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

Mortals and Immortals

from the Golden Text

II Corinthians 5:20

We are ambassadors for Christ, as though God did beseech you by us: we pray you in Christ’s stead, be ye reconciled to God.

Paul reminds his readers that he and his fellow laborers are representatives of Christ, conveying the Savior’s messages faithfully. In this case, the charge is urgent, as if God Himself were presenting it: Be in accord with God. 

In Jewish tradition, sacrifices were made to atone for sin, redeem the heart, and reconcile oneself to God. For Christians, reconciliation came through the supreme sacrifice of Christ Jesus—and followers were to embrace it as a present reality.

stead: place
reconciled to: unified with

from the Responsive Reading

II Corinthians 3:3–6

Ye are manifestly declared to be the epistle of Christ ministered by us, written not with ink, but with the Spirit of the living God; not in tables of stone, but in fleshy tables of the heart. And such trust have we through Christ to God-ward: not that we are sufficient of ourselves to think any thing as of ourselves; but our sufficiency is of God; who also hath made us able ministers of the new testament; not of the letter, but of the spirit: for the letter killeth, but the spirit giveth life. 

In his second epistle to the Corinthians, Paul responds to critics in that church. Some members deem his ministry to the Gentiles inferior to the work of rival preachers, who insist that Christians follow Hebrew law. Making their censure clear, they apparently request that the apostle supply letters of introduction (see v. 1), as lesser-known preachers often did. Paul firmly rejects this demand, identifying believers as his “epistle written in our hearts, known and read of all men” (v. 2). And he commends the spirit over rigid devotion to codes and procedures.

A commentator observes: “The gospel so much exceeds the law in glory, that it eclipses the glory of the legal dispensation. But even the New Testament will be a killing letter, if shown as a mere system or form, and without dependence on God the Holy Spirit, to give it a quickening power.”

Diakonos, the Greek noun rendered ministers, also signifies servants—in this verse, servants of God, who are made divinely “sufficient” to carry out His work.

manifestly: clearly
epistle: letter
ministered: supplied
sufficient: enough

II Corinthians 3:17, 18

Where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty. But we all, with open face beholding as in a glass the glory of the Lord, are changed into the same image from glory to glory, even as by the Spirit of the Lord.

Genuine freedom, Paul declares, is spiritual. Unlike human liberty, often sought through combat and equated with independence, this freedom comes from recognizing oneself as God’s image. One source suggests: “Men do not achieve this kind of liberation simply by taking thought. Rather, their deliverance is the work of God Himself who, through His Holy Spirit, knits them into a redemptive community . . . .”

II Corinthians 4:5, 6

We preach not ourselves, but Christ Jesus the Lord; and ourselves your servants for Jesus’ sake. For God, who commanded the light to shine out of darkness, hath shined in our hearts, to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ. 

Paul is careful not to promote himself. He considers himself Christ’s emissary, in service to fellow believers, just as Jesus took “the form of a servant” (Philippians 2:7). Yet, he draws on his own experience of Christ, and may be alluding here to the light that shone both in his heart and “round about him” on the road to Damascus (see Acts 9:1–5, citation 7).

from Section 1

1 | Job 4:17

Shall mortal man be more just than God? shall a man be more pure than his maker?

Translation

“Can a mortal be more righteous than God?
      Can even a strong man be more pure than his Maker?”

—New International Version

2 | Isaiah 43:1

Now thus saith the Lord that created thee, O Jacob, and he that formed thee, O Israel, Fear not: for I have redeemed thee, I have called thee by thy name; thou art mine.

Following strong reproaches in 42:23–25, the author now turns to words of comfort about God’s faithfulness and care. “Regardless of how difficult the circumstances or how far he has to bring his people,” a scholar points out, “he is with them. He is their God by covenant, the Holy One who has consecrated them, their Redeemer.”

Gā’al, the Hebrew verb translated redeemed in this verse, is a legal term for the release of someone from servitude or debt by a kinsman. Figuratively, Old Testament usage refers to God’s deliverance from trouble or harm (see another instance in Psalms 77:15).

By New Testament times, redemption had further deepened in meaning to denote salvation from sin and death through Christ Jesus, the Redeemer of humanity. Paul states, for example, “God sent forth his Son . . . to redeem them that were under the law” (Galatians 4:4, 5).

