Category: Educational

A Tiny Biography of Menno Simmons

Posted by on 10/26/2017 in:

NAME:

Menno Simmons

BIRTH:

1496, date unknown

DEATH:

January 31, 1561

HOMETOWN:

Witmarsum, Friesland, modern-day Netherlands

VOCATION:

Catholic priest, Anabaptist pastor and author

FAMILY:

Wife Gertrude, two daughters and one son

BIO:

Menno Simons was born in a small village in Friesland, which is a northern province in the Netherlands. Very little is known about his childhood or his family. Simons became a Catholic priest in 1524, at the age of 28, and it’s possible he received at least part of his training at a monastery. Early in his priesthood, Simons began to doubt the Catholic doctrine of transubstantiation in which Catholics believe that the bread and wine of the Lord’s Supper are changed into the literal body and blood of Christ.

Around the time Simons was becoming a priest, there was a group of Catholics called the Sacramentists who were questioning Catholic teachings like transubstantiation. Concurrently, a group known as the Anabaptists was gaining influence in Reformation Europe. Both movements were strong in the Netherlands and Simons picked up on their ideas. In contrast to Calvin and Luther, Anabaptists taught that infant baptism was not valid because baptism should follow a confession of faith and a commitment to discipleship.

As Simons thought about the sacraments, he studied Scripture and believed with the other Reformers that Scripture should be the highest authority rather than church teachings. Simons became convinced that believer baptism was scriptural, which led to his eventual break with the Catholic church in 1536 and his full acceptance of Anabaptist theology. He used his pulpit to preach Anabaptist and Reformed ideas until it became too dangerous to do so. Simons went underground and became a traveling preacher for the rest of his life. He often had to preach and baptize at night to evade capture and death by the various enemies of the Anabaptists. Many of his fellow Anabaptists were martyred.

As Simons moved from town to town through the latter half of his life, he helped consolidate and spur on the Anabaptist movement. He wrote pamphlets to strengthen the theology and faith of converts and sought out those sympathetic to Anabaptist causes. There were many disagreements among Anabaptist leaders over church discipline and governance as the movement gained strength and popularity. Simons, as a mild, peace-loving man, was often a mediator and stuck fast to the Bible’s authority. He died at age 64 on January 31, 1561 in the small German town of Wüstenfelde.

Through Simons’ writings and witness, Anabaptist groups have thrived to this day, and Anabaptist principles like separation of church and state, democratic church government, voluntary church membership, rigorous discipleship, simple living and pacifism have been widely accepted by churches of all theological backgrounds. Mennonites, a Protestant denomination known especially for simple living, take their name from Menno Simons.

LEARN MORE

While writing this biography, we used Reformation Heroes—a short book filled with biographies of the major players of the Reformation.

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The Message of the Reformers

Posted by on 10/23/2017 in: ,

Did you know that John Calvin made a point to write very little about himself—which is one reason why we don’t know much about his personal life? He isn’t the only one. The reformers didn’t write too many captivating memoirs, despite their brave and dangerous lives.

Why didn’t the reformers write about themselves, and what were they writing instead?

The reason the reformers wrote so little about themselves was that they were not focused on themselves; they were focused on the message. We may best remember Luther for nailing up his theses or Tyndale praying “Lord! Open the King of England’s eyes.” But I believe the reformers would be deeply saddened if we remembered only their brave actions and not their important message.

So, for those of us who are celebrating the anniversary of the Reformation, we should make it our aim to pick up something the reformers penned.

READING THEIR MESSAGE

Of course, it’s slightly impossible to read everything the reformers penned. Even picking up Calvin’s Institutes alone is a daunting task. Plus, without being familiar with their writing styles and historical context, their writings can be difficult to understand.

Thankfully, the second generation of reformers was aware of this issue. They summarized reformation teachings into bite-sized pieces. Their intent was not to replace the works of the reformers, but to give people like us, who may never go to seminary, a place to get started. These summaries are contained in the confessions and catechisms of the reformed churches.

START READING NOW FOR FREE

At Olive Tree, our goal is similar to that of the second generation of reformers. We want to make it easier to access the Scriptures and biblical teachings. That’s why we’ve released The Westminster Confession of Faith with the Shorter and Larger Catechisms for free. These resources line-up closely with the teachings of men like John Calvin and John Knox, expressing the most important parts of their message.

