Read THE Book 2019

Welcome to RTB 2019, a place to read through the Bible in the year 2019 and stay in contact with others who are doing the same thing and have a little hand-holding as you go. Want to jump right in? You can click on the “Read THE Book 2019” tab above to find the most current weekly notes.

Some of my local friends know that I’ve been teaching through the Bible chronologically for many years. My goal was to help you sort out all that confusing timeline stuff so that when you read the Bible, especially the Old Testament, you have an understanding of where you are, when you are, and what was going on in the world at that time.

In 2017 I decided to do a trial run of a read-through-the-Bible-in-a-year discussion group that met every week to discuss what we read as we followed a reading schedule using the traditional book by book order. Have I mentioned that “book by book order” does not flow chronologically? Nope – the books are grouped into sections, but they don’t always flow in the order that the events happened. So to help us along, I wrote a weekly reading guide with three sections: What’s Going On? When and Where Are We? And Who’s Who? This was a one page handout that gave you just a little head’s up about things I thought you might want to know at the beginning of each week’s assigned reading to help you keep your bearings. The trial run turned out to be a success for those who finished.

I have decided to go ahead and make those weekly notes available here on the website so that anyone can read along at their own pace. If you missed the January 1st start date, the notes are designed so that you can start at week 1 any time of year and begin your own journey to Read THE Book. Feel free to contact me and let me know how I can help get you started. It doesn’t matter to me how you use this information as long as it does what I always imagined it might do. If it helps you to Read THE Book, then I’m happy to know I’ve made it a little easier.

Want to be part of the local discussion group? There are two groups to choose from. One will meet in Scottsboro, AL at the First Methodist Church on Sunday nights at 5:00 PM. Another group meets at Jamoka’s Coffee shop in Guntersville, AL Mondays at noon.

And of course, I’ll be having several workshops throughout the year that give the overview of the whole Bible, known as “THE Bible Story.” I encourage anyone local to try to come to this workshop as it will really help you get all the chronology sorted out. You’ll even make your own timeline showing the major people and events from Genesis to Revelation and that will come in handy as you are reading. If you want to host a workshop at your church, just let me know

It is my prayer that anyone who is thinking about making a New Year’s Resolution to read through the Bible in 2019 will join with me and let’s make a commitment to each other to do it together! It seems like everything is just a little easier when you have friends who can share the same experience with you. The reading schedule will begin on January 1, 2019 and I’ll have all the information you need well before that, so keep checking back as I post new information here.

Let’s Do This!

Daily Reading Schedule [Word][PDF]
One-Sheet Schedule Overview [Word][PDF]

Posted in RTB 2019 | Leave a comment

Group Guidelines & Reading Schedule

Daily Reading Schedule [Word] [PDF]
One-Sheet Schedule Overview [Word] [PDF]

