Studying the Bible

August 23, 2012

After a far too long hiatus, I’ve added another post to this series, and I’m working on several more. They’re not here in order of their original publication, but according to the reading sequence I think will be the most helpful to you. So you may find a new post inserted before an old one! If you have any questions, you can leave them in a comment or use the feedback form in the lower right side bar.

May the Lord bless you!

God’s Mercies & Our Minds

Why do we study the Bible? What is our motivation? What is our purpose?

In the first eleven chapters of his letter to the church at Rome, Paul proclaims the mercies of God in His Son Jesus. At the end of chapter 11, those mercies impel Paul to wonder and awe and praise. To understand our motivation for studying the Bible, go back and read those chapters. At the beginning of chapter 12, he makes his appeal to Christians because of those mercies.

Therefore I urge you, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship.

And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect.
Romans 12:1–2

Kent Hughes writes these verses are pivotal in Paul’s letter to the Romans.1 God’s mercies Paul has explained, now become the compelling reason for his appeal.

This passage can nourish us wherever we are in our spiritual pilgrimage. For those further along, it can serve as an affirmation and deepening of matters long settled. For those just beginning to seriously interact with the demands of Christ, it can be a spiritual benchmark….

What is the basis of commitment? The mercies of God and his love for us.

What is the character of our commitment? “Therefore, I urge you brothers, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God.”

What are the demands of commitment? There is the negative: Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world” and the positive: be transformed by the renewing of your mind.”

What is the effect of commitment? Knowing the will of God.2

And how are our minds renewed?

7The law of the LORD is perfect,
restoring the soul;
The testimony of the LORD is sure,
making wise the simple.
8The precepts of the LORD are right,
rejoicing the heart;
The commandment of the LORD is pure,
enlightening the eyes.
9The fear of the LORD is clean, enduring forever;
The judgments of the LORD are true; they are righteous altogether.
10They are more desirable than gold, yes, than much fine gold;
Sweeter also than honey and the drippings of the honeycomb.
11Moreover, by them Your servant is warned;
In keeping them there is great reward.
Psalm 19:7-11

In verse 7 of Psalm 19, David turns from God’s revelation of Himself in creation to God’s revelation in His Word. In 7–8, he describes what God’s Word is, and he tells us what God’s Word does. David defines the truth and power of God’s Word:


Restoring the soul—making wise the simplerejoicing the heartenlightening the eyes.

David begins to weave in a right attitude towards God and His Word as he continues to describe what God’s Word is and what it does in verses 9–11.

9The fear of the Lord is clean, enduring forever;
The judgments of the Lord are true; they are righteous altogether.
10They are more desirable than gold, yes, than much fine gold;
Sweeter also than honey and the drippings of the honeycomb.
11Moreover, by them Your servant is warned;
In keeping them there is great reward.

God’s mercies impelled Paul to wonder and awe and praise:

Oh, the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are His judgments and unfathomable His ways! For who has known the mind of the Lord, or who became His counselor? Or who has first given to Him that it might be paid back to him again? For from Him and through Him and to Him are all things. To Him be the glory forever. Amen.
Romans 11:33–36

Read Romans 1–11. Consider God’s mercies towards you, and be no longer conformed to this world, but transformed by the renewing of your mind.

Hitting The Mark

In archery an arrow is carefully fletched with feathers at the end of its shaft. When real feathers are used, they must all be from the same wing of a bird—if you mix feathers from both wings on the same arrow, it won’t fly correctly because feathers from the left wing cause it to spin to the right, while those from the right wing cause it to spin to the left. When a well-fletched arrow is shot, the feathers start the arrow spinning, giving it stability and enabling it to fly straight towards the target.

What is the target?

One of my pastors, Mike Braun, used to ask, “What is the goal of our instruction? To pass a true-false theological exam?” He would answer, “No!” and quote 1 Timothy 1:5:

“But the goal of our instruction is love
from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith.”

