Reconciled - Ephesians 2:11-22

1.      One of the greatest problems mankind has faced since the “fall” has been conflict. What evidence of conflict do we see in the first few chapters of Genesis? (Adam blaming Eve. Cain murdering Abel. Satan doing all he can to keep us from God.)

Humanity has been in conflict and needs reconciliation. The work of Jesus is the way God has provided for our reconciliation, both among humanity and most importantly, between humanity and God.

The Holman Illustrated Bible Dictionary explains reconciliation this way: “Bringing together two parties that are estranged or in dispute. Jesus Christ is the one who brings together God and man, with salvation as the result of the union. Reconciliation basically means “change” or “exchange.” The idea is of a change of relationship, and exchange of antagonism for goodwill, enmity for friendship. Attitudes are transformed and hostility ceases.”

Reconciliation, a positive change or relationship, is one of the blessings and outcomes of the gospel.

In the ancient world, reconciliation started through one of two paths. Either a third party would get involved or one of the alienated parties would take the first step. In Matt. 5:24 Jesus urged us to take the first step with our brother. Paul portrayed the Christian as a type of third party—calling people to be reconciled to God in 2 Cor. 5:18-20. As those who have been reconciled, we desire others to experience this blessing and joy as well.

2.      Are there individuals or groups of people you are so alienated with that you would not seek reconciliation between you and them or them and God? (Be careful here and examine your heart carefully. What about those who wish to see you or our nation destroyed?)

The stark difference though, between our reconciliation with God and the processes of the ancient world, is that God, the offended party, is the one who takes not just the first step, but every step that makes reconciliation possible as He makes the path to peace for us in Christ. For reconciliation to take place, we, the offenders against God need only to come to Him in faith and repentance. An even further striking difference is that God is the one who uses us to bring others to Him, through the sharing of the gospel. As the church preaches the gospel, we’re agents of reconciliation!

3.      Do we readily and eagerly accept that role and reach out to all people, even those who are openly hostile toward us?

As we explore the second half of Ephesians 2 pay attention to the metaphors Paul uses to help us better understand God’s reconciliation plan. Remember the church at Ephesus consisted primarily of Gentile believers!

 

Brought Near! Read Ephesians 2:11-13

 

1.      When the Jews called the Gentiles “the uncircumcised” what tone of voice did they use? (Contempt or ridicule. Derogatory.)

2.      What point was Paul making when he said circumcision was merely a physical action “done in the flesh by human hands”? (Paul was saying circumcision that truly mattered was spiritual circumcision of the heart. See Rom. 2:28-29; Phil. 3:3.)

3.      The harsh reality is that Gentiles truly had been alienated from God and from God’s people. What are the five succinct descriptors Paul used here to illustrate that fact? (1-“Without Christ” or hope of the promised Messiah; 2- “Excluded from the citizenship of Israel.” 3- “Foreigners to the covenants of promise.” 4- “Without hope”. 5- “Without God in the world”. They worshiped the created not the Creator!)

The Jews were the “chosen”, but not for the reasons most Jews thought they were chosen. It wasn’t because of who they were, it was because of who God was! Many Jews in Paul’s day, most notably the religious leaders like the Pharisees, placed a greater emphasis on their rules and ceremonies than they did on belief in Jesus. They failed to see that sin, not race or heritage, was what ultimately separated a person from God. Paul reminded readers that apart from Christ, both Jews and Gentiles are without hope and separated from God. But in the same way, in Christ both Jews and Gentiles find redemption from sin and reconciliation to God. Jews and Gentiles are the same in Christ!

4.      How does a lack of intimacy with God fuel division and prejudice among people? (We begin to get our eyes off Jesus and on ourselves, thinking we are special because of who we are and not because of what He has done for and in us.)

5.      How do Paul’s words speak to a Christian’s responsibility about society’s lack of peace? (There is no room for prejudice in God’s kingdom. Salvation is offered to all people. Believers must view each person as valuable enough to warrant the sacrifice of God’s Son! As believers, we should work to break down walls of prejudice in our own hearts, churches, and communities.)

 

After establishing that Gentiles can be reconciled to God and united with Jews through the death of Christ, Paul declared that Christ alone brings reconciliation and peace to all people!

Peace Declared! Read Ephesians 2:14-18

 

There was a wall in the Temple area in Jerusalem beyond which Gentiles, even “God-fearers”, could not go. Here Paul, using various metaphors and illustrations (wall, body, etc.), described Jesus as our peace, the One who breaks down all the divisions sin creates among people. Because of the cross, people are united in Jesus and can love and serve Him together. A unified body of believers is especially important when we think about our calling to reflect the love and peace of Jesus to the world.

1.      What two reconciliations did Jesus bring about and how did He do so? (Christ’s reconciling work is vertical and horizontal. All who trust in Jesus can have peace with God, others and themselves. God never intended for any of these separations to occur. The hostility between Jews and Gentiles was intensely deep. Both viewed the other with contempt—and outside of Christ it seems to be the same today!)

Jesus’ death satisfied the righteous standards of the law, eliminating the barrier. Everything that causes disunity was destroyed at the cross. Only Jesus can mend hostile relationships and make enemies beloved friends of God and each other.

“One new man from the two, resulting in peace”—verse 15. Here this phrase refers to the church as the body of Christ, through His death Jews and Gentiles became one.

2.      How are we escorted into the presence of the Father? (Access to God the Father is given to all who believe through the Holy Spirit. Paul used a word for access that denoted a person in a royal court who escorted a visitor into the king’s presence.)

3.      How does Jesus’ reconciliation create unity? (Christ created a new, undivided humanity. Jews are no longer Jews, and Gentiles no longer Gentiles. They’re all one in Christ. Union with Christ logically means unity with one another.)

Read Col. 3:11 “In Christ there is not Greek and Jew, circumcision and uncircumcision, barbarian, Scythian, slave and free; but Christ is all and in all.”

Read Gal. 3:27-28 “Those of you who were baptized into Christ have been clothed with Christ. There is no Jew or Greek, slave or free, male and female; since you are all one in Christ Jesus.”

 

Citizenship Granted! Read Ephesians 2:19-22

 

In verse 19 the two terms: foreigners and strangers both emphasize a lack of citizenship.

1.      What is the great news they received after accepting Jesus as Lord? (The Gentiles became fellow citizens with the saints.)

2.      What is the goal of Jesus’ reconciliatory work? (All become one “building” with Christ as the “Cornerstone”! Everyone is aligned with Jesus!)

When believers are unified with one another, we show the world a glimpse of the eternal kingdom of God. When we are fussing and fighting among ourselves we have a negative testimony!

3.      Hopefully we all have a better understanding about our unity in the body of Christ. How does a shared citizenship in God’s family impact how believers view one another?

The church has none that are detached from the main body. All believers are stones in God’s single building where He dwells. We each have a specific place, fitted and bonded together perfectly, founded on the gospel, and held in alignment by focusing on Jesus!

 

Summarize and Challenge!

 

·         Because salvation is offered to all people and all believers are made one in Christ, we must work to break down walls of prejudice.

·         Only through faith in Christ can we have genuine peace.

·         All believers are included in God’s family, having a place in His kingdom.

 

1.      What’s the only lasting solution to society’s lack of peace? (No matter how many treaties negotiated and laws passed, there is no real, lasting peace apart from Jesus. Jesus is peace. He signed a peace treaty with His blood and proclaims peace to all.)

2.      What could our class do to promote unity and reconciliation between believers in our community?

 

Close in prayer by thanking God for bringing peace to our relationships with Him and with others.

May our class be a clear reflection of unity in Christ to the rest of our church.

Father, break down any walls of hostility in our church and community.

 

Resurrected - Ephesians 2:1-10

1.      What are some advertisements that emphasize before and after transformations? (Bathrooms; Other home improvements; diet plans; teeth straightening; jaw reconstruction; etc.)

2.      Why are advertising campaigns based on before and after photos and testimonies so effective? (There is an obvious change for the better that makes it desirable.)

3.      Can you describe a time in your life when before and after photos would be drastically different?

The popularity of television makeover shows indicate people enjoy seeing dramatic before and after differences. To fully appreciate the after picture we must see the before picture. Paul reminded believers their condition before salvation and how that transformation occurred.

We often talk about life-or-death situations when we’re trying to communicate the urgency of taking action. In the second chapter of Ephesians, Paul discussed salvation in life-or-death terms. His description of the before state of humanity, while grim, is necessary because it helps us appreciate the result of having Christ in our lives.

 

Once Dead! Read Ephesians 2:1-3

 

1.      What kind of comments do people think or even say, as they file past the casket of a loved one or friend? (They look so natural. They look good.)

2.      What’s the problem with these statements in this context? (The person is dead physically.)

3.      How did Paul describe the spiritually dead in these verses? (“Walked according to the ways of this world…” lived “according to the ruler who exercises authority over the lower heavens, the spirit now working in the disobedient...” exercised “fleshly desires, carrying out the inclinations of our flesh and thoughts…”)

Physical deadness means there is a lack of activity. Spiritual deadness doesn’t mean a lack of activity. Instead, those who are spiritually dead are very active, but in sinful and destructive ways. Those without Christ remain under the strongholds of the sinful nature—defying God and exalting self.

4.      What is the meaning of “trespasses and sins”? (The two terms are similar but have subtle distinctions. To trespass is to cross a known boundary or to willingly deviate from the right path. To sin is to miss an expected mark or fall short of an expected target. Together, these words encompass both active wrongdoing [committing sins] and passive wrongdoing [refusing to do what is right]. Paul included himself in this group in verse 3. So, all human beings apart from Christ stand guilty of both kinds of wrongdoing.)

5.      How does Paul’s description of life without Jesus serve as motivation to share Jesus with others?

It is important for us to square the biblical teaching that all unforgiven sinners are spiritually dead with our perception that many people—even those who have openly rejected Christ—appear very much alive and are capable of doing commendable activities. Are such people really dead? Yes indeed, in terms of eternal, spiritual matters. They are unable to know God, to love Him, or to relate to Him in any genuine way. In other words, they are as spiritually unresponsive to God as a corpse would be to any other living being.

Three influences combined in holding unbelievers captive:

·         They are bound by the ways of this world.

·         They are enslaved by the ruler of the power of the air.

·         They are in bondage to fleshly desires.

Without Christ we are desperately lost and dead spiritually.

6.      What is great about the fact that God is a god of wrath? (“The doctrine of God’s wrath is unpopular in modern culture, both within and outside the church. We want a loving and forgiving God who will deal with us in ways which give us the assurance that all will be well. We find it difficult to think of a God who might be angry with His creation, even if His anger is righteous and not tainted by sinful motives. But when we pause and think about it, none of us operates in the way we want God to behave. When we see injustice, particularly when experienced personally, we cry out. We want perpetrators to be caught and justice to be done. We do not like the thought of wrongdoing being unpunished; unless, of course, it is we who have committed the offence.”—Josh Hunt.)

God’s wrath against our sin was poured out in its fullness at Calvary! Jesus suffered the enormity of God’s wrath for the sin of all mankind.

The change Jesus makes when He comes into someone’s life isn’t a change from bad to good; it’s a change from dead to alive!

 

Now Alive! Read Ephesians 2:4-7

 

One of the biggest words found in the Bible is the little word “But”! It is used to introduce a phrase or clause contrasting with what has already been mentioned! There is no greater contrast than that of being dead and being alive!

 

1.      In these verses we find three words that most Christians would name as their three favorite words in the Bible. What are they? (Mercy; love; and grace. We can experience God great mercy and grace because of His great love!)

2.      Whenever there is a before-and-after moment, someone makes a conscious decision to change something. A homeowner decides to renovate. An overweight person decides to exercise. In these verses, who makes the decision to initiate a change? (“But God!” says it all!)

3.      How would you describe the difference between mercy and grace? (Mercy is not giving us what we deserve and grace is giving us what we do not deserve—God’s unmerited favor!)

4.      According to verse 4, what was God’s motivation for making us alive?

5.      According to verse 7, what is His desired result?

Read Phil. 3:4-14

Notice that Paul didn’t describe his former way of life as evil or wicked, but as loss or rubbish because it was done apart from Christ. This is true of every person who tries to attain salvation through their own works. It is Christ alone!

6.      In verse 5 Paul says God “made us alive”. Who was made “alive with the Messiah”? (Those who believed in what Christ had done for them. Paul is writing to believers!)

7.      What’s the key to this before and after transformation? (God’s grace shown to us through Christ changes everything. Transformations are costly. Jesus paid that cost. He willingly came down into this cesspool and died for the very people who rejected Him. When we’re in Christ, we share in the power of His resurrection, ascension, and exaltation. Sin doesn’t rule in our hearts anymore, we have a new King!)

 

So far, Paul has focused on the “what” of salvation—we were dead but are now alive. Paul turned his attention to “how.” How does this transformation happen? These next three verses are three of the most important verses in all of Scripture!

 

Through Grace Alone! Read Ephesians 2:8-10

 

1.      Notice that verse 9 makes it very clear that we are not saved by good works, while verse 10 emphasizes that we’re saved for good works. What’s the difference? (Good works isn’t the root of our salvation; good works are the fruit of our salvation. We don’t do good works to earn our salvation, we do them out of a heart of praise and gratitude for what God has done in Christ Jesus for us!)

[If you have the Leader Pack use item 4 and discuss the following.]

EPHESIANS 2: OLD AND NEW

Paul drew contrasts between the human condition described in verses 1-3 and the new life in Christ pictured in verses 4-6.

OLD LIFE                                                    NEW LIFE   

We were dead.                                              Now we are alive.

We were enslaved.                                        Now we are enthroned.

We were objects of wrath.                           Now we are objects of grace.

We walked among the disobedient.            Now we fellowship with Christ.

We were under Satan’s dominion.              Now we are in union with Christ.

 

2.      Why can’t believers brag about their “New Life” condition? (Salvation can’t be earned, only received as a gift. Faith symbolizes our empty hands reaching up to God’s hand that is filled with grace. Even that reaching-out hand is a gift from God. We can’t take credit for any part of our salvation.)

Faith is the channel, not the cause, of salvation. The object of our faith—Christ—is what matters, not the size of our faith. Pride is directly opposed to the gospel. The gospel and pride are mutually incompatible. Pride has no part of the gospel of salvation by grace through faith in Jesus Christ!

3.      What do we learn about ourselves in verse 10? (First, “We are His workmanship.” Second, we are “created in Christ Jesus for good works.” Third, these good works “God prepared ahead of time so that we should walk in them.”)

Several words could be used instead of “workmanship.” I prefer “Masterpiece.” God created each of us for His own special purpose and treasure. We are His “Masterpiece”! Our special skills and talents are enhanced by the Holy Spirit when we receive our spiritual gifts at the point of our salvation. They are to be used for God’s glory and honor!

4.      What would you say to someone who was convinced they had to work to earn God’s approval or salvation? (How much do you have to do? When do you know you have done enough to get into Heaven? Do you believe the Bible and if so what do you do with Eph. 2:8-10?)

5.      What do our motives for doing good works reveal about our beliefs about salvation? (If we are working for salvation rather than as a result of our salvation, our works are for naught!)

 

Summarize and Challenge!

We have been made alive! We have been set free! We have been saved! We have been made into new creatures, but we are not to remain passive. We have much to do. We are never saved by good works, yet we are saved for good works.

1.      How can we develop a greater sense of urgency and more frequently share our faith?

2.      With whom could you seek an opportunity to share these verses?

 

Remembered - Ephesians 1:15-23

Ephesus was no small community it was the fourth largest city in the world at the time of Paul’s ministry with a population estimated at 250,000 people.

Last week as we began our study of Ephesians Paul began by listing some of the blessings God had given believers through their salvation.

·         The Father had chosen them, adopting them into His own family. They did nothing to earn it; God had done this because of His unlimited grace.

·         Jesus had redeemed them through His own blood, offering forgiveness, an inheritance, and wisdom for living.

·         The Holy Spirit had sealed them, showing ownership and protection, and was the down payment promising God would finish what He started in them.

All of this was done to the praise of God’s glory. We learned that God had done all of this because of His great love for us—in fact He created us specifically to love us and have fellowship with us throughout eternity.

1.      If you were to characterize the content of most of the prayers we voice to God, of what would they consist? (Health issues. Situations we are in. Family and friends in difficult circumstances. Deliverance from persecution. Etc.)

2.       How often do we pray to know God more deeply and for wisdom to use the knowledge He gives us for His glory?

It isn’t wrong to pray for health and difficult situations (James 4:2 says, “You do not have, because you do not ask God.”) but that isn’t all we should pray for.

Our study today focuses on how God helps believers understand the riches and greatness of His calling on their lives. As we will see from Paul’s prayer in these verses, salvation through Christ has the effect of producing the knowledge of God, hope of God, and power of God in every believer’s life.

 

Knowledge of God! Read Ephesians 1:15-17

 

Paul had spent some three years at Ephesus, so he knew many of the believers there. Paul had received reports about their faith and love for others. Recall we stated last week that most likely this letter was meant for several churches in that region and the church at Ephesus was the mother church, so Paul was hearing reports about new believers since he had left the church.

1.      What two important qualities characterized Paul’s prayer for the believers there? (Persistence and gratitude.)

2.      What practical steps could believers take in our daily routines that would help us increase our focus on others for the purpose of praying for them? (Have a prayer list.  As we see other believers pray for them. Pray for others as they cross your mind.)

3.      Who needs prayer most, someone who is going through a very difficult period or someone who seems to be doing great? (Both groups of people need prayer equally. Those in difficult situations for obvious reasons. Those doing great need a hedge of protection around them because Satan will be on the attack.)

