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Third Quarter 2016 (July–September)
COMMENTARY ON THE ROLE OF THE CHURCH IN THE COMMUNITY
Week 11: September 3–9
COMMENTARY ON "JESUS BADE THEM, 'FOLLOW ME'"
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, Sept. 3: Introduction
The verse that sets the theme for this week comes from a passage of Scripture (John 10:1-21) where Jesus identifies himself as 'The Good Shepherd' that lays down his life for the sheep:
"A stranger they will not follow, but they will flee from him, for they do not know the voice of strangers.” (John 10:5)
Today's introduction gets sidetracked from the theme of 'the sheep know the voice of the Good Shepherd' with this statement:
"...Jesus’ followers were demonstrating His love through meeting the basic needs of those around them. That’s what Jesus did when He was here, and that’s what His followers are to do as well. No wonder, then, that when given the offer to follow Jesus, so many did."
Since the memory text is about why the sheep safe within the sheepfold will not follow after the voice of an imposter it is disingenuous to use this text to speculate on why Christianity grew so rapidly in the Roman Empire. After all, the unsaved within the empire who were becoming Christians would not yet be safe within the sheepfold and therefore wouldn't know the voice of the Good Shepherd Jesus Christ. Something not addressed in the lesson was happening within the Roman Empire.
Instead, turn forward to this passage to learn what attracts the unsaved of world to the gospel message of Jesus Christ:
When he had gone out, Jesus said, “Now is the Son of Man glorified, and God is glorified in him. If God is glorified in him, God will also glorify him in himself, and glorify him at once. Little children, yet a little while I am with you. You will seek me, and just as I said to the Jews, so now I also say to you, ‘Where I am going you cannot come.’ A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” (John 13:31-35)
Sunday, Sept. 4: They Know His Voice
The lesson begins this way:
"Read John 10:1–5, 16. How do these texts illustrate the importance of why we, as Jesus’ representatives, must form positive and loving relationships with people in our communities as we seek to lead them to Jesus? How can we help them learn to hear His voice?
While it is good and important to "form positive and loving relationships with people" that isn't what Jesus is teaching in this passage (John 10:1-21) of Scripture. Instead, when using a single verse or short passage we should use the selected Scripture to represent truthfully the whole of the passage which means the lesson should have begun here:
“Truly, truly, I say to you, he who does not enter the sheepfold by the door but climbs in by another way, that man is a thief and a robber. But he who enters by the door is the shepherd of the sheep." (John 10:1-2)
In John 10:5 Jesus says that his sheep (Christians) will follow his voice because they will not recognize the voice of a stranger. If you study the whole passage this verse is taken from you will find the reason that Christians know Jesus' voice is because he is the one who lays down his life for them:
"The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly. I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep." (John 10:10-11)
The "thief" attempts to enter the sheepfold by not coming in through "the door". Jesus is the "door", the one who "lays down his life" for his "sheep". In-other-words, the voice of the "thief" will not be preaching of the death, burial and resurrection (1 Cor. 15:1-5) of the "Good Shepherd" for the protection of the sheep safe in the sheepfold.
Monday, Sept. 5: We Are to Seek
The lesson stresses the idea that 'we are to seek fruit', meaning that Adventist's should be seeking all others in the world with the Adventist version of "the gospel" instead of focusing just on "the low-hanging fruit", identified by Adventists as "Christians of other denominations".
As has been shown earlier this week, anyone who does not come into the sheepfold by the door, which is the gospel of Jesus' shed blood for the remission of the sins of the world, is a "thief" who is not speaking with the voice of the Good Shepherd.
Since Adventism has traditionally focused on "the low-hanging fruit" of "Christians of other denominations" it is they who are guilty of attempt to steal fruit from the kingdom of God instead of reaching out to the “hard-to-reach fruit”.
In the context of this lesson, the unsaved sinners of this world are the ripe field ready to be harvested. They become fruit in the kingdom of God only when they respond to the biblical gospel of Jesus Christ.
