SDA Sabbath School Lesson
Read For This Week's Study: 1 John 5:1-12.
Memory Text: "And this is the victory that overcomes the world, our faith" (1 John 5:4, RSV).
Key Thought: Those who, by faith, accept Christ's sacrifice and maintain their bom-again relationship with Him have both the power to overcome sin and the gift of eternal life.
Winning The Race. Born Of God God's Commands Victory Through Faith Water And Blood God's Testimony Further Study Inside Story
Winning The Race. "All the world loves a winner," goes the saying. And when you look around at all the adoration winners receive in this world, you can believe the truth of those words. Gold medalists, lottery winners, Grand Prix winners, in fact winners in any area of life are at least extolled and at best made rich and famous. Often the winner takes all.
The Bible talks about winning too. But the Christian race is not against others. The great aim of Christians is not to be first past the winning post, but to be sure to finish. Completing the course is the all important ambition. Says Paul: "I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness" (2 Tim. 4:7, 8, NIV).
"Our aim is to be victorious, to make sure that "we win the victory over the world by means of our faith" (1 John 5:4, TEV). To do so, we must be single-minded, wanting to know only Christ. Can we say of ourselves: "I consider my life worth nothing to me, if only I may finish the race and complete the task the Lord Jesus has given methe task of testifying to the gospel of God's grace" (Acts 20:24, NIV)?
Sunday June 1
Born Of God (1 John 5:1, 2, 4).
What image does the Bible use to describe the relationship the new believer enjoys with God? John 3:1-21.
The idea of rebirth is central to Jesus' message. It is not enough to be altered, changed, fixed up. The conversion that Jesus describes is so completely different, so totally transforming, that only the image of being born again is sufficient. This term has been so overused (and some would say abused) that it has lost much of its impact. But we need to react like Nicodemus, who responds in amazement-how can you return to your mother to be born all over again?
Birth is truly one of the greatest of human experiences-for mother, father, and child-and all those around. To be present at the birth of their children is an inspiring experience for fathers. A brand new life!
That is what we are to be when we are born of God. Now we relate, like loving children, to God, as Father-because of our acceptance of Jesus as Saviour and Lord.
Immediately the consequences of this new birth are spelled out - loving the Father means loving the child. Families go together, says John, and the same applies to the spiritual family. You cannot love God without loving His children. How often Christians forget this when they get involved in petty church squabbles over who plays the organ or who should park in which spot. "He who loves God may be sure of also loving his brethren. It is therefore of paramount importance for the believer to cultivate a genuine love for his Maker: it will prove an inexhaustible fount from which all other desirable qualities will ceaselessly flow."-SDA Bible Commentary, vol. 7, p. 673.
When and how are you born of God? 1 John 5:1; John 3:5-8.
The sense of the original is that because we believe in the present, we have been born of God. The truth that Jesus came to unveil is that eternal life as one of God's children begins in the here and now. Not that this is a once-for-all experience. Just as we are born once but continue to be part of a family, so are we to continue as part of God's family. "Everyone who really believes that Jesus is God's Christ proves himself one of God's family" (1 John 5:1, Phillips). Only as we go on identifying with the family, with its shared experience and objectives, can we be considered part of that family.
A challenge: Why can't you truly call yourself "born of God" when you treat others badly?
Monday June 2
God's Commands (1 John 5:2, 3, 4).
How do we know we love God's children? 1 John 5:2.
By loving God and obeying Him! A strange kind of answer-or so it might appear. And yet the truth is that each implies the other. Proof positive of your Christian experience, is not what you say, but what you do. It is perhaps easier to believe you love God, since there is no immediate possibility of that being denied. So as John has already made clear, loving God has to be demonstrated by our loving His children. But the reverse is also true: the way we know we love God's children is through love and obedience to God.
We may make great claims of love for people, but unless we truly love God and therefore follow His law, such claims have no essential value.
Why are God's commands not burdensome? 1 John 5:3, 4.
Not a surprising answer from the one who identified himself in his Gospel as "the disciple whom Jesus loved"-for the commands of Jesus can never be seen as heavy impositions or restrictive encumbrances if there is a relationship of love. Jesus assures us that His "yoke is easy" and His "burden is light" (Matt. 11:30). "Those who love God find joy in fulfilling His requests and in following His counsel, and God Himself provides the power to observe His law (1 Cor. 10: 13; Phil. 2:13)."-SDA Bible Commentary, vol. 7, p, 673.
