So many people see the Bible as puzzle pieces scattered on a table without the box.
They can tell you bits and pieces of stories they have heard in church, but rarely do they see the Bible as a whole, because we rarely just sit back and look at "The Big Picture".
Each week, we will take a book of the Bible and simplify it's main message, in order to help you understand the Bible as a whole. We will also mention a few main themes / lessons found in each book of the Bible. We are not trying to get too deep or even focus on one particular story, but rather tie the puzzle pieces together, so your personal study is more clear and enjoyable.
We will be using the book, "What the Bible is all About" by Henrietta C. Mears to gather our notes.
We recommend you purchase this book and use it for study. Order here.
Ephesians Portrays Jesus Christ, Our All in All
AUTHOR: Ephesians 1:1 identifies the author of the book of Ephesians as the apostle Paul.
DATE: The book was possibly written around AD 60 while Paul was under house arrest in Rome (see Acts 28:14-31).
PURPOSE AND SUMMARY: The letter to the Ephesians is one of the apostle Paul’s four “Imprisonment Letters”—Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians and Philemon. Although addressed to the church in Ephesus, this letter is generally believed to have been a circular letter, to be read in other churches, describing the believers’ exalted position through Christ, the Church as the Body of Christ, the Church’s relationship to God, and practical implications of living as children of light through faith in Christ.
In this epistle, we enter the holy of holies in Paul’s writings. Paul speaks in 2 Corinthians 12:2 of being “caught up to the third heaven.” Here, as it were, he gives his report, and he seems to be carried away as he tells about it. It is the greatest revelation of truth that God has given to us, the revelation of a mystery that has been hidden from before the foundation of the world. This book shows us the great mystery of the Church. The real Church is the Body of Christ, and believers are members of that sacred Body of which Christ is the head.
Come with Paul through this glorious structure as he outlines it in Ephesians:
A. The believer’s position—Ephesians 1–3 1.
“In Christ”—Ephesians 1:1 2.
“In heavenly places”—Ephesians 1:3,20; 2:6; 3:10
B. The believer’s walk—Ephesians 4–6 1.
Ecclesiastically—Ephesians 4 2.
Morally—Ephesians 5 3.
Socially—Ephesians 5:21–6:9 4.
Paul seems to present a picture of “Christ’s Temple of Ephesus,” which the Christian may enter. It is “an holy temple in the Lord” (Ephesians 2:21). We approach in these chapters, one after another, six magnificent rooms in this great temple.
EPHESIANS 1: THE ANTEROOM
Let us enter this sacred temple with hushed voices and bared heads. Christ is going to allow us to come before His holy presence. The door opens into the spacious anteroom, where we read on the walls our standing with God through Jesus Christ: “Blessed . . . with all spiritual blessings: chosen . . . in him before the foundation of the world: . . . holy and without blame before him in love: . . . accepted in the beloved” (Ephesians 1:3-6).
The blessings of the Christian are not only heavenly (eternal life with God) but also “in the heavenly realms.” Go through this first chapter and mark all you find “in Christ.” (And when you read the next two chapters, do the same thing.) You will find that our blessings are many:
• Saints in Christ Jesus—Ephesians 1:1
• Blessed in Christ—Ephesians 1:3
• Chosen in Christ—Ephesians 1:4
• Adopted by Christ—Ephesians 1:5
• Redeemed and forgiven in Christ—Ephesians 1:7
• His will revealed in Himself—Ephesians 1:9
• Everything centered in Christ—Ephesians 1:10
• Glorified in Christ—Ephesians 1:12-13
• Inheritance in Christ—Ephesians 1:14
• Faith in Christ—Ephesians 1:15
• Wisdom in Him—Ephesians 1:17
• Hope in Christ—Ephesians 1:18
• Power in Christ—Ephesians 1:19-20
• Made alive in Christ—Ephesians 2:5-6
• Created in Christ—Ephesians 2:10
• Brought near to God in Christ—Ephesians 2:13
• Growing in Christ—Ephesians 2:21
• Built in Christ—Ephesians 2:22
• Sharers in His promise in Christ—Ephesians 3:6
• Wisdom of God manifested in Christ—Ephesians 3:10-11
• Freedom and confidence through Christ—Ephesians 3:12
Did we always exist in this state? Read Ephesians 2:11-13. We learn on entering this temple that our calling and position have been planned and worked out by God “before the foundation of the world” (Ephesians 1:4). All Christians should know their calling above everything else (see Ephesians 1:18). The true knowledge of it will govern their lives.
