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Second Quarter 2017 (March 25–June 23)
COMMENTARY ON "FEED MY SHEEP": FIRST AND SECOND PETER
Week 7: May 6–12
COMMENTARY ON "SERVANT LEADERSHIP"
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, May 6: Introduction
With reference to 1 Peter 5:1-10 the question raised in the lesson is; What are the characteristics of effective church leadership?
While this is a valid question the referenced passage comes toward the end of Peter's first epistle and if you were to review the previous quarterly lessons an inductive study leading up to this passage hasn't been accomplished. A better question is; Why are we looking at Peter's closing remarks yet have been given little direct searching and understanding of the rest of this epistle leading up to this quoted passage in the previous quarterly lessons?
Since this portion of Scripture begins with with the word 'So'; 'So I exhort the elders among you....' it is appropriate to step back and include what came before in chapter four to gain something of Peter's context:
Therefore let those who suffer according to God's will entrust their souls to a faithful Creator while doing good. So I exhort the elders among you.... (1 Peter 4:19-5:1a)
The previous verse, as can be seen, begins with the word 'therefore' which suggests for us to continue on back, leading to the beginning of Peter's letter before drawing conclusions and asking questions such as has been done in this lesson introduction.
If you were to review the previous six weeks of lessons for this quarter you will find that this has not been done. Picking 'sound bits' of Scripture throughout the bible, even when in somewhat of a local context may be the way to search out a specific theme or topic however this certainly is not the way to understand a particular book of the bible without simultaneously studying the original Holy Spirit inspired author's letter in the manner it was written.
The quarterly title implies we are going to learn the Apostle Peter's message in these two epistles. Instead, only selected portions of First and Second Peter have been included in pursuit of something different, the quarterly lesson author's own agenda.
Sunday, May 7: Elders in the Early Church
This question is raised in the lesson:
"What are ways that you can learn to work better with the leaders in your local church, even when you don’t always agree on things?"
This is much to broad of a question because a proper response to the question depends upon; What is the specific issue of the person who is in disagreement with the church leadership?
Most issues including biblical doctrine should find agreeable resolution in a body of Holy Spirit led Christians because all true Christians are under the same leadership of the Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. The Bible however should be the final authority when the issue is; What is truth?
When it is an issue of doctrine it is best for those who don't agree with Adventist doctrine, such as the Investigative/Sanctuary doctrine versus learning Scripture clearly teaches that a sinner covered by the blood of Christ is eternally secure in the kingdom of heaven, to leave and have their membership removed in a mutually agreeable manor.
Since Adventist leadership is unable to provide a biblical foundation for this one unique unbiblical doctrine it is hypocritical to only remove such a person from membership on grounds of apostasy when that is their reason for leaving. It is not apostasy to reject the Investigative/Sanctuary doctrine founded upon what Scripture teaches.
Monday, May 8: The Elders
The lesson examines the role of an elder by first establishing what are the requirements for becoming an elder with reference to 1 Peter 5:1-4 but then redirects our attention to other Scripture references without first actually studying this passage.
Concerning the qualifications for becoming an elder the lesson say this:
"Peter likens the role of an elder to a shepherd tending the flock of God. His comparing a church to sheep suggests that, like sheep, members can sometimes go off on their own. Thus, they need the shepherd to guide them back to the group and to help them work in harmony with it. The elder also should function as a humble example of how a Christian needs to act."
While this statement does well in describing the behavior and function of an elder it ignores one critical requirement for becoming an elder. Even though it may seem obvious it needs to be stated that like all other members of the Body of Christ in the local church an elder must be a mature christian whose own sins are covered by the shed blood of Christ and that, as an elder, you know you have been eternally transferred out of the kingdom of darkness and into the kingdom of God.
