Category Archives: Bible

240 Words

The Bible Storyline in 240 Words

God has now revealed to us his mysterious plan regarding Christ, a plan to fulfill his own good pleasure.

Eph. 1:9

D. A. Carson is wonderful teacher, I have read a number of his books and listened to scores of his sermons. Below, Carson lays out the entire Bible storyline in a few sentences. Why is this important? To fully understand what God has done in Jesus Christ, we must know the Bible storyline. We must learn of the Fall, the covenants, the law, the prophets, and the sacrifice. We should appreciate that from time immemorial, God planned and purposed to redeem us in Jesus Christ (Eph. 1:4).

God is the sovereign, transcendent and personal God who has made the universe, including us, his image-bearers. Our misery lies in our rebellion, our alienation from God, which, despite his forbearance, attracts his implacable wrath.

But God, precisely because love is of the very essence of his character, takes the initiative and prepared for the coming of his own Son by raising up a people who, by covenantal stipulations, temple worship, systems of sacrifice and of priesthood, by kings and by prophets, are taught something of what God is planning and what he expects.

In the fullness of time his Son comes and takes on human nature. He comes not, in the first instance, to judge but to save: he dies the death of his people, rises from the grave and, in returning to his heavenly Father, bequeaths the Holy Spirit as the down payment and guarantee of the ultimate gift he has secured for them—an eternity of bliss in the presence of God himself, in a new heaven and a new earth, the home of righteousness.

The only alternative is to be shut out from the presence of this God forever, in the torments of hell. What men and women must do, before it is too late, is repent and trust Christ; the alternative is to disobey the gospel (Romans 10:16; 2 Thessalonians 1:8; 1 Peter 4:17).

D. A. Carson, “The Biblical Gospel,” in For Such a Time as This: Perspectives on Evangelicalism, Past, Present and Future, ed. Steve Brady and Harold Rowdon (London: Evangelical Alliance, 1986), 80.

HT: C. J. Mahaney

We Love the Bible Because We Love Christ

Love for the Scriptures

You search the Scriptures because you think they give you eternal life. But the Scriptures point to me!

John 5:39 NLT

To be in love with Christ is to be in love with the Word of God, the Bible. Through God’s Word, we come to know and experience all of Christ’s perfections, beauty, and glory. To read and examine what Christ has done for us is to be encouraged to trust God’s promises, empowered to love in a world full of chaos, and strengthened against the assaults of the evil one. To love Christ is to love his Word. The quality of our reading, studying, and meditation of God’s Word is an indication of the quality of our love, zeal, and passion for our Savior.

A man who loves his wife will love her letters and her photographs because they speak to him of her. So if we love the Lord Jesus we shall love the Bible because it speaks to us of him. The husband is not so stupid as to prefer his wife’s letters to her voice, or her photographs to herself. He simply loves them because of her. So, too, we love the Bible because of Christ. It is his portrait. It is his love-letter.

John Stott, Fundamentalism and Evangelism (London: Crusade Booklets, 1956), 22.

I interpret as I should, following the command of Christ: Search the Scriptures, and Seek and you shall find. Christ will not say to me what he said to the Jews: You erred, not knowing the Scriptures and not knowing the power of God. For if, as Paul says, Christ is the power of God and the wisdom of God, and if the man who does not know Scripture does not know the power and wisdom of God, then ignorance of Scripture is ignorance of Christ.

Jerome, Commentary on Isaiah (?)

What is Bible Meditation?

Word and Spirit

Teach me, LORD, the way of your decrees, that I may follow it to the end.

Psalm 119:33

Bible meditation is the diligent and careful consideration of God’s Word for the purpose of growing in the knowledge of God and for the obtaining of practical holiness. The believer uses his or her own rational abilities combined with Spirit-led illumination and heart-felt participation to engage God’s Spirit-inspired Word. We study the Bible to learn God’s ways, grow into God’s character, and learn God’s commands.

God has ordained that the eye-opening work of his Spirit always be combined with the mind-informing work of his Word.

John Piper, A Godward Life, Book Two (Sisters, OR: Multnomah Press, 1999), 184.

