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Third Quarter 2018 • July, August, September
COMMENTARY—THE BOOK OF ACTS
Week 7: August 11–17
COMMENTARY ON "Paul's First Missionary Journey"
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).
Antioch of Syria is where the disciples of Jesus Christ were first called Christians. In Acts 13:1-3 Paul (who was still called Saul) and Barnabas were set apart under the leadership of the Holy Spirit for what became the first of Paul's three missionary journeys. John/Mark the cousin of Barnabas joined them but would soon return to Jerusalem:
Then after fasting and praying they laid their hands on them and sent them off. (Acts 13:3)
For the most part the quarterly lessons cover Acts chapters 13 and 14 which is the account of Paul's first missionary journey fairly well except for where the author questions what should have been the clear biblical meaning of justification in an apparent defense of Ellen G. White.
In response to this the intent of this commentary is to 'make straight the paths of the Lord', following Paul's example given to us in Acts 13:10.
Much of Adventist theology limits God's sovereignty such as was done in Sunday's lesson where it says; "The point, however, is that God can operate only when we willingly place ourselves in a position where He can use us."
Really? Where in Scripture does it say our sovereign God can only do something if someone willingly cooperates with him? Take the life of Joseph as an example where God works his sovereign will even as the 'human players' are intent upon only evil. When Joseph recounted his dreams to his brothers that indicated they would bow down to him they responded out of anger and jealousy by having him sold into slavery. In later years Joseph upholds God's sovereignty when he said this to his brothers:
His brothers also came and fell down before him and said, “Behold, we are your servants.” But Joseph said to them, “Do not fear, for am I in the place of God? As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good, to bring it about that many people should be kept alive, as they are today. (Gen. 50:18-20)
Adventist should examine with care how the Apostle Paul confronts a false Jewish prophet at the very beginning of his first missionary trip. Arriving on the island of Cyprus Paul and his companions crossed over from Salamis on the east to Paphos on the west where they met a Jewish false prophet whereupon; 'But Saul, who was also called Paul, filled with the Holy Spirit, looked intently at him and said, “You son of the devil, you enemy of all righteousness, full of all deceit and villainy, will you not stop making crooked the straight paths of the Lord?...." ', Acts 13:6-12.
In keeping with the theme of what Paul confronted in a very direct dramatic way on Cyprus here are some of the crooked paths to be found within Adventism:
1. The vailed foundation not normally revealed to the general public for the book "The Great Controversy" is the unbiblical claim that Lucifer and Jesus were once equals and where Lucifer, becoming jealous of Jesus' elevation to the 'godhead', rebelled and thus was cast out of heaven by our all powerful sovereign God. Adventist must understand that Jesus the eternal Son of God has always been equally powerful and sovereign with the Father meaning whomever gave Ellen the content of her vision lied. Furthermore Jesus is the Creator of all that exists, John 1:1-5. In Rev. 1:1-8 Jesus identifies himself as; “I am the Alpha and the Omega” and goes on to say “who is and who was and who is to come, the Almighty.” The Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit are the one and only eternally self-existing holy sovereign God. All the evil that exists in this world began when Adam ate of the forbidden fruit and died on the very day. Nothing in Scripture suggests our problem with sin and what is evil began with events that occurred in heaven. The serpent deceived Eve because he had no power to confront God directly. Christians are encouraged to have on the full armor of God because God is all powerful and sovereign, Eph 6:1020. Satan has no power over God's armor therefore this book of Ellen's is a crooked path of false teaching.
2. Looking for why Jesus didn't return to earth on Oct. 22, 1844 Ellen borrowed the idea that, on this date, Jesus moved into the Holy of Holies to begin what became known as Investigative Judgment as part of the Adventist Sanctuary doctrine. One of the problems with this Adventist belief is that, according to Scripture, when Jesus departed from his disciples he ascended into heaven and sat down at the side of the Father which is the holiest place to be anywhere whether here on earth or in heaven. Sitting at the side of the Father and the Holy of Holies are one and the same place, Mark 16:19 & Heb. 10:12. This also is a crooked path of Ellen's.
