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“The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom, and the knowledge of the Holy One is understanding”
(Proverbs 9:10, NKJV).
Think about the above text. It entails, really, two closely related concepts: “fear,” as in awe, as in marveling at the glory and power of God; and “knowledge,” as in learning truth about the character of God. Hence, wisdom, knowledge, and understanding are rooted in God Himself.
This makes perfect sense. After all, God is the source of all existence, the One alone who created and sustains all existence (John 1:1-3; Col. 1:16, 17). Whatever we learn, whatever we know about – quarks, caterpillars, supernovas, angels, demons, “principalities and powers in heavenly places” (Eph. 3:10), everything – they exist only because of God. Hence, all true knowledge and wisdom and understanding ultimately have their source in the Lord Himself.
Scripture is clear: “God is love” (1 John 4:8), which explains this quote from Ellen G. White: “Love, the basis of creation and of redemption, is the basis of true education. This is made plain in the law that God has given as the guide of life. The first and great commandment is, ‘Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy strength, and with all thy mind.’ Luke 10:27. To love Him, the infinite, the omniscient One, with the whole strength, and mind, and heart, means the highest development of every power. It means that in the whole being – the body, the mind, as well as the soul – the image of God is to be restored.” — Education, p. 16.
Because the Lord is the source of all true knowledge, all true education, all Christian education should direct our minds toward Him and toward His own revelation about Himself. Through nature, through the Written Word, through the revelation of Christ in that Written Word, we have been given all that we need, and then some, to come to a saving relationship with our Lord and, indeed, to love Him with all our heart and soul. Even nature, so defiled by thousands of years of sin, still speaks, even powerfully, of the goodness and character of God when studied from the perspective given us in Scripture. But the Written Word, the Scriptures, is the perfect standard of truth, the greatest revelation we have of who God is and what He has done and is doing for humanity. Scripture, and its message of creation and redemption, must be central to all Christian education.
The apostle John said that Jesus Christ is the “Light, which lighteth every man that cometh into the world” (John 1:9). In other words, just as only through Jesus does every human being have life, through Jesus every human being receives some rays of divine light, some understanding of transcendent truth and goodness.
Yet we’re all in a struggle, the great controversy, in which the enemy of souls works diligently to block us from receiving this knowledge. Thus, whatever else Christian education entails, it must obviously seek to help students better understand the light that God offers us from heaven.
Otherwise, what? As Jesus said, “For what shall it profit a man, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul?” (Mark 8:36). What good is a great education in science, or literature, or economics, or engineering if, in the end, you face the second death in the lake of fire? The answer is obvious, isn’t it?
Thus, the topic for our lesson this quarter. What does it mean to have a “Christian education,” and how can we as a church, in one way or another, find a way so that all our members are able to get such an education?
This Adult Sabbath School Bible Study Guide has been written by various presidents of Seventh-day Adventist colleges and universities in North America.
Lesson 1 September 26-October 2
Read for This Week’s Study: Gen. 2:7-23; Gen 3:1-6; 2 Pet. 1:3-11; 2 Pet. 2:1-17; Heb. 13:7, 17, 24.
Memory Text: “Behold, God is exalted by His power; who teaches like Him?” (Job 36:22, NKJV).
Most Bible students know the story of Genesis 1-3 and its cast of characters: God, Adam, Eve, the angels, the serpent. The setting is a splendid garden in a paradise called “Eden.” The plotline seems to follow a logical series of events. God creates. God instructs Adam and Eve. Adam and Eve sin. Adam and Eve are banished from Eden. However, a closer look at the first few chapters of Genesis, especially through the lens of education, will uncover insights into the cast, the setting, the story.
“The system of education instituted at the beginning of the world was to be a model for man throughout all aftertime. As an illustration of its principles a model school was established in Eden, the home of our first parents. The Garden of Eden was the schoolroom, nature was the lesson book, the Creator Himself was the instructor, and the parents of the human family were the students.” — Ellen G. White, Education, p. 20.
The Lord was founder, principal, and teacher of this first school. But as we know, Adam and Eve ultimately chose another teacher and learned the wrong lessons. What happened, why, and what can we learn from this early account of education that can help us today?
Study this week’s lesson to prepare for Sabbath, October 3.
