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

Doctrine of Atonement

from the Golden Text

John 1:36

Behold the Lamb of God!

John the Baptist is speaking here, repeating his words from a day earlier (see v. 29, citation 4). John’s witnessing introduces the lamb image for Christ Jesus—a metaphor that recurs in First Peter 1:19 and throughout the book of Revelation.

Though he had his own followers, the Baptist’s purpose was not to establish himself as a leader but to bear witness to the Savior’s advent (see vv. 6–815). On this occasion two of his disciples leave him to follow Jesus (see v. 37). Verse 40 identifies one of them as Simon Peter’s brother, Andrew—who then announces to Simon, “We have found the Messias” (v. 41).

from the Responsive Reading

Isaiah 53:3, 5, 7

He is despised and rejected of men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief: . . . But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed. . . . he is brought as a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before her shearers is dumb, so he openeth not his mouth. 

Verses 1–12 of this chapter are widely viewed as Messianic prophecy. And centuries later, verses 7 and 8 are the focus of the Ethiopian eunuch’s scriptural reading after Jesus’ ascension. In answer to the eunuch’s questions, Philip “began at the same scripture, and preached unto him Jesus”—an explanation that leads to the eunuch’s baptism (see Acts 8:26–39).

One scholar compares “the silence of ignorance” (exemplified by lambs before slaughter) with “the silence of deliberate self-submission” (illustrated in Jesus’ uncomplaining surrender to crucifixion).

despised: strongly disrespected; hated
grief: deep sadness
transgressions: unlawful acts; sins
chastisement: severe punishment
stripes: strokes made with a whip

from Section 1

1 | Micah 6:6

Wherewith shall I come before the Lord, and bow myself before the high God?

wherewith: with what

2 | Psalms 51:17

The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit: a broken and a contrite heart, O God, thou wilt not despise.

Translation

The sacrifice God wants is a willing spirit. 
God, you will not reject 
a heart that is broken and sorry for its sin.

—International Children’s Bible

3 | Hebrews 10:1, 4

The law having a shadow of good things to come, and not the very image of the things, can never with those sacrifices which they offered year by year continually make the comers thereunto perfect. . . . For it is not possible that the blood of bulls and of goats should take away sins.

Translation

Moses’ Teachings with their yearly cycle of sacrifices are only a shadow of the good things in the future. They aren’t an exact likeness of those things. They can never make those who worship perfect.

—GOD’S WORD Translation

A strong distinction is made here between the formulaic, repetitive practice of animal sacrifice and the singular sacrifice of Christ Jesus. A commentary observes, “. . . the single, effective offering of Christ has ended the futile, repetitious offering of animals and has achieved the goal of the new covenant, the forgiveness of sins.” Continuing, he notes “an understandable movement from the material realm with its outer rites . . . to the spiritual realm with its direct access to God, its purified conscience, its requirement of hope and faith and loyalty.”

Another scriptural authority offers this: “The Law is only the shadow and not the reality of the revelation which was to come in Jesus Christ. . . . In Christianity the heavenly reality—the very truth of God—broke into human history (v. 1).”

4 | John 1:17, 19, 20

The law was given by Moses, but grace and truth came by Jesus Christ. . . . This is the record of John, when the Jews sent priests and Levites from Jerusalem to ask him, Who art thou? And he confessed, and denied not; but confessed, I am not the Christ.

Translation

. . . the law was given through Moses, but God’s unfailing love and faithfulness came through Jesus Christ.

—New Living Translation

At this time, John’s preaching and baptizing had drawn the attention of Jewish officials. These interrogators are not questioning John’s identity, however. (John’s father, a priest, would have been well known to “priests and Levites.”) Instead, they are speculating about his place in Hebrew prophecy.

According to Luke 3:15, “All men mused in their hearts of John, whether he were the Christ, or not.” John’s answer clarifies his role—he is not the Messiah but “the voice of one crying in the wilderness, Make straight the way of the Lord” (John 1:23). With this allusion to Isaiah 40:3, he also announces the Savior’s arrival.

from Section 2

5 | Matthew 23:9

Call no man your father upon the earth: for one is your Father, which is in heaven.

Father was a term used for revered Jewish teachers or elders as well as for parents (see examples in II Kings 2:1213:14). This teaching restricts the usage of the name Father to God. No hierarchy is to be established or observed; God and His Christ constitute the only authority in the Christian Church.

God’s fatherhood denotes a close and intimate relation to all of His children. A scriptural authority writes: “. . . only in Christianity was the thought of God’s personal, loving relationship to the individual developed. It is through the revelation of his Son that God is known as the Father, not merely of the Son but also of all believers.”

