Sabbath School Lesson for December 20-26, 2014

We will take time to evaluate the epistle of James this week, in order to realize its relevance to the everlasting gospel.

The last-day church has a commission to preach the everlasting gospel. This gospel is mentioned specifically in the first angel’s message in Revelation 14:6, and we usually associate it with salvation by faith, which is taught throughout the Bible.

James, and even Jesus, can seem somewhat legalistic at times when they talk so much about behavior. We have seen that James follows Jesus’ teachings very closely throughout his epistle.

That has led us to appreciate the focus of James on works, because it reminds us that God not only wants to restore our relationship with Him, but to transform our characters in the process.

And this transformation is seen by our actions, by our works. It is a vital part of the plan of redemption. And something both Jesus and James want very much for us to understand.

Key Text: “The Lord has appeared of old to me, saying, ‘Yes, I have loved you with an everlasting love; therefore with lovingkindness I have drawn you’ “ Jeremiah 31:3 NKJV

This verse sums up the gospel: God loving us and drawing us to Him with His everlasting love.

Since this verse is found in Jeremiah, we can assume that even those in Old Testament times were gospel believers. Yes, the Bible does not contradict itself, especially on such an important topic as our salvation.

By looking at the gospel in other parts of the Bible, we will see how James fits right in with its teachings about our salvation.

Sunday: The Gospel in the Old Testament

 “For we also have had the gospel preached to us, just as they did; but the message they heard was of no value to them, because those who heard it did not combine it with faith” Hebrews 4:2 NIV

Paul leaves no doubt when it comes to the continuity of the gospel message. Salvation has been preached since the very beginning, but only when it has been received with faith has it been of value.

The problem has never been with the message, but with the way people have responded to it. In order to benefit from the gospel, we must be totally surrendered to God in faith. And this is what was lacking during Noah’s time, Moses’ time, and all through man’s history.

Jesus came to earth specifically to turn the tide and get us on track with our redemption. Preaching the gospel should be easier, now that we have the story of Jesus’ death and resurrection to share.

But here are some verses that indicate the knowledge of the gospel all the way back to Adam and Eve:

  • Genesis 3:15–God told our first parents that the “Seed” (Jesus) would put an end to the sin that Satan introduced to our planet
  • Exodus 19:4-6–just like He saved them from Pharoah’s army, God would save them from their sin, if they would follow (obey) Him
  • Psalm 130:3, 4; 32:1-5–confessing their sin would lead to forgiveness
  • Isaiah 53:4-11–the Lamb (Jesus) would suffer and die for our sins
  • Jeremiah 31:31-34–God would put His law in our hearts, and will be our God

One can’t help but see God’s intervention in the salvation process. It is only by His grace that we can overcome sin and be restored in our relationship with Him.

Yes, keeping the law is the same for us as for the Old Testament believers. God has always meant for us to do it by the power of His Spirit through faith in the blood of Jesus.

Discussion Questions: What’s the difference between our restoration and our transformation? Can it be compared to justification and sanctification?

Were the Israelites lacking in justification or sanctification? When were they willing, but not obedient? And unwilling, but obedient? Explain why both are needed.  Read Isaiah 1:19 and notice the phrase “willing AND obedient”.

Monday: The Gospel Made Flesh

The gospel made flesh is naturally Jesus, born a Babe in Bethlehem. But Jesus attempted by His ministry and even by His preaching through parables to flesh out the gospel for His followers.

Consider two stories Jesus told: the one of the prodigal son and also the one of the prayers of the Pharisee and the publican.

The prodigal son is lost and doesn’t know it at first. His relationship is restored and he is transformed as a beloved son again. But pay attention to the other characters in the story and the ending of the story, which is often overlooked. It seems as though the prodigal’s brother is lost without knowing it too. See Luke 15:11-32.

One can easily see in the other parable how the prodigal son fits the character of the publican and the older brother might represent the Pharisee. See Luke 18:9-17.

Jesus was attempting in both stories to help people understand how the gospel works. That God is that loving father, waiting to hear our heartfelt confessions and pleas of surrender, and anxious to change us into clean, transformed beings, not just the same, but better than we were before.

Discussion Questions: Read Matthew 5:20. What did Jesus mean by saying that the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees was not enough? Surely, they and others thought it was at the time. What was Jesus telling them here?

Who do you think was Jesus’ target audience in both the parables of the prodigal and the prayer of the Pharisee? And how did each parable convey the gospel message?

Tuesday: The Gospel in Paul

Just when we think there’s no hope of those legalistic Jewish leaders ever understanding the gospel, then along comes Paul. Paul thought he was saved, long before he actually was, and it’s not unreasonable to think that many of the scribes and Pharisees eventually saw the light in Jesus’ preaching too and became fully converted by the gospel message of faith.

Read about how Paul saw this transformation take place:

“But their minds were blinded. For until this day the same veil remains unlifted in the reading of the Old Testament, because the veil is taken away in Christ. But even to this day, when Moses is read, a veil lies on their heart. Nevertheless when one turns to the Lord, the veil is taken away.” II Corinthians 3:14-16 NKJV

Notice when that veil is removed. It’s when they turn to the Lord. They learn to trust Him, rather than their own obedience. Jesus is the way to salvation. It begins and ends with Him.

