BSF Study Questions Matthew Lesson 14, Day 5: Matthew 13:51-58

Summary of passage:  Jesus says every teacher about heaven is like an owner of a house who brings out new treasures out of storage.  Jesus finished telling these parables and returned to Nazareth, his hometown, where he taught the people in the synagogue where they were amazed.  Yet, they didn’t believe because they knew him as a boy and his family.  They thought of him as a simple carpenter’s son.  Hence, Jesus concluded only in his hometown is he without honor so he declined to perform miracles due to their unbelief.

Questions:

10a)  As a “teacher of the law who has been instructed about the kingdom of heaven” and his responsibility is to teach others what he has learned.

b)  The old is the wisdom and understanding you had of God before you were instructed and the new is the new knowledge and wisdom you have after having been instructed in the law or any knowledge God has revealed to you.

c)  Through pastors and preachers, studying the Bible, by God Himself when He speaks to you through prayer or otherwise.

d)  Personal Question.  My answer:  All of the above.  Through church attendance, bible studies, the Bible itself, prayer, and God in my alone time.

e)  Personal Question.  My answer:  Impart Biblical knowledge to that person.  Quote them scripture.  Bring them to church and bible study with you.  Pray with them.  Show them God’s compassion on His people.

11)  Because they couldn’t believe a mere carpenter’s son whom they knew personally could possess such wisdom and perform such miraculous powers.  They thought him a charlatan instead.

12a)  Because of their “lack of faith” in him.

b)  Personal Question.  My answer:  The key word here is “seemed” because truly we do not know this until we get to heaven if Jesus was working in our lives or not because of unbelief.  For me, I’d say no.  Even in my darkest hours, I have cried out to God and I knew in my heart He was working even when I thought He wasn’t for sometimes not working is what we need.  But then I’ve always been a believer.  It is probably different for those who have not.

c)  Personal Question.  My answer:  Stay close to God.  Pray.  Read His word.  Go to church even when you don’t feel close to Him.  Seek out other believers further along in their walk with Him.  Don’t isolate yourself.  Strengthen your knowledge of Him and unbelief cannot help but fall away.

Conclusions:  This was my favorite day from this lesson because of its practicality, simpleness, and encouragement.  It is our job to learn about God and then teach others (the whole premise of BSF itself).  It is also our job to strengthen our faith so that unbelief never reigns.  This we do through what I said above:  prayer, study, etc.  And when we are rejected we can have faith and encouragement because Jesus was rejected as well.

End Notes:  The disciples who now understand are now commissioned to tell others and bring truth to their lives.

There is nothing special about spiritual people in most cases.  According to societal norms, Jesus came from the lowliest of the low and was as normal as God on Earth could be.  So we too do not have to be exceptional to be doing God’s work.

It is interesting to note how unbelief can limit God.  This is due to God’s gift of Free Will.  He wants to work in our lives on a miraculous scale.  But often times, we choose to not let Him.

BSF Study Questions Genesis Lesson 14, Day 4: Genesis 15:1-11

Summary of passage:  Abram received the word of the Lord in a vision:  Do not be afraid for I am your shield and your very great reward.

Abram questions God as to where is this promised heir.  God assures Abram he will have a son from his own body and his offspring will be as numerous as the stars in the heavens. God also reiterates to Abram that He brought him from Ur to give him this land.

Again, Abram questions God, asking for reassurances of this promise.  God tells Abram to bring him a heifer, goat, ram, dove, and a pigeon.  Abram cut these in half (except the birds).  As Abram awaits God’s arrival, birds of prey come to feed on the carcasses so Abram drives them away.

Questions:

8 )  No.  Justification is being right with God.  We achieve this through faith in Jesus Christ who eradicates our sins and allows us to be clean, right, and thus justified before God.  We are given works by God to do while here on earth that James says proves our faith.

Here’s the crux:  when you are justified you have the Holy Spirit within.  When you have the Holy Spirit, you have no choice BUT to do good works for you are changed and now desire to do good works, which are a sign of your faith and your justification.

We discussed this James passage last year (see HERE) and my opinion is you can be justified with no good works for all that is required is faith.  There is no “work” we must do to get to heaven and be justified for this is a gift from God.  All we must do is accept Jesus as our Savior and we’re there.

As I have seen in the study of Genesis, everything is a gift from God.  Man does absolutely nothing nor does he deserve what he gets.

9a)  We are all dead unless we accept Jesus as our Savior.  Then we are reborn with the Holy Spirit and only then will be have eternal life.

b)  Personal Question.  My answer:  Life is meaningless without a purpose.  If I didn’t have God, my life would be empty.  It would be full of “busyness”, things to distract me, and an inner peace would not exist.  Working for God’s-given purpose, gives life to the mundane, life to the evil, and life to the dead.

All those diapers are for a purpose.  Those long days at a dead-end job are serving a purpose.  When the most horrific thing happens to you such as the death of a loved one, rape, bankruptcy, abuse, loss of a job and every other evil, unfair thing in life and God is the only thing that remains, you have life–even if all you feel is dead.

10a)  Abram believed in God’s promises and they were all fulfilled.  He was strengthened by these promises and gave glory to God while he waited.  He had faith.  He obeyed.  He acted.  He took steps out of obedience.

b)  Personal Question.  My answer:  The same.  Believe in God, who He is, in His promises, and have faith they will come true in God’s timing.  Have patience.  Give God the glory.  Be strengthened by my knowledge in Him.  Obey God and what He is telling me to do.  Take those little steps of faith.

Conclusions:  I feel as redundant as when I teach my kids their letters but I’ll say it anyways:  Didn’t like this lesson either.  We didn’t once refer to the passage at the beginning, instead exploring Romans and James and we explored James last year.

That being said, I did like re-reading works and faith.  And I did like the reminder we are not dead even though at times I feel dead, indifferent, lost, and immune to the world around me.

My qualm is this:  if this is a study of Genesis, then let’s study Genesis.  If it’s a study of works and justification in the Bible, then don’t bill it as “Genesis 15:1-11”.

End Commentary on Faith and Works taken from Zondervan Illustrated Bible Dictionary by J D Douglas and Merrill C Tenney:

Being made in God’s image, human beings perform works as they live in God’s world. These deeds are based on the condition of the heart.  Works can be done out of evil motivation or even done in order to earn favor with God.  These are unacceptable to Him.

True works arise out of an inner gratitude to God for what He has done for us.  These naturally spring from our faith in Him.  Thus, Paul in Romans emphasized the need for faith in God for good deeds, James stresses that good works are evidence of true faith.  (P. 1532)

I believe the point is this:  you naturally do good works because God dwells inside of you. Works is not a requirement set forth by God in order to be loved, cherished, and accepted by Him.  This is where history went awry in the Middle Ages with indulgences, the Crusades, and earning your way to heaven.

Works is a gift from God that we as Christians just do without thinking.  We’re not trying to prove how Godly we are (for all of us would fail in that realm).  We’re merely following the Holy Spirit and doing what Jesus would do.  Because of our faith in Him.

It’s a simple as that.

Intellectual faith is not what God is seeking; He is seeking faith of the heart.  It’s the difference between saying and doing something.  Many say they are Christians; but is God in their hearts?

Salvation is a gift from God that is by faith alone.  Yet we are created to do good works (Ephesians 2:10).  It’s a two-fold process.  One, you accept Jesus.  Two, good works are produced.  And if you truly have Jesus in your heart you have no choice:  good works will follow.  A life lived for Jesus.

The notes from BSF of Acts Lesson 27 have a great explanation on the James’ passage.

BSF Study Questions Acts Lesson 14, Day 5: Acts 18:1-22

Summary of passage:  Paul next journeyed to Corinth where he met a tentmaker named Aquila and his wife, Priscilla, whom he stayed with and helped for a time.  He preached every Sabbath in the synagogue, trying to persuade Jews and Greeks to accept Jesus.  Having little luck after months of preaching, Paul one day announces he is giving up, telling the Jews it will be on their heads they haven’t accepted Jesus and he will turn to the Gentiles now.

Paul did have some success, converting Titius Justus and Crispus.

The Lord then encouraged Paul in a vision:  “Do not be afraid; keep on speaking, do not be silent.  For I am with you.”  Paul stayed for another year and a half.

