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Third Quarter 2016 (July–September)
COMMENTARY ON THE ROLE OF THE CHURCH IN THE COMMUNITY
Week 10: August 27–September 2
COMMENTARY ON "JESUS WON THEIR CONFIDENCE"
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).
Saturday Afternoon – 8/27
Today’s lesson gives us a story on a local SDA pastor who served the government as a chaplain for the local school system. This is juxtaposed against the final claim that we are to:
“[win] the confidence of people whom we aim to serve and win for Christ”
My concern with this statement is the underlying theology. Notice in the Bible it teaches that confessing belief is something associated with salvation:
“9 because, if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.” Rom 10:9 ESV
And then in a good cross reference to this passage we see that you cannot confess that Christ is Lord under your own power.
“3Therefore I want you to understand that no one speaking in the Spirit of God ever says "Jesus is accursed!" and no one can say "Jesus is Lord" except in the Holy Spirit.” 1 Cor 12:3 ESV
So here is the idea, we don’t “win” souls for Christ. He won them on the cross. If he uses to as an instrument it’s a honor not accomplishment on your part. While it’s a good work for the Church to serve the community in acts of kindness, this act doesn’t help Jesus save anyone. Any other theology would have to presuppose that the atonement of Christ is not sufficient and needs the help of man.
Today’s lesson spins in circles and doesn’t really teach anything beyond a vague concept of Christian piety. Take the word confidence for example, they appeal to latin to tie the word to faith but that would only be relevant here if we were reading the Latin Vulgate. We are not though so it really doesn’t matter.
After that the writer appeals to the greek on an unrelated word and then cautions against confidence in one self over and against confidence in Christ. This is where I am understanding the piety theme as breaking in.
Faith has to have an object, and it is true that a Biblical faith is one that is in Christ. But this is a gift given to us by Christ, we do not muster it up for ourselves as the author seems to imply. See below:
“8 For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, ; 9 not a result of works, so that no one may boast.” Eph 2:8-9 ESV
“14How then will they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching? ; 15And how are they to preach unless they are sent? As it is written, "How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the good news!" ; 16But they have not all obeyed the gospel. For Isaiah says, "Lord, who has believed what he has heard from us?" ; 17So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ.” Rom 10:14-17 ESV
See, the idea is that God gives you faith, and he does it through means. Specifically, we see above that he uses the preaching of the Word to give you faith. Pietistically inspiring confidence in others through your acts of charity do not create faith in you or anyone else. You’re not that powerful. Only God can do this and he has given us his Word as the medium. If you want someone to have faith, then preach the Word and trust God the Holy Spirit to do the real work.
Read this lesson carefully. Notice that they attribute the success of an SDA church in Africa to the work of man not of God. Specifically, they link unselfishness and unconditional service to church growth. Understand this though, if those Bible verses that I posted in yesterdays lesson and the one before are to be believed, then such acts do not create sheep at all. No Christians are created merely through good works or church growth. Only the preaching of the gospel can create a christian.
Hear me out, it is better for one sinner to hear the Word and be created anew, then to fill a whole nation of churches with goats.
Let’s make one thing very clear, the Bible has no grand teaching on “social capital”. This seems to be the SDA slant on the Dominionist prosperity gospel that TV preachers like to peddle. The Bible is about Jesus Christ and him crucified for our sins.
To substantiate this “social capital” doctrine the writer of the lesson has given us a verse from proverbs.
“1 A good name is to be chosen rather than great riches,and favor is better than silver or gold.” Prov 22:1 ESV
It is a big mistake to turn to proverbs for extra law and an even bigger one to turn to it for gospel. The Proverbs is considered a book of wisedom, not law. There are applications one can make in a law sense, but that is not it’s purpose. Compare it to a book like Leviticus and you will quickly see what I mean.
“4 The soul of the sluggard craves and gets nothing, while the soul of the diligent is richly supplied.” Prov 13:4 ESV
Read the verse above, is that always true? Does the soul of the sluggard always get nothing? Are the diligent always richly supplied? This this a promise or secret key to unlock, a law you can follow, to always receive a treat from the almighty? Is this a pattern for church growth and “winning souls”?
