Spiritual or carnal?

from In Christ Jesus by 

Does Scripture support two classes of Christians? A few observations:

1) Spiritual maturity is always a goal to be achieved, not a quality that we possess (Eph 4:13; Philip 3:12-16). Maturity is a process in you, not a character trait of you. Until we are glorified in Christ’s presence, we live between two tensions expressed in this phrase: “always aspiring but never attaining.” In this life we will always be aware of our sinful tendencies and inclinations (2 Cor 11:29; 1 Tim 1:16; Jm 3:2; 1 Jn 1:8), we will occasionally falter, but regularly seek forgiveness, and gradually grow by the power of God within us. That is the biblical reality of our human condition. We are a work in progress.

2) It follows, therefore, that while it is true that every believer has been “washed” and “sanctified” (1 Cor 6:11), it is equally true that every believer is characterized by varying degrees of holiness and sinfulness. Hence, the terms “spiritual” and “carnal” apply in some measure to all of us.

Continue: http://inchristus.com/2015/02/05/spiritual-or-carnal-2/

Hebrews 10.24-5: A Double-edged Sword?

by Paul Adams at In Christ Jesus – LEAVE A COMMENT

Craig Blomberg has a post titled “Why Go to Church?” that has some important observations….as far as they go. He notes that “people are abandoning regular church attendance in record numbers” and with little regret. Hebrews 10, says Blomberg, takes their departure seriously. Specifically he means Hebrews 10:24-25, which reads

And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another — and all the more as you see the Day approaching.

Reasons for giving up on regular, weekly gatherings are typically “pathetic” and “anthropocentric” rather than “Christocentric.” In other words, many who give up on the weekly gatherings do so out of selfish motives. Moreover, in today’s consumer culture some have become “victims of choices.” Due to the advent of personal transportation, we can easily shop for other churches until our preferences for worship music or Sunday School class schedules are satisfied. Instead, Blomberg admonishes, we should go to church for what we can give rather than for what we can get. Instead of maintaining a balance sheet of how much encouragement or gratitude we can receive, we should seek to administer the gifts that God has given us for the sake of encouraging others.

These observations I can hardly deny. They’re thoroughly biblical. But, I have to ask: Why is it that when people choose to depart from a church for whatever reason, that Hebrews 10:24-25 is so quickly employed to apply to those departing and not to those remaining? Since the Word of God is likened to a double-edged sword (Hebrews 4:12), couldn’t Hebrews 10:24-25 cut both ways? Shouldn’t the exhortation to “spur [or “arouse” or “provoke”] one another on toward love and good deeds” apply to everyone? In fact does it not apply to everyone? Isn’t this concern mutual, just as the “let us” and “we” implies?

Granted the weight in this passage is a warning to those facing intense persecution that apostasy is nigh if they make it a “habit” of not connecting with other believers and instead try to “go it alone.” [Sidebar: The exhortation is three-fold beginning in verse 22: “let us draw near…let us hold fast…let us consider one another.”] But I wonder, would this mass exodus from church attendance occurring today be on such a large scale if everyone in the church took seriously the command to “spur one another on toward love and good deeds?” Put differently, could it be that many are departing because of churchgoers’ apathy toward the personal struggles and spiritual discouragement that so many experience? Moreover, doesn’t giving love and encouragement to others require some type of reciprocity? If I’m charged to go to church for what I can “give,” shouldn’t there be “takers” on the other end who are benefitting from my gifts?

I agree with Blomberg’s thesis that we should go to church for what we can give rather than for what we can get. Yet, I confess that I go to church not just to give but to receive encouragement toward love and good deeds and I’m unconvinced this is wrong of me. If others in the church are repeatedly apathetic toward what I have to give, then it’s highly unlikely that is a church I need to continue attending. For Blomberg’s thesis to work successfully, there must be a mutual exchange of “love and good deeds” if Hebrews 10:24-25 means what it says.

And, where is leadership in all of this? Are they merely pointing the Hebrews 10:24-25 finger at those who are departing or is their  finger pointing inward and outward as well?

A sad illustration of this one-sidedness is from Mark Driscoll who points the finger in one direction only. He rightly claims that church should feel like a family, but short-sightedly insists that if it does not, then it’s the fault of those who are not serving in the church. Not once does he ask why people may not be serving! Don’t get me wrong. I believe Driscoll is right….as far as he goes. We’ve all known “balcony” believers (to coin a J. I. Packer phrase) who sit by passively expecting to be waited on by the church and fill out their complaint card (if only in their minds) at the end of every worship service. I suppose those people have earned the right to feel excluded.

