These are notes collected from studying with brothers in Christ. Anything good comes from the Lord. Everything else is from us!

and not frightened in anything by your opponents. This is a clear sign to them of their destruction, but of your salvation, and that from God.
Philippians 1:28
Wow! May it be said of your church, Lord!

Along the lines of Phil. 1:28, yesterday I was meditating on that passage and had 2 situations it directly applied to:

  • I was talking to a co-worker who might claim she’s a Christian…but it is nothing active with her. She’s a supporter of Pride Month and yesterday, on the basis of Phil. 1:28 I decided to bring up how I was really sad to see a certain “Christian” library supporting pride month so brazenly (though it’s since been torn down, as I understand). This led to a good conversation about the Bible, God’s love, God’s holiness, the gospel, etc. She usually stops those conversations pretty quickly, so I was surprised she was into this one as long as she was (still only a few minutes). But at least we were able to talk some and she could hear a (hopefully) more biblical response to it. She did say at one point, “don’t you think to be more inclusive you sometimes have to overlook parts of the Bible?” On many levels an interesting statement. I didn’t really get to respond to that, but at least she recognizes that it is going against Scripture.
  • I was talking yesterday to a sister in the Lord whose husband seemed to doubt the trinity a few years back. It became a little contentious with him, and it never got resolved. So the sister in the Lord was visiting us yesterday from out of town. There was a point in the convo where it made a lot of sense to talk about God’s Trinity (versus the counterfeit trinity of sin, Satan, system of this world). So on the basis of Phil. 1:28, I made the plunge. I’m so glad I did! She was really touched by all of that. Then asked this morning if I could share more with her on things on my heart. This ended up being a longer conversation on the Trinity and how God as 3-in-1 is at the center of all we do in Christ. She seemed really touched by this.

“Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, 4 not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others.”
Philippians 2:3-4

This seems like an impossible task, but I love that Paul relates this to what God did for us when he sent Jesus to save us. Sending Jesus was the ultimate act of selflessness.

“But whatever were gains to me I now consider loss for the sake of Christ. What is more, I consider everything a loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them garbage, that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ—the righteousness that comes from God on the basis of faith.”
Philippians 4:7-9

I love this passage from Philippians because it really hammers home the importance of relationship over religion. Paul shows that a works based gospel is essentially trash compared to having an interactive relationship with our creator.
Paul lived an extremely devout life, but it did not produce any fruit in him. Meeting Jesus, however, completely transformed his life.

Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice.
Philippians 4:4

This really stuck out to me this time around:

  1. He says it as a command. Thus it’s something we can will (with the help of God’s Spirit)
  2. There is a double emphasis: “always”— not sometimes. And then he had to repeat himself to make sure they get it. I can’t think of other times Paul adds that in his commands. He really wants them to get this and do it all the time. What a good God who commands us to REJOICE in Him!

I’ve been enjoying these shorter books by Paul- some of my favorites. They have allowed me to just listen daily to them each time through on my way into work and really meditate on the words. It’s much harder to do that when we are in those longer books.

Anyhow, specifically in Philippians I really appreciate Paul’s perspective on life after all he has endured. It challenges me and inspires me. It’s eternal. “My desire is to depart and to be with Christ for that is FAR better, but to remain in the flesh is more necessary on your account.” (1:23-24)

I catch myself quickly drifting into this temporal perspective a lot of living for this world. Yet, Paul is very focused on the fact this world is not his home and that he would much rather be with God (he understands well his power), but knows he has a purpose here to complete (v 25- “convinced of this, I know that I will remain and continue with you all for your progress and joy in faith so that in me you may have ample cause to glory in Christ Jesus because of my coming to you again.”


These are notes collected from studying with brothers in Christ. Anything good comes from the Lord. Everything else is from us!

Ephesians 1~
I’ve recently been struck with how Paul introduces a lot of his letters: “Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.” (Eph. 1:2). I generally fly by that part, but pause for a moment. It sounds like Paul is giving a personal greeting from God/Jesus as if he were right there with them. If I wrote and said, “Shana sends her grace and peace to you both,” that makes sense because you’d expect me to be in that close of contact with Shana. But here Paul does this with God Almighty! There is a sense of personal communication and intimacy that this really seems to speak to for me.

Love how Jesus’ person and work is the basis of their position before God and the beginning of Ephesians. If you lean all on Jesus and His atoning work, then you can never falter. If it’s your work you are leaning on, talk about unstable!!
I also love how God leaves us with a “stamp”, if you will, that we have truly trusted in Jesus: the Holy Spirit. He indwelling in us is our “seal” and “guarantee” of our inheritance. He enters us when we receive the gospel (Ephesians 1:13). And then He becomes the evidence (to others…but also to us) that we have truly received the true gospel. Again, the Spirit is a life separate from your own sinful life. So we have 2 lives in us (I think of our wives when they were pregnant–a life inside a life). Thankfully, the Spirit is the greater life of the 2 (see Rom. 8 ) so He always finds ways to poke Himself out of us. In this sense, again, it’s not reliant on us, but the Spirit within us to prove our position is unwavering in Christ.

I’m struck by how far away we all were from God before Jesus atoned our sins. It reads so hopeless: dead in our transgressions; far off from God; following the spirit of this age; etc. BUT GOD… steps in and all is made well. I’m deeply thankful for the gospel

“one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and IN ALL.” (Eph. 4:6)

This is talking about God being in all believers. It’s a powerful thought that the God over all would now condescend to live inside us little grasshoppers (compared to Him).

It’s also powerful that Paul talks about God (the Father) being in us, whereas earlier it talks about the Spirit being in us and Christ being in us. Shows very early on a solid trinitarian understanding of God in the church–which should be true today!

Also speaks to why they were called a temple (God lives in us).
And I think the picture of Eve coming “from Adam” but then Adam going “in Eve” (via his seed) is a powerful allusion to how we are in Christ and yet Christ is in us too (Paul actually draws from this in talking about husband-wife / Christ-church in Eph. 5). I could go on and talk about how Adam was put to sleep, and his side was pierced…just like Christ was put to sleep (temporary death) and his side was pierced on the cross…and from that the Spirit goes out to the church to form her and be inside her, that we might produce Christ’s offspring (so to speak) in discipling the nations!!

For you may be sure of this, that everyone who is sexually immoral or impure, or who is covetous ( that is, an idolater), has no inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and God.
Ephesians 5:5
Wow. This challenges me bigtime. How far we’ve fallen from upholding his righteous standard.

Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit in everything to their husbands.
Ephesians 5:24

This is another one that really challenges me to consider. “Everything” is a big word. I can see how it had been abused to mean slavish obedience (as opposed to yielded heart that can pose questions, give input, and even disobey when it’s clear Christ the heavenly husband is speaking contrary to the earthly husband). Saying that, I see a more flippant “egalitarian” ethos we fight against today. I think it really can do harm in speaking to the greater picture of Christ and the church.
Of course, men, our calling is no easier:

  • love her completely sacrificially (not as a doormat, but a sacrificial leader)
  • love and cherish her as you do yourself
  • wash her by your words—especially pointing to Gods word.
    Surely such service would go a long way in raising up wives who wanted to submit in everything.


These are notes collected from studying with brothers in Christ. Anything good comes from the Lord. Everything else is from us!

Gal 1:3-4 ~ “the Lord Jesus Christ…gave himself for our sins to deliver us from the present evil age”

The first part is identical to what we see elsewhere about the gospel: Christ died for our sins.

The last part adds a little extra “coloring”, if you will. Receiving the gospel means we are delivered from this present evil age. I think of churches affirming LGBT, etc. How many churches are cozy with this present evil age? Versus being delivered from it. God help us

Galatians 2:20
” I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.”

Not I, but Christ. This is a verse that has become one of those foundational scriptures for me. My aspiration is to let less and less of my human self be on display, and let more of Christ shine through me.

I think that when I rest in the confidence of God’s love for me and the assurance of my forgiveness Christ shines through me and people meet Jesus in me. When I rely on my own power and try to do things on my own I end up making a mess. This reminds me of Romans 7 where Paul describes wanting to do good but evil being alongside him. Who can rescue us? ONLY Jesus!

