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Notes from Advent

From self study to commentary, Notes from Advent shares the latest news, events and other information from Advent Lutheran Church.
 

Year of the Bible – Romans 12

Epiphany - Romans 12
 
 
 
 
In view of God’s mercy . . . offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God. – Romans 12:1

Romans 12:1-15:4 (13:8-14)

The apostle Paul takes advantage of a beautiful metaphor to describe what the Christian life is like: It is like sacrificing ourselves to God. To sacrifice something means that you give the whole thing up – that it no longer belongs to you and that you no longer have any claim upon it. When people in the Old Testament era offered sacrifice to God, they were saying that they were dedicating themselves to God LIKE the animal sacrifice that they offered—with a total dedication of mind, body and soul. Of course, no one would ever be able to make that kind of commitment to God unless they were deeply moved by God’s sacrifice that a new kind of love emerged within them and they did the impossible! That, of course, is what happens to us. By seeing and grasping the greatness of the love of God, that God would give His only Son, that He would sacrifice Jesus for us, we discover a power of love arises within us, the love of God that enables us to dedicate our whole lives, our whole hearts, our whole being, TO HIM. Paul then takes us to the next logical thought – we ought not be proud about this kind of sacrifice, or judge others by the level or amount of sacrifice that we make. God will judge men at the end of time. We should not think to try and do it for Him. We should instead follow the path of humility and regard our differences of personality and talents and spiritual ability as different gifts from God. Out of love, Christians can and should treat their enemies in much the same way as Christ. Love is a powerful force and it always triumphs over evil. Love also submits to authority (13:1-7) and grants honor to those appointed to offices of authority. Love is the summation of the whole law. (13:9) It bends for the weak in faith and holds back judgment, but always for the sake of the “faith” which love serves. In this respect, Christ is an example to us, as are all the saints of the Bible, for all things written in the Scriptures were written to strengthen our faith and sustain us as we patiently wait for God to bring time to an end.

Questions – Romans 12

  1. What do Christians do with their lives as they seek to worship God?
  2. What does this mean?
  3. What moves our hearts to love God in this way?
  4. If we are humble about our gifts and talents, how will we treat others who do not have the same gifts and talents?
  5. What kinds of things does Paul tell us love will automatically do in us and through us?
Year of the Bible – Epiphany Week Three | Saturday | Romans 12 – © John W. Fiene


Year of the Bible – Mark 14

Epiphany - Mark 14
 
 
 
 
Take this cup from me. Yet not what I will, but what you will. – Mark 14:36

Mark 14:32-52 (32-38)

Jesus knew and understood the meaning of death, but He knew and understood what would happen to us if He did not come into the flesh to save us. His humanity was fully human, for He felt and understood what death was, and for that reason He suffered so horribly in the Garden of Gethsamane. Jesus struggled with the will of God: Should He suffer? Was this God’s will? Would His Father deliver Him from this hour? Those questions do not often go answered, especially ahead of time. We don’t often know why God puts us in places and why we suffer when we do. But Jesus prayed the perfect prayer of the obedient son: Yet

not what I will, but what you will.

Soon thereafter Jesus was arrested. He had been betrayed with a kiss. Jesus did not take matters into His own hands; He did not rebel or kill to preserve His freedom. He committed His life to the will of God in the Scriptures. This was hard for His disciples to bear.
Questions – Mark 14
  1. Why did Jesus suffer?
  2. When we suffer, how should we pray?
  3. Does God always give us answers to our prayers?
  4. Explain what it means to “trust in God’s will.”
Year of the Bible – Epiphany Week Three | Friday | Mark 14 – © John W. Fiene


Year of the Bible – Luke 5

Epiphany - Luke 5

 

 

 

Don’t be afraid; from now on you will catch men. – Luke 4:10

Luke 5:1-16 (5:1-11)

Doing God’s will – this we refuse to do, but nature does His will when He speaks, and even the demons submitted to His will, even though they did not do so joyfully. Jesus demonstrated that He was God in the miracles of His ministry. Amazingly, though demons and creation obeyed His every word, men resisted Him with their hearts, so He came into our flesh and bore our sins and sorrows to make our disobedient wills obedient. He called us to faith by taking our place under the law and becoming a substitutionary sacrifice for our sins (cf. Abraham and Isaac). Jesus is the love of God made manifest to the world. But the world cannot and will not know about the love of God unless someone tells them about Christ. That is why Christ called His disciples. They were not just to learn about God and His love, they were to use the Word of God like a net – to catch the hearts of men for God so that men might love God and trust in His Word of promise. In the story that follows the call of the disciples, the power they would be given is hinted at – a man who is covered with leprosy pleads for Jesus to heal him. Jesus wills it and speaks the Word. Immediately the man is cleansed. Leprosy, a symbol of sin, is cleansed by the Word of God’s promise, and faith that trusts in the Word. This is the purpose for calling men to become pastors, and for all Christians to be priests to their neighbors in the world.

