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John

JOHN

WHO IS THE WRITER OF THE FOURTH GOSPEL?

Early Christian tradition names the Apostle John as the author of the fourth Gospel. Many early church fathers have written that John is the author. Especially significant is the testimony of Irenaeus (d. ca. 195 A.D.). Irenaeus was a disciple of Polycarp (ca. 70-155 A.D.); and Polycarp was a disciple of the Apostle John. Irenaeus therefore must have had good information concerning John and what he wrote. Evidence from the fourth Gospel itself also points to the Apostle John as its author. The writer must have been one of the Twelve Disciples. We say this because: 1) The writer says that he is an eyewitness of Jesus’ life and work (1:14; 19:35; 21:24-25). 2) The writer shows a knowledge of many details concerning events in Jesus’ life, which only one very close to him would probably know (2:6; 4:6; 12:1; 20:1; 21:8,11 and many others). 3) The writer calls himself “the disciple whom Jesus loved” (13:23; 19:26; 20:2; 21:7,20). Peter, James and John seem to be the only three disciples who might be called “the disciple whom Jesus loved,” since the Gospels show them to be the three closest to Jesus. But Peter could not be calling himself by that name in the fourth Gospel, since he is specifically mentioned by his proper name in the Gospel. James, the brother of John, died an early martyr’s death, as we are told in Acts 12, so he could not have written the fourth Gospel. It is therefore reasonable to say that the Apostle John is the one who wrote the fourth Gospel. Testimony of the early Christians and the evidence within the Gospel together point to John as the author…

THE APOSTLE JOHN

There are five men named John in the New Testament. This common name means “the Lord is gracious.” The Apostle John is one of the sons of Zebedee. His brother and fellow apostle was named James. Jesus gave these two sons of Zebedee the nickname “Boanerges,” which means “Sons of Thuder” (Mark 3:17). John may have been a cousin of Jesus. His mother may have been Salome, who is evidently the sister of Mary, the mother of Jesus (Mat. 27:56; Mark 15:40 Jn. 19:25). John, together with his father and brother, was a fisherman. Before becoming a disciple of Jesus, he may have been a disciple of John the Baptist. John, of course, observed Jesus’ life and acts during his ministry as did the other 11 disciples. But he had the added privilege of being one of the three disciples in Jesus’ “inner circle.” Peter, James and John alone were with Jesus at the raising of the daughter of Jairus, at Jesus’ Transfiguration, and during Jesus’ agony in Gethsemane.

Not everything that we read in the Gospels is complimentary to John. Jesus had to rebuke him and his brother James for showing a spirit of revenge against an unfriendly Samaritan village (Luke 9:51-56). Another time the other disciples became angry with John and James for being very demanding toward Jesus and asking that they be honored above the other disciples (Mark 10:35-45). These accounts are in keeping with the Bible’s practice of “telling the whole story” about heroes of the Christian faith, pointing out their sins together with their faith in their Savior from sin.

On Thursday of Holy Week it was John and Peter who were given instructions by Jesus to make preparations for the Passover Supper. At the Supper John’s close relationship with Jesus is evident. We are told that he leaned back against Jesus to ask who Jesus’ betrayer was. He had evidently been reclining very close to Jesus at the Supper. But at Gethsemane when Jesus was arrested, John ran away just like all the other disciples. When Jesus was taken to the high priest for questioning, however, John together with Peter went with him. John was able to enter the courtyard of the high priest because he had a personal acquaintance with the high priest (John 18:15-16). When Jesus was crucified, John stood near the cross. It was then that Jesus gave his mother into John’s care. John took her into his own home from that time on. If John and Jesus were cousins, it would be John’s aunt that he was caring for. On Easter morning John and Peter ran to the empty tomb after they heard the message from Mary of Magdala. “He saw and believed,” is what John himself writes of his reaction after entering the empty tomb (John 20:1-9). When the risen Jesus miraculously provided a large catch of fish for the disciples in Galilee, it was John who first recognized Jesus (John 21).

Besides the Gospel accounts, we also hear of John in Acts. After Pentecost, John and Peter healed a crippled beggar. Soon after the healing they were arrested for “proclaiming in Jesus the resurrection of the dead” (Acts 3 & 4). Acts chapter 8 tells us that John and Peter were sent to Samaria. When they laid their hands on the Samaritan Christians, they received the Holy Spirit (vss. 14-17). After preaching in many Samaritan villages, John and Peter went back to Jerusalem. John’s name is mentioned twice more in the New Testament. In Gal. 2:9Paul says that he had been given “the right hand of fellowship” by John and others who were “pillars” of the church. The first chapter of Revelation gives John’s name three times (vss. 1,4,9). It is obvious from these references that John is the author of Revelation. We learn from Rev. 1:9 that John, probably late in his life, had been exiled to the Island of Patmos for preaching of Jesus. John is also credited with writing the three Epistles that carry his name. He is, therefore, the author of five books of the Bible. Tradition says that John died as an old man in Ephesus near the end of the First Century. It is evident from this rather long biography that we know more about John’s life than the lives of the other Gospel writers.

WHEN, WHERE, AND TO WHOM WRITTEN?

John’s Gospel was perhaps written in the early 90s A.D. Early tradition points to Ephesus in Asia Minor as the place from which John wrote. It has been guessed that John’s Gospel was written originally for Jews of the Dispersion, that is, for the Jews outside Palestine scattered around the Mediterranean world.

