The Bible Is a Record of God’s Interaction with His People

The Bible is a collection of ancient writings that record God’s interactions with His people across many generations.  We who live in modern times can learn from it because “there is nothing new under the sun” (Ecclesiastes 1:9) and “no temptation has overtaken us but such as is common to man” (1 Corinthians 10:13).  Even Jesus’ short life of 33 years was long enough for Him to be “tempted in all things as we are” (Hebrews 4:15).  Therefore, Paul was able to write of Satan, “we are not ignorant of his schemes.”

From the compendium of the Bible we are able to find parallels to the temptations we face in life.  We have no need of a modern text for this purpose; the ancient one will do just fine.  Satan has no new tricks.

Scripture quotations taken from the NASB, unless otherwise noted. 

Proper Study of the Bible Is Devotional, Not Intellectual

The Bible can be studied intellectually, but that doesn’t mean this is the best way to study it.  If it were, intellectuals who study the Bible would be the people most like Jesus.  However, we know that it’s often humble, and relatively uneducated, people who remind us most of our Lord.

Yes, you should use all of your mind to study the Bible just as you should use all of your soul and body and strength.  But do not think that a mind with educational degrees is able to absorb any more of the life-changing spiritual power in those words than a mind without them.

Make sure your study of the Bible is primarily devotional, and not intellectual, in nature.

And by devotional, I don’t mean reading it and forgetting it.  I mean reading with a view to do.  That is, study the Bible devoted to the purpose of practicing what it teaches you about our Lord.

Intellectual reading of the Bible produces theologians; devotional reading of the Bible produces saints.  God is interested in producing saints, not theologians.

Scripture quotations taken from the NASB, unless otherwise noted. 

How Can God Be Found True If No One Can Be Sure What He Has Said?

Paul wrote:

Romans 3:4 May it never be! Rather, let God be found true, though every man be found a liar…

Some say that the Bible is subject to interpretation and that therefore it’s pointless to argue about what God has said.  But if we cannot know what God has said, then the idea that He does not lie is useless.

That God testifies through the prophets and apostles that He does not lie is therefore evidence that He does not consider it impossible to be sure about anything He has said.

Scripture quotations taken from the NASB, unless otherwise noted. 

The Book of Hebrews

The epistle “to the Hebrews” is a “brief word of exhortation” (Hebrews 13:22).

What is being exhorted?  That we should listen to the voice of the Son of God (see specifically Hebrews 1:1-2; 2:3; 3:7-11, 14-15; 4:7; 5:11; 8:10; 12:25 for the recurrence of this theme).  For this reason, the letter can be regarded as an exposition of, or an elaboration on, this New Testament verse:

Matthew 17:5 While he was still speaking, a bright cloud overshadowed them, and behold, a voice out of the cloud said, “This is My beloved Son, with whom I am well-pleased; listen to Him!”

For the same reason, the letter to the Hebrews can be regarded as reinforcing this Old Testament verse as well:

Deuteronomy 18:15 “The LORD your God will raise up for you a prophet like me from among you, from your countrymen, you shall listen to him.

Through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, all Scripture is revealed as pointers to Him…that we might listen to Him.

Scripture quotations taken from the NASB, unless otherwise noted. 

When the Perfect Comes…

Paul stated as a principle in 1 Corinthians 13 that “when the perfect comes, the partial is done away.”  We see this principle manifest in different ways:  when the kingdom of God came, the church was done way; when the sun of righteousness (Malachi 4:2) came, the stars Moses and the prophets receded into relative obscurity.

Another manifestation of this principle is seen in the completion of the Scriptures.  One of the purposes for which God created the ancient nation of Israel was the preservation of the Scriptures He would create through Moses and the rest of the prophets.  However, once the Jews were dispersed (the Diaspora) and the Scriptures translated into the common language of the world at that time (Greek), and the testimony of the crucified and risen Messiah had been spread throughout the world (Romans 1:8; 16:26; Colossians 1:6), then neither the government of Israel nor the government of the church was necessary to God’s purposes any longer.

In this case, the Scriptures are “the perfect” and organized religion is “the partial.”  Here’s another way of stating what happened:  “extracting the precious from the worthless.”  Hear Jeremiah:

Jeremiah 15:19 Therefore, thus says the LORD,
“If you return, then I will restore you–
Before Me you will stand;
And if you extract the precious from the worthless,
You will become My spokesman.
They for their part may turn to you,
But as for you, you must not turn to them.

We do not need the traditions of men as promulgated by the organized religions of Judaism and Christianity.  What we do need are the Scriptures in which those traditions are rooted.  In these Scriptures we find the precious and the perfect, having no more need for that which was partial and worthless by comparison.

Scripture quotations taken from the NASB, unless otherwise noted.

The Inadequacy of the Scriptures

Normally, we would speak of the adequacy of the Scriptures for they are the word of God.  However, is there is sense in which they are inadequate?  Yes.

Here is the sense in which the Bible is inadequate:

John 5:39 “You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; it is these that testify about Me;
John 5:40 and you are unwilling to come to Me so that you may have life.

The Scriptures are given to us as testimony – a faithful witness – to God.  If we do not then trust God based on what the Scriptures tell us, what good is that?

Jesus goes on to say to those Jews who professed loyalty to the Bible but rejected Jesus:

John 5:45 “Do not think that I will accuse you before the Father; the one who accuses you is Moses, in whom you have set your hope.
John 5:46 “For if you believed Moses, you would believe Me, for he wrote about Me.
John 5:47 “But if you do not believe his writings, how will you believe My words?”

Likewise, today many profess as much loyalty to the Scriptures as those Jews did, but they reject Jesus in the Spirit just as those Jews rejected Him in the flesh.

The Spirit of Jesus is omnipresent in this world in which we live.  The purpose of the Scriptures is to make us knowledgeable of, and confident in, this reality.  If, however, we only pay lip service to that reality, then we have not allowed the Bible to fulfill its purpose in our lives…no matter how much we may claim our devotion to it.

Therefore, the Scriptures are inadequate to save us if merely profess loyalty to them rather than trust what they say.

Scripture quotations taken from the NASB, unless otherwise noted. 

If You Are Going to Meditate the Word, Meditate Jesus

If you are going to meditate the word of God each day, be sure to meditate “The Word.”  (John 1:1; Revelation 19:13).  That is, be sure that you are meditating the word that is Jesus.

No line of the Bible should be read or meditated out of context.  Christ is the context.  Christ is the living word.

The words in your Bible point to Him whom you cannot see but who is nonetheless there.

Scripture quotations taken from the NASB, unless otherwise noted. 

The Occupational Hazard of a Christian Preacher

The occupational hazard of a Christian preacher is to read the Bible looking for something to say rather than for something to do.

He who reads the Bible looking for something to do, and does it, will, from that life experience, know what he should say (i.e. preach).

Ezra 7:10 gives the proper sequence: study, practice, teach.  Don’t skip steps and don’t leave out a step.

He who reads the Bible looking for something to say ends up like the Pharisees (Matthew 23:3):  saying things that he is not doing.  Such a man short-circuits Ezra 7:10.  And where there is a short circuit, there is often a shock.

Scripture quotations taken from the NASB, unless otherwise noted. 

Reading the Bible Is Not a Purely Intellectual Exercise

If reading the Bible were a purely intellectual exercise then all PhD’s would be better able to understand the Bible than all high school graduates.  It’s obvious that this is not the case.

There’s more to reading the Bible than intelligence and education.  There’s a spiritual dimension to it.  Specifically, if your heart is closed off to God, if you’re protective of your earthly pleasures and resistant to authority and discipline, then you’re not going to get as much out of reading the Bible as someone who is the opposite of you in all these ways.

Better to read the Bible with a humble heart – even a childlike heart – than with the great education the world has to offer.  The wisdom of the world does not lead to God.  Understanding of the Scriptures comes not by academic degrees but by fellowship with the Holy Spirit.

It is the Holy Spirit of God who inspired the Scriptures in the first place.  If you are not on speaking terms with Him, how can you expect to rightly understand what He has written?

Scripture quotations taken from the NASB, unless otherwise noted. 

The New Testament Is Jewish as the Old Testament

The New Testament documents are as Jewish as the Old Testament documents that preceded them.  Jesus was Jewish.  The Gospels take place in Israel.  The apostles were Jewish.  Yes, the New Testament shows Gentiles being brought into the fold, but it was a fold where the leadership was predominantly Jewish.

We cannot therefore read the New Testament through Gentile eyes and expect to understand it correctly.  The apostles responsible for the New Testament were not trying to write something to replace the Old Testament.  On the contrary, it was to the Old Testament they were constantly referring to, and appealing to, for authority.  The vocabulary of the New Testament writers comes from the Old Testament writers.  The more one studies both testaments the more evidence one finds of this reality.

Sadly and erroneously, many people, whether wittingly or not, approach the Old Testament as if it were for Jews and the New Testament as if it were for Gentiles.  This misses the point of both testaments as taught by Jesus Christ.

The New Testament is a collection of 1st-century documents written by leaders of a newly-spawned Jewish sect to their followers. These documents were written by various leaders, at various times, from various locations, to various locations, in various styles, and for various reasons. The central conviction shared by both the senders and receivers of these documents (i.e. everyone in the social movement of which they were a part) was that a Jewish contemporary of theirs – Jesus of Nazareth – was the Messiah who had been promised by prophets who wrote the Jewish Scriptures (what is also called the Old Testament). More specifically, this conviction was that this Jesus had been crucified by the Romans and raised from the dead by God according to those Scriptures, and that He would soon be coming in the kingdom of God according to those same Scriptures.

See also:

Scripture quotations taken from the NASB, unless otherwise noted. 

The New Testament Is Not a Polemic Treatise for Christianity

Skeptics will attack the New Testament as if it were designed to be a polemic treatise for the case of Christianity.  This is holding these documents to an inappropriate standard.  Certainly, the New Testament provides more than adequate reason for faith in Jesus Christ, but it does not do so as an explicit argument against its critics.  On the contrary, these are documents written by various leaders of a movement to various followers in the movement -and at various times and places for various reasons.  We can amass a case for Jesus Christ from these documents, but the documents were not written expressly for this purpose.

Many of the supposed inadequacies that skeptics find in the New Testament are only inadequacies when measured against an expectation of a polemic treatise…or a modern document, or a single document, or a time-capsule document, or as if they were written to a single set of readers.  If we are to properly understand the New Testament documents we must accept these texts on their own terms.  We cannot make them into something they are not.

The New Testament is a collection of 1st-century documents written by leaders of a newly-spawned Jewish sect to their followers. These documents were written by various leaders, at various times, from various locations, to various locations, in various styles, and for various reasons. The central conviction shared by both the senders and receivers of these documents (i.e. everyone in the social movement of which they were a part) was that a Jewish contemporary of theirs – Jesus of Nazareth – was the Messiah who had been promised by prophets who wrote the Jewish Scriptures (what is also called the Old Testament). More specifically, this conviction was that this Jesus had been crucified by the Romans and raised from the dead by God according to those Scriptures, and that He would soon be coming in the kingdom of God according to those same Scriptures.

Scripture quotations taken from the NASB, unless otherwise noted. 

The New Testament Documents Were Not Written for a Time Capsule

Some skeptics unknowingly approach the New Testament documents as if they had been written to be stored in a time capsule scheduled to be opened in the early 21st Century.  I say this because such readers stumble over aspects of the documents that are intrinsic to there having been written in a 1st-century Greco-Roman world.

We have no right to expect the New Testament documents to be written in a style with which we’re familiar or to answer every question we modern folks think important.  Rather, we should look for answers to timeless questions in the New Testament documents.  That is, we should look for answers to our questions about life, death, and our ultimately destiny.

The documents of the New Testament and their contents are settled.  They are not going to change.  It is we the readers who are going to have to change if we are to gain the best possible understanding of them.

The New Testament is a collection of 1st-century documents written by leaders of a newly-spawned Jewish sect to their followers. These documents were written by various leaders, at various times, from various locations, to various locations, in various styles, and for various reasons. The central conviction shared by both the senders and receivers of these documents (i.e. everyone in the social movement of which they were a part) was that a Jewish contemporary of theirs – Jesus of Nazareth – was the Messiah who had been promised by prophets who wrote the Jewish Scriptures (what is also called the Old Testament). More specifically, this conviction was that this Jesus had been crucified by the Romans and raised from the dead by God according to those Scriptures, and that He would soon be coming in the kingdom of God according to those same Scriptures.

Scripture quotations taken from the NASB, unless otherwise noted. 

The New Testament Is Not Modern

The New Testament is not comprised of modern writings, nor was it written by modern writers.  The documents therein are rightly called “ancient literature,” coming from the period that historians call “Greco-Roman.”  I say this because many skeptics will reject the New Testament for not being written according to modern conventions, even though they’ll hardly ever frame their objections in such terms because to do so would demonstrate the baselessness of the criticisms.  If such skeptical attitudes were applied to all ancient literature, hardly any of it would pass muster.

The New Testament documents were written in ancient times.  To understand them properly requires that we try, as much as possible, to read them in the context of those ancient times.  The ancients frequently wrote about aspects of a story we don’t care about and didn’t write about aspects of a story we do care about.  More broadly, they wrote history differently than we do.  They didn’t have printing presses and computers; therefore, we shouldn’t expect their writings to follow the writing patterns of our age.

Modern sensibilities and ancient sensibilities are sometimes the same because being human is, well, being human.  Were it not for this, the Bible could hardly have any meaning for us.  Sometimes, however, modern and ancient sensibilities can differ widely.  For this reason, we need to bring this consciousness to our reading of the New Testament.  Otherwise, we won’t appreciate it as we should.  Nor will we receive its grace as we should.

The New Testament is a collection of 1st-century documents written by leaders of a newly-spawned Jewish sect to their followers. These documents were written by various leaders, at various times, from various locations, to various locations, in various styles, and for various reasons. The central conviction shared by both the senders and receivers of these documents (i.e. everyone in the social movement of which they were a part) was that a Jewish contemporary of theirs – Jesus of Nazareth – was the Messiah who had been promised by prophets who wrote the Jewish Scriptures (what is also called the Old Testament). More specifically, this conviction was that this Jesus had been crucified by the Romans and raised from the dead by God according to those Scriptures, and that He would soon be coming in the kingdom of God according to those same Scriptures.

Scripture quotations taken from the NASB, unless otherwise noted. 

The New Testament Is Not Written to a Single Set of Readers

The 27 documents which comprise the New Testament are not all written to the same person or persons.  While they were all written, and apply to, the believing community, some were written to gatherings of believers in different locations.  Some were written to individuals.  Some were written to be circulated among various churches.  Some don’t precisely specify the audience.

Reading the New Testament without allowing for the fact that different documents had different recipients will inhibit understanding of those documents.

The New Testament is a collection of 1st-century documents written by leaders of a newly-spawned Jewish sect to their followers. These documents were written by various leaders, at various times, from various locations, to various locations, in various styles, and for various reasons. The central conviction shared by both the senders and receivers of these documents (i.e. everyone in the social movement of which they were a part) was that a Jewish contemporary of theirs – Jesus of Nazareth – was the Messiah who had been promised by prophets who wrote the Jewish Scriptures (what is also called the Old Testament). More specifically, this conviction was that this Jesus had been crucified by the Romans and raised from the dead by God according to those Scriptures, and that He would soon be coming in the kingdom of God according to those same Scriptures.

Scripture quotations taken from the NASB, unless otherwise noted. 

The New Testament Is Not a Single Document

The New Testament is not a single document.  It is a collection of 27 different documents.  Four of them are “gospels,” telling the story of Jesus of Nazareth.  The rest of them are letters, but not all letters of the same kind.  Trying to understand the New Testament as if it were a single document is a way to misunderstand it.

Here’s how I described the New Testament in yesterday’s post:

The New Testament is a collection of 1st-century documents written by leaders of a newly-spawned Jewish sect to their followers. These documents were written by various leaders, at various times, from various locations, to various locations, in various styles, and for various reasons. The central conviction shared by both the senders and receivers of these documents (i.e. everyone in the social movement of which they were a part) was that a Jewish contemporary of theirs – Jesus of Nazareth – was the Messiah who had been promised by prophets who wrote the Jewish Scriptures (what is also called the Old Testament). More specifically, this conviction was that this Jesus had been crucified by the Romans and raised from the dead by God according to those Scriptures, and that He would soon be coming in the kingdom of God according to those same Scriptures.

Thus there is a unifying theme to this collection of diverse documents.  That theme is the Lordship of Jesus Christ over all creation.

Scripture quotations taken from the NASB, unless otherwise noted. 

What Is the New Testament?

What is the New Testament?

The New Testament is a collection of 1st-century documents written by leaders of a newly-spawned Jewish sect to their followers. These documents were written by various leaders, at various times, from various locations, to various locations, in various styles, and for various reasons.  The central conviction shared by both the senders and receivers of these documents (i.e. everyone in the social movement of which they were a part) was that a Jewish contemporary of theirs – Jesus of Nazareth – was the Messiah who had been promised by prophets who wrote the Jewish Scriptures (what is also called the Old Testament).  More specifically, this conviction was that this Jesus had been crucified by the Romans and raised from the dead by God according to those Scriptures, and that He would soon be coming in the kingdom of God according to those same Scriptures.

