Friday, September 30, 2016

WEEKLY SUNDAY SCHOOL LESSON
An international Sunday school lesson commentary
For Sunday October 2, 2016

Over 112,000 readers worldwide
larrydalexander.blogspot.com

JESUS CHRIST IS THE SON OF GOD
(GOD’s Word reveals who JESUS is)
(Hebrews 1)

   The book of Hebrews was written to address the issues that some Jewish believers had in making the transition from the Old Testament Levitical system to their newfound freedom in CHRIST JESUS. This book describes in great detail, the superiority of CHRIST to everything in the Old Testament, including the entire priesthood, and, the old animal and plant sacrificial system.
    This extremely doctrinal letter to the Hebrews is the only epistle in the New Testament that does not begin like a first-century letter. There is no opening salutation, or prayer, and, because neither the writer, nor the addressee are identified in the opening lines, there has been a polemical assault waged upon this invaluable Christian document for quite some time.
    For a long time this letter was attributed to the Apostle Paul, however, more recent scholars have all but disproved the likelihood of him being the author. This is primarily because the Greek style of the book of Hebrews is so greatly different from any of Paul’s other writings. Martin Luther argued that Apollos, a disciple of John the Baptist, was the author, while other scholars have advanced authorship to Priscilla, who, along with her husband, Aquila, was a pioneer in the “House Church” concept that became very popular shortly after the ascension of CHRIST, back into Heaven, in the early first century.
    But perhaps the most compelling argument for authorship favors Barnabas, who was known as “The Enabling Encourager”. Barnabas is the person who introduced Paul to the Church, when he did so, first, to the apostles at Jerusalem in Acts chapter 9, and then later on, to the church at Antioch of Syria, in Acts chapter 11. In fact, Barnabas even traveled for a year with Paul, during Paul’s first missionary journey, but later, fell out with him, over differences involving John Mark, Barnabas’ cousin, and the eventual author of the book of Mark.
    Tertullian, the great church scholar, Jerome, the author of the Vulgate (the first Latin translation of the Bible), Gregory of Elvira and Filaster (both fourth century writers), all share the opinion that Barnabas is the author. In fact, they all refer to the book of Hebrews as “an epistle by Barnabas”.
    However, no matter who wrote this invaluable Christian document, it is certain that the author had in-depth knowledge of the Old Testament, particularly the Pentateuch (the first five books of the bible), and also, the Psalms. The writer also had a distinctively clear understanding of the perspective that was provided by CHRIST JESUS, during HIS three-year earth-bound ministry.
    The letter of Hebrews, perhaps more than any other writing in scripture, highly exalts the person and works of our LORD and SAVIOR, JESUS CHRIST. It makes valuable contributions to the doctrinal aspects of JESUS’ priesthood, incarnation, and vicarious sacrifice. It also goes a long ways toward developing an understanding, regarding the relationship between the interpretation of Old Testament Law, and New Testament Faith. It helps us to understand the “New Covenant” that was ushered in by CHRIST, as it relates to the “Old Covenant” that was given to Moses, by GOD, on Mount Sinai.
