Week 51: Galatians, Ephesians, Philippians, and Colossians

Prepare these questions for Sunday, March 30, 2014.

These books are all letters that Paul wrote to various churches in and around Asia Minor (modern Turkey-Philippi was across the Aegean Sea in Macedonia). They address similar concerns from letters we've studied previously-confusion over various teachings the churches have heard, conflict within and conflict from without their communities.

Galatians focuses on the question of whether or not Gentile believers in Christ (those not born Jewish) had to follow the same religious practices (like circumcision) that the Jews practiced in order to be saved.
1. Read Galatians 2:11-3:22. What is Paul's stance on observance of the law (especially circumcision) and what does this tell you about your own relationship with God?

2. Paul exhorts the Galatians to live by the Spirit. Chapter 5:13-26 explains how you can tell if you are living by the Spirit. What qualities does Paul call the "fruit of the Spirit?"

Ephesians may have been written specifically to the church at Ephesus, but it may also have been intended to be passed around and read in other churches Paul did not know as well as he knew the Ephesians. Therefore, this letter addresses topics that would be of concern to lots of new Gentile (non-Jewish) churches and, honestly, to us today.
3. Choose one of the following topics and find out what Paul's lesson was in the book of Ephesians. How can you apply this information to your life now or in the future? When you are finished, try to study the other topics throughout your week.

  • Christ's love and reconciliation for all people
  • body of Christ
  • Instructions for Christian living
  • Instructions for wives and husbands
  • the Armor of God
Philippians is a letter Paul wrote after the people in Philippi had raised money to help him while he was imprisoned, probably in Rome. It is a letter of encouragement in the face of adversity and strife.
4. Read Chapter 4:4-9. Do you find these verses encouraging for your own life? How do you think they were received by the Philippians?

The people of Colossae were another group of Gentiles who had come to believe in the message of Jesus Christ. They, too, were confused by some of the teachings they were hearing about observing the Sabbath, keeping kosher, and circumcision. Paul's letter reminds them that if they have Christ, they do not need to do anything else for their salvation. 
5. Read Chapter 3:1-17. What does Paul tell the Colossians to do instead of worrying about specific man-made rules of behavior? Is this practical advice today?

Week 50: 1 Corinthians, 2 Corinthians

Prepare these questions for Sunday, March 23, 2014.

The books of 1 and 2 Corinthians were letters written by the apostle Paul to the early church in the Greek city of Corinth. Paul had stayed for over a year in Corinth teaching and founding the early church, but then moved on to other cities, especially Ephesus. While in Ephesus Paul heard about quite a lot of turmoil and difficulty going on in the Corinthian church. They were judgmental of non believers, but oddly tolerant of their own sins. They fought over which teacher they liked best-Paul, Apollos, or Cephas (Peter). These letters are Paul's answers to many of their arguments added with his own advice and judgement about their behavior.

1. What were some of the problems facing the church in Corinth? How do these types of distractions compare to problems in the modern American church?

2. Paul speaks a lot about sexual immorality and the role of marriage in this letter. Read 1 Corinthians, chapters 6 and 7. What is Paul's advice concerning these important topics?

3. Read 1 Corinthians, chapter 12. What does Paul say about spiritual gifts and the roles of different believers in the "body of Christ"?

4. Chapter 13 of 1 Corinthians is one of the most famous passages of the New Testament, largely because it is often read at weddings. Do your best to memorize this passage. What is Paul's advice about what love really is?

5. In 2 Corinthians Paul continues his advice to Corinth and focuses a great deal on false teachers and so-called "apostles" that have come after him. The people of Corinth were being led astray by teachers who said things they wanted to hear, but not necessarily things that fit with Jesus and his teachings. In Chapter 4 Paul attempts to encourage the Corinthians and remind them that they are one in a spirit of faith. Read this chapter and write down any words or phrases that you would find encouraging.

6. In chapter 12 of 2 Corinthians Paul talks about the benefit of being weak. What does Paul say about this topic and what do you think that means for your own everyday life?

Week 49: Romans

Prepare these questions for Sunday, March 16, 2014.