Wondering where to start? The authors recommend first reading through and becoming familiar with the Shorter Catechism. Then, read the Larger Catechism, which builds on the shorter. Lastly, study the Westminster Confession of Faith. When combined, these three relatively short documents provide an excellent summary of reformed teaching on faith, life, and worship. We hope that you’ll enjoy these free resources and grow in your understanding of church history.

LEARN MORE

We’ve released more than a few free resources recently, so we thought it would be a good idea to remind you all. Here are the other releases:

Luther’s 95 Theses
The Psalms of David in Metre
London Baptist Confession of Faith & Catechism

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A Tiny Biography of Thomas Cranmer

Posted by on 10/21/2017 in:

NAME:

Thomas Cranmer

BIRTH:

July 2, 1489

DEATH:

March 21, 1556, age 66

HOMETOWN:

Aslockton, Nottinghamshire, England, 131 miles northwest of London

VOCATION:

University Fellow, Ambassador, Archbishop of Canterbury

FAMILY:

Wife Joan, died in childbirth, second wife Margarete, 2 children Margaret and Thomas

BIO:

Thomas Cranmer was born to parents of modest wealth and was sent to Jesus College, Cambridge several years after the death of his father. Cranmer received his bachelor and master’s degrees from Cambridge in logic, classical literature and philosophy. He began to study theology, was ordained by 1520 and had a Doctor of Divinity degree by 1526.

Around this same time, the King of England, Henry VIII, wanted to annul his marriage to Catherine of Aragon, who had failed to produce a male heir for the throne. Henry sent ambassadors to the Pope regarding the annulment, but the Pope failed to grant it. Soon after, Henry broke away from the Catholic Church and declared himself the head of the Church of England. Henry’s marriage to Anne Boleyn, who had read the works of many Reformers, led to the appointment of Thomas Cranmer as the Archbishop of Canterbury. Cranmer was consecrated as the archbishop on March 30, 1533.

Henry’s motivations for separating from the Catholic Church were political, but Cranmer’s were more theological. Cranmer had met Reformers on the Continent and corresponded with them. As Cranmer became more convinced of Reformed theology, he organized work on a statement of faith that became the Thirty-Nine Articles, a document edited over 30 years that defined the theology of the Church of England in the 16th century. Cranmer also edited the Book of Common Prayer, which contained words for liturgical worship services (such as for baptisms, Communion, morning prayer, etc.), prayers for pastoral care, daily Bible readings, and later, the Thirty-Nine Articles. The Book of Common Prayer has had a tremendous influence on the English language and on liturgical worship for over 400 years.

When Henry VIII died, Edward VI became king in 1547 when he was just nine years old. Edward was raised Protestant, so the Church of England under Cranmer’s leadership flourished. When Edward died at age 15 in 1553, Henry VIII’s oldest child, Mary, became Queen, and she aggressively reinstated Roman Catholicism until her death in 1558. Under Mary’s regime, Cranmer and other English Protestants were tried for treason, found guilty, and were sentenced to death.

Cranmer was held for almost two years while awaiting the verdict from Rome, since the trial was under the Pope’s jurisdiction. When the Pope stripped Cranmer of his archbishopric and approved the death sentence, Cranmer recanted his Protestant beliefs for a time before his execution, but renounced Catholicism permanently before he was burned at the stake. He died in Oxford on March 21, 1556 and is considered a Reformation martyr by the Anglican church.

LEARN MORE

While writing this biography, we used a couple resources that are available in our store! Our favorite is Reformation Heroes—a short book filled with biographies of the major players of the Reformation. In our store, we also have an Emblem of Faith Untouched: A Short Life of Thomas Cranmer, if you’d like to learn more!

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Singing from God’s Songbook

Posted by on 10/20/2017 in:

The book of Psalms has a special place in the hearts of many of God’s people—not as though it were more holy or more inspired than other books; it’s not. But for many believers, the Psalms express their emotions to God in a profound, God-honoring way. That’s why we’ve decided to give away a Psalter. If you don’t know what a Psalter is, don’t worry: we explain below.

