Category: Bible Study Articles

When Christians Disagree

Posted by on 05/31/2018 in:

When Christians Disagree

Christians disagree… a lot. And when Christians disagree, it can be very confusing and frustrating for believers and non-believers alike. How can the Church stay united and Christians continue to be known for their love while also disagreeing? Read this excerpt from the Wiersbe BE Series Commentary on Romans.

WHEN CHRISTIANS DISAGREE: ROMANS 14:1–15:7

Disunity has always been a major problem with God’s people. Even the Old Testament records the civil wars and family fights among the people of Israel, and almost every local church mentioned in the New Testament had divisions to contend with. The Corinthians were divided over human leaders, and some of the members were even suing each other (1 Cor. 1:10-13; 6:1-8). The Galatian saints were “biting and devouring” one another (see Gal. 5:15), and the saints in Ephesus and Colossae had to be reminded of the importance of Christian unity (Eph. 4:1-3; Col. 2:1-2). In the church at Philippi, two women were at odds with each other and, as a result, were splitting the church (Phil. 4:1-3).

No wonder the psalmist wrote, “Behold, how good and how pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in unity” (Ps. 133:1).

Some of these problems stemmed from the backgrounds of the believers in the churches. The Jews, for example, were saved out of a strict legalistic background that would be difficult to forget. The Gentiles never had to worry about diets and days. The first church council in history debated the issue of the relationship of the Christian to the law (Acts 15).

The believers in Rome were divided over special diets and special days. Some of the members thought it was a sin to eat meat, so they ate only vegetables. Other members thought it a sin not to observe the Jewish holy days. If each Christian had kept his convictions to himself, there would have been no problem, but they began to criticize and judge one another. The one group was sure the other group was not at all spiritual.

Unfortunately, we have similar problems today…

with many gray areas of life that are not clearly right or wrong to every believer. Some activities we know are wrong, because the Bible clearly condemns them. Other activities we know are right, because the Bible clearly commands them. But when it comes to areas that are not clearly defined in Scripture, we find ourselves needing some other kind of guidance. Paul gave principles of this guidance. He explained how believers could disagree on nonessentials and still maintain unity in the church. He gave his readers three important admonitions.

1. RECEIVE ONE ANOTHER: ROMANS 14:1-12

You will note that this section begins and ends with this admonition (Rom. 15:7). Paul was addressing those who were strong in the faith, that is, those who understood their spiritual liberty in Christ and were not enslaved to diets or holy days. The “weak in faith” were immature believers who felt obligated to obey legalistic rules concerning what they ate and when they worshipped. Many people have the idea that the Christians who follow strict rules are the most mature, but this is not necessarily the case. In the Roman assemblies, the weak Christians were those who clung to the law and did not enjoy their freedom in the Lord. The weak Christians were judging and condemning the strong Christians, and the strong Christians were despising the weak Christians.

“Welcome one another!” was Paul’s first admonition, and he gave four reasons why they should.

ONE: God has received us (vv. 1-3).

It is not our responsibility to decide the requirements for Christian fellowship in a church; only the Lord can do this. To set up man-made restrictions on the basis of personal prejudices (or even convictions) is to go beyond the Word of God. Because God has received us, we must receive one another. We must not argue over these matters, nor must we judge or despise one another.

Perhaps St. Augustine put the matter best: “In essentials, unity; in nonessentials, liberty; in all things, charity.”

When God sent Peter to take the gospel to the Gentiles, the church criticized Peter because he ate with these new Christians (Acts 11:1-3). But God had clearly revealed His acceptance of the Gentiles by giving them the same Holy Spirit that He bestowed on the Jewish believers at Pentecost (Acts 10:44-48; 11:15-18). Peter did not obey this truth consistently, for later on he refused to fellowship with the Gentile Christians in Antioch, and Paul had to rebuke him (Gal. 2:11-13). God showed both Peter and Paul that Christian fellowship was not to be based on food or religious calendars.

In every church there are weak and strong believers. The strong understand spiritual truth and practice it, but the weak have not yet grown into that level of maturity and liberty. The weak must not condemn the strong and call them unspiritual. The strong must not despise the weak and call them immature. God has received both the weak and the strong; therefore, they should receive one another.

TWO: God sustains His own (v. 4).

The strong Christian was judged by the weak Christian, and this Paul condemned because it was wrong for the weak Christian to take the place of God in the life of the strong Christian. God is the Master; the Christian is the servant. It is wrong for anyone to interfere with this relationship.

It is encouraging to know that our success in the Christian life does not depend on the opinions or attitudes of other Christians. God is the Judge, and He is able to make us stand. The word servant here suggests that Christians ought to be busy working for the Lord; then they will not have the time or inclination to judge or condemn other Christians. People who are busy winning souls to Christ have more important things to do than to investigate the lives of the saints!

THREE: Jesus Christ is Lord (vv. 5-9).

The word Lord is found eight times in these verses. No Christian has the right to “play God” in another Christian’s life. We can pray, advise, and even admonish, but we cannot take the place of God. What is it that makes a dish of food “holy” or a day “holy”? It is the fact that we relate it to the Lord.

  • The person who treats a special day as “holy” does so “unto the Lord.”
  • The person who treats every day as sacred, does so “unto the Lord.”
  • The Christian who eats meat gives thanks to the Lord, and the Christian who abstains from meat abstains “unto the Lord.”
  • To be “fully persuaded [or assured] in his own mind” (Rom. 14:5) means “Let every man see to it that he is really doing what he does for the Lord’s sake, and not merely on the basis of some prejudice or whim.”

Some standards and practices in our local churches are traditional but not necessarily scriptural. Remember when dedicated Christians opposed Christian radio “because Satan was the prince of the power of the air”? Some people even make Bible translations a test of orthodoxy. The church is divided and weakened because Christians will not allow Jesus Christ to be Lord.

