Reading the Bible in 2015

It’s a good thing to read the Bible.  It’s a better thing to read it regularly.  It’s even better to read it with some sort of approach that makes sure you get a steady diet of it.  Hence, Bible reading plans.

Whether you would like to read the entire Bible in 2015 or more of the Bible in 2015, today would be a great day to start a reading plan.

A few days ago I decided to start an approach that combines three resources.  Chris Dendy’s plan portions the whole Bible into a year, book by book, and incorporates readings from Dr. Jim Hamilton’s excellent overview of biblical theology, God’s Glory in Salvation Through Judgment.   Peter Krol’s plan is to devour the entire Bible early on in the year.  He focuses more on a set of driving motivations rather than a methodology.  Also of note is that Krol wrote Knowable Word, an excellent guide to interpreting the Bible that would also be a great new year’s read, and can itself be swallowed in a couple hours.  I am using the canonical plan at YouVersion to track my progress and to be able to pick up and read on the go if I don’t have a physical Bible handy.

Some other encouragements in journeying through the Bible in 2015:

Bible Reading is an Art by David Mathis

Reading God’s Word: a New Year’s Resolution for the Rebelution by 14 year old Amanda Beguerie

2OT-2NT: The No Checkbox Bible Reading Plan for 2015 by Drew Hunter

Okay, enough reading about the Bible.  Let’s get in there and enjoy learning more from the Author’s own mouth!

How to Pray Scripture

A Simple, Helpful Lesson Learned in Dr. Don Whitney’s Class

 by Doug Smith

I had the privilege to take a class on Biblical Spirituality in 2007.  In this class, Dr. Don Whitney showed us how and why we should pray through Scripture. This practice has benefited me greatly, and I have been able to share it with some others. It is something that can be modeled and integrated into family worship as well.  I requested Dr. Whitney’s permission to post handouts I have prepared for use in sharing this material, which he has granted.

After Dr. Whitney instructed us on praying through Scripture, he said that if we ever taught this to others we must be sure to do two things:

1) Give people time to pray Scripture themselves.

2) Give time for people to give testimonies about their experience.

This fastens the truth to their minds and hearts better than simply lecturing and moving on to other things. If a person is told how to use a tool, he should then get some practice in utilizing it. People need the experience of praying through Scripture in order to have its advantages driven home to them. As Dr. Whitney put it, many people will be likely to get “hooked” on praying Scripture if you explain how to do it and then let them do it and give testimonies.

Let me explain the handouts. There are three pages I have posted.

  • The first is the outline of the need, method and reasons to pray through Scripture. This can be used for individual study or in a group setting. I hope it is simple enough for a Christian to view it alone and then understand how to practice it. If you teach this, be sure you go through it on your own first. In the blanks, list all the benefits you can think of for praying through Scripture after you have tried it. Then, if you teach it, do not share those benefits until after you have given others a chance to try it for themselves and given testimonies about their experience. You will likely be gratified to find that they will mention many of the things you have already thought of, and it has more effect if you let them express it first.
  • The second handout is an explanation of the Psalms of the day (point IV. A. 1. in the outline). The formula of using today’s date and adding 30 until you get 5 Psalms is an alternative to the practice some have of reading 5 consecutive Psalms each day. There is nothing wrong with using 5 consecutive Psalms (since this would take one through the whole book of Psalms in a month), but the idea of the Psalms of the day on the handout gives more freedom and is more flexible if you miss a day, because you don’t have to feel like you need to catch up.
  • The third and final handout is a quote from George Müller, a man known for his devoted prayer life who had some of the same struggles many of us face (such as a wandering mind). His prayer life was transformed for the good by praying Scripture. In the outline this example comes after the Scriptural precedent, for which you should look up the references and read them to show the connection of Scripture and prayer in the life of Jesus and the apostles.

I cannot overemphasize the value of praying Scripture.  For additional information about this practice, I commend to you Dr. Whitney’s book Simplify Your Spiritual Life: Spiritual Disciplines for the Overwhelmed (Colorado Springs, CO: NavPress, 2003), especially pages 60 and 80.  You may also view his outline on the topic by clicking here (Word document format).

