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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 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


Year of the Bible – Mark 14

Epiphany - Mark 14

 

 

 

“I will strike the shepherd, and the sheep will be scattered.” – Mark 14:27b

Mark 14:27-31

We want to confess Christ. After all, what a wonderful Lord He is. What a great man! He did nothing but good. He healed and comforted, fed and pardoned, preached and encouraged. He fought for truth and justice and mercy. But men hated Him. Immediately after the Lord’s Supper, after singing a hymn with His disciples, Jesus brought His disciples to the Mount of Olives. This was a beautiful garden area, full of trees, filled with cool, sweet smelling air – but what Jesus had to tell His disciples was not very sweet. They were going to betray Jesus – run away from Him. Peter, who always thought that he could do greater things than the others, protested. What he heard was frightening! He would deny Jesus three times! Later, when Peter remembered these words, he broke down and wept. This is what we call the “Theology of the Cross.” When we think we are strong, we are weak. But what we see as weakness, especially Jesus’ weakness and suffering, is far stronger than it appears.

Questions – Mark 14

  1. What good things did Jesus do for people that would make us want to praise Him before men?
  2. What startling news did Jesus have for His disciples in the Garden of Gethsemane?
  3. What was Peter’s lesson about strength and weakness?
Year of the Bible – Epiphany Week Two | Friday | Mark 14 – © John W. Fiene


Year of the Bible – Luke 4

Epiphany - Luke 4

 

 

“I tell you the truth,” he continued, “no prophet is accepted in his hometown.” – Luke 4:24

Luke 4:14-37

Jesus began his ministry in the region of Galilee, where He had grown up. As long as He was preaching and teaching in areas that were outside of His hometown, He was well received. But when He returned to Nazareth, this one who had grown up before the eyes of men as a humble carpenter’s son—that this one was the Son of God—this reason and experience could not be accepted. By what standards could anyone know the Christ? Jesus read from the prophet Isaiah: “The Spirit of the Lord is on me because he has anointed me to preach good news to the poor…freedom for the prisoners…recovery of sight for the blind, to release the oppressed.” These are the signs of God’s covenantal people, those who know God and are His children. These mark the God of Israel when He comes into the flesh for the purpose of redeeming His creation. The people of Nazareth could not accept that one from among their own people, one who did not fit their self-exalted notions of personal grandeur, could be their savior, a savior of grace. In unbelief they put Him to the test, demanding miracles and signs—which of course, would have been of no value to them because of their lack of faith. Jesus reminded them of the ministry of Elijah. When Israel rejected God, God chose the Gentiles. Unable to constrain themselves at this insult, the Nazarenes rushed at Jesus to kill Him. So Jesus went to Capernaum, a small town on the north side of the Sea of Galilee. There the Son of God delivered the poor and oppressed with mere words, and His teaching and preaching was received in faith.

Questions – Luke 4

  1. Where did Jesus first begin to preach?
  2. What was the problem of the people of Nazareth—why could they not believe in Jesus as the Messiah?
  3. What was the work of the Messiah, as Jesus expressed it from Isaiah?
  4. Why were they angry at the suggestion that God would give His grace and love to the Gentiles?
  5. What city did receive Jesus and serve as the base for much of His ministry?
  6. What must we possess before the Word of God is of benefit to us?
Year of the Bible – Epiphany Week Two | Thursday | Luke 4 – © John W. Fiene


Year of the Bible – Isaiah 18-21

Epiphany - Isaiah 18

 

 

O my people, crushed on the threshing floor, I tell you what I have heard from the Lord Almighty, from the God of Israel. – Isaiah 21:10

Isaiah 18:1-21:17 (21:1-10)