“In whom we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of his grace” (Ephesians 1:7). Redemption is the most glorious work of God. It is far greater than His work of creation. Paul enjoyed dwelling on this theme, because he had experienced Christ’s redeeming love. He had been redeemed from sin, from the curse and bondage of the law.
Let us consider what the sinner is a captive to:
1. Sin—“Jesus answered them, Verily, verily, I say unto you, Whosoever committeth sin is the servant of sin” (John 8:34). We feel that bondage. We know sin rules our lives.
2. Satan—Paul speaks of sinners, recovering “out of the snare of the devil, who are taken captive by him at his will” (2 Timothy 2:26).
3. Law—We have broken the Law, and for this reason “the scripture hath concluded all under sin” (Galatians 3:22). We are behind the bars of a prison. We have been put under arrest for violating the Law. The captive is in a miserable state and needs to be redeemed.
• The provision for our redemption is Christ—Christ is our Redeemer! “In whom we have redemption through his blood”
• The means of our redemption is Christ—Christ voluntarily took our place. “In whom we have redemption through his blood. . . . [Not] with corruptible things, as silver and gold . . . but with the precious blood of Christ” (Ephesians 1:7; 1 Peter 1:18-19). He stood charged with our sins and paid the penalty with His blood.
• The fruit of our redemption is God’s grace—Even “the forgiveness of sins” is the result of redeeming love, and this is “according to the riches of his grace” (Ephesians 1:7).
EPHESIANS 2: THE AUDIENCE CHAMBER
“We both have access by one Spirit unto the Father” (Ephesians 2:18). We once were far off. Now we are near. IChrist makes each one of us a new person and gives us access to the very audience chamber of the King. He is our only mediator, and He says, “No man cometh unto the Father, but by me” (John 14:6). Look at the material God had to work with:
• What the nature of a person is—Ephesians 2:1-3
• What the walk of a natural person is—Ephesians 2:2
How does God produce a masterpiece out of such material? “But God”—see God act! He changes all by His touch! “But God” is the bridge that leads us out of our dark and hopeless condition (Ephesians 2:4). When all human strength is at an end, “But God.” Remember Christ comes to give life to the dead. The greatest proof of Christianity is that it has produced a new person who is approved unto God. Only God could make a Paul out of Saul.
EPHESIANS 3: THE THRONE ROOM
Here we behold the King! Is posture a small thing? Kneeling is the attitude of humility, confession and entreaty. Remember that the holiest men in the Bible have approached God this way. David, Solomon and Daniel all went down on their knees. These men stooped to conquer but knelt to prevail. Paul tells how God had held back from the Gentiles the secret that they should be heirs and shareholders of the gospel and have admission into the Church (His Body) on the same terms as the Jewish people (see Ephesians 3:8-10). But “that in the dispensation of the fulness of times he might gather together in one all things in Christ” was God’s plan (Ephesians 1:10). The word “mystery,” which occurs three times in this chapter, does not mean something mysterious. It merely refers to something that is hidden until the appropriate time comes for God to reveal it. The mystery of the Church is that the Gentiles are to share equally with the Jewish people of God’s promises (see Ephesians 3:6).
Paul prays again and his prayer is recorded in Ephesians 3:13-21. Paul’s first prayer gave us three whats (see Ephesians 1). This prayer gives us four thats and is steeped in the love of Christ:
1. That they should be strengthened by His Spirit
2. That they might have Christ dwelling in their hearts
3. That they might understand what is the breadth, length, depth and height of the love of Christ
4. That they might be filled with the fullness of God Paul enjoys the “riches” of the gospel (Ephesians 3:8,16). Its gifts are abundant and its resources are inexhaustible. If we are to enjoy this life in the Temple of God, we must be yielded in obedience to Him. If we as willing subjects yield to His plan for our lives, we will find that our lives will be filled with joy and beauty.
EPHESIANS 4: THE JEWEL AND DRESSING ROOMS
Here amid the flash of the jewel room, we will get our decorations and our garments of holiness—“With all lowliness and meekness, with longsuffering, forbearing one another in love” (Ephesians 4:2). Here are our banners and emblems—“one Lord, one faith, one baptism” (Ephesians 4:5). “But unto every one of us is given grace according to the measure of the gift of Christ” (Ephesians 4:7). We must lay aside the old life as we would lay aside an old garment, and we must now wear the new life as a new garment (see Ephesians 4:22-25). God wants His sons and daughters to wear suitable garments. We must “walk worthy of the vocation wherewith ye are called” (Ephesians 4:1). The way we live must correspond to our creed. A heavenly calling demands a heavenly conduct.
