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Displaying items by tag: Bible
Friday, 14 September 2012 13:36

Books of the Bible for Small Groups

A Small Group Leader’s Look at Books of the Bible Themes and Purposes and how they can be studied in the context of Small Groups


This is a list of all the books of the Bible and their potential use within Small Groups. Each book is given a brief theme and then an overview. Please keep in mind, all the Word of God is profitable and any study of scripture is bound to have lasting value—this list is just a tool for Small Group leaders to be able to quickly consider all the books of the Bible when prayerfully considering what should constitute their next group study.


OLD TESTAMENT

Genesis
Themes: Beginnings
Overview: Genesis explores grand themes such as God’s design, God’s plan, God’s sovereignty, God’s faithfulness, man’s sin, man’s folly. This is a great study for a wide range of Small Groups. Groups consisting of newer Christians will benefit from exploring foundational Bible stories. Groups with more seasoned members will benefit from a closer, theological examination of the themes that begin in Genesis and weave throughout the rest of Scripture.

Exodus
Themes: Redemption and Deliverance of Israel
Overview: Exodus explores God’s faithfulness and provision to a barely obedient person (Moses) along with a barely obedient nation (Israel). Much of the first 20 chapters will be classic, familiar accounts of God working through Moses. Chapters 21ff focus much more on the laying down of God’s Law for His people. Small Groups studying Exodus would find it most profitable to study chapters 1-20 separately from 21-40. Chapters 21-30 might be better suited to a guided examination of God’s holiness and character reflected in His law.

Leviticus
Themes: Holiness
Overview: Leviticus was the worship manual for the Jewish priests. Often readers get bogged down and bewildered by its bloody details. But if they can get past the unfamiliar nature of sacrificial worship, they will find some great instruction on God’s holiness, atonement, redemption, civil and moral ethics, etc. Just as with Exodus, Small Groups studying Leviticus might benefit most from a guided study of how the law reflects God’s holy character.

Numbers
Themes: Wanderings in the Wilderness
Overview: Certain chapters of the book of Numbers, such as Chapter 13, make for extraordinary rich spiritual material. But as a whole, Numbers is a challenging book for Small Groups. Much of it contained detailed census records interspersed with troubling historical accounts. It does highlight man’s fickle walk with God and thus Small Groups will likely benefit most from examining a few of the historical accounts separately from the law/census sections.

Deuteronomy
Themes: Second Law/Renewed Covenant
Overview: Deuteronomy covers the social, moral and priestly law for the Jews just before they entered the Promised Land. It has some excellent nuggets that speak to every dimension of life. Like pearls of a necklace, it is best to examine the many jewels of Deuteronomy individually.

Joshua
Themes: Conquer and Divide
Overview: Joshua recounts the Jewish conquest of the Promised Land. For the most part, it contains narrative history. The cracks of Israel’s obedience already begin to show and it underscores the need for total obedience to the Lord in all our dealings.

Judges
Themes: Seven Cycles of Defeat
Overview: Judges is a sad reminder of the cycle of sin in our lives. It shows that without the clear Word of God, and without a commitment to obey it, individuals and society rationalize horrendous decisions.

Ruth
Themes: Kinsman Redeemer 
Overview: Ruth is a quick, touching story of God’s provision for Ruth, her mom, and a lonely guy. It has wonderful themes of God’s love, relational love, obedience, truth, faithfulness, loyalty, etc. This is a charming story for Small Groups consisting of couples looking to remind themselves of commitment to God’s ways, to one another, and to family.

1 Samuel
Themes: Transition from Judges to Kings, Theocracy to Monarchy
Overview: 1 Samuel is filled with life-on-life principles that cover the gamut of living for the Lord. It chronicles Samuel’s start, Saul’s rise and fall, and even David’s hopeful life. A through-the-book study through 1 and 2 Samuel would take considerable amount of time, yet the stories and principles uncovered would speak to many dimensions of life for years to come.

2 Samuel 
Themes: David's Reign as King
Overview: 2 Samuel gives us the most detail of any one person outside of the Gospels for Christ. We learn about what makes David “a man after God’s own heart.” We also learn how even the most spiritual saints can fall. 2 Samuel can be studied alone or with 1 Samuel—both methods would be spiritually valuable to a Small Group looking to examine living for the Lord in a variety of circumstances.

1 Kings
Themes: United and Divided Kingdom, Solomon
Overview: 1 Kings picks up with the death of David. It has some powerful lessons in the early chapters. Soon, however, it’s clear that the Jewish heart is not fully sold out for the Lord. The division of the Kingdom and their decent is tragic. Many Christians do not understand Jewish history and even the profound meaning behind terms like “Judah” and “Israel” used throughout the Old Testament are lost when readers are not aware of the nature of the United/Divided Kingdom. 1 and 2 Kings would be most beneficial in Small Groups whose purpose is to convey biblical truth to the members.

2 Kings
Themes: Israel and Judah Fall, Exile
Overview: 2 Kings continues with Israel’s and Judah’s full speed decent toward outright rebellion. While there are a few bright spots, for the most part the spiral marches downward until the end of both kingdoms.

1 Chronicles
Themes: God's view of David
Overview: 1 Chronicles feels very similar to 2 Samuel and 1 Kings however it has a more sympathetic view of God’s people. Just as with 1 and 2 Kings, a study of 1 and 2 Chronicles helps readers understand the rest of the later portion of the Old Testament. Many Christians do not understand Jewish history and even the profound meaning behind terms like “Judah” and “Israel” used throughout the Old Testament are lost when readers are not aware of the nature of the United/Divided Kingdom. 1 and 2 Chronicles could be studied in conjunction with 1 and 2 Kings and would be most beneficial in Small Groups whose purpose is to convey biblical truth to the members.

2 Chronicles
Themes: God's view of the Kings of Judah
Overview: 2 Chronicles is similar to 1 and 2 Kings however it is more sympathetic to God’s people. See comments on 1 Chronicles for the benefits to Small Groups.

Ezra
Themes: Rebuilding the Temple and People
Overview: Ezra begins with the ending of the Jewish exile. The people begin to return to rebuild the temple of God. As the story unfolds, it becomes clear that God must work and the people must purify themselves. Like many of the Old Testament historical books, there will be value in learning the accounts contained in Ezra, however, a close study of it would most likely benefit groups that focus on information rather than personal interaction and discussion—though the mixed marriage episode of Ezra 9 will doubtlessly yield much spirited questions! The leader will need to have some answers to the questions that are bound to come up.

Nehemiah
Theme: Rebuilding the Walls
Overview: Nehemiah is often studied by men’s groups for its organizational value. Nehemiah himself was a man who properly mixed reliance upon God with personal diligence. It’s an excellent study on these matters. Certain kinds of Small Groups (e.g. consisting of businesspeople or those looking for leadership principles) will be tempted to study Nehemiah for its principles of organizational management—and while there may be some valid points along the way, we must keep in mind that the purpose of the book is to record God’s amazing work during Israel’s troubled days.

Esther
Theme: Preserving God’s People
Overview: Esther is a simmering story of love, intrigue, betrayal and conquest. The Lord uses Esther and her uncle to save the Jewish people from genocide. Keep in mind that Esther never specifically refers to the Lord, though His hand is implied and evident behind the backdrop.

Job
Themes: Suffering and Sovereignty
Overview: Job is about a righteous man being tested. The first few chapters give a glimpse of the heavenly backdrop to a series of profoundly tragic events in Job’s life. Much of the book, however, centers on the poor counsel of Job’s friends. Only towards the end does the Lord step in and clarify what’s going on. Even then, God’s point is primarily that He is beyond our understanding and that we should trust Him. While there are gems throughout the book of Job (e.g. Job 19:25-26 is an astounding reference to Christ from this early Old Testament book) yet Small Groups studying the book of Job might want to consider focusing primarily on Job 1-3, browsing through chapters 4-37, and then zeroing back on chapters 38-42.

Psalms
Themes: Worship, A Personal Response to the Person and Work of God
Overview: Psalms is often viewed as a worship manual or poetry book. However, it is often classed with “Wisdom Literature” and provides numerous answers to the question: “How should a righteous person live in a sinful world.” While there is much devotional material for worship, there is just as much practical material for living life. The book of Psalms makes for a great Old Testament study into worship, living for the Lord, right thinking, faithful living, etc.

Proverbs
Themes: Wisdom / Fear of the Lord 
Overview: Proverbs is all about wisdom. Wisdom is defined as “fearing the Lord.” This book is replete with practical advice for how to live life successfully (the literal meaning of the word ‘wisdom’). Proverbs is best studied verse by verse, slowly in small bites and through discussion and meditation. Reading too much in one sitting (even a ½ chapter at a time) causes one to lose the weight and impact of what’s been taught. It makes for an ideal study during family devotions where 2-3 verses are read, discussed for 10-15 minutes, and then prayed about. Using a child-friend version allows for even the youngest readers to fully participate.

Ecclesiastes
Themes: Lived Apart from God is Empty 
Overview: Ecclesiastes is similar to Proverbs in practical advice for living a successful life. It has the added theme of also trying to help the reader assemble a rudder for life’s major decisions and how we should view each day of life we receive. Ecclesiastes is easier to study in a Small Group setting, than Proverbs, because of its shorter length and tighter arrangement of verses around thematic elements.

Song of Solomon
Themes: Romance: God's View of Love and Marriage
Overview: Despite the challenges of Song of Solomon (it can be tricky to follow because it jumps from different perspectives without warning) it’s a great study for married couples looking to turn up the dial on “all dimensions” of marital life. Keep the a/c on because an honest and candid discussion over the various passages will make for some very steamy conversation!

Isaiah
Themes: Salvation
Overview: Isaiah is a monument to God’s grace and plan for salvation. It is filled with amazing prophecy, chilling warnings, inspiration and comfort. It makes for a great study with a Small Group—as long as the guide is able to focus on the numerous nuggets and not get bogged down in the numerous details. A thorough understand of Isaiah is foundational to a thorough understanding of the New Testament.