An Illustration of this Truth

An interesting illustration of this truth is given in John 21:15-25. Jesus had restored Peter to his place as an apostle, and once again He told him, “Follow me.” Peter began to follow Christ, but then he heard someone walking behind him. It was the apostle John.
Then Peter asked Jesus, “Lord … what shall this man do?”

Notice the Lord’s reply: “What is that to thee? Follow thou me!”

In other words, “Peter, you make sure you have made Me Lord of your life. Let Me worry about John.” Whenever I hear believers condemning other Christians because of something they disagree with, something that is not essential or forbidden in the Word, I feel like saying, “What is that to thee? Follow Christ! Let Him be the Lord!”

Paul emphasized the believer’s union with Christ: “Whether we live, therefore, or die, we are the Lord’s” (see Rom. 14:8). Our first responsibility is to the Lord. If Christians would go to the Lord in prayer instead of going to their brother with criticism, there would be stronger fellowship in our churches.

FOUR: Jesus Christ is Judge (vv. 10-12).

Paul asked the weak Christian, “Why are you judging your brother?” Then he asked the strong Christian, “Why are you despising your brother?” Both strong and weak must stand at the judgment seat of Christ, and they will not judge each other–they will be judged by the Lord.

The judgment seat of Christ is that place where Christians will have their works judged by the Lord. It has nothing to do with our sins, since Christ has paid for them and they can be held against us no more (Rom. 8:1). The word for “judgment seat” in the Greek is bema, meaning the place where the judges stood at the athletic games. If during the games they saw an athlete break the rules, they immediately disqualified him. At the end of the contests, the judges gave out the rewards (see 1 Cor. 9:24-27).

First Corinthians 3:10-15 gives another picture of the judgment seat of Christ. Paul compared our ministries with the building of a temple. If we build with cheap materials, the fire will burn them up. And if we use precious, lasting materials, our works will last. If our works pass the test, we receive a reward. If they are burned up, we lose the reward, but we are still saved “yet so as by fire.”

How Does the Christian Prepare for the Judgment Seat of Christ?

By making Jesus Lord of his life and faithfully obeying Him. Instead of judging other Christians, we had better judge our own lives and make sure we are ready to meet Christ at the bema (see Luke 12:41-48; Heb. 13:17; 1 John 2:28).

The fact that our sins will never be brought up against us should not encourage us to disobey God. Sin in our lives keeps us from serving Christ as we should, and this means loss of reward. Lot is a good example of this truth (Gen. 18–19). Lot was not walking with the Lord as was his uncle, Abraham, and as a result, he lost his testimony even with his own family. When the judgment finally came, Lot was spared the fire and brimstone, but everything he lived for was burned up. He was saved “yet so as by fire.”

Paul explained that they did not have to give an account for anyone else but themselves. So they were to make sure that their account would be a good one. He was stressing the principle of lordship–make Jesus Christ the Lord of your life, and let Him be the Lord in the lives of other Christians as well.

2. EDIFY ONE ANOTHER: ROMANS 14:13-23

If we stopped with the first admonition, it might give the impression that Christians were to leave each other alone and let the weak remain weak. But this second admonition explains things further. The emphasis is not on “master-servant” but on “brother.” It is the principle of brotherly love. If we love each other, we will seek to edify each other, build each other up in the faith. Paul shared several facts to help his readers help their brethren.

Christians affect each other (vv. 13-15).

Note the possible ways we can affect each other. We can cause others to stumble, grieve others, or even destroy others. Paul was speaking of the way the strong Christian affected the weak Christian. Paul dealt with a similar problem in 1 Corinthians 8–9, where the question was, “Should Christians eat meat that has been offered to idols in heathen temples?” There he pointed out that knowledge and love must work together. “Knowledge puffs up, but love builds up” (1 Cor. 8:1 NIV). The strong Christian has spiritual knowledge, but if he does not practice love, his knowledge will hurt the weak Christian. Knowledge must be balanced by love.

Often little children are afraid of the dark and think there is something hiding in the closet. Of course, Mother knows that the child is safe, but her knowledge alone cannot assure or comfort the child. You can never argue a child into losing fear. When the mother sits at the bedside, talks lovingly to the child, and assures him that everything is secure, then the child can go to sleep without fear. Knowledge plus love helps the weak person grow strong.

“There is nothing unclean of itself,” Paul wrote (Rom. 14:14). No foods are unclean, no days are unclean, no people are unclean. (Read Acts 10 to see how Peter learned this lesson.) What something does to a person determines its quality. One man may be able to read certain books and not be bothered by them, while a weaker Christian reading the same books might be tempted to sin. But the issue is not “How does it affect me?” so much as “If I do this, how will it affect my brother?” Will it make him stumble? Will it grieve him or even destroy him by encouraging him to sin? Is it really worth it to harm a brother just so I can enjoy some food? No!

Christians must have priorities (vv. 16-18).

Like the Pharisees of old, we Christians have a way of majoring on the minor things (Matt. 23:23-24). I have seen churches divided over matters that were really insignificant when compared with the vital things of the Christian faith. I have heard of churches being split over such minor matters as the location of the piano in the auditorium and the serving of meals on Sundays.

“The kingdom of God is not meat and drink” (Rom. 14:17).

“Food does not bring us near to God; we are no worse if we do not eat, and no better if we do” (1 Cor. 8:8 NIV).

Not the externals but the eternals must be first in our lives: righteousness, peace, and joy. Where do they come from? The Holy Spirit of God at work in our lives (see Rom. 5:1-4). If each believer would yield to the Spirit and major in a godly life, we would not have Christians fighting with each other over minor matters. Spiritual priorities are essential to harmony in the church.

Christians must help each other grow (vv. 19-21).

Both the strong believer and the weak believer need to grow. The strong believer needs to grow in love; the weak believer needs to grow in knowledge. So long as a brother is weak in the faith, we must lovingly deal with him in his immaturity. But if we really love him, we will help him to grow. It is wrong for a Christian to remain immature, having a weak conscience.

