Category: Bible Study Articles

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.).

Continue Reading

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.

Continue Reading

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.

Continue Reading

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.

Continue Reading

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.

Continue Reading

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.

Continue Reading

What’s a Topical Bible?

Posted by on 10/25/2017 in: ,

When you don’t know a word, your first inclination is to find a dictionary definition of it. Although that information is helpful, you can learn so much more by hearing the word used in a sentence. When you experience the word being used, you learn how to use it for yourself. So, in this blog, I’ll tell you what a topical Bible is, but we won’t stop there. I’ll show you how to use one and how it can change the way you study the Bible.

WHAT’S A TOPICAL BIBLE?

Simply put, a topical Bible takes passages of Scripture and organizes them by topic. Our most recently acquired topical Bible looks like this in the app:

You can search through the resource like a dictionary, finding important Biblical themes, people, and places. When you pull one up, you’ll see a long list Scripture references. These are all linked. Just tap on it to open a pop-up window showing you the verse in context.

A TOPICAL BIBLE IN ACTION

I was asking myself this question not too long ago. I knew what a topical Bible was, and how I might use it… but I wondered how the authors of this resource envisioned others using it. Lucky enough, John MacArthur provides that information in the foreword of his MacArthur Topical Bible.

1. WHY USE A TOPICAL BIBLE?

When reading the Bible, we may first ask ourselves, “What does this mean to me?” But we should probably first ask, “What does the Bible mean by what it says?” MacArthur shares us the typical four steps for interpretation and which step he envisions his tool being used:

  • LITERAL: The Bible often speaks in literal terms. Let it speak for itself! What plain observations can you make?
  • HISTORICAL: The Bible talks about history. Learn about the historical context of the passage.
  • GRAMMATICAL: The Bible was written in a different language. Is there anything you might interpret differently after looking at a definition of a word in the original language?
  • SYNTHESIS: The Bible can interpret the Bible—it never contradicts itself! So, other passages of Scripture can help us understand the current passage we are reading… and this is where a topical Bible is handy!

When you’re doing your daily Bible reading, you can pick out the main themes and ideas you see presented. Then, look those up in a topical Bible. Then you can quickly read about the theme in other parts of the Bible by opening those pop-up windows we talked about earlier.

How does this help us? It keeps us from interpreting the Bible our way. Instead, we are looking to God’s Word for clarification.

1. HOW DO I USE A TOPICAL BIBLE?

We’ve already covered this a little bit, but I thought I could give you a real-life example!

Perhaps you’re reading Micah 6 and come across that well-know verse: “He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?”

God requires you to walk humbly. But what does “humbly” mean? Well, let’s see how God uses that word in other places in the Bible!

One example I pulled up is in Isaiah 57. This verse talks about God reviving or instilling joy in those who are low in spirit. Does being humble mean being sad or having poor self-image? Let’s check out another verse:

James 4 shows that when we are humble, God exalts us. What theme do we see between these passages?

  1. Micah 6: walk humbly with God
  2. Isaiah 57: when we are low, God will revive us
  3. James 4: when we are humble, God exalts us

Being humble appears to be more about our relationship with God. Do we try to exalt ourselves? Are we trying to please ourselves, puffing up with pride and acting like we have it all together? Are we doing things our own way?

Those actions and motives are the opposite of humility. You don’t have to be dreary and think poorly of yourself to be humble. But you do need to recognize your flaws and God’s perfection.

LEARN MORE

Start interpreting Scripture with Scripture in your Bible study time. We’ve got the MacArthur Topical Bible on sale right now, and you can learn more about it on our website.

Continue Reading

The Five Solas:
Christ Alone

Posted by on 10/24/2017 in:

“… for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.” – Acts 4:12

CHRIST ALONE

Of the five solas, solus Christus is the most important. This sola unifies all the others. Without the person and work of Jesus Christ we have nothing to talk about. Jesus is the interpretative key of the Bible (sola scriptura). Christ is the means by which we receive God’s grace (sola gratia). By itself faith merits nothing, it is Christ as the object of our faith that matters (sola fide). Finally, Jesus did it all for God’s glory alone (soli deo gloria).