Jeremiah
Themes: Warning of the Last Hour
Overview: Jeremiah faced a nation hostile to the Lord. It is filled with warnings to everyone—from spiritual leaders, to government, to the average person in the community. It is filled with many wonderful portions of scripture, some known to nearly all believers. At the same time, the numerous warnings are so dire and so protracted that a group study would necessitate a guided approach to finding the most relevant content.

Lamentations
Themes: Weeping & Mourning, The funeral of a City
Overview: Lamentations is written from the perspective that God’s holy city of Jerusalem has been sacked. It fully recognizes the validity of God’s judgment upon His people. There are some very beautiful passages but they are set in the midst of some very dark verses.

Ezekiel
Themes: Condemnation, Consolation, and Restoration
Overview: Ezekiel is another challenging book that is best studied by a group with a guide that moves over the more inscrutable sections. While there are some extremely important chapters (such as Ezekiel 36), there are several interpretative challenges that would confuse many Small Groups.

Daniel
Themes: God's Sovereign Plan for Israel 
Overview: Daniel has two very distinct components. On the one hand it recounts the history of Daniel and his friends in Babylon. One the other hand, it foretells God’s redemptive plan with the Messiah. The historical accounts are going to be extremely familiar (e.g. Daniel and the Lion’s Den) whereas the prophetic accounts are going to be both fascinating and confusing and will likely produce much spirited debate; yet lead to a vastly richer appreciation for the precision of God’s prophetic plan.

Hosea
Themes: Loyal Love
Overview: Hosea is a shocking and almost disturbing account of a prophet’s love for his very unfaithful wife. Ultimately, however, it is a picture of God’ loyal love for His people despite their waywardness. With the right guidance, this book can help groups to wrestle with God’s unconditional love as well as the depth of our own sin. It’s a picture of Romans 5:8 in all of our lives. Also note, that there is a Christian movie called “Amazing Love: The Story of Hosea” that provides a faithful rendition of the book. Adding that movie to the study would make for a warm evening of fellowship and edification.

Joel
Themes: The Day of the Lord (In Retrospect and Prospect), Locusts
Overview: Joel is a short book foretelling the coming judgment of God through an army of locusts. It focuses on the Day of the Lord and provides helpful material in learning Eschatology. It would be best studied in conjunction with other prophetic books such as Zechariah, Daniel and Revelation.

Amos
Themes: Social Injustice of Israel
Overview: Amos centers on the social justice of Israel and provides many principles that correspond to life today. A study focused here and there on various sections of this book would provide a helpful look into ethics and our social responsibility.

Obadiah
Themes: Edom's Judgment, Brother's Keeper
Overview: Obadiah contains the prophetic account of the coming judgment on Edom. It’s very short and ultimately very specific in content. It would be best studied in the midst of a larger study on the Minor Prophets.

Jonah
Themes: God's mercy upon Repentant Gentiles
Overview: Jonah is a familiar story about this prophet’s disobedience, punishment, obedience and disappointment with God. All through the book runs the underlying theme that God is faithful to all people even when we’d rather He not be. It has great principles that would be excellent to draw out in the context of a children’s ministry or youth group—adults would benefit too, of course, though the overall study would be limited to a couple of weeks. This book would make a nice introductory study for a group launching into an examination of global missions.

Micah
Themes: Justice of God Versus the Social Injustice of Judah
Overview: Similar to Amos, Micah centers on the social injustices of Israel. It has some themes/principles that clearly cross into life today.

Nahum
Themes: Nineveh's Judgment & Destruction, Flood
Overview: Nahum predicts God’s coming judgment upon Nineveh. Apparently the city soon forgot Jonah’s warnings and they will finally face destruction. This book would be best studied in the midst of a larger examination of the Minor Prophets.

Habakkuk
Themes: Faith & Doubt & Answers
Overview: Habakkuk is about a prophet’s sincere questions towards God and God’s answers. It’s about a man’s faith being tested but ultimately triumphing because of the character and faithfulness of God. Habakkuk could be studied in 5-7 lessons and serve as the framework to a larger examination of apologetics.

Zephaniah
Themes: Future Global Judgment/Day of the Lord
Overview: Zephaniah is a short book covering prophecies of future global judgment as well as future restoration. Like some of the other minor prophet books, it contains helpful material for eschatology but should also be studied in conjunction with the other apocalyptic literature.

Haggai
Themes: A Call to Construct the Temple, Misplaced Priorities
Overview: Haggai is an excellent book often overlooked because it’s placed between two heavily prophetic books. It’s about how the people of God have discounted God, and yet God is calling them to be renewed in their faithfulness to Him. There is much good material for a Small Group study.

Zechariah
Themes: Israel's Comfort and Glory, Preparation for the Messiah
Overview: Zechariah contains numerous important prophecies for both the first and second coming of the Messiah. It’s a great book for the study of Eschatology but needs to be also read along with Daniel and Revelation.

Malachi
Themes: Disintegration of a Nation, Hearts of Stone
Overview: Malachi is another very practical book that is often overlooked. It’s filled with excellent principles for living life well. It’s brief enough that a group won’t get bogged down in it. Malachi makes a great book to go through between other longer portions of scripture.


NEW TESTAMENT


Matthew
Themes: Jesus as King
Overview: Matthew is the account of the life of Christ from a Jewish perspective. A thorough study of Matthew will help the reader develop a greater understanding of Jewish thinking/culture and prophecy.

Mark
Themes: Jesus as Servant
Overview: Mark is often considered to be Peter’s account of the life of Christ. It’s a fast-paced, highly dramatic exciting narrative. At some points, it zeroes in with great detail, at other points it moves swiftly. It’s a great introductory study into the life of Christ.

Luke
Themes: Jesus as the Son of Man, Jesus as the Perfect Man
Overview: Luke is the researched account of the life of Christ. It’s filled with details and precision. It’s meant for the person who has little understanding of Jewish culture and shows that although Jesus was the Jewish Messiah, He is the Savior of all nations.

John
Themes: Jesus as the Son of God
Overview: John is written from a somewhat different perspective than the other three Gospels and covers much more theology. The person studying John will develop a rich understanding of the details of Jesus’ life, but even more, they gain a deep and profound understanding of the person of Jesus. This is one of the best books for a Small Group to work through.

Acts
Themes: Birth and Growth of the Church
Overview: Acts gives the historical account of the birth and growth of the church. It’s filled with exciting and amazing drama. On the one hand, it’s a great study for a group because it renews our passion to serve in this ever-expanding kingdom of God. On the other hand, if the group is made of disparate believers, it might create tension as the group works through questions about God’s miracles for then and now. 

Romans
Themes: The Righteousness of God
Overview: Romans is Paul’s theological treatise on salvation. It’s about how sinful people (us) can be reconciled to God. Many groups study Romans only to find out that some of its doctrines and themes can become quite daunting. It’s really a terrific study, but the group needs to know that they will be challenged at every level as they work through the material. Leaders should be certain that the group is ready for this kind of commitment before launching into Romans—more than one group has shrunk as the less-than-committed members are not ready or willing to take on the challenges of Romans.

1st Corinthians
Themes: Correction/Condemnation
Overview: 1 Corinthians is Paul’s letter to a church that’s gotten off the right path. Paul’s tone is highly corrective. There is much wonderful, practical, vital material throughout this book and covers everything from pride, to personal purity, to lawsuits, to relationships with others, to marriage, to order in worship, spiritual gifts, to tithing, to Christ’s return, etc.

2nd Corinthians
Themes: Defense of Paul’s Apostleship
Overview: 2 Corinthians is Paul’s sequel to the first letter. Apparently the first letter caused some stir and this is Paul’s answer. It is filled with comforting, consoling words. It reflects Paul’s heart. Like 1 Corinthians, this second letter is filled with practical life-on-life principles and would make a great second study for a Small Group.

Galatians
Themes: Justification by Faith
Overview: Galatians is all about getting the doctrine of justification right. It’s a sharp, fast study into the purity of the Gospel. Likewise, towards the end, Paul gives those familiar verses on walking by the fruit of the Spirit. This book makes an excellent study for groups consisting of members who have come out of a ritual-based understanding of having a relationship with God.

Ephesians
Themes: New Life in Christ 
Overview: Ephesians is an excellent study for a Small Group that is just beginning. It has two divisions, Chapters 1-3 covers our position in Christ. Chapters 4-6 explain how to live that out. It’s a wonderful balance of solid and profound theology intermixed with practical application for life.

Philippians
Themes: Joy and Unity in Christ
Overview: Philippians is often called “God’s Guide to Joy.” Indeed it is, but it’s also much more. It could just as easily be called, “God Guide to Relationships” as Paul helps put in place right thinking so that the Philippian church would have right relationships with the world, their enemies, false teachers, close friends, and less-than-close “friends.” It makes for a great study for a newer Small Group or one that is looking to deepen the fellowship between believers.

Colossians
Theme: All-Sufficiency of Christ
Overview: Colossians is very similar to Ephesians in theme and content, just shorter. It’s a great study for a new group because it focuses on Christ, on our relationship with Him and how that relationship should impact every area of our life. It’s one of the best studies for a Small Group that is just starting out.

1st Thessalonians
Themes: The Model Church
Overview: 1 Thessalonians contains Paul’s happy letter to a church that enjoyed his commendations. They were already living faithfully and just needed some more encouragement for life. This book would make a great, practical study by any group. It also contains some eschatological doctrines too spice-up the group’s discussions.

2nd Thessalonians
Themes:– Work While You Wait, Comfort and Correction
Overview: 2 Thessalonians contains more exhortation than its predecessor. It contains a higher percentage of eschatology and should be studied by a group after they’ve worked through 1 Thessalonians.

1st Timothy
Themes: Shepherd’s Manual, Directions to a Young Pastor
Overview: 1 Timothy is an extremely important book for the setup of the church leadership. It contains numerous exhortations to the pastor about doctrine, teaching, example, false teachers, etc. Likewise, it lays out in detail the qualifications for those in leadership. Although 1 Timothy is essentially a manual for pastors, it should be read and studied by every believer. The principles it contains are not just for leadership, but for everyone.

