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Duddingston Kirk, Edinburgh

All services are cancelled until further notice.

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.

March 2020

The Second Epistle of John

March 27      2 John 1–3

Unlike 1 John, this letter is addressed, but there lies a problem. Who is the dear Lady? While no definitive answer can be given, ‘she’ is almost certainly not an individual, but a church or fellowship of believers.

March 28      2 John 4–6

Almost inevitably in every congregation some succumb to the wiles of Satan, and do not properly belong to the fellowship. Note also that this command to ‘love one another’ is not something new – ‘it is a command we have had from the beginning’. In each generation, and in every individual heart, this has to be rediscovered as though it were something new.

March 29      2 John 7–8

John speaks of ‘many’ deceivers. They refused to acknowledge that Jesus was fully human and fully God. This has always been a difficulty to many, but truth must never be ‘watered down’ just to make it easier to understand. Christians must always be on the alert for teachers whose message is at variance with the truth that is revealed in God’s word.

March 30      2 John 9–10

John warns the Church of those who do not keep the faith. How easy it is to be drawn away from the truth by a non-believer!

March 31      2 John 12–13

Here are some very touching and loving greetings from one fellowship to another.

April 2020

The Third Epistle of John

April 1      3 John 1–4

We do not know who Gaius was, but evidently his physical health presented some kind of problem, although he was well in spirit. There are two kinds of health – physical and spiritual. We take great care of our physical health but are we always as careful of our spiritual health? Our ancestors used to refer to services of worship as ‘diets’!

April 2       3 John 5–8

Ought Christ’s Church to depend on unbelievers for financial or other support? There are some that are called to be what might be termed ‘front-line’ servants of Christ – teachers, preachers, missionaries, evangelists, while others are the helpers, supporters and intercessors. The work of the latter may not seem so glamorous, but it is very necessary.

April 3      3 John 9–10

Obviously Diotrephes was quite a different character from Gaius. Indeed, so anxious was he to be in a prominent position that he refused the advice of John, told lies, and refused even to meet fellow Christians. It might seem a comfort to some of us to know that such persons existed even in the early Church! This results when personal ambition comes before Christian service.

April 4      3 John 11–13

In such a short letter we meet three such different men. It is not clear what John really meant when he wrote, truth itself speaks well of Demetrius. Perhaps he was a man of total integrity. Certainly everyone spoke well of him, and John was only too happy to add his own testimony. Whatever our position in the Church, each of us gives an example to others.

April 5      3 John 14–15

These closing verses are almost identical to those of 2 John. After a lifetime in Christian service, John must indeed have so much to tell you. There is a kind of breathless enthusiasm in his words. How keen are we to share Christian knowledge and experience with friends? Natural modesty encourages us to go quietly, yet surely the wonder of the Gospel must be such that we are filled with an urgent desire to make it widely known.

The Epistle from Jude

The identity of Jude is something of a mystery. Is James the same as the brother of Jesus? If so, then Jude must have been a brother of Jesus also – see Matthew 13:55. It may well be modesty which led him to overlook this direct relationship and claim only to be a servant of Christ. We know that the other children of Mary did not accept the divine nature of Jesus during his lifetime – See John 7:5 & Acts 1:4.

April 6      Jude 1–2

This letter is addressed to those who have been called by God and who live in the love of God the Father and the protection of Jesus Christ. How would we describe ourselves? Would we claim to have been called by God, to be living in God’s love and protection?

April 7      Jude 3

Jude had been preparing a statement on the whole matter of Christian salvation, when he saw a more urgent need for a letter of warning. Whatever our plans, we must be ready to deal with that which demands our immediate attention.

April 8      Jude 4

The reason for an urgent letter is that people of no faith were deliberately entering the fellowship for their own reasons. Are all to be welcomed irrespective of commitment and faith? Their particular fault was distorting the message of God’s grace in order to excuse their own immoral ways. If we are ever tempted to question one of the fundamental doctrines of the faith then we must be careful to know the real reason.

April 9      Jude 5–7

Jude reminds his readers of times in the past when men went beyond the limits of God’s laws and suffered for doing so. We often resent anything that restricts our freedom and so we rebel against God. God has given us freedom to rebel, but we are never free of the consequences of such rebellion. God gave laws for our good. We transgress them at our own risk.

