Taking the Epistle

A biblical journey through the epistles

Tag Archives: Agape Bible Study

I swear to God!


I swear to God!

Occasionally I get questions posed to me by different people from time to time to ask what the bible says about certain aspects of modern day life, this blog article is designed to give a longer answer to the question I was asked. I was asked by a lady who attends my Sunday evening bible study called “Agape” (I will not name her here but she will be aware of this articles presence) the following question…

What does the bible say about the use of “I swear to God”? (To give you a background the lady was uneasy as people she loved used the term and not her)

Are you taking the LORD’s name in vain?

Well there were two places in the New Testament part of the bible that I felt dealt with this rather well, but let us first look at a deeper issue. The deeper issue here from a doctrinal standpoint is, are they using the name of God in a flippant or vain way? Are they respecting the name of the living God? If they are using God’s name to justify a flimsy position that would seem shaky in an argument without it then I would suggest that they are. Or secondly, if they seem to be telling something that does not appear to be accurate and they move their argument towards truthfulness by using God’s name as a standard (because even if you do not believe in God, God’s name is associated with truth) but not meaning the reverence in their hearts to the very holy name of God then that is also problematic.

Where do I find biblical evidence for this problem?

In the Ten Commandments we are warned against this very thing. Let’s look at Exodus chapter 20…

Exodus 20:7 (ESV) “You shall not take the name of the LORD your God in vain, for the LORD will not hold him guiltless who takes his name in vain.

Heavy stuff huh? In the third commandment you will be held guiltless by the one true God and only just judge of the world! The name of God is holy, and in some Jewish and Hebrew circles they do not spell the name of God in case they misspell it (replacing it with G_d in many cases) such is the reverence for God’s name.

So I think we have established that it is a no-no from the 10 Commandments!

Is there anything in the New Testament? I want to follow that too!

Remember I said there were two places in the New Testament that dealt with this rather well, let’s look at these. As this blog is called “Taking the Epistle” let us first look at the Epistle of James chapter 5…

James 5:12 (ESV) But above all, my brothers, do not swear, either by heaven or by earth or by any other oath, but let your “yes” be yes and your “no” be no, so that you may not fall under condemnation.

James commends us not to invoke the name of God in our arguments, he commends us to be men and women of our word, he said “let your yes be yes and your no be no!” let us not use words flippantly like “I believe that may be true” (when we know it is not) and we justify in our minds that we are not “technically” lying. He does not want us to be losing an argument or having a discussion and attach God’s name to something it has no business being in.

And lastly Jesus Christ himself said not too

Jesus said in the Gospel of St. Matthew chapter 5…

Matthew 5:33 (ESV) “Again you have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not swear falsely, but shall perform to the Lord what you have sworn.’ 34 But I say to you, Do not take an oath at all, either by heaven, for it is the throne of God, 35 or by the earth, for it is his footstool, or by Jerusalem, for it is the city of the great King. 36 And do not take an oath by your head, for you cannot make one hair white or black. 37 Let what you say be simply ‘Yes’ or ‘No’; anything more than this comes from evil.

And he goes a little further than James said and said “anything added unto this comes from evil” and do you believe that God wants his name attached to something that is attributed to evil? God is a righteous and just God. He does not lie; he is truth, light and the epicenter of all that is good. His name is worthy of praise and honor, not derision and defaming. This is the beginning of a slippery slope that will end in blasphemy and that is a road you do not wish to travel dear Christian.


There are many things in the bible that are unclear or could be left up for interpretation, but in my view and my belief in the holy scriptures is that if we are warned against doing something three times and told that it is a no-no in a clear fashion, (not something that can be twisted or really debated without perverting the meaning behind the scriptures) then perhaps God is telling you, this is important to me, please do not do it.

I hope that I stated the case well of why it is problematic from a biblical point of view to “swear to God” and if this is an issue in your life then please seek clarification from the scriptures and pray about it, always check out what the teacher is saying and I look forward to you sharing, liking and commenting on this article here or elsewhere on social media as the LORD leads you to. I pray this was a blessing!