But I would argue these kind of people Driscoll targets are a very small percentage of those who are not serving in the church. What about those who have been deeply hurt by the church or profoundly wounded by life but who continue going to church hoping to connect with others only to feel excluded by the church? Is it necessarily their fault for not feeling included?

Think about it. Don’t just greet me at the door, hand me a bulletin, do a high-five as you walk by on your way to talk to someone you’ve known for years! How dare you say it’s my fault for not being more involved when you seemingly don’t give a rip! How dare you use Scripture to charge me with apathy when you yourselves are apathetic about why I’m not involved! How dare you not show me the common courtesy of asking how I am, pause long enough to look me in the eye, and mean it! Of course we all should go to church to serve the living God, but we do this with others and for others because “others” are God’s church!

I fear Driscoll is unknowingly (or knowingly) accommodating a kind of group-think where one group vilifies or even demonizes the other. If you’re not with me, you’re against me. If you’re not feeling included, then there’s something wrong with you (After all, it couldn’t be that I’m partly to blame by failing to intentionally and personally reach out to you.). Instead of doing the kind of hard pastoral and prayerful analysis necessary to gain insight into people’s lives, Driscoll plays the shame game. Listen to his rant for yourself and ask, “Am I earnestly wrestling with why some are not more engaged in the ‘family’ or do I just point my biblical finger at them?“

Insights from Man and Woman, One in Christ


by    (from 2009) – Read then go LEAVE A COMMENT and read the other blogs on the topic.

I just received and have begun reading Philip B. Payne‘s Man and Woman, One in Christ: An Exegetical and Theological Study of Paul’s Letters. Scot McKnight gives it the highest recommendation saying “this is the most technically proficient study ever published on women in the Pauline texts.”

The book is broken into multiple sections: chapters 1-3 are introductory, chapters 4-14 or Part 1 are grouped under “Exegesis of Paul’s Statements about Woman: Earlier Letters,” chapters 15-24 or Part 2 make up “Exegesis of Paul’s Statements about Woman: Latter Letters,” and a conclusion that asserts “Paul Consistently Champions the Equality of Man and Woman in Christ.” Published by Zondervan, the snyopsis reads:

Man and Woman, One in Christ demonstrates that careful exegesis of Paul’s letters affirms the full equality of men and women in the church and in the home. Exploring the entire Pauline corpus, Philip Barton Payne injects crucial insights and cultural backgrounds into the discussion of Paul’s statements regarding women.

I would like to offer some important insights from chapters 1-3 that I found especially enlightening.

From Chapter 1 “Backgrounds to Paul’s Teaching regarding Man and Woman”
After dismantling eleven arguments traditionally put forth from Genesis 1-3 to suggest “God put man in a position of authority over woman,” Payne offers twenty statements based on Gen 1-3 that show man and woman are equal:

  1. God creates both male and female in God’s image and likeness (1:16-27; cf. 5:1-2).
  2. God gives both male and female rule over animals and all the earth (1:26b, 28).
  3. God gives both male and female the same blessing and tells them together to be fruitful and increase in number, fill the earth, and subdue it (1:28-29; cf. 5:2).
  4. God speaks directly to both man and woman (1:28-29 “to them,” “to you” plural twice).
  5. God gives male and female together all plants for food (1:29 “to you” plural).
  6. Woman is a “help” to man, a noun the OT never elsewhere uses of a subordinate (2:18, 20).
  7. Woman “corresponds to” man, literally “in front of” man, face-to-face, not below (2:18, 20).
  8. God makes woman from the man’s rib, so she is made of the same substance as he (2:21-23).
  9. The man recognizes, “This is now bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh” (2:23).
  10. “Father and mother” are identified without hierarchical distinction (2:24).
  11. A man is “united” to his wife, implying oneness (2:24).
  12. A man becomes “one flesh” with his wife, implying unity (2:24).
  13. Both the man and woman are naked and feel no shame, sharing moral sensibility (2:25).
  14. The woman and the man are together at the temptation and fall (3:6); both faced temptation.
  15. Both the woman and the man eat the forbidden fruit (3:6), both exercising a (bad) moral choice.
  16. The eyes of both are opened, they realize they are naked, and sew coverings (3:7).
  17. Both hide from God (3:8), showing they both experience guilt.
  18. God addresses both directly (3:9-13, 16-19), showing both have access to God.
  19. Both pass the blame (3:12-13), showing both have this weakness.
  20. God announces to both specific consequences of their sin (3:16-19); both are responsible.

From Chapter 2 “Women Paul Names as Ministry Leaders”
Of the women mentioned, Phoebe especially caught my interests. Payne notes Phoebe’s leadership role is evident from “Paul’s request in Rom 16:2, ‘receive her in the Lord in a way worthy of the saints, and give her support in whatever matter she may have need from you, for she has been a leader [προστάτις, “leader, chief,” president or presiding officer,” “one who stands before,” …] of many and of myself as well.” Two things stood out to me: 1) “Since Paul includes himself as having been under Phoebe’s leadership, this was not simply a leadership role over other women.” 2) “Every meaning of every word in the NT related to the word Paul has chosen to describe Phoebe as a “leader” (προστάτις) that could apply in Rom 16:2 refers to leadership.” Of course, that Phoebe was a “διάκονον = servant” (Rom 16:1) does not necessarily mean she held the office of deacon, since Paul regularly calls himself a “servant.”

From Chapter 3 “Paul’s Theological Axioms Imply the Equality of Man and Woman”

  1. Male and Female are Equally Created in God’s Image
  2. Male and Female Equally Received the Creation Mandate and Blessing
  3. The Redeemed–Male and Female–are Equally “in Christ”
  4. The Nature of Church Leadership as Service Appklies Equally to Male and Female
  5. Mutual Submission in the Church Presupposes the Equal Standing of Women and Men
  6. Mutual Submission in Marriage Presupposes the Equality of Men and Women
  7. The Oneness of the Body of Christ Presupposes the Equality of Men and Women
  8. The Priesthood of All Believers Presupposes the Equality of Men and Women
  9. The Gifts of the Spirit Manifest the Equality of Men and Women
  10. Liberty in Christ Presupposes the Equality of Men and Women
  11. Inaugurated Eschatology Requires the Equality of Men and Women While Affirming that the Sexes Complement Each Other
  12. In Christ, Male and Female Are Equal

As I continue reading, more insights from this important work will be posted.

“So, where do you go to church?”

Appropriate question by Paul Adams from In Christ Jesus blog.

Inevitably I get asked this question whenever running into people who are likely Christian but don’t know me well. For some time now, I’ve been conducting a kind of experiment with my response, which goes something like “Not really going to church; just focusing onbeing the church.” After the wrinkled foreheads straighten and the dazed looks clear, most have no clue what I just said. In all fairness, however, I did answer a different kind of question.

Naturally, my interrogators merely want to find a category in which to put me. They want to know what kind of Christian I am. Given that Christianity has been so fragmented over the centuries (charismatic, non-charismatic, Protestant, Anglican, Orthodox, Catholic, etc.), not to mention our pluralistic society lending itself to every conceivable religious flavor these days, people likely want to know how to relate to me when finding that I’m Christian. After all, “mere Christianity” doesn’t give folks enough of a handle I suppose.

But I have to ask: “What is the Church?” On the one hand, it seems we have become so reductionistic that church is simply an aggregate of bodies, bucks, and buildings; an organization that is institutionalized by paid professionals with a tax-exempt status. On the other, we narrowly define church by our specified experiences of it within a localized, privitized, customized weekly gathering.

As I read the New Testament, “church” refers to “the people of God,” whether locally or globally expressed. Metaphors referring to the Church include “body” (Colossians 1:18), “temple” (Ephesians 2:20-21), “virgin” (2 Corinthians 11:2), “bride” (Revelation 21:9), “people” (Titus 2:14), “flock” (1 Peter 5:2-4), “household” (Ephesians 2:19), “one new man” (Ephesians 2:15), “chosen people, holy nation, royal priesthood” (1 Peter 2:9), “Israel of God” (Galatians 6:16), etc.

Given this data, I doubt anyone in the first Century would even ask another “Where do you go to church?” Neither would anyone ask this question today of believers in China or Afghanistan. This is because the term “church” was and is an identity to hold; not a place to go.

Rather than ask “Where do you go to church?” why hasn’t anyone ever asked “How are you focusing on being the Church?”


