The Authority of the Bible

The Christian church spread widely and rapidly in the First Century.  Do you know why?  It can happen again if we follow the Apostles’ example.

Today’s Reading

Psalms 13-16; Acts 18

Selected Verses

Therefore my heart is glad, and my whole being rejoices; my flesh also dwells secure. For you will not abandon my soul to Sheol, or let your holy one see corruption.  Psalm 16:9-10

And when he wished to cross to Achaia, the brothers encouraged him and wrote to the disciples to welcome him. When he arrived, he greatly helped those who through grace had believed, for he powerfully refuted the Jews is public, showing by the Scriptures that the Christ was Jesus. Acts 18:27-28

Reflections

In the First Century, the Apostles used the Scriptures of the Old Testament powerfully and effectively as they spread throughout the known world proclaiming that the promised Christ had come. Later the New Testament containing the Apostles’ teaching would be added, completing our Bible.

The Messiah, Christ, was promised to Israel and sent to them. He lived out His life and ministry culminating in His death by crucifixion, His resurrection, and His commissioning of His Apostles to go into the entire world and make disciples of all nations. That work which Jesus commissioned still goes on today throughout the earth.

The Psalms are filled with references which had immediate relevance to their time but would later be more completely fulfilled by Jesus in His earthly life. Here we have a prophecy which both Peter and Paul understood to point clearly to His resurrection (Acts 2:25-28; 13:35). To see Christ in the Psalms and other Old Testament scriptures motivated the Apostles and fueled their boldness as they preached to the Jews.

One of those Jewish converts to Jesus Christ was a gifted man named Apollos. He displayed great eloquence in his speech and diligence in his study of the Word of God, but he received needed help from the mentoring of Paul’s disciples, Aquila and Priscilla. Apollos went on to Achaia and had an effective ministry encouraging the believers and showing the Jews from the Scriptures that the Christ was Jesus.

Think about it

Do you rely on the Scriptures as the basis for your faith and in your presenting Jesus to others? We need to beware of relying on arguments based on mere human reasoning and logic and neglecting to point people to the claims of Christ made in God’s Word. Let the Word of God be your authority for your life and your ministry. The Apostles modeled this and we will be wise to follow their example. We may yet see amazing growth in Christ’s Church.

The Importance of Seeking God

God, who knows the hearts of all, is near to those who seek Him, even when His will for them may include trials and suffering.

Today’s Reading

Psalms 7-9; Acts 17:1-15

Selected Verses

The Lord is a stronghold for the oppressed,
a stronghold in times of trouble.
And those who know your name put their trust in you,
for you, O Lord, have not forsaken those who seek you.  Psalm 9:9-10

Now these Jews were more noble than those in Thessalonica; they received the word with all eagerness, examining the Scriptures daily to see if these things were so.  Many of them therefore believed, with not a few Greek women of high standing as well as men.  Acts 17:11-12

Reflections

David knew suffering and difficulties throughout his life, but he also had learned to count on God no matter what came his way.  He knew how to take refuge in God (Psalm 7:1).  He knew that God would never abandon him or anyone else who was seeking Him.  God was his rock and stronghold no matter whether circumstances were good or bad.

As Paul, Silas, and Timothy continued on their missionary journey through the towns of Asia Minor, they preached about Jesus to the Jews and those Gentiles who adhered to Judaism.  The response was mixed, not everyone believed and some became hostile, but they saw faith everywhere they went, too.  The Jews in Berea who heard Paul were especially diligent in studying the Scriptures to see if what Paul was telling them was really true.  These were people who, no doubt, had been seeking God in His word.  God would not forsake them and He sent them none other than the Apostle Paul to proclaim to them the truth of Christ.

Think about it

How does your daily life reflect a seeking after God?  Are you dependent on success in your activities and business in order to remain confident in the Lord or are you spiritually stable no matter what storm you are in?  Seek the Lord through His word and prayer.  Be alert to His providence in your circumstances.   Let Him be your stronghold.  This was the way of David, the Bereans, Paul, Silas, and Timothy.  Seek Him for He will never forsake those who seek Him.

