Archive for the ‘Scripture’ Category

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Answering Claims That the Bible Contains Errors, and Why It Matters That It Doesn’t

In Scripture on December 14, 2017 by The Spillover

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Randy Alcorn:

When people say they believe the Bible contains errors, it’s a good practice to ask them to name those errors so you can open a Bible and look at them together.

Sometimes they will raise old and easily answered questions such as “Where did Cain get his wife?” But usually they can’t name many supposed errors, if any at all. Often, they’ve taken as truth the word of other people that the Bible contains errors, without investigating for themselves.

When you take the time to talk about their concerns, you can demonstrate that you have investigated it for yourself, that you’ve done your homework, and are convinced that when God says all Scripture is “God-breathed” (2 Timothy 3:16), He means that it is all accurate and reliable. Of course, if you haven’t actually done that, it’s time to start! Don’t be afraid, because God’s Word will hold up under your scrutiny. (It certainly has under mine!)

Remember, if someone asks a question you don’t know the answer to, it’s okay to say, “That’s a great question. Let me research it, and I’ll get back with you.” The Christian Research Institute gives this advice: “…rather than taking a fearful attitude when faced with an alleged biblical contradiction, we should view these occasions as opportunities to search and explore the Scriptures. One thing I can guarantee is this: your awe of the majesty of Scripture will deepen.”

Where Did Cain Get His Wife?

Let’s go back to Cain’s wife. She is referred to in Genesis 4:17 as the mother of Enoch. The typical claim is that Cain couldn’t have had a wife since only he and Abel were born to Adam and Eve.

This fails to recognize that Genesis 5:4 specifically tells us that Adam and Eve had other sons and daughters. Considering their long lifespans they likely had many childbearing years. But is there a problem since Genesis 4:17 precedes Genesis 5:4? Not at all. The narrative is not strictly sequential. It’s very common for books of history to talk about one person’s life, tracing out what they did for decades, then move back to deal with another of their contemporaries. With Cain, the text of Genesis has fast-forwarded decades, and by then he likely had a number of sisters of marriageable age. He obviously married one of them, or if it was multiple decades later, possibly one of his nieces. If in those days no one had children by a close relative, the human race would have quickly become extinct.

The problem of Cain’s wife is no problem to anyone but the most superficial reader of Scripture (and to those who have heard others say it is a problem).

What about Other Supposed Errors?

There are many claims of various errors in the Bible; I’ll deal with just a couple.

Some say that since it groups bats with birds, the Bible falsely teaches that bats are a type of bird (Deuteronomy 14:1118). First, there was no scientific definition or established classification of a bird in that time. It makes perfect sense that bats could be grouped with birds due to the fact that both fly.

The inspired original manuscript, in reference to bats, used a Hebrew word meaning a kind of animal that can fly. Unfortunately, some English translations render the word as “bird.” When a bat is involved, a better English translation would be “flying animal.” Obviously, it’s not an error to categorize a bat as a flying animal!

Some critics claim attribution errors, such as in Matthew 27:9-10: “Then was fulfilled what had been spoken by the prophet Jeremiah, saying, ‘And they took the thirty pieces of silver, the price of him on whom a price had been set by some of the sons of Israel, and they gave them for the potter’s field, as the Lord directed me.’” This reference is actually found in Zechariah 11:13, not in the book of Jeremiah.

The answer to this lies in early Judaism’s understanding of the canon of the Old Testament. The standard Jewish practice was to group the prophets together, even as Jesus did in referring to “the Law and the Prophets” in Matthew 22:40. According to Jewish scholar Nahum Sarna, Jeremiah was once regarded as the first book of the prophets, before Isaiah. He further explains “…in the Jewish way of labelling things you call a book by its first few words, and you call a collection of books by the first book in that collection.” So a learned Jewish exegete would see nothing strange in Matthew’s attributing this fulfilled prophecy of the potter’s field to Jeremiah.

Was Jesus Wrong about the Mustard Seed?

Some claim that when Jesus said the mustard seed was the “smallest of all the seeds on earth” (Mark 4:31), He was mistaken, since there are smaller seeds.

According to botany experts, the seed of the black mustard variety was in fact the smallest garden-variety seed commonly used in Palestine—even the entire eastern world—at that time. It grew into a very large shrub. Jesus used it as an illustration twice, and both times was speaking proverbially with statements about faith (Matthew 17:14-20) and the Kingdom of God (Mark 4:30-34).

John Piper lends a helpful perspective by clarifying the proper definition of error for judging the reliability of any literature. Thus when Jesus said the Kingdom of God is “like a grain of mustard seed, which, when sown on the ground, is the smallest of all the seeds on earth” (Mark 4:31), His basic intention was “not in the least botanical…Jesus capitalized on the proverbial smallness of the mustard seed to make a perfect, inerrant point about the kingdom of God.”

Why Does All This Matter?

