1 Corinthians 14:12-26 International Bible Lessons Commentary and Lesson

The International Bible Lesson (Uniform Sunday School Lessons Series) for Sunday, July 27, 2014, is from 1 Corinthians 14:12-26Questions for Discussion and Thinking Further follow the verse-by-verse International Bible Lesson Commentary below.Study Hints for Thinking Further, a study guide for teachers, discusses the five questions below to help with class preparation and in conducting class discussion; these hints are available on the International Bible Lessons Commentary website. The weekly International Bible Lesson is usually posted below each Saturday before the lesson is scheduled to be taught. Additional publications and resources by L.G. Parkhurst, Jr.

International Bible Lesson Commentary
1 Corinthians 14:12-26

(1 Corinthians 14:12) So with yourselves; since you are eager for spiritual gifts, strive to excel in them for building up the church.

Our Creator has given people many natural gifts and many good desires; for example, a mind and a desire to learn. Christians may desire spiritual gifts from Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit, and some may pray for and seek specific spiritual gifts. Some may desire spiritual gifts for the power they give or for the excitement some gifts seem to offer. Some may want spiritual gifts to make them feel good or meaningful or equal to others who have them. Paul wrote that our motive for seeking spiritual gifts needs to be “for building up the church” (not just numerically, as Paul will indicate in his letter).

(1 Corinthians 14:13) Therefore, one who speaks in a tongue should pray for the power to interpret.

After Paul wrote that God gives Christians different spiritual gifts, he wrote that if a person had the gift of speaking in tongues that he should also pray for God to give him the gift of interpreting what he prayed in tongues. He should pray for this additional gift and give God the reason that he wants this additional gift “for building up the church.” Otherwise, no one (including the person speaking in tongues) will know what was said or meant except God alone. No one may know the source of the tongues either because they may be uttered by demons who can talk through people (see Mark 5).

(1 Corinthians 14:14) For if I pray in a tongue, my spirit prays but my mind is unproductive.

Paul revealed in his letter that if someone prays in a tongue his mind (or his reason and understanding) is unproductive (perhaps bypassed or not involved in the speaking). The spirit of the person moves their mouths rather than their minds moving their mouths. If they prayed with their minds, they would speak words and sentences that could be understood by them and those who speak the same language. Paul did not write that in praying in a tongue that the Holy Spirit always spoke or prayed through someone, which the Holy Spirit can do. Demons can also bypass a person’s mind and speak through someone, as in some of the cases when Jesus and Paul cast out demons that spoke words of understanding (see Mark 5 and Acts 16). Paul wrote that the person’s spirit (a part of their psychological being as a person?) can pray using their tongue separate from the involvement of their reason and thinking processes. Those who speak in tongues should pray for the power to interpret so they and others can know if they are speaking words consistent with the teachings of the Bible or words that a demon has placed in their mouths. Words given by demons will not build up anyone, least of all the church.

(1 Corinthians 14:15) What should I do then? I will pray with the spirit, but I will pray with the mind also; I will sing praise with the spirit, but I will sing praise with the mind also.

God had given Paul the gift of speaking in tongues. Others had received that gift and other gifts too. Some of those in the Corinthian church may have been tempted to pray only with their spirit in tongues without also engaging their minds and without any understanding of what they were actually praying to God. Therefore, Paul wanted those who prayed and praised God only with their spirit to pray and praise God with their mind as well, which would build up the church and also give meaning and purpose to them in their praying.

(1 Corinthians 14:16) Otherwise, if you say a blessing with the spirit, how can anyone in the position of an outsider say the “Amen” to your thanksgiving, since the outsider does not know what you are saying?

An outsider might be someone who is not a Christian or a Christian without the gift of tongues and without the gift of interpreting tongues. The Holy Spirit gives His gifts as He wills and He gives a variety of gifts (see 1 Corinthians 12). When any person cannot know or understand what another is saying, and especially when praying, they should not say, “Amen;” which means, “May it be so,” because they may be saying “May it be so” about something that would do harm or destroy someone or the church or be contrary to the Bible rather than build up someone or the church. Paul never wrote that everyone should have the gift of speaking in tongues or the gift of interpreting tongues.

(1 Corinthians 14:17) For you may give thanks well enough, but the other person is not built up.

With tongues that no one can interpret, a person might thank God for something wonderful that God has done or he might praise God for Who He is, and God would appreciate their thanks and praises. But, Christians can also thank God and praise God in ways that will also build up someone or build up the church. Christians can pray for God to help everyone understand and give thanks to God for what God has done and for Who He is. A person and the church are best built up by engaging our minds as well as our spirits according to the Scriptures.

(1 Corinthians 14:18) I thank God that I speak in tongues more than all of you;

Paul had reason to thank God because his gift of speaking in tongues was a gift from God. He did not write this because he was arrogant or felt superior to others. He sincerely wanted to thank God. Some people are not better than other people or more favored by God than others because of the gifts God has given them. God gives gifts to benefit many people and for purposes that God alone may know until He reveals them.

(1 Corinthians 14:19) nevertheless, in church I would rather speak five words with my mind, in order to instruct others also, than ten thousand words in a tongue.

Paul wanted Christians to use their gifts properly. It would do little good in a church worship service for Christians to pray and praise God in words that no one could interpret or understand but God alone. True prayer and praise in tongues could be made by believers at home. Paul emphasized that in church a few understandable words of instruction given with a mind actively committed to God for building up people in the church would be better than thousands of words that no one could understand.

(1 Corinthians 14:20) Brothers and sisters, do not be children in your thinking; rather, be infants in evil, but in thinking be adults.

Paul continued to encourage and teach believers how to mature as Christians. They had divided into groups and argued among themselves. Perhaps some felt superior to others because they spoke in tongues and others did not. Perhaps some thought that true Christians spoke in tongues or tongue speaking was the sign that someone was saved. Paul wanted them to grow up and be adults, but that did not include learning more about evil and evil practices that might tempt them or desensitize them to evil behavior.

(1 Corinthians 14:21) In the law it is written, “By people of strange tongues and by the lips of foreigners I will speak to this people; yet even then they will not listen to me,” says the Lord.

Paul consistently referred people back to the law of God and the prophets (see Isaiah 28:11-12). God placed the rebellious people of Judah in Babylon where they would hear a foreign language they could not understand; still, some remained rebellious and would not listen to God. By analogy, Paul used Isaiah to teach that in a similar way some people would speak God’s message in a foreign tongue and their listeners would remain rebellious against God. In general, Paul wrote that God will use foreign people and foreign languages to speak to people and lead many to faith in Jesus Christ.

(1 Corinthians 14:22) Tongues, then, are a sign not for believers but for unbelievers, while prophecy is not for unbelievers but for believers.

Paul wrote that the gift of speaking in tongues or in a foreign language was a sign for unbelievers that Christianity was from God, a gift of God, that the good news of Jesus Christ was a gift from God for all people and not just for the Jews. Earlier, Paul may have taught the Corinthians about the Day of Pentecost and how the disciples in Jerusalem spoke in foreign languages as a sign from God for unbelievers that Jesus had been raised from the dead and had sent the Holy Spirit to fill them. Prophecy or teaching the truth might not mean anything to unbelievers, it may seem foolishness to some, but it should mean something to believers and build them up.

(1 Corinthians 14:23) If, therefore, the whole church comes together and all speak in tongues, and outsiders or unbelievers enter, will they not say that you are out of your mind?

In Paul’s day, if the whole church spoke in tongues and unbelievers could not understand a word they said, they would think the whole church was crazy. On the day of Pentecost, many people could actually understand the different languages that the disciples spoke as the Holy Spirit gave them the gift of speaking foreign languages. Even on the day of Pentecost, however, some thought that the disciples were drunk (Acts 2:15).

(1 Corinthians 14:24) But if all prophesy, an unbeliever or outsider who enters is reproved by all and called to account by all.

Preaching and teaching is the result of thinking with the mind, so an outsider or unbeliever may be able to understand the teaching in their own language, especially with the assistance of the Holy Spirit, Who can reprove the unbeliever through the truth. In Corinth, Greek and Latin would have been the only languages that needed to be spoken in daily life, and if everyone in the church was speaking the truth about God in Greek or Latin then the unbeliever might be called to account for his disobedience to God and encouraged to repent and come to faith in Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior.

(1 Corinthians 14:25) After the secrets of the unbeliever’s heart are disclosed, that person will bow down before God and worship him, declaring, “God is really among you.”

Paul did not mean “reading people’s thoughts or minds,” which can be a trick to trap people. Rather, unbelievers would hear about particular sins that concerned them personally, and they would hear the call to repent and believe in Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior, and their conscience would speak to them. The truth would convict them of sin and show them their need of a Savior. The Holy Spirit would further convince them of the truth they had heard, and they would come to faith, believe the gospel, and worship the true God.

(1 Corinthians 14:26) What should be done then, my friends? When you come together, each one has a hymn, a lesson, a revelation, a tongue, or an interpretation. Let all things be done for building up.

Paul did not condemn all speaking in tongues in the church. He did suggest that the home may be the best place for praying and praising God by speaking in tongues. He did suggest a proper order of worship, and the order of worship in this verse would not lead an unbeliever to think that the whole church was out of their minds, especially when the tongue would be followed by an interpretation (which followed a hymn and a lesson from the mind at the first part of the service of worship). Whatever believers do in Christian worship, “Let all things be done for building up” the church spiritually and in other ways so believers can give reasons why they believe and live holy to the Lord.

Questions for Discussion and Thinking Further

1. Why does Paul say Christians should be eager for spiritual gifts? What are we to strive to do with our gifts?
2. What did Paul say about how he would pray and praise God?
3. What can happen when someone does not understand what we say? What should we do when someone does not understand us?
4. What did Paul prefer to do in the church?
5. When Christians gather to worship God, what should they do according to Paul?

International Bible Lesson

Available July 26, 2014

When You Use Your Spiritual Gifts

“Even so ye, forasmuch as ye are zealous of spiritual gifts, seek that ye may excel to the edifying of the church” (1 Corinthians 14:12—KJV).

“So with yourselves; since you are eager for spiritual gifts, strive to excel in them for building up the church” (1 Corinthians 14:12—NRSV).


Begin or close your class by reading the short weekly International Bible Lesson. To print the International Bible Lesson in three different sizes (including large print size and bulletin size) and for the Teacher’s Study Hints for Five Discussion Questions andThinking Further, go to the International Bible Lessons Commentary website.

See the recommended Bible study, Recovery, and Worship Resources at SmallChurchResources.com.

— © All Contents of this website are copyright 2014 by L.G. Parkhurst, Jr. Permission Granted for Not for Profit Use.

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1 Corinthians 10:9-22 International Bible Lessons Commentary and Lesson

The International Bible Lesson (Uniform Sunday School Lessons Series) for Sunday, July 20, 2014, is from 1 Corinthians 10:9-22Questions for Discussion and Thinking Further follow the verse-by-verse International Bible Lesson Commentary below.Study Hints for Thinking Further, a study guide for teachers, discusses the five questions below to help with class preparation and in conducting class discussion; these hints are available on the International Bible Lessons Commentary website. The weekly International Bible Lesson is usually posted below each Saturday before the lesson is scheduled to be taught. Additional publications and resources by L.G. Parkhurst, Jr.

International Bible Lesson Commentary
1 Corinthians 10:9-22

(1 Corinthians 10:9) We must not put Christ to the test, as some of them did, and were destroyed by serpents.

Before and during the wilderness wandering of the Israelites (after Moses led them out of Egypt), the Israelites tried the patience, justice, love, and integrity of God by complaining against both God and Moses and by disobeying God’s laws. In the previous verses, Paul listed some of the many spiritual advantages the Israelites had enjoyed, but in spite of these many blessings they continued to rebel against God; therefore, God disciplined them and refused many of them an entrance into the Promised Land. Likewise, those who claim to be Christians should not test the patience, justice, love, and integrity of Jesus by complaining and disobeying Him. To continue in rebellion against Jesus Christ can lead to the destruction of those who claim to follow Him, but do not.

(1 Corinthians 10:10) And do not complain as some of them did, and were destroyed by the destroyer.

God used nature, creatures that He created, serpents, to destroy those who persistently complained, disobeyed, and rebelled against God and Moses (see Numbers 21). Satan appeared to Eve as a serpent and tested her, and she failed the test. Eve tested Adam, and he also failed the test. Satan tested Job and Jesus, but neither of them failed their tests. God rewards His people for their faithfulness, as He rewarded Job and Jesus. Jesus Christ bestows many blessings upon those who remain loyal to Him as their Lord and Savior. By analogy, those who claim to be Christians put Jesus Christ to the test when they persist in disobeying God’s commands. If they do not repent and turn back to Jesus in faith, they can suffer the discipline of the Lord. If they will not truly follow Jesus Christ as their Lord, they will inevitably run into the arms of the destroyer and be destroyed. Jesus saves those who truly know He is their Lord.

(1 Corinthians 10:11) These things happened to them to serve as an example, and they were written down to instruct us, on whom the ends of the ages have come.

Paul knew that we need to learn from the historical mistakes of others so we do not make similar mistakes. Paul sometimes referred back to the Old Testament laws of God and the experiences of those who disobeyed God as examples so Christians would not do likewise. From Paul’s letters we learn how important and authoritative the whole Bible is for Christians. Paul also wrote, “All scripture is inspired by God and is useful for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, so that everyone who belongs to God may be proficient, equipped for every good work” (2 Timothy 3:16-17). With the first coming of Jesus Christ “the ends of the ages have come,” and we now await His second coming.

(1 Corinthians 10:12) So if you think you are standing, watch out that you do not fall.

The Corinthians thought they were standing because of their knowledge, but “knowledge puffs up,” so they needed to be careful that they did not fall back into sin and away from Christ (see 1 Corinthians 8:1-3). People can become proud of their biblical and theological knowledge, and lose their contact with God. Pride can lead people to think that they are so smart they can disobey God and escape the harmful consequences. As Paul will state later in his letter, Christians should not think that they can sin with impunity because they have been baptized or participate in the Lord’s Supper.

(1 Corinthians 10:13) No testing has overtaken you that is not common to everyone. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tested beyond your strength, but with the testing he will also provide the way out so that you may be able to endure it.

Any tests we experience others have experienced in similar ways. No one can pass a test by declaring that what the Bible declares to be wrong is right. No one can pass a test by declaring that the sins the Bible condemns can now be ignored; that sinful practices can now be celebrated by a changing culture without destructive consequences. Because God is faithful, those who follow Jesus Christ can pass every test with the strength and wisdom that the Holy Spirit gives them. God is faithful; those who follow Jesus Christ will be shown the way out so they can endure the test (not escape the test). Those who follow Jesus Christ know that Jesus Christ himself is the Way out: “Jesus said to him, ‘I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me’” (John 14:6).

(1 Corinthians 10:14) Therefore, my dear friends, flee from the worship of idols.

In spite of their sins and problems in the church, Paul wrote to the Christians in Corinth as his dear friends or beloved brothers and sisters in Christ. Because they knew he loved them, he could speak strongly to them in ways that might seem harsh to readers today. Paul wrote as he did because “love builds up,” and he delivered all of his warnings with that understanding. “Flee” is good advice whenever we are tempted to sin. If we flee the place of temptation, God will give us the strength we need and show us the way out. Rather than the Corinthian Christians in any way showing that they might be worshiping idols in a temple, they needed to flee from their places of worship and from worshiping them to Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior.

(1 Corinthians 10:15) I speak as to sensible people; judge for yourselves what I say.

Paul appealed to their commonsense (the ability to reason that people have because they are created in the image of God); to their commonsense as enlightened by the Holy Spirit and His teachings about Jesus Christ through the Scriptures, the Apostles’ teachings, and Paul’s letters. Paul addressed them reasonably and told them to carefully consider what he was writing. Paul did not simply forbid them to do something and give the reason, “Because I said so. I am an Apostle.” Paul reasoned with them from God’s laws and examples in the Old Testament (the New Testament was still being written and would later include Paul’s letters). Paul expected them to judge for themselves and conclude that what he wrote to them was right.

(1 Corinthians 10:16) The cup of blessing that we bless, is it not a sharing in the blood of Christ? The bread that we break, is it not a sharing in the body of Christ?

