Category: Bible Study Articles

Healing Two Women: Commentary on Mark 5:21-43

Posted by on 09/03/2018 in:

Healing Two Women: Commentary on Mark 5

Jesus did many remarkable miracles during his ministry. One of the most captivating is his healing of two women on the same day in Mark 5. When reading this passage with commentary, you gain so many insights that you wouldn’t know otherwise. So, we’ve included excerpts from the IVP Bible Background Commentary: New Testament, 2nd Edition. Enjoy reading this familiar passage with commentary on Mark 5.

FROM THE IVP BIBLE BACKGROUND COMMENTARY ON THE NEW TESTAMENT, 2nd EDITION

This passage includes two cases of reversing uncleanness: a woman with a continual flow of blood and a corpse (see Lev 15:19-33; Num 19:11-22). Even after the flow stopped, the first woman would be counted unclean for seven days (Lev 15:28); the dead girl was even more unclean, so that one who touched her contracted impurity for a week (Num 19:11).

MEETING JAIRUS — MARK 5:21-24 

21 And when Jesus had crossed again in the boat to the other side, a great crowd gathered about him, and he was beside the sea. 22 Then came one of the rulers of the synagogue, Jairus by name, and seeing him, he fell at his feet 23 and implored him earnestly, saying, “My little daughter is at the point of death. Come and lay your hands on her, so that she may be made well and live.” 24 And he went with him. And a great crowd followed him and thronged about him. 

Commentary on Mark 5:21-24

The precise duties of “rulers of the *synagogue” probably varied somewhat from one place in the empire to another; sometimes the title designates simply benefactors, perhaps to honor them, but elsewhere they were the chief officials in synagogues (perhaps not unrelated to their social influence); virtually always they were prominent members of their communities.

Jairus’s daughter had been a minor until that year and on account of both her age and her gender had little social status apart from her family. One would fall at the feet of someone of much greater status (like a king) or prostrate oneself before God; for this prominent man to humble himself in this way before Jesus was thus to recognize Jesus’ power in a serious way.

THE BLEEDING WOMAN — MARK 5:25

25 And there was a woman who had had a discharge of blood for twelve years, 

Commentary on Mark 5:25

This woman’s sickness was reckoned as if she had a menstrual period all month long; it made her continually unclean under the *law (Lev 15:25-28)—a social and religious problem on top of the physical one. Sometimes this condition starts after puberty; if that was true in her case, given a common ancient life expectancy of about forty years and the “twelve years” that she had been ill, she may have spent even half or all her adult life with this trouble.

Since she could not bear children in this state, and Jewish men often divorced women who were incapable of bearing (cf., e.g., Pseudo-Philo, Biblical Antiquities 42:1), this woman probably had never married or (if the sickness began after marriage) had been divorced and remained single. In a society where single, celibate women could not easily earn much income, the illness affected virtually every area of her life.

THE BLEEDING WOMAN — MARK 5:26

26 and who had suffered much under many physicians, and had spent all that she had, and was no better but rather grew worse. 

Commentary on Mark 5:26

Although some remedies were genuinely empirically based, many practices of both Jewish and Gentile physicians in biblical times were no more than superstitious remedies, which not surprisingly often proved ineffective (cf. 2 Chron 16:12; Tobit 2:10; *Qumran Genesis Apocryphon 20:19-20). Although many physicians in the Greek world were slaves, Palestinian Jewish sources suggest that physicians in Palestine had ample incomes. Some Palestinian Jews were skeptical of physicians’ value.

THE BLEEDING WOMAN HEALED — MARK 5:27-29

27 She had heard the reports about Jesus and came up behind him in the crowd and touched his garment. 28 For she said, “If I touch even his garments, I will be made well.” 29 And immediately the flow of blood dried up, and she felt in her body that she was healed of her disease.

Commentary on Mark 5:27-29

If this woman touched anyone or anyone’s clothes, she rendered that person ceremonially unclean for the rest of the day (cf. Lev 15:26-27). Some uncleanness was unavoidable, but it was inconvenient to fulfill the required bath, and men avoided uncleanness when they could. Because she rendered unclean anyone she touched, she should not have even been in this heavy crowd.

Later Jewish tradition made this danger even more serious than Leviticus had (e.g., Mishnah Toharot 5:8), so many teachers avoided touching women (other than their wives) altogether, lest they become accidentally contaminated. Thus she could not touch or be touched, was probably now divorced or had never married, and was marginal to Jewish society.

THE BLEEDING WOMAN HEALED — MARK 5:30-34

30 And Jesus, perceiving in himself that power had gone out from him, immediately turned about in the crowd and said, “Who touched my garments?” 31 And his disciples said to him, “You see the crowd pressing around you, and yet you say, ‘Who touched me?’ 32 And he looked around to see who had done it. 33 But the woman, knowing what had happened to her, came in fear and trembling and fell down before him and told him the whole truth.34 And he said to her, “Daughter, your faith has made you well; go in peace, and be healed of your disease.”