Agape Bible Study – 1st John 1:1-2:2


08/23/2015 – Week 1 – 1st John 1:1-2:2 – Fellowship with him and one another

1st John 1:1 (NKJV) That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked upon, and our hands have handled, concerning the Word of life— 2 the life was manifested, and we have seen, and bear witness, and declare to you that eternal life which was with the Father and was manifested to us— 3 that which we have seen and heard we declare to you, that you also may have fellowship with us; and truly our fellowship is with the Father and with His Son Jesus Christ. 4 And these things we write to you that your joy may be full. 5 This is the message which we have heard from Him and declare to you, that God is light and in Him is no darkness at all. 6 If we say that we have fellowship with Him, and walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth. 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 Christ His Son cleanses us from all sin. 8 If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. 9 If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. 10 If we say that we have not sinned, we make Him a liar, and His word is not in us.


1st John 2:1 (NKJV) My little children, these things I write to you, so that you may not sin. And if anyone sins, we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous. 2 And He Himself is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the whole world.

1A – What was heard, seen and touched (1:1-1:4)

This is a bible study from our series that was originally taught on 08/23/2015 at our Agape bibe study, please click on the link for further bible studies.


When John writes this epistle he writes it with a clear MO (Modus Operandi) to declare that Jesus Christ is the messiah and that Jesus Christ came to restore fellowship with God and man (1:3) John was looking for his readers to not just have knowledge about Jesus but to actually know him. To have a day to day real and tangible relationship with him in the way John had.

John also was concerned that the readers “joy may be full” (1:4) that they experience the joy of the Christ relationship and that they live lives to the fullest in Christ. One of the reasons I wanted to cover this book directly after we did the “forgiveness” and “God’s comfort” bible studies is that one of the main reasons we do not have joy in the LORD is our own self guilt or our own condemnation of ourselves. We can easily forgive others but have a hard time forgiving our past wrongs and we often times cast our own shadow on ourselves due to the magnitude of the wrong we have done, sometimes we blow it up bigger than it needs to be.

John is also concerned that these new believers be caught in a life of sin (2:1) that they live a life of righteousness and obedience on Christ. Seeking not their own will but the will of the one they have become a bondservant to. They have to be changed beings, metamorphosed into new creations and want to not be caught into sin. Sin damages the relationship we have with God because God hates sin but he loves us, the relationships that we have on this earth are a mirror cast shadow of the relationship that we should have with our creator God.

1B – That which was there from the beginning…

– John quotes from John 1:1 (which quotes from Genesis 1:1) and makes the bold assertion that before anything was…He was! Christ was there before the earth was; he was the co-creator with God in the creation account. (Confirmed in the root word in Genesis (elowaah) Jesus was there when all that existed was God, who existed before all things and is the basis of all things and is outside of our regular convention of time.

1C – Which we have heard, which we have seen with our own eyes…

John had seen the messiah with his own eyes, he had handled him, spent time with him and had heard him personally, this was written within a lifetime of the crucifixion of Jesus so people would still be talking about what happened to Jesus. John gives a first-hand account that God came down in a very real and basic way to rescue his beloved creation.

Historically John had to deal with false teachings called Gnostics who were claiming that while Jesus was a man, he was not God. John seeks to refute these teachings by the fullness of the sentence. John states in the clearest possible terms “I was there, I felt hard and touched him”

1D – John calls him “the Word of life”…

John calls him the “logos” he uses terms that both the Jews and Greeks recognized were God and attributed them to Jesus. To the Jews the Word was the reflection of the true God and the Greeks, although they did not know the true God knew that there was a Logos, a basis for everything coming to being, John ties this all up and states, this Word (Logos) that you have been talking about, I have seen him, he is Jesus! How beautiful is that?

