Sunday School Lesson

April 28

Lesson 9 (KJV)

Called to Make Disciples

Devotional Reading: Colossians 3:12–17

Background Scripture: Matthew 28:16–20; Acts 1:6–8

Matthew 28:16–20

16. Then the eleven disciples went away into Galilee, into a mountain where Jesus had appointed them.

 

17. And when they saw him, they worshipped him: but some doubted.

 

18. And Jesus came and spake unto them, saying, All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth.

 

19. Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost:

 

20. Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world. Amen.

Acts 1:6–8

6. When they therefore were come together, they asked of him, saying, Lord, wilt thou at this time restore again the kingdom to Israel?

 

7. And he said unto them, It is not for you to know the times or the seasons, which the Father hath put in his own power.

 

8. But ye shall receive power, after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you: and ye shall be witnesses unto me both in Jerusalem, and in all Judaea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth.

Photo: georgemuresan / iStock / Thinkstock

Key Verses

Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world. Amen.—Matthew 28:19, 20

Lesson Aims

After participating in this lesson, each learner will be able to:

 

1. Give the content of Jesus’ commissions.

 

2. Describe challenges to keeping the Great Commission as the church’s top priority.

 

3. Create a series of steps to improve his or her church’s efforts at fulfilling the Great Commission.

Lesson Outline

Introduction

A.  “This Changes Everything”

B.  Lesson Context: Matthew

C.  Lesson Context: Acts

   I. Commission in Matthew (Matthew 28:16–20)

A.  Disciples Gather (vv. 16, 17)

B.  Jesus Commands (vv. 18–20)

Figurative, Literal, Literalistic?

II. Commission in Acts (Acts 1:6–8)

A.  Flawed Question (v. 6)

B.  First Priority (vv. 7, 8)

Secrets Best Kept That Way

Conclusion

A.  What Only the Church Can Do

B.  Prayer

C.  Thought to Remember

HOW TO SAY IT

ascension

 

uh-sen(t)-shun.

 

Corinthians

 

Ko-rin-thee-unz (th as in thin).

 

Cornelius

 

Cor-neel-yus.

 

Emmanuel

 

Ee-man-you-el.

 

Galatians

 

Guh-lay-shunz.

 

Galilee

 

Gal-uh-lee.

 

Gentile

 

Jen-tile.

 

Judaea

 

Joo-dee-uh.

 

Pentecost

 

Pent-ih-kost.

 

Philippians

 

Fih-lip-ee-unz.

 

Pilate

 

Pie-lut.

 

Samaria

 

Suh-mare-ee-uh.

 

synecdoche

 

suh-neck-duh-kee.

 

Introduction

A. “This Changes Everything”

The slogan “This changes everything” has been used at length in advertising. The claim has been attached to a flavoring for water, an allergy relief medication, a truck, and a brand of mayonnaise. Even a book bears that slogan as a title!

Obviously, the overuse of any slogan can rob it of its original appeal. But when we consider the impact of Jesus’ resurrection, we can say beyond a shadow of a doubt that “this changes everything.” Today’s lesson tells us why.

B. Lesson Context: Matthew

Today’s lesson text presents two accounts of Jesus’ giving His disciples instructions for continuing His ministry in His absence. The first, from Matthew 28, comes immediately after the passage from last week’s study. That passage recounted events surrounding the resurrection of Jesus and the resurrection itself.

All that took place in and near Jerusalem. A change in geographical context is introduced, however, by the transition noted in Matthew 28:16, which opens today’s lesson.

C. Lesson Context: Acts

The second account comes from the book of Acts. This book is Luke’s record of the history of the first-century church. A vital part of what preceded the founding of the church (Acts 2) was a commission or charge given to the apostles before Jesus’ ascension near Bethany (Luke 24:50, 51).

At first glance, the author Luke seems to record two locations for that event: Bethany, as above, and the Mount of Olives, per Acts 1:12. But no contradiction exists when we realize that Bethany was so close to the Mount of Olives that the village is said to be “at” the mount (Mark 11:1; Luke 19:29). This location was at least 60 miles south of Galilee, but less than two miles from Jerusalem. The tiny village of Bethany is mentioned 11 times in the New Testament, all occurrences being in the four Gospels.

The geographical contexts of our two lesson-segments are different, but the time frame is the same. Both occur during the 40 days of Acts 1:3. This period begins at Jesus resurrection and ends before Pentecost, when the church is established.

