Archive for April, 2012
The text for this lesson is Acts 15:1–16:5.
- Just as many in Paul’s day thought, we think we must do something to be saved. Yet the answer is always Jesus, Jesus, only Jesus, whose resurrection from the dead sealed our salvation and absolved the world.
- Law: I sin when I believe that Jesus is not enough for my salvation, when I think that I must do something, however small, to contribute to my salvation.
- Gospel: Jesus has done it all perfectly for me. My salvation is complete.
- This lesson is about the constant temptation to change “justification (salvation) by grace alone, through faith alone, for the sake of Christ alone” into “justification by grace + works, faith + obedience, for the sake of Christ + our efforts.” But God’s Word won’t allow such nonsense! How does Ephesians 2:4–10 keep us from adding anything to grace, faith, and Christ?
- According to John 5:24, what is saving faith? What argument does Romans 4:1–8 use to prove that faith is not a human work, but rather a divine gift of grace?
- How does St. Paul show, in 1 Corinthians 15:1–7, that we are saved by Christ alone?
- To cut the foreskin off of a male, though bloody and temporarily painful, does not really seem a major issue. Yet this rite, which God gave to Abraham (Genesis 17:1–14) and required of all Israelite males in the Old Testament, became a divisive issue when Jewish converts to Christianity began to teach in the Church that circumcision was necessary for salvation (Acts 15:1). But more important than the physical act of circumcision is a spiritual issue: being circumcised also obligates a person “to keep the law of Moses” (v. 5). What is so problematic about making obedience to the Law a requirement for salvation? See James 2:10; Galatians 3:10; Acts 15:10–11.
- The Book of Galatians deals with a situation like that of the Jerusalem Council in Acts 15:1–33. A group of legalistic Jewish Christians known as “Judaizers” introduced the idea of salvation by circumcision and the Law into the Church at Galatia. What does St. Paul say to those who are tempted to follow the Judaizers? See Galatians 3:10–14; 5:1–6.
- What arguments against requiring circumcision of Gentile converts are put forth by Peter, Paul, Barnabas, and James at the council? See Acts 15:7–19.
- According to Romans 4:8–14, what was the true significance of circumcision in the Old Testament? How does Paul demonstrate that Abraham was the father of all the faithful?
- Compare Acts 15:28–29 with 1 Corinthians 11:20–22. What would have been the main setting in which the Gentiles’ consumption of “things polluted by idols, . . . what has been strangled,” and from “blood” (Acts 15:20) gave offense to Jewish Christians? In light of 1 Corinthians 6:9–11, 18–20, why would “sexual immorality” (Acts 15:20) in particular be highlighted by the apostles? How were the prohibitions from the council received in Antioch?
- According to Colossians 2:6–15, what sort of circumcision have we all—male and female alike—received? What brought it about? What is our new situation because of it?
The text for this lesson is Acts 13–14.
- Just as God sent Paul and Barnabas to spread the Gospel, so today He sends pastors to preach the Gospel, baptize, and feed Jesus’ body and blood to His children, against whom the gates of hell cannot prevail.
- Law: When I despise the preaching of God’s Word, do not hold it sacred, and do not gladly hear and learn it, I sin and support Satan’s cause.
- Gospel: The gates of hell will not prevail against the Church and God’s Word, through which sinners are converted. I am a fellow partaker of the grace of God.
- What is the meaning of the word church in Acts 13:1? What are other ways that we use the word church? What two fundamental uses of the word church appear in Christ’s words in Matthew 16:16–19; 18:15–20?
- Paul received a direct call from Jesus to be an apostle (Acts 9:1–19). Barnabas had been a layman in the Church at Jerusalem (4:36) who, after receiving training at the feet of the apostles, later was called into the Office of the Holy Ministry by the apostles and the Church (11:22). Though Paul and Barnabas were called in different ways, who called both of them? Who sent them on their missionary journeys? See 13:1–4.
- Compare Luke 4:40–5:1 with Acts 13:4–12. What do these passages have in common?
- Paul’s sermon and subsequent teaching in Pisidian Antioch (13:13–52) are majestic and could provide several hours of Bible study. Yet Christian truth can be summarized even more briefly than his sermon in the Creeds. Compare the outline of Paul’s sermon with the three articles of the Apostles’ and Nicene Creeds, focusing particularly on vv. 16–17, 26–33, 36–41, 52. What would the hearers of this sermon have taken away as the basic message of the Christian Church?
- What is so unbelievable about the message of Acts 13:38–41? Also see Galatians 2:16 and John 8:31–36.
