Sunday School 12 23 2012

 

“Living in the Light of Christ”

Lesson Text:John 1:1-5, 14; Ephesians 5:1-2, 6-14

Background Scripture:John 1:1-14; Ephesians 4:17 – 5:20

Devotional Reading:Psalm 97

 

John 1:1-5 (KJV)

1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.

2 The same was in the beginning with God.

3 All things were made by him; and without him was not any thing made that was made.

4 In him was life; and the life was the light of men.

5 And the light shineth in darkness; and the darkness comprehended it not.

………………………………………………………………………

14 And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, (and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father,) full of grace and truth. 

Ephesians 5:1-2, 6-14 (KJV)

1 Be ye therefore followers of God, as dear children;

2 And walk in love, as Christ also hath loved us, and hath given himself for us an offering and a sacrifice to God for a sweetsmelling savour.

………………………………………………………………………

6 Let no man deceive you with vain words: for because of these things cometh the wrath of God upon the children of disobedience.

7 Be not ye therefore partakers with them.

8 For ye were sometimes darkness, but now are ye light in the Lord: walk as children of light:

9 (For the fruit of the Spirit is in all goodness and righteousness and truth;)

10 Proving what is acceptable unto the Lord.

11 And have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather reprove them.

12 For it is a shame even to speak of those things which are done of them in secret.

13 But all things that are reproved are made manifest by the light: for whatsoever doth make manifest is light.

14 Wherefore he saith, Awake thou that sleepest, and arise from the dead, and Christ shall give thee light. 

OBJECTS

To understand God’s commandment to imitate Christ and walkas children of light.

To understand that Jesus is the Light of the World – the source of our light, and we are called to shine as lights in our world.

To reflect Christ, Who wants to shine through us in this sin-darkened world.

 

INTRODUCTION

Grotesque Creatures of Darkness

   Advances in technology allow researchers to penetrate the deepest parts of the oceans with cameras. This previously unseen world (where there is no light) was thought by some to be devoid of living creatures, but it has been revealed as having an astounding variety of creatures. The pictures are unsettling though, for the creatures are grotesque and fearsome. They have been given names such as coffinfish, fangtooth, vampire squid, and viperfish. They are creatures of literal, physical darkness.

   Occasionally, we hear of people who thrive (in an earthly sense) in the figurative darkness of secrecy. Take, for example, the discovery in 2010 that the officials of a small city near Los Angeles were receiving exorbitant salary and benefit packages. The city manager's compensation was nearly double that of the President of the United States. The police chief of this small, working-class burg was receiving about 50 percent more than the police chief for the city of Los Angeles. This happened because the numbers were negotiated in secret and not made public until investigators revealed them. Public outrage was predictable (and justified). The darkness of secrecy had protected these city officials from the wrath of their constituents, at least for a time.

   God is omniscient (all-knowing).  Nothing is hidden from Him. We cannot keep secrets from God. We cannot fool Him. God has all the facts, all the time, for all men and women. There is no darkness in God (1 John 1:5), for He knows our every thought and action.

   While some may find this terrifying, it should not be. Christians should take comfort in the belief that God is light, utter light that completely dispels darkness and leaves no shadows. We, as the people of God, can and should live in God's light with joy and confidence.

 

LESSON BACKGROUND

Times: eternity past; A.D. 60

Places: eternity past; from Rome

 

Imitating Our Father

   Previous lessons have briefly mentioned the presence of the Temple of Diana (Artemis) in the city of Ephesus.  The people of Ephesus were proud of this temple, one of the seven wonders of the ancient world. The Greeks worshipped Artemis as the goddess of wild animals and hunting; her counterpart in Roman mythology was Diana, so the famous Ephesian temple was called by both names.  

   This temple was one of the largest buildings of its time. Its rectangular footprint was about the size of an American football field, including the end zones. The temple was constructed entirely of marble (except for the roof) and featured more than 100 massive 60-foot columns. We estimate that this temple was 600 years old when Paul first visited Ephesus.

   That temple was a place of pilgrimage, a type of tourist attraction. Religious sightseeing meant that the Ephesians' love for Diana/Artemis was motivated by both religious and economic considerations. Any threat to this temple would have been seen as an attack on the city's heritage, prestige, and economy.  Paul's preaching in Ephesus brought many people to the Lord and caused them to change their religious practices. The threat posed by Paul's message alarmed some Ephesians who depended on the temple for their livelihoods (Acts 19:27). This led to mob violence, which resulted in Paul's departure from the city (20:1).

