Lesson 3

January 12 - 18

The Contenders

Lesson graphic

Sabbath Afternoon   January 12

READ FOR THIS WEEK'S STUDY: Phil. 2:5-11; 1 John 1:5-10; 3:4-9.

MEMORY TEXT: " 'I am the light of the world. He who follows Me shall not walk in darkness, but have the light of life' " (John 8:12, NKJV).

KEY QUESTIONS: Who are the chief contenders in the great controversy? What weapons does each contender employ, and how effective are they?

THE LORD OF LIGHT VERSUS THE PRINCE OF DARKNESS. Many New Testament word pictures portray the contenders in the great controversy. Studying these pictures will help us better understand the nature of the war. Anyone who wants to know the truth can see the stark contrast between the opponents. They are Immanuel—God with us—versus the devouring lion in our midst; the Lord of light versus the prince of darkness; the God of truth against the father of lies; Christ versus antichrist. One is the Shepherd, the other a wolf.

We should be able to see, too, that there's no compromise between these two contenders. The issues between them are too deep, too divisive, too contrary to allow for any kind of truce, any kind of conditional surrender, any kind of synthesis of sides into some sort of settlement, as often happens between warring nations. Instead, it's a matter of one side that is wholly good fighting against another side that is wholly evil in a battle that only one or the other can win. There's no middle ground between them, no possibility of cooperation. Whenever the battle is over, the victory will be complete and unconditional, with one side, our side—under the command of Lord Jesus—enjoying the fruits of a hard-fought battle that we're all engaged in, even if Jesus was the decisive victor for us 2,000 years ago.  

*(Study this week's lesson to prepare for Sabbath, January 19.)

Sunday  January 13

GOD WITH US VERSUS A LION IN OUR MIDST (Matt. 1:23; 1 Pet. 5:8).

When God cast Satan out of heaven, Satan took upon himself the task of deceiving the whole world (Rev. 12:9). With the fall of Adam and Eve, Satan turned this world into a battlefield on which the opponents fight over the issues we studied in lesson 2.

As he did with Eve, Satan often pretends to be our ally. "He frequently appears as an angel of light, assuming friendly airs, presenting peculiar temptations which it is difficult for the inexperienced to withstand ."—Testimonies for the Church, vol. 4, p. 207. But however subtle Satan may be, he remains our "adversary," lurking "about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour" (1 Pet. 5:8, NKJV).

Based on such a description, what deceptions might Satan use to get us on his side?  Might we be on Satan's side without even knowing it?  

Peter's own experience with Satan certainly qualified him to portray our enemy as a stalking lion seeking its prey. During their last Passover together, Jesus told Peter that Satan would haunt his footsteps (Luke 22:31). Indeed, before the night was over, Peter would deny his Lord and Savior not once but three times (vss. 34, 54-62). Jesus, however, did not leave him without hope. Immediately after telling him that Satan desired to have him, Jesus said, " 'But I have prayed for you, Simon, that your faith may not fail. And when you have turned back, strengthen your brothers' "(vs. 32, NIV).

Jesus could offer Peter hope because of a plan that God, in His infinite wisdom, formulated to redeem us. When did He develop this plan, and what did it include? Rom. 5:19; 1 Pet. 1:20; Rev. 13:8.  

Satan claimed this world as his (Matt. 4:8, 9; John 14:30), but God sent us His Son. Born as a babe, He became" 'Immanuel. . . . God with us'" (Matt. 1:23, NKJV). He took upon Himself our human nature, and in that nature He crushed Satan.

Who of us hasn't, at some point, fallen as Peter did, in the sense that—though boldly proclaiming (maybe just in our hearts) that we'd stay faithful to Christ no matter what—we allowed Satan to come in and cause to us betray Christ anyway?  Yet Why didn't Jesus reject Peter, and why can we have hope that He, Immanuel, won't reject us either, if we do the same?  

Monday  January 14


"Then spake Jesus again unto them, saying, I am the light of the world: he that followeth me shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the light of life" (John 8:12).  

In the beginning of Creation, Christ, the Creator, said: "Let there be light" (Gen. 1:3; John 1:1-5). Thus He dispelled the darkness that was over the earth. The same Christ now proclaims that He is the Light of the world—a light that has come to dispel the moral and spiritual darkness that has overtaken the world as a result of sin.

As light, what does Jesus provide for us?

  2 Cor. 4:6  _______________________________________________________________________

  1 John 1:7  ______________________________________________________________________

  Ps. 119:105  _____________________________________________________________________

  Ps. 27:1  __________________________________________________________________  

It has been said that all the darkness in the world can't cover or hide the light from even a single candle. In the same way, no matter how "dark" our situation might be, Jesus, the Light, is there to guide us through the darkness, if we are willing to turn toward Him.

