Category: Educational

Waging War on Legalism

Posted by on 02/05/2018 in:


you had a neighbor who had been paralyzed from the neck down by an accident more than thirty years ago.

One Sunday morning, just after six o’clock, the sound of a lawnmower jolts you from a deep, satisfying sleep. Annoyed, you bolt to the front door to see who would be so insensitive as to rattle every window on the block with that infernal noise so early on a day of rest.

Upon seeing your formerly paralyzed friend gleefully mowing his lawn in perfect health, what do you think you would say?

If you’re a normal person, you’d say, “Hank! What happened? How are you not paralyzed?!”

But if you’re a Pharisee, you’d scream, “Hank! It’s Sunday morning! Turn that thing off!””

Swindoll’s Living Insights New Testament Commentary

photo from resource, originally taken from


John 5:1-18 tells the story of Jesus healing a sick man at the pool of Bethesda. When the man stands and picks up his mat after 38 years of illness, the religious leaders do not rejoice with him. The Pharisees rebuke him.

Why? Because it was the Sabbath.

This is a classic representation of legalism, which Chuck Swindoll calls a “subtle, silent killer” in his New Testament Commentary. Before diving into the text, Swindoll takes time to describe legalism, how it appears, and why it is wrong. Here are his thoughts:


Legalism is the establishment of standards carefully selected by people for the purpose of celebrating human achievement under the guise of pleasing God. Legalism is righteousness as defined by humans, who frequently cite God as the source of the standard. In reality, the standards come from culture, tradition, and most frequently the personal preferences of those who maintain positions of power or influence.

Legalism is based on lists (legalists love their lists!). If you do keep every item on the list of dos and don’ts, you’re deemed spiritually acceptable. But if you don’t follow the prescribed standard, you are judged unworthy of God’s favor and others’ approval. Naturally, legalists always think they know how God judges and they are more than willing to act on His behalf.


Legalism almost always adorns itself in the regal robes of religious garb, and it brandishes the credentials of religious organizations.

This is not to condemn Christian organizations or the clothes they wear—I am merely pointing out that legalists are drawn to them and have successfully infiltrated churches, missions, parachurch organizations, charities, and schools. When they do, they use religious trappings to convince others that their own agendas have God’s approval.

Eventually, followers begin to fear the disapproval of the leaders, who become more and more visible and controlling as the Lord fades into obscurity.


Legalism denies God’s grace and presumes to earn His favor through deeds. It is a man-made righteousness that exalts humanity rather than the Lord. Legalism produces either pride or depression in the people under its spell—pride for those who keep the list to their own satisfaction, depression for those who recognize their utter inability to keep the list perfectly. Criticism is the primary motivation.

The goal of legalism is to give as much criticism as possible and to avoid receiving it at all costs.

Legalism is wrong because it produces in people what the Lord desires least: pride, self-loathing, hypocrisy, and self-righteousness.

Swindoll’s Living Insights New Testament Commentary 


After describing legalism, Swindoll goes verse-by-verse through the passage. It’s jam-packed with great information (and even pictures!) to help you understand Scripture in context. Here are 10 facts that we really enjoyed:

1) When Jesus arrived in Jerusalem, He apparently visited the sanitarium that lay in the shadow of the great temple built by Herod. The temple authorities, especially the Pharisees among them, would never have entered the place and probably rebuked any Jew who did. (5:1-2)

2) The name Bethesda is a kind of play on words, meaning “house of grace” or “house of outpouring [water].” A curious blend of Hebrew religion and Greek superstition held that an angel of God periodically stirred the waters and promised healing to the first invalid able to pull himself into the pool. (5:3-4)

3) As Jesus visited weary patients who were vainly trying to heal themselves, He found a man who had been sick for thirty-eight years, which was longer than the average life expectancy for a male in the first-century Roman Empire. He had been sick for literally a lifetime. (5:5-6)

4) The Koiné Greek language often used word order for the sake of emphasis. In this case, the man stressed the word “man”—he did not have a man to help him. He clearly recognized his own helplessness; however, the object of his faith was confused. (5:7-8)

5) Just as the reader might begin to celebrate the man’s healing, John’s aside drops like a wet blanket. He says, in effect, “Oh, by the way, it was the Sabbath.” Anyone who knew anything about Pharisees understood the significance of that simple statement. (5:8-9)

