The Gospel at Pentecost

.... In 1 Corinthians 15:1-5, Paul defines the gospel message. It includes four elements, which were always present when the gospel was preached in every example from the Book of Acts. Those elements were as follows: .
1. An understanding of who Jesus is (see Romans 10:9)
2. Jesus died for our sins, according to the Scriptures.
3. Jesus was raised again on the third day, according to the Scriptures.
4. Jesus was seen, after His resurrection, by many witnesses.

(1 Corinthians 15:1-5)

.... In the passage below, the gospel was preached for the first time after the coming of the Holy Spirit, as Peter spoke out on the Day of Pentecost (Acts 2:22-36). Please read his message and see if you can locate those four points within it. The answers and some further commentary will appear in the ‘comments’ section:
22 "Men of Israel, hear these words: Jesus of Nazareth, a Man attested by God to you by miracles, wonders, and signs which God did through Him in your midst, as you yourselves also know-- 23. Him, being delivered by the determined purpose and foreknowledge of God, you have taken by lawless hands, have crucified, and put to death; 24. whom God raised up, having loosed the pains of death, because it was not possible that He should be held by it. 25. For David says concerning Him: 'I foresaw the Lord always before my face, for He is at my right hand, that I may not be shaken. 26. Therefore my heart rejoiced, and my tongue was glad; moreover my flesh also will rest in hope. 27. For You will not leave my soul in Hades, nor will You allow Your Holy One to see corruption. 28. You have made known to me the ways of life; you will make me full of joy in Your presence.' 29. Men and brethren, let me speak freely to you of the patriarch David, that he is both dead and buried, and his tomb is with us to this day. 30. Therefore, being a prophet, and knowing that God had sworn with an oath to him that of the fruit of his body, according to the flesh, He would raise up the Christ to sit on his throne, 31. he, foreseeing this, spoke concerning the resurrection of the Christ, that His soul was not left in Hades, nor did His flesh see corruption. 32. This Jesus God has raised up, of which we are all witnesses. 33. Therefore being exalted to the right hand of God, and having received from the Father the promise of the Holy Spirit, He poured out this which you now see and hear. 34. For David did not ascend into the heavens, but he says himself: 'The Lord said to my Lord, "Sit at My right hand, 35. Till I make Your enemies Your footstool."' 36. Therefore let all the house of Israel know assuredly that God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Christ."

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Daily Bible Reading: Matthew 9

The Gospel Defined

.... A person’s final words carry special significance, and Jesus’ final commandment on the earth was to preach the gospel (Mark 16:15). The mystery of God, foretold through the ages, would be revealed through it. Our souls would be redeemed by it. Signs and wonders would follow it, and every nation on earth would hear it before the end. Yet in modern times, the meaning of ‘the gospel’ has become obscure and its preaching has become vague. In the sleepiness of time, it has evolved into a generic term for all Christian teachings. But is that how God intended it?
.... In fact, Paul gave an actual definition of the gospel to tell us the information this message contains. It includes four basic parts, of which the knowledge of Jesus is chief:.

.... "Moreover, brethren, I declare to you the gospel which I preached to you, which also you received and in which you stand . . . For I delivered to you first of all that which I also received: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, and that He was buried, and that He rose again the third day according to the Scriptures, and that He was seen by Cephas, then by the twelve . . ."

(1 Corinthians 15:1-5)

.... So Paul’s definition of the gospel includes these four elements:
1. An understanding of who Jesus is (see Romans 10:9)
2. Jesus died for our sins, according to the Scriptures.
3. Jesus was raised again on the third day, according to the Scriptures.
4. Jesus was seen, after His resurrection, by many witnesses.
.... Each time the gospel was preached in the book of Acts — whether by Peter on the day of Pentecost or by Paul in a synagogue somewhere in Asia Minor — those four elements were included (Acts 2:22-36; 3:12-19; 4:8-13,20; 10:36-43; 13:23-38). Together, they represent the heart of the gospel message. This is the specific information one must hear and take to heart in trusting Jesus, in order to be saved from their sins by Him. We will continue this discussion in our next posting,

