BSF Study Questions John Lesson 4, Day 2: John 3:1-8

Summary of passage:  Nicodemus, a Pharisee on the Jewish ruling council, comes to Jesus in the middle of the night to find out more about him.  Jesus tells him he must be born again to see the kingdom of God.  Nicodemus takes this literally.  Jesus explains you must be born of the Spirit and of water.


3a)  Nicodemus is questioning Jesus further on who he is.  Jesus responds with the essence of life with God:  to be with God you must be born again of the Spirit, the Holy Spirit, and accept his (Jesus’) future death.

b)  First off, he doesn’t understand.  He takes Jesus’ words literally.  Partly because of the Jewish faith that being born Jewish would guarantee a place in heaven.  He might even think Jesus is speaking of merely doing right instead of wrong–changing one’s ways so to speak.  He has been blinded to the truth.  But he’s trying to understand and keeps asking for clarity.  He’s persistent.  Determined.  Eager.  See End Notes for more.

4)  Flesh is man kind empty, devoid of the Holy Spirit.  Be careful with the given verse of John 6:51-56.  Jesus here is talking about his flesh after he has given it as a living sacrifice for mankind.  In our context, he is talking of man’s flesh without him.

5a)  That person is dead.  Dead in sin, following the transgressions of the world.  New birth is essential if you want to live forever.  Period.

b)  Yes.  Yes.  See definition of regeneration below.

Conclusions:  A weighty and important passage.  Here Jesus explains exactly how to get to heaven and essentially him.  It’s all God.  It’s accepting Jesus as your Savior.  It’s being born again with the Holy Spirit and living for God.  This is known as regeneration which is “the spiritual change wrought in people’s hearts by an act of God in which their inherent sinful nature is changed and by which they are enabled to respond to God in faith.”  (Zondervan Illustrated Bible Dictionary by Merrill and Tenney).  God initiates the change through the Holy Spirit, releasing that person from change, and thus enabling them a new life in Christ, voluntarily turning to God in fellowship.  As long as people are in sin, they cannot believe in God.

End Notes:  We can assume Nicodemus was one of those impressed by what they saw Jesus doing at the Passover Feast in John 2:23.  He was educated as a member of the ruling priests (the Sanhedrin).  As a Pharisee, he was committed to a certain set of beliefs.  No doubt he was influential.  His name is Greek meaning “conqueror over the people.”

Why did Nicodemus come to Jesus at night?  Maybe he was afraid of being seen by others.  Maybe he wanted time to speak to Jesus uninterrupted.  Maybe he was just shy.  Maybe curious.  Or maybe from conviction.  Most certainly though led by God.

Scholars are unsure who “we” is in verse 2.  It could be generic such as “It is known”.  It could be Nicodemus is referring to the Sanhedrin, the ruling Jewish rabbi.  Or it could be he’s using the royal we to refer to himself.

False prophets can also do false signs which surely Nicodemus is aware of but he still says and evidently believes God is with Jesus if he’s doing these signs.

Jews believed by just being born Jewish they were assured a place in the Kingdom of God.  Jesus here is saying now that is no longer the case.  You must believe in him to make it into heaven.

Some Jewish leaders taught that Abraham stood at the gates of hell just to make sure none of his descendants accidentally went there.

Remember most Jews at the time are seeking a Savior to usher in a new world where Jews are rulers here on earth.  But Jesus is ushering in a new life, where all are rulers in heaven.

“Born again” is literally in the Greek “born from above.”  To have new life.  After Jesus spoke of new birth here, we see it all over the New Testament.

We cannot birth ourselves.  This is something that must be done to us.  We accept Jesus but he does the rest.

Nicodemus’ confusion can further be explained by the Jewish belief of the terms of the New Covenant at that time:  1)  Israel would be gathered together  2)  God’s people would be spiritually transformed  3)  A Messiah would rule over Israel and the whole world.  Jews believed the first two had already been fulfilled.  They are only seeking the Messiah to rule the world, not someone promising new life.

What does “born of water” mean?  Some believe baptism but there’s nothing in the Old Testament to back this claim.  Some think physical birth.  Some think the Word since Ephesians 5:26 says the Word is water.  Some think the Holy Spirit since it’s called the living waters (John 7:38-39).  Some say cleansing water or purification as in Ezekiel 36:25-28.  Whatever Jesus was referring to, Nicodemus should have known (John 3:10).

