Law- Old Testament, New Testament, Sunday School

Woe is We ~ Sunday School Lesson ~ 11-9-14

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These are my notes from my ladies’ Sunday School class this morning. I’ll be posting the notes from my class here each week. Click here for last week’s lesson.

Through the Bible in 2014 ~ Week 45 ~ Nov. 2-8
Luke 18:15-21:38, Mark 11-13, John 12, Matthew 22-25
Woe Is We

Matthew 23

Background:
The Pharisees* were the movers and shakers in Jewish religious life. They held positions of authority in the Sanhedrin (Jewish governing council) and temple, and generally concerned themselves with keeping and enforcing what they perceived to be proper law and order within Judaism.

The main problem with the Pharisees (as Jesus so often, and rightly, pointed out) was that they had added hundreds of their own laws on top of God’s laws and equated the keeping of their laws with the keeping of God’s laws. We often look back through history and chide them for this (sometimes deservedly, sometimes hypocritically), but let’s keep something in mind: they had seen what disobedience to God’s law had caused. Warfare, siege, starvation, bloodshed, exile. It was horrific. But instead of seeking to love God with all their hearts and obey Him out of that love, they started “double fencing.” If God put up a “no trespassing” fence around, say, working on the Sabbath (doing your regular job/work instead of resting and worshiping), the Pharisees backed up about 100 yards and put up an additional fence to make sure you wouldn’t break that law. You couldn’t walk more than a certain number of steps- that might lead to working. You couldn’t rub grain in your hands to hull it and eat it (Luke 6:1-2)- that was too much like working.

One of the things Jesus was trying to show people, including the Pharisees, was that a right relationship with God was about loving Him, not rule-keeping. This scared the Pharisees. It probably sounded too loosey-goosey. They were afraid that if Israel didn’t maintain strict adherence to the law, anarchy would break out and result in an even harsher judgment from God than they had previously experienced. And since Jesus was spearheading this movement away from the heavy burden of Pharisaical law, the Pharisees wanted to get rid of Him.

As we approach chapter 23, the Pharisees’ approach to getting rid of Jesus had been largely passive aggressive instead of direct. Hoping to show Jesus for the blasphemer they thought He was, they spent most of chapter 22 trying to trick Him into saying something they could nail Him on. Taxes, the resurrection of the dead (that was actually the Sadducees), the greatest Commandment. They couldn’t seem to trip Him up. Jesus, having answered all their thinly veiled questions, turns the tables on the Pharisees, and manfully addresses them, and their sin, directly, pulling no punches.

Intro to Woe (23:1-12)
Jesus prefaces what he is about to say to the scribes and Pharisees by addressing the disciples and the gathered crowd. He wants to make sure the people understand that there is a difference between God’s law, which is good, and the Pharisees’ perversion of God’s law, which is bad. The people were to keep God’s law as it was presented in Scripture (3), not as it had been built upon by the Pharisees. Furthermore, whatever good motive the Pharisees might have started out with in making all these extra laws (i.e. keeping the people from breaking God’s law), their motive had now morphed into attention and honor-seeking (3-7). They were no longer motivated by a genuine concern for God’s people and holiness, but by a desire for accolades and prominence. Jesus wanted the people to be careful not to fall into that trap themselves (8-10), especially the disciples, who would soon be heading up the New Testament church. They were to humble themselves and serve those they shepherded, not become “celebrity pastors.”

Woes 1&2 (13-15, Luke 3:8, Genesis 15:6)
It’s interesting that the Pharisees were so proud of their Abrahamic heritage (“We have Abraham for our father…” Luke 3:8) but they forgot what God declared to be the theme of Abraham’s life- righteousness through faith, not law-keeping:

And he [Abraham]believed the Lord, and he counted it to him as righteousness. Genesis 15:6

The Pharisees were believing and teaching a false doctrine of righteousness by works, not faith. They were teaching this both to the Jews under their care (13) and to any Gentiles who might be seeking the one true God (15). False doctrine, even if it sounds good and holy to the ear, even if it seems to be “Bible-ish,” even if it’s being preached by someone in religious authority, sends people to Hell. Jesus says so right here. The only gospel that saves is the one Jesus preached, the one that is true to God’s word.

