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Second Quarter 2015 (April–June)
COMMENTARY ON THE BOOK OF LUKE
Week 8: May 16–22
COMMENTARY ON THE MISSION 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, May 16: Introduction
The lesson sets the overall theme for this week with the following statement:
"If we were to write a mission statement for Jesus, we could not do any better than to repeat His own words: “ ‘To seek and to save that which was lost.’ ” What was lost? It was humanity itself, which was alienated from God, subject to death, and filled with fear, disappointment, and despair. If nothing were done in our behalf, all would be lost."
The lesson utilizes three biblical parables to define what it means to be 'lost'.
The statement is made that we are all "subject to death" as if we are not already dead. The truth is that in our physical life we are born dead (Col. 2:6-15):
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. (Col. 2:13-14)
Adam and Eve were created in the image of God. When the implication of the following passage is clearly understood the conclusion is that the human race was created with a human spirit that died when Adam sinned and it is this dead spirit that we are born with:
The LORD God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to work it and keep it. And the LORD God commanded the man, saying, “You may surely eat of every tree of the garden, but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die.” (Gen. 2:15-17)
While the introductory 'mission statement' of Jesus certainly is true in that he came 'to seek and to save that which was lost' nowhere in this lesson is it clearly explained just what Jesus did to fulfill this mission by shedding his innocent blood at Calvary for the remission of the sins of the world. For someone whose life is filled with the guilt of their sin what needs to be shared to them, above all else, is to hear the complete gospel in a few clear brief words. For those willing to hear this gospel message isn't complicated. The mission of Jesus is the only gospel that will bring you joy and the birth of your human spirit at the very moment, when in faith, you enter into the kingdom of God and are no longer spiritually dead in this world of sin.
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. 15:3-5)
Day Two, Sunday, May 17: The Lost Sheep and the Lost Coin
In Luke chapter 15 the Pharisees and scribes grumbled because Jesus 'receives sinners and eats with them'. Jesus responded to these accusations with three parables which were; the 'lost sheep', the 'lost coin' and the 'Prodigal son'.
For today the lesson focus is on the first two of these parables.
The lesson does well by pointing out that it is God who does the seeking, not the sinners who are lost and therefore unable to rescue themselves. Considering our God is all knowing, all powerful and everywhere present (Psalm 139) how can we fail to understand that God will not fail to find and save those he is seeking? Remember, this is all about the infinite power, love and faithfulness of God versus the many weaknesses of mortal sinners.
Therefore we must understand the this lesson quote of Ellen White's; 'Unless His followers choose to leave Him, He will hold them fast', is false.
The 'sheep' that belong to God and found by God can never become lost again:
What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things? Who shall bring any charge against God's elect? It is God who justifies. Who is to condemn? Christ Jesus is the one who died—more than that, who was raised—who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us. Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? As it is written, “For your sake we are being killed all the day long; we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered.” No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Rom. 8:31-39)
Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me shall not hunger, and whoever believes in me shall never thirst. But I said to you that you have seen me and yet do not believe. All that the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never cast out. For I have come down from heaven, not to do my own will but the will of him who sent me. And this is the will of him who sent me, that I should lose nothing of all that he has given me, but raise it up on the last day. For this is the will of my Father, that everyone who looks on the Son and believes in him should have eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day.” (John 6:35-40)
Those for whom Jesus seek he will find and he will save. Those for whom Jesus saved through his blood he shed at Calvary belong to him. He will raise them up on the last day. They are not lost nor can they again become lost as they have Jesus promise of eternal life.
Days Three & Four, Mon. &Tue., May 18 & 19: The Parable of the Lost Son
The lesson says this about the parable of the Prodigal Son:
"may well be called the parable of the loving father and two lost sons".
Keep in mind that Jesus as the Son of God has all the attributes of the Father. This means that when Jesus spoke what he said was true in all respects. When Jesus responded to the grumbling of the Pharisees and scribes with the parable of the Prodigal son along with the other two parables they were all accounts of actual historical events that illustrated a moral truth. Furthermore, since Jesus used a combination of three parables in response to their complaint, we should have been doing likewise in this week's quarterly lesson.
Regardless of where the prodigal son went or what he did while he was lost he was always the son of his father. If he would have died while feeding pigs he would still have been his father's son. What the prodigal son regained when he repented of his foolishness was restored fellowship with his true family in the home where he belonged.
