Simple Bible Reading Guide
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"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.
1 Cor 1 — CROSS PURPOSES
"The message of the cross is complete absurdity to those who are headed for ruin, but to us who are experiencing salvation it is the power of God." 1 Corinthians 1:18
Of all the churches in the Bible, Corinth may have been the most similar to the churches of today. Corinth was sharply divided, bound by sexual sin, and crazy about sports. In His mercy, the Lord richly endowed them "with every gift of speech and knowledge" (1:5). However, they were in danger of stifling the Spirit (1 Thes 5:19) and ending in the flesh (Gal 3:3), if they did not repent of their worldliness and choose to live the way of the cross.
Prayer: Lord, by the cross may I be crucified to the world and the world to me (Gal 6:14).
Promise: "God chose those whom the world considers absurd to shame the wise; He singled out the weak of this world to shame the strong. He chose the world's lowborn and despised, those who count for nothing, to reduce to nothing those who were something; so that mankind can do no boasting before God." 1:27-29
1 Cor 2 — "WE HAVE THE MIND OF CHRIST" (2:16)
"None of the rulers of this age knew the mystery; if they had known it, they would never have crucified the Lord of glory." 1 Corinthians 2:8
Paul determined that while he was with the Corinthians he "would speak of nothing but Jesus Christ and Him crucified" (2:2). The cross is God's wisdom, not worldly wisdom. Of God's "wisdom it is written: 'Eye has not seen, ear has not heard, nor has it so much as dawned on man what God has prepared for those who love Him.' Yet God has revealed this wisdom to us through the Spirit" (2:9-10). "The Spirit we have received is not the world's spirit but God's Spirit, helping us to recognize the gifts He has given us" (2:12). "The natural man does not accept what is taught by the Spirit of God. For him, this is absurdity" (2:14). "But we have the mind of Christ" (2:16).
Prayer: Jesus, give me the Spirit, Your mind, and Your words.
Promise: "We speak of these, not in words of human wisdom but in words taught by the Spirit, thus interpreting spiritual things in spiritual terms." 2:13
1 Cor 3 — BIG BABIES
"Let no one delude himself. If any one of you thinks he is wise in a worldly way, he had better become a fool. In that way he will really be wise." 1 Corinthians 3:18
The Corinthians prided themselves on their worldly wisdom. This attitude resulted in jealousy and quarrels, which in turn retarded their spiritual growth. They were "infants in Christ" (3:1), who were not ready for solid food but could only be fed with milk. Their Christian lives were mediocre, lacking in quality, and unable to stand the test of time.
Prayer: Father, may my life meet the standards of quality You have set down in the Bible.
Promise: "That day will make its appearance with fire, and fire will test the quality of each man's work. If the building a man has raised on this foundation still stands, he will receive his recompense; if a man's building burns, he will suffer loss. He himself will be saved, but only as one fleeing through fire." 3:13-15
1 Cor 5 — INCEST AND EXCOMMUNICATION
"Expel the wicked man from your midst." 1 Corinthians 5:13
After directing the Corinthians to live the way of the cross, Paul dealt with several problems in the Corinthian community. The Corinthians were tolerating incest. Paul insisted that the incestuous man be excommunicated. In this way, the unrepentant sinner was handed "over to Satan for the destruction of his flesh, so that his spirit may be saved on the day of the Lord" (5:5).
Prayer: Father, give me "tough love" so that innocent people will not be infected with secularism.
Promise: "Get rid of the old yeast to make of yourselves fresh dough, unleavened loaves, as it were; Christ our Passover has been sacrificed." 5:7
1 Cor 6 — IN COURT AND IN SIN
"Can you not realize that the unholy will not fall heir to the kingdom of God?" 1 Corinthians 6:9
The Corinthians were suing each other and committing fornication, adultery, and other sexual sins. Sound familiar? Paul warned: "Do not deceive yourselves: no fornicators, idolaters, or adulterers, no sodomites, thieves, misers, or drunkards, no slanderers or robbers will inherit God's kingdom. And such were some of you; but you have been washed, consecrated, justified in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ and in the Spirit of our God" (6:9-11).
Prayer: Father, may I not be conformed to the world (Rm 12:2). May I be turned off by prime-time TV and the secular newspaper.
Promise: "You must know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit, Who is within the Spirit you have received from God. You are not your own." 6:19
1 Cor 7 — "I DO" AND I DON'T
"A man is better off having no relations with a woman." 1 Corinthians 7:1
Paul says it is better that a person called to celibacy not be married. It is not sinful for such people to marry but they "will have trials in this life," and Paul would like to spare them these difficulties (7:28). "The general rule is that each one should lead the life the Lord has assigned him" (7:17). "In the present time of stress it seems good to me for a person to continue as he is" (7:26). As a general rule, changes in vocation are disruptive to serving the Lord. Even Christians married to unbelievers should not seek a change by leaving their spouses. The purpose of going into all this is to help us devote ourselves "entirely to the Lord" (7:35).
Prayer: Jesus, may I view everything in the light of Your second coming.
Promise: "The world as we know it is passing away." 7:31
1 Cor 8 — ARE YOU A TEMPTATION?
"Therefore, if food causes my brother to sin I will never eat meat again, so that I may not be an occasion of sin to him." 1 Corinthians 8:13
Next problem: eating meat offered to idols. Some of the meat from the market place had been used in pagan worship. There was nothing wrong with eating it, except that this bothered the consciences of some Christians. Paul told everyone to give up meat so as not to be an occasion of sin. Would you give up alcohol, at least in public, because it's an occasion of sin to many people?
