The Great Controversy - Teachers Comments

2024 Quarter 2 Lesson 05 - Faith Against All Odds

Teachers Comments
Apr 27 - May 03

Key Text: Psalm 119:11

Study Focus: Ps. 119:162; 2 Pet. 1:20, 21; John 16:13, 14; Eph. 2:8, 9; Rom. 3:23-31; Rom. 5:8–10; Rom. 6:22, 23.

Introduction: The study this week highlights three central principles that characterize the great controversy:

  1. God’s character is love and justice.
  2. The only way to salvation is grounded in His love and righteousness.
  3. The first two principles spring out of only one source: God’s revelation

as manifested in Jesus Christ and the Holy Scriptures.

During medieval times, these three principles appeared to be forever engulfed in the devil’s own darkness, never to be upheld, or proclaimed, again. But God called several great warriors, the Reformers, to stand up in the midst of the battlefield and raise the standard of God’s truth once more. These warriors were few. But the paucity in the ranks of the Reformers was meant to show that the movement was not human but divine, both in its origins and in its operations; that is, we who are on God’s side in the great controversy are not winning the battle by our wisdom or strength. On the contrary, we gain the victory in the great controversy only as we give witness to what the Word of God proclaims and to what the power of God’s grace can do, and does, for us and in us. For these reasons, the Reformers understood that their mission was to proclaim the five great solas:

• sola scriptura (Scripture alone),

• sola gratia (grace alone),

• sola fide (faith alone),

• solus or solo Christus (Christ alone), and

• soli Deo gloria (to the glory of God alone).

Lesson Themes: This week’s lesson explores two major themes:

  1. To be on God’s side in the great controversy means to manifest an unshakable faith in Scripture as the most authoritative revelation of God’s character and love for us.
  2. To be on God’s side in the great controversy also means to manifest an unshakable faith in God’s grace as the sole source and way of salvation.

Part II: Commentary

Sola Scriptura, Sola Gratia, Sola Fide

Why is the Protestant principle of sola scriptura so important to the great controversy? How is it connected to salvation and to the other Protestant solas, especially sola gratia and sola fide? (Note: in accordance with Ephesians 2:8, this commentary treats sola gratia and sola fide as one.)

As we have seen, the great controversy started in heaven with Lucifer’s false accusation that God is evil and that His reign is dictatorial. Afterward, the great controversy moved to earth, when Lucifer deceived our first parents into believing that they were, or could become, gods. In each stage of human history, the devil has worked with unsleeping malice to distort God’s character, plans, sovereignty, and law. God responded by revealing Himself to humanity. God reveals Himself to us is through nature, history, human nature, and our consciousness. This divine disclosure is commonly called general revelation. However, general revelation is not specific because it is nonpropositional; that is, it is not transmitted directly into words. In addition, sin produced significant changes to nature, to history, to human nature, to morality, to human thinking, and to our perception of reality that poses challenges to our appreciation, and apprehension, of general revelation.

For these reasons, God reveals Himself principally through special revelation. Special revelation means that God reveals Himself personally and propositionally. In it, we can know and understand God’s character, His personality, His plans, His dominion over human history, and His principles of action and rule. Before humanity’s fall into sin, God’s special revelation was manifested through His personal relationship and conversations with Adam and Eve. After the Fall, God did not abandon humanity, though sin gravely altered His relationship with the human race. He continued His personal revelation to Adam and Eve and to the rest of humanity through various means, such as theophanies (divine appearances in various forms) or prophetic experiences (dreams and visions).

For millennia, God worked through patriarchs and prophets to counter the devil’s misinformation, but more important, to call humanity to understand Him correctly, to trust Him and to accept His plan of salvation. But God did not stop at this form of mediated revelation. God the Son, the Second Person of the Triune Godhead, became a human being so that God could be with us in person (John 1:1–3, 14) and personally manifest His love to us. To save us, God took upon Himself the guilt of our sin, becoming sin for us that we might become the righteousness of God in Him (2 Cor. 5:21). Jesus Christ, the God incarnate, was the culmination of God’s special and personal revelation to humanity, and even to the entire universe (Heb. 1:1–3). Through Jesus—in His incarnation, life, ministry, sacrificial death, and resurrection—God revealed fully His character of love and righteousness, and His creative and salvific power. After Christ’s ascension, God continued His prophetic revelation through the presence and activity of the Holy Spirit.

But God’s special revelation does not stop at these historical, divine manifestations. Through the process of inspiration, God worked directly with, and through, prophets and apostles (Eph. 2:20) to record His special divine revelation so that it could be published and proclaimed to the entire world (2 Tim. 3:16, Matt. 28:20). This record of divine revelation is the Holy Scriptures, comprised of the Old and New Testaments and focused on God’s revelation in Christ (John 5:39, 40; Luke 24:27).

Scripture is thus an integral part of God’s special revelation, carrying the full imprimatur of divine authority as the Word of God. Through Scripture, God yearns for all people to know who He truly is and what He has done, and is doing, for their salvation.


Satan employed several strategies to undermine God’s special revelation. One such strategy was to cause humanity to doubt what God revealed in His Word. But after God’s Word was proved true, time and again, the devil redirected his focus to his main strategy: making Scripture dependent on human interpretation and tradition. This shift occurred among God’s people during Old Testament times. Thus, in New Testament times, some of them had a hard time accepting Jesus, not because Scripture was unclear but because they wanted to filter God’s Word through their own tradition (Mark 7:1–13). Thus, the devil achieved his three-pronged goal: to “let go of the commands of God,” (Mark 7:8, NIV), to set “aside the commands of God,” (Mark 7:9, NIV), and to “nullify the word of God” (Mark 7:13, NIV).

Initially, as with the Jews, tradition may be well intended. But if not carefully regulated by biblical principles, tradition eventually gives rise to the very essence of sin: the removal of God’s authority; an attempt to control Him; and the establishment of human authority over God, His kingdom, and His revelation. The establishment of tradition over the Word of God demolishes the very purpose and meaning of God’s special revelation, which is to reveal His true character, purposes, and plans and to reveal the way of redemption. Instead of God’s love and salvation by grace, people are taught to follow the instructions of the religious experts and to follow a burdensome way of salvation (Matt. 23:4).

Just as Christ did, the first Christians repudiated tradition and reinterpreted Scripture according to its intended sense (John 5:39, 40; Luke 24:25–27; Acts 2:14–32). Later, however, Christians followed the example of Judaism and developed their own interpretation of Scripture informed by various cultural, political, or philosophical presuppositions. By the time of Luther, Scripture and its interpretation was firmly in the hands of the church magisterium. According to their authority, the Bible was too divine and holy to be interpreted by “ordinary” people. Just as the scribes did in the days of Jesus, the Roman Catholic prelates, priests, and scholars, under the guise of preserving the identity and unity of the church, claimed that not everyone could read and understand the Bible. Their withholding of the Scriptures from the people resulted in a lack of true knowledge of God and a dearth of spirituality, with dire results. Consequently, the absence of Bible truth led to the rampant activation of sin; soon the church claimed authority and control over God, His kingdom, and His way of salvation. Because of this trajectory, the church, like the Jewish leaders of old, imposed a “new” way of salvation: one by works. According to this teaching, people are saved by, and through, the church, by doing what the church tells them to do. Thus, the doctrine of the church was changed into an observance of hierarchical and sacramental rites, while the doctrine of salvation was changed to an acceptance of penance and indulgences. God was deprived of the very means He had created to reach out directly to all people, which is Scripture.

By establishing the sola scriptura principle, the Protestant Reformers rose against this demonic strategy operating within the church. The Reformers established that Scripture was the only form of special revelation that God gave to the church at that time and that people needed to be allowed to listen to God directly by reading the Bible themselves. Sola scriptura does not mean that the Protestant Reformers excluded any other form of knowledge, such as reason, arts, or experience. What the Reformers meant by sola scriptura is that Scripture is God’s authoritative revelation that shapes our worldview, telling us who He is, what He has done, who we are, and what happened to us at the Fall. Further, Scripture reveals how God saves us and what He expects of us. Thus, the authority of Scripture is above the authority of the church and above that of any other human authority or form of knowledge. The Word of God created the church, not the other way around.

The sola scriptura principle is directly and inseparably related to the establishment of another principle, sola gratia/sola fide. When Martin Luther read the Bible without the filter of tradition, he discovered in it the true character of God and His true way of salvation. In Scripture, the Protestants discovered the central message that God wanted to communicate to humanity in the midst of the great controversy: our God is a God of love and righteousness, not a tyrant. Even when we rebelled against Him, He died in our place. He offered us the gift of His righteousness, so that we might be restored to His kingdom when we accept this gift by faith.

The Liberal Assault

Unfortunately, in several centuries, Protestantism itself would be deluged by another of the devil’s strategies to sever God’s relationship with humanity. Liberal Protestants did not prohibit people from reading Scripture for themselves. Rather, these liberal thinkers reinterpreted the very definition and nature of Scripture. For them, the Bible was no longer the divine special revelation but merely a product of an evolving human mind, culture, and morality. Thus, Scripture was not God’s Word to humanity but mere human words, imaginations, or speculations about God, which sprang from people’s natural or historical environment. For this reason, according to liberal Protestantism, a direct, natural, literal, and pious reading of Scripture, as the Word of God, is simply wrong. Rather, we must read Scripture in the same way, and with the same methodologies, required when reading literature, history, culture, or philosophy.

Consequently, instead of the traditional Protestant historical-grammatical method of reading Scripture, the adherents of liberal Protestant theology imposed upon Scripture the historical-critical method of biblical interpretation. The Protestant principle of sola scriptura collapsed because, in this line of thinking, Scripture was now no longer the only authoritative source of God’s special revelation. Instead, the Bible became just one of the many historic, or monumental, documents produced by humanity. Moreover, the sola gratia-sola fide principle also collapsed because both Scripture and the way of salvation became products of human genius and moral and religious effort. In addition, contrary to Scripture (Acts 4:12), Christ is merely one of the many ways of salvation. Tragically, this view of Scripture and this method of biblical interpretation have become dominant throughout Christian denominations.

As God’s end-time remnant church, Seventh-day Adventists have been divinely entrusted with the mission to, once again, proclaim the foundational biblical principles of sola scriptura and sola gratia/sola fide.

Part III: Life Application

  1. Think of the five solas of the Protestant Reformers. How are they relevant to your life? How are they relevant to the religions and culture around you as well? What contributions could the five solas make to the community in which you live?
  2. How does your community and/or culture view the Holy Scriptures? In what ways would you say that upholding Scripture in your particular religio-spiritual context is part of the great controversy?
  3. What is your personal contribution to upholding Scripture in your local community as part of the great controversy? How can you be a Wycliffe, Tyndale, or Luther in your religio-spiritual context?