Category Archives: Bible Study

Saturday Sampler: October 15 — October 21

Wing Ding Sampler

To discover A Surprising Barrier to Personal Bible Study, check out Knowable Word for Ryan Higginbottom’s interesting challenge. I pray that you’ll then accept his challenge. Believe me, you won’t regret doing so!

Read 5 Reasons Jesus Doesn’t Want us to be Like the Good Samaritan by Jordan Standridge of The Cripplegate. Your second grade Sunday School might be shocked by this article, but I believe Standridge has a grasp on the real point of this parable. Feel free to use my comments section to tell me whether you agree or disagree with him.

Those of us who don’t always appreciate the Bible’s restrictions regarding ministries women can perform will find comfort in Women Can Trust God’s Design for the Church by Candi Finch, a regular writer for Biblical Woman. It’s interesting what one learns from assembling bookcases.

Continuing her latest series on Do Not Be Surprised, Erin Benziger writes Acceptable Sins Not Excepted: Impatience. Does this woman read my diary? At any rate, she accurately handles the topic of impatience, skillfully applying Scripture as she deals with its many facets.

You moms out there might appreciate these Last Minute Reformation Day Resources for Kids courtesy of Jessica Pickowicz at Beautiful Thing. She offers a splendid selection of materials for both young children and teenagers.

Leslie A. of Growing 4 Life provides a wonderful, easily read, overview of the Reformation with her blog post, Remembering the Reformation: A Timeline. If you need help understanding the Reformation and its effects on Western Civilization, this is the article for you!

Okay, Michelle Lesley is quantitatively more conservative than Martin Luther, offering only 8 Theses for Women of the Modern Day Reformation, but her tips on how we can appropriately serve the Lord lay out a good track for us. As an added bonus, she begins her essay with an enticing book recommendation.

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Praising The Lord For Technology And The Reformers

Renaissance Border

In our devotional time together this morning, John thanked the Lord for the technology that makes the Bible accessible to people like us. You see, our disabilities make turning pages and holding heavy books increasingly difficult, especially as we have reached what people euphemistically call “the golden years.” I depend on my eSword software and various online Bibles for both devotional reading and study, while John relies on all those plus his Kindle.

I understand all the arguments favoring paper Bibles (and I use one during church services), and certainly I think able-bodied people should probably use them to avoid the distractions inherent in computers and cell phones. But I praise the Lord that He’s given us such increased access to His Word.

As John prayed his prayer of thanksgiving this morning, I thought back to 1440, when the printing press enabled the mass production of books and pamphlets. In 1517, the printing press allowed for the publication and distribution of Martin Luther’s 95 Theses (historians debate whether or not Luther had a hand in that distribution). Renaissance era technology had paved the way for people other than the elite to be exposed to different ideas rather than having to unquestioningly accept everything the Church told them.

Luther and other Reformers subsequently realized the value of translating the Bible into commonly spoken languages, which could then be placed in the hands of anyone who could read. This availability of Scripture in turn permitted people direct access to the doctrines of grace.

Scripture teaches, for example, that salvation comes by faith alone, not as a result of human effort.

For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. ~~Ephesians 2:8-9 (ESV)

This doctrine flew in the face of both the sacramental system and the highly lucrative selling of Indulgences, thus threatening the Roman Catholic Church’s power and source of revenue. Yet it opened the message of salvation to countless people who had never had the opportunity to hear the true Gospel. The Lord, through the Reformers, utilized Renaissance era technology to bring about the greatest revival in church history.

I imagine that the Reformers would be amazed and delighted at 21st Century technology with respect to the wide dissemination of God’s Word, as well as the enormous variety of Bible Study tools and Biblical teachings all available on computers and cell phones. These technological advances honor their efforts to make the Bible available to all people.

So, when my husband thanked the Lord for the wide availability of Scripture this morning, I added thanks for the Reformers who first used technology to bring the Bible to every day men, women and children. What a tremendous privilege to have the very Word of God constantly at our fingertips!

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Perspectives In Titus: Salvation, Courtesy Of The Trinity

Titus 3 4 thru 6

When we think of our salvation, we typically attribute it to Jesus. This perspective is altogether proper, and Jesus definitely deserves all the glory and praise for His atoning work on the cross. But our study in Titus today shows us that the Father and the Holy Spirit also had a hand in saving us.

Let’s again read Titus 3:1-7 in order to keep the three verses we’ll examine today in their context.