1E – This Word was manifest and we have seen, and bear witness…

Just to make sure you didn’t think we were talking of words on a page; John speaks of the Word living and being manifest. John turns himself into the key witness in the trial whether Jesus was the real deal. It was not as the Gnostics had said, either one or the other He was both.

1F – Eternal life which was with the Father…(John 5:26; 6:48; 11:25; 14:6)

John labors the point that Jesus was in the beginning but also he is eternal and therefore God. John calls Jesus “eternal life” he truly was “the way, the truth and the life and no-one comes unto the Father except through him”. Prophecy confirms this because nearly half a century before Jesus was born in Bethlehem we ream from the prophet Micah chapter 5…

Micah 5:2 (NKJV) “But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, ​​Though you are little among the thousands of Judah, ​​Yet out of you shall come forth to Me ​​The One to be Ruler in Israel, ​​Whose goings forth are from of old, ​​From everlasting.”

Not just eternal in the sense that he will be eternal in the future, but he is eternal in the sense that he was “of old” and will be “from everlasting”. To state in the clearest and simplest terms possible “He was, He is and is to come.”

1G – which was with the Father and manifest to us (John 17:24, 2 Cor 13:14)

Whilst Jesus is God, he is separate from the Father, he is the same in that he is part of the trinity, one God existing in three persons, equal and one just distinct in their person. We are told in Matthew 28 to “Go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and the Holy Spirit” God desires a relationship with us and made that possible through his sons sacrifice John goes on and gives an invitation to fellowship.

1H – that you also may have fellowship with us & who the fellowship is with

John states quite clearly that he writes in order to bring the reader into fellowship with BOTH the Father and the Son (v3) that the fellowship with one another is just a glimpse of the fuller satisfying fellowship that you would have with both the Father and Son. How awesome is that? The word fellowship is the Greek word “koinonia” which means sharing a bond; it speaks of journeying and growing together. I equate this to my cell phone, I know that it was put together by someone who is a lot smarter than me, I don’t fully understand how it works, but I use it because I know that it does work.

The idea of fellowship with God was alien to the Greeks as they all had many gods depending on what the need was and they were more like super hero type deals than actual living Gods, they inscribed statues based to the god of whatever, but the idea that they could have communion with Zeus or Aphrodite was crazy to them, John introduces them to a loving Father God who wants nothing more than to have fellowship with his creation.

1I – The result of the fellowship…Joy! (John 15:11; 16:24; 17:13)

Verse 4 speaks that the fruit of this relationship is Joy and not a temporary joy like when your team scores the winning touchdown, score a vital home run or when something good happens in your life. This is an eternal joy and a fullness of joy; this is not based on life going well or circumstances being in your favor. A Christians true and satisfying joy is found when they draw in close communion with the one they were created to worship. Our fellowship with God id not conditional in what we can bring to him because God requires nothing from us, but what joy and blessings he brings to us.

2A – Fellowship with Him and One another (1st John 1:5-10)
2B – This is the message which we have heard from Him and declare to you

John has revealed who the message is from and now speaks with the authority of the message giver. He has given the credentials in the same way we would give an ID or passport; he has declared himself a messenger of God and Jesus Christ. John is given one job here and that is to declare the message to us. John also is not giving his opinion or his own ideas, he is declaring that “which he has heard from Him” he is simply the vessel used to deliver the message, much like we do not thank the jug for the water John is simply speaking truth as to where the message came from. It came from Him and not from John.

2C – That God is light and in Him there is no darkness at all

This is a great description of God, God is the complete absence of darkness, no sin whatsoever, God is light – God is pure and in the light we have the ability to see, in the darkness we cannot see. By the same token we must also realize that God is correct and cannot be wrong, He is the infallible inerrant author of the living word of God.

God desires fellowship with us and always keeps the channels of communication open between Him and us, any absence in that communion will always be traced back to us. We are sinful, rebellious and unfaithful, God is none of these things and will always be the “trusted partner” in the relationship with us, despite this God is a loving God that desires restoration.

