New Testament Reading Plan: Week 13

Week 13:

Day 1:  Romans 11-13
In Romans 11, Paul asks a good question:  has God abandoned His chosen people, Israel?  After all, Paul is now sharing the good news with the gentiles and they believe.  Jesus even said that the salvation would come to the Jew first, and then the gentile.  Paul answers his own question – absolutely not, God has not abandoned Israel and even though they have stumbled, it is not permanent.  Israel (the nation) still is God’s chosen people through which all of the nations will be blessed.  All Christians, Jew or Gentile, are adopted into God’s new Israel – the church universal, the Body of Christ.  Verse 11:26 even says that all of Israel will be saved.  (There are several explanations offered in commentaries about what this means so we will have to leave that as a mystery, at least for this blog.”)
Depending on the translation of the Bible you are using, Romans 12:1 starts with the word “therefore” or “and so.”  THEREFORE, based on what Paul has talked about in Romans so far, we should be transformed from the patterns of the world and we should change the way we think (see verse 2).  This will help us know the will of God for our lives.  Read on in chapter 12 and 13 to see how we should be transformed.  The bottom line:  “…love your neighbor as yourself.”  (Romans 13:9)

Day 2:   Romans 14-16
“So let’s strive for the things that bring peace and the things that build each other up.”  (Romans 14:19 CEB)  The Message paraphrase says it this way:  “So let's agree to use all our energy in getting along with each other. Help others with encouraging words;…”  People who are sure in their faith have freedom.  If you are sure in your faith, you might think it is OK to do certain activities.  However, there are others who are not quite as sure in their faith as you might be.  They might not think those same activities are OK.  We need to be careful that we who are sure in our faith do not cause those who are not to stumble.  In other words, we who are strong in our faith need to be careful what we might say and do around other young Christians (or non-Christians) to make sure that we do not hinder their discipleship.  We should always be considering the other person with our words and actions.
Paul states a goal of his which should be the goal of every Christian:  “…I have a goal to preach the gospel where they haven’t heard of Christ yet, …”  (Romans 15:20 CEB)  And this goal has caused Paul not to go to Rome as he wanted.  (Romans 15:22)  He needed to make sure that he was first going to the places that had not heard of Christ before he went to Rome (where the church had already been started).

Paul is starting to wind down his 3rd missionary journey and is on his way to Jerusalem, bringing gifts to the Jerusalem believers from the churches in Asia and Greece.  He had missed being in Jerusalem for Passover but wanted to get there by Pentecost.  He is heading to Jerusalem even though he doesn’t know what awaits him there.  He does know that the Holy Spirit has told him that troubles await him.  But he is dedicated by his mission to testify to the good news of God’s grace given through Jesus.
Paul arrives in Jerusalem.  He does some compromising in this passage for today.  Note that he does not compromise on essential beliefs but he was becoming all things to all people so that he might save some.  (1 Corinthians 9:22.)  We should learn from Paul and do the same.  We sometimes split over minor issues or traditions.  We should remain firm in essential issues but be flexible over non-essential issues.  Augustine of Hippo (an early church father) said (and later echoed by John Wesley and the United Methodist Church):  in essentials, unity; in non-essentials, liberty (or freedom); in all things, charity (or love).

Day 4:   Acts 24-26
Paul is now under arrest.  Because he is a Roman citizen, he is deserving of a trial and therefore, the Romans would not let Paul be punished.  (See reading from Acts 22 and 23.)  Paul is leaving Jerusalem and will go through several trials on his way to Rome where he will be imprisoned and tried there.
As you read Acts 26, think of this as Paul’s story, in fact it is his story.  And when you think that Paul once passionately persecuted the early church and now as passionately, proclaims Jesus, this story can serve as witness to the good news and cause others to change their hearts and lives.  Our changed life that others see can serve to do the same thing!

Day 5:   Acts 27-28
As Paul is in Rome, he continues to witness to the good news of Jesus.  He calls the Jewish people in Rome to come to where he is staying and he testified about God’s Kingdom “from morning until evening.”  He tried to convince them that what God had said through Moses and the Prophets was true and came about in Jesus.  Some believed and others did not.  (The prophet Isaiah prophesied this in Isaiah6:9-10.)  But, “Unhindered and with complete confidence, he [Paul] continued to preach God’s kingdom and to teach about the Lord Jesus Christ.”  (Acts28:31 CEB)  And all God’s people should say Amen, which means “so be it!”

