Category Archives: Class Studies

Go!

Evangelism

          We have discussed the gospel plan of salvation, the definition of evangelism, the importance of righteous living, the extent to which we should scatter seed and thereby identify prospects, and God’s responses to common excuses we might make to avoid teaching others. Now that we have some of these things set in our minds, let us look at what to do when we find that good and honest heart that is searching for the truth.
          There are numerous systems of teaching within the brotherhood. Ivan Stewart’s “Open Bible Study,” which became popular in the 1970s, is still a good tool that Christians can use in teaching their neighbors. There are a handful of lessons with mostly “yes” or “no” questions. Brother Stewart published a book entitled Go Ye Means Go Me that is very useful in helping one with the “Open Bible Study” system.
          A newer workbook was designed by Stephen Rogers of Evansville, Indiana. The student workbook is called The Gospel Made Simple, and the teacher’s textbook is Evangelism Made Simple. His materials are mostly fill-in-the-blank and the topics are thoroughly discussed.
          Another tool that many have used successfully is Muscle and a Shovel by Michael Shank. This is a recounting of brother Shank’s conversion in 1988; he was led to the truth by conversations with a co-worker in Nashville. It is not only a tool for converts, but also for evangelists. The attitude of the teacher in the book, Randall, is one that should be emulated by those hoping to reach and teach others.
          These are only a few of the tools that can be used by Christians in the work of evangelism today. But here’s the thing—they are only tools. The authority for all things comes from Jesus Christ and the revelation of the Holy Spirit in the written Word. “All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness” (2 Timothy 3:16). When we talk to our friends about spiritual matters, if we have nothing but the Bible at our disposal, we have all we truly need. All the programs mentioned above—as good as they may be—are merely tools used to learn what the Bible teaches.
          Inviting friends to worship with us is good, but it is usually not enough. We must be willing to talk to them about the Lord, and to do that we should have a basic understanding of the authority of Scriptures, the power of God, the deity of Christ, the gospel plan of salvation. We need to use this understanding to engage with the good soil in spiritual discussions. Those who have been receptive to the seed, keep watering.
          Consider the example of the apostle Paul. He did not travel around the known world inviting folks to worship services. He went to where they were and started conversations with them based on their knowledge and understanding. In Acts 16, Luke writes about the conversion of Lydia, a woman who “worshiped God.” (Acts 16:14) Notice how Paul and his traveling companions came into contact with her: “And on the Sabbath day we went out of the city to the riverside, where prayer was customarily made; and we sat down and spoke to the women who met there” (Acts 16:13). They went to where spiritually-minded people were gathered!
          Even in Athens, a city overrun with pagan idolatry, Paul started with the same approach. “Now while he waited for them at Athens, his spirit was provoked within him when he saw that the city was given over to idols. Therefore he reasoned in the synagogue with the Jews and with the Gentile worshipers, and in the marketplace daily with those who happened to be there” (Acts 17:16-17). Nearly everywhere Paul went, he started with the people at the synagogue, or where worshipers were gathered. When the Epicurean and Stoic philosophers heard his preaching about Jesus, they decided to take him to the Areopagus, “(f)or all the Athenians and the foreigners who were there spent their time in nothing else but either to tell or to hear some new thing” (Acts 17:21).
          Paul used his surroundings to build a lesson, pointing to one of the altars there. “Then Paul stood in the midst of the Areopagus and said, ‘Men of Athens, I perceive that in all things you are very religious; for as I was passing through and considering the objects of your worship, I even found an altar with this inscription: TO THE UNKNONWN GOD. Therefore, the One whom you worship without knowing, Him I proclaim to you’” (Acts 17:22-23).
          These people were not Christians, but they were religious. They were interested. And Paul used that interest to teach about Jesus. What was the result? “And when they heard of the resurrection of the dead, some mocked, while others said, ‘We will hear you again on this matter.’ So Paul departed from among them. However, some men joined him and believed, among them Dionysius the Areopagite, a woman named Damaris, and others with them” (Acts 17:32-34). Despite their pagan background, they had good and honest hearts and believed the truth when it was taught. We never know how someone might respond until they are given the chance to hear and believe.
          Will talking about Christ cause awkwardness at times? How did Felix feel when Paul talked to him? “But when Felix heard these things, having more accurate knowledge of the Way, he adjourned the proceedings and said, ‘When Lysias the commander comes down, I will make a decision on your case.’ So he commanded the centurion to keep Paul and let him have liberty, and told him not to forbid any of his friends to provide for or visit him. And after some days, when Felix came with his wife Drusilla, who was Jewish, he sent for Paul and heard him concerning the faith in Christ. Now as he reasoned about righteousness, self-control, and the judgment to come, Felix was afraid and answered, ‘Go away now; when I have a convenient time I will call for you.’” (Acts 24:22-25).
          When Paul spoke before Festus and Agrippa, how did they respond? “Now as he thus made his defense, Festus said with a loud voice, ‘Paul, you are beside yourself! Much learning is driving you mad!’ But he said, ‘I am not mad, most noble Festus, but speak the words of truth and reason. For the king, before whom I also speak freely, knows these things; for I am convinced that none of these things escapes his attention, since this thing was not done in a corner. King Agrippa, do you believe the prophets? I know that you do believe.’ Then Agrippa said to Paul, ‘You almost persuade me to become a Christian’” (Acts 26:24-28).
          Their response was not what Paul wanted, but he had no way of knowing how they would react without first presenting the truth. Notice, however, that he did not anger them with his teaching. In fact, they lamented that he was a prisoner, as he had done “nothing deserving of death or chains” (Acts 26:31).
          When we teach others about Christ, let us strive to do so gently. Pray that you can lead someone to understand and obey, but even if their response is not immediately favorable, let us not burn bridges and prevent further influence and teaching.

Discussion and Action

1. We often invite friends to worship services instead of trying to set up a private study. Essentially, while Christ tells us to “go,” we tell our friends to “come.” Do we have it backwards?

