I'm Only Here For The...
I’m Only Here for the… (A Reason to Believe)
Why go to church?
Why attend Bible Class?
“You don’t have to go to church to go to heaven,” most Americans would say. We’ll leave that question for another bible class, maybe a “I Hate Organized Religion” study. Lots of people are pretty lackadaisical about their faith. Maybe even we have not been as, well, let’s say, we’ve not been as regular as we used to be in going to church and seeing to it that our children went to Sunday School and Catechism class.
What are the reasons people are active in their faith—why do people go to church?
Let’s get some of them down right now.
Makes me feel good
I want my children to grow up right.
It helps me stay married
I like being respected by people who know me
I want to get to heaven
I love the music
My parents make me
My mother would be horrified if I didn’t still go to church
It’s a great place to make friends
I like volunteering and helping people
It gives me the opportunity to give back to others
I’ve got nothing better to do
I want to feel good about myself, even though I am doing things right now that I shouldn’t be doing
I want to get married in this church
I want my kids to have first shot at the preschool
It’s my duty
If I don’t, I’ll get in trouble
Check the ones that have motivated you to go to church.
I’m Only Here for the Kids
A lot of people come to church and bring the kids with them because they want the children to know right from wrong. They want their children to grow up to be honest and decent people.
Certainly the Bible promises this.
Proverbs 22.6 Train a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not turn from it.
Deuteronomy 6.1-3 These are the commands, decrees and laws the LORD your God directed me to teach you to observe in the land that you are crossing the Jordan to possess, so that you, your children and their children after them may fear the LORD your God as long as you live by keeping all his decrees and commands that I give you, and so that you may enjoy long life.
Ps 78:4-7 We will not hide them from their children; we will tell the next generation the praiseworthy deeds of the LORD, his power, and the wonders he has done. He decreed statutes for Jacob and established the law in Israel, which he commanded our forefathers to teach their children, so the next generation would know them, even the children yet to be born, and they in turn would tell their children. Then they would put their trust in God and would not forget his deeds but would keep his commands.
How does it work?
As Christians, we believe at a very early age, even in infancy, the Holy Spirit can and does bring a child to faith. How?
Matthew 28.19-20 Go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey all things which I have commanded you.
In baptism God makes even the youngest disciples. We use water (baptizing) and the Word of God “in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.”
Where does it say we baptize babies?
All. All means all. No child born in America has to wait until he or she reaches a certain age to be an American citizen. They all are citizens. A look at Mark 16.15 shows this means all people—“all creation,” not just a portion of parts of all nations.
How do they get faith in baptism?
Titus 3.5-6 He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out on us generously through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that, having been justified by his grace, we might become heirs having the hope of eternal life.
The Holy Spirit comes upon the child through the water and the Word in baptism and creates faith in their heart through that Word. This makes them believe in Jesus just as you and I believe in Jesus.
What two blessings are we given in baptism?
- rebirth—we are given spiritual birth so we are alive to God
- renewal—we are made new on the inside so we love God
Who gives us these blessings?
The Holy Spirit
What do we have to look forward to because of our baptism?
We look forward to eternal life in heaven—we are believers headed home with God!
What comfort do we have if a baptized child dies?
That child will absolutely, positively be in heaven, because by baptism, the Holy Spirit has made that child a believer.
The Bible contains stories about how children showed their faith.
Do you know them without even going to the Bible? Link up the children with what they said.
·A “You come against me with sword and spear and javelin, but I come against you in the name of the Lord Almighty.”…So he triumphed over the Philistine with a sling and a stone.
· B “Here am I, your servant is listening!
· C “Didn’t you know I had to be about my Father’s business?”
· D “The fire and wood are here, but where is the lamb for the burnt offering?”
How did these children get their faith, for not a one of them were born in New Testament times and received the Sacrament of Baptism? Can you link the children up with their parent(s)?
Mary and Joseph
Abraham and Sarah
How would you describe the parents? Do we have any information about them?
Abraham a man of faith—believed in God’s promise he would be a dad
Luke 1.28, Matthew 1.19
Mary a woman of faith—believes Gabriel’s message. Joseph a man of faith—he was not going to marry a wicked woman, but would quietly break off the marriage
1 Samuel 1.26-28
Hannah dedicates Samuel to the Lord, showing her faith
David was taught about the Lord while he was still a nursling.
Children certainly learn by imitation. Infants (literally, non-talkers) incessantly watch the mouths of mom and dad (and anyone else who lovingly holds them for any length of time). What will an infant do while watching the adult’s mouth?
They will try to make the sounds that they hear those mouths making.
What does this spur the adult to do even more?
It spurs the adult to spend even more time holding the baby, making them try to say “mamma” or “dada” and learn to speak!
What will be the final result?
The child will learn to speak!
We could call this “Monkey See, Monkey Do.” Now apply that to these situations. What is the child going to learn?
While growing up, Junior sees Mom always go to church and Dad never going to church. Mom tells him he has to go to church with her until he gets confirmed. Then it’s his choice. Every Sunday, when they come home from church, dad is in the lounger, reading the newspaper, singing, “It ain’t necessarily so.”
Junior is going to learn that church is for women and children, because Dad doesn’t go to church. When Junior grows up (past his confirmation) it will be exceedingly rare if he attends church. The father is not helping—he is not providing a good example for Junior and he is actually undermining what Junior is learning at church.
At church, the whole family sits quietly together, praying, singing, attentively listening to the sermon, even all contributing to the offering because dad sneaks dollar bills to each of his kids before the plate is passed. But as soon as the service is done, they all pile out to the car, with brother and sisters fighting over who gets to sit by the windows. As soon as they get home dad hassles mom about how soon Sunday dinner will be ready and mom tells him if he’s going to badger her like that, maybe next Sunday she will stay home from church and burn him a nice ham. Everybody pretty much goes their own way for the rest of the week until Sunday rolls around again.
The children will be learning that you are on your best behavior in church, but you can act as you wish when church is out. They are learning to compartmentalize their Christianity. Finally, it will get so aggravating, that they will stop going to church “because it just isn’t helping.”
In eighth grade, Sonny knows his mom and dad are having a tough go of it. Sometimes dad doesn’t come home at night and lots of times mom gets into big fights with him—Sonny can hear them from his upstairs bedroom. But he also knows the pastor came and talked to them one day, they started dropping him off at a friend’s while they went “to talk to the pastor” and after a few months the fighting stopped and dad never stayed away from home for a night unless he was out of town on business.
Sonny is going to see that church is important and that the Lord has a power in people’s lives. God made it work out that Mom and Dad stopped fighting and got along. The pastor plays a very important role in this, so Sonny is going to respect the pastor and be helpful to him whenever he can.
It Ain’t Always Necessarily So
The Bible seldom leaves us waiting. If the greatest gift God has to give us through our faithful worship of him is a good family, then God will tell us to expect that right away. Godly parents will have godly children.
We all know about one family intimately. It was the first family.
Read Genesis 4.1-2
Who are the parents of this first family?
Adam and Eve
Who are the two boys mentioned in this family?
Cain and Abel
Describe the mother’s spiritual condition.
A believer who has seen God and has received his forgiveness when she has fallen into sin. The Lord has given her help to give birth to a son.
Read Genesis 4.2-5
Would you say Cain and Abel were “church-goers?” Why?
Yes! Abel and Cain regularly worshipped the Lord by their sacrifices to him—each custom-made to their own way of life.
What did Cain offer to God?
Good vegetables and fruit from the field
What did Abel offer to God?
Fat cut off from the firstborn of the sheep he tended
If you had your choice between hunks of fat from poor, little, defenseless lambs and piles of carrots, tomatoes and jalapenos, which would you choose?
I think we’d all have to say Cain’s offering was better.