3 | Isaiah 42:6, 7

I the Lord have called thee in righteousness, and will hold thine hand, and will keep thee, and give thee for a covenant of the people, for a light of the Gentiles; to open the blind eyes, to bring out the prisoners from the prison, and them that sit in darkness out of the prison house.

Although scriptural texts often describe Gentiles as adversaries or nations to be conquered, prophecies such as this one include them. Isaiah 60:3 has another example: “The Gentiles shall come to thy light, and kings to the brightness of thy rising.” 

4 | John 17:1, 3

These words spake Jesus, and lifted up his eyes to heaven, and said, Father, the hour is come; glorify thy Son, that thy Son also may glorify thee: . . . And this is life eternal, that they might know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent.

Beginning with Jesus’ reply to his mother’s appeal at the marriage feast (see 2:4), this author repeatedly refers to the “hour”—the time for the momentous events of the Master’s final days on earth (see, for instance, 12:2313:1). And eternal or everlasting life is a strong theme in John’s Gospel, with nearly twenty mentions (many more than in the synoptic Gospels). 

To know God isn’t an intellectual exercise. As a Bible authority notes, it is to regard him as lawgiver, sovereign, parent, and friend—“to yield the whole soul to him, and strive to obey his law.”

Because of its intimate communication with God, Christ Jesus’ final prayer has been called “the high priestly prayer”—an allusion to the Jewish high priest’s exclusive access to the holiest space of the Temple. However, the Savior teaches free and open access to God by everyone through him. He says, “If a man love me, he will keep my words: and my Father will love him, and we will come unto him, and make our abode with him” (14:23).

5 | I Corinthians 15:57, 58

Thanks be to God, which giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore, my beloved brethren, be ye stedfast, unmoveable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, forasmuch as ye know that your labour is not in vain in the Lord.

Translation

 . . . thanks be to God who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ! So then, my dear friends, stand firm and steady. Keep busy always in your work for the Lord, since you know that nothing you do in the Lord’s service is ever useless.

—Good News Translation

One scholar explains: “The future is so certain that the Apostle speaks of it as a subject for present thanksgiving; the victory is one which God gives now through Jesus Christ. His resurrection is the pledge of our resurrection.” Believers are to be constant in “the work of the Lord,” much as II Peter 1:10 instructs: “Give diligence to make your calling and election sure: for if ye do these things, ye shall never fall.”

from Section 2

6 | 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

. . . anyone who belongs to Christ has become a new person. The old life is gone; a new life has begun!

—New Living Translation

7 | Acts 9:1–5, 8, 10–12, 17, 18

Saul, yet breathing out threatenings and slaughter against the disciples of the Lord, went unto the high priest, and desired of him letters to Damascus to the synagogues, that if he found any of this way, whether they were men or women, he might bring them bound unto Jerusalem. And as he journeyed, he came near Damascus: and suddenly there shined round about him a light from heaven: and he fell to the earth, and heard a voice saying unto him, Saul, Saul, why persecutest thou me? And he said, Who art thou, Lord? And the Lord said, I am Jesus whom thou persecutest: it is hard for thee to kick against the pricks. . . . And Saul arose from the earth; and when his eyes were opened, he saw no man: but they led him by the hand, and brought him into Damascus. . . . And there was a certain disciple at Damascus, named Ananias; and to him said the Lord in a vision, Ananias. And he said, Behold, I am here, Lord. And the Lord said unto him, Arise, and go into the street which is called Straight, and inquire in the house of Judas for one called Saul, of Tarsus: for, behold, he prayeth, and hath seen in a vision a man named Ananias coming in, and putting his hand on him, that he might receive his sight. . . . And Ananias went his way, and entered into the house; and putting his hands on him said, Brother Saul, the Lord, even Jesus, that appeared unto thee in the way as thou camest, hath sent me, that thou mightest receive thy sight, and be filled with the Holy Ghost. And immediately there fell from his eyes as it had been scales: and he received sight forthwith, and arose, and was baptized.