Handouts for Praying Through Scripture:

Please check out Dr. Whitney’s website at www.biblicalspirituality.org .  You can also follow him on Twitter @DonWhitney

Book Recommendation: Taking God at His Word by Kevin DeYoung

Taking-God-Word-3D-880x1024

Kevin DeYoung, Taking God at His Word: Why the Bible Is Knowable, Necessary, and Enough, and What That Means for You and Me (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2014) 144 pp.

Kindle version  Hardcover

Taking God at His Word: Why the Bible Is Knowable, Necessary, and Enough, and What That Means for You and Me is a book that is clear convincing, and enjoyable.  It is a book about the Book.  Why a book about the Book?  I think the answer to that question is also the answer to another question.

What makes a Christian book a good Christian book?  I have pondered this question lately and concluded that good Christian books are distinguished from the others by their cultivation of an increased hunger for God’s Word, a deeper love for Christ, and a more obedient life.  The main thrust of this book is to point us away from itself and make us want to dig into the Bible, and it is an excellent Christian book.

Taking God at His Word starts off showing the exuberant and ecstatic nature of Psalm 119 as a love poem to the written Word of God, as DeYoung aims not only to help us think correctly about the Bible, but to have an appropriate affection and appreciation for it.  He proceeds to show how God’s Word is more reliable than our personal experiences, and that it is sufficient, clear, the final authority, and necessary.  Chapter 7, “Christ’s Unbreakable Bible,” is my favorite section.  There He shows beyond a shadow of a doubt, as He surveys the context and content of Jesus’ teaching about the written Word, that

it is impossible to revere the Scriptures more deeply or affirm than more completely than Jesus did.  Jesus submitted his will to the Scriptures, committed his brain to studying the Scriptures, and humbled his heart to obey the Scriptures.  The Lord Jesus, God’s Son and our Savior, believed his Bible was the word of God down to the sentences, to the phrases, to the words, to the smallest letter, to the tiniest specks – and that nothing in all those specks and in all those books in his Holy Bible could ever be broken.

The book closes with a challenge to be faithful to the Scriptures, and points us to resources for more in-depth study about the doctrine of Scripture.

For me, reading this book accomplished the following things:

1. It renewed my love for God’s Word.  Taking God at His Word is near the top of my favorite books list because it makes me want to read the Bible more.  I have approached my reading and thinking on the Word of God with a new vigor and excitement since reading DeYoung’s book.

2. It reinforced my confidence in God’s Word.  I continue to hear the historical reliability and relevancy of the Word of God attacked in the culture at large as well as from individuals I know, but this book reinforced what I already believed by helping me confirm my confidence in the Bible, especially by comparing my view to Jesus’ view.  If the eternal, perfect, omniscient Son of God taught that the Scriptures were historically reliable, we ought to believe Him rather than the naysayers, no matter who they may be.  For instance, take DeYoung’s commentary on Jesus’ handling of the historicity of the Old Testament book of Jonah:

It’s hard to justify Jesus’ language about the men of Nineveh rising up to judge Capernaum on the last day if most or all of the Jonah story is not to be taken literally.  It would be like making that literary allusion to the men of Gondor and then issuing a very serious warning to your audience that the orcs of Mordor will rise up to judge and condemn them.  It doesn’t make a lot of sense.  As T. T. Perowne put it, commenting on the very real danger Jesus considered his hearers to be in, ‘And yet we are to suppose him to say that imaginary persons who at the imaginary preaching of an imaginary prophet repented in imagination, shall rise up in that day and condemn the actual impenitence of those his actual hearers?’  Quite the contrary.  In the Gospels we see Jesus reference Abel, Noah, Abraham, Sodom and Gomorrah, Isaac and Jacob, manna in the wilderness, the serpent in the wilderness, Moses as the lawgiver, David and Solomon, the Queen of Sheba, Elijah and Elisha, the widow of Zarephath, Naaman, Zechariah, and even Jonah, never questioning a single event, a single miracle, or a single historical claim.  Jesus clearly believed in the historicity of biblical history.

3. It reaffirmed my desire to stand on God’s Word.  Though Taking God at His Word is a relatively short read, it has sufficient depth to effectively stir appropriate emotions, to convince the mind, and to motivate both the reading of the Bible and the faithful proclamation of it, even in the face of opposition.  The clarity of DeYoung’s presentation reaffirmed for me that there is no reason to be ashamed when critics attack the written Word of God.  Jesus’ church has believed it, stood on it, and propagated it for generations, with good reason.  It is what it claims to be and it is what He said it is.  The world is to be challenged to accept it, and Christians are to be challenged to stick with it.  There is no reason to abandon our faith in God and His Word, nor to back down from it’s bold claims, since they are true.

