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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3 Ways to Improve Your Highlights

Posted by on 10/10/2017 in:

Highlighters, crayons, markers, and pens are staples for personal Bible study. When you find a passage you want to memorize or remember for later, you mark it up in some kind way that makes it stand out from the rest of the text. When it comes to digital Bibles we often neglect using highlights as a part of our study methods. Sure, we may highlight a favorite verse or passage, but most don’t go any further than that. Today, I want to open up a world of highlighting possibilities for you in the Olive Tree Bible App that will hopefully improve your Bible study.

HOW TO HIGHLIGHT

Before we dive into the ways you can use highlights, first let me give you a refresher on the two ways to make a highlight in the app.

VERSE HIGHLIGHTS

The most popular way to make a highlight in our app is to highlight an entire verse, or a group of verses. To do this, you tap the verse number and select “Highlight.” If you want to highlight a range of verses you can increase the range to your desired selection, then choose your color. This method is useful if you want to have your highlights appear across various Bible translations. Since these are tagged on a verse level, they will appear in all your Bibles.

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WORD-BASED HIGHLIGHTS

You also have the option to make word based highlights that are resource specific. To do this, simply select your desired text, and then follow the same steps to highlight as above.

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MAKE YOUR OWN HIGHLIGHTER STYLES

One advantage of using Olive Tree is that you are not limited to default highlighter styles or colors that come with the app. You have the ability to create your own highlighter colors & styles to suit your needs. This is the first step in making highlights more useful in your study.

There are a couple different ways you can get to the new highlighter menu. First, you can go to the Main Menu, select Highlights, tap Edit, then choose “Add Highlighter.”  Alternatively, you can reach this menu by selecting a verse or text to highlight, tap Highlight, select the “More” icon, then choose “Add Highlighter.”

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Once you’ve reached this screen you are presented with a few different options. First, you can give your highlighter a name in the Label field. You can either name it the color you’re going to create, or you can get creative and give the highlight a specific meaning. For example, you can have all references to the Holy Spirit or Jesus use this highlighter, and then name it as such. The choice is yours. From there you can select whether you want it to be a traditional highlight or underline. Then you have the ability to customize how that highlight or underline will appear by selecting intensity, thickness (for underline), and the color.

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Once you’ve made all the highlighters you need, you’re ready to start using them in your study. And, remember, it’s just as easy to make new highlighters as you need them; just follow these steps.

ADD NOTES TO THE MIX

Another way to highlight and emphasize key passages is to use the notes functionality within the app. This works just like highlighting, except you choose “Note” instead of “Highlight” when selecting a verse or text. One of the cool things about notes  is that you can select a cool icon to go represent what the note is about. This is cool for when I’m taking notes on sermons, but it’s also useful for calling out a part of the text. If something is extra important you might want to add a “star” or if it’s puzzling you can select the “question mark” icon. Even if you don’t put anything in the note, these icons will appear in your Bible and can serve to as an additional layer of highlighting and meaning.

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GREAT FOR INDUCTIVE STUDY

While the purpose of this post is to show you the possibilities for highlighting instead of a specific method, there are some Bible study methods that are centered around highlighting. One of the more popular methods is the Precepts Inductive Bible Study method popularized by Kay Arthur. While the Precepts method involves some fairly complicated highlighting models, with the infinite highlighting possibilities that you can create in the app you can certainly adapt it for your needs. Click here to learn more about the Inductive Bible Study method from Precepts Ministries International.

Experiment with highlights & notes icons to create a Bible study method that works for you. Also be sure to check out the Bible study titles we currently have on sale.

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The Five Solas:
Faith Alone

Posted by on 10/09/2017 in:

FAITH ALONE?

One of the pillars of the Reformation was the belief that we are saved by faith alone. The cry sola fide declared that we come to salvation, not through any righteousness of our own, but solely through the work and person of Jesus Christ.

What does faith alone mean? This is the doctrine of justification. Here are some of the questions the Reformers sought to answer:

  • Are we saved by faith alone or faith plus works?
  • Does Christ’s righteousness only clean our slate of past sins (before salvation)?
  • Does Christ’s righteousness wholly replace our own?

