The 10 Essential Principles for Bible Class Teachers

bigstock-Bible-study-session-857560Paul wrote an encouraging letter to the church in Thessalonica praising them for their zeal and work in the Lord that encouraged him when he heard of it. In 1 Thessalonians, we observe the interrelationship between the Thessalonians and their teacher Paul.

Cycle of Example

Paul told the Corinthians to “Be imitators of me, as I am of Christ” (1 Corinthians 11:1). Paul lived a holy and righteous life in the presence of the Thessalonians and exhorted them to live righteously (2:9-12). He commended the Thessalonians for following his example and the example of Christ (1:6). As a result, the Thessalonians became an example to the believers in Macedonia and Achaia (1:7). In fact, their example became so widespread that Paul learned of it from others and it encouraged him (v. 8).

Cycle of Words

The gospel came in words and the power of the Holy Spirit (1:5) and they received it as the word of God (2:13). The word of God changed their focus and manner of life (1:9) and gave them hope (1:10). Not content with their spiritual gain, they sounded the word in the regions of Macedonia and Achaia (1:8).  Paul received word of their living by the word and spreading the word to others.

Cycle of Suffering

Paul and his companions were treated shamefully at Philippi and suffered much when they taught the Thessalonians as well (2:1-2; Acts 16 and 17). Despite the conflict, Paul shared the gospel with them with great tenderness and affection, giving themselves completely to the effort (2:7-8). The Thessalonians obeyed the gospel and they also suffered as Paul did (2:14-15) for the sake of the gospel.

The close and loving relationship between Paul and the Thessalonians is one that every teacher should desire with their students. To have them not only hear the message but to allow it to change their lives, and create a zeal to carry the message to others despite the opposition is something every teacher would like to see. In this letter, Paul describes his approach to teaching the Thessalonians.

Effective Teaching Principles

Paul described the principles he and his companions embraced when they taught these believers whose response to the gospel had a continuing positive effect in the kingdom. They are principles we should emulate as well.

  1. Boldness in the middle of conflict – 2:1-3
  2. Taught only a pure doctrine – 2:13
  3. Pure motives – 2:3-5
  4. Sense of duty – 2:4
  5. Concerned with God’s approval – 2:4
  6. Selfless (not teaching for pride, greed, or power) – 2:5
  7. Gentleness – 2:7
  8. Intense effort – 2:9
  9. Exhortation to holiness – 2:11-12
  10. Continue to teach/not abandon them – 3:1-3, 11-13; 4:1

The Conversion of Cornelius and the Command to be Baptized

Some people argue that one does not need to be baptized using the conversion of Cornelius and the Holy Spirit’s presence at his conversion as their example. However, a close examination of the Bible account in Acts 10 and 11 teaches the exact opposite. Cornelius and his household was a peculiar case of conversion in the book of Acts in that He is the first non-Jewish convert: the opening of the gospel to the Gentile world. We must be careful not to make a broad application of this unique story to all conversions or put it at odds with other passages about salvation.

Story Summary

The story begin in Acts 10. Cornelius, a Roman military official, receives a vision of an angel of God instructing him to get the apostle Peter who is staying in Joppa. He is instructed to send for Peter because he would tell Cornelius “what he must do,” Acts 10:6. As Cornelius’s servants approach the house Peter has a series of visions in which he sees animals that the Old Law declared unclean and a voice telling him to kill and eat them. Peter, in respect of the Law, refused and received the reply “What God has cleansed you must not call common.” Peter was perplexed about the vision when the servants of Cornelius arrive. The Holy Spirit told Peter to go with them for He sent them. The next day Peter and several of the Jewish brethren went to Cornelius.

When they arrived at the house of Cornelius, there was a a gathering of close friends and relatives. Although the Jews were not supposed to enter the house of a Gentile, Peter said that God taught him that he should not call any man common or unclean: the lesson of the vision of the unclean animals. Cornelius told Peter of his vision  that they were gathered to hear what God commanded to be done. Peter told them about Jesus and his command to preach to the people (Acts 10:42). Certainly Peter is referencing the command in Mark 16:15-16 to “go into all the world and preach the gospel to every person. He that believes and is baptized would be saved. He that didn’t believe would be condemned.” Also Matthew’s account of the command to make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, Son, and the Holy Spirit, Matthew 28:19. Peter concluded that “whoever believes in Him will receive remission of sins,” Acts 10:43. In Acts 11:14, Cornelius said that Peter would tell them “words by which you and all your household will be saved.”

At this point the Holy Spirit fell on Cornelius and those who heard the word and they began to speak tongues as Peter and the apostles did on the Day of Pentecost (Acts 2). The Jewish Christians with Peter were astonished at this and Peter said, “can anyone forbid water to these who received the Holy Spirit in the manner we did?” (Acts 10:47). Then Peter commanded them to be baptized.

When Peter returned to Jerusalem some of the Jewish Christians confronted Peter because he ate with the Gentiles. Peter explained the whole account from the vision and the Holy Spirit coming on the Gentiles as it did upon the apostles “at the beginning” (Day of Pentecost in Acts 2). Peter realized he would be withstanding God if he forbid the Gentles to be baptized. The Jewish Christians then glorified God saying “Then God has also granted to the Gentiles repentance to life,” Acts 11:18.

When was Cornelius Saved?

