When Christians Disagree

Posted by on 05/31/2018 in:

When Christians Disagree

Christians disagree… a lot. And when Christians disagree, it can be very confusing and frustrating for believers and non-believers alike. How can the Church stay united and Christians continue to be known for their love while also disagreeing? Read this excerpt from the Wiersbe BE Series Commentary on Romans.


Disunity has always been a major problem with God’s people. Even the Old Testament records the civil wars and family fights among the people of Israel, and almost every local church mentioned in the New Testament had divisions to contend with. The Corinthians were divided over human leaders, and some of the members were even suing each other (1 Cor. 1:10-13; 6:1-8). The Galatian saints were “biting and devouring” one another (see Gal. 5:15), and the saints in Ephesus and Colossae had to be reminded of the importance of Christian unity (Eph. 4:1-3; Col. 2:1-2). In the church at Philippi, two women were at odds with each other and, as a result, were splitting the church (Phil. 4:1-3).

No wonder the psalmist wrote, “Behold, how good and how pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in unity” (Ps. 133:1).

Some of these problems stemmed from the backgrounds of the believers in the churches. The Jews, for example, were saved out of a strict legalistic background that would be difficult to forget. The Gentiles never had to worry about diets and days. The first church council in history debated the issue of the relationship of the Christian to the law (Acts 15).

The believers in Rome were divided over special diets and special days. Some of the members thought it was a sin to eat meat, so they ate only vegetables. Other members thought it a sin not to observe the Jewish holy days. If each Christian had kept his convictions to himself, there would have been no problem, but they began to criticize and judge one another. The one group was sure the other group was not at all spiritual.

Unfortunately, we have similar problems today…

with many gray areas of life that are not clearly right or wrong to every believer. Some activities we know are wrong, because the Bible clearly condemns them. Other activities we know are right, because the Bible clearly commands them. But when it comes to areas that are not clearly defined in Scripture, we find ourselves needing some other kind of guidance. Paul gave principles of this guidance. He explained how believers could disagree on nonessentials and still maintain unity in the church. He gave his readers three important admonitions.


You will note that this section begins and ends with this admonition (Rom. 15:7). Paul was addressing those who were strong in the faith, that is, those who understood their spiritual liberty in Christ and were not enslaved to diets or holy days. The “weak in faith” were immature believers who felt obligated to obey legalistic rules concerning what they ate and when they worshipped. Many people have the idea that the Christians who follow strict rules are the most mature, but this is not necessarily the case. In the Roman assemblies, the weak Christians were those who clung to the law and did not enjoy their freedom in the Lord. The weak Christians were judging and condemning the strong Christians, and the strong Christians were despising the weak Christians.

“Welcome one another!” was Paul’s first admonition, and he gave four reasons why they should.

ONE: God has received us (vv. 1-3).

It is not our responsibility to decide the requirements for Christian fellowship in a church; only the Lord can do this. To set up man-made restrictions on the basis of personal prejudices (or even convictions) is to go beyond the Word of God. Because God has received us, we must receive one another. We must not argue over these matters, nor must we judge or despise one another.

Perhaps St. Augustine put the matter best: “In essentials, unity; in nonessentials, liberty; in all things, charity.”

When God sent Peter to take the gospel to the Gentiles, the church criticized Peter because he ate with these new Christians (Acts 11:1-3). But God had clearly revealed His acceptance of the Gentiles by giving them the same Holy Spirit that He bestowed on the Jewish believers at Pentecost (Acts 10:44-48; 11:15-18). Peter did not obey this truth consistently, for later on he refused to fellowship with the Gentile Christians in Antioch, and Paul had to rebuke him (Gal. 2:11-13). God showed both Peter and Paul that Christian fellowship was not to be based on food or religious calendars.

In every church there are weak and strong believers. The strong understand spiritual truth and practice it, but the weak have not yet grown into that level of maturity and liberty. The weak must not condemn the strong and call them unspiritual. The strong must not despise the weak and call them immature. God has received both the weak and the strong; therefore, they should receive one another.

TWO: God sustains His own (v. 4).

The strong Christian was judged by the weak Christian, and this Paul condemned because it was wrong for the weak Christian to take the place of God in the life of the strong Christian. God is the Master; the Christian is the servant. It is wrong for anyone to interfere with this relationship.

It is encouraging to know that our success in the Christian life does not depend on the opinions or attitudes of other Christians. God is the Judge, and He is able to make us stand. The word servant here suggests that Christians ought to be busy working for the Lord; then they will not have the time or inclination to judge or condemn other Christians. People who are busy winning souls to Christ have more important things to do than to investigate the lives of the saints!

THREE: Jesus Christ is Lord (vv. 5-9).

The word Lord is found eight times in these verses. No Christian has the right to “play God” in another Christian’s life. We can pray, advise, and even admonish, but we cannot take the place of God. What is it that makes a dish of food “holy” or a day “holy”? It is the fact that we relate it to the Lord.

  • The person who treats a special day as “holy” does so “unto the Lord.”
  • The person who treats every day as sacred, does so “unto the Lord.”
  • The Christian who eats meat gives thanks to the Lord, and the Christian who abstains from meat abstains “unto the Lord.”
  • To be “fully persuaded [or assured] in his own mind” (Rom. 14:5) means “Let every man see to it that he is really doing what he does for the Lord’s sake, and not merely on the basis of some prejudice or whim.”

Some standards and practices in our local churches are traditional but not necessarily scriptural. Remember when dedicated Christians opposed Christian radio “because Satan was the prince of the power of the air”? Some people even make Bible translations a test of orthodoxy. The church is divided and weakened because Christians will not allow Jesus Christ to be Lord.

An Illustration of this Truth

An interesting illustration of this truth is given in John 21:15-25. Jesus had restored Peter to his place as an apostle, and once again He told him, “Follow me.” Peter began to follow Christ, but then he heard someone walking behind him. It was the apostle John.
Then Peter asked Jesus, “Lord … what shall this man do?”

Notice the Lord’s reply: “What is that to thee? Follow thou me!”

In other words, “Peter, you make sure you have made Me Lord of your life. Let Me worry about John.” Whenever I hear believers condemning other Christians because of something they disagree with, something that is not essential or forbidden in the Word, I feel like saying, “What is that to thee? Follow Christ! Let Him be the Lord!”

Paul emphasized the believer’s union with Christ: “Whether we live, therefore, or die, we are the Lord’s” (see Rom. 14:8). Our first responsibility is to the Lord. If Christians would go to the Lord in prayer instead of going to their brother with criticism, there would be stronger fellowship in our churches.

FOUR: Jesus Christ is Judge (vv. 10-12).

