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First Quarter 2017 (December 31–March 24)
COMMENTARY ON THE HOLY SPIRIT AND SPIRITUALITY
Week 1: December 31–January 6
COMMENTARY ON "THE SPIRIT AND THE WORD"
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, Dec. 31: Introduction
Since this is the first lesson of both a new year and a new quarter our understanding of the nature and work of the Holy Spirit in the lives of fallen unregenerate mankind, our commentary for today will focus this Ellen G. White quote found in the quarterly introduction:
" “The Spirit was to be given as a regenerating agent, and without this the sacrifice of Christ would have been of no avail. The power of evil had been strengthening for centuries, and the submission of men to this satanic captivity was amazing. Sin could be resisted and overcome only through the mighty agency of the Third Person of the Godhead, who would come with no modified energy, but in the fullness of divine power. It is the Spirit that makes effectual what has been wrought out by the world’s Redeemer.”—Ellen G. White, The Desire of Ages, p. 671, italics supplied."
Unless you have been regenerated through the shed blood of Jesus Christ you do not have his gift of the indwelling Holy Spirit that brings your dead human spirit to life. And, unless you have been indwelt by the Holy Spirit you lack a foundation for understanding the mind of God as recorded in the Bible, the inspired holy word of God.
So lets begin with that foundation which means to focus on the person and work of Jesus Christ which is at the heart of the Christian life...the gospel message. The whole and complete gospel message is centered on the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ:
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)
Without the death of Jesus Christ there would be no atonement for our sins. An important point to keep in mind is that this is a complete atonement. This means that there is nothing more that can be added to the salvation message. This 'good news' is centered solely upon Jesus Christ, not any of our own works even though we were created and saved by the blood of Jesus Christ to do good works.
Jesus clearly stated that for a sinner to enter into the kingdom of God, meaning to have eternal life, the spirit of a sinner must to brought to life (born again) by his gift of the Holy Spirit. This means that Jesus Christ totally reverses, for those covered by his shed blood, the death of the spirit of Adam and Eve on the very day they sinned, Gen. 2:15-17:
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 3:5-8)
Jesus spoke of the role of the Holy Spirit many times. This passage relates closely to this week's general theme of "revelation and inspiration". Just keep in mind that unless a person is personally covered by blood of Jesus Christ and indwelt by the Holy Spirit this promise doesn't find fulfillment in the life of a sinner:
“I still have many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now. When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth, for he will not speak on his own authority, but whatever he hears he will speak, and he will declare to you the things that are to come. He will glorify me, for he will take what is mine and declare it to you. All that the Father has is mine; therefore I said that he will take what is mine and declare it to you...."(John 16:12-15)
When Jesus spoke of the coming of the Holy Spirit he was speaking of what is called the Day of Pentecost" and why this promise of understanding "all the truth" applies to all Christians, those who are indwelt by the Holy Spirit. Just keep in mind that this promise, while first given to the apostles, meaning that the inspired written Scriptures were completed during the apostolic age, Acts 1:1-11:
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)
However, the work of the Holy Spirit in the application of these Scriptures continues in the lives of Christians to this very day.
An introductory lesson on the role of the Holy Spirit should begin with Pentecost stressing that the role of the Holy Spirit, above all else, is to reveal the nature and work of Jesus Christ. The book of Acts, sometimes called "The Acts of the Apostles" is really a record of the works (acts) of Jesus Christ in the changed lives of saved sinners covered by the blood he shed at Calvary.
Sunday, Jan. 1: The Holy Spirit and Revelation
The lesson for today, which is good in as far as it goes begins with this:
"How does God ensure that His will is faithfully transmitted to fallen human beings? He does this in two major related activities of the Holy Spirit: revelation and inspiration."
Yes, the revelation of God is revealed to mankind through the direct working of the Holy Spirit.