  • You may use any Bible translation that you are comfortable with.
  • I have scheduled readings for Monday through Saturday with an average of about five chapters a day. Take Sunday off, use that day to catch up, or read some Psalms.
  • Each Sunday I will post notes about what you will be reading the next week. These notes will have three sections: What’s Going On, When and Where Are We, and Who’s Who. These notes are designed to guide you as you read through the Bible and my way of pointing out some things I wish someone had told me the first time I read through the Bible. For example, there are places the books don’t go in chronological order and there are times that when you begin a new book things have changed significantly in the world. I’ll try to help you keep it all straight.
  • You can Subscribe to the blog so that you will get an email notification when a new blog is posted by adding your email on the right side of the screen and hit “Subscribe”
  • I will be leading local discussion groups and encourage you to attend if you can. Or form your own discussion group with friends where you can share your a-ha moments, questions, and reflections with each other. If you are flying solo, please stay connected by following along on the website and use the comments section if you want to ask questions or share your own thoughts. One big advantage to this format is anyone can begin their reading journey at any point in the year and follow along at their own pace.
  • If you are part of the discussion group and you get behind or take time off for vacation, illness, or unexpected what-not, I suggest you rejoin the group when you are able and pick up with where the group is reading. You might miss stuff. That’s ok! Read the notes from the weeks you missed and don’t try to catch up. The goal is to stay with the group so that you can be current on discussions. You can read what you missed later.
  • I have decided not to include the Psalms in our reading schedule. Suggestions for how you might read through them:
    • Read one Psalm every day. There are 150 so you will read each one at least twice
    • Read 3-5 Psalms every Sunday
    • Wait until December (we finish our plan on Nov 30th) and then read all of the Psalms by reading five or six Psalms each day of December
    • Work your way through the book of Psalms any way that works for you
    • I don’t normally recommend the King James Version for daily reading. But the Psalms are at their most beautiful in the KJV. Consider reading them in several different translations
  • Consider keeping a journal as you read through the Bible for personal reflection. Everyone has their own style, but you might want to keep notes and random thoughts as you go along. I filled up a large 5 subject notebook in 2017 with my own a-ha moments and I’ve read through the Bible many, many times.
  • Some weeks will be lighter than others. I tried to keep the readings even throughout, but I want us to come to natural breaks in the story at the end of each week.
  • On the master schedule, there is a place to mark what you’ve read with an X. It feels good to mark things off as you accomplish them!
  • I’ve built in two breaks. One is halfway through the Old Testament and the other is between the Old and New Testaments. Use these weeks to catch up if you need to.
  • If you have never read all the way through the Bible before, your goal is just to keep up and finish! If you have read through the Bible before, I suggest that each time you read it through you find a different goal for that year. For example, you might read a different translation or use a study Bible with notes, or you might use the various maps to follow the story by location, learn the Names of God and see how they are used differently in different passages, etc. The last time I read through the Old Testament, I underlined all the words that God spoke in red. The words of Jesus are often in red in the New Testament and I thought it would be good to see the Words of the Lord in the OT the same way.
  • If at any time you read something that troubles you, ask Holy Spirit to guide you in your understanding. You may need to set something aside and trust that as the Lord wants you to learn something from that passage, He will bring it up at the right time. Don’t let it upset you if you struggle with some of the things you read. Bring it to the group and let’s talk about it. There are things that I struggle with, too. It’s ok. God knows our struggles and loves us anyway.

I suggest you begin each day with a prayer that might go something like this…..

Thank You, Father, for Your Word. Please guide me as I read today and help me understand what YOU would have me understand and absorb what YOU would have me absorb. Hide the words and the message in my heart so that I may carry it with me into everything I do. Open the eyes of my heart to what You would have me see, learn, know, and remember. Take me by the hand and walk with me on this journey. Send Holy Spirit to be my guide, my teacher, my helper, and my shield. In the Holy Name of Jesus I pray, Amen.

Posted in RTB 2019 | Leave a comment

Week 47: 1,2 Peter. 1,2,3 John, Jude

To Him who is able to keep you from stumbling and to present you before His glorious presence without fault and with great joy— to the only God our Savior be glory, majesty, power and authority, through Jesus Christ our Lord, before all ages, now and forevermore! Amen.” Jude 24-25

1 -2 Peter – The last time we heard from the apostle Peter was in Acts 15 when he spoke at the Council at Jerusalem. Even though we don’t read much about Peter after that, he was busy leading the church in Jerusalem while Paul was out on his missionary journeys. He and Paul worked together in very different ways to accomplish the same goals. They supported each other. We know that both Silas and Mark spent time with Peter and likely even acted as his scribe for his letters. Peter was martyred between 64 and 68 AD under the reign of Nero. Non-Biblical writings record that Peter was crucified upside-down, saying he wasn’t worthy to die in the same way as Jesus.

The first letter was probably written in the early 60’s. Peter claims that he is writing from “Babylon” which most scholars agree was a symbolic reference to the Roman Empire. He spent much of his ministry in Jerusalem but was also in Rome at some point so it’s not certain where the letters were written. The theme of the first letter seems to be holiness, perseverance in the face of suffering, and encouragement to live for God and God alone. The second letter was written a few years later and deals with the problem of false teachers and false doctrine from inside the newly established Christian church. He clearly states that he was an eye witness to the events of Jesus life, death, and resurrection and his word is therefore trustworthy.