SOME CHARACTERISTICS OF JOHN’S GOSPEL

  1. John’s Gospel is different and independent of the Synoptic Gospels. He does not follow the outline of the Synoptics. He seems to assume that his readers know what is in the first three Gospels; instead of repeating what they say, he adds to them.
  2. John’s Gospel emphasizes believing in Jesus as the Christ and God’s Son for eternal life. This is John’s stated purpose for writing as he says in 20:31. The Gospel’s most famous verse, 3:16, emphasizes the same.
  3. John’s Gospel relates Jesus’ miracles with a definite purpose – as signs to show that Jesus is the Son of God and worthy of our faith (20:30-31). (Only 8 of Jesus’ 35 miracles are recorded by John.)
  4. John records no parables of Jesus, but has long discourses and conversations (3:1-21; 4:1-26; 8:3-58; chapter 10; chapters 14-17).
  5. John often gives the details of the time and place of events.
  6. John records mostly Jesus’ ministry in Jerusalem.
  7. John emphasizes the promises concerning the coming of the Holy Spirit (14:16,17,27; 15:26; 16:13-14).

AN OUTLINE FOR JOHN

Theme: “Believe in Jesus, God made flesh”

  1. An Introduction (1:1-18)
  2. The Ministry of God Made Flesh (1:19 – 12:11)
  3. The Events of Holy Week, the Resurrection and Appearances of God Made Flesh (12:12 – 21:25)

A FEW CHAPTER NUMBERS TO REMEMBER FROM THE GOSPELS

Matthew

1 Jesus’ birth

5-7 The Sermon on the Mount

18 How to deal with a sinning brother

24 Signs of the End

27-28 Jesus’ Death and Rising

28 The Great Commission

Mark

15-16 Jesus’ Death and Rising

Luke

2 Jesus’ Birth

15 “Lost and Found” Parables

23-24 Jesus’ Death and Rising

John

1 The Word Became Flesh

3 Jesus and Nicodemus

3:16 The Gospel in a few words

10 The Good Shepherd

19-21 Jesus’ Death and Rising

Old Testament


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WHO IS JESUS?

Many people have many different ideas. Just a good man who lived and died? A charismatic man whose followers stretched the truth? A holy man with some connection to the divine? A prophet like Mohammed? Who is Jesus?

WORSHIP

Ever have a question about worship practices but didn’t know whom to ask? Well here’s the place for you! Learn the meaning of the Scripture readings in church,. Learn how to pray. And understand religious terms used in the church setting.

Revelation

REVELATION

THE BOOK’S NAME

In our English versions the last book of the Bible is usually called “Revelation.” (Note that there is no “s” at the end of the name.) The name comes from the first words of the book: “The Revelation of Jesus Christ which God gave him to show his servants what must soon take place.” Sometimes the book is also called the “Apocalypse.” That name means “an uncovering” or “an unveiling.” “Apocalypse” is the first word in the original Greek text; it is the word most commonly translated “revelation.”

THE AUTHOR OF REVELATION

Of the five New Testament books which the Apostle John wrote, Revelation is the only book in which he names himself as the author. He gives his name three times in the first chapter and once in the last chapter.

THE FORM OF THE BOOK

Revelation is written in the form of a letter just like many of the New Testament letters. The writer names himself; he names the ones addressed; there are words of greeting (1:4ff); there is also a closing blessing as a farewell (22:21). But we normally do not classify Revelation among the New Testament Epistles; we classify it by itself as a book of prophecy because of its special prophetic messages. There is something else about the form of the Book of Revelation which we notice very quickly. Its form or style of writing probably seems very different and strange and even puzzling. Its pages are filled with visions of beasts, bowls and scrolls, lamp stands, a lamb and a striking white-haired man, etc. There are symbolic numbers like three, seven, twelve, one thousand and one hundred forty-four thousand. This form of writing which makes much use of visions, dreams, pictures, symbolic numbers and generally figurative language is known as “apocalyptic” or “apocalyptic prophecy.” You will remember from Old Testament Lesson 21 that the Book of Daniel also contains much apocalyptic prophecy. Apocalyptic writings were written when God’s people were suffering persecutions and it looked as though His Kingdom would be destroyed by its enemies. The purpose of apocalyptic prophecy was to bring hope and comfort to God’s persecuted people, to assure them that God’s mighty hand is in control at all times, and to promise God’s certain victory over all the enemies of His people. There are some non-Biblical apocalyptic writings whose message cannot be trusted because they are only the works of men. The Book of Revelation, however, is Jesus’ own “apocalypse” (“uncovering”) of God’s plan to rescue His faithful people for eternity. It can be completely trusted since the Holy Spirit delivered the Book of Revelation to us through the inspired pen of the Apostle John. The form may seem strange at first with its visions and symbols. But the effect is that the Christian reader in a powerful and striking way is assured that God is in sure control of His Church and is victorious over all enemies.

WHEN AND WHERE WRITTEN?

Irenaeus, the early Christian writer, said that John wrote Revelation near the end of the reign of Emperor Domitian (A.D. 81-96). About A.D. 95 is the probable time of writing. The time that John wrote was clearly a time of persecution for Christians. John himself was persecuted and banished to the Island of Patmos “because of the word of God and the testimony of Jesus” (1:9). Other Christians were also being persecuted and some even killed (2:13; 6:9-10). Emperor Domitian was one who enforced the practice of emperor worship. Many Christians may have been forced to make a decision to either worship the emperor or Christ the King. To choose Christ would mean persecution and even death. At a time like that, Christians needed strong encouragement to remain faithful. They needed to know that it was worth it even to die for their faith, since Christ and his faithful would prove finally victorious. John received his revelation when he was on the Island of Patmos (1:9ff.). He may have written the whole Book of Revelation while still on Patmos.

WRITTEN TO WHOM?

John answers this question directly in 1:11, “to the seven churches: to Ephesus, Smyrna, Pergamum, Thyatira, Sardis, Philadelphia and Laodicea.” These seven cities were all located in the province of Asia. (Find them on a map.) John gives their names in the order in which a letter carrier might go to each of them. Moving clockwise from city to city, he would make a half circle to reach all of them. Christians in these cities were being persecuted or would soon be persecuted and needed a message of hope. They also needed individual messages of warning or comfort, depending on the situation in their church (chaps. 2-3).

