Christianity, religion, Romans, Sunday School, Sunday School Lesson

Sunday School Lesson (May 12, 2019) Called To Life in The Spirit Romans 8:1-14

Hello Sunday school teachers, preachers, and students! Welcome to SundaySchoolPreacher.com.  This week we take a close look at how we are called to life in the Spirit.  Several ideas surrounding this call are discussed in our text this week.  Those include: 

The Law

Sin

The Requirement for Righteousness

Life in the Spirit

This life in the Spirit is indeed a paradox.  In as much as we are sinful beings we are separated from God.  Yet through the indwelling presence of God’s Holy Spirit we are no longer condemned but made righteous through Jesus Christ. 

Background: 

Paul’s letter to the church at Rome is written approximately 57 Common Era.  It is written to a church that likely has cultural tensions.  The Jewish Christians likely wanted to maintain their Jewish customs and culture.  The Gentile Christians would have practiced religion in different ways.  At this point, the Roman Church was primarily a gentile church.  When this letter is written, the Jewish Christians had been expelled from Rome about eight years earlier by Emperor Claudius (New Interpreters Study Bible).  After Emperor Claudius died in 54 Common Era the edict lapsed and Jewish Christians began to return to a different and mostly Gentile church.  Romans is written to both Jews and Gentiles to let the Jews know they cannot boast of their Jewish heritage and to let the Gentiles know that righteousness through faith in Jesus Christ is all they need for salvation.  Its central focus is salvation by grace through faith in Jesus Christ. 

Chapter eight deals with the Holy Spirit’s work in the lives of Christians.  It is the Holy Spirit that indwells and, in fact, must indwell every believer.  Paul makes a resolute stand in verse nine that anyone who does not have the Spirit of Christ does not belong to him.  Thus, we clearly see the importance of the presence of the Holy Spirit in the life of the Christian.  Additionally, other important themes in this chapter include:

Law

Sin

Grace

Carnality

Review of Last Week and How it Connects to This Week: 

Last week we began a study in Romans, Paul’s longest letter. At the time he writes this letter to Jewish and Gentile Christians, they are likely experiencing some tension with religious customs and cultures in Rome.  We discussed how the righteousness of God is now not just through the law.  Now, there is another way to righteousness and that new way was through Jesus Christ.  That’s important because righteousness deals with right relationships.  And it is our relationship with God that secures righteousness for the Christian.  We also mentioned how Romans 3:23 stands as a perpetual reminder that no one is perfect (except Jesus Christ).  We all have sinned and come short of the glory of God. 

Paul is writing this letter to both gentile and Jewish Christians who likely still practice the tenets of the Torah.  He reminds both groups that neither is perfect, that all have sinned, and that God’s righteousness is received through faith in Jesus Christ.  Paul is essentially answering the question before it gets asked.  Why is this righteousness necessary?  The answer is because all have sinned. 

 Finally, we were reminded in verse 27 that the Jewish Christians could not boast of their heritage, or their works, because even the law requires faith.  And it closed reminding us that God is God of both Jews and Gentiles.  There is only one God who justifies the circumcision by faith and the uncircumcised through the same faith.

This week we consider the work of the Holy Spirit in Romans 8.  Townsend, Boyd’s, and Standard Commentary title this week’s lesson Called To Life in The Spirit.  The Scripture text comes from Romans 8:1-14.

What Takes Place in This Passage: 

Verse one begins by rejecting condemnation for Christians who walk after the Spirit.  While this verse seems to indicate the qualification that one must not walk after the flesh; it can be understood that if you are a Christian you are no longer controlled by the flesh.  An even more pressing question is who was doing the condemning?  Chapter seven holds the answer.  Chapter seven dealt with the law and sin.  Chapter eight answers the question of how to deal with the inadequacy of the Law.  We deal with it as verse two says through – “the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus [who] has set you free from the law of sin and of death” ( that was the condemnation) (NRSV).  Note also that “no condemnation does not mean believers are free from the struggle against sin, but that we are free from the sentence of death and judgement on the last day” (NISB). 

Verse three reminds us of the weakness of the law and the flesh.  In other words, no one can keep all of the rules of the Law.  We need a righteous savior and the answer to that need is Jesus Christ.  God sent Jesus in the likeness of sinful flesh as the eternal answer for a fallen and sinful humanity.

Verse four takes it a step further.  It reminds us that righteousness is required, yet the requirement is fulfilled in those who walk after the Spirit.  Again, notice the importance of the Holy Spirit.  So then, the law is a guide to righteousness but a guide that no one could perfectly follow.  In fact, in Chapter seven, Paul takes issue with the Law (7:5-6).

Verse five reinforces the point that the flesh is concerned about the things of the flesh and the Spirit the things of the Spirit. 

Verses six through eight deal with the conflict between the flesh and the Spirit.  The King James Version uses the term “carnally minded” in verse six.  Carnal is defined as “that which relates to the body, usually associated with desires such as sensuality, lust, and indulgence”.  The New Revised Standard Version uses the phrase “to set the mind on the flesh”.  The idea is Christians should be governed by the Holy Spirit, not by our own lustful, self-serving desires.  In fact, Paul writes that being governed by the flesh is death but being governed by the Spirit is life and peace.  That’s because the carnal or flesh governed mind is hostile to God.  Note also that verse eight says “those who are in the realm of the flesh cannot please God”.  Conversely, Hebrews 11:6 reminds us that “without faith it is impossible to please God”.  So again, we see the importance of faith and the Holy Spirit.  If we are in the flesh, we cannot meet the requirement for righteousness.  Verse nine reassures us.  We are not in the flesh if the Spirit of God dwells in us.  But note also Paul’s warning.  “If anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, they do not belong to Christ”.