2nd Timothy
Themes: Soldier’s Manual- Ministry is a battle to be fought
Overview: 2 Timothy is similar in usefulness to 1 Timothy. It goes over similar ground for teaching, conduct, etc. It is somewhat shorter and is best studied by a Small Group that is going through the Pastoral Epistles together (e.g. 1 Timothy, 2 Timothy and Titus).

Titus
Themes: Adorning the Doctrine of God
Overview: Titus is similar to 1 and 2 Timothy in content and purpose. It was written to Titus to guide him in establishing churches. It is more practical and life-on-life than the Timothy epistles. There is so much personal content in Titus that it even makes a great group study independent of the other Pastoral Epistles.

Philemon
Themes: From Bondage to Brotherhood, Slave to Saint
Overview: Philemon is a short letter from Paul to Philemon about an escaped slave. It’s a quick read and most certainly will be bundled together with other of Paul’s letters. It does highlight principles about the transformation of a person, forgiveness, faithfulness, etc.

Hebrews
Themes: The Superiority of Christ 
Overview: Hebrews is a deep and profound study into the supremacy of Christ. This book works through many important Old Testament teachings and shows how they pointed to Christ, were fulfilled in Christ and how they are surpassed in Christ. The group that studies Hebrews together sets out on a course towards a deeper understanding of Christ, greater understanding of our calling as His kingdom people and even a greater understating of our mutual role towards one another.

James
Themes: True Faith Works 
Overview: James is a series of intensely stated but extremely practical points for practical living. It’s a favorite for Small Groups because every week has something for everyone. It’s a great study and just the right overall length.

1st Peter
Themes: The Christian Response to Suffering
Overview: 1 Peter is an important and helpful book for many dimensions of Christian living. It speaks to attitudes of the heart—our approach to the Word, to instruction, to our identity, to the church, to Christ, to family, to trials. It’s an excellent study for a Small Group.

2nd Peter
Themes: Character and Counterfeit Christianity
Overview: 2 Peter primarily warns of false teachers. It covers some very important groundwork for understanding how we got God’s truth and what it means to have counterfeit truth. If studied along with Jude, this would be a great book to work though for a group hoping to have a better understanding of the times in which we live relative to the warnings of the Lord.

1st John
Themes: The Tests of Eternal Life
Overview: 1 John is all about examining ourselves in light of who we are in Christ. Over and over, John lays out principles that true believers will follow. The implied warning is that if these principles are not true in our lives, then we should examine our faith to be sure it’s real. The book of 1 John covers great themes of fellowship, holiness, love, relationships, Christ, God, etc. It makes an excellent study for Small Groups.

2nd John
Themes: Lookout for False Teachers
Overview: 2 John is much shorter than 1 John and basically a warning from the apostle that we must be on the lookout for false teachers. It’s so short that it will most likely be studied with other books. Ideally, it would be examined along with 2 Peter and Jude.

3rd John
Themes: Care for the Saints 
Overview: 3 John resets ground covered by 2 John reinforcing the principles that while we need to watch false teachers (2 John) we need to also lovingly take care of the saints.

Jude
Themes: False Teacher X-Ray
Overview: Jude is very similar to 2 Peter. It’s an X-Ray study on the inner workings and claims of false teachers. It contains much useful material for analyzing today’s religious hucksters. Groups looking to firm up their commitment to sound instruction should study Jude along with 2 Peter.

Revelation
Themes: The Return of Jesus Christ
Overview: Revelation is the final prophecy of God’s Word for the end times. It’s written in apocalyptic language that is difficult to understand and open to interpretation. There is much practical material as well, but usually that material is buried within prophecy. Revelation ends up being a very challenging study for Small Groups because a solid understanding requires real work, especially by the leader. Without a strong, clear commitment to verifiable truth, a group study of Revelation can quickly break down into heated debates about personal opinions.
Published in Church Resources

How do we know that the Bible is actually the Inspired Word of God?

Is the Bible actually God's message to us? When you think about it, this is one of the most important questions a person can ask. If the Bible is a message from God, we must listen to it and set our lives by it. If it is simply a religious text from antiquity, we might marvel by it, but we certainly won’t submit to it.

So IS the Bible inspired? Many people would say “yes” but not be able to give much support. Others would say “no” and might cite something they learned from a college professor or the DaVinci Code. Others would say “I’m not really sure and I don’t really care.” If you’re in any of these groups, I urge you to read closely what we’re about to cover.

If the Bible was inspired, what would expect from it? Pause right now and think about that. What would you expect from the Bible if it were truly a message from God?

I would imagine that you’d probably expect it to be deeply meaningful, deeply important, deeply inspiring. If you thought longer about it, you’d probably also think that when it spoke of things that were related to fact—such as geography, science, history, etc., it would be true. Lastly, if there were areas that it foretold events to come, you’d expect them to actually come about in the manner that was given to us. Well, let me encourage you that the Bible is all this and more!

Let’s start with some foundation concepts that we need to build upon.

For one thing, the Bible claims to be God’s message to us. Now before you start shouting “circular reasoning!” hear me out—in just a few moments, I’ll attempt to show you how we know the Bible is from God. But we need to know that it really presents itself this way. No one reads the ingredients on a box of Fruit Loops and wonders if it’s a message from God. Why would they? It never claims to be. Likewise, the book The Wizard of Oz doesn't claim to be a message from God so no one spends any time wondering about the truth-claims of its message.

But the Bible is different. In over 3000 separate instances, it claims to be a message from God. Over and over it says, “Thus says the Lord…” Over and over it says, “Grace to you and peace from God…” Over and over it says, “Hear the Word of the Lord…” So with 3000 statements like this, we need to sit down and consider the validity of statements such as these. Has the Lord really said these things? Is the Bible a clear and faithful copy of what God wants us to know?

As we dig deeper into this point, let’s think through some of the ways we’d expect God to show that He has indeed given us His message in the Bible.

For one thing, the Bible ought to be true in areas of history, right? Indeed! The Bible is the most consulted ancient text in existence. It is frequently used to explain the archaeological findings in the Middle East and often countries in those areas will have parks & monuments at places where biblical events took place. Modern archaeologists routinely use the Bible to triangulate their findings. The New Testament book of Luke is considered one of the most reliable sources to understanding the political conditions of ancient Rome.

So these days, the Bible is regularly acknowledged to be historically reliable, even by secular scholars. But this wasn't always the case. A couple centuries ago, scholars used to say that the Bible was filled with factual errors in relation to historical events. They’d cite a few examples of people/places that they assumed never existed. For instance, they use to say that the most famous king of Israel, known as David, never existed. He was just myth. And then they'd tease out the conclusion and say that since David never lived, massive sections of the Bible must be historically inaccurate. This "factoid" (a false fact presented as true) was often cited until the early 1990s. Then in 1993, archaeologists found steles (historical monuments of the ancient world) that referred to King David. Suddenly, one of the key examples of "biblical errors" came to an abrupt end. Wow, David really lived. 

The same is true for ancient people groups such as the Hittites, mentioned in the Bible. For much of modern scholarship, there had yet to be found any trace of the Hittites. The notion of Hittites really living was laughed at by scholars. But over time, not only has archaeology found proof of the Hittites, they now have the capital in along the Turkey/Syria border. Google “Hittite Capital” and you won’t find anyone saying “the Hittites were mythical people.” 

Well, we could go on and on with more examples, but the point has been made, the Bible IS historically accurate and these attempts to discredit it consistently end up being disproven.

How about geography? Did all those places really exist? When we read the book The Wizard of Oz, we hear about the Emerald City and the Yellow Brick Road. In some ancient myths we hear about mythical places like Atlantis. The Book of Mormon talks about a whole subcontinent located below North America called Nephi. Yet no true scientist recognizes that these places have ever existed.

On the other hand, when you look at the Bible, it’s amazingly current. You’ve probably heard of Jerusalem, Jericho, Gaza…these are all real places today and are on the evening news all the time. They are also mentioned throughout the Bible. They are real places. Sure, some cities have changed their names but that’s not a problem—if you look at the history of many towns in America, they often change their names (note Hagerstown, MD). But where the Bible is concerned, there are NO lost continents, no mysterious lands, nothing like that at all. It’s just straight fact—in fact, as I mentioned at the beginning of this article, the Bible is actually used in archaeology to help determine what cities are being discovered when they’re dug up.

Let’s go on to science…

People often say that the Bible is full of scientific inaccuracy. What they’re talking about is really the first few chapters of Genesis, because (let's be honest) these chapters are a pretty jarring read if you’ve never read anything like them before. You’ve got God creating things in the blink of an eye and not in the order we'd expect. To our modern senses, it seems so contrary to what we learn in High School and College. If that's you, I can relate. I didn't grow up reading or believing the Bible. At first, these chapters threw me too. So, I was once there too, I know how it is.


But I gave the Bible an honest look. If God COULD do anything, He certainly could do everything Genesis 1-11 contains. Likewise, if the Bible is truly from God, than either it really happened as it is described (which I personally believe) or at least it’s something God wants us to understand because the theology of the first eleven chapters of Genesis is amazing. If you are interested in this topic, there are many books that seek to prove the reality of Genesis through REAL science. Don’t let the skeptics drown out the voices of these up and coming scientific discoveries. Increasingly, our ability to examine nature is proving (rather than disproving) these things. Studies in String Theory, Time-Dilation, DNA, and astronomy continue to verify rather than discredit the Bible. Likewise, Creationist theories such as Irreducible Complexity and Apparent Age answer many (perhaps even most) questions from skeptics. And while I don’t have the time or resources to go into this exciting branch of science, look into these links and consider for yourself if perhaps the Bible is saying things that are true after all.

Another important point to understand is that the Bible is a book written to all mankind from God. Not everyone in history had 145 IQs. Not everyone in history understood cause and effect, scientific theory, etc. Yet the Bible is written FOR the professor of Harvard just as much as for the Motilone Indian in Columbia--both need to be able to read it and understand it. The wording had to be accurate, but meaningful. Therefore, the wording God uses accurately explains His truths in a manner that actually makes sense to all people groups throughout history. When you consider this point, it's quite astounding that a Berkeley Professors and a NFL football player and a CEOs can all find out that indeed, God's Word is true.