6) The Pharisees strictly applied the words of Jeremiah, “do not carry any load on the sabbath day” (Jer. 17:21), but failed to recognize the context. Jeremiah complained because the seventh day in Jerusalem was business as usual, like any other day. Later, Nehemiah would take the same stand by ordering the doors of Jerusalem to be closed on the last day of the week, “so that no load would enter on the sabbath day” (Neh. 13:19). (5:10)

7) Jewish theology of the day correctly taught that sin deserves punishment; however, the rabbis incorrectly attributed physical illness to God’s wrath. The true and ultimate punishment for sin is eternal torment after death. (5:11-14)

8) The Greek word rendered “went away” is better translated “went after” and usually indicates purpose. It’s a common expression in the Synoptic Gospels for discipleship. One “goes after” a mentor in order to learn from him. The man turned away from following Jesus and affirmed his allegiance to the Jewish leaders. (5:15)

9) This particular healing begged the question, “Who owns the Sabbath?” The religious authorities claimed ownership of the Sabbath by objecting to Jesus “doing these things.” (5:16)

10) Having refuted the faulty theology of the religious leaders, Jesus equated His act of grace with God’s continuing “work.” This was an outright claim to ownership of the Sabbath. (5:17-18)


Here are Chuck Swindoll’s three application points:

“FIRST, we must expose legalism. The truth of the gospel—the good news of God’s grace received through faith—must refute the claims of tradition, custom, or any other standard of righteousness not explicitly taught in Scripture. And where Scripture is clear, it must be applied to call people to celebrate the Spirit of God living within them through joyful obedience.”

“SECOND, we must combat legalism. Legalism is an enemy that cannot be met with violence; however, like in any war, we must fight with courage and conviction, recognizing that combat requires toughness. Without setting aside kindness, we must be willing to confront the legalist with his or her lies.”

“THIRD, we must overcome legalism. We do that by proclaiming grace louder, more often, in more places, and to more people than the false prophets of legalism. People only choose bondage when they fear that freedom is unreachable, impossible, unaffordable, or unreal. Once people experience grace and learn that it can be theirs, legalism doesn’t stand a chance.”


Swindoll’s Living Insights New Testament Commentary (7 Vols.) is a fantastic resource that not only delves deep into word studies, ancient history, and cultural study… but it also applies Scripture directly to your life. Visit our website to learn more.

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The Structure of Thanksgiving

Posted by on 01/24/2018 in:

The NIV Application Commentary is a great tool for in-depth study of the Bible while ALSO helping you apply the Bible to your life. Below is an excerpt taken from the commentary on Colossians, by David E. Garland.


Paul adopted the custom in ancient letter writing of offering a prayer of thanks to the gods and transformed this convention by expanding it and filling it with Christian meaning. His thanksgiving is not some perfunctory nod to various divinities for blessings received and misfortunes averted. It is a prayer to be read aloud in Christian worship and thereby becomes a witness of Christian faith and a means of Christian instruction. Paul never trots out some stock, all-purpose prayer but carefully tailors it to the situation of the church he is addressing. He sensitively weaves together the church’s progress in the faith, their needs, and his hopes for them into a beautiful tapestry of praise and thanks to God.

One should not ignore the thanksgiving proems in Paul’s letters as unimportant devotional meditations unrelated to the key themes of the letter. They lay the groundwork for what follows in the letter, previewing its major themes and setting the tone of the letter.


The thanksgiving section in Colossians extends from 1:3 through 1:23 and includes the Christological prose hymn in 1:15-20. The key ideas of “faith,” “hope,” and “hearing” in the opening (1:4-6) are repeated in 1:23 to form an inclusioa rhetorical device in which the beginning of a unit is repeated in its ending.

The thanksgiving divides into two parts, 1:3-8 and 1:9-23. The first part focuses on the effects of the gospel in Colosse and the whole world, the second on Paul’s intercession for the Colossians and his celebration of the salvation accomplished by Christ.


In 1:3-5, Paul tells the Colossians that he always thanks God for them because of their faith in Jesus Christ and their love for all the saints. The focus on the community suddenly shifts in 1:6 to the whole world as he exults over the universal effects of the gospel.

