Most serious disciples of the Nazarene are moved by their faith to speak to others about the Gospel. They feel like Paul, who wrote: "I believed, therefore, I spoke." (2 Corinthians 4:12, 13) Jesus himself told Nicodemus, "We speak what we know." (John 3:11) That each Christian ought to strive to become a "teacher" of Biblical truth is shown by Paul when he writes to a Jewish audience: "You ought to all be teachers." (Hebrews 5:12) The Book of Acts is filled with examples of the apostles and others teaching in a variety of situations -- some formal, some informal.
How can a friend of the Nazarene (John 15:14) go about conducting a regular weekly Bible discussion with an individual or a group of interested persons? There are certainly no rules how this should be done. A Bible discussion group may devote only fifteen minutes, while others may thoroughly enjoy an hour or two. Some use the Bible solely, reading a paragraph and then having a free form discussion of the subjects, examining footnotes, following cross references, or using a concordance on certain words. If all come prepared this type of verse by verse consideration of a Bible book can be most beneficial.
However, the following program used by a missionary has proved very successful over many decades, resulting in hundreds coming to consecrated Nazarene discipleship.
Using the publication Nazarene Principles as a Bible study primer on basic Scriptural teachings, particularly those of the Lord Jesus, a weekly program can be developed which will gradually lead a new Christian into a mature understanding of elemental Bible teachings. (Hebrews 6:1-3)
Since a blessed godly environment is best for meditating on God’s thoughts, it is wise to begin with a brief prayer. This may be followed by a two or three minute review of material considered the previous week. This review may take the form of a summary by the conductor, highlighting key Bible verses previously considered; or, it may be questions and answers allowing those gathered to focus on a few main thoughts.
An introduction to the main points to be considered in this current lesson may be covered in one or two minutes by the leader or chairperson of the discussion. Usually enough material may be selected under certain main headings so that sufficient subjects are covered in one hour. Others may prefer to just cover whatever the particular lesson allows in that hour. It may be only two or three paragraphs one week, and ten the next. Either way, the goal is a reasonable understanding of the material rather than just covering as many paragraphs as possible.
First a numbered paragraph in Nazarene Principles may be read by either the conductor or by a variety of volunteering members of the discussion group. This reading could be done by anyone present, including shorter paragraphs by children. The important thing is that the reader put meaning into the material. Before such a reading the conductor may wish to pose a brief question as a focus on the main point in the paragraph.
Consider the following example, using Nazarene Principles:
#142. WHERE ARE THE DEAD SAINTS? It would be most timely at this point to answer this question and related questions about the condition of the dead. Many have been raised to believe, or taught to believe, that each human being possesses a "soul" which escapes the body at death and goes to live in an after-life. They believed, therefore, that all good Christians were in heaven. Had the resurrection begun in Paul’s own day? He is severely critical of two heretics in his time with the words, ‘Their word will spread like gangrene . . . and they have deviated from the Truth saying the resurrection has already occurred and they are subverting the faith of some.’ (2 Timothy 2:17, 18 NWT)
As an introduction to the paragraph the conductor might ask before the paragraph is read: "Did Paul believe the dead were resurrected in his day?" The paragraph may be read and the same question posed to the group. After considering a few comments, the conductor may ask: "What have many been taught about the soul?" Some may have questions and these could either be entertained here or left to the conclusion of the discussion in a question and answer period. For these reasons the paragraphs are numbered so that all may follow in a unified manner.
The next paragraph continues:
#143. In the introductory portion of Nazarene Principles, we had suggested the use of a concordance to research certain words. Here is a good place to use one. Those words for "soul," the Hebrew nephesh (Strong's # 5315) and the Greek psyche (Strong's # 5590), can be researched at your leisure, along with other words, such as: death, grave, hell (Sheol, Hades), or resurrection. What will such a study reveal? Some commentaries make these observations:
The conductor may ask: "How could a concordance help here?" Or, "What Bible words are involved in our consideration here?" The conductor may wish to actually demonstrate the use of Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance or some similar language lexicon.