An illustration from the home might help us better understand what is involved. When a child comes into a home, everything has to change. Mother and Father are careful not to leave the scissors on the chair or anything dangerous within reach. But as the child matures, it is possible for the parents to adjust the rules of the house and deal with him in a more adult fashion. It is natural for a child to stumble when he is learning to walk. But if an adult constantly stumbles, we know something is wrong.

Young Christians need the kind of fellowship that will protect them and encourage them to grow. But we cannot treat them like babies all their lives! The older Christians must exercise love and patience and be careful not to cause them to stumble. But the younger Christians must “grow in grace and in the knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ” (2 Peter 3:18). As they mature in the faith, they can help other believers to grow. To gear the ministry of a Sunday school class or local church only to the baby Christians is to hinder their growth as well as the ministry of the more mature saints. The weak must learn from the strong, and the strong must love the weak. The result will be peace and maturity to the glory of God.

Christians must not force their opinions on others (vv. 22-23).

There are certain truths that all Christians must accept because they are the foundation for the faith. But areas of honest disagreement must not be made a test of fellowship. If you have a sincere conviction from God about a matter, keep it to yourself and do not try to force everybody else to accept it. No Christian can “borrow” another Christian’s convictions and be honest in his Christian life. Unless he can hold them and practice them “by faith,” he is sinning. Even if a person’s convictions are immature, he must never violate his conscience. This would do great damage to his spiritual life.

For example, the mature Christian knows that an idol is nothing. But a young Christian, just converted out of pagan idolatry, would still have fears about idols. If the strong believer forced the new Christian to eat meat sacrificed to an idol, the younger Christian would experience problems in his conscience that would only further weaken it (see 1 Cor. 8–9).

Conscience is strengthened by knowledge. But knowledge must be balanced by love; otherwise it tears down instead of building up. The truth that all foods are clean (Rom. 14:14, 20) will not of itself make a Christian grow. When this truth is taught in an atmosphere of love, then the younger Christian can grow and develop a strong conscience. Believers may hold different convictions about many matters, but they must hold them in love.

3. PLEASE ONE ANOTHER: ROMANS 15:1-7

Paul classified himself with the strong saints as he dealt with a basic problem–selfishness. True Christian love is not selfish; rather, it seeks to share with others and make others happy. It is even willing to carry the younger Christians, to help them along in their spiritual development. We do not endure them. We encourage them!

The Best Example

Of course, the great example in this is our Lord Jesus Christ. He paid a tremendous price in order to minister to us. Paul quoted Psalm 69:9 to prove his point. Does a strong Christian think he is making a great sacrifice by giving up some food or drink? Then let him measure his sacrifice by the sacrifice of Christ. No sacrifice we could ever make could match Calvary.

A person’s spiritual maturity is revealed by his discernment. He is willing to give up his rights that others might be helped. He does this, not as a burden, but as a blessing. Just as loving parents make sacrifices for their children, so the mature believer sacrifices to help younger Christians grow in the faith.

Two Sources of Spiritual Power

Paul shared the two sources of spiritual power from which we must draw if we are to live to please others: the Word of God (Rom. 15:4) and prayer (Rom. 15:5-6). We must confess that we sometimes get impatient with younger Christians, just as parents become impatient with their children. But the Word of God can give us the patience and encouragement that we need. Paul closed this section praying for his readers, that they might experience from God that spiritual unity that He alone can give.

This suggests to us that the local church must major in the Word of God and prayer. The first real danger to the unity of the church came because the apostles were too busy to minister God’s Word and pray (Acts 6:1-7). When they found others to share their burdens, they returned to their proper ministry, and the church experienced harmony and growth.

The result of this is, of course, glory to God (Rom. 15:7). Disunity and disagreement do not glorify God; they rob Him of glory. Abraham’s words to Lot are applicable to today: “Let there be no strife, I pray thee, between me and thee … for we be brethren” (Gen. 13:8). The neighbors were watching! Abraham wanted them to see that he and Lot were different from them because they worshipped the true God. In His prayer in John 17, Jesus prayed for the unity of the church to the glory of God (John 17:20-26).

Receive one another; edify one another; and please one another–all to the glory of God.

QUESTIONS FOR PERSONAL REFLECTION OR GROUP DISCUSSION

Read through the questions below and share your answer to one or a few of them in the comments! Then, on your own, spend some time reflecting on all of them.

  1. What principles of guidance did Paul give for gray areas? What are some examples of these areas? Which do you struggle with?
  2. Why do believers sometimes disagree over what is considered “gray”?
  3. Who are described as weak Christians and who are described as strong Christians? Why is this? Where would you put yourself in this spectrum?
  4. What does Romans 14:1-12 say about receiving one another? How would you rate yourself in this area?
  5. How can we edify one another according to Romans 14:13-23?
  6. What can we do to please one another in view of Romans 15:1-7?
  7. What does it mean to have Jesus as Lord? How does that affect our judgment of other believers?
  8.  In order to put aside selfishness and please others, we must draw on what two sources of spiritual power? How much of a priority have you made this?
  9.  What does it mean for believers to be “likeminded one toward another” (15:5)?
  10. How do these ideas apply in our local church? Where is your church doing well? Where could it improve?

KEEP LEARNING ABOUT ROMANS

Did you enjoy this practical commentary on Romans? The BE Series Commentary is perfect for going deeper into God’s Word while also applying it to your life. Check out the entire commentary series, or even individual volumes, on our website.

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Getting Started: Bible Handbooks

Posted by on 04/24/2018 in:

Getting Started Bible Handbooks

A Bible handbook gives a clearly written overview of the Bible. So, it is a perfect companion to Bible reading. It’s arranged in the order of the books of the Bible. Also, it provides background before you read through a Bible book, commentary and illustrations as you read, and topical and historical notes to expand your understanding.

The first Bible handbook ever published was Halley’s Bible Handbook. It was a revolutionary concept that came out of Dr. Halley’s desire to get people to read the Bible with more understanding. Notably, it remains a perennial bestseller to this day. We recently released Halley’s Bible Handbook Deluxe Edition! It is the 25th edition of this classic and trustworthy study tool.

