Friday, June 27, 2014

An international Sunday school lesson commentary
For Sunday June 29, 2014

Over 62,000 readers worldwide

(Don’t confuse the messenger with the message)
(1 Corinthians 1:10-17)

Paul’s first letter to the church at Corinth was written to address the many problems that had cropped up there, during the time, immediately following his founding of the church during his second missionary journey (Acts 18:1-8). The believers in Corinth had begun to question Paul’s authority as an apostle appointed by CHRIST. They were also misusing worship, suing each other in court, engaging in all sorts of immorality, and even denying that the resurrection of CHRIST ever took place.
The apostle Paul wrote this letter circa A.D. 57 on behalf of himself and Sosthenes, the ruler of the synagogue at Corinth. Sosthenes was the man, who was beaten by the angry mob that day in the courtroom, while standing before the Roman governor Gallio of Achaia (Acts 18:17). Sosthenes must have converted to Christianity some time following that mob scene in his city. The obvious purpose of this letter was to correct any damage that had already occurred, and to stave off any further damage to the Christian belief system in this young church at Corinth.
In the biblical Greek, the word used for “divisions” in verse 10 is “schismata”, and it describes a condition of “tears and splits that divide the wholeness of a unit”. In 1 Corinthians 1:10-17, after giving thanks to GOD, Paul focuses in on the obvious divisions taking place in the church at Corinth, and he sets out to present his appeal there for unity. The debate in the Church at Corinth over Christian leadership had all but destroyed the unity of that local congregation. They were constantly engaged in heated debate over who they should follow. Some wanted to follow Paul, while others were loyal to Apollos, and Peter, and fortunately, some, who were still in their right mind, were yet willing to follow CHRIST JESUS, the GOD appointed, true HEAD of the Church. 
Some people, and understandably so, have come to cite this passage as an argument against forming different denominations within the Christian body. When we separate the Christian church into different factions, we are, in effect, arguing that our group is “best” or “right”, and as a result, we separate ourselves from others who are really equal members in the body of CHRIST.
We all can agree that, here in the twenty-first century, we have become more interested in teaching people about our various denominations (i.e. Baptist, Methodist, Catholic), than we are about teaching GOD’s perfect idea that is now called “Christianity”. However, it would serve us well to always remember that “Christianity” is the only “true” religion, because it is the only religion that is a product of GOD’s mind. Every other religion, sect, or denomination known to man, is quite simply, a product of man’s own mind, and therefore, in essence, is wrong.
The good news is that GOD already knew that this kind of desire, for human superiority, would rise up out of the minds of men. And so, through HIS permissive will, HE grants us these options, as long as we respect HIS most basic of Christian principles, that were laid out for us, by CHRIST, in Matthew 22:37-40. There CHRIST states the greatest of all Christian doctrine when HE commands that, we;

“Love GOD with all our heart, soul, and mind, and that we love our neighbor as we love ourselves”. CHRIST goes on to say that, “All the other commandments and all the demands of the prophets are based on these two commandments” (NLT).

And, even though, we may never organize our Christian churches in the same way, nor are we likely to ever worship GOD, in the same way, and in fact, we may never even believe in precisely the same things about the same ALMIGHTY GOD that we share. However, “Christian unity”, is intended by GOD to transcend all these differences, and bring men together in fellowship and love. It is that same kind of “Christian unity” that JESUS prayed about in John 17, and, that same kind of “Christian unity” that Paul wrote about to the Church here in this letter to the Corinthians, and indeed, in all of his other doctrinal letters. It is a unity that is not born of bricks and mortar, but rather, it is a unity of “personal relationships”, not unlike the one we’ve already seen, between the FATHER and the SON, as an example to us, for all time.

