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Bible Studies

Bible Studies For Life

Rich Elligson

Richard Elligson

Richard Elligson is Professor of Missions and Chair of Theology at The Baptist College of Florida.  Archives

Session 2

July 31, 2022


1 Corinthians 13:1-13

First Corinthians 13 is one of the most beautiful, moving, and poetic texts found in God’s word. The theme is love, and while the passage rests smack in the middle of the Bible’s most intense discussion of spiritual gifts, the applications outside that context are almost endless. The key word used is the Greek agape, that selfless, sacrificial love that is both an essential attribute of God’s being and the characteristic most desired of His church. In the context of 1 Corinthians 13, agape is not presented as a spiritual gift, but rather a gift from God that is to permeate the believer, the local church, and the church universal. Love regulates; it keeps the church on an even keel. Love mediates; it is the standard that keeps people equal and accountable across the kingdom. Love demonstrates; it is the singular indication to the world of Christ’s salvation.

Love is necessary (vv. 1-3). The final verse of chapter 12 promises to introduce “a more excellent way” than selfishly promoting oneself through the miraculous gifts. Here, love is clearly differentiated from the spiritual gifts. They are to be practiced in the church, but love is to permeate the church. So important is this attribute, that apart from love, even the most eloquent speech is nothing more than an annoying noise (v. 1). Apart from love, the most applauded gifts of prophecy, or knowledge, or faith, as valuable as they are, lose all significance (v. 2). Apart from love, the most seemingly sacrificial services to others or even to God, accomplish nothing (v. 3). Hence, all those tangible accomplishments for the church and kingdom are really only empty works if they are not done both with love and out of love. For reflection: Some have said that love is a virtue. How would you define a virtue? How are virtues and spiritual gifts alike? How are they different?

Love is unique (vv. 4-7). This section describes the uniqueness of agape. Even the casual reader is struck by the construction of the passage. The characteristics taken individually are simple enough. But in its whole, one can see Paul attempting to describe the indescribable. There are three key divisions in this set of verses. First, Paul describes what love is (v. 4). Patient is often rendered long-suffering. It handles stressful and oppressive situations. Kind is rich in meaning. It connotes sensitive courtesy, and a certain sweetness. Next, the apostle describes what love is not (vv. 5-6). In short, agapemakes no room for selfishness and never comes across as mean, hurtful, or ugly. Finally, Paul suggests what love does (v. 7). “Bears all things” means that love puts up with whatever comes its way. “Believes all things” means that love accepts the truth freely and completely. “Hopes all things” speaks of the positive nature of agape; it looks for the good even when things appear hopeless. “Endures all things” seems to apply personally. That is, love enables the believer to endure personal suffering and hardship, whether just or unjust. For reflection: Why do you think Paul used such a variety of expressions to describe agape? Are there any characteristics of love that you can think of that fall outside of his description?

Love is permanent (vv. 8-13). This final segment is full of meaning, but the general theme is the permanence of love. Verse 8 reconnects the chapter with the context of spiritual gifts. The spiritual gifts given to the church are important—and necessary—but they are temporary; “they will cease.” They will “come to an end.” But “love never ends.” The perfect mentioned in verse 10 has been the subject of debate. Some think of it as the second coming of Christ, when the culmination of the age will render the spiritual gifts no longer necessary. Others (myself included), believe it refers to the completion of the New Testament Scriptures, when the “sign gifts” given to authenticate the truth of the gospel would be replaced by a “more sure word of prophecy” (see 2 Peter 1:19). The same word of God would mature believers (v. 11), clarify the plan of God (v. 12), and complete the knowledge of God’s redemptive plan (v. 12). For reflection: Why do you think Paul paused in his treatment of spiritual gifts to insert this chapter? How do you think the verses about maturity and clarity (vv. 11-12) fit into this discussion?

