Week Forty-Nine Reading Assignment:
Philippians 2 - 2 Timothy 2
"You must come to the word with the special help of the Holy Spirit. The Bible was given by the inspiration of the Holy Spirit. It can only be properly read by the same divine help. He who gave it illuminates it. He who spoke through prophet and apostle knows best how to use what he has given."
This Week's Teaching Video: Living at the End of Time
Charting our progress
Character Profile: As to Zeal
When he writes his marvelous letter to the Christians in Philippi, Paul tells about his former life — the period he lived before he came to know Christ. And as he describes what kind of man he was, he illustrates his earnest efforts to serve God with this phrase: “as to zeal, (I was) a persecutor of the church.”
When Paul that that the followers of Jesus represented a heresy and a threat to the truth, he did not merely stand around shaking his head and criticizing. He didn’t wring his hands and say, ‘What a terrible shame… Someone really ought to do something about it!’
No, Paul took action. He zealously set out to destroy this new group and the heresy they were propagating. He even traveled about, “breathing murderous threats,” as the Scripture says, trying to hunt down and snuff out the church wherever it existed.
Then Paul came to know Christ and the truth of the gospel. he discovered that the proclamation of Jesus as the Christ was not a threat to the truth but rather was the truth — saving truth, and good news from God!
Once he discovered that truth, Paul did not just stand around shaking his head about all those who hadn’t heard or didn’t know. He didn’t wring his hands and say, ‘Someone really ought to do something about it!’
No, Paul took action. He zealously set out to preach, to proclaim, and to per-suade. He even traveled about, sharing the good news all around the ancient Mediterranean world.
And so, “as to zeal,” he was an evangelist of the church. And an example to us all.
What to Watch for This Month
We typically associate the following themes and emphases more with the Old Testament than with the New: holiness, judgment, animal sacrifices, separation of God’s people from other peoples, covenants, circumcision, Law. Reflect again on the extent to which these themes and emphases appear in the New Testament.
What continuity do Paul and the other epistle writers see between the Old Testament and the gospel of Christ?
Based on the glimpse provided in the epistles, identify in what ways the New Testament church resembles the church today, and in what ways the New Testa-ment church seem very different from the church today.
Like the Prophets, the Epistles give us a glimpse into the contemporary struggles of God’s people. What sins, failures, issues, and struggles seem prevalent in the early church?
The New Testament epistles endeavor to correct, at different times and in different places, both wrong living and wrong doctrine. Which type of correction would you say is most needed in the church today?
The New Testament is all about the gospel (i.e., “good news”). In addition to the first four books being known as “the Gospels,” the word “gospel” appears over 60 times throughout the New Testa-ment. How would you summarize that “good news”?
Jesus gives His followers a variety of instructions about their mission (e.g., Matthew 4:19, 10:7-10, 28:19-20). As you reflect on the apostles and the early church, evaluate how well they followed those instructions or fulfilled their mission.
At the end of a day’s reading, it might be helpful to ask, “If I didn’t know anything about God except for what I read today, what would I know about Him?”