New Testament Reading Guide -March 12-18, 2012

How do I use this reading guide?

1 Corinthians 7:25-31

What is Paul’s advice to those who are single? Married? We normally see singleness as a ‘problem’ to be solved. How does Paul view it? Why does Paul encourage single people to stay single, even though he says it is not a sin to get married?

How does Paul call us to view our lives and the stuff or our world? How do we view our marriages? Our happiness or sadness? Our possessions? Why?

1 Corinthians 7:32-40

Why does Paul encourage unmarried men and women to remain single? What advantages are there to remaining single? For what reason should a single person pursue marriage? What does Paul have to say to widows and widowers? Why do you think Paul is keen on encouraging us to stay ‘as we are’?

1 Corinthians 8:1-13

The subject of eating meat sacrificed to idols was a controversial subject for those living in the pagan Roman world. The meat from animals sacrificed to the local gods were offered for sale in cities like Corinth and Christians fought over whether it was allowable for them to each such meat.

How does Paul answer this question, ‘is it right for Christians to eat meat sacrificed to idols’? How does Paul view these other ‘gods’? Under what circumstances should Christians, who have no problem with eating meat sacrificed to idols, not eat it? Why are Christians sometimes called to lay aside their freedoms? In a church you will have both strong and weak Christians. Who should sacrifice for whom? Why?

1 Corinthians 9:1-15– Sacrificing freedoms and personal rights.

What freedoms did Paul lay aside that were his by right as an apostle (messenger, one who was sent) of Jesus Christ? For what purpose does he surrender these rights? What good does Paul put ahead of his own personal happiness and fulfillment?

1 Corinthians 9:16-27 – Sacrificing freedoms and personal rights.

How does Paul live differently based on who he is preaching to?  Paul says that when he is with the Jews he lives like a Jew and when he is with gentiles (those without the law) he lives like a gentile.  Why?

For Paul to become like a Jew in order to win the Jews meant that in their presence, he held to Jewish customs and practices, such as keeping Kosher. Paul understood that he was no longer bound by these cultural practices, but for the sake of his audience, he keeps their traditions so that they will be able to hear the message of Jesus Christ.

Paul compares the christian life to the life of an athlete in training. What would your spiritual life look like if you approached your faith the way an athlete prepares for the Olympics?

1 Corinthians 10:1-13 – The Desert.

Paul compares the Christian life to the history of Israel. While Israel endured 400 years of slavery in Egypt, we also were slaves to sin. Israel became a free people when God parted the Red Sea and they passed through the waters (were baptized) while the pursuing Egyptian army was destroyed. We became free when we came to faith in Jesus Christ and were baptized in His name. But the Red Sea and our baptism and conversion is only the beginning of the journey, not the end. There is a desert we must cross before we reach the Promised Land (heaven) and eternal life with our Father. How does Israel’s experience in the wilderness serve as a warning to us as we journey towards the Promised Land? What must we believe to overcome temptation?

Romans 8:11-25

What does it mean for us that we have the Spirit who raised Jesus from the dead living in us according to verse 11? What is true about us now that we have the Holy Spirit?
In Christ there is now no obligation to _________________. (verse 12)

What will happen if we live according to the sinful nature (flesh in some translations)?  How do you put to death your sin?  How does God’s Holy Spirit go to war against fear, the core of our flesh and sinful nature?  How does God’s Holy Spirit help us in our present struggles with sin and the sufferings we experience in this world?

How does Paul deal with his present suffering in verse 18? What hope does he have for himself in God’s creation?

Paul calls the first signs of the future restored creation the fruits of the Spirit.  In some sense this new world has already begun for ourselves because we have these firstfruits. While the new world has already begun what do we look forward to? How does this hope impact us and the way we live today?


New Testament Reading Guide -March 5-11, 2012

How do I use this reading guide?

1 Corinthians 4:8-21

Read this portion of Paul’s letter to the Corinthian church keeping in mind that this church was among the wealthiest of its time. How did the Corinthians self-perception of being wealthy affect the way they viewed Paul and the other apostles? How did the apostles’ way of life challenge the Corinthian way of life? How does it challenge you? You might want to compare the apostle’s experience with the way of life Jesus laid out in Matthew 5:1-11.

What would it look like for the Corinthian church to make Paul their spiritual father? How would this new father-son relationship change the way they lived? What present sins would be overcome?