    Long ago, GOD spoke “many times and in many different ways” (polymeros kai polytropos) to our ancestors, through the prophets. However, today, GOD continuously speaks to us through HIS SON, JESUS CHRIST. “Prototokas” is the word that is used here in chapter 1, verse 2, and later, in verse 6, for the term “SON” in the original Greek writing. Throughout the New Testament, it is a word that is only used in reference to JESUS HIMSELF, and it means, quite simply, “FIRSTBORN”. It is a technical theological term that affirms HIS supreme rank and unique relationship and position in the family of GOD. That is why, even the angels of GOD, worship the SON.
    The “right hand” is the traditional place of power and authority in the biblical sense, and so JESUS not only possesses eternal life and existence, by being at the right hand of GOD the FATHER in Heaven, HE also exercises all of the “power and authority” (“exocea”) of Deity. As FIRSTBORN, GOD promised everything to the SON as an inheritance, and through HIM, HE made the universe and everything in it.
    In the New Testament Greek, the word used for “brightness” is “apaugasma” (apow-gas-mah), and it is a “brilliance”, “effulgence”, or “light”, which is reflected from one place, or object, to another place or object”. JESUS is the “LIGHT” that wants to shine on all mankind, and gives each of us that light, so that we too, can shine that light on  someone else, making them able to see their way through the darkness that presses to dominate this world. And so, here in Hebrews 1:3, that is the word that is being used by the author to describe JESUS CHRIST in his original Greek rendering.
    Also in verse three, the author uses another interesting Greek term to depict JESUS. That term is “charakter” (khar-ak-tare), and it means “express image”. It is from that word that we derive our English word “character”. It is “an exact copy, or representation of”, and, “it is like a seal, an impression, or stamp”. Here the author attempts to establish the person of JESUS CHRIST as being superior to any other prophet, or intermediary that GOD had sent prior to HIS coming. He also sought to affirm that JESUS is truly “the SON of the living GOD”, and, is the “exact image” of GOD HIMSELF. And so, in JESUS,  through HIS behavior, not HIS physical appearance (GOD is SPIRIT and does not have a physical image), we are able to see exactly what GOD is like.
    In Hebrews 1:4-14, the writer turns his efforts toward proving that JESUS is also superior to angels. In verse 4, he says, in effect, that, JESUS’ superior name serves to add to HIS credentials. In biblical times, a person’s name often summed up who they were. The name “JESUS” means “JEHOVAH is salvation”, and thereby, the very term “SAVIOR” makes HIM eternally superior to any angel, just simply by way of HIS more excellent name.
    Verses 13 and 14 serve to remind us of the most important reason why angels should not be the focus of our worship. And that reason being, is that angels are only servants of GOD. Most of them are spirits sent from GOD to care for those who will eventually receive salvation. I say “most of them”, because satan also commands a host of angels. We are told of this fact in both Matthew 25:41, and Jude 1:6.  Therefore, it is JESUS, not angels, WHO should always be the focus of our Faith.
    In the final analysis, the true meaning of life is contained in the person of CHRIST JESUS. HE is our “direct access” to GOD the FATHER. However, we must listen closely for the meaning of the truth we have heard about HIM, lest we be in danger of drifting away from the ALMIGHTY GOD HIMSELF. If GOD is able to spin the Universe into orbit, tell the sun where to rise, and the oceans where to stop, then certainly, HE can satisfy our quest for the meaning of our existence, direct our path through this life, and, at one and the same, save our souls and secure us for all eternity through CHRIST JESUS.

