John MacArthur’s Introduction to the Gospels

Posted by on 07/06/2018 in:

MacArthur Introduction to the Gospels

Jesus performed many other signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not recorded in this book. But these are written that you may believe[a] that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.” —John 20:30–31

THE MACARTHUR STUDY BIBLE

If you’ve been on our website recently, you might have noticed that we have 4 different versions of John MacArthur’s Study Bible.

MacArthur Study Bible with NIV

MacArthur Study Bible with NASB

MacArthur Study Bible with ESV

MacArthur Study Bible with NKJV

And. if you know our app well enough, you may be confused as to why we have this same resource available with different translations. In the app, we let you use any Bible translation you want with a study Bible. Why would you need this one with NIV instead of ESV?

Well, in each of these resources, MacArthur makes direct reference to specific translations. You can still mix and match study Bibles and translations all you want—but if you prefer the NASB, we definitely recommend getting that version of this study Bible!

Now, check out this snippet from MacArthur’s Study Bible.

INTRODUCTION TO THE GOSPELS

The Word “Gospel”

The English word “gospel” derives from the Anglo–Saxon word godspell, which can mean either “a story about God,” or “a good story.” The latter meaning is in harmony with the Greek word translated “gospel,” euangellion, which means “good news.” In secular Greek, euangellion referred to a good report about an important event. The four gospels are the good news about the most significant events in all of history—the life, sacrificial death, and resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth.

Gospels Are Not Biographies

The gospels are not biographies in the modern sense of the word, since they do not intend to present a complete life of Jesus (cf. Jn 20:30; 21:25). Apart from the birth narratives, they give little information about the first 30 years of Jesus’ life. While Jesus’ public ministry lasted over three years, the gospels focus much of their attention on the last week of His life (cf. Jn 12–20). Though they are completely accurate historically, and present important biographical details of Jesus’ life, the primary purposes of the gospels are theological and apologetic (Jn 20:31). They provide authoritative answers to questions about Jesus’ life and ministry, and they strengthen believers’ assurance regarding the reality of their faith (Lk 1:4).

Sharing a Common Point of View

Although many spurious gospels were written, the church from earliest times has accepted only Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John as inspired Scripture. While each Gospel has its unique perspective, Matthew, Mark, and Luke, when compared to John, share a common point of view. Because of that, they are known as the synoptic (from a Greek word meaning “to see together,” or “to share a common point of view”) Gospels. Matthew, Mark, and Luke, for example, focus on Christ’s Galilean ministry, while John focuses on His ministry in Judea. The synoptic Gospels contain numerous parables, while John records none. John and the synoptic Gospels record only two common events (Jesus’ walking on the water, and the feeding of the 5,000) prior to Passion Week. These differences between John and the synoptic Gospels, however, are not contradictory, but complementary.

Each Gospel writer wrote from a unique perspective, for a different audience. As a result, each Gospel contains distinctive elements. Taken together, the four Gospels weave a complete portrait of the God–Man, Jesus of Nazareth. In Him were blended perfect humanity and deity, making Him the only sacrifice for the sins of the world, and the worthy Lord of those who believe.

LEARN MORE ABOUT MACARTHUR’S STUDY BIBLE

There is so much more to MacArthur’s study Bible than what you read here. To get a full picture of all the insight you can gain with the resource, head on over to our website by selecting a link below.

MacArthur Study Bible with NIV

MacArthur Study Bible with NASB

MacArthur Study Bible with ESV

MacArthur Study Bible with NKJV

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Freedom from Wifi

Posted by on 07/05/2018 in: ,

Freedom From Wifi

DID YOU KNOW…

that you don’t need wifi or data to use our app? No, really. You can use every single part of our app while your phone is on airplane mode.

STUDY THE BIBLE ANYWHERE

The reason we designed our app to work without Wifi or data is so that YOU can study God’s Word anytime, anywhere. We all know what summer is like: long road trips, camping, flying… all without an Internet connection.

An Internet connection shouldn’t determine how deeply you can study the Bible.

So, test it out. Put your device in airplane mode right now and start studying. You don’t need to be distracted by texts, phone calls, or the Internet anyway.

SHARE #READSTUDYANYWHERE

Check out #readstudyanywhere on Twitter and Instagram to see where Olive Tree users are using the app this summer. Then join the conversation yourself!

NEED SOME INSPIRATION?

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The Bible and Intellectual Pursuit

Posted by on 06/27/2018 in:

The Bible and Intellectual Pursuit

THE BIBLE AND INTELLECTUAL PURSUIT

Some presume Christianity is anti-intellectual. But does the Bible actually promote anti-intellectualism?

On the contrary, the Bible promotes the life of the mind. Indeed, the Christian worldview values learning, and it grounds, fosters, and clarifies such intellectual pursuit.

Note, for example, how the nature of God does so. God’s infinity clarifies that he alone possesses full knowledge—past, present, and future. His graciousness initiates all learning as all knowledge of him and life flows from his generous self-revelation. God’s truthfulness shows that his self-disclosure communicates truth and does so coherently. His personal nature means that knowledge is also relational, pointing us to a covenant relationship with him.