Which one did the Lord choose? Now here’s the harder question—why? (see Hebrews 11.4 if you need help)
The Lord viewed Abel’s offering as better, because Abel offered it through faith—he believed in the promise of a Savior to come and he believed God was a good and loving Father.
Ok, Abel is faithful, Cain is unfaithful. Then why on earth is Cain even worshipping God? The Bible doesn’t tell us, but let’s make some guesses.
It’s my duty
If I don’t, I’ll get in trouble
I like being respected by people who know me
My mother would be horrified if I didn’t still go to church
I want to feel good about myself, even though I am doing things right now that I shouldn’t be doing
Compare this list to the list we drew up at the beginning of the class. Are there any similarities?
The similarities are frighteningly similar—we don’t have to work our imagination too hard to think like Cain
But wait! It gets better (and worse for Cain)!
Read Genesis 4.6-7
Who comes and tries to straighten Cain out?
The Lord actually appears to Cain and speaks to him
What words of promise does he hold out to Cain?
Luther’s translation of this passage is better, “Master it!” God gives a command and by that command, he also gives the power to carry out that command.
God tells Cain he can overcome this sin, he can resist temptation
Why can’t God be blamed for what is going to happen next?
God has specifically warned Cain not to murder his brother, Abel. God also has shown, by coming to Cain with this matter, that he can see what Cain is thinking about.
Read Genesis 4.8-16
What effect did God’s words have on Cain?
Absolutely none. Cain immediately goes into the field and kills Abel
Watching the movies, it seems to be pretty easy to kill someone by simply shooting them. It even happens accidentally. How did Cain kill Abel and what does that show about Cain?
It had to be a gory, long and blood-curdling murder, because Cain had to kill Abel by hand, in close quarters, with his hoe
What does Cain’s confrontation with God after Abel’s murder show about Cain’s estimation of God and his estimation of himself?
Cain thinks so highly of himself, he thinks that he can lie to God and outwit God.
How does Cain try to put the blame back on God?
Cain repeats what God has said would be his punishment, but then expands upon it and says God will let anyone who finds Cain kill him. God did not add that last part—he was very lenient with Cain
How does God refuse to let Cain escape responsibility by throwing mud God’s way?
The Lord addresses Cain’s lie and counters it, showing his loving heart—Cain’s life is specially protected—anyone who murders Cain will pay seven times for it. The Lord even puts a special mark on Cain.
We don’t know what that mark of Cain was. The Mormons teach that the mark of Cain was that he was turned black and that is where the Negro race comes from. Apart from science and history, from the Bible how do we know that is absolutely wrong?
All Cain’s descendants died in Noah’s Flood. Only Noah and his family survived and they were all descended from Seth.
What went wrong with Cain? We can pretty much rule out the following causes:
- Cain got into drugs
- Bad company
- Rock n’ roll
- Bad parents
- God didn’t pay much attention to him
- Lost in the crowd
Look at Genesis 5.2-3 for the real answer.
What is the answer for Cain’s bad behavior?
Cain carried the sinful human nature with him and followed it, instead of following God.
Who else has that bad heart?
Adam, Eve, Abel and every single person who would come into the world from that point onward
Maybe instead of looking for reasons why children “go bad” we should focus on why they “turn out all right,” because if our theology has it straight, what is more natural, for a child to turn out bad or a child to turn out OK?
If our theology is correct (and it is, because that’s what the Bible clearly says), babies are born in unbelief, slaves to sin, puppets of the devil, driven only by their sinful human nature. It is inevitable, unless God intervenes, that the children will turn out spiritually bad
If it is more natural for a child to turn out bad, how essential is it that we fill that child’s heart with good things—God’s things, the Gospel?
It is vitally important that we fill a child’s heart with the Gospel everywhere we can. Only God working through the Gospel in that child’s heart will bring forth a mature Christian.
Read Genesis 4.17-24
We are given the line of Cain in these verses. Right away some people get bogged down on who was Cain’s wife? They postulate other peoples around, besides Adam and Eve.
The simple fact is that Cain married one of his sisters, a daughter of Adam and Eve. The Bible does not give us the names of all the children Adam and Eve produced, only the ones that are important for the story of how God intended to bring the Savior into the world. The Levitical law (Leviticus 18.9-18) prohibited sexual relations with close relatives. The Roman Catholic Church enforced these Old Testament Jewish laws upon Western Christendom--our culture and laws still reflect that. Other cultures have no such aversion (Egypt’s pharaoh’s married sisters all the time to keep dynastic power from being diluted).
Who Cain married is not the point of the Genesis account—what his children and descendants amounted to is the point.
What would you say about the accomplishments of the family of Cain (vv. 19-22)?
Their accomplishments are most impressive—they were inventors of musical instruments and it seems they invented metal-working
Moses focuses on Lamech to show the spiritual condition of Cain’s family. What was that?
Rotten to the core. Lamech marries two wives. He is a murderer just because a man “injured” him. He is a braggart, arrogantly demanding more respect than he is due—Cain only got seven times vengeance as protection; Lamech is so important if anyone kills him they will pay seventy-seven times
How had Cain’s sin shown up in his children to the third and fourth and fifth generation?
They remembered the Creation and the Fall stories and rejected the loving God behind them. It showed in their murderous, lustful and vain-glorious lives
Why did Lamech have absolutely no excuse for his unbelief? (The clue is to compare verse 24 with verse 15.)
He shows he remembers the story of God appearing to Cain and he accepts the story as true, but does not believe in the God who lovingly tried to dissuade Cain from murdering his brother
What can we say?
Why should we bring children to church and consistently demonstrate Christian values to them?
They will never learn those values on their own, the sinful human nature will keep them from believing in Jesus. We need to bring them to church that they will constantly have a good influence, the Holy Spirit’s influence on their lives.
How dangerous is even the slightest deviation from God’s will in our lives when we are raising children?
Very! The children will see it and adopt it as their own. A hundred good examples can be wiped out by one bad example, because that’s the one which is natural to the Old Adam within us.
Does God guarantee that if we do the right things we will have great kids? If he doesn’t, what does he guarantee?
The Lord does not guarantee we will have great kids. He promises that we will get to heaven—he will not abandon us, as he showed he was not willing to wash his hands of Cain, though Cain was more than willing to wash his hands of God.
Look again at a Bible verse we started out this lesson with.
Proverbs 22.6 Train a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not turn from it.
What comfort is there if your child is acting more like Cain than like Abel in his or her teens and twenties?
Give the kid time. The Lord never says how old the kid has to be when he will not turn from the path, but he says he will get back to that point.
If Adam and Eve were only going to be believers for the kids, would they be in heaven now?
No, as soon as Cain murdered Abel, they would have abandoned their faith in God, for their children were turning out so terribly.
If you were only coming to church so that your kids would be good, do you honestly think you’d put up with it?
No, our kids act horribly many times, too.
There’s got to be a better reason, a real reason to believe!
I’m Only Here for the Marriage
A lot of times when I visit those who haven’t been in church lately, I discover that their spouse, who may not have attended any church regularly, now that the other spouse has started to come to our church, has found some other church she or he likes to go to and “wouldn’t it be nice if we could worship together?”
Of course, the spouse who is a member of ours is so happy that their beloved is getting religion and so fearful of shaking the new-found faith of their sweetie loose, that they stop coming to church here to be with their spouse.
And when I tell them that they are doing themselves, their God and us a disservice, they look at me like I’m running amok or trying to make sure their offerings only go into my offering plate.
Many people and churches assume and expect that this is one of the reasons people go to church—to have a good marriage.
Maybe we even subconsciously promote that idea with posting of marriage seminars and marriage retreats.
Well, God does want us to have a good marriage, doesn’t he?
Let’s look at a couple completely devoted to each other, with their religion making their bonds even more intimate—and how God was trying to break it up.
The Ultimate Power Couple
Read 1 Kings 16.29-33
What kingdom is Ahab king of?
