“Let not your heart be troubled: ye believe in God, believe also in Me. In My Father’s house are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto Myself; that where I am, there ye may be also. And whither I go ye know, and the way ye know. Thomas saith unto Him, Lord, we know not whither Thou goest; and how can we know the way? Jesus saith unto him, I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by Me.” Later, referring to the word of God, He stated: “Sanctify them through Thy truth: Thy word is truth.” John 14:1-6; 17:17. Thus, Jesus and God’s holy word are the truth; we have this truth in our hands, just as Pilate had Jesus in his presence. Did the governor value for His excellence the One who was the truth? And what about us? What use are we making of this great treasure?
Knowing the great darkness of error and sin existing in the world, Jesus gave the great commission to His people to go and preach the truth of the gospel. “And He said unto them, Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature.” “And Jesus came and spake unto them, saying, All power is given unto Me in heaven and in earth. Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world.” Mark 16:15; Matthew 28:18-20. Faithful to this mandate, the apostle Paul could say that he had “not shunned to declare … all the counsel of God.” To the believers in his charge he repeated that “by the space of three years I ceased not to warn every one night and day with tears.” Acts 20:27, 31.
To carry out the divine commission, we have to study the word of the Lord with all that it contains. The Spirit of prophecy states: “If we are to be sanctified through a knowledge of the truth found in the word of God, we must have an intelligent knowledge of His will therein revealed. We must search the Scriptures, not merely rush through a chapter and repeat it, taking no pains to understand it, but we must dig for the jewel of truth which will enrich the mind, and fortify the soul against the wiles and temptations of the arch-deceiver.” –Counsels on Sabbath School Work, p. 19.
These Sabbath School Lessons have been prepared so we can understand “all the counsel of God.” They cover the list of subjects found in the Principles of Faith. In the first quarter of 2016, we will complete the study of the Principles in order. It is our sincere desire that this will result in a great blessing for God’s people all around the world.
Truth is like light; and as light scatters darkness, so truth reveals and conquers error. More than this, divine truth has the capacity to transform. “The Scriptures are the great agency in … transformation of character…. If studied and obeyed, the word of God works in the heart, subduing every unholy attribute. The Holy Spirit comes to convict of sin, and the faith that springs up in the heart works by love to Christ, conforming us, body, soul, and spirit, to His will.” –Christ’s Object Lessons, p. 100.
Let us make this wonderful experience of transformation as from Sabbath to Sabbath we study the truth deeply, not just consider it as a theoretical message from God. We are urged to go even further, bringing all truth into our daily lives, for “However enlightened the youth may be through Bible studies, their nature is such that unless the truth of which they have knowledge is practiced in the daily life, every attempt to elevate and ennoble will be unavailing.” –Counsels on Sabbath School Work, p. 68.
Therefore, dear brothers and sisters, let us study these lessons not only to know the truth and be able to present it to others, but with a much higher goal–to obey it, to “be established in the present truth.” And being established in the truth, let us be purified in our “souls in obeying the truth through the Spirit.” 2 Peter 1:12; 1 Peter 1:22.
“The Father,” writes the Spirit of prophecy, “sets His love upon His elect people who live in the midst of men. These are the people whom Christ has redeemed by the price of His own blood; and because they respond to the drawing of Christ, through the sovereign mercy of God, they are elected to be saved as His obedient children. Upon them is manifested the free grace of God, the love wherewith He hath loved them. Everyone who will humble himself as a little child, who will receive and obey the word of God with a child’s simplicity will be among the elect of God.” –Seventh-day Adventist Bible Commentary, vol. 6, p. 1114.
Let us pray earnestly together that this will be our experience as from day to day and from Sabbath to Sabbath we study and live the precious truth that the Lord permits to shine on our pathway.
