1 John notes

⎯⎯   Bulake’s Notes  ⎯⎯

全书主题: 

Chapter 1

1   论到从起初原有的生命之道,就是我们所听见、所看见、亲眼看过、亲手摸过的。

2 (这生命已经显现出来,我们也看见过,现在又作见证,将原与父同在、且显现与我们那永远的生命、传给你们。)

3   我们将所看见、所听见的传给你们,使你们与我们相交。我们乃是与父并他儿子耶稣基督相交的。

4   我们将这些话写给你们,使你们(有古卷:我们)的喜乐充足。

5   神就是光,在他毫无黑暗。这是我们从主所听见、又报给你们的信息。

6   我们若说是与神相交,却仍在黑暗里行,就是说谎话,不行真理了。

7   我们若在光明中行,如同神在光明中,就彼此相交,他儿子耶稣的血也洗净我们一切的罪。

8   我们若说自己无罪,便是自欺,真理不在我们心里了。

9   我们若认自己的罪,神是信实的,是公义的,必要赦免我们的罪,洗净我们一切的不义。

10   我们若说自己没有犯过罪,便是以神为说谎的,他的道也不在我们心里了。

主题: 耶稣就是生命之道,与他相交(fellowship)需要我们承认自己的罪。

高频词: {生命};{看见,听见};{相交};{光明,黑暗};{罪}。

分段:  

V1-4: 耶稣就是生命之道,我们可以和他有亲密的相交(fellowship)。

V5-10: 与耶稣有亲密的关系,需要我们首先认自己的罪。

默想:

V1        

约翰一书和约翰福音的开篇极其类似。约翰福音以“太初有道,道与神同在,道就是神…生命在他里头,这生命就是人的光”起头,约翰一书以“论到从起初原有的生命之道”开篇。

约翰的所要传递的神学是,我们信仰的核心不是文本,不是教义,而是耶稣本人。至于那些虚假的宗教,佛教以“哲学”为核心,伊斯兰教以“戒律”为核心,印度教以“因果轮回”的自然律和“梵”的神秘力量为核心,道教以宇宙本源的“道”为核心,都是模糊不清的。

和这节经文互相印证的是申命记30:11-13“我今日所吩咐你的诫命、不是你难行的、也不是离你远的。不是在天上、使你说、谁替我们上天取下来、使我们听见可以遵行呢.也不是在海外、使你说、谁替我们过海取了来、使我们听见可以遵行呢。”以及罗马书10:6-8“惟有出於信心的义如此说:「你不要心里说:谁要升到天上去呢?(就是要领下基督来;) 谁要下到阴间去呢?(就是要领基督从死里上来。)」 他到底怎麽说呢?他说:这道离你不远,正在你口里,在你心里。(就是我们所传信主的道。)

V2-3

相交:fellowship。原文含义:partnership, that is, (literally) participation, or (social) intercourse, or (pecuniary) benefaction: - (to) communicate, communion, (contri-), distribution, fellowship.

可见我们的信仰是一个生命影响生命,生命传递生命的过程。主耶稣和门徒相交,主耶稣的生命进入门徒的生命,门徒再与之后的信徒相交,同样的生命进入信徒的生命。若只传教义和律法,人并没有力量去遵行,反而会加深负罪感,或者变成表里不一的法利赛人。我们的生命改变,才是为神所做的最好的见证。

        

在一个教会里,我们常常看到外表:一个人多么熟悉圣经,一个人多么能够解释圣经,等等。但有多少人有顺服的心,听从圣经的教导、祈求圣灵的帮助、来改变过自己的生命呢?又有多少人,能用自己的生命来影响别人的生命呢?

V4

这句话原文是“你们”,但有古卷是“我们”。我认为两者都可行。为何说认识耶稣可以使我们和听我们的人的喜乐充足呢?因为人最大的苦恼在于不知道自己的生命有什么意义,不知道自己会往何处去,对永恒没有盼望。而耶稣(生命在他里头,这生命就是人的光)本身就是这些问题的答案。所以从未听过的人(你们)听到了会有喜乐,把这样生命的道传给没有听过的人,(我们)也会有喜乐。

V5

这句话仍和约翰福音一章相对应:John1:4“生命在他里头,这生命就是人的光”John1:9“那光是真光,照亮一切生在世上的人”。约翰福音说明了一个很重要的事,就是神是光,而这光是人类所必须的,而且人从前没有被照亮的时候,是在世俗的黑暗中的。倘若约翰一书说在神毫无黑暗,既是说神和我们的世俗并无任何相同之处。

        

V6

这句话仍和约翰福音一章相对应(正是上一节约翰一书对应的约翰福音章节的相邻两节,可见逻辑上两书是一致的):John1:5“光照在黑暗里,黑暗却不接受光”John1:10“他在世界,世界也是藉著他造的,世界却不认识他”。约翰福音和约翰一书这里虽说是在谈论同一件事(人对黑暗【罪】和光明【耶稣】的态度),但约翰福音是在说有不信的人不接受耶稣,而约翰一书则是对信徒的警告:你们虽然接受了这光,但仍然还在黑暗里行!

现在的基督徒中有这样的情况吗?其实很多。若要问一个基督徒他是不是接受耶稣,他多半会说是。但若要看这个基督徒平日里的生活,则很可能有不少黑暗。        

        

V7

这句话仍和约翰福音一章相对应:John1:12-13“凡接待他的,就是信他名的人,他就赐他们权柄,作神的儿女。 这等人不是从血气生的,不是从情欲生的,也不是从人意生的,乃是从神生的”。以及约翰福音三章 John 3:21“但行真理的必来就光,要显明他所行的是靠神而行”。说我们和耶稣相交(fellowship),有一个前提,就是我们要行在光明中,也就是要被耶稣(生命之光)照到,因为光明的神是不会和黑暗的人有交集的。

然而,被神的光照到并非一件轻松的事。被神指出我们生活中的黑暗、隐藏的罪、掩盖的污秽,是十分痛苦的。首先我们的良心无法再逃避,而必须面对自己的罪,这就很痛苦。其次有很多时候这样的罪会暴露在我们身边的人(家人,朋友,所爱的人)面前,又会让我们很羞耻。再者,被神的光照到,也意味着我们必须要改变以往的罪的习惯,这更是很大的挣扎。

所以约翰福音中才说,愿意这么做的人不是从情欲和人意生的,乃是从神生的。这种人愿意承担痛苦和羞耻,只为让过去的自己死去,再和耶稣一同活过来,得到真自由

V8-9

这两句话似乎在重复第6-7节,然而6-7节是在说实际的行为,而8-9节是在说心里的认知。我认为8-9节既是在对不信的人说话,又是在对信主的人说话。大部分不信的人自然会认为自己没有罪,而信主的人有时候也会觉得自己无罪。后者听起来匪夷所思,其实并不罕见。信主的人在经历了不少生命的改变之后,确实会觉得自己越来越圣洁,进而认为自己已经脱离了罪。其实追求圣洁是好的,但仍然要时常警醒,知道自己仍然不是完全人,仍有可能处于罪的试探和诱惑之中。

V10

应该说, 在基督教中,神告诉我们的第一件事就是我们都是罪人,亏缺了神的荣耀。这也是基督教和其他宗教的本质区别之一。若人不是罪人,那么天堂和地狱的存在就没有意义,耶稣也没有必要上十字架了,更不会有末世的审判。否定人的罪性,就如同否定神的圣洁。

Kevin’s note:

1 John 1: 1-10

Key topics:  Word creates our current life. We have to prepare for eternal life. Fellowship with Father and Jesus is a way to prepare for eternal life.

 

1: 1 We have heard, seen, looked at, touched with à life is manifested with Word

Declare that God’s Word creates the world that we could experience.

 

1: 2-3 What we have experienced is not an end point. We have to prepare for eternal life.

Eternal life definition: Father was manifested to us.

The way to develop eternal life is to have fellowship with both Father and Jesus.

 

1:  4

Q: why does John write joy here? What is the relationship between joy and fellowship?

 

God is light (1:5) faithful (1:9) and righteous (1:5)

 

Walk in the light, not darkness à have fellowship with Him (1: 6-7)

Q: what is walk in the light mean?

 

1:7-10 Fellowship will make us confess our sins, God forgive our sins, Jesus blood cleanse us from sins.

Chapter 2

1   我小子们哪,我将这些话写给你们,是要叫你们不犯罪。若有人犯罪,在父那里我们有一位中保,就是那义者耶稣基督。

2   他为我们的罪作了挽回祭,不是单为我们的罪,也是为普天下人的罪。

3   我们若遵守他的诫命,就晓得是认识他。

4   人若说我认识他,却不遵守他的诫命,便是说谎话的,真理也不在他心里了。

5   凡遵守主道的,爱神的心在他里面实在是完全的。从此我们知道我们是在主里面。

6   人若说他住在主里面,就该自己照主所行的去行。

7   亲爱的弟兄啊,我写给你们的,不是一条新命令,乃是你们从起初所受的旧命令;这旧命令就是你们所听见的道。

8   再者,我写给你们的,是一条新命令,在主是真的,在你们也是真的;因为黑暗渐渐过去,真光已经照耀。

9   人若说自己在光明中,却恨他的弟兄,他到如今还是在黑暗里。

10   爱弟兄的,就是住在光明中,在他并没有绊跌的缘由。

11   惟独恨弟兄的,是在黑暗里,且在黑暗里行,也不知道往那里去,因为黑暗叫他眼睛瞎了。

12   小子们哪,我写信给你们,因为你们的罪藉著主名得了赦免。

13   父老啊,我写信给你们,因为你们认识那从起初原有的。少年人哪,我写信给你们,因为你们胜了那恶者。小子们哪,我曾写信给你们,因为你们认识父。

14   父老啊,我曾写信给你们,因为,你们认识那从起初原有的。少年人哪,我曾写信给你们;因为,你们刚强,神的道常存在你们心里;你们也胜了那恶者。

15   不要爱世界和世界上的事。人若爱世界,爱父的心就不在他里面了。

16   因为凡世界上的事,就像肉体的情欲,眼目的情欲,并今生的骄傲,都不是从父来的,乃是从世界来的。

17   这世界和其上的情欲都要过去,惟独遵行神旨意的,是永远常存。

18   小子们哪,如今是末时了。你们曾听见说,那敌基督的要来;现在已经有好些敌基督的出来了,从此我们就知道如今是末时了。

19   他们从我们中间出去,却不是属我们的;若是属我们的,就必仍旧与我们同在;他们出去,显明都不是属我们的。

20   你们从那圣者受了恩膏,并且知道这一切的事(或作:都有知识)。

21   我写信给你们,不是因你们不知道真理,正是因你们知道,并且知道没有虚谎是从真理出来的。

22   谁是说谎话的呢?不是那不认耶稣为基督的吗?不认父与子的,这就是敌基督的。

23   凡不认子的,就没有父;认子的,连父也有了。

默想:

V1-2        

这句话的逻辑看上去是矛盾的,前面说不能犯罪,后面又说犯罪的话该怎么办。然而这其实是sancitification的一个正确价值观: 基督徒应该以不犯罪为目标,但倘若万一犯罪,要知道耶稣能够赦免我们的罪。

有两种常见的对于罪的态度是错误的:

