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Fourth Quarter 2018 • October, November, December
COMMENTARY—ONENESS IN CHRIST
Week 9: November 24–30
COMMENTARY ON "The Most Convincing Proof"
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 author adequately summarizes last week’s lesson on unity, but he did sneak in a little Adventist qualification to the truths of the Scripture by saying there are truths that are to be emphasized “in the time of the end”. This qualification must be to validate the idea that the gospel is different for Adventists now that we are in the “end times”. If God really is the same yesterday, today and tomorrow, He would not change His message of salvation to fit “end times”.
Another Adventist qualification slipped in: "as we spread the three angels’ messages to the world”. A study of the book of Revelation shows that the three angels, not the church, are spreading that message calling people out of Babylon to worship the one true God. We, the church, are to spread the gospel of Christ, His substitutionary death for us, His resurrection, and His promise of eternal life if we believe.
Baptism is a bond shared with all believers, not just Adventist believers. One big difference between Christian and Adventist baptisms is that in an Adventist church, one is baptized into the Adventist church while in other churches, you are baptized into Christ. I have attended baptisms in both and there is one interesting difference. In the Adventist church, the person to be baptized is asked if they believe the unique doctrines of the Adventist church. In other churches, they are asked if they believe in Jesus and His death for them on the cross.
“God is on a mission to bring about cosmic unity,” the author asserts. I honestly don't know where this idea is found in the Bible. In several places in the New Testament, there is mention of creation experiencing “birth pangs” and "longing to be set free”, but nowhere is there mention of “cosmic” unity. Clearly, this sentence is intended to support the idea that we are supposed to be validating God's Law to the universe.
There are some good statements about reaching out to the world around us, but I find it sad that there is no mention of the gospel, only the “unity” Jesus created by breaking down the barriers. No unique doctrine and no ceaseless commitment to unity will do anyone any good without Jesus. The entire statement is all about “us”— as long as we are united, we can reach the world. Unfortunately, unity is not what the world needs, but Jesus. The lesson claims,
We are the remnant, called to proclaim an end-time message to the world. Our ministry is to invite those who are still alienated from God to be reconciled to God and join us in our mission.
These words sound good on the surface, but once again, an “end-time” message is stressed—a message which is another gospel, not the gospel of Jesus.
The statement about the great controversy being about God and His character is another contrived idea. Nowhere in the Bible is there even a hint that God has to defend Himself, using us to do the work. That would make God subject to—and therefore subordinate to—the “whoever” needs to see Him vindicated. This makers God weaker than Satan and needing to prove Himself to an inferior, created being. This is pure blasphemy!
God is subject to no one. God needs no one to prove Him right. Just read the book of Job, particularly chapters 40 and 41 where God shows the utter absurdity of thinking He is subject to our understanding or beholden to anyone or anything. God firmly 'vindicates' Himself by challenging Job's claim to knowledge.
In chapter 42, Job replies:
Then Job answered the Lord and said, “I know that You can do all things, And that no purpose of Yours can be thwarted. ‘Who is this that hides counsel without knowledge?’ Therefore I have declared that which I did not understand, Things too wonderful for me, which I did not know.”
‘Hear, now, and I will speak; I will ask You, and You instruct me.’
“I have heard of You by the hearing of the ear; But now my eye sees You; Therefore I retract, And I repent in dust and ashes.”
Clearly he got the message that God is all and he, Job, is nothing before Him.
The EGW quote at the beginning of this lesson is a real killer for any hope. Jesus, as our example “in His spotless purity” is an example we will continually fail to emulate. Only by accepting His righteousness in place of our own will God consider us to be pure.
I wish the literal meaning of these words were the intended message, but a lifetime of EGW perfectionism has taught me that she expects us, in our own selves, to be perfect.
Statements such as this reveal Adventism’s true nature and belief:
Though all nations are to pass in judgment before God, yet He will examine the case of each individual with as close and searching scrutiny as if there were not another being upon the earth. Everyone must be tested and found without spot or wrinkle or any such thing. (Christ In His Sanctuary p. 126, Counsels For The Church p. 348, Great Controversy p. 490, From Here To Forever p. 302.)
There are 52 quotes including this statement, and not once is it referring to Christ’s righteousness imputed to us. Every time it is saying that WE must be without spot or wrinkle. No wonder so many give up in despair—we all know that that perfection in ourselves is impossible.
This is not the gospel, and it holds out no hope whatsoever.
Then, once again, a cherished doctrine is slipped in among the more accurate Biblical references. One paragraph begins, “There are many other passages of Scripture that invite Christians to follow the example of Jesus and to be living witnesses of God’s grace to others,” and it ends: “and to follow healthful living practices (1 Cor. 10:31).”
The text there, 1 Corinthians 10:31, is about misusing the Lord's Supper and has nothing to do with “healthful living”.
This lesson has the usual Adventist denials of the plain text in referring to eating, drinking and worship days.
I find this statement interesting: “Paul’s intent in these verses is to urge tolerance for those who are sincere and conscientious in the observance of these rituals as long as they did not think of them as a means of salvation.”
I wonder how the author could have inserted this with a straight face. While the Adventist doctrines do not consider these a cause of salvation, they certainly do consider them absolute necessities after salvation in order to not lose salvation. If doing something does not bring about salvation but NOT doing it causes you to lose salvation, then yes, that thing is something on which you are basing your salvation.
And Paul's insistence on not judging anyone on these things clearly points to the fact that these things are in no way important to salvation. It is not only the 'not judging' that is important but also the fact that we are not to judge because those things are themselves not important.
There is an interesting question to discuss near the end of the lesson: “Is there anything that we believe and practice as Seventh-day Adventists that all who claim to be Adventists need not believe and adhere to?”
I would say YES—anything that smacks of hanging onto the Old Covenant which no longer applies to those in the New Covenant. Sadly, in Sabbath School classes, this question will likely become a discussion of condemnation for those who don’t “do what we do”. This question completely misses the point that those things, the do’s and don’ts, are things that are irrelevant in the New Covenant but can make people feel self-righteous and good.
The lesson has a good description of “with one accord”.
The chapter in Evangelism “Unity In Diversity” is actually quite a good description of the need for unity in spreading the gospel—provided one is dealing with the biblical gospel.
Unfortunately, on page 102 we are told that the wrong “spirit”, (in context an attitude of selfishness and bossiness), will “shut out from the kingdom of God those who cherish it.”
We are not responsible for people’s acceptance or rejection of the gospel of God. People are individually responsible for their responses to truth, and God is the One who opens hearts. Ellen White guilts her members to make them feel responsible for the salvation of others.
I find such peace now that I take the Bible literally and belief it just as it says. Such places as John 6:39, 40, for example, are reassuring:
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.
This is so clear—everyone who believes and comes to Jesus has eternal life and He WILL NOT LOSE YOU! How much clearer could that be? No imperfection, no wrong attitude, no bad choices, will ever tear you from God's hand. Look at John 10:27-29:
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.
My Father, who has given them to Me, is greater than all; and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father’s hand.
What a blessed assurance!
Discussion Question #2 has a very obvious, simple answer but I doubt it will be heard very much in the Sabbath Schools classes. The question is, “How are we to relate to christians in other denominations who, as we do, believe in the death and resurrection of Jesus?”
The simple, correct answer would be (assuming the reader is born again through faith in Jesus) to relate to them as fellow member of the Body of Christ without the overshadowing of personally held doctrines where one may differ from another.