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Second Quarter 2016 (April–June)
COMMENTARY ON THE BOOK OF MATTHEW
Week 1: March 26–April 1
COMMENTARY ON SON OF DAVID
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, March 26: Introduction
The opening phrase in the lesson is: "Inspired by the Holy Spirit"
The memory text is:
"She will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.” (Matt. 1:21)
The purpose of the following Scripture quotations is to show the relationship between God (LORD), Jesus Christ and the role of the Holy Spirit with regards to what is inspiration of the Word of God.
1. All Scripture is breathed out by God:
All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work. (2 Tim. 3:16-17)
2. God (LORD) places his very words in the mouth of his prophet. Therefore the very words of a true prophet of God conform to the mind of God as if it is God himself speaking:
Then the LORD put out his hand and touched my mouth. And the LORD said to me, “Behold, I have put my words in your mouth. See, I have set you this day over nations and over kingdoms, to pluck up and to break down, to destroy and to overthrow, to build and to plant.” And the word of the LORD came to me, saying, “Jeremiah, what do you see?” And I said, “I see an almond branch.” Then the LORD said to me, “You have seen well, for I am watching over my word to perform it.” (Jer. 1:9-12)
3. Jesus Christ is the Word of God:
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made. In him was life, and the life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it. (John 1:1-5)
4. God's prophet speaks as carried along by the Holy Spirit. As such a true prophet of God only speaks the very words of 'God as carried along by the Holy Spirit':
For no prophecy was ever produced by the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit. (2 Peter 1:21)
5. All who would understand the mind of God can only do so through the personal indwelling working of the Holy Spirit:
“These things I have spoken to you while I am still with you. But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you." (John 14:25-26)
“I still have many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now. When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth, for he will not speak on his own authority, but whatever he hears he will speak, and he will declare to you the things that are to come. He will glorify me, for he will take what is mine and declare it to you. All that the Father has is mine; therefore I said that he will take what is mine and declare it to you." (John 16:12-15)
Unless you have been born-again into the kingdom of God through the blood of Jesus Christ he shed at Calvary for the atonement of your sins and consequently have been indwelt by his gift of the Holy Spirit you cannot fully know and understand the mind of God as recorded in the Holy Scriptures.
Sunday, March 27: A Book of Genesis
The lesson makes a point of stressing both Jesus' eternal divinity and his humanity by introducing this Ellen G. White quote:
" “By coming to dwell with us, Jesus was to reveal God both to men and to angels. He was the Word of God,—God’s thought made audible.”—Ellen G. White, The Desire of Ages, p. 19."
Ellen White's statement that Jesus came to "dwell with us" to reveal God to angels seems rather odd since the angels are with God in heaven and obviously know who God is. If you search the Scriptures you will find many reasons Jesus having 'dwelt among mankind', the primary purpose above all else being his death at Calvary for the sins of the world.
Ellen appears to be referencing John 1:14:
And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth. (John 1:14)
Continue on past verse 14, John the Baptist introduced Jesus as the promised Messiah who "takes away the sin of the world":
The next day he saw Jesus coming toward him, and said, “Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world! This is he of whom I said, ‘After me comes a man who ranks before me, because he was before me.’ I myself did not know him, but for this purpose I came baptizing with water, that he might be revealed to Israel.” (John 1:29-31)
While Jesus certainly did reveal much about God, Ellen White's statement is false in that the world already knew and still knows who God is, according to what the Apostle Paul say here:
For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth. For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse. For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened. Claiming to be wise, they became fools, and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man and birds and animals and creeping things. (Rom. 1:18-23)
Monday, March 28: A Royal Line
The lesson notes that Jesus' ancestry is a royal line yet fails to point out that there are actually two lines of genealogy, the other being recorded in Luke 3:23-38.
The genealogy outlined in the Gospel of Matthew actually beings with Abraham, then descends to King David before culminating with Joseph, the step-father of Jesus. This genealogy is Jesus' legal line making him the fulfillment of the many Old Testament prophecies concerning the coming Messiah. Matthew omits several wicked kings in this genealogy in what appears to be a deliberate 14-14-14 grouping of the line from Abraham to Joseph.
In Luke's genealogy, where Joseph "was thought to be" the father of Jesus, researchers point that in the phrase 'Joseph son of Heli', the word 'son' can be understood to mean 'son-in-law', making Heli the father of Mary. Since this line ascends back through to King David, it is also a royal line.