   Paul was under house arrest in Rome when he wrote his letter to the Ephesians about five years after this incident. It is likely that some of his Ephesian readers were former worshippers at the temple of Diana/Artemis. Undoubtedly, some were still struggling to make a clean break with their pagan past. Some may have been living a double life: respectable church member in public, goddess worshipper in private.

   Paul was aware of the strong pull of a convert's former life, how tempting it was to participate in things that are displeasing to God and shameful for Christians. In this week’s lesson, Paul strongly stated that if we are the children of God, then we ought to imitate our Father. This is the basis for two of the admonitions in this section which we will study. God is love (1 John 4:8); therefore, "walk in love” (Eph. 5:1-2). God is light (1 John 1:5); therefore, walk as children of light (Eph. 5:3-14). Of course, each of these "walks" is a part of Paul's exhortation to "walk in purity.” This forms the backdrop of the message of Paul we will look at as a part of this week's lesson. But first we will consider a section from the Gospel of John.

 

Life-giving Light (John 1:1-5, 14)

1. How does the Apostle John address the eternal quality of Jesus and show that He preexisted with God the Father before the earth was formed?  (John 1:1-2)

   We are used to seeing Christmas lessons feature the birth of Jesus in Bethlehem. However, John begins his treatment of Jesus' origin. Bible students will recognize John's language as borrowed from the opening lines of Genesis. John wants us to make this connection. He does this to help us understand the prehistory of Jesus, His existence before He was born in Bethlehem. The pre-Bethlehem Jesus is the Word (compare Revelation 19:13). This harkens back to the Genesis description of God's creative word, how God created the world by speaking it into existence (Genesis 1:3, 6, 9).

   The phrase the Word was with God indicates a distinction between the Word and God; at the same time, the phrase the Word was God indicates unity. Christian belief in the deity of Jesus as the Son of God does not mean that Christians believe in two gods. There is only one God, and the preexistent Christ is an essential part of God in ways we cannot fully understand (1 Corinthians 8:6).

2. How does John show Jesus as the Creator and the Originator of life and light?  (vs. 3-4)

   If we have any doubts about John's intention to use the creation account to introduce Jesus, such doubts are now put to rest. John does not follow the detailed, day-by-day format of Genesis, but simply gives a summary statement: all things were made by him. This is a grand affirmation of the deity of the Word, for there is nothing more godlike than to be the Creator of everything (Colossians 1:16, 17; Hebrews 1:2).

   God's first act in creation was to command “Let there be light,” light described as separated from darkness (Genesis 1:3, 4). Reading the creation account carefully, we notice that this light is something different from the “two great lights,” for sun and moon are not created until day four (1:16).

   John sees light as much more than a physical phenomenon of electromagnetic radiation. Light is tied to life, and the source for both is the creating Word of God. All living creatures on earth depend on the light of the sun, either directly or indirectly. Even the denizens of the deep oceans where there is no light depend on food sources that drop to their levels from waters that do receive light.

   But John is dealing with spiritual truths, not physical science. Everyone needs the light that comes from God in order to have life. This light is personified in Jesus, who later announces “I am the light of the world” (John 8:12).

What Do You Think?

   Of the things God has revealed about himself through the Word (Jesus), which changes people the most in your experience?

Talking Points for Your Discussion

   Something Jesus said | Something Jesus did | Something in Jesus' nature

 

3. How does the John use the themes of light and darkness to illustrate his spiritual message? (v. 5)

   Light and darkness are recurring themes in John's Gospel. God is light (1 John 1:5) while Satan is "the power of darkness" (Luke 22:53). People love either the light or the darkness, and this love controls their actions (John 3:16-19). Those who believe on Christ are the "sons of light" (John 12:35-36). Just as the first Creation began with "Let there be light!" so the New Creation begins with the entrance of light into the heart of the believer (2 Cor. 4:3-6). The coming of Jesus Christ into the world was the dawning of a new day for sinful man (Luke 1:78-79).  

   Light and darkness are not equal, opposing forces like the two poles of a magnet. If you enter a completely darkened room and light a small birthday candle, there will be light in that room. There is no equivalent for darkness. You cannot enter a brightly lit room and activate a darkness candle to dim the light. Light always trumps darkness.

   John uses this physical truth to illustrate his spiritual message. The Greek word translated “comprehended” has a double meaning, with the second meaning being “to take down” or “to overcome.” The forces of darkness can neither understand nor defeat the light of Jesus. The light of the Word will always shine, even in the darkest, most depraved human conditions.