In 1:7-8 he returns to how the gospel took root in Colosse through Epaphras’s ministry. This first section of the thanksgiving forms a chiasm, a literary pattern in which two or more terms, phrases, or ideas are stated and then repeated in reverse order (ab ba):

A v. 4: We have heard of your faith in Christ Jesus and of the love you have for all the saints

  B v. 5: the faith and love that spring from the hope stored up for you in heaven and that you have already heard about in the word of truth, the gospel

    C v. 6a: that has come to you. All over the world this gospel is bearing fruit and growing,

  B’ v. 6b: just as it has been doing among you since the day you heard it and understood God’s grace in all its truth.

A’ vv. 7-8: You learned it from Epaphras, our dear fellow servant, who is a faithful minister of Christ on our behalf, and who also told us of your love in the Spirit.

From this structure we see that the heart of the first part of the prayer is verse 6a, in which Paul gives thanks for how the gospel has spread throughout the world.


The second section of the thanksgiving consists of Paul’s intercession for the Colossians (1:9-14). Paul restates that he does not cease praying for them (1:9; cf. 1:3), and in 1:9-11 he reiterates in reverse order the key phrases in 1:3-6.

He repeats the phrase “since the day we heard about you” (1:9; 1:6, “since the day you heard it”) and then lists how he intercedes for them. He prays that they will increase in “bearing fruit” and “growing” (1:10; cf. 1:6) and in “the knowledge of [God’s] will” (1:9; cf. 1:10, “of God”; see 1:6, of “God’s grace”).

In 1:11-12 he also prays that they may be “strengthened with all power according to his glorious might” and that they may give thanks joyfully.


He lists three reasons for giving thanks in 1:12-14. Some question whether 1:12-14 are part of the prayer and treat it as an introit leading in to the anthem to Christ in 1:15-20.

Paul is not working from a precise outline, however, and we should regard 1:12-14 as part of his intercession. It gives the reasons for joyfully giving thanks to God and flows naturally into glorifying Christ. These verses therefore place 1:15-20 in the context of the celebration of redemption rather than abstruse, metaphysical ruminations.


The prose hymn to Christ in 1:15-20, which affirms Christ’s absolute and universal supremacy, bursts forth like a supernova, whose resplendence eclipses everything around it. The verses surrounding this poetic celebration, however, also offer up praise for what God has done for us through Christ.

God has made the Colossians fit for a share in an inheritance for which they did not previously qualify as Gentiles (1:12).

God has rescued them from the dominion of darkness (the plight of pagans) and brought them in a new Exodus to the kingdom of God’s beloved Son (1:13). God has redeemed them and forgiven their sins (1:14) and has reconciled them through Christ to present them holy, without blemish, and free from accusation (1:22).


In the final verses of the thanksgiving (1:21-23), Paul recounts how the Colossians accepted this reconciliation (1:21-22). He mentions again (1:23) the hope held out in the gospel (see 1:5), their hearing of it (1:5), and how it has been proclaimed to every creature under heaven (1:6) so that it can bear fruit and grow.

He concludes the thanksgiving with mention of his own role as a servant of this gospel (1:23), a topic he will take up in the next section (1:24 – 2:5). This long, rhapsodic thanksgiving lays the foundation for the exhortation beginning in 2:6.


In sum, 1:3-23 is like a mighty river meandering through stunningly beautiful terrain. To appreciate fully the theological landscape, we will need to break up the unity of this segment by discussing it in separate sections in the commentary.


Interested in learning more about Colossians and Philemon? This commentary is on sale for only $7.99 right now. Or, if you’re looking for other commentaries like this one, but for the entire Bible, check out the set! It’s currently discounted 66%.

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The Second Joshua

Posted by on 12/22/2017 in:

What does the Old Testament—specifically the book of Joshua—have anything to do with Jesus? Read this content pulled from the Bible Knowledge Commentary to find out.


The purpose of the Book of Joshua is to give an official account of the historical fulfillment of the Lord’s promise to the patriarchs to give Israel the land of Canaan by holy war. A “holy war” was a conflict with religious overtones rather than one with a political motivation of defense or expansion. This can be seen in both the opening charge (1:2-6) and the concluding summary (21:43).


Specifically, the conquest of Canaan under Joshua’s leadership was based on the Abrahamic Covenant. God, having dealt with all nations, made Abraham the center of His purposes and determined to reach the lost world through Abraham’s seed. The Lord made a contract or covenant with Abraham, promising unconditionally to give a land, a posterity, and spiritual blessing to the patriarch and his descendants (Gen. 12:2-3). Soon thereafter God said He was giving the land to Israel forever (cf. Gen. 13:15). The boundaries of the land were then given to Abraham (Gen. 15:18-21).


