Friday, June 14, 2019

An international Sunday school lesson commentary
For Sunday June 16, 2019

Over 203,000 readers worldwide

(CHRIST is the perfect sacrifice)
(Hebrews 9:11-28)

   JESUS CHRIST, our LORD and SAVIOR, has now entered into the perfect sanctuary that was not made by human hands, but rather, by the hand of GOD. There HE has become High Priest over all that is good. Once and for all time HE has carried HIS OWN blood into the Most Holy Place in Heaven, and with it, HE has secured our salvation forever.
    Under the old law, the blood of goats, bulls, or rams could offset the defilement of human sins temporarily. How much more effective then, must the blood of CHRIST be in purifying the human heart from deeds that had long led man to death. Now the bloodshed of CHRIST is continuously allowing man to re-establish personal relationships of friendship with GOD, whenever he is willing to repent and turn from his sin.
    Here in chapter 9, the writer prompts his readers to recall that all elements of the Mosaic Covenant had special meaning, in that, it reflected the realities in Heaven. But our HIGH PRIEST, JESUS, entered into Heaven itself, bearing HIS OWN blood, and by HIS OWN sacrifice, obtained for us, the greatest gift of all time, salvation. JESUS is the mediator of the New Covenant, a covenant that was activated by HIS OWN death on the cross.
    In Old Testament times, animal blood sacrifices were the standard requirement by GOD for the sins of man. In essence, the institution of this requirement by GOD indicates that sin merits death. However, GOD was willing to accept an animal sacrifice as a substitute for the more valuable life of the human sinner. Hebrews chapters 8-10 teaches us that the system of Old Testament sacrifices was actually an “object lesson” used by GOD to aid us in the understanding of the coming sacrifice of HIS only begotten SON, JESUS, the CHRIST.
    The Old Testament sacrifices had an “external effectiveness”, but JESUS’ sacrifice at Golgotha has an “internal effect” that cleanses the conscience that bounds us to the guilt of our past. We are no longer overcome with a past that renders us inadequate to function in the present and keeps us from moving forward to a brighter future with GOD.
    When a person dies and leaves a Will, no one can collect on the benefits of that Will, until there is proof that the person who wrote that Will is actually dead. Likewise, under the old covenant, GOD required the blood of certain animals as proof of the death of a person’s sinful desire, and the blood confirmed a person’s desire to instead, be obedient to the covenant. Afterwards, a person was able to collect on the benefits of GOD’s Will, which was founded in HIS forgiveness, and from that point forward, strive to walk in righteousness with GOD.
    The blood of animals was sufficient to purify things here on earth, and by the sprinkling of animal blood on the altar of GOD, man was allowed to continue to live here on earth. However, the real things, which are only found in Heaven, had to be purified with a far better sacrifice than the blood of unblemished animals. It took the blood of an unblemished man to meet the requirement of GOD to enter into the Kingdom of Heaven, and that perfect sacrifice could only come in the person of JESUS CHRIST.
    However, first, JESUS had to become a man, born into the world like all other human beings, so that HE could suffer through everything man has to suffer through here on earth, overcome it, and then, present HIMSELF faultless before HIS FATHER GOD as the perfect sacrifice for the sin atonement of all persons, past, present, and future, once and for all time.
    And just as it is appointed by GOD that each person dies only once, after which, comes judgment, so too, CHRIST died only once as a sacrifice that took away the sins of the people who choose to believe in HIM. JESUS will come again, but not to deal with our sins again. This time HE will bring with HIM, the salvation that is promised to all those who believe, and eagerly await HIS return, and judgment for all those who don’t.