To better understand this requirement turn to Colossians 1:1-14 where the Apostle Paul addresses and describes what is true of all who are Christians:
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. 1:13-14)
An overseer (elder) must then become a mature christian:
He must not be a recent convert, or he may become puffed up with conceit and fall into the condemnation of the devil. (1 Tim. 1:6)
Since First and Second Timothy were expressly written to provide specific qualifications and duties for becoming either an elder or deacon it is rather odd that the lesson for today makes no reference to these epistles.
In the lesson we find this statement:
"His comparing a church to sheep suggests that, like sheep, members can sometimes go off on their own. Thus, they need the shepherd to guide them back to the group and to help them work in harmony with it."
In the context of the lesson "the group" obviously means Seventh-day Adventism whereas in Scripture "the group" is restricted to those whose faith is placed on nothing other than the shed blood of Jesus Christ, 1 Cor. 15:1-5.
Furthermore the indwelling Holy Spirit (not Sabbath keeping) is the sign and seal of a member of the kingdom of God, "the group", the true universal church:
In him we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to the purpose of him who works all things according to the counsel of his will, so that we who were the first to hope in Christ might be to the praise of his glory. In him you also, when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and believed in him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit, who is the guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it, to the praise of his glory. (Eph. 1:11-14)
With this in mind we will take a side trip from the lesson theme:
An interesting point that seems to be overlooked by Adventist is that there is no command to be found anywhere in Scripture to worship God on the Sabbath Day. On the topic of worship read Jesus' words in John 4:16-24 on how God is to be worshiped. Paradoxically if you work yourself to exhaustion in preparation for your intended worship on the Sabbath then what you are really doing is breaking the forth commandment you think you are keeping by not staying home and resting as the Old Covenant commanded you to do.
Therefore a wise and humble Seventh-day Adventist elder should follow the sheep that have joined a group of born-again believers covered solely by the shed blood of Jesus Christ instead of compelling them to rejoin the false Adventist group.
In such a setting you will learn from Scripture that the Old Covenant Sabbath rest pointed to Jesus Christ as your eternal Sabbath Rest from the curse of sin:
And to Adam he said, “Because you have listened to the voice of your wife and have eaten of the tree of which I commanded you, ‘You shall not eat of it,’ cursed is the ground because of you; in pain you shall eat of it all the days of your life; thorns and thistles it shall bring forth for you; and you shall eat the plants of the field. By the sweat of your face you shall eat bread, till you return to the ground, for out of it you were taken; for you are dust, and to dust you shall return.” (Gen. 3:17-19)
Working the ground to stay alive became a curse and introduced the need for rest from physical exhaustion. The Old Covenant Sabbath rest was only given to the Hebrews, God's covenant people. Their seventh day Sabbath, which specifically portrayed their escape from the slavery of Egypt prophetically pointed to the Messiah, Jesus Christ, as their eternal Sabbath Rest from the curse of sin. Therefore Christians rest in Jesus Christ rather than the Old Covenant symbol that pointed to him.
The seventh day Sabbath Rest is the sign of the Old Covenant. As was promised by Jeremiah the Old Mosaic covenant was replaced by a New Covenant which is unlike the Old:
“Behold, the days are coming, declares the Lord, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and the house of Judah, not like the covenant that I made with their fathers on the day when I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt, my covenant that they broke, though I was their husband, declares the Lord. But this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, declares the Lord: I will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts. And I will be their God, and they shall be my people. And no longer shall each one teach his neighbor and each his brother, saying, ‘Know the Lord,’ for they shall all know me, from the least of them to the greatest, declares the Lord. For I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more.” (Jer. 31:31-34)
The Jesus' gift of the indwelling Holy Spirit is the sign and seal of the New Covenant, not the Sabbath that pointed to him and Calvary. According to Jeremiah's prophecy God's covenant people as a nation will one day accept Jesus as their promised Messiah.
In the mean time, for both Jews and Gentiles alike, "Today" is the "another day" to enter into Jesus your Sabbath Rest, read Heb. 4:1-13 & Ps. 95:7-11:
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. (Heb. 4:8-10)
We rest eternally in Jesus Christ in the same way God rested eternally from his six days of creation. God, who never gets tired, rested (meaning he ceased) from his act of creation because it was complete.
