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Sabbath School Lessons on Missionaries in the Bible
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About the Author
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 41 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 10: Women of Mission *
Introduction: Our culture does not allow us to understand the
difficulty of being a "woman of mission" during Jesus' day. We do not
even clearly understand the problem Jesus and His disciples faced
ministering to women. The Jewish rabbis of Jesus' time said "It is
better that the words of the Law be burned than be delivered to a
woman!" (The Bible Exposition Commentary on Acts 16:13.) Jesus and
His disciples, if they followed cultural norms, should have ignored
women when it came to sharing the gospel. They did not. Instead, our
study shows Jesus used them as missionaries. Let's plunge into our
study of the Bible and learn more!
- The Samaritan Woman
- Read John 4:1-2. Why do you think the Pharisees were
keeping a count of Jesus and John's converts?
- Read Matthew 3:7-8 to see what John said about the
Pharisees. What does this suggest about the
- Read John 1:24-27 to get an idea of what the
Pharisees were thinking about John and Jesus. What
does this suggest?
- Read John 4:2-3. What do you think is the important point
for Jesus: that the Pharisees wrongly thought He was
baptizing or that Jesus was gaining more disciples? (The
Pharisees were the religious leaders. Some rival (John)
has arisen outside of Jerusalem. John preaches that they
are morally unfit to lead, and says that someone greater
is following in his footsteps. This places a lot of
unwanted attention on Jesus very early in His ministry, so
He decides to withdraw.)
- Read John 4:4-6. Did Jesus want to go through Samaria?
(Jews and Samaritans did not like each other. Samaria lay
between Jerusalem and Galilee. The short route was to go
straight through Samaria. However, some Jews would go
around Samaria just to avoid the Samaritans.)
- The time is probably noon. What do we learn about the
human body for our God? (Jesus got tired!)
- Read John 4:7-8. Is Jesus flirting with this woman? (You
will say, "Don't be ridiculous." But, I expect this woman
might have thought this. The IVP Bible Background
Commentary suggests this is how Jesus' request might have
been taken, especially with this woman's background and
the fact she was alone. Women would normally come to a
well in groups. The fact this woman was alone gives us a
hint that she was unpopular. It was also odd that a Jewish
man would even speak to a Samaritan women.)
- Read John 4:9. Is this woman flirting back? Is she being
unpleasant? What do you think she is really saying?
(Jewish men, especially a rabbi, did not speak to
Samaritan women. She does not believe that Jesus is just
asking for a drink. She wants to know why Jesus is talking
to her. This strengthens the conclusion that she is asking
(among other things) if Jesus is flirting. This is just
odd conduct for Jew.)
- Read John 4:10. Does Jesus clarify the matter?
- Why does Jesus answer as He does? (He wants to get
her attention. This is certainly something out of the
- Are there any lessons in this for our missionary
- Would evangelistic seminars advertised with
pictures of the beasts of Revelation fit into
- Read John 4:11-12. What tone of voice do you think this
woman is using? (We all know people who are just plain
arrogant. However, we also know people who are arrogant
"underdogs." They know they have not done well in life,
and they are carrying around a general grudge against
those who have done well. In this text I hear an underdog
speaking in a challenging way.)
- What is the answer to the woman's question? (Yes,
Jesus is greater than Jacob!)
- Read John 4:13-15. Is Jesus offering indoor plumbing? (The
women responds as if He were.)
- Read John 4:16. What would have gone through your mind if
you were this woman? (Some part of me would have thought
Jesus was crazy, and this would give me the opportunity to
just leave. Some part of me would have thought I should
answer, but I would not want to admit I had no husband -
unless I thought this fellow was flirting.)
- Read John 4:17-19. How important is it that she answered,
and answered honestly? (This dialog seems to have two
purposes. One is to test her honesty. The second is to
impress her with the fact that she is not speaking with a
lunatic, she is speaking with someone who is
supernaturally able to know about her life.)
- If Jesus knew that she was immoral, why would He care
about testing her honesty?
- Read John 4:20-26. Give me all the reasons why Jesus
should not reveal to this woman that He was the Messiah.
(She was not exactly pleasant to Him when they started
speaking. More fundamentally, she was not just a woman,
she was a Samaritan! Add to that she was an unpopular,
sexually permissive woman.)
- So, why did Jesus do this? I don't believe in chance
- especially here - why would Jesus choose this woman
to be a disciple? (One small reason is that if she
was honest with Him, she would likely have a
reputation in town about honesty.)
- Why would Jesus choose tradesmen to be His disciples?
- Why would Jesus have a special ministry to those who
made (probably) more than one serious mistake in
life? (I'm reading Dinesh D'Souza's "What's So Great
About Christianity." He points out that the Greek and
Roman culture had the "great man" point of view.
Slaves, workers, the masses existed to allow the
"great men" of society to think, plan and lead.
Ordinary people were like worker bees - they did not
matter except to support the leaders. Jesus directly
attacked that thinking. Jesus spoke of servant
leaders ( Matthew 23:11) and He focused on the
importance of the "lowest" people in society. He
thought it worth His time to share the gospel with
women. The anti-slavery movement, democracy for all
citizens, "public servants," all these concepts flow
not from Greek or Roman culture, but from the
revolutionary teachings of Jesus.)
- Read John 4:28-29 and John 4:39. What did Jesus do for
this women? What did He do for women in general? (He
chose this woman to be His gospel representative to her
town. He showed that woman are worthy not just to hear His
message, but to spread His message.)
- Read Acts 16:12-13. Paul and his companions are on a
missionary journey which leads them to Philippi. What is
their strategy for sharing the gospel? (They are looking
for spiritually-minded people. On the Sabbath they look
for a "place of prayer.")
- Do you think they were disappointed when they found
only women praying? (Probably. But, notice that this
did not deter them from sharing the gospel with
- What does that teach us? (It teaches us that an
interest in spiritual matters is more important
than gender when it comes to sharing the
- Read Acts 16:14. What kind of a woman is Lydia? (She was
aware of the Jewish religion and worshiped God.)
- What is her trade?(She seems to be an important
businesswoman. She is a trader in purple cloth from
another city, Thyatira. That city was famous for its
purple cloth (a royal color - thus sold to the
wealthy). The Bible Exposition Commentary posits
that she "probably was in charge of a branch office
of her guild in Philippi.")
- What is the secret to the success of Paul's message
to Lydia? (He was willing to share with women and the
Holy Spirit "opened her heart.")
- Read Acts 16:15. How is Lydia a blessing to Paul's
missionary efforts? (First, she has servants (her
household) which she has interested in spiritual matters.
They are baptized. Second, she has a house that is large
enough to board Paul and his companions. She is not
simply baptized, but she now becomes a financial sponsor
for Paul's missionary efforts.)
- How would this story have been different if Paul had
refused to teach women?
- Will you speculate a moment with me about Lydia's
future missionary efforts? To whom would she witness?
(Probably only (or mostly) wealthy people would buy
purple for their clothes. Lydia would naturally share
the gospel with them. By Paul sharing with a woman (a
lower rank of society) he ended up having a mission
to the highest ranks of society.)
- Friend, do you let cultural barriers stand in the way of
your missionary efforts? If so, will you determine today
to simply let God lead you in spreading His word?
- Next week: Mission in a Pagan Land: Daniel and Company.
* 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.