When Reading the Bible

bible-readingThis post is adapted from Reading the Word of God in the Presence of God: A Handbook for Biblical Interpretation by Vern Poythress. (original source including a PhD from Harvard University and a ThD from the University of Stellenbosch. He is the author of numerous books and articles on a variety of topics, including biblical interpretation, language, and science. His most recent book is Reading the Word of God in the Presence of God: A Handbook for Biblical Interpretation.

10 Things to Remember When Reading the Bible

1. The Bible is God’s own word.

That means that what the Bible says, God says.

2. God governs the whole world through his divine speech, which specifies and controls what happens (Heb. 1:3).

The Bible indicates that God speaks to govern the world, but we do not hear this speech; we only see its effects (for example, Ps. 33:6, 9; 147:15–18). The Bible, by contrast, is the word of God, designed by God to speak specifically to us as human beings. All divine speech, whether directed toward governing the world in general or directed toward us as human beings, has divine character. In particular, it displays God’s lordship in authority, control, and presence.

3. God speaks his words to us in covenants (Gen. 9:9; 15:18; 17:7; Ex. 19:5; etc.).

A “covenant” is a solemn, legally binding agreement between two parties. In this case, the two parties are God and human beings. In the Old Testament, God’s covenants with human beings show some affinities with ancient Near Eastern suzerainty treaties. These treaties show five elements, which also appear either explicitly or by implication in God’s covenants in the Old Testament: identification of the suzerain (Ex. 20:2); historical prologue (Ex. 20:2); stipulations (Ex. 20:3-17); sanctions (i.e., blessings and curses) (Ex. 20:7; see also v. 12); recording and passing on (Ex. 31:18; Deut. 31).

The identification of God proclaims his transcendent authority, and the stipulations as norms imply his authority over the people. The historical prologue shows how he has exercised his control in past history. The blessings and curses indicate how he will exercise his control in the future. His identification also proclaims his presence, and the recording and passing on of the covenantal words imply his continuing presence with the people.

4. All the Bible is the covenantal word of God.

That is, the idea of covenant offers us one perspective on the Bible. The New Testament proclaims the gospel concerning the death, resurrection, and ascension of Christ. The apostle Paul characterizes his entire ministry as a ministry of the “new covenant” (2 Cor. 3:6). So all of Paul’s writings are covenantal words in a broad sense. At the Last Supper, Jesus inaugurated “the new covenant” (Luke 22:20; 1 Cor. 11:25). The other apostles and New Testament writers function to convey the words of the new covenant to us.

When the Bible uses the word new to describe the new covenant, it clearly presupposes an older one. The new covenant fulfills the Abrahamic covenant (Gal. 3:7–14) and the Davidic covenant (Acts 2:30–36), but the Mosaic covenant is principally in mind when the New Testament implies a covenant that is “old” (Heb. 8:8–13). The Mosaic covenant also contains, in Deuteronomy 31, explicit instructions for preserving canonical covenantal documents and explicit instructions about future prophets (Deut. 18:18–22). The entirety of the Old Testament consists in divinely authorized additions to the initial Mosaic deposit, so it fits into the covenantal structure inaugurated with Moses. The entire Old Testament is covenantal in character.

Thus both the New Testament and the Old Testament can be viewed as covenantal in a broad sense. Indeed, the traditional names, in which they are called “Testaments,” signify their covenantal character (“testament” is a near synonym for “covenant” in later theological usage, which builds on Heb. 9:15–16). Continue reading

The Main Message of Your Bible

Bible001Bryan Chapell: (original source here)

The Bible declares its main message right at the dawn of human history: After God made all things “good,” everything went bad as a consequence of the evil that entered the world through human sin. In order for everything to be made right again, God designed a plan to rescue humanity and the broken world from sin’s corruptions. He told Satan, who first tempted humanity to sin:

I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and her offspring; he shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel. (Gen. 3:15)

These emblematic words, sometimes called the “First Gospel,” are God’s inaugural announcement of the solution he will provide for humanity’s sinful predicament. They also establish the theme for the rest of Scripture. From this point forward, the great battle unfolds between the offspring of Satan (his evil forces) and the offspring of the woman (God’s appointed Redeemer), and the outcome of the conflict is certain: Satan will wound the Redeemer (“bruise his heel”), but the Redeemer will deal Satan a mortal blow (“he shall bruise your head”).

God will graciously provide a divine deliverance from the human dilemma.

All About Christ

This theme of gracious provision is the context of all that follows in the Bible. All the subsequent history and messages of Scripture are elements in this unfolding story of divine rescue. Every battle, famine, disease, betrayal, enslavement, and evil is Satan’s attempt to hinder the work of the offspring of Eve coming to crush him. And every rescue of the weak, provision for the needy, maintenance of a remnant, restoration of the broken, protection of the defenseless, pardon of the prodigals, forgiveness of the faithless, preservation of a people, covenant with the undeserving, supply of beauty for ashes, and mercy for the repentant is an expression of the grace that will culminate in the victory of the divinely appointed Redeemer.

