Saturday, June 17, 2017

Bible Study Notes in Colossians- Chapter 4

Colossians 4

-The personal instructions continue as the letter comes to its close in this chapter. We have a Master in Heaven; therefore, we are to treat those under us justly and fairly, just like the Lord does (Colossians 4:1). The next teaching pertains to constant prayer. We are to be watchful in it with expectation. We are to be thankful in it. We are to pray for open doors for proclaiming the Word of God to declare the mystery of Christ and His salvation in clarity (Colossians 4:2-4). Paul gives information on interacting in wisdom toward outsiders and making the most of our time and every opportunity. He says to always let speech be gracious, seasoned with salt (this metaphor suggests speaking in an interesting, stimulating, and wise way that will continue to engage leaving open doors, Matthew 5:13), so that you may know how to answer in the right manner (Colossians 4:5-6).

-*Application* To everyone we must give an answer for the hope that is within us as believers in Christ Jesus (2 Timothy 4:2). Pray for opportunities; pray that God will help us recognize those opportunities; and pray for courage to address the people that the Lord puts along our path to bring them closer to Him and His Kingdom. Advancing His Kingdom carries individual, as well as corporate, responsibility.

-The closing of this letter has some intriguing ins and outs of their ministry and connectedness in Christ. Paul wants them to fulfill their respective ministries that they have received and stand mature, fully assured, in all the will of God (Colossians 4:7-17). He extends his grace and asks for prayer as he is in prison with his own hand to conclude the letter (Colossians 4:18).

-*Application* It is important for us to recognize the intricate connections within the body of Christ that He has designed and ordained (1 Corinthians 12:18). As each plays his or her part, the Kingdom advances unto His glory!

Verse to Memorize- Colossians 4:5

Friday, June 16, 2017

Bible Study Notes in Colossians- Chapter 3

Colossians 3

-Paul goes from the corporate in chapters 1 & 2 to the individual Christian life in the last two chapters 3 & 4. He begins with our resurrected life IN Christ, which allows us to focus on the things above in glory rather than be consumed with the trials, tribulations, and temptations of this natural world. His implication is that we are raised with Christ because we have died to the old man and now our new creation by the Holy Spirit is “hidden with Christ in God.” Christ is our life, as the true and called believers, and He will be revealed. But that’s not all. We, as His saints, will be revealed “with Him in glory (Colossians 3:1-4).” Paul lists things in our mortal beings that need to be “put off (Colossians 3:9),” “put away (Colossians 3:7),” or “put to death (Colossians 3:5).” These things include sexual immorality, impurity, passion (from pathos, which denotes extreme desires, usually associated with sexuality), evil desire, and covetousness, which all amount to idolatry (Colossians 3:5). Also mentioned are the corruptions of anger, wrath, malice (evil intent), slander, obscene talk, and lying (Colossians 3:8-9). Paul through the Holy Spirit says it is on account of these things that the wrath of God is coming and that everyone once walked in this darkness of life before Christ came and saved. Our lives were all a big mess before Christ came and cleaned things up (Colossians 3:6-7).

-Sinful living habits were the bad news, but the good (no make that great!) news is that Christ has come and we can “put on (Colossians 3:10, 12, 14)” His righteousness with true knowledge in His image. In this renewed and transformed life, there is equality among believers with no distinction as Christ is all and in all (Colossians 3:11). The list of things to “put on” include compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, gentleness, patience, bearing with one another, forgiveness, and thanksgiving (Colossians 3:12-13). Above all of these virtues, or fruits of the Holy Spirit, is the perfect bond of unity, LOVE (1 Corinthians 13, Colossians 3:14). Peace is also included, which is to rule in our hearts along with the Word of Christ, which can dwell in us richly through teaching and admonishing (noutheteĊ- to admonish “God wouldn’t want us to do that”, warn “God will take action to correct our errors”, exhort “we can do better than that motivation”) one another in and with all wisdom (Colossians 3:15-16). The base analysis is that we can be thankful in all forms of praise as we do everything in word or deed in the Name of the Lord Jesus (Colossians 3:16-17).

-*Application* This is personal and very introspective when we consider how thus we should live as new creations IN Christ. If these characteristics are present and growing, we are in good shape (2 Peter 1:2-8; 3:18). If not, we had better examine ourselves to see if we are actually in the faith (2 Corinthians 13:5).

-Some individual exhortations in regards to family matters and working relationships characterize Colossians 3:18-25. Submission, love, abstaining from bitterness, and obedience are big components in this section, all in the fear of the Lord in view of pleasing Him and fitting into His plan (Colossians 3:22). The key verse here is “whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men (Colossians 3:23).” It is the Lord that gives our inheritance as a reward as new creations, and make sure that the wrongdoer who is apart from God will be paid back for what they have done since there is no partiality with God (Colossians 3:24-25).

-*Application* There is no doubt individual responsibility and accountability, with regards to our relationship and walk with the Lord, is a critical application to us here. No one can make us right with God other than ourselves. It is our own personal faith that will make the difference in where we spend eternity. Please personally accept Christ Jesus as Savior and become a new creation through His Holy Spirit if this has not happened yet. We will benefit from this decision in more ways than we can ever imagine (Ephesians 3:20-21). We are blessed in Christ. Lay aside the old and put on the new.

Verses to Memorize- Colossians 3:3-4, 17, 23

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Bible Study Notes in Colossians- Chapter 2

Colossians 2

-Paul reaches out to his readers in Colossae so that they may be encouraged being unified together in love in order to reach all the riches of completed assurance of understanding and knowledge of God’s mystery, which is Jesus Christ, the Head of the church (Colossians 2:2). It appears from the text that there are some who are attempting to bring in false teaching to take these new converts away from true and unadulterated faith in the Lord (Colossians 2:1, 3-5). Paul is wanting to make sure they walk in the truth of Christ and not be wrapped up in human traditions, worldly philosophy, empty deceit, food and drink, festivals, new moon, or Sabbath traditions according to the elemental spirits of the world (Colossians 2:8-9, 16-17). He speaks out against any form of extreme asceticism (rigorous self-denial and active self-restraint, the doctrine that through renunciation of worldly pleasures it is possible to achieve a high spiritual or intellectual state) and the worship of angels, false visions, and a puffed-up mind that is sensuous (appealing to or gratifying the senses) (Colossians 2:18). What Paul is doing is making a case for the simplicity of life in Christ as the Head of His body, the church, who is in them and instructing them for righteousness and sanctification apart from “elementary principles of the world (Colossians 2:8, 11-15, 20).” In Christ, all the fullness of Deity dwells in bodily form and believers have been filled with Him who is the Head of all rule and authority holding everything together (Colossians 2:9-10, 19). He sets us free from the legalism of human precepts, teachings, traditions, and regulations “such as do not handle, do not taste, do not touch (Colossians 2:20-22).” These things may have “the appearance of wisdom in promoting self-made religion” through self-sacrifice, “but they are of NO VALUE in stopping the indulgence of the flesh (Colossians 2:23).”