Prayer: Lord, may I never knowingly or unknowingly be used in tempting anyone to sin.
Promise: "If a man thinks he knows something, that means he has never really known it as he ought. But if anyone loves God, that man is known by Him." 8:2-3
1 Cor 9 — SOUL-WINNING
"In fact, I do all that I do for the sake of the gospel in the hope of having a share in its blessings." 1 Corinthians 9:23
Our goal is to "win over as many as possible" to Jesus (9:19). When necessary, we will give up our rights to marriage and salary. We will put aside our life-style and customs to be "all things to all men" and lead as many as possible to Jesus (9:22).
Prayer: Jesus, may praising You and sharing Your gospel be the reasons for my existence.
Promise: "I do not run like a man who loses sight of the finish line. I do not fight as if I were shadowboxing. What I do is discipline my body and master it, for fear that after having preached to others I myself should be rejected." 9:26-27
1 Cor 11 — PROBLEMATIC
"What I now have to say is not said in praise, because your meetings are not profitable but harmful." 1 Corinthians 11:17
The Corinthians always seemed to be bogged down with problems. They confused male and female roles, as evidenced by some women not wearing veils. They also tolerated the separation between rich and poor at the Eucharist. How many churches and Christians are so consumed with problems, crises, and finances that they never get around to living the gospel of Jesus?
Prayer: Father, may I make any personal sacrifices necessary to be free and unburdened in serving You.
Promise: "Every time, then, you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the death of the Lord until He comes!" 11:26
1 Cor 12 — MESSING UP EVERYTHING
"I do not want to leave you in ignorance about spiritual gifts." 1 Corinthians 12:1
The Corinthians had problems with divisions, sexual sin, lawsuits, marriage, celibacy, meat, women's veils, and the Eucharist. There was nothing the Corinthians couldn't make a mess of, even the gifts of the Spirit. Paul set down a few guidelines to regulate the use of spiritual gifts, especially tongues and prophecy:
- "There are different gifts but the same Spirit" (12:4).
- "To each person the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good" (12:7).
- "The body is one and has many members, but all the members, many though they are, are one body; and so it is with Christ" (12:12).
- "Set your hearts on the greater gifts" (12:31).
- Do all things in love.
If we use the spiritual gifts properly, we will restore order to our own lives, families, and churches.
Prayer: Father, may I walk on the waters of confusion, doubt, and divisions to serve You in power (Mt 14:29).
Promise: "To one the Spirit gives wisdom in discourse, to another the power to express knowledge. Through the Spirit one receives faith; by the same Spirit another is given the gift of healing, and still another miraculous powers. Prophecy is given to one; to another power to distinguish one spirit from another. One receives the gift of tongues, another that of interpreting the tongues." 12:8-10
1 Cor 13 — "LOVE NEVER FAILS" (13:8)
"There is no limit to love's forbearance, to its trust, its hope, its power to endure." 1 Corinthians 13:7
All gifts of the Spirit must be used in an atmosphere of love or they amount to nothing. If used in love, however, spiritual gifts will manifest God's power. "There are in the end three things that last: faith, hope, and love, and the greatest of these is love" (13:13).
Prayer: Father, may I let You father me. May I receive Your love as never before.
Promise: "Now we see indistinctly, as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face." 13:12
1 Cor 14 — PROPHECY AND TONGUES
"Prophecy is not for those who are without faith but for those who have faith." 1 Corinthians 14:22
We should set our hearts on all the spiritual gifts, especially on prophecy. The prophet "speaks to men for their upbuilding, their encouragement, their consolation. He who speaks in a tongue builds up himself, but he who prophesies builds up the church" (14:3-4). "If any are going to talk in tongues let it be at most two or three, each in turn, with another to interpret what they are saying. But if there is no one to interpret, there should be silence in the assembly, each one speaking only to himself and to God. Let no more than two or three prophets speak, and let the rest judge the worth of what they say" (14:27-29). "Set your hearts on prophecy, my brothers, and do not forbid those who speak in tongues, but make sure that everything is done properly and in order" (14:39-40). "The spirits of the prophets are under the prophets' control, since God is a God, not of confusion, but of peace" (14:32-33).
Prayer: Father, may I recognize and use fully all the gifts of the Spirit You have given to me.
Promise: "If an unbeliever or an uninitiate enters while all are uttering prophecy, he will be taken to task by all and called to account by all, and the secret of his heart will be laid bare. Falling prostrate, he will worship God, crying out, 'God is truly among you.' " 14:24-25
1 Cor 15 — RISEN LIFE
"Death is swallowed up in victory. O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting?" 1 Corinthians 15:54-55
Among the many problems of the Corinthians, their denial of our resurrection from the dead was possibly the worst. Paul clearly stated the truth: "If Christ has not been raised, our preaching is void of content and your faith is empty too" (15:14). "If Christ was not raised, your faith is worthless. You are still in your sins, and those who have fallen asleep in Christ are the deadest of the dead. If our hopes in Christ are limited to this life only, we are the most pitiable of men" (15:17-19). This heresy was not due to intellectual problems but unrepented sin. Paul warned: "Do not be led astray any longer. 'Bad company corrupts good morals.' Return to reason, as you ought, and stop sinning. Some of you are quite ignorant of God; I say it to your shame" (15:33-34).
Prayer: Father, give me an exceptional courage and boldness based on a daily awareness of my future resurrection.
Promise: "Thanks be to God Who has given us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ." 15:57
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
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