Paul asked the weak Christian, “Why are you judging your brother?” Then he asked the strong Christian, “Why are you despising your brother?” Both strong and weak must stand at the judgment seat of Christ, and they will not judge each other–they will be judged by the Lord.

The judgment seat of Christ is that place where Christians will have their works judged by the Lord. It has nothing to do with our sins, since Christ has paid for them and they can be held against us no more (Rom. 8:1). The word for “judgment seat” in the Greek is bema, meaning the place where the judges stood at the athletic games. If during the games they saw an athlete break the rules, they immediately disqualified him. At the end of the contests, the judges gave out the rewards (see 1 Cor. 9:24-27).

First Corinthians 3:10-15 gives another picture of the judgment seat of Christ. Paul compared our ministries with the building of a temple. If we build with cheap materials, the fire will burn them up. And if we use precious, lasting materials, our works will last. If our works pass the test, we receive a reward. If they are burned up, we lose the reward, but we are still saved “yet so as by fire.”

How Does the Christian Prepare for the Judgment Seat of Christ?

By making Jesus Lord of his life and faithfully obeying Him. Instead of judging other Christians, we had better judge our own lives and make sure we are ready to meet Christ at the bema (see Luke 12:41-48; Heb. 13:17; 1 John 2:28).

The fact that our sins will never be brought up against us should not encourage us to disobey God. Sin in our lives keeps us from serving Christ as we should, and this means loss of reward. Lot is a good example of this truth (Gen. 18–19). Lot was not walking with the Lord as was his uncle, Abraham, and as a result, he lost his testimony even with his own family. When the judgment finally came, Lot was spared the fire and brimstone, but everything he lived for was burned up. He was saved “yet so as by fire.”

Paul explained that they did not have to give an account for anyone else but themselves. So they were to make sure that their account would be a good one. He was stressing the principle of lordship–make Jesus Christ the Lord of your life, and let Him be the Lord in the lives of other Christians as well.


If we stopped with the first admonition, it might give the impression that Christians were to leave each other alone and let the weak remain weak. But this second admonition explains things further. The emphasis is not on “master-servant” but on “brother.” It is the principle of brotherly love. If we love each other, we will seek to edify each other, build each other up in the faith. Paul shared several facts to help his readers help their brethren.

Christians affect each other (vv. 13-15).

Note the possible ways we can affect each other. We can cause others to stumble, grieve others, or even destroy others. Paul was speaking of the way the strong Christian affected the weak Christian. Paul dealt with a similar problem in 1 Corinthians 8–9, where the question was, “Should Christians eat meat that has been offered to idols in heathen temples?” There he pointed out that knowledge and love must work together. “Knowledge puffs up, but love builds up” (1 Cor. 8:1 NIV). The strong Christian has spiritual knowledge, but if he does not practice love, his knowledge will hurt the weak Christian. Knowledge must be balanced by love.

Often little children are afraid of the dark and think there is something hiding in the closet. Of course, Mother knows that the child is safe, but her knowledge alone cannot assure or comfort the child. You can never argue a child into losing fear. When the mother sits at the bedside, talks lovingly to the child, and assures him that everything is secure, then the child can go to sleep without fear. Knowledge plus love helps the weak person grow strong.

“There is nothing unclean of itself,” Paul wrote (Rom. 14:14). No foods are unclean, no days are unclean, no people are unclean. (Read Acts 10 to see how Peter learned this lesson.) What something does to a person determines its quality. One man may be able to read certain books and not be bothered by them, while a weaker Christian reading the same books might be tempted to sin. But the issue is not “How does it affect me?” so much as “If I do this, how will it affect my brother?” Will it make him stumble? Will it grieve him or even destroy him by encouraging him to sin? Is it really worth it to harm a brother just so I can enjoy some food? No!

Christians must have priorities (vv. 16-18).

Like the Pharisees of old, we Christians have a way of majoring on the minor things (Matt. 23:23-24). I have seen churches divided over matters that were really insignificant when compared with the vital things of the Christian faith. I have heard of churches being split over such minor matters as the location of the piano in the auditorium and the serving of meals on Sundays.

“The kingdom of God is not meat and drink” (Rom. 14:17).

“Food does not bring us near to God; we are no worse if we do not eat, and no better if we do” (1 Cor. 8:8 NIV).

Not the externals but the eternals must be first in our lives: righteousness, peace, and joy. Where do they come from? The Holy Spirit of God at work in our lives (see Rom. 5:1-4). If each believer would yield to the Spirit and major in a godly life, we would not have Christians fighting with each other over minor matters. Spiritual priorities are essential to harmony in the church.

Christians must help each other grow (vv. 19-21).

Both the strong believer and the weak believer need to grow. The strong believer needs to grow in love; the weak believer needs to grow in knowledge. So long as a brother is weak in the faith, we must lovingly deal with him in his immaturity. But if we really love him, we will help him to grow. It is wrong for a Christian to remain immature, having a weak conscience.

An illustration from the home might help us better understand what is involved. When a child comes into a home, everything has to change. Mother and Father are careful not to leave the scissors on the chair or anything dangerous within reach. But as the child matures, it is possible for the parents to adjust the rules of the house and deal with him in a more adult fashion. It is natural for a child to stumble when he is learning to walk. But if an adult constantly stumbles, we know something is wrong.

Young Christians need the kind of fellowship that will protect them and encourage them to grow. But we cannot treat them like babies all their lives! The older Christians must exercise love and patience and be careful not to cause them to stumble. But the younger Christians must “grow in grace and in the knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ” (2 Peter 3:18). As they mature in the faith, they can help other believers to grow. To gear the ministry of a Sunday school class or local church only to the baby Christians is to hinder their growth as well as the ministry of the more mature saints. The weak must learn from the strong, and the strong must love the weak. The result will be peace and maturity to the glory of God.

Christians must not force their opinions on others (vv. 22-23).

There are certain truths that all Christians must accept because they are the foundation for the faith. But areas of honest disagreement must not be made a test of fellowship. If you have a sincere conviction from God about a matter, keep it to yourself and do not try to force everybody else to accept it. No Christian can “borrow” another Christian’s convictions and be honest in his Christian life. Unless he can hold them and practice them “by faith,” he is sinning. Even if a person’s convictions are immature, he must never violate his conscience. This would do great damage to his spiritual life.

For example, the mature Christian knows that an idol is nothing. But a young Christian, just converted out of pagan idolatry, would still have fears about idols. If the strong believer forced the new Christian to eat meat sacrificed to an idol, the younger Christian would experience problems in his conscience that would only further weaken it (see 1 Cor. 8–9).