Jesus establishes with these words salvation by God’s grace alone.  It is not something man could ever do on his own.  Be born again is God and God alone.

The idea with the wind is you don’t have to understand wind to experience it’s effects.  The same with the Spirit.  You don’t have to understand it or how it works but you can experience a life with the Spirit.  Understanding comes later.

We will see Nicodemus twice more in John and in the Bible where he only appears in this book.  At the Feast of Tabernacles (John 7:25-52) Nicodemus says perhaps they shouldn’t kill Jesus without a fair trial and then after Jesus’ death Nicodemus provides a rich store of spices for Jesus’ embalmment and assists in Jesus’ burial (John 19:38-42).  He then vanishes from Scripture, leaving us unsure whether he ever confessed to faith in Jesus.


BSF Study Questions Revelation Lesson 4, Day 2: Revelation 2:1-7

Summary of passage:  John addressed the church in Ephesus and its angel (or messenger or priest or church).  Jesus says he knows of the church’s hard work and how they have tested false prophets and endured hardships.  Yet, they have abandoned him and need to repent or face the consequences.  To those who hear him and overcome, they will receive the tree of life or the paradise of God.


3a)  The seven stars are the leaders of the seven churches John wrote to which are represented by the seven lamp stands.

b)  Jesus holds the seven stars in his right hand and walks amongst the seven lamp stands.  (Jesus is with us and holds us always).  He knows everything about us–deeds, perseverance, and hard work.

4)  Part Personal Question.  My answer:  Jesus knew their deeds, hard work, perseverance, testing of false prophets, and hardships.  And he knew they had turned from him, not heard the Spirit, and not repented of their sins.  I work hard and persevere.  My deeds for Jesus could be more.

5)  Acts tells us to examine what the false prophet is saying with the Word to see if it aligns with God’s teachings.  Romans tells us to allow God to transform our mind and not the world and then we will be able to know God’s will.  1 Corinthians says if a person curses Jesus, that is not from God.  Galatians says don’t compare yourself to others.  2 Timothy says all Scripture is true.  Hebrews says constant use of God’s word and ways will train you to distinguish good from evil i.e. know the word; know the truth.

6)  Just that:  persevere and endure hardship for Jesus.  Don’t bend.  Don’t waver.  Stand strong.  Know him.  Trust him.  Believe him.

Conclusions:  Good review of false prophets (we studied this last year in the Life of Moses).  3a was redundant.  Question 6 was self-explanatory.

My take-away:  Jesus/God knows everything:  our struggles, triumphs, dreams, and hearts. Good reminder as I pray and pray for my novel to be a success.

End Notes:  This is commentary on verses 1-3 as these questions focus on these verses.  Commentary on verses 4-7 will follow tomorrow’s lesson.

For analysis of 7 stars and 7 churches, see last week’s post HERE.

The letters are published here to each church in Revelation 2 & 3.  The structure of each letter is the same:

An address to a particular congregation
An introduction of Jesus (“These are the words of…”)
A statement regarding the condition of the church
A verdict from Jesus regarding the condition of the church
A command from Jesus to the church
A general exhortation to all Christians
A promise of reward

As previously discussed, the angel is probably the pastor of the church but the letter is to every member.

Ephesus was well known in the ancient world much like New York City today.  It held the famous temple of Artemis, the Greek goddess of the hunt, (Reconstruction picture HERE) and was a haven for immoral behavior namely sex with temple attendants.  The temple was one of the seven wonders of the ancient world.  It was so important it was completely rebuilt 3 times, finally being destroyed in 268 AD by the Goths and dismantled entirely in 401 AD by St. John Chrysostom.  Paul, Aquilla, Priscilla, Timothy, and John all ministered here.  MAP of Ephesus

Today the site is covered in swampland due to flooding and hence the remains of Ephesus are obscured.

Jesus is introduced just like in John’s vision–with power and authority over the church.  The Greek word for holds shows Jesus is in charge.

Jesus knew the church’s condition.  Patience here in Greek means “steadfast endurance.”  These were people with God’s heart.

