Christianity, religion, Sunday School, Sunday School Lesson

Sunday School Lesson (June 16, 2019) The New Covenant’s Sacrifice Hebrews 9:11-22

The New Covenants Sacrifice Hebrews 9:11-22

Hello Sunday school teachers, preachers, and students! Welcome to SundaySchoolPreacher.com.  This week I take a look at the ninth chapter of Hebrews as it explains the new covenant’s sacrifice.  Of course that sacrifice is the shed blood of Jesus Christ.  Everything the Old Testament required for redemption and restoration is fulfilled in the New Testament with Christ.  In the Old Agreement the high priest went into the tabernacle and the Holy Place to sprinkle blood for the redemption of the people.  In the New Testament Jesus symbolically goes into the Holy of Holies with his own blood.  In the Old Testament the high priest had to continually offer sacrifices for the people.  In the New Covenant, Jesus needs only go in once and it is for all humanity and for all eternity.  Some of the ideas surrounding this week’s text include the terms: 

Tabernacle

Covenant

Testament

New Covenant / Agreement

Redemption

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Background: 

The focus of this week is the new covenant’s sacrifice.  Of course that sacrifice is Jesus Christ.  With that in mind I’ll provide some background on the book of Hebrews, a bit of background on the chapter preceding this weeks study, and then narrow the focus to this week’s study which is the ninth chapter of Hebrews. 

The New Interpreter’s Study Bible notes that the book of Hebrews “is not really a letter, and certainly not written by Paul.  It does not begin like a letter, and in fact, is more of a sermon/treatise”. 

Hebrews is likely written about 65 Common Era.  Scholars date its composition before the destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem (70 CE).  “It is extremely difficult to believe the author would not mention the destruction of the Temple if it had already occurred, since that would have been the validation of his entire argument concerning the outmoded character of the Old Testament sacrificial system” (NISB).  “One of the main emphases in Hebrews is the superiority of the new covenant to the old and its regimen of animal sacrifices” (NISB). 

The eighth chapter of Hebrews deals with the true high priest (Jesus) and the two covenants (old and new).  It naturally, takes a Christological interpretation of the Old Testament book of Jerimiah 31:31-34.  This is the longest quotation from the Old Testament in the New Testament (Townsend Commentary). 

The ninth chapter deals with the sacrifices of the Old Testament in verses 1-10. This was the first covenant.  It describes some of the protocol for priests entering into the Old Covenant tabernacle to atone for the sins of the people and to offer gifts.  Verses 11-22 of our study will contrast Jesus Christ with the Old Covenant as the one and only High Priest that fulfills the new covenant.  These verses deal with the “definitive nature of Christ’s work” (NISB).

Some important words to consider from this text include:

Covenant

Testament

New Covenant / Agreement

Redemption

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

Last week Mark 15:6 reminded us that it was customary for Pilate to release a prisoner during the Passover feast.  Barabbas was in prison with people who had committed murder during the insurrection.  So Barabbas was charged with murder whereas Jesus was charged with insurrection.  Yet the crowd cried out to release Barabbas instead of Jesus.

I also noted that “the Jewish council had the power to put offenders they condemned to death”.  If the Jewish high council wanted to put Jesus to death themselves they could have done so.  But remember that only a few days ago a great crowd welcomed Jesus into Jerusalem shouting Hosanna to the highest.  Perhaps the crowd was the same; perhaps it was a different crowd.  But the high priests didn’t want to order the death of Jesus so they turned Jesus over to the Roman government.    

I also noted the importance of the distinction between who was responsible for the murder of Jesus.  Ultimately, it was the Roman government that crucified Jesus not the Jewish council leaders.  That’s important because across the centuries people have used the crucifixion of Jesus to provoke anti-Jewish feelings in those who blame the Jews for Jesus’ crucifixion.  While it’s true the Jewish council turned Jesus over to Roman authorities, it cannot be said that the Jews crucified Jesus.

I also noted in verse 25 that the third hour was nine o’clock in the morning.  It was 9AM when they crucified him.  Verse 26 was the charge against him.  He was charged with being king in Caesar’s place. 

Verses 33 through 39 spoke to the death of Jesus.  The sixth hour was 12 o’clock noon.  The ninth hour was 3PM.  It was at 3PM when Jesus cried out “My God, My God, why have you forsaken me”. 

In verse 37 Jesus breathed his last breath.  In verse 38 the curtain of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom.   This tearing of the curtain was significant.  It symbolizes the new direct access to God through Jesus Christ.  Now the high priest no longer needs to enter into the holiest of holies on our behalf.  Now we have direct access through this New Covenant with Jesus Christ. 

Verse 39 closed the lesson with the centurion proclaiming “Truly this man was God’s Son”!  It was the Roman centurion that proclaimed Jesus as God’s son. 

This week’s lesson continues with the theme of a fulfilled new covenant through Jesus Christ.  We have returned to the book of Hebrews as Hebrews references the Old Testament extensively to prove the point that Jesus fulfills the new covenant.  It is through the righteousness of Jesus Christ and the grace of God that we now have a new covenant with God.   This would not be possible without the new covenant’s sacrifice.  That sacrifice is Jesus Christ on Calvary’s cross.  Townsend, Boyd’s, and Standard Lesson Commentary all title this week’s lesson The New Covenant’s Sacrifice.  The scripture text comes from Hebrews 9:11-22. 

What Takes Place in This Passage: 

Verse eleven describes Christ as a High Priest of the good things that have come.  These good things are the salvation, restoration, and redemption provided through Jesus Christ.  We have these good things now because of the sacrifice of Jesus on Calvary’s cross. 

Verse twelve describes Jesus as entering once into the Holy Place.  The New Interpreter’s Study Bible notes that “this place is ideal and not an actual place, but pointing to the ultimate reality of Christ’s atoning work”.  In other words, Jesus symbolically entered into the Holy Place.  This Holy Place is what we have to look forward to.  It is what will ultimately become our reality.  Note also that Jesus did not enter with the blood of goats and calves, but with his own blood. 

