Shining a light on the weekly Bible Lessons published in the Christian Science Quarterly®
from the Responsive Reading
Now concerning spiritual gifts, brethren, I do not want you to be ignorant.
—New King James Version®
First Corinthians was written to address disunity among the Christians in Corinth. In this chapter, Paul characterizes individual differences as spiritual gifts, a shift that emphasizes unity under the one God, who bestows these unique and varied gifts (see vv. 4–11). He ends this section with the counsel “Covet earnestly the best gifts: and yet shew I unto you a more excellent way” (v. 31)—wording that leads directly into chapter 13, sometimes called the Hymn to Love.
Love suffers long and is kind; love does not envy; love does not parade itself, is not puffed up; does not behave rudely, does not seek its own, is not provoked, thinks no evil; does not rejoice in iniquity, but rejoices in the truth; bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never fails.
—New King James Version®
That love “never fails” points to permanence as well as triumph. Nineteenth-century evangelist Henry Drummond affirms: “Love must be eternal. It is what God is. On the last analysis, then, love is life. Love never faileth, and life never faileth, so long as there is love.”
Another source sums up Paul’s meaning: “The one unconquerable thing is love.” As Song of Solomon 8:7 puts it, “Many waters cannot quench love, neither can floods drown it.”
For we know in part and we prophesy in part. But when that which is perfect has come, then that which is in part will be done away. . . . For now we see in a mirror, dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part, but then I shall know just as I also am known.
—New King James Version®
To see God “face to face” is to possess a deep understanding of Him—considered impossible for most people in ancient times. In Exodus 33:20, God proclaims, “Thou canst not see my face: for there shall no man see me, and live.” Yet, other passages make it clear that this divinely inspired vision is attainable. The patriarch Jacob attests to having “seen God face to face” (Genesis 32:30). And Revelation 22:4 declares that in the New Jerusalem, God’s servants “shall see his face.” Paul’s message to the Corinthians guarantees not partial but full knowledge of God.
from Section 1
1 | Zephaniah 3:17
The Lord thy God in the midst of thee is mighty; he will save, he will rejoice over thee with joy; he will rest in his love, he will joy over thee with singing.
your God is with you;
his power gives you victory.
The Lord will take delight in you,
and in his love he will give you new life.
He will sing and be joyful over you. . . .
—Good News Translation
For the mountains shall depart, and the hills be removed; but my kindness shall not depart from thee, neither shall the covenant of my peace be removed, saith the Lord that hath mercy on thee. O thou afflicted, tossed with tempest, and not comforted, behold, I will lay thy stones with fair colours, and lay thy foundations with sapphires. . . . And all thy children shall be taught of the Lord; and great shall be the peace of thy children.
Even if the mountains heave up from their anchors,
and the hills quiver and shake, I will not desert you.
You can rely on My enduring love;
My covenant of peace will stand forever.
So says the Eternal One, whose love won’t give up on you.
Eternal One: Ah, Jerusalem, so miserable and distressed! I will rebuild you
with floors of shimmering mosaics, set sapphires in your foundations.
. . . . .
Every one of your children, the people who call you home,
will be students of the Eternal; oh, they’ll be so happy and live in peace!
3 | I John 4:16, 19
We have known and believed the love that God hath to us. God is love; and he that dwelleth in love dwelleth in God, and God in him. . . . We love him, because he first loved us.
. . . we know the love that God has for us, and we trust that love. God is love. Those who live in love live in God, and God lives in them. . . . We love because God first loved us.
—New Century Version®
Much has been written about First John’s theme of God’s love (and our love for Him and humanity). A scholar reflects: “Love comes from God, which implies that our love is not self-generated, but manifests our parentage and kinship with God. . . . God’s love for us is the source of our power to love God and one another.”
from Section 2
4 | Psalms 46:1, 4–6
God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. . . . There is a river, the streams whereof shall make glad the city of God, the holy place of the tabernacles of the most High. God is in the midst of her; she shall not be moved: God shall help her, and that right early. The heathen raged, the kingdoms were moved: he uttered his voice, the earth melted.
Some Bible authorities believe this psalm alludes to Assyrian king Sennacherib’s siege of Jerusalem in 701 bc. Although Assyria had conquered Babylonia and many cities in Palestine, Jerusalem under King Hezekiah was spared, as God had promised (see II Kings 19:32–36; II Chronicles 32:21, 22).
