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

Mortals and Immortals

from the Golden Text

Ephesians 4:24

Put on your new nature, created to be like God—truly righteous and holy.

—New Living Translation

“Put on” is translated from the Greek verb endyō, meaning to clothe oneself in or to wear—here, applied symbolically to taking on characteristics, virtues, and intentions. Later it appears in the counsel, “Put on the whole armour of God” (6:11), as well as in the statement “Ye have . . . put on the new man” and the charge “Put on . . . bowels of mercies” (Colossians 3:9, 10, 12, Responsive Reading).

Twentieth-century English scholar J. B. Phillips offers this wording: “Put on the clean fresh clothes of the new life which was made by God’s design for righteousness. . . .”

from the Responsive Reading

Colossians 3:12

Put on therefore, as the elect of God, holy and beloved, bowels of mercies, kindness, humbleness of mind, meekness, longsuffering.

bowels of mercies: deep feelings of kindness, affection, or forgiveness
longsuffering: patience; persistence in spite of challenges

from Section 1

1 | Leviticus 19:2

Ye shall be holy: for I the Lord your God am holy.

This declaration can be seen as both an affirmation and a call—an affirmation of the inherent holiness of God’s people, who derive their sanctity from the holy nature of God, and a call to live in obedience to God’s statutes, separate from the impurity of the world.

First Peter references Leviticus: “As he which hath called you is holy, so be ye holy in all manner of conversation; because it is written, Be ye holy; for I am holy” (1:15, 16).

3 | Romans 9:8

They which are the children of the flesh, these are not the children of God.

Translation

. . . it is not the children by physical descent who are God’s children . . . .

—Christian Standard Bible

Using the phrase “children of the flesh” to describe Abraham’s descendants, Paul explains that mere physical association doesn’t identify God’s children. Earlier he has asserted, “He is not a Jew, which is one outwardly; . . . but he is a Jew, which is one inwardly; . . . whose praise is not of men, but of God” (2:28, 29). In 8:16 (citation 4) the apostle adds, “The Spirit itself beareth witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God.” God, Spirit, determines the spiritual status of His offspring.

4 | Romans 8:14, 16 

As many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God. . . . The Spirit itself beareth witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God.

Translation

All who are led by God’s Spirit are God’s sons and daughters. . . . The same Spirit agrees with our spirit, that we are God’s children.

—Common English Bible

from Section 2

5 | Psalms 78:1, 2 

Give ear, O my people, to my law: incline your ears to the words of my mouth. I will open my mouth in a parable:

Translation

My people, listen to my teaching. 
       Listen to what I say.
I will speak using stories. 

—International Children’s Bible

6 | Jeremiah 24:1–3

The Lord shewed me, and, behold, two baskets of figs were set before the temple of the Lord, after that Nebuchadrezzar king of Babylon had carried away captive Jeconiah the son of Jehoiakim king of Judah, and the princes of Judah, with the carpenters and smiths, from Jerusalem, and had brought them to Babylon. One basket had very good figs, even like the figs that are first ripe: and the other basket had very naughty figs, which could not be eaten, they were so bad. Then said the Lord unto me, What seest thou, Jeremiah? And I said, Figs; the good figs, very good; and the evil, very evil, that cannot be eaten, they are so evil.

Jeremiah’s prophecy is presented at a time of great upheaval. Babylonian king Nebuchadnezzar has deported King Jeconiah (also known as Jehoiachin) and many leading citizens from Judah. Some who escaped the Exile apparently see it as an indictment of the deportees and view themselves as morally superior. 

A commentary finds two messages in Jeremiah’s vision: “One is a word of continuing judgment against those who presumptuously think they are right, convinced by their survival of their virtue. They shall become like rotten figs and shall undergo the same kind of judgment—destruction and exile. . . . The other word is a surprising announcement of new things, of hope beyond exile, of the intention of the Lord to keep working with this people, to continue the promise of land and life on it.”

smiths: metal workers

8 | I Corinthians 15:48 

As is the earthy, such are they also that are earthy: and as is the heavenly, such are they also that are heavenly.