When was Cornelius saved When we consider the story of Cornelius we must understand when he was saved. According to Acts 11:14, he was not saved before the preaching of the word. This poses a problem for some who follow a popular teaching called Calvinism. Many religious bodies follow the teaching of John Calvin who taught the salvation of man by grace alone and the impossibility of being lost. Calvin said man was born in sin and cannot seek God unless God regenerates the man so that He will seek God. According to Calvin, at this point of regeneration the person is saved and will then seek God’s will. Cornelius was a devout religious man before he was told to send to Peter who would tell him words by which he would be saved! How could Cornelius have been baptized by the Holy Spirit after Peter’s preaching when he had to have already been baptized by the Holy Spirit so he could seek God in the first place?

The manifestation of the Holy Spirit proved to the Jews that the Gentiles could be saved. As demonstrated in Acts 11, there was Jewish prejudice against the Gentiles. The Gentiles, like the animals in Peter’s vision, were considered common and unclean because they had not been circumcised and did not follow the Law of Moses. Acts 10:27-29 records how God had to send a vision three times to tell Peter that no man can call unclean those whom God has cleansed. When Peter returned from Cornelius, the Jews chastised Peter for teaching the Gentiles, Acts 11:1-2. This conversion account is as much about the conversion of the Jews to the idea of equal access to salvation through Jesus Christ as it is about the conversion of the Gentiles.

Accepting the Gentiles

The Old Law had been abolished by Jesus when He fulfilled it. According to Ephesians 2:11-18, the removal of the Old Law was a removal of the division between the Jews and the Gentiles. However, the gospel had not been preached to the Gentiles yet. The Jews were to no longer consider the Gentiles unclean but equal. The Jews, steeped in tradition and separation from the Gentiles, needed something profound to show them that the gospel was for all men. Through divine means, God brought together these separate worlds. God sent the Holy Spirit to show Peter and the Jews with him that the Gentiles could be baptized. The Jews were amazed because the Holy Spirit fell on them as it did at the beginning. It is important to note that they did not refer to the Holy Spirit coming upon every convert like this. In fact, the conversion of the Samaritans in Acts 8 shows that after the Day of Pentecost, the Holy Spirit only came on individuals by the laying on of the apostles hands, Acts 8:16-18.  The baptism of the Holy Spirit here proved that God would allow them to be baptized, Acts 10:47-48 and Acts 15:7-9 (when Peter again refers to this event).

In the baptism of the Holy Spirit here we do not have a pattern for every conversion. The gospel going to the Gentiles was as dramatic of an event as the beginning of the church. In Acts 2, the Holy Spirit fell on the apostles to demonstrate that Jesus had ascended to the right hand of God. In Acts 10, the presence of the Holy Spirit showed that the Gentiles could be baptized in the name of Jesus. This was not a common occurrence. Acts 11:15 refers to “the beginning” of the church, not to every conversion since that time.

Response to God’s Word Saved Cornelius and His Household

God could have sent the angel with the words of the gospel. If it was the coming of the Holy Spirit that saved Cornelius, God could have just sent His Spirit and finished the work without Peter. However, God told Cornelius to send for Peter. Note what would be accomplished:

  • Acts 10:6 – He will tell you what you must do
  • Acts 10:33 – Tell what has been commanded
  • Acts 11:14 – Words by which you will be saved
  • Peter would teach Cornelius what he must do to be saved
  • Acts 10:47-48 – Cornelius commanded to be baptized

In order to be saved Cornelius needed to hear and obey what God commanded him to do through Peter’s instruction. If the baptism of the Holy Spirit saved Cornelius, Peter would be commanding Cornelius to do something he had not control over. The Spirit follows the will of the Father; not the will of man. You cannot command someone to be baptized of the Holy Spirit. Peter commanded Cornelius and his audience to be baptized. Notice this was a baptism, immersion, in water for Peter said none should forbid them water. Water baptism was a baptism that a person could command and a person could obey.

Cornelius BaptizedReview

Peter went to a lost man to preach the word of salvation. Peter preached Christ to Cornelius and his household. Cornelius and his household believed the words of Peter and were ready to do what God commanded to be done according to what He commanded them to teach. Jesus commanded Peter and the apostles to teach the gospel and baptize those who wanted to be believers in order for them to be saved (Matt. 28:19-20; Mark 16:15-16). However, the Jews were not convinced the Gentiles could be baptized. The Holy Spirit came upon Cornelius and his household as it came upon the apostles when the gospel was first preached at Pentecost. Seeing God’s approval, Peter baptized the Gentiles, their response to the words of salvation. The sign was such that the Jews in Jerusalem who chastised Peter for being with the Gentiles realized that the Gentiles could be saved and they ceased complaining and glorified God. In a Acts 15, Peter recounted this incident to show that there was no longer a distinction between the Jews and the Gentiles in the kingdom of God.

After this incident, there is no other account of the Holy Spirit coming upon man in this fashion for they were unique periods of Bible history. Peter and the other disciples continued to preach words by which one could be saved and commanded listeners to obey God by repenting of their sins (Acts 2:38), confessing Jesus (Acts 8:36-39; Romans 10:8-9), and being baptized into Christ (Acts 2:38; Acts 8:36-39; Romans 6:1-4; Galatians 3:26-27).

Whoever Calls on the Name of the Lord will be Saved

For whoever calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved
Romans 10:13

We can take great comfort in the fact that Jesus died so we could have eternal life.  Paul told the Romans that “whoever calls upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.”  What does it mean to call on the name of the Lord?

The Context of Romans 10:13

Beginning in the first part of the book, Paul argued that the Jews under the Old Law did not keep the Law completely (so as to earn justification) and failed when they tried to establish their own righteousness.  Since one cannot earn righteousness because of sin, man needed God to develop a means of removing sin and allowing man to once again live in harmony with Him.