It matters because if we cannot trust the Bible—if we can’t rely on it to tell us the truth in everything it speaks to—then it cannot be, as 2 Timothy 3 says, “profitable” for us. We can’t correct ourselves with it if it’s sometimes incorrect.

And if it isn’t reliable in this and that area, why would I think it is correct about love, holiness, grace, justice, idolatry, greed, gossip, fornication, adultery, homosexuality, or even the Gospel itself? If the Bible cannot be trusted to tell us the truth in all things—big or small—how can it be trusted at all? And if God considers truth so precious, and His Word so powerful, why would He claim to breathe out Scripture from His mouth (2 Timothy 3:16) and carry along the writers of Holy Scripture (2 Peter 1:21), and then fail to guard that Scripture against error?

In the early church, God’s Word, all of it, was viewed as the standard by which God’s people should evaluate any and all teachings. The Berean Christians were commended for measuring the apostle Paul’s words against the Old Testament Scriptures: “Now the Berean Jews were of more noble character than those in Thessalonica, for they received the message with great eagerness and examined the Scriptures every day to see if what Paul said was true” (Acts 17:11, NIV).

Unless the Bible were fully inspired, fully true, “examining the Scriptures daily to see if these things were true” would be meaningless. We can’t take something containing untruths—with no objective way to decide what’s true and what isn’t—and use it to measure whether something else is untrue. If you had a tape measure you knew to be inaccurate, would you bother using it?

Ironically, without studying Scripture or researching the actual facts, countless believers embrace the claims of the Bible’s critics. Yet most of those critics’ claims are nothing new. The Bible has been criticized incessantly for the last 150 years, and long before that. The charges just haven’t stuck. “Forever, O LORD, your word is firmly fixed in the heavens” (Psalm 119:89).

I’m reminded of what the Huguenots said of the Bible and its critics: “Hammer away ye hostile hands; your hammers break, God’s Anvil stands.”

Articles

What is your Bible-reading plan for 2015?

In Scripture on December 29, 2014 by The Spillover

Tim Challies:

Tis the season to think about next season. As 2014 draws to a close, our thoughts begin to turn to the new year. Whenever I consider a new year, I think of how I will approach another 365 daily devotions. At this point I am still undecided. There are so many good ways to read the Bible and each one seems better than the last. While I think and pray about it, I thought I’d share what I have found so far.

Here is a round-up of some of the ways you can read the Bible in 2015.

Ligonier Reading Plans. Ligonier offers what is probably the best and most thorough round-up of reading plans. They have plans that will take you through the Bible in a year, plans that will take you through the Bible in a few years, and plans that you can do at your own pace. Some of the plans involve only reading the Bible while others offer daily devotionals. There is something for everyone here.

ESV Bible Plans – The ESV site offers 12 different plans that are available in a variety of formats. You can also subscribe to their podcast which will allow you to listen to the Bible; if you do that you will go once through the Old Testament each year, and twice through the New Testament and Psalms.

Logos. The Logos software has Bible-reading plans built right into it, but you will need to use the Logos software to access them.

Bible.com – Bible.com, which offers the amazing Bible app, has a long list of plans to choose from. You will need to use the site or app to access them.

INTERESTING PLANS

Here are a few plans that look particularly interesting or different.

Professor Horner’s System – Professor Horner’s System is intense—10 chapters per day. You’ll read 10 chapters from 10 different books each day, which means you’ll always be reading different combinations. It’s a great system but takes a lot of commitment.

A Bible Plan for Readers – Peter Krol’s plan begins with reading through the entire Bible as quickly as you can, then slowing the pace a little bit.

The Change Your Mind Plan – This plan is very simple: “1. Choose a book of the Bible. 2. Read it in its entirety. 3. Repeat step #2 twenty times. 4. Repeat this process for all books of the Bible.”

God’s Glory in Salvation Through Judgment. This plan structures Scripture readings around Jim Hamilton’s book God’s Glory in Salvation Through Judgment. Through the year you will read both the Book and the book about the Book.

Denny Burk’s Plan. Denny Burk’s plan goes through the Bible in a year in canonical order, one book at a time. There are a handfull of “catchup” days thrown in in case you get behind. (Denny also offers a Greek New Testament plan.)

Articles

Read Through the Bible in 2014!

In Scripture on December 26, 2013 by The Spillover

Justin Taylor:

Do you want to read the whole Bible?

The average person reads 200 to 250 words per minute; there are about 775,000 words in the Bible; therefore it takes less than 10 minutes a day to read the whole Bible in a year.

(For those who like details, there’s a webpage devoted to how long it takes to read each book of the Bible. And if you want a simple handout that has every Bible book with a place to put a check next to every chapter, go here.)

Audio Bibles are usually about 75 hours long, so you can listen to it in just over 12 minutes a day.

But the point is not merely to read the whole thing to say you’ve done it or to check it off a list. The Bible itself never commands that we read the Bible through in a year. What is commends is knowing the whole counsel of God (Acts 20:27) and meditating or storing or ruminating upon God’s self-disclosure to us in written form (Deut. 6:732:46Ps. 119:1115239399143:5).

