Archive for February, 2010

Paraphrasing the Bible

February 28, 2010 Leave a comment

Good morning, everyone. Today we conclude the Working with God’s Word series. We began with a post on interpreting the Bible; yesterday, we continued the series with outlining the Bible, and today we conclude with paraphrasing the Bible. Paraphrasing a Bible passage is a good way to know if you comprehend what a passage says. If you can put a passage of the Bible into your own words, then you know that you comprehend it. (Or at least, you’re closer to comprehending it.) Below is my paraphrase of Philippians 2:19-30, and brackets indicate where certain paraphrases come from earlier or later in the book:

I hope in the Lord Jesus to send Timothy to you soon, so that I will be happy once I hear news of your progress in the faith, which you evidenced before my departure from you [2:12]. I send Timothy because there is no one like him. Unlike others who pursue their own interests, Timothy pursues the interests of Christ and is genuinely concerned about your welfare. You yourselves know Timothy’s worth; you know that he has faithfully served with me in the gospel like a son with his father. Because of all this, I hope to send him to you once I know whether my release is imminent. Do not worry, though; in the Lord, I am sure that I will come to you once I am released.

Epaphroditus is my brother, fellow worker, and fellow soldier. He was the messenger you sent to me, and he ministered to my need by giving me your love gift [4:18]. I have sent Epaphroditus to you because he has longed to be reunited with ya’ll; he was distressed for your sakes because ya’ll know of his illness. In fact, he was very ill and nearly died, but God had mercy on Him. By extension, God had mercy on me, too—Epaphroditus’ recovery has prevented me from experiencing further sorrow. I am very eager to send him to ya’ll because you will rejoice at seeing him in good health. Sending him would also relieve my anxieties for your spiritual welfare; I need him to deliver this letter to ya’ll for ya’lls progress in the faith. I not only hope for you to rejoice at his return, but I exhort you to receive him joyfully in the Lord. Epaphroditus nearly died for the work of Christ; he risked his life to complete the mission you gave him regarding me. You should honor all men who are as selfless as he has proven to be.

Please note that it is not necessary to write down a paraphrased passage; paraphrasing in your mind or out loud as you answer the question “What is this passage saying?” is the primary purpose of such exercises. God bless you all.


Outlining God’s Word

February 27, 2010 1 comment

Outlining God’s Word can help us to properly interpret God’s Word. An outline of a Bible passage helps to show relationships between different verses and even within phrases and clauses within verses. Outlining requires a patient and careful reading of Scripture. Below is a sample outline of Philippians 2:19-30, which by God’s grace I will preach next Sunday morning, March 7, at Union Grove. (My outline uses the ESV.)

1. I hope in the Lord Jesus to send Timothy to you soon,
     A. so that I too may be cheered by news of you.19
     B. For I have no one like him,
          i. who will be genuinely concerned for your welfare.20
     C. For they all seek their own interests,
          i. not those of Jesus Christ.21
     D. But you know Timothy’s proven worth,
          i. how as a son with a father
               a. he has served with me in the gospel.22
     E. I hope therefore to send him to you
          i. just as soon as I see how it will go with me,23
     F. and I trust in the Lord that shortly I myself will come also.24

2. I have thought it necessary to send to you Epaphroditus
     A. my brother and fellow worker and fellow soldier,
     B. and your messenger and minister to my need,25
     C. for he has been longing for you all
     D. and has been distressed because you heard that he was ill.26
     E. Indeed he was ill,
          i. near to death.27
     F. But God had mercy on him
          i. and on me also,
               a. lest I should have sorrow upon sorrow.28
     G. I am the more eager to send him, therefore,
          i. that you may rejoice at seeing him again,
          ii. and that I may be less anxious.
     H. So receive him with all joy
     I. and honor such men,29
          i. for he nearly died for the work of Christ,
          ii. risking his life to complete what was lacking in your service to me.

This, of course, is but one example of an outline. Some of my points and subpoints could have been arranged differently, I am sure. The point of an outline is not to adhere to a set of grammatical/organizational rules but to help the outliner understand Scripture better. Below is an explanation of my outline. The first part explains what goes on in each point/subpoint; the second part shows which point/subpoint(s) that explains.

