April 2016 Issue of Christian Worker (How to Study the Bible – Part 1.)

Here’s a link to the latest PDF issue of the Christian Worker.

Here are the topics that you will find:

  • Studying with the Right Attitude (Johnie Scaggs Jr)
  • The Importance of Effective Bible Study (Cody Westbrook)
  • Understanding Bible Authority (Kevin Rhodes)
  • The Silence of the Scriptures (Steven Lloyd)
  • The Importance of Context (Rick Brumback)
  • Types and Shadows (Don Walker)
  • Understanding the Covenants (Clay Bond)

Christian Worker is an edification effort of the Southwest church of Christ in Austin, Texas.

You can subscribe to the email version of the Christian Worker paper by clicking on the publications link on their website and then following the given instructions…or by clicking on the link provided here in The Fellowship Room under the “Friends” category to your right.

Copyright © 2016 Southwest church of Christ, All rights reserved.

#authority-in-religion, #authority-of-the-scriptures, #bible-ignorance, #bible-study, #biblical-covenants, #characteristics-of-the-bible, #christian-worker, #context, #heart-and-mind, #inspiration-of-the-bible, #rightly-dividing-the-word-of-god, #sufficiency-of-the-bible, #types-and-shadows

Jonah – A Type of Jesus

There is a form of music called the “sonata-allegro” format, in which there are three segments—exposition, development, and recapitulation. The concept is that you present a melody called a “theme” in the exposition, perform more-or-less recognizable variations of it in the development, and then restate it almost verbatim in the recapitulation, often a bit more dramatically. The Bible is kind of the ultimate demonstration of the “sonata-allegro” format. Exposition Man breaks his covenant with God, and God seeks to restore the broken relationship. Development – the rest of the Old Testament—the flood and Noah, the covenant with Abraham, the covenant with Moses, the judges, the prophets, etc. Recapitulation – Jesus reconciles man to God on the cross. What I have written below has probably been noticed before and written about hundreds of times, but you always feel like you’ve got something when you discover it for yourself.

The second paragraph below will mirror the first one. The best way to see the comparison is to read the first sentence in the first paragraph below, followed by the first sentence in the second paragraph below; then the second sentence in the first paragraph, followed by the second sentence in the second paragraph, etc.

It was the will of God for Jonah to go to Nineveh. Jonah knew that the men on board needed to sacrifice him to calm the wrath of God being demonstrated in the storm. The men did not want to throw him overboard; but the will of God cannot be prevented, so no matter how hard the men tried to row, the storm kept them from reaching shore. So the men prayed, declaring their innocence in the matter. They threw Jonah overboard, and the wrath of God subsided, resulting in the abating of the storm. The men then knew that Jonah’s God is the real God, and they turned to Him. Jonah then spends three days and three nights in the belly of the fish, before being vomited onto the shore.

It was the will of God for Jesus to go to Golgotha (Matthew 26:39-42). Jesus knew the angry mob needed to sacrifice Him to calm the wrath of God, which would otherwise be demonstrated in the final judgment of all mankind. Pilate was hesitant to sentence Him to death (Matthew 27:22-23); but the will of God cannot be prevented, so no matter how hard Pilate tried to avoid sentencing Jesus, the angry mob continued to demand His life. So Pilate washed his hands before the crowd, declaring his innocence in the matter (Matthew 27:24). He handed Jesus over to be crucified (Matthew 27:26), and when this was accomplished, the wrath of God subsided, resulting in salvation for mankind. Upon the signs accompanying His death (the veil rent in two, the earthquake), the guards keeping watch over Jesus knew that He was the real God, and they were frightened. Jesus spent three days and three nights in the tomb before being seen alive on the third day.

The symmetry is amazing. Parallelism is a desired feature in all kinds of artwork, from architecture to music to painting to sculptures to story-telling to dance to fill in the blank. God is the ultimate Artist, and His Word contains beautiful demonstrations of this effect. Should we be surprised? After all, He programmed our brains to search for it. – Joshua Gulley 

Josh is a teacher of music at the High School level and a member among the saints at the Smithville Church of Christ

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We Need to Study the Bible Because it’s Relevant to the Problems of Today’s World

Yes, the Bible is old, but it isn’t too old for our modern world! While living upon the earth, mankind will never outgrow our need for the guidance that is only found in God’s word: “O Lord, I know the way of man is not in himself; it is not in man who walks to direct his own steps.” (Jeremiah 10:23) We will never escape the circumstances of life that link us back to all the previous generations who have lived before us. It was Job who said so long ago that, “Man who is born of woman is of few days and full of trouble.” (Job 14:1) Can this not still be said of us today? That’s why I say that a modern world full of trouble can still use the wisdom of the book that’s full of answers – the Bible!