2. Are you familiar with any formal Bible study tools other than those mentioned in this lesson?

3. How might you interest a friend in a private study in your home?

4. Recite the six steps of the gospel plan of salvation and where you can find Scriptures for each step.

5. Memorize the text of another verse in the gospel plan of salvation.

6. You have identified five people over whom you have some influence that need the gospel. Over the past month and a half, how have you engaged them in spiritual discussion? Has there been any positive response?

Get Involved…No Excuses!

Evangelism

          All too often, people make excuses to avoid doing the Lord’s work. We need to take an honest evaluation of our own personal involvement in the work of evangelism and be sure we are not using excuses to neglect our duties.
          One of the greatest examples of excuse-giving is presented in Exodus chapters 3 and 4 when God called Moses to lead the people of Israel out of Egyptian bondage. We can learn a lot from God’s responses to Moses.
          God called Moses’ attention to the suffering of the Hebrew slaves, saying, “‘Now therefore, behold, the cry of the children of Israel has come to Me, and I have also seen the oppression with which the Egyptians oppress them. Come now, therefore, and I will send you to Pharaoh that you may bring My people, the children of Israel, out of Egypt’” (Exodus 3:9-10). How did Moses react to God’s call? Did he feel honored that God had chosen him to be the one to deliver the people? “But Moses said to God, ‘Who am I that I should go to Pharaoh, and that I should bring the children of Israel out of Egypt?’” (Exodus 3:11).
          Inspiration reveals that Moses was a humble man, “more than all men who were on the face of the earth” (Numbers 12:3). If this was the only objection Moses offered, perhaps we could view it simply as him not seeing himself worthy of this opportunity. As we continue to examine these events, though, we see that it is not humility that prevents Moses from accepting the task immediately.
          God’s response to the first excuse is found in Exodus 3:12: “So He said, ‘I will certainly be with you. And this shall be a sign to you that I have sent you: When you have brought the people out of Egypt, you shall serve God on this mountain.’” Didn’t Christ say the same thing when He commissioned the apostles in Matthew 28? “‘Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.’ Amen” (Matthew 28:19-20). When God commands us to do something, He expects us to obey, but He is not going to turn His back on us in the process. Moses, go to Pharaoh! Christian, go into all the world!
          “Then Moses said to God, ‘Indeed, when I come to the children of Israel and say to them, “The God of your fathers has sent me to you,” and they say to me, “What is His name?” what shall I say to them?’” (Exodus 3:13). Moses is basically saying that he doesn’t know enough about God to answer the Israelites’ questions about Him. But God reassures His prophet, “And God said to Moses, ‘I AM WHO I AM.’ And He said, ‘Thus you shall say to the children of Israel, “I AM has sent me to you”’” (Exodus 3:14).
          God tells His prophet, “You don’t know the answer? I’ll tell you!” We need to accept the fact that God’s “divine power has given to us all things that pertain to life and godliness” (2 Peter 1:3). Anything that you need to know has been revealed by inspiration! “All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work” (2 Timothy 3:16-17). Is evangelism a good work? Yes! Guess what? God has given us the Scriptures to equip us to evangelize!
          “Then Moses answered and said, ‘But suppose they will not believe me or listen to my voice; suppose they say, “The Lord has not appeared to you.”’” (Exodus 4:1). God promised to perform signs through Moses to encourage belief: turning his rod into a snake (4:2-5), turning his hand leprous and restoring it (4:6-8), and turning water into blood (4:9).
          Moses demonstrates a fear of rejection, and that is a legitimate fear that we must face still today. Many of the people we talk to about the gospel will not believe. But we do have evidence for the veracity of the gospel, and we have the signs recorded in the Scriptures. “And truly Jesus did many other signs in the presence of His disciples, which are not written in this book; but these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing you may have life in His name” (John 20:30-31). Faith comes through hearing the Word (Romans 10:17); let us do our part in spreading that Word!
          Jesus recognized that some would not accept the truth. He told the twelve when He sent them out initially, “And whoever will not receive you nor hear your words, when you depart from that house or city, shake off the dust from your feet” (Matthew 10:14). If they don’t want to hear it, take it to someone else who does. There are people in the world that want to know the truth; the Lord needs His people to take the truth to them.
          “Then Moses said to the Lord, ‘O my Lord, I am not eloquent, neither before nor since you have spoken to Your servant; but I am slow of speech and slow of tongue’” (Exodus 4:10). I don’t have the ability to do what you are asking me to do, God. “So the Lord said to him, ‘Who has made man’s mouth? Or who makes the mute, the deaf, the seeing, or the blind? Have not I, the Lord? Now therefore, go, and I will be with your mouth and teach you what you shall say’” (Exodus 4:11-12).
          There is a saying that God does not call the qualified, but He qualifies the called. All Christians are called to share their faith, and through His Word all Christians are qualified to do just that! It is not our ability that will convert a lost soul to Christ, but the power of God that resides in His gospel (Romans 1:16). Paul wrote, “And I, brethren, when I came to you, did not come with excellence of speech or wisdom declaring to you the testimony of God. For I determined not to know anything among you except Jesus Christ and Him crucified. I was with you in weakness, in fear, and in much trembling. And my speech and my preaching were not with persuasive words of human wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, that your faith should not be in the wisdom of men but in the power of God” (1 Corinthians 2:1-5).
          Moses’ final appeal is found in Exodus 4:13: “But he said, ‘O my Lord, please send by the hand of whomever else You may send.’” In essence, Moses is saying flat-out, “I don’t want to do this. Pick someone else.” What is God’s reaction to this request? “So the anger of the Lord was kindled against Moses” (Exodus 4:14). God will accomplish His will, with our help or without it. When the Jewish race was threatened in the book of Esther, Mordecai told the queen, “For if you remain completely silent at this time, relief and deliverance will arise for the Jews from another place, but you and your father’s house will perish. Yet who knows whether you have come to the kingdom for such a time as this?” (Esther 4:14).
          Do we want to make God angry? He has commanded us, “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature” (Mark 16:15). Will we accept Jesus’ command, or will we perish in rebellion? There are people in your life right now who need the blood of Jesus. It is your responsibility to share with them the good news of Christ’s love.