Our love for the Psalms is surely no accident, and if you’ve found that the Psalms bring a comfort to you in hardship, and at other times a way of expressing the joy of your salvation—this has been the case for the people of God since they were written, 3,000 years ago. God has used his songbook to comfort and aid believers throughout all ages, and as we interact with the Psalms, we’re sharing an experience with believers from all over the world and all of redemptive history. This includes, but is not limited to Jesus Himself, who at various times sang or referenced the Psalms (Matthew 26:30; 27:46) and who indeed sings with us as we sing corporately (Hebrews 2:12). For this reason (among others), they were an important part of the reformation and are still an important part of the reformed tradition today.

John Calvin wrote in his introduction to the book of Psalms:

I have been accustomed to call this book, I think not inappropriately, “An Anatomy of all the Parts of the Soul;” for there is not an emotion of which any one can be conscious that is not here represented as in a mirror.

The Psalms resonate so deeply with us because they were written by the same Spirit who dwelt in Christ, who Himself was intimately acquainted with our sufferings and infirmities (Hebrews 2:17–18; 4:15), though without sin. In the Psalms, we are given a way to understand our own emotions and sufferings, as well as words to pray back to God in whatever situation we may find ourselves. This is truly a gracious gift.

MUSIC AND SCRIPTURE – A BEAUTIFUL GIFT

For many of us, the only thing that comes even remotely close to comforting us like the Psalms is music. But God certainly understood the power that music has to soothe the soul (1 Samuel 16:23), and for this reason He did not intend only for the Psalms to be read, prayed, and studied. He also intended for the Psalms to be sung. They were sung by the people of God in the Old Testament and Paul commands us in the New Testament to sing them as well (Colossians 3:16; Ephesians 5:19). God intentionally combined the infallible content of the songs with the beautiful medium of music to teach, comfort, encourage, and admonish His people throughout all ages.

But of course, if you just open any old English Bible to the book of Psalms, play a karaoke version of your favorite song, and start belting out the words on the page—the result will be, well, clunky to say the least. Songs in English need to have rhythm and rhyme; that’s how we recognize a song as musical. Thankfully, the reformers and Puritans were aware of this. They wanted to be able to sing the songs God wrote for His people, so they retranslated them into a more singable format, but taking great pains to not bend the meaning of the words for the sake of a rhyme (no matter how clever the potential rhyme).

Many people and churches created singable translations of the Psalms, but one translation that is widely regarded as a sort of gold standard for singable English Psalms is the 1650 Scottish Metrical Psalter, which we’ve just brought to Olive Tree. The translation was commended by theologians in its day as being better than the King James Version, which was pretty high praise.

SOME STEPS FOR SINGING

With this Psalter you’ll notice that the songs have a number at the beginning of them, like 8,6,8,6. This refers to the number of syllables per line in a verse. It’s there to help you know what kind of tunes you can sing the Psalm to. You’ll notice that the vast majority of the Psalms are written in 8,6,8,6—which is called Common Metre. Any of these Psalms can be sung to the tune of Amazing Grace, O for a Thousand Tongues, or O God Our Help In Ages Past (among many others). You could download this resource, open to a favorite Psalm, and start singing immediately if you know any of those songs. Further tunes and resources are available at ThePsalmsSung.org (not affiliated with Olive Tree).

So what are you waiting for? Go download the 1650 Metrical Psalter for free, and start singing the songs God wrote for us!

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10 Literary Features of the Bible

Posted by on 10/17/2017 in: ,

The following content can be found in the introduction notes of the ESV Literary Study Bible.

The Bible is not a totally unique book. In general, its literary forms function in the same way that these forms function beyond the Bible. A story is a story, whether in the Bible or beyond it. A metaphor is a metaphor. Nonetheless, it is possible to make generalizations about characteristic literary features of the Bible, with no implication that these features do not exist elsewhere. Below are ten literary qualities or preferred literary techniques that we often find in the Bible.