In ancient Judea and Samaria, water was hard to come by. Because of this scarcity, rivers became a metaphor for God’s life-giving blessings. Isaiah 66:12 prophesies, for instance, “I will extend peace to her like a river, and the glory of the Gentiles like a flowing stream.”
Now Naaman, captain of the host of the king of Syria, was a great man with his master, and honourable, because by him the Lord had given deliverance unto Syria: he was also a mighty man in valour, but he was a leper. And the Syrians had gone out by companies, and had brought away captive out of the land of Israel a little maid; and she waited on Naaman’s wife. And she said unto her mistress, Would God my lord were with the prophet that is in Samaria! for he would recover him of his leprosy. And one went in, and told his lord, saying, Thus and thus said the maid that is of the land of Israel. . . . So Naaman came with his horses and with his chariot, and stood at the door of the house of Elisha. And Elisha sent a messenger unto him, saying, Go and wash in Jordan seven times, and thy flesh shall come again to thee, and thou shalt be clean. But Naaman was wroth, and went away, and said, Behold, I thought, He will surely come out to me, and stand, and call on the name of the Lord his God, and strike his hand over the place, and recover the leper. Are not Abana and Pharpar, rivers of Damascus, better than all the waters of Israel? may I not wash in them, and be clean? So he turned and went away in a rage. And his servants came near, and spake unto him, and said, My father, if the prophet had bid thee do some great thing, wouldest thou not have done it? how much rather then, when he saith to thee, Wash, and be clean? Then went he down, and dipped himself seven times in Jordan, according to the saying of the man of God: and his flesh came again like unto the flesh of a little child, and he was clean.
Naaman’s national pride impels his objection to the muddy Jordan—“the waters of Israel”—in contrast to the pure mountain streams flowing through Syria. Only when this great military leader drops his opinions and listens to his servants does he experience healing. Naaman’s story, usually cited as a lesson in humility, is also evidence of Yahweh’s power on behalf of Gentiles (see v. 15).
As the principal river in Palestine, the Jordan figures prominently in both the Old and New Testaments. At times it represented Israel’s eastern border, and it became a point of reference throughout Scripture—as seen in multiple mentions of “beyond” or “on the other side of” the river (see examples in Numbers 32:19; Mark 10:1). About 225 miles (360 km) long, the river runs from above the Sea of Galilee south to the Dead Sea. Steep mountain walls along much of its length and the absence of bridges until the Roman era made it difficult to cross.
The Jordan has special significance in Jewish and Christian tradition. In addition to Naaman’s healing there, it is at the river near Gilgal that Elijah parts the water before being translated and Elisha brings an axe head to its surface (see II Kings 2:6–11; 6:4–6). In the New Testament, the Jordan is the site of Jesus’ baptism (see Matthew 3:13–17).
Follow righteousness, faith, charity, peace, with them that call on the Lord out of a pure heart. . . . Be gentle unto all men, apt to teach, patient, in meekness instructing those that oppose themselves.
. . . give your positive attention to goodness, faith, love and peace in company with all those who approach God in sincerity. . . . And the Lord’s servant . . . must be kind to all, ready and able to teach: he must have patience and the ability gently to correct those who oppose his message.
—J. B. Phillips New Testament
Though Paul’s authorship of the pastoral letters to Timothy is disputed, these epistles are typical of his affection for his young companion. The apostle calls Timothy his brother, workfellow, and beloved son (see II Corinthians 1:1; Romans 16:21; I Corinthians 4:17)—and writes of him to the Philippian church, “I have no man like-minded, who will naturally care for your state” (Philippians 2:20).
Timothy’s mother and grandmother were both Jewish converts to Christianity (see 1:5). He first meets Paul in Lystra, the younger man’s hometown. “Well reported of” by his fellow Christians (see Acts 16:2), Timothy assists in Paul’s evangelical work for over two decades. He accompanies Paul on missionary trips and acts as messenger and mediator for Paul in several churches.
from Section 3
7 | Hebrews 10:24
Let us consider one another to provoke unto love and to good works.
Let us think of ways to motivate one another to acts of love and good works.
—New Living Translation
Whosoever shall smite thee on thy right cheek, turn to him the other also. . . . Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you; that ye may be the children of your Father which is in heaven: for he maketh his sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust.
. . . whoever slaps you on the right cheek, turn the other toward him also [simply ignore insignificant insults or trivial losses and do not bother to retaliate—maintain your dignity, your self-respect, your poise]. . . . love [that is, unselfishly seek the best or higher good for] your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may [show yourselves to] be the children of your Father who is in heaven; for He makes His sun rise on those who are evil and on those who are good, and makes the rain fall on the righteous [those who are morally upright] and the unrighteous [the unrepentant, those who oppose Him].