3. Another part of the false sanctuary doctrine is the heresy that Satan's final act is to carry the sins of the saints into the Lake of Fire as our Scapegoat.Theologically there are a number of impossibilities with this belief. In Lev. 16:7-10 the two goats brought before Aaron are both ritually pure meaning they together could only represent the holy sinless Messiah Jesus Christ. They are two parts of his one sacrifice. Jesus died on Calvary for the sins of the world, then in death descended into the grave which is a place unknown to those still living 'under the sun'. Furthermore it is a curse to hang from a tree, Deut. 21:22-23 & Gal. 3:11-13. This heresy of Ellen's is another of her crooked paths.
4. The indwelling Holy Spirit is the Seal of New Covenant believers, Eph 1:13 & 2 Cor. 1:21-22. Looking back to the old obsolete Mosaic Covenant the Sabbath was uniquely given to the Hebrew people as a day of rest to commemorate their deliverance from slavery in Egypt where they had no rest, Ex.20:8-11 & Deut. 5:14-15. As a holy day of rest given to the Hebrews there is no biblical command to worship God on this day therefore Christian Sunday worship is unrelated to the Jewish Old Covenant command to rest on the weekly Sabbath day. This, along with associating it with the mark of the beast, is another of Ellen's crooked paths.
5. The gospel of Jesus Christ for the atonement of the sins of the world is totally a work of the Messiah Jesus Christ. No work or deed of a redeemed sinner plays any part in this atonement "lest any man should boast" including anything we do or do not eat, Eph. 2:8-9, Gal. 1:9, 1 Cor. 15:1-5 & Matt. 15:10-14. Ellen is a "blind guide" leading others down a crooked path away from the completed gospel message of Jesus Christ.
The quarterly lesson for Sunday poses the question of why it is hard so hard to convince "those of other Christian denominations" of Adventist "present truth". The real answer is because spiritually mature Christians who know what Scripture teaches understand that Adventist "present truth" isn't biblical truth:
Therefore, as you received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in him, rooted and built up in him and established in the faith, just as you were taught, abounding in thanksgiving. See to it that no one takes you captive by philosophy and empty deceit, according to human tradition, according to the elemental spirits of the world, and not according to Christ. (Col. 2:6-8)
The opening memory text is an excerpt of Paul's sermon where he defines justification as being "set free from every sin". Understanding God's justification is to understand the central message of the gospel of Jesus Christ:
“Therefore, my friends, I want you to know that through Jesus the forgiveness of sins is proclaimed to you. Through him everyone who believes is set free from every sin, a justification you were not able to obtain under the law of Moses. (Acts 13:38-39 NIV)
The lesson author initially seems to agree that through Jesus "everyone who believes is set free from every sin"...but then sabotages that as this is said; "Forgiveness and justification are available only through Jesus, not through Moses’ law. This passage does not say that the law has been abrogated". The lesson author's own opinion, which defies the clear meaning of Scripture, comes from another of Ellen's crooked paths.
These two Scripture verses proclaim that those who believe (have faith in Jesus' full and completed atonement of their sins) have been set free (justified) from every sin which is something not possible under the law of Moses. "Every sin" means 'all sin' not just sins of the past. Furthermore when Paul says; "law of Moses" he means exactly what he seems to mean, all the laws of the Pentateuch not just the Ten Commandments first written by God in stone.