Remind them to be submissive to rulers and authorities, to be obedient, to be ready for every good work, to speak evil of no one, to avoid quarreling, to be gentle, and to show perfect courtesy toward all people. For we ourselves were once foolish, disobedient, led astray, slaves to various passions and pleasures, passing our days in malice and envy, hated by others and hating one another. But when the goodness and loving kindness of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out on us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that being justified by his grace we might become heirs according to the hope of eternal life.   ~~Titus  3:1-7 (ESV)

In verse 4, the word “but” indicates a transition from our pre-conversion state of wretchedness. Just as the Christians in First Century Crete differed from their unsaved counterparts, so we differ from the world because of the Lord showing us His mercy. Paul’s emphasis on the goodness and loving kindness of God keeps us from congratulating ourselves on our personal holiness. Consequently, as Matthew Henry makes clear, we should feel compassion for non-Christians.

Jamieson, Fausset and Brown correctly point out that here the phrase “God our Savior” refers specifically to the Father, giving us our first glimpse of the Trinity’s activity in bringing about salvation. The goodness and loving kindness of God appeared, or was manifested. The Cretan Christians didn’t conjure it up; the Lord manifested His grace because He, by nature, is good and loving. Again, the focus on His goodness steers us away from claiming any credit for His work in redeeming us.

Paul insists that God does the saving, elaborating that He did so because of His mercy rather than as a response to our good works, as verse 5 demonstrates. Remember that the Judaizers were disrupting the churches in Crete, teaching that the work of circumcision was necessary for salvation. That fact, coupled with their new behaviors, opened the door to pride. Refer to Ephesians 2:8-10 for a fuller explanation of the sequence of salvation and works. Salvation comes about according to God’s mercy, not our efforts.

The Lord accomplishes our salvation by the “washing of regeneration,” which several commentators understand as a reference to baptism. Believers Bible Commentary, however, argues that this phrase describes the cleansing from sin that results from Christ’s shed blood. This interpretation seems more consistent with the context of this passage.

Paul also attributes salvation to the “renewal of the Holy Spirit.” At regeneration, the Holy Spirit transforms us into totally new creations, as seen in 2 Corinthians 5:17. Thus the Cretan Christians differed from their unsaved counterparts only because of the Holy Spirit’s work of transformation in each of them.

The Lord pours His Holy Spirit on the Church, as evidenced at Pentecost, but also on individual members at regeneration. Furthermore, Paul says in verse 6, He isn’t stingy, but rather He pours Him out abundantly. Barnes comments that the Holy Spirit had been so generously given to the Cretan Christians in order to help them overcome their wicked manner of life, adding that this principle applies to all Christians.

Jesus Christ our Savior is the “channel and Mediator of the gift of the Holy Ghost,” say Jamieson, Fausset and Brown. Indeed, Jesus promised in John 16:7 that He would send the Holy Spirit. So while most of the New Testament rightly emphasizes Christ’s sacrificial death on our behalf, here Paul points to His work of sending the Holy Spirit  to regenerate us.

Paul credits the entire Trinity with bringing Christians to salvation. In verse 4, he calls God the Father Savior. In verse 5, he teaches that the Holy Spirit regenerates and renews us. And in verse 6, he reminds us that Jesus Christ is our Savior. His exaltation of the Trinity strengthens his case that salvation comes completely from God. Next Monday we will discuss His wonderful purpose in showing us such grace.

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Saturday Sampler: October 8 — October 14

Saturday Sampler graphic

Mark McIntyre, in Attempts at Honesty, asks us to consider whether or not Christian on Christian crime apples to us. His comment on discernment ministries may prick a bit, but it alone makes the blog post worth reading.

Do you ever feel tempted to skip reading your Bible? I sure do! So I appreciate Michelle Lesley’s response in The Mailbag: I love the Bible, but I have to force myself to read it. (No, I didn’t submit the question.) Michelle answers this question with honesty and compassion while not compromising the truth in any way.

Not that Christians should still be confused on this matter, but the author of Unified in Truth answers the question, Can women teach or exercise authority over a man? with simple appeals to the Word of God. There’s really nothing to complicate the issue except our rebellion.

Ouch! Erin Benziger does some necessary, but painful, wielding of the Sword of the Spirit with her article Acceptable Sins Not Excepted: Gossip in Do Not Be Surprised. She also encourages those of us who struggle with this sin to remember God’s grace.

According to Scott Slayton of One Degree to Another, Before You Get Angry about a News Story you might want to ask yourself some probing questions. Our “righteous indignation” may not be as righteous as we think.

You’ll have to read Elizabeth Prata’s The Gathering Storm in The End Time all the way through to get what she’s saying, but I urge you to work through her crucially important essay. Believe me, this lady understands where our society is headed, and we need to pay attention.

Although I don’t have the time to sign up for the online Bible Studies that Lisa Morris offers, I enjoy reading the companion blog posts she features in Conforming to the Truth. Launching her study of James, Lisa writes Genuine Faith: Knows Considers and Asks Without Doubting in a manner that encourages us to walk through trials as disciples of the Lord Jesus Christ. I believe you’d like reading her thoughts on James 1:1-5.