4.      What did Paul desire for the Ephesians? (The believers were doing well spiritually. Their love for other believers demonstrated the genuineness of their faith in Christ. Paul wanted them to continually grow deeper in their relationship with God.)

God chose believers for Himself and wants us to know Him, not to just know about Him.

5.      How does knowledge of God through revelation and wisdom relate to each other? (The truth of God is revealed to us though the Holy Spirit and wisdom is correctly using that truth in our daily lives to bring glory to God.)

6.      How does Paul’s prayer for the Ephesian believers compare to most prayers voiced today?

7.      How might prayer habits change if the main focus were on spiritual growth?

 

Paul’s prayer for his readers did not stop with their growing in the knowledge of God.

Hope of God! Read Ephesians 1:18-19

 

1.      In everyday terms what was Paul’s prayer request in verse 18? (“That the eyes of your heart may be enlightened…” That the light bulb would come on.)

2.      What three things did Paul pray they would be enlightened to see? (1- The hope of His calling—our future bodily resurrection and perfect conformity to the image of Christ. 2- The glorious riches of His inheritance—immortal body, heaven, glorification. 3- The immeasurable greatness of His power which is made available to all believers.)

3.      What is the greatest demonstration of God’s immeasurable power? (The resurrection of Jesus from the dead.)

The same power that raised Jesus from the dead is available to all believers today. The moment we receive Jesus as Savior, the Holy Spirit comes into our hearts. He gives us supernatural power to overcome temptations; to smile through tears; to experience joy despite life’s burdens and trials. The Holy Spirit will raise you out of your spiritual lifelessness and transform you.

The Holy Spirit provides the power to live the Christian life. Read 2 Peter 1:3 “His divine power has given us everything required for life and godliness through the knowledge of Him who called us by His own glory and goodness.”

4.       How can understanding the hope we have in Christ, the value of our inheritance, and the scope of God’s power impact the way we live? (When we focus on our problems and selfish desires, we can’t see our way to move forward. When God enlightens our minds, we want to grow closer to Christ. We rejoice in troubles as tools for transformation. Our certain hope that God’s great power has secured our glorious future gives us the motivation and courage to live obediently in the present.)

 

In addition to the knowledge of God and the hope of God, Paul’s prayer for the Ephesians included a third request, that they grow in understanding of God’s power.

 

Power of God! Read Ephesians 1:20-23

 

Here Paul mentioned three historical events: first, Christ’s resurrection; second, His enthronement; and third, His headship over all things, including the church.

1.      Why is it important that believers come to understand the power of God at work in the resurrection, ascension, and exaltation of Jesus? (That same power is available to the believer in the person of the Holy Spirit to resist temptation and live the victorious life in Christ. Satan has no power over us when we are obedient to the Spirit of God living within us.)

In that future age no power will be exempt from acknowledging Christ’s lordship and bowing before Him: “At the name of Jesus every knee will bow—in heaven and on earth and under the earth—and every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.” Phil. 2:10-11

2.      What are the implications for believers of God’s demonstration of power in Jesus’ resurrection? (God wields His great power to bring about every spiritual blessing in our lives and to give us an unshakable assurance of our salvation. God’s immeasurably great power means transformation is possible.)

We defeat ourselves thinking of what we can’t do: I can’t forgive that person. I’m not good at witnessing. I don’t have enough to give generously. Paul prayed we would grasp what we can do because of God’s power that is active in us and for us.

3.      Why did God make Jesus “head over everything”? (Jesus was the ultimate Sacrifice and the Father has made Him the Supreme Ruler over all things. He conquered sin, death and the grave!)

Christ’s power is at work in and through the church with the goal of bringing His salvation to the world.

 

Summarize and Challenge!

 

Paul’s prayer is urgently needed in today’s church. Many of us, as believers, live stagnant lives when we maintain a dim view of what we have in Christ. We must pray for spiritual enlightenment so we can experience the joy of spiritual growth.

We need to pray for one another’s physical and spiritual needs. Paul provided us a great model to pray for the spiritual growth of ourselves, our loved ones, and our church families.

 

1.      Are you stagnating or moving forward in your faith?

2.      What will you do to know God better?

“One gains such experiential knowledge by wide-awake attendance at public worship … by showing kindness to all, practicing the forgiving spirit, above all love; by learning to be thankful; by studying the Word of God both devotionally and studying so that it dwells in the heart; by singing psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs to the glory of God, and continuing steadfastly in prayer; and thus by redeeming the time as a witness of Christ to all men.” –David Jeremiah, Turning toward Joy.

 

Challenge: this week focus on praying for spiritual growth for yourself, your family, and those in our Bible study group.

 

Rejoice - Ephesians 1:1-14

            Today we begin a 13 week study of Ephesians. Paul wrote this letter while in prison, under house arrest in Rome. The earliest manuscripts do not have the words “at Ephesus” in verse 1, therefore many scholars believe the letter was written to the churches in that region of Asia Minor. Ephesus was the largest city and most likely was the “Mother Church” for several churches in neighboring cities like Colossae and Laodicea. So this letter was to be circulated among the churches in the region.

            Ephesus was more than a cultural center; it served as the headquarters of the cult dedicated to the goddess Artemis (or Diana). The temple to Artemis had become one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World. Paul’s preaching of the gospel had threatened this powerful cult. (See Acts 19) But Artemis was only one of many false gods from which to choose in this wicked place. At one point, Paul spent over two years in Ephesus.

            In the first three chapters of Ephesians Paul discussed the new spiritual life believers had in Christ. In chapters 4-6, Paul encouraged the believers there to display their new walk or life in Christ.

 

1.      Think about some of the awards and recognitions you have received. What were the selection criteria for the award?

There are some awards we work very hard for, and we feel either proud of the accomplishment if we win or discouraged if we lose. Then there are those recognitions we weren’t expecting, and we often feel humbled and grateful to be recognized in such a way.

2.      When we think about being chosen by God, do we tend to view it as an award we work hard for or news that humbles us?

In Ephesians 1, we learn we have been chosen for an unbelievable honor—to be in Christ! Being chosen drives us to focus not on the skills of the recipients but on the generosity of the Giver. The Ephesians lived in a place where people chose their gods. Paul spoke of a God who chose them! Wow what great news!

Introduction! Read Ephesians 1:1-2 Discuss briefly.

Chosen! Read Ephesians 1:3-6

 

(Be glad we aren’t reading this in Greek. Verses 3-14, in Greek are one long complex sentence.)

1.      Is there anything in these verses that suggest we did anything to deserve being chosen?

2.      If not, then what was God’s motivation, according to verse 4?

What we call “love” is often very conditional. You’ve probably experienced relationships where you felt like the other person was saying “I love you ‘if’…” or “I love you ‘because’…” But when Paul says that God chose us “in love,” there were no conditions attached. We’ve come to know that as “Agape”. This is Love that is unconditional to all.

3.      Has anyone in the class gone through an adoption? Would you briefly share your experience with the class?

4.      In what ways is adoption an even stronger illustration of God’s relationship with us than biological childbirth? (God takes the initiative in salvation. He predestined—marked out beforehand—that people separated from Him by sin would be reconciled to Him through His Son’s sacrifice.)

5.      When did God choose to bless those who trust in His Son? (In His infinite wisdom and sovereignty, God had a plan to save humanity before He created the universe.)

6.      How can we who are wicked and evil be “holy and blameless in His sight”? (It is only in Christ that we can be seen as Christ is.)

7.      How should God’s choosing us impact our view of life?

8.      How should His choice to offer salvation impact our attitude toward God?

9.      In what way should we live differently because of it?

Read verse 6. It is only by His grace and within Jesus that we are favored.

 

A family can choose to adopt a newborn baby and see that baby as innocent, unspoiled, and morally neutral. But what if you aren’t adopting a newborn, but instead an older child who has some baggage in his background? Here’s where we start to see the difference between being “chosen” and being “redeemed.”  This is another way to illustrate coming into God’s family.

Redeemed! Read Ephesians 1:7-12

 

1.      What is God’s purpose in our redemption? (Verse 12. “That we…might bring praise to His glory.”)

2.      What does “redemption” mean? (Redemption is the ransom paid to liberate us from sin and death! We were slaves to sin and the ransom could only be paid by the blood of the perfect sacrifice—Jesus. In the ancient world, if a slave was to be freed by paying a ransom, someone else almost always had to pay it.)

3.      What makes redemption such an incredible blessing? (Redemption grants forgiveness. Our sins are literally washed away and forgotten upon receiving Christ Jesus. Redemption lets us in on what God is doing, giving the spiritually dead new life in Christ!)

4.      What does it mean to “trespass” and how do we trespass in God’s sight? (“Trespass” means commit an offense against a person or a set of rules. We go outside the boundaries God has established for us in His Word.)

5.      What’s God’s ultimate purpose for creation? (God administers world events, gathering all the pieces into a cohesive whole and bringing everything into fulfillment in Christ. “Thy will be done on earth as it is in Heaven.” God’s will and purposes are perfectly accomplished in Heaven—one day it will be that way with “things on earth” as well, in the Messiah!)

6.      Why is knowing God’s ultimate purpose for creation a blessing? (Knowing God is summing up all things in Jesus gives life purpose even when circumstances don’t seem to add up. That may not take away today’s heartache, but it gives us hope for the future.)

I have to keep reminding myself that God is the sovereign Ruler of all creation and I am to be subject to His will and plan. It will all work out for my good and His glory in the end!

7.      How does the truth, that Jesus is the only way to gain redemption serve as motivation to share the gospel with others? (Without Jesus they will suffer in hell separated from God eternally!)

When Paul used the word “mystery” in verse 9, he didn’t mean that God’s will is a secret to be uncovered or a puzzle to be solved. Instead, Paul described God’s will as a “mystery” because it can only be understood by revelation from God Himself. We will look a little deeper into this subject in session 5.

 

Typically, when something valuable changes hands, a legal document bearing the seal of a notary establishes ownership and validates the document. In the final section of verses, we’re going to see how God has established proof of ownership over our lives.

Sealed! Read Ephesians 1:13-14

 

Paul had no qualms about connecting election with the faith of the individual believer. Election and faith worked hand in hand in the gospel of their salvation! Anyone who accepted Jesus as Lord and Savior was and is a chosen one!

1.      How does one receive this inheritance Paul is talking about? (This inheritance is for all who receive the Spirit—meaning they hear the gospel and believe in Jesus as Savior.)

Each person of the Trinity plays a role in salvation. God the Father chooses and adopts; God the Son redeems and forgives; God the Spirit seals and secures. In Paul’s day letters were sealed with wax and the writer’s seal was placed in the hot wax. The seal also played a role to insure no one opened the letter other than the one it was intended for. So it signified the owner and secured it until the proper person received it.

2.      How can we be certain we will obtain our inheritance? (We are sealed by the Holy Spirit which indicates ownership, authenticity, authority, and security. God gives each believer the Holy Spirit at conversion. The Holy Spirit’s presence in our lives signifies we belong to God and guarantees we will finally and fully enjoy every spiritual blessing Christ has given us.)

When we make a down payment on a major purchase, we get to experience the benefits of the purchase, even though it isn’t fully ours yet. We still get to live in the house or drive the car, despite the fact that we have only made an initial payment. This is similar to what Paul meant when he said the Holy “Spirit is a down payment of our inheritance.

3.       How does the gospel of grace build assurance into the life of the believer? (God didn’t have to send His Son to redeem me. It is only by His “glorious grace” that we are chosen to be redeemed. To think that God chose me to spend eternity with Him is a humbling thought!)

 

Summarize and Challenge!

 

1.      How can we express humility and confidence at the same time? (I am humbled at God’s amazing grace that chose me to redeem. But at the same time, I am confident that the indwelling Holy Spirit will supply everything I need to be all He wants me to be!)

2.      What are you doing with God’s blessings?

3.      Do you think on them? Take them for granted?

4.      Do you marvel and rejoice at what God has graciously chosen to bless you with in Christ?

 

By way of review, consider the following from Eph 1:3-14:

·         In Christ, believers receive every spiritual blessing v. 3

·         In Christ, believers were chosen before the world began v. 4

·         In Christ, God’s grace has been given freely v. 6

·         In Christ, believers have received redemption and forgiveness v. 7

·         In Christ, God will one day bring all things together in unity v. 10

·         In Christ, believers receive an eternal inheritance v. 11

·         In Christ, believers have hope v. 12

·         In Christ, believers are sealed with the Holy Spirit v. 13

 

“Praise God from Whom all blessings flow;

  Praise Him all creatures here below;

  Praise Him above you Heavenly host;

  Praise Father, Son and Holy Ghost!

  Amen!”

Living to Do - Titus 3:1-11

From a Christian point of view “good works” or simply “works”, are a person’s positive and moral actions or deeds expressing inner qualities such as grace or faith. In Judaism, a good work is known as a mitzvah, and refers to a moral deed performed within a religious duty.

Good works, for the Christian, is like seeds planted in fertile soil that produces beautiful flowers!

 

1.      What did you do this week to help someone? (I helped another person do a person’s yard chores because the third party was out of town with an ill relative. Until now, the act was anonymous, and meant to be such.)

2.      How did your actions impact the other person? (We don’t know how they responded.)

3.      How might a believer’s good works point others to Jesus?

4.      How can a believer communicate his or her motive for doing good works in a way that honors God? (Humility. An act of love. If acknowledged for the good work, give God the glory for allowing you to be able to accomplish it.)

5.      How can doing a good work be an act of worship? (When we do it for God’s glory and out of a heart of gratitude for what He has done for us.)

Every good work should be an act of worship!

 

We are in the last chapter of Paul’s letter to Titus this week. In the first chapter, Paul focused on encouraging Titus to remain diligent to the ministry as a preacher and to lead the people to godliness. In chapter 2, the call to diligence required him to rebuke false teachers and encourage holiness in the church. He specifically addressed how each age group, gender and slaves were to act to honor God. Now in chapter 3, Paul discussed the Christian’s behavior when among outsiders, their lost condition before coming to Christ, and their blessed condition after coming to Christ.

Good Deeds! Read Titus 2:15-3:2

 

Paul directed Titus to remind the Cretan believers to be ready to do good works, placing others above themselves. This is true even in the secular society we live in. By the way, secular denotes attitudes, activities, or other things that have no religious or spiritual basis. Doesn’t that sound like the world we live in!

1.      How are Christians to relate to and function in the secular society in which we live? (“Be submissive to rulers and authorities, to obey, to be ready for every good work, to slander no one, to avoid fighting, and to be kind, always showing gentleness to all people.”)

There are obviously times when we are to answer to God as a higher Authority and disobey those rulers over us. Peter and John were told by the ruling authorities not to proclaim the name of Jesus. Their response—“Whether it’s right in the sight of God for us to listen to you rather than to God, you decide; for we are unable to stop speaking about what we have seen and heard.”    Acts 4:19

2.      How is a believer’s good behavior connected to the gospel message? (If we do not live according to the message we proclaim we are hypocrites and have cancelled the effectiveness of the gospel we preach.)

Qualities like the ones listed in these verses are possible only for those in whose hearts Christ reigns supreme. The welfare of any community depends on the acceptance by the Christians within it of the duty of demonstrating to the world the nobility of Christian citizenship.—William Barclay.

3.      Is there a difference in good citizenship and Christian citizenship? (Perhaps only in motive—Christians are to be motivated by our love for God and act in response to His love for us.)

4.      How does being a responsible citizen impact how others view Christians? (We can’t allow Christians to be viewed as separate from the community around us. We must be in the world but not of the world. Our lifestyle must be different but we can’t pull out away from those around us and expect to have a positive impact on their lives for Christ.)

5.      How can the church build bridges for the gospel and remain distinct? (Be as active in our community as possible without compromising our principles as dictated by God’s Word.)

 

Since we’re called to love others, we must remember what we were saved from so we can empathize with the lost around us.

 

Based On His Mercy! Read Titus 3:3-8a

 

Here Paul let the Cretans know that he was no “Superman”. He was once just like them. It is only by the power of God that he changed!

1.      Occasionally we will hear someone say, “I am sorry; I can’t change. That is just who I am.” What does this passage teach about that? (That’s right YOU can’t change yourself BUT God can! It is an important point because the Bible teaches that faith is the victory.)

Paul contrasted the believer before and after conversion. He emphasized that salvation is not based on works but on God’s mercy received through faith in Jesus.

2.      What are the characteristics of someone before coming to Christ, as listed in these verses?

3.      To whom does this list apply? (All of us.)

4.      What are the characteristics of a person after becoming a Christian? (Saved from eternal damnation. Regenerated and renewed by the Holy Spirit. Justified by God’s grace. Heirs of God. People with the blessed assurance of eternal life!)

Verse 5 is a key verse that explicitly states how salvation is not about works but the mercy of God.

5.      How would you describe the difference between doing good works to gain salvation and doing good works because one has been granted salvation? (Good works are done as an act of worship and thanksgiving for what God has already done, not to earn it. They come out of a heart of gratitude not a sense of duty!)

Good works are the natural by-product of a life of faith!

6.       Did we come seeking God or was He seeking us? (See verse 6)

It was God’s plan from before time began that He would seek us for His own, a chosen people for eternity!

Done On Purpose! Read Titus 3:8-11

 

Paul explained that good works, not debates and arguments, should characterize the believer’s behavior. The person who focuses on doing good works for God’s honor will not have time to get involved in wasteful debates and arguments.