The Jews tried to attack Paul by bringing charges against him in Achaia in front of Gallio.  Gallio dismissed the complaint, telling them to work out their squabbles on their own since the matter was within their (Jewish) own law.  Sosthenes, the ruler of the synagogue, was beaten because of it.

Questions:

15)  Personal Question.  My answer:  When I am at my lowest, usually something happens to pull me up:  a comment from someone, a hug from a child, a word, something in the Bible, or a peaceful night’s rest.  God comes alongside us in unexpected ways to encourage and tell us not to be afraid; to remind us to trust in Him.  It encourages me to focus on my writing despite the chaos around me.

16a)  It seems to me he had an attitude of “I can’t be bothered with such petty squabbles.”  He was more important and had much more important things to deal with then an argument he had no interest in.  He didn’t even care Sosthenes was beaten in front of him.  He was indifferent and apathetic.  He probably thought all these people were beneath him since he was a Roman citizen and most Jews were not.

b)  Concern

Conclusions:  The scene with Paul reminds us that God is always with us even in our most trying trials.  The scene with Gallio gives us insight into Roman culture in the first century AD.  If you weren’t Roman, forget about justice.

This scene also shows how something insignificant as this scene  in Gallio’s mind (I doubted he even remembered it) could be so significant to the spread of Christianity.  Gallio (proconsul in 51-52 AD) by his actions officially gave Christianity protection by lumping it into Judaism (a recognized religion within the Roman Empire).  Gallio was the brother to the well-known philosopher Seneca.  His actions gave Paul the protection he needed in order to continue his work in Corinth.

This goes to show how sometimes consequences of our actions are unknown and could have serious ramifications.  Good lesson for everyday decisions in our own lives:  to remember we can’t always see the consequences of our decisions.

End Note:  Map showing Corinth:  http://www.apostlepaulthefilm.com/paul/journey_02.htm

BSF Study Questions Acts Lesson 14, Day 3: Acts 16:11-40

Summary of passage:  In Philippi, a Roman colony in Greece, Paul and the gang met with a group of women on the Sabbath outside the city (this tells us there was not a synagogue there at this time).  Lydia, a dealer in purple cloth, was converted and baptized along with others and invited them to stay at her home.

A demon-possessed slave girl began to follow the group around until Paul was so troubled he commanded the spirit out of her.  The girl’s owners who no longer could make money off of her, seized Paul and Silas and dragged them to the magistrates, accusing them of violating Roman customs.  They were stripped, beaten, and thrown in jail.

In jail, whilst singing, an earthquake happened that threw open the prison doors.  The jailer was distraught; but seeing the miracle he and his family became converts and were baptized.

Paul and Silas were then released.  However, Paul announced his Roman citizenship, striking fear in the magistrates, who then tried to appease them.  The group said good-bye to Lydia and the other converts, offering encouragement, and left.

Questions:

7)  Women who had gathered at the place of prayer.  They accepted Jesus as their savior and were baptized in his name.

8a)  They were preaching the word of God when a slave girl who could predict the future began following them.  Paul got so fed up he commanded the evil spirit out of the girl.  That got the attention of the slave girls owners, who dragged Paul and Silas before the magistrates, accusing them of advocating unlawful practices for Romans.  They were stripped and beaten and thrown into jail.

Paul and Silas began singing prayers and an earthquake threw the doors of the prison open.  The jailer and his family was then converted, baptized and saved by Paul and Silas and they were eventually set free.

b)  The jailer and his family were saved for eternity.  Lydia and the other women were saved as well.  Lydia was the first European convert to Christianity so the seed was planted which would spread to convert thousands more.

9)  Personal Question.  My answer:  It’s hard to say.  I just don’t know if I’ve touched anyone to be honest outside of my family circle.  Definitely nothing as dramatic as Paul’s experiences.

10)  As a Roman citizen, you were afforded many rights.  You were at the top of the caste system so to speak.  Paul wanted the magistrates to know who they were dealing with.  As Roman citizens both Paul and Silas were treated inexcusably.  There could have been repercussions on the magistrates of Philippi for their actions.  By Paul revealing himself the magistrates probably were fearful and would be sure not to cause them trouble next time they were in the city.

