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Isaiah Bible Study

Author: Isaiah
Date:  Eighth Century B.C.

The Book of Isaiah is one of the best-known books of the Old Testament. It is the book most frequently quoted in the New Testament and the one used most frequently by Jesus. Throughout the history of the church it has been used in worship, in hymns, and by theologians. The reason for its popularity is twofold.

First, it contains the clearest Old Testament presentation of the gospel. The depiction of sin, the helplessness of the sinner, the marvelous love of God, his provision of a Savior, and the call to repentance and faith are all to be found there. Second, the book abounds with memorable phrases and images which have become part of our general church vocabulary or hymnody.

Isaiah wrote during a period of impending doom in Judah, in his time the southern half of what had been the nation of Israel. The mighty Assyrian army was devastating the northern regions and Isaiah’s nation appeared to be next. Isaiah urged Hezekiah the king, against all logic, to cast himself on the Lord for protection, promising that God would be true to his word by sparing Judah. When Hezekiah dared to trust God, a plague broke out in the Assyrian camp, killing most of the army and forcing the Assyrians to withdraw. Thus, the tiny nation of believers was spared. Isaiah’s book covers those difficult times with messages, sermons, historical accounts, exhortations, and prophecies.

Theological Themes in the Book of Isaiah

The theological content of the Book of Isaiah is one of the high points of the Old Testament. Paramount in the book is Isaiah’s stress on the holiness of God: God is called “The Holy One of Israel.” God’s holiness is the foundation of all his dealings with the world. Because of this, Judah could rest secure; God would never do anything that was not just and fair. Isaiah tried to draw Judah’s attention to the covenant (binding agreement) that God had made with his people. They were His. He might find it necessary to judge them for their sins, but he would never abandon them. If they got carried away into captivity, a remnant would return to pick up where their ancestors left off. In wrath, God would remember his mercy. Perhaps the most prominent theme in Isaiah’s message has to do with the coming Messiah, God’s Servant. Four extended psalms, or poems, deal with the Suffering Servant of God. In them the ministry of Jesus is foretold; at another level they are descriptive of Judah, too, which as a nation was also God’s servant: 42:1-7; 49:1-7; 50:4-11; 52:13-53:12.

The Servant is to suffer for the world, establish justice, provide salvation for the nations, be a light to the Gentiles, teach the truth to all who will listen, give sight to the blind, offer release to the prisoners, be a covenant to the world, treat the weak with compassion and care, dispense God’s Spirit, bear the sins of the world, make intercession for sinners, provide the knowledge of God to those who seek it, and secure peace for all people. All of these dimensions have been fulfilled by Jesus Christ.

Finally, the Book of Isaiah offers a promise of salvation in some of the most beautiful imagery in all of the world’s literature. The message concerns God’s forgiveness and mercy, freely offered to all who respond in faith.

Outline for the Book of Isaiah

  1. Judgment pronounced on Judah Isaiah 1:1- 5:30
  2. The call of Isaiah as a prophet Isaiah 6:1-13
  3. Judgment and blessing pronounced on Judah Isaiah 7:1-12:6
  4. Judgment pronounced mainly on other nations Isaiah 13:1-23:18
  5. The apocalypse of Isaiah Isaiah 24:1-27:13
  6. Judgment and blessing on Judah, Israel, and Assyria Isaiah 28:1-39:8
  7. Future blessing and comfort for Judah Isaiah 40:1-66:24

Reading the Unified Books

The suggested procedure is purposely detailed. It is unlikely that you will have time and patience individually to follow out all the steps. Make a selection of what you wish to do. If you work in a group, you may parcel out the steps and offer reports to the group on the results.

Survey the Whole Book

Individual books of the Bible have no table of contents or preface by which we can get an idea of the whole. We can accomplish this only by rapid reading or scanning. You should read books through at one sitting , if at all possible. Only thus can you gain a total impression. One writer has said that more than half of the sixty-six books printed in the traditional Protestant Bible can be read through in an average of about twenty minutes. The larger ones can be read selectively and scanned.

In this first survey of the whole book you should look for answers to the following questions:

1. What type of literature is this?

As noted in the previous chapter, literature must be interpreted in the light of its basic character.

2. What occasioned the writing of the book?

Is the author’s name given, and are there any indications concerning the author’s whereabouts and circumstances? Are there any references to datable historical events that may offer a clue to the time of writing? Are there references to the condition and circumstances of the original readers and therefore to the author’s reason(s) for writing?

3. What are the writer’s characteristic words, phrases, concepts, and moods?

What words and phrases are most repeated and most central to the writer’s thought? Was the writer joyful, angry, reflective, argumentative, hopeful as the writing was done?

4. What gives the book its unity?

Is the unifying factor a subject, a person, a group of people, a problem, an event of the past, present, or future? Attempt to state the unity in a sentence or a short paragraph.

The Bible Character Study Worksheet is an example of one way to format a Bible character worksheet as a guide to studying the books of the Bible.

5. What is the structure of the book?

Has the writer anywhere stated a plan or outline? What are the major blocks of material, and where are the turning points or shifts in subject matter? Make a brief outline of the book.

6. What impact has the reading of this book made on you?

What do you like and dislike about it? What is puzzling? What message of value has come through to you?

7. How do your results from firsthand reading compare with the conclusions of others who have studied the book?

Correct and supplement your conclusions by going to the Introduction to the Old Testament or Introduction to the New Testament.