1 Corinthians 5:1-8

What major problem does Paul see with the Corinthians’ way of life? How should their attitude towards sin in their community change?

Paul’s command to hand the blatantly immoral brother over to Satan, is not a reference to final judgment, but a desire to see this person turn from their sin and return to God. Those who are proud of their sin and possess no desire to change were to be put out of the community (“handed over to Satan”) with the hopes that this person would struggle (as the younger son did in the story of the Prodigal Son – see Luke 15:11-31 ) and humbly return to God.

1 Corinthians 5:9-6:8

While Paul taught the Christians in Corinth not to associate with people who profess to be Christians and are blatantly immoral (and unrepentant), how were they to treat people who were immoral but did NOT profess to be followers of Jesus? Think about how Jesus treated unbelievers who were openly immoral (see John 4:1-26).

How are Christians called to handle disputes, even civil disputes that they might have with other Christians? What, in Paul’s eyes, is a better alternative than taking a Christian brother or sister to court and winning?

1 Corinthians 6:9-20

Paul, in verses 9 and 10, paints a contrast between who the Corinthians were and who they have now became because of Christ. What was their old life? Who are they now because of Jesus? How was this new identity to affect the way they lived?

How does what is permissible for a Christian compare to what is beneficial? How can you know if good things like food and sex have become twisted?

What picture does Paul use to describe a Christian’s relationship with God? Who does a Christian belong to and why? How is believer connected to God? Where is it that the Holy Spirit lives? How should all of this affect the way we live in our bodies in the world? How does it affect the way we see sex?

1 Corinthians 7:1-9

Christians today normally see singleness as a problem to be solved. How does Paul view singleness? What benefit is there in being single?  Why does Paul encourage some people to get married? Is marriage ‘better’ than being single? In yesterday’s reading Paul argued that our bodies belong to God. For married couples there is a second owner, who is it?

1 Corinthians 7:10-24

What is Paul’s teaching for those who are in an unhappy marriage? How should a spouse live if they do decide to separate? How should a Christian live with a spouse who is an unbeliever? What options are open to a follower of Jesus if their unbelieving spouse decides to leave?

Does Paul view his teaching on marriage as the direct teaching of Jesus or his own interpretation of Jesus’ teaching on marriage?

How does Paul justify his position that in most situations, we are called to stay where we are (see verse 17)? How does Paul apply the principle of verse 17 to other areas of life? Look carefully again at how Paul describes our new identity because of Christ (verse 23). How is this identity related to this way of life that Paul is describing?

Romans 8:1-10

In Christ there is now no _______________.

Paul sets up a contrast between the ‘law of sin and death’ and the ‘law of the Spirit of Life’.  What is the Law of the Spirit of Life able to do, that the law of sin and death was unable to do? How did Jesus set us free from the law of sin and death?

The law of sin and death (Old Testament) demanded death for those who broke it, unless someone who was perfect and lived up to its requirements gave up his life as a sacrifice for those who were condemned. Jesus’ death releases us from the curse of the law of sin and death so that we might live a  new life according to the law of the Spirit of Life.

How does life controlled by the flesh/sinful nature contrast to life controlled by the Spirit?  What will the Spirit of God do for our bodies that are deadened by sin?

New Testament Reading Guide – February 27-March 4, 2012

How do I use this reading guide?

1 Corinthians 1:1-19

Corinth was located in a commercially strategic location in Greece with ports providing access to Rome in the west and Asia Minor (Turkey) in the east. Consequently, the church in Corinth was among the wealthiest churches in the Roman Empire. See if their struggles mirror the challenges that we face as Christians in America as we are also among the wealthiest churches of our time.

How does Paul identify himself as the author of this letter (along with Sosthenes who was most likely an assistant / missionary intern serving with Paul)? The word ‘apostle’ means ‘one who is sent.’

How does Paul identify the recipients of the letter, the Christians in Corinth? The word sanctified here means to be made holy or set apart by God. So what Paul is saying here is that God has made you holy (sanctified – past tense) now go and be holy. That is a common theme in the Bible. God has made you who you are. Now go and be who you are.

What is it about the Corinthian church that causes Paul to give thanks to God? Why is Paul confident that the Corinthian church will be ‘strong to the end’?