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Daily Bible Reading: Matthew 8

The Good News of Jesus Christ

..... The word 'Gospel’ comes from an old English word that means ‘good news’, so our first thought may be to ask, "What is the good news?" but if this is our question, we are not really understanding the situation rightly. We should really be thinking in terms of Who is the good news; for the good news of God is found in a Person, Jesus Christ, and not simply in a plan or a spiritual program. The Apostle Paul would put it this way:
.... "I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes."
(Romans 1:16)
.... The psalmist agreed that the good news was about a person:

.... "I will praise You, for You have answered me, and have become my salvation. The stone which the builders rejected has become the chief cornerstone. This was the LORD'S doing; it is marvelous in our eyes."

(Psalm 118:21-23)

.... So at this most basic stage, let’s focus on the true intention of God in offering us the gospel message. He does not intend to introduce a religious system, a moral code, or a beneficial plan. It’s not about duties and a payoff. All of those concepts speak of arrangements, but God’s intention is much more intimate. He wants something interpersonal, that will utterly transform us as we believe in Jesus, and lead to an ever deeper and more meaningful relationship with Him as time unfolds (2 Corinthians 5:17-20; Ephesians 4:13-15).

.... Our modern minds are rather autonomous and seem to prefer the ‘arrangement’ mentality. We’ve been taught about a ‘Plan’ of salvation rather than a Person of salvation, so this concept may seem strange to us. Therefore, let’s offer a parable to define it further:

.... A young woman married a man from a wealthy country. Because of her marriage, she became a citizen of that country -- but in his culture this arrangement was viewed in a special way. Instead of issuing her a second citizenship that was exactly the same as his, his own citizenship was expanded to include her. In this way she fully receives every benefit of the kingdom through her union with her husband, by virtue of his birthright in the land.
.. In the same way, it has pleased the Father that in Christ all the fullness should dwell and we are espoused to Him through believing in the gospel (Colossians 1:19; 2 Corinthans 11:2). Through this we become one spirit with Him and we receive a new citizenship that is in no way autonomous (1 Corinthians 6:17; Philippians 3:20).
.... It is only through this relationship, by our abiding in Him, that every benefit may be fully realized, as the scope of His life expands to include ourselves -- yet always in terms of His very own life, and we in Him (2 Corinthians 1:20).

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Daily Bible Reading: Matthew 7

The Ministry of the Christ

.... Since the fall of man in the Garden of Eden, the wages of sin has been death, and death has reigned over all men because all have sinned (Romans 5:12; 6:23). But when Jesus came into the world He was sinless, which means that He never had to die -- yet He gave His life anyway. So let’s take a moment and think about what that means. Basically, it would allow Him to offer His life as a sacrifice, to pay the penalty of death on behalf of others:
.... "but now, once at the end of the ages, He has appeared to put away sin by the sacrifice of Himself."

(Hebrews 9:26)
.... The basic idea behind a ‘sacrifice’ is to switch places, so Jesus died in our place as our substitute (2 Corinthians 5:21). By paying the penalty of sin in our place, it is said that He ‘redeemed’ us (Titus 2:14). Because this redemption involved actual persons, it is also called a ‘ransom’ (Matthew 20:28). In this way Jesus redeemed us both from sin and from death, which is the penalty of sin (John 17:2-3).

.... But on the third day, as the prophets foretold of Him, Jesus rose from the dead. Since He was the Prince of Life, it was impossible for death to hold Him (Acts 2:24). And just as He was given a new life, a new life will be given to those who believe in Him. This bond of fellowship is based on our faith and trust in God – the very place where Adam had failed. The complete situation, including our redemption, our new life, and our ongoing relationship with the Lord, is called our ‘salvation’.

.... After we become ‘saved’ in this manner, God keeps working in our lives to make us more like Jesus. Sometimes this is called our ‘sanctification’. Sanctification takes place on an individual basis, but it is greatly enhanced when Christians join together in a community and the pieces start fitting together:
.... "For whom He foreknew, He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the firstborn among many brethren."
(Romans 8:29)

Forty days after Jesus rose from the dead, He ascended to heaven to sit on the right hand of God -- for the Father made Him Lord of all. But He will return to the earth one day to judge the world in righteousness, and we will all stand before Him on that Day to give an account of ourselves. Everything in our lives that looks like Him, because we have trusted in Him, will speak of the relationship we established with Him in our lives. He will be glorified in us through this, and He will give us eternal life and other rewards. Most importantly, we will abide in His presence forever.