Later God affirmed that the rightful heirs to the Promised Land were Isaac and his descendants (Gen. 17:19-21). Thus the Book of Joshua records the fulfillment of the patriarchal promise as Israel appropriated the land pledged to her by her faithful God centuries before. That the nation was later dispossessed reflects not on the character of God but on the fickleness of a people who took divine blessings for granted, fell into the worship of their neighbors’ gods, and therefore came under the chastisement God had warned them about (cf. Deut. 28:15-68).

But Israel must possess the land forever according to the promise, something that awaits the return of Messiah and the redemption of Israel. According to the Prophet Isaiah, the Messiah will be a “second Joshua,” who will “restore the land and … reassign its desolate inheritances” (Isa. 49:8).


Paul taught that the events of the Exodus and Conquest are meaningful for Christians in that those events possess significance as types (cf. 1 Cor. 10:1-11). The Greek form of the name “Joshua” (“Yahweh saves” or “Yahweh is salvation”) is “Jesus.” As Joshua led Israel to victory over her enemies and into possession of the Promised Land, and as he interceded for the nation after it had sinned and been defeated, so does Jesus.

He brings the people of God into a promised rest (Heb. 4:8-9); intercedes for His own continually (Rom. 8:34; Heb. 7:25); and enables them to defeat their enemies (Rom. 8:37; Heb. 2:14-15).


The Bible Knowledge Commentary has thorough notes, outlines, and introductions to the books of the Bible. You can learn more about it and see how it works in our app by visiting our website.

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5 Helpful Tips to Deepen Your Bible Study

Posted by on 12/14/2017 in:

5 Tips to Deepen Your Bible Study

Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth. — 2 Timothy 2:15 KJV

The Bible is not an end in itself, but is a means to the end of knowing God and doing His will. The apostle Paul said, “Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth” (2 Tim. 2:15). God has given us the Bible in order that we might know Him and that we might do His will here on earth.

Therefore, devotional Bible study is the most important kind of Bible study. Devotional Bible study means reading and studying the Word of God in order that we may hear God’s voice and that we may know how to do His will and to live a better Christian life.

For your devotional reading and study of the Bible, here are five important, practical suggestions to deepen your Bible study:


Open thou mine eyes, that I may behold wondrous things out of thy law. — Psalm 119:18, KJV

 Howbeit when he, the Spirit of truth, is come, he will guide you into all truth: for he shall not speak of himself; but whatsoever he shall hear, that shall he speak: and he will shew you things to come. He shall glorify me: for he shall receive of mine, and shall shew it unto you. All things that the Father hath are mine: therefore said I, that he shall take of mine, and shall shew it unto you. John 16:13-15


Keep a small notebook for your Bible study.


Read slowly through one chapter, or perhaps two or three chapters, or perhaps just one paragraph at a time. After reading, ask yourself what this passage means. Then reread it.


of the chapter or passage to ask yourself the following questions, then write the answers in your notebook:

  1. What is the main subject of this passage?
  2. Who are the persons reveals in this passage? Who is speaking? About whom is he speaking? Who is acting?
  3. What is the key verse of this passage?
  4. What does this passage teach me about the Lord Jesus Christ?
  5. Does this passage portray any sin for me to confess and foresake?
  6. Does this passage contain any command for me to obey?
  7. Is there any promise for me to claim?
  8. Is there any instruction for me to follow?

Not all of these questions may be answered in every passage.


Either in your Bible study notebook mentioned above, or in a separate notebook. Write down daily what God says to you through the Bible. Write down the sins that you confess or the commands you should obey.

Additional Note: Do not try to adopt all of these methods at once, but start out slowly, selecting those methods and suggestions which appeal to you. You will find, as millions of others have before you, that the more you read and study the Word of God, the more you’ll want to read it.

Do you have any tips to add to this list? Share them in the comments


This content was taken from the KJV Study Bible Notes, Full Color Edition. Learn more about this fantastic resource on our website.

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Reading Proverbs In the Context of the Old and New Testament

Posted by on 12/11/2017 in:

This post is curated from the Zondervan Academic blog.

