Year of the Bible – Genesis 1:1 – 2:3

Year of the Bible - Advent Week Two - Genesis 1

 

 

 

In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. – Genesis 1:1

Genesis 1:1-2:3 (1:1-5)

In the beginning . . . These words take us back to the beginning of time. Time, connected to matter and space, suddenly came into being. All things were “generated” out of the willing of the Father, effected through the Son, carried out by means of the Holy Spirit. The Word spoke. What was not came to be out of nothing. This is the meaning or sense of the word “genesis.” Genesis continues today. God’s Word generates new life into us in baptism. God’s Word generates the body and blood of our Lord into being in the Lord’s Supper. God’s Word washes our hearts with absolution, generating our forgiveness before God and within our own hearts at the same time. God’s Word “bespeaks” us righteous—“generating” innocence and blamelessness before God. God’s Word will open our graves and call us forth from death into eternal life. In the beginning . . . God generated light before there were suns or stars, teaching us that there is a light from Him that enlightens the soul, a light that is not a worldly light. Even as man does not live by bread alone but on the Word of God, so man is not enlightened by the Sun (what is seen or learned by means of the Sun) but by the Word of God from Christ. In the beginning . . . God separated light from darkness. Truth has its counterpart in ignorance, even as spiritual light has a counterpart in spiritual darkness. At first there was a “dark side” to the universe, but it was not evil. God declared all things to be “good” (10). Darkness was the absence genesis, of the Word of Truth, which would only later be used against mankind when Satan fell from heaven. Satan does not want the Word to be heard, to be seen, because the Word creates spiritual light. This is the reason why we are under an imperative from God to preach the Word to all the world. The Word creates a spiritual light that is the means, the instrument, by which men are saved. Without it we live in darkness. In the beginning . . . God separated . . . God gathered . . . God said . . . and it was so.

 

Questions – Genesis 1:1 – 2:3

  1. Why is it hard to understand what life was like before time?
  2. What unique property or quality does the Word of God have that the word of men does not have?
  3. What are some examples of this quality at work in our lives?
  4. What is the light of Christ?
  5. What is spiritual darkness?
  6. How is this light restored to our fallen and darkened world?

 

Year of the Bible – Advent Week Two | Tuesday | Genesis 1:1 – 2:3 – © John W. Fiene


Year of the Bible – Psalm 150 – Psalm 6

Year of the Bible - Advent Week Two - Psalm 150

 

 

When I consider your heavens. . .what is man that you are mindful of him, the son of man that you care for him? – Psalm 8:1

Psalms 150 – Psalm 6 (Ps. 2:1-12)

The psalm readings for this week end the Psalter and then take us back to the beginning of the Psalter once again (Psalm 1). As we conclude with Psalm 150, and then turn back to the beginning with Psalm 1, the Holy Spirit takes us in search of the ideal righteous man, in search of the Messiah on earth. The Messiah is described in Psalm 2, which we call a “Messianic Psalm.” The Messiah is “the Anointed One” against whom the kings of the earth conspire. He is the Son of God who will rule the nations with an iron scepter. His rule is not just to be in a future rule. It is a rule that has and takes place in time and history, even in the present moment, to save those who cry to Him in faith. In the next few psalms we can see the theme of Advent beginning to emerge: Let the light of His face shine upon us. O Lord. (4:6) How wonderful it would be to see God, face to face! In a manger He is about to grant our request. Are we ready to meet Him?

“God blesses the righteous!” Psalm 5, says, reminding us to lay our requests before God every morning. We live in a deceitful world, an evil world with many dangers. We must contend with deceit, arrogance, lies and bloodthirstiness. The Christian’s defense can only come from God. He defends by declaring the deceitful to be guilty. God’s divine imputation of guilt always results in poetic justice. His punishment of the unrighteous, however, usually results in the righteous also experiencing suffering. We must live among the unrighteous (Psalm 6) and will suffer for it. Like innocent civilians who must live under an evil government but pray for deliverance, we pray for God’s justice while we pray for His protection and defense.

Questions – Psalm 150 – Psalm 6

  1. Where is Christ to be found and where is He worshipped in the world today?
  2. Why do the psalms include the rest of creation in their command to praise God?
  3. What makes a psalm a “Messianic” psalm?
  4. For what reasons, when we look at the world, must Christians be watchful and prayerful?
  5. What takes place when God “declares” evil men to be guilty?
Year of the Bible – Advent Week Two | Monday | Psalm 150 – Psalm 6 – © John W. Fiene


Year of the Bible – Revelation 20:1-22:21

Year of the Bible - Advent Week One - Revelation

 

 

They will not need the light of a lamp or the light of the sun for the Lord God will give them light. – Revelation 22:5

Revelation 20:1-22:21 (22:18-21)

I am coming soon (22:12), Christ says at the end of the book of Revelation. What is He going to give us when He comes? Heaven, the temple of God, Himself—a worship of the Lamb in a place where we need no light because He Himself is the light of heaven! In that place will also be the river of life and a divine throne. There the servants of God will see his face and his name will be on their foreheads (22:4). This chapter strongly affirms the inspired and inerrant character of Holy Scripture: These words are trustworthy and true (22:6). The chapter confirms the resurrected and glorified human nature of Christ: I am the Root and the Offspring of David (22:16), Jesus said. It also seals the Scripture, forbidding anyone to modify or add to it (22:18,19). Revelation ends with an Advent exhortation from our glorified Lord: Yes, I am coming soon. (22:20). To this we respond, with all Christian saints, with the prayer of Advent: Amen. Come, Lord Jesus. (22:20)

 

Questions – Revelation 20:

  1. When is Christ coming again?
  2. Describe what heaven is like, according to Revelation.
  3. What does it mean to have God’s name “on our foreheads?”
  4. What does this text tell us about the Bible?
  5. What is our worship-like response to Christ’s promise of His return, something that we often pray at our dining tables?
Year of the Bible – Advent | Week One | Saturday – © John W. Fiene


Year of the Bible – Jude vs. 1-25

Year of the Bible - Advent Week One - Jude

 

 

They are wild waves of the sea, foaming up their shame; wandering stars, for whom blackest darkness has been reserved forever. – Jude 1:21

Jude vs. 1-25 (vs.17-25)

Jude was the half brother of Jesus, the brother of James. He used his letter to warn the Church about false teachers, teachers who “change the grace of God into a license for immorality” (4). They were taking the free forgiveness of sins and the gift of life beyond the tomb and using it to say that sin or vice was permissible—perhaps even an opportunity to show how gracious God was! Jude uses vivid imagery to describe the false teachers that would use such doctrines to advance their evil in the Church: They were clouds without rain; autumn trees without fruit; wild waves . . . foaming shame.” Jude warned the true believers to be wary of such men. They bring division and do not have the Holy Spirit, he said. In contrast, Jude encouraged them to wait for the mercy of our Lord, to be merciful themselves and to hate moral corruption. And in the end of his letter Jude proclaims a doxology—a statement of praise to God—to the only God our Savior be glory, majesty, power and authority, through Jesus Christ our Lord, before all ages, now and forevermore! Amen. 

 

Questions – Jude

  1. How was Jude related to Jesus?
  2. What kind of false teaching, in particular, was Jude warning the Church about?
  3. What images does Jude use to describe false teachers, and what do they mean?
  4. Why is Jude’s praise of God so comforting to us?
Year of the Bible – Advent | Week One | Friday – © John W. Fiene


Year of the Bible – Mark 1:1-2:28

Year of the Bible - Advent Week One - Mark 1

 

 

 

The beginning of the gospel about Jesus Christ, the Son of God. Mark 1:1 

Mark 1:1 – 2:28 (1:1-18)

Mark’s Gospel tells us absolutely nothing about the facts surrounding the birth of Christ. It simply begins with the ministry of John the Baptist. John the Baptist was called by God to prepare Israel for the Messiah. He stood in the tradition of the great prophets of Israel, dividing light and darkness, showing men their sins but also a gracious Savior. His clothing was dramatic—a fulfillment of the prophecy of Malachi predicting that the forerunner of the Messiah would come in the spirit of Elijah the prophet.

To avoid any false supposition that John himself was the Messiah, John emphatically asserted that he was NOT the Messiah. John only came to prepare men to receive Him. Mark then proceeds to reveal to us who Jesus was and is—in the Baptism of Jesus and through His subsequent temptation in the wilderness. Mark’s Gospel gives us two parallels to Genesis to help us understand what Jesus came to do: (1) In his introduction to the Gospel, he repeats the phrase, “in the beginning.” We are thereby brought to remember the creation of the world at the beginning of the book of Genesis and, thereby, the fact that in Christ we become a new creation; and (2) from the temptation of Christ and His unharmed presence among “the wild animals”, that Jesus is the New Man who overcomes the evil that the first man could not withstand—the wiles of Satan and the darkness of unbelief.

The theme of Mark, therefore, is before us: Christ has come to destroy evil and reverse the consequences of the fall of man into sin. Mark proves that Christ has successfully brought about a reversal of the fall into sin by the way that Christ exercises: (1) Authority to call men to preach the Gospel 1:14, 2:13; (2) Power over demonic spirits, which He accomplishes through the power of His Word 1:21; (3) Healing of the sick. 1:29, 1:40, 2:1. Sickness came into the world along with sin and can only depart through the removal of sin; (4) The right interpretation of God’s Word—interpreting it with the spirit of the Gospel, proving that He Himself is the Word of God, the second person of the Trinity, the one and only source of saving light. 2:18, 2:23.

Questions – Mark 1:1 – 2:28:

  1. What information does Mark give us about the birth of Christ?
  2. What was John the Baptist sent to do?
  3. How did John go about fulfilling his calling?
  4. What literary allusions does Mark use in the first chapter to point us back to the beginning of the book of Genesis?
  5. What things did Jesus do to prove that He has the power and authority to save us from sin and evil?
Year of the Bible – Advent | Week One | Thursday – © John W. Fiene


Year of the Bible – John 18:1-21:25

Year of the Bible - Advent Week One - John 18

 

 

Come, follow me,” Jesus said, “and I will make you fishers of men.” At once they left their nets and followed him.

– Mark 1:17-18

Wednesday: John 18:1-21:25 (John 21:15-25)

The resurrected Jesus defied all the laws of nature—and He should. He had passed from this side of creation into the next. When Simon Peter decides to go back to a vocation he had before being called by Christ, Christ used the opportunity to teach Peter what his true vocation was—he was to become a fisher of men. What stood between Peter and his vocation was guilt. He had been compromised. He had betrayed Christ. Three times. So Jesus asked Peter if Peter loved him—not once, not twice. Three times. Each time, in response, Jesus told Peter what his calling was—to feed his sheep. What a Lord, what a merciful Lord! Our sins and weaknesses are not held against us, but used by Christ to make us stronger in our commitment and resolve to be faithful servants of Christ. John ends his Gospel by clearing up a rumor. It had been said that Jesus made a promise to John – that John would not die until Christ came again. But that had only been a misunderstanding from a conversation that John and Jesus had about Peter. John would die in time, it was only his testimony to Christ that would live on to the end of time.

John Questions:

  1. In what ways was Jesus the same as He was before his resurrection and in what ways was He different?
  2. Why might Peter think it was necessary to go back to fishing?
  3. What did Peter need to hear before he went on with the work of Christ?
  4. Do you think that Peter was a weaker or a stronger Christian as a result of Christ’s forgiveness?
  5.  What was the rumor that John cleared up at the end of his Gospel?
Year of the Bible – Advent | Week One | Wednesday – © John W. Fiene


Year of the Bible – Daniel 12:1-13

 

Year of the Bible - Advent Week One

 

 

Many will be purified, made spotless and refined, but the wicked will continue to be wicked. – Daniel 12:10

 

Daniel 12:1-13 (12:1-4)

Daniel foresees the end of time and the resurrection of all men. The time before the end is going to be a time of great stress. The archangel Michael will battle forcefully for the cause of the Church. The spiritual forces of evil will be unleashed like never before. Those who are faithful will remain, but thankfully, God shortens the time so that we may not be overwhelmed. Suddenly, all men will be resurrected out of the dust and judged. The righteous will inherit eternal life. Those who attempt to justify themselves before God on the basis of their own righteousness will be given over into shame and everlasting contempt. The details of the end of time are denied to Daniel. The only thing that Daniel knew for sure is that God’s people would suffer many tribulations, but these tribulations would not cause them to fall from faith. Tribulations would become a refiner’s fire to purify and strengthen faith. Daniel’s book ends with an assurance from God: These things would not take place within his lifetime.

Questions – Daniel 12

  1. What is the good news and the bad news about the end of time?
  2. What will happen to our bodies and souls at the end of time?
  3. What will happen to those who have claimed the righteousness of Christ?
  4. What will happen to the self-righteous?
  5. Of what value are tribulations to the Christian?
Year of the Bible – Advent | Week One | Tuesday – © John W. Fiene


Year of the Bible – Psalm 143 – 149

Year of the Bible - Advent Week One

 

 

I will praise the Lord all my life; I will sing praise to my God as long as I live. 

Psalm 146:2

 

Psalm 143-149 (149)

These psalms are a treasure house of precious worship-phrases employed by the many and various liturgies of the Christian Church. Psalms 141 to 143 hyperbolizes the urgent prayers of God’s people by characterizing them as “cries.” They reflect the desperation that David felt when he was in great peril. His cries are not unlike our own. They are the recurring prayers of the Church, constantly assailed, constantly in need of God’s grace.

