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
- What do Christians do with their lives as they seek to worship God?
- What does this mean?
- What moves our hearts to love God in this way?
- If we are humble about our gifts and talents, how will we treat others who do not have the same gifts and talents?
- What kinds of things does Paul tell us love will automatically do in us and through us?
Mark 14:32-52 (32-38)
not what I will, but what you will.
- Why did Jesus suffer?
- When we suffer, how should we pray?
- Does God always give us answers to our prayers?
- Explain what it means to “trust in God’s will.”
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
- What did the miracles of Jesus prove?
- If creation obeys the Word of God, why don’t men?
- What has Christ called his Church to do, seen in the call of the fishermen?
- What disease is a metaphor for sin?
- How is sin cleansed?
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
- What was going to happen to Jerusalem?
- What was Jerusalem’s problem?
- What city on the coast was God going to destroy—an indestructible city?
- What had this city done?
- What is going to happen to the whole world on the day that Christ returns?
- What should Christians be doing as we wait for the end of time?
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.
- What request did God make of Abraham, something no father could seriously consider?
- What promise had God made to Abraham?
- What assurance did Abraham have that he was righteous before God?
- What is the relationship between faith and love?
- What kind of love does God want us to have for Him?
- How did God solve Abraham’s dilemma?
- 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?
- What two great doctrines of the Bible are clearly taught in this story
- What did Abraham do for Isaac when his wife died?
- What did Rebekah do to show that she was a woman of great faith?
- What do sinful men do to help fool themselves, to blind themselves to their own weaknesses and failings?
- In what way is God’s character the exact opposite of self-blind, self-deceived men?
- What request should we make of God in the light of the sinful world around us?
. . . 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)
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
- How is our condemnation for sin removed by God?
- Why do Christians suffer in this world?
- Why are Christians so confident about overcoming suffering in the world?
- What group of people tragically rejected Jesus?
- Could they be forgiven for their unbelief?
“I will strike the shepherd, and the sheep will be scattered.” - Mark 14:27b
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
- What good things did Jesus do for people that would make us want to praise Him before men?
- What startling news did Jesus have for His disciples in the Garden of Gethsemane?
- What was Peter’s lesson about strength and weakness?
“I tell you the truth,” he continued, “no prophet is accepted in his hometown.” - Luke 4:24
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
- Where did Jesus first begin to preach?
- What was the problem of the people of Nazareth—why could they not believe in Jesus as the Messiah?
- What was the work of the Messiah, as Jesus expressed it from Isaiah?
- Why were they angry at the suggestion that God would give His grace and love to the Gentiles?
- What city did receive Jesus and serve as the base for much of His ministry?
- What must we possess before the Word of God is of benefit to us?
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)
Questions - Isaiah 18
- What promise does God make to His people experiencing oppression.
- Even though God executed justice upon the Ethiopians, what promise did he make to them, a promise of hope?
- When did Egypt fall into feudalism and division?
- What hope did God give to the Egyptians?
- What kingdom would destroy Egypt?
- 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?
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
- What is a covenant?
- What was the covenant of ancient Israel, to be replaced by baptism in the New Testament era?
- In what way was the old covenant also based upon Messianic promises?
- How old were Abraham and Sarah when Isaac was born?
- In what way was Abraham like the Messiah he carried within him as he spoke to the Lord about Sodom and Gomorrah?
- What is so comforting about a covenant when we see the weakness of Abraham’s faith?
- 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?
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
- List five signs or behaviors that emerge in men when they are corrupt, as these men demonstrated in their behavior towards David?
- If we are to win against evil, who must fight for us?
- What did David do to accomplish this?
- What is meant by poetic justice?
- 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?
- Explain why his enemies could not make their case in the same way.
- How do we become righteous before God?
- What did God’s reckoning do to Abraham?
- When we by faith become righteous in God’s sight, what kind of an experience do we have?
- What do we mean by a “universal verdict of condemnation?”
- What tension arises in the Christian when he becomes righteous before God?
- What does the Law do to us?
- Why does God want us to see the sin in our flesh?
- What does the Gospel teach us and cause us to do?
- What were the symbols of the old covenant and what are the sacraments of the New Covenant?
- Who are the true sons of Abraham?
- What are we to expect as an unwanted but necessary fact within the Christian Church, as evidenced by Judas?
- Why is the covenant/sacrament so comforting to us as Christians?
- In what way is the Lord’s Supper an “epiphany” of Christ?