The Sabbath School Bible Study Guide is published by Pacific Press Publishing Association, which is owned and operated by the Seventh-day Adventist church. The current quarter's edition is shown above.
Official Adventist Resources for week 12:
Support this project
If you would like to support this website, please click on the following link to donate online or you may mail your check to: Life Assurance Ministries, PO Box 905, Redlands, CA 92373. Mark your check "Bible Studies."
Second Quarter 2015 (April–June)
COMMENTARY ON THE BOOK OF LUKE
Week 12: June 13–19
COMMENTARY ON CRUCIFIED AND RISEN
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).
This lesson covers the culmination of Jesus’ ministry, but it does so with an Adventist twist instead of with biblical truth. We will walk through the week’s lessons and examine how the Great Controversy paradigm guts the propitiating sacrifice of the Lord Jesus and His resurrection from the dead of their eternal significance for us.
Today’s lesson makes a point of explaining the importance of Jesus’ struggle in Gethsemane as a central part of the great controversy and victory over sin. This “meaning” attached to Gethsemane is not scriptural. It is entirely the product of Ellen White’s commentary. In fact, Ellen’s attaching eternal significance to Jesus’ battle in the garden is very similar to Mormonism’s belief that the real victory was won in the garden of Gethsemane, not on the cross.
The attempt to make a comparison and contrast between the two gardens, Eden and Gethsemane, is entirely contrived. The biblical text does not support this sort of pairing. They are not mirrors of each other. The victory of the world was not assured in Gethsemane, as the lesson’s author asserts on page 164 of the quarterly. The victory—not of the world, but of the Lord Jesus over the power of death that held the world in bondage—was assured on the cross.
In fact, the idea that “the world’s ultimate victory was assured” implies the Adventist notion that ultimately “obedient” humanity will cease to sin before Jesus’ returns. This idea is not scriptural, either, and the world will not be victorious. The world is being redeemed; it is not becoming victorious. In fact, creation is not capable of becoming victorious. It can only be redeemed and saved.
This fact about creation being redeemed, not victorious, also reveals the subtle idea about Jesus’ own nature that is embedded in this lesson’s assumptions. The author states that Gethsemane stands for “two crucial things: first, for a most vicious attempt of Satan to derail Jesus from God’s mission and purpose; next, for the noblest example of reliance on God’s strength to accomplish His will and purpose. Gethsemane shows that, however strong the battle is and however weak the self is, victory is certain toothless who have experienced the strength of prayer.”
This assessment completely misses the point. Gethsemane shows us Jesus’ agony as He contemplated the agony we are not capable of understanding—the reality that He would become sin for us and experience separation from the Father. He did not have a weak “self”. Jesus’ “self” was fully God and fully man—but He had sinless flesh. This point is not Adventism’s belief.
While some Adventists say that Jesus did not have sinful flesh, the premise of historic Adventism is that Jesus inherited Mary’s sinful genetic propensities to sin and had to struggle to overcome sin as we do. In fact, the lesson calls Jesus’ Gethsemane struggle “the noblest example of reliance on God’s strength”.
Jesus’ struggle in Gethsemane was not an example for us in the sense that we, too, can “overcome sin” by prayer and “reliance on God’s strength”. In fact we CANNOT overcome sin by prayer and reliance on God. Jesus did NOT have sinful flesh as we have, and He had no propensities that pushed Him toward sin. Jesus was sinless. He prayed and confessed His desire not to drink the cup of Calvary, but He yielded to His Father in obedience. His struggle was unique; it was not our “example”. It reveals the agony He experienced when He contemplated what His sacrifice was about to bring about, but it was not our example for overcoming sin.
The only way we can overcome sin is to accept Jesus’ sacrifice on our behalf and receive the new birth into a living hope that His death provides for us. Without Jesus’ death, we would have no hope whatsoever for overcoming sin. When we are born again, however, we are made alive and counted righteous at that moment, and from then on we have the choice to submit and trust or to indulge the flesh.
Jesus submitted to His Father; He did not subjugate temptation and sinful flesh. He did not overcome a propensity to sin.
Gethsemane is not part of our salvation; it is, rather, a peek into the Lord Jesus’s suffering and obedience unto death. Moreover, there is no “great controversy”, and Satan is not engaged in a battle with Jesus. Jesus defeated Satan on the cross (Col 1:14). He has always been Jesus’ creation; he has never been on any sort of real or imagined level playing field with his Creator.