Sola fide declares that we are saved by faith alone and all of Christ’s righteousness is credited to our account. There is nothing more we can or need to do to achieve our salvation. If there were remaining work on our end, then salvation would be in our hands, not God’s.

DOES IT MATTER?

While this may have been an important question for the Reformers, does it still matter 500 years later? The answer is a resounding yes! Throughout history the question has not changed: How can a person be made right with God? We all must confront this question, and sola fide gives us our answer. This doctrine reminds us of the grace of God and his gospel. We can testify that God is good because he is the one who ultimately and completely accomplishes our salvation. He loves us so much that he did all the work. How we are justified and able to stand before God is one of the key components of the gospel, and one that is worth fighting for.

When this doctrine is rightly understood, you can join Christian rapper Shai Linne in saying, “It feels so good to be justified!”

LEARN MORE

To learn more about the doctrine of faith alone check out Faith Alone: The Doctrine of Justification by Thomas Schreiner and the rest of the Five Solas Series.

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A Commentary You Can Apply to Your Life

Posted by on 10/08/2017 in: ,

There’s a reason students call seminary, “cemetery.” When I think of my Bible college experience, I remember the thick, dry textbooks. The information usually felt distant: arguments about authorship, textual criticism, definitions of the Greek and Hebrew. Although I learned a lot about the Bible (it was a priceless experience, believe me), I often finished my reading assignments wondering what any of it had to do with my personal life. This is why academic Bible study can feel like a graveyard; the Bible can quickly become only an ancient text to study, instead of the life-transforming book that it is.

A DIFFERENT KIND OF COMMENTARY

Not all commentaries neglect this important aspect. Recently, I was reading through Mark and thought it would be nice to have some extra input in my Bible study. I remembered that this week we have the NIV Application Commentary on sale, and I’ve never opened it before. So, I tried it out!

Every section of Scripture is explained in three ways: Original Meaning, Bridging Contexts, and Contemporary Significance. I’ll give you an example from my own study:

MARK 9:30-50

This passage is outlined in four sections: The Second Prediction of Jesus Suffering and Resurrection (9;30-37), The Unfamiliar Exorcist (9:38-40), Warning About Causing Others to Stumble (9:42-48), and Salt (9:49-50). For the sake of trying to keep this blog short, we’ll look at the Unfamiliar Exorcist.

John proudly announces to Jesus that they saw someone casting out demons in his name and they obstructed him. Their reason for intervening? “Because he was not one of us.” The complaint drips with irony. The disciples only recently bungled an exorcism, yet they do not hesitate to obstruct someone who is successful but who is not a member of their team. Jesus catches them by surprise when he does not commend them for their vigilance but instead reproves them: “Do not stop him” (9:39).

This response recalls Moses’ reply to Joshua. Joshua implored Israel’s leader to do something about unauthorized prophets, “Moses, my lord, stop them!” Moses answered, “Are you jealous for my sake? I wish that all the Lord’s people were prophets and that the Lord would put his Spirit on them!” (Num. 11:26-29). Are the disciples jealous for Jesus or for themselves? Do they want to corner the exorcism market, which would make them indispensable and revered, whereas Jesus wishes that all were exorcists casting out Satan in his name?

In the ancient world, exorcists used whatever name of deities they thought would work. Jesus’ explanation for condoning the exorcist’s success in Mark’s account is practical, not theological. He argues that they cannot use his name to do mighty works and speak ill of him later. Anyone who recognizes the power of Jesus’ name will not accuse him of working by Beelzebub, as the teachers of the law from Jerusalem had done (3:22).

There’s more information on this passage, but we’ll stop here for now. When reading this, I was thankful for the cross-reference to Moses. I don’t think I would have put that together on my own! And this also helped me to understand why the disciples said what they did about the exorcist. But how does this relate to who God is?