However what the lesson fails to stress is that unless you are indwelt by the Holy Spirit you cannot distinguish truth from what is a lie. Without the Holy Spirit first convecting you of your need for the Savior Jesus Christ you are not yet able to separate God's truth from Satan's lies. The following passage comes from First Corinthians chapter two, all of which should be considered and studied from within its context. The overall context is that the Apostle Paul is speaking to Christians, those who do have "the mind of God" (the Holy Spirit) indwelling within them, apart from which they would not be able to fully understand this passage:
For who knows a person's thoughts except the spirit of that person, which is in him? So also no one comprehends the thoughts of God except the Spirit of God. Now we have received not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, that we might understand the things freely given us by God. And we impart this in words not taught by human wisdom but taught by the Spirit, interpreting spiritual truths to those who are spiritual. The natural person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned. (1 Cor.2:11-14)
Monday, Jan. 2: The Holy Spirit and Inspiration
Today's lesson is another example where what is said is true yet doesn't explore how the Adventist definition of inspiration which is not in alignment with the orthodox Christian definition of the same word. The lesson does include some excellent references, including Deut. 18:18 recorded by Moses:
“The LORD your God will raise up for you a prophet like me from among you, from your brothers—it is to him you shall listen—just as you desired of the LORD your God at Horeb on the day of the assembly, when you said, ‘Let me not hear again the voice of the LORD my God or see this great fire any more, lest I die.’ And the LORD said to me, ‘They are right in what they have spoken. I will raise up for them a prophet like you from among their brothers. And I will put my words in his mouth, and he shall speak to them all that I command him. And whoever will not listen to my words that he shall speak in my name, I myself will require it of him. But the prophet who presumes to speak a word in my name that I have not commanded him to speak, or who speaks in the name of other gods, that same prophet shall die.’ And if you say in your heart, ‘How may we know the word that the LORD has not spoken?’—when a prophet speaks in the name of the LORD, if the word does not come to pass or come true, that is a word that the LORD has not spoken; the prophet has spoken it presumptuously. You need not be afraid of him...." (Deut. 18:15-22)
Seventh-day Adventist theology maintains the concept which is called "thought inspiration" instead of the orthodox definition of verbal inspiration in accordance with statements made by Ellen G. White such as this quote:
"It is not the words of the Bible that are inspired, but the men that were inspired. Inspiration acts not on the man's words or his expressions but on the man himself, who, under the influence of the Holy Ghost, is imbued with thoughts. But the words and thoughts receive the impress of the individual mind. The divine mind is diffused. The divine mind and will is combined with the human mind and will; thus the utterances of the man are the word of God."—Ellen G. White, Selected Messages, book 1, p. 21.
The problem for an uninformed non-adventist reader of Adventist literature such as this lesson is that the word 'inspiration' doesn't have a common definition accepted by the orthodox Christian community and confuses many people as to what Adventist really believe and teach. Furthermore, the Adventist definition is not firmly anchored to what Scripture teaches. Although Moses could have been referring to one of several different future prophets in the above quote, one the of possible prophets God would have had in mind is Jeremiah where God said this when he personally appointed Jeremiah as his prophet:
Then the LORD put out his hand and touched my mouth. And the LORD said to me, “Behold, I have put my words in your mouth. See, I have set you this day over nations and over kingdoms, to pluck up and to break down, to destroy and to overthrow, to build and to plant.” Jer. 1:9-10)
The very words of God are what came forth from Jeremiah's mouth and were recorded in the book of Jeremiah. There is no room in this passage for the false thought inspiration concept. Furthermore, Moses said the same thing about the words he recorded in the name of and under the authority given to him by God.
To add to the confusion, the lesson includes an Ellen G. White quote which is found a few pages down from the above quote yet doesn't bother to mention that 'thought inspiration' is her context when she said this:
“God has been pleased to communicate His truth to the world by human agencies, and He Himself, by His Holy Spirit, qualified men and enabled them to do His work. He guided the mind in the selection of what to speak and what to write. The treasure was entrusted to earthen vessels, yet it is, nonetheless, from Heaven.”—Ellen G. White, Selected Messages, book 1, p. 26.
If Ellen G. White means what she said on page 21 just what does she mean on page 26?
Tuesday, Jan. 3: The Holy Spirit and the Truthfulness of Scripture
Overall today's lesson presentation is a good one. The Bible is the source for truth that we cannot otherwise know on such subjects as "a six-day creation, a worldwide flood, the virgin birth, the bodily resurrection of Jesus, and the literal Second Coming". These are areas of common belief with orthodox Christians, which Adventist sometimes seem to forget or not understand.
One of the lesson references is Hebrews 4:12 which when studied within its context presents some problems that contradict Adventist doctrine.
Let us therefore strive to enter that rest, so that no one may fall by the same sort of disobedience. For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart. (Heb.4:11-12)
First, there is the question of the human spirit mentioned in verse twelve which begins with the word 'for' that indicates we should back up and if we include verse eight where the word 'for' is also used, we should back up even more, perhaps to at least the beginning of this chapter.
Verse twelve speaks of both the human soul and the human spirit as both real but separate components of who we are as God's original creation, who if we remember what God said in Genesis, was created by God in his own likeness. Of course God also said to Adam that he would die on the day he ate of the 'tree of knowledge of good and evil'. Since both Adam and Eve did eat of this tree they did die on that day the question is just what died? Jesus speaks to this question when he said, 'you must be born again of the human spirit' before you can enter into the kingdom of God. The conclusion is that sinners are born with a very real dead spirit because of Adam and Eve's sin. It is brought back to life when we are indwelt by the Holy Spirit. The problem is that this is not what is taught and believed by Adventist.
The theme of Hebrews chapter four is about entering into God's eternal rest. This verse quotes Psalms 95:7-11 which recounts when the Hebrew people believed the ten spies instead of God's promise and consequently refused to enter into the Promised Land. Forty years later when Joshua did lead them into the Promised Land it was not the rest God had in mind for them because they still had harden hearts:
For if Joshua had given them rest, God would not have spoken of another day later on. So then, there remains a Sabbath rest for the people of God, for whoever has entered God's rest has also rested from his works as God did from his. (Heb. 4:8-10)
When this chapter in Hebrews is studied in full and in context it becomes clear that 'there remains a Sabbath rest' centered on the person and work of Jesus Christ, the work he completed for all time at Calvary. As for creation, God rested eternally from his work on the seventh day, meaning our rest in Jesus Christ is also an eternal ongoing rest. It is a day called "Today" which is not the Hebrew seventh day Sabbath rest because the Hebrew people did not enter into God's true eternal rest.
For we have come to share in Christ, if indeed we hold our original confidence firm to the end. As it is said, “Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts as in the rebellion. For who were those who heard and yet rebelled? Was it not all those who left Egypt led by Moses? And with whom was he provoked for forty years? Was it not with those who sinned, whose bodies fell in the wilderness? And to whom did he swear that they would not enter his rest, but to those who were disobedient? So we see that they were unable to enter because of unbelief. (Heb. 3:14-19)
Wednesday, Jan. 4: The Holy Spirit as Teacher
The Quarterly lesson for today has a series of questions:
"How has your pride been a stumbling stone that has hindered you from implementing the truth of Scripture in your life? In what areas do your own desires keep you from accepting God’s truth in your life? How can you learn to surrender everything to God?"
All other beliefs to be found within Adventism are in support of one unique doctrine known variously as the Investigative and/or Sanctuary Doctrine which is a poor defense of what did not happen on October 22, 1844. In spite of the clear warning of Scripture to not do so, a date was set for the Lord's promised return. Instead of confessing their foolish error the early pioneers of Adventism hung onto their false empty pride. At no time in the subsequent history of what became known as the Seventh-day Adventist organization has there ever been a creditable biblical defense of this belief.
When asked, Jesus said this:
“But concerning that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but the Father only. For as were the days of Noah, so will be the coming of the Son of Man..." (Matt. 24:36-37)
Jesus is very clear, he will return but when he does it will be a total surprise to all who are alive to witness this wonderful event. The very act of thinking Jesus would return at a certain time proves it was by fools who did not understand or believe what Jesus said in this passage.
For those who wish to be led and taught by the Holy Spirit, simply do as 'the thief on the cross' or the Philippian Jailer:
Then he brought them out and said, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?” And they said, “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved, you and your household.” And they spoke the word of the Lord to him and to all who were in his house. (Acts 16:30-32)
When Jesus becomes your Savior his gift of the Holy Spirit will indwell you and lead you into an understanding of God's truth. Sadly, many really have been saved by the blood of Jesus Christ but have been led astray and blinded by the writings of a false prophet. God's truth can only be found in the Holy Scriptures.
Thursday, Jan 5: The Holy Spirit and the Word
The lesson for today begins with this:
"The Holy Spirit, who has revealed and inspired the content of the Bible to human beings, will never lead us contrary to God’s Word in any way."
The one issue that is currently being hotly debated within Adventism is the question of ordaining women for the ministry, an issue that is currently being debated in many other denominations as well. What makes this especially challenging is that Adventism is a 'top down' organization where the common members often have very little control or impute on who serves within their local congregations. Ultimately, everything must conform to what is decided at world headquarters.
So, how do those who have apposing views on this, or any other subject of debate, resolve their differences? Since God in the person of the Holy Spirit will never contradict himself the answer should be obvious for those whose lives are being directed by the Holy Spirit.
Instead of being a slave to personal pride, in godly humility be of one mind, following the example of your Savior Jesus Christ and the leadership of his indwelling gift, the Holy Spirit:
So if there is any encouragement in Christ, any comfort from love, any participation in the Spirit, any affection and sympathy, complete my joy by being of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind. Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. (Phil. 2:1-8)
Friday, Jan. 6: Further Thought
First the lesson asks us to read from a couple of books written by Ellen G. White. Yet, immediately afterwards it then says this:
"Think about all the truth that we know only because it has been revealed to us in the Bible."
Knowing that Scripture is the only source that reveals the inspired true word of God why would anyone being led by the Holy Spirit want to waste their time reading the known fallible and largely plagiarized infested writings of Ellen G. White?