Conscience is strengthened by knowledge. But knowledge must be balanced by love; otherwise it tears down instead of building up. The truth that all foods are clean (Rom. 14:14, 20) will not of itself make a Christian grow. When this truth is taught in an atmosphere of love, then the younger Christian can grow and develop a strong conscience. Believers may hold different convictions about many matters, but they must hold them in love.


Paul classified himself with the strong saints as he dealt with a basic problem–selfishness. True Christian love is not selfish; rather, it seeks to share with others and make others happy. It is even willing to carry the younger Christians, to help them along in their spiritual development. We do not endure them. We encourage them!

The Best Example

Of course, the great example in this is our Lord Jesus Christ. He paid a tremendous price in order to minister to us. Paul quoted Psalm 69:9 to prove his point. Does a strong Christian think he is making a great sacrifice by giving up some food or drink? Then let him measure his sacrifice by the sacrifice of Christ. No sacrifice we could ever make could match Calvary.

A person’s spiritual maturity is revealed by his discernment. He is willing to give up his rights that others might be helped. He does this, not as a burden, but as a blessing. Just as loving parents make sacrifices for their children, so the mature believer sacrifices to help younger Christians grow in the faith.

Two Sources of Spiritual Power

Paul shared the two sources of spiritual power from which we must draw if we are to live to please others: the Word of God (Rom. 15:4) and prayer (Rom. 15:5-6). We must confess that we sometimes get impatient with younger Christians, just as parents become impatient with their children. But the Word of God can give us the patience and encouragement that we need. Paul closed this section praying for his readers, that they might experience from God that spiritual unity that He alone can give.

This suggests to us that the local church must major in the Word of God and prayer. The first real danger to the unity of the church came because the apostles were too busy to minister God’s Word and pray (Acts 6:1-7). When they found others to share their burdens, they returned to their proper ministry, and the church experienced harmony and growth.

The result of this is, of course, glory to God (Rom. 15:7). Disunity and disagreement do not glorify God; they rob Him of glory. Abraham’s words to Lot are applicable to today: “Let there be no strife, I pray thee, between me and thee … for we be brethren” (Gen. 13:8). The neighbors were watching! Abraham wanted them to see that he and Lot were different from them because they worshipped the true God. In His prayer in John 17, Jesus prayed for the unity of the church to the glory of God (John 17:20-26).

Receive one another; edify one another; and please one another–all to the glory of God.


Read through the questions below and share your answer to one or a few of them in the comments! Then, on your own, spend some time reflecting on all of them.

  1. What principles of guidance did Paul give for gray areas? What are some examples of these areas? Which do you struggle with?
  2. Why do believers sometimes disagree over what is considered “gray”?
  3. Who are described as weak Christians and who are described as strong Christians? Why is this? Where would you put yourself in this spectrum?
  4. What does Romans 14:1-12 say about receiving one another? How would you rate yourself in this area?
  5. How can we edify one another according to Romans 14:13-23?
  6. What can we do to please one another in view of Romans 15:1-7?
  7. What does it mean to have Jesus as Lord? How does that affect our judgment of other believers?
  8.  In order to put aside selfishness and please others, we must draw on what two sources of spiritual power? How much of a priority have you made this?
  9.  What does it mean for believers to be “likeminded one toward another” (15:5)?
  10. How do these ideas apply in our local church? Where is your church doing well? Where could it improve?


Did you enjoy this practical commentary on Romans? The BE Series Commentary is perfect for going deeper into God’s Word while also applying it to your life. Check out the entire commentary series, or even individual volumes, on our website.

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What’s Inside an Archaeology Study Bible?

Posted by on 05/30/2018 in:

What's Inside an Archaeology Study Bible

If you’re like me, you hear the word “archaeology” and you primarily think of Indiana Jones. Then, if you toss the word “study” next to it, you know it will be nothing like Indiana Jones. Instead, you get a mental image of a lot of dirt being pushed around with tiny brushes. How riveting… but actually, it really can be riveting! But We are here to tell you what is inside an archaeology study Bible, and just how influential it can be on your study of God’s Word.


But the truth is that history and archaeology are essential to Christianity.

  • God created time and history
  • The universe has a beginning and end
  • The historical event of Christ’s death and resurrection is key to your salvation
  • Your hope is grounded in a real place, at a real time… in history

Archaeology is an area of study that helps us uncover more truths about history. It teaches us important details on the setting and background in which the story of the Bible occurs. A plethora of authors wrote the Bible over at least a thousand-year period, so this information is crucial to our understanding of the text.


The ESV Archaeology Study Bible encourages any and all types of Christians to experience the relevancy of archaeology. Here’s an excerpt from the introduction of this study Bible, explaining its 3 primary functions:

Three foundational pillars define our approach to this task. The first pillar is biblical orthodoxy.

All of the contributors hold to classical evangelical orthodoxy in the historic stream of the Reformation and affirm the divine inspiration, truthfulness, and authority of both Old and New Testament Scriptures in their entirety as the only written Word of God, without error in all that it affirms, and the only infallible rule of faith and practice. They also affirm that God’s Word clearly teaches that the only means of salvation is through the Lord Jesus Christ. The message of the Bible is addressed to all men and women, and God’s revelation in Christ and in Scripture is unchangeable. Through the Bible the Holy Spirit speaks yet today. He illumines the minds and hearts of God’s people in every culture to perceive its truth freshly through their own eyes, thus disclosing to the church the very wisdom of God (2 Tim. 3:16; 2 Pet. 1:21).

The second pillar of the work is academic integrity.

The contributors to this project are highly trained scholars who are well versed in archaeology and related fields as they pertain to the Bible. The reader ought to peruse the List of Contributors included in this work, which demonstrates the excellent academic training and in-field experience shared by each of the contributors. The ESV Archaeology Study Bible steers clear of “pop-archaeology” that sensationalizes but is unreliable.

The third pillar of the work is accessibility.

Our hope is that this work will be broadly used throughout the church. It should be a helpful resource for all Christians. Pastors ought to find the material helpful as they seek to build up their congregations in the historicity and truthfulness of the Scriptures. Students—undergraduates and seminarians—should find it useful in their studies and in apologetics. In addition, we desire that laypeople, as they study this Bible, would be encouraged to dig deeper into the Scriptures and to grow in grace, knowledge, and truth.



First, all of the historical and archaeological information is based on the English Standard Version. This translation is very reliable and used through the world.


Have you heard of the ESV Study Bible and the ESV Bible Atlas? These two resources are meant to be paired with the ESV Archaeology Study Bible! Together, they cover a range of topics and areas of study. With all three, you will have a collection that provides a strong and well-rounded introduction to the Bible.


