December 1, 2016 Bible Study — Using The Gifts God Has Given Us

I am using the daily Bible reading schedule from “The” for my daily Bible reading.


Today, I am reading and commenting on 1 Corinthians 12-14.

    Today’s passage is perhaps the best of the readings in this daily Bible reading schedule. Not because the passage is so much better than others, but because these three chapters are all on the same topic, AND Paul’s thoughts on the topic do not run over into tomorrow’s passage (not did they start in yesterday’s). The topic which Paul covers in this passage is spiritual gifts.
    Each and every one of us has received a spiritual gift from God. God has given us these gifts for the common good (how the NIV and the NASB translate it), or to help each other (as the NLT translates it). Paul makes it very clear that we should not expect that everyone has the same spiritual gifts. One of the most important parts for us to remember is that each and every one of us has the gifts which God has chosen to give us, and we have those gifts because the Church needs us with those gifts. If we fail to use our gifts, the Church will be missing something which it needs. The focus of Paul’s writing here is that we should not look down on others because they do not have “glorious” gifts, nor should we look down on ourselves. However, he is also pointing out that God has a plan for us with the gifts He has given us.


    Having compared the members of the Church to parts of the body, pointing out that the Church is the Body of Christ, Paul encourages us to seek the greater gifts. Then he proceeds to show us how to tell which gifts are greater. First and foremost the gifts we desire and strive for should be determined by our love for others. No matter what gifts we may have, if we do not have love for others, and use those gifts as expressions of our love for others, those gifts will do neither us nor anyone else any good. When we considering how we should use our gifts, Paul’s description of the characteristics of love in chapter 13 verses 4-7 should guide our actions:

Love is patient and kind. Love is not jealous or boastful or proud or rude. It does not demand its own way. It is not irritable, and it keeps no record of being wronged. It does not rejoice about injustice but rejoices whenever the truth wins out. Love never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful, and endures through every circumstance.

Paul goes on to point out that the usefulness of the spiritual gifts will end, but that love, faith, and hope will have value through eternity. From there he gives us an example how love will guide our desire for greater gifts. Paul shows us how the gift of prophecy is more valuable than the gift of speaking tongues. His reason why we should desire the gift of prophecy more than the gift of speaking in tongues is that, except under certain rare circumstances, the gift of prophecy will be of more use to others while speaking in tongues will enrich only ourselves.

November 30, 2016 Bible Study — Supporting Those In Ministry

I am using the daily Bible reading schedule from “The” for my daily Bible reading.


Today, I am reading and commenting on 1 Corinthians 9-11.

    I have never quite understood Paul’s argument here. The way I read it, he is making a case to establish his authority to give the Corinthian Church instruction. He then makes the case that he has the right to receive economic support (a place to stay, food, and have other expenses covered) from the Corinthian Church when he ministers in Corinth. While I do not understand how Paul’s claim to having a right to economic support supports his claim to authority, I do believe he makes a very good case that we should provide economic support to those called by God to the ministry. I believe that Paul gives us two important messages in this discussion.


    First, he tells us that we should provide material support to those called to ministry. Those whom God and the Church have called to ministry should be able to dedicate their lives to the ministry to which they have been called (I want to note that this includes pastors, but is not limited to pastors). We should strive to meet their economic needs to the best of our ability as a group. It is worth noting that this may involve offering them a place to stay in our homes and providing them meals rather than paying them money (although in the U.S. the latter is going to usually be the way which we should go). However, the second thing Paul tells us is that he never took advantage of his right to support by the Corinthian Church. This indicates to me that sometimes God calls people to minister without receiving support from those to whom they minister. This is a calling which can only be interpreted by the person who receives it. I do not believe it is ever my place to tell someone else that I believe they are called to minister while they provide their own support. I can say, an will say, that some people are so called, but I cannot say that a specific person is so called. If someone feels so called I can tell them that I think they are wrong, and I can help them analyze why they think they are so called. But in any case, only those who choose to refuse the support of those they minister should not receive such support and we should make every effort to make sure that they are adequately supported.


    Paul then circles back to his discussion about our freedom in Christ. He intermixes some theological ideas with practical advice. He does so because it is so easy to reach the wrong conclusion by making a small mistake in applying either. He returns to making the point that our bodies are joined with Christ so we should not join them in idolatry (it is worth noting that many idolatrous practices of that day involved sexual activity). The key message he makes is that we should not take part in idolatrous worship practices. However, if we are invited to an event of some kind we are free to take part in it, unless someone involved with it points out to us that is part of idol worship.
    In his example, Paul uses the idea of meat offered to idols, which is interestingly relevant once more. He tells us that we are free to eat whatever meat we buy in the market place, or which someone offers us, with no questions asked. If, however, someone points out to us that the meat was offered to idols, we should not eat it. How is this relevant? It has to do with controversy which has arisen recently regarding fast food restaurants and grocery stores selling meat which meats Muslim dietary standards. If we go into the store or restaurant and buy it with no particular notice being brought to the fact that it is halal (that is, that it meets Muslim dietary standards), we are free to consume it. On the other hand, if someone makes a big deal out of the fact that it is halal, we should refrain. A casual examination of halal requirements indicate that one of them is that the food be dedicated to the Muslim deity.


    There is a reason why I used the term “Muslim deity” rather than the word “Allah” above. Some people contend that Allah and the Christian God are the same being. I do know that many Bible translators translate the word God as “Allah” in Arabic and I understand why they do that. However, even if that may be a valid translation (and I do not know enough Arabic to know if there are any other options that would be better), if one looks at the characteristics of the god worshiped by Muslims and compare those characteristics to the God worshiped by Christians one quickly sees that these are not the same being. In reference to this, I like the way that C.S. Lewis put it in his Narnia series. There he said that if one does the things which Aslan(Jesus) calls us to do in the name of Tash(Allah), we are worshiping Aslan(God), no matter what name we use for Him. If on the other hand, we do the things which Tash(Allah) calls us to do in the name of Aslan(God), we are worshiping Tash(Alah), no matter what name we use for him.

November 29, 2016 Bible Study — Avoiding Sexual Sin

I am using the daily Bible reading schedule from “The” for my daily Bible reading.


Today, I am reading and commenting on 1 Corinthians 5-8.

    In today’s passage Paul gets into the meat of his reason for writing to the Corinthians (although that is not quite accurate since what he wrote in yesterday’s passage about division was part of the meat). Here he writes about, and condemns, a blatant sinner who the Corinthian Church not only tolerated but was bragging about. It appears that the Corinthian Church was bragging about how free they were and using this man as an example of their freedom. Paul points out that we are indeed free to do anything. However, he also tells us that just because we MAY do anything does not mean that we benefit from doing anything. In particular, Paul tells us that sexual sin is bad for us. Many people in the Church today gloss over what Paul is teaching here.
    While sexual sins often result in negative health effects, which is a reason why we should avoid them. However, the main reason we should avoid sexual sins is that they impact our mental and spiritual lives as well. I do not fully understand how it works, but sexual sins interfere with our relationship with the Holy Spirit. Sexual sins involve our bodies and since our bodies are the temple in which the Holy Spirit resides they are a form of offering sacrificing to an idol on the same altar where we offer sacrifices to God.

November 28, 2016 Bible Study — Foolishness or Wisdom?

I am using the daily Bible reading schedule from “The” for my daily Bible reading.


Today, I am reading and commenting on 1 Corinthians 1-4.

    Paul describes the problem with division in the Church that is based on factions. Paul is not talking here about division in the Church which is a result of disagreement over what is right and wrong (he speaks to that elsewhere). Here he is speaking about factionalism: “If they support X, I oppose X. If they oppose Y, I support Y.” Factionalism results from trying to impress those we think are wise, or powerful, or wealthy. I am really struggling to get this to be coherent today. My understanding of Paul’s point here is that doing as God instructs us appears foolish to those who do not have faith in God’s power. From a human perspective, Christ’s death on the cross is foolish and weak. You do not defeat the most powerful military force on the planet by being executed as a common criminal. Yet, that was God’s plan for creating His kingdom. Those who have accepted God’s Spirit realize that you cannot force people to love you. The only way to get people to love you is to love them and even then you need to rely on them choosing to love you back.

November 27, 2016 Bible Study — Live To Please Others

I am using the daily Bible reading schedule from “The” for my daily Bible reading.


Today, I am reading and commenting on Romans 15-16.

    In yesterday’s passage, Paul told us not to argue about whether or not it is OK to eat meat offered to idols. He continues his discussion on that point into today’s passage. I have always struggled somewhat with his point here, since elsewhere he talks about the importance of pointing out to people when they are sinning. However, I realized today that Paul’s main focus in this discussion is on those who recognize that there is nothing wrong with eating meat offered to idols (with several qualifications). It is offering meat to idols in the first place that is the sin. Here in today’s passage he tells us to be considerate of those who are sensitive about such things.
    Paul is pointing out here that those of us who believe that some rule of behavior does not apply (such as women covering their head, or Christians being teetotalers) should not argue with those who believe that it does. Further, we should be careful not to flaunt our belief in front of those who are on the other side. For example, I think it is OK for Christians to consume alcohol. However, I do not drink in front of those I know believe otherwise, nor do I talk about alcoholic drinks in front of them. There is no reason for me to argue with those who disagree with me on this issue. If they become aware of my position on this issue and confront me about it, I will explain why I believe what I do, but I will not attempt to convince them that they should drink alcohol.