God’s self-revelation reflects God and is likewise instructive about intellectual pursuit.

  1. God’s self-revelation is gracious: God freely initiates it and blesses through it.
  2. It is truthful, faithfully representing who God is, what God does, and how God relates to humans.
  3. His self-revelation is a unity: though coming in a variety of forms (see below), God’s communication about himself, humanity, and life coheres.
  4. It is personal, as it communicates who God is and his ways.
  5. It is propositional, disclosing truth about God, humanity, life, history, and salvation.
  6. Since humans are the recipients of God’s self-revelation, it is analogical, as God uses human contexts, cultures, and languages to communicate.
  7. God’s self-revelation is partial, since the infinite God can only reveal limited information to finite humans.
  8. It is historical, as God communicates with humans in space and time.
  9. It is progressive within Scripture, since God relates to multiple generations of humans and gradually expands his self-disclosure over time.

As such, God’s self-revelation clarifies the educational pursuit: it is only possible through divine initiative, rests on the content and unity of revealed truth, has objective and subjective components, requires insight into human culture, cannot be exhaustive, is linked to all of life, and is a perennial process.

Further, God’s gracious self-disclosure has been given in a variety of ways and in a variety of contexts, yet with striking unity.

  • God has revealed himself to all people at all times in all places through creation, which witnesses to him as its Creator and Lord (Ps 19:1-6; Rm 1:18-32). He has also done so through creating humans in his image who have a conscience, the moral law written on the heart (Rm 2:12-16).
  • God has also revealed himself to particular people at particular times and places, gradually and more clearly communicating himself and his covenant relations. He has displayed himself through historical actions (e.g., the exodus), through divine speech (e.g., the Ten Commandments), and through his covenant people, whose holiness, love, and justice are to reflect God’s own character (Ex 19:5-6; Lv 19:1-18).
  • God has revealed himself most fully in Jesus and his incarnation, sinless life, teaching, proclamation of the kingdom, miracles, crucifixion, resurrection, ascension, reign, and return (Jn 1:1-18; Heb 1:1-4).
  • God has also revealed himself through the inspired prophetic-apostolic Holy Scriptures, which accurately record and interpret God’s self-revelation. Even more, the Scriptures are called God’s Word and are themselves a significant form of God’s self-revelation (Pss 19:7-14; 119; Mt 5:17-20; Jn 10:35; 2Tm 3:15–4:5; 1Pt 1:22-25; 2Pt 1:16-21; 3:15-16).

Because of this, proper human intellectual pursuit begins with the fear of the Lord (Pr 1:1-7) and requires the standpoint of creatures seeking to know the Creator and his world through dependence on his self-revelation.

CREATION AND THE INTELLECTUAL PURSUIT

Creation likewise grounds, fosters, and clarifies intellectual pursuit. The infinite, self-existent, sovereign, personal, holy, and good Lord powerfully speaks and creates a good cosmos, evidenced by the steady refrain, “God saw that [it] was good” (Gn 1:4,10,12,18,21,25). This goodness was accentuated on the sixth day: “It was very good indeed” (1:31).

God’s generous provisions of light, land, vegetation, and animals are blessings given for humanity’s benefit, as are the abilities to know God, work, marry, and procreate. In the first chapters of Genesis God blesses man with the Sabbath, places him in the delightful garden of Eden, gives him a helper, and establishes only one prohibition—given not to stifle him but to promote his welfare. Thus, the good God created a good world for the good of humanity. Truth, goodness, beauty, and peace abound. As a result, it is fitting that humans seek to understand all of creation, all of life, in light of God’s revelation.

CSB WORLDVIEW STUDY BIBLE

This blog is adapted from the CSB Worldview Study Bible. It features extensive worldview study notes and articles by notable Christian scholars. And it’s aim is to help Christians better understand the grand narrative and flow of Scripture within the biblical framework.

Guided by general editors David S. Dockery and Trevin K. Wax, this Bible is an invaluable resource and study tool. It will help you to discuss, defend, and clearly share with others the practical compatibility of Christianity in everyday life.

Visit our website to learn more about this new resource!

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What is a Christian Worldview?

Posted by on 06/25/2018 in:

 What is a Christian Worldview?

WHAT IS A CHRISTIAN WORLDVIEW AND WHY DOES IT MATTER?

Is there anything you can think of which is indispensable to your personal identity? Perhaps your hometown, family, or friends come to mind. While these are important aspects of what it means to be you, they do not travel physically with you everywhere you go. They are not present during those private moments while you are sitting in your room. But one thing sticks closer to you than your own reputation: it is your worldview.

The term worldview has been around for a long time.

First employed by philosopher Immanuel Kant, the concept of worldview (from the German word Weltanschauung) took on new significance for Christians with the publication of James Orr’s book, The Christian View of God and the World. But it has only been recently that Christians have taken interest in worldview studies as an essential task in the mandate to become serious Christian thinkers.