Reading Proverbs

One of my seminary professors used to cheekily refer to common Christian devotional practices as our “daily bread crumb.” Meaning: we often take a verse or even part of a verse and spin out a comforting crumb of exhortation at the expense of the whole loaf of biblical bread—whether the surrounding pericope or greater.

Perhaps with no other place in Scripture do we do this than with Proverbs. Ryan O’Dowd offers an important reminder in his new commentary on Proverbs (Story of God Bible Commentary) when studying this book:

such casual study of individual proverbs can be shortsighted, both because it is apt to overlook the endless depth of each saying and also because the sayings take on a whole new life in the larger collection of thirty-one chapters….To get wisdom one must wrangle seriously with all of these proverbial sayings as a collection. (17)

Further still, to fully appreciate this collection of wisdom, we need to set it into its proper context by understanding the entire breadbasket, as it were, of wisdom in the Old and New Testament. Below we’ve briefly engaged the five contexts O’Dowd outlines in his sturdy introduction to fully appreciate the wisdom Scripture offers us.

Wisdom and Creation

First, the Old Testament expresses a role of wisdom in God’s creation of the world. “‘Wisdom’ here is not merely an inert adjective. Rather it speaks to the pattern by which God creates three realms in days 1–3 and then fills them with their appropriate form of life in days 4–6” (39). Psalm 104:24 expresses this relationship:

“How many are your works, O Yahweh! In wisdom you made them all; the earth is full of your creatures” (Author translation)

The wisdom-creation dynamic isn’t limited to the original creation, but also informs earthly project, like building the tabernacle. “The craftspeople are specifically skilled with ‘wisdom’” (40) in order that the glory of Yahweh might fill it.

Wisdom and Law

During the nineteenth and twentieth centuries scholars struggled to relate wisdom literature to Israel’s covenants and redemptive history. Franz Delitzsch was an exception. He argued Proverbs and Deuteronomy echo one another, and many recent scholars have followed suit, O’Doud included:

I argue throughout this commentary that wisdom provides insight into the created and moral order of God’s world, so it makes perfect sense for it to give way to just laws. If Israel had actually obeyed the law, it would have been clear to the nations that this way of ordering society surpassed their own stories and law codes. Indeed, Deuteronomy has a uniquely humanitarian character to it. (41)

Wisdom in Crisis

Then there is the relationship between Proverbs and the similar wisdom works of Job and Ecclesiastes. “The crises in these latter books do not react to the worldview in Proverbs so much as narrow and enhance the more idealistic message of Proverbs.…Job and Ecclesiastes react more strongly to the challenges of life in a fallen world” (40).

So Proverbs strong correlative view of character and consequences is sharpened in Job, drawing us to argue with God in prayer. Where Ecclesiastes is often styled as a reaction to Proverbs’s optimism, in the end it still brings its despair around to Proverbs same foundation of wisdom.

O’Dowd concludes, “whereas Proverbs looks back at the goodness of creation with a hope that is never fully articulated or justified, Job and Ecclesiastes look forward with desperate hope for relief from the heavenly realms” (43).

Wisdom and Prophets

Wisdom within the prophetic literature carries an interesting dynamic, for they are both critical and expectant of it.

On the one hand, “many of the prophets are critical of a class known as ‘the wise’” (43), and criticize Israel for breaking their covenant with Yahweh. On the other, “The prophets also look forward to the coming of a wise messiah,” the One who would “bring together the wisdom, hope, and justice of the law and the wisdom literature” (43-44).

Wisdom and the New Testament

Finally, O’Dowd observes, “We are also prone to overlook wisdom in the New Testament because Christian theology tends to focus more on Jesus’ kingship than his kingdom” (44). And yet wisdom shows itself in four distinct ways in the New Testament:

  • As a child Jesus is depicted as wise in his words and deeds; he is the model son of Proverbs 1:8 and 6:20
  • Jesus’ wisdom is evident in his teachings and works
  • Jesus is revealed through a “wisdom Christology”
  • Wisdom enables Christians to know God’s mysteries in Christ and to live them accordingly


“Wisdom is God’s gift to us, not merely to get by in life, but to bring about the flourishing of the whole creation….It could be argued that wisdom has the broadest applicability of the genres in the Bible. It is concerned with everything.”

Engage O’Doud’s commentary on Proverbs inside the Story of God Commentary Series. Learning to navigate Proverbs will help you live and teach others to live flourishing lives. Visit the Olive Tree website to learn more.