Scripture quotations taken from the NASB, unless otherwise noted. 

We Read the Old Testament Through Christ

Apart from Christ, the Old Testament has no meaning for us and holds no interest for us.  It is an ancient book written for ancient Jews.  What makes it relevant to us is that Jesus of Nazareth was an ancient Jew and He reinterpreted it such as way that we could see it testifying of Him.  That’s what makes the Old Testament relevant to us.

The ancient Israelites heard God’s voice directly.  It so frightened them that they begged Moses to be the go-between:  that is, Moses would listen to God and then tell the Israelites what God had said.  Likewise, Jesus brings to us the words of the Old Testament.  If we cannot understand a passage through Him, we are not interested in hearing it – and this is as it should be.

Scripture quotations taken from the NASB, unless otherwise noted. 

The “Lost” Book

2 Kings 22:8-20 tells the story of how the “lost” book was “found.”  It begins this way:

 2 Kings 22:8 Then Hilkiah the high priest said to Shaphan the scribe, “I have found the book of the law in the house of the LORD.” And Hilkiah gave the book to Shaphan who read it.

The book was the Law of Moses which the nation had been forgetting.  And because Israel had been forgetting Moses’ Law, it was experiencing all the curses promised to the nation if they forsook it.  Thus, finding the book meant finding an explanation for why the nation was in the sorry state that it was in.

Similarly, the Bible is largely a “lost” book to Christendom today.  Denominational and ideological dogmas have taken the place of reading and studying the words of God’s prophets and apostles.  As a result, the word of God is made to be of no effect.  It’s tragic.

Read the pages of Scripture and let the Holy Spirit who inspired it bring you understanding that you might repent and live according to it.

Scripture quotations taken from the NASB, unless otherwise noted. 

The Apostles Did Not Think They Needed a New Book

Read the apostles’ extant writings (what we call the New Testament) and see that they never expressed any concern about a lack of documentation for their message.  That is, they had no need of the New Testament.  Of course, we do need it because it’s the means by which we can know what the apostles thought and taught.  They themselves, however, knew what they thought and taught. And they knew much more about those things than we can reconstruct from the 27 documents we call the New Testament.

The set of documents that mattered most to the apostles was what we call the Old Testament.  That was the collection of writings from Moses and the prophets that foretold all the things about Jesus that the apostles themselves witnessed.  In the pages of the Old Testament, the apostles found everything they needed to back up their claim that Jesus had been raised from the dead.

Just knowing this should enrich our study of both testaments.

Scripture quotations taken from the NASB, unless otherwise noted. (In the NASB New Testament, quotations of the Old Testament are rendered in all capital letters in order to make them easier to identify.)

The Documentation for Jesus’ Resurrection Was Written Long Before It Occurred

Consider these two representative passage from the book of Acts.  The first quotes the words of Paul as he stood trial before King Agrippa.  The second describes what happened when Paul arrived in Rome.

Acts 26:22 “So, having obtained help from God, I stand to this day testifying both to small and great, stating nothing but what the Prophets and Moses said was going to take place;
Acts 26:23 that the Christ was to suffer, and that by reason of His resurrection from the dead He would be the first to proclaim light both to the Jewish people and to the Gentiles.”

Acts 28:23 When they had set a day for Paul, they came to him at his lodging in large numbers; and he was explaining to them by solemnly testifying about the kingdom of God and trying to persuade them concerning Jesus, from both the Law of Moses and from the Prophets, from morning until evening.

Note that in both cases, all the documentation necessary to persuade the open-minded Jews about the resurrection of Jesus was found in the ancient Scriptures of Israel.

Paul and the rest of the apostles weren’t quoting New Testament documents when they preached the gospel.  They were quoting Old Testament documents.  God had declared long ahead of time what He was going to do!

Scripture quotations taken from the NASB, unless otherwise noted. 

How Jesus and the Scriptures Prophesied the Resurrection

Here’s an instance where Jesus prophesied His resurrection:

John 2:18 The Jews then said to Him, “What sign do You show us as your authority for doing these things?”
John 2:19 Jesus answered them, “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.”
John 2:20 The Jews then said, “It took forty-six years to build this temple, and will You raise it up in three days?”
John 2:21 But He was speaking of the temple of His body.
John 2:22 So when He was raised from the dead, His disciples remembered that He said this; and they believed the Scripture and the word which Jesus had spoken.

Jesus was promising His resurrection in the same cryptic way that the Old Testament had.  For example, consider this from Psalms:

Psalm 118:22 The stone which the builders rejected
Has become the chief corner stone.

Or this one from Moses:

Deuteronomy 18:15 “The LORD your God will raise up for you a prophet like me from among you, from your countrymen, you shall listen to him.

Or even this one from Psalm 2, Isaiah 55, and Psalm 16 – all framed by the book of Acts:

Acts 13:32 “And we preach to you the good news of the promise made to the fathers,
Acts 13:33 that God has fulfilled this promise to our children in that He raised up Jesus, as it is also written in the second Psalm, ‘YOU ARE MY SON; TODAY I HAVE BEGOTTEN YOU.’
Acts 13:34 “As for the fact that He raised Him up from the dead, no longer to return to decay, He has spoken in this way: ‘I WILL GIVE YOU THE HOLY and SURE blessings OF DAVID.’
Acts 13:35 “Therefore He also says in another Psalm, ‘YOU WILL NOT ALLOW YOUR HOLY ONE TO UNDERGO DECAY.’

The promises of Messiah’s resurrection were thus made in riddle-like fashion.  Christ is thus “the mystery of God” revealed.

The two things to notice in the passage from John at the top of this post are 1) that, like the Old Testament, the New Testament prophesied Christ’s resurrection in cryptic terms, and 2) Jesus spoke like the prophets of old.  He adopted their language and thought as they thought.  After all, he was himself a prophet.

Scripture quotations taken from the NASB, unless otherwise noted. (In the NASB New Testament, quotations of the Old Testament are rendered in all capital letters in order to make them easier to identify.)

Jesus Believed in the Practicality and Power of the Scripture

Matthew 4 indicates just how practical Jesus was about the Scripture.  After He had fasted for 40 days, He was tempted by Satan.  In response to the temptation, Jesus quoted Scripture.  And even when Satan pulled a Scripture out of context to tempt Jesus to do something foolish, Jesus retorted with another Scripture.

Watch who or what someone trusts when their back is against the wall.  That’s who they really trust.  Jesus trusted God through the Scriptures He had given.

Scripture quotations taken from the NASB, unless otherwise noted. 

The Apostles Were Not Trying to Be Original

The apostles of Jesus Christ were not trying to be original with their teaching.  They were loyal Jews who were merely trying to relate the understanding of the Scriptures given to them by their fellow loyal Jew – Jesus – in the wake of His resurrection from the dead.

Jesus explained to His apostles that everything that happened to Him was part of a predetermined plan of God documented in what we call the Old Testament.  The documentation of this plan was “coded” to be sure – but was there, and there in abundance.  By “coded” I simply mean that prophecies about Messiah were in riddle-like fashion, only making sense once the answer was revealed.  The answer began with the resurrection of the Messiah.

Throughout the New Testament we find vocabulary drawn from the pages of the Old Testament.  This is because the apostles weren’t teaching the New Testament – they were teaching the Old Testament, just the way Jesus had taught it to them, and just the way that the Holy Spirit was further revealing it to them.

Therefore, the best way to understand the teachings of the New Testament is to look for their roots in the Old Testament.  Conversely, the worst way to attempt to understand the New Testament is to ignore the Old Testament.  Don’t look for originality in the New Testament; look for repetition and the elevation of teaching already present in the Old Testament.  (By “elevation” I mean the transition from law to grace, from flesh to spirit, from an earthly orientation to a heavenly orientation that Jesus brought.)

Scripture quotations taken from the NASB, unless otherwise noted. 

Beware the Co-opting of God’s Words

Just because someone is quoting the Bible does not mean that he is faithfully representing God.  For as long as we’ve had the Scriptures, its words have been conscripted for man-made religion (Colossians 2:23) and the philosophies of men (Colossians 2:8).

In such cases, the treasures of God’s house have been hauled off into another’s temple:

2 Chronicles 36:7 Nebuchadnezzar also brought some of the articles of the house of the LORD to Babylon and put them in his temple at Babylon.

Therefore, the citation of a Bible verse is not enough.  There must be the spirit of Jesus in the quotation – else the words have been ripped from their context.  Even the Old Testament is all about Him.

Scripture quotations taken from the NASB, unless otherwise noted. (In the NASB New Testament, quotations of the Old Testament are rendered in all capital letters in order to make them easier to identify.)

The Book of 2 Samuel Quoting the Book of Judges

2 Samuel 11:21 ‘Who struck down Abimelech the son of Jerubbesheth? Did not a woman throw an upper millstone on him from the wall so that he died at Thebez? Why did you go so near the wall?’–then you shall say, ‘Your servant Uriah the Hittite is dead also.'”

Joab, David’s general, is here referencing the story found in Judges 9:50-54.  The Jews paid attention to their history, just as we should pay attention to their history.

Why should we pay attention to the history of ancient Israel?  Because the prophets of God wrote it and thus give us the history from God’s perspective.  There could never be a more objective view of history than His.

The Scriptures were written and compiled progressively.  In the time of David and Joab, they had the Law of Moses, and probably the books of Joshua and Judges.  They learned from the Scripture they had.  If they could learn from the Scriptures they had, how much more can we learn from all that we have.

When Scripture quotes Scripture, it is all the more edifying.

The purpose of this blog is to proclaim Jesus Christ in terms familiar to those who read the Bible, and to help others become more familiar with the Bible. For those unfamiliar with the Bible, see the blog A Nonchurchgoer’s Guide to Jesus and His Kingdom.

Scripture quotations taken from the NASB, unless otherwise noted. (In the NASB New Testament, quotations of the Old Testament are rendered in all capital letters in order to make them easier to identify.)

I Will Bring You Back to the Place from Where I Sent You into Exile

Jeremiah 29:14 ‘I will be found by you,’ declares the LORD, ‘and I will restore your fortunes and will gather you from all the nations and from all the places where I have driven you,’ declares the LORD, ‘and I will bring you back to the place from where I sent you into exile.’

While Jeremiah’s words had a particular meaning to the Jews of that time, God’s promise has broader fulfillment in the restoration of humanity to Himself through Jesus Christ.

Mankind was exiled from the presence of God because of sin.  Only through Jesus Christ was sin ultimately and perfectly addressed.  Therefore, through Jesus Christ we have our way back to the Creator against whom we’ve sinned and from whom we’ve wandered.

For this reason, the tree of life first mentioned in Genesis 2 is addressed in Revelation 22, the last chapter of the Bible.  That is, as humankind was denied access to the tree of life because of the sin of Adam and Eve, so humankind was invited back to the tree of life through Jesus Christ our Redeemer.

The purpose of this blog is to proclaim Jesus Christ in terms familiar to those who read the Bible, and to help others become more familiar with the Bible. For those unfamiliar with the Bible, see the blog A Nonchurchgoer’s Guide to Jesus and His Kingdom.

Scripture quotations taken from the NASB, unless otherwise noted. (In the NASB New Testament, quotations of the Old Testament are rendered in all capital letters in order to make them easier to identify.)

The Scriptures Explain Creation

Any reasonable person looking at this creation would wonder why we are here and what it all means.  The Bible gives a more plausible answer to that question than does any other source.  That’s saying a lot.

The purpose of this blog is to proclaim Jesus Christ in terms familiar to those who read the Bible, and to help others become more familiar with the Bible. For those unfamiliar with the Bible, see the blog A Nonchurchgoer’s Guide to Jesus and His Kingdom.

Scripture quotations taken from the NASB, unless otherwise noted. (In the NASB New Testament, quotations of the Old Testament are rendered in all capital letters in order to make them easier to identify.)

The Apostles Did Not Wish They Had New Testaments

The only Bible that the apostles had was what we call the Old Testament.  Nevertheless, we never see the apostles lamenting that their Scriptures were insufficient.

Of course, we need the New Testament because that’s how we hear the apostles’ testimony.  They knew their testimony, however, and did not need what we need.

The point of this is that the Old Testament contains much more meaning for us than most Christians realize.  We need to use the New Testament to view the Old Testament the way that the apostles did.  Then we will begin to see more of the treasures that are resident therein.  But remember, we will only have begun.  Keep looking for more.  For in Christ are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge (Colossians 2:3), and it is these very Scriptures that testify of Him (John 5:39).

The purpose of this blog is to proclaim Jesus Christ in terms familiar to those who read the Bible, and to help others become more familiar with the Bible. For those unfamiliar with the Bible, see the blog A Nonchurchgoer’s Guide to Jesus and His Kingdom.

Scripture quotations taken from the NASB, unless otherwise noted. (In the NASB New Testament, quotations of the Old Testament are rendered in all capital letters in order to make them easier to identify.)

Eve’s Sin Was a Failure to Trust

If you read Genesis 3, you’ll see why Paul says (in 1 Timothy 2:14) “the woman was deceived.”  The serpent begins the deception by raising doubts in Eve’s mind about God’s instruction concerning trees and fruit (actually given in Genesis 2:16-17).  Then Eve sees the tree, that it was a delight to the eyes, that its fruit was good for food, and that it was desirable to become wise – and she ate.

It wasn’t like Eve attacked Adam or cursed him or blasphemed God.  She didn’t do anything that we would otherwise call evil.  Rather, she failed to obey God’s command, which was essentially a failure to trust His judgment.

We are restored to God by reversing Eve’s sin.  That is, we come back to God when we trust Him, when we trust His judgment.

We don’t have all knowledge.  Therefore, if God says “Don’t do such-and-such,” we should trust Him and not do it.

Proverbs 14:12 There is a way which seems right to a man,
But its end is the way of death.

The purpose of this blog is to proclaim Jesus Christ in terms familiar to those who read the Bible, and to help others become more familiar with the Bible. For those unfamiliar with the Bible, see the blog A Nonchurchgoer’s Guide to Jesus and His Kingdom.

Scripture quotations taken from the NASB, unless otherwise noted. (In the NASB New Testament, quotations of the Old Testament are rendered in all capital letters in order to make them easier to identify.)

Isaiah 49:8 – Christ Has Brought About the Day of Salvation

Isaiah 49:8 Thus says the LORD,
“In a favorable time I have answered You,
And in a day of salvation I have helped You;
And I will keep You and give You for a covenant of the people,
To restore the land, to make them inherit the desolate heritages;

These words Isaiah wrote in prophecy of the days of Christ.  As Paul himself wrote to the church in Corinth, quoting this verse:

2 Corinthians 6:1 And working together with Him, we also urge you not to receive the grace of God in vain–
2 Corinthians 6:2 for He says,
“AT THE ACCEPTABLE TIME I LISTENED TO YOU,
AND ON THE DAY OF SALVATION I HELPED YOU.” Behold, now is “THE ACCEPTABLE TIME,” behold, now is “THE DAY OF SALVATION”–

Thus Paul and the rest of the apostles are continually demonstrating their belief that what we call the Old Testament Scriptures are all about Christ.  (For more on this idea, see The Old Testament (that is, the Hebrew Bible) Is About Jesus Christ.)

The purpose of this blog is to proclaim Jesus Christ in terms familiar to those who read the Bible, and to help others become more familiar with the Bible. For those unfamiliar with the Bible, see the blog A Nonchurchgoer’s Guide to Jesus and His Kingdom.

Scripture quotations taken from the NASB, unless otherwise noted. (In the NASB New Testament, quotations of the Old Testament are rendered in all capital letters in order to make them easier to identify.)

Isaiah 49:6 – Messiah Was a Light of Revelation to the Gentiles

Is 49:6 He says, “It is too small a thing that You should be My Servant
To raise up the tribes of Jacob and to restore the preserved ones of Israel;
I will also make You a light of the nations
So that My salvation may reach to the end of the earth.”

Isaiah is prophesying of Jesus, as is confirmed by Luke’s quotation of this verse in his gospel when he describes Jesus being brought to the temple as an infant.  A devout elderly man named Simeon applied Isaiah’s words to Jesus, saying the child was:

Luke 2:32 A LIGHT OF REVELATION TO THE GENTILES,
And the glory of Your people Israel.”

Paul also applies this verse to Jesus and what He was doing through the church in the New Testament when he said:

Acts 13:47 “For so the Lord has commanded us,
‘I HAVE PLACED YOU AS A LIGHT FOR THE GENTILES,
THAT YOU MAY BRING SALVATION TO THE END OF THE EARTH.'”

Thus Isaiah 49:6 testifies of Messiah, as do all the Scriptures of the prophets.

The purpose of this blog is to proclaim Jesus Christ in terms familiar to those who read the Bible, and to help others become more familiar with the Bible. For those unfamiliar with the Bible, see the blog A Nonchurchgoer’s Guide to Jesus and His Kingdom.

Scripture quotations taken from the NASB, unless otherwise noted. (In the NASB New Testament, quotations of the Old Testament are rendered in all capital letters in order to make them easier to identify.)