-*Application* The overriding admonition of Scripture is to simply follow Christ Jesus and live as He did by the Spirit of the Living God. This frees us from the bondage of human traditions and regulations that restrict us in so many ways. It is not rules that make us righteous, but accepting Christ’s righteousness, which was worked out for us and completed on the cross of Calvary through His shed blood, death, and eventual resurrection three days later. Where we were dead in our trespasses and sin, Christ prevailed by nailing our dysfunction to the cross and forgave us through His love and grace activated by our faith. He canceled the debt that stood against us with its legal demands and gave us complete victory being made alive by God (Colossians 2:13-15). This is certainly something worth giving Him thanks and sharing with everyone you know. Don’t get sidetracked from the main thing, which is trusting in Christ and living in His power. This is an inward focus rather than an external qualification.

Verses to Memorize- Colossians 2:9-10, 19

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Bible Study Notes in Colossians- Introduction and Chapter 1

Colossians 1


-Remove the head coach, and the team flounders; break the fuel line, and the car won’t run; unplug the TV and it has no power to operate. Whether for leadership, power, or life, connections are all important!

-Colossians is a book themed around “connections.” Paul, writing probably from Rome during his imprisonment (4:18) in approximately the early 60s, combats the false teachings, which had somehow infiltrated the Colossian church. The primary problem was “syncretism,” which is combining ideas from other philosophies and religions (such as paganism, strains of Judaism, and Greek thought) with the Christian truth of the gospel. The resulting heresy later became known as “Gnosticism,” which emphasized special knowledge and denying Christ as God and Savior. To combat this grievous and devious error, Paul stressed Christ’s Deity—His connection with the Father—and His sacrificial death on the cross for sin. Only by “connecting” with Christ through faith can anyone have eternal life, and only through a continuing connection with Him can anyone have power for living. Christ is God incarnate and the only way to forgiveness and peace with God the Father. Paul then goes on to emphasize believers’ “connections” with each other as Christ’s body on earth. This letter then becomes an important book to study for spiritual formation in the Christian life with many important theological truths to consider.

Major Themes:

Christ is God- Jesus Christ is God in the flesh, Lord of all creation, and Lord of the new creation. He is the expressed reflection of the invisible God. He is eternal, preexistent, omnipotent, and equal with the Father. He is supreme and complete. This means we need to understand Christ as being supreme in our lives, recognizing Him as God’s means for our salvation

Christ is the Head of the Church- Because Christ is God, He is the Head of the church, His true believers. Christ is the founder, the leader, and the highest authority on earth. He requires first place in all our thoughts and activities. We must welcome His leadership in our lives in all we do and think. No person, group, or institutional church can regard any loyalty as more critical than that of loyalty to Christ.

Union with Christ- Because our sin has been forgiven and we have been reconciled to God, we have a union with Christ that can never be broken. In our faith connection with Him, we identify with His death, burial, and resurrection. We should live in constant contact and communication with God (1 Thess. 5:17). When we do, we will all be unified with Christ and with one another.

Man-Made Religion- False teachers were promoting a heresy that stressed man-made rules (legalism) based on their own fleshly knowledge (Gnosticism). They also sought spiritual growth by discipline of the body (asceticism) and visions (mysticism) that were not of God. This search created a deception and self-centered pride through their own efforts in futility. We must not cling to our own ideas and try to blend them into Christianity. Nor should we let our hunger for a more fulfilling Christian experience cause us to trust in a teacher, a group, or a system of thought more than in Christ Himself. Christ is our hope and our true source of wisdom.


Paul’s introduction to the Colossians gives his signature-common greeting with grace and peace. He includes a note of thanksgiving, and a prayer for spiritual wisdom and strength for those brothers and sisters in Christ (1:1-12). He then moves into a doctrinal discussion of the person and work of Christ (1:13-23), stating that Christ is “the image of the invisible God” (1:15), the Creator (1:16), the “head of the body, the church” (1:18), and “the firstborn from the dead” (1:18). His death on the cross makes it possible for us to stand in the presence of God (1:22).

Paul then explains how the world’s teachings are totally empty when compared with God’s plan, and he challenges the Colossians to reject shallow answers and to live in union solely with Christ (1:24-2:23).

With this theological backdrop established, Paul now turns to more practical considerations—what the divinity, death, and resurrection of Jesus should mean to all believers (3:1-4:6). Because our eternal destiny is sure, heaven should fill our thoughts (3:1-4), sexual impurity and other worldly lusts should not be named among us (3:5-8), and truth, love and peace should mark our life (3:9-15). Our love for Christ should also translate into love for others—friends, fellow believers, spouses, children, parents, slaves, and masters (3:16-4:1). We should constantly communicate with God through prayer (4:2-4), and we should take every opportunity to tell others the Good News (4:5-6). In Christ we have everything we need for salvation and for living the Christian life.

Paul may have never visited Colosse. The church was probably planted by Epaphras (1:7) and was the least important city that Paul addressed in any of his biblical letters. This may account for why he concludes his letter with personal comments about their common Christian associations, providing a living lesson of the “connectedness” of the body of Christ (4:7-18).

Read this book with first century Christian communities in mind, but also apply it to your own life as it offers many timeless truths to soak in. You will indeed gain a fresh appreciation for Christ as the fullness of God and the only source for living the victorious Christian life. Know that your leader, head, and power source is Jesus Christ and make sure of your “connection” with Him!