6 | Luke 8:1–3

It came to pass afterward, that he went throughout every city and village, preaching and shewing the glad tidings of the kingdom of God: and the twelve were with him, and certain women, which had been healed of evil spirits and infirmities, Mary called Magdalene, out of whom went seven devils, and Joanna the wife of Chuza Herod’s steward, and Susanna, and many others, which ministered unto him of their substance.

Characterized by one source as “a powerful description of the ministry of women in the community of Jesus,” these verses contradict claims that women had little part in Jesus’ work. The women listed here are apparently wealthy, providing out of their own resources. And while ministering (Greek, diakoneō) may portray traditional female duties of cooking or serving at table, this scholar points out that it is an activity of discipleship (see instances of this Greek word in I Timothy 3:10, 13I Peter 4:10, 11). 

Of the three named women, Mary Magdalene is the most frequently mentioned in the Gospels—an emphasis that implies a respected status among early Christians. Her identification with her town of origin rather than a husband or son suggests that she had no close male relatives and controlled her own property. Joanna’s marriage to a steward of Herod Antipas shows her to be a woman of privilege. Both of these women later appear at Jesus’ tomb and notify the disciples of his resurrection (see Luke 24:10). Nothing is known about Susanna.

Luke’s Gospel is unique in including details about women who followed Jesus. In addition to listing several here, he often links women with male figures—not only Elisabeth with Zacharias and Mary with Joseph, for example, but also Anna with Simeon, the widow of Nain with a centurion, and (in consecutive parables) a homemaker with a shepherd (see 1:52:4, 5, 25–387:1–1515:3–10). 

tidings: news

7 | John 10:27, 28

My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me: and I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of my hand.

perish: be destroyed; die

from Section 3

9 | Matthew 12:10, 11, 14, 15

There was a man which had his hand withered. And they asked [Jesus], saying, Is it lawful to heal on the sabbath days? that they might accuse him. And he said unto them, What man shall there be among you, that shall have one sheep, and if it fall into a pit on the sabbath day, will he not lay hold on it, and lift it out? . . . Then the Pharisees went out, and held a council against him, how they might destroy him. But when Jesus knew it, he withdrew himself from thence.

Interpretation of Sabbath laws varied in daily practice. Most people cared for their animals on the Sabbath—including rescuing those that had fallen into pits intended to trap predators. Some schools of belief also permitted prayer for the sick on the Sabbath. So reactions to Jesus were likely based less on his specific acts than on his perceived threat to the Mosaic law in general.

council: meeting to make decisions
thence: that place

10 | Ephesians 5:1, 2

Be ye therefore followers of God, as dear children; and walk in love, as Christ also hath loved us, and hath given himself for us an offering and a sacrifice to God for a sweet-smelling savour.

Translation

Therefore become imitators of God [copy Him and follow His example], as well-beloved children [imitate their father]; and walk continually in love [that is, value one another—practice empathy and compassion, unselfishly seeking the best for others], just as Christ also loved you. . . .

—Amplified® Bible

Mimētēs, the Greek noun rendered followers, means imitator or one who emulates. In ancient cultures it was common to encourage children to imitate their parents, and calls to imitate Christ occur regularly in the New Testament (see also Romans 15:7; I Corinthians 11:1, for instance). However, although Christians often call themselves children of God, the charge to imitate God is rare. A well-known exception is Matthew 5:48: “Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect.”

“Sweet-smelling savour” alludes to the scent of sacrificial offerings. Here the author is charging the faithful to embrace Jesus’ example of self-sacrifice and obedience to God.

from Section 4

11 | John 15:13

Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.

Friends is translated from the Greek word philos, a term about love. Commentaries explain that contemporary views of friendship lack the deep meaning of this word. One writes, “Jesus is not simply appealing to the noble ideal of friendship in v. 13, but to an understanding of friendship wholly grounded in Jesus’ particular love.” This love—this friendship—is shown by keeping Jesus’ commandments (see 14:15, 2115:14).

12 | Romans 5:8, 10, 11

God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. . . . For if, when we were enemies, we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, being reconciled, we shall be saved by his life. And not only so, but we also joy in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom we have now received the atonement.

Paul builds his argument by beginning with the proof of God’s love—the sacrifice of His Son, even before people expressed love toward Him. But this was only part of God’s grace toward His children. With Jesus’ resurrection, God guarantees full salvation for humanity.

In the New Testament, the Greek term katallagē is rendered atonement only here (in verse 11). Elsewhere it is translated reconciled or reconciling (see v. 1011:15II Corinthians 5:18). 

13 | I Peter 1:18, 19

Ye know that ye were not redeemed with corruptible things, as silver and gold, from your vain conversation received by tradition from your fathers; but with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot.