April 10      Jude 8–11

When we rebel against God’s law then we act without any restraint whatever, acting in ways which offend common decency. That for which we rebel against God is the very thing that ensures our own destruction. Note that Jude is speaking of the actions of those who are members of the church!

April 11      Jude 12–13

Those whose conduct is so selfish that Christ is rejected have two main failings. First, they dishonour the Church to which they belong. They may be satisfied with their own conduct, but others, even some outside the Church, can detect their hypocrisy. Second, they offer nothing to the work or witness of the church – they are like clouds which bring no rain, trees which bear no fruit. Jesus once said, ‘whoever remains in me, and I in him, will bear much fruit’. Christian service must be fruitful because God has given us gifts to use.

April 12      Jude 14–16

Those who oppose God often seem to succeed in life, so that the faithful sometimes despair and wonder if there is any value in walking in God’s ways, but judgement will not be avoided forever. When such judgement does come then the rebellious will be utterly condemned. Again, remember that Jude is speaking of those who have falsely gained access to the membership of the Church.

April 13      Jude 17–23

Even in the midst of such ungodly activity, God’s people must not only remain faithful but also keep on building yourself up on your most sacred faith. Christian faith can never be static – always it must grow in knowledge, understanding, perception, service, witness, and, above all, in Christ-likeness.

April 14      Jude 24–25

The letter ends with a prayer. When we pray we generally ask for something for ourselves. But here Jude is asking for something for God. That God’s name should be honoured and glorified throughout the world, and for all eternity, is surely the most earnest prayer any Christian can offer.

The Gospel of John

April 15      John 1:1–5

There are three great truths in those verses. First, Jesus is the Word. John saw that God was speaking to all humanity through Jesus; he is God’s Word to all. Second, the Word, or Jesus, was in the beginning with God. We must learn to see the earthly life of Jesus as merely one episode in his existence which spans the whole of eternity. Third, this Word is the source of life, and it brings light to a world that is in darkness. We are in the darkness of ignorance if we see life as beginning with birth and ending with death.

April 16      John 1:10–14, 16–18

John reveals another four great truths about this ‘Word’. First, he was not recognised. Men and women met Jesus face to face and saw him as a miracle worker and healer but nothing more. Those who did recognise him and receive him became God’s children. To be a child of God in this way is not the result of creation, but of God’s grace to all that recognise and receive God’s Son. Jesus was full of grace and truth, became a human being and lived with us. Grace and truth were so evident in him that they are available to those who receive him.

April 17      John 1:6–9, 15, 19–28

John introduces another John, the baptiser. This John saw himself as merely preparing the way for one infinitely greater than himself. The real work of salvation and spiritual renewal comes through God through his Holy Spirit – but that renewal can be hindered if the work of preparation is neglected. God’s servants often weary in this work. They may not always see the harvest in their own lifetime, but no work done in obedience to God can ever fail.

April 18      John 1:29–34

John and Jesus’s mothers were relatives and both knew their sons were promised by God. It is likely that they knew one another but now John sees Jesus in an entirely new way. He is now far more than a distant relative – he is the Son of God. But John sees more – he sees Jesus as the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world and the one who baptizes with the Holy Spirit. Here are two great truths linked on a mysterious union – the one who will take away the sins of the world is also the one who will baptise with the Holy Spirit. He both cleanses and renews.

April 19      John 1:35–42

The work of the church is not to draw men to itself but to point them to Christ. Note how Andrew at once shared his discovery with his brother Simon. When Jesus saw Simon he gave him a new name a most inappropriate name since Peter, in those days, was a rather unstable person – and not in the least rock-like. Yet Jesus saw potential in him. Later, by the power of the Holy Spirit, Peter did become a great rock in the Church. Many still reject the opportunity of Christian service by saying, ‘I couldn’t do that’. In their own strength they couldn’t, but with the strength that Christ can give all things are possible.

April 20      John 1:43–51

We may never know why Jesus invited Philip to ‘come with me’, but Philip saw in him all that the Old Testament foretold, and shared his discovery with Nathanael. Note Christ’s knowledge of Nathanael before they had met. This was a unique gift Christ’s ability to ‘see’ into the heart and mind of a person; not only the outer appearance or stature, but the inner motives and real nature. We can hide nothing from him who judges all things.

April 21      John 2:1–12

Was Mary’s comment an innocent remark, or was she suggesting that Jesus ought to do something about it? If the latter is true then did she already know of his miraculous powers? We may never know, but we do know that the water became wine – the best wine that had been served all day! Was Jesus merely helping a friend in need? Or was he confirming the truth and faith his disciples already had in him? Or was he revealing the whole nature of his ministry – the change of plain, tasteless experience into rich, full life.

April 22      John 2:13–22

The other gospels place this event in Christ’s last week in Jerusalem, whereas John puts it at the beginning of his ministry. Almost certainly John is correct. We must see it as a symbolic gesture and not a violent breach of the peace. The sale of suitable animals for sacrifice, and right coins for the Temple tax, began as a service for worshippers, but in time it became a corrupt moneymaking venture. Instead of honouring God, it became a burden to the people. Jesus symbolically cleaned out this corrupt practice.

April 23      John 2:23–25

It would seem that Jesus performed miracles other than the one when water turned into wine. They led many to believe in Him, yet Jesus knew that such belief was not genuine faith. We have already seen that he was able to assess a person’s motives and intentions. We now see that a person can believe in Jesus in a way that is not real faith. There are many who are attracted by the spectacular and the popular. Jesus is looking for more than a response to the spectacular. He is looking for obedience, trust and faith.

April 24      John 3:1–13

One cannot but feel sorrow for Nicodemus. He was a religious leader of the people yet he was honest enough to acknowledge that Jesus revealed a greater understanding of the spiritual life than he himself knew. It is as though Jesus is saying, ‘You have discovered that I am from God? Good! But you will not see the Kingdom of God unless you are born again.’ Nicodemus cannot grasp this. He can only think of physical birth, and so a second birth is impossible. Jesus shows him that, just as there is physical life, so also there is spiritual life. As a man is born into the one, so also he must be born into the other.

April 25      John 3:14–21

This is why Christ came into the world – not to condemn but to bring healing and the hope of eternal life. And he came, not by chance, but to demonstrate God’s great love for everyone. Note the clear indication that those who do not receive this eternal life in Christ will suffer death on account of their sins. We have no reason for believing that all will have eternal life just because God loves them. His love provides the means of salvation, but we are left free to accept or reject as he chooses. No one is forced into heaven.

April 26      John 3:22–36

John the Baptist continued the work to which God had called him and rejoiced that Christ’s followers were increasing while his own were decreasing. John was genuinely glad to hear of Christ’s success.

April 27      John 4:1–26

The Pharisees heard of Jesus’s ministry, and so he withdrew to Galilee. He had no wish to meet them just then. He was tired and thirsty. He shared our physical weakness. Study how the conversation with the woman develops and does it teach us anything about speaking convincingly to non-Christians?

April 28      John 4:27–42

(1) For Christ, obedience to his father and the work given him to do were more important than his physical hunger;
(2) Christ is aware of the immensity of the work, the harvest to be reaped – again we see that evangelism is basic to the work of Christ’s followers;
(3) The men believed first because of what they heard, and then because of what they knew. Faith is first a response to a message, but to be a living faith it must go on from there to be obedience to Christ himself.

April 29      John 4:43–54

After the interruption at Sychar, Jesus continues his journey to his own people. His reference to a prophet’s lack of respect among his own people is not intended as a complaint. While at Cana he healed a sick child. There is no suggestion of faith on the part of the father. The person healed was some distance away. John reminds us that this is the second miracle at Cana. He who changed the water to wine now changes fever to health.

April 30      John 5:1–18

‘Do you want to get well?’ may seem unnecessary, yet there are many in sickness, sorrow, temptation and other kinds of personal trouble who have little real desire to get better. Their trouble justifies their sense of grievance against society, or against God. They may feel important, being the centre of attraction. It may also be a form of escapism.