Paul now turned to a consideration of the Lord’s Supper and began to warn them against any association with idol worship because participation in idol worship involved an association with demons. In the Lord’s Supper, the cup of blessing was a cup of wine that represented the blood of Christ shed for them for the forgiveness of their sins. They were not to think that they could persist in committing sins or return to worshiping idols and then come to the Lord’s Supper and receive forgiveness and escape the discipline of the Lord or their eventual destruction by the demonic powers they actually worshiped when worshiping idols. Paul wrote the same truth about the bread. He wrote about the bread last, because he wanted to warn Christians against worshiping idols and sharing food with other idolaters as they worshiped in a pagan temple, with pagans who worshiped idols as they ate. Their eating might leave the impression that it makes no difference to God and others for Christians to worship idols and also worship God in Christ, but such worship showed disloyalty to God in Christ and could mislead others.

(1 Corinthians 10:17) Because there is one bread, we who are many are one body, for we all partake of the one bread.

Physical bread or food is necessary for physical life; spiritual bread or food is necessary for spiritual life. Jesus Christ is the spiritual food that is necessary for spiritual life. Jesus said he was the bread of life, the living bread, and whoever eats this bread will live forever (see John 6:23; 6:35; 6:48; 6:51). All those who follow Jesus Christ partake of Him, partake of the one bread. All those who eat of the bread of life are also one body: “Now you are the body of Christ and individually members of it” (1 Corinthians 12:27). All those who eat of the bread of life are also one spirit with Jesus Christ; because “Anyone united to the Lord becomes one spirit with him” (1 Corinthians 6:17). The members of the body of Christ are partners with Christ and one another; they learn from and bless one another. All true Christians are connected to Christ and to one another spiritually, just as a body has many parts that are all connected to the body in some way.

(1 Corinthians 10:18) Consider the people of Israel; are not those who eat the sacrifices partners in the altar?

In some of the Old Testament sacrifices the Israelites feasted together. Eating together made them partners as they sacrificed according to the law of God and shared the food that they had sacrificed. Those who follow Jesus Christ become partners as they eat the Lord’s Supper together and share the cup of blessing and the bread. Just as every body part is a partner that helps the rest of the body, so every Christian is in some way a partner that helps others in the church.

(1 Corinthians 10:19) What do I imply then? That food sacrificed to idols is anything, or that an idol is anything?

What the Israelites did at their altar to God affirmed their partnership with the true God according to God’s law. When Christians partake of the Lord’s Supper it is something, because they affirm their partnership with the Lord Jesus Christ and one another according to His command; furthermore, Jesus reigns as King of kings from heaven. Paul did not want to imply by what he had written up to this point that when pagans become partners in their sacrifices to idols that their idols have the reality and value that the pagans suppose they have. An idol cannot and does not represent the true God.

(1 Corinthians 10:20) No, I imply that what pagans sacrifice, they sacrifice to demons and not to God. I do not want you to be partners with demons.

The Bible forbids making an image of God: “You shall make for yourselves no idols and erect no carved images or pillars, and you shall not place figured stones in your land, to worship at them; for I am the LORD your God” (Leviticus 26:1). Paul gave a reason for that command: those who worship idols become partners with demons. Idol worship can lead to a person being destroyed by a demon. Idols can exist in a person’s mind, without a physical representation, and all demons are destructive (see Mark 5:1-19). The gospels show many of the destructive consequences for people who have partnerships with demons; Jesus cast them out (and so did Paul).

(1 Corinthians 10:21) You cannot drink the cup of the Lord and the cup of demons. You cannot partake of the table of the Lord and the table of demons.

Paul insisted that people will receive no benefit from participating in the Lord’s Supper while at the same time they are participating with demons in worshiping idols. Indeed, they actually endanger themselves spiritually and in other ways. If a person associates with demons they cannot at the same time associate with Jesus Christ no matter what they may think or say. People need to choose between following Jesus and following demons, though they may not know they are following demons when they worship physical or mental idols or adopt a false theology that allows or promotes immorality.

(1 Corinthians 10:22) Or are we provoking the Lord to jealousy? Are we stronger than he?

“Provoking the Lord to jealousy” means disrespecting, disobeying, insulting, and offending God by your thoughts and actions so He may need to discipline or punish you to lead you to repentance. His discipline may lead to your repentance and return to an undivided loyalty to Jesus Christ. If not, His punishment of you may influence others not to do as you have done, and you will become an example (as the Israelites who were bitten by serpents in the wilderness became an example of what not to do). Placing an attachment on a friend or possession or goal or money or success or any other thing that is greater than your attachment to God can make an idol out of that friend or possession or other things. No one is so strong that they can defeat God’s purposes when He must discipline or punish them for idolatry; that may include removing the friend or the possession or other things from a person’s life.

Questions for Discussion and Thinking Further

1. How might some people put Christ to the test today?
2. Why do Christians believe that they should study the Old Testament as well as the New Testament?
3. What would Paul want us to especially remember when we are tested?
4. What are Christians doing when they participate in the Lord’s Supper?
5. What are people really doing when they are worshiping idols?

International Bible Lesson

When You Face Temptation or Testing

“There hath no temptation taken you but such as is common to man: but God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it” (1 Corinthians 10:13—KJV).

“No testing has overtaken you that is not common to everyone. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tested beyond your strength, but with the testing he will also provide the way out so that you may be able to endure it” (1 Corinthians 10:13—NRSV).

Trials and tests can reveal how much practical knowledge we have of Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior. Tests can also reveal the depth of His love for us. Whatever our temptation or trial, someone has faced the same thing, even though the circumstances may have been different. When we are tested, we may feel that the pressures to doubt and sin are greater than we can endure. As we call upon all of our strength to endure and seek a solution to our sufferings, we need to keep reminding ourselves of the truths we know, facts from the Bible upon which we have staked our future. We need to remind ourselves that God is faithful. If we feel pressures beyond our personal strength to endure, God is faithful. If we use all of our personal strength, He will stop the test before our strength fails. God is faithful, so Jesus Christ will pray for us from heaven and the Holy Spirit will pray for us from within us. As we keep believing and praying, God will give us the guidance, wisdom, and strength to take the way out that Jesus Christ provides. The way out begins by going to Jesus Christ, Who is the Way. The way out means acting based on the truths we know, Jesus Christ is the Truth. The way out will continue by immediately doing what will help us achieve God’s plans for us, Jesus Christ is the Life. – L.G. Parkhurst, Jr.


Begin or close your class by reading the short weekly International Bible Lesson. To print the International Bible Lesson in three different sizes (including large print size and bulletin size) and for the Teacher’s Study Hints for Five Discussion Questions andThinking Further, go to the International Bible Lessons Commentary website.

See the recommended Bible study, Recovery, and Worship Resources at SmallChurchResources.com.

— © All Contents of this website are copyright 2014 by L.G. Parkhurst, Jr. Permission Granted for Not for Profit Use.

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1 Corinthians 8:1-13 International Bible Lessons Commentary and Lesson

The International Bible Lesson (Uniform Sunday School Lessons Series) for Sunday, July 13, 2014, is from 1 Corinthians 8:1-13Questions for Discussion and Thinking Further follow the verse-by-verse International Bible Lesson Commentary below.Study Hints for Thinking Further, a study guide for teachers, discusses the five questions below to help with class preparation and in conducting class discussion; these hints are available on the International Bible Lessons Commentary website. The weekly International Bible Lesson is usually posted below each Saturday before the lesson is scheduled to be taught. Additional publications and resources by L.G. Parkhurst, Jr.

International Bible Lesson Commentary
1 Corinthians 8:1-13

(1 Corinthians 8:1) Now concerning food sacrificed to idols: we know that “all of us possess knowledge.” Knowledge puffs up, but love builds up.

In his letter to the Corinthians, the words translated from the Greek text within quotation marks seem to be Paul’s quotation from portions of the questions in the letter from the Corinthians to him (there are no quotation marks in the original Greek text: quotation marks were added by translators to help people understand the text). We do not have their complete question. The quotations were to help them remember the question they asked so they could apply Paul’s answers to the right question.

The Old Testament has a variety of food laws and restrictions that we often categorize as ceremonial laws. Neither Jewish nor Gentile Christians need to follow or obey the Old Testament ceremonial laws, but the moral law of God (expressed as love for God and others and in the Ten Commandments is still required of everyone). The moral laws revealed in the Old and New Testaments forbid the worship of idols and permit only the worship of the one true God revealed in the Bible. Among some of the Christians in Corinth, knowing these facts was puffing them up, making them feel superior to others in the church, and leading them to do things that bothered the conscience of some in the church that did not fully understand these facts. Therefore, Paul wrote that love builds up. Christians with superior knowledge need love so they will use their knowledge to seek what was best for those without understanding, perhaps even pray about how to teach them deeper spiritual truths from the Bible with loving kindness toward others.

(1 Corinthians 8:2) Anyone who claims to know something does not yet have the necessary knowledge;

Some seek to learn more and more for the love of learning only, instead of for the love of God supremely. Some seek to learn more and more, because they believe knowledge is power and knowledge will give them power over others, instead of seeking to learn more so God can trust them to use His power wisely according to His will in helping others. Some people claim to know more than others and expect them to do what they command. The scribes and Pharisees serve as examples of some who claimed to know something, far more than others, so much in fact that Jesus could not teach them anything. Such people as these do not have the necessary knowledge.

(1 Corinthians 8:3) but anyone who loves God is known by him.

To be known by God is the most necessary knowledge. Those God knows, and those who know God, love God. Their love of God leads them to love the truth of God: Jesus is the truth, the truth of God. Jesus preached about the importance of being known by God: “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father in heaven. On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many deeds of power in your name?’ Then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; go away from me, you evildoers’” (Matthew 7:21-23). Those who do the will of the Father will love God and others, and they will use their knowledge to build up others.

(1 Corinthians 8:4) Hence, as to the eating of food offered to idols, we know that “no idol in the world really exists,” and that “there is no God but one.”

Though some places today do not have banquets to honor idols, such banquets were common in Corinth and other places in the days of Jesus and Paul. Such banquets are still common in many countries today, and many people have honored places for their idols in their dining rooms. Christians and Jews who believe the Bible know that idols do not really exist (Paul will later explain that demons and idols are related). Some in the Corinthian church said that it did not matter whether they ate food that had been offered to an idol or ate in a temple where the food had been offered to an idol, because they knew that idols did not really exist; however, their behavior bothered some in the church, so the church wrote for Paul’s opinion. Knowing the truth about the true God, however, was no reason for someone to eat food that had been offered to idols in a temple, and such behavior could actually mislead others. An idol can be formed from physical materials, but an idol can also exist as an idea in the mind. People have also made money, movie stars, politicians, and religious leaders into idols. Those who believe the Bible know that there is only one God: Who is Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

(1 Corinthians 8:5) Indeed, even though there may be so-called gods in heaven or on earth–as in fact there are many gods and many lords–

What Paul wrote to the Corinthians is still true today. In some places shrines to various gods (idols) can be seen on street corners and in public parks, in public buildings and restaurants, and throughout some people’s homes. Places of pilgrimage that honor gods (though perhaps not in a physical form or in a possible physical form hidden from the eyes of people other than the priests) still attract millions of people. Some false religions or philosophies have no god visible to human eyes, but their teachings lead people away from the true God. Some people follow the ideas of religious, philosophical, and political leaders with the unswerving devotion that should be given only to the true God; thus making these leaders into their “lords,” who lead them away from the moral law of God.

(1 Corinthians 8:6) yet for us there is one God, the Father, from whom are all things and for whom we exist, and one Lord, Jesus Christ, through whom are all things and through whom we exist.

The Bible teaches the truth about the true God. The Holy Spirit indwells Christians. The Holy Spirit will help Christians understand the Bible. The Holy Spirit will help teachers teach the Bible rightly. The Holy Spirit helps Christians love God and others wisely. The one true God includes the Person of the Father, and all things were created by the Father and we exist for the Father. The one true God includes the Person of the “one Lord, Jesus Christ;” the Father created all that exists through Jesus Christ, and we exist through Jesus Christ. Jesus was not created; He always existed as the Son of God, but He was later conceived by the Holy Spirit in the Virgin Mary. God the Father and His Son, Jesus Christ, deserve our love, loyalty, praise, and worship. Jesus and the Apostles used descriptions such as these in this verse to describe the nature, character, and personhood of the one true God; therefore, we need whole Bible to learn about God.

(1 Corinthians 8:7) It is not everyone, however, who has this knowledge. Since some have become so accustomed to idols until now, they still think of the food they eat as food offered to an idol; and their conscience, being weak, is defiled.

Even today, some Christians do not understand these truths about idols and the true God; therefore, those with love for them who have this knowledge will try to build them up. Some of the new Christians in Corinth had not been freed from their fear of and their slavery to the worship of idols for very long, and when they ate some foods they felt guilty (though they really did not need to feel condemned), because they thought of these foods as having first been offered to an idol, which involved them in false worship and disloyalty to God. Paul wanted all sides to understand one another, and he especially wanted those with knowledge to consider the conscience of those with less understanding before they did something that was permitted but unnecessary.

(1 Corinthians 8:8) “Food will not bring us close to God.” We are no worse off if we do not eat, and no better off if we do.

The pagans believed that they would derive blessings and power from eating food that had been offered to an idol. Paul and the Corinthian church knew that no physical food would bring anyone closer to God. Rather, in the New Testament church, believers prayed and fasted to draw closer to God and receive His guidance and power.

(1 Corinthians 8:9) But take care that this liberty of yours does not somehow become a stumbling block to the weak.

Christians have the liberty to ignore the Old Testament food restrictions, but that does not mean that all substances are good for food. Christians can eat meat that has been offered to an idol; but seeing Christians do so can mislead some who are spiritually weak back into the fear of and worship of idols. Therefore, out of love for those who were spiritually weak, Paul wanted mature Christians to consider how they used their freedoms because they might mislead others by doing what they wanted without consideration of others. This principle can be applied to other freedoms too.

(1 Corinthians 8:10) For if others see you, who possess knowledge, eating in the temple of an idol, might they not, since their conscience is weak, be encouraged to the point of eating food sacrificed to idols?

For the mature Christian in Corinth or for the Christian who had studied more, eating food in a pagan temple might mean no more than eating food in a local cafe today. But, an immature Christian or infant in Christ might see a mature Christian eating food that had been offered to an idol and without understanding think it is appropriate to participate in the worship of idols as they eat food that had been sacrificed to idols. They would probably be misled into thinking that Christians can worship the God of the Bible, follow Jesus, and also worship idols without sin or any other problems. Their weak conscience was not yet strong enough to tell them that a believer should not worship the true God and also worship idols. Their weak conscience might even encourage them to do wrong and worship idols.

(1 Corinthians 8:11) So by your knowledge those weak believers for whom Christ died are destroyed.

The knowledge of a mature Christian might lead them to behave without sin when eating food offered to an idol. However, their behavior and example might lead a weak believer into sin; so that a believer for whom Christ died is destroyed—destroyed by once again falling into slavery to sin and Satan. The weak believer does not know that the mature believer is not worshiping an idol when they see them eating food that has been offered to an idol, so they might think that they can grow in Christ if they sacrifice to idols too. The demons associated with the idols can mislead them and destroy them, one for whom Christ died.

(1 Corinthians 8:12) But when you thus sin against members of your family, and wound their conscience when it is weak, you sin against Christ.

Paul said misleading others into sin was a sin. Though we may not be doing something wrong according to our conscience or understanding of the Christian faith, we can wound the conscience of those who are spiritually weak and lead them into sin. When we sin against others, we sin against Jesus Christ.

(1 Corinthians 8:13) Therefore, if food is a cause of their falling, I will never eat meat, so that I may not cause one of them to fall.

Because Paul loved God and people more than food, he resolved to put God and people first and not eat foods that might lead someone to worship idols or into other sins. He would not do what might cause them to fall away from Christ and into sin. This was part of the necessary knowledge that Paul wanted all believers to possess. With the help of the Holy Spirit, Christians can rightly use their knowledge and love of God in the service of others inside and outside the church.

