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Third Quarter 2018 • July, August, September
COMMENTARY—THE BOOK OF ACTS
Week 10: September 1–7
COMMENTARY ON "The Third 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).
We’ll take a look at an issue with the Sunday lesson, then jump directly into Tuesday’s lesson around which this week’s lessons are centered.
Near the end of the lesson for today, the author makes a strange observation. He states that:
We should view their new baptism in light of this unique situation. They were not coming from another Christian denomination, nor were they experiencing conversion. They were only being integrated into mainstream Christianity.
There are two ways a person enters the Seventh-day Adventist Church: Confession of faith, or baptism. Note that he says they “were only being integrated into mainstream Christianity.” Mainstream Christianity was the only “stream” of Christianity at the time. Sure, there were divisions as evidenced in Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians. Some were saying they were of Apollos, some of Paul, and some of Christ. But the Church had not divided into denominations at this time in its history.
Today, a person enters the Christian Church through one mode, baptism. Whether by sprinkling or immersion, baptism is the symbol of the person’s faith in Christ and their entrance into the Christian community. When being baptized, one is not necessarily becoming a member of the Church in which they are baptized. Membership is a secondary issue. When changing churches or denominations within Christianity, a person does not become rebaptized. In fact, rebaptism in Christian circles is very rare and not commonly practiced by the more orthodox of Christian denominations. When changing churches, either intra- or interdenominationally, one usually meets with a pastor or elder and gives his testimony regarding his salvation. Some churches have one fill out a request for membership form.
Various Christian denominations recognize the legitimacy of the other denominations standing as a true Christian church, despite some differences on secondary issues. So today, there is only one “mainstream” Christianity, recognized legitimately interdenominationally.
When a person believes the gospel message and accepts Christ, he is also accepting baptism by the Holy Spirit at that time.
Peter states in Act 2:38,
And Peter said to them, "Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.
For the new believer, baptism in the Holy Spirit correlates with repentance and baptism. It also becomes the seal of God, not the Sabbath day, but the Holy Spirit.
Let’s move into Tuesday’s lesson, which is the focal point for this week’s lessons.
Tuesday, Sep. 4, Troas
At the beginning of today’s lesson, the lesson author asks:
Read Acts 20:7–12. What’s wrong with the common argument that these verses help prove the Sabbath was changed to Sunday?
The problem with the question is that Christians don’t use these verses to “prove the Sabbath was changed to Sunday.” Christians, in general, don’t ever use the New Testament passages about the first day of the week to imply that the Sabbath has been changed from one day to another. It is simply a fact that the early Christians met on the first day of the week in remembrance of the resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ.
Today’s lesson is a response to how it is perceived that some Christians use Acts 20:7-12 to teach the transfer of Sabbath to Sunday. The fact is that Sabbath has never been changed to Sunday. It is nowhere taught in Scripture that the seventh-day Sabbath was ever intended as a day of worship. Scripturally, the Sabbath has always, and only, been taught as a day of rest. Calling Sabbath as a day of worship is not only unbiblical, it is contrary to everything that was to be left undone on the seventh day of the week.
There are a few Christians of the Reformed tradition that have transferred Sabbath sacredness to Sunday, but they are in the minority compared to Christians that do not teach that such a transfer took place.
Sabbath as a day of “worship” was not introduced into Judaism until the intertestamentary time. Synagogues, which were not invented until the time between the testaments, were invented so as to give the Jews a place of common worship
The lesson author states that it is difficult to tell whether this meeting actually occurred on the night before Sunday or on the night after Sunday, and in effect states that “either way” it doesn’t really matter as this was a “special” church meeting. However, careful and plain reading of the Scripture indicates that this was assuredly the first day of the week.
At the end of todays lesson the author then states,
It is hard to see, then, how this isolated and exceptional episode affords support for Sunday keeping. The fact is, it doesn’t.
Christians do not “keep” Sunday anymore than they keep any other day of the week. Christians will shop on Sunday, go out to eat on Sunday, go to a baseball game on Sunday, or hundreds of other activities that would be forbidden if Sunday were a day to be kept.
The lesson author finally asks the student to:
Dwell more on all the reasons for the validity of keeping the seventh-day Sabbath. How does the powerful biblical support for the Sabbath help affirm us in our identity as Seventh-day Adventist Christians and the calling that we have been given to spread the three angels’ messages to the world? (Pg. 83 of the Standard Quarterly)
How about dwelling on the fact that the Sabbath command has never been given to Gentiles, and is to be found nowhere in the New Testament/Covenant. There is no Biblical support in either the New or Old Testament teaching that the seventh-day Sabbath was intended as a day of worship. In the New Testament it is the Pharisees who profess that Sabbath-keeping is still an obligation for Christians. Christ never taught the seventh-day Sabbath as a law anywhere, including the book of Revelation, where the Sabbath plays such an important role in the end-times events, according to the Adventist Church teachings.
The “calling” to spread the “three angels’ message to the world” is not a Scriptural calling, but a calling of Ellen White and Adventist Church leadership.
We will finish this commentary with some observations about Friday’s lesson.
Friday, Sep. 7, Further Thought
Ellen White is quoted as saying,
“The success attending the preaching of the gospel aroused the anger of the Jews anew. From every quarter were coming accounts of the spread of the new doctrine by which Jews were released from the observance of the rites of the ceremonial law and Gentiles were admitted to equal privileges with the Jews as children of Abraham.” (Pg. 86, Standard Quarterly, emphasis mine)
The new Jewish believers were not “released from the observance of the rites of the ceremonial law…” They were released from the Old covenant law and have been brought under the law of Christ. Paul states in Romans 8:2, 3:
For the law of the Spirit of life has set you free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death. 3 For God has done what the law, weakened by the flesh, could not do. By sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin, he condemned sin in the flesh ...
Also, in Romans 10:4, 5:
For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to everyone who believes. 5 For Moses writes about the righteousness that is based on the law, that the person who does the commandments shall live by them.
Also, in 1 Cor. 9:21,
To those outside the law I became as one outside the law (not being outside the law of God but under the law of Christ) that I might win those outside the law.
Also, in Galatians 2:21, Paul says:
I do not nullify the grace of God, for if righteousness were through the law, then Christ died for no purpose.
Gal. 6:2 states,
Bear one another's burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.
Also, Phil 3:9-14 (Emphasis mine):
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-- 10 that I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, 11 that by any means possible I may attain the resurrection from the dead. 12 Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect, but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own. 13 Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own. But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, 14 I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.
Beware of those who would bring you down below Mt. Sinai, and not the true Mt. Jerusalem (See Galatians 4:24-31), or those who would bring you back to a shadow when the reality is found in Christ (See Colossians 2:16, 17).