Verses thirteen and fourteen explain that the blood of goats and calves and ashes only sanctifies the outward flesh.  It is Christ’s blood that purifies the conscience or inner person from the dead works of the Old Testament animal sacrifice system.

Verse fifteen explains that because Jesus replaces this old covenant, he is the mediator of the new covenant so that we may receive the promised eternal inheritance.  This is possible because his death redeems believers from transgressions under the old covenant. 

In verses sixteen and seventeen we see terminology dealing with the ideas of wills, testaments, and covenants.  The Greek word for covenant is interchangeable with testament.  It is the same term for which we get the phrase “last will and testament”.  The author makes a play on this term to highlight the double meaning of covenant and testament. 

In verse eighteen the author makes his point from the previous verses; “not even the first covenant was inaugurated without blood”.  The author is trying to help us understand the importance of Christ’s shed blood.  A sacrifice had to be made for the new covenant to become effective.  But a sacrifice of goats and calves would never be sufficient.  It had to be the once and for all sacrifice of Jesus Christ. 

Verses nineteen through twenty-two deal again with how the Old Testament required blood.  In verse nineteen the author reminds us of Moses sprinkling blood on the scroll and the people saying “This is the blood of the covenant that God has ordained for you”.  The remaining verses describe the other things Moses sprinkled blood on and closes by proclaiming “under the law, almost everything is purified with blood, and without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness of sins”. 

Context:

The new covenant’s sacrifice is the shed blood of Jesus Christ on Calvary’s cross.  This was a gracious way for God to deal with our sin.  It was a once and for all eternity sacrifice that held the key for humanity’s salvation, restoration, and redemption back to God.  One of the central points the author of Hebrews makes is the importance of the shedding of blood.  It was required in the Old Testament.  Hebrews makes the point that Jesus fulfills that requirement with his own blood in the new covenant.  The blood of Christ is defined by Westminster’s Theological Dictionary as a theological symbol of his atoning death effecting a new covenant, reconciliation, and salvation.  It is the central point Hebrews makes in our lesson. 

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 was raised from the dead by the power of God. 

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

Tabernacle – The portable tent in which the Hebrews worshiped during the wilderness period of wandering.  The Jerusalem Temple replaced it.  In the Roman Catholic tradition, the “tabernacle” is the boxlike receptacle for the Eucharistic elements. 

Mediator – One who stands between parties in order to effect reconciliation.  The term is applies to Jesus Christ as the “one mediator between God and humankind” in I Timothy 2:5, who has effected reconciliation by overcoming sin. 

Sacrifice – Something of value offered as an act of worship or devotion to God.  Sacrifices were offered throughout the Old Testament, accompanied covenant making, and were of various types.   

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. 

Covenant – A formal agreement or treaty between two parties that establishes a relationship and in which obligations and mutual responsibilities may be enacted.  Many biblical covenants are found, some providing only divine promises while others entail obligations. 

Testament – A person’s last will to dispose of property.  Also, a covenant – as at Sinai.  Both senses are found in Gal 3:15-18.  The term is also used for the division of the Bible into Old and New Testaments (covenants). 

Themes, Topics, Discussion, or Sermon Preparation Ideas: 

1.  The only acceptable sacrifice (Jesus Christ).

2.  The Old Covenant and the New You.

Questions

1.  We are no longer under the Old Testament system of animal sacrifices.  What sacrifice do we need for salvation today?   

2.  The Old Testament tabernacle was destroyed.  The Temple in Jerusalem was destroyed.  Is there a temple or tabernacle for Christians today?  (See verse 11)      

Concluding thought:

This week’s study of Hebrews compared and contrasted the Old Testament or Old Agreement with the New Testament or New Agreement.  What was needed to remit sins in the Old Testament is fulfilled once and for all in the new agreement or the new covenant with Jesus Christ.  The Old Testament required the shedding blood.  That requirement in the New Testament is fulfilled in the shed blood of Jesus Christ.      

Preview of Next Week’s Lesson: Next week we move to the book of Colossians.  As we understand the fulfilled covenant in Jesus Christ we will discuss the fullness of Jesus Christ in the Godhead and how to avoid false teaching.  Colossians will show us the importance of Heart’s united in love. 

Christianity, religion, Sunday School, Sunday School Lesson

Sunday School Lesson (June 9, 2019) Jesus Seals The New Covenant Mark 15:6-15, 25-26, 33-39

Jesus Seals The New Covenant Mark 15:6-15

Hello Sunday school teachers, preachers, and students! Welcome to SundaySchoolPreacher.com.  This week I take a look at how Jesus Seals The New Covenant.  In the forty-seven verses of this 15th chapter of Mark we see Jesus before Pilate, Pilate handing Jesus over to be crucified, the soldiers mocking Jesus, The crucifixion of Jesus, The death of Jesus, and the burial of Jesus.  In this text we see a crowd ask for Barabbas instead of Jesus.  Only a few days ago a great crowd had welcomed Jesus into Jerusalem shouting Hosanna to the highest.  Perhaps the crowd is the same; perhaps it’s a different crowd.  I think one point we can take away from this lesson is that crowds can’t be trusted.  Some of the ideas surrounding this week’s text include the terms: 

Covenant

Son of God

Son of Man

Background: 

This week we continue to focus on how the New Covenant came to be.  With that in mind I’ll provide some background on Mark the person, a bit more on the book of Mark, and then a bit more on this week’s chapter of study. 