Commentary on Mark 5 - photo 1

Commentary on Mark 5:30-34

Jewish people believed that only teachers closest to God had supernatural knowledge. Jesus uses his supernatural knowledge to identify with the woman who had touched him—even though in the eyes of the public this would mean that he had contracted ritual uncleanness. (By law, she was still counted as unclean for seven days after her flow of blood stopped; Lev 15:28.)

Given the frequent failure of the male *disciples’ faith (8:17-21; 9:19), Mark’s record of this woman’s faith (cf. 7:29; 12:44; 15:40-41) is all the more striking, especially for readers whose culture considered women less stable and emotionally weaker than men.

JAIRUS’ DAUGHTER IS DEAD — MARK 5:35-39

35 While he was still speaking, there came from the ruler’s house some who said, “Your daughter is dead. Why trouble the Teacher any further?” 36 But overhearing what they said, Jesus said to the ruler of the synagogue, “Do not fear, only believe.” 37 And he allowed no one to follow him except Peter and James and John the brother of James. 38 They came to the house of the ruler of the synagogue, and Jesus saw a commotion, people weeping and wailing loudly. 39 And when he had entered, he said to them, “Why are you making a commotion and weeping? The child is not dead but sleeping.” 

Commentary on Mark 5:35-39

Childhood deaths were common (in Egypt, which was poorer, perhaps half the children born did not survive into adulthood). Tradition expected at least two or three professional mourners (two flutists and a mourning woman) to facilitate grief at the funeral of even the poorest person; more mourners would assemble at the death of a member of a prominent family like this one.

Because bodies decomposed rapidly in Palestine, mourners had to be assembled immediately upon someone’s death (presumably especially when it had been expected), and in this case they had gathered before word even reached Jairus that his daughter had died. Messengers were normally dispatched immediately to bring a parent or spouse the sad news.

THE SECOND WOMAN HEALED — MARK 5:40-43

40 And they laughed at him. But he put them all outside and took the child’s father and mother and those who were with him and went in where the child was. 41 Taking her by the hand he said to her, “Talitha cumi,” which means, “Little girl, I say to you, arise.” 42 And immediately the girl got up and began walking (for she was twelve years of age), and they were immediately overcome with amazement. 43 And he strictly charged them that no one should know this, and told them to give her something to eat.

Commentary on Mark 5:40-43

In that culture, at the age of twelve the girl was a virgin probably soon to be married (with very rare exceptions, women were not able to continue in education as they do today). Young girls usually looked forward eagerly to their wedding day as the most joyous event in their life, and to die unmarried—especially just short of it—was lamented as a particularly great tragedy.

Jewish interpreters sometimes linked texts by a common word; that this girl had lived the same number of years as the woman with the flow of blood had been ill (5:25) provides a useful literary connection. Whereas contact with the bleeding woman would render Jesus unclean for a day in the eyes of others (Lev 15:19-33), touching a corpse led to seven days of uncleanness (Num 19:11-22, esp. 19:11). Jesus spoke to her in *Aramaic, perhaps her first language, although Greek was widely spoken in Palestine. (On the use of Aramaic in healings, See comment on 7:34-35.)

IVP Bible Background Commentary: New Testament, 2nd Edition

IVP BIBLE BACKGROUNDS COMMENTARY

Craig Keener recently updated his IVP Bible Background Commentary on the New Testament. He is one of the leading New Testament scholars on Jewish, Greek, and Roman culture.

This unique commentary provides crucial cultural background you need for richer Bible study. One of the best parts is the glossary of cultural terms and historical figures. Additionally, you’ll find plenty of maps, charts, bibliographies, and introductory essays.

Visit our website to learn more about the IVP Bible Background Commentary: New Testament, 2nd Edition.

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A Lesson on Leadership: Gideon

Posted by on 08/27/2018 in:

Lesson on Leadership: Gideon

Now the angel of the Lord came and sat under the terebinth at Ophrah, which belonged to Joash the Abiezrite, while his son Gideon was beating out wheat in the winepress to hide it from the Midianites. And the angel of the Lord appeared to him and said to him, “The Lord is with you, O mighty man of valor.” — Judges 6:11-12

Read the entire story of Gideon in the Bible here.

The content of this blog on Gideon and leadership came from the Maxwell Leadership Bible Notes.

PEOPLE BUY IN TO THE LEADER, THEN THE VISION

At leadership seminars I field a lot of questions about vision. Invariably someone will come up to me during a break, give me a brief description of an evolving vision, and ask,

“Do you think my people will buy in to my vision?”

I always respond the same way:

“First tell me this—do your people buy in to you?”

Many believe that if the cause is good enough, people will automatically buy in to it and follow. But that’s not how leadership works. People don’t at first follow worthy causes; they follow worthy leaders who promote worthwhile causes. People buy in to the leader first, then the leader’s vision. Listeners filter every message through the messenger who delivers it.