I. Commission in Matthew

(Matthew 28:16–20)

The location of our first lesson-segment is in accordance with the instructions from both the angel at the tomb and the resurrected Jesus himself (Matthew 28:7, 10).

A. Disciples Gather (vv. 16, 17)

16. Then the eleven disciples went away into Galilee, into a mountain where Jesus had appointed them.

 

With Judas no longer among their number, the eleven disciples make the multi-day trip back to Galilee. The text does not tell us which specific mountain this is.

 

17a. And when they saw him, they worshipped him.

 

Exactly how long after Jesus’ resurrection this appearance takes place is also not clear. The first-day appearances are recorded in Matthew 28:9, 10; Mark 16:9–14; Luke 24:13–32; and John 20:19–25. The next recorded appearance was “after eight days” (John 20:26–29). Following that was an appearance to 7 of the 11 by the Sea of Galilee (John 21:1–23). The appearance to over 500 believers recorded in 1 Corinthians 15:6 may occur between that of John 21 and the one in the text before us—much uncertainty exists.

 

17b. But some doubted.

 

Despite the previous appearances of Jesus, doubts persist. It would seem by this point that the 11 disciples are fully convinced that Jesus has risen from the dead. Therefore the group gathered here in Galilee may include other followers of Jesus, some of whom have not yet seen Him since His resurrection. One theory is that this occasion is also that of 1 Corinthians 15:6, just noted.

 

What Do You Think?

What’s the best way to react the next time doubts interfere with your worship? Why?

 

Digging Deeper

Which of the following passages helps you most in this regard: Matthew 14:28–33; 21:21; Mark 9:24; John 20:24–29, James 1:6–8; Jude 20–25? Why?

 

B. Jesus Commands (vv. 18–20)

18. And Jesus came and spake unto them, saying, All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth.

 

Such a sweeping statement reflects Jesus’ conquest of death (compare Revelation 1:18). The word in the original language behind the translation power is also translated “authority” in other contexts (examples: Matthew 7:29; 8:9). We may think of power as the ability to do something, while authority is the right to do something. Thus the two ideas are closely related, and Jesus has both in an absolute sense. Indeed, the word all dominates this section of three verses. There is nothing partial or halfway about anything here!

This has been clearly implied on many occasions throughout His ministry. His teaching in the Sermon on the Mount, for example, overturned commonly held views with the declaration, “But I say unto you …” (Matthew 5:22, 28, 32, 34, 39, 44). He had exercised power over disease, nature, and death. Now His own resurrection proves the claim beyond a shadow of a doubt. And what He claims is what He possessed in the beginning (John 1:1–3).

The fact that this power is given to Jesus implies that the heavenly Father, having sent the Son (Galatians 4:4), is the one who has given the Son all power and authority. What is implied here is unmistakable in Matthew 11:27; John 3:35; 13:3; 17:2; Ephesians 1:20–22; and Philippians 2:9–11.

 

What Do You Think?

In what ways can and will your choices in the coming week show that Christ is the ultimate authority and power in your life?

 

Digging Deeper

How can you make those choice also speak against popular alternative “authorities”?

 

19a. Go ye therefore, and teach all nations.

 

Jesus can do many things with the power and authority He has. He can take immediate vengeance on those who crucified Him. He can destroy the Roman occupiers and restore Israel’s self-governing status. Jesus does indeed desire that all nations recognize and honor Him. But the method here is not that of brute force. Instead, He desires it to happen by means of teaching. The Greek verb translated teach is also translated as the English noun “disciple” in Matthew 27:57. Thus the task is one of disciple-making.

It is interesting to consider occasions during Jesus’ ministry when He told someone who had been blessed by a miracle not to tell anyone (Matthew 8:3, 4; 9:29, 30; 12:15, 16; 17:9; etc.). The reason for this directive is seen in what happened when it was disobeyed: “Jesus could no more openly enter into the city, but was without in desert places” (Mark 1:45).

Now, however, the time for silence is over! The good news about Jesus is to be made known to everyone everywhere. Jesus had focused His three-year ministry on Israel (Matthew 10:5, 6; 15:21–24). But He has also indicated that His kingdom will be inclusive of all peoples (Matthew 8:11; Luke 13:29). This is nothing new, since Old Testament prophets predicted this (Isaiah 42:6; 49:6; Jeremiah 3:17; Daniel 7:14; Micah 4:2; etc.). This is how the promise to Abraham that “in thee shall all families of the earth be blessed” will be fulfilled (Genesis 12:3; compare Galatians 3:8).