The lesson’s statement that “however weak the self is, victory is certain to those who have experienced the strength of prayer” is simply false. A non-born-again person can pray to overcome temptation until the figurative cows come home, but it will not yield victory. The only way a person has any ability to fight sin whatsoever is by giving up everything he believes he can and must do and believing in Jesus’ sacrifice for sin. Each person must face that fact that he or she is born depraved, utterly sinful and spiritual dead because of the human condition inherited from Adam:
And you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience—among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind (Ephesians 2:1-3).
Only when we face the fact that we cannot avoid sin can we truly repent and receive the forgiveness in Jesus’ blood.
Gethsemane was not the battlefield on which any victory over sin was won. It was the struggle of a man who was also the Son of God as He contemplated the infinite agony of becoming sin for the sake of His creations who have become His enemies.
Monday’s lesson describes Judas as a man to gave in to Satan and “became a lost soul” (p. 165). The author states, “Judas, who had so much potential, who could have been another Paul, instead went in a completely wrong direction. What could've been a Gethsemane experience for him was, instead, like the Fall in Eden.”
This romanticized (and moralizing) picture of Judas is not scriptural. Ellen White pictures Judas as a talented man with high hopes for Jesus’ kingdom, but his love of money and power caused him to fall away from loyalty to Jesus.
Once again, the bottom line is completely missed: Judas did not believe in Jesus. The statement in Genesis 15:6 that “Abraham believed God, and it was counted to him for righteousness” applies to every human throughout history who is and will be saved. Those who believe are counted righteous. Judas did not believe. In fact, there was never a point, according to the biblical record, when Judas did believe. This lesson simply does not deal with what Scripture says about him:
Truly, truly, I say to you, a servant is not greater than his master, nor is a messenger greater than the one who sent him. If you know these things, blessed are you if you do them. I am not speaking of all of you; I know whom I have chosen. But the Scripture will be fulfilled, ‘He who ate my bread has lifted his heel against me.’ I am telling you this now, before it takes place, that when it does take place you may believe that I am he. Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever receives the one I send receives me, and whoever receives me receives the one who sent me.”
After saying these things, Jesus was troubled in his spirit, and testified, “Truly, truly, I say to you, one of you will betray me.” The disciples looked at one another, uncertain of whom he spoke. One of his disciples, whom Jesus loved, was reclining at table at Jesus' side, so Simon Peter motioned to him to ask Jesus of whom he was speaking. So that disciple, leaning back against Jesus, said to him, “Lord, who is it?” Jesus answered, “It is he to whom I will give this morsel of bread when I have dipped it.” So when he had dipped the morsel, he gave it to Judas, the son of Simon Iscariot. Then after he had taken the morsel, Satan entered into him. Jesus said to him, “What you are going to do, do quickly.” Now no one at the table knew why he said this to him. Some thought that, because Judas had the moneybag, Jesus was telling him, “Buy what we need for the feast,” or that he should give something to the poor. So, after receiving the morsel of bread, he immediately went out. And it was night (John 13:16-30).
Jesus was quoting from Psalm 41:9, the prophetic psalm foretelling Judas’ betrayal as he pretended to be a friend:
Even my close friend in whom I trusted, who ate my bread, has lifted his heel against me. (Psalm 41:9).
When it was evening, he reclined at table with the twelve. And as they were eating, he said, “Truly, I say to you, one of you will betray me.” And they were very sorrowful and began to say to him one after another, “Is it I, Lord?” He answered, “He who has dipped his hand in the dish with me will betray me. The Son of Man goes as it is written of him, but woe to that man by whom the Son of Man is betrayed! It would have been better for that man if he had not been born.” Judas, who would betray him, answered, “Is it I, Rabbi?” He said to him, “You have said so.” (Matthew 26:20-25)
Judas’ betrayal and condemnation was foretold, and Jesus Himself spoke of it before Judas left the 12 and overtly joined the ranks of Jesus’ enemies. Ellen White’s picture of Judas as a tragic hero whose personal weakness overcame his desire for Jesus to succeed is a created picture that is not supported in Scripture. Jesus chose the 12, and He chose Judas knowing he was His betrayer and was eternally condemned. Judas, like all of us, was born dead. We are all condemned to eternal death until we believe, as John 3:18 states clearly.