1.      Why should we be devoted to good works? (That is what God’s plan is for our lives. See Eph. 2:8-10.)

2.      Can those without good works be saved? (See James 2:20, 26—“Faith without works is dead.”)

Paul and James are saying the same thing! We are saved by grace through faith in Jesus but we are saved “...unto good works…”

Martin Luther, I think, summed it up well when he said, “Man is saved by faith alone, but the faith that saves is never alone.”

Jesus said, “I know [your] works.” Rev. 2:2

3.      Read Titus 3:10-11. What is Paul talking about here? (If you have a person in the church that is divisive and refuses to repent withdraw fellowship with such a person. He is self-condemned. This person is either lost or a backslidden Christian. Recall in 1 Timothy 1:20 Paul named two men that he had turned over to Satan because they were trouble makers that refused to repent.)

The sin we confront is: public, habitual, serious, and lacking repentance.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer wrote: “Nothing can be more cruel than that leniency which abandons others to sin. Nothing can be more compassionate than that severe reprimand which calls another Christian in one’s community back from the path of sin.”

 

Summarize and Challenge!

 

Justification is God’s gracious and full acquittal upon principles of His righteousness of all sinners who repent and believe in Christ (Rom. 3:23-25)

Read Titus 3:14. What difference has Christ made in your life?

How does your faith in Christ help you live a productive life?

Close in prayer. May our godly actions bring honor to our God and Savior!

Living with Integrity - Titus 2:1-15

1.      How would you define “integrity”? (The quality of being honest and having strong moral principles; moral uprightness.”)

2.      Is it always easy to do the “right thing”? (No! Sometimes we are asked and sometimes even commanded to do the wrong thing in a given work situation. But regardless of the cost, it is never wrong to do the “right thing!” It may be costly in some ways, but to do the right thing is always right. That is integrity!)

3.      From a Christian standpoint what does it mean to live a life of “integrity”? (Living a life filled with actions matching the truths we proclaim.)

There is a famous story of St. Francis: One day, he said to one of the young monks: ‘Let us go down to the village and preach to the people.’ So they went. Every so often, they stopped to talk to someone. They begged something to eat at one house. Francis stopped to play with the children, and exchanged a greeting with the passers-by. Then they turned to go home. ‘But Father,’ said the novice, ‘when do we preach?’ ‘Preach?’ smiled Francis. ‘Every step we took, every word we spoke, every action we did, has been a sermon.’

4.      What do repeated actions and attitudes reveal about an individual? (What is really inside and what one believes—the heart!)

 

Listen to what Paul says about the false teachers in Titus 1:16.

Now listen as someone reads the next line in Paul’s letter to Titus.

Spoken! Read Titus 2:1

 

Titus faced a communication task that was decisively at odds with the false teachers who manipulated truth and twisted Scripture for their own advantage. Therefore, the spoken Word of God wields the power to change lives, and changed lives can revolutionize entire cultures in every tribe and nation around the world.

 

Sanctification is the experience, beginning in regeneration, by which the believer is set apart to God’s purposes and is enabled to progress toward moral and spiritual maturity through the presence and power of the Holy Spirit dwelling in him (Eph. 2:8-10)

This is the way the world is transformed—one life at a time!

1.      Paul challenged Titus to “say the things that are consistent with sound teaching.” What is the danger of failing to verbally present the truth of the gospel, relying on actions alone to speak? (Speaking is the “what” of the gospel. Actions are the “how” of the gospel! We must have both for the world to both hear and see the truth of the gospel.)

2.      What might keep a person from speaking for the truth? (Fear. Lack of confidence in knowing what to say. Sometimes you may be the only one to speak truth but we must speak truth.)

 

[Form five columns on the board or poster paper. Label them as follows: Older men; Older women; Younger women: Younger men; and Slaves.]

Acted! Read Titus 2:2-10

 

1.      What did Paul say was to characterize the life of older men? (Self-control; worthy of respect; sensible; sound in-faith-love-endurance.)

2.      What did Paul say was to characterize the life of older women? (Reverent, not slanders; not to drink excessively; teach what is good to encourage the younger women.)

3.      What did Paul say was to characterize the life of younger women? (Love their husbands; love their children; self-controlled; pure; homemakers; kind; submissive to husbands.)

4.      What did Paul say was to characterize the life of young men? (Self-controlled in everything. Odd that there is only this one action listed here. However, without self-control it is difficult to have the other eight fruit of the Spirit growing in our lives. The Holy Spirit works to grow the fruit of self-control so that we can restrain our natural instincts—lashing out in anger or yielding to temptation. Self-control helps us, human as we are and provoked as we can be, to act in a Christlike manner.)

Peter wrote that we should add “to knowledge, self-control”. 2 Peter 1:6. That’s our defense against temptation.

In our next list, Paul is not condoning slavery he is simply addressing an existing cultural issue of his day.

5.      What did Paul say was to characterize the life of slaves? (Submissive to the master; well pleasing; do not talk back to the master; do not steal; faithful to the master.)

6.      Should Paul’s challenge to slaves be applied today to employees? (Certainly, in every way!)

7.      What are the connections between what the older and younger generations were to do? (The older generation was to set a good example for the younger and teach them. Although it isn’t specifically stated for the older men to teach the younger it is certainly implied.)

8.      What role do generations have in church leadership? (The older generation should lead and set godly examples for the younger generations to follow and emulate.)

In these verses there are three “so that” phrases. This is called a purpose clause, which basically means he’s just given a command and he says why you’re supposed to do this, what is the purpose of following this command.

9.      What is the “so that” clause in verse 5? (“so that God’s message will not be slandered.”)

10.  What is the “so that” clause in verse 8? (“so that the opponent will be ashamed, having nothing bad to say about us.”)

11.  What is the “so that” clause in verse 10? (“so that they may adorn the teaching of God our Savior in everything.”)

God will invade our lives to the degree that we open our hearts and say, “Lord, take control!” Jesus said that no person can serve two masters. When we seek to be masters of our own lives, living according to the dictates of our emotions and calling on God only when we are in deep trouble, the world isn’t much impressed. They do the same thing!

 

Empowered! Read Titus 2:11-14

 

1.      What is the source of power for living righteously? (God’s grace and the great expectation of His appearing.)

Paul explained that the gospel acts as the motivation for integrity. The gospel that transforms a life is demonstrated by how the individual begins to say “no” to those things that are ungodly. Finally, the gospel encourages us in our time of waiting for Jesus’ return to pursue integrity.

2.      How do you see evidence of Christ’s power in you for godly living? (The encouragement to do right when presented with the opportunity as well as the conviction of the Holy Spirit to do what is right when tempted.)

 

Authority! Read Titus 2:15

 

1.      Paul stated three commands in this verse [say, encourage, and rebuke] that were to encourage behaviors and attitudes that sought integrity. Why would it have been important for Paul to remind Titus of acting in God’s authority? (Titus had some hard commands to relay to the people and he needed to be assured he was speaking authority based on the truth of God’s Word.)

2.      If our message is going to be received, what must we do to be taken seriously? (If our speech and actions match up with the message, we’ll appear to be authentic, and our message can’t be discounted.)

We can speak God’s message with confidence both when we encourage and correct because we have the authority as a follower of Jesus Christ.

3.      Do you live with the spiritual integrity required to share the gospel message and be heard?

Living up to the gospel requires us to embrace a personal set of ethics that are carefully outlined in the Scriptures and impressed upon us by the Holy Spirit in collaboration with our own consciences.

 

Summarize and Challenge!

 

To illustrate the importance of our actions I’m going to share this account about Mahatma Gandhi:

 

While Gandhi was a practicing Hindu, Christianity intrigued him. In his reading of the Gospels, Gandhi was impressed by Jesus whom Christians worshipped and followed. He wanted to know more about this Jesus that Christians referred to as “the Christ, the Messiah.”

The Rev. Pattison tells the following story: One Sunday morning Gandhi decided that he would visit one of the Christian churches in Calcutta. Upon seeking entrance to the church sanctuary, he was stopped at the door by the ushers.

He was told he was not welcome, nor would he be permitted to attend this particular church as it was for high-caste Indians and whites only. He was neither high caste, nor was he white. Because of the rejection, the Mahatma turned his back on Christianity.

With this act, Gandhi rejected the Christian faith, never again to consider the claims of Christ. He was turned off by the sin of segregation that was practiced by the church. It was due to this experience that Gandhi later declared. “I’d be a Christian if it were not for the Christians.”

https://www.kansascity.com/living/religion/article18756585.html

 

Close in prayer, thanking God for the power to live godly lives through the truth and power of the gospel. May we never be found turning anyone away from our Savior!

 

Living with Opposition - Titus 1:1-16

Today we’re going to be introduced to Paul’s letter to Titus, one of the pastors he trained. Titus was a gentile from the island of Crete and had been led to Christ by Paul. Paul encourages Titus to stay true to the gospel and help the churches on the island of Crete appoint leaders, live above reproach and rebuke false teachers. Titus was obviously a person who could be trusted with the job.

This epistle was written in between the two letters Paul wrote to Timothy. The island of Crete was about 160 miles long and 35 miles wide; southeast of Greece and southwest of modern day Turkey—where Ephesus was located.

 

Christians are accountable for rejecting false teachers and teachings. We are openly accused of being bigoted and intolerant of anyone who professes any other way to God than through Jesus Christ.

Whether we like it or not, truth contains a measure of intolerance. The gospel truth is graciously liberating, inclusive – offered to whoever will accept it. But it also has a measure of intolerance because no one can be right with God except by trusting His Son as Savior.

As Christians we are blasted and sharply criticized for being “intolerant” based on the truths above. So, in what ways can we uphold the gospel message while respecting the rights of others who hold a different belief? (First, we must live what we preach. We must be Christ-like in all we do. Second, we must present the truth of the Gospel in love and humility. Then allow the Holy Spirit to do His part in convicting and calling the individual to repentance. While we should be consistent in our witness we are not to “badger” people with the Gospel—allow God to do His work. Hopefully people will look forward to seeing you and not dread an encounter.)

Our divine commission involves helping people come to know God through Christ (evangelism), then helping them to know God’s truth, resulting in right living (discipleship).

Servant’s Heart! Read Titus 1:1-3

 

Paul saw his appointment as an apostle not something to glory in but as an assignment to be obeyed! He viewed the gospel as something entrusted to him. Paul’s sense of servanthood was so deep he dubbed himself a bond slave; he no longer controlled his own life but spent it in service to his Master.

1.      What were two parts of Paul’s mission that he pointed out here? (1-“to build up the faith of God’s elect.” And 2-to build up “their knowledge of the truth.”)

“God’s elect” are those who have accepted Jesus as Savior!

2.      What was the “knowledge of the truth” designed to lead to? (Godliness.)

Paul wasn’t only concerned with his own spiritual security; he built the faith of others through knowledge of God and His precepts. Paul unfailingly pointed people to Jesus as the hope of eternal life.

3.      How does knowing that God is always truthful give believers confidence to share the gospel? (We have an active faith that God will never let us down and can be trusted from before time began. He is ever faithful and true—that is Who God is!)

4.      Paul emphasized that the gospel had been entrusted to believers. How should viewing the gospel as a sacred trust impact a believer’s life? (As believers in Christ sharing that “sacred trust” is our life’s mission. What we do for a living is irrelevant, our life’s purpose is to share the gospel with those around us.)

 

Not only should we know that we have been entrusted with the gospel, but the gospel calls us to action to display its power in our lives.

Purposeful Action! Read Titus 1:4-5

 

Verse 4 makes it obvious that Paul felt the same way about Titus as he did about Timothy. There is indication that Paul led Titus to accept Jesus as Savior.

1.      Why was it necessary for Titus to complete the work Paul had begun? (Evidently God had moved Paul on to another assignment but there was still work to be done. Titus had been with Paul as some of the work had been done so he was a logical choice to continue the task, especially since Titus was a native of the island.)

2.      How do we today build on the work of previous generations? (They have set the example for us to emulate. Much like a relay race, the baton is passed and the gospel must be carried and leadership must be appointed and trained.)

Paul’s instruction to Titus doesn’t negate the participation of the local church in having a part in ordaining these local leaders! As I thought about these instructions I thought of Titus as I would a modern day Director of Missions—helping churches get organized.

            By virtue of being called Paul’s true son, we know that Titus and Paul shared a faith that looked strikingly similar, not just to others outside of the family but to each other. Titus used the example Paul set for him to reach others for Christ and train leaders.

The list of qualifications for the elders to be appointed is very similar to the list Paul had given to Timothy. But verse 9 is a little different and I think is important, especially in Crete.

Read Titus 1:9

 

Opposition Addressed! Read Titus 1:10-16

 

1.      What trouble makers was Titus to watch for in the church? (Especially the Judaizers—those who proclaimed that a person had to obey the Jewish laws as well as trust in Jesus to be saved. They especially wanted the gentiles to obey the Jewish food laws as far as what was clean and unclean—pure and defiled.)

2.      What are the characteristics of those Titus was to be aware of in the church? (Rebellious, idle talkers, and deceivers.)

Paul stressed that false teachers were adding unnecessary stipulations to salvation and disrupting groups of believers with precepts that weren’t necessary. His solution was to silence them.

3.      Why would Christians, whom God generally calls to come down on the side of mercy and grace, need to employ such strong tactics to stand up for truth? (Good-hearted people must not be naïve but recognize that those who willfully rebel against God have seared consciences. Just as Christians’ good works testify to their godliness, those who reject the truth give evidence of their rebellion through their own works.)

A forceful response to the false teachers was vital to the health of the churches based upon their description by Paul in verse 12. Paul’s goal was first and foremost redemptive and restorative, but he would not overlook the severity of the problem.

4.      What did Paul say to anticipate how the Cretans would respond in verse 14? ((They are not to pay any attention to them.)

The sad but clear indictment of the heretics was that they rejected the truth. They had heard the truth of the gospel but turned away from it to chase after their own creation of truth.

5.      What litmus test did Paul suggest to help us distinguish the enemy’s lies from truth? (People may claim to speak truth, but their actions will give them away. They don’t practice holiness!) See 2 Tim. 3:5.

6.      What might motivate a person to distort the gospel? (Selfishness, money, jealousy, etc.)

7.      What are ways people distort the gospel today? (“It’s easy and once you are saved life will be perfect.” You can work your way into Heaven. You can lose your salvation. Everybody is saved; you don’t have to do anything—Universalism. God wants everyone to be happy.)

Any false teaching requires correction, but those who intentionally contradict Scripture should be confronted with the truth for everyone’s sake!

Paul’s strong critique was necessary because of the damage being done by the troublemakers. Since they preferred to resist God’s truth and rebel against His saving purposes, they proved themselves to be useless in His kingdom.

The dangers of failing to address false teaching head on is obvious—Some may not be saved and others may fall away from the church due to confusion and fighting within the church!

 

Summarize and Challenge!

 

1.      How can we uphold truth when we encounter opposition?

·         Identity in Christ results not only in devotion to Him and His church but requires that we take strong stands as needed to defend the truth against opposition.

·         Having the heart of a servant fully devoted to Christ will result in encouraging the spiritual growth of other believers.

·         Looking out for others’ spiritual growth by working in and strengthening the church will encourage that spiritual growth.

·         Standing up for truth against those who oppose it will protect others’ faith.

2.      Is there some opposition somewhere that you need to take a stand against?

 

As you grow in knowledge and faith, you will be better equipped to stand up for the truth. This is why it is so important to be involved in an ongoing Bible study. Unkindness is not required, just firm honesty.

The next time you encounter direct opposition to God, ask Him to help you confront it. It could be a simple but well-worded line on social media or a sentence or two in a private conversation with a friend. Sometimes false teachings come from someone who is just ignorant of what the Scripture says.

Remember that an unconfronted rebel and false teaching may lead others astray while a timely word may cut off that opportunity.

 

Enduring - 2 Timothy 3:1-4:8

There is hardly a day without a public shooting or murder of some type that makes national news. People are clamoring and complaining to the authorities saying: “Something must be done!” There is nothing that can be done outside the saving knowledge of Jesus Christ and His transforming power in the lives of sinful people.

Paul warned Timothy, and us, that in the last days things would get worse and that believers would be persecuted!

Read 2 Timothy 3:1-9

This would be depressing except for the fact that we know God is in control and His Spirit living in us provides us the power to endure to the end, as Paul did.

Modern day believers who have faced persecution demonstrate the same kind of resolve Paul demonstrated. We know the greater the opposition the greater the opportunity to honor God through our steadfast commitment to Him!

1.      What promises, positive or negative, from God’s Word would you consider to be especially fundamental to surviving and thriving as Christians? (The promise of eternal life dooms unbelievers while at the same time forms the basis for everything we do as Christians. Understanding that God never leaves us nor forsakes His own brings great comfort no matter what happens. Realizing that persecution will come our way prepares us to endure it.)

2.      Why is our world in such a mess spiritually? (People either don’t know what the Bible says or don’t care what the Bible says.)

I recently read an excerpt from an article about picking people at random and asking them questions about the Bible. Two young college aged women were asked to state any one of the Ten Commandments. Their response was “Freedom of Speech.” A young man was asked who in the Bible was eaten by a whale. His response: “I know! I know! Pinocchio!”

It would we funny if it weren’t so sad and representative of the younger generation’s knowledge about the Bible.

 

Let’s see what Paul had to say to Timothy.

Persecution Coming! Read 2 Timothy 3:10-13

 

1.      What positive qualities had Timothy seen in his mentor, which he had adopted for his own life? (His teaching, conduct, purpose, faith, patience, love, endurance and even persecution and suffering.)