You cannot separate the leader from the cause he promotes. It’s not an either/or proposition; the two always go together.

GIDEON AND THE LAW OF BUY-IN

Who would have picked Gideon as a leader? Certainly not Gideon; he didn’t even see himself as a leader. “Pardon me, my lord, but how can I save Israel?” asked Gideon of the angel who told him that God wanted to use him to defeat the Midianites. “My clan is the weakest in Manasseh, and I am the least in my family” (Jdg 6:15).

Despite Gideon’s doubts, God used him. The people rallied around Gideon, and he led Israel to the most lopsided victory in the nation’s history.

THE ANATOMY OF BUY-IN

Gideon progressed from being an obscure member of a minor clan to a leader of the northern tribes. He grew as a leader through several stages:

1. Started at home (character)

A good leader first proves himself to those closest to him. Gideon started with 10 household servants. With their help, he destroyed an altar of Baal, built a new altar to God, and offered the sacrifice requested by God.

2. Won a key influencer (charisma)

The men of Ophrah grew furious with Gideon when they discovered he had destroyed Baal’s altar. “Bring out your son,” they ordered his father, Joash. “He must die” (Jdg 6:30). Yet Gideon won over a powerful ally in his father. Joash stood up for his son and spared Gideon’s life.

3. Broadened his circle (credibility)

Gideon won over his city by winning the influence of Joash, then quickly won the allegiance of the Abiezrites (the people of his region), along with tribes beyond his borders: Asher, Zebulun and Naphtali. Even the people of Ephraim joined him. Once a core group of people buy in to your leadership, it’s possible to broaden your circle of influence.

4. Moved at the right time (culmination)

So many people bought into Gideon’s leadership that God had to send a bunch of them home (Jdg 7:2). God reduced the number of Gideon’s followers to 300. Yet when they fought under Gideon’s leadership, they won a great victory—and God received the glory.

Lesson in Leadership Gideon 1

SEVEN ASSETS FOLLOWERS WANT IN A LEADER

People always ask, “Why should I follow you?” Leaders must understand that they themselves go on display before they ever get the chance to display their vision. Once followers gain confidence in the leader, they will feel confident about the vision. Note seven qualities that attract people to a leader:

1. Calling

Few things are as compelling as a leader’s clear calling. Beforehand, Gideon had lived in fear, doubted himself, and asked for multiple signs to confirm his mission. But once he embraced his calling, passion and boldness filled his heart.

2. Insight

People respect a leader with insight, wisdom to see the issues, and vision to see what lies ahead. God gave Gideon insight into the weak hearts of the Midianites. By the time Gideon called his men to battle, he understood that God had assured their victory.

3. Charisma

People flock to leaders who make them feel good about themselves. When Gideon invited the people of Ephraim to join in pursuing the Midianites, they reacted angrily. But Gideon helped them see the significance of their role by reminding them that they had captured and killed the Midianite leaders (Jdg 8:1-30).

4. Talent

Look no further than the entertainment industry for evidence that followers swarm around talent. While we don’t know much about Gideon’s natural abilities, the angel called him a “mighty warrior” and instructed him to “go in the strength you have” (Jdg 6:12, 14). More than likely, Gideon possessed both physical strength and courage.

5. Ability

People feel a natural attraction to someone who can get things done. Gideon didn’t attempt to get the Ephraimites on board until he had proven his ability.

6. Communication Skills

A leader who cannot communicate his calling and vision has trouble getting anyone to buy in to his leadership. Whenever Gideon spoke to his people, they understood him and eagerly followed.

7. Character

It takes character to win and maintain trust. Gideon started out strong, standing up when others wouldn’t. He displayed courage in the face of incredible odds. But in the end, a flaw in his character betrayed both him and the people. After his victories, Gideon created an idol and erected it in Ophrah: “All Israel prostituted themselves by worshiping it there, and it became a snare to Gideon and his family” (Jdg 8:27).

Maxwell Leadership Bible Notes

LEARN MORE ABOUT LEADERSHIP IN THE BIBLE

The content of this blog on Gideon and leadership came from the Maxwell Leadership Bible Notes. It offers principles of leadership that will greatly impact the way you guide others.

John Maxwell believes the God created all of us to be leaders/influencers at some level. The principles for leadership in this book can be applied in everyone’s life and every type of relationship, to become more effective in God’s kingdom.

This edition includes new empowering, inspiring tools to equip you to be an even better leader:

  • Maxwell’s 65 Bible book introductions
  • Articles describing the 21 Laws of Leadership and the 21 Qualities of a Leader
  • Notes throughout the Bible that connect with the Laws and Qualities
  • Indexes to the 21 Laws of Leadership and the 21 Qualities of a Leader

Interested? You can learn more about the Maxwell Leadership Bible Notes on our website.