Verses ten and eleven help us understand that it is the Spirit of God that brings life through righteousness.  In fact, it is this same Holy Spirit that raised Jesus from the dead that indwells the Christian and will give life to our mortal bodies also. 

Paul begins to wrap this thought up beginning in verse twelve.  He reminds us that we have an obligation to live according to the Spirit, not according to the flesh.  “For those who are led by the Spirit of God are the children of God”. 

Context:

A paradox is a true statement that appears to be contradictory.  Some paradoxical Christian affirmations are:  God as “one God in three Persons,” Jesus as “fully divine and fully human,” and the believer as “righteous yet a sinner”.  We see elements of this definition in these verses.  In fact, in my opinion, it is paradoxical that the Holy Spirit indwells humans.  In as much as we rebel against the will of God we are sinful beings.  Our text tells us the Law condemns, but the Spirit liberates.  II Corinthians 3:6 reminds us that God “has made us competent to be ministers of a new covenant, not of letter but of spirit; for the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life”.  Where the law condemns us, the Spirit liberates us.  We need a righteousness that cannot be attained through the law.  King David writes in Psalm 51:5 “Indeed, I was born guilty, a sinner when my mother conceived me”.  Yet, through acceptance of Jesus Christ as our Savior we have the privilege of being indwelt by the Holy Spirit.  We are called to life in the spirit.       

Key Characters in the text:

Paul – Originally known as Saul of Tarsus before his conversion to Christianity.  He was the most influential leader in the early days of the Christian church.  Paul was a primary instrument in the expansion of the gospel to the Gentiles.  His letters to various churches and individuals contain the most thorough and deliberate theological formulations of the New Testament (Baker Encyclopedia of the Bible). 

Holy Spirit – The third Person of the Trinity.  God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit constitute the eternal Godhead.  The Spirit inspired biblical writers, makes known the saving work of Jesus Christ, and is God as present in and with the church.  The Spirit acts to incorporate all things into the life of the triune God. 

Key Words (not necessarily in the text, but good for discussion): 

Carnal – that which relates to the body, usually associated with desires such as sensuality, lust, and indulgence.

Paradox – A true statement that appears to be contradictory.  Some paradoxical Christian affirmations are:  God as “one God in three Persons,” Jesus as “fully divine and fully human,” the believer as “righteous yet a sinner”. 

Law – That which is prescribed to regulate behavior.  The Old Testament law includes the Ten Commandments and various ritual prescriptions found in the Pentateuch or the books of the Law (Torah).  Theologically, law expresses the will of God and is to be valued (Ps 119). 

Law and Grace – Two differing ways or forms of God’s relating to humanity.  A number of theological views as to the regulation of the two terms have emerged (John 1:17; Rom 4:16; 5:20; 6:14, 15).

Law of Nature – The universal moral law, believed by some theologians to be given by God to all persons or accessible to them through the use of their reason in relation to the order found in nature. 

Themes, Topics, Discussion, or Sermon Preparation Ideas: 

  1. What the Law can’t do.
  2. The Law versus the Spirit.

Questions

1) We were created in the image of God, yet, born in iniquity.  Explain this paradox. 

2) The text tells us we must be governed by the Spirit.  How are we governed by the Spirit on a day to day basis?           

Concluding thought:

We need righteousness and that righteousness is only found in Jesus Christ.  In John chapter 14 beginning at verse 15, Jesus promised the Holy Spirit (the Comforter).  It is the Holy Spirit who comforts, secures, and empowers us.  The importance of this gift cannot be stressed enough.  Our good works aren’t enough to secure righteousness.  The Christian Jews Paul included in this letter could not claim their heritage or their customs keeping the law as acceptable righteousness.  It is though the work of Jesus and the presence of the Holy Spirit in our lives that this desperately needed righteousness is secured. 

Preview of Next Week’s Lesson: Next week we will look at the call of the gentiles.  In Romans chapter eleven Paul, a Judean himself, speaks directly to the Gentile Christians as the Apostle to the Gentiles.  He does so in hopes of saving some of his Judean people.  But he also admonishes the Gentile Christians to not be arrogant.

Christianity, Sunday School, Sunday School Lesson

Sunday School Lesson (May 5, 2019) Called To Righteousness Romans 3:21-31

Hello Sunday school teachers, preachers, and learners! Welcome to SundaySchoolPreacher.com.  This week we take a deep dive on ideas surrounding righteousness.  Significant themes include:

Atonement of Sin

Justification Through Grace

Redemption

Paul is writing to the church at Rome.  A church he has never visited.  At the time he writes this letter these Jewish Christians and Gentile Christians are likely experiencing some tension with customs and cultures.  This letter will eventually end up playing a significant part of the doctrinal foundation of Christian faith

Background: 

This is the first week of a four week study in the book of Romans.  The author is Paul.  You may remember Paul was once a great persecutor of Christians.  And now this work is perhaps one of the most significant Christian texts in terms of explaining foundational Christian doctrine.  The New Interpreter’s Study Bible explains that Paul writes Romans “near the conclusion of the third missionary journey to Asia Minor and Greece”. While Paul is the author of Romans, he “dictated it to Tertius (16:22) while he was in Corinth, probably in the spring of 57 CE”.

