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Love Fulfills the Law
Summer Quarter: Toward a New Creation
Unit 3: Life on God’s Terms
Sunday school lesson for the week of August 28, 2016
By Rev. V.L. Daughtery, Jr.
Lesson Scripture: Romans 12:1-2; 13:8-10
Background Scripture: Romans 12:1-2; 13:8-10
Design of the place of worship in many United Methodist churches will have the Lord’s Table and an altar. On the table will be a cross and two candles (symbols of the divinity and humanity of Jesus). After an offering is taken and blessed, the gifts are placed upon the table. It is the theological significance of the altar (kneeling rail) that often is missed by worshippers. The purpose of the altar is defined in one of the liturgies used for celebration of Holy Communion. Minister and people proclaim together these words: “And here we offer and present unto Thee, O Lord, ourselves, our souls and bodies, to be a reasonable, holy, and living sacrifice unto thee; humbly beseeching thee that all we who are partakers of this Holy Communion may be filled with thy grace and heavenly benediction.”
Christians do not present animal sacrifices to God. When kneeling at the altar for the Sacrament, worshippers are offering to God a living sacrifice: themselves. Paul called upon Christians in Rome and those who heard and read his words to present their bodies to God as a “living sacrifice.”
Read aloud Romans 12:1-2
There is a pattern of offering practical encouragement to be found in all of Paul’s epistles. This practical encouragement includes a list of ethical requirements governing a Christ-centered lifestyle. One primary concern of the culture in Paul’s time was the human spirit. God becoming human in the Incarnation made the body and the spirit a concern for Christians. The Son of God, divine and human, directs all followers to reflect their love for him in the unity of body and spirit.
All Christians are called to present themselves as living sacrifices to God. This sacrifice involves the total person: body, spirit, relationships, thinking, purpose, and values. Like an animal sacrificed in the ancient Temple, a human’s repentance, confession, and forgiveness will become an offering without moral imperfections. Such a human without blemish is seeking to live God’s will in all things. The human body offered to God is holy because Jesus Christ has upon the cross died to redeem it. A life offered in sacrifice to God is engaged in holy living because the Spirit of God is indwelling. Human lives offered as living sacrifices are pure and pleasing to God.
Humans are not to use culture and persons around them as models. To do so is to be as a chameleon, taking on the coloring of thoughts and actions from a multi-colored cultural spectrum. Gentiles and Jews have become new persons in Christ. Influencing the mind and activities should be the indwelling mind of Christ. This indwelling motivates the human transformed by grace to offer all of life in worship to God. Such an offering is good, acceptable, and perfect.
A student was converted and baptized during a local church retreat. Next semester the lad went to Alaska to work on a fishing boat. Returning from summer employment he was asked how it went with his job and new life in Christ. He replied, “I was there for three months, and my co-workers never found out I was a new Christian.”
When body and spirit are transformed by Christ, there should be a radical change which to keep secret would be like trying to hide the sun on a clear day.
Read aloud Romans 13:8-14
Faith in Christ extends itself through commitment to practical relationships. Such faith fulfills love in spiritual matters and is applied to all social obligations. Humans, having paid all their heavenly and earthly debts, must be ready for the return of Jesus. When the Lord returns, salvation will be complete.
Paul believed that all Christians had an ethical obligation to pay all taxes imposed by legal authorities. A paid-in-full stamp was to be applied to all private debts. Do not owe other humans anything but love received from Jesus. Such love dominates human relationship to God and to peers. Living this love daily fulfills the law.
Paul makes use of the Ten Commandments as foundation for his reasoning. Four of the commandments are directions for a relationship with God. Six are guides for dealing with others. The fullness of these laws is love. It is illustrated by humans loving their neighbors as themselves (Leviticus 19:18, Matthew 22:39). Who is a human’s neighbor? The next person a human meets is a neighbor.
Yearly changes to and from Daylight Savings Time requires preparation, readiness, and adaptation. The same is true of the Second Coming of Jesus. No one knows the date or time, but Paul believed it was near. Humans should be alert and ready.
Paul listed sins found in humans who do not love Christ. There is revelry, drunkenness, immorality, vulgarity, shamelessness, contention, and envy. Such sins are committed in darkness. For those who honor Christ, such activities are unacceptable.
God put on human flesh in the birth of Jesus, the Incarnation. Humans are asked, in a new birth in reverse, to put on Christ. The old person, like old clothes, is to be discarded. Like the process of putting on new clothes, the meaning of the love of Christ will be heard, seen, worn, and exercised.
Reflections for discussion of Romans 12:1-2; 13:8-14
Rev. V.L. Daughtery, Jr. is a retired South Georgia pastor. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
- When Christian love fulfills the law, it refrains from evil and does good things for others. Where is this being done?
- God made humans to love him and use things. Sin causes humans to love things and use each other. Where is this happening?