|Lesson 13||March 22-28|
|Praise and Promises|
Read For This Week's Study: 1 Cor 1:4-9; 3:21-23; 6:19, 20; 10:13; 13:12.
Memory Text: "No temptation has overtaken you except such as is common to man; but God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will also make the way of escape, that you may be able to bear it" (1 Corinthians 10:13, NKJV ).
Key Thought: It is through claiming God's promises and participating in His praise that Christians are able to access the resources of heaven.
|Sabbath Afternoon||March 21|
CHRISTIANS NEED NIGHT VISION. Every spring half a million sandhill cranes, en route to points north, roost on the Platte River in the United States. In their conservation efforts on behalf of the cranes, biologists needed to see the invisible-thousands of cranes gathering in the river at night. The Nebraska Air National Guard came to the rescue. Aircraft, equipped with infrared sensors, were able to "see" the cranes and aid in understanding their habits.
In this dark hour Christians need to be able to see what is real but invisible to our unaided sight. The praise and promises of God's Word provide "infrared sensors" that allow us access to spiritual realities. In spite of the difficulties at Corinth, Paul finds reasons for praise to God and opportunities to share powerful promises of His grace. In doing so he provides each of us with our own "night scope." No matter how dark the night, we can be equipped to see the light!
GOD IS FAITHFUL (1 Corinthians 1:4-9).
As Paul begins to craft 1 Corinthians, he is fully aware of the problems he will tackle in the letter--factions, spiritual elitism, immorality, lawsuits among members, abuses of the Lord's Supper, twisted uses of spiritual gifts, and wayward views of the resurrection. Yet he models an important perspective for Christians who, with him, face problems. He grounds his attempts to deal with them in praise to God.
Paul looks toward the Second Coming and believes that the members of the troubled congregations at Corinth will then be found "guiltless." What fuels Paul's confidences 1 Cor. 1:4-9.
Given the depth and variety of the problems in the churches of Corinth, Paul must have been tempted to feel that his work for them had been pointless. If so, Paul yields his own judgment to the Divine One. For he cannot deny that God has blessed and endowed the Corinthians. Whatever he may be tempted to think of them, the bestowal of grace and gifts confirms God's own judgment of their worth. This feeds an additional idea that grips his mind and drives his hope, a thought that motivates him to continue to admonish and correct and to believe that those he addresses in Corinth are, in fact, stated to be citizens of God's eternal kingdom: "God is faithful!"
Paul finds cause for praise and confidence in God's faithfulness. Whatever the lapses of human behavior and belief, God has been in the believers' experience from the start (verse 9), sustains them in the present (verse 7), and promises to strengthen them until Christ's return (verse 8).
What similar promises are contained in the New Testament? Phil. 1:6; 1 John 3:1-3. What other promises would you like to add?
"We are not to look within for evidence of our acceptance with God. We shall find there nothing but that which will discourage us. Our only hope is in 'looking unto Jesus the Author and Finisher of our faith.' Hebrews 12:2. There is everything in Him to inspire with hope, with faith, and with courage."--Testimonies, vol. 5, pp. 199, 200.
Think of someone you know well who is facing strong spiritual challenges. On that person's behalf, offer your praise to God and lay claim to the divine promises.
ALL THINGS ARE YOURS (1 Cor. 3:21-23).
The Corinthian Christians have identified with specific teachers. What mind-set does Paul suggest as a replacement for this cliquish mentality? 1 Cor. 3:21-23.
There are few grander statements of the privileges of the Christian than 1 Corinthians 3:21-23. Recall the setting of Paul's buoyant words. Paul had received the report (1 Cor. 1:11) that Corinthian Christians were banding together under the banner of one preferred teacher or another. They professed a smug loyalty to this chosen leader at the expense of Christian community. With a superior air, they demeaned those who followed others.
Behind every dark cloud, so the saying goes, is a silver lining . Paul is moved by the theological cliques that have formed to provide an energizing statement of Christian privileges. He cleverly points to an inversion of truth by the Corinthians. They have claimed, "I belong to teacher X." Paul says, "You have it wrong. It is not you who belong to a teacher. That teacher, and every teacher, belongs to you!" In attaching themselves to one proclaimer, they have destroyed their Christian privileges.
The phrase "all things" (or "everything"), figures prominently in many Bible promises. Review the following promises:
Mark 9:23; 10:27 ______________________________________
Rom. 8:32 ____________________________________________
Phil. 4:13 _____________________________________________
2 Peter 1:3 ____________________________________________
As becomes evident in 1 Corinthians, it was possible to misuse the claim to "all things" (see 1 Cor. 6:12; 10:23). Paul reminds them that all things belong to believers because they themselves belong to Christ. For those who belong to Christ, Paul's promise is sweeping. Notice the wide array of categories Paul includes in "all things."
