Sabbath School Lesson for November 17-23, 2018
The unifying doctrines of the Seventh-day Adventist faith include…
- salvation in Jesus’ righteousness, not our own works (Sunday)
- the Second Coming of Jesus (Monday)
- Jesus’ ministry in the heavenly sanctuary (Tuesday)
- the Lord of the Sabbath, Jesus Christ (Wednesday)
- the role of Jesus in our death and resurrection (Thursday)
There have been times in our church’s past that differences of opinion about certain Bible teachings have posed a serious threat to our unity. This situation continues today in various parts of the world. As our church has grown, so has the likelihood of these differences coming between us and hindering the mission of the church.
This week we will stop and consider what it is that unites us, instead of dwelling on what separates us. As a world church, we must make it our studied effort to cling to our distinctive beliefs and not get distracted by issues that are peripheral and divisive.
As part of our past, we have seen several doctrines come into question. Controversial positions such as the identity of the ten horns in Daniel 7, what constitutes the law in Galatians 3:24, and others, have caused heated debate and unwanted anxiety among our members.
Ellen White, one of our church founders, implored those involved in these battles to think carefully about their relationship to God and to each other, as they argued their points of difference. She also said we should not expect everyone in the church to agree on every point of interpretation on all Bible texts.
Memory Text: ” ‘Nor is there salvation in any other, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.’ “ Acts 4:12 NKJV
There are enough essential truths for us to ponder that are capable of uniting us in one faith. These doctrines about Jesus must be our focus and the driving force of our mission to the world if we are to keep our unity intact.
Sunday: Salvation in Jesus
It seems likely that all Christians would be equally comfortable with this doctrine, that our salvation comes from Jesus alone. But, in actuality, the majority of church denominations are tainted with doctrines that put emphasis on their own righteousness. This leads to using our own behavior as part of the salvation process.
The Seventh-day Adventist church has also gone back and forth on this question, as legalism and liberalism ceaselessly try to hold sway. And it stems from not fully understanding this one important doctrine of knowing where our salvation comes from.
Even the Jews, God’s chosen people at the time of Jesus’ birth, had gone down the path of righteousness by works, instead of clinging to the hope of the Messiah to come. The Messiah, who alone would be their means of salvation.
All mankind has either looked forward to Jesus, or looked back to Him for their redemption and sanctification. The grace of God is the only way for us to enjoy a relationship with our Creator. This teaching forms the basis of “the everlasting gospel” to be preached to the world, as described in the three angels’ messages of Revelation 14.
Read Acts 10:43 and 2 Corinthians 5:19. In what way is the word “remission” used when speaking of cancer, or some other terminal illness? How is remission of sins then related to our reconciliation with God?
Read 1 John 4:9, 10. What motivates God’s gift of salvation? For what purpose are we given this gift?
Read 1 Peter 2:21-24 and Isaiah 53:5, 6. What steps of Jesus are we to follow? What makes us all lost sheep, and what makes Jesus our Shepherd?
Monday: Second Coming of Christ
Perhaps no doctrine in the Bible has the capacity of energizing and unifying the church as much as that of the Second Coming of Jesus. The very idea of seeing our Lord face-to-face again remains the Christian’s “blessed hope” (Titus 2:13), the motivation for our existence, the very source of our name Adventist.
Three points about this Coming that Seventh-day Adventists understand are…
- His Coming will be visible for ALL to see
- the time of His Coming is unknown
- we must constantly prepare our hearts spiritually and be ready for His Coming
As the parable of the ten virgins illustrates (Matthew 25:1-13), these three beliefs are helpful in our preparation for that great event.
The virgin bridesmaids demonstrate to us that our hope must remain alive that the Bridegroom will come. And this hope is not based on emotionally-charged enthusiasm, but on a continual dependence on God’s grace, while we wait for Him. Our lights may grow dim or even burn out entirely, but if we are wise, the fuel of the Holy Spirit will be available to show us the way to the wedding, in time for our journey to the Wedding Feast in heaven.
Read Acts 1:11, 1 Thessalonians 4:16, 17, and Revelation 1:7. How do these verses demonstrate that the Second Coming is visible to all?
Read Matthew 24:36, 25:13, and Acts 1:7. What possible reasons might there be for God to not reveal the time of His Coming? How does this affect our preparation for the event?
Read Mark 13:35-37, Matthew 26:40, 41, Ephesians 6:18. What part does prayer have in our preparation for the Second Coming?
Tuesday: Jesus’ Ministry in the Heavenly Sanctuary
Although there have been some questions concerning the authorship of the book of Hebrews, all theologians agree that it has a place in the biblical canon. It, like no other book in the New Testament, points out the significance of the earthly sanctuary, as being a shadow of the one in heaven.
Seventh-day Adventists have taken seriously the sanctuary Moses built, and how it reflected the ministry going on in heaven. Going back to the Old Testament, it has been discovered that there are two phases of ministry going on there…
- the daily services conducted in the Holy Place–which represented our intercession, forgiveness, and reconciliation with God
- the yearly service conducted in the Most Holy Place on the Day of Atonement–which represented judgment and a final cleansing
This unique understanding of the sanctuary services made it easier to understand the prophecies in both Daniel and Revelation that point to God’s judgment and the time of the end.
Evidently, Jesus, our High Priest, has now entered that second phase of His ministry, since 1844 (at the end of the 2300 day prophecy, when a cleansing of the sanctuary was to occur–Daniel 8:14). And this is why we believe His Second Coming is so near. We must now be preparing ourselves for that great Day of Atonement ceremony that represents the Second Coming.
Read Hebrews 8:1, 2, 9:24, Exodus 25:9, 40, Psalm 77:13. Why is a study of the sanctuary beneficial to us, even today? What lessons can we learn from it?
Read Daniel 8:14, Leviticus 16:30, Revelation 14:7, and 22:12. How does the cleansing of sanctuary reflect the judgment that seems to have already started? What names in the book of life might the Lord be judging at this time?
Read Hebrews 7:25, 4:16 and 1 John 2:1. Even if the second phase of Christ’s heavenly ministry, involving judgment, began in 1844, how can we be assured that Jesus still performs His intercessory work for us today?
Wednesday: The Sabbath
Many wonder why the Sabbath is such an important theme for the Seventh-day Adventist Church. Following the Millerite Movement in the 1800s, with its call to prepare for the Second Advent, the believers continued to study the books of Daniel and Revelation and came upon the three angels’ messages in Revelation 14.
These three final calls to those on earth included an appeal to worship the Creator, “who made heaven and earth, the sea and the springs of water.” Using similar language as that found in the Fourth Commandment, the messages close with this identification of God’s saints: that they are “those who keep the commandments of God and the faith of Jesus”.
As those Adventists continued their study of the Sabbath, they discovered that the Fourth Commandment had been changed from the seventh day to the first. This tampering of God’s law was clearly predicted in Daniel 7:24, where the little horn power was said to seek to “change times and law”.
Therefore, true Sabbathkeeping was reinstated by these early Adventist pioneers, when they discovered that they were worshiping on the wrong day. Today, there are only a handful of Sabbathkeeping denominations who worship on Saturday, the seventh day, but none has grown and made as much of an impact as the Seventh-day Adventist Church.
Evidently, when observed in the way God intended, the Sabbath teaching has proven to be a unifying force for God’s people for well over a century now. How important it is for us to continue preaching this unique message of the Sabbath with its emphasis on our Creator, the Lord Jesus Christ.
Read Luke 4:16, 13:10-17, and Matthew 11:28. Why was it appropriate for Jesus to be in the synagogue and to heal on the Sabbath?
Read Hebrews 4:9, 10. What kind of rest does the Sabbath represent? How does this impact our observance of it?
Read Exodus 20:8-11, Ezekiel 20:12, and Revelation 14:9, 12. How is the seventh-day Sabbath a sign that we worship our Creator? Why is this important in the end times?
Thursday: Death and Resurrection
Besides the Sabbath, Seventh-day Adventists have a unique interpretation of some key Bible texts when it comes to man’s immortality. Most religions, Christian and others, including paganism, believe that immortality is achieved immediately following one’s death. That one never truly dies, that they live on in some fashion, even after they breathe their last breath.
This teaching has allowed spiritualism, New Age channeling, and many other false ideas to alter God’s truth about the resurrection, and provide a means for Satan’s demonic forces to infiltrate the life and beliefs of many sincere individuals.
Although it is true that the hope and promise of our immortality, or eternal life, is given the moment we accept Christ into our lives, the actual fulfillment of that promise won’t be seen until the Second Coming, at the last trump. It is then that our reward is given by our coming Lord. See 1 Thessalonians 4:15-17 and Revelation 22:12.
The Bible repeatedly refers to death as an unconscious sleep, and rightfully so. Because that is exactly what it is. Our loved ones are resting peacefully, to be reunited with us together when Jesus comes. They don’t exist in some spirit form, hovering over us anxiously, or, even worse, suffering endlessly in the fires of hell.
Yes, God has a plan for each of us upon death, determined by our own choices in life. It is only for us to wait patiently for His will to be done, for the final eradication of sin and sorrow from this universe.
This wait can be unifying to a church body, as we embrace the comforting thought of sharing that glorious Resurrection morning with those who have died before us.
Read John 5:28, 29, Revelation 20:6, 14, and 1 Timothy 6:16. How do these verses indicate that the resurrection of man is a shared event, not something we experience immediately upon death? What dangers might there be in the belief of an immortal soul, as most Christian denominations promote?
Read John 11:11-14, 23-25, and 1 Thessalonians 4:13-17. What was Martha’s understanding of the state of the dead? How does this belief affect our mourning for loved ones?
Read 1 Corinthians 15:51-52 and Matthew 24:31. Why is it important to know when the trumpet sounds and our eternal life begins?
No one wants to sacrifice unity for truth. And it hardly seems possible that truth should work against our unity.
The truth we look for, however, must be more than intellectual. It must become internalized, affecting our lifestyle and changing our characters. Unless truth transforms us into beings who find it easy to unite, it doesn’t measure up to the truth, as it is found in Jesus.
And only truth in Jesus will accomplish this worthy goal. His Holy Spirit is the only agent capable of delivering the peace and unity our hearts long for.
Know the doctrines that unite us; but more importantly, know the Lord who gave them to us and enables us to live by them. That is key to the transforming unity God is anxious to pour down on His people.
Next Week’s Lesson: The Most Convincing Proof
To read the Sabbath School Lesson Quarterly or see more resources for its study, go to https://www.absg.adventist.org/
Other Outlook blogposts by Teresa Thompson, are at http://outlookmag.org/author/teresathompson/