Duddingston Kirk, Edinburgh
Sunday 27 May: ONE SERVICE at 11 am
Sunday 3 June: services at 10 am and 11.30 am
Bible Reading Notes
These notes were compiled by the Reverend Dr James A P Jack. You will find reading the Bible rewarding and encouraging, but reading the Bible is not always easy!
These guidelines may help you.
The Results of Resurrection
May 1 Philippians 1:20–30
Belief in the Resurrection not only gives one a completely new attitude to this life but it opens up the new horizon of life beyond death. So the Christian is conscious of what might be described as having two ‘ambitions’. One is to live a more Christ-like life here in this physical life; and the second is to experience the greater and richer life that is yet to be. The apostle had no doubt which was by far the richer and better life. He longed for the time when he would be forever with Christ, but meantime he was content to live this present physical life to the fullest. This must be our Christian attitude to life.
May 2 Revelation 21:1–4
What is this ‘richer and better’ life really like? This passage gives us just the merest glimpse into eternity. Notice first that it is a community life; Heaven is a city. Secondly, the heavenly society will know the fullest possible relationship with God, just as husband and wife have the fullest relationship possible on this earth. Thirdly, it will be a life from which all pains and sorrows will be purged. It will be a completely new quality of life; ‘the old things have disappeared’.
The Early Church
May 3 Acts 1:12–19
One indisputable result of the Resurrection was the establishment of the early Christian Church. This coming week we shall try to learn something of that early Church. It was a group that gathered frequently to pray. Prayer was never seen as the last resort to be used in some emergency. Prayer was the very lifeblood of their spiritual fellowship.
May 4 Acts 1:20–26
Almost the very first act of the young Church was to elect someone to take the place of Judas. Notice that the person elected was to be ‘a witness to the Resurrection’. He had to be one who not only believed in the Resurrection but one who had met the risen Christ and so could speak with the authority of an eyewitness. In other words, they had to be completely conversant with the whole teaching and example of Christ. Matthias was chosen, but only after the whole matter had been laid before God in prayer.
May 5 Acts 2:43–47
The early Church grew daily in close fellowship, complete sharing, daily contact, joyful humility, praising God. By comparison our modern Church life is so feeble and lifeless. They were truly a people of God; no wonder ‘miracles and wonders were being done through the apostles’, and that ‘every day the Lord added to their group those who were being saved’.
May 6 Acts 4:32–37
‘The group of believers was one in heart and mind’. Their unity even extended into the matter of personal possessions. Nothing belonged to ‘me’ but all belonged to ‘us’. Is such a Christian community possible in this modern age?
May 7 Acts 5:1–11
Oliver Cromwell wanted to be painted ‘warts and all’. The integrity of the Bible is such that the weaknesses and failures of men and women called by God are clearly revealed. We have already seen that in the early Church there was complete sharing of possessions. Perhaps it was inevitable that someone would wish to claim the benefits of such a community whilst retaining some personal wealth. Human greed has led to the failure of many fine schemes. Ananias claimed that he had given all, whereas he had only donated part of his wealth. His greed was matched by a lie, and it was a lie before God, not simply before his fellow believers.
May 8 Acts 5:12–16
It seems incredible to us that miracles and healing and the expulsion of demons should be possible in the early Church just as they had been in the life of Jesus. The reason is that the early believers lived in such close fellowship with their Lord that his powers were their powers. If the modern Church has lost such power then it is simply because we have also lost the same intensity of faithful fellowship with Christ.
May 9 Acts 6:1–7
The Early Church had established some kind of ‘poor fund’; those put in charge of this fund had to be of great wisdom and faith. However important such a fund might be, the basic activity of the apostles was still prayer and preaching. The Word of God continued to spread. The Church continued to grow. Is it possible that we have our priorities mixed up and so we are not growing as our Lord intends his Church should grow?
Persecution in the Church
May 10 Acts 3:1–10
We have seen that the disciples were able to heal just as Christ had done. But it was to initiate a time of persecution that continues to this day wherever the Word is purely preached. It is a remarkable thing that, wherever the Word of God is proclaimed, the work of God truly performed, there will always be persecution or opposition. We shall not advance in the Christian faith until we acknowledge the presence of evil powers in this world constantly seeking to frustrate the ongoing work of God.
May 11 Acts 4:1–12
Peter and John are put in prison for preaching the Resurrection but the numbers are growing in the Church, now there are 5000. Growth and persecution tend to go together. Notice that the authorities make no attempt to disprove the fact that a miracle has taken place. The question is not ‘Did it happen?’ but ‘How did it happen?’
May 12 Acts 4:13–22
What puzzled the authorities was that Peter and John possessed no special human power or talent. They were just very ordinary men. The only thing that was special about them was that they had been ‘companions of Jesus’. Again there is no doubt that a miracle had taken place, the man is standing there before them. The whole matter is an embarrassment to the authorities and so they counsel the disciples to stop speaking about Jesus. Notice the fearless way in which Peter and John committed themselves to obey God rather than man.
May 13 Acts 5:12–26
Such a mysterious release from prison will be beyond the comprehension of many. Yet it has been the experience of Christian men and women down through the ages that, when Christ is honoured and obeyed in all things, some ‘funny’ things do begin to happen. We are surrounded by the love of Christ and his power can uphold, direct, release those who have committed themselves to him without reserve.
May 14 Acts 5:27–42
The apostles are in trouble again. Notice first the apostles remain unshakeable in their trust in God; ‘We must obey God, not men’. Secondly, having made their stand, they immediately find support in a quite unexpected quarter, for within the Council there is one who speaks on their behalf. God’s protective power is again revealed, but it came only after the apostles had themselves declared their steadfast faith.
May 15 Acts 6:8–15
We will make no progress in the spiritual life until we acknowledge a certain truth. There are two sources of power in this world – the power of love and the power of evil. The first has its source in God the second has its source in the Devil. The more one is aware of the love of God in one’s life then immediately one is made aware of the attack from Satan. The Spirit of love is always the Spirit of truth; but the spirit of evil is always a spirit of falsehood and distortion and hatred. Whoever would follow Christ dare not shut their eyes to this conflict.
May 16 Acts 7:54–8:3
In these verses we see the conflict between the Divine love and the satanic hatred reaching its climax, just as it did on Calvary. However great the power of Satan, still greater is the power of God, the power of love and of life as demonstrated by the empty tomb on the first Easter morning. We may not be called upon to lay down our lives as Stephen and countless others have had to do, but as followers of Christ we cannot avoid the battle. Is our faith strong enough to endure, even to death?
The Mission of the Church
May 17 Acts 8:4–8
The martyrdom of Stephen sparked off a persecution of Christians living in Jerusalem and many of the believers were forced to flee. Wherever they went for safety from persecution, they took the Gospel with them so that persecution in fact led, not to the eradication of the Gospel, but to its spreading! The ways of God are wonderful. Notice that one of the believers, Philip, even went to Samaria – a place where visitors or travellers from Jerusalem were hardly made welcome. Even there in such a hostile place the Word of God was borne by faithful believers. So the mission of the Church began.
May 18 Acts 8:26–40
Here is a chance encounter between Philip and a traveller from another land – and yet, does anything in God’s plan ever happen simply by chance? This foreign official had a problem but, by the aid of the Holy Spirit, Philip was able to lead that man from his problem to an entirely new vision of eternal truth. The simple act of baptism in a roadside stream marked a new beginning in this man’s life.
May 19 Acts 11:19–30
The first Christians took the Gospel of Christ first of all to Jews. Their message was simply this, ‘The King, the Messiah you are waiting for has in fact come. He is Jesus who was crucified and is now alive again.’ In these verses we see a very important development – the Christians now begin to preach to those who were non-Jews as well, those who were called Gentiles and their message was met with a ready response. It was in Antioch that the believers were first called ‘Christians’ – it began as a nickname. Something else is also happening in Antioch – a young man called Saul, whom we last read of at the death of Stephen, is being trained and prepared for what is to be his life’s work. He, who began as a silent witness at the martyrdom of the first Christian, will shortly become the greatest missionary the Christian Church has ever known.
