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Third Quarter 2016 (July–September)
COMMENTARY ON THE ROLE OF THE CHURCH IN THE COMMUNITY
Week 1: June 25–July 1
COMMENTARY ON "THE RESTORATION OF ALL THINGS"
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, June 25: Introduction
The lesson assumes that what is wrong in this world is centered upon what is called the Great Controversy with this statement:
"It’s called the Fall. It’s called sin. It’s called rebellion, and it’s called the great controversy."
For the Adventist Great Controversy doctrine to be a true explanation of the evil that exists in this world then the foundation for that belief must be found in Scripture. The two common biblical references normally referenced by Adventists as biblical support are found in Isaiah chapter fourteen and Ezekiel chapter twenty-eight. Yet neither reference supports the explanation given by Ellen G. White for Lucifer's (Satan's) jealousy.
For instances, Isaiah 14:3-22 is a prophecy against Babylon and does include this passage:
“How you are fallen from heaven, O Day Star, son of Dawn! How you are cut down to the ground, you who laid the nations low! You said in your heart, ‘I will ascend to heaven; above the stars of God I will set my throne on high; I will sit on the mount of assembly in the far reaches of the north; I will ascend above the heights of the clouds; I will make myself like the Most High.’ " (Isa. 14:12-14)
Undoubtably this is a reference to Satan. However this is simply a statement of jealousy and not the cause of that jealousy. Ellen G. White's explanation exceeds what has been recorded in Scripture:
"The Lord has shown me that Satan was once an honored angel in heaven, next to Jesus Christ. His countenance was mild, expressive of happiness like the other angels. His forehead was high and broad, and showed great intelligence. His form was perfect. He had noble, majestic bearing. And I saw that when God said to his Son, Let us make man in our image, Satan was jealous of Jesus. He wished to be consulted concerning the formation of man. He was filled with envy, jealousy and hatred. He wished to be the highest in heaven, next to God, and receive the highest honors. Until this time all heaven was in order, harmony and perfect subjection to the government of God." (The Great Controversy, Ellen G. White, chapter one paragraph one, 1858 edition)
For an orthodox evangelical Christian it is unethical to promote The Great Controversy doctrine as an explanation of the evil that exists in this world without providing a biblical foundation for such a belief. Assuming it to be true because it 'sounds right' to unregenerate sinners is proof of nothing.
In her writings Ellen G. White assumes that Michael, sometimes called 'Michael the Archangel' in Scripture, was once a near equal with Lucifer (Satan). According to her when God the Father elevated Michael (Jesus) to the position of 'Son of God' this became the cause of Satan's jealousy of Jesus. This is but one example of this:
"Moses passed through death, but Michael came down and gave him life before his body had seen corruption. Satan tried to hold the body, claiming it as his; but Michael resurrected Moses and took him to heaven. Satan railed bitterly against God...but Christ did not rebuke His adversary... He meekly referred him to His Father, saying, 'The Lord rebuke thee.'" (Early Writings, Ellen G. White, page 164)
Adventist compound and promote this error through the acceptance and use of the unofficial publication of the Clear Word paraphrase of the Bible where in Jude 1:9 it outrageously renders it to read; "Jesus, also called Michael the Archangel".
Since Jesus always was eternally the Son of God equal with the Father it is heresy to suggest he is or ever was anything less than fully God. This is the reason well informed orthodox Christians object to the Adventist Great Controversy doctrine. No doctrine or any other belief is any better than the foundation upon which it is built no matter how 'right sounding' it may appear to be.
This was why the Jews were seeking all the more to kill him, because not only was he breaking the Sabbath, but he was even calling God his own Father, making himself equal with God. (John 5:18)
My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand. My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all, and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father's hand. I and the Father are one.” (John 10:27-30)
Sunday, June 26: The Image of God
The lesson says this:
"They alone, among all the other creatures made during that time, were in God’s image. They were not evolved apes. As human beings, they and we are radically different from all of the other life forms on earth, and any theology that lessens this difference degrades humanity."
Instead of what may or may not 'degrade humanity' our commentary for today will address the issue of how Adventist theology "degrades" the sovereign work of God.
What it means to have been created in the image of God will be part of tomorrows commentary.