 

The Christian and Personal Piety

While no one is saved by good works or personal piety, those who are saved demonstrate their love for God through good works and personal piety.

Today’s Reading

Job 21-22; Acts 10:1-23

Selected Verses

 They say to God, “Depart from us! We do not desire the knowledge of your ways.
 What is the Almighty, that we should serve him? And what profit do we get if we pray to him?” Job 21:14-15

At Caesarea there was a man named Cornelius, a centurion of what was known as the Italian Cohort, a devout man who feared God with all his household, gave alms generously to the people, and prayed continually to God.   Acts 10:1-2

Reflections

Job describes the wicked who prosper as those who tell God to “get lost,” have no passion to know Him or His ways, and won’t serve God or pray to Him. Instead they ask, “What’s in it for me?”   If we want to know what the godly man or woman looks like, we can just reverse these descriptions.  The godly seek God’s presence. They draw near to God and find that He draws near to them (James 4:8).  They want to know Him and His ways.  God’s people serve Him and pray to Him without hesitation and know that it is a privilege to serve Him and pray to Him. Nothing else is needed or desired but to know Him.

Cornelius, a Roman military officer, would seem to be an unlikely candidate for the roll call of faith.  Not so.  He was “a devout man who feared God with all his household, gave alms generously to the people, and prayed continually to God.” Undoubtedly, his understanding of the gospel of Jesus Christ was lacking, but God saw his heart and sent Peter to him to proclaim the good news.  Cornelius was not saved by his piety, but it did show his passion to know the Lord and God heard him.  He led his family toward the Lord and had a soldier who was devout (Acts 10:7).  It would seem that Cornelius’ fear of the Lord impacted his personal life, his family, and his professional life.  By the way, we see included here the virtue of the fear of God, a quality notably lacking among people today.

Think about it

How do you view your devotional life?  Is it a joy?  Do you anticipate being in the Lord’s presence?  Is prayer merely for personal benefit or is it communion with your Savior?  Is reverent fear of God a characteristic you seek to develop?  Think about it.  Make attitude adjustments as needed.

The Importance of Expository Preaching

Good preaching is modeled in the Bible.  But it is too scarce in pulpits today.  Are you hearing sound preaching as the Bible commands and demonstrates?

Today’s Reading

Nehemiah 7-8; Acts 3

Selected Verses

They read from the book, from the Law of God, clearly, and they gave the sense, so that the people understood the reading.  Nehemiah 8:8

But what God foretold by the mouth of all the prophets, that his Christ would suffer, he thus fulfilled. Repent therefore, and turn back, that your sins may be blotted out,  that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord, and that he may send the Christ appointed for you, Jesus,  whom heaven must receive until the time for restoring all the things about which God spoke by the mouth of his holy prophets long ago.  Acts 3:18-21

Reflections

In both Old and New Testaments, the importance of clear preaching is demonstrated.  Expository preaching includes both the reading of Scripture and the explanation of the meaning of it.

In Nehemiah’s day there had been a lack of reading and teaching the Scriptures. When the people heard the Word, they were grieved by what they heard and understood. They wept. It was natural that they should feel the weight of their failure and sin, but then the preacher (whether Ezra or Nehemiah, is not clear) exhorts them, “Go your way. Eat the fat and drink sweet wine and send portions to anyone who has nothing ready, for this day is holy to our Lord. And do not be grieved, for the joy of the Lord is your strength” (8:10).

In Acts, another preacher stands proclaiming God’s Word, also in Jerusalem but centuries after Ezra and Nehemiah’s day. Peter takes the opportunity, afforded by the crowd attracted by the healing of a lame man, to proclaim the good news of the risen Christ. The bad news  precedes the good news, they have killed the Author of life, Jesus, but Peter tells them they may repent, turn back, and have their sins blotted out. God will hear their prayer and send times of refreshing from His presence. Then they may wait expectantly for Christ, who promised to come back for His people.

