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Third Quarter 2016 (July–September)
COMMENTARY ON THE ROLE OF THE CHURCH IN THE COMMUNITY
Week 9: August 20–26
COMMENTARY ON "JESUS MINISTERED TO THEIR NEEDS"
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 week’s lesson seems similar to last week’s on the surface. Nevertheless, in the Teachers Comments we find a hint that explains the underlying purpose of this week’s lesson. Several times the Teachers Comments mention the unique Adventist “wholistic” focus on ministry; moreover, they acknowledge that the Adventist view that there is no immaterial spirit or soul that separates from the body influences Adventist ministry.
This admission explains the almost repetitive emphasis these lessons place on meeting needs, winning trust, and thus preparing people to be receptive for Adventist doctrine as a second step.
In short, Adventism believes that humans are only physical. While individual Adventists may argue with “outsiders” that they do believe man has a “spirit”, just one that “sleeps” after death, in reality they believe that the physical man is the whole man. The Holy Spirit, they say, communicates to humanity through the synapses of the cerebral cortex or the frontal lobes of the brain.
Lest anyone assert that I’m not accurately stating Adventist belief, here is a link to a brief excerpt of Richard Rice, professor in the School of Religion at Loma Linda University, declaring that Adventism’s emphasis on health and diet is related to Adventists’ belief that man is “essentially physical” and does not have an immaterial soul or spirit that is separate from the body:
Richard Rice explaining that man is essentailly physical. This clip is produced by Journey Films and is excerpted from their full-length documentary, The Adventists.
Because Adventism believes that humans are merely bodies with breath, that when the breath leaves the body the soul or person ceases to exist until the resurrection, their understanding of Jesus’ ministry will be entirely skewed. They believe that Jesus is exactly as they are with no advantage we do not have. Thus they believe that the man Jesus had no immaterial human spirit, either. He was simply a body with neurons perceiving the Holy Spirit.
Further, because they believe that Jesus was ministering to merely physical beings set apart from the rest of the animal kingdom by creativity, intelligence, and free will, they believe that Jesus’ main point was meeting felt needs. Adventism has no understanding of humanity being born spiritually dead, with spirits dead in sin although their bodies are breathing, as Ephesians 2:1-3 and Romans 3:9-12 describe.
For Adventists, healing the body and relieving depression and hunger and suffering is the secret to salvation. For Adventists, “salvation” is about intellectually knowing what they believe to be the “truth”. Apart from an intellectual understanding, there can be no salvation. This belief underlies the traditional stance within Adventism that says the developmentally disabled are not able to understand the gospel. This belief also underlies their unconcerned willingness to do abortions.
In Adventism, “righteousness” is defined as “right doing”. They simply do not understand that “righteousness” is the imputation of God’s own perfection to us when we trust and believe in the Lord Jesus and are born again, born of God, and sealed by the indwelling Holy Spirit.
The Bible is clear that we pass out of death into life when we believe (Jn. 5:24). We are transferred out of the domain of darkness into the kingdom of the Beloved Son (Col 1:13).
Jesus came to destroy the works of the devil (1 Jn. 3:8). He disarmed the principalities and powers at the cross (Col. 2:14). He came to be the propitiation for our sin (Rom. 3: 26) by shedding His blood for it.
Jesus did not come to “bring relief”. He came to reveal the Father and to fulfill prophecy. He came to demonstrate that the Messiah was actually GOD, Yahweh, the I Am. Only God could heal bodies and raise the dead. Jesus did those things to show who He was and to demonstrate that He could also do the other impossible thing that no one but God could do: forgive sin.
When one understands the true nature of man, that we have spirits that depart the body and go to be with the Lord when we die (2 Cor. 5:1-9; Phil. 1:22-23), evangelism and ministry look altogether different. Our purpose, if we truly know Jesus and are born again, is to share the life-giving gospel of Jesus slain, buried, and risen again. Physical aid is part of the fruit of knowing Jesus, but it is not our primary method of “making converts”.
Adventism, however, is interested in making new Adventists. The addition of great numbers of members is heady business, and local Adventist congregations and individuals are driven by guilt and pressure from the administration to introduce people to Adventism.
In short, Jesus did not come to meet needs; He came to make dead people alive as He fulfilled the prophecies of the coming Messiah. He came to forgive sin and to reveal that God was walking among them, that God was keeping His promises!
Our greatest need is to know that we are dead in sin and in need of a Savior. The Lord Jesus is all we need, and only if we know Him can we share Him.