Israel, the northern kingdom. God had divided David’s kingdom into north (Israel) and south (Judah). Ahab’s father had made Samaria the capital of Israel.
Describe Ahab’s spiritual condition.
The worst of the worst, worshipping the Golden Calves.
How had Ahab been even more corrupt than earlier, bad kings of Israel?
He strongly encouraging Baal worship
Who had caused him to worship Baal and Asherah?
Jezebel, his foreign wife
Baal and Asherah worship was a cult devoted to Father Sky (Baal) and Mother Earth (Asherah). Devotees practiced sympathetic magic, copying the actions of the heavenly couple, with Baal fertilizing Asherah to make the crops grow. Temples of Baal and Asherah encouraged sexual immorality and had male and female prostitutes as the temple staff.
And yet the Lord tried to reach out to Ahab and call his wayward son back to the faith.
Read 1 Kings 18.27-40
Elijah had challenged the priests of Baal and Asherah, “the four hundred and fifty prophets of Baal and the four hundred prophets of Asherah, who eat at Jezebel’s table,” to see who really was the Lord, God or Baal.
Two offerings were set up on Mount Carmel, one for Baal and the other for God, but there was to be no fire coming near the offerings. The one who really was the Lord would send down fire from heaven and consume the sacrifice. The priests of Baal went first, starting off their entreaties to Baal in the morning.
What suggestion did Elijah make that Baal had not answered his priests by noon?
They should shout louder, for maybe Baal is asleep or on a vacation
Prove the priests of Baal were sincere in their religion.
They danced and shouted even louder (after having been doing this for three hours, already) and they cut themselves until their blood flowed to show their sincerity
How did Elijah make it even tougher for God?
He ordered his offering drenched with water three times
How did the God show he was really the Lord?
He sent fire from heaven to consume the offering—it also consumed the wood, stones and soil and licked up the water!
Elijah uses the moment to have the people seize the prophets of Baal and slaughter them, as Moses had commanded the children of Israel.
Deuteronomy 13.6-10 If your very own brother, or your son or daughter, or the wife you love, or your closest friend secretly entices you, saying, "Let us go and worship other gods" (gods that neither you nor your fathers have known, gods of the peoples around you, whether near or far, from one end of the land to the other), do not yield to him or listen to him. Show him no pity. Do not spare him or shield him. You must certainly put him to death. Your hand must be the first in putting him to death, and then the hands of all the people.
Why is God so insistent that we do not worship other gods?
There were no other gods who could save. Worshipping idols would send the devotees to hell and God could not have that for his people.
Read 1 Kings 19.1-2
How does Ahab show he is a good husband?
He communicates very well with Jezebel, telling her the bad news right away
What is Jezebel’s response?
She threatens Elijah’s life and sends a messenger to him to give him the death sentence
What impact should the events on Mount Carmel have had on Ahab?
He should have been shouting with the people, “The LORD, he is God!” and he should have repented his evil ways and turned everyone in his kingdom aside from false worship, especially his wife.
How would that have affected his marriage?
She probably would have resented him and left him.
Does worshipping the true God make marriages better?
Worshipping the true God would have made Ahab’s marriage worse!
I’ll Do Anything For You, Dear, Anything At All
Ahab’s practice of religion certainly gave him a spouse who saw things the way he did.
Read 1 Kings 21.1-4
Why did Naboth seem to feel he could not sell his choice property next to the palace to King Ahab?
The property belonged to his father and was his family inheritance
So, who was really thwarting Ahab’s ambitions?
The Lord’s command that family inheritances should not be sold permanently so that the family would lose its land.
How does Ahab act positively unkingly?
He goes home and sulks
What sin is Ahab committing?
He is currently guilty of the sin of coveting, wanting to have what you cannot have
Read 1 Kings 21.5-7
Prove that the lines of communication were wide open in this charming marriage.
Jezebel is worried about him and right away goes in to see what is wrong. Ahab immediately tells her—he doesn’t try to cover up.
Who does Jezebel put first in her life and how does that show itself?
Jezebel puts Ahab first. He wants something and she will stoop to nothing to get it for him
Wouldn’t you just love a wife so attentive and a husband so open? It must be a great god who inspires such love and intimacy in two people!
Read 1 Kings 21.8-16
What is Jezebel’s scheme?
She is going to see to it that Naboth is wrongly put to death. At a religious feast she will have him falsely accused and immediately executed
What is a day of fasting for? (look up Jonah 3.6-9)
It was a day for repentance. This day seems to be a day declared by Ahab as a national day of repentance and prayer
How was Jezebel showing her religious clout?
Jezebel was hiding being religion to carry out her evil schemes. She would appear so righteous—her followers would be outraged that someone so evil would be participating in this repentance festival that it is only natural that he should be immediately executed
Once again, we see Ahab being cowed by Jezebel. What would a normal, Christian person have done under these circumstances?
He would have stopped his wife from using the powers of government to kill an innocent man to take his land
A Bitter Gift from the Bride
Read 1 Kings 21.17-24
There is judgment coming from the real God. Elijah is sent to confront his old nemesis.
How will the judgment upon Ahab perfectly fit his crime?
As the dogs licked up Naboth’s blood at the public pool, so they will lick up the blood of Ahab’s.
What is Ahab admitting about his spiritual condition when he greets Elijah?
He is no friend of the LORD nor God’s prophet
What is the judgment that will befall all Ahab’s family?
Ahab will die, with the dogs licking up his blood, Jezebel will die, with the dogs eating her body, and all Ahab’s household will perish, swept off the face of the earth, carrion for the birds of the air and the city packs of dogs
What has happened to God’s heart that he has declared this terrible judgment upon Ahab? Can you think of one other leader in the Old Testament this same thing happened to?
Ahab is so far gone there is no room in his heart for repentance. We would say he is hardened in his sin, just like the Pharaoh was during the ten plagues of Moses
A good Lutheran boy marries a Jehovah’s Witness. She would like him to come with her to church, but there is no way she is going into his Lutheran Church for worship. No problem, he thinks. He usually goes to early service, his wife’s church, with its small membership, has only one service a Sunday and it is rather late, so he goes with her to her service, too. Nobody is going to be the wiser at his church and she will be happy as she tries to convert him to be a Jehovah’s Witness. What is this Lutheran lug-nut doing to his faith and his view of God?
The Lutheran boy is killing his faith. His actions are leading him to believe religion is just for show—it is OK for him to worship Jehovah, because none of his Lutheran friends know he is doing it and he will be pleasing his wife. He will start to think that it doesn’t matter what God you worship, the message is all pretty much the same, for he will be hardening his heart to the Gospel love of God
Read 1 Kings 21.27-29
What would actions like Ahab’s (tearing his clothes, putting on sackcloth and fasting, show in the life of a believer?
They would be signs that the believer is repenting of his sins
What is Ahab showing by these actions?
He is showing he is sorry these terrible things are going to happen and he hopes that by going through these motions, with as much sorrow as he can show, he can prevent them from happening
What does it mean to repent? (Look at Ezekiel 33.7-11)
To turn from your evil ways and stop sinning as well as confessing your sins to God and believing in his forgiveness
How does the Lord’s actions show that Ahab is not repentant?
The Lord does not change course—the destruction of Ahab’s unbelieving family will come, but it will not come in his life-time.
Why might the Lord delay his punishment of Ahab—though it isn’t a very long delay, no more than three years (and one chapter in 1 Kings!)?
The Lord is patient and he is hoping Ahab will truly repent
Jezebel had wanted to give Ahab a garden for his palace. What had it cost him?
The price for Naboth’s garden was Ahab’s kingdom and dynasty, as well as a decent burial for his beloved wife, not to mention his soul’s salvation
That religion should break up marriages should not come as a surprise. Jesus said it would.