And amen to all this. I like the analogy Watchman Nee gives of Gal. 2:20. He knew a lifeguard in China who was watching a man drowning. Others were frantic and tried to get the lifeguard to do something. But the lifeguard was trained to wait until they sink to then save them. He did this and saved the life. He explained that if they’re still struggling, they can take you down with them. But once they’ve lost all their strength, then they will rest in your power. What a picture of Gal. 2:20! Not I = coming to an end of ourselves. But Christ = That’s where true Christianity begins.

So much in this short book of Galatians. Paul is astonished they are so quickly deserting Christ and turning to a different gospel (1:6)

Yet, this heart is in all of us, right?! “Prone to wander Lord I feel it, prone to leave the God I love.”

This is part of why I love ch. 5 so much. It calls us to not return to our old life because even though it beckons it’s death. “For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery.” (5:1)

And that we must be in the Spirit and not in the flesh to live out his ways (5:16-25). As Romans so beautifully captures though, there is an ongoing tension between the flesh and spirit but the life in the Spirit brings life and peace and this is what we are called into as His children.

The thing that sticks out to me the most from 2 Corinthians and Galatians is the need for revelation.

In 2 Corinthians the Jews weekly heard the Bible read, but a veil was over them. Not until they turned to Christ was it removed.

In Galatians, Paul says: “I did not receive it [the gospel] from any man, nor was I taught it, but I received it through a revelation of Jesus Christ” (Gal. 1:12)
In both cases, it had to be an act of God upon their soul that opened up the understanding. I often think if I only give someone X fact, then they’ll see. But God pulls me up short on this. It needs to be a work of Him on their soul. Our words play a part. Namely, I think we have a job to plant the seed of God’s truth/word/gospel in every soil we encounter…and in time we’ll see the ones that actually received it by the fruit that comes up later.

I agree. I have, at times, tried to get all of my facts and biblical data in order so that I can present a compelling argument for Christianity, but that approach has always fallen flat for me. It is obviously important to be educated on what we believe, but I agree that many times this leaves God mostly out of the process. For me personally I have found that “knowledge puffs up but love builds up” (1 Cor. 8:1). This is one of those verses that when I read it I feel like it was written specifically with me in mind hahaha.

I also very much agree that we are to sow seeds and provide fertile soil and then let God perform the transformation. Matthew 7 is a chapter that has been on my mind a lot lately, especially when Jesus says that “by their fruit, you will recognize them.” The evidence of God’s transformation is in the fruit that is produced. The evidence of how closely we are keeping in step with the Spirit is how much we are bearing the fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22).

It is so freeing to know that the fruit of the Spirit is not a list of things that we are supposed to do, but rather it is a list of the things that God will do in us if we stay in touch with him.

The final chapter of Galatians continues this theme, and I was encouraged by reading it.
” A man reaps what he sows. 8 Whoever sows to please their flesh, from the flesh will reap destruction; whoever sows to please the Spirit, from the Spirit will reap eternal life. 9 Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.”
Galatians 6:7-9

Overall this is a somewhat simple concept. Wherever we spend our time, money or energy will show what is actually important to us. It reminds me of that verse from Matthew that says “where your treasure is your heart will be also.”
Despite the simplicity of this sowing-and-reaping concept, this DOES NOT mean that this is easy. I am encouraged by verse 9 because I feel like Paul knows that following Jesus is counter cultural and can be tough. I like to think that the people of the Galatian church read Paul’s letter and felt encouraged enough to keep doing the right thing and not give up.

2 Corinthians

“whenever anyone turns to the Lord, the veil is taken away” (2 Cor. 3:16).

I find this really counterintuitive and powerful. Here they were week after week hearing the Bible. And they are totally blind to the meaning. I would assume that they needed the veil taken away and THEN they turn to the Lord. But not so.

Instead, the Lord wants them to turn to Him in submitting their will to Him…AND THEN the veil is taken away. I think this one truth has so much power for those who are willing to grasp it.

2 Cor. 8 has also especially spoken to me in 2 ways:

  1.  “they gave as much as they were able, and even beyond their ability” (8:3) – here Paul commends them for giving even beyond what they could. This has challenged me to be more generous with my time and money.
  2. “if the willingness is there, the gift is acceptable according to what one has, not according to what one does not have” (8:12) – I think this helps temper 8:3. It shows that it ultimately is not enough to just want to be generous (especially if you don’t have the means). Some people are going into debt to be “generous”, and I really think that is unwise. “Owe no man anything except to love one another” (Rom 13). Instead, give according to what you have. If you’ve been a good giver (which can include being a saver–think of Joseph), God will give you more to give even more to others: “You will be enriched in every way so that you can be generous on every occasion, and through us your generosity will result in thanksgiving to God.” (2 Cor. 9:11)

10:17-18- “Let the one who boast, boast in the Lord. For it is not the one who commends himself who is approved but the one whom the Lord commends.”

Love this- we have nothing on our own to boast in. I read this before going into work and immediately started to feel myself relax. It also convicted me because I was reminded how many days I often try to do my work and life on my own strength. In the end, if it’s on my own strength he does not get the glory.

In a similar vein I think we often think of Paul as the “super apostle” and in so many was and it’s good to emulate him. Part of his strength was his ability to admit his weakness.

11:30 “if I must boast, I will boast of the things that show my weakness.”

12:10 “for when I am weak, then I am strong.”

-Brian Holda and Matt Lantz

1 Corinthians

These are notes collected from studying with brothers in Christ. Anything good comes from the Lord. Everything else is from us!

I’m pretty blown away at how 1 Corinthians starts:

“To the church of God that is in Corinth…those sanctified in Christ…in every way you were enriched in Christ in all speech and all knowledge…you are not lacking in any gift…Christ will sustain you to the end, guiltless…you were called into the fellowship of his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord” (1 Cor. 1:2-9)

Just consider that high esteem he gives to them. This is right before he lambasts them for: bitter divisions (1 Cor. 1-4), factions (1 Cor. 11), sexual immorality (1 Cor. 5-7), lack of honoring one another (1 Cor. 8-10), lack of church discipline (1 Cor. 5), abuse of spiritual gifts (1 Cor. 14), shortcomings in love (1 Cor. 13), faulty views on the resurrection (1 Cor. 15).

Shows so evidently how God’s justification is not tied to our works. If the Corinthian church can be called saints, so can we who mess up today. Of course, the rest of the letter is a charge to walk out the calling on their life in Christ. But I think it’s significant that he begins by affirming the work of Christ, and their covering in His work (their justification). In fact, Paul makes this the theme of the first couple of chapters (getting them grounded in Christ and his gospel as their foundation). After that is secure, then we can address walking it out.

Consider 1 Corinthians and how divisive they were. Nothing new–sadly. But I wanted to add that people estimate the Corinthian church was between 30-60 people large when 1 Corinthians was written. The low end of this range (30) comes from counting how many names are mentioned in the letter. The high end (60) comes from archaeology looking at houses in that place and time, and how many people they could fit (which is where they would’ve met).

But all to say, you can have deep divisions and factions within a fairly small group of people. We’ve seen that lived that in very small groups. We can even take it down to 2 people. Look at how many marriages are failing–that they have “irreconcilable differences” with just 2 people. I think smaller groups bring this to the surface more than large groups/churches would (because you can sort of avoid and hide out more there). Either way, this is not a new problem, but a very serious problem nonetheless.

God’s solution in 1 Corinthians:

  • Get focus back on the gospel: “I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and him crucified” “the gospel…of first importance” (2:2; 15:1-3)
  • Focus on what God has revealed in Scripture (versus what you or I or culture thinks): “learn by us NOT TO GO BEYOND WHAT IS WRITTEN, that none of you may be puffed up in favor of one against another.” (4:6)

This is how one should regard us, as servants of Christ and stewards of the mysteries of God.
1 Corinthians 4:1

Servants and stewards… not super-apostles.
Here is a man thoroughly touched by the cross. He rebuked them for making too much of him!

But with me it is a very small thing that I should be judged by you or by any human court. In fact, I do not even judge myself. For I am not aware of anything against myself, but I am not thereby acquitted. It is the Lord who judges me.
1 Corinthians 4:3-4

I find myself going back to this a lot. When others judge me—who cares? But that doesn’t mean my own judgments of myself are valid either. The Lord via his word will judge me. The best thing I can do is just keep going back to it over and over to keep yielding myself anew to everything the Word says. Be faithful in the Scriptures and the gospel they testify too—and be corrected where the Word reveals something I’ve missed.