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A God Who is Everywhere: Omnipresence

Posted by on 12/06/2017 in:

Our God is not bound by space and time. This characteristic is called “omnipresence.” Although it is described in the Bible, the word “omnipresence” or “omnipresent” won’t be found in there. So, how do you learn what the Bible has to say about this characteristic of God?


Our God is omnipresent. Systematic theologians use this term frequently when discussing God’s incommunicable attributes—the attributes that we, humans, can never participate in. We can be loving like God to an extent. We can be holy like God to an extent. But we cannot become omnipresent.

That means, it can be difficult for us to comprehend God’s omnipresence. We can try our best to describe it… but in the end, it’s a concept that we cannot fully-communicate: hence, incommunicable.

Thankfully, the Bible gives us lots of great examples! I grabbed all the verses from the Olive Tree Bible Threads resource that refer to omnipresence for you to read.


But will God really dwell on earth? The heavens, even the highest heaven, cannot contain you. — 1 Kings 8:27

May he send you help from the sanctuary
and grant you support from Zion.
— Psalm 20:2

You have searched me, Lord,
and you know me.
—Psalm 139:1

Where can I go from your Spirit?
Where can I flee from your presence?
—Psalm 139:7

This is what the Lord says:
“Heaven is my throne,
and the earth is my footstool.
Where is the house you will build for me?
—Isaiah 66:1

“Am I only a God nearby, ”
declares the Lord,
“and not a God far away?
Who can hide in secret places
so that I cannot see them?”
declares the Lord.
“Do not I fill heaven and earth?”declares the Lord.
—Jeremiah 23:23-24

This, then, is how you should pray:
“‘Our Father in heaven,
hallowed be your name…”
—Matthew 6:9

‘For in him we live and move and have our being.’ As some of your own poets have said, ‘We are his offspring.’ — Acts 17:28

The Son is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of his being, sustaining all things by his powerful word. After he had provided purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty in heaven. — Hebrews 1:3


How did I quickly gather these verses? Olive Tree Bible Threads contains large, searchable lists. Just tap to see all the verses in the Bible that reference the topic you’re interested in.

Also, while reading your Bible, you can open up the Olive Tree Bible Threads in the Resource Guide. That way, you can quickly read verses related to the passage you are in. This is a great tool for learning to read the Bible as one, cohesive book. You will be able to make connections across Scripture and grow in your understanding of God.


Do your own study on a topic in the Bible by adding the Olive Tree Bible Threads to your library! Check out our website for more information.

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3 Resources for a Starter Library

Posted by on 11/28/2017 in:

We hear this question a lot: “What are some great resources to get me started with the Olive Tree Bible App?” We’ve decided to share our recommendation because there might be others asking the same question. So, here are 3 resources for a starter library!



If you’ve ever opened-up a paper version of a study Bible, you know it looks a little different than a regular copy. At the bottom of each page there are notes that give deeper insights to the passage you are reading.

These notes aren’t difficult to understand or highly academic, like a commentary would be. Instead, a study Bible provides you with tidbits of information to enhance your Bible reading along the way.


First, at Olive Tree, we sell you the study Bible notes. What does this mean? If you purchase the ESV Study Bible, you will receive two resources: the ESV (which we offer for free) and the study Bible notes.

If you open the notes in the Resource Guide, they will follow along with your Bible reading in the main window.

COOL TIP! You can open any Bible translation along with your study Bible notes. For example, you could be reading the NKJV but have the NIV Study Bible notes open.

NIV Study Bible

ESV Study Bible

NKJV Study Bible

NASB Study Bible

KJV Study Bible



God’s Word is the best interpreter of the Bible. When we use tools like a concordance to gain more insight, we aren’t looking to voices outside of the Bible for clarity. A concordance lists significant words in the Bible, tells you the Greek or Hebrew word, and shows you the other places that word is used in the Bible.

That way, you can make comparisons and double-check the way you are interpreting the Bible.


When you use a paper concordance, you open not only multiple pages inside the concordance, but also have your Bible open next to you! With the app, all you do is select a word and tap “look up.” Choose your concordance and you’ll be given a list of every instance that word is used in the Bible.

Better yet, the list is hyperlinked! All you need to do is tap on the reference in order to see the verse. You can also tap “Dictionary” to read the Strong’s definition.