Christ Jesus’ teaching to love one’s enemies dramatically expanded on Hebrew injunctions to love one’s neighbor and show kindness to foreigners (see Leviticus 19:18, 34). Like the sun and rain, God’s universal love is bestowed on everyone without respect to personal merit or favor. Believers are to imitate their heavenly Father—to act in accord with their nature as His children, loving even the most hostile adversaries.
Together with Jesus’ charge to turn the other cheek, the precept of loving enemies has been viewed as a call for passive nonresistance. But the Savior’s instructions include the verbs love, bless, do good, and pray for—active responses of benevolence toward those who intend or bring harm.
10 | Romans 8:38, 39
For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.
I have become absolutely convinced that neither death nor life, neither messenger of Heaven nor monarch of earth, neither what happens today nor what may happen tomorrow, neither a power from on high nor a power from below, nor anything else in God’s whole world has any power to separate us from the love of God in Jesus Christ our Lord!
—J. B. Phillips New Testament
from Section 4
12 | Mark 3:1–5
[Jesus] entered again into the synagogue; and there was a man there which had a withered hand. And they watched him, whether he would heal him on the sabbath day; that they might accuse him. And he saith unto the man which had the withered hand, Stand forth. And he saith unto them, Is it lawful to do good on the sabbath days, or to do evil? to save life, or to kill? But they held their peace. And when he had looked round about on them with anger, being grieved for the hardness of their hearts, he saith unto the man, Stretch forth thine hand. And he stretched it out: and his hand was restored whole as the other.
In Hebrew society, interpretation of Sabbath laws varied in daily practice. People regularly cared for their animals on the Sabbath, and some schools of belief permitted prayer for the sick on the Sabbath. So reactions to Jesus were likely based less on his specific deeds than on his perceived threat to Mosaic law in general.
This account is fifth in a series of public encounters between Jesus and his opponents over such theological concepts as the forgiveness of sin, fasting, and Sabbath rules (see also 2:1–28). In this culture, honor was commonly valued more highly than wealth or rank. Here the Master deliberately challenges the synagogue officials, exposing their machinations with both his rhetorical questions and his cure of the man’s hand. His words and action dishonor his opponents and impel their retaliation (see v. 6).
Original meanings help clarify Jesus’ response to the suspicious Pharisees. Anger is translated from the Greek noun orgē, which refers to passion or intensity of feeling. Pōrōsis, rendered hardness here, denotes rigidity and callousness.
from Section 5
13 | I John 3:1
Behold, what manner of love the Father hath bestowed upon us, that we should be called the sons of God.
See what amazing love the Father has given us! Because of it, we are called children of God.
—New International Reader’s Version™
14 | I John 4:7
Beloved, let us love one another: for love is of God; and every one that loveth is born of God, and knoweth God.
Beloved, let us love one another, for love is (springs) from God; and he who loves [his fellowmen] is begotten (born) of God and is coming [progressively] to know and understand God [to perceive and recognize and get a better and clearer knowledge of Him].
—Amplified® Bible Classic
16 | Mark 3:31–35
There came then his brethren and his mother, and, standing without, sent unto him, calling him. And the multitude sat about him, and they said unto him, Behold, thy mother and thy brethren without seek for thee. And he answered them, saying, Who is my mother, or my brethren? And he looked round about on them which sat about him, and said, Behold my mother and my brethren! For whosoever shall do the will of God, the same is my brother, and my sister, and mother.
Some of Jesus’ family members apparently didn’t support his ministry. Earlier, after his appointing of his 12 disciples, Jesus’ friends—a term that may also refer to relatives—conclude that he is “beside himself” and try to restrain him (see v. 21).
Nevertheless, the Savior is not slighting his human family members during the exchange in verses 31–35. His love for his mother in particular is evident when, from the cross, he gives her care to a beloved disciple (see John 19:26, 27). But now he firmly asserts that the faithful are his true family. A commentary observes, “We are introduced here to the formation of that great family of God, the elder brother of which is Jesus, and the members of which are drawn from all races and lands.”
from Section 6
17 | Romans 12:9
Let love be without dissimulation.
Don’t just pretend to love others. Really love them.