Paul warned the Ephesians in Acts 20:29-31 about false prophets and evidently they took it seriously. So must we all be ever wary of falsehoods.

The church has patience and perseverance–great example for us today.

IMPORTANT:  Jesus ALWAYS in these letters and admonishes addresses the positive first, then he rebukes.  Good example for us today.  Acknowledge how good someone is doing, then tell them how to improve.

Commentary on verses 4-7 will follow on Day 3 as those questions focus on those verses.

BSF Study Questions The Life of Moses Lesson 4, Day 2: Exodus 5:1-14

Summary of passage:  With the support of the elders of Israel, Moses and Aaron continue with God’s orders.  They approach Pharaoh and tell him God demands him to release the Israelites for a festival in the desert.  Pharaoh, of course, balks, and says I don’t know God so why should I obey him?  Moses and Aaron say that the people need to offer sacrifices to God or God may strike them with a plague.  Again, Pharaoh being Pharaoh, won’t let them take the Israelites away from their work.

After Moses and Aaron leave, Pharaoh issues the order for the Israelites to collect their own straw for making bricks instead of being supplied with it but they still must produce the same quota as before.  This will make them work harder and have no time to listen to Moses and Aaron.  So, the Israelites now collect their own straw and strain under the work.


3a)  They were afraid the Egyptians would stone them since their sacrifices would offend the Egyptians.

b)  Yes.  Moses explains that they must offer sacrifices to the Lord or He may strike them with plagues or the sword.  Does Pharaoh want to lose his slave work force cause God killed them all?  No.  Plus, it’s a desert.  Where are they gonna go?

c)  First, Pharaoh doesn’t want to give up control of his slave labor force.  Second, he says he doesn’t know the Lord so why should he obey him?  After all, he’s Pharaoh, the most powerful man in all of Egypt and arguably in that part of the world at that time.  Third, work will stop while they are gone.  He needs them to work!

4a)  The slave drivers are Egyptians in charge of the Israelites.  The foreman are Israelites appointed by the slave drivers who were in charge of the work projects.  They were beaten if they didn’t produce enough work out of the people to the slave drivers’ satisfaction.

b)  Personal Question.  My answer:  Would you want to face daily beatings?  No.  Not me.  I can’t stand a paper cut, let alone a beating.

Conclusions:  Here we see into the mindset of absolute dictators and ancient way of life.  Once a slave, always a slave with no privileges no matter who asked.  Pharaoh had absolute power and he wasn’t going to relinquish any of it.  He held your life in his hands and could end it if he had wanted.  Moses and Aaron would need the power of Almighty God to defeat this despot!

End Notes:  Pharaoh considered himself a god and the God of Israel was not one of those gods he knew.  Therefore, he refused the simple worship request.

Straw bound the bricks together so it was an essential component in building material.

Because of Moses’ request, things got worse for the Israelites.  Isn’t this true for us often?  Things get worse before they get better?  This would be a test of Pharaoh and of the Israelites.  They would endure more hardships before the freedom God promised would come.

BSF Study Questions Matthew Lesson 4, Day 2: Matthew 4:1-11

Summary of passage:  Jesus was led by the Holy Spirit into the desert to be tempted by the devil.  He fasted for 40 days and nights and the tempter told him to turn stones to bread.  Jesus said he only needed the word of God to live.  The tempter took him to the highest point of the temple and told him to jump.  Jesus said not to test God.

The devil offered him to rule the world if he only would worship him.  Jesus told him to go away for only God deserves to be worshipped.  Angels came to him afterwards.


3a)  The desert.  To be tempted.

b)  Personal Question.  My answer:  To share in our humanity, to become merciful and a faithful high priest in service to God so that he might make atonement for the sins of people.  Because he suffered when he was tempted, he is able to help those who are being tempted.  It encourages me because I know how much God loves us.  He didn’t need to be tempted for he understood us, His creation, completely.  But God sent Jesus to become man for our benefit–so we would more fully believe in Him.  So we would have an example of how to defeat the devil.  So that we could identify with him.  And so we could see Jesus’ holiness.

Jesus used a weapon we all can use–God’s word.

4a)  Eve was almost immediately blinded by the things of this world:  how good the fruit was and how pleasing to the eye it was and also her desire for wisdom.  She lost track of the things of God’s world, which at that point was His word since Adam and Eve lived in Paradise, and also God’s character and who He was.