I seek the will of the Spirit of God through, or in connection with, the Word of God. The Spirit and the Word must be combined. If I look to the Spirit alone without the Word, I lay myself open to great delusions. If the Holy Spirit guides us, He will do it according to the Scriptures and never contrary to them.

George Muller, http://www.mullers.org/ .

Did the Slaughter of the Innocents Happen?

Feast Day of the Holy Innocents

On December 28th of every year, the Church Calendar commemorates the Feast Day of the Holy Innocents. The commemoration of the Massacre of the Innocents recalls the events of Matthew 2:16-18. By Herod the Great’s direction, the slaughter of all males two years old and under was ordered in an attempt to kill the infant Messiah.

Liberal scholars question the veracity of this story because the event is only told in the Gospel of Matthew and not mentioned in the writings of Jewish historian, Josephus. Recently, National Geographic magazine reported:

But, gratutiously, and highlighted by a quotation box, they insert the claim that Herod almost certainly did not kill the babies two years old and under in Bethlehem at the time of Jesus’ birth.  The sole reason given is that the report of this massacre occurs only in the Gospel of Matthew.  Of course, very liberal scholars have said something similar for a long time, but without good reason.

Craig Blomberg, National Geographic Blows It Again”, PrimetimeJesus.com

Craig Blomberg, Professor of New Testament at Denver Theological Seminary in Colorado points out the inconsistency of the National Geographic argument:

What makes the National Geographic report’s statement all the more unfortunate is that it comes right in the context of fairly detailed recounting of Josephus’ reports of all the cruelty and executions Herod did manufacture.  Increasingly paranoid as he got older about supposed threats to his “throne,” he had several of his sons and wives put to death.  It would be one thing if Josephus gave one kind of portrait of Herod and Matthew a quite different one, but both sources agree entirely on Herod’s ruthlessness and the specific manner it most manifested itself–repeated murders of those even slightly perceived to be a threat to his power.  Reports that a boy had been born with the right ancestral credentials to reign over Israel would easily have threatened this megalomaniac from Idumea who wasn’t even a Jew by birth and would never have survived the installment of someone with the right lineage.

Why then is this murderous tragedy not retold in secular histories? Blomberg explains:

So why didn’t Josephus say anything about these babies?  Because, like all other historians of his day, he was concerned to recount the events related to the kings and queens, military generals, aristocracy, and institutionalized leaders of religion of his people–not the lives and times of ordinary peasants.  Bethlehem had at most 500 people and, even factoring in large families, one can scarcely imagine more than 20-25 babies affected by Herod’s soldiers’ raids, and perhaps less.  It was a blip on the horizon of Herod’s nefarious resume.  It may even have been little reported in circles outside of later Christian ones.

One more time, major press outlets cannot ask one Evangelical scholar for an opinion about a Bible story. The press acts as if Bible-believing scholars do not exist.

Is the Woman Caught in Adultery Story True? (John 7:53-8:11)

Is the Story Scriptural or Not?

So when they continued asking him, he lifted up himself, and said unto them, He that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone at her.

John 8:8 (NKJV)

This Sunday, the Gospel reading in the Roman Catholic Lectionary will be the famous story of “The Woman Caught in Adultery” (John 8:1-11). Some scholars and a few pastors, both liberal and conservative, have questioned the veracity of this unique and beautiful story of God’s mercy and love. This blog post is my feeble attempt at defending the historical truthfulness and canonical faithfulness of this encounter between Jesus and the woman caught in adultery.

You will notice in your modern translations that brackets have been placed around the text with some type of footnote. The note explains that early Greek manuscripts of the Gospel of John do not contain this story and that this narrative when found is placed in different sections of the Gospel. The note seems to cast doubt on the reliability of “The Woman Caught in Adultery Story” causing many readers confusion.

To add to the confusion even some Bible-believing pastors have stopped preaching this famous story of testing, hypocrisy, and forgiveness. In another state, a pastor was teaching through the Gospel of John, as he worked through the text, the pastor came to the “Woman Caught in Adultery” story found in 7:53-8:11. He wrote in the church newsletter that this famous story was not reliable and should not be considered inspired of the Holy Spirit: “Why are we skipping over this passage? Simply put, because it is my suspicion, based on the evidence given by numerous textual scholars, that this story is not part of the inspired canon of Scripture.” Therefore, the pastor concluded that he would not be teaching this famous story. To say the least, the pastor’s decision caused no small stir within that congregation.