Townsend’s Commentary highlights some interesting history about the Roman Christians.  Townsend states “Christianity in Rome began among the Jews, yet because of the ongoing conflicts within the Jewish community, Emperor Claudius expelled the Jews from Rome.  In their absence, Christianity in Rome became predominantly Gentile”.  That’s interesting because it is yet another example of governmental persecution endured by our Jewish siblings.  The expulsion occurred in 49 CE.  “When Claudius died in 54 CE and the edict lapsed, Jews began returning to Rome.  These Jewish Christians returned to churches that had become increasingly Gentile which likely created considerable tension between them and Gentile Christians (NISB)”. 

Chapter three introduces a number of significant doctrinal terms.  Those include the ideas of:

Sin

Justification

Grace

Redemption

Salvation

The central focus of verses 21 through 31 is the idea of righteousness through the grace of faith in Jesus Christ. 

Review of Last Week and How it Connects to This Week: 

In last week’s lesson the resurrection of Jesus had just occurred and the eleven disciples were in Galilee.  After Jesus appearing to the eleven disciples some doubted.  After all they had heard, seen, and experienced some of the disciples still doubted.  When Jesus spoke to them saying “all power (or all authority) in heaven and on earth has been given to me” he was saying he had all the right, all the privilege, all the freedom and all the license to stand as God has given him victory over death.  Jesus then gave them instructions, telling them to go.  Not just to go, but to go and teach.  The Savior, who was once called teacher, sent his disciples to teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost.  This is the commission that Jesus gave the disciples and that commission applies to all who call the name of Jesus as their Savior.

The text then moved to Acts chapter one verse six.  In this scene the disciples are gathered together and they ask Jesus “Lord, are you at this time going to restore the kingdom to Israel”.  The disciples were envisioning Jesus on the throne in the same way King David reined on the throne about one thousand years earlier.

Jesus tells them “it is not for you to know the times or the dates the Father has set by his own authority”.  So in plain words, Jesus tells them you don’t need to know.  There are some things that we simply can’t know and some things we just don’t need to know.  There are some things that God is going to handle in God’s own good time. 

This week we begin a four week study in the book of Romans.  Over the next four weeks we will explore the spread of the Gospel.  We will consider the ideas of righteousness, life in the Spirit, the call of gentiles, and called to new life in Christ.  Townsend, Boyd’s, and Standard Commentary title this week’s lesson Called To Righteousness. The Scripture text comes from Romans 3:21-31.

What Takes Place in This Passage: 

In the New Revised Standard Version, verse 21 begins “But now, apart from law, the righteousness of God has been disclosed, and is attested by the law and the prophets,”.  I like how this verse begins with “but now”.  But now, is placed against what was.  In other words, the righteousness of God is now not just through the law.  Now, there is another way to righteousness.  That’s important because righteousness deals with right relationships.  And it is our relationship with God that secures righteousness for the Christian.  We need a right relationship with God. 

Verses 22 and 23 says “the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ[d] for all who believe. For there is no distinction, 23 since all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God;”. In other words, this righteousness we so desperately need is available to anyone and can be received through faith in Jesus Christ.  Verse 23 stands as a perpetual reminder that no one is perfect (except Jesus Christ).  We all have sinned and come short of the glory of God. 

Paul is writing this letter to gentiles and Jewish Christians who likely still practice the tenets of the Torah.  He reminds both groups that neither is perfect, that all have sinned, and that God’s righteousness is received through faith in Jesus Christ.  Paul is essentially answering the question before it gets asked.  Why is this righteousness necessary?  The answer is because all have sinned.  Both Jews and gentiles have sinned and cannot receive God’s righteousness in their own efforts or by keeping the law.

Verse 24 says they are now justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus.  So, there are three significant theological terms in this one verse. 

Justified (justification)

Grace

Redemption

See below for the definitions for each of these terms but I want to highlight that our justification is freely given.  Paul is emphasizing this for the Jewish Christians.  They need to know there is no need for the sacrifices of the past.  God’s grace through the atonement of Jesus Christ is enough. 

In the King James Version Verse 25 introduces the term propitiation.  The NIV and NRSV use “sacrifice of atonement” for the same concept.  Here Paul is telling us the shed blood of Jesus Christ is the only acceptable sacrifice to be received by faith.  And again, Paul answers the question of why before it is asked.  Why is the shedding of Jesus’ blood necessary?  Verse 25b says “He did this to demonstrate his righteousness, because in his forbearance he had left the sins committed beforehand unpunished”.

Verse 26 explains “he did it to demonstrate his righteousness at this present time”.  Paul is telling us here that God had and has a plan.  That plan includes those who will be justified by faith in Jesus Christ. 

Verse 27 reminds the Jewish Christians that they cannot boast of their heritage, or their works, because even the law requires faith.  And he takes it a step further in verse 28 when Paul says “a person is justified by faith apart from the works of the law”. 

The lesson closes with 29-31 reminding us that God is God of both the Jews and Gentiles.  There is only one God who justifies the circumcision by faith and the uncircumcised through the same faith.  And finally, he essentially says it is by faith that we uphold the law. 