Examine the Parts of the Book

The Chapter Anaylsis and Outline Worksheet shows one way to format a chapter study worksheet.

After you have determined the general layout of a book from your initial survey you should consider the individual parts which make up the whole.

Be selective in using the steps presented here for examining the parts. Not all parts are worthy of the same depth of scrutiny. The richer and more closely packed a book is, the more detailed the examination should be. Some books should be studied by major divisions only; others should be studied by the sections that comprise the major divisions; and still others deserve a careful analysis of paragraphs and sentences.

Books are like people. Some intrigue and some fatigue. The initial survey should indicate how much time and effort you want to spend on each. In examining a part of a book consider the following questions:

1. What type of material is contained here?

The type may vary in the different parts. It is always important to be aware of the character of the material.

2. What important variations in the wording do the footnotes offer on the basis of ancient manuscripts and versions?

How do the alternate words affect the meaning of the passage?

3. Is the part composed of smaller units?

A major division will usually break down into sections and paragraphs. The logical parts are not necessarily identical with the traditional chapter divisions. These divisions were made in the thirteenth century and frequently do not break the material at logical points.

Many contemporary English translations assist the reader by printing the text in paragraphs and by indicating the larger divisions through the use of captions (headings). Rather than relying entirely on the printed captions, you should construct your own. This will help you summarize the material and see the relationship of the parts.

Give special attention to connecting words, such as and, but, because, for, since, so, therefore, hence, however, nevertheless, finally. These words help you dissect the thought a passage at the joints. You must develop X-ray eyes so you can see the skeleton of a book. When you have discovered it, you should put it down in the form of a chart or outline.

4. What use, if any, is made of figures of speech (similes, metaphors, symbols)?

What idea is each figure attempting to convey?

5. What are the key words around which the thought of the section or paragraph revolves?

To discover the key words of a short unit of biblical material, you should strike out every word that can be eliminated without sacrificing the basic meaning, as we do when we compose a telegram. Examine the remaining important words in the light of the flow of the thought of the passage. It is often possible to determine the meaning of unfamiliar words simply by the drift of thought around them.

It is helpful also to locate through the use of a concordance other usage of important words in the biblical book under consideration. Read them in their contexts. And finally, consult a lexicon, a Bible dictionary, or a commentary on the meaning of the words in question.

6. What in the passage is still unclear?

Unfamiliar customs, institutions, events, people, and world views may still remain puzzling to you after the above steps have been taken. Here you should consult a good commentary. A reader of the Bible is only cheated by sliding over things that are not understood.

7. What was the writer’s purpose in this part or section?

To answer this question the situation of the first readers must be brought into focus again. What did the writer want to tell them and why? What would they have missed if the part under consideration had been left out?

8. What does the passage mean in your own words?

As a clinching act, write out the thought of the passage in your own words. If the passage is short, paraphrase it; if long, summarize it.

9. What is the significance of this passage for you and your contemporaries?

Review the Whole Book

The Book Study Worksheet is an example of one way to personalize your studies of the individual books of the Bible.

A literary scholar has written: “In the case of the higher literacy forms the whole is a different thing from the sum of the parts. It is quite possible to have considered every detail of a literary work and yet to be far from understanding the work as a whole”
(R.G. Moulton, The Bible at a Single View [1919], p.103).

The investigation by major divisions, sections, and paragraphs will lead you to more mature conclusions about the whole book than the initial survey produced. Therefore, a final survey is in order.

1. Investigate the special themes that run like threads through the book.

Locate every passage dealing with one theme. It is best to find these passages by rereading the book. A concordance can help if you look up the principal words used in presenting the theme. Group the passages according to what they contain and consider them together. Consult commentaries for help on difficult passages.

2. Restate the theme or message of the book and show how the major parts contribute to its presentation.

You can do this by a logical outline or a chart of the book’s content. How detailed you make it will be determined by the extent of your interest in those contents.

3. Relate the message of the entire book to the situation of its first readers.

How did it speak to their needs?

4. Summarize the meaning of the book for your own life and its possible significance for our times.

As pointed out before, the Bible evaluates us quite as much as we evaluate it. Here we must pray for understanding, that we neither fall into credulous acceptance of everything we read in the Bible nor proudly and self-righteously reject what does not meet our preconceptions. Perhaps three questions will help here.

How does my life look from the standpoint of this book–my personal beliefs, my emotions, my attitudes toward myself and toward others, my actions, my goals?
How would contemporary life be affected if the message here were universally accepted and acted on?
How does the teaching of this book check out with truth from other sources: from science, psychology, sociology, philosophy?

The Individual in the New Testament

The teachings of Jesus stress human values; the spiritual worth and freedom of each individual. He said, “God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life”(John 3:16); that salvation depends upon one’s being “born again” of the Holy Spirit (John 3:8). Jesus’ ministry was to the lost (Matt. 18:11;Luke 15:24), to the sinner (Mark 2:17), and to Jew and Gentile alike (Matthew 10:6;12:17-21). He said that he did not come to condemn the world but to save it, and each person who does the truth “comes to the light” and his or her deeds become manifest as being done through God (John 3:17-21).