Obeying God's commands is not a question of "doing what we're told, or else," but rather, a natural result of love that is coupled with the power of the Holy Spirit in our lives. The alternative would be to suffer in silence and keep the law, not because we accept and agree with it in love, but in a spirit of smoldering rebellion:
"A sullen submission to the will of the Father will develop the character of a rebel. By such a one service is looked upon as drudgery. It is not rendered cheerfully, and in the love of God. It is a mere mechanical performance. If he dared, such a one would disobey. His rebellion is smothered, ready to break out at any time in bitter murmurings and complaints. Such service brings no peace or quietude to the soul."- Ellen G. White, Signs of the Times, July 22, 1897.
For reflection: How do you relate to the commandments of God? Do you see them as preventing you from doing what you really want? Or do you agree with God that this is the best way to live?
Tuesday June 3
Victory Through Faith (1 John 5:4,5).
What is identified as overcoming the world? 1 John 5:4, 5.
"Our faith." The danger is to believe that we gain the victory through something of our own. So we need to took more closely at what "faith" actually is.
Explain what you think the word faith means. Heb. 11:1, 6.
Faith is not some object or substance. You cannot weigh faith by the pound or measure it by the pint. Faith is a relational word: you have faith in someone (or something). You cannot simply "have faith." It must always be faith in. (See 1 John 3:23; 5:5; Rom. 10: 17.)
More than that-faith is not some mystical unknown. Simply put, biblical faith can be defined as trust in God. It implies confidence in God, in His trustworthiness and His saving ability.
So the phrase "our faith overcomes the world" becomes "our trust in God overcomes the world," which puts the emphasis back where it should be, not with us, but with the power and grace of God.
We hear about blind faith. Why is that not what God is looking for? John 20:31; 2 Peter 1:16-19.
"There are many who fail to distinguish between the rashness of presumption and the intelligent confidence of faith.... God has given man precious promises upon conditions of faith and obedience; but they are not to sustain him in any rash act."-Ellen G. White, Review and Herald, April 1, 1875.
"God gives sufficient evidence to every soul. He does not promise to remove every doubt, but He gives a reason for faith."-Ellen G. White, Review and Herald, Jan. 24, 1899.
"All whom God has blessed with reasoning powers are to become intellectual Christians. They are not requested to believe without evidence; therefore Jesus has enjoined upon all to search the Scr-iptures. Let the ingenious inquirer, and the one who would know for himself what is truth, exert his mental powers to search out the truth as it is in Jesus.... The Lord positively demands of every Christian an intelligent knowledge of the Scriptures."-- Ellen G. White, Review and Herald, March 8, 1887.
Wednesday June 4
Water And Blood (1 John 5:6-8).
What is significant about "water and blood"? 1 John 5:6-8 (compare John 3:5; Rom. 5:8, 9; 6:3, 4).
While we remember both "water and blood" at Christ's death as recorded by John, a further significant meaning of these symbols is in the context in which John is writing now. He was particularly concemed to counter the argument that Jesus was only a human being until His baptism, at which time Christ came down upon Him and remained until shortly before His death. This theory was popular among those who believed that things physical were evil-for how could God be part of this evil world? In particular, how could God become a human being? This is why John so explicitly states that "He did not come by water only, but by water and blood" (1 John 5:6, NIV).
What should we understand by "the blood of Jesus"? 1 John 1:7 (compare Matt. 26:28; Acts 20:28; Heb. 9:14; 1 Peter 1: 18,19).
As a shorthand term for all that the death and resurrection of Jesus means, surely this is an excellent and thoroughly biblical concept. But we must also be careful not to misunderstand and not to see the symbol as something to be taken literally. When we sing "There's power in the blood," we do not actually mean there is literal power in the blood. The power comes from the fact that, because Christ suffered the ultimate penalty for our sins, He is now able to purify us from all sin. The gift of redemption through Christ is always associated with the gift of holiness. The blood represents the way God has chosen to save us-through Christ's death and cleansing power.
In natural experience, blood does not cleanse-quite the opposite. But in the symbolism of the Old Testamental sacrificial system, blood was seen as the means of taking away the guilt and consequences of sin. But, of course, this is not literally true. It was not the blood of bulls and goats that actually cleansed from sin. It was God who did this. What God wanted then and wants now is that we understand the seriousness of sin and its consequences, that we seek to be forgiven and healed, and that we come to Him so that all this might be accomplished.
For reflection.What do the Spirit, the water, and the blood testify to? (See John 14:26; Luke 3:21,22; Rev. 1:5)
Thursday June 5
God's Testimony (1 John 5:9-12).
What is the basis for accepting God's testimony as trustworthy? 1 John 5:9, 10.
Some would argue that we do not have to verify God's testimony. As the bumper sticker declares: "God said it. I believe it. That's all there is to it." And that would be one way for God to act, if He so chose. As Creator and Sustainer of the whole vast Universe, He can do as He pleases.
