Story of the New Testament - Lesson 9
By Curt Niccum
Background Information for the Teacher
- The student can explain why rebirth is necessary to enter the Kingdom of Heaven.
- The student will understand that baptism is not the end of salvation but the beginning (i.e., just as physical creatures should mature from babies to adults, so also should spiritual creatures).
- The student can list various characteristics of God's nature that Christians share.
- The student will appreciate the importance of church life for maturing as a spiritual being.
- Each student will need to have a complete Bible.
- The teacher may want to distribute a handout to the students (provided below).
God destroyed the curse of the first Adam by providing blessing through Jesus Christ, the second Adam. As a result, there are now two humanities. Everybody is born into the family of the first Adam and will justly receive death because of sin. God gives the opportunity now for people to be reborn, recreated in His true image (that of Jesus Christ) so that they might now, through descent from the second Adam, receive eternal life. People must now choose which humanity they wish to belong to.
Lesson Plan for Conducting the Class
Introduction: (10-15 minutes)
- Organizational matters (taking roll, etc.)
- Evaluation of previous lesson: Have the students explain how Christ paid the cost for sin and removed the eternal consequences, yet Christians that sin must still suffer its immediate consequences. Have them share how attempts to reach out to the most sinful or to heal damaged/broken relationships worked out (or didn't work out) the previous week.
- Prayer and/or song: Songs like "I've Been Crucified with Christ" or "I am Mine No More" would be appropriate to the theme. Prayer topics could include thanksgiving for allowing humans to be truly created in the image of God through the giving of His Spirit to every believer.
- Have the students discuss the various traits they believe they have inherited from their parents (as assigned the previous week). Some traits are clearly genetic (like eye color), while others are environmental (sharing similar phrases). Have them also share which traits they believe belong in each category. (There may be some disagreement over what belongs in each category. Note that scientists currently argue about some traits, unsure of which category they belong to. For example, some doctors argue that homosexuality and violence are genetic traits, and therefore should not be harassed or punished by society. This might raise some interesting discussion, but do not let the class get bogged down into these areas.) Do the students have some characteristics which are difficult to categorize? How does environment improve or destroy family characteristics? (For example hair or eye color can be changed with dyes or tinted contact lenses, running around with the "wrong crowd" can destroy any family values.)
* Please be sensitive to the feelings of any adopted or foster children. It might be appropriate to point out that the language of adoption and birth are both used to describe Christians. (See Romans 8:14-17 and John 3:5-6.) Each concept contributes something special to our understanding of God and His relationship with sinful humanity. Both "adoption" and "birth" signify that we are fully God's children, just as it is (or should be) in families today. 1. Adoption: 1. Stresses God's love for the unloved. (Note that adoption in the first century was primarily the nurturing of babies aborted at full term; see also Ezekiel 16.) 2. Stresses the distinction in quality between God's unique child, Jesus, and those allowed into the family through the saving grace of God through Jesus. 2. Birth: 1. Stresses the shared essence. Those who are baptized share God's essence through the gift of the Holy Spirit. 2. Stresses complete transformation. Adoption implies taking someone "as is." The language of birth, or more properly rebirth, truly emphasizes being created in the image of God.
Learning Experiences: (about 25 minutes)
- Move the topic of discussion to the church as God's family. Have the students discuss whether Christians have any "genetic" or "environmental" traits inherited from their heavenly Father. (Categorizing these will be much more difficult. Allow the class some room for discussion and disagreement. Scripture suggests we inherit certain traits, but that these characteristics must also be nurtured and matured in a community [i.e., environmental] setting.)
- Some possible "genetic" traits could be the Holy Spirit (1 Corinthians 3:16), righteousness (Philippians 3:9), sexual purity (1 Corinthians 6:18-20), love (Ephesians 5:1-2 and 1 Peter 1:22-23), and unity (Ephesians 4:3).
- Some possible "environmental" traits could be love and good deeds (Hebrews 10:24-25), spiritual maturity (Ephesians 4:11-13), and Christian living (Titus 2:2-14).
- Explain to the class that because of Christ there are now two different types of humans that live on earth. The first category is composed of those who have inherited the characteristics of Adam. The second contains those who have inherited the characteristics of Christ. Have the class read Romans 5:12-21. Have them make a list of the characteristics that belong to each class of humanity. (This can be done on a chalkboard or on handouts distributed in class. The handout is available below.)
- What brings about this change? It is only a new birth! Note that Paul follows up his intense discussions about the Law (which offered hope to Adam's race) with a discussion of death to that life and birth into Christ's race (Romans 6:1-14 and Galatians 3:26-29). This new birth takes place in baptism.
- Read Romans 6:1-14.
- Discuss how baptism separates us from one humanity and places us in another.
- List the additional characteristics of the two humanities that are found in this passage (either on the board or have students write them in on the handout).
- All of Adam's descendants have sinned. Therefore all deserve death. God sent His son, Jesus Christ, to pay the price for sin. He did what was necessary (as we saw last week) to redeem all peoples, both Jews and Gentiles. God again, just as with the first male and female, offers us a choice. We can choose to remain a part of Adam's race and suffer the consequences, or we can choose to be recreated in God's image to become a part of the Second Adam's race and receive the blessings. One enters into that new, spiritual family by trusting in God and being baptized into Jesus and so receiving the Holy Spirit. The Christian has a new parentage, a new family, and new characteristics.
Applications: (about 10 minutes)
- There are several ways this lesson can be applied. The most obvious is a call to repentance and faith in Jesus Christ for those who have not yet been born again.
- For those in the class who are already Christian, it would be useful to remind them that baptism is just the beginning; it is just the birth.
- Q: Do you look more like your parents now than when you were first born? Why is that? What traits did you have when first born that you received from your parents? What traits have since developed? A: Babies are by nature not adults. We grow into looking like (genetic) and imitating (environmental) our parents. At birth we may share some characteristics ("She has her father's eyes"), but many more will develop if the child's life progresses naturally.
- Q: How is this analogous to spiritual birth? Do we look and act just like God when we are baptized? Isn't there a maturation process? (See Ephesians 4:11-16.)
- Q: If we learn many of our traits as we grow, how important is it then to be surrounded by Christian brothers and sisters? What might happen if we spend too much time with those of "Adam's race"? A: The proper environment is crucial to healthy growth.
- Read Colossians 3:1-17 and/or 1 Peter 1:22-2:2. Have the class discuss how these verses support the idea that there is more to salvation than just being baptized. Baptism marks the beginning of a lifelong process. Also working from these passages, have the class discuss the importance of a life within a community/family of Christians for helping the maturation process.
- Close by reading Romans 8:1-17.
Assignment: (about 1 minute)
Have the students look for spiritual characteristics in the older members of the church that they have either learned to model or would like to model because of their influence. They should be ready to share these at the next class meeting.
Evaluation: (next class meeting)
Paul Achtemeier's exegesis of Romans 5 would be an excellent supplement to the information provided here, Romans (Interpretation: A Bible Commentary for Teaching and Preaching; Atlanta: John Knox Press, 1985).
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