Well it would make about as much sense to apply this verse in the manner that SDA did 22:1. Solomon would have been aware of lazy people who were born into riches and hard working men that despite their efforts fail in misfortune. He would have been aware of people whose names were slandered and tattered outside of their control. That’s not the point.
The point is that working hard is a good thing and so is a good name. In a general sense these are wise statements and should be taken to heart in that manner. Even better that they are the Word of God. If you follow these principles and your church or business grow that’s a good thing. But this doesn’t save souls, that is an act of God not of man.
Today’s lesson twists the historic narrative from the old testament to make it about ourselves. Sadly this is common even outside of SDA circles. You are not David, and Goliath is not your problems. The Bible isn’t a book of types and shadows all to be interpreted figuratively pointing to the day when you would step upon this earth. It is about Jesus, from Genesis to Revelation.
God gave a great honor to Nehemiah, and from this story we should see that God fulfilled his promises to restore the Jews to Jerusalem and rebuild their temple. They had lost their throne and their king, and any sane man would have reason to despair because it would be logical to fear that the messiah would not come either. But that’s not what happened, even when all ways lost God came through and restored Jerusalem.
God even restored the throne of David through a virgin birth, and he rules and reigns today on that very throne in heaven.
If you find any church growth, social capital philosophy, or business building tips out of the book of nehemiah its something you had to read into the text, it’s simply not there. And when you do that you miss out on the actual point because to insert yourself you end up having to remove Christ.
Notice in this whole week so far we have gotten a lot of so called Church growth tips but Christ and him crucified has not been mentioned once. One would think it should come up in a lesson on evangelism.
I am just baffled how this lesson trivializes the cross and puts in it’s place the health message. Whatever cross they are talking about it must not be the one Christ died to save on.
Much of the other themes that the writer brings up I have already commented on in the previous days of the week but I will leave the reader with this. SDA claim that the health message is the “right arm” of the Gospel. Let’s test that claim Biblically, first of all we should see how important it is to teach the true Gospel:
“8 But though we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel unto you than that which we have preached unto you, let him be accursed.; 9 As we said before, so say I now again, If any man preach any other gospel unto you than that ye have received, let him be accursed.” Gal 1:8-9 KJV
Wow! So that’s pretty serious then. I guess we can’t go making up new gospels, and based on that I would see it as no trivial matter to go adding arms and legs to it as well. Instead we should see what Paul defines the Gospel as, logically, we are supposed to preach the one that he taught. So let’s see what he taught.
“1 Moreover, brethren, I declare unto you the gospel which I preached unto you, which also ye have received, and wherein ye stand;; 2 By which also ye are saved, if ye keep in memory what I preached unto you, unless ye have believed in vain.; 3 For I delivered unto you first of all that which I also received, how that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures;; 4 And that he was buried, and that he rose again the third day according to the scriptures:” 1 Cor 15:1-4 KJV
Read the passage above very carefully. Notice there is no health message at all, also he doesn’t leave a caveat for any “right arms”. That’s the gospel, Christ is risen and you are forgiven. Repent of your sins and trust in him. Eating better won’t help Jesus save you and teaching others to eat better won’t create faith. Only the act of God can do that.
The author of the article gives his final thoughts on the conclusions reached in the prior lessons and I will do the same.
Good works are a good thing and many passages teach that we are to do them. The book of James for example gives an excellent presentation on this. Another good verse is Eph. 2:10, I like it because it demonstrates a full chain.
“8For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: 9Not of works, lest any man should boast. 10 For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them.” Eph 2:8-10 KJV
When you are talking to a legalist it’s good not to leave that verse out. They sometimes will think you are trying to hide it if you don’t bring it up first. Notice that God has created these good works for you and wants you to do them. Also notice that this verse falls last in the chain after faith has been given as a gift from God.
This is the distinction that Rome failed to make in canon IX of the council of Trent, and it is the same distinction that SDA have failed to make in this weeks lesson. Each day good works were put forward as a means of brining people to Christ. And while they can and do increase membership they will not create Christians, only God can do that. If you want to see him do it then preach the Gospel, which is unfortunately something we did not get to see this week in the SDA lesson.