1. A UNIFYING STORYLINE

Although the overall genre of the Bible is the anthology of individual books and passages, the Bible possesses a unity far beyond that of other literary anthologies. The technical term for a unifying superstructure such as we find in the Bible is metanarrative (big or overarching story). In the Bible, the metanarrative is the story of salvation history—the events by which God worked out his plan to redeem humanity and the creation after they fell from original innocence. This story of salvation history is Christocentric in the sense that it focuses ultimately on the substitutionary sacrifice and atonement of Christ on the cross and his resurrection from death. The unifying story line of the Bible is a U-shaped story that moves from the creation of a perfect world, through the fall of that world into sin, then through fallen human history as it slowly and painfully makes its way toward consummation and arrives at the final destruction of evil and the eternal triumph of good.

2. THE PRESENCE OF A CENTRAL CHARACTER

All stories have a central character or protagonist, and in the overarching story of the Bible God is the protagonist. He is the unifying presence from the beginning of the Bible to the end. All creatures interact with this central and ultimate being. All events are related to him. The story of human history unfolds within the broader story of what God does. The result is a sense of ultimacy that comes through as we read the pages of the Bible.

3. RELIGIOUS ORIENTATION

The subject of literature is human experience, and this is true of the Bible, too, but a distinctive feature of the Bible is that it overwhelmingly presents human experience in a religious and moral light. Events that other writers might treat in a purely human and natural light—a sunrise, a battle, a birth, a journey—are presented by the authors of the Bible within a moral or spiritual framework. Part of this moral and spiritual framework is the assumption of the biblical authors that a great conflict between good and evil is going on in our world and, further, that people are continually confronted with the need to choose between good and evil, between working for God’s kingdom and going against God.

4. VARIETY OF GENRES AND STYLES

Every literary anthology of the Bible’s magnitude displays a range of literary forms, but the Bible’s range may well top them all. We need to be alert to this, because the religious uses to which we put the Bible can easily lull us into assuming that the Bible is all one type of writing. The list of individual forms, if we include such specific motifs as the homecoming story or trickster or love poem, keeps expanding. The variety that we find in the Bible stems partly from the large categories that converge—history, theology, and literature, for example, or prose and poetry, realism and fantasy, past and future, God and people.

5. PREFERENCE OF THE CONCRETE OVER THE ABSTRACT

While the New Testament contains a great deal of theological writing, the general preference of biblical authors is for concrete vocabulary. This is especially true of the Hebrew language of the Old Testament. In the Bible, God is portrayed as light and rock and thunder. Slander is a sharp knife. Living the godly life is like putting on a garment or suit of armor. Heaven is a landscape of jewels. To read the Bible well, we need to read with the “right side” of the brain—the part that is activated by sensory data.

6. REALISM

The prophetic and apocalyptic parts of the Bible give us a steady diet of fantasy (flying scrolls, for example, and red horses), but the general tendency of the Bible is toward everyday realism. The Bible displays the flaws of even its best characters (Oliver Cromwell famously said that the biblical writers paint their characters “warts and all”). Although the Bible does not delineate the sordid experiences of life in the extreme detail that modern literary realism does, it nonetheless covers the same real experiences, such as violence, murder, sexuality, death, suffering, and famine. Of course the Bible differs from modern realism by showing us that there is a realism of grace as well as a realism of carnality. In other words, the Bible is not content to portray the degradation of a world that has fallen into sin without also portraying the redemptive possibilities of a world that has been visited by the grace of God and is destined for glory.

7. SIMPLICITY

Although the Bible is certainly not devoid of examples of the high style, especially in the poetic parts, its overall orientation is toward the simple. The prevailing narrative style is plain, unembellished, matter-of-fact prose. Shakespeare’s vocabulary is approximately twenty thousand words, Milton’s thirteen thousand, and English translations of the Bible six thousand. Biblical writers often work with such simplified dichotomies as good and evil, light and darkness, heroes and villains. Of course there is a simplicity that diminishes and a simplicity that enlarges. The simplicity of the Bible paradoxically produces an effect of majesty and authority.

8. ELEMENTAL QUALITY

The Bible is a book of universal human experience. It is filled with experiences and images that are the common human lot in all places and times. The Bible embraces the commonplace and repeatedly shows ordinary people engaged in the customary activities of life—planting, building, baking, fighting, worrying, celebrating, praying. The world that biblical characters inhabit is likewise stripped and elemental, consisting of such natural settings as day and night, field and desert, sky and earth. Even occupations have an elemental quality—king, priest, shepherd, homemaker, missionary.

