Sabbath School Lesson for September 29-October 5, 2018
The story of God’s people and the unity God desires for them began with Creation, and was deeply impacted by the Fall of our first parents. Pertaining to the Creation and the Fall, we examined this week…
- love being the foundation of unity (Sunday)
- the consequences of the Fall that resulted in our loss of unity with God and each other (Monday)
- the Tower of Babel’s contribution to further disunity (Tuesday)
- the promises to Abraham that would restore unity for his descendants (Wednesday)
- the role of Israel, God’s chosen people, in promoting unity for all nations (Thursday)
Unity for Christians will be the main study this new quarter. There are many aspects of what we consider to be God’s church, where unity is desired, such as:
- a local community of believers in Jesus
- the building where we gather to worship God
- the people of God worldwide
- that group of people who belong to a particular denomination
We understand that, throughout history, God has always had a group of people who follow Him, and we will examine some of these groups as found in the Bible. But our main thrust is to come to an understanding of how our oneness impacts our denomination, the Seventh-day Adventist church.
Does unity within a denomination matter? What purpose does it serve? How might we achieve it? All these questions and more will be our focus of exploration for the next three months.
We begin this week at the beginning. Because it was shortly after Creation week that our unity, at least on this planet, was jeopardized. That one disobedient act of Adam and Eve resulted in the immediate effect of disrupting the unity they once had with their Creator and each other.
Restoring that oneness is the whole purpose of salvation. It sums up the gospel, so we had better know all we can about this topic of unity that we’ve been told by Christ to share with the world.
It was definitely on Jesus’ mind when He prayed…“that they all may be one, as You, Father, are in Me, and I in You, that they also may be one in Us, that the world may be believe that you sent Me.” John 17:21 NKJV
Sunday: Love as a Foundation of Unity
Anyone who studies nature or the environment becomes aware of the immense amount of interdependence every creature, plant or animal, has with each other. Their existence and survival are linked by unseen bonds. It often takes many years to discover what these connections are, but it is generally agreed that they do exist.
A fresh reading of the Creation story in Genesis might help us identify why this interdependence is so prevalent. The love that our Creator had for His Creation seems to be the glue that holds His creatures together. We therefore recognize that love is the bond, the connector, that makes all unity possible. Love is therefore the most reliable foundation available to us on which we can build solid, worthwhile relationships.
Creating man and woman in His image from the beginning makes them the most likely candidates on this earth to appreciate and spread this love. But, of course, Satan is on hand to interrupt that connection and cause our unity to disappear, as we saw happen right after Adam and Eve sinned.
Read Genesis 1:4, 10, 12, 18, 21, 25, 31. What was good about the earth that God was able to call it good, and why was it declared VERY good after the sixth day?
Read Genesis 1:26, 27. What do we know about humans that separate us from the rest of Creation? Why did God create us in His image?
Read 1 John 4:7-9, 16, and Romans 5:8. How has Jesus helped restore God’s image, which is love, into our lives? How was His love manifested? Does true love always involve sacrifice?
Monday: The Consequences of the Fall
Observing the behavior of Adam and Eve after their disobedient act of eating the forbidden fruit can inform us what the opposite of love looks like. We see them…
- trying to hide their sin with fig leaves (shame)
- hiding from God in the Garden (guilt)
- blaming each other blatantly and God indirectly (blame)
Notice how quickly their shame and guilt led to a disruption of their relationships. We can’t give love to another when we don’t feel it for ourselves–when our shame and guilt overpower everything else we feel. That’s why Jesus told us to “love your neighbor as yourself”. It’s important to have our shame and guilt taken care of, before we try to mend our relationships.
Unity dissolves when people don’t feel love for each other. Only when we come to Jesus and humbly accept His love and sacrifice are we able to achieve unity
Read Genesis 3:7, 8 and 2:25. How do shame and guilt affect our ability to love?
Read Genesis 3:12, 13 and Proverbs 28:13. Although Adam and Eve weren’t lying at this point, what was wrong with their answers to God? Why do shame and guilt lead to blaming someone else? Why is it important to take responsibility for our actions?
Read Genesis 4:5 and 6:5-7. Who was Cain angry with? How was this anger different than what God felt about the evil in the world? How was God’s action in sending the Flood, that killed so many, different than Cain killing his brother Abel?
Tuesday: Further Disunity and Separation
“Noah found grace in the eyes of the Lord” (Genesis 6:5) and was saved from the Flood, along with his family. One might think that the world would be united from that point on. But sadly, families themselves are the source of disunity at times, and this must have been true in Noah’s family as well.
A few generations later, with the world’s population growing by leaps and bounds, we find one city that sadly lost sight of God’s grace. Those living in Babel, quite a metropolis for those times, thought that building a tall tower would not only save them from another flood, but would make them famous and more united.
Well, their Tower of Babel did become famous, but for all the wrong reasons. God confounded their language, leading to their inability to complete the project. Unfortunately, it also made it more difficult for world unity from that point on, as different cultures and languages became another barrier to unity that God’s people would face in spreading the gospel.
This further disunity should not be attributed to God’s action, however, but should be recognized as the safest consequence of building such a tower, that had been encouraged by their idolatrous worship of pagan deities. They were merely sowing what they had reaped (Galatians 6:7).
