8 Questions to Help You Understand and Apply the Bible

Matt Harmon: Sometimes the most important things in the Christian life can be the most difficult. That can certainly be true of understanding and applying the Bible. As believers we know that reading Scripture is essential to following Jesus. But if we’re honest, we often find it difficult to understand and apply. The Bible talks about so many different things; how do we know what to focus on? It’s set in a world very different from ours; how do we apply it to our lives today? One simple and effective tool is asking good questions. The questions we ask when we read the Bible largely determine how we understand and apply the Bible. So we need to make sure we are asking the right questions, the kind of questions the Bible was designed to answer. But how do we know what those questions are? The Bible is first and foremost a story about God displaying his glory through creating and

read more 8 Questions to Help You Understand and Apply the Bible

Thinking Like Jesus

R.C. Sproul: Several years ago, I was asked to give a convocation address at a major theological seminary in America. In that address, I spoke about the critical role of logic in biblical interpretation, and I pleaded for seminaries to include courses on logic in their required curricula. In almost any seminary’s course of study, students are required to learn something of the original biblical languages, Hebrew and Greek. They are taught to look at the historical background of the text, and they learn basic principles of interpretation. These are all important and valuable skills for being good stewards of the Word of God. However, the main reason why errors in biblical interpretation occur is not because the reader lacks a knowledge of Hebrew or of the situation in which the biblical book was written. The number one cause for misunderstanding the Scriptures is making illegitimate inferences from the text. It is my firm belief that these faulty inferences would

read more Thinking Like Jesus

Why Bible Study Doesn’t Transform Us

“When all your favorite preachers are gone, and all their books forgotten, you will have your Bible. Master it. Master it.” — John Piper By Jen Wilkin: I meet with women all the time who are curious about how they should study the Bible. They hunger for transformation, but it eludes them. Though many have spent years in church, even participating in organized studies, their grasp on the fundamentals of how to approach God’s Word is weak to non-existent. And it’s probably not their fault. Unless we are taught good study habits, few of us develop them naturally. Why, with so many study options available, do many professing Christians remain unschooled and unchanged? Scripture teaches clearly that the living and active Word matures us, transforms us, accomplishes what it intends, increases our wisdom, and bears the fruit of right actions. There is no deficit in the ministry of the Word. If our exposure to it fails to result in transformation, particularly over the course of years,

read more Why Bible Study Doesn’t Transform Us

Identifying the Colossian Heresy

. Nicholas T. Batzig writes: One of the more difficult aspects of biblical interpretation is identifying the precise historical background of the book or letter being read. In the NT epistles there are almost always enough internal clues for the interpreter to come to a settled understanding of what error, if any, is being confronted. Of all the polemical letters (which would include almost every book in the NT. For a brief survey see this!) most of us would agree that Galatians is the far and away the most polemical and–in some ways–the most difficult to interpret; the letter to the Colossians, however, is certainly not far behind. In fact, the nature of the Colossian heresy–which the apostle sought so vigorously to refute with the Gospel–is perhaps the most difficult to identify. On first glance the internal evidence seems to show three errors that had infiltrated the fledgling church: (1) Philosophical speculation (Col. 2:2-4; 8), (2) Angel worship (2:18), and (3)

read more Identifying the Colossian Heresy

Spurgeon on a Stupid Way to Read the Scriptures

From Charles Spurgeon’s 1867 sermon “A Song at the Well-head”: You are retired for your private devotions; you have opened the Bible, and you begin to read. Now, do not be satisfied with merely reading through a chapter. Some people thoughtlessly read through two or three chapters—stupid people for doing such a thing! It is always better to read a little and digest it, than it is to read much and then think you have done a good thing by merely reading the letter of the word. For you might as well read the alphabet backwards and forwards, as read a chapter of Scripture, unless you meditate upon it, and seek to comprehend its meaning. Merely to read words is nothing: the letter kills. The business of the believer with his Bible open is to pray, “Lord, give me the meaning and spirit of your word, while it lies open before me; apply your word with power to my soul,

read more Spurgeon on a Stupid Way to Read the Scriptures

Can we see Jesus better than the saints in the bible?

John Piper: Jesus speaks of three ways of seeing himself, each better than the one before. There were the people who saw him, the incarnate Son of God, and did not see the self-authenticating reality of his divine glory. They only saw a teacher or a prophet. “Seeing they do not see, and hearing they do not hear, nor do they understand” (Matthew 13:13). Then there were the prophets and righteous people in the Old Testament who did not see the incarnate form of the Son of God, but did see his divine glory. “Truly, I say to you, many prophets and righteous people longed to see what you see, and did not see it, and to hear what you hear, and did not hear it” (Matthew 13:17). That is, they did not see the physical form of God’s glory in the incarnate Son. But they did see his glory. Some saw it only with the eyes of their hearts

read more Can we see Jesus better than the saints in the bible?

Grudem’s “Christian Essentials” available

For the past five years Wayne Grudem has been teaching a “Christian Essentials” Sunday School class, which roughly corresponds to his bestselling Systematic Theology. You can listen online for free, as well as see his teaching outline (for most of the classes). If you don’t own at least one of the following, I’d highly recommend them: . Systematic Theology: An Introduction to Biblical Doctrine ( Zondervan, 1995; 1291 pages). One of the best investments you can make for the money. Bible Doctrine (Zondervan, 1999; 528 pages). Jeff Purswell, now of Sovereign Grace Ministries, helped to edit this volume down to over half the size. A great addition in this volume is a glossary–not including in the big ST. Christian Beliefs: Twenty Basics Every Christian Should Know (Zondervan, 2005; 160 pages). Wayne’s son Elliot, a PCA pastor, edited this into a very simple handbook. It’s probably my first choice of a basic book to get into the hands of a new

read more Grudem’s “Christian Essentials” available

The Studying Christian

An important and necessary challenge from from Mark Driscoll: In following Jesus’ command to love God with “all our mind,” the Christian life is supposed to include regular times of study and learning. The goal of such study is to have what Paul called “the mind of Christ” so that we can live the life of Christ by the power of the Spirit of Christ. Therefore, this month we will examine the contemplative spiritual discipline of study and the correlating active spiritual discipline of obedience. Study In John 17:17, Jesus prayed that we would study our Bible. He said, “Sanctify them by the truth; your word is truth.” Therefore, to become more and more like Jesus we must have regular time in God’s Word. The Scriptures have much to say about the benefits of regular study. Scripture regarding study “For Ezra had devoted himself to the study and observance of the Law of the LORD, and to teaching its decrees

read more The Studying Christian

Interview with Sam Storms on Colossians

. Interviewed by Andy Naselli C. Samuel Storms (b. 1951) is the founder of Enjoying God Ministries. He pastored for many years, and he was an associate professor of theology at Wheaton College from 2000 to 2004. He recently accepted the invitation to become Senior Pastor of Bridgeway Church in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, where he will begin pastoring on September 14. He has earned degrees from the University of Oklahoma (B.A.), Dallas Theological Seminary (Th.M.), and the University of Texas at Dallas (Ph.D.). His website lists his voluminous publications, includes a blog, shares recommendations, and hosts articles on biblical, theological, and historical studies. He recently authored The Hope of Glory: 100 Daily Meditations on Colossians (Wheaton: Crossway, 2007). More information about the book is available here. 1. You explain that you wrote this book “for the average, educated Christian believer” who is “passionate to know Christ better, hungry to be filled with the knowledge of the truth, and desperate to

read more Interview with Sam Storms on Colossians

Studying the Bible

And Jesus answering said unto them, Do ye not therefore err, because ye know not the Scriptures, neither the power of God? Mark 12:24 J.C. Ryle commented on this passage (as relayed in a recent article in Banner of Truth magazine) that “We learn . . . from this passage, how much of religious error may be traced to ignorance of the Bible . . . The truth of the principle here laid down, is proved by facts in almost every age of church history. The reformation in Josiah’s day was closely connected with the discovery of the book of the law. The false doctrines of the Jews in our Lord’s time were the result of neglecting the Scriptures. The dark ages of Christendom were times when the Bible was kept back from the people. The Protestant Reformation was mainly effected by translating and circulating the Bible. The Churches which are most flourishing at this day are churches which honour

read more Studying the Bible

Empty Tomb Theology

This is a great post from Derek Thomas: On the first day of the week, very early in the morning, the women took the spices they had prepared and went to the tomb. They found the stone rolled away but when they entered, they did not find the body of the Lord Jesus (Lk. 24:1-3). It’s a familiar tale that Christians like us insist is true on the most literal sense. But what’s the big deal? Would the bottom fall out of Christianity if the tomb actually contained the body of Jesus? The answer that Scripture gives is “Yes!” Everything about Christianity would fall apart if the tomb had not been empty. Now, let’s be clear: we are talking about the resurrection of a dead body. That’s more than the resuscitation of a corpse. True, Jesus’ body did come to life again, but it then had abilities it did not possess before. For one thing, Jesus’ humanity after the resurrection

read more Empty Tomb Theology

The Shadow of Christ in the Law of Moses

Justin Taylor posts: Vern Poythress’s book, The Shadow of Christ in the Law of Moses, is now available online for free. Here is the table of contents: Part 1: Understanding the Different Aspects of the Law The Challenge of the Law of Moses The Tabernacle of Moses The Sacrifices, Prefiguring the Final Sacrifice of Christ The Priests and the People, General Principles for God’s Dwelling with Human Beings Prefiguring Union with Christ The Land of Palestine, the Promised Land The Law and Its Order The Purposes of the Tabernacle the Law, and the Promised Land: Pointing Forward to Christ The Punishments and Penalties of the Law Prefiguring the Destruction of Sin and Guilt through Christ Part 2: Understanding Specific Penalties of the Law The Principle of Penal Substitution Principles of Justice for the Modern State Just Penalties for Many Crimes Penalties for Sexual Crimes Deterrence and Rehabilitation A Critique of Prisons Our Responsibilities Toward Imperfect States Fulfillment of the Law

read more The Shadow of Christ in the Law of Moses

Everyone Who Has Been Born of God Overcomes the World

Here’s the outline of  great sermon from John Piper on the signs of new life in Christ from 1 John. You can hear, watch or read the whole thing here. The apostle John wrote his First Epistle to believers, with deceivers in their midst, to give them rock-solid confidence in their possession of eternal life as born-again children of God, so that they would not be drawn away after sin—all to the completion of his joy. At the heart of John’s reason for writing was his desire to help his born-again readers know that they were born again—that they already had new, spiritual, eternal life. In his letter, John gives eleven evidences of those who are born of God: 1. They keep God’s commandments (2:3-4; 3:24). 2. They walk as Christ walked (2:56). 3. They don’t hate others but love them (2:9; 3:14; 4:7-8, 20). 4. They don’t love the world (2:15). 5. They confess the Son and receive (have)

read more Everyone Who Has Been Born of God Overcomes the World

“Moralistic preaching assumes that we’re really not helpless sinners”

“We’ve all heard sermons, especially from the Old Testament, on the faithfulness of Abraham, David’s “heart for God”, Joshua’s leadership…and we were encouraged to “dare to be a Daniel”. But the Bible is nothing like Aesop’s fables… you know, a story to illustrate a moral point. Abraham was, in many ways, a moral failure. Even his willingness to sacrifice Isaac wasn’t an example for us, but was an occasion for God to foreshadow Christ as the ram caught in the thicket so that Isaac, and the rest of us, could go free. Moses was God’s man, but wavered under the burden and was barred from leading God’s people into Canaan. Joshua is not a source for leadership principles, unless we’re planning on leading a campaign of destruction against idolatrous nations in order to establish righteousness in God’s holy land. Yet read in the light of the history of redemption, Joshua and his ministry point forward to Jesus and his person

read more “Moralistic preaching assumes that we’re really not helpless sinners”

Piper on relating to God

What does it mean to have a relationship with God? O that all believers would make it a priority to grow in answering that question! That they would join those in church history who have gone deepest in their relationship with God! I’ll mention John Owen as one example. He has written a book called Communion with God, which is another old-fashioned way of saying “relationship with God.” What a relationship with God means is that we are receiving communications from God about himself both through his word and through history. He comes to us in Jesus Christ, in his teaching, in his cross, in his apostles, through his word, and he is speaking to us. And his speaking is made vital to us by the present presence of the Holy Spirit who dwells within us. That’s half the relationship. He takes the initiative. We receive his communications and, by the Spirit, are made alive to them. We see them

read more Piper on relating to God

Psalm 1

Blessed is the man / who walks not in the counsel of the wicked, / nor stands in the way of sinners, / nor sits in the seat of scoffers; / but his delight is in the law of the LORD, / and on his law he meditates day and night.He is like a tree / planted by streams of water / that yields its fruit in its season, / and its leaf does not wither. / In all that he does, he prospers. / The wicked are not so, / but are like chaff that the wind drives away. Therefore the wicked will not stand in the judgment, / nor sinners in the congregation of the righteous; / for the LORD knows the way of the righteous, / but the way of the wicked will perish. [Psalm 1] Many preachers use Psalm 1 to try to get people to read their Bibles. “Be like the prosperous man who delights

read more Psalm 1

Q & A with Piper, Carson, et al.

How do you sing about God’s sovereignty when his providence is sometimes so destructive, even of good things? John, why did your dad only visit you twice while living in Minnesota?  Crawford, could you tell us why it took your dad 40 years to tell you, “I love you”? Greg, can you address your signing of A Common Word? In regards to the Trinity, does the Father exalt the Father or is it just the Son who exalts him? How can I discern between taking courageous action and waiting on the Lord? How do I honor a father who is an unbeliever or spiritually less mature than me? What determines which doctrines are fundamental and which ones are necessary? How do you evangelize a Muslim friend? How do you stay fresh spiritually? Watch the video!

What’s the Big Idea?

.  From John Fonville at Gospel Driven Blog:  . The other night during family Bible study, my kids asked me, “Daddy, what’s the Bible about?” That is a great question and the answer to it is quite often missed. In brief, the Bible is essentially a witness to a person, Jesus Christ. Christ stands at the center of the Scriptures. To say that Scripture is essentially a witness to Christ is not to impose an a priori (formed or conceived beforehand) idea upon Scripture (deductive reasoning). Rather, it is an a posteriori (derived by reasoning from observed facts) conclusion that one comes to learn from an inductive study of the Scriptures. As Jesus walked and talked with the two disciples on the road to Emmaus, Luke writes, “Then beginning with Moses and with all the prophets, He explained to them the things concerning Himself in all the Scriptures,” (Lk. 24:27). Christ, as James Hog (one of the Marrow Men involved in

read more What’s the Big Idea?