All of the contributors to this project are trained archaeologists and epigraphers. More specifically, main contributors are professionals who have actually used their hands to dig in the biblical lands. This adds a very unique perspective to this study Bible—and it’s one you can count on!


Here’s a list of everything that comes inside this study Bible:

  • Thousands of notes illuminate the biblical text by providing archaeological, historical, and geographical background on various events, places, people, and everyday items mentioned in Scripture.
  • Hundreds of sidebars provide more in-depth information on topics of interest from an archaeological perspective.
  • Hundreds of full-color photos, maps, and diagrams invite the reader into the visual world of the Bible.
  • Book introductions describe the ways in which archaeological fieldwork has allowed us to understand each book of the Bible better.
  • Fifteen articles written specifically for this project explore key topics of interest in biblical archaeology.
  • Specially crafted charts provide an easy thumbnail guide to such matters as the Hebrew calendar and important texts of the ancient world.
  • An all-new glossary defines key words used throughout the ESV Archaeology Study Bible.








Now that you know what is inside the ESV Archaeology Study Bible (and that it most certainly isn’t a snooze-fest!), go get it! Visit our website to add this resource to your library.

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Spiritual Gifts in Worship

Posted by on 05/29/2018 in:

Spiritual Gifts in Worship

There has been, and probably always will be, a great debate over spiritual gifts and their role in the Church. Richard L. Pratt (and editor Max Anders) walk Christians through this 1 Corinthians controversy in the Holman Commentary. We’ve included an excerpt of this part of the commentary, but we did cut quite a bit out because it comes with SO much information.

Every section has a meaningful quote, real-life stories, plenty of summaries, verse-by-verse commentary, introductions, application points, teaching tips, and lots of direction for further discovery. We couldn’t ask for more in a commentary!

So, here are just a few parts of the Holman Commentary on 1 Corinthians 12:1-30.

“Let us all then, considering these things, imitate the love of these members; let us not in any wise do the contrary, trampling on the miseries of our neighbor and envying his good things. For this is the part of madmen and persons beside themselves. Just as he that digs out his own eye hath displayed a very great proof of senselessness; and he that devours his own hand exhibits a clear evidence of downright madness.” — John Chrysostom


In this chapter the apostle Paul turned to the issue of spiritual gifts in the church. He touched on a number of matters but especially on the value of all spiritual gifts.


We have seen many changes in technology during the last fifty years. One of the most important changes is the shift from “bigger is better” to “smaller is better.” It used to be that the biggest computer in the school was the best computer. Now the smallest computer in a briefcase is the best computer.

I once had a computer crash in the worst way. It was not something big that broke. It was one of the smallest pieces. I remember the technician explaining it to me. He drew a picture of the defective part, then commented: “You understand that this part is only this big…” He then drew a circle smaller than a dime.

Then I asked the big question. “How much is it going to cost me?” When he told me, I laughed. “That’s more than I paid for the entire computer. That little piece is worth that much?”

“Yup,” he replied. “This piece may be small, but what it does is vital to the computer. The computer just can’t work without it.”

Paul pointed out in this chapter that every gift God gives to his church is valuable. The Corinthians looked at appearances to determine which gifts were more important than others. But Paul declared that the smallest and least spectacular gifts are essential to the work of the church.


MAIN IDEA: Paul explained the role of the gifts of the Spirit in worship, beginning with the value of diverse gifts in the worship of God. He discussed the issue in three main sections: identifying the Spirit, the unity and diversity of the Spirit’s manifestations, and the unity and diversity of members in the body.

Much controversy exists over whether the supernatural manifestations of the Holy Spirit listed in this passage continue today. The controversy generally centers around the issue of special revelation. Some interpreters believe that special revelation continues today, while others deny the giving of new special revelation. Evangelicals take many different positions on this subject, but for the sake of convenience evangelical positions can be categorized under three basic headings.


Some traditions affirm that the infallible transmission of special revelation ceased with the closure of Scripture. Even so, God continues to speak to his church through apostles and prophets and through other supernatural means such as tongues, word of knowledge, word of wisdom, etc. These groups apply Paul’s discussion of spiritual gifts such as tongues, interpretation of tongues, and prophecy directly to their situations because they believe these manifestations of the Spirit continue in modern times.


Other traditions hold that significant changes have taken place between the days of Paul and our day. First, the offices of apostle and prophet were foundational offices of the church (Eph. 2:20), designed specifically to transmit special revelation to the church in its early stages. In this view, these offices have ceased.

Second, manifestations such as tongues, prophecy, and messages of knowledge and wisdom have gone through modifications with the cessation of the apostles and prophets. In this view, none of these gifts provides direct infallible special revelation. Through fallible pastors, teachers, and the like, God leads the church into proper application of his Word in Scripture through preaching, intuitions, advice, and evaluations of circumstances. Nevertheless, at every point the teachings of these officers must be evaluated carefully by the Scriptures.

These groups apply these passages only indirectly to their churches, adjusting the meanings of the passages to account for the current circumstances wherein infallible special revelation no longer occurs. Paul’s words still give the church guidance for managing current manifestations of the Spirit analogous to those in Corinth.


Some branches of the church assert that all supernatural special revelation has ceased and that God communicates with his church today only through the Scriptures. These people usually hold that the miraculous gifts seen in the New Testament have ceased, believing that miracles existed to demonstrate the authority of God’s infallible spokespersons. When God stopped sending infallible spokespersons, the Spirit stopped bestowing miraculous gifts. For the most part, Paul’s comments on the supernatural gifts are largely irrelevant because these gifts no longer exist. Preachers and teachers of the word today have the responsibility of reasoning carefully through the logical implications of Scripture.

To meet the needs of each position, this commentary will focus primarily on Paul’s original meaning to the Corinthians in this passage. Different readers must apply these matters to their situations according to their orientations toward Continuation, Modification, and Cessation.


SUPPORTING IDEA: The Corinthians’ pagan background made them susceptible to being misled by supernatural manifestations Paul told them how to identify those who spoke by the Spirit.

12:1 – Paul began with the expression now about spiritual gifts. The terminology now about (peri de) indicates that Paul responded to questions or issues raised by the Corinthians themselves. He did not reveal their precise concerns, but stated emphatically that he did not want them to be ignorant or unaware of this topic. Once again, Paul created a familial mood by addressing the Corinthians as brothers.

12:2-3 – Paul provided a central criterion for distinguishing the Holy Spirit’s work from the experiences of pagan religion. He did this by setting up a contrast between the times when the Corinthians were pagans. . . and led astray to mute idols, and their Christian experience of speaking by the Spirit of God.

