Tag Archives: Bible Study

How to Study The Bible Pt 3 – Learning from Narrative

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If the Bible is worthy reading and studying, we owe it to ourselves to know how to best study.  If the Bible is our guide to getting to know God and how to be faithful to Him, we definitely need to understand what we are studying.  Through this series of posts, we are striving to help all of us learn and grow as we take the Word of God to heart.  This is the third lesson in this series: you can find Part ONE here and Part TWO here.

Today, I want us to look at the genre of narrative or story.  The Bible contains a lot of narratives.  The books of Genesis, Exodus, Kings, Chronicles, Job, Joshua, Judges, Ruth, Esther, Nehemiah, Matthew, Mark, Luke, John, and Acts (and many others) all contain narrative and are mostly narrative.  How can we learn from stories about other people?  How can we find lessons, morals, and applications from the lives of people who lived thousands of years ago?

In my graduate classes Dr. Bailey introduced us to a set of six questions that I find useful when reading and applying narratives. These questions help the reader to become a part of the story and not simply a distance observer.  In an effort to help you see the value of these questions turn to Genesis 37.  Take a moment to read these 36 verses.  This introduces us to Joseph the dreamer and favorite of his father, Jacob.  We meet his brothers and learn of the entire family’s situation in life.  We also see how Joseph’s brothers treat him and lie about him to their father.

Now read it again or think about what you read and answer the following FIRST REACTION QUESTIONS:

  1. Did I enjoy this story?  (Every time I ask this question I get strange looks.  Not every narrative in the Bible is enjoyable.  If I do not like this story or part of this story, there is a reason.  I can use this opportunity to reflect on who I am.)  For this story (Joseph)  I do not like that his brothers mistreat him, sell him into slavery, and deceive their father. Neither do I like that Jacob seems to play favorites.  What about you?
  2. How does this story remind me of life in the world today?  (The narratives in the Bible are not fiction.  As real events, they are about real people and real problems.  Look for similarities to the world we live in.  These stories are timeless.) In Genesis 37 I see that some people talk too much and brag about their lives.  This can get them in trouble with family and friends. Do I have the tendency to be this way?  If so, how do people receive me? What do they think about me?  How can I change? I also see how not to react to people who seem to brag.  What do you see in this story?
  3. How would I react (or what would I do) if I were ______________________? (Insert a character from the story.) If I were Jacob, I would hope I would not have a favorite.  I hope I would investigate further before accepting my son’s explanation of why Joseph is missing. But more than likely, I would react very similar to Jacob. It is your turn . . .
  4. What morals or lessons can I learn from this story? (Now we are starting to apply the story to our lives.) What lesson(s) do you draw from Genesis 37?
  5. How is this story disconcerting? How does it bother me?  (This takes question one deeper and forces you to think about the protagonists in the story and why they affect you.) Joseph’s arrogance has always bothered me.  I suppose because I can see many of my own faults in him.  I tend to talk way too much and share way too much about myself.  I do not mean to brag and think I am just opening up and conversing, but through the years I noticed that this puts many people off.  Everything worked out for Joseph, but if you read about his stand before Pharaoh, you notice that Joseph is quick to give God credit for interpreting dreams – for Joseph it is no longer about Joseph but about God.  I am reminded of Paul saying he would not boast in anything but Christ and Him crucified.  What in the story bothers you?  Why?
  6. How will I change because of this story? (The rubber finally meets the road with this question.) My answers: Learn to stay quiet and let others speak.  Learn to share only what is necessary.  Help people to know God and Christ.  Do not sell your brothers to travelling traders . . . (this was important when we were all living at home).

Keep studying!

- Scott

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Thirteen Questions and Answers

Thirteen Questions:

Someone designed these questions to trap members of the Lord’s Church to second guess their allegiance to the church as the Body of Christ.  The author of the questions challenges “Campbellite” preachers and elders to not talk around them but answer them directly.  These questions are online and I first saw them about 5 years ago.  I accepted the challenge a few years ago in sermon form and now submit them here in blog form.