9. ORAL STYLE

Even though the Bible that we read is a written book, in its original form much of it existed orally. This is true because ancient cultures were predominantly oral cultures in which information circulated chiefly by word of mouth. The literary forms of the Bible show this rootedness in an oral culture. The prevalence of dialogue (directly quoted speeches) in the Bible is without parallel in literature generally until we come to the novel. Everywhere we turn in the Bible, we hear voices speaking and replying. The spare, unembellished narrative style of the Bible arises from the situation of oral circulation of the stories. Additionally, many of the nonnarrative parts of the Bible show signs of oral speech—the prophetic discourses and oracles, the psalms (which were sung in temple worship), the epistles (which were read aloud in churches), and the Gospels (where the words of Jesus are a leading ingredient).

10. THE LITERATURE OF CONFRONTATION

When we read Shakespeare or Dickens, we find ourselves moved to agreement or disagreement, but we do not ordinarily feel that we have been confronted by someone or something that requires us to make a choice. By contrast, when we assimilate the Bible we feel as though we have been personally confronted with something that requires a response. While this choice is ultimately for or against God, the ideas of the Bible, too, require us to believe or disbelieve them. The Bible displays a vivid consciousness of values—of the difference between good and evil—with the result that it is virtually impossible to remain neutral about the ideas that confront us as we read the Bible.

LEARN MORE

Interested in learning more about the literary aspects of the Bible? Check out this resource in our store: The ESV Literary Study Bible! In fact, the content of this blog post comes straight from the introduction of this resource.

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Learn to Preach Christ-Centered Sermons

Posted by on 10/16/2017 in: ,

There are SO many Biblical resources out there—but how do you know which ones will be helpful to you?  Especially if you’re a pastor, you don’t have a lot of time or money to waste!

The Christ-Centered Exposition Series makes its purpose clear just from the title. This commentary series is made for pastors. Pastors who want to preach Christ at the center of their message.

WHAT MAKES THIS DIFFERENT OR BETTER?

But wouldn’t every Biblical resource mention Jesus where it’s applicable? Nope! The authors of this commentary noticed that there are two ways to study the Bible: with a magnifying glass or a wide-angle lens. For years, Bible study resources have been focused on the tiny details that can be uncovered in each verse.

There’s two issues with this for pastors:

  1. It takes a lot of time to turn those tiny details into a message that your audience can resonate with
  2. The tiny details address individual Bible stories—not the whole story of the Bible with Christ at the center

Pastors need resources to help them prepare heart-transformative messages, making Jesus known to their congregants—no matter what book of the Bible they are studying. David Platt, Tony Merida, and Daniel Akin have provided a solid, Biblical resource that accomplishes this by using up-close detail and big-picture thinking to make Jesus the hero of every chapter.

You, too, can preach with Christ at the center. Watch this 60-second video to learn more:

IS THIS COMMENTARY RELIABLE?

It’s important to research the authors/editors of any book you read! All three of these men have great credentials that make them perfect for writing Biblical resources for pastors.

DAVID PLATT

Platt is currently the president of the International Mission Board and the founder of Radical, a resource ministry that seeks to serve the missional church. He is well-known for his best-selling book, Radical: Taking Back Your Faith from the American Dream. He holds a Ph.D. from New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary.

DANIEL AKIN

Akin is the president of Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary in Wake Forest, North Carolina. He is the author and editor of many popular books and Bible commentaries such as Theology for the Church and the New American Commentary on 1, 2, and 3 John. His gained his Ph.D. in Humanities from the University of Texas at Arlington.

TONY MERIDA

Merida is the lead pastor at Imago Dei Church in Raleigh, North Carolina and is an Associate Professor of Preaching at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary. He has written two books entitled Faithful Preaching and Orphanology. He earned a Ph.D. in preaching from New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary.

CAN I USE THIS PRACTICALLY?

Yes! Inside our app, you’ll be able to pull up this commentary alongside any Bible translation of your choice, take notes, create an outline, and prepare your sermon. This series also comes with “Reflect & Discuss” sections, perfect for furthering personal devotions and small group studies.

We know many pastors who even use a tablet with our app open when they are preaching. You’ll have all the information you need at a tap of your finger.

