LESSON 1 *March 28 - April 3
Lesson graphic

Read for This Week's Study:

Isaiah 53, Matt. 22:37-39, 1 Corinthians 13, 1 John 3 and 1 John 4.

Memory Text:

"And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love" (1 Corinthians 13:13, NIV).

      It is only fitting that a study guide dealing with key concepts of the Christian faith should start with the topic of love. The apostle Paul points out that however important faith and hope and other elements of Christianity are, it all starts with love. Without love, we are, as he said, “nothing” (1 Cor. 13:2).

Some five centuries before Christ was born, the Greek philosopher Sophocles said, “One word frees us of all the weight and pain of life. That word is love.” True as these words are, this Greek sage still was ignorant about the depth of love that was to be proclaimed and modeled by our Savior.

God is love. Whatever else God is, and whatever He has done, is doing, and will do—everything is a manifestation of His love. This love is as comforting as it is difficult to comprehend. God’s love far exceeds what human beings usually label as love, which is sometimes a mere shallow feeling or temporary infatuation that’s often mixed with selfishness and greed. God does not just have love or show love. He is love.

The Week at a Glance:

God’s love for humanity has been revealed in numerous ways, the greatest being the Cross. As followers of Jesus, we respond to His love by loving others as Christ loved us.  

*Study this week's lesson to prepare for Sabbath, April 4.

SUNDAY March 29

Love—The Fabric of Life

We need to eat and drink in order to stay alive. Without liquid to drink or food to eat, we come to an end soon. But in order to live in any real sense of the word, we also need love. Life without love is a subhuman kind of existence. There is a built-in need in us to receive love. We need the love of parents. We need the love of family and friends. We need to be part of a loving community. But just as much as we need to receive love, we also need to give love. We are not truly human if we cannot love. But let’s be clear: True love does not begin with us. The capacity for love is created in us by our Creator. (See Gen. 1:26 and John 3:16.)

How all-important is love in the life of the follower of Christ? Matt. 22:37–39, 1 Cor. 13:1–3, 1 John 3:14. 

God’s love always precedes our love. Whatever else we say about love, this point is crucial. True “love is not an impulse, but a divine principle, a permanent power. The unconsecrated heart cannot originate or produce it. Only in the heart where Jesus reigns is it found. ‘We love him, because he first loved us.’ [1 John 4:19]. In the heart renewed by divine grace, love is the ruling principle of action.”—Ellen G. White, The Acts of the Apostles, p. 551.

The famous British author C. S. Lewis uses the terms “Gift-love” and “Need-Love” to differentiate between God’s love and human forms of love. While God wants our love more than anything else, He does not need our love in the same way in which we need love from Him and from fellow human beings. “We [must] begin at the real beginning, with love as the Divine energy. This primal love is Gift-love. In God there is no hunger that needs to be filled, only plenteousness that desires to give.”—C. S. Lewis, The Four Loves (London: HarperCollins, 1998), p. 121. Our human love needs to be transformed by divine love, so that—while we will continue to yearn for love from others—we will be able to give love in a truly Christlike manner.
From your own experience, what is the difference between human love and God’s love? What kind of human love best exemplifies God’s love? How can we better manifest God’s love in our own lives?  

MONDAY March 30

The Old Testament God—A God of Love

It is often said that God’s love is clearly manifested only in the New Testament, while the “Old Testament God” is a God of justice and wrath. But careful study of the entire Bible shows that God does not have such a split personality. Though God’s love was manifested in the fullest measure in Christ (as portrayed in the New Testament), the God of Old Testament times is just as much a God of supreme love. God does not change (James 1:17). He does not gradually evolve from a God of wrath or a God of justice into a God of love. God’s love is eternal. The words to His Old Testament people apply to all times: “ ‘I have loved you with an everlasting love’ ” (Jer. 31:3, NIV).

Take a look at a few important evidences of God’s love in Old Testament times as listed below, and add a few other clear evidences of His love found elsewhere in the Old Testament.  

There are stories and statements in the Old Testament that are, at least on the surface, difficult to understand. It is true that we read about bloodshed and war. But never forget that God is consistently portrayed as the covenant God, who draws people to Himself and does not forsake them, in spite of the fact that they turn their backs on Him time and again.
What do you answer when confronted with questions about war and bloodshed in the Old Testament? How do you reconcile the divine commands to eliminate entire nations (for instance, Israel taking possession of the land of Canaan) with the concept of a God of love?  