JOHN’S PURPOSE IN WRITING

John’s overall purpose in writing was to comfort persecuted Christians with the promise of the sure victory of Christ and His church over all enemies. He also wrote to warn and admonish some churches who were slipping in their doctrine, their love or their commitment to Christ.

SOME GUIDELINES FOR READING REVELATION

  1. Remember that much in Revelation is figurative and is not meant to be taken literally. (The “dragon” of Rev. 20 is not a literal dragon but means the devil; the “thousand years” is not a literal thousand years but means an indefinite period of time.) Remember, Revelation is inspired apocalyptic writing that uses much figurative language.
  2. Remember that the clear, literal parts of the Bible must be used to explain the meaning of the unclear figurative parts.
  3. We should not be too proud to say, “I don’t know what this means,” when reading a difficult passage. To make strange and fanciful interpretations does no good and may do harm.
  4. Revelation does not say that it presents events in chronological order. The book often tells again of the same events but in different terms.

THEME, OUTLINE AND BASIC CONTENTS

It should be kept in mind that Revelation covers the history of the Church from the time of Christ’s work of redemption until the end of this world. It covers the past, present and future.

THEME:

“CHRIST AND HIS CHURCH WILL BE VICTORIOUS OVER ALL THEIR ENEMIES”

  1. The Victory of the Church over the Evil Powers of this World (1-11)

In these chapters the struggle between the Church and the world is stressed. There are three visions of John recorded here:

  • The vision of the seven letters to the seven churches (1:9-3:22)
  • The vision of the seven seals (4-7)
  • The vision of the seven trumpets (8-11)

A few well-known passages from this section:

“I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot. I wish you were either one or the other! So, because you are lukewarm – neither hot nor cold – I am about to spit you out of my mouth.” (3:15-16)

“Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with him, and he with me.” (3:20)

“Worthy is the Lamb, who was slain, to receive power and wealth and wisdom and strength and honor and glory and praise!” (5:12b)

“After this I looked and there before me was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, tribe, people and language, standing before the throne and in front of the Lamb. They were wearing white robes and were holding palm branches in their hands. And they cried out in a loud voice: `Salvation belongs to our God, who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb.'” (7:9-10)

“These are they who have come out of the great tribulation; they have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.” (7:14b)

  1. The Victory of Christ over the Devil and his Forces (12-22)

In these chapters the stress is on the struggle between Christ and the devil. There are four visions of John recorded here:

  • The vision of the devil and his helpers and of the Lamb (12-14)
  • The vision of the seven bowls of God’s wrath (15-16)
  • The vision of the fall of the devil’s forces (17-19)
  • The vision of the devil’s everlasting doom and the everlasting victory of Christ’s Kingdom celebrated in heaven (20-22)

A few well-known passages from this section:

“Then I saw another angel flying in midair, and he had the eternal gospel to proclaim to those who live on the earth – to every nation, tribe, language and people.” (14:6)

“Then I heard a voice from heaven say, `Write: Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord from now on.’ `Yes,’ says the Spirit, `they will rest from their labor, for their deeds will follow them.'” (14:13)

“And I saw an angel coming down out of heaven, having the key to the Abyss and holding in his hand a great chain. He seized the dragon, that ancient serpent, who is the devil, or Satan, and bound him for a thousand years.” (20:1-2)

“Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and there was no longer any sea. I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband.” (21:1-2)

“Behold, I am coming soon! Blessed is he who keeps the words of the prophecy in this book.” (22:7)

Old Testament


Who is Moses and the prophets? More topics and answers found here.

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New Testament


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WHO IS JESUS?

Many people have many different ideas. Just a good man who lived and died? A charismatic man whose followers stretched the truth? A holy man with some connection to the divine? A prophet like Mohammed? Who is Jesus?

WORSHIP

Ever have a question about worship practices but didn’t know whom to ask? Well here’s the place for you! Learn the meaning of the Scripture readings in church,. Learn how to pray. And understand religious terms used in the church setting.

Jude

JUDE

WHO IS THE AUTHOR?

The writer of this, the last of the General Epistles, calls himself “Jude, a servant of Jesus Christ and a brother of James.” The name “Jude” is another form of the name “Judas.” Which Jude (or Judas) is this? Two apostles were named Judas: Judas Iscariot and Judas the son of James. But the writer does not call himself an apostle and even distinguishes himself from the apostles (v.17). In the New Testament we hear of only one Judas who is a brother of a James. This is Judas, one of Jesus’ brothers (Mat. 13:55). This Judas, then, is the brother of the James who wrote the Epistle of James. Jude, Jesus’ brother and James the epistle writer’s brother, is therefore the probable author of this epistle. Like his brother James, Jude was not a believer in Jesus as the Christ during Jesus’ ministry (John 7:5). He was converted later, perhaps after Jesus’ resurrection. Paul may be referring to Jude in 1 Cor. 9:5. From that passage we may guess that Jude, the Lord’s brother, was a traveling missionary who was accompanied by his wife on his travels.

JUDE’S EPISTLE

To whom was Jude writing? When? From where? These are questions that we do not have solid answers for. We have little to go on even to try to make guesses. Jude says only, in a general way, that he is writing “to those who have been called;” and in addressing his readers as “dear friends,” he shows that he knows them well. The similarity between Jude and 2 Peter may show that the two letters were written about the same time. We can, however, know something about the problem facing Jude’s readers. Certain false teachers had “slipped in among” the Christians addressed. These men are described as godless, denying Jesus Christ, living immoral, polluted lives, rejecting authority and slandering heavenly beings. It seems that these people used the teaching of forgiveness to mean that they could sin as much as they wanted now, since they were forgiven anyway. They thought of the gospel as a “license” to sin. Jude says that he had intended to write a different kind of letter to the Christians “about the salvation we share.” But when he heard of the work of these godless men he wrote instead to urge the Christians “to contend for the faith” (v. 3). Like John’s Second and Third Epistles, Jude’s Epistle has only one short chapter. It is short in length but very powerful in its message. Jude speaks powerfully against the false teachers and about their Judgment. “Woe to them!” he says, reminding us of some of the strong words of the Old Testament prophets. But Jude also speaks words of loving encouragement to his “dear friends.” He urges them: “Build yourselves up in your most holy faith … Keep yourselves in God’s love … Be merciful to those who doubt” (20-22).

