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 2:
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."
Second Quarter 2016 (April–June)
COMMENTARY ON THE BOOK OF MATTHEW
Week 2: April 2–8
COMMENTARY ON THE MINISTRY BEGINS
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).
This lesson opens with an introduction that omits the central piece of Jesus’ ministry of reconciliation: His resurrection. The last paragraph of Saturday’s lesson states:
“In Jesus—His preexistence, birth, life, death, ministry in heaven, and second coming—we can find the answers to life’s most pressing questions.”
This sentence betrays Adventism’s lack of understanding of the resurrection. Even worse, it suggests Adventism’s subtle but deliberate attempt to suppress the knowledge of the real power of the resurrection. It is not Jesus’ “ministry in heaven” (which is shorthand for His supposed work of investigative judgment which will supposedly clean the heavenly sanctuary of our sin) that is the secret to our forgiveness and reconciliation; it is His resurrection which gives us new life (Rom. 5:10).
To omit the resurrection from the list of the important aspects of Jesus’ ministry is to overtly misstate the gospel:
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, (1 Corinthians 15:3-4)
The gospel is not the gospel if the resurrection is not part of its central core. It is the resurrection, not the death of Jesus, which broke the bonds of death for us. It is the resurrection which is the source of our spiritual life.
John the Baptist’s message
Sunday’s lesson makes much of John’s message of repentance and states that his “Repent!” message is the essence of what God supposedly has been saying to people “since the Fall”: “Repent, accept My forgiveness, put away your sins, and you will find Redemption and rest for your souls.”
In reality, this is not the message of salvation God has been issuing. He has been commanding people everywhere to Believe Him.
Abraham, whom Paul presents in Romans 4 as the father of all the faithful, gives us the prototype of salvation. Genesis 15:6 states the essence of being saved this way:
And he believed the LORD, and he counted it to him as righteousness. (Genesis 15:6)
The New Testament does not simply present “Repent!” as the essence of being saved. Repent of what? To whom? On what basis? Abraham’s being counted righteous did not include “repentance”. Rather, belief in God’s word, in His statements to each of us, is the essence of knowing Him.
Without belief in His word as absolutely, undeniably true no matter what the evidence suggests, repentance would have no meaning. New Testament repentance is premised on belief in the sacrifice of the Lord Jesus as complete payment for all our sin. It is our belief that triggers repentance.
The lesson suggests that repentance is the “thing” necessary for forgiveness, but God has stated the terms of forgiveness. Apart from belief in the Lord Jesus and His sacrifice for sin, there is no forgiveness.
It is not enough to “repent” for perceived sin to whatever god a person believes. Biblical repentance is agreeing with God about our own sin and acknowledging that He has sent us a personal Savior in whom we must place absolute faith and trust.
Monday’s lesson is about Jesus meeting Satan the wilderness. It opens with a speculative suggestion, that Satan had known Jesus as an “exalted Being” whom he had understood to be the “Son of God”, but now faced an emaciated, lone man in the wilderness.
This idea is derived not from Scripture but from Ellen White. Satan has always been a created being, and Jesus has always been the Creator. Satan new Jesus as his Creator. He knew exactly who Jesus was, even though He was now incarnate. There was no doubt in Satan’s mind about the identity of Jesus as God the Son, his Creator.
The lesson then asks the reader to compare Isaiah 14:12-14 and Philippians 2:5-8 to discover the differences between the characters of Satan and Jesus. This exercise reveals the fact that Adventism does not understand or acknowledge the eternal sovereign identity of the Lord Jesus as Almighty God from eternity past. There is never a reason for us to “compare” God’s character with Satan’s. They are not equal but opposite opponents. Such an idea places them on a comparable platform. Jesus and Satan cannot be compared. Satan is an angel, a fallen spirit being. Jesus is God mysteriously incarnated as a man. He is eternally God, and He is now eternally man as well.
Comparisons are made between things that have a common essence. There is absolutely nothing in common essentially between Jesus and Satan. Jesus is Satan’s Creator, and their characters cannot be compared. Satan is an evil creature; Jesus is eternally the spotless God the Son.
Today’s lesson attempts to explain why Jesus had to go through the temptation. Ellen White says Jesus had to be victorious over the same temptations of appetite and selfishness that Adam did not resist. Jesus, however, was the Perfect Israel who during His 40 days perfectly fulfilled what the nation failed to do in its 40 years of wandering. Jesus was the Promised Son whom the nation had expected. He perfectly did all that God asked His nation to do.