Judas never believed, even when he was faced with Jesus’ miracles up close. Even though Judas went out with the 12 into the cities of Judah and cast out demons and performed miracles, he did not believe in his heart. He never trusted God’s promises and Jesus’ own witness that He was the Messiah. He was condemned and unbelieving, yet Jesus kept him close to Himself in His inner circle. His betrayal was all the more painful, yet it was not a surprise, neither to Jesus nor to the Father.
TUESDAY: For Him or against Him
Tuesday’s lesson sets up the ideas of “sides” within the supposed great controversy. We are “either on one side of the great controversy or on the other,” the lesson states in its concluding thought question at the end of page 166.
This lesson misses the central point necessary to understand as each person contemplates his own salvation: we are not choosing sides; in fact, we are born unable to choose, automatically members of Satan’s domain of darkness. We are born unable to choose, please, honor, or even to seek God. As Paul says in Romans 3,
What then? Are we Jews any better off? No, not at all. For we have already charged that all, both Jews and Greeks, are under sin, as it is written:
“None is righteous, no, not one; no one understands; no one seeks for God.
All have turned aside; together they have become worthless; no one does good, not even one.
“Their throat is an open grave; they use their tongues to deceive.”
“The venom of asps is under their lips.”
“Their mouth is full of curses and bitterness.”
“Their feet are swift to shed blood; in their paths are ruin and misery, and the way of peace they have not known.”
“There is no fear of God before their eyes.”
Now we know that whatever the law says it speaks to those who are under the law, so that every mouth may be stopped, and the whole world may be held accountable to God. For by works of the law no human being will be justified in his sight, since through the law comes knowledge of sin (Romans 3:9-20).
God reveals the truth about Himself and draws us to Jesus; when we see Him and what He has done, we are called to believe. In fact, He makes our belief possible. Yet not all believe.
Those who do believe, however, are transferred tat that moment from the domain of darkness into the kingdom of the Beloved Son (Col 1:13), and the Holy Spirit of promise indwells them, sealing them, guaranteeing their future glorification at the return of the Lord Jesus (Eph. 1:13-14).
Yes, we are either for Him or against Him, but this position is not a choice that we can make from a level playing field. We are born dead, unable to choose Him at all. We are not born into a great controversy; we are born into the domain of darkness, subject to the power of Satan (Eph. 2:1-3). When the Father Himself draws us, when His word reveals to us who Jesus is and what He has done, we are confronted with the command to believe. Our Father makes belief possible (Eph. 2:8-9). We are not warriors in a battle to vindicate God and His law. We are sinners cursed by the law, dead in sin, and children of wrath. Only the grace of God brings us to Himself and gives us life through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead (1 Peter 1:3-4).
WEDNESDAY: The Resurrection
Wednesday discusses Jesus’ resurrection and its significance. Typically, the Adventist lesson explains the resurrection in terms of a future promise that the dead will come to life in the final resurrection. Yet this promise is only the tip of the iceberg and does not explain the full significance of Jesus’ rising from the dead.
Jesus’ resurrection is the means by which we are born again. His death bought our justification; Jesus’ blood propitiated God’s wrath against human sin:
But now the righteousness of God has been manifested apart from the law, although the Law and the Prophets bear witness to it—the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe. For there is no distinction: for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith. This was to show God's righteousness, because in his divine forbearance he had passed over former sins. It was to show his righteousness at the present time, so that he might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus (Romans 3:21-26).
Jesus’ blood, however, was only what purchased the legal right for God to impute the Lord Jesus’ own righteousness to us. He paid the full price for our sin, and when we believe, God forgives us and counts us righteous. But Paul is equally clear that without the resurrection, even though we could be forgiven, we would still be dead:
Since, therefore, we have now been justified by his blood, much more shall we be saved by him from the wrath of God. For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by his life. More than that, we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation (Romans 5:9-11).
You, however, are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if in fact the Spirit of God dwells in you. Anyone who does not have the Spirit of Christ does not belong to him. But if Christ is in you, although the body is dead because of sin, the Spirit is life because of righteousness. If the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, he who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit who dwells in you (Romans 8:9-11).
But we have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us. We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; always carrying in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be manifested in our bodies. (2 Corinthians 4:7-10)
Peter also declares that our new birth is the result of Jesus’ resurrection:
Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, who by God's power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time (1 Peter 1:3-5).
