Shining a light on the weekly Bible Lessons published in the Christian Science Quarterly®

Are Sin, Disease, and Death Real?

from the Golden Text

Ecclesiastes 3:14

I know that, whatsoever God doeth, it shall be for ever: nothing can be put to it, nor any thing taken from it.

Here God’s activity is depicted as permanent, complete, and secure. This verse echoes another scriptural statement: “Ye shall not add unto the word which I command you, neither shall ye diminish aught from it” (Deuteronomy 4:2).

Ekklēsiastēs, the Greek term that provides the title for the book of Ecclesiastes, is qohelet in Hebrew. Both terms generally mean “speaker in an assembly” and are commonly rendered preacher or teacher. Tradition names Solomon as the book’s author, but most sources consider Ecclesiastes to be the work of an unknown sage or group of philosophers. Like Proverbs, it offers instruction for finding wisdom and contentment.

put: added

from the Responsive Reading

Psalms 107:9, 10, 13, 14

He satisfieth the longing soul, and filleth the hungry soul with goodness. Such as sit in darkness and in the shadow of death, being bound in affliction and iron; . . . They cried unto the Lord in their trouble, and he saved them out of their distresses. He brought them out of darkness and the shadow of death, and brake their bands in sunder. 

“Sitting in darkness” can describe any type of oppression—especially imprisonment, literal and figurative. Stories of release from captivity through God’s deliverance are recounted throughout Israel’s history, not only to illustrate salvation from bondage to other nations but as a metaphor for salvation from enslavement to sin.

iron: chains
in sunder: apart; in pieces

Psalms 143:1, 3

Hear my prayer, O Lord, give ear to my supplications: in thy faithfulness answer me, and in thy righteousness. . . . For the enemy hath persecuted my soul.

supplications: sincere, humble requests or prayers
persecuted: treated cruelly or unjustly

from Section 1

1 | Psalms 33:1, 3

Rejoice in the Lord, O ye righteous: for praise is comely for the upright. . . . Sing unto him a new song; play skilfully with a loud noise.

Translation

Rejoice in the LORD, you righteous ones; 

Praise is becoming and appropriate for those who are
upright [in heart—those with moral integrity and godly
character]. . . . 

Play skillfully [on the strings] with a loud and joyful sound.

—Amplified® Bible

A commentator writes, “. . . praise is essentially the offering of the self to God, including one’s musical gifts.” This psalm, he continues, “. . . proclaims God’s reign amid persons and circumstances that deny it. Thus God’s rule is something . . . to be celebrated with joyful praise . . . .”

2 | Isaiah 61:1 

The spirit of the Lord God is upon me; because the Lord hath anointed me to preach good tidings unto the meek; he hath sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to them that are bound.

Translation

The Lord GOD has put his Spirit in me,

    because the LORD has appointed me to tell the

        good news to the poor.

    He has sent me to comfort those whose hearts are broken,

        to tell the captives they are free,

    and to tell the prisoners they are released.

—New Century Version

3 | Romans 12:2 

Be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God.

Translation

Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect.

—New Living Translation

from Section 2

4 | III John 1:11

Beloved, follow not that which is evil, but that which is good. He that doeth good is of God: but he that doeth evil hath not seen God.

Translation

My dear friend, do not follow what is bad; follow what is good. The one who does good belongs to God. But the one who does evil has never known God.

—New Century Version

In this letter, the author commends his friend Gaius for kind and charitable acts toward the faithful (see vv. 5, 6). Then he details hostile behavior from a local community member named Diotrephes—rejection of a letter, “malicious words,” and a refusal to receive fellow believers (see vv. 9, 10). 

The writer next describes outward behavior in larger terms. Doing good comes from “seeing” or knowing God; evil acts expose ignorance of God. Hospitality among the faithful, crucial to maintaining mutual support and harmony, clearly exemplifies the goodness that springs from understanding God.

5 | Genesis 50:15–21

When Joseph’s brethren saw that their father was dead, they said, Joseph will peradventure hate us, and will certainly requite us all the evil which we did unto him. And they sent a messenger unto Joseph, saying, Thy father did command before he died, saying, So shall ye say unto Joseph, Forgive, I pray thee now, the trespass of thy brethren, and their sin; for they did unto thee evil: and now, we pray thee, forgive the trespass of the servants of the God of thy father. And Joseph wept when they spake unto him. And his brethren also went and fell down before his face; and they said, Behold, we be thy servants. And Joseph said unto them, Fear not: for am I in the place of God? But as for you, ye thought evil against me; but God meant it unto good, to bring to pass, as it is this day, to save much people alive. Now therefore fear ye not: I will nourish you, and your little ones. And he comforted them, and spake kindly unto them.

Joseph is Jacob’s eleventh son (and older son of Rachel). Since being sold into slavery by his jealous brothers years before, Joseph has risen to power in Egypt, second only to Pharaoh. Now, under his supervision, Egypt has grain, while many surrounding countries are suffering famine (see 41:1–49, 53–57).

