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First Quarter 2016 (January–March)


Week 7: February 6–12


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).


Sabbath afternoon, February 6,


The lesson author writes (on page 56 of the Standard Quarterly),

… the great controversy theme… it’s a big-picture view. It can be called a “meta-narrative,” a story that covers and explains a large portion of reality, as opposed to a local narrative or story that explains something much more limited in scope.

The Great Controversy theme is not a “big-picture” view that explains a large portion of reality. It assumes that Christ and Satan are locked in a struggle for the souls of all men, when in reality, Satan has been defeated and defanged at the cross, and human evil can explain so much of what is wrong in the world. We don’t need to see Satan behind every tragedy or act of terrorism that occurs on this planet. God is sovereign and is in control of the big picture. Jesus’ defeat of Satan on the cross was the beginning of the end for Satan.

“Satan walks about as a roaring lion seeking whom he may devour,” (1 Peter 5:8), yet he cannot be in all places at once nor confronting every person with temptations to sin. Satan is not omniscient or omnipresent, where as Christ is omniscient and is omnipresent through the Holy Spirit, the Comforter he left with us. So much evil can be explained when one recognizes that human nature is depraved totally.

The Great Controversy theme allows too much power to be attributed to Satan, and lessens the fact that Jesus has already defeated him.


Today’s summary:



Sunday, February 7, Many Kinds of Rest


Today, the lesson author refers to Revelation 14:11 regarding rest for those “on the wrong side of the great controversy in the last days.”

Let’s read Rev. 14:11 and see what it says:

And the smoke of their torment goes up forever and ever, and they have no rest, day or night, these worshipers of the beast and its image, and whoever receives the mark of its name."

The lesson author also states:

Rest escapes the wicked, who like the troubled sea, cannot rest (Isa. 57:20). The only rest that such people can look forward to is death and the grave …

According to Revelation 14:11, even death and the grave do not provide rest for the wicked. Here we come to an impasse between Adventist doctrine and Scripture. Adventism teaches that to be in the grave is to rest or sleep, a doctrine called “soul sleep.” However if we take Rev. 14:11 literally, these evil people who have worshipped
“the beast and its image, and whoever receives the mark of its name” will have no rest day or night. This taken literally can only mean that there is an afterlife to which the wicked go, wherein there is no rest, no “soul sleep” day or night.

The lesson author also states:

The rest Jesus offers is a very generous package. It includes the gift of the Sabbath, allowing us time out with the Creator.

The Sabbath is one day in seven. That is not a very “generous package” for the Lord. We should learn how to rest in Jesus seven days a week, not just one. That is the true rest God is offering us, a day-to-day rest from the cares of tomorrow, only dealing with the cares of the day and not being anxious about anything.





Monday, February 8, Planting and Harvesting


The Great Controversy is not “implicit in Jesus’ parable of the sower.” Basic human nature can account for the different soils, without implying that Satan is at the scene of every false conversion. In this parable, Jesus is preparing his followers for the many differences they will encounter when spreading the gospel seed. Human nature is specifically being viewed here; Satan is not the cause of every person who does not accept the gospel.

The lesson author asks,

Read Matthew 13:3–8 and then Matthew 13:18–23. In what ways can we so clearly see the reality of the great controversy revealed in this story?

Matthew 13:19 is the only instance in which Satan is implicated in any of the types of soils. Jesus said,

When anyone hears the word of the kingdom and does not understand it, the evil one comes and snatches away what has been sown in his heart. This is what was sown along the path. (ESV)

The remainder of the parable and its explanation simply presents us with the differences between people who hear the good news and how they respond. There is no ongoing “Great Controversy” that accounts for fallen human nature and the results of hearing the gospel. The lesson then states,

When sowing gospel seed, human effort is always limited. We must sow everywhere. We are not the judge of what is good and bad soil. (Pg. 58 of Standard edition of Sabbath School quarterly.)

Although we are not the judge of what is good and bad soil, Jesus does tell us in the sermon on the mount that we must be discerning when spreading the holy message of the gospel. In Matt. 7:6 Jesus tells us,

"Do not give dogs what is holy, and do not throw your pearls before pigs, lest they trample them underfoot and turn to attack you.

The lesson author then tells us, also on pg. 58 that,

It is the Lord of the harvest working in the background who ensures that all who can be saved will be saved. We do our job and must learn to trust Him to do His. [Emphasis mine]

Adventism specifically refers to itself as an Arminian church. This statement above can be used to support universalism, the belief that everyone will be saved, because according to Arminius anyone can be saved, not necessarily only the elect. It is Calvinism that teaches that only those who are elected will be saved, which rules out universalism.


In summary:



Tuesday, February 9, Building on Rock


The lesson author states,

There is a serious struggle going on, and unaided, we have no possibility of surviving it.

Jesus has prevailed against evil, and that is why He is called the Rock.

This personal battle against evil can be won, but only if we build our lives firmly upon Him, and we can build upon Him only through obedience to Him.

We do not come to build our houses on the rock “aided” by Jesus, and by our obedience to him. On the grand scale, Jesus has already won against evil for us. We are in a “personal battle against evil” in our lives, and we die to self daily to overcome sin.

What does the author mean by “obedience”? Does he mean obedience to the Law, specifically the ten commandments? Using the Law as a standard of righteousness ignores the fact that Jesus is the fulfillment of the Law. Therefore, obedience can’t mean the commandments, but the teachings of Jesus. (In the New Testament, the term commandments is used in reference to Jesus’ teaching and only occasionally to the Old Testament commandments.)





Wednesday, February 10, Do Not Judge


Today the author quotes Ellen White:

“ ‘Judge not, that ye be not judged.’ Do not think yourself better than other men, and set yourself up as their judge. Since you cannot discern motive, you are incapable of judging another. In criticizing him, you are passing sentence upon yourself; for you show that you are a participant with Satan, the accuser of the brethren. The Lord says, ‘Examine yourselves, whether ye be in the faith; prove your own selves.’ This is our work.” —Ellen G. White, The Desire of Ages, p. 314.

Ellen White did not follow her own counsel. Simply by reading the nine volumes of Testimonies for the Church one comes across scores of individuals who are being “corrected” by Ellen White. Most of her testimonies were written about someone that has been out of step with her ideals, not conforming to her standards.

God deals with individuals and provides guilt and restoration in the face of our wrongdoings. We need not rely on a human agent to tell us when we’ve sinned, the Holy Spirit within us reveals our sin to us and a way to repent and escape the trap that sin creates.

The author correctly states that:

The other point Jesus makes is that often the problem we see in our brother or sister is only a fraction of the size of our own problem—a problem that we may not even be aware of. It is so easy for us to see a piece of sawdust in their eye, but we are unable to see the great wooden beam in our own. (Pg. 60 of Standard quarterly.)

Paul states in 1 Corinthians 4:3-5:

But with me it is a very small thing that I should be judged by you or by any human court. In fact, I do not even judge myself. 4 For I am not aware of anything against myself, but I am not thereby acquitted. It is the Lord who judges me. 5 Therefore do not pronounce judgment before the time, before the Lord comes, who will bring to light the things now hidden in darkness and will disclose the purposes of the heart. Then each one will receive his commendation from God.

The lesson author then asks:

Read Matthew 7:1–5. In what ways is the reality of the great controversy revealed in these texts? That is, how is the interplay between good and evil manifested here?

Mt. 7:1-5 tells us that we must first judge ourselves and consider and deal with our own sin before helping a brother with the small sin in his life. We should always be working for the edification of the body of Christ, and not for tearing down or destroying.

Paul tells us in Romans 15:1-6:

We then that are strong ought to bear the infirmities of the weak, and not to please ourselves. 2 Let every one of us please his neighbour for his good to edification. 3 For even Christ pleased not himself; but, as it is written, The reproaches of them that reproached thee fell on me. 4 For whatsoever things were written aforetime were written for our learning, that we through patience and comfort of the scriptures might have hope. 5 Now the God of patience and consolation grant you to be likeminded one toward another according to Christ Jesus: 6 That ye may with one mind and one mouth glorify God, even the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. (KJV, emphasis mine)





Thursday, February 11, “I Am With You Alway”


In today’s lesson, the author writes (Pg. 61, Standard quarterly):

To the church of Christ at the end of time, these assurances (that Christ is always with us) are significant. Jesus’ promise of being with us to the very end is in the context of making disciples by going, baptizing, and teaching. So, that is where the focus is—on the joy of rescuing people from ending up on the losing side in the great controversy.

We are to be teaching scripture, not Adventist doctrine. We have the entire Scriptures at our disposal, we need not teach peculiar doctrines that are specific to only one church. As Paul states to Timothy in 1 Tim. 4:13,

Until I come, devote yourself to the public reading of Scripture, to exhortation, to teaching.

Jesus himself said in the great commission in Matthew 28:19-20,

Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age."





Friday, February 12, Further thought


This week’s lesson does not end with the usual quote from Ellen White. Instead the author chooses to teach us a lesson from a man blind all his life, finally able to see after a lifetime of blindness. The man, now seeing, begins to notice the imperfections in the world around him. He becomes depressed and distraught at the problems that are now visible to him.

In response to this, the lesson the author states,

Our world is a damaged place. The great controversy has been raging here for about six thousand years. A 6,000-year war is going to leave a lot of wreckage in its wake. And despite all our attempts to make this world better, the trajectory doesn’t seem to be heading in the right direction.

There was a controversy between Christ and Satan, but Christ defeated Satan on the cross and through the resurrection. Now, as always, there is a great controversy between fallen mankind and God. It is man’s natural tendency to run and try to hide from God. God has been calling out to mankind since he first called out for Adam with the statement in the Garden of Eden, “Adam, where are you?”

Are we to be resting with our Creator one day in seven, or are we to be resting in the finished work of Jesus on the cross, moment by moment, day by day?


In summary, let’s remember the following points from this week’s lesson:





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2016 First Quarter