A Sunday school lesson by,
Larry D. Alexander







Friday, September 23, 2016

WEEKLY SUNDAY SCHOOL LESSON
An international Sunday school lesson commentary
For Sunday September 25, 2016

Over 112,000 readers worldwide
larrydalexander.blogspot.com

RELIABLE PROMISES
(GOD brings freedom, renewal, and blessings)
(Isaiah 61)

   In Isaiah 61, verses 1-2, we find the messianic prophecy that is read, in part, by JESUS, from the scroll in the synagogue at HIS hometown of Nazareth in Luke 4:18-19. After reading “the proclamation of the LORD’s favor”, however, JESUS rolled the scroll back up, and made no mention of “the day of vengeance of our LORD” (see Luke 4:17-21).
    This incident is very important as it is the first public announcement by JESUS, that HE is the long-awaited MESSIAH, WHO had been promised by the Old Testament prophets. This incident is also significant because it suggests two “comings”, or, two “advents” of CHRIST. The first advent of CHRIST would be “to offer salvation to all mankind”, and the second will be “to judge the righteous and the unrighteous”, and then to send the wicked into eternal damnation, and to “restore” the righteous into a position of honor.
    Also, when we take a closer look at this prophecy, we can see how it illustrates an unclear reference to time, as is the case with many prophecies that come from GOD. We now know, however, that the reference in verse 2 of the “time to save”, and the reference in this same verse of a “time to judge” are separated, quite literally, by thousands of years.
    This is a very typical occurrence when we try to interpret Old Testament prophecy, as they rarely leave us with any clear reference of a time link between two or more events. However, there is one thing that is crystal clear here in Isaiah 61:1, and that is, all three members of the TRINITY are mentioned, the SPIRIT, the LORD GOD, and the MESSIAH.
    In this verse, the MESSIAH is represented by the word “ME”. We know that the word “ME” is JESUS because HE tells us so HIMSELF in Luke 4:18-21 as HE read this passage from Isaiah to the people in the synagogue some 700 years later. When JESUS read this passage, HE stopped in the middle of the sentence (Isaiah 61:2), after the word “favor”. In doing so, JESUS is alluding to the fact that HIS work would be divided into two segments, or “advents”.
    In JESUS’ first advent, HE would fulfill only those things mentioned in Isaiah 61:1-2a. Then, in HIS “second coming”, HE will fulfill those things mentioned in Isaiah 61:2b-3. In HIS first advent HE was on a mission to “save”, and on HIS second advent HE will be on a mission to “judge” and “restore”.
    After GOD satisfies HIS anger against those who love wickedness, and who conspire against those who are seeking righteousness, HE will bring joy to all who formerly mourned because of their persecutions and oppressive treatment. These faithful followers of CHRIST will have their ashes of mourning replaced by joy, and they will praise GOD and forget about the despair that once dominated their existence. They will become like strong oak trees that are planted by the waters, and they will defer all glory to GOD in Heaven (v.3).
    In verses 4-9, when JESUS returns to establish HIS Millennial Kingdom, all of the ancient ruins of time gone by will be restored into viable, productive communities. Many Gentiles will be allowed to join GOD’s chosen people and become a viable part of the established kingdom of CHRIST, all working together and serving in whatever capacity that they are needed.
    As a “nation of priests” everyone will know the LORD and will have access to HIM. There won’t be anyone walking around in the kingdom of CHRIST, nor in Heaven, who doesn’t know GOD (v.6a). All will be fed from the fat of the land, which will be bountiful at all times. There will be no hunger, no shame, and no dishonor, and everyone will enjoy a “double portion” of prosperity and everlasting joy.
    The LORD loves “justice”, for it is one of the elements of HIS nature, and HE utterly despises robbery and wrongdoing. HE says in verse 8 that HE will faithfully reward the faithful for their suffering and make an everlasting covenant with them. Even the descendants of the righteous (those whom we have passed on a legacy of faith to) will be known and honored among all races of people on the earth. Everyone will recognize GOD’s people as people who are blessed (v.9).
    Isaiah himself was taken up with joy just to be able to pass on this prophecy to the masses of the good news he had received from GOD, and we see here in verse 10, he also takes this good news very personal, as he could hardly compose himself because of it. Here he says, “I am overwhelmed with joy in the LORD my GOD! For, HE has dressed me with the clothing of salvation, and draped me in a robe of righteousness. I am like a bridegroom in his wedding suit, or a bride with her jewels” (NLT).

A Sunday school lesson by,
Larry D. Alexander






   


Friday, September 16, 2016

WEEKLY SUNDAY SCHOOL LESSON
An international Sunday school lesson commentary
For Sunday September 18, 2016

Over 111,000 readers worldwide
larrydalexander.blogspot.com

THE ULTIMATE POWER
(The everlasting GOD renews our strength)
(Isaiah 40:21-31)

   Isaiah chapters 1-39 were rift with “messages of judgment” upon the Israelites for their many sins against GOD. Now, beginning in chapter 40, we see the beginning of many messages from Isaiah that are “messages of restoration and peace”. Chapters 40-66 features prophecies of deliverance from captivity in Babylon, and a re-gathering of GOD’s people back into their homeland.
    This section is divided into three parts that consists of nine chapters in each part (40-48, 49-57, & 58-66). The first two parts each conclude with the statement “there is no peace for the wicked”. All of the prophecies in this section are centered around three events;

·         Deliverance from captivity in Babylon.
·         The rejection and restoration of the “SUFFERING SERVANT”.
·         The consummation of Israel, and indeed, the whole world by CHRIST JESUS HIMSELF.

