Category Archives: Discipleship Help & Tips

Acts 18 and the Work of Ministry: Support it, Prepare for it, and Do it

The work of ministry is a task for every Christian. The work of ministry is not just the pastor’s job—the pastor’s job is to equip the church to do ministry:

And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ, so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes. Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love. (Ephesians 4:11–16 ESV, emphasis added)

The biblical vision for the work of ministry is ultimately every believer taking … Keep Reading

An Unexpected Way to Find Gratitude and Thanksgiving to God

Since trusting in Christ during my early adult years, I have spent the rest of my life accepting what the Bible teaches about the value and sanctity of human life[1] at face value without much reflection. Don’t get me wrong: I recognized that human life is valuable and I have always taken life-and-death situations very seriously. However, it was not until I encountered the philosophical concept of possible worlds that I felt the weighty, humbling honor of existing. The concept of possible worlds helped me to emotionally connect with the truth about the value of human life which, in turn, fanned the flame of gratitude and thanksgiving.

In order to have the concept of possible worlds fan the flame of your gratitude and thanksgiving to God, it will be necessary to understand a few terms. If you hear me out, I think it will be worth it.

The law of noncontradiction: The proposition that A cannot be both B and non-B at the same time in the same sense. “According to Aristotle, the laws of logic are not simply principles of human thinking. Because they are also laws of being, we may use them to grasp the logical … Keep Reading

Check Yourself: Testing Your Theology

Everyone is a theologian. No one is a theological blank slate. Since theology is the study of God (the process—doing theology) and expressing those thoughts (the product—theology proper), even an atheist who says “there is no God” is making a theological statement. Christians have the duty of being healthy theologians (Matthew 22:37; Romans 12:2; John 4:23-24).

An earlier post pointed out that understanding your theology is an important aspect of interpreting the Bible. And as you interpret the Bible you inform your theology. So, what can we do to test our theology? Dr. David Mappes offers the following system for validating your theology[1].

“A model for theological method is necessary since the Scripture is progressively revealed and no one topic is fully addressed by any one author. Any valid theological model must be minimally measured by the following components:

Canonical: Is first priority and authority given to the canonical books of Scripture over personal experience, personal sensibilities, other writing, general revelation, speculation, etc.?[2]

Comprehensive: Is all biblical teaching on a topic examined with greater weight given to the clearest and most definitive passages, or are selective/vague passages used in a mere proof-texting manner?

Consistent hermeneutical approach: Is the … Keep Reading

Why Do Good Things Happen to Bad People?

In Truth in a Culture of Doubt, Andreas Köstenberger, Darrell Bock, and Josh Chatraw provide a concise explanation of the interaction between evil, the wickedness of sin, the cause human suffering, the holiness of God, and how God is good to us when we don’t deserve it.

“According to the Bible, people hurting others for no legitimate reason is evil, but this is only part of what makes evil so intolerable. According to the Bible, evil is evil because it offends a holy and righteous God. The magnitude of this offense is difficult for humans to imagine, especially in this day and age when personal accountability is in increasingly short supply. We don’t like anyone telling us what to do.  But the Bible teaches that, in a general sense, all suffering is rooted in cosmic rebellion against a God who tried to tell us what to do. How dare he? Due to this rebellion the good and perfect world God created descended in a downward spiral. Because we all, not only corporately but also individually, are part of this rebellion, we approach the question of God and his role in human suffering with the notion that we … Keep Reading

The Six Steps of Bible Interpretation

The process of studying the Bible according to the author’s original intended meaning is often referred to simply as interpreting the Bible literally. Mike Stallard notes that the method for this type of literal interpretation is called the grammatical-historical method of Bible interpretation: “In modern times, evangelicals have spoken of literal interpretation as grammatical-historical interpretation to indicate that there exists both a grammatical-language context as well as a historical context which must be taken into account to read a passage.”[1]

This method is the best way to consistently discover the message that the author—God, ultimately—intended for us. You likely use aspects of this method automatically without realizing. Formalizing an approach to understanding the Bible will help you be a better student of the Bible.

For more about why the Bible should be interpreted though the grammatical-historical method, check out Does it Matter How I Read the Bible? and The Author Determines the Meaning: Now What Do I Do About It?

Bible Interpretation is More Science than Art

A word that is used to describe Bible interpretation is “hermeneutics.” That term—hermeneutics—“is from a Greek word, hermeneuo which means to interpret or to translate, to give the meaning. Keep Reading

The Difference Between Appropriately Interpreting an Allegorical Passage and Inappropriately Allegorizing

History is littered with ill-advised and unhelpful attempts to “discover” allegories in the Bible. By and large, attempts to manufacture a formal allegory from a biblical text have fallen out of fashion. However, even as we may not be tempted to set out to allegorize portions of Scripture, we are apt to fall into the same sort of error if we interpret the Bible with a “what this means to me” attitude (for more on this, check out does it matter how I read the Bible?) or if we approach Bible reading with the assumption that it is our job to unearth the hidden meaning of a Bible passage (for more on this, check out the author determines the meaning; now what do I do about it?).