I have applied all these things to myself and Apollos for your benefit, brothers, that you may learn by us not to go beyond what is written, that none of you may be puffed up in favor of one against another.
1 Corinthians 4:6

“Not to go beyond what is written.” – what a charge for us!!

To have lawsuits at all with one another is already a defeat for you. Why not rather suffer wrong? Why not rather be defrauded?
1 Corinthians 6:7

“Why not rather suffer wrong?”

Could you imagine the testimony to the world if the church did this more? Reminds me of Les Miserable.

“It is actually reported that there is sexual immorality among you, and of a kind that even pagans do not tolerate: A man is sleeping with his father’s wife. 2 And you are proud! Shouldn’t you rather have gone into mourning and have put out of your fellowship the man who has been doing this?”
1 Corinthians 5:1-2

Up until somewhat recently when I would read this passage I was just confused.  Why in the world would they be proud that there was a case of incest within their own church?  I don’t actually know the answer for their particular context and situation, but I have seen how the church can slide down a slippery slope of “acceptance” into fully celebrating sin.  I could be totally misguided here, but could this be the case in this Corinthian church, that they were celebrating their “openness” and “acceptance” instead of speaking hard truths in love? (I have admittedly done zero research here, this is just what crossed my mind while reading it)

I find it so interesting when he says, “shouldn’t you rather have went out to mourning.”
We are to grieve sin (sexual and otherwise). Something our culture does not do. I have so many friends that are especially permissive of sin in the LGBTQ community (and other sexual sin) and I think this would grieve the Lords heart.

Regarding 1 Cor. 5:1-2…

I have thought the same thing when I’ve read that passage… namely, that they were so proud of being a “grace” church that they didn’t deal with sin. While Paul/God is really grieved over their permissiveness. Definitely mirrors what we see today.

Saying that, another read of the passage is to link it with what he said in 1 Cor. 1-4 about how they are boasting that they are so “spiritual” by being part of Paul’s philosophy… or Apollos… etc. In 1 Cor. 1-4 they were bragging about how spiritual they were, and Paul’s looking at them and thinking, “you are the opposite!”. So then in 1 Cor. 5 he points out one way they are immature: they tolerate sin. Thus, when he says “And you are arrogant”, it would read more like:

You are immature and it shows in your going beyond the word and the cross to extra-biblical divisiveness [see chap. 1-4]. Another proof of your immaturity is the sexual sin happening in your midst. This sin is so bad that even Pagans would be ashamed. Yet you claim you are mature!!!??! You even boast about how great you are!!?? Take a look in the mirror.

In other words, I’m not sure they were boasting specifically in tolerating sexual sin (though they could’ve been). My money is more on the other boasting happening in chaps 1-4, and then he adds this in the backdrop to show how backslidden they really are. If that makes sense.

Saying all that: the clear thrust of 1 Cor. 5 and 6 is that the church should discipline sin. And this includes sexual sin (which includes homosexual sin–see ch. 6). Jesus only mentions the local church 1 time in his entire ministry, and it’s in Matt 18. This is in the context of church discipline. It obviously is important to the Lord. But note it is discipline unto restoration. Not discipline to make people feel bad and only punish. Sort of like disciplining children–we do it to change their character, and it will hurt them; but we don’t get joy out of it like an abusive father.

That would make sense that he was saying they were generally proud, not necessarily specifically proud about this case of incest.

Following Jesus is tough. He lived in a way that was equal measures grace and truth. He never condoned sin, but he was also never a jerk and was so loving all the time to people who were consistently messing up. We are called to live this way too, but it is a tall order. Lord have mercy on us.

1 Cor. 12: 26 “If one member suffers all suffer together; if one member is honored all rejoice together.”
I love this picture of how the body is to function at its best together.

1 Corinthians 15 is a great chapter to spell out the gospel and share the gospel.
I love v. 17 “if Christ has not been raised your faith is still futile and you are still in your sins.”
And v 19 “ If in Christ we have hope in this life only we are of all people most to be pitied.”

1 Corinthians 13:12
“For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.”
This gives me so much hope. Life is difficult, but it is manageable knowing that one day we will get to see Jesus face to face.

Our faith hinges on Christ’s resurrection, and if he didn’t rise then all of this is pointless. But he did, and the story is true!

“Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. And we all, who with unveiled faces contemplate the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his image with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit.”
2 Corinthians 3:17-18

I love the image of us being transformed into his image. The process of sanctification is never done while we are alive, but as we seek the Lord and keep in step with the Spirit HE continually transforms us.

Reminds me of a story I’ve heard in multiple places (you may have heard it too)…
a man went to a silversmith and saw them burning the silver to remove the dross, so he asked when he knew it was done. the man said, “when I can see my face in it”. I love that image of going through the refinement and we know we’re done when the image of Christ is clearly reflected in us

  • “you…maintain the traditions even as I delivered them to you…” (1 Cor. 11:2) – what followed was head coverings
  • “I received from the Lord what I also delivered to you…” (1 Cor. 11:23) – what followed was communion
  • “I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received…” (1 Cor. 15:3) – what followed was the gospel

I just wonder if there is a subtle hint in how important these things are based on how Paul talks about what he delivered to them:

In the case of head coverings, he doesn’t say it comes from the Lord or from elsewhere, and doesn’t list it as important. The Scripture is still binding, but I think the main gist is that Paul sees these things as culturally bound (consider he ends that section with “if anyone is inclined to be contentious, we have no such practice, nor do the churches of God.” (11:16). In other words, we don’t currently practice this in the church. But going back to how he starts this section, notice that Paul does not bind this as a tradition given by Christ.

In the case of communion, there Paul DOES say the tradition he is passing onto them came from the Lord. This would obviously be binding for all people of all time.

And in the case of the gospel, not only is this a tradition Paul received, but it’s a tradition that he ranks as first importance. Thus it gets the ultimate trump card in terms of priority.


These are notes collected from studying with brothers in Christ. Anything good comes from the Lord. Everything else is from us!

I have been looking forward to going through Romans with you guys, this is such a powerful book to me.
Chapter 2 hit me again as it does every time I read it:

“For it is not those who hear the law who are righteous in God’s sight, but it is those who obey the law who will be declared righteous. 14 (Indeed, when Gentiles, who do not have the law, do by nature things required by the law, they are a law for themselves, even though they do not have the law. 15 They show that the requirements of the law are written on their hearts, their consciences also bearing witness, and their thoughts sometimes accusing them and at other times even defending them.)
Romans 2:13-15

When we accept what Jesus has done for us, “the law” ends up coming out of us. We bear fruit in keeping with repentance.

Similar to Acts 26… Our good deeds (the law) do not save us, but good deeds naturally come out of us when the Holy Spirit is working through us.

I also love that Paul consistently defends the gentiles and shows everyone that religion is a distant second to the relationship we have with our creator.

I, too, am eager to look through Romans together! I believe this is the most thoroughly systematic treatment of the gospel in Scripture, and thus really helpful to carefully, and humbly, study, so we make sure we’re not running in vain (Gal. 2:2).

I think the argument runs like this in Rom 1-2:

  • Creation tells you there is a God who we must answer to
  • The Law shows his righteous standard (and that we all fall short)
  • The conscience also shows his righteous standard (and that we all fall short), so even Gentiles (who don’t know the Law/Standards of Scripture) also don’t have an excuse. C.S. Lewis talked about this a bit. He said how everyone seems to know that lying is morally bad (you didn’t need to read it in the Bible to know that). But yet we all have probably lied in some capacity. So we know the good, but fail to do it.
  • It’s not a matter of knowing his standard, but of actually obeying it.
  • I think those last 2 bullet points are hit in Rom. 2:13-15.

I read this from the perspective of the law being less important than what the law is supposed to do, which is point us back to God (through the law we become conscious of sin).

The way I interpreted this passage was that the gospel is for everyone (Gentiles and Jews alike), and despite the fact that the gentiles did not follow all of the same religious requirements as the Jews (namely circumcision at the time), the way they lived after meeting Jesus showed that God was alive and working in them.

I think I was also reading this part of Romans 2 through the lens of the following verses:
“So then, if those who are not circumcised keep the law’s requirements, will they not be regarded as though they were circumcised? 27 The one who is not circumcised physically and yet obeys the law will condemn you who, even though you have the written code and circumcision, are a lawbreaker.”