As Joel Beeke writes:

As oil lubricates an engine, so meditation facilitates the diligent use of means of grace (reading of Scripture, hearing sermons, prayer, and all other ordinances of Christ), deepens the marks of grace (repentance, faith, humility), and strengthens one’s relationships to others (love to God, to fellow Christians, to one’s neighbors at large).

Thomas Watson put it like this: “A Christian without meditation is like a soldier without arms, or a workman without tools. Without meditation the truths of God will not stay with us; the heart is hard, and the memory is slippery, and without meditation all is lost.”

So reading the Bible cover to cover is a great way to facilitate meditation upon the whole counsel of God.

But a simple resolution to do this is often an insufficient. Most of us need a more proactive plan.

One option is to get a Bible that has a plan as part of its design. For example, Crossway offers the ESV Daily Reading Bible (based on the popular M’Cheyne reading plan—read through the OT once and the NT and Psalms twice) or the One-Year Bible in the ESV (whole Bible once in 364 readings). [For multiple bindings of the ESV Daily Reading Bible, go here.]

Stephen Witmer explains the weaknesses of typical plans and offers some advice on reading the Bible together with others—as well as offering his own new two-year plan. (“In my opinion, it is better to read the whole Bible through carefully one time in two years than hastily in one year.”) His plan has you read through one book of the Bible at a time (along with a daily reading from the Psalms or Proverbs). At the end of two years you will have read through the Psalms and Proverbs four times and the rest of the Bible once.

The Gospel Coalition’s For the Love of God Blog (which you can subscribe to via email, but is now also available as a free app) takes you through the M’Cheyne reading plan, with a meditation each day by D. A. Carson related to one of the readings. M’Cheyne’s plan has you read shorter selections from four different places in the Bible each day.

Jason DeRouchie, the editor of the new and highly recommended What the Old Testament Authors Really Cared About: A Survey of Jesus’ Bible, offers his KINGDOM Bible Reading Plan, which has the following distinctives:

  • Proportionate weight is given to the Old and New Testaments in view of their relative length, the Old receiving three readings per day and the New getting one reading per day.
  • The Old Testament readings follow the arrangement of Jesus’ Bible (Luke 24:44—Law, Prophets, Writings), with one reading coming from each portion per day.
  • In a single year, one reads through Psalms twice and all other biblical books once; the second reading of Psalms (highlighted in gray) supplements the readings through the Law (Genesis-Deuteronomy).
  • Only twenty-five readings are slated per month in order to provide more flexibility in daily devotions.
  • The plan can be started at any time of the year, and if four readings per day are too much, the plan can simply be stretched to two or more years (reading from one, two, or three columns per day).

Trey Hunter’s “The Bible-Eater Plan” is an innovative new approach that has you reading whole chapters, along with quarterly attention to specific books. The plan especially highlights OT chapters that are crucial to the storyline of Scripture and redemptive fulfillment in Christ.

For those who would benefit from a realistic “discipline + grace” approach, consider “The Bible Reading Plan for Shirkers and Slackers.” It takes away the pressure (and guilt) of “keeping up” with the entire Bible in one year. You get variety within the week by alternating genres by day, but also continuity by sticking with one genre each day. Here’s the basic idea:

Sundays: Poetry
Mondays: Penteteuch (Genesis through Deuteronomy)
Tuesdays: Old Testament history
Wednesdays: Old Testament history
Thursdays: Old Testament prophets
Fridays: New Testament history
Saturdays: New Testament epistles (letters)

There are a number of Reading Plans for ESV Editions. Crossway has made them accessible in multiple formats:

  • web (a new reading each day appears online at the same link)
  • RSS (subscribe to receive by RSS)
  • podcast (subscribe to get your daily reading in audio)
  • iCal (download an iCalendar file)
  • mobile (view a new reading each day on your mobile device)
  • print (download a PDF of the whole plan)
Reading Plan Format
Chronological
Through the Bible chronologically (from Back to the Bible)
RSS iCal Mobile Print Email
Daily Light on the Daily Path
Daily Light on the Daily Path – the ESV version of Samuel Bagster’s classic
RSS iCal Mobile Print Email
Daily Office Lectionary
Daily Psalms, Old Testament, New Testament, and Gospels
RSS iCal Mobile Print Email
Daily Reading Bible
Daily Old Testament, New Testament, and Psalms
RSS iCal Mobile Print Email
ESV Study Bible
Daily Psalms or Wisdom Literature; Pentateuch or the History of Israel; Chronicles or Prophets; and Gospels or Epistles
RSS iCal Mobile Print Email
Every Day in the Word
Daily Old Testament, New Testament, Psalms, Proverbs
RSS iCal Mobile Print Email
Literary Study Bible
Daily Psalms or Wisdom Literature; Pentateuch or the History of Israel; Chronicles or Prophets; and Gospels or Epistles
RSS iCal Mobile Print Email
M’Cheyne One-Year Reading Plan
Daily Old Testament, New Testament, and Psalms or Gospels
RSS iCal Mobile Print Email
Outreach
Daily Old Testament, Psalms, and New Testament
RSS iCal Mobile Print Email
Outreach New Testament
Daily New Testament. Read through the New Testament in 6 months
RSS iCal Mobile Print Email
Through the Bible in a Year
Daily Old Testament and New Testament
RSS iCal Mobile Print Email

