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Fourth Quarter 2018 • October, November, December
COMMENTARY—ONENESS IN CHRIST
Week 4: October 20–26
COMMENTARY ON "The Key to Unity"
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).
While this lesson says good things about unity, I believe it misses the mark. The unity Paul is talking about is primarily the fact that Gentiles—the “uncircumcism”—are now part of the body of Christ. While he does want them to have unity within the body, that isn’t the primary focus of Ephesians. Rather, it is that we, the Gentiles, are no longer excluded from the Body of Christ, and there dividing wall between the Jews and the Gentiles has been removed in Christ.
This lesson starts out building on the concept of the unity of Gentiles and Jews into the family of God. There is a fair explanation of predestination, but it would be a little more clear if the author had also quoted Romans 8:28-30:
And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose. For those whom He foreknew, He also predestined to become conformed to the image of His Son, so that He would be the firstborn among many brethren; and these whom He predestined, He also called; and these whom He called, He also justified; and these whom He justified, He also glorified.
Good discussion but I would like to answer the question near the end:
“Read again Ephesians 2:11–22. In what ways do we see in our own church the reality of what Paul has written here? What challenges remain?”
Sadly, what is not seen in the Adventist organization is the reality of verses 13 and 14. There is in the Adventist system of belief a complete disregard for the truth in verse 13—that the Holy Spirit is what seals us—and they have a complete lack of certainty of salvation as promised in verse 14.
The Person of the Holy Spirit, not the day of attending church, is what seals us in Christ, leading to the absolute certainty of salvation. When God’s seal is confused, one is left with the uncertainty of one’s own behavior (Sabbath-keeping) and the uncertainty of one’s salvation because, we know if we are honest with ourselves, our behavior is not good enough to keep us saved.
But the New Testament is full of assurances of salvation. Here are a few reassurances besides the two verses in Ephesians 1:
For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, so that no one may boast (Eph. 2:8, 9).
Salvation for the one who believes is already done, not just a future possibility only if one acts properly.
Now He who establishes us with you in Christ and anointed us is God, who also sealed us and gave us the Spirit in our hearts as a pledge (2 Cor 1:21, 22).
God establishes us in the faith, taking responsibility for us.
Now if any man builds on the foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw, each man “s work will become evident; for the day will show it because it is to be revealed with fire, and the fire itself will test the quality of each man’s work. If any man’s work which he has built on it remains, he will receive a reward. If any man’s work is burned up, he will suffer loss; but he himself will be saved, yet so as through fire (1 Cor 3:12-15).
And here is my favorite, the very words of Jesus Himself in John 6:39, 40:
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.
Jesus’ own words assure us that He will lose not one of those who come to Him. As He can’t lie, we know this to be absolute truth. Such comfort!
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 (John 10:27, 28).
For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life (John 3:16).
Notice that this one does not say that whoever believes—and keeps the Sabbath—will be saved. In fact, no other “behavior” is included other than believing.
This is the promise which He Himself made to us: eternal life (1 John 2:2).
And the testimony is this, that God has given us eternal life, and this life is in His Son. He who has the Son has the life; he who does not have the Son of God does not have the life (1 John 5:11, 12).
There is so much glad assurance of salvation that it’s hard to miss. You would have to ignore a lot of Scripture to be unsure! According to the Bible, we already have eternal life, and if something is eternal it can’t end; if it ends, it can’t have been eternal.
Then, the last question of the day is actually quite good. Although we can be absolutely certain of our salvation, we do need to walk with God in a manner that is “worthy of the calling”. When seen alongside the assurance of salvation, that is more of a promise than it is a threat of what we will lose if we don’t walk “worthy enough”.
In the middle of the EGW quote in today’s lesson is this:
“There is but one body, and one Spirit, one Lord, one faith. As members of the body of Christ all believers are animated by the same spirit and the same hope.”
These words, isolated from the rest of EGW’s context, are almost true, but she reveals her lack of understanding by making the word “spirit” in the second half of the sentence a non-non-capitalized word. She clearly identifies the “on Spirit” in the first part of the sentence as the Holy Spirit, but by ending with a small “s” in the second occurrence of the word, Ellen White reveals that she doesn’t understand it is God Himself—the Holy Spirit—who “animates” believers. Instead, she suggests that “believers” all have a similar disposition, an attitude, as if she were identifying a “spirit of humility” or a “peaceful spirit”. The Bible, however, makes it clear that the One Spirit who unites the body of believers is none other than God Himself.
Furthermore, when one then excludes all others from the body of Christ if they are not Adventists, one has denied the unity of the body and the very fact that there is one faith.
Additionally, I don’t like the use of the word “animated” when describing the work of the Holy Spirit. It suggests that we are just made to behave in a certain way, like puppets, when in reality we are indwelt, sealed, made alive, and guaranteed our eternal future by the Spirit.
Of course, to put it another way, we were born dead and actually are “animated”, or made alive, by the Holy Spirit!
Wednesday and Thursday
I hesitate to disagree with any of Wednesday’s or Thursdays’ lessons. On the surface the author describes the all-inclusiveness of the true body of Christ. Would that Adventists actually believed that reality. This lesson is subtly deceptive, however, because it is written for Adventists—and the religion of Adventism is not actually part of the true body of Christ because it teaches a different gospel.
Because Adventism does not teach the biblical nature of man (that we have immaterial spirits which are naturally dead and must be made alive in Christ), the entire teaching on unity in the Spirit is misunderstood.
I would like to address the second Discussion question: “How can we learn this humility and submission?
Real submission can be learned only by the daily walk with God through the Holy Spirit sealed within us and the changes worked by the Spirit in us. The discussion of learning submission without an understanding of the need for the new birth is a frustrating pursuit. Without understanding that we must repent and trust the blood of Jesus as full payment for our personal sin and then being sealed by the Holy Spirit, “submission” is just an exercise of the will.
Will power, however, does not yield submission. Only trusting Jesus brings us into submission.
That is hard to explain to someone who doesn’t understand that our spirit is dead when we are born and becomes alive only when we accept Jesus as our Savior. Without that understanding, the Spirit indwelling us is not possible to comprehend—it is only a vague idea that doesn’t make sense.