2.      Is there a difference between opposition, bullying, and persecution? (Opposition can be as simple as a strong disagreement. Bullying is trying to force your opinion on someone else and/or strongly criticizing someone’s viewpoint. Persecution can be emotional or physical or both.)

3.      Why should believers expect this type of treatment? (As followers of Christ, we are going to be different from the culture no matter where we are or what circumstances we face.)  See John 15:18-20

Paul knew this truth personally. He understood the lengths to which nonbelievers would go to silence believers.

4.      How does seeking to live a godly life lead to potential bullying and persecution? (The Christian life is drastically different in virtually every way to the way the world lives. Simply living a godly life can bring conviction to those around us and their reaction is to strike back at what makes them feel guilty. But the main reason is that Satan is very much involved in trying to silence any Christian’s witness!)

 

Get Equipped! Read 2 Timothy 3:14-17

 

Timothy would have to guard against pastoral pitfalls and doctrinal deviations that could dampen his spiritual fire. As God’s truth took deep root in Timothy, his ministry would bear abundant fruit to the glory of Christ and equip him to tackle challenges at Ephesus.

1.      How would you describe the spiritual foundation Timothy had and how did he get it? (From childhood he had been taught the Scriptures by his mother and grandmother. Then Paul came along and strengthened his foundation even more!)

2.      The Scriptures Timothy had been taught is what we know as the Old Testament. What is the focus and intent of the Old Testament Scriptures? (It points to the coming Messiah—Savior of all mankind! Even the Jews know and recognize that, but they reject the truth that Jesus is that long awaited Messiah.)

We are blessed to also have the New Testament which reveals the final revelation of God—His Son, Jesus!

3.      What benefits do we get from Scripture as mentioned in these verses? (1-Wisdom for salvation through faith in Jesus; 2-Teaching: What we must believe. 3-Rebuking: what we are doing wrong. 4-Correcting: How to fix what is wrong. 5-Training in righteousness: How we are to behave.)

4.      How much of the Scripture is “inspired by God?” (All!)

What does that mean to you? They are the very words of God. All of them, not just some Scripture, are guidelines for living. They are a blessing and a benefit to us to live out successful lives!

5.      How can we avoid the temptation to settle for Bible study for knowledge alone as opposed to living out the truth of God’s Word? (Memorize it! Meditate on it! Study it with the intent of letting God speak to you and apply what He says to your life!)

Only God’s Word can inform us about what God expects of His people. Just as Timothy needed to use Scripture to develop strong moral character among believers at Ephesus, so we also need it to train our thoughts and actions to conform to God’s will today.

6.      How can I know that the Bible is true? (We know by what the Bible claims about itself; fulfilled prophecy—61 major prophecies about Jesus alone from the OT; the unity of the Bible—written by 40 authors over 1500 years; the early acceptance of the message; the archaeological evidence. By faith as revealed through the Holy Spirit.)

By continually saturating and nurturing himself in Scripture, Timothy would be thoroughly capable of godly living and effective leadership. He would prove in his own life the reality that Scripture is the tool God uses to develop spiritual maturity.

 

Preach the Word! Read 2 Timothy 4:1-4

 

1.      What will happen when the truth is not guarded? (Read vs 3-4)

Paul warned about the growing number of people who reject God’s truth in favor of personal preferences. See Jer. 12:2b “You (God) are ever on their lips; but far from their conscience (hearts).”

People who turn from God’s truth and turn aside to embrace fabrications and falsehoods suffer a spiritual dislocation. Myths were fabrications of the imagination that satisfied a temporary preference but dismissed salvation in Christ.

2.      What are some contemporary examples of “itching-ear” spirituality? (“Health and wealth” teaching. God wants you to be healthy and wealthy! He only wants you to be happy!)

3.      How do these distort God’s Word? (God does want what is best for you, but He’s the One who knows what the best is for you. Sometimes God’s best comes to us through suffering. He wants what is best for us and brings Him glory!)

4.      What do we get from Paul’s charge to Timothy on preaching that can be applied in today’s church? (When calling a pastor, churches should pay attention to the quality of the message he preaches, looking less at eloquence or delivery than content and adherence to the truths of God’s Word. Messages that convey God’s principles may be encouraging as well as challenging.)

Hard truths may cause some discomfort, but the preacher who never challenges his listeners shortchanges them!

 

Finish Well! Read 2 Timothy 4:5-8

 

1.      What four imperatives did Paul give Timothy in these verses? (“Exercise self-control, endure hardship, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry.”)

2.      Should we take these challenges as if Paul was speaking to us? (Yes! All of these can apply to each of us.)

We can only be successful in meeting these challenges if we rely on the power of the Holy Spirit!)

Now Paul turned his attention to himself in verses 6-8. He compared himself to a Jewish drink offering in which wine was poured out alongside certain sacrifices made at the altar. Paul was pouring out his life in service to Christ, and he considered himself an offering presented to God. (Rom. 12:1-2)

3.      What term did Paul use for his approaching death? (A departure. He pictured his death, not as a termination, but as a transition from one place to another.)

4.      How did Paul summarize his life and ministry? (1-I have fought the good fight; 2-I have finished the race; 3-I have kept the faith.)

5.      What does each of these phrases mean in relationship to Paul’s spiritual journey?

There have been few people in history more motivated by achievement than the apostle Paul. He was constantly moving, teaching, building, and motivating. God did not take away Paul’s desire to achieve; rather, he harnessed it so that Paul could serve others. The writer of Ecclesiastes challenges us all: “Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with all your might.  Eccles. 9:10”

For most of us, our faithful journey isn’t a fantastical adventure as much as a series of small, daily steps. How do we treat our family? Our friends? Our coworkers? Our employees? The people we simply come into contact with by accident?

6.      What do you think Paul wanted to do with his crown of righteousness when he received it? (Like the Elders in Rev. 4:10 I’m certain he wanted to lay it at the feet of Jesus!)

7.      What did Paul say we had to look forward to as well? (Verse 8. “All those who have loved His—Jesus—appearing.” Receiving a crown of righteousness!)

Paul had not been deterred or defeated. He stayed true to the end and was victorious in Christ!

 

Summarize and Challenge!

 

1.      Do we really believe open persecution of Christians will occur in our nation in our lifetime?

No one welcomes persecution, but being on the lookout for it helps us endure it when it comes. Meanwhile, you can prepare through absorbing God’s Word and standing on His promises when you’re tested. Surrounding yourself with encouragers who will support you during troubled times also gives you an enduring spirit. Meanwhile, look around to see if there are other Christians who need your support. Whether it’s a word of encouragement or holding up someone else’s arms, it can make a huge impact when it comes to staying strong.

2.      If open persecution comes, will we keep the faith as Paul did?

3.      How do you want to finish out your life?

 

Diligent - 2 Timothy 2:14-26

1.      What does the word “diligent” mean? (“Having or showing care and conscientiousness in one’s work or duties.” Diligent is an adjective referring to conscientious and attentive devotion.)

2.      What are some examples of diligence you see in the world? (We see it in the most common places as well as in special places. Diligence is seen in the person who is committed to caring for his/her family as they get up and go to work every day; the soldier, police officer, firefighter, nurse and so on.)

3.      What are some ways in which diligence is needed in the Christian life? (The things we remind ourselves of almost weekly: Bible study, prayer, fellowship with God’s people, worship, ministry, and so on.)

4.      If you were a teacher, what would you expect from your students to master a subject and excel in the classroom? (Good students don’t just come to class; they read the assigned texts and do their homework diligently. Students who approach a subject with curiosity and actively engage with the material not only master it faster but help other students in the process.)

Individuals who excel by diligence rather than innate brilliance serve as good role models for weaker students. Those who excel, no matter what barriers they must overcome to do so, encourage their teachers too and remind them why they became teachers!

 

Last week we discussed the value of enduring for Christ and remaining focused; today we’re going to discuss how Paul reminded Timothy of the importance of remaining diligent as a follower of Christ, giving careful attention to remain faithful to the truth of God’s Word.

 

Two Groups! Read 2 Timothy 2:14-19

 

The pronoun “them” may refer to the church as a whole but more likely points back to the faithful men Timothy was to train.

As we have learned, one of Paul’s primary motivations for writing these two letters to Timothy was to warn against false teachers and give Timothy some guidance as to how to deal with them. As the Christian stands up against false teachers, one result may be quarreling.

1.      Why did Paul warn against such arguing about words? (It was useless, accomplishes nothing good, but can cause harm.)

When people and churches get caught up in majoring on the minors or begin distorting the gospel, the result can be the ruin of the hearers. Churches that forget why they exist often wander, wither, and die. Our purpose is to reach the world for Jesus.

When Paul says “leads to ruin of those who listen” he might be referring to Christians whose effectiveness was lost in the confusion of unprofitable debate.

2.      How would you describe the best approach to confront false teachings? (We must use the Word of God with a gentle spirit and speak in love not harsh, condemning words. Our ultimate goal is to share the truth with them and have them accept Jesus. If we alienate them by our harshness they may never come to know, understand, and accept the truth.)

We must remember, we cannot transform anyone—we can’t even change ourselves—only the Holy Spirit can take truth and transform lives.

3.      What did Paul say was the prerequisite to being able to offer correct teaching of God’s Word? (Diligent effort in knowing God’s Word.)

4.      What do you see as the difference between a worker approved by God and one who isn’t? (The worker approved by God works in the power of the Holy Spirit rather than his own power.)

You may not formally teach biblical truth, but you have opportunities through both word and action to teach such truth daily. We are all teachers in some capacity, and it is important for us to be prepared.

5.      If God were evaluating you on your job performance, would you have reason to be ashamed (v. 15)?

Timothy was to avoid anything that detracted from the centrality of Scripture and teach those faithful men to do the same.

6.      What analogy did Paul use to emphasize the danger of “irreverent and empty speech” in the church? (“Their teaching will spread like gangrene.” It is deadly to the church.)

7.      What false teaching were Hymenaeus and Philetus spreading among the church members? (The resurrection had already taken place. See 2 Thess. 2:1-3)

By saying that this was “ruining the faith of some” Paul was not saying people were losing their salvation by this doctrinal confusion. Rather, the word picture Paul painted suggests the controversy was upsetting their understanding of the truth.

8.      I love the word “nevertheless” in verse 19. What does Paul remind us of in this verse? (“God’s solid foundation stands firm…”)

9.      What action must “everyone who calls on the name of the Lord” take? (“Turn away from wickedness.” That command is all encompassing; it means all kinds of wickedness!)

10.  How does faithfully studying the Bible help a believer avoid useless and false debates? (We cannot know the difference between empty speech and edifying speech without studying God’s Word.)

 

Two Vessels! Read 2 Timothy 2:20-21

 

Paul used the illustration of two kinds of vessels in a house to emphasize the importance of godliness. The bowls were gold and silver and designed for special use while other bowls made of wood and earthenware served the purpose for ordinary occasions. Similarly, some believers honored Jesus worthily by their behavior and belief while others dishonored Him by their lifestyle.

 

1.      What is the relationship between purity and service? (The blood of Christ ultimately purifies the believer. But believers participate in purifying by removing sinful matter from their lives. As such we are useful to the Master. Notice, the vessel is not useful in and of itself, but as it is employed by the Master. In His hands, we find purpose and value!)

2.      How does a commitment to studying God’s Word lead to practicing God’s Word? (As we approach Scripture with a pure, teachable spirit, the Word speaks to us and leads us in righteousness through the indwelling Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit gives us the power to live out what we’ve learned!)

Read 2 Timothy 2:22

 

Just because some of us are not young in age doesn’t mean that we are immune from “youthful passions.”

3.      What are some “youthful passions” we should flee? (Worldly attitudes, lust, cravings, things that take our focus off the mission of sharing the gospel.)

4.      What was Timothy to pursue, run after, and work toward? (Righteousness, faith, love, peace, and purity.)

5.      We are challenged to pursue righteousness. How would you describe “righteousness” to someone who wanted to pursue it? (Christlikeness. Obedience to God out of a heart of love for God. Moral uprightness in all areas of life.)

We don’t just flee from evil, we must run toward something. Timothy was to keep his focus on pursuing those things that would lead people, who are ensnared by the world and caught in Satan’s trap, to repentance and faith.

Our close companions should be those who pursue these things Paul listed here. Fellowship with like-minded believers would help Timothy, and us, run away from inappropriate passions and run toward holy virtues. It will also inspire us to be an honorable vessel, suitable for the Lord’s purpose.

 

Two Approaches! Read 2 Timothy 2:23-26

 

1.      What traits should characterize a servant of the Lord? (Not quarrelsome, gentle, able to teach, and patient.)

These traits are very important when confronting false teachings or trying to share the gospel with a lost person.

2.      How does a poor attitude discredit a person’s message? (Avoiding debate for debate’s sake eliminates the opportunity for division and conflict without good reason. While there are certainly times when the integrity of the gospel calls for a spirited defense, many arguments are moiré speculative and not earnest searches for truth.)

3.      What is needed for others to respect our witness when we are drawn into a discussion? (Taking a gentle, patient approach when sharing actually assists the learner to become more teachable.)

4.      Read Proverbs 15:1-2. What do we learn from this ancient proverb? (When in a disagreement speak with gentleness and avoid harshness. Make knowledge look attractive!)

Knowing the truth from studying the Bible helps protect us from the enemy and helps us share God’s Word with patience and urgency.  I read somewhere this week the following: “A man’s soul must be very valuable because God and Satan are both trying to win them.”

 

Summarize and Challenge!

 

·         Believers must continue to study God’s Word to avoid being led astray.

·         Believers must intentionally flee sin and pursue righteousness to be useful in God’s work.

·         Believers are to present God’s Word to others with love, respect and kindness.

 

Who do you regularly encounter who is antagonistic toward the gospel?

What principles discovered in this study can you follow when approaching this person in the future?

 

Sometimes we are called to do a health assessment. We also need to do regular spiritual health assessments. Based on today’s key points: passing on the faith, staying focused on the mission, teaching the truth, and living with gentleness and patience, how is your spiritual health?

If being strong in the Lord is your goal, what action is required?

 

Focused - 2 Timothy 2:1-13

An old Bulgarian proverb reads as follows: “God promises a safe landing but not a calm passage.”

1.      What are some ways we’ve seen this to be true in our lives? (One example comes right out of the book of Genesis. Joseph was sold into slavery but in the end recognized that what his brothers meant for evil God used for good.)

We’ve all been through difficult times in our lives and wondered how God could possibly use it for good. One example from my life: In 1987 I was part-time Minister of Music in a church in Lawton. I realized I could no longer in good conscience work with the pastor. I resigned my position and we moved our membership to a sister church in Lawton. There God opened up an opportunity to serve that would not have been there had I stayed at the other church. That opportunity led to full-time ministry just three short years later.

(Read the following paragraph out of the Personal Study Guide for this quarter page 73.)

“We all face seasons of disappointment. As followers of Christ we don’t receive an exemption card that allows us immunity from hardships and heartbreaks. The Lord assured us that we would face tribulation. He also promised that He would never forsake us no matter how menacing the tribulation. Every trial provides us the choice to focus on the problem or to focus on His empowering grace. The decision we make can make a difference between victory and defeat.”

2.      What factors contribute to a hardship sharpening or souring a person’s view of life? (Our focus makes all the difference in the world. If our focus is on ourselves our view will be sour, but if our focus is on God and His will for our lives we will be sharpened spiritually.)

Consider Peter and the other apostles in Acts 5:40-41.

Today we’re going to learn how God’s grace and the gospel help us face the trials of life and remain focused on living for Christ through all circumstances.

Future Focused! Read 2 Timothy 2:1-2

 

Paul ended chapter one by mentioning those who had deserted the faith. “Therefore” in verse 1 is saying, “In light of what I told you about them, you need to stand strong.”

1.      Why did Paul encourage Timothy to stay strong? (Because it is so easy to become weak in our spiritual walk, especially when we face trials and opposition. It takes intentionality to stay strong in our faith.)

2.      What is the source of strength to which Paul pointed Timothy? (The grace of the Lord Jesus. I heard a song recently that encouraged people who thought they had sinned beyond God’s grace to forgive. There is a phrase in the song that says, “There is nothing stronger than grace.” In other words you can’t out-sin God’s grace.)

Timothy’s strength would not be found within himself. Only because he understood and relied on God’s unmerited favor toward him would he succeed. Not only is our conversion a gift of God’s grace, but also our ongoing victory in living the Christian life.

Paul called on Timothy to pass on to others the things which had been taught to him, who will in turn also teach others.

3.      Why was it so important for Timothy to prepare another generation to lead? (As we mentioned last week, we are only one generation away from paganism.)

4.      What was Timothy to teach this next generation? (The truths that Paul had taught and preached, not only to Timothy but “in the presence of many witnesses…” Of course, we would expect Timothy to also teach the truths Paul wrote to him in his letters.)

5.      How would you describe the process Paul laid out for Timothy to follow? (Disciples making disciples who make disciples!)

6.      What were the character traits of those Timothy was to disciple? (Faithful men who would be consistent and able to teach the truths they were taught.)

7.      If our class started a new class every 18 months what would our Sunday School Department look like in ten years? (If each averaged 10 that would be another 70 people. That is what disciples making disciples looks like!)

Deciding early as Christians what kind of impact we want to have on our families and communities demands we order our steps accordingly. Without a plan for passing on the faith, the church decreases in power with each succeeding generation. Christians can’t complete their part in God’s redemptive plan without a strategy for reaching the next generation.

 

Mission Focused! Read 2 Timothy 2:3-7

 

Paul used three metaphors as symbols of the Christian life: the faithful soldier, the disciplined athlete, and the hardworking farmer.