LEARN MORE

With this resource, you’ll be able to

  1. Quickly find the content and research you need to write a well-prepared sermon
  2. Preach Christ-centered, heart-transforming messages to your listeners
  3. Grow spiritually as the Holy Spirit leads

Visit our website to learn more about the Christ-Centered Exposition Commentary Set (24 Vols.). Have questions about anything? Email support@olivetree.com. We’ll help you!

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A Tiny Biography on John Calvin

Posted by on 10/11/2017 in:

NAME:

John Calvin

BIRTH:

July 10, 1509

DEATH:

May 27, 1564

HOMETOWN:

Noyon, France, 67 miles northeast of Paris

VOCATION:

Scholar, Theologian, Preacher

FAMILY:

Wife Idelette de Bure, 3 children, all died in infancy

BIO:

Calvin was born to Gerard Calvin and Jeanne le Franc in 1509. His mother died when he was three years old, and his father soon remarried. Gerard had a good position working with the Roman Catholic hierarchy in Noyon and planned for his sons to become priests. Calvin was precocious and went to Paris at the age of 14 to study theology and philosophy.

When Calvin was 19, his father had run afoul of the church and ordered his son to become a lawyer instead of a priest. To obey his father, he moved to Orleans and Bourges to study law until his father’s death in 1531. Calvin quickly returned to Paris after his father’s death to pick up the study of theology and the classics again. During his studies, he learned about Desiderius Erasmus, who had published a more accessible Latin translation of the New Testament, and Martin Luther, whose Protestant ideas were making their way through Europe. He attended meetings with other students where they read and studied the Bible and the writings of Martin Luther. The seeds of Reformation ideas were planted in Calvin’s head, and he fully converted to the Reformation cause in 1533, at the age of 24.

Protestants were being persecuted in France at this time, so Calvin spent a year in hiding before settling in Basel, Switzerland. When he was just 26 years old, he published his first edition of the Institutes of the Christian Religion, which is his seminal work and a cornerstone publication of the Reformation. He edited it throughout his life as he studied Scripture and fleshed out Protestant doctrine.

In 1536, Calvin was in Geneva, Switzerland, on route to Strasbourg, Germany, when William Farel, a fiery Reformed preacher, pleaded with him to stay in Geneva and work for the Reformation cause. Calvin worked there two years as a professor and pastor before the City Council banished him and Farel. Calvin settled in Strasbourg to pastor refugees who had fled persecution in France. He was in Strasbourg for four years and met and married Idelette de Bure in this time.

In 1541, the Geneva City Council called Calvin back to the city to again defend the Reformed cause. He remained in Geneva until his death in 1564 at the age of 54. His years in Geneva were spent preaching, giving pastoral care, writing, lecturing, working for the welfare of the city, and defending Reformed theology and practice. Calvin’s legacy includes Reformed theology, which has also been called Calvinism, and a number of Protestant denominations, such as Presbyterian and Christian Reformed, that trace their earliest roots to Calvin.

LEARN MORE

While writing this biography, we used a couple resources that are available in our store! Our favorite is Reformation Heroes—a short book filled with biographies of the major players of the Reformation. Additionally, we used this short biography on Calvin by John Piper, which you can get for free!

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How-To Do a Word Study

Posted by on 10/05/2017 in: ,

While many have lamented the thought of having to learn the original languages in Bible college or seminary, I relished the idea. I saw it as an opportunity to unlock a new world of Bible study that would give me greater insight for Bible interpretation. But after several years of study I learned something very important. My English Bible was enough!

Yes, there were times when knowing Greek and Hebrew proved useful; but, for the most part, I found Bible translators had done a great job in conveying the thoughts of the Bible’s authors. But I was still asking myself: “How can I effectively use the original languages in my Bible study?”

Are you wondering the same thing? Let me share what I’ve learned.

FIND A WORD TO STUDY

A few years ago I was teaching through 1 Thessalonians at my church. As I was reading through the second chapter, I encountered a phrase in verse 4 that made me pause: “we have been approved by God.” The word “approved” felt a bit awkward to me, so I decided to investigate. To get started, I switched from my standard ESV Bible to the ESV with Strong’s tagging.