November 26, 2016 Bible Study

I am using the daily Bible reading schedule from “The” for my daily Bible reading.


Today, I am reading and commenting on Romans 11-14.

    Paul points out that while the rejection of the Gospel by so many of the Jews opened the door for Gentiles to hear the Gospel, the Jews were still eligible to receive God’s grace. Furthermore, we should desire that they turn to God and accept the free gift which He offers to all people. We as Gentiles benefited from the rejection of the Gospel by Jews, how much more will the entire world benefit if and when they accept it? It is not possible to be a faithful follower of Jesus and to harbor anti-Semitic attitudes. God did indeed trim off from His family tree those descended from Abraham who rejected his free gift. And yes, He did graft those of us not descended from Abraham in their place. However, we should not become arrogant because He could just as easily remove us once more in order to graft them back should their hearts embrace Him.


    I love chapter 12. Paul tells us that we should be willing to offer our bodies up as living sacrifices to God. We should be willing to experience whatever physical unpleasantness necessary to serve God’s will. We should not strive to fit into the world around us. Instead, we need to study God’s word and allow His Spirit to transform us fully into His image. Paul instructs us to evaluate our abilities clearly and soberly. We should neither overestimate our abilities, nor should we denigrate ourselves (which sometimes is a reverse form of puffing ourselves up). People have varied and different skills. Each and everyone of us is a unique creation who God placed in this world for a specific purpose. Let us embrace the purpose for which we were created without holding ourselves above others.
    In line with that, it is not our place to bring judgment or cause suffering on those who we believe deserve it. Rather, we should strive to live at peace with others. That will not always be possible, but let us strive to avoid being the reason why it is not possible. If others refuse to live at peace with us, that is beyond our control and not our responsibility. Rather than return the evil others do to us with evil, let us return that evil with good. If we do as God wills, either those who are currently our enemies will be transformed by God’s Holy Spirit, as we have been (we have been transformed by the Holy Spirit, haven’t we?), or God will bring the appropriate judgment upon them. If we do good to those who wrong us, those around us will see our good works and praise God.

November 25, 2016 Bible Study –If We Do What Is Right We Will Not Have Time To Do What Is Wrong

I am using the daily Bible reading schedule from “The” for my daily Bible reading.


Today, I am reading and commenting on Romans 8-10.

    In today’s passage Paul continues his discussion of following our sinful nature vs following the Spirit. Paul makes a very practical argument here, but because he words it as a theological argument it took me well into my adult years to understand it. If we allow the Holy Spirit to control our actions we will do the things we ought to do and we will not do the things we ought not do. On the other hand, if we allow our sinful nature to control our actions we will do the reverse. The key here is that if we spend our time doing the things which we know God desires us to do, we will quickly find that we do not have time to do the things which our sinful nature wants us to do. It is a decision each and every one of us must make, because the reverse is true as well. If we fill our time with activities which our purely for our own pleasure we will find that we do not have time for those volunteer activities to which God is calling us.


    One of the things I struggle with is prayer. I struggle with spending enough time praying. I struggle with what I should pray. I struggle with my faith that God answers prayer (which is, at least partially, related to my struggle about what I should pray). I know that if I can fully bring myself to understand and practice what Paul says about prayer in this passage God will resolve my struggles with prayer. If we allow Him to do so, the Holy Spirit will guide our prayers and, in some cases, pray for us. In this way the things we do not know how to present to God will be brought before Him and we will see Him answer these prayers we did not even know how to word.
    I was going to start a new section for this when I realized that it is really related to Paul’s message about prayer. Nothing is able to separate us from God’s love. Some people interpret this to mean that once a person has accepted God’s grace. no matter what that person chooses they will be with God forever. But that is not what Paul says. Rather, what Paul is saying is that no matter what we do, God loves us. He loves each and every person. So much so that He will allow those who want nothing to do with Him to experience the suffering which that inevitably entails. On the other hand, if we return God’s love, He manages everything that happens so that it works together for our good. No matter what we do in this life, God offers us the opportunity to be saved by believing in the depths of our being that Jesus was raised from the dead and publicly acknowledging that He is the One whom we obey.

November 24, 2016 Bible Study — The Relationship Between Faith and Works

I am using the daily Bible reading schedule from “The” for my daily Bible reading.


Today, I am reading and commenting on Romans 4-7.