A large city in the Roman province of Syria several days’ journey from Jerusalem, Damascus had a Jewish population estimated at more than twenty thousand. Because Rome had given overall control of Hebrew affairs to the Sanhedrin at Jerusalem, Saul needed letters of authority to purge the Damascus synagogues of Jesus’ followers.

Saul’s dramatic “conversion” is not a change of religion; adherents to “the way” still thought of themselves as Jews. The transformation Saul undergoes—illustrated by his healing of blindness—opens his eyes to Christ’s teachings. His baptism symbolizes the washing away of his history of wrongdoing and seals his new status as a believer.

scales: thick coverings of skin
forthwith: immediately

from Section 3

8 | Psalms 16:1, 11

Preserve me, O God: for in thee do I put my trust. . . . Thou wilt shew me the path of life: in thy presence is fulness of joy.

Translation

Protect me, God, because I take refuge in you. . . . 
You teach me the way of life. 
     In your presence is total celebration.

—Common English Bible

9 | Acts 9:19–27, 31

Then was Saul certain days with the disciples which were at Damascus. And straightway he preached Christ in the synagogues, that he is the Son of God. But all that heard him were amazed, and said; Is not this he that destroyed them which called on this name in Jerusalem, and came hither for that intent, that he might bring them bound unto the chief priests? But Saul increased the more in strength, and confounded the Jews which dwelt at Damascus, proving that this is very Christ. And after that many days were fulfilled, the Jews took counsel to kill him: but their laying await was known of Saul. And they watched the gates day and night to kill him. Then the disciples took him by night, and let him down by the wall in a basket. And when Saul was come to Jerusalem, he assayed to join himself to the disciples: but they were all afraid of him, and believed not that he was a disciple. But Barnabas took him, and brought him to the apostles, and declared unto them how he had seen the Lord in the way, and that he had spoken to him, and how he had preached boldly at Damascus in the name of Jesus. . . . Then had the churches rest throughout all Judæa and Galilee and Samaria, and were edified; and walking in the fear of the Lord, and in the comfort of the Holy Ghost, were multiplied.

Saul acts immediately on his new perception of God and His Christ, acquainting himself with disciples in Damascus and preaching at their worship services. Understandably, amazement and disbelief characterize the response to his remarkable turnaround. Hebrew leaders expect him to kill followers of Christ, and many disciples cannot accept his change of heart (see vv. 21, 26).

Galatians 1:17 indicates a lapse of time—and a sojourn in Arabia—before Saul’s return to Jerusalem. Now, just as Saul had pursued Christians with murderous intent, Jews target him. Yet a sufficient number of believers support Saul to effect his escape over the city wall, away from the watchers at the city gates. Later, in a letter to the Corinthian Christians, Saul (by this time known as Paul) concludes a moving catalog of his sufferings on behalf of Christ with mention of this escape (see II Corinthians 11:24–33). 

That the churches have “rest” is testament both to the cessation of Saul’s vendetta against them and to his role in the work referenced in verse 31. More than half of the book of Acts centers on Paul’s ministry (see chaps. 13–28), and much of the New Testament comprises his epistles to churches and individual Christians.

hither: here; to or toward this place
intent: purpose
confounded: confused
laying await: hiding in order to attack
assayed: tried; attempted
edified: set up; organized
fear: deep respect

from Section 4

10 | I Corinthians 3:11

Other foundation can no man lay than that is laid, which is Jesus Christ. 

Having designated the faithful as “God’s building” (v. 9), Paul continues the metaphor. Christ Jesus—depicted as the cornerstone in Acts 4:11 and Ephesians 2:20—is the bedrock for all spiritual building.

Jesus himself offers a foundation simile: “Whosoever cometh to me, and heareth my sayings, and doeth them, I will shew you to whom he is like: He is like a man which built an house, and digged deep, and laid the foundation on a rock: and when the flood arose, the stream beat vehemently upon that house, and could not shake it: for it was founded upon a rock” (Luke 6:47, 48).