1. According to the history of the “Church of Christ,” God used certain men to “restore” the New Testament Church in the early 1800′s. Where was the true New Testament church before then? Jesus said that the gates of hell would not prevail against His church (Matthew 16:18). What happened to the church and where was the truth it was responsible for preaching before God restored it?

Answer: The Church existed, simply not in a mainstream setting.  The Restoration Movement was and is a continuing effort to restore people and groups to the NT Church.

2. If a “Church of Christ” elder refuses to baptize me, will I be lost until I can find one who will? Do I need Jesus AND a Campbellite “preacher” in order to be saved? If I do, then Jesus Christ is not the only Mediator (1 Tim. 2:5) and the Holy Spirit is not the only Administrator (1 Cor. 12:13) of salvation – the “Church of Christ” preacher is necessary to salvation for he is performing a saving act on me when he baptizes me! Is this not blasphemy against Jesus Christ and the Holy Ghost?

Answer: No one that I know of teaches that A “Church of Christ” preacher has to do the immersion.  The act is of God and involves God and the one being immersed.  The person doing the immersing is of little consequence.

3. If the water pipes broke and the baptistry was bone dry, would my salvation have to wait until the plumber showed up? If I were to die before then, would I go to hell? If obedience to water baptism is the means of forgiveness of sins, then I would.

Answer: A bathtub, pool, pond, stream, river, ocean, tank, and anything that can hold water is sufficient this question is “choking on a gnat.”

4. If my past sins are forgiven when I am baptized in water, and it is possible for me to “lose my salvation” and go to hell after being baptized, then wouldn’t my best chance of going to heaven be to drown in the baptistry?!! - before I had a chance to sin so as to be lost again? If I wanted to be absolutely sure of heaven, isn’t that my best opportunity?

Answer: Time and space does not permit a complete answer, but let just say that if one will “walk in the light” he can be certain of salvation — 1 Jn 5:13.

5. If as a Christian I can sin so as to “lose my salvation,” just what sin or sins will place me in such danger? Is it possible to know at what point one has committed such a sin, and become lost again? Please be specific and give clear Bible references.

Answer: Any sin I refuse to let go of (repent of).  Mistakes are forgiven, but to die in open rebellion is dangerous.

6. If as a Christian I can fall and “lose my salvation,” is it possible to regain it? If so, how?If God “takes away” my salvation, doesn’t that make Him an “Indian giver”? How could I ever know for sure that I was saved or lost?

Answer: Yes it is possible to “regain” salvation, simply return to God — a prayer of repentance is what Simon the sorcerer had Peter pray.  Paul told the Corinthians to welcome the one who had repented that they had rightfully shunned.  God continues to offer salvation and wants all to be in heaven with Him, but by allowing us freedom of choice, we can (and some do) choose to leave Him. He is not an Indian giver, we are wishy-washy.

7. After becoming a Christian, are there any sins that will put me beyond the “point of no return” so that I cannot regain salvation? What sin or sins will put me in such jeopardy, so that, after becoming a Christian, I would be doomed to hellwithout any recourse? Please be specific and give me clear Bible references.

Answer: Yes — any sin I openly rebel in.  In other words, if I flaunt my sin in God’s face saying in my actions, “I don’t care if God disapproves of my choice, I am going to do it anyway.”  This does not include such things as accidental (unintentional) stumbling on my part.

8. If I committed some sin -whether in thought, word, or deed, one minute before a fatal car crash – would I go to hell if I did not have time to repent of it? And, please, don’t just say that it’s up to God without giving me a specific Bible reference.

Answer: No.  As long as we are not given to sin (rebelious).  God imputes righteousness to us because of our active faith.  This question shows a misunderstanding of what the Bible truly teaches.