There are two main ways in which people employ the term worldview. One is philosophical; the other, sociological.

THE PHILOSOPHICAL DEFINITION

Although numerous good definitions for worldview might be offered for the philosophical sense of the term, I find the late philosopher Ronald Nash’s concise wording to be superior: “A worldview is a conceptual scheme by which we consciously or unconsciously. . . interpret and judge reality.” Notice the total scope indicated by the language. Our worldview acts upon both our conscious and unconscious impressions about everything around us.

If you have ever met someone who had a blind spot (anything from continuous body odor to an annoying personal habit), you know that we humans are not always aware of our own weaknesses. Our blind spots extend to our beliefs about reality, and since we are incapable of going it alone on our own wisdom, or even the collective wisdom of a community (with corporate blind spots), we must rely on an objective truth teller. This truth teller is God, the Creator of reality. He alone can steady our rudder in the sea of competing worldviews.

In broad terms, a worldview that is Christian examines cultural data and locates them within a pattern of belief that is consistent with the sacred text of Scripture, but also with the broader Christian intellectual tradition.

In other words, whenever we encounter an idea, we ask whether the issue relates variously to how God created the world, how humans through sin have corrupted the world, or how the world through the work of Jesus Christ is in the process of being redeemed and restored.

Developing a Christian worldview is important for the Christ-follower because it tempers the way we interact with and assess the fallen world in which we live. Some Christians fall into the trap of being shocked about beliefs that secular persons express on a given issue. We must remember that worldviews serve the function of eyeglasses, helping a person to focus on the world around him in a meaningful way. Think of a trip to your local optometrist’s office: you are asked to stare at a chart without the aid of corrective lenses. With each new lens, you are asked to choose either A or B. By the time you are finished, you see clearly. Without help, you may struggle to see at all.

THE SOCIOLOGICAL DEFINITION

The sociological definition of worldview recognizes that all conceptual systems are embedded in the culture. Think about the old Palmolive commercial on television: in it, a woman sits in a salon while getting her nails done. Her stylist, Madge, sits across from her, praising how wonderful Palmolive dishwashing liquid is and how gentle it is on the hands. Inevitably, the woman says to Madge, “I can’t wait to try Palmolive!” Madge looks down at the woman’s hands, which are immersed in a tub of liquid: “You’re already soaking in it.”

For all of the discussions Christians hold about “engaging culture,” the reality is that long before we started thinking strategy, culture had already engaged us. Our society has a worldview all its own, which operates on our open imaginations, desires, and wills constantly. Worldviews also act like filters: they are totalizing and jealous. They are variously subtle, overt, systemic, systematic, faithful, or insidious.

A synonym for worldview is ideology.

As Karl Marx wrote in Das Kapital, at the heart of every ideology is the following idea: “They do not know it, but they are doing it [anyway].” Ideology is unaware of its own presuppositions. Those in its sway naively believe that their way of thinking is the product of reason or science—when in fact deeply hidden background beliefs are at work.

For this reason, it is both right and wrong to speak of a “Christian worldview.”

If by that expression one means to say that biblical theology provides a comprehensive way of thinking and living, then yes, by all means we want to affirm the term. On the other hand, it is crucial not to confuse Christianity with being just another worldview standing alongside other culturally embedded worldviews.

As Yale scholar Lamin Sanneh has argued, whenever the question “Whose religion is Christianity?” is asked, the answer comes back: no one culture holds sway over Christianity; it transcends every time, culture, race, and nationality. In this sense, it is unique among other world religions. The gospel stands outside a culture, critiquing it with the resources of the biblical text, and always addressing its sinful desires and deepest aspirations. As theologian Harry Lee Poe observes, “Every culture has a question that only the Bible can answer. Listen for the question.”

CHRISTIANS AND HOLISTIC THINKING

If you are not sensitive about the centrality of worldviews to the way people live, you will be an uninformed—and potentially dangerous—Christian evangelist. Unfortunately, too many well-meaning Christians have tried to share their faith with a non-Christian only to offend unnecessarily the person they are trying to reach. In other cases, a simple evangelistic inquiry turns ugly when the non-Christian turns out to be an articulate and intelligent defender of their own beliefs. Frankly, if you as a Christ-follower fail to understand the importance of worldviews, you might well do more harm than good.

This remark is not meant to frighten anyone away from being passionate about sharing the good news of Jesus Christ with the world.

Nor am I trying to say that sharing one’s faith is a task reserved only for Christian intellectuals. The gospel message is simple and clear, and it can be accepted with childlike faith. Still, every believer has a responsibility to be a disciple of Jesus Christ, a task that our Lord himself referred to as an issue of not only the heart but of the mind (Mt 22:37). Biblical worldview thinking, like discipleship, is a lifelong art that must be consistently practiced and studied, to be done well.

Worldview thinking opposes compartmentalization.

There are not spiritual truths that can be divorced from daily life. Everything must be integrated into a whole. As Howard Ahmanson has so ably put it, “We worship a God who creates universes for a living. He did not set the sun, moon, and stars in their courses and then retire to go into full time Christian ministry.”

