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First Quarter 2018 December 30–March 30)
COMMENTARY—STEWARDSHIP: MOTIVES OF THE HEART
Week 9: February 24–March 2
COMMENTARY ON "OFFERINGS OF GRATITUDE"
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 attempts to convince the reader that they need to give generously out of love. It attempts to demonstrate that Jesus’ giving on the cross is our ultimate example of selfless giving that we must try to emulate.
Three statements in this lesson summarize the problem with this Adventist view of giving. Instead of going systematically through the lesson, I will address these three statements.
On page 111 of the Teachers’ lesson guide is this statement: “On the day that Jesus welcomes the redeemed into heaven, we will see those who accepted His grace, and realize that those acceptances were made possible by our sacrificial offerings.”
This statement is utterly unbiblical and has no basis in reality. From an Adventist perspective, those who accept Adventism may be partially the result of Adventists’ giving to Adventist evangelistic efforts. True believers, however, believe and pass from death to life entirely by the work of God. We personally have nothing to do with their belief.
God does not need us, but He uses us for His purposes. Belief, however, is the work of God alone. Jesus said,
No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws him; and I will raise him up on the last day (Jn. 6:44).
Therefore they said to Him, “What shall we do, so that we may work the works of God?” Jesus answered and said to them, “This is the work of God, that you believe in Him whom He has sent” (Jn. 6:28–29).
All that the Father gives Me will come to Me, and the one who comes to Me I will certainly not cast out (Jn. 6:37).
This is the will of Him who sent Me, that of all that He has given Me I lose nothing, but raise it up on the last day. For this is the will of My Father, that everyone who beholds the Son and believes in Him will have eternal life, and I Myself will raise him up on the last day (Jn. 6:38–39).
My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me; and I give eternal life to them, and they will never perish; and no one will snatch them out of My hand. My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all; and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father’s hand (Jn. 10:27–29).
It is God the Father who draws us and who delivers us to the Lord Jesus. The true sheep hear His voice, and nothing can snatch us out of His hands. The significant thing here is that true belief is not belief in Adventism. Rather, it is belief in the Lord Jesus and His finished work of death, burial, and resurrection. Adventism teaches another gospel. Belief in Jesus, however, does not depend upon “evangelism” or sacrificial giving. We are commanded to believe; God then gives us new hearts and new birth. The new birth changes us, and the Spirit directs our giving.
No church has the right to demand or teach that we give our money to the point of not being able to supply our family’s needs. Our giving is not a factor in God’s saving souls.
On page 115 of the Teachers’ edition is this statement: “Whatever your motive for giving may be, it is on a continuum that ranges from ego to altruism. The fight on this continuum between selfishness and giving is fought more frequently than any other spiritual fight. Selfishness will chill a heart that was once on fire for God.”
This statement is true for natural people. Unregenerate people only have options on the scale between ego and altruism. The problem is that altruism is not a godly quality. It is still generated by the natural, dead heart and by the flesh. Altruism is not the fruit of the Holy Spirit indwelling a believer.
When we repent of our sin, however, and trust Jesus alone for our salvation, forgiveness, and eternal life, He makes us new. He gives us a new spirit and a new heart.
A natural man can have intense feelings of altruism, of being “on fire for God”. But pagans have intense feelings of being “on fire” for their religion. Mormons, in fact, have their faith in Joseph Smith confirmed by a “burning in the bosom”. Intense feelings and altruism are not marks of belief.
Instead, true belief is marked by a willingness to give up everything one loves for the sake of Jesus. It means being willing to let go of our identities, our families, our belongings, our social structure, our support and comfort. It means trusting Jesus for EVERYTHING.
When the Lord Jesus makes us new and gives us eternal life, we begin at that moment to bear fruit. Our giving is not a “thing” to be studied and figured out. Instead, the Lord Himself brings us His work to do, and He gives us the natural desire and inclination to support the brothers and to contribute to the needs around us.
Nowhere in Scripture is there the command to give selflessly to “the church”. 2 Corinthians 9 gives instructions about how to give cheerfully and generously, not under compulsion. Giving is a natural response to the body of Christ when we are made a part of it.
Self-Examination to figure out if we are giving from obligation or from a “sense of love” is a moot point when we know Jesus. Our money, like all of ourselves, is His, and He provides what we need so that we can give.
The Seventh-day Adventist organization has built itself on Ellen White’s counsels. She tells people to give sacrificially so that their belongings will not be ultimately taken from them. She instills fear into Adventists, and the organization builds on that fear.
Our salvation is not in any way dependent upon our giving, nor is the belief of other people. We answer only to the Lord Jesus.
On Friday’s lesson is a quote by Ellen White from Adventist Review and Sabbath Herald, Oct. 17, 1882: “Christ’s self-sacrificing love is revealed upon the cross. He gave all that he had, and then gave himself, that man might be saved. The cross of Christ appeals to the benevolence of every follower of the blessed Savior. The principle illustrated there is to give, give. This carried out in actual benevolence and good works is the true fruit of the Christian life.”
This statement is almost blasphemous. Jesus’ work on the cross was in no way an “example”. He was not demonstrating anything we are to emulate. He was not showing us how to give. Rather He was taking the imputed sin of the entire human race upon Himself, and He was paying the price the triune God demanded for sin.
For Ellen White to use Jesus’ sacrifice of Himself and His shed blood for our eternal, once-for-all forgiveness of sin as an example of how much we ought to give to the church is to completely eclipse what Jesus did.
In short, Jesus’ suffering and death was not an example. It was an eternal payment for sin. We are never asked to emulate His sacrifice. We are utterly unable to emulate Him. We are to humbly bow in repentance before His cross and confess that we are helpless sinners and are eternally in need of His blood and salvation which gives us Life.
Adventism uses the Bible illegitimately to guilt its members into sacrificing themselves for the sustenance of the organization. Adventism does not teach the biblical gospel, and it obscures it so its members cannot understand the Bible. Nowhere are we commanded to give to “the church” as a fulfillment of Christ’s example. Nowhere are we asked to save souls by giving.
Instead, we are asked to believe. We are asked to worship the Lord Jesus who gave Himself for us. His sacrifice is not an example; it is the one time Sacrifice for human sin. The only way we can honor His sacrifice is by giving up all we love and believe for the sake of knowing Him alone. He will give us His work, and He will supply what we need to do it.