See “Strong and Courageous” in Both Testaments

We know that the apostles taught from what we call the Old Testament.  Just how deeply the Old Testament texts permeated their common and individual consciousnesses, however, is not always plain to see.  It’s certainly plain when the apostles quote and Old Testament verses – especially when Bibles like the New American Standard Bible identify those quotations by rendering them in all capital letters.  It’s not so plain, however, when the apostles use language from the Old Testament in ways that don’t show up as direct quotations.  Let me give you an example.

The people of God were exhorted by Moses to “be strong and courageous.”  For example [emphasis added here and throughout]:

Deuteronomy 31:6 “Be strong and courageous, do not be afraid or tremble at them, for the LORD your God is the one who goes with you. He will not fail you or forsake you.”

In the New Testament, we can see the same sort of exhortation to the people of God.  Consider this from Paul:

1 Thessalonians 3:2 and we sent Timothy, our brother and God’s fellow worker in the gospel of Christ, to strengthen and encourage you as to your faith,

The point is not that Paul is “quoting” the verse from Deuteronomy, but that the idea of the people of God needing strength and encouragement as they prepared to enter the kingdom of God had become a part of his thinking.

The purpose of this blog is to proclaim Jesus Christ in terms familiar to those who read the Bible, and to help others become more familiar with the Bible. For those unfamiliar with the Bible, see the blog A Nonchurchgoer’s Guide to Jesus and His Kingdom.

Scripture quotations taken from the NASB, unless otherwise noted. (In the NASB New Testament, quotations of the Old Testament are rendered in all capital letters in order to make them easier to identify.)

Genesis 1:1 and Revelation 22:21

The Bible begins and ends with powerful truths.

Genesis 1:1 In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.

Revelation 22:21 The grace of the Lord Jesus be with all. Amen.

These simple truths, if trusted, can change our lives dramatically.

The opening lines declare the truth of creation; the closing lines, the truth of redemption.

God has not left His creation unattended.  He has redeemed us through the grace of Jesus Christ!

The purpose of this blog is to proclaim Jesus Christ in terms familiar to those who read the Bible, and to help others become more familiar with the Bible. For those unfamiliar with the Bible, see the blog A Nonchurchgoer’s Guide to Jesus and His Kingdom.

Scripture quotations taken from the NASB, unless otherwise noted. (In the NASB New Testament, quotations of the Old Testament are rendered in all capital letters in order to make them easier to identify.)

The Apostles and Prophets Bear Witness to Each Other

The apostles bear witness to the prophets by declaring, “This is that!” where “this” is the life that Jesus lived and “that” is the set of prophecies about that life, written long before it happened.

The prophets bear witness to the apostles by providing documentation for what the apostles saw.  The apostles had no need to produce a set of scriptures to support their message about a resurrected Messiah because such a set was already in place.

Stated another way, the New Testament bears witness to the Old Testament and the Old Testament bears witness to the New Testament.

The apostles and prophets had no opportunity to collude because they were separated by centuries.  Therefore, they are not merely scratching each others’ backs.  Truly, their testimonies of each other are independent…and, therefore, all the more credible.

The purpose of this blog is to proclaim Jesus Christ in terms familiar to those who read the Bible, and to help others become more familiar with the Bible. For those unfamiliar with the Bible, see the blog A Nonchurchgoer’s Guide to Jesus and His Kingdom.

Scripture quotations taken from the NASB, unless otherwise noted. (In the NASB New Testament, quotations of the Old Testament are rendered in all capital letters in order to make them easier to identify.)

Three Things Immediately Become Clear When You Read the New Testament

If you were to sit down and give some extended and concentrated reading time to the New Testament – with fresh eyes free from doctrinal bias – at least three things would become clear from that reading.  All three of those things are contrary to most current Christian teaching.  They are:

  1. The expectation of the Second Coming of Christ in that generation is virtually pulsating from every page.
  2. There is no teaching of the trinity concept to be found.  No “God in three persons” language.
  3. Right living is championed and churchgoing (as it is practiced today) is not taught.

Regarding the first, please read Jesus Christ Has Already Come Again.

Regarding the second, please read There Is No Trinity; There Is Christ.

Regarding the third, please read Seeking the Kingdom of God Instead of Church and How to Be in the One True Church.

The purpose of this blog is to proclaim Jesus Christ in terms familiar to those who read the Bible, and to help others become more familiar with the Bible. For those unfamiliar with the Bible, see the blog A Nonchurchgoer’s Guide to Jesus and His Kingdom.

Scripture quotations taken from the NASB, unless otherwise noted. 

When You Read the Bible, Look for Principles and Not Practices

When you are studying the Bible, search for principles – not practices.

That is, look for the spirit that motivated or animated certain actions – and not the actions themselves.

For example, Jesus drew great strength from the life of his forefather King David.  Yet Jesus did not use a slingshot to advance his cause.

You likewise search for the inspiration that biblical characters give without placing undue emphasis on their outward actions. Consider the 11th chapter of the book of Hebrews.  It describes all sorts of things done by various Hebrew heroes and heroines.  Yet the chapter’s clear point is that faith is the common thread…and it is faith that is to be imitated.

As it says in the final chapter of that epistle:

Hebrews 13:7 Remember those who led you, who spoke the word of God to you; and considering the result of their conduct, imitate their faith.

Note that the exhortation does not say to imitate their conduct, but rather their faith.

The purpose of this blog is to proclaim Jesus Christ in terms familiar to those who read the Bible, and to help others become more familiar with the Bible. For those unfamiliar with the Bible, see the blog A Nonchurchgoer’s Guide to Jesus and His Kingdom.

Scripture quotations taken from the NASB, unless otherwise noted. (In the NASB New Testament, quotations of the Old Testament are rendered in all capital letters in order to make them easier to identify.)

The Scriptures Are What They Are

The Scriptures are what they are.  They are not going to change.

Antiquity has bequeathed them to us.  We cannot go back and change them.  They are what they are.  They say what they say.

Psalm 119:89 says, “Forever, O Lord, Your word is settled in heaven.”  It appears to be settled on earth as well.

That settledness is a source of great strength for us.  Great strength!

The purpose of this blog is to proclaim Jesus Christ in terms familiar to those who read the Bible, and to help others become more familiar with the Bible. For those unfamiliar with the Bible, see the blog A Nonchurchgoer’s Guide to Jesus and His Kingdom.

Scripture quotations taken from the NASB, unless otherwise noted. 

There Were No Scriptures Until There Was a Nation Capable of Safeguarding Them

There were no Scriptures for Israel until there was a nation capable of safeguarding them.

The Law of Moses (Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy) was the foundation of all the scriptures of the prophets that came after.  Coming out of Egypt, Israel could field an army of 600,000 strong.  The strength of the nation insured that the sacred writings could be protected over time.

As for important events that took place before Moses, they were passed on orally and Moses committed them to writing in the book of Genesis.

Israel protected the Scriptures the way that any nation protected its national documents.  This insured that the Scriptures could be preserved and handed down to all subsequent generations.  By New Testament times, copies of the Scriptures were dispersed throughout the world to the same degree that Jews were dispersed throughout the world.  Though the originals were probably all lost by this time, the sheer number and geographic dispersion of the copies insured that what the original documents said would always be known.  Even today, the scholastic field of textual criticism works to keep fine-tuning our understanding of the exact contents of the original manuscripts.

Oh, the wisdom and understanding of God!  He has so worked that from ancient times until now, we have access to a written edition of the most important things He has ever said.

The purpose of this blog is to proclaim Jesus Christ in terms familiar to those who read the Bible, and to help others become more familiar with the Bible. For those unfamiliar with the Bible, see the blog A Nonchurchgoer’s Guide to Jesus and His Kingdom.

Scripture quotations taken from the NASB, unless otherwise noted. (In the NASB New Testament, quotations of the Old Testament are rendered in all capital letters in order to make them easier to identify.)

The Mind of the Scriptures

There is a “mind” behind the Scriptures.  I am not speaking here of the mind of God, although that’s certainly true.  Rather, I am speaking of the mindset common to all the authors of Scripture – a set of ideas about which there was no controversy between these authors.  That mind we might call “the prophetic mind.”

The prophetic mind saw God as the Creator of heaven and earth – of all things visible and invisible.  It also saw this God as altogether good, righteous, holy, and wise.  As such, He was worthy of worship and obedience from every human being.  Further, they saw this God as making promises which endured across generations – promises which could be inherited by those who qualified.  For this reason, the Scriptures themselves became very important because they preserved these promises in inviolable form from one generation to the next.

Each book of the Bible has something new to communicate, but the truths I have mentioned in the paragraph above (as well as others that go along with them) were assumed to be true and did not need to be re-stated explicitly with every single writing.  These truths comprised the common mind of all those who wrote Scripture.  It’s a wondrous thing to see writers as separated from each other by geography and time as they were speaking from that common perspective.

The Scriptures possess a unity  because the word of God is their common thread.  But they also are unified by the common outlook of those who actually penned the words.  Given the diversity of the authors and the writings, this is all quite remarkable and makes the Bible all the more worthy of thoughtful attention from people who are not yet convinced that it is the word of God.

The purpose of this blog is to proclaim Jesus Christ in terms familiar to those who read the Bible, and to help others become more familiar with the Bible. For those unfamiliar with the Bible, see the blog A Nonchurchgoer’s Guide to Jesus and His Kingdom.

Scripture quotations taken from the NASB, unless otherwise noted. (In the NASB New Testament, quotations of the Old Testament are rendered in all capital letters in order to make them easier to identify.)

Proverbs 25:2 – Christ Was Hidden in the Old Testament and Revealed in the New Testament

Proverbs 25:2 It is the glory of God to conceal a matter,
But the glory of kings is to search out a matter.

God hid the glory of Christ in what we call the Old Testament.  Jesus of Nazareth sought it out and taught it to others.  As a result, we have the New Testament.

The purpose of this blog is to proclaim Jesus Christ in terms familiar to those who read the Bible, and to help others become more familiar with the Bible. For those unfamiliar with the Bible, see the blog A Nonchurchgoer’s Guide to Jesus and His Kingdom.

Scripture quotations taken from the NASB, unless otherwise noted. 

The Scriptures Are Our Inheritance from Ages Past

The Scriptures of the prophets and apostles of ancient Israel are our inheritance.  Through those writings, we receive the grace of God – by which we understand that Jesus Christ is Lord…and that He gives His Holy Spirit to those who obey Him.

Therefore, the Scriptures aren’t so much our inheritance as they are that which informs us of our inheritance.

Our devotion, therefore, is not so much to the Scriptures as it is to the Lord about whom they testify.

The purpose of this blog is to proclaim Jesus Christ in terms familiar to those who read the Bible, and to help others become more familiar with the Bible. For those unfamiliar with the Bible, see the blog A Nonchurchgoer’s Guide to Jesus and His Kingdom.

Scripture quotations taken from the NASB, unless otherwise noted. 

The Vocabulary of Righteousness Without the Practice of It?

For some, the Bible gives a vocabulary of righteousness.  That is different, however, from the practice of righteousness.

The vocabulary of righteousness without the practice?  Ugh!

If you are to study the Bible, be sure you seek its testimony of Jesus so that you can serve Him with a whole heart.  As He Himself said:

John 5:39 “You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; it is these that testify about Me;
John 5:40 and you are unwilling to come to Me so that you may have life.

How awful it is for those who study the Bible, only to hear the Lord say:

Matthew 7:23 “And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; DEPART FROM ME, YOU WHO PRACTICE LAWLESSNESS.’

Do not be like them!  Learn the vocabulary of righteousness in order to practice righteousness before Him – not just talk about it.

The purpose of this blog is to proclaim Jesus Christ in terms familiar to those who read the Bible, and to help others become more familiar with the Bible. For those unfamiliar with the Bible, see the blog A Nonchurchgoer’s Guide to Jesus and His Kingdom.

Scripture quotations taken from the NASB, unless otherwise noted. (In the NASB New Testament, quotations of the Old Testament are rendered in all capital letters in order to make them easier to identify.)

God Reveals Himself by His Word

God is invisible.  How are we going to know what He’s thinking unless He tells us?

The fact that the Bible exists testifies to God’s willingness to speak to humanity and reveal to us His thoughts.

If God doesn’t want to be found out, no one is going to find Him out.  That’s why we must pay all the more attention to what He says about Himself.  For this reason Moses wrote:

Deuteronomy 29:29 “The secret things belong to the LORD our God, but the things revealed belong to us and to our sons forever, that we may observe all the words of this law.

The purpose of this blog is to proclaim Jesus Christ in terms familiar to those who read the Bible, and to help others become more familiar with the Bible. For those unfamiliar with the Bible, see the blog A Nonchurchgoer’s Guide to Jesus and His Kingdom.

Scripture quotations taken from the NASB, unless otherwise noted. 

The Bible Testifies That God Speaks, Promises, and Keeps His Promises

The Bible doesn’t just testify that God is, it testifies that He speaks.

And the Bible doesn’t just testify that God speaks, it testifies that He makes promises.

And the Bible doesn’t just testify that God makes promises, it testifies that He keeps the promises that He makes.

Those who look to the Bible merely to see if it claims God is, are missing the grander and more specific claims it is making on behalf of the Creator: that He makes and keeps promises.  Those promises are documented in the Bible.

The purpose of this blog is to proclaim Jesus Christ in terms familiar to those who read the Bible, and to help others become more familiar with the Bible. For those unfamiliar with the Bible, see the blog A Nonchurchgoer’s Guide to Jesus and His Kingdom.

Scripture quotations taken from the NASB, unless otherwise noted. 

The Old Testament Is the Root; The New Testament Is the Fruit

Think of the Old Testament as the roots of the New Testament.  And think of the New Testament as the fruit of the Old Testament.

The Old Testament bears witness to the promises made by God.  The New Testament testifies to those promises being kept by God.

The two testaments are thus organically intertwined.  Each is incomplete without the other.

The purpose of this blog is to proclaim Jesus Christ in terms familiar to those who read the Bible, and to help others become more familiar with the Bible. For those unfamiliar with the Bible, see the blog A Nonchurchgoer’s Guide to Jesus and His Kingdom.

Scripture quotations taken from the NASB, unless otherwise noted. 

Put Your Trust in His Prophets and Apostles and Succeed!

Consider this Old Testament verse:

2 Chronicles 20:20 They rose early in the morning and went out to the wilderness of Tekoa; and when they went out, Jehoshaphat stood and said, “Listen to me, O Judah and inhabitants of Jerusalem, put your trust in the LORD your God and you will be established. Put your trust in His prophets and succeed.”

Of course, in Old Testament times God spoke through the prophets “in many portions and in many ways” (Hebrews 1:1), but in New Testament times spoke through His Son Jesus Christ (Hebrews 1:2) – who sent the apostles to proclaim His message.

Therefore we may update the words of Jehoshaphat and exhort the people of God in this way:

“Put your trust in His prophets and apostles and succeed!”

The purpose of this blog is to proclaim Jesus Christ in terms familiar to those who read the Bible, and to help others become more familiar with the Bible. For those unfamiliar with the Bible, see the blog A Nonchurchgoer’s Guide to Jesus and His Kingdom.

Scripture quotations taken from the NASB, unless otherwise noted. 

Can You Learn Boxing from a Book?

Suppose you spent twenty years reading all the books you could find on the sport of boxing.  Let’s also assume that you took copious notes, and even gave lectures on the subject to others.  Lastly, however, let’s assume that during those twenty years you never laced up a pair of gloves, entered the ring, and fought someone.  Could you really be an expert on boxing?

Thus the Scripture says:

Ps 111:10 …A good understanding have all those who do His commandments…  [emphasis added]

And we might add for further emphasis, “Only those who do His commandments have a good understanding of them!”

Reading the Bible only brings you genuine knowledge to the degree that you are putting into practice what you are learning from your reading.  Only those who have read a book on boxing and actually boxed with someone in a ring can actually have any expertise on the subject.

The purpose of this blog is to proclaim Jesus Christ in terms familiar to those who read the Bible, and to help others become more familiar with the Bible. For those unfamiliar with the Bible, see the blog A Nonchurchgoer’s Guide to Jesus and His Kingdom.

Scripture quotations taken from the NASB, unless otherwise noted. 

The Bible Tells of a God Who Governs His Creation, Speaks, and Reveals Himself

The Bible documents that God governs His creation, speaks, and reveals Himself.  Thus God is interacting with us far more than the world realizes.

God governs His creation.  He rules and judges.  He superintends all that takes place – even when He doesn’t agree with what is taking place.  Whatever happens, our God is in control.

God speaks.  Throughout the Bible, God speaks.  Because He speaks, there is a Bible.  If He did not speak, there would be no Bible.  At least there wouldn’t be a Bible that looks anything like the one we have.

God reveals Himself through His speaking.  He does not desire to be a mystery – at least not to those who want to know Him.

If you want to know God, go to the Bible so that He might reveal Himself to you.  There you will learn of Jesus Christ – God’s great and enduring revelation of Himself to the world.