In this citation, those who had been captive to empty, sinful ways of life—inherited from their ancestors—are told that their freedom has been purchased by Christ Jesus. His crucifixion is compared to the sacrifice of an unblemished lamb (perhaps recalling Leviticus 22:21).

14 | Acts 3:26

God, having raised up his Son Jesus, sent him to bless you, in turning away every one of you from his iniquities.

Translation

“God has raised up his servant Jesus and sent him to you first to bless you by turning each of you away from doing evil.”

—New Century Version

from Section 5

15 | Galatians 6:14

God forbid that I should glory, save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom the world is crucified unto me, and I unto the world.

Translation

. . . may I never boast about anything except the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ. Because of that cross, my interest in this world has been crucified, and the world’s interest in me has also died.

—New Living Translation

16 | Hebrews 12:1, 2

Let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God.

Translation

Let’s throw off any extra baggage, get rid of the sin that trips us up, and fix our eyes on Jesus, faith’s pioneer and perfecter. He endured the cross, ignoring the shame, for the sake of the joy that was laid out in front of him, and sat down at the right side of God’s throne.

—Common English Bible

Running was among the most common forms of athletic activity in ancient Greece. Applying this imagery to Christian experience, the writer reveals Jesus as the model of faithful endurance. Author (Greek, arkhēgos) refers to the Master as the founder or initiator of faith, and finisher (teleiōtēs) as its perfecter. 

beset: threaten persistently; attack on all sides

from Section 6

17 | Revelation 4:1, 2

Behold, a door was opened in heaven: and immediately I was in the spirit; and, behold, a throne was set in heaven, and one sat on the throne.

Throughout Scripture, thrones stand for the presence and power of God (see, for instance, I Kings 22:19Isaiah 6:1). Like the prophet Ezekiel (see Ezekiel 1:1), the Revelator perceives God through an opening in heaven. One source notes that now the scene changes “. . . from the restlessness and distractions of this world to the perfect peace and assurance of heaven.” 

18 | Revelation 5:1, 6–10

I saw in the right hand of him that sat on the throne a book written within and on the backside, sealed with seven seals. . . . And I beheld, and, lo, in the midst of the throne and of the four beasts, and in the midst of the elders, stood a Lamb as it had been slain, having seven horns and seven eyes, which are the seven Spirits of God sent forth into all the earth. And he came and took the book out of the right hand of him that sat upon the throne. And when he had taken the book, the four beasts and four and twenty elders fell down before the Lamb, having every one of them harps, and golden vials full of odours, which are the prayers of saints. And they sung a new song, saying, Thou art worthy to take the book, and to open the seals thereof: for thou wast slain, and hast redeemed us to God by thy blood out of every kindred, and tongue, and people, and nation; and hast made us unto our God kings and priests: and we shall reign on the earth.

Early books were scrolls, generally written on one side (though Ezekiel received a double-inscribed manuscript; see Ezekiel 2:9, 10). The seven seals attest to this book’s significance. 

Presenting the Lamb as a figure for Christ Jesus—the first of over two dozen mentions of this image—the Revelator represents him with seven horns and eyes, symbolizing divine strength and knowledge. Jesus’ worthiness to break the seals stems from his sacrifice for humanity, and all humanity praises him. 

“The people of God are drawn from every station and walk of life,” a Bible authority adds. “. . . God has created a ‘new people,’ not simply new individuals.” As “kings and priests,” believers have both the royalty accorded to God’s children and direct access to Him—access previously seen as available only to Temple priests.

vials: small bottles
kindred: relatives; family

Related healing ideas


Read a related article at jsh.christianscience.com/how-near-is-god

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: Wiseman, Donald John, et al., eds. The Tyndale Old Testament Commentaries. Vol. 18, Isaiah. Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity, 1964–.

Cit. 3: 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; Eiselen, Frederick Carl., Lewis, Edwin, and Downey, David G., eds. The Abingdon Bible Commentary. New York: Abingdon Press, 1929.

Cit. 5: Marshall, I. Howard. The Epistles of John. Grand Rapids, Mich, 1978.

Cit. 6: Thurston, Bonnie Bowman. Women in the New Testament: Questions and Commentary. New York: Crossroad, 1998.

Cit. 11: Keck, Leander E., et al., eds. The New Interpreter’s Bible: A Commentary in Twelve Volumes. Vol. 9, Luke, John. Nashville: Abingdon, 1996–2001.

Cit. 17: Eiselen, Frederick Carl., Lewis, Edwin, and Downey, David G., eds. The Abingdon Bible Commentary. New York: Abingdon Press, 1929.

Cit. 18: Smyth & Helwys Bible Commentary Collection. Vol. 33, Revelation. Macon, Georgia: Smyth & Helwys, 2000–2016.

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