THEME:

“JUDE WARNS OF FALSE TEACHERS IN THE CHURCH”

Old Testament


Who is Moses and the prophets? More topics and answers found here.

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New Testament


Who is Jesus and why should I care? Here, you will find answers!

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About the Bible


What is the Bible? Find an answer to this question and more.

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WHO IS JESUS?

Many people have many different ideas. Just a good man who lived and died? A charismatic man whose followers stretched the truth? A holy man with some connection to the divine? A prophet like Mohammed? Who is Jesus?

WORSHIP

Ever have a question about worship practices but didn’t know whom to ask? Well here’s the place for you! Learn the meaning of the Scripture readings in church,. Learn how to pray. And understand religious terms used in the church setting.

3 John

3 JOHN

JOHN’S THIRD EPISTLE

3rd John is addressed to an individual; a dear friend of John named Gaius. John compliments Gaius on “walking in the truth” and on his hospitality shown toward traveling missionaries. In the letter John also speaks well of a man named Demetrius. He may have been the one carrying the letter to Gaius. John also tells Gaius about the behavior of a church member named Diotrephes. This man loved to put himself first in church work, gossiped maliciously, showed no hospitality toward traveling evangelists, and put out of the church those who wanted to show hospitality. He must have been a proud and vain man who was really serving himself instead of Christ’s church. John urged Gaius and all who want to be faithful church workers: “Do not imitate what is evil but what is good. Anyone who does what is good is from God. Anyone who does what is evil has not seen God” (v.11).

THEME:

“THE APOSTLE OF LOVE ENCOURAGES A DEAR FRIEND, GAIUS”

Key passages: “I have no greater joy than to hear that my children are walking in the truth” (v.4). “Dear friend, do not imitate what is evil but what is good” (v.11a).

Old Testament


Who is Moses and the prophets? More topics and answers found here.

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New Testament


Who is Jesus and why should I care? Here, you will find answers!

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About the Bible


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WHO IS JESUS?

Many people have many different ideas. Just a good man who lived and died? A charismatic man whose followers stretched the truth? A holy man with some connection to the divine? A prophet like Mohammed? Who is Jesus?

WORSHIP

Ever have a question about worship practices but didn’t know whom to ask? Well here’s the place for you! Learn the meaning of the Scripture readings in church,. Learn how to pray. And understand religious terms used in the church setting.

2 John

2 JOHN

JOHN’S SECOND EPISTLE

2nd John is addressed “to the chosen lady and her children” (1:1). Some think that his letter was written to a real person. But it is more commonly thought that “the chosen lady and her children” refers to a church with its members. This probably makes the best sense. In Revelation John speaks of the church as a bride; so it is not strange that he would speak of a church here as a lady. John calls himself “the elder” (1:1). He is writing as an old experienced apostle to a beloved church.

OCCASION FOR WRITING

What was the occasion for the writing of 2 John? It was the same as for John’s first letter. The same false teachers were still hard at work. The church needed to be warned again about these deceivers. 2 John again emphasizes Christian love: “I am not writing you a new command but one we have had from the beginning. I ask that we love one another” (v.5). 2 John also warns very strongly against aiding in any way the spreading of the deceivers’ lies. John says concerning any one of the false teachers: “Do not take him into your house or welcome him. Anyone who welcomes him shares in his wicked work” (10b-11). 2 John has only one chapter of 13 verses.

THEME:

“THE APOSTLE OF LOVE ENCOURAGES LOVE AND TRUTH.”

Old Testament


Who is Moses and the prophets? More topics and answers found here.

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New Testament


Who is Jesus and why should I care? Here, you will find answers!

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About the Bible


What is the Bible? Find an answer to this question and more.

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WHO IS JESUS?

Many people have many different ideas. Just a good man who lived and died? A charismatic man whose followers stretched the truth? A holy man with some connection to the divine? A prophet like Mohammed? Who is Jesus?

WORSHIP

Ever have a question about worship practices but didn’t know whom to ask? Well here’s the place for you! Learn the meaning of the Scripture readings in church,. Learn how to pray. And understand religious terms used in the church setting.

1 John

1 JOHN

THE AUTHOR

The writer of the Three Epistles of John does not name himself; but early Christian tradition said that the Apostle John is the author. Evidence inside the letters themselves also leads us to think that the same man wrote the Fourth Gospel and these three epistles. Many of the words and phrases that are found in John’s Gospel are also found in these three epistles (“light,” “darkness,” “new commandment,” “that your joy may be complete,” “walk in darkness,” etc.). Also the author of these epistles claims to have had personal contact with Jesus himself, as the Apostle John did (“we have heard … seen … our hands have touched”). The evidence is very strong that John wrote the three epistles that carry his name. For a brief biography of the Apostle John, see New Testament Lesson 7, or read a biography in a Bible dictionary.