Session 3

August 7, 2022


1 Timothy 2:1-8

The aging and much-experienced Paul wrote the pastoral epistles (1 and 2 Timothy and Titus) to instruct those coming up in ministry about the organization, leadership qualifications, functions, and conduct of the local church. Of these, 1 Timothy stands out as the most comprehensive. By this time, Paul had probably known Timothy for nearly ten years. He had adopted him as “his true son in the faith” (1:1) and had mentored him in the spiritual disciplines required of a pastor. Here, Paul instructs young Timothy in the essential discipline of intercessory prayer. Three key aspects stand out.

Evangelistic prayer (vv. 1-4). In the preceding, introductory chapter, Paul mentioned both the honor and struggle that accompanies ministry. It’s noteworthy then, that he begins this instructional section with an exhortation to pray (v. 1). First, he mentions various aspects of prayer. Petitions are entreaties, what we would call “prayer requests.” The word for prayers is related to oratories, and likely refers to public prayer. Intercessions is the same word as interview. It connotes a discussion with God. Thanksgivings is the word eucharist (sometimes applied to the Lord’s Supper), and connotes intimate, heartfelt gratitude. Second, Paul mentions objects of prayer (v. 2): kings and rulers who make the rules and enforce them. Next, he states the content of these prayers: that believers might remain unmolested; able to live quiet, godly yet influential lives. Finally, Paul mentions the ultimate goal of these prayers (vv. 3-4): that God might be pleased, working through His followers’ lives to bring others to salvation through the truth of His gospel. For reflection: It’s an ongoing debate, but what do you think verse 4 means? If God wants everyone saved, then why aren’t they?

Honest prayer (vv. 5-6). These verses explain why praying for all people is so important. God’s redemptive plan is just that: not a plan of salvation, but the plan of salvation! Characteristically, the apostle pauses to emphasize the enormity of the gospel message. First, the gospel is unique. There is one—and only one—God; and one (and only one) mediator between God and man (v. 5). The title Christ Jesus (literally the Anointed One and Savior) highlights His deity, while the explanation Himself human, highlights His humanity. Hence, He is uniquely qualified to mediate between the two. Second, the Gospel is effective. Christ’s death was voluntary; He gave Himself (see John 10:18). His death was sacrificial (see 1 Pet. 2:24), and His death was timely (see Gal. 4:4-5). This is the only true gospel, and to compromise it in any way is to dangerously present a false gospel (see Gal. 1:8-9). For reflection: To tell half the truth is to tell a whole lie. What are some ways the gospel message might be watered down to make it seem more acceptable? What are the possible consequences when that happens?

Worshipful prayer (vv. 7-8). It was for the sake of this gospel, then, that Paul was appointed a proclaimer of the truth (herald) and one sent out (apostle). Notice Paul’s appointment. The word for “appointed” is often rendered ordained. The connotation as well as the verb construction indicate this was God’s own doing, not Paul’s. Along with his appointment, notice his audience: the Gentiles. Paul certainly engaged the Jews, but his primary field of service was among the Gentile peoples. Third, notice his message: he was appointed to instruct the Gentiles in both faith (how to believe) and truth (whatto believe). Finally, notice his objective: that all believers from all places would pray together in an attitude of worship, without the hindrances of anger or argument. For reflection: As a Jew, why do you think Paul emphasized to Timothy his work among the Gentiles? Why do you think Paul connected prayer with worship? Is that a valid connection? Why?

Session 4

August 14, 2022


Romans 12:9-21

Generally speaking, the first half of Romans 12 gives instructions for worship in the church. It begins with believers presenting themselves as living sacrifices, which is identified as an act of spiritual worship (v. 1). This idea is enhanced by intentional conformity to Christ (v. 2) which is an act of worship as well. Verses 3-8 then move to service in the church, which is to be done with humility and the fervent exercise of the spiritual gifts bestowed to the church. Our focal passage then addresses the attitude of the church. Here Paul abandons the long, thought-out treatises that mark most of the epistle, and very nearly blurts out a string of commands; the “do’s and don’ts” of Christian behavior within the body. Throughout, the twin themes of personal humility and public honor are evident.

Show honor through love (vv. 9-13). It is not surprising that the apostle begins with love, since it is the basis of both the gospel and Christian ethics. In this case, love (agape) is to be without hypocrisy. The term used means unfeigned, honest,or genuine. The remainder of verse 9 must be taken in the context of such genuine love. Hence, evil has no place in a love relationship and must be abhorred, while that which is good should be embraced. Verse 10 extends that love to family-type affection within the congregation, emphasizing a different word for love (phileo) which denotes brotherly love or companionship. The final part of verse 10 is interesting. The word for “outdo” in the Holman Bible (or “preferring” in the KJV) means “to lead the way.” Hence, believers should always be looking to set the example (or “come in first”) when it comes to honoring one another. The remainder of the section lists clear exhortations for diligence and service (v. 11), encourages joy, patience, and prayer (v. 12), and urges meeting the needs of fellow believers (v. 13). For reflection: I said earlier that the general theme of these verses is humility and honor. But how do verses 11-13 relate to those concepts?

Show honor through consistency (vv. 14:16). The middle-ground in these verses is consistency. It begins with self-control when under attack (v. 14). This admonition is a paraphrase of Jesus’ teaching in Matthew 5:44. Next comes consistency in empathy (v. 15), and in unity (v. 16), ending with consistency in Christ-like attitude (see Phil. 2: 5 ff). For reflection: Again, the context here is in the church. How do you think consistency in your own behavior shows honor to others? What are the best ways to build consistency into your spiritual disciplines?

Show honor through restraint (vv. 17-21). Here, the discipline of self-control is again emphasized. If the original sin is pride (and it is), and we wrestle with that same desire to be our own God (which we do), then it is only natural to want to take on God’s role as judge, jury, and executioner when someone crosses us! The problem is, that responsibility belongs to God and God alone (v. 19). What makes it even harder is the duty placed on believers to turn the other cheek, give up the extra coat, and walk the extra mile (see Matt. 5:38-42). Those early teachings of Jesus are reiterated here by Paul. Verse 20 is a restatement of Proverbs 25:21-22. The heaping of hot coals refers to both bringing shame upon the enemy as well as the eventual scorn of God (see Ps. 140:10). The point here is that the believer is to show honor to all; not only by refusing to act as the avenger, but by actually demonstrating compassion when the situation would normally call for one’s wrath. For reflection: Romans 5:10 says that we were once God’s enemies. How might His example of compassion help us to demonstrate the same to others?

Session 5

August 21, 2022


Matthew 18:21-35

“Though we live wholly on mercy and forgiveness, we are backward to forgive the offences of our brethren.” Matthew Henry (c. 1700) certainly had it right. How quick we are to accept God’s compassion for ourselves…and how woefully slow to extend it to others!

Jesus had just explained how to resolve disputes among the brethren when Peter asked for some clarification. Forgiveness and restoration were all well and good, but exactly how long should one have to forebear the offenses of another before cutting him off?

Clarification (vv. 21-22). Peter’s inquiry was done in private, but the context seems to indicate that Jesus answered for all the disciples to hear. Note three principles that emerge. First, Peter was not at all against forgiveness. Rather, he understood and agreed with the basic concept. Hence, (unlike some other instances!), he was not being contrary. Second, the question he posed makes sense. Jesus already laid out the steps to forgiveness and restoration (vv. 18-20). Peter was jumping ahead a bit, wondering what limitations were in place to avoid continued—and perhaps even intentional—abuses of one’s grace. Third, Peter was being generous. Seven was the number of completion; and Amos 1:3 hinted that even God placed the limit of forgivable transgressions at three. Whatever Peter was thinking, his heart seemed to be in the right place, suggesting multiple opportunities should be given to get things resolved among brothers. For reflection: Romans 6:1-2 says, “What should we say then? Should we continue in sin so that grace may multiply? Absolutely not! How can we who died to sin still live in it?” How do these verses relate to the principles Jesus is teaching in our text?