Woe 3 (16-22, Matthew 5:34, Exodus 20:16, Proverbs 12:22, John 14:6)
These days, nobody seems to give a second thought to saying, “I swear to God,” to make people believe them, even when they’re lying. People place their hands on a Bible in court, swear to tell the truth, and then perjure themselves, fearing only the legal consequences, not the spiritual. The Pharisees were a little more concerned that God might zap them if they used His name to convince someone of their honesty, all the while deceiving him. Their deceitfulness was so pervasive that they had devised a list of things they could swear by that wouldn’t bring down God’s wrath even if they were lying. But they were only deceiving themselves. It didn’t matter what they swore by, because everything belongs to God and is under His control. God’s command is not to lie (Ex.). Period. He says that “lying lips are an abomination” (Pr.) The God who says, “I am THE TRUTH,” (Jn.) wants us to be so in love with truth that truth is all we speak, rather than seeing how many lies we can get away with.

Woe 4 (23-24)
The tithe didn’t really cover these tiny little herbs, but the Pharisees dutifully measured out a tenth of everything to show their righteousness. But they were so focused on the metrics of righteousness that they had lost the heart of righteousness. That’s why we see them, in several instances, not rejoicing that a blind or crippled person had been healed, but chastising Jesus for healing the person on the Sabbath. Notice that Jesus didn’t say they were wrong to tithe, only that they should not have forgotten to love and serve their neighbors while doing so. Their religion had become a rigid skeleton of laws and regulations, do’s and don’t’s. No heart, no flesh.

This is one that so many churches today are guilty of without even realizing it. When we focus on man-made rules and traditions to the extent that we don’t notice the people we’re trampling on in the process, or we cannot help people because we’ve backed ourselves into a corner with our own rules (and please notice, I’m talking about man-made rules here, not strict adherence to sound doctrine, which is required by Scripture), we are doing exactly what Jesus was scolding the Pharisees for.

Woes 5&6 (25-28, 1 Samuel 16:7b)
1 Samuel 16:7b says:

For the Lord sees not as man sees: man looks on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart.”

And what Jesus saw in the Pharisees’ hearts was people who were dead (27) in their sins (25). They concerned themselves only with appearing righteous to others, not with the actual condition of their hearts. Because they were unsaved, the best the Pharisees could do was to put on a facade of holiness, and they worked hard to maintain that facade. Jesus tried to explain to them that if their hearts were right with God through faith, humility, and repentance, a righteous outward appearance would be a natural overflow of the righteousness inside. Righteousness isn’t about what we do, it’s about who we are in Christ. It isn’t about behaving like a good person, it’s about trusting in the only good Person who ever lived and having His goodness credited to our accounts.

Woe 7 (29-36)
Jesus is already pretty torqued, but you mess with His faithful servants, and He goes ballistic. Remember all the prophets we read about in our study of the Old Testament and the way many of them were treated? Many of them were murdered by God’s people simply for speaking God’s word to them. And here came the Pharisees, patting themselves on the back, decorating tombs, and saying, “Well, of course we would never have done such a thing.” Hogwash. They were already plotting to kill Jesus (in fact, by now, they had already tried stoning Him and throwing Him off a cliff), and they would go on to martyr 11 of the 12 apostles as well as others of Jesus’ followers in the early church era. Anybody who spoke the truth of God rather than what the Pharisees wanted to hear was in just as much danger as an unpopular Old Testament prophet.

Some Christians are very much the same today. They read the gospel accounts of the Pharisees plotting against, and crucifying, Jesus and think to themselves, “I would never do that,” but if a fellow Christian calls them to repent of obvious sin, or shows them that they’re following false doctrine or a false teacher, they immediately attack that person as “judging,” “unloving,” “divisive,” etc.