9. Why does the “Church of Christ” insist that their name is scriptural when it cannot be found anywhere in the Bible? The church is referred to as the “church of God” eight (8) times in the Bible, but never is it called the “church of Christ.” The verse they use is Romans 16:16, but it doesn’t say “church of Christ.” Where does the Bible call the church the “church of Christ”?

Answer:  Any name found in the Bible is a Biblical name including church of God.  Again this question rings of ignorance of what is taught.  Rom 16:16 says churches of Christ in the plural sense, so a single congregation is a church of Christ.  If one would prefer the word assembly or congregation is as accurate as “church” so names may vary from location to location.

10. If the “Church of Christ” claims to worship God only as “authorized” by scripture because they sing only (and do not use instrumental music), then where do they get the “authority” to use hymnals, pitchpipes, pews, and indoor baptistries in their worship services? If the answer is that they are “aids to worship,” where does the Bible allow for that? Where is your required authorization? If a pitchpipe can be an “aid to worship” for the song service in the “Church of Christ,” then why can’t a piano be an “aid to worship” for Baptists who may need more help in singing?

Answer: Again this question begs for an argument.  The same place we get Authorization for buildings — expediency.  An organ, piano, band, etc. are not aids to vocal singing or to furnish ability to accomplish another part of worship as baptistery and pews.  I hope we are wrong on the instrumental issue, but I would rather get to heaven and have God say, “You could have had a band!” rather than hear Him say, “I said SING!”  A pitchpipe only sounds a beginning note — if you use a piano to sound the opening chord and then it was silent — so the congregation could sing vocally — I would not object.  The Bible gives authorization to sing, to immerse, and to assemble for worship.  Hymnals let us sing, a pitchpipe sounds a beginning note for on to sing, a pew provides a place to sit (a chair or window seat would do) as we assemble, a baptistery provides a place for immersion, a piano (or orchestra) does not sing.

(Note:  I answer the next three LONG questions with one answer.)

11. The “Church of Christ” teaches that a sinner is forgiven of sin when he is baptized in water by a Campbellite elder. Where does the Bible teach that water baptism is required in order to have one’s sins forgiven? Every time the phrase “for the remission of sins” occurs it is speaking of the fact that sins have been forgiven previously! The Bible plainly teaches that the forgiveness of sins is conditioned upon repentance of sin and faith in Christ – never upon water baptism! (Matthew 3:11; Luke 24:47; Acts 3:19; Acts 5:31; Acts 10:43; Acts 20:21; Romans 1:16; Romans 4:5; et.al.) Where does the Bible teach that forgiveness of sin is linked with water baptism? When Christ made the statement in Matthew 26:28, “for the remission of sins,” it had to be because they had been forgiven all through the Old Testament! Christ shed His blood because God forgave repentant and believing sinners for thousands of years before the Son of God came to “take away” sins and to redeem us and pay the sin-debt with His own precious blood. How can one say that “for the remission of sins” means ‘in order to obtain’ in light of the fact that God never uses the phrase in that sense? In the Old Testament God forgave sin on the basis of a blood sacrifice (Heb. 9:22) – the Old Testament saints had their sins remitted (i.e., forgiven) but they were not redeemed until Christ came and shed His blood at Calvary. Their sins were covered (Romans 4:7; Psalm 32:1), but the sinner was not cleared of his guilt (Exodus 34:7) until the Cross (Heb.10:4). Before Calvary, the sins of believers were pardoned, but they were not paid for (i.e., redeemed) until the crucifixion (see Romans 3:25 and Heb. 9:12-15). When Jesus said, “It is finished,” (John 19:30), all sin – past, present and future – was paid for, and the plan of salvation was completed, so that ‘whosoever believeth in Him shall receive remission of sins’ (Acts 10:43). In Acts 2:38, the people were baptized because their sins were forgiven (at Calvary when Jesus said, “Father, forgive them,”) and they received the blessing of forgiveness when they repented of their sin of rejecting Christ and accepted Him as their Saviour and Lord. Friend, heaven or hell depends on what you believe about this.

