How To Study The Bible

I am often asked, how do you study the Bible? How do you know that your interpretation is correct? Are there rules to follow? Are there tools to use? Where do I begin? All of these are very good questions, and all of these questions have good answers that follow them. This post is not meant to be an exhaustive look at how to conduct Bible Study. This is simply a brief overview of the topic.

The Bible was written in three primary languages, Hebrew, Greek, and Aramaic. It was also written to various people groups in various cultures spanning over 1,000 years and none of those were cultures and people that are still present today. This is known as the gap of Biblical Interpretation. In order to arrive at a proper interpretation, we must close this gap and find the original meaning of any passage in Scripture that we wish to study. So how do we accomplish this?

First, you must become familiar with your passage in your native tongue. To do this, you must read the passage in several English translations. Preferably, a few translations that are essentially literal and one that is dynamic equivalent. Dynamic equivalent translations, such as the New International Version, do not necessarily follow the literal translation of a passage and add in commentary-like supplements in phrasing and word usage to help the reader understand the meaning. Essentially literal translations are just that, translations that are as literal as possible compared to the original. Translations that I recommend are the English Standard Version, New American Standard Bible, and the, Christian Standard Bible.

The second step is to look at the original languages. You need to find words, using a concordance and lexicon combination or Bible software such as Logos Bible Software, that are key to the passage. Then you need to look up the corresponding Greek or Hebrew word to find out what the author meant by using that particular word.

The third step is to understand any historical and cultural contexts that may be applicable when looking at interpreting a passage. Where was this written? When was this written? To whom was this written? Were there any significant events going on at that time that might be alluded to in the passage? Were there any geographical features that need to be taken into account? These types of questions help give insight to things that are not plain in the text itself.

When you look at these steps, the next thing to do is to figure out, what did this mean to the original audience? How would they have understood this passage?

When following these rules, you are well on your way to framing proper interpretations of Scripture. We can know what Scripture says with confidence. Remember, there is only one possible interpretation but an unlimited number of possible applications.

Christ Did Not Die For All Sins: A Look At Limited Atonement

One of the things we hear most in Christianity is the idea that Christ died for every sin that was ever committed. But is that accurate? Did Christ truly die for all sins or did he only die for the sins of those who would believe in Him?

The question comes down to what you believe about the atonement. Was the atonement limited or was it universal? Limited Atonement, of course, is one of the five points of a theological viewpoint called Calvinism. Some people refer to this doctrine as definite atonement since limited can be misleading.

The controversy comes when people misunderstand definite atonement. They tend to believe that this means Christ’s sacrifice was not good enough to save everyone. On the contrary, it was sufficient for all, but not meant for all.

You run into a major problem if Christ died for the sin of every man. Some will not be saved, we know this from many passages of Scripture. If some are not saved then Christ’s atonement was not good enough. Some of Christ’s atonement was wasted. He was powerless over them. You also run into the issue of double jeopardy which causes God to be unjust.

People try to overcome this last point by saying, but salvation is a gift that must be accepted. That is not how justice works. Imagine this, you are convicted of a crime and are ordered to pay a penalty. If the penalty is paid for you, it does not matter if you wanted to accept it or not. The price has been paid. You are free to go. You would not be punished for a crime that has already had the punishment fulfilled.

So the plain fact is that Christ did not die for every sin that has ever been committed. No, He died only for the sins of those who would believe in Him.

Book Review: The Teaching Ministry of the Church

The Teaching Ministry of the Church, edited by William R. Yount, is a resource designed to help churches and pastors set up an educational ministry within their church. Educational ministries range from Sunday School to youth group, to adult education.

The book is written by a slew of authors in various essays. While much of the book is profitable, particularly regarding methods of Bible Study, I found much of the teaching advice and instruction to be outdated and short-sighted.

The book does not seem to grasp modern culture and educational research. Its methods look to be from the 1970s and would fail to capture audience attention in the modern culture.

In short, the book captures the right needs for education in the church. It also captures the correct roles for God, Pastors, and Laity in teaching the church. But the book fails in actually instructing how to best execute that educational role.

With all of this in mind, I do not recommend this resource.

What Changed? Homosexuality No Longer A Sin?

As we look forward to next month’s Special General Conference of the United Methodist Church regarding human sexuality, I have one simple question, what changed? If the current doctrine of the church, which should be based on Scripture and Scripture alone, says that homosexuality is incompatible with Christianity, then what changed?

What in Scripture has changed to make this debate come to the floor? What Greek, Hebrew, or Aramaic term changed its definition so that the interpretation of thousands of years is suddenly incorrect? What has changed that has made the church realize that all of a sudden LGBTQ is compatible with Christianity?

Of course, the answer is that nothing has changed. If the church allows LGBTQ pastors and marriages it is not because something has changed with God’s view on the matter. It is not because Scripture was wrongly interpreted. It is not because Scripture has changed. It is not because the Holy Spirit is leading that way.

