The Bible--the Authoritative Source of Our Theology (2020, Quarter 2, Lesson 4)

by Tim Rumsey April 18, 2020

The Bible--the Authoritative Source of Our Theology (2020, Quarter 2, Lesson 4)

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This study guide contains additional materials to accompany the Adult Sabbath School Bible Study Guide for the second quarter of 2020, titled How to Interpret Scripture. This Deeper Daily Bible Study develops the broad theme of studying and interpreting the Bible into some areas not covered by the Sabbath School Study Guide. While the general topic of each week’s set of lessons corresponds to the Study Guide topic for that week, the daily focus will vary at times from that guide. We hope that you will find this approach to be a valuable added resource in your Bible study.

The “Digging Deeper” section probes into the day’s topic, and illustrates the study principle or tool being discussed. Suggested answers, if included, are provided in parentheses. Sabbath School teachers will find this section especially helpful in the Sabbath School setting. The “Apply It” section gives the student an opportunity to apply the subject at hand to their own study of the Bible, and the “Share It” section provides an opportunity for those in group studies to discuss and share their response to the day’s theme.

Sabbath (April 18, 2020): The Bible—the Authoritative Source of Our Theology

Theology is the study, or science, of God. Even in a perfect world without sin, this would be a challenging field of study, for how can any created being really study and understand its Creator? Of necessity, the One that creates must be more complex, more intelligent, and more powerful than the one that is created. Sin, of course, has greatly increased the challenge that theology presents, for sin separates us from God, and how can someone study another Being while being separated from Him? Only through divine revelation, such as that given in the Bible, can we hope to pursue the field of theology in our quest to know the divine. This week we will look at how, and why, the Bible is the authoritative source of our theology. Why is it more trustworthy than our own experience, or traditions, or culture, or reason?

In our study this week we will see why it is so important to keep theology and anthropology separated. Theology is the study of God, and anthropology is the study, or science, of human beings. Merriam-Webster’s dictionary gives this definition of anthropology: “the study of human beings and their ancestors through time and space and in relation to physical character, environmental and social relations, and culture.” While anthropology is a valuable field of study, it must never be confused with, or replace, theology. Much of what passes for theology today is, in reality, much closer to anthropology than it is to theology. As a result, God’s promises and His power are often confused with, or substituted by, human power and ability. Let’s begin this week’s study by looking at a couple of stories in the Bible where the disciples were in danger of making this very mistake.

Digging Deeper

  • Read Mark 10:23-26. What did Jesus say that shocked His disciples? (It is almost impossible for a rich man to enter into heaven.) In verse 26, what conclusion did the disciples reach? (No one can be saved.) Is this conclusion based on a theological or anthropological perspective? (It’s really an anthropologically based perspective and conclusion, and one that would be correct if God is kept out of the picture.) On whom were the disciples focused? (They were focused on themselves and on humanity.)

  • Read Matthew 10:27. What does Jesus say here about God’s power? (With God all things are possible, including the salvation of rich people!) On whom was Jesus focused? (He was focused on God and His power. This is a theological perspective.)

  • Read Matthew 14:22-24. What crisis was occupying the disciples’ attention? (The storm.) How might this storm represent the many things of this world that can occupy our attention and cause us fear? (Answers will vary.)

  • Read Matthew 14:25-30. In verse 30, what caused Peter to sink in the water? (He began focusing on himself and the storm taking place around him. His attention was drawn away from Christ to the things going on around him in the world.)

  • Read Matthew 14:31-33. At the end of this story, where was the disciples’ attention focused? (They were focused again on Christ.)

When trouble comes upon us, how often we are like Peter! We look upon the waves, instead of keeping our eyes fixed upon the Saviour. Our footsteps slide, and the proud waters go over our souls. Jesus did not bid Peter come to Him that he should perish; He does not call us to follow Him, and then forsake us. “Fear not,” He says; “for I have redeemed thee, I have called thee by thy name; thou art Mine. When thou passest through the waters, I will be with thee; and through the rivers, they shall not overflow thee: when thou walkest through the fire, thou shalt not be burned; neither shall the flame kindle upon thee. For I am the Lord thy God, the Holy One of Israel, thy Saviour.” Isaiah 43:1-3. {DA 382.1}

Apply It

Read the following passages and discuss in what way(s) they reveal a true theology of salvation, rather than an anthropology-based belief of what is possible for us through Jesus Christ:

  • Jude 24

  • 1 John 4:17

  • 1 Thessalonians 5:23

  • Ephesians 5:25-27

“The prince of this world cometh,” said Jesus, “and hath nothing in Me.” John 14:30. There was in Him nothing that responded to Satan’s sophistry. He did not consent to sin. Not even by a thought did He yield to temptation. So it may be with us. Christ’s humanity was united with divinity; He was fitted for the conflict by the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. And He came to make us partakers of the divine nature. So long as we are united to Him by faith, sin has no more dominion over us. God reaches for the hand of faith in us to direct it to lay fast hold upon the divinity of Christ, that we may attain to perfection of character. {DA 123}

Share It

  • In what ways might Peter’s experience while walking on the water represent the dangers that face us today?

  • What makes it so difficult for us keep our attention focused on God and His power, rather than on our experience, or abilities, or wisdom, etc? What can help us stay focused on God?

Sunday (April 19, 2020): Tradition

Few things exert a greater influence over people than tradition.  Because many traditions are part of our lives from birth, we often are not even aware to what extent our beliefs, daily routines, and worldview are governed by tradition. While some traditions can be good and perhaps even beneficial, others can have serious negative consequences in our spiritual experience. In today’s lesson we will look at a warning Jesus Christ gave about the danger of blindly following tradition.

Digging Deeper

  • Read Mark 7:1-3. What were Christ’s disciples accused of? (Eating food with ceremonially unwashed hands. It may be difficult for us today to understand the burden that these traditions placed on people, but this and similar regulations formed a major part of daily Jewish life in Christ’s time.)

  • Read Mark 7:7-9. What did Jesus reveal about the danger that came from focusing on these ceremonial traditions? (People’s efforts to keep them prevented them from focusing on the true requirements of God’s law.)

The rules in regard to purification were numberless. The period of a lifetime was scarcely sufficient for one to learn them all. The life of those who tried to observe the rabbinical requirements was one long struggle against ceremonial defilement, an endless round of washings and purifications. While the people were occupied with trifling distinctions, and observances which God had not required, their attention was turned away from the great principles of His law. {DA 396.1}

  • Read Mark 7:9-13. Jesus also warned against the tradition of Corban, in which a person would “dedicate” to the church all their possession, yet retain their use until death. This tradition enabled many people to selfishly use their possessions and yet claim that they couldn’t give them to benefit others, even parents, because the money had been dedicated to the church. What did Jesus say was the practical result of this tradition? (The Word of God was made of none effect.)

Apply It

Read 1 Corinthians 11:2 and 2 Thessalonians 3:6. Can there be good traditions? What must be done to ensure that good and beneficial traditions do not become harmful spiritually?

Share It

  • What tradition(s) does your family or church have that have brought you closer to God and increased your faith in Him?

  • What tradition(s) does your culture or society have that may be harmful and detrimental to your relationship with God?

Monday (April 20, 2020): Experience

It is impossible to live life without experiences. After all, every minute that we are awake and conscious we are participating in some kind of experience. For this reason, our faith as Christians must, to some degree, be based in experience. At the same time, experience cannot be our final arbiter of truth, nor can we even let experience determine what is or is not ultimately reality. This is a challenge that only the Bible can lead us safely through.

Digging Deeper

  • Read Romans 7:18-24. What very real experience was Paul describing here? (His struggle with sin.) In his experience, what was far too often the result of this struggle? (He would fall once again into the power of sin and temptation.) If this was all that Paul based his faith on, what conclusion would he reach? (As he wrote in verse 24, he would be doomed to destruction.)

  • Read Romans 8:1-4. Through faith in Jesus Christ, what is possible for every Christian? (We can walk after the Spirit, and not after the flesh.) According to verse 4, what does walking in the Spirit result in? (The righteousness of the law can be fulfilled in us.) Does this sound like an experience to you, or just an abstract and theological belief that is accepted mentally? (It sounds like a real experience.) Can God, then, change our experiences? (Yes.) What is more powerful, then, our experience, or God? (God is more powerful.)

  • Read John 3:3-8. What experience must we have in order to “walk after the Spirit”? (We must be “born again.”) Can you imagine an experience more radical and life changing than a second birth? (Probably not!) Does God, then, use experience in the process of salvation? (Yes.)

Apply It

  • Read Revelation 13:12-14. What warning does this passage give about the danger of basing our faith on what we can experience, especially at the end of time?

  • Read the passages below from the book The Great Controversy and discuss what they reveal about the danger of basing our faith and worship on personal experience at the end of time:

As the crowning act in the great drama of deception, Satan himself will personate Christ. The church has long professed to look to the Saviour’s advent as the consummation of her hopes. Now the great deceiver will make it appear that Christ has come. In different parts of the earth, Satan will manifest himself among men as a majestic being of dazzling brightness, resembling the description of the Son of God given by John in the Revelation. Revelation 1:13-15. The glory that surrounds him is unsurpassed by anything that mortal eyes have yet beheld. The shout of triumph rings out upon the air: “Christ has come! Christ has come!” The people prostrate themselves in adoration before him, while he lifts up his hands and pronounces a blessing upon them, as Christ blessed His disciples when He was upon the earth. His voice is soft and subdued, yet full of melody. In gentle, compassionate tones he presents some of the same gracious, heavenly truths which the Saviour uttered; he heals the diseases of the people, and then, in his assumed character of Christ, he claims to have changed the Sabbath to Sunday, and commands all to hallow the day which he has blessed. He declares that those who persist in keeping holy the seventh day are blaspheming his name by refusing to listen to his angels sent to them with light and truth. This is the strong, almost overmastering delusion. Like the Samaritans who were deceived by Simon Magus, the multitudes, from the least to the greatest, give heed to these sorceries, saying: This is “the great power of God.” Acts 8:10. {GC 624.2}

…Are the people of God now so firmly established upon His word that they would not yield to the evidence of their senses? Would they, in such a crisis, cling to the Bible and the Bible only? {GC 625.3}

Share It

  • How can we tell the difference between experiences that God brings us in His work of salvation, and experiences that lie outside His work in our lives?

  • Much of what is called Christianity today is based largely on subjective, personal, and even mystical “experiences” with God with little or no reference to what the Bible says. Why is this kind of religion, or spirituality, so attractive? What is even more attractive about a faith based on the objective, unchanging Word of God?

Tuesday (April 21, 2020): Culture

All human beings are born into a particular culture, and this culture unavoidably plays a significant role in shaping our thought patterns, values, religious perspectives, and worldview. We obviously have no choice in the culture we are born into, although we can choose to continue living in that culture or to adopt a new one. Today we will look at what role culture plays in our understanding of the Bible.

Digging Deeper

  • Read 1 John 5:19. What affects every culture on this planet? (Sin.) What should this immediately tell us about the potential dangers of our particular culture, no matter which one it is? (All cultures are plagued by sin and, in varying degrees, keep people separated from God.)

  • Read 1 John 2:15-17. What does it mean to “love” the world? In what ways is it possible to “love” our culture? (Answers will vary.) How should we understand John’s warning in this passage? (This world and the culture that we belong to and probably feel quite comfortable with will separate us from the Father unless we make a conscious decision to do the will of God.)

Apply It

The book of Ruth records the story of a Moabite woman named Ruth and her decision to leave her people and her country and move to Israel with Naomi, her mother-in-law. In reality, Ruth didn’t just leave the land of her birth, she left her culture and adopted a new one.

  • Read Ruth 1:16. What is Ruth willing to give up in order to become an Israelite? (Everything, even her gods.)

  • Read Ruth 4:13. Ruth ends up marrying Boaz in her new adopted country. Considering that a woman in Bible prophecy can represent the church, what deep symbolism about Christ and His church may be revealed in the story of Ruth? (Christ expects His people to be willing to leave their culture behind as they come into a relationship with Him.)

Share It

  • How has your culture shaped your view of the world? How has your culture shaped your view of God?

Wednesday (April 22, 2020): Reason

God gave human beings minds, and He expects us to use them! However, even the gift of intellect and reason can become a snare in our relationship with God and His Word. In today’s lesson we will look at the role that reason plays in our understanding of the Bible.

Digging Deeper

  • Read Isaiah 1:18. What does God want to do with us? (He wants us to “come and reason.”) What is the subject upon which God wants us to reason with Him? (Sin and God’s ability to forgive it and cleanse it from our lives.)

  • Read Isaiah 1:16,17,19. What should exercising true spiritual reason lead us to do? (It will lead us to avoid evil, treat others with love, accept God’s plan of salvation, and obey Him.)

  • Read Isaiah 1:20. What will failure to exercise godly reason lead us to do? (Refuse God’s plan of salvation and rebel against His commandments.)