What does Paul see in the Corinthian church that troubles him? What do you think Paul would think of the state of the church today with its many denominations and divisions? Who or what is to be unifying force in the church? How does Paul view the rejection of the gospel by the the wise and the intelligent?

1 Corinthians 1:20-31

What can not know God? How is it that we come to know God? Why does Jewish wisdom reject the gospel? Why do the Greeks? What has God offered in the place of human wisdom and power? Why?What does it take for someone to accept the “foolishness” and “weakness” of God?

The Corinthians’ wealth and power tempted them, as it tempts us, to trust in their strength rather than the power of God. How does Paul undercut their faith in themselves and point them to a faith in Christ?

1 Corinthians 2:1-13

The Greeks valued good communication skills just as a politician today is judged by his ability to connect on camera rather than the substance of the message. How did Paul appear weak to the Greeks? Why was it important for Paul to communicate the gospel in weakness? Whose power was it that opened the eyes of the Corinthians? How is it that any of us comes to know “the secret wisdom of God”?

1 Corinthians 2:14-3:15

What role does the Holy Spirit play in our coming to know God?

Why does Paul consider the Corinthian church to be worldly and infantile?

How does Paul see himself, Apollos, and God working together and not in competition with each other? Think about Paul’s farming analogy. What roles do people play in spreading the message of Jesus? What role does God play?

Think now about Paul’s construction analogy. What is the foundation? Who builds the house? How will we know if our work has been of any value?

1 Corinthians 3:16-23

Keep in mind that the “you” of verse 16 is plural. If we were in the south we could say “y’all are God’s temple.What is God’s new temple on earth? How highly does God value his new temple?

Apparently there were great divisions in the early church as early Christians identified themselves as followers of Paul, Apollos and Cephas (Peter) not unlike the way Christians today hitch their wagons to Calvin, Wesley or Rick Warren. What does Paul exhort the Corinthian Christians to do instead of boasting and arguing about their great wisdom?

1 Corinthians 4:1-17

Why does Paul ask the Corinthian Christians to follow his and Apollos’ teaching? How were they to determine if Paul and Apollos were true teachers? Why were the Corinthians asked not to “go beyond what was written”?

The Corinthian Christians were not unlike American Christians. We often believe that our economic prosperity is an indicator of our superior wisdom. It is that kind of pride that leads to divisions in the church and stunts our growth as Christians.

Romans 6:3-14

The picture here of baptism is one of immersion. Here the sinner is placed under the water which symbolizes the death or the drowning of our old lives. When the convert is raised out of the water, he is raised from the dead and into a new life.

In what ways does our baptism connect us to the life and death of Jesus Christ? What is the significance for us in Christ’s death? What has died in us as we died with Christ? What difference does Christ’s resurrection make in our own lives?

What is true about sin in our lives now that we have died and risen with Jesus Christ? Why can we never say “I am a sinner and I can not change”?

New Testament Reading Guide – February 20-26, 2012

How do I use this reading guide?

Philippians 2:1-13

What is the life pattern that Christ left for us to follow? Where did Jesus begin? Where did he go? Where did God the Father take him in the end? What would it would like for you to follow that same life pattern (go back and look at verses 2-4)?

There is a mystery, a paradox, that runs through Paul’s letter to the Philippians concerning how we grow as a follower of Christ. On the one hand, our growth is a work of God …

Philippians 2:13 … it is God who works in you to will and to act according to his good purpose.

Yet we also have some hard work to do as we follow Jesus …

Philippians 2:12 … continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling.

What does it look like for us to work out our salvation as God works in us?  What does God do?  What do we do?

Philippians 3:1-11

The question: “Do followers of Jesus need to be circumcised and follow the Jewish laws and traditions?” was a question that troubled the church in Paul’s day.  Many Jewish Christians argued forcefully that non-Jews who became Christians must also be made to follow Jewish customs. Paul argues against this teaching calling it “confidence in the flesh”.

Why did Paul have more reason that most Jews of his time to have “confidence in the flesh”? What is worth more to Paul than his Jewish identity and all his accomplishments? What is it that is a source of pride for you? What would it look like for you to let go of these things and instead base your self-worth on the fact that you belong to Jesus?

Hebrews 12:1-14

The book of Hebrews was written to a Jewish group of followers of Jesus who were undergoing a difficult time of persecution. Life was so hard for them, they were considering abandoning their faith in Jesus and returning to the safety of the Judaism they had been born into. This book was written to encourage them to cling to Jesus and to persevere in their new faith.

