New Testament Reading Guide – January 2-8, 2012

How do I use this reading guide?

Ephesians 4:1-16

What does it look like to live a ‘live worthy of the calling you have received (verses 1-3)? How is the life we are called to live as Christians connected to God’s calling and who he has made us to be? What has God done to unite us?

We often think of the word ‘grace’ in terms of forgiveness. Here Paul uses it to refer to the spiritual gifts (abilities and talents that are sometimes ‘supernatural’) that the Holy Spirit gives to each Christian. The list Paul provides in verse 11 is a partial list focusing on the “leadership gifts” in the church. For other spiritual gift lists see Romans 12:6-8 and 1 Corinthians 12. What are these gifts for? For whose benefit are they to be used? What will the church look like if the gifts are exercised properly? How does the body of Christ fit together? Who is the head of the church?

Ephesians 4:17-32

Christianity is more than believing the right things about God. It is a new way of life that stands in stark contrast to our old way of life or ‘Gentile’ way of life as the Apostle Paul puts it in verse 17. The language Paul uses is that of changing clothes, “put off” (verse 22) and “put on” (verse 23).

How does the ‘old self’ that we are called to put off contrast to the “new self” that we are to be put on? What aspects of the ‘old self’ are highlighted? Which one do you need to watch out for?

Who is the ‘new self’ created to imitate (verse 24)? In what way specifically (verse 32)?

It is important to remember that we are called to “put on” a new self that was created for us by God. It is not, do these things and you will be given the new self and be accepted by God. It is a call to wake up to who we are because of Jesus, to look at the foot of the bed and see the new clothes that Jesus purchased for us at the cross and to put them on by faith so that we might become all that God has created us to be.

Ephesians 5:1-20

Theologians like to throw around the phrase, “the indicative and the imperative.” That’s just shop talk for “You are (because of God) … now be who you are.” Look for this pattern in today’s reading (especially verse 8).

Who are we because of what God has done for us? Make a list of the things Paul mentions.

How do we live as the people God made us to be? What do we get rid of? What are we to practice?

Ephesians 6:10-20

Earlier in the Paul’s letter to the Ephesian church, Paul exhorted his readers to put on their new life. Now Paul encourages them to put on the “armor of God.”

Paul throughout his life faced opposition and persecution from the Jewish and Roman authorities. He was beaten, imprisoned and even stoned and left for dead. But Paul does not mention these as his prime enemies. Who are our true enemies and why do these enemies make the armor of God so necessary?

What is it that allows us to stand firm? For Paul, standing firm meant enduring hardship, holding on to the faith in the face of persecution. For early Christians like Paul, conquering as a soldier of Christ meant persevering in the faith no matter what life threw at you.

What spiritual practice is linked to the armor of God in verses 18-20? How, when, and for what purpose are we to use this weapon?

Romans 15:7-13

The Roman church was an eclectic mix of people. Some had been raised as pious Jews well versed in Jewish Law and Tradition and familiar with the Old Testament. Others were Gentiles and lived the immoral lifestyle of a Roman pagan. Needless to say there was a culture clash in this church.

How were the Jewish and Gentile Christians called to relate to each other? How is Jesus’ treatment of us the pattern for how we are to treat others?

This would have been especially difficult for the Jewish Christians at Rome. They would have viewed the Gentile Christians as their spiritual inferiors. They knew less of the Bible. They did not follow the Jewish law and consequently were viewed as morally loose. How would the Jewish believers’ love for their Gentile brothers and sisters fulfill God’s purposes?

In verses 9-12 Paul quotes the Jewish Scriptures (the Psalms and the prophet Isaiah). What was God’s purpose all along for the Gentiles? One thing that may be helpful to know is that the “Root of Jesse” in verse 12 is a reference to Jesus.

The miracle of the early church was that through the gospel of Jesus Christ, the dividing wall that had existed between Jew and Gentile was destroyed. In the church there was one people of God made of up Jew and Gentile and that demonstrated to the world the reconciling power of the gospel.

Revelation 21:22-27

Revelation 21 is a dream of the world to come when Jesus Christ returns. It was John, the disciple of Jesus, who saw this vision and wrote it down for our benefit.

A temple simply is a place where God’s presence dwells. In the Old Testament it was a tent (the Tabernacle) and then later the temple in Jerusalem. Why is there no temple in God’s Holy City? Why no sun or moon? Why are the gates always open? Who will be invited to live in this city?

Colossians 1:1-14

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.

Letters in the ancient world followed a format similar to emails today.

From (verse 1) ___________

To (verse 2) ______________

Instead of a subject line, letters in the ancient world offered a blessing as a greeting (verse 2b).

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)?

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