Illustration (vv. 23-31). Jesus’ reply of “seventy times seven” (v. 22) was rhetorical. It repeats the number of completion and hearkens back to Genesis 4:24. The point is that just as God’s grace places no limit on the number of pardons offered to the repentant sinner, so the forgiven sinner must place no limits on others either. Indeed, genuine forgiveness requires genuine repentance (see Luke 17:4); but genuine repentance must receive genuine forgiveness. The parable that followed (vv.23-31) illustrates clearly all of these principles, while highlighting the particular unfairness—and inherent selfishness—so abundant in human nature. Those who have been forgiven much (and that’s all of us!) are, in the words of Matthew Henry above, “backward to forgive the offences of our brethren.” For reflection: As Christ-followers, what steps can we take to ensure that we don’t revert to placing selfish demands on errant believers?

Admonition (vv. 32-35). The lesson of the parable is the motive for forgiveness, which is mercy. Grace and mercy go hand in hand. While grace is God giving that which we do not deserve (His favor), mercy is God withholding that which we do deserve (His judgment). Notice that nothing in the parable condemns the debt, just as nothing condones it. Rather the emphasis is on the selfish attitude of the forgiven servant even after he had been almost miraculously delivered from his very desperate situation. Notice the difference in the amounts owed as well. Ten-thousand talents (v. 24) was an amount impossible to repay. Such a debt required more compassion, more grace, and more mercy to forgive than the mere one hundred denarii he demanded to collect from his debtor (v. 28). Taken together—the selfish attitude and the amount forgiven—justifies the master’s rebuke and his subsequent wrath. The Lord’s admonition? “So My heavenly Father will also do to you if each of you does not forgive his brother from his heart.” For reflection: Read Matthew 6:14-15. How does Jesus’ teaching there relate to our discussion here?

Meet Our Writers

Florida Baptist Convention,

Margaret Colson

Margaret Colson began serving as consulting communications editor for the Florida Baptist Convention in April 2022, but she has a long history of working with Florida Baptists in telling the story of how God is at work in the Sunshine State.

Margaret earned a Bachelor of Arts in journalism from the University of Georgia and a Master of Divinity and Doctor of Ministry from New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary. She is a leader in denominational communications, serving as executive director for Baptist Communicators Association as well as for Association of State Baptist Publications. She is married to Keith Colson.

Florida Baptist Convention, Writers' Network, Keila Diaz

Keila Diaz

Keila earned a B.S. in Communications from Florida International University in Miami. She writes news and stories about Florida Baptist churches, creates and posts social content to the FBC’s social media channels, and is a Baptist Press contributor.

When she’s not working, Keila enjoys bike rides and spending time with her family.

David Moore, Florida Baptist Convention, Writers' Network

David Moore

David Moore has been writing and editing for newspapers and magazines in Florida for more than 20 years. He has a bachelor’s degree in journalism from the University of Florida. A proud member of First Baptist Church of Ocala, David serves in the worship, deacon and NextGen ministries. He and his wife Beth have three children.


Brooke Mannion

Brooke Mannion is a Pensacola native and longtime member of Hillcrest Baptist Church. She is a graduate of University of West Florida and has a diverse work history in advertising, interior decorating and accounting. Now she finds joy as a wife and stay-at-home mom of three children. Brooke enjoys home schooling, cooking, connecting with others and studying God’s Word.

Jessica Pigg, Florida Baptist Convention, Writers' Network

Jessica Pigg

Jessica received her B.S. in Biblical Studies from Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. She contributes to Florida Baptist Conv, Biblical Woman, Baptist Press, The Devotional for Women, and Daily Devotional Bible for Women. Her greatest joy is serving beside her husband who is the Senior Pastor of Fellowship Church.