 

What Do You Think?

What one thing extra can you do in the week ahead to help take the gospel to a nation other than your own?

 

Digging Deeper

What distractions might Satan offer to divert your attention from doing so?

 

19b. Baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost.

 

Making disciples is characterized, in part, by baptizing those being taught. The meaning and significance of baptism are addressed elsewhere (Acts 2:38; 19:4, 5; Romans 6:3, 4; Galatians 3:27; Colossians 2:12; 1 Peter 3:21; etc.). The stress here is submission and allegiance to the Father, … the Son, and … the Holy Ghost.

Obedience to this command is seen in Acts 8:36–38; 9:18; 16:33; 18:8; etc. But some students wonder why Peter will command baptism only “in the name of Jesus Christ” on the Day of Pentecost (Acts 2:38) and later (10:48). The fact that Peter does so indicates that he does not see a contradiction. It is clear from Jesus’ teaching that Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are in complete unity with one another (John 16:12–15; compare 1 Peter 1:2). To baptize in the name of Jesus must include the other two.

Figurative, Literal, Literalistic?

I’ve spent much of my life as a teacher in Christian colleges. During those decades, my students have included some who doubted their faith, others who were solid Christians, and yet others who were so “solid” that they could not be swayed from an overly rigid approach to biblical truth.

For example, one student in the latter category said she believed that everything in the Bible should be “interpreted literally.” In an attempt to help her see that figurative language such as hyperbole was in the Bible, I asked if she still had both eyes and both hands—in spite of what Jesus said in Matthew 5:29, 30.

She began to catch the idea, but still found it hard to give up her insistence on unbending literalism. Finally, she said, “OK, I literally believe some of the things in the Bible are figurative!” I suggested to her that what she was really trying to say was that she always approached the Bible seriously.

Some Christian fellowships struggle over the flexibility (or inflexibility) of Bible language. How can baptism administered “in Jesus’ name” be as valid as baptism done “in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost”? The answer may lie in the category of figurative language known as synecdoche. That is a figure of speech where mention of a part is intended to refer to the whole or vice versa.

A serious acceptance of biblical truth must not require us to exercise a “one size fits all” method of interpretation to every verse in the Bible. When Jesus says “I am the door” in John 10:7, He is literally a door in the sense of being a portal or barrier between two areas. He is not a door in a literalistic sense of being made from wood and swinging on iron hinges!

—C. R. B.

20a. Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you.

 

Teaching does not end once someone becomes a disciple of Jesus. Discipleship is in truth a school of lifelong learning from which one does not graduate while on this earth. Every follower of Jesus must continue to learn how to be Christ’s person anew through the various stages of life—teenager, adult, spouse, parent, grandparent, widow(er), etc. Being a disciple of Jesus informs each transition, providing the disciple with additional opportunities to present the good news of Jesus to others.

 

20b. And, lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world. Amen.

 

Jesus concludes what we call the Great Commission with the assurance of His presence at all times. Matthew mentions toward the beginning of his Gospel how Jesus’ birth fulfilled the prophecy of Isaiah 7:14, that a virgin will give birth to a son who will be called Emmanuel (Matthew 1:22, 23), meaning “God with us.” Now Matthew concludes his record with Jesus’ assurance that He will be with His followers as they carry out the task He gives them.

II. Commission in Acts

(Acts 1:6–8)

In the first recorded words of Jesus in the book of Acts, He tells His apostles not to leave Jerusalem until the promised baptism of the Holy Spirit (Acts 1:4, 5). Our lesson picks up at this point. The 40-day period of Acts 1:3 is coming to a close.

A. Flawed Question (v. 6)

6. When they therefore were come together, they asked of him, saying, Lord, wilt thou at this time restore again the kingdom to Israel?

 

The word therefore connects the apostles’ question with Jesus’ teachings concerning “the kingdom of God” (Acts 1:3) and His promise that they will be “baptized with the Holy Ghost” (1:5). The very nature of the question reveals that the apostles just don’t get it! Jesus has taught repeatedly, through both parable and direct teaching, that His kingdom is spiritual in nature. But these men are still thinking in terms of a political kingdom. They are anticipating a conqueror who will overthrow Rome and vanquish all enemies of Israel. They are expecting that the “glory days” experienced under King David will be restored.

B. First Priority (vv. 7, 8)

7. And he said unto them, It is not for you to know the times or the seasons, which the Father hath put in his own power.