A Sunday school lesson by,
Larry D. Alexander

Friday, June 7, 2019

An international Sunday school lesson commentary
For Sunday June 9, 2019

Over 202,000 readers worldwide

(JESUS’ death opened the door to eternal life with GOD)
(Mark 15)

   In Mark 14:53-65 and 15:1-15 John Mark gives us his account of the “Trials of CHRIST JESUS”. There, we see JESUS, first standing trial before the “Sanhedrin”, the group that was the religious authority of the day, and subsequently we see HIM before the Roman Procurator of Judea, Pontius Pilate.
    During the time of JESUS’ trials, six in all, when we combine the synoptic gospels, Matthew, Mark, and Luke together, we can see that the powers of the Sanhedrin were limited. And even though they had full power over all religious matters, according to Jewish records, judgment in matters of life and death had been taken away from the Jews by Julius Caesar decades earlier.
    While it is true that sometimes, as in the case of Stephen (Acts 7:54-60), (where they stoned him to death), the Jews did take the law into their own hands. However, legally, they had no right to apply the death penalty to anyone in those days, because Palestine was under the rule of the Roman Empire. That is why they needed to bring JESUS to Pilate, a Roman official, to be crucified (John 18:31).
    The key word here in this passage is “Crucifixion”, as the Sanhedrin wasn’t so concerned about observing Roman law, as the stoning of Stephen proves, but rather, in this case, they also wanted to discredit JESUS, and ensure that HE wouldn’t become Martyred by HIS OWN death.
    Crucifixion on a cross was considered to be the same as being hung from a tree. The Jews believed that anyone hung from a tree was “cursed of GOD”. They based this belief on what is written in Deuteronomy 21:22-23. Therefore, in their minds, Crucifixion (death by Roman method) would prove, once and for all, that JESUS could not have been the MESSIAH, and in fact, HIS manner of death would stand as proof that HE was, quite literally, “cursed of GOD”, and their own claims, being HIS opponent, would be vindicated.
    That is why the Apostle Paul has to explain in his letter to the Galatians (Galatians 3:13-14) years later, that, JESUS’ death on the cross actually “rescued” us from the “curse” pronounced by the law. There he was also referring to the statement in Deuteronomy 21:22-23, and is attempting to separate JESUS’ death on the cross from that context, and rightfully so.
    When JESUS was hung on the cross, HE took upon HIMSELF, the “curse” of our wrongdoing, and therefore the opposite occurred, and the curse became “a blessing” for all mankind. In other words, JESUS’ death on the cross actually broke the curse of our sin, and freed us spiritually to re-enter into a personal relationship of friendship with GOD. HE did not add to the curse, but rather, HE ended the curse.
    In Mark 15:21-37, John Mark gives us his dictated account of the “Crucifixion of CHRIST JESUS”. While the Apostles John and Matthew were eyewitnesses of the event, John Mark, on the other hand, wrote of the Apostle Peter’s recollections of the events surrounding JESUS’ death. Luke’s account is, by his own admission, a result of careful investigative work, and interviewing of the early Disciples, and other eyewitnesses to JESUS’ life and Ministry, here on earth. What follows, will be my attempt to incorporate these four accounts into one accurate depiction of this tragic and unjust event that is “the crucifixion of CHRIST”.
    All accounts begin with JESUS’ death walk to Golgotha (Skull Hill), where HE is ultimately crucified by Roman method. However, Mark, Matthew, and Luke include in their accounts of how, on the way, JESUS and HIS executioners make a divine encounter with a man called Simon, who is compelled by a Roman soldier to carry the cross of JESUS.
    Here we see, in Simon, a man who has come all the way from Cyrene on the continent of Africa to, no doubt, participate in the Passover Celebration, however, he instead, ends up unexpectedly becoming the first Gentile to perform a Christian mission, even though he was “forced” to do so by the Roman soldiers.