Christ is Lord over everything. It is all one whole.

Our job is to find out how to fit all of the pieces together in a broken world. In short, everything matters if anything matters at all. Minds awake, through faith and discipleship, can make real progress in understanding both how we should think and live in this confusing and wonderful world.

Written by Gregory A. Thornbury

CSB WORLDVIEW STUDY BIBLE

This blog is adapted from the CSB Worldview Study Bible. It features extensive worldview study notes and articles by notable Christian scholars to help Christians better understand the grand narrative and flow of Scripture within the biblical framework from which we are called to view reality and make sense of life and the world.

Guided by general editors David S. Dockery and Trevin K. Wax, this Bible is an invaluable resource and study tool. It will help you to discuss, defend, and clearly share with others the truth, hope, and practical compatibility of Christianity in everyday life.

Visit our website to learn more about this new resource!

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Look Inside: New Anchor Yale Volumes

Posted by on 06/18/2018 in:

Look Inside New Anchor Yale Volumes

We’ve added 5 new volumes to our Anchor Yale collection:

  • Revelation: Anchor Yale Bible Commentary – by Koester
  • Joshua 1-12: Anchor Yale Bible Commentary – by Dozeman
  • Judges 1-12: Anchor Yale Bible Commentary – by Sasson
  • Ruth: Anchor Yale Bible Commentary – by Schipper
  • Amos: Anchor Yale Bible Commentary – by Eidevall

We thought this would be a perfect time to give you a look inside this classic resource.

RESOURCE GUIDE

As always, you can find content inside the Anchor Yale series that relates to the passage you have open. Just look in the Resource Guide!

Then, you’ll be able to quickly navigate to which part of the commentary you want to read. The Anchor Yale series comes with its own translation, textual notes, dictionary entries, and commentary.

CONTENT

Here are some examples of the different kinds of content you’ll find inside the Anchor Yale Commentary Series.

EXTRAS: INDEXES, MAPS, AND MORE

The Anchor Yale Commentary Series also has maps sprinkled throughout it. These will also appear in the Resource Guide when a map in this series is applicable to the passage of Scripture you are reading.

There are in-depth introductions for every volume.

Outlines will appear in the Resource Guide for quick access. Here’s one from the new Revelation volume. All of those green verse references are hyperlinked. If you tap on them, a pop-up window will appear, showing you the Scripture immediately and conveniently.

And, of course, there are plenty of indexes!


LEARN MORE ABOUT ANCHOR YALE

Now that you’ve looked inside the Anchor Yale series, head on over to our website! You can read a description provided by the publisher, see all the volumes that we have available, and watch a video on how commentaries work in our app.

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Four Aspects of Living a Life Worthy of Your Calling

Posted by on 06/15/2018 in: ,

​​I therefore, the prisoner of the Lord, beseech you that ye walk worthy of the vocation wherewith ye are called, With all lowliness and meekness, with longsuffering, forbearing one another in love Ephesians 4:1-2 (KJV)

Paul calls out four particular aspects of how to “walk out” a life worthy of your calling, and they are more than personal qualities. For the life worthy of the calling of God is a life in the fellowship of the people of God; and if this is to be maintained these four virtues are vital.

LOWLINESS

The first, emphasized by the characteristic all (cf. 1:8; 4:19, 31; 5:3, 9; 6:18), is lowliness. Very significantly, the Greek noun tapeinophrosynē does not seem to have been used before New Testament times, and the corresponding adjective tapeinos nearly always had a bad meaning, and was associated with words having the sense of slavish, mean, ignoble. Lessons of humility had been taught in the Old Testament, and such a passage as Isaiah 66:2 in the Septuagint is a notable exception to the general pre-Christian use of tapeinos, but to the Greeks humility was not a virtue. To them, as indeed to most non-Christian people in any generation, the concept of ‘the fullness of life … left no room for humility’.

In Christ lowliness became a virtue. His life and death were service and sacrifice without thought of reputation (Phil. 2:6–7). Because the Christian is called to follow in his steps, humility has an irreplaceable part in the Christian character (cf. Acts 20:19), and also for the reason that he has been brought to see the greatness and glory and holiness of God, so that he cannot but be overwhelmed by the realization of his own weakness and sinfulness.

MEEKNESS

The second word, meekness (prautēs), was used in classical Greek in the good sense of mildness or gentleness of character. The adjective (praos), especially, found an important use in describing an animal completely disciplined and controlled. Meekness in the New Testament is used of a person’s attitude to the word of God (Jas 1:21), but more often of one’s attitude to other people (1 Cor. 4:21; 2 Tim. 2:25; Titus 3:2).

It is closely connected with the spirit of submissiveness which becomes the keynote of this letter when, in 5:21, the apostle turns to speak of human relationships. Moses is aptly described in Numbers 12:3 as ‘very meek’. For, as Mitton puts it, meekness ‘is the spirit of one who is so absorbed in seeking some worthy goal for the common good that he refuses to be deflected from it by slights, injuries or insults directed at himself personally, or indeed by personal considerations of any kind’.