1-2-3 JohnThese three letters were written by the Apostle John, the one whom Jesus loved (John 13:23). We know very little about the life of John after his time with Jesus and a brief mention in Acts 4 when he and Peter went before the Sanhedrin and again in Acts 8 when he and Peter visit the newly converted in Samaria. Later, we’ll learn that he is on the Island of Patmos, off the coast of Ephesus, that likely served as a penal colony, when he writes the book of Revelation. We really don’t know where he was for the years between Jesus’ lifetime and the end of John’s life but it is safe to assume he was somewhere in Asia Minor because he mentions some of these places by name. None of the three letters identifies its author, but there is little doubt they were written by John because the style is very similar to the Gospel of John. In the second and third letters, he simply identifies himself as “the elder.” It is likely that all of John’s writings came much later than the other books of the Bible. Jerusalem was destroyed in 70 AD and most scholars agree John wrote his letters after that, possibly as late at 85-95 AD.

The first letter is simply addressed to Believers. He states clearly that he was a witness to the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ and lovingly tells his followers, calling them his children, that they must hold fast to their faith and love one another always. He also warns them of false teachers. The second letter is addressed to a “dear Lady” that may have been an actual person, or it may have been symbolic of a particular church group. Either way, his message is clear – Love one another. The third letter is addressed to Gaius, a Christian in one of the churches in Asia Minor and encourages the believers to show hospitality to those who come to share the true Gospel message.

Jude – The book of Jude was probably written by Jesus’ brother, even though he calls himself a brother of James, also a brother of Jesus and the author of the book of James who was a well-known apostle in the church at Jerusalem. The letter was probably written around 65-80 AD, although there is no way to be sure. Jude is once again addressing the problem of false teachers teaching false doctrine. The letter is his attempt to encourage believers to hold fast to the teachings of Jesus and to be vigilant against the evil of those teaching these false teachings. The message is remarkably similar to 2 Peter. It is likely that whichever letter was written first is being validated by the second letter. The two authors are standing in agreement with their message. Jude reminds them that it is God Himself who will give them the strength to persevere, that He will hear our prayers and answer them. He quotes from the Old Testament, but he also references some legendary stories and quotes The Book of Enoch, which is not a book of the Bible but was an accepted Jewish historical book.

Weekly Reading Assignment:

  • Monday: 1 Peter 1-5
  • Tuesday: 2 Peter 1-3
  • Wednesday: 1 John 1-3
  • Thursday: 2 John
  • Friday: 3 John
  • Saturday: Jude
Posted in RTB 2019 | Leave a comment

Week 46: Philemon, Hebrews, James

“Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.” Hebrews 11:1 (KJV)

What’s Going On? / When and Where Are We? /  Who’s Who?

Philemon – “Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us.” Paul writes this letter to Philemon while he is in prison in Rome. Paul had met Philemon during his third missionary journey. Philemon was one of Paul’s converts and they had apparently worked together and become very close. Philemon, from Colosse, was a slave owner. One of his slaves, Onesimus, had stolen from him and then escaped from Philemon and somehow connected with the imprisoned Paul, who teaches him about Christ and convinces him to return to Philemon even though his crime was punishable by death. He sends this letter with him asking Philimon not only to forgive Onesimus, but to send him back to Paul so that he can help him in his ministry. This letter was probably written at the same time as his letter to Colossians about 60 AD and sent through Tychicus who accompanies Onesimus on their journey. Unfortunately, we don’t know what happened to Onesimus after returning to Philemon. His name is not mentioned after this letter so we don’t know if he was able to return to Paul or what became of him.