Sunday ↥ September 27
Though we don’t think of a garden as a classroom, it makes perfect sense, especially one like Eden, filled with the unspoiled riches of God’s creation. Hard to imagine, from our perspective today, how much these unfallen beings, in an unfallen world, being directly taught by their Creator, must have been learning in that “classroom.”
Read Genesis 2:7-23. What do you notice about God’s purposefulness in creating, placing, and employing Adam?
God made the man and the woman in His image and gave them a home and meaningful work. When you consider teacher-student dynamics, this is an ideal relationship. God knew Adam’s abilities because He had created Adam. He could teach Adam, knowing that Adam could realize his full potential.
God gave the man responsibility, but He also wanted happiness for him, as well. And perhaps part of the means of giving him happiness was giving him responsibilities. After all, who doesn’t get satisfaction – happiness, even – from being given responsibilities and then faithfully fulfilling them? God knew the heart of Adam and what he would need to thrive, so He gave Adam the task of taking care of the garden. “Then the LORD God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to tend and keep it” (Gen. 2:15, NKJV). It’s hard for us to imagine, knowing only a world of sin and death as we do, what the work must have entailed and the lessons that, no doubt, Adam learned as he worked and kept their garden home.
In Genesis 2:19-23, God creates animal companions for Adam, and He also creates Eve as Adam’s wife. God knew that Adam needed the companionship and help of a peer, so He created woman.
God also knew that man needed to be in close relationship with Him, so He created an intimate space in Eden within the confines of the garden. All of this attests to God’s purposefulness in creation and His love for humanity. Again, from the great distance between us and Eden, it’s hard to imagine what it must have been like – though it is fun to try to imagine, isn’t it?
Though we are far removed from Eden, we can still learn lessons from nature. What are some of those lessons, and how can we benefit from them as we interpret them through the lens of Scripture?
Monday ↥ September 28
One of the great joys for many teachers is assembling their classrooms: hanging bulletin boards, organizing supplies, and arranging the rooms in the most desirable way. When we look at God’s vision for the classroom that was the Garden of Eden, we see the care He took in preparing a learning environment for Adam and Eve. He desired beauty to surround them. We can imagine that every flower, bird, animal, and tree offered an opportunity for Adam and Eve to learn more about their world and about their Creator.
Yet there is an abrupt shift from Genesis 2 to Genesis 3. We have taken inventory of all the good that God created with divine intention. But in Genesis 3:1 we also awaken to God’s provision for free will. The presence of the serpent as “more subtil than any beast of the field” is a departure from the language heretofore used. Such words as “very good” and “not ashamed” and “pleasant” are adjectives used to describe God’s creation in the prior chapters. Now, however, with the serpent, there is a change of tone. The word “subtil” is also translated in some versions as “cunning.” Suddenly a negative element is introduced in what, so far, has been only perfection.
In contrast, Genesis presents God as the opposite of “cunning.” God is emphatically clear about His expectations of the pair in the garden. We know from God’s command in Genesis 2:16,17 that He has established one key rule that they must obey, and that was not to eat from the forbidden tree.
Whatever else we can take from this story, one thing stands out: Adam and Eve were created as free moral beings, beings who were able to choose between obedience and disobedience. Hence, right from the start, even in an unfallen world, we can see the reality of human free will.
In Genesis 3:1-6, examine the descriptions the serpent used and that Eve then repeated. What do you notice about the information that the serpent offers Eve? What do you notice about how Eve then regards the tree of knowledge of good and evil?
In Genesis 2:17, the Lord told Adam that if he ate from the tree he would “surely die.” When Eve, in Genesis 3:3, repeated the command, she did not express it as strongly, leaving out the word “surely.” In Genesis 3:4, the serpent puts the word back in but in an utter contradiction of what God had said. It seems that though Eve was taught of God in the garden, she didn’t take what she learned as seriously as she should have, as we can see by the very language she used.
Tuesday ↥ September 29
As we saw yesterday, despite God’s clear command Eve – even in her language – watered down what she had been taught. Though she didn’t misinterpret what the Lord said to her, she obviously didn’t take it seriously enough. One can hardly exaggerate the consequences of her actions.
Thus, when Eve encountered the serpent, she repeated (but not exactly) to the serpent what God had said regarding the trees in the garden (Gen. 3:2, 3). Of course, this message wasn’t news to the serpent. The serpent was familiar with the command and was therefore well-prepared to twist it, thus preying upon Eve’s innocence.