Paul’s future intent (what the Scripture said): 1 (where this Scripture is within the outline)
Purpose: 1A
Why Paul sends Epaphroditus (1): 1B-Bi
Why not others: 1C-Ci
Timothy’s worth: 1D
Aspects of worth: 1Di-Dia
Reiteration: 1E
When: 1Ei
Paul’s hopeful coming: 1F

Paul’s present action: 2
Epaphroditus’ relation to Paul: 2A
Epaphroditus’ relation to the church at Philippi: 2B
Why: 2C-D
Epaphroditus’ Illness: 2E-Ei
God’s mercy on Epaphroditus: 2F
God’s mercy on Paul: 2Fi
Why Paul sends Epaphroditus (2): 2G-Gii
Paul’s command: 2H-Iii

The above are my outline for Philippians 2:19-30 and my verse-by-verse explanation of Philippians 2:19-30. Please note that an outline is NOT required for us to understand and interpret Scripture, but outlines can help us to see the relationship among verses of Scripture. Outlines are also helpful in Scripture memorization (notice how I included the verse numbers at the end of each verse, regardless of where this verse ends in the outline). By writing down the Scripture and by organizing it into the various levels of an outline, that Scripture is more indelibly written on our hearts (Deuteronomy 6:6).

We will conclude this series on working with God’s Word tomorrow, with the post on paraphrasing God’s Word. (We will also be using Philippians 2:19-30 in the post tomorrow on paraphrase.)

A Progress Report That Is Just the Opposite

February 23, 2010 2 comments

Last night, the Great Commission Resurgence Task Force of the Southern Baptist Convention gave a progress report to the Executive Committee. Their progress report, however, was just the opposite in my opinion. Their progress did show the progress the Task Force had made in determining a plan of action, but primarily, this document showed me the lack of progress we Southern Baptists—and all Christians!—have made in regards of fulfilling the Great Commission! Do you realize that 90% of the world is lost? Do you realize that this means that 90% of the world—unless God saves them through our evangelism (Romans 10:14-17)—will burn eternally in hell for not trusting Christ alone for salvation? This progress report reveals our utter failure to fulfill the Great Commission of Matthew 28:19-20: “Go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.” Have we done this? The answer is a RESOUNDING NO! “Lament and mourn and weep!” as James wrote in his epistle. The featured passage from the GCR Task Force last night was Joel 2:12-17, and it is worth reading and praying over. Let us break our hearts in repentance and contrition toward God!

Brothers and sisters in Christ, the world around us is dead and dying toward that ultimate eternal death of hell. How can our hearts not break within us, knowing that we are tasked by our Lord to evangelize these people and spread His gospel of free salvation to any who will repent and believe!? Brothers and sisters, let us stop looking to ourselves, but let us look to our family, friends, and neighbors who don’t know Christ. Let us, beloved readers, look at the spiritual death around us and confront it with the life-giving Spirit of God through our evangelism.

You can read the GCR Task Force progress report here.

I do not apologize for interrupting the Working with God’s Word series, as this was a much more urgent matter to deal with. The next post should resume the series begun two days ago.

Working with God’s Word: Interpretation

February 21, 2010 1 comment

Happy Sunday, everyone! Today marks the beginning of a new subject series on Things That Are Above: Blog. Today, I begin my “Working with God’s Word” series with you. Biblical interpretation is a hot topic among all Christians—it’s our differing interpretations of the Bible that divide us. Unlike some who say that the Bible is full of relative truth that means something different to each person, I believe that the Bible is full of objective truth that has one clear meaning that applies to everyone, not just you or me or any one other person in the world. Learning what it is that the Bible says is important, then. If we do not properly interpret the Bible, we believe not the Bible but a false interpretation (which is just a euphemism for a lie). However, we must begin to learn how to interpret the Bible by starting out with the following foundational truths:

  1. The Bible is the authoritative, inerrant, infallible Word of God.
  2. Since it is the perfect Word of God, it must be obeyed.

If you cannot agree to the above two notions, you cannot interpret the Bible as the Word of God. If you interpret the Bible without the above foundation, you interpret not God’s Word but any old book. If you don’t hold the Bible to be the inerrant Word of God, then you don’t need me to relate helpful truths to remember while interpreting it because you would interpret it as you would interpret any work of secular literature. For those of you who do hold the Bible to be the authoritative Word of God, though, read on.

When you interpret the Bible, you answer this basic question: “What did the original author of this text mean? Why did he write this text; what was his (and the Holy Spirit’s) purpose?” (And the Holy Spirit’s purpose for any text is identical to the author’s purpose; cf. 2 Timothy 3:16.) If you seek to answer this question, you are better prepared to properly interpret the Word of God. By honestly answering this question, you perform exegesis—you take your answer from the passage. NEVER perform eisegesis—reading your own ideas into a passage—on the Bible!

To properly interpret the Bible, there are some basic rules to follow as you answer the above question:

  • Interpret unclear (vague) passages by clear (precise) passages.
  • Interpret verses in context. Never interpret a verse by itself; always interpret every verse while keeping in mind its context within its chapter (or passage) and book.
  • Interpret verses in light of their genres. You would not interpret a poetical passage the same way you would interpret a narrative passage. For example, a historical passage (such as those found in Samuel, Kings, and the Chronicles) would be interpreted literally. A parable, however, (such as those found in the Gospels) would be interpreted metaphorically. (Optimally, one would interpret a parable by the explanation Jesus gives. When Jesus is silent on this, though, context is vital for proper interpretation.)

