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Lesson 12: Mission and Commission *

Introduction: When I started reading the Bible texts for this week's lesson I became discouraged. Jesus seems to give a test for believers that I, frankly, flunk. Why don't you join me in the study this week and see how you do on the "test?" If you also flunk the test, I've got an explanation that seems to counter the plain language of the text. Let's dive into this study of the Bible and see what you think!

  1. Believe and Do

    1. Read Mark 16:14. Why did Jesus rebuke His disciples? (Because they would not believe those who had told them that Jesus was alive.)

      1. Why would the disciples have such an attitude? Would this not be exactly what they hoped for? (Perhaps it is pride. If Jesus does not appear to them, they will not believe it. Compare John 20:24-25.)

    2. Read Mark 16:15-16. What makes the difference between those who are saved and those who are condemned? (Believing in Jesus.)

    3. Read Mark 16:17-18. Is there a test so you can tell whether someone sincerely believes? (Jesus says that those who believe show certain signs: driving out demons, speaking in new tongues, picking up snakes, drinking poison, and healing sick people.)

      1. If that is the test, then I can tell you that I flunk the test. As far as I can tell, the Spanish class I took in college and eating at [an unnamed chain restaurant] come as close as I get to any of these tests.)

      2. Whenever I want to argue that a text of the Bible does not mean what it plainly says, I get nervous. This test seems so illogical. Why would picking up snakes or drinking poison have anything to do with believing in Jesus? (They don't have any relationship that I can see.)

        1. Are we told anywhere else in the Bible to pick up snakes or drink poison? Do we ever read about Jesus handling snakes or drinking poison? (No to both.)

        2. No commentary I read suggested that we should actually drink poison to prove our faith. Barnes' Notes and Adam Clarke's commentary refer to these signs being given to those "in the primitive age" or in "primitive times." Is it fair to call Jesus and the disciples "primitive" people? (Whenever we start claiming that we are more sophisticated than those people in Bible times, that also makes me nervous. Seems like pride at work. We may have better technology, but I doubt we have more emotional intelligence.)

      3. Look at Mark 16:17 again. Is there a common denominator among all of these signs? (They all deal with adversity. Demons, language barriers, snakes, poison, and sickness are all obstacles that face the disciples as they shared the gospel. I think Jesus is saying that a sign that you are a believer is that God will remove the serious obstacles to your witnessing.)

        1. Read Acts 28:3-6. Is this an example of the understanding that I propose for these verses? (Yes. We read of Paul being bitten by a snake, not dying, and this being used as a method to promote the gospel.)

  2. Belief and Judgment

    1. Read Matthew 25:31-33. What do sheep and goats symbolize? (This is another description of those who believe and are saved and those who are condemned.)

    2. Read Matthew 25:34-40. How do you fare on this test? (I'm feeling a lot better after reading this text than after reading Mark 16:17-18. I just finished filling out my tax return and I reported hundreds of dollars my wife and I donated in food and clothes.)

      1. Does dropping off food and clothing at food pantries and charities count? I don't have a face-to-face encounter with whoever is eating or wearing my donations.

        1. Would you like to have a face-to-face encounter with the homeless and destitute?

          1. If the answer is "No," does that mean we flunk this test too?

        2. The last two times I had a face-to-face encounter with the homeless/destitute, it was fine. But, the time before that it was ugly. A homeless person with a cell phone (!) called me and insisted that I purchase a certain type of inflatable mattress and deliver it to the homeless shelter because the mattress there was unsatisfactory. She kept calling me and yelling. It did not seem like this was the equivalent of helping Jesus.

    3. Read Matthew 25:41-46. Should we write off this "righteousness by faith" nonsense? (No. I see this to be very much like our text in Mark. In Mark, Jesus described what would happen to His true followers when they met adversity in their gospel work. Here, Jesus describes the reaction of the true believers to those who are in need. If your attitude is to help, and you do help, then you reflect what is in your heart - a desire to follow Jesus.)

  3. Belief and Witness

    1. Read Luke 24:45-49. So far, we have seen some tests of discipleship which create some doubt in my mind about my level of discipleship. What does Jesus promise to us to allow us to meet the requirements of discipleship? (The Holy Spirit.)

    2. Read Ezekiel 24:3-4. Do you think these people needed cooking lessons?

      1. What hint to you find in these verses about the problem God is trying to address with His cooking story? (He calls them a "rebellious house." They have a spiritual problem.)

    3. Read Ezekiel 24:5. What is the solution to their spiritual problem? (To put the pot over the fire and bring it to a boil.)

        1. What do you think the fire symbolizes? (The Holy Spirit!)

        2. How about you - is your "pot" over the fire and boiling? Or, are you a pot filled with cold water and rotting meat? (Perhaps if the "temperature" of the Holy Spirit was higher in our lives, we would do better on the discipleship tests.)

  4. Theory of the Mission

    1. So far we have been talking about the potential adversities faced in mission, we have been talking about the deeds of mission and we have been talking about the power for mission. What is the overarching theory for our mission - particularly if you believe we are in the last days before Jesus' Second Coming?

    2. Read Revelation 14:6-7. How does the Bible characterize the message of this angel? (It is the "eternal gospel.")

    3. What is the message? (Get ready for the final judgment!)

      1. How do we do that? (Worship God, fear God, give Him glory.)

      2. On what basis does God deserve our worship, fear and praise? (He is the Creator!)

        1. Friend, do you understand the basic issue in the battle? Do you have the right message?

    4. Timing is a very important thing. Is it possible that I (we) do not do very well on the snake-handling, poison drinking, demon driving, illness healing scale because that was the leading edge of the battle then and the leading edge of the battle now is creation/evolution and Saturday/Sunday worship?

    5. Can we also consider the sheep/goats story to be mostly irrelevant based on timing? (No. That is a story about the judgment. God never lets us rest at a simple intellectual understanding of the gospel. That understanding must permeate our lives and change our attitudes and our conduct.)

    6. Friend, do you understand the disciple's mission? Do you understand the issues of the last day? Is your understanding changing your life?

  5. Next week: Patterns of Discipleship.
* Copr. 2008, Bruce N. Cameron, J.D. All scripture references are to the New International Version (NIV), copr. 1973, 1978, 1984 International Bible Society, unless otherwise noted. Quotations from the NIV are used by permission of Zondervan Bible Publishers. Suggested answers are found within parentheses. The lesson assumes the teacher uses a blackboard or some other visual aid.

© 2021 Bruce N. Cameron, J.D.
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