Key Verses:

Colossians 2:9-10   “For in Christ all the fullness of the Deity lives in bodily form, and you have been given fullness in Christ, who is the head over every power and authority.”

*Notes from this overview were aided by:

Thomas D. Lea and David Alan Black, The New Testament: Its Background and Message, 2nd edition, Broadman and Holman Publishers, Nashville, TN: 2003, pgs. 449-457.

New American Standard Bible: Life Application Study Bible, Zondervan, Grand Rapids, Mich.: 1995, pgs. 2096-2097.

-Paul’s primary concern in the first chapter is to let them know of his love for these “saints and faithful brethren in Christ” and to share the preeminence of Christ Jesus in full detail. After Paul’s typical initial greeting “grace” and “peace” with “thanksgiving” from and to the Father, he mentions his constant intercession for the beloved to whom he is writing in the faith along with Timothy, their brother in the Lord. Paul had hear of their faith in Christ Jesus along with all the love that they had for each other as saints in the Kingdom of God. This is an implied indication from the text that Paul had not actually met these folks, but his love for them was truly evident. They all shared a common “hope” that was in Christ and that was laid up for them in Heaven through the truth of the gospel (euaggelion- the good news, the glad tidings of the Kingdom of God as it pertained to salvation through Jesus Christ). It had come to them through the testimony of other believers as it was “bearing fruit” all over the world with the message of the perfect life, atoning death, and bodily resurrection of God’s own Son. They had heard and understood the grace of God in truth. Epaphras, who most think founded the church in Colossae, taught them these things as a fellow “beloved bond-servant” on behalf of Paul and other apostles. Epaphras had informed them somehow of the Colossians “love in the Spirit.” For these reasons, Paul reiterates how they have prayed for them since they heard this encouraging message from Epaphras. He specially tells them that he prayed that they “may be filled with the knowledge of His will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding.” Why? So that they may be able to walk in a manner totally worthy of the Lord in pleasing Him in all respects, bearing fruit in every good work and increasing constantly in the knowledge of God. He prayed that they would be strengthened with all power, according to God’s glorious might, so that they could attain all steadfastness and patience with joy “giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified us to share in the inheritance of the saints in light (Colossians 1:1-12).”

-“For He rescued us from the domain of darkness, and transferred us to the Kingdom of His beloved Son, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins (Colossians 1:13-14).” He is the firstborn of all creation, before all things, the beginning, the Creator of all visible and invisible in Heaven and earth, and holding all things together as Head of the church. He is the first-born from the dead, which speaks to the resurrection, and He takes preeminence in everything. In Him all the fullness of God dwells and He is reconciling all things to Himself for His glory making peace by the blood of His cross. Although humanity was formerly alienated and hostile in their corrupted minds engaging in evil deeds, Jesus through His work reconciled fallen people in His fleshly Body through death, in order to present the believers before the Father “holy” and “blameless” and “beyond reproach.” If believers continue in the faith, stable and steadfast, not shifting from the hope of the gospel and sealed by the Holy Spirit, their destiny is secure (Ephesians 1:13: 4:30, Colossians 1:15-23).

-Paul had ministered and shared this message faithfully as a good steward with much suffering in toil and struggle according to the energy that powerfully worked through him by the Spirit. He had imparted the mystery hidden from ages past that was now being revealed. That mystery is Christ IN us, the hope of glory unto a mature man with all wisdom. He was proclaiming Him admonishing and teaching every man with all wisdom so that they, as apostles, could present everyone complete in Christ Jesus. This was the purpose of Paul’s labor as he strove according to the power that Christ gave him (Colossians 1:24-29).

-*Application* The supremacy of Christ Jesus as Lord and Savior must be at the heart of everything we do. It is truly all about Him. He is the way, the truth, and the life and no man comes to the Father except by Him (John 14:6). Exalt the Lord in your life in every way and give Him glory because of who He is and what He has done to give us an opportunity to live IN Him now and for all eternity. Praise be unto Jesus Christ our King. He is the Name above all names and the fullness of God incarnated on our behalf. He is the One who works mightily in us to do His good will and accomplish His purposes.

Verses to Memorize- Colossians 1:13-14, 27

Saturday, June 10, 2017

Bible Study Notes in Philippians- Chapter 4

Philippians 4

-Paul’s final exhortation, encouragement, and prayer in chapter four begins with a plea to stand firm in a chapter we may theme “the joy of peace and giving.” A personal note follows to Euodia and Syntyche to agree in the Lord along with other fellow workers whose names are in the book of life (Psalm 69:28, Philippians 4:1-3, Revelation 3:5; 13:8; 17:8; 20:12, 15; 21:27). Paul repeats his encouragement for rejoicing always (Philippians 1:18; 2:17-18, 28; 3:1). He tells them to let their forbearing spirit be gentle (epieikas- gentle, kind, reasonable, gracious, yielding, tolerant) because the Lord is near (Philippians 4:4-5). He then gives some of the best advice in all of Scripture. He tells his readers to be anxious (unduly concerned, worried) for nothing, but in everything by prayer (communication with God) and supplication (an entreaty unto God, a crying out) with thanksgiving let our requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which goes far beyond our comprehension and understanding, will guard (protect, keep) our hearts and your minds IN Christ Jesus (Philippians 4:6-7).

-*Application* Why is it so hard for us to have peace and joy and kindness and gentleness in this world without all the anxiety and fear and worry and fretting? It has everything to do with our absence of faith in these times. Peace can ultimately come when we are in the presence of God through prayer and supplication and giving of thanks despite any grievous perception of hardships or difficulties. Our outlook matters, and we must remember that the Lord is always near, right at the door knocking (Revelation 3:20). He wants to come IN and give us rest from our struggles. My friend, seek the peace of God and all His wonderful and astounding benefits. This is the key to unlocking the gift of contentment, which Paul is about to expound upon.

-Paul now gives us a list of things to meditate on and think about as we go through life. The command is to dwell the heart and mind on whatever is true, honorable, just, pure, lovely, commendable (appealing), excellence, and praiseworthy. Practice these things Paul says and follow his example as he follows Christ Jesus (1 Corinthians 11:1, Philippians 3:17; 4:8-9, Hebrews 6:12).

