How to Study the Bible

The study of the Bible must be done with the recognition that Jesus Christ, His life, death, and resurrection, is the key to the understanding of the whole Scripture. In Christ, God’s redeeming love is preeminently revealed, the testimony to which is the heart of Scriptural revelation. This is to say that the Bible alone tells us about a God who loved the world so much that He determined to save it through His Son Jesus. We can learn much about God’s power and greatness by studying the natural world around us because He made it and His glory is reflected in it. But God’s grace, His saving mercy toward a lost world is revealed to us only in the Holy Scriptures. In fact, the knowledge of God as revealed in the Christ of the Scriptures is an absolute necessity for the understanding of God as revealed in the natural order.

(Taken from Derke Bergsma’s Redemption: The Triumph of God’s Great Plan, p. 3)


The Active Obedience of Christ

Christ as Mediator entered the federal relation in which Adam stood in the state of integrity, in order to merit eternal life for the sinner. This constitutes the active obedience of Christ, consisting in all that Christ did to observe the law in its federal aspect, as the condition for obtaining eternal life…. Christ merits more for sinners than the forgiveness of sins. According to Gal. 4:4,5 they are through Christ set free from the law as the condition of life, are adopted to be sons of God, and as sons are also heirs of eternal life, Gal. 4:7. All this is conditioned primarily on the active obedience of Christ. Through Christ the righteousness of faith is substituted for the righteousness of the law, Rom. 10:3,4.

[I]f Christ suffered only the penalty imposed on man, those who shared in the fruits of His work would have been left exactly where Adam was before he fell… still confronted with the task of obtaining eternal life in the way of obedience.

(Adapted from Louis Berkhof’s Systematic Theology, 380-381)

Already / Not Yet

The coming of Jesus Christ at his incarnation marked the beginning of a glorious new redemptive age with a corresponding set of blessings (the already). Yet this new age is not fully consummated and will be fulfilled in the future (the not yet). Christians today can experience a measure of the blessings and promises of heaven while still living in a fallen world that is groaning for the consummation.

The already / not yet concept is expressed in the New Testament’s distinct and pronounced tension between what God has already done in fulfilling the promised of the Old Testament and what God will do yet in the future. It can be said that the already / not yet structure gives the New Testament a strong forward-looking focus.

(Adapted from A Case for Amillennialism by Kim Riddlebarger)

What We Do in Secret

Author: Bob Kauflin, Categories: Devotions, —Leading a Congregation, —Worship and Life, Tags: Hypocrisy

via What We Do in Secret.

A Fascinating Quote – Martin Lloyd-Jones

If I am asked which sermons I wrote, I have already said that I used to divide my ministry, as I still do, into edification of the saints in the morning and a more evangelistic sermon in the evening. Well, my practice was to write my evangelistic sermon. I did so because I felt that in speaking to the saints, to the believers, one could feel more relaxed. There, one was speaking in the realm of the family. In other words, I believe that one should be unusually careful in evangelistic sermons. That is why the idea that a fellow who is merely gifted with a certain amount of glibness of speech and self-confidence, not to say cheek, can make an evangelist is all wrong. The greatest men should always be the evangelists, and generally have been; and the idea that Tom, Dick and Harry can be put up to speak on a street corner, but you must have a great preacher in a pulpit in a church is, to me, the reversing of the right order. It is when addressing the unbelieving world that we need to be most careful; and therefore I used to write my evangelistic sermon and not the other…

Leading an Effective Bible Study

I. Personal Preparation:

  1. Pray: Ask God to help you understand the passage.
  2. Know what you are teaching: Always begin studying the passage on your own.
    1. Read the whole paragraph, chapter or the entire book at least 3 times. Use different versions of the Bible. [Compare and contrast] (e.g. NASB (literal), NIV (dynamic), NLT (free))
    2. Read the background of the book is a MUST. (You may use the “Study Bible” book’s  introduction)
      1. i.      Identify the author and the audience
      2. ii.      Identify socio-cultural background
      3. iii.      Identify the purpose of the book
      4. iv.      Identify how the passage’s idea relates to the purpose of the book
      5. Identifying the main idea of the passage.
      6. Use Bible Dictionary: Biblical terms, names, places and ideas.
  3. Know your materials: Read the BS material and guide questions. Interact with it based on your own study of the passage. Conflicting thoughts may arise, therefore study the passage further or ask your pastor to resolve the issue. (Principle: Make sure you are convinced on what you are teaching.)
  4. Personalize it: Carefully study the guide questions. Spend time in meditation and reflection as you consider how to respond.
  5. Expect the unexpected queries: Write your thoughts and responses in each question; this will help you express your understanding of the passage clearly.
  6. Application: Consider how you can apply the Scripture to our present day living. (What does this have to do with me?)
  7. Teaching is learning: You may consider the week’s lesson to be part of your devotion for the entire week. Personalizing the lesson will give more impact to leading your group. You are hitting two birds in one stone.