Paul wrote that the righteousness of God is obtained through faith.  Faith is belief based on the word of God (Romans 10:9, 14) coupled with obedience to the word (James 2:14-26).  Without faith, we cannot please God (Hebrews 11:6).

In Romans 10, Paul says that one must believe in Jesus and confess Him before He can be saved.  If this were all that was written about salvation,  this is all one would have to do.  However, there are other passages that tell us what we must do  to  “call on the name of the Lord.”  Some passages tell us that repentance is necessary for  salvation.  Other passages tell us that we must be baptized and live godly lives in order to have salvation.  Let us look at what all of the scriptures say about our salvation. Let us begin with Acts 2.

Joel’s Prophecy

Romans 10:13 is a quote from Joel 2:32.  It is a prophecy that the apostle Peter says was fulfilled after Jesus ascended back into heaven.  In Acts 2, Peter quotes Joel 2:28-32 and says that the events that took place that day were the fulfillment of Joel’s prophecy.  From that day, the day that the church was established, Peter and the apostles preached that whoever would call on the name of the Lord would be saved.

Peter’s Sermon

Back in Romans 10, Paul wrote that in order to call on the Lord, one had to believe; in order to believe, one had to hear the gospel.  Peter, in Acts 2, began to preach about Jesus so the
audience could believe that Jesus, whom they crucified, was the Son of God.

Many in the audience believed the words of Peter and realized that by killing Jesus, they had made themselves enemies of God.  They cried out, “Men and brethren, what shall we do?”  They wanted to make peace with Jesus for they had sinned against Him.  Remember, from this time forward “whoever calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved.”

Peter did not tell them to pray and accept Jesus Christ into their heart.  I have read many tracts that encourage the reader to commit his life to Jesus then tell him to pray something like this:

“Lord Jesus, I do now by faith accept Thee as my personal Savior.  I call on Thee to reign in my heart.”

Though it is good to want Jesus to be in charge of our lives, there is no instance of anyone in the New Testament being told to pray to accept Jesus as their personal savior in order to have salvation.  Search the scriptures and you will find this to be true.

Calling on the Name of the Lord

What did Peter tell them to do?

“Repent and let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins”

They were to call on the name of the Lord by repenting and being baptized in the Lord’s name.

Joel:     Call on the name of the Lord => Saved.
Peter:  Repent and be baptized => Saved

In Acts 22:16, Paul was told:

Arise and be baptized, and wash away your sins, calling on the name of the Lord

Paul was not baptized because he had called on the name of the Lord, nor was he baptized because his sins had already been washed away (according to the verse they had not been removed).  Baptism was part of the calling on the name of the Lord.  It was the culmination of his response to Jesus’ call.  Of course, this response to the gospel was commanded by Jesus in Mark 16:16:

He who believes and is baptized will be saved; but he who does not believe will be condemned

If we want to call on the name of the Lord, we must do so like Jesus and the apostles taught.  Since we cannot find the “Sinner’s Prayer” in the New Testament nor do we find any person who was saved in the New Testament by being told to pray a similar prayer for salvation, we must acknowledge that this approach is man-made, not from God’s authority

To “call on the name of the Lord” is to call for the Lord’s help, namely, to remove our sins.  It is more than a verbal acknowledgement of Jesus’ lordship, for some will call Him “Lord” and be lost (Matthew 7:21-23).  Calling on the name of the Lord is complete obedience to the gospel for it alone has the power to save us.

For more details, look at this SlideShare presentation:

Books of the Old Testament Summaries: Minor Prophets

Hosea

Hosea was a prophet of God during a time when the people of God in Judah were not being faithful to the Law. God told Hosea to marry a woman who would not love him like she should. God did this to show the people of Israel that though they were His people, they did not love Him like they should. When they served idols and did not obey God’s law, they were not showing true love for Him.

Through Hosea, God told the people that He would not be their God and they would not be His people if they did not repent. He also said that He would allow an enemy to come and defeat them in battle and take them to live in another land. God wanted his people to serve Him and He would take care of them and make sure they had food, water, and places to live. But the people loved their idols and would not turn to God even when their food and water became hard to find. Can you imagine not having much food or water but still not serving God who would give plenty of food and water?

Though the people had not loved God like they should, God was willing to take them back if they would repent. To repent means to change your mind so that instead of disobeying God, you will obey God. God would forgive their sins if they would turn to Him.

Hosea begged the people to turn back to God. He told them that the Lord had brought suffering on them for sin but He would make things better if they would return. But, he said, they were not very faithful. They did not have a strong love for God. Hosea said that God wrote great things in His law but the people thought they were strange things. They did not learn the law of God like they should and so they did not understand the things God wrote to help them be good people.

Hosea also said that God would not accept the animal sacrifices they people were offering. They thought that even if they were not obeying all of the law, if they made sacrifices like the law commanded, that God would accept it. But God did not want them to just keep part of the law, He wanted them to do all that He commanded. We must make sure that we do not think that just because we do something religious, like going to worship services, that we can use bad  language, or lie, or do other things God does not want us to do. God wants us to serve Him with our hearts, because He loves us. He also wants us to keep His law because it is good for us.

Lessons from Hosea

  • God wants people who are sinning to come back to Him so He can forgive them.
  • God wants His people to keep His laws and serve Him because they love Him.
  • Sometimes people will not serve God even when they are punished   for disobeying.

Joel

During the period of the divided kingdom, God sent many prophets to His people to teach them.  God’s people were not obeying the Law of Moses and were worshipping idols and being mean to one another.  God sent His prophets to tell the people that God loved them but if they did not repent, God was going to punish them.

The prophet Joel was one of the prophets God sent to His people.  We don’t know exactly when Joel prophesied, but it was a terrible time in Israel’s history.
Imagine one of your parents coming back from the grocery store with no food.  You ask them, “Where is the milk, bread, and other food?”  Your parent sadly tells you that there was no food, in fact the food is gone from all the stores.  Think how you would feel!

The book of Joel describes a similar situation with Israel.  They did not have grocery stores like we do, but would grow their own food to eat.  According to Joel, God sent a great number of locusts, insects that eat the plants, to eat the food that was growing in the fields.  Why did God do this?

When God gave His people the law, He said that if they obeyed Him He would make sure that it rained when it was supposed to, that their animals and plants would be healthy, and they would be protected from other nations that wanted to attack them.  But, if they disobeyed God and began to worship idols, God promised that He would not let it rain on their land, He would make them run out of food, and allow other nations to fight against them.  This is what happened in Joel’s time.  Though God sent the locusts to eat their food, if they would repent, nothing worse would happen to them.

God wanted the people to really repent.  He didn’t want them to just say they were sorry, but to really feel sorry for disobeying Him.  He told them that if they did repent, He would give them the rain and food again.  According to Joel, the people apparently did repent because, in the second chapter, God promised to give them plenty of food.

Joel also prophesied about the coming of the church in Joel 2:28-32.  What he said here was fulfilled over 600 years later when the church was established in Acts 2.  If you look in Acts 2, you will see this passage quoted.

Joel’s prophecy ends with a warning that God would punish the nations that tried to hurt His people.

Joel reminds us that God will judge His people and the world.  If we are pleasing God we have nothing to fear from His judgment.

Lessons from Joel:

  • God will punish His children when they do not obey Him; like a good parent punishes a disobedient child.
  • God will forgive His people when they repent of their sins.
  • God will punish those who are mean to His people.

Amos

The prophet Amos prophesied during a time when God’s people were stronger than their enemies, and had plenty of food and money, but their hearts were sick. They did not love God like they should so even through things seemed to be going well, God was angry with them and was going to punish them.

God’s people had been worshipping idols and were mean to one another. God told them that He was tired of them coming to worship Him when they did not live like they should the rest of the time. Through Amos, He told the people that they would be punished, their money and houses would be taken away, and they would be taken from their land by another nation.

Amos was a shepherd and also took care of sycamore trees. God talked to Amos and told him to tell the
people to repent of their sins. God does not call men to speak His message today like He called the prophets in the Old Testament. The prophets were specially chosen to warn the people.

Amos told the people that God was not pleased with their worship. Some had set up idols and worshiped them in God’s name. God hated this because He had already told the people how to worship Him. In His Law He told them not to worship Him with idols. They had also set up idols to pretend gods. God hated this also.

He not only wanted them to worship Him like they should, He also wanted them to treat one another right. They were not being fair with one another. Some were trying to make money by cheating their fellow Jews. Amos told them to practice justice and righteousness. Even if they worshipped correctly, if they did not treat their brethren right, God would not be pleased. We must always remember that God wants us to treat our family members, people at church, and other people fairly and to be kind to them.

God punished His people with famine, locusts, diseases, and even allowed other nations to fight against them and win, but the people would not repent. Therefore, Amos told them “Prepare to meet your God, O’ Israel!”  God was going to judge them and punish them if they would not repent. If they did repent, not only saying they were sorry but changing their lives to do what God wanted them to do, God would not punish them.

We can learn much from Amos’ prophecy. We must worship God as He commanded us to do, treat Christians fairly, and repent when we do things that are wrong.

Lessons From Amos

  • God wants us to worship Him in the way that He commanded
  • God wants us to worship with our whole heart and mind.
  • God wants us to be fair with Christians as He wanted the Jews to be fair to one another
  • We must always be  prepared to meet God

Obadiah

The prophet Obadiah was sent to talk to the people of the nation of Edom. The Edomites were related to the Israelites. Israel came from Jacob, the Edomites came from his brother, Esau.

In the story of Jacob and Esau (Genesis 25-27, 32-33), the brothers were born at the same time but looked different. Esau was the oldest and would be the leader of the family when his father died except he sold that right, called the birthright, to Jacob for a pot of stew when he was very hungry. Jacob later deceived his father into making sure that he got the blessing. Esau was angry and wanted to kill Jacob so, for a long time, Jacob lived far from Esau.

Just as the brothers struggled in their lives, the nations that followed them, the Israelites and Edomites, struggled with one another. One time when Israel was attacked by an enemy, the Edomites did not help and, in fact, took some of the treasures from Israel and some of the people as slaves.

God sent Obadiah to tell the Edomites that he was not pleased with them.   Obadiah told the Edomites that they should not have stood by when Israel was taken captive by their enemies or killed the Israelites who tried to escape from the enemies. Though they were strong, God told the Edomites that stronger nations would come and punish them. God would bring Israel back to their land but Edom would be destroyed.

We should learn an important lesson from this. When something bad happens to someone, we should not do bad things to them or help those who are being mean. Some call it “kicking someone when they are down.”  We who love God should help people up when they fall, we should help them in bad times especially when no one else will help them. There are some people at school who have to suffer bad things and, on top of that, other people make fun of them. We should try to help them, not make them feel worse. God knows and He sees what we do.

Lessons from Obadiah

  • God knows who mistreats His people and will punish them
  • We should not help people mistreat others but be friends in a time of need
  • God is watching how we treat others
  • Do not kick someone when they are down

Jonah

Jonah was a prophet of God who lived during the time of the divided kingdom, not long before Israel was defeated by Assyria. The book of Jonah opens with God commanding Jonah to go to Nineveh, the capital of the Assyrians, and tell them to repent or they would be destroyed.  The Assyrians were not part of God’s people, in fact they were great enemies, but God wanted them to turn from evil.  God gave Nineveh a  final chance to  repent or be destroyed.