An important issue is to correctly understand the meaning of this verse:
...then the LORD God formed the man of dust from the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living creature. (Gen. 2:7)
Contrary to Adventist belief, Scripture clearly teaches that our life is in our blood. As such we do no not become who we are at birth and for the first time breathe the air that sustains physical life:
For the life of the flesh is in the blood, and I have given it for you on the altar to make atonement for your souls, for it is the blood that makes atonement by the life. (Lev. 17:11)
Returning to the Genesis account we see that when God covered the nakedness of Adam and Eve with animal skins the implication is that there had been a shedding of blood:
And the LORD God made for Adam and for his wife garments of skins and clothed them. (Gen. 3:21)
Without the shedding of Christ's perfect sinless blood there could have been no forgiveness of sin:
For I received from the Lord what I also delivered to you, that the Lord Jesus on the night when he was betrayed took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it, and said, “This is my body which is for you. Do this in remembrance of me.” In the same way also he took the cup, after supper, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood. Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me.” For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord's death until he comes. (1 Cor. 11:23-26)
As we will see in tomorrow's commentary 'the breath of life' is a metaphor for something unseen that God breathed into Adam. That something died when they sinned and required the shedding of perfect sinless blood before it could be brought back to life.
Monday, 27: The Fall and Its Aftermath
Adventist doctrine ignores and obscures this foundational issue:
On the day Adam and Eve sinned God warned that they would die yet they had physical life for many years afterwards.
This is the passage where God informed Adam that he could eat the fruit of any tree in the Garden of Eden except for the fruit of the tree of knowledge of good and evil:
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)
In the biblical creation account this is the only instruction God gave Adam that contained a condition. That is, if Adam did not do as instructed there would be an immediate negative consequence. Adam and Eve both ate of this one restricted tree and they did die on that day yet experienced physical life for many years afterwards.
Turning to the words of Jesus Christ (John 3:1-21), we learn that sinners must be born again of their spirit in order to become part of the kingdom of God:
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)
Tuesday, June 28: Enmity and Atonement
The subject of today's lesson is the Adventist version of 'the plan of salvation'. The lesson refers to "Christ's sacrificial death" as "the crucial and foundational step..."
The lesson begins by referring to these verses with the focus placed on 'enmity':
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)
In speaking directly to the Serpent (Satan) God proclaims that there would be enmity between Satan and the woman which would to be manifested in two related ways.
The first is that Satan's enmity would be directed at the human race as is illustrated in verses such as these:
He has delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins. (Col. 1:13-14)
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. 6:12)
The second understanding is in the veiled prophetic enmity that pointed to Calvary where Satan would "bruise" the heel of Jesus but Jesus would "bruise" the head of Satan. Satan's "bruising of the heel" was a temporary 'flesh wound' wherein Jesus would spend three days in the grave. The other was a death warrant for Satan because when Jesus came back from the grave at his resurrection it proclaimed to Satan that his future is to spend eternaty in the Lake of Fire.
The lesson author is dead wrong to call "Christ's sacrificial death...the crucial and foundational step". The gospel message of Jesus' death, burial and resurrection is a complete gospel message. As such it is infinitely more than a foundational step leading towards salvation and eternity in the kingdom of God. When Jesus told the thief on the cross he would be with him in paradise there was nothing else to be accomplished between him hanging there at the side of Jesus and spending eternity in the kingdom of God:
And he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.” And he said to him, “Truly, I say to you, today you will be with me in Paradise.” (Luke 23:42-43)
The Apostle Paul recounts the complete gospel in this passage:
Now I would remind you, brothers, of the gospel I preached to you, which you received, in which you stand, and by which you are being saved, if you hold fast to the word I preached to you—unless you believed in vain. 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, and that he appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve. (1 Cor. 15:1-5)
The following passage tells us that anyone who calls the events of Calvary but a "foundational step" have a curse placed upon them. Therefore do not alter, take away from nor add to the gospel message:
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)
Wednesday, June 29: Restoration in Jesus
The quarterly lesson for today is centered around an Ellen G. White quote followed by this statement:
"Though this restoration won’t be completed until the new heavens and the new earth, the process already has begun in us now!"
Although Scripture makes a sure promise of 'a new heaven and a new earth' at a time of eternal peace when where there is no longer sin, pain or death God does not reveal to us many details other than to indicate that it will be something new. As such, our future is not about "restoration" back to what was once perfect, as indicated by what Jesus said when questioned about the resurrection:
But Jesus answered them, “You are wrong, because you know neither the Scriptures nor the power of God. For in the resurrection they neither marry nor are given in marriage, but are like angels in heaven. And as for the resurrection of the dead, have you not read what was said to you by God: ‘I am the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob’? He is not God of the dead, but of the living.” And when the crowd heard it, they were astonished at his teaching. (Matt. 22:29-33)
On-the-other-hand, as stressed earlier this week, restoration (communication and fellowship with God) occurs at the moment a sinner responds to the gospel message through Jesus' gift of the indwelling Holy Spirit, who at that instant in time gives new life to our dead human spirit.