Luke 12:52-53 Do you think I came to bring peace on earth? No, I tell you, but division. From now on there will be five in one family divided against each other, three against two and two against three.
In fact, that was a big bone of contention in Corinth.
Read 1 Corinthians 7.12-16 before you consider these two cases.
Pastor, I never should have married Joe. I knew it in my heart, but I loved him so much at the time. When he proposed he said he would take instructions and join the church right after our honeymoon. That was fourteen years ago. You never see Joe in church, much less becoming a member. I really am sick of coming to church alone, sick of seeing everybody with their husband and all their family in church. I’m going to leave Joe. There’s a chance I may find some Christian man so we can share our faith together. I’m sure that’s what God would want.
Do not divorce your unbelieving spouse if they are willing to live with you. The believer brings the power of God to bear on the unbelieving spouse’s life every day. Without that spouse, there would be no Word in that person’s life for their salvation. How many unbelieving fathers (or mothers) have melted before the Holy Spirit when they see their children worshipping the Lord?
We knew it would be hard when we first got married—John was Mormon and I was Lutheran, but we felt our love would overcome all that. He went to his church and I went to mine. Once in a while he would even attend, Christmas, Easter, when the kids were singing in Sunday School. And I know, I know, after the kids got confirmed they started going to church with John because all their friends from high school were there and their youth groups did so many things. I guess it seemed fair at the time that, like they were confirmed in the Lutheran Church, so they should go to the LDS seminary classes right next to the high school. But now John comes up to me and says that unless I convert and become a Mormon, he is going to divorce me and find a good Mormon woman he can share eternity with.
Here the unbeliever is not willing to live with the believer. Let him go—let him divorce the woman. Look at what she has already lost! Her children (at least right now) are lost to the LDS. Her husband, because he has not been able to convert her to LDS by gentle means, has now decided to bully her into it. All she has left to lose is her eternal soul. Maybe when the children see that the LDS breaks up marriages, they will wake up and get back to the Gospel of Jesus Christ truly proclaimed in the Lutheran church.
I know, I know, you want to hear how this love story ends. In 1 Kings 22 the death of Ahab is recorded. In battle to recover Ramoth-Gilead from the Aramaeans, he is severely wounded by an arrow haphazardly shot. Instead of retreating and causing his men to lose heart and flee, he tells his chariot driver to prop him up in the chariot. All day long Ahab is driven around the battlefield to inspire his men, though he is bleeding to death. At evening Israel retreats, the battle is lost. They bring Ahab to Samaria and give him a royal burial. They wash out the chariot by a public pool and “the dogs licked up his blood, as the word of the Lord had declared.” Jezebel lives on, encouraging her son, Ahaziah, to be just as devoted to Baal worship as Ahab had been. Probably in a drunken stupor, Ahaziah falls through a second story bedroom window to his death. Without children, he leaves the throne to his brother, Joram, another son of Jezebel, who reigns a dozen years. In a battle for Ramoth-Gilead, Joram is wounded. He goes back to the summer capital, Jezreel, to recover. Mother Jezebel is with him. The general of the army, Jehu, goes to Jezreel, murders Joram outside the city and, as he enters, orders Jezebel, who is screaming and calling him names, to be thrown down from the third story balcony. His charioteers mutilate her body as they parade into the city. During the party celebrating their coup, Jehu remembers Jezebel and orders his men to give her a decent burial, but the dogs in the city have eaten her—all that remain are her head and hands in the spattered road (2 Kings 9).
What can we say?
Will a common faith strengthen a marriage IF that common faith is the true faith and both spouses are devoted to it?
Yes! The Lord will bless each believer and those who have their hearts set on the Lord are eager to do his will and view life from the same vantage point.
Will a common faith guarantee that marriage will last? Why or why not?
No. There is always the chance that one of the spouses will either sink into unbelief or, in a moment of weakness, commit some terrible sin that destroys the marriage. But it isn’t guaranteed the marriage will fail.
Yes, if the believers stay believers and guard themselves against falling into terrible temptations that could wreck their marriage, the Lord will bless that marriage. But it isn’t guaranteed that the spouses will always act this way. The uncertainty lies with the people, not with God.
Why do people who are not Christians have strong marriages? Is that a sign that their faith is the correct one?
They are devoted to each other and work together for a common goal, whether that goal is praiseworthy or not. Certainly the strong marriage of an atheist or a cult member is not proof of the validity of their faith. We put a group’s beliefs to the test not be what they do, but by how their teachings and life line up with what God says in the Bible. Also remember, we may not see the injustices and heartache in their marriages.
Why might Christians not have a “strong” marriage, yet be devoted to Jesus Christ?
· Husband disabled—He can’t be there in all areas for his wife to share experiences with her because of his disabilities. It doesn’t, however, detract from his love for her and it doesn’t disqualify him from being a Christian.
· In-law pressures—In-laws can cast a dark shadow over a couple trying to establish their own household on the Lord’s promises. Yet those pressures of in-laws do not affect their relationship to Jesus. He gives them the stamina to put up with the problems of their lives.
· Lack of children—An empty house to many people is a lonely house, but that does not need to be the case. A couple devoted to Jesus often find a wealth of Christian friends and opportunities to serve in their local congregation that married with children couples don’t have the time to investigate.
· “Too many” children—Children are demanding and take a lot of our energy, energy that could be given to a spouse. Faith in Jesus gives us the ability to balance our all responsibilities with our resources so no one goes under-loved.
Why should they stay married, even if they don’t have the perfect marriage?
It is God’s will that they should stay married. No one has the “perfect” marriage and our sinful human nature is a lousy judge of what God wants for us.
Why should they stay Christian, even if God has not given them the perfect marriage?
No other god is going to give them a better marriage. All they will do is forfeit the love and happiness of heaven for something even worse than what they have here on earth. God has guaranteed his believers heaven. He has not guaranteed them a perfect marriage.
There must be a better reason to be a Christian.
I’m Only Here for the Good Life
Do you remember some of the reasons we talked about in lesson one about why people come to church? More than a few of them had to do with the “good life.”
· We want people to respect us.
· We don’t want to labor under a cloud of guilt.
· We want to feel good about ourselves.
· We want to give back (this assumes that we’ve got it to give back!)
· We want to make our parents proud.
Nothing wrong with that. Our society is built upon it. We want a good reputation, respect and all the things that go along with it. Listen to Billy Shakespeare.
Who steals my purse steals trash; 'tis something, nothing;
'Twas mine, 'tis his, and has been slave to thousands;
But he that filches from me my good name
Robs me of that which not enriches him,
And makes me poor indeed.. Othello Act 3, scene 3.155-161
We want to have good lives. That is also God’s will for us!
Paul encourages Timothy to teach the believers to pray for the authorities
1 Timothy 2.2-3 that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness. This is good, and pleases God our Savior.
It is hard to lead a peaceful life when the thieves are daily carting our things away and our nation’s troops are arrayed for battle with the enemy just thirty miles down the road. It is hard to lead a quiet life when there are economic upheavals every month and the rate of inflation is so high they are talking about printing a billion dollar bill. God wants us to have a good life.
There might be one stipulation—what is it?
Proverbs 30:8-9 Give me neither poverty nor riches, but give me only my daily bread. Otherwise, I may have too much and disown you and say, 'Who is the LORD?' Or I may become poor and steal, and so dishonor the name of my God.
God promises to give us as much as we need every day, not as much as we want.
I think we pray for the same thing every day—where?
In the Lord’s Prayer, when we pray for “daily bread.”
There was once a man who had everything, beautiful wife, great kids, a huge fortune and a rock-solid faith. In fact, because he had everything….well, let the story tell itself.
