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 3:
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 3: April 11–17
COMMENTARY ON WHO IS JESUS CHRIST?
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 week’s lesson attempts to explain the reasons it is important to believe that Jesus is fully God and fully man. It refers to the Transfiguration to explain how much Jesus needed support and comfort as He went to the cross, and it also makes the point that Jesus took His disciples to the mountain to pray, that the “process of prayer instantly poured out divine glory on Jesus”. Moreover, the lesson points out that it is necessary to understand how much Jesus’ humanity helps us to understand what He endured for us. In addition, the lesson states that people need not just to know ABOUT Jesus but to know Jesus. Yet the questions on page 35 reveal that “knowing Jesus” is a concept the authors do not understand, because they ask, “If, then, you claim to know Jesus, what, in fact, do you know about Him? That is, what has your own personal knowledge of Jesus taught you about Him and about what He is like?”
We will address the subject of Jesus’ humanity and divinity and discuss the real implications of the Transfiguration.
The Son of Man
Adventism never explains that Jesus’ humanity was not just about becoming human so He could empathize with us. Empathy is indeed an marvelous reality of the incarnation, but it is not the eternally significant reason Jesus became human. Hebrews 2 directly addresses Jesus’ humanity and the reasons for it:
Therefore we must pay much closer attention to what we have heard, lest we drift away from it. For since the message declared by angels proved to be reliable, and every transgression or disobedience received a just retribution, how shall we escape if we neglect such a great salvation? It was declared at first by the Lord, and it was attested to us by those who heard, while God also bore witness by signs and wonders and various miracles and by gifts of the Holy Spirit distributed according to his will.
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).
Notice the words of verses 14-15: “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 did not primarily become human so He could empathize with us; He became human because He HAD to be human in order to share human death and thus fulfill the righteous requirements of the law. Human sin could only be paid for by human blood. Jesus became a man not to set us an example but to become sin for us and die for humanity’s sin. Only a human could carry and die for human sin. The law condemned humans to death; a human had to die. Because He suffered and died, because He became sin and in the flesh experienced God’s wrath toward sin—because of living in a sinful world, Jesus can empathize with us personally. Nevertheless, empathy was not the primary reason for His incarnation.
In fact, we sinners were not the primary reason for Jesus to come to earth to live, die, and rise from death. The glory of God was the primary reason for what Jesus did, and Jesus came to die (Jn. 17:1-2). He did not have to ask God to confirm what He was to do; He did what He came to do, submitting to the Father at every step.
The Son of God
Adventism insists that Jesus was eternally God. It even has a Fundamental Belief (#4) that sounds almost right and would not alert most Christians that something is “off”. In reality, however, Adventism does not believe in the classic Christian Trinity because Ellen White did not believe in it. The original Adventists were almost all anti-trinitarian and Arians, believing that Jesus was not the eternal, almighty God but that He came into being sometime after God the Father.
Ellen White morphed her definitions of the Trinity over time and changed her descriptions of Jesus. Eventually she settled on explaining the Trinity as “the heavenly Trio” and “the three Worthies of Heaven”. In 2006 Jerry Moon of Andrews Theological Seminary wrote a paper explaining and defending Ellen White’s Heavenly Trio, showing how it is, indeed, NOT the classic Christian Trinity but defending it as the “correct” view. For documentation and further development of these facts, see the article on page 10, “Discovering the Adventist Jesus”, at this link:
The Teachers Comments in this week’s lesson state on page 41: “The title ‘Son of God’ denotes the essential oneness and equality within the Godhead. ‘Christ…was one with the eternal Father—one in nature, in character in purpose—the only being that could enter into all the counsels and purposes of God.’ —Ellen G. White, Patriarchs and Prophets, p. 34.”
This comment does not proclaim that Jesus is “one substance” with the Father. In fact, “one substance” is part of the classic definition the Trinity: the three Persons of the Trinity all share all the attributes of God. For example, Adventism teaches that Jesus is not omnipresent because He has a human body. But this idea is untrue. God is Spirit, and Jesus is still God even though He shares humanity. He is still omnipresent; if He were not, He would not be God. In order to be God, God must have all the attributes of God. There is no difference in substance between God the Father, the Son, and the Spirit.
Therefore, despite all their public words, internally Adventists do not perceive Jesus to be the same substance as the Father and the Spirit. Yet God is One, and although there are three Persons—a mystery we cannot explain—He is not three beings all of whom are called God.
The Transfiguration was NOT about Moses and Elijah “comforting” Jesus before His death. The story of the Transfiguration is told in the three synoptic gospels: Matthew 17, Mark9, and Luke 9. Elijah and Moses appeared with Jesus—not randomly, but for a very specific purpose. Moses represented the Law to Israel, and Elijah represented the Prophets. When Jesus was transfigured before them with Moses and Elijah, the three disciples fell to the ground, and the voice of God said, “This is my beloved Son; listen to HIM!”
Then, when Jesus told the men to get up, Moses and Elijah had left, and Jesus alone stood before them. The Law and the Prophets had disappeared, and God’s voice had declared, “Listen To My SON!” No longer would God’s people look to the law and the prophets to understand how to please God; they would look to the Son who was about to die to take on the sin of humanity and bring to life all who trusted in Him.
In emphasis of this startling revelation, Jesus told the three not to speak of what they had seen until after He arose from the dead. Until Jesus died and rose from death, the old covenant of the Law and also the prophets would be firmly in place. But when that sacrifice for sin was offered and death was undone, the new covenant would be in place.
God gave a visual preview of the reality that was about to happen. Jesus would become the focus and point of worship and obedience that the law and the prophets had held for Israel. Jesus was fulfilling the law and the prophecies of a Messiah. He was the only One qualified for God’s people to honor. He was the substance that was replacing the shadows of the law (Col. 2:16-17; Heb. 10:1).
Finally, this week’s lesson makes almost nothing of the fact that Jesus came to be a sacrifice for sin. Oh, it mentions it in passing, but the essence of who Jesus is and why He came is the cross and His resurrection from the dead. He is fully almighty God incarnated in a human body, and He came to pay the price He and the Father and the Spirit demanded for sin. He did not come to show us how to live or to give us principles to live by. He came to bring us from death to life through belief in His Sacrifice for sin. He had to be God in order to be able to bear the imputed sin of the entire human race, to be able to become sin and to endure the wrath of God against sin. He had to be human in order to offer an acceptable sacrifice. He had to shed human blood for human sin. His own law required it.
Jesus came as our Substitute. Understanding His humanity and divinity is pointless without grasping that He came to bring us to life spiritually. We only know Him by believing that He paid for our natural depravity. When we repent and believe, we pass at that moment from death to life (Jn. 5:24), and we are sealed with the Holy Spirit of promise (Eph. 1:13-14).
We don’t “know” Jesus by having an “experience” with Him. We know Him by trusting in His finished work and being born of the Spirit. Our new birth does not depend upon our efforts or closeness to Him. He does not “unborn” us—and we cannot be born again by understanding facts about Him. We are born again when we repent and believe that Jesus’ blood has propitiated God on my behalf.
Everything changes when we are born again. We are adopted by the Father (Rom. 8:16). We are made alive and seated with Christ at the Father’s right hand in heavenly places (Eph. 2:1-7). We are given His work to do (Eph. 2:10).
Jesus is not just the God/man who came and demonstrated how to live and left us a good example. He came to shed human blood for us so He could impute His own righteousness to us.
Praise God for Jesus—the real Jesus who has completed the atonement and has borne all our sins in His body on the tree!