    Today’s passage starts with Paul giving evidence to support his claim that salvation comes through faith. He shows how Abraham was declared righteous before he did any of the things to which his faith inspired him. Paul’s example goes further because, as I just said, Paul points out that Abraham was inspired by his faith to do good works. However, it was not those works which made Abraham right with God. Rather, those works resulted from Abraham being made right with God by his faith. The same thing applies to us today. We are made right with God by our faith. Being made right with God results in us doing good works.
    From there Paul goes on to tell us that this saving faith will bring us joy, even in the face of the difficulties of this life and the persecution which our faith will bring us. These trials and tribulations will increase our endurance, our ability to withstand trouble. Learning to endure unpleasant experiences builds our character, makes us better people. As our character grows our hope in Christ is strengthened. While many people will belittle us for this hope, we know that God loves us and will bring that hope to fruition.


    Paul goes on to show us that sin highlights how wonderful God’s grace is. However, that grace does not excuse us to continue living in sin. More importantly, if we truly understand God’s love and grace we will desire to take advantage of the opportunity which God has given us to escape sin. Through God’s grace, we died with Christ. That death freed us from our bondage to sin and we have been raised from the dead with Christ to a new life, free from sin. As Paul points out a little later, being free from sin does not mean that we are without sin. We will continue to struggle with sin as long as we are in this world. However, we should desire NOT to sin. Paul sums up our situation in this world thus:

I want to do what is right, but I can’t. I want to do what is good, but I don’t. I don’t want to do what is wrong, but I do it anyway.

As we strive to allow the Holy Spirit to control our thoughts and our actions, He will free us from the control by our sinful natures. The necessary step in this process is to want to do what is right and good and to want to not do what what is wrong. From that starting point the Holy Spirit can transform us into new creations.

November 23, 2016 Bible Study — Faith Leads to Action

I am using the daily Bible reading schedule from “The” for my daily Bible reading.


Today, I am reading and commenting on Romans 1-3.

    As Paul starts his letter to the Christians in Rome he says that he desires to go to Rome in order to strengthen their faith and in order to have his faith strengthened by them. He follows this up by giving a quick synopsis of the Good News which he preached. There he sums it up by saying that God makes us right in His sight and that this is accomplished in its totality by faith. However, I want to point out that just a few days ago we read where Paul made his defense before King Agrippa and said that those who had been made right with God did good as a demonstration of the change they had undergone.


    Paul then moves on to discussing sin. Everyone has sinned and no one is able to make themselves right with God by their own effort. Paul points out that no one can claim ignorance as an excuse to sin. Anyone who cares to can know the truth because God has made it plain for anyone who chooses to look. However, for one reason or another, people did not want to know God, so they made up gods and chose to worship them instead. In their desire to prove themselves wiser than others, people became fools. Paul points out that as a result of their refusal to acknowledge God people have chosen to vile and degrading things to other people’s bodies. This here is a lesson all of us can use to evaluate our behavior, does our behavior degrade others?
    Having said this, Paul is quick to point out that we are in no position to condemn those who behave as Paul just described because we have all sinned and can only be made right by God’s grace. Those who keep on doing evil will suffer God’s condemnation. And here Paul says something which reminds us of what he told King Agrippa. God will give eternal life to those who keep on doing good. Paul says this just a short time after telling us that the start to finish of being made right with God is accomplished through faith. The good we do does not save us. It does not offset the sins we have committed. Rather, it is a reflection of our repentance and faith.

November 22, 2016 Bible Study

I am using the daily Bible reading schedule from “The” for my daily Bible reading.


Today, I am reading and commenting on Acts 26-28.

    I have previously noted that Paul seems to be someone who stirred up animosity wherever he went. He does not appear to have been the most diplomatic of fellows. However, this lack of tact or diplomacy seems to have been a conscious decision rather than an inability to be diplomatic or tactful. In today’s passage, Paul presents his defense to King Agrippa. In that introduction, and throughout his defense, Paul is very complimentary towards King Agrippa. It is interesting to note that at the beginning of his defense Paul stated that he believed that God could raise the dead. However, Festus, the Roman governor, did not question Paul’s sanity until Paul stated that Someone had actually risen from the dead.
    Having said this I want to circle back to some things Paul said while he was describing what he preached. First, he talked about how he preached first in Damascus, then Jerusalem and so on. His wording reminds me of what Jesus said in the Great Commission. I think that Luke is showing us how Paul’s ministry mirrored Jesus’ instructions to the disciples (and Paul may have been doing similarly in his speech). The other point is Paul’s summation of what he preached. People must repent of their sins and turn to God. However, that is not enough, they must demonstrate they have changed by doing good things.