12. If salvation is not by works of righteousness which we have done, and baptism is a work of “righteousness,” then how can water baptism be a part of salvation? (Titus 3:5; Matt. 3:16) In the Bible, we are SAVED BY GRACE, and grace does not involve human effort or merit – grace is grace and work is work! (Just read Ephesians 2:8,9 and Romans 11:6.)

13. The “Church of Christ” teaches that “obeying the Gospel” includes being baptized in water in order to be saved. If this is true, then how is it that the converts of Acts 10 were saved by faith before and without water baptism? The Bible says in Acts 5:32 thatonly those who obey God may receive the Holy Ghost – so what did those in Acts 10 do to obey and receive the Holy Ghost and be saved? In the light of Acts 10:34-48, Acts 11:14-18, and Acts 15:7-11, how can anyone honestly believe that water baptism is necessary to salvation? Simon Peter said their hearts were “purified by faith” (Acts 15:9) and that we are saved by the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ like they were (Acts 15:11); that is, before and without water baptism! We know that unsaved people do not receive or have the Holy Spirit (John 14:17; Romans 8:9). We know that the Holy Spirit is given only to those who have believed on Christ (John 7:39). We know that the Holy Spirit seals the believing sinner the moment he puts his faith and trust in Christ as Savior, before he is ever baptized in water (Ephesians 1:12,13). How does the warped theolgy of Campbellism explain away these clear passages of Scripture without “muddying the waters” of truth and drowning its members in eternal damnation?

Answer 11-13: This is a disagreement over a term.  First the Church of Christ does not teach.  We try to let the Bible speak and we look to the Bible for answers to questions as individual Christians and independent congregations of God’s people.  There is no written standard for the churches of Christ outside the Bible.  Compare Acts 3:19 above with Acts 2:38 and you will find they teach the same thing — forgiveness of sin, based on penitent converts.  Forgiveness is only through the blood of Christ (Eph 1:7).  All spiritual blessings are in Christ (1:3).  The gospel is the only means to salvation (Rom 1:16). The gospel that saved the Corinthians and Romans is the same that saves us (1 Cor 15:1-5 / Rom 6:17-18).  This Gospel is the Death, Burial, and Resurrection of Christ.  Paul teaches that the Christians in Rome had obeyed from the heart that form of doctrine — the earlier verses show how they obeyed the DBR — (Rom 6:3-6).  Paul says we are children of God by FAITH in Christ Jesus, and that we are in Christ when we put on Christ — we put on Christ when we get in Christ and by FAITH that is when we are baptized INTO Christ (Gal 3:26-27).  As a BAPTIST preacher recently told me, “any claim of faith that does not submit to immersion is not faith.”  That is my point exactly!  Salvation is not by man’s works.  God works and His work saves man, all that God asks of us is that we come to Him on Terms — that is not a work.  In Scripture baptism is never called a work (faith is – 1 Thes 1:3 and repentance is said to work – 2 Cor 7:10) There is a difference between working to EARN salvation and obeying what God commands.  A child does not earn a parent’s love by doing what the parent says; we do not earn salvation by doing what God commands.  We obtain it the way He says to obtain salvation.  Cornelius and his house received the Spirit, but that does not in that passage or in any references to that event equate salvation.  That reception of miraculous manifestation was to confirm to those with Peter and those to whom Peter would report, that God accepted the Gentiles and wanted them to be included.  If faith and prayer is all that is needed, why was Peter sent by God?  God heard Cornelius and knew he was a believer.  Why send Peter if a prayer of faith saved?

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How to Study the Bible Pt 2: Context

“Context is key.”  I can still hear my instructors and professors in my Bible classes atipad 016 Faulkner University saying that over and over and over.  They are right, “Context is key!”  Anyone can take a single verse or a collection of verses from the Bible and make a point.  The point or lesson may or may not be valid or worse even an accurate observation. Critics of the Bible are good at pulling various verses out of context to attempt to disprove the Bible. Those of us who claim to be Christians can also be guilty of pulling verses out of context to prove our arguments.