When Joseph’s brothers come to Egypt for food—and after a testing period—he treats them with compassion. Joseph then arranges for his entire family to relocate to Egypt, and at last reunites with his father (see chaps. 42–47). When Jacob dies and his unifying influence is lost, however, the brothers fear that Joseph will seek revenge on them. In a poignant reversal of roles, they offer to become his slaves. Yet Joseph forgives them, pointing out that God’s plan has been at work in their lives.

A Bible authority suggests: “God directs human affairs to a positive end, even when human beings act wrongfully (cf. Gen 45:5–8). The well-being of the ancestors and their Israelite descendants is therefore viewed as more dependent on divine blessing than on human achievement.”

peradventure: possibly; perhaps
requite: pay back or punish for harm done
trespass: unlawful act; wrongdoing
nourish: feed; support

6 | Psalms 86:3, 5 

Be merciful unto me, O Lord: for I cry unto thee daily. . . . For thou, Lord, art good, and ready to forgive; and plenteous in mercy unto all them that call upon thee.

Translation

Be merciful to me, O Lord, 

      for I am calling on you constantly. . . . 

O Lord, you are so good, so ready to forgive, 

      so full of unfailing love for all who ask for your help.

—New Living Translation

7 | Luke 11:4

Forgive us our sins; for we also forgive every one that is indebted to us.

Where Matthew’s record of this petition uses the word debts (see Matthew 6:12), Luke specifies sins—Greek hamartia, defined as failure or fault. But he preserves the image of indebtedness, apparently a customary idiom of the time.

Christ Jesus presents forgiveness as central to prayer, highlighting the tie between God’s ongoing forgiveness of us and our own forgiving hearts. One source observes, “Whoever receives [God’s forgiveness] is placed in a new relationship that calls for and makes possible forgiveness of others.” 

The Savior models forgiveness in his interaction with the adulterous woman. “Sin no more” (John 8:11) goes beyond pardon for wrongdoing to the expectation of reformation—and to the innocence natural to God’s children.

from Section 3

8 | Acts 10:38

God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Ghost and with power: who went about doing good, and healing all that were oppressed of the devil; for God was with him.

Translation

. . . God anointed Jesus from Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and with power. Jesus went everywhere and did good things, such as healing everyone who was under the devil’s power. Jesus did these things because God was with him.

—GOD’S WORD Translation

Anointing has deep symbolic meaning in the Bible. When a prophet anointed a king, he was conferring authority and, often, indicating that God had chosen the individual. In this passage, Peter affirms that Jesus has been anointed with spiritual authority and power by God. Indeed, the title Christ signifies “the Anointed One.”

“Oppressed of the devil” is also translated “harassed by the devil” and “under the sway of the devil.”

9 | Luke 13:14–17

The ruler of the synagogue answered with indignation, because that Jesus had healed on the sabbath day, and said unto the people, There are six days in which men ought to work: in them therefore come and be healed, and not on the sabbath day. The Lord then answered him, and said, Thou hypocrite, doth not each one of you on the sabbath loose his ox or his ass from the stall, and lead him away to watering? And ought not this woman, being a daughter of Abraham, whom Satan hath bound, lo, these eighteen years, be loosed from this bond on the sabbath day? And when he had said these things, all his adversaries were ashamed: and all the people rejoiced for all the glorious things that were done by him.

Honor was highly regarded in Hebrew culture. A public affront could be deemed unforgivable, and those shamed sometimes sought to regain their honor by degrading the one who embarrassed them.

In this incident, the ruler of the synagogue is dishonored by Jesus’ pointed correction interpreting Mosaic law to include compassion and healing. His shame contrasts sharply with the people’s joyful approval of the Master’s words and works. It is little wonder that synagogue elders look for ways to reprove and humiliate Jesus throughout his ministry (see examples in Matthew 22:15–22; Luke 11:53, 54; John 8:3–11).

indignation: strong displeasure; anger
sabbath day: day set aside for worship and rest

from Section 4

11 | I Corinthians 8:6

To us there is but one God, the Father, of whom are all things, and we in him; and one Lord Jesus Christ, by whom are all things, and we by him.

Translation

. . . for us believers, 

           There is one God the Father. 

                All things come from him, and we belong to him. 

           And there is one Lord Jesus Christ. 

                All things exist through him, and we live

                      through him.

—Common English Bible

Paul frames the fundamental fact of Hebrew and Christian doctrine—the existence of only one God—as a confession of faith, similar to the Jewish Shema (see Deuteronomy 6:4). To this definitive assertion he adds the Christian’s recognition of Christ as the way to know God’s goodness and omnipotence. 

12 | Matthew 10:1, 8

When he had called unto him his twelve disciples, he gave them power against unclean spirits, to cast them out, and to heal all manner of sickness and all manner of disease. . . . Heal the sick, cleanse the lepers, raise the dead, cast out devils: freely ye have received, freely give.