–The brothers and sisters of the General Conference
Sabbath, January 2, 2016
“Everything that Christians do should be as transparent as the sunlight. Truth is of God; deception, in every one of its myriad forms, is of Satan; and whoever in any way departs from the straight line of truth is betraying himself into the power of the wicked one. Yet it is not a light or an easy thing to speak the exact truth. We cannot speak the truth unless we know the truth; and how often preconceived opinions, mental bias, imperfect knowledge, errors of judgment, prevent a right understanding of matters with which we have to do! We cannot speak the truth unless our minds are continually guided by Him who is truth.” –Thoughts from the Mount of Blessing, p. 68.
Swearing under special circumstances
1. What was required in the past and still is today under special circumstances to hold an individual accountable for speaking the truth or for carrying out a promise?
Genesis 21:23, 24 Now therefore swear unto me here by God that thou wilt not deal falsely with me, nor with my son, nor with my son’s son: but according to the kindness that I have done unto thee, thou shalt do unto me, and to the land wherein thou hast sojourned. 24And Abraham said, I will swear.
Exodus 22:11 Then shall an oath of the Lord be between them both, that he hath not put his hand unto his neighbour’s goods; and the owner of it shall accept thereof, and he shall not make it good.
“In every business transaction be rigidly honest. However tempted, never deceive or prevaricate in the least matter. At times a natural impulse may bring temptation to diverge from the straightforward path of honesty, but do not vary one hairsbreadth. If in any matter you make a statement as to what you will do, and afterward find that you have favored others to your own loss, do not vary a hairsbreadth from principle. Carry out your agreement. By seeking to change your plans you would show that you could not be depended on. And should you draw back in little transactions, you would draw back in larger ones. Under such circumstances some are tempted to deceive, saying, I was not understood. My words have been taken to mean more than I intended. The fact is, they meant just what they said, but lost the good impulse, and then wanted to draw back from their agreement, lest it prove a loss to them. The Lord requires us to do justice, to love mercy, and truth, and righteousness.” –Child Guidance, p. 154.
2. What is expected with such an oath? In the past, how was a violation of an oath considered, especially if it was made in the Lord’s name?
Psalm 15:4 In whose eyes a vile person is contemned; but he honoureth them that fear the Lord. He that sweareth to his own hurt, and changeth not.
Joshua 9:18, 19 And the children of Israel smote them not, because the princes of the congregation had sworn unto them by the Lord God of Israel. And all the congregation murmured against the princes. 19But all the princes said unto all the congregation, We have sworn unto them by the Lord God of Israel: now therefore we may not touch them.
2 Chronicles 36:13 And he also rebelled against king Nebuchadnezzar, who had made him swear by God: but he stiffened his neck, and hardened his heart from turning unto the Lord God of Israel.
“In all the details of life the strictest principles of honesty are to be maintained…. Deviation from perfect fairness in business deal may appear as a small thing in the estimation of some, but our Saviour did not thus regard it. His words on this point are plain and explicit: ‘He that is faithful in that which is least is faithful also in much.’ A man who will overreach his neighbor on a small scale will overreach in a larger scale if the temptation is brought to bear upon him. A false representation in a small matter is as much dishonesty in the sight of God as falsity in a larger matter.
“Honesty should stamp every action of our lives. Heavenly angels examine the work that is put into our hands; and where there has been a departure from the principles of truth, ‘wanting’ is written in the records.” –Child Guidance, pp. 154, 155.
Abuses and falsehood
3. What does the Bible record about people who took oaths and promises lightly and misused God’s name?
Malachi 3:5 And I will come near to you to judgment; and I will be a swift witness against the sorcerers, and against the adulterers, and against false swearers, and against those that oppress the hireling in his wages, the widow, and the fatherless, and that turn aside the stranger from his right, and fear not me, saith the Lord of hosts.
Isaiah 48:1 Hear ye this, O house of Jacob, which are called by the name of Israel, and are come forth out of the waters of Judah, which swear by the name of the Lord, and make mention of the God of Israel, but not in truth, nor in righteousness.
