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Fourth Quarter 2018 • October, November, December
COMMENTARY—ONENESS IN CHRIST
Week 7: November 10–16
COMMENTARY ON "When Conflicts Arise"
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).
So far, a good summary of the problems and solutions. The question at the end points out the good action that was taken to resolve the problem.
“However, the intent of this vision was not about diet but about the barriers between Jews and Gentiles that were hindering the spread of the gospel.”
This is the traditional position of Adventism. Because of their closely-held belief in parts of the so-called ceremonial Law, they won’t accept that the vision had anything to do with food. But a basic knowledge of the laws of Judaism wouldn’t lead to the same conclusion. Yes, the vision indicated a difference between the exclusionary nature of Judaism—that of not associating with non-Jews, and the all-inclusiveness of the gospel, but there’s more to it than that. Gentiles didn’t eat “kosher” food which would exclude a Jew from eating with them, which would in turn exclude any close association. Without that association, there could be no unity and no chance to share the gospel.
A clue to the fact that this did include food is found in what Jesus said in Mark 7:18, 19:
And He said to them, “Are you so lacking in understanding also? Do you not understand that whatever goes into the man from outside cannot defile him, because it does not go into his heart, but into his stomach, and is eliminated?” (Thus He declared all foods clean.)
Not only did He declare that all foods are clean, He was also pointing out that food in general does not make one unclean. It is only for digestion and elimination and has nothing to do with good or evil. The clean/unclean laws given to the Children of Israel through Moses were part of what was to keep the Jews separate from the nations when they settled in the Promised Land. Now that a New Covenant has come, the things that separate God’s people from all others are things of the heart, not things of outward behavior such as food.
The last sentence of the first paragraph agrees that “faithful Jews were not allowed to eat with Gentiles”. This prohibition was because the Jews ate kosher food and the Gentiles didn’t, a situation which has everything to do with food.
The question at the end is a much more penetrating thought than is probably intended by the author:
How might we ourselves be holding on to narrow views of the church and of our message that could hamper our witness?
Some answers could include:
The issues presented at the Jerusalem Council were those related to the belief that for Gentiles to become Christian, they first had to become Jews. The Jews were the people of the (old) covenant, and it was logical to them that that was the path to the (new) Covenant, the Gospel.
There is a close parallel belief in the Adventist organization regarding last day events. They believe that anyone who wants to be saved must become an Adventist or be lost. It’s just as “logical” and just as wrong.
Otherwise, the lesson represents this Council fairly well as an example of unity by the church leaders who turned to God for guidance.
The last quote from EGW is interesting. The first part is true, the leaders are the ones who gathered, discussed and voted at the Jerusalem Council. The following part of the quote, however, has no Biblical support at all. I see nowhere in Acts 15 or later where “ambitious and self-confident brethren” didn’t agree and tried to pull down the work.
The whole quote seems to have been written to justify the top-down leadership style of the Adventist organization. This conclusion goes along with the assertion in Testimonies to the Church, Vol 9, p. 261, under the heading “General Conference in Session Highest Authority”:
Never should a laborer regard as a virtue the persistent maintenance of his position of independence, contrary to the decision of the general body......God has ordained that the representatives of His church from all parts of the earth, when assembled in a General Conference, shall have authority.
While it is in a paragraph stating that no one man has the authority to dictate his own independent beliefs, EGW is wrong in saying that the General Conference is God’s highest authority on earth. The Holy Spirit is God’s highest authority on earth, and when the General Conference is wrong, we are under no obligation to surrender our independent thought to them.
As a side note, I would really like to know what is omitted and replaced by the ellipsis. The EGW site has apparently omitted something. I wonder what it was.