So we need to understand, when the Bible talks about science, it’s accurate--it might not use the same terms as we do, and it might not be as precise as our modern science, but when it speaks to matters of life and nature, it is accurate. For instance, the Bible says that the Earth is round (Is 40:22) –that wasn't even the prevailing belief in science until a few centuries ago. Likewise, it describes a limitless expanse of the universe (Is 55:9). Likewise, it talks about the stars being innumerable (Jer 33:22) and while we have tried to map and count every star, thanks to Hubble we've found out that some “stars” we’re looking at are actually whole galaxies--definitely not numerable! Sometimes you'll hear people talk about the dimensions of a giant round bowl in 1 Kings 7--it's 30 cubits around and 10 cubits across. The quick math says that pi would have to be "3" rather than 3.14. This is one of the few "Bible inaccuracies" that some people throw out. But there's a backstory that they are missing. For one thing, 3 and 3.14 aren't so far off, when you think about it and not bad for people who didn't have modern mathematics. But more importantly, the full description of the text in 1 Kings 7 explains that the disk is shaped like a flower where the lip flairs outward so that the dimensions of the lip are different than the inner dimensions of the bowl. Thus the questions of "pi" are resolved when we understand the irregular shape of the sides of the bowl. So all this is to underscore, that while I'm not saying that the Bible is a science text book, I am saying that when it refers to things that can be examined scientifically, it is accurate.

So far we’ve talked about how the Bible is amazingly frank and candid when it discusses matters of history, geography, science, etc. But these don’t fully convince or satisfy us—a telephone book better be pretty accurate, but we don’t put our eternal soul in its hands. So let’s move on…

The Bible is more than just an accurate ancient book, indeed it has a voice and tone that sets it apart from all other literature. When you read scripture, there is a powerful message that is being bull-dozed into your soul. It’s a message of God’s holiness and man’s sinfulness. It’s a message of God’s goodness and man’s rebellion. It’s a message of the measures God has done to reconcile us to Him, and it’s a message of the horrific reality that awaits those who refuse Him. This message is so complete, and so unified, we take it for granted. I doubt anyone reading what I just wrote blinked an eye because this is simply the message of scripture through and through. The fact that scripture has this message is something of a miracle in itself.

You see, the Bible is an old book. And not only was it old, it was written across a spectrum of cultures and regions. Some of it is a record of oral tradition that is so exact that it baffles modern scholars. Some of it is a force of unity that it amazes its students.

Here’s what I mean. The Bible was written by about 40 authors over 2000 years. Think about that for a minute. Have you ever heard JFK’s speeches? While they are beautiful, they clearly represent a perspective on life that is different from most of ours today. And yet, that was only 40-50 years ago! Look at the changes in America in the last century—from technology, to morality, to politics, to the family. Our nation has changed. And yet the Bible has an amazingly unchanging message from cover to cover.

And it wasn't just because they were all drinking the same Kool-Aid. Back then, generally is was just the rich who had access to education. Generally just the rich had access to the writing implements to record information. Generally just the rich had access to other copies of literature. Yet the Bible was written by the rich and the poor. It was written by kings and peasants; doctors and fisherman. It was written from Israel, Babylon and even a small island in the Mediterranean Sea. If Americans, can't agree with Americans from 40-50 years ago, how could the Bible be so unified when written over such a span of time and by such a spectrum of people?

And lest you think I’m talking about the obvious stuff—like “God is loving” I’m not. I wouldn’t be very impressed if the only unified thing the Bible could say about God is that He is loving. But there is so much more! There are subtle “rivers” of truth that flow throughout scripture that would be missed if it were not for the complete revelation. For instance, you may not know this but the classic phrase from Genesis 1:1 “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth” is nestled into a subtle statement of the doctrine of the Trinity. Genesis 1:2 talks about “God” (the Father). Genesis 1:2 talks about the Spirit. Genesis 1:3 talks about the “Word”—which is another term for Jesus. A few verses later, when God talks about creating people, He says in Genesis 1:26 “Let us make man in our image”—wow, it sounds like God is plural there. However, in the very next verse it says, “God created man in his own image”–now it’s back to singular. Even in these verses we can see the germinal idea of the plurality of the godhead united in one person (sorry for the fancy theological terms there). That’s an amazing and subtle message that is carried through the whole Bible.

I could go on and talk about the unified message the nature of sin and the need for faith instead of works, the coming Messiah, the nature of God’s wrath, the nature of prophecy, etc. These, and countless other themes, are quite astounding in their unity. They present God in a complex array of facets, each complementing and further highlighting the person and nature of God. When you really take the time to look at these, and consider them in light of how the Bible has 40 authors over 2000 years, it’s beyond possible.

No other religious work can say this. The Book of Morman claims to be from God along with the Bible, but its contradictions with the Bible are dizzying. The Quran has so many contradictions, they have a whole system of how to handle them. They solve the problem by saying that whatever was spoken last overrides whatever was said earlier! Wow! [Now, just in case you’re thinking Christians do that with the Old and New Testaments, there is a huge difference. For one thing, the Old Testament has large sections that are about ceremonial law of sacrifices. But the ceremonial law was fulfilled (and therefore finished) in Christ so now we don’t need to follow that specific code anymore. It was legitimately fulfilled and therefore its purpose and presence is complete.] Going on, let's pause to consider Hindu writings. Hinduism has so many "gods" that no one even tries to assemble Hindu teachings into a single source. Their teachings cover so many “gods” that their contradictions end up being something akin to brand loyalties--you choose a god much like choosing Pepsi over Snapple. You like the taste of this god over that one. Again, the Bible is nothing like this.

As we look at the Bible, we begin to develop the clear impression that this book is like none other. Sure lots of books claim to be from God, but none have the precision, form, power, and message of scripture. Indeed, the very theme of the Bible is unlike anything else: God is holy and pure. He created man without sin. Man rebelled against God and has been cast from His presence. God loved man despite this rebellion. God made the way for man to be reconciled to Him: He sent His perfect Son who would give His life as a ransom for their sins. Then God would even give people the faith necessary to believe this message. Finally, God would place His Holy Spirit into His people so that they could then live and walk with Him. It’s an amazing message without parallel in the rest of the world.

And this brings us to our final “proof” that the Bible is the Word of God—it truly changes people’s lives. I once heard a proverb from Winston Churchill that "the world is run by tired men." I don’t know if he really said it, but it makes sense that he would because he was known to function on just four hours of sleep during World War II. The thing is, if we were to take Winston’s words and apply them to every person’s life in every situation, we’d really bungle the whole world. Everyone would be exhausted and things would start falling apart. What was “wise” for one dude, doesn't apply to all men everywhere.

But the Bible is not like that. The Bible (when interpreted and applied correctly) is relevant for every person in every culture in every epoch of humanity. It’s power works in kings and aboriginals. It’s transforming nature cleanses movie stars and skid row bums. As a pastor, I have a front row seat in watching God change people’s lives all the time; it's what keeps me excited about the ministry. I’ve seen first-hand how the clear, simple message can being about the total new birth in a prostitute so that after she followed it’s teachings, she was transformed and was nothing like the person she once was. I knew her before and after and her life is a miracle of the handiwork of God. The Bible changes lives. If you set out to obey each line of scripture, you WILL be different. And that difference won’t come as the result of your own “boot strap” will power, it comes by the power of God, through His Spirit, working in you and through you. It’s truly amazing!

So having said all of this, now we’ve got to make a decision. What are we going to do with all of this? Can we simply walk away? Do we have that luxury? Is that even an option anymore? Indeed it is not. You must decide what you are going to do. At this point, you can either harden your heart to God, or you can surrender your heart to Him and commit—like the psalmist in Psalm 119:4—to obey God’s word diligently.

Lastly, keep in mind that the message of the Bible is clear: We need a savior to reconcile us to God. I've written another blog post article about how we can be saved by God when we surrender to Him.

Also, if you have time, here's my personal story about how God transformed my life. If you come to Him, He will work in your life too.

If you need help, drop me a line. I’d love to help you walk with God through the study of His word.

Thanks and God Bless!

Russ

 

 

 

 

 

 

Published in Blog
Thursday, 22 September 2011 09:54

The Trinity

Trinity

Isaiah 34:16 (NASB95) 16 Seek from the book of the Lord, and read: Not one of these will be missing; None will lack its mate. For His mouth has commanded, And His Spirit has gathered them.

Judges 13:3 (NASB95) 3 Then the angel of the Lord appeared to the woman and said to her, “Behold now, you are barren and have borne no children, but you shall conceive and give birth to a son….Judges 13:22 (NASB95) 22 So Manoah said to his wife, “We will surely die, for we have seen God.”… Judges 13:25 (NASB95) 25 And the Spirit of the Lord began to stir him in Mahaneh-dan, between Zorah and Eshtaol.

Isaiah 48:16 (NASB95) 16 “Come near to Me, listen to this: From the first I have not spoken in secret, From the time it took place, I was there. And now the Lord God has sent Me, and His Spirit.”

John 10:30 (NASB95) 30 “I and the Father are one.”

Matthew 28:19 (NASB95) 19 “Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit,

John 5:18 (NASB95) 18 For this reason therefore the Jews were seeking all the more to kill Him, because He not only was breaking the Sabbath, but also was calling God His own Father, making Himself equal with God.

John 14:9 (NASB95) 9 Jesus said to him, “Have I been so long with you, and yet you have not come to know Me, Philip? He who has seen Me has seen the Father; how can you say, ‘Show us the Father’?

Romans 8:9-10 (NASB95) 9 However, you are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if indeed the Spirit of God dwells in you. But if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he does not belong to Him. 10 If Christ is in you, though the body is dead because of sin, yet the spirit is alive because of righteousness.

1 Corinthians 6:11 (NASB95) 11 Such were some of you; but you were washed, but you were sanctified, but you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and in the Spirit of our God.