Instead of going to Nineveh, Jonah went the opposite direction!  He tried to flee from the presence of God, but no one can flee from Him.  He tried to run because he knew that God would forgive Nineveh if they repented and he did not want to see God’s enemies repent. While Jonah was on a ship, God caused a great storm to put the ship in danger.  Jonah told his shipmates that he was the cause of their trouble and that they should throw him into the sea.  They did not want to do it at first but, after he convinced them, they threw him overboard.  The Lord prepared a great fish to swallow Jonah and he spent three days and nights in the fish. In the belly of the fish Jonah prayed to God for deliverance.  God spoke to the fish and it spit up Jonah on land close to Nineveh.Jonah entered Nineveh on his first day of walking.  As he walked through the city he proclaimed, “Yet forty days, and Nineveh shall be overthrown.”  The people of the city believed God and went without food, put on sackcloth, (to show sorrow) and repented of their sins.  God had mercy on them and decided not to destroy them.

Jonah, instead of being happy that the people obeyed God, sulked.  Jonah went on a hill to see what would happen to the city.  It was hot so God prepared a plant that grew up quickly and provided shade for Jonah.  God then destroyed the plant the next day.  Again, Jonah was angry.  God rebuked Jonah for being angry that the plant died and not rejoicing in the repentance of the Assyrians.  God told Jonah the souls of the people were more important than the life of the plant.

Micah

Micah was a prophet of God when both bad and good kings ruled in Judah. Micah warned the people that God was going to come and punish them for doing wrong if they did not change their lives and start serving God.

Micah said that the city of Samaria, which was the capitol of the nation of Israel, would be destroyed because the people were wicked. Micah said that the stones that made up the streets and buildings of the city would be thrown down the hill and what once was a city would be turned into farm fields. The people of Samaria did not repent and God sent enemies to destroy the city. The city of Samaria was not rebuilt. People wanted to put farms on the good land of the hill on which Samaria was built. They could not grow food in with the stones all over the ground so they took the stones of the buildings and the streets and threw them off the side of the hill. Even today the stones lie on the sides of the hills and people farm where the old city of Samaria existed. Micah’s prophecy came true and has remained true for thousands of years.

Micah was sad about the people of Judah who always wanted to do wrong. He said they lie on their beds at night and try to think of bad things to do and when morning comes, they wake up and practice those things. They were mean to their neighbors and took houses and land from them. But God saw their evil and punished them for acting so selfish and wicked.

Micah also warned the people who would not listen to the prophets whom God sent to warn the people. The people did not want to hear that they were doing bad and that they needed to change. They would tell the prophets to quit prophesying. They would listen to someone who told them what they wanted to hear, even if it was wrong.

People today can do the same thing. Some people do not want to hear God’s word if it means they must change their lives. They will find people who will preach what they want to hear. We need to listen to God’s word and change our lives to live by it. We should never try to change God’s word to say what we want it to say.

Finally, Micah warned the people who thought that God would be with them even when they were doing wrong. Some people today will use bad language, lie, or do other bad things and think that God will still save them because they go to church every Sunday and maybe even lead singing or preach. God says that he will punish them.

Lessons from Micah

  • The prophets told of events that would take place in the future which came true
  • God would punish the people who thought up ways of doing wrong
  • We must listen to God’s word especially when we have to change our lives to obey it
  • God’s people will be punished if they do not obey His word

Nahum

Nahum was a prophet of God chosen to take his message to the people of Nineveh. Nineveh was the capital of the Assyrian empire, one of the enemies of God’s people. It was the nation of Assyria that took the northern tribes of Israel into captivity. They were very brave but very mean. They would often cause their prisoners to suffer terrible pain before they killed them. I am sure that the people of Israel were treated badly by the people of Nineveh.

God sent Nahum to tell the people of Nineveh that God was going to punish them because they were so mean to Israel. If you read in the Old Testament, you will find that God chose Assyria to attack Israel because Israel was not obeying God but were worshipping idols. However, the people of Nineveh did not attack Israel because they thought they were helping God, but because they wanted to get their land and all of their treasures. Since they treated Israel so badly, God would punish Assyria.

The people of Nineveh were very strong but God told them not to trust in their strength for He was more powerful. They thought that they were a great nation, and at the time they were, but God said that he would destroy the nation. This would be hard to believe for the Assyrians controlled a lot of the world around them. However, since God spoke against them, they would surely fall. No matter how strong they were, they could not fight God and win.

God said the palaces would be destroyed and that wild animals would live in the city. He also said that the people would be taken prisoner by other nations just as Assyria took other nations captive. This came true just as God promised. The Babylonians destroyed the city of Nineveh and took the people away.

God promised that He would take care of His people. Though they seemed weak compared to the people of Nineveh, God would be their strength. We may be small compared to so many people who want to do what is wrong but God takes care of us, too. However, we must be faithful to God because He is angry with those who turn their backs on Him and choose to not serve Him anymore.

God had given Nineveh a chance to repent long before, when God sent Jonah to tell the people to repent. They changed for a while then turned back on God. Now they would be destroyed.

Lessons From Nahum

  • God remembers those who are mean and mistreat His children
  • When God says that He will destroy a nation, no one is strong enough to fight against Him
  • God will take care of His people as long as they are faithful to Him
  • If we sin, we must repent and serve God

Habakkuk

Habakkuk (sounds like hub-back-cook), is one of the minor prophets, which means that he did not write a lot of material. We do not know much about him but he has an important message.

Habakkuk cried to God because the wicked people were treating the good people very badly. He wondered how God could allow the wicked people to do mean things for so long. God told Habakkuk that the wicked seem to be getting away with evil but that He saw all their meanness and sinful ways and he would punish them for disobeying Him. We need to remember that though it seems like nothing bad happens to wicked people, God knows their sin and will punish them when He is ready. We must keep doing what is right.

The most important lesson in the book of Habakkuk is “the just shall live by faith.”  This important thought is also taught in the New Testament by Jesus and the apostles. Those who do what is right will live by their faith in God.

The wicked are full of pride and greedy for things in this world and God will punish them for both. He pronounced “woes” on those who desired other peoples money and things, people who got drunk and tried to get others drunk, and those who worshipped idols. A woe is a sorrowful cry to one who is going to be punished. If Habakkuk lived in our day, instead of woe, he might say, “I feel sorry for you” and tell them why they should worry about God’s judgment. Of course, those who are doing right do not have to worry about the “woes” for they have blessings from God.

Habakkuk reminds the readers that since God has punished His people who lived on the earth by bringing enemies against them and making them go without food, He will also judge people before His throne of judgment eternally. We must be ready for judgment by doing what is pleasing to God and not being like the wicked people.

Lessons from Habakkuk

  • God sees the wicked that some men do and will punish them
  • The just shall live by their faith in God
  • The wicked should be sorry if they do not repent
  • God’s physical judgment should remind us of spiritual judgment

Zephaniah

The prophet Zephaniah prophesied during a time when many people were trying to do what is right. While he was alive, the king of Judah, Josiah, destroyed idols all over the land and told the people to serve God. Under the two kings before Josiah, the people were worshipping idols and doing many things that made God angry. But Josiah, a young man, loved God and wanted the people to serve Him.

Zephaniah warned the people that God would destroy everything in the land of Judah if they people continued to worship idols. He said the people would become like food for their enemies. He also said that no amount of money would buy their freedom. In fact, the people would lose everything they owned to their enemies. He said that the enemies would live in their houses and eat the food from their vineyards and fields. God would do this if the people did not repent.

God’s people had a wrong attitude about God. They said that God would not do good or evil to the people (Zephaniah 1:12). They were wrong to think that God would do nothing. Some people today think that God does not care about things in the world and that He will do nothing good for us or bad against us. We must not think this way.

The people did not repent when God corrected them. They had times without a lot of water or food, enemies attacked them, and other problems which God brought on them to turn them back to Him. However, the people did not repent when they were punished. We must always do what God commands and when we do wrong, repent.

Zephaniah called the people to repent. He told them, in Zephaniah 2:1-3, to:

  1. Repent before it is too late. We must not think that we can do wrong and change sometime later. We must do what is right today.
  2. Seek the Lord in meekness. We must  realize that God is in control and should serve Him completely.
  3. Seek righteousness. We must do what is right and learn His word so we can do things that Jesus did.
  4. Seek humility. We must not be proud but realize that God deserves our worship, love, and obedience.
  5. Let us always serve God and remember that He loves us and will take care of us. He is our God!

Lessons from Zephaniah

  • God wants His people to serve Him completely
  • God would destroy Judah if they did not repent
  • God does care what His people say and do and will reward or punish us if we are doing good or doing evil
  • Seek the Lord and desire to please Him

Haggai

Haggai (pronounced like hay-gay-eye) prophesied during the time when Israel had come back from Babylonian bondage and were living in Jerusalem. They had begun building the temple of God but stopped when some of the people in the land told the king over the land—Darius, the king of Persia—that the Jews were up to no good.

The Jewish people should have told the king that they were rebuilding the temple because a previous Persian king allowed them to do it, but they remained silent for a time.

During the time when they stopped building the temple, the continued to build their houses and some lived in very fine homes. However, God’s house, the temple, was still in ruins. Haggai told the people to rebuild the temple. He rebuked them for living in such fine houses when God’s house had not been rebuilt.

Haggai told the people to consider their ways. He wanted them to think about how they were living and how they chose to disobey God. He reminded them that though they had planted much seed on their farms, they did not have large harvests, they did not have enough water, and they were poorly clothed. Haggai said that these things came upon them because they were not following God.

The people listened to Haggai and they came together to finish the house of the Lord. When Solomon built the first temple, it was a beautiful building, very large, with great riches inside and out. Of course, Israel was much poorer now and the temple would not look as beautiful as the temple Solomon built. But God promised them that He would be pleased with it and He would fill it with His glory. The important thing was not how beautiful it was, but that God was there with them.

God promised to cleanse the people when they repented and to protect them from their enemies. Though they had been punished for their wickedness God would welcome them back when they turned to Him. God would watch over them.

Lessons from Haggai

  • We must not let any-thing keep us from keeping God’s will
  • Just as Israel should have built the temple instead of focusing on their houses, we must put the work of the Lord in the church above all things.
  • God will forgive those who repent of wickedness

Zechariah

The book of Zechariah is a book of visions and prophecies that God sent to Zechariah when God’s people were captive in the land of the Persians. The Persian empire defeated the Babylonian empire which destroyed Jerusalem and took the Jewish people captive.

Though God’s people were able to return to Judea, God warned them, through His prophets, not to return to the wickedness that caused God to punish them with the Babylonian army. God told His people that He loved them very much but they had to love Him and only serve Him; not to serve idols.

Zechariah is a wonderful book for Christians for God told Zechariah about Jesus who would come to the earth more than 500 years after Zechariah’s prophecy.