In Bible study we fletch our arrows of understanding with diligent and careful handling of Scripture. Sound doctrine enables the arrow to fly straight and true, but we can fletch arrows constantly and well, and if all we ever do is hold them up and say. this is what a well-fletched arrow looks like, we will never hit the target of 1 Timothy 1:5.

In the Bible sound doctrine and sound living are never seen as two stand alone entities; the the Bible teaches that our conduct flows from our thinking.5 F. F. Bruce writes in his commentary on Romans:

Doctrine is never taught in the Bible simply that it may be known; it is taught in order that it may be translated into practice: ‘if you know these things, blessed are you if you do them’ (Jn. 13:17).1

Paul’s sentence construction indicates the goal is not three things, but one thing—lovelove from (1) a pure heart, (2) a good conscience and (3) a sincere faith.2

In 1 & 2 Timothy and Titus, Kent Hughes and Bryan Chapell write that Paul’s sentence construction indicates the goal is not three things, but one thing—lovelove from (1) a pure heart, (2) a good conscience and (3) a sincere faith.3 George Knight explains in his book, The Pastoral Epistles:

…The goal of Christian instruction is love manifested in the Christian’s life through three channels, which are a pure heart, a good conscience, and a sincere faith….

The love in view is said to come from (ἐκ) three sources, καρδίας [heart], συνειδήσεως [conscience], and πίστεω [faith] all three governed by one preposition and connected to each other by καί [and]. With these three nouns and their adjectives Paul speaks of the inner being (καρδίας) and its continually cleansed status (καθαρᾶς [pure]), the life of obedience as an outcome of one’s awareness of the responsibility to do what God asks believers to do (συνειδήσεως [conscience] ἀγαθῆς [good]) and sincere trust in God (πίστεως [faith] ἀνυποκριτοῦ [sincere]) which enable a believer to love.”4

When Jesus was asked what was the greatest commandment, He answered:

“‘Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ The second is this: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.”
Mark 12:29b-31 (ESV)

The night before He was crucified, He told His disciples,

“A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another, even as I have loved you, that you also love one another. By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.”
John 13:34-35

Jesus made love the mark of a Christian, repeating the command to love one another twice in John 15:12-17; in John 17:20-23, He prayed for the unity of all Christians—unity that is the final apologetic to the world that Jesus was, in fact, sent by God, and that God, in fact, has loved those who have believed in Jesus.

Several years after I first used this archery analogy, I found these words of Thomas Brooks, from A Word in Season to Suffering Saints, written in London in 1675.5

Explanation is the drawing of the bow—
but application is the hitting of the mark, the bulls-eye.

“Make love your aim…”
1 Corinthians 14:1a

Cutting It Straight

Be diligent to present yourself approved
to God as a workman who does not need
to be ashamed, accurately handling the
word of truth.

2 Timothy 2:15

If you have read or memorized this verse as a child from the King James Version, you may remember that it uses the phrase rightly dividing. In the Greek it’s actually one word that literally means cutting straight. That’s a graphic picture, isn’t it?

W. E. Vine writes that, “the meaning passed from cutting or dividing, to the more general sense of rightly dealing with a thing.” When you look at the Greek word, ὀρφοτομέω (orthotomeo) you can see its relationship to the meaning of some of our English words, such as orthopedic, because orthos means straight.

When we accurately handle the Word of God, we don’t distort it; we don’t twist it out of context; we don’t read our own meaning into it; we cut it straight. Biblical hermeneutics consists of the rules and guidelines for interpreting the Bible.

Why is it important for Christians to understand how to accurately handle God’s Word? First of all, because it is God’s Word. Out of reverence and love for Him, we should be diligent to carefully interpret His Word.

It’s also important because in John 17:17, Jesus said, “Sanctify them in the truth; Your word is truth.” Through His Word God changes us and matures us as believers. We are sanctified—set apart—as His holy people.

