Sabbath School Lesson for April 18-24, 2020


There are many influences that shape our theology. Among them are…

  • traditions–they can be good or bad (Sunday)
  • experience–so long as it’s Bible-based (Monday)
  • culture–we must be in the world, but not of the world (Tuesday)
  • reason–our thinking is needed, but may be negative and faulty (Wednesday)
  • the Bible itself–using the Holy Spirit; it’s our most reliable source (Thursday)


How we use the Bible to determine our understanding of God varies from church to church. Several factors shape how we interpret the messages found in God’s word, even on an individual level.

We all rely on our past experiences and cultural influences to inform us about God. Family or church traditions and practices, as well as our tendency to rely on our own reasoning powers, also impact how we perceive God in the Scriptures.

All these factors, while desirable and unavoidable in some measure, must be seen as possible impediments to our correctly determining what is truth as revealed in the Bible. Perhaps the biggest mistake would be to place undue importance on any one of them to the exclusion of the others.

The final conclusion must be to let the Bible be the final word for our spiritual thinking and information, as clearly laid out in our key text this week:

Memory Text: “To the law and to the testimony! If they do not speak according to this word, it is because there is no light in them.” Isaiah 8:20 NKJV

The need for this warning was recognized in the New Testament church as well. In describing the last days, Jesus said in Matthew 24:11, “Then many false prophets will rise up and deceive many.” And Peter warned in 1 Peter 2:1, “But there were also false prophets among the people, even as there will be false teachers among you, who will secretly bring in destructive heresies…”

Who or what will have the final word when it comes to our theology makes a great difference in our search for truth.

Hymn for the Week: “Wonderful Words of Life”, Hymn # 286

Sunday: Tradition

Christianity today seems bent on either clinging too much to tradition, or desiring to throw every ritual and religious practice out the window. But remembering that there are both positive and negative aspects of keeping traditions alive will help us keep the balance needed to put tradition in its proper place in our lives.

Even God saw the value in traditions. They help us bond with each other. That’s why He inaugurated the Passover and other feast days as part of Jewish life. They were to point to their past experiences with God or to future events, such as the coming of the Messiah.

When their nation was the chosen vessel for spreading the gospel, these holy days (where we get the term “holiday”) were vital in passing down their heritage and knowledge of God.

The problem with traditions, even those established by God, is that man often adds details and meanings to them, causing them to lose God’s original intent and purpose. Over the years, they become man’s traditions and can even cause us to do the opposite of what God expects from us.

Only by using the Bible as the standard measure of what traditions are worth keeping, and which ones we are better off leaving alone, can we feel any assurance that we are keeping the right traditions.

Relying particularly on the love emanating from the Ten Commandments, we can quickly discover which traditions are beneficial, and which ones are best ignored.

Bible Verses to Ponder and Share:

Mark 7:3, 5-7, 9

  • Why do men have a tendency to change traditions?
  • Why is it dangerous for man to change traditions to fit his own viewpoint? What can it lead to?

I Corinthians 1, 2 and Ephesians 5:1, 2

  • Who are we imitating when we imitate Paul, and what traditions might Paul have valued?
  • Why is love a safe measure to determine if our traditions are good or bad?

2 Thessalonians 3:6 and Romans 16:17

  • Where do wrong traditions lead us as a community of faith?

Monday: Experience

It is mostly impossible for us to not have our understanding of God shaped by our own personal experiences in life. Our experience then will also affect how we interpret the word of God.

Often, our experience is faulty, however, lacking in some significant way when it comes to seeing God for who He is and getting the most from our Bible study. We don’t all come from a perfect home or background, for instance, and may have a difficult time seeing God as an authoritative, yet loving, figure.

Knowing this makes it vital for us to rely on the messages sent to us through the Holy Spirit and the Bible. Reading about the life experiences of characters in the Bible will give us the ability to make more informed decisions when we interpret God’s word and attempt to know God from the its pages.

Bible Verses to Ponder and Share:

Titus 3:4, 5

  • Why is what God has done more important than what we have done or experienced?
  • How does the Bible aid us in seeing what God has done?

John 3:3

  • How does being born again affect our view and reliance on our own past experiences?

2 Corinthians 11:1-3

  • How, and why, does our thinking and our own experience change when we become married?
  • How does our life experience change when we accept Christ?

Tuesday: Culture

Every culture, both past and present, seems to contain both good and bad elements in varying degrees. Not only are we influenced by our own culture, but we can be either correctly or incorrectly informed about cultures we find around us, or even those that existed in the past.

Our thinking about cultures will undoubtedly be an influence on how we think about God and the Bible that tells us about Him. We can’t discount our culture, or even someone else’s, but we also shouldn’t allow our cultural perceptions to totally shape our spiritual thinking.

In addition, we must be culturally-sensitive to others, especially as we are commissioned to spread the gospel to the world. After all, Paul reminded us that with God, “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female…” (Galatians 3:28). God is sensitive to them all.

At the same time, the writers of the Bible spanned a number of years and cultures. Let’s give them the opportunity to speak to us from the cultures they came from, and remember that they were living in different times and circumstances than we are.

Above all, look for God in difficult passages of the Bible and apply what you already know about His character. The writers of the Bible expressed themselves in different ways than we find familiar, but they did it the best they could.

Pray for the Holy Spirit to guide you to be able to derive only truth from God’s word, and your work of interpretation will more likely be correct.

Bible Verses to Ponder and Share:

I John 2:15-17 and Romans 12:2

  • What are some of the factors in our culture, or in any culture, that may prove dangerous to our Christian thinking and interpretation of God’s word?
  • Since we know that not everything in the world is tainted with evil, why is it helpful to understand that using the terms “world” or “worldly” in the New Testament pertains only to those negative elements of the world?

Exodus 9:12, 7:13, and 4:21

  • Who hardened Pharaoh’s heart?
  • How could we misunderstand these verses, when we don’t know the full story of the Exodus?
  • How does knowing the context and culture of a passage prevent incorrect conclusions about a particular verse or event in the Bible?

Wednesday: Reason

God, who created us, values our thinking abilities and encourages us to use reason when contemplating who to serve in this universe of ours. “Be still and KNOW that I am God,” He invites us (Psalm 46:10).

Like those from the eighteenth century Age of Enlightenment, however, some of us have chosen to see man’s wisdom and reasoning abilities as the only measure of truth and error in the world. Some fail to see God or any superior being as instrumental or necessary in the affairs of man.

Even when we don’t fall into the extreme category of denouncing the existence of God, man often places far too much value on his own reasoning prowess. We may not know as much as God, we proudly proclaim, but we sure do know a lot.

Only when we cultivate humility and admit these two things, can we allow God to guide our thoughts into proper channels that will lead to finding truth in His word:

  1. Our thinking is marred by evil tendencies that cloud our perceptions and conclusions about God.
  2. We will never fully understand everything about God.

This is why Solomon, known for his wisdom, tells us, “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge, but fools despise wisdom and instruction.” Proverbs 1:7 NKJV

Bible Verses to Ponder and Share:

Matthew 17:25, 18:12, 21:28, and Psalm 46:10

  • How did Jesus encourage others to think?
  • What ways does God use to enhance our thinking about Him?

2 Corinthians 10:5

  • How does it help us interpret the Scriptures, when we have an obedient attitude of “let-me-be-corrected”?
  • Why is it important for our thoughts to be obedient to God? Would this include our actions?
  • Why does humble obedience allow us to understand God’s will through the Scriptures?

Proverbs 1:7 and 9:10

  • What if any difference is there between knowledge and wisdom, at least in our modern culture?
  • What happens if you have one without the other, and how does this expand the need to have both?

Thursday: The Bible

The final and best source for our Christian theology must, of course, be the Bible. All the previous factors mentioned this week must be filtered through the word of God itself. All of our tendencies to depend on tradition, experience, culture, and our own ability to reason must be put aside when the conclusions we draw obviously run counter to what the Bible tells us.

  • The law of God, those commands that are most clearly spoken, such as the Ten Commandments, is the greatest measuring device available when deciding what to believe about God.
  • In addition, the testimony of the prophets all agree on certain facts: God is love, God wants what is best for us, and God will win the battle in the end.

The Holy Spirit, while invaluable in informing us of wrongdoing and guiding us into truth, must even be subjected to the test of the Scriptures. We must use caution when relying solely on the Holy Spirit, because there are evil forces we may not recognize that will lead us down paths contrary to the words spoken in the Bible.

The Bible, and the Bible only, should be the norm and authority we adopt in order to have sound doctrines which bring us closer to God. Let’s remember to question our own private interpretations. It is not our task to critique or judge the Scriptures. Rather, the word of God is the tool God uses to judge us.

Bible Verses to Ponder and Share:

John 5:46, 47, 1:1-3, 14

  • Why is it important to believe Moses, in order to believe Jesus?
  • What does the creation story, written by Moses in Genesis, teach us about Jesus?

1 Timothy 4:6

  • How does the Bible build our faith and teach us the truth about God?

Isaiah 8:20 and John 8:12

  • What does it really mean when it says “there is no light in them”?

Friday: What We Have Learned This Week

The religious world at the time of Christ was suffering from great apostasies. The Jewish nation had elevated their traditions and cultural pride to the extent that most of them missed the birth of the Messiah. Even with the benefit of the Holy Scriptures, their lack of faith and love caused them to crucify the One who had come to save them.

Today, there seem to be many apostasies in the world again. Countless Christian denominations point to the fact that there is, in large part, no clear understanding of the Scriptures that have been preserved for our spiritual well-being.

Only when we subscribe to the authority of the Bible as the final test of our doctrines will we be safely guided into the truth about God. Tradition, experience, culture, and reason must all take a backseat when it comes to interpreting God’s word. We must let the Bible speak for itself, if we truly want the Light of the World to come into our lives.

Let’s pray for understanding and enlightenment on the passages that are most helpful to us and pray for the Holy Spirit to open our minds to understand the difficult passages when we need them most. Just like Jesus did for the disciples after His resurrection.

Next Week’s Lesson: By Scripture Alone–Sola Scriptura

To read the Sabbath School Lesson Quarterly or see more resources for its study, go to

Other Outlook blogposts by Teresa Thompson, are at

Also livestreaming daily about the lesson on Teresa’s Facebook page