  • Read Ephesians 4:18 and 1 Timothy 4:1,2. What warning does Paul give here about Satan’s attack on human reason at the end of time? (Satan will destroy people’s consciences so that they cannot reason in the way God wants them to.) What will this counterfeit reason lead people to do? (Leave the faith.) Are we seeing this in the world today? (Yes.)

  • Read 2 Corinthians 10:3-5. What promise does this verse give about God’s power to guide and control our minds and our reasoning? (He can bring every thought into conformity with His will.) Will He do this without our consent? (No.) What, then, is the role of our reason in the process of salvation? (Our role is to choose to give our will and our minds to God. He does the rest.)

Share It

  • Why is the allure of trusting in human reason such a strong one for so many people? How can we break the satanic spell that makes this such a temptation?

Thursday (April 23, 2020): The Bible

While human tradition, culture, experience, and reason can—and eventually will—fail us in our search for salvation, the Bible remains God’s chosen agency through which He expresses His will and makes His power available to us. “Through the Scriptures the Holy Spirit speaks to the mind, and impresses truth upon the heart. Thus, He exposes error, and expels it from the soul. It is by the Spirit of truth, working through the word of God, that Christ subdues His chosen people to Himself” (The Desire of Ages, 671).

Digging Deeper

  • Read John 5:46,47. According to Jesus, what is the ultimate source for understanding spiritual matters? (The Bible.) Why is this a good thing? Why is this better than basing ultimate truth on our personal experience, or culture, or traditions, or reason? (People experience all of these things differently, to varying degrees, and in varying capacities. The Bible is an objective, unchanging expression of truth that transcends cultural, geographic, and personal boundaries.)

  • Read Isaiah 8:20. What should be the standard by which we judge all teachings that claim to come from the Bible? (Everything must be tested against God’s Word—the “law and the testimony.”) What warning is contained in this verse about teachings, or teachers, that contain some truth and some error? (The Bible warns us that those with “mixed truth” actually have “no light” at all. We are to avoid those teachings and practices that combine truth and error.)

  • Read John 16:16 and John 17:17. What is the role of the Holy Spirit? Does the Holy Spirit replace the Bible? (The Holy Spirit’s role is to lead us to understand the Bible, and empower us to obey the Bible. If we are looking for a spiritual experience with the Spirit outside of the Bible, we open ourselves up to the power of evil spirits.)

Apply It

  • Read Hebrews 4:12,13. What do these verses reveal about the authority of the Bible in our lives?

Share It

  • When the Bible reveals spiritual errors in our traditions, culture, reasoning, or experience, what should our response be? What makes responding correctly so difficult? What can make responding correctly easier?

Friday (April 24, 2020): The Scriptures a Safeguard

The Bible makes it clear that our only hope of remaining undeceived—indeed, our only hope of salvation—comes from believing and obeying the message contained between its covers. As Jesus said at the end of the Sermon on the Mount, “whosoever heareth these sayings of mine, and doeth them, I will liken him unto a wise man, which built his house upon a rock” (Matthew 7:24.)

Digging Deeper

Read the passages below and answer the questions that follow.

  • Read Psalm 119:99,104. If we want to understand what is really going on in this world, and how to survive it, what should we be studying? (The Bible!)

  • Psalm 1:1-6. How will “rooting” ourselves in the Bible help protect us spiritually? (It will keep us from being blown away like the chaff when the winds of trial and persecution and deception come.)

  • Jeremiah 17:8. What kind of “insurance” do we get by planting our lives on the Bible? (We will not be burnt by the heat or withered by the drought. Instead, we will “yield fruit” even in these hard times.)

Apply It

Read the passage below from the book The Great Controversy and discuss its relevance for us today:

We are living in the most solemn period of this world’s history. The destiny of earth’s teeming multitudes is about to be decided. Our own future well-being and also the salvation of other souls depend upon the course which we now pursue. We need to be guided by the Spirit of truth. Every follower of Christ should earnestly inquire: “Lord, what wilt Thou have me to do?” We need to humble ourselves before the Lord, with fasting and prayer, and to meditate much upon His word, especially upon the scenes of the judgment. We should now seek a deep and living experience in the things of God. We have not a moment to lose. Events of vital importance are taking place around us; we are on Satan’s enchanted ground. Sleep not, sentinels of God; the foe is lurking near, ready at any moment, should you become lax and drowsy, to spring upon you and make you his prey. {GC 601.1}

Share It

  • In what ways have you found the Bible to be a safeguard in your life? What experiences have you had that have demonstrated the value and importance of trusting in the Bible?

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