But as far as God is concerned, what pleases Him is for us to validate what He says, to make sure it is true. When John writes, "We accept man's testimony, but God's testimony is greater" (1 John 5:9, NIV), he is not saying God has to be believed because of God's greater power. Rather, "God's testimony is much stronger" (1 John 5:9, TEV) because it is given to believers by the indwelling Holy Spirit. Hence, His testimony makes sense, it is true, and it is right. What God has said about the Son is of major importance-and we think immediately of the voice from heaven at both Jesus' baptism and His transfiguration. God's command is "Listen to him" (Matt.17:5, NIV).
But what is God's testimony? 1 John 5:11, 12.
This is spelled out exactly: "The testimony is this: God has given us eternal life, and this life has its source in his Son" (1 John 5:11, TEV). The message God wants to get across is not only propositional statements or descriptive declarations. God's testimony is that belief in Christ's life, death, and resurrection results in the immediate gift of eternal life.
So what does all this tell us? That, apart from Christ, we are spiritually dead, in rebellion against God, and that the only hope of salvation-healing is to accept the salvation so graciously offered by our loving Saviour. As Phillips so clearly translates Romans 6:23: "Sin pays its servants: the wage is death. But God gives to those who serve him: his free gift is eternal life through Christ Jesus our Lord."
The intrinsic consequence of sin is death. No question about it. On the cross, Jesus silently but eloquently demonstrated this inescapable fact as "God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God" (2 Cor. 5:21, NIV). In His death and resurrection, Christ reveals God's gracious gift of eternal life.
Friday June 6
For Further Study: Note on 1 John 5:7.- "V. 7 is found in no manuscript earlier than the fourteenth century. It is first quoted as part of John's text by Priscillian, the Spanish heretic who died in 385 A.D. and it gradually worked its way into the Latin Vulgate. Erasmus omitted the passage from the first printed Greek Testament of 1516, but undertook to introduce the words if a Greek manuscript containing them could be produced. He was faced with a late manuscript which did, in fact, contain the passage, and against his judgment kept his promise. So, by way of Erasmus' 1522 edition, the interpolation invaded the text of the Greek New Testament. The action of the RV in cutting out the spurious words was tardy justice. We should treasure every word of the inspired record, but we want no invasion of that record by the additions of men, however sound the theology expressed."- E. M. Blaiklock, Commentary on the New Testament(London: Hodder and Stoughton, 1977), p. 246.
Assignment: Using a concordance, look at the 16 references John makes in his Gospel to "eternal life." What do these references tell you about this vital gospel theme?
The only way to have this eternal life is through Jesus Christ. He identified Himself as the way, the truth, and the life. He declared that He came that we might have life. He identified Himself as the resurrection and the life. (See John 11:25; 14:6; 10:10.) Consequently: "Whoever has the Son has this life; whoever does not have the Son of God does not have life" (1 John 5:12, TEV). May we always have the life-giving Son, now and forever!
Summary:We have victory only through our trusting relationship with God - for He is the victor. As we are born again into His image, as we accept God's own testimony about His Son "through water and through blood," we are sure that "God has given us eternal life."
The Church Remained Open
Fred L. Webb
Fausto watched in dismay as the attendance at the Adventist church in their rural village grew smaller and smaller. When the Adventist mission school had closed for lack of money, church members began to scatter. Some moved to villages that still had a school, but others simply stopped attending church. Fausto and his wife tried to keep the church alive. They held regular services, but the attendance dwindled until only the two of them came. They prayed earnestly for their village, but the outlook seemed dim.
Villagers began tying their goats and sheep in the church to keep them out of the rain. Then some villagers began taking boards from the walls of the church to use for firewood. Fausto tried to stop them, but boards continued to disappear.
One day someone noticed that many villagers had large tropical ulcers on their legs. It seemed that the ulcers broke out mostly on people who had desecrated the church. The superstitious people decided that they were being punished for damaging God's church, and they stopped taking the wood.
Fausto was invited to move to another village and minister to an active Adventist church. He decided that if the church did not show growth within three months, he would accept the call. Soon after this Fausto learned that student missionaries from Mountain View College were coming to reopen the school. The villagers welcomed the missionaries, and some began taking Bible studies from Fausto and the students. Many who had slipped away began attending church again. Within four months 147 precious souls were baptized. Fausto and his wife did not leave their village. They stayed to minister to the new believers.
Fausto and his wife thank God for their answered prayers. Their small church, which once stood nearly empty, is now too small for all who want to attend services. The village plans to enlarge the church so that everyone, including children, can worship together.
Pray for the work and the workers in the Philippines who dedicate themselves to bring Christ to the lost.
Fred L. Webb is the farm coordinator at Mountain View College in South Philippines. Fausto Bicieram (left).
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