1. 犯罪无所谓,反正耶稣会赦免我,可以先犯罪再悔改。

2. 我只有完全不犯罪才能让神爱我,一旦犯罪了神对我的爱就会减少。

V3-4        

约翰一书多次提到一个词:“说谎”,在1:6,1:10, 2:4, 2:22都有。基本都是反应一个意思:如果我们只是口头上承认我们认识主耶稣,但行为上没有任何改变,那我们就是说谎的。在圣经中神对说谎的评价是十分严重的:  约翰福音 8:44   你们是出於你们的父魔鬼,你们父的私欲你们偏要行。他从起初是杀人的,不守真理,因他心里没有真理。他说谎是出於自己;因他本来是说谎的,也是说谎之人的父。

V5-6

我们爱神有各种方式,耶稣在马可福音12:30说过“你要尽心、尽性、尽意、尽力爱主你的神”,也就是要我们从heart(情感),soul(灵),mind(理性),strength(行为)上去爱主。

男生注重理性,女生注重情感,改革宗和加尔文派注重理性,有些教派也注重灵性,但最不容易做到的恐怕就是“行为”,因为行为的改变是要求我们生、做事方式的改变,是内在改变达到一定程度之后才能有的外在改变。只有一个人的行为有所改变了,并且也愿意遵行神的旨意了,别人就可以看出他/她是真的认识神的人。

V7-8

这个命令指的是“弟兄姊妹彼此相爱”。

之所以说不是新命令,因为在3章11节里说“我们应当彼此相爱。这就是你们从起初所听见的命令”。但又说是新命令,因为约翰福音13:34~35里耶稣说:「我赐给你们一条新命令,乃是叫你们彼此相爱。我怎样爱你们,你们也要怎样相爱。你们若有彼此相爱的心,众人因此就认出你们是我的门徒了」。“彼此相爱”的这个词,在新约中一共出现了13次,在12节经文中。

这不是一条新命令,约翰并不是最早提到这个命令的人,耶稣才是,并且耶稣自己也是“爱”的标准。但这相对于旧约来说,又确确实实是一条新的命令。

旧约的很多地方更像是一个律法,而法律则是道德的最低限(虽然圣经律法的道德观要超过世俗的法律很多)。然而罗马书13:10说:“爱就完全了律法”,耶稣也在马太福音5:17说:“莫想我来要废掉律法和先知。我来不是要废掉,乃是要成全”。


V9-11

这三节经文如此强调弟兄彼此相爱的重要,实在是不寻常。甚至将一个人是否能爱弟兄姊妹,作为他是在光明还是黑暗中的判断标准。耶稣在约翰福音13:34-35节说:“我赐给你们一条新命令,乃是叫你们彼此相爱;我怎样爱你们,你们也要怎样相爱。 你们若有彼此相爱的心,众人因此就认出你们是我的门徒了”。从这里面看弟兄姊妹彼此相爱的重要性至少有:

可以说,一个人能爱弟兄,本身就是他得救重生的标志之一。因为这种爱不是朋友之间靠着兴趣爱好相同而产生的友情,而是被仅仅建立在两人都信靠耶稣的基础上。也就是说,这个在教会的弟兄或者是姊妹,可能和我性格不同,爱好不同,语言不同,可能还不容易相处得来(比如说我很低调那个弟兄却很高调,我很理性那个姊妹却很感性动不动就哭),我们仍然能因为同为耶稣的门徒而彼此相爱。这是非常难的,也只有心中有耶稣的爱的人才能做到。

V12-14

这三节经文是一个重复,就是“小子,父老,少年人”的重复,分别讲述了三个年龄层面的基督徒对神的认识:

小子

  1. 罪得赦免;
  2. 认识父。

少年人

  1. 胜了恶者;
  2. 你们刚强,神的道常存在你们心里;你们也胜了那恶者。

父老

  1. 2.     认识那从起初原有的。

小子就是little children,应该是指年龄小的基督徒或者是刚信主的基督徒。他们所能理解的神第一是赦免他们罪恶的神,第二也是他们亲爱的父亲。

少年人就是young men,应该是指青年基督徒或者是信仰到达中期的基督徒。这时候他们会渐渐意识到自己要和罪抗争,要和撒旦抗争。并且这属灵争战的武器就是神的道。启示录12:11说“弟兄胜过他(撒旦),是因羔羊的血和自己所见证的道。他们虽至於死,也不爱惜性命”。我们目前大部分人都属于少年人这个阶段。

父老就是fathers,应该是指老年基督徒和信仰达到成熟阶段的基督徒。这时候约翰只有一句话,就是你们认识那起初原有的。这句话看似和小子们的那句“你们认识父”很像,其实不同。成熟的基督徒,应该对神起初创造的旨意,神永恒的旨意都有了清晰的认识,周围的环境已经不能影响他们的信仰,他们就是真认识神的人。

V15

世界上的事和神往往是相反的:

世界说:

神说:

我们要追求人的赞赏 (今生的骄傲)

人都说你们好的时候,你们就有祸了!

我们要追求人的认可 (今生的骄傲)

你们要为我的名被众人恨恶;

我们要为自己着想,保全自己  (肉体的情欲)

一粒麦子不落在地里死了,仍旧是一粒;若是死了,就结出许多子粒来;

我们要积累世上的财宝  (肉体的情欲)

不要为自己积累财宝在地上;地上有虫子咬,能锈坏,也有贼挖窟窿来偷。  只要积累财宝在天上;

我们要得到从人来的头衔和冠冕  (今生的骄傲)

到了牧长显现的时候,你们必得那永不衰残的荣耀冠冕;

我们要及时享乐 (肉体的情欲)

我们这至暂至轻的苦楚,要为我们成就极重无比、永远的荣耀。

我们永不满足,看到的都想要 (眼目的情欲)

主啊,你有永生之道,我还归从谁呢?

V16

上面的表格列举了一些这三类的欲望。其实神并不禁止我们想要得到生命,冠冕,称赞,认可,富足,和满足的desire,这是我们的天性。但关键是从谁那里得到满足(世界还是神)?什么样的富足(暂时的还是永恒的)?什么样的生命(70年还是永生)?

很多罪其实也来源于无可非议的desire,但是错误的获取方法:

V17

一个不幸的事实是,世界上的事天天发生在我们眼前,对我们的诱惑力更大;而神的应许要等到我们去世之后才能实现,我们常常等得灰心丧气。比如:

所以一个基督徒如果能战胜这些近在眼前的诱惑,一生谨守自己,那么他是真正可算为“配得那世界的人”。

V18

当反对基督教的人越来越多之时,我们就知道主耶稣快要来了。在国际上有伊斯兰恐怖分子杀害很多基督徒,在中国有政府强拆教堂,在美国有liberal越来越占主导。历史上并不缺乏基督徒被逼迫的事件,但liberal也成为基督徒的一大威胁,这是罕见的。加之福音所传越来越向西,现在已经有不少宣教士进入了阿拉伯世界,根据罗马书11:25-26节所说“弟兄们,我不愿意你们不知道这奥秘(恐怕你们自以为聪明),就是以色列人有几分是硬心的,等到外邦人的数目添满了,於是以色列全家都要得救。如经上所记:必有一位救主从锡安出来,要消除雅各家的一切罪恶”。可见以色列人得救是末世的重要标志之一,而现在来看这已经很接近了(已经有很多以色列人开始成为基督徒了,被称为Messianic Jews)。

末世对我自己的启示有两个:

  1. 在耶稣再来之前,我是尽心地去完成主交给我的大使命?是否像能像保罗所说的“那美好的仗我已经打过了,当跑的路我已经跑尽了”(提摩太前书4:7)?
  2. 在耶稣再来之前,我是否会向敌基督(逼迫,liberal,和假基督的诱惑)妥协?是否能像保罗所说的“所信的道我已经守住了”(提摩太前书4:7)?

这直接决定了是否“有公义的冠冕为我存留,就是按著公义审判的主到了那日要赐给我的” (提摩太前书4:8).

V19

这里面更确切地说,敌基督是从基督徒中出去的,并且他们不会认基督徒为他们的同类。从目前看来,从基督徒中出去的有两种:异端和liberal。Liberal尚且称自己为基督徒,所以这里更可能是在说异端。整本圣经只有约翰使用了“敌基督”这个词,指的是假冒自己是基督徒并且诱惑信徒的人。根据约翰使用的这个词既是单数又是复数来看,这个词可能指一个人,也可能指一个群体。

Topic Discussion 1:     Obey God’s CMD

Verse:

1Jn 5:3  For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments. And his commandments are not burdensome.

Observation:

  1. Love of God is to obey God’s commandments;
  2. Obeying God’s commandments is not hard.

Interpretation:

  1. God defines the way that we can love Him by we obeying His commandments. This is not the first time in the Bible that introduces this concept.

From the above 3 verses, we can see that obeying God’s commandments is the very way to show that we love God. Also it is a way to know more of God (John 14:21). More importantly, it is even the measure whether one can go to the kingdom of heaven or not (Mat 7:21).

If we think deeper, actually this way of loving God can benefit ourselves a lot. If we obey God’s commandments, our life will be sanctified and our relationship with God will be better, our life will be more like Jesus. It leads to two things:

  1. It confirms our salvation: 2Pe 1:10 -  Therefore, brothers, be all the more diligent to make your calling and election sure.
  2. It gives us reward when we go to heaven: Rev 22:12 - "Behold, I am coming soon, bringing my recompense with me, to repay everyone for what he has done.

                God Himself is all the good. So loving God is loving truth and holiness, and will bring reward.

  1. Obeying God’s commandments is always hard for many of us, or all of us. We have to struggle against our flesh, our sinful desires, and our disobedience. However, whether obeying God is hard or easy, depends on how much we rely on Him:

And how much we connect to Him everyday:

And how much we give up ourselves to Him:

Application:

Among the 3 things we need to obey Jesus’ commandments, the hardest will be the last one: how much we are willing to give up ourselves to Him.

I reserve too many things to myself:

There are many things which are not listed here. But they show a fact that, if I keep holding these things to myself, and not allowing Jesus to speak into them, then I will not have the power of Jesus which has overcome the world. Without this power, obeying God’s commandments is indeed hard.

However, to allow Jesus to speak & work into my life, is indeed a painful thing. This means I need to change the lifestyle I am used to for years, I need to break my good image before people and let them know about my deepest & dirtiest struggles, and I need to give up the strongest desires in my heart.

I can either choose to be uncomfortable and reborn by Jesus with a new life, or keep the current life comfortable while waiting till Jesus’ 2nd coming.

What would I choose?

Topic Discussion 2:    Simeon & Anna

Verses:

Luke 2:22-40  Simeon & Anna

Observation:

        What do I see about Jesus? 

  1. v22. Jesus is the first born and thus shall be called holy to the Lord.
  2. v29-35. Simeon prophesied Jesus’ characters as:
  1. v40. Even Jesus experienced growth as a human: “grew and became strong”.

                What do I see about Joseph & Mary?

  1. v24. This is the amount required from the poor people. Joseph and Mary are not rich and at that time the wise men have not reached them with gifts yet.

    What do I see about Simeon & Anna?
  2. v25. Simeon is not anybody. He was called “righteous and devout, waiting for the consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit was upon him.”
  3. v28-35. What Simon did is:
  1. v37. Anna is not anybody. She was a prophetess and called “as a widow until she was 84. She did not depart from the temple, worshiping with fasting and prayer night and day.”
  2. v38. What Anna did is:

Interpretation:

There are 2 major topics in this passage:

  1. What type of people does God use?

So far in Chapter 1&2 there are 4 groups of people that God has used. They are not randomly chosen. These 4 groups of people also demonstrate 4 characters of God’s servant:

  1. Zechariah & Elizabeth
    Good works: Luke 1:6 ”they were both righteous before God, walking blamelessly in all the commandments and statutes of the Lord.”
  2. Joseph & Mary
    Obedience & Willing to pay a price to obey: Luke 1:38  “And Mary said, "Behold, I am the servant of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word."
  3. The shepherds
    Poor in spirit: Matthew 5:3  "Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
  4. Simeon & Anna
    Both of them have good works (righteous, devout, fasting & praying day and night). Besides, they are also
    Waiting for God: Luke 2:25 “waiting for the consolation of Israel,” Luke 2:38 “speak of him to all who were waiting for the redemption of Jerusalem.”