In reading DeYoung’s book, I noticed one area where I would like more clarification, particularly concerning what is and isn’t clear in the Bible on some issues where it and many mainstream scientists disagree.  In his chapter on the final authority of God’s Word, he writes,

If all the facts could be known perfectly, we would find that the Bible and science do not contradict each other.  Christians have nothing to fear from rigorous scientific investigation.

And yet, if the Bible is our final authority – as it surely was for the Bereans – then we must be hesitant to scrub the Bible when it seems to contradict the ‘assured results of science.’  I sympathize with Christians who struggle to reconcile what they hear from scientists and what they see in the Bible about a particular issue.  We should not be quick to dismiss these questions.  It is possible to read the Bible wrongly.  It is possible for the church to miss the mark for a long time.  But every Christian should agree that if the Bible teaches one thing and scientific consensus teaches something else, we will not ditch the Bible.

I am not for a moment arguing for obscurantism when it comes to the hard questions concerning faith and science.  Pastors who haven’t had a science class since the tenth grade are often too cavalier with the tough issues raised by geology, biology, and genetics.  But surely it is the mark of a Christian to believe everything the Bible teaches no matter who says it can’t be so.  Academic journals are not infallible, let alone high school textbooks or fifteen-second sound bites.  As Christians we must always be willing to change our minds when we see that we have misread the Scriptures, but that is a far cry from setting aside the Scriptures because for the last five years – or fifty year or a hundred and fifty years – some scientist have informed us that we can’t believe in the historicity of Adam or that the universe was created out of nothing by the word of God.

DeYoung seems to squarely argue that the Bible is absolutely reliable and to be trusted even when accepted “science” contradicts it, but he is not altogether clear on exactly what we can trust the Bible to be altogether clear on in this arena where there is much conflict.  Is theistic evolution, which is accepted by popular evangelical leaders like Tim Keller (who, together with DeYoung is on the council of the Gospel Coalition) a legitimate interpretation of the Bible?  (For the record, DeYoung has blogged against theistic evolution here.)  Is the Bible clear or unclear about the age of the earth?  Was there or was there not death before sin entered the world (cf. Rom. 5:12)?  While these questions have brought forth books dedicated to such topics by other authors, it would have been helpful to discuss some of the intersections where people have to make a decision, and give some criteria for assessing some of these specific controversies.

Even with this little caveat, DeYoung’s writing refreshed, instructed, and encouraged me greatly, and I highly recommend it.  Our view of the Bible is directly related to how much we trust the omniscient, omnipotent, faithful God who revealed His Word to man.  If we trust Him, we take His Word for everything, and not just for “spiritual” matters.  As DeYoung writes, “Our teachers, our friends, our science, our studies, even our eyes can deceive us.  But the word of God is entirely true and always true.”

Special thanks to Crossway for providing a complimentary copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

Click here to view or listen to Pastor DeYoung’s 2014 Together for the Gospel Message, “Never Spoke a Man Like This Before: Inerrancy, Evangelism and Christ’s Unbreakable Bible” 

This review first appeared in a blog at capsministry.com.

Unshakeable Truth for Unstable Times

by Doug Smith

Audio of the sermon by the same title

https://vimeo.com/97686503

My first job was as a tour guide in a show cave.  While my primary assignment was taking tourists on an hour-long expedition over paved walkways, through illuminated underground passages, occasionally I was offered the opportunity to venture off the beaten path with my co-workers and the owners of the cave.

One time I began walking just past the underground creek on an area that appeared to be solid.  I soon found out that the rock, which appeared thick and solid, was only about an inch thick.  It cracked under my weight and I found myself sliding through some mud (thankfully it was not very high!).

I’m afraid that many people – especially people who have been exposed to the truth – are standing on shaky ground in regard to their beliefs about God’s revelation to us in the Bible.  2 Timothy 3 warns us that perilous times would come filled with dangerous false teachers.  We are in unstable times, and we need somewhere safe to stand.  The unshakeable truth of God’s holy Book is that place.