EPHESIANS 5: THE CHOIR AND ORATORY ROOMS
According to Ephesians 4:1-3, we are to walk:
• Humbly—“With all lowliness and meekness.”
• Lovingly—“With longsuffering, forbearing one another in love.” •
Peacefully—“Endeavouring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.” The walk of a Christian requires us to do the following:
• Walk in love—Ephesians 5:1-2.
• Walk in light—Ephesians 5:8.
• Walk carefully—Ephesians 5:15-16.
The Lord not only tells us to walk carefully in the spiritual sphere of our lives, but also in every other field. God demands a walk worthy of Him every place and everywhere. He teaches that a child of God can and must, under all circumstances, be a living witness to the power of Christ in his or her life. “And be not drunk with wine, wherein is excess; but be filled with the Spirit” (Ephesians 5:18). The body, mind and spirit cannot function without outside stimulants. “I beseech you therefore, brethren . . . that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service” (Romans 12:1). The Spirit fires our bodies and spirits and sets them aglow, but it never destroys. Therefore God commands, “And be not drunk with wine, wherein is excess; but be filled with the Spirit” (Ephesians 5:18). We can burn and never be consumed. We may live dangerously for God and never be in danger. It is just as great a sin not to be filled with the Spirit of God as it is to be drunk with wine. When the Spirit fills the heart, the lips overflow with praise.
EPHESIANS 6: THE ARMORY
Now we stand in a room hung with the whole armor of God. All who belong to the kingdom of God have the forces of the kingdom of Satan against them, so they need to be covered with the whole armor of God. The Christian’s walk includes warfare. We need to know the tricks of the forces marshaled against us. In Ephesians 5, we were asked to put on clothing suited to the new person living in society. In Ephesians 6, we are told to put on armor necessary to the combat soldier—“the whole armour of God” (Ephesians 6:11):
• “Having your loins girt about with truth”—verse 14
• “Breastplate of righteousness”—verse 14
• “The preparation of the gospel of peace” on our feet—verse 15
• “Shield of faith”—verse 16
• “Helmet of salvation”—verse 17
• “Sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God”—verse 17
• “Prayer and supplication”—verse 18
We must go to Calvary for each piece of this wonderful armor. When we put it on, we can see that our whole body is covered. But you notice there is no armor for the back. The Christian is never supposed to run from the enemy but fight the good fight of faith, praying always! We are to “stand against the wiles of the devil” (Ephesians 6:11).
Source: "What the Bible Is All About", Dr. Henrietta C. Mears. All rights reserved.
Galatians Portrays Jesus Christ, Our Freedom From the Law
Galatians 1:1 clearly identifies the apostle Paul as the writer of the epistle to the Galatians.
Depending on where exactly the book of Galatians was sent and during which missionary journey Paul started the churches in that area, the book of Galatians was written somewhere between AD 51 and 57.
PURPOSE AND SUMMARY:
Paul’s letter addressed to the churches in Galatia, in modern Turkey, is an impassioned message on freedom in Christ. In Galatians Paul refutes the false teaching of those Jewish believers who claimed that one must be circumcised and keep Mosaic law to be saved and counted as followers of the Jewish Messiah, Jesus. This book’s emphasis is similar to the theme of Paul’s letter to the Romans: Salvation is by faith in Christ alone, apart from keeping the Law (see chapters 1–4). Paul follows this with intensely practical teachings on walking in the Spirit and putting to death the sinful deeds of the flesh (see chapters 5–6). Galatians shows that the believer is no longer under the law. “Stand fast therefore in the liberty where-with Christ hath made us free, and be not entangled again with the yoke of bondage” (Galatians 5:1).
Circumcision was the initial rite of the Jewish religion. If people born Gentile wished to become Jewish, they had to observe this ceremonial law. It was much like immigrants to our country today must fulfill certain requirements in order to become US citizens, but once those requirements are met, although born on foreign soil, they are regarded as citizens just as those who are born here.
False teachers had “bewitched” the people by telling them they must keep all kinds of ceremonies (Galatians 3:1). Paul wanted them to know that nothing—no works or ceremonies—could bring them to Christ. Being very fickle and loving something new, the Galatians were on the verge of accepting the views of these false teachers. When Paul heard about it, the matter seemed so urgent that, because no one was with him to write it, he wrote the letter himself (see Galatians 6:11).
