The Unexpected Bible Scholar

OpenBible John 1Chronically, she was in her mid 30’s — just a few months younger than I was at the time. Her moderate intellectual disability, however, left her unable to read beyond a 7th grade level and unable to carry on a conversation that didn’t relate directly to her immediate circumstances.

She attended our Bible Study group primarily because she could walk to it from her home. Since everyone else had Bachelors or Masters Degrees, she never participated in the actual discussions, though she always had prayer requests and sometimes asked if we could sing “What A Friend We Have In Jesus.”

Did I say she never participated in the discussions? Typically, she didn’t. After all, we tended to get quite cerebral at times, pretty much excluding her by default (though not maliciously or deliberately).

But one night we hit a verse in Mark’s gospel that, for all our collective brain power, none of us could figure out. We must have spent a good ten minutes flipping to cross-references and asking the teacher what the commentaries said. He replied that none of them shed much light on the verse, leaving us puzzled and  frustrated.

Then she spoke, her voice betraying her surprise at our inability to understand the very obvious meaning of the verse. Using just one simple sentence and her limited vocabulary, she explained the verse with an accuracy that left us speechless. We followed her uncomplicated reasoning, amazed that she was right! Merely by relating the verse to its immediate context, she resolved the mystery.

Proud of our college educations, we’d cluttered our study of God’s Word with fleshy attempts to interpret it, whereas that simple lady read it at face value and rightly understood the Holy Spirit’s intent.

The law of the Lord is perfect,
    reviving the soul;
the testimony of the Lord is sure,
    making wise the simple; ~~Psalm 19:7 (ESV)

I share my favorite memory of this sister in Christ to demonstrate that, for those willing to believe the Word of God for what it plainly says, interpreting Scripture needn’t be arduous. The Lord gave us His Word in order to reveal Himself, not to play hide-and-seek or to increase our intellectual pride.

Sadly, we delude ourselves into thinking that the Bible is difficult to understand. And, while diligent Bible study definitely enhances our understanding of God’s Word by drawing out its richness, we need to acknowledge its clarity and simplicity. Even children and people with cognitive disabilities can comprehend it.

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Saturday Sampler: January 7 — January 13

Three Beauties

Okay, it’s true. I get a kick out of typing Ryan Higginbottom’s name. That said, I genuinely appreciate many of his contributions to Knowable Word. His post, Your Secret Weapon in Bible Study, leads us in engaging effectively with Scripture.

Erik Raymond of The Gospel Coalition Blog shows us The Staggering Consequences of Neglecting Your Bible. Hopefully, each of my readers does spend regular time in God’s Word, but on the outside chance that one of you doesn’t do so, this blog post might help you understand the critical importance of this practice.

In recent years, the term “evangelical” has come to mean something much different than what it should. In Putting the Evangelical in Evangelicalism, Eric Davis of The Cripplegate reminds us who the true evangelicals really are.

Take time to read Bad Examples of Women Pastors (But Great Examples of Godly Women) by Pastor Gabe Hughes.  He goes through all the women in the Bible that feminists hold up as arguments for the ordination of women.

Along those lines, Katie McCoy explains Why Women Are Critical To the Mission of the Church in her post for Biblical Woman. She emphasizes the many ministry opportunities that women can enjoy! I believe her perspective offers encouragement to ladies who mistakenly assume that people can only serve the Lord through pulpit ministry.

Dear Michelle Lesley of Discipleship for Christian Women also weighs in on the topic of women preaching in Seven Reasons 1 Timothy 2:12 Isn’t the Crazy Aunt We Hide in the Closet when Company Comes Over. Her Biblical insight into this issue really helps to show serious problems when a church opens its pulpit to women.

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Saturday Sampler: December 24 — December 30


In a devotional study based on 1 Timothy 6:6, Pastor Colin Smith of Unlocking the Bible examines various pitfalls of material wealth. Why is Godliness with Contentment Great Gain? recalibrates our perspective on`our possessions.