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Romans 8 – Teaching the Bible

Posted by on 08/13/2018 in: ,

Romans 8: Teaching the Bible

Romans 8 is a complex chapter (along with the rest of the book!). It can be difficult to understand on our own… and even more difficult to teach to others! We found this gem of a commentary set: Teaching the Bible Series. In this blog, we are giving you an excerpt of their work on Romans 8. You’ll even find application points and possible sermon ideas. Dig in!

TEACHING THE BIBLE: ROMANS 8

How safe do you feel living under grace? How sure of the future? To entrust ourselves to the free grace of God in Jesus can feel like falling backwards into the arms of a friend who may or may not be there, and may or may not catch us even if he is. Is it safe to entrust ourselves entirely to the God of grace?

We feel this acutely when two things happen: when we fail anwid fall in the struggle with sin from within, and when we are afflicted by suffering from without. Both of these experiences threaten our confidence that grace works. Just as the person falling backwards is tempted to move a foot back to save themselves, so we are tempted to add a proportion of self-reliance to our Christian lives.

ATTENTIVE LISTENING TO THE TEXT: ROMANS 8

Context and Structure: Romans 8 and Romans 5

Romans 8 concludes the second main section of the body of the letter, ‘Living under grace’. We have seen that chapters 5–8 have a kind of sandwich structure.

5:1-11 Suffering with assurance of future glory

5:12-21 The basis for assurance in the work of Christ

6:1-23 Slavery to sin

7:1-25 The weakness of law

8:1-17 The basis for assurance in the ministry of the Spirit

8:18-39 Suffering with assurance of future glory

So in reading chapter 8, we will notice a number of themes picked up again from chapter 5.

The Structure of Romans 8

Romans 8 begins with ‘no condemnation’ by the wrath of God (v. 1) and ends with ‘no separation’ from the love of God in Christ (v. 39). The overarching theme is assurance. Between these end markers two other themes dominate: first (and mostly in vv. 1-17) there is life in the Spirit, who is named 15 times in verses 1-17 and then 4 more times later in the chapter; second (vv. 17-39) there is suffering. Verse 17 is the hinge between these two (‘… children … heirs … if indeed we share in his sufferings …’). Verse 31 (‘What, then, shall we say …?’) signals Paul’s great conclusion.

It is probably best to divide the chapter in three, including verse 17 in both first and second sections.

  1. (vv. 1-17) Life in the Spirit (continued from 7:14-25)
  2. (vv. 17-30) Suffering and glory
  3. (vv. 31-39) Unbreakable ties to Christ

Romans 8: Teaching the Bible (2)

WORKING THROUGH THE TEXT: ROMANS 8

Life in the Spirit (Romans 8:1-17, continued from 7:6 and 7:14-25)

Paul begins with a statement (v. 1), which he explains (v. 2) and expands (v. 3) before going on to God’s purpose (vv. 4-11).

The statement (Romans 8:1)

1Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus,

This is a summary of the letter so far. ‘Now’ refers not to individual conversion or some supposed change of gear into the higher Christian life, but to the gospel events which have brought into the open (1:17 ‘revealed’; 3:21 ‘made known’) the justification by faith by which believers of every age have been rescued from condemnation.

‘Therefore’ refers back generally to the argument so far, but very specifically to 5:12-21. Paul uses this word ‘condemnation’ only here and in 5:16, 18 in all his letters. It is the opposite of ‘justification’ (5:16). The words ‘through Jesus Christ our Lord’ (7:25) and ‘in Christ Jesus’ (8:1) tie us back to Paul’s exposition of life in union with Christ in 5:12-21 (developed in 6:1-11).

The explanation (Romans 8:2)

2…because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit of life set me free from the law of sin and death.
[…because the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus set you/me free from the law of sin and death.]

(We are not certain whether Paul wrote ‘me’ or ‘you’, but it doesn’t matter.)

This very compressed verse needs unpacking.

  1. The phrase ‘in Christ Jesus’ is repeated from verse 1 (disguised in niv). The word ‘in’ carries the senses both of ‘in union with’ and ‘through the work of’. What has happened to us, has happened because of what Jesus did (niv‘through Christ Jesus’) and because we have been united by faith with him (‘in Christ Jesus’), and therefore we benefit from what he did.
  2. It is most natural to take ‘the law’ to refer to ‘the Law of Moses’ in both phrases.
  3. The ‘law of sin and death’ is a compressed way of summing up what the Law of Moses does to the unregenerate sinner (7:7-12).The law when it comes from the outside into contact with sin, exposes sin, condemns sin, and results in the death of the sinner (7:7-10). This terrible ‘marriage’ was always heading for the rocks (7:1-5). This is what someone has called ‘the law on the wall’, like the Ten Commandments written on a church wall, true and good but outside of our sinful hearts.
  4. ‘The law of the Spirit of life’ is a shorthand for what happens when the Spirit of Christ takes the obedience of Christ (5:19), imputes the righteousness of Christ to us, and writes the fundamental demand of the good law on the cleansed heart of the believer, changing us from the inside, and so leading to eternal life (6:23). The ‘law on the wall’ becomes the ‘law in the heart’.