God does hear the prayers of the needy, the poor who look to Him for deliverance. In these four chapters God lays out the coming destruction that would fall upon the nations that turned against Israel and her Messianic hope. But God also left the peoples of these countries—Gentile countries—with a hope of a new day when all nations would find unity with Israel in the faith of a Messiah manifested to the world, in Christianity. God directs His first accusation again Ethiopia. Ethiopia’s kings were able to descend at will upon Egypt as the Nile River rose. They lived in the protection of mountains and prospered with trade. It seemed as though God was not watching or caring when they oppressed the poor. But God was watching and in justice He crushed them with famine and drought. It would not be until the time of the Messiah that they would be permitted to return to the favor of the Lord. Christianity flourished in Ethiopia and Abyssinia. In our text, God then turned in prophesy against Egypt. Egypt, the mighty power that oppressed Judah, God’s people, would be turned into a host of feudal states, warring constantly against each other (7th Century BC), never to rise again to her former glory and unity, never to find the wisdom that would bring unity and peace to her nation. But God also held out the Messianic promise to the Egyptians. God would send His word to Egypt, both in the establishment of Jewish colonies and in the great epiphany of Christianity after the resurrection of Christ. They too, would be permitted to know the Lord, the God of Israel, and take up a place among the chosen people of God. In chapter 20 God turns to the impending doom that is coming upon Egypt and Ethiopia that will take place at the hand of the king of Assyria. They would be disgraced because of the disgrace they had imposed upon God’s people. The same fate would come true for Babylon, Edom and the peoples of Arabia. No one may hurt or harm God’s people without God bringing justice and vindicating them!

 

Questions – Isaiah 18

  1. What promise does God make to His people experiencing oppression.
  2. Even though God executed justice upon the Ethiopians, what promise did he make to them, a promise of hope?
  3. When did Egypt fall into feudalism and division?
  4. What hope did God give to the Egyptians?
  5. What kingdom would destroy Egypt?
  6. What kingdom did God use to destroy the southern Kingdom of Judah, taking her people away into captivity, but was later punished by God for having done so?
Year of the Bible – Epiphany Week Two | Wednesday | Isaiah 18 – © John W. Fiene


Year of the Bible – Genesis 17-21

Epiphany - Genesis 17

 

 

Abraham fell facedown; he laughed and said to himself, “Will a son be born to a man a hundred years old? – Genesis 17:17

Genesis 17:1-21:34 (17:1-7)

In this text, a series of dramatic events unfold in the life of Abram, significant events that form the life and faith of Israel for thousands of years that follow. First, God made a covenant with Abraham (changing his name from Abram to Abraham). A covenant is a contract, a promise sealed with outward signs or symbols binding two parties to their mutual words and pledges. The covenant of Israel with God would be circumcision, administered to all males descended from Abraham on the eighth day of their life. God then gave Abraham the promise of a son, a Messianic heir, who would be born miraculously to Sarah, his wife. Abraham was ninety-nine years old at the time and Sarah was ninety years old. Secondly, Abraham met the Lord face to face, along with two angels, eating with them and then pleading with them to spare the lives of the people of Sodom and Gomorrah. What follows in the Sodomite immoral assault against the angels demonstrated the depth of Sodom’s corruption and the justice of God’s wrath.   Thirdly, Abraham revealed his own human weakness and imperfection when he feared the Philistine king, Abimelech. But God demonstrated the nature of His covenantal love by protecting Abraham and by prospering him—despite the unfaithfulness of Abraham. Last of all, Abraham was blessed with the gift of a son named Isaac. But despite the miracle of Isaac’s birth and the Messianic promise connected to him, the slave-woman Hagar and her son Ishmael (by Abraham) despised both Sarah and Isaac and had to be sent into exile from the household of Abraham. Ishmael and his descendants became arch-enemies of Israel and her Messianic hope. 2,000 years later they would spawn the anti-Jewish and anti-Christian religion of Islam.

 

Questions – Genesis 17

  1. What is a covenant?
  2. What was the covenant of ancient Israel, to be replaced by baptism in the New Testament era?
  3. In what way was the old covenant also based upon Messianic promises?
  4. How old were Abraham and Sarah when Isaac was born?
  5. In what way was Abraham like the Messiah he carried within him as he spoke to the Lord about Sodom and Gomorrah?
  6. What is so comforting about a covenant when we see the weakness of Abraham’s faith?
  7. What has to be done in the Christian Church to anyone who would despise the honor and glory of Christ, as we see happening to Hagar and Ishmael?
Year of the Bible – Epiphany Week Two | Tuesday | Genesis 17 – © John W. Fiene


Year of the Bible – Psalm 35

Epiphany - Psalm 35

 

 

 

They repay me evil for good and leave my soul forlorn. – Psalm 35:12

Psalm 35 (35:1-9)