Questions for Discussion and Thinking Further

1. What are some of the characteristics of those who are puffed up by knowledge?
2. How might someone use their knowledge in love to build up others?
3. Why would you say that it is more important to be known by God than to know a lot of facts about God?
4. What beings exist in the spiritual realm that the Bible reveals to us?
5. How serious can it be if we use our freedom and sin against other Christians?

International Bible Lesson

When You Have the Necessary Knowledge

And if any man think that he knoweth any thing, he knoweth nothing yet as he ought to know. But if any man love God, the same is known of him(1 Corinthians 8:2-3—KJV).

Anyone who claims to know something does not yet have the necessary knowledge; but anyone who loves God is known by him(1 Corinthians 8:2-3—NRSV).

Which is more important: to know something or know God? Which is more important: to know something or be known by God? Which is more important: to know something or love God and others? Which is more important: to know something or “have the necessary knowledge”? The lack of “necessary knowledge” can influence someone to manifest a spirit of superiority, especially among the less informed, and lead them into an unloving disregard for the needs and rights of others. We can see the lack of “necessary knowledge” in people from all walks of life and even among some in the church (as Paul discussed in his first letter to the Corinthians). “Necessary knowledge” comes from God and God knowing us. Unfortunately, in spite of their calling Jesus Christ “Lord, Lord,” some who claim to be Christians may be unknown by Him (see Matthew 7:21-23). “Necessary knowledge” comes from being known by God and will manifest itself by Christians loving God and others. The Apostle John wrote: “We love because he first loved us” (1 John 4:19). Being known by God and being filled with God’s love is more important than knowing many things. People who claim to know God but disregard the needs of others do not have the love of God in their heart or the “necessary knowledge.” Christians with the “necessary knowledge” know and love God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ; they study the Bible for the “necessary knowledge” to do the will of God when they help meet the real needs of others as the Holy Spirit teaches, empowers, and leads them. – L.G. Parkhurst, Jr.


Begin or close your class by reading the short weekly International Bible Lesson. To print the International Bible Lesson in three different sizes (including large print size and bulletin size) and for the Teacher’s Study Hints for Five Discussion Questions andThinking Further, go to the International Bible Lessons Commentary website.

See the recommended Bible study, Recovery, and Worship Resources at SmallChurchResources.com.

— © All Contents of this website are copyright 2014 by L.G. Parkhurst, Jr. Permission Granted for Not for Profit Use.

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1 Corinthians 6:11-20 International Bible Lessons Commentary and Lesson

The International Bible Lesson (Uniform Sunday School Lessons Series) for Sunday, July 6, 2014, is from 1 Corinthians 6:11-20Questions for Discussion and Thinking Further follow the verse-by-verse International Bible Lesson Commentary below.Study Hints for Thinking Further, a study guide for teachers, discusses the five questions below to help with class preparation and in conducting class discussion; these hints are available on the International Bible Lessons Commentary website. The weekly International Bible Lesson is usually posted below each Saturday before the lesson is scheduled to be taught. Additional publications and resources by L.G. Parkhurst, Jr.

International Bible Lesson Commentary
1 Corinthians 6:11-20

(1 Corinthians 6:11) And this is what some of you used to be. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and in the Spirit of our God.

In 1 Corinthians 6:9-10, Paul wrote that wrongdoers will not inherit the kingdom of God, and he listed some examples of wrongdoers. Some, but not all, of those in the church in Corinth had at one time practiced the wrongdoing Paul named. After they came to faith in Jesus Christ, they repented of (turned from practicing) their sins. Because Jesus Christ had died on the cross for them and had filled them with the Holy Spirit, they were cleansed from sin, set apart by God for His holy use, and could be forgiven by God. Consider also: Acts 22:16 — “And now why do you delay? Get up, be baptized, and have your sins washed away, calling on his name.” Acts 26:18 — “I am sending you to open their eyes so that they may turn from darkness to light and from the power of Satan to God, so that they may receive forgiveness of sins and a place among those who are sanctified by faith in me.” Romans 5:-8-9 — “But God proves his love for us in that while we still were sinners Christ died for us. Much more surely then, now that we have been justified by his blood, will we be saved through him from the wrath of God.”

(1 Corinthians 6:12) “All things are lawful for me,” but not all things are beneficial. “All things are lawful for me,” but I will not be dominated by anything.

Paul quoted the beliefs of some who claimed to be wise in the church, and who may have misunderstood Paul’s message. Some believed that because they did not need to obey the Jewish ceremonial laws to be saved, and because they were saved, they did not need to obey any of God’s laws. Some thought that because Jesus had died for their sins and had forgiven them for all of their sins (past, present, and future) that they did not need to obey God’s moral law (summed up by love for God and others and the Ten Commandments). Some thought that because of their spiritual privileges as Christians that they could do whatever they wanted with their physical bodies and it would not make any significant difference. Paul began to show how foolish these beliefs were by saying that even though something may seem lawful, not everything people do or want to do is helpful, expedient, or beneficial to themselves and others. Obeying God’s moral laws are always the most helpful, expedient, and beneficial way to live. Paul warned believers that they could become enslaved again to sin and wrongdoing. Consider also: Romans 6:6 — “We know that our old self was crucified with him so that the body of sin might be destroyed, and we might no longer be enslaved to sin.” Galatians 4:9 — “Now, however, that you have come to know God, or rather to be known by God, how can you turn back again to the weak and beggarly elemental spirits? How can you want to be enslaved to them again?”

[NOTE: As a lawyer and Christian evangelist, Charles Finney defined “moral law” – “Moral law is a rule of moral action with sanctions. It is that rule to which moral agents ought to conform all their voluntary actions, and is enforced by sanctions equal to the value of the precept.” A sanction is a threatened penalty or punishment for disobeying a law or rule that should serve as a deterrent to disobedience. The threatened penalty shows how important the lawgiver or legislature considers the law. For example, the penalty for stealing is serious, but the penalty for committing murder is more serious. Whenever a lawgiver breaks a law or does not enforce a law, he shows his disregard for the law and that disregard often leads others to disregard the law too. Many people suffer when a lawgiver or leader breaks any of God’s moral laws. Jesus Christ obeyed all of the moral laws of God, and when He died on the cross He suffered the penalty we deserve for breaking God’s moral laws; by doing so, He showed that God highly regarded the keeping of all of His moral laws. The only begotten Son of God did not die on the cross so those who believe in Him could feel free to break God’s moral laws and do whatever they felt like doing. The fact that Jesus Christ died for us should inspire a deeper desire within us to obey Him.]

(1 Corinthians 6:13) “Food is meant for the stomach and the stomach for food,” and God will destroy both one and the other. The body is meant not for fornication but for the Lord, and the Lord for the body.

Some in the church thought that since our body parts were made for different purposes that it did not matter how we used these body parts as long as we used them for their intended physical purpose. They did whatever their natural human desires or emotions led them to do however and whenever they wanted without consideration for God’s moral laws. They believed that whatever they did with their bodies was morally equivalent to their eating food. Paul replied that someday God will destroy both the food and the stomach, both will eventually physically die. Based on what Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians 6:12, we know that it is not beneficial to be dominated by food or any other physical desire. Paul argued that God did not design the body as He did for people to practice fornication or to break His moral or physical laws. God created our bodies “for the Lord,” and Christians should obey God’s laws because the Spirit of Christ indwells them.

(1 Corinthians 6:14) And God raised the Lord and will also raise us by his power.

Our bodies are meant for the Lord, and God the Father raised the Lord from the dead so His Spirit can indwell our bodies. God will also raise our bodies from the dead, so our bodies are important to God and we should not use our bodies to violate any of God’s moral laws. It matters to God and should matter to us how we use our bodies in the service of the Lord Jesus Christ now and forever.

(1 Corinthians 6:15) Do you not know that your bodies are members of Christ? Should I therefore take the members of Christ and make them members of a prostitute? Never!

In 1 Corinthians 12, Paul elaborated more fully on how our bodies are members of the Body of Christ and how we should serve different functions in the church. When Jesus Christ walked physically upon the earth, He was at one place at a time. Now, because He spiritually indwells the physical bodies of His followers, He is many places all around the world and He serves others directly through the physical bodies of His followers. Every physical body part belongs to Jesus Christ; therefore, we should never use any of our body parts in violation of the moral laws of God.

(1 Corinthians 6:16) Do you not know that whoever is united to a prostitute becomes one body with her? For it is said, “The two shall be one flesh.”

To show his readers the importance of obeying God’s law, Paul referred them back to the teachings of the Bible, the Hebrew Scriptures, and to the teachings of Jesus when He quoted the Bible: “Jesus answered, ‘Have you not read that the one who made them at the beginning ‘made them male and female,’ and said, ‘For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh’?” (Matthew 19:4-5). As Paul demonstrated, the Word of God written remains the ultimate authority for what we should believe and do. In the marriage union, a man and a woman become united at the deepest levels of their physical, mental, and spiritual being – something happens that only the Lord can fully explain. The Bible teaches that no one should do or try to do physically what God meant only for a married man and woman to do physically. In a Christian marriage, a Christian man and a Christian woman are united spiritually with one another and with the Lord Jesus Christ.

(1 Corinthians 6:17) But anyone united to the Lord becomes one spirit with him.

When a person accepts Jesus Christ as their Lord, Jesus unites with them spiritually so that Paul can teach by analogy that the two become one spirit (similar to a man and a woman becoming one flesh, but on the spiritual level, because Jesus’ resurrected and glorified human body remains seated at the right hand of God). Every part of our being becomes united with Christ; just as we fill our bodies, His Spirit fills our bodies.

(1 Corinthians 6:18) Shun fornication! Every sin that a person commits is outside the body; but the fornicator sins against the body itself.

Once again, Paul commanded Christians to shun fornication. Paul knew about the horrible consequences of sexually transmitted diseases (when there were no antibiotics), and he knew God’s law and the consequences of disobeying God. In Exodus 15:26, we read: “If you will listen carefully to the voice of the LORD your God, and do what is right in his sight, and give heed to his commandments and keep all his statutes, I will not bring upon you any of the diseases that I brought upon the Egyptians; for I am the LORD who heals you.” For these reasons, Paul wrote that a “fornicator sins against the body itself.” At a deeper level, Paul also knew about the mental and spiritual damage that the fornicator can suffer within themselves.

(1 Corinthians 6:19) Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, which you have from God, and that you are not your own?

As Paul concluded his arguments, he wrote that the physical body of believers is the temple or shrine of the Holy Spirit Who dwells within them. Our bodies have been created and given to us by God, so we do not belong only to ourselves. Jesus told His disciples that He would send them the Spirit of truth: “If you love me, you will keep my commandments. And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate, to be with you forever. This is the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him. You know him, because he abides with you, and he will be in you” (John 14:15-17). On the Day of Pentecost, Peter preached that Jesus had promised that the gift of the Holy Spirit was intended for everyone who followed Him: “Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ so that your sins may be forgiven; and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit” (Acts 2:38). Paul also affirmed this fact: “But you are not in the flesh; you are in the Spirit, since the Spirit of God dwells in you. Anyone who does not have the Spirit of Christ does not belong to him” (Romans 8:9).

(1 Corinthians 6:20) For you were bought with a price; therefore glorify God in your body.

Before Christians come to faith in Jesus Christ and repent of their sins, they are slaves of sin and elemental spirits (Romans 6:6; Galatians 4:3). Before they accept Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior, people have committed themselves to self-centered, self-directed, and self-opinionated behaviors, which are manifestations of their slavery to sin and Satan (see Acts 5:3; Acts 26:18). By the sacrificial death of Jesus Christ on the cross, God made freedom from sin and Satan possible for all who believe in Him. Faith, love, appreciation, thankfulness, and good sound reasons, motivate Christians to glorify God by the way they use their bodies and obey God. In addition, Paul wrote to the Romans: “I appeal to you therefore, brothers and sisters, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship” (Romans 12:1).

Questions for Discussion and Thinking Further

1. What might Paul say to an unbeliever who continually disregarded the law of God?
2. What might Paul say to a believer who continually disregarded the law of God?
3. Why is it important to Christians today that God raised the Lord Jesus Christ from the dead?
4. How does knowing that your body is a member of Christ help you overcome temptations to sin?
5. What was the price that God paid so you could be forgiven for your sins, be cleansed from sin, and be filled with the Holy Spirit? What can you do in response?

International Bible Lesson

When Your Body Is A Temple

“What? know ye not that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost which is in you, which ye have of God, and ye are not your own? For ye are bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body, and in your spirit, which are God’s” (1 Corinthians 6:19-20—KJV).

“Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, which you have from God, and that you are not your own? For you were bought with a price; therefore glorify God in your body” (1 Corinthians 6:19-20—NRSV).

Jesus told His disciples that if they loved Him, they would keep His commandments; and then He promised them that He would ask the Father to give them the Spirit of truth, who was abiding with them and who would soon abide within them (John 14:15-17). Perhaps so His disciples would recognize the Holy Spirit when He filled them on the Day of Pentecost, Jesus kept His promise and “breathed on them and said to them, ‘Receive the Holy Spirit’” (John 20:22). After Jesus’ death and resurrection, on the Day of Pentecost Peter preached that Jesus’ promise was for “everyone whom the Lord our God calls to him” (see Acts 2:38-39). In his letters, Paul explained more about the power and purpose of the Holy Spirit. He stated clearly that the bodies of the Christians in Corinth (and indeed the bodies of all Christians) are temples of the Holy Spirit; therefore, Christians should be glorifying God with their bodies. Unfortunately, some of the Christians in Corinth (just as some Christians today) had fallen into the sinful ways of their predominant culture. Paul warned that because Christians are united to the Lord and have become one spirit with Jesus, they should not be using their bodies contrary to the teaching of the Scriptures and the commandments of Jesus. God gave bodies to His people so He could fill them with the Holy Spirit; by suffering and dying upon the cross, Jesus paid the price to make that possible. – L.G. Parkhurst, Jr.


Begin or close your class by reading the short weekly International Bible Lesson. To print the International Bible Lesson in three different sizes (including large print size and bulletin size) and for the Teacher’s Study Hints for Five Discussion Questions andThinking Further, go to the International Bible Lessons Commentary website.

See the recommended Bible study, Recovery, and Worship Resources at SmallChurchResources.com.

— © All Contents of this website are copyright 2014 by L.G. Parkhurst, Jr. Permission Granted for Not for Profit Use.

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1 Corinthians 1:9-18 & 3:1-9 International Bible Lessons Commentary and Lesson

The International Bible Lesson (Uniform Sunday School Lessons Series) for Sunday, June 29, 2014, is from 1 Corinthians 1:9-18 & 3:1-9Questions for Discussion and Thinking Further follow the verse-by-verse International Bible Lesson Commentary below.Study Hints for Thinking Further, a study guide for teachers, discusses the five questions below to help with class preparation and in conducting class discussion; these hints are available on the International Bible Lessons Commentary website. The weekly International Bible Lesson is usually posted below each Saturday before the lesson is scheduled to be taught. Additional publications and resources by L.G. Parkhurst, Jr.

International Bible Lesson Commentary
1 Corinthians 1:9-18

(1 Corinthians 1:9) God is faithful; by him you were called into the fellowship of his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.

Before Paul dealt with the problems of disorder in the church in Corinth, he emphasized that God is faithful; that is, God is dependable, honest, truthful, and trustworthy; God will complete whatever He has promised or begun. Through the preaching of the truth by Paul and others, God had called them into the church; that is, into “the fellowship of His Son,” which included fellowship with other believers in Christ. By the power of the truth and the Holy Spirit, God brought them into fellowship with Jesus Christ as their Lord; that is, into union, into communion, and into a relationship with Jesus Christ, Who they had committed themselves to obey as their Lord. Before Paul appealed to them to change their behavior, he pointed them to Jesus Christ their Lord, Who as their Lord required them to conform lives to His will and purposes.

(1 Corinthians 1:10) Now I appeal to you, brothers and sisters, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you be in agreement and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be united in the same mind and the same purpose.

