Christianity, Sunday School Lesson

Sunday School Lesson Winter Quarter Overview With Mind Map December 2019, January 2020, February 2020 Honoring God in Worship

Winter Quarter Overview with Mind Map Honoring God

Hello Sunday school teachers, preachers, and students! Welcome to SundaySchoolPreacher.com.  In this overview of the Winter Quarter I want to lift for you the major themes and movements of the next thirteen lessons.  So as we study these lessons you will have some idea of where the lesson series is taking us. 

King David made a place for the Ark of the covenant in Jerusalem.  The time came when the Tabernacle was replaced by the Temple.  Solomon the son of King David built the Temple in Jerusalem.  Moses built the tabernacle, but the time came when the tabernacle was replaced by the Temple.  Solomon built the Temple.  But the time came when that Temple was destroyed by Nebuchadnezzar, the king of Babylon in 583 B.C.  The second rebuilt Temple survived until King Herod rebuilt it.  It was that Temple that Jesus walked in.  But that temple was also destroyed.  Now let’s walk though how our Winter Quarter get us here. 

The overall focus of the Winter Quarter is honoring God in worship.  We have thirteen lessons through December, January, and February divided into three units. 

 Unit one deals with David as he honors God.  Unit two deals with dedicating the temple of God.  And unit three deals with Jesus teaching us about true worship.

For each of the three units and each of the four or five lessons in the units I’ll give you a mind map graphic that highlights the big picture.  In this overview I’ll focus on key characters, key words Key scripture texts, and since we are dealing with honoring God in worship I list the key places of worship the text shows us. 

The theme for unit one is “David Honors God”.

The theme for unit two is Dedicating the Temple of God

And unit three is Jesus Teaches about True Worship.

So let’s take a look at unit one.  There are five lessons in unit one all of which come from 1 Chronicles except our Christmas lesson which comes from the Gospel according to Luke. 

So in very broad terms we are going to look at the Ark of the Covenant of God which was housed in a tabernacle (tent).  We move from the tabernacle to the Temple in Jerusalem and then from the Temple in Jerusalem to the heart of every believer.

So the time came when the Tabernacle was replaced by the Temple.  Solomon the son of King David built the Temple in Jerusalem.  That Temple was destroyed by Nebuchadnezzar, king of Babylon, and the Israelites were taken prisoner to Babylon. About seventy years later, a remnant of those in captivity returned to Jerusalem and rebuilt the first Temple.  Moses built the tabernacle, but the time came when the tabernacle was replaced by the Temple.  Solomon built the Temple.  But the time came when that Temple was destroyed by Nebuchadnezzar, the king of Babylon.  That rebuilt second temple survived until King Herod rebuilt it, taking forty six years to do so (John 2:20). It was this Temple which Jesus visited, but even this temple was destroyed.  It was destroyed by the Romans in A.D. 70. And that Temple has never been rebuilt to its former glory.  And that leads us to where God dwells today.  The tabernacle no longer exists; the Temple made with human hands has been destroyed.  It is the book of Acts that reminds us that “God, who made the world and everything in it, since He is Lord of heaven and earth. Does not dwell in temples made with hands” (Acts 17:24). As Christians, we have been redeemed through the death of Jesus.  And as Peter reminded us last quarter “You were not redeemed with corruptible things, like silver or gold … but with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot” (1 Peter 1:18, 19). And because of that redemption, because of that shed blood on Calvary’s cross, God now dwells in, amongst, and with every believer.  Knowing that God is with us is good reason to honor God and celebrate God’s presence with us.  Unit one deals with how David honors God.  Unit two deals with how Solomon his son built the Temple or God and unit three brings it home with Jesus Christ teaching us about true worship.  The tabernacle is gone, the temple is destroyed, but God is with us through the presence and power of God’s Holy Spirit. I hope you will join me each week this quarter as I explore David, Solomon, and Jesus in the weekly Sunday School lesson.  Thank you and may God bless you real good.