The precise nature of this contrast is debated. Some interpreters argue that Paul contrasted the fact that pagans were led by idols, and Christians by the Holy Spirit. Others have argued that Paul specifically contrasted the extraordinary supernatural experiences of ecstatic speech in pagan religion with the supernatural work (esp. tongues and prophecy) of the Holy Spirit in the church.

Although the former outlook may not be ruled out entirely, several considerations support the latter view:

  1. Mystery religions popular in the Mediterranean world at that time practiced ecstatic speech.
  2. In this passage, Paul did not focus on Jews, but on Gentiles who were likely to have been involved in such idolatrous religions.
  3. Paul said that the Gentile believers were formerly influenced and led astray by someone or something.
  4. He described the idols as mute, which in this interpretation would be a great irony.
  5. The general context of this verse focuses on the nature and restrictions that apply to speaking in tongues, a Christian experience similar to the ecstasy of pagan religions. It would appear, therefore, that Paul reminded the Corinthians about their past extraordinary religious experiences of idol worship.

Paul drew attention to these past experiences to deduce general instructions on distinguishing the Holy Spirit’s gifts from pagan religious experiences. First, the Holy Spirit never leads anyone to say, Jesus be cursed. If someone in the church at Corinth spoke such words (even under supernatural influence), he was not speaking by the Spirit of God. Second, the Holy Spirit empowers those who proclaim that Jesus is Lord.

If a religious experience does not honor Christ as Lord, then it is not from the Spirit. If it does, then the Holy Spirit may be behind the experience.


SUPPORTING IDEA: Paul warned against identifying the Spirit with only one manifestation in the church. The gifts of the Spirit are manifold, and each is important in the worship of God and the ministry of the church.

For more verse-by-verse commentary, purchase the Holman Commentary here.


SUPPORTING IDEA: Paul pointed out the importance of each spiritual gift in the church by means of an extensive analogy. He likened the church, the body of Christ to the physical human body.

For more verse-by-verse commentary, purchase the Holman Commentary here.


EVERY GIFT IS A BLESSING: Paul went to great lengths in this passage to establish proper attitudes toward every gift of the Spirit. The Corinthians tended to exalt some gifts over others, but Paul urged them to recognize all gifts as the blessings of the Spirit of God.

  • Every Christian is a necessary, beneficial member of the church.
  • Spiritual gifts are primarily for the purpose of building up the church.
  • Because we are members of one another, the spiritual states of our fellow believers affect us personally.
  • We do not receive spiritual gifts according to merit or ability, but as God sees fit according to his grace.


  • We must look for ways to use our gifts in the service of the church and encourage others to do so as well.
  • We must not take pride in our spiritual gifts.
  • We must not feel inferior if our spiritual gifts are not as impressive as the gifts of others.
  • We should actively pursue spiritual gifts.


1. Why do some people have certain gifts of the Spirit, while other people have different gifts? Is this a good thing? What is the purpose of gifts of the Spirit?

2. Why did Paul include this chapter in his letter? Do you think it was to correct a particular problem? If so, what was the problem? If not, why does the argument appear here?

3. What is the point of the “body” metaphor? Did Paul emphasize diversity or unity, or did he treat both equally? Can you defend your answer with explicit examples from the text?

4. Are there any people in your church who do not belong there? Is it always bad when people leave a church? Why or why not?


Through June 4th we will be selling the Holman Commentary Set (32 Vols) for only $99.99. Normally, this set is worth $299.99! If you want a commentary that goes in-depth and provides you with plenty of new ways to interact with God’s Word—this is for you. Learn more about the Holman Commentary Set, see how it works in the app, and buy it on our website.

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Return to the World of the Bible

Posted by on 05/28/2018 in:

Return to the World of the Bible

Studying archaeology can help us return to the world of the Bible. Read this short article from author and archaeologist David Chapman to find out how.


One of the benefits to reading the Bible is to understand the culture behind the text. For example, when I am reading a text, I’ll read about somebody drinking, and I immediately think of the cups that I would drink out of or the streets that I would walk down. I import my 21st-century assumptions into the Bible.

One of the great things about archaeology is that it reminds us to start thinking like the people who received the Word of God in the Old and the New Testament. It helps us reenter that world, and to think along with them, and hear the Word of God coming to us in the culture in which it was initially written. That’s a huge aspect of archaeology that really helps every reader of the Scriptures.


Archaeology helps with biblical understanding in another significant way.

I frequently take groups over to Israel to see the various archaeological sites from the Bible. One of the things that people often report is when they go there, they see that This is real history. This is really happening.

I was raised in a Christian home and read the Bible from as early as I can remember. There’s a way that reading the Bible can kind of be like reading a great work of historical narrative or maybe even a fictional story. It can feel like reading Tolkien, with its maps in the back and all of this vivid imagery. It’s easy to become a little distant from the real narrative truth that God is really engaging in real history throughout the Bible.

 The authors are really writing about Jesus as he really walked and where he walked. And so when you walk through the land visually, when you discuss the land visually, it reminds you constantly that these events really happened. God really did bring a people out of Egypt. And that makes things even more vivid for people.

When I’m in class teaching, showing slides of archaeology and discussing it, students will often say that it just reminds them of how real Scripture is and that God really did this.


David Chapman is one of the primary contributors for the ESV Archaeology Study Bible. Start using this resource today to begin your return to the world of the Bible. Visit our website to learn more about this study Bible and add it to your library today.

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Organize Your Notes [VIDEO]

Posted by on 05/22/2018 in:

Organize your notes

Want to organize your notes? It can be a big task, especially if you’ve been note-taking for years without much of a structure. Below is a video and some instructions on how I like to structure my notes. As an example, I’m showing you how to organize notes you take during sermons—but the steps can be applied in other ways.


First step of organizing your notes is… opening up your notes. Big surprise there!


Categories are my best friend. Again, calling it “sermons” is just my example. You could call it “My Notes on Matthew,” “SOAP Studies,” “Unanswered Prayers,” or “Grocery Lists.” Although, we don’t recommend keeping your grocery lists in the app. There’s probably a better app for those types of notes.


If categories are my BF then subcategories are my BFFL (best friend for life… if you don’t get 2000’s text lingo).

One way to stay organized is to make folders than take you from very broad topics to narrow topics. In the example, I use subcategories to delineate different sermon series that I have heard.

ADD NOTE (title it content)

Inside the sermon series subcategory, I add notes. Make sure to title them something obvious-sounding. You want to be able to read the title and know exactly what is inside the note later.


Tags are unsung heroes. You can create and add tags to notes—but why? So that later you can search for information about a certain topic and we can show you resources AND notes that discuss what you’re looking for.


My favorite feature of our notes: hyperlinked verses. Just type a verse reference and.. WHAM! You can tap the hyperlinked verse just like you do in resources all the time. So much power.

