Welcome to The Living Word Bible study TLW14B for Sunday April 11 (Easter 2). This is based on the Revised Common Lectionary Bible readings shared by many denominations.
Theme: The real fellowship that comes through knowing Jesus
• See also the article linked to this post ‘To know Jesus is to have fellowship in Him‘
NT letter: Acts 4:32-35 with Psalm 133 — The believers experience a profound sense of unity, sharing what they own
NT gospel: John 20:19-31 — Jesus appears with a scarred body and sends the disciples on mission with an impartation of the Spirit
NT letter: 1 John 1:1-2:2 — Believing God and and living by His values brings fellowship with Him and all other believers.
Acts 4:32-35 — The believers experience a profound sense of unity
The believers share what they own and no one is left needy
32 All the believers were one in heart and mind. No one claimed that any of their possessions was their own, but they shared everything they had.
“One in heart and mind” — Luke notes how the early Christians, filled with the Holy Spirit, demonstrated a remarkable togetherness.
• For further study, see 2 Chronicles 5:1-14
33 With great power the apostles continued to testify to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus. And God’s grace was so powerfully at work in them all…
“Continued to testify to the resurrection” —the most compelling part of the story they all knew and told.
34 …that there was no needy person among them. For from time to time those who owned land or houses sold them, brought the money from the sales
35 and put it at the apostles’ feet, and it was distributed to anyone who had need.
“Brought the money from the sales” — not communal ownership and strictly voluntary, Acts 5:4. “Grace was so powerfully at work”, v.33 above, that this generosity was the result.
1 How good and pleasant it is when God’s people live together in unity!
2 It is like precious oil poured on the head, running down on the beard, running down on Aaron’s beard, down on the collar of his robe.
3 It is as if the dew of Hermon were falling on Mount Zion. For there the Lord bestows His blessing, even life for evermore.
SUMMARY God’s life and presence, like an anointing for service or the refreshing of dew or rain, is brought by the unity and harmony of His people. The baptism of the Holy Spirit they received at Pentecost and the further impartation that came at the prayer meeting after Peter and John had been released by the Sanhedrin, was transforming, Acts 2:3-4, 4:31.
APPLICATION Those first believers were changed in three ways, from the fearful men who hid in the Upper Room from the religious authorities. Firstly, they experienced a remarkable unity. Secondly, they found themselves speaking out boldly about Jesus and His resurrection, even though they had been threatened and ordered not to. Thirdly, they had a profound sense of being in this new move of God together with a generosity that trusted God for His provision, and was quick to share and to meet needs. In recent history, where there has been a move of the Spirit in revival it has brought churches into collaboration, a strong conviction to proclaim the Good News of Jesus, and shared prayer and praise with sharing of resources.
QUESTION Can we be like these these early believers? What would help us?
John 20:19-31 — The disciples witness Jesus’ resurrection body
The disciples are sent on mission with an initial impartation of the Spirit
19 On the evening of that first day of the week, when the disciples were together, with the doors locked for fear of the Jewish leaders, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you!”
“When the disciples were together” — principally the Twelve without Judas, and Thomas (v.24) .
20 After He said this, He showed them His hands and side. The disciples were overjoyed when they saw the Lord.
“Showed them His hands and His side” — to dispel any thought that they were seeing a ghost, Luke 24:37.
“The disciples were overjoyed” — He had promised He would turn their grief to joy, John 14:18; 16:20-22.
21 Again Jesus said, “Peace be with you! As the Father has sent Me, I am sending you.”
“As the Father has sent Me” — Now the One who was sent, becomes the One doing the sending, in John’s version of the Great Commission.
22-23 And with that He breathed on them and said, “Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive anyone’s sins, their sins are forgiven; if you do not forgive them, they are not forgiven.”
“With that He breathed on them” — the sending and the equipping go together. The Bible records the disciples receiving at least three impartations of the Holy Spirit. This initial impartation would have prepared them for Pentecost.
24-25 Now Thomas (also known as Didymus), one of the Twelve, was not with the disciples when Jesus came. So the other disciples told him, “We have seen the Lord!”
But he said to them, “Unless I see the nail marks in his hands and put my finger where the nails were, and put my hand into His side, I will not believe.”
“Unless I see” — Thomas wanted the same concrete experience as the other disciples, v.20 above.
26 A week later His disciples were in the house again, and Thomas was with them. Though the doors were locked, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you!”
27 Then He said to Thomas, “Put your finger here; see My hands. Reach out your hand and put it into My side. Stop doubting and believe.”
28 Thomas said to him, “My Lord and my God!”
“My Lord and my God” — Thomas is overcome with awe, now seeing Jesus as divine but also incarnate. One of the clearest statements of Jesus’ divinity.
• For further study: John affirms that Jesus is the incarnate Word. His resurrection body is not an apparition but a real, but glorified, body John 1:14; 1 John 4:2-3; 2 John 7.
29 Then Jesus told him, “Because you have seen Me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.”
“Those who have not seen and yet have believed” — few at that time but pointing to future generations of believers, John 20:8; 1 Peter 1:8; 2 Cor. 5:7.
30-31 Jesus performed many other signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not recorded in this book. But these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in His name.
“Written that you may believe” — John sets out to bring every reader of his gospel to confess Jesus as their Lord and God like Thomas, and so obtain eternal life.
