Bible Studies for Life Sunday School Lesson for December 29

Bible Studies for Life Sunday School Lesson for December 29

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By Dr. Jim Barnette
Professor, Samford University
Senior Pastor, Brookwood Baptist Church

Aren’t All Religions the Same?
Isaiah 44:6–11; John 14:5–7

There is only one God. (Isaiah 44:6–8)

Verses 6–8 begin and end by proclaiming Yahweh as the only God, with words of His uniqueness placed in the middle. The only God is the King and Redeemer of Israel, the one in charge over all of history. He is the Alpha and Omega, the completely incomparable. This message of God’s sovereignty is needed among the Israelites who are languishing in Babylonian captivity. As their Almighty King, Yahweh does not intend to let Israel suffer long. He will deliver His people from the effects of misfortune and tragedy. As the Lord of all hosts of heaven, He has the power to carry out His intentions whenever He wishes. The declaration that he is “the first and the last” is applied to Jesus not once but four times in the book of Revelation (1:17; 2:8; 21:6; 22:13). The early church highlighted this connection to confirm that Jesus was Yahweh incarnate.

This passage ends with the injunction not to fear. History is in God’s hands, as Israel’s own history should tell them. Their faith is not misguided. When all of the prophesies of exile became true, alongside them stood promises that the exile would not be the end. Israel would become a living witness to all the world of God’s power to move all of history by His will.

Worshiping other “gods” is an empty pursuit. (Isaiah 44:9–11)

Verses 6-8 speak to the superiority of God to any other so-called deities. Now the incomparable nature of God is observed from a second angle, turning the visual appeal of idolatry into a source of embarrassment. All worship of things, given by God and shaped by humans, contains the same absurdity and blasphemy. Humanity’s inability to see this is as contemporary as it is ancient. The idol-makers should know better. If only they would “stand,” that is stop and take a candid look at what they are doing. This honest look would cause them to come apart. The repetition of the craftsman’s accomplishing nothing and only delighting in what is worthless culminates in a threefold pronouncement of their being put to shame. The legal terminology of a trial — assembling, standing forth, and being terrified — magnifies the verdict of futility when it comes to all forms of idolatry.

Jesus is the only way to God. (John 14:5–7)

Thomas’ perplexity in verse 5 suffers from a literal assumption of Jesus’ words, which closes his eyes to possibilities. But Jesus offers a spiritual answer to his perplexity with His grand assertion, “I am the way, the truth, and the life.” Not to stop with this declaration, in verse 7 Jesus offers the profound message that knowledge of Him conveys knowledge of the Father.

Jesus does not claim merely to teach the way, or to give instruction about the truth, or to present a way, but to be the way, the truth and the life. Some might be offended by the exclusive nature of this claim. But consider the reality that sinful humanity has closed off its own access to God and there is no way back to God from the human side. When all access is closed, to announce there is one way open to God — that is Good News! The reader should celebrate what the text affirms — the way to God is now open through what God has done through Jesus Christ, not by our own achievement.

In his devotional classic, “The Imitation of Christ,” the medieval minister Thomas ‘a Kempis offers this memorable maxim based on verse 6: “Without the way, there is no going; without the truth, there is no knowing; and without the life, there is no living.” Our call as believers is to bring others to the One who can show them the way to go, the One to know, and the life that continues beyond this one.