I kind of read both of these passages in the same light, but I may be misguided here. Any thoughts?

I think we’re actually hitting at 2 different things here.

You are sharing that Gentiles can now be brought in to righteousness by faith in Christ, the result of this is that the Spirit indwells them and brings out fruit of Christ. It’s not external legalism, but repentance and faith in the gospel that leads to inward transformation. Right?

Whereas I am trying to draw out what I think is the main theme of Rom. 1:18-3:20: that Jew and Gentile both fall woefully short of God’s righteous standard (as revealed in the law).

So I think Paul is addressing this idea that comes from Jews who think they can (or have) attained to God’s righteous standard. They are teaching that they have arrived, and circumcision is part of that. So for others to be righteous, they need to follow the Law (all the way to circumcision).

In contrast to that thinking, Paul shows how ungodliness happens among all people. He explains that Jews aren’t especially righteous just because they have and teach the Bible. Even Gentiles can know God’s standards in their conscience. And what is MOST important is that you actually obey those standards (whether you formally know them or not).

But I think in Rom. 2 Paul is setting up the fact that not one person has obeyed the standards.

So in Rom. 2 it says: “There will be…glory and honor and peace for everyone who does good, the Jew first and also the Greek.” (Rom. 2:10).

This sounds at first blush like Paul is saying you can do good on your own meriting God’s blessing. BUT…a couple paragraphs later, Paul says: “Both Jews and Greeks, are under sin,” (Rom. 3:9). Then he goes on to quote the Law itself, saying: “no one does good” (Rom. 3:12).

So Paul says in Rom 2 that, yes, if you can obey the Law (whether you have the Bible or not) you can merit God’s blessing. But then Rom. 3 makes clear that NO ONE has obeyed this law.

He’s hoping all will feel pretty hopeless at this point. And it is at this very point that he opens into Rom. 3:21-26 (which Luther called the heart of the gospel, and whole Bible). He shows that no one is obedient. Except 1. That all deserve God’s wrath and death. Except 1. And YET…Jesus (that 1 Exception), took on God’s wrath and death. Why? So that we who deserved wrath and death could have life and blessing after all.

^^ said another way: I think the larger discourse of Rom. 2-3 is meant to show that Jews and Greeks equally fall short of obedience to God’s Law (what I was getting at). But within that discourse, Paul tips his hat to something he will develop later in Romans: that righteousness has come to Gentiles who have God’s Spirit–not to them who have circumcised themselves (as stated above).

Jews as God’s chosen people; gentiles who are grafted in. ALL of us falling woefully short (Roman’s 3:21-26) and in need of God’s grace!

I am so encouraged by Paul’s message in Romans because it is sensible and so hopeful. There is a very special freedom that occurs when we accept the dismal fact that we will never follow the law perfectly, BUT Jesus did and then died for us so we can share in his glory. What a gift.

I think Romans 4:5 is a critical passage to know: “to the one who does not work but believes in Him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is counted as righteousness”

This tells us that we in ourselves are “ungodly”.
Yet the “ungodly” can be considered righteous (i.e. “justified”).
All through their faith.

Paul’s emphasis on faith was really encouraging to me too. Verses 14-16 stood out to me:
“For if those who depend on the law are heirs, faith means nothing and the promise is worthless, 15 because the law brings wrath. And where there is no law there is no transgression. 16 Therefore, the promise comes by faith, so that it may be by grace and may be guaranteed to all…”

Rom 12

So much beautiful, practical advice on how to live out our faith!

Succinct way to sum up the whole law: love your neighbor as yourself. Love is the fulfilling of the law.
Not quarreling or jealously. Not making room for the flesh and it’s desires (13/14). I’ve been guilty of all that.
Reminds me that we can have faith and hope but if we have not love we are a clanging cymbal.

great words brother!…
I would add this:
How does that neighbor-love happen? Or said another way, where does such a love come from?
We see it in Jesus, of course. He sacrificed all and died for his enemies (us) to live. That is a neighbor-love that puts even the Good Samaritan to shame. But yet that is the very love God is calling us to.

The key is that the Jesus who did that, is the same Jesus who lives in us through His Holy Spirit. ONLY Christians have access to this kind of love indwelling us.

“God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.” (Rom. 5:5)
“The fruit of the Spirit is love…” (Gal. 5:22)

The rest of our life is learning to fix our eyes on the gospel. And subsequently learn how to abide and yield to the Spirit within us. In this way, the principles and goals of the Law (which is summed up in true love) is now written in our hearts through the Spirit within. No amount of striving by the flesh can attain to what the Spirit can do within us.

It seems that whenever I read Romans 4-8, I always have the same conundrum: it’s hard (at times) to tell where Paul is talking about justification (us being covered by Christ’s righteousness the moment we turn to Him in faith) versus sanctification (us being made more righteous through the Holy Spirit living within us). But I almost wonder if that is how it is meant to be. It’s kind of like what a mentor taught me about John 15, where Jesus talks about the vine and the branches: you can’t tell exactly where a vine becomes a branch. In the same way, perhaps, seeing that we are justified in Christ compels us to walk more holy, while walking by the Spirit is the sign we are justified completely in Christ. So they sort of inform and feed each other in a way that is not so easy to say THIS is justification and THAT is sanctification. Of course there is a difference. But they are both essential parts of our Christian life, and both are tied with each other in various ways.

Reminds me of Hebrews 10:14 – “By a single offering God has perfected for ALL TIME those who are being perfected/sanctified” Shows the truth of both. God declares us perfect in Christ the moment we believe. But as a result, we get His Spirit within, and live out a more and more perfect/holy life. Only those who have that evidence of a life change (being perfected by the Spirit within) are the ones who are ACTUALLY justified/totally forgiven in Christ. That sanctification is THE PROOF we have been justified.

Last thought on this: I love seeing this dual aspect in the Passover Feast. The 1 Lamb:
provided perfect blood that covers the house so they were spared from God’s wrath
was eaten (so dwelled inside them) as sustenance for them to actually walk out of Egypt
Jesus is that Passover Lamb:
His sacrifice spares us from God’s wrath.
His life is now within us, by his Spirit, for the lifelong journey of leaving our old life in Egypt and pressing on to the Promised Land

I appreciate that Romans 12 begins the section on practical Christian living with the following:
“I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God…” (Rom. 12:1)

Thus, in light of all that came beforehand concerning the gospel and the Lord’s mercy in election, etc…. in light of all that, we can now walk this faith out in practical ways. I see Rom. 1-11 as giving the root system, and Rom. 12-16 the fruit. Lots of people want to jump to Rom. 12, but how many people are truly rooted in the gospel spoken of in Rom 1-11 first?

Rom. 12:13 caught my attention: “Contribute to the needs of the saints and seek to show hospitality”

  • “of the saints” — God frequently tells us to generously support His church. Not to say the world is completely neglected, but there is a clear priority with God: “do good to all, especially to the household of faith” (Gal. 6:10).
  • “to the needs” — I’m also struck that it focuses on providing for needs. I’m concerned that a lot of giving we do is not for “needs” but “wants”. That doesn’t have to be wrong, but when we are calling on the church to sacrificially give, I believe we need to prioritize needs over wants.
  • “seek to show hospitality” — I appreciated that this doesn’t say “do hospitality” in a slavish way that forces everyone to do X, Y, Z. Instead, it says to be eager to show it in whatever way it’s needed. Always be ready and eager to do it.

In all this, I was challenged to look for ways to meet needs of saints around me and show hospitality to the church as well. May the world know us by our love for one another!

Seeking to be generous is such a powerful way to reorient ourselves in a culture that is constantly telling us that we need more.

Reading through Romans 8 is always refreshing to my soul. This chapter of the Bible is very special to me as it got me through a rough patch in my life.

About seven years ago when I was very new to the crane industry I made a mistake at work that could have easily killed me and another guy. It was an honest mistake, and thankfully no one got hurt, but I felt horrible about it, and I went through intense periods of anxiety, and I totally doubted myself and my abilities. I would give it time to subside but my doubts and anxieties would always come back and I was feeling very lost.