SUMMARY The disciples are together and out of sight behind locked doors, when Jesus appears and greets them. He shows them the scars of His hands and side — He is not a ghost — and He gives them an initial impartation of the Holy Spirit. A week later, Thomas, absent on the first occasion, sees Jesus in the same way. The disciples are overjoyed, but Jesus reminds them that many more will be blessed through believing what they have not seen..
APPLICATION Not long before there had been some friction about who would have the most favour in the new kingdom order but now the disciples shared a very special experience, seeing the risen Lord in His resurrection body. The early church was made up of people who all shared the fullness of the Holy Spirit, which brought a deep sense of togetherness, making a powerful witness.
QUESTION What’s most important for unity among believers — a common experience of meeting with Jesus? A common experience of receiving the Holy Spirit? A common experience of being sent on the Lord’s mission?
1 John 1:1-2:2 — God expects us to believe Him and live by His values
Having fellowship with God is an experience shared with all other believers
1 That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked at and our hands have touched — this we proclaim concerning the Word of life.
“From the beginning… the Word of life — Jesus has always existed, but John knew Him as a flesh-and-blood man, the Word made flesh, John 1:14.
2 The life appeared; we have seen it and testify to it, and we proclaim to you the eternal life, which was with the Father and has appeared to us.
“The life appeared” — He is called the life because Jesus, like God, has life in Himself, John 1:4, 11:25, 14:6.
“We have seen it” — and can testify at first hand “what we have seen and heard”, v.3. John’s personal testimony refutes false teachers who had not seen or known Christ themselves.
3-4 We proclaim to you what we have seen and heard, so that you also may have fellowship with us. And our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son, Jesus Christ. 4 We write this to make our joy complete.
“Fellowship with the Father and Son” — trusting Jesus in faith is to find fellowship both with Jesus and with the Father.
5 This is the message we have heard from Him and declare to you: God is light; in Him there is no darkness at all.
“God is light” — true, good and holy, untouched by evil or sin. Humanity’s compromised and double-minded state is exposed by God’s light.
6 If we claim to have fellowship with Him and yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not live out the truth.
“Walk in the darkness” — live contrary to the moral character of God. The false teachers John challenges claimed to be enlightened but were shown up by denying the reality and seriousness of sin and refusing fellowship with God’s people.
7 But if we walk in the light, as He is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin.
“Walk in the light” — live in truth and holiness, open to God and His revelation of what is right and wrong.
“In the light, we have fellowship with one another” —a double meaning: adopting God’s values brings fellowship with Him; sharing those values finds fellowship across man-made divisions in the Body of Christ.
8-9 If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.
“Claim to be without sin” — the gnostic0 false teachers held that ‘higher knowledge’ made them sinless because Christ had abolished their sins. But Christians do sin because of the pull of the old nature. Everyone needs to come to Christ often for forgiveness.
• For further study, read Romans 7:14-25.
10 If we claim we have not sinned, we make Him out to be a liar and His word is not in us.
“If we claim we have not sinned” — beyond the self-deception of v.8 above, this questions why God would send His Son to die for everybody’s sins. It disputes that all are alienated from Him, John 2:2 below.
2:1 My dear children, I write this to you so that you will not sin. But if anybody does sin, we have an advocate with the Father — Jesus Christ, the Righteous One.
“My dear children” — John is one of the original apostles, a senior elder, and by now of great age.
“If anybody does sin” — the grammar carries the assumption that we will.
2 He is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not only for ours but also for the sins of the whole world.
“The atoning sacrifice” — God’s utter holiness demands that human sin is paid for by punishment. So out of merciful love, He sent His Son to make an atonement as a substitute for the believer’s sin. Thereby His holy requirement for justice (wrath) is met.
“The whole world” — the pardon for sins offered to the whole world is received by those who believe, the only way to be reconciled to God.
• For further study, read references to Christ dying for the whole world, John 1:29, 3:16, 6:51; 1,Timothy 2:6; Hebrews 2:9. And references to atonement made for those who believe, John 10:11,15, 17:9,20; Acts 20:28; Romans 8:32,37; Eph. 5:25; 1 John 4:9,14; John 5:24.
SUMMARY John draws on long and deep experience to set out what it means to have fellowship with God. The brilliance of God’s purity and moral character shows up everything that is unholy — and we have to be real about our inadequacies, seeking forgiveness. Knowing that we need the blood of Jesus, His Son, to purify us from sin is walking in the light. It brings true fellowship with other believers and it is a powerful witness. To somehow claim that we don’t need this, discredits God Himself who made such costly provision for our sin.
APPLICATION The world is sensitive to religious hypocrisy. Claiming to know God when we really don’t, will give out the mixed message that the world rightly distrusts, and where the fellowship is lacking, nothing can disguise it. The answer is to walk in the light, relying totally on Jesus to be the atoning sacrifice for our sins. Only through Him can we know God personally, and this is what attracts others. It’s all about relationship.
QUESTION Because relationship demands a lot from us, do we look for more repeatable worship practices?
PRAYER O God our Father, we are so grateful that Jesus made a way for us to have fellowship with You, Almighty, all-holy God.
Even though we are such a work in progress! We know that our independence and selfish pride get in the way of that wonderful relationship You have given us in Jesus, and damage our fellowship with other believers.
Thank You that we can bring our sin back to the Cross and receive the freedom Jesus won for us, never exhausting Your grace.
May Your love for us and love in us, be a signal to others that they can know this love, too. In Jesus we pray. Amen.
TLW is also available in a print edition to download as a PDF and print on A4 paper, producing a four-page Bible size handout. Permission is given to include this with your church bulletin or sharing copies with your house fellowship group.