Some very specific spiritual and material blessings or rewards were declared by Jesus for true followers: forgiveness of sins (Luke 7:47-48); answered prayer (Matt. 7:7-8;Mark 11:24); provision of necessities (Matt. 6:31-33); prosperity now, both spiritually and materially, eternal life (Mk. 10:28-30); receiving measure for measure as one gives (Luke 6:38); living with peace and joy (John 14:27;John 15:11); freedom from anxiety and fear (Luke 12:32;Rom. 8:15); receiving the spiritual power to do works as Jesus has done (John 14:12); and being seated with Christ in heaven (Rev. 3:21;John 14:3).

Jesus also taught the concept of a spiritual oneness; a unity of the Father and the Son with each believer, and of believers with each other. A believer also receives the baptism of the Holy Spirit whose indwelling endows him or her with spiritual gifts (Mk. 1:8;Matt. 3;11;Acts 1:5;2:4,I Corinthians 12-14).

It is stressed that the risen Christ has a special affinity for each individual, having empathy for human weaknesses, since in his earthly walk, he had been in “all points tempted as we are, yet without sin”(Heb. 4:15). “Wherefore, he is able also to save them to the uttermost that come unto God by him, seeing he ever liveth to make intercession for them “(Heb. 7:25). A believer need have no fear of physical death, for he or she will enjoy a resurrection to a higher life, being raised with a spiritual body in power and glory (Matt. 22:30;Luke 20:36;I Cor. 15:42-44).

Bible Study of Nahum

Author: Nahum
Date: Seventh Century B.C.

Nahum, born in Elkosh, in Judah, was a prophet whose primary ministry was to the city of Nineveh. Jonah had been sent by God about 100 years earlier to preach repentance to the Ninevites, and a large portion of them had responded favorably. The intervening years, however, brought a change of heart as well as a change of government, and Nineveh went back to its old ways. God therefore gave Nahum the task of preaching judgment to the Assyrian capital sometime between 664 B.C. and the city’s fall in 612 B.C. Although his message was directed to Nineveh, there is no evidence that Nahum ever went there in person.

Theological Themes in the Book of Nahum

Nahum’s message is one of coming judgment for the Ninevites. Their sins will be punished: specifically their idolatry (1:14), arrogance (1:11), murder, lies, treachery, superstition, and social sins (3:1-19). For all of this the city will be destroyed. Nineveh was, he said, a city filled with blood (3:1), a graphic description of the awful depths to which the nation of Assyria had sunk.

The foundation of Nahum’s message is that God rules over all the earth, even over those who do not acknowledge him as God. Nineveh’s gods and goddesses were nothing according to Nahum. The only God who exists holds us all accountable, whether we know it or not, whether we accept it or not. God alone is God. The Ninevites would soon see that to trust in idols is to trust in wood and stone.

Nonetheless, Nahum pointed out, God was willing to save the city if they repented. God is always seeking the lost, is slow to anger (1:3), is good (1:7), and is a stronghold to those who trust in him (1:7). God sends good news to those who will listen (1:15), a theme later taken up by the New Testament writers when describing the work of Jesus and the preaching of the gospel (a word that means good news).

Outline for the Book of Nahum

  1. A prophecy of judgment Nahum 1:1-15
  2. The fall of Nineveh Nahum 2:1-13
  3. The reason for Nineveh’s fall Nahum 3:1-19

What the Bible Says About Hell

The word “hell” found in the King James and other English versions of the Bible, has its origin in Anglo-Saxon and Nordic words meaning “to cover” or “to conceal.” It is akin to the Nordic word “Hel” which denoted a place for souls of the dead in Norse mythology. “Hel” was said to include Valhalla, an eternal home for warriors, and Niflhel, the place for the souls of the wicked. In the King James Version, “hell” translates the Hebrew word “sheol” 31 times in the Old Testament, and “hell” is used 22 times in the New Testament to translate the Greek words “Gehenna,” “Hades,” and “Tartarus.” In the Old Testament, “sheol” usually denoted merely the grave, and one does not find a precise concept of the afterlife of the soul. The Ecclesiastes passage (Eccl. 12:7) affirms that upon physical death of a person, his or her soul returns to God who gave it. “Sheol” is used many times to indicate a dreary presence and future existence remote from God.

The Greek word, “Gehenna” refers to the Valley of Hinnom just south of Jerusalem which had been used on Old Testament times as a site for human sacrifice to the pagan god Molech. It later became a burning dump for Jerusalem and, during the intertestamental period, many Jewish people regarded it as a symbol of punishment. “Hades” in Greek mythology was the place where all souls of the dead went, and it was also the name of the god who rules the underworld.

The mythical Hades included a place called “Tartarus” where the souls of the wicked dead were punished. The word “Tartarus” appears only once, in II Peter 2:4. Because there are differences in the meanings of these words, many modern English translation do not encompass them all in the one term “hell,” or they use the word sparingly. Also, many study Bibles have marginal notes or footnotes setting out or explaining the original words. As we have seen, when Jesus wanted to underscore the sorry spiritual state of a person who is in enmity with God, he used very descriptive language, such as, ” thrown in the fire,”(Matt. 7:19;13:49-50; Mk. 9:41-48); “outer darkness,” “eternal punishment,” and condemnation. Many of these expressions are parts of parables; thus, they are symbolisms in human terms to express a spiritual thought.