Who’s Who In The Bible notes that “the second century Christian writer Papias first recorded the tradition that this gospel was written by Mark”.  This Mark would have been a follower of Peter name Mark (I Peter 5:13).  The New Interpreter’s Study Bible adds that “Augustine seems not to have known this tradition, for he argued that the Gospel of Mark was merely an abbreviation of the Gospel of Matthew”.  Additionally, “Jerome, the translator of the Bible into Latin, believed that the author of Mark was John Mark of Acts 15:37-38 (NISB).  This is the same Mark who’s other name was John in Acts 12:12.  John would have been his Hebrew name and Mark would have been his Latin Name.  Having two names like this was a common practice for Hellenized Jews (WWITB).  This is the same Mark who accompanied his cousin Barnabas and Paul on their first missionary journey.  When Mark left them and returned to Jerusalem it displeased Paul because when Barnabas asked that Mark go with them on a second missionary journey Paul refused (WWITB).  Acts 15:39 tells us this refusal created a sharp contention between Paul and Barnabas.  The writer of this Gospel may also be associated with Peter who referred to him as “my son” in I Peter 5:13.  However, most modern scholars are hesitant to make this link (NISB).  With that in mind, “The Gospel of Mark, like the other canonical Gospels, probably originally circulated anonymously among Christian groups” (NISB).  In other words we cannot definitively know who the author is.

The book of Mark was likely written “in the decade of 65 to 75 Common Era when Nero’s persecutions of Christians in Rome was soon followed by the first Jewish-Roman war.  In this war Jerusalem and the Temple were destroyed by the Romans” (NISB).  Most scholars agree that Mark is the first Gospel to be written.  It is written to suit the needs of Christians under persecution.  This Gospel does not mention the name of its author and it is not written as a letter to anyone in particular.  Mark intends to portray Jesus as a Servant Redeemer.  “Mark shows his Gentile readers how the Son of God – rejected by his own people – achieved ultimate victory through apparent defeat” (Nelson’s Bible Handbook).  

The forty-seven verses of this fifteenth chapter of Mark show us

Jesus before Pilate

Pilate handing Jesus over to be crucified

The soldiers mocking Jesus

The crucifixion of Jesus

The death of Jesus

And the burial of Jesus.

Our Scripture text is interspersed through most of this chapter.  Some important words to consider from these two texts include:

Son of God

Son of Man

King of the Jews

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

Last week our lesson came from two separate texts in the New Testament but the Hebrews text was really a long quote from the Old Testament.  We studied parts of Mark 14th chapter and Hebrews 8th chapter.  The text in Mark began with the 14th chapter 17th verse where Jesus and the twelve disciples were gathered together for the evening Passover meal.  As they ate the Passover meal Jesus told his disciples one of them would betray him.      

Distressed, upset, and sorrowful the disciples took turns asking “is it I”.  Jesus explained “it is one of the twelve, one who is dipping bread into the bowl with me”.  We mentioned how the NISB noted that “Dipping bread into the bowl emphasized the bond of hospitality and intimacy that was about to be broken by betrayal”. 

We discussed verses twenty-two through twenty-four where Jesus instituted the Lord’s Supper otherwise known as Holy Communion.  We also discussed verse twenty-four where “He said to them, this is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many”.  This was where Jesus mentioned the covenant that was the basis for the new and better covenant mentioned in the text in Hebrews.  That closed the discussion of Mark and then we skipped to Hebrews 8.

Hebrews 8:6 began by explaining that Jesus was the mediator of a better covenant with better promises.  We noted that verse seven explained if the first covenant had been faultless, there would be no need to look for a second one.  No one could keep all the rules and regulations of the Old Testament.  But more importantly, this new covenant would replace the practice of animal sacrifices.  Jesus was the one sacrifice for all eternity to absolve or release humanity of the consequences of sin and separation from God.     

This week’s lesson is the second lesson of the Summer quarter and the second lesson in the Gospel According To Mark.  We will return to Hebrews in the third week of the quarter.  The focus for each lesson remains on the idea of covenant and specifically the New Covenant established by Jesus Christ.  The aim of this week is to show us how Jesus Seals the New Covenant.  As the Nation of Israel rejects Jesus he is turned over to Pontius Pilate for crucifixion.  It is the sacrificial death of Jesus that seals the covenant and establishes our relationship with God.  Standard Lesson Commentary, Townsend and Boyd’s Commentary all title this week’s lesson Jesus Seals The New Covenant.  The scripture text comes from Mark 15:6-15, 25-26, and 33-39. 

What Takes Place in This Passage: 

This Gospel is probably written in the decade of 65 to 75 Common Era.  The events of this chapter take place thirty-five to forty-five years earlier.  Mark 15:6 begins by reminding us that it was customary for Pilate to release a prisoner.  This was customary during the Passover feast.  It could have been any prisoner.  Barabbas was in prison with people who had committed murder during the insurrection.  So Barabbas was likely charged with murder whereas Jesus was charged with insurrection.

It should be noted that “the Jewish council had the power to put offenders they condemned to death.  So this second trial on different charges before Roman authorities seems unnecessary” (NISB).  It also seems remarkable that this crowd would ask for Barabbas instead of Jesus.  Only a few days ago a great crowd welcomed Jesus into Jerusalem shouting Hosanna to the highest.  Perhaps the crowd is the same; perhaps it’s a different crowd.  I think one point for us to take away is that crowds can’t be trusted. 

It’s important to also note that ultimately it is the Roman government that crucifies Jesus not the Jewish council leaders.  That’s an important distinction.  Across the centuries people have used this event to provoke anti-Jewish feelings in those who blame the Jews for Jesus’ crucifixion.  While it’s true the Jewish council turned Jesus over to Roman authorities, it cannot be said that the Jews crucified Jesus.

Verse 25 identifies the time of Jesus’ crucifixion.  The third hour was nine o’clock in the morning.  It was 9AM when they crucified him.  Verse 26 was the charge against him.  Although it read “The King of the Jews” the crime was insurrection.  He was charged with being king in Caesar’s place. 