JOHN’S FIRST EPISTLE

1st John does not name the people addressed; but it is generally assumed that it is a general letter shared by congregations in the province of Asia in Asia Minor. According to tradition, John served churches in Asia for about 30 years until the last part of the First Century. It is thought that John wrote from the city of Ephesus and that he was an old man at the time of his writing. We do not know which were written first, John’s Epistles or his Gospel. But both were probably written in the 90s A.D. What was the occasion among the churches of Asia that made it necessary for John to write his First Epistle? From the content of the letter we can see that false teachers had been hard at work among the congregations; and even when those teachers had separated themselves from the churches, they were still trying to spread their ideas (2:19 and 26). John calls these people “antichrists” (people who stand against Christ) and liars (2:18 and 22). His language is very strong because of the deadly lies being told by these people. What lies were they teaching? 1) They denied that Jesus was the Christ (2:22). 2) They denied that Jesus Christ actually came in the flesh; they said he was not a true human being with a real body (4:2-3). 3) They thought lightly of sin and easily excused their immoral lives. From John’s description of their teachings, it appears that these men were early spreaders of the heresy (false teaching) called Gnosticism. Gnostics claimed to have superior spiritual knowledge (their name comes from the Greek word “gnosis,” which means “knowledge”). They taught that Jesus of Nazareth was only a man and that at his baptism a “heavenly Christ” came upon him; but this “heavenly Christ” left him before his Passion; therefore, they said, only Jesus of Nazareth died and not the Christ. It is clear that the teaching of the Gnostics took away the truth that the blood of Jesus Christ, the Son of God, has purified us from all sin. A man by the name of Cerinthus was an early Gnostic heretic. The early Christian writer Irenaeus (d. ca. 195) wrote that John would have nothing to do with Cerinthus because of his deadly doctrine. According to Irenaeus, John even rushed out of a bathhouse without bathing when he learned Cerinthus was inside; he feared the bathhouse might fall down because the enemy of God’s truth was inside. What was John’s purpose in writing his First Epistle? He wrote to warn against the false teachers with their deadly lies about Christ and the way a Christian should live. But he wrote not only to oppose the heretics; he wrote to present what the true Christian life is, emphasizing Christian love. The special characteristic of 1 John is its strong emphasis on love – God’s love and the Christian’s for God and his brothers. This emphasis on love has given 1 John its nickname “The Epistle of Love” and its author, John, his nickname “The Apostle of love.” 1 John is filled with short passages that would be good to memorize.

THEME:

“THE APOSTLE OF LOVE PRESENTS THE TESTS THAT PROVE THE TRUE CHRISTIAN LIFE”

Here are a few of the many important passages from 1 John: “God is light; in him there is no darkness at all” (1:5). “If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness” (1:8-9). “Who is the liar? It is the man who denies that Jesus is the Christ. Such a man is the antichrist – he denies the Father and the Son” (2:22). “Anyone who hates his brother is a murderer, and you know that no murderer has eternal life in him” (3:15). “This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers” (3:16). “Dear friends, 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” (4:1). “This is love; not that we loved God, but that he loved us and his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another” (4:10-11). “God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in him” (4:16b). “We love because he first loved us” (4:19).

Old Testament


Who is Moses and the prophets? More topics and answers found here.

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New Testament


Who is Jesus and why should I care? Here, you will find answers!

View topics



About the Bible


What is the Bible? Find an answer to this question and more.

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WHO IS JESUS?

Many people have many different ideas. Just a good man who lived and died? A charismatic man whose followers stretched the truth? A holy man with some connection to the divine? A prophet like Mohammed? Who is Jesus?

WORSHIP

Ever have a question about worship practices but didn’t know whom to ask? Well here’s the place for you! Learn the meaning of the Scripture readings in church,. Learn how to pray. And understand religious terms used in the church setting.

2 Peter

2 PETER

PETER’S SECOND EPISTLE

Peter was evidently intended for the same Christians as 1 Peter, since in 3:1 Peter says “this is now my second letter to you.” We can only guess that 2 Peter was also written from Rome toward the end of Peter’s life. 2 Pet. 1:13-15 indicates that Peter knows his death is near. 67 A.D. may be a reasonable guess for the date of writing, a time of persecution under Nero. When 2 Peter was written, the Christians addressed were in danger of losing their Christian hope because of false doctrine being taught among them. The false teachers were even denying that Christ is Lord; they were scoffing at the promise of Christ’s return and his judgment. At the same time that they were spreading their deadly doctrine, they were living rotten lives of greed, adultery, arrogance and blasphemy. Peter wrote, therefore, to encourage these Christians to seek sound Scriptural knowledge; he wrote also to uncover the lies of the false teachers. 2 Peter stresses the idea of Christian knowledge, particularly true knowledge of Christ. Where there is a true knowledge of Christ and his word, false teachers have a difficult job. 2 Peter also stresses the inspiration of Scripture (1:19-21; 3:16), and the doctrine of the certain return of Christ and the earth’s destruction (chap. 3).

THEME:

“PETER ENCOURAGES GROWTH IN CHRISTIAN KNOWLEDGE TO ESCAPE THE LIES OF FALSE PROPHETS”

SOME KEY PASSAGES FROM 2 PETER

“His divine power has given us everything we need for life and godliness through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness.” (1:3) “For prophecy never had its origin in the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit.” (1:21) “The Lord knows how to rescue godly men from trials and to hold the unrighteous for the day of judgment.” (2:9) “They (false teachers) promise them freedom while they themselves are slaves of depravity – for a man is a slave to whatever has mastered him.” (2:19) “First of all, you must understand that in the last days scoffers will come, scoffing and following their own evil desires.” (3:3) “The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.” (3:9) “But the day of the Lord will come like a thief. The heavens will disappear with a roar; the elements will be destroyed by fire, and the earth and everything in it will be laid bare.” (3:10) “Since everything will be destroyed in this way, what kind of people ought you to be? You ought to live holy and godly lives as you look forward to the day of God and speed its coming.” (3:11-12) “Grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.” (3:18)

PETER’S EPISTLES FULFILL JESUS’ COMMAND

Jesus knew that Peter would deny him at the time of Jesus’ passion. He also knew that Peter would repent and return to him. Therefore Jesus commanded Peter: “When you have turned back, strengthen your brothers” (Luke 22:32). Peter certainly carried out Jesus’ command by writing his two epistles. Through his messages, suffering Christians and Christians plagued by false teachers have been strengthened in their Christian hope.

