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Fourth Quarter 2018 • October, November, December
COMMENTARY—ONENESS IN CHRIST
Week 3: October 13–19
COMMENTARY ON "That They All May Be One"
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 is a very good summary. It is correct that no meaningful discussion of church unity can be complete without understanding what Jesus’ prayer is about. These 11 men were the core group, the founding base of the entire church. All who are in Christ are part of that church, and without His unifying love, we are unable to unite and truly love as He loves.
Although it is useful to apply these principles to their immediate church body, the Seventh-day Adventist organization, it would have been so much better to include all of the Body of Christ—if, indeed, Seventh-day Adventists can be considered part of Christ’s body at all.
A good text that could have been included is 1 Corinthians 13:5, with the phrase “does not seek its own”. Although that phrase is usually taken to mean not being selfish, I think it can have another broader meaning. Instead of singling out your own little group or denomination, “your own”, for unity, it would be so much better to broaden it to include all of the Body. Unity within one’s own small group is good, but without extending it to all others in the Church it turns into a lack of love. It singles out “our” people as those worthy of love and unity while condemning “those people” as not deserving of love or unity until they join the remnant as stated in the introduction to the quarter. Quite often, because “they” are not part of “us” (the remnant), they are not worthy of love.
The author gives good description of the need to know God, not just to know about Him. I would, however, like to see it expanded to more than just what Jesus did on the cross.
“If you had known Me, you would have known My Father also; from now on you know Him, and have seen Him.” Philip said to Him, “Lord, show us the Father, and it is enough for us.” Jesus said to him, “Have I been so long with you, and yet you have not come to know Me, Philip? He who has seen Me has seen the Father; how can you say, ‘Show us the Father'? Do you not believe that I am in the Father, and the Father is in Me? The words that I say to you I do not speak on My own initiative, but the Father abiding in Me does His works. Believe Me that I am in the Father and the Father is in Me; otherwise believe because of the works themselves” (Jn. 14:7-10).
Yes, what Jesus did on the cross was the culmination and goal of what He came to do, but He also came to do so much more. He IS God, and He also came in the flesh to show us God and His boundless love for all people.
We can’t really love someone if we don’t know Him. What was achieved on the cross was necessary to pay for our sin and bring our dead spirits to life, but the first advent was so much more than that. It also brought God to us in human flesh to show us that love in a way we can understand. In that way, we are able to love Him and enter into a relationship with Him.
Monday’s lesson begins with a good explanation, but it reveals its bias in the questions at the end.
The second question is a little misleading. It implies that our lives and what we do is what makes us not of this world. That is backwards. It is Jesus in us that makes us “not of this world”, and that is demonstrated by our lives and what we do.
For the third question, I would suggest that after being indwelt by the Spirit, the first thing to do to achieve that unity would be to not see one little group or denomination as the only vaild one. All who are born again have unity in the Spirit, and we who are have the Holy Spirit must never marginalize others who are born again. Adventism does not teach the new birth or salvation through faith by grace alone. They cannot have unity with born-again believers who meet for worship on a day Adventists consider to be the mark of the beast.
Today’s lesson gives an incomplete explanation of how unity is achieved. It is sad, and of some concern, that the third person of the Godhead—the Holy Spirit—is ignored while He is the only way that this unity is possible. It is only with Him indwelling us, sealing us (Eph. 1:13, 14) that we can be one with God.
Without this indwelling, not only are we not able to achieve unity or love with our fellow man, but we cannot be united with God. In verse 23 when Jesus says, “I in them”, He means literally being in us by the Holy Spirit.
On a side note - have you really considered verse 20? “Those also who believe in Me through their (the disciples’) word?” That is an amazing phrase! It is talking about you and me as we are the ones who believe because of what the disciples observed and wrote about Jesus. Jesus actually prayed for ME!
The second paragraph of this lesson reveals the Adventist false assumption. First of all, the gospel is what must be shared with the world, and the gospel is not found in “the three angels’ messages”.
The gospel, according to 1 Cor. 15 is this:
Now I make known to you, brethren, the gospel which I preached to you, which also you received, in which also you stand, by which also you are saved, if you hold fast the word which I preached to you, unless you believed in vain. For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received, that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, and that He was buried, and that He was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, and that He appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve. After that He appeared to more than five hundred brethren at one time, most of whom remain until now, but some have fallen asleep; then He appeared to James, then to all the apostles; a and last of all, as to one untimely born, He appeared to me also (1 Cor. 15:1–7).
Jesus died for our sins as prophesied in Scripture; He was buried and raised on the third day; as proof of the resurrection, He appeared to more than 500 people.
That is the gospel—the good news—that is needed by the world. Paul also warned in Galatians 2:8 that anyone who preaches a different gospel is to be “accursed”. Pretty strong language—do you think he really meant it?
Then the last sentence, “On this point, there is little contention” is blatantly false. There is much contention, and to say otherwise is to ignore reality and to listen to only those within their own little circle. While there is apparent safety in that small circle, it is just another way to divide rather than to unite. Moreover, staying within the small Adventist circle insulates one from encountering the true gospel!