Paul did not appeal to them on the basis that he was an apostle or that he had been the first to preach the gospel in Corinth. He could have done so, but one of the problems in the church was people focusing their primary attention on the servants of Christ (almost making them into idols) instead of on their Lord Jesus Christ as truly their Supreme Authority and for whose sake they should change their behavior. Paul appealed to them as equal members of the family of God. If each person in the church put Jesus Christ first, if each person put knowing more of Jesus Christ first, if each person put the commands and purposes of Jesus Christ first so they could do the will of Jesus Christ, then the Holy Spirit would help them come to agreement and overcome their divisions. If they all had the same mind and goals (that is, actively sought to understand the primary ideas, teachings, and leadings of Jesus Christ) and if they all sought to learn and fulfill the purpose of Jesus Christ, they could be united in single-mindedness as the Holy Spirit healed their divisions.

(1 Corinthians 1:11) For it has been reported to me by Chloe’s people that there are quarrels among you, my brothers and sisters.

Paul had received a letter with various questions from the church in Corinth, but before he began to answer their questions he wanted to deal with the more serious problems of jealousy and quarreling in the church. We know nothing about Chloe or her people (Chloe is a female name). However, quarrels in the church had become so serious that Paul received a report about them. Quarrels indicate more than a difference of opinion. Church members were involved in ongoing disputes with an unloving spirit. Their disagreements were causing people in the church to split into groups and break fellowship with each other (the opposite of having been called into the fellowship of Jesus Christ as loving brothers and sisters of God’s Son).

(1 Corinthians 1:12) What I mean is that each of you says, “I belong to Paul,” or “I belong to Apollos,” or “I belong to Cephas,” or “I belong to Christ.”

The same gospel was proclaimed by all of the leaders Paul named (Cephas was the Aramaic name for Peter). Different people in the church may have formed groups based on the different emphases they believed different leaders taught as of vital importance. One group may have claimed that they alone understood the gospel of Jesus Christ and all the others were mistaken. Paul did not accuse any group of heresy, so their disputes may have centered on less important ideas that honest believers may disagree about without causing division in the church or breaking fellowship with one another.

(1 Corinthians 1:13) Has Christ been divided? Was Paul crucified for you? Or were you baptized in the name of Paul?

Since Jesus Christ by His Spirit indwelt each believer in the church in Corinth, their differences could not be the result of Christ being divided or from Christ teaching contradictory ideas. Some of them were not humbly seeking to know the mind and purpose of Christ regarding the issues that divided them. Paul emphasized that Jesus Christ had died on the cross so God could forgive them and cleanse them from sin; therefore, Jesus Christ was more important than any of His servants. Moreover, they had not been baptized in the name of any of Christ’s servants; they had been baptized at the command of Christ by Christ’s servants.

(1 Corinthians 1:14) I thank God that I baptized none of you except Crispus and Gaius,

John the Baptist was so well-known for baptizing that the church calls him John the Baptist. Jesus commanded His disciples to baptize, but in the Bible none of His disciples were known as baptizers. Egotistic disputes over who baptized whom may have led some believers to think they were better than others. Paul did not think that he should be included in these controversies because he had baptized very few people. It is doubtful that Crispus, Gaius, and the household of Stephanas had created a separate group based on the fact that Paul had baptized them.

(1 Corinthians 1:15) so that no one can say that you were baptized in my name.

Paul could not remember all of the names of those he baptized; baptizing was not his primary calling, nor the primary calling of any of the apostles. Jesus had called Paul to preach about salvation by grace through faith in Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior. The apostles taught that Jesus Christ is the Way, the Truth, and the Life, and fellowship with Jesus Christ is far more important than focusing on the person who baptized someone.

(1 Corinthians 1:16) (I did baptize also the household of Stephanas; beyond that, I do not know whether I baptized anyone else.)

Believers through the centuries have sometimes turned their eyes from Jesus Christ to the person they admire as a great preacher, an inspirational teacher, or the founder of a theological system. In some cases they find it much easier to learn a system of theology from scholarly books than try to understand, study, and apply the mind and purpose of Jesus Christ as revealed in the Bible. The study and prayerful application of the Bible is far more important than who baptized you. Paul did not think it was important for him to try to remember or keep a record of all the names of the people he baptized.

(1 Corinthians 1:17) For Christ did not send me to baptize but to proclaim the gospel, and not with eloquent wisdom, so that the cross of Christ might not be emptied of its power.

Eloquent words of wisdom, skillful presentations, logical arguments, and inspirational stories can all be used by the Holy Spirit to call believers into fellowship with Jesus Christ when the true gospel is also presented, but Paul did not use any of these methods when he brought the good news of Jesus Christ to the city of Corinth. Christ sent him to proclaim the gospel: the fact that Jesus Christ died on the cross as the atonement for their sins and rose from the dead, and that those who believed in Him would receive the forgiveness of sins and the gift of eternal life. When Paul proclaimed the truth of the gospel, the Holy Spirit empowered the truth to lead people to faith in Jesus Christ. No one could claim they were saved because of Paul’s eloquent wisdom or because Paul had baptized them.

(1 Corinthians 1:18) For the message about the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.

If Jesus Christ had only died as a martyr, the message about the cross may not have seemed so foolish to those who are perishing. Those who are perishing think it is foolish to think that their behavior and sins are important to God; that justice, mercy, and love are so important to God that He sent His only begotten Son to die on the cross in their behalf so He could forgive them and cleanse them from sin and grant them life eternal if they would repent and trust in Jesus Christ as Lord. They will continue to perish if they continue to believe the message about the cross is foolishness. The message about the cross is the power of God to those who are being saved: believers know by experience the peace and joy that comes from God’s forgiveness of their sins; they have freedom from the power of a sinful life; they honor Jesus Christ as their Lord; they know He has a place in heaven for them.

1 Corinthians 3:1-9

(1 Corinthians 3:1) And so, brothers and sisters, I could not speak to you as spiritual people, but rather as people of the flesh, as infants in Christ.

When Paul spoke and wrote to the church in Corinth, he could not speak or write to them as though all of them were spiritual people or spiritually mature. He had to write to them as infants in Christ, as “people of the flesh,” as people who were spiritually immature, as people who remained self-centered and self-directed instead of Christ-centered and Christ-directed. Though believers in Christ receive the Holy Spirit, many in the church had remained spiritual babies because they centered their attention on themselves and on having their needs met just like babies. They allowed their desires, emotions, and ideas to rule their lives instead of Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior, and their focus on having their selfish needs met had led some of them into the most despicable sins (as Paul wrote about later in his letter). Paul could not write the church as though everyone had the right priorities; that is, the priorities of Jesus Christ.

(1 Corinthians 3:2) I fed you with milk, not solid food, for you were not ready for solid food. Even now you are still not ready,

The milk Paul had fed them was the basic, elementary, introductory truths of the Christian faith that had called them believe in Jesus Christ. At first, he had to feed them, because as infants they could not feed themselves. Unhappily, they did not mature to the level of wanting to learn how to feed themselves the truth of God from the Scriptures and mature Christian leaders. They did not want to make the effort to chew solid spiritual food; that is, to think on and apply the deeper truths of God that Paul, Apollos, Peter, and others could have fed them with the Holy Spirit’s help from the Hebrew Scriptures and the teachings of Jesus Christ.

(1 Corinthians 3:3) for you are still of the flesh. For as long as there is jealousy and quarreling among you, are you not of the flesh, and behaving according to human inclinations?

Paul had evidence that they were still spiritual babies: they were jealous of one another and they quarreled among themselves. They followed their feelings. They behaved according to their inclinations instead of according to the will of Jesus Christ their Lord. They had no interest in the deeper realities of God that can only be learned from doing the will of God in the power of the Holy Spirit. If they became involved in Christian endeavors or worship, they did so because these efforts made them feel good, not for the sake of Jesus Christ and to glorify God. Therefore, their Christian gatherings became occasions for jealousy, quarreling, and choosing up sides as they battled one another. They made themselves and others in their groups more important than Jesus Christ.

(1 Corinthians 3:4) For when one says, “I belong to Paul,” and another, “I belong to Apollos,” are you not merely human?

Some people who claim to be Christians focus on becoming specialists in a theology or teaching that leads them to quarreling with others. They sometimes try to give indisputable reasons why their favorite person and their ideas are better than others; and in addition, that those who differ with them are wrong and may not even be Christians. Paul had to grapple with this problem in Corinth, and Paul declared that such people were thinking from a mere human point of view instead of seeking God’s point of view as revealed in the Hebrew Scriptures and the teaching of Jesus as they had been taught by Paul, Apollos, and others.

(1 Corinthians 3:5) What then is Apollos? What is Paul? Servants through whom you came to believe, as the Lord assigned to each.

No doubt those who help us see the truth of the Christian faith for the first time or who help us return to faith in Jesus Christ have a special place in our hearts and minds. They are important servants of Christ to us, but Paul does not want anyone to place a servant of Christ in the place of honor that only Christ deserves. Fighting and quarreling and worse can result from putting a person, group, party, idol, or set of ideas in the place of honor that only Christ deserves. As an Apostle, Paul could have truly said, “Believe what I teach because I am an Apostle of Christ,” but that could have made the problems in Corinth worse. Instead, Paul humbly said he and others were servants of Christ and the Lord had assigned who would come to faith through each of them. They should glorify the Lord, not a servant of the Lord, who called them to saving faith.

(1 Corinthians 3:6) I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the growth.

Paul went to Corinth first to preach the gospel and Apollos followed Paul. Both did the work of evangelism, and both taught the truth in ways that would help new believers grow in the grace and knowledge of Jesus Christ. Paul and Apollos were of the same mind and had the same purpose. BUT, God gave the growth! Compare Paul’s letter about the problems in Corinth with Jesus’ parable about the gospel, the word of God, being similar to a seed that is sowed and the different results (Matthew 13:18-23; Luke 8:4-15). Paul wrote that he and Apollos fulfilled different tasks as God had assigned these tasks to them, but they both had the same purpose of leading people to faith in Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior and then helping them mature in their faith. God is the only One Who can make a seed grow or the gospel bear fruit in the believer’s life. And as Jesus said, people are responsible for what they do when the seed of the gospel is sowed in their minds: “As for what fell among the thorns, these are the ones who hear; but as they go on their way, they are choked by the cares and riches and pleasures of life, and their fruit does not mature” (Luke 8:14). To grow to spiritual maturity, believers need to look to God in Christ and go His way instead of their way. In general, Paul wrote that after all he and Apollos had said and done, and after so much time had passed since he had been to Corinth, that the infants in Christ should have become spiritually mature.

(1 Corinthians 3:7) So neither the one who plants nor the one who waters is anything, but only God who gives the growth.

As servants of Christ, Paul, Apollos, and others actively obeyed Jesus Christ when they shared the truth of the gospel. As they obeyed Christ, Christ determined many of the eventual consequences of their obedience. Paul humbly declared that in comparison to God they were not anything, for God did everything through them; however, they were still significant, because God continued to work through them as they obeyed Him. God gave them their gifts for ministry, and they used their gifts as the Holy Spirit directed them. If the seed they sowed took root, God made the truths they had shared grow in the believer’s life. The spiritually mature would praise God in Christ and rely on the Holy Spirit to help them understand the Word of God in order to live closer to God. In the Christian life, believers are aware of the struggles and difficult decisions they make to learn more of Christ and remain loyal to Him under great temptations and trials. They know what activities have helped them obey Christ and mature as Christians. At the same time, when looking back over the progress they have made spiritually, they see the hand of God on their lives and working within them to give them the spiritual growth and maturity they enjoy; so, they give God all the glory for what they have achieved. God gives the growth, but no one can blame God if they remain spiritually immature.

(1 Corinthians 3:8) The one who plants and the one who waters have a common purpose, and each will receive wages according to the labor of each.

Bible teachers such as Paul, Apollos, and Peter wanted to express their love for God and glorify Jesus Christ by sharing with others what He taught them. They wanted others to love Jesus too, as Jesus deserved. They wanted to show and teach how to serve God and others in the power of the Holy Spirit. There common purpose was serving Jesus Christ by doing exactly what He said. Paul did not describe the wages he would receive. In other letters, he talked about the inheritance of Christians (see Colossians 3:23-24).

(1 Corinthians 3:9) For we are God’s servants, working together; you are God’s field, God’s building.

As God’s servants, they followed and obeyed Jesus Christ as their Lord. They worked together and not in competition for groups of followers to be loyal to them personally. They did not think they were better than other servants of the Lord, because the Lord had given them whatever gifts for service they had. The church was similar to a field and also similar to a building, but the field and the building belonged to God and not to God’s servants. If the church in Corinth understood the truths in Paul’s letter, they would dissolve their little groups and come together with a common faith in Jesus Christ and a common desire to know and do His will.

Questions for Discussion and Thinking Further

1. In this Bible lesson, name all of the persons and groups that Paul discusses. Some may be listed more than once.

2. How did Paul know that some in the church of God in Corinth were still of the flesh?

3. What did Christ send Paul to do primarily? What did Paul do that he probably considered of secondary importance that he left to others to do?

4, What is foolishness to some but the power of God to others? Who are those who think this is foolishness and who are those who think this is the power of God?

5. How can someone leave the group of those who are perishing?

International Bible Lesson

Why Some People Become Christians

“God is faithful, by whom ye were called unto the fellowship of his Son Jesus Christ our Lord” (1 Corinthians 1:9—KJV).

“God is faithful; by him you were called into the fellowship of his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord” (1 Corinthians 1:9—NRSV).

Why do some people become Christians? The shortest single answer might be: “God is faithful.” After God’s people began to disobey Him, God promised to send a Savior into the world—and He did. Why did God keep His promise? The Bible answers: because God loves the world and God is faithful (John 3:16). Paul explained that God has called Christians into a relationship with His Son. Christians enjoy communion, union, and loving fellowship with Jesus Christ as their Lord. People become Christians because the good news of Jesus Christ is the power of God that saves them from the power of sin, Satan, and eternal separation from God. The good news of Jesus Christ reveals that the power of Jesus Christ, Who died on the cross to save His people, will save them forever; therefore, their fellowship with God through His Son will never end. Christians know that Jesus is the Messiah that God promised to send and they obey Him as their Lord. Paul called new believers “infants in Christ,” who must drink milk. Infants in Christ follow their feelings and behave “according to human inclinations,” but too many believers remain infants in Christ; therefore, many of their problems and many disputes in the church are the result of their childishness (1 Corinthians 3:1-3). Paul wrote many letters to help believers mature. Paul also imparted many truths that only spiritual people can understand because they are able to eat spiritual food; they have trained themselves to follow Jesus Christ faithfully as their Lord instead of being misled by their emotions and desires into jealousy, quarreling, and other self-centered behaviors. – L.G. Parkhurst, Jr.


Begin or close your class by reading the short weekly International Bible Lesson. To print the International Bible Lesson in three different sizes (including large print size and bulletin size) and for the Teacher’s Study Hints for Five Discussion Questions andThinking Further, go to the International Bible Lessons Commentary website.

See the recommended Bible study, Recovery, and Worship Resources at SmallChurchResources.com.

— © All Contents of this website are copyright 2014 by L.G. Parkhurst, Jr. Permission Granted for Not for Profit Use.

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Zechariah 4:1-14 International Bible Lessons Commentary and Lesson

The International Bible Lesson (Uniform Sunday School Lessons Series) for Sunday, June 22, 2014, is from Zechariah 4:1-14Questions for Discussion and Thinking Further follow the verse-by-verse International Bible Lesson Commentary below.Study Hints for Thinking Further, a study guide for teachers, discusses the five questions below to help with class preparation and in conducting class discussion; these hints are available on the International Bible Lessons Commentary website. The weekly International Bible Lesson is usually posted below each Saturday before the lesson is scheduled to be taught. Additional publications and resources by L.G. Parkhurst, Jr.

International Bible Lesson Commentary
Zechariah 4:1-14

(Zechariah 4:1) The angel who talked with me came again, and wakened me, as one is wakened from sleep.

Haggai and Zechariah worked together to encourage Zerubbabel, Joshua, and the people to rebuild the temple in Jerusalem beginning in 520 B.C. They completed rebuilding the temple in 515 B.C. Haggai’s prophecy was fulfilled yearly: God met all of the people’s needs and blessed them as they rebuilt the temple; so, God’s faithfulness brought everyone encouragement as they worked. Whereas Haggai did not describe how the word of the LORD of hosts came to him, Zechariah said an angel talked to him. Perhaps Haggai and Zechariah compared with one another how God gave them His word and the message each was to share. After many years of exile, as prophets of God they became two witnesses to the people that God did want them to start rebuilding the temple without any more delays or excuses.