11 | Acts 11:1, 21–23

The apostles and brethren that were in Judæa heard that the Gentiles had also received the word of God. . . . And the hand of the Lord was with them: and a great number believed, and turned unto the Lord. Then tidings of these things came unto the ears of the church which was in Jerusalem: and they sent forth Barnabas, that he should go as far as Antioch. Who, when he came, and had seen the grace of God, was glad, and exhorted them all, that with purpose of heart they would cleave unto the Lord. 

tidings: news
cleave unto: stick firmly and closely to

from Section 5

12 | Psalms 18:28, 29, 33

The Lord my God will enlighten my darkness. For by thee I have run through a troop; and by my God have I leaped over a wall. . . . He maketh my feet like hinds’ feet, and setteth me upon my high places. 

Translation

     The LORD,  my God, lights up my darkness.
In your strength I can crush an army;
     with my God I can scale any wall. . . .
He makes me as surefooted as a deer,
     enabling me to stand on mountain heights.

—New Living Translation

from Section 6

14 | Psalms 27:1, 4

The Lord is my light and my salvation; . . . One thing have I desired of the Lord, that will I seek after; that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to behold the beauty of the Lord, and to inquire in his temple.

Translation

The LORD  is my light and my salvation; . . . 
I have asked the LORD  for one thing;
      one thing only do I want:
to live in the LORD’s  house all my life,
      to marvel there at his goodness,
      and to ask for his guidance.

—Good News Translation

15 | Acts 17:22–25, 28 

Paul stood in the midst of Mars’ hill, and said, Ye men of Athens, I perceive that in all things ye are too superstitious. For as I passed by, and beheld your devotions, I found an altar with this inscription, TO THE UNKNOWN GOD. Whom therefore ye ignorantly worship, him declare I unto you. God that made the world and all things therein, seeing that he is Lord of heaven and earth, dwelleth not in temples made with hands; neither is worshipped with men’s hands, as though he needed any thing, seeing he giveth to all life, and breath, and all things; . . . for in him we live, and move, and have our being.

Translation

Then Paul stood before the meeting of the Areopagus. He said, “Men of Athens, I can see that you are very religious in all things. I was going through your city, and I saw the things you worship. I found an altar that had these words written on it: “TO A GOD WHO IS NOT KNOWN.” You worship a god that you don’t know. This is the God I am telling you about! He is the God who made the whole world and everything in it. He is the Lord of the land and the sky. He does not live in temples that men build! This God is the One who gives life, breath, and everything else to people. He does not need any help from them. He has everything he needs. . . . ‘By his power we live and move and exist.’ ”

—International Children’s Bible

Paul is brought to Mars’ hill by a group of philosophers who are curious about his teaching (see vv. 18–21). A centuries-old site of judgment, the hill (called the Areopagus) was a natural place for the apostle to explain the new doctrine of Christianity. The tribunal located there enforced laws, held trials, and supervised the moral conduct and education of the populace—and it’s identified by some sources as the council that sentenced Socrates to death in 399 bc.  Paul is not on trial, though; he is being given a singular opportunity to make the one God known.

Today, “too superstitious” may sound offensive. Most translators accurately render the phrase “very religious,” and note that Paul’s wording is meant to be conciliatory—a preface to his stronger message about their ignorant approach to worshiping the one God.

ignorantly: without knowledge or understanding


Read a related editorial, “Let’s build an altar” by Beulah M. Roegge, at jsh.christianscience.com/let-s-build-an-altar.

from the Golden Text

II Corinthians 5:20

We are ambassadors for Christ, as though God did beseech you by us: we pray you in Christ’s stead, be ye reconciled to God.

Paul reminds his readers that he and his fellow laborers are representatives of Christ, conveying the Savior’s messages faithfully. In this case, the charge is urgent, as if God Himself were presenting it: Be in accord with God. 

In Jewish tradition, sacrifices were made to atone for sin, redeem the heart, and reconcile oneself to God. For Christians, reconciliation came through the supreme sacrifice of Christ Jesus—and followers were to embrace it as a present reality.

from the Responsive Reading

II Corinthians 3:3–6

Ye are manifestly declared to be the epistle of Christ ministered by us, written not with ink, but with the Spirit of the living God; not in tables of stone, but in fleshy tables of the heart. And such trust have we through Christ to God-ward: not that we are sufficient of ourselves to think any thing as of ourselves; but our sufficiency is of God; who also hath made us able ministers of the new testament; not of the letter, but of the spirit: for the letter killeth, but the spirit giveth life. 