There is something absolute about the Father and Christ being light. Because light is what the Father and Christ are, there can be no darkness in them at all (1 John 1:5). Because light is opposed to darkness, Christ is by nature opposed to Satan, the prince of darkness. As the presence of light dispels darkness, so the presence of Christ assures Satan's defeat.

Scientists speculate on the existence of black holes, objects in space so dense, so full of mass, that their gravitational pull allows nothing to escape, not even light.  Considering, in the spiritual realm, who our Light is, can any spiritual black holes exist?  

Tuesday  January 15


"Jesus saith unto him, I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me" (John 14:6).  

John 14:6 is a profound statement, not carelessly made or selfishly asserted. He not only came to show the truth about God the Father, Satan, sin, and redemption; He is the truth. Because He is the incarnation of truth, He is the only way to the Father and the only source of eternal life.

The truth is divine reality—who God is, what He does, and how He relates to His created beings. Many people have speculated on what constitutes truth. Even with Truth standing before him, Pilate asked, "What is truth?" (John 18:38). There are many and varied answers, and Satan delights in all of them, because they are all weapons in his arsenal. But the Creator has the ultimate weapon. Jesus says that He is the truth (John 14:6). Truth has put on human garb, and to know Him is to know the Father and to have eternal life (John 14:9; 17:3).

So often, we tend to think of truth as propositions, statements, such as A=B and B=C, therefore A=C.  Jesus, however, by the statement that He is truth, puts even the concept of truth in a whole different perspective. How do we understand this idea of truth being a Person? Consider the fact that Jesus is the Creator of everything created (Col. 1:16). Could that concept help us understand how Jesus is the truth?  

While Jesus is the truth, Satan is "the father of lies" (John 8:44, NIV). Satan told lies in heaven, in Eden, and in the wilderness. In the following verses, we see not only blatant lies but even more subtle ones. What were they?

Eden (Gen. 3:1) _____________________________________________________________________

Heaven (Job 1:10, 11)  _______________________________________________________________

Wilderness (Matt. 4:5, 6) ________________________________________________________  

Jesus is the truth; Satan is the father of lies.  The contrast is blatant.  However, in our own lives, the line can seem blurred, especially when we find ourselves in positions in which the temptation to lie, even for a "greater good," is very alluring.  What does today's lesson teach about whom we're reflecting when we lie?  What should it tell us about lying?  Is anyone ever justified in lying?  

Wednesday  January 16

CHRIST VERSUS ANTICHRIST (Matt. 16:13-17; 1 John 2:18-23).

We saw last week that one of the issues in the great controversy centers on Christ's status in heaven. Satan refused to acknowledge that Christ is equal to the Father. Since his expulsion to our world, he battles this issue with even greater vigor. Satan has tried to usurp the role that belongs only to Christ. This action has been manifested in various ways, through Satan himself or his proxies (see Isa. 14:13, 14; Ezek. 28:2, 6; 2 Thess. 2:3, 4).

First John 2:18-23 speaks of the antichrist in both singular and plural terms. The singular reference is to Satan, the original antichrist, who, from the beginning of the battle, has opposed Christ.

Satan also works against Christ and His role in redemptive history through certain human agencies and systems. Though antichrist has been around since John's time, it has been manifested particularly in a church that assumes for itself the role and prerogatives that belong only to God or Christ Himself.

Antichrist doesn't mean just "against Christ" but, in fact, "in place of Christ." How does that definition better help us identify the antichrist?  

Christ Himself asked His disciples who they thought He was. How did Peter respond? Matt. 16:13-17.  

Jesus Christ is the eternal Word, the second Person of the Godhead—coexistent, coeternal, and coequal with God the Father. Jesus was not a created being but rather existed from eternity with the Father. As such, He's in a whole separate category from any created being. As part of the Godhead, He's the Creator; everything and everyone else, Lucifer included, are created. The difference, then, between Christ and Satan is, in a sense, the difference between the finite and the infinite. Like Peter, Satan is fully aware of Christ's position; but unlike Peter, he constantly attempts to usurp that position, one way or another.

In Matthew 6:24 Jesus said, "No man can serve two masters: for either he will hate the one, and love the other; or else he will hold to the one, and despise the other.  Ye cannot serve God and mammon."  How do these words fit in today's lesson?  How do you understand His meaning here?  More importantly, if you were to take an honest, serious look at your own life, at your own priorities, at how you spend your time, which of these two masters could you honestly say you are serving?  

Thursday  January 17


Answer the following questions based on the scripture above:

Who is the Good Shepherd?  _____________________________________________________________


Who is the hireling?  ___________________________________________________________________


Who is the wolf?_______________________________________________________________________


What is the relationship between the wolf and the hireling?  ___________________________________


Explain the relationship between the shepherd and the sheep.  _________________________________



Oftentimes, a hired hand is interested only in the money he will make, but a good shepherd does not work for compensation alone. The shepherd owns the sheep and loves them. Likewise, Jesus is not just going through the motions for His benefit. He loves us to the point of actually having died for our sins. It was His love for us that led Christ to take up the cross. He died because He willed to die and thus turned an earthly government's instrument of capital punishment into the heavenly government's instrument of victory over sin, death, and Satan.

