a study on christ’s priesthood

(This is a Bible Study written for small group leaders and previously published by Adult Bible Study Guide)

STEP 1—MOTIVATE. Help your class members answer this question: “Why is this lesson important to me?”

Franck Kabele, a 35-year-old preacher shared a revelation he received with his congregation. He told them that he believed he could walk on water just like Jesus if he had enough faith. To demonstrate this, he invited them to join him on a beach in Gabon, West Africa so they could be eyewitnesses to this divine fete. With the intention to walk across the Komo estuary (which takes 20 minutes to travel across by boat), he stepped into the water. Within seconds, the water passed over his head and he was never seen again. (DailyRecord.co.uk, August 30, 2006)

Ask the class: What is it about human nature that urges us to attempt to be God? What is the difference between being God and being Christ-like? How does this human trait get in the way of letting God be God in our life?

STEP 2—EXPLORE! Help your class members answer this question: “What do I need to know from God’s Word?”

Commentary (Read Hebrews 1:1-3; Revelation 1:13; Psalm 110)

Helpless and Hopeless. Every time David tried to control his life without the help of God, he failed. And every time he failed, he fell to his knees in recognition of his unworthiness and God’s power and grace.

Beloved of God, King David represents each of us. Because we can’t escape our sinful nature, we have a need for a priestly mediator.

Consider This: Randomly read passages from the Psalms. Meditate on the bi-polar behavior of the sinful heart, the vacillation of emotions and needs. Then give praise to God for Jesus the Mediator.

Revelation and Reconciliation. Christians—born in sin, living in the constant awareness of this sinful world—have two basic, spiritual needs: to know God and to be with God. Constrained by this sinful world, we learn quickly that life is more manageable when we know who God is and what His purpose is for us. Unaware of our inadequacies, we yearn for ways to be with God.

So God, in his love and mercy gave us His Son—someone who understands both parties 100%, someone who can mediate and straighten out the problems and misunderstandings that exist between God and us.

Consider This: God’s plan for Jesus to be Mediator is the most efficient solution to the sin problems that take place between the Fall of Man and the Second Coming. Could there have been any other way for Jesus to be Mediator and Priest without His death? Explain.

Jesus, Customized Savior. The role Jesus plays on our earthly journey is so multi-faceted. Writers of the Scripture, inspired by divinity, have used metaphors to describe the function of Jesus to enable us to appreciate and apply Jesus’ presence in our daily living—Jesus is described as the shepherd, the door, the light, the vine, the cornerstone, etc.

The Bible uses more than 100 names/titles to describe Jesus. The meaning His life hold for us is beyond our fathoming; His role as priest and mediator will be appreciated in its fullness only when we see and understand God’s divine government in heaven.

Consider This: Have the class think of other metaphors that symbolize the intimate, concerning, priestly role that Jesus plays in our lives. (The metaphors don’t necessarily have to be biblical; they may have modern implications) Ask how the many titles and functions of Christ help them keep the faith?

STEP 3—PRACTICE! Help your class members find the answer to the following question: “How can I practice the information I just learned?”

Thought Questions:

What would your prayer life be like if you didn’t have Jesus as your priest and mediator? What would your prayer be lacking? Do you think that works would play a bigger role in salvation without a mediator? Explain.

To be someone’s advocate is relatively risk-free; but to be someone’s savior is a commitment beyond death! How does Jesus’ death as Savior make Him the most competent priest and mediator you could have? How does Jesus’ title “Priest” affect your relationship with Him.

Application Questions:

  • Talk to a lawyer about the pros and cons of his job. Compare your findings with what Jesus does as a mediator. Share this with someone in your family.
  • How can volunteering in a social service activity (such as tutoring a child) help convey the attitude of Christ as a mediator to someone? What other kinds of interactions could help us be mediators like Jesus?

Witnessing: Help your class connect their community projects with Christ-like attitudes and behaviors. Help them see how they can be “mediators” for the church.

Consider This: Jesus came to show us how we can access divine power for meaningful life on earth. Our interactions with people give us opportunities to be a Christ-like mediator. Encourage your class to match their spiritual gifts with opportunities of mediation (e.g. spiritual gift of listening enables one to be a problem-solver)

STEP 4—APPLY! Help your class answer this question, “With God’s help, what can I do with what I have learned from this lesson?”

“For there is one God, and one mediator also between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, who gave Himself as a ransom for all, the testimony given at the proper time” (1 Timothy 2: 5,6, NASB)

During the second century Irenaeus of Lyons taught that Jesus was offered as a ransom to the Devil to free people’s souls. The Devil, however, was defeated because he did not know that Jesus was God himself!