Examine Genesis 3:4-6. Besides directly denying exactly what God had said, what else did the serpent say that, obviously, succeeded with Eve? What principles did he take advantage of?
When the serpent told her that part of the message was incorrect, Eve could have gone to confer with God. This is the beauty of Eden’s education: the access the students had to their Mighty Teacher was surely beyond anything we can now fathom on earth. However, instead of fleeing, instead of seeking divine aid, Eve accepts the serpent’s message. Her acceptance of the serpent’s revision to the message requires some doubt on Eve’s part about God and what He had told them.
Meanwhile, Adam wanders into a difficult situation himself. “Adam understood that his companion had transgressed the command of God, disregarded the only prohibition laid upon them as a test of their fidelity and love. There was a terrible struggle in his mind. He mourned that he had permitted Eve to wander from his side. But now the deed was done; he must be separated from her whose society had been his joy. How could he have it thus?” — Ellen G. White, Patriarchs and Prophets, p. 56. Unfortunately, though knowing right from wrong, he also chose wrongly.
Think of the deceptive irony here: the serpent said that if they ate of the tree, they would “be like God” (Gen. 3:5, NKJV). But didn’t Genesis 1:27 say that they were already like God? What can this teach us about how easily we can be deceived and why faith and obedience are our only protection, even when we have been given the best of educations, as had Adam and Eve?
Wednesday ↥ September 30
When Adam and Eve chose to follow the serpent’s message, they faced, among many other consequences, banishment from God’s classroom. Think about what Adam and Eve lost because of their sin. When we understand their fall, we can better understand the purpose of education for us in the present age. In spite of their banishment, life in an imperfect world ushered in a new purpose for education.
If education before the Fall was God’s way of acquainting Adam and Eve with Him, His character, His goodness, and His love, then after their banishment the work of education must be to help reacquaint humanity with those things, as well as re-create the image of God in us. In spite of their physical removal from God’s presence, God’s children can still come to know Him, His goodness, and His love. Through prayer, service, and studying His Word, we can draw close to our God as did Adam and Eve in Eden.
The good news is that because of Jesus, and the plan of redemption, all is not lost. We have hope of salvation and of restoration. And much of Christian education should be pointing students toward Jesus and what He has done for us and the restoration that He offers.
Read 2 Peter 1:3-11. In light of all that was lost when human beings left the garden, these verses come as encouragement that much can be regained. What does Peter write that we must do in order to seek restoration of God’s image in our lives?
Through Jesus, we have been given “all things that pertain to life and godliness” (NKJV). What a promise! What might some of those things be? Well, Peter gives us a list: faith, virtue, knowledge, self-control, perseverance, and so on. Notice, too, that knowledge is one of the things Peter mentions. This idea, of course, leads to the notion of education. True education will lead to true knowledge, the knowledge of Christ, and thus not only will we become more like Him, we may stand also to share our knowledge of Him with others.
Think for a moment about the fact that the forbidden tree was the tree of “the knowledge of good and evil.” What should that tell us about why not all knowledge is good? How do we know the difference between good and bad knowledge?
Thursday ↥ October 1
Some people are considered “natural students” in the classroom. They barely need to study to make excellent grades. They absorb material easily. Their knowledge seems to “stick.” Second Peter 1 and 2, however, make it evident that our education in Christ is an equal-opportunity experience for those who will dedicate themselves.
The encouraging words of 2 Peter 1 contrast with the sobering warning in 2 Peter 2.
Read 2 Peter 2:1-17. What powerful and condemning words is he saying here? At the same time, amid this sharp warning and condemnation, what great hope is promised to us?
Notice what Peter writes in verse 10 about those who despise authority. What a sharp rebuke for what is a reality in our day, as well. We as a church body must work on the assumption of certain levels of authority (see Heb. 13:7, 17, 24), and we are called to submit to and obey them, at least to the degree that they are being faithful to the Lord themselves.