    At the time when Isaiah received these prophecies from GOD, Israel still had to endure another 100 years of difficulties before the Babylonian invasion actually began. Here in Isaiah 40 the prophet attempts to convey a message of comfort from the LORD, to HIS downthrodden people, Israel, who now stood on the brink of what they considered to be a very real threat of an invasion by the powerful Assyrian army, early in the seventh century B.C. However now, King Hezekiah’s concerns of fear of Assyria must shift to Babylon because of these new prophecies.
    In the Hebrew, the word used for “comfort” is “naham”. It is a deeply emotional expression that exudes feelings of compassion and concern. In chapters 40-48 Isaiah reminds the Israelites of their coming deliverance by a great and sovereign GOD WHO still wished to form a unique and personal relationship with them. GOD wanted to address them with gentle, encouraging words of hope and comfort, not unlike a father would speak to his children.
    In verses 3-5 we see the origins of the message that was re-iterated by John the Baptist, the desert prophet who often shouted out in the wilderness, this same warning to Jerusalem, that they should prepare for the coming of the MESSIAH, JESUS CHRIST, by repenting and getting back into a personal relationship of friendship with the GOD of their ancestors. However, here in this passage of Isaiah 40, the whole nation of Israel had become a “spiritual wilderness”, or stronghold for idol god worship and disobedience.
    GOD’s love for Israel had never diminished one iota, and so HE now sends HIS prophet Isaiah with a message that will, perhaps, bring comfort to those survivors who would later come out of the Babylonian ordeal that was itself yet to come. But first, they would have to clean up their act spiritually, and prepare to “roll out the red carpet” as it is said in one of today’s popular terms, and get ready for the visit of ONE WHO is more than a world leader, or dignitary of high regard, HE is the MESSIAH, JESUS CHRIST, our LORD.
    In verses 6-8, a different voice other than Isaiah’s is heard telling the prophet to shout! When Isaiah asks “what should he shout?” the voice replies, “Shout that the people are like grass that dies away. Their beauty fades as quickly as the beauty of flowers in a field. The grass withers, and the flowers fade beneath the breath of the LORD. And so it is with people. The grass withers, and the flowers fade, but the Word of our GOD (that is to say, JESUS CHRIST) stands forever”.
    JESUS CHRIST is coming in all of HIS glorious power, just as HE promised HE will. HE will rule with awesome strength, and HE will bring HIS reward with HIM as HE comes. And HE will feed HIS people as a shepherd feeds his flock. HE will carry the lambs (the faithful) in HIS arms, holding them ever so close to HIS heart. HE will lead the mother sheep with her young (women and children) into the safety of HIS fold (Vs.9-11).
    The sovereign LORD is our hope. Who else can hold the oceans in his hands? Who else has measured off the heavens with his fingers? Who else knows the weight of the earth, or is able to advise the SPIRIT with wisdom, and teach HIM to teach the faithful all about HIM and HIS plan for us? GOD can do it all without the help of our grossly inferior “human ingenuity” (Vs.12-17).
     Nothing and no one in the universe can compare to the GOD WHO created it. Nothing can be made unless it is made from something that HE made. HE sits high above the circle of the earth’s horizon. From HIS sovereign vantage point in Heaven, HE watches over all that HE created, all the time, and HE simply sees all, hears all, and knows all that we do.
    In verses 21-26 Isaiah references “the creation” to illustrate GOD’s greatness, as GOD made and sustains all things that HE made. More importantly, GOD rules all things. In the Hebrew the word used for “create”, “bara”, is only used in reference to GOD. It is a technical theological term, and it means, quite literally, “To make something out of nothing”.
    There are certain things that only GOD can do, and by now, many a man has found that out. Only GOD can create “matter” (the material universe) and incorporate and establish the processes of nature. HE created all the stars in the heavens, named them, counted them, and continues to make sure that, none that HE desires to keep are ever lost. And HE feels the same way about HIS greatest creation, mankind.
    No one can measure the depths of GOD’s understanding. HE gives power to those who are tired and heavy laden, both young and old. Everyone who is willing to wait and depend on the LORD will find new strength. They will fly high on wings like eagles. They will run and not grow weary. They will walk exceedingly strong, and never faint (Vs.27-31).
    GOD wants us to believe in HIM with enough confidence to actually do what HIS Word (JESUS) requires us to do. That is what “saving faith” really is, for it is, “believing to a point of knowing”. Believers who acknowledge GOD’s sovereignty and greatness this way have confidence in everything that the Scriptures say about HIM, and about us. HE is involved in all of our day to day existence, and HE does not change the way HE is, simply because, we are, the way we’ve become.

A Sunday school lesson by,
Larry D. Alexander







Friday, September 9, 2016

WEEKLY SUNDAY SCHOOL LESSON
An international Sunday school lesson commentary
For Sunday September 11, 2016

Over 111,000 readers worldwide
larrydalexander.blogspot.com

THE END OF OPPRESSION
(GOD’s victory over oppression and death)
(Isaiah 25)