Think about it

The gospel teaches us of our sin, but it doesn’t end there. It takes us to the mercy and grace of God who saves His repentant people, restores us to Himself, and gives us joy. Are you both grieved by your sin and relieved by God’s joy? Good expository preaching is a means of grace that takes us to both repentant grieving and unspeakable joy. Be sure you hear God’s word from faithful expository preachers. .

Means of Grace in a Hostile Place

God sends us into a hostile place, and He preserves us in it by the means of grace: His word, the sacraments,  and prayer.

Today’s Reading

Second Chronicles 26-28; John 17

Selected Verses

In the time of his distress he became yet more faithless to the Lord—this same King Ahaz.  For he sacrificed to the gods of Damascus that had defeated him and said, “Because the gods of the kings of Syria helped them, I will sacrifice to them that they may help me.” But they were the ruin of him and of all Israel.  2 Chronicles 28:22-23

I do not ask that you take them out of the world, but that you keep them from the evil one.  They are not of the world, just as I am not of the world. Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth.  John 17:15-17

Reflections

King Ahaz rebelled against the Lord which led to defeat in battle and distress. Did he learn to turn to God through His failure? No. He took his disobedience to the next level and began worshiping the god of the Syrians. Some of the kings we have studied were corrupted by success. Others were corrupted by failure. In some cases, they turned to God in defeat and were delivered. The circumstances seem to be neutral factors. What is the difference? It is the work of God in the hearts of those kings that either turned them toward Himself or let them go on in apostasy and error.

Jesus knew the kind of world into which He was sending His disciples. He prayed for them and gave them God’s word. They were not perfect. But in the end they succeeded in proclaiming the gospel far and wide and laying the foundations for the Church.

Think about it

What do we need in order to stand firm in the faith in a hostile world? Like the Apostles, we need God’s word and we need God’s power sustaining us in the midst of adversity and spiritual danger. Do we have that? Yes, Jesus is at the right hand of God interceding for us (Hebrews 7:25). He has given us His Spirit (Romans 8:1-17). We have the completed revelation of God in the Scriptures to equip us for every work He calls us to do (2 Timothy 3:16-17).  We also need God’s people, those who identify with Christ and fellowship with Him through the Sacraments.

Do not fear the world, but do be vigilant of your heart that your distresses or your successes not turn you away from the Lord who keeps His own. Do not make a bad thing worse. Trust Him and make diligent use of the means of grace.

The Consequences of Not Hearing

Hearing the words of God is evidence that one is of God.  But disaster awaits everyone who will not hear. We can learn much from a horrible example.

Today’s Reading

First Chronicles 8-10; John 8:37-59

Selected Verses

So Saul died for his breach of faith. He broke faith with the Lord in that he did not keep the command of the Lord, and also consulted a medium, seeking guidance. He did not seek guidance from the Lord. Therefore the Lord put him to death and turned the kingdom over to David the son of Jesse. 1 Chronicles 10:13-14

Whoever is of God hears the words of God. The reason why you do not hear them is that you are not of God. John 8:47

Reflections

The Book of 1 Chronicles opens with a meticulous genealogy of Israel as we have been seeing.  There are not many details about all those individuals until we come to Saul.  Then the writer zooms in on the final hours of Saul’s life.  His life ended the same way he lived it during the long years of his reign.  He disregarded God’s commands.  For example, he sought guidance from a medium.  He led the nation to defeat and died in agony by suicide.  Three of his sons died at the same time.  The threat of imminent defeat and death did not serve to awaken Saul to his need to repent and turn to the Lord for mercy and deliverance.

The Jews listening to Jesus reacted negatively to His every claim.   They hid behind their status as descendants of Abraham.  They were sure that God was their father.  Yet they were already plotting to kill their Messiah.  They considered Jesus to be the one who was illegitimate, not themselves.  They drip with self-righteousness.  As the Apostle Paul would later write, “And even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing.  In their case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God” (2 Corinthians 4:3-4).