The First Blow
Read Job 1.1-5
In the book of Job we come across an ancient, non-Jewish life-style. Job lives perhaps 3000 B.C. in the pasturelands to the east of Israel, the last tillable land (in wet years) before you hit the northern part of the Saudi desert. He is close to trade routes which connect his culture with those to the south, east and north.
Describe Job’s spiritual life.
Job is a believer and his life shows it—he is blameless and upright.
Describe Job’s physical life.
He is tremendously rich—the greatest man among all the people of the east! He had a great wife and 14 grown and wealthy children.
It’s good to be Job!
Read Job 1.6-12
What is God’s estimation of Job?
There is no one on earth as faithful as my servant, Job.
Here’s the kicker to the story of Job—he gets into trouble, not because of something he does, not even because of something the devil does, but…
Who instigates the action in the book of Job?
The Lord is the one who brought Job to Satan’s attention and was bragging Job up
And that is the central problem. God always has it in his power to stop evil, to prevent evil, but he permits evil. In heaven we will know why. I think the author of Job is telling us that in a few phrases.
What is the devil’s estimation of Job?
Job is only good to God because God is so good to him. If Job led a life of suffering, he would curse God and become an unbeliever
What might it look like Job is “going to church” for?
The good life.
What stipulation does God put upon Satan?
You can take everything away from Job, but do not touch his person
Read Job 1.13-19
Who stole the oxen and the donkeys, and the camels?
Sabeans, desert marauderers like the Wild West’s Apaches and Chaldeans, an enemy nation.
How did Job lose his flocks of sheep?
Fire came down from heaven and burned them up
Why would it be galling for a believer to suffer this loss?
God would not necessarily step in and prevent all the wickedness of barbarians like the Sabeans, or an enemy nation like the old Soviet Union, but he is in charge of the weather and this is a singular punishment
What was the last blow?
All of Job’s children perished as a great wind brought the house they were in down around them
What does Job have left?
Himself and his wife
Had Satan done everything that he could have?
No, he left Job his wife. Other than that, he licked up everything Job had.
Read Job 1.20-22
The __Lord____ gave and the _Lord____ has _taken__ _away________.
May the name of the _Lord_______ be _praised_________.
What is the natural reaction when we suffer terrible loss?
We tend to blame God or accuse God of letting it happen. “Why did God do this to me?” “Why did God not prevent this?”
How do these words show Job’s faith?
Job is not angry at God. He recognizes God’s hand in everything. As the Lord gave him great wealth and blessings, it is God’s prerogative to take them away
When will we have to fall back upon these words?
When we lose a parent, spouse or child to death. When we experience sudden, unexpected (and undeserved) financial losses
Had Job been “going to church” for the good life?
No. He was “going to church” because he believed in God and was looking for a greater blessing from the Lord
The Second Blow
Read Job 2.3-6
The Lord gives us a different take on the action which took place in chapter one.
Who caused Job’s suffering?
The devil is the cause of Job’s suffering. He “incited God.” What that means we do not know.
How has Job come through it?
He has kept his faith intact. He maintains his integrity and enjoys the same approval of the Lord
Why doesn’t God seem to see all that Job has lost?
Those earthly possessions are not the significant thing. The children of Job, their souls were in heaven (we assume they were believers like their father). But the livestock and other possessions, they are not significant when it comes to comparing them with eternal life.
What is Satan’s reply?
Skin for skin. If Job personally suffered in his body, he would turn away from the Lord
Again a stipulation from the Lord! God always puts ___limits_ on evil.
Read Job 2.7-10
Why are Job’s second trials not gone into with the detail of his first trials of faith.
It is difficult for another person to be able to comprehend the inner suffering of another human being. We are just told the outward facts and the writer leaves it at that. The inner pain and suffering is passed over in silence.
In Lamentations, the prophet Jeremiah writes,
Is any suffering like my suffering that was inflicted on me?
Suffering is personal, intense and beyond comparison. The doctor may tell you your suffering isn’t that bad, on a scale of 1 to 10, but the fact of the matter is, no one can know how badly you are suffering, for no one can put themselves in your shoes. Even those who try to put themselves into your shoes often give comfort by talking about themselves—scant comfort indeed to the sufferer! The writer knows this and wisely describes Job’s second sufferings to us with few words.
What might be the best comfort a Christian can give to someone who is desperately suffering?
Just be there for them and let them know that you are there for them. Don’t say you know what they are going through because you don’t. A lot of times if we try to bring up something similar that happened to us, we trivialize their suffering or look egotistical
Why do you suppose Satan had not also killed Job’s wife?
She is the one who is going to be the tempter in his life—she will try to incite Job to turn away from God
Was Satan right about Job? Prove it.
No! Job does not curse God and die, as his wife counseled him. Job does not lose his faith. We have the inspired record that tells us he did not sin in his reaction to this suffering
Read Job 2.11-13, 3.1
Job is visited by three friends.
How do they show their love for Job?
Like true friends, they are touched by Job’s suffering. They empathize with him, weeping and showing signs of mourning (tearing of clothes, dust on their heads and sitting on the ground)
How do they show their wisdom in comforting Job?
They sit there in silence with Job, not trivializing his sufferings
How does Job show his humanity?
Job has human weakness. Though he will not curse God and throw his faith away, he does curse the day he was born, wishing that he had never seen life on this earth.
Has Job still not sinned in what he said?
No, Job is sinless still. He has not cursed God. He has not lost his faith. But he is weakening.
The Third Blow
The rest of the book of Job is a dialog between Job’s three friends and himself. They approach Job, each time more pointedly. They affirm that God is good. He does not punish the innocent. They affirm that God is just and always punishes the wicked. The dialog comes to its first climax in this interchange.
Read Job 18.1-19
Bildad accuses Job of being arrogant, especially in his treatment of his friends.
· A friend listens to his friends
· A friend doesn’t always do the talking
· A friend values his friends’ insight
· A friend does not destroy himself
· A friend does not demand that the world revolve around him
Can you find these thoughts in Bildad’s initial response to Job?
Now Bildad describes the plight of the wicked. You match them up.
|Flame of his fire stops burning||B||A
Your sons and daughters were feasting and drinking wine at the oldest brother’s house, when suddenly a mighty wind swept in from the desert and struck the four courners of the house. It collapsed on them and they are dead.
|Light in his tent becomes dark||A||B
Fire of God fell from the sky and burned up the sheep and the servants.
|Vigor of his step is weakened||C||C
So Satan afflicted Job with painful sores from the soles of his feet to the top of his head.
What is Bildad insinuating about Job and the cause of his sufferings?
These things have come upon Job because Job is a wicked man.
Now it goes further. Job has proclaimed his innocence. Yet he suffers. There must be some great sin Job is hiding! How does Bildad bring that out in verses 9-12?
He talks about hidden dangers—traps, snares, hidden nooses to trap a man who has successfully hidden his sins from man, but not from God.
Now think of Job’s physical, bodily suffering and compare it to Bildad’s words in verses 13-16.
Job’s skin is probably in various degrees of rot. His suffering causes him terror—when will it end? The smell is probably horrendous, as though he is dying from the inside out.
What can the end be for the wicked? Look what Bildad says about “what’s-his-name” in verses 17-19.
He will be forgotten, without offspring, without memory.
And just to make sure Job has gotten the point, Bildad describes the reaction of the righteous to the deserved suffering of the wicked. (verse 20). What does this sound suspiciously like (if you can’t guess, look at chapter 2, verses 12-13).
Bildad frames his words with himself and Job’s friends in mind. They are the honorable men of the east who were appalled and horrified at Job’s suffering.
The final and most damning charge Bildad lays against Job? “You are suffering because you do not know _God___!”
Compare Bildad’s evaluation of Job’s spiritual condition and God’s evaluation?
Bildad believes Job is one of the worst of men, an unbeliever who has hidden his sins all these years, only to be outed by the Lord’s vengeance and long-delayed punishment of him. The Lord believes Job is the best of believers, just in all he does!