Why these 4 characters?

  1. Good works: in James 2:27 “Faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead.” Being knowledgeable in Bible is different from having a newborn life. Christianity is not like taking another college class. It is about life change.
  2. Obedience & Willing to pay a price to obey: being obedient to God’s command always comes with a price. Either we have to struggle to overcome our own sinful nature, or we have to suffer persecution from others. Not every Christian is willing to pay a price to obey. We sometimes only want Jesus’ crown, but not His cross.
  3. Poor in spirit: if one has good works and obedience, then probably he/she is an excellent Christian/disciple. However, this person might feel self-content and no longer be teachable. If a Christian always feels poor in spirit and hungers for more of Jesus’ teachings, he/she has no limit of growth.
  4. Waiting for God: in this end time of corruption, seeing too much evil, we may often say to ourselves: “Maybe I should just follow the crowd.” However, hope on Jesus’ second coming will thus be more precious. This will sustain us in the end time and distinguish the true believers from those who give up.
  1. What type of person is Jesus?
  1. Jesus saves. He is:
  1. God’s salvation:                                         Isaiah 53:5
  2. A light for revelation to the Gentiles:                         Isaiah 49:6
  3. A light for glory to the people Israel:                         1 Samuel 15:29
  1. Jesus distinguishes all people into 2 types. He will:
  1. Cause some people in Israel to fall, and some to rise:        Isaiah 8:14 & 28:16
  2. Be opposed:                                                Isaiah 53:3
  3. Reveal many people’s hearts (evil or righteous):        Deuteronomy 8:2
  1. Jesus will die. He will:
  1. Cause Mary’s soul to be pierced by a sword.                Isaiah 53:7

Application:

  1. Do I want to be a man used by God? How? What can prevent me from being a man used by God?

    As stated from above, there are 4 characters that God is looking for when He searches for servants. For myself currently the most difficult one is the 2nd: obedience and willing to pay a price to obey.

    In my work, I need to obey God that “Col 3:23  Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men”. However, I have to admit that there is a difference of my working attitude when my professor IS in the office and IS NOT.  For many times I have to struggle with myself and go to another room to pray for 10 mins, so that I can concentrate and work faithfully when the professor is absent.

    In my ministry, I need to obey God that “Mat 5:44 love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who mistreat you and persecute you”. It is so hard for me to love the muslims since they produce lots of terrorists. It is also hard for me to love Rachel’s colleagues who keeps hurting Rachel.

    In my marriage, I need to obey God that “1 Peter 3:7  Likewise, husbands, live with your wives in an understanding way, showing honor to the woman as the weaker vessel”. I found myself not a good listener when Rachel complains to me about her school work. I was often quick to give solutions, forgetting that women are created to long for understanding but not solutions. Also I found that I did not honor Rachel enough when she speaks. I often interrupted corrected her before other people.

I sense that I do need to ask for strength from God everyday to obey these commands above. I have a good inclination to change myself on those things, but I also need to turn this intention into action.

Kevin’s comments: the 4 types of people / characters are very good observations. I would like to add one more that “being thankful” to Lord. Simeon and Anna both thank to God first when they saw Jesus in the temple.

Topic Discussion 3:   Love Brothers

Verses:

1Jn 5:1   凡信耶稣是基督的,都是从神而生,凡爱生他之神的,也必爱从神生的。

1Jn 5:2   我们若爱神,又遵守他的诫命,从此就知道我们爱神的儿女。

Observation:

一个人爱弟兄姊妹,只需要三个前提:

  1. 如果他爱“生他之神”;
  2. 如果对方是“从神生的”,即“信耶稣是基督的”;
  3. 如果我们“遵守祂(神)的诫命”。

这两节还有另一段镜像经文,即前一章的末尾处

1Jn 4:19   我们爱,因为神先爱我们。

1Jn 4:20   人若说「我爱神」,却恨他的弟兄,就是说谎话的;不爱他所看见的弟兄,就不能爱没有看见的神(有古卷:怎能爱没有看见的神呢)。

1Jn 4:21   爱神的,也当爱弟兄,这是我们从神所受的命令。

这段话是从相反的方向来说,如果一个人不爱弟兄姊妹,说明了三件事:

  1. 他是不可能爱神的。如果他说他在恨弟兄的同时还爱神,那就是说谎话的;
  2. 爱看得见的弟兄要比爱看不见的神更难。做不到前者就不可能做得到后者;
  3. 爱弟兄是“从神所受的命令”。

同时4:19说明了我们爱的能力是来自“神先爱我们”。

Interpretation:

  1. 爱弟兄姊妹的前提:

5:1-2节只有三个简单的条件,和我们是否与那个弟兄姊妹合得来没有任何关系。然而我们在教会中,往往凭自己的喜好来选择爱谁不爱谁,例如我们通常喜欢:

        

        而我们通常不喜欢:

        然而这些都是“喜欢”,并非“爱”。他们的不同是,“喜欢”是有条件的,“爱”是无条件的。

  1. 爱神和爱弟兄姊妹的联系:

        从4:20和5:1来看,可以得出以下关系:

这里面还能看出: 爱弟兄姊妹比爱神还要容易。难道爱一个完美的神要比爱不完美的人更难?

其实和很多人想的相反,爱神确实要难于爱人。首先神是不可见的,我们常常会忘记祂,但我们可以经常见到某一个人。其次神的回应也少于人,当我们爱一个人的时候,那个人可能会以言语、动作、眼神、礼物等来回报我们,但神通常是通过祷告的感动,客观发生的事件来回应,有时候甚至没有很明显的回应。

  1. 爱是一个命令:

除了第4,5章的经文,在本书的3:11、3:23也明确说,彼此相爱是神的命令。在整本圣经中,“爱”和“命令”一直联系在一起,约翰福音14:15,21,23都在说如果我们爱耶稣,就必要遵行祂的命令。

可见“爱”并不一定是如同大部分人所说的,只是一个温暖的感觉(虽然很多时候是这样),神要我们在没有“感觉”到爱的时候也要去爱,我们也无法找借口去不爱某个弟兄,因为这是个命令。

有趣的是,很多人觉得耶稣来之后就推翻了律法(其实不然,耶稣是完全了律法),新约不再像旧约一样有那么多的命令。实则新约的命令也很多,并且更难!相对于旧约中的不可吃猪肉龙虾、要行割礼等的律法,新约的命令则是彼此相爱,大使命(使万民作耶稣的门徒),妻子要顺服丈夫,丈夫要爱妻子等等难度更大的命令。

  1. 爱证明我们已经得救:

如果我们不爱弟兄姊妹,就说明我们没有爱神。那么在这种情况下,我们得救了吗?本书的3:10,14,15清楚地说,有两种人是属魔鬼并且没有救恩的:1. 行不义的(practice sinning,习惯性地故意犯罪,并非偶尔犯罪),2. 不爱弟兄的。 第一个好理解,当我们真正得救之后,即使偶尔会犯罪,我们的内心也是抵触罪的,如果连我们的内心都不抵触,那就说明我们还没有得救。

第二个说不爱弟兄的就是属魔鬼的,这是否太严厉了呢?这里的爱并非普通的友情或者是喜欢,而是“ἀγαπάω” 即神之爱,我们也许可以不喜欢一个弟兄,但是我们内在的圣灵会使我们用神的爱来对待他,如果我们和某个弟兄有争端,如果我们真的是属神的,我们就会愿意和好,如果我们看到某个弟兄有危险,即使我们再讨厌他,如果我们是属神的,我们就应该会愿意搭救他...

  1. 爱的能力的源头:

既然上面提到了这种爱是ἀγαπάω,亦即神之爱,那么我们就不可能用自己的好心和善良去做到这种爱。只有我们先知道、感觉到自己被神爱了,才能有力量去爱别人。

说到这里,我和Rachel有过一个讨论,虽然我们都知道神爱我们是一个事实,不论我们是否感觉到这个爱,我们都应该相信祂的爱是存在的。这也是Lee一直以来所强调的成熟基督徒应有的素质。

Application:

  1. 谁是那些我们不容易喜欢和爱的弟兄姊妹(符合以下条件的)?

就我自己而言,我在PSIF中确实有1~2个自己非常不喜欢的人(都是姊妹),主要原因就是她们以自我为中心、不为他人着想的生活态度。我自己总是不愿搭理她们,我也认为我不喜欢她们的理由十分充分。然而在默想了这段经文之后,我认为我应该改变我的态度,我仍旧可以不喜欢她们(因为喜欢是个人偏好),但我却要学着以耶稣的爱来爱她们,关怀她们。

  1. 为Rachel和她同事的关系祷告

Rachel的assistant也是一位基督徒姊妹,那个同事对教会十分热心,也积极参加祷告会。然而在工作中她完全是另一个样子,不仅时常偷懒,还不尊重Rachel的权柄,说话也很刻薄,让Rachel十分头疼。可以预见,不仅是工作,这些问题将会很大地影响她未来的婚姻。

然而在上面Interpretation的第4点中,我发现一个人若是真的得救,他就必定有这种爱弟兄的能力,因为这能力是从神而来的。所以我祷告的时候应该更有信心,虽然这个姊妹性格倔强不服权柄,说话也刻薄,但如果她真的是得救的基督徒,她就有可能去爱Rachel。

同样,Rachel也有可能去爱她,因为Rachel也是有神的圣灵同在的基督徒。在这一件事上,我感觉Rachel需要学习的地方是忍耐和宽容,以及要学会鼓励他人。

神可以用一件事来同时disciple两边的人。

Topic Discussion 4:   "Practice"

Verses:

1Jn 3:7  Little children, make sure no one deceives you; the one who practices righteousness is righteous, just as He is righteous;

1Jn 3:9  No one who is born of God practices sin, because His seed abides in him; and he cannot sin, because he is born of God.

Observation:

  1. Practice sin & righteousness:

In the verse it uses practice a lot instead of just say “commit sin” or “do righteousness”. Therefore it is not a one time conduct. Instead, it should be a frequent behavior.

  1. Echoing Repetition:

In the 1 John, a structure of wording is often used, which I call echoing repetition. It is in the form of “A leads to B, and B leads to A”. For example, 3:9 says: “No one who is born of God practices sin, …, and he cannot sin, because he is born of God”. Is it redundant?

  1. Make sure no one deceives you:

        Who tries to deceive us? To deceive us for what?

Interpretation:

  1. Practice

        ποιέω

Apparently a prolonged form of an obsolete primary; to make or do (in a very wide application, more or less direct): - abide, + agree, appoint, X avenge, + band together, be, bear, + bewray, bring (forth), cast out, cause, commit, + content, continue, deal, + without any delay, (would) do (-ing), execute, exercise, fulfil, gain, give, have, hold, X journeying, keep, + lay wait, + lighten the ship, make, X mean, + none of these things move me, observe, ordain, perform, provide, + have purged, purpose, put, + raising up, X secure, shew, X shoot out, spend, take, tarry, + transgress the law, work, yield. Compare G4238.