Usually I won’t include articles in Saturday Sampler if they quote someone I have significant disagreements with (like Michael Brown) or favorably reference unbiblical practices (like psychology). Walt Heyer’s article, The Transgender Matrix: It’s Time to Choose the Red Pill in Public Discourse is a necessary exception. Heyer lived as a transgendered woman for eight years, only to realize that his surgery couldn’t change his genetic makeup. His article challenges politically correct assumptions about transgenderism, and for that reason  I feel compelled to recommend it.

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Perspectives In Titus: Remember How Ugly We Used To Be?

Titus 3 3

Last Monday, dear sisters in Christ, we concluded our Bible Study with the apostle Paul’s exhortation to show perfect courtesy to everyone. Today we’ll talk about the primary motivation for treating people with such courtesy. But before we get into our discussion of Titus 3:3, we should read it in it’s immediate context.

Remind them to be submissive to rulers and authorities, to be obedient, to be ready for every good work, to speak evil of no one, to avoid quarreling, to be gentle, and to show perfect courtesy toward all people. For we ourselves were once foolish, disobedient, led astray, slaves to various passions and pleasures, passing our days in malice and envy, hated by others and hating one another. But when the goodness and loving kindness of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out on us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that being justified by his grace we might become heirs according to the hope of eternal life. ~~Titus 3:1-7 (ESV)

To refresh your memory, Paul’s letter to Titus has the purpose of instructing Titus on ordering the churches in Crete. Chapter 3 continues the apostle’s specific directions to this young pastor.

In verses 1 and 2, Paul wanted the Cretan Christians to submit to civic authorities and to treat all people with respect. As we approach verse 3, we learn why the Lord calls us to this attitude. Essentially, each of us used to  be as wretched as the non-Christians God commands us to respect.

Remembering who we were and how we behaved prior to receiving God’s grace helps us approach non-Christians with the attitudes Paul prescribes in verses 1 and 2. This list speaks in generalities, of course, but it sums up a lifestyle apart from the Lord. Certainly, the Christians in First Century Crete had been this vile, reflecting the debauchery of that culture.

Paul begins by assuring them that their debauchery was in their past, and he will explain why it’s in their past in verses 4-6. Yet as Christians recall their lives before Christ, we constantly need the comfort of knowing that Jesus has cleansed us (see 1 Corinthians 6:9-11 and Colossians 2:13-15 as examples).

In describing our pre-conversion condition, Paul first of all says we were foolish. Matthew Henry defines this foolishness as “without true spiritual understanding and knowledge, ignorant of heavenly things.” Psalm 14:1 tells us, that a fool says in his (or her) heart “There is no God.” Foolishness lives without regard to the Lord’s authority.

Disobedience naturally follows foolishness. As Barnes points out, rebellion against authority is natural. Anyone who has been around small children has seen how readily they disobey. Adam Clarke indicates that the Greek word means “unpersuaded, unbelieving, obstinate, and disobedient.”

In addition to our past foolishness and disobedience, we were led astray by both our inherent inclination towards sin and by false teaching. As we’ve seen throughout this study of Titus, the Cretans definitely allowed their lusts to deceive them, and the Judaizers were deceived by their false gospel. 2 Corinthians 4:4 plainly states the Satan blinds the eyes of unbelievers, thus keeping them in deception

Deception, in turn, makes unbelievers slaves to their passions and pleasures. And weren’t we all there? John Gill describes non-Christians (and therefore us before conversion) as “servants of sin, vassals and slaves to their own corruptions.”

Finally, says Paul, we lived in malice and envy, causing others to hate us and us to hate them. Vincent’s Word Study Commentary quotes Calvin’s definition of malice as ” viciousness of mind opposed to humanity and fairness.” Unbelievers can’t love each other with the love that 1 Corinthians 13:4-7 describes; even their supposed love for each other is selfish compared to godly love.

Come to think of it, might we not say that godly love on our part compels us to remember that we used to be just like the non-Christians God calls us to respect?  And doesn’t remembering who we once were (and indeed, who we still would be without the grace of Jesus Christ) give us greater compassion for those who don’t know Him?

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Saturday Sampler: October 1 — October 7

Fantasy Flowers Sampler

Fall has arrived, meaning that the time all too quickly approaches when cold New England winters will prevent John and me from going anywhere. Including church. We grieve that many able-bodied evangelicals don’t appreciate the privilege of weekly church attendance. Perhaps Scott Slayton’s post, What You Miss When You Don’t  Gather With Your Church in  One Degree to Another, can give you a different perspective on the importance of meeting with your church as often as possible.

In Growing 4 Life, Leslie A. lists Five ways to know that you are too in love with yourself. Gulp! Her insights don’t  comply with psychological principles, but they definitely agree with God’s Word. Please make this one a high priority on your reading list!

I love Rachelle Cox’s Let’s Get Real About Women’s Discipleship in Gospel-Centered Discipleship. This article puts forth some unexpected thoughts about ways women disciple each other, and I think those thoughts might encourage some of you. See what you think.

For an accurate and concise explanation of Revelation verses Illumination, please visit Unified in Truth and start using the two terms Biblically. If you still believe that the Lord gives revelation now, you may need to rethink your theology.

Some of you are probably married to elders in your church. If so, you might appreciate An open letter to elder’s wives by Andrew Gutierrez in The Cripplegate. I find it also instructive to those of us who are friends with women married to elders. Let’s not place these ladies in awkward positions.

As an introduction to a new series in her Do Not Be Surprised blog, Erin Benziger writes about The Lie of ‘Acceptable’ Sins. This series, she promises, won’t be comfortable, but it will lead us to find comfort in the Gospel of God’s grace. I’m looking forward to it, knowing that Erin writes with fidelity to the Scriptures and with reverent passion for the Lord.

For a truly intriguing discussion on a perplexing passage in Genesis, you shouldn’t miss Mercy, Hope, and The Tower of Babel by the author of A Narrow-Minded Woman. She brings out a variety of points that I’ve never noticed, making the incident much more compelling and applicable. I especially like her emphasis on the sovereignty of God.

In an article for Meet the Puritans, Joel Beeke enumerates Ten Lasting Fruits of the Reformation. Those who consider history to be boring and irrelevant should read this piece, if only so that they can see why geeks like me keep writing about the Reformation as if it actually matters.

Have you been sending positive thoughts to Las Vegas this week? In Why Your Positive Thoughts Are Not Helping Anyone, Josh Buice of Delivered By Grace explains why Christians err when they speak of sending positive thoughts. He also tells us how we can actually help hurting people.

I want to close this week’s edition of Saturday Sampler by sharing the video below of the sermon my pastor, Jeremy Garber, preached at First Baptist Church in Weymouth, MA last Sunday. The reminder to use discernment fits so seamlessly with the purposes of this blog that I believe I must include it.

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How Could Understanding Sola Scriptura Apply To 21st Century Evangelicals (Or Does It?)

sola-scriptura-02October 2017 has arrived, bringing more intensified blog posts and podcasts about the Protestant Reformation. Hopefully a few evangelicals will gain interest in this watershed moment in church history (indeed, in world history) as the conversation escalates.

Sadly, most probably won’t.

History in  general bores most people. I’ve mentioned before that one friend of mine prefers to concentrate on the mess in the 21st Century Church rather than study what happened 500 years ago. To her, the Reformation seems largely irrelevant. And I definitely agree that the visible Church has very serious problems that Christians should address vigorously. Sitting in an ivory tower memorizing the Five Solas seems ineffectual when people like Beth Moore, Jen Hatmaker and Lysa TerKeurst are actively promoting false teaching and obscuring the truth.

Yet I would argue that false teaching proliferates precisely because most evangelicals have ignored, neglected and/or forgotten the Five Solas and other legacies of the Protestant Reformation. Sola Scriptura (Scripture alone), for example, would go a long way in correcting most of the errors in present-day evangelicalism.

By 1517, the Roman Catholic Church had devolved into a religious system that suppressed the Gospel for the sake of political power. Popes depended on the unquestioning obedience of the laity, and consequently they developed a theology that made people rely on works and religious taxation (as exemplified in the sale of Indulgences) in order to retain their hold on people.

Keeping the Bible and the Mass in Latin helped them maintain control over everyone. By making God’s Word inaccessible to all but the highest levels of clergy, the Roman Catholic Church avoided questions about its unbiblical doctrines and practices. As you might expect, therefore, the Reformers’ emphasis on preaching the Word and translating it into languages that people could read for themselves posed a substantial threat to Rome.

Today, the Bible is readily available in an astounding variety of formats, and most false teachers will encourage their followers to study it. They obscure it, however, by promoting supplemental teaching, mystical experiences or self-centered interpretations that cause people to follow them. They discourage proper hermeneutics and rush to annex psychology,  Charismatic gifts and/or mysticism to Bible Study, thus distracting people from the clear teaching of Sacred Text.

Studying the Protestant Reformation, and observing how the Reformers drew people back to the Bible, would go a long way in correcting many flaws in the present-day church. As we see how Luther, Tyndale, Calvin and other 16th Century Reformers insisted on Sola Scriptura and the other Solas, we learn to resist error and cling to the truth. If ever a generation needed to study the Reformation, it’s this one.

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