Paul expresses the gospel very well in these verses:

“For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes, for the Jew first and also for the Greek. For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith; as it is written, ‘The just shall live by faith.’ “ Romans 1:16, 17 NKJV

Paul lets us know that it’s God power and righteousness that brings salvation. Also, being revealed “faith to faith” suggests a process of growth that takes place as we “live by faith”.

Keep in mind that Paul quotes one of the minor prophets from the Old Testament Scriptures, Habakkuk 2:4, which says: “Behold the proud, His soul is not upright in him; But the just shall live by his faith.” NKJV

It’s amazing to realize that Martin Luther’s enlightened claim of salvation by faith was actually rooted in the Old Testament.

Paul outlined the gospel quite well in the book of Romans. Here’s a summary of his findings:

  1. through Christ we have redemption (God has bought us back by paying for our sins)
  2. we are justified, cleared of guilt and cleansed by His grace
  3. God provides forgiveness (accepts us back and “forgets” our sins of the past)

Discussion Questions: Paul’s work with the Gentiles must have been like preaching to “prodigal sons”. But who do you think Paul identified more with in that parable, the prodigal or his brother?

Why do you think Jesus left the parable of the prodigal son an open-ended story like He did? What possible ending might there be for the story?

Considering Paul’s statements in Romans 1:16, 17, what do we receive through Christ by faith?

Wednesday: The “New” Covenant

Reading the book of Hebrews might lead one to believe that the new covenant that came with the birth of Christ was better than the old covenant that God had with His people before Christ, and therefore the old covenant was just done away with, including the law of God.

As we read several passages, such as Hebrews 7:19; 8:9; and 10:1-4, however, we see that actually the old covenant was not as good as the new in that…

  • the way they were keeping it was hard,
  • because it didn’t recognize Jesus’ sacrifice (the “better hope”–Heb. 7:19),
  • and was instead based on their own attempts at righteousness.

 Discussion Questions: Read Leviticus 19:18 and John 13:34. Both verses talk about loving others, but what was different about our knowledge of loving AFTER Jesus came to earth? Could this be the true difference in the old and new covenants?

How can we ever learn to love as Jesus loved? Couldn’t this be as hard as Old Testament believers trying to keep the Ten Commandments in their own strength? What element is needed for us all to follow God?

Thursday: The Climax of the Gospel

The climax of any story or book is usually found at the end, and the climax of the gospel is likewise found in the last book of the Bible.

Revelation 14 talks about three angels’ giving messages for the world in the last days. Before we are even told what the first message is, we are shown the “everlasting gospel” being preached to all the world:

Angels ThreeAngels111.gif“And I saw another angel fly in the midst of heaven, having the everlasting gospel to preach unto them that dwell on the earth, and to every nation, and kindred, and tongue, and people,” Revelation 14:6 KJV

This kind of preaching is found in only one other place in Revelation:

“But in the days of the voice of the seventh angel, when he shall begin to sound, the mystery of God should be finished, as he hath declared to his servants the prophets.” Revelation 10:7 KJV

The word “declared” in this verse is also translated “preached” or “to proclaim good news”, or the gospel.

This indicates that the gospel is truly everlasting, as it is to be preached right up to the very end of time, until sin is finally abolished from the earth.

The gospel message is clear, but so many of us fail to fully understand it. We have tended to achieve our salvation by either:

  • focusing on works or behavior
  • focusing on faith, but continuing in our wreckless lifestyles
  • attempting to balance our faith and works

Yes, even the last option here is not in compliance with salvation by faith. This is faith THAT works. Faith alone is sufficient, but not:

  • an intellectual faith as the devils have
  • a presumptuous faith that claims faith but doesn’t comply with its conditions
  • or even one that tries to balance one, then the other

Our salvation is only achieved by faith in the blood of Jesus, the price paid for our salvation.

Discussion Questions: Read Revelation 14:6-12. Who is worshiped in these messages, and why is it important who we worship?

Read Romans 6:16. Is obedience also a sign of who we worship?

Consider Revelation 14:12 again–“…here are they that keep the commandments of God, and the faith of Jesus.” Rather than thinking that we are saved by keeping God’s commandments, can we instead see this simply as an identifying mark of God’s last-day people? Who is in danger of thinking we are saved by keeping the commandments, as it says in this verse?

Read John 1:1-5. How significant is Jesus’ creative powers being mentioned here and the first angel’s message in Revelation 14? In what way is worshiping Jesus connected with the fourth commandment, the one about the Sabbath?


“We are simply to believe the testimony of God, and have entire dependence on him, and all possibility of self-glory or pride will be removed. We are indeed to be saved by faith, not by a passive faith, but by the faith which works by love, and purifies the soul….no Christianity is so lofty that it can soar above the requirements of God’s holy law…all who follow Christ will render obedience to God’s holy law.” ~ Ellen G. White, Signs of the Times, March 31, 1890.


  1. Carefully study the parable of the prodigal son, and determine which character you identify with the most.
  2. Also try to see the father’s love for BOTH his sons. Which son would you have an easier time loving?
  3. How might you extend your outreach to whichever son you feel less likely to love? Do something this week to show your love for either a prodigal (someone outside the church) or a brother (someone in your congregation).

Next week–new quarter’s study–Proverbs

To read the lesson quarterly or see other resources, see