In his second epistle to the Corinthians, Paul responds to critics in that church. Some members deem his ministry to the Gentiles inferior to the work of rival preachers, who insist that Christians follow Hebrew law. Making their censure clear, they apparently request that the apostle supply letters of introduction (see v. 1), as lesser-known preachers often did. Paul firmly rejects this demand, identifying believers as his “epistle written in our hearts, known and read of all men” (v. 2). And he commends the spirit over rigid devotion to codes and procedures.

A commentator observes: “The gospel so much exceeds the law in glory, that it eclipses the glory of the legal dispensation. But even the New Testament will be a killing letter, if shown as a mere system or form, and without dependence on God the Holy Spirit, to give it a quickening power.”

Diakonos, the Greek noun rendered ministers, also signifies servants—in this verse, servants of God, who are made divinely “sufficient” to carry out His work.

II Corinthians 3:17, 18

Where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty. But we all, with open face beholding as in a glass the glory of the Lord, are changed into the same image from glory to glory, even as by the Spirit of the Lord.

Genuine freedom, Paul declares, is spiritual. Unlike human liberty, often sought through combat and equated with independence, this freedom comes from recognizing oneself as God’s image. One source suggests: “Men do not achieve this kind of liberation simply by taking thought. Rather, their deliverance is the work of God Himself who, through His Holy Spirit, knits them into a redemptive community . . . .”

II Corinthians 4:5, 6

We preach not ourselves, but Christ Jesus the Lord; and ourselves your servants for Jesus’ sake. For God, who commanded the light to shine out of darkness, hath shined in our hearts, to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ. 

Paul is careful not to promote himself. He considers himself Christ’s emissary, in service to fellow believers, just as Jesus took “the form of a servant” (Philippians 2:7). Yet, he draws on his own experience of Christ, and may be alluding here to the light that shone both in his heart and “round about him” on the road to Damascus (see Acts 9:1–5, citation 7).

from Section 1

2 | Isaiah 43:1

Now thus saith the Lord that created thee, O Jacob, and he that formed thee, O Israel, Fear not: for I have redeemed thee, I have called thee by thy name; thou art mine.

Following strong reproaches in 42:23–25, the author now turns to words of comfort about God’s faithfulness and care. “Regardless of how difficult the circumstances or how far he has to bring his people,” a scholar points out, “he is with them. He is their God by covenant, the Holy One who has consecrated them, their Redeemer.”

Gā’al, the Hebrew verb translated redeemed in this verse, is a legal term for the release of someone from servitude or debt by a kinsman. Figuratively, Old Testament usage refers to God’s deliverance from trouble or harm (see another instance in Psalms 77:15).

By New Testament times, redemption had further deepened in meaning to denote salvation from sin and death through Christ Jesus, the Redeemer of humanity. Paul states, for example, “God sent forth his Son . . . to redeem them that were under the law” (Galatians 4:4, 5).

3 | Isaiah 42:6, 7

I the Lord have called thee in righteousness, and will hold thine hand, and will keep thee, and give thee for a covenant of the people, for a light of the Gentiles; to open the blind eyes, to bring out the prisoners from the prison, and them that sit in darkness out of the prison house.

Although scriptural texts often describe Gentiles as adversaries or nations to be conquered, prophecies such as this one include them. Isaiah 60:3 has another example: “The Gentiles shall come to thy light, and kings to the brightness of thy rising.” 

4 | John 17:1, 3

These words spake Jesus, and lifted up his eyes to heaven, and said, Father, the hour is come; glorify thy Son, that thy Son also may glorify thee: . . . And this is life eternal, that they might know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent.

Beginning with Jesus’ reply to his mother’s appeal at the marriage feast (see 2:4), this author repeatedly refers to the “hour”—the time for the momentous events of the Master’s final days on earth (see, for instance, 12:2313:1). And eternal or everlasting life is a strong theme in John’s Gospel, with nearly twenty mentions (many more than in the synoptic Gospels). 

To know God isn’t an intellectual exercise. As a Bible authority notes, it is to regard him as lawgiver, sovereign, parent, and friend—“to yield the whole soul to him, and strive to obey his law.”

