Category: Food for Thought

Is Faith Enough?

Posted by on 09/11/2017 in: ,

JAMES 2:14-21

“What good is it, my brothers, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can that faith save him? If a brother or sister is poorly clothed and lacking in daily food, and one of you says to them, ‘Go in peace, be warmed and filled,’ without giving them the things needed for the body, what good is that? So also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead.

But someone will say, ‘You have faith and I have works.’ Show me your faith apart from your works, and I will show you my faith by my works. You believe that God is one; you do well. Even the demons believe—and shudder! Do you want to be shown, you foolish person, that faith apart from works is useless? Was not Abraham our father justified by works when he offered up his son Isaac on the altar? You see that faith was active along with his works, and faith was completed by his works; and the Scripture was fulfilled that says, “Abraham believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness”—and he was called a friend of God.”


Are we saved by grace through faith alone (Eph. 2:8–9) or do we also need good works?

James does not argue that good works are required for salvation. Nor does he say that deeds are more important than beliefs. Rather, he insists that there are two kinds of faith—one legitimate and the other illegitimate; faith … made complete (v. 22) and faith without deeds (v. 20). Both are “belief” in one sense of the word. But legitimate faith goes deeper than “right thinking” to “right living.”

Confusion may arise, however, when we recall that Paul writes that we cannot earn salvation. He uses Abraham as an example of one who received God’s promise, not through human effort, but through faith (Gal. 3:6–12).

James also uses Abraham as an example, but his focus and emphasis are different than Paul’s. He skips over the futility of human effort to discuss the futility of deficient faith—faith that stops at the intellectual level. Even demons have that kind of “faith,” James exclaims (v. 19)!
James’s point, then, is that Abraham exercised authentic faith—demonstrated by his actions. Abraham’s deeds earned him nothing, but they proved his faith was genuine: Right faith led to right actions. If he had not trusted God, Abraham could never have offered his son—the fulfillment of God’s promise—on the altar (vv. 21–22). Paul uses Abraham to show that people are justified on the basis of real faith; James shows that Abraham’s faith was proven to be real because it worked (compare Gal. 5:6).

So then, we don’t need anything but faith—the right kind of faith—to be saved by God. And our behavior will show what our faith is made of, whether or not it is legitimate.


This blog post was adapted from The Quest Study Bible, which you can get this week for only $8. Verse-by-verse, this study Bible asks questions that most Christians ask, and then provides a biblical answer. This tool is priceless as you begin to study God’s Word.

Learn more about The Quest Study Bible.

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7 Reasons to Study the Cultural Backgrounds of the Bible

Posted by on 09/06/2017 in: ,


1. Understand the audience: Grasping the original audience’s perspective helps us understand the setting to which the inspired authors communicated their message.

2. Understand how the text communicates: A text is ideas linked by threads of writing. Each phrase and each word communicates by the ideas and thoughts that they will trigger in the reader or hearer.

3. Biblical writers made assumptions: Biblical writers normally could take for granted that their audiences shared their language and culture; some matters, therefore, they assumed rather than stated. Think about what happens when later audiences from different cultures read the text without the same un-stated understandings as the original audience.

4. Understand the differences: We can see the differences between [ancient people] and us. To better understand how they would have interpreted what was being shared to them.

5. Understand what issues were being addressed: When we hear the message in its authentic, original cultural setting we can reapply it afresh for our own different setting most fully, because we understand what issues were really being addressed.

6. Prevent imposing your own culture: If we know nothing of the ancient world, we will be inclined to impose our own culture and worldview on the Biblical text. This will always be detrimental to our understanding.

7. Fill in the gaps: As each person hears or reads the text, the message takes for granted underlying gaps that need to be filled with meaning by the audience. It is theologically essential that we fill [the gaps] appropriately.


This blog was adapted from the Cultural Backgrounds Study Bible, which is available for both NKJV and NIV. Check them out on our website and grow in your understanding of the culture of the Bible!

NKJV Cultural Backgrounds Study Bible

NIV Cultural Backgrounds Study Bible

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Community Matters

Posted by on 09/01/2017 in:


“And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching.” Hebrews 10:24-25

We, here at Olive Tree, take community seriously! You’d definitely see it if you spent a day in our office. We love celebrating birthdays, cheering one another on, and passing around favorite recipes. Every Tuesday we have a team meeting and every Thursday we pray together. We’re not just co-workers. We’re brothers and sisters in Christ!