Verses 33 through 39 speak to the death of Jesus.  The sixth hour is 12 o’clock noon.  The ninth hour is 3PM.  It was at 3PM when Jesus cried out “My God, My God, why have you forsaken me”.  In this text, these are the last words Jesus speaks before his death, burial, and resurrection.  When the some of the bystanders hear his cry they think he is calling for Elijah.  After someone filled a sponge with sour wine and gave it to him to drink they said “wait, let us see whether Elijah will come to take him down”. 

In verse 37 Jesus breathes his last breath.  In verse 38 the text leads us to believe that the curtain of the temple was immediately torn in two from top to bottom.   This tearing of the curtain is significant.  It symbolizes the new direct access to God through Jesus Christ.  Now the high priest no longer needs to enter into the holiest of holies on our behalf.  Now we have direct access through this New Covenant with Jesus Christ. 

Verse 39 closes our lesson text with the centurion proclaiming “Truly this man was God’s Son”!  It is the Roman centurion that proclaims Jesus as God’s son.

Context:

Anti-Semitism is opposition to or hatred of Jews.  It may take the form of discrimination, arrest, or extermination.  Throughout Christian history anti-Semitism has been a real problem spread by the view that Jews crucified Jesus.  It’s important that all Christians prevent the spread of this false narrative.  Although rejected by his own people, It was the Roman government that crucified Jesus.  The good news is the crucifixion, the willing sacrifice of Jesus was part of God’s plan.  Through this sacrifice now all of humanity has direct access to God through Jesus Christ. 

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 was raised from the dead by the power of God. 

Barabbas – a man who had been arrested and sentenced to death by crucifixion for insurrection against Rome and murder.  He was freed by Pilate, instead of Jesus, at the request of the crowd during the Passover feast.

Pilate – The Roman governor of Judea from about 26 to 37 Common Era.  Pontius Pilate presided over the trial of Jesus and ordered his execution. 

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

Son of God – An individual who stands in a special relationship with God is a son or child of God (Gal 4:6-7).  The concept is used in the Old Testament for Israel as a nation, David, and kings.  In the New Testament, Jesus Christ is God unique Son.

Son of Man – A Hebrew or Aramaic expression that may be a synonym for humankind or refer to an apocalyptic figure who will judge the righteous and unrighteous at the end time.  It is also used as a title for Jesus in each sense. 

Themes, Topics, Discussion, or Sermon Preparation Ideas: 

1.  What shall I do with him?  (see vs 12)

2.  The Centurion called Him Son of God.  What do you call Him?

Questions

1.  The title of our lesson is Jesus Seals The New Covenant.  What is the seal?

2.  Mark 15:10 identifies the chief priests as the ones who handed Jesus over to Pilate but it was the Romans that crucified Jesus.  Why should Christians refuse to entertain the idea that the Jews crucified Jesus?

Concluding thought:

We’ve been focused on how the New Covenant came into existence.  The short answer is through the shed blood of Jesus Christ in Calvary’s cross.  But just as important is the fact that this New Covenant brings reconciliation.  We are reconciled to God through the grace of Christ on Calvary.  If God would go this far for our reconciliation, shouldn’t we also do the work of reconciliation with our family members, friends, and acquaintances?   

Preview of Next Week’s Lesson:

Next week we return to the book of Hebrews.  As we focus on how the New Covenant came to be I will bring the New Covenant’s sacrifice into view.  That sacrifice is the shed blood of Jesus Christ.  It’s this same sacrifice that gives us hope to look forward.  I Corinthians 15:17 reminds us “If Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins”.  The good news is that Christ is risen and we have salvation through his sacrifice. 

Christianity, religion, Sunday School, Sunday School Lesson

Sunday School Lesson (June 2, 2019) Jesus Institutes The New Covenant Mark 14:17-24, Hebrews 8:6-7, 10-12

Jesus Institutes The New Covenant – Mark 14:17-24

Hello Sunday school teachers, preachers, and students! Welcome to SundaySchoolPreacher.com.  This week we take a look at how Jesus institutes the New Covenant at the Passover meal and how Hebrews shows the new covenant was foretold in the Old Testament.  There are several covenants throughout Scripture but this New Covenant is the one covenant available to all humanity for salvation throughout eternity.  The old covenant had its purpose but the new covenant fulfills the requirement for righteousness through Jesus Christ and for all eternity.  Hebrews will tell us that now; there is no need for the Jewish practice of animal sacrifice.  Some of the ideas surrounding this week’s text include the terms: 

Testament

Covenant

Holy Communion

Background: 

This week’s lesson is focused on how the New Covenant came into existence.  Jesus plainly institutes the New Covenant in Mark and this section of Hebrews reflects back to how the New Covenant was foretold in the book of Jerimiah.  But before we go any further, it’s important to understand what we’re really talking about when we use the term New Covenant.  So I’ll define covenant, New Covenant, and then take a look at the backgrounds of Mark and Hebrews. 

The term covenant and testament are used interchangeably.  We have the Old Testament and the New Testament.  The Old Testament can be called the Old Covenant and the New Testament can be called the New Covenant.  It is an Old Agreement and a New Agreement. 

Covenant = Testament

Old Covenant = Old Testament

New Covenant = New Testament

Covenant is defined as a formal agreement or treaty between two parties that establishes a relationship and in which obligations and mutual responsibilities may be enacted.  Westminster Dictionary of Theological Terms defines New Covenant as the anticipated action of God in establishing a personal relationship with people (this was foretold in Jeremiah 31:31-34).  Christians see this New Covenant as fulfilled in Jesus Christ.  The term New Covenant is used by Jesus in relation to his death (Luke 22:20; I Cor 11:25) and elsewhere in the New Testament for the effects Jesus Christ brings.  New Covenant is also, a term for the New Testament. 

So the main point is there is an old covenant or an old agreement.  I should also note that there are at least seven covenants in Scripture.  In a general sense when we are talking about covenants; Protestant Christians recognize the Old Covenant as the 39 books of the Old Testament.  There is a New Covenant, and Protestant Christians recognize this New Covenant as the 27 books of the New Testament. 

