The Foundation of Our Assurance
READ FOR THIS WEEK'S STUDY: Gen.2:16, 17; Deut. 30:11-14; Ps. 146:5; Matt. 19:4, 8; Rom. 15:4; Eph. 6:17; 2 Tim. 3:15.
MEMORY TEXT: "Sanctify them by Your truth. Your word is truth" (John 17:17, NKJV).
KEY THOUGHT: Understanding God's message for us individually and accepting it wholeheartedly brings with it the gift of assurance of salvation.
GOD MEETS OUR NEED. Many would like to have a clear insight into the Bible, but find much of it difficult to understand they read Scripture but wonder what it means. God constantly lakes the initiative to meet our spiritual need to know His will. When an Ethiopian official was reading the scroll of Isaiah, God sent Philip to him with the question "Do you understand what you are reading?" He replied, "How can I, unless someone explains I to me?" Philip then explained the passage in relation to Jesus and to the good news of His work of redemption, this brought to the Ethiopian the assurance that God accepted him. Because he was ready to accept the light given to him in Holy Scripture and its fulfillment in Christ Jesus, he experienced the joy of salvation. He requested that he be baptized immediately and then "went on his way rejoicing" (see Acts 8:30-39, emphasis supplied). This example shows that the Bible is a Christ-centered book, directed toward the salvation of every individual on earth. The Bible as God's message to each person constitutes the foundation of the assurance of our salvation. As you study this lesson, ask the Holy Spirit to establish you in this firm foundation of assurance.
How did Adam and Eve know the will of God? Gen. 2:16, 17; 3:8, 15. How were the patriarchs sure of their calling and acceptance by God? Gen. 6:13, 14; 12:1-3; Exod. 3:2-10.
God began to speak to our first parents in the Garden of Eden, giving them a clear command. God spoke again to them after the Fall, calling them to be accountable for their acts and giving them the promise of a Redeemer from their own offspring. Noah was sure of God's command to build an ark, because he had heard God speaking directly to him. Abram left his country, because God gave him a command with a promise. Later he undertook a difficult journey to Mount Moriah to sacrifice his beloved son Isaac, because he was convinced by the direct voice of God (Gen. 22:1, 2). His act of obedience was halted only by God, speaking to him again (Gen. 22:12). Israel's historic liberation from the Egyptian's bondage started because the clear voice of God spoke to Moses at the burning bush (Exod. 3:2-10). Later God even spoke to him "face to face," as to no other prophet (Num. 12:6-8).
Nothing brings more conviction and certainly than the direct voice of God speaking to an individual and confirming it by a supernatural sign.
Why was ancient Israel so sure of the divine inspiration of the Ten commandments? Mention three dramatic events that convinced the eyewitness.
Exod. 20:1 _____________________________________________________
Exod. 20:18, 19 __________________________________________________
Exod. 24:12; 31:18 _______________________________________________
These historical events in the Old Testament indicate that hearing the voice of God involved more than a rational acknowledgment of God's message. It motivated the human heart to obey God's revealed will by faith and to hope for His promises (see Heb. 11). Israel's faith and hope were thus based on and motivated by the audible and written Word of God.
"Christ must come to utter words which should be clearly and definitely understood.... The principles of God's government and the plan of redemption clearly defined, the lessons of the Old testament must be truly set before men."—The Desire of Ages, pp. 33, 34.
Why is God worthy of our complete trust? Ps. 65:5; 146:5, 6. How does this give us confidence and assurance?
We learn from the Old testament that Israel praised God as their trustworthy Creator and Savior, who blesses everyone who puts his or her trust in Him (Nah. 1:7). He was exalted as "the hope of all the ends of the earth and of the farthest seas" (Ps. 65:5, RSV). Constantly the emphasis is on God's twofold character as Creator and Redeemer. The faithfulness to God is a faithfulness to His Word, to His covenant promises and exhortations, this God lets "none of his words fall to the ground" (1 Sam. 3:19). To trust Him means to trust in His Word and to believe His promises (see Ps. 119:50, 66). God can never be separated from His Word!
To whom did God entrust His words in a written form for all humankind? Deut. 4:1, 2, 8; Rom. 3:1, 2; 9:4, 5.
The written words of God were not considered to be dead words or laws, but as "living words" that were immediately related to God Himself and to His people (see Deut. 32:45-47; Acts 7:38). They remained the standard of His will for His covenant people and the test of every new prophet in Israel. The writings of Moses were simply called "the Law" (Torah in Hebrew), which means teaching or instruction. Together with the writings of the prophets, Israel received from God an expanded Torah, now called "the Law and the Prophets" as the standard of God's will for Israel and humankind. This was not yet the closed canon of Scripture for Israel. The inspired Psalms and Wisdom books become accepted as Holy Scripture, so that we have in the time of Jesus a Hebrew Bible that consisted basically of three parts: the books of Moses, the Prophets, and the Writings (compare Luke 24:44).