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

Now, if you have Wi-Fi in your church Sunday School classroom or wherever you share this lesson, this channel is a good way to teach and discuss this week’s lesson.  With Wi-Fi you can start and stop the lesson when you want to discuss parts of the lesson.  What I provide is a concise overview of background, context, characters, themes and topics; that gets to the point, saves you time, and enhances your own teaching and study.  If that’s what you’re looking for you are in the right place.  This is all about helping you understand the lesson in ways that are helpful to you and your listeners.  The ONLY way I know this is helpful is if you subscribe or click the like button.  So please subscribe or like and then share this site with other Sunday School teachers, preachers, and students across your social media platforms. 

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.

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

Sunday School Lesson (May 19, 2019) Called to Mutual Acceptance / The Call Of The Gentiles Romans 11:11-24

Called to Mutual Acceptance / The Call of the Gentiles – Romans 11:11-24

Hello Sunday school teachers, preachers, and students! Welcome to SundaySchoolPreacher.com.  This week we take a look at the importance of working together as one body.  Paul writes to the Jewish and Gentile Christians at Rome and encourages mutual acceptance as he acknowledges the full authority and call of the Gentile Christians.  They were different people from different backgrounds but serving the same God.  Some of the ideas surrounding this week’s text include the terms: 

Apostle

Metaphor

Acceptance

There are a number of ways we experience acceptance.  Self-acceptance, social acceptance, and expressed acceptance are just a few.  The Gentile and Jewish Christians at Rome needed each of these to work together in their time.  That much certainly has not changed for Christians today. 

Background: 

Paul’s letter to the church at Rome is written approximately 57 Common Era. When this letter is written, the Jewish Christians had been expelled from Rome about eight years earlier by Emperor Claudius (New Interpreters Study Bible).  When Emperor Claudius died in 54 CE the edict lapsed and Jewish Christians began returning to Rome.  They returned to a different and mostly Gentile church.  In this letter Paul is writing to Gentile Christians and Jewish Christians who have different religious practices.  Some of the central points he writes about are righteousness, justification, grace, sin, and the Holy Spirit.  It is his longest letter and considered foundational to Christian doctrine today. 

In this eleventh chapter keep in mind that Paul is an Israelite.  He does not reject his Jewish religion yet he understands and supports the growth and development of Gentile Christians who would have different religious practices.  Part of chapter eleven deals with Paul calling the Gentile and Jewish Christians toward mutual acceptance.  While he accepts the Gentile Christians as full partners in the Christian faith, he also acknowledges the centrality of Judaism as its origin.  Even still, many Israelites have rejected Jesus and Paul’s hope and desire is that they will be won to Christ. 

Some important words to consider in this chapter include:

Gentile

Apostle

Pharisee

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

Last week was the second of four lessons in Romans.  The text came from Romans eight and focused on the Holy Spirit in the life of the Christian.  The lesson began with a rejection of condemnation for Christians who walk after the Spirit.  In other words there is no condemnation for Christians who walk in the Spirit and not in the flesh.  Chapter eight answered the question of how to deal with the inadequacy of the Law. 

We were reminded in Verse three 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 reminded us that righteousness is required, yet the requirement is fulfilled in those who walk after the Spirit.  So then, the law is a guide to righteousness but a guide that no one could perfectly follow.  Verse five reinforced 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 dealt with the conflict between the flesh and the Spirit.  We were reminded that 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. 

Verses ten and eleven helped us understand that it is the Spirit of God that brings life through righteousness.  Paul begins to wrap-up his thoughts on life in the Spirit 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”.  

This week we consider how Paul encouraged unity between the Jewish and Gentile Christians as well as the call of the Gentiles.  Townsend and Boyd’s, Commentary title this week’s lesson The Call of the Gentiles.  Standard Commentary titles it Called to Mutual Acceptance.  The Scripture text comes from Romans 11:11-24.

What Takes Place in This Passage: 

This chapter begins with Paul writing directly to the Jewish Christians.  They are a minority group in the Roman church.  This first part of chapter eleven is sympathetic to their plight and he writes using Israelite history that will resonate with them.  Paul mentions Elijah and how God had reserved a remnant of 7,000 when Elijah thought he was alone.  These Jewish Christians in Rome could identify themselves as a remnant also.  These words are no doubt comforting to the Jewish Christians.  They are a minority in their own religious family.  For the Jewish Christians in Rome that included being a minority in their Christian faith as well as a minority from the broader Jewish faith. 