This also afforded them the time to meet again with their converts (Lydia and company) without being thrown out of the town.

Conclusions:  Great example of the hardships of converting in the early church and what we should be thankful for.  Also, I think converting Lydia and a group of women helped to put women on equal footing with men, showing them that women are just as important in God’s eyes as men are.  Every soul counts.

Philippi was a Roman province full of Gentiles and not many Jews as indicated by no synagogue.  Philippi was named after Philip, King of Macedonia, Alexander the Great’s father, when he conquered the city when it was a part of the Greek city-state of Thrace in 358 BC.  (I didn’t know this and found it interesting!  I like knowing where the names of things come from.)

End Note:  Map of Journey from yesterday:  http://www.apostlepaulthefilm.com/paul/journey_02.htm

BSF Study Questions Isaiah Lesson 14, Day 5 Isaiah 35:8-10

Summary of passage: A highway called the Way of Holiness will take believers into Zion.  There will be no lions to attack and they will be singing with gladness and joy.

Questions:

13a) Redeem means to buy back; to atone for or one who frees or rescues another, especially from sin.  Colossians 1:14  “redemption, the forgiveness of sins.”

b) He died for our sins, paid the ultimate price in blood.

Galatians 3:13-16  “Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law…He redeemed us in order that the blessing given to Abraham might come to the Gentiles through Christ Jesus, so that by faith we might receive the promise of the Spirit.”

Colossians 1:13-14  “He (God) has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son he loves, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.”

c) Inadequate in human words but:  grateful, happy, blessed, loved.

14a) A road of holiness only for those who accept Jesus and those on it shall be protected.

b) It motivates me to bring others along and for me to strive to walk in the way of Jesus.

Conclusions: Nice focus on Jesus for Christmas.  I’m surprised I couldn’t find more with the word redeem or redeemer so please share if you found more in the Bible.  I would have thought this would be prominent but I am assuming the Bible uses other ways to describe Jesus’s sacrifice (still working on reading the New Testament).

BSF Study Questions Isaiah Lesson 14, Day 3 Isaiah 34:8-17

Summary of passage: Isaiah describes and predicts the Lord’s Day of Vengeance.  Edom will burn forever and it will lie desolate from generation to generation with only the animals to possess it.  The scroll of the Lord reads none of these will be missing (it will all happen) for it is his mouth that has given the order and his Spirit that will gather them (the Remnant) and who will possess it forever.

Questions:

7a) Vengeance is punishment inflicted for retaliation for an injury or retribution.  The root cause of God’s and human’s vengeance is the same; the difference is God does His from love, man from hate.

b) Her streams will be turned into pitch, her dust into burning sulfur, her land will become blazing pitch.  It’s smoke will rise forever.  From generation to generation it will lie desolate.  No one will ever pass through it again.

c) Certain “For it is His mouth that has given the Order.” (Verse 16)

8a) To me, it means peace.  I don’t have to worry about bad people because God will deal with them.  It also means all of us live better lives knowing we are all accountable for our actions.

b) Personal Question.  My answer:  I still believe justice is coming in my life in terms of God fulfilling His promises, His purposes, His potential in me.  Sure, people have more than me and we’ve had stuff stripped away but I live with the hope more is coming and knowing God is just in His ways.  My family is always justice enough.

c) Personal Question.  My answer:  Justice is the administration of the law and what is just (fair) by the impartial assignment of rewards or punishments.  Grace is unmerited divine assistance given man for his regeneration or sanctification (free from sin or purify).  I want grace more since man doesn’t deserve any thing.  Grace is what will get us to Heaven.  Justice is more of an Earthly concern.

Conclusions: Lots of personal interpretation here so I’d be curious as to your answers as well.  I think I would feel different about justice if something really bad has happened to me (all I can think is losing a child as the worse thing in this world and then, yes, I would demand justice, especially from God).  But for now, grace wins out.  We all tend to think of vengeance as a bad thing, especially if our hearts desire it.  Yet, seeing God desire the same thing, we learn it’s not just a human emotion.  God feels it too.  So why shouldn’t we?