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1 Peter

1 PETER

THE APOSTLE PETER

Peter names himself as the author of the two letters that carry his name. Peter is a very prominent figure in the Gospels and Acts. We could write much about his life. For a more complete biography of Peter, see a Bible dictionary. He is known by three names. His original name was Simon, short for Simeon; Jesus gave him the name Cephas, Aramaic for “rock;” his most common name, Peter, is Greek for “rock.” With his brother Andrew, Peter was a fisherman by occupation. Two towns on the Sea of Galilee served as his hometowns, Bethsaida and Capernaum. Peter was a married man. At first Peter was probably a disciple of John the Baptist. Then Jesus called him as his disciple and told him that he would make him a “fisher of men.” Together with James and John, Peter was one of the disciples of Jesus’ “inner circle.” The three had the privilege of being especially close to Jesus and accompanied him at times when the others did not. Peter was often the spokesman for the disciples. Speaking for the disciples, it was Peter who made the strong confession to Jesus: “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God” (Mat. 16:16). In the four lists of the disciples, Peter is always named first, indicating his prominent place among The Twelve. At the time of Jesus’ passion, Peter is very visible. He helped prepare the Passover Feast, objected when Jesus wanted to wash his feet, insisted he would never fall away from Jesus, and slept while Jesus prayed at Gethsemane. He defended Jesus with the sword and then became very weak and denied Jesus. Later he repented, witnessed Jesus’ sufferings, ran to the open tomb Easter morning, and was the first of the disciples to whom Jesus showed himself alive. At the Sea of Galilee, Jesus reinstated Peter and told him to feed his “lambs” and “sheep.” From the Gospel accounts we can gather that Peter was naturally impulsive, that is, he was often quick to speak and act without first carefully thinking. We can also see that at times he was very self-confident and bold, and at other times weak and cowardly. Peter’s total humanness comes through clearly in the Gospels. Jesus took this totally human man and made him into one of the “pillars” in His church, as we see in the first 12 chapters of Acts. It was Peter who preached the sermon on Pentecost Day when about 3,000 were added to the church. It was to Peter that God gave a special vision and the realization that in Christ He accepts Jews and Gentiles alike. In the Epistles we also find a few references to Peter. We learn that Paul needed to correct Peter in Antioch because of his inconsistent way in associating with Gentiles. Peter evidently received Paul’s correction in a loving, brotherly way (Gal. 2:11-21). A reference in 1 Cor. 9:5 indicates that Peter did much traveling for the sake of the Gospel and that on his travels he was accompanied by his wife. We have no further Biblical information about Peter besides his own words in his two epistles. Tradition says that he died as a martyr in Rome during the persecutions under Nero and that, like his Savior, he was crucified. (While the Roman Catholic Church insists that Peter was bishop in Rome for 25 years and served as a first “pope,” there is no New Testament evidence for this. Peter would not have reached Rome until near the end of his life.)

PETER’S FIRST EPISTLE:

To whom was it written?

Peter addressed his first epistle this way: “To God’s elect, strangers in the world, scattered throughout Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia and Bithynia.” All of these provinces are located in Asia Minor, particularly the northern part. There is a question whether the Christians in these provinces were Jews or Gentiles. Peter was primarily the apostle to the Jews (Gal. 2:7-9), but there are a number of passages in this letter that make it sound like his readers were Gentiles (2:9-10; 4:3-4). Perhaps there were both Jews and Gentiles among the people addressed by Peter. Who was the missionary who first reached these people with the Gospel? Again we do not know. Perhaps it was Paul, although we do not hear of him going to the northern provinces of Asia Minor. Perhaps it was Peter himself.

From where and when was it written?

Peter calls the place that he was writing from “Babylon” (5:13). It is commonly thought that this name was applied figuratively to the city of Rome. Just as Babylon was the great enemy of God’s people in the Old Testament, likewise Rome with its paganism and persecutions was the enemy of God’s New Testament people. Therefore Rome may have been called “Babylon.” If this is so, then Peter was writing from Rome perhaps shortly before the persecutions under Emperor Nero; perhaps he wrote about 64 A.D.

What was the occasion for 1 Peter?

The Christians addressed by Peter were suffering some kind of persecution. Perhaps their lives were not being threatened but they were being slandered and abused by the people around them (3:16-17; 4:4; 4:16 etc.). What was Peter’s purpose in writing to these Christians? Peter himself answers this in 5:12: “I have written to you briefly, encouraging you and testifying that this is the true grace of God. Stand fast in it.” From the rest of his letter it also is clear that Peter wanted to encourage the Christians by giving them hope in their trials. He wrote also to admonish them to live lives that are worthy of their Savior who bought them by his blood. What are the special characteristics of 1 Peter? 1) It is filled with words of hope for Christians under trial. “A living hope” is what Peter says we have by Christ’s resurrection. Furthermore, a Christian’s suffering is only “for a little while;” then comes our inheritance in heaven. Peter not only encourages suffering Christians to have hope, but gives them solid reasons for their hope. For this reason, 1 Peter has been called the “Letter of Hope.” 2) 1 Peter has few words, but those few words contain much rich spiritual truth. For example, read 1:3-6 to see how much Peter can pack into a few words. Peter’s style is a good example for preachers who think they have to produce a great number of words to say something important.

THEME:

“PETER ENCOURAGES SUFFERING CHRISTIANS WITH A MESSAGE OF HOPE”

SOME KEY PASSAGES FROM 1 PETER:

“In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade – kept in heaven for you” (1:3-4). “For you know that it was not with perishable things such as silver or gold that you were redeemed … but with the precious blood of Christ, a lamb without blemish or defect” (1:18-19). (Compare with Luther’s explanation to the Second Article of the Creed.) “But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light” (2:9) .”Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have” (3:15). “If you are insulted because of the name of Christ, you are blessed, for the Spirit of glory and of God rests on you” (4:14). “Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you” (5:7). “Be self-controlled and alert. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. Resist him, standing firm in the faith” (5:8).

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James

JAMES

WHICH “JAMES” IS THE AUTHOR?