WE SHOULD HAVE CONFIDENCE IN THE TRUTH OF THIS BOOK

In verse 15, the Holy Spirit, through the pen of the apostle Paul, reminds us that the Bible is a holy book.  From childhood, Timothy had known the Holy Scriptures, or sacred writings.  These writings are special – different from other writings.  They also testify to Jesus, as they are able to make us wise to salvation in Christ. (And keep in mind, the Scripture Timothy had what Christians today call the Old Testament, which told of Christ.)

Paul goes on to speak of “all Scripture” (verse 16).  Not just portions of it.  Not just certain books.  All Scripture.  We now haveall Scripture in the form of 66 books.  The Old Testament is composed of 39 books originally written in Hebrew (with some in Aramaic) and the New Testament is made up of 27 books originally written in Greek.  We then read that all Scripture is “given by inspiration of God” or, God-breathed.  Second Peter 1:19-21 described Scripture as the result of God’s Spirit moving holy men of God.  To describe it, as popular science personality Bill Nye did, as “a 3,000 year old book translated into American English” is to misunderstand the history and nature of Scripture, which, as Matt Slick at carm.org described it, is “a collection of 66 books written by about 40 authors, in three different languages, on three different continents, over approximately 1600 years” (but which is remarkably unified in its message!).

The source of Scripture is God Himself.  This is where the term “plenary, verbal inspiration” comes from (meaning the full text of all Scripture comes from God).  Since God is the Author of Scripture, the One who breathed it out, and since He is Truth, and since He is the ultimate Authority, this Book has no errors, and this Book has authority – the right to tell us what we should believe and do.

The Scriptures not only come from God, but they are useful for us.  Doctrine (teaching), reproof, correction, instruction (training) in righteousness are the four things listed (2 Timothy 3:16).  We profit from Scripture when we let God teach us, point out wrong in our lives, correct us, and train us to follow Him.  Verse 17 says they are sufficient for the man of God (and those he ministers to) to be equipped for every good work (they help us with the reason God saved us, cf. Ephesians 2:8-10).

WE SHOULD CONTINUE IN THE TRUTH OF THIS BOOK

Timothy had a godly upbringing.  Paul begins the book commending the faith of Timothy, a faith that had dwelt in his grandmother Lois and his mother Eunice. They had taught him well, and he was to continue “in the things which thou hast learned and hast been assured of, knowing of whom thou hast learned them,” even “from childhood” (2 Timothy 3:14-15).  Similarly, many Christians have had the blessing of a godly upbringing.  Yet some seek to throw off the things they have been taught as they leave home to pursue a college education or a career or ungodly friendships or pastimes.  This is to leave a firm foundation for shifting sands.  Let us not forsake or despise a godly heritage, but value it and continue in it.

Timothy also had a godly example in the apostle Paul.  He fully knew Paul’s “doctrine, manner of life, purpose, faith, longsuffering, charity, patience…what persecutions I endured” and God’s deliverance of him.  While “evil men and seducers” would “wax worse and worse, deceiving and being deceived,” Timothy was to remember that “all that will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution” and that he was to continue in what he had learned.  While we may or may not have a godly heritage from our childhood, we can find godly examples today – pastors, evangelists, missionaries, fellow Christian who are committed to the Lord – and we can follow in their footsteps as they follow Christ, as we seek to stand firmly on the unshakeable truth of God’s Word.  As Jesus said “to those Jews which believed on him, ‘If ye continue in My word, then are ye My disciples indeed; and ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free’” (John 8:31-32).

WE SHOULD COMMUNICATE THE TRUTH OF THIS BOOK

Confidence and continuance in the Bible must also give way to communication of it.  It is not merely for ourselves that God gave us this Book, but so that we might spread its message.  Paul told Timothy, “I charge thee therefore before God, and the Lord Jesus Christ, who shall judge the quick and the dead at his appearing and his kingdom; preach the word” (2 Timothy 4:1-2).  God will hold us accountable for what we do with the Book of which He is the ultimate Author.

Timothy was to communicate the Word through his preaching (verse 2).  He was to do the work of an evangelist, spreading the message, and completing the ministry to which God had called him (verse 5).  Today, we must still proclaim what God has said, whether it’s popular or not.  Paul wrote, “be instant in season, out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort with all long suffering and doctrine” (verse 2).  We can share personally as well as publicly, and we can support others who are doing so, by listening, encouraging, and giving so the Word of God can continue to spread.