During the intertestamental period, the Jewish term, “Gehenna” and the Greek mythological terms just mentioned, were popularly used in Palestine to refer to a place of judgment and punishement. Many theologicans have therefore concluded that Jesus was referring to a place in which lost souls will reside and suffer punishment forever. Other scholars are of the opinion that Jesus was indicating more a condition of “lostness” or a status estranged from God, rather than designating a particular place. Both views recognize the principles of judgment, rewards and/or punishement, as previously discussed.

What is the Bible?

The bible is a book which, if everything else in our language should perish, would alone suffice to show the whole extent of its beauty and power.The Bible is a library of books about God and the relationship between him and his human family on the planet Earth. The Bible reveals God as the all-powerful, all-knowing creator and sustainer of all things; that every man, woman and child is made in God’s image and likeness. It outlines God’s covenants and promises which set out the principle of mankind’s freedom of choice. In the Bible one finds passages dealing realistically with the conflict between good and evil including that which is in each individual. A general truism is found to the effect that the spirit is willing but the flesh is weak. God promises that he will visit his people in the flesh through a virgin woman in order to reconcile all people to himself, to abolish sin through his own son’s death, and return in the spirit to dwell within his children. The Bible sets out principles and guidelines for human conduct and people’s interaction with each other. These principles are calculated to assure an anxiety-free life on earth and in the hereafter in harmony and right-standing with God. These revelations are set out in the Bible in 66 books of varying types and lengths written over a time span of about 1500 years.

What the Bible is According to the Bible

One cannot read the Bible without soon discovering that it claims to be the word of God. God speaks. He speaks out directly; he speaks through angels; he speaks through prophets. God directs Moses to write his words, and he directs the prophets to be his spokesmen. His words are spoken by Jesus Christ of Nazareth and recorded by the gospel writers. The epistle writers convey God’s messages of instruction and encouragement. The apostle Peters sum up the Bible’s view of itself when he says, “For the prophecy came not in old time by the will of man: but holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost.” (II Peter 1:21)

The apostle Paul in writing to his aide, Timothy, defines the nature and purpose of scripture in these words: “And that from a child thou hast known the holy scriptures, which are able to make thee wise unto salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus. All scripture is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness.” (II Timothy 3:15-16)

Why Should We Read the Bible?

Why are you interested in reading the Bible? Whatever reason you may have for reading it is a good reason. What a person receives from the Bible quite often is governed by the point of view, the problem, or the question motivating the reader at the time. For example, are you a believer or a nonbeliever? Are you interested in it because it is ancient literature? Are you merely curious about what it says? Do you believe that the Bible is the word of God, or do you regard it merely as the ideas of men? Regardless of the particular circumstance causing you to read the Bible, you will feel its challenge, for one must come to grips with what it claims for itself and the fact that it demands a response. You may respond by acceptance or rejection, but you will form some kind of response to the views and principles which it set forth. Perhaps the biggest challenge to our minds is that the Bible speaks in the spiritual realm, and we are not always ready to “shift gears” and leave our materialistic frame of reference to contemplate the idea that we are spiritual beings with a future in a totally spiritual setting.


Our English word “spirit” comes from the Latin word spiritus which means “wind” or “breath.” In the Greek language, the word is pneuma and in Hebrew, ruah. The World Book Dictionary says that “spirit” refers to the aspect of every human which is not material. It is equated with “soul” or “personality”. Webster’s Dictionary defines “spirit” as “the breath of life” or “life-giving force,” connecting it with mind and emotions. These definitions show a universal awareness of our spiritual nature which we recognize or suspect whether or not we deem ourselves to be very “spiritual.”

A starting point for gaining a sharper conception of our nonmaterial makeup is to reflect upon the variety of well-known human characteristics. Consider, for example, such attributes as personality, thought, ideas, reason, belief, intellect, emotion, and intuition; also, love, hate, wisdom, character, right and wrong, anxiety, humility, pride, compassion, peace, joy, and happiness. None of these elements is physical; yet each one is very real. There are, of course, many more than these, and it might be both interesting and revealing if you would make a list of those qualities, attributes, and capabilities which apply to you. Others you might also consider are talent, creativity, language, insight, and mystique. These aspects of our being are invisible, but we know that they exist, and we have words in our language describing them. They give us clues to understanding our personal identities which are not confined to the limits of a three-dimensional world. If these attributes are in another dimension, that is, a nonphysical, perhaps fourth, dimension, is not our real identity in the same dimension, which we may refer to as the spiritual dimension? Every civilization has had a concept of this realm as evidenced by a belief that a person lives on after the demise of the physical body. The person in this continuum is referred to as a “spirit” or “soul”. A realization of this status, whether consciously or subconsciously, moves mankind to seek a supreme being who has power and authority over the universe and who through his love and concern communicates with and helps his people.


A large mound, Ugarit, on the Syrian coast about 25 miles South of the mouth of the Orontes river marks the site of an ancient Canaanite cultural center known as Ugarit. Perhaps the most important finding there for biblical archaeologists has been the writings in Ugaritic, a language closely related to biblical Hebrew and fundamentally important for Old Testament study.

Ugarit’s culture reached a peak in the fourteenth century B.C., and then declined and disappeared. It was rediscovered in 1928 when a Syrian farmer struck the top of a rich tomb while plowing. The mound was then excavated systematically, yielding gold objects, a surprising range of Greek pottery, a set of weights, and several bronze images. Some bronze tools and weapons were also recovered in excellent condition.