The purpose of this blog is to proclaim Jesus Christ in terms familiar to those who read the Bible, and to help others become more familiar with the Bible. For those unfamiliar with the Bible, see the blog A Nonchurchgoer’s Guide to Jesus and His Kingdom.

Scripture quotations taken from the NASB, unless otherwise noted. (In the NASB New Testament, quotations of the Old Testament are rendered in all capital letters in order to make them easier to identify.)

The Bible Documents the Fact That God Makes Promises…and Keeps Them

The Bible testifies in Genesis that God made a promise to Abraham that he would have numerous descendants – even though Abraham was aged and childless when God made the promise to him.  Exodus through Deuteronomy chronicles the multitude that his descendants had become by the time of Moses.

Genesis also testified that God promised Abraham that his descendants would inherit the land of Canaan.  The book of Joshua documents the fulfillment of this promise.

The entire Old Testament testifies that God gave many promises regarding Messiah.  The New Testament testifies that these messianic promises were fulfilled in Jesus Christ.

The prophet Joel told of God’s promise to pour out His Spirit upon all flesh (Joel 2:28-32).  The book of Acts testifies of just how abundantly God did this (in Acts 2:1-47 and throughout).

To summarize, the Bible is a record of God’s faithfulness.  It tells of things that God promised that were fulfilled.  So abundant are these testimonies that we may know with certainty that if God has promised something, He will keep that promise.

This is one of the fundamental purposes of the Bible: to make sure that we know God will keep His promises where we are concerned, because He is faithful and impartial and always keeps His promises.

The purpose of this blog is to proclaim Jesus Christ in terms familiar to those who read the Bible, and to help others become more familiar with the Bible. For those unfamiliar with the Bible, see the blog A Nonchurchgoer’s Guide to Jesus and His Kingdom.

Scripture quotations taken from the NASB, unless otherwise noted. (In the NASB New Testament, quotations of the Old Testament are rendered in all capital letters in order to make them easier to identify.)

The Bible Documents the Fact That God Speaks

The Bible provides voluminous evidence that the Creator speaks.

The Bible testifies that God has spoken to many people in many different ways.

God speaks most to those who are most like Him.  That is, God mainly speaks to and through godly people.

Thus when Jesus came into the world, His story was not told by the heralds and historians of the great Roman empire but rather by the fellow Jews who left their occupations as fishermen, tax collectors, and such to follow Him.

To deny that God speaks to human beings means you believe that those who wrote the documents we call the Bible were lying when they said God did speak to them.  I don’t see how anyone who has read these documents in a fair-minded way can justify that conclusion.

The purpose of this blog is to proclaim Jesus Christ in terms familiar to those who read the Bible, and to help others become more familiar with the Bible. For those unfamiliar with the Bible, see the blog A Nonchurchgoer’s Guide to Jesus and His Kingdom.

Scripture quotations taken from the NASB, unless otherwise noted. 

Understanding the Structure of the Bible

In recent weeks of the Scriptural Literacy podcast, I’ve been breaking down the Bible into its constituent parts. That is, the books of the Bible are arranged in a certain order, and a structure can be inferred from that order.  Perceiving that structure will help us understand the different kinds (genre) of writing that comprise the Bible.  Knowing this will help you adapt your reading to the appropriate genre.  Knowing where you are in the chronology of events will help, too.

Remember that the Bible is, generally speaking, organized by chronology and genre.

Let me now review the various breakdowns – that is, the various ways of understanding the order of the Bible’s contents.

To divide the Bible into two parts:

OT: Old Testament (aka “The Prophets”)
NT: New Testament (aka “The Apostles”)

To divide the Bible into five parts:

OT: OT History, Wisdom, Prophets
NT: NT History, Epistles (aka Letters)

To divide the Bible into seven parts:

OT: Torah (aka Pentateuch, Law of Moses), Post-Mosaic History, Wisdom, Prophets
NT: Gospels, Acts, Epistles

To divide the Bible into nine parts:

OT: Torah, Post-Mosaic History, Wisdom, Major Prophets, Minor Prophets
NT: Gospels, Acts, Paul’s Epistles, General Epistles

Each of these is a valid, but different and increasingly more detailed, way of understanding the organization of the Bible’s contents.  The ultimate breakdown is, of course, the 39 books of the Old Testament and the 27 books of the New Testament – a breakdown into sixty-six parts.

Psalm 102:18

Psalm 102:18 This will be written for the generation to come,
That a people yet to be created may praise the LORD.

The Bible was written long ago.  It was not written to be forgotten.  Rather, it was written that it might inspire future generations to remember the works of God and turn their lives to live for Him.

Indeed this prophecy from the psalms is being fulfilled even as you read it and are inspired by it to praise the Lord.

The purpose of this blog is to proclaim Jesus Christ in terms familiar to those who read the Bible, and to help others become more familiar with the Bible. For those unfamiliar with the Bible, see the blog A Nonchurchgoer’s Guide to Jesus and His Kingdom.

Scripture quotations taken from the NASB, unless otherwise noted. 

The Apostles Did Not Have the New Testament

The New Testament was not gathered into a collection of 27 books until after the apostles died. So, even though the apostles wrote the New Testament documents, they did not have the New Testament at their disposal to settle New Testament controversies.

The apostles had to rely on the Old Testament in order to settle New Testament controversies.  Give that some thought, would you?

The purpose of this blog is to proclaim Jesus Christ in terms familiar to those who read the Bible, and to help others become more familiar with the Bible.

For those unfamiliar with the Bible, see the blog A Nonchurchgoer’s Guide to Jesus and His Kingdom. Scripture quotations taken from the NASB, unless otherwise noted. 

The “Will of God” in the Book of Romans

In Romans 2:18, Paul makes reference to the standard Jewish claim of the time (one he himself would have made both before and after his conversion to Christ) that the will of God was revealed through the Scriptures – and that the Scriptures were the province of Israel.

In Romans 12:2, Paul mentions the will of God again, this time demonstrating how Christ had brought forth the meaning of God’s will in a far more profound and enduring way than had ever been apparent through the Scriptures alone.

In Romans 2, Paul lamented about his kinsmen according to the flesh proclaiming but not actually living the will of God.   In Romans 12, Paul exhorts his kinsmen according to the spirit to indeed live out the will of God as it had been revealed through Christ.

The chapters in between 2 and 12 indicate just how the will of God was to be understood.  And it all had to do with Jesus Christ.

The purpose of this blog is to proclaim Jesus Christ in terms familiar to those who read the Bible, and to help others become more familiar with the Bible.

For those unfamiliar with the Bible, see the blog A Nonchurchgoer’s Guide to Jesus and His Kingdom. Scripture quotations taken from the NASB, unless otherwise noted. 

The Book of Romans

What we call “the book of Romans” is a long letter written by the apostle Paul to believers in Rome.  He wrote the letter in anticipation of visiting the recipients there (Romans 1:9-10).

Though Paul had not previously been to Rome, he knew many of the believers living there.  He addresses two dozen of them by name in the last chapter of the letter.  And it’s clear from the way he wrote that many of them were Christian leaders.  Therefore, Paul was addressing in the letter a relatively large group of people that he knew.

The primary subject of the letter is how Jewish Christians and Gentile Christians were to understand each other, their respective claims to salvation, and how they should behave toward each other as well as the surrounding world.

Chapters 1 through 11 are about navigating the Jewish-Christian divide.  Paul takes his time and patiently explains concepts about which he wrote briefly and forcefully in his letter to the Galatians.

Chapters 12 and 13 are about how Christians – whether Jew or Gentile – ought to behave.

Chapters 14 and 15 are about how Jewish and Gentile Christians should tolerate variations among each other’s spiritual practices.

Chapter 16 is comprised of personal comments, mentioning both individuals with him and individuals who would be receiving the letter.

The primary issue of the letter does not concern us today.  The principles, however, remain.  We can continue to learn from them.

The purpose of this blog is to proclaim Jesus Christ in terms familiar to those who read the Bible, and to help others become more familiar with the Bible.

For those unfamiliar with the Bible, see the blog A Nonchurchgoer’s Guide to Jesus and His Kingdom. Scripture quotations taken from the NASB, unless otherwise noted. 

The “Law of Moses” Became the “Law of Christ”

The New American Standard Bible has 23 verses using the expression “law of Moses,” and 2 that use the expression “law of Christ.”  These latter two occurrences refer to the transition that took place during New Testament times, in which Jesus used the Scriptures to proclaim His teaching.

The words had always been there, but Jesus brought the dimension of spirituality to Moses words and thus altered the focus of the sacred texts.  Thus five times in the first chapter of the Sermon on the Mount we hear Jesus, quoting the Old Testament in each case, say, “You have heard…but I say to you…” (Matthew 5:21-22, 27-28, 33-34, 38-39, 43-44).  He was using Moses’ words to make a far more spiritual point.  Thus we also see verses like these in the New Testament:

Mark 7:18 And He *said to them, “Are you so lacking in understanding also? Do you not understand that whatever goes into the man from outside cannot defile him,
Mark 7:19 because it does not go into his heart, but into his stomach, and is eliminated?” (Thus He declared all foods clean.)

1 Corinthians 9:9 For it is written in the Law of Moses, “YOU SHALL NOT MUZZLE THE OX WHILE HE IS THRESHING.” God is not concerned about oxen, is He?
1 Corinthians 9:10 Or is He speaking altogether for our sake? Yes, for our sake it was written, because the plowman ought to plow in hope, and the thresher to thresh in hope of sharing the crops.

By such passages we see that the Law of Moses had a focus on physical aspects of life that would ultimately be translated into a spiritual focus through Jesus Christ.  Thus the Law of Moses became the Law of Christ.  And here then is how that Law of Christ can be summarized:

Romans 13:8 Owe nothing to anyone except to love one another; for he who loves his neighbor has fulfilled the law.
Romans 13:9 For this, “YOU SHALL NOT COMMIT ADULTERY, YOU SHALL NOT MURDER, YOU SHALL NOT STEAL, YOU SHALL NOT COVET,” and if there is any other commandment, it is summed up in this saying, “YOU SHALL LOVE YOUR NEIGHBOR AS YOURSELF.”
Rom 13:10 Love does no wrong to a neighbor; therefore love is the fulfillment of the law.

and

Galatians 5:13 For you were called to freedom, brethren; only do not turn your freedom into an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another.
Galatians 5:14 For the whole Law is fulfilled in one word, in the statement, “YOU SHALL LOVE YOUR NEIGHBOR AS YOURSELF.”

The Law of Moses was intended to regulate the nation of Israel until Messiah came, at which time it was converted to Messiah’s royal law (i.e., “the law of Christ”), which is…to love.  None of the words of Moses changed – just the meaning.  And the new meaning did not violate the initial meaning.  Rather, the meaning was elevated and intensified.  That is, the moral requirement was raised.  For example, under Moses murder was wrong.  Under Christ, even nursing anger in your heart is wrong.

The purpose of this blog is to proclaim Jesus Christ in terms familiar to those who read the Bible, and to help others become more familiar with the Bible.

For those unfamiliar with the Bible, see the blog A Nonchurchgoer’s Guide to Jesus and His Kingdom. Scripture quotations taken from the NASB, unless otherwise noted. (In the NASB New Testament, quotations of the Old Testament are rendered in all capital letters in order to make them easier to identify.)

The Bible Is a Covenant Book for Covenant People

The Scriptures were written by Jews and for Jews.  Of course, this does not mean that there was anything secret about them.  God intended for Israel to be a light to the world, so He placed them at the crossroads of three continents that everyone might know about them.  Nevertheless, the Bible’s documents were for Israel – to instruct it and guide it as it bore witness for God to the rest of the nations.

Many skeptics tacitly complain that the Bible was not written to them.  You can notice this complaint when you realize that such skeptics criticize the Bible for not addressing their skeptical concerns.  The Bible’s authors are far more interested in explaining the ways of God to believers than they are in defending the existence of God.  In fact, the existence of God is taken for granted in these texts.

Beginning with the Law of Moses, the Scriptures were addressed to the descendants of Abraham – a man who had a covenant with God.  Even the New Testment centered on the long-promised descendant of Abraham who fashioned a new covenant that was eternal in nature.

A covenant is an agreement that forms a relationship.  Therefore, the Bible is written for those in relationship with God – or at least those who are giving consideration to entering a relationship with God.  To try to understand it outside this context leads to confusion.

The purpose of this blog is to proclaim Jesus Christ in terms familiar to those who read the Bible, and to help others become more familiar with the Bible. For those unfamiliar with the Bible, see the blog A Nonchurchgoer’s Guide to Jesus and His Kingdom.

Scripture quotations taken from the NASB, unless otherwise noted. (In the NASB New Testament, quotations of the Old Testament are rendered in all capital letters in order to make them easier to identify.)

The Ancient Jews Have Explained God and His Workings

Who among us today understands the Creator?  Those who pay attention to the ancient Jews responsible for the collection of writings we call the Bible – namely, those who pay attention to the writings of Israel’s prophets and apostles.

These writings explain how our Creator worked patiently for thousands of years to bring about a plan of salvation for the entire creation.    These writings – the Old and New Testaments – reveal the love, wisdom, power, and restraint displayed by God in effecting our deliverance from sin and its effects.

Yes, there is value in scientific exploration and in expansion of human knowledge.  However, no such quest will render unnecessary the wisdom granted us by God through the agency of ancient Israel.  On the contrary, we need the wisdom of these ancient Jews now more than ever.

The Bible is no less essential to modern man than it was to ancient man.  Let us give much greater attention to it.

The purpose of this blog is to proclaim Jesus Christ in terms familiar to those who read the Bible, and to help others become more familiar with the Bible. For those unfamiliar with the Bible, see the blog A Nonchurchgoer’s Guide to Jesus and His Kingdom.

Scripture quotations taken from the NASB, unless otherwise noted. 

The Bible Is the Prayer Book of the Godly

If you would be a man or woman of God there is no better prayer book for you than the Bible.

This prayer book has been inspired by the Holy Spirit Himself, who knows better than anyone else how we ought to pray (Romans 8:26-27).

The prayer books of men are weak by comparison.  They are, at best, pale imitations of the real thing.  They are prayer books for the religious.  Reach instead for the Bible, which is the prayer book for the righteous.

Search those places in the Bible – especially the Psalms – which lead you to “the throne of grace that you may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need” (Hebrews 4:16).

The purpose of this blog is to proclaim Jesus Christ in terms familiar to those who read the Bible, and to help others become more familiar with the Bible. For those unfamiliar with the Bible, see the blog A Nonchurchgoer’s Guide to Jesus and His Kingdom.

Scripture quotations taken from the NASB, unless otherwise noted. 

Paul Did Not Take His Stand on Visions He Had Seen

[Emphasis added in the following passage:]

Colossians 2:18 Let no one keep defrauding you of your prize by delighting in self-abasement and the worship of the angels, taking his stand on visions he has seen, inflated without cause by his fleshly mind,
Colossians 2:19 and not holding fast to the head, from whom the entire body, being supplied and held together by the joints and ligaments, grows with a growth which is from God.

These words are taken from a letter written by Paul – the same Paul who had a vision of Christ.  Paul’s vision was recorded three separate times by Luke in the book of Acts (in chapters 9, 22, and 26).  In his letters, however, Paul never makes extended reference to this experience.  On the contrary, he took his stand on the Scriptures and on the traditions passed down (1 Corinthians 15:1-8) from the earliest disciples of Christ.  Yes, Paul had seen the Lord, but he had a more sure word of testimony (2 Peter 1:19) and was not about to lose sight of it.

Therefore, if anyone had an opportunity to “take his stand on visions he had seen,” Paul was one of them.  Yet he did not do this. Neither therefore should we.

The purpose of this blog is to proclaim Jesus Christ in terms familiar to those who read the Bible, and to help others become more familiar with the Bible. For those unfamiliar with the Bible, see the blog A Nonchurchgoer’s Guide to Jesus and His Kingdom.

Scripture quotations taken from the NASB, unless otherwise noted. 

Hosea 8:12 – How Many Times Has He Got to Say It?

Hosea 8:12 Though I wrote for him ten thousand precepts of My law,
They are regarded as a strange thing.

There are over 30,000 verses in the Bible.  Therefore, God was not exaggerating when He spoke these words through the prophet Hosea.

You can understand God’s frustration when He has given us thousands upon thousands of “precepts” and yet we who claim allegiance to the Bible act like it’s a strange thing.  That is, we act like it’s a foreign concept to love our neighbor, turn the other cheek, seek the good of others more than ourselves, and so on.

The purpose of this blog is to proclaim Jesus Christ in terms familiar to those who read the Bible, and to help others become more familiar with the Bible. For those unfamiliar with the Bible, see the blog A Nonchurchgoer’s Guide to Jesus and His Kingdom.

Scripture quotations taken from the NASB, unless otherwise noted. 

The Apostles Have Given Us the Word of the Lord

When Jesus prayed the night before He died, He remembered those of us who would believe in Him through those He sent:

John 17:20 “I do not ask on behalf of these alone, but for those also who believe in Me through their word;

They wouldn’t be bearing witness to Him in their own power alone.  He was going to send them help, for He promised them:

John 14:26 “But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name, He will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all that I said to you.

The apostles would be able to tell us what the Lord did and what the Lord taught them through Holy Spirit who would be aiding their memories.  From that point on, they just had to report what they had seen and heard.  No embellishment or rhetorical flourishes would be necessary:

2 Peter 1:16 For we did not follow cleverly devised tales when we made known to you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but we were eyewitnesses of His majesty.

Even Paul, who was not one of the original twelve, would lean on this same Holy Spirit to bring us the word of God:

1 Thessalonians 2:13 For this reason we also constantly thank God that when you received the word of God which you heard from us, you accepted it not as the word of men, but for what it really is, the word of God, which also performs its work in you who believe.

Thus to believe the apostles is to believe the One who sent them.

The purpose of this blog is to proclaim Jesus Christ in terms familiar to those who read the Bible, and to help others become more familiar with the Bible. For those unfamiliar with the Bible, see the blog A Nonchurchgoer’s Guide to Jesus and His Kingdom.

Scripture quotations taken from the NASB, unless otherwise noted. 

Video Series to Help You Do Word Studies with the Online NASB

I have written about why I love the New American Standard Bible (NASB) and why I love Strong’s Concordance.  Now I have created a 7-part video series to show you how those of you who have an interest can use them online.

  • Intro to the NASB and Lockman Foundation – Part 1 of 7  (2:07)
  • Searching for a Bible Verse in the Online NASB – Part 2 of 7  (2:14)
  • Searching for More Bible Chapters and Verses – Part 3 of 7   (3:18)
  • The Layout of the Lockman Page – Part 4 of 7  (3:14)
  • Searching for a Word in the NASB – Part 5 of 7  (3:57)
  • Limitations of NASB Searching at the Lockman Page – Part 6 of 7  (3:28)
  • How to Study a Word in the NASB Using Strong’s Concordance – Part 7 of 7  (10:54)
  • Total time for the series:  29:10

1 Samuel 14:6 – The Lord Is Not Restrained to Save by Many or by Few

1 Samuel 14:6 Then Jonathan said to the young man who was carrying his armor, “Come and let us cross over to the garrison of these uncircumcised; perhaps the LORD will work for us, for the LORD is not restrained to save by many or by few.

Jonathan knew from the Hebrew Scriptures that the Lord’s ability to save was by no means constrained by the number of human beings who put themselves at His disposal.  In fact, to make precisely that point, God had told Gideon to reduce the number of Israelite warriors (See Judges 7:1-8 for the story of that reduction in force).  And just think about the fact that long before either of these situations, God needed only one elderly couple, past the time of childbearing at that, to produce a nation over half a million men strong by the time of the Exodus from Egypt.  The Hebrew Scriptures thus made abundantly clear that God did not need any certain number of human beings in order to achieve His purposes.

Jonathan knew his Scriptures.  And, because of it, he knew his God.

The purpose of this blog is to proclaim Jesus Christ in terms familiar to those who read the Bible, and to help others become more familiar with the Bible. For those unfamiliar with the Bible, see the blog A Nonchurchgoer’s Guide to Jesus and His Kingdom.

Scripture quotations taken from the NASB, unless otherwise noted.  

Jeremiah 2:8 – Those Who Handle the Law Did Not Know Him

The prophet Jeremiah lamented that:

Jeremiah 2:8 “The priests did not say, ‘Where is the LORD?’
And those who handle the law did not know Me…

That is, the very people charged with presenting the Scriptures to the people of Israel were not aware of, conscious of, or thoughtful towards the Lord who gave those Scriptures.  How were people going to hear the truth if those ministering the word to them were not intimately acquainted with its subject and author?

Jesus recognized this same pattern with the religious leaders in His day:

John 5:39 “You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; it is these that testify about Me;
John 5:40 and you are unwilling to come to Me so that you may have life.

Truly, there is nothing new under the sun.

The purpose of this blog is to proclaim Jesus Christ in terms familiar to those who read the Bible, and to help others become more familiar with the Bible. For those unfamiliar with the Bible, see the blog A Nonchurchgoer’s Guide to Jesus and His Kingdom.

Scripture quotations taken from the NASB, unless otherwise noted.  

The Old Testament Was Not Written by Historians; It Was Written by Prophets

The Old Testament was not written by professional historians from accredited universities.  These documents were written by holy men moved by the Spirit of God.

Thus the apostles could say of the prophets and their writings:

2 Peter 1:20 But know this first of all, that no prophecy of Scripture is a matter of one’s own interpretation,
2 Peter 1:21 for no prophecy was ever made by an act of human will, but men moved by the Holy Spirit spoke from God.

The apostles also said of the prophets and their writings:

1 Peter 1:10 As to this salvation, the prophets who prophesied of the grace that would come to you made careful searches and inquiries,
1 Peter 1:11 seeking to know what person or time the Spirit of Christ within them was indicating as He predicted the sufferings of Christ and the glories to follow.
1 Peter 1:12 It was revealed to them that they were not serving themselves, but you, in these things which now have been announced to you through those who preached the gospel to you by the Holy Spirit sent from heaven–things into which angels long to look.

For this reason, the Old Testament is not some dry or sterile history.  It is written by men who loved God and had a passion for Him.  It doesn’t make their words less reliable than a historian’s – it makes them more reliable.

The purpose of this blog is to proclaim Jesus Christ in terms familiar to those who read the Bible, and to help others become more familiar with the Bible. For those unfamiliar with the Bible, see the blog A Nonchurchgoer’s Guide to Jesus and His Kingdom.

Scripture quotations taken from the NASB, unless otherwise noted.  

The Psalms Are Reflections upon the Law of Moses

The book of Psalms is a part of Scripture – inspired by the Holy Spirit as much as any other portion of Scripture.  However, it is also a result of meditation and reflection upon all Scripture written to that point.  This would include the Law of Moses (Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy), Joshua, Judges, and Ruth (and perhaps Job).

The point to see here is that each book of Scripture is building on the books that came before.  A Bible author did not write in a vacuum. “To him who had, more was given.”

The very first psalm recalls the beginning of the book of Joshua wherein the book of the Law of Moses was commended as worthy of meditation day and night.  (Compare especially Psalm 1:2 with Joshua 1:7-8.)  Consider also Psalm 119 – the longest psalm and chapter of the Bible at 176 verses – as a call to meditation upon the law that God gave through Moses.

Psalm 37:3 instructs “Dwell in the land and cultivate faithfulness.”  What land would that be except the land of Canaan which Joshua led the children of Israel to settle.

Jesus identified for His fellow Jews the greatest commandment in the Law:  Deuteronomy 6:4-5 (Mark 12:28:28-34).  We see the importance of loving God reflected throughout the psalms:  see, for example, 18:1; 31:23; 91:14; 97:10; 116:1; and 145:20.

More broadly, there are many references in the Psalms to God’s activity in the lives of Israel up to that point.  Thus the psalmists meditated upon the Scriptures they had and wrote out the reflections that this sort of meditation produced.  See, for example, Psalm 78 which is an extended reflection upon Israel’s history.  There are also many references to Israel’s ancestors sprinkled throughout the psalms: 20:1; 29:10; 99:6; 105:5-6, 9; 115:10.

As David himself writes:

Psalm 145:4 One generation shall praise Your works to another,
And shall declare Your mighty acts.
Psalm 145:5 On the glorious splendor of Your majesty
And on Your wonderful works, I will meditate.

I have identified here but a few of the many connections between the book of Psalms and the books of Scripture that preceded them.  You will be able to find many more.

The purpose of this blog is to proclaim Jesus Christ in terms familiar to those who read the Bible, and to help others become more familiar with the Bible. For those unfamiliar with the Bible, see the blog A Nonchurchgoer’s Guide to Jesus and His Kingdom.

Scripture quotations taken from the NASB, unless otherwise noted.  

Theophilus – a Lover of God

The books of Luke and Acts are each addressed to an individual named “Theophilus.”  You might recognize the two Greek root words which form it.  “Theos,” which is the word for God; and “philos” which is the word for love.  Thus, Theophilus is a way of saying “a lover of God.”

As the books of Luke and Acts were written to “a lover of God,” so the entirety of the Bible is written to the lovers of God.  The apostle Paul once used the expression “lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God” (2 Timothy 3:4).  And, indeed, lovers of pleasure do not seem to get much out of the Bible, whereas lovers of God seem to thrive on it.

Cultivate your love for God and your appreciation of the Bible will grow.  Jesus identified “love for God” as the greatest commandment for those who followed Him.  It only makes sense that following that command would cause us to understand the Bible better:

Psalm 111:10 …A good understanding have all those who do His commandments…

The purpose of this blog is to proclaim Jesus Christ in terms familiar to those who read the Bible, and to help others become more familiar with the Bible. For those unfamiliar with the Bible, see the blog A Nonchurchgoer’s Guide to Jesus and His Kingdom.

Scripture quotations taken from the NASB, unless otherwise noted.  

The Bible Is a Book for People Who Love God

You don’t have to love God to read the Bible, but you do have to love God to properly appreciate it.

The Bible is the story of Jesus Christ.  You will either be attracted to him or you will be repelled by him. He is a polarizing figure.  That polarization can be seen in the Bible itself for while some of his contemporaries adored Him, others crucified Him.  Thus it cannot be said that “all men spoke well of him” (Luke 6:26).

You can look around the people you know today and see that some consider the words of the Bible to be life itself.  Others would rather read any book than to read the Bible.  Thus you can see that the polarization continues.

There’s no sense forcing the Bible on people who don’t appreciate Jesus.  Jesus and the Bible spring from the same source. We can even say that the only Jesus we can know today is from the Bible, for it’s not as if the Romans or the Greeks were writing his life story or his teachings.  The only people today who say they like Jesus but not the Bible are people who like a Jesus of their own imagination.  That sort of Jesus is not rooted in history or reality.

As Jesus said:

Matthew 7:6 “Do not give what is holy to dogs, and do not throw your pearls before swine, or they will trample them under their feet, and turn and tear you to pieces.

Therefore, don’t expect “the holy Bible” to be appreciated by such people.

Those who love their Creator, however, will discern the Bible as the language of love – a love letter from God to man.  They will be able to discern the Bible’s intentions, even if haltingly.  Any new language takes time to learn.

The purpose of this blog is to proclaim Jesus Christ in terms familiar to those who read the Bible, and to help others become more familiar with the Bible. For those unfamiliar with the Bible, see the blog A Nonchurchgoer’s Guide to Jesus and His Kingdom.

Scripture quotations taken from the NASB, unless otherwise noted.  

Psalm 78 as a Microcosm of the Bible

Psalm 78 is a microcosm of the entire Bible in that it was written in ancient times, chronicling the works of the Lord in the face of the faithlessness of man, that all succeeding generations might learn from this written record that God is good and that there reward in obeying Him.

Note the first eight verses of the psalm which are a preamble to the chronicle that follows.  Note especially verses 4, 5, and 6 which explicitly mention the generations to come and their privilege to learn from the mistakes of their ancestors.

Let us therefore learn from Psalm 78 – and from the entirety of the Bible as well – that we would do well to imitate and reciprocate the faithfulness of God.  Let us imitate the things our fathers did right, and shun the things our fathers did wrong.

The purpose of this blog is to proclaim Jesus Christ in terms familiar to those who read the Bible, and to help others become more familiar with the Bible. For those unfamiliar with the Bible, see the blog A Nonchurchgoer’s Guide to Jesus and His Kingdom.

Scripture quotations taken from the NASB, unless otherwise noted. 

Psalm 78:5 – He Established a Testimony in Jacob

Psalm 78:5 For He established a testimony in Jacob…

We have the Scriptures – that is, the Old and New Testaments.  These Scriptures are the product of ancient Israel – more specifically, the products of its prophets and apostles.  The Lord’s prophets produced the documents we call the Old Testament and His apostles produced the documents we call the New Testament.

These Scriptures testify to the works of God, most especially His great work through Jesus Christ.  This testimony was rendered solemnly and soberly by the prophets and apostles who shed their blood in faithfulness to the word of the Lord.

As Jesus said, “Salvation is from the Jews”  (John 4:22), and He Himself shed His own blood bearing witness to the testimony of these prophets and apostles (John 17:20; 18:37).  It is the history of salvation, and it can never be changed.

This testimony of ancient Israel (Jacob) is firmly established.  It cannot and will not change.  It is an inheritance for all modernity to treasure and enjoy.

The purpose of this blog is to proclaim Jesus Christ in terms familiar to those who read the Bible, and to help others become more familiar with the Bible. For those unfamiliar with the Bible, see the blog A Nonchurchgoer’s Guide to Jesus and His Kingdom.

Scripture quotations taken from the NASB, unless otherwise noted.

“Where Did This Man Get This Wisdom?”

After traveling in ministry for some time, Jesus came to His hometown, where people asked:

Matthew 13:54 …”Where did this man get this wisdom…?

They did not know that He got His wisdom from the same Scriptures to which they pledged allegiance.  It seems, however, that He must have given those Scriptures more heed than they did.

It’s not how much of the Scripture we know that counts; it’s how much we believe and do.

The purpose of this blog is to proclaim Jesus Christ in terms familiar to those who read the Bible, and to help others become more familiar with the Bible. For those unfamiliar with the Bible, see the blog A Nonchurchgoer’s Guide to Jesus and His Kingdom.

Scripture quotations taken from the NASB, unless otherwise noted.  

Read the Bible As It Is – Not As You Wish It To Be

Every time a person says or writes something, that something is a reaction to something he’s hearing, or seeing, or thinking.  No one speaks – or writes – in a vacuum.

Therefore, when you read the Bible, always ask yourself what might have provoked what you’re reading.  Often the text will tell you.  Even when you can’t say for sure, your having thought about this question will help you in understanding what you are reading.

Why do I take the time to say something so obvious?  Well, it must not be that obvious because I see lots of people read and quote from the Bible either without a context or with a context foreign to the passage’s intent.  For example, I see modern-day skeptics dismiss the New Testament as sufficient evidence of the resurrection as if they think that the New Testament was written for the 21st-century, put in a time capsule, and intended to answer every question a CNN reporter might have.

The New Testament is a mountain of evidence for the resurrection of Christ – but on its own terms.  We can’t treat an ancient document as if it’s an FAQ for people with only five minutes to give the subject matter before they google the next pop culture meme.

Give the Bible the appropriate attention – considering the varied audiences and settings for its varied writings and writers – and it will yield its fruit to you in due time.

The purpose of this blog is to proclaim Jesus Christ in terms familiar to those who read the Bible, and to help others become more familiar with the Bible. For those unfamiliar with the Bible, see the blog A Nonchurchgoer’s Guide to Jesus and His Kingdom.

 

“That’s the Oldest Trick in the Book”

You’ve heard the expression:

“That’s the oldest trick in the book.”

Sometimes it comes out:

“That’s the oldest one in the book.”

In either case, the point is that some ruse is being pulled but that it is not novel.  In fact, whatever it is, it is the most well known of such ruses.

Bear that in mind as we remember that Paul said:

2 Corinthians 2:11 so that no advantage would be taken of us by Satan, for we are not ignorant of his schemes.

So, if we are “not ignorant of his schemes,” what is “the oldest one in the book?”

Given that our “book” is the Bible, the oldest trick of Satan would have to be:

Genesis 3:1 …Indeed, has God said…?

Jesus confirmed that this is always Satan’s response to the word of God when He began explaining the parable of the sower and the seed by saying:

Mark 4:15 “These are the ones who are beside the road where the word is sown; and when they hear, immediately Satan comes and takes away the word which has been sown in them.

Therefore, whenever you find yourself beginning to doubt something God has said, remind yourself:

“That’s the oldest trick in the book!”

Don’t be ignorant of Satan’s schemes.  Especially his most well-known one!

Cling to the word of God.  That is fighting the good fight of faith (1 Timothy 1:18-19; 6:12; 2 Timothy 4:7).

And remember also that we have a defense against this scheme that Eve did not.  (For more on the temptation of Eve, see here.)

The purpose of this blog is to proclaim Jesus Christ in terms familiar to those who read the Bible, and to help others become more familiar with the Bible. For those unfamiliar with the Bible, see the blog A Nonchurchgoer’s Guide to Jesus and His Kingdom.

Scripture quotations taken from the NASB, unless otherwise noted.  

The Language of Prophecy Is Like the Language of Scripture

The language of prophecy is like the language of Scripture because they have a common author:  The Holy Spirit.  See 2 Peter 1:19-21 and 2 Timothy 3:16-17.

Prophecy is speaking from the dimension of existence we cannot see, telling us how that dimension is affecting the dimension that we can see.

Prophecy is the voice of God.  So is Scripture.  No wonder they speak the same language.

The purpose of this blog is to proclaim Jesus Christ in terms familiar to those who read the Bible, and to help others become more familiar with the Bible. For those unfamiliar with the Bible, see the blog A Nonchurchgoer’s Guide to Jesus and His Kingdom.

Scripture quotations taken from the NASB, unless otherwise noted.  

Prophecy Is a Language All Its Own

The first two chapters of Luke gives the accounts of the births of John the Baptist and Jesus.  These accounts make known the activity of the Holy Spirit in the lives of Elizabeth, Zacharias, Simeon, and others.  The utterances of these people when moved by the Holy Spirit are not the normal sorts of things we here people say when children are born. Read these chapters yourself and see that these folks are speaking the language of the Spirit, the language of prophecy.

These everyday folks sound like Isaiah or Jeremiah or Joel…because they are being given utterance by the same Holy Spirit who gave utterance to those Old Testament prophets.

Prophecy has its own approach to life.  You could say of prophecy what the officers sent by the chief priests and Pharisees said of Jesus after encountering Him:  “Never man spake like this…” (King James Version).  Jesus spoke by the Holy Spirit.

The Holy Spirit is the common voice behind all prophecy.  We should not be surprised therefore that prophecy has a certain identifiable characteristic to it, no matter who is speaking it.

Prophecy is indeed a language all is own.

See also:

The purpose of this blog is to proclaim Jesus Christ in terms familiar to those who read the Bible, and to help others become more familiar with the Bible. For those unfamiliar with the Bible, see the blog A Nonchurchgoer’s Guide to Jesus and His Kingdom.

Scripture quotations taken from the NASB, unless otherwise noted.  

How Could They Say “This Crowd Doesn’t Know the Law?”

How ironic that the Pharisees who said this…

John 7:47 The Pharisees then answered them, “You have not also been led astray, have you?
John 7:48 “No one of the rulers or Pharisees has believed in Him, has he?
John 7:49 “But this crowd which does not know the Law is accursed.”

…immediately thereafter demonstrated their own scriptural ignorance.

The Pharisees were missing the messianic connection with Galilee made by the prophet Isaiah in Isaiah 9:1-2.  At the very least, they could have recognized the need to be more cautious in their judgment of this Galilean.  As it was, they condemned the crowd for being scriptural ignorant while they  themselves had far more access to the Scriptures than the crowd, and yet were ignorant themselves.  Jesus rightly called them hypocrites.

We should take careful heed to this.  Just because we read the Bible does not mean we are more aware of the ways and doings of God than people who don’t read the Bible.  Reading the Bible only commends us to God if we do what it says.

Knowing a little of the Bible and doing it is infinitely better than knowing a lot of the Bible and not doing it.

The purpose of this blog is to proclaim Jesus Christ in terms familiar to those who read the Bible, and to help others become more familiar with the Bible. For those unfamiliar with the Bible, see the blog A Nonchurchgoer’s Guide to Jesus and His Kingdom.

Scripture quotations taken from the NASB, unless otherwise noted. 

Just Because You Enjoy Reading the Bible Doesn’t Mean You Are Doing What It says

Herod “enjoyed listening” to John the Baptist:

Mark 6:20 for Herod was afraid of John, knowing that he was a righteous and holy man, and he kept him safe. And when he heard him, he was very perplexed; but he used to enjoy listening to him.

The crowds who shouted “Crucify him!” of Jesus were enjoying listening to Him just a few days before:

Mark 12:37 …And the large crowd enjoyed listening to Him.

Therefore, beware of reading the Bible without acting on what it says.  In this regard, consider also Ezekiel 33:30-33.  Or Luke 6:46-49.

There is a blessing in hearing the word of God, but it becomes a curse if we don’t do the word we’ve heard.

The purpose of this blog is to proclaim Jesus Christ in terms familiar to those who  read the Bible, and to help others become more familiar with the Bible. For those unfamiliar with the Bible, see the blog A Nonchurchgoer’s Guide to Jesus and His Kingdom.

Scripture quotations taken from the NASB, unless otherwise noted.  

God’s Promises Were Renewals and Expansions of His Prior Promises

The New Testament made clear that all the promises of God were directed to Christ.  Thus every promise God made was a renewal of His prior promises and an expansion upon them.

For example, God had promised that Abraham’s seed would be a blessing to all the nations (Genesis 22:18).  When it comes to the time of David, since he is a descendant of Abraham, David is already heir to God’s promises to Abraham.  Then God further promises David that his descendant will have a kingdom that endures forever.  Thus David’s heir would inherit the promises to David on top of the promises he would already have inherited as a descendant of Abraham.

More specifically, the promise to Abraham was that the heir would be a blessing to all the nations.  The promise to David gave more insight as to how that blessing would be bestowed and received:  that is, through kingship.

And we have only considered here a sliver of the promises that we find in the Old Testament.  These promises start with the one to defeat the serpent through “the seed of the woman” (Genesis 3:15) who, we later learned, would also be the seed of Abraham and of David, and continue through to the promise of a “sun of righteousness” through the prophet Malachi (Malachi 4:2) – with all sorts of different promises through and to different individuals in between.

Thus we should see the promises of God to Christ (that is, the messiah) as an ever-expanding tapestry of promises.  That these varied promises (including aspects of both suffering and glory) came together into an integrated mosaic of one great figure was a mystery until New Testament times and the advent of Jesus of Nazareth with his crucifixion and resurrection.  That’s the first time it was revealed how all the various promises fit together to describe one glorious individual (Romans 16:25-27).

Therefore, we should not consider any promise of God in isolation.  They are interrelated…and they all have to do with Christ our Lord.  Through Him, these promises come to us.

The purpose of this blog is to proclaim Jesus Christ in terms familiar to those who  read the Bible, and to help others become more familiar with the Bible. For those unfamiliar with the Bible, see the blog A Nonchurchgoer’s Guide to Jesus and His Kingdom.

 

Recognizing the Promises of God

Most often, a promise of God is recognized when a sentence attributed to Him begins with “I will…”  For example, in making the promise to David about a glorious future descendant (the Messiah), God says to David through Nathan:

2 Samuel 7:14 “I will be a father to him and he will be a son to Me…

God’s promises, however, take other forms, too.  For example:

Psalm 118:22 The stone which the builders rejected
Has become the chief corner stone.
Psalm 118:23 This is the LORD’S doing;
It is marvelous in our eyes.

Verse 22 promises the resurrection of Christ once the “builders” have “rejected” Him (an allusion to the crucifixion).  Verse 23 makes clear that the resurrection would be “the Lord’s doing.”  Thus the resurrection was a promise that only God could fulfill, and therefore only God could legitimately make.

Yet another form of promise refers to the same messianic resurrection promise:

Acts 13:41 ‘BEHOLD, YOU SCOFFERS, AND MARVEL, AND PERISH;
FOR I AM ACCOMPLISHING A WORK IN YOUR DAYS,
A WORK WHICH YOU WILL NEVER BELIEVE, THOUGH SOMEONE SHOULD DESCRIBE IT TO YOU.'”

This is a quotation of Habakkuk 1:5.  Note carefully the word of God coming through the prophet.  The words are:  “I am accomplishing a work…”  Again, only God could accomplishing the resurrection of Messiah.

Thus the promises of God take many forms (most often, “I will”), but they all find their ultimate meaning in Christ.

The purpose of this blog is to proclaim Jesus Christ in terms familiar to those who read the Bible, and to help others become more familiar with the Bible. For those unfamiliar with the Bible, see the blog A Nonchurchgoer’s Guide to Jesus and His Kingdom.

Scripture quotations taken from the NASB, unless otherwise noted. (In the NASB, New Testament quotations of Old Testament verses are rendered in all capital letters.)

1 John 3:23 – The Bible Summarized in One Sentence

Can the Bible be summarized in one sentence?  Yes.

1 John 3:23 This is His commandment, that we believe in the name of His Son Jesus Christ, and love one another, just as He commanded us.

Here’s how to gradually accumulate context for this profound sentence.

The purpose of this blog is to proclaim Jesus Christ in terms familiar to those who read the Bible, and to help others become more familiar with the Bible. For those unfamiliar with the Bible, see the blog A Nonchurchgoer’s Guide to Jesus and His Kingdom.

Scripture quotations taken from the NASB, unless otherwise noted. (In the NASB, New Testament quotations of Old Testament verses are rendered in all capital letters.)

The Language of Scripture

Scripture has a language all its own.  I’m not talking about Greek and Hebrew.  I’m talking about the words, concepts, and images that it employs.

Consider as a notable example the book of Revelation.  There’s hardly a word or phrase in it that can’t be found somewhere else in the Bible.  In dramatic fashion, the prophets are always borrowing and building on one another’s concepts.  A literal English Bible which highlights Old Testament quotations and has a good cross reference system in the margins (like the New American Standard Bible) will help you identify prior occurrences of words, concepts, and images you are reading.

When you meditate on Scripture, you become steeped in its language.  The Jewish prophets and apostles who wrote the documents we call the Bible meditated extensively on what was written before them.  As a result, important ideas continue to be reinforced throughout the Scriptures.

If you want to understand the Bible, learn its language.

See also:

The purpose of this blog is to proclaim Jesus Christ in terms familiar to those who  read the Bible, and to help others become more familiar with the Bible. For those unfamiliar with the Bible, see the blog A Nonchurchgoer’s Guide to Jesus and His Kingdom.

 

Genesis Contains Seeds that Grew into the Law of Moses

So much that we read in the Law of Moses (articulated in Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy) can be found in seed-form in Genesis.  For example:

Clean and unclean animals in Genesis 7:2

Circumcision in Genesis 17:10

Covenant in Genesis 6:18

Exodus in Genesis 12:1-3

Feast of Booths in Genesis 33:17

Feast of Unleavened Bread in Genesis 19:3

Offerings to the Lord in Genesis 4:3-4

Plagues on Pharaoh and his house in Genesis 12:17

Priests in Genesis 14:18

Sabbath in Genesis 2:2

Sacrificial lamb in Genesis 22:8

Tithing in Genesis 14:20

There are more.  How many can you find?

The Bible develops themes over time.  Important ideas are repeated and expanded upon.  Let us be open to finding them.

The purpose of this blog is to proclaim Jesus Christ in terms familiar to those who read the Bible, and to help others become more familiar with the Bible. For those unfamiliar with the Bible, see the blog A Nonchurchgoer’s Guide to Jesus and His Kingdom.

Scripture quotations taken from the NASB, unless otherwise noted. (In the NASB New Testament, quotations of the Old Testament are rendered in all capital letters in order to make them easier to identify.)

The Apostles Tell Us How to Understand the Old Testament…But Only Indirectly

The New Testament explains how we are to understand the Old Testament.  That is, the apostles interpret the prophets.

We know that the defining principle of the Old Testament is that it testifies to Jesus Christ (John 5:39; for more explanation, see The Old Testament (that is, the Hebrew Bible) Is About Jesus Christ).  The apostles help us to work out that principle with their writings (i.e. the New Testament).

Bear in mind, however, that the apostles did not sit down to pen a letter to the ages in which they would explain to all succeeding generations what they had learned from the Lord.  No.  In fact, the New Testament documents seem all to be written for very specific purposes and for purposes that applied to specific groups living in that generation.

According to Bible scholars, the earliest New Testament documents we have were the seven letters of Paul (Romans, 1 & 2 Corinthians, Galatians, Philippians, 1 Thessalonians, and Philemon) that were written roughly 50-60 A.D.  Since Bible scholars peg the death of Jesus at roughly 30-33 A.D., this means there was at least fifteen years of development in thinking about Christ before the first New Testament document was written.  And when you read those letters you get a sense of how very much was already commonly understood by believers at that time.

There are so many things they mentioned that we would like to understand better.  I’m talking about things not explained in the letters because the writers knew that the recipients already understood them and therefore only made fleeting references.  Sometimes these were very important issues.  You know that when you are writing letters to a family member from whom you are temporarily separated, you write mainly about issues that are relevant to the time.  You do not write about settled issues, important issues that are well understood by both of you and don’t need repeating.  “Remember what a great time we had at Nantucket” may bring forth a host of important memories for writer and recipient alike – but who living centuries later would have a clue as to what was meant?

Yet we can gain understanding of the Old Testament documents through the New Testament documents.  We just have to study them carefully.  And…we also have to obey the instruction of the Lord in them because it is only by the light of the Holy Spirit that the truths of Scripture will come forth (2 Peter 1:19-21).  The Holy Spirit is not given where Jesus is not obeyed (Acts 5:32).

Thus it is not the apostles writing to us directly that brings the fullness of understanding we need of Jesus Christ.  Rather it is the apostles writing indirectly and the Holy Spirit’s illumination that helps us understand what the apostles understood (2 Timothy 2:7).

The purpose of this blog is to proclaim Jesus Christ in terms familiar to those who read the Bible, and to help others become more familiar with the Bible. For those unfamiliar with the Bible, see the blog A Nonchurchgoer’s Guide to Jesus and His Kingdom.

Scripture quotations taken from the NASB, unless otherwise noted. (In the NASB, New Testament quotations of Old Testament verses are rendered in all capital letters.)

The Purpose of the New Testament Is to Explain – Not Replace – the Old Testament

In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus said:

Matthew 5:17 “Do not think that I came to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I did not come to abolish but to fulfill.

Why then do people act as if the Old Testament is to be avoided in favor of the New Testament?

Only through the New Testament can we properly understand the Old Testament…but understand the Old Testament we must!

The purpose of this blog is to proclaim Jesus Christ in terms familiar to those who read the Bible, and to help others become more familiar with the Bible. For those unfamiliar with the Bible, see the blog A Nonchurchgoer’s Guide to Jesus and His Kingdom.

Scripture quotations taken from the NASB, unless otherwise noted. 

How the Old Testament Refers to Itself

We are using to see how dependent the New Testament is on the Old Testament.  In fact, without the Old Testament, the New Testament would make no sense.  Thus the Old Testament lays a foundation that the New Testament builds upon.

We should also be aware that the Old Testament itself – being written and compiled over a 1,500-year period – is built in layers, with each successive layer referring to the ones prior.  The first layer was the Law of Moses (Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy).  As books are added, we can see them making reference to things written in the books that were already there.

Because the order in which the Old Testament books appear is not strictly chronological, the linkages from one book to another are not always “from right to left.”  For example, you can see below that the book of Ezra refers to the books of Haggai and Zechariah.  However, in most English Bibles, the book of Ezra precedes the other two rather than following them.  Therefore, the intertextual links don’t always appear to be sequential.  Understanding the Bible’s pervasive intertextuality, however, allows the Bible to become a commentary on itself – reducing reliance upon others to explain its contents.

Below are some examples of an Old Testament book referencing something from a previous Old Testament book.  It only scratches the surface of the Old Testament’s self-referential nature.  Perhaps, though, it will be enough to give you a feel for how interwoven are the Bible’s ideas.

2 Samuel 11:21 ‘Who struck down Abimelech the son of Jerubbesheth? Did not a woman throw an upper millstone on him from the wall so that he died at Thebez? Why did you go so near the wall?’–then you shall say, ‘Your servant Uriah the Hittite is dead also.'”

In this verse, Joab is recalling for David an incident from Judges 9:50-54.

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2 Kings 14:6 But the sons of the slayers he did not put to death, according to what is written in the book of the Law of Moses, as the LORD commanded, saying, “The fathers shall not be put to death for the sons, nor the sons be put to death for the fathers; but each shall be put to death for his own sin.”

This verse is speaking specifically of Deuteronomy 24:16, which is, of course, part of “the Law of Moses.”

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2 Kings 17:7 Now this came about because the sons of Israel had sinned against the LORD their God, who had brought them up from the land of Egypt from under the hand of Pharaoh, king of Egypt, and they had feared other gods
2 Kings 17:8 and walked in the customs of the nations whom the LORD had driven out before the sons of Israel, and in the customs of the kings of Israel which they had introduced.
2 Kings 17:9 The sons of Israel did things secretly which were not right against the LORD their God. Moreover, they built for themselves high places in all their towns, from watchtower to fortified city.
2 Kings 17:10 They set for themselves sacred pillars and Asherim on every high hill and under every green tree,
2 Kings 17:11 and there they burned incense on all the high places as the nations did which the LORD had carried away to exile before them; and they did evil things provoking the LORD.
2 Kings 17:12 They served idols, concerning which the LORD had said to them, “You shall not do this thing.”
2 Kings 17:13 Yet the LORD warned Israel and Judah through all His prophets and every seer, saying, “Turn from your evil ways and keep My commandments, My statutes according to all the law which I commanded your fathers, and which I sent to you through My servants the prophets.”
2 Kings 17:14 However, they did not listen, but stiffened their neck like their fathers, who did not believe in the LORD their God.
2 Kings 17:15 They rejected His statutes and His covenant which He made with their fathers and His warnings with which He warned them. And they followed vanity and became vain, and went after the nations which surrounded them, concerning which the LORD had commanded them not to do like them.
2 Kings 17:16 They forsook all the commandments of the LORD their God and made for themselves molten images, even two calves, and made an Asherah and worshiped all the host of heaven and served Baal.
2 Kings 17:17 Then they made their sons and their daughters pass through the fire, and practiced divination and enchantments, and sold themselves to do evil in the sight of the LORD, provoking Him.
2 Kings 17:18 So the LORD was very angry with Israel and removed them from His sight; none was left except the tribe of Judah.
2 Kings 17:19 Also Judah did not keep the commandments of the LORD their God, but walked in the customs which Israel had introduced.
2 Kings 17:20 The LORD rejected all the descendants of Israel and afflicted them and gave them into the hand of plunderers, until He had cast them out of His sight.
2 Kings 17:21 When He had torn Israel from the house of David, they made Jeroboam the son of Nebat king. Then Jeroboam drove Israel away from following the LORD and made them commit a great sin.
2 Kings 17:22 The sons of Israel walked in all the sins of Jeroboam which he did; they did not depart from them
2 Kings 17:23 until the LORD removed Israel from His sight, as He spoke through all His servants the prophets. So Israel was carried away into exile from their own land to Assyria until this day.

