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Bible Study Guide for Sunday, March 21, 2021

March 15, 2021
  • Jeremiah 31:31-34
  • Hebrews 5:5-10
  • John 12:20-33
  • Psalm 51:1-13

 A common question about our Hebrews reading this week is “Who the heck is Melchizedek?” Melchizedek is an obscure priest king of the “Most High God” from Genesis:17-20 who blessed Abraham (then known as Abram). Christians often read Melchizedek as a sign that there are priesthoods that stand apart from and before the priesthoods implemented under Mosaic Law. This in turn creates mental shelf space for us to understand Christ as a priest figure who is able to stand alongside Mosaic law.

In turn, Jeremiah leads us toward a new covenant that is also different from Mosaic law. Jeremiah tells us that this new covenant will be written on our hearts. John J. Collins, in his Introduction to the Hebrew Bible, argues that Jeremiah portrays God as forcing this new covenant upon our hearts, giving us no choice but to obey God. However, this overriding of human will is not how we understand a God who softens and writes on our hard hearts through love. Can the Gospel and Jesus help us understand how this new covenant might be written?

 Jesus speaks this week of being glorified, glorifying God, and being raised up. In the Gospel of John, Christ’s moment of glorification is his crucifixion. One answer the theology of the Cross provides us to the question of how God’s new covenant might be written is what is known as the “moral influence theory of atonement.”

Despite this dry, academic name, it is less complex that it sounds. The core of the theory is that Christ’s moment of glory on the Cross sets a moral example for us. His willingness to go to the Cross is the ultimate act of obedience, sacrifice, and love, the spark that lights a beacon of transformational divine love throughout human history and in our own lives.

The Cross serves to inspire us, redeem us, and transform us. God writes a new covenant on our hearts, not by trampling our free will, but guiding us with Christ’s act of love.


  • In what ways has God written his covenant on your heart?
  • How do you understand Christ’s glory? The Cross? The Resurrection? Perhaps other stories from the Gospels?
  • Does the moral influence theory resonate with you? Why or why not?

Author: Ryan Newberry


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