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

Substance

from the Golden Text

Leviticus 19:2, 19

Ye shall be holy: for I the Lord your God am holy. . . . thou shalt not sow thy field with mingled seed.

Holiness is a recurring theme in Leviticus. (The word holy appears there more than in any other biblical book.) Living amid pagan beliefs and practices, the Israelites needed to safeguard their purity. God’s people are to be holy (a mandate repeated in 20:7, 26) —to honor their unadulterated, Godlike identity. 

A commentary suggests: “The character of God stands behind the moral duties for humanity. Other ancient religions did not appeal to the person, nature, and actions of their deities as the basis for moral thinking and acting . . . . Often the pagan deities were more sensual and debased in their actions and character than the mortals who strove to worship them. Not so with Yahweh, who is holiness itself and a model for all.”

mingled: mixed together (describing different varieties)

from the Responsive Reading

James 1:4, 5

Let patience have her perfect work, that ye may be perfect and entire, wanting nothing. If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him. 

One scriptural authority explains “perfect work” in terms of spiritual maturity: “James is referring to mature Christian character: It is mature in that it is well-developed; it is complete in that every virtue and insight is in place; it is not lacking anything, but mirrors Christ.”

wanting: lacking
liberally: in large or generous amounts
upbraideth: scolds severely; finds fault with

SIDEBAR: About the book of James

The Epistle of James is considered by many sources the earliest of all New Testament texts, penned years before the Gospels (most likely by ad  60). Some identify Jesus’ eldest brother, head of the Christian community in Jerusalem, as its author. 

At the time of this letter, Stephen had recently been martyred, and countless followers of Christ Jesus had fled or been driven from Jerusalem. As no distinction had yet been made between Judaism and Christianity, the writer connects this dispersion to Jewish experience, addressing his message to “the twelve tribes which are scattered abroad” (1:1 ). This would have included Gentile converts. (In at least one instance, James welcomes Paul’s report of “what things God had wrought among the Gentiles by his ministry”; Acts 21:18–20).

James’ Jewish roots anchor his epistle. Alluding to this, a scholar commends the book of James to contemporary readers: “In a shrinking world in which interfaith dialogue among adherents of the great monotheistic faiths is needed, James serves as a witness to common roots and shared convictions of those who serve the one God.”

from Section 1

2 | Psalms 33:8, 9  

Let all the earth fear the Lord: let all the inhabitants of the world stand in awe of him. For he spake, and it was done; he commanded, and it stood fast. 

Translation

All the earth honors the LORD; 
       all the earth’s inhabitants stand in awe of him. 
Because when he spoke, it happened! 
       When he commanded, there it was!

—Common English Bible

3 | I Corinthians 2:9, 10  

Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love him. But God hath revealed them unto us by his Spirit: for the Spirit searcheth all things, yea, the deep things of God.

Translation

What eye has not seen and ear has not heard and has not entered into the heart of man, [all that] God has prepared (made and keeps ready) for those who love Him [who hold Him in affectionate reverence, promptly obeying Him and gratefully recognizing the benefits He has bestowed]. Yet to us God has unveiled and revealed them by and through His Spirit, for the [Holy] Spirit searches diligently, exploring and examining everything, even sounding the profound and bottomless things of God [the divine counsels and things hidden and beyond man’s scrutiny].

—Amplified® Bible Classic

from Section 2

5 | II Timothy 3:16, 17

All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: that the man of God may be perfect, throughly furnished unto all good works.

Epanorthōsis, the Greek word rendered correction, signifies restoration to an upright or right state, or reformation of life or character.

Throughly furnished is translated from the Greek verb exartizō, describing completion and accomplishment as well as full supply or readiness. Understanding Scripture readies followers of Christ for service to others.

8 | Genesis 3:1  

Now the serpent was more subtil than any beast of the field which the Lord God had made.

subtil: crafty; sly

9 | Isaiah 1:22

Thy silver is become dross, thy wine mixed with water.

Translation

Once like pure silver, 
       you have become like worthless slag. 
Once so pure, 
       you are now like watered-down wine.

—New Living Translation

Here, at the beginning of Isaiah’s ministry, the prophet candidly flags Israel’s need for regeneration. Two images convey corruption in “the faithful city” (an allusion to Jerusalem, and more largely, to God’s children; see vv. 18–21).  Dross and diluted wine are compelling examples. Both connote a previously pure state, and neither is in any way desirable.

dross: waste matter left over after a purifying process

11 | John 3:6

That which is born of the flesh is flesh; and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit.

Jesus is unequivocal in differentiating between the flesh and Spirit. In this declaration, he is answering the Pharisee Nicodemus, who questions the Master’s teaching about being born again. Later, Jesus tells his disciples, “It is the spirit that quickeneth; the flesh profiteth nothing: the words that I speak unto you, they are spirit, and they are life” (John 6:63).