-*Application* The battle for the soul begins and ends in the mind. As a man thinks in his heart so is he (Proverbs 23:7). Put your mind in the right place, in surrender to the Lord, and He will grant you all you need for righteousness and peace (2 Peter 1:3, 1 John 2:27).

-Paul now explains the contented life through all of its ups and downs. Paul had been brought low and he had abounded; he had plenty and hunger, abundance and need (Philippians 4:11-12). In whatever circumstance, or situation, he was in he had learned to be content without want. This is why he can now say that he can do all things through Christ who strengthens him (Philippians 4:13). Giving now becomes the primary them as Paul makes mention of their kindness and generosity, which will be applied to their credit in the Kingdom of God. Paul was feeling amply supplied in abundance with perfect contentment. And, he knows that God will supply all of the saints’ needs according to His riches in glory in Christ Jesus. He is the One to be given glory forever and ever. With this said, Paul bids good-bye to his beloved with grace and greeting from those with him including members of Caesar’s household (this to me is a proof that Paul wrote from Rome). He wanted their spirits to be content and at perfect rest even though he was in prison. This was the all-consuming love Paul had for his people (Philippians 4:14-23). *Application* Contentment is a hard thing to find in this American culture that we find ourselves a part of. We always seem to want more and more, but things and successes and selfish abundance only compound the problems we have within ourselves. Be happy with what you do have and the blessings that have been bestowed to you rather than worrying or stressing about what you don’t have. Godliness with content is a means of great gain (1 Timothy 6:6-11). Be content even in the tough times and have grace to endure in whatever suffering the Lord allows you to go through. This is good stuff to live by from the Word of God. He will always amply supply our needs in abundance.

Verse to Memorize- Philippians 4:4-8, 11, 13, 19

Friday, June 9, 2017

Bible Study Notes in Philippians- Chapter 3

Philippians 3

-The Lordship and Supremacy of Christ Jesus obtained by faith in Him is again magnified in this eloquent chapter of Scripture that could be themed, “the joy of believing.” Paul begins by telling his readers to rejoice as a safety measure (Philippians 3:1). He then offers warning to what he calls “the dogs,” which are evildoers who mutilate their flesh (Philippians 3:2). Paul uses irony here since it is usually to Pharisaical Jews who call Gentiles “dogs” because of their uncleanness in life apart from the Law. The apostle offers that believers in Christ are the real circumcision, who worship by the Spirit of God and glory in their Savior putting no confidence in the flesh (Philippians 3:3). Paul claims that if anyone could have confidence in the flesh it would be him. He lists his former accomplishments in Judaism under the Law and ancestrally as a persecutor of the church and blameless in their religious system. But, whatever he had gained, he counted it as loss for the sake of accepting and receiving the righteousness of Christ as his Lord by simple faith, or believing. The worth of Christ Jesus surpassed everything in Judaism and allowed him to count all else as junk (rubbish, trash, vain) in comparison.

-*Application* IN Christ we have a righteousness that does not come from the Law, but through faith in Him. This allows us to know Him and the power of his resurrection as well as the fellowship of His sufferings in this world. We become like Him in His death so that we can attain the resurrection from the dead (Philippians 3:4-11). In what ways have you died to yourself so that you may live in Christ’s resurrected power? This is not only a reality for the future in Heaven, but can be our experience now on this earth as He sanctifies us (Romans 5:10).

-Paul knew he had not already obtained this perfected-resurrection life yet, but he was pressing on to make it his own because Christ had made him His own (Philippians 3:12). He was forgetting his past and the failures of merit-based works, now straining forward to what lay ahead. He was striving for the upward call of God IN Christ Jesus (Philippians 3:13-14). He exhorted all to hold true to what had been attained through the work of Jesus on the cross for redemptive Spirit-filled life as mature believers relying on Christ through an exchanged and new life (Philippians 3:15-16).

-*Application* Perfection in the Christian walk is never completely achieved on this earth as we see expressed in the words of the apostle. No matter how far we think we’ve come in the Spirit, there is always the next challenge of spiritual growth and maturity. We must be ever growing and adding to our faith so that we do not become nearsighted and blind (2 Peter 1:3-11; 3:18). Press on believer! Grow IN Christ!

-To have growth we need the Holy Spirit indwelling us and controlling us, leading us into all truth and grace (John 16:13, 2 Peter 3:18). We also need more mature believers that we can look to and imitate (Philippians 3:17). We shouldn’t idolize these mentors, coaches, and counselors, but they are there for our spiritual benefit and can teach us to be more Christlike as we develop. If we don’t grow, Paul is warning the Philippians and us as well, we run the danger of nullifying our witness and testimony by turning to carnal things. This may even be an indication that we are NOT IN Christ because the writer clearly states that these will end in destruction whose god is their belly (selfish appetite) and glory in their shame with minds set on earthly things (Philippians 3:19). This is why we must examine ourselves constantly to make sure that we are in the true faith and not deceiving ourselves (Proverbs 14:12; 16:25, 1 Corinthians 3:18, 2 Corinthians 13:5, 1 Thessalonians 5:21). “Our citizenship is in Heaven and from it we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, who will transform our lowly body to be like His glorious body (1 Corinthians 15), by the power that enables Him even to subject all things to Himself (Philippians 3:20-21).”

-*Application* Get on your knees if you can right now and praise the Lord Jesus Christ for who He is. Praise His Name for a while today because He is good and grants every good and perfect gift to us, His children (James 1:17). Enjoy the belief journey, cast down all idols, and realize our citizenship is assured in Heaven as we eagerly await some awesome and glorious heavenly bodies with no corruption.

Verses to Memorize- Philippians 3:2-3, 9-14, 20-21

Thursday, June 8, 2017

Bible Study Notes in Philippians- Chapter 2

Philippians 2

-“If there is any encouragement in Christ, and comfort from love, any participation in the Spirit, any affection and sympathy, complete my joy by being of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind. Do nothing from selfish ambition or (vain) conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also the interests of others (Philippians 2:1-4).”