.... The life of Jesus and His sacrifice is the major theme of the New Testament and of the entire Bible. His actual life is recounted in the Books of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. Everything that took place in the Bible before this, in the Old Testament, ultimately pointed toward Him to introduce Him; and every book that followed afterward points back to Him, to fully explain His meaning.
.... Congratulations! With this framework in place, our discussion in discipleship is ready to begin.
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Daily Bible Reading: Matthew 6

The Messiah Foretold

... In our previous two postings we discussed the major themes of the Old Testament, including the creation of the heavens and the earth, the fall of mankind as sin entered the world through Adam, and God’s desire to restore man to fellowship with Himself -- which He would one day accomplish through the Messiah or 'anointed one', or the Greek equivalent, 'the Christ' (Isaiah 49:6; 53:6). We also discussed the devil and his interfering role.

.... To mend the fallen situation that began with Adam, God would send the Messiah among us. He would be born to a virgin so as not to inherit man’s sinful nature. This, in fact, would make Him a ‘second Adam’ (1 Corinthians 15:45-49); but in order to actually prevail, He would have to face every test that mankind had failed, without ever sinning Himself (Hebrews 4:15). For many centuries God foretold this man, speaking of His life through His servants the prophets. And in the fullness of time each of those prophecies were fulfilled in Jesus of Nazareth, who is called the Christ.

.... Jesus is the Son of God, and He has always existed, even before His birth in Bethlehem (see Genesis 1:26; Micah 5:2; John 1:1; Colosiians 1:16). When He was born into this world, like one of us, He became fully human, though He remained fully Divine as well (Colossians 2:9). For only such a person could fully experience every temptation of man, yet pass them all without sinning:

.... "For we do not have a High Priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but was in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin. Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need."

(Heb 4:15-16)

.... The life that Jesus lived became a model for us all, that we may be reborn in Him and walk with God righteously. God builds His own godly character in our lives through His grace by making us more like Jesus. It is for this reason that the first four books of the New Testament (which tell us of His life), are called ‘the gospels’, or the 'Good news' of Jesus Christ. But in order to enter this life we must pass through death into a new life in Him, which we will discuss in our next posting.

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.......................................................................... Daily Bible Reading: Matthew 5

The Adversary and the Promise

..... In our previous posting we introduced the early history of the Old Testament including the creation of mankind, our limited dominion over the earth and our fall into sin. But we also mentioned that man was tempted by the devil, which led to this sinful fall. So let’s take a moment to talk about the devil, who is also called Satan (which literally means ‘adversary’).
... Satan’s actual, proper name is 'Lucifer' and he was once the greatest of the angels, full of wisdom and perfect in beauty (Ezekiel 28:12-17). But he became proud and lifted up in his heart and actually imagined that he could replace God, so God rejected him and cast him to the earth (Isaiah 14:12-20)..

.... "How you are fallen from heaven, O Lucifer, son of the morning! How you are cut down to the ground, you who weakened the nations! For you have said in your heart: 'I will ascend into heaven, I will exalt my throne above the stars of God; I will also sit on the mount of the congregation on the farthest sides of the north; I will ascend above the heights of the clouds, I will be like the Most High.' Yet you shall be brought down to Sheol, to the lowest depths of the Pit."

(Isaiah 14:12-15)

.... At that time, Satan drew a third of the angels into rebellion with him (Revelation 12:4), and they began to be called demons.

.... Satan and his demons are powerful, but it is important to understand that they simply cannot be compared to the far, far greater power of God Himself, who is the Almighty. Nevertheless, Satan would love to deceive you into thinking otherwise.