From the above Greek definition, “Practice something” means someone is living in that lifestyle, is doing something without any delay, is exercising that behavior, is agreeing with the value of that thing etc. In a word, if some person practices something, it shows what kind of person he is.

For example, if one Christian has a misconduct in his marriage with some other woman, and he regretted, hated his sins, and asked for forgiveness of his wife and God, then we can still say he is born of God. Even if he commits this sin again in future, as long as he has struggles and repentance, he is still born of God, although he will bear the consequences of his sins.

However, if one Christian has another woman outside of his marriage, and he meets with the woman regularly, without a sense of guilt, without any struggles in his heart, then this becomes his lifestyle. Then probably he is not born of God, even if he claims he believes in Jesus.

  1. Echoing Repetition

In 3:9 it says: “No one who is born of God practices sin, …, and he cannot sin, because he is born of God”. It is in the form of “A leads to B, and B leads to A”. It seems redundant, however, this is a very strict & exclusive mutual definition which constructs: “A ≡ B, B ≡ A”, meaning A is exclusively defined by B, and B is exclusively defined by A.

For example, in 3:9 firstly it says “No one who is born of God practices sin”, then we know at least Christians who are born of God will not practice sin. However, people may say that Buddhists, Muslims and other religions’ followers may also not practice sin. But the 2nd sentence exclusively stated that if someone cannot sin, “he is born of God”, meaning ONLY Christians have the ability to not practice sin, and anyone who does not practice sin MUST be a Christian. Thus it exclusively shows that any other religious people will practice sin for sure.

Similar expressions also appear in 1 John:

2:3-4        knowing Jesus  keeping His commandments

2:19         people who went out from us  antichrist

2:23          confesses the Son  knowing the father

3:4           practices sin  practices lawlessness

3:6           he who sins  he who does not know Jesus

3:9           not practicing sin  born of God

4:2-3          spirits that do not confess Jesus has come in the flesh  evil spirit

4:6           he who does not listen to us he who is not from God

4:7-8          he who does not love  he who does not know God

5:12          he who has the Son  he who has life

Because of these equality relationships, our faith is strictly defined. For example, one cannot say he is Christian if he does not keep God’s commandments, even if he has come to church for many years, or been familiar with the Bible, or been active in church activities.

Or we often hear Muslim say they to believe Jesus. But if they do not confess Jesus is the son of God and has come in the flesh, they are from the evil spirit too.

  1. Make sure no one deceives you:

I am thinking that here it refers to a saying that as long as one person claims he believes in Jesus, it does not matter if he practices righteousness or sin. Unfortunately, many churches also believes the same. They often tell people that confession Jesus being the God is the most important, and living a life of holiness does not matter.

In contrary, this verse shows clearly that a person’s daily behavior indicates his connectivity with God. Although we cannot judge a person on his salvation, we can judge his actions.

Application:

What conducts of sin or righteousness can be called “practice”? From my experience it has to satisfy all these 3 conditions:

I have been wanting to practice diligent working in my own study and research at school:

I have been wanting to get rid of my sinful desire of lustfulness:

KK’s comments:

very impressive about echoing repetition observation. But was wondering if we could have a better understanding about the relationship. e.g., does knowing Jesus will exactly lead to obey his commandment, or they are just correlated. In other words, do they have causal and effect relationship, or simply correlation relationship?
“Practice” observation and interpretation is impressive.

Topic Discussion 5:   Husband and Wife

Verses:

Observation:

The whole sentence means: “in order to sanctify it, after having cleansed it through the bath of water, by means of the word.

Here the water is namely the baptism of the bride before the wedding.

However, the baptism is by the word, not just by water (which is more of a symbol of purity in the ancient wedding).

In the ancient wedding, there are 2 baths to take. 1 to take off the dirty, the 2nd for ritual cleaning.

However, this word is not the logos that is used very often, such as “John 8:31  So Jesus was saying to those Jews who had believed Him, "If you continue in My word, then you are truly disciples of Mine”.

This word is (ῥῆμα rhēma hray'-mah), more of the audible word that is spoken by the person who baptises: a sound produced by the voice (2 Corinthians 12:4; Hebrews 12:19); a declaration (Matthew 26:75; Mark 9:32, Luke 2:50, etc.); doctrine or instruction (Romans 10:17, if not = command); or a saying, whether in the form of a message (Romans 10:8), a command (Luke 5:5), or a promise (Luke 1:38; Luke 2:29).

        It seems it means either: a divine promise, or the Gospel.

        John 17:17  "Sanctify them in the truth; Your word is truth.

Ref: 2Co 11:2  For I am jealous for you with a godly jealousy; for I betrothed you to one husband, so that to Christ I might present you as a pure virgin.

Interpretation:

Give himself up for her (Justification) -> sanctify her, having cleansed (Sanctification) -> present to him the church in all her glory (Glorification).

Also it is not finished yet. The church is still being sanctified, and the glory hasn’t come.

This may be similar to the expression “taking up his cross”. It is more like “Phi2:5 Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus”. By taking up the cross, although we cannot cleanse people from sins as Jesus has done, we can serve as a channel to make the salvation of Jesus come to people. Likewise, although we cannot justify, sanctify, and glorify our wives, the husbands can always serve as a channel to induce these power of Jesus to our wives.

 

Likewise, in like manner, on this fashion. It means that husbands also need to do the jobs of: Give himself up for her (Justification) -> sanctify her, having cleansed (Sanctification) -> present to him the church in all her glory (Glorification).

Application:

Therefore I will need to spend time & effort to learn more about Rachel. Since both of us are tired after one day’s work, there is less chance for us to sit down and have quality time.  As a husband, I am responsible to insure this.

Also I will need to teach my wife with the Word. And I should not fear confrontation.

For example, for the case of her conflicts with her colleague at school, I know that God wants Rachel to learn tolerance and encouraging others. However, every time when I heard Rachel’s complaints about the colleague, I did not want to confront her to teach about tolerance and encouragement.

It is better to make a 1000 little mistakes moving toward your wife than one big one retreating.

KK’s comments:

it is still hard for me to collect husband and wife relationship to Christ and church. It looks like teaching and so confrontation stem from love for wife. You pointed out the necessity or responsibility to teach wife. But how to make wife feel being loved while you teach her remains a challenge to me.

Topic Discussion 6:   Ask Anything According to His Will

Verses:

Observation:

其中明确说到will的含义的是:

Interpretation:

  1. 凡是信靠耶稣的必定得救                (John 6:39-40, Gal 1:4, Heb10:10)
  2. 成为圣洁 远离淫行, be sanctified         (1 Th 4:3)
  3. 经历苦难,行善,成为见证                 (1 Pe 2:15, 4:19)
  4. 常常喜乐,不住地祷告,凡事谢恩         (1 Th 5:16-18)

        以上的四个方面又可以分成两个大类:

  1. 神的应许 - God’s promise/plan:         a.
  2. 神的命令 - God’s commands:         b. c. d.

        以上的四个方面的特征是:

  1. 神的永恒计划                 ⇒         凡是信靠耶稣的必定得救
  2. 我们自己的生命成长         ⇒         成为圣洁 远离淫行, be sanctified
  3. 我们在世上的生活                 ⇒         经历苦难,行善,成为他人的见证         
  4. 我们的生活态度                 ⇒         常常喜乐,不住地祷告,凡事谢恩         

        

        因此按照这四个方面祷告,可以确定神是一定会听,比如:

  1. 凡是信靠耶稣的必定得救                ⇒        为朋友、家人的得救祷告 
  2. 成为圣洁 远离淫行, be sanctified                 为自己的生命改变祷告
  3. 经历苦难,行善,成为他人的见证                 为自己能有好行为祷告
  4. 常常喜乐,不住地祷告,凡事谢恩                 为自己能感恩、喜乐,甚至能祷告而祷告

同时可以看出来,这四个方面皆是和我们永恒的救赎以及灵命有关,这些事也是神乐意看到的。至于其他的更加实际的祷告请求,例如为自己第二天的考试祷告,为自己找工作祷告,甚至是为寻找一个停车位祷告,则不确定是否会如同15节所说“无不得著”。这是因为这些事情的目的都是为了上述的(a. b. c. d.),但神既可以利用一件的成功来塑造我们,也可以用一件事的失败来塑造我们,因此虽然我们为自己的事情祷告时人要充满信心,但也要知道事情成功与否的最终主权在神的手里。

Application:

我的同学金海天是一个非常反对宗教的人,总是对各种信仰(包括基督教)冷嘲热讽,甚至经常从网上找到攻击基督教的文章转发给我。看到他的恶劣态度我一度想要放弃他,然而今天我意识到,当我们为他人的救赎祷告时,神一定会垂听,所以我要开始为金海天祷告。

最近我所学的功课就是面对任何的困难都要迎难而上,靠着祷告以坚忍的态度来解决问题。最主要锻炼我的地方就是research, 最近的research也是经常遇到难题,经常想要逃避,但我要为自己这方面的生命改变祷告。John Piper说他是是一个在性上意志非常薄弱的人,所以曾经为自己能够忠于妻子祷告,祷告内容还包括让他看到别的女性不会再有性冲动。后来果然当他看到别的女性,就不会再有任何冲动,这一直在他的50年婚姻中保护着他。我也可以这么为我自己祷告。

        我身边的lab mates越来越多,我希望能称为他们眼中的一个基督徒见证。

其实有时候开始一天的祷告都不容易,因为每天一开始就有各样的事情需要做,各样的计划需要考略,我到学校后恨不得跳过祷告,立刻打开电脑就开始工作。所以我也要为我自己能坚持每一天开始的祷告而祷告。

Kevin’s comments: It is great that you explore all wills that God has for us and summarize them. I agree with the four points you make: salvation, sanctification, generosity, and gratitude. It deals with the relationship between God & self, others & self, God & others. But does the four has other connection? Does God has a final will out of the four? My guess that is the love between Creator and His creation. Maybe we can explore more based on it.  

Topic Discussion 7:   If Our Heart Does Not Condemn Us

Verses:

Observation:

        在圣经中这个“心”,有多重含义:

  1. 心脏:
  2. 在某物的中心:
    Mat 12:40      For just as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of the great fish, so will the Son of Man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth.
  3. 思想:
    Mat 15:8      “‘This people honors me with their lips, but their heart is far from me;
    Luk 2:19      But Mary treasured up all these things, pondering them in her heart.
  4. Spirit:
    Luk 21:34      “But watch yourselves lest your hearts be weighed down with dissipation and drunkenness and cares of this life, and that day come upon you suddenly like a trap.
    Luk 24:32      They said to each other, “Did not our hearts burn within us while he talked to us on the road, while he opened to us the Scriptures?”