A little further down, there is this sentence: “Hence, Adventists always have been very careful about getting involved in calls for unity with other churches, such as seen in the ecumenical movement.” This is a little puzzling. There seems to be some confusion as to the meaning of “unity”. This sentence betrays the Adventists’ lack of understanding the biblical definition of unity by the Holy Spirit—and the Holy Spirit is not present and unifying believers in a false gospel.
No, we are not to unite with those who are Christian in name only but who deny the gospel and Jesus’ sacrifice for us. Nor are we to unite with the world that would completely deny the Creator and Savior. Such uniting is not the same thing as biblical unity.
To unite with something or someone is to join with and, by inference, to agree with or support the ideas of. Rather, unity involves getting along in love without infighting, strife and division. It does not necessarily mean agreeing with all their ideas.
Surprisingly, the EGW quote is right on in target in describing the difference.
The three points at the end of the lesson, however, show that this idea is not understood at all by the author. To separate out the Body of Christ into “Denominations” is to defeat unity at its very core. Denominations are man-made institutions which, by their very nature, separate rather than unite. As long as we look at people that way, we are pushing them away rather than drawing them in.
Years ago I read a poem in the front of a little booklet. I don’t remember the author but it has stuck with me:
He drew a circle to shut me out—Heretic, rebel, a thing to flout.
But love and I had the wit to win—We drew a circle that drew him in.
In general, the smaller we draw that circle, the more people we will be shutting out, and that is NOT unity. From a biblical perspective, the only qualifier to be included in unity in the body of Christ is the condition of being born again of the Holy Spirit through faith in the Lord Jesus.
By this we know that we have come to know Him, if we keep His commandments. The one who says, "I have come to know Him,” and does not keep His commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him; but whoever keeps His word, in him the love of God has truly been perfected. By this we know that we are in Him: the one who says he abides in Him ought himself to walk in the same manner as He walked (1 Jn. 2:3-6).
In verse 3 the word commandments is the word “entole” which means “statements” or “commands”; it is not “nomos” which John uses exclusively for The Law (all 613 parts of it which include the 10 Commandments.)
Verses 3-6 are not talking about keeping the 10 Commandments at all. If it is read in context, it is clearly talking about doing what Jesus commanded—love God with all your heart and soul and strength and mind, and love your fellow man as yourself. This is the “new” commandment Jesus gave the disciples and us. Yes, that command had been part of the instructions to Moses and all of Israel, but by this time, they thought that keeping the Law would make them fit for the Kingdom of God. It was no more about love but all about Law.
If keeping the commandments were sufficient, then the whole Sermon on the Mount would be unnecessary. There Jesus is saying that those 10 do’s and don’ts are only outward behavior which is useless to make us holy.
The whole purpose of the Law is to show us that we need a Savior; it is the tutor that points or leads us to Christ (Gal. 3:24), and it points out the total impossibility of being right with God on our own.
The quote from Mueller: “Keeping the commandments is not a condition for knowing God but a sign that we know God/Jesus and love Him. Therefore, knowledge of God is not just theoretical knowledge but leads to action,” is circular reasoning.
The Law tells you that you cannot be right with God and you need a Savior. But the circular reasoning then says that once you have the Savior, you have to go back to the Law to prove it. But the Law only shows you that you need a Savior, not that you have Him…round and round it goes.
In the last paragraph it says: “The principle that actuated Christ should actuate His people in all their dealing with one another.”
This sentence is troubling. Jesus was not actuated by love; He IS love and acts out of His own nature. He is unable to act in any way contrary to His nature. To say that He was merely actuated by love is to deny that love is part of His very nature.
The usual EGW quotes supported by Mr. Rodriquez who says in part, “Adventists do not limit the concept of God’s true church........Adventists on the other hand claim that they are God’s special people….”
It occurs to me that the Adventist claim that God never changes and is the same yesterday, today and forever, which is used to “prove” that at least parts of the Law are still in force (meaning the 10 Commandments and a few of the so-called “ceremonial” laws)—is then denied by their claim that in the end times the only people who will be saved will be those who join into the changed, different gospel that they hold dear.
Put another way, they say that the gospel saves now, but in the end times a different, more specific gospel will be necessary in order to be saved. If people can be saved now without the seventh-day Sabbath, how will that suddenly become necessary for salvation in the end times?
If God never changes, then He will not change the parameters of salvation for those in the last generation. To do so would be to lie, and He cannot lie (Num. 3:19) :
God is not a man, that He should lie, Nor a son of man, that He should repent; Has He said, and will He not do it? Or has He spoken, and will He not make it good?
Question 2 at the end quotes Eph 4:4-6:
There is one body and one Spirit, just as also you were called in one hope of your calling; one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all who is over all and through all and in all.
If this statement is true, there is no need to work with “other Christians when appropriate, without compromising truth”. If they are Christians, they believe in the same Jesus, the same cross, the same empty tomb, the same promises of a second coming. None of that compromises any kind of truth. The only “truth” that could be compromised is a “truth” that is added to the Bible’s truth.
And that cannot be truth at all.