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Then, I tapped on “approved” in 1 Thessalonians 2:4, which gave me some quick information from the Strong’s dictionary. I see that I’m dealing with the Greek word δοκιμάζω (dokimazō), which is Strong’s number G1381. The glosses are helpful in showing me how the word is translated, but that doesn’t satisfy my curiosity.

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FINDING ALL OCCURRENCES

Next, check all the occurrences of this word in the New Testament. This will provide a wider understanding for how dokimazō is translated and its meaning(s). Our app makes this step really easy! All you have to do is tap the “Search for g1381” button, and it’ll search the ESV Strong’s Bible for every occurrence of dokimazō based on its Strong’s number.

What I found is that dokimazō has a lot to do with the idea of examining or testing something. The majority of the usage comes from Paul and refers to examining one’s self. That’s an interesting observation. And, in the case of 1 Thessalonians 2:4, it’s interesting to see how God is the one approving or examining Paul and his co-laborers for the work of ministry.

It’s also worth noting that dokimazō occurs twice in this verse, which I wouldn’t have noticed from the English alone, since the second instance is translated as “tests.” This information further improves my understanding of the original phrase in question.

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DIGGING DEEPER WITH LEXICONS AND DICTIONARIES

At this point, I have a good grasp on the lexical range of dokimazō—at least how it’s used in the New Testament. But, I don’t want to leave my study there because I may be missing something. What can I do to go further? It’s simple! I’ll go back and tap the “Lookup δοκιμάζω” button from my Strong’s popup and search my dictionaries. The New International Dictionary of New Testament Theology and Exegesis appears and it sparked my interest! There are two things I like about this dictionary: 1) the entry provides a list of related words that I may want to study further, and 2) it looks at the word’s usage and how it is theologically relevant, instead of just giving me a list of ways it can be translated into English.

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After some reading, I find my understanding of dokimazō to be on par with what the dictionaries say. As it relates to our verse, not only does God test, like on the day of judgment (1 Cor. 3:13), but He is currently testing our hearts—specifically as it relates to our usefulness in ministry.

GET THE RESOURCES YOU NEED

While it takes some time to read through all the material, a word study is really easy with the Olive Tree Bible App. Everything you need to do a word study is at your fingertips! Many of the resources you need to perform a word study are currently discounted in our How to Study the Bible Sale! Pick them up today while they’re at these low prices!

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A Tiny Biography on Martin Luther

Posted by on 10/04/2017 in:

NAME:

Martin Luther

BIRTH:

November 10, 1483

DEATH:

February 18, 1546

HOMETOWN:

Eisleben, Germany, 130 miles southwest of Berlin

VOCATION:

Augustinian monk, priest, professor of philosophy at the University of Wittenberg

FAMILY:

Katharina von Bora, wife, and six children Johannes, Elisabeth, Magdalena, Martin, Paul, and Margaret

BIO:

Luther was born to Hans and Margarethe Luther in 1483 and was named for St. Martin of Tours, on whose feast day he was baptized. Luther’s father was determined that Martin should become a lawyer and sent him to school, including university at Erfurt. Luther studied law and philosophy, but completely changed course when he was caught outside in a thunderstorm in 1505. Scared of death and divine judgment, he cried out to Saint Anne in terror and promised that he would become a monk. True to his word, Luther joined St. Augustine’s Monastery in Erfurt in July 1505.

As a monk, Luther was plagued by spiritual despair and guilt over the depth of his sin. Over the next several years, Luther became a priest and a professor of theology and philosophy at the University of Wittenberg and preached in churches throughout the city. As Luther studied Scripture, he noticed incongruence between the Bible and certain practices of the Roman Catholic Church. The trigger for Luther’s famous Ninety-Five Theses was when a man named Johann Tetzel began selling indulgences in Wittenberg that would lessen a believer’s time in purgatory. Luther wrote to his bishop to protest the sale of indulgences and later furthered his protest by posting the Ninety-Five Theses on the door of All Saints’ Church in Wittenberg on October 31, 1517. This is considered the fated beginning of the Reformation.

The Ninety-Five Theses were written in Latin, but were soon translated into other languages and copies spread throughout Europe. Luther wasn’t alone in his protests against the excesses and skewed doctrine of the Catholic Church. Luther’s study of Hebrews, Romans, and Galatians in the years after 1517 further solidified his doctrine of justification: good works cannot earn us the salvation that we receive by faith alone in Jesus Christ. After several years and many battles with the Pope and his delegates, Luther refused to recant and was excommunicated on January 3, 1521.