Psalms 144-147 are psalms of praise. The praise of God is, in a sense, a proud description of God’s qualities, a confident boasting that is not self-centered but God-centered. As we read or sing these psalms, reflecting upon the qualities of God, since those qualities are for our benefit, we will find ourselves growing more confident in our praise of Him and in our life. To mediate and think about one event will always lead us to mediate and think about the other. So there is a crescendo of praise in the final psalms—as though they sense our final destiny as a new creation. They reach out and entreat all of creation to join in the praise of God—heaven, angels, sun and moon, shining stars, sea creatures, mountains, hills, wild animals, cattle, kings and nations—all are called upon to join in the magnification of God’s glory. Lest we think that this is a call for nature worship,

Psalm 149 takes us to the place where true worship is to be found: Sing to the Lord . . . in the assembly of the saints. (vs. 1) Proudly exuberant about God’s grace, we are reminded that God delights in the humble (vs. 4), words similar to the Magnificat, the song about the humble woman chosen to be the mother of our Lord and a model for the Church’s faith. Divine worship mysteriously praises God in his sanctuary on earth and, at the same time, in his mighty heaven.

Questions – Psalm 143-149

  1. How many times did/will Christ come into the world?      
  2. 2. Where is Christ to be found and where is He worshipped in the world today?
  3. 3. Why do the psalms include the rest of creation in their command to praise God
Year of the Bible – Advent | Week One | Monday – © John W. Fiene


Year of the Bible – Revelation 17:1-19:21

Year of the Bible

 

“Come, I will show you the punishment of the great prostitute, who sits on many waters. With her the kings of the earth committed adultery and the inhabitants of the earth were intoxicated with the wine of her adulteries.” – Revelation 17:1-2

Revelation 17:1-19:21 (19:6-10)

Babylon, once a great empire some six hundred years before Christ, had long since fallen in obscurity when John the Apostle wrote Revelation. But because of her worldliness, Babylon had come to be a figure of speech, a symbol, of the anti-God, anti-Christ world. At first, in this text, Babylon is represented as a prostitute, drunk with the blood of Christian martyrs. She is seen as the source of every blasphemy and abomination—desolations that defile sacred things. The influence of this Babylon, the Babylon that lives on today, is enormous. But in the end, when Christ returns, she will be given her rightful recompense. All Christians are called by God to separate and distance themselves from her harlotry, for it intends to seduce and compromise both morally and spiritually. She appeals to the sins of the flesh, but she also gains power through guilt, fear and doubt—ultimately by blinding the world to the mercy and forgiveness of Christ. Of great comfort to us all is what happens to her on the final day. The world, so bound now by her magic spell, will mourn when they see her end. The saints who have been destroyed by her will sing with the multitude of heaven at her demise. The faithful who have endured her temptations and tribulations will sing praises to God as His judgments are executed upon her. And they will sing and worship at the wedding feast of the Lamb. Righteous before God, they will be the privileged ones invited to wear the robes of Christ’s righteousness. 

Questions – Revelation 17:1-19:21

  1. What does Babylon symbolize?
  2. What does it mean when Babylon is portrayed as being drunk with the blood of martyrs?
  3. What is blasphemy?
  4. What is going to happen to Babylon on the last day of Christ’s return?
  5. In what way does Babylon gain power over men?
  6. What does it mean to “live in” Babylon?
  7. What are we commanded to do when we find ourselves in Babylon?
  8. What do the robes of the righteous represent?
  9. Explain the symbolism of the Feast of the Lamb.

 

© John W. Fiene | Artwork by Brian McFarland


Year of the Bible – 2 Timothy 1:1-4:22

Year of the Bible

“People will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boastful, proud, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, without love, unforgiving, slanderous, without self-control . . . lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God.” – 2 Timothy 3:2-4

2 Timothy 1:1-4:22 (3:1-17)

The Apostle Paul gives us a clear picture of the reason he was in chains and about to die: Join me in suffering for the Gospel, by the power of God, who has saved us and called us to a holy life—not because of anything we have done but because of his own purpose and grace. This grace was given us in Christ Jesus before the beginning of time, but it has now been revealed through the appearing of our Savior, Christ Jesus, who has destroyed death and has brought life and immortality to light through the gospel. (1:8-12) NOT BECAUSE OF ANYTHING WE HAVE DONE! What beautiful words, what Gospel words. Paul commanded Timothy to entrust this “pattern of doctrine” to reliable men. Timothy was to find an example of perseverance from the Apostle himself. He was to flee evil desire, avoid foolish controversies, watch out for self-centered and self-absorbed people, to use the Scriptures and their God-breathed wisdom to bring people to the faith and guide them in holy living. He was to preach the Word in all times and circumstances, being wary of the impending hardness of men’s hearts and the itching of their ears. Referring to the Christian life like that of an athletic contest, Paul concluded: I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race. I have kept the faith. Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, will award to me on that day—and not only to me, but also to all who have longed for his appearing. (4:7)

Questions –  2 Timothy

  1. When did God determine to give us His grace?
  2. What is the purpose that God has for us and our lives?
  3. What has God done for us in spite of and apart from anything that we have done?
  4. What is meant by “itching ears?”
 © John W. Fiene | Artwork by Brian McFarland