Scripture does mention a 'process' called sanctification where we mature spiritually and admonishes us that even though we are eternally secure in the kingdom of God we do sin daily. In 1 John 1:5-10 the Apostle John is addressing those who have eternal life (1 John 1:2):
This is the message we have heard from him and proclaim to you, that God is light, and in him is no darkness at all. If we say we have fellowship with him while we walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth. But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin. If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. If we say we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us. (1 John 1:5-10)
As Christians who have experience the 'new birth' it is intended by God who knew who we would be before the foundation of the world, that 'we walk in a life of good works' that reflects our new life. These are the very words of Jesus taken from his message of the 'Final Judgment' recorded in Matthew 25:31-46:
Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.’ (Matt. 25:34-36)
The 'process' of sanctification is where we respond to the leading of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, It is really the ongoing work of Jesus Christ coupled with his indwelling gift of the Holy Spirit as revealed by the personal testimony of the Apostle Paul:
So I find it to be a law that when I want to do right, evil lies close at hand. For I delight in the law of God, in my inner being, but I see in my members another law waging war against the law of my mind and making me captive to the law of sin that dwells in my members. 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. 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. (Rom. 7:21- 8:2)
Note: Since Romans chapter eight is the 'high point' of the Christian faith be sure to continue on and study the whole of this chapter.
Thursday, June 30: The Restoring Role of the Church
The lesson speaks of 'the restoring role of the church'.
According to Scripture just what is 'the church' and what did the Lord commanded it to do above all else?
According to Scripture the church didn't exist until the beginning of the 'apostolic age':
Now to him who is able to strengthen you according to my gospel and the preaching of Jesus Christ, according to the revelation of the mystery that was kept secret for long ages but has now been disclosed and through the prophetic writings has been made known to all nations, according to the command of the eternal God, to bring about the obedience of faith—to the only wise God be glory forevermore through Jesus Christ! Amen. (Rom. 16:25-27)
In Ephesians 3:1-13 the Apostle Paul makes it clear that that this mystery that was hidden concerns the existence of 'the church' which was created by God and includes both Jews and Gentiles:
To me, though I am the very least of all the saints, this grace was given, to preach to the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ, and to bring to light for everyone what is the plan of the mystery hidden for ages in God who created all things, so that through the church the manifold wisdom of God might now be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly places. (Eph. 3:8-10)
The original apostles along with the other saints were admonished by Jesus just before his ascension to the right hand of the Father to wait for the coming of the Holy Spirit, Luke 24:44-53. The birth of the church and the beginning of the 'church age' is known as the day of Pentecost:
When the day of Pentecost arrived, they were all together in one place. And suddenly there came from heaven a sound like a mighty rushing wind, and it filled the entire house where they were sitting. And divided tongues as of fire appeared to them and rested on each one of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit gave them utterance. (Acts 2:1-4)
Earlier when Jesus gave Peter "the keys of the kingdom of heaven" it was founded upon the understanding that no power of heaven or hell could prevail against the power of God, Matt. 16:13-20. Therefore consider the meaning of the unbroken existence of the church along with the assurance given to those within this creation of God. If God is for us who can possibly prevail against us?
What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things? Who shall bring any charge against God's elect? It is God who justifies. Who is to condemn? Christ Jesus is the one who died—more than that, who was raised—who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us. Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? As it is written, “For your sake we are being killed all the day long; we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered.” (Rom. 8:31-36)
Since no power can prevail against what God has created there is no biblical justification for the Seventh-day Adventist's claim to be the one and only true remnant church that has restored what has been lost.
As for the role of the church, the true and only church created by God, remember The Great Commission that encompasses all else Christians are commanded by Jesus Christ to do. Just remember the vital qualifier that we are not to add to or change in any other way the gospel message, Gal. 1:9 & 1 Cor. 15:1-5:
Now the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain to which Jesus had directed them. And when they saw him they worshiped him, but some doubted. And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 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.” (Matt. 28:16-20)
When Jesus says "to the end of the age" he wants us to understand that nothing can possibly interrupt or prevail against the power of God right down to the end of this age we are now in.
Friday, July 1: Further Thought
Instead of presenting a summary or application of the biblical gospel message the quarterly lesson talks of the church (meaning the 'remnant' Seventh-day Adventist denomination) restoring God's image.
As has already been stressed in this week's commentary 'restoring God's image' is the work of Jesus Christ through his gift of the indwelling Holy Spirit who brings our human spirit to life at the moment we respond to the biblical gospel message and accept Jesus Christ as our Savior. It is Jesus' shed blood at Calvary that atones for our sins, which includes no work of our own.
For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them. (Eph. 2:8-10)
Yes, as Saints of God, we are to 'walk' a life of good works, yet those works are not the gospel message. Instead, they are is the result of the atoning shed blood of Jesus Christ. Since these works are the result of the power of Jesus Christ, even in this there is no boasting of oneself.