In chapter 11, the writer provided examples of persevering faith from their Jewish history and now in chapter 12 the writer starts to point us to Jesus. How can the example of Jesus encourage us to hold on to our faith even when life gets difficult?

How are we called to see the hardships that God allows in our lives? For the writer of Hebrews hardship = _____________? How does hardship mean that God still loves us? What is the purpose of struggle in our lives? What good can come of it?

While we struggle to hold on to our faith in the face of hardship, we are still called to go on the offensive. What are we to put our effort into? Why is living in peace so important?

Philippians 3:12-21

What does Paul do realizing that he is not yet been made perfect? What role does Paul play in his struggle to follow Jesus? What role does Christ play? What is the goal that Paul pursues? What does he let go of in order to pursue that goal?

Christianity is more than a set of beliefs for Paul. It is also a way of life. How does this way of life contrast to the world’s way of life? What is the primary citizenship of a Christian? What is a Christian’s hope? How does this new identity and new hope affect the way a Christian should live today? How would the Philippian Christians know what the Christian life looked like?

Philippians 4:1-9

Chapter 4 begins “therefore …” But therefore what and why? Here is what chapter 4 is responding to.

Philippians 3:20 Our citizenship is in heaven.  And we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ … therefore … [chapter 4]

How are we to live on today with this promise as our tomorrow?  What are we to do and not do? List out the commands you see in verses 1-9.

Philippians 4:10-20

Paul is appreciative of the concern the Philippians gave him while he suffered.  Why doesn’t Paul need or demand their support? What has Paul learned as he followed Jesus? Why was the Philippian gift so important even though it wasn’t ‘needed’?

Hebrews 2:10-18

?How is it that we are brothers (that would include women) of Jesus? Why did Jesus become our brother, and share in our humanity “Abraham’s descendants” was a Jewish way of referring to God’s people. Through the coming of Jesus Christ, all those who put their faith in Him are considered to be descendents of Abraham and heirs to the promises that God had given him. For more on these promises see Genesis 12:1-3. What new role has Jesus taken on because he became a human being? In what two ways can Jesus now help us with our struggle with sin?

New Testament Reading Guide – February 13-19, 2012

How do I use this reading guide?

Hebrews 13:1-16

The letter to the Hebrews was written to a particular church what was made up of converts from Judaism. Because they were members of a what was regarded as new religion, these Christians faced persecution from the Roman authorities and they were ostracized by the Jewish community. Life was hard and they wondered if they had made the right decision. Maybe we should abandon our faith in Jesus?  That is the question that is being addressed.

Hebrews is a letter encouraging these Christians, and ourselves, to keep on keeping on.

What is this church encouraged to do and not do as they endured persecution? List out the commands to you see in verses 1 – 16.

The central theme of this letter is that Jesus is the fulfillment of the Old Testament Law and rituals.. In verse 11 we see yet another example. How is Jesus’ crucifixion compared to the Old Testament sacrifices? Why are they encouraged to share in Jesus’ shame? What hope is held out for them?  (verse 14).

Hebrews 13:17-25

Some final exhortations about leadership in the church as the letter draws to a close. Why should leaders be submitted to and prayed for?

The final prayer and blessing (verses 20-21). It is said that God the Father originates his plans, God the Son carries them out, and God the Holy Spirit supplies the power. How do you see this ‘Trinity’ pattern work itself out in this closing prayer? What is God being asked to do?

Lest we forget that this is a personal letter that has preserved for our benefit, Hebrews ends with some personal greetings.

Romans 12:1-8

After having spent the first half of the letter to the Romans describing the love and grace of God given to us in Jesus Christ, Paul now describes the life of love we are to live in response to God’s love.

What does it mean for us to worship in response to what God has done for us in Christ? What pattern don’t we conform to anymore? How do we live this new life?

In what ways are we called to see ourselves differently?
What image does Paul use to describe the church? Where do we, as individuals, fit into that picture? How is this a change from the way we normally see ourselves?  What determines our role in the church or as Paul describes it, “the body of Christ”?

Romans 12:9-21

If you boiled down Jesus’ way of life or his ethical teaching it would boil down to two commands:  love God with all your heart and love your neighbor as yourself. If you reduced it to one word, that word would be ‘love’. Paul in these verses fleshes out for us Jesus’ vision of love.  What does love look like within the church (verses 9-13)? How are we to express love to those outside the church. (verse 14-21)? Which challenges you more?