Jesus never forgot who God was.  He used God’s words against the devil as defense.  He didn’t care for the kingdoms of this world for his eye was fixed on the kingdoms of God’s world.

b)  Differences:  Jesus used God’s words against the devil.  Eve had no defense in essence.  She believed the devil over God.  Adam and Eve tested God’s words; Jesus didn’t.  Eve gave into lust of the eyes, flesh, and pride.  Jesus did not.

Similarities:  The serpent/devil was equally crafty and deceptive.  He tried to plant doubt of God in both Eve’s mind and Jesus’.  The devil was in physical form.  Both had a personal relationship with God and both had the same weapons available.

Conclusions:  Very similar to a lesson in Genesis last year (see Lesson HERE) where we were asked the exact same question with regards to Jesus.

Take away:  God loves us so much He allows us to be tempted so that we may turn to Him in faith.

Martin Luther once said that prayer, meditation, and temptation are the best instructors of God’s word.  Because in it we learn who He is.

We also see 40 days and nights in Noah and the Flood and the Israelites wandering in the wilderness.

Satan quotes God’s word as well but he twists it and leaves out important phrases.  It’s our job to know God’s word so we do not fall into the trap of twisted lies.

We will all face temptation.  But it is a sin when we give in.  The devil cannot win against us if we use God’s word as a weapon.  It is too powerful.  Through Jesus we know we can defeat the devil’s tactics.

BSF Study Questions Genesis Lesson 4, Day 2: Genesis 3:1-6

Summary of passage:  The crafty serpent asked Eve, “Did God really say not to eat from any tree in the garden?”  Eve tells him they can eat from any tree except from the tree in the middle of the garden or they will die.  The serpent plants doubt, saying surely you won’t die; you will just be like God, knowing good and evil.

So, Eve took some and ate it and gave some to Adam (who was with her the whole time) and ate it as well.


3)  the devil or Satan

4a)  Adam was to care for the trees in the garden and he was free to eat from any tree in the garden except the tree of knowledge of good and evil because if he ate from that, he would die.

b)  Yes.  Why else would God plant it and why would he instruct Adam to eat from any tree (including the tree of life)  Verses 9 & 16.  Everything God does has a purpose.  God gave man Free Will–to choose life or death.  And man chose.

5a)  The serpent planted doubt.  He questioned God’s words by asking, “Are you sure God said that?”  It made Eve wonder if God did indeed say that.  Then he questions God’s word and twists it by saying Eve wouldn’t die if she ate it.  Why would God do such a thing?  Then the serpent does speak some truth by saying their eyes will be opened.  They just wouldn’t be opened how the serpent says.  Finally, he tempted by saying “You will gain knowledge of good and evil” and be equal with God.

b)  First, Eve talked to the serpent.  Then she listened to the serpent.  Then she believed the serpent.  Then she gave in to her desire for wisdom and partook  of the fruit.

c)  God first and foremost.  God’s truths.  God’s words.  God’s goodness.  God himself really.

6a)  Jesus used God’s truths to defeat the devil.  Granted, Eve didn’t have the Bible to use but in a way she had something just as powerful:  a personal relationship with God.  Eve doubted God’s goodness; Jesus never did.  Eve doubted God’s ways; Jesus never did.

Of course, Jesus was God on earth and Eve was merely a human so it’s hard to compare.

But the serpent does use the same methods:  lust of the flesh; lust of the eyes; and pride.

b)  No.  James says after desire (temptation) has conceived (been planted), then it gives birth to sin (one sins) and sin leads to death.

Because Eve coveted the fruit didn’t mean she sinned.  She only sinned when she ate the fruit (disobeyed God’s commands).  At any moment before then she could have walked away.  But she didn’t.

The definition of sin according to Webster’s Dictionary is “a transgression of the law of God”.  Transgression means a violation of a law or command; to go beyond the limits.

According to my bible dictionary (Zondervan Illustrated Bible Dictionary by Douglas and Tenney) sin is “revolt against the holiness and sovereign will of God.  It is a condition of the heart and the outworking of that condition through one’s words and actions.”