PATIENCE

Thirdly, there is patience (makrothymia), a word sometimes used of steadfast endurance of suffering or misfortune (as in Jas 5:10) but more often, as is the case here, of slowness in avenging wrong or retaliating when hurt by another. It is used of God’s patience with humanity (Rom. 2:4; 9:22; 1 Tim. 1:16; 1 Pet. 3:20; 2 Pet. 3:15), and the corresponding and consequent quality that the Christian should show towards others (1 Cor. 13:4; Gal. 5:22; Col. 3:12; 2 Tim. 4:2).

FORBEARANCE

Forbearance, the fourth requirement, is also a divine quality (Rom. 2:4), the practical outworking of longsuffering. ‘It involves bearing with one another’s weaknesses, not ceasing to love one’s neighbours or friends because of those faults in them which perhaps offend or displease us’ (Abbott). It is ‘that mutual tolerance without which no group of human beings can live together in peace’ (Stott).

Such forbearance, and indeed all these four qualities, are possible only in love. For love is the basic attitude of seeking the highest good of others, and it will therefore lead to all these qualities, and include them all (see vv. 15–16 and on 1:4). Paul has prayed that his readers may be ‘rooted and grounded in love’ (3:17), and now he exhorts them to do their part, and to go on to possess all these virtues in love.

Tyndale Commentaries Full Set (49 Vols.)

This excerpt is adapted from the Tyndale Commentaries Full Set (49 Vols.). Are you looking for a biblical resource that is longstanding and trustworthy? Then look into this commentary set! Written by some of the world’s most distinguished evangelical scholars, each book offers clear, reliable, and relevant expositions.

We have the 49 volume set available for purchase on our website! So, learn more about the Tyndale Commentaries Full Set, see how it works in the app, and add it to your library today, here.

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Jesus’ Farewell

Posted by on 06/14/2018 in:

Jesus' Farewell

Looking for something a little more in-depth than your average study Bible? The Baker Illustrated Bible Commentary is a single-volume resource that walks you through the entire Bible. We pulled this excerpt from the Baker Illustrated Bible Commentary to give you a small taste of the kind of information it offers. Mostly, being an ILLUSTRATED Bible Commentary, this resource is filled with charts, images, and graphics. So, keep reading, and discover more about Jesus’ Farewell in John 13-17.

THE FAREWELL DISCOURSE

Jesus’ Farewell: John 13:31–17:26

In the upper room, Jesus now turns to his faithful followers and instructs them at some length. The discourse runs from 13:31 to 16:33 without narrative interruption and then concludes with Jesus’s prayer (17:1–26), which precedes the arrest (18:1–11). The literary form of this section is called the “farewell speech” and was well known in Judaism at this time. For example, one can turn to the Testaments of the Twelve Patriarchs, an inter-testamental, extra-canonical work that records the final words of Israel’s patriarchs. The Assumption of Moses (first century AD) does the same for Israel’s prophet-leader in Transjordan.

Each Jewish farewell speech shows similar elements that are found in Jesus’s farewell:

  1. There is a plea for obedience to the law. Thus in 13:34 and 15:12 Jesus speaks of his new commandment of love.
  2. Often writings are left behind (cf. Assumption of Moses 10:11; 4 Ezra), and in the Fourth Gospel itself we have the chronicle of Jesus’s life now deposited for his followers.
  3. Spirit-filled representatives carry on the work, just as Joshua obtained the Spirit that rested on Moses (Assumption of Moses 10–12). Here Jesus promises the Spirit of truth (14:17), who anoints the disciples and particularly the beloved disciple for his work.
  4. Finally, the anxiety of those left behind is relieved. So Jesus speaks of comfort, terming the Spirit “the Comforter” or “Paraclete” (Greek paraklētos; NIV “Advocate”; 14:16, 26; 15:26).

It is evident then that Jesus recognizes the importance of this evening and is making his formal farewell.

He addresses his disciples’ worries in light of his imminent death and departure. But above all he holds out a promise and hope centered on the coming of the Holy Spirit—one who will guide, teach, encourage, empower, and mediate to the believer the comforting presence of Christ.

BAKER ILLUSTRATED BIBLE COMMENTARY

Want to learn more about the Baker Illustrated Bible Commentary? Perfect! Just head on over to our website and we will give you all the details.

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Discipling Your Staff

Posted by on 06/13/2018 in:

Discipling Your Staff

When you think of discipleship, do you think of discipling your staff? The editors of the CSB Disciple’s Study Bible are PASSIONATE about teaching about discipleship. In this excerpt, they outline why you should disciple staff and how to do so effectively. And with the notes from this study Bible, you’re sure to learn and grow in your ability to make disciples.

DISCIPLING YOUR STAFF

Ministry leaders, especially pastors, should prioritize discipling their staff. Regardless of whether the role is full time, bi-vocational, or as a volunteer, the leader can follow Jesus’s example in disciple making. Unfortunately, the people under the direct influence of the leader can often be overlooked in the discipleship process. But leaders must be intentional with those who serve under them, just as Jesus was.

