Small Group Tools
Contemporary Comments 2018
Texts: Genesis 17:9–11; Exodus 31:13, 17; Revelation 13:17; Ephesians 1:13, 14; Hebrews 4:9, 10
Are you really who you say you are? That’s the focus of a new office within a U.S. government agency, which oversees immigration applications. The office will work to identify Americans “who are suspected of cheating to get their citizenship and seek to strip them of it.” The director indicates that several dozen lawyers are being hired to work with immigration officers to review “cases of immigrants who were ordered deported and are suspected of using fake identities to later get green cards and citizenship through naturalization.”1
A couple years ago, it was discovered that 315,000 old fingerprint records for immigrants who had been deported or had criminal records “had not been uploaded to a Department of Homeland Security database that is used to check immigrants’ identities.” At the same time, more than 800 immigrants who had been deported under one identity came back and became U.S. citizens under another identity.
In this week’s Sabbath School lesson, the focus on identifying those who are God’s people and those who are not happens on the basis of a seal or a mark. The Old Testament speaks of two signs that identify God’s people. Circumcision was a sign given by the Lord to Abraham for every male child (Genesis 17:10). Paul later emphasized the circumcision of the heart (Romans 2:29) as represented by baptism (1 Corinthians 7:19).
The second sign for identifying the people of God is the Sabbath. “Moreover I also gave them My Sabbaths, to be a sign between them and Me, that they might know that I am the Lord who sanctifies them” (Ezekiel 20:12). Though outward circumcision was no longer necessary, the New Testament clearly teaches the continued validity of the Ten Commandments of which the Sabbath is a part (see Revelation 14:12).
Satan is in the business of deceiving and the best form of deception is to mix truth with error and offer teachings and practices that “appear” authentic, but are fake. Such is the case with the worship of God. The beast power that opposed God thought to “change times and laws” (Daniel 7:25), and the focus of his work was on the fourth commandment.
The ultimate test of heavenly citizenship has nothing to do with race, gender, education, wealth, age, or disabilities. It is revealed in absolute loyalty to the King of heaven in worshiping on the Sabbath and not to the socio-religious powers of the world.
~ For Reflection
Connecting: Look in your wallets and purses and find every form of ID you’re carrying. On the whiteboard, list every type of ID your group can produce. Are there other forms of ID besides these? How are you protecting yourselves from identity theft?
Sharing: What does the inclusion of the Holy Spirit as a down payment for salvation, as expressed in Ephesians 1:13-14, do to enhance the concept of the Sabbath as God’s seal?
1. This raises the stakes for us—you cannot really keep the Sabbath merely as a legalistic duty.
2. When we approach God on the Sabbath, the Holy Spirit is the active agent who approaches us.
3. Since we can engage with the Holy Spirit any day of the week, this eliminates the observance of the seventh-day Sabbath as the seal of God.
4. God’s Holy Spirit filling our hearts on God’s holy Sabbath is a powerful combination that empowers us to stand up to the mark of the beast.
5. We may physically observe the Sabbath, but the Holy Spirit makes the day holy and sanctifies us as God’s people.
Applying: The day will come when those who have the seal of God will not be able to work, earn money, or spend money. Write down every scripture reference of Bible promises you would rely on during that time of trouble. Choose three of these to read to your group.
Valuing: Are you fully convinced on the question of the seal of God versus the mark of the beast? Is there more you’d like to learn? If so, commit yourself to seeking out more guidance on the topic.