Whoa (37-39)
Christ’s public teaching ministry was over with this final diatribe. Having completed these seven woes, what is His tone? Is it angry? Condemning? No, it is sorrowful. One of the defining characteristics of Jesus is that, no matter how much we have sinned, He loves us. And, in the same way you can be absolutely furious with your child yet still love him, Jesus loved these Pharisees. It grieved Him that they preferred their sin of a fake relationship with God to a real relationship with God. God is not the cruel taskmaster the Pharisees’ endlessly burdensome law-keeping implied. In Christ, there is freedom from the yoke of the law– the freedom to love God and obey Him from the heart. That’s what Jesus wanted for the Pharisees. He didn’t want to punish them; He wanted to set them free. Free from duty and drudgery. Free from facades and fear. Free to rest in Christ and enjoy their Father rather than slaving away for Him.

And that’s what Jesus wants for us, too. He obeyed the Law perfectly for us so we wouldn’t have to (because we can’t). And when we trust that He did that for us, He gives us the righteousness that He earned with His law-keeping. Jesus sets us free from the need to strive, to try harder, to pull ourselves up by our own bootstraps. He sets us free to love and enjoy Him.

Whoa.

*Who Were the Sadducees and the Pharisees? by Got Questions?

Bible, Law- Old Testament, Old Testament, Sunday School

Loving God’s Word: Psalm 119 ~ Sunday School Lesson ~ 6-8-14

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These are my notes from my ladies’ Sunday School class this morning. I’ll be posting the notes from my class here each week. Click here for last week’s lesson.

Through the Bible in 2014 ~ Week 23 ~ June 1-7
Psalm 119:89-176, Song of Solomon 1-8, Proverbs 1-15
Loving God’s Word: Psalm 119

Last week and this week, we read through Psalm 119, the longest psalm and the longest chapter in the Bible. Today, I thought we would go a little “old school” — “old” as in “Old Testament.” It was not uncommon at various times of worship in the temple or synagogue for the people to listen to lengthy portions of Scripture being read. (In fact, when we get to Nehemiah 8, you’ll have a completely new perspective on what constitutes a “lengthy” passage of Scripture or a “long” sermon!). But it’s an aspect of worship and teaching the church has lost as the years have gone by. So today, we’re going to start at verse 1 of Psalm 119 and see how far we can get. I have some brief notes on some of the verses/sections that I’ll share with you, and I encourage you to ask questions and comment as we read.

Note to blog readers: This is one of those “ya kinda had to be there” lessons. I’m happy to report that we ended up making it all the way through the chapter and even had some great discussion along the way! 

 

Psalm 119

1-8-The importance of obedience.

9-16- The importance of God’s word. We cannot be obedient to Him without His word, because His word tells us what He requires of us.

14, 16- The psalmist calls God’s word a “delight”. This was at a time when most of his “Bible” consisted of the Pentateuch, which was mostly law. He delighted in it, not primarily because of the do’s and dont’s, but because these were the words from the mouth of God. Also because the non-law portions reflected the greatness, power, mercy, and other attributes of God.

20 (John 1:1)- “My soul is consumed with longing for your rules at all times.” The psalmist has a genuine love for, and godly obsession with, God’s rules/statutes/ordinances/commands. It is not just a love for the rules themselves; a desire to obey them is inextricably interwoven throughout that love. The reason the Christian has a natural love for, and obsession with, God’s word is that Christ IS that word (John 1:1)

25-32- The psalmist realizes that only God’s word gives life, strengthens the sorrowing soul, and transforms the heart and behavior, therefore, he “clings” to them. He asks God to teach him His ways and give him understanding of His word.

32 (John 8:34-37)- “I will run in the way of your commandments when you enlarge my heart!” (for you set my heart free). Rather than seeing God’s law as confining or burdensome, the psalmist says they set his heart free. This is one of the core differences between the genuinely regenerated and those who are not. Christians, while we may struggle to understand and obey God’s word at times, know that it is His word that sets us free (if the Son sets you free, you are free indeed- John 8- This is, in fact, why we struggle to obey it instead of struggling against obeying it.). Lost people see God’s word as confining, enslaving, a prison. This is why, when coming face to face with God’s word, they rebel against it.

59- 60- “When I think on my ways, I turn my feet to Your testimonies.” The solution for sin is found in God’s word. Our shame over our sin should drive us TO His word, not away from it.

63- We make our friendships with those who keep His law.65-72- This passage extols God’s goodness even in times of hardship and attack. God’s word is the psalmist’s comfort and reassurance. Even in difficult times, he values God’s word more than great riches.