BUILDING CONTEXT

Here’s how the NIV Application Commentary builds context to this passage (again, this is trimmed!):

A deep sense of lowliness understands that God can use anyone and applauds others who are successful for God, even though they may not be on our team. Jesus’ reaction implies that disciples who go along with him must get along with others. He not only opens admission to the reign of God to all and accepts any who come in his name, he sanctions anyone using the power of his name. The barrier between insider and outsider in this episode becomes nebulous. Augustine said: “Many whom God has, the Church does not have; and many whom the Church has, God does not have.”

CONTEMPORARY SIGNIFICANCE

Now, here comes the punch to the heart. How are we, today, making the same mistakes as the disciples? In what ways are we, too, separating and putting ourselves over our brothers and sisters in Christ?

Jesus has consistently avoided self-acclamation, but his disciples are all too ready to exalt themselves over others. If Jesus directed the same question to contemporary followers that he asked his first disciples, “What were you arguing about on the road?” the answer will be no less embarrassing. Christians still jockey for prominence. The unbridled will to power still surfaces in local churches and in denominational politics, destroying fellowship and eviscerating Christian love.

Little has changed. Seminary students who begin their studies with high ideals frequently grow disillusioned by the political gamesmanship that infests churches and denominations. Some ministers become so disillusioned by such machinations that they leave the ministry; others quickly learn to play the game; still others correctly recognize that Jesus does not reject ambition, but they sublimate it by aspiring to become the greatest servant in the church rather than the greatest overlord.

LEARN MORE

The information I pulled from the NIV Application Commentary is only covering two verses of Scripture and I had to trim it down! This is truly an in-depth resource that will also help you apply the Bible to your personal life. If you’re wanting to improve your Bible study, or struggling to make Scripture applicable in your teaching, this is definitely a commentary set worth looking into.

Currently, the NIV Application Commentary is on sale, and you can learn more about it here.

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The John Phillips Commentary Series

Posted by on 10/07/2017 in: ,

1) WHO WAS JOHN PHILLIPS?

Phillips was born in South Wales on February 11, 1927. He didn’t stay put there, however. He served in the British Army in Palestine, then moved to Canada, married the love of his life, and then found himself in the United States. For years he worked at Moody Bible Institute, serving as the Assistant Director of their Evening Extension School. Additionally, he directed the Emmaus Correspondence School, which was, at the time, the largest school of its kind in the world.

With this Doctor of Ministry, Phillips not only taught and organized academic study of God’s Word, but he wrote more than 50 books about the Bible, including complete sets of New Testament Commentaries, the Exploring the Bible Series and his Introducing People of the Bible Series

This man was a dedicated, hard worker who strived to teach others about God and His Word.

2) WHAT IS HIS COMMENTARY LIKE?

Currently, Olive Tree offers Phillips commentary collection that contains 27 volumes: 19 New Testament volumes and 8 Old Testament volumes. You can see the entire list by visiting our website.

Phillips uses the KJV translation of the Bible for all of his work, and speaks from an evangelical framework. He provides many illustrations and quotes, often applying the Bible to everyday life.

But what’s the best part of this resource?

The OUTLINES! Phillips made sure to make extensive outlines before he wrote content for his commentary. Here’s an example:

Not only does he break down large pieces of Scripture into shorter, easier-to-understand sections, but he works out of this structure through the entire commentary set. You’ll find Phillips thoughts and comments recorded in conversational sentences that make you feel as if you’re studying the Bible alongside him.

LEARN MORE

Wondering how commentaries work in the app, what books of the Bible are included in this set, or just want more information? Visit the the John Phillips Commentary Set’s product page for all that and more.

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Paul and Meditation

Posted by on 10/06/2017 in:

This week, we are focusing on teaching others how to study the Bible. One of our favorite methods is the SOAP study: Scripture, observation, application, and prayer. Here’s our findings from our study on Philippians 4:8-9 while using the Blackaby Study Bible.

SCRIPTURE

Philippians 4:8-9 NKJV

Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy—meditate on these things. The things which you learned and received and heard and saw in me, these do, and the God of peace will be with you.

OBSERVATION

Taken from the Blackaby Study Bible introductory notes on the book of Philippians.