 

Jesus had previously warned His disciples not to let themselves be distracted by a fascination with setting dates for His return (Matthew 24:36–44; 25:13). Here the issue is the establishment of His kingdom, but the warning remains the same: God is the ultimate timekeeper. Information such as this has been withheld from humanity.

 

What Do You Think?

What tactics might Satan use to get Christians distracted with end-times speculation?

 

Digging Deeper

Propose a defense to each tactic you imagine Satan might use.

 

Visual for Lesson 9. Have this visual clearly visible as you pose the discussion question associated with either Matthew 28:19a or Acts 1:8b.

Secrets Best Kept That Way

“I’ll tell you a secret, but you have to promise you won’t tell anyone” is a guaranteed conversation starter. Who can resist the chance to learn a secret, especially if it’s really juicy? Perhaps you’ve heard about the person who said, “I never say anything about anybody unless it’s good, and let me tell you, this is really good!”

Jesus’ parting words to His disciples included recognition of a secret: there are certain things regarding time lines that humans are not privileged (or burdened!) to know. That fact has troubled Christians ever since (compare 2 Thessalonians 2:1, 2). It seems that many of the first-century Christians understood Jesus to be saying He would return within their lifetimes (compare 2 Peter 3:3, 4). But when the last of the apostles had died, that perspective was proven false.

Even so, some modern Christians have asserted that Christ “returned” in a spiritual sense at the destruction of Jerusalem in AD 70. Various movements have been founded on the premise that Christ’s return would be within the founders’ lifetimes. Yet the secret remains a secret.

When the disciples asked Jesus to reveal the full secret, He told them, in effect, not to bother themselves with this issue. Instead, they were to focus on the task ahead and the supernatural help He was sending (see the next verse). Task or speculation—which do we focus on?

—C. R. B.

8a. But ye shall receive power, after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you.

Jesus has a far more significant work for His followers to engage in than date-fixation. Their priority must be to receive power of the Holy Ghost (which happens on the Day of Pentecost; Acts 2). Thus Jesus makes sure that the distraction question of verse 6 hasn’t caused them to miss His statement of verse 5.

 

8b. And ye shall be witnesses unto me both in Jerusalem, and in all Judaea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth.

 

Many students of the Bible have noted that this sequence of places provides an outline of the gospel’s progress as recorded by Luke in the book of Acts. The gospel is first preached by Peter in Jerusalem on the Day of Pentecost. The impact of that message is immediate as 3,000 are led to become followers of Jesus (Acts 2:41).

Later the movement expands into Judaea (the region in which Jerusalem is located) and Samaria. This is spurred by the persecution initiated by Saul, which forces the believers out of Jerusalem (Acts 8:1).

Taking the message unto the uttermost part of the earth begins with the conversion of Cornelius and his household (the first Gentile converts). It is furthered by the missionary journeys of Paul. On one such journey, He too will speak of the futility of being concerned with “the times and the seasons” (1 Thessalonians 5:1).

At the conclusion of Acts, Paul is in Rome—a location which at that time represents “the uttermost part.” It marked a goal that Paul had been keenly intent on reaching (Acts 19:21; 23:11). The gospel was already there before Paul came. Of course, Paul was always thinking of new frontiers, such as Spain (Romans 15:23, 24) to which the gospel might be taken (compare 2 Corinthians 10:15, 16).

While the commissions of Jesus in Matthew and Acts differ in certain details, they have one crucial item in common: Jesus wants His followers to take His message of salvation to the entire world. That is to be the top priority for the apostles as the Day of Pentecost approaches. It must still be the church’s top priority today.

Jesus’ commission here is immediately followed by His ascension into Heaven. Luke records this both in his Gospel (Luke 24:51) and in the first chapter of Acts.

 

What Do You Think?

What practical steps can and will you take in the week ahead to become a more effective witness for the Lord?

 

Digging Deeper

In what ways can nonbiblical resources help you in this, if at all? Why?

 

Conclusion

A. What Only the Church Can Do

Dr. Joe Ellis was a highly respected and innovative authority on church growth. His books include The Church on Purpose and The Church on Target, both of which are intended to provide encouragement and practical guidelines for growth to congregations and their leadership.

One of Dr. Ellis’s most insightful statements comes from another book he wrote entitled The Personal Evangelist. It is this: “The most important tasks the church can do are those that only the church can do.”

What is it that the church, and only the church, can do? What makes the church unique?