You can also access each of these Reading Plans as podcasts:

  • Right-click (Ctrl-click on a Mac) the “RSS” link of the feed you want from the above list.
  • Choose “Copy Link Location” or “Copy Shortcut.”
  • Start iTunes.
  • Under File, choose “Subscribe to Podcast.”
  • Paste the URL into the box.
  • Click OK.

For those looking for some books to have on hand as “helps” as you read through the Bible, here are a few suggestions:

As you read through the Bible, here’s a chart you may want to to print out and have on hand. It’s from Goldsworthy’s book According to Plan. It simplified, of course, but it can be helpful in locating where you’re at in the biblical storyline and seeing the history of Israel “at a glance.”

Goldsworthy’s outline is below. You can also download this as a PDF (posted with permission).

Screen shot 2009-12-23 at 10.34.55 PM

Taken from According to Plan: The Unfolding Revelation of God in the Bible by Graeme Goldsworthy. Copyright(c) Graeme Goldsworthy 1991. Used by permission of InterVarsity Press, PO Box 1400, Downers Grove, IL 60515 (www.ivpress.com) and Inter-Varsity Press, Norton Street, Nottingham NG7 3HR England (www.ivbooks.com)

Creation by Word Genesis 1 and 2
The Fall Genesis 3
First Revelation of Redemption Genesis 4-11
Abraham Our Father Genesis 12-50
Exodus: Our Pattern of Redemption Exodus 1-15
New Life: Gift and Task Exodus 16-40; Leviticus
The Temptation in the Wilderness Numbers; Deuteronomy
Into the Good Land Joshua; Judges; Ruth
God’s Rule in God’s Land 1 and 2 Samuel; 1 Kings 1-10; 1 Chronicles; 2 Chronicles 1-9
The Fading Shadow 1 Kings 11-22; 2 Kings
There Is a New Creation Jeremiah; Ezekiel; Daniel; Esther
The Second Exodus Ezra; Nehemiah; Haggai
The New Creation for Us Matthew; Mark; Luke; John
The New Creation in Us Initiated Acts
The New Creation in Us Now New Testament Epistles
The New Creation Consummated The New Testament

Below are Goldsworthy’s summaries of each section.

Creation by Word
Genesis 1 and 2
In the beginning God created everything that exists. He made Adam and Eve and placed them in the garden of Eden. God spoke to them and gave them certain tasks in the world. For food he allowed them the fruit of all the trees in the garden except one. He warned them that they would die if they ate of that one tree.

The Fall
Genesis 3
The snake persuaded Eve to disobey God and to eat the forbidden fruit. She gave some to Adam and he ate also. Then God spoke to them in judgment, and sent them out of the garden into a world that came under the same judgment.

First Revelation of Redemption
Genesis 4-11
Outside Eden, Cain and Abel were born to Adam and eve. Cain murdered Abel and Eve bore another son, Seth. Eventually the human race became so wicked that God determined to destroy every living thing with a flood. Noah and his family were saved by building a great boat at God’s command. The human race began again with Noah and his three sons with their families. Sometime after the flood a still unified human race attempted a godless act to assert its power in the building of a high tower. God thwarted these plans by scattering the people and confusing their language.

Abraham Our Father
Genesis 12-50
Sometime in the early second millennium BC God called Abraham out of Mesopotamia to Canaan. He promised to give this land to Abraham’s descendants and to bless them as his people. Abraham went, and many years later he had a son, Isaac. Isaac in rum had two sons, Esau and Jacob. The promises of God were established with Jacob and his descendants. He had twelve sons, and in time they all went to live in Egypt because of famine in Canaan.

Exodus: Our Pattern of Redemption
Exodus 1-15
In time the descendants of Jacob living in Egypt multiplied to become a very large number of people. The Egyptians no longer regarded them with friendliness and made them slaves. God appointed Moses to be the one who would lead Israel out of Egypt to the promised land of Canaan. When the moment came for Moses to demand the freedom of his people, the Pharaoh refused to let them go. Though Moses worked ten miracle-plagues which brought hardship, destruction, and death to the Egyptians. Finally, Pharaoh let Israel go, but then pursued them and trapped them at the Red Sea (or Sea of Reeds). The God opened a way in the sea for Israel to cross on dry land, but closed the water over the Egyptian army, destroying it.