In this verse the 'harvest' becomes 'fruit' when it has been reaped:
I do not want you to be unaware, brothers, that I have often intended to come to you (but thus far have been prevented), in order that I may reap some harvest among you as well as among the rest of the Gentiles. (Rom. 1:13)
Tuesday, Sept. 6: The Bridge
How to reach outsiders with the Adventist "truth" is expressed with this quote:
"The Lord does not now work to bring many souls into the truth, because of the church members who have never been converted and those who were once converted but who have backslidden. What influence would these unconsecrated members have on new converts? Would they not make of no effect the God-given message which His people are to bear?”—Ellen G. White, Testimonies for the Church, vol. 6, p. 371."
The challenge for all members to reach out to visitors certainly is a worthwhile agenda but connecting this with Zacchaeus' experience in meeting Jesus is a bit strained because the crowd that surrounded Jesus isn't really comparable to regular members of a worship service. Besides, the text doesn't really tell us why he wanted to see Jesus. What it does say is the extreme effort he went to in climbing the tree in the hope that it would happen. Furthermore, it seems likely that he didn't anticipate that Jesus would actually stop, speak to him and invite himself to Zacchaeus' home for lunch.
It is important to understand that the Holy Spirit is the real 'bridge' that connects a sinner to Jesus in our outreach to others:
So the Jews grumbled about him, because he said, “I am the bread that came down from heaven.” They said, “Is not this Jesus, the son of Joseph, whose father and mother we know? How does he now say, ‘I have come down from heaven’?” Jesus answered them, “Do not grumble among yourselves. No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him. And I will raise him up on the last day. It is written in the Prophets, ‘And they will all be taught by God.’ Everyone who has heard and learned from the Father comes to me—not that anyone has seen the Father except he who is from God; he has seen the Father. Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever believes has eternal life. I am the bread of life. (John 6:41-48)
The role of the Holy Spirit, John 16:1-15, includes the drawing of sinners to Jesus Christ. The crowds that surrounded Jesus simple illustrates what Zacchaeus, who was being drawn by God, was willing to do in order to see and possibly speak to Jesus.
Wednesday, Sept. 7: The Bidding
In this lesson quote we see the assumption that "the first part of Jesus' method" of witnessing was to create a desire to 'follow him':
"But you may say, “I will take care of the first part of Jesus’ method, but I don’t do the bidding ‘follow Me’ part. That’s not my gift.” If you do the first part, you may surprise yourself by automatically sharing Jesus—and it will be so natural, so much easier, because you did the “groundwork” in the soil of their hearts."
The lesson has some very good suggestions such as giving your own personal testimony but fails to stress that real eternal changes in your life are really to work of Jesus Christ. As for "the bidding" which is the topic for today, the lesson fails to say that unless a lost sinner is drawn by the Holy Spirit that person will not be drawn to God. In-other-words, unless a person is convected by the Holy Spirit they will not respond to the gospel message and say; "what must I do to have eternal life?, Acts 16:25-34:
So the Jews grumbled about him, because he said, “I am the bread that came down from heaven.” They said, “Is not this Jesus, the son of Joseph, whose father and mother we know? How does he now say, ‘I have come down from heaven’?” Jesus answered them, “Do not grumble among yourselves. No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him. And I will raise him up on the last day. It is written in the Prophets, ‘And they will all be taught by God.’ Everyone who has heard and learned from the Father comes to me—not that anyone has seen the Father except he who is from God; he has seen the Father. Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever believes has eternal life. I am the bread of life. Your fathers ate the manna in the wilderness, and they died. This is the bread that comes down from heaven, so that one may eat of it and not die. I am the living bread that came down from heaven. If anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever. And the bread that I will give for the life of the world is my flesh.” (John 6:41-51)
God, in the person and work of the Holy Spirit, is the one who convicts all sinners of their sins and draws them to the salvation gospel message of the person and work of Jesus Christ:
“I did not say these things to you from the beginning, because I was with you. But now I am going to him who sent me, and none of you asks me, ‘Where are you going?’ But because I have said these things to you, sorrow has filled your heart. Nevertheless, I tell you the truth: it is to your advantage that I go away, for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you. But if I go, I will send him to you. And when he comes, he will convict the world concerning sin and righteousness and judgment: concerning sin, because they do not believe in me; concerning righteousness, because I go to the Father, and you will see me no longer; concerning judgment, because the ruler of this world is judged." (John 16:4-11)
Thursday, Sept. 8: Seek and You Shall Find
The lesson begins with this:
"Read Revelation 3:20, Matthew 7:7, 8, and John 1:12. In what ways are these three passages related, and what are they saying to us about what it means to seek and to find the Lord?"