        

这一次是保罗当面质询彼得为何在与外邦人吃饭被以色列人看到时,装作没有和外邦人一起吃饭。

可以看出,这里的这个“condemn”是指质询、责备的意思,并不是圣经中常出现的另一个”condemn”: G2632 κατακρίνω to judge against, that is, sentence: - condemn, damn.
这个词在新约一共出现18次,用作以下的意思:

可见这里的这个condemn(G2607)比常见的condemn(G2632)含义要轻许多,没有审批和定罪的意思,而是单纯的责备和质询。至于为什么会这样,在下面的interpretation中有推论。

Interpretation:

根据上下文,这一章虽然讲了犯罪和爱弟兄,然而和20-21节结合更加紧密应该是“爱弟兄”。因为当20节讲到“我们的心”,而19节正是提到“心”的开头:

        再往回看,“从此”的因果条件出现在18节:

        而18节之上更是清楚地说明了什么是弟兄之爱:

所以值得注意的是,这里我们的心会责备我们的原因,并非是我们主动的犯罪,而是因为我们被动地没有去爱我们的弟兄。当然,这个的负面意义并没有犯罪而被定罪那么重,所以这里所用的“责备”condemn(G2607)也并不是常见的“定罪”的condemn(G2632)。同样,第21节提到如果我们的心不因为爱的缺失而责备我们,那么我们在神面前就可以坦然无惧了。和很多其他关于“坦然无惧(confidence)”经文不同(见Discussion 6的Observation,那些经文是因为我们有救恩所以坦然无惧),而这里是注重在我们自己的责任上。

因此,爱心才会显得更加重要,因为这是神对我们每个人在新约时代最大的命令之一:

倘若我们的内心对弟兄缺乏爱,不管我们找什么理由为自己开脱,是不可能瞒过神的。即使我们能欺骗自己的内心,我们也无法阻拦神了解我们最深处的动机。

  1. 爱的程度:主为我们舍命...我们也当为弟兄舍命。
  2. 爱的实际:凡有世上财物的,看见弟兄穷乏,却塞住怜恤的心,爱神的心怎能存在他里面呢?

        第18节更是进一步强调了实际行为的重要:

有趣的是,如同17节这种用今生的财物换取永生的财富的例子,在路加福音16:1-12节不义的管家那里,也有相同的表述。

在这里,今生和永生被紧密地连接在了一起,通过如何运用今生的财物,来证明自己对神和对弟兄的爱,并且在永生中产生果效。

Application:

我们常说要“爱人如己”,这是圣经中仅次于(Deut 6:5 你要尽心、尽性、尽力爱耶和华你的神)的命令,也是和(Deut 6:4-5)联系最紧密的命令,如同双胞胎一样。因为约翰一书说到:

        然而,在实际的生活中,爱弟兄的代价有很多,比如:

在美国这个社会,人们最宝贵的就是时间privacy、以及金钱,很不幸地,对基督徒来说也是如此,对结婚之后在时间和金钱上更加紧张的基督徒更是如此。我自己就因为忙着做lab而错过了一次最好的给我朋友传福音的机会,也因为注重privacy而不愿意接待朋友到家里来住(相比之下Mark和GT这一点就做得很好),更在朋友需要金钱帮助的时候犹豫过。

所以以后我要更多在这些实际的方面注意,不仅仅是口头地关怀弟兄姊妹,更在实际行动中愿意付出代价来爱。更多地实践这两节经文:

Topic Discussion 8:   Titus : The Reason of Paul’s Ministry

Verses:

Observation:

Paul has 2 young disciples: Timothy and Titus. Timothy’s father is Greek and his mother and grandmother are Jewish. Titus is a Greek.         

Paul brought Titus to Jerusalem (Galatians 2:1-4) and Titus met many brothers there. However, Paul didn’t force him to be circumcised to show the Gentiles have freedom in Christ as well as the Jews.

Titus accompanied Paul in many of his mission trips. In 2 Cor 7:6, 13-14, He was sent by Paul to Corinth to encourage the local believers. He also brought to Paul the joy that Corinthian Christians are longing and zealous for Paul. In addition, Titus was also sent to collect the donations from Corinthian Christians to the poor in 2 Cor 8:6-24.

Titus final ministry was in Crete island of Greece. This was after Paul’s release from the Roman prison where Paul was held for 2 years. In Crete Paul and Titus share the Gospel to the local people and started churches. So when Paul left Crete, he set Titus to be in charge of the churches and appoint elders. (Titus 1:5)

The last place that Titus was mentioned in the Bible is 2 Tim 4:10, which is also Paul’s last book before his martyrdom. Titus went to Dalmatia which is Albania nowadays for mission.

The book of Titus was written by Paul after the book of 1 Tim. Paul encouraged and instructed Titus on how to lead the local Christians. According to church history, later on after Titus’ mission work in other parts of Europe, he went back to Crete and served there for the rest of his life.

Nowadays there are about 57% Muslims in Albania and 17% Christians (Catholics and Orthodox). In Crete there are about 95% Christian Orthodox.

Interpretation:

Therefore, Paul does all his ministry because of the people that God has chosen. He is to strengthen their faith, and to add to them knowledge of truth according with godliness.

God’s elect: 

Namely the elected Christians who have salvation. In the 4 books of Gospel, this phrase is mostly used to describe the end days before Jesus comes back (Mat 24:22,24). The closest use to this verse in Titus, is in:

Paul also stressed his purpose of ministry, which is to help the elected Christians to keep their faith to have the salvation, as well as the eternal glory.

Why the knowledge of truth has to accord with godliness?

If our knowledge of truth does not produce godliness (holiness, being like God), then it is of no use. The books that mention this word “godliness” the most are:

The book that mentions eternal life the most is “John”.

Application:

Topic Discussion 9:   Titus: True Child

Verses:

Observation:

As we know that Paul was called and remained single till his death (1Co 9:5  Do we not have the right to take along a believing wife, as do the other apostles and the brothers of the Lord and Cephas?).

However, Paul calls Titus “my true child in a common faith” and similarly he calls Timothy “my true child in the faith” (1 Tim 1:1, 2 Tim 1:2, 1 Corin 4:17). Another time that Paul refers to somebody as his child is Onesimus (Phm 1:10). He told Philemon that he became Onesimus’ father in Paul’s imprisonment.

This is a very common greeting at church. Paul uses this greeting all the time in all his books to the churches: (Rom1:7, 1 Corin1:3, 2 Corin1:2, Gal1:3,  Eph1:2, Phi1:2, Col1:2, 1 Th1:1, 2 T1:2, 1 Tim1:2, 2 Tim1:2, Tit1:4, Phm1:3)

Paul taught both Titus and Timothy about the qualification of elders. In the ancient times, elders were also called “overseer” (1 Tim3:2).

The duty of being an elder is:

The requirements of being an elder are:

Interpretation:

As we know that Paul stayed single for all his life. But he did have his spiritual descendents, and it was not just one. At least we know Timothy, Titus, and Onesimus were called his children. In 1 Cor 4:15, Paul said he became father to the Corinthian believers through the Gospel. In addition, in Gal 4:19, when Paul talked to the Galatian Christians, he said he was in the anguish of childbirth again, until Christ is formed in them!

In reality, Paul is the discipler of Timothy, Titus, and those believers. But in emotion, affection, and action, Paul is doing his discipleship with a father’s heart. As he said:”For though you have countless guides in Christ, you do not have many fathers.

It will be different when people do ministries with a worker’s heart, and when they do with a father’s heart. Workers care about “getting the job done”, while fathers care about “the children”. Fathers take care of their children with all his effort and love, and without expecting anything in return. Father’s heart is also tender and gentle, as Paul said in 2 Cor 2:4: “For I wrote to you out of much affliction and anguish of heart and with many tears, not to cause you pain but to let you know the abundant love that I have for you.

Bible describes the most intimate relationship always with family, such as husband and wife, father and son, brothers and sisters. Indeed, ministry is not just a job, it is somethings that demands love, sacrifice, and endurance. It always gives but rarely expects payments. It always encourages and forgives but rarely suppresses.

And why these people who have no blood connection with Paul are called “true child”? This is because those who are born from flesh might not be the true offspring, those who are born from the Spirit are:

Similarly, a good father is not only his children’s biological father, but also the spiritual father.

 

 

It is interesting as observed previously that Paul greets people with grace and peace in all his books, no matter if the books are to a church, or to a single person. Obviously, Paul didn’t pick these two words casually, as today’s “how are you doing?”

Usually when we greet someone with something, that thing is often precious and not easily obtained. We always wish health to the sick, long life to the old, a job to the unemployed, and a marriage to the single. Similarly, grace and peace are such things in their time.

This word appears 156 times in 147 verses.

It marks the essential difference of focus between the OT and NT:

It is the essence of Jesus’ redemption: A free gift that justifies us.  

So Paul is literally reminding people:Jesus’ salvation is with you.

At that time, Christians were heavily persecuted. Being a Christian is already a sufficient reason to be put into a prison. Actually Paul himself has been imprisoned for many times (2 Tim 1:8, 4:6). Moreover, there are many heresies and false teachers to lure people off the truth as well (such as the Gnosticism mentioned in Colossians and 1 Timothy).

Obviously, Paul is not talking about the worldly peace. He is talking about the eternal peace, while we could still have worldly difficulties. The best explanation would be:

                Also, similar to “grace”, “peace” has to do with the salvation as well.

                

Therefore, Paul’s greeting “Grace and Peace” is not casual. He is reminding the believers of the two most important things, which is true till today:

  1. Although you are sinners, there is a free gift from Jesus to redeem you.
  2. Although you are persecuted by this world now, there is eternal peace waiting for you.

Application:

        Paul once said in his letter:

It is true that at church, there are many who can be tutors or teachers to us, but only a few who have a father’s heart. What’s the difference between a tutor and a father?

Tutor

Father

On relationship

No personal relationship

Personal relationship is the basis

On Bible

Teaches the knowledge

Teaches the knowledge and demonstrates the life

On growing

It is your job to make it

It is my job to show you how to make it

On daily life

You should be responsible for your own daily life

I care about your daily well-being and I want to help you with it

On prayers

Prays rarely for you

Prays daily for you

On difficulties

Gives Biblical principles as suggestions

Gives Biblical principles and walks with you through the hardship

On focus

With many people

One-on-one, or one-on-few

On emotion

Little emotion is involved

Loves you, bears with you, feels happy with your growth, and heartbreaks with your failures.

Christianity is passed on through generation to generation not by mere teaching the doctrines, otherwise it will be the same as all other false religions. It is passed on by life-to-life discipleship. The ultimate goal of Christianity is not to gain more knowledge, but to transform life.

Yes it is easy to be a tutor, since we don’t have to involve any personal relationship, we don’t have to reveal our own weakness, we don’t have to be worried about the other person’s mess. We only need to teach the knowledge which will also make me look knowledgeable. The only thing is, this does not transform lives.

Only life can transform another life. And it involves effort: building up of a relationship, revealing of my own weakness, investing emotions and time on another person, allowing another person to observe my life, and even being hurt by another person, etc.

But this is what Jesus has done to the 12, and what Paul has done to Timothy and Titus. When I am thinking about reaching out to a non-Christian friend as a discipler, I should be prepared to embrace all these costs.

Topic Discussion 10:  Luke 6:37-42

Luke 6:37             "Judge not, and you will not be judged; condemn not, and you will not be condemned; forgive, and you will be forgiven;

Luke 6:38             give, and it will be given to you. Good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over, will be put into your lap. For with the measure you use it will be measured back to you."

 

Luke 6:39             He also told them a parable: "Can a blind man lead a blind man? Will they not both fall into a pit?

Luke 6:40             A disciple is not above his teacher, but everyone when he is fully trained will be like his teacher.

 

Luke 6:41             Why do you see the speck that is in your brother's eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye?

Luke 6:42             How can you say to your brother, 'Brother, let me take out the speck that is in your eye,' when you yourself do not see the log that is in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take out the speck that is in your brother's eye.

 

Judge (krino) -- "'judge, decide, hale before a court, condemn,' also 'hand over for judicial punishment' "

Condemn (katadikazo) -- "condemn, find or pronounce guilty."

 

Joh 15:19-20    If you were of the world, the world would love you as its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you. Remember the word that I said to you: 'A servant is not greater than his master.' If they persecuted me, they will also persecute you. If they kept my word, they will also keep yours.

