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Lesson 12: Paul: Mission and Message *

Introduction: When I was young, my father told me stories about how he was always the fastest worker. I took those stories to heart, and when I had manual jobs I always tried to be the fastest. In school, I applied this idea to try to get the top grade. Mental health experts might worry about this kind of thing, but I never thought it harmed me in the long run. At some point I noticed that I was not the smartest guy around, and so I had to become more reasonable about my goals. In our study of the Bible this week, Paul talks about this kind of attitude. He says, in 1 Corinthians 9:24, that only one person wins a race. "Run in such a way as to get the prize." Let's race into our study of the Bible and learn more about winning the prize!

  1. Paul's Determination

    1. Read 1 Corinthians 9:19. Would you like to be a slave?

      1. What is Paul's motive for being willing to be a slave? (To win people to the gospel of Jesus.)

    2. Read 1 Corinthians 9:20-22. Is Paul compromising his beliefs? (Paul must have a hierarchy of beliefs. At the top is winning people to the gospel.)

      1. What is the most important belief that Paul compromised? (His right to be free from slavery - from being unreasonably controlled by others.)

      2. How would you apply Paul's attitude to your life today? (We are too quick to fight over things that do not really make any difference. Paul says the most important thing is bringing people to salvation.)

    3. Read 1 Corinthians 9:24. What kind of running is this? (It is running hard, running to win.)

    4. Read 1 Corinthians 9:25-27. Paul was just writing about giving up his own rights. What kind of training should we get into to learn this? (We must learn to be students of what is important and what is not.)

      1. Look again at 1 Corinthians 9:27. What does Paul mean by being "disqualified for the prize?" (It sounds like he is talking about losing his salvation.)

        1. If Paul is saved by grace, how can that be a realistic fear?

        2. If it is a realistic fear, what is the area in which we should be very careful? (Paul has been discussing giving up his rights. He has been discussing becoming all things to all people. I think Paul teaches us that having a correct religious focus is very important. It is something we need to work on.)

  2. The Law

    1. Read Romans 7:1-3. What makes the difference whether this woman is an adulteress or not? (Whether her first husband is alive.)

    2. Read Romans 7:4. Imagine that Paul is speaking to you. To whom does Paul compare you? The dead husband? The wife? (Both! Paul says that when Jesus died on the cross, we "died to the law." Thus, it is our connection to the law which is dissolved by death. We are like the husband in that we died with Jesus, and we are like the wife in that our obligation to our husband (the law) ended with his death.)

      1. Who is our new husband? (Jesus. "You might belong to another.")

      2. What is the goal of this new arrangement? (That we might bear fruit to God.)

      3. When Paul taught us about racing to win, what does that have to do with bearing fruit?

    3. Read Romans 7:5-6. What does the law do to us? ("The sinful passions aroused by the law." Paul tells us that the law stimulated sin in our life.)

      1. How can that be? (Have you ever told a young child not to do something? If you tell them not to do something, they are determined to do it.)

      2. How does the dissolution of our obligation to the law (like the death of the husband), help us with the problem of wanting to do what we are told not to do? (We "serve in the new way of the Spirit." The Holy Spirit drives our thoughts and deeds.)

    4. Read Romans 7:7. Is there something wrong with the law when it stimulates us to sin? (We need the law to understand what is sin.)

      1. Which law is Paul writing about here? (The Ten Commandments. "Do not covet" is the tenth commandment of Exodus 20.)

    5. Read Romans 7:8-12. How can we have the law of God described both as "holy, righteous and good" and something that "actually brought death?" (The law is perfect, but we are not. Praise God that Jesus lived a perfect life on our behalf, paid the death penalty on our behalf, and rose to life eternal. Being bound by the law excites our sinful nature. But, knowing that Jesus fulfilled the law on our behalf, and living a life lead by the Holy Spirit, gives us a new and better attitude about the law.)

    6. Read Romans 7:14-20. How easy is it to keep the law? ("I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out.")

    7. Read Romans 7:21-25. What is the good news about this conflict between the law and our sinful nature? (The rescue of Jesus! Thank our Lord for His grace.)

    8. Read Romans 8:1-4. How are the requirements of the law met? (Through Jesus.)

    9. Read Romans 8:5-11. What is the key to pleasing God? (To have the Holy Spirit live in us. To set our minds on what the Holy Spirit desires.)

      1. Recall that we are in the race to win, and that having a correct focus is very important. How would you relate this to the message of righteousness by faith? (We win the race by cooperating with the Holy Spirit. We win the race by seeking the Holy Spirit.)

      2. What kind of life is that? Will it be enjoyable? ("The mind controlled by the Spirit is life and peace." Romans 8:6. Would you like peace in your life?)

    10. Look again at Romans 8:7-8. Notice the tension. On one hand Paul tells us that we do the wrong things because the law produces the wrong desires. He tells us that Jesus rescued us from that problem. On the other hand, Paul also tells us that we must not be controlled by our sinful nature. Does grace give us license to sin? (If we are focused on sin, we have the wrong focus. What we should focus on is setting our minds on what the Holy Spirit desires ( Romans 8:5). We win the prize by "strict training" to focus on the Holy Spirit rather than "running aimlessly" ( 1 Corinthians 9:25-26).)

  3. Christ Crucified

    1. Read 1 Corinthians 2:1-2. What does this teach us about our ability to be missionaries? (Paul says he did not use eloquence or superior wisdom.)

    2. Read 1 Corinthians 2:3-5. What is at the center of preaching Jesus' sacrifice on our behalf? (The Holy Spirit. Paul tells us that it was not his talent that won people to Jesus, it was the power of God.)

    3. Read 1 Corinthians 2:6-8. Paul seems to modify his statement about wisdom. Do we need wisdom to share the gospel? (Not the wisdom of the world, but rather the wisdom of God.)

    4. Read 1 Corinthians 2:9-10. What is the key to having the wisdom of God? (The Holy Spirit reveals it to us.)

    5. Friend, do you see a consistent theme here? If you want to live a life pleasing to God, then focus on the Holy Spirit. If you want to convert others to the gospel, then rely on the power of the Holy Spirit. If you want to have true wisdom, then ask the Holy Spirit. Will you, today, ask God to give you a greater measure of the Holy Spirit?

  4. Next week: Must the Whole World Hear?
* Copr. 2015, 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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