"The revelation of Your words sheds light, giving understanding to the simple." Psalms 119:130
God's word is intended for all people. For thousands of years God has communicated to millions of simple people through His word. In fact, many things are hidden from the learned and clever but revealed to the merest children (Lk 10:21). Of course, God's word is sometimes so difficult to interpret that we need the Church to teach us. Therefore, highly academic Bible study has its place, but it is not the principal approach to God's word. The word is not primarily for an educated elite but for everyday people praying and reading by the power of the Spirit.
Nevertheless, not many books about the Bible are written to help the average person. What most people need is something short, simple, and practical that encourages, motivates and guides. We need something that will help us read the Biblical texts and not just about the text. This is the purpose of this simple Bible reading guide. "We have aimed to please those who prefer simple reading, as well as to make it easy for the studious who wish to commit things to memory, and to be helpful to all (2 Mc 2:25).
Note: The breakdown of the Bible into chapters (although not always adequate) has served God's people for centuries. So in general we will use a chapter-by-chapter structure for our comments.
Be sure to read each chapter of the Bible along with the introductory comments.
P.S. We have prayed before Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament about our choice
of the verses in this reading guide. We hope the Scriptures will have a
prophetic, life-changing power for you.
"Praised be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, Who has bestowed on us in Christ every spiritual blessing in the heavens!" Ephesians 1:3
Who are you in Christ? You are a saint and a believer who is chosen to be blameless and full of love. You are an adopted child of God, forgiven of sin, and redeemed through Jesus' blood. You are predestined to praise the Father's glory and to carry out His plan, "namely, to bring all things in the heavens and on earth into one under Christ's headship" (1:10).
Prayer: "May the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, grant you a spirit of wisdom and insight to know Him clearly. May He enlighten your innermost vision that you may know the great hope to which He has called you, the wealth of His glorious heritage to be distributed among the members of the Church, and the immeasurable scope of His power in us who believe" (1:17-19).
Promise: "You were sealed with the Holy Spirit Who had been promised. He is the Pledge of our inheritance, the first Payment against the full redemption of a people God has made His own, to praise His glory." 1:13-14
"I repeat, it is owing to His favor that salvation is yours through faith. This is not your own doing, it is God's gift; neither is it a reward for anything you have accomplished, so let no one pride himself on it." Ephesians 2:8-9
After revealing who we are in Christ, Paul reminds us who we were before we met Christ. "You were dead because of your sins and offenses" (2:1). "You gave allegiance to the present age and to the prince of the air, that spirit who is even now at work among the rebellious" (2:2). "We lived at the level of the flesh, following every whim and fancy, and so by nature deserved God's wrath like the rest" (2:3). "You had no part in Christ and were excluded from the community of Israel. You were strangers to the covenant and its promise; you were without hope and without God in the world" (2:12). "But God is rich in mercy; because of His great love for us He brought us to life with Christ when we were dead in sin" (2:4-5). "Both with and in Christ Jesus He raised us up and gave us a place in the heavens" (2:6). "We are truly His handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to lead the life of good deeds which God prepared for us in advance" (2:10). "This means that you are strangers and aliens no longer. No, you are fellow citizens of the saints and members of the household of God" (2:19).
Prayer: Jesus, before I met You, I was trapped in slavery and was doomed. You have set me free. May I spend the rest of my life thanking You and telling others about You.
Promise: "It is He Who is our Peace, and Who made the two of us one by breaking down the barrier of hostility that kept us apart." 2:14
"You will be able to grasp fully, with all the holy ones, the breadth and length and height and depth of Christ's love, and experience this love which surpasses all knowledge, so that you may attain to the fullness of God Himself." Ephesians 3:18-19
The Father's plan is to bring everyone together under Jesus' lordship (1:10). This world-evangelism is to take place primarily through the family. "That is why I kneel before the Father from Whom every family in heaven and on earth takes its name; and I pray that He will bestow on you gifts in keeping with the riches of His glory. May He strengthen you inwardly through the working of His Spirit. May Christ dwell in your hearts through faith, and may charity be the root and foundation of your life" (3:14-17).
Prayer: Father, may Christian families unite to form communities and neighborhood bases for evangelism.
Promise: "To Him Whose power now at work in us can do immeasurably more than we ask or imagine to Him be glory in the Church and in Christ Jesus through all generations, world without end. Amen." 3:20-21
"Through Him the whole body grows, and with the proper functioning of the members joined firmly together by each supporting ligament, builds itself up in love." Ephesians 4:16
When Jesus ascended into heaven, He poured out the gifts of the Spirit on His followers. He also raised up apostles, prophets, evangelists, and pastor-teachers to equip the saints to build up the body of Christ by using and developing their spiritual gifts. In this way, we as the Church "grow to the full maturity of Christ the Head" (4:15) and "put on that new man created in God's image" (4:24).
Prayer: Father, may I know what my spiritual gifts are and be equipped to use them to the full.
Promise: "You must lay aside your former way of life and the old self which deteriorates through illusion and desire, and acquire a fresh, spiritual way of thinking." 4:22-23
"Be imitators of God as His dear children. Follow the way of love, even as Christ loved you." Ephesians 5:1-2
Paul customarily ends his letters by applying to everyday life the main teachings of the letter. Because of who we are in Christ and because of our call to win the world for Christ, we must have loving relationships with each other. We must be "rid of all bitterness, all passion and anger, harsh words, slander, and malice of every kind" (4:31). We must guard against sexual sin and not even mention impurity. To "make the most of the present opportunity" (5:16) for evangelization, we must discern God's will, "be filled with the Spirit" (5:18), and avoid getting drunk. Husbands and wives, parents and children, employers and employees should relate to each other in respect and harmony, "so as to adorn in every way possible the doctrine of God our Savior" (Ti 2:10).
Prayer: Father, may my character and relationships attract others to Jesus and encourage them to ask me questions (1 Pt 3:15).
Promise: "There was a time when you were darkness, but now you are light." 5:8
"Finally, draw your strength from the Lord and His mighty power." Ephesians 6:10
The letter to the Ephesians seems to be an expansion of the letter to the Colossians. By comparing the two letters, we can identify teachings that Paul came to recognize as so important that they had to be added in Ephesians to the framework of Colossians. The teaching on spiritual warfare is one of these important additions. Paul lists our armor and then our one weapon, that is, the Spirit wielding God's word and making intercession for us (Rm 8:26). The Spirit manifesting His power in the word and in prayer is our Sword.
Prayer: Father, may I attack the gates of hell (Mt 16:18) and bring down the strongholds of the evil one (2 Cor 10:4).
Promise: "Our battle is not against human forces but against the principalities and powers, the rulers of this world of darkness, the evil spirits in regions above. You must put on the armor of God if you are to resist on the evil day." 6:12-13
When you finish reading this booklet, give it to someone else. Pray for that person to be motivated to read God's word and make a total commitment to the Lord. Use this book as a tool for evangelization. Right now pray to know the person with whom you are to share this book.
Nihil obstat: Reverend Robert L. Hagedorn, April 25, 1997
Imprimatur: †Most Reverend Carl K. Moeddel, Vicar General and Auxiliary Bishop of the Archdiocese of Cincinnati, April 28, 1997
The Nihil obstat and Imprimatur are a declaration that a book or pamphlet is considered to be free from doctrinal or moral error. It is not implied that those who have granted the Nihil obstat and Imprimatur agree with the contents, opinions, or statements expressed.
Published by: Presentation Ministries, 3230 McHenry Ave., Cincinnati, OH 45211, (513) 662-5378, www.presentationministries.com