The author of this letter gives us his name right at the beginning of his letter. He calls himself “James, a servant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ.” The author is James, but which James? (The Old Testament Hebrew form of the name “James” is “Jacob.”) In the New Testament four men are called by the name James: 1) James, the father of the apostle Judas; we know nothing more of this James. 2) James, the son of Alphaeus, one of the 12 apostles; we know no more about him. 3) James, the son of Zebedee and brother of John; one of the 12 apostles; he was killed by Herod about 44 A.D. (Acts 12:2). 4) James, the Lord’s brother. Since nothing is known of the first two Jameses listed above, it is not thought that either of them could have written this epistle carrying great authority in the early church. And since James, the son of Zebedee, was killed about 44 A.D., it does not seem that he wrote this epistle, which was probably written later than 44. It is generally assumed that James, the Lord’s brother, was the author of the Epistle of James. (Others say it was James, the son of Alphaeus). For some early New Testament references to James, the Lord’s brother, (see Mat. 13:55; Mark 6:3; Gal. 1:19). During Jesus’ ministry, he was not a believer (Jn. 7:5). After Jesus’ resurrection, Jesus appeared to James (I Cor. 15:7). It was perhaps at this time that he became a believer. He became a strong leader in the church at Jerusalem (Acts 15:13ff.; Gal. 2:9 – called a “pillar” of the church). Josephus, a First Century historian, says that James was martyred by the Jewish high priest about the year 62.

LETTER FIRST WRITTEN TO WHOM?

James addressed his letter “to the twelve tribes scattered among the nations” (1:1b). It is clear from the contents of the letter that by this phrase James is addressing not all Jews, but Jewish Christians living around the Mediterranean world. Since this letter was not addressed to just one church or individual but was to have a more general readership, it is grouped among the General Epistles.

WHEN AND WHERE WRITTEN?

The epistle may have been written shortly before the death of James, the Lord’s brother, perhaps 61 or 62 A.D. Others say it may have been written in the mid 40s and call it the first New Testament letter to be written. Strong arguments can be made for both the early and the late date. We will have to be content to say we don’t know for sure when it was written. When we remember that the inspired message is the important thing and that questions about author, date and place of writing are often debatable, then we will not spend a great amount of time arguing about those matters. As far as we know, James remained at Jerusalem. The letter was probably written, therefore, from Jerusalem.

THE OCCASION OF THE LETTER

From the letter’s contents, we can determine that its readers were being persecuted, that they were tempted to fall back and live like the world around them, that they were quick to judge and speak evil about one another. They claimed to have faith but didn’t seem to realize clearly that genuine Christian faith is to show itself in genuine Christian deeds. They were in real need of admonishment and encouragement to demonstrate faith by works.

SOME SPECIAL CHARACTERISTICS OF JAMES’ EPISTLES

1.There is little Christian doctrine in the epistle. James assumes that his readers know Christian doctrine.
2.The practical living of the Christian religion is strongly emphasized. The truth that “faith without deeds is dead” is stressed very much.
3.Many of James’ words are very similar to Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount. Compare: (1:22 with Mat. 7:21); (2:13 with Mat. 6:14-15); (4:11 with Mat. 7:1-5); (5:2 with Mat. 6:19); (5:12 with Mat. 5:34-37).

A THEME AND BASIC CONTENTS OF JAMES’ EPISTLE:

“FAITH WITHOUT WORKS IS DEAD”

It is difficult to construct a simple outline for James since the author writes about a variety of subjects which are difficult to group under a few headings. Therefore, we will use the NIV headings to cover the basic contents of James’ Epistle.

1. Trials and Temptations (1:2-18) Key passages: “Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance” (1:2-3). “When tempted, no one should say, `God is tempting me.’ For God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does he tempt anyone” (1:13). 2. Listening and Doing (1:19-27) Key passages: “Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says” (1:22). “Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world” (1:27).
3. Favoritism Forbidden (2:1-13) Key passages: “But if you show favoritism, you sin and are convicted by the law as lawbreakers. For whoever keeps the whole law and yet stumbles at just one point is guilty of breaking all of it” (2:9-10).
4. Faith and Deeds (2:14-26) Key passages: “Faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead” (2:17). “As the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without deeds is dead” (2:26).
5. Taming the Tongue (3:1-12) Key passages: “Out of the same mouth come praise and cursing. My brothers, this should not be” (3:10).
6. Two Kinds of Wisdom (3:13-18) Key passages: “Who is wise and understanding among you? Let him show it by his good life, by deeds done in the humility that comes from wisdom” (3:13).
7. Submit Yourselves to God (4:1-12) Key passages: “Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you” (4:7).
8. Boasting About Tomorrow 4:13-17) Key passages: “Instead, you ought to say, `If it is the Lord’s will, we will live and do this or that'” (4:15). “Anyone, then, who knows the good he ought to do and doesn’t do it, sins” (4:17).
9. Warning to Rich Oppressors (5:1-6) Key passages: “You have lived on earth in luxury and self-indulgence. You have fattened yourselves in the day of slaughter” (5:5).
10. Patience in Suffering (5:7-12) Key passages: “You, too, be patient and stand firm, because the Lord’s coming is near” (5:8).
The Prayer of Faith (5:13-20) Key passages: “The prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective” (5:16b).

JAMES’ MESSAGE AND JUSTIFICATION BY FAITH

Some Bible critics try to make it appear that James’ epistle is opposed to Paul’s clear teaching of justification by faith. They say that James teaches a salvation by works and Paul a salvation by faith. The careful Bible reader, however, soon sees that there is no conflict between James and Paul. James is stressing the point that where there is real faith there necessarily must be real works. If a person claims to have faith but produces no works to prove his faith, he shows himself to be without faith and without salvation. Paul and James are in perfect agreement on the relationship between faith and works: first comes saving faith, then follows works; if the works do not follow, then saving faith was not there to begin with. The perfect harmony between Paul and James’ epistles can be seen clearly in this statement of Paul from Gal. 5:5b: “The only thing that counts is faith expressing itself through love.”