The big picture of life hasn’t changed since the day Adam and Eve left the garden. We’re born – we live – we die – we meet our Creator. Again, that’s why God’s word is still relevant! Sure, we have greater luxuries today than any other generation who has ever lived. We have our modern medicine, we have our big screen TVs, we have our high-speed internet, we have our refrigerators, we have our go-carts, golf carts, electric cars, four-wheel drives and eighteen-wheelers, but they don’t provide the real answers to real life, because we still have the same old problems that lead to the same old questions that every other generation before us has asked! We still have problems with hate, problems with murder, problems from war, problems from adultery and divorce, problems with theft, problems from the abuse of power, problems of rape, problems from wickedness, problems with riots, problems of slander, problems from oppression, problems from spiritual ignorance, problems from anger, problems of cold-heartedness, problems with family, problems at work, problems with money and problems with any other old-fashioned sin that we can think of!

Do any of those circumstances sound familiar? They should! Because this is the stuff that not only makes us up today’s headlines – it’s the stuff that we read about from the book of Genesis to the book of Revelation! So who says the Bible isn’t relevant to today’s problems? How can it not be if the problems haven’t changed?

No other book than the Bible answers the greatest questions of life. Where did I come from? (Genesis 1:27) Why am I here? (Ecclesiastes 12:13-14) Where I am going? (Matthew 7:13-14) No other book than the Bible provides the solutions to life’s problems. Love God and love our neighbor (Luke 10:27). Treat others the way we want to be treated (Matthew 7:12). Be merciful (Matthew 6:15). Be willing to come to Jesus for the answers, correction, support and encouragement we need (Matthew 11:28-30). Live a life that’s dead to sin but alive in, alive to and alive with Christ (Romans 6:1-12, Colossians 3).

Mankind has lived upon the face of the earth for thousands of years, and with the exception of the Lord’s return we will continue to live here with the same old problems, with the same needs and with the same book that contains the solution and answers to them both sitting within in our grasp – the word of God. And that’s why we need to study the Bible…because it truly is relevant to the not-so-new problems of today’s world.

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We Need to Study the Bible Because it’s Powerful

More powerful than a locomotive may be alright to describe Superman, but there’s hardly a comparative term out there to help describe the power of God’s word. We live in a world of constant energy; and I’m not just talking oil and gas. The need for production and consumption has produced a constant cycle that has been in place since the day Adam and Eve made the Garden their home (think food people). Our intake must be greater than the outgo or our physical strength will run out, right? Spiritually speaking, there’s a renewable, reliable, ever ready energy source that can get the job done and it’s called the word of God.

The word of God is powerful in its spoken form. “By the word of the Lord the heavens were made, and all the host of them by the breath of His mouth.” (Psalm 33:6) The atoms that make up the bomb, that make up the water turning the turbines, that sends out of the radiating light of the sun, that produces fossil fuels and even construct the energy sources we have yet to discover were all “simply spoken” into existence. That’s power! No wonder it was said in olden times, “Lord speak, for your servant hears” (1 Samuel 3:9). The word of the Lord will come to pass upon its own merits, strengths and power. The will of God allows mankind to have a will, but when mankind starts to act like man-king then the Lord speaks and man can’t help but listen.

The word of God is powerful in its written form. The One who spoke us into existence not only condescended Himself to become one of us for our sake (John 1:1-3, 14), He also condescended Himself to leave us with the ability to learn about the knowledge He has given through the written word that transcends any other written document ever imagined (1 Corinthians 2:11-14). Simply put, the written word of God is some powerful stuff: “For the word of God is living and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the division of soul and spirit, and of joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.” (Hebrews 4:12) God’s word does not need our guidance – we need the guidance of God’s word (Jeremiah 17:9, Psalm 119:105). God’s word knows how to lay our heart open, get right down into the root of the matter and reveal the reasoning behind our thoughts and actions…and it does it all without anesthesia.

The word of God is powerful because it has the power to lead mankind to salvation. Without God’s word we would not have the knowledge that’s available when it comes to the reality of sin and the possibility of salvation. The word of God not only leads us back to the Garden, it leads us back to Calvary and onto Heaven. The Spirit of God uses the power of the word of God to bring us unto God to enjoy the salvation of God through the Son of God. “For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes, for the Jew first and also for the Greek.” (Romans 1:16). God’s word is the dynamite that blasts out our self-will, our stubborn will and our sinful will to reveal unto us to will of God. You can’t have fruit without a seed and you can’t enjoy salvation without the seed of salvation being planted into our heart (Luke 8:4-15).