Jesus simultaneously qualifies his disciples for the dual role of healing and preaching and authorizes them to take it on. A scholar explains that this sacred ministry carried “a message which was not confined to news of eternity; it proposed to change conditions on earth. . . . It insisted that physical health was as integral a part of God’s purpose as spiritual health.”

from Section 5

13 | Acts 5:12 

By the hands of the apostles were many signs and wonders wrought among the people.

wrought: worked

15 | I Corinthians 15:55, 57, 58

O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory? . . . Thanks be to God, which giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore, my beloved brethren, be ye stedfast, unmoveable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, forasmuch as ye know that your labour is not in vain in the Lord.

Translation

“Death, where is your victory? 

     Death, where is your power to hurt?” 

. . . we thank God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. So my dear brothers, stand strong. Do not let anything move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord. You know that your work in the Lord is never wasted.

—International Children’s Bible

Paul’s theme of victory over death is repeated in another epistle to the church at Corinth (see II Corinthians 2:14–16). “The future is so certain,” notes a commentator, “that the Apostle speaks of it as a subject for present thanksgiving; the victory is one which God gives now through Jesus Christ.”

from Section 6

18 | Hebrews 7:19

The law made nothing perfect, but the bringing in of a better hope did; by the which we draw nigh unto God.

As foundational as it was to both Jewish and Christian instruction, Hebrew law alone could not bring people into reconciliation with God. In it, priests from the tribe of Levi were designated as intermediaries between God and the Israelites, with ritual sacrifices employed to cleanse or absolve from sin. Yet centuries of observing these traditions had not achieved lasting salvation. A scriptural authority remarks, “Of and by itself the ritual could cleanse no conscience, impart no peace, bring no soul into the presence of God.”

“Better hope” refers to the teachings of Christ Jesus as the path to atonement with God. For Christians, Jesus embodies a new sense of priesthood, in which God’s children have direct access to Him. (Scholars see this new definition underscored by the Savior’s membership in the tribe of Judah, not the tribe of Levi.) In the New Testament, “through Christ” and “in Christ” became common phrases for portraying this unbroken divine link. 

Eggizō, the Greek term rendered draw nigh, also appears in Jesus’ declarations “The kingdom of heaven is at hand [eggizō]” and “The kingdom of God is come nigh [eggizō] unto you” (Matthew 4:17; Luke 10:11). Oneness with God is shown to be an eternal verity, demonstrable by all of His children.

19 | Revelation 21:1–4

I saw a new heaven and a new earth: for the first heaven and the first earth were passed away; and there was no more sea. And I John saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down from God out of heaven, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a great voice out of heaven saying, Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and he will dwell with them, and they shall be his people, and God himself shall be with them, and be their God. And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away.

New (Greek, kainos) as used here relates to quality rather than time—meaning not recently created but agelessly fresh and vital. What was promised in Isaiah 65:17 is made evident: “Behold, I create new heavens and a new earth: and the former shall not be remembered, nor come into mind.”

Paul cites this concept in a letter: “If any man be in Christ, he is a new [kainos] creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new [kainos]” (II Corinthians 5:17). “There was no more sea” recalls such Hebrew Bible passages as Psalms 66:6 and 74:13–15, in which divine power is described as bringing safety and order to the dangers of the sea.

“Former things” represents not only the material world with its appetites and desires but every source of pain and suffering as well. Here the Greek word translated former (prōtos) denotes first in time, place, or rank. It occurs in Jesus’ admonition, “Many that are first [prōtos] shall be last; and the last shall be first [prōtos]” (Matthew 19:30).

adorned: wearing beautiful ornaments, such as flowers or jewels


Read a related article, “ ‘Thou art loosed from thine infirmity’ ” by Lottie B. Dennis.

The Bible Lessons serve as weekly study guides as well as the sermon in every Christian Science Sunday church service. Learn more at BibleLesson.com

Resources quoted in this issue

Cit. 1: Keck, Leander E., et al., eds. The New Interpreter’s Bible Commentary. Vol. 3, Introduction to Hebrew Poetry, Job, Psalms, Introduction to Wisdom Literature, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, Song of Songs. Nashville: Abingdon, 2015.

Cit. 5: Green, Joel B., et al., eds. The CEB Study Bible. Nashville: Common English Bible, 2013.

Cit. 7: Keck, Leander E., et al., eds. The New Interpreter’s Bible Commentary. Vol. 7, The Gospels and Narrative Literature, Jesus and the Gospels, Matthew, Mark. Nashville: Abingdon, 2015.

Cit. 12: Barclay, William. The Daily Study Bible: The Gospel of Luke. Edinburgh: Saint Andrew, 1955. Revised and updated by Saint Andrew, 2001. Reprinted as The New Daily Study Bible: The Gospel of Luke. Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox, 2001–04

Cit. 15: Ellicott, Charles John, ed. A Bible Commentary for English Readers by Various Writers. London: Cassell, 1897–1905. Also available at studylight.org/commentaries.

Cit. 18: Buttrick, George Arthur, Nolan B. Harmon, et al., eds. The Interpreter’s Bible: A Commentary in Twelve Volumes. Vol. 11, Philippians, Colossians, Thessalonians, Pastoral Epistles, Philemon, Hebrews. Nashville: Abingdon, 1951–57.

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