Monday, March 9, 2009

"God's People Restored Again" Sunday School Lesson

International Sunday School Lesson
For Week Ending March 15, 2009

Purpose: To lead us to a fuller awareness that we are the undeserving beneficiaries of God's intention to be true to God's character

Scripture Text: Ezekiel 36:22-32 (NRSV)

Ezekiel 36:22-32
(22) Therefore say to the house of Israel, Thus says the Lord God: It is not for your sake, O house of Israel, that I am about to act, but for the sake of my holy name, which you have profaned among the nations to which you came. (23)I will sanctify my great name, which has been profaned among the nations, and which you have profaned among them; and the nations shall know that I am the Lord, says the LordGod, when through you I display my holiness before their eyes. (24)I will take you from the nations, and gather you from all the countries, and bring you into your own land. (25)I will sprinkle clean water upon you, and you shall be clean from all your uncleannesses, and from all your idols I will cleanse you. (26)A new heart I will give you, and a new spirit I will put within you; and I will remove from your body the heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh. (27)I will put my spirit within you, and make you follow my statutes and be careful to observe my ordinances. (28)Then you shall live in the land that I gave to your ancestors; and you shall be my people, and I will be your God.

(29)I will save you from all your uncleannesses, and I will summon the grain and make it abundant and lay no famine upon you. (30)I will make the fruit of the tree and the produce of the field abundant, so that you may never again suffer the disgrace of famine among the nations. (31)Then you shall remember your evil ways, and your dealings that were not good; and you shall loathe yourselves for your iniquities and your abominable deeds. (32)It is not for your sake that I will act, says the Lord God; let that be known to you. Be ashamed and dismayed for your ways, O house of Israel.

My Thoughts by Burgess Walter

This particular passage of scripture has some tensions and maybe even controversy. The first thing that should be noted is starting at verse 23b of this chapter, we seem to have a new editor of this passage. According to the LXX (Septuagint) the pattern and vocabulary appears to change, although 1st century copies show this passage intact. The variance could be as simple as a different translator in Alexandria where the translation took place by seventy different scholars, hence the LXX and Septuagint name, given to this translation from Hebrew to Greek.

The other two tensions have to do with the arguments of predestination and baptism. Note that in verse 25 it says “I will sprinkle clean water on you”. This verse along with Romans 10:22 (“having our hearts sprinkled and --- our bodies washed”) is used to justify sprinkling as a form of baptism by some believers, along with the practicality of sprinkling as a convenient way to replace circumcision as a means to separate Christians from non-Christians. I must say, that in most all branches of Christianity, immersion, would be the preferred way for adult baptism. But if you believe baptism to be essential to salvation then you probably sprinkle infants rather than immerse them, or you view it more like circumcision, as a testimony and covenant of Christianity.

As for the argument for predestination these verses seem to make a strong argument The writer seems to say God saved His people. In verse 26 “A new heart I will give you” then in verse 29 “I will save you from all your sin” and in verse 31 “then you shall remember your evil ways”. If we follow these scriptures it would be easy to assume salvation came before repentance, which would be in agreement with the argument for predestination, and contrary to the belief that repentance must precede salvation.

I will only make this point, however we get it, salvation comes as a gift of God's grace. Our salvation depends wholly on God's grace, and not on our good works, or our repentance. We do not repent and do good works, so that God will love us, but rather, we repent and do good works, because we love God. In Romans 5:8 Paul says, “God loved us while we were still sinners”. I believe, because of that love, God does everything to entice us to Him and to establish a relationship with Him, but also allowing for our own free will, to accept or reject His gift of salvation.

As our purpose statement says, we are the undeserving beneficiaries of God's intention. God's intention is that all “be saved” and he went to great lengths, on the cross, to make that happen, but still, some doubt, and others do not believe, nevertheless God loves them all and He loves you.

How would you convince another of your relationship with God? What was your baptism, was it by water or by spirit? As a Christian, what is your reasonable responsibility to God?

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