Discussion and Action

1. Which of Moses’ excuses do you believe is most common among members of the Lord’s church and why?

2. Which excuse have you used in the past, and what can you do to overcome it?

3. Recite the six steps of the gospel plan of salvation and where you can find Scriptures for each step.

4. Memorize the text of another verse in the gospel plan of salvation.

5. Review the five names on your index card. Have you used any excuses to avoid talking to them? What opportunities have you taken advantage of this week to share the Scriptures with them? Keep praying, keep shining your light.

Identify Prospects

Evangelism

          No one likes to waste time. The sad fact of the matter is this: most people will reject the truth. Jesus said, “Enter by the narrow gate; for wide is the gate and broad is the way that leads to destruction, and there are many who go in by it. Because narrow is the gate and difficult is the way which leads to life, and there are few who find it” (Matthew 7:13-14). Despite this fact, we still bear the responsibility of taking the gospel to those around us.
          Our duty is to obey God without regard to how people respond. You never know how a kind word or deed will impact a person, and in fact, you may never see that impact. Paul and Apollos worked together in spreading the gospel; Paul said, “I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the increase” (1 Corinthians 3:6).
          “Perhaps many of you have heard the story of the gospel preacher who a number of years ago held a meeting in a country school. He thought the meeting was a failure because during the meeting only one little freckled faced girl obeyed the gospel. This little girl grew up and married and reared five boys and all of them because gospel preachers—the Dunn brothers—who have led many people to the Lord through their faithful preaching of the Word of God” (Otis Gatewood, You Can Do Personal Work, p. 177)
          We must scatter the seed. Jesus tells the parable of the sower in Luke 8:5-15. The sower was not concerned with the quality of the soil; the Scriptures simply state that he “went out to sow his seed. And as he sowed, some fell by the wayside…Some fell on rock…And some fell among thorns…But others fell on good ground, sprang up, and yielded a crop a hundredfold.” What’s the lesson? Wherever you are, whoever you’re with, spread the seed.
          We can then start to identify prospects by seeing how others react to the Word. Jesus identifies four types of soil in this parable.
          First, “the wayside.” The seed there “was trampled down, and the birds of the air devoured it” (Luke 8:5). He later explains that the wayside represents people “who hear; then the devil comes and takes away the word out of their hearts, lest they should believe and be saved” (8:12). These are the non-believers. Remember that the seed must be sown before we write anyone off. What is the first step in the plan of salvation? Hear! Without first hearing the message, there is no possibility for belief (Romans 10:17). Once they have heard it, if they reject it, then they are in “the wayside.”
          Next, the “rock.” The seed, “as soon as it sprang up, it withered away because it lacked moisture” (Luke 8:6). There are going to be people who will gladly listen to what you have to say, but they don’t allow roots to develop, “and in time of temptation fall away” (8:13). Mark’s parallel account sheds more light on the “temptation” under consideration. Mark quotes the Master Teacher as saying, “Afterward, when tribulation or persecution arises for the word’s sake, immediately they stumble” (Mark 4:17). Some may expect the Christian life to be easy, but one must make painful sacrifices and face trials in this life (Matthew 16:24-26; 2 Timothy 3:12). Despite the pain we may experience in this life, there is joy that rests in the hope of everlasting life (Mark 10:29-30).
          Third in the parable, the “thorns” which “sprang up with (the seed) and choked it” (Luke 8:7). Jesus says, “Now the ones that fell among thorns are those who, when they have heard, go out and are choked with cares, riches, and pleasures of life, and bring no fruit to maturity” (8:14). Does the evangelist bear any responsibility in this? Possibly. Consider in the Great Commission recorded by Matthew, Jesus said to “make disciples…baptizing them…teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you” (Matthew 28:19-20). We need to make disciples and baptize, but keep on teaching after they put on Christ! Some will find the draw of the world too strong, and their desires for the temporary pleasures of sin will outweigh their desire for God. This is possibly what happened to Demas, who forsook Paul because he “loved this present world” (2 Timothy 4:10). The distractions of this world are many, and we must be on guard against materialism (1 Timothy 6:6-10). Still, the church must make an effort to keep the saved saved.
          Finally, the “good ground,” in which the seed “sprang up, and yielded a crop a hundredfold” (Luke 8:8). “But the ones that fell on the good ground are those who, having heard the word with a noble and good heart, keep it and bear fruit with patience” (8:15). They will hear, believe, confess, repent, be baptized, and be faithful. Can we predict who these individuals will be among our friends? Sometimes, maybe. However, we must be cautious that we do not pre-judge and present the gospel to only those who we think are “good ground.” Until that seed is sown, we do not know how someone will respond! Sow as you go, wherever you go!

Discussion and Action

1. Have you noticed any of these attitudes in your friends when you talk about spiritual things? What are some of the negative reactions you have had to the gospel? What are some of the positive?

2. Identify types of “times of temptation” or persecutions that can cause a person to fall away.

3. What about the “cares, riches, and pleasures of life” that choke out the truth?

4. Recite the six steps of the gospel plan of salvation and where you can find Scriptures for each step.

5. Memorize the text of another verse in the gospel plan of salvation.

6. You should have five names on your index card. Have you talked to them about the gospel? Are you still praying for them? Don’t ever give up!