NIV Concordance

ESV Concordance

NKJV Concordance

NASB Concordance

KJV Concordance



The Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance is one, huge book when it’s printed in paper. It lists every single significant word in the Bible! Then, it pairs the English word with the Greek or Hebrew word and provides you with a definition. You can also discover other places the word is used in the Bible.

This tool is perfect for the beginner’s library because it equips you to understand Greek and Hebrew… without needing to learn Greek and Hebrew. You will be able to discern the original language and meaning of the Bible.

The only problem is… with a paper version of Strong’s, you do A LOT of page-flipping and time-wasting. But we have a solution.


Instead of leaving Strong’s as a separate concordance that you have to search through, we fused it into the Bible text.

Every blue, hyper-linked word will open a pop-up window, providing you with the Greek or Hebrew word, Strong’s number, and a definition.

If you want to see all the other places this word is used in the Bible, just tap “Search for ###” You can scroll through a list of verses and even tap on them to read in more context.

What makes this different than the concordances we mentioned in point #2? First, this information is fused into the Bible text. Second, a concordance will first show you the list of verses; meanwhile, Strong’s will show you the definition first. Both are useful for studying the Bible and provide you with a different angle for learning more.

NIV Word Study Bible (Strong’s)

ESV Strong’s

NKJV Strong’s

NASB Strong’s

KJV Strong’s


Interested in learning more? Visit the product page of any of these resources to read more about what comes with the resource. You can even watch a video to see how it works in our app.

As always, if you have any questions, email We’d be glad to answer any of your questions!

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Which Expositor’s Commentary is Right for Me?

Posted by on 11/23/2017 in: ,

You may have noticed that we have two commentary sets that are nearly identical in title:

The 12-volume set is heavily discounted for our Black Friday sale, which is helpful—if you know what it is and why it will enhance your study of God’s Word. So, this blog post will explain just that: what is the Expositor’s Bible Commentary, what are the differences between the two, and how it will help you study deeper.


Both commentary sets have a strong evangelical influence while at the same time drawing from a broad diversity of churches, including Anglican, Baptist, Brethren, Methodist, Nazarene, Presbyterian, and Reformed.

The original Expositor’s Bible Commentary was compiled between the years of 1976-1992 with 50 different authors contributing.

The Expositor’s Bible Commentary – Revised Series is a 2012 update to the original that includes the work of 56 different authors – 30 of whom are new.


The original and the revised editions include the following content:

  • Comprehensive introductions
  • Short and precise bibliographies
  • Detailed outlines
  • Insightful expositions of passages and verses
  • Overviews of sections of Scripture to illuminate the big picture
  • Occasional reflections to give more detail on important issues
  • Notes on textual questions and special problems, placed close to the texts in question
  • Transliterations and translations of Hebrew and Greek words, enabling readers to understand even the more technical notes

Both sets use the NIV for its English text, but also refer freely to other translations and to the original languages. Each book of the Bible has, in addition to its exposition, an introduction, outline, and bibliography. They also include a balanced and respectful approach toward marked differences of opinion.


In the Olive Tree Bible App all of this content is easily accessed in the Resource Guide found in the split window. No matter which commentary you are using they both follow along with the scripture in your main window to give you easy access to expositional commentary, charts, outlines and more.

How does this affect you? It makes your study of God’s Word a smoother process. You don’t have to flip pages or have your desk full of open books. Instead, our app serves you the material you need, that is relevant to the passage your studying. We want to help you steward your time well!

Here’s a few screenshots of how the resource looks in our app.

Each number indicates relevant entries for the passage

Notes are just a tap away

Charts and outlines are easy to use


You can learn more about the Expositor’s Bible Commentary (12 Volumes) by visiting our website.

If you’re looking for a reliable, comprehensive commentary set, the price won’t get much better than this. Don’t forget that this discounted price is only good for our Black Friday sale!

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A Camel Through… What?

Posted by on 11/21/2017 in: ,

“Then Jesus said to His disciples, ‘Assuredly, I say to you that it is hard for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven. And again I say to you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.'” —Matthew 19:23


If you’ve read this passage before, you have probably pictured something like this:

But the Archaeological Study Bible notes have information on this passage that you have probably NEVER heard. At least, I hadn’t!