For hundreds of years, this theory was adopted by the Christian world until Anselm of Canterbury pointed out that Irenaeus’ theory assumed that the Devil had far too much power. Instead, Anselm said that Jesus’ life was paid to God and not to the Devil!

What a more poignant picture that makes—Jesus’s life given as ransom to God in exchange for MY eternal life!

  • A ransom is required to free the hostages. Sometimes, a hostage exchange is demanded to guarantee the transaction. How is Jesus’ death more than a “hostage exchange?”
  • What are the benefits of having a Savior who is superior to anything or anyone else? How can His superiority motivate you in your life? What is your potential if you maximize the use of His superiority?
  • Compile verses about the power of Jesus as Savior and Priest as a gift to a neighbor or friend. Or email your friends a verse a week about the power of Jesus.
  • How can you actively bring Christ as a mediator into the workplace and thereby be a witness of your Christian lifestyle? What role can prayer play in this endeavor?

covenant study 13: forgiveness

Browsing through a book of quotations, you will notice that the most fascinating quotes are those made by people on their deathbed! In one sentence they tell the world where their life has led them. A famous atheist’s last words were, “About to take a fearful leap into the dark!” All of God’s covenants, all of God’s promises are nailed to one simple desire of our divine God—He wants to SAVE US FROM SIN. With the end of life, comes the verdict of our covenant relationship.

Thought Questions:

    1. A pastor said, “I believe in deathbed confessions. I know they are accepted by God, but I have to admit I’m a bit nervous about them, wondering if the confession is absolutely genuine!” It is natural to speculate about the motives of others. How does God view the approaching sinner asking for salvation? How does God’s knowledge of the future affect His response?
    2. Entering into a covenant relationship not only cleanses us of guilt and regret but also fills us with joy! Imagine what happens in the courts of heaven when you take the first step towards spending eternity in heaven. What do you think your guardian angel has to say? In the heavenly scheme of things, how does your entering into a covenant relationship make a difference to your access to eternal life?

Application Questions:

    1. Two thieves hung on either side of Jesus. One mocked him, while the other asked for salvation? With what confidence can we claim God’s promise after years of turning away? Notice that Jesus did not address the thief at all until the thief spoke to Him. What does this say about the role of the Holy Spirit? How does this help us understand that we can ask for salvation regardless of how hopeless we may be? Imagine that the thief, after receiving salvation, did not die. What kind of impact would he have had in his community? How does entering into a covenant relationship affect missions and evangelism?
    2. Someone has described the thief’s eleventh hour salvation as “literally blundering into paradise.” Regardless of “when” we accept Jesus Christ, we all “blunder” into heaven! There is no other way because we are wretched sinners who, without God’s grace, will continue blundering. Do some people try to take advantage of that grace by waiting to accept Christ after they’ve lived the way they want? How would you convince a person of the importance of accepting Christ now instead of waiting until the eleventh hour?
    3. Ambrose, an early Christian preacher said, “How much richer was Christ’s grace than the malefactor’s prayer!” When there’s more than enough of God’s grace to compensate for our every sin, why do we sometimes question our Christianity? Is being a Christian merely claiming the title? Does being a Christian mean you will be saved? What verses could you quote to verify your salvation?

covenant study 12: salvation

There is a story of when Francis of Assisi fasted on a mountain. So intense was he in his meditation that he began to see Jesus on a cross that stretched across the horizon. As he watched, he saw a sword of grief and pity pierce the heart of God. Slowly the vision began to fade and Francis looked down—only to find the marking of nails in his own hands. People say that he had those marks till the day he died.

Thought Questions:

    1. Regardless of whether this story is true or not, every true Christian longs to fully understand the magnitude of Calvary. Paul was no different. In his time, a master branded his slaves to show ownership. Some say that Paul had himself branded with marks of nails in his hands to show the world whom he belonged to. Assuming that this may be some true, what do you think Paul is saying in Galatians 6:11-18. How does Paul suggest that we glory in the cross of Christ?
    2. Augustine said, “God loves each of us as if there was only one of us to love.” John 3:16 tells us that God sent His Son to die for us because He loved the “world”—not a nation, not a people, but the whole world. In this context, why is it important that we accept salvation as a gift? Explain.
    3. One of the fundamental thoughts of the Jews was that a man must “earn” God’s favor. One of the fundamental thoughts of Christians is that all a man can do is take God at His word. Considering this BIG difference, why do you think Paul uses Abraham as the greatest example of faith (Romans 4:1-8)? What specific acts of Abraham qualifies him to be the Father of Faith?