(Zechariah 4:2) He said to me, “What do you see?” And I said, “I see a lampstand all of gold, with a bowl on the top of it; there are seven lamps on it, with seven lips on each of the lamps that are on the top of it.

The angel showed Zechariah a lampstand or pedestal made of gold. Based on his description, it seems the bowl at the top would have seven lamp bowls attached to it (perhaps attached in a circle around the bowl). Each bowl would have seven lips that the burning lamp wicks would rest upon as they rested in the oil in the bowl. In the Bible, light often means truth, God’s truth. Jesus said that He was the light of the world and the truth (John 8:12, John 9:5, and John 14:6). The lamp had seven times seven lights (or 49 burning wicks) that gave great light. In the Old Testament, seven is a perfect number. The angel came to Zechariah to reveal to Zechariah the perfect truth of God perfectly (7 times 7) to the leaders and people in Jerusalem. In the Book of Revelation, John saw Jesus in heaven standing with 7 lampstands that represented 7 churches (Revelation 1:12-20). Jesus provides the truth for churches, the light for the lampstands in churches, and He will remove the lampstand from any church that disregards the truth and disobeys Him (Revelation 2:5). God removed His light from the temple in Jerusalem in 586 B.C. when the Babylonians destroyed the temple because the people would not repent. From Zechariah’s vision we learn that if the people who heard Haggai and Zechariah preach would rebuild the temple, then God’s presence and light would shine in their midst once again. Just as an angel told Zechariah the word of God; so in the Book of Revelation an angel tells John the word of God. Many comparisons can be made between Zechariah and Revelation.

(Zechariah 4:3) And by it there are two olive trees, one on the right of the bowl and the other on its left.”

Zechariah also saw two olive trees, one on each side of the lampstand. The angel would not immediately tell Zechariah the meaning of the lighted candlestick or the meaning of the two olive trees. The olive trees could provide all of the oil that would be needed for the lamps on the candlestick in Zechariah’s vision (as well as food).

(Zechariah 4:4) I said to the angel who talked with me, “What are these, my lord?”

Zechariah answered the angel’s question and told him what he saw; then, Zechariah asked the angel a question. He wanted to know the meaning of what he saw. The angel would not tell Zechariah the meaning of what he saw until he asked for the meaning. There are truths in the Bible that people will not understand until they ask God for the meaning of what they have heard or read. The angel would be Zechariah’s teacher.

(Zechariah 4:5) Then the angel who talked with me answered me, “Do you not know what these are?” I said, “No, my lord.”

As his teacher, the angel answered Zechariah’s question with a question. The angel’s question implied that Zechariah should have known the meaning of what he saw; he should have known what the symbols of the candlestick, the lights, and the two olive trees meant. But the angel would not answer Zechariah’s question until after he proclaimed the word of the LORD to Zechariah, an important word meant for Zerubbabel. Hearing and obeying God’s word is more important than most theological questions and an interest in visions. Hearing and obeying God’s word must come first (the Word of God made flesh, Jesus, and the Word of God written, the Bible). Humble obedience to God’s Word, Jesus and the Scriptures, is essential to learning the most important theological truths and the meanings of some symbols in the Bible. God will not reveal more truth to us until He sees us believing, trusting, and acting on the truths we know.

(Zechariah 4:6) He said to me, “This is the word of the LORD to Zerubbabel: Not by might, nor by power, but by my Spirit, says the LORD of hosts.

The angel told Zechariah to tell Zerubbabel, the governor in Jerusalem, that he would not accomplish his assigned task of rebuilding the temple by commanding a mighty army or by the power of a multitude of workers (as in the days of King Solomon). Zerubbabel knew what he lacked to rebuild the temple, and he knew how much material and how many workers King Solomon had used to build the first temple. The LORD of hosts, the LORD of an angelic multitude, wanted to encourage Zerubbabel by telling him that even though he lacked the power and the might to rebuild the temple that the temple would be rebuilt by the work of God’s Spirit through God’s people (Zerubbabel, Joshua, and the small remnant that remained in Judea) no matter how poor they were or how weak they were or how few they were as they began to obey God and began to rebuild the temple. The completion of their task in a variety of ways proved that God’s Spirit directed, empowered, guided, and completed the work through people. God did not need a multitude of angels to do what He would do by His Spirit through His people.

(Zechariah 4:7) What are you, O great mountain? Before Zerubbabel you shall become a plain; and he shall bring out the top stone amid shouts of ‘Grace, grace to it!’”

The prophecy of God continued. The great mountain might be the mountain of rubble all around the old temple grounds, on top of the mountain of opposition they would face from their neighbors, on top of the mountain of daily problems they would encounter as the temple was rebuilt step by step. God promised that by His Spirit through His people, the rubble would be cleared away and the grounds would become a plain ready for rebuilding the temple. We know from history that their opponents were ordered by King Darius to pay tribute to complete the work. The temple was completed because God’s Spirit gave everyone a spirit of cooperation and wisdom to solve all of their problems as they arose. The Word of the LORD predicted, promised, and commanded Zerubbabel to direct when the top stone of the temple would be laid marking the completion of the temple. Furthermore, through His word of promise, God wanted Zerubbabel to anticipate the people shouting joyfully and praising God for His grace that enabled them to do His will and provided all the means and encouragement they needed to be faithful to God in rebuilding the temple. The people would pray for God to fill His temple once again with His presence and grace.

(Zechariah 4:8) Moreover the word of the LORD came to me, saying,

The word of the LORD came to Zechariah as a promise to both Zerubbabel and him. Zechariah encouraged everyone by telling the people that God had a message for their governor that God expected him and them to obey. In their obedience, God would be with them, bless them, and work with them until they saw the temple completed and shouted joyfully and honestly that they had only obeyed God and completed the work by God’s grace.

(Zechariah 4:9) “The hands of Zerubbabel have laid the foundation of this house; his hands shall also complete it. Then you will know that the LORD of hosts has sent me to you.

The Bible teaches that you will know a true prophet of God if what he says comes true, after God fulfills his prophecy. “You may say to yourself, ‘How can we recognize a word that the LORD has not spoken?’ If a prophet speaks in the name of the LORD but the thing does not take place or prove true, it is a word that the LORD has not spoken. The prophet has spoken it presumptuously; do not be frightened by it” (Deuteronomy 18:21-22). Before the temple was destroyed by the Babylonians and Zechariah prophesied, Jeremiah referred to Deuteronomy 18:21-22 and said, “As for the prophet who prophesies peace, when the word of that prophet comes true, then it will be known that the LORD has truly sent the prophet (Jeremiah 28:9). After their time of exile in Babylon, Zechariah prophesied peace between the LORD of hosts and God’s remnant people, and he predicted that by the grace of God they would complete their task of rebuilding the temple. Zechariah prophesied that Zerubbabel would lay the temple foundation and also supervise the placing of the top stone. Everything happened as God said through Zechariah; therefore, Zechariah, Zerubbabel, Joshua, and all the people knew that the LORD of hosts had sent him. Zechariah was a true prophet of God and His book deserves a place in the Old Testament. All of God’s people everywhere need to believe, read, and study the words of the prophet Zechariah, and the Book of Revelation by John indicates his deep study of this amazing prophet.

(Zechariah 4:10) For whoever has despised the day of small things shall rejoice, and shall see the plummet in the hand of Zerubbabel. “These seven are the eyes of the LORD, which range through the whole earth.”

Some look down upon (despise) the small things that others do. Some would look down upon (despise) the slow rebuilding process of the temple and consider it a small thing; however, everyone would rejoice when they saw Zerubbabel taking charge of the work and eventually bringing it to completion. After telling Zechariah the word of the LORD, the angel began to answer his previous questions. The lampstand in some way represented the presence of the LORD with His people, and the lamps represented His eyes that see what is happening throughout the whole earth. God would be present in Jerusalem and God’s eyes would be overseeing the work of rebuilding the temple. God would make certain that the temple was completed correctly as His Spirit guided Zerubbabel and all the workers.

(Zechariah 4:11) Then I said to him, “What are these two olive trees on the right and the left of the lampstand?”

Next, Zechariah asked about the two olive trees in his vision. He asked the question twice and further described what he saw with his second question.

(Zechariah 4:12) And a second time I said to him, “What are these two branches of the olive trees, which pour out the oil through the two golden pipes?”

The two olive trees provided oil for the lamp, but God does not need any created beings or things to meet His personal needs or to help Him see throughout the earth. However, God uses all that He has created to do His will and achieve His purposes. In the vision, the lampstand and the olive trees are connected together with pipes. Since Zechariah saw three objects connected and working together, perhaps they represent three persons working together. From further study of the New Testament, perhaps the three are the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit (we do not learn from Zechariah or the angel’s answers). We do not learn from Zechariah’s vision and the words of the angel all that we would like to know. We must wait for the New Testament to learn more about the character and nature of God. We can learn from Zechariah’s experience that God does not tell us all that we would like to know about everything. God does not always immediately answer all of our questions about spiritual matters. God does not reprimand us for asking questions, and God does reveal all that we need to know. The people living in Jerusalem at that time only needed to learn from Zechariah that God was watching and God sees everything; that God was present with them; that God would work with Zechariah and them to do His will; that they would rejoice when they completed rebuilding the temple.

(Zechariah 4:13) He said to me, “Do you not know what these are?” I said, “No, my lord.”

The angel wanted to make certain that Zechariah did not know the answer to his question before he asked it and the angel answered it, perhaps implying that Zechariah should have known the answer. Perhaps wanting to make sure Zechariah asked an honest question and was not just curious about something he did not really care about.

(Zechariah 4:14) Then he said, “These are the two anointed ones who stand by the Lord of the whole earth.”

The angel answered and indicated that where the Lord of the whole earth is present, the two anointed ones are present with Him. The LORD of hosts was present with His people and His Spirit helped them rebuild the temple. They would not be able to rebuild the temple by their might and power alone without the help of God’s Spirit. The angel did not tell Zechariah who the two anointed ones were, so all guesses are speculation. Keeping what little we truly know about the two anointed ones in mind, there are some truths we can think about that may relate to the two anointed ones. The LORD of hosts would give His people eternal light, unchanging truth, and sufficient power to do whatever He asked of them. In the Old Testament, the prophet Samuel anointed with oil the first two kings, Saul and David. The Messiah was to be a king, “the Anointed One.” The title Messiah means “the anointed one.” Jesus, the Son of God, came as the Messiah, and He was the Anointed One before He came to earth in human flesh. A priest is also anointed with oil and set apart for the work of the LORD, and Jesus is also our High Priest, Who intercedes for believers. The two anointed ones were holy and may be identified with the Son of God and the Holy Spirit (God’s Spirit empowered God’s people to rebuild the temple), but we cannot really understand who these anointed ones are apart from the teachings of the New Testament, praying for deeper understanding, and further revelation from God which we may not receive until we personally meet the Lord Jesus.

Questions for Discussion and Thinking Further

1. How did Haggai and Zechariah receive their revelations from the LORD? How do most Christians receive their revelations from the LORD today?

2. When did the angel tell Zechariah the meaning of the candlestick and the two olive trees? What might we learn from his perfect timing?

3. If God wants us to do something in obedience to Him and we know that we do not have the resources to do what He wants us to do, what verse from Zechariah can encourage us to begin obeying God with what we have?

4. Compare God’s word to Zerubbabel through Zechariah in Zechariah 4:7 and Jesus’ word to His disciples in Matthew 17:20. What did God to Zerubbabel and Jesus to His disciples mean by a mountain? How does Zerubbabel’s success in moving the mountain help you understand the meaning of what Jesus told His disciples?

5. How would the people know that God had sent Zechariah to Zerubbabel to tell him to rebuild the temple?

International Bible Lesson

How to Learn the Truth

“Then the angel that talked with me answered and said unto me, Knowest thou not what these be? And I said, No, my lord. Then he answered and spake unto me, saying, This is the word of the LORD unto Zerubbabel, saying, Not by might, nor by power, but by my spirit, saith the LORD of hosts” (Zechariah 4:5-6—KJV).

“Then the angel who talked with me answered me, ‘Do you not know what these are?’ I said, ‘No, my lord.’ He said to me, ‘This is the word of the LORD to Zerubbabel: Not by might, nor by power, but by my Spirit, says the LORD of hosts’” (Zechariah 4:5-6—NRSV).

We can learn many facts by using the human abilities God has given us, but some truths cannot be learned from observation and logical reasoning. Some truths must be revealed by God to us, accurately recorded, and passed on to others. Zechariah saw some unusual objects, but he could not learn what these objects meant until the angel revealed their significance to him. The Bible reveals many truths that people will only learn and understand because God has spoken and revealed them personally (as He did with Abraham and Moses) or through angels, prophets, and Jesus Christ. Without the Bible, we cannot learn the most important truths about ourselves and God’s plan to rescue us from sin and death through the gift of Jesus the Messiah. When God created people, God gave them might and power to do many things. To paraphrase an observer, “It is amazing how much people can do without God,” but they can only do these things because of the gifts God has given them. However, the most important achievements and projects can only be accomplished by the Spirit of God. God sometimes works through our human powers by His Spirit, but God can equally accomplish His purposes by His Spirit alone. Through the reading of the Bible and prayer, believers can learn many truths from God and His will for them and receive the power of His Spirit to do His will and fulfill His plans.


Begin or close your class by reading the short weekly International Bible Lesson. To print the International Bible Lesson in three different sizes (including large print size and bulletin size) and for the Teacher’s Study Hints for Five Discussion Questions andThinking Further, go to the International Bible Lessons Commentary website.

See the recommended Bible study, Recovery, and Worship Resources atSmallChurchResources.com.

— © All Contents of this website are copyright 2014 by L.G. Parkhurst, Jr. Permission Granted for Not for Profit Use.

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Haggai 2:10-23 International Bible Lessons Commentary and Lesson

The International Bible Lesson (Uniform Sunday School Lessons Series) for Sunday, June 15, 2014, is from Haggai 2:10-23. Questions for Discussion and Thinking Further follow the verse-by-verse International Bible Lesson Commentary below. Study Hints for Thinking Further, a study guide for teachers, discusses the five questions below to help with class preparation and in conducting class discussion; these hints are available on the International Bible Lessons Commentary website. The weekly International Bible Lesson is usually posted below each Saturday before the lesson is scheduled to be taught. Additional publications and resources by L.G. Parkhurst, Jr.

International Bible Lesson Commentary
Haggai 2:10-23

(Haggai 2:10) On the twenty-fourth day of the ninth month, in the second year of Darius, the word of the LORD came by the prophet Haggai, saying:

Scholars believe King Darius was born in 550 B.C. He began his reign in Persia, now Iran, in 522 B.C. King Darius died in 486 B.C. Haggai wrote that he shared the word of the LORD with the priests on December 18, 520 B.C. The fact that Haggai dated his prophecies according to the dates of King Darius reign in Persia enables us to know the dates according to our ways of reckoning time.

(Haggai 2:11) Thus says the LORD of hosts: Ask the priests for a ruling:

Some commentaries argue from this verse that Haggai was a priest. Others argue that if he had been a priest he would not have asked these questions; however, the LORD of hosts asked Haggai to ask these questions so he could have been a priest. The Bible does not tell us if Haggai was a priest; we only know that Haggai was a prophet. Asking the questions was a teaching tool that God used to reach the priests and people. God respects our God-given abilities to reason and make intelligent choices.

(Haggai 2:12) If one carries consecrated meat in the fold of one’s garment, and with the fold touches bread, or stew, or wine, or oil, or any kind of food, does it become holy? The priests answered, “No.”