Paul has ‘trailed’ the ministry of the Spirit in 2:15 (probably); 2:29; 5:5; and 7:6. Now he begins to expound this theme.

The explanation expanded (Romans 8:3)

3For
what the law was powerless to do [the weakness of the law]
in that it was weakened by the sinful nature [the flesh],

God did
by sending his own Son
in the likeness of sinful man [sinful flesh]
to be a sin offering [and for sin].
And so he condemned sin in sinful man, [in the flesh]

How were we ‘set free’ (v. 2)? Paul takes each part in turn. Negatively, he speaks of ‘the weakness of the law, in that it was weakened by the flesh’. He has shown in 7:7-12 (and 3:20; 4:15; 7:5) that law is powerless to save. When the law remains outside of us, it is just a dead ‘letter’ (2:29; 7:6).

The law cannot save. But God can! ‘the weakness of the law … God did …’ (i.e. God did what the law was too weak to do). How did God do it?

‘By sending his own Son …’:

  1. ‘…in the likeness of sinful flesh’ taking our human nature upon him with all its weakness, being really tempted and fully identified with sinners, and yet without sin (the word ‘likeness’ guards this difference).
  2. ‘… for sin’ an expression which usually refers in the Greek Old Testament to a sacrifice for sin.

As an old hymn puts it, ‘Because the sinless Saviour died … the wrath of God is satisfied’, and that terrible slave-master sin has been ‘condemned … in the flesh’, that is, in the flesh of Jesus on the cross. This is why we may be sure ‘there is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus’.

Notice that the basis of our rescue is the death of the Son on the cross, and the application of that rescue to our lifestyle is by the ministry of the Spirit. Both are necessary. No one benefits from the Cross without receiving the Spirit, and no one receives the Spirit who is not justified by the blood of the Son.

God’s purpose: why did God set us free? (Romans 8:4-6)

3b… he condemned sin in sinful man, [in the flesh] 4in order that
the righteous requirements [requirement (singular)]
of the law
might be fully met[fulfilled] in us,
who do not live according to the sinful nature [flesh]
but according to the Spirit.

5Those who live according to the sinful nature
[Those who are according to the flesh]
have their minds set on what that nature [the flesh]
desires;
but those who live in accordance with the Spirit
have their minds set on what the Spirit desires.

6The mind of sinful man [the flesh] is death,
but the mind controlled by the Spirit is life and peace;

Why did God ‘condemn sin in the flesh’ of Jesus? Why the cross, and why the gift of the Spirit to apply the benefits of the cross to the believer? Answer: ‘in order that’ something might happen that could not happen through the law: ‘the righteous requirement (singular) of the law’ is now ‘fulfilled in us …’.

What does this mean? We need to hold together two parts of the answer.

  1. By his death Jesus fulfills the law for us. This links back to verse 3b, about the cross.
  2. By the Spirit we fulfill the law in union with Jesus. This links forward to verses 4b-6, which speak of how we actually ‘live’ (lit. ‘walk’).

The word translated ‘righteous requirement’ is used in the singular only four times by Paul in his letters, all in Romans (1:32; 5:16, 18; 8:4). (He also uses the plural in 2:26). In the singular, the word means something like ‘what the law says is the right thing’. So in 1:32 it is the ‘righteous decree’ of God that sinners deserve to die. In 5:16 it is translated ‘justification’ with the sense of ‘fulfilled law’, ‘what the law says is the right thing has been done’. In 5:18 it is ‘the one act of righteousness’ of Jesus, his one ‘fulfillment of the law’, which is also called his ‘obedience’ (v. 19).

The key is to hold together the doctrines of the work of Christ for us and the person of Christ in us. Although these are distinct they are inseparable.

We can’t include ALL the teaching from this commentary on Romans 8. It would definitely be too much! So, let’s move onto some application.

Romans 8: Teaching the Bible (4)

FROM TEXT TO TEACHING: ROMANS 8

Getting the Message Clear: The Theme

The grand theme is assurance, from ‘no condemnation’ at the start to ‘no separation’ at the end of the chapter. In between, the argument progresses in two main stages with a conclusion. The first stage is verses 1-17, whose focus is the ministry of the Spirit. Because Christians walk by the Spirit now, they may be certain that they are heading for glory later. We must hold together the present ministry of the Spirit with his role to point us securely towards a promised future.

In the second stage, verses 17-30, the focus shifts from the Spirit to suffering, but we are still being pointed to future glory. The central point is stated in verse 18 that, for the Christian, certain glory later outweighs present suffering. The conclusion in verses 31-38 needs to hold together the objective and the subjective: the objective truth of the cross guarantees that God loves us for ever in Christ.

Getting the Message Clear: The Aim

How do the aims of Romans 5-8 relate to the aims of the letter as a whole?

