Giving Bible studies is one of the most spiritually fulfilling satisfactions that a child of God can experience. And when the student accepts Christ in his or her life and willingly decides to be baptized into the Seventh-day Adventist Church, there is no greater feeling of accomplishment than that which is felt in the heart of the teacher when such a decision is made. Why? Because the Holy Spirit, likewise delighted in the decision, pours out His spirit in abundance in the teacher’s heart. Together, there is great rejoicing. Once you, the elder or deacon or deaconess, have won a soul to Christ, you will be hooked into doing it over and over, at every opportunity that arises. Though it may seem daunting if you have never done it before, rest assured that, through trial and error and with the following pointers to guide you, you can become highly successful.
The primary desire of the committed Christian should be to share the gospel with family, friends, and others with whom he or she may come in contact. We can easily see that, during Christ’s life, this was His great objective. Everywhere He went, He taught people, healed them of their diseases, and restored several to life. Thousands became His followers. Just before His ascension to heaven, Jesus gave His great commission: “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age” (Matt. 28:19, 20).
A careful reading of these verses reveals that Jesus was referring to two steps that His disciples must share with all potential new believers: (1) bring them to conversion through the aid of the Holy Spirit and (2) instruct (disciple) them in the teachings (doctrines) of Jesus. Thus, these are the two important steps: conversion and receiving a sound theological foundation. Can one be saved without this foundation? Yes, but, without deep roots, one cannot grow to his or her spiritual potential, because almost all the doctrines are Christ-centered; that is, they lead to a fuller understanding of Christ’s loving nature and a deeper appreciation of His great gift to us—His grace—which, through faith, can bring eternal salvation.
Historically, Seventh-day Adventism has required that prospective members receive a thorough teaching of church doctrines before being baptized. History has shown that when these studies are not given, the apostasy rate is much higher. Hence, the cutting-edge elder will become theologically proficient and capable of presenting the 28 beliefs of Seventh-day Adventists to interested persons. The most efficient method of internalizing these beliefs and delivering them systematically to those interested in spiritual things is to give Bible studies, to learn by doing. Before this, however, it is necessary to personally acquaint oneself with each doctrine to the point of understanding and organizing the studies into a useful series that can be delivered without faltering.
Of course, many studies are already available. There are studies for Protestants, evangelicals, Hindus, Muslims, and others. The studies must be selected according to the beliefs (or non-beliefs) of the interested party. Once you know the person’s spiritual background, the appropriate studies can be selected. Then you are ready to begin your studies, but the key is to first know what you yourself believe, and, as an elder (or deacon or deaconess), to have an adequate understanding of these beliefs. Thus, the purpose of these articles is to explain how to give a Bible study to almost anyone, regardless of his or her beliefs.
BIBLE STUDY PHILOSOPHY
It is important to understand what a Bible study is. The best answer can be summed up in the following way: A Bible study is the systematic search for the meaning of a given theological issue. Samples of a theological issue are: the nature of Christ and the Godhead, the origin of life on earth, the way to salvation, the nature of death, the place and length of hell, the correct day of worship, the second coming of Christ, and others. These issues are usually referred to as doctrines but are more commonly referred to today as teachings. The Seventh-day Adventist Church has 28 teachings, which it regards as the essential Biblebased beliefs that comprise the Church and make it distinctive from other religious denominations. Therefore, it should be clear that those who choose to belong to the Seventh-day Adventist Church would subscribe to these teachings insofar as they are intellectually capable of grasping them.
Traditionally, Adventist evangelism has required that new converts be acquainted with the Church’s teachings before baptism. This is not the case with most other Protestant and evangelical churches who usually baptize candidates who have simply accepted Jesus Christ as their Savior. In all fairness, however, it should be acknowledged that these newlybaptized members receive at least some basic theological understanding through various teaching methods later on at the church they attend. Since most non-Adventist churches have at least three teachings in common—Sunday-keeping, the immortality of the soul, and eternal burning hell fire— most members understand these issues.
Seventh-day Adventists have historically believed it essential to have as complete an understanding as possible of its teachings before baptism for four reasons:
1. Understanding the doctrines is conducive to having a clearer picture of the Godhead, the plan of salvation, the saving role of Jesus Christ, and the work of the Holy Spirit in one’s life.
2. Understanding the doctrines allows one to recognize the difference between Adventism and other denominations.
3. The doctrines influence the lifestyle in a way that will provoke a change in the life if fully understood.
4. Knowing the doctrines arms the member to share that knowledge with others.
At this point, we should then ask: What isn’t a Bible study? A Bible study is not simply reading through a specific book of the Bible with your student(s), or starting at Genesis and reading through the Old Testament, or starting at Matthew and reading through all the books of the New Testament one after the other. If we remember our definition of a Bible study—the systematic search for the meaning of a given theological issue—we can see that sequential reading doesn’t lend itself to quickly and systematically discovering the meaning of a given theological issue. For good or for ill, the Bible is not an organized composition of theological treatises. You cannot find any book of the Bible that specifically, exclusively, and exhaustively deals with any one of the Adventist Church’s 28 doctrines.1 God did not design the Bible this way. Instead, in His wisdom, He intended that those interested in spiritual things would search the Scriptures (see Acts 17:11, 122 and Is. 28:9, 103 ) for the verses that lead to salvation, and, in so doing, discover the marvelous glories of God, which in turn would move the soul to surrender the life to Jesus Christ. However, even though one can ultimately find the Church’s doctrines through this method, the process is long, complex, and laborious. Remember that it took our church decades to culminate its doctrines into the current 28. Actually, the twenty-eighth doctrine was added at the General Conference Session in 2005.
Why do most countries of the world have an organized educational system? It is because it allows children and youth to learn quickly and rigorously what the government feels is essential to make them knowledgeable, well-rounded, useful, and peaceful citizens. So it is with the Adventist Church. It wants its members to be spiritually knowledgeable, well-rounded, and capable of using and sharing their knowledge (as the case may require) with their society; thus, every member, elder, deacon, deaconess, and pastor should be a teacher and share with others the same theological knowledge in as short a time as reasonably possible so that, in turn, new believers, once baptized, can do the same thing with others. Our church is in a hurry to evangelize the world and complete the Gospel Commission (Matt. 28:19, 20) assigned directly by Jesus Christ just before His ascension into heaven. And all this has to do with proper teaching methods.
Thus, choosing and applying a series of organized Bible studies is the preferred and recommended methodology for teaching potential candidates for the Seventh-day Adventist Church and, consequently, for the kingdom of God.
(To be continued)
1 The one exception may be the book of Hebrews, which primarily gives a thorough explanation of the sanctuary system, the one doctrine unique to Seventh-day Adventists.
2 “These were more fair-minded than those in Thessalonica, in that they received the word with all readiness, and searched the Scriptures daily to find out whether these things were so; therefore, many of them believed and also not a few of the Greeks, prominent women as well as men.”
3 “Whom will he teach knowledge? And who will he make to understand the message? Those just weaned from milk? Those just drawn from breasts? For precept must be upon precept, precept upon precept, line upon line, line upon line, here a little, there a little.”
Lamar Phillips is a retired minister and church administrator who served for 39 years in six world divisions.