The intended theme is 'to seek and find the Lord' however the lead-in reference verse portray something that is the very opposite. Jesus is the one doing the seeking. Furthermore, Jesus is seeking unrepentant members of the church in Laodicea:
Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and eat with him, and he with me. (Rev. 3:20)
If you read the verses that follow the Matt. 7:7 & 8 reference, you will see that Jesus is giving a reason to apply the Golden Rule to our lives. However, Jesus is speaking to hypocrites (verse 5) which puts this in a different context than the Rev. 3:20. Here Jesus is telling hypocrites (or any hypocrite) who claim to be upholding the Old Covenant "Law and the Prophets" to repent of their sin:
“Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and the one who seeks finds, and to the one who knocks it will be opened. Or which one of you, if his son asks him for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a serpent? If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask him! So whatever you wish that others would do to you, do also to them, for this is the Law and the Prophets...." (Matt. 7:7-12)
John 1:12 isn't about sinners seeking God either which becomes obvious by including the surrounding text (Jesus Christ, of course, is The True Light) who seeks lost sinners:
The true light, which gives light to everyone, was coming into the world. He was in the world, and the world was made through him, yet the world did not know him. He came to his own, and his own people did not receive him. But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God, who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God (John 1:9-13)
In the following passage Jew and Greek are equally lost under sin. No sinner by his own will seeks after God:
What then? Are we Jews any better off? No, not at all. For we have already charged that all, both Jews and Greeks, are under sin, as it is written: “None is righteous, no, not one; no one understands; no one seeks for God. All have turned aside; together they have become worthless; no one does good, not even one.” (Rom. 3:9-12)
Friday, Sept. 9: Further Thought
This is one of the discussion questions for today:
"In class, talk about your own conversion stories. How have you used them, or how could you use them to be a witness to others?"
It is important to know and remember that Jesus died once for all time for the sins of the world:
For Christ also suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, that he might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh but made alive in the spirit,.... (1 Peter 3:18)
Conversion, when speaking of salvation, means to be transferred out of the kingdom of darkness and into the kingdom of God through the shed blood of Jesus Christ:
And so, from the day we heard, we have not ceased to pray for you, asking that you may be filled with the knowledge of his will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding, so as to walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to him: bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God; being strengthened with all power, according to his glorious might, for all endurance and patience with joy; giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of the saints in light. 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. 1:9-14)
It is not possible to have more than one testimony of your conversion and entry into the kingdom of God because it is not possible to put Jesus back on the cross:
Therefore let us leave the elementary doctrine of Christ and go on to maturity, not laying again a foundation of repentance from dead works and of faith toward God, and of instruction about washings, the laying on of hands, the resurrection of the dead, and eternal judgment. And this we will do if God permits. For it is impossible, in the case of those who have once been enlightened, who have tasted the heavenly gift, and have shared in the Holy Spirit, and have tasted the goodness of the word of God and the powers of the age to come, and then have fallen away, to restore them again to repentance, since they are crucifying once again the Son of God to their own harm and holding him up to contempt. (Heb. 6:1-6)
As a born-again Christian you grow in spiritual maturity through the ongoing work of Jesus Christ. There will be many 'chapters' to your testimony that glorifies yours Savior but only one 'conversion' story. Remember you are in the kingdom of God only through the ongoing power and work of your Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore there is nothing, not even your own self will, that can remove or separate you from the love of God, Romans chapter eight.