May 20 Acts 13:42–52
Saul is known as Paul, and with Barnabas he is boldly proclaiming the Good News of Jesus. Again there is opposition; wherever the Word of Truth is proclaimed there is opposition. It is one of those facts of life that the true follower of Christ must learn to live with.
May 21 Acts 16:11–15
The Gospel has now come to the continent of Europe. When Paul and the others went to look for the Jewish community in Philippi they found only women. When one of these women, Lydia, became convinced by the truth, she made her home available as a centre of Christianity in that place. The basic unit in God’s purpose is the family, and the basic centre in God’s plan is the home. It is no coincidence that in our generation the decline of the Church is accompanied by a decline in the unity of the family and worship in the home.
May 22 Acts 17:1–9
Now the Gospel comes to Thessalonica and the same pattern emerges – preaching, opposition, confusion. We have the very same situation today in sport, politics, industry, even in religion – gangs of people so mindless and witless that they allow themselves to be organised in all kinds of demonstrations and riots leading to death and destruction. And in the background there are always evil men ready and willing to use such poor creatures for their own ends.
May 23 Acts 19:21–34
Now the Gospel comes to Ephesus and a full-scale riot breaks out. They were not opposing the central doctrines of the Christian faith but rather the impact that faith would have on their economy. If everyone accepted this new religion, then no one would bother purchasing the silver statues of the local goddess. A lot of people are not really concerned with truth as such, but rather with how that truth will affect their pockets. How many modern Christians have become casualties in the battle between Sunday worship and Sunday overtime? Extra money is always useful but is it worth the loss of our spiritual heritage?
Problems in the Church
May 24 1 Corinthians 1:10–17
We have been studying some of the problems facing the Church as it proclaimed the Gospel in city after city. Now we will look at some of the problems that came from within the very Church itself. The first of these was the tendency for the early Christians to follow particular leaders and so create division within the Church. Those who are truly united to Christ must inevitably be truly united to one another in love and in peace.
May 25 1 Corinthians 2:13 –3:3
The second problem facing Christians is spiritual immaturity. How sad it is to see a young man or woman who has not developed according to his or her years, either physically or mentally – the 20-year-old who still behaves like a 4-year-old. How sad to hear someone who has been a member of the Church for many years still claim that the only part of the Service they can understand is the Children’s Address! Milk is all right for children, but adults require solid food for the nourishment of their bodies. So in our spiritual life we should progress to what is appropriate to our needs and not what is in accordance with our wants.
May 26 1 Corinthians 5:1–11
A member of the Church in Corinth was guilty of flagrant sin, yet the congregation seemed to be totally unconcerned. Here we are brought face to face with the whole matter of Church discipline. What should a congregation do when one of its members is guilty of scandalous conduct? Paul’s advice was that this man should be put right out of the spiritual community. Are there limits to what can and cannot be permitted within a Christian congregation?
May 27 1 Corinthians 6:1–11
The Church in Corinth certainly had its problems. Now Paul is dealing with their readiness to go to the civil law courts over their disputes with one another. Wherever a group of people meet and live in some kind of community, there are bound to be moments of difference. But these minor differences ought to be settled and resolved within the family, within the congregation, and not paraded before outsiders.
May 28 1 Corinthians 8
The meat for sale in Corinth came from carcasses of animals that had been sacrifices in heathen temples. Ought Christians to eat such meat? Paul had no problem for he did not accept the heathen gods. However, if in eating such meat it affected the faith of someone who had chosen not to eat such meat then he wanted to abstain. Are there areas of our lives that we ought to consider in these terms?
May 29 Romans 1:18–32
Rome was a hotbed of vice. When the human condition rejects God then the human conscience becomes seared. Human shame and depravity usually result. When we reject God we reject our own true nature and purpose in life.
May 30 2 Corinthians 2:5–11
Forgiveness is not apathy. Sin must be condemned in the plainest possible way and yet, accompanying the condemnation, there must be a yearning for the sinner to be restored to fellowship with God and fellow believers. Remember: all of us have sinned, that is why we need a Redeemer!
May 31 Acts 1:6–11
Here is the promise of the Holy Spirit fulfilled. If these few verses had been the only verses to come down to us, there would still have been enough for the Christian of every generation to rise up and follow God.