Romans 13:1-14

How are Christians called to relate to the governments they live under?  Why?  Do you think this includes corrupt and oppressive governments?  Think about the government the Roman Christians lived under.

How does Paul summarize the second half of the Ten Commandments (Romans 13:9-10)?  What are we to do as we wait for the return of Jesus (this is what Paul means by ‘the night is almost over the day is almost here’)?  Should we spend time speculating about when Jesus is coming or is God calling us to do something else?

Romans 14:1-23

In a church there are going to be some people who have stronger faith and others who have weaker faith.  For Paul, strong faith is related to a better understanding of Jesus, the gospel, and how it is lived out. In this chapter, those with stronger faith understood that there is no problem with eating meat or that the special holidays from Judaism no longer needed to be honored. But those of weaker faith had not yet come to that level of wisdom. So what do you do if there is a difference of opinion?  How are those of strong faith to treat those of weak faith?  Why?

What freedom has Paul chosen not to exercise?  Why?  For what purpose are we sometimes called to give up our rights and freedoms?

1 Timothy 3:14-4:10

1 Timothy is a letter from Paul to Timothy, Paul’s “son in the faith”.  Timothy was a young missionary who was personally mentored by Paul.  He traveled with Paul planting churches across the Roman Empire.  At the time this letter was written, Timothy is now on his own.  Paul continues to guide him through letters such as this one. “I am writing these instructions so that … you will know how people ought to conduct themselves in God’s household …” (1 Timothy 3:14-15)

What is the foundational truth upon which the church is built? ‘He’ in verse 16 is Jesus. His appearance = Jesus’ birth. His vindication = resurrection. “Taken up in glory” = Jesus’ ascension to heaven.

What challenges will the church face?  In the Roman Empire, the dominant intellectual force was the remnants of Greek philosophy.  The Greeks taught the physical world was evil while the spiritual world was good.  These ideas began to filter their way into the church.  Since the physical world was evil, some Christian teachers taught against marriage and indulging in certain foods.  These pleasures were marked as ‘worldly’ and therefore evil. Does Paul agree with the Greeks?  Is the physical world good or bad?  Why or why not? How does Paul compare being spiritual to physical training? How are they similar? How are they different?

New Testament Reading Guide – February 6-12, 2012

How do I use this reading guide?

Hebrews 11:1-12

Why we do what we do is often more important than what we do. That is the heart of the Christian faith. It is not about doing the right things so much as doing the right things with the proper motivation. For the writer of Hebrews, true spirituality is motivated by faith, a life that is moved by trusting in God.  “Without faith it is impossible to please God.” Hebrews 11:6

How does the writer of Hebrews define faith? (See Hebrews 1:1-2 and 1:6) What do we learn about faith through the lives of Abel, Enoch, Noah and Abraham? Who would faith look like right now in your life?

Hebrews 11:13-22

From yesterday’s reading we learned that “faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see.” (Hebrews 11:1) What did the Old Testament saints (Abel, Enoch, Noah and Abraham from yesterdays reading) share in common in their faith experiences?  What did they NOT receive during their lifetimes? How did they view this world in comparison to the next one? What were they all looking and longing for? How does God look upon this kind of faith (see verse 16)?

How is this kind of God-pleasing faith expressed in the lives of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob and Joseph? For background on Abraham’s and Joseph’s story see Genesis 22:1-19 and Genesis 50:24-26.  Reading these passages will help you make sense of this section of Hebrews.

Hebrews 11:23-31

The writer continues to take us through the heroes of the Old Testament to show us the faith that they all possessed. How did faith and trust in God motivate Moses’ parents, Moses, the Israelites at Jericho and the prostitute Rahab to live courageous lives that were pleasing to God? Again, you might find some reading in the Old Testament will be helpful here:

  • Moses’ parents – Exodus 2:1-11.
  • The Israelites crossing the Red Sea – Exodus 13:17-14:31.
  • The fall of Jericho and the story of Rahab – Joshua 5:13-6:27.