Below, I list several reasons for the continued inclusion of the “Woman Caught in Adultery” story (John 7:52-8:11) in the canon of Scripture. Consequently, the story should be understood as inspired by the Holy Spirit and worthy of being taught to the Christian faithful.

1. Church Tradition: The Church has accepted the woman caught in adultery story for two thousand years, why stop teaching the passages now? “Throughout the history of the church, it has been held that, whoever wrote it, this little story is authentic.” [Leon Morris, The Gospel According to John, Revised, NICNT (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1995), 779]. The story resonates with the spirit and attitude of the Ancient Church toward those who have fallen and need Christ’s mercy and grace.

2. Attestation: Contrary to this pastor’s newsletter article, writings during the Patristic period do refer to this story: Papias (Eusebius, HE 3.29.17), Apostolic Constitution (2.24), and Didymus the Blind. The woman caught in adultery story is not cited in the writings of the Greek fathers, but in the West, Ambrose (397), Ambrosiaster (350) and Augustine (430) refer to the pericope, or story-unit, in their sermons and commentaries. Jerome found the text in early Greek codices and thus translated the story into the Latin Vulgate (fourth century).

Also, during the fourth century, the woman caught in adultery story was accepted into the Sunday lectionary of the Greek East.

“It is plain enough that this passage was unknown anciently to the Greek Churches; and some conjecture that it has been brought from some other place and inserted here. But as it has always been received by the Latin Churches, and is found in many old Greek manuscripts, and contains nothing unworthy of an Apostolic Spirit, there is no reason why we should refuse to apply it to our advantage.”

[John Calvin, Commentary on the Gospel According to John, 284.]

3. Reliability: The text may not be the actual writing of the Apostle John, but the story does reflect the writing style of Matthew, Mark and Luke. Many scholars acknowledge that adultery story does not belong at the end of chapter seven, but the passages do reflect the concerns, attitude, and teaching of Jesus.

“On one hand it seems clear that the weight of evidence mitigates against the originality of the story. That is, this brief account is probably not original to the Fourth Gospel. On the other hand, the story has every suggestion of historical veracity, suggesting that it was indeed an event that occurred in the life of Jesus and was a story worthy of collection and recitation.”

[Gary M. Burge, The NIV Application Commentary: John (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2000), 238].

4. Complexity: “Although this narrative is included in the sequence of the outline, it can hardly have belonged to the original text of this Gospel. It is absent from most of the oldest copies of the Gospel that precede the sixth century and from the works of the earliest commentators. To say that it does not belong in the Gospel is not identical with rejecting it as unhistorical. Its coherence and spirit show that it was preserved from a very early time, and it accords well with the known character of Jesus. It may be accepted as historical truth; but based on the information we now have, it was probably not a part of the original text.”

[Merrill Tenney, John, Expositor’s Bible Commentary [CD-Rom] (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1984).]

Even though a problem exists with the manuscript history of the story of the woman caught in adultery, that complex history is not enough to deny its truthfulness.

Conclusion: Regardless of whether the Apostle John wrote this story or an editor added it later, there is every reason to believe that the story was an actual event in the life of Jesus. No suspect doctrine is present in this text, and the story is certainly represents the manner in which Jesus dealt with Pharisees and sinners.

The Bible and Advent

Study the Word of God

Blessed Lord, who caused all holy Scriptures to be written for our learning: Grant us so to hear them, read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest them, that we may embrace and ever hold fast the blessed hope of everlasting life, which you have given us in our Savior Jesus Christ; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen

Collect for Proper 28, 1979 Book of Common Prayer

During this season of Advent, we renew our commitment to read God’s word faithfully and diligent in the coming Christian year. We recognize that our growth in Christ is contingent on faithfully reading, consistently meditating, and diligently practicing God’s revealed will in Holy Scripture (Psalm 119: 97-104).