Heb. 4:1-13 is also telling us that Jesus' atonement for the sins of the world at Calvary is a complete finished atonement. Satan played no part in this atonement then nor will he ever do so.
Tuesday, May 9: Servant Leadership
1 Peter 5:3 and Matt. 20:24-28 are the lesson references used to identify "crucial principles of christian leadership".
However, instead of focusing on Scripture the lesson includes an Ellen G. White quote which is commentary on Matt. 20:24-28 where she uses the phrase; "their selfishness". Since the request on who would sit at the side of Jesus came from one person, the mother of the James and John, this quote should have read; "her selfishness". We don't know what her sons part, if any, was in this request of hers. It was the mother's request that Jesus tactfully deflected by informing her that such a decision was for the Father to make, not his. Thus Jesus avoided having a schism amongst the disciples.
Otherwise the lesson does well to emphasis that leaders in Jesus kingdom must be servants. The lesson does well to quote Jesus where he said, "...even as the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” While we are command to serve as servants there are at least a couple of differences in our role from that of Jesus.
While it is obvious that only God in the person of Jesus Christ is to be worshiped. Our role includes pointing all sinners, in whatever context we find ourselves, to the Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
The other point is terribly misunderstood by those who subscribe to Adventist theology. Jesus role as servant continues to this very day and moment in that redeemed sinners do not, through their own effort or work over come the practice to sin. Scripture does not teach we will ever be free of the practice of sin while still living in the flesh. For this very reason we are implored to have on the full armor of God, Eph. 6:10-20:
Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand firm. (Eph. 6:13)
The armor of God is the work of God in the person of Jesus' gift, the indwelling Holy Spirit. The Apostle Paul also says it this way in the Book of Romans where it would be good to back up and study the context of this passage:
So I find it to be a law that when I want to do right, evil lies close at hand. For I delight in the law of God, in my inner being, but I see in my members another law waging war against the law of my mind and making me captive to the law of sin that dwells in my members. Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, I myself serve the law of God with my mind, but with my flesh I serve the law of sin. (Rom. 7:21-25)
Sinners still in the kingdom of darkness do not "delight in the law of God". Rather, Paul is describing himself as someone in the kingdom of God yet at the same time must still surrender the sins of the flesh to Jesus Christ for spiritual maturity, ongoing growing sanctification.
Wednesday, May 10: Clothed With Humility
The question of humility is introduced by first noting that in our sin fallen world this would normally be the proper attitude of the 'lower classes' of society directed upward towards those who rule 'from the top down' whereas, in the Body of Christ, the local church, humility begins with the elders and deacons who are to exhibit this in the way they serve the Body of Christ the Church.
When you consider Jesus' instructions on leaders in his kingdom being servants there is one major difference in the humility of a christian versus from that of the world. In the world humility is not a choice whereas all christians, especially those who lead, willingly humble themselves both to each other and before our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
The best way to understand the uniqueness of christian humility is to examine the biblical account of the interaction between the apostles Peter and Paul along with their common relationship to the Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Only Jesus is Lord. All else who are in the kingdom of God model their lives after Jesus as servants regardless of their role of leadership.
In humility the Apostle Paul humbly submitted himself to both the christian leadership in Jerusalem and the Roman government for the cause of Christ. On questions of doctrine Paul accepted the verdict expressed by Peter because Jesus had given Peter (leadership) 'the keys of heaven and earth', Matt. 16:19, Acts 21:17-26 & 26:30-32.
Peter, who was confronted by Paul (Gal. 2:11-14) concerning his hypocrisy of not eating with the Gentiles would humbly say this of "our beloved brother Paul":
And count the patience of our Lord as salvation, just as our beloved brother Paul also wrote to you according to the wisdom given him, as he does in all his letters when he speaks in them of these matters. There are some things in them that are hard to understand, which the ignorant and unstable twist to their own destruction, as they do the other Scriptures. (2 Peter 3:15-16)
Thursday, May 11: Like a Roaring Lion
Today's lesson introduces the "great-controversy theme" with the unstated assumption that the persecution of the apostolic church was simply a part of an ongoing battle between Satan and Jesus.