Prepare Yourself

Evangelism

          1 Peter 3:15 says, “But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts, and always be ready to give a defense to everyone who asks you a reason for the hope that is in you, with meekness and fear.” We need to be prepared to answer questions, but there is another way in which we must prepare ourselves.
          Our behavior is important when we consider our influence on others. The Scriptures say, “Therefore gird up the loins of your mind, be sober, and rest your hope fully upon the grace that is to be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ; as obedient children, not conforming yourselves to the former lusts, as in your ignorance; but as He who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, because it is written, ‘Be holy, for I am holy’” (1 Peter 1:13-16).
          If you act like a fool with no hope, if you are disobedient yourself to the Bible, and if you live as the world lives, why should anyone listen to what you say about Jesus? If He doesn’t impact your life, why would you think that He would impact someone else’s?
          We need to be a positive influence on the people we come into contact with. Classmates, co-workers, neighbors, friends, even the person taking your order at the fast food joint. Don’t you have good news? The best news ever? Don’t you have a reason to smile and rejoice?
          Jesus said, “You are the light of the world. A city that is set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do they light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a lampstand, and it gives light to all who are in the house. Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven” (Matthew 5:14-16).
          What did Jesus do for you? Doesn’t that make you ecstatic? Shouldn’t that make you glow with His love? “A city that is set on a hill CANNOT be hidden.” God has exalted you, His child, and His love should shine so brightly it blinds everyone around you! DON’T TRY TO DIM IT! Don’t put it under a basket; put it on a lampstand! Let everyone see the light! Let everyone glorify the Father! Let everyone experience His love!
          It does not matter how young you are. If you have experienced the saving blood of Jesus, you let your light shine! “Let no one despise your youth, but be an example to the believers in word, in conduct, in love, in spirit, in faith, in purity” (1 Timothy 4:12). Don’t give anyone a reason to say a single bad word about you.
          Be an example in word. “Let no corrupt word proceed out of your mouth, but what is good for necessary edification, that it may impart grace to the hearers” (Ephesians 4:29). Don’t be telling dirty jokes or cursing. Use your words to encourage others in the church. It doesn’t cost a penny to give someone a compliment.
          Be an example in conduct. Recall what Peter wrote about obedience and holiness. Our character should reflect Christ.
          Be an example in love. Read 1 Corinthians 13:4-8. Can you substitute your name for the word “love” in that passage and it still ring true? Are you patient, kind, humble, and selfless?
          Be an example in spirit. Paul said in Philippians 4:4, “Rejoice in the Lord always. Again I will say, rejoice!” Our attitude is so important when we consider evangelism. If you’re always angry, or present a “woe is me” disposition, it will be difficult for people to take you seriously when you give them the good news of Christ.
          Be an example in faith. Do you believe that Jesus is the Son of God, that He has saved you, and that salvation is available to all? Show it! “For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes, for the Jew first and also for the Greek” (Romans 1:16). Believe it? Show it!
          Be an example in purity. This is so difficult in the twenty-first century, but we must do our very best to avoid sinful situations that will not only compromise our influence but also endanger our eternal souls! How do we do this? Inspiration does not leave us guessing! “Flee also youthful lusts; but pursue righteousness, faith, love, peace with those who call on the Lord out of a pure heart” (2 Timothy 2:22). Replace the bad (youthful lusts) with the good (righteousness). Surround yourself with people who want to go to heaven, and who want you to go to heaven with them!
          How does this all relate to evangelism?
          “Everyone hates hypocrisy. Once someone believes you to be preaching one thing and practicing another, all hope for a receptive ear will vanish. You will be tuned out and completely minimized. For you to be a natural evangelist, you need to align your hidden behaviors with your public message. Of course, you are not going to be perfect. You will sin and make mistakes, but blatant hypocrisy will be detrimental to God using you in His mission” (Matthew W. Morine, Natural Evangelism, p. 18).

Discussion and Action

1. How has your behavior affected another person’s perception of the church?

2. Identify your strengths and weaknesses of your example as it relates to 1 Timothy 4:12, and make a plan to improve your weaknesses.

3. Recite the six steps of the gospel plan of salvation and where you can find Scriptures for each step.

4. Memorize the text of another verse in the gospel plan of salvation.

5. Take out your index card of three friends. Add two more names to the list. Keep praying for them looking for opportunities to discuss spiritual matters with them.

What is Evangelism?

Evangelism

          Sometimes we use a lot of big words in a religious context. Benevolence, edification, sanctification, justification, propitiation. We often hear the word “evangelism,” but what does it mean?
          An evangelist is simply “a bringer of good news.” The gospel is the good news of Christ, thus the evangelist is one who brings the gospel. In fact, “evangelist” and “gospel” come from the same root Greek word: εὐαγγελίζω.
          The command to evangelize following Christ’s resurrection was first given to His closest followers. He told His disciples, “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature” (Mark 16:15). Matthew’s goes into a little more detail. “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you” (Matthew 28:19-20).
          The form of the verb “go” in these verses would be better translated, “as you are going.” The early disciples were expected to spread the good news of Jesus Christ as they went about their business. At work, at school, at home…preach it, and make disciples. As you make disciples, baptize them. Then continue teaching. The job is not done when someone gets in the water; it has only just begun! Teach them to observe ALL things commanded by the Master. You know what that includes? The command to go and make disciples!
          We generally think of the preacher as THE evangelist, but the Scriptures reveal a much different picture. Paul wrote to the young preacher Timothy in 2 Timothy 4:5, “But you be watchful in all things, endure afflictions, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry.” So certainly, the preacher does bear some responsibility in the work of evangelism. But is evangelism the job of the preacher alone?
          The book of Acts is a history of the early church, specifically the work of Peter and Paul in conversion. In Acts 8, we are told that the church was being heavily persecuted following the stoning of Stephen. Luke writes, “At that time, a great persecution arose against the church which was at Jerusalem; and they were all scattered throughout the regions of Judea and Samaria, except the apostles” (Acts 8:1). Skip down just a few verses and we read, “Therefore those who were scattered went everywhere preaching the word” (Acts 8:4).
          The apostles were the first ones given the commission to go everywhere preaching. But in Acts 8, the apostles stayed in Jerusalem while “those who were scattered went everywhere preaching the word.” Evangelism was not considered an apostolic duty exclusively in the first century, and it should not be considered the preacher’s duty exclusively in the twenty-first century!
          The apostles were the original recipients of the Great Commission; Christians today are under the “Perpetual Commission.” Paul wrote, “And the things that you have heard from me among many witnesses, commit these to faithful men who will be able to teach others also” (2 Timothy 2:2).

Discussion and Action

1. How would you define evangelism?

2. Who is generally seen as “THE evangelist” in the church today? Is this good or bad?

3. Who should be an evangelist?

4. Recite the six steps of the gospel plan of salvation and where you can find Scriptures for each step.

5. Memorize the text of one of the verses for the gospel plan of salvation.

6. Remember the index card with the names of three non-Christian friends? Did you have a chance to talk to them about Jesus? Keep praying for them looking for opportunities to discuss spiritual matters with them.

The Gospel Plan of Salvation: “What Must I Do To Be Saved?”