My friend Ben encouraged me to lean into what I was feeling and try to understand the root cause of my anxiety. I prayed about it a lot, and I kept returning to Romans 8 for comfort. I realized that Romans 8:1-17 was speaking so loudly to me because deep down I was still trying to earn my value through my actions and accomplishments, but my mistakes exposed the fact that I will never perfectly measure up. I was scared that I would mess up again. I was trying to live a “works based gospel” and trying to earn my salvation, and I was feeling undeserving of the grace that Jesus offers. I was a slave to fear (v15).

However, Romans 8 showed me that “there is no condemnation for those in Christ Jesus” (v1) and that ” a mind controlled by the Spirit is life and peace.” (v6). A works based gospel is no gospel at all, and there is freedom in accepting the fact that I will never be good enough, but Jesus loves me so much that he was willing to die for me to justify me, and now the Spirit that raised Jesus from the dead is alive in me (v11). I simply had to accept it.

This was one of the first times I really experienced scripture as a “double edged sword,” as I memorized verses 1-17 and would use it to fight back by reciting them when I would feel the waves of dread come over me.
Thanks be to God, our father who makes us co-heirs with Christ! (v17)

“Consider therefore the kindness and sternness of God: sternness to those who fell, but kindness to you, provided that you continue in his kindness.”
Romans 11:22

This kind of reminds me of how Jesus “came  from the Father, full of grace and truth.”

Romans 12:17
“Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everyone. If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.”

Another counter-cultural charge for us here. This is so tough for me to do!

Romans 15:14-22 stood out to me:

  • “competent to instruct one another” – this is God’s goal. I fear we look to often for 1 “professional” minister to do all the instructing. God wants us to all grow into that ability, instructing one another. Reminds me of Heb. 5:12 – “by this time you ought to be teachers” (note that this is written to non-leaders, see Heb. 13:24)
  • “the priestly duty of proclaiming the gospel” – we are all called to be priests on the basis of Christ’s work (see 1 Pet. 2:9). Our priestly duty includes proclaiming the gospel
  • “an offering acceptable to God, sanctified by the Holy Spirit” – the only way we can walk out this Christian life in a God-pleasing way is via the Holy Spirit
  • “my service…what Christ has accomplished through me” – note that in v. 17 Paul calls it his service, but in v. 18 he says that this was, in reality, “Christ working through me”. Reminds me of 1 Cor.  15:10–“I worked harder than all of them—yet not I, but the grace of God that was with me.”
  • “leading the Gentiles to obey God” – it’s not just them trusting Jesus for salvation (though that is essential). But the goal is obedience unto God (again, only possible via the Holy Spirit)
  • “…by what I have said and done–by the power of signs and wonders, through the power of the Spirit of God.” 3 ways they came to faith: (1) by what Paul said, (2) by how Paul lived, (3) by the power of the Spirit. This corresponds directly with 1 Thes. 1:5 where the same 3 categories are listed as bringing the Thessalonians unto faith. Are we walking faithfully in all 3 of these to bring people to faith?
  • “preach the gospel where Christ was not known” – there are still a lot of people around us who don’t know what the gospel is. May this be part of our strategy to seek them out. Oswald J. Smith – “No one has the right to hear the gospel twice, while there remains someone who has not heard it once.”


These are notes collected from studying with brothers in Christ. Anything good comes from the Lord. Everything else is from us!

“While they were stoning him, Stephen prayed, “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.” Then he fell on his knees and cried out, “Lord, do not hold this sin against them.” When he had said this, he fell asleep.”
Acts 7:59-60

Stephen’s life was changed by Jesus, and he looked (6:15) and acted like Jesus even while he was being murdered. Stephen’s actions remind me quite a bit of Jesus in Luke 23:34 when he asks God to forgive the people that were crucifying him.

I heard someone teaching this very thing years ago. Especially if you compare Luke’s account of the crucifixion and Acts 7 (also written by Luke), I think you find a purposeful comparison. I think part of the power in this is to consider Daniel’s 490 years prophecy (referred to as “70 weeks” in Dan. 9).

There we are told that:

  • A king would issue a decree to rebuild Jerusalem after Babylonian captivity (this happened by Cyrus–see Ezra 1)
  • 483 years later Messiah would come. This matches well with Jesus’ baptism, where He is officially anointed and begins his ministry.
  • 3.5 years later Messiah would die and sacrifice would cease. And we see this exactly happening. Jesus’ ministry lasted 3.5 years, then He died on the cross putting an end to sin and sacrifice needed to atone.
  • 3.5 years after that, the 490 years would be complete. Well, what happened 3.5 years after Jesus died? We don’t know the dates for certain, but it’s a pretty safe guess that about that time was when Stephen died and the Gentiles had the gospel preached to them through Peter. This speaks to the fact that Daniel’s 490-year prophecy was given primarily to Jews. After that, God would extend his grace to the Gentiles. And sure enough, Stephen’s death (and Peter’s preaching to Cornelius’s household) opened the way to the Gentiles receiving ministry. It is shown with extra force that Jesus and Stephen’s death so well matched each other.

This is some speculation here. But it’s a neat thing to consider. And some of these things are very certain. All to say, Daniel’s prophecy is a powerfully accurate description of things that would happen about 500 years before they came to pass. And there’s a decent chance Stephen’s death is part of this.

“If it’s of God, you can’t overthrow it!” (Acts 5:9)

See Acts 5:39-42…

This seems to show they were meeting in the church “temple” and in homes “house churches” seems both are good and Gods design

A proponent of house church ministry, Curtis Sergeant, likened it to the natural world having elephants and rabbits. God makes both the big and the small, as part of His design.

I see something similar in Jesus’ ministry. He had large crowds, but also had intentional time with just the 12 (or even less).

I’ve noted before how larger churches talk a lot about the importance of a small group (or “cell group” or “house church” or “life group” or whatever name they may call it). While house churches look to have larger gatherings (“regional gatherings” or “apostolic gatherings” or whatever you may call it). I think instinctually we yearn for both to a degree.

Read this morning about Stephen. Makes me excited to meet him in Heaven. Such boldness in his faith! I especially loved ch 6 v 10 “but they could not withstand the wisdom and the Spirit with which he was speaking.”

Reminds me when the Spirit is in us and we are fully surrendered, nothing can come against this (like 5:39). He was full of grace and power (6:8) a killer combo!

I love the way Acts begins:

In the first book…I have dealt with all that Jesus BEGAN to do and teach, until the day when he was taken up…
The first book was the book of Luke. The 2nd book written by Luke is Acts. This tells you that the gospels are only the beginning of Jesus’ work and teachings. But how can that be since He is taken up to heaven? Because the Holy Spirit through his apostles will continue with Jesus’ actions and teachings.

Reminds me of John 16:12-14:
I still have many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now. When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth…whatever he hears he will speak…he will declare to you the things that are to come.

And you killed the Author of life, whom God raised from the dead. To this we are witnesses. – Acts 3:15

Never noticed Peter calling Jesus “the Author of life”. Seems a very early reference to the foundational conviction that Jesus = God.

God, having raised up his servant, sent him to you first, to bless you by turning every one of you from your wickedness.”
Acts 3:26

There is the blessing!! You heard it here folks! “Turning you from your wickedness”. This is a blessing unparalleled and infinitely greater than houses, cars, families, etc. Because it truly is the difference between eternal life and death.

And now, Lord, look upon their threats and grant to your servants to continue to speak your word with all boldness,
Acts 4:29
This was their response to persecution: make us even bolder!

There was not a needy person among them, for as many as were owners of lands or houses sold them and brought the proceeds of what was sold
Acts 4:34

Not a needy person among them. May it be LORD!!

I am always amazed at this part of Acts. There is just so much faith and devotion on the part of the early church. They were fully invested in Jesus’ mission.

None of the rest dared join them, but the people held them in high esteem.
Acts 5:13

I guess it’s talking about the apostles? But just am struck that there is so much awe that people were scared to join (like people being afraid to enter Gods presence—scared what would happen to them on account of their sinfulness). What a challenge to our culture that seems so casual with sin…or even celebrates it

Note also the next verse: “And more than ever believers were added to the Lord” (5:14)

I think we should all pause when considering current “seeker-friendly” churches in the name of making more disciples for Christ on the basis of Acts 5:13-14

Acts 17: 6… “these men that have turned the world upside down have come here also.”

