Introduction: The controversy will probably never end over what is
appropriate for worship in church. I have a clear preference and I
know others who clearly disagree with me. Our lesson this week
touches on something much deeper – what lies underneath our worship?
Should we be alert to an evil which can lurk beneath our worship and
invalidate it? Since we exist to give praise and honor to our God,
let’s dive into our Bible study to uncover whether we are guilty of
an evil which makes even our worship unacceptable to God!

  1. Unacceptable Faith?

    1. Read Isaiah 1:1 and Isaiah 1:10. Is Isaiah addressing
      both the leaders of Judah and of Sodom and the people of
      Gomorrah? (No. Did your parents ever say “you are acting
      just like the [naughty] neighbor children?” God says His
      people are acting like the terrible people of Sodom and

    2. Read Isaiah 1:11. Has Isaiah garbled God’s message? These
      sacrificial animals looked forward to the sacrifice of
      Jesus. Would God ever say “I don’t care about the fact
      that you claim the sacrifice of Jesus for your sins?”

    3. Read Isaiah 1:12-14. What do we say when our God tells us
      He does not want us to observe the Sabbath any more? He
      does not want us attending church? He hates to have us
      worship Him?

      1. Isn’t the essence of righteousness by faith that
        evil people (which we all are) come to God claiming
        the sacrifice of His Son and worshiping Him for His
        incredible offer of salvation?

        1. Is so, how do you explain this mixed up stuff
          in Isaiah? (Now you know why you should never
          set foot in the Old Testament, right? I’m just
          joking for those who are unsure.)

    4. Something bizarre is going on. Something difficult to
      understand is being said. Let’s continue to read to see
      if we can figure this out. Read Isaiah 1:15-16. Is Isaiah
      telling us that our sacrifices (faith), worship, praise
      and prayers will not do us any good unless we “stop doing

      1. Read Romans 3:19-24. If we could put Isaiah and Paul
        in a room together, would they agree? Would Paul
        say, “Hey, buddy, we have an updated version for
        your software?”

      2. Look again at Isaiah 1:16. How is “washing” relevant
        to making us morally clean? (This is something
        outside controlling our “evil deeds.”)

    5. Read Isaiah 1:17. Is God calling His people “Sodom” and
      “Gomorrah” because they are not helping the oppressed,
      orphans and widows?

      1. Why doesn’t God mention lying, stealing, killing,
        adultery? What about homosexuality? God is, after
        all, calling them Sodom and Gomorrah!

      2. What does God’s naming of certain sins related to
        abusing the powerless have to do with righteousness
        by faith?

        1. Or, do we not have to worry about the poor and
          powerless anymore because we now have updated
          software for our gospel?

  2. Reasoning It Out

    1. Read Isaiah 1:18. God says “let’s talk this out.” Let’s
      do just that. When we read about our red sins become
      white as snow or wool, is that a picture of righteousness
      by our works? (No, this is a picture of washing – an
      external matter which does not change any internal

    2. Read Luke 10:25. Would you like to know the answer to
      this question? This will tell us if our salvation
      software has been updated, right?

    3. Read Luke 10:26-28. Is this the answer you wanted to hear
      – that your salvation software has not been updated?

      1. Do we now need to put Jesus and Paul in a room to
        debate righteousness by faith?

    4. Read Luke 10:29. The law expert gave Jesus the correct
      answer. What does the Bible mean when it says “he wanted
      to justify himself?” (We all want to justify our actions
      – which means that we all are looking for a way not to
      really have to love our neighbor as our self!)

    5. Read Luke 10:30-37. Does this answer help you to justify
      yourself? (Hardly! This tells us to use our time and
      money to care for the physical, financial and security
      needs of a foolish person of another race – even an
      arrogant race!)

      1. Can you think of a broader definition of “my

    6. Let’s take a moment to review here. The question was:
      “How do I go to heaven?” Jesus’ answer is the Samaritan
      story followed by the instruction to “Go and do
      likewise.” Have we just driven a stake through the heart
      of righteousness by faith?

