New Testament Reading Guide – December 26, 2011 – January 1, 2012

How do I use this reading guide?

Colossians 1:9-20

The “book” of Colossians, is a letter from the Apostle Paul to the church that he planted in the city of Colosse. Paul has moved on in his missionary travels, but he continues to guide this young church through letters such as the one we are reading today. How does Paul pray for the Christians in Colosse? What kind of life does he want them to lead? Who will provide the power to live in this way? What has God done for us that causes us to respond with such a life (see verses 12-14)?

We often think of the tiny Christ child this time of year. How does Paul paint a different picture of Christ? Who is He? What has He done? What is He doing today? How is Christ related to God the Father?  What is Christ’s position over creation? When Paul calls Jesus the first born of creation it does not mean that Jesus was created along with everything else. Being God, Jesus has always existed. In fact Paul says in verse 15 all things were created by Christ. “First born over Creation” is a title referring to Jesus’ lordship over all that God has made and not the first thing that God the Father created.

What is Jesus’ position over the church? What is His mission today?

Why is it important for us to come to know Jesus in this way?

2 John. While it appears that 2 John is a personal letter to a woman and her family, it is far more likely that the phrase “the chosen lady and her children” is a description of a local church. The church is often referred to as the ‘bride of Christ’. If this is the case, ‘your chosen sister’ 2 John 13 refers to the church that John was staying with at the time he wrote the letter.

In American churches we are used to talking about the faith in the past tense: When were you saved? Last week 20 people accepted Christ. We speak of our faith as an event in the past, but John does the faith as way of life, a process that is lived every day. Notice how many times John uses the verb “walk” in this letter to describe the Christian life. List them out. How does this list challenge your understanding of what it means to be a Christian?

What is it that gives John great joy (see verse 4)? What is John’s command to the church (see verse 6)? How is love connected to God’s Law and his commands? 

Having laid out the Christian way of life, what false teaching does John warn against (see verse 7)?

3 John. 3 John is a personal letter from the Apostle John to Gaius, a missionary that John has left behind to pastor one of the churches that John planted. You’ll notice that John calls the people of Gaius’ church “my children” in verse 4. What does John’s greeting in verses 2-4 tell us about the nature of his relationship with Gaius and the disciples in that local church?

How does John describe the Christian life in verse 4? You’ll notice that this phrase also appears in 2 John. What is that gives John the greatest joy? Notice that John celebrates something that is ongoing, not something that occurred in the past. What does John warn Gaius against? What evil example is Gaius in danger of following? What was happening in Gaius’ church that should not have been happening?

James 4:13-17; 5:7-11

It is believed that the book of James was written by James the brother of Jesus. James was not one of the original apostles, but rose to become one of the leaders of the first church in Jerusalem (see Acts 15). James was written in the early days of the church when most Christians were Jewish and his emphasis was on living a holy life in response to what Christ has done for us.

What should a Christian’s attitude be towards future plans? Why? How is it possible to sin without doing anything?

James 5:7-11. At Christmas we celebrate the first coming of Jesus. Yet we also remember that we are waiting for his return, his second coming when He will put an end to death and evil once and for all. How are we to live today as we wait for His coming? What examples does James hold out as those who were rewarded by a loving God for their patience and perseverance (see the book of Job, particularly Job 42:10-17)?

Revelation 21:1-6

Revelation 21 is a vision, a dream given by the Holy Spirit to the Apostle John. The dream describes the world when Christ returns. What is new? What is gone? The sea was a symbol in the ancient world for evil and fear. The Holy City or the New Jerusalem is also a symbol. We now this because John describes the city as a “bride dressed for her husband.” “The bride of Christ” is language used throughout the Bible to refer to God’s redeemed people.  In fact, you can read the Bible truly as a love story of the hero “Christ” who lays down his life for the love of his life, the church.

Is the new heaven a place we go to? Where will God live in the end? What will He do when He arrives?

What special message does Jesus have for John in verse 6? Compare Jesus word’s to his message to the Samaritan woman at the well in John 4.

Revelation 19:11-16

John sees a vision of Christ by the power of the Holy Spirit. The gospel of John refers to Jesus as the “Word of God” as he is in Revelation 19:13. What strikes you about this image of Jesus? In what ways is it reassuring? In what ways is it terrifying?

Why do you think we need to know Christ in this way?

Colossians 3:12-17

The good news of Jesus Christ goes way beyond forgiveness although that would be reason enough to celebrate. Because of Christ, we are adopted into his family and given a new identity. We become his “chosen” beloved people. That is who we are having become followers of Jesus Christ. Now Paul exhorts us to live out our new identity. How are we called to live as “God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved”? What is to motivate all that we do (verse 17)?

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