These three illustrations show us, not simply a way to make a living, but a commitment to a way of life.

The reference to “recruiter” in verse 4 is a term that meant not only recruiter but commander. In Paul’s day, soldiers were everywhere you went in the Roman Empire. There were approximately 28 legions of some 6,000 troops each. Everyone knew what Paul was talking about when he mentioned what was required of a soldier!

1.      In what sense are Christians to be like soldiers? (The “Recruiter” and “Commander” is Jesus Christ, Himself. Our entire lives are to be centered on Him and His will for our lives, focused on the task, totally committed. Not a way to make a living but a lifestyle!)

2.      In what sense are Christians to be like athletes? (Disciplined, striving for the very best, trained, and being obedient to God—following the rules for a godly life.)

3.      In what sense are Christians to be like farmers? (They have an investment in the crop—their hard work. They must stay focused on the harvest and the rewards of the harvest.)

4.      How is discipline applied to the Christian life? (Just as we discipline our bodies for exercise, we discipline our minds and our actions to be obedient to God, to make Him our #1 priority. We must remember that the activities we call disciplines, like prayer, Bible study, worship, etc are not an end in themselves. They are all designed to help us know God and know Him more intimately. When we practice these disciplines, it should be from a desire to know Jesus better, not to simply mark something else off my checklist of religious activities.)

Timothy was to strive to see the truth of the illustrations: beyond warfare lives victory; beyond athletic effort lies a prize; beyond the farmer’s work lies a harvest. Because this message has been preserved, it applies to us as well.

5.      What insight did Paul give Timothy that can increase our focus of the mission? (Meditation on Scripture increases understanding. Think deeply rather than being satisfied with a shallow reading. Suffering and endurance are part of the Christian life, but we can lean on God for His guidance and grace.)

6.      What helps you remain focused on Christ’s mission, especially during difficult days? (Bible study, prayer and seeking God’s direction each day.)

 

Paul challenged Timothy to remain focused on Jesus and His resurrection. He explained that any hardship faced must be balanced with the potential of sharing the gospel with others.

Christ Focused! Read 2 Timothy 2:8-13

 

Remembering Jesus’ resurrection served as proof that He was fully God; remembering He descended from the lineage of David pointed to Him as the Messiah and fully man. Furthermore verse 9 reminds us that Paul saw the message of the gospel as something not to be bound. Then in verse 10, Paul counted the cost of obedience and remained faithful because the salvation of others was at stake.

Paul knew that God had chosen the proclamation of the gospel as His means to bring people to salvation by grace through faith in Jesus Christ.

1.      What was Paul’s situation as he wrote this letter to Timothy? (He was bound in chains like a criminal.)

2.      What was Paul’s assurance about God’s message he was bound for preaching? (God’s message was free to do its work. Can you imagine what it was like for the soldiers manning the jail, hearing Paul constantly sharing the gospel!)

3.      How can opposition serve as a means for sharing the gospel? (We have opportunity to speak the truth of God’s Word and it is living—see Heb. 4:12. If we but speak it, the Word will do the work.)

Read the four “if” statements in verses 11-13.

4.       How does focusing on Christ’s faithfulness to us help us persevere in faithfulness to Him? (We have assurance from God’s Word that He will be with us though whatever happens to us. God is faithful and cannot deny who He is!)

God continues to seek us, even when we are not faithful to Him!

Living and dying with Christ depends on both Jesus’ power and our acceptance. Likewise, rejection of Christ inevitably becomes a two-way street. When our humanity and fallen nature overtake us Jesus again steps in to save the relationship.

We must always rely upon the strength of Christ and His faithfulness as our main focus!

 

Summarize and Challenge!

 

1.      When it comes to living out your Christianity, what do you do to stay focused?

Focusing on the right things results in a strong, enduring, and others-centered faith. On the other hand, when we focus on the wrong elements, we’re more likely to end up as distracted, disillusioned, and wondering souls.

A focus on the future helps us do our part to evangelize and disciple the next generation of believers.

Unless we keep our minds on Jesus, we’ll lose heart; by His example we find fresh strength!

2.      Would you say that you’re focused on the right things?

3.      What are your goals for you Christian life this next year?

 

Whatever God leads you to do, stay focused on the task!

 

1.       Verse 12, 13. What happens if we disown Him? Is a backsliding Christian still saved?

This is a question that has been debated endlessly over the years. The word “backslider” or “backsliding” does not appear in the New Testament and is used in the Old Testament primarily of Israel. The Jews, though they were God’s chosen people, continually turned their backs on Him and rebelled against His Word (Jeremiah 8:9). That is why they were forced to make sacrifices for sin over and over in order to restore their relationship with the God they had offended. The Christian, however, has availed himself of the perfect, once-and-for-all sacrifice of Christ and needs no further sacrifice for his sin. God himself has obtained our salvation for us (2 Corinthians 5:21) and because we are saved by Him, a true Christian cannot fall away so as not to return.

Christians do sin (1 John 1:8), but the Christian life is not to be identified by a life of sin. Believers are a new creation (2 Corinthians 5:17). We have the Holy Spirit in us producing good fruit (Galatians 5:22–23). A Christian life should be a changed life. Christians are forgiven no matter how many times they sin, but at the same time Christians should live a progressively more holy life as they grow closer to Christ. We should have serious doubts about a person who claims to be a believer yet lives a life that says otherwise. Yes, a true Christian who falls back into sin is still saved, but at the same time a person who lives a life controlled by sin is not truly a Christian.

What about a person who denies Christ? The Bible tells us that if a person denies Christ, he never truly knew Christ to begin with. 1 John 2:19 declares, “They went out from us, but they did not really belong to us. For if they had belonged to us, they would have remained with us; but their going showed that none of them belonged to us.” A person who rejects Christ and turns his back on faith is demonstrating that he never belonged to Christ. Those who belong to Christ remain with Christ. Those who renounce their faith never had it to begin with. 2 Timothy 2:11–13, “Here is a trustworthy saying: If we died with him, we will also live with him; if we endure, we will also reign with him. If we disown him, he will also disown us; if we are faithless, he will remain faithful, for he cannot disown himself.” — Got Questions Ministries, Got Questions? Bible Questions Answered (Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software, 2002–2013).

 

 

Confidence - 2 Timothy 1:1-14

1.      Is self-confidence a good or bad thing? (It depends on the context in which it is used. Confidence in the abilities and gifts God has blessed us with is good as long as we remember that God is the Source and not ourselves.)

2.      Does our culture over emphasize self-reliance?

3.      How does our culture foster or impede trusting in God opposed to ourselves? (Our culture often stresses reliance on self and our own abilities without regard to any thought of God.)

Paul writes his second letter to Timothy while in prison in Rome the second and final time. Most scholars believe Paul felt his death was near so this letter is most likely the last letter Paul wrote. He wanted to encourage Timothy and urge him on to preach/teach the truth of God’s Word with assurance and boldness.

 

Read 2 Timothy 1:1-2

As we look at 2 Timothy and understand its context, we can begin to recognize how Paul sought to demonstrate the work of the gospel in believers. It begins with how we learn to have confidence, not in ourselves, but in Christ!

 

Heritage! Read 2 Timothy 1:3-5

 

1.      What was it that made Paul so thankful to God? (“When I constantly remember you—Timothy—in my prayers night and day.”)

Paul was saying that anytime he was praying Timothy came to his mind and he lifted him up in prayer.

2.      How would it make you feel to know the Apostle Paul was praying for you on a regular basis—day and night?

3.      What was it that Paul remembered about Timothy? (The tears that were shed at their last parting; and Timothy’s sincere faith.)

4.      What was Paul’s spiritual heritage? (Paul remembered his ancestors who served God with a clear conscience, and now Paul was doing likewise. He could be making reference to his immediate family but more likely to his Jewish ancestors—Abraham, Isaac, Moses and so on.)

5.      What spiritual heritage did Paul recall for Timothy? (Timothy’s father was most likely Greek and not a Christian, but that didn’t stop his mother and grandmother from having a tremendous influence in his spiritual life.)

A recent Barna Group study cited the following statistic. “If a child becomes a Christian it may impact his family for Christ 31% of the time. If the mother becomes a Christian it may impact the family for Christ 48% of the time. However, if the father becomes a Christian it may impact the family for Christ 84% of the time.”

Of course, it is important for everyone to accept Christ but when we reach the man of the house we have a greater opportunity to reach virtually the whole family.

6.      What impact does experiencing and leaving a godly heritage make within a family structure? (It leaves a godly witness to the next generation as well as the culture around you.)

7.      How is a person’s spiritual growth impacted by the lives of others? (We see the result of lives that are live for God’s glory and those lives that do not honor God. The difference in the peace and joy reflected in those lives witness to God’s grace.)

8.      Paul demonstrated the value of investment in the body of Christ. How does the investment by others in our lives help us to model sincere faith? (The investment others make gives us encouragement as we live our lives for God. There is also a sense that our life of faith would also be an investment in their lives. This mutual support and encouragement builds the faith of the entire Christian community.)

9.      Can you name some specific people who have impacted your life for Christ?

Our challenge is to emulate the example our mentors have been to us and share our faith with our own children and grandchildren.

 

Just as Timothy demonstrated sincere faith that came through the investment of prior generations, Paul encouraged Timothy to use his gifts to follow the Lord and keep the fire of ministry burning brighter. Perhaps because of his youth and the sharp criticism Timothy was getting from the older false teachers Timothy’s fervor had lost momentum. Paul wanted Timothy’s ministry at Ephesus to be stirred into a blazing flame of godly leadership.

Gifted! Read 2 Timothy 1:6-7

 

1.      What are the dangers of relying on our own strength and abilities to complete a God-given task? (We will ultimately fail without God’s strength.)

2.      How can we tell the difference between relying on our own strength and God’s strength? (In our own strength we quickly grow weary and see little results. In God’s strength we may not see fantastic results immediately but we will be energized through utilizing the spiritual gifts God has showered us with.)

The giftedness of believers begins at our conversion. All believers are gifted and are responsible for the discovery and use of their gifts to benefit the body of Christ.

Paul’s reference to “laying on of my hands” was most likely at Timothy’s ordination service mentioned in 1 Tim. 4:14. There the elders placed their hands on Timothy recognizing God’s call on his life to the ministry.

3.      Why do we often fear doing what the Lord calls us to do? (It is beyond our capabilities and our faith is weak. We are looking at ourselves and not God to accomplish the task.)

4.      Based upon these verses, with what does the Lord promise to replace our fears?

God has given us power, love, and sound judgment. One commentary explains these three qualities as follows: “These three qualities given by the Holy Spirit are complementary. Power that is exercised without love and sound judgment can become tyranny. Without power, love can lack strength. Power and love without sound judgment can be misguided. Only power exercised with love and sound judgment can accomplish God’s purposes in His churches.”

 

Paul’s final word of encouragement to Timothy in this letter was for him to remain unashamed of the call to share the gospel.

Unashamed! Read 2 Timothy 1:8-12

 

1.      To get a clear understanding of why Paul endured suffering we need to look at verse 12. What had been entrusted to Paul? (The privilege of sharing the mystery of the gospel as a “herald, apostle, and teacher.”)

2.      When Paul says “until that day” what is he talking about? (Either Christ’s return or Paul being called to his Heavenly home, whichever comes first.)

In Paul’s perspective, his suffering was part of his call to share the gospel. And the thing that made the suffering bearable was his reliance upon the power of God. Furthermore, Paul provided an interlude describing how we rely on God for salvation.

3.      Why do Christians need reminders that we shouldn’t be ashamed of the gospel of Jesus Christ? (As Christians, we’re at odds with the secular culture, which tries to belittle, bully, and stigmatize our choices in order to minimize our impact and influence. Too often we ignore the persecution of other Christians when we aren’t directly affected; however, sharing in Christ’s suffering also means supporting fellow believers through trials.)

4.      How is God’s plan for redeeming His creation tied to a person’s purpose? (God’s ultimate purpose for every Christian is to be used to spread the gospel so others will come to know Jesus as Lord and Savior just as we do! Our spiritual gifts are different but the goal is the same: sharing the gospel with the lost.)

Paul exhorted Timothy in verse 8 not to be ashamed. Paul wasn’t just giving Timothy a pep talk; instead, Paul was able to share his own personal experiences and knowledge that the Lord would be with him and give him peace and joy in pursuing Christ in his life.

5.      What is the relationship between confidence in the gospel and one’s willingness to share the gospel? (We must believe that the gospel is the power of God unto salvation. We are only responsible for sharing the gospel, God does the rest!)

Read Romans 1:16. The truth of the gospel should instill confidence in the believer!

6.      How does our attitude toward suffering dictate our abilities to withstand it? (Although we glory in the cross, when we’re in the midst of suffering it doesn’t feel or look particularly glorious. Embracing the big picture of suffering helps us to bear up under it. Understanding that God is the ultimate guardian of our faith empowers us to do our parts. We stand up under pressure as people protecting a sacred trust.)

Read 2 Tim. 1:8-10

The gospel was in God’s plan through grace before time began! Even though God knew we would sin, He had a plan to redeem us by giving His Son as our Sacrifice to conquer death and the grave. That is the mystery of the gospel!

 

After we reflect upon our call to share the gospel, we also realize there is the need to take the gospel to the next generation of believers.

Loyal! Read 2 Timothy 1:13-14

 

Paul commands Timothy to “Hold to the pattern of sound teaching” and “Guard...that good thing entrusted to you.”

Paul encouraged Timothy and the church not to get caught in things that can distract the church from sharing the gospel. Instead, he encouraged them to be loyal to Scripture and to the gospel.

1.      Why is it so important for believers to remain faithful in sharing the gospel? (We are never more than one generation away from paganism.)

2.      What are some things that get in the way of believers freely sharing the gospel with others? (Fear of rejection. Fear that we don’t know enough. Fear of persecution. We simply don’t have the mindset to share the gospel. In other words we never even think about sharing the gospel!)

 

Summarize and Challenge!

 

The main point of our study today: We’ve been called to be confident in the gospel in all circumstances.

·         The confidence we have comes from the godly heritage that has been provided by other believers, the gifts that the Holy Spirit has given us to be used sharing the gospel, and knowing that suffering builds confidence in the Lord.

·         We are to pursue the call to hold and guard the gospel in its truth.

Based on what you have heard today, what does confidence in the gospel look like in your life?

 

Read 2 Timothy 1:15-18

What could you do today to refresh someone?

 

Close with prayer!

Lasting Investments - 1 Timothy 6:6-19

A strong desire for material things seems to permeate other cultures around the world just as it does in the United States. One foreign missionary described his own family’s struggle with the temptation of materialism in a parable. He said, “When we answered God’s call to missions, we thought we were prepared to give up everything. We promised the Lord that we would be satisfied with a single donkey and a grass hut if we were in His will. Then we arrived on the mission field. We looked around and noticed that other folks had two donkeys and a two-story grass hut. We began to feel discontented with our one little donkey and small grass hut. Before we knew it, we started complaining that we deserved two donkeys and not just a two-story grass hut but also a detached garage on the side.”

 

1.      How would you describe the word “contentment”? (“A state of happiness and satisfaction.” “Quiet joy we feel when everything is going well.” “A state of peaceful happiness.”)

2.      What does it take to make you content?

In our study today Paul talks about people who have nothing; the trap the temptation for things lays out for us; and finally he talks about people who are wealthy. In the middle of our passage Paul challenges Timothy to fight the good fight!

 

True Contentment! Read 1 Timothy 6:6-10

 

1.      What equation did Paul present in verse 6? (Godliness + contentment = great gain.)

2.      How would you define godliness? (God likeness; being Christ-like.)

Here Paul is urging us to have a reliance on God that leads to a sense of satisfaction no matter the circumstances.

Read Philippians 4:11-13

3.      How was Paul able to be content regardless of the situation in which he found himself? (He trusted in Christ alone.)

Notice the context of verse 13. This verse is taken out of context many times. Here Paul is talking about being content and he has learned to be content no matter his situation because he draws strength from Christ! Notice this is a learned behavior. The sooner we learn it the better off we will be!

4.      What do you think the “”great gain” refers to in verse 6? (Fruit of the Spirit: love, peace, joy, gentleness, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, self-control; pleasing to God; spiritual blessings; life with purpose; reflecting Jesus to others; etc.)

5.      Why is material wealth often a stumbling block to godliness? (Our priorities are just backwards. When godliness is our first priority we will find contentment in our situation. Not that it is bad to strive to better our financial situation but that isn’t our top priority.)—the Rich Young Ruler from the Bible is a good example! Matt. 19:16-30; Mk 10:17-31; Luke 18:18-30.

6.      What happens to those people who have a deep desire to be rich in worldly possessions? (See verse 9: ruin and destruction.)

Paul didn’t state that money is evil. (Read verse 10). Having money isn’t the same as loving money; however, Paul warned that loving money is a trap that plunges people into destruction. Therefore, believers must be careful not to fall into this temptation.

7.      What signs in a believer’s life indicate that money is becoming an idol? (Debt, especially accumulated for unnecessary things, may be an indicator. Well-paying jobs that regularly take us away from church and the community of faith may be a sign that we love money.)

8.      Note that the “love” of money is the root of all kinds of evil. What kinds of evil come to your mind that love of money might lead to? (Lying, stealing, cheating, placing money before God, my family and others, etc.)