Paul repeats this distinction in his letters. To the Roman church, for instance, he asserts, “Ye are not in the flesh, but in the Spirit, if so be that the Spirit of God dwell in you” (Romans 8:9).  And to the Galatian Christians he counsels, “Walk in the Spirit, and ye shall not fulfil the lust of the flesh” (Galatians 5:16).

from Section 4

13 | John 5:2–5  

Now there is at Jerusalem by the sheep market a pool, which is called in the Hebrew tongue Bethesda, having five porches. In these lay a great multitude of impotent folk, of blind, halt, withered, waiting for the moving of the water. For an angel went down at a certain season into the pool, and troubled the water: whosoever then first after the troubling of the water stepped in was made whole of whatsoever disease he had. And a certain man was there, which had an infirmity thirty and eight years.

impotent: disabled; weakened by disease
halt: unable to walk; lame
infirmity: illness

14 | II Corinthians 6:2

Behold, now is the accepted time; behold, now is the day of salvation.

Translation

. . . I tell you that the “right time” is now. The “day of salvation” is now.

—International Children’s Bible

Paul’s message of immediacy echoes the announcement made by both John the Baptist and Jesus, “The kingdom of heaven is at hand” (Matthew 3:2; 4:17).  Similar “now” affirmations appear throughout the New Testament (see examples in Ephesians 2:19;  I Peter 2:9, 10;  I John 3:2;  Revelation 12:10) —overturning the assumption that salvation is a far-off event.

from Section 5

15 | Philippians 2:5, 13

Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus: . . . For it is God which worketh in you both to will and to do of his good pleasure.

Paul has just exhorted the Christians at Philippi to “be like-minded, having the same love, being of one accord, of one mind” (v. 2).  A Bible authority points out: “This single mind-set means, not conformity in thought, but a concentration on the same single norm. . . . readers are to act in the light of what and how they think about Christ.” Commenting on verse 13, he adds, “God’s participation is throughout, from the heart’s resolve to the final consummation.”

16 | Acts 19:11

God wrought special miracles by the hands of Paul.

Earlier, Paul had performed healings of a lame man and a possessed girl (see 14:8–10;  16:16–18).  Now his works in Corinth and beyond are introduced, with emphasis that these “special miracles” are the work of God. 

The apostle traveled to Ephesus after establishing the Christian church at Corinth, and remained there over two years. It was from Ephesus that he wrote his first epistle to the Corinthians. 

A major commercial port on the Aegean Sea, the city was originally populated by Greeks. In the second century bc  it was incorporated into the Roman Empire and later became the capital of the Roman province of Asia. By the time of Paul’s stay, Ephesus ranked with the cities of Rome, Alexandria, and Syrian Antioch in prosperity and sophistication.

16 | Acts 19:13–18

Certain of the vagabond Jews, exorcists, took upon them to call over them which had evil spirits the name of the Lord Jesus, saying, We adjure you by Jesus whom Paul preacheth. And there were seven sons of one Sceva, a Jew, and chief of the priests, which did so. And the evil spirit answered and said, Jesus I know, and Paul I know; but who are ye? And the man in whom the evil spirit was leaped on them, and overcame them, and prevailed against them, so that they fled out of that house naked and wounded. And this was known to all the Jews and Greeks also dwelling at Ephesus; and fear fell on them all, and the name of the Lord Jesus was magnified. And many that believed came, and confessed, and shewed their deeds.

In ancient times, physical and mental illnesses alike were thought to be caused by evil spirits, and healing was sought through exorcism. Since Sceva is not mentioned elsewhere in Scripture or in other records, scholars surmise that he either had a prominent connection to the local priesthood or was masquerading as a high priest. His sons were likewise either recognized itinerant exorcists or charlatans trying to capitalize on Paul’s success at casting out demons (see v. 12).

At this time, many who practice "curious arts" voluntarily burn books of magic worth fifty thousand pieces of silver—enough money to pay about one hundred fifty laborers for a year.

vagabond: traveling or wandering; having no permanent home
exorcists: people believed to be able to drive evil spirits from a person or place
adjure: solemnly call upon; order; command

from Section 6

18 | Hebrews 10:24

Let us consider one another to provoke unto love and to good works.

Translation

. . . let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds . . . .

—New International Version

Provoking, in this statement, isn’t an incensing or irritating activity—it’s a call to rouse fellow community members to express love, in gathering together as well as in individual outreach.

19 | I Corinthians 13:1, 4–6, 13

Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, and have not charity, I am become as sounding brass, or a tinkling cymbal. . . . Charity suffereth long, and is kind; charity envieth not; charity vaunteth not itself, is not puffed up, doth not behave itself unseemly, seeketh not her own, is not easily provoked, thinketh no evil; rejoiceth not in iniquity, but rejoiceth in the truth; . . . And now abideth faith, hope, charity, these three; but the greatest of these is charity.