Translation

Like the man made of dust, so are those who are made of dust; like the heavenly man, so are those who are heavenly.

—Holman Christian Standard Bible

from Section 3

10 | John 1:12, 13

As many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name: which were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God.

Translation

. . . to all who did accept him and believe in him he gave the right to become children of God. They did not become his children in any human way—by any human parents or human desire. They were born of God.

—New Century Version

In this part of his introduction, the Gospel writer contrasts those who welcomed Jesus with those who rejected him (see v. 11). Before describing believers as “of God,” he sets them apart from three universally accepted aspects of human creation—ancestry, desire, and will-power. Stature as a child of God comes only through belief in His Son.

11 | John 3:1–7

There was a man of the Pharisees, named Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews: the same came to Jesus by night, and said unto him, Rabbi, we know that thou art a teacher come from God: for no man can do these miracles that thou doest, except God be with him. Jesus answered and said unto him, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God. Nicodemus saith unto him, How can a man be born when he is old? can he enter the second time into his mother’s womb, and be born? Jesus answered, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God. That which is born of the flesh is flesh; and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. Marvel not that I said unto thee, Ye must be born again.

As a ruling Pharisee, Nicodemus represents the class of educated Jewish thinkers. One scriptural authority sees broad significance in this fact, suggesting, “. . . two communities confront each other here; the Christian followers of Jesus and the Jewish community represented by Israel’s teacher (v. 10).”

Though Nicodemus recognizes Jesus’ healings as signs of divine authority, Jesus demands much more—being “born again.” A radical spiritual rebirth, not physical change, is called for.

from Section 4

12 | I John 2:15, 17 

Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him. . . . And the world passeth away, and the lust thereof: but he that doeth the will of God abideth for ever. 

Translation

Don’t love the world and what it offers. Those who love the world don’t have the Father’s love in them. . . . the world and its evil desires are passing away. But the person who does what God wants lives forever.

—GOD’S WORD Translation

lust: intense desire

13 | Luke 19:1–10

Jesus entered and passed through Jericho. And, behold, there was a man named Zacchæus, which was the chief among the publicans, and he was rich. And he sought to see Jesus who he was; and could not for the press, because he was little of stature. And he ran before, and climbed up into a sycomore tree to see him: for he was to pass that way. And when Jesus came to the place, he looked up, and saw him, and said unto him, Zacchæus, make haste, and come down; for to-day I must abide at thy house. And he made haste, and came down, and received him joyfully. And when they saw it, they all murmured, saying, That he was gone to be guest with a man that is a sinner. And Zacchæus stood, and said unto the Lord; Behold, Lord, the half of my goods I give to the poor; and if I have taken any thing from any man by false accusation, I restore him fourfold. And Jesus said unto him, This day is salvation come to this house, forsomuch as he also is a son of Abraham. For the Son of man is come to seek and to save that which was lost.

Christ Jesus was indeed “a friend of publicans and sinners,” an accusation of his enemies (Luke 7:34; see also 5:27–3215:2). On the eve of his last entry into Jerusalem, he has a final encounter with one of these outcasts, the rich tax collector Zacchaeus. The Master has previously censured the wealthy—in his words, “Woe unto you that are rich!”; in the parable of the rich man; in the story of another rich man and the beggar Lazarus; and in his interchange with a wealthy ruler (see 6:24; 12:16–2116:19–3118:18–25). Now he witnesses a prosperous man’s regeneration. 

Zacchaeus’ story details the far-reaching effects of this reformation, summarized by a scholar this way: “. . . a reordered life that is shaped by the values and commitments of God’s realm: honest admission of responsibility for past corrupt business dealings; resolve to make it right, to enact justice for the benefit of those whom he has wronged . . . ; and commitment to generous sharing of his great wealth to meet the needs of the poor.” 

make haste: hurry
murmured: grumbled; muttered
fourfold: four times as much
forsomuch as: because

14 | II Corinthians 5:17

If any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new.