II. Leading the Study:

  1. Begin with a prayer.
  2. Be creative in starting a Bible Study. The first minute will set the tone of your group’s interest.
  3. Open the group for discussion, but be discerning in entertaining questions.  Be reminded of the following:
    1. Focus on the topic
    2. Maintain confidentiality within the group
    3. Listen attentively, maintain eye-contact and give everyone a chance to talk.
    4. Pray for each other.
  4. Avoid answering the guide questions yourself; instead lead them to the answer.
  5. Do not be uncomfortable in silence. Silence help people think and digest thoughts.
  6. Acknowledge all contributions.
  7. Don’t be afraid of hard questions. If you do not know the answer, tell them honestly that you need to check it out and give a reply the following meeting. Make sure to do your homework. (Common Temptation: Giving an unsure answer)
  8. At the end of the Bible discussion you may want to allow the group members to meditate or challenge them with applications.
  9. Conclude your time together with conversational prayer, praying for your group’s struggles and their families. Pray for them individually. (If group is small, it is encouraged that you pray for them by name.)

This material is adopted from “A Life Guide Bible Study” notes for leaders by Vineyard Books with some additional personal inputs.

How Do You Take Criticism of Your Views?

Recently several people have asked me ‘how do you deal with harsh criticism?’ In each case, the inquirer had felt stung by what they felt were unfair attacks on him or her. In this internet age, anyone can have their views censured unfairly by people they don’t know. So what do you do when that happens? Here’s is the gist of the counsel I give people when they ask me about this. For years I’ve been guided by a letter by John Newton that is usually entitled “On Controversy.”

The biggest danger of receiving criticism is not to your reputation, but to your heart. You feel the injustice of it and feel sorry for yourself, and it tempts you to despise not only the critic, but the entire group of people from which they come. “Those people…” you mutter under your breath. All this can make you prouder over time. Newton writes: “Whatever…makes us trust in ourselves that we are comparatively wise or good, so as to treat those with contempt who do not subscribe to our doctrines, or follow our party, is a proof and fruit of a self-righteous spirit.” He argues that whenever contempt and superiority accompany our thoughts, it is a sign that “the doctrines of grace” are operating in our life “as mere notions and speculations” with “no salutary influence upon [our] conduct.”

So how can you avoid this temptation? First, you should look to see if there is a kernel of truth in even the most exaggerated and unfair broadsides. There is usually such a kernel when the criticism comes from friends, and there is often such truth when the disapproval comes from people who actually know you. So even if the censure is partly or even largely mistaken, look for what you may indeed have done wrong. Perhaps you simply acted or spoke in a way that was not circumspect. Maybe the critic is partly right for the wrong reasons. Nevertheless, identify your own short-comings, repent in your own heart before the Lord for what you can, and let that humble you. It will then be possible to learn from the criticism and stay gracious to the critic even if you have to disagree with what he or she has said.

If the criticism comes from someone who doesn’t know you at all (and often this is the case on the internet) it is possible that the criticism is completely unwarranted and profoundly mistaken. I am often pilloried not only for views I do have, but also even more often for views (and motives) that I do not hold at all. When that happens it is even easier to fall into a smugness and perhaps be tempted to laugh at how mistaken your critics are. “Pathetic…” you may be tempted to say. Don’t do it. Even if there is not the slightest kernel of truth in what the critic says, you should not mock them in your thoughts. First, remind yourself of examples of your own mistakes, foolishness, and cluelessness in the past, times in which you really got something wrong. Second, pray for the critic, that he or she grows in grace. Newton talks about it like this:

“If you account [your opponent] a believer, though greatly mistaken in the subject of debate between you, the words of David to Joab concerning Absalom are very applicable: ‘Deal gently with him for my sake.’  The Lord loves him and bears with him; therefore you must not despise him, or treat him harshly.  The Lord bears with you likewise, and expects that you should show tenderness to others, from a sense of the much forgiveness you need yourself.  In a little while you will meet in heaven; he will then be dearer to you than the nearest friend you have upon earth is to you now.  Anticipate that period in your thoughts; and though you may find it necessary to oppose his errors, view him personally as a kindred soul, with whom you are to be happy in Christ forever.”

So whatever you do, do anything you can to avoid feeling smug and superior to the critic. Even if you say to yourself that you are just ’shrugging it off’ and that you are not going to respond to the criticism, you can nonetheless conduct a full defense and refutation in the courtroom of your mind, in which you triumphantly prove how awful and despicable your opponents are. But that is a spiritual trap. Newton’s remarks about this are very convicting:

“A man may have the heart of a Pharisee, while his head is stored with orthodox notions of the unworthiness of the creature, and the riches of free grace.  Yea, I would add, the best of men are not wholly free from this leaven; and therefore are too apt to be pleased with such representations as hold up our adversaries to ridicule, and by consequence flatter our own superior judgments.  Controversies, for the most part, are so managed as to indulge rather than to repress his wrong disposition; and therefore, generally speaking, they are productive of little good.  They provoke those whom they should convince, and puff up those whom they should edify.  I hope your performance will savor of a spirit of true humility, and be a means of promoting it in others.”

Dr. Tim Keller is the Senior Pastor of Redeemer Presbyterian Church (PCA) in Manhattan, NY and a Council member with The Gospel Coalition.