Not everyone will welcome the message of this Book, but we must communicate God’s Word even in the face of opposition.  We have been warned:  “For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine [healthy teaching]; but after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears; and they shall turn away their ears from the truth, and shall be turned unto fables” (verses 3-4).  This is exactly what is happening today.  Whether it is the fable of having our best life now, or the false teaching that God wants us all to be financially rich, or the myth of present life coming into existence by evolution from lower life forms, many want to have their ears tickled and not be challenged with healthy teaching.  They would rather eat junk food and even poison in place of taking the medicine and healthy food that God’s Word gives.  Nonetheless, we must still speak the truth.

We are in dangerous times and so must “watch” and “endure afflictions.”  Speaking the truth can get us in trouble.  It may result in an “F” on an assignment, or dismissal from a class.  It may cause us to lose a job.  It may make us the objects of ridicule or false accusation, as Elijah was called the troubler of Israel by the wicked king Ahab, who was the real problem by virtue of departing from the true God (1 Kings 18:17-18).  We may be called “intolerant” or “Bibliolators” (accusing us of worshiping a book instead of God).  It may even prompt some to physically attack or kill us.  Regardless of the reaction, our responsibility before the Author of this Book, to Whom we are accountable, is to “preach the Word.”

Christian, do not forsake the unshakeable truth of God’s Word for the shaky ground of philosophies, worldviews, and lifestyles that contradict what the Author of truth has spoken.  Place your confidence in God and the truth He has revealed.  Continue in it.  Communicate it.  Then sleep soundly at night, since you trust the Author and are on a firm foundation.

BookCoverKeepingtheFaithinaChristianCollegeKINDLEThis article originally appeared in the Common Ground Herald.  An adapted version of it appears in my book, Keeping the Faith in a Christian College.

Twitter as a Motivation for Meditation: an Experiment

Twitter_logo_blueI’ve had a sort of love-hate relationship with Twitter.  If you don’t happen to know what Twitter is, it’s a social media service that limits you to 140 character posts (called Tweets), to which you may attach photos, videos, or links.  As with most media, there’s a lot of stupid stuff on Twitter and plenty of places and ways to get in trouble or just waste time.

A few months back, I completely walked away from Twitter, but then came back when I decided it would be a good idea to blog weekly at capsministry.com.  I set up automatic posting from the blog to @capsministry on Twitter, and would occasionally post extra tweets, retweet other Twitter-ers (Tweeters?), or “favorite” Tweets I found helpful.

I just self-published a book, Keeping the Faith in a Christian College, and have been trying to get the word out, so I began utilizing this blog, as well as capsministry.com and its Twitter account.  It made more sense to promote my own book with my own account, so it was back to Twitter for @dougsmith1977 (my old handle was still available!).  It’s annoying for someone to merely use a media outlet to incessantly publicize a product (or at least I think so), so I thought it would be better to share Scripture, meditations on Scripture, and helpful links, in addition to occasionally engaging other users directly.

The long and short of it is, that I’ve found Twitter to have some value for reinforcing my own meditation on the Bible.  Here’s how:

1. The forced brevity of Twitter forces one to choose carefully what one posts.  Sure, you can divide a long quote into multiple tweets, but better to be short, sweet, and well-encapsulated.  Who knows, amidst all the awkward attempts, one might come up with something decently pithy and helpful.

2. The fleeting nature of Twitter suggests that one use it with some frequency.  It’s easy for a Tweet to get lost in a sea of other content; if you follow more than a handful of people and have about any responsibilities, there’s no way you can catch each tweet that the folks you follow post.  So I’m posting several times a day in hopes that someone will be edified, educated, or challenged in a helpful way by something I say.

3. Scheduling tweets is the way I maximize my use of Twitter.  I’ve been using Buffer and decided, as a general rule, I will post 5 times each day (scheduled Tweets).  I may or may not post additional Tweets or Retweets, depending on my schedule (unscheduled Tweets).  Scheduling helps me with not being tied to checking Twitter too much.  The combination of scheduling and frequency is what helps me with meditation.  I’m reading through the “Essential 100” reading plan at YouVersion (www.bible.com), and have been focusing on a chapter a day.  So far, I’ve been chewing on Genesis 1 and 2 and scheduling tweets based on them.