What follows is an example that I am using to show how someone can misuse the Bible.  It is an extreme example of pretexting or eisegesis.  (** WARNING  **  What you are about to read is incorrect, even if the words are straight from the Bible.  DO NOT follow the instruction I am about to give you.)

” . . . he departed, and he went and hanged himself.” Matt 27:5b

” . . . You go, and do likewise.” Luk 10:37b

” . . . What you are going to do, do quickly.” John 13:27b

Without the context of each verse one might believe that Jesus wants him to commit suicide quickly.  AGAIN — this is NOT what these verses teach!  However, if I can pull verses to supposedly say that, what else can I twist scripture to say, intentionally or not?

That is why “context is key.”  When considering context, look at the verse with the following in mind:

  • Where does this fit in the theme of the Bible?
  • What is the book that this verse (passage) is in, and what is this book about?
  • What does this specific section (group of chapters) in this book teach?
  • What does the thrust of this entire chapter relate about this verse?
  • What is the topic of the paragraph around this verse?
  • What do the verses immediately before and after say?
  • Who is speaking? Does this person speak for God, himself, mankind, or the devil?
  • Who are they speaking too?  Does this have a specific message for  specific person (or group of people)?
  • Why are these words said?

Another hint at context is the genre of the book, section, or chapter.  Genre will help determine how I apply or what I learn from a verse or group of verses. Is this verse or passage from:

  • Command(s)
  • Narrative
  • Figurative language
  • Poetry

This is enough to digest today.

Keep reading, keep studying, keep learning, and keep growing.

- Scott

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How to Study the Bible Part 1 – Read

A few weeks before I took my break from posting, a regular reader asked if I could write about how to study the Bible. They said, as a young adult they are used to studying (cramming) for tests in college and often  they find themselves studying the Bible in a similar way. They study for Bible Class, study for Bible Bowl, study so they could prove a point to their friends or even parents, so like many of us, they feel like they are “hit and miss” with their Bible study. So the question remains, how does one study the Bible?

Start by simply reading the Bible the way you would any book. This starts by purchasing a Bible you will read.  Some versions are more cumbersome than others by virtue of the style of language.  Find a version that you can easily read, then:

  • Read in canonical order, that is the order the books are in a standard version.
  • Read in chronological order. There are various lists online and a couple of printed Bibles that put the events it what many scholars consider the order they happened in.
  • Read the books by groups in types.  There are books of Law, History, Poetry, and Prophecy.

Remember that the Bible is more than a textbook on how to get to heaven. It is more than a list of facts to memorize or points to win arguments. The Bible is a story from Genesis through Revelation; a story covering thousands of years of history. The Bible is God’s story: the story of how He loves man, the story of how He reveals Himself to man, the story of how He provides a way for lost man to come to know Him and be eternally with Him.  While you read, look for God in His word.

Next Thursday we will look at the importance of understanding context as we study the Bible.

- Scott

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Reading the Bible

This year our congregation at Parrish accepted the challenge to read through the Bible chronologically.  That is that we are reading in the order of events not necessarily in chapter and book order.  Reading this way gives the story a narrative flow that we sometimes miss, if we not aware of the overall story-line.  One of the reasons we decided to make this challenge available is to encourage Bible reading.  If we claim to follow God’s word, we need to know what He says and who He is.  How better to learn about Him that reading about what He did and does in the lives of His people past and present.

The Psalmist gives a great tribute to the word of God in Psalm 19, telling us seven things God’s word can do for us and in our lives:

  1. It Converts the Soul – 19:7
  2. It Makes Wise the Simple – 19:7
  3. It Rejoices the Heart – 19:8
  4. It Enlightens the Eyes – 19:8
  5. It Gives Warning – 19:11-13
  6. It Offers Reward – 19:11
  7. It Engenders a Prayerful Attitude – 19:14
Take time everyday to spend reading God’s Word.
- Scott

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