Friday, September 28, 2012

WEEKLY SUNDAY SCHOOL LESSON
An international Sunday school lesson commentary
For Sunday September 30, 2012

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FAITH REQUIRES MUTUAL LOVE
(The priority of our faith is love)
(Hebrews 13:1-3 & 1 Corinthians 13)

The book of Hebrews concludes with a series of exhortations to Christians concerning how we should live a life of faith. We are called to love and trust in GOD, and, to continue to listen to and respect those leaders who first introduced us to the LORD. Here, believers are called to live a life of love for their fellowman (Hebrews 13:1). We should not neglect to show hospitality to everyone, because we never know when we might be entertaining an angel (v. 2). We should even remember the imprisoned with the same passion and frequency with which we pray for ourselves. And finally, we must bear each other’s burdens as so to fulfill the command of CHRIST JESUS.
The epilogue of this letter to the Hebrews is distinguished from its body in that it contains specific admonitions that we should adhere to. It contains not only the writer’s personal comments, but also gives specific instructions suggesting how we can worship GOD in a more acceptable manner. In short, the writer’s final appeal is aimed at steering us toward a mutual, unconditional love for one another.
In Scripture we are told that Faith, Hope, and Love, are the three great enduring things (1 Corinthians 13:13). They are the spiritual elements that must be embodied in every person who desires to be a true follower of CHRIST JESUS, and, who wishes to worship GOD, in spirit, and in truth. And, of those three elements, “Love” is the greatest.
In the Apostle Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians, the segment we now know as chapter 13 is perhaps the best-known passage. It has come to be known, the world over, as the “Love Chapter”. In this, now famous passage, Paul, moves from explaining how to recognize “spiritual gifts”, in the previous chapter (chapter 12), to how one can measure and express, his or her spirituality, in the “most excellent way”. And that way, Paul insists, is by showing “Love”, an element of quality so vital, that without it, not even the greatest of spiritual gifts can enrich and enhance the lives of those who possess them, nor, the lives of the people that they seek to help (1 Corinthians 13:1-3).
Paul clearly understood that “Love” is not just an abstract, philosophical idea, but rather, it is practical, and must be expressed in the everyday actions and attitudes of the believer (verses 4-7). Even the greatest of spiritual gifts are limited and distorted by their own mortalities and imperfections. In other words, no spiritual gift lasts forever, but rather, they fade and deteriorate in conjunction with the aging process of the human body (verses 8-12). 
However, through it all, we can rely on our Faith, Hope, and love, which is GOD personified, to sustain us. “Love” is the greatest quality because it, quite literally, is the foundation of the Christian Faith, and, of life itself. Understanding that, we can see quite vividly why “Love” is the true measure a person’s spirituality, and it also exemplifies the closeness of one’s relationship with GOD.
Paul sought to make sure that we realize, quite readily, who, among us is truly spiritual. And the only way to do that was, by first, making sure we understood the true nature of love, and then, by presenting to us the criteria by which we can evaluate, or judge (diakrino judgment) the spirituality of others. This is so we won’t be duped into following the leadership and advice of false teachers.
Paul, quite simply shows us, in his own brilliant sort of way, the true “behavioral definition” of “Love”. In this passage, Paul is saying that, any person who is a spiritual representative of GOD, “acts like it”, not just “talks like it”. GOD is love, and when JESUS came to earth, HE clearly demonstrated that Love to us, and for us, time and time again. As a result, HE became “LOVE” personified in the eyes of men for all times. HE served to show us what “Love” is supposed to look like as an integral part of the human, earthly experience, or, in other words, how we are to incorporate this “Love” into our everyday actions, attitudes, and indeed, into our existence.
And while it is true that perfection won’t come to the Church until GOD’s   program for it is consummated with the “second coming” of our LORD and SAVIOR, JESUS CHRIST, and until then, a church is only perfect when no human being is in it, we as Christians can still, all reach a high level of maturity by learning and becoming accustomed to practicing the immortal acts of Love, that were already exhibited to us by CHRIST JESUS, during HIS first advent. 
As for “Faith” and “Hope”, they are merely manifestations of “Love”, but because of it, they too, will endure forever. All, that we know now is partial and incomplete, because we are yet mere children in CHRIST. And when we are children, we are expected to act like children, just as when we grow up, we are expected to put away childish things and behavior.
Before we come to know CHRIST, we’ve already long become accustomed to looking at ourselves through an unclean mirror, and, as a result, we do not see ourselves as we really are. The blood of CHRIST gives us something, by which we can use, to clean that mirror off, and begin seeing ourselves clearly for the very first time.
We are then able to walk into the store of GOD, and pick us up a free bottle of “faith”. And then, we can take it home and use it to spray some “hope” on that unclean mirror. And with “Love”, we can wipe away the old life, and usher in the new. Then, and only then, will we be able to turn ourselves around, and begin heading in the right direction, walking in the newness of life, that is found only in CHRIST JESUS.

A Sunday school lesson by,
Larry D. Alexander



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