God raised up Paul as the Moses of the Christian church to deliver it from bondage. This epistle has done more than any other book in the New Testament to free our Christian faith from Judaism and from the burden of salvation by works, which has threatened the simple gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ. A religion without the cross is not Christ’s religion. Christ did not come merely to blaze a trail through a tangled forest or to give us an example of how we should live. He came to be our Savior.
The cross has a great deal of power:
• To deliver from sin—Galatians 1:4; 2:21; 3:22
• To deliver from the curse of the law—Galatians 3:13
• To deliver from the self-life—Galatians 2:20; 5:24
• To deliver from the world—Galatians 6:14
• In the new birth—Galatians 4:4-7
• In receiving the Holy Ghost—Galatians 3:14
• In bringing forth the Spirit’s fruit—Galatians 5:22-25
Paul marvels that these new Christians could give up the gospel of liberty so quickly and accept a legalistic message that was no gospel at all. Twice he pronounced a curse on those causing the trouble. He says that if an angel from heaven were to preach any other gospel than the one he preached, “Let him be accursed” (Galatians 1:8-9). What was this gospel Paul preached? Paul’s gospel shuts out all works. “Knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the law, but by the faith of Jesus Christ . . . or by the works of the law shall no flesh be justified” (Galatians 2:16). The difficulty about salvation is not that we should be good enough to be saved but that we should see that we are bad enough to need salvation. A gospel that is a mixture of law and grace has no power. The false teachers of this kind of gospel were “accursed” because they pervert (not deny) the gospel. They admitted that Christ had to die on the cross, but they denied that His sacrifice was sufficient for salvation. They taught that to be saved, a person must keep at least some decrees of the Law.
Paul says, “But I certify you, brethren, that the gospel which was preached of me is not after man. For I neither received it of man, neither was I taught it, but by the revelation of Jesus Christ” (Galatians 1:11-12). Paul did not consult any person about what he should preach; instead, he retired to the wilds of Arabia for three years and there listened to God. He was taught by the Spirit. Paul writes a personal word of testimony, which gives us a complete picture of the Christian life both positively and negatively: “I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me” (Galatians 2:20). The Christian life is a dying life—dying daily to self and sin. The crucified Savior lives in those who have shared His crucifixion.
GALATIANS 3–4: THE GOSPEL’S DEFENSE
It is possible to have a religion without the gospel. This was the peril that faced the Galatian Christians. Many people count on going to heaven based on their sincerity in believing some creed they have worked out to save themselves. They say, “The golden rule is my religion.” But there is no salvation in that, for “without shedding of blood is no remission” of sins (Hebrews 9:22).
We are commanded to preach the gospel to every creature. Religion is the best some people can do. Christianity is the best God can do. See the results of people’s best: “By the works of the law shall no flesh be justified” (Galatians 2:16). How can a person be made just? “By the faith of Christ, and not by the works of the law” (Galatians 2:16).
Free Salvation Versus Personal Effort
Paul defends the gospel of Christ. He describes his own preaching as having been so detailed that it was as if his listeners had actually seen Christ crucified (see Galatians 3:1). He shows that what the Law could not do grace did. Paul puts a challenging question to these “foolish Galatians” (Galatians 3:1): You foolish Galatians, I have brought you the true gospel, and you received it with eagerness and gratitude. Now suddenly you drop the gospel. What has gotten into you?
Righteousness from Faith
“Even as Abraham believed God, and it was accounted to him for righteousness” (Galatians 3:6).
The law cannot give righteousness but it does bring death to all who do not keep it (see Galatians 3:10). Law demands perfect obedience. Many think they should get a reward just for keeping the law. People really ought to keep the law and get nothing for doing so. Suppose you live in a city all your life, and during your lifetime, you obey all the laws of that city. Will the mayor present you with a gift because you have not broken any laws? Of course not. But suppose after 20 years of law keeping you then commit a crime. The authorities will then give you something—a jail sentence for breaking the law. The Bible tells us that a curse (a sentence) is on all who break the law, while a blessing is on all those who live by faith. “Christ hath redeemed us from the curse of the law, being made a curse for us” (Galatians 3:13). As all had broken the Law, all had come under its curse. But Christ redeemed us. “Don’t turn back to the Law from which Christ redeemed us. You foolish Galatians, who has bewitched you, that you should turn from the blessing of faith to the curse of law?” (see Galatians 3:1-3,13-14).