However, amid this harsh condemnation, Peter offers (in verse 9) a counterpoint. He says that although God is mighty to cast out those who chose deception, “the Lord knows how to deliver the godly out of temptations” (NKJV). Is it possible that part of our education in Christianity is not only avoiding temptation but also learning the many ways that God can and does deliver us from it as well as help guard us against those, he warns, who will “secretly bring in destructive heresies” (2 Pet. 2:1, NKJV)? And also, since the despising of authority is so condemned, shouldn’t our Christian education also consist of learning the right way to understand, submit, and obey “those who rule over you” (Heb. 13:7, NKJV)?
Though one could not say that Adam and Eve despised authority, in the end they chose to disobey that authority. And what made their transgression so bad was that they did it in response to a blatant contradiction of what that authority, God Himself, had told them, and who had done so for their own good, as well.
Dwell more on this question of authority, not just in the church or in the family, but in life in general. Why is authority, both the proper exercise of authority and the proper submission to it, so important? Bring your answers to class on Sabbath.
Friday ↥ October 2
Further Thought: “The holy pair were not only children under the fatherly care of God but students receiving instruction from the all-wise Creator. They were visited by angels, and were granted communion with their Maker, with no obscuring veil between. They were full of the vigor imparted by the tree of life, and their intellectual power was but little less than that of the angels. The mysteries of the visible universe – 'the wondrous works of him which is perfect in knowledge’ (Job 37:16) – afforded them an exhaustless source of instruction and delight. The laws and operations of nature, which have engaged men’s study for six thousand years, were opened to their minds by the infinite Framer and Upholder of all. They held converse with leaf and flower and tree, gathering from each the secrets of its life. With every living creature, from the mighty leviathan that playeth among the waters to the insect mote that floats in the sunbeam, Adam was familiar. He had given to each its name, and he was acquainted with the nature and habits of all. God’s glory in the heavens, the innumerable worlds in their orderly revolutions, ‘the balancings of the clouds,’ the mysteries of light and sound, of day and night – all were open to the study of our first parents. On every leaf of the forest or stone of the mountains, in every shining star, in earth and air and sky, God’s name was written. The order and harmony of creation spoke to them of infinite wisdom and power. They were ever discovering some attraction that filled their hearts with deeper love and called forth fresh expressions of gratitude.” — Ellen G. White, Patriarchs and Prophets, pp. 50, 51.
The Romanian priest came to me with a problem.
“Can you convince the commission members that I have a good job and a good level of education so I can start my doctoral studies?” he said.
The priest had enrolled to study theology at the University of Strasbourg in France, but the doctoral commission had decided that he first needed to repeat a year of undergraduate studies. I was a second-year doctoral student, and he and I struck up a friendship when we realized that we both were from Romania.
“Do you believe in God?” I asked the priest, smiling.
He was shocked. “Of course, I do!” he said.
“Do you believe in the power of prayer?” I said.
“I believe that God can do miracles,” the priest said.
“I’m not talking about a ritual or some other religious ceremony,” I said. “God can answer our prayers if we pray directly to Him.”
Several days later, I invited the priest to pray with me. “Before I ask the professors, we should make this a matter of prayer,” I said. The priest agreed.
I decided not to try to convince the professors to change the rules for the priest but instead to show them that Romania’s education system met French standards. I met with each of the seven professors who sat on the commission. Each promised to review the matter at the next commission meeting. The professors ended up testing the priest’s knowledge in a special interview and accepting him into the doctoral program. We thanked God for the miracle!
Our friendship flourished over the next two years. The priest often come to my home to talk, eat, and worship with my family. But during his third year, the priest announced that he would leave the program. “I have a new job,” he said. “I have been appointed as Romania’s secretary of state for religious affairs.”
He had become the Romanian government’s top religion official.
You never know the far-reaching influence of your words and actions.
Upon hearing that a priest had taken office, some Adventists in Romania feared restrictions on religious freedom, especially against members of smaller religious denominations like the Seventh-day Adventist Church. But no crackdown materialized. In fact, the priest-turned-government minister was exceedingly fair and objective with people of all faiths.
After he settled into his job, I jokingly asked to visit his office for a photo. “I want to show my children that I know someone famous,” I said.
He laughed. “Come anytime you want,” he said.
We remain friends to this day.
Gabriel Golea is executive secretary of the French-Belgian Union based in Paris, France.
Produced by the General Conference Office of Adventist Mission. email: firstname.lastname@example.org website: www.adventistmission.org
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Sabbath School Lesson Ends
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