New Life: Gift and Task
Exodus 16-40; Leviticus
After their release from Egypt, Moses led the Israelites to Mount Sinai. There God gave them his law which they were commanded to keep. At one point Moses held a covenant renewal ceremony in which the covenant arrangement was sealed in blood. However, while Moses was away on the mountain, the people persuaded Aaron to fashion a golden calf. Thus they showed their inclination to forsake the covenant and to engage in idolatry. God also commanded the building of the tabernacle and gave all the rules of sacrificial worship by which Israel might approach him.

The Temptation in the Wilderness
Numbers; Deuteronomy
After giving the law to the Israelites at Sinai, God directed them to go in and take possession of the promised land. Fearing the inhabitants of Canaan, they refused to do so, thus showing lack of confidence in the promises of God. The whole adult generation that had come out of Egypt, with the exception of Joshua and Caleb, was condemned to wander and die in the desert. Israel was forbidden to dispossess its kinsfolk, the nation of Edom, Moab, and Ammon, but was given victory over other nations that opposed it. Finally, forty years after leaving Egypt, Israel arrived in the Moabite territory on the east side of the Jordan. Here Moses prepared the people for their possession of Canaan, and commissioned Joshua as their new leader.

Into the Good Land
Joshua; Judges; Ruth
Under Joshua’s leadership the Israelites crossed the Jordan and began the task of driving out the inhabitants of Canaan. After the conquest the land was divided between the tribes, each being allotted its own region. Only the tribe of Levi was without an inheritance of land because of its special priestly relationship to God. There remained pockets of Canaanites in the land and, from time to time, these threatened Israel’s hold on their new possession. From the one-man leaderships of Moses and Joshua, the nation moved into a period of relative instability during which judges exercised some measure of control over the affairs of the people.

God’s Rule in God’s Land
1 and 2 Samuel; 1 Kings 1-10; 1 Chronicles; 2 Chronicles 1-9
Samuel became judge and prophet in all Israel at a time when the Philistines threatened the freedom of the nation. An earlier movement for kingship was received and the demand put to a reluctant Samuel. The first king, Saul, had a promising start to his reign but eventually showed himself unsuitable as the ruler of the covenant people. While Saul still reigned, David was anointed to succeed him. Because of Saul’s jealousy David became an outcast, but when Saul died in battle David returned and became king (about 1000 BC). Due to his success Israel became a powerful and stable nation. He established a central sanctuary at Jerusalem, and created a professional bureaucracy and permanent army. David’s son Solomon succeeded him (about 961 BC) and the prosperity of Israel continued. The building of the temple at Jerusalem was one of Solomon’s most notable achievements.

The Fading Shadow
1 Kings 11-22; 2 Kings
Solomon allowed political considerations and personal ambitions to sour his relationship with God, and this in turn had a bad effect on the life of Israel. Solomon’s son began an oppressive rule which led to the rebellion of the northern tribes and the division of the kingdom. Although there were some political and religious high points, both kingdoms went into decline, A new breed of prophets warned against the direction of national life, but matters went from bad to worse. In 722 BC the northern kingdom of Israel fell to the power of the Assyrian empire. Then, in 586 BC the southern kingdom of Judah was devastated by the Babylonians. Jerusalem and its temple were destroyed, and a large part of the population was deported to Babylon.

There Is a New Creation
Jeremiah; Ezekiel; Daniel; Esther
The prophets of Israel warned of the doom that would befall the nation. When the first exiles were taken to Babylon in 597 BC, Ezekiel was among them. Both prophets ministered to the exiles. Life for the Jews (the people of Judah) in Babylon was not all bad, and in time many prospered. The books of Jeremiah and Ezekiel indicate a certain normality to the experience, while Daniel and Esther highlight some of the difficulties and suffering experienced in an alien and oppressive culture.

The Second Exodus
Ezra; Nehemiah; Haggai
In 539 BC Babylon fell to the Medo-Persian empire. The following year, Cyrus the king allowed the Jews to return home and to set up a Jewish state within the Persian empire. Great difficulty was experienced in re-establishing the nation. There was local opposition to the rebuilding of Jerusalem and the temple. Many of the Jews did not return but stayed on in the land of their exile. In the latter part of the fourth century BC, Alexander the Great conquered the Persian empire. The Jews entered a long and difficult period in which Greek culture and religion challenged their trust in God’s covenant promises. In 63 BC Pompey conquered Palestine and the Jews found themselves a province of the Roman empire.

The New Creation for Us
Matthew; Mark; Luke; John
The province of Judea, the homeland of the Jews, came under Roman rule in 63 BC. During the reign of Caesar Augustus, Jesus was born at Bethlehem, probably about the year 4 BC. John, known as the Baptist, prepared the way for the ministry of Jesus. This ministry of preaching, teaching, and healing began with Jesus’ baptism and lasted about three years. Growing conflict with the Jews and their religious leaders led eventually to Jesus being sentenced to death by the Roman governor, Pontius Pilate. He was executed by the Romans just outside Jerusalem, but rose from death two days afterward and appealed to his followers on a number of occasions. After a period with them, Jesus was taken up to heaven.