Zechariah saw that Jesus, whom he called Branch, would take away sin in one day. Jesus did this when He died on the cross. He also saw that Jesus would be a priest who would sit on the throne.

This second lesson about Jesus might have confused the Jews. Under the Old Law, the priests could only come from the tribe of Levi, and the kings from the family of David who was of the tribe of Judah. Jesus would be from the tribe of Judah but could not be a priest under the Old Law.

This prophecy pointed to the new law, the gospel, in which Jesus could be a priest and king at the same time and the Old Law would be put away. We do not obey the Ten Commandments or any part of the Old Testament today. However, We can learn much from studying the Old Testament.

Zechariah also prophesied about Jesus coming into Jerusalem on a small donkey which Jesus fulfilled, Matthew 21:1-7. He prophesied that Jesus would be sold for thirty pieces of silver. He also saw how Jesus would be the ruler in His new kingdom, which we know as the church.

Throughout the book, God warns the people to put away their idols, to do good instead of wickedness, to take care of the weak among them, and to have love for others. These lessons we should learn and practice today for the gospel teaches us to do this as well.

Zechariah can sometimes be hard to understand but it is not impossible to know what his message is. As you learn more and more about the Bible, this book, and all books of the Bible are easier to understand.

 Lessons from Zechariah

  • God can punish His people when they are wicked and forgive them when they repent
  • God’s plan for salvation through Jesus was revealed by many prophets hundreds of years before Jesus came to the earth
  • We must live holy lives before God and obey His commands

Malachi

The book of Malachi is the last book in the Old Testament.

Malachi carried a sad message from God to the people. They said they loved God but they did not obey Him. God told the people that children on earth show their fathers respect but they had not shown Him, their heavenly Father, respect.

The people did not bring the best animals to sacrifice to God like the law commanded them to do. The people should have brought the best because they were bringing the animals in worship to God. Instead, the people brought animals that were sick or ready to die. God said that He would not accept their offering. We must remember to offer our best when we come to worship God.

The people also whined that worshipping God was a weariness, or tiring. How sad and angry it must make God feel when our parents say, “It is time to go to worship,” and we whine, “Do we have to?” It is a wonderful thing to sing praises to God and learn about Him from His word. Even though the people came to worship, since they did not want to be there, God did not accept their worship.

The people did many other things that Malachi told them to change. They were not faithful to God, they called evil things good, and said that God accepts evil things. Even today people, sometimes religious people, will say that something pleases God when God, in His word, said not to do it. Some say it is sometimes ok to lie when God says not to lie. Some say that it is ok to not go to church when God said that we should not miss worship as some people do (Hebrews 10:25).

Malachi ends his message with hope. He tells of a preacher like Elijah the prophet who would turn the hearts of people back to God. He was talking about John the Baptist who, 400 years later, prepared the hearts of the people to worship Jesus. Jesus is our last hope for if we do not follow Him, we cannot please God.

I hope you liked the study of the prophets. Many young people do not know about the prophets and that is sad. Keep learning and growing!

Lessons from Malachi

  • We must respect God
  • We must give our best in worship to God
  • We must not whine when we go to worship
  • Do not call evil things good
  • God would send John the Baptist to prepare people to obey Jesus

Books of the Old Testament Summaries: Major Prophets

Isaiah

The prophet Isaiah is one of the major prophets of the Old Testament. He is called a major prophet because he wrote a very large book. The minor prophets did not write long books.

When Isaiah prophesied,  the nation of Judah was not obeying God as they should. He prophesied during the reigns of Uzziah, Jotham, Ahaz, and Hezekiah in Judah. Under King Ahaz the people behaved very wickedly but during the latter part of his life, when king Hezekiah was reigning, the people started to do better.

During this time God sent the Assyrian army to punish the northern tribes of Israel. Isaiah records a time when the king of Assyria, Sennacherib, and his army surrounded the city of Jerusalem to bring it under their control. The Assyrian king made a mistake when his messenger said that God could not deliver the city out of his hand. Isaiah told King Hezekiah to not worry; that God would teach Sennacherib a lesson. That night one angel went into the camp of the Assyrians and killed 186,000 soldiers. Sennacherib took his army back to Assyria.

Isaiah made many Messianic prophecies. A Messianic prophecy is a prophecy about Jesus. Messiah means “anointed one” and is the same thing as Christ. When a person became a king or priest in the Old Testament they were anointed with oil (a special oil was poured on their head). Since Jesus would be a king and a high priest in heaven, the prophets called Him the anointed one, or Messiah, or Christ—they all mean the same thing.

Isaiah made prophesies about Jesus’ birth, life, and death about 700 years before the events took place. The prophesies of Jesus’ death are filled with great detail. Isaiah 53, a prophecy of Jesus on the cross, describes the crucifixion from Jesus’ point of view. It also talks about how Jesus willingly died so that many might have eternal life through His death.

Isaiah also prophesied about the church. He wrote that Jesus would set up a kingdom that would not be destroyed. This kingdom, the church, would be a peaceful kingdom and the people would love one another. Of course, God expects us to be kind to others in the church and to do what we can to help them. In doing good, we please our king, Jesus.

Lessons from Isaiah

  • God wants people who are sinning to come back to Him so He can forgive them.
  • God promised Jesus Christ would come and save people from their sins.
  • Jesus would set up a kingdom, the church, that would not be destroyed.