Purposes of the Law
The Law deals with what we are and do, while grace deals with what Christ is and does. What good is the Law? We find the answer in Galatians 3:19-20. The Law restrains the wicked by giving punishment for crimes, just as civil laws restrain people by inducing fear of jail or the death penalty. These restraints do not make people righteous, but they do restrain them from crime. Another purpose of the Law is spiritual. The law reveals to us our sins, our blindness and our contempt of God.
Sons of God
Paul tells us that all people are not the children of God. It is faith in Christ—not works of the law or the Fatherhood of God or the brotherhood of people—that makes us children of God. “ye are all the children of God by faith in Christ Jesus” (Galatians 3:26). Faith, not works, puts us into the family of God.
GALATIANS 5–6: GOSPEL APPLICATIONS
The first application of the gospel pertains to one’s own personal freedom from the Law. Paul wants the Galatians to hold fast to their personal liberty (see Galatians 5:1-12). The gospel of God’s grace gives true liberty: “Stand fast therefore in the liberty wherewith Christ hath made us free, and be not entangled again with the yoke of bondage” (Galatians 5:1). If the Galatians seek to be saved by keeping the Law, they are bound by the Law. Their freedom should be prized because it cost so much, the blood of Christ.
There are nine graces given to us by the Spirit, described in Galatians 5:22-23: • Toward God—(1) love, (2) joy, (3) peace • Toward others—(4) patience, (5) kindness, (6) goodness • Toward self—(7) faithfulness, (8) gentleness, (9) self-control These nine fruit of the Spirit are in stark contrast to the works of the sinful nature. But if we “abide” in Christ, we will be free to bear fruit with God (John 15:4-10).
Sowing and Reaping
“Whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap” (Galatians 6:7). If we sow the seeds of our life in the soil of the Spirit, we will reap a spiritual harvest and honor God. If we sow in the soil of the flesh (the baser appetites), we will reap moral weakness and corruption (see Galatians 6:7-8). The Spirit brings forth only good fruit; the flesh, only evil. The harvest will not be according to how much we know but how much we sow. We may have a large supply of seed in the barn of the mind, but unless it is planted in suitable soil it will produce no harvest. Sow the seed of thoughts in word and deeds. God’s Word always brings forth seed after its kind.
Paul’s body bore “the marks of the Lord Jesus” (Galatians 6:17). These marks showed three things about Paul. First, they showed ownership—Paul belonged to another. The Greek word stigma means a brand or a mark applied to the face, body or arm of a slave or criminal. What were Paul’s stigma? They were the scars he had received by enduring for Christ persecutions and hardships (see 2 Corinthians 6:4; 11:23). Paul cries out, “But God forbid that I should glory, save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom the world is crucified unto me, and I unto the world” (Galatians 6:14). “Let the world go by! I have Christ, and having Him, I have all things,” Paul is saying. “Oh, the joy of a free, full life in Christ Jesus!”
Source: "What the Bible Is All About", Dr. Henrietta C. Mears. All rights reserved.
1-2: Our Comfort
3-4: Living Epistles
5-6: Ambassadors for Christ
7-9: Paul's Heart / Christian Giving
10-13: Paul's Apostleship / God's Strength
Author: The Apostle Paul
Date: Around AD 55, After 1 Corinthians
PURPOSE AND SUMMARY: Often called “the hard letter,” 2 Corinthians is an intensely personal letter. It recounts the difficulties and hardships Paul has endured in the service of Christ (see chapters 10-13). The apostle Paul regards the Corinthians as his children in Christ, because he brought most of them to faith and new birth in Christ (see Acts 18:1-18).
Paul gives more of his personal history in this letter than in any of his other epistles and only here does he tell us about some things that happened in his life:
• His unusual suffering—2 Corinthians 11:23-27
• His escape from Damascus in a basket—2 Corinthians 11:32-33
• His experience of being caught up to the third heaven—2 Corinthians 12:1-4
• His thorn in the flesh—2 Corinthians 12:7
2 CORINTHIANS 1–7: PAUL’S MINISTRY
Paul opens this second epistle to the Corinthians with his usual greeting and thanksgiving (see 2 Corinthians 1:1-3). Everyone loves a true story. Paul tells so many personal experiences of his life in this letter that everyone loves to read it. He begins by telling of the great troubles that he recently had had. Through all of his trials, though, he had learned to know God better. God is always made more real to us in times of sorrow. That’s when we find out for sure that God never fails.
Paul’s sufferings in Asia were of a very serious nature. Very likely he went through a sickness dangerous enough to threaten his life (see 2 Corinthians 1:4-11). He appreciated the prayers of the Corinthians and now he was appealing to their love and sympathy. He wanted them to be ready for everything that he was going to write about concerning the defense of his apostleship.
