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

Are Sin, Disease, and Death Real?

from the Golden Text

I Thessalonians 5:21

Prove all things; hold fast that which is good.

First Thessalonians, considered the earliest of Paul’s letters, was written to a community he had visited for about three weeks before being driven out (see Acts 17:1–10). Because Thessalonica was a major city on the Egnatian Road, a trading route linking Rome to Asia, establishment of Christianity there was pivotal to its spread to both east and west. In this epistle, Paul encourages the young church to hold faithfully to Christ’s teachings despite opposing influences in their society.

fast: firm

from the Responsive Reading

Psalms 145:10, 13

All thy works shall praise thee, O Lord; and thy saints shall bless thee. . . . Thy kingdom is an everlasting kingdom, and thy dominion endureth throughout all generations.

Although the English word saint brings to mind a select few early Christians, the Hebrew term hāsîd characterizes any godly, kind, or good man. One source mentions its relation to hesed, signifying mercy and lovingkindness—and concludes that a saint is one who practices these compassionate qualities.

dominion: supreme authority and power

Psalms 103:1, 3

Bless the Lord, O my soul: and all that is within me, bless his holy name. . . . Who forgiveth all thine iniquities; who healeth all thy diseases. 

Even before the advent of Christ Jesus, God’s ability to heal is proclaimed or verified in several Hebrew Bible accounts. Abraham’s prayers heal Abimelech’s wife and maidservant of infertility; Moses’ prayer heals his sister, Miriam, of leprosy; Elijah resuscitates the son of the woman of Zarephath; and Elisha raises the Shunammite’s child from death and cures Naaman of leprosy (see Genesis 20:17, 18Numbers 12:13–15I Kings 17:17–24II Kings 4:18–375:1–14). 

Jeremiah echoes the Psalmist’s faith in the power and willingness of God to heal: “I will restore health unto thee, and I will heal thee of thy wounds, saith the Lord” (Jeremiah 30:17).

iniquities: wrong behaviors; sins

Isaiah 25:8

He will swallow up death in victory; and the Lord God will wipe away tears from off all faces. 

Paul later repeats this victory theme: “When this corruptible shall have put on incorruption, and this mortal shall have put on immortality, then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written, Death is swallowed up in victory” (I Corinthians 15:54).

Isaiah’s promise of the wiping away of tears is cited twice by the Revelator—for those “arrayed in white robes” and for humanity (see Revelation 7:13, 1721:4).

A commentator calls this prophecy “an enormous advance on the dim and vague conceptions of a future life . . . .”

from Section 1

3 | James 1:17

Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and cometh down from the Father of lights, with whom is no variableness, neither shadow of turning. 

Translation

Whatever is good and perfect is a gift coming down to us from God our Father, who created all the lights in the heavens. He never changes or casts a shifting shadow.

—New Living Translation

Two instances of the term gift occur in this passage. The first (Greek, dosis) can refer to the act of giving, the second (dōrēma) to what is given—a gift or benefaction.

A Bible authority offers this interpretation: “God is the source of good, and of good only. Every good gift and every perfect boon . . . comes from Him, who is the creator of the sun, moon, and stars. But, while they change and vary, and, as they revolve, are sometimes in shadow, He is always the same.”

4 | Genesis 1:27

God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them.

While image commonly applies to a physical form (such as an idol), a scholar points out that it more broadly describes “a representation of something.” This yields the meaning, he continues, “that man and woman were created not ‘according to’ the image of God but rather ‘as’ the image of God.”

4 | Genesis 1:31

God saw every thing that he had made, and, behold, it was very good. 

The English adjective good falls short of expressing the scope of the Hebrew tôb, which can signify beautiful, joyful, loving, pleasant, delightful, and more. In the context of this verse, one Hebrew lexicon suggests excellent: “God saw all that he had made, and behold it was very excellent.”

from Section 2

5 | I John 3:9

Whosoever is born of God doth not commit sin; for his seed remaineth in him: and he cannot sin, because he is born of God.

Seed implies here the essential, spiritual nature and heritage of God’s children—the Godlikeness that excludes sin. In other New Testament citations, the seed image is identified with the Word of God, as in Jesus’ parable of the sower (see Luke 8:5–15) and the portrayal of believers as “born again, not of corruptible seed, but of incorruptible, by the word of God” (I Peter 1:23).

Translation

5 | I John 3:7, 9

Little children, let no man deceive you: he that doeth righteousness is righteous, even as he is righteous. . . . Whosoever is born of God doth not commit sin; for his seed remaineth in him: and he cannot sin, because he is born of God.

