Bible Study

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Bible Study: Easter 6 (B) – 2012

May 13, 2012

Acts 10:44-48

During the earlier part of the 20th century, there was much debate over when the Holy Spirit was given to the Christian believer, whether at baptism or at confirmation. The former option won the day, as can be seen in our current Book of Common Prayer. However, this story in Acts flies in the face of the entire question. Here we see the Holy Spirit falling upon Cornelius and his household before they have received any sacramental action. This is not to devalue the sacraments as “sure and certain means” of grace, but rather serves to remind us that the Spirit “blows where it chooses” (John 3:8) and cannot be limited by our rigid theological categories. In particular this movement of the Spirit shows to Peter and his companions that God is calling the uncircumcised gentiles into his kingdom as well – something that they could not have fit into their working theological framework!

  • Where have you seen God at work in ways that defy your theological expectations?
  • How does this challenge us in our spiritual lives? In our ministry to others? As individual Christians? As church communities?

Psalm 98

Strange as it may seem, the term “victory” has almost come to have a negative connotation in our culture, evoking images of arrogant triumphalism. But this is not the sort of victory being described in this psalm. Rather it is the victory of good over evil, of a righteous judge over injustice, of a God who “remembers his mercy and faithfulness” to his people (v. 3). Ultimately it is the victory of the risen Christ over sin, death and the powers of darkness. As the psalm expresses, joy is the only proper response to this, a joy not limited to the people of God, but a joy that must go forth among all people, extending even into the created order.

  • In what ways can we show forth “the victory of our God” in our lives?
  • Do you find it difficult to experience the joy of this victory in a world where sin, evil and injustice are still present?

1 John 5:1-6

“If you are angry with a brother or sister, you will be liable to judgment.” “Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.” “Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect” (Matt. 5:22, 44, 48). These commandments of Jesus seem difficult, even impossible to follow. How then can John tells us that “his commandments are not burdensome” (v.3)? The answer comes in the closing verses of this passage. We have been “born of God” (v.4) in baptism, “by water and blood” (v. 6), and so united to Christ by faith. As Christ has “conquered the world” (John 16:33), so we have victory through Christ – victory even over our own sinfulness and weaknesses that keep us from living in accordance with the kingdom of God. It is only through God’s grace, which we receive through faith and the sacraments, that we are able to become the people God has called us to be, and to show his love to the world.

  • Which of Jesus’ commandments do you find most “burdensome”? How might you respond to God’s grace to overcome this difficulty?
  • What role does the community of faith have in allowing us to live into God’s grace?

John 15:9-17

In this portion of Jesus’ last discourse with his disciples before his death, he presents both a rich blessing and a weighty responsibility. By calling his disciples “friends,” he brings them into a deeper relationship with himself, a relationship marked by great acceptance and intimacy. But he also commands them to love one another, and illustrates this love by his own willingness to lay down his life for those he has called his friends. If we, like the first disciples, are to be friends of Jesus, it means not only enjoying the comfort of his presence and love, but also loving one another to the point that we are willing to sacrifice ourselves for the good of the other friends of Jesus. It is in this way that we abide in the love of Christ, and in this way that we bear lasting fruit for the kingdom of God.

  • What would our lives (individually and collectively) look like if we followed Jesus’ example of love?
  • What holds us back from loving one another the way Christ loves us?

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Christopher Sikkema


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This page is available in: Español