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

Matter

from the Responsive Reading

Psalms 97:1

The Lord  reigns, let the earth rejoice; 
let the many coastlands be glad!

—English Standard Version

Like many other royal or enthronement psalms (those that designate God as Ruler or King), this one celebrates God’s supremacy. Rejoicing and gladness form a theme (see also vv. 8, 11, 12)—and the smallest, remotest parts of the earth join in.

Psalms 115:1, 3–8

Not to us, O Lord, not to us, but to your name give glory, 
for the sake of your steadfast love and your faithfulness! . . . 
Our God is in the heavens; 
he does all that he pleases. 
Their idols are silver and gold, 
the work of human hands. 
They have mouths, but do not speak; 
eyes, but do not see. 
They have ears, but do not hear; 
noses, but do not smell. 
They have hands, but do not feel; 
feet, but do not walk; 
and they do not make a sound in their throat. 
Those who make them become like them; 
so do all who trust in them.

—English Standard Version

Surrounded as the Israelites were by idol worship, the contrast with worship of the one God needed to be clear. In these verses God is active, as shown by His doing “all that he pleases.” Idols have no ability to act, as illustrated by the repeated assertion that they “do not.” A scholar points out: “The inevitable tendency of the use of human-made images is to limit God. In effect, people create gods in their own image, and the human self becomes preeminent.” The Psalmist urges total rejection of material modes, concluding, “We will bless the Lord from this time forth and for evermore” (v. 18).

steadfast: firm; unwavering

Psalms 119:12

Blessed are you, O Lord;  
teach me your statutes!

—English Standard Version

“The teachable spirit begins with a proper regard for God,” writes one Bible authority—observing that “little instruction in godliness takes place unless the heart is full of praise.”

statutes: laws

from Section 2

2 | John 1:1, 3–5

 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. . . . All things were made by him; and without him was not any thing made that was made. In him was life; and the life was the light of men. And the light shineth in darkness; and the darkness comprehended it not.

“By assigning the Word an indispensable role in creation,” one source notes, “John makes clear not only that creation is good but also that in this Word creation and redemption are linked together. Salvation fulfills, rather than negates, creation.”

In this passage the Gospel writer portrays light in the present tense (“shineth”) and darkness in the past tense (“comprehended”)—a distinction that underscores the continuity of divine light and the temporal nature of mental darkness. And later he records Jesus’ promise “I am the light of the world: he that followeth me shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the light of life” (8:12). Katalambanō, the Greek verb rendered comprehended, can be interpreted in two ways: to overcome and to perceive. Both indicate the powerlessness of darkness to grasp light in any way.

3 | Job 32:8

 There is a spirit in man: and the inspiration of the Almighty giveth them understanding.

inspiration: the pouring of ideas into thought; enlivening action or influence

Translation

4 | John 4:23

The hour cometh, and now is, when the true worshippers shall worship the Father in spirit and in truth: for the Father seeketh such to worship him.

• • •

 A time will come, however, indeed it is already here, when the true (genuine) worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and in truth (reality); for the Father is seeking just such people as these as His worshipers.

—Amplified® Bible Classic

Translation

5 | Romans 8:6

To be spiritually minded is life and peace.

• • •

. . . the mind of the Spirit is life and peace [the spiritual well-being that comes from walking with God—both now and forever]. . . . 

—Amplified® Bible

from Section 3

6 | Malachi 3:10

Bring ye all the tithes into the storehouse, that there may be meat in mine house, and prove me now herewith, saith the Lord of hosts, if I will not open you the windows of heaven, and pour you out a blessing, that there shall not be room enough to receive it.

tithes: payments equal to a tenth of one’s earnings, usually made to support a religious institution

7 | John 6:63

It is the spirit that quickeneth; the flesh profiteth nothing.

Translation

It is the Spirit that gives life. The flesh doesn’t give life.

—New Century Version

With verses 63–65, Jesus concludes a detailed response to Jewish inquisitors. He has just multiplied food for a huge crowd and identified himself with spiritual bread (see vv. 32–3548–51). Now the Master’s unequivocal affirmation about the power of Spirit and the impotence of the flesh prompts many believers to leave him. But Peter, representing his fellow disciples, confirms their understanding of Jesus’ divine role and recommits to following him (see vv. 61–69).

8 | Matthew 4:4

Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God.

Translation

“ ‘A person does not live only by eating bread. But a person lives by everything the Lord says.’ ” 

—International Children’s Bible

Here, at the very outset of his career, Christ Jesus decisively rejects the temptation to turn stones to bread. Addressing the devil, he quotes Moses’ reminder to the Israelites that God provided manna during their desert journey “that he might make thee know that man doth not live by bread only” (Deuteronomy 8:3). By thriving “forty days and forty nights” (Matthew 4:2) without food, Jesus demonstrates true nourishment to be God-given.