Luther turned his attention to organizing a new church in accordance with new values, which has been handed down to us generally as Protestantism and specifically as Lutheranism. Besides being known as the Father of the Reformation, Luther also wrote two catechisms, translated the Bible into the vernacular instead of using the Latin Bible, and wrote hymns for congregational singing. He died in 1546 at the age of 62.

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While writing this biography, we used a couple resources that are available in our store! Our favorite is Reformation Heroes—a short book filled with biographies of the major players of the Reformation. Additionally, we used this short biography on Luther by John Piper, which you can get for free!

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A SOAP Study on Matthew 12

Posted by on 10/02/2017 in: ,

What’s a SOAP study? SOAP is an acronym, meaning: Scripture, observation, application, and prayer. This is one, very helpful way to get more out of your Bible study time. Join us in this short study of Matthew 12:1-14!

SCRIPTURE

Matthew 12:1-14, NIV

At that time Jesus went through the grainfields on the Sabbath. His disciples were hungry and began to pick some heads of grain and eat them. When the Pharisees saw this, they said to him, “Look! Your disciples are doing what is unlawful on the Sabbath.”

He answered, “Haven’t you read what David did when he and his companions were hungry? He entered the house of God, and he and his companions ate the consecrated bread—which was not lawful for them to do, but only for the priests. Or haven’t you read in the Law that the priests on Sabbath duty in the temple desecrate the Sabbath and yet are innocent? I tell you that something greater than the temple is here. If you had known what these words mean, ‘I desire mercy, not sacrifice,’ you would not have condemned the innocent. For the Son of Man is Lord of the Sabbath.”

Going on from that place, he went into their synagogue, and a man with a shriveled hand was there. Looking for a reason to bring charges against Jesus, they asked him, “Is it lawful to heal on the Sabbath?”

He said to them, “If any of you has a sheep and it falls into a pit on the Sabbath, will you not take hold of it and lift it out? How much more valuable is a person than a sheep! Therefore it is lawful to do good on the Sabbath.”

Then he said to the man, “Stretch out your hand.” So he stretched it out and it was completely restored, just as sound as the other. But the Pharisees went out and plotted how they might kill Jesus.

OBSERVATION

Taken from the Gospel Transformation Bible Notes

Matthew gives two examples of how Jesus’ yoke is easy and his burden light (11:30). In both examples, Jesus opposes the Pharisees’ imposition on others of their burdensome way of observing the fourth commandment (Ex. 20:8–11; Deut. 5:12–15). The purpose of the Sabbath law was to show mercy to human beings and their farm animals by mandating regular rest from the hard labor of agrarian life (Matt. 12:8; Ex. 23:12). If its “observance” somehow made hungry people more miserable by forbidding them from obtaining food, or required a disabled person to remain disabled longer than necessary, then the purpose of the law itself had been violated (Matt. 12:7, 12; Hos. 6:6; Mic. 6:6–8).

APPLICATION

Taken from the Gospel Transformation Bible Notes

Christians of every age and culture have formulated ideas about how the moral teaching of Scripture should be obeyed in their own time and place. Often these ideas become translated into rules for avoiding temptation in basic areas where Christians must interact with a non-Christian culture, whether over clothing, food, speech, or entertainment. Matthew 12:1–14 cautions believers as they engage in such rule-making to understand what they are doing: they are not formulating authoritative Scripture but giving fallible human advice, however prudent (5:29–30; 18:8–9), on how best to obey Scripture in particular circumstances. Whenever the tendency of these rules hinders the basic concern of Scripture for mercy, justice, and kindness, the rules have themselves become a hindrance to obeying God and need to be set aside.

PRAYER

Have you ever struggled with this, putting rules before mercy, justice, and kindness? Take some time today to think and pray about this. Ask Jesus how he would like you to respond.

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This content was taken directly out of the Gospel Transformation Bible Notes. You, too, can do quick, easy, and formative Bible studies with these notes—and they are currently only $15 (normally $50!). Visit our website to find out more.

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