Jesus quoted Moses' own words in Genesis 2:24 about the union of a man and his wife as the words of the Creator Himself. When Jesus spoke of marriage and the Sabbath as being instituted by the Creator "in the beginning," He accepted Moses' Genesis as of unquestionable authority. Also, the apostles accepted the Hebrew Bible as authoritative and trustworthy (2 Tim. 3:15; 2 Pet. 1:19).
What does Jesus' quoting from the Old Testament tells us about its authority and trustworthiness? Matt. 19:4, 8. Why should Christ's trust in the Hebrew Bible build up your confidence in God's Word?
How does Paul connect the Scripture and the Spirit? Eph. 6:17.
There can be no contradiction between the Holy Scripture and the Holy Spirit, they belong inseparably together, the Spirit not only inspired Scripture but also illuminates the reader's or hearer's understanding as to its deeper spiritual meaning (see 1 Cor. 2:10-13). The Spirit thus reveals to us the Word and convicts us of its message as the Word of God. He also convicts our consciences of God's holiness, of our own sinfulness, and especially of the truth that Jesus of Nazareth is the Messiah of prophecy. The Spirit creates faith in the Word of God when we hear it (Rom. 10:17) and makes God's promises effective in our hearts and lives, the Spirit leads us to obey God's revealed will and gives us the assurance and joy of salvation (Ps. 51:11, 12).
How does Jesus become a living and active reality in our lives? John 14:16-18.
Some religious groups appeal one-sidedly to the Holy Spirit as the authority for their religious morals and practices, the great Reformers in the sixteenth century emphasized the unbroken union of the Word and the Spirit they compared this to the inseparable union of light and heat from the sun. "Through the Scriptures the Holy Spirit speaks to the mind, and impresses truth upon the heart. Thus He exposes error, and expels it from the soul. It is by the Spirit of truth, working through the word of God, that Christ subdues His chosen people to Himself."—The Desire of Ages, p. 671.
When Martin Luther heard that one of his fellow workers, Karlstadt, hod initiated radical reforms, like smashing altars and removing paintings from churches in Wittenberg, he decided to come out of seclusion. He did not agree with the violent manner of such an extremism. In response he preached: "And since I cannot pour faith into their hearts, I cannot, nor should I, force any one to have faith, that is God's work alone, who causes faith to live in the heart. Therefore we should give free course to the Word and not add our works to it."—Luther's Works, vol. 51, p. 76; quoted in L. Pinomaa, Faith Victorious (Philadelphia, Penn.: Fortress Press, 1963), p. 102.
|Recall a time when you experienced the transforming power of the Bible in your life. How did it transform your thoughts, your attitudes, or your actions? How do you explain this?|
With what clarity does the Scripture communicate the ways of salvation? Deut. 30:11-14; Rom. 10:8-13.
While some assume that the Bible needs a living and authoritative interpreter, Protestantism confesses solemnly that Scripture is plain and simple with regard to salvation and morality. The baptized believer is promised the Spirit, by whom he or she may know God and the truth of salvation (see 1 John 2:20, 27). This is the ground on which Peter counsels all believers: "Always be prepared to give on answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have" (1 Pet. 3:15, NIV).
Can the Holy Scripture be compared with a law book that needs a legal court to understand and apply it? Such a concept would bind the human conscience to church authority and a court of theologians! This would mean the loss of personal freedom, responsibility, and the assurance of salvation.
Seventh-day Adventists maintain the Protestant principle that the Bible is its own interpreter or expositor. There is no need for an interpretative authority outside itself. Ellen G. While repeatedly called for a return to this "great Protestant principle" (see The Great Controversy, pp. 204, 205, 354). "But God will have a people upon the earth to maintain the Bible, and the Bible only, as the standard of all doctrines, and the basis of all reforms."—The Great Controversy, p. 595.
The Old Testament writings were addressed to the leaders and the common people of Israel (see Deut 30:11-14; Isa. 1:10; 5:3; 40:1, 2; Jer. 2:4; 4:1). The New Testament was also addressed directly to the members of the Christian churches (see John 20:31; Rom. 1:7; 1 Cor. 1:2; Rev. 1:3).
How do each of the seven letters of the risen Lord to the seven churches indicate that the individual church member can understand them? Rev. 2:7, 11, 17, 29, etc.
Consider this comforting counsel: "Those who study the word of God with hearts open to the enlightenment of the Holy Spirit, will not remain in darkness as to the meaning of the word."—Christ's Object Lessons, p. 36.
|Share a time when the Holy Spirit helped make a difficult Bible passage clear to you. How did this affect your thinking and acting?|
What do 2 Timothy 3:15-17 and Romans 15:4 say about the sufficiency of Scripture?