While it’s easy to understand how Jesus is at the center of the solas, what do we mean when we say “Christ alone”? The answer is multifaceted. First, “Christ alone” is the only way man can enter heaven. 1 Timothy 2:5 tells us that Jesus is the sole mediator between God and man. There is no reconciliation except through him. Second, “Christ alone” means Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection are wholly sufficient to secure our salvation. There is no “Christ and…,” but “Christ alone.” We do not need anymore priests, sacrifices, or good works. Christ has done it all. Finally, it means that “Christ alone” is the central purpose of God’s work in redemption. He alone is the cornerstone of our faith & theology.

THE DOCTRINE TODAY

Why does this doctrine matter to the church today? Simply put, all our theology stands or falls on this doctrine. Our understanding of Christ can either shape or destroy our Christian theology. Let me ask the question another way: what is your hope for entering heaven? Christ alone is our only hope. He is the image of God and the only one to perfectly keep God’s law. Without everything Christ did, we are hopeless and our faith is meaningless. Jesus is how we know God. He is how we restore our broken fellowship with God. Jesus is the means of our pardon. Jesus did it all.

Our salvation is by grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone. His work was perfect and we can add nothing to it. He has always been the only way to salvation.

“I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” – Jesus (John 14:6)

LEARN MORE

To learn more about the doctrine of Christ alone check out Christ Alone: The Uniqueness of Jesus as Savior by Stephen Wellum and the rest of the Five Solas Series.

Continue Reading

The Five Solas:
Grace Alone

Posted by on 10/18/2017 in:

For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people
Titus 2:11

SOLA GRATIA – GRACE ALONE

Three of the five solas are so intertwined that it’s hard to distinguish their nuances. The Reformers believed that salvation is through faith alone, by grace alone, in Christ alone. These three solas operate synergistically & describe how man can be made right with God.

Grace is throughout all the Bible’s pages, from Genesis to Revelation. It is at the heart of the gospel and an essential part of God’s character. In it’s simplest terms, grace can be defined as getting something you do not deserve. Of the five solas, this is the least disputed, but often the most overlooked.

HISTORY

While oft agreed upon, that is not to say it has been without dispute in Church history. The most memorable dispute occurred between Pelagius and Augustine. Pelagius believed man was not entirely affected by the Fall, and was able to perform good works that pleased God, thus earning salvation. His teachings denied the need for God to provide grace in order to be saved. In his view, man was good enough to earn his own salvation & Jesus was more a model to be followed. With the help of Augustine’s rebuttal, the Church found Pelagius to be a heretic & excommunicated him. Church counsels throughout the centuries continued to stomp out any attempted resurrection of this heresy.

During the Reformation era this heresy once again raised its head through the teachings of Jacob Arminius, albeit in a modified form. Arminius’ view is often labeled as Semi-Pelagianism. It teaches that while man is tainted by sin, he is not unable to cooperate with God’s free offer of grace. This is the battle that the Reformers waged, hence the cry sola gratia.

The Reformers taught that man is totally depraved and wholly incapable of choosing God. This is all a result of Adam’s fall in the Garden, which brought about spiritual death for all humanity. Therefore, it took a work of God to redeem and make us spiritually alive. God’s grace is the only reason we have salvation. Protestantism has held this view throughout subsequent centuries.

WHY SHOULD YOU CARE?

So, why does any of this matter? Because it is core to the gospel! Your understanding of this doctrine comes as a direct result of your understanding of the Fall and man’s depravity. The doctrine of grace alone draws us back to what Adam lost for all humanity: communion with God. To restore this lost fellowship God sent his son, Jesus Christ, to pay the penalty for our sin. Being a perfect judge, God cannot overlook sin, thus Christ’s sacrifice. Like the common Christian acronym for grace says, it is truly “God’s Riches At Christ’s Expense.” We get everything we do not deserve because Jesus bore our sin. That is why this doctrine matters!

LEARN MORE

To learn more about the doctrine of faith alone check out Grace Alone: Salvation as a Gift of God by Carl Trueman and the rest of the Five Solas Series.