I. WHY DISCIPLE STAFF?

Why did Jesus walk with twelve men more closely than the masses? And why did he choose to walk even closer with three? It is clear that Jesus wanted to have a long-lasting impact on a few men who would go on to replicate the process. Every Christ-follower since is a result of what Jesus began with his disciples.

Multiplication is certainly a key result of making disciples, but so is spiritual growth. While church staff should be expected to grow personally and consistently, leaders can undergird that spiritual growth by providing community and accountability. Leaders must inspect what they expect. By discipling staff, ministry leaders ensure those they lead are accountable and growing in a community of peers.

II. HOW TO DISCIPLE STAFF

While discipling staff takes somewhat of a different approach than discipling a new believer or a group of acquaintances, the principles of basic disciple making still apply: (1) reading Scripture, (2) sharing what God is teaching, (3) memorizing God’s Word, and (4) praying with and for one another. These key elements still drive each meeting.

Here is a practical plan for discipling a staff of any size and church context.

A. Meet weekly. If possible, try not to add another meeting to the schedule. You probably already spend time with staff in some fashion, so maximize the time together by focusing on discipling. Use the first half of a staff meeting or plan to meet over lunch or breakfast weekly. Plan your meeting so that it is refreshing and helpful rather than a drain on already busy schedules.

B. Plan what you will read, share, and memorize each week. Choose what will be read, discussed, and memorized each week. Pick something that coincides with the sermon or Bible study to maximize the study time each week. Likewise, choose a passage or passages to memorize together and have one or two recite the selection each time you meet.

C. Be accountable. Ensure that your staff understands the importance of this time together. Make it a priority on your calendar and encourage the staff to hold it in high regard.

D. Challenge the staff to replicate what happens in the group. Encourage each staff member to disciple their own staff or group of volunteers. They can follow the same plan or make one that best fits their group.

E. Take breaks. Summer can be a difficult time for schedules to align. Don’t be afraid to take a few weeks or even a month or two off from meeting. Encourage your staff to continue to read and memorize Scripture even when you aren’t meeting.

III. THE FRUIT OF DISCIPLING STAFF

A discipled staff grows closer to one another and to the ministry leader. With accountability and community, team members find a greater sense of sharing one another’s burdens and celebrating one another’s victories. Staff members have a practical means by which they can grow spiritually. As team members replicate this process with their own staffs or volunteers, whole ministries can grow together.

Discipling a staff will bring them all together—from department to department as well as between each staff and its leader. Differences among believers can be divisive, but a discipleship relationship can forge an authentic unity within a staff as each member is increasingly conformed to the image of Christ. As the ministry leader engages with the staff walking through God’s Word, sharing how God is working, and memorizing Scripture, you will find yourselves growing in incredible strength and unity.

CSB DISCIPLE’S STUDY BIBLE

The CSB Disciple’s Study Bible will help you engage with and apply God’s Word to your daily life as a disciple of Jesus. Designed to equip you to follow Jesus and disciple others, it features discipleship-themed study notes, as well as tools and resources like the F260 Reading Plan, introductions with outlines and timelines, full-color maps, and discipleship articles from the team at Replicate Ministries.

Learn more about the CSB Disciple’s Study Bible and add it to your library by visiting our website

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The Significance of the Priestly Blessing: Numbers 6

Posted by on 06/12/2018 in: ,

The Lord said to Moses, “Tell Aaron and his sons, ‘This is how you are to bless the Israelites. Say to them:
‘The Lord bless you
and keep you;
the Lord make his face shine on you
and be gracious to you;
the Lord turn his face toward you
and give you peace.’
‘So they will put my name on the Israelites, and I will bless them.’”
Numbers 6:22-27 (NIV)

Blessing Rooted In Israelite Culture

The act of blessing is deeply rooted in Israelite culture. It bears a wide range of meaning. On the one hand, Jacob’s stealing of Esau’s blessing and the latter’s inability to acquire another from his father, Isaac (Gen 27:30-38), provides a glimpse into the near magical power of blessing. In that story, to bless is to bestow power for fertility and well-being, which, once spoken, takes on a life of its own. On the other hand, the expression of divine blessing appears to be no more than a stereotypical exchange for “Hello.” The book of Ruth provides an example of how the invocation of divine blessing was part of the everyday language of greeting, for example, when the harvesters welcome Boaz with the words, “The Lord bless you” (Ruth 2:4).

The cultic use of divine blessing, as in vv. 24-26, functions someplace between the two examples noted above.

The cultic use of the priestly blessing was widespread by the late monarchical period. Similar cultic language is richly attested in other liturgical literature. Psalm 129:8, for example, concludes with a priestly blessing on the worshipers, “The blessing of the Lord be upon you. We bless you in the name of the Lord” (see also Pss 128:5; 133:3; 134:3).