Because of its intimate communication with God, Christ Jesus’ final prayer has been called “the high priestly prayer”—an allusion to the Jewish high priest’s exclusive access to the holiest space of the Temple. However, the Savior teaches free and open access to God by everyone through him. He says, “If a man love me, he will keep my words: and my Father will love him, and we will come unto him, and make our abode with him” (14:23).

5 | I Corinthians 15:57, 58

Thanks be to God, which giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore, my beloved brethren, be ye stedfast, unmoveable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, forasmuch as ye know that your labour is not in vain in the Lord.

One scholar explains: “The future is so certain that the Apostle speaks of it as a subject for present thanksgiving; the victory is one which God gives now through Jesus Christ. His resurrection is the pledge of our resurrection.” Believers are to be constant in “the work of the Lord,” much as II Peter 1:10 instructs: “Give diligence to make your calling and election sure: for if ye do these things, ye shall never fall.”

from Section 2

7 | Acts 9:1–5, 8, 10–12, 17, 18

Saul, yet breathing out threatenings and slaughter against the disciples of the Lord, went unto the high priest, and desired of him letters to Damascus to the synagogues, that if he found any of this way, whether they were men or women, he might bring them bound unto Jerusalem. And as he journeyed, he came near Damascus: and suddenly there shined round about him a light from heaven: and he fell to the earth, and heard a voice saying unto him, Saul, Saul, why persecutest thou me? And he said, Who art thou, Lord? And the Lord said, I am Jesus whom thou persecutest: it is hard for thee to kick against the pricks. . . . And Saul arose from the earth; and when his eyes were opened, he saw no man: but they led him by the hand, and brought him into Damascus. . . . And there was a certain disciple at Damascus, named Ananias; and to him said the Lord in a vision, Ananias. And he said, Behold, I am here, Lord. And the Lord said unto him, Arise, and go into the street which is called Straight, and inquire in the house of Judas for one called Saul, of Tarsus: for, behold, he prayeth, and hath seen in a vision a man named Ananias coming in, and putting his hand on him, that he might receive his sight. . . . And Ananias went his way, and entered into the house; and putting his hands on him said, Brother Saul, the Lord, even Jesus, that appeared unto thee in the way as thou camest, hath sent me, that thou mightest receive thy sight, and be filled with the Holy Ghost. And immediately there fell from his eyes as it had been scales: and he received sight forthwith, and arose, and was baptized.

A large city in the Roman province of Syria several days’ journey from Jerusalem, Damascus had a Jewish population estimated at more than twenty thousand. Because Rome had given overall control of Hebrew affairs to the Sanhedrin at Jerusalem, Saul needed letters of authority to purge the Damascus synagogues of Jesus’ followers.

Saul’s dramatic “conversion” is not a change of religion; adherents to “the way” still thought of themselves as Jews. The transformation Saul undergoes—illustrated by his healing of blindness—opens his eyes to Christ’s teachings. His baptism symbolizes the washing away of his history of wrongdoing and seals his new status as a believer.

from Section 3

9 | Acts 9:19–27, 31

Then was Saul certain days with the disciples which were at Damascus. And straightway he preached Christ in the synagogues, that he is the Son of God. But all that heard him were amazed, and said; Is not this he that destroyed them which called on this name in Jerusalem, and came hither for that intent, that he might bring them bound unto the chief priests? But Saul increased the more in strength, and confounded the Jews which dwelt at Damascus, proving that this is very Christ. And after that many days were fulfilled, the Jews took counsel to kill him: but their laying await was known of Saul. And they watched the gates day and night to kill him. Then the disciples took him by night, and let him down by the wall in a basket. And when Saul was come to Jerusalem, he assayed to join himself to the disciples: but they were all afraid of him, and believed not that he was a disciple. But Barnabas took him, and brought him to the apostles, and declared unto them how he had seen the Lord in the way, and that he had spoken to him, and how he had preached boldly at Damascus in the name of Jesus. . . . Then had the churches rest throughout all Judæa and Galilee and Samaria, and were edified; and walking in the fear of the Lord, and in the comfort of the Holy Ghost, were multiplied.