You are so much more than a customer to us. You’re a brother/sister in Christ, too! This truth is what spurs us on to equip you with the right tools for spiritual growth, whether it’s through app development, content acquisition, customer support or marketing.

Because we are so dedicated to spiritual growth and community, we wanted to remind you of our social media channels. Every day we post encouraging, informative content with you in mind. We really do hope that it blesses you!

Below you can find a few ways to begin communicating with us and one another. We hope you take advantage of this fellowship!


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Read & Study the
Bible in New Ways

Posted by on 08/24/2017 in: ,

The Bible is an ancient text. So, it isn’t surprising when we get a little bored while reading it—especially with our entertainment-saturated culture. The average person watches only 10-seconds of a video on Facebook! If our attention spans can only handle 10-seconds of a video, how can we possibly stay focused while reading a historic text over and over again for our entire lives?

Well, we have a few ideas for you! This blog post will offer five ways to study and read the Bible in a fresh way.


Ever wondered what the difference is between all the English Bible translations? There are so many! The best way to think about this is to imagine a spectrum. One on end, there are Bibles that are translated word-for-word. These are very literal. Then, on the other side, you have Bibles that are paraphrased versions. In the middle, you have Bibles that are translated by sentence or thought.

So, why would you want to read different translations? Languages are complex with idioms and phrases that don’t translate well word-for-word. At the same time, a paraphrase may miss out on key details. Comparing translations will give you the full picture, and also give you a fresh perspective on the verses you have read several times over.

In our app, it’s super easy to read two translations at once. Just pull open another Bible in the split-screen window!


Have you ever noticed the little green letters that appear in your Bible in our app? Those are cross references! Any time a verse appears that corresponds directly to another verse in the Bible, it gets tagged. Here’s an example:

In John 1, we learn about Jesus being at the beginning of all creation, bringing everything to life. Verse 5 says, “The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.” If you look closely, you’ll see an “h” appear right after the verse number. By tapping this, you’ll pull up the list of cross references, and you can look at the corresponding verses in the pop-up window. This cross reference took us to John 3:19, which talks about light coming into the world, but humanity hating the light because they were evil and loved darkness. Put together, we can now understand that John is foreshadowing Christ’s coming and death in the beginning chapters of his book.

So, how can using cross references help you read the Bible in fresh ways? The Bible is one, big historical narrative that tells the story of God redeeming his people. When we use cross references, we are able to more clearly see the connections between these events, the ways God fulfilled His promises, and the richness of the text.


We’ve created Gospel Harmonies to make studying Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John easier. Instead of flipping through your Bible to find the stories that correspond to one another, we’ve made them available in one screen. The best way to explain this is to show you.

Why use Gospel Harmonies? Each Gospel is written by a different author and with a different intention. By comparing all accounts, you can make sure to catch all the details, and perhaps make new connections you wouldn’t have made otherwise. We sell these Gospel Harmonies in several different translations as well: NASB, KJV, ESV, NIV, NKJV, NA28 with Parsings & Dictionary, and Byzantine Greek New Testament. Currently, these are all 50% off!


Chronological study Bibles are just what they sound like—Bibles arranged in chronological order with study notes inserted. How does this work? Here’s an example! The Chronological Study Bible (NKJV) starts the New Testament with Matthew 1:25, covering Jesus’ genealogy. There are a few study notes on the culture and society during Jesus’ birth. Verse 25 ends with Joseph believing that Mary is still a virgin and naming his son Jesus… and then the text jumps to Luke 2:1-20, sharing the more detailed account of Mary and Joseph heading to Bethlehem.

Reading a chronological study Bible can rejuvenate your quiet time by helping you see the story of God’s Word. All of the different historical accounts interact with one another and show God’s faithfulness through time. When you read it in order, you will be able to insert yourself into the story, too.

Other recommended chronological study Bibles:
Chronological Life Application Study Bible NLT (20% off)
KJV Reese Chronological Study Bible (50% off)


Study notes provide deeper insights into the text of the Bible. Although they aren’t as developed as commentaries are, they are still very helpful when coming across difficult passages. Here’s a few study Bibles that we recommend:

NIV Cultural Backgrounds Study Bible (50% off)
Archaeological Study Bible Notes
NIV Zondervan Study Bible


Sometimes, we just need to be encouraged by another person, a new voice, or a fresh perspective. Right now we have titles on sale that are aimed at helping you read and study the Bible in new ways. You can look through the entire sale here.