David, the King of Israel, often found himself the victim of intrigue. Corrupt men were constantly plotting his ruin. Their hatred could not be traced to a justifiable cause. They distorted facts, twisting them into accusations. In exchange for the trust and good will that the king had shown them, they blind-sided him and attacked him. They were gleeful when he made mistakes and talked maliciously about him behind his back. They did everything within their power to destroy the peace of the sheep that lived under the rule of the king, resenting, jealously, the shepherd of Israel as he led his sheep to safe pasture. These enemies gloated when things got tough, and used his misfortune to exalt themselves—they, of course, knew better and would have done a better job had they been king! What was David to do? The king turned to the God of Israel with petition and prayer. He asked God to fight for him as he himself fought, protecting him like a shield before a warrior. Should God act for him, David knew that the plots and intrigues of evil men would blow away before him like chaff in the wind. He petitions God to execute poetic justice—using the nets made by men to catch David as the means by which they themselves would be caught. David lays his case before God like a defendant before a judge: (1) He points to the end-benefit of his vindication—his soul would rejoice in God and magnify God’s grace; (2) He describes the crime of his enemies, and his own innocence and good will as evidence of the purity of his own motives; (3) He humbly suggests that God has been slow in responding and needs to act with haste to vindicate him—to the end that God would be praised and exalted by the righteous.

Questions – Psalm 35

  1. List five signs or behaviors that emerge in men when they are corrupt, as these men demonstrated in their behavior towards David?
  2. If we are to win against evil, who must fight for us?    
  3. What did David do to accomplish this?
  4. What is meant by poetic justice?
  5. Prayer in time of need, when we are hard-pressed by the diabolical plots of men, must be shaped like a defendant before a judge. How does David make his case?
  6. Explain why his enemies could not make their case in the same way.
Year of the Bible – Epiphany Week Two | Monday | Psalm 35 – © John W. Fiene


Year of the Bible – Romans 5:1-7:26

Epiphany
While we were still sinners,
Christ died for us.
Romans 5:8b

Romans 5:1-7:26 (5:1-11)                                   

If justification makes for peace, that must mean that God is not at peace where there is no justification – that is, no righteousness. For righteousness is credited to us only through faith. Abraham became righteous through God’s crediting righteousness to him. Abraham did not do anything to become righteous, but he did become righteous – that is, he was reckoned to be forgiven of all sin and given the gift of eternal life (as reflected in 4:25). Therefore (the conclusion), Paul says, “we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ”. But note that this peace does not mean that we do not suffer- suffering is very much a real thing, sometimes a necessary thing for the Christian. God’s constant (covenantal) love is manifest in the free act of love demonstrated in the offering of Christ for sinners – people unworthy of God’s love. So strong is that covenant that if God would do this for us while we were sinful, how much more so will He save us – now that we have become righteous through faith in Christ. Paul goes on to explain that the universal verdict of condemnation was very much like the universal verdict of justification. In both the case of Adam and of Christ, God reckoned something to man. But in the first case, sin was reckoned to all men with the effect of death. In the second case, forgiveness or pardon was reckoned to all men with the effect of life – eternal life. So justification affects the way that Christians live their lives, for though we experience the effects of sin in our lives, we do not give to sin the power to rule our lives. (6:11) The Christian “reckons” no power or mastery to sin. The result is that Christians reckon themselves to be slaves, not to their sinful nature, but to righteousness (6:22). The tension between sin and righteousness puts Christians in a strange position. The Law actually stirs up sin in us. But this is so that we might never seek to be justified by our works under the Law. The only thing that can rescue us from the Law – the only one – is Jesus Christ Himself. Thus, the Law leads us to see and know sin and teaches us our need for a savior. The Gospel leads us to Christ and teaches us to reckon ourselves to be dead to sin – that we might live to Christ and the righteousness He reckons to us through faith.

 

Questions – Romans 5

  1. How do we become righteous before God?
  2. What did God’s reckoning do to Abraham?
  3. When we by faith become righteous in God’s sight, what kind of an experience do we have?
  4. What do we mean by a “universal verdict of condemnation?”
  5. What tension arises in the Christian when he becomes righteous before God?
  6. What does the Law do to us?
  7. Why does God want us to see the sin in our flesh?
  8. What does the Gospel teach us and cause us to do?
Year of the Bible – Epiphany Week One | Saturday | Romans 5 – © John W. Fiene