Saul acts immediately on his new perception of God and His Christ, acquainting himself with disciples in Damascus and preaching at their worship services. Understandably, amazement and disbelief characterize the response to his remarkable turnaround. Hebrew leaders expect him to kill followers of Christ, and many disciples cannot accept his change of heart (see vv. 21, 26).

Galatians 1:17 indicates a lapse of time—and a sojourn in Arabia—before Saul’s return to Jerusalem. Now, just as Saul had pursued Christians with murderous intent, Jews target him. Yet a sufficient number of believers support Saul to effect his escape over the city wall, away from the watchers at the city gates. Later, in a letter to the Corinthian Christians, Saul (by this time known as Paul) concludes a moving catalog of his sufferings on behalf of Christ with mention of this escape (see II Corinthians 11:24–33). 

That the churches have “rest” is testament both to the cessation of Saul’s vendetta against them and to his role in the work referenced in verse 31. More than half of the book of Acts centers on Paul’s ministry (see chaps. 13–28), and much of the New Testament comprises his epistles to churches and individual Christians.

from Section 4

10 | I Corinthians 3:11

Other foundation can no man lay than that is laid, which is Jesus Christ. 

Having designated the faithful as “God’s building” (v. 9), Paul continues the metaphor. Christ Jesus—depicted as the cornerstone in Acts 4:11 and Ephesians 2:20—is the bedrock for all spiritual building.

Jesus himself offers a foundation simile: “Whosoever cometh to me, and heareth my sayings, and doeth them, I will shew you to whom he is like: He is like a man which built an house, and digged deep, and laid the foundation on a rock: and when the flood arose, the stream beat vehemently upon that house, and could not shake it: for it was founded upon a rock” (Luke 6:47, 48).

11 | Acts 11:1, 21–23

The apostles and brethren that were in Judæa heard that the Gentiles had also received the word of God. . . . And the hand of the Lord was with them: and a great number believed, and turned unto the Lord. Then tidings of these things came unto the ears of the church which was in Jerusalem: and they sent forth Barnabas, that he should go as far as Antioch. Who, when he came, and had seen the grace of God, was glad, and exhorted them all, that with purpose of heart they would cleave unto the Lord. 

from Section 6

15 | Acts 17:22–25, 28 

Paul stood in the midst of Mars’ hill, and said, Ye men of Athens, I perceive that in all things ye are too superstitious. For as I passed by, and beheld your devotions, I found an altar with this inscription, TO THE UNKNOWN GOD. Whom therefore ye ignorantly worship, him declare I unto you. God that made the world and all things therein, seeing that he is Lord of heaven and earth, dwelleth not in temples made with hands; neither is worshipped with men’s hands, as though he needed any thing, seeing he giveth to all life, and breath, and all things; . . . for in him we live, and move, and have our being.

Paul is brought to Mars’ hill by a group of philosophers who are curious about his teaching (see vv. 18–21). A centuries-old site of judgment, the hill (called the Areopagus) was a natural place for the apostle to explain the new doctrine of Christianity. The tribunal located there enforced laws, held trials, and supervised the moral conduct and education of the populace—and it’s identified by some sources as the council that sentenced Socrates to death in 399 bc. Paul is not on trial, though; he is being given a singular opportunity to make the one God known.

Today, “too superstitious” may sound offensive. Most translators accurately render the phrase “very religious,” and note that Paul’s wording is meant to be conciliatory—a preface to his stronger message about their ignorant approach to worshiping the one God.


Read a related editorial, “Let’s build an altar” by Beulah M. Roegge, at jsh.christianscience.com/let-s-build-an-altar.

Resources quoted in this issue

RR: Henry, Matthew. Matthew Henry’s Concise Commentary on the Whole Bible. Nashville: T. Nelson, 1997; Hastings, James, Frederick C. Grant, and H. H. Rowley. Dictionary of the Bible. New York: Scribner, 1963.

Cit. 2: Hill, Andrew E. Baker Illustrated Bible Commentary. Baker Publishing Group, 2012.

Cit. 4: Barnes, Albert. Albert Barnes’ Notes on the Whole Bible. New York, 1834–85. Also available at biblehub.com/commentaries.

Cit. 5: Ellicott, Charles John, ed. A Bible Commentary for English Readers by Various Writers. London: Cassell, 1897–1905. Also available at studylight.org/commentaries.

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