So with that in mind, I’ll take a look at the background of Mark and Hebrews as they both help us understand this New Covenant. 

 The Gospel of Mark does not mention the name of its author.  “Biblical scholars have tended to date the composition of the Gospel to the decade of 65 Common Era to 75 Common Era” (New Interpreter’s Study Bible).  “Mark was believed to have written the Gospel after Peter’s death in Rome during Nero’s persecutions (NISB)”.  Nelson’s Bible Handbook notes that Mark’s theme is to portray Jesus as a Servant and as the Redeemer of men. 

In the fourteenth chapter of Mark Jesus is at the Passover meal.  Christians recognize this as The Lord’s Supper or Holy Communion.  It is here that Jesus institutes the New Covenant.  It is a new agreement that is a better agreement.

Now, for some background on Hebrews.  The book of Hebrews is one of eight general epistles or letters that are not addressed to a specific church.  The author is not known and Hebrews is more of a sermon/treatise than a letter (NISB).  One of the main emphases in Hebrews is the superiority of the new covenant to the old and the old covenant’s practice of animal sacrifices (NISB). 

The eighth chapter of Hebrews deals with the true high priest (Jesus) and the two covenants (old and new).  It naturally, takes a Christological interpretation of the Old Testament book of Jerimiah 31:31-34.  This is the longest quotation from the Old Testament in the New Testament (Townsend Commentary).

Some important words to consider from these two texts include:

Covenant

Testament

New Covenant / Agreement

Holy Communion

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

Last week we discussed how Paul began Romans 8 by imploring, pleading with, urging, and what seemed like begging the believers at Rome to “offer their bodies as a living sacrifice”.  We discussed how Jesus Christ is the ultimate sacrifice for all humanity and that we should bring our entire life, all of who we are, our entire bodies as a living, breathing, thinking, sacrifice in service to Jesus Christ. 

We also talked about the different translations of the end of verse one.  The King James Version ends verse one saying “this is your reasonable service”.  The New Revised Standard Version says “this is your spiritual worship” and the New International Version translates it as “your true and proper worship”.  The idea is the same in either translation; we are expected to offer our complete selves holy to God. 

We discussed how verse two tells us to not emulate or conform to the world but rather be transformed or changed and how it is this transformation that is the new life in Christ.  We are transformed by the renewing of our minds.  We discussed how verse three is a gentle reminder and warning not to boast.  This was not doubt wise advice for both the Jewish Christians and Gentile Christians coming from different cultures, customs, and practices who needed to work together. 

We also listed the six spiritual gifts that Paul mentions in verses six through eight.  Those are gifts are prophecy, ministry, teaching, exhortation, leading, and mercy.  Those various gifts are given to each of us by grace.  Paul mentions other spiritual gifts in I Corinthians 12 and Ephesians 4.

This week’s lesson is the first lesson of the Summer quarter.  The theme for this week and this quarter will focus on ideas surrounding covenant.  In particular we will try to understand how the New Covenant came to be, how Jesus is the embodiment of the New Covenant and what that means in our day to day living.  Standard Lesson Commentary, Townsend and Boyd’s Commentary all title this week’s lesson Jesus Institutes The New Covenant.  The scripture text comes from Mark 14:17-24, and Hebrews 8:6-7, 10-12.

What Takes Place in These Passages: 

Mark 14:17 begins with Jesus and the twelve disciples gathered together for the evening Passover meal.  As they eat the Passover meal Jesus tells his disciples one of them will betray him.  They all knew betrayal would mean a cruel and painful death.  They also knew that betrayal would likely put them in danger as well.  Can you imagine sitting at the dinner table with friends and someone says one of you will have me killed?  Just knowing that someone close to you is capable of this kind of betrayal is astonishing.    

Distressed, upset, and sorrowful the disciples take turns asking “is it I”.  Jesus explains “it is one of the twelve, one who is dipping bread into the bowl with me”.  The NISB notes that “Dipping bread into the bowl emphasizes the bond of hospitality and intimacy that is about to be broken by betrayal”. 

In verses twenty-two through twenty-four Jesus institutes the Lord’s Supper otherwise known as Holy Communion.  Note especially verse twenty-four.  “He said to them, “This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many”.  Here Jesus mentions the covenant that is the basis for the new and better covenant Hebrews mentions. 

Hebrews 8:6 begins by explaining that Jesus is the mediator of a better covenant with better promises.  Note that verse seven explains if the first covenant had been faultless, there would be no need to look for a second one.  No one could keep all the rules and regulations of the Old Testament.  But more importantly, this new covenant would replace the practice of animal sacrifices.  Jesus was the one sacrifice for all eternity to absolve or release humanity of the consequences of sin and separation from God.      

Context:

Jesus institutes the New Covenant.  When I think about the New Covenant I am also reminded of new life in Christ.  “Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come. (II Cor. 5:17).  We have taken off the old and put on the new.  The old ways, the old habits, the old routines that created problems, caused sin, and produced confusion in our lives should be put to rest.  We have a new covenant, a new agreement, a new testament that is created in Jesus Christ.  This new covenant is based on righteousness, but its Christ’s righteousness, not ours.  We live in an age of grace and it is that grace that finds us in the newness of Christ’s covenant. 

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 was raised from the dead by the power of God.   

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

Covenant – A formal agreement or treaty between two parties that establishes a relationship and in which obligations and mutual responsibilities may be enacted.  Many biblical covenants are found, some providing only divine promises while others entail obligations. 

Covenant of grace – The relationship into which God entered to provide, by grace, the promise of salvation to sinful humanity.  It extends throughout the Old Testament by means of various covenants to its final fulfillment in Jesus Christ.    

Testament – A person’s last will to dispose of property.  Also, a covenant – as at Sinai.  Both senses are found in Gal 3:15-18.  The term is also used for the division of the Bible into Old and New Testaments (covenants). 