   In Isaiah 25 the prophet shows us a snapshot of what the “End Times” will be like for those who will receive salvation, and, for those who won’t. Here, this biblical picture of the End Times is given to encourage believers, and not to make us afraid, or, cause us to withdraw from being a blessing to the “unsaved world” with the sharing the Good News about CHRIST.
    Understandably, it is difficult for us not to wonder or imagine if what is being revealed here will occur in our own lifetimes, however, what we really should be concerned about is looking beyond this world, to GOD. JESUS cautioned us in Matthew 24:36 that, no one except the FATHER knows when the end will come, not even HE HIMSELF knew, and, taking that into account, we should be more concerned about how we are living our lives, than we are with how our lives will end.
    This chapter of the book of Isaiah is quite literally a “praise song”, a psalm that praises GOD for both, HIS judgment, and, HIS salvation through JESUS CHRIST our LORD. Here Isaiah describes a scenario which will exist when the coming “Millennial Kingdom” is established here on earth by CHRIST JESUS at the time of HIS second coming. He also describes the praise and worship that will be bestowed upon CHRIST for HIS great work of salvation. Also, here in this passage, Isaiah speaks in the first person, which is a sign of his confidence that he himself will be there to partake in this great celebration.
    Isaiah says that when CHRIST returns in HIS judgment, HE will turn mighty cities into heaps   of rubble, and beautiful palaces will disappear, never to be rebuilt again. Mighty nations will bow down before CHRIST JESUS and declare HIS glory, and revere HIM forever (Vs.2-3). He also speaks of how the LORD will be a refuge for the poor and needy that may be oppressed, and, are in distress in those days. They will be protected from the onslaught of ruthless people who have become accustomed to preying on them for their own livelihood and entertainment (Vs.4-5).
    In verse 6 Isaiah describes a magnificent feast in Jerusalem for everyone, Jews and Gentiles, from around the world to attend. On that day the LORD will remove the “veil” from the eyes of the whole world, that shadow of death that now hangs over the whole earth, so that they will be able to see at last, exactly WHO HE is. In fact, HE will swallow up death altogether, forever, and HE will wipe away tears, and remove all insults and mockeries against HIS people (Believers), both Jews and Gentiles (Vs.6-8).
    In this passage (Vs.11-12) the city of Moab represents the enemy of GOD’s people. Isaiah says that upon the LORD’s return, all of HIS enemies will be trampled underfoot like straw and left to rot. HE will put an end to HIS enemy’s rebellious pride, and destroy all of their evil works. They will no longer be able to hide behind their walls (evil works) of arrogance, which will be torn down and ground into powder.
    The end of all things is near for each of us, personally. In fact, that is the most important warning in the messages of all the Old Testament prophets, and, the New Testament writers and thinkers. It has always been, and will always be the “Will of GOD” that man, not know what his time, place, or method of demise will be. In fact, it is no man’s duty to even speculate on what GOD’s secrets may be, but rather, it is our duty to prepare ourselves for HIS coming, and then wait on mercy from JESUS CHRIST to usher us into eternal life.
    And so, from these verses of Isaiah 25, we will do good to remember to never become so engrossed in “time” that we forget about “eternity”. We can never let our concern for worldly affairs completely distract us from remembering that there is a GOD, and, that the issues of life and death are in HIS hands. And whenever HIS call for our departure comes, morning, noon, or night, we will be found ready and prepared to go into HIS glorious presence, because our own history and lifestyle, that exemplified faith in CHRIST, will judge us to be worthy to share in the Kingdom of GOD, for all eternity.

A Sunday school lesson by,
Larry D. Alexander







Friday, September 2, 2016

WEEKLY SUNDAY SCHOOL LESSON
An international Sunday school lesson commentary
For Sunday September 4, 2016

Over 111,000 readers worldwide
larrydalexander.blogspot.com

A PROMISE OF PEACE
(Lasting peace is GOD’s ultimate design for all HIS creation)
(Isaiah 11)