One creative way I have used this is when I’m going to read several passages of Scripture aloud. I don’t necessarily save this note for later use, but in the moment, it’s super helpful to have all the passages you need to access right there.


There are two ways to make notes in our app: in the notes section and in a resource.

So, if you’re taking notes in your Bible, and it’s on a Sunday morning, you can add a pulpit icon to your note. Later, when you’re reading on your own, use a heart icon to mark a note you make about God’s love. There are tons of icons (and different colors!) and you can apply them as you see fit.

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What Were Roman Jails Like in Paul’s Time?

Posted by on 05/21/2018 in:

Roman Jails in Paul's Time

In the New Testament, we hear a lot about Christians being imprisoned—especially Paul. In fact, he wrote his letter to the Philippians while in jail! We’ve gathered some information from the ESV Archaeology Study Bible here for you to learn more about Roman jails were like.


In the Roman world, imprisonment was rarely a long-term punishment. Most prisoners were awaiting either trial or execution. Debtors could be imprisoned until their friends or family paid o‘ the debt (Matt. 18:30). The length of imprisonment depended on the swiftness of a trial, which could be drawn out for years, especially in political cases. Conditions of imprisonment were closely linked to the status of the prisoner. Non-Roman citizens, even of high status, were often harshly treated. In contrast, house arrest was typically more comfortable for the prisoner, who was usually physically chained to a guard but could still host visitors.


Paul experienced a wide variety of prison conditions. He was chained in a common holding cell in Philippi (Acts 16:23– 30), imprisoned in probably better conditions in the praetorium at Caesarea (Acts 23:35), and held in relative comfort while in house arrest in Rome (Acts 28:16). In Rome, Paul was responsible for maintaining himself during his imprisonment, including his meals and clothes (Acts 28:30). Paul’s Roman citizenship meant he was eligible for a daily food allowance, but Paul depended on his friends and fellow believers to supply this food. While under house arrest in Rome, Paul was guarded around the clock by soldiers of the elite Praetorian Guard.


Finally, when he was later rearrested and executed (likely a few years after this letter), Paul was probably placed in an underground cell somewhere in Rome. It is possible that he was then imprisoned in the Mamertine Prison in the Roman Forum. This was where major convicted enemies of the state were strangled or kept before being thrown off the Tarpeian Rock on the Capitoline Hill. However, if Paul was executed by a sword outside the city, as later tradition claimed, he probably would not have been imprisoned at Mamertine.

Roman Prison



Paul is the stated author of Philippians, and while Timothy is listed in 1:1 as a coauthor, the main voice is clearly Paul’s. Timothy may have been Paul’s amanuensis, or secretary. The letter was written to the Christians in the Roman colony of Philippi. Some scholars have suggested that the current epistle combines two authentic letters of Paul, with the first letter concluding at 3:1 (“Finally, my brothers . . .”). However, Paul elsewhere uses “finally” in the middle of an epistle (1 Thess. 4:1; 2 Thess. 3:1; cf. 1 Pet. 3:8).


Paul wrote this letter while in prison, and the date of the composition of Philippians depends on where Paul was imprisoned. His statements to the Philippians concerning his possibly imminent death (e.g., Phil. 1:20) indicate the letter was most likely written from Rome, perhaps in AD 62. This also fits most naturally with the mention of the praetorium and “Caesar’s household”.


The church at Philippi had a special significance for Paul, as it was the first church he founded in Europe (see Acts 16:6–40). The first convert was Lydia, a seller of purple cloth, and women continued to have a prominent role in the Philippian church (e.g., Phil. 4:2). His brief incarceration in Philippi (Acts 16:23–40) would make Paul’s later imprisonment mentioned in this letter all the more poignant for the Philippians, especially for the converted Philippian jailer. Paul visited Philippi a few times after his initial departure, and the church maintained active support for his ministry (Phil. 4:15–16). Imprisonment carried with it a social stigma, and it would have been easy for the Philippians to turn their back on Paul at this point; instead, however, they remained faithful to him. Paul thus writes of his gratitude for the Philippian church and for their loyalty to the gospel.


This blog is adapted from notes inside the ESV Archaeology Study Bible. This resource roots the biblical text in its historical and cultural context, offering readers a framework for better understanding the people, places, and events recorded in Scripture. With this knowledge, Christians will be better equipped to read, study, understand, and apply the Bible in their daily lives.

Learn more about the ESV Archeology Study Bible here.

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Yet I Will Rejoice

Posted by on 05/15/2018 in:

Yet I Will Rejoice: Habbakuk

Though the fig tree does not bud and there are no grapes on the vines, though the olive crop fails and the fields produce no food, though there are no sheep in the pen and no cattle in the stalls, yet I will rejoice in the LORD, I will be joyful in God my Savior. –Habakkuk 3:17-18


Habakkuk saw the sin of his day, its impact on the people of Judah and the collective corrosion of the nation. Seeking to frame what he saw with a lens of faith, he waited on God, calling out for divine help. But Habakkuk struggled when God told him his plan to punish evilness with more evilness. Would God actually use the wicked nation of Babylon to punish the (relatively less wicked) nation of Judah (Hab 1:6)?


Habakkuk waited for God to answer his questions (1:2-32:1). He listened as God explained that the righteous would live by faith (2:4) and marveled as God promised that, in time, the earth would be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the Lord as the waters cover the sea (2:3, 14).


As Habakkuk reflected on all that was happening in Judah and the devastation to come, he turned to God in prayer. He poured out his praise, his questions his longing and confusion. Habakkuk recalled Israel’s past, the era when God’s glory covered the heavens and his praise filled the earth (3:3). Then he reveled in the memory of how God had chastened Israel’s enemies and delivered Israel from those who sought to devour them (3:13-15).


Habakkuk acted in faith during this dark and difficult time. He thought about the future and imagined fig trees no longer budding, vines without grapes, olive crops failing, fields with no food, pens with no sheep and stalls with no cattle (3:17).

On earth, Jesus was a real person, experiencing life as we all do, yet without sin. In his humanity, like the prophet Habakkuk, he experienced a troubled heart. He knew he could ask to be saved from that dark hour to come. But he also knew that the brutal path of crucifixion was the reason he had come to the world (Jn 12:27). So in this intense house he prayed, Father, glorify your name!” (Jn 12:28). In that moment Jesus, the Son of God, lived by faith and perfectly modeled for us complete reliance on God.

How do you focus on and praise God in times of disappointment or difficulty?


This blog is adapted from The Jesus Bible. Learn more about this resource on our website.

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What Does It Mean to Fear the Lord?

Posted by on 05/14/2018 in:

What Does It Mean to Fear the Lord?