Evangelism

          “What must I do to be saved?” How would you answer that question? If you are engaged in a spiritual discussion with a close friend, and they ask this question, do you know what to say? This is the most important question any person could ever ask, but it is not a question that someone is going to ask out of the blue.
          When the question is asked in the New Testament, it is because people are motivated to ask. On the Day of Pentecost, recorded in Acts 2, the apostles are speaking in languages they have never studied. Peter tells the crowd that they are witnessing the fulfillment of prophecy! Joel had foretold the pouring out of the Holy Spirit, and the wonders and signs and the coming salvation. Peter says, “But this is what was spoken by the prophet Joel!” He then talked about Jesus, and how David pointed to Jesus, and how they had crucified Jesus. Peter declared, “Therefore let all the house of Israel know assuredly that God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Christ.” The Jews listening to Peter “were cut to the heart,” and they asked him the most important question ever: “Men and brethren, what shall we do?”
          Acts 9 tells of Saul of Tarsus, who was traveling to Damascus on a religious mission: he was going to identify followers of “the Way” and bring them bound back to Jerusalem. Along the way, something happened. A bright light from heaven caused him to fall to the ground, and he heard the voice of the Lord ask, “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting Me?” Saul realized that he had been on the wrong path and asked, “Lord, what do You want me to do?”
          Saul of Tarsus became Paul the apostle, and is known for his evangelistic efforts among the Gentile world. Luke writes in Acts 16 about Paul and his teaching companion Silas getting arrested in Philippi. They were in the jail, singing and praying, when an earthquake hit. All the chains fell from all the prisoners, and they were free to go! When the jailer realized this, he drew his sword to take his own life. But Paul called out and prevented him, saying, “Do yourself no harm, for we are all here.” The jailer, trembling, asked Paul and Silas, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?”
          Three very different situations, all leading someone to ask the most important question. What’s the answer?
          The answer is one that all Christians should memorize. We are commanded by the inspired apostle Peter, “But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts, and always be ready to give a defense to everyone who asks you a reason for the hope that is in you, with meekness and fear” (1 Peter 3:15). Do you know the answer to the question, “What must I do to be saved?”

        1) Hear (Romans 10:17)
        2) Believe (Mark 16:16)
        3) Confess (Acts 8:37)
        4) Repent (Acts 3:19)
        5) Be Baptized (Acts 2:38)
        6) Be Faithful (Revelation 2:10)

          Many Scriptures can be used in place of the ones listed. You might see different wording, or some may put repentance before confession, but the answer is generally the same. Even if you do not memorize the text of each verse, at least memorize the reference so you can find it quickly. It is not our aim to share our opinions on the matter of salvation, but to point honest hearts to what the Scriptures reveal.

Discussion and Action

1. Will everyone respond in a positive way? What are some of the objections your religious friends may have to this answer?

2. Memorize the six steps of the gospel plan of salvation and where you can find Scriptures for each step.

3. Take an index card and write the names of three non-Christian friends. Include them in your daily prayers, and look for opportunities to turn your discussions with them to spiritual matters.

The Minor Prophets

John the Baptist

The inspired apostle Peter wrote that “prophecy never came by the will of man, but holy men of God spoke as they were moved by the Holy Spirit.” The final twelve books in the Old Testament fall under the heading of “Minor Prophets,” simply meaning that the length of their writings was shorter than Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, and Daniel. The messages they spoke were not minor, and today in the Christian age, we can still learn from the principles espoused by these holy men of God.

Feel free to use these brief notes in your private studies or with a class. Keep in mind this is just a general overview of these prophets and lessons we can learn today; make use of the resources listed at the end of this book for deeper study.

PDFClick here to download A Study of The Minor Prophets: Class notes compiled by Jason T. Carter (PDF format).

The Minor Prophets: Malachi

The Minor Prophets Hosea

THE MINOR PROPHETS // MALACHI

I. Historical background

    A. Around 450 B.C. (Coffman); 445-432 B.C. (Hailey); 460-425 B.C. (Waddey)
    B. “The time in which Malachi prophesied is determined by material within the book rather than from the opening lines of the book as has been true with earlier prophets. It is a time of careless priests (Mal. 1:6-2:9), skepticism (Mal. 3:14; 2:17), and of inter-marriage (Mal. 2:11-16). The temple is evidently completed and sacrifices are being offered (Mal. 1:7-10). Judah is under a governor (Mal. 1:8). Edom has been destroyed (Mal. 1:1-5).” (Lewis)
    C. “The book itself does not give the date of its writing. However, most scholars agree that the writer of the book dealt with much the same problems as were prevalent during the time of Ezra and Nehemiah….The Temple was rebuilt about 520-516 B.C. Then about 60 years later (around 456 B.C.) Ezra had come home from Babylon to Jerusalem to help encourage and reorganize the nation. Then, about 13 years later (around 444 B.C.), Nehemiah came to Jerusalem and directed the rebuilding of the wall. This seems to have been close to the time of the conditions and events described in Malachi. Thus it seems that the Jews had been home about 100 years in Malachi’s time.” (Warren)
    D. “For a full picture of the conditions in Judea during the period one should read Ezra 7-10 and the complete Book of Nehemiah.” (Hailey)

II. About the prophet

    A. “Nothing is known of the life of the author of this book. Some scholars even doubt that we know his name. They contend that since ‘Malachi,’ which is the Hebrew word for ‘my messenger,’ appears nowhere else as a proper name it should not be considered to be one in connection with this book.” (Warren)
    B. Some object to the supposed anonymity of the book, including Coffman and Hailey. “No other OT prophecy is anonymous, nor may we reasonably supposed Malachi to be an exception.” (Coffman)
    C. Malachi “might have meant My Angel or Messenger, or it may be taken as an adjective Angelicus. Either of these meaning would form a natural name for a Jewish child, and a very suitable one for a prophet.” (Smith)

III. Lessons for today

    A. God hates divorce (2:16)

      1. Hatred is a strong emotion, but it is applied to several specific sinful attitudes and actions (Proverbs 6:16-19; Deuteronomy 12:29-31)
      2. “Such a vigorous warning and exhortation from the Lord in a former decadent and permissive age should not be silenced; its principle should be heralded to the ends of the earth in our own time.” (Hailey)
      3. Single Christians should take great care in choosing a mate, since God’s intention for marriage is a life-long commitment (Matthew 19:4-6; 1 Corinthians 7:10-13)
      4. “Disregard for marriage vows is disastrous for the individual, society and the nation.” (Waddey)

