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Fourth Quarter 2018 • October, November, December


Week 8: November 17–23
COMMENTARY ON "Unity in Faith"


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).




The stated definition for atonement sadly robs it of much of its meaning. It is so much more than being in agreement! Jesus didn’t die for us so that we would “be in agreement” with Him. He died to pay the price for our sins—a price we could never pay. While it is true that, when we accept this payment on our behalf, we do come into agreement with God, it is so much more than that.

The Scripture quotes do give a clearer explanation of redemption than that of the first paragraph for today.

In the last paragraph, there is another of those statements, given without any Biblical support, which are inserted just to give them legitimacy.

The gospel—the everlasting gospel—is clearly stated in 1 Cor. 15: Jesus died as prophesied in Scripture, He was buried and raised on the third day, and as proof of that, He appeared to over 500 people.

Any other gospel added to that is a false gospel, denounced in Galatians 1.

The last sentence before the questions says:

As Seventh-day Adventists, we place an emphasis on these [Three Angels’] messages that no other Christian body does.

Certainly no other Christian body emphasizes them, or even recognizes them! Christians know what the Gospel is by “rightly dividing the Word of God” and don’t add any “special truths” which are no truth at all.

As to the question at the end, “How can you learn to keep before you at all times the reality of Christ’s death and resurrection and the hope that it offers,” I would answer it by saying, cling to the cross and the truths clearly stated in the Bible, without adding any of those “special truths”. You must let go of the Law and cling to Grace. Trust God to save you and keep you saved, a task you cannot accomplish on your own!




The opening paragraph affirms the hope of the second-coming.

As far as not knowing the time of the second-coming, this statement totally ignores the ignominious beginnings of a church that came out of three failed attempts to predict the event followed by an unwillingness to admit the mistake, instead finding a way to blame God for their error.

With the texts about Jesus’ return, there is the typical confusion about which ones refer to His return to take His bride home before the Tribulation, and those about His return to earth with His bride after the Tribulation.

The parable of the ten virgins is one that is frequently misapplied to the time when Jesus comes for His bride. The bridesmaids, (10 of them, by the way, which would amount to bigamy), are not the bride. The bride will not be shut out of her own wedding.

We, the Church, are guaranteed salvation upon belief in Jesus and His atonement for us.

The bridesmaids, the attendants, can be shut out of the wedding, but never the Bride.

This sentence: “One group, in spite of the delay, had kept its hope alive and had made the adequate spiritual preparation,” is saying that belief in Jesus is not enough, but we have to prepare ourselves to be “safe to save".

This is very EGW but totally contrary to Scripture. In light of the Bible’s plain teaching that we are eternally safe in Jesus, the 10 bridesmaids can’t represent the Church in the story.

When the jailer asked Paul and Silas how he could be saved, they told him that he had to believe in the Lord Jesus Christ. Nothing was added, no ongoing preparation or keeping himself saved so he was “ready”. Just believe.

Again, the “adequate spiritual preparation” says that you have to do something to be saved (other than believe). This idea completely contradicts the following statement that “the Christian experience is to be based not on emotional excitement or enthusiasm but on a continuous reliance on the grace of God”—which is then contradicted by the rest of that sentence: “and perseverance in faith” which, by implication, is a work we must do to keep ourselves saved.




The lesson states, “The doctrine of this two-phase ministry is a unique Adventist contribution to the understanding of the entire plan of salvation.”

Very unique indeed! And it indicates a lack of understanding of the Bible, Old and New Testaments.

First of all, the text in Hebrews 9:11, 12:

But when Christ appeared as a high priest of the good things to come, He entered through the greater and more perfect tabernacle, not made with hands, that is to say, not of this creation; and not through the blood of goats and calves, but through His own blood, He entered the holy place once for all, having obtained eternal redemption.

Notice, He entered it once for all. That precludes any supposed movement to another section of the sanctuary.

The holy place, the very presence of God, is where Jesus went after His ascension. If the earthly sanctuary is an exact copy of the heavenly, then that is the Most Holy place, as that is the location of the ark. And the ark with its mercy seat is where God dwelt with the Israelites.

Hebrews 8:1 states:

Now the main point in what has been said is this: we have such a high priest, who has taken His seat at the right hand of the throne of the Majesty in the heavens.

This doctrine also contradicts Jesus exclamation on the cross: “It is finished.” He didn’t say that this part was done and another was to be done later.

I don’t feel qualified to give a complete commentary on the Sanctuary doctrine, but it is clear that it contradicts the Bible and denies Jesus own statements. It is simply an attempt to explain away a mistake without admitting that a mistake was made, and blaming God in the process.




This day’s lesson states, “At Creation, three distinctive divine acts established the Sabbath.”

  1. While those three points are not in dispute, notice that there was no command for man to rest. In fact he had nothing from which to rest as he had been created the day before.
  2. God did rest, but not from any need for rest. He simply ceased from His work . Also note, He didn’t start up again the next day—He just stopped.

Farther down we come to this statement: “Jesus participation in Sabbath services reveals that He endorsed it as a day of rest and worship.”

This sentence is simply not true. Until His death on the cross, the Old Covenant was still in effect. Jesus was a Jew and was under that Old Covenant. Once He fulfilled that covenant, it became obsolete.