Think about it

Privilege and status did not make Saul faithful or obedient.  He grew harder as his life unfolded and he left a shameful legacy to his nation.  Many of the Jews in Jesus’ day did not believe the Truth when He lived among them.  We can learn from these examples of foolishness and blindness, but will we?  Let us learn and humble ourselves to hear and do what God has said.

Chaos: the old normal

Chaos is not the new normal.  It has happened before and it will happen again.  But there is a wisdom and guidance from God for His people.

Today’s Reading

II Samuel 19-20; Luke 21:20-38

Selected Verses

So all the men of Israel withdrew from David and followed Sheba the son of Bichri. But the men of Judah followed their king steadfastly from the Jordan to Jerusalem.  II Samuel 20:2

But watch yourselves lest your hearts be weighed down with dissipation and drunkenness and cares of this life, and that day come upon you suddenly like a trap. For it will come upon all who dwell on the face of the whole earth. But stay awake at all times, praying that you may have strength to escape all these things that are going to take place, and to stand before the Son of Man.  Luke 21:34-36

Reflections

After Absalom was overthrown, the kingdom of Israel did not simply pick up where it left off. David created a problem immediately by going into such grief over the death of his son that Joab had to sternly exhort him lest the nation reject his return to the throne. David wisely responded and warded off a dangerous situation. But then there was a conflict between Judah and the other tribes over who should reinstate the king. That resulted in another civil war. David named Amasa as a commander and Joab promptly assassinated him. The kingdom was coming unglued on every level. Chaos reigned. David seems to have held steady through all of this until his kingdom was restored.

That would not be the last time the world would see such turmoil. Jesus prophesied that there would be a time of destruction of the temple. This occurred in 70 AD.   He further indicated that there would be worldwide terror that would come upon all people. No one would escape the distress of nations, the cosmic upheavals.  This is yet to come.

Think about it

Chaos is really the old normal. It has always been with us.  How can we handle it? We can learn from what happened in the past, and we can learn from what Jesus taught us. He said, “Watch yourselves. Stay awake. Pray for strength.” He promised that if we did we will stand before the Son of Man. Jesus said, “Watch your hearts.” Take comfort in God’s Word. Get guidance from His Word. Hold to the Lord who promised that we who do will stand before Him. To the extent that faithful men and women know and believe the Word of God they are prepared for whatever may come their way.

Warning! Dangerous Road Ahead

The Bible gives many examples both positive and negative for our instruction. In today’s reading we can learn much from two bad examples.

Today’s reading

Deuteronomy 5-7; Mark 12:1-27

Selected Verses

Oh that they had such a heart as this always, to fear me and to keep all my commandments, that it might go well with them and with their descendants forever!  Deuteronomy 2:29

Jesus said to them, “Is this not the reason you are wrong, because you know neither the Scriptures nor the power of God?”  Mark 12:24

Reflections

The Lord took delight in the initial enthusiasm of the Israelites for His law.  They indicated a commitment to be faithful and obedient, but God knew their resolve would not last.  They would be drawn away by false gods and pagan people.  Their hearts would not remain steadfast to fear Yahweh and to keep all His commandments.  They would risk deprivation rather than believe God.

The Sadducees in Jesus’ day went off track for two reasons.  They didn’t know the Scriptures, and they didn’t know the power of God.  Why did they not know the Scriptures?  The Sadducees disregarded any supernatural incidents in the Old Testament.  They did not count on God’s power or intervention in human history.  Since they assumed nothing supernatural was possible, they also assumed that the resurrection was impossible.  They plotted to ridicule the idea of a resurrection by creating a dilemma for Jesus.

We know how that ended.  The Sadducees came out looking foolish because Jesus used the Pentateuch (which they held to) to prove their position untenable.  God is God of the living.  To the Lord those who have died physically in this world are still alive to Him and always will be.  The resurrection is true. Jesus Himself would prove it.

Think about it

The ancient Israelites veered off from obedience to God. Why? They replaced the fear of the Lord with fascination for other gods.  The Sadducees erred because they did not know God’s Word well and they did not believe in the power of God.  They trusted their own minds and their own five senses to arrive at truth.

