(Why you should be thankful I’m not vocal and in your Sunday School Class – I figured that I’d give y’all a rare glimpse into my thought process of what I’m like at Sunday School. The italics are the questions I’d be asking myself, or things I’d try to remember to look-up the answer to later or other thoughts. The regular print is an example of the sequence of events and the study – something that sounds very much like the little booklets that I’m used to. I actually wrote that too, but that’s to avoid copyright infringement and to make it easier for me to show you how and what I’m thinking.)
I’m usually the first one in class – my booklet is always the well-read one, bent with over-use and marked up with notations, question marks, and marked passages – both underlined and highlighted. But a few weeks in, it gets marked less and less as I lose interest. In the week between one Sunday and the next, I tend to find plenty of time to read through the upcoming study section and really figure out what it has to say. By the time that Sunday School comes around – it’s basically a simple review. No new insights are learned.
“5 For this very reason, make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; 6 and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness; 7 and to godliness, mutual affection; and to mutual affection, love. 8 For if you possess these qualities in increasing measure, they will keep you from being ineffective and unproductive in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. 9 But whoever does not have them is nearsighted and blind, forgetting that they have been cleansed from their past sins. 2 Peter 1:5-9” The Bible study leader reads from page 3 of the Bible Study.
It’s a safe and boring topic, I thought to myself, trying to look as if I was following along with the lesson. I wonder, when was 2nd Peter written? (~125 a.d.) 1st Peter? (~90 a.d.) I knew better than to actually ask these questions … the teacher probably wouldn’t know but thankfully a good internet connection can help you figure just about anything out: 2 Peter is the first New Testament book to treat the other New Testament books as scripture.It quotes extensively from Jude. It’s style and content is very different from 1 Peter.
The teacher wrote goodness, knowledge, self-control, perseverance, godliness, mutual affection, and love on the white board, reading them aloud one by one.
A translation of the Greek has the words virtue, knowledge, temperance, patience, godliness, brotherly kindness, and charity. It’s interesting to note which words have changed – possibly because it has a secondary meaning that’s usually associated with something too specific that would allow certain behaviors to go unchecked.
Returning to the booklet, the teacher began to read the next section aloud, paragraph by paragraph, turning the pages as needed: “Living the Christian life can be quite challenging. Sometimes there are days when things just seem to go wrong. The car breaks down, a kid gets sick, the phone won’t stop ringing, the dogs are barking, the dishes are piling up and the house won’t stay clean for five minutes.”
That sounds more like a description of normal life – not the Christian life.
“It can be difficult to find the time to sit down long enough to study the Bible. There have been many times when I’m interrupted to deal with the kids or the dog and I seem to lose my place altogether. I find smaller Bible Studies such as this one to be an invaluable tool, like a wrench or hammer in my toolbox.”
One word: bookmark. Not that great of a metaphor. Why are all these books filled with sports or car or tool metaphors?
“Sometimes I feel lost without simple lists. I need a grocery list to know what to buy. I need a scavenger hunt list to know what to look for. In the same way, this is my go-to list for how to be a great Christian. The first item on the list is goodness. Goodness is one of the Fruits of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22). It is very interesting to me that goodness is the first item on the list – it must be very important or very necessary for the rest of the items on the list. If you have the first thing wrong, then everything that follows will be wrong too. That is why it’s important to get it right.”
I would have emphasized how very necessary the Holy Spirit is and it’s gifts are for us to be great Christians. Without it’s gift of goodness, then we would have to rely on our own goodness and that’s surely as disastrous a prospect as anything else.
“Then comes knowledge. Knowledge is not among the Fruit of the Spirit. Knowledge is also not wisdom, the Bible treats them very differently. We are not meant to despise knowledge, not the right kind of knowledge. But we are to be careful of the wrong kind of knowledge. Twice in Colossians the word knowledge is used: ‘We continually ask God to fill you with the knowledge of His will’ and ‘growing in the knowledge of God’ So we can conclude what he means here is get to know as much of God, as much about God, and God himself as much as possible.”
When was Colossians written? Colossians was written somewhere between 50 and 80 a.d. more likely the former while Paul was imprisoned. Apparently, they had incorporated pagan elements of worship in to their church and Paul wanted to set them straight about what belonged in worship and what didn’t.
“Self-control, sometimes called discipline, is the next item on the list. It is the last of the Fruits of the Spirit. Discipline is essential to being a disciple, a follower of Christ. Discipline means more than ‘to be punished’, it also means ‘to train oneself to do something in a controlled and habitual way.’ We should make it our habit to wake up early to study the Bible and pray. We should make it our habit to thank God before each and every meal – even our snacks! We should make it our habit to live in a controlled way that sets us apart from those around us living chaotic, uncontrolled lives.”
Disciple refers to students of Jesus, the term is found only in the four gospels and Acts. Jesus had many followers, but few of his followers became disciples. It’s the Latin equivalent of the Greek word mathetes which means the student of a teacher or the apprentice to a master craftsman. Disciples are students of a teacher, Apostles are messengers sent to deliver teachings or other messages.
The teacher looked up at the clock. “It looks like we have just enough time left for a few minutes of discussion. Do any of you have any questions?”
What was the point of the book of 2nd Peter? What problem was it meant to solve? It criticizes false teachers this distort the apostles teachings. It also explains that God has delayed the Second Coming so that as many possible people as possible can be saved. Christians should wait patiently for the return of Jesus. Why are we reading about the Bible but not from the Bible? Because the Bible has been studied for centuries and decades and we only want to learn from a small part of it where we can really evaluate what it has to say through the lens of modern experience and application to our lives as Christians. What reason is referred to in this passage? “3 His divine power has given us everything we need for a godly life through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness. 4 Through these he has given us his very great and precious promises, so that through them you may participate in the divine nature, having escaped the corruption in the world caused by evil desires. 2 Peter: 3-4”- basically we’ve been given his promises that we may participate in the divine nature… everything we need for a godly life, He gives us. If he gives us everything we need, why are we trying so hard to get by on our own effort to be good, knowledgeable, self-controlled, etc? Should we not seek the Holy Spirit’s enabling and gifting us to be great Christians? Why don’t you teach me more about the Holy Spirit? How can I know that it is in my life, working through me? How can I know that it is speaking me, speaking wisdom to me?
“And what about you? Have you anything to add?” The leader asked me last of all. I shook my head no. “Well then, we’re dismissed, next week we will start right where we left off with perseverance. I’ll see all of you in worship.”