January  26 -
  February 1

SDA Sabbath School Lessons

#5 Love: The Universal Gift

Read for this  
week's study:

1 Corinthians 13; Galatians 5:22,23; 2 Peter 1:3-11.

Memory Text: "And now abide faith, hope, love, these three; but the greatest of these is love"   (1 Corinthians 13:13, NKJV).

Key Thought: Spiritual gifts are tools provided by the Holy Spirit to do the work of the kingdom. But they are effective only within the framework of a united church in which love is manifested.

The Lessons:

The Discussion: We invite youi to join the  SSNET moderated email discussion group. You are also warmly invited to join a group discussion of this lesson Sabbath morning, January 18, (usually 9:30 AM) with your SSNETlocal Seventh-Day Adventist congregation.
Last Week Next Week First Quarter

Prepared for the Internet by the SSNET Webpage Group.

Sabbath -
 January 25


A church member who was not reelected to church office, even though he had done a good job, had the locks on the doors to the church changed and refused to unlock them until he was reelected. In office, this brother apparently used his spiritual gifts effectively. But something was lacking.

Paul discusses spiritual gifts in the context of the right kind of Christian personality and attitude. "Follow the way of love," he writes, "and eagerly desire spiritual gifts" (1 Cor. 14:11 Cor. 14: 1, NIV).

Spiritual gifts are given for two purposes: to do the work of the church and to do it within a framework of unity. Love is a power that is essential to unity.

Love produces individual and corporate Christian personalities. Its overall characteristics are outlined in 1 Corinthians 13, Galatians 5:22,23, 2 Peter 1:3-11. When you enter a church you can tell whether love exists. When love is present, spiritual gifts become effective tools for managing the church and propelling its outreach.

Sunday -
 January 26

WHAT IS LOVE ALL ABOUT? (1 Corinthians 13).

Love may be one of the most misunderstood and misused words in any language.  It is supposed to be a universal language, but it has so many meanings that people may be confused by it.  You may say you love to eat, love to go on picnics, love your dog, and in the same breath say you love your husband or wife.  Is loving God the same as loving to go on a picnic?  How about loving the people in your church?  On the other hand, in spite of all this abstractness, when love happens, you know it.

The kind of love we are talking about in this lesson, called agape in Greek, originates in the character of God Himself (1 John 4:8).   It is the epitome of Christian character (1 John 4:16) and the highest attainment of the Christian lifestyle (1 Cor. 13:13).

How does Paul emphasize the importance of love in the Christian church setting?  1 Cor. 13:1-3.  What does John say about the importance of love?  1 John 3:11-24.

"Pure, sanctified love, expressed by Christ's lifework, is as sacred perfume.  Like an opened bottle of perfume, it fills the whole house with fragrance.  Eloquence, an extended knowledge of the truth, outward devotion, rare talents, if mingled with sacred, humble love, will become as fragrant as the, opened box of ointment.  But gifts alone, ability alone, the choicest endowments alone, cannot take the place of love.... [1 Cor. 13:1-3 quoted]."-Ellen G. White Comments, SDA Bible Commentary, vol. 5, p. 1137.

List the characteristics of love outlined in 1 Corinthians 13.  What makes love a superior gift?

"[1 Cor. 13:4, 5 quoted.] Troubles exist between brethren in the church because they fail to understand what constitutes true Christian charity, brotherly affection, and Christlike love.  Self-love and self-esteem lead professed Christians to measure themselves by themselves. They take for granted that all their surmisings and suspicions of others are correct. But it is because of suspicions and judging of one another that there is discord, strife, and an unhealthy condition of the church." - Ellen G. White, Manuscript Releases, vol. 11, p. 261.

Consider the quotation above.  This experience is more common than we would like to admit.  What is the problem?  How can this kind of situation be remedied?

Monday -
 January 27

THE FRUIT OF THE SPIRIT (1 Gal. 5:22, 23).

Acceptance of the call to discipleship initiates the development of a Christian personality.  One of the key Scripture passages outlining the elements involved in this kind of personality is Paul's list of the Spirit's fruit in Galatians 5:22, 23.   Galatians 5 discusses the meaning of freedom in Christ as opposed to the oppression engendered by legalism.  To ensure that there is no misunderstanding, Paul builds his case on a framework of love:  "You, my brothers, were called to be free.  But do not use your freedom to indulge the sinful nature; rather, serve one another in love.  The entire law is summed up in a single command: 'Love your neighbor as yourself "'   (Gal. 5:13, 14, NIV).