Translation

. . . if any person is [ingrafted] in Christ (the Messiah) he is a new creation (a new creature altogether); the old [previous moral and spiritual condition] has passed away. Behold, the fresh and new has come!

—Amplified® Bible Classic

Being created anew is central to New Testament doctrine. Ephesians 4:23 counsels, “Be renewed in the spirit of your mind.” First Peter refers to “being born again, not of corruptible seed, but of incorruptible, by the word of God” (1:23).

“While this newness is true individually,” a commentator observes, “Paul is saying much more. . . . There is a new covenant, a new perspective, a new body, a new church. . . . This is not a superficial change that will be quickly superseded by another novelty. This is an entirely new order of all creation under Christ’s authority.”

from Section 5

15 | I Corinthians 15:51, 52

Behold, I shew you a mystery; We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump: for the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed.

Translation

. . . let me reveal to you a wonderful secret. We will not all die, but we will all be transformed! It will happen in a moment, in the blink of an eye, when the last trumpet is blown. For when the trumpet sounds, those who have died will be raised to live forever. And we who are living will also be transformed.

—New Living Translation

Although early Christians accepted resurrection as an end-time possibility for those who had already passed on, they puzzled about resurrection for those still living. Paul assures them of the spiritual transformation of both the living and the dead—a change that will replace all stages of mortality with immortal life. 

“The last trump” likely alludes to Jesus’ apocalyptic prediction about the Parousia, or Second Coming: “He shall send his angels with a great sound of a trumpet” (Matthew 24:31). Over the centuries, trumpets had called people to temple worship and into battle and become a symbol of “the day of the Lord” (see example in Joel 2:1).

16 | II Corinthians 5:4

We that are in this tabernacle do groan, being burdened: not for that we would be unclothed, but clothed upon, that mortality might be swallowed up of life.

Two everyday metaphors (habitation and clothing) portray the dropping of mortal existence for the divine. As in English, groaning or sighing (Greek, stenazō) conveys deep longing or distress.

“Swallow up” is translated from the Greek verb katapinō, signifying drink down, devour, or consume. As in his affirmation “Death is swallowed up [katapinō] in victory” (I Corinthians 15:54, citation 18), Paul is attesting that nothing mortal will be left—mortality is to be completely destroyed by immortality. Hebrews 11:29 employs katapinō in depicting the drowning of enemies at the Red Sea, and Revelation 12:16 uses it to picture the swallowing of the dragon’s flood.

17 | John 11:1, 4, 11–13

Now a certain man was sick, named Lazarus, of Bethany, the town of Mary and her sister Martha. . . . When Jesus heard that, he said, This sickness is not unto death, but for the glory of God, that the Son of God might be glorified thereby. . . . Our friend Lazarus sleepeth; but I go, that I may awake him out of sleep. Then said his disciples, Lord, if he sleep, he shall do well. Howbeit Jesus spake of his death: but they thought that he had spoken of taking of rest in sleep.

Lying about two miles or three kilometers east of Jerusalem on a slope of the Mount of Olives, the village of Bethany was often Jesus’ residence when visiting Judea. By this point in his ministry, Jesus had received multiple death threats from Judean inhabitants—and experienced attempts to kill him (see instances in 5:188:5910:31). The disciples voice their objections to his return to this area (see 11:8) and their assumption that Lazarus will recover on his own: “If he sleep, he shall do well.” 

The Master’s foreknowledge of Lazarus’ need—and of his own role in raising him—far surpasses the disciples’ limited assessment of the situation and overrules their fears. In spite of the perceived danger, Jesus returns to Bethany to help his friend. His purpose, as always, is to glorify God.

17 | John 11:17, 21–23, 25–27

When Jesus came, he found that he had lain in the grave four days already. . . . Then said Martha unto Jesus, Lord, if thou hadst been here, my brother had not died. But I know, that even now, whatsoever thou wilt ask of God, God will give it thee. Jesus saith unto her, Thy brother shall rise again. . . . I am the resurrection, and the life: he that believeth in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live: and whosoever liveth and believeth in me shall never die. Believest thou this? She saith unto him, Yea, Lord: I believe that thou art the Christ, the Son of God, which should come into the world. 

With the words “even now,” Martha acknowledges that Jesus can perform a healing even after her brother’s death. But she supposes that his reply indicates “the resurrection at the last day”—the far-off future event referred to in Daniel 12:2, awaited by most Jews and many followers of Christ. Yet in response to the Master’s promise of eternal life, she turns from these traditional assumptions and confirms her acceptance of his words with a confession of faith.

“Jesus’ revelation that he is the resurrection and the life,” explains a Bible authority, “upends any and all expectations of our future lives as heaven or hell . . . or postponed grace. Rather, the consequences of this final sign for the Fourth Gospel are that resurrection lays claim on our lives today.”

from Section 6

19 | I Corinthians 15:53

This corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality.

Translation

This body that decays must be changed into a body that cannot decay. This mortal body must be changed into a body that will live forever.

—GOD’S WORD Translation

Paul has just contrasted the mortal character of Adam with the immortal nature of Christ (see vv. 21, 22, 45, 47). For the apostle, Jesus’ resurrection is the defining event—the source of hope and confidence that mortal existence can be overcome decisively and finally. “Thanks be to God,” he concludes, “which giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ” (v. 57).

20 | Ephesians 4:7, 13

Unto every one of us is given grace according to the measure of the gift of Christ. . . . Till we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ.

Translation

Christ gave each one of us the special gift of grace, showing how generous he is. . . . This work must continue until we are all joined together in the same faith and in the same knowledge of the Son of God. We must become like a mature person, growing until we become like Christ and have his perfection.

—New Century Version

Similar to Paul’s message about divine gifts in Romans 12:3–8 and First Corinthians 12:4–31, this passage highlights the need for united hearts among believers. One source points out, “It is a mark of incompleteness, of spiritual immaturity, that we are still disunited. . . .” Another defines the unifying work of Christians this way: “to build up the church and ward off all kinds of false teaching, so that the entire body of Christ and all its members may grow up in harmony and reach full maturity.”


Read a related poem, “Incident at Jericho” by Helen Oscar Winfield.

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

GT: New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., Carol Stream, IL. All rights reserved; Phillips, J.B. The New Testament in Modern English. Copyright © 1960, 1972 J.B. Phillips. Administered by The Archbishops’ Council of the Church of England. Used by permission.

Cit. 6: Buttrick, George Arthur, Nolan B. Harmon, et al., eds. The Interpreter’s Bible: A Commentary in Twelve Volumes. Vol. 6, Lamentations, Ezekiel, Daniel, Twelve Prophets. Nashville: Abingdon, 1951–57.

Cit. 11: Barclay, William. The Daily Study Bible: The Gospel of John, Vol. 1. Edinburgh: Saint Andrew, 1955. Revised and updated by Saint Andrew, 2001. Reprinted as The New Daily Study Bible: The Gospel of John, Vol. 1. Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox, 2001–04.

Cit. 13: Carroll, John T., and Jennifer K. Cox. Luke: A Commentary. Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox Press, 2012.

Cit. 14: Life Application Study Bible, New Living Translation. Carol Stream, IL: Tyndale House Pub, 2007.

Cit. 17: Lewis, Karoline M. John: Fortress Biblical Preaching Commentaries. Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 2014.

Cit. 20: Buttrick, George Arthur, Nolan B. Harmon, et al., eds. The Interpreter’s Bible: A Commentary in Twelve Volumes. Vol. 10, Corinthians, Galatians, Ephesians. Nashville: Abingdon, 1951–57; Mays, James L., Joseph Blenkinsopp, et al., eds. Harper’s Bible Commentary. San Francisco: Harper & Row, 1988.

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