    B. “God is never satisfied with partial, or incomplete, service.” (Woods)

      1. “Malachi teaches that although ritual may be important in religion, it is not an end in itself. Ritual is only of value when it expresses a deep and sincere spiritual worship unto God.” (Hailey)
      2. The people of Malachi’s day were not doing all that they should or could in giving back to God (1:8; 3:8-10; cf. Leviticus 22:18-20)
      3. “Notice that they were not robbing God in the sense that they were taking money, but they simply were not giving as they had been commanded!” (Warren)
      4. “Every spiritually minded person who ever lived instinctively accepted the principle that, to God one must give the very best….The reprobate priesthood of Malachi’s times were accepting the sick, the lame, and the blind, and doing many other things forbidden.” (Coffman)
      5. Does God expect more us to do or give than we are able? No, but neither should we underestimate how much we are able to do or give! (2 Corinthians 8:9-15)
      6. When we commit to something, we must be sure to follow through once we have the ability (Ecclesiastes 5:4-5)

    C. Our attitude toward correction should be one of repentance (3:16)

      1. Malachi preached against the sins of the people, resulting in a change of heart and life in “those who feared the Lord”
      2. “Malachi foresees the repentance of some, though not all the people. They would speak with one another. No doubt their speaking would concern the need for repentance, for genuine worship. As always, the fear of Jehovah would prove the beginning of wisdom for Jehovah would hear and remember.” (Gill)
      3. Today, we must listen to the preaching of the Word, even when it is uncomfortable to hear (2 Timothy 4:2), and respond appropriately (James 1:21-25)

Resources
Coffman, James Burton. (1983). Commentary on the Minor Prophets, Volume 4: Zechariah and Malachi. Austin, TX: The Firm Foundation Publishing House. [Textual commentary excluding introductory notes on each book available online at https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/bcc/malachi.html]

Gill, Clinton R. (1971). Minor Prophets: A Study of Micah through Malachi. Joplin, MO: College Press. [Online at http://www.restorationlibrary.org/library/BSTSMP/BSTSMP_SIPDF.pdf]

Hailey, Homer. (1972). A Commentary on the Minor Prophets. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House.

Lewis, Jack P. (1966). Minor Prophets. Austin, TX: R.B. Sweet Co., Inc.

Smith, George Adam. (1906). The Book of Twelve Prophets, Vol. II. New York, NY: A.C. Armstrong and Son. [Online at https://archive.org/stream/bookoftwelveprop028005mbp]

Waddey, John. (2011). The Testimony of the Twelve Minor Prophets. Delight, AR: Gospel Light Publishing Company. [Online at http://www.restorationlibrary.org/library/TTMP/TTMP_SIPDF.pdf]

Warren, Lindsey D. “The Living Message of Zechariah.”(1977). The Living Messages of the Books of the Old Testament. Garland Elkins and Thomas B. Warren, editors. Jonesboro, AR: National Christian Press, Inc.

Woods, Guy N. (1957). Adult Gospel Quarterly: January, February, March 1958. Nashville, TN: Gospel Advocate Company.

The Minor Prophets: Zechariah

The Minor Prophets Hosea

THE MINOR PROPHETS // ZECHARIAH

I. Historical context

    A. “In the eighth month of the second year of Darius” (1:1); beginning in late 520 B.C. (Coffman; Gill; Howard; Lewis; Waddey); “chapters 9-14, is generally thought to be from a later period of his ministry” (Waddey)
    B. “Darius, after fighting some nineteen battles, put down the rebellious challenges of his authority; and there was nothing to hinder the Jews rebuilding of the Temple except their own lethargy. Zechariah, along with Haggai, whose prophetic career began some two months earlier, successfully led the people in rebuilding it. It is altogether possible that Zechariah saw the rebuilt temple completed in 516 B.C., and that he lived and prophesied long after that event.” (Coffman)
    C. “The first eight chapters consist of the prophecies dated according to the reign of King Darius during his second, third and fourth years of rule….Chapters 9-14, however, find us in an altogether new setting—one of sharp contrast to the first eight chapters. There is no more reference to the construction of the temple; heathen forces not even mentioned before are now detailed; war seems just a breath away and the love and peace and tranquility seems to have vanished.” (Howard)
    D. “The book of Zechariah may be thought of as a sequel to Haggai. The temple was begun and constructed in the midst of conflict, but it would be completed. Zechariah looks beyond the immediate temple to the Messiah and the spiritual temple of God, and to the final consummation of God’s purpose in the glory of the Messiah and His rule. This would be accomplished amid great opposition, but Jehovah would fight for His people and give them victory.” (Hailey)

II. About the prophet

    A. “The name Zechariah means ‘Jehovah remembers,’ or ‘Jehovah has remembered.” (Howard)
    B. “In contrast to Haggai, who was a ‘layman,’ Zechariah was a Levitical priest, and a member of one of the outstanding priestly families.” (Gill)
    C. “The writings of Zechariah reflect an engaging personality, a simple, hearty, practical man. His spirit was dedicated to love, justice and man’s need for freedom and a happy home.” (Waddey)
    D. Some believe Christ speaks of the prophet’s death in Matthew 23:34-35 (Howard), while others believe it is a different Zechariah to whom the Lord refers (Coffman, Hailey, Lewis, Waddey)

III. Lessons for today

    A. It was always in God’s plan to include other nations in His kingdom (2:3-4, 11; 9:9-10)

      1. “‘Jerusalem shall be inhabited without walls…’ This never applied to the literal Jerusalem, except for part of a century before the people were able to rebuild the walls. The simple meaning is that God’s eventual city, as realized in the Church of Jesus Christ, shall not be a fortified citadel, but a world-wide fellowship that no walls could limit or contain.” (Coffman)
      2. “‘In that day…’ is a phrase often associated in the prophecies with ‘the times of the Messiah.’” (Coffman)
      3. “This projects the prophecy into that distant day when Messiah would come to dwell among the Hebrews (John 1:14) and would invite all nations to become his disciples (Matt. 28:19). Gentiles would have access to the divine promise through the gospel (Eph. 3:6).” (Waddey)
      4. “The Lord looks beyond the physical descendants of Israel to a nation that includes some from among all the nations, Gentiles as well as Jews. In the midst of such a people Jehovah will dwell.” (Hailey)