2D – Fellowship with him and walking in darkness, then we lie and do not practice truth

The converse to this relationship of walking in the light is walking in darkness, walking in our own lusts, desires or our own will when it is against the will of God. It could be something as simple as living a life of sin and then declaring that you are a Christian, and then you lie and do not practice truth. There is grace that we know we will slip up and not always do the right thing but the key here is repentance and getting your heart right.

Is it possible to claim a relationship with God you do not have? Of course it is, you may have deceived yourself and have continued to walk in darkness. To walk in darkness indicates that it is not a solitary choice, but a walk, a journey separated from the one you claim to follow. A question to ask is “what do you default to when no-one else is around?” or “is your lifestyle one of light or darkness?” Who is it that you have fellowship with, is it light or dark? It is not a gray area, it is as black and white and John makes it sound.

2E – We need to walk in the light as He is in the light

We really need to come off the fence and stop being “lukewarm”. We read in Revelation of the Laodicea church that God said because they were lukewarm they would be spewed out of his mouth. As Chelsea stated last week, we need to be “all in” We need to live in obedience to God’s calling on our life and embrace the conviction of the Holy Spirit as often as we require it.

Walking in the light is not easy, it is the road less travelled, our flesh will resist it at every turn and it is the true definition of what Christ sad when he spoke of the broad way and the narrow way, few will find this way and we will not be perfect but we will be in communion with God. God understands the struggles we go through and sees the heart, he knows which sins are premeditated and which ones are not.

John makes the last point here that these believers should surround themselves with those of the same mission. The believers who are walking in the light together will not only have communion with God, but they will have communion with each other and will grow together in a common faith. I know I feel edified when I am surrounded by those who have a similar mission to what I have.

2F – The blood of Jesus Christ cleanses us from all sin

In the same manner that we would bathe often and cleanse ourselves on a regular basis we have to be spiritually cleansed on a regular basis. I went to a Wednesday night service at Calvary Chapel Visalia where Pastor Bob Grenier shared the following anecdote.

“Seven days without the Bible makes one Weak” 

Okay that is a play on words but it is true, as often as we have the desire to sin we must also want to be cleansed of our sins, God is holy and we must also have a hunger for holiness. Romans 3:23 tells us that “we have all sinned and fallen short of Gods glory” and as we are walking with him, how often do you think we need out feet cleansing (John 13:10) John talks of cleansing as an ongoing present and ongoing process, we have to realize that Christ took the punishment for all of our sins, past present and future and the blood of Jesus paid our penalty and deals with our guilt and actions of our sin. Lastly we are cleansed from ALL SIN. But it is not through works, it is through our relationship and accepting that the blood of Jesus paid my sinful debt in full.

2G – If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves and no truth is in us

As stated before we are not sinless or perfect and even by walking in the light it will not absolve us from actually sinning, we are born into a sinful stock a descendent of Adam who caused enmity between God and man by sinning in the first place. We must be careful not to deceive ourselves and to call ourselves sinless is a lie and John describes us as having no truth in us. If we were sinless then why would we need a Savior? It is a deception and a lie from the pit of hell designed to make ourselves self-righteous. Which is why we need God’s grace and forgiveness in the first place because of our sin.

2H – Confession leads to forgiveness

And this puts the bow on the present, we understand that we have sin in our lives; we understand that sin is present in our lives and that God hates sin. But yet God still wants to have communion with us and have us cleansed in Jesus blood. So far we have covered all of this. We need to confess our sins we have to approach confession in the same manner of approaching a King and begging that king for his forgiveness, but this is not just a king this is the King of Kings and Lord of Lords. In Luke 18:10-14 Jesus describes the two parallels that could exist between a Pharisee who bragged about the good he did and a sinful man who made a simple request, God be merciful on me, a sinful man. Which one would you rather be? God will forgive and we should keep confessing our sins in the Lord’s Prayer we read the words “forgive us our sins, as we forgive our trespasses”. Confession is important to us as believers because it maintains a relationship with God and it is important that we be honest with ourselves as well as God. We must confess and resolve to do better, we are wasting our breath if we confess and continue in the sin because we are not changing anything. God sees the innermost parts of our heart and knows when we are being deceitful. If that does not scare you I don’t know what will.