Read Genesis 11:4. What purposes for building the Tower of Babel did the people have in mind? How did they think it would lead to more unity?
Read Genesis 11:5, 6 and 6:2. Who were the sons of God? How were they different from the sons of men? Why was unity harmful in the case of this idolatrous city?
Read Genesis 11:1 and Acts 2:5, 6. Why had God encouraged one language up to this time? How was Pentecost a reminder that God can break down all the barriers of unity that man, with Satan’s help, has erected?
Wednesday: Abraham, Father of God’s People
How interesting that Abraham became a central figure in the three major monotheistic religions in the world today…Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. He is indeed considered the Father of All Nations by those who believe in one God. We must therefore study his contribution to the unity we desire for all of God’s people.
There are some central elements of Abraham’s faith. We particularly notice his…
- obedience when God called him out of his homeland (to an unknown place which God would give to him)
- hope in the promises of God (that a heavenly Promised Land was also in his future)
- belief that God would give him a son (Isaac, the longed-waited for son, born to Sarah)
- trust in God’s salvation (God provided a Substitute at the last moment, in place of his son Isaac)
Abraham’s faithfulness, obedience, and trust in God’s promises stand out as our example in how to live in oneness with God. Even though he made mistakes along the way, the thrust of his life pointed to his unwavering devotion to his Maker, which made them one.
Read Hebrews 11:8-10. What enabled Abraham to obey God? Why aren’t we allowed to know exactly where God is leading us today? How does this faith bring us closer to God?
Read Hebrews 11:17-19. Why was Abraham given this test? What made it particularly hard for Abraham to follow through with God’s command to sacrifice his son? What lessons or knowledge did he gain from this experience that made him feel closer to God?
Read 2 Chronicles 20:7, Isaiah 41:8, and Luke 7:34. What made Abraham a friend of God? What makes it possible for each of us to attain the same closeness with God?
Thursday: God’s Chosen People
When God chose Abraham, He was actually seeing ahead to the possibility of having a nation, chosen by God to illustrate His love and grace to the world. This nation, after the miraculous birth of Isaac, became the nation of Israel.
Although a small country, Israel has had a tremendous impact on the world, whether good or bad, right up to the present time. From its beginning, God indicated that it was not chosen because of its strength or might, but because of its humble, faithful founder and followers.
Abraham’s household was a model of faithfulness that God chose to bless and multiply. It was God’s plan that it would be a tool to bless all the nations of the world and allow them to be prepared for the birth of the Messiah.
Had Israel been obedient and loyal to God, it would have continued to be the greatest nation on earth. But, of course, we have seen the forfeiture of this sacred greatness when they chose to reject the Messiah.
But God didn’t give up on the world after this unfortunate turn of events. He allowed the gospel to be spread by and to the Gentile world through missionaries like Peter and Paul. There was still a faithful remnant of Jews who heard God’s call and went out to foreign lands, just like Abraham had so many years before.
Read Deuteronomy 7:6-9, Psalm 67:2. How had their slavery in Egypt been used to strengthen their ability to share the gospel? What did it represent, and what should it have taught them?
Read 1 Corinthians 1:26. Why aren’t many of the wise, mighty, and noble able to see their divine calling?
Read 1 Corinthians 1:27-31. Why does God chose weak vessels to accomplish His goals? What advantage might they have in being able to hear God’s call?
Since we’re looking at the Creation of our world to find ways to have our relationship with God restored, and to be at one with Him again, two institutions that were given to us by God must not be overlooked. From the very beginning, He gave us…
- the Sabbath (a sacred time of rest devoted to God, given to us on the seventh day of Creation week)
- the family (consisting of father and mother, and the children God designed for them to bear)
How are these two blessings able to unify us?
- Spending a designated time with God, on the day He established and blessed for this purpose, was God’s plan to encourage unity long before the time of Moses. It’s a time to reflect on God’s wonderful Creation, which makes us feel closer to Him.
- Spending time with our family during the week, and worshiping God in a special way on the Sabbath, is another way we can achieve more unity with each other and oneness with God. If we can learn to get along with family members, all our other relationships in life are improved, including our relationship with God.
After Satan caused Adam and Eve to question God and eat the forbidden fruit, he has engaged in every effort to disrupt our restoration and unity with God by attacking these two initial forces for good…the family and the Sabbath.
Satan has blatantly attacked God on these two fronts:
He has convinced most of the Christian world to worship God on another day that hasn’t been blessed, that was never sanctioned in the Holy Scriptures.
And, of course, the threat of divorce is just the tip of the iceberg in causing families and marriages to fail. Many other sexual offenses and perversions have infiltrated our society, making it almost as hard for many to identify the wrongness of these activities, as it is to recognize that we are worshiping on the wrong day.
Yes, God has a better way of life in mind for us, and observing His commandments through a bond of love with our Creator is the only way to achieve that life and experience the unity with Him we so desperately need.
Next Week’s Lesson: Cause of Disunity
To read the Sabbath School Lesson Quarterly or see more resources for its study, go to https://www.absg.adventist.org/
All Outlook blogposts by Teresa Thompson, are at http://outlookmag.org/author/teresathompson/