Hebrews 11:32 – 12:2

While all the Old Testament heroes had faith in common, but their lives took very different paths. Compare the descriptions of the lives of the faithful in verses 32-35a to the descriptions in verses 35b-38. What does this tell us about what can we expect in our own faith journeys? What “disappointment” did all these faithful men and women experience (see verse 39)? How did God feel about them? Why?

The writer of Hebrews now turns his attention to us as he begins chapter 12. Why did the writer spend an entire chapter (chapter 11) relating to us the stories of the Old Testament saints? How are these stories designed to move us?

What metaphor does the writer use to describe our lives? Where are we headed? Why are we called to fix our eyes on Jesus? What do we see in Him?

Hebrews 12:3-11

Let’s take a step back for a moment and look at the book of Hebrews as a whole. The book of Hebrews was written to a Jewish group of followers of Jesus who were undergoing a difficult time of persecution. Life was so hard for them, they were considering abandoning their faith in Jesus and returning to the safety of the Judaism they had been born into. This book was written to encourage them to cling to Jesus and to persevere in their new faith.

In chapter 11, the writer provided examples of persevering faith from their Jewish history and now in chapter 12 the writer starts to point us to Jesus. How can the example of Jesus encourage us to hold on to our faith even when life gets difficult?

How are we called to see the hardships that God allows in our lives? For the writer of Hebrews hardship = _____________? How does hardship mean that God still loves us? What is the purpose of struggle in our lives? What good can come of it?

Hebrews 12:12-19

What pitfalls does the writer of Hebrews warn us against? What kinds of things can cause us to give up?

What can we learn from Esau’s failure? For more information you can read his story in Genesis 25:19-34. You might remember from our readings in chapter 11 that the Old Testament faith heroes willingly suffered in this world because they valued the next world more than the present one. In what way did Esau have the opposite values? What did he lose? Why?

“The mountain that cannot be touched.” (12:18) The writer of Hebrews is reminding his readers of the scene when God gave Israel the 10 Commandments (the Law) at Mount Sinai. In the Old Testament, the people were told to stay away because they could not approach a holy God in their sinful state. Why would you want to go back to that, when Jesus has made us holy and now God tells all people to come and be reconciled to Him?

2 Timothy 2:14-21

The book of Timothy is a letter from the apostle Paul to his “dear son” (spiritual son) Timothy. Timothy had traveled with Paul on his missionary journeys learning to become a missionary in his own right. At some point, Timothy reached a level of maturity and was sent out on his own. Paul continued his relationship with Timothy through letters such as this one, passing on to him encouragement and wisdom.

What is Timothy called to warn his congregation against? What is Timothy to encourage his people to become? (vs. 15)  What “infection” has infiltrated the church? Why is Paul confident that this church will survive? (vs. 19)

New Testament Reading Guide – January 30-February 5, 2012

How do I use this reading guide?

Hebrews 8:1-13

The writer of Hebrews sets up a comparison between:

  • the Old Testament priests and Jesus
  • the tabernacle (temple) on earth and the tabernacle in heaven.
  • the old covenant and the new covenant.

What is the relationship between the earthly tabernacle and the heavenly tabernacle?  The central role of a priest was to serve as the mediator (go-between) of God’s covenant with His people.  How is Jesus a greater priest and mediator than Israel’s priests?  How is the new covenant, which was mediated by Jesus, better than the old covenant (Old Testament, 10 Commandments)?

Put yourself in the shoes of the early Jewish Christians.  You are being persecuted for your faith in Christ and you are considering a return to the traditional Judaism you grew up with.  How does what you’ve read work to convince you not to go back?

Hebrews 9:1-14

Verses 1-7 describes in great detail the layout of the tabernacle and the role of the priests who entered the inner room on the Day of Atonement to offer the blood of the sacrifice for the sins of the people.  God used the old covenant, the old priests, and the old sacrifices to teach us something about himself.  What do these old rituals teach us about God and how we are to relate to him?  What couldn’t these old rituals do?  Who were these rituals pointing to?  How does Christ complete the Old Testament rituals?

Hebrews 9:15-28

The original readers of the book of Hebrews were Jewish Christians who were considering abandoning their faith in Jesus  because of persecution and returning  to the safe confines of the Judaism of their youth. This book was written to encourage them to hang on to Jesus. The fact that Jesus completes the traditions and promises of the Old Testament is central to the author’s argument. In other words, if you give up Jesus there is no Judaism to return.

