All posts by Jeff

An Unlikely Kingdom Role Model

Mark 12:41-44
41 Jesus sat down opposite the place where the offerings were put and watched the crowd putting their money into the temple treasury. Many rich people threw in large amounts. 42 But a poor widow came and put in two very small copper coins, worth only a few cents. 43 Calling his disciples to him, Jesus said, “Truly I tell you, this poor widow has put more into the treasury than all the others. 44 They all gave out of their wealth; but she, out of her poverty, put in everything—all she had to live on.”

In Jesus’ day, if you had asked people, “Who do you look to for spiritual leadership?  Who are your spiritual role models?”, people would have likely named prominent, religious “experts” like the Pharisees or perhaps the Scribes.  These men were the cultural influencers and thought leaders.  They were the ancient equivalent of New York Times best-selling authors; prominent and popular religious celebrities that were believed to be the authorities that sincere, devout believers should seek to follow and emulate.

Jesus rewrites the script dramatically.

“Guys, come over here.  Did you see that poor, widowed woman?  She just gave more to God than everyone else, because although her amount was small compared to everyone else’s, they were giving out of their wealth.  She, from a place of poverty, gave her whole life.”

Notice that Jesus not only rejects the religious leaders/experts as spiritual role models (he actually condemns their leadership and “expertise” in Mark 12:38-40), he points to someone who by every conventional metric has the least to offer in terms of spiritual authority, influence and expertise: A poor, widowed woman.

Jesus wants the disciples to learn from a woman...who is poor…and widowed?  Why?  How?  In the context of the first-century this woman is second-class, impoverished, and lacking any meaningful social capital or cultural influence.

What kind of kingdom is Jesus inviting us into, that a poor, widowed woman is a role model for faithful discipleship?!

There’s an important lesson here.  Those that the world dismisses as irrelevant, unworthy, insufficient, damaged, and useless are often the very people through whom God’s kingdom breaks into this world.

This is precisely the reason Paul encourages the early church in Rome to “be willing to associate with people of low position” (Romans 12:16).  And its a truth that is reinforced by Paul in his first letter to the early church in Corinth:

1 Corinthians 1:26–29
26
Brothers and sisters, think of what you were when you were called. Not many of you were wise by human standards; not many were influential; not many were of noble birth. 27 But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong. 28 God chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things—and the things that are not—to nullify the things that are, 29 so that no one may boast before him.

The kingdom that Jesus is building is built through “lost causes” and “nobodies.”  That’s an essential part of the gospel (i.e. good news).  We are all lost causes spiritually speaking.  We can’t rescue or save ourselves from the power of sin.  But Jesus comes to deal with our sin issue by dying for us, in our place.  But the story doesn’t end there.  Jesus is resurrected and enthroned as King and Lord over all things, so that those who turn their lives over to him can be saved into a new kind of life.  A life God begins using within His mission to mend the world and overcome evil.

Weak, insignificant nobodies–in the hands of Jesus–become strong, significant somebodies.  No expertise required.

Is there better news than that?

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The Path to Greatness

On Sunday I preached on Mark 10:32-45.  The passage is a series of conversations through which Jesus reveals the path to greatness.

James and John approach Jesus and petition him: ““Let one of us sit at your right and the other at your left in your glory” (v. 37).  They believe Jesus is destined for great things.  Power. Glory. Fame.  When Jesus establishes his kingdom rule, they want places of prominence within the coming government.  They are hungry for power and the attending privileges that come with it.

Jesus uses their request to subvert their entire worldview.

42 Jesus called them together and said, “You know that those who are regarded as rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them. 43 Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, 44 and whoever wants to be first must be slave of all.” (Mark 10:42-44)

Jesus offers a contrasting vision of authority, power, greatness, and glory.  James and John, who desire power OVER others, must learn that those who follow Jesus are to use power FOR others.  Power and authority are gifts that must be stewarded for the benefit of those under the power and authority.

Jesus makes it clear that authority and greatness in God’s kingdom is defined by one’s ability to use their power to serve others.  Tightening the screws on this upside-down paradigm, Jesus even insists that “whoever wants to be first must be slave of all.”

The path to greatness Jesus holds out looks very different in a world that values power over others.  He calls his followers to the pattern of leadership that he embodied; a self-sacrificing use of power that leads to life and flourishing for others.

Walking the Path to Greatness

Even if it is meager, each of us holds a certain measure of power and influence.  What might it look like to move into our marriages, workplaces, schools, sports teams, relationships, etc., with a view to use that power to serve and bless others?