The teachers of Jewish law of Paul’s day carried letters of introduction with them. They were Paul’s chief troublemakers. They tried in every way to fight him. We hear them asking, “Who is this Paul? What letters of recommendation from Jerusalem does he have?” How foolish this question was to Paul! Did he need a letter of recommendation to a church he himself had established? He answers, “Ye are our epistle written in our hearts, known and read of all men” (2 Corinthians 3:2).
Paul’s Suffering -
Paul’s ministry was a triumphant one, but it was filled with suffering. Warfare always is full of illustrations of triumph through suffering. Victory costs! Paul tells us much about his ordeals (see 2 Corinthians 4; 6; 11). When Paul was so gloriously converted, the Lord said, “I will shew him how great things he must suffer for my name’s sake” (Acts 9:16). It seems the trials began immediately after his conversion and continued to dog his life for 30 years.
Paul’s Comfort -
Through all his troubles, Paul finds his comfort in the fact of the resurrection that Christ promised. Paul lived inspired by the fact that one day he would have a changed, glorified body. Our suffering bodies will soon be exchanged for painless, glorified bodies. Whether we live or die, we must keep this reward in view (see 2 Corinthians 5:10).
2 CORINTHIANS 8–9: LIBERAL GIVING
Paul tells the church at Corinth about the generosity of the churches of Macedonia. Although poor themselves, they had begged for an opportunity to give money to help the needy believers in Jerusalem, and they had given liberally because first they had given themselves to the Lord. Moneys were gathered from all the churches of Asia Minor and Greece.
A similar collection had been started the year before in Corinth but had not been finished (see 2 Corinthians 8:10). So Paul, who was in Macedonia at the time he wrote this and who had accepted no pay for his work from any of the churches except Philippi, suggests that the Corinthians follow Christ’s example (see 2 Corinthians 8:9). The Lord knows that if He gets us, He will get our gifts and our service.
How did Paul say believers should give?
• Give out of poverty—2 Corinthians 8:2
• Give generously—2 Corinthians 8:3
• Give proportionately—2 Corinthians 8:12-14
• Give bountifully—2 Corinthians 9:6
• Give willingly—2 Corinthians 9:7
• Give cheerfully—2 Corinthians 9:7
2 CORINTHIANS 10–13: PAUL’S APOSTLESHIP
The charge against Paul by some in the church was that he was a coward. He was bold in his writings, but was weak in character. However, to imagine that this man, who had turned city after city upside down, was weak is absurd. He was a powerful and dominating person. He was a man of outstanding gifts and had a keen and inquiring mind. Besides this, Christ lived in him and worked through him.
We all have a tendency to use a wrong standard for measuring character. We compare ourselves to others like us, and we conclude that we are as good as the average person. “But they measuring themselves by themselves, and comparing themselves among themselves, are not wise” (2 Corinthians 10:12).
Experiencing Paradise -
Paul saw paradise; he was even “caught up to the third heaven” (2 Corinthians 12:2)
Recall that Jesus went to paradise at His death (see Luke 23:43). There, Paul was given marvelous visions and revelations, and he heard things that could not be put into words (see 2 Corinthians 12:4). No doubt no human language could describe the glory. It would have been like trying to describe a sunset to a person born blind. Paul had nothing to compare it with that we could understand.
It seemed that because of Paul’s heavenly experiences, God allowed Paul to suffer “a thorn in [his] flesh” (2 Corinthians 12:7). The Lord knows the danger of boastful pride after such an experience, so He permitted “the messenger of Satan to buffet me”; Paul himself called his affliction “a thorn in the flesh” (2 Corinthians 12:7).
Many people have wondered why God does not remove “thorns” from the flesh when we pray to Him. We must learn that God always answers prayer, but sometimes the answer is no. He knows it will be better for us to bear the thorn than be without it.
Some “thorns” in the flesh have caused the sufferers to lean on Christ. Sometimes a “thorn” is a warning to keep us from sin and failure. God proved to Paul that no matter what his weakness was, God’s strength was sufficient for his needs.”
Testing Oneself -
Examine yourselves, whether ye be in the faith; prove your own selves” (2 Corinthians 13:5). In this second letter, Paul emphasizes that the Corinthians needed to know themselves spiritually—they needed to test themselves to make sure of their faith. He was anxious that none of them would be deceived. We too must use every means available to us to determine where we really stand spiritually.