The discovery of the Ugaritic language came about when archaeologists uncovered many clay tablets written in a strange cuneiform script of alphabetic rather than syllabic character. When deciphered, the tablets showed a close linguistic relationship to Phoenician and biblical Hebrew, but also indicated that the people of Ugarit used an alphabetic script long before the Phoenicians, who probably inherited the idea.

The Ugaritic language contains literary forms that occur also in Hebrew poetry, and study and comparison have helped clarify a number of difficult Hebrew passages. Now such expressions as “rider of the heavens” (Ps. 68:33) are seen to be Canaanite in origin, indicating that Ugaritic and Old Testament Hebrew are somewhat variant dialects.

The recovered writings have revealed that at Ugarit similar ceremonies to those of the Hebrews were observed such as the wave (Exod. 29:24), trespass (Lev. 5:15), whole burnt sacrifice (Lev. 6:15), peace (Lev. 22:21), and tribute (Deut. 6:10) offerings.

While it is illuminating to compare similar references in written records of the two cultures the languages are not identical, so we can not automatically equate the terms or references being compared. For example, the legislation in Exodus 23:19 prohibiting the boiling of a young goat in its mother’s milk was thought to have been illumined by a similar offering recorded in the Ugaritic texts. This is now uncertain, since the Ugaritic word rendered “cook” actually means “slaughter,” and there are other problems with the text as well.

The tablets at Ugarit record the depraved and lewd forms of ritual worship indulged in by the Canaanites showing the threat these practices posed to traditional Hebrew faith and indicating that the Old Testament condemnation of such religion was justified.

Bible Study Timothy

Author: Paul
Date: c. A.D. 64

After Paul’s release from prison in A.D. 62, he spent about two years traveling (some early sources say as far as Spain), both preaching the gospel and encouraging the churches that were in existence. He was rearrested in 64 and probably died in that year. Sometime between his two imprisonments Paul wrote three letters (I, II Timothy, and Titus) called the “pastoral letters” to his associates in Ephesus and on the island of Crete. Timothy seems to have been the younger of the two men and with a single church; Titus appears to have been an ambassador of some sort whose job it was to appoint elders and oversee the affairs of many churches.

Paul’s first letter is basically practical, dealing with matters related to living a Christian life. There is also important doctrinal material. False views were developing. Some individuals wanted to establish little empires for themselves independently of the established churches.

Theological Themes in the Epistle of I Timothy

In a short summary of who Jesus was, Paul outlined some essentials of the faith (3:16). Christian faith is a profound mystery; God alone knows all there is to know. Our job is to trust God and not worry about things over which we have no control. Christ’s incarnation and resurrection are at the heart of what we believe. Jesus could have remained forever one with the Father in all his eternal glory, but that would have meant our eternal loss. But because of his love for us, he was willing to leave all that temporarily behind so that he might bring us to salvation. Paul’s short doctrinal abstract ends with an emphasis on Christ’s ascension and the preaching of the gospel to the world.

Paul also reiterated other theological points such as the place of prayer, the resurrection, the nature of God, and the benefits of the death of Christ.

The practical material in this letter covers two areas, public church life and private existence. The material about church life should be studied carefully by anyone who aspires to be a church officer. Paul listed the requirements for those who want to serve as bishops (or elders) and deacons. There are some differences in the requirements but basically they require that a person be wholly committed in life and heart. There is also a leader designated to look after the widows, an unusually large category of women in antiquity. The fact that there are church officers indicates that we all have a need for order and regularity. Just as a household or a business cannot run well without leaders and regulations, so the church must have its officers, guided by the Spirit and answerable to God and the people.

The material devoted to practical Christian living covers human relationships and actions. There is material for children, parents, husbands, wives, and servants. There is also a stress on freedom properly exercised. Evidently there were some who wanted to run the lives of others, but Paul would not allow that. We are to make up our own minds about what to eat or drink, whether to marry and how to handle our affairs (4:1-10). Our basic human needs are not to be despised because God made us this way. But they are not to dominate us, turning us into gluttons, drunkards, or adulterers. Everything must be put in its proper place under the guidance of the Spirit and with an attitude of humility.

Outline for the Epistle of I Timothy

  1. Greetings and charge to Timothy I Timothy 1:1-20
  2. Church officers and worship I Timothy 2:1-3:16
  3. General regulations I Timothy 4:1-16
  4. Specific regulations and instructions I Timothy 5:1-6:10
  5. Final charge to Timothy I Timothy 6:11-21

II Timothy

Author: Paul
Date: c. A.D. 64-66

Paul’s second letter to Timothy was probably the last one he wrote. He had been arrested and was in prison (4:6), knowing that the end was at hand. It is a letter filled with courage and strength, showing us what kind of person Paul really was–or, better, what kind of person God can help us to be if we trust in him. The letter consists basically of four charges directed to Timothy from the aged Paul.

Theological Themes in the Epistle of II Timothy

In the first charge, Paul reminded Timothy of his godly heritage. His grandmother and mother had set a wonderful example and Timothy was to follow it. It is impossible to overestimate the influence of our homes and parents. As parents and others live godly lives, younger ones absorb that atmosphere and become like that themselves. When we are parents our task is to continue that pattern so our children will live before the Lord as well. It is significant that Paul singled out the two women for commendation, whether because the father was an unbeliever or deceased. In any case, by the grace of God, one parent can do it if necessary.

That charge continues with Paul reminding Timothy to rekindle his gift. We have all been given endowments by God, but they must be used. If they are not, they will wither and die, like an unused muscle. If we exercise our gifts, they will grow and be strengthened. In Timothy’s case this included defending the faith against error.

The second charge is in essence a command to be strong in God’s grace. Paul used a marvelous collection of metaphors to describe the Christian life. A Christian is like a soldier whose task it is to do his commander’s will. No soldier would dare go off on his own in the midst of battle, nor would a faithful Christian desert his post when engaged in fighting evil. Paul had used this metaphor before, describing it as the armor of God that we are to wear as we stand against the evil of our day (Eph. 6:1-17). The Christian is also like an athlete who prepares for the race, runs hard, and goes by the rules. We too must remember that, as Christians, discipline and honesty count for a great deal if we are to succeed. Finally, the Christian is like a farmer who breaks up the stubborn earth to bring out the best that is in it. A farmer’s life is never easy, but the rewards are worth it. So too, for a Christian, we put our hand to the plow and do not turn back. In all of those figures we have before us the example of Jesus Christ. The third charge is to be watchful over the flock and vigilant concerning the world. God has all kinds of people in his church and all must be cared for. As for ourselves we are to shun evil passions, live with a pure heart, and avoid controversies. The servant of God must not be quarrelsome and bigoted. If one is, that is a sure sign that God is not there. With respect to the world, God’s servant must be aware of its evil and refuse to be a part of it. In the world there will be greed, arrogance, hatred, and indecency. Those sins must be kept out of the life of the church and of Christians. The tragedy is that sometimes these very things are to be found even among believers. When that happens, they must be compassionately but firmly dealt with.

Paul’s fourth charge is to preach the word and be an example to the congregation. We are to be ready at all times to do whatever needs to be done to accomplish God’s will. Paul closed this section with the memorable words, “I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith” (4:7). Timothy was to remember that he was not alone. Others had gone before him, setting an example for him.

Outline for the Epistle of II Timothy

  1. Greetings II Timothy 1:1-5
  2. First charge: Remember your part; rekindle your gift II Timothy 1:6-18
  3. Second charge: Be strong in the grace of God II Timothy 2:1-19
  4. Third charge: Be watchful II Timothy 2:20-3:17
  5. Fourth charge: Preach the word II Timothy 4:1-8
  6. Concluding greetings II Timothy 4:9-22

The Teachings of Christ

Jesus neither wrote books nor taught any systematic theology, but that fact does not mean he hadn’t thought things through for himself. It is evident that he had. The task he set for himself, however, was a direct communication of the truth, and he went about it differently from what we might today.

Basically, his task was to speak the truth to those who already knew the answers, but in such a way that truth would become evident to them. They had heard it so many times that it had lost its urgency and power in their lives. In order to accomplish that, Jesus chose to use simple and direct language that cut to the heart of the matter. He used analogies, parables, and other imagery to bring truth to life. Jesus’ teaching was never abstract; no one was ever in doubt about the point he was making. Sometimes he used paradoxical or highly graphic language to wake up his hearers. He said such things as “The last shall be first,” or “Let the dead bury their dead,” or “If one would save his life he must lose it.” Occasionally he used hyperbole to shock his hearers into self-examination, as when he said that to enter into life we must cut off our hand if it offends us. All of that was calculated to press home a personal choice on those who heard. It was impossible to remain neutral; either one pursued the truth to the core and was saved, or set it aside as foolishness. Jesus’ words were designed to penetrate to people’s hearts and force a decision for or against God.

Jesus’ View of God

Central to Jesus’ teaching is the existence of God. He nowhere argued for the fact that God exists; it is too obvious. Everywhere one looks there is evidence of the reality of God, whether in history, in the words of the prophets, in nature, in our social lives, or in ourselves. God confronts us everywhere, at all times, and without ceasing.

But who is God? For Jesus, what was traditionally said about God in the Scriptures was unquestionably true. He is love, spirit, holy, good, all-powerful, glorious, righteous, all knowing, almighty, the wise ruler, the revealer of truth, and true. Supremely, God is our heavenly Father. He lovingly cares for us, knows and meets our needs, is merciful to us, is willing to forgive us our sins, gives good gifts to his children, and delights in our prayers. Because God is Father to us we need not live in anxiety but in confidence of his attention and concern. There is no need to worry because God knows what he is doing and is looking out for our good. Granted there are times when this is not obvious, but it is true, nonetheless.

Jesus’ View of Himself

Jesus was a human being. Neither his virgin birth nor his sinlessness detracted from that. He had the same physical needs as anyone else. He got tired, hungry, thirsty; possessed five senses like everyone else; experienced pain; suffered; and ultimately died. He had emotions. There were times when he was sorrowful, angry, zealous, distressed, upset, filled with yearning, loving, lonely, joyful, calm, patient, exasperated. He possessed a mind like ours. He was intelligent, witty, creative, imaginative; had common sense; was logical and consistent. Finally he had a moral and spiritual nature like other human beings. He was nonjudgmental, affirmative, courageous, determined, moral, trustworthy, truthful, committed to the truth, and conscious of God’s presence.

But Jesus was more than just a human being. He possessed a consciousness that he was unique. He claimed equality with God, spoke with God’s authority, accepted prayer and praise (due to God alone), and challenged anyone to find any fault in him. He claimed final authority over other human beings saying that their eternal destiny depended on how they related to him. He claimed power over all human life and promised peace to those who sought it in him. Using many metaphors, he said he was the bread of life, the light of the world, the good shepherd, the door to enter the sheepfold, the true vine, the way, the truth, the life and one from above.

Jesus never tried to explain how his human and divine natures were combined in himself; he simply lived out that reality. The church has not tried to explain it rationally either. It has been content to say that Jesus was “fully God and fully man.”

Jesus’ View of Humanity & Sin

Jesus presented no abstract teaching about human nature. He never discussed such questions as how our will relates to our mind or other such theoretical matters. Jesus’ concern was practical. He viewed each human being as existing in relation to God, others, and himself. Looked at in this way, Jesus was able to define what human life consisted of, not abstractly, but concretely. Negatively, human life does not consist of what we possess, our status, our pious acts, our human efforts, or our self-fulfillment. Positively, it does consist of loving God; loving our neighbor; possessing the spiritual qualities of meekness, purity, compassion, righteousness, and mercy; participating in the kingdom of God; and being committed to doing God’s will. A powerful negative force works against all that, and that force is sin. Jesus never preached a sermon on sin as such, but he noted that its effects were everywhere to be seen. Sin is what keeps us from finding God and thus life. But, Jesus did not stress the destructive power of sin (that was evident enough); rather, his emphasis was that God was able to save us from the consequences of our sins. The solution to our problem lies in submitting to God’s will as it is made known in the Scriptures.

Jesus’ View of the Kingdom of God

The heart of what Jesus said about the relation of God to the world is contained in the expression “kingdom of God (or heaven),” which occurs about 75 times in the Gospels. Essentially the kingdom of God is a spiritual reality or realm where the will of God is recognized as being supreme and where God exercises his sovereign right to rule. Because it is a spiritual reality and not a material place–like the land of Palestine or the Roman empire–it may exist anywhere and at all times. Because God is always God, his rule will never cease and we are invited to participate in it. In one sense of the word, everyone and everything is in the kingdom of God. God works in all things for the good of those who love him (Rom. 8:28). That trust is the foundation for statements like the apostle Paul’s “In every thing give thanks” (I Thess. 5:18). In another sense everyone is not in the kingdom, but only those who choose to enter. Jesus said that the kingdom of God had drawn near; to enter we must repent and believe the gospel (Mark 1:14). At another time Jesus said we must be born again (or from above) to enter the kingdom (John 3:3,5). A complete turnabout is required. We must set aside false confidence in ourselves and instead have complete trust in God. When we do that, we experience the benefits of living in the kingdom: fellowship with God, eternal life, freedom from anxiety, and possession of life’s necessities. To enter the kingdom is the most important thing a person can do. We should be willing to lose all that we have to obtain it, even our lives if need be, because nothing can compare with knowing God now and eternally.

The Kingdom has a present and a future aspect. We may enter it now as a present reality, but its fullness will not exist until God is all in all. In the Lord’s Prayer we are told to include a petition for that day to arrive: “Thy kingdom come” (Matt. 6:10). For Jesus, salvation meant life in the kingdom. When we are God’s we are free from the destructive powers that dominate this world and are free to be ourselves in God’s will. God as heavenly Father knows what we are and what we need, so we are never in ultimate want. For those who have eyes to see, the whole world is theirs. But just as the kingdom has a present and future aspect, so does salvation. In the future we may expect eternal life, resurrection, a new heaven and earth, and eternity with God in unending blessedness.

Jesus’ View of the Christian Life

The foundation for what Jesus said about Christian living is threefold. First, he tied his ethical commands to our relationship to him. Not everyone who says to him “Lord, Lord,” but those who do the will of God will enter the kingdom. Hearing Jesus’ words and building on them is like building your house on rock. To neglect Jesus’ words is to build on sand (Matt. 7:21-27).

Second, the Christian life is lived in the light of God’s love for sinners. We do not need to be righteous to enter into life; entrance into life opens the door for us to become righteous. God knows that we are sinful human beings yet he loves us anyway. We are not to shrink back from him, but embrace him in the knowledge that God controls all things. God made all things, has a purpose for all things, cares for all his creatures, and works for the eternal good of what he has made. Never once has he done anything hurtful or mean. Human beings may do that, but not God. The mystery of this is that God can weave his good purposes into the hurtful and mean things that humans do, thus overcoming our evil intents.

Living the Christian life is not following a set of rules, but living according to the principle of love. All the commands of God are covered in two statements. We are to love God with all our hearts. We are to love our neighbors (i.e. others) as ourselves.

When we love God and neighbor we recognize the value of persons, ourselves, and all that God has created. We can recognize that sin is not the essence of a person; sin is what is chipping away or destroying that essence. We are to call people back to what God intended: to be themselves in God’s grace and favor. God values us as individuals so we must value individuals as well.

We must also recognize that to love God and neighbor implies that salvation has a social dimension. Government, rulers, laws, human welfare, care for the helpless–all of these are included. Jesus went so far as to say that what will separate those who are his from those who are not (“the sheep from the goats”) is how they have treated their fellow human beings. Do we visit the sick, feed the hungry, clothe the naked, give drink to the thirsty, and welcome strangers? (Matt. 25:31-46).

Finally, love of God and neighbor carries with it a stress on the wholeness of salvation. Our whole life, both now and forever, is included. Our talents, interests, desires, needs, dreams, plans and values are included. Nothing is left out. When we lose our life for Jesus’ sake and the gospel’s, we find it in a new and comprehensive way.

The teachings of Jesus are the most important words in the human language. To hear and obey them is to find the “pearl of great price,” he said. The testimony of countless people is that they have found God by simple trust in what Jesus taught.

Bible Study Thessalonians

Author: Paul
Date: c. A.D. 50-51

Paul wrote this letter to the Thessalonians from Corinth a short time after preaching there on his second missionary journey. There had been a great deal of persecution of the believers that began while Paul was still there. Apparently a group of violent men had decided that it was their responsibility to destroy this new movement. They were, in actuality, afraid of it and how it might change their evil lives. It is often the case that opposition is based on fear and misunderstanding, rather than on reason. Had these men thought about it, it would have been to their advantage as well as to the advantage of their city to have Christianity there. At any rate, Paul had traveled on, having been run off from Thessalonica, and ended up in Corinth. Then he sent Timothy back to find out how things were going. The good news that all was well was a great relief to him, prompting him to write. He thanked them for their concern for him and went on to straighten out some misunderstandings over doctrine that had arisen.

Theological Themes in the Epistle of I Thessalonians

Paul began his letter by commending the church for their spiritual activity and witness. What they were doing was being talked about in other places and was a good example for others to follow. In this they were following Paul’s good example, who in turn, was following the Lord. Paul was aware of how difficult it is to remain faithful, especially in the midst of heavy persecution, and was deeply thankful to God for the way they were continuing in their commitment. He reminded them that Jesus not only delivered us from our sins, but will deliver us from all evil when he returns again.

Paul continued this theme by speaking about his own ministry and how it was for him. He, too, had been persecuted so he understood what they were going through. Others, too, had suffered for Christ, notably, the believers in Judea (the land of Israel). It had never been easy to be a Christian, and Paul wanted to share his confidence with these new followers of the Lord. He spoke in a very personal way, telling them that his care for them was like that of a nurse for her children or a father for his sons. In all of this there was the practical intent of helping the Thessalonians live a better life.

A special problem regarding marriage and personal holiness had arisen, so Paul dealt specially with that. The ancient world was notoriously lax in such matters, creating severe problems for those who were trying to keep everything in the proper places in their lives. With the grace and strength of God, Paul said, they would be able to overcome those temptations and obstacles to Christian growth.

Paul spent the last part of his letter discussing a serious misunderstanding that had arisen about the second coming of Jesus. It is difficult to know exactly what the problem was, but it evidently took two forms. First, some people were confused about who would benefit by Christ’s return, assuming that only the living would be included. Those who died before Jesus came back would simply be left out. Second, others were worried about when Christ would come back, to the point of no longer working; they became a burden on the rest of the church. Paul set those two problems straight and went on to stress the fact of Christ’s return and what that should mean to us. It is a certainty that will terminate this age, bringing comfort to believers and judgment to unbelievers. We are to live expectantly, joyfully, and courageously in the light of its near occurrence.

Outline for the Epistle of I Thessalonians

  1. Paul’s greetings and exhortations to the Thessalonians I Thessalonians 1:1-2:20
  2. Paul’s rejoicing over Timothy’s report I Thessalonians 3:1-13
  3. Moral questions handled I Thessalonians 4:1-12
  4. The coming of Christ and the day of the Lord I Thessalonians 4:13-5:28

II Thessalonians

Author: Paul
Date: c. A.D. 51

After Paul had written his first letter to the Thessalonians he received word that further confusion had arisen in the church there about the doctrine of the second coming of Christ. Seemingly it was reported that Paul himself had sent the information, or at least was the source of it. In addition to that, some people were thinking that the coming of Christ was so near that it was no longer necessary to support oneself or one’s family. Why work if Christ is about to end the world? To deal with those issues, as well as to encourage believers, Paul wrote a second letter, probably within a few months of having written his first letter.

Theological Themes in the Epistle of II Thessalonians

Paul began by encouraging the Thessalonians in the midst of their persecutions. He pointed out that they were called to be worthy of the kingdom of God for which they were currently suffering. If they bore up under it, when Christ returned they would be comforted and their persecutors would feel the judging hand of God. On the day when Christ returns he will be glorified among his saints and will banish from his presence all who have rejected the gospel (1:5-12).

Paul went on to say that the coming of Christ would not take place without some other events happening first. It is a mistake, Paul said, to imagine that the Second Coming can happen without relation to the rest of the plan of God. Christ’s return must be preceded by a general falling away (or apostasy); the unveiling of a “man of lawlessness,” usually called the Antichrist, and his attempts at universal domination. The Antichrist is already at work in spirit, but he must be manifested as such before the end can come. After these things take place, the Lord Jesus will return to destroy him (2:8).

Paul followed this explanation with ethical exhortations of a practical sort. The doctrine of Christ’s coming is not to make us lazy, arrogant, or immoral, but busy, humble, and pure. We are not to be weary in well-doing (3:6-13).

Outline for the Epistle of II Thessalonians

  1. The glorious coming of Christ reaffirmed II Thessalonians 1:1-12
  2. The events that must precede Christ’s coming II Thessalonians 2:1-17
  3. Exhortations to holy living in the light of Christ’s return II Thessalonians 3:1-18