God doesn’t intend for this divine crusade of redemption merely to interest us. As the apostle Paul writes, “Whatever was written in former days was written for our instruction, that through endurance and through the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope” (Rom. 15:4). The history, poetry, symbols, and instructions of Scripture vary greatly in style but not in their intention: all are intended to affect our response to life in our fallen world. Though evil is always present and frequently prevails, we are not to despair. With a patient confidence in God’s ultimate providence, and the assurance of the Scriptures that his redemption is ongoing, we always have hope. Continue reading

The Grand Respository

“The Bible is the grand repository … It is the complete system of divine truth, to which nothing can be added, and from which nothing can be taken, with impunity. Every attempt to disguise or soften any branch of this truth, in order to accommodate it to the prevailing taste around us, either to avoid the displeasure, or to court the favour, of our fellow mortals, must be an affront to the majesty of God, and an act of treachery to men.” – John Newton

Faith & Suffering – Divine Gifts of Grace

Philippians 1:29 “For it has been granted to you that for the sake of Christ you should not only believe in him but also suffer for his sake…” ESV

Here we see two elements of the Christian life many flatly deny in our day:

1. Faith is a gift from God (they think they can believe all by themselves). It is something that has to be granted.

2. Suffering is a gift from God (they think God would never choose suffering for one of His beloved children). God will often ordain hardship and pain to mold His precious saint towards His ultimate goal of Christ-likeness.

The truth is that God is FAR more Sovereign than most Christians believe. The Lord God Omnipotent reigns! Can you say “Hallelujah”?

Phil-129

Our New Spouse

Ray Ortlund my brothers, you also have died to the law through the body of Christ, so that you may belong to another.” Romans 7:2-4

We were married to Mr. Law. He was a good man, in his way, but he did not understand our weakness. He came home every evening and asked, “So, how was your day? Did you do what I told you to? Did you make the kids behave? Did you waste any time? Did you complete everything I put on your To Do list?” So many demands and expectations. And hard as we tried, we couldn’t be perfect. We could never satisfy him. We forgot things that were important to him. We let the children misbehave. We failed in other ways. It was a miserable marriage, because Mr. Law always pointed out our failings. And the worst of it was, he was always right! But his remedy was always the same: Do better tomorrow. We didn’t, because we couldn’t.

Then Mr. Law died. And we remarried, this time to Mr. Grace. Our new husband, Jesus, comes home every evening and the house is a mess, the children are being naughty, dinner is burning on the stove, and we have even had other men in the house during the day. Still, he sweeps us into his arms and says, “I love you, I chose you, I died for you, I will never leave you nor forsake you.” And our hearts melt. We don’t understand such love. We expect him to despise us and reject us and humiliate us, but he treats us so well. We are so glad to belong to him now and forever, and we long to be “fully pleasing to him” (Colossians 1:10)!

Being married to Mr. Law never changed us. But being married to Mr. Grace is changing us deep within, and it shows.

Seeking

sproul2_0R. C. Sproul:

We have all heard evangelists quote from Revelation: “Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and dine with him, and he with Me” (Rev. 3:20). Usually the evangelist applies this text as an appeal to the unconverted, saying: “Jesus is knocking at the door of your heart. If you open the door, then He will come in.” In the original saying, however, Jesus directed His remarks to the church. It was not an evangelistic appeal.

So what? The point is that seeking is something that unbelievers do not do on their own. The unbeliever will not seek. The unbeliever will not knock. Seeking is the business of believers. Jonathan Edwards said, “The seeking of the Kingdom of God is the chief business of the Christian life.” Seeking is the result of faith, not the cause of it.

When we are converted to Christ, we use language of discovery to express our conversion. We speak of finding Christ. We may have bumper stickers that read, “I Found It.” These statements are indeed true. The irony is this: Once we have found Christ it is not the end of our seeking but the beginning. Usually, when we find what we are looking for, it signals the end of our searching. But when we “find” Christ, it is the beginning of our search.

The Christian life begins at conversion; it does not end where it begins. It grows; it moves from faith to faith, from grace to grace, from life to life. This movement of growth is prodded by continual seeking after God.

In your spiritual walk, are you moving from faith to faith, from grace to grace, from life to life? Are you continually seeking after God?

When God Multiplies

multiplicationA little one shall become a thousand, and a small one a strong nation: I the Lord will hasten it in his time. (Isaiah 60:22)

Works for the Lord often begin on a small scale, and they are none the worse for this. Feebleness educates faith, brings God near, and wins glory for His name. Prize promises of increase! Mustard seed is the smallest among seeds, and yet it becomes a treelike plant, with branches which lodge the birds of heaven. We may begin with one, and that “a little one,” and yet it will “become a thousand.” The Lord is great at the multiplication table. How often did He say to His lone servant, “I will multiply thee!” Trust in the Lord, ye ones and twos; for He will be in the midst of you if you are gathered in His name.