-*Application* Unity under the authority of Jesus Christ is the theme here. It goes against the tolerant age that we live in where everyone is expected to be ok with each person going their own way and doing their own thing. This separates and divides. There is only one truth, one way, and one life. Jesus is that way, truth, and life. No one comes to the Father except through Him (John 14:6). We need to conform to His image in all these listed areas together with one voice of truth and conviction. Only then will our joy be complete. The other way will lead to confusion and dysfunction with hatred eventually and selfish motivations. In other words, this passage is a strong case against the belief in universalism, which is sweeping our nation. Conform to Christ and live.

-The Christ we are conforming to has an attitude that the writer of Philippians explains and extols. This is the great Kenosis (to empty, to give it up, to humbly void, to lay aside privileges) chapter explaining how Christ, who was God, emptied Himself by becoming flesh and taking on limitations all for the sake of love and our eternal redemption by His shed blood. Jesus did not consider equality with God a thing to be grasped (held on to); therefore, He let go of His majesty for a season and came to this cursed earth by taking the form of a servant (doulos, slave), being born in the likeness of men in human form. He humbled Himself by becoming obedient even to the point of death even on a cursed cross all for the salvation from our sins (Philippians 2:5-8).

-Because of His work, God has highly exalted Him and given Him the Name which is above every name and will cause every knee to bow to Him on earth and in Heaven and even under the earth (Hades). Every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord to the glory of the Father (Philippians 2:9-11).

-*Application* This explains much theologically when we try to comprehend the Trinity and understand the role of the Messiah as fully man and fully God. He had to give up many of His rights and privileges as Divinity to come and be among us for our example and salvation. Some examples of His limitations during His incarnation include His limitations in presence (He could only be at one place at a time verses the omnipresence of God the Father and Spirit), His tiredness and weariness, His hunger, His ability to experience physical death, and even some limitations in His knowledge (Matthew 24:36, Mark 13:32). Jesus gave up Heaven and its glory to come save us. What a concept for us to abide by in our practice.

-Because of this we should work out our great salvation with fear and trembling because it is God who is at work in us to work and to will His good pleasure (Philippians 2:12-13). God seeks us out and does amazing things to reconstruct us in His image even when we had fallen from His grace. He restores and replenishes our righteousness.

-*Application* God seeks us out and gives us a new heart and Spirit within us (Ezekiel 36:26). He gives us all we need for eternal life beginning right now on earth and godliness in His Spirit. Even though we don’t seek after God naturally, He comes to us and draws us to Himself by giving us a heart that will respond to His love, mercy, grace, and affection. God’s restoration is merited by that one condition of faith, but it is ultimately God who gives us the means to meet that condition. In other words, our approaching Him with our own resources and desires would be ultimately futile and in vain. We approach Jesus with a heart that He has given us, which measures up to His fullness and completion. Rejoice in the God who gives all good things for our benefit (James 1:17).

-With this fact in mind, we should do all things without grumbling or complaining (disputing) that we may be blameless and innocent without blemish as children of God in the midst of a crooked and perverse (twisted) generation among whom we shine as lights in the world. We are to hold fast in this faith and unity until the day of Christ when He glorifies us and makes all things new (Revelation 21:5). Even if poured out as a drink offering, as Paul thought he might be and eventually was, we can be glad and rejoice together as one body in Jesus Christ (Philippians 2:14-18).

-*Application* Make sure your joy in Christ Jesus is evident to all even in the midst of trial and tribulation. We overcome and conquer by the word of our testimony (Revelation 12:11).

-Paul gives glowing praise for Timothy and Epaphroditus in the last section of this chapter as having the qualities of genuine concern for the welfare of the saints, having steadfast service in humility, and taking risks for the work of Christ without selfish ambition (Philippians 2:19-30). *Application* Good men are rare and hard to find. These two set an example for us in our service for the Lord and those in authority over us. Submit and give all you’ve got for the work of the Kingdom in sincerity and truth with all perseverance!

Verses to Memorize- Philippians 2:1-14

Wednesday, June 7, 2017

Bible Study Notes in Philippians- Introduction and Chapter 1

Philippians 1

- Background: Philippi was seized as valuable mining territory by Philip II of Macedon a little after 400 B.C. By 200 B.C. it had passed under Roman control. In 42 B.C. Philippi was the site of a battle between the forces of Octavian (later Augustus Caesar) and Antony, who defeated the armies of Brutus and Cassius. After Octavian defeated the forces of Antony at Actium, he settled some of his defeated opponents in Philippi and made the city into a Roman colony. Descendents of these individuals were recipients of Paul’s missionary journeys. It was Paul’s second missionary journey when he first visited the city. This is where the first known European convert accepted Christ, Lydia (Acts 16:12-15). Paul also freed a slave girl from demonic possession, which caused quite a stir in the city (Acts 16:21). Paul and Silas spent some time in prison there before God sent an earthquake to release them and miraculously save the jailor and his household (Acts 16:21-34). It was at Philippi, one of several times this happened, that Paul asserted his rights as a Roman citizen to make things more conducive to spreading the gospel (Acts 16:38-40).

Authorship: This is a letter of Paul in its classic form demonstrating his personality and character.

Date: It is reasonably assumed Paul wrote this letter near the end of his two year house imprisonment in Rome. A date near the mid 60s then is the likely time of this writing. However, there are some who have suggested that he wrote this letter from his incarceration in Caesarea Maritima.

Purpose of the Letter: Paul wanted to ease the anxieties and concerns the church felt for him in his imprisonment. He assures the believers that the Lord was at work in the midst of his persecution (Phil. 1:12-14). Paul urges unity to stem a tide of contentiousness in Philippi with his passionate plea in Philippians 2:1-11. He encouraged them to practice a true faith in humility in their relationships with one another in following the example of Christ. This passage at the beginning of chapter 2 gives us the kenosis of Christ, in other words the “emptying” of His divine rights, to become our payment for sin. It is an important theological passage into the nature of the Son of God. Paul challenges the Judaizers (legalists) who diluted or added to the requirements for salvation (Phil. 3:1-6). He also rebukes with severe language a group of perfectionists in the city (Phil. 3:12-16). Paul then issued strong warnings to another group reflecting tendencies toward sensuality and materialistic greed for the purpose of awaking the church to deal with such issues (Phil. 3:18-19). Paul ends the letter with another appeal for unity, prayer, and proper thinking (Phil. 4:1-9). He is gracious with gratitude for the gifts he has received and knows that the Lord will bless their sincere generosity (Phil. 4:10-20).