Bible study and meditation is the diligent and careful consideration of God’s Word for the purpose of growing in the knowledge of salvation and in personal, practical holiness. We use own rational abilities combined with Spirit-led illumination and heart-felt participation to engage God’s Spirit-inspired Word. We study the Bible to learn God’s ways, grow into God’s character, and obey God’s commands (2 Tim. 3:16). “God has ordained that the eye-opening work of his Spirit always be combined with the mind-informing work of his Word.” [John Piper, A Godward Life, Book Two (Sisters, OR: Multnomah Press, 1999), 184].

Let us arm ourselves with a thorough knowledge of the Word of God. Let us read our Bibles more diligently than ever, and become familiar with every part of them. Let the Word dwell in us richly. Let us beware of anything which would make us give less time and less heart to the perusal of its sacred pages. The Bible is the sword of the Spirit – let it never be laid aside. The Bible is the true lantern for a dark and cloudy time – let us beware of traveling without its light.”

J.C. Ryle, Warnings to the Churches, “Idolatry”, 167.

HT: J.C. Ryle Quotes

Sola Scriptura

Evangelical Essentials (Part Eleven)

All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be competent, equipped for every good work.

2 Tim 3:16-17 (ESV)

The Reformation doctrine of sola Scriptura affirms the priority of scripture over traditions, councils, and church authorities. No practice or doctrine is binding on the life of a believer unless that belief or practice can be found in scripture. Sola Scriptura does not negate Tradition, but simply places Tradition under Scripture as a source of authority in the church.

The doctrine of sola Scriptura is one of the most misunderstood doctrines of the Reformation. From both within Evangelicalism and without: this doctrine is distorted and gravely mischaracterized. Sola Scriptura does not mean that Evangelicals reject tradition and read only the Bible (i.e., the error of Biblicism). Evangelical doctrine is not solo Scriptura, where all church councils, traditions, church authorities, and Bible commentaries are rejected as guides and interpreters of scripture’s meaning.

Reformation Church historian, Timothy George, writes,

Sola Scriptura does not mean nuda scriptura nor scriptura solitaria! It means instead that the Word of God, as it is communicated to us in the Scriptures, remains the final judge (norma normans) of all the teaching in the church.

[Timothy George, “An Evangelical Reflection on Scripture and Tradition,” Pro Ecclesia: A Journal of Catholic and Evangelical Theology (Volume IX, Number 2, Spring 2000), 206.]

In similar essay, Timothy George, elaborates on the development Martin Luther’s understanding of sola Scriptura:

Under duress, Luther articulated what would come to be the formal principle of the Reformation: all church teaching must be normed by the Bible. The following year, in The Babylonian Captivity of the Church, Luther stated: “What is asserted without the Scriptures or proven revelation may be held as an opinion, but need not be believed.” Late medieval theologians placed Christian tradition alongside the Bible as a source of church doctrine. Luther emphasized instead the primacy of Scripture.

However, Luther did not reject tradition outright. He respected the writings of the early church fathers, especially those of Augustine, and he considered the universal statements of faith, such as the Nicene and Athanasian Creeds, binding on the church in his day. But all creeds, sayings of the Fathers, and decisions of church councils must be judged by—never sit in judgment upon—the “sure rule of God’s Word.”

[Timothy George, Martin Luther, Early Years, Christian History magazine, electronic ed. (Carol Stream IL: Christianity Today, 1992).]

Sola Scriptura rejects the “two-source theory” that affirms Scripture and Tradition as being of equal weight and authority in the life of church. Alternately, the doctrine of sola Scriptura rejects the individualistic Anabaptist principle of “no creed but the Bible.” Reformed theologian, Keith Mathison adds,

Instead of advocating chaos, the Evangelical church must regain an understanding of the Reformation doctrine of sola scriptura, which is essentially nothing more than the early Church’s doctrine of scripture and tradition framed within a different historical context. The Church must affirm that Scripture is the sole source of revelation. The Church must affirm that Scripture is the sole, final, and infallible norm of faith and practice. And the Church must affirm that Scripture is to be interpreted in and by the communion of saints within the theological context of the rule of faith. Only by rejecting all forms of autonomy, institutional or individual, can any branch of the Church be in obedience to Jesus Christ the Lord.