—New Living Translation
A woman in the city, which was a sinner, when she knew that Jesus sat at meat in the Pharisee’s house, brought an alabaster box of ointment, and stood at his feet behind him weeping, and began to wash his feet with tears, and did wipe them with the hairs of her head, and kissed his feet, and anointed them with the ointment. Now when the Pharisee which had bidden him saw it, he spake within himself, saying, This man, if he were a prophet, would have known who and what manner of woman this is that toucheth him: for she is a sinner. And Jesus answering said unto him, Simon, I have somewhat to say unto thee. And he saith, Master, say on. . . . Simon, Seest thou this woman? I entered into thine house, thou gavest me no water for my feet: but she hath washed my feet with tears, and wiped them with the hairs of her head. Thou gavest me no kiss: but this woman since the time I came in hath not ceased to kiss my feet. My head with oil thou didst not anoint: but this woman hath anointed my feet with ointment. Wherefore I say unto thee, Her sins, which are many, are forgiven; for she loved much: . . . And he said to the woman, Thy faith hath saved thee; go in peace.
Twice the Gospels report Jesus sending a healed person away with the words “Go in peace” (see also the story of a hemorrhaging woman, Luke 8:48). Both women had violated the cultural rule that the unclean (from either sin or sickness) should not touch the pure. But rather than rebuffing them, the Master cures them—and helps them (and the onlookers) to understand the connection of faith to healing. A scholar likens this sense of peace to “a new home to which the penitent is bidden to turn as to a place of refuge.”
19 | Romans 13:8, 10
Owe no man any thing, but to love one another: . . . Love is the fulfilling of the law.
Let love be your only debt! . . . love is all that the Law demands.
—Contemporary English Version
In this brief admonition, Paul describes love as the only debt one can carry. Unlike most debts, it calls for continuing disbursement and is never paid off. One source notes, “We should feel that we ‘owe’ [a debt of love] to all people, and though by acts of kindness we may be constantly discharging it, yet we should feel that it can ‘never’ be fully met while there is opportunity to do good.”
Plērōma, the Greek word translated fulfilling in this verse, signifies the process of fulfilling as well as fulfillment itself. By its very nature, love satisfies every requirement of the Mosaic law, especially the Ten Commandments. “If love is the mainspring of a man’s heart,” another scriptural authority offers, “if his whole life is dominated by love for God and love for his fellow men, he needs no other law.”
Resources cited in this issue
RR: New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson. Used by permission. All rights reserved; Drummond, Henry. The Greatest Thing in the World: An Address. London: Hodder and Stoughton, 1890; Barclay, William. The Daily Study Bible: The Letters to the Corinthians. Edinburgh: Saint Andrew, 1955. Revised and updated by Saint Andrew, 2001. Reprinted as The New Daily Study Bible: The Letters to the Corinthians. Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox, 2001–04.
Cit. 3: Keck, Leander E., et al., eds. The New Interpreter’s Bible: A Commentary in Twelve Volumes. Vol. 12, Hebrews, James, 1 and 2 Peter, 1, 2, and 3 John, Jude, Revelation. Nashville: Abingdon, 1996–2001.
Cit. 16: Mays, James L., Joseph Blenkinsopp, et al., eds. Harper’s Bible Commentary. San Francisco: Harper & Row, 1988.
Cit. 18: Ellicott, Charles John, ed. A Bible Commentary for English Readers by Various Writers. London: Cassell, 1897–1905. Also available at studylight.org/commentaries.
Cit. 19: Barnes, Albert. Albert Barnes’ Notes on the Whole Bible. New York, 1834–85. Also available at biblehub.com/commentaries; Barclay, William. The Daily Study Bible: The Letter to the Romans. Edinburgh: Saint Andrew, 1955. Revised and updated by Saint Andrew, 2001. Reprinted as The New Daily Study Bible: The Letter to the Romans. Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox, 2001–04.
Scriptural quotations marked Good News Translation are taken from the Good News Translation in Today’s English Version—Second Edition, copyright © 1992 by American Bible Society. Used by permission.
Scriptural quotations marked The VOICE are taken from The Voice™. Copyright © 2012 by Ecclesia Bible Society. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
Scriptural quotations marked New Century Version are taken from the New Century Version®. Copyright © 2005 by Thomas Nelson. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
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© 2023 The Christian Science Publishing Society. The design of the Cross and Crown is a trademark owned by the Christian Science Board of Directors and is used by permission. Bible Lens and Christian Science Quarterly are trademarks owned by The Christian Science Publishing Society. Unless otherwise indicated, all scriptural quotations are taken from the King James Version of the Holy Bible.