The Sabbath School Bible Study Guide is published by Pacific Press Publishing Association, which is owned and operated by the Seventh-day Adventist church. The current quarter's edition is shown above.
Official Adventist Resources for week 8:
Support this project
If you would like to support this website, please click on the following link to donate online or you may mail your check to: Life Assurance Ministries, PO Box 905, Redlands, CA 92373. Mark your check "Bible Studies."
First Quarter 2017 (December 31–March 24)
COMMENTARY ON THE HOLY SPIRIT AND SPIRITUALITY
Week 8: February 18–24
COMMENTARY ON "THE HOLY SPIRIT AND THE GIFTS OF THE SPIRIT"
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, February 18
The only thing that concerns me with today’s lesson is the implication that the Gospel is insufficient for the creation of faith in the unbeliever without the gifts of the Spirit. This is a common assumption amongst those with a more liberal Arminian based theology. One must properly contextualize their message and help God save people, it’s not something that God does only, it’s something that man helps God with.
This is wrong, we are saved by the work of God, not man. The Church is called to proclaim the gospel. Contextualizing it does not make it more or less efficacious. The gifts of the Spirit are given for many reasons but they are not a “right arm” of the Gospel if you will. It would be better to categorize the Gifts of the Spirit we have today with law, in the sense of fulfilling the vocation in life God has given you. They are a significant part of the good works that God has prepared for us (Eph 2:10).
Sunday, February 19
What concerns me about today’s is that the writer places the efficacy of the Gifts of the Spirit upon the fruits of the Spirit. The implications are rather stark if you connect this with the teachings from the day before.
For example, in order to be able to preach the gospel you need to synergize that with the gifts of the spirit, and to be able to do that you need to demonstrate the fruits of the spirit, which means keeping the law.
Jesus set the standard of law keeping at total perfection:
“You therefore must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.” Matt 5:48 ESV
So if we wrap that back around, if you’re not perfect then you’re not proclaiming the gospel and your gifts are useless or non-existent. This is a warped teaching that confuses law and gospel to the extent that you have neither.
God has justified sinners, and counted them as righteous by faith.
“and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith” Php 3:9 ESV
Like Paul (1 Tim 1:15)(Rom 7:13-25) we can expect to be “simul justus et peccator” (simultaneously justified and sinner) in this life. The gifts of the Spirit do not depend on our ability to transcend the sinner within, if that were true then it would be impossible for Paul to be an apostle as he would have no gifts of the Holy Spirit.
Monday, February 20
Today’s lesson encourages a great deal of personal reflection to discern one’s gifts. Call me crazy but I just don’t think the thrust of scripture is for one to focus inward upon themselves to see how special God has deemed them to be in this life.
If he has given you gifts then you should see that as a burden more than a blessing as it’s something he expects you to use. Such things will be self-evident. Like Martin Luther teaches, if you peer inward and reach for God you will likely just find the Devil.
Tuesday, February 21
Today’s lesson is actually pretty good. I like how the author focuses on the use of the Gifts of the Spirit as doing good works for your neighbor. He also brings up some helpful reflections on Church unity and division from focusing on individuals rather than on Christ. One shouldn’t look at a Gift of the Spirit as a comic book superpower.
Wednesday, February 22
What the writer of this lesson is attempting to rebuke is Cessationism. This is the belief that certain gifts of the Holy Spirit have ceased. Obviously there would be implications for Ellen White so this must be stamped out. The problem is that he misrepresents the teaching though.
Hear me out, I agree with the Biblical doctrine of Cessationism. But I wouldn’t intentionally misrepresent someone else’s beliefs in order to prop mine up. I will give a brief presentation of it to the reader here and you can compare it to what others teach and make up your own mind.
There are three primary passages that I use to present Cessationism, though others can be stacked in as well I feel these are the plainest.
“Seventy weeks are decreed about your people and your holy city, to·finish the transgression, to put an end to sin, and to·atone for iniquity, to bring in everlasting righteousness, to·seal both vision and prophet, and to anoint a most holy place.·Know therefore and understand that from the going out of the word to restore and build Jerusalem to the coming of an anointed one, a prince, there shall be seven weeks. Then for sixty-two weeks it shall be built again with squares and moat, but in a troubled time. ·And after the sixty-two weeks,·an anointed one·shall be·cut off·and shall have nothing. And the people of the prince who is to come shall·destroy the city and the sanctuary. Its end shall come with a flood, and to the end there shall be war. Desolations are decreed. ·And he shall make a strong covenant with many for one week, and for half of the week he shall·put an end to sacrifice and offering. And on the wing of abominations shall come one who makes desolate, until the decreed end is poured out on the desolator.”·Dan 9:24-27 ESV
What I would like the reader to see above is that the most logical referent point to a sealing of vision and prophet is the end of sacrifice and offering. It’s a apocalyptic text and is not the clearest, but a fair reading of it would be that vision and prophet would be sealed at the cross. Many Christians, including myself, understand it that way.
Most commentaries that you find though will read the seventy weeks as pointing to Christ, and most will read the last verse as also pointing to Christ, specifically on the cross. Thus it is fair to say that the Cross is a point at which we can expect the sealing of vision and prophet.
“Long ago, at many times and in many ways,·God spoke to our fathers by the·prophets,·but in these last days he has spoken to us by his·Son, whom he appointed the heir of all things, through whom also he created the world.”·Heb 1:1-2 ESV
This verse backs up the one that I pointed out above. How God speaks to us in the past is juxtaposed against how he speaks to us now. Today we learn about God from the Bible, not from a prophet. This was impossible in Old Testament times as the Bible wasn’t complete yet.
“… As for·prophecies, they will·pass away; as for·tongues,·they will cease;·as for·knowledge, it will·pass away. ·For we know in·part·and we prophesy in·part,·but·when the perfect comes, the partial will pass away. ·When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I gave up childish ways. ·For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I have been fully known. ·So now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love.”·1 Cor 13:8-13 ESV
This text above does plainly state that certain gifts will cease. Today’s SDA lesson asserts that the referent of when it will cease is the eschaton (second coming). This is consistent with what most charismatics believe. I don’t believe that this is the best reading of the text though as it strips the meaning out of it. Also you have to read “mirror dimly” as figurative and “face to face” as literal to place the referent at the end of the world.
A better reading would be to understand the “perfect” as being the close of canon. At the time Paul is writing this the New Testament is incomplete, most churches have one epistle or gospel narrative at best. As Paul writes this the Church is relying to some extent on prophetic Gifts for the word of God to be preached. But when the Bible is done this won’t be necessary anymore and they will be able to see God’s sufficient teachings face to face.
This isn’t that bold of a claim, it is only that Prophecy, Words of Knowledge (mind reading), healing, and tongues have ceased. In a world of countless failed prophecies, fake healings, and unbiblical demonstrations of speaking in tongues this doctrine should be obvious enough on it’s own.
That said, I cannot definitively prove that the referent of “perfect” is the close of canon. But to be fair, one cannot prove that it is the second coming either!
I do believe that the New Testament is the best referent of the two as I don’t have to flip-flop metaphors to arrive at that conclusion like the continuationist does. I’ll leave it there and let the reader make their own discernment.
Thursday, February 23
If you accept the doctrine of Cessationism that I presented above, the caution in today’s lesson is very easy. You outright reject everyone claiming to have the gifts of prophecy, healing, et cetera in this era. If they are claiming to have these gifts that means they are false. I test them by this teaching and discern them all to be false spirits. This also accentuates Christ warning of a proliferation of false prophets and false signs and wonders in the end times.
If however you reject Cessationism then there are still means by which one can test these spirits. It’s more time consuming and has to be done one by one but not impossible.
“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.” Deu 18:21-22 ESV
As you can see the Bible gives us an excellent example for testing people who claim to be prophets. I find it interesting that the author did not consider applying his own council to Ellen White. There are many examples I could give but here is a simple and obvious one….
“Those who are living upon the earth when the·intercession of Christ shall cease·in the sanctuary above are to·stand in the sight of a holy God without a mediator.·Their robes must be spotless, their characters must be purified from sin by the blood of sprinkling. Through the grace of God and·their own diligent effort they must be conquerors in the battle with evil. While the investigative judgment is going forward in heaven, while the sins of penitent believers are being removed from the sanctuary, there is to be a special work of purification, of putting away of sin, among God’s people upon earth.” ·The Great Controversy, Pg. 425 Ellen White
Now compare that with the following passages from scripture:
“Consequently, he is able to save to the uttermost those who draw near to God through him, since he always lives to make intercession for them.” Heb 7:25 ESV
So in the Bible it says that Jesus always intercedes for us and in Ellen White it says he stops being our mediator at the close of probation. That doesn’t match, this is a false prophecy therefore she must also be a false prophet. There are many other examples like this. She predicted crazy things like England invading the US during the Civil War and other such nonsense.
This process can be consistently applied to anyone claiming the gift of prophecy. If they fail it then you know they are a false prophet. And if they pass then that means they are teaching the same as scripture and you don’t need them anyways.
Friday, February 24
I am not saying that miraculous healings never occur. There are things in my life that can only be explained by the miraculous and I am sure most can make the same claim. The difference is that they don’t consistently happen through a human agent like they did with Peter for example. He would walk through town and anyone standing in his shadow would be healed (Acts 5:15).
Yet later as this apostolic gift was coming to a close we have Paul directing Timothy to homeopathic remedies instead of seeking a miraculous healing (1 Tim 5:23).
Let’s be honest though, a huge percentage of the things that are attested to be healings today are psychosomatic in nature (back pain etc). Also many have been exposed as hoaxes, like the leg extension trick if you have ever seen that.
The real rub though is that even if there is a genuine miracle, one cannot prove that it was God the Holy Spirit that did it. Satan is perfectly capable of signs and wonders and we were warned in scripture that this would be so (2 Thess 2:9).
Does this mean we should discount our personal experiences entirely? Absolutely not! I am just saying that they need to be on a much lower level of authority than we typically place them. I would say, personal experiences should be on the level (authority wise) of ancient tradition and philosophy. Scripture needs to be placed at the top.
Tradition Personal Experiences Reason