HOW TO CHOOSE

A Bible handbook is arranged in the order of the books of the Bible, and typically contains maps, charts, indexes, essays on special topics, outlines of Bible books, brief commentary on the Bible text, and cross-references to other parts of the Handbook.

ASK YOURSELF

  • Is it more devotional or informational? Which am I looking for?
  • How much more content does it have than my study Bible? Is it too basicfor my needs?
  • Do I plan to use it permanently or temporarily? (If you will be using it permanently, get the best you can afford.)
  • Is it well indexed?
  • Are the illustrations and charts helpful and easy to use?
  • Is it readable and usable?

USING BIBLE HANDBOOKS

Specifically, we recommend a Bible handbook as a primary reference book (after the study Bible) because it is comprehensive and easy to use. To use a handbook, you simply open it to the book of the Bible you’re reading. All of the relevant information is right there. So, you don’t need any advanced knowledge to use it.

Therefore, a handbook is an ideal basic companion to Bible reading, especially for people who are less familiar with the Bible.

HOW TO APPROACH STUDYING THE BIBLE

Thankfully, God has graciously provided the Bible to his people. His truth was written down and preserved for us over the centuries. What a joy to receive this gift from God. As we begin to study the Bible and desire to know how best to “go deep,” the Bible itself provides guidance and direction.

First, it counsels, “Be humble.”

Why? Because God gives wisdom and grace to the humble (Prov. 3:34, 11:2). Be open to have your opinions and assumptions changed. Be alert to issues you need to face and sins that you need to repent of and be forgiven for. Lastly, be humble and ready to see the Lord’s new way of righteousness and peace.

Second, it reminds us, “Cry out for supernatural help.”

Ask God to give you his “Spirit of wisdom and revelation, so that you may know him better” (Ephesians 1:17) and to open your eyes so you may see wonderful things in his law (Psalm 119:18). God is happy to give us his Holy Spirit (Luke 11:13) as we seek to understand the Scriptures.

And third, it directs, “Be ready to obey.”

Jesus said, “If anyone loves me, he will obey my teaching. My Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him” (John 14:23). We want to be like the good soil that receives the Word of God and produces a crop that multiplies thirty, sixty, and a hundred times the seed that was sown. Surely, we want to do what the Word says and be blessed (Mark 4:1-20).

GET STARTED!

Wondering where to begin? Halley’s Bible Handbook was the first Bible handbook ever published—over 90 years ago! So, if you’re looking for a trusted resource, this is it. Head on over to our website to to learn more about this handbook’s features and how it works in our app. Then, buy it! Soon, you’ll be studying the Bible, learning more about God’s Word than you have before.

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An Ancient Perspective on the Beatitudes

Posted by on 03/14/2018 in:

Learning from ancient Christians is priceless (here’s why). But it can be difficult to find out what they each had to say about a specific passage of the Bible. Not only did they write A LOT, but their thoughts are scattered in commentaries, diaries, sermons, and even random fragments that we found over time. However, the Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture (ACCS) did the hard work for us! They compiled rich quotes from the most well-loved ancient Christians and organized them by book and verse. It looks like this:

So, now we can easily go verse-by-verse through the Beatitudes and see what Augustine, Jerome, and Origen had to say! What a time-saver.

Here are our favorite quotes from this resource, covering Matthew 5:3-7.

MATTHEW 5:3

“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.”

JEROME

Free Humility, Not Forced Poverty, Is Blessed:

This is what we read elsewhere: “He shall save the humble in spirit.” But do not imagine that poverty is bred by necessity. For he added “in spirit” so you would understand blessedness to be humility and not poverty. “Blessed are the poor in spirit,” who on account of the Holy Spirit are poor by willing freely to be so. Hence, concerning this type of poor, the Savior also speaks through Isaiah: “The Lord has anointed me to preach good tidings to the poor.” Commentary on Matthew 1.5.3.

MATTHEW 5:4

“Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.”

CHRYSOSTOM

Intense Grief Over Sin:

He calls blessed even those who mourn. Their sorrow is of a special kind. He did not designate them simply as sad but as intensely grieving. Therefore he did not say “they that sorrow” but “they that mourn.” This Beatitude is designed to draw believers toward a Christian disposition. Those who grieve for someone else—their child or wife or any other lost relation—have no fondness for gain or pleasure during the period of their sorrow. They do not aim at glory. They are not provoked by insults nor led captive by envy nor beset by any other passion. Their grief alone occupies the whole of their attention. The Gospel of Matthew, Homily 15.3.

MATTHEW 5:5

“Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth.”

AUGUSTINE

A Perpetual Inheritance:

“Inherit the earth,” I believe, means the land promised in the psalm: “Thou art my hope, my portion in the land of the living.” It signifies the solidity and stability of a perpetual inheritance. The soul because of its good disposition is at rest as though in its own place, like a body on the earth, and is fed with its own food there, like a body from the earth. This is the peaceful life of the saints. The meek are those who submit to wickedness and do not resist evil but overcome evil with good. Let the haughty therefore quarrel and contend for earthly and temporal things. But “blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the land.” This is the land from which they cannot be expelled. Sermon on the Mount 1.2.4.

MATTHEW 5:6

“Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, or they will be filled.”

ORIGEN

God Is The True Virtue:

But if I must utilize a bold explanation indeed, I think that perhaps it was through the word that is measured by virtue and justice that the Lord presents himself to the desire of the hearers. He was born as wisdom from God for us, and as justice and sanctification and redemption. He is “the bread that comes down from heaven” and “living water,” for which the great David himself thirsted. He said in one of his psalms, “My soul has thirsted for you, even for the living God; when shall I come and appear before the face of God?” … “I shall behold your face in righteousness; I shall be satisfied in beholding your glory.” This then, in my estimation, is the true virtue, the good unmingled with any lesser good, that is, God, the virtue that covers the heavens, as Habakkuk relates. Fragment 83.

MATTHEW 5:7

“Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy.”