Commet at


1 John 1:1-4

by Paul Adams at In Christ Jesus blog

By the time John wrote his epistle, errors regarding what it meant to be Christian were threatening the Church. So with a pastor’s heart, he writes to encourage readers that we can have assurance of salvation based upon bringing our lives under the scrutiny of three tests:

  • Obeying God (moral)
  • Believing the truth about Jesus (doctrinal)
  • Loving others faithfully (social)

Distinctions between John’s Gospel and First John make it clear that he seeks to bolster our confidence. Whereas the Fourth Gospel was written primarily for unbelievers to prompt faith in Jesus (Jn. 20:31), 1 John was written primarily for believers to provide assurance of eternal life (1 Jn. 5:13). And, while his Gospel emphasizes Jesus’ deity (Jn. 1:1, 18; 20:28), John’s first epistle emphasizes Jesus’ humanity (1 Jn. 1:1; 3:16; 4:2; 5:6). John says repeatedly that we can have assurance of eternal life (1:2; 2:25; 3:15; 5:11, 13, 20).

Verse 1
In order to catch his readers’ attention, John begins abruptly. He writes not only from knowledge, but also from his profoundly personal experiences with the “Word of Life.” John recounts that he had heard, seen, looked at, and touched his Subject. Three possibilities as to the identity of this “Word of Life” are:

  1. The gospel message, which conveys new life
  2. The person of Christ
  3. Both 1. and 2.

Option 3 is best. Most likely John’s readers would have identified the “Word of life” with the “Word made flesh” of Jn. 1:14. Indeed, eternal life and Jesus were practically synonymous for John (Jn. 17:3; 1 Jn. 5:20).

Moreover, Jesus said of himself that he is life eternal (Jn. 11:25; 14:6) and Paul said that Christ is the gospel message (1 Cor. 1:23). Therefore, the “Word of Life” is the message of the gospel incarnated in Jesus the Son of God.

By the time John’s epistle was written, the early stages of a heresy called Gnosticism had begun to surface. This heresy taught that the physical, material world was evil and only the immaterial, intangible world was divine. So, the divine could never become human. And, since being human entails being physical and material, some were teaching that the divine Son of God could not have been fully human. John wanted his readers to know that this teaching was false and that his audible, visible, and tangible witness to the “Word of Life” is conclusive proof that “the Word of Life” was material, divine reality.

Verse 2
John states that Christianity is not a human fabrication, nor an elaboration of some other world religion. Rather, Christianity is a revealed religion (“the life appeared”). Were it not for God graciously choosing to reveal himself finally and completely in Christ, we would all be blinded by the darkness of our imaginations (cf., Rom. 1:20-23; 2 Cor. 4:3-6).

John’s experience reminds us that although Christianity is not a “private” religion, it is an intensely “personal” one. Consequently, we testify not only to what God has done in history, but to what God has done in us (cf., Acts 26:12ff; Rom. 5:8).

Our experience of Christ should be similar to that of John’s:

  • we “see” the truth of the gospel
  • we “testify” to it (= affirm it to be true)
  • and we “proclaim” it to others.

John assures his readers and us that the truth about salvation is both objective and subjective. It is grounded in the personal and historical; the perceiver and the perceived; the experience and the experienced.

However, lest we forget that experiencing and proclaiming Christ is merely a means to an end, John reminds us that God is bringing about his objectives in our salvation.

Verses 3-4
John states two intended purposes for proclaiming the Word of life:

  1. “Fellowship” (to share and actively participate in a close union or bond; to partner with another). John says that fellowship with him and his apostolic colleagues necessarily depends upon a relationship with God through Christ. It is impossible to have genuine, biblical fellowship with other believers and not have fellowship with God through his Son Jesus (and vice versa). Christians are related to one another as a branch is related to a vine. We are spiritual family. To Consider: What happens when the human or divine elements of fellowship become one-sided? Human fellowship minus divine fellowship is like a tree without roots. Likewise, divine fellowship minus human fellowship equals false piety. To Consider: Evangelism that does not involve fellowship will leave new disciples with a serious case of malnutrition (cf., Heb. 5:12-14). Similarly, fellowship that does not issue forth in evangelism will leave a static and lifeless “holy huddle.”
  2. “Joy” (not a cheap glow that depends upon circumstances). Biblical “joy” is a quiet, inner confidence that our salvation is secure (Ps. 28:7; Is. 12:3) Biblical “joy” is delighting in all the blessings of a relationship with God and his people (Philip. 4:1; 3 Jn. 3)

What was experienced, seen, heard, felt, and subsequently affirmed, proclaimed, and written down is the historical and deeply personal reality John calls the “Word of life.” This “Word of life” is none other than the gospel message incarnated in Jesus. This “Word of life” is:

Revealed, experienced and, proclaimed, the effect of which is: fellowship with God, his Son, and God’s people, resulting in the joy and assurance of our salvation.

Spiritual Fruit

by Paul Adams at In Christ Jesus blog

“The fruit of the Spirit is forbearance.”


The Spirit’s fruit of forbearance or patience given to believers is a “state of emotional calm in the face of provocation or misfortune and without complaint or irritation” Louw, J. P., & Nida, E. A. (1996), Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament: Based on Semantic Domains

  1. The Spirit’s forbearance enables us to wait patiently for promises fulfilled. We are called to “imitate those who through faith and patience inherit what has been promised” just as “God made his promise to Abraham” who “after waiting patiently…received what was promised” (Heb 6:12-15). Being content with God’s timing is mark of a mature faith (see also Rom. 4:20; 2 Cor. 1:6).
  2. The Spirit’s patience is to be evident of believers toward everyone. “Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with…patience” (Col 3:12). Just as our clothing is a predominant feature of our physical presence, so too must patience be evident of our spiritual presence (cf., Eph. 4:2; 1 Thess. 5:14).
  3. The Spirit’s patience endures difficulty over time, but is not eternally tolerant. While “love is patient” (1 Cor 13:4) and God patiently waits for the salvation of unbelievers, his patience (and ours) must not be confused with unending tolerance. In fact, if God were eternally tolerant, then the flood of Gen. 6-9 makes little sense, evil would be tolerated, and Hell would be empty. All judgements, including those rendered positively would be vacuous. It is true “the Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. Instead he is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.” Yet it is equally true that “the day of the Lord will come like a thief. The heavens will disappear with a roar; the elements will be destroyed by fire, and the earth and everything done in it will be laid bare” (2 Pet 3:9–10; see also Rom. 2:4-6; 9:22-23; 2 Pet. 3:15).
  4. The Spirit’s forbearance respects the limitations God sets over our circumstances. Just as a farmer recognizes he has no control over the growth of his crop, so we must patiently persevere waiting for God to bring blessing in his time. Too often we seek change in our circumstances instead of patiently enduring them. Consequently, by moving ahead of God we forfeit the blessing of growth in patience that God seeks to bring about in our lives. Believers endowed with God’s Spirit can have the “patience of Job” (James 5:7-11)! Where we have no control over our negative circumstances (and often we do not), the only biblical response is forbearance, perseverance, and patience (see also Rom 12:12).

“The fruit of the Spirit is love.”

by Paul Adams at In Christ Jesus blog


But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. Galatians 5:22-23.

The Spirit’s love actively places supreme value on the loved.

  1. The Spirit’s love is sacrificial. “Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her” (Eph 5:25) “This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers and sisters” (1 Jn 3:16; John 3:16).
  2. The Spirit’s love is practical. “If anyone has material possessions and sees a brother or sister in need but has no pity on them, how can the love of God be in that person? Dear children, let us not love with words or speech but with actions and in truth” (1 Jn 3:17-18).
  3. The Spirit’s love relentlessly pursues us and radically demonstrates his commitment to us, despite our unloveliness. “The Lord said to me, “Go, show your love to your wife again, though she is loved by another man and is an adulteress. Love her as the Lord loves the Israelites, though they turn to other gods.” (Hosea 3:1) “But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (also Rom. 5:8; Dt 7:7-8).
  4. The Spirit’s love takes the first step; it always makes the first move. “In love he predestined us for adoption to sonship through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will” (Eph 1:4-5) “We love because he first loved us” (1 Jn 4:19).
  5. The Spirit’s love is extended to everyone without distinction. “But love your enemies, do good to them, and lend to them without expecting to get anything back” (Lk 6:35).
  6. Similarly, the Spirit’s love is extended to all believers without distinction and is the identifying mark of our discipleship. “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another” (Jn 13:34-35).
  7. The Spirit’s love is more than a feeling in us; it is an objective expression of our obedience to Christ’s commands. “If you love me, keep my commands…Whoever has my commands and keeps them is the one who loves me…Anyone who loves me will obey my teaching” (Jn 14:15, 21, 23).

Sidebar: The oft noted biblical word for love (agape) does not always translate to something like “selfless, sacrificial, unconditional love.” It can refer to Amnon’s incestuous rape of his half-sister Tamar (2 Sam 13:15, LXX) or Paul’s lament that Demas “loved this present, evil world” and forsook him and the ministry (2 Tim 4:10). A blanket definition for everywhere agape occurs simply will not do. It’s erroneous to assume that agape always means a special kind of divine love (see D.A. Carson, Exegetical Fallacies, p. 30ff). As always, context is king.

“But the Bible says…”

Another good chunk of food for thought by Paul Adams at In Christ Jesus blog


I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been in conversation with others (many believers, some unbelievers) who say something like, “But the Bible says…” or “Somewhere I read in the Bible that…” You fill in the blank. However, it is often the case that the text does not say this or that. Typically I’ll respond with something like “But the text says…” Most of those I encounter are educated and intelligent, so it’s not the inability to pay attention to details. Why then are they not reading the text as it is written? Two possibilities come to mind:

  1. They have some preconceived notion of what the Bible says and read that notion into the text. This preconception blinds them to the details.
  2. They have a low view of Scripture’s source and authority and are coming to the text with a liberal and loose framework thinking “The text can’t really mean what it actually says.” Or, “Those ideas are outdated and don’t apply to our current culture and day.”

So I ask: Can we trust the Bible as it was written or do we just treat it like a “User’s Guide” with best practices and suggestions? Do we just invoke the Scriptures for our own ends or are we submitting to the Scriptures as God’s very Word? One of the summary statements from “The Chicago Statement on Biblical Inerrancy” says this:

Holy Scripture, being God’s own Word, written by men prepared and superintended by His Spirit, is of infallible divine authority in all matters upon which it touches: it is to be believed, as God’s instruction, in all that it affirms; obeyed, as God’s command, in all that it requires; embraced, as God’s pledge, in all that it promises.

And, Article VI of the Statement reads:

We affirm that the whole of Scripture and all its parts, down to the very words of the original, were given by divine inspiration. We deny that the inspiration of Scripture can rightly be affirmed of the whole without the parts, or of some parts but not the whole.

When rightly read and interpreted, every word, every clause, every phrase, every sentence, every paragraph, and every book in the library of books we call the Bible is the mind of God communicated by the heart of God to the people of God. And, surely everything God says is of ultimate importance and is relevant today. Our goal is to rightly understand it first, then seek to apply it to our lives where possible.

For some excellent sources on reading about inerrancy (trusting the accuracy and truthfulness of Scripture) see Some Suggested Reading on Inerrancy.

Best Practices for Understanding the Bible

by  Paul Adams at In Christ Jesus

When Reading Scripture: Seven Questions to Ask and Answer

  1. Who — Who is speaking? Who is the audience? Who is being spoken about?
  2. What — What is being said or not being said? What is the overall idea the author has in mind? Ask, “What is the passage talking about?” and “What is the passage saying about what it is talking about?”
  3. When — Are there any time references in the passage? Do the verb tenses give any idea as to when something has happened, is happening or will happen?
  4. Where — Where will an event or change take place? Is there a reference to a particular change in location?
  5. Why — Are there reasons given for an appeal the author is making? Does the author state his purpose for writing?
  6. How — Is there a means by which such and such will take place? If the text says I’m to do something, does it explain how it is to be done? Is there a basis upon which something has happened in the past?
  7. How much — Are there any references to quantity or quality?

When Interpreting Scripture: Do’s and Don’ts

  • Do look for the clear, straightforward statements of the passage. In other words, don’t get caught up in the details.
  • Do your best to keep personal, subjective meanings from interfering with your straightforward observations. God doesn’t need any help in inspiration.
  • Do remember that the Bible is first and foremost a book about God, not a book about you. Although there are wonderful and important things to learn and apply from the Bible, it is primarily God’s Word to us, not our word from us about us.
  • Do distinguish between what Scripture is teaching and what we can learn from it.
  • Don’t create some deep, far-reaching meaning from the passage. Scripture has enough profound ideas in the text. A passage can never mean what it never meant. It is the author who gives it the meaning, not the reader. Your quest is to discover the author’s meaning.
  • Don’t take a verse or passage out of its context. Content without context is pretext. Context is the primary tool to discover the meaning of a passage. Typically, within any given context there is a single idea or concept that the biblical author is seeking to communicate. Discovering the big idea will be the foundation of a correct interpretation. Remember: The main idea is what God is teaching us.
  • Do recognize that there are multiple genres or literary styles used in the Bible. For example, the Bible uses prose, poetry, prophecy, history, symbolic imagery, etc. While it’s more important to identify the purpose of a text than its literary style, the type of literature being used is key to an accurate understanding of a text’s intent and significance.
  • Don’t assume you have observed all there is. KEEP LOOKING! Set the study aside and come back another time for more discoveries.
  • Do pray before, during, and after your study. It is vital that you bathe your study in prayer asking God to illuminate his truth to your mind and heart.
  • Do know that authority is in the text, not in the interpretor (this includes the pastor or teacher as well as the reader). In so far as the interpretor has accurately understood the meaning of the text, then and only then do his/her words used to convey that meaning have authorial import.
  • Do understand that the personal significance of a passage/text is only present when you’ve properly understood and interpreted it. So don’t be hasty in application but take time to reflect on your findings before applying them on your life.