Wealth and possessions can actually lead a person away from the faith. Godliness, not material gain, should define all of us as believers. It is more than correct teaching; it is living life according to that teaching. When it comes to godliness and contentment, money and material possessions are not bad; they are just irrelevant. Ecclesiastes 5:10 tells us that those who love money are “never satisfied.” Finding a place of contentment means we can live with less instead of more.

Love of money has led to the destruction of scores of marriages and families when someone chases wealth instead of relationships.

 

True Riches! Read 1 Timothy 6:11-16

 

Paul not only warned Timothy to flee from a love of money but also told him what to pursue instead.

1.      What significance do Paul’s descriptors of running and fighting tell us about the goal of achieving true riches? (Running and fighting, even the good fight, imply proactive effort, not just sitting back and waiting for it to come to you.)

While salvation isn’t earned by our good works, taking hold of eternal life suggests that we live with an eternal perspective as we resist the false teachers and live with purpose!

2.      What was Timothy to run from? (Those things that might ensnare him in materialism. He is to live in contrast to the false teachers.)

3.      What are the dangers of focusing only on restrictions (what to flee from) and not studying what God wants us to pursue?

4.      How can guidance on what to pursue help a believer avoid temptation? (See Matthew 6:24

Earlier in this chapter Paul mentioned envy, quarreling, slander, evil suspicions, and constant disagreements. In Galatians 5:19-21 he lists a few more evidences of not being under the Holy Spirit’s control: sexual immorality, moral impurity, promiscuity, idolatry, sorcery, hatreds, strife, jealousy, outbursts of anger, selfish ambitions, dissensions, factions, envy, drunkenness, carousing, and so forth!

5.      What qualities did Paul exhort Timothy to “pursue” or run toward? (Righteousness, godliness, faith, love, endurance, and gentleness.)

6.      How can we live our lives filled with these qualities? (Keeping our focus on Jesus, the Author and Finisher of our faith. Matt. 6:33 “Seek ye first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things will be provided for you.”)

7.      How much of yourself have you yielded to Jesus’ control?

Although we don’t know exactly what Paul meant by the command in verse 14, we can clearly see the persistence and the faithfulness of Jesus are expected of Timothy—and of us!
Be faithful to the end. As is typical of Paul, when he began to think about the God who will bring salvation to completion at Christ’s appearing, he broke out into a doxology of praise!

 

Stewards of Good Works! Read 1 Timothy 6:17-19

 

While verses 6-10 warn against a pursuit of wealth, verses 17-19 give instructions on how to use the wealth one has. Both, however, warn against putting your hope and security in wealth instead of in God.

 

While many of us might not consider ourselves to be rich, most Americans are indeed rich, relative to the rest of the world. God is our only certain hope in the world, and He is the Source of all that we have.

1.      How would you summarize Paul’s instructions to those who were rich? (Use what God has given you to bless others. God expects all of us to share with others regardless of our level of wealth.)

2.      Rather than be arrogant, conceited, or greedy, what are we to do? (Do what is good; be rich in good works; and be generous, willing to share.)

3.      What is the result of that kind of lifestyle? (Life that is real with meaning and purpose. We are purchasing things that will go with us into eternity. We can’t take those material things with us, but good works and generosity will follow us into eternity. Good works and generosity can’t earn salvation but it is clear evidence of a changed life.)

4.      What are some ways you can be rich in good works with what you have?

There is nothing wrong with pursuing a high-paying career and a believer should work to be as successful in his or her career as they possibly can. 1 Cor. 10:31 “So whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God.”

5.      In what ways can a person leverage his or her financial resources to spread the gospel and strengthen the church? (Through our tithes and offerings. Helping those who are in financial need, when God leads us to do so.)

 

Summarize and Challenge!

 

How does your budget show trust in God?

·         Prioritizing good works above worldly success will please God and point others to Him.

·         Calculating how you spend your time will help you determine your priorities and what might need adjustment.

·         Tracking your expenditures over time can reveal whether you’re pursuing wealth at the expense of godliness. When do you have enough?

·         Rating yourself when it comes to sharing and generosity will reveal where your heart is.

 

Our attitude toward money speaks volumes about our walk with Christ. Which concerns me more: how much money I have or how much of me God has?

 

Prayer.

Being Responsible - 1 Timothy 5:1-21

For the last several weeks we have dealt, for the most part, with Paul’s challenge to Timothy and the church at Ephesus to deal with false teachings and false teachers.  This week we change our focus and talk about the church’s responsibility in caring for widows who have no means of support. We will also talk about the church’s responsibility in regard to taking care of pastors.

 

1.      Think for a moment about some memorable families from television or movies. What are some that come to your mind? (Father Knows Best; Andy Griffith Show; The Partridge Family; Everybody Loves Raymond; I Love Lucy; The Sound of Music; The Middle; The Crosby Show; All in the Family; etc.)

2.      Are there any of these families that you would like to join? Why or why not?

A Google search revealed many more shows about families than I listed, but most of which I was not familiar with. Families aren’t made up of perfect people and neither is the church.

3.      Do you believe that there is an expectation that the church can function with less conflict than a typical family?

To run smoothly, a family needs mutual respect among its members. While we may not have experienced this ideal in our own families, we can understand its importance. In providing instructions on how to treat fellow believers, those in need, and those in leadership within the church, Paul compared the church to a family.

The importance of relationships and how we deal with them properly cannot be overstated within the family as well as the church!

 

Key question to consider today: What role should the church play in caring for the needs of people in the community?

 

Consider 2 Thessalonians 3:7-10.

 

Respect All! Read 1 Timothy 5:1-2

 

1.      How would you describe the different ways Paul counseled Timothy to treat the members of the church of different gender and different ages? (Treat them as he would his own family members, each with the respect, honor and purity due them.)

Choosing encouragement as the method for urging older men in righteousness respects their age and experience and prevents a younger leader from falling into the trap of arrogance. The implication here is that if an older man needs to be corrected on an issue it should be done in private with encouragement.

2.      What role do church leaders have in the spiritual care of others? (Defining the church as a family relationship implies an inherent and equivalent structure to the home where love, care, and respect for one another take precedence.)

Consistently treating women like mothers and sisters entails a level of courtesy and respect that naturally creates harmony and dispels suspicion.

3.      How does the way we approach a person impact his or her willingness to listen?

4.      How can a person balance sternness and love? (ALWAYS speak with respect and love—even when it is difficult.)

 

People have a responsibility for caring for those in their family. In the following verse, Paul explained how this responsibility applied to both the traditional family and to the church family when it came to caring for widows.

Although our English word widow refers to a woman whose husband has died, the Greek word for widow describes a woman who may have lost her husband by death, incarceration, or desertion.

Care for Widows! Read 1 Timothy 5:3-8

 

Paul outlined requirements for which widows should receive support from the church.  Paul was establishing the case for discernment and wisdom in utilizing church resources for widows. To support a widow who clearly traveled the path of self-indulgence would not only represent unwise stewardship, it would also enable the widow to continue in her sin.

1.      Why do you suppose Paul spelled out such detailed instruction for the care of widows? (The plights of widows, especially aging women who do not have the earning power to be self-sufficient, remains a crisis of care for those who find themselves in that situation.)

The directions for widow care is more evidence of God’s compassion for the underdogs of this world and should be a warning to be careful how we treat them.

When there is a widow in need, rather than accuse God of being cruel, thank God for the opportunity and the means to be a blessing to others.

2.      What principles should be followed today for the care of widows? (God holds family members accountable to serve as the first responders in caregiving for widows. Leading the church to accept responsibility to help care for faithful widows who have no family is a demonstration of God’s compassion.)

3.      How can the leadership of the church determine the best use of resources while also extending grace and mercy to those in need? (Here in our church care given to individual widows is kept very private and confidential to avoid any embarrassment. While at the same time verifying the need is a genuine need.)

4.      What do the stern words Paul reserved for negligent family members tell you about how seriously God takes these relationships? (When we ignore the needs of our family whom God has entrusted to our care, our failure ranks with denying a dying Christ on the cross. Not accepting obligations of care puts us on the same level as unbelievers, who may be ignorant of their moral obligations.)

5.      Where is the line between family expectations and church responsibility?

6.      How can they partner in a way that is fair to both?

To fail to take care of our aging parents is to be disobedient to the 5th Commandment—“Honor your father and mother.”

In 1 Timothy 5:9-16 Paul gives some specific qualifications for widows to receive assistance from the church.

Care for Pastors! Read 1 Timothy 5:17-21

 

1.      Why would Paul include pastors as a special class of people who are entitled to the care of churches? (Hard work deserves its reward. For pastors called to full-time ministry, the church provides for him and his family. They are essentially “on call” 24 hours a day and spend their time studying and preparing for their teaching and preaching assignments. All the while ministering to the church family. They have dedicated their lives to serve the church and usually haven’t had other opportunities to amass financial support.)

2.      Do you believe it is more difficult or easier to lead a church today than it was thirty years ago? (The answer to this question is dependent on the congregation and the longevity of the pastor to some extent. Our society is certainly more difficult to reach today than it was 30 years ago.)

Paul discussed three areas of care for our pastors: financial support and respect; rejection of unsupported accusations; rebuke and fair discipline for supported accusations.

3.      When dealing with church leaders, what specifics did Paul give about the unique pastoral role? (1-Refusing to entertain unsupported accusations prevents the leader from being needlessly derailed by false accusations or determined critics. 2-Discipline that’s warranted but redemptive serves as an example to others and a striking reminder that not one is above God’s laws, and we all have a way back into God’s favor.)

By taking to heart Paul’s reminder to avoid prejudice and favoritism, we stand a much better chance of avoiding church-wide conflicts and managing our relationships with our leaders.

 

Summarize and Challenge!

 

How can we know we’re meeting our obligations to the people whom God entrusted to our care?

-Paying attention to the special classes of people that Paul highlighted in this passage helps us respond appropriately with the care that God expects us to provide

-Reviewing our relationships inside and outside of the church and looking for signs of neglect, indifference, or division will help us focus on those who need attention.

-Having concern for those who should receive special considerations for care will help us meet our spiritual obligations.

 

Review your obligations to others, especially in the church.

1.      Do you treat them as Paul directed Timothy?

2.      Think about the widows you know, especially church and family members. How can you and the church further provide for their care?

3.      How can your church effectively honor and support your pastors?

 

Close in prayer, thanking God for the godly leadership of our church. Ask God to encourage and protect them in their ministry.

Staying on Course - 1 Timothy 4:1-13

(Lesson Prepared by John Black)

   Last Sunday Paul affirmed those who wanted to be leaders in their local church, particularly the men who desired to be overseers, or pastoral leaders. Paul listed the qualities required of those wishing to serve as pastors. Then he listed the qualities required of those wishing to serve as deacons. Those who serve well gain respect and approval from the believing community. They display a spiritual confidence before God and before people. This is reflected as bold service to God’s people and others.

 

   Today Paul explains that false teachers will rise in the last days and will cause some to fall away from the faith. Paul reminds us that the things forbidden by false teachers are the things created by God for us and with a God-honoring purpose. We will see Paul challenge Timothy (and us) to be disciplined in our lives. As Christians, we are to focus on teaching the gospel and be the Christian example so others will want to have the same godly life we live.

 

Fruits, vegetables, and lean meats vs fried or junk foods?  Which are best? Which are more tempting? Which puts us at risk? Some foods appear healthy at first glance but may be full of preservatives that have their own detrimental effects. How does our diet compare to spiritual food? A healthy diet of fresh foods provides energy, strength, and preserves physical lives in the same way that God’s pure Word energizes, strengthens, and preserves our spiritual lives. A junk food diet leads to an unhealthy lifestyle just as false teachers of the Word lead us to unhealthy spiritual living.

   Let’s see how Paul stresses to Timothy the importance of living with the proper spiritual diet.

 

Read 1 Timothy 4:1-5 “Be Aware”

   Paul did not indicate the means by which the Spirit revealed the warning, whether by Scripture or prophetic revelation. The means does not really matter as Paul believes the message was clear. “In later times” refers to the period between Jesus’ ascension and His second coming, also known as the church age. In Paul and Timothy’s time this was a period of spiritual conflict with the enemies of Christ. I think you will agree that this struggle is just as relevant for today’s believers as it was for Christians in the first-century.

   How did Paul describe false teachers and false doctrine? Paul said they were deceitful spirits and demons. They were liars with their consciences seared.

   Why should we take the misdirection of false teachers seriously? The desire to pervert God’s teachings stems from something much more sinister than simple confusion or doubt; it is the byproduct of those who have rejected the faith and been led astray by the demonic.

 

 

 

   How can we distinguish false teachings from truth? Get your bible, know the bible, and believe the bible. False doctrines often apply additional, unnecessary burdens to God’s laws. If a teaching contradicts the bible, it is false. They may contradict God by compelling the rejection of God’s good gifts, beginning with the commonplace, such as certain foods, but ending with matters of eternal consequences, salvation.

   How is verse 4 tied to warnings about false teachers? Paul reinforced the stipulation that God’s gifts (which included foods) were not to be rejected by His people but rather received with thanksgiving. Paul’s argument was against false teachers who demanded ill-advised dietary restrictions for improper reasons. Neither eating nor abstaining from eating in itself draws people closer to God (1 Cor. 8:8-9). Marriage was another area that Paul viewed as a God-given relationship that was to be enjoyed and honored. Because God is good, He dispenses good things from His hands. Instead of being controlled by fear of false teachers, we control things as we accept God’s gifts with thanksgiving and prayer.

   So, with these verses, Paul explains that false teachers will rise before Jesus’ second coming and will cause some to fall away from the faith. He also reminds Timothy that the things forbidden by the false teachers are things created by God with God-honoring purpose.

 

Read 1 Timothy 4:6-10 “Be Disciplined”

   Paul warned Timothy about false teachers in verses 1-5. Now he encourages Timothy to focus on growing in godliness. Doesn’t this apply to us in our world today? We must stay clear of false or speculative teachings and focus on godliness and the gospel.

   What practical steps should we take to counter false teaching? In order to identify and discard false teachings we must have a methodical, regular study of God’s Word. It seems that there are always new foolish ideas proclaimed as spiritual truths, so we should know enough true Gospel to avoid them.

   What is Paul telling us by comparing spiritual growth to body building? We know Paul uses sports analogies many times in his writings. Perhaps he is thinking of the “no pain”, “no gain” of athletes to living out the gospel with long-term goals for spiritual health. To recognize and avoid the new foolish false teachings we must have a regular regimen of God’s Word just as athletes have regular regimens of exercise.

   Here, Paul called on Timothy to be disciplined in his life and challenged other believers to do the same. Instead of turning to speculative teachings, believers are to focus on godliness and the gospel.

 

Read 1 Timothy 4:11-13 “Be an Example”

   Can the Word of God convince and thrive without godly examples? No. Without a godly example and left to our own choices, we would probably choose the ways of a sinful world. The Word of God thrives because someone presented us with a godly example and we were convinced to follow that particular life style. We are, in turn, to be that godly example for those who follow us.

   

 

 

   What did Paul instruct Timothy to do? He was to focus on teaching the gospel and as others saw the godly life he lived, they would want to hear and learn more. Some say Timothy was in his thirties about this time. The advantages of youth might be fresh, strong voices while the more mature resonate with life experience, but all may share in the gospel. Just as Timothy was set apart, God has anointed each of us for purposes He expects us to fulfill.

   Paul is guiding Timothy to make spiritual progress, so how should we measure our spiritual progress today? Be self-aware. Your spiritual progress affects more than just you; it has a ripple effect that spreads to everyone in your direct sphere of influence as well as to unknown people and touchpoints. Pay attention to feedback from others. When others ask for your counsel or thank you for encouraging words, they have observed your life and been impacted by it.

 

Summary: Believers must be nourished on God’s Word so we will know the truth.

·         We must be aware that false teachers will try to lead us astray.

·         We must be disciplined in our lives, seeking to honor God though living out the gospel.

·         We must remain focused on God’s Word to be an example of godly living.

Setting the Example - 1 Timothy 3:1-13

1.      What qualities do you value in leaders? (Include leaders from all sectors: political, business, work, sports etc.)

2.      Consider the most effective or healthy church that you’ve personally experienced. What were some characteristics of the leader (pastor)? (They not only assume responsibility for leading the church’s ministries and mission, but the pastor serves as an example of a well-lived Christian life.)

3.      How are the requirements for church leadership similar and different from other leadership positions?

4.      Should church leaders be held to different standards than other leaders? Why or why not?

The impact of godly pastors goes far beyond the church body to reach an observant community.

Paul specified high standards for church leaders knowing that their influence would go beyond the local body of believers they served.

 

A Pastor’s Heart! Read 1 Timothy 3:1

 

Paul is saying here that what is to follow is trustworthy and a non-negotiable truth. The word “overseer” is synonymous with “pastor,” “elder,” and “bishop” in the New Testament. Certainly Paul isn’t talking about selfish ambition but one who strongly feels the leadership of the Holy Spirit calling him to such a ministry.

(Distribute Pack Item 9—Models of Church Structure.)

There is a link between godly pastors and healthy churches!

1.      Because pastors are held in such high regard, does that mean every Christian should aspire to join the ranks of church staff? (The understanding that the church achieves maximum impact under visionary, faithful leaders can be a powerful reason to consider whether God is calling you to be a pastor. Discerning that God has placed a call on your life for pastoral leadership demands that you respond in obedience.)Why is it important for every believer to seriously consider the role God wants him or her to fulfill in His work? (We are all called to serve in the Body of Christ—the Church. Each person should seek the leadership of the Holy Spirit in finding their role in the Kingdom.)