“Since the Middle Ages commentators have considered the possibility that Jesus’ statement concerning the ‘eye of a needle’ (Mt 19:24) may have been a reference to certain doors or gates that actually existed in his day. Some homes did in fact have large doors that would allow a fully loaded camel to enter into the courtyard. Since such doors were cumbersome and required great effort to open, there were often smaller doors cut within them, permitting easy passage of people and smaller animals into the house.

Some interpreters have argued that this smaller door was the ‘needle’s eye gate,’ while others have suggested that the needle’s eye referred to smaller doors within larger city gates, such as those at Jaffa and Hebron. Passage through the smaller gate, it was said, would have forced a camel to its knees. Thus, the point of Jesus’ teaching in verse 24 is supposedly that a rich man can enter the kingdom of heaven only if he falls down to his knees.” — Archaeological Study Bible notes


“As illustrative as these theories are, they in fact diminish the force of Jesus’ words. The point is not that salvation is difficult without God but that it is impossible without him.

Jesus’ contrast of the largest animal known in Palestine with the smallest of holes created a vivid and memorable illustration. The fact that modern-day gates have been so named can most likely be attributed to the influence of this and similar statements within the Talmud and the Koran. In other words, the term “needle’s eye gate” most likely did not precede the teaching; rather, the popularity of the term evidently came about because of the teaching.

But in Jesus’ original setting, it is very likely that a needle’s eye was simply a needle’s eye and not a gate at all.” — Archaeological Study Bible notes


Lastly, the Archaeological Study Bible warns Bible readers to beware of legendary, pseudo-archaeological interpretations. Why? Because they can be misleading and undermine the true meaning of a Biblical text.

We should always be careful about what we believe! Refer to reliable resources (like this one!), ask lots of questions, and seek input.


Interested in more of what the Archaeological Study Bible has to offer? Great! Here are two ways to learn more:

  1. Visit our blog post What’s in the Archaeological Study Bible – simple enough!
  2. Visit our website to read the product description and watch a video on how study Bibles work in the app.

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Unpacking a Verse: Matthew 1:1

Posted by on 11/13/2017 in:

“The book of the story of Jesus Christ, the son of David, the son of Abraham.” — Matthew 1:1

Within the first verse of Matthew, there are 5 hints to Jesus being the Messiah.

Leon Morris wrote the Pillar New Testament Commentary‘s Matthew Volume, and he did a great job unpacking this verse. Here’s what I discovered from his writing!


Some scholars have wondered if this word refers to the Gospel as a whole or simply to the nativity stories.

In this case, Morris looks Walter Bauer’s, A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature for clarification. It appears that in later writings, this word was especially used for a “sacred, venerable book.”

Evidence leans toward the belief that this one-sentence header for the entire book of Matthew.


The translation of Matthew 1:1 found above was written by Morris himself. Why did he use the word “story” when so many other translations use “history” or genealogy”?

The original term is used of birth or origin or existence… but none of these concepts are easy to see in the passage. But, there’s evidence that the word was already used as the title of the first book of the Old Testament in LXX (the Septuagint, or Greek rendering of the Hebrew Old Testament).

Matthew was beginning to tell a new creation story: the new creation in Jesus Christ.


Matthew doesn’t use the full name Jesus Christ very often. In fact, this is the only location of the term in his book that isn’t disputed.

Typically, Matthew uses the personal name Jesus (̓Ιησοῦς, Yahweh is salvation). In fact, he uses this name 150 times!

Why is there such a contrast? The title Jesus Christ was not popular during Jesus’ lifetime, but grew as people came to know him as their Messiah.


This tagline quickly reveals Jesus’ royal lineage and prophetic fulfillment. The expression “son of David” is probably a messianic title. Together, we can further confirm that Matthew’s book is about the one who fulfilled all that is meant in being the descendant of Israel’s greatest king.


All Israelites took pride in being descendants of the great patriarch, and the Christians were especially fond of him as the classic example of one who believed. In combining David and Abraham, Matthew is drawing attention to two strands in Jesus’ Hebrew ancestry.

That means, with this one, very short sentence, Matthew has bluntly stated Jesus’ qualifications for being the Messiah.


While looking through Morris’ commentary, I was really impressed with the information he shared in the introduction. He gives careful consideration to all the arguments, breaks down concepts into easy-to-understand sections, and gives great references.

This is the level of scholarship in the entire Pillar New Testament Commentary Set, edited by D. A. Carson. If you want to learn more about this series, visit our website.

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