Day 6:   Colossians (entire book), Philemon            
Paul is now in prison.  From prison, he writes several letters starting with Colossians.  As you read, listen to his words and remember – he is writing while imprisoned but continues to declare the good news!
Paul says in Colossians 1:24 (MSG):  I want you to know how glad I am that it's me sitting here in this jail and not you. There's a lot of suffering to be entered into in this world—the kind of suffering Christ takes on. I welcome the chance to take my share in the church's part of that suffering.”
And as Paul is in prison, he asks for prayers from the Colossians:  “Pray that God would open a door for the word so we can preach the secret plan of Christ – which is why I am in chains.”  (Colossians 4:3 CEB)

Day 7:  rest

New Testament Reading Plan: Week 12

Week 12:

Day 1: 

Week 12:

2 Corinthians (the 2nd letter to the Corinthians in the Bible) was written between 55-57 A.D.  So, it might have been written not too long (no more than within a couple of years) of 1 Corinthians.  It is reported that 2 Corinthians was the fourth letter that Paul had written to the church at Corinth.  Two of those letters have been lost.  After 1 Corinthians, most of the believers were responding positively.  However, there were some (false teachers) who were questioning Paul’s authority.  This letter was written to address that issue.

Day 2:   2 Corinthians 5-9
2 Corinthians 7:8-10 (NLT – New Living Translation) says:  “8 I am not sorry that I sent that severe letter to you, though I was sorry at first, for I know it was painful to you for a little while. 9 Now I am glad I sent it, not because it hurt you, but because the pain caused you to repent and change your ways. It was the kind of sorrow God wants his people to have, so you were not harmed by us in any way. 10 For the kind of sorrow God wants us to experience leads us away from sin and results in salvation. There’s no regret for that kind of sorrow. But worldly sorrow, which lacks repentance, results in spiritual death.”  In other words, Paul was holding the Corinthians accountable for their behavior and he told them so (in his 3rd official letter that has been lost).  As Christians, we are to hold our brothers and sisters accountable in a loving way (i.e., “speak the truth in love”) so that we all grow further in our discipleship of Jesus.  Sometimes it is hard for both parties; but we are called to do it.  This is one of the purposes of a Life Transformation Group – to hold us accountable so that we all keep “going on…”

In chapter 11, Paul stressed how important it is to follow the Jesus that Paul preached, not a false teacher’s view of Jesus.  Paul accuses the Corinthians of accepting the false teaching very easily.   (11:4 (chapter 11, verse 4)  He also says that he is going to keep contradicting the false teaching.  (11:12-13)  We are called to do the same.  We have to be on guard in these days as the early Christians were then for false teaching – teaching that does not accept Jesus for who He really is.

Day 4:   Acts 20:1-3, Romans 1-3
In Acts 20:1-3, Paul is in Macedonia and spent most of the time there in Corinth.  While there, he wrote the letter to the Romans in 57 A.D.  Paul had never been to Rome but other believers already had started a church there.  The book of Romans is a letter to the church there indicating that he hopes to visit Rome.  Romans is a letter addressing theological issues (relating to the study of God) and talks about the meaning of faith, salvation, the relation between Jews and Gentiles in Christ and provides some practical guidance for the church.
In Romans, Paul is presenting his case for the gospel as a lawyer would present a case in a court of law.  In chapters 1 – 3, Paul makes the case that everyone in humanity is lost.  The Gentiles are lost because they have an opportunity to see God in creation, but don’t.  The Jews are lost because they complain about the sins of the Gentiles and they are doing the same things.  “For all have sinned; all fall short of God’s glorious standard.”  (Romans 3:23 NLT)  In other words, no one can follow the Law.  “But now God has shown us a different way of being right in his sight – not by obeying the law but by the way promised in the Scriptures long ago.”  (Romans 3:21, NLT)  That way is faith in Jesus!

Day 5:   Romans 4-7
Chapter 4:  Paul spends time documenting that Abraham was credited as righteous because of his faith.   Because of our faith, we become part of Abraham’s descendants that will inherit the promises God made to Abraham.
“Therefore, since we have been made right in God’s sight by faith, we have peace with God because of what Jesus Christ our Lord has done for us.”  (Romans 5:1 NLT)  Jesus’ sacrifice on our behalf, taking our sins (past, present and future) to the cross brings peace in our relationship with God – the peace that surpasses God’s wrath that He has against sin.  This happened before we believed:  “But God showed his great love for us by sending Christ to die for us while we were still sinners.”  (Romans 5:8 NLT)

Day 6:   Romans 8-10            
In chapters 9 and 10, Paul is heartbroken that the Israelites (at least not all of them) would be saved.  The Israelites were God’s chosen people, they were given the covenants, and they were given the Law.  The Jewish ancestors were theirs and Christ descended from those ancestors.  But it is not about obeying the Law (which no one can).  It is not about inheriting salvation from your ancestors.  It is about having faith in what Christ did on the cross.  He was our substitute and was punished on our behalf for not obeying the Law.  If we have faith, we will be saved.  “Because if you confess with your mouth “Jesus is Lord” and in your heart you have faith that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.”  (Romans 10:9 CEB)  “There is no distinction between Jew and Greek, because the same Lord is Lord of all, who gives richly to all who call on him.  All who call on the Lord’s name will be saved.”  (Romans 10:12-13 CEB)  But to call on the Lord’s name, you have to hear 1st.  That is our job – we are sent to spread the good news so that “they” will hear and “they” can be saved!