Passover Meal – The commemorative Jewish meal recalling the deliverance of the nation of Israel from slavery in Egypt through the exodus event. 

Lord’s Supper – The sacrament of Communion, or the Eucharist. (Baptist believers use the term ordinance, not sacrament)  It celebrates the death of Christ, his presence with the church, and his future kingdom (reign).  It was instituted by Jesus (I Cor. 11:23-26) at the Last Supper, the last meal which Jesus shared with his disciples before his crucifixion.  

Themes, Topics, Discussion, or Sermon Preparation Ideas: 

  1. A better way
  2. A new agreement.  (Compare and contrast agreement with contract, bond, indenture, testament, etc.)

Questions

1.  What does it mean when Hebrews 8:7 says “For if the first covenant had been faultless”?  Does this mean there was an error in the Old Testament?

2.  There are several covenants throughout Scripture.  Jesus established the New Covenant.  Does that mean we are bound by the old covenants? 

Concluding thought:

Jesus institutes the New Covenant.  The old covenant required the shedding of blood from animals for the remission of sins.  This New Covenant is established by the sacrifice of Jesus on Calvary’s cross.  His sacrifice was once and for all humanity because Jesus lived a sinless life. 

It’s now up to us.  We will never be sinless, but that should be the goal we strive for.  Jesus has established the new covenant and that agreement requires each of us to follow the teachings and example of Jesus.  

Preview of Next Week’s Lesson:

Next week we continue in the Gospel according to Mark.  The aim of next week is to show us how Jesus Seals the New Covenant.  As the Nation of Israel rejects Jesus he is turned over to Pontius Pilate for crucifixion.  We will look at what it means to be in relationship with one another, Jesus Christ, and God.  These relationships are made possible by the unselfish sacrifice of Jesus Christ on Calvary. 

Christianity, Romans, Sunday School, Sunday School Lesson

Sunday School Lesson (May 26, 2019) Called to Be Transformed / Called To New Life In Christ Romans 12:1-8

Paul Turns the Corner From Theology to Praxis

Hello Sunday school teachers, preachers, and students! Welcome to SundaySchoolPreacher.com.  This week we take a look at how God calls us to be transformed.  As we are called to new life in Christ we are required to make changes and alterations in our day to day living.  Students of theology call this change praxis.  It is the transformation from theory and thought to action in each of our lives.  That’s what chapter twelve is about as Paul turns the corner from the theology of chapters’ one through eleven.  Some of the ideas surrounding this week’s text include the terms: 

Sacrifice

Praxis

Cooperation

Background: 

Over the previous three weeks I’ve repeatedly discussed how Paul’s letter to the church at Rome is written approximately 57 Common Era.  That was important because it helped establish that Paul was writing to both Jewish and Gentile Christians.  They were different groups that had different practices, customs, and cultures.  That’s still important but less so in this twelfth chapter of Romans.  In this chapter Paul has switched from writing doctrinal statements that helped Jewish and Gentile Christians understand how to work together.  In this chapter he switches to writing more about the practical application of previous chapters.  So what is discussed in chapter twelve is addressed to the believers in Rome but it applies even more specifically to all believers. 

In this chapter, Paul begins to put it all together.  He begins to tell us how to live the Christian life.  Townsend Commentary reminds us of some of the doctrinal journey through Romans.  “They have been “justified through faith” in chapter 5, “set free from sin” in chapter 6,  “released from the law” in chapter 7, and made “alive” in Christ in chapter 8”. 

Some important words to consider in chapter twelve include:

Sacrifice

Gifts

Cooperation

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

Last week was the third of four lessons in Romans.  This week is the fourth lesson of Romans and the final lesson of the Spring quarter.  Last week’s study began at Romans 11:11.  Here Paul asks a question about his Israelite nation; “have they stumbled so as to fall”?  As he refers to the broader Jewish religion, He answers the question by saying “By no means”!  He explains that the Jewish religious nation has not fallen so far as to fall.  He is telling the Jewish Christians that “salvation has come to the Gentiles, so as to make Israel jealous”.   In verse thirteen he declares himself the Apostle to the Gentiles.  He hopes to use jealousy of the Christian’s salvation to win some of his Israelite nation to faith in Jesus Christ.  If jealousy works, if envy works, then Paul is prepared to use it.  Verse sixteen continues with a literary device using the first fruits of dough and the root of a tree as a metaphor.  These metaphors paint a mental picture that shows how both the Jewish Christians and Gentile Christians are Holy through their connection to the Jewish religion which was God’s first covenantal family. 

Verses seventeen through twenty-four use a different metaphor.  In these verses both Jewish Christians and Gentile Christians are branches of an Olive tree.  Whereas the Jews were broken off branches, the Gentiles were branches grafted into the tree.

After Paul notes the kindness and severity of God he closes this metaphor with a note of hope that the “natural branches would be grafted back into their own olive tree”. 

In this week we consider practical application of Christian doctrine.  Paul is writing in this twelfth chapter about praxis.  It’s about how to live the Christian life.  Townsend and Boyd’s, Commentary title this week’s lesson Called To New Life in Christ.  Standard Commentary titles it Called to Be Transformed.  The Scripture text comes from Romans 12:1-8.

What Takes Place in This Passage: 

Paul begins by imploring, pleading with, urging, and what seems like even begging the believers at Rome to “offer their bodies as a living sacrifice”.  The imagery of a living sacrifice is placed against the imagery of customary Jewish animal sacrifices.  While Jesus Christ is the ultimate sacrifice for all humanity we should bring our entire life, all of who we are, our entire bodies as a living, breathing, thinking, sacrifice in service to Jesus Christ. 

Note also that Paul says “therefore”.  He begins chapter twelve this way because he made his case in the preceding chapters.  He laid the foundation of justification by grace, redemption, salvation, and other doctrine in chapters one through eleven and now he turns the corner by essentially saying “this is what we are supposed to do, THEREFORE… present your bodies a living sacrifice.      