The Means God Uses: Others

by Paul Adams at In Christ Jesus

I’ve been thinking about this quote from Jerry Bridge’s The Pursuit of Holiness (pp. 25-26, 1st ed.). He writes:

Many Christians have what we might call a “cultural holiness”. They adapt to the character and behavior pattern of Christians around them. As the Christian culture around them is more or less holy, so these Christians are more or less holy. But God has not called us to be like those around us. He has called us to be like himself. Holiness is nothing less than conformity to the character of God.

I could not agree more. Having lived in one of the foremost evangelical cities (Colorado Springs), surrounding myself with “Christian” culture, and immersing my family for almost 3 decades in all-things-Christian, this really struck home. What is the standard for my holy behavior? Do I look to others for models of sanctified living? Clearly the Bible teaches us that God is the standard as embodied in Christ Jesus our Lord. But, do others play a part in my sanctification?

Before addressing these questions, let me be precise about what I mean by “sanctification.” As The Gospel of Jesus Christ: An Evangelical Celebration states: “saving faith results in sanctification, the transformation of life in growing conformity to Christ through the power of the Holy Spirit. Sanctification means ongoing repentance, a life of turning from sin to serve Jesus Christ in grateful reliance on him as one’s Lord and Master (Gal. 5:22-25; Rom. 8:4, 13-14).”

Now that it’s clear what I’m talking about, who is involved in this process? True Jesus is my Sanctifier, but do others sanctify me and propel me toward “growing conformity to Christ?” Should believers be involved in a culture of holy living without erring on the side of “cultural holiness?” What I believe Bridge’s is getting at is this. The means God uses to sanctify me must not displace the One who is the standard of my sanctification. He alone is the measure of holy living, just as Jesus captures in Matthew 5:48, “Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.” We are to “be imitators of God” (Ephesians 5:1). I get that. But what role might others play in my sanctification?


The Psalmist indicates that my state of well being is directly related to the company I keep:
“Blessed is the man who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked or stand in the way of sinners or sit in the seat of mockers.” (Psalm 1:1)

Likewise, the Lord forewarns Israel to remain set apart from the lifestyles of their new neighbors:
“When you enter the land the LORD your God is giving you, do not learn to imitate the detestable ways of the nations there.” (Deuteronomy 18:9; see also Leviticus 19:2; 1 Peter 1:16)


Paul writes to the Corinthians, commanding them to:
“Follow my example, as I follow the example of Christ.”
(1 Corinthians 11:1)

And Paul insists we follow him in the way of humble Christian service (see 1 Corinthians 4:16).

Believers at Philippi are encouraged to:
“Join with others in following [Paul’s] example, brothers, and take note of those who live according to the pattern we gave you.” (Philippians 3:17)

In addition, Timothy is a grand illustration of solid Christian character (Philippians 2:19-24).

And Timothy’s progress in the faith should be evident to others:
“Be diligent in these matters; give yourself wholly to them, so that everyone may see your progress.”
(1 Timothy 4:15)

Epaphroditus is a model of one who was proven in times of trials (see Philippians 2:25-30).

The Thessalonian Christians are given a solid example for a Christian work ethic in Paul and admonished to follow after him in this.
(2 Thessalonians 3:7-10).

So, others are clearly involved in our growth toward Christlikeness. It seems to me, therefore, that our growth in Christlikeness promotes a culture of holy living. And, the best antidote I can think of to ward off the dangers of “cultural holiness” is a culture of holy living as we look to God and seek to imitate others who are doing the same.