Our text picks up at verse eleven.  Here Paul continues by asking “have they (his Israelite nation) stumbled so as to fall”?  Paul is referring to the broader Jewish religion.  He continues “By no means”!  Paul tells the Jewish Christians that “salvation has come to the Gentiles, so as to make Israel jealous”. 

Paul switches to address the Gentiles in verse thirteen.  He declares himself the Apostle to the Gentiles and writes “I glorify my ministry in order to make my own people jealous, and thus save some of them”.  Here, Paul 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.  I am reminded of Paul’s writing in I Corinthians 9:22: “To the weak I became weak, so that I might win the weak.  I have become all things to all people that I might by all means save some”.

Verse fifteen repeats the idea of Israel stumbling but offers hope that acceptance will be life from the dead.  Verse sixteen continues with a literary device using the first fruits of dough and the root of a tree as a metaphor.  This metaphor paints 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 uses a different metaphor.  In these verses both Jewish Christians and Gentile Christians are branches.  Whereas the Jews were broken off, the Gentiles were grafted in to the tree.  In verses eighteen through twenty Paul asks the Gentile Christians not to boast that they have been grafted in.  Rather, they should recognize that the Israelites were broken off because of their unbelief.  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”.  

Context:

A metaphor is “a figure of speech by which one thing is spoken of in terms of another”.  For example Paul uses the metaphor of a part of dough to explain how the Jewish Christians at Rome are a remnant that can make the entire lump of dough holy.  Metaphors are used in everyday language to help paint a mental picture and often to emphasize a point.  It’s raining cats and dogs, she’s sharp as a tack, or these instructions are Greek to me.  These are all metaphors that people understand are not literal but figurative. 

In the text today, Paul uses figurative language to make his point.  The broader Jewish community had rejected faith in Jesus Christ as savior.  Paul writes in Chapter ten that his “hearts desire and prayer to God for Israel is that they might be saved”.  Paul is writing to the Jewish and Gentile Christians at Rome but He wants all of Israel to be saved along with the Gentiles.  Although this writing is figurative, it gets the point across in ways the Jews and Gentiles understood then and in ways we still understand today.        

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): 

Apostle – One sent to act on the authority of anther.  Refers to the earliest, closest followers of Jesus. 

Pharisee – A Jewish party during Jesus’ time that obeyed the written law of Moss and its unwritten law of Moses and its unwritten interpretations, known as the tradition of the elders (Mark 7:3).  They focused on holiness (Lev 19:2).  Some were hostile (John 7:32), others were helpful to Jesus (Luke 13:31).

Israel – The nation of Israel as descended from Jacob (Gen 32:28), after whose twelve sons the twelve tribes of Israel were named.    

Judaic – Pertaining to Judaism or the Jewish people.    

Judaism – The religion and culture of the Jewish people.   

Jew – A term for one who is of Hebrew descent or who adheres to the Jewish faith, or both.     

Themes, Topics, Discussion, or Sermon Preparation Ideas: 

  1. Teamwork makes the dream work.
  2. Ubuntu – I am who I am because of who we are.

Question

Metaphors can help get the point across in easily understandable and sometimes humorous ways.  List some commonly used metaphors.    

Concluding thought:

Israel, Israeli, Judean, Judaic, Judaism, and Jewish are all terms used in various degrees to describe the Hebrew people, their religion, their descendants or their nationality.  Sometimes the same term is used to describe ethnicity while at other times nationality or religion of a person or group of persons.  An article that explains some of these differences can be found here.  It’s important to use the right term because they are not synonymous although many people use them synonymously simply because they don’t know the difference.  There is also the risk of being misunderstood as anti-Semitic when using the wrong term.

Preview of Next Week’s Lesson: Next week is our final lesson this month on the book of Romans and the final lesson for the Spring quarter.  We study the twelfth chapter of Romans where Paul “turns the corner” from the doctrinal portion of writing to practical application.  Last week Paul used metaphor as a literary device.  This week he returns to a paradox as he begins to explain how we are called to new life in Christ and called to be transformed.

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.