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Sabbath School Lessons on Matthew
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 2: The Ministry Begins *
Introduction: How would you like Jesus to say that there "is no one
greater" than you? Not likely, you say? Our study this week is about
someone for whom this is true. Jesus said about John the Baptist,
"among those born of women there is no one greater than John." Let'
jump into our study of Matthew and see what lessons Matthew has for
us through John the Baptist!
- Read Matthew 3:1-2. What did John mean when he said, "the
kingdom of heaven is near?" (He could not have been
talking about the end of time, otherwise he would be a
false prophet. Given the context, he was talking about
heaven coming to earth in the form of Jesus.)
- I can understand "repent" in the context of the end
time judgment and the righteous going to heaven, but
how does it make sense in the context of Jesus coming
- Read Matthew 3:3 and Isaiah 40:3-4. How many persons are
referred to in Matthew 3:3 (not including Isaiah)? (John
the Baptist, he is the "voice of one." Jesus is "the
Lord." His listeners are those making the paths straight.)
- What light does this shed on the call to repent
because Jesus is coming? (The best way to prepare for
Jesus is to decide the time has come for change. The
decision to do something different makes it easier
for Jesus' message to enter your heart (make the
paths for Jesus straight and level).
- Read Matthew 3:4. Camel hair coats are desirable today. Is
the message that John is a well-dressed guy who eats an
organic diet? (Read 2 Kings 1:8 and Zechariah 13:4. These
texts tell us that John was wearing the traditional garb
for a prophet. Once again, we see Matthew adding to the
bona fides of Jesus through John's testimony.)
- Read Matthew 3:5-8. Why does John not call for the
religious leaders to be baptized, but rather calls for
them to "produce fruit in keeping with repentance?" (This
is consistent with the idea we discussed earlier, that
coming to Jesus involves a decision that you need to
change. John calls them "vipers," warns of an approaching
wrath, and says you need to change.)
- Read Matthew 3:9-10. What does God expect of us? (He is
not satisfied with our religious affiliation. He wants us
to be productive Christians. These religious leaders
cannot rest on their relationship to Abraham. They must
understand that change is needed.)
- Does the reference to producing fruit mean that works
are essential to salvation? (Let's discuss that
- Re-read Matthew 3:6 and read Matthew 3:11. Notice that sin
confession and baptism go together. Why is that?
- Read Colossians 2:11-12. What is the Christian equivalent
of circumcision? (Baptism.)
- Read Colossians 2:13-15. When John speaks of repentance
and baptism, what is his goal? I asked earlier, "why do
confession and baptism go together?" (It is because they
are the new circumcision, they are your acceptance of
grace, your participation with Jesus in His death and
- Have you heard of products that are "ready" for the next
level of technology: "cable-ready" or "digital ready," to
use old examples? When John said that he was baptizing to
make the way easier for Jesus, I think he was talking
about making the people ready for grace. What do you
- Have you heard Christians say that you must be sure that
every sin is confessed so that you can be saved? Do you
think that salvation turns on ferreting out every sin and
confessing it? Does that strike you as a form of works -
works that make it important to have a good memory?
- Would a sensitivity to the Holy Spirit make a good
- Look again at what John says to the religious leaders who
he calls "vipers." Re-read Matthew 3:7-10. John calls what
must be bad people to "produce fruit in keeping with
repentance." That seems like a call for works, but given
what we have just studied, what does it seem to mean now?
(It sounds like an attitude recognizing the need for
change and a willingness to accept grace. It is someone
who is open to understanding that baptism is the way in
which we die for our sins and rise to new life.)
- Let's go back and re-read Colossians 2:11. What does it
mean to put off the sinful nature? (Circumcision removed
some skin. Thus, it was symbolic of putting off the sinful
nature. Accepting grace should result in a changed nature.
To better understand this, read Colossians 3.)
- Read Matthew 3:13-15. Is John right that Jesus should be
baptizing him instead of the other way around?
- If so, why is it that Jesus has John baptize Him?
Specifically, what does Jesus mean by "it is proper
for us to do this to fulfill all righteousness?"
(This is the bridge between the sanctuary service, in
which the killing of an animal for the remission of
sin pointed to Jesus, and the new system of remission
of sin through baptism. In the sanctuary system an
animal represented Jesus. In the system of grace,
Jesus represents us. Recall that Colossians 2:11-12
tells us that we die and are raised "with Him" when
we are baptized? In this way Jesus' words that what
He is doing "is proper ... to fulfill all
righteousness" makes sense.)
- Read Matthew 3:16-17. Why do you think Matthew includes
this event in his story? (The entire Godhead is together,
Jesus, the Holy Spirit and God the Father. Have any doubt
about the divinity of Jesus? Both God the Father and the
Holy Spirit endorse Him and what He is doing!)
- The Temptation
- Skim Matthew 4:1-7 and read Matthew 4:3 and Matthew 4:6.
On what point does Satan challenge Jesus? (Satan
challenges whether Jesus is the "Son of God.")
- Re-read Matthew 3:17. What does this teach us about our
God and our temptations? (God the Father specifically
strengthens Jesus on the very point on which Satan
- If you are willing, do you think God will do any less
- Read Matthew 4:8-10. Why didn't Satan tempt Jesus to
steal, curse, slander or covet? (Because those are not the
central issue in the life of a Christian. The central
issue is whether you trust God. The history of the Jewish
people was trusting idols or other nations and not
trusting God. That centrality of that issue has not
- Read Matthew 4:12 and Matthew 4:17. Jesus has taken over
the message of John the Baptist. Why did God allow John's
message to be cut short? Didn't John still have productive
work to do? (This is the point we just discussed. The
central issue in our life is whether we will trust God.)
- Read Matthew 4:18-22. Instead of choosing new disciples,
why not rescue John - since there was no one better than
him and he was an experienced preacher? (Logic says to use
John. But, the life of faith says that we will accept
God's decisions in our life.)
- Notice that Jesus calls specific people. What does
that mean to you?
- Read Matthew 4:23-25. How can you duplicate Jesus' method
of evangelism? Or, is that not possible? (Re-read Matthew
3:5. John the Baptist did not need to perform miracles to
attract people to him. We need to ask the Holy Spirit to
show us what we should do to bring people into our life to
share the message.)
- Why didn't John perform miracles? (Once again, this
has to do with the sovereignty of God. We need to be
grateful for the opportunities that we are given to
advance the gospel. Not everyone advances the gospel
in the same way.)
- Friend, do you need change in your life? Are you willing
to trust God's direction for your life? Why not repent
right now and open your heart to the changes God wants in
- Next week: The Sermon on the Mount.
* Copr. 2016, 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.