9 | II Kings 4:1

There cried a certain woman of the wives of the sons of the prophets unto Elisha, saying, Thy servant my husband is dead; and thou knowest that thy servant did fear the Lord: and the creditor is come to take unto him my two sons to be bondmen.

“Sons of the prophets” alludes to a guild or society of prophets, not unlike a modern trade association. This woman’s plea is especially persuasive, given her husband’s membership in the guild of which Elisha was leader.

Debt was a major concern in ancient times. If people were unable to pay their creditors, they could lose their possessions—or they, and sometimes their whole families, could be taken as slaves. If enslaved, they were often unable to work off the debt, leaving them and their descendants enslaved for life. 

creditor: a person to whom money is owed
bondmen: slaves

9 | II Kings 4:2, 3, 5–7

Elisha said unto her, What shall I do for thee? tell me, what hast thou in the house? And she said, Thine handmaid hath not any thing in the house, save a pot of oil. Then he said, Go, borrow thee vessels abroad of all thy neighbours, even empty vessels; borrow not a few. . . . So she went from him, and shut the door upon her and upon her sons, who brought the vessels to her; and she poured out. And it came to pass, when the vessels were full, that she said unto her son, Bring me yet a vessel. And he said unto her, There is not a vessel more. And the oil stayed. Then she came and told the man of God. And he said, Go, sell the oil, and pay thy debt, and live thou and thy children of the rest.

Though the agricultural crops of wheat, grapes (for wine), and olives (for oil) were all crucial to life in the ancient Near East, oil was the most economically important. It was used for food, fuel, treatment of leather, perfumes, cosmetics, and anointment rituals—as well as for offerings to God. The widow could have sold her oil for any of these uses.

Following Elisha’s ministry at the national level (see chap. 3), the multiplying of oil introduces his work in individual daily life. Subsequent miracles include the healing of childlessness, restoration of a deceased child to life, reversal of the effects of food poisoning, and the cure of Naaman’s leprosy (see 4:8—5:14).

vessels: containers used to hold liquids

from Section 4

Translation

10 | 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. For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world. And the world passeth away, and the lust thereof: but he that doeth the will of God abideth for ever.

• • •

Do not love this world nor the things it offers you, for when you love the world, you do not have the love of the Father in you. For the world offers only a craving for physical pleasure, a craving for everything we see, and pride in our achievements and possessions. These are not from the Father, but are from this world. And this world is fading away, along with everything that people crave. But anyone who does what pleases God will live forever.

—New Living Translation

10 | I John 2:16, 17

All that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world. And the world passeth away, and the lust thereof: but he that doeth the will of God abideth for ever.

World has various meanings in Scripture. Jesus sometimes speaks of the world compassionately—explaining, for instance, that God loved the world and sent His Son to save it (see John 3:16, 17). In this passage, the word depicts a corrupt, ungodly state to be resisted and overcome (see another example in I John 5:4).

Pride is translated from the Greek term alazoneia. According to a commentary, its usage implied “an insolent and empty assurance, which trusts in its own power and resources and shamefully despises and violates divine laws and human rights.”

The author of First John is not addressing those in danger of falling away from faithfulness to Christ, but committed believers who are otherwise exemplary in their Christian service. He warns that if they are not alert to worldly attractions and desires, their hard-won spiritual understanding and commitment to Christ’s teachings will be eroded. Only faithful obedience to God’s will guarantees eternal life.

lust: intense desire

12 | Luke 12:16, 18–21

[Jesus] spake a parable unto them, saying, The ground of a certain rich man brought forth plentifully: . . . And he said, This will I do: I will pull down my barns, and build greater; and there will I bestow all my fruits and my goods. And I will say to my soul, Soul, thou hast much goods laid up for many years; take thine ease, eat, drink, and be merry. But God said unto him, Thou fool, this night thy soul shall be required of thee: then whose shall those things be, which thou hast provided? So is he that layeth up treasure for himself, and is not rich toward God.

God’s warning “Thou fool” has led some to call this “the parable of the rich fool.” In the story, there is no indication that the rich man cheated, stole, or mistreated anyone. His error was in thinking only of wealth and ease—and only of himself.

“It is not the possession of material things that makes one worldly-minded,” a scriptural authority observes, “but the attitude adopted towards them; nor does the lack of earthly things make one heavenly-minded. ” Being “rich toward God” is expounded in Jesus’ counsel about treasure in heaven (see v. 34).

12 | Luke 12:33

Sell that ye have, and give alms; provide yourselves bags which wax not old, a treasure in the heavens that faileth not, where no thief approacheth, neither moth corrupteth.

alms: money or goods given to those in need
wax: grow
corrupteth: ruins or spoils

13 | Romans 11:33

O the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God!