Read Job 19.1-6
Why did I call this section Job’s Third Blow?
The physical and emotional suffering of Job is increased—not only has he lost family, possessions and health—he has also lost friends (false though they were).
Even if Job had committed some terrible, secret sin against God, why would it not be of concern to his “friends”?
We cannot judge a person’s heart. That alone is up to God. We can only reprove and correct them when we see them committing an outward sin.
What progression do you see in his words in verse 6 “Know that God has wronged me and drawn his net around me” and his initial reaction: “The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away; may the name of the Lord be praised.”
Job now blames God with wickedness, for he has “wronged” Job. Initially, Job blessed the name of the Lord.
Who has pushed him over the edge and how did they do it?
This is the point his false friends have brought him to. They have done it by all their pious talk which was devoid of love and compassion, but filled with judgment and self-satisfaction. Such is ever the work of the Pharisee.
Read Job 19.7-12
Job now expands on how God has wronged him.
Surprisingly, Job’s first complaint is not that the Lord has taken away his family and everything he owns. What is Job’s complaint?
God doesn’t answer him! Job, in spite of all his sufferings, still believes God is good and will not let the righteous suffer. Even if God caused this, God will remedy it. But he isn’t coming to Job’s rescue!
Job does not expect that God automatically gives him a good life. But he does expect that God would provide justice. Instead of providing justice, what does God’s role in all this seem to be at this time?
God counts Job as one of his enemies, who will get no good thing from the Lord.
What would the honor of a family man be and how has God stripped Job of his honor?
The honor of a family man is his children and God permitted Job’s children to perish in one day when the house fell down upon them.
Which of Job’s sufferings would the “tearing down” remind you of?
The words of his wife and the words of his false friend which tear down his confidence in God.
Read Job 19.13-21
Now Job turns his attention to the continuing relationship he has with people.
Point to the phrases Job uses to show his alienation from humanity?
Alienated, completely estranged, gone away, forgotten, count me as a stranger
So terrible is Job’s suffering these normal relationships are overturned. Explain what the relationship should be and what it has become.
Job and his servants
Does not answer
Job and his wife
She can’t stand his breath
Job and little boys
Respect their elders
Scorn and ridicule Job
Job and close friend
Love and respect
Finally, Job begs his friends not to be like God, because God will “never get enough _of_ _my___ _flesh____!”
In the midst of Job’s suffering, his faith rises to the forefront. He has one who does not accuse him. He has one who truly takes his side. He has one who will bring justice. Job calls him “Redeemer,” literally, in the Hebrew,
Read Job 19.23-27
Let’s identify this redeemer Job is putting his hope in.
He is living at the time of Job
He will come to earth at the end of time
He will avenge all the wrongs done
Who is this Redeemer?
How will this Redeemer restore Job’s trust in a God who renders justice?
Jesus will bring Job back to life and take him to heaven, restoring his happiness forever.
Read Job 19.28-29
Job restates his “friends’” charge against him. What is that charge?
Job is suffering so terribly because he has for so long hidden his terrible, secret sins.
Why should they fear Job’s Redeemer?
The Redeemer will judge all people when he returns. The wicked, who put their faith in their own goodness and tear down the innocent, will feel his eternal punishment.
What can we say?
Does being a Christian help us in terms of living a good life with a comfortable income? Explain your answer by looking at Job.
Yes. Christianity can give us the wisdom and self-discipline to know we don’t have to go in for each and every fad, we will steer clear of shady get-rich schemes and we will be good stewards of what God gives us (often resulting in saving for our futures and the futures of our children). Vice is expensive!
No. Christianity can yield no financial advantage when calamity strikes. Believers get staggering medical bills from cancer or are wiped out equally by war, natural disasters or foolish public policy.
Does being a Christian mean that this good life is guaranteed to be ours or to remain ours? Explain your answer by looking at Job.
Job is a perfect example of both sides of the question. When he was rich, he was a believer. When it was all taken away from him, he was a believer. The good life is not guaranteed to any believer. If we have it, that is a wonderful gift from God, if we don’t have it, God knows what he is doing.
If Job were a Christian “just because God is so good to him,” would he have uttered those great “I Know that My Redeemer” words?
No, he would have cursed God, giving up his faith, and died, killing himself to put an end to his earthly misery, confident that there would be no judgment to come with its afterlife.
Job never did curse God to his face, as Satan said he would, though Job did waver in his faith. The plot does not end until the Lord himself speaks to Job out of a mighty storm emphasizing that God’s ways are not our ways. Many times we will never be able to figure out why God is doing what he is doing, but we must never give up believing in him as a good and gracious Savior.
Why are we Christians?
· For the kids Y N
· For the marriage Y N
· For the good life Y N
Then why are we Christians?
I’m Only Here for Jesus
Before an assembly of Roman rulers and soldiers, Jewish royalty and courtiers, the prisoner stood. All eyes were fixed on him, all ears attentive to what this mysterious prisoner would say. It was obvious he was happy to be here, laying his case before an informed audience—King Agrippa, a pious Jew and informed ruler, knew all the intrigues and opposing parties of the religion.
“The Jews all know the way I have lived ever since I was a child, from the beginning of my life in my own country, and also in Jerusalem. They have known me for a long time and can testify, if they are willing, that according to the strictest sect of our religion, I lived as a Pharisee.”
Then why had the Pharisees and Sadducees arrested him if he were one of them?
“And now it is because of my hope in what God has promised our fathers that I am on trial today. This is the promise our twelve tribes are hoping to see fulfilled as they earnestly serve God day and night.”
Then why had the Jews put him on trial if he earnestly believed the very thing they and their ancestors had believed?
“I, too was convinced that I ought to do all that was possible to oppose the name of Jesus of Nazareth. And that is just what I did in Jerusalem. On the authority of the chief priests I put many of the saints in prison, and when they were put to death, I cast my vote against them. Many a time I went from one synagogue to another to have them punished, and I tried to force them to blaspheme. In my obsession against them, I even went to foreign cities to persecute them.”
Then why was he in chains today before the Roman governor and King Agrippa if he was so highly influential and connected to the chief priests, the author and administrator of one of their most far-reaching initiatives?
After the hearing, the Jewish court was all agreed. “This man is not doing anything that deserves death or imprisonment.” King Agrippa gives his expert advice to the Roman governor, Festus. “This man could have been set free if he had not appealed to Caesar.”
Then why had he appealed his case to the supreme court of Rome, Caesar himself? If he was innocent and everyone could see it, why had he felt so threatened that he called upon Caesar?
Look What I’ve Lost
The man before Festus and Agrippa was Saul of Tarsus. We know him better as Paul, Saint Paul, the Apostle Paul. Let’s follow his life and see why had had come to such a point.
If anyone else thinks he has reasons to put confidence in the flesh, I have more: circumcised on the eighth day, of the people of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin. Philippians 3.4-5
I am a Jew, born in Tarsus of Cilicia, but brought up in this city. Acts 22.3
What would Paul’s standing have been among the Jews already from his early years?
A respected member of the community. Circumcised, of legitimate family tree, he would have been well received by all.
The next morning the Jews formed a conspiracy and bound themselves with an oath not to eat or drink until they had killed Paul. They went to the chief priests and elders and said, “You and the Sanhedrin petition the commander to bring him before you on the pretext of wanting more accurate information about his case. We are ready to kill him before he gets here.” But when the son of Paul’s sister heard of this plot, he went into the barracks and told Paul. Then Paul called one of the centurions and said, “Take this young man to the commander; he has something to tell him.” The commander took the young man by the hand, drew him aside and asked, “What is it you want to tell me?” He said, “The Jews have agreed to ask you to bring Paul before the Sanhedrin tomorrow on the pretext of wanting more accurate information about him. Don’t give in to them, because more than forty of them are waiting in ambush for him. They have taken an oath not to eat or drink until they have killed him. They are ready now, waiting for your consent to their request.” The commander dismissed the young man and cautioned him, “Don’t tell anyone that you have reported this to me.” Then he called two of his centurions and ordered them, “Get ready a detachment of two hundred soldiers, seventy horsemen and two hundred spearmen to go to Caesarea at nine tonight. Provide mounts for Paul so that he may be taken safely to Governor Felix. Acts 23.12-24 (selected verses)
Who is involved in this conspiracy to kill Paul?
