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:
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 2018 December 30–March 30)
COMMENTARY—STEWARDSHIP: MOTIVES OF THE HEART
Week 4: January 20–26
COMMENTARY ON "ESCAPE FROM THE WORLD'S WAYS"
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 has a specific goal stated in the Teachers Comments on page 55: “This week’s study is crucial to our development as believers, but if nothing more than an interesting discussion takes place, we will have failed miserably. If we are to be successful in our spiritual growth, class members must find practical ways to incorporate the practices of prayer and Bible study into their lives.”
This objective is followed by “Application Questions” including “How can I spend more time praying without becoming bored or needlessly repetitive?” “What are practical steps that I can take to help me cultivate wisdom?” “How might employing scriptural principles through service enhance my spiritual renewal?”
Once again, this lesson is addressing the “top layer” of behavior and life without dealing with the truth of the gospel. Absolutely any person of any religion could focus on the goals of becoming wiser and more spiritual, even through the use of the Bible or other “holy books” a given religion might endorse. Spiritual disciplines, however, will never make a person’s life flier or more successful if they are embraced as a means of becoming more spiritual and godly.
Without addressing the underlying reality that we are born dead in sin and must be brought to life, spiritual disciplines are merely habits natural man cultivates as a means of being good or godly. Such practices—even Bible reading and prayer, will not result in a holier life unless one is willing to renounce all he loves and knows if the Holy Spirit convicts him of truth.
The story of the rich young ruler is a great example of this reality. He asked Jesus what he had to do to be saved, and Jesus told him he had to keep the law—the requirement for all old covenant Jews. The man replied he already kept all the laws. Jesus then revealed that his law-keeping would never succeed in yielding eternal life—a fact that the man’s question revealed he already knew! If the man had been certain of his salvation, he would not have asked the question.
Jesus then told the man the bottom line: keeping the law would not give him salvation. What he had to do was to give up what he loved the most—his wealth—and follow Jesus. The man left sorrowful because he had great wealth, and he was not willing to give it up.
Adventism’s focus on money
This quarter’s lessons are addressing what the Adventist organization believes is important to stress to a worldwide membership of a religion that is growing in areas where the people lack money. Adventism needs money, and it needs to convince its members that it is their spiritual responsibility to give generously to “God”. This week’s lessons in particular are attempting to convict (or to “guilt”) the readers into believing they need to be more spiritually minded. They need to spend more time praying and reading the Bible. If they do these things, they will naturally become more convicted that they owe God their money.
Spiritual practices, it is assumed, will yield spiritual people, and spiritual people will lose their attachment to worldly possessions because their focus will change.
The problem is that altering one’s behavior will not change one’s heart. Changing habits because one wants a different outcome is superficially successful, but it does not yield a change in the person. Only being born again yields such a change.
Adventism is unable to give its members the real secret to a changed heart because it teaches a false gospel. In fact, Thursday’s lesson, entitled “The Holy Spirit”, begins with these words, “The great controversy is real; two sides are battling for our souls.” It continues by saying the Holy Spirit “in our lives can and will draw us in the right direction if we only will submit to Him.”
That last sentence is not biblical.
We only have the Holy Spirit “IN” our lives when we have surrendered everything we love, as the rich young ruler refused to do, and have trusted Jesus alone. When we understand that we are not spiritually neutral with God and Satan battling for our loyalty, we see clearly that we need Jesus.
We are born dead in sin, not spiritually neutral. We are born under the rulership of the “prince of the power of the air,” the “spirit that is now working in the sons of disobedience” (Eph. 2:2). We are not born as blank slates waiting to be imprinted. We are not born able to make free-will choices about good and evil. We are born spiritually DEAD, unable to seek or to please God (Rom. 3:9–17).
When we understand this fact, we realize that all of our behavior modification cannot actually CHANGE us. We can create all sorts of spiritual habits while being dead in sin, but if we refuse to believe what God’s word tells us to be true about ourselves and about the Lord Jesus and our need for Him alone, we will remain hardened in sin but cleaned up on the surface, like “whited sepulchers”.
What we need
We need to submit to the fact that the Lord Jesus died on the cross and shed His blood which inaugurated “a new and living way” by which we may draw near to God (Heb. 10:19–20). We have a Perfect Sacrifice in the Lord Jesus, and He is also our perfect High Priest of a completely different order than Aaron. We are in a new covenant now, and we enter God’s presence by one way only: the blood of Jesus covering our sin.
When we believe in the One whom God has sent (Jn. 6:29) after hearing “the gospel of our salvation” (Eph. 1:13-14), only then does the Holy Spirit seal us and permanently indwell us. The Holy Spirit is not “in” all people. He works in the world, convicting people of sin, righteousness and judgment (John 16:8–10), but He is not IN unbelievers. People who read the Bible and pray are not necessarily believers.
Unless we submit to the Bible and let go of all outside sources of authority (such as Ellen White) who tell us what the Bible means according to a specific religions’ biases, reading the Bible will not necessarily open our eyes to truth. Only if, as Jesus told the rich long ruler, we are willing to let go of what we most love and what most identifies us, will we be able to know Jesus and truly follow Him. If we love our Adventism and identify with it to the point of refusing to believe what Scripture says in favor of how Adventism interprets Scripture, we are not submitting to the Lord Jesus and His word.
Our need is not to become spiritual and hone our spiritual disciplines. Our need is to believe Jesus and trust Him. Our need to is admit our helpless sinfulness and embrace the blood of Jesus which cleanses us from all sin. We are not born forgiven; we are born dead in sin. We must admit our sin and believe in Jesus and His sacrifice. We must trust Him for our eternal forgiveness and life.
When we do believe, then we receive the Holy Spirit. Then Scripture begins to open to us and to make sense. Then we begin to understand what is real and true, and only AFTER we have been born again can we experience growth through the pursuit of God’s word and prayer.
When we KNOW Jesus, prayer is not boring. When we KNOW Jesus and have been born again, reading Scripture is like being fed insight and discoveries of reality that are impossible simply by opening the Bible as an unbeliever.
The Sabbath School lessons are attempting to teach Adventists to do Christian disciplines in order to become more and more convicted that they need to deny themselves and give their money to the church.
When one is born again, however, he or she will begin to understand that giving one’s money to Adventism is not giving it to God. Adventism is not bringing truth and life to the world; rather, it is putting people into bondage to a false gospel.
In conclusion, spiritual disciplines themselves are neither bad or good things. Their relative benefit to any one person depends upon that person’s trust and belief in the Lord Jesus. If one knows Jesus and embraces the gospel of His salvation, Bible reading and prayer grow naturally out of that new life like eating and drinking is natural to a growing human child. If one believes his religion to be true, however, and it not seeking to know actual truth and reality, those same disciplines can serve to lull one into a sense of doing good things so that God will bless and grow them.
Just as a dead baby cannot come to life by taking in milk or by hearing loving words from his heart-broken parents, so a spiritual dead person will not come to life by applying spiritual disciplines to himself. If a person accepts the life offered in Jesus’ shed blood of the eternal covenant as the price for his sins, however, he passes from death to life (Jn. 5:24), and the Bible will feed his hunger, and prayer will calm his soul and teach him to trust Jesus deeply.
No one can be a responsible steward of any worldly possessions or be a godly giver of money unless he or she knows Jesus.
The gospel is what we need, and we each need to be willing to give up even our beliefs to the Lord Jesus in order to know Him and what He actually says in His book.
He will never trick us. His word is sure; He is faithful. We can trust Him completely.