At the same time, we know that allegory is a legitimate literary form that is employed in the Bible. How can we know when a passage should be interpreted as an allegory while avoiding illegitimately allegorizing a passage? Let’s start by defining allegory and allegorizing.

Allegory: A Legitimate Literary Device

A parable focuses on a single point of comparison and will often contain several contextual and incidental details to Keep Reading

How Jesus Prepared the Disciples for Ministry at Pentecost and After (A Comparison of Matthew 10 and Acts 1-8)

There is a great deal of similarity (or, perhaps more precisely, correspondence) between what the disciples were taught in Matthew 10:1-33 and what they experienced in Acts 1-8.

To Help Get your Bearings, Here is a Quick Summary of Acts 1-8

Acts 1: Jesus teaches the disciples for forty days after the Resurrection and before the Ascension. There are one hundred and twenty believers in Jerusalem following Jesus at this point. They are told to stay in Jerusalem and wait for the Holy Spirit.

Acts 2: At Pentecost (or the celebration of the Feast of Weeks), the church is born as a result of the outpouring of the Holy Spirit. Three thousand people believe and become part of the church.

Acts 3: Peter and John are preaching with sign healing at the temple in Jerusalem.

Acts 4: The number of men in the church is five thousand (presumably up to that many women in addition, as well). Peter and John are confronted by the Jewish council. The council—intimidated by the people—merely tells them not to speak in Jesus’ name. Peter and John plainly state that they will listen to God (not men) and continue to Keep Reading

When Should I Make the Effort to Correct Error?

If we are going to help someone grow in their Christian faith or study the Bible with someone—whether it is with an unbeliever or a new believer—we are bound to encounter some doctrinal and theological error along the way. Even if one has not given much thought to that possibility, we intuitively know that when we do encounter serious error at some point, it is our duty to lovingly correct the error in such a discipleship relationship.  We also know that we don’t want to be overbearing or perceived as constantly waiting to slap wrists with a ruler. So, how do we know when it is important to address matters of biblical truth?

Prioritize by the Person’s Situation

For the unbeliever, we are not dealing with a new creature in Christ that is aided by the indwelling of God the Holy Spirit. We can’t expect them to exhibit Christian behavior or proclaim sound Christian doctrine—and we shouldn’t place that burden on them. We really should focus on communicating the gospel message to them. To spend time talking about what the Bible has to say about church discipline, for example, would be unwise and unfruitful.

Prioritize by the Impact of

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Is it Possible to Understand the Bible with any Degree of Certainty?

In literary and academic circles, it is not uncommon to encounter the claim that one can never be certain about the proper interpretation of a written text. According to their thinking, since no understanding of a written text can be held with certainty, all interpretation should be held at a provisional level (temporary and likely to be changed later).

Human Behavior Proves that We Know Better

However, if all interpretation is truly only temporary and likely to be changed later, it would hardly be worth the effort to state or defend such a reality. If what I mean by using terms such as interpretation, knowledge, and provisional are unreliable to carry meaning when competently and consistently used, it would be an entirely insane endeavor to attempt to communicate their unreliability with words.

One might concede that language is capable of reliably conveying meaning, but still insist all knowledge is provisional as people are incapable of reliably understanding or interpreting what is communicated to them. That lands us in the same spot: if people are truly incapable of reliably interpreting and understanding meaning, there is no use in talking about it. By communicating, one acts upon the assumption Keep Reading

A Model for How to Teach About Jesus From the Old Testament (Matthew 1-2)

In Luke 24:19-27, we see Jesus explaining the gospel. One of the things that makes this passage interesting is that he teaches about himself from the Old Testament:

And he said to them, “What things?” And they said to him, “Concerning Jesus of Nazareth, a man who was a prophet mighty in deed and word before God and all the people, and how our chief priests and rulers delivered him up to be condemned to death, and crucified him. But we had hoped that he was the one to redeem Israel. Yes, and besides all this, it is now the third day since these things happened. Moreover, some women of our company amazed us. They were at the tomb early in the morning, and when they did not find his body, they came back saying that they had even seen a vision of angels, who said that he was alive. Some of those who were with us went to the tomb and found it just as the women had said, but him they did not see.” And he said to them, “O foolish ones, and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken! Was it

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