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Christ Our Treasure: Exploring His Beauty in the Epistles

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A Glimpse at the dinner table

It was dinner time at the Wallace home and little Ellie was in distress—qing cai again! Though I find this vitamin-rich Chinese vegetable a delectable treat, my daughter does not share my opinion! Her sister Kathryn gobbled down her requisite veggies waited anxiously for a promised trip downstairs to the bing qi lin (ice cream) shop to pick out a frozen treat. The angst on Ellie’s poor face was enough to break me of my commitment to leafy greens! No—Vegetables are a must, I determined. She must learn to eat nutritious and delicious foods alike—qing cai and bing qi lin too! This study is designed to be such a feast—vitamins and minerals for the heart, yet ones that delight your hungry soul.

What is the purpose of this study?

During this study, we will seek to grow in Christ-likeness by focusing our attention on Christ Himself. 2 Corinthians 3:18 reveals a key passage for spiritual formation: “And we all, with unveiled faces reflecting the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another, which is from the Lord, who is the Spirit.” According to this picture, we become like Christ by looking at Christ!

#1: In order to be like Him, we need to look at Him.

But it’s not just about spiritual growth for its own sake—like downing your veggies just for good health. It’s also about choosing the tastiest food for our famished souls. It’s about asking Him in our emptiness to condescend and show Himself to us, that we may feast on Him who is Life. It’s about being purposeful in seeking to fill our greatest hunger with the One meant to fill it.

#2: As we look at Christ, our hearts are satisfied.

Also, God has so designed that we do not grow best as individuals sitting at home with our Bibles alone. Rather, each individual in the Body of Christ adds vital gifts and perspectives which open our eyes to His wonders in ways we could not see on our own.

#3: We grow best as we look at Christ together.

A beautiful thing happens as we delight in Him together—He is glorified! And so ultimately, it is about His worship.

#4: As we treasure Him, He is exalted!

Why focus on Jesus, and not the Father or the Spirit?

I affirm with the saints of history that God exists in three persons—God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit. The Scriptures reveal that each person is fully God, each sharing all the attributes of deity. Yet, because Jesus was the One who walked among us on the earth, God is most clearly revealed by looking at Christ. Jesus tells Philip in John 14:9, “The person who has seen me has seen the Father!” He also affirms in this same discourse that the purpose of the Spirit is to glorify Christ and make clear the things He has taught His followers. In this sense, the Bible showcases Christ in a unique way. On the road to Emmaus after Jesus’ resurrection we read, “Then beginning with Moses and all the prophets, he interpreted to them the things written about himself in all the scriptures.” (Luke 24:27 NET) Paul also affirms in 2 Corinthians 4:6 that “the light of the glorious knowledge of God is seen in the face of Christ.” As we look at the Son, we are drawn to deeper understanding and worship of the Triune God.

Why the Epistles, and not the Gospels?

That’s a good question. The gospels are the most vivid pictures we have of Jesus. A Jesus-focused gospel study would also be fruitful. Certainly the pictures of Jesus from the epistles only expand on themes revealed in the Gospels. Yet in the epistles, the New Testament saints wrestled like we do today. In the Gospels, the disciples were privy to the very words and expressions of His bodily presence. He was physically with them! But in the writings recorded after Jesus’ ascension, these saints sought to persevere in the same way we must—a world where Jesus is no longer physically present. Like them, we look forward to His return. Like them, we “see in a mirror indirectly” but one day face to face! May we find comfort in their struggle as we find it is ours too.

Who would benefit from this study?

If your group desires a rich, Christ-focused Bible study which involves mind, heart and culture, this work is for you! Beyond a profound search into the person and work of Christ, you will also discover valuable tools for digging deeply into the Scriptures and challenging questions aimed at life and cultural application. The 13 week format would work well for use by Bible study groups or Sunday school classes who wanted to organize the time according to school calendar, and a ‘suggested time line’ in each week’s lesson offers help toward this structure. In this format, you could expect to spend about 20-30 minutes of daily preparation to engage in weekly group discussion. Individuals would also benefit, yet we grow most when engaged in community!

How is the study organized?

This study is focused around key “Christ” passages in several of the New Testament letters. Rather than organizing weeks according to the order of the epistles, or according to when they were written, they are organized in a historical progression through Christ’s life. We’ll begin with Him as Lord from all eternity; then progress to passages that emphasize His earthly life; followed by sections that focus on His post-resurrection (now) and His ultimate rule (future). If you experience vertigo jumping back and forth through your New Testament, you will sense your bearing in the “timeline” of Christ’s life.

Because you’ll be studying a wide breadth of the New Testament, I will provide some basic context for each book and passage so you can focus on each week’s specific verses. Yet, if you have more time and want to dig deeper, you could easily spend the week reading the whole epistle and searching for related passages in the Gospels and other letters.

In the “Application” section, sometimes multiple angles are addressed within each question. Please feel the freedom not to answer every single question as a group, but guide your discussion toward the Christ-centered heart of your group’s needs.

May He use this study to mercifully expand our vision of His beauty today that will carry us to the day when we behold Him face to face!

1 All Scriptures are quoted from the NET translation

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