In his book The Servant as Leader, Robert Greenleaf defines those who live out of this Jesus inspired paradigm as servant-leaders.

“A servant-leader focuses primarily on the growth and well-being of people and the communities to which they belong. While traditional leadership generally involves the accumulation and exercise of power by one at the “top of the pyramid,” servant leadership is different. The servant-leader shares power, puts the needs of others first and helps people develop and perform as highly as possible.”

Regardless of whether we occupy formal positions of authority, the characteristics that define servant leaders are ones that each of us can integrate in our lives.

Like James and John, our hearts crave greatness.  But too often we seek to satisfying this craving by putting ourselves in positions of power over others.  We desire to be on top and in control; masters but never mastered.  Jesus declares this path to “greatness” to be an anti-God and anti-human path to walk.

Embracing the heart of a servant, Jesus says, is the path to true greatness.  And it’s a glorious and world-transforming path to walk.

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Top 10 Jordan B Peterson Videos

Dr. Jordan B Peterson (University of Toronto) has rocketed to prominence over the last few months. You can familiarize yourself with his career and recent controversy here.

As a psychology junkie, I’ve invested many hours into Peterson’s lectures (which are available for free via his YouTube channel).  I’ve come to admire the rare coherence of intellectual rigor, passionate conviction, and personal humility that defines his work.

In no particular order, here are 10 of the best videos that showcase Peterson’s brilliance:

  1.  Recognizing Your Own Evil

2. How Pornography Affects Young Men

3. You Need a Partner Who is a Challenge

4. Growing Up and Being Useful is The New Counterculture

5. The Importance of Having a BEST Friend

6. How to Fight Social Anxiety

7. “You can’t force me to respect you.”

8. The Greatest Speech Every Student Should Hear

9. Dismantling Identity Politics

10. The Idea of Cultural Appropriation is Nonsense

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“What do you believe about…Christianity and Science?”

Several times a year I’m asked the question: “What do you believe about Christianity and Science?”  Sometimes the question is posed directly over a coffee.  Other times it expresses itself through a concerned mother seeking faith-forming, but scientifically robust literature for her children.  Recently, the question was nested within a conversation with someone who had been grappling with questions of origin and meaning that had arisen from their undergraduate studies.

“What do you believe about Christianity and science?” is an enormous question that extends out into thousands of branching considerations and a seemingly endless subset of questions.  To address these in one fell swoop is neither possible nor pragmatic.  Instead, I thought I would highlight a resource that has helped me sharpen my thinking around this question and cultivate an integrated perspective between my biblical convictions and the scientific data.

That resource is BioLogos.

BioLogos seeks to help “the church and the world to see the harmony between science and biblical faith as we present an evolutionary understanding of God’s creation.” 

BioLogos’ five core commitments:

  1. We embrace the historical Christian faith, upholding the authority and inspiration of the Bible.
  2. We affirm evolutionary creation, recognizing God as Creator of all life over billions of years.
  3. We seek truth, ever learning as we study the natural world and the Bible.
  4. We strive for humility and gracious dialogue with those who hold other views.
  5. We aim for excellence in all areas, from science to education to business practices.

In an often polarized environment where biblical faith is presumed to be antithetical to reason (and vice-versa), I’m extremely grateful for BioLogos.  Their team is doing some heavy lifting; thoughtfully challenging the dismissive caricatures that each side of this “debate” has often resort to in the quest for legitimacy.  Refusing to play within the confines of the “warfare” model of faith vs. science, BioLogos’ contributors are crafting an intellectual framework that upholds both biblical and scientific integrity.  They are reasonably, faithfully, and joyfully pointing us towards the full riches of complete understanding as they celebrate Christ, “in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge (Colossians 2:3).

Whether you’re wading into these waters for the first time, or swimming in the deep end of this ongoing discussion, I’d highly recommend BioLogos’ five article series on Christianity and Science found here: http://biologos.org/common-questions/christianity-and-science

The question, “What do you believe about Christianity and Science?”  is one that deserves the best from our intellectual capacities.  We do not honor God by skirting this issue due to laziness or dismissing it away while professing the virtues of holding to a “simple faith.”  We are called to love God with all of our minds (Matt. 22:37; Prov. 18:15), and in response to that calling we endeavor to bring our best thinking to bear on these questions, seeking to articulate a worldview that is faithful to the witness of both Scripture and science.  I hope BioLogos becomes a helpful resource to you on that journey.