2I – If we say we have not sinned we make Him a liar

As we have learned sin is present, but so is the absolution to the sin. We have a remedy to ensure that there is no hindrance to the relationship with God. If we believe that Jesus was the Word of life and the substitution for our sins then we also must see the reason he was that substitution otherwise why did he go to the cross in the first place if we have no sin?

3A – Children do not sin (1st John 2:1-2:2)

3B – We have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ

John is concerned that the Christian does not continue, be caught up or live a life of sin which is why he writes “these things I write to you, so that you may not sin. And if anyone sins, we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ” John has spent a great deal of time letting us know that as soon as we become Christians we do not lose the ability to sin, we are not sinless and perfect but we do not have to sin and we must also know that God does not make or tempt the believer to sin. God has a desire that we walk in his light and not sin, but we have an intercessor, one who prays for us and makes petition to the father for us, our redeemer Jesus Christ.

We are fleshly, we are weak, our first desire is to do “my will be done” rather than “thy will be done” but we have that defender, better than any dense counsel on this earth and he is timeless, he knows the sin we are going to commit long before we have conceived it in our minds however he still opens his arms and forgives. What a friend we have in Jesus! He is as John writes “the righteous.” The only one who is qualified to forgive our sins and take the brunt of our punishment on himself we see Jesus playing the role of the advocate when Satan accuses us before God in Revelation 12.

3C – The propitiation for our sins and for the whole world.

He has not just forgiven our individual sins as if we were the only sinner in the whole world, but he has done it for all of us, for the ones who would accept the free gift of Salvation and the ones who would reject it. The wordpropitiation gives the idea that the sacrifice was to prevent God giving what was due to us, a satisfying of the wrath of God if you will, in the Greek culture this was an accepted term. It is basically John 3:16 & 17 in other words. Jesus died for you individually but for the same reason that self-same Salvation is available to the entire world, they may choose to accept or reject it but God is a God or redemption and restoration.

What are the benefits of a small group bible study?


What are the benefits of a small group bible study?

Matthew 18:19 (ESV) Again I say to you, if two of you agree on earth about anything they ask, it will be done for them by my Father in heaven. 20 For where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I among them.” (Words of Jesus)

Those of you who know me will know that I have been blessed to be hosting a Bible study in my home and despite my presumptions about how I was going to bless others with some good verse by verse, line by line and precept upon precept teaching that was not at all what God had planned for us.

Yes that has happened, we have been going through a series that we created called “Why does God allow pain and suffering?” and we also did a three part series which included baptism, Lazarus being raised from the dead and lastly the account of Philemon. But it has not been what I thought it would be in my mind’s eye and God had a much better plan for the group than I did. For me it was confirmation that his ways are always higher than my ways and sometimes that is okay.

The word is still being taught but these people are bringing themselves. I did not know them before God brought us together but he has orchestrated people who are raw, honest and if they are struggling they will tell you so, if they need you they will let you now and when they bless you they truly do, some bring food, some bring gifts and others bring their heart and I feel blessed to be a tool that is used by God in this manner, none of this is me and I am not integral to this at all, but I am open to whatever God will ask me to do in facilitating and leading this group and I am blown away by the koinonia that is being formed and the community that is being built for his glory!

A recipe for a good small group has to have the following…

a) Covering in prayer
b) Honesty
c) Trust
d) Sound doctrinal teaching from the bible
e) Strong leadership (maybe more than one so that the conversation is not one sided)
f) Accepting others as themselves
g) Love for one another
h) Community minded (actually wanting to spend time with each other)
i) Buy in from everyone

I would include worship in there but that is personal preference.