•••

Little children (believers, dear ones), do not let anyone lead you astray. The one who practices righteousness [the one who strives to live a consistently honorable life—in private as well as in public—and to conform to God’s precepts] is righteous, just as He is righteous. . . . No one who is born of God [deliberately, knowingly, and habitually] practices sin, because God’s seed [His principle of life, the essence of His righteous character] remains [permanently] in him [who is born again—who is reborn from above—spiritually transformed, renewed, and set apart for His purpose]; and he [who is born again] cannot habitually [live a life characterized by] sin, because he is born of God and longs to please Him.

—Amplified® Bible

Translation

6 | Psalms 25:2, 8, 9

O my God, I trust in thee: let me not be ashamed, let not mine enemies triumph over me. . . . Good and upright is the Lord: therefore will he teach sinners in the way. The meek will he guide in judgment: and the meek will he teach his way.

•••

My God, I trust you. 
Do not let me be disgraced. 
Do not let my enemies laugh at me. . . . 
The Lord is good and right. 
He points sinners to the right way. 
He shows those who are not proud how to do right. 
He teaches them his ways.

—International Children’s Bible

7 | John 8:3–5

The scribes and Pharisees brought unto him a woman taken in adultery; and when they had set her in the midst, they say unto him, Master, this woman was taken in adultery, in the very act. Now Moses in the law commanded us, that such should be stoned: but what sayest thou?

As arbiters of Mosaic law, the Pharisees and scribes were within their rights to demand stoning for this woman. Adultery was deemed a serious crime in ancient Israel, and was one of many that carried the death penalty. But their approach to the law was condemnatory. One commentary explains: “That authority should be based on sympathy, that its aim should be to reclaim the criminal and the sinner, never entered their heads. They conceived of their function as giving them the right . . . to watch for every mistake and every deviation from the law, and to descend on [transgressors] with savage and unforgiving punishment; they never dreamed that it might lay upon them the obligation to cure the wrongdoer.”

Jesus’ response exposes the officials’ heartless attitude toward sinners and illustrates the power of Christ to correct and heal sin.

7 | John 8:9, 10

They which heard it, being convicted by their own conscience, went out one by one, beginning at the eldest, even unto the last: and Jesus was left alone, and the woman standing in the midst. When Jesus had lifted up himself, and saw none but the woman, he said unto her, Woman, where are those thine accusers? hath no man condemned thee?

convicted: declared guilty; made aware of one’s own guilt
conscience: inner sense of what is right or wrong
condemned: judged and declared to be guilty 

Translation

8 | Romans 8:1, 2

There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit. For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus hath made me free from the law of sin and death.

•••

So now, those who are in Christ Jesus are not judged guilty. I am not judged guilty because in Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit that brings life made me free. It made me free from the law that brings sin and death.

—International Children’s Bible

from Section 3

Translation

9 | Job 34:4

Let us choose to us judgment: let us know among ourselves what is good.

•••

. . . let us discern for ourselves what is right; 
let us learn together what is good.

—New Living Translation

from Section 4

12 | Psalms 4:1, 6

Hear me when I call, O God of my righteousness: thou hast enlarged me when I was in distress; have mercy upon me, and hear my prayer. . . . There be many that say, Who will shew us any good? Lord, lift thou up the light of thy countenance upon us.

Translation

Answer me when I call, O God of my right! 
You gave me room when I was in distress. 
Be gracious to me, and hear my prayer. . . . 
There are many who say, “O that we might see some good! 
Let the light of your face shine on us, O LORD!”

—New Revised Standard Version

Enlarged is translated from a form of the Hebrew word rāhab, meaning to make broad, wide, or expansive. According to one language authority, rāhab sometimes connotes “breathing space” or deliverance from an oppressive or constricting situation. A rendering of the phrase “thou hast enlarged me when I was in distress” reads, “. . . in narrowness Thou hast broadened (a space) for me.”

13 | 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

You know about Jesus from Nazareth, that God gave him the Holy Spirit and power. You know how Jesus went everywhere doing good and healing those who were ruled by the devil, because God was with him.

—New Century Version

Peter is speaking here—using, as he did at Pentecost (see 2:22–36), a recounting of Hebrew and Christian history to introduce and validate his message. And, as on that earlier occasion, the influx of the Holy Spirit is felt by everyone present (see 10:44).

from Section 5

Translation

17 | John 8:12

I am the light of the world: he that followeth me shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the light of life.

•••

. . .“I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will have a life filled with light and will never live in the dark.”