In this parable the older son was never lost as he never left home. What the father said and did was to gently chastise and encourage the older son to rejoice in the return of his foolish brother and to remind him that he was the one who would inherit all that belonged to his father:
”...But he was angry and refused to go in. His father came out and entreated him, but he answered his father, ‘Look, these many years I have served you, and I never disobeyed your command, yet you never gave me a young goat, that I might celebrate with my friends. But when this son of yours came, who has devoured your property with prostitutes, you killed the fattened calf for him!’ And he said to him, ‘Son, you are always with me, and all that is mine is yours. It was fitting to celebrate and be glad, for this your brother was dead, and is alive; he was lost, and is found.’” (Luke 15:28-32)
Keep in mind who it is that Jesus was addressing and why he confronted their grumbling. The real issue is; who is it that will inherit the promises of the Heavenly Father? Those who really are the recipients of the promises of God would have understood why the father chastised the older son and rejoiced that Jesus was reaching out to the 'tax collectors and sinners'. However in another encounter with the Pharisees and scribes Jesus says this of them:
"You are of your father the devil, and your will is to do your father's desires. He was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks out of his own character, for he is a liar and the father of lies." (John 8:44)
Day Five, Wednesday, May 20: Lost Opportunities
Today the focus is on Jesus' parable of 'The Rich Man and Lazarus' found in Luke 16:19-31.
Jesus begins this parable by saying; "There was a rich man who was clothed in purple and fine linen and who feasted sumptuously every day". Jesus, as the Son of God, is recounting an actual event as only God could do concerning real people who are in a real place who have died and are experiencing conditions not found in this life before their death. Jesus himself recounts an actual conversation between the rich man and Abraham who are both dead. The rich man says; "I am in anguish in this flame". The foundational understanding for what Jesus tells us is that there is such a real place for the dead where some consciously suffer separated from those who experience comfort.
In the lesson it asks; "what's the main message of this parable?" then has this to say:
"The parable is recorded only in Luke, and it teaches two great truths with respect to salvation: the importance of “today” in the process of salvation and the absence of another opportunity for salvation after death."
While these two points concerning salvation certainly are true statements what is ignored by Adventist theology is that the main point Jesus warns his audience about is that there is real suffering awaiting those who do not accept God's salvation now 'today' in this lifetime, John 5:25-29. This time of torment occurs before the final resurrection of the wicked. Furthermore, entry into the kingdom of God is not an ongoing process. Salvation begins with an event called 'justification' where a person is transferred out of the kingdom of darkness and into the kingdom of God:
And so, from the day we heard, we have not ceased to pray for you, asking that you may be filled with the knowledge of his will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding, so as to walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to him, bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God. May you be strengthened with all power, according to his glorious might, for all endurance and patience with joy, giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of the saints in light. He has delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins. (Col. 1:9-14)
Day Six, Thursday, May 21: Was Blind but Now I See
The lesson says this:
'The mission statement of Jesus that He came to seek and save that which was lost is an affirmation of a holistic ministry.'
Jesus mission was to die and shed his perfect holy innocence blood as a complete atonement for the sins of the world.
On the very night Jesus was betrayed and then crucified for the sins of the world he gave a 'new command':
When he had gone out, Jesus said, “Now is the Son of Man glorified, and God is glorified in him. If God is glorified in him, God will also glorify him in himself, and glorify him at once. Little children, yet a little while I am with you. You will seek me, and just as I said to the Jews, so now I also say to you, ‘Where I am going you cannot come.’ A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” (John 13:31-35)
Our motivation for caring for all the needs of those who suffer in this world is godly love.
However, we must not forget that a 'holistic ministry' that remains true to the teachings of Jesus Christ recorded in Scripture must be founded upon nothing more or less than the complete gospel as recorded in First Corinthians chapter fifteen.