“Through the apostle Paul, Christ bids us, ‘Let your speech be alway with grace.’ ‘Let no corrupt communication proceed out of your mouth, but that which is good to the use of edifying, that it may minister grace unto the hearers.’ Colossians 4:6; Ephesians 4:29. In the light of these scriptures the words of Christ upon the mount are seen to condemn jesting, trifling, and unchaste conversation. They require that our words should be not only truthful, but pure.
“Those who have learned of Christ will ‘have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness.’ Ephesians 5:11. In speech, as in life, they will be simple, straightforward, and true; for they are preparing for the fellowship of those holy ones in whose mouth ‘was found no guile.’ Revelation 14:5.” –Thoughts from the Mount of Blessing, pp. 68, 69.
4. What clear prohibitions were part of the law to prevent such sins? Who was dishonored when oaths were not respected?
Leviticus 6:3; 19:12 Or have found that which was lost, and lieth concerning it, and sweareth falsely; in any of all these that a man doeth, sinning therein:… 19:12And ye shall not swear by my name falsely, neither shalt thou profane the name of thy God: I am the Lord.
Exodus 20:7 Thou shalt not take the name of the Lord thy God in vain; for the Lord will not hold him guiltless that taketh his name in vain.
“This commandment not only prohibits false oaths and common swearing, but it forbids us to use the name of God in a light or careless manner, without regard to its awful significance. By the thoughtless mention of God in common conversation, by appeals to Him in trivial matters, and by the frequent and thoughtless repetition of His name, we dishonor Him. ‘Holy and reverend is His name.’ Psalm 111:9. All should meditate upon His majesty, His purity and holiness, that the heart may be impressed with a sense of His exalted character; and His holy name should be uttered with reverence and solemnity.” –Patriarchs and Prophets, pp. 306, 307.
“Reverence should be shown also for the name of God. Never should that name be spoken lightly or thoughtlessly. Even in prayer its frequent or needless repetition should be avoided.” –My Life Today, p. 282.
5. What was going on at the time of Jesus in regard to swearing, not only among the people but also among the scribes and Pharisees?
Matthew 23:16-22 Woe unto you, ye blind guides, which say, Whosoever shall swear by the temple, it is nothing; but whosoever shall swear by the gold of the temple, he is a debtor! 17Ye fools and blind: for whether is greater, the gold, or the temple that sanctifieth the gold? 18And, Whosoever shall swear by the altar, it is nothing; but whosoever sweareth by the gift that is upon it, he is guilty. 19Ye fools and blind: for whether is greater, the gift, or the altar that sanctifieth the gift? 20Whoso therefore shall swear by the altar, sweareth by it, and by all things thereon. 21And whoso shall swear by the temple, sweareth by it, and by him that dwelleth therein. 22And he that shall swear by heaven, sweareth by the throne of God, and by him that sitteth thereon.
“The Jews understood the third commandment as prohibiting the profane use of the name of God; but they thought themselves at liberty to employ other oaths. Oath taking was common among them. Through Moses they had been forbidden to swear falsely, but they had many devices for freeing themselves from the obligation imposed by an oath. They did not fear to indulge in what was really profanity, nor did they shrink from perjury so long as it was veiled by some technical evasion of the law.” –Thoughts from the Mount of Blessing, p. 66.
Jesus’ teaching about taking an oath
6. What did Jesus teach about such abuses as well as frequent common swearing? What is the reason for this?
Matthew 5:33-36 Again, ye have heard that it hath been said by them of old time, Thou shalt not forswear thyself, but shalt perform unto the Lord thine oaths: 34But I say unto you, Swear not at all; neither by heaven; for it is God’s throne: 35Nor by the earth; for it is his footstool: neither by Jerusalem; for it is the city of the great King. 36Neither shalt thou swear by thy head, because thou canst not make one hair white or black.