Questions – Luke 5

  1. What did the miracles of Jesus prove?
  2. If creation obeys the Word of God, why don’t men?
  3. What has Christ called his Church to do, seen in the call of the fishermen?
  4. What disease is a metaphor for sin?
  5. How is sin cleansed?
Year of the Bible – Epiphany Week Three | Thursday | Luke 5 – © John W. Fiene


Year of the Bible – Isaiah 22

Epiphany - Isaiah 22

 

 

In that day the Lord will punish . . . the kings of the earth below . . . for the Lord Almighty will reign. – Isaiah 24:23

Isaiah 22:1-24:23 (22:20-24)

Isaiah is a prophet. He saw the future as in a crystal ball. He saw the world, proud and arrogant, receiving God’s judgment for her rebellion and oppression. He saw the people of Jerusalem dying, not in battle, as noble men fighting for good, but dying from famine, surrounded by armies, people weeping, her rulers having fled to protect themselves, her defenses broken down, a ruthless army about to consume her, her sons and daughters left naked or dead. And despite what he saw, his warnings, Jerusalem remained disobedient, unwilling to listen to God. So deep was her sin, Jerusalem would not escape its delusions, they would greet death with indifferent sinful carnality (22:13), never grasping the serious condition of eternal death that would follow her physical death. God intended to judge her arrogant rulers, who thought only of their self-glorification and not of the people and their welfare. In chapter 23 Isaiah turns in prophetic judgment to the mother of Israel’s sins, probably the people they had admired and imitated—the Phoenician city of Tyre. Tyre was an island-city, located off the coast. It was impregnable. Nebuchadnezzar destroyed the coastal part of the city, but he could not conquer the island itself, though he besieged it for thirteen years. (Alexander the Great, however, did conquer Tyre after a 7-month siege). This proud, rich, arrogant city had been the center of commerce for the entire eastern Mediterranean region. But it was also the source of every form of vice and corruption. Though they had never been God’s people, yet because God is the God of all men, the author of all life, their rebellion against God would be brought into judgment. But God also predicted a day when God would give Tyre another opportunity to turn and be healed. Such is the case with the gracious and merciful God. Chapter 24 reflects the fact that judgment would someday come upon the whole earth since God was the God of all. Prophesying the appearance of Christianity, Isaiah calls upon God’s people throughout the earth to glorify the Lord with their lives and to sing praises to the Righteous God of Israel. Although Israel as a nation would be destroyed, never to rise to independence and glory again, God would come in judgment and vindicate his people, reigning into eternity in the Kingdom of His Son.

Questions – Isaiah 22

  1. What was going to happen to Jerusalem?
  2. What was Jerusalem’s problem?
  3. What city on the coast was God going to destroy—an indestructible city?
  4. What had this city done?
  5. What is going to happen to the whole world on the day that Christ returns?
  6. What should Christians be doing as we wait for the end of time?
Year of the Bible – Epiphany Week Three | Wednesday | Isaiah 22 – © John W. Fiene


Year of the Bible – Genesis 22

Epiphany - Genesis 22

 

 

I swear by myself . . . that because you have done this and have not withheld your son . . . I will surely bless you. – Genesis 22:17

A Test for Abraham: A command and a promise.

Genesis 22:1-25:18 (22:1-18)
Abraham obeyed God, but why and how? In the greatest test that faith has ever known, God commanded Abraham to sacrifice his son, the son that he had waited all his married life to have. His love for Isaac knew no bounds. Born when Abraham was a hundred years old, it seems to this forlorn father that God’s request was impossible. But Abraham also had a promise from God. God had promised to him that he would be the father of great nations through this son, that his son would pass on the messianic promise of a savior. But how did Abraham know that God would fulfill His promise to Abraham? Abraham knew that he had to be righteous in the sight of God, but he could not be righteous because he was sinful. He was disobedient to God in thought, word and deed. But Abraham was righteous before God. In fact, he had been declared righteous by God, and Abraham has believed God’s promise. Through faith in this promise, Abraham received a faith that trusted God even though God’s command challenged every fiber of Abraham’s being. More-than-likely, Abraham did not realize how much love and faith he had for God, so God put Abraham’s faith to the test. Abraham was told to bring his son to a place that God would show him and demonstrate his love for God by offering his son as a sacrifice to God. God had already given to Abraham the promise that he would have descendants like the stars of the sky 
through his son. God had already worked the miracle of giving Abraham, an old man by then, and his wife Sarah, an old woman, the power to conceive and give birth to a son. Abraham knew that there would be nothing too hard or great for God. If God wanted him to give up his son into death, then God would have to raise him from the dead to fulfill his promise to Abraham. This is how faith and love work together. Faith trusts in God’s promises, and love desires to obey God’s commands because faith sees and grasps God’s love towards us. God declared to Abraham that he was righteous – so Abraham came to love God beyond all worldly things – even his own son. Abraham, trusting in God, went up to Mount Moriah to worship. He took his son, his only son, and placed him upon the altar and the wood. As he lifted up his knife, God’s angel stopped him. Abraham had passed the test of faith! His faith had generated such love in him, so great a love that Abraham was willing to give up his own son to God. In response to Abraham’s faith and love, God gave Abraham a SUBSTITUTIONARY sacrifice. Nearby, a ram had been caught in the bushes. God permitted Abraham to substitute the ram for his son. The place where Abraham offered his son, over 1,000 years later, came to be the site of the temple of Jerusalem. And upon the same rock that Abraham offered his son and the ram, God’s people offered their substitutionary sacrifices up to the time of the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 AD. In this story of Abraham and Isaac we see the mystery of God’s Law and Gospel, the commands of God that tell us what to do, the promises of God that tell us what God so graciously has done and will do for us. When faith trusts in God’s righteousness, obtained for us by His Son, Jesus Christ, then good works of love flow from this faith. The deeper the gratitude for forgiveness, the deeper the love for God and the greater our ability to do the works that God commands us to do. But our story continues (24:1-66)
 