TUESDAY March 31

The New Testament God—A God of Love

Why did Jesus Christ come to the world? Why did He have to suffer, and was it necessary for Him to die on a cross? And why will He come again and restore this world to its original unblemished condition? Was there no other way? And if not, why does it take so long before the sin problem is fully dealt with? We are in no position to answer these questions. In His infinite wisdom God devised a plan to deal with the predicament of sin in the best possible way. Being a holy God, He could not overlook the rebellion against His perfect law; being love, He could not stand back and let His creatures perish without doing His utmost to save them.

"God's holiness is his majestic purity that cannot tolerate moral evil. God's love is his outgoing, tenderhearted embrace of the sinner. God's holiness is his separateness from what is unclean and profane. God's love is his willingness to identify with those who are unclean in order to help them. . . . [But] God's wrath is provisional whereas his love is eternal."—Donald G. Bloesch, God the Almighty: Power, Wisdom, Holiness, Love (Downers Grove, Ill.: InterVarsity Press, 1995), pp. 140-143.

What do the following texts tell us about the New Testament message of God's love?  

How would you summarize the New Testament message about the love of God?

How do the three angels' messages of Revelation 14:6-12 fit in this overall New Testament theme of divine love? Ellen White speaks about the message of the third angel as the good news of justification by faith "in verity." How does that all fit in with the theme of God's love for humanity?  


A Response of Love

The tragic reality of this world is one of self-love, blind ambition, hatred, competition, corruption, and war. As long as the citizens of this world let themselves, knowingly or unknowingly, be guided by the principles of the prince of darkness, love will have no chance to blossom. Mother Teresa once said, "If you judge people, you have no time to love them."

If we truly have been converted and become disciples of the Lord, the principle of love will reign in our lives. Whatever our weaknesses, we will steadily grow in our love for God and for our fellow human beings. In a very real sense conversion is reorientation—a shift away from the love of self to the love for God and to the love of others.

What underlying principle should we discern as we study the commandments that God has given us? Has this principle been operating differently since Christ came to this world? Deut. 6:5, 6; Matt. 22:37-40.  

If we truly have been changed by Jesus Christ, His love will characterize our dealings with other people. Though we may not like some people, we are called to love everyone, even our greatest enemy. This will benefit not only the people we associate with but will also prove an enormous blessing for ourselves. Give love and unconditional acceptance to those you encounter and notice what happens.

How should love permeate what we say and do? Matt. 5:44, 25:31-46, 1 Pet. 1:22.  

"If church members will put away all self-worship, and will receive in their hearts the love for God and for one another that filled Christ's heart, our heavenly Father will constantly manifest His power through them. Let His people be drawn together with the cords of divine love. Then the world will recognize the miracle-working power of God, and will acknowledge that He is the Strength and the Helper of His commandment-keeping people."—Ellen G. White Comments, The SDA Bible Commentary, vol. 7, p. 940.
Are you naturally loving or naturally selfish and self-centered? What practical steps can you take to move away from self and manifest love to others?  


Love Personified

Jesus Christ is our ultimate role model. If we wonder what our love should be like, we need to look only at our Savior. In Him we see the perfect example. Humanly speaking, Christ had every reason to dislike or even hate a lot of people. The spiritual leaders were so envious of His success that they constantly harassed Him and eventually decided to eliminate Him. Why should He have loved these people? His own family was at times less than supportive. His disciples often fought among themselves and were absent when their presence would have counted most. How could He love them at those moments when they totally forsook Him?

Besides all this, Jesus also manifested His love in particular toward those who would not get much positive attention from the spiritual leaders of His days: women (including prostitutes), those who suffered from leprosy, people from Samaria, members of the occupying force, and tax gatherers.

Take a careful look at some concrete examples of Jesus showing unselfish love, in circumstances in which most people would have found it difficult to do so.  

The Bible far surpasses the revelation of God in nature, yet, no written record can equal the personal presence of the Son of God. The Bible is God’s tool to accomplish His purpose in our lives. However, it has no lasting value if we regard it only as an interesting history book. Unless it leads us to the One it reveals, our study of the Bible will be of little benefit. The Bible was written, above all, to give to us the revelation of God presented to the world through the life and death of His Son, Jesus.

How should the manifestation of divine love in the ministry of Jesus impact our discipleship? 2 Cor. 5:14, Phil. 2:2.  