Context:

A good theological dictionary will list several definitions relating to the term righteousness.  There is civil righteousness, human righteousness, righteous indignation, original righteousness, righteousness of faith, and righteousness of God to name a few.  It is a term that encompasses many aspects of both Godly and human virtue.  But given all these terms, I’m inclined to simply define it as doing right by God and doing right by God’s people.  If the saints are doing what’s right, they’ll be alright.  I can think of no circumstance where God would be displeased with a saint doing what’s right.  We are called to righteousness.  We are called to do right. 

Key Characters in the text:

Paul – Originally known as Saul of Tarsus before his conversion to Christianity.  He was the most influential leader in the early days of the Christian church.  Paul was a primary instrument in the expansion of the gospel to the Gentiles. Moreover, his letters to various churches and individuals contain the most thorough and deliberate theological formulations of the New Testament (Baker Encyclopedia of the Bible). 

Key Words (not necessarily in the text, but good for discussion): 

Righteousness – Biblically the term embraces a number of dimensions relating to God’s actions in establishing and maintaining right relationships.  Ethically it is a state of moral purity or doing that which is right.       

Glory of God – The divine essence of God as absolutely resplendent and ultimately great (Rev 21:23).  The praise and honoring of God as the supreme Lord of all (I Cor. 10:31; Phil. 2:11)  

Justification – “A reckoning or counting as righteous”.  God’s declaring a sinful person to be “just” on the basis of the righteousness of Jesus Christ (Rom 3:24-26; 4:25; 5:16-21).  The result is God’s peace (Rom. 5:1), God’s Spirit (8:4), and thus “salvation”.

Grace – Unmerited favor,  God’s grace is extended to sinful humanity in providing salvation and forgiveness through Jesus Christ that is not deserved, and withholding the judgement that is deserved (Rom 3:24; Eph. 1:7; Titus 2:11). 

Redemption – A financial metaphor that literally means “buying back”.  Used theologically to indicate atonement, reconciliation, or salvation wherein liberation from forms of bondage such as sin, death, law, or evil takes place through Christ. 

Atonement – The death of Jesus Christ on the cross, which effects salvation as the reestablishment of the relationship between God and sinners. 

Propitiation – A theological term for making atonement for sin by making an acceptable sacrifice.  Some English translations us the term to describe the death of Christ.  Some theories of the atonement relate this to God’s wrath.  

Sin – Various Hebrew and Greek words are translated “sin” with many shades of meaning.  Theologically, sin is the human condition of separation from God that arises from opposition to God’s purposes.  It may be breaking God’s law, failing to do what God wills, or rebellion.  It needs forgiveness by God.  (The Westminster Dictionary of Theological Terms lists over 30 definitions related to sin.)

Themes, Topics, Discussion, or Sermon Preparation Ideas: 

  1. Do The Right Thing (film by Spike Lee)
  2. Sin versus Grace

Questions

1) What is a right relationship with God?

2) All have fallen short of the glory of God.  How do we bring glory to God?         

Concluding thought:

There are a number of definitions related to the word righteousness.  Likewise there are at least 30 definitions related to the word sin.  Both words carry nuanced meaning and both can be explained in several ways.  What is most important with either is to remember the love of God.  It is that love that provides righteousness for a sinful people and again that love that forgives sinful people.  Choose love, do right, and you’ll be alright.  

So how do you show love when someone has sinned against you?         

Preview of Next Week’s Lesson:

Next week is our second week in Romans.  We will look at the idea of being called to life in the Spirit.  Just as we covered sin this week we look at the burden of sin in the life of the saint and how that burden is lifted through the Spirit of God.  The Holy Spirit plays a significant role in the life of every believer. 

Christianity, religion, Sunday School, Sunday School Lesson

Sunday School Lesson (April 28, 2019) Call and Commissioning / Called To Make Disciples Matthew 28:16-20, Acts 1:6-8

Call and Commissioning / Called To Make Disciples

Hello Sunday school teachers, preachers, and learners! Welcome to SundaySchoolPreacher.com.  In this week’s Lesson, we continue in Matthew where we left off last week and then transition to the Acts of the Apostles. Jesus has been resurrected, he has left the women along the road who were going to tell the disciples to meet him in Galilee and Jesus and the disciples are now in Galilee.  While in Galilee, Jesus appears to the eleven disciples and after all they have seen, heard, and experienced some still doubt.  Jesus gives the great commission to the disciples essentially telling them that the Gospel message is not just for Israel, but for all the world.  When the lesson transitions to Acts, the disciples want to know if Jesus will now restore the kingdom to Israel.  Again, He points them not to a worldly kingdom but to be witnesses to all the world.  Stay tuned to learn about our call and commissioning and how we are called to make disciples.    

Background for today’s text begins with The Gospel according to Matthew and then transitions to The Acts of The Apostles: 

The Cross

This is the fifth week we’ve studied the Gospel According to Matthew.  This week I’ll simply reinforce a few of the central themes to remember and then cover the background of Acts.  Matthew is written about 70 A.D. after the fall of the temple.  It is written to Jewish Christians who are struggling with their own identity. They are not accepted in the mainstream Jewish community because they believe in the divinity of Jesus.  Matthew writes to reassure them of God’s plan and God’s place in their lives.  While writing to this group of Jewish Christians, Matthew provides sacred hope and guidance to a marginalized community that is every bit relevant today as it was when written. 

