Friday, March 20, 2015

WEEKLY SUNDAY SCHOOL LESSON
An international Sunday school lesson commentary
For Sunday March 22, 2015

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RECEIVE THE HOLY SPIRIT
(JESUS empowers us with the HOLY SPIRIT)
(John 20-19-31)

The Christian Church should never endeavor to follow man-made policies, but rather, should always aspire to adhere to the will of CHRIST JESUS. The Church fails when it tries to solve problems within its own wisdom and strength, and omits the will and guidance of GOD, through the Holy Scriptures that are already written. It tends to cast doubt on the Christian belief structure, already put in place by CHRIST, through the holy and divine instructions of GOD the FATHER, and exhibits an inadequate faith, or inadequate view of GOD, as far as us trusting in HIS superior wisdom.
In John chapter 20, verses 19-29, JESUS invites all doubters to accept and believe in HIM. We see chronicled in these verses, the first two times JESUS appeared to HIS disciples during the forty-day period following HIS Resurrection. The first occurred on the day of the resurrection, and the second occurred eight days later. On the evening of Resurrection Sunday, the chosen Disciples of CHRIST JESUS were meeting behind locked doors, because they were afraid of the Jewish leaders. They feared that the Jewish leaders would be seeking to kill them, just as they had slain JESUS three days earlier. They had not yet received the courage from the HOLY SPIRIT that they would need to carry out the commission of CHRIST.
Suddenly, JESUS was standing among them saying, “Peace be with you”, a phrase HE would repeat three times, twice in the first visit, and once more in the second visit. During these post-Resurrection visits, JESUS was seeking to strengthen and encourage HIS Disciples, and get them to finally believe in HIM. HE sought to instill in them, the “Divine Viewpoint” they would need in order to convince others to also believe. The phrase “HE breathed on them” is translated from the Aramaic idiom meaning, “HE gave them courage”. That encouragement came in the form of “the promise of the HOLY SPIRIT”.
JESUS tells HIS chosen men in verse 23 that, “Whosoever sins ye remit, they are remitted unto them; and whosoever sins ye retain, they are retained” (KJV). This statement has been the subject of much controversial debate over the centuries, however, here JESUS is saying, quite simply that, “a saved person, who embodies the HOLY SPIRIT of GOD, and has been granted mercy and forgiveness as a result, has in turn, been granted the power of forgiving sins committed against us, and thereby, against GOD. If we forgive anyone’s sins, as a saved person, those sins are forgiven because GOD is in total agreement with “forgiveness” and “being merciful toward one another.
In the Greek, the word used here for “forgive” is “apheimi” and it means, quite literally, to “send away”, “wipe away”, or “restore a relationship back into a condition of wholeness or rightness”. In essence, sharing the Gospel also places us in a role of forgiving, or not forgiving of sins, depending on the response of the hearer. Even when we, as Christians, receive a person’s request for salvation, and we subsequently lead them to CHRIST, we are, quite literally, giving that person an opportunity to turn from their sins and turn to GOD, so that their sins can be forgiven. It is the same as the opportunity that JESUS gives all of us, by way of HIS vicarious sacrifice, and the HOLY SPIRIT in us, bears witness to that (Acts 5:31-32, Ephesians 1:6-8). It is still the great privilege of the Church to convey the message of GOD’s forgiveness to men.
In contrast, the word used this passage for “retain”, or “un-forgiven” is “krateo” (krat-eh-o), and it means “to leave something or someone in the same state or condition of brokenness as they were found”. As saved people, Christians, because we embody the HOLY SPIRIT, allow people to “retain their condition of spiritual brokenness” when we don’t forgive or extend forgiveness and mercy to those who seek it from us. An “un-forgiving spirit” makes it impossible to restore “relationships” with GOD, and our fellowman, back to a condition of rightness and wholeness.
Eight days later (Vs.24-29), JESUS reappears to HIS Disciples. During the first visit, Thomas, who was one of HIS original Disciples, was not present. JESUS, knowing of Thomas’ doubts, invites him to examine the scars of the wounds on HIS hands and in HIS side, so that he too, would finally believe. After Thomas had done this, he proclaimed definitively these words; “My LORD, my GOD!”
Then JESUS told Thomas, “You believe because you have seen ME. Blessed are those who haven’t seen ME, and believe anyway”. That statement depicts the very fiber of the Christian Faith. Only those who walk by faith, and believe in CHRIST JESUS, can ever enter into the Kingdom of Heaven.
Thomas never lacked courage, but he was a natural pessimist. There was never any doubt that he loved JESUS, however, the cross was only what he humanly expected, just as all the other disciples did also. They saw death on JESUS’ cross that Friday, as being the end, but now, as a result of JESUS’ visits, they began to clearly understand on that Sunday evening (and for Thomas, on that Monday week), that this life, is not the final act of the “human drama”. And we too, as Christians, must also come to that realization, because JESUS truly is “the Resurrection and the Life, and HE offers that “Eternal Life”, only to those who believe in HIM.

A Sunday school lesson by,
Larry D. Alexander




                                 
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