If mankind is to ever stop fussing and fighting over the energy production of the earth it will be because we have learned to listen to the power filled word of God from Heaven. If mankind is to ever stop allowing the perverted knowledge of people to do irreparable harm it will be because we have learned to listen to the power filled word of God that binds hearts, clears minds and opens ears and eyes. If mankind is to ever stop proceeding deeper and deeper into sin and further and further away from God it will be because we have learned to listen to the power filled word of God that renews the heart, mind, soul and strength in the image of the One who loved us enough to give us more than what we deserved; He gave us what we could never earn (Romans 5:8-10). These are just a few reasons why we need to study the powerful word of God contained in the Bible.

For this reason we also thank God without ceasing, because when you received the word of God which you heard from us, you welcomed it not as the word of men, but as it is in truth, the word of God, which also effectively works in you who believe.” (1 Thessalonians 2:13)

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We Need to Study the Bible Because it’s Pure

When one understands and believes in the correct origin of the Bible then one can see and understand the flow of God’s word from beginning to end. As the Bible reveals the mind of God its purity can be seen from Genesis 1:1 to Revelation 22:5. Now when I say the Bible is pure I mean that it is free from the adulterating matter of man’s influence with clarity that is not always appreciated. Proverbs 30:5 says, “Every word of God is pure; He is a shield to those who put their trust in Him.” The word translated “pure” comes from the Hebrew word “Tsaraph” meaning “to smelt, refine or test.” In other words, the word of God will pass the test every time, all of the time and for all of time!

One of the critical mistakes that people make with reading and examining the Bible is making the assumption that a personal interpretation that seemingly causes God’s word to “contradict” itself actually reflects upon the purity, integrity or infallibility of the Bible. The truth of the matter is that the word of God doesn’t contradict when all scriptures on a given topic are considered. Without a doubt personal interpretations contradict, but God’s word does not. Concerning the purity of God’s word the book of Psalms said long ago, “The sum of your word is truth, and every one of your righteous rules endures forever.” (Psalm 119:160 – ESV). Alleged “contradictions” come from people taking “some” of God’s word into consideration instead of taking the totality of God’s word into consideration when they study and search the scriptures for answers.

Does this mean that all of the Bible is easy to study and understand? Absolutely not! It takes diligence and an honest effort to find the truth. It takes viewing the whole picture instead of looking for the hole in the picture. There’s nothing wrong or disingenuous in saying that difficulties can come when we study certain topics found in God’s word. As a matter of fact the apostle Peter warned of certain people who were intentionally abusing certain aspects of the letters written by the hands of Paul through the inspiration of God’s Spirit due to their difficulty when he said, “Consider the patience of our Lord to be salvation, just as our dear friend and brother Paul wrote to you according to the wisdom given to him, speaking of these things in all his letters. Some of his remarks are hard to understand, and people who are ignorant and whose faith is weak twist them to their own destruction, just as they do the other scriptures.” (2 Peter 3:15-16 – CEB) Peter didn’t say the topics under consideration were impossible to understand, but rather that they were hard or difficult to understand. A proper understanding begins with diligently and properly studying and dividing God’s word as Paul himself told Timothy in 2 Timothy 2:15 – “Make an effort to present yourself to God as a tried-and-true worker, who doesn’t need to be ashamed but is one who interprets the message of truth correctly.”

We can have confidence in the word of God because of its purity. Purity in any form is a rare thing, and if people would treat the word of God as they do the rare riches found upon the earth then we would understand why we should study the Bible due to the great value that it contains.

Every word of God is pure; He is a shield to those who put their trust in Him. Do not add to His words, lest He rebuke you, and you be found a liar.” (Proverbs 30:5-6)

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We Need to Study the Bible Because it Reveals the Mind of God

As I alluded to a couple of times in the previous post, studying God’s word is necessary because of its source and because of its source the Bible reveals and gives insight to something that we’re not able to see with our physical eyes alone – and that’s the mind of God. We know what we know about God because God has revealed it about Himself to us through His written word. If we use any source other than God’s word recorded in the Bible whether it be secular or religious to try to explain the will of God we become no different from anyone else who “speaks for God” but contradicts His word.

This is not to say that the existence of a Creator cannot be seen through the existence of creation for even Psalm 19:1-6 says this much. But the difference between knowing that there is a Creator and personally knowing that Creator’s will can be huge; this is where the word of God comes in. God’s word opens the door to a proper relationship with Him by opening our eyes to His will. Read further into Psalm 19 and you’ll find that, “The law of the Lord is perfect, converting the soul; the testimony of the Lord is sure, making wise the simple; the statutes of the Lord are right, rejoicing the heart; the commandment of the Lord is pure, enlightening the eyes;” (Psalm 19:7-8).

