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 9:
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."
First Quarter 2016 (January–March)
COMMENTARY ON REBELLION AND REDEMPTION
Week 9: February 20–26
COMMENTARY ON THE GREAT CONTROVERSY AND THE EARLY CHURCH
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).
February 20 – Saturday Afternoon
The lesson starts out addressing the state of mind that the apostles were in before and just after the resurrection with regards to their eschatology (end times beliefs). The Jewish teaching at the time was that the Messiah would conquer the enemies of Israel. There is a great deal of truth to this but what they had missed was the suffering servant (Isaiah 53) that is taught in many old testament messianic prophecies.
It is interesting to note that today many Jews have picked up on this and now teach that two messiahs will come, one to suffer for sin and the other to conquer. There are nuances to this that are unnecessary to delve into. But the point is that the Bible teaches both, Christ was to suffer on the cross and then return in the end, at which point he will subdue this Earth and all its nations.
“He shall come again with glory to judge the quick and the dead; whose kingdom shall have no end.” – Nicene Creed
(Dan 2:44) (Psa 41:9) (Psa 35:11) (Psa 35:19)(Psa 22:16-18) (Isa 50:6) (Zec 11:12-13) (Psa 45:6-7) (Isaiah 53) (Matt 24:39) (Matt 24:35) (Matt 24:30) (Rev 1:7) (Rev 19:11-15) (Rev 20:9)
The above verses are only a sample of those teaching on two clear things regarding the Messiah. He is defined in scripture as both a suffering servant and a conquering king. Both are true at the same time and neither can abrogate the other. This is part of what it means to submit to the word. If one instead places themselves and their beliefs over the Word they will never see what it teaches.
This study identifies prayer and fellowship as the correction of the Apostles eschatology. However we see in the Gospels that it was the Word of God that clarified their understanding.
“You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; and it is they that bear witness about me” John 5:39 ESV
“And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he interpreted to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning himself.” Luke 24:27 ESV
Above we see that the Bible is about Jesus, and it was he, the Word made flesh that provided the first expository sermon on the Word revealing in detail the understanding of true messianic eschatology. This wasn’t revealed in a mystical sense but rather in a face to face practical manner through the Word of God.
Going forward the lesson identifies the early challenges facing the Church as a manifestation of the Great Controversy. It is important to keep in mind that even though the Devil is certainly active in this world he has lost. There is no threat of failure of the Church or success of the Devil now nor was there then with the 12 Apostles right after pentacost. The scripture is clear that the Lamb was slain from the foundations of the World (Rev 13:8), we just received the distinct privilege of seeing it played out in space and time here on earth.
February 21 – The Beginning of a New Beginning
This lesson opens up with the assertion that the Apostles had incorrect eschatology regarding the Messiah that needed to be corrected. It says that “the disciples still had many wrong notions to unlearn” and that “Jesus focused on the real issue rather than waiting time trying to correct their every misunderstanding”.
In truth, Jesus actually went through great pains extensively teaching every detail, especially when the disciples were confused. Some prime examples are the parable of the sower (Matt 13) and Jesus actually rebuking Peter for error (Matt 16:23). Just like with the written Word today, if one does not submit to it and accept its teachings at face value it becomes a closed book to them. The disciples had been raised on a particular eschatological systematic theology that was simply incorrect. Christ did break down this fortress in his exposition to them (Luke 24:27).
Later in the lesson the writer states that “they would need power from on high in order to do what Jesus had called them to do”. Just to clarify something that often is glossed over by many teachers, the power that the Apostles received was not their own. They were not upgraded to “super men”, the miracles worked through them had an intended purpose which was performed by God. The purpose was the point people to God, not to themselves. Defeating Satan was not on the agenda. They were divinely appointed to fulfill God’s Sovereign will primarily by the preaching and proclaiming of the Gospel. Preaching the Gospel performs the finished act of the Cross upon the hearer by direct application of the Holy Spirit, not by the work of man. To imply that this means of grace is at threat in a conflict is to say that the Cross is not indeed finished.
Unregenerate man is certainly an enemy of God as the scriptures say (Col 1:21) and can do nothing but evil. But that doesn’t mean Christ has not won. His finished work on the Cross is applied and imputed to the hearer of the Word. This is not to say the Devil is inactive, but rather it shows that he is irrelevant.
February 22 – Pentecost
There is just nothing better than starting out Monday morning with a strong dose of the Law and no Gospel at all. If that was all my preacher was going offer me to start out the week I think I would opt for a cup of coffee instead. Unfortunately this is exactly what we find in Mondays lesson.
The first thing that jumps out at me is the assertion that the apostles “finally allowed the Holy Spirit to impress the truth upon them”. Is the implication they are making here that the Pentecost wouldn’t have happened had the apostles not allowed the Holy Spirit to arrive? Where is that in the Bible? This is a denial of the personage and power of God the Holy Spirit.
We see that the reading assignment begins to take a turn in the right direction. Comparing the dividing of languages in Genesis 11 and the gift of tongues in Acts 2 is actually not a bad study. The problem is the conclusions that are drawn from this.
In Genesis 11 due to sin thousands of people were punished and divided by tongues. In this we see types and shadow of judgment over sin. Conversely in acts 2 after the resurrection and ascension the elect were brought together with tongues in the shed blood of Christ, in this we see antitype fulfillment of the Gospel as 3000 souls are saved in a single day by the imputed righteousness of Christ.
“And be found in him, not having mine own righteousness, which is of the law, but that which is through the faith of Christ, the righteousness which is of God by faith” Php 3:9 KJV
This lesson instead makes it sound as if the Apostles pulled it all off because they were not “building a new tower of Babel, but … were ready to proclaim the good news that evil would one day be forever banished”.
Yes, in this lesson we find that the “good news” is not the Gospel that Jesus died and rose for the forgiveness of sins conquering sin and death (1 Cor 15:1-6) (Col 2:15). Instead it is a gospel that one day the devil will be defeated. I guess that means Christ is not ruling and reigning right now either.
“And Jesus came and spake unto them, saying, All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth.” Matt 28:18 KJV
Pentecost was a fulfillment of messianic prophecy, Peter makes this very clear by actually quoting some of the Old Testament passages which were speaking of the day.
“16 But this is that which was spoken by the prophet Joel;; 17 And it shall come to pass in the last days, saith God, I will pour out of my Spirit upon all flesh: and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, and your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams:; 18 And on my servants and on my handmaidens I will pour out in those days of my Spirit; and they shall prophesy:; 19 And I will shew wonders in heaven above, and signs in the earth beneath; blood, and fire, and vapour of smoke:; 20 The sun shall be turned into darkness, and the moon into blood, before that great and notable day of the Lord come:; 21 And it shall come to pass, that whosoever shall call on the name of the Lord shall be saved.; 22 Ye men of Israel, hear these words; Jesus of Nazareth, a man approved of God among you by miracles and wonders and signs, which God did by him in the midst of you, as ye yourselves also know” Acts 2:16-22 KJV
Compare the above passage with its direct Old Testament referent in (Joel 2:28-32). Peter is declaring under inspiration of God the Holy Spirit that this passage has been fulfilled in their presence. To say that Peter allowed this to happen would be to say that the very Gospel itself which was also foretold in could have been thwarted by man. To say that the enemy would one day be defeated would be to deny the very victory of Christ on the Cross, and since such power is given to man in this lesson it would also imply that man or the devil could thwart that promise too and defeat God instead.
Biblically we know that the Devil is defeated because we know from Isaiah that God is all powerful and has promised the assurance of salvation.
“But Jesus beheld them, and said unto them, With men this is impossible; butwith God all things are possible.”·Matt 19:26 KJV
“For with God·nothing·shall be impossible.”·Luk 1:37 KJV
“6 Being confident of this very thing, that he which hath begun a good work in you·will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ”·Php 1:6 KJV
“13 These things have I written unto you that believe on the name of the Son of God;·that ye may know that ye have eternal life, and that ye may believe on the name of the Son of God.”·1 Jhn 5:13 KJV
February 23 – Facing the Sadducees
This particular lesson paints a picture of conflict. The author argues that the Apostles and the Pharisees are fighting over the future of their beliefs and doctrines and that ultimately the truly pious won due to their prayer and reading of the scriptures and divine power conferred upon them.
At the end the author leaves us with “the final victory that is ours because what Jesus has accomplished for all humanity is certain”. Is the author really certain of this? It would appear that a lot of the things making this certain seem to be in his control. What happens if you don’t pray enough? What happens if your personal piety fails? Does that mean you won’t have the power to overcome the Devil? Will the Pharisees win?
This is not what Peter argues in the chapter at all. Instead he quotes Psalms 2, lets read a bit more of it.
“Why do the heathen rage, and the people imagine a vain thing? The kings of the earth set themselves, and the rulers take counsel together, against the Lord , and against his anointed, saying, Let us break their bands asunder, and cast away their cords from us. He that sitteth in the heavens shall laugh: the Lord shall have them in derision. Then shall he speak unto them in his wrath, and vex them in his sore displeasure. Yet have I set my king upon my holy hill of Zion. I will declare the decree: the Lord hath said unto me, Thou art my Son; this day have I begotten thee. Ask of me, and I shall give thee the heathen for thine inheritance, and the uttermost parts of the earth for thy possession. Thou shalt break them with a rod of iron; thou shalt dash them in pieces like a potter's vessel. Be wise now therefore, O ye kings: be instructed, ye judges of the earth. Serve the Lord with fear, and rejoice with trembling. Kiss the Son, lest he be angry, and ye perish from the way, when his wrath is kindled but a little. Blessed are all they that put their trust in him.” Psa 2:1-12 KJV
First notice that any thoughts or ambitions of the pagan are pure vanity. There is no threat of success, that doesn’t mean in a civil sense, but when it comes to overcoming the Gospel there is no change evil wins. To the point where even God laughs at those who ponder such things. We see also in this passage a messianic promise of Christ the begotten son.
The reason the Word rightly preached will always do it’s thing is because God has promised its efficacy.
“14 How then shall they call on him in whom they have not believed? and how shall they believe in him of whom they have not heard? and how shall they hear without a preacher?; 15 And how shall they preach, except they be sent? as it is written, How beautiful are the feet of them that preach the gospel of peace, and bring glad tidings of good things!; 16 But they have not all obeyed the gospel. For Esaias saith, Lord, who hath believed our report?; 17 So then faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.” Rom 10:14-17 KJV
The reason I pasted the whole pericope rather than just the prooftext at the end is to demonstrate that preaching is part of the context. God has promised to work through his Word in the giving of faith. This is why we see it is a Gift in Eph 2:8. In this act the devil is bound and the promise is assured, there is no victor on his part. The more you preach his Word the more faith there will be and the Sadducees of Acts 4 or anyone else who opposes it meets with the same vanity we see in Psalms 2. Sure, they can and did kill Peter. They can and did kill Paul. But they cannot stop the Gospel for Jesus has fulfilled and finished his work on the Cross.
February 24 – The Stoning of Stephen
This lesson portrays a duality, or rebellion, between two great entities. The picture presented is that the stoning of Stephen, and persecution then conversion of Saul as movements on a chess board between two powerful entities. There is an implied cosmic drama in the flow of the lesson as if we are all to be on pins and needles watching to see who will win.
Putting it bluntly this is not what we see taught in scripture. Instead we see that even the persecution of the Church was foretold as something God had ordained to take place.
“Then shall they deliver you up to be afflicted, and shall kill you: and ye shall be hated of all nations for my name's sake.” Matt 24:9 KJV
Neither man nor devils are of any contest to the will of God. The scripture paints a picture of created beings being as nothing more than grasshoppers in the sight of God.
“It is he that sitteth upon the circle of the earth, and the inhabitants thereof are as grasshoppers; that stretcheth out the heavens as a curtain, and spreadeth them out as a tent to dwell in” Isa 40:22 KJV
“For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith the Lord.; For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts.” Isa 55:8-9 KJV
February 25 – Changing Attitudes
Thursday’s lesson presents an overall theme against racism in general. Specifically it highlights Peter’s disposition against Gentiles due to the fact that he is a first century Jew. We are meant to understand his dream of unclean animals entirely in this context and know that it is only about not being prejudiced.
This is a really good example of getting the right theology from the wrong part of the Bible. Of course racism and prejudice are bad. There are many clear passages we can turn to which teach this. But this is not what Acts 10 is about at all and when we force the topic we end up missing out on what it is really teaching.
The Jewish people were a covenant people of God. When covenants are studied in the Bible we see that each one has a promise, a condition, and a sign.
Promise: Genesis 15:1-5
Promise: Exodus 2:24-25
Condition: Genesis 15:6
Condition: Exodus 19:7-8
Sign: Genesis 17:10-13
Sign: Exodus 31:12-18
Specifically with the Sign of the Mosaic Covenant we see that it is specific to those inside the covenant. Namely the biological generations of the Jewish People.
“12 And the·Lord·said to Moses,·13 “You are to speak to the people of Israel and say, ‘Above all you shall keep my Sabbaths, for this is a sign between me and you throughout your generations, that you may know that I, the·Lord, sanctify you.·14 You shall keep the Sabbath, because it is holy for you. Everyone who profanes it shall be put to death. Whoever does any work on it, that soul shall be cut off from among his people.·15 Six days shall work be done, but the seventh day is a Sabbath of solemn rest, holy to the·Lord. Whoever does any work on the Sabbath day shall be put to death.·16 Therefore the people of Israel shall keep the Sabbath, observing the Sabbath throughout their generations, as a covenant forever.·17 It is a sign forever between me and the people of Israel that in six days the·Lord·made heaven and earth, and on the seventh day he rested and was refreshed.” Exodus 31:12-17 ESV
It is not racism or prejudism of any sort to discern facts from fiction. Clearly in the word only physical descendants were born into the covenant. It was possible for Gentiles to covert, but even in those cases they had to receive circumcision and obey the Torah.
What we see in Acts 10 is simply what was foretold in·Isaiah 2:2-3 ESV and many other passages, which is that Gentiles will come to the faith. We get a clearer picture of this in Jeremiah 31:31-33 where a new covenant is spoken of. And then in Luke 22:20 we see the clearest moment of its Beginning. Simply put, it was God’s plan from the beginning to bring the Gospel to the world. To simply make this passage about racism or prejudism robes from the text the eschatological fulfillment of the New Covenant.
February 26 – Friday
For further thought the author presents a short parable demonstrating how he believes humans have a libertarian free will that seems to be able to alter or thwart the plans of God. The problem with this is that there exists a lot of Scripture teaching that God is all powerful, and that man is literally dead in trespasses and sins. The only thing we have the free will to do is to sin more and more, to pile our judgement higher and deeper.
You think there are exceptions? Don’t sinners do good works too? Not Coram Deo, that is to say, not before God. Even your best works are dirty rags before God as they are in some way tainted by pride or at the very least original sin.
“And you were dead in the trespasses and sins ; 2in 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” Eph 2:1-2 ESV
If you think dead people have libertarian free will, try asking a corpse to use their free will to walk. It’s the same thing, no matter how sappy the music is or how charismatic the preacher at the altar call is nobody can make a decision for Jesus in a state of spiritual death.