   In Isaiah chapter 11 the prophet foresees a time when the mighty armies and kings of the earth will be brought down like the tall giant timbers of a sequoia (redwood) forest, and out of the rubbish and destruction will rise a tiny shoot, a stump rooted in the line of Jesse, the father of David, who would become the progenitor of ONE WHO will reign forever, first, over an earthly “Millennial Kingdom”, and then later, from a throne in Heaven next to HIS Heavenly FATHER, GOD (v.1).
    Isaiah goes on further to state that, the HOLY SPIRIT of GOD would rest on this mighty MESSIAH with wisdom, understanding, and a fear of the LORD, that would surpass all who came before HIM. HE would be ONE WHO would voluntarily submit HIMSELF to the total Will of GOD, and would delight in doing so (Vs.2-3). HE would overcome the prince of this world, satan, while in human form, flesh and blood.
    This MESSIAH would also be a righteous judge, because HE is ONE WHO knows and understands reality perfectly. Unlike earthly judges before and after HIM, who often weighed a person’s wealth or social status in making their decisions and judgments, the MESSIAH’s judgment will be based strictly on the facts and merits of the individual being judged. HE will defend the poor and exploited, and rule against the wicked, destroying them with the breath of HIS mouth, or, words of HIS judgment. HIS judgment will always be clothed in truth and fairness (Vs.4-5), removing the darkness, and exposing the light.
    In this passage Isaiah describes a righteous Kingdom, a utopian existence that has always been identified only with CHRIST JESUS at the helm. It depicts a time of divine peace and harmony when, even the wild animals will be tame, and will abide right alongside people and the domesticated beasts of the earth, and the people and domesticated beast will not fear harm or death. The prophet predicts that, even the little children will be safe among the lions, bears, and poisonous snakes, and, the world will be filled with people who know and fear the LORD (Vs.6-9).
    During those times, JESUS CHRIST will stand as a “banner of salvation” to all in the world, and the nations of the world (Gentiles) will rally around HIM. The Millennial Kingdom will be a glorious place, and the LORD will bring back a remnant of people for the “second time”, returning them to the land of Israel from all parts of the world (Vs.10-11).
    The phrase “second time” used in verse 11, is a curious phrase to many of us, however, it is significant. The Jews who returned to Jerusalem following Israel’s Babylonian captivity only partially fulfilled Old Testament prophesies of a return to their homeland. In A.D. 70 the Jews were expelled from their homeland a second time by the Romans about 50 years after JESUS had ascended back into Heaven. The Romans destroyed the temple at Jerusalem during that time, which King Herod the Great had taken 40 years to build, just as JESUS HIMSELF, had also warned (Luke 21:5-6).  
    This second scattering, which history now records as the “diaspora”, was even more severe than the first. Some, however, believe that the first scattering was the one that occurred in A.D. 70, and that there is now still a second dispersion and re-gathering coming before the time of JESUS’ second coming. At that time JESUS will raise a flag, or “standard” among the nations for Israel to rally around.
    Here in this passage Isaiah describes a second exodus that would somewhat mimic the one that had occurred 700 years earlier from the grips of Egypt. A remnant of GOD’s people will be drawn from the four corners of the earth (north, south, east, and west) and be re-gathered in Jerusalem. The former Northern Kingdom, and Judah (the southern Kingdom), will re-unite as one, and will not be jealous of each other anymore.
    Together, northern Israel and Judah will conquer Philistia, which lies along the southwestern edge of Israel by the Mediterranean Sea. They will also conquer the people of northern Arabia to the east and beyond, and the people of Edom, the Moabites and the Ammonites, who dwell to the south and east of Israel (Vs.12-14).
    In verses 15-16 the prophet Isaiah describes a “supernatural movement” by the LORD at the beginning of the Millennium, where GOD will prepare the way for the Israelite’s return to their homeland. What is now the Gulf of Suez will be dried up to allow the Israelites to return from Egypt and Cush (northern Africa), and the Euphrates River will be divided into shallow streams so that the Jews can return from the east.
    As I said earlier, it will be a scene reminiscent of the great exodus from Egypt that is already recorded in the Scriptures. And the kingdom of man will be supplanted and replaced by the Kingdom of GOD (the Millennial Kingdom of CHRIST). And in GOD’s final lesson to mankind, JESUS will teach us how to operate and dwell properly as GOD’s people, in the body of CHRIST, under the guidance and direction of the HOLY SPIRIT, and in complete obedience to GOD.

A Sunday school lesson by,
Larry D. Alexander





                                 
LARRY D. ALEXANDER- Official Website





Friday, August 26, 2016

WEEKLY SUNDAY SCHOOL LESSON
An international Sunday school lesson commentary
For Sunday August 28, 2016

Over 110,000 readers worldwide
larrydalexander.blogspot.com

LOVE FULFILLS THE LAW
(We should follow the pattern of JESUS’ love)
(Romans 12:1-2 & 13:8-14)