Continue Reading

Learn to Read Books of the Bible as Books

Posted by on 10/16/2017 in: ,

APPROACHING THE BIBLE AS LITERATURE

There’s no doubt you’ve realized that the Bible is a book, but have you ever thought about what that means? If you took a literature class is high school or college, you may remember that there’s a lot more to studying books than simply reading them. There’s a storyline, plot, characters, themes, motifs, genre and literary devices. Sometimes, the author’s intentions are easy to understand. And sometimes, the author’s intentions lie deep beneath the surface. Just like reading Shakespeare or Nathaniel Hawthorne, if we hope to understand the Bible, we have to understand how and why it was written.

But what will you gain by approaching the Bible as literature? First, you will be able to see the Bible as a metanarrative (a fancy word that means “one big story”). It’s incredibly neat to see patterns throughout not only books of the Bible, but the Bible itself. Secondly, you will be able to better understand and apply some of the more confusing books of the Bible—like Ecclesiastes.

WHAT RESOURCES DO I USE?

There are so many different ways to study the Bible, and it can be hard to know which resources will give you the information you want. Some study Bibles and commentaries are more vague, providing you with an array of different types of information. But recently we were able to add the ESV Literary Study Bible to our store—and it is the perfect resource for solving this problem.

READING THE BOOK OF ECCLESIASTES AS… A BOOK

Before you start reading Ecclesiastes, it’s probably good to get some background. The ESV Literary Study Bible loads their introduction notes with helpful information to get you ready. It covers the basics (such as format, patterns, rhetoric, and genres), but it also gives you a heads-up on some inferred literary intentions and theological themes.

One of the most helpful sections is called: “Ecclesiastes as a chapter in the master story of the Bible.” This resource always tries to teach you how each book of the Bible fits into the whole Bible. Here’s a snippet of what it shares:

“The book of Ecclesiastes has been called a Christ-shaped vacuum. Its contribution to the story line of the Bible is to record the longing of the human soul to find satisfaction and to point us toward the satisfaction of that longing in a Christ-centered experience of life. Jesus is the meaning of life, and if he is not at the center of our daily experience, we will find only futility and frustration.”

The Futile Quest to Find Meaning in Pleasure

Now, we’ll look at two examples of how this resource teaches you to read the Bible as literature and apply it to your life. Under this heading, you’ll find information on Ecclesiastes 2:1-11. In this passage, Solomon is telling his listeners about all the items he acquired in his search for pleasure. Because of his wealth, he was able to have anything he desired and yet, in the end, it was useless to him.

The study notes are helpful in revealing what is being communicated and how it applies to us:

 “The passage gives us a catalog of acquisitions and attempted avenues of pleasure. Even as we observe a courtly version of the acquisitive lifestyle, it is easy for us to see real-life applications: a fancy house and yard (vv. 5–6); possessions (v. 7); money, entertainment, and sex (v. 8). The passage asserts the paradox of hedonism: the more one searches for pleasure, the less of it one finds.

The World’s Most Famous Poem on the Subject of Time

In this section, the ESV Literary Study Bible covers the famous poem on time (Ecclesiastes 3:1-8, “a time to be born, and a time to die…”). Poetry definitely requires more literary analysis in order to understand. Here’s what the resource shares on this section of Scripture:

The poem illustrates the haunting and cumulative effect of Hebrew poetry: by the time we finish the poem, we are emotionally convinced that there is, indeed, a time for everything. In terms of the rhythm of the book of Ecclesiastes, the poem is positive in mood: within the given that we cannot control the events of life, the poem (a) implies that life is as much good as bad, (b) embodies a spirit of calm resignation rather than protest in regard to the time-bound nature of human life, (c) affirms an order to human life, and (d) asserts the positive theme of timeliness (if we cannot control time, we can plug into its flow).

LEARN MORE

If you’re using these notes and you come across a term you don’t know—that’s okay! Many of the literary devices are hyperlinked to a glossary. Also, all of the verses are hyperlinked for easy study.

Want to starting reading books of the Bible as literature? Check out the ESV Literary Study Bible.

Continue Reading