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Third Quarter 2015 July–September)
COMMENTARY ON THE BOOK OF LUKE
Week 1: June 27–July 3
COMMENTARY ON THE MISSIONARY NATURE OF GOD
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, June 27: Introduction
The lesson makes the point that our world is in a mess with things becoming increasingly worse and worse.
While he is far more powerful than us our adversary does not possess infinite knowledge or power. In the following passage the Apostle Peter is speaking to those who have been saved by the blood of Jesus Christ. It is Christians who are admonished to resist the devil:
Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. Resist him, firm in your faith, knowing that the same kinds of suffering are being experienced by your brotherhood throughout the world. (1 Peter 5:8-9)
As the lesson says; "we have not been left alone" to face the evils of this world. The Apostle Paul, who is also addressing "the saints" (Eph. 1:1-2), outlines how the devil is to be resisted:
Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might. Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil. For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. (Eph. 6:10-12)
The Apostle Paul then goes on to say that 'the whole armor of God' includes "the gospel of peace", Eph 6:15. In 1 Cor. 15:1-5 Paul defines 'the gospel' of our salvation as the death, buried and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Concerning the gospel Paul has this to say:
I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting him who called you in the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel—not that there is another one, but there are some who trouble you and want to distort the gospel of Christ. But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach to you a gospel contrary to the one we preached to you, let him be accursed. As we have said before, so now I say again: If anyone is preaching to you a gospel contrary to the one you received, let him be accursed. (Gal. 1:6-9)
Christians are simply those whose sins have been covered by the blood of Jesus Christ. The blood of Jesus plus nothing else places you in the kingdom of God. This is why Paul proclaims a curse upon those who would dare alter the gospel message. It is only through the power of Jesus Christ, not any power of our own, are we able to resist what is evil:
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. (Romans 7:24-25)
If the point Paul is making here in the above quote isn't clear to you start back at chapter one and work your way forward, verse by verse and chapter by chapter the way it is written. Then you will have a foundation for understanding what faith really is and that once your sins are covered by the blood of Christ you are dead to the Old Covenant law.
Know that when you accept in faith the completed atonement of Jesus' shed blood for the remission of all your sins that the righteousness and power of Jesus Christ is in you through the indwelling Holy Spirit. Know that Christians are both commanded and promised concerning the whole armor of God.
Day Two, Sunday, June 28: God Created Man and Woman
The lesson makes several observations concerning the creation of Adam and Eve:
"Man and woman were created in God’s image and likeness, something not said about anything else that was created at that time."
"...it must mean that humans in some way reflect the character of their Creator."
Character traits describe a person's personality. They can be considered good traits or bad. Since the fall of Adam and Eve all of mankind have been born with a sin corrupted nature. This means that from the viewpoint of our perfect holy God even what we otherwise would consider to be good traits have been tainted by sin.
In Scripture God reveals himself to us through his attributes that uniquely define him as eternally and infinitely holy, righteous, all knowing and all powerful, to name just a few of his significant attributes. To speculate, as the lesson does, on God's "character" traits where in the human race was created by God 'in his own image' is to deflect away from understanding both who God is and what it means for us to have been created in his own image. To share in some way certain character traits deflects away from understanding the substance of who we are. Adventism 'fogs' the issue by denying the existence of our human spirit.
The unanswerable question for those to who believe Adventist doctrine is; What part of Adam and Eve died on the day they sinned?:
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)
Jesus provided the answer of what death really is when he said you must be "born again" before you can join the kingdom of God, John 3:1-21. Ever since Adam and Eve sinned fallen sinners have been born with a death human spirit. Only as you are born again of your human spirit does who you are truly reflect an image of who God is.
Day Three, Monday, June 29: Free Will
The lesson assumes our 'free will' to be a manifestation of how we have been created in the image God.
Since this expression is not directly found in Scripture we need to agree on a definition that is compatible with God's Word.
According to the online Merriam-Webster dictionary the broad definition of 'free will' is the ability to choose how to act or the ability to make choices that are not controlled by fate or God.
Scripture however teaches that before Adam and Eve ever sinned they were warned that a wrong choice would bring unavoidable negative results, Gen. 2:15-17. In-other-words, even before sin entered into the world so called 'free will' always was coupled with being responsible for the result that follows upon making a wrong choice.
Furthermore the following passage make it clear that there is no such thing as true free will for sinners because sinners cannot choose to do what is good:
...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.” (Rom. 3:10-18)
While there is much more to be said concerning 'free will' suffice it say this is a debatable way to illustrate how we have been created in the image of God. At best 'free will' is a attribute, not the substance, of who we are that reflects the image of God.
Until a person comes to understand that we were created with a human spirit that died when Adam and Eve sinned will it be understood what it means to have been created 'in the image of God'.
Day Four, Tuesday, June 30: The Fall
The lesson discusses the fall of Adam and Eve when they ate of the forbidden fruit yet fails to mention the most immediate and obvious result of having done so.