Tit 1:12-13  One of the Cretans, a prophet of their own, said, "Cretans are always liars, evil beasts, lazy gluttons." This testimony is true. Therefore rebuke them sharply, that they may be sound in the faith.

Mat 3:7-8  But when he (John the Baptist) saw many of the Pharisees and Sadducees coming to his baptism, he said to them, "You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the wrath to come? Bear fruit in keeping with repentance.

 

 

1.           How many paragraphs are there? What are they talking about respectively (one word or phrase)?

v  37-38: Measurement

v  39-40: Teacher and disciple

v  41-42: Hypocrisy.  

 

2.           Small Group discussions:

v  37-38

        i.      For paragraph 1, is it possible for us to never judge and condemn?

·         “Do not judge” is widely used today at church to shut down criticism.  

·         If your friend is cheating on his wife, should we not judge or condemn him?

·         John the Baptist and Paul does this too, harshly.

        ii.      If not, then what is Jesus really saying here?  

·         Mercy: rebuke and criticize with mercy,

o   James 2:13           For judgment is without mercy to one who has shown no mercy. Mercy triumphs over judgment.

·         Measure others in the way that you want to be measured. (read the story)

o   Mat 18:33  And should not you have had mercy on your fellow servant, as I had mercy on you?'

 

 

v  39-40: Two explanations

 i.            What are they blind to?

·         The spiritual truth

 ii.            Why a disciple is not above his teacher?

·         Choose your spiritual mentor wisely

o   Someone who takes Bible casually, can only have casual students.  

·         Be prepared to have the same persecution of humbling work as Jesus (you will not be more popular than Jesus)

o   John 15:19-20             If you were of the world, the world would love you as its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you. Remember the word that I said to you: 'A servant is not greater than his master.' If they persecuted me, they will also persecute you. If they kept my word, they will also keep yours.

 

v  41-42: Deal with your own bigger problem before dealing with other people’s minor ones.

  i.            What is the speck and the log?

·         Small and bigger problems

 ii.            Why do we need to remove our own log before we remove other’s speck?

·         Can a blind man lead a blind man? Will they not both fall into a pit?

·         Hypocrisy.

 

3.           Conclusion:

v  It is about how to retreat others (spouse, colleagues, brothers):

  i.      Remove the hypocrisy

 ii.      Have mercy on others

 iii.      Then you can lead and help

 

4.           Applications:

Out of the 3 points, which one do you need to work on?

Topic Discussion 11:   Titus: Elders

Verses:

Observation:

Interpretation:

        Surprisingly, the #1 character of an elder is not of the knowledge or behavior, but of his family.

Truly, one can easily mask himself before his friends or brothers at church, but not before his own family. The family stays with him 24/7, and it is the closest thing to a person second to God. No matter how others think who he is, his family knows the true person.

By these 2 factors, one can already get a true picture of what kind of Christian this man truly is.

        There is also a major emphasis on the elder having self-control:

Self-control is the last part of the spiritual fruit in Gal 5:22-23. In another word, one cannot have self-control without the help of the Holy Spirit. In 2 Pe 1:5-8, the paragraph of spiritual growth, self-control is the following step of faith, virtue, and knowledge. It also connects the three with steadfastness and godliness.

In Prov 25:28 it says: “ A man without self-control is like a city broken into and left without walls.” Thus the self-control is the guard and defending walls of a person, without which we will be easily broken into by Satan’s temptations and attacks.  

1,2 Tim and Titus are the three books mentioning self-control the most: 1 Tim 2:9, 15, 3:2; 2 Tim 1:7, 3:3; Titus 1:8, 2:2, 5, 6, 12. The objects of this character are:

Basically, it is a must-have character of all people (maybe except children since they have not developed such discipline).

As we may imagine that elders will spend most of their time in managing the church, there is a heavy duty on them of teaching and apologetics, which is not commonly seen today at church. Today most of this work is assigned to the pastor, and elders only show up in the church meetings of votes. However, in the NT times, there is not a clear distinguishment between an elder and a pastor. As an elder might have his own profession and a pastor might be a full time preacher, both of them have the responsibility to pastor, and to teach the word.

Last but not least, the eld must have a good public reputation:

In 1Ti 3:7  it also says: “Moreover, he must be well thought of by outsiders, so that he may not fall into disgrace, into a snare of the devil.”

Even though we know inside church we are all sinners, we still have the responsibility to show good testimonies to the outsiders. If elders are considered as the overseers of a church, they have more responsibility on this. For a common believer to have a bad testimony, people might say:”He is not a good Christian”. But if an elder shows a bad testimony, then people will say:”The Christians are like that!”.  It will be way more destructive.

Interestingly, as an elder is considered mostly as the manager or board member of a church, the #1 capability is not mentioned here: skills of management. All the characters required in Titus are about the soundness of their faith and spiritual life, but there is no requirement of skills of management. This is never seen in a regular cellular institute, which always requires at least an MBA degree for the managers.

However, this has been explained in the Bible, not in the NT, but in OT. In Numbers 11:16-29, God asked Moses to select 70 elders to manage the affairs in Israel. God descended from the cloud and  “take some of the Spirit that is on you (Moses) and put it on them”. Therefore, the presence of the Holy Spirit on a person is the #1 significant thing of being eligible for an elder.

Application:

The #1 standard of evaluating a Christian, is the comments from his/her family members. No matter how spiritual a person can appear at church, he/she cannot fool the family members. In some sense the family members are the ones who function very similar to God: watching a person closely 24/7 (except God can read our hearts).  

Topic Discussion 12:   Titus: Cretans - liars, beasts, gluttons

Verses:

Observation:

It is amazing that such harsh comments on Cretans {liars, evil beasts, lazy gluttons} are from a Cretan prophet.

More amazingly, Paul echos this prophet: “This testimony is true. Therefore ...”.

Paul has given instructions to rebuke the Cretans, to make them sound in the faith. And he points out the aftermath if not doing so: it is equivalent to denying God.

Interpretation:

It is usually not politically correct to comment on a nation or a people group like this prophet or Paul. However, Bible from the very beginning is not politically correct when it starts to say: “Gen 6:5 The LORD saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intention of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually. ” and “Rom 3:23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God”.

If we only use good words to describe a nation or a people group, such as:

then there is NO need of Christ anymore. Only when we understand a people group’s sinful nature, can we start to talk about salvation to them, such as:

Only when a nation or a people group recognize their sins, can they start to repent and change, just like this Cretan prophet.

Although we don’t see this action very often in today’s churches, it is still of great significance to warn people in sins, and to evoke their fear towards God.

Clearly, it is better to rebuke people rather than seeing them being excluded from salvation. In other words, rebuke can be an action of love, that one person is worried about another person’s spiritual wellbeing so much that he/she is willing to risk their friendship to point out the danger to the friend.  

Application:

Of course any people group would have their own particular sinful character. As mentioned previously, Chinese are covetous for fortune, Muslims are hostile to all non-Muslims etc. When we bring the Gospel to a nation or people group, we need to have the discernment not only to discover their merits, but also their sins.

Usually this is the hard part. We are afraid to lose a person’s friendship. Or we just want to avoid conflicts. That is why we never rebuke a brother or sister for their wrong doings. I know Rachel and GuanTing actually are very good on this point. They clearly warned Rebecca and Hui when they were dating non-believers (although neither listened). I will need to learn from them as well.

Topic Discussion 13:   Titus: Teach, Urge, Show

Verses:

Observation:

There are 3 actions that Paul told Titus to carry out to 4 different groups:

Interpretation:

It is proper for Titus, a young brother, to teach old men and women, and urge young men. So that the old women will be able to teach young women, which is not a job designed for young brothers. As Walter Henrichsen has said, he does not reach out to sisters, “that’s the wife’s job”.

In contrast with older women who have particular commands on their behaves (do not get drunk, do not slander etc.), there is no such command to older men. The commands to older man are more to their character: dignify, self-controlled, sound in faith, love etc. Therefore it is obvious that older men in a church, should be like the keynote, which sets the tone for the church. People are not to look for what they do, but what type of people they are.

Most women love to talk and it is never a sin. Indeed they should not talk about slanders, but they are not forbidden to talk. Instead, they are asked to teach and train others in the church. As an old sister once said:”There needs to be a grandma in every church.”. Nothing can be better than some comforting words and a bowl of hot soup from an old sister. And no one will feel offended if he is rebuked by an old sister who always care for him. The old sisters can also be a good example to younger sisters for their gentleness, obedience, and wisdom.

The commands to younger women are the very virtue of a godly young sister or wife: love, purity, obedience etc..

It is amazing how many times the word “self-controlled” appear in this paragraph. It is the direct command to old men, younger women, and younger men. It is also the indirect command to older women on slander and drinking. However different from others, this is the only command to younger men. For young men, we know they have passion, execution ability, and willingness to do anything for God.

However, they can also be subject to various temptations: sexual immorality, anger, laziness, and eagerness to to show off. Therefore Paul only set this one advice to the young men, which is the most important thing for them.

Application:

        I remember Lee always told us: respect cannot be demanded. It has to be earned.

This is true in both the church and family. The best way to earn respect is to through the demonstration of my own life: whether I care about other brothers or sisters outside of Sunday, whether I stick with the Bible principles in making choices, whether I pray enough for people who asked me to pray etc.

These characters need to be built on a daily basis, instead of several preparations before Sunday’s meeting. This is what I need to improve since it is easier for me to prepare a Bible study based on my previous knowledge, but it is hard for me to have a quiet time with God everyday.  

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Layman's Bible Study: John 3

v1-10:     The Spirit and Rebirth

v11-21:   The Testimony, Salvation, and Judgement                         (Jesus)

v22-30:   “He must increase, but I must decrease”

v31-36:   The Testimony, Salvation, and Judgement                         (John the Baptist)

  1. v1-10: The Spirit and Rebirth

The person: Nicodemus

Explanation: The Jewish people really take “signs” as an important part in their religion. See 1Co 1:22-23  For Jews demand signs and Greeks seek wisdom,  but we preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and folly to Gentiles.

Explanation: At that age, Israel was a oppressed by the Romans, and everyone was looking forward to the coming of God’s kingdom and Messiah. So Nicodemus’ next question is very probable to be about this issue.

                Born again?

                Explanation: again (ἄνωθεν G509 - from above, again, anew)

                Explanation: there are 2 reasons:

                What is “born of the Spirit” into “spirit”?

                Explanation: There are 5 factors:

  1. Be connected to God by the dwelling of the Spirit (Rom 8:9);
  2. Put to death the deeds of the body by the Spirit (Rom 8:13);
  3. Revived by the Spirit from death (Rom 8:11);
  4. Become the children of God by the witness of the Spirit  (Rom 8:16);
  5. Be interceded by the Spirit before God  (Rom 8:26-27).

Best chapter is at Rom 8:5-13, 26-27

Explanation: firstly “spirit” and “wind” are the same word in Greek:

Secondly we check all the verses characterizing the Spirit in John:

Then we know the Spirit is like the wind:

  1. We cannot see Him  (John 14:17);
  2. But we can perceive His existence by His work  (John 14:26, 16:13);
  3. We cannot predict His path because He only does what He hears from the Father (John 16:13).

Also see referernce: http://berithroad.blogspot.com/2012/12/meaning-of-wind-blowing-john-3-8.html

Nicodemus is supposed to know the spirit because:

                Answer:

  1. v11-21, 31-36: The Testimony, the Salvation, and the Judgement

        The comparison between John the Baptist and Jesus’ talks:

John the Baptist

Jesus

v31

A testimony from heaven

v11

A testimony from God

v32

No one receives the testimony

v12-13

No one believes the heavenly things

v33,36

He believes in Jesus is saved with eternal life

v15-18

He who believes in Jesus is saved with eternal life

v36

He who does not obey the Son has no life but wrath of God

v16,18

He who does not believe the Son is condemned and will perish

v14-15

Jesus’ sacrifice brings salvation

v34-35

God loves Jesus and gives all things to His hand, including the Spirit

v16

God loves the world

v19-21

He who does what is true loves the light, and he who does wicked things hates the light.

  1. v22-30: “He must increase, but I must decrease”

Explanation:         All the testimony I make before people, is to point people to God Himself. When people see me or hear my story, they should say “how great is God” instead of “how great is this person”.

                

==================================

⎯⎯   Kevin’s Notes ⎯⎯

1John 2:1-5

2:1

Though fellowship will prevent sin, John warns us that we still have chance to sin by using “may”.

2:2-5

John explains God’s perfect backup plan that Jesus is the advocate, propitiation.

Propitiation: a sacrifice that bears God’s wrath and turns it to favor.

The purpose of this plan is to 1) save us from sins if we sin 2) make us know God.

Save us from sins:

·        Jesus is the key for us to be saved from sins. (2:1-2)

·        Jesus could cleanse the sins of the whole world. (2:2)

Make us know God:

·        Through Jesus we can know our Creator. (2:3)

God does not only want to save us from sins, but also wants to build a personal relationship with Him through Jesus.

·        This personal relationship also is a sign of God’s perfect love. (2:5)

 

The way to fulfill this plan is keeping His commandments (2:3), walk in the same manner as He walked (2:6)

 

2:7-8

Old Commandment

You shall not take vengeance, nor bear any grudge against the sons of your people, but you shall love your neighbor as yourself; I am your LORD (Leviticus 19:18)

You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might (Deuteronomy 5:5)

New Commandment: love his brother (2:10)

 

Love LORD and others, a commandment already mentioned in OT, is reclaimed by John as new commandment.

What is the substantial difference between OT and NT that commends love others?

Bulake:

The good value from OT’s love is to teach us not to be selfish. However, this is NOT enough. What we know from our own experience is that often we don’t even love ourselves enough: we don’t treat our health seriously; we don’t discipline ourselves; we easily deny our worth; we engage in sins casually etc.. If this incomplete love becomes the only standard to love other people, then they will not be satisfied neither.

In the NT, the standard becomes Jesus’ love, which is selflessly, unconditionally, and sacrificially. Jesus re-defined love by He Himself*, so this old command now has a new meaning. That’s why 1 John 2:7-8 said: Beloved, I am writing you no new commandment, but an old commandment that you had from the beginning ...At the same time, it is a new commandment that I am writing to you...

As a pastor said: “The most difficult love is to love as God has loved you.”

* Jesus has defined lots of things by He Himself: love, God, righteousness, law, God’s word, life, way, truth etc. Unlike other religions which use explanations and logical statements to define those concepts, Jesus uses the life that He once has lived.

Writing to you (2:12-14): assurance to believer

Little children: your sins have been forgiven

Fathers: you know Him from the beginning

Young men: overcome the evil one. You are strong.

Children: you know the Father.

Topic Discussion 1:  Abide in God (2/4/17)

1John 2:24:

As for you, let that abide in you which you heard from the beginning. If what you heard from the beginning abides in you, you also will abide in the Son and in the Father.

Observation:

1. Two prescriptions to abide in God:

Heard from the beginning

The content of hearing from the beginning abides in you

2. “From the beginning” appears three times in 1John

1John 2:24, 3:8, 3:11

3. Heard from the beginning content: we should love one another

Interpretation:

“Hear” indicates  a. obedience. (Eph 4:21 if indeed you have heard Him and have been taught in Him)

 b. teachable heart (Mat 11:15 he who has ears to hear, let him hear)

“the beginning” is the greek word “arche”, meaning beginning, power, first, corner, principle, rule. It could also means rulers. (Eph 3:10 so that manifold wisdom of God might now be made known through the church and the rulers)

“The beginning” stresses on the authority of what we heard, also the power and source. In NT, most of the time “the beginning” (57 times) is often associated with creation, which portraits a strong and powerful force. But in few times, “the beginning” is also used in negative content:

for the devil has sinned from the beginning (1 john 3:8)

He was a murderer from the beginning (John 8:44)

It might indicates that the devil or sins are also powerful and last for a long time. When we are born, we naturally face two beginnings, one is creation or recreation (salvation), another is sin. both of them are powerful. But we have to hear the salvation beginning to put off the sinful beginning.  The creation or salvation beginning only asks us to do one thing: love.

Application:

We often take things for granted. Without asking the purpose behind things, we easily fall into wrong direction. Sins from beginning guarantee it happens. But fortunately we also have another beginning, which makes life. This beginning is powerful enough to change our direction, but it requires us to have a teachable heart to hear. Not only hear the content, this verse also asks us to abide. Abide is stronger verb compare to do. Abide means unity.

In this case, Paul’s standard of following the good beginning is to abide love in us. We don’t force ourselves or take a lot of efforts and pains to love, but we naturally love when love abides in us.

In a nutshell, this verse and other verses with the word beginning inform us we have two powers to originate us since the beginning. They are both powerful enough to decide our live. We need to hear the creation beginning to go to the right direction.

Topic Discussion 2:   Simeon’s prophecies ( 2/11/2017)

Sword will pierce your soul

Simeon blessed them and said to Mary His mother, Behold, this Child is appointed for the fall and rise of many in Israel, and for a sign to be opposed, and a sword will pierce even your own soul – to the end that thoughts from many hearts may be reveal(2:34 -35)

 

Observation:

Simeon blessed them, and prophesied:

The prophecies are divided into two parts:

Positive:

Rise of many in Israel

Thoughts from many hearts may be reveal

Negative:

Sign to be opposed

sword will pierce even your own soul

 

Interpretation:

Simeon’s prophecies clearly portrait life of Jesus, who died in the cross and cleansed our sins.

 

Application:

The scripture does not describe Mary’s reaction after hearing Simeon’s prophecies. Simeon’s prophecies start with “bless”, then followed by two brutal facts: sign to be opposed, sword will pierce your soul. Later we know this means Jesus was denied by Jews and Mary mourned Jesus’ death. Mary probably did not know what it means when she first heard the prophecies. She knew her Son was King and Savior from Lord according to what angel Gabriel told her before. But she did not know the salvation comes with Jesus’ death. Also, Simeon mentioned that Mary will be suffered from sword piercing soul, confirming that Mary’s future sorrow towards Jesus death.

This is hardly imagined as “bless” to Mary. But it is.

God has a bigger plan to save us, and it often beyond our imagination.

The similar prophecies could also been seen the last poem from Isaiah (In Isaiah 52:13- 53: 12)

Isaiah clearly prophesied that Servant will suffer to accomplish His will, (he was despised and forsaken of men, a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief…But the Lord was pleased to crush Him, putting Him to grief).

We often prefer a strong leader uses magnificent way to save us, like King David. But God sent Jesus in this humble way and make him suffer to redeem our sins. Also, Lord’s disciple like Mary will suffer through sorrows of Jesus loss. These hurts, from God’s providence, are our assurance to have a chance been saved for two reasons.  First, hurts are result of justice, but we cannot survive if hurts are made to us. Second, hurts to Jesus, making Him suffer and die, can illustrate the greatness of our sins once we realize Jesus is our Lord and He is innocent.

We should feel this pain as Jesus and Mary feel themselves, then we are truly blessed.  

 

Bulake’s comments: The observation is very good! You have seen both the positive and negative parts. And yes, both of these 2 parts are actually good to humans.

The first half of application can serve as the interpretation, and it will be very good.

The second half of application (from “We often prefer a strong leader ...”) is more like a sermon, because it sounds like a person writing or speaking to the public. Instead, if you can share the application based on your own life experience, that will be great! (For example, when I shared my application of this chapter, I shared from the perspectives of my work, ministry, and marriage, and illustrated my actual struggles.)

Mgs

Luke 2: 22-40 PSIF Bible Study

Jesus Presented at the Temple

Structure:

22-24 Law of Moses:

Law of the Lord: 25-35

Simeon prophets 36-38

Anna thanks God 39-40

Return to Nazareth

 

Questions:

1.      How Simeon is described?

Righteous, devout, HS with him

Do you know anyone who has HS with him?

 

2.      How Anna is described?

Never left the temple, worshiping with fasting and prayers night and day.

Do you know any older people worship God in this faithful and diligent way?

 

3.      The content of Simeon’s testament?

My eyes have seen your salvation (2:30) – he would not see death before he had seen the Lord’s Christ (2:26)

4.      The content of Simeon’s prophecies?

a.      appointed for the fall,

b.      rising of many in Israel,

c.      sign opposed,

d.      sword will pierce Mary’s soul,

e.      thoughts from heart reveal

 

5.      What did Anna do after seeing Jesus?

Give thanks to God, speak of Him

 

6.      Challenging questions about Simeon’s prophets:

 

consolation of Israel?

Salvation  (2:30)

 

a sword will pierce even your own soul?

Mary was standing outside the tomb weeping

 

Thoughts from many hearts revealed?

   

1.      Background Verses:

Leviticus 12New International Version (NIV)

Purification After Childbirth

12 The Lord said to Moses, 2 “Say to the Israelites: ‘A woman who becomes pregnant and gives birth to a son will be ceremonially unclean for seven days, just as she is unclean during her monthly period. 3 On the eighth day the boy is to be circumcised. 4 Then the woman must wait thirty-three days to be purified from her bleeding. She must not touch anything sacred or go to the sanctuary until the days of her purification are over. 5 If she gives birth to a daughter, for two weeks the woman will be unclean, as during her period. Then she must wait sixty-six days to be purified from her bleeding.

6 “‘When the days of her purification for a son or daughter are over, she is to bring to the priest at the entrance to the tent of meeting a year-old lamb for a burnt offering and a young pigeon or a dove for a sin offering.[a] 7 He shall offer them before the Lord to make atonement for her, and then she will be ceremonially clean from her flow of blood.

“‘These are the regulations for the woman who gives birth to a boy or a girl. 8 But if she cannot afford a lamb, she is to bring two doves or two young pigeons, one for a burnt offering and the other for a sin offering. In this way the priest will make atonement for her, and she will be clean.’”

 

Exodus 13 1-2 New International Version (NIV)

Consecration of the Firstborn

13 The Lord said to Moses, 2 “Consecrate to me every firstborn male. The first offspring of every womb among the Israelites belongs to me, whether human or animal.”

Bulake’s comments: it will be great if you can think of 1 theme (or 1 take-away message) of this chapter, and then organize your observation, interpretation, and application questions according to this 1 theme. So that when the small group finishes this Bible study and you give a conclusion, you can re-emphasize on this 1 theme, and people will remember it and take it back home.

Kevin’s comments: great advice. I think for the small group, theme could be how to be a good servant. We could use examples of Simeon and Anna to study. So the theme question:

How to be a good servant:

  1. being thankful to God
  2. good, diligent work
  3. waiting for God
  4. righteous, devout
  5. with HS  

Topic Discussion 3: Test spirit

1John 4:1

Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world.

 

Observation:

Do not: believe every spirit

Do: test the spirits

Because: false prophets

“spirits” use plurals form, it is different from One Spirit in Ephesians

 

Interpretation:

1.      There are many spirits, some from God and some from false prophets.

2.      We have to test spirits, because the spirit from false prophets is harmful.

3.      The test criteria is “whether every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh”

4.      The false prophets or antichrist are already in the world.

5.      They are even more dangerous than common non believers because “they went out from us, but they were not really of us”. They can easily deceive Christians.