Application Questions:

    1. Thursday’s lesson tells us that “for many people, as they near the end of their lives they look back and see how vain, how futile, how useless their deeds, their works are for earning salvation with a holy God.” What are the elements of life that make us feel like we have to depend on ourselves more than anyone or anything else? What can we do to live a life that says “Jesus is in control”? In what ways does your spiritual life reflect who/what is in control?
    2. When traveling through China, Rosita Forbes found herself at the end of one day with no place to sleep. So she found shelter in a Chinese temple. In the middle of the night, she awoke to find moonlight streaming through the window. The shadows made the gods’ faces scary and unfriendly. What is it about our God that should make us unafraid of him? In what possible scenario would we be afraid of Him?
    3. We have all felt the rejection and pain of a broken promise. The Bible is full of promises that we can count on one hundred percent. Yet we are the ones who, in disobedience, step out of our covenant relationship. Having known the pain of a broken relationship, what can we do to ensure that we don’t take our covenant relationship casually?

 

covenant study 10: grace

The Jews believed that Michael, the archangel, was created for the specific task of being mediator between Israel and God. They also believed that Moses was “created” before the world to be the mediator of the covenant. Following this train of thought, there was nothing unusual in accepting Jesus as part of the original plan to redeem man. But that was not the case. Jesus faced much resistance to his efforts to introduce the new covenant.

Thought Questions:

  1. The word covenant was a common concept throughout Jewish history. However, in the old covenant, it seemed to heavily depend on the obedience of the law. Naturally, because of human tendency, people were continually breaking their relationship with God. How did the Cross re-shape the old covenant to be a “better” covenant? What were the advantages of the new over the old? Under the new covenant, is there a danger of the church taking grace for granted?
  2. Regardless of one’s earnest commitment to spiritual growth, sin continually interrupts the relationship between God and man. This was true before the Cross and continues to be true since the Cross. In what way does the Holy Spirit compensate for these interruptions? What can we do to empty ourselves to be filled by the Spirit? Do you think there is any other alternative besides the Holy Spirit? Explain.
  3. With both the old and the new covenants, there are mutual benefits to both parties. Considering the tendency of man to continually break his end of the bargain, why do you think that history shows God approaching man again and again to renew, modify, or change His covenant with man? What does this persistence of God tell us of His love for us?

Application Questions:

  1. The old covenant was based on a written document (Exodus 24:1-8) while the new covenant is based on the power of the life-giving Spirit. The old covenant is external; the new is an eternal impression on the heart. The old could change behavior; the new changes attitude. Think of other ways the new is “better” than the old.
  2. Some people may say, “How do you know that access to God depends not on achievement or obedience but simply on accepting God’s love?” What examples could you use from your own life to answer their question? How important are our life stories in the actualization of the new covenant? In the eternal scheme of things?
  3. Why was it so hard for people to accept the new covenant when Jesus presented it originally? Is it easier or harder for people to accept it today? Explain.

 

covenant study 09: the sabbath

The law said that the Sabbath Day is to be kept holy, and that on it no work is to be done. This was taken very seriously. The Pharisees and other teachers of the scriptures emphasized that to “carry a burden” was considered work. To avoid misunderstandings, they were very specific about what a burden was. A burden was food equal in weight to a dried fig, enough wine for mixing in a goblet, milk enough for one swallow, honey enough to put upon a wound, etc, etc, etc.

Thought Questions:

  1. With such strict restrictions on Sabbath observance, you can imagine the many hours people during Jesus’ time spent arguing about what a neighbor should or should not have done on the Sabbath day. In what ways are we stuck in similar legalistic ruts today? What are the dangers of being legalistic? Does this mean that we should dismiss church standards that are not completely biblical? Explain.
  2. Teaching is false if it produces a religion which consists solely or mainly in the observance of externals”—William Barclay. How is it easy to confuse religion with religious practices? What are the dangers of doing this? Is there a danger of the Seventh-day Adventist Church falling into such a trap? Explain.
  3. In the ancient days, there was probably no other group of people that was hated as much as the Jews. Their separatism, isolation, and contempt of others only gained them hostility. Their observance of the Sabbath gained them a reputation for laziness. From our observance of the Sabbath, does the world see us as law-abiders or as God-lovers? What is the difference?