The King James Version ends verse one saying “this is your reasonable service”.  The New Revised Standard Version says “this is your spiritual worship” and the New International Version translates it as “your true and proper worship”.  The idea is the same in either translation; we are expected to offer our complete selves holy to God. 

Verse two tells us to not emulate or conform to the world but rather be transformed or changed.  It is this transformation that is the new life in Christ.  We are transformed by the renewing of our minds.  We are called to be transformed and we achieve transformation by following the Holy Spirit, not the ways of the world. 

Verse three is a gentle reminder and warning not to boast.  It’s a poor frog who doesn’t praise his own pond, yet, praising your own pond is entirely different from bragging about and holding yourself in too high esteem.  Paul encourages us to think soberly, not boastfully about ourselves.  This is no doubt wise advice for people in an environment of different cultures, customs, and practices who need to work together. 

In verses four and five, Paul uses the body as a metaphor for the church.  In the same way the body must work together with arms, legs, eyes, and ears; so must the church work together with different people doing different but necessary things to work together. 

Verses six through eight expound on the idea of working together by mentioning six different gifts.  Those gifts are:

Prophecy

Ministry

Teaching

Exhortation

Leading

Mercy

Note that various gifts are given to each of us by grace.  Paul mentions other spiritual gifts in I Corinthians 12 and Ephesians 4.

Context:

God’s word is for our transformation and inspiration not just information.  That’s the point Paul is making in chapter twelve.  He has given a lot of doctrine in chapters one through eleven.  He begins in chapter twelve explaining how to put the doctrine to use.  For Christians today that means praxis.  Praxis is taking theory and thought to actual practice.  It is applying what is said to what should be done.  It’s taking what is heard in the pews to what should be done at home, at work, and in everyday life.  Praxis is moving from thinking about it to being about it.  When Paul says “therefore I urge you” it is almost as if he is begging us to do the work of living this Christian life.  It’s this kind of practical application that chapter twelve requires of us.  In short, Paul is asking at least five things of us in this chapter.  Those include: 

Be a living sacrifice

Renew our minds

Think soberly of ourselves

We belong to each other

Use our various gifts for Christ

If we can make these actions in our living and not theory or just thoughts we are certainly on our way to being transformed and called to new life in Christ.

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). 

Gentile – A term used by Jews for one who is not Jewish by racial origin.  In the Old Testament, “the nations” is used.

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

Sacrifice – Something of value offered as an act of worship or devotion to God.  Sacrifices were offered throughout the Old Testament, accompanied covenant making, and were of various types. 

Praxis – A term used in liberation theologies for a combination of action and reflection which seeks the transformation of oppressive situations and the social order.  It marks the beginning place for theological reflection and focuses on the dialectic of theory and practice. 

Gifts, Spiritual – Those abilities given by the Holy Spirit to persons in the church for the up-building of the church.  Examples are listed in Rom. 12:6-8; I Cor. 12:4-11; Eph. 4:11; and I Peter 4:11.

Themes, Topics, Discussion, or Sermon Preparation Ideas: 

  1. Don’t talk about it, be about it.
  2. Ubuntu – I am who I am because of who we are.

Questions

1.  A living sacrifice is a contradiction.  What is Paul really telling us to do in this verse?

2.  Cooperation for the good of the whole seems to be an important point Paul is making.  How can we cooperate with fellow believers today?

Concluding thought:

Our call to new life in Christ requires transformation.  Our transformation is achieved though renewing our minds to become more like Jesus Christ.  That is an ongoing process that cannot be achieved with a single act or in a single week, month, or year.  We grow, we learn, we get better and sometimes we have to repeat the process when we sin and get it wrong.  Our call to be transformed is a call that takes practice.  It takes daily and sometimes moment by moment conscious effort.  As we renew our minds, sometimes we alter our life.  We alter choices and make decisions that don’t come naturally.  They are often decisions that benefit others more than ourselves.  That’s the way it is with new life in Christ.  A transformed life is a living sacrifice that does not have too high a regard for its own wants and desires but an humble life that realizes that we belong to each other.  It realizes that whatever spiritual gifts we have we should use them for the up-building of the work of Jesus Christ. 

Preview of Next Week’s Lesson:

Next week is the first lesson of the summer quarter.  The summer quarter will focus on aspects of covenant.  The first nine lessons come from the New Testament so we will view covenant from a New Testament perspective before three lesson in the Old Testament that view it in a more general perspective. 

The June 2nd lesson comes from the Gospel According to Mark and Hebrews.  We will consider how Jesus institutes a new and better covenant made on better promises.

Religion, Genesis, Sunday School, Uncategorized

Sunday School Lesson Overview for October 14, 2018 – The Call of Abraham and God is Always Working

Review from Last Week and how  it connects to this week

Last week Noah was the central character of the text.  Genesis Chapter 5 listed the genealogy from Adam all the way up to Noah and chapter 5 ended by telling us that Noah was five hundred years old when he had Shem, Ham, and Japheth.

Chapter 6 described the situation before the flood after men and women had multiplied greatly upon the earth.  We talked about the Nephilim or the giants who were the product of the sons of God and the daughters of men.  And also, how the wickedness of humans was great in the earth and that every imagination of the thoughts of their heart was only evil continually.  This grieved God’s heart and the text indicates THAT’S WHY THE EARTH WAS DESTROYED.

We also discussed how one man in particular could make a difference.    The REASON Noah could restore what was right and the reason God did not completely wipe all of humanity off the face of the earth is because Noah was righteous.

All of that ties into this week’s lesson as we now consider the genealogies of the people of Israel leading up to another man that God chose to make a difference for the world.  God gave Abram a promise.  Perhaps there are ways, we can make a difference and perhaps there are promises for us also.