In what ways might you be taking too narrow a view of your privileges as a Christian? What has God given you in Christ to which you have failed to lay claim? Is the cause of this failure the result of not giving to Christ "all things" in your life?
THE INSIDER (1 Cor. 6:19, 20).
Among the issues that Paul takes up in 1 Corinthians are difficult ones dealing with sexual immorality. With clear views of God's grace and power, Paul is once again able to find inspiration in the most difficult of situations. He has accepted God's gift of vision in the night! Aside from the promises themselves, we have much to learn from such faith.
What striking reminder does Paul issue to erring Christians? 1 Cor. 6:19, 20.
Some in Corinth had apparently been demeaning the body, suggesting that what one did with it did not matter. Paul's view provides a vivid contrast. The Christian's body is not worthless but priceless. The believer is the purchased dwelling of the Holy Spirit. This is the only passage where Paul refers to the individual believer as the temple of the Holy Spirit (compare 1 Cor. 3:16, 17; 2 Cor. 6:16; Eph. 2:21).
To appreciate the power of the promise we Must refresh our understanding of the identity of the Holy Spirit, "From eternity God the Holy Spirit lived within the Godhead as the third member. The Father, Son, and Spirit are equally self-existent."--Seventh-day Adventists Believe. . ., p. 61. What would be the result if we could truly grasp the incredible privilege we have of sharing life with a divine Companion?
Compare other Bible passages that emphasize the indwelling of the Holy Spirit: John 14:16, 17; Rom. 8:9-11; Eph. 5:18.
In discussing the paradoxical quality of the Christian life, one author writes that the Christian "loves supremely One whom he has never seen, and though himself poor and lowly he talks familiarly with One who is King of all kings and Lord of all lords, and is aware of no incongruity in so doing."--Warren W. Wiersbe, ed., The Best of A. W. Tozer, (Harrisburg, Penn.: Christian Publications, 1978), p. 9. Christians share life so completely with the Ruler of all things that He may be described as dwelling within us.
". . . Paul endeavored to show them Christ's power to keep them from evil. He knew that if they would comply with the conditions laid down, they would be strong in the strength of the Mighty One. As a means of helping them to break away from the thralldom of sin and to perfect holiness in the fear of the Lord, Paul urged upon them the claims of Him to whom they had dedicated their lives at the time of their conversion."--The Act of the Apostle, p. 306.
VISION IN THE NIGHT (1 Cor. 10:13).
What thoughts should give strength to the tempted Christian? 1 Cor. 10:13.
Paul does not write 1 Corinthians 10:13 in a vacuum, a spiritual environment free of any real temptations. He writes the promise with an audience in view. And the members of his audience are "tempted" in very real ways. In the rough and tumble of their daily lives they are drawn toward divisiveness and spiritual one-upsmanship. They are tempted to find their Christian identity in criticizing rather than in upbuilding. They feel the pull of sexual allure. The social and religious life of idolatry draws them. This is not a promise for the ones living in ivory towers but for those struggling in the trenches of spiritual battle.
What similar thoughts are expressed in 2 Thessalonians 3:3; James 1:2, 12; 1 Peter 4:12, 13?
With other passages in the New Testament, 1 Corinthians 10:13 exposes the anatomy of the great controversy as it affects each of God's saints. In the temptations pressed by Satan, Paul invites his readers to perceive the overruling power of God. The tempter would press his temptations with no regard to the spiritual resources of his victim. The tempter would start a fire and then block the exits. God will provide a way of escape. "God is not simply a spectator of the affairs of life; he is concerned and active. Believers can count on his help. He will always make a way out. This word (ekbasis) may denote a mountain defile [canyon]. The imagery is that of an army trapped in rugged country, which manages to escape from an impossible situation through a mountain pass."--Morris, The Epistle, of Paul to the Corinthians, p. 142.
First Corinthians 10:13 itself constitutes an important contribution to the Christian's arsenal against temptation. While the pressure of the temptation may seem unbearable, the promise declares that it is bearable. While we may not see the way of escape, it is there. In the darkness of a night battle of the soul, we have the infrared vision of the promise. We can see the realities of God's grace, which Satan seeks to hide in his demonic gloom.
How can we take hold of this victorious experience next time we face a temptation? 2 Thess. 3:3, NIV.
FULLY KNOWN (1 Cor. 13:12).
Imbedded in Paul's exalted praise of divine love is another promise to be treasured and claimed.
What heartening thoughts does Paul share in 1 Corinthians 13:12?
Among the encouraging ideas of 1 Corinthians 13:12 is that in eternity we will not suffer from limited knowledge. Those things that haunt us now will not trouble us then. Crisis, trauma, pain, and injustice. How will they appear in the full knowledge of eternity?
If you had to choose just one mystery or troubling event that you could have explained to you, what would it be?
First Corinthians 13:12 does not just offer a hopeful word about our future knowledge. It offers an equally heartening reminder of God's present knowledge. While our knowledge now is limited, God's is not. Though we do not know God fully, He knows us completely and employs that knowledge to our best good.
What does each of the following passages teach about God's understanding of us?
Job 7:17, 18 __________________________________________
Matt. 10:29-31 ________________________________________
1 John 3:18-20 ________________________________________
"When men go forth to their daily toil, as when they engage in prayer; when they lie down at night, and when they rise in the morning; when the rich man feasts in his palace, or when the poor man gathers his children about the scanty board, each is tenderly watched by the heavenly Father. No tears are shed that God does not notice. There is no smile that he does not mark.
"If we would but fully believe this, all undue anxieties would be dismissed."--Steps to Christ, p. 86.
The grandest news of all is this: knowing us thoroughly, God nonetheless longs for us to be part of His eternal kingdom! As, the song says, "The One who knows me best, loves me most.
Further Study: Using a Bible concordance or computer search program, look up the words praise(s) and promise(s). How important are "praise and promises" to joyously living as a Christian?
The book of Revelation provides us with a window onto heavenly worship and gives us hymns of praise that ascend before God's throne. Read Revelation chapters 4 and 5 and note carefully the heavenly atmosphere of praise. We are called to join in the heavenly praise of the Creator: "You are worthy, our Lord and God, to receive glory and honor and power, for you created all things, and by your will they existed and were created" (Rev. 4:11, NRSV).
Read Testimonies, vol. 5, pp. 315-319.
"If in the providence of God we are called upon to endure trials, let us accept the cross and drink the bitter cup, remembering that it is a Father's hand that holds it to our lips. Let us trust Him in the darkness as well as in the day. Can we not believe that He will give us everything that is for our good? 'He that spared not his own Son, but delivered him up for us all, how shall he not with him also freely give us all things?' Even in the night of affliction how can we refuse to lift heart and voice in grateful praise, when we remember the love to us expressed by the cross of Calvary?"--page 316.
|1. Which of the words of praise and promises
discussed in this week's lesson is the most precious to you? Why?
4. How important is praise in your own devotional life? How central a place does it play in your congregation's public worship? How could you make praise a more important element in both private and public worship?
Summary: To modern Christians comes the incredible challenge of living the Christian life amid the gathering gloom of the end. To meet the challenge, God has provided powerful promises and granted us the capacity for praise. By using both we are able to look beyond problems and difficulties to find strength in the Lord of all things.
|The Power of God's Word
J. H. Zachary
The Philippines is a land of 87 different tribal dialects. Bibles are available in the major languages, and Bible translators from the Wycliffe Bible Translators, at great personal sacrifice, spend years living in remote villages, learning the culture and language of a tribe, in order to produce at least a portion of God's word in that language. It is a great day when a tribe receives the first copy of a Bible portion in its own language.
Pastor Albert Gulfan, secretary of the Central Philippine Union Conference, is a member of one of the minority tribes in the Philippines. His tribe numbers only about 300,000, and speaks a language called Masbateneo [Mahs-beh-ten-AY-o].
Brother Gulfan yearned to hold evangelistic meetings among his own people. Some of the villages had resisted previous attempts by various denominations to evangelize their areas. They threw a rain of stones on the roofs of their meeting halls, and otherwise disrupted their meetings.
Brother Gulfan arranged for teams of laymen to enter the area and lay the groundwork for the evangelistic series. Suspicious villagers watched their every move. They were impressed with the Adventists' friendliness and courtesy. When the workers announced a Vacation Bible School, mothers took their children, but stayed, ready to take their children home if they did not like what they heard. Soon, however, the mothers felt safe leaving their children to enjoy the meetings.
When Pastor Gulfan arrived for the meetings, he brought with him the first portion of the Bible printed in the Masbateneo language. The audience fell silent as they heard the words of God read in their own tongue-by a preacher from their own tribe! Resistance faded. Attendance at the meetings grew. And at the close of the meetings 40 persons were ready for baptism. An additional 50 are attending baptismal classes, including one man who is an official in the municipal government.
Pastor Gulfan praises God for the power of His word, and the faithful translator who hopes to complete translation of the entire Bible into Masbateneo this year.
|Pastor Albert Gulfan (left). J. H. Zachary is director of evangelism for The Quiet Hour.|
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