My general approach so far has been:

  • 6:15 a.m. Tweet:  post a verse from the passage I’m reading
  • 9:15 a.m. Tweet:  a meditation/insight from the passage or its context
  • 12:15 p.m. Tweet:  another meditation/insight
  • 3:15 p.m. Tweet:  another meditation/insight; perhaps a link to a topic related to the text
  • 9:15 p.m. Tweet:  a quote on the theme of the passage (or related theme) – so far these have been from hymns, but I might broaden out to include quotes from commentators, preachers, etc.

This approach has helped me to use Twitter in an intentional, focused way, thus far.  It has also resulted in more time thinking on the Word, and that’s definitely a good thing:

Blessed is the man
Who walks not in the counsel of the ungodly,
    Nor stands in the path of sinners,
    Nor sits in the seat of the scornful;
But his delight is in the law of the Lord,
    And in His law he meditates day and night.

Psalm 1:1-2 (NKJV)

Christ Defines a “Christian View” of Scripture

by Doug Smith

What does it mean to have a “Christian” viewpoint about something?  Various people and groups who would take the name “Christian” have a variety of views about matters such as baptism and church government, who can serve as pastors, Christian liberty, and what science does or doesn’t prove.  Various folks who call themselves “Christians” even differ on the exact identity of Christ!

Many of us who do agree on the person of Christ — that He is eternally God, who became a man, lived a perfect life, died on the cross for sinners, rose from the dead, ascended to heaven, and is physically returning one day — are willing to acknowledge others as believers even if we disagree on some secondary (but not unimportant) issues.  One of the reasons we can agree to disagree is because we share the same authority – the Bible (Old and New Testaments).  We just disagree on how to interpret it and apply it when we come to certain key passages and issues.  But as those who trust Christ as Savior and Lord, we cannot give any approval to a view that calls itself “Christian” while standing in stark opposition to what Christ Himself actually said and did, anymore than we could pretend that play money was a legitimate form of currency.

The good news of the incarnation, crucifixion, and resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ is central to the four Gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John.  Each of these Gospels focuses on the Person and work of our Lord.  One fascinating and helpful thing we can learn about Jesus is how He viewed Scripture, demonstrated in his quotation, application, and teaching about God’s written Word.  Looking at Jesus’ use of Scripture answers several questions for us and helps us test whether our view of the Bible is truly a “Christ”-ian view.

DID JESUS BELIEVE THE SCRIPTURES WERE HISTORICALLY ACCURATE?

Some who claim a “Christian” view of the Bible have alleged that it is reliable in regard to spiritual matters, but when it comes to history, it has mistakes.  What did the Son of God think?

In his article, “Embracing Christ’s View of Scripture,” Terry Mortenson observes:  “Jesus acknowledged that Adam and Eve were the first married couple (Matthew 19:3–6; Mark 10:3–9) and Abel was the first prophet and was martyred (Luke 11:50–51). He believed the accounts of Noah and the Flood (Matthew 24:37–39), Lot and his wife (Luke 17:28–32), Sodom and Gomorrah (Matthew 10:15), Moses and the serpent in the wilderness (John 3:14), the manna from heaven (John 6:32– 33, 6:49), the miracles of Elijah (Luke 4:25–27), Jonah and the big fish (Matthew 12:40–41)—the list goes on.

“Jesus did not allegorize these accounts but took them as real events that actually happened just as the Old Testament describes. He used these past events to reassure His disciples that the future events of His own death, Resurrection, and Second Coming would likewise certainly happen in time-space reality.”

A truly Christian view of the Bible trusts its complete reliability – even to the point of historical persons and details.

DID JESUS BELIEVE THAT THE SCRIPTURES WERE WITHOUT ERROR?

Some claim a “Christian” view of the Bible, yet they freely confess their belief that this Book that claims to come from God has errors.  What did Jesus believe?

Jesus said:  “Think not that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets: I am not come to destroy, but to fulfill.  For verily I say unto you, Till heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law, till all be fulfilled” (Matthew 5:17-18).  He also said, “The Scripture cannot be broken” (John 10:35).