What does Paul say regarding the way Christians should live once they have left the old life of sin?  Gal. 5:16,17

"The Christian's life is not a modification or improvement of the old, but a transformation of nature. There is a death to self and sin, and a new life altogether. This change can be brought about only by the effectual working of the Holy Spirit." - The Desire of Ages, p. 172.

Fill in the chart below based on Galatians 5:22, 23, NIV.  Try to develop a practical situation in which each of these characteristics might be evident.

Characteristic Restate in your own words How would you apply it in everyday life?

Notice that the singular word fruit is used in Galatians 5:22. The point is that all these characteristics should be apparent in a Christian's life all the time.

Take a serious look at your own life.  How do you rate on a "spiritual-fruit-development scale"?

Tuesday -
 January 28

(2 Peter 1:3-11).

Peter presents another set of criteria for developing and measuring a Christian personality.  Most of his criteria match Paul's list in Galatians 5.  But because Peter builds his list around the words "add to," it is sometimes called "Peter's ladder."

Peter's list Paul's list Restate in your own words Application in everyday life?
Faith Faithfulness    
Goodness Goodness    
Self-control Self-control    
Perseverance Patience    
Godliness Gentleness    
Brotherly kindness Kindness    
Love Love    

According to Peter, what will be the effect of developing these traits of character?   2 Peter 1:8.  What happens if one does not develop them?   2 Peter 1:9.

There is a connection here with spiritual gifts.  Peter points out that developing these traits of character makes one's ministry effective and productive.  That is achieved by using our spiritual gifts (1 Peter 4:10).

What does it mean to make one's "calling and election sure"?   2 Peter 1:10.

"If we are Christ's, our title to the heavenly inheritance is without a flaw, and in harmony with the provisions of the covenant of grace.   Through grace we shall be able to make our calling and election sure, putting on the excellency of Christ in spirit and character." - Ellen G. White, The Messenger, May 10, 1893.

Take a moment to ask yourself about your own calling and election.

Wednesday -
  January 29


Attitude counts a great deal in the work of the church.  Each individual member of a group has his or her own personality, attitudes, and agenda.  We are not in heaven yet, and the pull of the societies and cultures in which we live is strong.  The pull of innate selfishness is even stronger.  The golden rule (Luke 6:31) does not shine as brightly as it should.

Yet the life of the church is built around ethical standards based as much on attitude as on actual overt actions.  Finding ways to be unified while recognizing individual differences in members of the group is one of the Holy Spirit's purposes in assigning spiritual gifts.

How did Jesus state the essence of God's law?   Matt. 22:37-40.

"ike the first is the second commandment, 'Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.' Mark 12:31.  The law of love calls for the devotion of body, mind, and soul to the service of God and our fellow men.  And this service, while making us a blessing to others, brings the greatest blessing to ourselves.  Unselfishness underlies all true development.  Through unselfish service we receive the highest culture of every faculty."-Counsels to Teachers, p. 32.

How does Paul state the attitudes within which spiritual gifts function efficiently? Rom. 12:1-5, 9-21.  Where did Paul get this information, and what does it have to do with spiritual gifts?

In these verses Paul combines his analogy of the human body with Peter's concept of a "measure of faith."  He states that a renewed mind can override "the pattern of this world" and can understand God's will.  This process, however, demands "sober judgment."

There is no hierarchy of value attached to spiritual gifts.  They are all of equal importance.  Other than the overarching value placed on love, all other gifts are equally important for the accomplishment of the work of the kingdom.   This perspective places all people on the same level and focuses them on accomplishing the will of God.

A church member once remarked, "This church will have the right attitude when the day comes that everyone agrees with me!"  Sound familiar?  How would you react to such a remark?  Why?

Thursday -
 January 30

(1 Corinthians 12; Eph. 2:11-22; 4:3).

Unity is a much abused and misunderstood word.  To some people, unity means "everyone agrees with me."  To others, it means that everyone will believe and behave exactly the same way, a perspective called uniformity.  To yet others, it means that even if we don't agree on everything, we still get along and learn to live with one another as fellow travelers on the road to heaven.  Many evidences of disunity in the church don't have to do with doctrinal differences; they involve differences over procedures and personal likes and dislikes.  It is precisely in this realm of procedure, ways of doing things, that spiritual gifts apply.

Trace through Paul's concept of "one Spirit" in 1 Corinthians 12.  What pattern emerges?  What does he mean by "bond of peace" in Ephesians 4:3?  The Greek word for unity really means "agreement."

Ellen White puts it this way:  "What kind of unity is spoken of in these words?   [John 17:20-23]-Unity in diversity.  Our minds do not all run in the same channel, and we have not all been given the same work.  God has given to every man his work according to his several ability.  There are different kinds of work to be done, and workers of varied capabilities are needed." - Ellen G. White Comments, SDA Bible Commentary, vol. 5, p. 1148.