This is a good point to look back on the whole section ‘Living under grace’ to ask how this section contributes to Paul’s overarching aims in the letter, to promote harmony within the church and a zeal for missionary partnership beyond the church. Why do we need to understand our unbreakable relationship with God (5:1-12; 8:17-39), our reliance upon the work of Christ and the ministry of the Spirit (5:12-21 with 8:1-17), our freedom from slavery to sin and condemnation by the law (chapters 6 and 7), the struggle with indwelling sin (7:14-25) and so on? Of course it is a good thing to understand these things, but how will it make us a harmonious and outward-looking church?

The key is to grasp the connection between works and assurance. We go back to our imaginary (but not unrealistic) Mr X (pp. 153-155), who begins to rest his standing before God and in the church partly on his own moral uprightness, Bible knowledge or religious privileges. Not only does this make him boast (and so destroy harmony); it also undermines his assurance. And an insecure Christian is a dangerous Christian (and an insecure pastor is an especially dangerous one!). If I am insecure, I always feel I have something to prove. So my attitude to my fellow Christians will have an element of competitiveness (however discreet). And my evangelistic involvement (if any) will never be the humility of one forgiven sinner telling other sinners where to find grace.

POINTERS TO APPLICATION: ROMANS 8

  • The message ‘no condemnation’ (v. 1) only makes sense to those who have grasped that without Christ we are and must be condemned. It may therefore be necessary to recap some of the argument of the letter so far (especially 1:18–3:20). We need to feel the wonder of ‘no condemnation’ and never take it for granted.
  • We may also need to recap ‘the law of sin and death’ (v. 2). We need to understand and feel our helplessness, and the inability of moral guidance (‘the law on the wall’) to help us (v. 3).
  • Show how vital it is that the ‘law on the wall’ should become the ‘law in the heart’. Previously the law bid me fly, but left me on the ground. Now the law bids me fly and the Spirit gives me wings.
  • THERE ARE 18 MORE APPLICATION POINTS

SUGGESTIONS FOR PREACHING AND TEACHING THE TEXT

Sermon 1: Romans 8:1-17

We might lead in by asking, ‘How safe do you feel?’ and explore the kinds of regrets about past failures, and anxieties about future pressures, which make us feel insecure.

Our teaching points might be as follows:

To be a real Christian means …

  1. To be under new management (vv. 1-8);
  2. … who gives us new hope for our bodies (vv. 9-11);
  3. … and guarantees us a great inheritance (vv. 12-17).

Alternatively, we might divide the passage as follows:

To be a real Christian means…

  1. No condemnation, because of the sacrifice of God the Son (vv. 1-4);
  2. Resurrection hope, because of the indwelling of God the Spirit (vv. 5-11);
  3. Present assurance in the security of God the Father (vv. 12-17).

Our tone is not so much exhortation (‘Now be good and walk by the Spirit’) as encouragement to see the connection between the Spirit’s ministry in us in the present, and future resurrection.

There are TWO other sermons ideas, along with 22 questions to ask while leading a Bible study!

Romans 8: Teaching the Bible (3)

LEARN MORE WITH THE TEACHING THE BIBLE SERIES

Did you enjoy the excerpt? The Teaching the Bible Series is full of insight and practicality. If you often find yourself teaching or preaching God’s Word, then this resource could save you lots of time in preparation! Visit our website to learn more about it.

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The Two Best Tools for Word Study

Posted by on 08/08/2018 in: ,

The Two Best Tools for Word Study

When I first learned how to do word studies I found them to be quite daunting. There was always a wealth of information and I never knew where to start. Of all the challenges I faced, the problem I had most often was picking the “right” word(s) to study from the passage I was reading. Not to mention, would the lexicons I had help me or even mention my verse?

If that’s you, or you’ve been there before, I want to show you how Vine’s New Testament Word Pictures can make your word studies easier.

BEFORE WE GET STARTED

Before we get started, I want to address the big question that most have about this resource:

“If I already have Vine’s Complete Expository Dictionary do I still need Vine’s New Testament Word Pictures?”

The honest answer is maybe, but I strongly believe both are worth owning. While there is a lot of overlap between the two resources, the way you use each is completely different. They are built to complement one another.

The best way to think about them is like this: Vine’s Dictionary is a dictionary, whereas Vine’s Word Pictures is a commentary.

So, let’s dive in and see how the two work in harmony.

WORD STUDIES WITH VINE’S WORD PICTURES

To illustrate how Vine’s New Testament Word Pictures works we’re going to use the ESV Bible and 2 Corinthians 1:3-7 as our passage, inside the Olive Tree Bible App.

As you can see, there’s a lot going on in this passage about comfort, suffering, and affliction. Where do we even begin?!

This was one of the problems I had when learning to do word studies. This time, instead of getting overwhelmed, we’ll let Vine’s help us out.

With the split window open, you can open Vine’s Word Pictures in the second pane. Since this resource functions as a commentary it will follow wherever your Bible goes.