“A small one.” What can be more despicable in the eyes of those who count heads and weigh forces! Yet this is the nucleus of a great nation. Only one star shines out at first in the evening, but soon the sky is crowded with countless lights.

Nor need we think the prospect of increase to be remote, for the promise is, “I Jehovah will hasten it in his time.” There will be no premature haste, like that which we see at excited meetings; it will be all in due time, but yet there will be no delay. When the Lord hastens, His speed is glorious.

– C. H. Spurgeon

May the Lord be with you

Bible52A short article by Adrian Warnock – original found not least because it is also clear that the Lord sometimes departs from someone. This was a major prompt for Saul’s jealousy of David.

As usual when considering something like this it is useful to look at other passages where this phrase is used. What are the marks of The Lord being with you?

God grants you success. Here, David’s success is attributed to The Lord being with him. We see the same thing in a number of other places, including Joseph in Genesis 39:1-3, and also 2 Kings 18:7. We see in Judges 1:19 that this success is sometimes only partial.

You receive favour from others. Here we see this described as the people loving David. For Joseph the favour leads to promotion.

Some will fear you. Saul here is not just jealous but actually terrified of him. Some leaders today inspire a similar sense almost of awe. Those who do shouldn’t abuse that.

God demonstrates steadfast love to you. (Genesis 39:21)

You inspire trust from others with minimal oversight. (Genesis 39:23)

Fame may be granted to you (Joshua 6:27). When we are evaluating successful ministries today, we do well to recognise that, at least in some cases, fame will have been granted someone because God is with them. We should not reflexly reject popular ministries.

Blessing is shared with those who are associated with the one God is with. (Judges 2:18). Note that when a Judge died Gods stopped overlooking his people’s sin.

God establishes your word. ( 1 Samuel 3:19-20). A major part of leadership is making decisions and having others want to follow them. Often ineffective leader’s words “fall to the ground” and simply be ignored?

The hand of The Lord is also associated with the miraculous (Luke 1:63-66).

In the New Testament a clear mark of God being with you is a great number of people being saved. (Acts 11:21). Spurgeon urged his students to expect salvations every time the word is preached.

Why is God with some people more than others? Mostly the answer to that seems to be simply grace. God is more favorable to some than others, though he does this in order that all may be blessed through his anointed.

But we do see hints that there are some things that we can do to increase the extent God is with us. So, for example, it is said of Jehoshaphat in 2 Chronicles 17:3-4 that God was with him because he walked obediently and purely before God rather than turning after idols.

No wonder then that we are wise to pray “God, be with me!” And when selecting a leader today we do well to choose someone who God is clearly with in a particular way.

Genesis 3:15

Creation04Genesis 3:15 “I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and her offspring; he shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel.”

From an article by Nicholas T. Batzig found one of the leading Southern Presbyterian theologians of the 19th Century, set down 8 points of interpretion of Genesis 3:15 in his biblical-theological masterpiece “Discourses of Redemption.” In short, Robinson was seeking to highlight what our first parents could have known from the first preaching of the Gospel (what he called “the Gospel creed”) when he wrote:

Thus it will be seen, on careful analysis of these words, and deducing the truths embodied by implication in them, that they set forth these eight points of the gospel creed.

1. That the Redeemer and Restorer of the race is to be man, since he is to be the seed of the woman.

2. That he is, at the same time, to be a being greater than man, and greater even than Satan; since he is to be the conqueror of man’s conqueror, and, against all his efforts, to recover a sinful world which man had lost; being yet sinless, he must therefore be divine.

3. That this redemption shall involve a new nature, at “enmity” with the Satan nature, to which man has now become subject.

4. That this new nature is a regeneration by Divine power; since the enmity to Satan is not a natural emotion, but, saith Jehovah, “I will put enmity,” &c.

5. This redemption shall be accomplished by vicarious suffering; since the Redeemer shall suffer the bruising of his heel in the work of recovery.

6. That this work of redemption shall involve the gathering out of an elect seed a “peculiar people” at enmity with the natural offspring of a race subject to Satan.

7. That this redemption shall involve & perpetual conflict of the peculiar people, under its representative head, in the effort to bruise the head of Satan, that is, “to destroy the works of the Devil.”

8. This redemption shall involve the ultimate triumph, after suffering, of the woman’s seed ; and therefore involves a triumph over death and a restoration of the humanity to its original estate, as a spiritual in conjunction with a physical nature, in perfect blessedness as before its fall.

Such, then, is the gospel theology here revealed, in germ, through the very terms of the curse pronounced upon the destroyer of the race. It will be seen that here are all the peculiar doctrines of salvation, by grace, which every Christian accepts, who exercises the faith which is unto salvation. And in the broader and higher sense of the terms, Moses, as truly as Mark at the opening of his evangel, might have prefixed to this third chapter of Genesis the title, “The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ the Son of God.”