The love of Christ compels us, the apostle Paul says (2 Cor. 5:14). The English translation is somewhat ambiguous, for the original Greek construction may be translated as the love that comes from Christ as well as the love that we have for Christ. Both meanings are grammatically justified and also are theologically correct. When we grasp something of the magnitude of Christ's love, it will create a loving response, and this will give us the intense desire to share that love with others.

Jesus also loved those who were despised by most other people and were generally considered rather unlovable. He went out of His way to show them His love. How do I show my love to the homeless, to people who live at the fringes of society, and to those who do not in any way represent the values that I treasure?  

FRIDAY April 3

Further Study:  
  Read Ellen G. White, "God's Love for Man," pp. 9-16, in Steps to Christ. Also read "Calvary," pp. 741-757, and "It Is Finished," pp. 758-768, in The Desire of Ages, which deal with the final moments of Christ's earthly life. The book The Four Loves, by C. S. Lewis, is an inspiring essay on the various kinds of human and divine love.   

Discussion Questions:
     One cannot escape the "why" question: If God is love, why is there so much suffering? It is not only the scale of suffering that causes people to question God's love but also the fact that so much appears to affect innocent people, and so much appears utterly senseless. How do we, as Seventh-day Adventist Christians, deal with this reality? How does our understanding of the great controversy help us understand this difficult topic?  

   How can one love an abusing parent, a serial killer, or a totally selfish person? How did Jesus love those who were totally unlovable?  

   How can one continue loving if there is no response to that love? Again, how did Jesus continue to love those who would never love Him back?  

   Who are the outcasts, the despised, and the reviled in your own society? What kind of outreach and ministry does your church have for those people? What would it take to get yourself and your church involved in such a work?  

   In a real sense, true love demands a death to self, a willingness to put self aside for the good of others. What choices do we have to make in order to experience that death ourselves?  

   Besides the Cross, what are other ways that we can see God's love for humanity?  

  God is love. This characteristic is the basis for everything God is and does. This loving God is already revealed in the Old Testament, but His love is seen in its ultimate form in the gift of His Son, Jesus Christ, for our salvation. This divine love finds a response in the love of the Christian. If we profess to be disciples of our Lord Jesus Christ, our life will be marked by unconditional love toward our Maker and unselfish love for others.   

I N S I D E Story    
Mad Man Goes to Church


Mekonin lived in a farming village in Ethiopia. Many people in this village didn't like Adventists, and some even wanted to destroy the local Adventist church.

One day people noticed that Mekonin was behaving erratically. He became angry easily and even tried to kill his wife. Fortunately, she and their children fled to her parents' home. As Mekonin's behavior became more demonic, the neighbors feared for their own safety. They chained him to a pillar in his home and stayed a safe distance away.

Then someone mentioned that when the Adventists pray for people, they're healed. The next Sabbath morning several strong men bound Mekonin in chains and led him to the Adventist church. The men sat down on a bench near the back surrounding Mekonin, ready to subdue him if he became aggressive. The visitors sat quietly through Sabbath School and church. Then the pastor, deacons, and church elders gathered around Mekonin and prayed for him.

"Why don't you throw water on him?" one of the neighbors asked. The pas-tor explained that the power to heal Mekonin was in Christ, not in the water. The pastor asked the men to bring Mekonin back the next day for prayer.

On Sunday the neighbors returned to the Adventist church with Mekonin, but this time he came without the chains. About 60 people came to pray for Mekonin or to watch what happened.

The following Sabbath, Mekonin visited the Adventist church again. He walked with some Adventist members and was not bound by chains. Mekonin took part in the worship service. The pastor knew of another Adventist church nearer to Mekonin's home and asked the local elders to go to Mekonin's home and pray with him. Other Adventist groups learned about Mekonin's condition and joined in praying for him. Within two weeks Mekonin was healed of the demons who had possessed him.

Mekonin's wife learned that her husband had been healed; she and her children returned home.

Mekonin and his wife joined the Adventist church, along with neighbors who had once wanted to destroy the church but had seen God heal Mekonin in answer to the believers' prayers. Today six Adventist churches stand in the area near Mekonin's home, testimonies of God's goodness and power to save.

Your mission offerings help spread the gospel in farming villages and large cities around the world so that people chained by darkness can be freed by Jesus, the Light of the World.

CHARLOTTE ISHKANIAN is editor of Mission.
Produced by the General Conference Office of Adventist Mission.
email:   info@adventistmission.org   website:  www.adventistmission.org

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