Hebrews – The author of this book doesn’t identify himself. Most agree that Paul didn’t write the book of Hebrews although a case could be made for his authorship. It is more likely that someone who worked closely with Paul wrote the letter, perhaps Barnabus, Apollos, or Aquilla. I tend to lean towards Barnabus as being the most likely candidate because he was highly educated and from the tribe of Levi and would have been able to build a solid argument for the Hebrew people to accept Christ as the true Messiah. The letter unfolds in a classic format for rhetoric and the author used his knowledge to lay down a very persuasive case for his audience. The theme of the letter is Christ’s supremacy. Christ is superior to the angels, to Moses, and to Aaron and the line of Levite priests, even the great High Priest. He offers a better covenant, a better sanctuary, and a better sacrifice than any other ever could.

You’ll see references to Melchizedek in chapters 5-7. He was a king in Salem (Jerusalem) who offered a meal to Abram after he rescues Lot in Genesis 14. He is called a priest of God Most High and after the meal he blesses Abram, receives his fair portion of the spoils of the battle, and sends him on his way. We don’t hear anything else about him until we get to Psalm 110:4, which references an order of priests in the name of Melchizedek, who predated the Levite priests by five hundred years and yet was called to act as a priest in addition to his role as king. In Hebrews, the case being made is that there is a line of priests called by God that is superior to the line of Levi. Jesus is the NEW High Priest, not in the line of Levitical priests, but in the line of priests appointed by God Himself. 

He shows how the Hebrew forefathers were saved by their faith and chapter 11 is what I often refer to as “The Parade of Saints” whose faith should be the example for them. The letter is not addressed to a specific person or even a specific place, but to all the Hebrews who were struggling to hold fast to this new theology of Jesus Christ as God’s provision as the perfect sacrifice and the fulfillment of all of His promises. The early Christians were suffering horrible persecution, but for the most part, the Jews were left alone. How easy it would have been to stay safe by rejecting Christianity. But the author compels the readers to stay strong and persevere in their faith. The book of Hebrews paints a picture of Christ in light of Old Testament understanding, where the book of Romans offers the same theology to a people who didn’t have the knowledge or personal history of the Old Testament.

James – We now begin a new section of what is often called “The General Letters.” While the letters before the book of Hebrews were all written by Paul, this new group of letters will bear the name of the author as the book title. James was written by James, the brother of Jesus. He writes about the behaviors of Christians and how they should reflect those of Jesus. Deeds are more important than words, faith should be apparent by our actions, and true wisdom comes only from God.

Weekly Reading Assignment:

  • Monday: Philemon 1
  • Tuesday: Hebrews 1-3
  • Wednesday: Hebrews 4-7
  • Thursday: Hebrews 8-10
  • Friday: Hebrews 11-13
  • Saturday: James 1-5
Posted in RTB 2019 | Leave a comment

Week 45: 1-2 Thessalonians, 1-2 Timothy, Titus

“I have been sent to bring faith to those God has chosen and to teach them to know God’s truth—the kind of truth that changes lives—so that they can have eternal life, which God promised them before the world began—and He cannot lie. And now in His own good time He has revealed this Good News and permits me to tell it to everyone. By command of God our Savior, I have been trusted to do this work for Him.” Titus 1:1-3 NLT

What’s Going On? When and Where Are We? / Who’s Who?

1 Thessalonians – About 51 AD – In Acts 17 we read about Paul’s visit to Thessalonica during his second missionary journey after leaving Philippi. Apparently, the unbelieving Jews in Philippi caused the Gentiles to question their beliefs and stirred up some trouble, causing Paul to leave suddenly during the night. This letter was then written to the new believers/converts after Paul had sent Timothy to check on things in Thessalonica before meeting back up with him in Corinth. Timothy has delivered a good report and Paul is thankful to hear it and reminds the new pagan converts that their old ways of idol worship can’t compare to the love of God and encourages them to be steadfast in their new Christian faith. He also answers some specific questions concerning death.

2 Thessalonians – Also written by Paul from Corinth about 51-52 AD, this second letter to the Thessalonians offers encouragement and instruction for the new Christian converts. In both of the letters, we are introduced to “eschatology” which is the study of end times. Apparently there were many questions about what happens to believers after death that Paul is trying to answer and refers back to conversations they had when he was with them about the tribulation and the rapture. He tells them that God will give rest to the faithful believers and bring judgment on those who make the CHOICE not to follow Christ.