In “The Christian’s View of Scripture,” Kevin DeYoung explains, “The word for ‘broken’ (luo) in verse 35 means to loose, release, dismiss, or dissolve. It carries here the sense of breaking, nullifying, or invalidating. It’s Jesus way of affirming that no word of Scripture can be falsified. No promise or threat can fall short of fulfillment. No statement can be found guilty of error. For Jesus—just as for his Jewish audience—he believed Scripture was the word of God, and as such, it would be gross impiety to think that any word spoken by God, or committed to writing by God, might be an errant word, a wrong word, or a broken word.”

When the Sadducees tried to trick Jesus with a question about the resurrection (a teaching they did not believe), Jesus reprimanded them by saying, “Ye do err, not knowing the scriptures, nor the power of God” (Matthew 22:29).  Jesus proceeded to prove the resurrection from a simple, but key, verb tense: God said I am (not was) the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.  From this minute detail Jesus proved the resurrection and stated that God is not the God of the dead but of the living.  If Jesus thought there were errors in the Scripture, how could he know the Scriptures to be one of the things that could have kept the Sadducees from erring?

A truly Christian view of the Bible agrees with Christ, that God gave the Scriptures with no errors.

DID JESUS BELIEVE THAT THE SCRIPTURES WERE AUTHORITATIVE?

Christ’s view of the Scripture not only included belief in its historical reliability and inerrancy, but also its authority.

Jesus openly rebuked religious leaders who elevated human traditions above the commandment of God, recorded in Scripture (Matthew 15:1-9).

When Jesus faced temptation from Satan to turn stones into bread if He was really the Son of God (after being declared the Son of God publicly at His baptism and after fasting in the wilderness forty days), He responded, “It is written, Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God.”  As the Son of God, Jesus subjected Himself to the authority of Scripture, called it necessary for life, and identified it as something that calls for our obedience.

As the Word of God, the Scriptures come from God and carry the divine authority by implication.  A truly Christian view of the Bible agrees with Jesus, who taught their divine authority.

DID JESUS BELIEVE THAT THE SCRIPTURES POINTED TO HIMSELF?

Another distinguishing mark of a Christian view of Scripture that follows Christ, is seeing Christ as the fulfillment of numerous Old Testament prophecies.

After His baptism and temptation, Jesus read from the scroll of Isaiah in the synagogue (a prophecy of the Messiah/Christ from Isaiah 61).  After reading it, He said, “This day is this scripture fulfilled in your ears” (Luke 4:16-32).

Jesus pointed out the irony of those who thought the Scriptures gave them life, telling them that they should search them, because they “testify of Me,” yet they would not come to Him, that they might have life (John 5:39-40).  He said Moses himself would indict them for their unbelief, “For had ye believed Moses, ye would have believed me; for he wrote of me.  But if ye believe not his writings, how shall ye believe my words?” (John 5:46-47)

On the road to Emmaus, Jesus met two confused disciples and “beginning at Moses and all the prophets, He expounded unto them in all the scriptures the things concerning himself” (Luke 24:27).  He also said, “These are the words which I spake unto you, while I was yet with you, that all things must be fulfilled, which were written in the law of Moses, and in the prophets, and in the psalms, concerning me” and showed them how the written Word of God had told of the sufferings and resurrection of Him, the One in whose name they were to go forth and preach repentance and forgiveness of sins (Luke 24:44-47).

A truly Christian view of the Bible sees it as a book that is historically accurate, inerrant, authoritative, and prophetic.

DOES JESUS APPROVE OF YOUR “CHRISTIAN” VIEW?

Jesus once said to Nicodemus, “If I have told you earthly things, and ye believe not, how shall ye believe if I tell you of heavenly things?”  In a similar manner, if we cannot trust the Bible to give us an accurate account of the origin of the universe, the history of mankind, the record of the nation Israel, details about Jesus and the apostles, etc… how can we possibly trust it when it comes to matters of unseen, eternal things?  If we don’t believe Genesis, how can we believe the Gospel of John?  If we claim to be Christians, how can we justify identifying as Christian a view that opposes what Christ Himself taught?

The last word on the written Word has been spoken by Him Who is the incarnate Word.  Let us honor and trust Him by letting Him define what is truly a “Christ”-ian view and taking His word for it.