God declared that on the day they ate of the tree of knowledge of good and evil they would die.
They did eat of this tree therefore they did die on that day. Yet they both lived with physical life for many years afterwards.
Therefore, the human race who were created by God in his own image were created with life other than just what is physical.
As has already been said; Seventh-day Adventist theology and this lesson in particular fail to address the issue of just what died when they first sinned and to do so solely through the use of Scripture.
Day Five, Wednesday, July 1: God's Initiative to Save Us
The lesson defines 'God's missionary activity:
"Though Jesus came to this earth to do many things—to destroy Satan, to reveal the true character of the Father, to prove Satan’s accusations wrong, to show that God’s law can be kept—the crucial reason was to die on the cross in the place of humanity, in order to save us from the ultimate result of sin, which is eternal death."
While Satan's plan to enslave the human race in sin was destroyed at Calvary his own personal fate was sealed when he was cast out of heaven.
God is sovereign and has no need to explain or justify himself to those he has created (See Job chapters 38 through 42). This is something we need to know and accept concerning the 'character' traits of our Creator.
What God says of himself in the Old Testament Scriptures already reveals to us why Jesus lived and died among the human race. Jesus, being very God himself, was simply consistent with his own perfect holy character and what was already known of God.
Jesus' one and only reason to live among mankind was to die at Calvary for the atonement and remission of the sins of the world. His resurrection gives us a sure hope of eternal life.
To reject this salvation will result in an eternally existing death in the Lake of Fire. The word 'eternal' has the same meaning whether we are speaking of life or death.
Day Six, Thursday, July 2: Metaphors of Mission
This lesson quote defines the Seventh-day Adventist understanding of 'missions':
"The children of Israel were encouraged to live up to the moral principles and health rules that God had given them. They were to be a light, illuminating and attracting—you are “a light for the Gentiles” (Isa. 49:6, NIV)."
Since the core foundation of Adventism is encouragement to live up to certain moral principles and health rules this lesson unintentionally centers on the one great weakness of Seventh-day Adventist theology. As an Adventist the focus is on what you must do to please God. Know instead that because God loves you God rescued you from your sin. There is absolutely nothing you can do to save yourself or even 'assist' God in what only God can do.
With human logic, without a biblical support for doing so, it was decided that the Old Covenant law contains certain universal moral principles that are eternally binding upon mankind. Scripture makes no such claim. Instead, Jesus Christ, on the night he was betrayed stated that the Old Covenant, meaning all the law contained in this covenant, was being replaced by a New Covenant, 1 Cor. 11:23-26, Rom. 7:4-6 & Rom. 8:1-8. The New Covenant law of the Spirit is not written in books or stone but on the hearts of those saints whose sins are covered by the blood he shed at Calvary.
The center piece, as the name 'Seventh-day Adventist' makes obvious, is the Sabbath. In the New Covenant there is no mention of the need to either rest or worship on the Sabbath day. For the Jews under the Old Covenant, worship was never about doing so on a certain day of the week. Instead, worship was focused on where to worship God. Jesus declared to the 'the woman at the well', John 4:19-24, that it would no longer be about where to worship but would be all about worshiping "in spirit and truth". For New Covenant saints worship is all about eternally resting in the shed blood of our Savior for the remission of sins.
While the right rules for good health can be beneficial for your body even these good principles of health have absolutely nothing to do with the gospel message of the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ for the remission of you sins. As the Apostle Paul warns us in Gal. 1:9 do not add to or otherwise change the gospel message as this is the foundation of our faith.
Yes, Isaiah 49:6 does say Israel was to be "a light for the Gentiles". Whether Jew or Gentile of the New Covenant the same can be said of present day saints. However, this is true of you only if you are preaching the New Covenant gospel message. Remember, the gospel is all about what only Jesus Christ could do for you. As the Philippian jailer was told, Acts 16:25-34, "believe in the Lord Jesus and you will be saved".
Day Seven, Friday, July 3: Further Study
For today the lesson makes this statement:
"Mission is predominantly related to Jesus Christ, whose Incarnation is central to Christian faith and mission. By His life and death, Jesus has paved the way for the salvation of all the human race."
The mission of Christians, those who know they are in the kingdom of God, having been born again of their human spirit by the Savior's gift of the indwelling Holy Spirit, it isn't just 'predominantly related to Jesus Christ'. Our one and only mission is to preach the gospel message of his death, burial and resurrection. Jesus died for the atonement of the sins of the world. In his burial he carries those sins away never to be remembered again. His resurrection demonstrates his power over death and gives us a sure hope which is eternal life. As such, preaching Jesus Christ is overwhelmingly totally and only centered on Jesus Christ. There isn't Jesus plus something else.
Note well Peter's missionary message. It was not what he did that brings salvation to the world. Salvation is only and totally through Jesus Christ. Salvation is through Jesus' shed blood plus nothing else:
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)