Application Questions:

  1. If you could be a good Christian just by doing things like keeping the Sabbath, it would be a much easier religion than it really is. Consider your Sabbath-keeping practices. Does it focus on what you can and cannot do? Or does it focus on strengthening your relationship with your Savior?
  2. The new covenant is an agreement between God and you that is based on an existing intimate relationship. The Sabbath is quality time you spend with God. Obviously then, Sabbath-keeping has a direct relation to one’s covenant relationship. Keeping this in mind, how do you think we, as the remnant church, can restore the sanctity and joy of the Sabbath into both individual and corporate lifestyles?
  3. Using the Sabbath as the barometer, check to see if your religion is based on rituals or on a relationship. Study Jesus’ Sabbath activities. How did they reflect His relationship with His Father? What specific changes do you think you need to make in your Sabbath-keeping practices?

covenant study 08: devotion

“To be truly religious is to love God and to love the men whom God made in His own image; and to love God and man, not with a nebulous sentimentality, but with that total commitment which issues in devotion to God and practical service of men.”—William Barclay

Thought Questions:

  1. “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength” (Deuteronomy 6:5) is part of the “Shema,” the basic, essential creed of Judiasm. Every religious service opens with this sentence. Every child memorizes this sentence before anything else. The ”Shema” is a reminder—over and over again—that our love to God must supersede everything else. In Matthew 22:34-40, Jesus adds an addendum to this creed. Look at Jesus’ words. In what ways are we guilty of the same thing the Pharisees were? How does the new covenant emphasize the application of love?
  2. Within the realm of His great and unfathomable love, God lays down His law. Compare the relationship of God and man with that of a parent and child. What is the purpose of the law in a love relationship? How do boundaries and spoken expectations enhance a relationship? What do God’s laws and boundaries teach us about His character?
  3. Name two or three specific incidents from Jesus’ life that are examples of how He “practiced what He preached”—in other words, instances where He truly loved his neighbor as Himself. What if Jesus were to walk the streets of your town today? How would He show love for His neighbor? Tell me why.

Application Questions:

  1. When you break part of God’s law, His grace comes to the rescue. Does this mean that grace nullifies the need for law? Think of instances when you have appreciated boundaries set by the Bible, the church or society. Share examples of how law and grace have come together in your life.
  2. The old covenant played an important role in Israel’s exodus from Egypt to Canaan. It was a visible sign of God’s protective love and care. In your personal spiritual life, how does the covenant translate into visible signs of God’s love and care? What, if any, is your role in the process of experiencing the byproducts of a covenant relationship with Jesus Christ?
  3. Read Barclay’s quote again. Think of specific ways by which we love God and man with “nebulous sentimentality.” What can you do in your local church to encourage one another to be more sincere in your love to God and your neighbor? Name things, issues, circumstances that interfere in your attempts to be sincere. How can you protect yourself from these interferences?

covenant study 07: loyalty

During the last week of the year 1999, salon.com ran a story entitled, “The Hall of Shame.” It was about the ten most disgraceful and dishonorable sports figures in 1999. The list included everything from one arrested for murder to one accepting a bribe to one caught with drugs. These were all men who had entered into a contract with teams and fans. These were men who began with the best of intentions to play well, to live honorably, to prove worthy of their signatures on their contracts.

Thought Questions:

  1. Before entering into a contract with anyone, it is important to know the person’s character, reputation, and trustworthiness. You need to be certain that the person is someone you can count on. What are the characteristics of God that make us feel comfortable about entering into a covenant relationship with Him? Do you think He first looks for certain characteristics in us before entering into a relationship with us? Explain.
  2. In most partnerships, the benefits to both parties are equal. However, when a divine God enters into a partnership with a sinful human, the relationship begins terribly imbalanced—God brings so much more to the partnership than we ever could. God is holy! How then can we be “partners” with the Creator God? Is it possible to be subject to Him and yet have the privilege of being in a partnership relationship with Him? Explain.

Application Questions:

  1. Before you sign a contract, you should read all the demands, and pay attention to the fine print. When God makes a covenant, He is very clear and to the point. There is no fine print or reading between the lines. His words are a series of definitives: “ I will, I will, I will. . .” (e.g. Exodus 6:6, 7). In response, what will you pledge to God? What will you bring into the partnership? If you were in God’s shoes, how comfortable would you be going into a partnership with someone like yourself?
  2. Contracts are not all alike. They are customized to suit the parties concerned, the type of business, and other factors. In what ways has God customized his covenant with you? How do you show appreciation for the “allowances” He has made in the event that you break your contract? How does God’s role as your friend affect His role as your partner? Is there a conflict between the two roles? Explain.