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Why Every Christian
Should Study the Bible

Posted by on 08/16/2017 in: ,

This title might seem slightly redundant. Shouldn’t a Christian study the Bible because she (or he) is a Christian? If only that was enough to convince us. I graduated from a Bible college and work for a Bible app—and yet I still find myself procrastinating on reading God’s Word. Somehow, I manage to forget the importance of it all.

So, this blog post is for me just as much as it’s for you. We’re all in need of a reminder now and again. And perhaps you are reading this and you have never, on your own, truly studied the Bible. That’s alright! Let’s chat about three reasons we should study God’s Word.


The writer of Hebrews tells us that “the word of God is living and active” (Hebrews 4:12). What does this mean? The Bible pierces our souls. It discerns our thoughts and intentions. It brings our darkness to light.

This can take place without deep, academic study. You don’t need a PhD or a seminary education in order to be changed by God’s Word. Simple meditation can bring about growth because that’s how God works. If you knock, He will answer.

This is the first reason that we should study the Bible. Even if you hold to the word study very loosely–that’s okay. Read the Bible. Even if you struggle to understand, or find it boring at times, or would rather be doing something else… find time to read the Bible. Read the Bible because God desires to communicate with you, encourage you, and make you more like Him. This can only happen when we take time to be in His presence and to read His life-giving words.


Now, I won’t retract what I’ve said. Simply reading the Bible is better than not reading at all. But there are a few other points we need to consider.

The Bible, being the very Word of God, deserves great respect. We need to treat it better than we would Hamlet and Don Quixote, which means taking the time to understand the author and their intent. It would be wrong to say “This line in Pride and Prejudice reminds me of my sister, so I think that Jane Austen wrote about my sister.” That would be silly! In the same way, the Bible isn’t (always) about us. It is for us and our edification, but more often than not, Scripture is talking about a group of people in an era of time that we have never experienced.

However, one of the neatest accomplishments of our God is that He composed His Word for His people through His people. He included humanity in the process. Although remarkable, this characteristic does make our job of understanding the Bible a bit harder. Scripture is wrapped in history, cultural nuance, assumptions of understanding, and genre differentiations. Leviticus was law for the Israelites, the Epistles were letters to different churches, the Psalms were songs of praise and lament, Song of Solomon… you get the picture.

So, what do we do? For starters, we can read study bible notes, single-volume commentaries, or Bible dictionaries alongside Scripture. As we grow, we could read about Hermeneutics (the study of interpreting Scripture), Systematic Theology, Greek, Hebrew, or any other number of areas of study. That way, we don’t make our own assumptions about the text, but instead listen to those who have dedicated their lives to investigating the history of God’s Word. Then, with a more accurate understanding, we can begin to apply what we have learned about God to our own lives.


You’ve probably heard this verse: “Have no fear of them, nor be troubled, but in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you…” (1 Peter 3:14-15). What kind of defenses do we need to be able to make today—and to whom?

There may come a time when you need to answer questions such as:

These might be questions that other people ask you, or these might be questions that you ask yourself. How do you answer them? You read.

Millions of Christians have composed their defenses of the faith in books such as commentaries, apologetic undertakings, topical research, personal testimonies, and more. These, although not perfect like the Bible, are fantastic resources for you to grow in your understanding and trust of God’s Word.


The reason the Olive Tree Bible App exists is to encourage people to read God’s Word. We also want you to study God’s Word, and to apply it to your life. This is why we work very hard with publishers to give you price reductions on titles that we think will help you achieve this goal.

Right now, we have an array of titles on sale with the aim of helping you read and study God’s Word in new ways. Check out what is available by visiting our website.

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How-to Personally Apply the Bible

Posted by on 08/09/2017 in: ,

It is a marvel how personally the Bible applies. The words pointedly address the concerns of long-ago people in faraway places, facing specific problems, many of which no longer exist. They had no difficulty seeing the application. Much of what they read was personal application to actual situations they were facing.

But nothing in the Bible was written directly to you or specifically about what you face. We are reading someone else’s mail. Yet the Bible repeatedly affirms that these words are also written for us: “Whatever was written in former days was written for our instruction” (Rom. 15:4; cf. Deut. 29:29; 1 Cor. 10:11; 2 Tim. 3:15–17).

Furthermore, the Bible is primarily about God, not you. The essential subject matter is the triune Redeemer Lord, culminating in Jesus Christ. We are reading someone else’s biography. Yet that very story demonstrates how he includes us within his story.

“Personal application” proves wise when you reckon with these marvels. The Bible was written to others—but speaks to you. The Bible is about God—but draws you in. Your challenge is always to reapply Scripture afresh, because God’s purpose is always to rescript your life.