    We know now, as Christians that, picking up the cross of JESUS, and following HIM, can only be “a voluntary act” brought on by the desires of the human heart. And keep in mind also, that, it was not GOD who forced Simon to carry the cross of CHRIST JESUS, but rather, it was man. I wonder how many people still try to do that now (force people to follow CHRIST), in this, the twenty-first century.
    Great crowds of people followed as JESUS was being lead to HIS death, including many grief stricken women. As they were moving along, suddenly JESUS turned and said to them, “Daughters of Jerusalem, weep not for ME, but for yourselves, and for your children. For, behold, the days are coming, in the which they shall say, blessed are the barren, and the wombs that never bare, and the paps which never gave suck. Then shall they begin to say to the mountains, fall on us; and to the hills, cover us. For if they do these things in a green tree, what shall be done in the dry?”(Luke 23:28-31 - KJV).
    In those days, when a criminal was condemned to be crucified, he was taken from the judgment hall, and put in the midst of four Roman soldiers. The horizontal section of the cross was then laid upon the convicted person’s shoulders, and he was marched to the place of his crucifixion by the longest possible route. In front of him marched another soldier holding a placard, or “sign” stating what the convicted person’s crime was.
    In JESUS’ case, Pilate had the words, inscribed, “JESUS of Nazareth the KING of the Jews”. This was much to the dismay of the Jewish religious leaders, who tried to get him to change it to “HE said, HE was the KING of the Jews”. But Pilate probably saw this as his last chance to fire back at the Jewish religious leaders for forcing his hand in the whole ordeal with JESUS’ trial. And so, not only did he refuse to change it, but he also had the sign written in three different languages, Aramaic, Latin, and Greek.
    In Matthew 26:29, Mark 14:25, and Luke 22:18, JESUS promises HIS Disciples that HE will not drink wine again until HE drinks it new, with them in the Kingdom of GOD. In Psalms 69:21, the Psalmist tells us that JESUS would be offered sour wine to satisfy HIS thirst. We see Scripture being fulfilled in (Matt. 27:34 & 48, Mark 15:23 & 36, Luke 23:36, & John 19:29-30) where JESUS is offered wine on two occasions and refused to drink. These can also be viewed as final attempts by satan to trip JESUS up on HIS promise that HE had made to HIS Disciples, during HIS establishment of the New Covenant at the Last Supper.
    We see further fulfillment of Scripture, with the Roman soldiers gambling, or “casting lots” for JESUS’ clothing, (Matt. 27:35, Mark 15:24, Luke 23:34b, & John 19:23-24). This fulfills one of the seven Prophesies found in Psalms 22 (22:18), which states, “They part MY garments among them, and cast lots upon MY vesture” (KJV).
    There were two criminals, who were crucified with JESUS that day, one on each side of HIM. One, strangely enough, felt like he was in a position to mock JESUS. The other defended JESUS’ innocence, and thereby, became the last person directly saved by JESUS as a human being, during HIS earthly ministry (Luke 23:39-43).
    Standing near the cross that day, were Mary, JESUS’ mother, her sister Mary, the wife of Cleophas (who is said to be the same as Alpheus, the father of James and Joseph), Zebedee’s wife (the mother of James and John), Mary Magdalene, and the Apostle John. Looking down from the cross, and seeing HIS mother’s anguish, JESUS consigns her care into the hands of the Apostle John, the Disciple whom HE loved.
    The statement that JESUS made to Mary and John was the third of seven statements, or sayings, that JESUS made from the cross. Here, HE says to Mary “Woman, behold thy son”, and to John, “Behold thy mother” (John 19:26-27). The other six statements can be found in the following verses: Matthew 27:46, Luke 23:34, 43 & 46, & John 19:28b & 30a.