Bible interpretation involves all this. Most of all, though, proper interpretation requires a thorough knowledge of the Scripture, and it also requires a whole dedication to Scripture’s authority and submission to that authority. Hopefully this post will better help you navigate and understand the Bible; in subsequent posts, I will provide various topics that will supplement Bible interpretation (i.e., understanding the Bible’s meaning): outlining God’s Word and paraphrasing God’s Word.

Working with God’s Word

February 20, 2010 Leave a comment

Tomorrow, I will begin a new blog series: Working with God’s Word. I will post blogs dealing with interpreting, outlining, and paraphrasing God’s Word, all of which will hopefully help us better work with God’s Word as we all strive to better understand the Bible. Understanding, however, is not the ultimate goal, for knowledge without application is folly and unprofitable except for fueling hellfire.

It is my prayer that this upcoming series on working with God’s Word will be beneficial for our spiritual growth and for the further display of God’s glory. I hope that this would be your prayer, as well.

The first post, which is on interpretation, should be up early tomorrow afternoon barring either technological difficulties or our Lord’s return (the latter option being preferable).

An Ecclesiastical Sonnet

February 18, 2010 Leave a comment

John Piper is a Christian poet. He writes poems about Biblical characters to read to his congregation during the Advent each year. The closest I have ever come to even reading someone else’s poem in church is quoting a hymn (“It Is Well with My Soul,” verse 3, to be exact). John Piper is a true poet. I am not. Nevertheless, here is an English sonnet for you to read … and hopefully enjoy. More importantly, though, I pray that this coarse sonnet would get your mind to thinking of just how amazing Christ’s finished work on the cross really is.

“Vain life, vain life!” the preacher calls to me.
“I am the wisest man among all men,
And vain are those who go through life to be
But not to be. Out of control they spin.”
The preacher gave me not hope but a law:
“Fear God; keep His command. Your duty, man,
Is simply that.” My hopelessness I saw;
From God and heaven these words did me ban.
However, then I read of Christ who died—
The Seed of this preacher died, me to save!
Not vain is His life, in which I abide,
For dying on the cross, me He forgave.
The sun rises both on the good and bad,
But fulfillment without Christ can’t be had!

That, of course, is but a poetic rendition of a few spiritual truths, and is but a shadow of the glorious truth expressed in Romans 5:6-11.

“For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. For one will scarcely die for a righteous person—though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die— but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Since, therefore, we have now been justified by his blood, much more shall we be saved by him from the wrath of God. For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by his life. More than that, we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation.”

Categories: Devotionals, General Posts

Valentine’s Day and the Greatest Love Story of All

February 14, 2010 Leave a comment

Today is Valentine’s Day, a day devoted to romance. But there is a love story better than any other love story ever written. The greatest love story of all is the love story recorded in the Holy Bible. The most famous verse that mentions this story is John 3:16. “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only Son, that whoever believes in Him will not perish but have everlasting life.” But there are other verses, and more specific verses, that tell us this best love story.

Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends. John 15:13

For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. For one will scarcely die for a righteous person—though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die—but God shows His love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Romans 5:6-8

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, even as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before Him. In love He predestined us for adoption as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of His will, to the praise of His glorious grace, with which He has blessed us in the Beloved. Ephesians 1:3-6

Jesus exhibited the greatest love anyone could exhibit, because He laid down His life for His friends … and for us, when we were “still sinners.” And notice especially what the Holy Spirit conveys through Paul in Ephesians: God predestined us “in love.” God did not predestine people to hell. (In Acts 13:46, people “judge [themselves] unworthy of eternal life.”) Biblically, unsaved people are responsible for their condemnation, for they willingly reject God. It is “in love” that God predestined His people to salvation. (Granted, His people inevitably respond in repentance and faith and by lifelong perseverance … but all of this, from first to last, is done by the grace of God.)

How glorious the love story where God predestines us in love “before the foundation of the world.” How amazing that Christ would “lay down His life” not only for His friends, but for us, “while we were still sinners!” How wonderful the love story that has no end, but that will rather continue throughout all eternity! Praise the Lord! Praise “His glorious grace!”

Let us join God in this love story. Let us love the One who loves us even though in our sin we are unlovable. Let us praise the One alone who is glorious. Let us praise the God whose glory is to be motivation behind our every action! Let us “set our minds on things that are above” and let us forever live out what we set our minds upon! Let us forever show God our love for Him. Today is Valentine’s Day, and let us all remember that we are betrothed to the Lamb who was slain for our sins, and raised for our justification. Who is more deserving of our love? Let us love the One who is love. Let us love the One who first loved us. Today and every day for the rest of our lives.

%d bloggers like this: