See our "How to Make Friends for God" lesson index plus extra resources on our 2020 Third Quarter Index
Sabbath School Lesson Begins
The Book of Luke
And he arose, and came to his father. But when he was yet a great way off, his father saw him, and had compassion and ran, and fell on his neck, and kissed him" (Luke 15:20).We know that verse. It comes from one of the most well-known and beloved stories in all literature, sacred or mundane. Astonishingly enough, we would never have heard it but for a simple missionary doctor who embedded that precious gem in a letter he wrote to his learned friend Theophilus.
The doctor’s name is Luke, a Gentile convert, and the letter is The
Gospel According to Luke. In addition to the Gospel, Luke also wrote
the book of Acts. Having been a travel companion of Paul, Luke was a
keen observer of, and participant in, the great Jesus movement sweeping
the Roman Empire. This close association with Paul led Luke not only to
grasp the profound meaning of the Christian church—which stood its
ground against Caesar’s demand to be honored as divine—but also to
learn more deeply from credible sources about the Man behind it all:
Jesus Christ. So, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, Luke wrote
a two-volume work on what could be called
Origin and History of the Christian Church.
Part 1 of this work is the Gospel, written and delivered to Theophilus before Acts was written (Acts 1:1). Many conservative scholars date Luke’s Gospel to about A.D. 61–63.
Theophilus was a Greek convert, and in addressing the letter to him, Luke was especially conscious of directing his Gospel to the Greek and Gentile members of the community of faith, while not disregarding the Jewish roots of Jesus. Matthew wrote primarily to the Jews, and so he emphasizes Jesus as the Messiah. Mark wrote to the Romans, and we see Jesus marching across the land with the news about the kingdom. John was a deep thinker, and in his Gospel emerges Jesus the Word, the Creator, the Son of God. But Luke writes with an eye on the Gentiles. To them he presents Jesus, the Son of man, as the Savior of the world and Friend of humanity. The universality of salvation is the underlying theme of his Gospel; so, his genealogy traces Jesus all the way to Adam and links him to God, while Matthew’s genealogy stops with Abraham, the father of the Jews (Luke 3:23-38; compare with Matt. 1:1-17).
Luke’s Gospel is the largest in the New Testament. Some miracles appear only in Luke, such as the raising of the widow of Nain’s son (Luke 7:11-17) and the healing of Malchus (Luke 22:50, 51). (For other miracles, see Luke 5:4-11, 13:11-17, 14:1-6, 17:11-19.) Many parables are peculiar to Luke, including several famous ones: the good Samaritan (Luke 10:30-37), the rich foolish man (Luke 12:16-21), the prodigal son (Luke 15:11-32); the rich man and Lazarus (Luke 16:19-31), and the Pharisee and the publican (Luke 18:10-14). The Zacchaeus story (Luke 19:1-10) is also Luke’s unique contribution.
Under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, Luke claims to have surveyed
the historical materials, interviewed the eyewitnesses (Luke 1:2), and
perfect understanding of all things written
an orderly account that the reader(s)
may know the certainty of Jesus and His good news (Luke 1:3-4, NKJV).
When asked if he would recommend a good biography of Jesus, the great theologian James Denney replied,
Have you tried the one that Luke wrote?
Good idea. Let’s try it together, as a world church, this quarter.
Lesson 1 March 28-April 3
Read for This Week's Study: Luke 1:2-3; 2 Tim. 3:16; Luke 1:5-22; Deut. 18:15; Luke 2:9-12,25-32.
For with God nothing will be impossible
(Luke 1:37, NKJV).
The Gospel of Luke was written primarily to the Gentiles. Luke himself was a Gentile (implied in the context of Colossians 4:10-14), as was Theophilus, to whom the Gospel is addressed.
In addition to being a physician, Luke was a meticulous historian. In introducing the Gospel, Luke places Jesus in real history; that is, he puts the story in the historical context of its times: Herod was the king of Judea (Luke 1:5), Augustus reigned over the Roman Empire (Luke 2:1), and a priest by the name of Zacharias was exercising his turn in the temple in Jerusalem (Luke 1:5,9). In chapter 3, Luke mentions six contemporary dates related to the ministry of John the Baptist, the forerunner of Jesus.
Thus, Luke places the story of Jesus in history-real people,
real times-in order to dismiss any idea of mythology with his
narrative. His readers must stand in awe and wonder at the fact that
Jesus is real and that through Him God has invaded history with the
who is Christ the Lord (Luke
Study this week's lesson to prepare for Sabbath, April 4.
Sunday March 29
An Orderly Account(Luke 1:1-3, Acts 1:1-3)
Acts 1:1 tells us that before Acts was written, its author
former account. This, and the fact that
both accounts were addressed to Theophilus, helps lead us to conclude
that one author was responsible for both books. The two accounts can be
viewed as Part 1 and 2 of
Origin and History of the Christian
Church. Part 1 is a narrative of the life and work of Jesus
(the Gospel of Luke) and Part 2 (Acts of the Apostles) is an account of
the spread of the message of Jesus and of the early church.
How was the Gospel written? Read Luke 1:2-3 and 2 Timothy 3:16.
Luke was aware of many who had written about the events that
have shaken the city of Jerusalem and beyond-the events concerning
Jesus Christ. The sources for such literary works included many
and ministers of the word (Luke
1:2, NKJV)-a clear reference to the disciples and other
contemporaries of Jesus. Luke himself had an exposure to these
witnesses and ministers (such as Paul and other apostolic leaders) and
possibly also to the Gospels written by Mark and Matthew. Luke,
obviously, was not an eyewitness to the Jesus story, but he was a
credible and authentic convert to Christ.
Matthew wrote to a Jewish audience, presenting Jesus as the
Great Teacher, the fulfillment of prophecy, and the King of the Jews.
He often referred to Old Testament prophecies being fulfilled in
Christ. Mark wrote to a Roman audience about Jesus, the person of
action. Luke, a doctor and a Gentile, wrote to the Greeks and the
Gentiles about the universal Jesus-the Savior of the world. Luke
mentions that the purpose of his writing is twofold: to present an
account (Luke 1:3, NKJV)
and to provide certainty to the great teachings of the new era.
Certainty about truth, as in Jesus, is one goal of his Gospel.
Luke, an inspired author of Scripture, used other material in his writings. Very interesting. Obviously that use of other sources doesn't negate the inspiration or authority of what he wrote. What lessons should that have for us as Seventh-day Adventists regarding the question of how inspiration, either canonical or noncanonical, works on inspired writers?
Monday March 30
Call His Name John
For nearly four hundred years after Malachi divine silence marked the history of Israel. With the birth announcements of John the Baptist and Jesus the divine silence was about to be broken.
The birth stories of John and Jesus have parallels. Both are miracles: in the case of John, Elizabeth had gone well past the child-bearing age; in the case of Jesus, a virgin was to bear the child. The angel Gabriel announced both birth promises. Both announcements were received in a spirit of wonder, joy, and surrender to God's will. Both babies were to grow and become strong in the Spirit (Luke 1:80,2:40).
But the mission and the ministry of the two miracle babies
were distinct and different. John was to be a preparer of the way to
Jesus (Luke 1:13-17).
the Son of God (Luke
1:35) and the fulfillment of the Messianic prophecies (Luke 1:31-33).
Luke 1:5-22. Though Zacharias is depicted as
his lack of faith at the angel's announcement brought a rebuke. How
does this help us to understand what the concept of
means for a believer in Jesus?
The birth of a son to Zacharias, like the birth of
the child of Abraham, and that of Mary, was to teach a great spiritual
truth, a truth that we are slow to learn and ready to forget. In
ourselves we are incapable of doing any good thing; but that which we
cannot do will be wrought by the power of God in every submissive and
believing soul. It was through faith that the child of promise was
given. It is through faith that spiritual life is begotten, and we are
enabled to do the works of righteousness.-Ellen G. White, The Desire of Ages, p. 98.
The miracle of John had a decisive purpose in God's dealing
with His people. After 400 years of prophetic absence in the history of
Israel, John did break forth into that history with a specific message
and with a decisive power. John's mission and message was
make ready a people prepared for the Lord (Luke 1:17, NKJV). He was to be
the forerunner of the Messiah, the one to prepare the way for the
mission of Jesus.
Tuesday March 31
Call His Name Jesus
The birth of Jesus Christ was no normal event. It was marked
in God's eternal calendar, and
when the fullness of the time
had come, God sent forth His Son, born of a woman (Gal. 4:4, NKJV).
It is the fulfillment of the first promise God made after the entrance
of sin in Eden (Gen. 3:15).
Read the following pairs of texts. In each one, how was the birth of Jesus an amazing fulfillment of prophecy? What does this tell us about why we must learn to trust all of God's promises? Deut. 18:15; Acts 3:22-24; Isa. 7:14; Matt. 1:21-23; Mic. 5:2; Luke 2:4-7.
Six months after Gabriel announced to Zacharias the coming
birth of John, he announced to Mary of Nazareth an even greater
miracle: that a virgin will
conceive . . . and bring forth a
Son, and shall call His name Jesus (Luke
The virgin birth of Jesus goes against all nature, and it
cannot be explained by nature or naturalistic philosophy. Even Mary had
How can this be, since I do not know a man?
(Luke 1:34, NKJV). The
angel assured her that this would be the work of the Holy Spirit (Luke 1:35), and
God nothing will be impossible (Luke
1:37, NKJV). Mary's immediate and faithful submission was
Let it be to me according to your word (Luke 1:38, NKJV). Every human
question, no matter how natural or logical, must give way to the divine
answer. Be it Creation or the Cross, the Incarnation or the
Resurrection, the downpour of manna or the outpouring of Pentecost-the
divine initiative demands human surrender and acceptance.
While Mary answered her own question by submission and
surrender to God's sovereignty and eternal purpose, Gabriel assured her
with another great answer:
The Holy Spirit will come upon
you, and the power of the Highest will overshadow you; therefore, also,
that Holy One who is to be born will be called the Son of God
(Luke 1:35, NKJV).
Some secular cultures have been browbeaten into believing that everything, ultimately, has a naturalistic and scientific explanation. Why is this such a narrow, even superficial, view of the grandeur and greatness of reality?
Wednesday April 1
Luke begins the story of the Bethlehem manger with a note of history. Joseph and Mary left their home in Nazareth to travel to their ancestral town of Bethlehem as a result of a census decree of Caesar Augustus, the emperor of Rome, when Quirinius was governor of Syria. Such historical details must lead Bible students to appreciate Luke's submission to the Holy Spirit, so that he would record the details of the Incarnation within the framework of history.
on the poverty of Jesus as seen in Luke 2:7. Compare the image of
room . . . in the inn, with Paul's description of the
condescension of Jesus in Philippians 2:5-8. What kind of a road did
Jesus walk on our behalf?
The story of the poor circumstances in which the Lord of
heaven incarnated Himself continues with the first visitors the manger
had: the shepherds. Not to the rich or the powerful, not to the scribes
or the priests, not to rulers and the powers that held sway over the
land did the
good tidings of great joy (Luke 2:10, NKJV) come, but to
humble and despised shepherds. Observe the majesty and the simplicity
of the message: A Savior is born to you. In the city of David. He is
Christ the Lord, the Anointed One. You will find Him wrapped in
swaddling clothes (author's translation). Heaven's most precious gift
came in such a simple package, as often it does. But the gift brings
on earth peace, and
toward men (Luke 2:14, NKJV).
Luke's record of the angel (Luke
2:9-12) brings out three vital matters of Christian
theology. First, the good news of the gospel is for
people. In Jesus both the Jew and the Gentile become one
people of God. Second, Jesus is the Savior; there is no one else.
Third, Jesus is Christ the Lord. These three themes, so clearly
established early in Luke, later became the foundation of the apostolic
preaching, particularly that of Paul.
Think about what we believe as Christians: the Creator of all that was made (John 1:1-3) not only entered into this fallen world as a human being but lived the hard life that Jesus did, only to wind up on a cross. If we really believe that, why should every aspect of our life be lived in submission to this amazing truth? What parts of your life reflect your belief in the story of Jesus, and what parts don't?
Thursday April 2
Although writing primarily to the Gentiles, Luke was aware of the importance of the Jewish heritage through the Old Testament. He takes care to link the New Testament story with the Old and provides the scene of Mary and Joseph having the Baby Jesus circumcised on the eighth day and taking Him to the temple in Jerusalem, all according to Jewish law (Luke 2:22-24).
Read Luke 2:25-32. Note three points about the theology of salvation that Simeon brings to the fore: salvation is through Jesus; salvation is prepared by God; salvation is for all peoples-to the Gentiles as well as to Israel. How do these truths tie in with the first angel's message of Revelation 14:6-7?
Simeon's prophecy also predicted two significant features of Jesus' ministry.
First, Christ is
destined for the fall and rising of
many in Israel (Luke 2:34,
NKJV). Yes, Christ has brought light and salvation to all,
but not without cost to the recipient. With Christ there is no neutral
ground: accept Him or reject Him, and upon the appropriate response
one's salvation depends. Christ demands exclusiveness; we abide in Him
or we do not. Those who abide in Him will rise up and be part of His
kingdom; those who reject Him or remain indifferent to Him will fall to
the ground and perish without hope. Faith in Christ is nonnegotiable.
Second, Simeon prophesies to Mary,
a sword will
pierce through your own soul also (Luke
2:35, NKJV). The reference no doubt is to the Cross, which
Mary will witness. Mary and all the generations that follow her ought
to remember that without the Cross, there is no salvation. The Cross is
the hub around which the entire plan of salvation revolves.
Salvation is a gift in that we can do nothing to earn it. Yet, it can still be very costly to those who claim it for themselves. What has following Christ cost you, and why is that cost, whatever it may be, cheap enough?
Friday April 3Further Study:
Luke, the writer of the Gospel that bears his name, was a medical missionary. In the Scriptures he is called-Ellen G. White, The Ministry of Healing, pp. 140-141.the beloved physician.Colossians 4:14. The apostle Paul heard of his skill as a physician, and sought him out as one to whom the Lord had entrusted a special work. He secured his co-operation, and for some time Luke accompanied him in his travels from place to place. After a time, Paul left Luke at Philippi, in Macedonia. Here he continued to labor for several years, both as a physician and as a teacher of the gospel. In his work as a physician he ministered to the sick, and then prayed for the healing power of God to rest upon the afflicted ones. Thus the way was opened for the gospel message. Luke's success as a physician gained for him many opportunities for preaching Christ among the heathen. It is the divine plan that we shall work as the disciples worked.
The Inspiration of the Prophetic Writers,Selected Messages, book 1, pp. 15-23.
So what?How many secular things are beyond human understanding, as well? If God does exist, and He has the power to create and sustain the universe, why should something like the virgin birth be beyond His power? Only those whose worldview is limited to natural laws alone (at least the ones we now currently understand) could, a priori, dismiss the idea of a virgin birth. In contrast, those whose worldview incorporates the supernatural should have, a priori, no reason to reject it. After all, look at what the angel said to Mary after giving her the incredible news:
For with God nothing shall be impossible(Luke 1:37).
Are You indeed born of a virgin?Why is that question, and the answer to it, so important?
Taking her six-year-old son by the hand, Tang Yue didn’t expect anything unusual as she walked from her home to the nearby market. Little did she know that she was about to experience a divine encounter.
Tang Yue believed in God, and on Sundays she met together with other Christian believers, but at the moment her thoughts were centered on what she needed to get at the market. As she walked down the street, two kind-looking men approached her and stopped.
You know, said one,
keeping Sunday is not from the Bible.
He held up a Bible and showed the astonished Tang Yue texts regarding
the seventh-day Sabbath. Encouraging her to see for herself, the other
man told her,
You can search the internet, and see what day is really the Sabbath day. Then the men concluded their brief presentation by telling Tang Yue that
Jesus came to this world, and Then as quickly as they had come, the two men disappeared into the crowd.
the Saturday church is really the church of God.
Astonished by this strange, brief meeting, Tang Yue went home and began searching the internet for answers to the questions the strangers had raised. To her surprise, she came across an amazing website-in Chinese-that had answers to her questions, including clear answers about the seventh-day, Saturday, being God’s true Sabbath. The site also offered easy-to-follow Bible studies. Learning that the website was from a Seventh-day Adventist ministry, she wondered if there might be an Adventist church nearby that she could visit.
Doing another internet search, Tang Yue was happy to learn that there was an Adventist church in her city, and she decided to visit. Surely there must be something special about this church, she thought to herself.
Finding her way to the church the following Sabbath, Tang Yue looked for the two men who had approached her on the street, but she didn’t see them. In fact, she never saw them again.
But she keeps returning to the Adventist church and believes that she has found her spiritual home.
[This church] is teaching very closely to the Bible, says Tang Yue.
is very different from the Sunday church. I believe that what the
Adventists are teaching is the truth, and that Jesus is coming soon.
Tang Yue continues to worship regularly with Seventh-day Adventists who meet together in an apartment within a city in central China.
This quarter, a part of your Thirteenth Sabbath Offering is going to help provide more places of worship for believers in China.
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Sabbath School Lesson Ends
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