The significant difference in Luke's genealogy is that it ascends all the way back to "Adam the son of God" which makes Jesus the fulfillment of the very first prophecy and promise of a redeemer:
The LORD God said to the serpent, “Because you have done this, cursed are you above all livestock and above all beasts of the field; on your belly you shall go, and dust you shall eat all the days of your life. I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and her offspring; he shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel.” (Gen. 3:14-15)
Only at a time when God makes 'all things new' can we expect to fully understand why these two recorded genealogies seem so different in some of the details. For now, we can only know that they are both the inspired fully true word of God.
Tuesday, March 29: Jesus' Early Family Tree
Today the focus is on the 'black sheep' in Jesus' genealogy. The lesson points out that "God receives us despite our faults and shortcomings" yet fails to explore how any sinner can stand before a holy and righteous God.
The author of today's lesson is surprised that 'certain people' are part of Jesus' genealogy as if one kind of sin is worse than other sin. It is as if the author is just as shocked as the Pharisees were who complained that Jesus was eating with sinners:
And as Jesus reclined at table in the house, behold, many tax collectors and sinners came and were reclining with Jesus and his disciples. And when the Pharisees saw this, they said to his disciples, “Why does your teacher eat with tax collectors and sinners?” But when he heard it, he said, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. Go and learn what this means, ‘I desire mercy, and not sacrifice.’ For I came not to call the righteous, but sinners.” (Matt. 9:10-13)
Our attention is drawn to Tamar in the lesson yet Judah (her father-in-law who became the father of her twin sons) says of her "she is more righteous than me", Gen. 38:26. Tamar was more qualified to be in the linage of Jesus than Judah. The simple fact is that everybody in Jesus' genealogy was a sinner and without any righteousness of their own. The lesson also mentions several others including King David's murder of Uriah yet doesn't come to an obvious conclusion of any of these examples...that if being a sinner was the issue there would have been no human genealogy of Jesus. All are 'under sin', Rom. 3:9-18. To understand the phrase 'I desire mercy and not sacrifice' we should turn to following passage where Jesus compares the Pharisees to a repentant tax collector seeking mercy:
He also told this parable to some who trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and treated others with contempt: “Two men went up into the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee, standing by himself, prayed thus: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other men, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week; I give tithes of all that I get.’ But the tax collector, standing far off, would not even lift up his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying, ‘God, be merciful to me, a sinner!’ I tell you, this man went down to his house justified, rather than the other. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but the one who humbles himself will be exalted.” (Luke 18:9-14)
Wednesday, March 30: While We Were Yet Sinners
Today's topic is "humanity or human nature" or as it says towards the end of the lesson; "our fallen nature".
The question arises; According to Scripture what is "our fallen nature"? This will be the subject of today's commentary.
First, we must dispose of the false Adventist understanding of the word 'spirit' being some kind of cosmic 'breath of God' that God infused into Adam giving him life. We must remember that context often defines the specific meaning of a word, whether it is a literal definition or, in this case, a metaphor of something that is real but cannot be seen because it is not something that can seen by our physical senses.
Jesus himself gives us this metaphor of how to understand the meaning of the word 'spirit' by comparing it to the wind while explaining that a person must be born-again of his spirit. Our spirit is real, though unseen, like wind or the air we breathe:
Jesus answered him, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God.” Nicodemus said to him, “How can a man be born when he is old? Can he enter a second time into his mother's womb and be born?” Jesus answered, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God. That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. Do not marvel that I said to you, ‘You must be born again.’ The wind blows where it wishes, and you hear its sound, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit.” (John 3:3-8)
Jesus teaches that our human spirit is a dead spirit at physical birth which must be 'born-again' before we can become part of the kingdom of God. It is real and exists even though unseen. Now, let's turn back to the creation week account that led to the day when Adam sinned. What did God say would happened if Adam ate of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil?
Then God said, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness. And let them have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over the livestock and over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.” So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them. (Gen. 1:26-27)
At the time of his creation Adam's likeness, his perfect nature, mirrored the image of who God is.
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)
Adam was told to not eat of this one tree and was warned what would happen on that very day if he did so. Sadly, both Adam and Eve did eat of it and they did die on that day they sinned.