BookCoverKeepingtheFaithinaChristianCollegeKINDLEThis article originally appeared in the Common Ground Herald.  An adapted version of it appears in my book, Keeping the Faith in a Christian College.

Book Review: Knowable Word by Peter Krol

kwPeter Krol, Knowable Word (Cruciform Press, 2014)
available for Kindle and in paperback, 120 pp.

Reviewed by Doug Smith

When I was a child, I had an unusual fixation with instruction manuals.  I actually enjoyed reading about how to use a toy, game, or electronic device.  There was just something about reading a description of how something was supposed to work, and figuring out how to understand the description, comparing it to what I was doing, and seeing if I could apply what I just read that I found satisfying, especially if I got a better result than what I had previously achieved.

I can’t think of any higher compliment about Knowable Word than that it is a good instruction manual that is enjoyable to read and easy to use.  Three attributes that distinguish Peter Krol’s book from other books on hermeneutics, or how to interpret and study the Bible, are its brevity, clarity, and practicality.

Knowable Word is a brief, quick on-ramp into the world of Bible study.  There are plenty of tomes on Biblical interpretation.  There are books about an abundance of introductory matters about Bible study that never actually get one into the Bible study.  Some of these books are hundreds of pages, but Krol’s is only 120.  Its length makes it possible to read in a couple of hours.  Reading it in a single sitting can help the reader more easily get the whole picture of what the author is saying, and get to work putting the book into practice.

Knowable Word is a clear book.  Its clarity is achieved by its focused vision to present a method of Bible study that is faithful to Scripture, easy to remember, and easy to apply.  The three step method?  Observe.  Interpret.  Apply.  Krol grounds this traditional “OIA” method in Scripture, showing how Jesus used this methodology to point out things to His hearers (Matt. 21:42-44).  He also shows how it works in normal human communication, as we see something, consider its meaning, and then choose a response based on what we have seen and interpreted.  Krol also gives an overarching vision of the Bible as a book that points us to Christ.  He takes us to Luke 24 to show us how Jesus viewed Scripture as pointing to Himself, and challenges us to look for themes that relate to the suffering and death of the Messiah, the need for repentance and forgiveness of sin, and the proclamation of the good news to all nations (Luke 24:46-47).

Krol’s writing style is direct and straightforward.  He does not get bogged down with a myriad of alternative views of scholarly theories, but focuses on explaining the OIA method in a simple manner.

The author primarily limits his examples of Bible study methods to Genesis 1, which he takes on its own terms, rather than importing ideas foreign to the text to shape his interpretation  This approach remains consistent throughout the book.  We do not have to constantly change gears to other types of literature as we are learning the method.

Krol gives clarity by way of contrast.  He argues that familiarity is our biggest enemy to observing what Scripture actually says, since we are not as active to observe that which we believe we already know.  Presuming that we understand something is an obstacle to discovering the right interpretation.  The inertia in our lives makes it difficult to want to budge and dig into the hard work of application, which leads to change.

Knowable Word is a practical book.  Krol quickly and clearly shows us how to put our Bible study into practice.  He focuses both on our internal beliefs and character as well as our outward actions toward others.  Examples from his own life, as he applies his study of Genesis 1 to his own aversion to home improvement projects, are illuminating and give good suggestions for us to think about when applying the Scripture.  The book also provides exercises and access to printable worksheets for working through the phases of observation, interpretation, and application, with suggestions of the things we need to look for and consider.

Krol’s book is a great instruction manual for reading the Bible.  It doesn’t go on forever, but gives you the basics so you can jump right in and start studying.  It doesn’t over-complicate things, but is clear in its instruction.  It’s practical, and you can immediately see the usefulness of the method Krol explains.  Knowable Word is thorough and clear enough that you can read it once and remember its gist as you put its principles to work.  Yet, it is a good reference to go back to when needing to remind yourself how you can dig deeper.

Knowable Word is a helpful resource that can introduce readers to basic Bible study methods they can learn “in five minutes” and master “over a lifetime,” as Krol states in chapter 1.  I plan to use this book to help others of all ages learn how to study the Bible for themselves, in hopes that they will better know Jesus and pass this method on to others as well.

The book also has a website with resources here.

DISCLAIMER: I received a free eBook of this title from Cruciform Press in exchange for an honest review.

The book is available for $5.99 for Kindle and $8.99 for paperback.