The New Creation in Us Initiated
Acts
After Jesus had ascended, his disciples waited in Jerusalem. On the day of Pentecost the Holy Spirit came upon them and they began the task of proclaiming Jesus. As the missionary implications of the gospel became clearer to the first Christians, the local proclamation was extended to world evangelization. The apostle Paul took the gospel to Asia Minor and Greece, establishing many churches as he went. Eventually a church flourished at the heart of the empire of Rome.

The New Creation in Us Now
New Testament Epistles
As the gospel made inroads into pagan societies it encountered many philosophies and non-Christian ideas which challenged the apostolic message. The New Testament epistles shows that the kind of pressures to adopt pagan ideas that had existed for the people of God in Old Testament times were also a constant threat to the churches. The real danger to Christian teaching was not so much in direct attacks upon it, but rather in the subtle distortion of Christian ideas. Among the troublemakers were the Judaizers who added Jewish law-keeping to the gospel. The Gnostics also undermined the gospel with elements of Greek philosophy and religion.

The New Creation Consummated
The New Testament
God is Lord over history and therefore, when he so desires, he can cause the events of the future to be recorded. All section of the New Testament contain references to things which have not yet happened, the most significant being the return of Christ and the consummation of the kingdom of God. No clues to the actual chronology are given, but it is certain that Christ will return to judge the living and the dead. The old creation will be undone and the new creation will take its place.

Articles

How Not to Read Your Bible in 2013

In Perspective,Scripture on December 31, 2012 by The Spillover

Matt Smethurst:

When it comes to daily (or not-so-daily) Bible reading, January 1 can be a welcome arrival. A new year signals a new start. You’re motivated to freshly commit to what you know is of indispensable importance: the Word of God.

Yet this isn’t the first time you’ve felt this way. You were entertaining pretty similar thoughts 365 days ago. And 365 days before that. And 365 days . . . you know how it goes.

So what’s going to make 2013 different? What, under God, will keep you plodding along in April this year when staying power has generally vanished in Aprils of yore? From one stumbling pilgrim to another, here are five suggestions for what not to do in 2013.

1. Don’t Overextend 

“Shoot for the moon. Even if you miss, you’ll land among the stars!”

This hackneyed high school yearbook quote is bad advice for most things, Bible reading plans not excepted. If you shoot for and miss the “moon” of six chapters a day, you won’t quietly land among the “stars” of three. You’ll just be lost in space.

It’s better to read one chapter a day, every day, than four a day, every now and then. Moreover, the value of meditation cannot be overstressed. Meditation isn’t spiritualized daydreaming; it’s riveted reflection on revelation. Read less, if you must, to meditate more. It’s easy to encounter a torrent of God’s truth, but without absorption—and application—you will be little better for the experience.

As Thomas White once said, “It is better to hear one sermon only and meditate on that, than to hear two sermons and meditate on neither.” I think that’s pretty sage advice for Scripture reading, too.

2. Don’t Do It Alone

When it comes to Bible reading consistency, a solo sport mentality can be lethal. Surely that’s why many run out of gas; they feel like they’re running alone. To forestall the dangers of isolation, then, invite one or two others to join you in 2013. Set goals, make a commitment, and hold one another accountable. Turn your personal Scripture reading into a team effort, a community project.

A daily devotional, too, can function as a helpful companion and guide. D. A. Carson’s For the Love of God (Volume 1Volume 2) and Nancy Guthrie’s Discovering Jesus in the Old Testament are two excellent options.

3. Don’t Just Do It Whenever

Every morning we awaken to a fresh deluge of information. We’ve now reached the point where, I’ve heard it said, an average weekday edition of The New York Times contains more information than Jonathan Edwards encountered in his entire lifetime. I don’t know if that’s true, but it sure makes me think.

It is imperative, then, to set a specific time each day when you will get alone with God. Even if it’s a modest window, guard it with your life. Explain your goal to those closest to you, and invite their help. Otherwise, the tyranny of the urgent will continue to rear its unappeasable head. What is urgent will fast displace what is important, and what is good will supplant what is best.

If your basic game plan is to read your Bible whenever, chances are you’ll read it never. And if you don’t control your schedule, your schedule will control you. It’s happened to me more times than I care to admit.

4. Don’t Live as if Paul Lied

Did you know Leviticus and Chronicles and Obadiah were written to encourage you? That’s what Paul believed, anyway: “For 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; cf. 1 Cor. 9:1010:6112 Tim. 3:16).

What a sweeping word! Paul is going so far as to claim the entirety of the Old Testament is for you—to instruct you, to encourage you, to help you endure, and to give you hope.

Few of you will conclude Paul is simply mistaken here. Good evangelicals, after all, are happy to take inspired apostles at their word. But does our approach to our Bibles tell a different story? Do we act as if Numbers or Kings or Nahum has the power to infuse our lives with help and hope?