The New Interpreter’s Study Bible explains that The Acts of the Apostles “is a sequel to the Gospel of Luke and continues the narrative account of the early church”.  The author is the same and Acts is written with similar theological themes, and style.  Whereas Matthew is written primarily to Jewish Christians, Acts is written “to a mixed community of predominantly Gentile Christians about 80 and 85 A.D. shortly after the Gospel of Luke”.  Additionally, “Luke, presumably a Gentile Christian, helps his readers to know how to remain faithful to tradition while reinterpreting it for their new circumstances”.  So the book of Acts continues in this theme.  Acts helps these mostly Gentile believers to both understand Jewish customs but also to know that they are not Jewish.  Nor are they beholden to Jewish customs and tradition. 

Review of Last Week and How it Connects to This Week: 

Last week two women, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary, went to see the sepulcher where Jesus was supposed to be.  We discussed that perhaps Matthew was trying to tell us that:

1.  It is women who first acted on the belief of the resurrection.

2.  It was women who first saw the risen savior.

3.  It is women who first proclaim that Jesus was raised from the dead. 

You may also recall that there was a great earthquake, the earth shook.  And the Angel of the Lord certainly delivered earth shaking news.  The angle rolled back the stone of the sepulcher and told the women “Don’t be afraid; I know that you’re looking for Jesus who was crucified.  And then the angel delivers perhaps the greatest news of all time.  “He’s not here; for he has been raised, as he said”.  Then the Angel tells them to “go quickly and tell the disciples that he is risen from the dead; he will meet you in Galilee”.  The women leave to proclaim the resurrection and as they went to tell his disciples, Jesus met them along the way.  Jesus tells them again “go tell my brethren to go to Galilee and there they shall see me”.  We noted how Jesus calls the disciples his brethren.  He calls them brethren even after they have denied, rejected and fled from him in his time of trouble. 

Finally, the text describes how the priests attempt to cover up the resurrection of Jesus by bribing the guards to say his disciples stole the body while they slept.  We discussed the two different messages that left the tomb.  Boyd’s Commentary mentioned “The women with a message of hope and victory for the disciples, and the guards with a message of confusion and failure for the chief priests”.  Then the women go forth proclaiming the victory of Jesus.  He lives!  This week we pick up where we left off in Matthew and continue into Acts 1.  We explore the ideas of Call and Commissioning in Townsend Commentary and Boyd’s Commentary and Called to Make Disciples in Standard Commentary.  The Scripture text comes from Matthew 28:16-20 and Acts 1:6-8.

What Takes Place in This Passage: 


Verse 16 The text begins in Matthew exactly where it ended last week.  The resurrection of Jesus has just occurred and now the eleven disciples have gone away to Galilee.  The scene begins with Jesus now in Galilee after the resurrection.  Verse 17 tells us when they saw Jesus they worshipped him but some doubted.  After all they had heard, seen, and experienced some of the disciples still doubted.  I suppose that can be said of many people today.  After all God has done in and with and through, and for us, some still doubt. 

Verse 18 tells us Jesus spoke to them saying “all power (or all authority) in heaven and on earth has been given to me”.  Townsend Commentary explains this term from power or authority means “the power of influence and the right of privilege”.  In other words, Jesus has all the right, all the privilege, all the freedom and all the license to stand as God has given him victory over death.  After his announcement Jesus gives them instructions.  He begins by telling the disciples to go.  And let me just interject here that God is a sending God.  He tells the disciples to go.   But not just to go, but to go and teach.  The Savior, who was once called teacher, now sends his disciples to teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost. 

This is the great commission.  This is the commission that Jesus gives the disciples and that commission applies to all who call the name of Jesus as their Savior. Townsend Commentary tells us that it is “after the death and resurrection of Jesus that the limitation of the Gospel to Israel is removed.  In other words, the good news is not just for Israel anymore.  The direct commission is given to take the message of Jesus to all nations.  Only Matthew records the command of Jesus for them to baptize”. 

It’s also interesting to note that entire denominations have been started based on whether people baptize in the name of the Holy Ghost.  Sometimes we can make mountains out of mole hills. Trinity   I also want to highlight the fact that verse 19 is one of the few places in scripture where we see mentioned the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost in the same place.  While you won’t find this term in the protestant Bible, the doctrine of the Trinity refers to these three distinct personalities as the same person.

Verse 20 closes with Jesus reassuring the disciples that “I am with you always, even unto the end of the world.”  That is perhaps the second greatest news of all time.  Knowing that Jesus is present with us in good times and not so good times helps us to bear the burdens and trials and tribulations of life. 

Our text then moves to Acts chapter one verse six.  In this scene the disciples are gathered together and they ask Jesus “Lord, are you at this time going to restore the kingdom to Israel”.  The disciples are envisioning Jesus on the throne much like King David reined on the throne about one thousand years earlier.

Jesus tells them in verse seven, “it is not for you to know the times or the dates the Father has set by his own authority”.  So Jesus plainly tells them you don’t need to know.  There are some things that we simply can’t know and some things we just don’t need to know.  There are some things that God is going to handle in God’s own good time. 