Questions for Thought:

-In what ways can we seek unity with the same mind and purpose as Christ in the church today?

-What does Paul’s strong affirmation of contentment in this book mean for us in the midst of life’s severe trials and tribulations?

*Notes from this overview were aided by:

Thomas D. Lea and David Alan Black, The New Testament: Its Background and Message, 2nd edition, Broadman and Holman Publishers, Nashville, TN: 2003, pgs. 363-376.

-Chapter1: Paul is writing along with Timothy on this message to the saints in Philippi and in particular the overseers (episkopoi, bishops) and deacons (servants). He grants his trademark grace and peace upon them in the Name of the Father and the Son before thanking God for all his remembrances of them and making mention of his earnest and joyful prayers for them. They had partnered together with him in the gospel from the very beginning, and Paul was sure that He who began a good work in them would undeniably bring it to completion (epiteleo, to finish) at the day of Jesus Christ (Philippians 1:1-6). This “Day of Jesus Christ” becomes a recurring theme as Paul looks forward to the completion of his own life and seeing his faith become sight (Philippians 1:10; 2:16). Paul loves these people with all his heart and acknowledges how that they had become partakers with him in the grace of God (Philippians 1:7-8). Paul prayed for them to abound more and more in this love of Christ with knowledge and all discernment so that they could approve of what was excellent and be pure and blameless for their eventual meeting with Christ, in His day, filled with the fruit of righteousness that only comes through Jesus Christ to His praise and glory (Philippians 1:9-11).

-*Application* Paul truly loved this flock and points out how we should love those around us with warmth and affection. We should always keep the end in mind because one day we will meet our Creator face to face and give account for this life. This is the Day of Christ and we’d better be prepared for it by placing our faith in Him, the only One who can save. This is the essence of the gospel. Become a partaker in His grace!

-Paul begins to encourage them in their distress over his imprisonment. Paul actually states that his incarceration was for the good because of the lives that were being changed and the boldness that was coming from his stand in Christ by many (Philippians 1:12-14). He promotes the sharing of Christ even in pretense by some who had envy, rivalry, selfish ambition, and desired his affliction (Philippians 1:15-18).

-*Application* Think about the heart of Paul for a moment and how he didn’t even care about his own well-being compared the unsurpassing glory of Jesus Christ being known. How much do we want Jesus talked about around us. Are we willing to suffer and be rejected just so His Holy Name can be mentioned? We must do our best to get Jesus discussions started. Be bold and unashamed (Romans 1:16).

-For Paul to live was Christ and to die was gain because of his unyielding faith and determination for the gospel. He was asking for prayer and the help of the Holy Spirit for deliverance, but he was torn. His departure would mean being with Christ, but his staying would mean fruitful labor in the Lord and that could absolutely be a benefit to the Philippians’ account (Philippians 1:19-26). The author then exhorts his readers to live in a manner of life pleasing to the Lord and worthy of the gospel of Christ by standing firm in one Spirit with one mind striving side by side for the faith of the gospel truth, not being frightened in anything by their opponents. This would be a clear sign for their destruction, but for them, salvation. Suffering is included in this challenge for them just as it was for the apostle (Philippians 1:27-30).

-*Application* When was the last time you counted up the cost of being a true disciple of Christ? Here we see that life in Christ is never easy, but O so rewarding. There is a peace and rejoicing that defies logic with the Lord, and His presence is strong even in the face of conflict and certain natural doom. His Light shines brightest in the darkness. Be encouraged, our faith is not in vain and God will rescue His saints. We are beloved.

Verses to Memorize- Philippians 1:6, 21

Tuesday, June 6, 2017

Bible Study Notes in Ecclesiastes- Chapter 12

Ecclesiastes 12

-Chapter 12, the concluding chapter of Ecclesiastes, begins with the completion of thoughts discussed at the end of chapter 11 concerning youth and the proper application of it. Solomon tells the youth to remember their Creator while they are young, “before the evil days come and the years draw near when you will say, ‘I have no delight in them; before the sun and the light, the moon and the stars are darkened, and clouds return after the rain.’” In those days of being elderly, the Preacher gives some description of the plight of growing old. This is when the watchmen of the house tremble (think of the trembling-feeble state of old people). Mighty men, when they are aged, stoop with bad posture due to the effects are living a long-hard life. The grinding ones refer to teeth, which are often gone in the old people. They stand idle to chew, because they are few. Eyesight also goes bad, as represented by the view out of windows growing dim that the king presents. Hearing is awful too, as they can’t hear doors being shut on the street or the sound of the grinding mill. Old people rise early (I can remember my grandfather and now father playing this fact out), with the sound of only the birds. All the daughters of song singing softly deals with the gentleness that we typically expect when dealing with the aged ones of our society. Furthermore, the king relates to us how the old men are no longer courageous in their exploits of valor. They become “afraid of a high place and of terrors on the road.” In our time, this has to do often with driving and the caution we often see with the elderly. Almond blossoms are white, like old people’s grey hair, which is a sign of glory and honor (Proverbs 16:31; 20:29). “The grasshopper drags himself along” refers to the manner in which the elderly get around with hardship and pain as their time to depart earth hastens. The caperberry ('abiyownah- stimulating appetite or desire with both food and sex) becomes ineffective as people get ready for their graduation from earth to their eternal home. As mourners go about in the street, a person’s spirit departs for the afterlife. All in this world is passing, broken, shattered, and crushed. Silver and gold cannot enter into the next life. “Then the dust will return to the earth as it was, and the spirit will return to God who gave it.” The Preacher calls earthly life, in the context of this fading world, “Vanity of vanities, all is vanity (Ecclesiastes 12:1-8)!”