Whenever you open your Bible, labor to believe that God has something here to say to me.Whatever I encounter in his Word was written with me, his cherished child, in view. So pursue God’s graces on the pages of Scripture this year. Strength for today and bright hope for tomorrow everywhere await.

5. Don’t Turn a Means of Grace into a Means of Merit

Your Father’s love for you doesn’t rise and fall with your quiet times. If you are united to Jesus by faith, the verdict is out, and the court is dismissed. You’re as accepted and embraced as the Son himself. Period.

To be sure, you’ll desire to hear and follow his voice if you’re truly one of his sheep (John 10:1-30; cf. 8:4718:37). Not always and not perfectly, of course, but sincerely and increasingly.

So as another year dawns, commit yourself anew to becoming a man or woman of the Word. But don’t overextend, do it alone, just do it whenever, live as if Paul lied, or treat means of grace like means of merit.

Your Bible is one of God’s chief gifts to you in 2013. Open, read, ruminate, and obey. May you be ever transformed into the image of our incarnate King, and may he alone receive the acclaim.

Articles

Read Through the Bible in 2013

In Scripture,Soul Food on December 28, 2012 by The Spillover

Thanks, Ligonier.org:

Many Christians take the beginning of a new year to evaluate their Bible reading habits, and then change or begin a Bible reading plan.

Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path. — Psalm 119:105

For your convenience, we’ve compiled a list of Bible reading plans for you to choose from. Maybe this year you will read more of the Bible each day. Perhaps you’ll slow down your reading and instead spend more time considering what you read. Whatever it is you’re looking for in a reading plan, you should find it below.


52 Week Bible Reading Plan

Read through the Bible in a year, with each day of the week dedicated to a different genre: Epistles, The Law, History, Psalms, Poetry, Prophecy, and Gospels.

Duration: One year | Download: PDF


5x5x5 Bible Reading Plan

Read through the New Testament in a year, reading Monday to Friday. Weekends are set aside for reflection and other reading. Especially beneficial if you’re new to a daily discipline of Bible reading.

Duration: One year | Download: PDF


A Bible Reading Chart

Read through the Bible at your own pace. Use this minimalistic, yet beautifully designed, chart to track your reading over 2013.

Duration: Flexible | Download: PDF


Chronological Bible Reading Plan

Read through the Bible in the order the events occurred chronologically.

Duration: One year | Download: PDF


The Discipleship Journal Bible Reading Plan

Four daily readings beginning in Genesis, Psalms, Matthew and Acts.

Duration: One year | Download: PDF


ESV Daily Bible Reading Plan

Four daily readings taken from four lists: Psalms and Wisdom Literature, Pentateuch and History of Israel, Chronicles and Prophets, and Gospels and Epistles.

Duration: One year | Download: PDF


Every Word in the Bible

Read through the Bible one chapter at a time. Readings alternate between the Old and New Testaments.

Duration: Three years | Download: PDF


Historical Bible Reading Plan

The Old Testament readings are similar to Israel’s Hebrew Bible, and the New Testament readings are an attempt to follow the order in which the books were authored.

Duration: One year | Download: PDF


Professor Grant Horner’s Bible Reading System

Reading ten chapters a day, in the course of a year you’ll read the Gospels four times, the Pentateuch twice, Paul’s letters four to five times, the Old Testament wisdom literature six times, the Psalms at least twice, Proverbs and Acts a dozen times, and the OT History and Prophetic books about one and a half times.

Duration: Ongoing | Download: PDF


Robert Murray M’Cheyne Bible Reading Plan

Read the New Testament and Psalms twice and the Old Testament once.

Duration: One or two years | Download: Website


Straight Through the Bible Reading Plan

Read straight through the Bible, from Genesis to Revelation.

Duration: One year | Download: PDF


Tabletalk Bible Reading Plan

Two readings each day; one from the Old Testament and one from the New Testament.

Duration: One year | Download: PDF
App: Accessible in the Ligonier App (iPhone / iPad & Android)


The Legacy Reading Plan

This plan does not have set readings for each day. Instead, it has set books for each month, and set number of Proverbs and Psalms to read each week. It aims to give you more flexibility, while grounding you in specific books of the Bible each month.

Duration: One year | Download: PDF


Two-Year Bible Reading Plan

Read the Old and New Testaments once, and Psalms & Proverbs four times.

Duration: Two years | Download: PDF

Articles

Lord, Make Us Like This

In Scripture on November 9, 2012 by The Spillover

Let love be genuine. Abhor what is evil; hold fast to what is good. Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor. Do not be slothful in zeal, be fervent in spirit, serve the Lord. Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer. Contribute to the needs of the saints and seek to show hospitality.

Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them. Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep. Live in harmony with one another. Do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly. Never be wise in your own sight. Repay no one evil for evil, but give thought to do what is honorable in the sight of all. If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all. Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.” To the contrary, “if your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink; for by so doing you will heap burning coals on his head.” Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.