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Bible Overview Series: Revelation

Revelation by Joseph Novak

Revelation: When she finally arrived at the wedding, she kissed him and said, “Sorry I’m late. The traffic was hell.”

(Ben Myers’ #CanonFodder Summary) 

Jeffrey Kranz’s Overview of Revelation

John is an exile on the isle of Patmos. His crime: bearing witness of Jesus (Re 1:9). Somebody didn’t want John spreading this gospel message, and so they’d shipped him off to an island. He’s contained.

But now John has received even more news to share.

It all starts one Sunday, when John hears a voice behind him: “Write in a book what you see, and send it to the seven churches (Re 1:11).” John turns around to see seven golden lampstands, and among them, the risen Lord Jesus Christ Himself.

Jesus gives John a message for seven churches in Asia (modern-day Turkey). Of the seven, one is about to undergo intense suffering (Re 2:10), one has kept His word (Re 3:8), and the other five were faltering in their loyalty to Jesus. The Lord warns the churches that He is the righteous judge, and He knows their deeds. He calls the faltering churches to repentance, and makes seven encouraging promises to those who overcome.

Then, John is whisked into heaven to witness “what must take place after these things” (Rev 4:1). So begins a long series of prophetic visions for the churches, including:

  • A Lamb (who represents Jesus) breaks seven seals holding an old book shut—each time a seal is broken, it triggers an event on earth, some of which are catastrophic (Re 4–7).
  • Seven angels blow seven trumpets, and each trumpet blast brings a plague on the earth (Re 8–11).
  • A great dragon (Satan) and two beasts make war against a certain woman and the saints (Re 12–14).
  • Seven angels pour out seven bowls, and each bowl brings another plague on the earth (Re 15–16).
  • The Lamb overcomes the wicked city of Babylon, the dragon, and the beasts, then brings about a final judgment day (Rev 17–20).
  • A new heaven and new earth appear, where God and the Lamb dwell with people in harmony forever (Rev 21–22).

John faithfully writes everything down as a prophetic letter to the seven churches, with a closing message from Jesus: “I am coming quickly.”

Theme verse of Revelation

Therefore write the things which you have seen, and the things which are, and the things which will take place after these things. (Re 1:19)

Revelation’s role in the Bible

Revelation is traditionally attributed to the apostle John, who also wrote a Gospel and three New Testament letters. He was a leader in the early church, and he probably wrote his documents after most of the other New Testament books were already written.

Two characteristics of Revelation set it apart from the rest of the New Testament:

  1. It’s the only book of its genre. Most of the New Testament is history or a letter. Revelation is indeed sent as a letter with a traditional greeting (Re 1:1–8), direct messages to the recipients (Re 2–3), and a sendoff (Re 22:18–21), but the bulk of the letter is a record of John’s vivid symbolic visions. No other book of the New Testament feels like Revelation.
  2. Jesus directly addresses the readers. You’ll have to flip back to the Old Testament to see someone write down a message from God for someone else. The Gospels record Jesus’ teachings, and the letters draw application from His teachings, but only in Revelation does Jesus Himself speak directly to the churches (Re 2–3; 22:16).

Revelation may be distinct from the New Testament, but its style and theology are right at home in the Bible. Revelation’s symbolic visions are similar to what you’d see in the Old Testament prophecies of Ezekiel, Daniel, and Zechariah.

Of course, even after going over the book’s content, it can still be difficult to know what Revelation is all about. Some of the visions are explained for us: the Lamb is Jesus (Re 17:14) and the dragon is the devil (Re 12:9). Others—most, really—aren’t so directly explained.

Some say all (or most) of John’s visions are about the destruction of the Temple in 70 A.D.; others say the prophecies haven’t been fulfilled yet. As you read and study Revelation, keep a few things in mind:

  • This message is written to churches in Asia, which had both Jewish and Gentile members.
  • Jesus begins everything with messages to the churches who were dealing with distraction, persecution, false teaching, immorality, laziness, and stagnation.
  • The correct response to this letter is to come to Jesus and invite others (Re 22:17).

Revelation is the last book of the New Testament and the Bible—what a finish!