God calls some men to be pastors, and other people within the church to be teachers. He gives them spiritual gifts of preaching and teaching to use in serving other Christians; however, all Christians are responsible for doing the best they can to understand the Bible because if we are to know, love and obey God, we need to know who He is and what He has said.

In a sermon on 1 Thessalonians 5:21-22, John MacArthur outlines another reason:

“I’m sure Satan knew we Christian evangelicals would not buy the theology of liberalism so he sold us the hermeneutics. What do you mean by that? Satan knew we wouldn’t buy their theology so he sold us their principles of interpretation so sooner or later we would arrive at their theology…a kind of Christianity where doctrine and conviction are scorned.”

We are not all called to be experts in biblical interpretation, but we need to understand some basics and grow in wisdom in recognizing sound teaching. Many Christians will, for their profession or hobby or parenting, read numerous books and get training to improve their skills; as Christians we should be even more diligent to learn how to accurately handle God’s Word.

Thus says the LORD,
Heaven is My throne and the earth is My footstool
Where then is a house you could build for Me?
And where is a place that I may rest?
For My hand made all these things,
Thus all these things came into being, declares the LORD
But to this one I will look,
To him who is humble and contrite of spirit,
and who trembles at My word.

Isaiah 66:1-2

Cut it straight.


Blessed is the man
who walks not in the counsel of the wicked,
nor stands in the way of sinners,
nor sits in the seat of scoffers;
but his delight is in the law of the LORD,
and on his law he meditates day and night.

“He is like a tree
planted by streams of water that yields its
fruit in its season,
and its leaf does not wither. In all that he does, he prospers.

“The wicked are not so, but are like chaff that the wind drives away.

“Therefore the wicked will not stand in the judgment,
nor sinners in the congregation of the righteous;
for the LORD knows the way of the righteous,
but the way of the wicked will perish.

Psalm 1 (ESV)

Thus says the LORD:
“Cursed is the man who trusts in man
and makes flesh his strength,
whose heart turns away from the LORD.
He is like a shrub in the desert,
and shall not see any good come.
He shall dwell in the parched places of the wilderness,
in an uninhabited salt land.

“Blessed is the man who trusts in the LORD,
whose trust is the LORD.
He is like a tree planted by water,
that sends out its roots by the stream,
and does not fear when heat comes,
for its leaves remain green,
and is not anxious in the year of drought,
for it does not cease to bear fruit.”

Jeremiah 17:5-8 (ESV)

Truth In The Heart

These words follows a section in which he has been urging the study of the Bible as preparation for contending for the Gospel; he now describes the necessity of having God’s truth abiding in our hearts:

“That direction, in this kind, which with me is instar omnium1 is for a diligent endeavor to have the power of truths professed and contended for abiding upon our hearts, that we may not contend for notions, but what we have a practical acquaintance with in our souls. When the heart is cast indeed into the mould of the doctrine that the mind embraceth; when the evidence and necessity of the truth abides in us; when not the sense of the words only is in our heads, but a sense of the things abides in our hearts; when we have communion with God in the doctrine we contend for; —then shall we be garrisoned, by the grace of God against all the assaults of men. And without this all our contending is, as to ourselves, of no value.”

“What am I the better if I can dispute that Christ is God, but have no sense or sweetness in my heart from hence that he is a God in covenant with my soul? What will it avail me to evince, by testimonies and arguments, that he hath made satisfaction for sin, if, through my unbelief, the wrath of God abideth on me, and I have no experience of my own being made the righteousness of God in him, if I find not, in my standing before God, the excellency of having my sins imputed to him and his righteousness imputed to me? Will it be any advantage to me, in the issue, to profess and dispute that God works the conversion of a sinner by the irresistible grace of his Spirit, if I was never acquainted experimentally with the deadness and utter impotency to good, that opposition to the law of God, which is in my own soul by nature, with the efficacy of the exceeding greatness of the power of God in quickening, enlightening, and bringing forth the fruits of obedience in me? It is the power of truth in the heart alone that will make us cleave unto it indeed in an hour of temptation.