Word Study Tools 1

NEVER WONDER WHAT WORDS TO STUDY IN YOUR WORD STUDY

One thing you’ll quickly notice about this resource is that it’s not like a normal commentary. There are no textual notes explaining the meaning of the passage. That’s what your other commentaries & study Bibles are for.

Instead, what you get are the key words contained in each passage with definitions, theological significance, and clear cross references. You no longer have to guess which words to study because they are put in front of you. In this screenshot you can see a few key words include: mercies, comfort, and tribulation/trouble. Given the emphasis of this passage, these are words I’ll certainly want to study further.

CROSS REFERENCES

I love cross references and Vine’s Word Pictures is not shy about providing them. The Olive Tree Bible App makes it easy to tap on the reference so you can read it without losing your place. Another bonus is that cross references within the same book of the Bible are boldfaced so you can take particular note of them.

Word Study Tools 2

STRONG’S DEFINITIONS

Where this resource really shines is its Strong’s linking. Most words that are discussed also contain a transliteration of the corresponding Greek word and its relevant Strong’s number. These are tagged in the app so you can tap on them and get more information about the word you’re studying. Within the pop-up, you get the definition from the Strong’s dictionary, which is where Vine’s Dictionary comes into play.

SWITCHING TO VINE’S DICTIONARY

Let’s say the word “comfort” has caught our attention in this passage. We’ve read the entry in Vine’s Word Pictures, looked at the cross references, and perused the Strong’s pop-up. What next? Simple, let’s go to Vine’s Dictionary. The quickest way to get there is to tap the Strong’s number and then select the “Lookup” button at the bottom of the pop-up. From there, we can find the dictionary.

Word Study Tools 3

Unlike most lexicons and dictionaries, the nice thing about Vine’s is that it groups the original language words together based on their English translation. For us, this means that in our study on “comfort,” we can go to the dictionary and get more than just information about our word’s usage as a noun. Here we see additional material, such as Greek synonyms we may want to include in our word study, as well as the verb form of the word. Not to mention, if there are other ways it is translated into English, we can get to those as well.

Word Study Tools 4

Word Study Tools 5

This is all information we would not have found if we had used Vine’s New Testament Word Pictures alone. And, if we had only used the dictionary, we may not have even known this was a word worth looking at. But together we can get the big picture! We’ll walk away with a full understanding of the Greek word behind “comfort.”

GET THEM BOTH TODAY

Get both Vine’s New Testament Word Pictures and Vine’s Complete Expository Dictionary today and improve your word study. Not only will you save yourself time, but you can rest assured that you’ll never miss an important word again.

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What is Application?

Posted by on 08/04/2018 in: ,

What is Application?

This content is taken directly from the Life Application Study Bible.

The best way to define application is to first determine what it is not. Application is not just accumulating knowledge. This helps us discover and understand facts and concepts, but it stops there. History is filled with philosophers who knew what the Bible said but failed to apply it to their lives, keeping them from believing and changing. Many think that understanding is the end goal of Bible study, but it is really only the beginning.

Application is not just illustration.

Illustration only tells us how someone else handled a similar situation. While we may empathize with that person, we still have little direction for our personal situation.

Application is not just making a passage “relevant.”

Making the Bible relevant only helps us to see that the same lessons that were true in Bible times are true today; it does not show us how to apply them to the problems and pressures of our individual lives.

What is it then?

Application begins by knowing and understanding God’s Word and its timeless truths. But you cannot stop there. If you do, God’s Word may not change your life, and it may become dull, difficult, tedious, and tiring. A good application focuses the truth of God’s Word, shows the reader what to do about what is being read, and motivates the reader to respond to what God is teaching. All three are essential to applying the Bible.

Application is putting into practice what we already know (see Mark 4:24 and Hebrews 5:14) and answering the question, “So what?” by confronting us with the right questions and motivating us to take action (see 1 John 2:5, 6 and James 2:17). Applying the Bible is deeply personal—unique for each individual. It is making a relevant truth a personal truth, and involves developing a strategy and action plan to live your life in harmony with the Bible. It is the Biblical “how to” of life.

Can application study Bible notes relevant to my life?

You may ask, “How can your application notes be relevant to my life?” Each application note [in the Life Application Study Bible] has three parts:

  1. an explanation that ties the note directly to the Scripture passage and sets up the truth that is being taught
  2. the bridge that explains the timeless truth and makes it relevant for today
  3. the application that shows you how to take the timeless truth and apply it to your personal situation.

No note, by itself, can apply Scripture directly to your life. It can only teach, direct, lead, guide, inspire, recommend, and urge. It can give you the resources and direction you need to apply the Bible; but only you can take these resources and put them into practice.

What makes a good tool for Bible study application?

A good note, therefore, should not only give you knowledge and understanding, but point you to application. Before you buy any kind of resource Bible, you should evaluate the notes and ask the following questions:

  1. Does the note contain enough information to help me understand the point of the Scripture passage?
  2. Does the note assume I know too much?
  3. Do the notes touch most of life’s experiences?
  4. Does the note avoid denominational bias?
  5. Does the note help me apply God’s Word?