Galatians 4:4, 5 says,

But when the fullness of the time came, God sent forth His Son, born of a woman, born under the Law, so that He might redeem those who were under the Law, that we might receive the adoption as sons.

As such, He observed it. But once He accomplished all He came to do, the Old Covenant became obsolete, and the New Covenant was established. In the New Covenant, our Sabbath rest is in Jesus, and it shows our rest—our lack of needing to work to be saved—by trusting in Jesus.

As far as the early Christians keeping the Sabbath goes, Paul would first go to the synagogue to preach to the Jews. Once he was kicked out, he went elsewhere. There is nothing that indicated he went there to observe the day. In fact he warned us to not let anyone be our judge for, among other things, a day—meaning a day of worship.

Col. 2:16, 17 says,

Therefore no one is to act as your judge in regard to food or drink or in respect to a festival or a new moon or a Sabbath day—things which are a mere shadow of what is to come; but the substance belongs to Christ.

Near the end of the day’s lesson we see this:

The observance of the Sabbath symbolizes this spiritual rest in Christ and that we rely only on His merits, and not works, to save us from sin and to give us eternal life.

If we have true spiritual rest in Christ, which we do, how could anything we do, or don’t do, affect salvation? That puts one in the unique position of endorsing this confusing reasoning:

Nothing you do can save you, but if you don t do this (observe the 7th day), you can t be saved—but nothing you do can save you.

These opposing ideas create very convoluted thinking leading to what is called cognitive dissonance.

The first question at the end of the lesson asked how the Sabbath helps you experience the unity of God’s people. Sadly, the doctrine of the Sabbath is what prevents much of the unity with rest of the Body of Christ. It intentionally separates the Adventist organization from fellowship with the rest of the body and the insistence on the Sabbath being a condition of salvation intentionally divides rather than unites.




This day deals with another cherished Adventist belief and has nothing to do with unity in the Body of Christ.

The last statement in the lesson is not biblical at all:

The New Testament knows nothing of the idea of souls going off to heaven immediately at death; this teaching has its roots in paganism, going back to the philosophy of the ancient Greeks, and is not found in either the Old or New Testament.

If souls don’t "go off to heaven immediately at death” (at least those who are saved), what did Paul mean in Philippians 1:21–24?

For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain. But if I am to live on in the flesh, this will mean fruitful labor for me; and I do not know which to choose. But I am hard-pressed from both directions, having the desire to depart and be with Christ, for that is very much better; yet to remain on in the flesh is more necessary for your sake.

Clearly, Paul longed to go and be with Christ, but he knew he was needed here for now. As much as he wanted to go, he was willing to stay where God needed him.

The problem with “soul-sleep” is that it comes from a lack of understanding of the human soul. We are created in God’s image—not physically, as God is Spirit (John 4:24), but the soul is in His image. The soul is where we are indwelt by the Holy Spirit; it is how we are one with God, and it is what “goes to be with God" (again, those who are saved) at death.




The lesson wraps with this question after affirming that Adventist beliefs and practices make them unique: “That’s the way it should be, too; if not, why even exist, at least as Seventh-day Adventists?”

This is a good question. Adventism separates its members from the rest of the true church. That is not unity but division.

I found the last sentence to be very sad:

Our love of Jesus and the teaching we proclaim should be the most powerful uniting factors among us.

While it is entirely true, if they believed those words, why do they have health seminars, prophecy seminars, and all the other programs where they don’t talk about Jesus? The talk there is all about how the Adventist church is part of the end-times fulfillment and how healthy living will make one a better Christian. In all those programs, there is nothing of “come to Jesus”; rather, it is all about “join this church because we are right and all the others are wrong.”

Not only does this belief destroy the chance to know and preach the gospel, but also it is a major factor further separating the Body.

The discussion questions at the end of the lesson give rise to the following observations:

  1. Sadly, while justification should be the basis for fellowship with ALL brothers and sisters, the unique doctrines of Adventism usually preclude fellowship outside of the Adventist organization. Adventist beliefs reveal that Adventism does not understand nor teach biblical justification by faith.
  2. Shared beliefs, stated here as doctrines, are necessary for unity in any group. Unfortunately, the gospel is mostly lacking in Adventist doctrines, and Adventism is all about behavior and externals. In terms of Christianity, doctrine is not important—or even useful—unless it is based solely on the Bible. When it is based on sources outside the Bible, anything goes, and we have seen how far Adventist doctrines wander from the truth.
  3. The two parts of the name Seventh-day Adventist do not point to creation and redemption; rather, they point to the Law and the Gospel which are in direct opposition to one another. One can’t have gospel (salvation) while hanging on to the Law—whose sole purpose is to tell us that we need salvation.

Summary: In the Body of Christ, faith in Jesus is the foundation of our unity. Now that I have been freed from what I once believed, I am saddened by the Adventist insistence on their doctrine—stated in the 28 Fundamental Beliefs—instead of on Jesus and His finished work.

And once again, in this lesson there seems to be a complete lack of understanding of the difference between being the word “united”—agreeing on the same ideas—and “unity”—getting along and sharing the same Lord in Christian love. They are not the same thing. Clearly one can be united with others who hold the same beliefs as oneself but have complete dis-unity and conflict because the truth of Jesus is missing.




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