Ephesians 5:18-20 (NASB95) 18 And do not get drunk with wine, for that is dissipation, but be filled with the Spirit, 19 speaking to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody with your heart to the Lord; 20 always giving thanks for all things in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ to God, even the Father;

Ephesians 4:4-6 (NASB95) 4 There is one body and one Spirit, just as also you were called in one hope of your calling; 5 one Lord, one faith, one baptism, 6 one God and Father of all who is over all and through all and in all.

Romans 8:2 (NASB95) 2 For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has set you free from the law of sin and of death…Romans 8:7 (NASB95) 7 because the mind set on the flesh is hostile toward God; for it does not subject itself to the law of God, for it is not even able to do so,

2 Corinthians 13:14 (NASB95) 14 The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit, be with you all.

John 14:26 (NASB95) 26 “But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name, He will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all that I said to you.

Romans 1:4 (NASB95) 4 who was declared the Son of God with power by the resurrection from the dead, according to the Spirit of holiness, Jesus Christ our Lord,

ohn 15:26 (NASB95) 26 “When the Helper comes, whom I will send to you from the Father, that is the Spirit of truth who proceeds from the Father, He will testify about Me,

Luke 1:35 (NASB95) 35 The angel answered and said to her, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; and for that reason the holy Child shall be called the Son of God.

Matthew 3:16-17 (NASB95) 16 After being baptized, Jesus came up immediately from the water; and behold, the heavens were opened, and he saw the Spirit of God descending as a dove and lighting on Him, 17 and behold, a voice out of the heavens said, “This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well-pleased.”

Luke 3:22 (NASB95) 22 and the Holy Spirit descended upon Him in bodily form like a dove, and a voice came out of heaven, “You are My beloved Son, in You I am well-pleased.”

1 Peter 1:2 (NASB95) 2 according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, by the sanctifying work of the Spirit, to obey Jesus Christ and be sprinkled with His blood: May grace and peace be yours in the fullest measure.

Acts 10:36-38 (NASB95) 36 “The word which He sent to the sons of Israel, preaching peace through Jesus Christ (He is Lord of all)— 37 you yourselves know the thing which took place throughout all Judea, starting from Galilee, after the baptism which John proclaimed. 38 “You know of Jesus of Nazareth, how God anointed Him with the Holy Spirit and with power, and how He went about doing good and healing all who were oppressed by the devil, for God was with Him.

Acts 5:3-4 (NASB95) 3 But Peter said, “Ananias, why has Satan filled your heart to lie to the Holy Spirit and to keep back some of the price of the land? 4 “While it remained unsold, did it not remain your own? And after it was sold, was it not under your control? Why is it that you have conceived this deed in your heart? You have not lied to men but to God.”

1 John 5:6 (NASB95) 6 This is the One who came by water and blood, Jesus Christ; not with the water only, but with the water and with the blood. It is the Spirit who testifies, because the Spirit is the truth.

Hebrews 9:14 (NASB95) 14 how much more will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered Himself without blemish to God, cleanse your conscience from dead works to serve the living God?

1 Timothy 3:16 (NASB95) 16 By common confession, great is the mystery of godliness: He who was revealed in the flesh, Was vindicated in the Spirit, Seen by angels, Proclaimed among the nations, Believed on in the world, Taken up in glory.

2 Thessalonians 2:13 (NASB95) 13 But we should always give thanks to God for you, brethren beloved by the Lord, because God has chosen you from the beginning for salvation through sanctification by the Spirit and faith in the truth.

Philippians 1:19 (NASB95) 19 for I know that this will turn out for my deliverance through your prayers and the provision of the Spirit of Jesus Christ,

Galatians 4:6 (NASB95) 6 Because you are sons, God has sent forth the Spirit of His Son into our hearts, crying, “Abba! Father!”

1 Corinthians 6:19 (NASB95) 19 Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and that you are not your own?

1 Corinthians 2:10 (NASB95) 10 For to us God revealed them through the Spirit; for the Spirit searches all things, even the depths of God.

Romans 8:26-27 (NASB95) 26 In the same way the Spirit also helps our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we should, but the Spirit Himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words; 27 and He who searches the hearts knows what the mind of the Spirit is, because He intercedes for the saints according to the will of God

Matthew 3:16-17 (NASB95) 16 After being baptized, Jesus came up immediately from the water; and behold, the heavens were opened, and he saw the Spirit of God descending as a dove and lighting on Him, 17 and behold, a voice out of the heavens said, “This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well-pleased.”

Luke 3:22 (NASB95) 22 and the Holy Spirit descended upon Him in bodily form like a dove, and a voice came out of heaven, “You are My beloved Son, in You I am well-pleased.”

1 Peter 1:2 (NASB95) 2 according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, by the sanctifying work of the Spirit, to obey Jesus Christ and be sprinkled with His blood: May grace and peace be yours in the fullest measure.

Acts 10:36-38 (NASB95) 36 “The word which He sent to the sons of Israel, preaching peace through Jesus Christ (He is Lord of all)— 37 you yourselves know the thing which took place throughout all Judea, starting from Galilee, after the baptism which John proclaimed. 38 “You know of Jesus of Nazareth, how God anointed Him with the Holy Spirit and with power, and how He went about doing good and healing all who were oppressed by the devil, for God was with Him.

Acts 5:3-4 (NASB95) 3 But Peter said, “Ananias, why has Satan filled your heart to lie to the Holy Spirit and to keep back some of the price of the land? 4 “While it remained unsold, did it not remain your own? And after it was sold, was it not under your control? Why is it that you have conceived this deed in your heart? You have not lied to men but to God.”

1 John 5:6 (NASB95) 6 This is the One who came by water and blood, Jesus Christ; not with the water only, but with the water and with the blood. It is the Spirit who testifies, because the Spirit is the truth.

Hebrews 9:14 (NASB95) 14 how much more will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered Himself without blemish to God, cleanse your conscience from dead works to serve the living God?

1 Timothy 3:16 (NASB95) 16 By common confession, great is the mystery of godliness: He who was revealed in the flesh, Was vindicated in the Spirit, Seen by angels, Proclaimed among the nations, Believed on in the world, Taken up in glory.

2 Thessalonians 2:13 (NASB95) 13 But we should always give thanks to God for you, brethren beloved by the Lord, because God has chosen you from the beginning for salvation through sanctification by the Spirit and faith in the truth.

Philippians 1:19 (NASB95) 19 for I know that this will turn out for my deliverance through your prayers and the provision of the Spirit of Jesus Christ,

Galatians 4:6 (NASB95) 6 Because you are sons, God has sent forth the Spirit of His Son into our hearts, crying, “Abba! Father!”

1 Corinthians 6:19 (NASB95) 19 Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and that you are not your own?

1 Corinthians 2:10 (NASB95) 10 For to us God revealed them through the Spirit; for the Spirit searches all things, even the depths of God.

Romans 8:26-27 (NASB95) 26 In the same way the Spirit also helps our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we should, but the Spirit Himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words; 27 and He who searches the hearts knows what the mind of the Spirit is, because He intercedes for the saints according to the will of God.

Published in Verse Lists
Saturday, 21 May 2011 10:14

Ordo Salutis = Order of Salvation

Here's a quick chart on how God works in our salvation:

Order of Salvation Chart

The blue is all of the work of God.

The Green is where we are involved (though this is still the work of God).

The purple is the presence of the Lord.


a.            God predestined some for salvation (decree from eternity past)

(1)            Ephesians 1:4-5 just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we would be holy and blameless before Him. In love He predestined us to adoption as sons through Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the kind intention of His will…

b.            God provided the atonement for those elected

(1)            1 Peter 3:18 “For Christ also suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, that he might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh but made alive in the spirit.”

c.            God called those who were predestined

(1)            John 6:65 And He was saying, “For this reason I have said to you, that no one can come to Me unless it has been granted him from the Father.”

(2)            John 6:44 “No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws him; and I will raise him up on the last day.

d.            God regenerates those whom He called

(1)            John 3:6 “That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit.”

(2)            2 Corinthians 5:17 “Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation”

e.            Those who are regenerated believe and repent

(1)            Acts 3:19 “Therefore repent and return, so that your sins may be wiped away, in order that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord;”

f.            Those who believe and repent are justified

(1)            Romans 5:1 “Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ,”

g.            Those who repent are reconciled to God

(1)            Romans 5:1 “Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ,”

(2)            2 Corinthians 5:18 “Now all these things are from God, who reconciled us to Himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation,”

h.            Those who are reconciled are adopted

(1)            John 1:12 “But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, even to those who believe in His name,”

i.            Those who are adopted are transformed to be like Christ

(1)            2 Thessalonians 2:13 “But we should always give thanks to God for you, brethren beloved by the Lord, because God has chosen you from the beginning for salvation through sanctification by the Spirit and faith in the truth.”

j.            Those who are predestined will one day be glorified

 

(1)            Romans 8:30 “And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified…”

Published in Blog
Saturday, 09 April 2011 19:25

Why the Apocrypha is NOT part of God's Word

Josephus – “From Artaxerxes to our own times a complete history has been written, but has not been deemed worthy of equal credit with the earlier records, because of the failure of the exact succession of the prophets (Against Apion 1.41).”

Quick Reasons the Apocrypha Is Not Inspired

1) They were not considered to be part of the Bible until the Council of Trent in 1546 when the Catholics were reacting to Luther's rejection of them. At that time, they were they made officially part of the Bible.

2) The NT never quotes from the Apocrypha. Supposed quotes are not really quotes at all. Jude 14-15 refers to the book called I Enoch (specifically I Enoch 60:8 and 1.9), but that is not a part of the Apocrypha. Likewise, his references are not as though they are inspired words of God.

3) Jews classified which writings were canonical, and they did not include the apocrypha.