The Jews were jealous/furious. Searching for a Paul and Silas and wanting their lives. All because they were bold and parching the gospel/resurrection. See v 7 “they are acting against the decrees of Ceasar saying their is another king.”

Preach boldly IF it’s from the Lord. Let’s turn the world upside down

I know you guys are ahead of me, but I was thinking about Acts 6 yesterday…

Here we see that Greek Christians (Hellenists) were being neglected unfairly from food. So the solution was to create the deacon ministry, so the apostles could dedicate more time to preaching the word and pray.

7 deacons were chosen. They had to be men. But their names were Greek names. As others have pointed out, this likely speaks to the fact that they wanted the Greeks (Hellenists) to have fair representation, and thus not be neglected.

This speaks to 2 principles I see:

  1. if a certain group of people are being treated unfairly, there may be some wisdom in having others of that group in decision-making / leadership roles to represent them better.
  2. They still had to be male. Thus, it wasn’t women or widows who went into leadership–so in that way wasn’t full representation of the widows neglected. Some may argue that this was just the way the society of that time works. Which is truer then than it is in our society, undoubtedly. But I’d also say that Jesus / the apostles had no problem “bucking” societal norms. They were really trying to go God’s way, even if society around them didn’t like that. Jesus, for instance, empowered women in revolutionary ways (look at John 4 for a quick example of that). Yet He still chose male apostles. And the apostles followed his pattern in this when replacing an apostle (Acts 1). So I think there is some of God’s wisdom here in male leadership that we should consider. Certainly this is the case in the home with husbands and wives… so why wouldn’t it carry over beyond the home to a degree? That’s a bigger topic than I meant to go down.

But all to say: God’s word/ways should trump society’s way of looking at things. I think this gives balance to principle #1, and together, these 2 principles could really be helpful in considering how to help organizations be fairer to their constituents.

Just some wonderings…

“When they heard this, they had no further objections and praised God, saying, “So then, even to Gentiles God has granted repentance that leads to life.”
Acts 11:18

Reading this chapter this morning made me grateful for the early church. Jesus’ministry is for all who believe, and it is cool that we are part of that story.

Acts 7 – Stephen’s speech showed:

  • Moses was rejected by Israel, yet was a savior unto them
  • Joseph was rejected by Israel, yet was a savior unto them
  • And you can guess where this is going… Jesus is rejected by the Jews yet is THE Savior to them

Makes me reflect that faithfulness to the Lord doesn’t mean people in this lifetime (even Gods people) will accept you. In fact, true prophets rarely are accepted in their generation. It’s the false prophets who are

Acts 8 shows the leaders (apostles) stayed in Jerusalem while all the people went and preached the word. In 3 years time the people were equipped enough to preach without needing leaders to do it. What what happen in todays churches if the people were separated from leadership after 3 years? Would they be equipped to minister on their own? I fear not as much. A good goal to shoot for

So the church throughout all Judea and Galilee and Samaria had peace and was being built up. And walking in the fear of the Lord and in the comfort of the Holy Spirit, it multiplied.
Acts 9:31

I was reflecting more on 1 Corinthians 9:19-23 about Paul’s ability to adapt to who he is speaking to. I have always admired and looked up to this and tried to emulate him in this approach for the sake of spreading Jesus.

You really see this toward the end of Acts as he is on trial and aims to first establish credibility and commonality based on his heritage (“I am too a Roman citizen”). From there, he knows there will be mutual respect and he tells his testimony essentially (conversion story) (26:12-23) in the end they say “this man is doing nothing to deserve death or imprisonment.”

Of course, he was not afraid of jail and after this went into more tribulation with the shipwreck but it allowed the ministry to continue.

Great points brother. I’ve also thought about how Paul’s conversion story is relayed 3 different times in the book of Acts (ch. 9, 22, 26), but you can see different emphases based on the audience. None of it was untrue, but it showed his “flexibility” so to speak in reaching his particular audience. I think that’s sort of at the heart of 1 Cor. 9:19-23.

Or said another way, I think 1 Cor. 9:19-23 can be summed up as “offend where necessary; but not where unnecessary”.
Saying that…I think we should be challenged by Jesus’ example where at first blush it looks like he unnecessarily offends. I think of when He was invited to the Pharisees house, and purposefully didn’t wash according to their ritual before the meal (if I’m remembering that right). They were offended, then Jesus speaks to them pretty harshly. Then the lawyer guy said, “Hey, that sounds insulting to us, too.” And Jesus said, “Yep, and here’s some more things I have against you…” (my memory and paraphrase of the event).

But in all that event, I was initially challenged that Jesus could have just done their washing ritual to “gain an audience more” with them. Instead, though, I think He recognized their self-righteousness for what it was, and didn’t want to give them any room to trust in a certain washing ritual that made them feel righteous. He cut that nonsense out at the root, so to speak. And used that as an opportunity to really press them.

All to say, we need to really consider (with the Lord’s help) where us “going with flow” on something is emboldening idolatry or sin in other hearts. Where it does that, we should be willing to quickly offend them against that sort of lifestyle. But where they are sincerely seeking the Lord, and just weaker in the faith on certain things, that’s where 1 Cor. 9:19-23 speaks directly to. If that makes sense…

For those who live in Jerusalem and their rulers, because they did not recognize him nor understand the utterances of the prophets, which are read every Sabbath, fulfilled them by condemning him.
Acts 13:27

This makes me want to cry. They read the Bible weekly, but were totally blind to it and actually did the opposite of what it taught though they were convinced they followed it well. What a sobering thought!! Churches today don’t even read that much of the Bible!!! But think about that for those that do: how many are walking away thinking they are following it, but may in reality be doing the opposite.

God have mercy on our souls. Please we need to humble ourselves and consider where we are doing the same thing today. Listen to the Bible not with our own conclusions in mind, or what a pastor teaches, but truly hear what God is saying and repent.

Consider this:
Acts 15:39-41–
“39 They had such a sharp disagreement that they parted company. Barnabas took Mark and sailed for Cyprus, 40 but Paul chose Silas and left, commended by the believers to the grace of the Lord. 41 He went through Syria and Cilicia, strengthening the churches.”
I just think these guys are so human. They have conflict on non-doctrinal issues that they can’t resolve. Yep…sounds pretty human. But then we read that Paul went off from that controversy: “strengthening the churches”. Here Paul got in a fight. We see he/they have issues. And yet God still uses these men with issues to strengthen all the churches. Guys–there’s hope for us to be used by God!!!!
Note: later Scripture seems to indicate they resolved their fight (see 2 Tim. 4:11).

and from among your own selves will arise men speaking twisted things, to draw away the disciples after them.
Acts 20:30

A good test of false leaders: do they want you to follow them, or point you past them to the Word/Lord?

having a hope in God, which these men themselves accept, that there will be a resurrection of both the just and the unjust. So I always take pains to have a clear conscience toward both God and man.
Acts 24:15-16

but declared first to those in Damascus, then in Jerusalem and throughout all the region of Judea, and also to the Gentiles, that they should repent and turn to God, performing deeds in keeping with their repentance.
Acts 26:20
I think this is the most succinct definition of repentance I can think of:

  • turn to God
  • deeds/works prove the repentance, but are not part of the repentance itself

4 Reasons I Trust the Gospels as 100% Reliable

Matching Details

The more I’ve looked into the gospels (even did a full harmonization of all 4 gospels), the more I’ve seen incredible agreement. But I think it’s like what Jesus shows us with parables – those unwilling to follow will listen to a parable and be all confused and think, it doesn’t make sense (a good excuse for not following). But those willing to follow will see how amazingly it all goes together. Such is the same with how people view the gospels. Things may seem contradictory until you look closer. But only those interested in following Jesus will look closer.

Giving Benefit of Doubt

A person commenting on how people approach supposed “contradictions” in the gospels compared it to a husband who happens to come home from work early, and sees his wife hugging a man he didn’t recognize. If his relationship with his wife is already pretty poor, he could jump to the conclusion that she is having an affair. But if they have a healthy relationship, he will talk with her and try to figure out what is happening. Then he may realize a lot of scenarios that were totally pure, and not adulterous. All depends on where their heart is with their spouse and their relationship is at. That filters, so to speak, how you will approach things that your mind initially views as possible contradiction.