Consecrated meat is holy because it has been offered to God and ceremonially set apart for sacrifice or service to God according to God’s law. It would usually be carried in a consecrated or “holy” garment worn by a priest and either become a whole burnt offering to God or be eaten by the priests and their families following its sacrifice. The consecrated meat will not make anything it touches holy: it is a physical object with no power to set apart other objects for God’s special use. A holy robe worn by a priest will not make the priest holy or what it touches holy. Holiness is a moral quality and the result of God’s choice or God’s command to set apart something or someone apart for undefiled service to God. A person set apart for service to God can become defiled by their choice to sin and disobey God. Holiness cannot be transmitted to anything or any person on the basis of physical touch. Touching a person who has consecrated themselves to God or who has set themselves apart from sin to serve God will not make an unconsecrated person a holy or consecrated person. The priests answered and officially ruled “No” on the basis of good, sound reasoning.

(Haggai 2:13) Then Haggai said, “If one who is unclean by contact with a dead body touches any of these, does it become unclean?” The priests answered, “Yes, it becomes unclean.”

According to God’s law, a person who contacted or touched a dead body must ceremonially wash themselves and wait for a specified period of time to become clean. We know today that avoiding contact with a dead body may keep some diseases from spreading, especially if the animal or person died from a communicable disease. God did not reveal to the Hebrews what we know about germs and the spread of disease. The Hebrews needed to trust God that what He commanded them was best for them. A person might spread a disease in many different ways, so they themselves become ceremonially unclean and may actually become physically unclean after they contact or touch a dead body; therefore, they then need to become clean as the law prescribed. The priests answered “Yes” according to the Law of God (see Numbers 19:11-13).

(Haggai 2:14) Haggai then said, So is it with this people, and with this nation before me, says the LORD; and so with every work of their hands; and what they offer there is unclean.

God wanted Haggai to explain to the people that when they were disobeying God they were unclean inside (spiritually), and merely touching something that was clean or consecrated to God would not make them clean. Merely going to a religious ceremony without consecrating themselves to the Lord’s service and setting themselves apart from sin (repenting) and committing themselves to serve God would not make them holy or spiritually clean. Because they were living in disobedience to God, what they gave God in offerings and religious works with their unclean hands was unclean. Their bad example of disobedience while appearing to be religious spread to others, and when others followed their bad example they became unclean too. In a similar way, the scribes and Pharisees appeared to others as very consecrated and holy people, but Jesus declared to them: “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you clean the outside of the cup and of the plate, but inside they are full of greed and self-indulgence. You blind Pharisee! First clean the inside of the cup, so that the outside also may become clean” (Matthew 23:25-26).

(Haggai 2:15) But now, consider what will come to pass from this day on. Before a stone was placed upon a stone in the LORD’s temple,

Once again, God wanted to reason with His people and through Haggai God encouraged them to think about how they had fared when they were living in disobedience to God; when they were putting their physical desires first and ignoring what was best for their spiritual life and the spiritual interests of others. God wanted them to think about how their lives had changed once they began to obey Him and began rebuilding the temple.

(Haggai 2:16) how did you fare? When one came to a heap of twenty measures, there were but ten; when one came to the wine vat to draw fifty measures, there were but twenty.

Before they consecrated their lives, time, and work to God and began to live in obedience to God, they never realized their expectations from their work. They never received what they expected to receive from their reaping or wine making or from their storage bins and wine vats. To teach them to obey Him, God had withheld from them the blessings that He wanted to give them. God had also punished them financially for putting material possessions ahead of their spiritual needs and the needs of others.

(Haggai 2:17) I struck you and all the products of your toil with blight and mildew and hail; yet you did not return to me, says the LORD.

What little they harvested and what they lacked to meet their real physical needs was not the result of unfortunate natural disasters, bad luck, bad timing, or the consequences of poor farming methods. God intervened in their history and used natural causes to strike their products with blight, mildew, and hail, and God wanted Haggai to explain that what they suffered was God’s discipline for their disobedience.

(Haggai 2:18) Consider from this day on, from the twenty-fourth day of the ninth month. Since the day that the foundation of the LORD’s temple was laid, consider:

One of God’s favorite words to speak through Haggai was “consider.” God wanted them to consider or think about how their lives had changed and would change since they had begun to obey God. From the first day they had taken the first steps of obedience, the LORD of hosts had blessed and would continue to bless them beyond their expectations.

(Haggai 2:19) Is there any seed left in the barn? Do the vine, the fig tree, the pomegranate, and the olive tree still yield nothing? From this day on I will bless you.

When they returned to obedience, God promised to bless them spiritually and materially. In the coming days and months, they would be able to observe the consequences of their return to obedience and God’s blessings upon them. God would bless the work of their hands as they planted and reaped and stored their grain in their barns. As they tended their grape vines and fruit trees and reaped their produce, they would see the results of their labors and God’s blessing upon them.

(Haggai 2:20) The word of the LORD came a second time to Haggai on the twenty-fourth day of the month:

The same day Haggai was obeying God by speaking to the priests, the word of the LORD came to Haggai again. Haggai revealed God’s words to the people whenever God wanted Haggai to speak to them for Him. Because Haggai obeyed the LORD immediately, the LORD spoke through him and the LORD blessed the people through Him.

(Haggai 2:21) Speak to Zerubbabel, governor of Judah, saying, I am about to shake the heavens and the earth,

These last three verses will be fulfilled completely when Jesus the Messiah comes again. They were fulfilled to a lesser degree in the days of Zerubbabel, who became a hero in the eyes of God’s people. As a grandson of King Jehoiachin, he was a descendant of King David and an important leader who obeyed the word of God. Zerubbabel is listed in the genealogy of Jesus. Throughout the reign of King Darius there were many wars of conquest, but God promised that He would shake the heavens and the earth someday.

(Haggai 2:22) and to overthrow the throne of kingdoms; I am about to destroy the strength of the kingdoms of the nations, and overthrow the chariots and their riders; and the horses and their riders shall fall, every one by the sword of a comrade.

Someday, God will be the One who will bring all the nations of the earth into visible subjection to Him, but we do not know when God will do this. Jesus explained, “And you will hear of wars and rumors of wars; see that you are not alarmed; for this must take place, but the end is not yet” (Matthew 24:6). According to Haggai’s message, many nations will fall because of fighting within themselves “everyone by the sword of a comrade,” by insurrection or civil war. And Jesus explained, “When you hear of wars and insurrections, do not be terrified; for these things must take place first, but the end will not follow immediately” (Luke 21:9). God said through Haggai that unbelievers will fight among themselves and destroy themselves, but we do not know the date of Christ’s return and when He will establish His kingdom visibly over the whole earth.

(Haggai 2:23) On that day, says the LORD of hosts, I will take you, O Zerubbabel my servant, son of Shealtiel, says the LORD, and make you like a signet ring; for I have chosen you, says the LORD of hosts.

As governor in Jerusalem, Zerubbabel became a representative of God and His authority on earth, as the signet ring on the hand of a king is the symbol of his power that he uses to imprint covenants, decrees, letters, and other important documents as being approved, commanded, and endorsed by him. The Bible teaches that Jesus Christ is the image of the invisible God, and when Jesus Christ walked upon the earth He demonstrated the love, power, and wisdom of the invisible God: “He is the reflection of God’s glory and the exact imprint of God’s very being, and he sustains all things by his powerful word. When he had made purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high” (Hebrews 1:3; see also Colossians 1:15). Those who follow Jesus are also being transformed into the image of God, and true Christians will represent Jesus Christ as the signet ring of their King: “And all of us, with unveiled faces, seeing the glory of the Lord as though reflected in a mirror, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another; for this comes from the Lord, the Spirit” (2 Corinthians 3:18).

Questions for Discussion and Thinking Further

1. Why do you think God told Haggai to ask the priests questions? How can asking questions be a teaching tool?

2. From your study of Haggai, how does God sometimes discipline His people? Why does God discipline His people?

3. When did God begin to bless His people?

4. How can someone become holy?

5. How do God’s people recognize one another?

International Bible Lesson

God’s Design for Discipline

“I smote you with blasting and with mildew and with hail in all the labours of your hands; yet ye turned not to me, saith the LORD” (Haggai 2:17—KJV).

“I struck you and all the products of your toil with blight and mildew and hail; yet you did not return to me, says the LORD” (Haggai 2:17—NRSV).

The Old Testament reveals many of the reasons and ways God will discipline His people, even today. God designs His discipline to lead people to repent of their sins and return to faith in Him and obedience to His commands. God’s discipline can turn into severe punishment for people who remain in unfaith and rebellion against God. For example, God disciplined the remnant who returned from exile in Babylon when they refused to obey Him. He struck the products of their toil with blight, mildew, and hail. When His people repented, they turned from their selfishness and put God and God’s will first in their lives. They took courage and began to rebuild the temple as God had commanded; then, God began to bless and protect them again. God told Haggai the exact date of their return to obedience, “the twenty-fourth day of the ninth month in the second year of [King] Darius” (Haggai 2:10, 18). From that day forth, they began to harvest enough seed for food, trade, and planting. From that day forth, the grape vine, the fig tree, the pomegranate, and the olive tree produced their fruit in their seasons. Once God’s people learned that their sufferings and lack of necessities were not just “bad luck,” but the discipline of God for their disobedience to God, they repented, returned to working for God, and God blessed them abundantly. Of course, not all suffering is the result of our sins or God’s discipline; Jesus suffered and declared, “Whoever does not carry the cross and follow me cannot be my disciple” (Luke 14:27). – L.G. Parkhurst, Jr.


Begin or close your class by reading the short weekly International Bible Lesson. To print the International Bible Lesson in three different sizes (including large print size and bulletin size) and for the Teacher’s Study Hints for Five Discussion Questions andThinking Further, go to the International Bible Lessons Commentary website.

See the recommended Bible study, Recovery, and Worship Resources at SmallChurchResources.com.

— © All Contents of this website are copyright 2014 by L.G. Parkhurst, Jr. Permission Granted for Not for Profit Use.

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Haggai 2:1-9 International Bible Lessons Commentary and Lesson

The International Bible Lesson (Uniform Sunday School Lessons Series) for Sunday, June 8, 2014, is from Haggai 2:1-9. Questions for Discussion and Thinking Further follow the verse-by-verse International Bible Lesson Commentary below. Study Hints for Thinking Further, a study guide for teachers, discusses the five questions below to help with class preparation and in conducting class discussion; these hints are available on the International Bible Lessons Commentary website. The weekly International Bible Lesson is usually posted below each Saturday before the lesson is scheduled to be taught. Additional publications and resources by L.G. Parkhurst, Jr.

International Bible Lesson Commentary
Haggai 2:1-9

(Haggai 2:1) In the second year of King Darius, in the seventh month, on the twenty-first day of the month, the word of the LORD came by the prophet Haggai, saying:

Some have placed this date as October 17, 520 B.C. Because Haggai gave exact dates, the Hebrew lunar calendar and other calendars can be compared so almost exact dates can be given to Bible students today. In Haggai 1, the dates were August 29, 520 B.C. and 21 days after August 29, 520 B.C. The sixth month on the Jewish calendar is Elul (with days in both August and September). The seventh month is Tishri (with days in September and October). The Roman year 520 B.C. is the Hebrew year 3242. The word of the LORD came to the people through the prophet Haggai, and the word of the LORD is recorded in the Bible, written by prophets of God and others: see 2 Timothy 3:16-17.

(Haggai 2:2) Speak now to Zerubbabel son of Shealtiel, governor of Judah, and to Joshua son of Jehozadak, the high priest, and to the remnant of the people, and say,

As in Haggai 1, Haggai went directly to the political and religious leaders and the people so the leaders could exercise their God-given responsibilities as political and religious leaders working together to achieve God’s purposes. God told Haggai which leaders and people He wanted him to speak to, and God gave Haggai the words He wanted him to say to them. Haggai obeyed the LORD exactly, and the leaders and people followed his example of immediate obedience when they began to rebuild the temple. God also spoke to them through Haggai to encourage them as they obeyed Him and worked together.

(Haggai 2:3) Who is left among you that saw this house in its former glory? How does it look to you now? Is it not in your sight as nothing?

Some think Haggai and a few others were old enough to have seen King Solomon’s temple more than 70 years earlier, before God allowed the Babylonians to destroy the temple in 587 B.C. By comparison, their finished and rebuilt temple would look inferior to what King Solomon had built. They had to use recycled building stones from the old temple that would have been damaged during the temple’s destruction, so it could not look as beautiful as the original finished stones of skilled craftsmen.

(Haggai 2:4) Yet now take courage, O Zerubbabel, says the LORD; take courage, O Joshua, son of Jehozadak, the high priest; take courage, all you people of the land, says the LORD; work, for I am with you, says the LORD of hosts,

Even though their rebuilt temple would not look as beautiful as King Solomon’s temple, God encouraged the people by telling them that He was still with them. God was with them and could encourage them because they obeyed Him according to His word. Approval by God did not depend on their rebuilding the temple as beautiful as the original temple, God encouraged them because they used what they had and did what they could to honor and obey God as He said when they began rebuilding the temple.

(Haggai 2:5) according to the promise that I made you when you came out of Egypt. My Spirit abides among you; do not fear.

God told them that the promise that He gave to their ancestors remained valid. His promise applied to them, even as it had applied to Moses and to those who left Egypt with Moses. God promised to “abide” (which means remain, always be present) among them. Since God was among them, He was with each person personally at all times wherever they were; so, they had no reason to fear their enemies or fear that they would fail in the tasks that He had set before them to complete. Everything they needed to rebuild the temple was on the old temple’s grounds or in the wooded hills. Whatever else they might need to do His will, God would supply in various ways.

(Haggai 2:6) For thus says the LORD of hosts: Once again, in a little while, I will shake the heavens and the earth and the sea and the dry land;

“In a little while” might seem a long time to His people, but God would be with them to meet their immediate needs as they rebuilt the temple. In the days of King Herod, though King Herod did not love and obey God, the LORD would use Herod to beautify His temple once again, because “The king’s heart is a stream of water in the hand of the LORD; he turns it wherever he will” (Proverbs 21:1). One way God would meet their needs was by “shaking” all He had created. God has all the world’s resources available to Him that He can give to His people as they are needed by His people to do His will.

(Haggai 2:7) and I will shake all the nations, so that the treasure of all nations shall come, and I will fill this house with splendor, says the LORD of hosts.

God shook the nations around Jerusalem when King Darius commanded their enemies to pay taxes to help rebuild the temple in Jerusalem. God shook the nations around Jerusalem again for silver and gold when King Herod rebuilt the temple in order to gain favor with the Jews. In the time of Jesus, and even before, people came from a variety of nations to Jerusalem and gave offerings in the temple. For this reason, Jews and those who feared God went to money changers in the temple to have their foreign coins exchanged for approved temple coins to offer to God in the temple. We have ample evidence from the Old and New Testaments and secular history that God fulfilled Haggai’s prophecy.

(Haggai 2:8) The silver is mine, and the gold is mine, says the LORD of hosts.

The silver and gold is the LORD’s because He created all of the silver and the gold. People with silver and gold are only custodians of what God owns, and they are only custodians for a short lifetime when compared to eternity. Some people love gold more than they love God, and these words of Jesus stand as a warning to all, “What does it profit them if they gain the whole world, but lose or forfeit themselves?” (Luke 9:25). God can and does move unbelievers with unholy motives, such as King Herod, to use silver and gold for His purposes: to beautify places of worship, to preach and teach the good news of Jesus around the world, to meet the needs of any of His people, to help the poor and the distressed. God shows believers how best to use the gifts He has given them for His purposes. Those who follow Jesus can freely, lovingly, and joyfully offer their silver and gold to God for His purposes and not lose or forfeit themselves.

(Haggai 2:9) The latter splendor of this house shall be greater than the former, says the LORD of hosts; and in this place I will give prosperity, says the LORD of hosts.