 

A Pastor’s Character! Read 1 Timothy 3:2-7

 

Paul has a lot more to say about the character of a pastor than he does about the actual job of being a pastor.

Notice how Paul begins and ends this passage: “He must be above reproach…” and “he must have a good reputation among outsiders…” This doesn’t mean he is sinless but his overall character is one that is highly thought of throughout the community. Paul framed his list here in 1 Timothy and in Titus 1:6-9 with statements about a church leader’s reputation.

(Hand out the list of qualifications for church leaders attached at the back of this lesson plan. Cover the list for pastors with the class.)

1.      Why is it so important that the church call godly qualified pastors? (God has deemed the position of pastor as one to hold both honor and responsibility; the stakes are too high for casual commitment. Carelessness in the pastorate may result in great damage within the church.)

A church in the hands of an untrustworthy pastor opens the gospel to scrutiny and doubt by the community it’s supposed to serve. Meanwhile, the eternal salvation of people is at stake.

2.      What insights may we gain from the detailed list of qualifications for being a pastor? (Although every person can be deemed a sinner, being “above reproach” means the pastor can’t be labeled or defined by a certain kind of prevalent sin but instead exhibits ongoing sterling character.)

Some of the qualifications point to a practical skill set that serves pastors well in ministry: able to teach, a friendly and generous host, a capable manager. A good family manager has learned to prioritize marriage and parenting faithfully. The church is often compared to a family; therefore, someone who manages a family well will have insights into managing a church.

 

3.      What impact does the reputation of a church leader have among unbelievers? (If a church leader has a bad reputation among unbelievers the gospel suffers and the church will not reach people in the community. A bad reputation is talked about among the community much more than a good one. The Devil sees to that!)

4.      How can we help our pastor consistently achieve these good character qualities?

 

A Deacon’s Character! Read 1 Timothy 3:8-13

 

The word deacon means “one who serves.” This could include things like serving meals, caring for the needy, and freeing up apostles (or pastors today) to focus on prayer and preaching. Acts 6:1-7 records the first record of “deacons” being selected by the church for the specific reasons listed above.

A close examination of the character qualities listed for pastors and deacons reveals there is not a lot of difference in the two lists.

1.      Examine the list of qualifications for pastors and deacons and compare it with the expectations for every Christian. In what ways are the qualifications for pastors and deacons different from qualities for all believers?

2.      How are they similar?

3.      How would you say the references to the wives of church leaders should be applied in church life? (The command to be faithful in everything paints the portrait of a balanced, godly woman who maintains good relationships with her family, church, workplace, and community.)

While there’s room for debate on how to interpret the prerequisite that pastors and deacons should be the husbands of but one wife, that interpretation rightfully belongs to the local church to decide.

4.      How has your understanding of church leadership changed as a result of this study?

Godly behavior is to be expected of all church members, regardless of role or gender.

5.      Read verse 13. Matthew 20:28 tells us that Jesus did not come to be served but to serve. How does faithful service honor God?

Memorizing these verses will help us all remember the importance of service in God’s kingdom!

 

Summarize and Challenge!

 

1.      Understanding the focus these positions have been given in Scripture, how much attention should a church give when selecting leaders? (Due diligence requires that churches lovingly, but carefully, examine the lives of potential leaders before calling them. Knowingly compromising on any standards risks compromising the gospel in the eyes of other believers and unbelievers.)

Upholding the standards as they have been defined by Scriptures puts the church in a position of trust and safeguards its future.

2.      What are some ways we can encourage our pastors and their families? (Prayer. Words of appreciation and affirmation.)

3.      What do you need to do as a result of this study?

 

Personal challenge: Evaluate yourself on your own Christlikeness, and then through prayer ask God to evaluate you, too.

 

Pray for our church’s leaders and consider ways we can bless their faithfulness. Don’t forget their families as well; we can give them words of affirmation as well!

 

Qualifications for Pastors and Deacons

 

1 Timothy 3:1-13

·         Above reproach

·         Husband of one wife

·         Self-controlled

·         Sensible

·         Respectable

·         Hospitable

·         An able teacher

·         Not addicted to wine

·         Not a bully

·         Gentle

·         Not quarrelsome

·         Not greedy

·         Manages his own house hold competently

·         Having his children under control

·         Not a new convert

·         Must have a good reputation among outsiders

·         Worthy of respect

·         Not hypocritical

·         Holding the mystery of the faith with a clear conscience

·         First be tested, if blameless then they may serve

·         Wives must be worthy of respect not slanderers

·         Wives exercise self-control

·         Wives faithful in everything

 

Expectations for every Christian

 

Ephesians 5:6-18; Philippians 1:27; 2:14-16; Colossians 3:5-13

·         Don’t become partners with deceptive people

·         Walk as children of light

·         Walk in Goodness

·         Walk in Righteousness

·         Walk in Truth

·         Discerning what is pleasing to the Lord

·         Don’t participate in the fruitless works of darkness

·         Expose darkness

·         Walk not as unwise people but wise

·         Don’t be foolish; Understand what the Lord’s will is

·         Don’t get drunk with wine; Be filled by the Spirit

·         Live a life worthy of the gospel of Christ

·         Stand with one spirit and one mind

·         Working side by side for the faith

·         Do everything without grumbling and arguing

·         Be blameless and pure

·         Children of God who are faultless in a crooked and perverted generation.

·         Hold firmly to the message of life

·         Put to death your worldly nature

·         Put away sexual immorality; Put away impurity; Put away lust; Put away evil desire; Put away greed; Put away these for they are idolatry

·         Also put away all the following: anger, wrath, malice, slander, and filthy language from your mouth

·         Do not lie

·         Be renewed in knowledge according to the image of your Creator

·         Put on heartfelt compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience.

·         Accept one another and forgiving one another.

“Just as the Lord has forgiven you, so you must also forgive.”    

Col. 3:13b

On Mission - 1 Timothy 2:1-15

            One of my favorite athletes is Bob Mathias. He was a two-time Olympic gold medalist in the decathlon. He won his first Olympic gold medal at the age of 17 in 1948. He repeated his feat four years later. At one point during the two-day event he began to notice the other athletes were watching him and doing what he was doing. So he started doing things like taking a drink of water every 10 minutes and watch as others would follow and do the same. They wanted to be like Bob.

            Whether or not we notice them, there are people watching us. As professing Christians others want to know if we are for real, or do we simply pay “lip service” to following Jesus as our Lord.

1.      What distinguishes a Christian from an unbeliever in the world?

·         A faith mind-set: Christians see the world through a spiritual prism that colors our thoughts and influences our ways.

·         Behaviors: Believers engage in a curious and peculiar mix of spiritual and religious rites. They go to church, worship, pray, tithe, and fast (at times for specific reasons).

·         Outward appearance: Our choices, for example, in clothing or entertainment often signify that we’re different.

Not only are our actions being watched but so are our attitudes and motives. People want to know if our Christian lives are real, so they watch.

2.      In what ways are Christians watched or judged differently than non-Christians?  (There are no expectations from the life of a non-Christian—there is no claim of faith or difference in their lives. Christians profess a faith in God and there are expectations of an upright, moral lifestyle from a Christian!)

In 1 Timothy 2 Paul gives instructions regarding how Christians are to represent God in this world!

 

Read 1 Timothy 1:18-20. Here now in chapter 2 is how you are to begin to engage in battle!

Through Prayer! Read 1 Timothy 2:1-7

 

1.      What do we learn about the content of prayer from these verses?

·         Petitions: Prayers of supplication, as they asked God to act.

·         Prayers: All types of requests being made to God.

·         Intercessions: A word that suggests coming before an authority on behalf of someone else.

·         Thanksgiving: Offer thanks not merely for God’s blessings, but for God’s involvement with the people for whom they are praying.

2.      How are these various aspects of prayer related to each other?

3.      What do these verses reveal about the role of Jesus in our prayer lives? (He is the Mediator between us and the Father. He represents us before the throne of God!)

Jesus as mediator is providing a connection between the perfect God and flawed man, whereas a legal mediator works to resolve a connection between two flawed and sinful humans. Generally between two flawed and sinful humans they reach a compromise. There is no compromise between us and God, we yield to His sovereignty.

4.      Why did Paul instruct them to pray for those in authority over them when much of their persecution came from those very leaders? (God can and does change hearts. We are commanded to pray for our enemies—Matt. 5:44!)

5.      How does praying for our leaders change our view of them? (By praying specifically for people in positions of authority, we release God’s power to influence the influencers and usher in peace and stability for all. Praying for those in leadership deepens our appreciation for the responsibilities they carry; we better empathize with those we attempt to understand.)

By calling on the authority of the Lord with humility, we wield real, personal influence over those in positions of power.

6.      Why is praying for others so strategic for God’s kingdom? (Just as God breathed life into humans and then planned a way to salvage those broken lives, breathing prayers for others offers them a lifeline to salvation.)

 

Led By Godly Men! Read 1 Timothy 2:8

 

In this verse, the word used for “men” refers specifically to males.

One of our writers for our commentary this week wrote: Our passion for Christ can be gauged by our commitment to His mission. Our commitment to His mission can be measured by our faithfulness in prayer.

1.      Do you agree with this statement or not? Why?

2.      How can anger influence a person’s prayer requests?

3.      How does anger get in the way of prayer?

The phrase “lifting up holy hands” referred more to purity of the heart than to posture of the body.

4.      What signifies a pure heart? (A heart whose prayer is to be clean before God, new and fresh daily by cleansing through confession and repentance.)

5.      What qualities of leadership does God expect faithful men to model? (God needs male prayer warriors, but initiative in prayer means more than being ready and willing to offer up eloquent words. God wants all men who confess faith in Jesus to display a godly temperament of love and unity.)

 

Supported By Godly Women! Read 1 Timothy 2:9-15

 

Note Concerning verse 15: “This verse appears to suggest that salvation for women comes through childbearing.  Keeping in mind that all Scriptures are consistent, this interpretation would be in conflict with countless passages dealing with salvation through Christ alone.”—Leader’s Guide. We may not know exactly what Paul had in mind but we do know there is only one way to salvation, that is through faith in Jesus Christ alone.

One scholar states: “Regardless of the intricacies of various views, the thrust of the apostle’s argument is perfectly clear. Yes, woman was deeply involved in the apostasy of the human family, by yielding to Satan’s temptations and falling into deception.

Further, one aspect of her penalty is that certain leadership roles under the Christian regime are denied her. Be that as it may, she is not to despair. God still has many noble and valuable uses for his daughters-the most fulfilling of which is represented in the domestic talents with which she has been blessed so richly and beautifully.”

1.      What directions did Paul give to women in these verses? (Dress modestly; not with elaborate hairstyles, gold, pearls, or expensive apparel. Their beauty is to come from good works as is proper for Christian women. Learn in submission from the leadership God has placed in the church. A woman is not to exercise authority over a man by teaching for God placed men in these roles within the church.)

Before God, men and women are equal however each has a different role within the church. Jesus is equal to the Father as part of the triune Godhead, but His role is in submission as the Son to the Father!

2.      What did Paul seem most concerned with?

3.      How does the historical background of Ephesus impact your understanding of these directions? (The culture was very pagan and immoral.)

4.      In your own words, what does God’s call for women to represent Him in the world look like? (By nature of their God-given sex and gender, women who follow God have unique responsibilities for dress and demeanor as well as distinctive powerful privileges, such as childbearing and influencing other women and children.)

Although men and women are created equally in the image of God, they have been assigned to different roles. Paul identified male leadership as important to the church, but women, maintain vital roles in reaching people for the gospel as well. Understanding one’s respective roles by trusting God’s directives means we represent God well to a culture that needs clarity about who God is and how He loves them.

 

Summarize and Challenge!

 

We discussed: (PSG pg. 27)

·         Believers are to pray with a focus on the lost.

·         Godly men are to set the example when it comes to praying for others.

·         Godly women are mindful of how their dress and actions impact the witness of the church.

Each one of these statements pertains to a missional mind-set.

1.      Have Paul’s words challenged you to think more about living on mission?

2.      How can we be more intentional in praying for the salvation of others?

3.      In what ways can we consistently pray for the lost in our community? (Focus on people you know or are at least acquainted with on your block, at work or those you run in to occasionally.)

4.      How might adopting a missionary mind-set enhance your ability to represent Christ? (Missionaries live with intentionality. They maintain an acute awareness that they represent Christ to a culture that may not yet know Him but still pays attention.)

Taking to heart God’s call to pray for others offers them God’s care and love.

 

Grade yourself on your ability to represent Christ.

·         Are you praying for others as your should?

·         Have you accepted the role God assigned to you for representing God and leading others to Jesus?

·         To what degree are you a reflection of Christ?

Whether you need to make major or minor adjustments, start with daily prayer. Start with yourself and then, just as Paul directed, pray for others in small and big requests with thanksgiving, including asking for wisdom, direction, and protection for those in authority.

 

Entrusted - 1 Timothy 1:1-17

I have a Bible that has been passed down on my Dad’s mother’s side of the family. There are birth and death dates recorded. There is a receipt for 40 acres of land purchased in 1920. Having been protected in that Bible for all those years it looks as if it were signed yesterday. This Bible is precious to my family and has been passed down for safe keeping.

1.      What family treasures or traditions have been entrusted to you?

2.      How does the fact it has been entrusted to you foster a greater sense of responsibility to other family members?

We, as believers, have been entrusted with the gospel. Having received God’s grace, we’re called to share the truth of the gospel faithfully with others—pass it on in a sense.

(Give class members copies of Pack Item 10 and Pack Item 12.)

Most likely Timothy had become a Christian prior to meeting Paul. Once they did meet they established a very close relationship, even to the point that Paul referred to Timothy as his “true son in the faith”. They had traveled together and, likely due to Paul’s teachings, Timothy had become well grounded in the faith. Paul loved the church at Ephesus and was very concerned about the false teaching that was there inside and outside the church. Therefore, Paul instructed Timothy to stay in Ephesus and help set things right. Timothy would have to be kind and gentle but firm in his stance on correct doctrine.

The culture of Ephesus was strong in pagan idolatry, sexual immorality, and greed surrounding the temple of ‘Artemis, known as one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World. Paul called on Timothy to be strong and courageous in proclaiming the truth of the gospel in his cultural setting.

Read 1 Tim. 1:1-2

After his greeting, Paul got right to the point of his letter!

 

Accountable! Read 1 Timothy 1:3-7

 

1.      Why was Paul so concerned about what the false teachers were saying? (They were leading people astray. Christians could be misled into believing something that is false and non-believers could be led to depend upon their own works to save them.)

Briefly cover the three major heresies that were prevalent in Paul’s day. Legalism—adherence to the Jewish law makes one right with God. Antinomianism—Since we are saved by faith how we act doesn’t matter. We can sin all we want because we are under grace. Gnosticism—Special knowledge is more important than faith and there are different levels of Christians because some have received a divine spark as the elect of the good deity. They taught that a self-discovery experience that claimed to solve life’s mysteries and was enhanced by participation in rituals.

2.      From the verses we read what are the characteristics of each type of teaching—True Gospel Teaching and False Teaching?

Truth—goal is love; pure heart; good conscience; operates by faith. False—myths; endless genealogies; empty speculations; not God’s plan; fruitless discussion; they teach from ignorance.

Read Acts 20:29-30.

3.      How are the threats to the gospel message that Paul identified still risks today? (The desire to pollute the gospel by subtracting from it, adding to it, or inventing something entirely new appeals to everyone’s sinful natures. Getting sidetracked with intriguing ideas and speculative questions leads nowhere. Chasing different doctrines diminishes our wholehearted faith in the gospel message.)

I’m told experts are trained to recognize counterfeit currency by studying the real bills, not by looking at the false ones. If we know the true doctrine well enough we will easily recognize the false doctrine. That is why Bible study is so important from childhood through senior adulthood.

4.      Why is it important that we call out those who choose to teach a different doctrine? (Sound teaching depends on trusting in the complete authority of the Scriptures. Kindly and respectfully pointing out inconsistencies, misstatements, and errors is part of being obedient to speak the truth in love!)

5.      What responsibility does a teacher have to the people he or she teaches? (Study the Word, be properly prepared and teach the truth.)

6.      What responsibility does the person being taught have to the one teaching? (Study the passage before class and add to the discussion. Gently challenge any false teaching.)

 

In Light of the Gospel! Read 1 Tim. 1:8-11

 

The list of sins in these verses is not exhaustive. These are simply examples and finally in verse 10 Paul says and anything “else that is contrary to the sound teaching based on the glorious gospel…”

1.      What was the purpose of the law God gave? (To show us the holy life we were to live. But no one could live up to the law’s standards. Read Gal. 3:19-24; Rom. 7:7-14.)

2.      What does illegitimate use of the law look like? (The law may be used as a stumbling block when we use it to condemn others or fail to contextualize it.)

Tucked among the extraordinary sinners, such as murderers and kidnappers, are the petty, the irreverent, and the liars, which points back to the inclusive nature of a law that—outside of Christ—judges each of us as lawbreakers.

3.      How does the law point to the need for a Savior?

4.      How does Jesus provide what the law could not?

5.      Read 1 Cor. 15:20-22. How would you restate or explain the doctrine in one or two sentences? (What will happen to you when this body dies? The “default” setting is hell. You have to make a conscious choice to change it to Heaven by accepting Jesus as your Lord and Savior!)

6.      How does this doctrine impact your understanding of 1 Tim. 1:8-11?

 

In Response to His Grace! Read 1 Timothy 1:12-17

 

1.      What did Paul think about himself compared to every other person on earth? (He was the chief sinner. His picture of himself is the same picture each of us should have for ourselves. Far too often I’m looking at some else thinking I’m not as bad as that person. No! I’m worse!)