Sarah died at the age of 127 years. Abraham was also getting quite old, so the time came for Isaac to be married. A servant was sent back to the land of Abraham’s birth – not to the local peoples who were unbelievers. Abraham was certain that God’s angel would go with his servant to choose the right wife for his son. When the servant arrived in Mesopotamia he also prayed for success. He created a test – something that would demonstrate the good character of a prospective wife. Whoever helped him to water his camels would be God’s choice for a wife. A young woman did just that. She was extremely beautiful. It turned out that she was Isaac’s cousin! After some negotiations with her father, Rebekah volunteered to go with Isaac and become his wife. She was a woman of faith, a person who manifested her faith in her kind works of love. God richly blessed her and she brought great love and comfort to her new husband.
Questions – Genesis 2
  1. What request did God make of Abraham, something no father could seriously consider?
  2. What promise had God made to Abraham?
  3. What assurance did Abraham have that he was righteous before God?
  4. What is the relationship between faith and love?
  5. What kind of love does God want us to have for Him?
  6. How did God solve Abraham’s dilemma?
  7. How does that solution relate to our dilemma, that we must be righteous before God and pay for sin, but we cannot be righteous or pay for our sins?
  8. What two great doctrines of the Bible are clearly taught in this story
  9. What did Abraham do for Isaac when his wife died?
  10. What did Rebekah do to show that she was a woman of great faith?
Year of the Bible – Epiphany Week Three | Tuesday | Genesis 2 – © John W. Fiene


Year of the Bible – Psalm 36

Epiphany - Psalm 36
There is no fear of God before his eyes. – Psalm 36:1b
Psalm 36
David observes that the unrighteous do not do the will of God because they do not fear God – that is, they do not reverence Him and His Word. Their disobedience is sinful and serious, but they deceive THEMSELVES with boasting and personal flattery. But look closer, even on their deathbed, they are plotting rebellion against God. Then David turns to the wondrous character of God. He is the opposite of sinful men. God’s love has no limits. He remains the same, so whatever He promises He will do, He does. He gives the same promises to all men. He gives and gives without ceasing. By knowing Him, we are able to know truth. David ends his psalm with a request of God. He asks for preservation from these self-deceived disobedient men, preservation from a God who is faithful, always true to His Word and Promise.
Questions – Psalm 36
  1. What do sinful men do to help fool themselves, to blind themselves to their own weaknesses and failings?
  2. In what way is God’s character the exact opposite of self-blind, self-deceived men?
  3. What request should we make of God in the light of the sinful world around us?
Year of the Bible – Epiphany Week Three | Monday | Psalm 36 – © John W. Fiene


Year of the Bible – Romans 8-11

Epiphany - Romans 8

 

 

. . . through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit of life set me free from the law of sin and death. – Romans 8:2

Romans 8:1-11:36 (8:1-14)

Justification’s Comfort

King David would have loved to hear those words: “There is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.” (8:1) How did this happen? Not by man living a life without sin (it is impossible), but by God placing our sins upon Christ and Christ at the cross obtaining forgiveness for us. How does forgiveness come to us? By the Holy Spirit, in the Word, in Baptism, God thereby giving us the heart of David, loving God for His forgiveness, wanting to do God’s good will out of love for God, not because of fear. Paul tells us that we Christians must not think that being a Christian will deliver us from suffering in this life. Even though we must undergo suffering while in the world, we can be confident of victory over the world. God will raise our bodies from the grave, so we need never give up hope. Nothing in all the world can separate us from God and His love – not even death itself! The Apostle Paul, having made this bold statement, then raises a difficult question: What about those who ARE separated from God’s love? How did this happen, especially to the Jews who rejected Jesus? This falling away, Paul explains, took place because of their hard hearts, because they wanted to be their own saviors rather than trust and rely upon Jesus to be their Savior. It was not God’s fault. It was man’s doing, man rejecting God’s grace. The Jews, though they had rejected God, however, could always be brought back to faith, for salvation depends not upon human merit or holy works and deeds, but upon God’s mercy and forgiveness.

Questions – Romans 8

  1. How is our condemnation for sin removed by God?
  2. Why do Christians suffer in this world?
  3. Why are Christians so confident about overcoming suffering in the world?
  4. What group of people tragically rejected Jesus?
  5. Could they be forgiven for their unbelief?
Year of the Bible – Epiphany Week Two | Saturday | Romans 8 – © John W. Fiene