Friday, August 18, 2017

WEEKLY SUNDAY SCHOOL LESSON
An international Sunday school lesson commentary
For Sunday August 20, 2017

Over 136,000 readers worldwide
larrydalexander.blogspot.com

CALLED TO PREACH
(Only GOD can change hearts)
(Acts 9:1-22)

   Before we can help a person to change, we must first show that person our love for them just as they are. In Acts chapter 9, verses 1-18, Luke gives us a vivid description, of the most famous, and perhaps, the most sweeping transformation of any human being in the annals of biblical literature. Here we see chronicled, the story of how Saul (the Apostle Paul) was converted by JESUS CHRIST HIMSELF, one day on the road to Damascus, the oldest continually inhabited city in the world, and the capital of Syria.
    Scripture tells us that Saul, who was apparently an important figure to the Libertines (a group of freed slaves who had converted to Judaism), was an arch-enemy of the Christians, who referred to themselves at that time as “Adherents of the way”. Remember the Libertines were the group that stoned Stephen to death back in Acts chapter 7, setting off a round of major persecutions against the followers of CHRIST in Jerusalem.
    Saul embodied a deep hatred for this so-called sect of the Nazarenes that followed and promoted the ideology of JESUS, and, who were gaining much in popularity following HIS death at Golgotha. Little did Saul know at the time, that Stephen’s death at Jerusalem would be used by GOD to birth, and force the spread of Christianity throughout the world, and, that he, would become the face of that radical movement.  
    The strong preaching and teaching of the original Apostles of CHRIST, and other early Church leaders such as Barnabas, Philip, and the like, had catapulted the Christian doctrine of “Good News” into a legitimate threat against the powerful Church of Judaism at Jerusalem. The Gospel of CHRIST was swiftly becoming accepted by vastly increasing numbers of Jewish converts, who were formally associated with Judaism.
    Here in Acts chapter 9, we find Saul, on a rampage, eager to destroy any of the followers of CHRIST who crossed his path. He goes to the High Priest and requests letters addressed to the synagogues in Damascus asking their cooperation in the arrest of anyone proclaiming to be a follower of CHRIST that he found there. He wanted to bring them back to Jerusalem in chains to either, jail, beat, or stone them to death.
    However, as Saul was nearing Damascus on this mission of hate, he is overcome by a brilliant light from Heaven, beaming down to the earth and causing him to fall to his knees in helpless wonderment. Suddenly the voice of JESUS rang out saying, “Saul! Saul! Why are you persecuting me? When Saul asks, “who are you?” The voice replies, “I am JESUS, the one you are persecuting! Now get up and go into the city, and you will be told what you are to do.”
    The men with Saul also heard this voice, but they saw no one, and they all stood speechless in utter amazement. Saul, now blind, rises to his feet, and is led by his companions, into Damascus. He abided there for three days, fasting, going totally without food or water.
    There was a believer in Damascus, by the name of Ananias, whom the LORD spoke to, in a vision. HE instructed Ananias to go over to “Straight Street”, the main thoroughfare in Damascus in those days, to the house of Judas, where Saul was residing. A protesting Ananias, who already knew of Saul’s exploits against the followers of CHRIST, is further instructed by JESUS to pray and lay hands on Saul, so that he would be healed of his blindness.
    Ananias reluctantly goes and finds Saul and lays hands on him, as CHRIST had instructed him to do, and the scales fell from Saul’s eyes. Saul is then baptized, and remains in Damascus with the believers for a few days. After being baptized and filled with the HOLY SPIRIT, Saul immediately begins to preach about JESUS in the Synagogues saying, “JESUS truly is the SON of the LIVING GOD!” 
    After Saul’s conversion, he abided in Damascus preaching about CHRIST for a few more days, and all who heard him were amazed at his transformation of doctrine, and, his behavior (his sudden surrender to CHRIST). They could hardly believe that this was the same man who had once terrorized the “Adherents of the Way” (followers of CHRIST) every chance he got. As Saul’s preaching became more and more powerful and effective, the Jews in Damascus were no longer able to refute his proofs that JESUS truly was, and indeed is, the MESSIAH.   
    It is a life-changing thing, getting to know, and then, becoming accustomed to practicing the Word of GOD. Getting to know CHRIST transforms our lives into something wonderful and new, and then, our commitment to that change, catapults us into everlasting freedom from Fear, Self, Other People, and finally, Sin. GOD is not willing that any should perish, and so HE, in HIS wonderful grace, offers this opportunity of change to all mankind, so that HIS grace and mercy towards us will win out over HIS judgment upon us.