Adventism’s teaching that man has no spirit except breath makes the new birth impossible to understand. We are literally born spiritually dead. This designation is not figurative; it is literal. We are dead people walking in living mortal bodies. It is belief in Jesus that brings us to life. Our bodies will still die, but our spirits come to life by believing in Jesus:
Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life. He does not come into judgment, but has passed from death to life (John 5:24).
This passage from death to life is only possible because of Jesus’ resurrection. His resurrection life is the life we receive when we believe in Jesus. This life is separate from the redemption of our bodies; it is spiritual life that we can receive because Jesus paid for our sin and literally broke death’s claim on the human race. Unless a person believes, he or she remains dead, and the eventual death of the body will result in no hope for eternal life. When a person believes, however, death is merely a separation of one’s living spirit from the body. The spirit is with the Lord, a condition which Paul says is “very much better” than remaining here (Phil 1:22-23). Nevertheless, the future hope is for the resurrection of the body which will unite with tour living spirits, and we will live with the Lord forever!
The resurrection is our power and promise for eternal life—not just bodies that won’t die but spirits that are eternally alive in Christ, reconciled to God, and never separated from Him again by any means whatsoever, including death (Rom. 8:37-39).
THURSDAY: God’s word
Thursday’s lesson points out that Jesus explained, after His resurrection, how all things foreshadowing Him in Scripture had to be fulfilled. The lesson concludes,
“So, even with all the powerful evidence proving who Jesus was, He always pointed His followers back to the Word of God. After all without the Word of God among us today, how would we know of our calling and mission to preach the gospel to the world? How would we even know what the gospel was? The Bible is, then, as central to us today as it was to Jesus and His disciples.”
Although this lesson superficially promotes Scripture, it fails to fully show why Scripture is important. It is not a source that is significant; Scripture is our only source of revealed truth. God gave us His word so we would know Jesus—not just so we would understand our “mission” and the “gospel” (the Adventist “gospel”, by the way, is not found in Scripture but is, rather, identified as a false gospel”).
Scripture is our food, not just our source of citations for whatever we believe. If Adventists really believed Scripture, they would see that Jesus is different from the weak and fallible “Jesus” portrayed in the Great Controversy.
The real, biblical Jesus is unable to sin. He is Life and Light and possesss every single attribute of God. He is fully able to save and has already defeated Satan, disarming and publicly humiliating him at the cross (Col 1:14).
Scripture is where we have to go to know reality and truth. We have NO other source. The Bible is God’s revealed word, and it is all we need to understand what God wants us to know. The Bible is not merely a source of moral examples and good advice. It is alive; it is the means by which we know Jesus and are brought to conviction and belief.
Jesus did not just point people back to the word of God. He upheld it and showed that every word of it is trustworthy and will come to pass. He showed that it foretold Him, and we have to take every word of it seriously.
The Bible is God’s living gift to us today. It is unerring, and whatever it says, in context, is true. The Bible is our source of understanding reality. It is our lifeline. We cannot use it just as great commentary. It is the means of our knowing who Jesus is.
FRIDAY: The angels
Friday’s lesson returns us, as always to Ellen White. In today’s quote, she asserts that “it is through the efficacy of the cross that the angels of heaven are guarded from apostasy. Without the cross they would be no more secure against evil than were the angels before the fall of Satan.”
This statement is utterly false. The Bible does not tell us the angels’ story; it only tells us our human story and of God’s intervention in our history and future.
In fact, Scripture overtly states that Jesus’ blood was NOT for the angels:
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 2:14-18).
Adventism (and Ellen White) makes much of Satan, claiming that he could have been forgiven if he had repented, claiming that Jesus’ death and shed blood is efficacious for angels.
Jesus became human because a human death was the only death that could atone for human sin. Jesus did not become an angel to save angels, and His blood shed on earth did not apply in any way to angels.
Jesus forever took a human body in identification with those He has saved. He calls us “brothers” because He shares our flesh, and by dying for those who believe, the saved are now joint heirs with Him.
Angels are not participants in the salvation purchased by Jesus’ blood. They are, according the Hebrews 1:14, “ministering spirits sent out to serve for the sake of those who are to inherit salvation.” In fact, 1 Peter 1:12 even says that our salvation is something “into which angels long to look”.
Jesus became a human to save humans. Angels are His ministers who serve Him by helping us at His command.
Instead of reading Ellen White, I urge you to read Hebrews 1 and 2 today, asking God to show you what He wants you to understand from these two chapters.