The rebuilt temple would be desecrated again by unbelievers, such as Antiochus IV, but God fulfilled this prophecy of Haggai. About 500 years after Haggai preached, King Herod rebuilt the temple and made it more beautiful than the former temple. King Herod’s beautiful temple would also be desecrated by temple money changers and others, and later the temple would destroyed by the Romans in 70 A.D. (as Jesus predicted and as a consequence of a revolt by the Jews). Jesus told His disciples what would happen as they admired Herod’s temple: “As Jesus came out of the temple, one of his disciples said to him, ‘Look, Teacher, what large stones and what large buildings!’ Then Jesus asked him, ‘Do you see these great buildings? Not one stone will be left here upon another; all will be thrown down’” (Mark 13:1-2). In Jerusalem today, we have solid evidence of Jesus’ truthful prediction about the temple in Jerusalem. The New Testament teaches that the bodies of believers are the temple of the LORD: “Do you not know that you are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit dwells in you?” (1 Corinthians 3:16). As Jesus promised, the Holy Spirit indwells those who trust in Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior; therefore, God abides with His people as He did with Moses. Wherever they are around the world, God dwells among His people and within His people. Those who love and obey God in Jesus Christ today are far more beautiful spiritually than any temple made with stone, wood, gold, and silver.

Questions for Discussion and Thinking Further

1. Why might God have made certain that Haggai recorded the exact dates of when He spoke to Haggai?

2. When the people realized that they could not rebuild the temple to look as beautiful as the former temple, what did God tell them?

3. What reason did God give the leaders and people for taking courage as they obeyed Him and worked on rebuilding the temple?

4. Who owns the world’s silver and gold supply? Does knowing the answer encourage or discourage you? Give a reason for your answer.

5. Where is God’s beautiful temple on earth today?

International Bible Lesson

Reasons for Being Strong and Taking Courage

“Be strong, all ye people of the land, saith the LORD, and work: for I am with you, saith the LORD of hosts: According to the word that I covenanted with you when ye came out of Egypt, so my spirit remaineth among you: fear ye not” (Haggai 2:4c-5—KJV).

“Take courage, all you people of the land, says the LORD; work, for I am with you, says the LORD of hosts, according to the promise that I made you when you came out of Egypt. My Spirit abides among you; do not fear” (Haggai 2:4c-5—NRSV).

Though the Jews remained surrounded by powerful enemies, God commanded them to rebuild the temple in Jerusalem. Someday, He promised, the temple would be greater than Solomon’s temple. God would take the treasure of other nations to enlarge and beautify His temple because “The silver is mine, and the gold is mine, says the LORD of hosts” (Haggai 2:8). God fulfilled His promise when He used King Darius to command their enemies to pay taxes for rebuilding the temple in Haggai’s day. Later, God used King Herod to enlarge the temple. Through Haggai, God encourages His people to do His work on earth and not be afraid of others, because God is always with His people. God’s Spirit remains with His people even during those times when God must discipline His people for their own good. God’s people can take courage because God is “the LORD of hosts.” God is the Supreme Commander of thousands upon thousands of angels that He can call upon to help His people whenever He wisely decides. God also has the power to shake the heavens and the earth and the sea and the dry land and all the nations to meet the needs of His people to do His work (Haggai 2:6-7). In the Old Testament, God promised to do these things and more for His people, and He will do the same today for all who trust in God in order to obey His commands and do His will. — © Copyright 2014 L.G. Parkhurst, Jr.


Begin or close your class by reading the short weekly International Bible Lesson. To print the International Bible Lesson in three different sizes (including large print size and bulletin size) and for the Teacher’s Study Hints for Five Discussion Questions andThinking Further, go to the International Bible Lessons Commentary website.

See the recommended Bible study, Recovery, and Worship Resources at SmallChurchResources.com.

— © All Contents of this website are copyright 2014 by L.G. Parkhurst, Jr. Permission Granted for Not for Profit Use.

Posted in Bible | Comments Off

Haggai 1:1-15 International Bible Lessons Commentary and Lesson

The International Bible Lesson (Uniform Sunday School Lessons Series) for Sunday, June 1, 2014, is from Haggai 1:1-15. Questions for Discussion and Thinking Further follow the verse-by-verse International Bible Lesson Commentary below. Study Hints for Thinking Further, a study guide for teachers, discusses the five questions below to help with class preparation and in conducting class discussion; these hints are available on the International Bible Lessons Commentary website. The weekly International Bible Lesson is usually posted below each Saturday before the lesson is scheduled to be taught. Additional publications and resources by L.G. Parkhurst, Jr.

International Bible Lesson Commentary
Haggai 1:1-15

(Haggai 1:1) In the second year of King Darius, in the sixth month, on the first day of the month, the word of the LORD came by the prophet Haggai to Zerubbabel son of Shealtiel, governor of Judah, and to Joshua son of Jehozadak, the high priest:

Since Israel used a lunar calendar, some commentators say God spoke to Haggai on August 29, 520 B.C. We know little about Haggai. When he gave this prophecy, he may have been a priest and prophet or only a prophet. As a prophet, he declared “the word of the LORD” (Yahweh or Jehovah). Zerubbabel was a governor in Jerusalem. Appointed by King Darius, he was of the line of King David. His grandfather had been taken into exile in Babylon. Because of Zerubbabel’s leadership qualities and his loyalty and obedience to God, with limited understanding the peoples’ hopes ran high that Zerubbabel might become the Messiah. As a type of the Messiah, he is listed in the genealogy of Jesus (Matthew 1:12 and Luke 3:27). His name means “seed or shoot of Babylon.” The name of the high priest, Joshua (or Jesus), means “Yahweh is Savior.”

(Haggai 1:2) Thus says the LORD of hosts: These people say the time has not yet come to rebuild the LORD’s house.

God expected the political and religious leaders of Judah to work together to motivate those who had returned to Jerusalem from exile in Babylon and the remnant that had remained in Judah to rebuild the temple in Jerusalem (which they had neglected). “The LORD of hosts” is the Creator and God of all creatures in heaven, earth, and under the earth. He is the Almighty King over His angelic army of angels, the heavenly host, some of whom appeared to the shepherds the night Jesus was born. Before the LORD of hosts spoke to the people through Haggai, both leaders and people had made excuses for abandoning the temple that the Babylonians had destroyed in 587 B.C.

(Haggai 1:3) Then the word of the LORD came by the prophet Haggai, saying:

God told Haggai exactly what to say to the leaders so God could work through them. God knew the excuses the people were making for not rebuilding the temple and God knew how to answer those excuses. God gave them good reasons to rebuild their temple and God’s Spirit worked upon the people to move them to do the work. God spoke, God acted, and the people rightly responded.

(Haggai 1:4) Is it a time for you yourselves to live in your paneled houses, while this house lies in ruins?

God began by sending Haggai to the leaders of Judah and asking them a question that God expected them to answer “No!” after they considered that they were living comfortably while God’s temple remained in ruins. Haggai first went to Judah’s leaders so they would fulfill their God-given responsibilities and lead the people to do what was right. Notice: God did not demand that they build His temple first before they met their own real needs for housing and shelter; God is not selfish. But after they had met their real needs, they continued to improve their own homes while ignoring the fact that the temple lay in ruins. They focused on their own comforts first and foremost, instead of putting God first and making God and His priorities of prime importance.

(Haggai 1:5) Now therefore thus says the LORD of hosts: Consider how you have fared.

Since their behavior indicated their selfishness, God first appealed to their selfish hearts to move them to do what was right. God is the Lord over all, and God wanted the leaders and people to consider how they had benefitted and also suffered by selfishly putting themselves first and ignoring the place of worship that God had established in Jerusalem so they could meet with Him.

(Haggai 1:6) You have sown much, and harvested little; you eat, but you never have enough; you drink, but you never have your fill; you clothe yourselves, but no one is warm; and you that earn wages earn wages to put them into a bag with holes.

After building their homes, no matter what they had done after that to succeed or rest securely in this life, they had not prospered. They had given God a small place in their lives, but they had not benefitted very much materially by spending less time with God so they could work harder and longer for themselves. The Lord over all creation can make crops grow and protect the wages of a worker, but God can also withhold rain and create enough costly troubles so some people will turn back to Him. If the people had done so, putting God first would have made all the difference in the world.

(Haggai 1:7) Thus says the LORD of hosts: Consider how you have fared.

God respects our God-given ability to think and reason, and God reasons with us through the Bible and through God-sent preachers, prophets, teachers, and evangelists. God spoke through Haggai because God wanted the leaders and people to consider the consequences of their choices. By ignoring God and their need to worship God rightly, they remained in both material and spiritual need. If they put God first, God would meet all of their real needs.

(Haggai 1:8) Go up to the hills and bring wood and build the house, so that I may take pleasure in it and be honored, says the LORD.

God told them what to do in order to demonstrate that they honored Him as He deserved. The ruined temple must be rebuilt. The ruined temple had scattered stones on the ground for rebuilding, but they needed to bring wood to complete the rebuilding, wood similar to the wood that they had used to add paneling to their homes. The Lord of hosts deserved a temple as beautiful as any of the homes of the leaders and people of Judah.

(Haggai 1:9) You have looked for much, and, lo, it came to little; and when you brought it home, I blew it away. Why? says the LORD of hosts. Because my house lies in ruins, while all of you hurry off to your own houses.

To discipline His people, God refused to give what their crops needed for a bountiful harvest. God could withhold needed rains or give too much rain at the wrong times. God could send unwanted hail storms or withering heat out of season. Furthermore, God blew away what they brought home from their fields. Literally, high winds can quickly level barns and blow away their content. God’s people were not suffering from misfortune. They were suffering because they were doing only what they wanted to do while God’s house, the temple in Jerusalem, lay devastated and abandoned.

(Haggai 1:10) Therefore the heavens above you have withheld the dew, and the earth has withheld its produce.

God was not saying through Haggai that seasonal rains had not been favorable in a climate cycle or that the earth had not produced abundant crops because the farmers had misused their land. Rather, because His people had not given God the honor, service, and worship due Him in the ways He prescribed, God had withheld what they needed to prosper. Their work had been done in vain. By living apart from God they were not close enough to God to receive His manifold blessings.

(Haggai 1:11) And I have called for a drought on the land and the hills, on the grain, the new wine, the oil, on what the soil produces, on human beings and animals, and on all their labors.

God declared that they were suffering loss because He was punishing them (disciplining them like a father or mother needs to discipline a child when they persist in misbehaving or ignoring their parents’ good guidance). The answer to their financial, physical, and spiritual needs was to turn back to God and obey God.

(Haggai 1:12) Then Zerubbabel son of Shealtiel, and Joshua son of Jehozadak, the high priest, with all the remnant of the people, obeyed the voice of the LORD their God, and the words of the prophet Haggai, as the LORD their God had sent him; and the people feared the LORD.

Unlike with Jeremiah, the weeping prophet that the leaders and people in Jerusalem ignored and persecuted before God proved Jeremiah a true prophet by sending the people into exile into Babylon and destroying the temple, the leaders and people immediately heeded the Word of God that Haggai preached. They feared the Lord, perhaps because they remembered how God had punished their parents and grandparents and some of them when He sent them into exile, so they obeyed the Lord immediately.

(Haggai 1:13) Then Haggai, the messenger of the LORD, spoke to the people with the LORD’s message, saying, I am with you, says the LORD.

Because the leaders and people returned to obedience, and because they feared the LORD, the LORD wanted to assure them of His forgiveness and encourage them to do His will always. He gave them reassurance and courage by telling them, “I am with you.” Since God would be with them as they obeyed Him, they would prosper and successfully complete the tasks God had called them to do. He would bless their rebuilding efforts, and they would lose nothing from the time they would spend rebuilding the temple instead of tending to their fields or working for wages.

(Haggai 1:14) And the LORD stirred up the spirit of Zerubbabel son of Shealtiel, governor of Judah, and the spirit of Joshua son of Jehozadak, the high priest, and the spirit of all the remnant of the people; and they came and worked on the house of the LORD of hosts, their God,

Because the people obeyed the voice of the LORD, God encouraged them through Haggai’s preaching and renewed them spiritually. He inspired them, He stirred up their spirits, He removed any discouragement they might have felt as a remnant of the kingdom’s former glory. From deep within they felt moved to serve the LORD and rebuild His house as a house of worship and praise.

(Haggai 1:15) on the twenty-fourth day of the month, in the sixth month.

Because September included feast days and harvest days, the leaders did not organize and the people did not gather together and begin their actual rebuilding of the temple for twenty-one days. They had to gather wood from the hills. They had to organize and refinish the stones that lay around the temple where it had been torn down; then, the actual work of rebuilding could begin.

Questions for Discussion and Thinking Further

1. What three leadership roles do the three leaders in Haggai 1:1 fulfill? Which of these roles did Jesus fulfill?

2. What name, title, or description of God does the Book of Haggai use the most? What does this title tell us about God?

3. How is Haggai described?

4. How is Haggai’s message described?

5. Why did God send Haggai to the leaders and people in Jerusalem?

International Bible Lesson

“Now therefore thus says the LORD of hosts:
Consider how you have fared.
You have sown much, and harvested little;
you eat, but you never have enough;
you drink, but you never have your fill;
you clothe yourselves, but no one is warm;
and you that earn wages earn wages to put them into a bag with holes”
(Haggai 1:5-6—NRSV).

The Only Way to Truly Prosper

“Now therefore thus saith the LORD of hosts; Consider your ways. Ye have sown much, and bring in little; ye eat, but ye have not enough; ye drink, but ye are not filled with drink; ye clothe you, but there is none warm; and he that earneth wages earneth wages to put it into a bag with holes” (Haggai 1:5-6—KJV).

“Now therefore thus says the LORD of hosts: Consider how you have fared. You have sown much, and harvested little; you eat, but you never have enough; you drink, but you never have your fill; you clothe yourselves, but no one is warm; and you that earn wages earn wages to put them into a bag with holes” (Haggai 1:5-6—NRSV).

For many years after the Israelites returned from exile in Babylon, the farmers worked hard but they never harvested enough to meet their needs. Those who worked for wages could never save for the future; something always happened that took away their savings. Through the prophet Haggai, God told them, “You have looked for much, and, lo, it came to little; and when you brought it home, I blew it away” (Haggai 1:9). No matter how much they acquired in a short period of time, they suffered loss because they disregarded God’s will, put themselves first or put God last in their lives. God would not allow them to substitute praying to God for obedience to God. Asking God to meet their needs could not substitute for loving the Lord their God with all of their heart, soul, and might (Deuteronomy 6:5). Some unbelievers might appear to never suffer any loss, but God disciplines His children so they will not lose the everlasting inheritance He has planned for them. After God’s Spirit stirred them to do the right thing, many Israelites put God first and began to obey the words of God in the Scriptures; then, God promised to be with them and gave them courage. They rebuilt the temple of the Lord, so everyone could see how they sincerely loved God and wanted to honor Him; then, they began to prosper.
— © Copyright 2014 L.G. Parkhurst, Jr.


Begin or close your class by reading the short weekly International Bible Lesson. To print the International Bible Lesson in three different sizes (including large print size and bulletin size) and for the Teacher’s Study Hints for Five Discussion Questions andThinking Further, go to the International Bible Lessons Commentary website.

See the recommended Bible study, Recovery, and Worship Resources at SmallChurchResources.com.

— © All Contents of this website are copyright 2014 by L.G. Parkhurst, Jr. Permission Granted for Not for Profit Use.

Posted in Bible | Comments Off

Leviticus 19:17-18; Deuteronomy 6:1-9; Mark 12:28-37 International Bible Lessons Commentary and Lesson

The International Bible Lesson (Uniform Sunday School Lessons Series) for Sunday, May 25, 2014, is from Leviticus 19:17-18, Deuteronomy 6:1-9 (some churches will only study Deuteronomy 6:4-9), Mark 12:28-37. Questions for Discussion and Thinking Further follow the verse-by-verse International Bible Lesson Commentary below. Study Hints for Thinking Further, a study guide for teachers, discusses the five questions below to help with class preparation and in conducting class discussion; these hints are available on the International Bible Lessons Commentary website. The weekly International Bible Lesson is usually posted below each Saturday before the lesson is scheduled to be taught.

International Bible Lesson Commentary
Leviticus 19:17-18

(Leviticus 19:17) You shall not hate in your heart anyone of your kin; you shall reprove your neighbor, or you will incur guilt yourself.