The mighty works of God performed through actions of Jesus, including the restoration of sight to the blind, proclaimed that Jesus was the promised Messiah. The Apostle Peter's sermon at Pentecost is an example of how we should utilize Christ's miracles while preaching the gospel message:
“Men of Israel, hear these words: Jesus of Nazareth, a man attested to you by God with mighty works and wonders and signs that God did through him in your midst, as you yourselves know—this Jesus, delivered up according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God, you crucified and killed by the hands of lawless men. God raised him up, loosing the pangs of death, because it was not possible for him to be held by it." (Acts 2:22-24)
Shortly later Peter was arrested and brought before the 'rulers and elders and scribes' for having healed a cripple and preaching Jesus' resurrection from the dead:
Then Peter, filled with the Holy Spirit, said to them, “Rulers of the people and elders, if we are being examined today concerning a good deed done to a crippled man, by what means this man has been healed, let it be known to all of you and to all the people of Israel that by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom you crucified, whom God raised from the dead—by him this man is standing before you well. 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 4:8-12)
Even though it is good to practice and promote principles of healthy living, the Adventist health message, also referred to as 'the right hand of the gospel' is a false message to the extent that it has nothing to do with the gospel of Jesus Christ, does not promote spiritual growth nor does it affect a person's eternal security in the kingdom of God:
And he called the people to him and said to them, “Hear and understand: it is not what goes into the mouth that defiles a person, but what comes out of the mouth; this defiles a person.” Then the disciples came and said to him, “Do you know that the Pharisees were offended when they heard this saying?” He answered, “Every plant that my heavenly Father has not planted will be rooted up. Let them alone; they are blind guides. And if the blind lead the blind, both will fall into a pit.” But Peter said to him, “Explain the parable to us.” And he said, “Are you also still without understanding? Do you not see that whatever goes into the mouth passes into the stomach and is expelled? But what comes out of the mouth proceeds from the heart, and this defiles a person. For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false witness, slander. These are what defile a person. But to eat with unwashed hands does not defile anyone.” (Matt. 15:10-20)
Day Seven, Friday, May 22: Further Study
Today's commentary is in response to the discussion questions rather than the Ellen White quotes other than to note that she draws attention to the worth of our soul yet ignores the critical importance of the birth of the human spirit before you can become part of the kingdom of God, John 3:1-21.
Discussion Question #1:
It is not correct to define all religions as being a search for God the Creator because while all sinners who practice religion attempt to justify themselves with some form of self-works, many who do so have rejected God and don't make a pretence of searching for God. Those whose lives are covered by the blood of Jesus Christ know they will never be justified by their own works because they have the faith of Abraham as outlined in Hebrews chapter eleven. When they stand before God they are covered by nothing but the blood of Christ. Since Adventist theology majors on what a person must do to please God it is inherently a form of religion for those who falsely believe this will justify themselves before God.
Discussion Question #2:
In the parable of the prodigal son both sons were never anything less than the son of their father. The older son made no fatal mistake as his father reminded him that all that belonged to his father was his secure inheritance. The prodigal son lost his 'earthly rewards' but he was eternally secure in his relationship to the father. The older son was faithful to his father so his 'earthly rewards' were secure. Since he was never lost and never was anything less than the son of his father he also is secure in the sight of his father. The point is that if you are a son or daughter of our 'heavenly Father' you are eternally secure in the kingdom of God.
Discussion Question #3:
In Jesus' parable of the rich man and Lazarus it is Abraham, not Jesus, who informs the rich man that even if someone were to come back from the grave those who did not believe the prophets would still not repent. Adventism rejects the normal use of grammar and meaning of words by twisting Scripture to fit false theology such as there being no consciousness in death. Solomon simply teaches in Ecclesiastes 9:7-10 that the dead have no personal awareness of what the living are doing.
Discussion Question #4:
The use of the expression, 'Jesus' saving ministry' has the appearance of alluding to the false Adventist concept of 'The Great Controversy' where there is thought to be an ongoing cosmic battle between Jesus Christ and Satan founded upon non-biblical information of how and why this battle originally began in heaven. Scripture does not give us the details of Satan's rebellion. What we do know from Scripture is that Satan was totally defeated a Calvary. Whatever the unknown details of Satan's (Lucifer) rebellion are, the book of Revelation tells us that the final outcome for Satan, his evil angels and all the unrepentant wicked not covered by the blood of Christ will to be cast into the Lake of Fire.
Discussion Question #5:
Since Adventist theology has an aberrant interpretation of both the parable of the prodigal son and the story of the rich man and Lazarus it is a challenge for an Adventist to gain a biblical understanding of how they "balance each other out". What we do see is that in your own death, whichever the side of the great gulf that separated the rich man from Lazarus, depends totally upon who your spiritual father is and not upon any 'earthly rewards' bestowed upon you during this life. As for these 'rewards' versus your salvation see what the Apostle Paul teaches in 1 Cor. 3:10-13.