The next three books are often called “The Pastoral Letters” because they are giving specific instruction to both Timothy and Titus about their role as pastors of their churches.

1 Timothy – Timothy had been Paul’s travel companion and assistant for many years as we saw in Acts 16-20 and was apparently able to visit him during Paul’s time under house arrest in Rome as he is mentioned in Paul’s letters to the Philippians, Colossians, and to Philemon. Paul had sent Timothy to be the pastor of the church in Ephesus. He probably wrote this letter after his imprisonment in Rome about 61 AD, during his fourth missionary journey while in Philippi. This first letter addresses church organization, behaviors appropriate for the times, and warnings against false doctrine.

2 Timothy – It appears that Paul has been sent back to prison but this time he is not just under house arrest as he had been earlier. He writes this letter about 67 AD from what seems to be a cold and dreary dungeon where he is in chains. He asks Timothy to bring him his coat and we don’t know if the two men actually ever saw each other again but we do know that Luke is with him. As far as we know, this was Paul’s last letter.

Titus – Titus is leading the church in Crete when Paul sends this letter, likely between 1-2 Timothy, about 66 AD. While Titus isn’t mentioned in the book of Acts, he has apparently been working with Paul for some time because he is mentioned 13 times in Paul’s letters. The two men had been preaching the Gospel together in Crete shortly after Paul’s house arrest. Paul asks him to stay and lead the church there while Paul continues on his way.

“May the Master of Peace Himself give you the gift of getting along with each other at all times, in all ways. May the Master be truly among you!” 2 Thessalonians 3:16 (The Message)

Weekly Reading Assignment:

  • Monday: 1 Thessalonians 1-5
  • Tuesday: 2 Thessalonians 1-3
  • Wednesday: 1 Timothy 1-3
  • Thursday: 1 Timothy 4-6
  • Friday: 2 Timothy 1-4
  • Saturday: Titus 1-3
Posted in RTB 2019 | Leave a comment

Week 44: Galatians, Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians

“For this is what the Lord has commanded us: ‘I have made you a light for the Gentiles, that you may bring salvation to the ends of the Earth.’” Acts 13:47 / Isaiah 49:6

What’s Going On? / When and Where Are We? / Who’s Who?

Paul wrote the next four letters as a way to keep in touch with the new Christians in places he had already visited. Often, he is responding to specific questions or concerns from the leaders in these newly established “churches” which were really nothing like the churches we think of today. They were more likely home groups where believers formed communities and would gather to support each other in their faith. Paul would visit a place and preach the Gospel message, most likely in the format that we read in the letter to the Romans which was written to a people he had not met yet. He would train up leaders, and then move on to a new place. He stayed in touch with these new leaders and would guide them as concerns arose. So, many of these letters are his response to letters written to him where the leaders were looking for guidance in a specific situation. If your Bible has subheadings within the chapters, think of these like bullet points as he addresses specific issues. While Galatians was probably one of the first letters written, about 48 AD, the other three letters were all written about 60 AD while Paul awaited his trial in Rome.

Galatians – This letter was written by Paul to the people of Galatia, which would include Antioch, Iconium, Lystra, and Derbe in central Turkey, all churches that Paul founded on his first missionary journey that we read about in Acts 13-14. Paul taught that faith and repentance were all that was needed for salvation, but apparently others were teaching that new believers must be circumcised and follow Jewish laws and customs. You may remember that there was a huge meeting that addressed these issues in Acts 15 – the Council at Jerusalem. This letter was likely written before that event when there were still many unanswered questions. Paul’s views differed from those of Peter, who stayed in Jerusalem and founded the church for Jewish converts who were unsure about how to incorporate their new beliefs with their old traditions. Paul believed that faith trumped works and the Old Testament Law, which was ultimately fulfilled through Christ, was not required for new Gentile believers. Don’t worry, while Peter seems to be opposed to Paul, they are actually more on the same page than it appears. We’ll hear more from Peter later.

