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Lesson 9: The Church: Rites and Rituals *

Introduction: Confession time. Do you have fantasies about being great, or beautiful or powerful? Over the decades that I've been fighting in the courtrooms for religious liberty, I have this recurrent fantasy of being some kind of modern day Roman warrior - battling the bad guys. Of course, my muscles are small, I'm not wild about blood, and if you came at me with a sword, I'd likely run the other way. As I get older, the muscle situation is not improving. Some of my ancestors actually had "Running" as their last name! One of the customs of Roman warriors is to tap their chest over their heart with a closed fist as a symbol of loyalty to Rome. More than once I've done that as an act of loyalty to God. Instead of silly fantasies, does God have real symbols of loyalty to Him? Do God's symbols make sense? What does the Bible reveal about this? Bible study warriors, let's charge forward and see what we can find in our study of this topic!

  1. Naaman

    1. Read Mark 16:15-16. These are some of Jesus' last words to His disciples. What is the path to salvation? (To believe and be baptized.)

      1. What is the logic behind the act of baptism? Why should it be a sign of loyalty and belief?

    2. Read 2 Kings 5:1. What relationship does Naaman have to God? (God is working through him.)

    3. Read 2 Kings 5:2-3. Is Naaman the enemy of Israel? (Yes! He is taking God's people as slaves.)

      1. What kind of attitude does the slave girl have towards the man who holds her in slavery?

    4. Read 2 Kings 5:4-7. How did the King of Israel view Naaman's medical condition? (It was a death sentence. "Can I ... bring back to life?")

      1. Compare the King's attitude with the slave girl's attitude.

    5. Read 2 Kings 5:8-10. In what ways does this remind you of baptism? (Baptism addresses a problem that is fatal. Baptism is a kind of washing.)

    6. Read 2 Kings 5:11-12. What kind of objections does Naaman raise? (Leprosy should be cured by magical power! If it is cured by water, at least it should be clean water. This makes no sense to Naaman.)

    7. Read 2 Kings 5:13. What counter logic do Naaman's servants use?

      1. Remember when we started out, I was talking about Roman warriors and how they show allegiance? If baptism is a symbol of our allegiance to God, should we have the same kinds of objections as Naaman? (How can water wash us of our sins? Sin is an "inside" problem.)

      2. Why would God use baptism, as opposed to some test of loyalty, to be the gateway to salvation? (We see grace everywhere if we just look. Naaman was a mighty warrior. God told him to just wash. God didn't ask for deeds. He didn't ask for money. He just asked Naaman to put aside his logic and wash. Anyone who trusted could wash. Washing was the cure for certain death.)

    8. Read 2 Kings 5:14-15. What does God do for Naaman? (He cleans him from leprosy - the rot of death.)

  2. Baptism

    1. Read 1 Peter 3:18-21. How is the flood like baptism? What has this to do with Jesus' sacrifice?

      1. Peter tells us that baptism is not about "dirt," but is a pledge. What does the flood teach us about this "pledge?" (The pledge was a decision to enter the ark. They chose to believe that destruction was coming and God's plan was the only way to escape death.)

    2. Read Colossians 2:9-14. Is the pledge in baptism one of obedience, like that of a Roman warrior? (No. We take the "pledge" in baptism, but it is God who makes us clean. He nails our sins to the cross. He lives in us.)

    3. Read Romans 6:1-4. How does this pledge work? (We make a decision to die to sin - to join in Jesus' death on the cross. Jesus' death is our death for sin. We are to live a new life.)

    4. Read Romans 6:5-10. What other results follow from this pledge? (Jesus' resurrection is our resurrection from eternal death.)

    5. Read Romans 6:11-14. Is this pledge something we continue to make? (Yes. The New Testament does not speak of multiple baptisms, but it tells us to "offer" our self to God. Baptism is the pledge that we want to join in Jesus' life, death and resurrection. Then we make a daily decision to affirm that pledge by joining in the battle on God's side.)

      1. Read 2 Kings 5:17. How does Naaman's pledge help us to understand our baptismal pledge? (When we see what God has done for us, the natural response is to say "I will always serve You.")

    6. Read Matthew 28:18-20. Why is the Trinity at the heart of baptism? (Because our pledge of fidelity is to the entire Godhead. Because we want a relationship with all three.)

  3. Foot Washing

    1. Read John 13:3. Put yourself in Jesus' place. If you knew this, how would you feel? (I would feel like celebrating! Of course, knowing the cross was ahead would put a damper on my emotions.)

    2. Read John 13:4-5. How is "so," the right transition word? If you are the Master of the Universe, why is "therefore He started washing feet" the logical conclusion? So, he started cleaning toilets. So, he started raking leaves. So, he carried out the trash.

    3. Read John 13:6-7. Are we in the same boat as Peter? This does not make sense!

    4. Read John 13:12-16. Now, answer the "so" for me. How is Jesus' understanding that He is the Master of the Universe the logical foundation for "so He started washing feet?"

      1. How was Jesus about to become the Master of the Universe? (By giving up His life for us. By dying in our place. If Jesus' triumph was one of self-sacrifice, so our triumph must be the same.)

    5. Read John 13:14 and John 13:17. When most Christians celebrate the Lord's Supper, they do not wash each others feet. Should they? (Yes. Jesus tells us to do this. Just as baptism is a symbol of our entry into the Kingdom of Heaven, so foot-washing is a symbol of our commitment to Christian service. We are blessed by this symbol of self-sacrifice.)

  4. Lord's Supper

    1. Read Matthew 26:19-20. Jesus directs His disciples to prepare the Passover. What did the Passover celebrate? (Read Exodus 12:5-7 and Exodus 12:12-14. Passover celebrated an escape from a judgment of God.)

      1. What elements of grace do you find in Passover? (The people had to follow the directions for preparing and posting the blood, but escape from judgment had nothing to do with whether the people in the house were good or bad. God looked for the blood, God did not evaluate the character of the people inside.)

      2. Why did Jesus direct His disciples to celebrate the Passover?

    2. Read 1 Corinthians 11:23-26. How are Passover and the Lord's Supper linked? (Jesus used the Passover meal to create a new ordinance. Instead of remembering that the blood on the doorpost saved them from the judgment of God, we now remember that the blood of Jesus shed for our sins saves us from the judgment of God.)

    3. What common theme do you find in baptism, foot washing and the Lord's supper? (They all celebrate God giving up Himself for us.)

      1. Why does God want us to take the pledge of baptism, wash feet and participate in the Lord's supper? (To fix in our minds what Jesus has done for us and the centrality of giving up ourselves for the benefit of others.)

      2. Think about the sin that plagues you the most. What part does selfishness play in it? (Lord, forgive me for my selfishness! The pledge of the Roman warrior was not so much about being strong and brave, it was about something greater than the individual warrior. The same is true for us.)

    4. Friend, will you take the pledge of loyalty to the Kingdom of God? Will you confess the sin of selfishness and use the reminders God has ordained to restrain your selfish heart?

  5. Next week: The Law and the Gospel.
* Copr. 2012, 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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