Author: Apostle Paul
Date: Around 55 AD
Key Chapter Descriptions:
1 - Division in the Church
2 - The Mind of Christ
3 - Worldliness in the Church
5 - Immorality in the Church
11 - The Lord's Supper
13 - A Hymn of Love
15 - Resurrection of Christ
PURPOSE AND SUMMARY:
This letter to the church at Corinth discusses divisions at that church and their mishandling of the work, gifts and power of the Holy Spirit they had received. First Corinthians gives us a picture of the life of a local church in New Testament times. Writing from Ephesus, where he spent at least three years, Paul addresses the Corinthian church concerning the significance of their new life in Christ, which should be demonstrated within the Church through working for unity in the worship gatherings, in exercising the gifts of the Spirit, and not neglecting the poor in the Lord’s Supper. Paul gives focused teaching to the Corinthians regarding spiritual gifts (see chapter 12), Christian love (see chapter 13), and the meaning of the resurrection of the dead (see chapter 15).
1 CORINTHIANS 1–11: CORRECTING CHRISTIAN CONDUCT
The wonderful church at Corinth, the brilliant jewel in the crown of Paul’s labor, was failing. The worldliness (carnality) of the city had infected the fellowship of believers. It was all right for the church to be in Corinth, but it was fatal when Corinth got into the church. It is a glorious sight to see a ship launched into the sea, but it is a tragic sight when the sea gets into the ship. The Church of Christ should be a light in our dark world, but woe to the Church when the wickedness of the world invades it.
Wicked practices common in Corinth soon crept into the church. There were divisions among the believers; Christians were suing other Christians before heathen judges; behavior at the communion table was disgraceful; the women of the church no longer observed standards of modesty; the church membership was arguing over marriage and even spiritual gifts. Finally, the church wrote Paul about these things and asked his advice on these matters. Paul’s two letters to the Corinthians were written in answer to their requests.
After the usual greeting, Paul refers to the coming again of our Lord Jesus Christ (see 1 Corinthians 1:1-3,7-8). Then he plunges right into the church failures about which he had been told. The source of his information he gives us in 1 Corinthians 1:11.
People had lost sight of God. Three kinds of selfishness had blinded them:
1. Self-admiration—their intellect had been perverted.
2. Self-will—their conscience had been darkened.
3. Self-indulgence—their passions had been given full rein.
The greatest danger to the Corinthian church was from within.
Divisions over Leaders -
Paul speaks first of the divisions and cliques about which he had learned from friends and travelers. Nothing ruins a church like party politics.
In Corinth, Greek party politics had divided the church into four groups, each vying for supremacy. Their names of the leaders of each party are given in 1 Corinthians 1:12. Paul, Apollos and Cephas (Peter) were parties named for each group’s favorite teacher. The Christ Party held to that name as if it did not belong to everyone in the church.
The Obstacle of the Cross
The cross was “unto the Jews a stumblingblock,” an obstacle they could not get over (1 Corinthians 1:23). They could not understand how such a display of weakness could be a source of power. A man dying on a cross did not look much like a world savior to them. The scribes and Pharisees scornfully turned from the cross. To them, the cross meant failure. The Jews needed signs of power. They demanded something they could see and grasp. The Messiah must be a world prince. Way too many Christians are like this today. They worship success as much as did the Jews. They despise weakness and admire force. These people tell us that scientists are apt to stumble at the cross because they cannot explain how the blood of one man could wash away the stain of sin.
The cross was “unto the Greeks foolishness” (1 Corinthians 1:23).
The Minister as Servant
One objection to Paul was that his preaching was too simple. He answered that he could not preach any differently because they were mere babies in Christ. They could not tolerate anything but a milk diet. The proof of their childish state (carnality) was in the division among them (see 1 Corinthians 3:1-4).
The Christian in Judgment -
Everyone has four faces—one the world knows, one our friends know, one we know ourselves and one God knows. Paul describes this in 1 Corinthians 4.
There are three courts before which we stand:
1. People—1 Corinthians 4:3
2. Our own conscience—1 Corinthians 4:3
3. Jesus Christ—1 Corinthians 4:4
Do not depend on human judgment. The world may use a single act of ours to judge our character. The voices of criticism may be loud, but if you go high up on the hilltop with God, you will see the bustle of the crowd without hearing it.
Beware of your friends’ judgment because they may be too favorable in their opinion of you. We like to believe all the good things said about us and resent unfavorable criticism.