The Hebrew inscription “the Lord bless you and keep you and be with you” was found on a jar at Kuntillet ‘Ajrud in the upper Sinai, dating from the eighth-century. This inscription indicates the use of a blessing very similar to Num 5:24-26 already in the middle of the monarchical period. The discovery of the priestly blessing in a burial cave in the area of Jerusalem known as the Valley of Hinnom (contemporary Keteph Hinnom) is even more striking. The blessing is written on two silver amulets that date from the late seventh century.

An amulet is an object believed to give magical powers of protection against evil to the one who wears it. The discovery of such an amulet in a grave raises further questions of whether the priestly blessing was meant to function in association with the dead. Baruch Levine suggests that the priestly blessing may have protected the dead on their way to Sheol.

The Blessing’s Structure

The priestly blessing has a simple structure, consisting of three lines, each of which contains two verbs: bless-keep (protect), shine-grace, lift-peace. The name “Yahweh” appears once in each line, in association with the first of the paired verbs.

Yahweh bless you and keep you;
Yahweh make his face to shine upon
you and be gracious to you;
Yahweh lift up his countenance upon you—
and give you peace

Two readings are possible from this structure.

The six verbs could be interpreted to describe distinct actions of God. They can also be interpreted in pairs. The first verb in each line summarizes an activity of God upon the worshiper, and the second describes the results of God’s actions. The use of the name “Yahweh” as the subject for only the first verb in each sentence favors the interpretation in which the verbs are paired. The result is a threefold blessing.

The first emphasizes concrete gifts—blessing and security (guarding).

The second stresses the hope that God will be well disposed toward the person (to lighten or shine upon the worshiper) and thus temper judgment with mercy (to be gracious).

The third asserts that God will pay attention (lift his face), thus providing fullness of life (peace). David Noel Freedman notes a variety of subtle stylistic devices in the Hebrew that aid in carrying out the meaning of the priestly blessing. These include a progression in the numbers of words (3, 5, 7) and consonants (15, 20, 25) in each line. The progression is framed by an opening (“The Lord bless you”) and a closing (“and give you peace”) cola of the same length (7 syllables in Hebrew).

Blessing Within the Context

Numbers 6:22-23, 27 frames the priestly blessing within the context of Numbers 5–6. These verses take the form of divine instruction for the Aaronide priesthood. Numbers 6:22-23 indicate that the blessing is meant to function as a concluding benediction (vv. 22-23) to the instruction for camp purity in chaps. 5–6. Numbers 6:27 clarifies that it is God (rather than the priests) who blesses Israel.

The literary setting has puzzled scholars, prompting some even to suggest that the text has been displaced from Lev 9:22, where Aaron is also described as blessing the people from the door of the tent of meeting. But the function of the blessing as a concluding benediction on the camp and the congregation does correspond to other cultic uses of the priestly blessing in the Psalms (e.g., Psalm 129:1), suggesting that its present context is less arbitrary than many have suspected.

The overall design of Numbers 5–6 provides additional guidelines for interpreting the priestly blessing in its present context.

The placement of the priestly benediction at the door of the tent of meeting follows naturally upon the inward movement of the laws of defilement. These laws began with contamination requiring expulsion from the camp (5:1-4), followed by three types of relationships within the camp with the power to defile. These relationships moved in an ever-closer orbit to the tabernacle at the center of the camp—from defrauding in general (5:5-10), to adultery (5:11-31), and through to the Nazirite vow (6:1-21). The location for expiatory rituals has tended to follow the same movement. The laws of defrauding and adultery require that the offender be presented “to the priest” (5:9, 15), while the defiled Nazirite must go “to the door of the tent of meeting” (6:10, 13). The door of the tent of meeting is also the location for the priestly blessing on the congregation (see Lev 9:22).

The priestly blessing has at least two functions in its present literary context.

It provides yet another safeguard against defilement by blanketing the camp with the power of divine blessing. It also concludes Numbers 5–6 with a description of the ideal camp. The ideal is where God pays particular attention to persons, where blessing and security drive out the power of death, and where the achievement of wholeness and peace is possible.

The Central Message of Blessing

The priestly blessing (Num 6:22-24) is the most familiar passage in Numbers 5-6. The central message of the blessing is stated in the closing Hebrew word, שׁלום (šālôm), translated “peace”. In English, “peace” connotes the absence of war. It can also describe a state of tranquility. These meanings are also in the Hebrew. But the peace of God in the priestly blessing embraces even more aspects of life, including good health, security, inner harmony, wellness, material prosperity, and a long life. The broad and rich meaning of “peace” in the priestly blessing reinforces the role of holiness in the life of Israel to bring about both social and physical health.

It is noted in the Commentary that the priestly blessing provides an ideal vision of the camp and that it functions as a conclusion to the laws of defilement in Numbers 5–6. The ideal of the priestly blessing continues in contemporary Jewish and Christian worship. It is included in most lectionary cycles as a topic for preaching. The blessing of God also continues to be the last word in many of our Sunday liturgies as a closing benediction.