    B. The importance of following God’s will in worship (chapters 7 and 8)

      1. The people had instituted a fast seventy years prior to remember and mourn the destruction of the temple (7:3)

        a. Other fasts had also been established at the same time in different months (8:19)
        b. “The four fasts the Jews have been keeping in memory of Nebuchadnezzar’s coming against Jerusalem (tenth month), of the breach made in the wall (fourth month), of the burning of the house of Jehovah (fifth month), and of the murder of Gedaliah (seventh month)…” (Hailey)
        c. “This preoccupation with weeping, mourning, and fasting represented a radical change in Jewish religious life. Weeping and sorrow replaced hymns and thanksgivings; and Watts affirmed that, ‘The practice has survived into this century at the so-called “Wailing Wall” in Jerusalem.’” (Coffman)

      2. The fact is that God only established one fast for the Jews to observe on a continual basis: the Day of Atonement, observed on the tenth day of the seventh month (Leviticus 23:27-32)

        a. The fast mentioned in Zechariah “was not of godly sorrow for past offences, but of selfish regret for loss of their country and their liberty. They pitied themselves, but they had not learned to fear Jehovah.” (Hinckley, quoted by Coffman)
        b. “Zechariah reminds them that this fasting had been done to bewail their exile and ruin. It had not come from divine commandment; therefore, it did not possess the deepest spiritual meaning.” (Howard)
        c. It was instituted by the people for the wrong reasons, not by God nor for God (7:5)

      3. We are warned against binding things on others that are not authorized or commanded by God

        a. Matthew 15:9; Colossians 3:17
        b. While we have examples of Christians fasting in Acts (13:2-3; 14:23), we are not commanded to observe a fast collectively as a church at appointed times
        c. When we fast, our motivation must be pure (Matthew 6:17-18), and when done in a marriage relationship, fasting must be done with mutual consent between husband and wife (1 Corinthians 7:5)
        d. It is an individual decision, and should not be bound on others
        e. “Fasting, for the Christian, is strictly a voluntary matter. It should arise out of a feeling of intense need, not as a result of mere formality.” (Jackson)

    C. The existence of Christ before He “became flesh and dwelt among us” (John 1:14)

      1. The Angel of the Lord appears throughout the Old Testament, going all the way back to Genesis; in the NKJV the word “Angel,” when used in this context, is generally capitalized indicating the translators believed Him to be Deity
      2. This Angel of the Lord is featured prominently in the book of Zechariah
      3. “The following observations will establish that this mighty angel was no less than the Word of God, the preincarnate Christ. The angel of Jehovah told Moses that his name was ‘I AM THAT I AM.’ Jesus also claimed that he was I AM (John 8:58).

      “The angel led Israel through the wilderness and provided their needs (Ex. 14:19-20). Moses reported that Jehovah directed Moses to smite the rock that the people might drink in the desert. But Paul tells us that the rock they drank of was Christ (1 Cor. 10:24).

      “In the Book of Joshua, the angel is the prince or leader of Jehovah’s host or army (5:14). In Revelation 19, we see the army of heaven and its notable leader. Then John sees his name which is ‘The Word of God’ (19:11-16). In his Gospel, John identifies the Word of God as the only begotten of the Father, who became flesh (John 1:1-4,14).

      “The angel told Manoah that his name was wonderful (Judg. 13:16-18). Isaiah, in his famous prophecy of Messiah said, ‘His name shall be called Wonderful…’ (9:6).

      “Isaiah calls him ‘The angel of God’s presence,’ which means ‘of his face’ (63:9). The Hebrews writer says Christ is ‘the very image of his (God’s) substance’ (1:3).”…

      “The angel of Jehovah can be worshiped (Josh. 5:4). No mere man or created angel can be worshiped acceptably (Acts 10;25,26; Rev. 22:-8-9). But Jesus commonly accepted the worship of men (Matt. 28:17)….

      “These appearances of the angel of Jehovah, in ancient times, are called theophanies, i.e., when God assumes the form of an angel or a man in order to speak and act visibly and audibly to men, to provide them some revelation or guidance.” (Waddey)

Resources
Coffman, James Burton. (1983). Commentary on the Minor Prophets, Volume 4: Zechariah and Malachi. Austin, TX: The Firm Foundation Publishing House. [Textual commentary excluding introductory notes on each book available online at https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/bcc/zechariah.html]

Gill, Clinton R. (1971). Minor Prophets: A Study of Micah through Malachi. Joplin, MO: College Press. [Online at http://www.restorationlibrary.org/library/BSTSMP/BSTSMP_SIPDF.pdf]

Hailey, Homer. (1972). A Commentary on the Minor Prophets. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House.

Howard, V.E. “The Living Message of Zechariah.”(1977). The Living Messages of the Books of the Old Testament. Garland Elkins and Thomas B. Warren, editors. Jonesboro, AR: National Christian Press, Inc.

Jackson, Wayne. “Is Fasting for Christians Today?” ChristianCourier.com. [http://www.christiancourier.com/articles/231-is-fasting-for-christians-today]

Lewis, Jack P. (1966). Minor Prophets. Austin, TX: R.B. Sweet Co., Inc.

Waddey, John. (2011). The Testimony of the Twelve Minor Prophets. Delight, AR: Gospel Light Publishing Company. [Online at http://www.restorationlibrary.org/library/TTMP/TTMP_SIPDF.pdf]

The Minor Prophets: Haggai

The Minor Prophets Hosea

THE MINOR PROPHETS // HAGGAI

I. Historical context

    A. “In the second year of King Darius, in the sixth month, on the first day of the month” (1:1); 520 B.C. (Coffman, Hailey, Lewis, Waddey)
    B. “Significantly, Haggai did not date his message from the times of any Jewish ruler, for both Israel and Judah had been removed from their homeland and had been enslaved by Assyria and by Babylon. Thus it was necessary to date his prophecy from the rule of a pagan king, contrasting sharply with the custom of earlier prophets.” (Coffman)
    C. The Jews that returned from Babylonian captivity began work on rebuilding the temple (Ezra 3:10)

      1. Their opponents complained to Artaxerxes, who decreed that the reconstruction must stop (Ezra 4:21)
      2. After Darius came to power, the Jews did not attempt to resume their efforts on the temple structure until the Lord spoke through Haggai (1:1)
      3. “The effect that Haggai’s prophetic work had on the Jews is at least partly seen in the fact that, twenty-three days after his first address was made, the work on the temple began (Hag. 1:1,15). Four years, six months and two days after Haggai’s first address, the work on the temple was completed (Hag. 1:1; Ezra 6:15).” (Deaver)

    D. “Concerning the destruction of the temple by Nebuchadnezzar’s troops, we read in II Kings 25:9 that it was burned, not demolished. This would explain why so few could do the work of rebuilding in only four years. The original temple built by Solomon was seven years in construction.” (Waddey)

II. About the prophet

    A. “Haggai, as a person, remains obscure. No one else in the Old Testament shares the name, the literal meaning of which is ‘festival.’ He is mentioned in Ezra 5:1 and 6:4 and referred to in Zechariah 8:9. He is named two times in the apocraphal I Esdras and Sirach 49:11.” (Gill)
    B. “Haggai had been in exile with his fellow Hebrews in the land of Babylon. He was among the faithful remnant that returned in 536 B.C. On the basis of 2:3, it is thought by some that he was an old man who had seen Solomon’s Temple before it was destroyed.” (Waddey)
    C. “Jewish rabbis attributed some of the Psalms to Haggai, as did the early church fathers. In the Vulgate he is credited with (Ps. 111); in the Septuagint with Pss. 137, 146, 147, 148; and in the Peshitta with Ps. 145.” (Waddey)

III. Lessons for today

    A. The importance of “thus says the Lord”

      1. “The basis of all successful preaching is ‘saith Jehovah.’ It got results then, and such preaching will get results today.” (Hailey)
      2. “The outstanding feature of Haggai’s style is found in his oft repeated declaration that he was speaking God’s word. ‘Thus saith Jehovah,’ ‘the word of Jehovah of hosts’ and similar expressions ‘are used twenty-six times in the four short addresses of thirty-eight verses.’” (Coffman)
      3. Haggai “teaches that when we heed the teaching of God’s teacher, who faithfully delivers the divine message, we are obeying God. In the words of Christ, ‘He that receiveth whomsoever I send receiveth me…’ (John 13:20). It is worth noting that all the people obeyed God and began to work on God’s house. None are so great or important that they are excused from obedience and participation in the Master’s Cause.” (Waddey)
      4. There are so many false doctrines prevalent in the religious community, we must be diligent in our study of the Word so we can discern between truth and error
      5. Romans 10:17; 2 Timothy 3:16-17

    B. The importance of proper priorities (1:4,9)

      1. Putting first things first
      2. We talk about this a lot – why?
      3. Hailey quotes Farrar: “When a good work is awaiting its accomplishment, the time to do it is now.” (Hailey)
      4. Matthew 6:19-20, 33; Colossians 3:1-3
      5. “To be eagerly zealous for one’s own material welfare and house, running enthusiastically to care for it but loitering negligently in his responsibility to the Lord, is to invite retributive consequences.” (Hailey)

    C. “Obligations do not disappear merely because opposition appears.” (Deaver)

      1. Hailey again quotes Farrar: “Discouragement however profound is not an adequate reason for neglecting duties, even when they seem to be encompassed with difficulty. ‘Be strong and work’ is a glorious motto for human life.” (Hailey)
      2. Haggai 2:4
      3. “Their strength, like that of God’s saints today, is ‘in the Lord, and in the strength of his might’ (Eph. 6:10). In this power through the strength of the Lord nothing that comes within the promise of God’s will is impossible to His people. While God provides the strength, the believer must do his part; he must work. When strength through faith is combined with work, obstacles vanish….They should be of good courage, for if Jehovah, the God of all forces, is for them, who can be against them?” (Hailey)
      4. Did the early church face opposition to the truth? (Acts 4:17-18)
      5. Even among the disciples, there were factions that worked against the church’s mission (Acts 20:29-30)
      6. What must our response be when we are warned to be silent about God’s grace and peace and love and mercy? (Acts 4:19-20)
      7. “The church must continue to support the truth (I Tim. 3:15), help the needy (Gal. 6:10), reach the lost (Matt. 28:19,20), edify herself (Heb. 10:25). And the church must not allow the world to make her over in its image so that she, too, no longer cares about spiritual affairs. The Jews refused to build for a while because the world forced her to that end. The Jews became apathetic for a while because the world influenced her to so become.” (Deaver)
      8. 1 John 5:4

    Resources
    Coffman, James Burton. (1982). Commentary on the Minor Prophets, Volume 3: Nahum, Habakkuk, Zephaniah and Haggai. Austin, TX: The Firm Foundation Publishing House. [Textual commentary excluding introductory notes on each book available online at https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/bcc/haggai.html]

    Deaver, Mac. “The Living Message of Haggai.” (1977). The Living Messages of the Books of the Old Testament. Garland Elkins and Thomas B. Warren, editors. Jonesboro, AR: National Christian Press, Inc.

    Gill, Clinton R. (1971). Minor Prophets: A Study of Micah through Malachi. Joplin, MO: College Press. [Online at http://www.restorationlibrary.org/library/BSTSMP/BSTSMP_SIPDF.pdf]

    Hailey, Homer. (1972). A Commentary on the Minor Prophets. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House.

    Lewis, Jack P. (1966). Minor Prophets. Austin, TX: R.B. Sweet Co., Inc.

    Waddey, John. (2011). The Testimony of the Twelve Minor Prophets. Delight, AR: Gospel Light Publishing Company. [Online at http://www.restorationlibrary.org/library/TTMP/TTMP_SIPDF.pdf]