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Bruce N. Cameron, J.D.
is the author of these Sabbath School lesson study outlines. He is the Reed Larson Professor of Labor Law at Regent University School of Law. Professor Cameron has devoted his life to promoting the Gospel and defending believers. In addition to teaching at an overtly Christian law school, he continues his 37 year practice of law which is limited to the litigation of constitutional rights and religious freedom cases for employees. He holds an undergraduate degree from Andrews University and a Doctor of Law from Emory University School of Law.
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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!
- Believe and Do
- Read Mark 16:14. Why did Jesus rebuke His disciples?
(Because they would not believe those who had told them
that Jesus was alive.)
- 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.)
- Read Mark 16:15-16. What makes the difference between
those who are saved and those who are condemned?
(Believing in Jesus.)
- 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.)
- 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
- 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.)
- 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
- 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
- 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
- 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.)
- Belief and Judgment
- 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.)
- 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.)
- 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
- Would you like to have a face-to-face encounter
with the homeless and destitute?
- If the answer is "No," does that mean we
flunk this test too?
- 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.
- 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.)
- Belief and Witness
- 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
- Read Ezekiel 24:3-4. Do you think these people needed
- 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.)
- Read Ezekiel 24:5. What is the solution to their spiritual
problem? (To put the pot over the fire and bring it to a
- What do you think the fire symbolizes? (The Holy
- 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
- Theory of the Mission
- 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?
- Read Revelation 14:6-7. How does the Bible characterize
the message of this angel? (It is the "eternal gospel.")
- What is the message? (Get ready for the final judgment!)
- How do we do that? (Worship God, fear God, give Him
- On what basis does God deserve our worship, fear and
praise? (He is the Creator!)
- Friend, do you understand the basic issue in the
battle? Do you have the right message?
- 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
- 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
- Friend, do you understand the disciple's mission? Do you
understand the issues of the last day? Is your
understanding changing your life?
- 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.