A Sunday school lesson by,
Larry D. Alexander

LARRY D. ALEXANDER- Official Website

Friday, June 13, 2014

An international Sunday school lesson commentary
For Sunday June 15, 2014

Over 61,000 readers worldwide

(GOD’s power shows through us when we live in the SPIRIT)
(Haggai 2:20-23 & Zechariah 4:5-14)

In Haggai chapter 2, verses 20-23, we see the fourth message of the prophet Haggai. It is a messianic prophecy for Zerubbabel, the son of Sheathiel, and the governor of Judah at that time. Zerubbabel was a man who lived in the SPIRIT, and always tried to follow the instructions of the LORD, and the LORD is always faithful to reward those who are obedient to HIS instructions.
In this particular passage, the LORD sends a fourth message to Haggai. It is the second that was directed to Zerubbabel overall, and the only one that was directed to him specifically, and personally (also see Haggai 2:1-9). Here the LORD tells HIS faithful servant that after HE overturns and destroys the royal thrones of the world, HE will honor him, and treat him like a “signet ring” on HIS finger.
In other words, HE will use Zerubbabel’s life and service as an example to the nation of Israel, of how a leader should conduct himself under GOD. Zerubbabel’s leadership represented closely, the “express image” of what GOD expects from those who desire, and are called, to lead HIS people. HE had chosen Zerubbabel as the channel through which HE would continue the “Davidic Line” that was interrupted by Jehoiachin.
The other significance of comparing Zerubbabel to a signet ring, “a seal of royal approval”, is clarified by the imagery in Jeremiah 22:24-25, regarding GOD’s denouncement of King Jehoiachin as HIS signet ring. Here Haggai is likely indicating that, through Zerubbabel, GOD was reversing the curse that HE had exacted towards Jehoiachin several decades earlier, allowing him to be taken captive by Nebuchadnezzar into Babylon.
Having used the words “on that day” (v.23), actually steers this prophecy to a future date and does not suggest that Zerubbabel himself would ever rule as king. Instead, it points to a fulfillment that would be realized in the Messianic Age of CHRIST JESUS. However, Zerubbabel is clearly seen as exercising his role, in the line of David that is just as important as that of any GODly Davidic King.
In Zechariah 4, in the Prophet Zechariah’s “vision of the gold lampstand and the two olive trees” (his fifth vision), the interpreting angel awakens him and directs his attention to a solid gold lampstand that was similar to the ones that were used in the temple. This complex vision contains several symbols;

·         The Lampstand – represents the abundance of GOD’s power through the HOLY SPIRIT.
·         The seven lamps represent the eyes of the LORD, which searches all around the world.
·         The two olive trees – represent the priestly and royal offices.
·         The two branches – represent Joshua and Zerubbabel, or can be anyone who assists GOD here on earth.
·         The two golden pipes that pour out golden oil – represent the SPIRIT’s abundant power flowing to GOD’s servants here on earth.
Here GOD promises the GODly leaders of that day, and now, that, although they were lacking in human resources of wealth and manpower, HIS HOLY SPIRIT would supply them with the physical, financial, and spiritual strength they would need to complete the task of the work on the House of GOD, a task that HE had personally assigned them to do.    
Zechariah 4, verse 6, which states, “It is not by force nor by strength, but by MY SPIRIT, says the LORD” (NLT), remains one of the most challenging and encouraging verses of Scripture ever written. It reminds us, down through the ages, that we rely not on our own strength, ability, or human ingenuity, but rather, on the HOLY SPIRIT of the Almighty GOD, our SAVIOR through JESUS CHRIST. There is no room in the Church for “human ingenuity”.
Due to our pride in what we do well, it is easy to become discouraged when we see how little we can do, or have to do, with the operations and functioning of the Christian Church. In those days in Judah, the temple that GOD was asking the people to erect paled in comparison to the magnificent edifice that King Solomon had constructed years earlier. However, we should rejoice in “small beginnings” which lead to larger promises from GOD (v.10).
When we step out faithfully to perform the small things that GOD calls us to do, invariably, they lead to even bigger, better things that will ultimately lead to eternal and total fulfillment in CHRIST. The LORD always purifies people so that they might glorify HIM in the end. HE supplies us with abundant power and energy to complete the task that HE calls us to do, and HE will remain with us until, and after, that task is completed. GOD’s power shows through us when we live in the SPIRIT.