Quick outline of Revelation

  1. John’s greeting and introduction (1:1–8)
  2. Jesus’ messages to seven churches (1:9–3:22)
  3. Visions of what comes “after these things” (4–22:9)
    • The Lamb who was slain breaks seven seals (4–7)
    • Seven angels sound their trumpets (8–11)
    • The dragon, the beast, and the saints (12–14)
    • Seven bowls of God’s wrath (15–16)
    • The Lamb overcomes Babylon and judges the earth (17–20)
    • The new heaven, new earth, and new Jerusalem (21:1–22:9)
  4. How to respond to John’s vision (22:10–21)

If you found this blog post helpful, please consider donating to help offset the costs of running this site. I will never have ads or charge a fee. However, it takes a lot of work to keep this site up. Thanks!

paypal.me/meredisciple

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Bible Overview Project: Jude

Jude by Joseph Novak

Jude: If ever the world is burned to ashes in a nuclear holocaust, let the last human being recite the epistle of Jude, and die.

(Ben Myers’ #CanonFodder Summary) 

Jeffrey Kranz’s Overview of Jude

Jude came from an important family:

  • The Lord Jesus Christ was his brother
  • Mary was his mother
  • James, the church leader was also his brother

Jude hadn’t always believed in Jesus (Jn 7:5;Mk 3:21), but after He rose from the dead, things changed. The world changed (Acts 17:6). His brother changed. Jude changed.

Now he shared this glorious salvation with people all over the world: Jew and Gentile, slave and free, male and female—all united in Christ. He  wanted desperately to write about it. But he couldn’t.

The church was facing a more pressing issue: people were creeping into the church unnoticed (Jd 4). These were not “seekers,” nonbelievers who were genuinely curious about Christianity.  They claimed to be believers. But they denied the exclusive authority of Jesus, twisting His grace into a license to sin all they wanted.

They were infiltrators. They indulged in sexual immorality, greed, and grumbling. They rejected the authority of the apostles, angels, and the Lord. They caused churches to split up into opposing factions.

The children of God needed to keep their eyes open for this kind of behavior in the churches. So instead of writing about the salvation they shared, Jude wrote a brief, hard-hitting letter to the churches of the world.

In just 25 verses, Jude covers a few important points for Christians to remember:

  • The threat to the faith. The ungodly people are perverting the grace of God and denying the only Master, Jesus (Jd 4). God will judge them, just like He has judged the unbelievers in the past (Jd 5).
  • Characteristics of the ungodly. Jude compares these unrestrained, divisive people to unruly angels, Sodom and Gomorrah, Cain the murderer, the profit-hungry Balaam, and the rebellious Korah. Jude brings in examples from both the Old Testament and other nonbiblical writings.
  • The apostles’ warnings. The church had been dealing with false teachers for a while—some people were even pretending to be apostles of Jesus, with the authority of Peter, James, Paul, and John (2 Co 11:13). The apostles had warned that “mockers” would arise, causing doubt and division in the church.

But Jude is more than just a detractor. He doesn’t just write a list of red flags. This is a letter that urges the Christians to “earnestly contend for the faith”—to fight long and hard on behalf of their Lord. And Jude tells them how to combat this attack:

  • Build themselves up in faith. They are to pray in the Holy Spirit, maintain themselves in God’s love, and wait for eternal life in Jesus.
  • Show mercy to others. They should have mercy on those who doubt, even on those who are stained by sin. They’re to be rescuers, snatching some out of the fires that will come.

Jude is a call to fight, but it’s not like any other battle cry in history. It’s a charge to delight in God and show mercy to others. This is how the church fights valiantly for the faith: by loving God and showing mercy.

Theme verse of Jude

[. . .] I felt the necessity to write to you appealing that you contend earnestly for the faith which was once for all handed down to the saints. (Jud 3b)

Jude’s role in the Bible

Jude is the seventh and last of the General Epistles (or Catholic Letters), the writings of apostles to the church at large. While Paul wrote to specific congregations and individuals, Peter, James, John, and Jude wrote to broader audiences across the Roman empire. We’re not sure when Jude was written.

Jude’s content mirrors the second and third chapters of Peter’s second letter. We don’t know if Peter borrowed from Jude’s letter, if Jude borrowed from Peter’s letter, or if both men were drawing from a prior discussion. Both letters, however, warn the church of two dangerous influences:

  1. False teachers who lead the people to indulge in sin
  2. Mockers who dismiss the idea of Jesus’ return

One major difference between the two books is Jude’s use of apocryphal literature (Jewish writings outside of the Scriptures). Jude mentions events that aren’t recorded in the Bible, such as an argument between Michael the Archangel and the devil over the body of Moses, or Enoch’s ancient prophecies. These examples come from the Assumption of Moses and First Enoch. Jude’s intended audience was familiar with these pieces, and therefore would have appreciated the references.

