There’s no better way to grow in your faith than to get God’s Word into each day—or rather, to let God’s Word get into you.
To gain a truly deep understanding of the Bible, you have to learn to study it inductively—to suspend judgment about a text’s message and let the text speak for itself.
That’s exactly what N. T. Wright shows you how to do in his For Everyone New Testament Bible Study Guides (19 vols.). A sought-after commentator, author, and research professor, Wright has had a profound influence on the Church, and his writings have been read worldwide.
His guides in this series are short, concise, and help individuals and groups to study the Bible using the popular inductive method. And his insightful comments draw out the text for even deeper reflection.
How the guides work
Each lesson follows a basic framework:
- An introduction with rich cultural and contextual background
- An opening group discussion question
- Study questions interspersed with additional background information
- Challenging application questions
- Prayer prompts for individual and group reflection
- Supplementary notes for further study
The below is excerpted from the first lesson in For Everyone Bible Study Guide: Romans:
Longing to See the Roman Christians
In ancient Rome, as today, the rich people lived up in the hills, the famous seven hills on which the city stands. The original imperial palace, where the emperor Augustus lived at the time when Jesus was born, occupies most of one of them. But then, as now, the poorer people lived in the areas around the river; not least, in the area just across the river from the main city center. And this is where most of the first Roman Christians lived. The chances are that the first time this great letter was read aloud it was in a crowded room in someone’s house in the low-lying poorer district, just across the river from the seat of power.
The Roman Church consisted of both Jewish believers and gentile believers. Some of the Jewish Christians were among Paul’s closest friends; they would have shared his robust view of how God had fulfilled the Jewish law through the Messiah and also transcended it by including gentiles on equal terms in his renewed people. But other Jewish Christians would have been deeply suspicious of this: surely God gave the law to Moses? Doesn’t that mean that every word of it is valid for all time? Supposing they found themselves living alongside a house church composed mostly of gentile Christians who celebrated their freedom from the law, how would they feel? Suspicion, fueled by social tensions among Rome’s cosmopolitan mix of peoples, might easily turn to hostility. It is into this physical and social context that Paul writes his great letter.
In what ways is it risky or daring to be a Christian in your community today?
- Read Romans 1:1–17. Like most people writing letters in the classical world, Paul begins by saying who he is, and who the letter is intended for. But as in some of his other letters, he expands this formula almost beyond the breaking point by adding more and more information on both sides. Paul introduces in his greeting several thoughts in verses 1–7 that he will expand on later in the latter. What themes are mentioned?
- What is the gospel or good news Paul describes in this expanded greeting?
- In verse 5, Paul uses the term “believing obedience” to depict the goal of grace and apostleship, which Paul and others had received. What does “believing obedience” look like in a Christian’s life?
- Why would news about the faith of the Roman church have spread far and wide?
- Paul had not himself founded the church in Rome or visited there previously. But as Romans 16 will tell us, he had friends and relatives there. Why else does Paul want to visit the Roman Christians so desperately?
- Caesar’s messengers didn’t go around the world saying, “Caesar is lord, so if you feel you need to have a Roman Empire kind of experience, you might want to submit to him.” Jesus’ messengers (or apostles—literally meaning “sent ones”) didn’t say something indecisive like that about Jesus either. In this context, how has Paul already, in this first chapter, proclaimed a rather risky message that might have tempted him or others to “be ashamed of the good news”?
- How are we tempted to be ashamed of the good news in our own society?