Sabbath School Lesson for October 6-12, 2018
Looking at causes for disunity down through the ages, these are the ones that were explored this week:
- the many times the Hebrews fell into apostasy because they failed to remain loyal to God (Sunday)
- the time before kings, when Israel was ruled by godly judges, but everyone still “did what was right in his own eyes” (Monday)
- how failure to keep the commandments of God and look to Him for wisdom led to a split in the Hebrew nation (Tuesday)
- the divisions of the Corinthian church, created by following persons, instead of God (Wednesday)
- how false teachers were able to infiltrate God’s New Testament church right up to the end, because they didn’t know Scripture well enough (Thursday)
We have seen God’s ideal plan for unity. It was the pattern set up for us from the very beginning of our planet. Through the Sabbath and the family, mankind was to remain at one with God and with each other. Sin brought a halt to this unity.
We now look at some of the causes of disunity that became apparent in God’s people, as time went on. Why did God’s chosen people fallen away from Him so many times? The major problems seem to have stemmed from…
- failure to keep God’s commandments
- following the pagan (secular) ways of their neighbors
- listening to wrong advisers
- aligning themselves too closely with certain preachers or evangelists
- not knowing Scripture well enough to recognize false teachers
Being unfaithful to God was both the cause and result of these situations. When we fail to allow God to make us holy and neglect sharing our faith with those around us, we too are on the path of becoming spiritually confused and out of harmony with our fellowman, both signs of disunity.
Sunday: “Return, O Backsliding Children”
God’s promises, His part in the covenant, were very generous to the Hebrews. He promised them prosperity, good health, and unity, if they would only remain faithful to Him.
How appropriate that the Bible calls the Israelites “backsliding children”. Their behavior certainly followed that of children at times. They…
- were eager to follow their peers, the surrounding nations,
- became forgetful of who was supposed to be in authority, which would have been God, and
- acted impetuously on their own selfish whims and desires, thinking only of promoting their Jewish status.
But God, the merciful Father that He was, always stood ready to receive them back into His loving arms and repeatedly granted them the blessings of His kingdom. As the psalmist wrote: “As a father pities his children, so the Lord pities those who fear Him.” Psalm 103:13 NKJV
And God still longs for us to come back to Him today, and live by faith in His all-powerful love. Only this kind of faith and obedience will bring us true unity, true oneness, with our heavenly Father. It’s the only chance for God’s church to have unity as well.
Read Deuteronomy 28:1, 13, 14, 26:19. How would holiness make them higher than the other nations? How would they become holy? What was the purpose of them achieving this high status among the nations?
Read Jeremiah 3:14, 15 and Acts 20:17, 28. Who are the “shepherds” and what is their purpose?
Read Jeremiah 3:12, 13. Why is God angry, and how would you describe that anger? What was necessary for them to do to come back to God?
Monday: “Right in His Own Eyes”
God always stood ready to be the Leader of His flock, the Hebrew nation. But when they rejected Him, they were on their own, as far as having a pattern to guide their behavior. That’s why individuals were said at times to be doing what was “right in his own eyes.”
If left on their own, people naturally are overcome with selfishness and greed. Our sinful natures demand that we look out for ourselves first, last, and everything in between. Therefore, instead of drawing their pagan neighbors to God, they were rejected and hated by the surrounding nations.
Even though God sent them judges to help guide them back into the “fold”, when they rejected God, they also rejected His spokesmen. The prophets and judges received little respect or recognition, when the people repeatedly turned away from God and clung to the religion of the heathen populations around them.
Read Judges 17:6 and Judges 21:25. Why wouldn’t having an earthly king be the answer for this unfortunate moral decline? What would have better changed their sense of morality?
Read Judges 2:11-13. How was their unfaithfulness to God demonstrated? How does this same tendency to forsake God manifest itself in our contemporary world? What happens to us now when we forsake God?
Read Judges 3:5-7. What practice intensified the likelihood that worshiping God would become less likely? How might they have justified taking wives from their neighbors?
Tuesday: The Division of the Hebrew Nation
We can see from the story of King Rehoboam, son of Solomon, how the kingdom became divided. One mistake on the part of the new king left permanent damage to God’s people. Recognizing his need for guidance was a step in the right direction. But failing to ask God for wisdom in choosing good advisers proved to be disastrous.
The floundering king chose to listen to his peers, the buddies he had grown up with, instead of those older and more experienced in how the people would respond. The result was further division and rejection of his rule by the people he was supposed to serve.
His story gives us ample proof that bullying people into obedience doesn’t work. Presenting yourself as humble and anxious to serve others is a far better way to create a following and have a more positive outcome for the group you represent.
Read 1 Kings 12:7, 8, 10. What was different about the advice these two groups gave to Rehoboam? Why do you think Rehoboam chose the advice of his peers?