This passage explains why the Northern Kingdom (called “the Kingdom of Israel” in contrast to the Southern Kingdom which was called “the Kingdom of Judah”) was captured by the Assyrians and taken into exile.  The simple reason?  Failure to heed Moses and the Prophets.  This passage characterizes and encapsulates Israel’s history from the time in Egypt to this point in the book of 2 Kings.

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2 Kings 18:4 He removed the high places and broke down the sacred pillars and cut down the Asherah. He also broke in pieces the bronze serpent that Moses had made, for until those days the sons of Israel burned incense to it; and it was called Nehushtan.

The “He” to which this veres refers is King Hezekiah.  The incident with Moses and the bronze serpent is found in Numbers 21:8,9.  (The incident is also mentioned by Jesus in John 3:14.)

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2 Kings 18:5 He trusted in the LORD, the God of Israel; so that after him there was none like him among all the kings of Judah, nor among those who were before him.
2 Kings 18:6 For he clung to the LORD; he did not depart from following Him, but kept His commandments, which the LORD had commanded Moses.

King Hezekiah is the “he” referenced here.  When the king adhered to the Law of Moses and the warnings of the prophets, the nation fared well.

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2 Kings 18:11 Then the king of Assyria carried Israel away into exile to Assyria, and put them in Halah and on the Habor, the river of Gozan, and in the cities of the Medes,
2 Kings 18:12 because they did not obey the voice of the LORD their God, but transgressed His covenant, even all that Moses the servant of the LORD commanded; they would neither listen nor do it.

The “he” referenced here is King Hoshea of the Northern Kingdom.  Because he was a wicked king, like those who had preceded him, the people fared poorly.  The nation rose and fell based on its faithfulness, or lack thereof, to the Scriptures first handed down by Moses.

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2 Kings 21:8 “And I will not make the feet of Israel wander anymore from the land which I gave their fathers, if only they will observe to do according to all that I have commanded them, and according to all the law that My servant Moses commanded them.”

This verse is making a general reference to the Law of Moses.  There are so many of them in the Scriptures that only a minuscule fraction of them can be shown in this post.

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2 Kings 23:21 Then the king commanded all the people saying, “Celebrate the Passover to the LORD your God as it is written in this book of the covenant.”
2 Kings 23:22 Surely such a Passover had not been celebrated from the days of the judges who judged Israel, nor in all the days of the kings of Israel and of the kings of Judah.
2 Kings 23:23 But in the eighteenth year of King Josiah, this Passover was observed to the LORD in Jerusalem.

Verse 22 makes reference first to the time covered by the books of Judges and Ruth, and then by the time covered by the books of Samuel and Kings.  Of course, the reference to the original Passover is a reference to Exodus 12.

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Ezra 5:1 When the prophets, Haggai the prophet and Zechariah the son of Iddo, prophesied to the Jews who were in Judah and Jerusalem in the name of the God of Israel, who was over them,
Ezra 5:2 then Zerubbabel the son of Shealtiel and Jeshua the son of Jozadak arose and began to rebuild the house of God which is in Jerusalem; and the prophets of God were with them supporting them.

Haggai and Zechariah are two prophets, responsible for books that bear their names in the Old Testament.  See also Ezra 6:14, where a similar reference is made.

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Malachi 4:4 “Remember the law of Moses My servant, even the statutes and ordinances which I commanded him in Horeb for all Israel.

The prophet Malachi is here calling the people of Israel to be faithful to the Law given to them through Moses.  Of course, this was a common appeal by the prophets.

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The purpose of this blog is to proclaim Jesus Christ in terms familiar to those who read the Bible, and to help others become more familiar with the Bible. For those unfamiliar with the Bible, see the blog A Nonchurchgoer’s Guide to Jesus and His Kingdom.

Scripture quotations taken from the NASB, unless otherwise noted. (In the NASB New Testament, quotations of the Old Testament are rendered in all capital letters in order to make them easier to identify.)

Scriptures on Dates, Years, and Times

The prophets and apostles did not write with reference to the calendar we use.  Yet there are occasional verses which make refence to a lapse of years between one event and another that help us to keep track of time periods.  Here are some of them:

Genesis 15:13 God said to Abram, “Know for certain that your descendants will be strangers in a land that is not theirs, where they will be enslaved and oppressed four hundred years.
Genesis 15:14 “But I will also judge the nation whom they will serve, and afterward they will come out with many possessions.

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Exodus 12:40 Now the time that the sons of Israel lived in Egypt was four hundred and thirty years.
Exodus 12:41 And at the end of four hundred and thirty years, to the very day, all the hosts of the LORD went out from the land of Egypt.

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Numbers 32:13 “So the LORD’S anger burned against Israel, and He made them wander in the wilderness forty years, until the entire generation of those who had done evil in the sight of the LORD was destroyed.

For other references to these 40 years, see Deuteronomy 2:7; 8:2, 4.

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Deuteronomy 31:1 So Moses went and spoke these words to all Israel.
Deuteronmy 31:2 And he said to them, “I am a hundred and twenty years old today; I am no longer able to come and go, and the LORD has said to me, ‘You shall not cross this Jordan.’

For other references to these 120 years, see Deuteronomy 34:7.

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1 Kings 6:1 Now it came about in the four hundred and eightieth year after the sons of Israel came out of the land of Egypt, in the fourth year of Solomon’s reign over Israel, in the month of Ziv which is the second month, that he began to build the house of the LORD.

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2 Chronicles 36:20 Those who had escaped from the sword he carried away to Babylon; and they were servants to him and to his sons until the rule of the kingdom of Persia,
2 Chronicles 36:21 to fulfill the word of the LORD by the mouth of Jeremiah, until the land had enjoyed its sabbaths. All the days of its desolation it kept sabbath until seventy years were complete.

As for the prophesy by Jeremiah of a seventy year exile for Judah, see references from his book below.

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Ezra 1:1 Now in the first year of Cyrus king of Persia, in order to fulfill the word of the LORD by the mouth of Jeremiah, the LORD stirred up the spirit of Cyrus king of Persia, so that he sent a proclamation throughout all his kingdom, and also put it in writing, saying:

Though without explicit reference to the seventy years that Jeremiah gave, this is a reference to Jeremiah 25:1-12 and 29:10-11 (see below).

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Jeremiah 25:10 ‘Moreover, I will take from them the voice of joy and the voice of gladness, the voice of the bridegroom and the voice of the bride, the sound of the millstones and the light of the lamp.
Jeremiah 25:11 ‘This whole land will be a desolation and a horror, and these nations will serve the king of Babylon seventy years.
Jeremiah 25:12 ‘Then it will be when seventy years are completed I will punish the king of Babylon and that nation,’ declares the LORD, ‘for their iniquity, and the land of the Chaldeans; and I will make it an everlasting desolation.

Jeremiah 29:10 “For thus says the LORD, ‘When seventy years have been completed for Babylon, I will visit you and fulfill My good word to you, to bring you back to this place.
Jeremiah 29:11 ‘For I know the plans that I have for you,’ declares the LORD, ‘plans for welfare and not for calamity to give you a future and a hope.

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Daniel 9:1 In the first year of Darius the son of Ahasuerus, of Median descent, who was made king over the kingdom of the Chaldeans–
Daniel 9:2 in the first year of his reign, I, Daniel, observed in the books the number of the years which was revealed as the word of the LORD to Jeremiah the prophet for the completion of the desolations of Jerusalem, namely, seventy years.

Daniel was one of the exiles, so he was seeking to understand what would happen at the end of the seventy year exile that Jeremiah had prophesied.

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Zechariah 1:12 Then the angel of the LORD said, “O LORD of hosts, how long will You have no compassion for Jerusalem and the cities of Judah, with which You have been indignant these seventy years?”

Zechariah 7:5 “Say to all the people of the land and to the priests, ‘When you fasted and mourned in the fifth and seventh months these seventy years, was it actually for Me that you fasted?

Zechariah is looking back on the sevety years of exile that Jeremiah had prophesied (above).

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Acts 7:2 And he said, “Hear me, brethren and fathers! The God of glory appeared to our father Abraham when he was in Mesopotamia, before he lived in Haran,
Acts 7:3 and said to him, ‘LEAVE YOUR COUNTRY AND YOUR RELATIVES, AND COME INTO THE LAND THAT I WILL SHOW YOU.’
Acts 7:4 “Then he left the land of the Chaldeans and settled in Haran. From there, after his father died, God had him move to this country in which you are now living.
Acts 7:5 “But He gave him no inheritance in it, not even a foot of ground, and yet, even when he had no child, He promised that HE WOULD GIVE IT TO HIM AS A POSSESSION, AND TO HIS DESCENDANTS AFTER HIM.
Acts 7:6 “But God spoke to this effect, that his DESCENDANTS WOULD BE ALIENS IN A FOREIGN LAND, AND THAT THEY WOULD BE ENSLAVED AND MISTREATED FOR FOUR HUNDRED YEARS.
Acts 7:7 “‘AND WHATEVER NATION TO WHICH THEY WILL BE IN BONDAGE I MYSELF WILL JUDGE,’ said God, ‘AND AFTER THAT THEY WILL COME OUT AND SERVE ME IN THIS PLACE.’

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Acts 13:17 “The God of this people Israel chose our fathers and made the people great during their stay in the land of Egypt, and with an uplifted arm He led them out from it.
Acts 13:18 “For a period of about forty years He put up with them in the wilderness.
Acts 13:19 “When He had destroyed seven nations in the land of Canaan, He distributed their land as an inheritance–all of which took about four hundred and fifty years.
Acts 13:20 “After these things He gave them judges until Samuel the prophet.
Acts 13:21 “Then they asked for a king, and God gave them Saul the son of Kish, a man of the tribe of Benjamin, for forty years.
Acts 13:22 “After He had removed him, He raised up David to be their king, concerning whom He also testified and said, ‘I HAVE FOUND DAVID the son of Jesse, A MAN AFTER MY HEART, who will do all My will.’

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Galatians 3:16 Now the promises were spoken to Abraham and to his seed. He does not say, “And to seeds,” as referring to many, but rather to one, “And to your seed,” that is, Christ.
Galatians 3:17 What I am saying is this: the Law, which came four hundred and thirty years later, does not invalidate a covenant previously ratified by God, so as to nullify the promise.

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The purpose of this blog is to proclaim Jesus Christ in terms familiar to those who read the Bible, and to help others become more familiar with the Bible. For those unfamiliar with the Bible, see the blog A Nonchurchgoer’s Guide to Jesus and His Kingdom.

Scripture quotations taken from the NASB, unless otherwise noted. (In the NASB New Testament, quotations of the Old Testament are rendered in all capital letters in order to make them easier to identify.)

The Law of Moses as a Microcosm of the Scriptures

As the Law of Moses was completed on the eve of Israel’s entrance into the promised land, so the Scriptures in their totality were completed on the eve of spiritual Israel’s entry into the kingdom of God.

That is, the New Testament – as the captstone of Holy Scripture, which, up until that point, consisted of the Old Testament – was completed just as Jesus was about to come in His kingdom.  Of course, that kingdom came in the late 1st Century A.D. (Jesus Christ Has Already Come Again), and has reigned eternal ever since.

Thus God put in writing what each generation would need to take the promised land.  In the case of ancient Israel, that promised land was Canaan.  In the case of spiritual Israel, that promised land is the whole earth (Matthew 5:5).

The purpose of this blog is to proclaim Jesus Christ in terms familiar to those who read the Bible, and to help others become more familiar with the Bible. For those unfamiliar with the Bible, see the blog A Nonchurchgoer’s Guide to Jesus and His Kingdom.

Scripture quotations taken from the NASB, unless otherwise noted. 

Scriptures on Jesus’ Regard for the Prophets

Jesus thought highly of the prophets.  He trusted them.  He believed that they spoke for His Father.

Jesus modeled His own life after the prophets, and encouraged His disciples to do the same.

Jesus believed everything that His Father had said about Him through the prophets.  Here are some verses which make clear Jesus’ trust in the prophets [emphasis added]:  

Matthew 5:11 “Blessed are you when people insult you and persecute you, and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of Me.
Matthew 5:12 “Rejoice and be glad, for your reward in heaven is great; for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.

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Luke 24:25 And He said to them, “O foolish men and slow of heart to believe in all that the prophets have spoken!
Luke 24:26 “Was it not necessary for the Christ to suffer these things and to enter into His glory?”
Luke 24:27 Then beginning with Moses and with all the prophets, He explained to them the things concerning Himself in all the Scriptures.

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Luke 24:44 Now He said to them, “These are My words which I spoke to you while I was still with you, that all things which are written about Me in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms must be fulfilled.”
Luke 24:45 Then He opened their minds to understand the Scriptures,
Luke 24:46 and He said to them, “Thus it is written, that the Christ would suffer and rise again from the dead the third day,
Luke 24:47 and that repentance for forgiveness of sins would be proclaimed in His name to all the nations, beginning from Jerusalem.
Luke 24:48 “You are witnesses of these things.

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The purpose of this blog is to proclaim Jesus Christ in terms familiar to those who read the Bible, and to help others become more familiar with the Bible. For those unfamiliar with the Bible, see the blog A Nonchurchgoer’s Guide to Jesus and His Kingdom.

Scripture quotations taken from the NASB, unless otherwise noted. (In the NASB New Testament, quotations of the Old Testament are rendered in all capital letters in order to make them easier to identify.)

The Apostolic Mind

The apostles of Jesus Christ were taught by Him to read the Scriptures in a way that none of them had ever read the Scriptures before.  In a phrase, Jesus taught them to read the Scriptures according to the spirit and not according to the flesh.

This new way of reading the Scriptures caused the apostles to understand the people of God differently.  When reading according to the flesh, the people of God were the descendants of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.  When reading according to the spirit, the people of God were those who followed Messiah.  At first, the apostles understood this to mean Jews who followed Messiah, but in time they came to see that Gentiles could follow Messiah and be included in the people of God, too. In retrospect, this was an obvious conclusion, for why would you read the Scriptures according to the spirit, but limit their application to people according to the flesh.  Old attitudes die hard in the human mind, however, and so this understanding took a little longer to change.

What distinguished old Israel (that is, the people of God according to the flesh) from new Israel (that is, the people of God according to the spirit) was, as said above, faith in Christ.  Here, therefore, we see cases where believers – rather than physical descendants of Abraham – are regarded as God’s nation:

In Matthew 19:28, Jesus says tells His apostles that they will sit on the thrones for the twelve tribes of Israel.  That is, as the physical nation had its patriarchs (Judah, Levi, Benjamin, and the rest), so spiritual Israel would have its patriarch (Peter, James, John, and the rest).

In Matthew 21:43, Jesus tells the rulers of Israel that God’s rule would be taken away from them and given to “another people.”  Who were those other people?  People who put faith in Christ.

In Luke 22:30, Jesus makes a point similar to the one He made in Matthew 19:28.

In Romans 8:28-29, Paul explicitly distinguishes Jews of the flesh (“outward Jews”) from Jews of the spirit (inward Jews).

In the third chapter of 2 Corinthians, Paul contrasts the exceeding glory of the new covenant when compared to the glory of the covenant that preceded it.  This evokes Haggai 2:9, which otherwise some might have interpreted to mean that the Messiah would have more “stuff” than Solomon, but actually meant that Messiah would have spiritual, not earthly, trappings.

In Galatians 6:16, Paul blesses “the Israel of God.”  This references those who no longer trust in circumcision, but rather in Christ Himself.

In Philippians 3, Paul uses the term “circumcision” to refer to Israel, distinguishing the “true circumcision” from the “false circumcision.”  Of course, believers constituted “the true circumcision.”  Those who gloried in the flesh were the “false circumcision” – or we could say “false Israel” or “the false people of God.”

The epistle to the Hebrews is obviously addressed to believers – not merely physical Hebrews.

In James 1:1, he addresses his letter to “the twelve tribes who are dispersed abroad” – that is, those who believe in Christ and who are spread all over the Mediterranean world.

In 1 Peter 2:9-10 Peter takes Old Testament expressions and applies them to believers:  “a chosen race,” “a royal priesthood,” “a holy nation,” “a people for God’s own possession, and “the people of God.”  In the Old Testament, these terms had been applied to the physical descendants of Abraham; here, Peter is apply to those who believe in Jesus.

In Revelation 2:9 and 3:9, the expression “those who say they are Jews and are not” is obviously an allusion to this concept of distinguishing physical Israel from spiritual Israel.

Physical Israel is an earthly and therefore temporal identity.  By contrast, spiritual Israel is a heavenly and therefore eternal identity.  (See 2 Corinthians 4:18.)  The apostles the Scriptures in the way they were ultimately intended to be read.  It took Jesus Christ Himself, however, to bring that understanding.

Related post:  Scriptures on Christ as Moses

The purpose of this blog is to proclaim Jesus Christ in terms familiar to those who read the Bible, and to help others become more familiar with the Bible. For those unfamiliar with the Bible, see the blog A Nonchurchgoer’s Guide to Jesus and His Kingdom.

Scripture quotations taken from the NASB, unless otherwise noted. (In the NASB New Testament, quotations of the Old Testament are rendered in all capital letters in order to make them easier to identify.)

Scriptures on Christ as Moses

It is clear from the New Testament documents that the apostles saw Jesus as the one prophesied by Moses in this passage from the Old Testament:

Deuteronomy 18:15 “The LORD your God will raise up for you a prophet like me from among you, from your countrymen, you shall listen to him.

The apostle Peter said so explicitly in this New Testament verse:

Acts 3:22 “Moses said, ‘THE LORD GOD WILL RAISE UP FOR YOU A PROPHET LIKE ME FROM YOUR BRETHREN; TO HIM YOU SHALL GIVE HEED to everything He says to you.

The martyr Stephen confirmed it:

Acts 7:37 “This is the Moses who said to the sons of Israel, ‘GOD WILL RAISE UP FOR YOU A PROPHET LIKE ME FROM YOUR BRETHREN.’

The New Testament disciples thus saw Jesus as the “new Moses” and “greater Moses,” raised up as mediator between God and His people – just as Moses had been, only far more so.

There are other places in the New Testamet where we can recognize the apostles holding this particular view of Jesus.  Here are some of them:

1 Corinthians 5:13 But those who are outside, God judges. REMOVE THE WICKED MAN FROM AMONG YOURSELVES.

The phrase in capitals appears multiple times in the book of Deuteronomy (13:5; 17:7, 12; 19:19; 21:21; 22:21), where it is an admonition from God through Moses for the people of God to keep themselves separated from sin.  That Paul quotes it as relevant to the church at Corinth indicates that the New Testament church saw itself as the new Israel and Jesus as the new Moses.

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1 Corinthians 10:1 For I do not want you to be unaware, brethren, that our fathers were all under the cloud and all passed through the sea;
1 Corinthians 10:2 and all were baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea;
1 Corinthians 10:3 and all ate the same spiritual food;
1 Corinthians 10:4 and all drank the same spiritual drink, for they were drinking from a spiritual rock which followed them; and the rock was Christ.
1 Corinthians 10:5 Nevertheless, with most of them God was not well-pleased; for they were laid low in the wilderness.
1 Corinthians 10:6 Now these things happened as examples for us, so that we would not crave evil things as they also craved.
1 Corinthians 10:7 Do not be idolaters, as some of them were; as it is written, “THE PEOPLE SAT DOWN TO EAT AND DRINK, AND STOOD UP TO PLAY.”
1 Corinthians 10:8 Nor let us act immorally, as some of them did, and twenty-three thousand fell in one day.
1 Corinthians 10:9 Nor let us try the Lord, as some of them did, and were destroyed by the serpents.
1 Corinthians 10:10 Nor grumble, as some of them did, and were destroyed by the destroyer.
1 Corinthians 10:11 Now these things happened to them as an example, and they were written for our instruction, upon whom the ends of the ages have come.

It’s obvious in the passage that Paul is having his readers remember the incidents involved in Moses leading the children of Israel out of Egypy precisely because he believes they have application to their present situation.

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Titus 2:11 For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation to all men,
Titus 2:12 instructing us to deny ungodliness and worldly desires and to live sensibly, righteously and godly in the present age,
Titus 2:13 looking for the blessed hope and the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior, Christ Jesus,
Titus 2:14 who gave Himself for us to redeem us from every lawless deed, and to purify for Himself a people for His own possession, zealous for good deeds.

The phrase “to purify for Himself a people for His own possession” in verse 14 is an allusion to Exodus 19:5 and Deuteronomy 4:20; 7:6; and 14:2 wherein God declares His intention to establish Israel as a people for Himself and His purposes.  Thus believers in Christ were the new “nation of God’s people.”

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Hebrews 3:1 Therefore, holy brethren, partakers of a heavenly calling, consider Jesus, the Apostle and High Priest of our confession;
Hebrews 3:2 He was faithful to Him who appointed Him, as Moses also was in all His house.
Hebrews 3:3 For He has been counted worthy of more glory than Moses, by just so much as the builder of the house has more honor than the house.
Hebrews 3:4 For every house is built by someone, but the builder of all things is God.
Hebrews 3:5 Now Moses was faithful in all His house as a servant, for a testimony of those things which were to be spoken later;
Hebrews 3:6 but Christ was faithful as a Son over His house–whose house we are, if we hold fast our confidence and the boast of our hope firm until the end.

This passage makes the explicit comparison of Moses and Christ – showing the superiorities of Christ in the process.  This comparison continues throughout this chapter and into the next.

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Hebrews 12:18 For you have not come to a mountain that can be touched and to a blazing fire, and to darkness and gloom and whirlwind,
Hebrews 12:19 and to the blast of a trumpet and the sound of words which sound was such that those who heard begged that no further word be spoken to them.
Hebrews 12:20 For they could not bear the command, “IF EVEN A BEAST TOUCHES THE MOUNTAIN, IT WILL BE STONED.”
Hebrews 12:21 And so terrible was the sight, that Moses said, “I AM FULL OF FEAR and trembling.”
Hebrews 12:22 But you have come to Mount Zion and to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to myriads of angels,
Hebrews 12:23 to the general assembly and church of the firstborn who are enrolled in heaven, and to God, the Judge of all, and to the spirits of the righteous made perfect,
Hebrews 12:24 and to Jesus, the mediator of a new covenant, and to the sprinkled blood, which speaks better than the blood of Abel.
Hebrews 12:25 See to it that you do not refuse Him who is speaking. For if those did not escape when they refused him who warned them on earth, much less will we escape who turn away from Him who warns from heaven.
Hebrews 12:26 And His voice shook the earth then, but now He has promised, saying, “YET ONCE MORE I WILL SHAKE NOT ONLY THE EARTH, BUT ALSO THE HEAVEN.”
Hebrews 12:27 This expression, “Yet once more,” denotes the removing of those things which can be shaken, as of created things, so that those things which cannot be shaken may remain.
Hebrews 12:28 Therefore, since we receive a kingdom which cannot be shaken, let us show gratitude, by which we may offer to God an acceptable service with reverence and awe;
Hebrews 12:29 for our God is a consuming fire.

This passage compares and contrasts Moses at Mount Sinai with Jesus at the heavenly Mount Zion.

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1 Peter 2:9 But you are A CHOSEN RACE, A royal PRIESTHOOD, A HOLY NATION, A PEOPLE FOR God’s OWN POSSESSION, so that you may proclaim the excellencies of Him who has called you out of darkness into His marvelous light;
1 Peter 2:10 for you once were NOT A PEOPLE, but now you are THE PEOPLE OF GOD; you had NOT RECEIVED MERCY, but now you have RECEIVED MERCY.

Most of the phrases in verse 9 were originally uttered by Moses to the children of Israel.  Peter is applying to those who are now following Jesus Christ – whom God has seated “in the chair of Moses” (see Matthew 23 2 and how Jesus rebuked the scribes and Pharisees for attempting to seat themselves in that place).

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Jude 1:5 Now I desire to remind you, though you know all things once for all, that the Lord, after saving a people out of the land of Egypt, subsequently destroyed those who did not believe.

This reminder would have no purpose unless, of course, the experience of Jesus and the New Testament church was to parallel the experience of Moses and the chldren of Israel.

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Related post:  The Apostolic Mind

The purpose of this blog is to proclaim Jesus Christ in terms familiar to those who read the Bible, and to help others become more familiar with the Bible. For those unfamiliar with the Bible, see the blog A Nonchurchgoer’s Guide to Jesus and His Kingdom.

Scripture quotations taken from the NASB, unless otherwise noted. (In the NASB New Testament, quotations of the Old Testament are rendered in all capital letters in order to make them easier to identify.)

Apostolic Use of the Old Testament

The apostles did not preach and teach from the New Testament because it was not compiled until after they had all died.  Their authoritative text was the Old Testament.  If we don’t take this truth seriously, we will not properly understand the New Testament.

Even though the apostles preached and taught from the Old Testament, they never called it that.  The terms “Old Testament” and “New Testament” post-dated the apostles as well.  Rather, the apostles referred to “the Law of Moses.”  Or they might say simply “the Law,” or even more simply, “Moses.”  Or they might refer to “the Law and the Prophets,” or simply “the Prophets.”  They could also say “the Law and the Prophets and the Writings.”  They could say “the Scriptures” or simply “Scripture.”  They might use the name of the specific prophet they are quoting, such as Isaiah or Daniel.  Or they might simply say “it is written.”  In all these cases, however, they are referring to what we call the Old Testament.

It is critically important to recognize the Old Testament roots of New Testament teaching.  Otherwise, we might think the apostles are bringing us new ideas when they are actually explaining the ideas of the prophets before them.   As Jesus Himself said:

Matthew 5:17 “Do not think that I came to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I did not come to abolish but to fulfill.

People who think that we should read only the New Testament and discard the Old Testament are like a man who keeps the key but stays away from the house that it unlocks.

The purpose of this blog is to proclaim Jesus Christ in terms familiar to those who read the Bible, and to help others become more familiar with the Bible. For those unfamiliar with the Bible, see the blog A Nonchurchgoer’s Guide to Jesus and His Kingdom.

Scripture quotations taken from the NASB, unless otherwise noted. (In the NASB New Testament, quotations of the Old Testament are rendered in all capital letters in order to make them easier to identify.)

The Living and Abiding Word of God

In 1 Peter 1:23, Peter writes that the recipients of his letter “have been born again not of seed which is perishable but imperishable, that is, through the living and abiding word of God.”  Is Peter here speaking of the Scriptures…or of Jesus who is Himself the fully-personalized word of God.  To understand which Peter means we need to refer back to something he said earlier in his letter (1 Peter 1:3) where he says that the recipients of the letter have been “born again to the living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead.”   Thus Peter is not saying that his readers have been born again of the Bible.  If the Bible was all that was necessary to give new life, then Jesus died needlessly (Galatians 2:21).  It is the resurrected Christ who births new life in us.  It is the Bible which testifies to Him (John 5:39).

The Bible is not the focal point of our faith.  Rather the Bible bears witness to the One who is the focal point of our faith:  Jesus Christ our Lord.

The purpose of this blog is to proclaim Jesus Christ in terms familiar to those who read the Bible, and to help others become more familiar with the Bible. For those unfamiliar with the Bible, see the blog A Nonchurchgoer’s Guide to Jesus and His Kingdom.

Scripture quotations taken from the NASB, unless otherwise noted.

Depersonalizing the Word of God

John 5:39 “You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; it is these that testify about Me;

Scripture has its limitations…and this verse tell us why.  The Bible is an insufficient guide to life by itself.  We must believe and act upon what it says about Jesus Christ.  We must believe and act upon what it says about His Holy Spirit.  And so on.

Those who claim allegiance to the Bible but ignore the presence of Christ will find their lives desolate.

To restrict the word of God to only that which is in the Bible is to depersonalize the word of God.  Remember: Jesus is the living and abiding word of God.

The purpose of this blog is to proclaim Jesus Christ in terms familiar to those who read the Bible, and to help others become more familiar with the Bible. For those unfamiliar with the Bible, see the blog A Nonchurchgoer’s Guide to Jesus and His Kingdom.

Scripture quotations taken from the NASB, unless otherwise noted.

The Limitations of Scripture

Hebrews 4:12-13 says that the word of God is able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart.  The Scripture is the word of God.  The Scripture cannot, however, judge all the thoughts and intentions of the heart.  We know this from our own experience because there are issues that vex us – important moral issues – for which we cannot easily turn to a single page of the Bible and resolve it.

Thus we must lean on the Scriptures but we must also lean on the God of whom the Scriptures testify.  His name is Christ, and His Holy Spirit – the same Holy Spirit who inspired the Scriptures – enlightens our hearts with the mind of Christ so that we might live godly in this fallen world.

The purpose of this blog is to proclaim Jesus Christ in terms familiar to those who read the Bible, and to help others become more familiar with the Bible. For those unfamiliar with the Bible, see the blog A Nonchurchgoer’s Guide to Jesus and His Kingdom.

Scripture quotations taken from the NASB, unless otherwise noted.

Keep in Mind How Much the Original Recipients of the New Testament Documents Already Knew

Modern skeptics bring all sorts of unwarranted assumptions to the New Testament.  One is that it should answer the sorts of top-of-mind questions that occur to us in the 21st Century, and if it doesn’t, then we should just disregard this collection of ancient documents as inadequate sources of truth in our age.  This is silly.  And it’s arrogant.

It’s clear that the New Testament documents were practically all written to people who already believed a great deal about Jesus Christ, because they had learned it through oral preaching and teaching.  The one New Testament document which seems to make a claim to be speaking with a desire to induce belief is the Gospel of John (John 20:30-31).  However, upon closer inspection of this gospel, it seems clear that the intent was to deepen and strengthen existing faith rather than to create it where it didn’t previously exist.  Thus we may consider the entirety of the New Testament to have been directed to people who already believed in Christ.  There is no reasonable basis for expecting these documents to cater to skeptical attitudes; they had a different purpose.

Bible scholars today believe that the earliest New Testament documents were the letters of Paul, written roughly 50-60 A.D. (i.e. Romans, 1 and 2 Corinthians, Galatians, Philippians, 1 Thessalonians, and Philemon).  Assuming Christ died roughly 30-33 A.D. (which is also the consensus of Bible scholars), this means there was 15-20 years for the Christ movement to have advanced before Paul wrote these letters.  When read carefully, it’s clear that the recipients of these letters knew a great deal more about the faith than is conveyed in the letters.

Philippians 2:5-11, for example, is considered by many scholars to be Paul’s quotation of a hymn familiar to the recipients.  The words of that hymn convey an advanced theology about Christ, albeit in highly summarized form.  Nowhere in the rest of the letter, or in the rest of the New Testament for that matter, is that Christological confession unpacked.  The fact that we wish it were explained and that the Philippians did not need for it to be explained speaks volumes about how much more the recipients of New Testament letters knew about Christ than is preserved in those letters for us.  And this is just one example of many.  One of the reasons there is so much debate about the meaning of the New Testament, even among those who accept it as the word of God, is that so much of what seems commonly understood among the writers and readers of these documents is not explicitly and fully explained in them.

We shouldn’t think that all that knowledge is forever lost to us, however, for we have the same Old Testament they did.  And it was that Old Testament that preserved in writing for them what was most important in God’s plan for His Messiah.  For this reason we must keep going back not just to the gospels, but to the Old Testament as well, if we are to understand about Christ what the earliest disciples understood about Him.  Christ’s teaching in the gospels was the icing on the cake, and the Old Testament was the cake.

The purpose of this blog is to proclaim Jesus Christ in terms familiar to those who read the Bible, and to help others become more familiar with the Bible. For those unfamiliar with the Bible, see the blog A Nonchurchgoer’s Guide to Jesus and His Kingdom.

Scripture quotations taken from the NASB, unless otherwise noted.

The Apostles’ Understanding of Christ Is Rooted in the Old Testament

If we want to understand Christ as His apostles understood Him, we must devote more attention to finding Christ in the Old Testament.

When the apostles wanted to corroborate what they were saying about Christ with an authoritative text, they hardly ever quoted a New Testament document.  Rather, they quoted Old Testament documents…over and over and over again.

It was obvious that Jesus taught His disciples how the Old Testament testified of Him (John 5:39; Luke 24:25-27, 31-32, 44-48).   Therefore as we rely on Peter, Paul, John and the rest, they relied on Moses, David, Isaiah and the rest.

Sure, the apostles proclaimed that they had experienced the resurrected Messiah (Acts 10:40-41), but they seasoned their preaching more with Scripture than with their personal testimonies.  Read through the books of Acts and see that this is so.

The apostles exhibited no sense of urgency about getting their gospel written down.  Theirs was first and foremost an oral, face-to-face mission.  We do have 27 New Testament documents, but it’s apparent that they were written to people who had already become a part of the movement – not to people the apostles were trying to convert.  The apostles had all the writing they needed in the Old Testament.  Yes, the New Testament is a blessing to us, but let’s not have it obscure the blessing that the Old Testament was to the apostles and can be to us.  The apostles regarded Christ according to the guidance that the Old Testament gave them.  That is, the New Testament reveals that the apostles were dependent not on the New Testament, but rather on the Old Testament.

For more on how the apostles (i.e. the New Testament) saw Christ in the writings of the prophets (i.e. the Old Testament), see these posts.

The purpose of this blog is to proclaim Jesus Christ in terms familiar to those who read the Bible, and to help others become more familiar with the Bible. For those unfamiliar with the Bible, see the blog A Nonchurchgoer’s Guide to Jesus and His Kingdom.

Scripture quotations taken from the NASB, unless otherwise noted.