.... For example, many Christians today have been told that when man fell into sin in the garden, he was tricked into surrendering his earthly dominion to Satan, who now controls the earth in our stead. Thus, they believe that Satan is now in charge, and even God has been reduced to a sort of ‘Guerilla warfare’ in which He is constantly constrained to operate through a system of ‘legal rights’, which greatly hinders Him. But this is completely unsupported by the Scriptures. God has always remained sovereign, and does whatever pleases Him, while Satan is the one who operates through lawlessness (2 Thessalonian 2:8-9). But doesn’t that sound like something the devil would love for you to believe?
.... "Whatever the LORD pleases He does, in heaven and in earth, in the seas and in all deep places."
(Psalm 135:6)
.... For more information on this subject, click on the break-out module entitled Spiritual Warfare Revisited, which is in the right-hand column.
.... But for now let’s return to the plight of man in our own sins. Sin made a separation between ourselves and God (Isaiah 59:2). Our relationship with Him was greatly strained by sin, to our sorrow, and God shared in that sorrow from the depths of His own heart. His sense of justice required punishment for our sins, but in His mercy He would also make a Way for us to be restored to Him. For at the same time that mankind fell, God spoke of the Messiah, or Christ, whom He would send into the world, and of the judgment that would come through Him upon the serpent:

.... "So the LORD God said to the serpent: "Because you have done this, you are cursed more than all cattle, and more than every beast of the field; on your belly you shall go, and you shall eat dust all the days of your life. And I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your seed and her Seed; he shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise His heel."

(Genesis 3:14-15)

.... Through the rest of the Old Testament, God worked through a man called Abraham and his descendants, including the nation of Israel, to usher in the atonement for our sins and to fully restore our relationship with Him. He spoke through His servant Moses in giving the Books of the Law but the actual measures He introduced there were symbolic. They were designed as a foreshadow, or a hint, of what He would eventually do through the Messiah Himself when He came (Galatians 3:24; Hebrews 3:5-6).
.... God also spoke of the Messiah through His servants the prophets, who foretold His coming and the meaning of His life in very great detail (Psalm 40:7; Amos 3:7). Through Him, God would perform His true work on the earth in dealing with our sins. The Greek word for Messiah is ‘Christ’, and we will discuss Him further in our next posting.
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Daily Bible Reading: Matthew 4

The Creation and Fall of Man

..... When Jesus taught the apostles, He could safely count on their familiarity with the major themes of the Bible. It was, after all, a definitive part of their culture and this formed a useful setting for their discussions. But times have changed and it is no longer safe to assume that everyone has this background. So over the next four lessons let's discuss those major themes, beginning with the Old Testament perspective.

.... The Old Testament tells us how God worked in the world before Jesus came (B.C.). The book of Genesis, which is the first book of the Bible, tells us how He created the heavens and the earth in six days, and on the seventh day (called the ‘Sabbath’) God rested from His works.

.... God’s crowning achievement in the creation was mankind, since man was created in God's own image and was therefore nearest to Him (Genesis 1:26); and after the creation was completed, God put man in charge of the earth. This was an arrangement called pro-rex, in which man exercised a limited dominion, though everything on the earth (including man) remained under God’s greater reign as well (Genesis 1:26; Psalm 103:19). God planted a garden in a place called Eden, and there He placed the first man in order to tend the garden. The first woman was also created to join him, and their names were Adam and Eve.

.... In those early days, man walked with God perfectly. But this was not true righteousness; it was better described as innocence because God had not yet given them any laws. Without laws, there was no way that a law could be broken. Since man was made in the similitude of God, there was a natural, family-like harmony between them -- but this would change. Because actually, there was just one law that God had given them:

.... "And the LORD God commanded the man, saying, "Of every tree of the garden you may freely eat; but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die."