If the United Methodist Church embraces the LGBTQ lifestyle it is because they have departed from God’s Word. It is as simple as that. The church would no longer be following God. The church would no longer be pointed toward Christ Jesus. Instead, it would be pointed and aligned toward Satan and the work of fallen mankind.

The only thing the church can do next month is to adopt the Traditional Plan. There is no other option that is compatible with God’s Word. Not the One Church Plan, not the Connectional Conference Plan. Only the Traditional Plan upholds the biblical view on the matter.

Is Evolution Compatible With Genesis?

One of the things we have heard time and time again is that the Genesis account does not agree with science. But what you may not know is that there are groups that state evolution is completely compatible with the Genesis account. Both of these positions are false.

First, the idea that the Genesis account does not agree with science suggests that science actually disagrees with Genesis. Nothing has proved the theories of Darwinian Evolution. Evolution is illogical and there is no evidence to support it despite what you hear in classrooms and in the media. Most of the support for evolution is nothing but smoke and mirrors.

Second, the idea that evolution is somehow compatible with Genesis is equally absurd. The two positions are complete polar opposites. You cannot have different organisms developing over the course of millions of years when Genesis says that it was made in one week. It does not and cannot mesh.

Rather than trying to synthesize man’s theories (not science) with the Bible, we should go back to the drawing board and see how science, true science, actually aligns with Scripture. You either believe Scripture, or you do not. There is no in between.

The Importance of Scripture Memorization

One of the things that many churches seem to have lost in today’s culture is the discipline of Scripture Memory. Growing up, Scripture memory was a huge emphasis at our church through programs like AWANA. I remember being on the Bible Quiz team for our church competing against other churches. I remember those verses and definitions that I learned decades ago and I am thankful for it.

But is there any indication from Scripture that memorizing God’s Word is important? The answer is an overwhelming yes!

We see verses like Psalm 119:11, “Thy word have I hid in mine heart that I might not sin against thee.” (KJV) While this verse is not a command, it is a clear principle. Hiding God’s Word in our hearts gives us the tools we need to resist temptation.

Jesus was the perfect model of this in the New Testament when He went under temptation by Satan in the wilderness. This passage is found in Matthew 4:1-11. Jesus goes into the wilderness and is tempted three times by Satan.

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New York Extends Abortion Rights

The state of New York has delivered a blow to pro-life advocates. New legislation passed last week allows anyone, whether a medical professional or not, to perform an abortion without any criminal consequence.

On the surface, this may not seem significant or a major departure from current abortion law, but it is very different.

This new law removes homicide definitions for unborn persons. In other words, if a pregnant woman is attacked and her baby dies as a result, the attacker cannot be charged with homicide of that unborn child.

This is a despicable move by the state of New York. All life is precious whether born or unborn. All are made in the image of God. David told is in Psalms that God knew us in our Mother’s womb.

It is my prayer that one day Roe V. Wade, which was a serious court overreach, is overturned. Until then, and even after, we need to continue to pray for our leaders that they will make God-honoring decisions. We need to let our voices be heard and not be silent on these issues.

Time To Build The Kingdom?

In Haggai’s first chapter we see a rebuke of the people of Israel for allowing the Temple to lay in ruin after their return from exile. On the surface, this seems reasonable, the Temple had been destroyed while the Jews were exiled out of the land and they did not immediately rebuild when the returned. However, they saw fit to rebuild their houses with possible lavishness.

God recognized that Israel would not rebuild the Temple without prompting. It was simply not a priority for them. They were too busy with their own endeavors to bother themselves with the Lord’s house.

There are many parallels with Israel and the Church today, particularly in America. How many times is there something that God has told us to do but we put it off? We put it off out of fear or perhaps inconvenience. We have other pursuits. Jobs, hobbies, family, the list goes on and on. Meanwhile, the Kingdom of God is waiting. It is waiting to be staffed with the people of God. It is waiting for a generation to rise up and do the Lord’s work.

This does not mean that we have to give up everything and go into full time ministry. But there is something for everyone in the church to do. What are your gifts and talents? What can you do for God’s glory in His house?

It is time to build the Kingdom!

I Must Not Have Enough Faith: I got the flu…

Prosperity preachers would have you believe that if bad things happen to you then you are not living a life of faith. Or perhaps you are not giving enough money to their ministries. Something in your spiritual life must be wrong. Of course, there is no way it has anything to do with the fact that we live in a fallen world.

Last week, I suffered greatly with the flu. It was a long week with lots of soup and medicine and a lot of sleep. But I have almost recovered. However, I don’t believe for one second that my flu was the result of a lack of faith. It is the result of living in a fallen world where death and sickness abound.

We do not have a glorified body in this life. We will get sick, no matter how much faith we have, and we will die. That’s the nature of the curse.

Earlier this year I wrote about going into trials. It is part of the human experience, especially for a Christian. Jesus told us that these things would happen. It is not due to a lack of faith necessarily.