-As the book concludes, Solomon, using his title “Preacher,” adds to the fact he was a wise man that he also taught the people knowledge by pondering, searching out, and arranging many proverbs. He sought to find “delightful words” and to write “words of truth correctly.” The words of spiritually wise men are like ox goads and “masters of these collections are like well-driven nails; they are given by one Shepherd (I believe referring to the Messiah, the Holy Spirit, and God the Father).” Beyond this, or in this temporal world, he warns his son that the “writing of many books is endless, and excessive devotion to books (or mindless learning) is wearying to the body.” “The conclusion, when all has been heard, is: fear God and keep His commandments, because this applies to every person. For God will bring every act to judgment, everything which is hidden, whether it is good or evil (Ecclesiastes 12:9-14).”

-*Application* It is a beautiful thing to watch the people of God grow old with His mercy and everlasting grace, which comes out of a fearful-reverence of Him. There is a gentle-quiet spirit that we observe when people truly KNOW the LORD and are assured of their final resting place with Him in Heaven. The damaging effects of this sinful world are real, and they help us to long for a better existence (Romans 8:16-23). We can’t stop ole father time, but we can receive the redemption that Jesus Christ offers through a new spiritual birth and everlasting-perfect life with Him in the eschaton (1 Corinthians 15, 2 Corinthians 5:17). I believe this is the whole and true wisdom of this book as we consider the futility of life here on earth and start to think in a new and lasting direction with Christ Jesus as our wonderful Savior. He becomes the positive, He becomes the life, He becomes the way, He becomes the truth (John 14:6). At the time of this writing, I have completed 48 trips around the sun. While my physical is waning, and I feel it powerfully on some days as I get older and older, my inner man is growing stronger and more powerful by His amazing grace, miraculous mercy, and unending faithful love (2 Corinthians 4:16-18). Praise be to our God. Nothing is vanity with Him at the helm. There is indeed no hope in this life, but tons of it in the next if we have the Savior, Jesus Christ. For a great song dealing with this theme, check out: It will take about 11 minutes, but it’s well worth our time.

Verses to Memorize: Ecclesiastes 12:1, 7, 13-14

Monday, June 5, 2017

Bible Study Notes in Ecclesiastes- Chapter 11

Ecclesiastes 11

-This brief chapter is the carpe diem section of Ecclesiastes as Solomon relates how risk and opportunity play into our earthly existence. He advises us to cast our bread upon the surface of the waters, and we will find it after many days. We should divide our portion to seven, or even to eight, due to the fact that we don’t know what misfortunate may occur on the earth. In other words, do not hoard in life. If the clouds are full, they will pour out rain on the earth. And, it doesn’t matter which way a tree falls, there it lies. The person who just watches the wind will not sow, and he who simply observes the clouds will not reap. That person is lazy. We cannot know the path of the wind or exactly how the LORD forms the bones of a baby in the womb. In the same way, we do not know the activity of God who is the Maker of all things. Therefore, the Preacher advises that we sow our seed in the morning and resist being idle in the evening because we don’t exactly know when we will succeed, and both times could be good if we are working. “The light is pleasant, and it is good for the eyes to see the sun (Ecclesiastes 11:1-7).”

-Solomon wants everyone to rejoice in all the years of our lives remembering the days of darkness, “for they will be many.” Negatively, due to the nature of this cursed world, he states that everything in this realm will come to futility. He ends by telling the young to rejoice during childhood letting the heart be pleasant during the days of youth and following the impulses of the heart and the desires of the eyes. However, we had better know that God will bring everything we do in this world into judgment before Him. Therefore, the king tells the young to remove anger and grief from the heart and put away all forms of pain from the body, “because childhood and the prime of life are fleeting (Ecclesiastes 11:8-10).”

-*Application* It behooves us to seize the day, but we must remember that we are accountable unto the LORD. He is always watching us, and only through His Son, Jesus Christ, can we have forgiveness for the inevitable mistakes that we will make in life. Thankfully, He is redeeming those who trust in Him and receive the grace that He gives freely. Therefore, work hard, take chances, and fulfill the purposes of God in life remembering that all good and perfect things come from the Father (James 1:17). Also, forget about the heartaches of this world and walk in the light. “Rejoice in the Lord always; and again I will say, rejoice (Philippians 4:4).”

Verses to Memorize: Ecclesiastes 11:9-10

Friday, June 2, 2017

Bible Study Notes in Ecclesiastes- Chapter 10

Ecclesiastes 10

-The conclusions from observing the reality of life continue in this thought provoking chapter. Dead flies stink up perfumer’s oil, or ointment. In the same way, a little foolishness is weightier than wisdom and honor. A wise man’s heart takes him to the right (biblical symbol for righteousness, John 21:6, Matthew 25:31-40), while the foolish man’s heart takes him to the left (biblical symbol for wickedness, Matthew 25:41-46). A fool can be spotted easily enough even when he/she is walking along the road. Their sense is lacking and their demonstrations prove they are foolish. I have seen this many times as I drive along, especially in urban settings. When a person in authority has their temper rise against us, we should not abandon our position. We should be confident, but composed. Composure, the Holy Spirit tells us through Solomon, allays (nuwach- settles, calms, quiets, reduces in intensity or severity, alleviates) great offenses. There is more evil that the Preacher has seen under the sun, like an error that goes forth from a ruler. That error of evil is folly finding itself in many exalted places, while rich men (I take this to mean rich in wisdom) can find themselves in humble places. Solomon had seen slaves riding on horses and princes walking like slaves on the land. Extenuating circumstances made good people suffer hardships too often in this fallen planet. Wisdom continues as the king relates how one who digs a pit could actually fall into it themselves (Psalm 9:15; 57:6, Proverbs 26:27), and a person breaking through a wall may actually get snake bit. One who quarries stones can be hurt by them if they were to fall on them. And, the one who splits logs can also be endangered due to the laws of gravity. “If the axe is dull and he does not sharpen its edge, then he must exert more strength. Wisdom has the advantage of giving success.” The proverbial sayings go on to relate how wisdom, although valuable in dangerous and difficult tasks (like charming a snake), can lose its value with poor timing (Ecclesiastes 10:1-11).

