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Summer 2024  Hope In The Lord   Unit 1: Experiencing Hope

When we read the New Testament letters, we are reading someone else’s mail. Of the 27 books in our New Testament, 21 of them are messages between the author and a particular church or individual. In the Greco-Roman world, letters served a personal function and were considered a substitute for the writer’s physical presence. The letters were commonly read aloud by the deliverer to the community (Colossians 4:16; 1 Thessalonians 5:27).
The challenge for the modern reader is the attempt to interpret the texts and understand them in the same way as the first-century audience. The letters best serve us after we know the historical and literary world in which these letters originated.
One dictionary defines hope as “to want something to happen or be true” or “to desire with the expectation of obtainment or fulfillment.” In popular use, a hope is often closely associated with a wish; there is not necessarily an expectation that this “hope” will come true. But Christian hope is based on nothing less than God’s promises and the confidence we have based on his faithfulness to his promises. We do not wish God would honor his promises; we hope he will. This quarter of study traces hope through the generations.

Hope and the Church
The five lessons of Unit I, “Experiencing Hope,” consider hope through the lens of those whose faith in Christ gave shape to the early church. In Colossians 1:27 (lesson 1), Paul tells the Colossians that the mysteries of God become known to them as their hope in Christ transforms their lives. In 2 Corinthians (lesson 2), hope in Christ leads to an even greater boldness than was possible for Moses because believers are able to see the glory of God with “with unveiled faces” (3:18). Lesson 3 points to the hope that is inspired in those around us when they see the salvation that is being worked out in us by the Holy Spirit (Romans 15:1–13). In lesson 4, we find encouragement, as did the writer of Hebrews, in the spiritual lifeline we have to God through Christ (see Hebrews 6). The unit closes with a lesson from Acts 26:1–11 and a testimony of Christian hope from Paul’s own lips as he defends himself before King Agrippa.

Lesson 1   Glorious Riches   Colossians 1:24–2:3
The congregations of Paul’s day faced the dual threat of their members returning either to pagan deities or to superseded Jewish practices (Romans 7:6; etc.). A more insidious heresy was syncretism—a blending of old beliefs and practices with new ones. Teachers of this system would say something like, “Having Christ is important, but to be saved, you also need.…” That sentence might be completed by one or more Jewish practices of the Law of Moses. Or it might be finished with speculative elements of Greek philosophy. Both seemed to have been problems at Colossae per Colossians 2:8–15. But before he confronted those problems, Paul first needed to ensure that his readers understood his own status, intent, and work.

Lesson 2    Bold Ministers   2 Corinthians 3:5–18
The letters of 1 and 2 Corinthians show a congregation troubled on several fronts. Challenges to Paul’s apostolic authority aggravated those troubles, and his letters to that church feature responses to personal criticisms leveled at him (1 Corinthians 9:1–2; 2 Corinthians 10:10; 11:5; 12:11–12; etc.). Therefore, Paul used much ink in 2 Corinthians to defend the legitimacy of his apostolic calling. Indeed, the more than 500 words of 2 Corinthians 2:12–3:18 set the stage for longer defenses of his apostolic ministry later in the epistle. Today’s lesson covers a majority of those 24 verses.

Lesson 3    Empowered Servants   Romans 15:1–13
The nature of the church in Rome was influenced by an edict issued by Emperor Claudius in about AD 49 that forced Jews living in the city to leave (Acts 18:2). This experience probably fostered a certain division within the Roman church between believers of Gentile and Jewish backgrounds. We can imagine each group contending that it had a better claim on salvation in Christ than the other (compare Romans 11:13–24).
The expulsion of Jews from Rome resulted in Christians of Gentile background being in the majority in the church there, if they had not been the majority already (Romans 1:5, 6, 13). Their majority status seems to have continued even after the death of Claudius in AD 54, which allowed Jews to return to the imperial city (compare Acts 18:2 with Romans 16:3–5a).

Lesson 4    Full Assurance   Hebrews 6:9–20
The passage of time alluded to in Hebrews 5:12 is thought to indicate that a second generation of believers is in view. The word remember in Hebrews 13:7 is taken to support this proposal, as this verse challenges the original audience to recall instructions from the leaders of the first generation of believers. This theory is viable as long as the word remember is intended to mean “recall information from memory.” But the Greek word translated remember can also mean “keep thinking about,” as it seems to intend in Hebrews 11:15. There, the same underlying Greek word is translated “thinking.” In any case, the many references to the priesthood and numerous Old Testament personalities (Hebrews 11) point to an audience of Jewish background.
There are various ways to outline the book. One way is in terms of five passages of warning. These five are Hebrews 2:1–4; 3:7–4:13; 5:11–6:12; 10:19–39; and 12:14–29. Each warning section includes a call to salvation and a vivid description of the consequences if God’s way is rejected.
Today’s lesson text includes part of the third warning. This passage consists of four sections split between negative and positive appeals. Hebrews 5:11–14 is negative, balanced by the positive 6:1–3. Hebrews 6:4–8 returns to a negative warning and is offset by the encouragement found in today’s lesson.

Lesson 5    Fearless Witness   Acts 26:1–11
After another riot or near-riot, Paul used his Roman citizenship to avoid being flogged (Acts 22:22–29). An inquest and a murder plot ensued (22:30–23:22), so Paul was transferred under heavy guard to Caesarea Maritima—about 75 miles road distance from Jerusalem—for trial under Governor Felix (23:23–24:26). That trial was inconclusive, and Paul was held in prison for two years until Governor Festus replaced Felix (24:27).
That change in leadership resulted in another trial (Acts 25:1–9), Paul’s appeal to Caesar (25:10–12), high-level consultation (25:13–22), and appearance before King Agrippa II (25:23–27). That’s the immediate backdrop to today’s lesson; the year was about AD 60.

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April 3, 2024 – June 26, 2024

 

After you’ve met Jesus, you are never the same again. His teaching challenges your thinking. His compassion softens your heart. His love turns your life around.

This thirteen session study, from the four Gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke and John) will open your eyes anew — or for the first time — to Jesus Christ.

 

Lesson 1: The Real Jesus (Mark 1:9-45)        Lesson 1 Replay

 

Lesson 2: The Surprising Jesus (Luke 5:17-32)         Lesson 2 Replay

 

Lesson 3: Jesus the Storytelling Teacher (Mark 4:1-25)       Lesson 3 Replay

 

Lesson 4: Jesus the Master over Fear (Luke 8:22-39)           Lesson 4 Replay

 

Lesson 5: Jesus the Challenging Savior (Mark 8:22-38)     Lesson 5 Replay

 

Lesson 6: Jesus the Source of Power (Mark 9:2-32)          Lesson 6 Replay

 

Lesson 7: Jesus a Rich Man (Luke 18:15-30)          Lesson 7 Replay

 

Lesson 8: Jesus the Servant Leader (Mark 10:32-45)        Lesson 8 Replay

 

Lesson 9: Jesus the Puzzling King (Mark 11)         Lesson 9 Replay

 

Lesson 10: Jesus the Prophet (Matthew 24:1-31)          Lesson 10 Replay

 

Lesson 11: Jesus the Sacrifice (Matthew 26:1-30)       Lesson 11 Replay

 

Lesson 12: Jesus the Dying King (John 19:16-42)       Lesson 12 Replay

 

Lesson 13: Jesus the Risen Lord (John 20)