“These are the commands, the decrees and laws the Lord your God directed me to teach you to observe in the land that you are crossing the Jordan to possess, so that you, your children and their children after them may fear the Lord your God as long as you live by keeping all his decrees and commands that I give you, and so that you may enjoy long life.” — Deuteronomy 6:1-2 

A frequent command given to God’s people in the OT is to “fear God” or “fear the Lord.” It is important that we understand what this command means for Christ’s followers today. Only as we truly fear the Lord will we be freed from all destructive and satanic fears. By fearing God, we can avoid being trapped by the natural pull toward going our own way, defying God and giving in to the inviting ways of immoral behavior.

What does it MEAN to FEAR God? The broad command to “fear the Lord” involves understanding several things about a believer’s relationship with God.


First of all, we must recognize that God is loving, merciful and forgiving; but he also is holy, just and righteous. Knowing God and understanding his character (cf. Pr 2:5) means accepting the fact that his justice and holiness (i.e., purity, perfection, completeness of character and separation from evil) cause him to judge sin.


Fearing the Lord means to be in awe of his holiness, to give him complete reverence and to honor him as the God of great glory, majesty, purity and power. For example, when God revealed himself to the Israelites at Mount Sinai through “thunder and lightning, with a thick cloud over the mountain, and a very loud trumpet blast,” they all “trembled” in fear (Ex 19:16) because of his great power. They even begged Moses to deliver God’s message to them so they would not have to encounter God himself (Ex 20:18-19; Dt 5:22-27). Also, when the psalm writer reflects on God as Creator, he says: “Let all the earth fear the Lord; let all the people of the world revere him. For he spoke, and it came to be; he commanded, and it stood firm” (Ps 33:8-9).


True fear of the Lord causes believers to place their faith and trust in him alone for salvation. For example, after the Israelites crossed through the Red Sea on dry ground and saw how God destroyed the Egyptian army who came after them, they “feared the Lord and put their trust in him” (see Ex 14:31, note). The psalm writer encourages all who fear the Lord to “trust in the Lord–he is their help and shield” (Ps 115:11). In other words, fearing God produces confidence, hope and trust in him, which are necessary when we are looking to God for mercy, forgiveness (Lk 1:50; cf. Ps 103:11; 130:4) and spiritual salvation (Ps 85:9).


Finally, to fear God involves recognizing that he is angry about sin and has the power to punish those who stand arrogantly against him and break his laws (cf. Ps 76:7-8). When Adam and Eve sinned in the Garden of Eden, they were afraid and tried to hide from God’s presence (Ge 3:8-10). Moses experienced this aspect of the fear of God when he spent forty days and nights praying for the sinful Israelites: “I feared the anger and wrath of the Lord, for he was angry enough with you to destroy you” (Dt 9:19). In the NT, the author of the letter to the Hebrews acknowledges God’s coming vengeance and judgment, and then writes: “It is a dreadful thing to fall into the hands of the living God” (Heb 10:31).


The reasons for fearing God are found in the meaning of the “fear of the Lord,” as described above.

  • We should fear him because of his matchless power as the Creator of all things and all people (Ps 33:6-9; 96:4-5; Jnh 1:9).
  • In addition, the amazing power that he continues to exercise over his creation–including humankind–is cause for fearing God (Ex 20:18-20; Ecc 3:14; Jnh 1:11-16; Mk 4:39-41).
  • When we truly realize God’s holiness (i.e., his purity, perfection and separation from evil), the normal response of the human spirit is to fear him (Rev 15:4).
  • Anyone who sees or experiences a manifestation (i.e., a visible or physical sign or demonstration) of God’s glory cannot help but become afraid (Mt 17:1-8).
  • The continual blessings we receive from God, especially the forgiveness of our sins (Ps 130:4), should lead us to fear and love him (1Sa 12:24; Ps 34:9; 67:7).
  • Above all, the fact that the Lord is a God of justice who will judge the entire human race should be reason enough to produce a godly fear (Dt 17:12-13; Isa 59:18-19; Mal 3:5; Heb 10:26-31). It is a sobering and absolute truth that God is constantly aware of our actions and motives, both good and bad, and that we will be held accountable for those actions, both now and on the day of our personal judgment.

How will fearing God affect our lives? The fear of the Lord is far more than a Biblical teaching, principle or idea. It is relevant to our daily lives in many ways. Here are 6 to get started:


First, if we truly fear the Lord, we will obey his commands, live according to his Word and say “No” to sin. One reason why God inspired fear in the Israelites at Mount Sinai was so that they might learn to avoid and reject sin and to obey his law (Ex 20:20). In his final address to the Israelites, Moses repeatedly connected fearing God to serving and obeying him (e.g., Dt 5:29; 6:2, 24; 8:6; 10:12; 13:4; 17:19; 31:12).

According to the psalm writer, fearing God is equal to delighting in his commands (Ps 112:1) and following the principles of his law (Ps 119:63).

Solomon taught that “through the fear of the Lord a man avoids evil” (Pr 16:6; cf. 8:13). In Ecclesiastes, the whole duty of the human race is summarized by two simple requirements: “Fear God and keep his commandments” (Ecc 12:13). On the contrary, anyone who is content to live wickedly or defy God does so because “there is no fear of God before his eyes” (Ps 36:1-4).


Not only should the fear of the Lord affect individual lives, but it should also affect families. God instructs his followers to teach their children to fear him by training them to hate sin and to love God’s commands (Dt 4:10; 6:1-2, 6-9). The Bible often states that “the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom” (Ps 111:10; Pr 9:10; cf. Job 28:28; Pr 1:7). A Christian’s basic goal for his or her children should be that they learn to live by God’s principles of wisdom (Pr 1:1-6). Teaching them to fear the Lord is a critical first step.


The fear of the Lord has a sanctifying (i.e., purifying, separating from sin, spiritually maturing) effect on God’s people, just as applying the truth of God’s Word does (Jn 17:17). It compels us to hate sin and avoid evil (Pr 3:7; 8:13; 16:6). It causes us to be careful in what we say (Pr 10:19; Ecc 5:2, 6-7). It protects us from weakening our consciences and our moral sensitivity toward what is right. The fear of the Lord has a spiritually cleansing, purifying and restoring effect that can last forever (Ps 19:9).


The holy and reverent fear of the Lord motivates God’s people to worship him with their whole being. People who truly fear God will praise and honor him as Lord of all (Ps 22:23). David said that a worshiping congregation is the same as “those who fear” God (Ps 22:25). At the end of history, when the angel who proclaims the eternal gospel–the “good news” about Jesus Christ–calls everyone on earth to fear God, he immediately adds, “and give him glory … Worship him who made the heavens, and earth, the sea and the springs of water” (Rev 14:6-7).