 

4. Why is it important that John discussed Christ’s humanity? (v. 14)

   Even though John's emphasis is the deity of Christ, he makes it clear that the Son of God (“the Word”) takes human form, becoming flesh, and was subject to the sinless infirmities of human nature. John and the other disciples each had a personal experience that convinced them of the reality of the body of Jesus.  In his Gospel, John points out that Jesus was weary (John 4:6) and thirsty (John 4:7). He groaned within (John 11:33) and openly wept (John 11:35). On the cross, He thirsted (John 19:28), died (John 19:30), and bled (John 19:34). After His resurrection, He proved to Thomas and the other disciples that He still had a real body (John 20:24-29), howbeit, a glorified body.

   He took on Himself sinless human nature and identified with us in every aspect of life from birth to death. "The Word" was not an abstract concept of philosophy, but a real Person who could be seen, touched, and heard.

   We cannot fully understand how the Creator can be encapsulated in the form of a creature. But that is the message of Christmas! When God comes in the flesh (an event we call the incarnation), that does not mean that the power of God's light is minimized.  John's word picture we beheldhis glory evokes an image of blinding light (compare Matthew 17:1, 2; Luke 9:32).  John is an eyewitness (1 John 1:1). Today we can behold God's glory through the eyes of faith. God is revealed through Jesus, His Son (John 14:9). Jesus reveals God's glory in His words and deeds (John 2:11). Through His grace and truth (John 1:14).

What Do You Think?

   How does the fact that we do not serve a distant, impersonal God affect you?

Talking Points for Your Discussion

   In the way you pray | In the example you set | In your speech patterns

 

Walking In Love (Ephesians 5:1-2)

5. How is our life’s walk supposed to imitate the life of Jesus?  (Ephesians 5:1-2)

   The word "followers"in Ephesians 5:1 is the word mimics, so that the verse can be translated: "Be ye imitators of God as beloved children." As God's dear children, our lives should show the impact of our relationship with Him.

   Jesus' atoning sacrifice for human sins is the premier act of love that motivates sacrificial love in our own lives (see John 15:13).  As we follow God, we will make loving sacrifices for others (compare Romans 14:15).  Paul accentuates the sacrificial nature of Christ's death by borrowing language from Leviticus, which describes the burning of animal sacrifices as “a sweet savour” (see Leviticus 4:31). These were sin offerings, given as acts of atonement.

What Do You Think?

   In what specific way do you need to grow in obedience to the command to “walk in love”? How will you do this?

Talking Points for Your Discussion

   Moving from word to deed (James 2:16) | In keeping pure motives (Matthew 6:1-4)

   In embracing the area of ministry for which you are gifted (Acts 6:2-4)

 

WalkingAs Children Of Light (Ephesians 5:6-14)

6. What brings God’s wrath on the children of disobedience?  (vs. 6-7)

   In Paul's day, there were false teachers who argued that believers could live in sin and get away with it. These are the character and consequences of the sins just mentioned in verses 3-5. These deceivers had many arguments to convince ignorant Christians that they could sin repeatedly and still enter God's kingdom. "You were saved by grace!" they argued. "Therefore go ahead and sin that God's grace might abound!" Paul answered that foolish argument in Romans 6. "Sin in the life of a believer is different from sin in the life of an unsaved person!" Yes—its worse! God judges sin no matter where He finds it, and He does not want to find it in the life of one of His own children.

   Unbelievers and their actions are objects of God’s wrath. Christians are to have a passion for souls, a strong desire to save the lost by sharing the gospel. This may entail having redemptive friendships with unbelievers, but we are not to take part in their sinful activities.

 

7. What does Paul mean that we were “sometimes darkness,” and how are we to now walkas children of light?  (v. 8)

   Paul's language is strong and uncompromising. He does not say “Ye were once walking in darkness.” Rather, he says ye were sometimes darkness. The word sometimes here does not mean “occasionally,” but “then,” “in the past,” or “at one time.” Paul speaks in absolute terms because the heart without Christ is not partially enlightened. It is dark, deep in sin, and without hope of salvation (compare John 3:19).

   Paul matches the severity of his statement in verse 8with the equally powerful assertion now are ye light.This is not a light of our own inner goodness, but light in the Lord. To be in the Lord's light means we see sin for what it is: a deadly lifestyle that keeps us from fellowship with God. Faith in Christ means we will live our lives in concert with the holiness of God, in whom we have put our trust (see Romans 13:12).

   To "walk as children of light" means to live before the eyes of God, not hiding anything.  But walking"as children of light" also means revealing God's light in our daily lives. By our character and conduct, we bring God's light into a dark world. As God's lights, we help others find their way to Christ. The mind of the unsaved person is blinded by Satan (2 Cor. 4:3-4) and by sin (Eph. 4:17-19). Only as we witness and share Christ can the light enter in.