[Keith A. Mathison, The Shape of Sola Scriptura (Moscow, ID: Canon Press, 2001), 347.]

I might add that the Canon Law of the Charismatic Episcopal Church affirms that Holy Scripture is “the final authority on all matters of faith and practice,” and “ . . . is to be understood in light of apostolic tradition and the inspiration of the Holy Spirit” (Canon Eight, I. B. 1-2). This definition is in its essence the doctrine of sola Scriptura as taught by the Magisterial Reformers.

What of the Apocrypha?

The Septuagint and the Apocrypha

All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work.

2 Tim. 3:16-17 (NKJV)

The Apocrypha includes those books contained in the Greek Old Testament but not found in the Hebrew Bible, yet Earle E. Ellis notes: “No two Septuagint codices contain the same apocrypha, and no uniform Septuagint ‘Bible’ was ever the subject of discussion in the patristic church. In view of these facts the Septuagint codices appear to have been originally intended more as service books than as a defined and normative canon of Scripture.”

[The Old Testament in Early Christianity [WUNT 1.54; Tubingen: Mohr/Siebeck, 1991), 34-35.]

HT: Michael Bird

Which Came First the Church or the N.T.?

Answer: the Holy Spirit.

If I delay, you may know how one ought to behave in the household of God, which is the church of the living God, a pillar and buttress of the truth.

1 Tim. 3:15 (ESV)

The dependence of the church on the Word is not a doctrine readily acceptable to all. In former days of Roman Catholic polemic, for example, its champions would insist that ‘the church wrote the Bible’ and therefore has authority over it. Still today one sometimes hears this rather simplistic argument. Now it is true, of course, that both Testaments were written within the context of the believing community, and that the substance of the New Testament in God’s providence … was to some extent determined by the needs of the local Christian congregations.In consequence, the Bible can neither be detached from the milieu in which it originated, nor be understood in isolation from it.

Nevertheless, as Protestants have always emphasized, it is misleading to the point of inaccuracy to say that ‘the church wrote the Bible’; the truth is almost the opposite, namely that’God’s Word created the church’. For the people of God may be said to have come into existence when his Word came to Abraham, calling him and making a covenant with him. Similarly, it was through the apostolic preaching of God’s Word in the power of the Holy Spirit on the Day of Pentecost that the people of God became the Spirit-filled body of Christ.

John Stott, Authentic Christianity (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1995), 303.

He Didn’t Say It

st-francis-of-assisi-posters

Preach and Live the Gospel

Faith comes by HEARING and HEARING through the WORD of CHRIST.

Romans 10:17

Mark Galli posts an excellent essay on the Christianity Today website that dispels the notion that Francis of Assisi taught, “Preach the gospel; use words if necessary.” Galli refutes the modern idea that talk is cheap and living the truth is the only requirement of preaching the gospel. However, Francis preached, Jesus taught, and the Apostle Paul declared the saving truth of salvation by faith through grace AND they lived holy and exemplary lives.

I’ve heard the quote once too often. It’s time to set the record straight-about the quote, and about the gospel. Francis of Assisi is said to have said, “Preach the gospel at all times; when necessary, use words.” This saying is carted out whenever someone wants to suggest that Christians talk about the gospel too much, and live the gospel too little. Fair enough-that can be a problem. Much of the rhetorical power of the quotation comes from the assumption that Francis not only said it but lived it. The problem is that he did not say it. Nor did he live it. And those two contra-facts tell us something about the spirit of our age. . . .

“Preach the gospel; use words if necessary” goes hand in hand with a postmodern assumption that words are finally empty of meaning. It subtly denigrates the high value that the prophets and Jesus and Paul put on preaching. Of course we want our actions to match our words as much as possible. But the gospel is a message, news about an event and a person upon which the history of the planet turns. . . .

That being said, a better saying (which you can attribute to anyone you like) is this: Preach the gospel—use actions when necessary; use words always.

Mark Galli, “Speak the Gospel” Christianity Today magazine, May 2009 (Web only).