The Old Testament Curtain Picture

There’s a beautiful picture, to me, of how Jesus’ earthly ministry (his body-in-the-flesh) is compared to the temple curtain in Hebrews 10:20. He was a walking holy-of-holies, because the Spirit filled Him (and He was God) while still living as a man. So the temple curtain speaks to his body. Well…check this out…if you look back to Exodus on how they were instructed to stitch the temple curtain together, you see they were told to use 4 different fabrics. 3 of the fabrics were of the same material, but different colors. While 1 of the fabric was completely different than the other 3. Now consider that for a moment! This is how the temple curtain was to be stitched, and this represents Jesus’ earthly ministry in the flesh (Heb. 10:20). Amazingly, this corresponds precisely to the way the gospels stitch together Jesus’ earthly ministry. We have 4 gospels (like the 4 fabrics). 3 are very similar (Matt, Mark, Luke) while 1 is very different (John). It takes the skill of the Holy Spirit (and humility) to see how they all stitch together. But they do stitch together amazingly to those interested in learning.

New Evidences the Gospels were Based on Eyewitness Accounts

If you haven’t seen this, check it out: …gives some powerful evidence that the gospels should be taken more seriously than skeptics have thought

Lecture – Dr Peter Williams – New Evidences the Gospels were Based on Eyewitness Accounts 


These are notes collected from studying with brothers in Christ. Anything good comes from the Lord. Everything else is from us!

God, A Stranger

He was in the world, and the world was made through him, yet the world did not know him.
John 1:10

So much here…
It aches me to think that not one person recognized their Maker when He walked among them. So deep is sin and the deceitfulness in us that we are so blind to light even when face-to-face with Him. I can only imagine how much we might be missing today as well—God have mercy

He came to his own, and his own people did not receive him.
John 1:11

This might be even sadder than verse 10.

These aren’t just any people—these are the very ones who have immersed themselves in the very Scripture that SHOUTS Jesus. These are ones who have prayed to God. Who were his special people. And when He came up close to them they had no clue who He was. They had their own ideas of God based on things here and there. But the Real God was essentially a stranger to them when He got close. Just consider that

New Names

He brought him to Jesus. Jesus looked at him and said, “You are Simon the son of John. You shall be called Cephas” (which means Peter ).
John 1:42

It’s interesting He names Peter here. My mind thought of how Adam exercised his dominion over the animals by naming them. Likewise, I wonder if Creator Jesus is showing his dominion over Peter / the disciples by giving them new names? Maybe not…but an interesting thought…

On Mission

“Now while he was in Jerusalem at the Passover Festival, many people saw the signs he was performing and believed in his name.[d] 24 But Jesus would not entrust himself to them, for he knew all people. 25 He did not need any testimony about mankind, for he knew what was in each person.”
John 2:23-25

I love how Jesus’ focus is totally on his mission, and he does not need validation from people to keep going. The only validation Jesus needed was from his heavenly father, and he lived in full confidence knowing his father loved him and was pleased with him.

Amen! I’d add that the reason given in John for Jesus not trusting people was that “he knew all people…he knew what was in each person”. I’ve taken that to mean that He recognized the fallenness within each of us. That the praise of man is fickle and misleading. That people can be hot and cold. That humans are not a good place to put your trust (that include in ourselves) – see Jeremiah 17.

I’ve been reflecting on the same as we are going through the gospels! Jesus knew his purpose and did not divert.

Righteous Judgment

30 “I can do nothing on my own. As I hear, I judge, and my judgment is just, because I seek not my own will but the will of him who sent me.
John 5:30 –
2 elements to righteous judgment:

  1. Judge according to Gods word (“As I hear, I judge”)
  2. Judge according to Gods will, not your own

May we follow this same pattern in making just judgments today!

Hearing God

37 And the Father who sent me has himself borne witness about me. His voice you have never heard, his form you have never seen, 38 and you do not have his word abiding in you, for you do not believe the one whom he has sent. 39 You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; and it is they that bear witness about me, 40 yet you refuse to come to me that you may have life.
John 5:37-40

What a sobering thought!
You have never heard God’s voice, though you search the Scriptures. Because you aren’t willing to receive and follow what it says

John begins with calling Jesus “The Word”. And by that I’ve taken it to mean He is the exact expression and communication of God (because He is God in the flesh). But there’s also a strong correlation between the Scriptures (as God’s written Word) and Jesus (God’s personal Word). Both Scriptures + Jesus communicate God exactly. I think of it as the difference between writing someone a letter (Scriptures) and talking to them face-to-face (God in the flesh = Jesus). They written and face-to-face communication will sync and match, just the face-to-face version usually gives added “shades” and “coloring” that the written communication doesn’t have.

Along these lines, I’ve been thinking about how much Jesus (God’s Word) matches and fulfills Scripture (God’s Written Word) as seen throughout John:

  • Ch. 1 = Jesus matches the dream of Jacob, with angels ascending and descending on Him. He is the new Jacob/Israel, and would appoint 12 apostles, just as Jacob had 12 sons/tribes of Israel.
  • Ch. 2 = Jesus’ first sign was turning water into wine. I think this hearkens to Moses’ first sign of turning the water into blood. Jesus, like Moses, will save his people from oppression (the oppression of sin).
  • Ch. 3 = Jesus compares Himself to the bronze serpent in Numbers 21. His death on a cross would undo the power of sin/Satan over those who believe, just like the bronze serpent undid the power of the serpents for those who looked to it.
  • Ch. 4 = If you compare the story of how Isaac and Jacob gained a wife at the well, I see striking similarities. It starts by asking for a drink of water, but then gaining a bride (which I think she is part of Jesus gaining a bride–she recognizes Him as Messiah, and gathers the whole city to Him…this is like Jacob giving water to the sheep in addition to the woman).
  • Ch. 5 = Jesus heals someone lame for 38 years. I think of Deut. 2:14 and how Israel had to go 38 years in the desert before they enter the Promised Land. Jesus is the Promised Land, bringing healing to this man after 38 years.
  • Ch. 6 = Jesus compares Himself to the Manna that comes from heaven as nourishment for the people, like the manna while the Israelites were in the desert.

The point I’m sort of seeing and feeling out here (maybe still a bit raw) is that Jesus personified and fulfilled God’s written word in so many ways, as God’s ultimate Personal Word to the people. He showed them what God was really like. And the sad irony is that no one recognized God when He came.

Moses as Author

46 For if you believed Moses, you would believe me; for he wrote of me. 47 But if you do not believe his writings, how will you believe my words?”
John 5:46-47

Literally today i was talking with someone about whether Moses wrote the first 5 books of the Bible. He takes a more liberal view (that Moses wrote some but a lot was written by other authors). Then I opened up and saw this and BAM. Shows what Jesus thought. Amen!

More Confirmation

I also happened to hear a quick teaching on the Bible today and BAM they started talking about Jesus as Gods Word and comparing to Scripture, Gods written word. Exactly what I wrote about earlier. Just seems like God is really using John to weave together things in my life this week.

Not a Political Leader

Perceiving then that they were about to come and take him by force to make him king, Jesus withdrew again to the mountain by himself.
John 6:15

What a picture! They wanted Jesus to change things politically / militarily. He had a far bigger agenda. What a word for the zealot in our own hearts today as we think political / military change should be Jesus’ chief mission. His ways are better than ours!!

Not My Will

38 For I have come down from heaven, not to do my own will but the will of him who sent me.
John 6:38 –
I find this amazing. Jesus, as fully man, had a will that could be contrary to God’s will. Though being God He could lay down any human will and completely submit his will to the Father. That’s what pure righteousness looks like.

Innocent Until Proven Guilty

“Does our law judge a man without first giving him a hearing and learning what he does?”
John 7:51

This shows the US legal precedent for presuming innocence until proven guilty by due process.
I fear our mob mentality and instant judgment of people breaks this very important principle. May we go back to not judging quickly but presuming all innocent until proven guilty!

They replied, “Are you from Galilee too? Search and see that no prophet arises from Galilee.”
John 7:52

Even further, they judged him guilty because of something that seemed true but actually wasn’t if they would’ve investigated humbly and carefully.

Comedy, John, and Sheep

man – the gospel of John has been cracking me up! So many funny things that I think are supposed to make us pause.