Ephesians – Paul had visited Ephesus on both his second and third missionary journeys. Since there is no specific recipient and this letter, unlike the others, does not seem to address a specific question, it’s entirely possible that this letter was circulated throughout many of the early churches as encouragement and general instruction about Christian unity and Godly conduct. This is one of the few places that addresses spiritual warfare and teaches the believer how to stand against the strategies of the enemy.

Philippians – Philippi was a Roman colony in northern Greece and was one of the main cities of Mesopotamia. Paul visited there on his second missionary journey and the Philippian people had supported Paul while he was in Thessalonica and Corinth later in that journey. Luke had accompanied Paul and Silas there and stayed behind when the others left. The theme of the letter seems to be encouragement, in addition to several personal messages.

Colossians –Epaphras was the founder of the church in Colosse in Asia Minor (Turkey) and had gone to Rome to visit Paul with some questions and concerns of heresy within the church. This letter addresses some of the common – and false – teachings that were circulating during the early years of the church. Paul gives specific examples of Christian conduct and instructions for carrying them out. Paul insists that Christ’s preeminence was not to be questioned but was sufficient and required the response of holiness by His followers. Later we’ll meet Philemon, who is from Colosse.

“For two whole years Paul stayed there in his own rented house and welcomed all who came to see him. He proclaimed the kingdom of God and taught about the Lord Jesus Christ—with all boldness and without hindrance!” Acts 28:30-31

Weekly Reading Assignment:

  • Monday: Galatians 1-4
  • Tuesday: Galatians 5-6
  • Wednesday: Ephesians 1-3
  • Thursday: Ephesians 4-6
  • Friday: Philippians 1-4
  • Saturday: Colossians 1-4
Posted in RTB 2019 | Leave a comment

Week 43: 1-2 Corinthians

“Be on your guard; stand firm in the faith; be courageous; be strong. Do everything in love.” 1 Corinthians 16: 13-14 NIV

What’s Going On?

Paul wrote these two letters to a church in Corinth, Greece in response to specific questions and reports he has received. We read about Paul’s stay in Corinth in Acts 18:18 during his second missionary journey. Later, the people of that newly established church are having problems that Paul addresses in these two letter/books. Corinth was a major port city and was buzzing with opportunity, filled with people of many different nationalities and cultures. There was a huge statue of Aphrodite, the goddess of love (think of her when you read the “love chapter” in 1 Corinthians 13), and where there are Greek goddesses, there are usually temple prostitutes. No wonder these people needed some instruction about living a new kind of life based on God’s kind of love.

1 Corinthians will address several main concerns: divisions within the church, court cases between church members, Christian “freedom” (remember that a large majority of the people in Corinth are actually slaves), marriage, sacrifices to idols, and general immorality – including sexual immorality. There are also questions about proper worship behaviors including the Lord’s Supper, spiritual gifts, offerings, Christian love and unity within the church. The question also arises about the resurrection, of both Christ and His followers.

We learn in 2 Corinthians that there have been some false teachers challenging Paul’s gospel. He will continue to answer some specific questions and address concerns within the Corinthian church. This letter contains some insight to Paul’s burden to not only share the Gospel message, but to care for these early churches and their members. He loves them deeply and is concerned for their spiritual progress. Paul discloses how hard his mission is and that he is willing to suffer humiliation, but his faith carries him on to do the work he felt called to do. So often a teacher is in front of his student, but Paul makes it clear that he is walking side by side with his fellow believers, sharing in their hardships and frustrations. He defends his ministry against those who oppose his teachings, boasting about his sufferings as one who so strongly believes in what he is teaching that he is willing to endure the hardships for the sake of the Gospel message.

Both books include a call for unity. There was much division within the early church and Paul urged them to work together for the common cause. Factions were beginning to arise: followers of Paul, or of Peter, or Apollos. Paul encouraged them to set aside their differences and follow Christ. I can’t help but notice, however, that the teachings of Paul can easily become quite legalistic if we allow ourselves to become wrapped up in following his advice to these early churches more so than to follow the teaching of Christ. Paul was, after all, a former Pharisee. As always, keep your eyes on the Big Picture and know that Paul is always pointing to Christ. This, above all else, is what we can learn from Paul.