75- “In faithfulness You have afflicted me” The psalmist isn’t blaming God or accusing Him of wrong. He knows that what God does, He does for our best. He has already, in the preceding passage shown that affliction was valuable in teaching him to keep God’s commands. He goes on to say in v. 92 that he would have perished in his affliction if it had not been for his delight in God’s word.

81-88- Even when we know God is good and He afflicts us in faithfulness, it gets old and wearisome. The psalmist (88) asks God to ease up, not for his own personal comfort or gain, but so that he will be better able to keep God’s word.

97-104 (Proverbs 1:7)- This passage echoes what we studied in Proverbs this week about wisdom. “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom.” (Proverbs 1) The psalmist shows us that the knowledge of God’s word and the wisdom gained from it surpasses any other form of knowledge or wisdom: the craftiness of the enemy (98), academic knowledge (99), and the wisdom of age and experience (100).

129-136- The psalmist’s deep love for God and His word is palpable. It runs so deep he can scarcely convey it, even with so many descriptions in so many verses. He loves the Lord so much that it breaks his heart for others to continue in sin. This is the love that should fuel our evangelism. God’s testimonies are wonderful (129). They enlighten and give wisdom to even the simplest person (130), yet people throw them away in favor of their sin. It is incomprehensible to the psalmist.

137-144- God has laid down his precepts in righteousness. They are righteous and He is righteous.

158 (1 Corinthians 6:9-11)- We often look at “the faithless” (lost people) with disgust because they do not keep God’s commandments, but we must keep in mind that that’s what lost people do. (That’s what we did before we were saved!- 1 Corinthians 6) They are slaves to sin and need Jesus to set them free.

As we continue to study God’s word,
we will grow to love Christ more and love His word more.

Open my eyes that I may behold wondrous things out of your law. Psalm 119:18

Homosexuality, Law- Old Testament, Old Testament, Sunday School

Law and Order: CVI (Christians Vs. Israel) ~ Sunday School Lesson ~ 3-23-14

sunday school

These are my notes from my ladies’ Sunday School class this morning. I’ll be posting the notes from my class here each week. Click here for last week’s lesson.

Through the Bible in 2014 ~ Week 12 ~ Mar. 16-22
Deuteronomy 14-34, Psalm 91
Law and Order: CVI (Christians Vs. Israel)

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About a month ago we took a look at the Law in the Old Testament, and talked about why God gave the Law to Israel in the first place. Christians are often accused of “picking and choosing” which laws to obey (like the prohibitions against homosexuality) and which not to obey (laws about clothes, food, etc.), so, today, we’ll be talking about why Israel had to obey all the laws but Christians can’t and shouldn’t.

Deuteronomy 31:9-13
Did God consider His Law to be important? How can you tell from this and the rest of the book of Deuteronomy, Leviticus, and other passages we’ve read? Why did God consider His Law to be important?

All Laws Are Not Created Equal
While all laws are equally holy because they were all set forth by a holy God, there are different kinds of laws and different penalties for breaking various laws. The three main categories of Law are: civil, ceremonial, and moral.

Civil Law (22:1,8; 23:19; 24:5-6; 21:15-17; 14:28-29)
At this time in history, Israel had a unique form of civil government: theocracy. This meant that, while they had human leaders such as Moses, elders, and tribal leaders, God was their king and lawgiver. This included civil or societal “law and order” types of laws as well as inheritance laws, property regulations, taxes, etc. These laws were similar to the laws our local, state, and federal governments make for us today. All citizens of Israel were bound by them, and violation of these laws required punishment and/or restitution.

Christians and the Civil Law (Romans 13:1-2)
Which country are we citizens of? Are citizens of other nations bound by U.S. law (in their own nations)? Are we, living in the U.S., bound by the laws of other nations? This is why Christians are not bound by OT Israel’s civil laws, and it is not a problem for us to wear clothes made of two types of fabric, or build houses without parapets around the roofs (unless our own government decides to make these things law). Those laws were for the citizens of that nation at that time in history. We are bound by our city, parish, state, and federal laws at this time in our history.