CHROMATIUS

Blessed By The Lord Of Compassion:

By a great number of witnesses indeed, just as many in the Old Testament as the New, we are called by the Lord to show compassion. But as a shortcut to faith we deem enough and more than enough what the Lord himself in the passage at hand expresses with his own voice, saying, “Blessed are the compassionate, for God will have compassion for them.” The Lord of compassion says that the compassionate are blessed. No one can obtain God’s compassion unless that one is also compassionate. In another passage he said, “Be compassionate, just as your Father who is in the heavens is compassionate.” Tractate on Matthew 17.6.1–2.

ANCIENT CHRISTIAN COMMENTARY ON SCRIPTURE

Fascinated by the early Church fathers and ancient Christians? Want to read their highly respected thoughts on Scripture with just a tap?

Visit our website to learn more about the Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture.

Then, tell us in the comments: Who is your favorite early church Father or ancient Christian to study?

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Never Miss a Detail in Your Bible Study

Posted by on 02/28/2018 in:

Have you ever been listening to a sermon, chatting at small group, or even doing your own Bible study, and wondered if you were missing an important, insightful piece of information? It’s one thing to have a great collection of Biblical resources, but that doesn’t mean you know there’s a map of Jerusalem on page 203. At least, not without thumbing through an index or table of contents for five minutes.

Digital Bible resources solve this problem. They can be enhanced to show you the most important information when you need it. If you by a product from our store, and “Maps” is listed under features, then we’re going to let you know when any of those maps pertain to your Bible study. It’s that simple.

We have other features that work the same way: charts, introductions, outlines, and more. Here are some screenshots and explanations of how these tools can bring new knowledge and insight to what you’re studying—within seconds.

MAPS

Let’s talk about maps. Maps are great when you have them. However, they are usually tucked into the back of resources, and you might not be aware of which ones you have.

Now, if your pastor starts talking about Paul’s missionary journeys in Acts, you can find a relatable map in seconds. Just scroll through the Resource Guide until you find the section called “Maps”:

We’ve pulled up several different applicable maps from various resources in the library. Here is a map of the Near East in the first century AD from the Tyndale New Testament Commentary.

OUTLINES & INTRODUCTIONS

Our formatters tag where introductions and outlines are found in enhanced resources. That way, you can access them with just a tap, instead of opening up the table of contents or scrolling through a resource.

It’s really convenient to have all your introductions and outlines in one spot. Imagine you opened an introduction on Colossians from the Pillar New Testament… but then you wanted to fact check or learn more. Just tap the back arrow and select a different introduction.

TAGGED IMAGES

This feature is similar to one we’ve already talked a bit about: maps. Images (and charts) are visuals included in commentaries to give you context. But in the moment, you might not remember where to look for these. So, we compile them for you!

If you have an image in any enhanced resource, and it’s relatable to the passage you’re reading, it will show up here.

NEVER MISS A DETAIL

We put together a list of resources we’ve enhanced with features like these. Make sure to look on the left-hand side of the product page to see what features are included! Visit our website to see which resources will bring insight to your Bible study.

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Marriage at the Resurrection: Life Application Bible Commentary

Posted by on 02/02/2018 in:

MATTHEW 22:24-32 – MARRIAGE AT THE RESURRECTION

USING THE LIFE APPLICATION BIBLE COMMENTARY NEW TESTAMENT SET

In this blog, we are going to walk through the commentary provided by the Life Application Bible Commentary for Matthew 22:24-32. This series does a great job including all the historical details to help explain the Old Testament references. It goes verse-by-verse, guiding you through the passage. Then, this commentary also helps you see how you can apply the passage to your life.

Let’s learn about the the Sadducees, their desire to bring God down to their level, and Jesus’ amazing response to conflict.

Matthew 22:24 — “Teacher,” they said, “Moses told us that if a man dies without having children, his brother must marry the widow and have children for him.”

The Sadducees probably asked this question frequently, because they liked to argue and stir up controversy.

The question refers to “levirate” marriage, which was meant to protect a poor widow during the time of Moses. The Life Application Bible Commentary explains this succinctly:

In the Law, Moses had written that when a man died ­without a son, his unmarried brother (or nearest male relative) was to marry the widow and produce ­children. The first son of this marriage was considered the heir of the dead man (Deuteronomy 25:5-6). The main purpose of the instruction was to produce an heir and guarantee that the family would not lose their land. The book of Ruth gives an example of this law in operation.

Matthew 22:25-28 — “Now there were seven brothers among us; the first married, and died childless, leaving the widow to his brother. The ­second did the same, so also the third, down to the seventh. Last of all, the woman herself died. In the resurrection, then, whose wife of the seven will she be? For all of them had ­married her.”

The law of levirate marriage would cause a lot of issues for the woman in this scenario. The Sadducees believed that because she was married seven times in the law, there could not be a resurrection. Because, if they were resurrected, whose wife would she be?

The Sadducees erroneously assumed that if people were resurrected, they would assume physical bodies capable of procreation. They did not understand that God could both raise the dead and make new lives for his people, lives that would be different than what they had known on earth. The Sadducees had brought God down to their level.

Matthew 22:29-30 — Jesus replied, “You are in error because you do not know the Scriptures or the power of God. At the resurrection people will neither marry nor be given in marriage; they will be like the angels in heaven.”

Here’s where Jesus digs right in. He knows just how to handle confrontation:

Jesus wasted no time dealing with their hypothetical situation but went directly to their underlying assumption that resurrection of the dead was impossible. Jesus clearly stated that these Sadducees were wrong about the resurrection for two reasons:

(1) They didn’t know the Scriptures (if they did, they would believe in the ­resurrection because it is taught in Scripture), and

(2) They didn’t know the power of God (if they did, they would believe in the resurrection because God’s power makes it possible).

Ignorance on these two counts was inexcusable for these religious leaders.

JESUS TAKES IT A STEP FURTHER

Jesus was not intending to give the final word on marriage in heaven. Instead, this response was Jesus’ refusal to answer the Sadducees’ riddle and fall into their trap. The Sadducees did not believe in angels either (Acts 23:8), so Jesus’ point was not to extend the argument into another realm.

Instead, he was showing that because there will be no levirate marriage in the resurrection or new marriage contracts, the Sadducees’ question was completely irrelevant. But their assumption about the resurrection needed a definitive answer, and Jesus was just the one to give it.

Matthew 33:31-32 – “But about the resurrection of the dead—have you not read what God said to you, ‘I am the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob’? He is not the God of the dead but of the living.”

The Sadducees’ underlying comment regarded their view of the absurdity of resurrection. Their ­question to Jesus was intended to show him to be foolish.

So Jesus cut right to the point: But about the resurrection of the dead.

Because the Sadducees accepted only the Pentateuch as God’s inspired Word, Jesus answered them from the book of Exodus (3:6). God would not have said, “I am the God of ­Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob” if he had thought of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob as dead (he would have said, “I was their God”).

Thus, from God’s perspective, they are alive.

This evidence would have been acceptable in any ­rabbinic debate because it applied a grammatical argument: God’s use of the present tense in speaking of his relationship to the great patriarchs who had been long dead by the time God spoke these words to Moses. God had a continuing relationship with these men because of the truth of the resurrection.

God had spoken of dead men as though they were still alive; thus, Jesus reasoned, the men were not dead but living. God would not have a relationship with dead beings. Although men and women have died on earth, God continues his relationship with them because they are resurrected to life with him in heaven.

Some might argue that this shows only the immortality of the soul, not necessarily the resurrection of the body. But Jesus’ answer affirmed both. The Jews understood that soul and body had inseparable unity; thus, the immortality of the soul necessarily

APPLICATION: FACING ARGUMENTS

The best part of the Life Application Bible Commentary is that it is constantly providing you with tidbits of application. After reading the commentary outlined above, it offers this for readers to think on:

The Sadducees tried to trick Jesus with a clever question. Clever arguments against the Bible and against faith in Christ are easy to find. If you are faced with such cleverness and hope to make a meaningful reply…

Don’t address all the problems. Instead, cut to the heart of the issue, which includes motives and unstated agendas.

Don’t try to embarrass the questioner with your superior logic; instead, address the heart issue with compassion. Your goal is not to win a contest, but to win a person to faith in Christ.

Stay with clear teachings of Scripture that you understand. If you get over your head in theology, you’ll be frustrated and ill tempered. At the same time, keep learning, keep searching, keep growing yourself.

LOOK INSIDE

With the Olive Tree Bible App, the Life Application Bible Commentary New Testament Set doesn’t have to be a separate book that you flip through, just to find a passage you want to study. Instead, it fits nicely right alongside your Bible in the split window. Also, the Resource Guide does all the hard work of letting you know when a passage your reading is discussed in any of the commentaries you own.

Here’s how it looks:

Interested in learning more? Visit our website to read more about the Life Application Bible Commentary New Testament Set (17 Vols.).

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Deuteronomy: A Theological Manifesto Like the Gospel of John

Posted by on 01/31/2018 in:

This content is adapted from the blog over at Zondervan Academic and is written by Jeremy Bouma (ThM).

Maybe it’s because I’m a green preacher and haven’t taught on the Old Testament often, but applying Deuteronomy to 21st century living is a head scratcher. Yet Daniel Block’s commentary on Deuteronomy (NIVAC) manages to do just that, apply it to everyday life in a way that stays true to the book’s original purpose.

And the way he does that is by insisting that the book of Deuteronomy is a theological manifesto on par with the gospel of John.

A theological manifesto? And in comparison with John’s gospel? An interesting comparison, I know, but one that’s helped me better understand the purpose and scope of Deuteronomy. And one that will surely help me preach it far better than I have in the past.

Here is how Block explains his comparison:

Just as John wrote his gospel after several decades of reflection on the death and resurrection of Jesus, so Moses preached the sermons in Deuteronomy after almost four decades of reflection on the significance of the Exodus and God’s covenant with Israel. Thus, like the gospel of John, the book of Deuteronomy functions as a theological manifesto, calling on Israel to respond to God’s grace with unreserved loyalty and love. (25)

And Block weaves this interpretive cipher throughout his masterful commentary in order to equip you to write and teach this important book, beginning with the introduction.

Block believes the name itself—Deuteronomy, which is a Greek derivative meaning “second law”— “overlooks the true nature of the book: It presents itself as a series of sermons that review events described in the narrative of earlier books and challenges the people to faithful living in the future. Where laws are dealt with, the presentation is often in the form of exposition rather than a recital of the laws themselves.” (25-26) In other words, through these sermons of Moses, the people were called to live in such a way that God required them as His people.

Furthermore, Block argues the laws themselves are presented “as a gift of grace to the redeemed to guide them in the way of righteousness and lead to life,” something Luther completely missed in his reading of the book “through the lenses of Paul’s rhetorical seemingly antinomian statements.” (27) Later in the introduction, Block explains “The function of the book of Deuteronomy is to call every generation of Israel to faithful covenant love for Yahweh in response to his gracious salvation and his revelation of himself and in acceptance of the missional role to which he has called them.” (38) Theological manifesto, indeed!

This hermeneutical conviction that Deuteronomy functions as a theological manifesto infuses every ounce of Block’s exegesis, context bridging, and application. One of the primary examples is in his examination of Israel’s theological cornerstone: the Shema of Deuteronomy 6:4-9.

Block explains that this important theological motif headlines an important section where Moses launches into a theological exposition of his first address:

the first major part of the second address (6:4–11:32) is to impress on the people the privilege and sheer grace of the special relationship they enjoy with Yahweh. However, this grace may not be received casually; it must be embraced with grateful and unreserved devotion to their Redeemer and covenant Lord. (181)

The root of the Children of Israel’s theological conviction was not merely that there was only one unique God, but the unequivocaldeclaration “Our God is Yahweh, Yahweh alone!” (182) Moreover, this theological conviction and declaration wasn’t merely communal lip-service. Because Moses’ concern is not only whether they would remain exclusively devoted to Yahweh amidst a sea of false gods, but that that devotion would manifest itself in every level of one’s being.

I love how Block describes this theological and confessional movement:

The progression of concentricity in Moses’ vocabulary now becomes apparent. Calling all Israel to love God without reservation or qualification, Moses begins with the inner being, then moves to the whole person, and ends with all that one claims as one’s own. This is the ‘yoke of the kingdom’—covenant commitment rooted in the heart, but extending to every level one’s being. (184)

Block insists that this cornerstone to Moses’s robust theological manifesto not only has bearing on the spirituality of ancient Israel, but it continues to have bearing on the Church’s, too:

Moses taught his people and he teaches us and Christians everywhere that true spirituality arises from the heart and extends to all of life…This passage suggests that that the very decorations of our homes should bear testimony to our faith, declaring to all guests and passers-by the fundamental theological outlook of those who live within… (189)

At the end of his introduction, Block insists that Deuteronomy offers a “healthy antidote” for modern readers “plagued by a negative view of the Old Testament.” (41) I would add that Block’s commentary is a healthy antidote for modern readers who are plagued by a negative view of Deuteronomy, too. For in it Block illumines this ancient theological pronouncement of the manifold gift of God’s grace and life, and it’s bearing on our life in and through Christ—just like the gospel of John.

NIV APPLICATION COMMENTARY

The NIV Application Commentary is a fantastic resource for in-depth study of God’s Word while also being guided in applying it to your life. If you’re interesting in this volume (or any of the other ones) from this set, you can view them on our website.

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3 Common Difficulties in Doing Word Studies

Posted by on 01/29/2018 in:

This week we are highlighting different methods of studying the Bible. Today’s topic is word studies, and we’re using Rick Warren’s Bible Study Methods to provide you with this helpful information. At the bottom, we’ve also included a video about our Strong’s Tagged Bibles because they are a fantastic tool in completing word studies.

1) SEVERAL GREEK WORDS ARE TRANSLATED BY ONE ENGLISH WORD

As an example, the English word servant has seven Greek equivalents, each with a different shade of meaning. Be sure to check your concordance carefully to see if this might be true of the word you are studying. Find out what each different original word meant.

2) ONE GREEK OR HEBREW WORD IS TRANSLATED SEVERAL WAYS IN ENGLISH

To overcome this difficulty you will have to do a careful study on all the different renderings of that original word. You can do this quite easily through the use of your exhaustive concordance. For example, the Greek word koinonia is translated five different ways in the King James Version: (1) “communication” — once; (2) “communion” — 4 times; (3) “contribution” — once; (4) “distribution” — once; and (5) “fellowship” — 12 times.

Follow this procedure in solving this difficulty:

  • List the different ways the word is translated.
  • List how many times it is translated each way.
  • Give examples of each translation (if possible).
  • Write down how the different meanings might be related.
  • Determine if the writer of the book is using the word you are studying in a single sense or is giving it a multiple meaning.

3) AN ORIGINAL WORD IS TRANSLATED BY A WHOLE PHRASE IN ENGLISH

This difficulty will take a little more work to overcome because concordances do not list word translations by phrases. You will need to compare the recent versions of the Bible you are using to see how the various translators have rendered the word.

For example, Paul declared to the Corinthians, “But we all, with open face beholding as in a glass the glory of the Lord, are changed into the same image from glory to glory, even as by the Spirit of the Lord” (2 Cor. 3:18 KJV). The phrase “beholding as in a glass” is just one word in the original Greek (katoptrizomenoi), and you will discover some interesting truths when you study the origin of that word.

DO A WORD STUDY IN 8 STEPS

  1. Choose Your Word
  2. Find Its English Definition
  3. Compare Translations
  4. Take Notes on the Original Word’s Definition
  5. Check the Word’s Occurrences in the Bible
  6. Find the Root Meaning and Origin of the Word
  7. Discover the Word’s Usage in the Bible
  8. Write Out an Application in Your Notes

Here are some good questions to ask yourself:

  • How does the writer use the word in other parts of the book?
  • Does the word have more than one usage? If so, what are its other uses?
  • How does the writer use the word in other books he has written?
  • How is the word used throughout the whole testament?
  • What is the most frequent use of the word?
  • How is it used the first time in the Scriptures?
  • Is there any illustration in the context that clarifies the meaning of the word?
  • Does the context give any clues to the meaning of the word?
  • Is the word compared or contrasted with another word in the context?

THE BEST TOOL FOR QUICK WORD STUDIES

LEARN MORE

We’ve highlighted several methods for Bible study the past few days! Have you see our other blog posts?

Also, we’ve discounted all of our favorite Bible study tools and methods books. You can find them by visiting our website.

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6 Steps for Effectively Using Cross References

Posted by on 01/26/2018 in:

We’ve said it before, and we’ll say it again: the Bible provides the best interpretation of itself. So, when you have a question, doubt, or an inkling of curiosity, the best action you can take is to cross-reference the passage you’re reading.

But how?

In this blog post, we’ll not only describe how to do cross-referencing well, but we will also show you a fun, easy way to keep track of your findings.

Lastly, we’ll talk about applying the Bible to your daily life. In our examples, we will be using the Olive Tree Cross References Expanded Set.

STEP ONE: OPEN A NOTE

With the new update in our app for iOS, you can use the Study Center to keep your cross-references and notes easily accessible. Here’s how:

STEP TWO: CHOOSE A PARAGRAPH OR CHAPTER

Read the section entirely. Then, make headings for each verse you are going to study.

STEP THREE: FIND A CROSS REFERENCE

Next, write down as many cross references as you would like under each verse heading. Only list the reference, not the verse itself.

The main purpose of cross references is to help build context to the passage you are reading. However, we must remember that the Bible is written by many different authors over a big chunk of time. So, the cross references that will give us the most context will be those found in the same book as the passage we are studying. Here is a good order to look in for cross references:

  1. Look in the same book of the Bible
  2. Look in other books of the Bible that have the same author
  3. Look in other books of the Bible written around the same time
  4. Look in any other books of the Bible containing a cross reference

STEP FOUR: SUMMARIZE THE CROSS REFERENCE

After you have recorded the reference, go ahead and read the verse again. This should be really simple to do in the app, since verse references are hyperlinked in notes!

Then, summarize what the cross reference is saying with a brief phrase. You want to write down something short that you will be able to compare quickly with the rest of your notes.

STEP FIVE: REVIEW AND MEDITATE

Reread the original passage you picked to study. As you go through each verse, look to your notes in the Study Center and reflect on the phrases. Meditate on how they enhance your understanding of the topic.

Do you end up having new questions about the passage? Write them down! Next time you study God’s Word, start by trying to tackle those questions. A great method to use is the Exhaustive Questions method.

STEP SIX: APPLICATION

Spend some time in prayer, thinking about one step of action you could take based on what you’ve learned from your studies. Write out this goal in your notes!

LEARN TO STUDY THE BIBLE by ANDY DEANE

These steps were taken from Andy Deane’s book, Learn to Study the Bible. This is a fantastic resource for learning new methods of engaging with Scripture. We also used our own Olive Tree Cross References Expanded Set!

We also have a lot of other titles on sale right now to help you learn how to study the Bible better. Click here to visit our website.

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A Method to Help You Stop Skimming the Bible

Posted by on 01/22/2018 in:

One of the most popular ways of reading the Bible is to open up a familiar passage, read over it quickly, and then move onto something else. When we don’t take time to ponder Scripture and ask questions, we miss out on discovering truth.  By slowing down, we can be convicted, encouraged, and strengthened in new ways.

The Exhaustive Questions Bible study method is a great option for solving this problem. Here’s some instructions we found inside Andy Deane’s Learn to Study the BibleWe’ve also included helpful tips on how to use this method without leaving the app.

1) CHOOSE A CHAPTER & READ IT 3x

This isn’t a race to see how fast you can read the passage! Slow down. Take in each word. Think critically about what you are reading.

2) WRITE DOWN 3+ QUESTIONS FOR EACH VERSE

This sounds like a lot… because it is. But it’s worth it! Ask questions about everything and anything. You won’t need to answer all of them, so don’t worry about that. Write down as many as you can think of so that you get in a rhythm. It will help you to eventually ask unique questions you might have not thought to ask otherwise.

3) RESEARCH 5 QUESTIONS FROM THE CHAPTER

Now, look over all your questions. Which five stand out to you the most? Are there any words or phrases you don’t understand? What about people and places you’ve never heard of before? These questions might be the best ones to spend your time on.

A Strong’s Tagged Bible gives us a hint!

4) FIND THE ANSWER!

Do your best to find the answer. Most likely, you’re going to need some tools to help you! Here are a few ideas to get you started:

  1. Cross-References: The best way to interpret the Bible is with the Bible. Use this tool to quickly find other passages that discuss what you’re already reading.
  2. Strong’s Tagged Bibles: Perfect for fast word studies, use this resource to tap and discover not only the original meaning of the word you’re questioning, but also where else it is used in the Bible.
  3. Commentaries: In-depth historical, archaeological, and grammatical information provided verse-by verse.
  4. Bible Handbooks: These are like commentaries, but much more concise, providing you with information on archaeology, related historical data, church history, maps, and more.
  5. Peers: Build healthy community by discussing your Bible study time with your friends. Maybe they have insight you haven’t heard before!
  6. Pastor: Find someone you consider to be wise, whether that’s a pastor or even a mentor. Ask them for their input!

5) APPLY THE ANSWER

After answering five of your questions, choose one to turn into a life application. Sometimes, it is as simple as meditating on a truth about God’s character.

6) TELL SOMEONE

Don’t keep this to yourself! Bring up what you’ve learned with a friend or relative. Start a discussion that will hopefully lead to even more encouragement and spiritual growth.

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The Five Solas:
God’s Glory Alone

Posted by on 11/01/2017 in:

SOLI DEO GLORIA

Sola scriptura. Sola Fide. Sola Gratia. Solus Christus. Each of these on their own is a strong rallying cry and doctrine worth defending. Yet, each becomes stronger when joined with the final sola, soli deo gloria. Glory to God alone. This is the glue that holds all the other solas together.

Compared to the other four, the need to defend God’s glory seems unnecessary. Who in their right mind would not give God glory for all he has done? For the Reformers, all five pillars stood on one key word: alone. Scripture alone is our final authority. Salvation is in Christ alone, by grace alone, through faith alone. The Reformers protested that the Roman Catholic Church was altering and adding to the gospel. It was the Bible and tradition and the Pope; it was us working with Christ; faith and good works; and so on.

With these additions to the gospel, it was no longer God alone who could glory in our salvation. In other words, if we have a hand in even the slightest part of our salvation we have reason to boast & glory in ourselves. Yet, the Reformation sought to rightly teach the gospel as a work solely in the hands of God from beginning to end. It is glory to God alone for our salvation. No one else can share in his credit.

WHY YOU SHOULD CARE

With so many subtleties and nuances, why do these solas even matter? Why should we care about making sure God alone gets all glory? It matters because it puts us in our proper place. We like to tell self-centered people that the world does not revolve around them. But, we do the same thing when we skew these doctrines from how they ought to be understood. We put ourselves at the center of the gospel story. It’s all about us. Yet, the Bible paints a different picture: it’s all about God. He does it out of his own good pleasure and he is the center of the story.

Isaiah 42:8 tells us that God will not share his glory with another. In Revelation we see the saints placing their crowns at Jesus’ feet and praising God. Even the wicked will bow and recognize his glory. All glory is God’s alone, especially when it comes to our salvation. He did all the work, so let’s make sure we give him all the credit he’s due.

LEARN MORE

To learn more about the doctrine of Christ alone check out God’s Glory Alone: The Majestic Heart of Christian Faith and Life by David VanDrunen and the rest of the Five Solas Series.

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