No small group is perfect

We are all imperfect people and we are not perfect, no small group will have all these elements and even if it does, there will be people who place themselves on the fringes and different personality types will gravitate towards the personalities they are attracted to. We have to love one another regardless.

So what are the benefits?

The benefits are many – here is my experience from a teaching and a member standpoint.


a) You can “chime in” when you have a question, the group can afford to go as slow as the slowest member.

b) You can help (with the leaders permission) to assist someone with doctrinal issues (either in the group or externally)

c) You go so much deeper than you could ever go in a Sunday message; some groups I have been in have spent 90 minutes going over the riches in 3-4 verses.

d) You are forced to think about the scriptures in a more intensive, more inductive way.

e) You grow together, relationships are formed and it becomes an actual community.

f) You get “real time” with people who maybe are not showing their “Sunday smile”.


a) The studying of the scripture is done based on an inductive style and you glean a new understanding of the text, the fact of the matter is that you study differently when you are studying personally and you are studying to teach something.

b) You are blessed when people “tune in”, “answer your questions” and understand the simple truths of God’s word.

c) When you formulate questions, you are doing a form of self-apologetics, questioning and strengthening your faith that is good for your personal growth.

d) God strengthens you for the task ahead, if this was being done only in my strength it would have faltered shortly after it began.

e) God strengthens your family, my wife and I have never been this in unison and the “little things” are seen as that.

f) People who may be intimidated by “going to church” are less intimidated by coming over to XXXX house.

It works in big and small churches too

Small churches – You may see a bigger % of buy in from a small church than a big church as you have an existing community and this maybe an opportunity to either have fun, fellowship or study the bible in a deeper fashion, it could also be used as a “wading pool” for potential leaders/teachers as led by the lead pastor or leadership team.

Larger churches – once a church reaches a certain size and multiple services then it will be impossible to get around everyone at church on a Sunday morning so the logical solution is a “Community group/small group format” again this could be used to find out who is willing/able to teach but it will be pivotal to help relationships grow and allow folks to connect, grow together, mentor and network.

I don’t know what the perfect model is & I cannot teach!

There is no “this is the perfect model and you have to follow it verbatim” because different things work for different fellowships and people are different wherever you go. Who would have thought that he would had a guy who was born in Scotland with a heavy accent open his doors to a bunch of Californians and God would bless it in ways that were beyond anything we could ask for. It is his group not mine and he will do with it what he pleases and my only input is to be faithful to what he is telling me to do.

I am not a seminary trainer preacher, I am preaching by the will of God, the blessing of my church, a lot of study and a great love for people and a desire to see people saved and growing in a relationship with Jesus Christ. If anything my wife is the talented one, she leads worship and takes care of any kids that come and teaches a children’s church. We truly are stronger as a missionary team and I am blessed because I have been open to what God wants to do in my life!

God is calling me to start a small group so now what?

a) Talk to your pastor/leadership of your local church – I am hoping they will offer prayer support and be a backup should you need it. I am comforted that the leadership at my church (and a few others) is praying for the group as a whole.

Secondly I am hoping that if they have any issues with you starting a study that may or may not be connected to the existing fellowship then they may bring the concerns up in a loving way.

b) Cover it in prayer – It might seem obvious but check, check and triple check that you are doing what God wants you too.

c) Check your motivation – Again might be obvious but check why you are doing this, is it to save new souls/invest in others? Is it to become a Pastor one day? Are you more interested in being noticed than investing in people?

d) Get stuck in! – The harvest is plenty and the laborers are few, we could do with more good men (or women if you want to lead a women’s study) and regardless if you want to facilitate already churched people or whether you want to invest in those who either do not know Jesus or are thirsty for more I would say that once you find out where God has placed you and wants you to go after then do it as Colossians 3:23 says “do it heartily as to the LORD”.

I pray this wee article was a blessing, a challenge or an exhortation please share, like or comment as God leads you too. Also if you like the articles then please follow my blog at the top of the page or join our social media pages.