When and Where Are We?

Paul wrote the first letter about 55 AD while he was staying in Ephesus which is where he went when he left Corinth. The second letter was written shortly after that while he was in Macedonia (Philippi is the capitol of Macedonia) on his third missionary journey.

Who’s Who?

Paul – the author of both letters

Titus – One of Paul’s Gentile companions who delivers the letter to the church in Corinth and spends some time as an early church leader there before joining Paul on some later mission trips

Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here!”  2 Corinthians 5:17

Weekly Reading Assignment:

  • Monday: 1 Corinthians 1-6
  • Tuesday: 1 Corinthians 7-11
  • Wednesday: 1 Corinthians 12-16
  • Thursday: 2 Corinthians 1-4
  • Friday” 2 Corinthians 5-9
  • Saturday: 2 Corinthians 10-13
Posted in RTB 2019 | Leave a comment

Week 42: Romans

“May God, the source of hope, fill you with all joy and peace by means of your faith in Him, so that your hope will continue to grow by the power of the Holy Spirit.” Romans 15:13 (GNT))

What’s Going On?

For the next six weeks we are going to be reading letters that were written by the early Christians. As the Gospel message began to spread throughout the world, early leaders emerged and churches began to form. Paul would travel around to these areas and then stay in touch with these believers though letters, many of which are now part of our New Testament. While Paul wrote the first group of letters, there were others that contributed their writings, as well. We’ll meet them in a few weeks.

The next thirteen books were all written by Paul. However, we aren’t going to be reading them in the order in which they were written. They are grouped together into categories and need a bit of rearranging for them to line up with Paul’s travels that we read about in the book of Acts. For now, just know that the book of Acts will supply our chronology of events, but the letters of Paul, which were all written within the time frame of Acts, are not going to be organized sequentially.

We begin this new section with Paul’s letter to the Christian church in Rome. In most of the other letters written by Paul, he is addressing people he has already met in a place he had already visited in order to address questions or concerns that had come up after he left. Not so with Romans. This letter was written to a church that Paul very much hoped to visit, but had not been to. Therefore, the book of Romans is the Gospel message Paul was likely sharing orally in the places he visited, but written out here for a group he had not yet had the opportunity to speak to. I think of this book as “The Gospel in a Nutshell.”  

Paul shares the plan of salvation, not just salvation for the Jews, but for all mankind. Remember in Acts when they held the Council at Jerusalem to determine whether Christians had to convert to Judaism before becoming followers of Jesus? This book practically serves as a handbook on “How to Become a Christian” for a new community of believers, both Jew and Gentile. Paul will explain God to those who don’t have an Old Testament foundation and he’ll explain the need for salvation to those who may not think they need it. He’ll address the Jews who want to hold on to their old beliefs. He’ll explain how important Faith is, Faith in the Righteousness of the One, True God.

The believers who were gathering in Rome had no concrete teaching to base their faith on. Surely the gospel story had spread far and wide out into the world, but the Truth of Jesus Christ needed verification and it was Paul’s hope to go to Rome and provide it as no other Apostle had yet been there and the Gospels written by Matthew, Mark, and Luke were probably just being written about this same time. Although Paul had hoped to visit Rome as part of a missionary journey to Spain, he would be sidetracked when he was arrested, tried, and imprisoned before finally appealing to Caesar, meaning he requested he be sent to Rome to meet with the Emperor. His journey to Rome might not have occurred in the way he planned, but he will finally arrive in Rome about five years after writing this letter.

When and Where Are We?

This letter was likely written about 56 AD while Paul was on his third missionary journey, probably while he was visiting Corinth. This would line up with Acts chapter 20.

Who’s Who?