But Jude also relies heavily on the inspired Scriptures, especially Genesis and Numbers. Jude references all sorts of Old Testament figures and events, including:

  • The Exodus from Egypt (Jd 5; Ex 12:51)
  • The generation of Israelites who died in the wilderness (Jd 5; Nu 14:35)
  • The destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah (Jd 7; Gn 19:24)
  • Cain, the son of Adam, who killed his brother (Jd  11; Gn 4:8)
  • The prophet Balaam, who tried to curse the Israelites in exchange for money (Jd 11; Nu 22:31–33)
  • Korah, who rebelled against Moses and Aaron, but was swallowed up by the earth (Jd 11; Nu 16)
  • Enoch, the descendant of Adam and ancestor of Noah, whom God “took” from earth before he died (Jd 14; Gn 5:24; Heb 11:5)

Jude is only one chapter long, and it’s the fifth shortest book of the Bible (Third John is the shortest).

Quick outline of Jude

  1. The ungodly contending against the faith (1–16)
  2. How we should contend for the faith (17–25)

If you found this blog post helpful, please consider donating to help offset the costs of running this site. I will never have ads or charge a fee. However, it takes a lot of work to keep this site up. Thanks!

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Bible Overview Series: 3 John

Letters of John by Joseph Novak

3 John: Oh my dear friend, I need to see you face to face to tell you what love means. Love can’t be sent by mail.

(Ben Myers’ #CanonFodder Summary) 

Jeffrey Kranz’s Overview of 2 John

Gaius knows the truth. He was baptized by Paul and traveled with him (1 Co 1:14; Acts 19:29). Later, he hosted Paul and a local church (Ro 16:23). Now he’s earned a reputation for his hospitality among the Christians (3 Jn 5–6). And hospitality is a good, powerful thing: the apostle John says that by supporting these men, we join them in their work for the truth.

Sadly, not everyone is like Gaius.

The power-hungry Diotrephes is stirring up strife in Gaius’ church. He’s rejecting John’s earlier letter, babbling accusations against the apostle, and even excommunicating church members who welcome other Christians into their homes (3 Jn 9–10).

When truth is rejected, fellowship is fractured.

This won’t do. Jesus has commanded Christians to love one another (Jn 13:34), and John writes to Gaius to let him know three things:

  1. Gaius is doing the right thing, even though Diotrephes is condemning hospitality.
  2. Gaius should not imitate what is evil, but instead imitate what is good (3 Jn 11).
  3. John is coming to straighten things out.

John will soon arrive to put things right in person (3 Jn 14). He’ll hold Diotrephes accountable for his words and deeds (3 Jn 10). Soon, John will arrive.

And there will be peace in truth (3 Jn 15).

Theme verse of 3 John

I have no greater joy than this, to hear of my children walking in the truth. (3 Jn 4)

3 John’s role in the Bible

In addition to this one, John wrote two other New Testament letters, a Gospel, and possibly the prophetic book of Revelation. He was a leader in the early church, and he probably wrote his documents after most of the other New Testament books were already written.

Third John is the sixth of the General Epistles (or Catholic Letters), the writings of apostles to the church at large. While Paul wrote to specific congregations and individuals, Peter, James, John, and Jude wrote to broader audiences scattered across the Roman empire. Second and Third John, however, are written to specific audiences.

Third John is the shortest book of the Bible: only 219 words (in its original Greek).

This letter repeats many themes from John’s first letter, and Second John reflects these themes as well. Third John shows us what happens when people follow sound teaching . . . and when they don’t:

  • When Christians walk in truth, joy abounds (3 Jn 4). When someone in the church rejects the truth, everyone hurts (3 Jn 19).
  • When Christians support one another, they share fellowship in the truth (3 Jn 8). When someone seeks his own power, the fellowship is at risk (3 Jn 9–10).

Overall, the three letters from John give us an idea of what the apostle thought was most important at the time: sound teaching, obedience to God, and brotherly love.

Quick outline of 3 John

  1. Praise for walking in truth (1–4)
  2. Praise for loving the brethren (5–8)
  3. Caution regarding Diotrephes (9–12)
  4. Anticipation of a visit (13–15)

If you found this blog post helpful, please consider donating to help offset the costs of running this site. I will never have ads or charge a fee. However, it takes a lot of work to keep this site up. Thanks!

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Bible Overview Series: 2 John

Letters of John by Joseph Novak

2 John: Pure spiritual love is a delusion. Love has come among us in the flesh. It’s with our bodies that we walk in love’s way.

(Ben Myers’ #CanonFodder Summary) 

Jeffrey Kranz’s Overview of 2 John

The apostle John had set several things straight in his first epistle. He’d told the churches how to know if they were of the faith, he’d dressed down the false teachings that were making their rounds, and he’d strongly urged the Christians to love one another.

He’d told them about truth, love, and obedience—now he writes to tell them what to do about it.

In Second John, the elder (2 Jn 1) briefly explains the relationship between the three:

  • Love and truth. John loves those who know the truth, because the truth “abides” in them (2 Jn 1–2). When two parties know the truth, love comes naturally.
  • Truth and obedience. God the Father commanded that His children walk in truth (2 Jn 4). When you know the truth, obedience comes naturally.
  • Obedience and love. The commandment that God gave isn’t anything new: “love one another” (2 Jn 5). A sure sign of obedience to God is love for His church, and a sure sign of love is obedience to God (2 Jn 6).

He then warns that “many deceivers have gone out into the world” (2 Jn 7), and that the Christians should watch themselves. They should beware of teachers who do not acknowledge Jesus’ human life and who deviate from the things He taught (2 Jn 8–9). Such people are dangerous: the church shouldn’t side with them, shouldn’t invite them in, and shouldn’t participate in their actions (2 Jn 10–11).

John is a bit cryptic in this letter, but he seems well aware of this. He would rather discuss this and more in person, so he lets the audience know that he hopes to visit soon (2 Jn 12).

Because truth, love, and obedience should be a part of everyday life, and the church needs to understand how.

Theme verse in 2 John

And this is love, that we walk according to His commandments. This is the commandment, just as you have heard from the beginning, that you should walk in it. (2 Jn 6)

2 John’s role in the Bible

In addition to this one, John wrote two other New Testament letters, a Gospel, and possibly the prophetic book of Revelation. He was a leader in the early church, and he probably wrote his documents after most of the other New Testament books were already written.

John writes this second letter to “the chosen lady and her children”—which may refer to a particular church leader, or perhaps metaphorically to a local church or group of churches. John refers to this lady’s “chosen sister” at the end of this letter (2 Jn 13), which may be code for a greeting from the children of another woman, or members of another church or group of churches.

Second John is the fifth of the General Epistles (or Catholic Letters), the writings of apostles to the church at large. While Paul wrote to specific congregations and individuals, Peter, James, John, and Jude wrote to broader audiences scattered across the Roman empire. Second and Third John, however, are written to specific audiences.

Second John is the second shortest book of the Bible—Third John is the shortest (by word count). It’s only one chapter long, and has only thirteen verses.

This letter repeats many themes from John’s first letter, and Third John reflects these themes as well. Overall, the three letters from John give us an idea of what the apostle thought was most important at the time: sound teaching, obedience to God, and brotherly love.

Quick outline of 2 John

  1. Walk in truth (1–4)
  2. Love others and obey God (5–6)
  3. Beware false teachers (7–11)
  4. Look forward to a visit (12–13)

If you found this blog post helpful, please consider donating to help offset the costs of running this site. I will never have ads or charge a fee. However, it takes a lot of work to keep this site up. Thanks!

paypal.me/meredisciple

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Bible Overview Series: 1 John

Letters of John by Joseph Novak

1 John: Love is the order of things; hatred is rebellion against reality.

(Ben Myers’ #CanonFodder Summary) 

Jeffrey Kranz’s Overview of 1 John

Peter was right: false teachers had arisen from among the church (2 Pe 2:1). Now some people were teaching that Jesus wasn’t human, denying that He was the true Messiah. It was probably easier to get away with than it ever had been: the apostles were growing older, and churches were springing up all over the Roman Empire.

Plus these teachers claimed to be Christians, which would have been very troubling for the young churches to hear. Whom can they believe, and how can they evaluate new teachers as they come?

The apostle John has the answers. He’s been with Jesus; he’s seen Jesus die (Jn 19:26); he’s seen the empty tomb (Jn 20:4–5). John knows the truth, and so he writes a letter to help the church know how to tell the children of God from the impostors.

John combats false teaching with absolutes: truth and lies, light and darkness, love and hate, sin and righteousness, Christ and antichrist. He shows the church how to tell if they are children of God and how to tell if a teacher is trying to deceive them.

This is a letter written from a wise and loving father to a troubled church. John writes to older men (“fathers”), young men, and children, but he addresses all of them as his “little children”—a term of endearment that a loving father would use for his child.