-Words become the theme once more as the chapter concludes. Graciousness is indicative of a wise people’s words, while the lips of fools tend to consume them. Solomon says, “The beginning of talking is folly and the end of it is wicked madness.” Too much talk leads to much trouble in our world when people aren’t controlled by the Holy Spirit’s grace and kindness. Yet, the fool multiplies words, and the future becomes more and more uncertain with less and less predictability. The work of a fool so wearies him/her, that he/she will not even know how to go to a city. They get lost in other words. Woe is pronounced on lands where the king is young, inexperienced, foolish, and feasts (partying and drinking alluded to here) at inappropriate times. Blessing is pronounced though on lands where the king is noble, and where princes eat at the appropriate time for strength and not for drunkenness. This is wisdom. “Through indolence (`atslah- sluggishness, laziness, slothfulness) the rafters sag, and through slackness (shiphluwth-idleness, inactivity, remissness of the hands) the house leaks.” Temporal-worldly thinking arises again as Solomon breaks out with some realism, “Men prepare a meal for enjoyment, and wine makes life merry, and money is the answer to everything.” The New English Bible translation renders this verse, “The table has its pleasures, and wine makes a cheerful life; and money is behind it all (Ecclesiastes 10:19).” Worldly thinking typically concludes that money can meet all the demands and makes everything kosher. Then, the Preacher returns to the mouth theme by reminding us that even in the secret-private places, like our bedchamber or sleeping room, we still should not curse a king, or one in authority. A bird of the heavens will carry the sound of our hatred, complaining, irritations, and possibly gossip to make our defiling matter known before people of influence and power (Ecclesiastes 10:12-20).

-*Application* Whether we are in authority or under authority, we desperately need these words of wisdom to conduct our lives in an honorable, peaceful, and practical manner. Composure is key to handling any kind of conflict or opposition. We must keep our cool and not over react in worldly anger (James 1:20). This will defuse our enemies and create an opportunity to speak the life of Christ Jesus into the situation. We must always use our words wisely and under the LORD’s commands to build up and not tear down (Ephesians 4:29).

-*Application* Referring to the knowledge in Ecclesiastes 10:10, this old axe story is a good one. One day there was a contest between two woodsmen in chopping down trees. One began ferociously swinging and hit the wood with more and more and more force without stopping. We wore himself out with effort as he observed his opponent taking breaks and leaving the scene of the contest with his axe in hand. As the time wore on though, the man who was taking all the breaks was actually cutting down more trees and eventually won the contest. When asked how he did this taking so many perceived breaks in the action, he rationally explained to them that he wasn’t taking breaks; he was sharpening his axe for deeper, more precise cuts into the wood. Work smarter, not harder.

Verses to Memorize: Ecclesiastes 10:4, 10, 18

Thursday, June 1, 2017

Bible Study Notes in Ecclesiastes- Chapter 9

Ecclesiastes 9

-Solomon’s final conclusions to all he has pondered begin in this chapter and will go for the final four chapters in the book. He has taken all these things to heart with the realization that righteous men, wise men, and their deeds are fully in the Hand of God Almighty. Anything and everything can happen to a person. Like Forrest Gump has said, “Life is like a box of chocolates.” We just don’t know exactly what will transpire. It could be love or hate and everything in between. The fate that we all experience in the end is physical death. Both good and bad will see an end to their lives because of the sin nature that has corrupted our bodies of flesh. No amount of sacrifice can stave off our passing away into eternity. The Preacher surmises that we are all full of evil and insanity in our hearts throughout our lives. Only the grace and mercy of God can save us for the eschaton. Hope is for the living Solomon says. He philosophizes that a living dog is better than a dead lion, and this is true in the temporal world. The living have knowledge that they will one day pass on, but the king presents, for whatever reason, a worldly understanding of the afterlife where the dead don’t know anything, have no reward, and their memory is forgotten. There is no longer a share in all that is done under the sun among the living. Their love, their hate, and their zeal have perished from this world. Because of these certainties, the advice is, once again, to eat bread in happiness and drink wine with a cheerful heart “for God has already approved your works.” Further, people are advised to enjoy the symbols of happiness and celebration with white clothes and the anointing of oil on the head. He tells humanity to enjoy life with the woman that we have been given in our fleeting lives, for she is a great reward in life (Proverbs 18:22) and in toil for which we have labored under the sun (Ecclesiastes 9:1-9).

-The realness of this temporal existence continues as Solomon tells his audience to do everything that we find to do with all our might, “for there is no activity or planning or knowledge or wisdom in Sheol where we are going. I take this to mean that it is a cessation of earthly activities, but not eternal activities of this sort. We definitely get a different perspective from the spiritual man, Paul, when he tells us to work heartily in everything we do as for the LORD, and not man, knowing that we will receive the inheritance (eternal inheritance) as our reward for serving Christ Jesus (Colossians 3:23-24). On this earth, the injust forces at work often give the race to the one who is not swift and the battle to the one who is not the best warrior. Neither does bread always go to the wise, nor wealth to the discerning, nor favor to people of ability. Time and chance have a way of overtaking the best of intentions in this world. In other words, we don’t always get what we want, or even deserve, due to the effects of a sinful, corrupted, and fallen world. Evil can have its way of suddenly falling upon us and we don’t know our time, “like fish caught in a treacherous net and birds trapped in a snare.” Solomon came to see this as wisdom under the sun, and it impressed him greatly. There was a tiny-little city with few men in it that came under siege from a mighty king. It was surrounded with large siegeworks placed against it. But, a poor-wise man was found in the small city, and he delivered the city by his wisdom. However, no one cared enough to remember the poor man. This led Solomon to the conclusion that, “Wisdom is better than strength,” but the poor man’s wisdom is despised without heeding his words. There will always be injustice in this world. “The words of the wise heard in quietness are better than the shouting of a ruler among fools. Wisdom is better than weapons of war, but one sinner destroys much good (Ecclesiastes 9:10-18).”

-*Application* Proverbs, another book written primarily by Solomon, has the perspective of how the ideal life would go if everyone acted fairly. Ecclesiastes, on the other hand, truthfully explains what usually happens as consequences in our sinful, pathetic, and imperfect world. In light of this, we interpret these Scriptures for what they are, and keep an eternal perspective on things through Christ Jesus’ redemption. Do NOT let the discriminations of this fading life keep us from sober, enthusiastic service to our King.

Verse to Memorize: Ecclesiastes 9:18