A Sunday school lesson by,
Larry D. Alexander





                                 
LARRY D. ALEXANDER- Official Website


Friday, August 11, 2017

WEEKLY SUNDAY SCHOOL LESSON
An international Sunday school lesson commentary
For Sunday August 13, 2017

Over 136,000 readers worldwide
larrydalexander.blogspot.com

PHILIP AND THE ETHIOPIAN EUNUCH
(Called to break down barriers)
(Acts 8:26-40)

   In Isaiah 56, verses 3-5, GOD promises, through the prophet Isaiah, to pour out HIS blessings on the eunuchs of the world, who dedicate themselves to serving HIM and keeping HIS commandments. There the LORD says that HE will reward them with a special place in HIS house, and that it would be a memorial far greater than the honor they would have received by having sons and daughters, and, it would last forever.
    In Acts chapter 8, verses 26-40, we begin to see the first signs of GOD’s fulfillment of that promise. This chapter of the book of Acts depicts a very significant phase in the history of the development of the early Church, as it begins to show signs of an initial shedding of its “strictly Jewish membership status”. Jewish men and women in the newly formed Christian Church were now being called to break down racial, economic, and social barriers that have the potential to block a significant portion of mankind from GOD.
    Here in this passage, we see the Church being compelled by GOD to scatter and flee Jerusalem, as a result of the Christian persecutions sanctioned by the Emperor Nero that, followed the tragic death of Stephen. The “Adherents of the Way” of CHRIST were now unwittingly taking one of the most important steps in the history of the early Church, and, at one and the same time, were discovering that the ideology of Christianity was meant by GOD to permeate the whole world. And when they were forced to leave Jerusalem, they also were forced to spread the Good News of CHRIST JESUS as they traveled from place to place in the Samaritan and Gentile worlds.
    After preaching and teaching in Samaria, an angel of the LORD came to Philip and instructed him to go south down the desert road that leads from Jerusalem to Gaza. As he traveled on his way he met a eunuch who was also the treasurer of Ethiopia. He was a man of great authority under the queen (Candace) of Ethiopia and he was returning from worshiping the LORD in Jerusalem.
    Candace is the name given to the queens that ruled Ethiopia’s governmental affairs, as the king, or “Royal Son” was thought to be above those kinds of duties. Eunuchs were used in trusted positions in royal courts, especially those positions that involved working around the king’s wives and harems.
    This particular eunuch was apparently a student of the Word of the GOD of Israel (the Holy Scriptures), and had converted over to Judaism. He was what was known as a “GOD-fearer” in those days, a person who was non-Jewish, who had converted to Judaism, but did not accept the ritual of circumcision, since he was, after all, a “eunuch”. A eunuch, as we know, is a person who has been castrated, or sexually mutilated, either voluntarily or involuntarily.
    However, whatever his circumstances were, he appeared to be a man who was seeking to know GOD better, and GOD promises that, whoever is willing to seek HIM through HIS Word, will indeed, find HIM. And so we see this royal eunuch riding in his carriage reading aloud, perhaps from the Septuagint (the first Greek translation of the Old Testament), and contemplating the writings of the prophet, Isaiah, when suddenly the HOLY SPIRIT instructed Philip to go over to him and walk along beside his carriage.
    Philip can now hear what the man was reading and asks him if he understood. The man replied, “How can I, when there is no one to instruct me?” he then invited Philip up into his carriage to sit with him and explain the Scriptures to him. The passage he was reading was that of Isaiah 53:7-8 which states;

HE was led as a sheep to slaughter. And as a lamb is silent before the shearers, HE did not open HIS mouth. HE was humiliated and received no justice. Who can speak of HIS descendants? For HIS life was taken from the earth.” (NLT)

    The eunuch asked Philip if Isaiah was talking about himself or someone else, and Philip began with this same Scripture and then used many others to tell man the Good News about JESUS and the gift of Salvation to all mankind who believed. As they rode along, Philip was able to lead the man to CHRIST, and when they came to some water, the man requested that Philip Baptist him, and he did.
    It is a life-changing thing, getting to know, and becoming accustomed to practicing the Word of GOD. GOD’s Word has already come, and in fact, has been with us since the beginning. The Word of GOD simply cannot be, nor will not be disregarded. The Word of GOD is synonymous with life, and therefore, the Word of GOD is effective, and penetrating.  It absolutely scrutinizes all of our thoughts, desires, and intentions.
    All things lay naked before GOD, because HE absolutely sees all, hears all, and knows all that we do. And every one of us will have to make an account for the deeds done in our own bodies, in our own lifetimes. And so, whether, or not, we believe that HE exist, therefore, becomes totally irrelevant.    