(Gen 2:16-17)

.... The point behind this commandment had nothing to do with the properties of the fruit or the tree. The real point was to test man’s loyalty and his trust: for if man would always believe God, trust Him and cling to Him, he would live forever; but if man chose not to trust Him, the relationship would be broken – and that’s what eventually happened. For Adam and Eve, being tempted by the devil, ate the fruit of the forbidden tree and broke God’s commandment. Through this, sin entered the world – and the wages of sin is death (Romans 6:23).
... ‘Sin’ literally means ‘to miss the mark’. Sinning can occur by our thoughts, words or deeds. Very simply, it means that our lives have not reflected God’s life accurately. That is a very rigid standard in itself, but God also considers the intentions of our hearts. If we really meant to honor Him, but we blew it, He could still be very proud of us (1 Corinthians 4:5); conversely, if our actions were technically perfect but our motives were prideful, He might still reject us (Ezekiel 28:12-15; Isaiah 14:12-15). So even though our conduct matters, God is far more interested in what is going on in our hearts.
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Daily Bible Reading: Matthew 3

The Apostle’s Curriculum

... The Bible is the Book that helps us become acquainted with God. It was written by the Holy Spirit, through apostles and prophets, for this very purpose, which is also the ultimate purpose of our lives (Philippians 3:10-11). So if you are a new Christian, or an old one who was never taught the basics, you should always maintain a healthy Bible study routine (2 Timothy 2:15). And to do this, we suggest the approach that Jesus Himself estab- lished in teaching the twelve apostles:

...."Then He appointed twelve, that they might be with Him and that He might send them out to preach."

(Mark 3:14)

.... Wouldn't it be wonderful to be taught as the apostles, or in a manner that reflected this as closely as possible? For them, it was all about their relationship with Jesus and all of their lessons were always viewed through this 'lens'. So to follow their curriculum you should start by acquainting yourself with the life of Jesus as recorded in the four Gospels: Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. These books contain the most concise expression of what He's like so they're the single best way of knowing Him better, and to cultivate a fruitful mind set that will allow you to build your own relationship with Him. We suggest a pace of two chapters daily, starting with Matthew 1&2, and continuing straight through until you’ve finished reading John’s gospel.
.... After you've become acquainted with the life of Jesus through the four gospels, a complementary study awaits you. This is based on the same follow-up that Jesus gave to His followers at this very same point in their lives:

,... "Ought not the Christ to have suffered these things and to enter into His glory?" And beginning at Moses and all the Prophets, He expounded to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning Himself."

(Luke 24:26-27)

.... After the lessons of the gospel were complete, Jesus showed the apostles how His sufferings, death and resur- rection had fulfilled the Old Testament prophecy. To present the same material today in an easy-to-understand format, a special break-out module has been prepared for your convenience (look in the right-hand column of this page). So after you've finished reading the four gospels, we suggest spending a few days studying The Sufferings and the Glory module, and allowing the Lord to reiterate the gospel message to you as seen through the eyes of the Old Testament prophets:

.... Then He said to them, "These are the words which I spoke to you while I was still with you, that all things must be fulfilled which were written in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms concerning Me." And He opened their understanding, that they might comprehend the Scriptures.

(Luke 24:44-45)

.... Next, the apostle's curriculum would include your returning to the Book of Acts, where the Lord took the apostles next. We suggest that you continue reading from there, and onward through the rest of the New Testament, keeping the same pace of two chapters per day. Then return to the four gospels and the Book of Acts and read them each a second time.
.... At this pace you can read the entire New testament, and all four gospels twice apiece, in about seven months. If you are able to read faster than that, feel free; but even if you can’t, please be sure to read at least one chapter from the Bible per day. (For those who do not have a Bible, a free online link will appear at the bottom of each daily posting, based on one chapter daily. But you can go faster online, as well).
.... At the same time, if you'll read one daily posting on this web site and spend some time thinking about it, asking questions and making comments, you will be thoroughly schooled in the basics, with a very intentional focus on Jesus, within the same seven month period. And that is a tremendous foundation for any new Christian:

.... Be diligent to present yourself approved to God, a worker who does not need to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.

(2 Timothy 2:15)

.... But remember that reading is only the academic part of your study. In life itself you must emulate the apostles again by using this information to connect with Jesus in your daily trials (Luke 22:28). As often as possible throughout the day, meditate on the things you’ve been reading and try to pray about them. As you come into new situations, you'll find the Holy Spirit bringing those same Scriptures to your mind and showing you how to apply them (John 14:23; 16:13). But He also wants you to become acquainted with Jesus through everything He is teaching you; He wants to reveal how Jesus thinks in those same situations, and His sense of character, so you can be of the same heart and mind as He (John 15:26-27; Colossians 3:10).

