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“There is not a righteous man on earth who does what is right and never sins.”

~Ecclesiastes 7:20

Lesson57-image001Materials Needed: None.

Notes to the Leader: With literally millions of religions in the world, and all claiming to be the right one, it is not easy to understand nor believe that the only way one can be saved is through Christ. Yet that is the truth found in Scriptures. This study will take a different attempt to support Christianity’s claim. By comparing Solomon’s observations of the world to those of the Apostle Paul’s, a clearer picture of the “way to salvation” emerges.

Don’t force this issue in your study if some in your group struggle with this viewpoint. Just let this study and God’s word work on their hearts.

Introduction

Do you consider people from other religions capable of moral behavior?

  • Morality itself, doing good by society’s standards, is a common theme with many religions.

If other religions teach or promote ethical and moral behavior, What is so special about Christianity?

  • This fact, that many religions promote good behavior, is often used as an argument against Christianity’s superiority. Solomon reminds us that all people fall short of perfection. Many people know what is right. It is, of course, another thing to do what is right. Only faith in the risen and living Christ can provide both the forgiveness we need when we fail and the divine help we must have to consistently do God’s will.

While Solomon was not able to find meaning to life by limiting his view to life itself, What was he able to determine with accuracy?

  • Solomon was able to discern some of the ethical principles which define a good, or righteous life.

Section One: Solomon’s Advice

Have someone in your group read Ecclesiastes 7:15-18.

What was the traditional view of God’s treatment of the righteous?

  • God rewards the righteous and punishes the wicked.

What was it that Solomon saw in his observations of the righteous and the wicked?

  • Doing right does not necessarily pay off. Sometimes, wickedness would pay off.

Re-read verses Ecclesiastes 7:16-17 to your group.

How does Solomon use the term “over righteous?”

  • Solomon seems to be warning against extremes. Balance, keeping one’s options open, avoid extremes because they are dangerous.

What do you think Solomon meant by this advice?

  • Since observation indicated that God did not follow the traditional view of always rewarding the righteous and punishing the wicked, Solomon believed that a person who is “over righteous,” in the expectation that God must reward him, acts presumptuously! To assume that we can manipulate God by our good behavior was to be dangerous.

How would this thinking be explained for someone who was extremely wicked?

  • They are acting as if God is irrelevant or impotent, and will not punish them.
  • To fear God and to avoid all extremes to Solomon means to respect God as Sovereign.

Have someone in your group read Ecclesiastes 7:19-20.

How is Solomon using wisdom with respect to one’s morality?

  • Wisdom can be used to make appropriate moral choices and this is a great aid in choosing the safe course through life.
  • Solomon, aware of human limitations and the impossibility of truly understanding God, knew that wisdom is not enough.

Have someone in your group read Ecclesiastes 7:21-22.

What conclusion can we draw from these verses?

  • Due to our own sinful nature, we should have a greater tolerance of other’s failings.

Read Ecclesiastes 7:23-25a to your group.

Note for your group: The more we learn, the more we discover that we need to learn more. However, there is a trap that can befall us. That is, to become sure we know what God wants for us. Romans 14 speaks of “doubtful things.” It means anything that God has not clearly and unmistakably identified in His Word as sin.

How is it that we as believers can come to terms with “Doubtful things?”

  • We are to look to the Lord for guidance, and to be responsive to His will.

If Scripture does not specifically define an action as a sin, but we have been convicted through the Holy Spirit that this action is wrong, do we have a right to judge or condemn someone’s actions based upon our conviction?

  • We have no such right given to us. Therefore, we can never depend upon wisdom, to provide all of the right answers.

Section Two: The Mistakes

Have someone in your group read Ecclesiastes 7:25b-26.

Solomon concludes that wickedness is stupid. What is the unmistakably wicked?

  • Immorality, because of its obvious nature. Solomon is responding to the person who lacks the ability to distinguish right and wrong and the desire to please God.

Have someone in your group read Ecclesiastes 7:27-29.

  • Solomon is not responding to the opinion that women are no good. How would Solomon’s life among his 700 wives and concubines, most from foreign lands, color his opinion of women?
  • Solomon was reflecting in these verses a report of his personal experience. Most of these women had their own agendas, hence his view that the majority of people “have gone in search of many schemes.”

Have someone in your group read Ecclesiastes 8:1-8.

Solomon calls on us to obey the government’s laws. Why?

It is the right course, and it is the prudent course.

Have someone in your group read Ecclesiastes 8:9-13.

What is Solomon concluding about obeying God?

  • It is the better way to go regardless of what we see. We see wicked people getting away with things and, when judgment is not swift, it tempts others to do the same.

Have someone in your group read Ecclesiastes 8:14-17.

So what is Solomon saying will happen if we follow all of his good advice?

  • We will not escape the meaningless of life (v. 14).
  • The best we can do is to enjoy the good things life has to offer (v. 15).
  • No one is able to comprehend what God has done or is doing and those who claim to know are just deceiving themselves (v. 17).

Section Three: The Christian’s Advantage

Have someone in your group read Romans 2:12-24.

Is there some special merit in having a religion based upon high moral standards?

  • Paul says no. What Paul is saying is that human beings have been created by God as moral creatures. Mankind is driven by human nature to make moral distinctions, and so to establish codes of right and wrong behavior. Even cultures that have never imagined that God might reveal His standards to them do have standards. Therefore, the existence of these moral standards makes it possible for God to be totally far when he judges.
  • Paul points out further that every person fails to live up to even his own standards, as his own conscience testifies.

What is Paul telling us in all of this?

  • It is not enough to know what is right, but we must also do what is right. What counts is living by our moral beliefs.

Have someone in your group read Romans 3:9-20.

What is the point that Paul is arguing?

  • Each person is aware of the gap between his or her moral standards and their actions.

That is why, “through the Law, we become conscious of sin.” (v. 20)

Why is it so wrong to use high moral standards to contradict Christianity’s claim to superiority?

  • The higher the standards, the more severe the judgment when we fail because these are our own self-imposed standards.

What do you see at this point, is the main difference between Christianity and other religions?

Re-read Ecclesiastes 7:20 to your group.

Other religions have high moral standards, but only Christianity provides a solution to the problem that Solomon describes. Only Christianity meets the sinner, not with more demands, but with the Good News that God loves us and offers us forgiveness based upon Christ’s sacrifice for our sins.

Have someone in your group read Romans 8:1-11.

What is the law of the Spirit of life?

  • The Holy Spirit Himself, who enters the believer and enables the believer must have to live righteously.

Bible Truth Being Taught

Only faith in Christ and reliance on the Holy Spirit can enable a person to do what he or she knows is right.

Our Response

To rely on the Holy Spirit and choose to do what we know is right.

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