John’s letter moves around from theme to theme, but he makes three things very clear to the church:

  1. The children of God believe in Jesus Christ
  2. The children of God keep His commandments
  3. The children of God love one another

And John as far as John is concerned, the people he writes to are children of God (1 Jn 5:13).

Theme verse in 1 John

This is His commandment, that we believe in the name of His Son Jesus Christ, and love one another, just as He commanded us. (1 Jn 3:23)

1 John’s role in the Bible

First John is the fourth of the General Epistles (or Catholic Letters), the writings of apostles to the church at large. While Paul wrote to specific congregations and individuals, Peter, James, John, and Jude wrote to broader audiences scattered across the Roman empire. John’s next two letters, however, are written to specific audiences.

In addition to this one, John wrote two other New Testament letters, a Gospel, and possibly the prophetic book of Revelation. He was a leader in the early church, and he probably wrote his documents after most of the other New Testament books were already written.

First John is powerful. It’s also a bit odd. It reads somewhat like a letter, somewhat like a sermon, and a little like some passages from Proverbs. Most of our New Testament epistles begins with a formal greeting and end with a conclusion and instructions, but First John has neither of these characteristics.

Plus, John’s wise, fatherly writing style can wander from point to point: there are few obvious divisions in this letter. Plus, while many epistles contain a single statement of the author’s purpose in writing, John lists at least 12 reasons for penning this letter:

  1. So that he and the church may have joy (1 Jn 1:4)
  2. So that they would not sin (1 Jn 2:1)
  3. Because their sins are forgiven (1 Jn 2:12)
  4. Because they know God the Father (1 Jn 2:13)
  5. Because they know Jesus (1 Jn 2:13)
  6. Because they have overcome the evil one (1 Jn 2:13–14)
  7. Because they are strong (1 Jn 2:14)
  8. Because the word of God abides in them (1 Jn 2:14)
  9. Because they know the truth (1 Jn 2:14)
  10. Because no lie or false teaching can come from the truth (1 Jn 2:21)
  11. Because some would try to deceive them (1 Jn 2:26)
  12. So that they would know they have eternal life (1 Jn 5:13)

To be fair, these reasons are more fluidly interconnected in the text than a bulleted list like this makes them out to be.

First John’s role in the Bible is closely related to the Gospel of John. The Gospel of John is written to persuade non-Christians to believe in Jesus and find eternal life in His name (Jn 20:31). Conversely, the first letter of John is written so that those who believe in Jesus would know they have indeed found life in Him.

If you wonder how the teaching in First John played out in real life, you’ll love Second and Third John! These two very short letters apply First John’s general teachings of truth, love, and obedience to specific local church situations.

No other book of the Bible talks about love as often as First John. About one in every 50 words is a form of “love”—that makes for about 52 mentions of love in just five short chapters. And it’s no surprise: love is evidence of salvation (1 Jn 3:14), and John says that God Himself is love (1 Jn 4:8).

Quick outline of 1 John

Disclaimer: this may be the toughest book of the Bible to outline. With all John’s reasons to write, scholars have a hard time forming an outline from John’s letter. But the central focus of First John seems to be distinguishing the false teachers from children of God, so here’s my take:

  1. The children of God keep His commands (1 Jn 1–3)
  2. The Spirit of God affirms Jesus’ first coming (1 Jn 4:1–6)
  3. The children of God love one another (1 Jn 4:7–21)
  4. Things the child of God can know (1 Jn 5)

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Bible Overview Series: 2 Peter

2 Peter by Joseph Novak

2 Peter: “Paul’s letters are hard to understand”: the calm judgment of a pseudonymous letter full of riddles and obscurities.

(Ben Myers’ #CanonFodder Summary) 

Jeffrey Kranz’s Overview of 2 Peter

After Jesus rose from the grave, He had a special conversation with Peter about how the apostle would die:

“Truly, truly, I say to you, when you were younger, you used to gird yourself and walk wherever you wished; but when you grow old, you will stretch out your hands and someone else will gird you, and bring you where you do not wish to go.” Now this He said, signifying by what kind of death he would glorify God (Jn 21:18–19).

Peter knows that he will die for the Lord, and that his time was drawing near.

But there is so much the church needs to know and remember! False teachers are everywhere, causing divisions in the body of Christ (2 Pe 2:1–3). People will mock the promise of Christ’s return (2 Pe 3:4). There are those who twist the Old Testament, and even the letters of Paul (2 Pe 3:16).