The central task in preaching this text is to explore what blessing means.

Is the bestowal of a blessing sacramental, or is it no more than a socially polite activity? Also, what is it that we receive at the close of a worship service? Is real divine power transmitted in blessing? Or, is the preacher simply telling us that the worship service is nearly over? The latter point creates a problem for interpreting the priestly benediction. Notice how the introduction to the priestly blessing (Num 6:22-23) stresses that only priests can bless. It is not a casual activity. Additionally, the conclusion (Num 6:27) indicates how close the text is to the world of magic. The author must clarify that the priest does not possess the power to bless independently of God. The need for such clarification underscores that divine blessing has independent power that can be let loose in the congregation.

New Interpreter’s Bible Commentary

This excerpt is adapted from the New Interpreter’s Bible Commentary (10 Vols.). This series offers critically sound biblical interpretations. Also, it is written by scholars, pastors and laity representing diverse traditions and academic experience. Therefore, this collection of commentary meets the needs of preachers, teachers, and all students of the Bible.

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Praying for Lost Friends and Family

Posted by on 06/11/2018 in:

Praying for Lost Friends and Family

Praying for lost friends and family is a difficult task. We so badly want to see them saved. But, at the same time, we don’t always see God answer in the way and timing that we want. Praying for lost friends and family requires endurance, strength, hope, patience, and love.

The CSB Disciple’s Study Bible contains great articles on a variety of discipleship topics. Here is an excerpt from this study Bible on praying for lost friends and family.

PRAYING FOR LOST FRIENDS AND FAMILY

The purpose of the Disciple-Making Pathway is to help believers grow in their faith and become more like Christ. As we become more like him, we will be burdened for our lost friends and family and will desire to see them come to know Christ in a more intimate way.

E. M. Bounds wisely said:

“You can’t rightly talk to men about God until you first talk to God about men.”

What this means is that our efforts to share the gospel must begin with and be saturated in prayer. Before we can even consider sharing the truth of God with those who do not believe, we must be diligently praying for them. Here are some specific things for which to pray.

1. That God would open their eyes to the truth of the gospel.

“When anyone hears the word about the kingdom and doesn’t understand it, the evil one comes and snatches away what was sown in his heart.” (Mt 13:19)

“In their case, the god of this age has blinded the minds of the unbelievers to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God.” (2Co 4:4)

Satan will do everything he can to blind unbelievers to the gospel. Pray that God would open their spiritual eyes to see the truth.

2. That they would seek to know God.

“He did this so they might seek God, and perhaps they might reach out and find him, though he is not far from each one of us.” (Ac 17:27)

God will reveal himself to those who seek after him. Pray that your lost friends and family would have a hunger for God.

3. That they would believe the Scriptures.

Someone who does not know Christ will not understand the truth of the Word.

“But the person without the Spirit does not receive what comes from God’s Spirit, because it is foolishness to him; he is not able to understand it since it is evaluated spiritually.” (1Co 2:14)

“For the word of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but it is the power of God to us who are being saved.” (1Co 1:18)

Pray that they would have a hunger for the Word of God and that they would believe the truths of the Scriptures.

4. That God draws them to himself.

“No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him, and I will raise him up on the last day.” (Jn 6:44)

We must always remember that, although God uses us as the instruments to share the message and help lead people to him, only he can convict and convert them. One cannot receive Christ until God first draws them. Let us therefore pray that God will draw them to himself.

5. That the Holy Spirit works in their lives.

“When he comes, he will convict the world about sin, righteousness, and judgment.” (Jn 16:8)

“When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth. For he will not speak on his own, but he will speak whatever he hears. He will also declare to you what is to come.” (Jn 16:13)

Pray that the Holy Spirit will convict them of sin and cause them to repent and believe.

6. That God would send someone to lead them to Christ.

Jesus told his disciples, “The harvest is abundant, but the workers are few. Therefore, pray to the Lord of the harvest to send out workers into his harvest.” (Mt 9:37-38)

Perhaps that someone is you. Pray that you or someone else could be used to show and share the gospel.

7. That they confess Christ as Savior and Lord.

“If you confess with your mouth, ‘Jesus is Lord,’ and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. One believes with the heart, resulting in righteousness, and one confesses with the mouth, resulting in salvation.” (Rm 10:9-10)

“But to all who did receive him, he gave them the right to be children of God, to those who believe in his name, who were born, not of natural descent, or of the will of the flesh, or of the will of man, but of God.” (Jn 1:12-13)

8. That they would trust Christ, and confess him as Savior and Lord!

CSB DISCIPLE’S STUDY BIBLE

The CSB Disciple’s Study Bible will help you engage with and apply God’s Word to your daily life as a disciple of Jesus. Designed to equip you to follow Jesus and disciple others, it features discipleship-themed study notes, as well as tools and resources like the F260 Reading Plan, introductions with outlines and timelines, full-color maps, and discipleship articles from the team at Replicate Ministries.

Learn more about the CSB Disciple’s Study Bible and add it to your library by visiting our website.

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