The book of Romans is a letter written by the apostle Paul to the church of early believers in Rome. It is a great example of Paul's writing and it follows his standard pattern: Introduction of himself and his main ideas, a teaching section (chapters 1-11), a practical application section (chapters 12-16), and a closing with his travel plans and greetings. The church he was writing to was having conflicts between Jew and Gentile believers due to cultural and political issues in their past. Paul therefore wrote a lot about grace, how we all need God's grace, and how we should all be accepting of one another.

1. This conflict was a big deal and was preventing the early believers from being effective as the body of Christ. Read verses 2:1-16. What does Paul say to the quarreling people of Rome and how can this advice be useful for the church today?

2. The "Romans Road" is a tool for teaching and sharing the gospel with someone else. It is a series of 5 portions of Romans that summarize the message of Jesus. Read verses 3:23, 5:8, 6:23, 10:9-10, and 10:13. How could you use these verses to share your faith with someone else or to strengthen your own understanding of the Word of God?

3. Chapters 12-15 contain pretty great advice on how to treat those around us. Read chapters 12 and 13 and choose a verse or passage that resonates with you. How can you put this advice into practice in your own life?

4. The believers of the church in Rome were having a hard time reconciling the different ways that they worshiped God. The Jewish believers wanted to keep the old law concerning dietary restrictions, for instance, but the Gentile believers didn't think that was necessary. Read chapter 14 and 15:1-13. What does Paul say to do with these conflicts and how could this advice apply to the modern church?

Week 48: Acts

Prepare these questions for Sunday, March 9, 2014.

Acts is the second half of Luke's history of the early church. While Luke was not around for much of what he described in the book of Luke, he actually did travel with Paul and personally witnessed some of what he described in the book of Acts. This book focuses on the spread of Christianity (what early believers referred to as the Way) throughout the Mediterranean region.

1. What is the event of Pentecost described in Chapter 2? What is the significance of this event and how did it alter the relationship between people and God?

2. Chapters 3-7 describe lots of preaching, healing, and miracles performed by early church leaders including Peter. We are also introduced to new leaders and the conflicts they faced. Who was Stephen, why was he (and other early leaders) controversial, and what happened to him/

3. Read the story of Saul/Paul's conversion in chapters 8 and 9. What happened to him and how does his conversion affect the spread of Christianity/

4. There are many obstacles to the apostles' ministry throughout the book of Acts. What types of struggles do they face, both from within their own organization and from the Jewish and Roman communities?

5. The last 10 chapters or so of Acts are almost exclusively about Paul. What circumstances or characteristics did Paul have that made him perfect for the ministry God told him to do? What experiences or knowledge do you have that might be useful in your own life's ministry? 

Week 47: Luke

Prepare these questions for Sunday March 2, 2014.

The book of Luke is named after it's author, Luke. He was a non-Jewish (Gentile) follower of Jesus's teachings who was also a physician. Luke set out to interview eyewitnesses and review reports and records of Jesus's life in order to record the most accurate retelling of the story that he could. This book, probably written in the early 60s AD, is the first part of Luke's efforts (the second part is the book of Acts).

1. Chapters 1-2 record the birth of Jesus. Compare this retelling of the story to those in Matthew and Mark. What is similar about these books? What is different? Why might there be more or less detail in one than in another?

2. Chapter 4 v. 1-13 recounts the temptation of Jesus in the wilderness. What do you learn about God from this passage? What do you learn about the humanity of Christ? How can we use these lessons in our own lives?

3. Read Luke 6:17-49. What do these verses say about the way believers should treat those around them? Do you think the modern church is behaving in a way that Jesus (according to Luke's account) commanded people to behave? Are you following these instructions in your own life? What can you do to change your behavior for the better?

4. Chapters 7-14 are filled with parables, miracles, and teachings Jesus told or performed. There are lessons from Mary and Martha, the Parable of the Mustard Seed, the Transfiguration, and some impressive healing. Choose one passage from these chapters that stands out to you. What does this passage teach you about God and what do you think God wanted to tell future generations through this story? How can these stories be relevant to your modern life right now?

5. Chapter 15 tells three parables with the same point. They relate to the telling of an actual event in chapter 19 v. 1-10. In fact, these examples tell the primary purpose of Jesus's life and teachings. What is this point and why would Luke (the gentile doctor writing to other gentiles) be the one most likely to focus on this message?

6. The last chapters of Luke retell the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus. Is there anything you notice that is different than the other Gospels we've read (Matthew and Mark)?