 

Application:

John informed us that antichrist has already come into the world. Antichrist is dangerous in John’s description for three reasons. First, the spirit of antichrist does not confess Jesus. Second, the antichrist is from Christian community, but went out. So they are familiar with Christianity and can influence believers by their false prophecies. Third, the antichrist is already in the world.

As believer, we have obligation to test spirits. John pointed out that test criteria that if the spirit confesses Jesus Christ. This is hard to apply because I believe that most prophets in Christian community could at least talk about Jesus. Later John explained that “they are from world therefore they speak as from the world, and the world listens to them”. It might suggest that antichrist just uses Jesus as a tool to speak their own spirit to the world and Christian community. When this happens, it is hard to judge Jesus related statement from antichrist unless we Christians know Jesus very well. It reminds me of President Obama’s support for LGBT community. Previously I agreed with him that we should not discriminate LGBT. But later I realize love or compassion does not eliminate the fact and consequence of sin. Sin is still sin.

Since John only gave us one criteria of spirit test: the spirit confesses Jesus Christ, we have to explore what it really means to “confess Jesus Christ”.

Also, I realize we should be very careful when we are in Christian community. We have to be immune from false prophets. They are even more dangerous from attacks of non-Christians. But Jesus also told us not to judge others. It indicates that we are likely to be judgemental by own moral standards. So when detecting or judging “false prophecies”, we need to be very careful not falling to the judgmental trap.

Third, I myself need to carefully walk in Christian community. Pray for Holy Spirit that not let any words related antichrist come to my month.  

Bulake’s feedback:

This reflection’s application is in details and closely related to life:

  1. You connected it to Obama who can be very deceiving to Christians. His statement essentially is “loving the sinful action” instead of “loving the sinful people”.  
  2. You noticed that it is not simple to balance between “testing the spirit” and “do not judge”. I believe the former is more towards the “spiritual facts”, and the later is more towards the “people”.
  3. In the end you related this to yourself.

I think there can be more cross references in the study of this verse. For example, in John10:7-10, Jesus also mentioned about his verification. 1 John 2:22-23, John 5:23 etc.

Topic Discussion 4: Confidence and Ask

1John 5:14-15

This is the confidence which we have before Him, that, if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us. And if we know that He hears us in whatever we ask, we know that we have the requests which we have asked from Him.

 

Observation:

1.      “This” refers to the purpose that John wrote the letter to us, to let us know that we may have eternal life.

2.      Because there is eternal life ahead, we have confidence based on it.

3.      Our confidence allows us to ask anything that is according to His will.

4.      He hears what we asked, but it does not indicate that He will answer us immediately.

5.      Even when He does not answer us immediately, we have confidence that He have our requests.

Interpretation:

When we ask, we should have confidence our request will be fulfilled, or at least we know it is heard. The only requirement for what we ask is according to His will. The verse here does not explain that how to follow God’s will. But in the whole letter, abiding in Christ seems an answer. If we abide in Christ, what we want should also be a reflection of God’s will.

 

Application:

We need dare to ask by praying. Praying is the only direct channel that we can communicate with God. But sometimes we fall to pray due to a lot of reasons. One for me is discouragement stemmed from prayers not happening. When this occurs, we need to ask one question. Is what I ask according to God’s will or my will? If it is my will and I cannot find any biblical reasons to support it might be God’s will, I probably shouldn’t ask at first place. If we detect this is also according to God’s will, we should have confidence that God hears it. Because He is righteous God and merciful God, He keeps our request and will determine whether let it happens.

Therefore, we should not stop asking God. But before we ask, we need pray what we ask is according to His will. And we need to be confident to continue to ask even it does not happen, for we know He keeps our request and controls everything.

Bulake’s feedback:

The highlight of this reflection is “what we want should also be a reflection of God’s will.” James 4:2-3 explains this very well:  “You do not have because you do not ask. You ask and do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, so that you may spend it on your pleasures.” The #1 reason why we do not get what we have prayed for, is that we prayed for our own pleasures. And indeed, the more we abide in Jesus, the more we will know His will, which we can pray according to.

The application can be more specific. For instance, we can illustrate one unanswered prayer and reflect on why it was not granted. Or we can give an example on how one particular prayer was answered because it was asked in the alignment of God’s will, and how did I know it was also God’s will.

Making an application specific will help us see the real status of our current life, and it will upgrade our reflection from just a reading commentary to a response of the living Word.

1John Structure (working progress)

Bulake’s feedback:

This is very good! And I think this is also clear and of clarity.

Inspired by this, I found many other books (1 Corinthians, Galatians, Ephesians, 1 Thessalonians, 1 Peter etc.) all have a similar structure:

Reminding the readers of their eternal identity  God’s promise

 Commands (or warnings) Applications of the Commands  God’s promise

Topic Discussion 5: Overcoming the world

John 5:4

For whatever is born of God overcomes the world and this is the victory that has overcome the world—our faith.

Observation:

1.      “Whatever” emphasizes God’s authority and ability to defeat the world and evils.

2.      Faith connects us with God to gain this ability and win the victory.

3.      World needs to be overcome.

Implication:

“Overcome” is the Greek word “nikao”, has the same meaning with conquer. It appears 28 times in 24 verses in NT. John uses 20 verses of them—5 in 1John, 15 in Revelation. It seems that John has strong preference to use the idea of overcoming. Overcoming or conquer implies that we have to confront the objects we need to overcome or conquer. In 1John, the objects refer two things—evil and world. In Revelation, objects refer to war and beasts. Through John’s emphasis of overcoming, it seems that God wants to remind us at least two illustrations. First, the world has the strong correlations with evils, war, and beasts. Second, overcoming indicates time, efforts, sacrifice, sweat and blood to get through the battle. It’s never easy.

Application:

It makes me gradually realize the world is not that peaceful to me when I grow up. But sometimes when I feel a short moment of happiness, success and relaxation, I will forget it. Then God will let some bad things happen to me, make me frustrated, or let my lust lead me sin and offend God. The frustration quenches my positive feelings with Jesus. Satan uses my frustration to encourage me to go in the direction of anger, anxiety and desperation. The offending of God, such as watching porn, will disappoint God, and separates me from God. Both hurt myself  devastatingly until I recall this is a battle. I should not have naive expectation to this world. This world is not good. Then I shouldn’t become that frustrated. God reminds us as Christians, we need to realize this world is a battle, not a peaceful place. We always need to be as status of soldiers, always ready to fight with our sins and Satan until we overcome them. No Christians can escape this battle. God sends us to this world, not ask us to enjoy this world, but to be trained to overcome it so that we have a chance to become true Christians. The world means evils, wars and battles. They always exist, they don't go away and they need us to overcome under our faith towards God. We should always remember this.

Bulake’s comment:

A very nice and applicable reflection on the essence of this world. According to my own experience, the world usually lure us in two ways:

  1. Making us believe that there can be peace between our sinful nature and our godly nature;
  2. Making us believe that we can pursue worldly achievement and eternal treasure at the same time.

However, the book of 1 John  already denies these 2 illusions by:

  1. 1 John 3:7-8  Little children, let no one deceive you. Whoever practices righteousness is righteous, as He is righteous.  Whoever makes a practice of sinning is of the devil, for the devil has been sinning from the beginning. The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the works of the devil.
  2. 1 John 2:15-16  Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world--the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and pride in possessions--is not from the Father but is from the world.

As your note on the book of Eph, in this battle we are either victorious or lost. There is no gray area in between.

In addition, the way we Christians fight against our sinful nature and worldly desire are different from that of an ordinary battle (with strength and weapons). This is because we are fighting in the spiritual realm instead of the physical. Similarly, Satan’s attacks are more likely to be lies and temptations instead of physical harm. Therefore the book of Eph 6:10-20 has shown us the way of our battle:

  1. Our strength comes from the understanding of truth (Eph 6:14)
  2. Our heart is protected from delusion by living our life according God’s righteousness (Eph 6:14)
  3. We stand firm by having the assurance of eternal life, and we move to offense by sharing the good news to others. (Eph 6:15)
  4. We push back Satan’s lies and temptations by having faith in God and God’s promises. (Eph 6:16)
  5. We preserve our hope, thoughts, and eternal perspectives by keeping reminding ourselves of our salvation (Eph 6:17)
  6. We fight back by prayers for ourselves and all other Christians. (Eph 6:17-18)

Therefore, a Christian soldier can be weak in his physical body, but strong in his heart and mind.

Topic Discussion 6: Titus Outline

Key theme:

Faith & Practice

Belief & Behavior

Style:

paraenesis (for advice and exhortation to continue in a certain way of life)

Outline:

1:1-3 opening, general Christian doctrine: hope of eternal life promised by God

1:4 opening, related to Titus

1:5-9 qualities of good elders

1:10-16 qualities of false teachers

2:1-5 older men and older women ways of living by faith

2:6-10 younger men guidance to practice faith

2:11-14 devine base behind the doctrine

2:15 summarize the exhortation

3:1-2 the guidance to live in secular world with outsiders or unbelievers

3:3-7 Gospel basis of living the way with unbelievers

3:8 summarize the exhortation

3: 9-11 coveat

3: 12-15 close exhortation

Topic Discussion 7: Pugnacious

Titus 1:7-8

For the overseer must be above reproach as God’s steward, not self-willed, not quick-tempered, not addicted to wine, not pugnacious, nod fond of sordid gain,

But hospitable loving what is good, sensible, just, devout, self-controlled.

Obersvation: 

Paul claims that the elder must be above reproach. He only mentioned five sins we should avoid. They even don’t include prideness and sexual immorality. Among five negative characters, pugnacity is the only one I cannot recall in other books of Bible.

Interpretation:

These five sins, in many ways, do not look as harmful as some sins like prideness, envy, and adulteries. So one of reasons I think Paul listed them here is they are easy to ignore. For example, sometimes it is hard to separate self-willed and obedient to God-will, and it is easy to go from being angry to quick-tempered, drinking wine to be addicted to wine, covet things to fond of sordid gain, because God does not forbid to be angry, drink wine, and covet. But over all, pugnacity is the most difficult one to discern, because the line between being pugnacious and emotional is blurred. Also, being pugnacious is not always against some key principles of Christian life. For example, one could be pugnacious against others but still love others. In fact, being pugnacious is encouraged in a lot of culture, especially for men. We sometimes use the word “competitive” or “tough” to describe it in a positive way. But to be above reproach, Paul characterized it as something we should avoid.

Application:

 I could think some arguments to support being pugnacious in today’s society. First, it shows one’s strength and toughness. Second, it protects you from being hurt or taken advantage by others. Third, it helps to concentrate and improve the performance. We could see a lot of pugnacious people in a lot of highly combative sports, like basketball, football, and we often praise and admire them. Unfortunately, through Christian perspective, being pugnacious is below reproach for Christian leaders. Recently, I find myself has a tendency to be pugnacious, especially has a tendency to argue with people. I met this problem when I talked gospels to non-believer friends, talked some important topics with Christian friends, or simply argued some nonsense topics with friends who would also like to argue. I originally just want to speak what I think, but when arguments come, I often fall to defend myself, even I am wrong. If I want to develop something above reproach, being pugnacious is the first thing I need to pay attention to.

However, sometimes I do need that passion to make me focus and think quickly. Pray to God that help me to know the difference between being passionate and pugnacious, and keep me out of pugnacity in His standard.