October 16, 2021Day 289
Paul just can't stop testifying about the beauty and riches of God's grace. Once again, it was hard to choose a study verse. Look at the first part, where Paul explains why he was chosen specifically as the apostle to bring Jew and Gentile together forever. Then look at the middle part, where he speaks of the plan of salvation through the ages. We've heard about it for 2,000 years now—imagine how thrilling it was when it was brand new to the people! Finally look at the end, where Paul prays for the Ephesians—and for you!
October 14, 2021Day 287
Paul wrote this letter while he was in prison in Rome, and scholars think that he wrote it not only to the churches in Ephesus, but to the whole church, all over the world. That makes it especially applicable to us today (though of course all the Bible is). It is one of Paul's most beautiful letters. The first half of this chapter is a lyrical restatement of the gospel, Paul's lifelong devotion. It is hard to choose a study verse. Find your favorites and write them down to learn. How do you think someone in prison could write such a cheerful, blessing-filled letter?
October 13, 2021Day 286
So, what should we do if we see someone falling into either the sin of “doing whatever we want because we're free” or the sin of “being good, being good, trying hard to be good enough so God will love me”? Paul shows the balancing act. Try to restore the person with gentleness and compassion. You might be the one to fall next, so treat that brother or sister as you hope to be treated. But also, be cautious, because you might fall into their sin if you're too “gentle” about it. It's hard. In fact, it's impossible. Unless, of course, you are listening moment by moment to the leading of the one and only One who really knows that person and how to reach them.
October 12, 2021Day 285
The most surprising thing about this controversy is that these are not bad things that Paul is speaking against. It's not as if he's saying not to keep the law. It's that we must not depend on that law-keeping to save us. In the second half of this chapter, he reminds his listeners that although they are free, they are not to use that freedom to do evil. If they did, they would immediately fall straight back into slavery under the devil. We are free—free to love, free to trust, free to do more good than we ever thought possible back when we were struggling to Be Good Enough.
October 11, 2021Day 284
Would you rather be a son or daughter, or a slave? Of course, you would rather be a child of the King! What an inheritance! Paul explains that all people, not just Jews, are spiritual children of Abraham, and more importantly, children of God. When you read verse 6, be sure to say daughter if you are a daughter. What have you inherited already from your kingly heavenly Father? What are you looking forward to inheriting? Do you struggle with some of these same issues, worrying that you will not be perfect enough? Which verses give you the most help and comfort?
October 10, 2021Day 283
Again, as in Romans, Paul lays out his understanding of salvation by grace alone. He speaks to a misconception that is common to this day. People think, “Okay, we're saved by grace. Now, to show our gratitude to God, we have to work hard to be perfect.” What does Paul say to this attitude in verse 3? The last few verses of this chapter are some of the most important in the New Testament. What do you think would happen in your home, school, church, and community of those verses were truly lived?
October 9, 2021Day 282
In this chapter, Paul tells a story of a time when he even rebuked Peter. Knowing what we do of Peter, and of his fall on the night Jesus was arrested, it's easy to see why he might be afraid of being too lenient and losing his salvation. He had fallen prey to those who insisted that all Old Testament laws must be kept, and Paul had to speak sternly to his face. We can know, though he doesn't complete the story here, that Peter recognized that Paul was right. This shows how even experienced leaders in the church can make mistakes, but can also lovingly set each other straight—and can listen to each other. Reread verses 15-21. What is your response?
October 8, 2021Day 281
In this letter, Paul must fight strongly to prevent the Galatian churches from falling into complete apostasy. Often we see apostasy as being turning away from God's law; that was what had threatened the Corinthians. But apostasy can also be turning to laws instead of to God. In this case, some people are insisting that carefully keeping all Old Testament Jewish laws and ceremonies is the only way to be saved. This is precisely the view Jesus came and spent His life combating. In this first chapter, Paul sets forth his credentials—why should they listen to him? Because his call came direct from God, not from any human or any church or synagogue.
2 Corinthians 13
October 7, 2021Day 280
Paul finishes his letter, first with some stern warnings, in case there are still some who have not repented of sins he rebuked earlier, then with a return to love and compassion. He mentions a third letter here, which has been lost to time. Some believe that this third letter is the one in which he was even more stern and disciplinary than he was in 1 Corinthians, but we don't know for sure. Still, verse 11 by itself, if followed, would solve all other problems. Would you agree? Why or why not?