- How does Paul’s sermon (Acts 13:13–41), along with his teaching in verses 44–52, demonstrate the point of Jesus’ parable in Luke 20:9–18?
- According to Acts 14:19–22, what are two essential components of the Christian life? Also see John 16:33 and 2 Corinthians 4:8–11.
- What occurs in Acts 14:23? Who were these “elders,” how were they to behave, and what were they to do? See Acts 20:17–18, 27–32; Titus 1:1–9.
- Why has God given the Office of the Holy Ministry to His Church? See Romans 10:13–17.
The text for this lesson is John 21:1–19.
- We are all like Peter in our words and actions, denying our Lord and weeping bitterly over what we have done. We are in need of the same comfort that Peter received—the comfort of sins forgiven and the assurance that even though we are faithless, Jesus will remain faithful.
- Law: God demands that I love Him and none other solely and completely. In my sin, I worship whatever pleases me the most at the time.
- Gospel: God’s love is everlasting and ever faithful; when I deny Him, He acknowledges me for Christ’s sake.
Listen to a podcast from our archives for this week’s lesson.
The text for this lesson is Mark 15:1—16:8.
- Good Friday is both the worst of days, revealing the gravity of our sin and God’s wrath, and the best of days, forever portraying God’s love for us in the crucifixion and resurrection of His Son.
- Law: Though I was not there, I am among those who spat in Jesus’ face and crucified Him by my sinfulness.
- Gospel: Willingly, Jesus came to earth, suffered, died, and rose again so that God might enliven me and forgive my sins.
Our Holy Week was for the Jews the week of Passover and the Feast of Unleavened Bread. In Jerusalem, it was standing room only. Because the Jews were under Roman rule, the death penalty could only be pronounced by a Roman official—thus, Pilate’s involvement. Jesus is executed on Friday but rapidly removed from the cross because of the approaching Sabbath. He rests in the tomb the few remaining hours of Friday, then Saturday (the Sabbath), and then rises sometime on the third day, Sunday. Sunday, therefore, becomes the day for Christians, replacing the Sabbath of the old covenant.
Discussion Points and Questions
- Since this is Easter, the day of the resurrection, why talk about Christ’s suffering and death today? Answer that query on the basis of 1 Corinthians 2:1–5; Revelation 5:12; Romans 4:25.
- Occasionally Christians ask, “Why do we need the Old Testament now that the New Testament has come?” How does 1 Corinthians 15:1–8 answer the question? What does Isaiah 52:13–53:12, written about seven hundred years before Christ, teach us about Him?
- What is remarkable about the dialogue in Mark 15:1–39? (Hint: if you have a “red-letter Bible,” this is readily apparent.) What does this indicate to us about Christ’s Passion?
- How does Jesus’ “cry of dereliction” in Mark 15:34 serve as a key to understanding the ultimate significance of the entire Passion account? Revisit Isaiah 53:6–10 for insight.
- Jesus taught, “You therefore must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect” (Matthew 5:48). Did He live out that teaching? See 1 Peter 2:22 and Hebrews 4:14–16. What is at stake in this question?
- According to Mark 15:32, what sort of Christ were the Jewish leaders looking for? What Old Testament passage about the Christ should the Jews have focused on? What is ironic about Mark 15:39, in which Jesus is declared “the Son of God”?
- According to 1 Corinthians 15:3–5, where does the news of Easter Sunday rank among all the things we will ever be told of in this life? What does 1 Corinthians 15:14–20 say would happen if Christ’s bodily resurrection from the tomb were just a myth?
- How does Mark 16:6–8, the angel’s message to the women and their reaction, parallel our own experience amid the changes and uncertainties of life? What kind of encouragement are we given in 2 Corinthians 4:13–18 and John 20:29–31?
- The word torn is common to both Mark 1:9–11 and Mark 15:37–38. What connection might this make? What was significant about the curtain in the temple? How do Galatians 3:26–27 and Romans 6:3–4 connect us to Christ’s Baptism and death?
- Simon of Cyrene was just a passerby on the day of Christ’s crucifixion, but God changed his plan and made him the bearer of Christ’s cross (Mark 15:21). What does bearing the cross mean for Christians today? See Mark 8:34–38; 1 Peter 2:21–25; Galatians 2:20–21.
For Next Week
Read John 21:1–19 to prepare for the next lesson. As we continue to celebrate the Easter season, we will study one of Christ’s post-resurrection appearances to His disciples. We will focus on the key point that “We are all like Peter in our words and actions, denying our Lord and weeping bitterly over what we have done. We are in need of the same comfort that Peter received—the comfort of sins forgiven and the assurance that even though we are faithless, Jesus will remain faithful.”