2.      What in Paul’s past made him think so lowly of himself? (On the road to Damascus Jesus appeared to him and asked why Paul was persecuting Him. I don’t think Paul could ever put that image out of his mind.)

3.      What do we learn about Christ from these verses?

4.      How did Paul’s past influence his understanding of the gospel?

5.      What role did mercy play in Paul’s salvation?

6.      What role did grace play in Paul’s salvation?

7.      Do you agree or disagree that it is essential to your testimony as a believer to be open about your past struggles? (Details are not necessary but we must face our past struggles to help us and others see the victory Christ has won in our lives.)

8.      Read verse 15. Why is this considered a non-negotiable truth? (This is the gospel! Without this truth we are forever lost!)

9.      What are some other non-negotiable truths of the gospel? (Faith alone. Christ alone. Christ died for my sin and was resurrected on the third day to secure my redemption.)

10.  What are indicators that a person truly recognizes their depravity and sinful state? (They are broken hearted over it.)

11.  How did Paul’s life become an exhibit of God’s grace and mercy?

12.  Why is a personal testimony such a rich and powerful tool for communicating the truths of the gospel? (Personal testimonies are always unique to individuals, but God extends the same mercy and grace that He gave to Paul to everyone who believes.)

 

Summarize and Challenge!

 

1.      Because God has called us to act as guardians of the gospel, what can we do to live out that responsibility?

2.      Have you taken time to write your testimony or rehearsed it verbally?

Father, help us to “study to show ourselves approved a workman who need not be ashamed rightly dividing the Word of truth.”              2 Tim. 2:15

Prepares - Mark 14:3-11, 32-36

Name some words that are opposite the following words: large/small; dark/light; rough/smooth; generous/greedy; betrayal/devotion-loyalty-faithfulness.

Describe an act of devotion that impresses you: (Elderly spouses who speak kindly to each other; parents who develop respectful relationships with adult children; neonatal nurses who walk alongside the parents of their patients; caregivers who willingly do whatever is required to take proper care of their mate or perhaps another relative.)

In today’s session, two contrasting responses to Jesus will be examined as we see a woman shows her devotion by sharing an extravagant gift and a greedy disciple!

 

As we have already learned, the events recorded in Mark are not necessarily in chronological sequence, although these events we will study today could have been in the order in which they occurred. We are in the final days just before Jesus crucifixion.

Misunderstood! Read Mark 14:3-5

 

Mark provides a picture of almost unbelievable generosity. We find Jesus in the home of Simon the leper. Leprosy usually resulted in isolation from the community and the temple, so it’s assumed that Simon no longer had the disease and may have been cured by Jesus. The woman boldly approached Jesus with her gift and poured it on Jesus’ head. A denarius was about the same as a day’s wage, so the perfume would have been almost a year’s worth of wages.

1.      How do you suppose the woman knew to do what she did?

2.      What frustrated the disciples? Was it really about wasting perfume and giving money to the poor? (If this is the same anointing recorded in John, then Judas was the one who complained the most, and we know his heart’s condition!)

3.      Why is it so easy to criticize the way others show devotion to Jesus? (Selfishness. Either I can’t, or am not willing to, show my devotion in such a manner.  Focus is on the individual and not on Jesus, the One being honored.)

4.      Why is this dangerous? (Our own worship and devotion to Jesus is misguided, or not given at all, because we are jealous of what someone else did.)

5.      When do you find it easiest to be generous?

6.      How would you respond if asked to give a year’s wages?

 

Honored! Read Mark 14:6-9

 

1.      Why did Jesus defend the woman? (Jesus used appreciation and truth to honor the woman.)

2.      How did His words relieve the tension in the room? (He characterized her act as preparation for His impending burial.)

3.      What actions might a person take that would receive the same response Jesus gave to this woman? (It’s not the act it’s the motive behind the act.)

4.      What role does a person’s motive play in the value of a worshipful action? (A couple of weeks ago we saw Jesus give praise to a poor widow who gave only two small coins. Here Jesus praises this woman for her extravagant gift. This should remind us that it’s not size of the offering but the condition of the heart!)

“It is a beautiful thing when the worth of Jesus and the love of his followers match—when the value of His perfections and the intensity of our affections correspond.” —John Piper

 

Betrayed! Read Mark 14:10-11

 

As one of Jesus’ disciples, Judas traveled with Him but still was willing to betray Him for short-term gain. Perhaps Jesus wasn’t meeting the expectations that Judas had for the Messiah, or maybe by betraying Jesus He revealed His greed for money!

1.      What is the difference between knowing a lot about Jesus and knowing Him personally? (We may know a great deal about a well known person like President Trump but we don’t know him personally. The contrast is even starker when talking about Jesus because Jesus can actually live in us through the Holy Spirit! That is intimate knowledge!)

2.      How does betrayal hurt both the betrayer and the betrayed? (Betrayal is diametrically opposed to devotion. Many betrayals are not overt; they come through lack of action. Betrayals borne of refusing to stand up for someone are equally destructive.)

Mark 14:12-31. After participating in the Passover meal, Jesus led His disciples to Gethsemane for prayer.

 

Committed! Read Mark 14:32-36

 

1.      How would you describe Jesus’ emotions in His prayer?

2.      How did Jesus honor the Father in the midst of His extreme emotions? (Jesus is both fully God and fully human. He had no advantage compared to any other human—Heb. 2:17, and had opportunity to choose to do rightly just like any other person.)

Distress and grief aren’t sins.

3.      What can we learn from Jesus about how to express devotion to God in the midst of our distress and grief?

4.      Think about Jesus’ willingness to submit to God’s plan. What does this reveal about God? (His plan is perfect!) About humanity? (Humanity wants its own way always.)  About the nature of sin? (Sin fights God to the very end.)

 

In Mark 14:37-52 we find the disciples sleeping, Judas completing his actions of betrayal, and Jesus’ disciples deserting Him. Jesus’ response to the situation revealed Scripture being fulfilled.

 

Summarize and Challenge!

 

1.      What are some ways people today betray Jesus with words or actions?

2.      When have you betrayed Jesus by your words or actions?

3.      Who can you ask to hold you accountable so you can avoid making those mistakes again?

Jesus submitted willingly to the Father’s plan.

He was misunderstood and betrayed, but He still chose to do the right thing. You and I have eternal life with the Father because of Jesus’ willingness to be obedient to the Father’s will.

 

Our challenge today is: Take time to confess privately times you’ve said spiritual-sounding words instead of choosing the devoted action. Talk with Jesus about how to obey Him and delight in that process. That’s how we get to know Jesus more intimately!

Promises - Mark 13:1-37

1.      Have you ever made a promise and had to break it? (Hopefully if we have had to break a promise it was due to circumstances beyond our control.)

2.      Who do you trust to fulfill a promise made to you?

Although the word “promise” isn’t used in our Scripture text today the predictions Jesus made to His disciples (and thereby to us as well) amounted to promises.

The events in Mark 13 were timely in that they occurred just a day or so before Jesus’ crucifixion—an event that seemingly left the disciples with no hope. This is one of only two chapters in Mark where an extensive block of the Lord’s teaching centered around a single theme. The other was back in chapter 4 where Jesus taught parables of the kingdom.

Chapter 13 has been called “the eschatological discourse” or “the prophetic discourse” and some call it “the Olivet discourse” because He taught it from the Mount of Olives.

A comment made by the disciples concerning the temple buildings started this entire discussion.

The chapter could be outlined as follows:

·         Destruction of the temple predicted. Occurred in 70 AD

·         Signs of the end of the age.

·         Persecutions predicted.

·         The great tribulation.

·         The coming of the Son of Man.

·         The parable of the fig tree.

·         No one knows the day or hour of the Lord’s return.

Because the chapter covers such a wide range of time and events we have some difficulty in understanding exactly how it all fits together. Our focus today will be on Jesus’ promise to return and knowing He will keep His promise.

Many of the events Jesus tells His disciples about were prophesied in the Old Testament—Daniel, Isaiah, Ezekiel and Joel for example. Once again proof these prophets wrote under God’s inspiration! Later the Apostle Paul in 1 Thessalonians deals with it also.

The promise of Jesus’ return gives us living hope! (I couldn’t help but to think about the Sadducees who don’t believe in the resurrection.)

 

Seen! Read Mark 13:24-27

 

1.      If you were to use just one word how would you say creation will respond at the end times? (Chaos! Complete disorder and confusion.)

Read Isa. 13:10; Ez. 32:7; and Joel 2:10, 31.

2.      What details can we learn about Jesus’ return from these verses? (Jesus’ return will be like nothing we’ve experienced; all people will see Him; Because we’ve never experienced it—similar to the disciples not having experienced the resurrection—we will certainly get some of the characteristics wrong.)

We need to focus on what we can know, such as even nature will change.

3.      Read Mark 13:26-27 again. How do you visualize the return of the Son of Man and what will happen upon His return?

4.      How would you contrast Jesus’ first coming (birth) with His second coming? (Poor-Ruler; Seen by few-seen by all; Birth announced to a few-proclaimed worldwide; Humility and service-great power and glory; etc)

5.      Read Daniel 7:13-14. Mark drew an example from Daniel to connect Jesus as the Messiah. How should His eventual return affect the way people live each day right now?

Verse 27 indicates that Jesus’ return will mean a time of restoration for the believer.  These events in the heavens announce the arrival of God’s righteous judgment.

 

Be Assured! Read Mark 13:28-31

 

1.      Why might Jesus have used a fig tree as an example? (Very common fruit tree in Israel. Everyone would understand exactly what He was talking about. The fig tree served as a reliable indicator of the seasons. Most of the other trees in the area did not lose their leaves in the winter, so the budding of the leaves of a fig tree promised that summer was approaching.)

In our area the blooming of the Bradford Pear tree might serve as a good example pointing to the onset of summer.

2.      What one thing can we be certain of from these verses? (Christians have been anticipating Jesus’ second coming since He departed the first time. No matter how long it takes, His Word is true and will come to pass.)

Verse 30 is a difficult verse to understand. Jesus said “This generation will certainly not pass away until all these things take place.” If He was referring to the destruction of Jerusalem, then He was talking about the generation of His disciples, but that is highly unlikely because it is so far removed in context. Some scholars believe He was talking about the “Christian Era.” The most likely and logical would be the generation living when the events of the great tribulation come to pass. Although a terrible time only that generation will have to endure those events.

3.      Because Jesus’ word and His return are certain, how should our behavior, attitudes, and words be impacted by His promise? (Even the way we speak to our spouses and kids will honor or dishonor Jesus. There isn’t an area of our life that will not be called into accountability.)

If love for Jesus doesn’t motivate us to do rightly, we should be motivated by the reality that we will bring before God both our selfish acts and our loving ones.

4.      Read Mark 13:31. How does this verse provide comfort for us today? (Regardless of what is going on around us Jesus’ words will come to pass. He is in complete control, even in the seemingly chaotic world we live in today!)

 

Stay Ready! Read Mark 13:32-37

 

1.      What key words do we find repeated in these verses? (“Be alert.”)

2.      Why would Jesus repeatedly remind His disciples to be alert?

Notice that when the master went away he gave his servants jobs to do.

3.      Do we ever have a job to do and put it off until it’s too late and we get caught short?

The message to the disciples is clear. They have a job to do before Jesus returns but they don’t know when He will return. Therefore, it is best to go about doing the Master’s will lest we get caught short.

4.      What would a day guided by watching and being alert look like? (We should live as though Jesus could come any hour, doing actions He would be proud of, but plan as though we’ll live on this earth until death.)

As Jesus shared with His disciples the need to stay alert, so we also must watch out and be alert!

 

Summarize and Challenge!

 

1.      What are some distractions that could keep a person from remaining alert and watchful?

2.      How can a person safeguard himself against these distractions?

3.      Think about challenges you’re currently facing. How does the promise of Jesus’ return give you hope when you face the identified challenges?

4.      How does the hope we talked about today provide comfort?

5.      How can you share this hope with others?

6.      What do you most anticipate about seeing Jesus come in His glory?

 

We all need to focus on our relationship with Jesus rather than getting hung up on details about what will happen first, second and third.

 

Even so come Lord Jesus!

Purifies - Mark 11:15-19; 12:41-44

1.      Have you ever backed out of your garage, driven about a block, and began to question whether you closed the garage?

2.      How many of you have gone back to check only to find that you had closed it?

3.      Has this happened more than once?

4.      Did you close your garage door when you left home today?

Sometimes actions become so automatic that we don’t even realize we’re doing them. It’s like our minds are on autopilot.

5.      When have you ever caught yourself going through the motions either at home, at work or during an important event?

6.      What makes simply going through the motions so dangerous? (The activity has lost its significance. There is no meaning to your actions.)

In today’s study some practices in the temple had become so commonplace that the people failed to see the problems and carried on business as usual with no thought as to its significance or true meaning. They were only concerned with what they were doing and not the impact their actions had on others and their worship.

 

Jesus made his triumphal entry into Jerusalem on Sunday. So the events we’ll focus on today occurred on Monday and Tuesday before Jesus’ crucifixion.

Cleansed! Read Mark 11:15-17

 

The court of the Gentiles was the entry point for Jews going into their main worship area, the only area open to the Gentiles, and a very high traffic area. It had become a place for trading rather than a place of worship. A place for personal gain rather than a place to honor God!

Remember, this is Passover week, so there were many more people in Jerusalem than would normally be there.

1.      What was actually happening in this area designed for Gentile believers? (Animals and doves were being bought and sold for sacrifice. For an animal to be used for sacrifice it had to be judged as perfect. Some scholars believe that as people brought their animals to be inspected by the priests they might be told it was not acceptable. In that case they would be offered the opportunity to purchase one that was acceptable. Especially this week, it was a very lucrative business.)

The money changers were there to exchange Roman coins for the Tyrian shekel. This was the coin required for every Jewish male to use to pay their annual temple tax.

2.      What words would you use to describe Jesus’ emotions? (Anger or righteous anger.)

3.      What did Jesus get mad about and how did He express that anger? (Anger at behavior that hurts people tends to be a godly use of anger. In this passage, Jesus stopped innocent worshipers from being taken advantage of.)

Jesus acted to stop wrongful behavior—stopping merchants from doing unfair business in the temple complex. It is almost like they had turned this area of worship into a stockyard!

4.      What gradual steps do you suppose contributed to this transformation? (The buying and selling was part of the worship process of bringing the right kind of financial and animal offerings. The placement of the merchants limited access to the temple, especially for Gentiles.)

5.      What did Jesus say was the proper use of His house? (Read Jer. 7:11 and Isa. 56:7. Remember Mark wrote his Gospel aimed at the Gentiles—“House of prayer for all nations.”)

6.      What are some ways we gradually move away from approaching God with reverence? (We use our Prelude music time as a time to visit with each other rather than preparing our hearts for worship. We get up and move around in our worship service like we are at a ball game.)

7.      Jews appeared to be going through the motions simply because they were Jews, not because they viewed the temple as a place set aside for worship. How might my “going through the motions” of worship hinder others from approaching God?

 

Feared! Read Mark 11:18-19

 

1.      What response did the chief priests and scribes have to Jesus’ actions?

2.      Why wouldn’t they do anything to Jesus at that time? (Jesus seemed to have the support of the crowd.)

3.      Why might the scribes have felt threatened by Jesus?

4.      What happens when someone begins to get into our “pocketbook”?

5.      What might motivate them to seek to silence Jesus and His message? (With the following of the people a revolt against the scribes and/or Rome could come about.)

6.      Do we ever try to silence Jesus’ message to our hearts?

 

Observed! Read Mark 12:41-42

 

1.      What are some feelings and motives the worshipers in these verses may have had? (Notice there is nothing here that indicated any negative feelings or motives. They may very well have had pure motives and genuine feelings of worship and gratitude to God.)

2.      How might the contrast between the rich people and the poor widow be deceiving to others watching?

3.      What are some ways people might use religious practices to gain recognition?

4.      Giving includes attitude, action, proportion, and motive. What else might be included in giving?

Some people give because they feel they “have” to give and don’t have a choice. Others feel they “get” to give to show their love and adoration for and to the Lord.

 

Commended! Read Mark 12:43-44

 

1.      Why did the widow put more into the treasury than all the others? (Often believers use their personal lack of wealth as an excuse for not giving an offering to the Lord.)

Notice Jesus didn’t say anything negative about what the rich people gave. We don’t know how Jesus knew they were rich other than perhaps the clothes they wore.

2.      What things do people trust for security?

3.      How might those things get in the way of them trusting God?

4.      What two tips would you share for giving in ways that honor the principles God’s Word teaches? (Tithe proportionally; give sacrificially; ask God what offering you should give.)

5.      How much of your income belongs to God? (All of it. He gives it to us and we should use it in ways that honor Him in every way. How we spend is as important as how we give.)

Sacrifice in our giving isn’t measured by how much we give but how much we have left!

 

In cleansing the temple Jesus removed the money changers so that they were no longer a distraction for worship. In sharing with the disciples, Jesus revealed that the sacrifice of the widow showed a heart for worship much more than the rich people giving out of their surplus.

 

Summarize and Challenge!

 

1.      What would Jesus clean from my temple?

2.      What thoughtful actions in everyday life would Jesus call attention to as acts of worship?

 

Worship goes far beyond one hour a week but is a giving of our lives, as described in Romans 12:1-2.

 

What might Jesus call attention to in you—not to tell others but to continue that thoughtful deed as an act of worshiping Jesus!