Read Matthew 23:11, 12 20:26, 27. Why does Jesus support the idea of servant leadership? And what does servant leadership mean?
Read Proverbs 4:1 and 9:10. Why does Solomon recommend getting instruction and understanding from a father, and not a friend? What is the only true source of wisdom, which is the understanding of knowledge?
Wednesday: Schism in Corinth
Before moving on to problems in the Corinthian church, such as immorality and misuse of spiritual gifts, Paul uses a good portion of his introduction (the first four chapters of 1 Corinthians) to warn against sectarianism, or their breaking up into divisive groups called sects. The New Testament church was evidently in danger of disunity, even in its earliest stages.
Paul’s answer to these schisms was to remain focused on Christ. Church members, as they even now tend to do, became fixated on one preacher, cause, or another, leading them to follow a person or an idea, instead of Christ.
Paul reminded them that we are all equal, when we consider Christ’s sacrifice that was for all of us. Remaining mindful of His death on the cross and that we are following Him, and not some person or doctrinal belief, should help us even now to heal our disunity and unite our hearts with Him.
Read 1 Corinthians 1:10, 12, and 13. Does being of the same mind and judgment mean that we are exactly alike in our views and understandings? Why or why not?
Read 1 Corinthians 3:3 and 4. What part does our carnal nature play in making us divisive and at odds with each other?
Read 2 Corinthians 13:5 and Galatians 4:19. How do we correct the problems of disunity in the church?
Thursday: “Wolves Will Come”
When Paul gave his farewell speech to the Ephesian church, he singled out the elders there and compared them to watchmen who were assigned to warn Jerusalem of an attacking army (Ezekiel 33:1-6). The gospel message in this case must be guarded by these faithful shepherds, our church leaders.
Previously, Jesus also warned of ravenous wolves, or false teachers, disguising themselves in sheep’s clothing and attacking God’s flock (Matthew 7:15).
Paul’s further warnings to other churches in Asia Minor and to his co-worker Timothy described the darkness that these wolves bring. Take note of their methods and the results of their teaching:
- “Let no one deceive you with empty words…” (Ephesians 5:6)
- “Beware lest anyone cheat you through philosophy or vain deceit, according to the tradition of men, according to the basic principles of the world, and not according to Christ.” (Colossians 2:8)
- “But shun profane and idle babblings, for they will increase to more ungodliness.” 2 Timothy 2:16 NKJV
Knowing Christ through His word was the key to exposing these false teachers. In the previous verse in 2 Timothy 2:15, Paul advises him to “rightly divide/dissect (or handle) the word of truth”. The Living Bible says to “Know what his Word says and means.”
Obviously, this can only be done by not only being familiar with the Bible, but with the author of its pages, the Word Himself. John aptly calls Jesus the Word and the Light in his first chapter. Therefore, we can’t fully understand one without the other.
Unfortunately, many fail to grasp the full meaning of the Word, and thus lead others away from Him, instead of to Him. This is the work and result of these false teachers.
Read Acts 20:28, 29 and Matthew 7:15. What are these “wolves” hungry for, and why are they so hard to identify in the flock?
Read Acts 20:30, Colossians 2:8, 2 Timothy 2:16, and Matthew 7:16. What are some of the identifying marks of these false teachers?
Read 2 Timothy 2:15 and John 1:1-5. Is it possible to know our Bible, but not know Christ? Why is it important to know both?
There are many ways we can fall into apostasy and disunity…
- putting our own selfish motives before that of others, instead of putting God first
- following the lifestyles and philosophies of others, instead of following God
Our disunity seems to result mostly from taking our eyes off God, and looking at what or who is immediately in front of us. Keeping very close to God, as revealed in Scripture, is the only way to prevent the kind of backsliding that God’s people seem to fall into.
Besides having faith and obeying God, Jesus asks us to look at the fruits of others (Matthew 7:16). Not to judge them, but to recognize those ravenous wolves, or false teachers He was describing. This caution reminds us that our actions, or fruits, can also speak louder than our words.
What kinds of actions should people be observing in our lives, if we are to effectively share the gospel with them? One author tells us, “It is only as others see that we really love them unconditionally and that we are ready to serve them, that the gospel will have true saving power in our life. Why? Because the gospel is about people!” It’s About People, by Jim Hohnberger, p. 26.
Our unity is about people too. The closer we are to God, the more His love will spill over to others, and they will be drawn to the gospel message. Knowing our Bibles is important, but others will know we are in the Word by how we demonstrate its principles in our lifestyle.
Because, by our fruits they shall know us too. In other words, let’s remember that living the gospel is as important as preaching it.
Next Week’s Lesson: “That They All May Be One”
To read the Sabbath School Lesson Quarterly or see more resources for its study, go to https://www.absg.adventist.org/
All Outlook blogposts by Teresa Thompson, are at http://outlookmag.org/author/teresathompson/