certainly, salvation is for all peoples, not just the Jews. However, we must not forget that the New Covenant Jesus made was made with Israel. Gentiles are grafted into this covenant but do not replace Israel or what God has promised uniquely for and to them.
“Behold, the days are coming, declares the LORD, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and the house of Judah, not like the covenant that I made with their fathers on the day when I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt, my covenant that they broke, though I was their husband, declares the LORD." (Jeremiah 31:31-32)
The Old Covenant is a broken covenant which has been replaced with a New Covenant.
Day Seven, Friday, April 3: Further Study
In one of the discussion questions it is asked, "How does inspiration work?" and then asks us to see Ellen G. White's book; “The Inspiration of the Prophetic Writers,” Selected Messages, book 1, pp. 15–23.
The following is a quote of hers taken from that suggested reference:
'It is not the words of the Bible that are inspired, but the men that were inspired. Inspiration acts not on the man’s words or his expressions but on the man himself, who, under the influence of the Holy Ghost, is imbued with thoughts. But the words receive the impress of the individual mind. The divine mind is diffused. The divine mind and will is combined with the human mind and will; thus the utterances of the man are the word of God. (Ellen G. White, Selected Messages, Book 1, Chapter 1, Page 21)'
We need to turn to Scripture and compare what Ellen G. White said with the recorded words of the Apostle Peter:
For we did not follow cleverly devised myths when we made known to you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but we were eyewitnesses of his majesty. For when he received honor and glory from God the Father, and the voice was borne to him by the Majestic Glory, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased,” we ourselves heard this very voice borne from heaven, for we were with him on the holy mountain. And we have the prophetic word more fully confirmed, to which you will do well to pay attention as to a lamp shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts, knowing this first of all, that no prophecy of Scripture comes from someone's own interpretation. For no prophecy was ever produced by the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit. (2 Peter 1:16-21)
Reading further on Peter also says this:
But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have firmly believed, knowing from whom you learned it and how from childhood you have been acquainted with the sacred writings, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work. (2 Tim. 3:14-17)
When God breathed life into Adam what he did was a perfect work. In the same way when God 'breathed out' Scripture it also was a perfect work of God not "diffused" by the frailties of God's chosen writer's of the Word of God.
Note well what the prophet Balaam said.
But Balaam answered and said to the servants of Balak, “Though Balak were to give me his house full of silver and gold, I could not go beyond the command of the LORD my God to do less or more....But Balaam answered Balak, “Did I not tell you, ‘All that the LORD says, that I must do’?” (Numbers 22:18 &23:26)
While Balaam was a person who may have wished to do otherwise, Balaam was a prophet of God and even he could not say anything other than exactly what God gave him to say. How can Ellen White dare say inspired prophets of God say or record the inspire word of God in any way less than exactly what was given to them to say? God perfectly accounts for the uniqueness of the prophet. Prophecy is never by the will of man. It is totally God's will.