As is the normal practice with Adventists apologist who promote the Great Controversy theme, the foundation for developing and believing this doctrine has been ignored and simply assumed to be true.
This is the non-biblical foundation versus the biblical response thereof of the Great Controversy:
Friday, May 12: Further Thought
The lesson summary for this week focuses on the humility of Jesus Christ through his act of washing the feet of all the disciples including that of Judas, yet fails to search out the full significance of the disciples having their feet washed by the Savior.
While 'foot washing' hasn't been commanded as a christian church ordinance it is certainly clear that we are to follow Jesus' example and do to each other as he did to his disciples. The theme of humility is certainly a noble practice to be found within Adventism however this isn't the whole of what Jesus is teaching. For those who have adopted this practice it is appropriate that foot washing be followed up with the taking of the ordinances that represent Jesus' body and blood shed at Calvary.
Since this account is on the evening and beginning of the day that Jesus died for the sins of the world at Calvary we should take note of the events that led to the Passover which in the New Covenant becomes 'The Lord's Supper'.
In John 12:1-7, six days before the Passover, Mary the sister of Lazarus, whom Jesus had resurrected a few days earlier, anoints the feet of Jesus which were about to be 'bruised by the Serpent', Gen. 3:14-15. According to this promise of God recorded in the Genesis account Jesus would at the same time give a death blow to the 'head of the Serpent'. The significance for us to understand is that when Jesus arose from the grave the atonement was complete and Satan was declared to be totally defeated by Jesus who is the prophesied 'offspring of the woman'. There is no such thing as an ongoing Great Controversy between between Satan and Jesus because it was over and done with at Calvary. John chapter twelve concludes with Jesus' triumphal entry into Jerusalem riding upon a young donkey. We should keep in mind that it was Jesus feet that were prepared for his coming death at Calvary as we move into the next chapter of John.
John chapter thirteen begins with both the setting and motive for Jesus' actions where he washes the feet of his disciples. We should focus on what Jesus was teaching the disciples when he told them that those who are clean only need their feet washed. And that Judas certainly was not clean even though his feet were washed by Jesus:
Now before the Feast of the Passover, when Jesus knew that his hour had come to depart out of this world to the Father, having loved his own who were in the world, he loved them to the end. During supper, when the devil had already put it into the heart of Judas Iscariot, Simon's son, to betray him, Jesus, knowing that the Father had given all things into his hands, and that he had come from God and was going back to God, rose from supper. He laid aside his outer garments, and taking a towel, tied it around his waist. (John 13:1-4)
In verses 2, 11 & 21 we see that Jesus is fully aware that Judas would betray him and that Judas was the only one in the room who was not clean. At most we can see that 'foot washing' wasn't about eternal salvation which is something only Jesus, a perfect sacrifice, would accomplish later that same day at Calvary.
In verses 3-9 Jesus washes the feet of the disciples, all the disciples, including Judas and where Peter protests having his feet washed. Then Jesus says this to Peter:
Jesus said to him, “The one who has bathed does not need to wash, except for his feet, but is completely clean. And you are clean, but not every one of you.” (John 13:10)
In this evil age we all "walking in" our spiritual feet need ongoing "washing" by fellow Christians. Jesus example of foot washing certainly illustrates humility but that isn't the primary meaning. One of things Jesus means is that in the fallen sin filled world we live in we will never be perfect. In humility we confess our daily sins to one another. Only until Jesus returns to collect his Bride will we be free of sin.
By contrast, John 13:10 reveals the depth and meaning of the gospel message of the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ by comparing it to a bath where we are declared clean by God even though our feet do and still become dirty.
Then we come to the passage where Jesus explains in what practical way via a command how those he loves are to wash the feet of one another:
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)