BSF Study Questions Romans Lesson 4, Day 5: Romans 3:19-20

Summary of passage:  The whole world is accountable to God and His Word.  His Word makes all conscious of sin and merely observing the law does not make you righteous.

Questions:

11)  The whole world is accountable to God and His Word.  His Word makes all conscious of sin and merely observing the law does not make you righteous.

12a) Just that:  To silence every critic, God is making it clear ALL are guilty before Him.

b) So far, it hasn’t really. I’ve learned more about the importance of it, but it hasn’t had an concrete effects on identifying and confessing sins.  It’s Week 4.

Conclusions: Unsure why we need a whole day on these two verses (besides the obvious that Romans only has 16 chapters for a 30 week study), which in my mind only emphasizes the facts we’re not righteous just because we obey the law, which is what we’ve been talking about all week.

End Notes:  The law cannot save you.  It gives you knowledge of your sins, not salvation.  In fact, it condemns you, not saves you.  Yes, God wants you to keep His laws and walk in His ways.  But that alone will not give you eternal life.  Only the purifying blood of Jesus can do so under the New Covenant.

J.B. Phillip’s paraphrase of “through the law we become conscious of sin” is striking.  He writes, “it is the straight-edge of the Law that shows us how crooked we are.

BSF Study Questions Romans Lesson 4, Day 3: Romans 3:5-8

Summary of passage:  Some justify their sins by saying their sins make God more righteous and true and brings Him more glory so they don’t deserve His wrath.  This is a human argument.  God does not need mere mortals to proclaim him righteous.  The gall of mankind!  God will judge evil no matter what justification man’s limited mind comes up with.

Questions:

6)  Some justify their sins by saying their sins make God more righteous and true and brings Him more glory so they don’t deserve His wrath.  This is a human argument.  God does not need mere mortals to proclaim him righteous.  The gall of mankind!  God will judge evil no matter what justification man’s limited mind comes up with.

7)  Part personal Question.  My answer:  All sin is evil.  I don’t like to sin. Who does?  I try not to, I repent when I do, I accept God’s forgiveness, and I try to be better.  That is what God desires.

Conclusions:  No sin is justified.  Period.  God hates all!

End Notes:  People use this argument when their sin leads to good.  Think of Judas and Joseph.  Judas’s sin lead to Jesus saving all of us.  Joseph’s brothers’ sins lead to him saving all of Egypt during the famine and God’s people who moved to Egypt during the famine.  However, sin is sin.  It’s no credit to man what God does and God chooses to use it for good is His prerogative.

God will use the unrighteousness of man to accomplish His work and bring praise to His name – Judas’ betrayal of Jesus is a perfect example. Nevertheless, part of the way God glorifies Himself in man’s sin is by righteously judging that unrighteousness.

God judging the world refers to the End Times.

Paul was falsely reported as having given permission for all to sin so God would be given the glory.  He refutes this here.  Remember, salvation by faith in Jesus Christ was a new idea in first century AD.  Confusion would be a given as Paul clarified Jesus and what his death means to the world.

Condemnation is justified for all who would believe such a thing.

This argument by man is the peak of man’s twistedness and you can almost feel Paul’s frustration leap out at you and strike you with a 2 x 4!

BSF Study Questions John Lesson 4, Day 5: John 3:22-36

Summary of passage:  After Jesus’ time with Nicodemus, he and his disciples began spreading the word of God in the Judean countryside and baptizing people.  John the Baptist was also still baptizing people at this same time.  An argument arose between the followers of John the Baptist and other Jews.  They were saying Jesus is baptizing as well.  John said that’s fine for Jesus is giving the same gift from heaven.  Jesus is above John the Baptist since he came from heaven.  He speaks the words of God and has been given everything by the Father.  Whoever accepts Jesus will have eternal life.

Questions:

13)  Part personal Question.  My answer:  John said it’s fine Jesus is around and humbled himself by saying Jesus is greater than he since Jesus is from heaven.  He is joyful at Jesus’ presence.  The joy of others doing the same thing as you.

14)  Part personal Question.  My answer:  John says Jesus if “the one who comes from above”, “The one whom God has sent”, “the one who comes from heaven”, “the one above all”, the Son of God, and the one to bring eternal life.  The same.

Conclusions:  John’s reaction to Jesus is what’s important here.  He’s not jealous that people are going to Jesus instead of him.  He’s joyful and happy.  We should all be that way when our competitors in life do better than we do.  It’s very hard to repress that selfishness that arises but John’s example is inspiring to do so.