The lesson concludes by saying that Jesus’ victory “shows that we never have an excuse for sin, that there is no justification for it, and that, when tempted, we don’t have to fall but through faith and submission we can overcome.”
This statement is just wrong. Jesus was spiritually alive, and He was God even while He was man. His sinlessness was not the result of strong will power, and His sinlessness was not an example for us. We are born spiritually dead, and we sin BECAUSE we are sinners from the moment we are conceived.
Jesus’ sinlessness was the proof of His identity as the spotless Son of God, the Lamb of God. Www cannot avoid sin. His resistance of Satan was not our example. It was our proof that we can trust Him to be our perfect Substitute and Sacrifice.
Jesus did NOT demonstrate that we can be sinless. He demonstrated that He is the Promised One.
Today’s lesson camps on the fact that Jesus went to the land of Zebulun and Naphtali after John the Baptist’s death. Jesus thus fulfilled the prophecy in Isaiah 9:1 that God would make Galilee glorious after Zebulun and Naphtali had been dark with apostasy.
The authors twist this fulfillment of prophecy into a moral lesson on not judging people as unworthy of our evangelism.
“However exalted He Himself might have been, we see the willingness of Jesus to humble Himself off the sake of others” and “another example of how central the Old Testament was to the ministry of Jesus.”
This fact of Jesus’ going into the home of the two apostate tribes had nothing to do with demonstrating the centrality of the OT in Jesus’ ministry. Rather, His going there showed the Jews that HE was the fulfillment of the Old Testament prophecies. He didn’t read the Old Testament and use its facts as teaching tools or examples or even as ideas for what He would do. He WAS the One who fulfilled the law and the prophets. His going to Naphtali and Zebulun was a sign, an act that should have triggered recognition among the Jews. This was the One whom the prophets said would come. Jesus was the One who would bring light to the darkened tribes and bring glory to Galilee.
Thursday’s lesson uses EGW’s quote from The Desire of Ages to draw an example between the disciples and ordinary men. She says, “In the common walks of life there is many a man patiently treading the round of daily toil, unconscious that he possesses powers which, if called into action, would raise him to an equality with the world’s most honored men. The touch of a skillful hand is needed to arouse those dormant faculties. It was such men that Jesus called to be His colorers.”
The fact is that those disciples possessed no [particular skills that had to be called into action. Jesus chose them for His own reasons; in fact, in John 17:6 and onward Jesus clearly states that His disciples were the Father’s, and the Father gave them to Him. In spite of this appointment by God, however, their time with Jesus did not qualify them to evangelize the world and found the church.
Until they were filled with the Holy Spirit after Jesus’ resurrection and ascension on the Day of Pentecost, they were not allowed to leave Jerusalem or to go out and speak. It was not their “dormant faculties” that He aroused to equip them for ministry. Rather, it was the power and gifting of the Holy Spirit that they required.
Each of us who trusts Christ and believes that He has died for our personal sin, opening for us a new and living way to the Father, receives the seal of the Holy Spirit. It is the Holy Spirit that changes us from ordinary men and women, inspired by others’ encouragement, into people of God equipped to declare the gospel with power.
In him we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to the purpose of him who works all things according to the counsel of his will, so that we who were the first to hope in Christ might be to the praise of his glory. In him you also, when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and believed in him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit, who is the guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it, to the praise of his glory. (Ephesians 1:11-14)
It is the indwelling Holy Spirit, the gift of eternal spiritual life in our naturally dead spirits, that is the “thing” that God gives us when we believe.
Friday’s lesson attempts to make a case that one cannot separate the Old Testament from the New. the underlying point of this argument, however, is to try to make the Law a continuous rule of faith and practice from ancient Israel into today.
The New Testament cannot be properly understood apart from understanding the Old Testament. Nevertheless, the point is not consistency of the Law. Rather, the unifying factor is the Lord Jesus. The Old Testament is filled with prophecies and shadows that foretold the coming Lord Jesus and revealed God’s faithful plans for His people Israel and for the gentiles.
A proper understanding of the Old Testament does not uphold the law a continuing rule of faith and practice for the church. Rather, it reveals God’s faithful word and the utter detail with which the Lord Jesus is the fulfillment of the law, the prophets, and the Psalms, as Jesus explained on His walk to Emma's with the unnamed disciples (Lk. 24:44).
Jesus’ ministry was not a ministry example or of typical sacrifice. He came to fulfill the word of God and to usher in the new covenant as the only One who could and did fulfill every shadow of the Law.
In Jesus was have reality; He has replaced the law as our focus and Source of security.