Sixth Sunday after Epiphany

Jesus Reveals His Perfect Word and Will

These are the readings for the Sixth Sunday after Epiphany.
(This Worship Help aligns with the lectionary readings from Christian Worship 1993 and Christian Worship: Supplement.)

God’s Word for This Week

People love to judge themselves—especially when it comes to moral issues—because they naturally come out looking rather good. They might be willing to admit that they’re not perfect, but they quickly add: “Nobody’s perfect!” Of course, that’s not true. Our God is perfect, holy, and just. He never sins, and in his holy Word, God makes it clear that he holds us to the same perfect standard, even as his perfect will also saves us from our sin through the gospel of his “secret wisdom.” In the gospel and lessons, we see how Jesus reveals his perfect Word and will.

Traditional First Lesson – Deuteronomy 30:15-20

What “offer” does the Lord give to his Old Testament people through Moses?

He offers them the choice between obeying or disobeying his perfect Word and will.

What promise does he make if they choose to obey him? What promise does he make if they disobey him?

The Lord promises great blessing to his people if they follow the dictates of his Word, and he promises ultimate destruction if they disregard his Word and will.

True or false: God’s blessings are something we earn.

False. We can’t earn blessings that God naturally, willingly, and graciously grants in Christ. His point in these verses is to show us the natural consequences of either obeying or disobeying his Word. When we obey God’s Word, we can’t help but be blessed. When we disobey God’s Word, it naturally results in destruction.

Supplemental First Lesson – 2 Samuel 11:1-17, 26-27

What lessons can we learn about the power and progressive nature of sin from the example of King David?

Our Savior’s call to holy living leads us to have a healthy fear of sin. What a warning God provides us in David! When the king was at the height of his power and full of God’s blessing, his great fall began. Why? Because he toyed with sin. He let lust fester and morph into adultery. He spoke lies until deception ruled his heart. He let selfishness metastasize into a godless disregard for any life but his own. He thought he could toy with sin, but in the end, it was sin and Satan that toyed with him. Jesus’ call to live a holy life is like a mother warning her child to beware of a hot stove. It is a call motivated by love and meant for our safety.

Traditional Second Lesson – 1 Corinthians 2:6-13

What has Paul previously called the message of the cross (1 Corinthians 1:18), and what does he call it here?

Paul called the message of the cross “foolishness” because we and the people of this world don’t naturally understand the truth of the gospel. In these verses, Paul also explains that the gospel is God’s “secret wisdom,” since the message of God’s gracious salvation in Christ is perfectly and divinely wise.

What’s the only way someone can come to know and understand the “secret wisdom” of the gospel?

Someone can only come to understand and believe the truth of the gospel through the working of the Holy Spirit, who miraculously reveals these hidden truths. (See 2:10.)

Supplemental Second Lesson – 1 Thessalonians 4:1-12

How do you think you are similar to the Thessalonian Christians when it comes to your life of sanctification, that is, living the holy life Christ commands?

Paul’s encouragement to live a holy life serves as a great model for preaching sanctification to a congregation. He does not speak to them as heathens, but as people who are in fact living in order to please God. Paul’s words, then, instruct and admonish them to do this more and more. The authority behind his preaching of sanctification did not come from Paul’s life but from the authority of Christ himself. This is what Christ wants! The Thessalonians faced the same problem we do: we know what God wants; we understand it; we just don’t do it consistently. Paul applies the warning of God’s law and the calling of God’s gospel. Paul repeatedly emphasizes this: You know it, so now we urge you to do it more and more.

Gospel – Matthew 5:21-37

What is Jesus doing with the law that the Lord had given to his Old Testament people through Moses?

Jesus is taking the divine law into his hands and explaining it spiritually. Sinful human beings naturally have a shallow and corrupted understanding of what God created us to be and what he now demands of sinners. Jesus teaches us that the fulfillment of the law is more difficult than simple, outward actions.

What is the ultimate purpose of God’s law for sinners like us?

The ultimate purpose of God’s law for sinners is to make us conscious of our sin and desperate need for a perfect Savior from sin. The message of the gospel then graciously and perfectly supplies our need by proclaiming that Jesus has done everything to save us from our wickedness.

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