    At noon, darkness fell across the sky, and lasted until three o’clock. At that time JESUS speaks HIS sixth utterance from the cross, “tetelestai” (tet-el-es-ahee), the Greek word for “it is finished”, or “paid in full”. HE then bows HIS head and utters HIS seventh and final statement, “FATHER, into THY hands I commend MY Spirit”, and HE gave up the GHOST.
    There is an ensuing Earthquake, and simultaneously the curtains in the Temple were torn from top to bottom. Later the Jews went to Pilate to request that the bodies of the three be removed before the Sabbath, and that their legs be broken to expedite death. Pilate granted the request and the legs of the two criminals hanging beside JESUS were broken. However, they saw that JESUS’ body had already expired and they didn’t break HIS legs. One of the soldiers did, however, take a spear and pierce JESUS’ body in the side to ensure that HE was dead.
    In John 19:34, the Apostle John tells us that blood and water came from JESUS’ wound, after HE had been pierced with the spear. We know that normally, the body of a dead person will not bleed. It has been medically suggested by some doctors that JESUS’ experiences, physically and emotionally, leading up to HIS death, were so terrible, that HIS heart must have ruptured. When a person’s heart ruptures, the blood of the heart mingles with the fluid of the Pericardium which surrounds the heart. In all likelihood, the spear of the soldier pierced the Pericardium, or maybe both, causing the blood and water mixture to spew out.   
   This passage, by John, is final proof that JESUS was a real man, with a real body, bone of our bone, and flesh of our flesh. The water and blood, which flowed from JESUS’ side, were to John, and, should be to all Christians, a sign of the cleansing water of baptism, and of the cleansing blood that is commemorated and experienced in the LORD’s Supper.
     And so I conclude by saying, that, Pilate’s wavering during JESUS’ trial should never be mistaken for virtue. For, a quick look at his personal history shows us that he ultimately chose the path of least resistance, in order to save himself, from his own, self-imposed, troubled career. However, he should have known that the truth can never be compromised. We either hold fast to the things of GOD, or we allow ourselves to be deceived by satan.
    The Jewish leaders delivered JESUS into the hands of Pilate, and he tried to compromise. He even, on the surface, convinced himself that he had done all that he could, but actually he knew, even deeper in his heart, that he had long ago, tossed away the option to do the right thing. Jewish history implies that Pilate had unwittingly set himself up for blackmail by the Jewish hierarchy, and they now saw this as an opportune time to call in their chips.
    The permissive will of GOD allows for man to do many things, and ultimately, through JESUS’ death, we also receive, in addition, GOD’s wonderful and abounding Grace. However, GOD, through his wisdom, will never allow grace to “trump” TRUTH. The TRUTH presented itself to Pilate that day, in the person of JESUS CHRIST, and he ultimately decided to put TRUTH to death.
    And, as for the Jews, in order to carry out the death of JESUS, they abandoned every principal they ever had, especially, that day, when they uttered those infamous words to Pilate, as it is recorded in John 19:15, where they declare, “We have no King but Caesar”.
   That put the final “brush strokes” on a “tragic painting”, of a maddened mob that had been driven by anger. Driven by their hatred for JESUS, the Jews lost all sense of proportion, and they totally forgot about the mercy they had so often preached about in the Temple. They forgot all about justice, and in the end, denounced GOD, and professed Caesar.
    Never before in the history of man has hatred’s insanity presented itself to us more vividly, and hopefully, it never will again. There can never be “a right time” to do “the wrong thing”, as Pilate and the Jews ultimately did. In their case, they took the most beautiful LIGHT that ever did live, and then, they snuffed HIM out, on a cross.