The answer is that the church alone possesses and can pass along the message of salvation from sin. This message is founded on the facts of the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. That is the good news, the gospel, as defined by Paul in 1 Corinthians 15:1–4.

No other organization or institution in the world declares, or is charged with declaring, such a message. And that is only fitting since Jesus’ kingdom is “not of this world” (John 18:36). His final recorded words before ascending, as we have seen in this study, were that the gospel be taken to the entire world.

Today, however, the church is pulled in different directions by a host of causes and issues. Many of these causes and issues involve societal ills, a number of which most certainly should be addressed. The Bible is highly concerned with issues of social justice. Even so, the church must not compromise or forsake its primary mission: to take to a lost and dying world the good news of eternal life available through Jesus.

Acts 6:1–4 is a brilliant example of the tension. Two important social issues loomed: (1) providing food for widows in need and (2) ensuring fairness in the distribution of that food. The Jerusalem church took those issues seriously. But when the apostles said, “It is not reason that we should leave the word of God, and serve tables” (6:2), the primary mission remained unchanged. As the church makes disciples who in turn make disciples, then the church is accomplishing its primary mission.

The locations mentioned in Acts 1:8 can provide a model for any church’s evangelistic strategy. A congregation must first seek to reach its own surroundings, but it must not be satisfied with that. The people must be challenged to expand the church’s outreach. That involves thinking globally. Support through prayer, financial resources, and personal involvement will be the result.

A book title from several years ago stated an important truth: Disciples Are Made, Not Born. For a church to present itself as an attractive place to put one’s membership is relatively easy. For a church to commit to making disciples is an entirely different matter. A church must strive always and consciously to keep the main thing the main thing. The head of the church, Jesus Christ, has given the church its marching orders. Those orders have never been amended. The issue is whether the church needs to amend its priorities. Thus it bears repeating: the most important tasks the church can do are those that only the church can do.

B. Prayer

Father, may we give the words of Jesus, the head of the church, the attention they (and He) deserve. We pray Your help to keep us focused on the Great Commission we have. We pray in Jesus’ name. Amen.

C. Thought to Remember

Jesus’ last words before ascending must be the church’s first priority always.[1]

May 5

Lesson 10 (KJV)

Called to Righteousness

Devotional Reading: John 10:1–11

Background Scripture: Romans 3

Romans 3:21–31

21. But now the righteousness of God without the law is manifested, being witnessed by the law and the prophets;

 

22. Even the righteousness of God which is by faith of Jesus Christ unto all and upon all them that believe: for there is no difference:

 

23. For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God;

 

24. Being justified freely by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus:

 

25. Whom God hath set forth to be a propitiation through faith in his blood, to declare his righteousness for the remission of sins that are past, through the forbearance of God;

 

26. To declare, I say, at this time his righteousness: that he might be just, and the justifier of him which believeth in Jesus.

 

27. Where is boasting then? It is excluded. By what law? of works? Nay: but by the law of faith.

 

28. Therefore we conclude that a man is justified by faith without the deeds of the law.

 

29. Is he the God of the Jews only? is he not also of the Gentiles? Yes, of the Gentiles also:

 

30. Seeing it is one God, which shall justify the circumcision by faith, and uncircumcision through faith.

 

31. Do we then make void the law through faith? God forbid: yea, we establish the law.

Photo: Hill Street Studios / Blend Images / Thinkstock

Key Verses

Being justified freely by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus: whom God hath set forth to be a propitiation through faith in his blood.—Romans 3:24, 25

Lesson Aims

After participating in this lesson, each learner will be able to:

 

1. Cite evidence that all have sinned.

 

2. Explain how God maintains His just nature while providing a way for sinful humans to be justified.

 

3. Sing with personal conviction a hymn that accurately summarizes God’s grace as salvation.

Lesson Outline

Introduction

A.  Universal Sinfulness

B.  Lesson Context

   I. Just and Justifier (Romans 3:21–26)

A.  God’s Righteousness (vv. 21–23)

Past Tense Only?

B.  God’s Grace (vv. 24–26)

II. Faith and Law (Romans 3:27–31)

A.  Boasting Excluded (vv. 27, 28)

B.  Jew and Gentile Included (vv. 29–31)

Spiritual Elitism

Conclusion

A.  God’s Dilemma

B.  Prayer

C.  Thought to Remember[2]

 

"Suggestions for families are taken from Standardlesson.com,

Standard Publishing Group, LLC. Used with permission. More resources for families are available at Standardpub.com.


God Bless

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