What chunk of Scripture has made the most difference in your life? What verse or passage have you turned to most frequently? What makes these exact words frequently and immediately relevant? Your answer will likely embody four foundational truths about how to read the Bible for wise application.


You remember what God says. He is saying this to you. You need these words. This promise, revelation, or command must be true. You must act on this call to faith and love. When you forget, you drift, stray, and flounder. When you remember and put it to work, bright truth rearranges your life. The foundation of application is always attentive listening to what God says.


It is not simply a passage in the Bible. A specific word from God connects to some pointed struggle inside you and around you. These inner and outer troubles express your experience of the dual evil that plagues every human heart: sin and confusion from within; trouble and beguilement from without (1 Kings 8:37–39; Eccles. 9:3).

But something God says invades your darkness with his light. He meets your actual need with his actual mercies. Your life and God’s words meet. Application depends on honesty about where you need help. Your kind of trouble is everywhere in the Bible.


He meets you before you meet him. The passage arrested you. God arranged your struggle with sin and suffering so that you would need this exact help. Without God’s initiative (“I will write it on their hearts,” Jer. 31:33) you would never make the connection. The Spirit chose to rewrite your inner script, pouring God’s love into your heart, inviting you to live in a new reality. He awakens your sense of need, gives you ears to hear, and freely gives necessary wisdom. Application is a gift, because wisdom is a gift.

  • God states something in general terms. You insert your relevant particulars. For example:
    “Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me” (Ps. 23:4). What troubles are you facing? Who is with you?
  • “All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned—every one—to his own way; and the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all” (Isa. 53:6). What is your particular way of straying? How does the Lamb of God connect with your situation?
  • “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God” (Phil. 4:6). With what are you obsessed? What promises anchor your plea for help (Phil. 4:5, 7-9)?

Such words speak to common human experiences. A passage becomes personal when your details participate in what is said. The gap across centuries and between cultures seems almost to disappear. Your God is a very present help in trouble—this trouble. Application occurs in specifics.

Interested in learning other ways to apply God’s Word to your life? This content was pulled from the ESV Study Bible, available in our store for 50% off. This resource comes with 20,000 notes, 50 articles, maps, charts, and more. It is perfect for daily study of the Bible.

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Theology of the Psalms

Posted by on 08/04/2017 in: ,

“Let them know that you, whose name is the LORD—that you alone are the Most High over all the earth.” —Psalm 83:18

As human words to and about God, the psalms instruct us in myriad ways about how to worship God. They teach us how to sing, dance, rejoice, give thanks, confess sin, grieve, express anger, make requests of God, proclaim God’s name far and wide, and much more. They are a rich resource both for individual and corporate use.

As God’s Word to us, the book of Psalms engages almost all of the great themes of the Bible. Beginning with the introductory Psalms 1–2, the Psalter lays out the two ways (that of the righteous versus that of the wicked), the importance of relying on God and His Word, God’s sovereignty and rule over all people and nations (and his attendant concern for them), the interplay between divine and human kingship, and God as a place of refuge for all.

The Psalter’s overarching theme celebrates God’s sovereign rule as the great King over all things. The climactic declaration is that “the LORD reigns.” God rules over creation itself and over all nations and people groups — including his own chosen people Israel — down to each individual person. He is a good God: holy, loving, merciful, protective of his people, faithful, a keeper of promises, a giver of good gifts. He is a just God: vindicating his people, punishing evil, caring for the marginalized. He is a great and powerful God: the Creator and Sustainer of all things, mightier than any god humans can conjure up, more powerful than all the nations and armies of the world.

As the sovereign King, God asserts his control over the most powerful forces in nature. He proclaims his authority over all the false gods of the nations, gods that were such a temptation for his own people time and time again. He opposes the wicked, whether individuals (e.g., 1:4 – 6) or nations (e.g., Psalm 2), and will mete out justice for their wickedness. He protects the vulnerable in society — the widow, the fatherless, the outsider, and the poor — and expects his representatives on earth to carry out this mission.

God’s plan for the nations is that his people Israel be a testimony to them, causing them to turn to God; it is an inclusive vision that shows God’s desire for all peoples to know him. God chose Jerusalem (i.e., Mount Zion) to be the earthly “capital” of God’s kingdom; this was the site of the temple, which was God’s dwelling place on the earth. He anointed David and his descendants to be his royal representatives on earth — his vice­regents — and so the Davidic kings had great responsibility for leading the nation in following the Lord and defending the cause of justice in society. In all of this, God himself is the source of ultimate refuge for those who are troubled.