The word of God has revealed the will of God for our lives, and this will of God contains commandments, guidance, hope, love and correction, all of which have been given for our benefit. And contrary to what some try to teach concerning God’s word and will, the fact that God wants us to understand His will means that we can understand it. Ephesians 5:17 says, “Therefore do not be unwise, but understand what the will of the Lord is.

The song “Amazing Grace” reminds us of the importance of seeing the things that exist in the spiritual realm both good and bad. Contained within the word of God is an opportunity to have a portion of the infinite mind of God revealed to our finite minds. You see, God’s word reveals what needs to be seen, and not always what we want to see. When people try to go beyond what is written they reveal their own will and not the will of God. When people ignore what is written they reveal their own will and not the will of God. What has been revealed in God’s word has not been revealed because people “figured” it out, but rather because God Himself removed the veil of ignorance to reveal His glory, knowledge, honor and grace to a creation and people who He loves in such way that He has allowed us to see enough of His plan to know how to be with Him eternally in Heaven. From the garden of Eden to the garden of God in Heaven we can see the will of God because we can read about it (1 Peter 1:3-12).

The Spirit-Breathed word of God has revealed the mind of God through the wisdom of God so the salvation of man can be understood by the will of God to the glory of God! And that’s just one more reason why we should study the Bible.

But as it is written: “Eye has not seen, nor ear heard, Nor have entered into the heart of man the things which God has prepared for those who love Him.” But God has revealed them to us through His Spirit. For the Spirit searches all things, yes, the deep things of God. For what man knows the things of a man except the spirit of the man which is in him? Even so no one knows the things of God except the Spirit of God. Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, that we might know the things that have been freely given to us by God. These things we also speak, not in words which man’s wisdom teaches but which the Holy Spirit teaches, comparing spiritual things with spiritual. But the natural man does not receive the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; nor can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned. But he who is spiritual judges all things, yet he himself is rightly judged by no one. For “who has known the mind of the Lord that he may instruct Him?” But we have the mind of Christ.” (1 Corinthians 2:9-16 – NKJV)

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We Need to Study the Bible Because it’s the Spirit-Breathed Word of God

Knowing where God’s book originated from is one of the most basic elements needed when it comes to understanding and gaining knowledge from the Bible. The Bible is, as the word Bible literally means, the word of God; and God is the origin of the said word. Now this doesn’t mean that the Bible was not written through the hands of people. What it means is that what was written through the hands of people didn’t originate with their hands – it originated with the mind of God. It’s as the apostle Peter said in 2 Peter 1:20-21: “knowing this first, that no prophecy of Scripture is of any private interpretation, for prophecy never came by the will of man, but holy men of God spoke as they were moved by the Holy Spirit.” Pay attention to those underlined words and the meaning of those words can’t be missed!

No other book in all of religion is needed for us to understand and for us to be able to rest assured that we can both know and do God’s will, and we’ll talk about that a little more later, but for now we need understand that the Bible, which is the revealed word of God, is completely sufficient to supply all the guidance we need spiritually speaking when it comes to becoming a Christian, keeping the church on the right path and serving God in His kingdom and it even says so. Paul reminded Timothy of this much when he said, “All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work.” (2 Timothy 3:16) If God’s inspired, literally meaning breathed out, word provides all of the needed facets of the faith then why would we need any other book(s) such as creeds, catechism’s, articles of faith or some other “testament” written and originating completely from the finite minds of people? The answer is that we don’t, and to hold any other opinion is like holding our own breath – it’ll work for a little while, but it won’t work forever!

So does any of this mean that reading commentaries from the past and present day, paralleling history books, or even posted articles about the Bible is wrong? By no means. But what it does mean is that we must learn to distinguish between the words that originate from the mind of a person and words that originate from the mind of God. It means that we must strive to allow scripture to interpret scripture instead of allowing scripture to be interpreted in light of manmade doctrines that people stubbornly hold on to. Mankind has an innate spiritual desire that must be fed and it’s only in the word of God that we’ll find the menu that can completely satisfy our needs. Proverbs 2:6 wisely says, “For the Lord gives wisdom; from His mouth come knowledge and understanding;” so we need to remember that if God’s word alone doesn’t spiritually satisfy us then we might not be as hungry as we think!

“…“It is written, ‘Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God.’”” (Matthew 4:4)

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