In today’s reading, the author compares their old Judaism to the their new faith in Jesus Christ. What do the first covenant and the new covenant (covenant = special agreement or relationship between God and his people) mediated by Jesus have in common?  In what way is the new covenant superior to the first covenant? How are the sacrifices and man-made sanctuary (Most Holy Place in the temple) related to Christ’s sacrifice on the cross (see verse 23-25)? In what way is Christ’s sacrifice on the cross superior to the sacrifices offered in the Old Testament?

Why wouldn’t it make sense for the readers of the book of Hebrews to go back to Old Testament Judaism?

Hebrews 10:1-10

The central argument of the book of Hebrews is this: you can’t go back to the Judaism of the Old Testament because the Old Testament (referred to as the law) is “a shadow of the good things that are coming.” Jesus is those good things that are coming. In other words, the Old Testament foreshadows Jesus.  If you lose Jesus, you lose the hope of the Old Testament.

Why is it important to remember that the special sacrifices for the sins of the people had to be offered year after year in the Old Testament? What can’t the blood of bulls and goats do (see verse 4)? In what ways do the sacrifices from the Old Testament point to Jesus’ sacrifice? Why is Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross superior to the old sacrifices of bulls and goats?

Hebrews 10:11-25

The priests and the sacrifices they offered in the Old Testament were important because they pointed the people of Israel to the ultimate priest and sacrifice, Jesus Christ. The sacrifices and priests were “copies” of the real thing.  How is Jesus (the priest of verses 12-14) superior to the Old Testament priests (the priests of verse 11)?  What was Jesus able to do that the Old Testament priests could not?

In the first covenant (think Old Testament Law, the 10 Commandments) the people of Israel were given the law of God and commanded to keep it. They could not do it, for the law’s first purpose was to show us how sinful we are and how much we need a savior. Verses 15-18 describes the new covenant that Jesus created that the Old Testament prophets, Jeremiah in this case, predicated would come.

What will this new covenant do that the first covenant could not do?

What follows in verses 19 and 20 is a description of the Day of Atonement from the Old Testament with a new twist. In the Old Testament Law, each year the high priest was to make a sacrifice for the sins of the nation and enter the Most Holy Place in the temple and sprinkle the blood of the sacrifice on the Ark of the Covenant. This was the only time in the year that the priest could enter this Most Holy Place and he could not enter without blood.

Both the priest and the Most Holy Place in the temple were copies of the real thing. The true priest is Jesus and the true Most Holy Place is the presence of God in heaven.  What are we permitted to do today that the High Priest from the Old Testament could not do? Whose blood made it possible? Now that Jesus has come, how should we approach God? Why should we not give up following Jesus?

Hebrews 10:26-39

Today’s reading begins with a quite a stark warning:

Hebrews 10:26 If we deliberately keep on sinning after we have received the knowledge of the truth, no sacrifice for sin is left.

The truth that the author refers to is Jesus and the sin he speaks of is abandoning Jesus. If we don’t have Jesus, we have no sacrifice left for our sin. What are we left with if there is no sacrifice for sin?

Now put yourselves again in the shoes of the original readers of the book of Hebrews. They are a group of Jewish Christians who are struggling under persecution. How do verses 26-31 serve as a warning to you?

What does the writer of Hebrews want these struggling Christians to remember in verses 32-34? What is promised to those who persevere in their faith?

Galatians 5:13-25

There is a certain freedom in the gospel if we understand it correctly. Once we were alienated from God and under the curse of death because of our sin. But when we could not save ourselves, Jesus stepped out of heaven, lived the righteous life we did not live and died a death of judgment that we should have died. Jesus died to set us free. We do not have to pay for our sins. Our sins are forgiven. It is a free gift from God.

This is  a beautiful, but dangerous truth. It has been feared by Christian leaders for centuries. If you tell people they are free, won’t they just go crazy and do whatever they want?

What does Paul tell us that our freedom is for? How can you summarize God’s will for your life or his law in a single command? How can we live out this command? What power does God give us to walk this path?

What remains in us, even after we become Christians, that battles the Holy Spirit? What does the sinful nature (or flesh depending on your Bible translation) push us to do? How does these acts of the sinful nature contrast to the “fruit of the Spirit”?

Sometimes the struggle in being a Christian is to believe in who you are and what you already have because of Jesus. What has already happened to every Christian according in verse 24? How would our lives be different if we actually believed this?