   Romans chapters 12 and 13, along with 1 Corinthians 12, presents to us, the Christian image of what the Holy Body of CHRIST, which is the Church, should look like. Paul has already shown how GOD has moved to provide and impart righteousness in chapters 6-8. Now, he moves on to the more practical issues that go to the heart of Christian theology, and what the attitude of the true Christian should be like.
    CHRIST does not ask that we die for HIM, but rather, HE asks that we live for GOD. Paul says we should strive to be a living, acceptable, Holy sacrifice to GOD, and not allow ourselves to be conformed to the world, but rather, to be transformed from it (Romans 12:1-2).
    As GOD’s messenger, Paul warns us to (anakrino judge – judge ourselves first) be honest in our estimation of ourselves, by measuring our value by how much faith GOD has given us. And in doing so, we will be able to function better in the body of CHRIST. And just as our bodies have many parts that must work together in unison, so it is with the body of CHRIST, which is of course, the Church. Those two verses (Romans 12:1-2) constitute what a Christian’s relationship with themselves and each other, in the body of CHRIST, should be like.
    In Romans 13, verses 1-7, Paul admonishes Christians on how we must relate to the government, as we all must live in this world, and at one and the same time, be set apart from it. Here Paul reminds us that all the governments of man are servants of GOD, but few recognize it in the conscience sense. Governments are used and manipulated by GOD to achieve HIS purposes, whether they know it or not. Human governments must, at least, enforce a minimum amount of justice, lest that government be in danger of collapsing on itself. If criminal behavior were allowed to go unchecked, human society would come to an abrupt and tragic halt.
    In Romans 13, the Apostle Paul lectures on obedience to the authority that GOD has vested in mankind. Out of respect and reverence for GOD, a Christian must show respect for the governing body of any particular city, state, or country, in which they reside. We must pay our taxes and obey the laws of that society at all times (Romans 13:1-6).
   At first sight, this passage tends to provoke a surprising reaction from most Christians because it seems to suggest absolute obedience on the part of a Christian to conform to civil law. However, it is a commandment that also shows up a few other times in New Testament scripture, notably, 1 Timothy 2:1-2, Titus 3:1, 1 Peter 2:13-17. 
    I suppose one could debate that these passages were written during a time before the Roman government had begun to persecute Christians. However, we know for a fact that, in the book of Acts, often the secular magistrate served as a safe haven for those same Christians who were attacked by their own Jewish brothers for preaching the doctrine of CHRIST. And even later, in fact, years after persecutions had begun, during the reign of the Emperor Claudius (Acts 18), the Christian teachers still stuck to their guns.  It was this persistent, consistent teaching that continued even when those persecutions escalated during the reign of the Emperor Nero, when both Paul and Peter were reported to have been martyred.
    We can see quite vividly how the unchanging Word of GOD prevailed in strong Christian hearts down through the ages, even when it seemed unbearably difficult to obey HIS commands. Paul saw rebellion and insurrection against governments as a direct negation of Christian principals and doctrine. Paul correctly saw that no one can completely separate themselves from the society in which they live.
    Everyone enjoys certain benefits from being a part of an organized government. And everyone has a responsibility to dedicate a part of themselves to the safety and welfare of their respective municipality, state, and nation. For instance, we should all pay our taxes, because our taxes supplies the need of those who work in government functions such as the military, law enforcement, fire fighting, garbage pick-ups, etc. (Romans 13:6-7).
    Paying our debts is also something that all of us struggle with from time to time, however, in order to satisfy and fulfill GOD’s requirement, we must all try and make sure we eventually get our debts paid. In fact, Paul says that the only debt that we should leave owing is “the debt of love for each other as Christians”. That is a debt, Paul says, that we should never finish paying. If we continue to love our neighbor, we will continue to fulfill the requirement of GOD’s Law (Romans 13:8).
    The commandments against adultery, murder, stealing, coveting, etc. are all summed up in the commandment, “Love your neighbor as yourself”. If you love your neighbor, you won’t commit adultery with their spouse. If you love your neighbor, you won’t kill them, or steal from them, or despise them with envy of what they have, or own (Romans 13:9-10).
    The end of all things is near, for each of us, personally. For, that is the warning that the ancient prophets, and New Testament writers and thinkers all leave us with. And that is the warning that Paul gives us here in this passage starting in verse 11. Because our time here on earth is short, that gives us greater reason to want to do that which is right in the eyes of GOD. It is time to shed our evil ways like dirty clothes, and then, re-dress ourselves in the armor of right living. We must become decent and true in everything that we do so that our behavior will be accepted by both man and GOD (Romans 13:11-13a).
    The days of wild partying, getting high, engaging in all sorts of immoral living, and fighting with each other because of jealous and envious motives, must end, especially among those who profess to be Christians (Romans 13:13b). Just as Christians are a part of the body of CHRIST’s Church, they are, just as well, a part of the body of their nation, and should serve as a GODly example, or “light”, to the world at large. As I have said many times before, we, as Christians, are responsible to show the world, through our behavior, that Christianity really does produce the best men and women.
    In this world, and, in the world to come, there can be no such thing as an isolated individual. Paul clearly understood GOD’s intent in secular governments and he also clearly understood GOD’s intent in the Church as well. He clearly and correctly saw, both the Church, and the secular nation, as instruments in the hands of GOD, both unwittingly poised for a time when GOD would choose to awaken them for use in HIS OWN grand and divine plan. GOD always has a way of showing us that HE is subject to no one’s will but HIS OWN. And we might as well come to rest in that thought, lest we continue to be disappointed in our position in a world that only GOD, can, and will, control.