What Do You Think?

   Who is a positive example of the phrase walkas children of light? How is darkness driven back by the influence of this believer?

Talking Points for Your Discussion

   Examples in the Bible | Examples from nonbiblical history | Examples from your life

 

8. What are the spiritual products of the fruit of the Spirit? How can they be proven acceptable?  (vs. 9-10)

   The apostle said that the “fruit” (v. 9), or product, of the Spirit is “all goodness and righteousness and truth.” The Greek noun rendered “goodness” refers to kindness, generosity of spirit, and moral excellence. The noun translated “righteousness” describes justice and fairness. The noun rendered “truth” stands for genuineness and honesty. As for Paul’s second demand, he told the Ephesians to try to learn what is pleasing to the Lord (v. 10). In every situation that comes up, and every time we have a decision to make, we should seek the Father’s will. Once we have discerned what God desires, we should determine to follow His leading. (Cook)

 

9. How can we unmask the unfruitful works of darkness? (vs. 11-14)

   Unlike light, which produces wholesome spiritual fruit such as goodness, righteousness, and truth, darkness is barren and leads to nothing good, whether temporal or eternal. We are to have no joint-participation with the barren works of darkness or “sin” (v. 11). The character, the course, and the consequences of sin are made clear and tested by the light.    

   What the “disobedient” (v. 12) did “in secret” was so disgraceful that Paul thought some of its shamefulness putrefied believers who spoke unnecessarily about these degenerate activities. Be that as it may, the apostle’s statement did not conflict with what he said in verse 11 about believers exposing the true nature of wickedness. Specifically, it is God working through us who unmasks sin. The apostle compared the process to “light” (v. 13) shining into the darkness and making “manifest”what was previously concealed. It is God’s Word operating in the lives of Jesus’ followers that discloses evil deeds so that their true character can be seen by everyone.

   Exposure by the light of Christ is just what the unsaved require, especially if they are to be convinced of their need for change (v. 14). To support his point, Paul quoted a fragment of poetry, which appears to have been based on Isaiah 9:2.  

  While Paul knows that a full appreciation of God's complete awareness of our hidden actions may be a terrifying prospect, it has an encouraging aspect too. The pure light that godliness shines on our sin has not only the power to expose its evil, but also the power to transform us.

   Paul does not intend the church to be a place of embarrassment and fear where sin is constantly outed.  He intends the church to be a place where brothers and sisters work together to change sinful lives into lives of victory over sin. Christ is the light of the world to reveal the Father and draw us to Him. If we keep our focus on God and our paths directed toward Him, the issues of sin begin to fade away as our lives become more and more conformed to His will and the example of Christ.

 

POINTS TO PONDER

1.Without Christ and the light He brings, the world walks in darkness.  (John 1:1-5) 

2.Imitating Christ is a sweet-smelling savor to God.  (Eph. 5:1-2)

3.Believers should not take part in the sinful activities of unbelievers.  (vs. 6-7)

4.Be a light to the world and demonstrate goodness, righteousness and truth.  (vs. 8-10)

5.Our lives should shed light on and reprove sinful activities.  (vs. 11-12)

6.The Spirit gives new life to all who repents and receives Christ as Saviour and Lord. (vs. 13-14)

 

CONCLUSION

The Light Has Dawned

   One of the most stirring prophecies of the Old Testament is found in Isaiah: “The people that walked in darkness have seen a great light: they that dwell in the land of the shadow of death, upon them hath the light shined” (Isaiah 9:2; see Matthew 4:16).  During the Christmas season, we often celebrate by lighting candles. This has great symbolic power for us. Before the coming of the Christ, humanity lived in the darkness of sin with no hope. Even the nation of Israel, the chosen people of God, were inadequate in keeping their law and unwilling to share their blessings with Gentiles.

   But light has come. Christ is the light of the world. He was present when the world was created, bringing physical light into the universe. He is present now as the living Word of God, breathing life into souls dead in sin. His light penetrates all darkness, exposes all secrets, and frees us from the bondage of hidden sin. Shine, Jesus, may You shine!

PRAYER

   Father, may we never be afraid of Your light. May we come out of darkness, and walk in Your brightly lighted road of righteousness. May we never cease to honor Christ with our lives, for He is our eternal light! We pray these things in Jesus' name, amen.

THOUGHT TO REMEMBER

   We are to reflect Christ, who is the Light of the World!

 


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