We are all tempted (“to entice to do wrong by promise of pleasure or gain” says Webster’s).  Satan tempts to undermine our faith.  God tests (not tempts) to strengthen our faith.

c)  Personal Question.  My answer:  To quit God’s work and purpose for my life.  Some days it’s just not worth it.  It’s a constant temptation.  I’m also tempted to say mean things or not be giving.  Constant temptation to not do as Jesus would do.  Temptation to do what I want to do and not what God wants me to do.

Conclusions:  We discussed the whole sin versus temptation thing in Acts last year except we were asked if it was okay to doubt (see lesson HERE).  We are human.  We will be tempted.  Constantly by the devil.  But we have Free Will to say no.  God always offers us an out (1 Corinthians 10:13) so we can stand up to the devil.  God will not let us be tempted beyond what we can bear.

From Eve we can learn the common steps the devil uses to make us sin:  he plants doubt in our mind; he makes us question God’s word; he entices with something seemingly better.  This pattern we need to be aware of so we don’t fall into sin.  So we can stand up to the devil and say “NO!” in God’s name.  So we don’t lose sight of God like Eve did.

Interesting Side Notes:  Note that God instructed Adam to not partake of the fruit of the tree of knowledge.  Then God created Eve.  Eve must have been told by Adam but she was not instructed by God.  Hence, she was chosen by the serpent to tempt as she was the weaker link.  We don’t know what Adam said to Eve but Adam was standing right there.  He knew it was wrong.  Eve disobeyed God and Adam.

Also, if Adam had been chosen to eat first, Eve might have had an out by saying she was only obeying her husband, the head of the household.  Hence, God allowed Eve to be tested first.

Eve doesn’t even seem to know the name of the tree and exactly what God said since she uses the word “touch” instead of “eat” as God did.  This is not an excuse.  But it does fall upon Adam to communicate to her God’s commands.

Eve was truly deceived by the devil; Adam sinned in full knowledge of what God had said. (Romans 5:12; 1 Corinthians 15:22; 1 Timothy 2:14).

I was always told it was Eve’s fault man sinned.  But upon close examination Adam bears most of the burden.  He was right there (Genesis 3:6) the entire time.  At any moment either one could have ran from the serpent.  But neither did.  It just shows how powerful and cunning the devil truly is.  And what we must fight against daily.

If Adam and Eve could be tricked and disobey–those who actually walked with God–then we must be extra vigilant and strong in the Word in order to resist.

Great explanation of Genesis 3 HERE

BSF Study Questions Acts Lesson 4, Day 2: Acts 8:1-8 & John 4:6-42

Summary of passages:  Acts 8:1-8  On the day Stephen was executed a persecution against the church so all the believers except the Apostles were scattered throughout Judea and Samaria.  Stephen was buried and Saul began a relentless drive to destroy the church.  Philip went to Samaria and began to preach the word there.  Great job was brought to that city because of Philip’s deeds.

John 4:6-42:  Jesus, tired from his travels, sits down at a well in the Samaritan town of Sychar. When a Samaritan woman comes to draw water, Jesus speaks to her.  Shocked, the woman asks why he is speaking to her since Jews do not associate with Samaritans.  Jesus explains everyone who drinks living water will never thirst again.  Indeed, the water will well up inside of you and lead to eternal life.

The woman accepts his offer.  Jesus tells her to go and get her husband.  She replies she had none.  Jesus tells her a time is coming where everyone will worship the Father in spirit and truth and not just at certain holy places.  He tells her he is the Messiah.

The woman runs back into town and fetches the people, telling them the Christ is here.  Meanwhile, Jesus tells his disciples his food is to do the will of him who sent me and to finish his work.  He also says they are reaping the hard work of others and will have eternal life.

So many Samaritans were converted that day and Jesus stayed 2 more days with them.


3a)  Because of Stephen’s death all believers except the Apostles were scattered throughout Judea and Samaria and they preached the word wherever they went (Verse 1 & 4)

b)  God has sent Assyria against the kingdom of Israel (Northern Kingdom) for their idol worship.  Assyria deports the Israelites to Assyria.  God’s reasons are listed in 2 Kings 7-23.  Then the King of Assyria brought people from Babylon, Cuthah, Avva, Hamath, and Sepharvaim to settle the former lands of the Israelites (Samaria).  They took over Samaria and lived in its towns.  They did not worship the Lord either.  This was a war strategy of the Assyrians. Mixing peoples up made it harder for them to re-group and rebel against them.