Spiritual riches are a common subject in New Testament letters (see other instances in Ephesians 3:16Philippians 4:19Colossians 2:2). Here Paul’s reference to this abundant goodness closes a heartfelt discussion of Israel’s place in God’s plan of salvation for all people (see chapters 9—11). His eloquent doxology in verses 33-36 echoes many psalms in praising God’s omniscience and omnipotence. 

Other doxologies appear throughout the Bible, showing God’s central role in religious and daily experience. Some—like these verses, the entirety of Psalm 150, and the last line of the Lord’s Prayer (see Matthew 6:13)—are conclusions to prayers or songs. And many have become basic to formal worship in churches over the centuries (see examples in I Chronicles 29:10–13Jude 1:24, 25).

from Section 5 

14 | Hebrews 11:1, 3

Faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen. . . . Through faith we understand that the worlds were framed by the word of God, so that things which are seen were not made of things which do appear.

Translation

Faith means being sure of the things we hope for and knowing that something is real even if we do not see it. 

—New Century Version

substance: actual or most important part
framed: formed; fitted into one structure

15 | Acts 14:8–10

There sat a certain man at Lystra, impotent in his feet, being a cripple from his mother’s womb, who never had walked: the same heard Paul speak: who stedfastly beholding him, and perceiving that he had faith to be healed, said with a loud voice, Stand upright on thy feet. And he leaped and walked.

Paul visited Lystra with Barnabas on his first missionary journey. The hometown of Paul’s disciple Timothy, Lystra was located near the cities of Iconium and Derbe in what is today south central Turkey.

Some scholars compare this healing with Peter’s cure of the lame man at the temple (see Acts 3:1–11). Both invalids have been afflicted from birth; both are viewed keenly by their healers; and both leap and walk. In the aftermath of both experiences, opposition sets in—Peter is arrested by Jewish leaders and Paul is stoned. Yet Peter triumphs over his detractors and Paul is raised up, returning to Lystra to continue his work there (see 4:1–2114:19–23). Presenting similar depictions is seen as intentional, validating Paul’s status and raising it to the level of respect accorded Peter. 

Significant differences also exist in the two accounts. Unlike the man in Peter’s story, the lame man made whole by Paul possesses faith before his cure. And where onlookers praise God after Peter’s healing, the crowd surrounding Paul misinterprets it as the work of their gods (see 14:11).

impotent: disabled; weak
perceiving: observing and understanding

from Section 6

16 | Revelation 12:7–9

There was war in heaven: Michael and his angels fought against the dragon; and the dragon fought and his angels, and prevailed not; neither was their place found any more in heaven. And the great dragon was cast out, that old serpent, called the Devil, and Satan, which deceiveth the whole world.

Devil and Satan are terms used frequently in Scripture. Devil (Greek, diabolos) means false accuser or slanderer. Satan is the name given to an adversary, especially the enemy of Christ.

Michael is mentioned only once more in the New Testament, again in the context of battling evil (see Jude 1:9). In the Hebrew Bible, he appears in Daniel’s vision as helper and protector (see Daniel 10:13, 2112:1).

One scholar notes that the Revelator’s record of evil’s destruction differs markedly from early tribal myths: “Christ and the church do not use weapons of violence to conquer the enemy. . . . They defeat the dragon by freeing its human agents from sin’s control and helping humanity to repent. . . . God’s people are completely sustained and empowered by the Spirit in their battle with the dragon.”

Related healing ideas


Read a related article at: jsh.christianscience.com/spirit-has-no-opposite  

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

RR: English Standard Version®, copyright © 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved; Keck, Leander E., et al., eds. The New Interpreter’s Bible: A Commentary in Twelve Volumes. Vol. 4, 1 and 2 Maccabees, Introduction to Hebrew Poetry, Job, Psalms. Nashville: Abingdon, 1996–2001; Gaebelein, Frank E., Dick Polcyn, Willem A. VanGemeren, Allen P. Ross, J. Stafford. Wright, and Dennis Kinlaw. The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: With the New International Version of the Holy Bible, Psalms, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, Song of Songs. Grand Rapids: Zondervan Pub. House, 1991.

Cit. 2: Eiselen, Frederick Carl., Edwin Lewis, and David G. Downey, eds. The Abingdon Bible Commentary: New Testament. New York: Abingdon Press, 1929.

Cit 10: Vine, W. E., and W. E. Vine. Vine’s Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words. Westwood, NJ: Barbour &, 1985. Also available at blueletterbible.org.

Cit. 12: Moo, Douglas J. The New International Commentary on the New Testament. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1996.

Cit. 16: Hill, Andrew E. Baker Illustrated Bible Commentary. Baker Publishing Group, 2012.

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