The Jews, probably Pharisees.
How influential were they that they could even get the chief priests to cooperate?
They must have been high-ranking and rich to have gotten the Sadducees to cooperate with them. It is also a testimony to how hated Paul was by all the Jewish ruling class.
How could such a secretive and dangerous plot be overheard by a young boy?
The boy’s parents must have been highly respected and trusted Pharisees whom the plotters trusted so much that they could scheme within the walls of their house and the boy heard it from his bedroom!
What is the connection between the boy and Paul?
The boy was Paul’s nephew, the son of his sister!
What does this show about the Jewish circles Paul had moved around in?
Paul’s in-laws and acquaintances were the high and mighty among the Jewish religious circles even though he was not a Sadducee or of the priestly tribe of Levi.
What does the commander’s immediate response to protect Paul show about the reputation the young boy’s family enjoys in Jerusalem?
The centurion doesn’t dismiss the boy’s comments but takes them to heart. His breeding and poise bespeak an important family rearing this young man.
A Hebrew of the Hebrews; in regard to the law, a Pharisee; as for zeal, persecuting the church; as for legalistic righteousness, faultless. Philippians 3.5-6
Under Gamaliel I was thoroughly trained in the law of our fathers and was just as zealous for God as any of you are today. I persecuted the followers of this Way to their death, arresting both men and women and throwing them into prison, as also the high priest and all the Council can testify. I even obtained letters from them to their brothers in Damascus, and went there to bring these people as prisoners to Jerusalem to be punished. Acts 22.3-5
I was advancing in Judaism beyond many Jews of my own age and was extremely zealous for the traditions of my fathers. Galatians 1.14
Meanwhile, Saul was still breathing out murderous threats against the Lord’s disciples. He went to the high priest and asked him for letters to the synagogues in Damascus, so that if he found any there who belonged to the Way, whether men or women, he might take them as prisoners to Jerusalem. Acts 9.1-2
Describe Paul’s education.
The best! He was the star student, surprising all his teachers. He had a very respected teacher in Gamaliel. His education took place not in provincial Tarsus, but in the capital of Judaism itself, Jerusalem.
How influential was Paul’s teacher and how does his real influence show in this following account?.
[The Apostles have been arrested, but an angel freed them by night. The next day they are again preaching in the Temple and are hauled before the Sanhedrin. They refuse to obey the Sanhedrin, stating, “We must obey God rather than men.”]
When they heard this, they were furious and wanted to put the apostles to death. But a Pharisee named Gamaliel, a teacher of the law, who was honored by all the people, stood up in the Sanhedrin and ordered that the men be put outside for a little while. Then he addressed them: “Men of Israel, consider carefully what you intend to do to these men. Some time ago Theudas appeared, claiming to be somebody, and about four hundred men rallied to him. He was killed, all his followers were dispersed, and it all came to nothing. After him, Judas the Galilean appeared in the days of the census and led a band of people in revolt. He too was killed, and all his followers were scattered. There, in the present case I advise; you: leave these men alone! Let them go! For if their purpose or activity is of human origin, it will fail. But if it is from God, you will not be able to stop these men; you will only find yourselves fighting against God.” His speech persuaded them. They called the apostles in and had them flogged. Then they ordered them not to speak in the name of Jesus, and let them go. Acts 5.33-40
Gamaliel was so influential that he could even talk the Sanhedrin out of their intention to kill the apostles when they were furious. And he kept their hands off the apostles for a period of time.
Do you want to venture a guess why we have the transcript of this meeting of our enemies? Who may well have been there listening and observing?
One of the Sanhedrin members later became a Christian (in Acts we are told many of the priests converted.)
How well had Paul learned his lessons?
So well that he put them into practice by persecuting Christians.
How could Paul have taken his persecution of the Christians to foreign cities?
Enjoying the respect from his teacher, Gamaliel, backed by his sterling upbringing and his top of the class rankings, Paul is the pet of the ruling class, who may be stretching their authority to persecute Jews in other jurisdictions.
Paul, since he was a Benjaminite, and not a Levite, could not have served as the high priest. But what position was his career tending towards?
He was certainly being groomed for a position on the Sanhedrin from the Pharisee party.
The commander directed that Paul be flogged and questioned in order to find out why the people were shouting at him like this. As they stretched him out to flog him, Paul said to the centurion standing there, “Is it legal for you to flog a Roman citizen who hasn’t even been found guilty?” When the centurion heard this, he went to the commander and reported it. “What are you going to do?” he asked. “This man is a Roman citizen.” The commander went to Paul and asked, “Tell me, are you a Roman citizen?” “Yes, I am,” he answered. Then the commander said, “I had to pay a big price for my citizenship.” “But I was born a citizen,” Paul replied. Those who were about to question him withdrew immediately. The commander himself was alarmed when he realized that he had put Paul, a Roman citizen, in chains. Acts 22.24-29
When it was daylight, the magistrates sent their officers to the jailer with the order: “Release those men.” The jailer told Paul, “The magistrates have ordered that you and Silas be released. Now you can leave. Go in peace.” But Paul said to the officers: “They beat us publicly without a trial, even though we are Roman citizens, and threw us into prison. And now do they want to get rid of us quietly? No! Let them come themselves and escort us out.” The officers reported this to the magistrates, and when they herd that Paul and Silas were Roman citizens, they were alarmed. They came to appease them and escorted them from the prison, requesting them to leave the city. Acts 16.35-39
The treatment of Roman citizens and Roman subjects was drastically different. Compare the Roman citizen Paul’s imprisonments and questioning under torture with how Pilate and his legionnaires treated Jesus, a mere subject of Rome.
It was illegal for Paul, a Roman citizen, to be beaten without being convicted of a crime at a trial. It was illegal for Paul to even be chained—Romans were simply to locked up under arrest. How different for Jesus. He could be chained at will. Information could be extracted through torture, in his case, scourging—even if the prisoner was innocent! Certainly Jesus’ trial shows that justice was not necessary for non-Romans.
Considering that Paul could have become a member of the Sanhedrin on the basis of his Pharisaical zeal alone, how could his being a Roman citizen almost assure him of the appointment?
It would give him standing also among the Romans, a very valuable tool in negotiating with your enemy.
What usually comes along with positions of great power and influence in government?
Those in power usually get rich. They are well-connected to friends who get them into lucrative businesses and they have the first-hand, insider knowledge of events which can be anticipated for a profit.
Paul was going to have it made!
Look Where It Got Me
Read Acts 9.3-5
Where is Paul going?
What is his purpose?
To persecute Christians
What would the Fifth Commandment say about this?
It would condemn it. Even the Sinaitic code condemned murder unless it was to punish a murderer. To claim the Sinaitic code permitted heretics to be put to death is pretty picky, considering the scope of false teachings permitted by the Sanhedrin (the Sadducees didn’t even believe in the after-life!).
What would Paul’s teacher, Gamaliel, say about this?
He had already counseled leaving the Christians alone. If theirs was a movement around a man, it would come to naught, but if it was from God, Paul would be fighting against God.
Is there any indication from what we’ve read of Paul’s life that he even gave it a second thought?
None whatsoever. Paul gives us the feeling he was absolutely certain of the rightness of his cause and actions.
Jesus appears to Saul, blinding him, knocking him from his horse, a brilliant light flashing around Paul. What does Jesus say to Paul?