“The reason for this command is given: We are not to swear ‘by the heaven, for it is the throne of God; nor by the earth, for it is the footstool of His feet; nor by Jerusalem, for it is the city of the great King. Neither shalt thou swear by thy head, for thou canst not make one hair white or black.’ R.V.…
“All things come of God. We have nothing that we have not received; and, more than this, we have nothing that has not been purchased for us by the blood of Christ. Everything we possess comes to us stamped with the cross, bought with the blood that is precious above all estimate, because it is the life of God. Hence there is nothing that we have a right to pledge, as if it were our own, for the fulfillment of our word.” –Thoughts from the Mount of Blessing, p. 66.
7. Was Jesus forbidding judicial oaths required by authorities? How did He respond when he was required to take such an oath?
Matthew 26:63, 64 But Jesus held his peace. And the high priest answered and said unto him, I adjure thee by the living God, that thou tell us whether thou be the Christ, the Son of God. 64Jesus saith unto him, Thou hast said: nevertheless I say unto you, Hereafter shall ye see the Son of man sitting on the right hand of power, and coming in the clouds of heaven.
“Jesus condemned their practices, declaring that their custom in oath taking was a transgression of the commandment of God. Our Saviour did not, however, forbid the use of the judicial oath, in which God is solemnly called to witness that what is said is truth and nothing but the truth. Jesus Himself, at His trial before the Sanhedrin, did not refuse to testify under oath. The high priest said unto Him, ‘I adjure Thee by the living God, that Thou tell us whether Thou be the Christ, the Son of God.’ Jesus answered, ‘Thou hast said.’ Matthew 26:63, 64. Had Christ in the Sermon on the Mount condemned the judicial oath, He would at His trial have reproved the high priest and thus, for the benefit of His followers, have enforced His own teaching.
“If there is anyone who can consistently testify under oath, it is the Christian. He lives constantly as in the presence of God, knowing that every thought is open to the eyes of Him with whom we have to do; and when required to do so in a lawful manner, it is right for him to appeal to God as a witness that what he says is the truth, and nothing but the truth.” –Thoughts from the Mount of Blessing, pp. 66, 67.
8. To avoid all doubt and misunderstanding, what principle should govern our speech, including everyday communication?
Matthew 5:37 But let your communication be, Yea, yea; Nay, nay: for whatsoever is more than these cometh of evil.
James 5:12 But above all things, my brethren, swear not, neither by heaven, neither by the earth, neither by any other oath: but let your yea be yea; and your nay, nay; lest ye fall into condemnation.
“Jesus proceeded to lay down a principle that would make oath taking needless. He teaches that the exact truth should be the law of speech. ‘Let your speech be, Yea, yea; Nay, nay: and whatsoever is more than these is of the evil one.’ R.V.…”
“These words condemn all those meaningless phrases and expletives that border on profanity. They condemn the deceptive compliments, the evasion of truth, the flattering phrases, the exaggerations, the misrepresentations in trade, that are current in society and in the business world. They teach that no one who tries to appear what he is not, or whose words do not convey the real sentiment of his heart, can be called truthful.” –Thoughts from the Mount of Blessing, pp. 67, 68.
For additional study
1 Samuel 24:21, 22
“Those who are brought into covenant relation with God are pledged to speak of Him in the most respectful, reverential manner….
“Swearing, and all words spoken in the form of an oath, are dishonoring to God. The Lord sees, the Lord hears, and He will not hold the transgressor guiltless. He will not be mocked. Those who take the name of the Lord in vain will find it a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.” –My Life Today, p. 282.
“If these words of Christ [Matthew5:37] were heeded, they would check the utterance of evil surmising and unkind criticism; for in commenting upon the actions and motives of another, who can be certain of speaking the exact truth? How often pride, passion, personal resentment, color the impression given! A glance, a word, even an intonation of the voice, may be vital with falsehood. Even facts may be so stated as to convey a false impression. And ‘whatsoever is more than’ truth, ‘is of the evil one.’ ” –Thoughts from the Mount of Blessing, p. 68.