After Christ’s ascension, the gospel was opened up to people of all nations and God’s people –Christians – began to spread all over the earth. We are no longer under a theocracy, but various forms of government in various nations. This is why Romans 13 tells us to obey those in authority over us, not to obey OT civil law. We are to obey the laws of our own country as long as they do not conflict with anything God has stated in His word.

Ceremonial Law (16:1-17; 26:1-2)
The ceremonial laws mostly had to do with making sacrifices, feasts, “unclean” laws, and who could or could not serve in God’s house. Again, all of these laws applied to Old Testament Israelite Jews (many of them also applied to sojourners in Israel, especially those who wanted to embrace Judaism). They did not apply to other religions, other nations, or non-Israelites outside of Israel. All of these laws, regulations, and practices pointed to the coming of the Messiah, who would fulfill them. Ceremonial law was always intended to be temporary and limited.

Christians and the Ceremonial Law (Hebrews 10:1, 11-14)
Christians are not OT Jews under the Mosaic Covenant. We are NT Christians under the covenant of grace (which is also why the blessings for obedience and curses for disobedience in Deut. 28 do not apply to us). All of the ceremonies, sacrifices, even the temple itself, were a picture and foreshadow of what was to come: Christ. Because Christ was the perfect, once for all, sacrifice for our sin, we no longer need to make sacrifices. If we did, it would almost be like preferring to read the menu than actually eat the steak, or preferring to stand out in the theater lobby looking at movie posters instead of going in and watching the movie.

Actually, it would be a slap in God’s face for Christians to go back to the OT ceremonial laws and ways of worship because it would be like saying, “I prefer the imperfect blood of bulls and goats covering my sin to the perfect sacrifice of Your precious Son which can take away my sin.”

Moral Law (Exodus 20:1-17; Leviticus 11:45, Romans 2:14-15)
The moral portion of the law covers behaviors, thoughts, and attitudes that are intrinsically right or wrong: lying, murder, coveting, adultery, helping the disadvantaged, etc. Because God is good and holy, His people are to portray His goodness and holiness to a watching world. We constantly see God telling Israel, “Be holy for I am holy.” The moral laws reflect the nature and character of God. God is truth, so do not lie. God is loving, so do not hate. God is faithful, so do not be unfaithful. God is generous and giving, so do not steal.

Moral Law is “transcendent,” which means that it applied even before it was codified (Remember when Cain killed Abel? Murder was still wrong then even though the Law would not be given until Exodus 20.), and will continue to apply until Christ returns. Moral Law applies to all people everywhere. God says this Law is written on our hearts; we know basic right from wrong by our consciences. As we discussed last week, the first and highest moral law was to love God only, and love Him above all else. When God holds first place in a person’s life, obedience to His moral law is a natural overflow of the heart.

Christians and the Moral Law (1 Peter 1:14-16; 1 John 2:4-6)
While Christians cannot and should not obey the OT ceremonial or civil laws, we are to obey the moral laws, most of which are restated somewhere in the NT. Often, Jesus reminds us that God is not after behavior modification, rather, He’s after our hearts. It’s not enough to restrain yourself from murdering someone; Jesus says to love our enemies and pray for those who persecute us. It’s not enough to refrain from adultery; Jesus tells husbands to love their wives to the point of laying down their lives for them and wives to respect and submit to their husbands. This kind of selfless love for God and others was always the intent behind the OT moral laws. It becomes clearer in the NT through the teaching and sacrificial example of Jesus. We follow His example of love for God, obedience to God, laying down His life for others, and serving others.

 

Jesus and the Law (Matthew 5:17-18)
Jesus Himself said that He did not come to abolish the Law, but to fulfill it. He did this by perfectly obeying the civil, ceremonial, and moral law. He further fulfilled the ceremonial law by concluding it. When Jesus said, “It is finished,” it was. The final sacrifice had been made, once for all. When Jesus died, the veil of the temple that separated people from the Holy of Holies—the very presence of God—was split in two, signifying that, through the final sacrifice, Jesus, we may now enter into God’s presence and be reconciled to Him.

 

Additional Resource:
The Gospel by Numbers by Ligon Duncan at the 2014 Together for the Gospel conference (This is one of the best sermons I’ve ever heard. I encourage everyone to take the time to listen to it.)