End Notes:  Notice John’s focus:  Jesus’ work in Judea.  The other gospels focus on Jesus’ work in Galilee.  Map HERE of region.

Jesus is continuing the work of John the Baptist, who was doing the work God told him to do.  Jesus baptized and preached repentance, the same as John.  All we know is we’re in the region of Judea.

Where John was (Aenon near Salim) is disputed.  Aenon means “springs”, which makes sense since you need water to baptize.  Two locations are suggested:  one is 7 miles south of Bethshan and the other near Shechem.

The details of the argument is unknown.  What’s important is John’s reaction:  joy!  Jesus is here.  Let him come!

John responds to his disciples:  all I have is Jesus’, Jesus is the one who he’s announcing is coming and has come (his life’s purpose), and he’s just the best man–not the bridegroom.  The friend of the bridegroom arranges many parts of the wedding for the groom and is there only to help, which is John the Baptist’s role.  Saying Jesus is the bridegroom is saying he’s God.  All would have recognized from the Old Testament that Israel is the bride of Yahweh.

John is happy that Jesus is winning disciples.  That is John’s job–to bring them all to Jesus.  He’s doing a good job at evangelism.

Jesus is greater; the servant is less.  This John understood.  He kept doing the job he was sent to do even if the crowds lessened.  He’s still doing God’s work, which changes for us all.

Scholars debate whether verses 31-36 is John the Baptist still speaking or John the Apostle adding commentary.

Jesus is greater than everyone else and has first-hand knowledge of heaven since he’s from heaven.  This who we trust:  those who’ve been there and done that.  Jesus is the only one who’s been to heaven and back to tell.

No one will believe John says.  Jesus will be rejected.  He is prophesizing here.  This is relatively speaking.  Some did believe but most did not.

The Spirit is given freely to us all (without measure).

“The one whom God has sent” is a key theme in John’s Gospel (John 4:34; John 17:3).

“Without limit” here is debated:  is God giving the Spirit to only Jesus or to all believers?

“Has” means eternal life is a present possession, not something the believer will only obtain later.

Fun Fact:  “The Father loves the Son” is used only twice in the book of John (again in 5:20).  But a different Greek word is used in each case.

Using “the Son” to designate Jesus is a theme in this Gospel.

The wrath of God is brought upon man by himself.  God doesn’t do it.  Wrath is not a passion or an outburst.  It’s God’s displeasure that sin brings.  It’s God’s righteousness against unrighteousness.  So many churches these days downplay God’s wrath.  But without God’s wrath, there is no judgment, no morals, no values.

“God’s wrath” means that God is actively opposed to everything evil.

Fun Fact:  This is the only time John uses “wrath” in his Gospel.

“Abides” or “remains” means God’s wrath is for eternity (total and permanent) unless you accept Jesus who takes God’s wrath.

Conclusions to Lesson 4 and John 3:

John 3 is a must read for any Christian and a great place to point unbelievers.  It states:

You must be born again (John 3:7)

The Son of Man must be lifted up (John 3:14)

God must increase (John 3:30)

Man must decrease (John 3:30)

BSF Study Questions Revelation Lesson 4, Day 5: Revelation 2:8-11

Summary of passage: John’s letter to the church in Smyrna says Jesus knows their afflictions and poverty and knows of the false prophets. He says they will suffer but encourages them to be faithful and they will earn the crown of life (eternal life).

Questions:

13a)  Death, torture, death

b)  Death, torture, death

14a)  Because it is just the body that suffers, not the soul.  The soul is what lives on in heaven–which is what matters.  All believers in Christ go to heaven.  There is nothing to fear in Christ.

b)  Knowing there is something beyond this realm gives hope and faith in suffering.  Our suffering turns others towards Him as we are living examples of faith.  Jesus himself suffered as we are called to do as well.

15)  Personal Question.  My answer:  We had this question last year as well.  I have not suffered anywhere remotely close to the first century Christians and living in the US has sheltered me from suffering physically.  I personally have not suffered in any life-impacting way.

Conclusions:  Not sure how any of these questions relate to the passage directly; they are extrapolations to Jesus.

End Notes:  See previous POST for commentary.

Conclusions to Lesson 4: We focused in on the first two letters John wrote to the churches of Ephesus and Smyrna.  We saw the major difference between the two is Ephesus was rebuked for turning from Christ; whereas, Smyrna was only encouraged and praised for its suffering for Christ.

A lot of repetition in questions from last year.  I suppose BSF asks these every year but it stands out to me this year.