A Sunday school lesson by,
Larry D. Alexander

Friday, May 31, 2019

An international Sunday school lesson commentary
For Sunday June 2, 2019

Over 201,000 readers worldwide

(Our superior all-inclusive covenant with JESUS)
(Mark 14:17-24 and Hebrews 8:6-12)

   Scripture shows us again and again how efficient JESUS was in planning and arrangement. We see over and over again how HE did not leave things unprepared until the last moment. All of HIS arrangements were made far in advance. 
    In Matthew’s account of the last week of JESUS’ life, in chapter 26, starting at verse 17, we see HIS Disciples coming to HIM inquiring as to where HE wanted them to prepare the Passover Feast. JESUS sent them into Jerusalem with instructions to look for a man and tell him that, “MY time is at hand; I will keep the Passover at thy house with MY Disciples” (KJV).
    However, in John Mark’s Gospel account, here in chapter 14, verses 13-15, we pick up a few more details. Here we see JESUS instructing HIS disciples to “look for a man carrying a pitcher of water”. This sort of instruction is an obvious pre-arranged signal, because in those days, carrying pots of water was strictly a woman’s duty. To see a man performing this chore would be extremely unusual, and would be a sure-fire way of identifying the right man.
    Now, let’s examine why this man’s house would be a good place for JESUS and HIS disciple’s Passover Supper. In those days, the larger Jewish houses had upper rooms. They were constructed in such a manner, that they resembled a smaller box that was stacked on top of a larger box. The smaller “upper room”, which could be accessed by way of an outside stairway, served multiple purposes. It was used as a storage area, guest room, or just a quiet place of meditation. However, customarily it was used as a place where Jewish Rabbis would come to teach, and it was not just a coincidence that this particular man had just such a house.
    According to the way that the Jews count days, the new day begins at 6:00 o’clock in the evening, and Passover Day is on the 14th Nisan. However, preparation for the Passover is done on the 13th Nisan, and is completed by 6:00 p.m. on that day.
    In preparing for Passover, there is first, a “ceremonial search for leaven”, where every bit of “leaven” must be totally removed from a person’s household. This is in conformance with the tradition of the very first Passover in Egypt, as it is recorded in Exodus 12, where it was commemorated with the eating of “unleavened bread”.
    Then, on the afternoon of the 13th Nisan, came the “sacrificing of the Passover Lamb”. All the people would come to the temple and the worshipers who could afford a lamb, would each kill their own for a sacrifice to GOD.
    Two long lines of priests stood between the worshippers and the Altar, each holding a gold or silver bowl. When the lamb’s throat was slit, the blood was caught in one of these bowls, and was passed up the line to the priest at the end of the line, who would pour the blood onto the Altar.
    The lamb is then skinned and gutted, and the fat is extracted. The meat is then handed back to the worshipper, and it is then, carried home to be roasted on an open fire with a spit made of Pomegranate wood. The table that is used for the Passover meal is shaped like a square, with one end open. It was very low, and the diners had to recline on couches, resting on their left arm, while keeping their right arm free for eating.
    With that said, I’ll now try to shed some light of understanding on the concept of the Christian Church communion with CHRIST JESUS and what it symbolizes. The words “in remembrance”, that JESUS uses in HIS instituting of the LORD’s Supper, dates back to the Old Testament concept of “Zikkaron” (Zik-ka-rone). Zikkaron is a Festival, Practice, or Object, that is used to symbolically link future generations to a distinctive act of GOD. The name derives from the Hebrew word “zikrown” (zik-rone), which means “a memento, or memorable thing, day, or writing”.
    Through the Zikkaron, GOD’s people could sense their personal participation, along with the original generation, in the act that GOD had performed for them years earlier. Thus the LORD’s Supper is a unique institution of sacrament, intended to link all generations to the memory of CHRIST JESUS’ vicarious sacrifice as a 100% human being on the cross at Golgotha.
    The New Covenant is mentioned many times in the Old Testament, and it is spelled out quite clearly by GOD, in Jeremiah 31:31-34. JESUS came to usher in that new Covenant from GOD, and it is a Covenant that is far superior to any before, or since, that time. This New Covenant provides for the “regeneration of mankind”, and allots for us to be “indwelt by the HOLY SPIRIT”, when we come to believe in JESUS CHRIST. The bread, which we eat at the sacrament, is common bread, but for those who have the heart to feel and understand, it is indeed the very body of CHRIST.
    In the Gospel according to Luke, as expressed in 22:22, in his original Greek writings, the word Luke uses in JESUS’ statement, that translates “determined”, is “horizo” (hor-id-zo). Luke is the only author in Scripture who uses this particular translation for “determined”, and he uses it only there, and in Acts 17:26. In both places it means “decreed by GOD”, and is meant to remind us, from a “time-bound” perspective, that JESUS’ death was a miscarriage of justice, and that, from GOD’s point of view, it was the keystone of HIS plan to, not only provide salvation to mankind, but to also, set all things right with HIM.
    In Hebrews chapter 8, we see that JESUS now ministers on the basis of a much better, superior covenant than the one handed down to Moses by GOD back in the book of Exodus. JESUS is GOD’s superior priest, and our ultimate representative in the presence of GOD the FATHER in Heaven.
    A “superior priest” could never operate on the basis of “an inferior covenant”, and so here in this chapter of Scripture, the writer begins to move toward the conclusion of his discussion and argument regarding the superiority of CHRIST JESUS as our “HIGH PRIEST”.