The book of Romans is the great "Magna Carta", the charter of liberties of the Christian faith. In truth it should be studied sequentially verse by verse from beginning to end in context by all who claim Jesus Christ as their Savior. In this passage of Romans Paul focuses on justification by having first compared the Christian faith to that of Abraham's faith in the previous chapter:
But the free gift is not like the trespass. For if many died through one man’s trespass, much more have the grace of God and the free gift by the grace of that one man Jesus Christ abounded for many. And the free gift is not like the result of that one man’s sin. For the judgment following one trespass brought condemnation, but the free gift following many trespasses brought justification. For if, because of one man’s trespass, death reigned through that one man, much more will those who receive the abundance of grace and the free gift of righteousness reign in life through the one man Jesus Christ. (Rom. 5:15-17)
While the sin of Adam brought spiritual death and condemnation to all humanity (through the grace of God) the work of Jesus Christ at Calvary brought justification which is a "free gift of righteousness" for those who with the same faith as that of Abraham receive God's gift. Justification is not something you earn or merit through you own works. It is a gift.
So if the Mosaic law cannot justify sinners why attempt to say it is not "abrogated"? Actually what Scripture does say is that the covenant that the Mosaic law was contained within is what became obsolete thus is "abrogated" because, as with all covenants, it ceases to be binding when one party to the covenant dies, Rom. 7:1-6. Notice that Paul is addressing "those who know the law" as he says this:
Likewise, my brothers, you also have died to the law through the body of Christ, so that you may belong to another, to him who has been raised from the dead, in order that we may bear fruit for God. For while we were living in the flesh, our sinful passions, aroused by the law, were at work in our members to bear fruit for death.But now we are released from the law, having died to that which held us captive, so that we serve in the new way of the Spirit and not in the old way of the written code. (Rom. 7:4-6)
Stepping back in Jewish history we see that Jeremiah prophesied that there would be a "new covenant" that would abrogate the existing covenant where God says; "I will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts". This is the covenant Jesus announced at the Lord's Supper on the night of the very day he was crucified, Luke 22:20:
“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. For 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)
1. Overall the quarterly lessons for this week cover the events of Paul's first missionary journey very well if they were only a 'travel log'. However there are important issues of theology to be found within these quarterly lessons where there is a problem.
2. The lesson author doesn't understand the significance that God is sovereign. No creature in the universe can presume to limit the will of God. Specifically, God chooses to broadcast the Good News of his salvation through the witness of those whom he has saved. This choice of God to do so does not limit him because what God says he will do will be done. As Joseph said to his brothers; "You meant it for evil but God meant it for good". Concerning the actions of Satan, working from within the background he did everything he could to incite evil men to do his will by sending Jesus to the grave only to discover to his mortal shock that Calvary was God's plan from before the time he spoke through the Serpent in the Garden of Eden.
3. Following the apostle Paul's example on the the island of Cyprus, the appeal to Adventism is to stop making crooked the straight paths of the Lord. It is a crooked path of Adventism that "Sunday worship" has replaced "Sabbath keeping/worship" whereas the Old Covenant Sabbath command was to rest upon the provision of God on the 7th-day Sabbath. On the corresponding subject of what was Old Covenant worship read John 4:16-26.
4. Scripture very clearly teaches that the New Covenant abrogated the Old Covenant. Therefore the conditions (laws) of the 'covenant of death' do not become part of the covenant where you are declared justified. Nothing can separate the saint of God from the love of God, Rom. 8:31-39.
5. According to Acts 13:38-39 when you believe in faith that through Jesus you have been set free from every sin understand that this is something impossible under the law of Moses. Therefore teach all you want concerning the manmade unbiblical concept of 'eternal moral law' arbitrarily defined by the Ten Commandments, none of this has any bearing on your salvation because when God declares you justified you are justified. You have been transferred out of the kingdom of darkness and eternally into the kingdom of God.
6. Justification is the initial yet complete part of salvation where your dead human spirit has been reborn. This makes possible your new life of growing in spiritual maturity known as sanctification with the assurance that you will never be separated from the love of God through Jesus' gift on the indwelling Holy Spirit. Your sure hope of glorification rests solely upon the promise and completed work of your Savior Jesus Christ.