I have also come to realize as I grow in Christ and as my knowledge grows these questions seem repetitive to me because I have answered them before and I know them.  I know more of the Bible and God’s Word and to me it’s easy because I do know it.  I’m trying to keep that in mind that BSF is appealing to all wherever their walk is with Christ so some questions will be repetitive and redundant to some of us but not others.

BSF Study Questions Revelation Lesson 4, Day 4: Revelation 2:8-11

Summary of passage:  John’s letter to the church in Smyrna says Jesus knows their afflictions and poverty and knows of the false prophets.  He says they will suffer but encourages them to be faithful and they will earn the crown of life (eternal life).

Questions:

11)  Part personal Question.  My answer:  “Him who is the First and the Last, who died and came to life again.”  Jesus was, is, and will always be.  What is important about Jesus is just that:  he has always existed and he died for us.  Everything else is just icing on the cake.

12a)  Jesus knows their afflictions, their poverty, those who are of the synagogue of Satan, and he knows of their future sufferings and persecutions.

b)  Poverty is just a state of being here on earth.  What matters is after death and if you have Jesus, you have all the wealth in the world.  Jesus made himself poor (by being human and sacrificing himself) so that we all may be rich in heaven.

Conclusions:  Emphasis on Jesus’ character and persevering in this world.  Great reminder for all of us as we trudge through our days.

End Notes:  Very, very similar to the letter to the Church in Ephesus.  Smyrna was a very wealthy city similar to Ephesus.  It was a great trade city and lay at the end of the river Hermus and was a port city.  It was big and beautiful and known for its trade in wine.

Smyrna had multiple temples to the Roman gods but eventually the people began to worship the Roman emperor.  Smyrna built the first temple to the goddess of Rome in 196 BC and was the first city to build a temple to a Roman emperor in 23 AD.  It was the Roman emperor Domitian who first demanded to be worshipped as a god.  It was also probably him who banished John to Patmos.

Christians refused to worship the emperor; hence, the persecution Jesus is speaking of here.  All they had to do was burn incense and say “Caesar is Lord” once a year and be upon their merry way.  They refused and faced death.  How many of us would?

Smyrna comes from the word myrrh–the same gift to Jesus at his birth and the perfume used to cover the smell of dead bodies.

MAP of Smyrna

Jesus again echoes his appearance to John in these words he chooses to identify himself with.

Just like in Ephesus, Jesus knows their works and their hardships.  One form of persecution is economic and Christians lost their jobs and livelihoods for their belief.  The word “poor” here in the Greek means abject poverty.  They were dirt, dirt poor.

History tells us there was a large Jewish population here hostile to Christians.  Paul wrote thus they were not considered Jews in Romans 2:28-9, thus were labeled “a synagogue of Satan.”

Jesus tells them they are rich.  Rich in their eyes.  Often we don’t see this either.  All that really matters is how Jesus sees us.

We will see in Revelation 3 how the Laodiceans were rich but poor.

Jesus tells them to not be afraid; the devil (in the Greek the word is diabolos meaning accuser or adversary) will test them but only for 10 days.  God will limit their trials.  Prison in ancient times was a holding place for death.  Not like it is today.

Scholars will debate the number 10 here.  Was it literally 10 days or was it 10 years or was it 10 emperors?  The Greek word for 10 days was not literal and an expression of speech–it meant a short period of time.  The important thing here is that the persecution was limited by God.

Note:  Daniel was tested for 10 days as we’ll read in Lesson 8 Day 2.

God purpose was to test, to purify, to make His people more like Jesus.  This would prove how rich they were.  Out of the seven cities, this is the only city still in existence today (now called Izmir in Turkey).

We can be tested today and have a heart and live a martyr’s life.  Sadly, many Christians don’t.

MAJOR DIFFERENCE FROM EPHESUS:  There is no corrections here.  No rebukes.  Only encouragements and praise.  Smyrna is the first of just two churches (the other being the church of Philadelphia Rev 3:7) Jesus has only words of praise.

The Greek word for crown here means the one given to an athlete (not one a king wears).  Winners.  The crown of life.

The second death is hell or lake of fire (Rev 20:14).

This letter is about persevering through persecution.  In the Western world, we are not persecuted as the first century Christians were.  Still, in other places in the world, Christians do face life or death over their faith in Christ.  It is estimated more Christians died in twentieth century for their faith than any other time frame.  Pray for an end to persecution.

Other interesting links:  Brief history of Smyrna with photos HERE

Great explanation of Jesus’ message to Smyrna HERE

Most famous martyr of Smyrna is Polycarp, a student under John the Apostle.  His story is HERE and HERE