    Aaronic priests ministered on earth in a sanctuary that was a mere copy of the Heavenly Sanctuary. It was only a shadow of the true sanctuary in Heaven that was built by the hand of GOD, and where CHRIST now ministers. The superiority of JESUS’ ministry is also reflected in the superiority of the New Covenant, which HE ushered in to us, during HIS three-year ministry here on earth.
    Unlike the earthly high priest who was required to offer gifts and sacrifices for, first, their own sins, and then ours, JESUS has no need to offer sacrifices for HIMSELF because HE, quite frankly never sinned. And the sacrifice HE offers for our sins, past, present, and future, is HIS OWN life, which was offered up on the cross at Golgotha, where HE spilled HIS blood, some 2000 years ago.
    Back in Exodus 24, verses 1-8, the Israelites accepted GOD’s covenant as it had been given to Moses on Mount Sinai. However, man would not then, and quite frankly, will not now, abide by such a covenant, because we let our sins, continuously interrupt our relationship with GOD. It took the life of CHRIST to restore our lost relationship of friendship with GOD. If we, as a people, would have abided by the first covenant, there would have been no need for the, more superior covenant that was ushered in by CHRIST JESUS to replace it.
    The first covenant was offered by GOD to show us how much we need HIM in our lives to survive, and, how far we were from living according to HIS OWN glorious standards. And so, while “the old Covenant” in essence, could only condemn us, the New Covenant, by contrast, brings forgiveness through CHRIST JESUS, and thereby, can only save us. However, this salvation can only be given to those who voluntarily accept GOD, in all HIS fullness.
    In the Greek, the word used for “covenant”, in all normal secular applications, is “suntheke” (soon-tha-kay), and it is “an agreement between two equal parties or entities, on equal terms”, i.e. a marriage, or a business deal or partnership.
    However, in the New Testament Scriptures, the Greek word that is always used for “covenant” is “diatheke” (dee-ath-ay-kay), and it is “an agreement that is actually along the terms of a “devised Will”. In other words, only one party draws up the terms, and the other party can either accept or reject the terms, or inheritance, that is offered. They cannot change or alter any of the contents within that Will.
    The use of this word, “diatheke”, is understandable, because we, as human beings, cannot enter into an equal partnership with GOD, and cannot be on equal terms with GOD for obvious reasons. We are only able to make a voluntary decision to accept, or reject HIS covenant offer, and cannot alter, or change HIS terms in any way.
    Even in the secular world, we know that “a Will” does not go into effect until the person who wrote it has been proven dead. JESUS, WHO is our HIGH PRIEST, first died on the cross for our sins, then, re-entered into Heaven, bearing HIS OWN blood to present as a sacrificial atonement for all of our sins, past, present, and future. And with HIS sacrifice, HE purchased eternal salvation for all mankind in general, and all Christians in particular, once, and for all time. In short, JESUS is the mediator of the New Covenant that was activated by HIS OWN death.
    And finally, in the biblical Greek, there are two words that are used for “new”. One is “neos” (neh-os), which means “new in respects to time”. It can be a regeneration, or “exact copy” of something already existing, such as a new piece of clothing, or a new pair of shoes, or furniture. The other word used for new in the biblical Greek is “kainos” (kahee-nos), which means, not only new in relation to time, but also “new in quality and expression”. It is something that is “a new creation altogether”, or “a new product that has been introduced into the world for the first time”. “Kainos” is the word used here by the author to describe the covenant ushered in by JESUS CHRIST, however, this New Covenant can never be improved upon, or copied.
    There is one other essential that we should accentuate regarding the New Covenant which was ushered in by the actions of CHRIST JESUS. In Hebrews 10, verses 16-18, the author of GOD tells us that the New Covenant is one that calls for “internal”, rather than “external” adaptations. This means that we will no longer want to obey GOD simply because the law compels us to, or, because we fear punishment, but rather, we will obey HIM because “the desire to obey will be written on their hearts and minds”.
    Under the old Covenant, man could only hope to keep a right relationship with GOD by obeying HIS laws, through their own efforts. Here, in the New Covenant Age, everything is dependent, not on, what we can do, but rather, everything rests solely on the grace of GOD, and what JESUS CHRIST has done, by way of HIS vicarious sacrifice. JESUS, both, removes our guilt, and, mediates our New Covenant with GOD.
    GOD wishes to place HIS laws for living on our hearts, not just in writing on stone or, even paper, for that matter. HE wants us to understand HIM in our innermost being, so that we can obey HIM more completely. HE wants to be our GOD, and HE wants us to be HIS people. HE wants us to teach of HIM, not just with the words of our mouths, but more importantly, with our behavior as professed Christians.
    We, as Christians, must make our old selves obsolete, just as GOD made the Old Covenant Law obsolete when HE sent us HIS only begotten SON to save us from ourselves. In the New Testament Greek, the word used for “old”, or “obsolete” is “palaioumenon” (pal-ah-yo-o-me-non), and it describes “something that is out of date” and “ready to be set aside”. And so we as professed Christians must be voluntarily willing to set aside our old way of thinking and behaving, and take up those new and unique examples that were demonstrated to us by CHRIST JESUS during HIS 100% human lifetime here on earth.