—GOD’S WORD Translation

Translation

18 | II Timothy 1:1, 2

Paul, an apostle of Jesus Christ by the will of God, according to the promise of life which is in Christ Jesus, . . . Grace, mercy, and peace, from God the Father and Christ Jesus our Lord.

•••

Paul, an apostle (special messenger, personally chosen representative) of Christ Jesus (the Messiah, the Anointed) by the will of God, according to the promise of life that is in Christ Jesus, . . . Grace, mercy, and peace [inner calm and spiritual well-being] from God the Father and Christ Jesus our Lord.

—Amplified® Bible

19 | Acts 13:43

Many of the Jews and religious proselytes followed Paul and Barnabas: who, speaking to them, persuaded them to continue in the grace of God.

proselytes: new believers

20 | Acts 14:1, 2, 6, 27

It came to pass in Iconium, that they went both together into the synagogue of the Jews, and so spake, that a great multitude both of the Jews and also of the Greeks believed. But the unbelieving Jews stirred up the Gentiles, and made their minds evil affected against the brethren. . . . They were ware of it, and fled unto Lystra and Derbe, cities of Lycaonia, and unto the region that lieth round about: . . . And when they were come, and had gathered the church together, they rehearsed all that God had done with them, and how he had opened the door of faith unto the Gentiles.

Translation

But some people who did not believe excited the others and turned them against the believers. . . . When they arrived in Antioch, Paul and Barnabas gathered the church together. They told the church all about what God had done with them and how God had made it possible for those who were not Jewish to believe.

—New Century Version

Paul and his fellow disciples come to Iconium after preaching in Antioch of Pisidia. As in that city, their work is initially successful but arouses hostility among nonbelievers (see 13:14–52). This pattern emerges again in Lystra, where Paul is stoned and assumed dead. But he recovers completely and travels to Derbe to preach. The apostles then return to Lystra, Iconium, and Antioch, successfully completing their missionary work in this area of Asia Minor (see 14:19–28).

ware: aware
rehearsed: told about

Translation

21 | Psalms 73:28

It is good for me to draw near to God: I have put my trust in the Lord God, that I may declare all thy works.

•••

. . . for me, God’s presence is my good. 
I have made the Lord GOD my refuge, 
so I can tell about all You do.

—Holman Christian Standard Bible

from Section 6

23 | Psalms 30:1

I will extol thee, O Lord; for thou hast lifted me up, and hast not made my foes to rejoice over me.

The concept of lifting up appears twice in this prayer. God has lifted up the Psalmist from a serious illness (see vv. 2, 3). Now the Psalmist extols Him—lifts Him up in praise.

Translation

23 | Psalms 30:2, 11, 12

O Lord my God, I cried unto thee, and thou hast healed me. . . . Thou hast turned for me my mourning into dancing: thou hast put off my sackcloth, and girded me with gladness; to the end that my glory may sing praise to thee, and not be silent. O Lord my God, I will give thanks unto thee for ever.

•••

LORD, my God, I cried out to you for help, 
and you healed me. . . . 
You changed my mourning into dancing. 
You took off my funeral clothes 
and dressed me up in joy 
so that my whole being 
might sing praises to you and never stop. 
LORD, my God, I will give thanks to you forever.

—Common English Bible

Related healing ideas


Read a related article at jsh.christianscience.com/what-if-goodness-was-just-natural

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: Botterweck, Gerhard Johannes, Helmer Ringgren, and Heinz-Josef Fabry, eds. Theological Dictionary of the Old Testament. Rev. ed. 15 vols. Translated by John T. Willis, David E. Green, and Douglas W. Stott. Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans, 1974–2006; Spence-Jones, Henry Donald Maurice, Exell, Joseph S., and Deems, Edward Mark, eds. The Pulpit Commentary. London, 1880–1909. Also available at biblehub.com/commentaries.

Cit. 3: Dummelow, John Roberts, ed. A Commentary on the Holy Bible by Various Writers. New York: MacMillan, 1936.

Cit. 4: Freedman, David Noel, ed. The Anchor Bible Dictionary. 6 vols. New York: Doubleday, 1992; Brown, Francis, Samuel R. Driver, and Charles A. Briggs, eds. A Hebrew and English Lexicon of the Old Testament. Oxford: Clarendon, 1907.

Cit. 7: 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. 12: Botterweck, Gerhard Johannes, Helmer Ringgren, and Heinz-Josef Fabry, eds. Theological Dictionary of the Old Testament. Rev. ed. 15 vols. Translated by John T. Willis, David E. Green, and Douglas W. Stott. Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans, 1974–2006; Cohen, A., The Psalms: Hebrew Text & English Translation with an Introduction and Commentary. Soncino Press, 1977.

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