      1. If you are a “righteousness of works” person, have
        we just driven a stake through the heart of your
        hope to go to heaven because (I’m just guessing
        here) your puny works don’t begin to compare to
        those of the Samaritan?

    7. Let’s bring Paul back into the discussion. Read again
      Romans 3:19-20. Is the Good Samaritan a mythical person?
      An unattainable goal? (Yes.)

      1. Do you think that this was Jesus’ point? (Imagine
        the reaction of the law expert if Jesus had directly
        answered him: “Go to heaven? Believe in Me!” The
        law expert said “obeying the law is the key to
        heaven.” Jesus replied, “Let me show you what
        obeying the law means.” We know the law expert did
        not come close to meeting this standard because
        (like us) “he wanted to justify himself” by looking
        for a very narrow definition of his “neighbor.” He
        did not get a narrow definition. Jesus showed him
        the only possible path to heaven was to accept the
        righteousness of Jesus on his behalf.)

    8. Now let’s get back to the problem of our Sodom and
      Gomorrah friends in Judah. Can you explain why God didn’t
      want their sacrifices or worship while they were
      oppressing, not helping, the powerless? (Isaiah’s
      audience did not understand they were Sodom and Gomorrah
      people. Righteousness by faith only works when we rely on
      it. As long as we think we are good enough, we are
      relying on our works to be saved. Our works are never
      good enough. If you doubt that, consider carefully
      whether you love your neighbor as God loved you. God died
      for you.)

      1. Gomorrah man (woman), how do you treat the poor and

    9. Re-read Isaiah 1:18-20. What is Isaiah’s message to us
      about garments? (If you think about it (reason), you will
      see that your sins can go from red to white in only one
      way – washing.)

      1. What do the words “willing,” “resist” and “rebel”
        have to do with this one way to salvation? (These
        are attitudes.)

        1. Does that mean we believe in righteousness by
          attitude? Our attitude saves us or causes us
          to be lost?

        2. What about the idea that we can do nothing to
          merit salvation? Is there a footnote that says
          our attitude is an exception?

    10. Read Isaiah 1:21-23. What does God mean when He calls a
      “faithful city” a “harlot?” (The people have turned away
      from God. They are unfaithful to Him. They are unfaithful
      to His principles. They are not reflecting His love
      because they do not treat orphans fairly. Indeed, they
      refuse to even consider the cases of the widow.)

      1. Is this an attitude problem? (Yes!)

    11. When we speak of “faith,” do we really mean “attitude?”
      (I think so. Faith is not mere words (James 2.) Faith is
      an attitude. It is an attitude that God loves us so much
      that He gave up heaven and died painfully for us. Thus we
      must love Him and our “neighbor” for whom He also died.
      We know we cannot meet God’s “Samaritan” standard. So we
      accept Jesus’ righteousness by faith and in gratitude
      seek to follow the Samaritan standard.)

  3. The Garment of Splendor

    1. Read Isaiah 61:1-3. Who are the poor, the brokenhearted,
      the captives and the prisoners? (This is not just people
      who do not have money. This means people who are poor
      because life is going badly and they do not have the

    2. Isaiah 61:10-11. Has the good news of the gospel been
      updated from Isaiah’s time? (Our salvation comes from God
      alone. He gives us the “garment of salvation” the “robe
      of righteousness.” He gives it to those who realize what
      the law requires of them, realize their inadequacy to
      keep the law, and have the attitude of love to the “poor”
      (of every kind) around them. This attitude flows from the
      delight and joy of our undeserved salvation. It triggers
      the gift of love to those around us.)

    3. Friend, has your heart been broken yet? Have you realized
      that the law holds before you the Samaritan standard for
      those in need, but that you have woefully failed to meet
      that standard because you are constantly trying to
      justify yourself? Why not, right now, admit you can
      never meet the standard on your own? Admit that you need
      the gift of the garment of grace and righteousness. Why
      not let God break your heart and open to you a path of
      joy, delight and love for those who are poor?

  4. Next week: A Brand Plucked From the Fire.