God has promised to reward all those who fear him. “Humility and the fear of the Lord bring wealth and honor and life” (Pr 22:4). Other promised rewards include security and protection from death (Pr 14:26-27), provisions for daily needs (Ps 34:9; 111:5) and a long life (Pr 10:27). Those who live in reverent awe of God know that “it will go better with God-fearing men,” regardless of what happens in the world around them (Ecc 8:12-13).


Finally, fearing God brings a humble confidence and overwhelming spiritual comfort. The NT directly links the fear of the Lord with the encouragement of the Holy Spirit (Ac 9:31). Those who do not fear God will have little or no sense of his presence and protection (see Dt 1:26, note). However, those who fear God and obey his Word will experience a deep sense of spiritual security and the anointing (i.e., empowering) of the Holy Spirit. They can be sure that God ultimately will “deliver them from death” (Ps 33:18-19).


This blog is adapted from the Fire Bible Study Notes. Learn more about this resource and watch how it works in the Olive Tree Bible App by visiting our website.

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Misguided Convictions about Daniel

Posted by on 05/09/2018 in:

Misguided Convictions About Daniel

John E. Goldingay included his thoughts on some misguided convictions about Daniel in the Word Biblical Commentary. Read the excerpt below!


What assumptions should we bring to [Daniel] regarding the nature of the stories and the origin of the visions? Critical scholarship has sometimes overtly, sometimes covertly approached the visions with the a priori conviction that they cannot be actual prophecies of events to take place long after the seer’s day, because prophecy of that kind is impossible. Conversely, conservative scholarship has sometimes overtly, sometimes covertly approached these visions with the a priori conviction that they must be actual prophecies because quasi-prophecies issued pseudonymously could not have been inspired by God; it has also approached the stories with the a priori conviction that they must be pure history, because fiction or a mixture of fact and fiction could not have been inspired by God.

All these convictions seem to me mistaken.

I believe that the God of Israel who is also the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ is capable of knowing future events and thus of revealing them, and is capable of inspiring people to write both history and fiction, both actual prophecy and quasi-prophecy, in their own name, anonymously, or—in certain circumstances—pseudonymously.

It was excusable for Pusey…to think that pseudonymity makes the author a liar and must be incompatible with being divinely inspired. It is less excusable now we know that in the ancient world, and in the Hellenistic age in particular, pseudonymity was a common practice used for a variety of reasons—some unethical, some unobjectionable—for poetry, letters, testaments, philosophy, and oracles, and by no means confined to apocalypses… That pseudonymity is a rarer literary device in our culture, especially in religious contexts, should not allow us to infer that God could not use it in another culture. Whether he has actually chosen to do so is to be determined not a priori but from actual study of the text of Scripture. I shall consider these questions in the Form sections of the commentary.

– John E. Goldingay


The Word Biblical Commentary (WBC) delivers the best in biblical scholarship from the leading scholars of our day. These scholars share a commitment to Scripture as divine revelation. This series emphasizes a thorough analysis of textual, linguistic, structural, and theological evidence. The result? This commentary series contains judicious and balanced insight into the meanings of the text in the framework of biblical theology.

These widely acclaimed commentaries serve as exceptional resources for the professional theologian and instructor, the seminary or university student, the working minister, and everyone concerned with building theological understanding from a solid base of biblical scholarship.

Want to learn more? Here are 5 benefits to using the WBC in the Olive Tree Bible App.

You can also visit our website to learn more about the volumes inside this commentary.

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The Avalanche of Sin in Genesis

Posted by on 05/08/2018 in:

The Avalanche Of Sin in Genesis

There is an avalanche of sin in Genesis. It includes pride, murder, sexual immorality to name a few. But what is the significance of these stories? Read this excerpt by Gordon J. Wenham. We found it in the Word Biblical Commentary.


The ancient [Near Eastern] background to Gen 1—11 shows it to be concerned with rather different issues from those that tend to preoccupy modern readers. It is affirming the unity of God in the face of polytheism, his justice rather than his caprice, his power as opposed to his impotence, his concern for mankind rather than his exploitation. And whereas Mesopotamia clung to the wisdom of primeval man, Genesis records his sinful disobedience.

Because as Christians we tend to assume these points in our theology, we often fail to recognize the striking originality of the message of Gen 1—11 and concentrate on subsidiary points that may well be of less moment. But an examination of the wider context of Gen 1—11 within the book itself, and the structure of these chapters, does, I believe, emphasize the centrality of these [following] themes in the opening chapters…


The opening chapters of Genesis describe an avalanche of sin that gradually engulfs mankind, leading first to his near-annihilation in the flood, and second, to man’s dispersal over the face of the earth in despair of achieving international cooperation. Gen 3 describes how man’s first sin led to alienation between husband and wife and expulsion from the presence of God in Eden.

Chap. 4 tells how Cain murdered his brother Abel and how Cain’s descendants further degraded mankind by their barbaric behavior.

Chap. 6, the sexual union of women with the sons of God, is the last straw; the ultimate boundary between deity and the human family is breached, and the first creation returns to the watery chaos that characterized the earth before the separation of land and sea.


Noah, in many respects a second Adam, head of the new humanity and recipient of the renewed commission to fill the earth and subdue it, makes a more promising start… Yet he succumbs to wine, and his son Ham acts most dishonorably toward his father Noah, attracting to himself and his descendants a curse that was to be reflected in their future history. For from Ham descended Israel’s arch-foes, such as Egypt, Assyria, and the Canaanites (9:24-27; 10:6-20).

Finally, the tower of Babel demonstrates the folly of the most illustrious civilization and religious system of the day. Their attempt to reach up to heaven is the acme of folly and prompts mankind’s dispersal over the face of the globe. Without the blessing of God the situation of humanity is without hope: that seems to be the chief thrust of the opening chapters of Genesis.


But the promises first made to Abraham in 12:1-3 begin to repair that hopeless situation…

– Gordon J. Wenham


The Word Biblical Commentary (WBC) delivers the best in biblical scholarship from the leading scholars of our day. These scholars share a commitment to Scripture as divine revelation. This series emphasizes a thorough analysis of textual, linguistic, structural, and theological evidence. The result? This commentary series contains judicious and balanced insight into the meanings of the text in the framework of biblical theology.

These widely acclaimed commentaries serve as exceptional resources for the professional theologian and instructor, the seminary or university student, the working minister, and everyone concerned with building theological understanding from a solid base of biblical scholarship.

Want to learn more? Here are 5 benefits to using the WBC in the Olive Tree Bible App.

You can also visit our website to learn more about the volumes inside this commentary.

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