“Let us, then, not think that we are any thing the better for our conviction of the truths of the great doctrines of the gospel, for which we contend with these men, unless we find the power of the truths abiding in our own hearts, and have a continual experience of their necessity and excellency in our standing before God and our communion with him.”2

“But the goal of our instruction is love
from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith.”
1 Timothy 1:5

God’s Mercies & Our Minds
Bee & Flowers: Public Domain, National Park Service.
1, 2R. Kent Hughes, Romans (Crossway Books, Wheaton IL: 1991) 211, 216.

Hitting the Mark
I edited this post on August 22, 2012 for clarity and to add further explanation of 1 Timothy 1:5.
Fletching Arrow: Simon A. Eugster: GNU Free Documentation License, Version 1.2, Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported, 2.5 Generic, 2.0 Generic and 1.0 Generic license.
Zielscheibe Bogenschießen, 4028mdk09: Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported
1F. F. Bruce, The Letter of Paul to the Romans, 212.
2R. Kent Hughes and Bryan Chapell, 1 & 2 Timothy and Titus, 30.
2George W. Knight III, The Pastoral Epistles, The New International Greek Testament Commentary, 76–77.
4Thomas Brooks, A Word in Season to Suffering Saints.
5See my post from last fall, Thinking & Living, for more on sound doctrine (orthodoxy) and sound living (orthopraxy).
The NAS translates 1 Corinthians 14:1a as “Pursue love.” As I was finishing this post, I remembered reading this phrase years ago in the RSV.

Cutting It Straight
Folio from Papyrus 46, containing 2 Corinthians 11:33-12:9: Public Domain via Wikipedia.
W. E. Vine, Old Testament Edited by F. F. Bruce, Vine’s Expository Dictionary of Old
and New Testament Words, 1981, Vol. 1, p. 327: Divide.
John MacArthur, Grace To You: A Call for Discernment, Part 1.
Posted in Apologetics, Bible, Hermeneutics, Life in Christ, Truth.

Jordan River: Deror avi/Israel
Figs: Kurt Stueber
Chaff: Public Domain via Wikipedia.
Black Bush: Joanna Woerner, IAN Image Library.
Bluebird Plum: Public Domain Images.
Posted in Adversity, Believe, Bible, Christian Life, Encouragement.

Truth In The Heart
1instar omnium: worth all of them. Eugene Ehrlich, ed.,The Harper Dictionary of Foreign Terms,
3rd edition, Harper & Row, 1987, p. 164.
Charles H. Spurgeon, A Treasury of David, Psalm 33, v. 20, in the “Explanatory Notes and Quaint
Sayings”, quoting John Spencer about the Lord Jesus, “He is instar omnium (all in all), and who
is like unto him in all the world?”
In some old notes, I had written down that instar omnium, literally means, “among all the stars”,
but I neglected to list a reference, and I am unable to locate it.
2John Owen, Complete Works, The Mystery of the Gospel Vindicated and Socianism Examined,
Preface to the Reader, XII:52 . I have added paragraph breaks for easier reading.
1 Timothy 1:5: Paul’s sentence construction indicates the goal is not three things, but one thing—love—love from (1) a pure heart, (2) a good conscience and (3) a sincere faith. See: R. Kent Hughes and Bryan Chapell, 1 & 2 Timothy and Titus, p. 30; George W. Knight III, The Pastoral Epistles, The New International Greek Testament Commentary, p. 77.
Christmas Candle Stars: – Free High Resolution Photos for Christian Publications
Posted in Adversity; Apologetics; Believe; Bible; Christian Life; Courage; Doctrine; Ministry; Suffering; Truth; Owen, John; Spurgeon, Charles.

Original content: Copyright ©2010–2012 Iwana Carpenter

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