The psalms represent a priceless treasure trove of resources for relating to God in all circumstances. They instruct us in how to live, and they teach us great truths about God the great King, his sovereign rule over all things, and his plan for reconciling the world to himself through his Son Jesus, the Christ.

What’s your favorite Psalm and why?

This blog is the last post in our NIV Zondervan Study Bible blog series! See the firstsecondthird and fourth blog posts by following the links.

You can have insightful introductions like this to every book of the Bible with theNIV Zondervan Study Bible. Learn more here.

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Paul’s Greeting to the Philippians

Posted by on 08/03/2017 in: ,

“Paul and Timothy, servants of Christ Jesus, To all God’s holy people in Christ Jesus at Philippi, together with the overseers and deacons: Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. I thank my God every time I remember you. In all my prayers for all of you, I always pray with joy because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now, being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.” —Philippians 1:1-6

Verse-by-Verse Insights
1:1 – 2 Opening Greeting. As in most ancient letters, the authors and recipients are both mentioned at the beginning.

1:1 Paul and Timothy. Paul often co-authored letters with Timothy. The son of a Jewish mother and Greek father (Acts 16:1), Timothy was from Lystra, and after Paul visited there on his second missionary journey, he took Timothy along as a co-worker (Philippians 2:19 – 24).

God’s holy people. As people who belong to God and are incorporated into his service, they are set apart from the world for him. The Old Testament uses the phrase “holy people” of Israel (e.g., Exodus 22:31), so it is striking that Paul can freely apply it to what was probably a pre-dominantly Gentile congregation in Philippi. As Paul emphasizes in chapter 3, those who believe in Christ and are incorporated into him now share in the privileges God bestowed on Israel in the Old Testament.

holy. Christ’s death has made Christians holy (Ephesians 5:25 – 26).

in Christ Jesus at Philippi. Expresses the double location of believers: (1) they are in Christ, no longer in Adam but members of Christ’s body, and (2) they belong to the Roman colony of Philippi.

overseers. Synonymous with “elders,” men responsible for the spiritual direction of and preaching in the congregation (1 Timothy 3:1 – 7).

deacons. Responsible for affairs in the church of a more practical nature. The role has its origin in the difficult situation in Acts 6:1 – 6, where believers select “deacons” to distribute the food to widows. This is no lowly task, however, for those appointed in Acts 6 were “known to be full of the Spirit and wisdom” (Acts 6:3); deacons must display traits of mature godliness (1 Timothy 3:8 – 10, 12 – 13).

1:2 Adapting elements from Jewish and Greek letter writing, Paul prays for the Philippians to receive “grace” (God’s work in them to accomplish what they cannot do on their own) and “peace” (experiencing the blessings of being reconciled to God).

1:3 – 8 Thanksgiving. Paul expresses his great love for the Philippians, as is evident from the joy (verse 4), confidence (verse 6), and affection (verse 8) with which he thanks God for them.

1:4 with joy. Paul expresses the emotions that accompany his prayers, first mentioning joy.

1:5 partnership. Paul rejoices that the Philippians join in the work of the gospel, which includes financially supporting him (Philippians 4:15).

from the first day. When they first accepted the gospel (compare Philippians 4:15).

1:6 being confident. A second emotion (after joy in verse Philippians 4:4) that remembering the Philippians prompts. Paul’s confidence in God’s sovereignty leads not to inactivity but to prayer for what he knows God will do. Paul is convinced that prayers are a means God uses to accomplish his purposes.

work in you. Paul knows that the Philippians’ perseverance in the faith and the gospel fruit that they bear are the work of God himself (Philippians 2:12 – 13).

the day of Christ Jesus. God’s faithful work in them endures right up until the day on which Jesus returns.

What is something new you might take away from this passage after reading it a couple times?

This blog is a part of our NIV Zondervan Study Bible blog series! See the firstsecond, and third blog posts by following the links.

All of this content and more can be tucked right inside your Bible when you use our app. Learn more here.

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His Great Love Toward Us

Posted by on 08/02/2017 in: ,

“Praise the LORD, all you nations; extol him, all you peoples. For great is his love toward us, and the faithfulness of the LORD endures forever. Praise the Lord.” —Psalm 117

This psalm captures the essence of praise in miniature — it is the shortest psalm in the Psalter and the shortest chapter in the Bible. The psalm opens with a call for the nations to praise the Lord (verse 1) and then gives the reason for praise: the Lord’s great love and eternal faithfulness toward his people (verse 2).

