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Yesterday marked the last day of the teaching part of our Bible study at church. We were missing one girl, which made me extremely disappointed, but we gained another lady. I was so happy to see how excited the other ladies in the study are about learning how to study the Word for themselves. It is SO encouraging!

The ladies needed to go more indepth into Phil. 2:1-11 on their own. They made it a good chunk of the way – I was very impressed. It was really cool listening to their insights and what they learned and how it worked out for them. Then, I shared the importance of studying a single verse and then a single word. We looked at Phil. 4:8 for as long as we could, but then had to move on. I wish we could’ve had more time. It was a lot of fun picking the verse apart together. I wish we would’ve had time to go online or even into e-sword to show them how to look up words. We really could’ve spent WAY more time looking at “joy.” I hope they’re able to do some of that on their own.

While preparing for this lesson, I remembered a study that I sat in on once about John 21:15-17: It reads:

15When they had finished eating, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon son of John, do you truly love me more than these?” “Yes, Lord,” he said, “you know that I love you.” Jesus said, “Feed my lambs.” 16Again Jesus said, “Simon son of John, do you truly love me?” He answered, “Yes, Lord, you know that I love you.” Jesus said, “Take care of my sheep.”  17 The third time he said to him, “Simon son of John, do you love me?” Peter was hurt because Jesus asked him the third time, “Do you love me?” He said, “Lord, you know all things; you know that I love you.” Jesus said, “Feed my sheep.”

Just to show the importance of studying a single word, when Jesus uses the word “love” the first two times, He is using the Greek word “agape.” This is probably one of the most well-known Greek words, but it is such a deeper meaning of “love” than what is conveyed in the English. This is the love spoken of in 1 Corinthians 13, the “love chapter”, and is the love that only God gives. We can only love with agape if Christ is loving through us.

However, when John answers Jesus all three times, he uses the Greek word “phileo“, from which we get our word “philadelphia”, which means “brotherly love.” This is the love you would show to friends, not a deep, spiritual love or even an emotional love like you would have with a spouse.

The last time Jesus asks John if he loves Him, Jesus switches from “agape” to “phileo.” John gets very sad and answers the same, with “phileo.” Some speculate that Jesus asked John this same question three times to remind John of his denial of Christ three separate times. John is humble enough to admit that in reality, no, he does not love Jesus with the “agape” love that Jesus loves him. It really makes this passage much more powerful when you study a single word.

The same is true with the Christmas story in Luke 2. When the angels arrived in Bethlehem and the “glory of the Lord shown around them”, that “glory” is the Shekinah glory of God. This glory literally surrounds the very presence of God. Every time God appeared in the Tabernacle or the Temple and the people could not approach because His “glory” was there, this is the glory that was being spoken of. Later in the Old Testament, this is the same glory that was lifted from the Temple and the Jews weeped when it was gone because they knew the presence of God had left them. When Jesus was born, the glory of God – God Himself – the very presence of God Almighty – returned to earth. That passage is so awesome to read now! It’s no longer “just” the Christmas story. It holds so much more meaning, knowing that God had FINALLY returned to earth and made His dwelling among us. It had been literally hundreds of years without Him. Imagine how dark earth was during the silent period between the Old and New Testaments. Not to say God wasn’t working, but His glory was not present on earth like it was when Christ Himself walked among us and like it is now with the presence of God living within each of us believers.

Studying Scripture is absolutely amazing. I used to wonder how people could read and reread the Bible numerous times over their lifetime and still get something new out of it. I get it now. I just wish I studied like this more often.