The church needs to remember the Scriptures: the words of the Old Testament prophets and the words of Jesus that the apostles had passed on. Peter is an undisputed authority in the church, and so before he gives up his life, he writes a letter.

One last letter.

Second Peter is a last attempt to help the global church by reminding them of the truth. Peter explains several things that Christians will need to remember after he’s gone:

  1. Godly living is the evidence of salvation (2 Pe 1:10). If the Christians really believe what they say they believe, they will display moral excellence, knowledge, self-control, perseverance, godliness, kindness, and love.
  2. Scriptural truth and prophecy are from God, not man. Peter and the rest of the apostles would die, but the word would remain forever (1 Pe 1:25). Furthermore, the teaching that Peter and the apostles had passed on wasn’t just something they’d dreamed up; they were eyewitnesses (2 Pe 1:16–18). And all those Old Testament prophets? They were under the influence of the Holy Spirit (2 Pe 1:21).
  3. False teachers will try to deceive the church. They’ll introduce divisive teachings that encourage people to indulge in the sins of the world: a twisted, disgusting take on Jesus’ grace (2 Pe 2).
  4. Mockers will discount the idea of Jesus’ return. Peter doesn’t know when Jesus was coming back; he just knew better than to doubt Him. Peter assures the church that Jesus is indeed returning, and His church should behave accordingly (2 Pe 3:14).

Peter had urged the church to stand firm in his first letter, but there will be no more letters from Peter. There will be no more sermons and no more miracles from the disciple who lead the church for over 30 years.

Second Peter urges the church to stand firm—because even when Peter is gone, the church must carry on.

Theme verse in 2 Peter

Remember the words spoken beforehand by the holy prophets and the commandment of the Lord and Savior spoken by your apostles. (2 Pe 3:2)

2 Peter’s role in the Bible

Second Peter is the apostle Peter’s last reminder to the church. Tradition holds that he was crucified around 64–65 A.D., which means he would have written this letter about this time.

Second Peter is the third of the General Epistles (or Catholic Letters), the writings of apostles to the church at large. While Paul wrote to specific congregations and individuals, Peter, James, John, and Jude wrote to broader audiences across the Roman empire.

There’s one more “goodbye” letter in the New Testament: Paul’s second letter to Timothy. Both apostles, when they knew they were going to die soon, wrote letters to remind others of what was important.

This letter’s second and third chapters bear remarkable resemblance to the epistle of Jude. We don’t know if Peter borrowed from Jude’s letter, if Jude borrowed from Peter’s letter, or if both men were drawing from a prior discussion. Both letters, however, warn the church of two dangerous influences:

  1. False teachers who lead the people to indulge in sin
  2. Mockers who dismiss the idea of Jesus’ return

Perhaps the most interesting aspect of Second Peter is its emphasis on the Scriptures, both Old and New Testament. Peter firmly believes that many of the books in our Bibles today are true:

  • Peter was an eyewitness of Jesus’ majesty when He was transfigured (you can read about that in Mark 9), and so he is not just following a made-up story of Jesus. He was there. He heard the voice of God affirming Jesus as His Son (2 Pe 1:17). Therefore, Jesus’ ministry validates the prophets’ writings (the Old Testament).
  • And even those prophets weren’t just making things up. They were “moved by the Holy Spirit” when they spoke for God (2 Pe 1:21).
  • Peter holds the teachings of the apostles in high regard—on the level of the Old Testament prophets (2 Pe 3:2). The apostles included JamesMatthew, and John, who went on to write some of the books in our New Testament.
  • Peter especially esteems Paul’s letters—even regarding them as Scripture themselves (2 Pe 3:15–16).

Peter had said in a previous letter that “the word of the Lord endures forever” (1 Pe 1:25). Peter would die, but he believed the Scriptures would live on—and his last recorded words urge us to remember them.

Quick outline of 2 Peter

2 Peter displays some remarkable parallelism. Peter begins with a call to diligence in good works, reminds the reader that they can count on the prophets, and then warns that false prophets will arise. Peter then assures them that the old prophecies are true, and finishes with a call to be diligent and on guard.

  1. Remember to be diligent (2 Pet 1:1–15)
  2. True prophets and teachers (2 Pet 1:16–21)
  3. False prophets and teachers (2 Pet 2)
  4. Remember the true prophecies (2 Pet 3:1–13)
  5. Be diligent; be on guard (2Pet 3:14–18)

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