Unity also has to do with how various groups of people get along.  What does Paul say on this subject in Ephesians 2:11-22?

There are all kinds of implications here.  In early church times, many Jews considered non-Jews unworthy of salvation.  Greeks believed they "sprang from the earth," and everyone else on earth was a barbarian." People who have common blood lines and cultures often tend to classify themselves as superior to everyone else.

On the other hand, God is no respecter of persons, nor does He show favoritism (Acts 10:34, 35).  The Holy Spirit assigns gifts for service to all born-again believers, regardless of their background, ethnicity, or former lifestyle (Acts 10:44-46).

Assume for a minute that there is a debate in your church board about how to do a certain thing.  Everyone has a different idea.  What would constitute a unified decision?  How would you know when one is reached?   What is the role of the Holy Spirit in producing such a unified decision?  What is the role of each board member?

Friday -
  January 31


Read John 17.  Go through the chapter and outline the way Jesus used the concept of unity.  This is the prayer in which Jesus turns over His mission to His disciples and, by extension, to us.  The New International Version translates verse 23: "I in them and you in me. May they be brought to complete unity to let the world know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me."  The Greek word for "unity" here is simply the word for the numeral 1.  Because of the gospel's power, diverse personalities function together as if they were the numeral 1.  The unity is seen in the common denominators of purpose, dedication, and discipleship.  Paul calls it glorifying God with one heart and mouth (Rom. 15:5,6).

The Index to the Writings of Ellen G. White has 46 columns of references to the word love and seven columns on the word unity.  This should be enough information for all of us to understand the concepts.  The common denominator as she sees it is as follows:  "Through the diversity of the gifts and governments that He [Jesus] has placed in the church, they will all come to the unity of the faith." - Testimonies to Ministers, p. 29.

For some practical examples of how love and unity work in the church, see Jerry Cook and Stanley C. Baldwin, Love, Acceptance and Forgiveness (Ventura, Calif.: Regal Books, 1979).

  1. Is it possible to devise ways of measuring the extent to which the fruit of the Spirit is manifest in your church?
  2. Select a number of the "one another" statements in the New Testament, and discuss them with your class.  To what extent are these statements being applied in your church?  See lesson 13 for more information and a chart of these statements.
  3. Is the unity of which Jesus, Paul, and Ellen White talk really possible?  What would it take for your church to achieve it?

SUMMARY:   Love is the glue that holds together the organizational system of the church.  It is the bond that allows diverse gifts to function in unity.  This kind of Christian love is highly visible to nonchurch people and is specifically looked for when they become interested in the church.   Every Christian is called to discipleship and effective ministry within the body of the church.

Inside Story

Jesus in Her Heart, Part I

Eric Monnier

Eight-year-old Margarita was eager to attend the Vacation Bible School at the local Adventist church.  Her friend had invited her and told her about the fun she would have singing songs, learning Bible verses, and making crafts.  Although her parents were not religious, they thought it would be good for her to have something special to do during vacation, so they gave her permission to attend the program.

Margarita loved Vacation Bible School, and the teachers loved her.  Eagerly she learned the songs and memorized the Bible verses.  And she especially enjoyed making the crafts.  Although Margarita had never had religious training at home, she absorbed everything the teachers presented during the week-long program.

At the closing program, the pastor spoke to the children and their parents about God's love.  He invited the people to give their hearts to Jesus.  Those children who wanted to give their heart to Jesus signified their decision by putting a little felt heart on a felt picture of Jesus.  Solemnly Margarita walked to the front of the church holding her felt heart.   But instead of placing the heart on the picture of Jesus, she carefully lifted the felt figure of Jesus and placed her little heart underneath, where Jesus' heart would be.

After the program Margarita's teacher asked her why she had placed her heart under Jesus rather than beside Him.  Margarita answered simply, "I want to put my heart into the heart of Jesus.  I want Jesus to live in my heart forever and make me a different girl."

Margarita told her parents about her decision to follow Jesus.  She was so excited.  Her parents smiled at her decision, but they not think too much about it because they did not attend church.  But Margarita kept talking about it.  "Do you know that I will be a different girl from now on?" she told them.  Margarita told her parents that her VBS teacher had invited her to come to Sabbath School, on Saturday, and Margarita's parents said she could come.

On Sabbath morning Margarita's teacher looked for the girl, but no one had seen her.  She was not at Sabbath School.

(continued next week)

Eric Monnier is president of the Bolivian Union in South America.  At the time he wrote this story he was president of the Maranhao Mission in northern Brazil.

For Current Newsbreak.  Call 1-800-648-5824