From all these mixed races of peoples the Assyrians imported to the land of Israel descends the Samaritans.  They looked different, spoke different, and held different beliefs.  They intermixed with the remaining Israelites.

As the rest of 2 Kings passage shows, they bring their religion mixed with the One, True God (verses 29-33).  They worshipped the Lord but also served their own gods as well.

The Jerusalem Jews (those living in Judah.  Israel had split into two countries, Israel and Judah, around 930 BC.  I am dating this time period where Sargon II King of the Assyrians invaded Israel around 722 BC) still remained relatively faithful to the One, True God with only a minimal amount of idolatry creeping in at this time.  Judah also did not experience the intermixing of races as they still adhered to God’s law of not marrying foreigners; hence staying relatively homogenous.

This is why God only punished Israel at this point in history but Judah’s time is coming.

4) Jesus himself had visited Samaria in his teachings as we see from the Samaritan woman at the well in John 4:1-26.  In John 4:39-42 we also see how many Samaritans were converted from Jesus’ teachings.   He also told the parable of the Good Samaritan in Luke 10:25-37.  And we know from the previous question that the Samaritans still worshipped the One, True God along with other gods so it wouldn’t be too much of a stretch to convince them of the power and fortitude of the One, True God.  Also, the Jews remaining after the deportation intermarried the foreigners so they probably kept a portion of their heritage and worship culture intact.

So when Philip showed up and started performing miracles, the stage was set for him to reap the rewards from Jesus’ work.

This can be applied throughout the Bible and throughout time into today.  We reap what others have sown.  The Old Testament prepared the people of the New Testament to be saved.  Every small step has been planned by God for His purposes and we (and everyone after us) reap the benefits of this as we continue to plant seeds for the next generation.

1 Corinthians 3:6-8:  “I planted the seed, Apollos watered it, but God made it grow…  The man who plants and the man who waters have one purpose and each will be rewarded according to his labor.”

5a) Previously, they had only preached within Jerusalem but with Stephen’s death a new persecution broke out in Jerusalem so the believers were forced to scatter throughout Judea and Samaria.  Even though Jesus had commissioned them to preach everywhere (Acts 1:8), they had resisted due to prejudices.

The Jews and the Samaritans had a long history of despising one another (please see link in concluding notes). The Jews thought them the lowest of the low and unworthy to know the Good News.  James and John had once asked Jesus if he wanted them to call down fire from heaven to destroy the Samaritans (Luke 9:54), which speaks to how little the Samaritans were thought of by the Jews.  I think the Samaritans would have been the last people on Earth the Jews would have converted.  So, God in His infinite wisdom made them because as we all know they were special in His eyes too.

b)  Personal Question.  My answer:  Not let our prejudices stand in our way of telling those who otherwise would have no opportunity to hear about Jesus about him (such as homeless, poor, and minority sects).  Basically, speak in your community where God plants you.

Conclusions:  The beauty of BSF in action.  I had to start this day and leave off due to lack of time.  But I couldn’t stop thinking about Assyria and Israel.  So during the day I started researching–learning more and more–and filling my soul with each passing word.  Great stuff!

Awesome site with the history of the Samaritans here.  If you read nothing else, you gotta read this!

Question 5 made me wonder if the Jews were perhaps getting a little cocky and feeling quite special about being believers and the chosen ones to spread God’s word.  Well, God solved that problem, didn’t He!

Also, today’s lesson was a great opportunity to remember God’s infinite wisdom and how He had planned history throughout.  We are reapers of previous people’s sowing, which can be applied in many different ways:  spiritually, historically, etc.  America herself is a product of countless people’s sweat and toil–our ancestors hard-work.  We need to remember and be grateful for those that have come before us and continue to prepare those who will come after us.

Map of Israel and Judah, showing Samaria:  HERE

Note on the Map:  Sychar is next to Shechem where Jesus met with the woman at the well.  You can see it here at this map but it’s not as definitive as the one above.

Final thought:  My study Bible points out the fact that the conversion of the Samaritans is the first time non-Jews followed Jesus.  Awesome fact!