One famous Protestant creed of the sixteenth century declares effectively that the Holy Scriptures are the only rule of faith: "We believe that those Holy Scriptures fully contain the will of God, and that whatsoever man ought to believe unto salvation, is sufficiently taught therein. ... For since it is forbidden to add unto or to take away any thing from the Word of God, it doth thereby evidently appear that the doctrine thereof is most perfect and complete in all respects."—"The Belgic Confession of Faith," 1561, Article VII; in A. C. Cochrane, Reformed Confessions of the 16th Century (Philadelphia, Penn.: the Westminster Press, 1966), p. 192.
This fundamental belief does not imply that the Bible contains all the prophetic or apostolic writings that have been written. Many of those writings have been lost (see Num. 21:14; 1 Kings 4:32; 1 Chron. 29:29; 1 Cor. 5:9; Col. 4:16). It means that the Holy Scripture contains a sufficiently clear message of salvation from God and the norm for our moral life, as well as what we need for church order and government.
What do the apostles John and Peter declare about the sufficiency of Scripture for our salvation?
John 20:31 ______________________________________________________
2 Pet. 1:19 ______________________________________________________
God alone decides our salvation and that His promises bring the certainty of divine acceptance to our hearts. Such a certainty can never be grounded on human feelings or logic, It comes, not from within us, but from the reliable and trustworthy Word of God. Consequently, anyone who claims that our salvation depends partly an something else other than Jesus as revealed in the Holy Scripture immediately takes away the assurance of salvation. The Bible constitutes the solid and secure foundation of our salvation. Our hope of life eternal is grounded exclusively in the Word of God and in its central message of Christ Jesus. Thus salvation is in Christ alone, who is the heart and center of the Holy Scripture. This is the primary function of the Bible.
|How do you know that your salvation is anchored in the Christ of Scripture and not in the mere words of Scripture?|
FURTHER STUDY: Read further on the foundation of our assurance in Heb. 2:1-4; 4:12; Gen. 12:1-3; Exod. 3:2-10; 24:12; 31:18; Ps. 119:52, 81, 105, 111, 130; Jer. 23:29; Eccles. 12:13; Rev. 22:18, 19.
Read the "Introduction" to The Great Controversy to explore how the Bible was written, Read also chap. 37, "The Scriptures a Safeguard," to help you study the Bible more faithfully.
In your Bible study, ask first what the text actually says in its own setting, then ask what it meant to those to whom it was addressed; and finally, apply the truth of the message to yourself, for your own spiritual growth.
"In His word, God has committed to men the knowledge necessary for salvation. The Holy Scriptures are to be accepted as an authoritative, infallible revelation of His will. They are the standard of character, the revealer of doctrines, and the test of experience."—The Great Controversy, p. vii. "It is the first and highest duty of every rational being to learn from the Scriptures what is truth, and then to walk in the light and encourage others to follow his example. We should day by day study the Bible diligently, weighing every thought and comparing scripture with scripture. With divine help we are to form our opinions for ourselves as we are to answer for ourselves before God."—The Great Controversy, p. 598.
SUMMARY: The Bible is not primarily a book of laws and regulations, but the Inspired Record of God's words and acts and of human responses throughout history. Divine revelation always bears a historical character. God speaks to us directly through Scripture, so that our conscience is bound by its message. Our personal assurance of salvation is founded on the rock of God's own Word. (See 2 Tim. 2:19.)
J. H. Zachary
Roberta Azucena hungered for a personal experience with God and a knowledge of the Bible. He joined a charismatic group. Where he was told that if the Holy Spirit lived in him, he would show physical proof of it. During worship meetings the air was filled with the sound of strange tongues, but no matter how hard Roberto prayed, he never experienced evidences such as those of other worshipers. He became uncomfortable with his church.
One day two Christian laymen stopped by his home in Leyte, Philippines. They were members of The Quiet Hour evangelistic team that was holding meetings in the city. Roberto told the men that his charismatic church used a large room in his home to hold worship services. Still hungering for that personal relationship with Jesus, Roberta invited the two laymen to hold Bible studies in his home and invited friends from his charismatic church to join them.
As the group studied God's Word together, Roberto realized that these men truly were following the Bible. A wonderful peace filled his heart.
As Bible studies progressed, Roberto was surprised to discover that keeping Sunday holy was not taught in the Bible. Before the week ended, Roberto decided to keep the Bible Sabbath. But his wife was unhappy with his decision. Roberto's bakery had twice gone bankrupt. He had recently borrowed money to start another bakery, and his wife reminded him that Saturday was their most profitable day. How could he pay off the loan if the bakery closed on Saturday? But Roberto was determined to obey God. He closed the bakery on Sabbath, to his wife's surprise, they made more money in six days than they had made when they were open seven days a week.
Roberta began paying tithe. "The Lord has changed my life and given me such joy," he explained to his wife, "I want to do this." But even after seeing the bakery prosper when it closed on Sabbaths, his wife resisted his attempts to tithe.
I want my share of the business. I will take the children and go live with my parents. I can never follow you in keeping this Jewish Sabbath."
(Continued next week)
J. H. Zachary is international evangelist coordinator for The Quiet Hour, located in Redlands, California.
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