In 1588, a young English woman (seven months pregnant) looked out over the sea, and what she saw—the Spanish Armada, with 130 heavily armed ships planning to invade the island—so frightened her that she went into premature labor, the midwife being fear.
Fear, in fact, was an apt image for her child, Thomas Hobbes, who became one of Europe’s greatest political theorists. Living at a time when England had been wracked by civil war and endless religious violence, Hobbes wrote that humankind, without a strong, all-encompassing government, existed in a state of perpetual fear—fear of instability, fear of conquest, and, most of all, fear of death. People lived in what he called “the war of all against all” and that unless something radical was done, human life would be, he warned, nothing but “solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short.”
What was the solution? Hobbes said that there was only one: the people must place themselves under a single power that would reduce all their wills to a single will and that would exercise complete authority over them. This power, this sovereign—be it a single man or an assembly of men—though wielding absolute hegemony over the nation, would end the terrible conditions that made their lives so fearful and unstable. In other words, in exchange for all their rights, the people got peace and security instead. This transfer of power, from the people to the sovereign, is what Hobbes called the “covenant.”
The covenant idea, however, did not originate with Hobbes. On the contrary, thousands of years earlier, God made a covenant with Israel, a covenant whose roots, in fact, went back even further in time. Unlike Hobbes’s covenant, which was initiated and promulgated by the people, this covenant was initiated and promulgated by the true Sovereign, the Creator of heaven and earth. Also, though Hobbes’s covenant was motivated solely by fear, God’s covenant is motivated by love, His love for the fallen race, a love that led Him to the Cross.
Thus, because of what Christ has done for us, we love God back, and just as in the Hobbesian covenant, in which the subjects had to surrender to the sovereign, we surrender, too—our sinful ways, our fears, our twisted notions of right and wrong. We do this not to gain something in return, but because we already have been given the best that the Sovereign can give—Jesus Christ and the Redemption found only in Him.
How does it all work? It is as simple as an exchange:
Christ takes our sins and gives us His righteousness so that, through Him, we are accounted as righteous as God Himself. In this way, sin is no longer attributed to us; it no longer has to keep us separated from Him. Murderers, adulterers, bigots, liars, thieves, and even the incestuous can all be viewed as righteous as God Himself. And this wonderful gift, this accounting of righteousness, comes to them by faith, and faith alone. Hence the phrase, “righteousness by faith.”
But it does not end there, either. Murderers, adulterers, bigots, liars, thieves, and even the incestuous can, through Jesus, enter into a relationship with God, because Jesus’ blood brings not only forgiveness but cleansing, healing, and restoration. We are, through Christ, born again, and through this experience God writes His holy law upon the fleshy tables of our hearts. Thus, murderers, adulterers, bigots, liars, thieves, and the incestuous no longer do the things they used to do. From and by this inward law, all of life is shaped for the believer. These people desire to work out what God puts within them, and that desire is matched with the promise of divine power.
Here is the essence of what it means to live in covenant relationship with God. This quarter, then, we look more closely at what God’s covenant is, what it offers, even what it demands. Though drawn from many sources, the lessons rely heavily on work of the late Gerhard Hasel, whose insights into the Word (where the covenant promises are revealed) will give encouragement, hope, and understanding in order that we can learn something that, perhaps, Hobbes never did: “There is no fear in love; but perfect love casteth out fear” (1 John 4:18).
Gerhard F. Hasel (PhD, Vanderbilt University) was John Nevins Andrews professor of Old Testament and Biblical Theology at the SDA Theological Seminary at Andrews University. For 27 years he served as director of the ThD/PhD programs and from 1981 to 1988 as the dean of the seminary.
1 What Happened?—March 27–April 2 5
2 Covenant Primer—April 3–9 18
3 “All Future Generations”—April 10–16 31
4 An Everlasting Covenant—April 17–23 44
5 Children of the Promise—April 24–30 57
6 Abraham’s Seed—May 1–7 72
7 Covenant at Sinai—May 8–14 85
8 Covenant Law—May 15–21 98
9 Covenant Sign—May 22–28 111
10 The New Covenant—May 29–June 4 124
11 New Covenant Sanctuary—June 5–11 137
12 Covenant Faith—June 12–18 150
13 The New Covenant Life—June 19–25 163
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Editor Clifford R. Goldstein
The Teachers Edition components were written by the following:
The Overview, Lessons 1—13: Tanja Saldaña
Commentary, Lessons 1—13: Andre Saunders
Life Application, Lessons 1—13: Marklynn Bazzy; Lessons 1—5, 7—9, 11—13: Alan Hecht Life Application, Lesson 12: Fylvia Fowler Kline
© 2021 General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists®. All rights reserved. No part of the Adult Sabbath School Bible Study Guide (Teachers Edition) may be edited, altered, modified, adapted, translated, reproduced, or published by any person or entity without prior written authorization from the General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists®. The division offices of the General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists® are authorized to arrange for translation of the Adult Sabbath School Bible Study Guide (Teachers Edition), under specific guidelines. Copyright of such translations and their publication shall remain with the General Conference. “Seventh-day Adventist,” “Adventist,” and the flame logo are registered trademarks of the General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists® and may not be used without prior authorization from the General Conference.
“The true teacher is not content with dull thoughts, an indolent mind, or a loose memory. He constantly seeks higher attainments and better methods.
His life is one of continual growth. In the work of such a teacher there is a freshness, a quickening power, that awakens and inspires his [class].” —Ellen G. White, Counsels on Sabbath School Work, p. 103.
To be a Sabbath School teacher is both a privilege and a responsibility. A privilege because it offers the teacher the unique opportunity to lead and guide in the study and discussion of the week’s lesson so as to enable the class to have both a personal appreciation for God’s Word and a collective experience of spiritual fellowship with class members. When the class concludes, members should leave with a sense of having tasted the goodness of God’s Word and having been strengthened by its enduring power. The responsibility of teaching demands that the teacher is fully aware of the Scripture to be studied, the flow of the lesson through the week, the interlinking of the lessons to the theme of the quarter, and the lesson’s application to life and witness.
This guide is to help teachers to fulfill their responsibility adequately. It has three segments:
1. Overview introduces the lesson topic, key texts, links with the previous lesson, and the lesson’s theme. This segment deals with such questions as Why is this lesson important? What does the Bible say about this subject? What are some major themes covered in the lesson? How does this subject affect my personal life?
2. Commentary is the chief segment in the Teachers Edition. It may have two or more sections, each one dealing with the theme introduced in the Overview segment. The Commentary may include several in-depth discussions that enlarge the themes outlined in the Overview. The Commentary provides an in-depth study of the themes and offers scriptural, exegetic, illustrative discussion material that leads to a better understanding of the themes. The Commentary also may have scriptural word study or exegesis appropriate to the lesson. On a participatory mode, the Commentary segment may have discussion leads, illustrations appropriate to the study, and thought questions.
3. Life Application is the final segment of the Teachers Edition for each lesson. This section leads the class to discuss what was presented in the Commentary segment as it impacts Christian life. The application may involve discussion, further probing of what the lesson under study is all about, or perhaps personal testimony on how one may feel the impact of the lesson on one’s life.
Final thought: What is mentioned above is only suggestive of the many possibilities available for presenting the lesson and is not intended to be exhaustive or prescriptive in its scope. Teaching should not become monotonous, repetitious, or speculative. Good Sabbath School teaching should be Bible-based, Christ-centered, faith-strengthening, and fellowship-building.