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Hebrews

HEBREWS

GENERAL EPISTLES

The remaining epistles of the New Testament are not addressed as specifically to congregations or individuals as are Paul’s epistles. Therefore they are often called by the name “General Epistles.” The Epistle to the Hebrews is sometimes grouped among the General Epistles, although the term is also used to apply only to the epistles of James, Peter, John and Jude.

WHO WROTE HEBREWS?

The simple answer to this question is, “We don’t know.” The letter does not name its writer. Early traditions are not consistent in naming one author. Some have called Paul the author; but the words in 2:3 seem to rule out Paul. That verse indicates that the author learned the word about salvation only “second hand” through others who listened to Christ. But in Paul’s letters, he makes it clear that Christ met him directly and gave him the gospel directly. Other suggestions for who the author might be are Barnabas and Apollos. Both of these men are possibilities since it is clear that the author is one who knew Timothy (13:23). Luther preferred to think of Apollos as the author. Still other suggestions have been Luke, Aquila, and Priscilla. The early church father Origen sums up all the discussion on authorship the best when he says: “Who wrote the epistle God only knows certainly.” It is enough for us to say that the Holy Spirit chose a writer unknown to us to deliver His inspired message to the Hebrews and has preserved His message also for us today.

FIRST WRITTEN TO WHOM?

The words of the title, “To the Hebrews,” are not a part of the original inspired letter; they were added later. The letter does not have a greeting that names the people addressed. The only way we have to find out who the original readers might be is by studying the contents of the letter itself. The content clearly shows that the letter was first written to Jewish Christians. Where these Jewish Christians were living cannot be answered certainly. Perhaps they lived in Italy, in particular, Rome. Heb. 13:24 may suggest this; in this verse the author sends greetings to the people addressed from “those from Italy.” “Those from Italy” may be those who were friends and fellow citizens of those addressed in the letter, but people who had moved away and were now with the author. Or perhaps the Jewish Christians addressed lived in Palestine, as some have suggested.

WHEN AND WHERE WRITTEN?

The author does not mention the destruction of Jerusalem, which took place in 70 A.D. It seems that he would have mentioned this event if it had already taken place, since he speaks much about the priesthood and sacrifices carried on in Jerusalem. This leads us to think that Hebrews must have been written before 70 A.D. Much more than this we cannot say about the letter’s date. Suggestions for the place of writing have been Jerusalem (if the readers were in Rome) or Rome (if the readers were in Palestine). We are not told the place of writing.

THE OCCASION OF THE LETTER

The Jewish (or Hebrew) Christians addressed in the letter had once been strong in their faith and love and had been more than willing to undergo persecution for the sake of Christ (6:10; 10:32-34). But at the time the letter was written to them, their faith was weakening; they were losing heart for the cause of Christ (12:3-5; 12:12). Because of persecutions from other Jews, it seems that they were even tempted to go back toJudaism; after all, life would have been easier for them if they did.

THE PURPOSE OF THE LETTER

The author sent his letter to the Hebrew Christians: 1) to encourage them to hold on more firmly to their Christian faith (10:23; 13:22; 3:14); 2) to show them that in every way Christianity is far superior to the old Judaism that they were tempted to return to (7:22; 8:6; 9:23-24; etc.).

SPECIAL CHARACTERISTICS OF HEBREWS

1.Hebrews makes numerous references to the Old Testament; its characters, its special festivals and days, its priesthood, its sacrifices, its tabernacle, etc. 2.Hebrews centers on Jesus Christ. He is the one that the things of the Old Testament shadowed; he fulfilled them; he is superior to them in every way. He is greater than Moses, greater than all the old high priests; his sacrifice was “once for all,” unlike the inferior Old Testament sacrifices. He is also our example so that we endure during time of trouble. 3.Hebrews offers solid encouragement to Christians tempted “to grow weary and lose heart” (12:3).

A THEME, OUTLINE AND THE BASIC CONTENTS OF HEBREWS:

“CHRIST IS SUPERIOR TO EVERYTHING IN THE OLD COVENANT”

1. He is superior to the prophets and the angels. (1-2) Key passages: “In the past God spoke to our forefathers through the prophets at many times and in various ways, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed heir of all things, and through whom he made the universe” (1:1-2). “So he became as much superior to the angels as the name he has inherited is superior to theirs” (1:4).
2. He is superior to Moses and Joshua. (3-4) Key passages: “Jesus has been found worthy of greater honor than Moses, just as the builder of a house has greater honor than the house itself” (3:3). “For if Joshua had given them rest, God would not have spoken later about another day” (4:8).
3. He is superior to the old priesthood. (5-7) Key passages: “Unlike the other high priests, he does not need to offer sacrifices day after day, first for his own sins, and then for the sins of the people. He sacrificed for their sins once for all when he offered himself” (7:27).
4. His New Covenant is superior to the Old. (8-10) Key passages: “For this reason Christ is the mediator of a new covenant, that those who are called may receive the promised eternal inheritance – now that he has died as a ransom to set them free from the sins committed under the first covenant” (9:15). “The law is only a shadow of the good things that are coming – not the realities themselves. For this reason it can never, by the same sacrifices repeated endlessly year after year, make perfect those who draw near to worship” (10:1).
5. Faith in Christ is exhorted. (11-13) Key passages: “Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see” (11-1). “Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and Perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God” (12:2). “Endure hardship as discipline; God is treating you as sons. For what son is not disciplined by his father” (12:7)?

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WHO IS JESUS?

Many people have many different ideas. Just a good man who lived and died? A charismatic man whose followers stretched the truth? A holy man with some connection to the divine? A prophet like Mohammed? Who is Jesus?

WORSHIP

Ever have a question about worship practices but didn’t know whom to ask? Well here’s the place for you! Learn the meaning of the Scripture readings in church,. Learn how to pray. And understand religious terms used in the church setting.