Between the flock and the peril stands the Good Shepherd.  The wolf s only objective is to devour the sheep.  List some of the contrasts that exist between the work and attitudes of the Shepherd and the wolf.  (For example, Christ died that we might live.  Satan lives to lead us away from life.)  And though we are sheep, helpless against the wolf without the protection of our Shepherd, what things can we do to make the Shepherd's job of protecting us easier?  In other words, what do we do that makes it very difficult for the Shepherd to be able to render to us the protection He wants to give us?  At the same time, what can we do to best place ourselves under the protection the Shepherd willingly offers us?  In the end, if the wolf devours us, where must the fault ultimately lie, and why?  

Friday  January 18

FURTHER STUDY:  This week, we studied five sets of contrasting word pictures that portray the role and function of the chief contenders in the great controversy. Following are three other such portraits: Acts 3:15/John 8:44; 1 Tim. 2:5/Rev. 12:10; Isa. 9:6/John 14:30. As you read each one, consider what it tells us about Christ and Satan and the part they play in the war over good and evil.

"Christ is 'the Prince of Peace' (Isaiah 9:6), and it is His mission to restore to earth and heaven the peace that sin has broken. 'Being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.' Romans 5:1. Whoever consents to renounce sin and open his heart to the love of Christ becomes a partaker of this heavenly peace.

"There is no other ground of peace than this. The grace of Christ received into the heart subdues enmity; it allays strife and fills the soul with love. He who is at peace with God and his fellow men cannot be made miserable. Envy will not be in his heart; evil surmisings will find no room there; hatred cannot exist. The heart that is in harmony with God is a partaker of the peace of heaven and will diffuse its blessed influence on all around."—Thoughts From the Mount of Blessing, pp. 27, 28.

To learn more about this week's topic, read Prophets and Kings, "Joshua and the Angel," pp. 582-592.  

1. Christ is the friend of sinners. So is Satan.  What are the differences between these two friendships?  
2. We may not be pastors, elders, or deacons.  We may not be holding any official position in the church.  Yet we have a responsibility to nurture other church members.  If we fail in that responsibility, how are we like the hireling in the parable of the Good Shepherd?  (see Thursday's lesson).  List ways we can fulfill our nurturing role.  

SUMMARY:  Christ and Satan, the chief contenders in the great controversy, both employ certain strategies and weapons. But Satan's attempts to coerce, spread fear, and tell lies about God's character are no match for us as we learn to trust the guidance of the Holy Spirit, the Word of God, and His love for us. Dressed in the armor of Christ's righteousness as we rally around the Cross, we glory in His victory, for it is ours, as well.  

InSide Story

The Joy of Christ

J. H. Zachary

Dennis Patinde pastors a small group of Adventist Christians in Mali, a predominantly Muslim country.

Lamine is the son of the imam, the Muslim teacher. From childhood Lamine had memorized large portions of the Qu'ran. But as he matured, he became discouraged over the uncertainties of life. He wished for a deeper spiritual experience, but he did not know how to achieve it. Then he met Pastor Patinde, the first Christian pastor Lamine had ever known.

"Religion should be a joy," Lamine told Patinde. "So why is it such a burden? Why is there so much fear and hatred, so much killing?"

The youthful pastor and the imam's son talked for some time. As the two discussed spiritual issues and prayed together, Lamine caught a new glimpse of God. Patinde gave Lamine a Bible, and Lamine began to read it. He was amazed that it contained some stories found in the Qu'ran.

When Lamine read in the Qu'ran that a true believer should read the prophets, the Gospels, and other writings of the Bible, he felt that he was following the counsel of Mohammed, Islam's prophet. As he continued studying the Bible, his burden was replaced with joy. He felt a peace he had never known.

Lamine had to be careful that no one saw him enter or leave the pastor's home. Each night he went home by a different route so that no one would know where he had been.

But in spite of his care, word spread that Lamine, the son of the imam, had become a Christian. Lamine's parents were angry and disowned him. Pastor Patinde visited them and talked about their son. "Something has happened to our son," Lamine's father said. "He is a different boy, happy and confident." Patinde explained that Lamine had discovered the joy of salvation in Jesus Christ.

Lamine's parents eventually accepted his decision and are now studying the Bible. Lamine is praying that they, too, will follow Jesus one day soon.

Lamine (left).  J. H. Zachary is coordinator of international evangelism for The Quiet Hour and a special consultant for the General Conference Ministerial Association.

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