A Sunday school lesson by,
Larry D. Alexander  

                                           LARRY D. ALEXANDER- Official Website

Friday, June 6, 2014

An international Sunday school lesson commentary
For Sunday June 8, 2014

Over 61,000 readers worldwide
(Hold strong to the LORD in your obedience)
(Haggai 1:12-2:9)

In the biblical Greek the word used for “longsuffering” is “makrothumia”. It is a word that describes a spirit that never grows irritated, never despairs, and never regards anyone as being beyond salvation. The only wise GOD, our SAVIOR through JESUS CHRIST, exists in that spirit continuously. I know that’s the case, because, if HE didn’t, HE would have destroyed mankind a long time ago. GOD wants us, as a human race, to exhibit that same kind of spirit and attitude towards each other, because if we don’t, eventually, we will destroy ourselves.
The destruction of Jerusalem in 586 B.C. marked the end of an era in Jewish national and religious life. In Babylon, the Jews were without a temple, or an official place to worship and sacrifice to GOD. And even though they could still direct their prayers toward Jerusalem while in Babylon (1 Kings 8:48 & Daniel 6:10), it was only because of GOD’s stirring of the hearts of the Persian kings, Cyrus and Darius, that this remnant of some 50.000 Jews were able to return to Jerusalem where David had first opened up the worship center hundreds of years earlier.
“The GOD of another chance”, despite our failures, disappointments, and ignorance toward HIM twenty four hours a day, remains with us faithfully. HE constantly overlooks our failures and disobedience in the spirit of makrothumia, and for our part, we must be able to view our sins as “heartbreaking” to ourselves, and, to GOD. We must be able to repent, humble ourselves, and then gain a strong desire and compunction, not to re-visit those same old trespasses again.
In Haggai chapter 1, less than twenty years after the Jewish exiles had begun to return to their homeland, they had already begun to re-develop their rebellious, selfish and disobedient ways toward GOD, and each other. They had abandoned the work on the temple and were moving full speed ahead toward their own selfish, personal agendas. Sure! They were building for the future, as we are all supposed to do, however they were building for a future that did not include GOD.
In verse 13, after hearing the message from the LORD, that was delivered by the prophet Haggai, Zerubbabel, Jeshua, and all the people of Judah obeyed the LORD and began to worship HIM earnestly and enthusiastically, and they began to work on the House of the LORD again, in the second year of the reign of King Darius of Persia.
One month later (Haggai chapter 2), the LORD sent another message by Haggai asking the leaders and the people if anyone was able to remember what the old temple looked like, and, to compare it to the way that it currently looked. No doubt the people were somewhat discouraged by the enormity of the task that GOD had laid before them, and they were starting to doubt that they could fulfill their commitment to the LORD in this matter. Nevertheless, GOD, through Haggai, urged the Israelites to take courage and complete the work on the temple, and HE HIMSELF would remain with them until the work was complete (Vs.4-5). Here is that message:

“For this is what the LORD Almighty says: In just a little while I will again shake the heavens and the earth. I will shake the oceans and the dry land too. I will shake the nations, and the treasures of all the nations will come to this temple. I will fill this place with glory, says the LORD Almighty. The silver is mine, and the gold is mine, says the LORD Almighty. The future glory of the temple will be greater than its past glory, says the LORD Almighty. And in this place I will bring peace. I, the LORD Almighty have spoken” - Haggai 2:6-9 (NLT)

In verse 6 we find the only verse in the book of Haggai that is quoted in the New Testament (Hebrews 12:26). There it is stated in relation to the end times, or is an eschatological reference to the “end of the world” when GOD will introduce a cosmic earthquake that will destroy every human society, and call all mankind to judgment.
The words, “in a little while”, does not suggest literal immediacy, but rather, it speaks of an impending, imminent action that GOD could, at any time take, at HIS OWN discretion. We must keep in mind that “all eternity” is like “a little while” to our eternal GOD, and HE has all the time in the world to orchestrate HIS plan.
This message delivered by Haggai to the Israelites in biblical times is something that also applies to us in this day and age because it is an “eschatological prophecy” and has not yet come to pass. And so it is very relevant in this, “The Church Age” that we heed this warning. It tells us that after GOD clears the present-day Christian Church of all of the “profane things” (satan’s offerings) that modern-day pastors and leaders have incorporated into it with their human ingenuity, GOD says, HIS glory will return to it. Then, the “desired things” (“hemdat” in the Hebrew – “precious things”) will once again be offered up to the LORD GOD Almighty in HIS “Church House” from all the nations in the world. Absolutely every knee will bow, and every tongue will confess, that JESUS CHRIST is LORD, in the end!

A Sunday school lesson by,
Larry D. Alexander

                                           LARRY D. ALEXANDER- Official Website