.... "Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus."

(Philippians 2:5)

.... If you think back on situations from your past, make sure you are not controlled by them (Philippians 3:13; Hebrews 9:14). Instead, try to imagine how they might have turned out differently if only you’d know the Scriptures at the time, and applied them. Obviously this is a drill of sorts, but it is also a wonderful teaching tool:
.... ". . . that you put off, concerning your former conduct, the old man which grows corrupt according to the deceitful lusts, and be renewed in the spirit of your mind . . ."
(Ephesians 4:22-23)
.... In the long run, as your knowledge of the Bible expands, you’ll be able to prayerfully compare Scriptures with other Scriptures. The Holy Spirit will use this approach to fine tune the best counsel for each of your situations, and He will show you the heart and mind of Christ even more clearly at the same time (1 Corinthians 2:13,16; John 15:26).

.... Finally, as you bring your Scriptural insights into discussions with other Christians, we will all grow in Christ together, in edification and in love for one another.

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Daily Bible Reading: Matthew 2

The Need for Discipleship

.... Discipleship is a subject that has weighed on my heart for many years. This was so much the case that I even backed away from evangelism for a time, until I was sure I could follow through with some meaningful instruction (Luke 14:28-30; John 15:16). So it is very encouraging to find the same interest in discipleship in our church today.

.... Discipleship is the missing half of the Great Commission (Matthew 28:19). Evangelism without discipleship is like a seed left untended, so that briers and thorns will choke it with unfruitfulness. But a good discipleship course, focused on Jesus Himself as a reflection of His life, would bring forth fruit abundantly (Philippians 3:7; Titus 2:7; Ephesians 4:13-16).

.... Please take special notice of the words, ‘focused on Jesus Himself’ because this is the crux of the matter. We cannot emphasize this perspective enough. A basic discipleship course is more than a curriculum; in every sense it is an unfolding relationship with God through His Son Jesus Christ that grows ever deeper, more wonderful and more intimate, and more meaningful through our trials, so that our lessons always flow from this relationship:
.... "And we know that the Son of God has come and has given us an understanding, that we may know Him who is true; and we are in Him who is true, in His Son Jesus Christ."
(1 John 5:20)
.... Christians have seldom learned the basics from this perspective, so a renewed focus on Jesus could present our generation with a challenge. A Christ-centered teaching is very much like Christ Himself, in that it is always a little different from the standard beliefs of the day. But like Jesus again, that difference will be spirit and life, for it will show us more clearly who He is (John 14:6). And true hearted Christians will always be drawn to this perspective, so eventually this will bring us to the unity of the faith:

.... ". . . till we all come to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a perfect man, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ . . ."

(Ephesians 4:13)

.... Because this discipleship course will introduce new and potentially controversial per- spectives, two further elements are needed. First, we seek a lively discussion involving many sincere Christians. Questions and comments are equally welcome as long as the truth is spoken in love, and our goal is to see Jesus more clearly (Ephesians 4:13-15; John 17:17). Actual examples are especially valuable because they offer application and help everyone obtain a better 'feel' for the material. By clicking on the 'comments' link at the bottom of each lesson, you may join in the discussion freely. Of course, we ask that proper Christian etiquette be maintained. Also, no subject is off limits as long as it is not too much of a rabbit path.
.... In this way, as the discussion grows, each of our topics will take on a life of its own within the members of an online community. It is our hope and belief that our shared perspectives will create a very fruitful, living setting for the Holy Spirit, as He works in our hearts as our true teacher (see 1 Corinthians 2:13).

.... Second, each participant must maintain their own, lively Bible study independently of this forum. If you’ve been a Christian for awhile, you may already have a study routine established. But for those who don’t, I’d like to suggest one in the next lesson, based on how Jesus taught the apostles.

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If you would like to begin a Bible study today, but do not have a Bible, click here to read Matthew 1 online