“When I came to the east and reached the place where these things were preached and done, and learnt accurately the boks of the Old Testament, I set down the fact and sent them to you. These are their names: five books of Moses, Genesis, Exodus, Numbers, Leviticus, Deuteronomy, Joshua the son of Nun, Judges, Ruth, four books of Kingdoms, two books of Chronicles, the Psalmes of David, the Proverbs of Solomon and his Wisdom, Ecclesiastes, the Son of Songs, Job, the prophets Isaiah, Jeremiah, the Twelve in a single book, Daniel, Ezekiel, Ezra.” (Melito, Bishop of Sardis, c. 170 AD).

4) Major church fathers didn't use the Apocrypha. Jerome, the translator of the Vulgate, didn't consider them inspired and disputed with Augustine about them. Likewise, Josephus excluded them. The Council of Jamnia (90 AD) did not recognize them.

5) When the scripture was being translated into other languages (e.g. Syriac) the Apocrypha was not included in the translations.

6) No early council of churches endorsed them.

7) The Jews felt that the Holy Spirit stopped prophesying after Malachi in 400 BC whereas the Apocrypha was written after 200 BC.

“After the latter prophets Haggai, Zechariah, and Malachi had died, the Holy Spirit departed from Israel…(Babylonian Talmud, Yomah 9b).

8) They never claim to be the word of God.

9) All of the Catholic arguments for them being inspired only prove that the early church fathers esteemed them. In fact, there is no set of ancient scriptures that includes a full set of the Catholic Apocryphal books. Nor has there ever been initial, continual, full recognition by the church.

10) There is no record of Jesus and the Jews having any disagreement over the extent of the Canon, though an argument from silence, it seems evident that there was total agreement about what was the Word of God.

Heretical Passages in the Apocrypha:

Purgatory:

Wisdom 3:5-6

Meritorious Good Works:

Tobit 4:10, 12:9; Sirach 3:30, 29:11-12

Praying for dead

2 Maccabees 12:45

Published in Blog
Saturday, 09 April 2011 19:09

How the Bible Came Together

Since the DaVinci Code came out a few years ago, many people have talked about how and when the Bible came together. The fancy term for this is the word “Canon” which means “standard” or “rule”. When “canon” is used of the Bible, it means the books that the church considers inspired and authoritative for all churches and all time.

Now, although the DaVinci Code casts various doubts on the origin of the Bible, the matter of the Canon of the Bible is not nearly as dubious as skeptics would like to make is sound. The following are some important and compelling points:

The last book of the Bible (Revelation) was written between 94-96 AD. When the early church writings are examined (some which may have even been written earlier than the book of Revelation) it can be seen that most of the New Testament that we currently use was already considered inspired literature.

In 110 AD, only about 15 years after the Book of Revelation was written, most of the New Testament letters were being used and cited by the church fathers. Indeed, by 115 AD we have evidence that all but two NT letters were being used by the church. It is even possible that those remaining two letters were being used and yet never referred to in written form.

Soon after the New Testament texts were being used, it became apparent to the early church that there needed to be a formal list of which books needed to be preserved, translated by missionaries, died to protect, etc. By 206 AD in the Barococcio Codex, all the New Testament books except for one were included. That remaining book, the Book of Revelation, can be understood to have not yet been widely distributed because the work itself was so new on the scene.

No doubt, during these days, individual churches had established a specific list of books they considered inspired. While individual churches may have had their lists, that list was formally ratified by all the Christian churches at the Council of Nicea in 325 AD.

We need to realize that prior to the Council of Nicea in 325 AD, it is not as though spurious books were floating around and being used. Rather, baring only a couple of exceptions, no other books were ever considered to be inspired.

As for those exceptions, they are not very troubling. Indeed, they were works that were used by just a particular group or church. Its not a conflict of inspiration to even wonder if perhaps God had in fact given those letters to those churches as inspired literature. It seems clear that there were other letters written by Paul, and authoritative, but not included in the 27 book canon we use. I think its fair to say that it is possible that at some level, God had inspired them but that they were not intended for the universal church to embrace as authoritative. Thus, the early church recognized this dynamic and did not include them in the canon.

Lastly, although we are discussing the course of history and when the church had total agreement on the Canon, still we need to remember that the canon was actually closed when the last New Testament book was completed. The church’s recognition of these inspired texts did not make them inspired. What made them inspired was the breath of God. Thus, what we have today is the very breath of God in verbal form (2 Timothy 3:16) preserved to us in our Bibles.

Published in Blog
Thursday, 24 March 2011 14:40

Eternal Life in the Old Testament

Eternal Life / Resurrection in the Old Testament

Every now and then I hear someone say that there are no references to Eternal Life in the Jewish Old Testament. That is completely erroneous as these following verses indicate. Not only was the doctrine of Eternal Life in the Old Testament taught, but clearly demonstrated and applied.

Psalm 49:15 But God will redeem my soul from the power of Sheol, for He will receive me.

Psalm 71:20 You who have shown me many troubles and distresses Will revive me again, And will bring me up again from the depths of the earth.(NASB95)

Psalm 73:24 With Your counsel You will guide me, And afterward receive me to glory.(NASB95)

Isaiah 26:19 Your dead will live; Their corpses will rise. You who lie in the dust, awake and shout for joy, For your dew is as the dew of the dawn, And the earth will give birth to the departed spirits.(NASB95)

Hosea 6:1-2 “Come, let us return to the Lord. For He has torn us, but He will heal us; He has wounded us, but He will bandage us. “He will revive us after two days; He will raise us up on the third day, That we may live before Him.(NASB95)

Job 19:25-26 “As for me, I know that my Redeemer lives, And at the last He will take His stand on the earth. “Even after my skin is destroyed, Yet from my flesh I shall see God;(NASB95)

Ezekiel 37:12-14 “Therefore prophesy and say to them, ‘Thus says the Lord God, “Behold, I will open your graves and cause you to come up out of your graves, My people; and I will bring you into the land of Israel. “Then you will know that I am the Lord, when I have opened your graves and caused you to come up out of your graves, My people. “I will put My Spirit within you and you will come to life, and I will place you on your own land. Then you will know that I, the Lord, have spoken and done it,”declares the Lord.’ ”(NASB95)

1 Samuel 2:6 “The Lord kills and makes alive; He brings down to Sheol and raises up.(NASB95)

Ezekiel 27:1-14 Moreover, the word of the Lord came to me saying, “And you, son of man, take up a lamentation over Tyre; and say to Tyre, who dwells at the entrance to the sea, merchant of the peoples to many coastlands, ‘Thus says the Lord God, “O Tyre, you have said, ‘I am perfect in beauty.’ “Your borders are in the heart of the seas; Your builders have perfected your beauty. “They have made all your planks of fir trees from Senir; They have taken a cedar from Lebanon to make a mast for you. “Of oaks from Bashan they have made your oars; With ivory they have inlaid your deck of boxwood from the coastlands of Cyprus. “Your sail was of fine embroidered linen from Egypt So that it became your distinguishing mark; Your awning was blue and purple from the coastlands of Elishah. “The inhabitants of Sidon and Arvad were your rowers; Your wise men, O Tyre, were aboard; they were your pilots. “The elders of Gebal and her wise men were with you repairing your seams; All the ships of the sea and their sailors were with you in order to deal in your merchandise. “Persia and Lud and Put were in your army, your men of war. They hung shield and helmet in you; they set forth your splendor. “The sons of Arvad and your army were on your walls, all around, and the Gammadim were in your towers. They hung their shields on your walls all around; they perfected your beauty. “Tarshish was your customer because of the abundance of all kinds of wealth; with silver, iron, tin and lead they paid for your wares. “Javan, Tubal and Meshech, they were your traders; with the lives of men and vessels of bronze they paid for your merchandise. “Those from Beth-togarmah gave horses and war horses and mules for your wares.(NASB95)

Daniel 12:2 “Many of those who sleep in the dust of the ground will awake, these to everlasting life, but the others to disgrace and everlasting contempt.(NASB95)

Hosea 13:14 Shall I ransom them from the power of Sheol? Shall I redeem them from death? O Death, where are your thorns? O Sheol, where is your sting? Compassion will be hidden from My sight.(NASB95)

Psalm 16:10 For You will not abandon my soul to Sheol; Nor will You allow Your Holy One to undergo decay.(NASB95)

Psalm 86:13 For Your lovingkindness toward me is great, And You have delivered my soul from the depths of Sheol.(NASB95)

Psalm 41:12 You set me in Your presence forever.

 

Heaven is the place where God Dwells

Psalm 119:89 Forever, O Lord, Your word is settled in heaven.(NASB95)

Psalm 113:5-6 Who is like the Lord our God, Who is enthroned on high, Who humbles Himself to behold The things that are in heaven and in the earth?(NASB95)

Deuteronomy 4:39 “Know therefore today, and take it to your heart, that the Lord, He is God in heaven above and on the earth below; there is no other.(NASB95)

Job 1:6 Now there was a day when the sons of God came to present themselves before the Lord, and Satan also came among them.(NASB95)

1 Kings 22:19 Micaiah said, “Therefore, hear the word of the Lord. I saw the Lord sitting on His throne, and all the host of heaven standing by Him on His right and on His left.(NASB95)

Deuteronomy 26:15 ‘Look down from Your holy habitation, from heaven, and bless Your people Israel, and the ground which You have given us, a land flowing with milk and honey, as You swore to our fathers.’(NASB95)

2 Kings 2:11 As they were going along and talking, behold, there appeared a chariot of fire and horses of fire which separated the two of them. And Elijah went up by a whirlwind to heaven.(NASB95)

 

Being in God’s Presence is A Reward to His People

Psalm 73:24 With Your counsel You will guide me, And afterward receive me to glory.(NASB95)

Hosea 6:1-2 “Come, let us return to the Lord. For He has torn us, but He will heal us; He has wounded us, but He will bandage us. “He will revive us after two days; He will raise us up on the third day, That we may live before Him.(NASB95)

Psalm 61:5-8 For You have heard my vows, O God; You have given me the inheritance of those who fear Your name. You will prolong the king’s life; His years will be as many generations. He will abide before God forever; Appoint lovingkindness and truth that they may preserve him. So I will sing praise to Your name forever, That I may pay my vows day by day.(NASB95)

Isaiah 24:23 Then the moon will be abashed and the sun ashamed, For the Lord of hosts will reign on Mount Zion and in Jerusalem, And His glory will be before His elders.(NASB95)

Isaiah 66:20 “Then they shall bring all your brethren from all the nations as a grain offering to the Lord, on horses, in chariots, in litters, on mules and on camels, to My holy mountain Jerusalem,” says the Lord, “just as the sons of Israel bring their grain offering in a clean vessel to the house of the Lord.(NASB95)

Psalm 41:12 (NASB95) 12 As for me, You uphold me in my integrity, And You set me in Your presence forever.

Proverbs 14:32 (NASB95) 32 The wicked is thrust down by his wrongdoing, But the righteous has a refuge when he dies.

1 Samuel 2:6 (NASB95) 6 “The Lord kills and makes alive; He brings down to Sheol and raises up.

Psalm 22:29 (NASB95) 29 All the prosperous of the earth will eat and worship, All those who go down to the dust will bow before Him, Even he who cannot keep his soul alive.

Genesis 49:33 (NASB95) 33 When Jacob finished charging his sons, he drew his feet into the bed and breathed his last, and was gathered to his people. The term gathered to his people – Gen 49:33

Psalm 49:15 (NASB95) 15 But God will redeem my soul from the power of Sheol, For He will receive me.Selah.

Psalm 48:14 (NASB95) 14 For such is God, Our God forever and ever; He will guide us until death.

Psalm 102:26 26 “Even they will perish, but You endure; And all of them will wear out like a garment; Like clothing You will change them and they will be changed.

Isaiah 65:17 17 “For behold, I create new heavens and a new earth; And the former things will not be remembered or come to mind.

Isaiah 66:22 22 “For just as the new heavens and the new earth Which I make will endure before Me,” declares the Lord, “So your offspring and your name will endure.

Published in Verse Lists
Wednesday, 16 March 2011 10:46

The Problem of Evil

Here is a great "chain email" delineating the Christian's response to the problem of evil:
God vs. Evil

'Let me explain the problem science has with religion.' The atheist
professor of philosophy pauses before his class and then asks one of his
new students to stand.

'You're a Christian, aren't you, son?'

'Yes sir,' the student says.

'So you believe in God?'

'Absolutely.’

'Is God good?'

'Sure! God's good.'

'Is God all-powerful? Can God do anything?'

'Yes'

'Are you good or evil?'

'The Bible says I'm evil.'

The professor grins knowingly. 'Aha! The Bible!' He considers for a
moment. 'Here's one for you. Let's say there's a sick person over here
and you can cure him. You can do it. Would you help him? Would you try?'

'Yes sir, I would.'

'So you're good...!'

'I wouldn't say that.'

'But why not say that? You'd help a sick and maimed person if you could.
Most of us would if we could. But God doesn't.'

The student does not answer, so the professor continues. 'He doesn't,
does he? My brother was a Christian who died of cancer, even though he
prayed to Jesus to heal him. How is this Jesus good? Hmmm? Can you
answer that one?'

The student remains silent.

'No, you can't, can you?' the professor says. He takes a sip of water
from a glass on his desk to give the student time to relax.

'Let's start again, young fella. Is God good?'

'Er..yes,' the student says.

"is Satan good?'

The student doesn't hesitate on this one. 'No.'

'Then where does Satan come from?'

The student falters. 'From God'

'That's right. God made Satan, didn't he? Tell me, son. Is there evil in
this world?'

'Yes, sir.'

'Evil's everywhere, isn't it? And God did make everything correct??

'Yes'

'So who created evil?' The professor continued, 'If God created
everything, then God created evil, since evil exists, and according to
the principle that our works define who we are, then God is evil.'

Again, the student has no answer. 'Is there sickness? Immorality? Hatred?
Ugliness? All these terrible things, do they exist in this world?'

The student squirms on his feet. 'Yes.'

'So who created them?'

The student does not answer again, so the professor repeats his question.
'Who created them?' There is still no answer. Suddenly the lecturer
breaks away to pace in front of the classroom. The class is mesmerized.
'Tell me,' he continues onto another student.

'Do you believe in Jesus Christ, son?

The student's voice betrays him and cracks. 'Yes, professor, I do.'

The old man stops pacing. 'Science says you have five senses you use to
identify and observe the world around you. Have you ever seen Jesus?'

'No sir. I've never seen Him.'

'Then tell us if you've ever heard your Jesus?'

'No, sir, I have not.'

'Have you ever felt your Jesus, tasted your Jesus or smelled your Jesus?
Have you ever had any sensory perception of Jesus Christ, or God for that
matter?'

'No, sir, I'm afraid I haven't.'

'Yet you still believe in him?'

'Yes'

'According to the rules of empirical, testable, demonstrable protocol,
science says your God doesn't exist. What do you say to that, son?'

'Nothing,' the student replies. 'I only have my faith.'

'Yes, faith,' the professor repeats. 'And that is the problem science
has with God. There is no evidence, only faith.'

The student stands quietly for a moment, before asking a question of His
own. 'Professor, is there such thing as heat?'

'Yes.'

'And is there such a thing as cold?'

'Yes, son, there's cold too.'

'No sir, there isn't.'

The professor turns to face the student, obviously interested.

The room suddenly becomes very quiet. The student begins to explain.

'You can have lots of heat, even more heat, super-heat, mega-heat,
unlimited heat, white heat, a little heat or no heat, but we don't have
anything called 'cold'. We can hit up to 458 degrees below zero, which is
no heat, but we can't go any further after that. There is no such thing
as cold; otherwise we would be able to go colder than the lowest -458
degrees.'

'Every body or object is susceptible to study when it has or transmits
energy, and heat is what makes a body or matter have or tran smit energy.
Absolute zero (-458 F) is the total absence of heat. You see, sir, cold
is only a word we use to describe the absence of heat. We cannot measure
cold. Heat we can measure in thermal units because heat is energy. Cold
is not the opposite of heat, sir, just the absence of it.'

Silence across the room. A pen drops somewhere in the classroom, sounding
like a hammer.

'What about darkness, professor. Is there such a thing as darkness?'

'Yes,' the professor replies without hesitation. 'What is night if it
isn't darkness?'

'You're wrong again, sir. Darkness is not something; it is the absence of
something. You can have low light, normal light, bright light, flashing
light, but if you have no light constantly you have nothing and it's
called darkness, isn't it? That's the meaning we use to define the word.'


'In reality, darkness isn't. If it were, you would be able to make
darkness darker, wouldn't you?'

The professor begins to smile at the student in front of him. This will
be a good semester. 'So what point are you making, young man?

'Yes, professor. My point is, your philosophical premise is flawed to
start with, and so your conclusion must also be flawed.'

The professor's face cannot hide his surprise this time. 'Flawed? Can you
explain how?'

'You are working on the premise of duality,' the student explains.. 'You
argue that there is life and then there's death; a good God and a bad
God. You are viewing the concept of God as something finite, something we
can measure. Sir, science can't even explain a thought.'

'It uses electricity and magnetism, but has never seen, much less fully
understood either one. To view death as the opposite of life is to be
ignorant of the fact that death cannot exist as a substantive thing.
Death is not the opposite of life, just the absence of it. 'Now tell me,
professor. Do you teach your students that they evolved from a monkey?'

'If you are referring to the natural evolutionary process, young man,
yes, of course I do.'

'Have you ever observed evolution with your own eyes, sir?'

The professor begins to shake his head, still smiling, as he realizes
where the argument is going. A very good semester, indeed.

'Since no one has ever observed the process of evolution at work and
cannot even prove that this process is an on-going endeavor, are you not
teaching your opinion, sir? Are you now not a scientist, but a preacher?'

The class is in uproar. The student remains silent until the commotion
has subsided.

'To continue the point you were making earlier to the other student, let
me give you an example of what I mean.'

The student looks around the room. 'Is there anyone in the class who has
ever seen the professor's brain?' The class breaks out into laughter.

'Is there anyone here who has ever heard the professor's brain, felt the
professor's brain, touched or smelled the professor's brain? No one
appears to have done so. So, according to the established rules of
empirical, stable, demonstrable protocol, science says that you have no
brain, with all due respect, sir.'

'So if science says you have no brain, how can we trust your lectures,
sir?'

Now the room is silent. The professor just stares at the student, his
face unreadable.

Finally, after what seems an eternity, the old man answers. 'I guess
you'll have to take them on faith.'

'Now, you accept that there is faith, and, in fact, faith exists with
life,' the student continues. 'Now, sir, is there such a thing as evil?'

Now uncertain, the professor responds, 'Of course, there is. We see it
everyday It is in the daily example of man's inhumanity to man. It is in
the multitude of crime and violence everywhere in the world. These
manifestations are nothing else but evil.'

To this the student replied, 'Evil does not exist sir, or at least it
does not exist unto itself. Evil is simply the absence of God. It is just
like darkness and cold, a word that man has created to describe the
absence of God. God did not create evil. Evil is the result of what
happens when man does not have God's love present in his heart. It's like
the cold that comes when there is no heat or the darkness that comes when
there is no light.'

The professor sat down.
Published in Blog

A quiet and side debate in Christianity has been going on for centuries. Many of us probably don't know much about it and most of us probably don't care. Indeed, in many ways, the debate itself may appear irrelevant, though in reality it is not.

This debate deals with the nature of Christ's work on the cross. The issue is about whether Christ's death on the cross atoned for a limited number of people or if all people of all times were covered by Christ's blood.

Those who believe that Jesus died for all people look to the classic verse of John 3:16. They say that John 3:16 teaches "God so loved the *world*" and they say this use of the word "world" indicates that God's provision of salvation extends to anyone--God's salvation is not fixed, limited or just for specific people. They also go one to say that since this verse says "...whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life" therefore, "whoever" must mean that the offer is open to all. Additionally, they also cite other verses such as 2 Peter 2:1 which says that false teachers deny "the Master who bought them..." and 2 Peter 3:9 which says that God does not wish anyone to perish...

I'd like to take a moment to add my two cents to this debate.

Now, at the outset, we need to understand that I'm not saying that we can just sit back as the frozen chosen. Nor am I saying that we don't have a responsibility to go out and reach the world for Christ. Likewise, I am not saying that God does not love the world, or that if someone comes to Him, He will reject Him; indeed, anyone who does come to Him, comes because God is drawing them to Him (John 6:44) and that all who do come to Him will be accepted by Him (John 6:37).

So the debate is not about these matters of practicality, but more about the theoretical extent of Christ's atonement. Often the terms thrown around are "Limited Atonement" versus "Universal Atonement." If it's not clear by now, I land on the side of "Limited Atonement" though I prefer to call it "Particular Atonement" or "Definite Atonement" or even better, "Full Atonement" because only those who are born-again have their sins fully atoned.

We need to begin by understanding what the Bible says about atonement. The very term “atonement” is literally the words “at” and “one” and “ment” all put together. The Hebrew word “atone” is the word “kapar” which is what we get “Yom Kippur” from (e.g. the Day of Atonement). At its root, kapar meant to “cover” –it was used of the pitch that covered Noah’s Ark in Genesis 6:14. Once our sins are covered, God’s wrath is turned away and we are no longer His enemies.

The book of Leviticus establishes the basis for our understanding of atonement. Leviticus explains that our sins need to be covered by an innocent life. When it is, we are “at one” with God—that is, that our sins are removed and we are in fellowship with God. Every Jew that had their sins atoned for were forgiven and in a right relationship with God (Lev 4:26, 5:16). This covering, this Yom Kippur, was only available to believing Jews. In fact, if they did not believe, Leviticus 23:29 says that they should be cut off from their people. The Jews were the first of God’s people to believe in a particular atonement—that it was only available to those who would rightly recognize what God had provided.

 

I believe that the vast majority of Bible-believing Christians believe in a "Limited Atonement" though they may not say it this way. Here's why:

When we use word "atone" we are saying that Christ's blood fully covers our sins. If our sins are fully covered, we have full access to God and heaven after we die. Thus, if every person was fully atoned for by Christ, then every person would be heading to heaven--this is called Universalism. But no Bible believing Christian believes in Universalism because scripture clearly explains this is not the case. For instance, where is Judas now? Jesus said of him in Matthew 26:24 that it would have been better for him not to have been born. This can only mean that Judas is not in Heaven right now, but rather in Hell. Therefore, if Judas is in Hell right now, we can all agree that there is at least one person in Hell (though in reality, scripture indicates there are many more). So my question is this: If Jesus fully atoned for all of Judas' sins, why is he in Hell? Some might say, "Because of his unbelief. That's the only sin that cannot be forgiven." While I may not agree with the merit of this statement, the statement itself confirms my point: Jesus did not fully pay for every sin of every person because there are some people who He did not pay for their sin of unbelief. Therefore, they have at least one sin that has not been atoned for and thus we all agree in a Limited Atonement! Hooray!

Now, so far I've given some logical reasons to help settle the concerns of those who believe in an Unlimited Atonement. But what surprises me about this debate is that we are so unwilling to let scripture speak for itself. Indeed, scripture makes it quite clear that only a limited, specific group of people will be elect--that is, chosen by God for salvation. Passages such as Ephesians 1:5, 2 Thessalonians 2:13, 1 Peter 1:1-2, Colossians 3:12 all indicate that we are selected and chosen by God to be in Christ.

The reason for the debate is that there are other passages that likewise speak of what seems to be a universal atonement. For instance, 1 Timothy 2:6 says that Jesus “gave Himself as a ransom for all.” 1 John 2:2 says “He Himself is the propitiation for our sins; and not for ours only, but also for those of the whole world.” Do these verses, and others, indicate that every person in the world is atoned for and thus in a right relationship with God? Well, here’s some further thoughts on this question.

The question, then, is not about what the Bible teaches, but how do we understand what these verses mean?

 

Sadly, the debate has been waged for centuries and I don't claim to have all the answers. Yet in the matter of John's references to the "world" (and by extension, Paul’s use of “all”) I think that his point is fairly clear.

The question, then, is not about what the Bible teaches, but how do we understand what these verses mean?

Well, the debate has been waged for centuries and I don't claim to have all the answers. Yet in the matter of John's references to the "world" I think that his point is fairly clear.

A study of John's gospel reveals that he admits to driving the reader to several conclusions:

1) That Jesus is God (John 1:1, John 5:18, John 10:10, John 20:28).

2) That we need to believe in Him for salvation (John 1:12, John 3:15-16, 36, John 20:29).

3) The offer of salvation is extended to all people (passim).

Now, Point #3 is the crux and requires careful study.

John uses the word "world" numerous times in his Gospel. It's the Greek word kosmos and has many facets to its meaning. the word itself is about as portable and elastic as our word "world" in English. Kosmos can mean earth/planet (e.g. the world we live on), the way of society (e.g. the way of the world), a sphere of being (e.g. the wide world of sports) etc. Now with all these semantic ranges of meaning, what is John's nuance in his gospel?

The answer lies in John chapter 4. Here we have John's account of how Jesus blew apart the dividing walls of Palestinian society of the day. In John 4, Jesus was talking with the infamous woman at the well. She had been rather loose in her morals and shunned even by her own people. Adding insult to injury, she was also a Samaritan, a rogue group of people who had an aberrant view of God and His Word. Clearly this woman had many strikes against her and if there was ever someone unfit for heaven, it was this gal. And yet, Jesus' lovingly offered her the words of eternal life.

Now to see how John chapter 4 decodes the word "world", we need to see that Jesus stuck to some important truths. In verse 22 He maintains that salvation is from the Jews. This quick statement is critical in this passage and cannot be overlooked. Saying that salvation is from the Jews is Jesus' way of affirming all that had been previously taught in the Old Testament, namely that God's solution to sin and God's renewal of the person to make them fit for heaven was only sourced in the Jewish religion. If anyone in that age wanted a relationship with God, they HAD to become Jewish. This gets to the heart of salvation and election--God has ALWAYS been particular in choosing His people. Just as a groom is particular when he chooses a bride to the exclusion of all other women, God has likewise been particular in choosing His bride.

So, the Samaritans were a hybrid Jewish spinoff; were they accepted too? The answer is No, by Jesus' words here, the Samaritan religion itself was invalid. Just because they worshiped the same "God" in name as the Jews, their religion had so many problems that it was incapable of producing salvation. In order to be saved, they needed to repent of their man-made, false religion, and they needed to come to God on His terms as Jewish believers.

So back to the story: Jesus meets this woman and something amazing happens to her. While we could go into great detail, it's suffice to say that the woman acknowledges her sin, repents, and goes to bring others to Christ as well. In this startling  turn of events a Samaritan woman is offered salvation, her people are offered salvation, and they gladly embrace Christ--not that they might become Jewish, but that they would become born-again and members/citizens of God's family through Christ.

Okay, now getting back to the word "world" in John's Gospel-- the most important key in all of this is found down in verse 42, where the people make an important and startling conclusion--a conclusion that decodes John's use of the word "world" throughout his gospel. In John 4:42 the people say, "...we believe, for we have heard for ourselves and know that this One is indeed the Savior of the *WORLD*." In essence, they realize and see that Jesus is from the Jews, He is God's prophet, He is God's Savior, He is God's appointment means of salvation. And yet, though Jewish Himself, Jesus' offer of salvation is extended to anyone in the whole *world* even though they are NOT Jewish!!! They have been getting the short end of the stick for a while--all along, they've been hearing from the Jews that they are not really God's people because they are not really Jewish. Up till now, the Jews were right to say this. But now that the Samaritans have heard the Gospel from Jesus the Jewish Messiah, they now understand that He is God's gift, not just to Jews; but to them (the Samaritans) too! And not just to them; but to anyone in the WORLD who comes to Him like they did!Their use of the word "world" here proves that they are not thinking of every single person, but rather every people-group can come to God on the basis of Christ's death.

God's salvation is extended to ALL people of all nationalities. We see this in John 11:51b-52 which says, "...Jesus was going to die for the nation, and not for the nation only, but in order that He might also gather together into one the children of God who are scattered abroad." It doesn't matter if they formerly were radically sinful, from a the "wrong" ethnic group, or following a corrupt religion--if they come to Christ with humble repentance and faith, salvation is for THEM TOO! Salvation is no longer about national or cultural identity, it is about a reconciliation with God through faith and trust in Christ Jesus alone.

Lastly, even though the offer of salvation is meant for all nations, and is not limited to just the Jews, we need to remember that only those who are chosen (John 6:65) and called (John 6:44) can believe. Indeed, John 14:17 tells us clearly that the "world" cannot receive the Holy Spirit (John 14:17) because He has blinded the hearts/eyes/minds of some (John 12:40). Thus, in His high priestly prayer, Jesus specifically says, "I do not ask on behalf of the world, but of those whom You have given Me; for they are Yours (John 17:9)."

Did you get all that? This is a brief summary of what John's Gospel has to say about God's offer of salvation to the world. On the one hand, you can't get much more election-heavy that John, on the other hand, indeed the offer of salvation is given to all nations. This doesn't mean that Jesus atoned for each and every person, but it does mean that His grace is available to anyone regardless of their national or cultural identity. 

This understanding of the word *world* unites with the overall purpose of John's Gospel. You may remember that according to John 20:31, his gospel is specifically an evangelistic book to be read and pondered by all people, not just for Jews 2000 years ago, and that the readers would call upon Christ as Lord and Savior. Just as John's Gospel is intended to be read by any people group in the world, likewise the Gospel itself IS God's message for the whole world. It's God's offer of redemption and salvation to all people. This doesn't mean that all people are universally atoned for, but rather the offer is open and extended to everyone.  These uses of the word "world" throughout John's Gospel indicates clearly that God's grace and mercy extends to all people for all times. Indeed, we worship and serve a great and mighty and good God.

Thanks for reading, I'd love to hear your thoughts too...

Published in Blog