Jeremiah (and Lamentations)

We often study about God’s people, the Israelites.  You may remember that after King Solomon died, the kingdom divided in two.  Ten tribes became Israel and were unfaithful to God.  The two remaining tribes, called Judah would obey God some of the time and disobey God at other times.  God would punish both Israel and Judah when they worshipped idols and did not obey His laws.  Finally, God allowed the nation of Assyria to take the tribes of Israel away from their homes and live in another country.  God warned the nation of Judah to be faithful or they would also be taken from their homes.

God warned his people through prophets.  One of the prophets sent to the people of Judah when they were wicked was a man named Jeremiah.  Some people call him the weeping prophet because he was sad about the way the people of Judah were disobeying God.  He also wrote a book called Lamentations, a sad look at the city of Jerusalem after God allowed the enemies to destroy the city when the people would not repent.

God told Jeremiah to tell the people to repent of their sins so God would not destroy Jerusalem.  The people would not listen to Jeremiah.  Sometimes they made fun of him.  A couple of times they put him in jail for teaching God’s word.  One of the times he was put in a large pit that was filled with mud and left to die.  Finally, some people begged the king to let them rescue Jeremiah.  When he began to preach, God told Jeremiah that most people would not listen to him.  However, He wanted Jeremiah to keep preaching to them so that when God’s punishment came upon them, they would know why it happened.

Though God punished His people by letting another nation take them from their homes and destroying the city of Jerusalem, He loved His people very much.  He wanted them to love Him and keep His law.  God told Jeremiah to tell the people that He would allow them to come back to their homes after they had lived in the other nation for seventy years.  After the seventy years God would bring the people back and take care of them.  The people learned their lesson because they did not serve idols any more.

Jeremiah also prophesied about Jesus many hundreds of years before He was even born.  He talked about Jesus coming to be a king over His people and bringing salvation to all people.  Of course, Jesus does have a kingdom—the church and because He died for our sins, we can be saved.  We can learn much from Jeremiah.

Lessons From Jeremiah

  • God loves His people very much and is very sad when they disobey Him
  • Eventually God will punish His people if they do not repent
  • Sometimes people will not listen to God’s word but we must still teach
  • Sometimes people are mean to God’s teachers

Ezekiel

Ezekiel was a prophet of God during the time that Judah was beginning to go into captivity. He saw some wonderful visions of heavenly things that are recorded in the book bearing his name.

Ezekiel’s book begins with a vision of God on His throne in the land of the captives. Ezekiel did not see God’s real throne but God used symbols, or pictures, to help Ezekiel understand His message. The throne of God that Ezekiel saw was made so that it could travel throughout the world. It was surrounded by heavenly creatures that praised God and served Him.

While standing before the throne, God called Ezekiel to be a prophet to speak to the evil people of Judah. God gave Ezekiel a book, again a symbol, to eat which represented God’s word. The book was sweet to the taste. This helped Ezekiel know that God’s word was precious and good even though the message would hurt the feelings of some who were doing wrong. None of us like to hear that we are doing something wrong but, if we change and do what is right, it is better for us in the long run.

Ezekiel was to act like a watchman on a high tower. In ancient times, the watchman would sit in a tower and look out in all directions. If he saw an enemy coming, he would yell or sound a trumpet to warn the people in the city so they could prepare for battle. Ezekiel would warn God’s people of God’s anger that would come upon them if they did not repent.

One time, God took Ezekiel to the temple in Jerusalem where the people were supposed to worship God. He took Ezekiel into a basement where the priests of God were worshipping idols and doing things that were against God’s law. Though their sin was hidden from some men, God knew what they were doing and would judge them. We should always remember that God knows what we are doing even if our parents our friends do not.

Finally, God determined that He would take the rest of the people from Judah and destroy the city of Jerusalem. His presence left the temple and, though Ezekiel, He told the people to prepare for the armies that would defeat them.

Even in His anger, God promised that He would save a small part of the people, the good people, and bring them back to Jerusalem and, eventually, send them His Son who would rule according to God’s will—He rules today!

Lessons from Ezekiel

  • God knows everything that takes place in the world
  • God’s word is always good for us though, if we are sinning, we may not want to hear it
  • God knows when people are only doing good around others but are doing wrong in secret

Daniel

Daniel is one of the more well known prophets of the Old Testament. While a young man, Daniel was taken with the best people of the land to Babylon when king Nebuchadnezzar conquered the land of Israel. Though he was young, he was dedicated to God and determined that even in a strange land with unfamiliar people, he would follow God’s word. The book of Daniel tells us about his three friends, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-Nego who made the same dedication to God.
God blessed Daniel with the ability to discern the meaning of special dreams given to people by God. In the Old Testament times, God sometimes revealed a message to a person of importance by way of a dream. He does not do this now since He speaks to us through Jesus as recorded in the Bible (Hebrews 1:1).

The book of Daniel records dreams that he and Nebuchadnezzar had that told about the coming of the great kingdom of God, which we now know as the church. The dreams told about events in the world governments that would take place before God would establish His kingdom that would never be destroyed. These messages provided comfort to Daniel because he knew that God would lead the Israelites out of captivity and back to their homeland. However, there were some visions that frightened Daniel because they told of nations that would be mean to Israel.

The story of Daniel and his three friends demon-strates the strength that young people can have in bad times. It would have been easy for Daniel and his friends to decide to disobey God since God allowed them to be prisoners in Babylon. However, they put their trust in God and God took care of them. Through God’s care they were able to gain positions of authority in the Babylonian gover-nment and, in so doing, bring glory to God’s name. When you are dedicated, you glorify God.

Lessons from Daniel

  • God will punish his people for wickedness
  • God takes care of His children
  • God is in charge of the kingdoms of the world; He will make things work for the good of His people
  • Young people can glorify God by standing for the truth in difficult times
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