Paul says, “I judge not mine own self” (1 Corinthians 4:3). ”
The Subject of Marriage -
Controversy had arisen between the Jewish and Greek philosophers about the importance of marriage. Paul wanted to keep scandal from reaching the church, so in 1 Corinthians 7:2, he begins his advice regarding marriage. Some members of the church had tried to discourage marriage, and others thought that when one became a Christian, an unbelieving spouse should be divorced. But Paul was wise. He knew the evil conditions in Corinth and advised every man to have his own wife and every woman to have her own husband. He did not believe that a Christian should divorce an unbelieving partner. He told them that it was possible that the Christian would lead an unbelieving mate to Christ (see 1 Corinthians 7:16).
The Value of the Lord’s Supper
Paul gives a careful account of the beginning of the Lord’s Supper and then tells of its value.
• It was established on the night in which Christ was betrayed.
• It is celebrated in remembrance of His undying love for His followers.
• It is a symbol of His body, which was broken for them—1 Corinthians 10:16.
• It was a new covenant in His blood.
• It is a pledge of His coming again—1 Corinthians 11:26.
We should be careful not to eat or drink in an unworthy manner. “But let a man examine himself” (1 Corinthians 11:28). And never eat without a self-critique and thankful love. “For as often as ye eat,” do it “in remembrance of me” (1 Corinthians 11:24-26). ”
1 CORINTHIANS 12–16: USING GIFTS AND BELIEVING THE GOSPEL
In 1 Corinthians 12, we are told about the gifts that the Spirit gives to believers. In verses 1-3, Paul describes the change that had come into the lives of these Corinthian Christians when they turned from worshiping dead idols to the living Christ. So that they might develop in their Christian lives, Christ gave them the gifts of the Spirit (see 1 Corinthians 12:4-7).
The way to use these gifts the Spirit gives is beautifully described in 1 Corinthians 13. This chapter is often called the hymn of love. Gifts without love are poor things. People talk of love, but they do not live it. Until the love of Christ is in their hearts, it is impossible for people to love one another with any degree of permanency. People seem to worship force. But history has shown us that the victories won by force do not last.
The Resurrection of Christ -
No doubt there was a group in the Corinthian church who did not believe in the resurrection of the dead. To deal with this, Paul starts out by giving a wonderful description of what the gospel is (see 1 Corinthians 15:1-11). Paul did not describe a new gospel. It was the old gospel given in Genesis, Exodus and Leviticus.
1. “Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures”—1 Corinthians 15:3.
2. “He was buried”—1 Corinthians 15:4.
3. “He rose again the third day according to the scriptures”—1 Corinthians 15:4.
4. He was seen by many witnesses—1 Corinthians 15:5-6.
Because Christ lives, we will live also. “O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory?” (1 Corinthians 15:55).
The Bible is a book, written by men, inspired by God, tested through time and verified by our faith.
II Timothy 3:16 “All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: That the man of God may be perfect, thoroughly furnished unto all good works.”
The Bible was written in different countries and cultures, without a single contradiction.
The Bible was written by kings, fishermen, poets, teachers, prophets, government officials, doctors, and underprivileged people.
The Bible contains the oldest and most reliable records of ancient history ever written.
Some doubt the Bible:
If you doubt the validity of something, the most common solution to resolving the question, is to study and test it's message.
This is exactly what generations have done over and over, and yet still today, millions of Christians trust all 66 books of the Bible to be the actual Word of God!
Time and again, its narratives have been shown to contain a remarkably accurate account of people, places and events of bygone ages.
The Bible is published in over 2,000 languages and dialects, and the number of Bibles produced far surpasses anything ever printed and published in the history of mankind. It remains the world’s best- selling book every year.
The Bible was originally written in Hebrew and Greek:
The Old Testament was originally written in Hebrew, the Jews original language.
Bible historians tell us that the Jews language changed from primarily Hebrew to Greek, due to the hundreds of years of foreign invasion.
Therefore, the New Testament was originally written in Greek, the most common language in the time surrounding Jesus and His church.
The King James Bible:
In the year 1611, one of the most popular and accurate Bible translations was published into English.
This was a literal word transfer, as well as why so many have a hard time reading in the King James Version, in comparison to some of the more modern versions.
We recommend using the KJV for study, along side more modern versions, for simple comprehension.
Think of it like this -
Reading a modern version, is like paraphrasing the King James Version to your friends, so they will understand it better.
The problem with the paraphrasing, is that it puts all interpretation in the hands of the paraphraser.
This is why we study the Bible and not just read the Bible . . .
In order to extract the truth from the Bible, we must -