If you deny that Adam and Eve were created each with a perfect nature which included having living human spirits that died on the day they sinned then:
Thursday, March 31: The Birth of David's Divine Son
The lesson makes some pointless comments concerning when Jesus was born then focuses on the 'wise men' who came from the East to worship Jesus.
The lesson author assumes the magi were "pagans" who came from the east to worship God. Gentiles perhaps but, pagans certainly not. And we don't even know if they were Gentiles. The fact is that we know almost nothing about these 'wise men' from the East other than that they came to worship Jesus Christ the Son of God and gave him some rich gifts. It is significant to note that the magi were warned in a dream to not return to Herod in the journey back to their own country.
Within the context of a Jewish born Christian such as the writer of the Gospel of Matthew, a pagan is anyone who worships anything or anyone other than the one true God. In-other-words a pagan is an idol worshiper.
Since these magi came to worship God in the person of Jesus Christ the Son of God they clearly accepted the newly born Jesus as the promised Messiah as promised in the Old Testament prophecies. The context of this account suggests that they understood that Jesus had come to rescue the whole world from the slavery to sin, not just the Hebrew people. Their gifts to the baby Jesus suggests that they may have also understood that Jesus the promised Messiah had come to die as our sinless sacrifice in order to accomplish this mission.
Friday, April 1: Further Thought
The lesson for today is centered on this Ellen G. White quote:
“It is thus that every sinner may come to Christ. ‘Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to His mercy He saved us.’ Titus 3:5. When Satan tells you that you are a sinner, and cannot hope to receive blessing from God, tell him that Christ came into the world to save sinners. We have nothing to recommend us to God; but the plea that we may urge now and ever is our utterly helpless condition that makes His redeeming power a necessity.”—The Desire of Ages, p. 317.
Since this quote of Ellen's refers to Titus 3:5 let's compare that verse to what the lesson author then has to say:
Ellen's biblical reference, including some of the surrounding context verses:
But when the goodness and loving kindness of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out on us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that being justified by his grace we might become heirs according to the hope of eternal life. (Titus 3:4-7)
In this quote of Ellen White she uses the phrase "His redeeming power". Just to clarify, the Titus reference say 'he saved us' meaning Jesus act of redemption is a complete one time event that is applied to the life of a born-again Christian at the moment of accepting Jesus as Savior in your life. You are instantly eternally justified in the sight of God. Certainly you grow in sanctification and have a sure hope of glorification yet you are eternally secure because of Jesus' completed work of justification that is applied to your life.
The lesson then says:
"Our obedience to the law, our overcoming sin and temptation, and our growth in Christ, however much these are parts of the Christian life, are the results of salvation and never the cause."
The author of this lesson is wrong to say these things are the "results of salvation..." because Adventist are attempting to put 'New Wine in an Old Wine Sack' by saying more than what Scripture teaches.
Yes, we are encouraged to avoid sin and grow in righteousness which is the will of God yet Adventism fails to understand what that means.
On the night of the Lord's Supper (compare Matt. 26:17-29 with Luke 22:7-23) Jesus fulfills Jeremiah's prophecy concerning the New Covenant which replaced the Old Mosaic Covenant:
“Behold, the days are coming, declares the LORD, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and the house of Judah, not like the covenant that I made with their fathers on the day when I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt, my covenant that they broke, though I was their husband, declares the LORD. For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, declares the LORD: I will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts. And I will be their God, and they shall be my people. And no longer shall each one teach his neighbor and each his brother, saying, ‘Know the LORD,’ for they shall all know me, from the least of them to the greatest, declares the LORD. For I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more.” (Jeremiah 31:31-34)
The written commands of the now obsolete Old Covenant have been replaced by the words of Jesus outlined in the book of Titus along with the rest of the New Testament of the Bible. As Jeremiah prophesied, the commands and will of Jesus Christ are now written on the hearts of those who are in the kingdom of God.
Furthermore (see Romans 7:13-25) we, as New Covenant born-again believers who are in the kingdom of God, learn that overcoming 'the works of the flesh' and growing in righteousness is an ongoing work of Jesus Christ. We then come to this promise:
There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. For the law of the Spirit of life has set you free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death. For God has done what the law, weakened by the flesh, could not do. By sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin, he condemned sin in the flesh, in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit. (Romans 8:1-4)