The next two paragraphs read:
#146. "The belief that the soul continues its existence after the dissolution of the body is a matter of philosophical or theological speculation rather than of simple faith, and is accordingly nowhere expressly taught in Holy Scripture." (The Jewish Encyclopedia (1910), Vol. VI, p. 564.)
#147. The Dictionary of New Testament Theology makes the following observations: (Vol. 1, page 433, 435) "In OT thought death means the final end of man’s existence. . . The NT view of death is in direct continuity with the old Jewish view. . . (Vol. 3, page 679) Plato provides us with the idea that the soul can be deprived of its body, that it does not come fully into its own until it has been separated from the body, and that it is immortal." Did the Bible teach this? [For details on this subject see the online publication, Where Are the Dead? According to the Bible]
The conductor may ask: "What do some commentators have to say on this subject of the soul?" Sometimes more consistency is realized by reading more than one paragraph. Now consider the next paragraph:
#148. In the Jewish Greek Septuagint the word normally translated "soul", psyche, occurs 900 times. A comparison of these occurrences will reveal over 100 which demonstrate the "soul" to be mortal and destructible. Not once is "soul" connected with immortality. The word "immortality" is used only by Paul and is an attribute of the glorified Christ and the resurrected Saints. (1 Corinthians 15:53, 54; 1 Timothy 6:16) This "immortality" may be attained only upon the resurrection at the Return of Christ. (1 Corinthians 15:23, 50-53)
The conductor may ask: "What might a consideration of the concordance reveal?" It may be necessary to ask brief auxiliary questions to bring out further points. Some may wish to write out these questions in advance, while others may be able to think on their feet and raise these questions as necessary. In this paragraph a number of Bible texts are cited but not quoted. It may be left to the conductor and the needs of the group whether all texts are looked up and read, or just one or two. Good conductors will familiarize themselves with the Bible texts so questions introducing the text may be asked. For example, before reading 1 Corinthians15:23, ask: "While sister Smith reads 1 Corinthians 15:23 find the answer to the question when the resurrection begins."
In paragraph #148 there are two footnotes. These may be used as the conductor feels the need, asking appropriate questions to highlight the points.
After sufficient paragraphs are considered, the conductor may wish to conclude with a question and answer period of ten minutes or so. Some questions raised may be considered more thoroughly in a footnote or another paragraph and these can be used in answering the questions. Other questions of a more difficult nature may find an answer in Nazarene Apocalypse or a Biblical Article. If the conductor does not know the answer to some of these questions humility will move him to have the group research this subject for the next meeting. He may have to consult with a more mature Christian for details that will satisfy the group.
A concluding summary, either as a brief one or two minute talk or some review questions, should bring the Bible discussion to a close. The conductor may wish to whet the appetite for next week’s lesson by raising questions, problems, or Bible texts which will be considered. Of course, it is most appropriate to end with a prayer of gratitude.
Such Bible discussions or meetings which are held in "home churches" are often very encouraging if followed by some Christian hospitality for those who can remain. This, of course, ought to be done with respect for the household and with this in mind no doubt will conclude after a reasonable time.
Other subjects may be considered as there is a need. For example, perhaps a more thorough consideration of "soul" is necessary and this may be found in the publication Where are the Dead? or just the section "The Resurrection According to Paul". These may be inserted to give more thorough consideration to a question which presents a problem for some. Other publications may be Nazarene Community, Nazarene Commandments, Nazarene Apocalypse, Nazarene Mountain Teachings, or the collection of Biblical Articles with a variety of topics.
Using this simple format -- and with a little preparation and fore-thought -- anyone may conduct such a private Bible discussion or home church meeting using Nazarene Principles or other publications. Whatever method is used and whoever conducts such discussions and meetings -- may they be blessed by the God and Father of our Lord the Nazarene so that all may grow in love, faith, and spiritual comprehension.
Nazarene Commentary 2000© by Mark Heber Miller
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