Translation

If I [can] speak in the tongues of men and [even] of angels, but have not love (that reasoning, intentional, spiritual devotion such as is inspired by God’s love for and in us), I am only a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. . . . Love endures long and is patient and kind; love never is envious nor boils over with jealousy, is not boastful or vainglorious, does not display itself haughtily. It is not conceited (arrogant and inflated with pride); it is not rude (unmannerly) and does not act unbecomingly. Love (God’s love in us) does not insist on its own rights or its own way, for it is not self-seeking; it is not touchy or fretful or resentful; it takes no account of the evil done to it [it pays no attention to a suffered wrong]. It does not rejoice at injustice and unrighteousness, but rejoices when right and truth prevail. . . . Love never fails [never fades out or becomes obsolete or comes to an end]. As for prophecy (the gift of interpreting the divine will and purpose), it will be fulfilled and pass away; as for tongues, they will be destroyed and cease; as for knowledge, it will pass away [it will lose its value and be superseded by truth]. . . . And so faith, hope, love abide [faith—conviction and belief respecting man’s relation to God and divine things; hope—joyful and confident expectation of eternal salvation; love—true affection for God and man, growing out of God’s love for and in us], these three; but the greatest of these is love.

—Amplified® Bible Classic

Sometimes known as “Paul’s Hymn to Love,” this chapter subordinates every divine gift to love—not to devalue the gifts but to attest that their worth depends on the love with which they are received and used. “The description Paul gives in verses 4–7  is of God’s love . . . ,” notes a commentary. “The call to Christians is to live by the grace and power of God in such a way that God’s own love forms and directs life . . . .”

Faith, hope, and charity (usually rendered love) are often combined in Paul’s letters (see also Romans 5:1–5;   Galatians 5:5, 6;   I Thessalonians 1:3; 5:8).  Much has been written about why Paul specifies love as “the greatest.” Another source summarizes, “Love is the matrix of the life of faith; God’s love for people becomes the force that enables them to love others.”

vaunteth: boasts or brags about
puffed up: self-important; overly proud
provoked: irritated; made angry

20 | Jude 1:21  

Keep yourselves in the love of God, looking for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ unto eternal life.

Translation

. . . await the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ, who will bring you eternal life. In this way, you will keep yourselves safe in God’s love.

—New Living Translation

from Section 7

21 | Matthew 6:24

No man can serve two masters: for either he will hate the one, and love the other; or else he will hold to the one, and despise the other. Ye cannot serve God and mammon.

Translation

“No one can serve two masters. The person will hate one master and love the other, or will follow one master and refuse to follow the other. You cannot serve both God and worldly riches.”

—New Century Version

Following his charge to “lay not up for yourselves treasures upon earth” (v. 19),  Jesus employs the word mammon to stress the opposite natures of spiritual and material treasure. This common Aramaic term, signifying property or riches, may be derived from the root ’āman (referring to constancy or reliance). A scholar remarks, “. . . when people put their trust in material things, then material things have become not their support but their god.”

Jesus’ teaching was not intended as a warning only for those who had great possessions. A large group of his listeners would have been poor, and his subsequent sayings bring assurance of divine supply for all who rely on God (see vv. 25–34).

22 | Galatians 5:1  

Stand fast therefore in the liberty wherewith Christ hath made us free, and be not entangled again with the yoke of bondage.

Translation

We have freedom now because Christ made us free. So stand strong. Do not change and go back into the slavery of the law.

—International Children’s Bible

23 | Proverbs 12:28  

In the way of righteousness is life.

Translation

Doing what is right is the way to life . . . .

—New Century Version


Read a related editorial, “Watching what's being sown” by Russ Gerber.

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: Keck, Leander E., et al., eds. The New Interpreter’s Bible Commentary. Vol. 1, Introduction to the Pentateuch. Genesis. Exodus. Leviticus. Numbers. Deuteronomy. Nashville: Abingdon, 2015.

RR: Davids, Peter H. New International Biblical Commentary—James. Peabody, MA: Hendrickson Publishers, 1989.

SIDEBAR: McKnight, Edgar V., and Christopher Church. Hebrews–James. Macon, GA: Smyth & Helwys Pub., 2004.

Cit. 15: Laymon, Charles M. The Interpreter’s One-Volume Commentary on the Bible. Nashville: Abingdon, 1971.

Cit. 19: Soards, Marion L. New International Biblical Commentary—1 Corinthians. Peabody, MA: Hendrickson Publishers, 1999; Keck, Leander E., et al., eds. The New Interpreter’s Bible Commentary. Vol. 9, Acts, Introduction to Epistolary Literature, Romans, 1 & 2 Corinthians, Galatians. Nashville: Abingdon, 2015.

Cit. 21: Barclay, William. The Daily Study Bible: The Gospel of Matthew, Vol. 1. Edinburgh: Saint Andrew, 1955. Revised and updated by Saint Andrew, 2001. Reprinted as The New Daily Study Bible: The Gospel of Matthew, Vol. 1. Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox, 2001–04.

NEXT IN THIS ISSUE
Letters
Letters & Conversations
September 6, 2021
Contents

We'd love to hear from you!

Easily submit your testimonies, articles, and poems online.

Submit