Day 7:  rest

New Testament Reading Plan: Week 11

Week 11:

Acts 19 starts Paul's third missionary journey (53-57 A.D.).  One stop was at Ephesus.  Because of the message that Paul preached, there was great threat to the current culture (including the financial livelihood of some craftsmen who made idols related to Artemis).  In fact a riot almost happened due to the nature of Paul’s (and the other disciples’) message.

Day 2:   1 Corinthians 1-4
The 1st letter to the Corinthian church was written around 55 A.D.  This happened after Paul had started the Corinthian church on his 2nd missionary journey around 50 – 52 A.D.  Paul also visited Corinth on his 3rd missionary journey.
Paul had written a previous letter (see 1 Corinthians 5:9) to the Corinthians but that letter has been lost.  So this is really the 2nd letter but the 1st one that we have in writing.  Paul wrote this letter as he did other letters to address issues that had cropped up in the Corinthian church.
In these first chapters, Paul is dealing with the issue of unity and harmony in the church.  We should have unity around what Christ did for us, not around an individual person.  1 Corinthians 1:17 (MSG – The Message paraphrase)
17  God didn't send me [Paul] out to collect a following for myself, but to preach the Message of what he has done, collecting a following for him [Christ]. And he didn't send me to do it with a lot of fancy rhetoric of my own, lest the powerful action at the center—Christ on the Cross—be trivialized into mere words.

Day 3:   1 Corinthians 5-8
In this passage, Paul deals with the issues of:  1) lawsuits among Christians;  2) sexual immorality;  3)  prostitution and marriage;  4) commitment to Christ and sensitivity to other believers.
Note that as Paul deals with these issues, he tells the Corinthian believers not to associate with sexually immoral people.  He is clear in 1Corinthians 5:10 that he is NOT referring to unbelievers.  If we were to disassociate ourselves from unbelievers, how can we tell them of God’s salvation?  However, we shouldn’t ignore un-Christlike behavior from a believer.  We need to be ready to correct, in love, this worldly behavior for the sake of spiritual unity.
Day 4:   1 Corinthians 9-11
In the remaining chapters of 1 Corinthians, Paul talks about:  1) worship;  2) role of women;  3) the Lord’s Supper;  4) spiritual gifts;  5) the resurrection.
See 1 Corinthians 9:19-23.  Paul talks about becoming all things to all people.  He did not compromise his beliefs and did not sin.  But today, we might say he entered their culture.  He didn’t make them become like him but he put himself in a position where he could share the good news with them.   1 Corinthians 9:22 (MSG) 22  “... I didn't take on their way of life. I kept my bearings in Christ—but I entered their world and tried to experience things from their point of view. I've become just about every sort of servant there is in my attempts to lead those I meet into a God-saved life.”  We call this being missional – living for the mission of Christ to “make disciples.”
Remember as you read Paul was addressing specific issues that had come up in the Corinthian church and therefore, when you read about women covering their head, he is saying that for a very specific reason and this does not apply to women in today’s church.
Explanation about the dialog related to the Lord’s Supper (1 Corinthians 11:17-34) using a footnote from the Life Application Study Bible:  When the Lord’s Supper was celebrated in the early church, it included a feast or fellowship meal followed by celebration of Communion.  In the church in Corinth, the fellowship meal had become a time when some ate and drank excessively while others went hungry.  There was little sharing and caring.  This certainly did not demonstrate the unity and life that should characterize the church, nor was it a preparation for Communion.  Paul condemned these actions and reminded the church of the real purpose of the Lord’s Supper.

Chapter 12 deals with spiritual gifts.  All spiritual gifts come from God and should be used for God’s glory.  Gifts not used for God’s glory are not from God.
Spiritual gifts from God should be used with love so after talking about the various gifts, Paul talks about love in chapter 13.  Then in chapter 14, Paul talks about the gift of speaking in tongues.  This is not bad.  However, if someone is speaking in tongues and unbelievers can’t understand the good news, it is bad.  Our spiritual gifts are meant to build up the church.  If they are not, it is a detriment to the church.

Day 6:   1 Corinthians 15-16            
1Corinthians 15, at least parts of it are used in some funeral services because it brings hope.  This chapter brings good news about the resurrection.  Jesus died, was buried and rose again according to what the Scripture said.  Paul proves Jesus’ resurrection by telling who Jesus appeared to which included 500 people all at once, most of which were still alive at the writing of this letter and could refute that if it was not true.  1 Corinthians 15:14 says that if Jesus did not really rise from the grave, Paul’s preaching is useless and the faith of the believers is useless and worthless.  And those who have already died are gone forever.  But in fact, Christ has been raised from the dead (verse 20)!
1 Corinthians concludes with some greetings.  Paul tells the Corinthian believers, “Stay awake, stand firm in your faith, be brave, be strong.  Everything should be done in love.”  (1 Corinthians 16:13-14)

Day 7:  rest

New Testament Reading Plan: Week 10

Week 10 summary:

Paul completed his first of three missionary journeys in 46-48 A.D.  After the churches have been established, false teaching starts to enter the picture.  And so to combat that false teaching in those early churches, we will start to see letters being written to the people in those areas.

Day 1:  James (entire book)
The book of James is suggested to have been written in 49 A.D. to Jewish Christians residing in the Gentile communities outside Palestine.  The author, James, is Jesus' brother and a leader in the Jerusalem church.  James was addressing people who professed to be God's people but weren't acting like it.  In other words, they say the right things but they contradict that with the way they live their lives.  We have this problem today.  One of the issues non-Christians have with “church” is that they don't see changed lives on the part of Christians.  In other words, genuine faith should inevitably produce good deeds/changed lives.
Here is a key verse from James 2:18 (NLT):  “Some people have faith; others have good deeds.  … I can’t see your faith if you don’t have good deeds, but I will show you my faith through my good deeds.”

Day 2:  Galatians 1-3
Several sources indicate that Galatians was written by Paul to the general region of Galatia (and its associated churches) in 49 A.D. prior to the Jerusalem Council that is documented in Acts 15 (see Day 4 reading).  Since a lot of early Christians were first Jews, there were believers that believed that gentile believers must first become Jewish and follow the Jewish laws in order to be saved.  (This would include the rite of circumcision.)  Paul refutes that in this letter. This could have been the first (or one of the first) of the many letters written by Paul recorded in the New Testament. 
Most letters we see in the New Testament and were written in that time period start with some words of praise, a prayer, or other pleasantries.  However, Paul gets right to the point as to how serious this issue is.  Look at Galatians 1:6-9.  The Message paraphrase says it this way:  6  “I can't believe your fickleness—how easily you have turned traitor to him who called you by the grace of Christ by embracing a variant message!”  Paul is very concerned about this heresy and needs to correct it fast.
A key verse:  “… For if we could be saved by keeping the law, then there was no need for Christ to die.”  Galatians 2:21 NLT

Key verse:  “So Christ has really set us free.  Now make sure that you stay free, and don’t get tied up again in slavery to the law.”  Galatians 5:1 NLT
With the subject of Paul’s letter, he is also warning us about false teachers.  “You were running well – who stopped you from obeying the truth?”  Galatians 5:7 CEB
We are free from the law but that doesn’t mean we should do anything we want from our selfish desires.  Paul compares the things that we do from our selfish desires with those things we should do if we are following the leading of the Holy Spirit.  (See Galatians 5:16-26)

Day 4:   Acts 15-16
Acts 15 records what is called the Jerusalem Council that occurred in 50 A.D.  The leaders of the church put to rest any requirements for new gentile believers to first be Jewish and follow Jewish laws (specifically the rite of circumcision) before being saved.
Acts 16 records the start of Paul's second missionary journey (50-52 A.D.) which sent him through Galatia (visiting some of the churches he established on his 1st journey) and then he went on to Macedonia which includes cities like Philippi.
You might notice something peculiar in Acts 16:3.  Timothy was going to go on Paul’s missionary journey and Paul had him circumcised.  Didn’t the Jerusalem Council just say in Acts 15 that circumcision was not necessary?  Yes.  However, Timothy, being half Jew and half gentile volunteered to be circumcised to overcome any barriers that would arise as he witnessed to Christ, especially to Jewish believers.  We’ll see more of this behavior (fitting in with the culture in order to witness to Christ without abandoning following Christ) from Paul explained in 1 Corinthians 9:20-22 next week.

Day 5:   Acts 17-18:18
In Acts 17, Paul is in Thessalonica, establishing a church there.  Paul goes to Corinth in Acts 18.  He will later write letters to the churches in these cities.

Written by Paul to the church at Thessalonica in 51 A.D. and 51-52 A.D. respectively.  The Thessalonian church was young, probably only 2 – 3 years old when these letters were written.  These letters were written to encourage the new believers (some believers were being persecuted) and to also clear up issues surrounding the second coming of Christ.

Day 7:  rest