SDA Bible Commentary, vol. 6 (EGW)

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Chapter 3

1, 2 (Hebrews 5:9-12). Why Many Fail in Character Building—[Hebrews 5:9-12 quoted.] Paul could not speak to the Jewish converts as plainly as he desired regarding the mystery of godliness. Because of their spiritual weakness, their lack of perception, he could not utter the truth, which, could they have heard aright, with intelligent comprehension, would have been to them a savor of life unto life. 6BC 1085.8

The fault was not with their instructors, but with themselves. They were dull of understanding. Abundant advantages had been given them. They could have increased in understanding regarding Christ, His work, His power to save to the uttermost all who come to Him. But they had not pressed onward and upward, improving their opportunity to learn more and still more of the Saviour. Because they had not received in faith the truths imparted to them, their memory was weak. They could not retain in their minds the truths essential to success in character-building. 6BC 1085.9

The apostle calls their attention to their fault in this respect, which had become their spiritual infirmity. Their misconceptions gave them an indistinct view of Christ's power to make His people a praise in the earth (The Review and Herald, June 16, 1903). 6BC 1085.10

1-3. Spiritual Dwarfs—Paul longed to speak to the church in Corinth of spiritual things. But to his sorrow he found it in great weakness. The church members could not even bear to hear the truth concerning themselves. [1 Corinthians 3:1, 2 quoted.] The Spiritual growth of this people was so dwarfed that a plain “Thus saith the Lord” was an offense to them. Paul knew that by giving them the truth he would be ranked as an accuser and faultfinder (Manuscript 74, 1899). 6BC 1086.1

2. Living on a Low Level—[1 Corinthians 3:1-3 quoted.] Those addressed in these words had not been feeding on Christ, and therefore they were not advanced in spiritual knowledge. Paul said, “I have fed you with milk”—the plainest, most simple truths, suitable for converts young in the faith; “not with meat”—the solid, nourishing, spiritual food suited to those who have made progress in a knowledge of divine things. They were living on a low level, dwelling on the surface truths which call for no thought, no deep research (Manuscript 70, 1901). 6BC 1086.2

4-9. Ministers Not to Be Idolized—There can be no stronger evidence in churches that the truths of the Bible have not sanctified the receivers than their attachment to some favorite minister, and their unwillingness to accept and be profited by the labors of some other teacher who is sent to them in the providence of God. The Lord sends help to His church as they need, not as they choose; for short-sighted mortals cannot discern what is for their best good. It is seldom that one minister has all the qualifications necessary to perfect any one church in all the requirements of Christianity; therefore God sends other ministers to follow him, one after another, each one possessing some qualifications in which the others were deficient. 6BC 1086.3

The church should gratefully accept these servants of Christ, even as they would accept their Master Himself. They should seek to derive all the benefit possible from the instruction which ministers may give them from the Word of God. But the ministers themselves are not to be idolized; there should be no religious pets and favorites among the people; it is the truths they bring which are to be accepted, and appreciated in the meekness of humility (Redemption: or the Teachings of Paul, and his Mission to the Gentiles, 74, 75). 6BC 1086.4

5, 6. The Lord Our Efficiency—The Lord desires us to distinguish between the means and the instrument. [1 Corinthians 3:5, 6 quoted.] The human agent is only the instrument; it is to the Lord he owes his efficiency. He must cooperate with divine power (Letter 150, 1900). 6BC 1086.5

9 (2 Corinthians 10:4; see EGW on Genesis 2:7; Romans 12:2). God Provides the Weapons—“We are laborers together with God.” He provides us with all the facilities, all the spiritual weapons necessary for the pulling down of Satan's strongholds. Present the truth as it is in Jesus. Let the tones of your voice express the love of God. Lead, but never drive. Approach the most obstinate in a spirit of kindness and affection. Dip your words into the oil of grace, and let them flow forth from your lips in love (Letter 105, 1893). 6BC 1086.6

Divine Culture Will Be Given—The Lord will give divine culture to those who are laborers together with Him. To be a laborer together with God means to strive and wrestle to grow up into Christ's likeness. It is Satan who makes it necessary for us to strive. Those who will keep the eye fixed upon the life of the Lord Jesus will gain an abundant entrance into His spiritual temple (Letter 5, 1900.) 6BC 1086.7

Feeble Plants Receive Special Care—“Ye are God's husbandry.” As one takes pleasure in the cultivation of a garden, so the Lord takes pleasure in His believing sons and daughters. A garden demands constant labor. The weeds must be removed; new plants must be set out; branches that are making too rapid a development must be pruned back. So the Lord works for His garden, the plants of the Lord. He cannot take pleasure in any development that does not reveal the graces of the character of Christ. The blood of Christ has made men and women God's precious charge. Then how careful each one should be not to manifest too much freedom in pulling up the plants the Lord has placed in His garden. Some plants are so feeble that they have hardly any life in them, and for these the Lord has a special care (Manuscript 39, 1896). 6BC 1086.8

Learning the Trade of Character Building—“Ye are God's building.” You are representatives of the great Master Worker. God forbid that we should neglect to learn the trade of character building. The course to be pursued in this work is not according to the ideas of the world; the fashioning is not similar to the fashioning of the world. Those who enter the work of God without hiding self in Christ will soon disconnect themselves from the Master's building (Manuscript 165, 1899). 6BC 1087.1

Let Christ Direct—In your work of character building be sure that Christ is your director. It makes a great difference whether you are laborers together with God or whether you are laborers together against God; whether it is your highest ambition to magnify God or to magnify yourself and your plans. Christ declares, “Without me ye can do nothing”—nothing that will be approved by God. Study your motives carefully, and make sure that you are not working in your own wisdom, apart from Christ (Manuscript 102, 1903). 6BC 1087.2

A Temple Honored by God and Man—With pure, noble, upright deeds every man is to build. The result of his work will be a symmetrical structure, a fair temple honored by God and men (Manuscript 153, 1903). 6BC 1087.3

9-15. Each Man Has His Post of Duty—We should carefully weigh the matters relative to the work we take up. Will this work be a blessing to souls? God has not given us work merely to keep us busy, but for His name's glory. Many are busily engaged gathering wood, hay, stubble. But this will all be consumed, leaving nothing to prepare souls for that great day when every work is to be tried by fire. Many will find that the work that has occupied their time and attention has perished with the using, and that they themselves have barely been saved, as by fire. 6BC 1087.4

Such a result as this is not after God's order. By God's appointment each man has his post of duty. The careful, prayerful inquiry is to be made, What duty is assigned us individually, as men and women under accountability to God? And whether our labor be wholly limited to spiritual things, or whether it is temporal and spiritual combined, we are to faithfully discharge our work. Things secular and things sacred must be combined, but spiritual things are not to be hidden by secular matters. 6BC 1087.5

Christ requires the service of the whole being, the physical, mental, and moral powers combined. These are to be enlisted in God's service. Man is to remember that God has the ownership of all, and that his pursuits are invested with a sacredness that they did not possess before he enlisted in the army of the Lord. Every action is to be a consecrated action, for it occupies God's entrusted talent of time. Holiness unto the Lord is inscribed on all the actions of such a one, because his whole being is brought under subjection to God. 6BC 1087.6

No business is to be undertaken, even in ordinary life, if it is corrupting in its influence upon the senses. We are in the Lord's training school, and He has His own appointed means whereby we may be brought into His service, so that His name may be glorified by the work we do in this world. Many are troubled because they are not working directly for the advancement of God's kingdom. But the humblest work must not be ignored. If it is honest work, it is a blessing, and may lead to the higher parts of the work. Those who do this work need not accuse themselves of uselessness in the great household of God. This is not necessary, for theirs is a work that someone must do (Manuscript 49, 1898). 6BC 1087.7

11. The Living Foundation Stone—God will not accept the most splendid service, or the most brilliant talent, unless it is laid upon, and connected with, the living foundation stone; for this alone gives true value to the ability possessed, and makes it a living service to God. We may look back through centuries, and see the living stones gleaming like jets of light through the rubbish of moral darkness, errors, and superstition. These precious jewels shine with continually increasing luster, not alone for time, but for eternity (Redemption: or the Teachings of Paul, and his Mission to the Gentiles, 80). 6BC 1087.8

11-13 (see EGW on Psalm 144:12). Gold of Faith Imperishable—It makes every difference what material is used in the character building. The long-expected day of God will soon test every man's work. “The fire shall try every man's work of what sort it is.” As fire reveals the difference between gold, silver, and precious stones, and wood, hay, and stubble, so the day of judgment will test characters, showing the difference between characters formed after Christ's likeness and characters formed after the likeness of the selfish heart. All selfishness, all false religion, will then appear as it is. The worthless material will be consumed; but the gold of true, simple, humble faith will never lose its value. It can never be consumed; for it is imperishable. One hour of transgression will be seen to be a great loss, while the fear of the Lord will be seen to be the beginning of wisdom. The pleasure of self-indulgence will perish as stubble, while the gold of steadfast principle, maintained at any cost, will endure forever (The Review and Herald, December 11, 1900). 6BC 1087.9

13. See EGW on Jeremiah 23:28; Revelation 20:12, 13. 6BC 1088.1

16-23. See EGW on 1 Thessalonians 5:23. 6BC 1088.2