But Jesus doesn’t leave them there.  In verse eight he tells them “you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you.  And you will be witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth”.  Again, in the book of Acts we see Jesus is a sending God.  He sends his disciples into the entire world to become witnesses of who Jesus was and what Jesus means to the world.  Again, this is our mission today, to be witnesses for Jesus Christ in our everyday living. 

Context:

LTC Alexander with wife and mother

A few weeks ago I mentioned how a few decades ago several truly amazing young men and women and I were commissioned as Second Lieutenants in the United States Army.  We swore the oath of office to support and defend the constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic.  That commissioning oath was our fundamental baseline purpose.  Everything we would do over the next years and decades would be tied to that oath.  The last time I took the oath of office was for my promotion to Lieutenant Colonel.  I’ve been retired over a decade now, but hearing the words of the oath still holds special meaning to me.  In today’s text, Jesus gives his great commission to the disciples.  He empowers them and he empowers us to go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.  This is our great commission and the words of the commission should hold special meaning to every Christian today. 

Key Characters in the text:

Jesus Christ – Jesus of Nazareth as the Messiah and according to the Christian church the incarnate second Person of the Trinity.  He was crucified on a cross and raised from the dead by the power of God (Acts 3:15; 13:30).  His followers (Christians) worship him and seek to obey his will.

Key Words (not necessarily in the text, but good for discussion): 

Missionary – One who is sent on a mission, usually by the church, with a focus on sharing the gospel of Jesus Christ in some way.     

Trinity, Doctrine of the – The Christian church’s belief that Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are three Persons in one Godhead.  They share the same essence or substance.  Yet they are three “persons”.  God is this way within the Godhead and as known in Christian experience. 

The Great Commission – The command of Jesus to his disciples to go into all the world and preach the gospel, as recorded in Matthew 28:19-20.  While some scholars dispute its authenticity as being Jesus’ own utterance, the passage has served as a warrant for the church to spread the gospel and for Christian evangelism. 

Themes, Topics, Discussion, or Sermon Preparation Ideas: 

  1. God is a sending God
  2. When God sends you, God is with you

Questions

1) Does the great commission apply to all Christians today?    

2) Some of the disciples doubted after Jesus appeared to them in Galilee.  Discuss why they might have doubted.         

Concluding thought:

The great commission is a charge to every Christian to make disciples.  One does not have to be a preacher to do this.  In fact, many fathers and mothers have discipled their children and children’s friends for Jesus Christ.  The points is, we all should go forth into our own communities and make disciples for Jesus.  It is our job to teach and train the words of Christ.  It is the Holy Spirits job to do the rest.         

Preview of Next Week’s Lesson:

Next week we begin a four week study in the book of Romans.  Jesus has now been resurrected and he has given us the great commission.  Over the next four weeks we will explore the spread of the Gospel in relation to our own calling.  We will hear a very familiar passage in Romans 3 verse 23.  “For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God”.          

Christianity, religion, Sunday School, Sunday School Lesson

Sunday School Lesson Overview (March 31, 2019) Matthew 4:12-22 Called To Discipleship / Called To Follow

In this week’s Lesson, Jesus begins his earthly ministry after learning of the arrest of his cousin John the Baptist.  The lesson is taken from Matthew 4:12-22.  Here Jesus withdraws from Nazareth to Galilee, calls four of his disciples, and they immediately drop what they are doing to follow him.  These two sets of brothers have an intense response to Jesus.  Whatever Jesus told them they immediately believed and instantly responded.  Yet none of them fully knew all that response would entail.  This week we look at four fishermen called to discipleship and how they were called to follow Jesus.

Review of Last Week and How it Connects to This Week: 

Last week Jesus passed through Jericho on his final trip to Jerusalem.  There were great crowds lining the street which prevented Zacchaeus from seeing him.  He climbs a tree and when Jesus passes by he notices Zacchaeus who is most likely a corrupt tax collector.  Some key points from last week included:

1)  The crowd knows exactly who Zacchaeus is and immediately begins to murmur that Jesus is the guest of a sinner. 

2)  Moved by his encounter with Jesus, Zacchaeus declares he will give half his possessions to the poor and pay back anyone he has defrauded four times.

3)  Impressed by Zacchaeus’ repentance and offer of restitution, Jesus reconciles him calling him a son of Abraham.

4)  In this text we saw repentance, restitution, and reconciliation.  Zacchaeus provides an example of reparations. 

Townsend and Boyd’s Commentary title this week’s lesson “Called To Discipleship”.  Standard Commentary titles it “Called to Follow”.  The Scripture text comes from Matthew 4:12-22.

Background for Matthew: 

According to the New Interpreter’s Study Bible no one knows exactly who named the Gospel according to Matthew.  Matthew’s name begins to be associated with it about 100 years after it was written.  “Perhaps the name Matthew meaning “gift of God” summarizes the gospel’s teaching” (NISB).  Additionally, many scholars see it as addressing followers of Jesus who were involved in inter-Jewish debates after the traumatic defeat of Jerusalem in 70 C.E. (NISB).  In other words, scholars believe the primary audience of Matthew’s Gospel is for Jewish Christians.  After defeat in Jerusalem Jewish Christians are struggling find their place in God’s will and understand God’s plan. 

In this fourth chapter, Jesus begins his earthly ministry.  Key points include:

1)  The arrest of his cousin, John the Baptist.  , Jesus withdraws to Galilee.  This marks the start of His earthly ministry.  (His ministry will last about 3.5 years.)

2)  Prophecy spoken by Isaiah is fulfilled. 

3)  At this time Jesus began to proclaim “repent for the kingdom of heaven has come near”. 

4)  Jesus Calls his first disciples.          

What takes place in this passage: 

Matthew 4:12-22 describes the beginning of Jesus’ earthly ministry.  After learning of the arrest of John the Baptist Jesus withdraws to Galilee and makes Capernaum his home.  This is significant because it fulfills prophecy spoken by Isaiah.  From this time Jesus begins to proclaim “repent for the Kingdom of heaven has come near”.  Jesus then calls his first disciples.  Two brothers, Simon who is called Peter, and Andrew his brother, as well as, James the son of Zebedee and his brother John.  In both cases, when Jesus called these disciples they were already busy at work and each of them immediately left their occupations as fishermen to follow Jesus. The text does not say whether they already knew who Jesus was but we can be sure they believed what Jesus was preaching.  Note also that these disciples left their families who likely depended on them for help in the family business.    

Context:

This passage is focused on describing the beginning of Jesus’ earthly ministry.  It speaks to:

1) Jesus’ connection to his forerunner John the Baptist.

2)  Fulfilling prophecy (Isaiah).

3)  What Jesus said (repent).

4)  Who Jesus chose (fishermen already at work).

5)  The response to his call (immediate).

A disciple is “one who follows and learns from another as a pupil”.  Jesus calls everyone to become his disciple.  These four disciples left everything behind and immediately and instantly begin to follow Jesus.  Their commitment was so intense they left their family, the family business, and likely many other connections to their friends and community.  Although our calling from God may not be as intense as these disciples, we can certainly learn from these four brothers what it means to dedicate oneself to Jesus.  When God calls we should answer immediately and where God leads we should instantly follow.   

Key Characters in the text:

Jesus Christ – Jesus of Nazareth as the Messiah and according to the Christian church the incarnate second Person of the Trinity.  He was crucified on a cross and raised from the dead by the power of God (Acts 3:15; 13:30).  His followers (Christians) worship him and seek to obey his will.

Key Words (not necessarily in the text, but good for discussion)

Repentance – The act of expressing contrition and penitence for sin.  Its linguistic roots point to its theological meaning of a change of mind and life direction as a beginning step of expressing Christian faith.  

Preaching – The act of proclaiming, and in the Christian context, the proclamation of the gospel of Jesus Christ or the Word of God.       

Kingdom of Heaven – An equivalent term for “Kingdom of God” found in Matthew’s Gospel.

 Kingdom of God – God’s sovereign reign and rule.  God’s reign was the major focus of Jesus’ teaching.  Its fullness is in the future and yet it has also come in Jesus himself (Luke 10:9, 17:21). 

Prophecy – Speaking on behalf of God to communicate God’s will for a situation.  In the New Testament it is a Gift of the Spirit.  It is also used for the prediction or declaration of what will come to pass in the future. 

Themes, topics, discussion, or sermon preparation ideas: 

  1. From this time. 
  2. Changing course when Jesus calls.
  3. Follow me.

Questions: 

1)  Since these disciples immediately stopped what they were doing and left their business and families to follow Jesus does that mean we should do the same today?    

2)  Zebedee was the father of James and John.  They left their father to follow Jesus.  Discuss whether Zebedee supported them as they accepted the call to follow Jesus. 

3)  Jesus says “Repent for the kingdom of God is near”.  Discuss what Jesus means by the kingdom of God. 

Concluding thought:

The call of Jesus is extended to everyone.  In many churches today, after a sermon is preached the minister will extend the call to discipleship.  Some preachers or pastors will conclude their sermon by “opening the doors of the church”.  Whether they say the doors of the church are open or we extend the call to discipleship or some other saying its meaning is the same.  It is a clarion call to make a conclusive decision to follow Jesus.  It is the most important decision a person can make.     

Preview of Next Week’s Lesson:

Next week we continue in the Gospel according to Matthew.  As we march toward Easter or Resurrection Sunday, Jesus will have his twelve disciples and He gives them specific instructions regarding Gentiles, and the lost sheep of the house of Israel.  After calling the disciples, Jesus gives them a mission.  Has anyone ever given you a mission; a boss or supervisor, a parent or coach?  When we accept a mission we do it to succeed.   Prayerfully, we will see ourselves as a part of the continuing mission of Jesus Christ’s earthly ministry.  So next week, your mission should you choose to accept it, is to think about ways your missions in life have been successful.


Christianity, Religion, Psalms, Sunday School, Sunday School Lesson

Sunday School Lesson Overview For Feburary 24, 2019 Living With God’s Loving Assurance / Our Rescuing God Psalm 91:1-8, 11-16

Review of Last Week and How it Connects to This Week: 

Last week the psalmist was excited and enthusiastic about praise of God.  In its very beginning the psalmist told us how we ought to praise, saying we ought to shout for joy!  I especially liked part b of the second verse – “make God’s praise glorious”.  We were reminded that our praise ought to be magnificent and celebratory.  We also mentioned “Glorious (Make The Praise)” by Karen Clark Sheard.  This song seems to encapsulate the whole of what Psalm 66 was trying to convey. 

Verses 16 through 20 closed the lesson with praise for God’s deliverance.  But it was a personal reflection.  The psalmist is writing about his own experience with a God who delivers, a God who hears, and a God who understands.  Verse 16 says “let me tell you what God has done for me”.  This is powerful.  Telling your own testimony is authentic.  Genuineness, authenticity, and being true are characteristics that have great impact on others.  This should remind us that faithfulness to God is what God desires from us. 

Last week’s lesson was the second in a series of love songs.  This third week of love songs keeps us in Psalms, but this time in the third book of Psalms.  The focus in this week’s love song is praise for God’s protection even in difficult and trying times in our lives.  God’s work leads to praise and praise reinforces our love.  Townsend and Boyd’s Commentary title this week’s lesson “Living with God’s Loving Assurance”.  Standard Commentary titles it “Our Rescuing God”.  The Scripture text comes from Psalm 91:1-8, 11-16.

Background: 

Nelson’s Bible Handbook lists ten types of psalms.  Those include individual and communal lament, individual and communal thanksgiving, general praise, descriptive praise, enthronement, pilgrimage songs, royal psalms, and wisdom and didactic psalms.  While the span of these types covers the height and depth of human emotion as well as the sweep of human condition, Psalm 91 is not included in this list.  Instead, it is “probably intended as a psalm for public worship” (Townsend). 

Psalm 91 is included in the fourth book of psalms which includes 17 other psalms ranging from Psalm 90 to Psalm 106.  Its author is not definitively known but some commentaries attribute it to Moses.  This poetic Psalm is written to the Hebrew people but its truths, comfort, and reassurance of a loving and present God applies to us today. 

What takes place in this passage:

God’s protection is the central theme of this psalm.  In this third and final week in the Psalms, we close this quarter with another love song.  In this love song we see the presence, protection, and provision of God.  The immediate poetic language of verse one brings a reassuring comfort.  I especially like the King James Version description of dwelling in the “secret place” of the most high.  The New Revised Standard version calls this secret place the “shelter” of the most high.  This secret place or shelter is a place of protection.  Verses one through three speaks to both protection and provision by a God who unequivocally cares.  Part of why this psalm if so beloved is because of its soaring, poetic language.  In verses one through six the psalmist reassures individual believers of God’s protection, while verses seven through thirteen speak to God’s angels providing protection” (Townsend).  Notice the care mentioned in verse four.  “He will cover you with his feathers, and under his wings you will find refuge”.  This is a poetic picture of how God protects and provides for believers.  We can feel safe under the wings of The Most High. 

Verses eleven through thirteen speak to “God’s angels providing protecting during times of warfare or pestilence or danger” (Townsend).  We should take comfort in knowing God’s angels protect in times of trouble, distress, and trying.  This can be a particularly comforting psalm for the battlefield soldier.  Its poetic language and reassuring promise bring comfort to the troubled soul.  It should also be noted that this is a poetic psalm.  Verse thirteen should not be taken literally. 

Finally, verses fourteen through sixteen close this love song “speaking in God’s name as the psalmist assures the faithful of God’s constant protection” (NISB).  Notice “because he loves me, says the Lord, I will rescue him; I will protect him for he acknowledges my name”.  This is a love song and in this psalm we see God’s presence, protection and provision for the believer. 

Context:

This psalm is all about God’s protection of God’s people.  It is a poetic love song that reassures us of God’s love.  What make this psalm so powerful are our own individual experiences.  We can understand and relate to the feeling the psalmist expresses because we know what it means to dwell in the “shelter” of the most high.  Having a close and personal relationship with God brings comfort in times of trouble.  Knowing that God knows and God cares brings reassurance that God is with us in our times of trouble.  God has not forsaken us. 

Key Characters in the text:  (None mentioned)

Key Words (not necessarily in the text, but good for discussion)

Psalm – A hymn, sacred song, or poem. The book of Psalms (the Psalter) is composed of 150 religious poems of prayer and praise of ancient Israel, arranged in five books. 

Praise – (from Lat. Pretium, “worth”) Honor and adoration given to God as a celebration of God’s being and worth.  It is a constant biblical ascription and injunction that creatures should praise God as the Lord. 

Assurance – the state of being assured: such as being certain in the mind or b: confidence of mind or manner: easy freedom from self-doubt or uncertainty. 

Themes / Topics in this Lesson: 

  1. God’s presence, protection and provision.
  2. How I know God is with me.
  3. My refuge and strength.

Questions:

1.  How has God protected you?      

2.  What things have come against you and God protected or provided for you?    

3.  This psalmist looked to God for protection and provision in the midst of trouble.  Since this is also Black History Month, who are past and present Black Americans that has done the same in the midst of trouble. 

Concluding thought:

Protection from evil and deliverance from trouble are or will be needed in each of our lives.  We cannot live in a fallen world and not expect to face trial and tribulation along the journey.  The good news is that God knows, God sees, and God cares.  This psalm reassures us that God is present in our times of trouble and “with long life I will satisfy him and show him my salvation”.  

Preview of Next Week’s Lesson:

Next week begins the first lesson of the Spring quarter.  March, April and May will focus on discipleship and mission.  The first four lessons of next quarter focus on the call to discipleship with each scripture text from the Gospel of Luke.  One lesson takes passages from Mark and Luke.   Next week we will consider the ideas of humility and hospitality as they relate to our other relationships.