Fifteenth Sunday after Pentecost

Jesus Shows the Cause and Measure of Evil

These are the readings for the Fifteenth Sunday after Pentecost.

God’s Word for This Week

The psalmist wrote, “Oh, how I love your law!” (Psalm 119:97). The three scripture readings give us good reasons to love God’s law. That law shows us how to thank the God who redeemed us from sin, death, and the devil. It guides us in every situation. It identifies the beginning of evil—our own hearts.

Traditional First Lesson – Deuteronomy 4:1,2,6-8

Why did God command the Israelites not to “add or subtract” to what he commands?

The Israelites were God’s chosen people to whom he himself had given his decrees and laws. The commands were perfect in every respect. Adding or subtracting to what God had decreed was not only unthinkable but intolerable. Obedience to these commands showed their faithfulness to God and attracted the attention of the heathen.

How were God’s laws and decrees so much more righteous than the other nations’ laws?

God’s laws and decrees originated with the righteous and holy God. His moral law pointed to perfect love for God and fellow man. His ceremonial laws had meaning and purpose by pointing to the world’s only Savior. The civil laws demanded fair and just punishment for wrongdoers.

Supplemental First Lesson – Deuteronomy 4:1,2,6-9

Why did God command the Israelites not to “add or subtract” to what he commands?

At Mt. Sinai, God had given his chosen people promises and decrees that were perfect in every respect—even though many of the laws would only bind God’s people until the Messiah came. Adding or subtracting to perfection would dishonor God and his grace. Obeying these commands would show Israel’s faithfulness to God and attract the attention of their heathen neighbors.

How were God’s laws and decrees so much more righteous than the other nations’ laws?

God’s laws and decrees originated with the righteous and holy God and pointed people back to him, not to selfishness. a) God’s moral law demands perfect love for God and fellow man. b) His ceremonial laws pointed ahead to the world’s only Savior. c) Israel’s civil laws demanded fair punishment for wrongdoers. No other nations’ laws compared, and no other nation had received their laws when their God had come near them to rescue them from slavery and to adopt them as his people by a holy covenant.

Traditional Second Lesson – Ephesians 6:10-20

Whom does Paul identify as our real enemy?

Our real enemies are not the people or circumstances around us, but the rulers, the authorities, the powers of this dark world, the spiritual forces of evil who are the demons, the fallen angels headed by Satan, a fierce fighter.

Paul mentions only one offensive weapon. What is it? What is it used for?

The Roman soldier carried a sword. Our offensive weapon is the Word of God. God tells us that his Word is truth. The truths and promises found in the Word refute the devil and all his lies and attacks.

Supplemental Second Lesson – James 1:17-27

What tool that God uses to save and sanctify us does James keep highlighting here?

James highlights God’s Word, through which God gave us new birth—the word which God planted in us to save us.

Obeying God’s law cannot save us because we cannot obey it perfectly—just the opposite. Still, what does God’s perfect law give believers when we obey God out of thanks and love?

God’s perfect law gives freedom, James says. Instead of being slaves to our own pride, to all our dirty desires, and to people-pleasing, we are free.

Gospel – Mark 7:1-8,14,15,21-23

How did the Pharisees add to God’s law?

The Pharisees added to God’s law by elevating hand-washing to a religious ceremony that they claimed made them better before God than those who did not wash (literally, “baptize”) their hands.

Why did Jesus call them “hypocrites”?

Jesus called such men hypocrites (literally, “actors”) because they were always finding fault with other people but never with themselves and pretended to love and worship God when they really intended to make themselves appear holier than others.

The Pharisees were afraid of becoming unclean because of contact with Gentiles in the marketplace. How does a man become truly unclean, according to Jesus?

Jesus says sin and filth starts in the heart when we allow the devil, the world, and our own sinful nature to plant evil inside of us. We are dirty due to our sinful hearts. Then we become even more unclean when we embrace evil ideas and expose them to the rest of the world by what we say and do. (The Pharisees exemplified this when they plotted and worked to kill Jesus while claiming to be especially religious men.)

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