Why are you persecuting me?
What is Paul’s response?
Who are you Lord?
What does this show about the state of Paul’s soul?
He doesn’t even know who God is.
What does it mean not to know who God is?
He is a total unbeliever, no better than the pagans who do not have the Bible.
How could that have happened to such a religious man?
He had been so busy with the business of religion and the advancement of his career, he had forgotten about God and faith.
Where would Paul be now if his skittish horse had stepped on his head, crushing his skull, killing him?
In hell, because he didn’t know who God was.
Look What I Lost Now
Mark what Paul lost, judging by these accounts of his life after his conversion.
At once Saul began to preach in the synagogues that Jesus is the Son of God. Saul grew more and more powerful and baffled the Jews living in Damascus by proving that Jesus is the Christ. After many days had gone by, the Jews conspired to kill him, but Saul learned of their plan. Day and night they kept close watch on the city gates in order to kill him. But his followers took him by night and lowered him in a basket through an opening in the wall. Acts 9.19, 22-25
When Saul came to Jerusalem, he tried to join the disciples, but they were all afraid of him, not believing that he really was a disciple. Acts 9.26
Saul talked and debated with the Grecian Jews in Jerusalem, but they tried to kill him. When the brothers learned of this, they took him down to Caesarea and sent him off to Tarsus. Acts 9.29-30
What was the reaction to the converted Saul among the Jews?
He lost his circle of Jewish friends. The Jewish leaders in that city tried to kill him, as well as the Jewish leaders in Jerusalem.
What was the reaction to the converted Saul among the apostles?
He had not gained a new circle of Christians, for the head of the church, the disciples, were terrified of him, thinking this was just one more of his diabolical plots to destroy them.
What influence did Paul now enjoy in both Christian and Jewish circles?
Absolutely none. He was untouchable.
If you want to rise to power, it is wise to stay close to the seat of power—Jerusalem! Where is Paul sent and how would this affect his (former) earthly career plans?
He goes to Tarsus, his birthplace, far from Jerusalem. His career is in shatters and cannot be mended.
Paul was not worshipping God for the good life.
Look What I Found
Let’s follow along with Saul’s conversion account.
Read Acts 9.6-19
What is going without food or drink a sign of for a Jew?
What does it show about Paul that he did this for three straight days?
He is really, really sorry for what he has done
How does Ananias show the importance of Paul?
Ananias had already heard about Paul and was terrified of him—this was the man who was going to destroy the church in Damascus.
What is God’s plan for Paul?
Paul will spread the word of Jesus to rulers and kings.
What is the “signing bonus” the Lord is promising Paul?
He will suffer greatly.
How does Paul confirm the Lord’s calling of him?
Paul receives Holy Baptism
How could he be baptized so quickly—didn’t it take at least twenty weeks of instruction with the local Lutheran pastor?
Paul, being such an ardent enemy of Jesus, being a persecutor and interrogator of the Christians he had imprisoned, already knew much about Jesus, apart from his Old Testament education.
But there is that troubling, “show him what he must suffer.” Even as a Christian, Paul is still going to be on the short end of the stick. Hear Paul describe what he encountered.
Read 2 Corinthians 11.23-29
Did you catch the repeated refrain?
Where was Paul NOT in danger?
It is interesting that Paul’s words may parody the words of Cicero, a famous Roman philosopher and politician. In one of his speeches he praises literature, because he lists all the places where you can enjoy a good book, in the countryside, at home, abroad—you get the point.
The study of literature is the food of youth, the delight of old age; the ornament of prosperity, the refuge and comfort of adversity; they delight us at home, and do not hinder us abroad; by night they are with us, in travel, by our side, in the country they are a constant friend. Pro Archia xii
And Paul gave up that life for this? There was something far greater for him.
Read Philippians 3.7-11
We’ve been here before today, when Paul was describing his previous way of life. How does he view that way of life now?
A loss, rubbish
What could that way of life not give him?
It could not tell him the way to heaven, which is by possessing true righteousness, a right standing before God.
Where was the source of the righteousness Paul now possesses?
That righteousness is from God by faith in Christ Jesus.
How do our words about Paul on the way to Damascus show us he could never possess that righteousness through the law?
He did not believe in Jesus, so he could never receive this righteousness from God. Instead, he could only try to create his own righteousness before God, which was getting him farther and farther from God.
What is this righteousness?
Therefore, my brothers, I want you to know that through Jesus the forgiveness of sins is proclaimed to you. 39 Through him everyone who believes is justified from everything you could not be justified from by the law of Moses. Acts 13.38-40
To the man who does not work but trusts God who justifies the wicked, his faith is credited as righteousness. Romans 4.5
Righteousness is the forgiveness of sins
Who won this forgiveness of sins for us?
How do we receive this forgiveness of sins.
What will the ultimate result of this forgiveness of sins be for us?
Eternal life in the resurrection
This is what struck Paul. From prison he writes Timothy.
Read 2 Timothy 1.8-12
Which of Paul’s great deeds had earned his salvation?
Not because of anything he had done
What is the great work of Jesus which Paul emphasizes?
Destroyed death, brought life to light: his suffering, death and resurrection
What had Paul entrusted to Jesus?
His eternal life
What day will Paul receive what he had entrusted to Jesus?
The day of resurrection, the last day
Why is Paul a Christian?
To live forever with God in heaven.
At the end of his life, again in prison, only this time not to be released, he again writes to Timothy.
Read 2 Timothy 4.6-8
When will the Lord appear again?
On the last day, Judgment Day
What will happen to Paul on that day?
He will receive the crown of righteousness
What is the connection between eternal life and righteousness?
Righteousness from God gives us all God’s blessings, including eternal life
Who else will receive exactly the same thing Paul will?
Everyone who believes in Jesus, who longs for his appearing.
So why should we be Christians?
To live with Jesus forever in heaven.
It is easy to say “I’m only here for Jesus,” as we hum “Heaven Is My Home,” while sitting in church. It is a lot harder to hold on to that in the face of the devil’s temptations and attacks.
Why is a comparison between the life of Paul and the life of Martin Luther instructive?
Both men had a very advantageous life in their selected religion. They were very zealous, outstripping those around them in education. They were headed for great things if they stayed with the program. Both were convinced that they could earn God’s favor. Yet once they discovered the true righteousness from God, they gave everything up and suffered loss of all things. Both were tempted often, persecuted always.
If I am ever diagnosed with cancer, I know the temptation will be right there. As a boy I remember riding with my grandfather, a bull of a man, as my parents drove him to the Mayo Clinic in Rochester for newly invented radiation therapy. Over the weeks he withered away to skin and bones, sick, weak, the smile gone from his round face. During my life I have seen friends and neighbors afflicted with it. The pain, even if you are lucky enough to get a doctor competent in pain management drug therapies. The weight loss. Skin and bones, like those black and white films our troops took when they discovered the German concentration camps. The lack of any emotion, because it just takes too much energy. Why go through it? Why suffer from not only the ravages of the disease, but also the devastation of the treatments? Why not quit while you are ahead? Why press on toward the close? What help is there for the helpless? What morning is left to break once the shadows fall over us?
Be my good pastor and tell me what I need to hear.
Nothing is worth losing out on eternal life. For one to end one’s life in despair, not counting on God to give us the strength to get through, would be horrible, especially after we have lived all our lives as Christians to that point. No matter how terrible earthly sufferings are, they will come to an end, when God decides they will end. Eternity in heaven will never end and nothing is worth losing that.
That it is worth it to press on towards the goal of heaven is the counsel given by Christ and his apostles, by every believer whose words are recorded in the Bible and by the example of so many Christians in our own life. Even our hymns, like “Abide with Me,” bear witness to this. God will give us the strength and will put strong Christians in our lives to keep encouraging us.