A Sunday school lesson by,
Larry D. Alexander 





                                 
LARRY D. ALEXANDER- Official Website






Friday, August 4, 2017

WEEKLY SUNDAY SCHOOL LESSON
An international Sunday school lesson commentary
For Sunday August 6, 2017

Over 135,000 readers worldwide
larrydalexander.blogspot.com

CHRISTIANS ARE CALLED TO SERVE
(We are called to witness through our behavior)
(Acts 6)

   Racial hostility and ethnic disputes are not problems of opposition that were born during the infancy stages of our nation’s existence, but rather, they are problems that have been around since the infancy of human existence. In Acts chapter 6, verses 1-7, Luke gives us a vivid description of just such a case of “ethnic opposition”, which led to the birth of the “Deacon concept” in the Christian Church.
    Here in this particular passage, we see rumblings of discontent involving “Greek speaking Jewish believers”, who were being discriminated against by “Hebrew speaking Jewish believers”. The Hebrew speaking Jews were unfairly distributing food, showing favoritism toward their own respective “widow population”.
    In order to resolve these disputes, the twelve Disciples of CHRIST, called a meeting of all the current believers. At that meeting they expressed how they, as Apostles, needed to spend their time preaching and teaching the Word of GOD, not administering a food program.
    And so they called on the believers to choose from among themselves, seven extraordinary men, who were full of the HOLY SPIRIT and wisdom, and put those men in charge of the food distribution program in the Church. And so we see here, that, even when we work in a domestic capacity in the Church, we must still be as serious, faithful, honest, and hardworking as any Church leader is expected to be. We must exhibit the same good character as we would expect to see from the pastor of the Church. Here these seven men were known for exhibiting character comparable to the most respected of men in GOD’s house.
    This idea presented by the apostles pleased the people of both groups, and they chose from among them, Stephen, a man full of faith and the HOLY SPIRIT, Philip, who later went on to preach the Gospel from Samaria to Caesarea, Procorus, Nicanor, Timmon, Parmenas, and Nicolas of Antioch, a Gentile convert, first, to the Jewish Faith, and then later, to Christianity.
    The Apostles then ordained the men, and prayed for them while laying hands on each of those individuals. This action by the people of the early church, freed up a wealth of time for the apostles, and afterwards, GOD’s message was preached in ever-widening circles, and the number of believers greatly increased in Jerusalem. Many Jewish Priests also converted to Christianity during this time and the Church began to position itself for greater growth throughout the Roman Empire.
    With that said, let us now focus on one of those seven men, who was chosen that day to serve in the Church at Jerusalem, the one who is called, Stephen. Stephen, whose name means “wreath”, or “crown”, was a man who was full of GOD’s grace and power. He performed many amazing miracles and signs among the people of Jerusalem. In fact, his ministry, arrest, and trial are very similar to that of our LORD and SAVIOR, JESUS CHRIST.
    And just like anyone else whose life is patterned after JESUS in this world, opposition arose against Stephen one day in the form of a group of men from the “Synagogue of Freedmen” called “Libertines. They made their headquarters in a Temple in Jerusalem that was dedicated to the Jews who were former slaves of Roman citizens.
    The majority of these “Libertines”, came from Cyrene and Alexandria in northern Africa, the province of Asia, and Cilicia, Paul’s home country, where Tarsus is located. They had all been converted to “Judaism”, probably by Saul (Paul) himself, following their release from slavery.
    Now apparently, these men tried to debate against Stephen, and were not able to prevail against him in a public theological debate forum, and so, they began to conjure up lies about him, falsely accusing him of blaspheme against Moses, and, against GOD, both offenses punishable by “death by stoning”, in the Jewish communities.
    Their accusations aroused the crowds, the elders, and the teachers of religious law against Stephen, and as a result, he was placed under arrest and brought before the high council. These “lying witnesses” spoke of the time when they heard Stephen re-iterate the misunderstood words of JESUS, when HE said HE would destroy the temple, and when HE tried to clarify the meanings of the laws of Moses. Of course these words that they spoke of were taken way out of context, and in fact, had been totally perverted and skewed.
    Whenever we side with CHRIST JESUS, we automatically put ourselves in the position to be opposed by the world. JESUS HIMSELF warned of this in the Gospel of John (John 15:18-25), after HE had taken HIS twelve apostles into private teaching shortly before HIS crucifixion. He told them that, “When the world hates you, remember it hated ME before it hated you. The world would love you if you belonged to it, but you don’t. I chose you to come out of the world, and so it hates you” (John 15:18-19) - NLT).
    JESUS went on to tell them, that, “Since they persecuted ME, naturally they will persecute you. And if they had listened to ME, they would listen to you! The people of the world will hate you because you belong to ME, for they don’t know GOD WHO sent ME. They would not be guilty if I had not come and spoken to them. But now they have no excuse for their sin. Anyone who hates ME hates MY FATHER too….This has fulfilled what the Scriptures said: “They hated ME without cause” (John 15:20b-25) (NLT).
    In the Greek, the word used for “World” is “Kosmos”, and it is from that word that we derive our English word “Cosmos”. In the spiritual sense, “it is that complex intertwining of sinful desires that shape our world of “lost humanity”. When we choose the “Christian Walk”, we automatically become strangers to “worldly behavior”. We are no longer permanent residents of this earth, but rather, we become citizens of Heaven, and therefore, the Laws of GOD, just as they were to Stephen and many other “true witnesses”, must become paramount to us, also.

A Sunday school lesson by,
Larry D. Alexander





                                 
LARRY D. ALEXANDER- Official Website