LEARN MORE

The Life Application Study Bible is unlike any study Bible you’ve used before. It comes with the Bible text, full of links to maps, extra notes, and other goodies. Then, you also get the study Bible, which comes with over 9,000 Life Application notes, 324 charts, 161 Personality Profiles, 240 full-color maps, a dictionary and concordance, and more.

The best part is that there are tons of articles included in the resource that teach you how to use it, the benefit of applying the Bible to your life, and how to share with others.

The Life Application Study Bible comes in several translations, and even a chronological version. Visit our website to learn more and add this fantastic study Bible to your Olive Tree account.

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Covered in Grace

Posted by on 08/01/2018 in: ,

Covered in Grace

“Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows. Whoever sows to please their flesh, from the flesh will reap destruction; whoever sows to please the Spirit, from the Spirit will reap eternal life.” Galatians 6:7–8

THE UNIVERSAL LAWS OF LIFE

Universal laws govern our lives. Just as the law of gravity governs our movements, so the law of sowing and reaping governs our choices. We reap what we sow. If we sow life–giving choices, we reap blessing; if we sow to please our sinful nature, we reap pain. God is abundantly gracious, always willing to forgive our sins and welcome us home with open arms, but forgiveness does not always negate painful consequences of our poor choices.

Sometimes we can’t see the direct correlation between choices and consequences. Sometimes the wicked prosper and the righteous suffer … for now. It seems like the laws of sowing and reaping is not really true. But we have to take the long view. God promises that in the end, no one who disregards him or his ways will be without consequences. In faith we trust that God will make everything right.

THE LINK BETWEEN CHOICES AND CONSEQUENCES

Sometimes we clearly see the link between choices and consequences. “Saul died because he was unfaithful to the LORD” (1 Chronicles 10:13). King Saul, God’s chosen leader made a series of foolish, increasingly wicked choices. He disobeyed God and consulted a witch for guidance. Did God still love Saul? Certainly he did. But God held him accountable for his choices, and he allowed Saul to reap the painful consequences.

COVERED IN GRACE

Consider how this plays out in our lives. A husband has an affair and betrays his wife. He repents. God forgives him and perhaps his wife does too. Though he is covered in grace, he still faces consequences: a torn marriage, a devastated wife, mixed–up children, haunting regret. Yes, grace, but also pain. It is always better to avoid the sin or the temptation in the first place.

What consequences are you facing?

LEARN MORE

This blog was adapted from an Insight note in the NIV Life Journey BiblePractical biblical insights, essays and character profiles by Dr. John Townsend and Dr. Henry Cloud will deepen your understanding of your world and yourself, enabling you to grow spiritually, personally, and relationally.

This resource also comes with reading plans that you can use in the reading plan section of our app. Schedule notifications, keep tracking of your reading, and take notes and highlights along the way.

Interested? Learn more about the NIV Life Journey Bible on our website.

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Owning Our Feelings

Posted by on 07/31/2018 in: ,

Owning our Feelings

“But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion for him; he ran to his son, threw his arms around him and kissed him.” —Luke 15:20

IGNORING OUR FEELINGS

Some Christians view feelings with suspicion. They think emotions are unimportant or unreliable. Yet our feelings play an enormous role in our motivation and behavior. Think of a time when hurt feelings prompted someone to lash out in anger or to take revenge. Consider that some people have been hospitalized for depression after years of trying to ignore their feelings. And on the positive side, the Bible says that Jesus was motivated by his compassion, a deep feeling of empathy.

Feelings should neither be ignored nor placed in charge. Feelings can often motivate us to do much good. The Good Samaritan’s pity moved him to go to the injured Israelite (Luke 10:33–34). In the parable of the lost son, the father was filled with compassion for his lost son and “threw his arms around him” (Luke 15:20). Many times Jesus had compassion for the people to whom he ministered (Matthew 9:36; 15:32).

OWNING OUR FEELINGS

Feelings come from our hearts and can tell us the state of our relationships. They can tell us if things are going well or if there is a problem. If we feel close and loving, things are probably going well. If we feel angry, we have a problem that needs to be addressed. But it is important to remember that our feelings are our responsibility; we must own them and see them as our problem so we can begin to find an answer to whatever issue they are pointing to. We should not disown responsibility by disowning our feelings. Instead, we need to embrace them and deal with them.

Are you owning your feelings today?

LEARN MORE

This blog was adapted from an Insight note in the NIV Life Journey BiblePractical biblical insights, essays and character profiles by Dr. John Townsend and Dr. Henry Cloud will deepen your understanding of your world and yourself, enabling you to grow spiritually, personally, and relationally.

This resource also comes with reading plans that you can use in the reading plan section of our app. Schedule notifications, keep tracking of your reading, and take notes and highlights along the way.

Interested? Learn more about the NIV Life Journey Bible on our website.

Olive Tree Bible App iOS

Olive Tree Bible App Android

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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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