A Sunday school lesson by,
Larry D. Alexander

Friday, May 24, 2019

An international Sunday school lesson commentary
For Sunday May 26, 2019

Over 201,000 readers worldwide

(A living sacrifice to GOD)
(Romans 12)

   Romans chapter 12, 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 us earlier 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, in as much as HE asks that we live for GOD. Paul says we should strive to be a living, acceptable, holy sacrifice to GOD, no longer allowing ourselves to be conformed to the world, but rather, to be gradually transformed from it by changing the way we think and make decisions. We have to learn to actively apply the ways and examples of CHRIST into our everyday life, and gradually move away from a worldly way of thinking, or, veiwpoint.  
    As GOD’s messenger, Paul warns us to 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.
    As Christians, we’ve all become a part of CHRIST’s body, and we each have different tasks to perform as members of that body. However, at one and the same time, we all belong to each other, and, need each other. GOD has given each of us certain gifts, and we are obligated by GOD to use those gifts in service of HIM, and, each other. We are to genuinely love each other, honor each other, and love what is right. We must also enthusiastically serve GOD as a member of the body of CHRIST in our homes, and, in all other areas of our lives.
    In addition, we must not curse those who trouble us, but rather, we should pray for them that GOD might bless them also. When others are happy, be glad that they are happy, not envious because you’re not. And, when they are sad, we should share with them, in their sorrow.
    Do your part to contribute to peace and don’t try to repay people for their evil deeds toward you, for that is a matter for GOD to handle. Don’t let evil conquer you, but rather, access the power of the HOLY SPIRIT in you, that you may be able to conquer evil instead.
    GOD’s righteousness is revealed through the transformed lives of men and women, who strive to reflect HIS image to others through their behavior. As a person is transformed in their mind, and is, as a result, made more like CHRIST, they begin to, not only approve of, but also desire GOD’s Will.
    To do GOD’s Will, will become paramount to us, as we begin to discover and understand more and more, that which pleases GOD. What pleases GOD and what is good for us, are, in fact, one in the same thing. In that sense, which is the spiritual sense, a person becomes complete in every way, and, is able to walk in the newness of life, that is CHRIST JESUS, and of course, enjoy GOD’s Will full time.
    The commands of Scripture are as real today, as they were in the beginning. GOD’s, expectations of us, has not changed over time. HE still expects us to do things that the world cannot do, or understand. Things like, serving, instead of wanting to be served all the time, sharing, instead of keeping things to ourselves, blessing people, instead of cursing them, loving, instead of hating.
    All of these actions are “conditions of the heart” that are expressed in our lives on a daily basis, and, they really do identify just whose side we are really on. It is always a sad commentary to hear a non-believer say this about a Christian, “You know, I didn’t really notice anything different about that person. What makes being a Christian so special?” As believers in the body of CHRIST, we must, at all times, focus on proving to the unbelieving world, through our lifestyles and examples, that Christianity, really does produce the best men and women.

A Sunday school lesson by,
Larry D. Alexander

Thursday, May 16, 2019

An international Sunday school lesson commentary
For Sunday May 19, 2019

Over 200,000 readers worldwide

(We can all be in GOD’s family)
(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. But 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).
   In this passage Paul brings to the Jews memory of 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, denomination, or group that will be saved “en masse”, there will always exists among us, certain individuals who are saved by way of their faith in GOD, which governs their behavior and keeps them on “the right path” or, “road to salvation”.  
    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 ourselves, 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, as individuals, 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 for GOD, based on their faith. There can be no nation that can be lumped together as a “chosen people”, simply because of their heritage, pedigree, or national origin. The chosen people 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, and HE will do it with exceeding, unspeakable joy (Vs. 22-24).

A Sunday school lesson by,
Larry D. alexander