The Lord is more than a parochial or tribal deity; he is Lord of all the earth (114:3 – 8; 115:15 – 16). Consequently, all nations must praise him. Psalms pictures a great contest between the rebellious nations and their Creator (see 2:1 – 6). The nations submit to their Creator by praising him (see 2:10 – 12; 108:3).

The New Testament attests that the nations have submitted to God because they praise the Son (see 2:10 – 12). Paul quotes this verse in Romans 15:11to show that the salvation of the nations (Gentiles) has always been God’s plan. Thus, they should be welcomed into the worshiping family of God.

117:2 Love. The Lord’s faithful covenant love. In Psalm 6:4, the term unfailing love (Hebrew hesed) is one of the richest in the Bible, often denoting God’s steadfast, loyal love for his covenant people Israel. It had special meaning for God’s people coming out of Egypt (Exodus 15:13; 20:6; 34:6 – 7), and God promised this love to many generations of Israelites, including David (Psalm 89:24,28,33; 2 Samuel 7:15; Isaiah 55:3). More than half of the Bible’s references to this covenantal love are found in Psalms, about half of those in psalms of David.

Endures forever. Never wears out. His faithfulness to his covenant promises does not have an expiration date; it will endure into eternity.

How has God shown His love and faithfulness towards you?

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Love & Grace

Posted by on 08/01/2017 in: ,

“May the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all.” –2 Corinthians 13:14 NIV

The God of biblical revelation is no impersonal absolute. The living God is the God of love and grace. But what do such terms mean? It is in Scripture that big terms such as “love” and “grace” are embodied in stories as well as in direct affirmations. In particular, it is Jesus Christ and his story that provides the lens through which to view what the big biblical ideas are about.

What does divine love look like?

Love is manifested in action, as the story of Jesus exemplifies. Jesus embodies the divine love in his coming and his cross. As John 3:16 famously affirms, “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son.” Paul elaborates, “God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Rom. 5:8). John adds to this testimony: “This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him” (1 John 4:9).

As in the OT, in the NT practical consequences follow. Jesus exhibits a new paradigm for loving others (John 13:1-7). This love serves. This love shows hospitality. This love washes the feet of others. We are to love like that. Love is the new commandment (John 13:34). It is new because it is informed by the story of Christ.

This newness carries over into the Christian household. As in the OT, the NT presents no mere duty-ethic. This love is an answering love to the divine love as experienced in Christ: “We love because he first loved us” (1 John 4:19). This love is not manufactured by us; it is the fruit of the Spirit of Christ living within us (Gal 5:22). This love cannot possibly claim to love God while hating other believers (1 John 4:20). Some things – like knowledge and prophecy – fade away (1 Cor 13:8). But love remains (1 Cor 13:13). It never fades.

What does grace look like?

Divine grace is undeserved favor of a superior bestowed on an inferior. The Israelites experienced God’s grace when he delivered them from Egyptian oppression. God proclaims to Moses on Mount Sinai, “The Lord, the Lord, the compassionate and gracious God” (Exod 34:6). The exodus event also shows that when God acts graciously, it means salvation for some (Israel) but often judgement for others (Egypt and its gods as in Exod 12:12-13). In Jesus the divine grace comes into view in the most personal of ways, as John points out in his prologue (John 1:17). By coming among humankind and dying on the cross, Jesus Christ did what he was not obliged to do, and he did so not for his own sake but for ours, undeserving though we are. The nature of this undeserved favor removes any grounds for our boasting before God about our meritorious works. As Paul tells the Ephesians, “It is be grace you have been saved, through faith – and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God – not by works, so that no one can boast” (Eph 2:8-9).

Even though the accent on grace in Scripture focuses repeatedly on God or Christ as the gracious one, those who have received such grace must be gracious themselves. This graciousness must show itself especially in Christian generosity (2 Cor 8:9) and speech: “Let your conversation be always full of grace” (Col 4:6). Unsurprisingly such gracious speech characterized Jesus Himself (Luke 4:22).

Grace and love occur together in the Bible, and both express his goodness. We deserve neither God’s love nor his grace. Church leader Irenaeus rightly said in the second century, “[Jesus] became what we are that we might become what he is.” Such is grace. Such is love.

How has the grace and love you receive from Jesus Christ affected your life and relationships with others?

Looking for more encouragement? Right now we are going through, publishing content found within this helpful resource, the NIV Zondervan Study Bible! You can read the first post in this series here.

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