The early church accepted Philippians as an authentic letter written by the apostle Paul (Phil. 1:1), and modern scholars agree. Paul wrote the letter from prison (1:13, 14), almost certainly in Rome (Acts 28:16–31) in A.D. 61–62. His situation confined him, but it did not keep him from communicating with churches and preaching the gospel to his captors (Phil. 1:12–14).

A notable feature is Paul’s sensitivity to the Christian mind. He challenged believers to strive together “with one mind” (Phil. 1:27), to be “like-minded” (2:2), to be “in lowliness of mind” (2:3), and to “let this mind be in you which was also in Christ” (2:5). Other statements include: “as many as are mature, have this mind” (3:15), and the peace of God will “guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus” (4:7).

Paul asserted that the Philippians’ enemies “set their mind on earthly things” (3:19). He was concerned that Christians have a godly perspective as protection against false and corrupt teachers. This defense was found in knowing Christ personally (3:8–10) and meditating on that which is from God (4:8). In particular, Paul used the life of Christ as the ultimate example of how Christians ought to think and act (2:5–11).

APPLICATION

Taken from the Blackaby Study Bible notes on this passage.

The Greek word logizomai, translated “meditate,” has various nuances. It can mean to account, consider, or let one’s mind dwell on something. Paul’s focus was not indifferent examination, but practical consideration that leads to action. We are not merely to reflect on a principle, but we are to live according to all the implications of God’s great salvation. That takes energy, striving to know fully all of what God desires for our life. When we consider what God has promised His children and meditate on the truth revealed in His Word, the Holy Spirit works those truths into our lives.

PRAYER

Set a goal for yourself this week! Pray and meditate on God’s promises for 5 minutes before bed—or any other goal you can think of to help you apply this information to your life.

LEARN MORE

The Blackaby Study Bible notes give great snippets of information to enrich your Bible study: historical notes, encouragement, and word studies. You can currently get this resource for only $10! Grow in your understanding and application of God’s Word. Learn more on our website!

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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.

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 Luther by John Piper, which you can get for free!

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The Five Solas:
Scripture Alone

Posted by on 10/03/2017 in:

THE HISTORY

When the Reformation began the doctrine of Scripture was central. During this time the Bible was not something for the common man. Through the centuries the Roman Catholic church had elevated the authority of tradition and the papal office’s interpretation over that of scripture itself. The Bible had not authority in the lives of Christians or even its teachers.

In 1516, a year before Luther nailed his ninety-five theses to the door of the church in Wittenberg, Erasmus of Rotterdam published a Greek New Testament alongside the Latin text of the Vulgate. Through his own reading of the Bible and reading this Greek New Testament, Luther was led away from Roman Catholic traditions that had obscured the gospel. No longer relying on tradition but scripture alone, Luther rediscovered the heart of the gospel. Others like Ulrich Zwingli were also affected and began preaching through the New Testament.

SOLA SCRIPTURA

What does “sola scriptura” mean? In a nutshell, it speaks to the authority of the Bible for the church. Because God’s Word is inspired, inerrant, and wholly sufficient, it alone is the final authority for the church and the Christian. This means, Christians are not to place feelings, tradition, or teachings of men above that of the Bible. While some of these may have a authority, they all must submit to and agree with God’s written word.

This quote from Martin Luther sums it up well:

Scripture alone is the true lord and master of all writings and doctrine on earth. If that is not granted, what is Scripture good for? The more we reject it, the more we become satisfied with men’s books and human teachers.

IT STILL MATTERS

In as much as the authority of the Bible mattered for Martin Luther and the reformers, it is just as important today. Part of the Reformation included putting the Bible in the hands of everyone, not just those who were given authority to teach it. Instead of taking your pastor or favorite Christian author’s word for what the Bible says, read it yourself. Let the Bible always be your final authority. With the Olive Tree Bible App the final authority is always at your fingertips!

To learn more about the doctrine of scripture alone check out God’s Word Alone by Mathew Barrett and the rest of the Five Solas Series.

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