This lesson is taken from Genesis 10:1, 11:10, 27, 31, 32; 12:1-4.  Standard Commentary Titles the lesson “The Call of Abram” Boyd’s and Townsend title it God is Always Working”.

Background:

These books of Genesis help explain the relationships between the nations that came to exist after the descendants of Noah repopulated the earth.  The genealogies in chapter 10 and 11 describe who the people were and from whom they came.  But the point is – at this time in history, all of the various nations – the Canaanites, the Moabites, the Ishmaelite’s, the Philistines; (If the great flood happened like it says it did) they all descended from Noah and Noah’s children.  So the question is – HOW DO THEY END UP FIGHTING!  The simple answer is because they are human – just like you and me.  Sometimes, even brothers and sisters have a hard enough time getting along.  And the farther we grow apart the easier it is for disagreements, misunderstandings, mistakes, and problems to occur.  The New Interpreters Study Bible tells us “the Ishmaelites, Moabites, Ammonites, Edomites, and Aramaeans were all descendants of Abraham or his father, Terah.  Through chapters ten and eleven, seventy nations are listed.  Townsend commentary tells us “this is typological, that is, it can be used for rhetorical effect to evoke the idea of totality”.  In other words the number seven represents completion and 70 nations represents God’s completion of restoring the population.

Chapter 11 begins with the Tower of Babel.  “The whole earth had one language and the same words”.  Then chapter 11 concludes with the descendants of Shem – one of Noah’s three sons.  Abram is descended from Shem.  And then chapter 12 begins with the call of Abram.  God selects, chooses, picks, Abram one of the sons of Terah and gives Abram some life changing instructions.

Context: 

Now, let’s put these three chapters in context.  One of the central points of today’s lesson is who these people are, and from whom they came.  These genealogies are drawing a line all the way down to Abraham.  The New Interpreters Study Bible (NISB) says “the ancestral stories in Genesis, together with the theme of promise that unites them, were actually put into the form in which they now exist during the later monarchic period”.  In other words, what we are reading today was formed during the time of Saul, David and Solomon – that’s the Monarchic period.  They were formed this way and told this way to help the people who were living right then, to understand how they got to where they were.  So the writer is telling the nation of Israel – The REASON we are so blessed is BECAUSE God promised this to Abraham, God promised this to Isaac, and God promised this to Jacob.  So in other words, this text “must be read as being directed to a particular HISTORICAL context.

Now listen, The NISB says, “We have to be cautious about removing these promises from the historical setting for which they were intended and relating them to the contemporary (or modern day) political context in the Middle East”.  So let me say this as plainly as I can.  I have a problem with Christians who worship Israel.  Genesis 12:3 says And I will bless them that bless thee, and curse him that curseth thee: and in thee shall all families of the earth be blessed.  This is what is quoted so often in Christian circles.  People who believe that anything modern day Israel does is blessed by God.  Now listen, I read the Bible from a Christological perspective.  Everything I read, I’m trying to see Christ in it.  But this verse wasn’t written with Jesus Christ in mind.  It is compiled for the Hebrew people to help them understand where they came from, and how they got to where they are.  So I have a problem with people who bow down and worship Israel.  People who accept anything and everything this current Israeli government does without question.  And since this quarter is focused on God creating and re-creating – let me just say, I’ll be glad when God re-creates peace and justice in the Holy Land.

What takes place in the passages:

After listing the genealogies of Noah and his sons down to Terah who is the father of Abram, the text tells us how Terah took Abram and Lot his grandson and Sari his daughter-in-law to Haran and dwelt there.  When Terah was two hundred five years old, he died in Haran.  Then Genesis 12 shows us how God spoke to Abram.  God gave Abram specific instructions to leave his country, leave his kindred and to go to a land that God would show him.

God promises Abram – if you do what I tell you to do, if you leave everybody I tell you to leave, all of your culture, everything that you’re familiar with, all of your kinfolk, friends and neighbors, all of your cookouts, all of your family reunions, all of your favorite places to hang out and favorite people to hang out with.  Everything that’s familiar to you and go where I tell you to go – I’ll make you a great nation and I’ll bless you and make your name great in the earth.  In fact Abram, if you do what I tell you to do – I’ll bless them that bless you and curse them that curse you and in YOU all the families of the earth shall be blessed.

So at 75 years old, Abram packs his bags, and he does what God tells him to do.

Key Characters in the text:

God –

Abram – He is the first great patriarch.  Christians, Muslims, and Jews regard him as the epitome of human faith in the will of God.  His name means father of a multitude.

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

  1. Call: When God summons someone to salvation or to a particular work of service, implying Devine selection.
  2. Legacy: something transmitted by or received from an ancestor or predecessor or from the past.

Themes in this Lesson:

  1. Just as God called Abram with a specific task, God can call each of us with specific tasks.
  2. Noah left a legacy of righteousness, Abram left a legacy of faith, what will your legacy be. Keep in mind, only what you do for Christ, will last.

Thoughts: 

Promise – Some Biblical promises are for those to whom they were written.  Others are for all of us.

Questions:

  1. Genesis 10 and 11 tell the Hebrew people from whom they came. If it is important for the Hebrew people, is it also important for African Americans.  (In the last few months, I’ve noticed a movement to classify African Americans as “American – Descendants of Slaves”).
  2. Abraham’s blessing was conditional. What has God promised us that is conditional / unconditional?

 Concluding thought:

God called Abram and Abram responded with complete trust and faith in God.  Pray that we may do the same when God calls us.

Preview of Next Week’s Lesson:

In next week’s lesson we see 3 visitors who appear to Abram.  Abram demonstrates genuine hospitality by preparing a feast and you get the idea that he treats them with the very best he has to offer.  And then one of them tells him “I will surely return to you in due season, and your wife Sarah shall have a son”.  90 year old Sarah gives birth to Isaac and eight days later Abraham circumcises him.