A Sunday school lesson by,
Larry D. Alexander





                                 
LARRY D. ALEXANDER- Official Website





Friday, August 19, 2016

WEEKLY SUNDAY SCHOOL LESSON
An international Sunday school lesson commentary
For Sunday August 21, 2016

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GOD’S MERCY ON ISRAEL
(That same mercy is also for everyone)
(Romans 11:1-24)

   In Romans chapter 11, Paul brings to the Jewish thought, the divine idea of “The Remnant”. Here he uses the Old Testament prophet Elijah, as his example, but certainly he could have equally chosen the likes of Isaiah, Jeremiah, Amos, Ezekiel, Zephaniah, or even Micah, as they all came to realize, one by one, that there was never a time when the whole nation of Israel was true to GOD, and, that there never will be. They all experienced times when they felt as though the work that they were doing in ministry to GOD was futile, or, of non-effect.
    Listening to Paul, the Jews probably felt that GOD may have already rejected his chosen people as a whole. Here Paul seeks to re-assure them that no such thing will ever happen, because of GOD’s promise to their patriarchs Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob (Vs. 1-2a & 28b).
    Here Paul brings to the Jews memory how the prophet Elijah complained to GOD about the people of Israel when he said, “LORD, they have killed your prophets and torn down your altars. I alone am left, and now they are trying to kill me too” (1 Kings 19:14). There GOD re-assured HIS prophet that, indeed, he was not alone. HE tells Elijah that there were 7000 others in Israel who had not yet bowed down to the idol gods of Baal (Vs. 2b-4).
    Time and time again Scripture returns our thoughts to the idea of a faithful remnant of people who had always lived in obedience to GOD, and it is still that way even today, as hard as that may seem to believe. And, even though there is no Church, denomination, or group that will be saved “en masse”, there always exists among us, certain individuals who are saved by way of their faithfulness, which leads to GODly behavior on their part.  
    A relationship with GOD has always been, is now, and, will forever be an individual and personal one. A person must individually give their own heart, and surrender their own life to GOD. None of us can go to Heaven based on the GODly life that “Big Mama” lived, unless, of course, we imitate her GODly behavior and obedience in our own life, and teach it to our own children.
    The Jews had to learn that they could not be saved based on their membership in GOD’s “chosen nation” alone, they must instead, live their lives in a way that is pleasing to GOD, based on faith in GOD, before GOD would consider making them a part of HIS “chosen family”. Here Paul is teaching that a person can only be saved by the personal decision that they make to walk with GOD, based on their faith.
    There can be no nation that can be lumped together as a “chosen people”, simply because of their heritage, national origin, or pedigree. The chosen people of GOD are those individuals who choose to obey GOD, and choose JESUS CHRIST, as their LORD and SAVIOR. It is those individuals who are members of “The Remnant”, that the Scriptures speak of, and that has nothing to do with race, creed, color, or national origin.
    GOD will graft into HIS family, whosoever he chooses, to replace those Jews, or anyone else, who has rejected HIM, however, those who are grafted in, must be careful not to boast of being righteous of themselves, but instead, must be willing to continue to walk in the righteousness of CHRIST JESUS (Vs. 15-20). If GOD did not spare those family members, the Jews, who were originally included in HIS family, certainly HE won’t spare the non-Jews who HE replaces HIS family members with (v. 21).
    Remember, GOD is both kind, and severe. HE is kind to those who obey HIM, and severe in HIS punishment to those who don’t. Paul goes on to say that, whenever the unbelieving Jewish people turn from their unbelief, GOD is willing to graft them back into HIS family again, because HE has that power. And not only does HE have the power to do it, HE will do it with exceeding, unspeakable joy (Vs. 22-24).

A Sunday school lesson by,
Larry D. Alexander





                                 
LARRY D. ALEXANDER- Official Website