Paul – (Saul) A Hebrew, a Pharisee who had studied under Gamaliel, a great Hebrew scholar. He also claimed to be a Roman citizen having been born in Tarsus which was apparently granted Roman citizenship, giving him the opportunity to speak to both Jews and Romans with credibility.

Weekly Reading Assignment:

  • Monday: Romans 1-3
  • Tuesday: Romans 4-6
  • Wednesday: Romans 7-8
  • Thursday: Romans 9-11
  • Friday: Romans 12-14
  • Saturday: Romans 15-16
Posted in RTB 2019 | Leave a comment

Week 41: The Acts of the Apostles

“But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be My witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”  Acts 1:8

What’s Going On?

The book of Acts is the second part of the letter written by Luke to Theophilus and picks up right where the book of Luke left off. This book will tell us about the acts, or activities, of the early apostles and how they carried out their calling with the help of the Holy Spirit. In fact, the book can be broken up into three sections based on Acts 1:8: The Gospel spreads throughout Jerusalem in chapters 1-7, then into Judea and Samaria in chapters 8-11, and finally be in position to spread throughout the world in chapter 12-28.

Jerusalem – Almost immediately following the arrival of the Holy Spirit, we see opposition beginning to stir. But Peter speaks to the crowd that what is happening had been prophesied by Joel, David, Abraham, and all of the Old Testament prophets. The crowd listens intently and Peter’s position as the leader of the early Jewish/Christian church is firmly established. We’ll follow the movements of the disciples, now called apostles, as the community of Jerusalem begins to be transformed.

Judea and Samaria – The movement will expand as the persecution in Jerusalem increases after the stoning of Stephen. One of the men leading the persecution was Saul, a Pharisee who no doubt believed he was doing the right thing to protect the Jewish beliefs as he understood them. But Saul would have a life altering experience on the Road to Damascus when Jesus Himself appears and tells him to stop persecuting the Christians. Saul will adopt the new name of Paul and spend the next several years gaining the trust of the Christians he had once tried to persecute.

The world – The question will arise about Gentile converts having to follow Jewish law. The decision is made at the Council at Jerusalem that Gentiles, now equipped with The Holy Spirit, are not bound by Old Testament food laws or the law of circumcision.  Paul will spend the rest of his life sharing the Gospel through a succession of missionary journeys all around the Mediterranean Sea.  

Paul will constantly be charged with “disturbing the peace” and sent to trial, punished, and even imprisoned. At the end of the book we find Paul sitting in prison in Rome after appealing to Caesar and awaiting his opportunity to speak on his own defense. While the outcome isn’t revealed here, we do know from outside resources that both Peter and Paul will be put to death by Nero. It makes sense to me, although there is no evidence to suggest this, that perhaps the two letters written by Luke are a part of the defense strategy. The two books together give an orderly account of the life, ministry, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ and show Peter and Paul being primarily responsible for being leaders of the new Christian movement: Peter to the Jewish converts and Paul to the Gentiles. I can see Luke carefully interviewing eye-witnesses for the purpose of supporting both Peter and Paul, not to mention the opportunity to witness the Good News to the very Emperor himself. While this may not be the primary reason for Luke’s account, it is interesting that his two letters are the epitome of a concise testimony that can be understood by Jew and Gentile alike to tell The Good News of salvation.

When and Where Are We?

The book of Acts takes place 30-65 AD. During this time we’ll follow Paul on his missionary journeys that will carry the Gospel message over a thousand miles away and into the heart of the Roman Empire where the message will explode throughout the empire and change the entire world.

Who‘s Who?

  • Luke – the author of the letter who becomes a part of the story when he joins Paul in chap 16.
  • Peter – becomes the leader of the new group of apostles and is the head of the church in Jerusalem
  • Saul/Paul – persecutor of Christians but becomes their greatest spokesman after meeting Jesus

Weekly Reading Assignment:

  • Monday: Acts 1-5
  • Tuesday: Acts 6-10
  • Wednesday: Acts 11-15
  • Thursday: Acts 16-20
  • Friday: Acts 21-24
  • Saturday: Acts 25-28
Posted in RTB 2019 | Leave a comment