One thing I just went over:
Jesus: “the sheep know the shepherd’s voice…” (vv. 4-5)
“But they did not understand what he was saying to them” (v. 6)
…the irony. He just said his sheep know his voice. But then right after they were like, “we don’t recognize your voice” haha…you must not be a sheep

Relationship Over Religion

“Yet, because Moses gave you circumcision (though actually it did not come from Moses, but from the patriarchs), you circumcise a boy on the Sabbath. Now if a boy can be circumcised on the Sabbath so that the law of Moses may not be broken, why are you angry with me for healing a man’s whole body on the Sabbath?”
John 7:22-23

I love how Jesus is always teaching us relationship over religion. Jesus wants to see restoration, and he doesn’t seem to care one bit about his bringing restoration getting in the way of religious tradition.

Something else to consider: Jesus routinely points to the principles of Scripture as guidance over the letter-of-the-law / formula that the Pharisees were so in love with. Here he shows the ridiculousness of their extra-biblical traditions. That they were against healing on the Sabbath (a work of God), yet were OK with circumcision on that day (a work of man in accordance with God).

When you have externals, then self-effort can make you feel self-righteous. But when you go to principles, it becomes more relational and driven from internal change (as said), not “did I meet the quota?”

Other examples of this include:

  • Jesus pointing to David and his men getting the showbread from the priest (though it was “unlawful” to eat)
  • Matt 5 – where He rebukes them for thinking “they’ve arrived” when they don’t commit adultery but DO lust…or don’t murder but DO have hateful thoughts. In other words, they meet their human quota, but don’t obey from the heart. Of course, none of us do this, thus the need for the gospel!

More Confirmations

I’ve been amazed all week that I’ll comment things on here, then hear a “random” teaching here or there give confirmation of it. It just happened again, so wanted to share. This is from “Regeneration Through the Spirit” by Michael Reeves:

After reading from Mark 7, the speaker says:

So Jesus knew how sin collapses religion into a hollow outward show that fails to deal with the deep issues of the heart. So to be [truly] evangelical is to be highly wary of a pharisaical hypocrisy in which our lips may be orthodox [i.e. say the right words] but our hearts are not.

Regeneration Through the Spirit – Michael Reeves


At the end of John:

  • death couldn’t stop Jesus
  • The stone couldn’t stop Him
  • A locked door didn’t stop Him
  • A doubting Thomas didn’t stop Him
  • And a night of toil without fish wasn’t too much for Him

I’m so convicted that I think my issues / blindspots / stubbornness is TOO BIG for Jesus to get through. Or even the church’s issues collectively.

Christ forgive me for seeing limitations with natural eyes.

A Servant

“Jesus knew that the Father had put all things under his power, and that he had come from God and was returning to God; 4 so he got up from the meal, took off his outer clothing, and wrapped a towel around his waist. 5 After that, he poured water into a basin and began to wash his disciples’ feet, drying them with the towel that was wrapped around him.”
John 13:4-5

I love how Jesus’ response to “all things under his power” is to immediately become the lowest servant. Jesus flips culture upside down, and we are called to do the same. This is not an act of self-punishment or asceticism, however, because Jesus assures us that “Now that you know these things, you will be blessed if you do them” (v17).

Love this! Never noticed it was in response to things under his power. I do see though how those who are their position in Christ and the power of God in us are the freest to love and serve without conditions. Love because He first loved us…

Are The Gospels Reliable?

It seems to me that a lot of atheists try to discredit the word due to discrepancies and the lack of reliability. I was actually amazed how similar the accounts are (especially in the first three gospels). John is a bit different… I’m sure I’m biased but I see amazing reliability in these accounts!

Brian speaking:

  1. The more I’ve looked into the gospels (even did a full harmonization of all 4 gospels), the more I’ve seen incredible agreement. But I think it’s like what Jesus shows us with parables – those unwilling to follow will listen to a parable and be all confused and think, it doesn’t make sense (a good excuse for not following). But those willing to follow will see how amazingly it all goes together. Such is the same with how people view the gospels. Things may seem contradictory until you look closer. But only those interested in following Jesus will look closer.
  2. A person commenting on how people approach supposed “contradictions” in the gospels compared it to a husband who happens to come home from work early, and sees his wife hugging a man he didn’t recognize. If his relationship with his wife is already pretty poor, he could jump to the conclusion that she is having an affair. But if they have a healthy relationship, he will talk with her and try to figure out what is happening. Then he may realize a lot of scenarios that were totally pure, and not adulterous. All depends on where their heart is with their spouse and their relationship is at. That filters, so to speak, how you will approach things that your mind initially views as possible contradiction.
  3. There’s a beautiful picture, to me, of how Jesus’ earthly ministry (his body-in-the-flesh) is compared to the temple curtain in Hebrews 10:20. He was a walking holy-of-holies, because the Spirit filled Him (and He was God) while still living as a man. So the temple curtain speaks to his body. Well…check this out…if you look back to Exodus on how they were instructed to stitch the temple curtain together, you see they were told to use 4 different fabrics. 3 of the fabrics were of the same material, but different colors. While 1 of the fabric was completely different than the other 3. Now consider that for a moment! This is how the temple curtain was to be stitched, and this represents Jesus’ earthly ministry in the flesh (Heb. 10:20). Amazingly, this corresponds precisely to the way the gospels stitch together Jesus’ earthly ministry. We have 4 gospels (like the 4 fabrics). 3 are very similar (Matt, Mark, Luke) while 1 is very different (John). It takes the skill of the Holy Spirit (and humility) to see how they all stitch together. But they do stitch together amazingly to those interested in learning.
  4. this is already too long probably, but if you haven’t seen this, check it out: …gives some powerful evidence that the gospels should be taken more seriously than skeptics have though

Biblical Worldview 101

WORLDVIEW: the lens by which you view and evaluate the world.

BIBLICAL WORLDVIEW: using the Bible as your lens for viewing/evaluating the world.

Audio of “Biblical Worldview 101” (54 min)
  • God’s Word reveals God’s thoughts: Psalm 119:130; Isaiah 55:6-11; 1 Cor. 1:25
  • Jesus treats God’s word as the highest authority on EVERYTHING: Matt. 3:17-4:11; Mark 7:1-13; John 10:34-35; John 12:47-50
  • God’s Word = Seed: Luke 8:11; 1 Pet. 1:23
    • seed = origin
    • don’t mix with other seeds: Deut. 22:9; 1 Pet. 1:23
    • EXEGESIS = working out from Bible as starting place (versus eisegesis, having your own starting place independent of God’s word)
  • Revelation from Bible + Holy Spirit: Gen. 1:2-3; Acts 15:12-21; 1 Cor. 2:11; 2 Cor. 4:6; 1 John 2:27
    • Like 2 eyes – focused on the same thing, we get light
    • Spirit and Word always true: Lev. 11:36-37 (cf. John 4; Luke 8:11)
    • Scripture
      • tests the Spirit’s revelation: Heb. 4:12-13; 1 Thes. 5:19-21
      • is best interpreter of Scripture: Matt. 4:7
      • is treated as ultimate authority: Matt. 3:17-4:11
    • Need soft hearts: Psalm 95:7-11; Prov. 1:23; Luke 8:4-15; John 7:17; 2 Cor. 3:16
    • Nature gives supplementary revelation: Psalm 19; Romans 1
  • In practice
    • 2 Tim 1:14: we guard the doctrine; the Spirit is necessary to help
    • John 7:17; James 1:22-25 (cf. Ex 16:19-20): willingness to obey solidifies learning
    • Acts 17:11; 1 Thes. 5:19-21 – (1) be willing to receive, (2) examine by the Scriptures
      • like eating: put the food in your mouth, chew to separate it out (and spit out the bad), then swallow
    • devote yourself to learning God’s word
      • Acts 2:42; 17:11
      • copy the Bible: Deut. 17:18-20
      • Publicly read the Bible: Deut. 31:9-13; 1 Tim. 4:13
        • Teaching to understand it: Nehemiah 8:8; 1 Tim. 4:13
    • use (and be) good teachers
      • not a dependence on teachers: Matt. 23:10; 1 John 2:27
      • good teachers get you established in God/Scripture, not themselves: Eph. 4:11-12; 2 Tim. 2:2, 3:10-4:5
      • test teachers (good ones will desire you to do this, and be correctable to Scripture where they err from it): Acts 17:11; 18:26; 1 John 4:1