Both the Old and New Testaments show that God’s concern for how we think and act extends deeper than our external behavior and includes concern for the state of our hearts. Because we have refrained from revenge, evil outward selfish actions, or saying harmful words to or about someone, we may not have hurt them. But God says we are not even to hate or want to do damage to someone in our hearts. God commands us to not plot possible harm against others in our minds or wish harm to befall them. When we hate in our hearts, we deeply hurt ourselves. In addition, God tells people to become concerned not only about their own behavior, but also the behavior of others – to wisely help others turn from doing wrong to doing right. The evil actions or words of others can do great harm, so the Bible tells us to warn others about the harmful consequences of their behavior to others and themselves. In some cases, believers may need to report the evil behavior of others to responsible authorities. To hide a crime or keep quiet about a crime can make us guilty for not doing what we could to promote justice and help victims. Without hating in our hearts, we can work for justice to be served.

(Leviticus 19:18) You shall not take vengeance or bear a grudge against any of your people, but you shall love your neighbor as yourself: I am the LORD.

Loving our neighbors as ourselves includes not taking vengeance or retribution into our own hands if they harm us – God established a rule of just laws and punishments, and rules for witnesses and judges, so those harmed could bring someone who harmed them before a judge and seek justice. If someone mistreats us, we may choose to forgive them and not seek to punish them in a court of law or a church court. If we hold a grudge against someone, that grudge will distort our thinking, will damage our own hearts, will cause great pain to us, and may even hurt others. One good reason for doing what is right inside and outside is this: God has told us to obey Him in all of these things. God declared, “I am the LORD,” and because God is the Lord, we owe Him our obedience in all things inside and out.


Deuteronomy 6:1-9

Please read Deuteronomy 6:1-3 for context when only teaching Deuteronomy 6:4-9.

(Deuteronomy 6:1) Now this is the commandment–the statutes and the ordinances–that the LORD your God charged me to teach you to observe in the land that you are about to cross into and occupy,

The commandment of God includes all of the laws, rules, and regulations that God has given to humankind and revealed in the Bible. God is the King or Supreme Governor of the universe. God rules over all things and people, and every rule that He has decreed as our Creator and King He has announced for our own good so no one with a Bible needs to be confused about how to obey and please God or how to live in ways that will bless them and bring them happiness. God commanded Moses to teach the Israelites all of the laws that God expected them to obey when they entered the Promised Land. They could live happily and productively in the Promised Land if they obeyed God. When Jesus came, He fulfilled the Law of God; so some laws, such as regulations about food or sacrifices (laws often called ceremonial laws) no longer need to be obeyed under the New Covenant in His blood. Jesus obeyed and commanded His followers to obey the moral law, the law of love, summed up in the Ten Commandments.

(Deuteronomy 6:2) so that you and your children and your children’s children may fear the LORD your God all the days of your life, and keep all his decrees and his commandments that I am commanding you, so that your days may be long.

One reason God gave to explain to His people why they should obey His laws was “so that your days may be long.” God has given us laws for our benefit; similarly, He sent His only begotten Son for our benefit. Obeying God’s law will prevent the spread of some diseases and help obedient people live a longer life. God’s law was not only for the first generation that entered the Promised Land, but also for all subsequent generations. To fear the Lord includes awe and reverence for His glorious majesty, wisdom, power, mercy, and justice, and also an awareness that God can and will enforce obedience to His laws by discipline or punishment when necessary.

(Deuteronomy 6:3) Hear therefore, O Israel, and observe them diligently, so that it may go well with you, and so that you may multiply greatly in a land flowing with milk and honey, as the LORD, the God of your ancestors, has promised you.

God gave additional reasons to obey Him, “so that it may go well with you.” Entering a land settled by those who worshiped many idols would place different demands and temptations on God’s people than wandering in the wilderness or entering into a new and sparsely inhabited land where they would need to work hard just to survive because no other people were nearby. God’s laws would help them regulate their lives and society in a new situation where God ruled them as their Lord and King. If they began to follow the evil example of their neighbors who worshiped idols, they would not “multiply greatly,” but they would spread diseases, begin to sacrifice their children to idols, reduce their population, be punished by God with drought, be defeated by their enemies, and suffer eventual deportation and exile so only a remnant would remain.

(Deuteronomy 6:4) Hear, O Israel: The LORD is our God, the LORD alone.

In a land filled with those who worshiped idols, and who would tempt them to become like them, God commanded that the LORD would be their God and only the LORD (the LORD alone). The LORD revealed himself to Moses as “I Am Who I Am” (Jehovah or Yahweh). God told them not recognize, obey, or worship as God any god but Yahweh. They were not to fear any god but the LORD, Who had led them out of Egypt and Who would lead them into the Promised Land; the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, the God of their ancestors, the God of the Bible, Who revealed the truth through Moses and Who would reveal the truth through the prophets, and later through Jesus and His Apostles.

(Deuteronomy 6:5) You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your might.

After Yahweh rescued them from slavery in Egypt and provided for them during forty years of wilderness wandering, the Israelites had many good and sufficient reasons to love the LORD. God did not just command them to love Him; God loved them first and did all He wisely could to show them how much He loved them by saving them from oppression and promising them a new land that flowed with milk and honey. God did not deserve or want a half-hearted love or a divided loyalty from His people. God deserves our wholehearted love and devotion. God deserves the total commitment of our minds, hearts, and bodies to His service and to doing His will—which is always to our eternal benefit and the benefit of others.

(Deuteronomy 6:6) Keep these words that I am commanding you today in your heart.

The laws of God require more than intellectual evaluation and appreciation for their wisdom. The laws of God require people to either obey or disobey them in thought and/or action. To ignore the laws of God or disregard the Bible’s teachings when a person learns about God and the Bible involves the choice to disobey God. The laws of God need to be understood so we can reasonably apply the laws of God in both familiar and unfamiliar situations. We need to commit our “heart,” the center of our being or our will, to obeying God immediately when we understand our duty and responsibility.

(Deuteronomy 6:7) Recite them to your children and talk about them when you are at home and when you are away, when you lie down and when you rise.

Making the laws of God a part of our total life so that we understand God and His commandments better each day includes teaching our children by our words and example. They need to see how a loyal subject of the LORD, the King of the universe, lives at home and away from home, and have explained to them why a loyal subject of God lives a life of obedient faith. Parents explain God, God’s laws, and God’s ways by example and by words morning, afternoon, and evening each day. By doing this, children will learn that applying the Bible’s teachings and obeying God is for every day and every situation, and not just for one day a week and special occasions.

(Deuteronomy 6:8) Bind them as a sign on your hand, fix them as an emblem on your forehead,

When their hearts are far from God, hypocrites might wear large, visible emblems that indicate they are believers so they can receive undeserved praise from others. God intended for true believers to wear things that would remind them to love and obey God in their hearts. In addition to parents giving their children the reasons why true believers in God also love and obey God, and how to apply the laws of God in everyday life situations, parents can arrange things that will be visible reminders that they and their house serve the LORD. Today, believers might find other ways to remind themselves to study and follow the Scriptures than those listed in this verse.

(Deuteronomy 6:9) and write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.

Of course, verses 8 and 9 applied to the Israelites who lived securely in the Promised Land under the rule of their own kings; it would not apply in a land where believers might be identified, persecuted, or murdered for their faith in the LORD. Reading together and keeping a well-read Bible in a special place might serve as a reminder to a family that they have chosen to live out their faith in Jesus by their obedience to Him as He wisely leads. There might be other ways for a family of faith to remind themselves of the love and promises of God in a land where Christians and Jews suffer unjust persecution.


Mark 12:28-37

(Mark 12:28) One of the scribes came near and heard them disputing with one another, and seeing that he answered them well, he asked him, “Which commandment is the first of all?”

The scribes and Pharisees tested Jesus to learn whether or not He conformed to their traditions. In one of their discussions with Jesus, He showed them an example of where they misinterpreted the Scriptures in order to create traditions to their financial benefit. In this situation, a scribe who discovered Jesus answered questions well sincerely asked Him about the Scriptures and God’s commandments. This scribe may have eventually become a follower of Jesus.

(Mark 12:29) Jesus answered, “The first is, ‘Hear, O Israel: the Lord our God, the Lord is one;

Jesus quoted the Law of Moses beginning with Deuteronomy 6:4. Unlike their neighbors, the Israelites had one Lord, one God, named Yahweh or Jehovah. The name of the God of the Israelites is LORD (with all capital or upper case letters: LORD) in the English translation of the Hebrew Scriptures, because the Israelites considered the YHWH (Yahweh) name of God too sacred to pronounce. God commanded the Israelites not to worship a multitude of idols as their neighbors did. The true God is the LORD.

(Mark 12:30) you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength.’

God requires us to love Him, and by His many blessings upon His people as recorded in Genesis through Deuteronomy, God gave the Israelites many reasons to love Him. Today, the whole Bible gives many reasons for people to love God. God wants our undivided devotion, a love from the depth of our being, a love that includes the whole of our personality along with a commitment and desire to use all of our thoughts and physical strength in the service of God as He commands and leads us daily.

(Mark 12:31) The second is this, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.”

In Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount, He said He had not come to abolish the law: “Do not think that I have come to abolish the law or the prophets; I have come not to abolish but to fulfill” (Matthew 5:17). The second commandment also included the command to love. To love your neighbor as yourself, you must treat your neighbor as you would like to be treated by your neighbor. Whether others treat you fairly or not, if you love them you will treat them fairly because you would prefer that they treat you fairly and this is God’s will for everyone. Again, in His Sermon on the Mount, Jesus taught, “In everything do to others as you would have them do to you; for this is the law and the prophets” (Matthew 7:12). These two commandments sum up the whole law of God, the moral law, so there can be no greater commandment.

(Mark 12:32) Then the scribe said to him, “You are right, Teacher; you have truly said that ‘he is one, and besides him there is no other’;

Unlike many of the scribes and Pharisees, who were offended by Jesus’ truthful answers, this scribe commended Jesus for His answer and recognized Jesus as a Teacher from God, a position many of the other scribes and Pharisees would not recognize. As “Teacher,” the scribe said Jesus had spoken “right” and “truly;” therefore, we have good reason to think that the scribe became one of Jesus’ many unnamed disciples. In essence, the scribe repeated what Jesus said and affirmed that he understood Jesus and was in agreement with Jesus.

(Mark 12:33) and ‘to love him with all the heart, and with all the understanding, and with all the strength,’ and ‘to love one’s neighbor as oneself,’–this is much more important than all whole burnt offerings and sacrifices.”

By his reply to Jesus, the scribe proved that he had studied both the law and the prophets; furthermore, his question showed his concern regarded the proper interpretation of the Hebrew Scriptures and not the traditions of the scribes and Pharisees. The scribe’s words showed he agreed with Hosea who wrote these words of God: “For I desire steadfast love and not sacrifice, the knowledge of God rather than burnt offerings” (Hosea 6:6). Ritual worship and sacrifices cannot serve as a substitute for love and mercy, truth and the knowledge of God.

(Mark 12:34) When Jesus saw that he answered wisely, he said to him, “You are not far from the kingdom of God.” After that no one dared to ask him any question.

Jesus commended the scribe, who may have begun to follow Jesus from that moment forward in order to learn more about the kingdom of God. To be mentally and spiritually near Jesus the Messiah, the King of the universe, to want to share in His love and understand His purposes, is to be near the kingdom of God. Jesus told the scribe that he was not far from the kingdom of God. To follow Jesus and believe His teachings would draw a person closer to God and His kingdom. To actually enter the Kingdom of God, a person would need to bow before the King, Jesus the Messiah, repent of his sins, and declare his unswerving allegiance to Jesus as his Lord, Savior, and King.

(Mark 12:35) While Jesus was teaching in the temple, he said, “How can the scribes say that the Messiah is the son of David?

After Jesus answered all questions wisely, Jesus asked a question that would reveal a deeper truth about His divine and human nature. The scribes and Pharisees taught that the Messiah would be the son of David; the Messiah had to be one of David’s descendants. Given the fact that the leaders and people expected this to be true, Jesus drew their attention to the Scriptures and what David himself said about the Messiah.

(Mark 12:36) David himself, by the Holy Spirit, declared, ‘The Lord said to my Lord, “Sit at my right hand, until I put your enemies under your feet.”’

Notice: Jesus affirmed that the Holy Spirit inspired David’s words and made certain that what David heard, saw, and reported was accurate. Jesus quoted Psalm 110:1. David personally called the Messiah who was yet to come in his day, “my Lord.” David actually heard Yahweh, the LORD, speak to the Messiah, David’s Lord, the divine King that David obeyed. King David heard Yahweh speak to the Messiah and promise the Messiah that He would put His enemies under His feet. David heard Yahweh say to the Messiah, “Sit at my right hand.” David heard a holy discussion between God the Father and God the Son, and the Holy Spirit helped him report these words of God. Jesus’ question might be stated this way: “Since King David heard Yahweh, the LORD, speak to the Messiah, the One David recognized as his Lord, how can the Messiah also be one of David’s descendants yet to be born?”

(Mark 12:37) David himself calls him Lord; so how can he be his son?” And the large crowd was listening to him with delight.

The scribes and Pharisees could not answer this question. Jesus’ question demanded an answer that included the Messiah being more than the son of David. Jesus’ question demanded an answer that included the Messiah existing before David’s descendant as Messiah would be born. Jesus’ question demanded an answer that only Jesus was qualified to give, that Jesus the Messiah in his divine and human nature was both Son of God and son of David. The Bible reveals that Jesus was conceived as the son of David and Son of God when the Holy Spirit overshadowed Mary and conceived the baby Jesus. The Son of God had existed before He was conceived in the virgin Mary’ womb, and He had a conversation with God His Father about what they would do when He came and after He had completed His work on earth. Jesus’ apostles came to learn these facts, the complete answer to Jesus’ question, and they reported these truths in various ways throughout the New Testament.

Questions for Discussion and Thinking Further

1. If someone is holding a grudge against someone, what are some things they can do to obey God?

2. In what ways can Christian families help each member in the family live faithful and obedient to Jesus Christ as their Lord?

3. In what ways did Jesus show that obeying the Law of God was important?

4. What reasons can you give for thinking the scribe who asked about the greatest commandment might have become a sincere follower of Jesus?

5. Why do you think Jesus answered the scribe directly instead of in a parable?

International Bible Lesson

“Keep these words that I am commanding you today in your heart.
Recite them to your children and talk about them
when you are at home and when you are away,
when you lie down and when you rise”
(Deuteronomy 6:6-7—NRSV).

God’s Commands for Parents

“And these words, which I command thee this day, shall be in thine heart: And thou shalt teach them diligently unto thy children, and shalt talk of them when thou sittest in thine house, and when thou walkest by the way, and when thou liest down, and when thou risest up” (Deuteronomy 6:6-7—KJV).

“Keep these words that I am commanding you today in your heart. Recite them to your children and talk about them when you are at home and when you are away, when you lie down and when you rise” (Deuteronomy 6:6-7—NRSV).

The Bible gives the best advice for believing parents and families. When parents study the Bible, they need to not only discover interesting facts but also learn the moral implications of believing in God and how to please Him. In the Bible, God has given us commands to obey for our own good and the good of others. When we take God’s commands to heart, it means we commit ourselves to obeying God and His commands as quickly as we learn them. If we refuse to practice the commands we say we believe, God can give us over to depraved minds and our thinking and behavior can go from bad to worse (see Romans 1:18-32). To prepare our children for the future and to prevent them from degrading practices, God tells parents to be good examples and also teach the Bible and the commands of God to their children. Parents and children can learn to recite the Ten Commandments (see Exodus 20) and the Beatitudes (see Matthew 5). Parents need to talk to their children about how to apply what they are learning from the Bible when they are at home and when they are away from home. The good behavior of their children can bring delight to everyone they meet. Parents need to teach their children how practical, reasonable, right, and God-honoring the commands of God are in everyday life situations when their children get ready for bed at night and after they wake up to begin a new day. — © Copyright 2014 L.G. Parkhurst, Jr.


Begin or close your class by reading the short weekly International Bible Lesson. To print the International Bible Lesson in three different sizes (including large print size and bulletin size) and for the Teacher’s Study Hints for Five Discussion Questions andThinking Further, go to the International Bible Lessons Commentary website.

See the recommended Bible study, Recovery, and Worship Resources atSmallChurchResources.com.

— © All Contents of this website are copyright 2014 by L.G. Parkhurst, Jr. Permission Granted for Not for Profit Use.

Posted in Bible | Comments Off