–Romans 12:9-21

Articles

Slaves of Christ

In Perspective,Scripture,Soul Food on September 18, 2012 by The Spillover

Mike Riccardi:

As I began to preach the Book of Philippians recently, I noticed that right off the bat Paul identifies himself and Timothy as slaves of Christ Jesus (Phil 1:1). Now, most of the English versions have “servants” or “bond-servants” there, but the Greek word is doulos, which is properly rendered “slave.” In mentioning their slavery to Christ at the very beginning of the letter, Paul intended that the Philippians—who had been struggling with issues of steadfastness amidst conflict (Phil 1:27–304:1), unity among believers (Phil 2:1–24:2–3), humility (Phil 2:3–9), and joy amidst persecution (Phil 2:17–183:14:4)—would be reminded that they too are slaves of Christ Jesus, and that that identity would inform their responses to those situations.

It’s interesting to note that slave is a favorite self-designation for the Apostles and other writers of Scripture. James claims this title for himself in the opening verse of his epistle (Jas 1:1). The same is true for Peter (2 Pet 1:1), for Jude (Jude 1:1), and for the Apostle John (Rev 1:1). On top of that, Paul repeats that he is Christ’s doulos throughout his other letters: in Romans, 1 Corinthians, Galatians, Ephesians, Colossians, 2 Timothy, and Titus. The term is used at least forty times in the New Testament to refer to the believer, and the Hebrew equivalent is used over 250 times to refer to believers in the Old Testament. We may safely conclude that the Lord wants His people to understand themselves in this way.

At its core, the essence of the Christian life can be described as slavery to Christ.

Five Parallels

So what does it mean to be a slave? In his excellent book, entitled simply, Slave, John MacArthur outlines five parallels between biblical Christianity and first-century slavery. The first is exclusive ownership. Slaves are owned by their masters. As Paul says to believers so clearly in1 Corinthians 6:19–20: “You are not your own. You have been bought with a price.” See, Christians do not exist in some world of untethered autonomy. We are not the masters of our fate—not the captains of our souls. We were bought with a price, and so we belong to the One who has paid that price.

“Therefore,” Paul says in 1 Corinthians 6:20, because you were bought with a price and are not your own, “glorify God in your body.” Exclusive ownership implies complete submission. If we belong to Christ—if He owns us—then the rule of our lives is not our will, but His will—our Master’s will.

Third: there is singular devotion. No slave concerned himself with obeying other masters; his chief concern was carrying out the will of the one to whom he belonged. Our Master, the Lord Jesus Himself, reminds us in Matthew 6:24: that “no one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to one and despise the other.” The 19th century evangelist George Müller captured the spirit of slavery to Christ beautifully when he wrote:

“There was a day when I died, utterly died, died to George Müller and his opinions, preferences, tastes and will; died to the world, its approval or censure; died to the approval or blame of even my brethren and friends; and since then I have studied only to show myself approved unto God” (cited in Slave, 153).

The slave of Christ is singularly devoted.

Fourth, the slave is also marked by a total dependence— he was completely dependent on his master for the provision of the basic necessities of life. In the same way, the Christian must humbly depend entirely upon the beneficence of our Master, and not at all on ourselves (Matt 5:31Pet 4:11). And because He is a loving, kind Master, all our needs are met, and we are free to serve our Master unhindered and with all eagerness and joy. Finally, the slave was personally accountable to his master. And in the same way, Christ is the One to whom we will answer—the One to whom we will give an account. And that reality will have bearing on how we conduct ourselves now (2Cor 5:9–10).

Christians, most fundamentally, are slaves of Christ.

A Delightful Bond

But as you contemplate those five characteristics, I hope you recognize that slavery to Christ is not a drudgery. This is not a tyrannical, despotic relationship fueled by abject fear and forced submission. The picture is not someone whose will is constantly frustrated over and against the whims of his master, but of someone whose will is, over time and repeated exposure to that Master, lovingly and happily conformed to the Master’s will. Alexander Maclaren called it “the blending and absorption of my own will in His will.” So it’s not just, “I do what He wants, not what I want,” but, “As He teaches me and shows me more of Himself, what I want becomes what He wants.”

Nor was a slave’s status always automatically dishonorable. Instead, the status of the slave was linked to the status of his master. It was a great honor to be accounted a slave of Caesar. And in the same way, for Christians, being slaves of Christ was, as MacArthur says, “not only an affirmation of their complete submission to the Master; it was also a declaration of the privileged position every Christian enjoys by being associated with the Lord. No affiliation could be greater than that” (Slave, 97). In fact, Scripture applies that designation to Christ Himself in Philippians 2:7, where we’re told that in His incarnation, Christ took the form of aslave. And as we submit ourselves fully to His loving rule, we not only honor Him as our Master, but follow Him in His example.

My question to you is: Is this your identity? Do you gladly accept this title, a slave of Christ? Does the reality of your being exclusively owned and personally accountable stimulate you to be completely submitted? Singularly devoted? Totally dependent? By employing the slave metaphor, this is how the Scriptures describe a true believer in Christ.