It’s that time of year! But before you adopt a Bible reading plan that you’ll abandon once you hit Leviticus, consider John Chester’s approach in Reprise: You Don’t Need A Bible Reading Plan; You Need A Philosophy, which appears in Parking Space 23. Personally, I probably won’t implement all his suggestions, though I heartily agree with his overall concept.

Sometimes, however, people really need the accountability of a definite reading plan. For such people, Denny Burk offers A Plan to Read through the Bible in 2018 that may help. I’m not certain I agree 100% that we must read the entire Bible each and every year, but we should do so more often than not in order to gain context. The plan Burk recommends might encourage you to overcome any fears of tackling Genesis through Revelation this year.

Still undecided on how you’ll read God’s Word in the New Year?  Michelle Lesley of Discipleship for Christian Women links to a wide variety of Bible Reading Plans for the New Year – 2018 for our consideration. Whether we choose one of these plans or adopt a philosophy of Bible reading, make it your priority to stay in Scripture regularly and systematically, remembering that it’s the very Word of God.

Abigail at Hope and Stay reflects on resolutions in her essay, A New Year’s Invitation: Resolved, to Tear My Heart to Shreds. She rightly convicts me to examine my own progress in killing sin.

Returning to the topic of Bible reading plans, Leslie A of Growing 4 Life introduces The G4L 2018 Bible Reading Challenge by explaining why Bible literacy is so important. Even if you have already selected a reading plan, her insights on the priority of spending time in God’s Word deserve attention.

As I’ve said before, the Church needs more people like Elizabeth Prata who boldly declare the truth! In her essay, Doing my best to puncture the balloon that Ladies Ministries try to inflate for The End Time, she takes on the self-esteem teaching that so many popular women teachers propagate.


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Saturday Sampler: August 27 — September 2

Star Sampler


In The Mailbag: What’s your take on White-Howse/Charlottesville/Trump? Michelle Lesley shifts our attention back to the Bible. Her perspective on how Christians should evaluate such controversies humbles me, which is always a good thing for someone as opinionated as I am. Keep her outlook in mind when the next social media firestorm hits.

Along that same vein, Jennifer at One Hired Late In The Day asks us to consider The overlooked gift of kindness. Great advice!

Mark Ward, in his intriguing article for Logos Talk, brings out The Twist in the Sermon on the Mount That You Probably Missed. Because I struggle with the sin of anger, Ward’s insight into the Lord’s use of a small conjunction gives me a lot to think about. Maybe you’ll appreciate his exploration of Jesus’ reasoning as much as I do.

Look at Prince on Preaching to read Anca Martin’s marvelous essay, The Rest Of Titus and Why It Matters For Women. I  haven’t investigated this website enough to actually endorse it, and a couple minor remarks in this piece make me slightly uncomfortable. That said, I still recommend this piece because it supports my objective in the Perspectives In Titus Bible Study that I feature on this blog each Monday. I hope her thoughts will interest you enough that you’ll join me next Monday.

Erin Benziger, author of Do Not Be Surprised, inaugurates a new series (comprised of devotions she’s previously written) on one of my favorite topics. Unshakeable Joy will both challenge and encourage you to rejoice in your Savior. I look forward to the rest of her posts on this topic.

Have you followed the series Jessica Pickowicz has been doing on Beautiful Thing? If not, her concluding article, Portraits of Superstition: The Christian Neapolitan, supplies links to the previous six installments along with suggestions for using the series as a women’s Bible Study. Then she writes her final portrait, which is probably the most pervasive problem in evangelical circles today.

Kim Whitten, in a post for Biblical Woman that had me crying one minute and laughing the next, writes How I Learned About Rejoicing in the Sock Aisle at Target.

Rethinking “God Hates the Sin but Loves the Sinner” by Alan Shlemon on the Stand to Reason blog holds a popular cliche up to both practical and theological considerations. Maybe it isn’t something Bible-believing Christians should say in conversations with LBGTQ people after all.

And while we’re on the subject of Biblical responses to LBGTQ matters, here’s the link to the Nashville Statement that the Council of Biblical Manhood and Womanhood released this past week. Personally, I like its balance of firm commitment to Scripture’s standards for human sexuality and hope for those entrapped by sexual sin.

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Saturday Sampler: August 20 — August 26

Tulips01For those of you going back to school, Ryan Higginbottom’s post, Above All Earthly Textbooks in Knowable Word encourages you not to allow the pressures of school to crowd out your devotional life. Looking back on my own college years, I can attest to each of his points.

Scrolling though Twitter, I found Worldview Changes Everything, which Leslie A published in Growing 4 Life back in July 2014. I normally don’t like including throwback blog posts in Saturday Sampler, but this one deserves attention. The closing paragraphs especially call Christians to healthy self-examination.

Everybody has an opinion, or so the saying goes. Answering that maxim, Elizabeth Prata asserts that You (I) don’t have to say everything in The End Time. Her humility here sets a godly example, especially in this culture of social media.

Beautiful Thing writer Jessica Pickowicz resumes her probing series on superstitions with Portraits of Superstition: The Princess Charming. She writes with a balance that I wish I’d had back in high school when I destroyed a memento from a family vacation thinking it was an idol with demonic powers.

We can find the Gospel even in this earliest chapters of Genesis, as Narrow Minded Woman shows us in Eve: “Mother of All the Living”.

Leave it to Michelle Lesley, a mother of five, to come up with a title like Watch Your Language! 10 Christian Terms that Need to be Cleared Up. Her reasoning on each term grounds itself in God’s Word, forcing us to carefully consider how our words represent the Lord. Are you guilty of saying any of these things?

The Rise of Digital Technologies and the Decline of Reading by Tim Challies may surprise you. His perspectives don’t follow popular wisdom on this topic, but maybe popular wisdom could use a challenge once in a while.

If you doubt my repeated assertions that Christians depend way too much on feelings, go to  excatholic4christ and read Tom’s piece, Emotional feelings and religious rituals no substitute for genuine faith in Christ and His finished work. He presents a sad but fascinating story of a woman who obviously needs discernment  (not to mention true salvation).

Amy Byrd of Housewife Theologian examines the historical context that may help us understand why God honored Rahab’s Lie. Like Amy, I’m not completely sold on this explanation, but it certainly does make sense.


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Perspectives In Titus: When “All” Doesn’t Mean “Each And Every”

Titus 2 v 11

My summer break from writing Bible Studies has drawn to a close, and I’m happy to be getting back to work. Before I get started, through, let me briefly remind you that 1 Timothy 2:12 prohibits women from teaching men. Therefore, unless you’re my husband or an elder from First Baptist Church Weymouth providing spiritual oversight, I respectfully ask gentlemen not to read these studies.

Now ladies, I hope you’ve reviewed the studies we’ve done in Titus so far. You’ll recall that the apostle Paul had left Titus in Crete to organize the churches there. The Christians in Crete struggled against two forces: the self-indulgent culture and false teachers who tried to impose Jewish legalism on Gentile converts. To counteract these forces, Paul wanted Titus to appoint elders of high moral character who could effectively silence false teachers by both their behavior and their mastery of sound doctrine.

Paul then told Titus how to instruct various groups within the churches. Each group, while bearing similar responsibilities to each other and to elders, had a specific emphasis which helped them live in contrast to the Cretan culture. Thus their lifestyle would be consistent with the Gospel.

Today we transition into a passage that articulates the purpose of the Gospel and the impact of God’s grace. We’ll only make it through verse 11, but let’s look at the whole passage to get some context.

11 For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people, 12 training us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age, 13 waiting for our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ, 14 who gave himself for us to redeem us from all lawlessness and to purify for himself a people for his own possession who are zealous for good works. ~~Titus 2:11-14 (ESV)

Verse 11 equates the Gospel with God’s grace, so I want to say just a little bit about what grace is. Grace refers to God’s favor, particularly in terms of redemption. According to John MacArthur, Jesus Christ Himself embodies God’s grace (see John 1:14). We need this grace because of our corrupted human nature as a result of the Fall.

Paul’s phrase, “has appeared,” carries the idea of shining forth, according to Jamieson, Fausset and Brown. They use Isaiah 9:2 and Luke 1:79 as substantiation. The imagery of light shining in the darkness fits well here, since Paul’s main theme revolves around the importance of Titus training Christians to shine in contrast to the moral darkness of the Cretan culture.

Moreover, Jamieson, Fausset and Brown say that this grace had been hidden before the advent of Christ (Colossians 1:26, 2 Timothy 1:10). Like MacArthur, they point out that Jesus Himself bears this grace as “he Word made flesh” (John 1:14). Commentator John Gill writes that Paul simply meant that God’s grace appeared through the Gospel.

Grace alone brings salvation. Notice that salvation doesn’t come from human obedience, as the Judaizers that had infiltrated the churches of Crete claimed, but from grace (Ephesians 2:8). Paul emphasizes that the “doctrine of God our Savior” (Titus 2:10) always directs us away from ourselves and to the Lord.

Many Christians use the phrase “bringing salvation to all people” as a proof-text refuting Limited Atonement. However, if we look back at verses 1-10, and forward to verse 14, we readily see a) that Paul has just been writing instructions to various people groups within the church and b) that God redeems a distinct people for Himself.

Both Thayer’s Greek Dictionary and The Complete Word Study Dictionary contend that, although the Greek word translated here as “men” can refer to individual men when used with certain modifiers, its primary definition denotes mankind in general. Again, then, we see the idea that God’s grace is not restricted to any one race or social class (Galatians 3:28).

Those who insist that the Lord’s death atones for every individual acknowledge that some people die without appropriating His grace. Of course, I can’t chase that rabbit today, but I hope I’ve demonstrated that Titus 2:11 doesn’t substantiate their belief. As we continue studying this passage next Monday, we’ll see that Paul’s thrust isn’t really about the scope of grace but about the practical impact of grace. Please join me then.

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Yes, I’m Giving You Homework!

Perspectives in TitusA migraine Saturday changed my plan to resume the Perspectives In Titus Bible Study today. Maybe that’s  the sovereignty of God giving us time to review the passages we’ve studied so far. You can find most of the studies (in reverse order, I’m sorry to say) by clicking this link. Perhaps spending this coming week going over the epistle will help us remember the context of the passage we’ll study next Monday.

Truthfully, I hadn’t considered the importance of maintaining context or continuity when I decided to take a summer break from the study, nor did it occur to me last week when I decided to start back up again today. Apparently I thought I could plunge right into Titus 2:11-14 without recalling what Paul had written to Titus up to that point. I’d forgotten that we’d need to review the situation Titus faced in ordering the churches of Crete, and how those churches would need to respond to the Cretan culture.

Titus 2:11-14 overflows with wonderful doctrine on God’s grace and His purpose in electing us.  In my September 5 article, Our Teacher: Grace, I used this very passage to demonstrate the relationship between grace and holiness without paying much attention to the rest of the chapter, and I believe I did so without violating its meaning. I love this passage so much that I refer to it daily in my prayer time.

Although this passage can, in a sense,  stand alone, studying it within its larger context next Monday will increase its power. We will see how it connects to the groups Paul addresses in Titus 2:1-10, as well as to the challenges the Cretan Christians had in distinguishing themselves from the false teachers in their region. Finally, we’ll apply its principles to ourselves.

So, dear sisters, let’s use this week to read back over the lessons in this series before we move forward. My migraine Saturday may have prevented me from barging back into the study without proper attention to how Paul got to this marvelous exposition on grace, leaving us unprepared to fully appreciate it. Please take advantage of this opportunity to review our Perspectives In Titus Bible Studies.

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