Stories and News
Bible Studies For Life
April 25, 2021
Matthew 28:18-20; 2 Corinthians 5:16-21
When I was growing up, I was taught the Great Commission was lifestyle-based. The Bible word for “go” is a participle, so the best translation for Matthew 28:19, I was taught, is “as you are going…” Unfortunately, the unintended consequence was sort of a lackadaisical approach to evangelism and missions that said, “As you are going about your business, if you get the chance, you ought to consider mentioning Christ.” But while the word is indeed a participle, it has an imperative force. In other words, the going part is assumed. Hence “Go” is both a command and a continued action. And that makes perfect sense: “Go and make disciples…and as you are going make disciples.” Our focal texts this week remind us of the seriousness of our calling. Three key principles are mentioned.
Commission (Matt. 28:18-20). In these final words of Jesus’ earthly life, the Lord answered the question that was no-doubt on the disciples’ minds: “Where do we go from here?” Three elements are present. First, notice His power (v. 18). The newer translations more correctly translate the word as authority. Certainly, as divine, Jesus is omnipotent in His power. But more than that, Jesus—by virtue of His obedience to the Father and atoning sacrifice for His children—has the authority to command His followers. Second, we see His plan (vv. 19-20). The commission involves making disciples (converting the lost into followers of Christ); baptizing them (which publicly declares their professions of faith as Christ followers); and teaching them that which He commanded (the obedience both sanctifying the new believers and multiplying the host of Kingdom workers). Finally, there is His presence (v. 20). The emphasis here is personal (“I am with you”); on perpetuity (literally, “all the time”); and on permanence (even “to the end”). For reflection: In the context, do you believe this Great Commission is given to individuals or to the church? Why?
Transformation (2 Cor. 5:16-18). In the previous verses, Paul reminded the church that the “love of Christ constrains us” to fulfill our Christian duties. It is through His eyes that we now see others, not simply looking on their outward appearance, but at their spiritual need. I often tell my students the importance of being “soul conscious;” that is, getting into the habit of looking at people from the perspective of “saved” versus “not saved” rather than ranking them by appearance or position. Verse 17 is iconic. It demonstrates the perspective Christ has when looking at us and challenges us to use that same perspective when judging others. I remember well making an evangelistic visit with a new deacon by my side. When the door of the home opened, the prospect recognized my new deacon from their old drinking days decades before. He took great pleasure in recounting all they “used to do.” My deacon listened politely, then nodded and smiled. “You are right, my friend,” he replied. “That’s the way I used to be. But I’ve been changed.” Verse 18 then passes the mantle on to us. Because we have been reconciled (literally, “restored” or “set right”), we are in the position to help others do the same. For reflection: Why do you think Paul used the phrase “ministry” of reconciliation? What do you think he means by that?
Representation (2 Cor. 5:19-21). Verses 19 and 20 continue the thought of the previous verses. It was God who did the reconciliation (not us!). It was accomplished through Christ (not through works!). Since we received the benefits of reconciliation (our salvation!), we have been entrusted with the message of reconciliation (the gospel!). Verse 21 is one of the clearest statements in Scripture regarding Christ’s atonement. In theology, we use the terms penal, which relates to the penalty of sin, and substitutionary which indicates that Christ died in our place. Verse 21 teaches both truths: sinless Christ took on our sin (and hence, the penalty for it), and died the death that we deserve! And that is the message of reconciliation. For reflection: Why do you think it was necessary for Christ to die on our behalf? Did He really pay the penalty for our sin? How do you know?
May 2, 2021
START WITH PRAYER
1 Timothy 2:1-8
As far as I am concerned, prayer is a mystery.
I cannot accept the idea that my prayers actually change the mind of God. If that was the case, then I would be in control, and that makes me God. But nor can I believe that prayer is useless, and God works His plan with no regard to us. If that were true, we would simply serve as meaningless pawns on His divine chessboard. As is often the case, the truth must lie somewhere in the middle. But even though I am not sure how prayer works, I am absolutely certain that prayer works! Paul’s letter to young Timothy provides some guidance.
Global praying (vv. 1-2). The four terms for prayer used in verse 1 could just as easily be summarized, “Pray for everybody!” Yet Paul saw enough nuances in the types of prayers offered to list them out. In general, petitions are prayer requests. Prayers is a generic term, but Paul may have had in mind proscribed (ie: standardized) prayers; either those written out to be read, or those memorized and recited orally. Intercession is normally praying on behalf of someone or something intimately and specifically. And thanksgivings are statements of gratitude. The focus of the text, however, is not on the variety of prayers, but the scope of those being prayed for. Everyone made the list, but especially emphasized were those in both supreme and lesser levels of government. The presumption here, is that Paul urged the early church to pray for their Roman oppressors (from the top to the bottom) so that the believers under their watch could live out their faith unmolested by their pagan rulers. This had been taught earlier in the Bible (see Ezra 6:10 and Jer. 29:7, for example), and later, in church history (as recorded by Tertullian and Polycarp). For reflection: How might free churches use these principles in regard to the many persecuted churches meeting around the world?
Gospel praying (vv. 3-6). In this section, Paul describes the universal appeal of the exclusive gospel message. In paraphrase, Paul says, “This directed praying for the pagans (vv. 1-2), and the relative peace it will bring on the church is a good thing, that pleases God. After all, His desire is that everyone would be saved by understanding and accepting His truth.” Paul here is speaking more popularly than doctrinally. Technically, if God sovereignly willed everyone to be saved, they would be! But Paul is not speaking technically. Rather, he is revealing the heart of God, and the compassion He has for the whole world (see 2 Pet. 3:9; John 3:16). Set against the broad appeal of the gospel is the narrow singularity of the message itself. There is one God, one mediator, one ransom paid, and one sacrifice made, on behalf of all who will receive it. For reflection: If God wanted everyone to be saved, then why do you think He doesn’t simply save everyone? Wouldn’t that make the most sense?
Godly praying (vv. 7-8). It is the testimony of the gospel witness (v. 6) to which Paul is here referring. Since faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word (Rom. 10:17), God has ordained preachers to proclaim it. And this was both Paul’s calling and his vocation. The word herald refers to a messenger or preacher; the term apostle denotes one who is sent; and the office of teacher explains his role. Of the Gentiles describes his mission field, and faith and truth denotes the subject of his teaching. Since Paul was so heavily invested in gospel proclamation, he was particularly anxious that the power of prayer be brought to bear everywhere, by every believer, without being sidetracked by the pettiness of church disgruntlement. For reflection: What are some ways that pettiness among church members hinders the work of the gospel? How does Paul see prayer as a solution to this problem?
May 9, 2021
The most prominent theological belief in the world is that salvation—regardless of how it is defined—is something that must be earned by good works. But the truth that most distinguishes Christianity from all the rest, is that salvation is granted wholly and completely by grace through faith, and not as a result of works (Eph. 2:8-9). While that might complicate things on the side of God, it certainly simplifies things on our side! But in a world of people who are convinced that “nothing in life is free,” the challenge for believers is to get that message across to others. In our focal text, Paul gives us three reminders about the message of the gospel.
It’s a simple message (vv. 8-10). Verse 8 refers to the righteousness that comes by faith. Is that message of faith written so far beyond us so that we could not obtain it? (v. 6-7) Absolutely not! To Paul’s audience, the essentials of the gospel were much nearer than they thought, having been declared already in the Old Testament (Deut. 30:14; see also Gen 15:6; Hab. 2:4). Salvation is not found in the works of the hands, but in the heart and on the lips. Belief comes first. The Bible word connotes trust, and in this context refers to a deep confidence. While the overall atoning sacrifice of Christ is included, the resurrection is mentioned specifically (v. 9), as it represents both the proof of the atonement and the promise of ours. But equally important is the confession of that belief, which confirms it in the life of the believer and declares that belief to the lost. As Dr. Adrian Rogers used to say, “The faith that does not lead to public profession, will not lead to heaven.” For reflection: Sometimes a new believer will ask to be baptized in private. As a pastor, why do you think I always refuse such a request? Am I wrong?
It’s a saving message (vv. 11-13). Verse 11 is a quote from Isaiah 28:16. The idea of put to shame can also be translated as disappointed, or even embarrassed. But the idea is that everyone who believes in Him will find His salvation sufficient. In other words, no one who comes to Him will be left out or feel somehow slighted (see John 6:37; Heb. 7:25). Why? Because since His salvation is by faith rather than works, there is no distinction made between people. All have sinned; Christ died for all; all can be saved. For reflection: What do you think calling on the “name” of the Lord means? Why didn’t Paul simply say, “believe in Jesus?”
It’s a shared message (vv. 14-17). Paul now moves from the message itself to the logical steps needed to accept it. How can the lost call out to the Savior they haven’t believed in? And how can they believe if they have never heard about Him? And how can they hear about Him unless someone goes and tells them? (v. 14). And who will go and tell them unless messengers of the gospel are compelled to go? (v. 15). The beautiful feet section in verse 15 (from Isaiah 52) serves three purposes. First, it fits nicely into the argument Paul is advancing on both the necessity as well as the blessing of proclaiming the gospel. Second, it reminds the Jews that the gospel was no secret; it had already been proclaimed to them; and third, it points out the truth about the Jews indicated in verse 16: they heard the good news but rejected it. This is particularly poignant because Paul quotes the previous verse from Isaiah 52 (above), then follows it up with a verse from Isaiah 53. Hence, Isaiah made his argument for him! The final verse from the text is particularly applicable today. Years ago, I memorized this verse from the KJV: “So then faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.” While we would all agree that faith comes from the Bible, the emphasis of the word used here is the spoken word (literally, utterance). We can employ all kinds of tools and gimmicks to help us share the gospel with others, but in the end, the message must be communicated verbally. Simply put, if you came to Christ, it’s because someone told you about Him. For reflection: Through the years, there have been fewer and fewer preachers entering full-time ministry. Why do you think that is happening? Where do you think the problem lies?
May 16, 2021
LIVE THE MESSAGE
Colossians 3:1-3, 12-17
I always tell my students, “A good résumé doesn’t guarantee you will get the job, but a poor résumé guarantees that you won’t.” It’s the same way with your Christian testimony. A godly lifestyle doesn’t guarantee that you will win others to Christ, but a carnal lifestyle will guarantee that you won’t! While the gospel messenger is not as important as the gospel message itself, he or she is still vital when it comes to sharing the faith. Peter encouraged believers to “Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have” (1 Pet. 3:15). The only way anyone will ask us about our faith is if our lives give consistent testimony of that faith. In our focal text, Paul gives three ways to keep our testimony vibrant and godly.
Heavenly looking (vv. 1-3). The first characteristic of a vibrant testimony for Christ is that we keep our eyes on Him. More than any other people, Christ-followers are aware that we are only sojourners; we are only passing through (see Heb. 11:8-10; 1 Pet. 1:1). Jesus reminded His disciples to lay up heavenly treasures, rather than earthly possessions (Matt. 6:19-20), because heaven is where our future lies. Here, Paul reminds the church to “seek what is above.” The word seekmeans to earnestly desire, almost to the point of demanding it. Why is that such an important priority? Because coming to Christ means dying to self and identifying with Christ (see Gal. 2:20). Paul suggests our identity with Christ is so intimate that our very lives are “hidden with Him” (v. 3). When we are literally looking up to the sky, people will often stop and gaze upward as well, wondering what we are looking at. In the same way, when our hearts, and minds, and eyes are set on Christ, people will notice, and look that way, too. For reflection: While we are to actively seek opportunities to share our faith, those opportunities sometimes sneak up on us. What are some ways that we can prepare ourselves to share Christ at a moment’s notice?
Humbly loving (vv. 12-14). Someone has said, “We can be so heavenly minded that we are no earthly good.” While I’m not sure I fully believe that, I do understand the sentiment. One of the arguments I sometimes have with the Catholic church is the veneration they have for cloistered nuns and monks. How can a life of devotion and service be lived out in quiet solitude behind thick walls? Jesus didn’t just talk about sinners…He talked with sinners! Here, Paul reminds the church that being chosen, holy, and loved (v. 12) does not isolate them—or insulate them—from others. Rather it equips them to care more genuinely for others. As fruits of the Spirit (compare with Gal. 5:22-23) the characteristics listed are distinctly Christian. The heart of the matter is genuine love for one another that manifests itself in forgiving those who offend us. The basis for that forgiveness is the forgiveness we received from God through Christ. In every case, our testimony is firmly founded on love; love of God and love for others (see Matt. 22:37-40). For reflection: The word bondin verse 14 is like a belt. How does the “bond of love” compare to a belt used on a garment?
Happily living (vv. 15-17). Of all people, Christians should be the happiest. Yet we sometimes don’t seem that way. Dr. Adrian Rogers used to say that when we should be humbly grateful, we are too often grumbly hateful! Verse 15 serves to connect the basis of our fellowship (the bond of love) in verse 14 to the behavior of fellowship that follows. Notice that the activities listed are all filled with joy, enthusiasm, and thanksgiving. Notice as well the emphasis on singing. While music should never displace God’s word in worship, it is enormously important in setting the atmosphere and advancing the fellowship. Take it from a pastor: when the church music is joyful, thankful, and uplifting, the proclamation of the word is easier, more fruitful, and a lot more fun! For reflection: Think about the overall atmosphere of your church. Is it the kind of place that would attract a lost person? Or are there some attitudes and activities that might hinder visitors from returning?
During her 30 years as Florida Baptists’ director of communications, Barbara ventured across the state — and to Cuba and Haiti — to report on Baptist witness and, amid natural disaster, Baptist compassion.
Barbara and her husband, Dick, are currently enjoying spending time with their first grandchild, Finley, along with Finley’s parents Ashford and Chantal and Barbara and Dick’s daughter, Addie.
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.
Barbara, a member at Eau Gallie First BC, Melbourne, and a graduate of Florida State University, B.S., Speech Pathology/Audiology, taught Pre-K/VPK for many years. While living and serving in Maine, she wrote articles for the NEW ENGLAND BAPTIST, and currently writes for the Brevard Baptist Association’s newsletter, THE BRIDGE. She loves serving alongside her husband Mike (Associational Mission Strategist, Brevard Baptist Association), spending time with their three grandchildren, sewing and reading.
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.
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.
Brandi is a writer and editor for N2 Publishing, a community magazine that honors God. She and her family attend Fishhawk Fellowship Church and are a Host Family for Safe Families for Children, Bethany Christian Services. Her background is in Healthcare Management, Policies & Procedures.