These sorts of spiritual maladies abound today. Beware of the dangerous roads ahead.  Let it not be said of us that our hearts were not wholly the Lord’s or that we failed to know His Word and His power.

Bear Fruit and Be Blessed

God wills that His people be blessed and flourishing. But God’s blessings depend on something else, something for which we are responsible.

Today’s reading

Numbers 5-6; Mark 4:1-20

Selected Verses

The Lord spoke to Moses, saying, Speak to Aaron and his sons, saying, Thus you shall bless the people of Israel: you shall say to them,

 The Lord bless you and keep you;
the Lord make his face to shine upon you and be gracious to you;
 the Lord lift up his countenance upon you and give you peace.

 “So shall they put my name upon the people of Israel, and I will bless them.” Numbers 6:22-27

But those that were sown on the good soil are the ones who hear the word and accept it and bear fruit, thirtyfold and sixtyfold and a hundredfold.”  Mark 4:20

Reflections

God wills that His people be blessed and flourishing.  He gave a stirring benediction for Aaron to pass on to Israel.  But God’s blessings depend on the obedience of His people.  Sin and disobedience thwart God’s best gifts.  As Jesus taught in the parable of the soils, people must hear His word, hold it fast, and be careful to let it bear fruit in their lives.

This does not always occur.  We could even say it frequently does not occur.  If we are honest, there are too many lapses in our hearing, holding fast, and bearing fruit.  The word gets snatched away because it never even penetrates our minds.  We have an immediate enthusiastic, but superficial, response which results in short term impact but long term death.  This is the result of shallow penetration of the truth into our hearts and minds.  Then come the cares of the world, the deceitfulness of riches, and the desires for other things that kill the potential fruit when the seed does take root and grow.  When we overcome these obstacles the seed will bear fruit and the blessing will be poured out.

Think about it

True blessing comes from God and it comes to those who hear the Word, hold it fast, and remain vigilant to let it bear fruit. Beware of the obstacles to fruitfulness. As Jesus told His disciples, “By this is my Father glorified, that you bear much fruit and so prove to be my disciples,” John 15:8.   Real disciples bear fruit. They are blessed.  And that glorifies God as we were meant to do.

Let’s Read the Bible in 2017

82e4cc3db5bed0533b92b4a47d4aedb8You are invited

Are you considering reading through the Bible in 2017?  Let me suggest a plan and invite you to join me here each day to share the reading journey.

Beginning tomorrow, I will post a reading assignment each morning (7:00 AM EST in the USA) which will take you through the Old and New Testaments simultaneously.  Keep on schedule by either reading from your own Bible using your preferred translation, or pull up this blog and click on the reading assignment.  You will instantly be taken to the daily assignment in the English Standard Translation from Bible Gateway.com.

What could be easier?

We, who are serious Christians or who are considering the Christian faith, should make Bible reading a regular part of our lives.  But if you have never read through the Bible, you will see that it is a massive undertaking.  It can be done and I have done it annually for many years.  I do not recommend attempting a faster reading.  I find it preferable to read daily at a steady pace taking time to reflect on a few of the verses.

The plan I am suggesting begins in Genesis in the Old Testament and Matthew in the New Testament. By the last day of the year we will finish with Malachi and Revelation.

Other Options

  1.  Through the Bible in two years.  If you prefer to read at a slower pace you could opt to read only one of the readings each day and complete the entire Bible in 2 years instead of one.
  2. Cover to Cover.  Maybe you would like to read the Bible straight through  in one year but only reading in one place each day. If so, please consider using the schedule provided in my book Cover to Cover: Through the Bible in 365 Days.  Click here for to order a copy in either kindle or print format.

Which ever option you choose, the important thing is to get started and keep going. Let’s meet here again tomorrow.

John Carroll

Unless otherwise noted, all Scripture references on this blogsite are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. ESV® Permanent Text Edition® (2016). Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers.