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Bible Engagement Blog


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Naming the Book

Sometime during the Middle Ages, the collection of 66 books that we generally refer to as the Bible was named biblia sacra (holy books). When the King James Version was compiled in 1611, the publishers named it The Holy Bible. Since then there have been hundreds of different titles for the Book of books.

Publishers have been very creative in naming the Book. Broadly speaking, an English Bible is named by translation (e.g. NIV, ESV, NKJV), type (e.g. Matthew Henry Study Bible, Gospel Transformation Bible), audience (e.g. Baby’s First Bible, The Action Bible), or event (e.g. Family Devotional Bible, Preaching Bible). A possible fifth category of names for the Book could be those that are unusual (e.g. Waterproof Bible, Klingon Bible).

Why does the Book have so many different names? Maybe because its compilation includes so many different genres of literature. Maybe because it’s a book that’s unlike any other book. Or maybe because, with so many different people involved in its publication, there are a variety of opinions as to what the title should be.

The essence of a book is often the main factor that informs the naming of a book. Many English translations of the Book use the word Bible in the title because it comes from the Greek word biblos (βίβλος) meaning book. Biblos is used about 10 times in the New Testament. The first writer to refer to the Old and New Testaments together as the Bible was Chrysostom in 223 AD when he called the two testaments ta biblia (the books).

A good title for a book usually provides a hint about the story. When the publishers of the KJV used the word holy in the title they obviously wanted to communicate to potential readers that the story is sacred, sanctified and hallowed. Another meaning for holy is “set apart.” The KJV title, therefore, indicates that the Book is unlike any other book because the author is God (who is set apart from us).

Book titles frequently include keywords describing the most important thing, person or idea in the book. If I were naming the Book, I wouldn’t use the word holy or study in the title (two of the most commonly used words) because the fact that the Book is holy and should be studied aren’t the most important things about it. The most important thing about the Book is that, from beginning to end, it’s all about a person – Jesus Christ. For this reason, my favourite title for the Book, of all existing titles, is The Jesus Bible.

What’s your favourite title for the Book? The title you choose says something about who you are. If your favourite title is the Justice Bible, I suspect you’re passionate about setting things right. If it’s The Message, you probably value God’s Word in an easily understood format. Or if it’s The Sportsman’s Bible, you’re more than likely an outdoor enthusiast who likes fishing or hunting.

George Eliot said, “Don’t judge a book by its cover.” While the title of the Book is important, what’s more important is that we don’t prejudge the worth or value of the Book by its name. When all is said and done, what really counts is engaging with the Book. For unlike any other book, when you open the Book, regardless of its title, it wants you to engage with it so that it can engage with you!

© Scripture Union Canada 2020

2 Corinthians 4:5


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Sola Scriptura or Solo Scriptura?

“All Scripture is God-breathed …” 2 Timothy 3:16. The inspiration of Scripture should never be a matter of dispute among Christians, but are the Scriptures the only source for theology?

Some Christians (mainly Catholics) insist that both Scripture and church tradition, as given by the Holy Spirit, are the source for theology. Others (mainly Anabaptists and Quakers) insist that Scripture, and the Holy Spirit speaking new revelation to the individual, are the source for theology. Yet another group of Christians (mainly Evangelicals) insist that the Bible alone, as illuminated by the Holy Spirit, is the source for theology.

Each group of Christians cites the work of the Holy Spirit to legitimize their position, yet each of the views is problematic. When it’s assumed that God is the author of both Scripture and tradition equally, what happens when tradition clashes with or contradicts what the Bible says? When it’s assumed that an internal voice along with Scripture is authoritative, what happens when the internal voice says something the Bible doesn’t say? And when it’s assumed that there’s no authority other than the Bible, what happens when there’s disagreement about what the Bible says?

In considering the last question, it’s helpful to know that Protestant reformers made a distinction between the principles of “sola Scriptura” (Scripture alone) and “nuda Scriptura” (bare Scripture). “Sola Scriptura” has to do with the sufficiency of Scripture as the Christian’s supreme authority in all spiritual matters. “Nuda Scriptura” is the idea that the Bible is the Christian’s only theological authority in all spiritual matters. The best transliteration for “nuda Scriptura” today is “solo Scriptura” (just me and my Bible).

The distinction between “sola Scriptura” and “solo Scriptura” is important. The two are not the same and shouldn’t be equated. The emphasis in “sola Scriptura” is on theology being ultimately subject to the Scriptures. The emphasis in “solo Scriptura” is narrower. It gives prominence to personal interpretation removed from the Church.

“Solo Scriptura” naturally appeals to people who are suspicious of authority or individualistically inclined. The revivalist preacher Alexander Campbell (1788-1866) captured the essence of “solo Scriptura” when he said, “I have endeavored to read the Scriptures as though no one had read them before me, and I am as much on my guard against reading them today, through the medium of my own views yesterday, or a week ago, as I am against being influenced by any foreign name, authority, or system whatever.”

People are in error if they outright reject the theological insights of others in favour of their own interpretations. They’re also dangerous and divisive. Dangerous because “solo Scriptura” subjects theology to the whims and frailty of subjectivism, and divisive because “solo Scriptura” has no court of appeal for theological disagreements.

“Sola Scriptura”, on the other hand, depends on a communal reading of the Scriptures. It does this by interacting with the theological insights and understanding of Christians past and present. No man or woman is an island to himself or herself. “Sola scriptura” recognizes that while Scripture is the final authority to judge Christian doctrine and practice, it’s not the only resource for theology. That is, “sola Scriptura” identifies that the core convictions of the Church, as long as they don’t compete with or supplement the Scriptures, are essential resources for biblical interpretation, theological reflection, and interdenominational dialogue.

So what happens when there’s disagreement about what the Bible says? While there are no easy answers, it’s naïve to think that just me and my Bible is more than enough. We need one another. We need, with the Scriptures as the primary authority, to tap into the exegetical insights, doctrinal clarity, and pastoral perceptions of Christians through the ages.

© Scripture Union Canada 2020

2 Corinthians 4:5


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Whole Book Reading

For several months, my daily Bible reading plan has been to read a whole book of the Bible in one sitting. It’s been illuminating and rewarding.

There are many benefits to whole book reading:

  • You read like a writer
  • The themes and sub-themes come into focus
  • The structure and genre of the writing is more evident
  • The ebb and flow of different emotions (in both the text and the reader) are more pronounced
  • The rhythm and pattern of the message/story is more noticeable
  • The development of the writer’s theology is more obvious
  • It opens your heart and expands your understanding
  • It’s easier to see how the Scriptures are all about Jesus
  • You read more

Now that’s well and good, but how does one find enough time to read a whole book in one sitting? Actually, it’s quite easy. You read the short books on the days when you don’t have much time and the long books on the days when you have more time.

Saturday or Sunday afternoon is when I read the longer books like Isaiah or Luke. From Monday to Friday, I mainly read shorter books. On a hectic day when I’m time-challenged, I read one of the ten books that take me less than 5 minutes – Obadiah, Jonah, Nahum, Haggai, 2 Thessalonians, Titus, Philemon, 2 John, 3 John, or Jude.

Here’s a rough guide (our reading speeds are different) for how long it takes to read each book of the Bible:

15 minutes or less – Ruth, Joel, Obadiah, Jonah, Micah, Nahum, Habakkuk, Zephaniah, Haggai, Malachi, Philippians, Colossians, 1 Thessalonians, 2 Thessalonians, 1 Timothy, 2 Timothy, Titus, Philemon, James, 1 Peter, 2 Peter, 1 John, 2 John, 3 John, Jude

30 minutes or less – Esther, Song of Solomon, Lamentations, Hosea, Amos, Galatians, Ephesians

1 hour or less – Ezra, Nehemiah, Ecclesiastes, Daniel, Zechariah, Romans, 1 Corinthians, 2 Corinthians, Hebrews

2 hours or less – Leviticus, Joshua, Judges, 2 Samuel , 1 Chronicles, Job, Proverbs, Mark, John, Revelation

3 hours or less – Exodus, Numbers, Deuteronomy, 1 Samuel, 1 Kings, 2 Kings, 2 Chronicles, Matthew, Luke, Acts

4 hours or less – Genesis, Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel

5 hours or less – Psalms

Take control of your time. If you commit to an average of 12 minutes every day, you’ll read the whole Bible in 1 year. Do you have 5 minutes in your day? Read Haggai or Jude. Do you have 15 minutes? Read Ruth or James. Do you have an hour? Dive into Nehemiah or Romans.

© Scripture Union Canada 2020

2 Corinthians 4:5


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The Key to Interpreting the Bible

How can two astute people read the same passage of Scripture and arrive at two different interpretations?

The short answer is because people usually tend to use one of four ways to interpret the Bible – the literal, moral, anagogical or allegorical approach. The literal approach looks for the plain meaning of the text, the moral approach draws ethical lessons from the text, the anagogical approach searches for a mystical meaning in the text, and the allegorical approach looks for a second level or typological meaning in the text.

Decades ago, when I first learned about these four ways to interpret the Bible my blood pressure went up! I had many questions: What was the right approach? Could two or more approaches be right? If two or more approaches are right, what happens when the interpretations clash? How can a literal approach be used with poetic literature? How can an anagogical approach be a valid way to interpret didactic material? And so on.

My questions increased my level of frustration. As I thought about the matter, I became convinced that a Bible text, rightly read in its context, could only have one intended and definite meaning.  There was no way a text could have different, conflicting, or ethereal meanings.

Despite my hermeneutical concerns, I gradually developed a method of interpretation that applied literary, historical, theological, grammatical, contextual, translation, and supernatural considerations to my reading/hearing and preaching/teaching of the Bible. I felt like I was making progress, but I still wondered if I was missing something. Then the Scriptures themselves revealed the right way to interpret the Bible.

The right way to interpret the Bible isn’t a literal, moral, anagogical or allegorical approach. The right way to interpret the Bible isn’t tied to an approach, it’s tied to a person. Jesus is the hermeneutical key to the Bible.

To correctly handle God’s Word (cf. 2 Timothy 2:15) we must engage with it as the message, from beginning to end, about Jesus. This is essential. A Christocentric outlook is vital to understanding every page of the Bible. Any effort to determine the meaning of a text divorced from a Christocentric outlook leads to a distortion of its meaning.

This isn’t my opinion, it’s grounded in the Scriptures themselves. Jesus is the hermeneutical key to the Bible because He claims to be the subject of the Bible (cf. Luke 24:25-27). Because Jesus claims to be the subject of the Bible, the only adequate way to interpret the Bible is to consider every passage of scripture in the context of the life, death, resurrection, ascension, and future return of Jesus. As the Australian Evangelical theologian Graeme Goldsworthy says, “All biblical texts testify in some way to Jesus Christ. This makes him the center of biblical revelation and the fixed reference point for understanding everything else in the Bible.”

So what are some practical and theological implications?

  • To properly understand the Bible, saving faith in Jesus, coupled with the empowerment of the Spirit, is required
  • “We affirm that the Person and work of Jesus Christ are the central focus of the whole Bible” – Article III, Chicago Statement on Biblical Hermeneutics
  • Jesus is the only one who can mediate the Word of God to us (cf. 1 Timothy 2:5-6)
  • The person and work of Jesus must, directly and indirectly, inform our interpretation of a text
  • The meaning of a text is always linked to how God reveals Himself in and through Jesus
  • The main interpretive question is, “How does this passage attest to Christ?”
  • The Gospels are the methodological starting point for interpreting the Scriptures because this is where Jesus is seen most clearly
  • If an interpretation intentionally denies or ignores the person and/or work of Jesus, it’s a false interpretation
  • When we study, preach, or teach the Bible we should always link our studies, preaching, or teaching to Jesus
  • The application of the Bible to our daily lives must be connected to Jesus

The long and the short of it is this, Jesus is the linchpin to correctly understanding everything in the Bible. As Goldsworthy aptly says, “No Bible passage yields its true significance without reference to Jesus Christ in his gospel.”

Recommended reading:

Goldsworthy, Graeme., Preaching the Whole Bible as Christian Scripture, Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 2000.

© Scripture Union Canada 2020

2 Corinthians 4:5


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Bible Engagement Preaching

There are approximately 37 million churches in the world and 34,000 (Christian) denominations. If every church has only 1 service a week (most churches have more than 1 service), about 2 billion sermons are preached every year!

That’s a lot of sermonizing, and it means the Bible is the most talked-about book in the world!

Which gets me to wondering, how are preachers preaching, and what are they preaching?

The researcher, Ed Stetzer, addressed this question, in part, in a June 2009 article in Christianity Today. Analyzing 450 randomly selected sermons by different North American preachers, he found that pastors organized and delivered their sermons in diverse ways. He also discovered that Matthew was the most preached book, Genesis the most preached Old Testament book, and Luke, John, Acts, and Romans the most likely books for preachers to use for their main text. More than 70 percent of sermons are a commentary on New Testament texts.

Stetzer’s research indicates that preaching, while Bible-based, isn’t based on the whole Bible. This is troubling, particularly in the light of Paul’s words to Timothy that “all Scripture … is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness” 2 Timothy 3:16.

Note the phrase “all Scripture … is useful for teaching.” The text suggests that certainly all 39 books of the Old Testament, and by extension, the 66 books in both Testaments, are profitable for training and instruction. Why are all the books useful for teaching? Because when preachers preach from the whole Bible it provides us with the full range of meaningful encounters that we need to know and grow in Christ (cf. Luke 24:13-35).

Preaching from the entire Bible isn’t optional, it’s essential. To grow in spiritual maturity, people must feed on the whole counsel of God. So here’s a shout-out for preaching that connects us with every chapter and genre of Scripture in both Testaments.

That’s not to say that it’s feasible for a preacher to preach from every passage of Scripture, but it is to say that good preaching should engage the listeners, with breadth and depth, in the major acts of the whole Bible.

Thus the aim of every preacher should be to connect the listener with Jesus and His Word. Not some of the Word, all of the Word. For we grow in maturity in our relationships with Jesus through engaging with His Word in its entirety.

© Scripture Union Canada 2019

2 Corinthians 4:5


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Correctly Handling the Word of Truth

One of the last things Paul told Timothy was, “Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a workman who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly handles the word of truth” 2 Timothy 2:15.

Note the phrase “correctly handles the word of truth.” The Greek word for “handles” is orthotomeō. It only appears once in the New Testament. Strong’s Concordance defines orthotomeō like this: to cut straight, to proceed on straight paths, hold a straight course, to handle aright, to teach the truth directly and correctly. Visually, we should picture it as a clear and unobstructed pathway, i.e. no impeding obstacles.

Wouldn’t it be nice if there were no obstacles to correctly handling the word of truth? Unfortunately, many obstacles need to be overcome. Maybe the biggest is the misguided notion that everyone’s opinion should be valued. But truth isn’t subjective, it’s objectively knowable. We do not have the liberty to make the Scriptures mean whatever we want them to mean.

So how do we handle the word of truth fittingly and appropriately? Here are five foundational guidelines:

  1. We should begin with understanding the master plan. When we study Scripture, we must determine where it fits into God’s plan. Every verse of Scripture must be understood in the context of its passage, every passage in the context of the chapter, every chapter in the context of the book, every book in the context of the Testament, and the Testament in the context of the whole Bible.
  2. We must be governed by the overarching principle of Scriptura sui interpres (Scripture interprets itself). Remember that God’s Word is living and active (cf. Hebrews 4:12). Throughout the Bible we see Scripture quoting Scripture. Scripture itself is the best theology professor to teach truth. When we carefully contemplate and consider different accounts of Scripture, the Scriptures will enable us to understand and correctly handle the word of truth.
  3. We must do it in community. When we handle truth, we must consider and interact with the writings/teachings of theologians past and present (insofar as they agree with Scripture). There is no new truth. God has revealed truth to Christians down through the ages. As a guiding principle, if we think we have a new interpretation, we’re probably wrong.
  4. We must look for Jesus. The theme of the Bible from beginning to end, though sometimes hidden or obscure, is Jesus (cf. John 5:39). Jesus is Truth (cf. John 14:6). To rightly comprehend and apprehend the truth, we must engage with Scripture the Emmaus Road way (cf. Luke 24:13-35), i.e. open the Scriptures to see Jesus (cf. Luke 24:27).
  5. We must ask God to illuminate the Scriptures. To correctly handle the word of truth we need insight and understanding from the Holy Spirit (cf. John 14:26). It’s only when the Holy Spirit shines His light on a text, that we’re able to properly analyze, accurately explain, and rightly apply the Scriptures.

 

There’s much more that could be said. Please add your comments.

© Scripture Union Canada 2019

2 Corinthians 4:5


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Cultivating Bible Engagement

Many pastors urge their congregations to read/hear the Bible personally. Bible reading plans or daily devotional books are freely available in many local churches. Every now and again churches have special events (e.g. Bible Sunday) to encourage individuals to get into the Word. Yet despite what’s being done to boost regular engagement with the Bible, most Christians only read/hear the Bible in a Sunday service.

So what can we do to ramp up Bible engagement?

To begin, we should recognize that 80% of people throughout the world are oral preference learners. That means, regardless of education or background, most people learn and absorb information, not through literate means, but through oral methods of storytelling, drama or song. The implications are critical: If most people aren’t wired to engage with the Bible through literate means, then urging them to mainly read or study the Bible will be counter-productive. However, when we use oral preference approaches to Bible engagement, like group discussions or acting out a Bible story, Bible engagement is strengthened.

Another consideration is self-discipline. It’s one of the 20% of skills that contributes 80% of results. In fact, self-discipline is a vital personal attribute needed for Bible engagement. It’s vital because self-discipline directs a person internally rather than externally. When Bible engagement is externally motivated, it’s more likely to fizzle out, but when it’s an internal motivation, it’s more likely to be sustained. Unfortunately, self-discipline is something of a Cinderella value today. People are generally inclined to go with the flow rather than developing habits that rule their lives. So we need to figure out how we can actively help each other cultivate Bible engagement habits.

We should also give communal Bible engagement our attention. The Scriptures emphasize Bible engagement as “we with the Word” more so than “me with the Word.” When people get together to focus on the Bible in small groups, be it a family at the kitchen table during supper or friends meeting together once a week in someone’s home, the relational dynamics enhance engagement with the Word.

Communal Bible engagement may be the best thing we can do to help people jump into the Word because it creates an ideal environment for oral preference learners and provides opportunities to develop Bible engagement habits.

Everything mentioned above is only well and good if it’s put into practice. People need opportunities to hear, talk about, act out and sing the Word together. That’s easier said than done. It takes effort to prepare and incorporate a Bible drama in a church service, to invite people into our homes for a Bible study, to ask an open-ended question to prompt discussion about the Word, or to corral the children to share a Bible story with them. But when we make the effort, people get to meet with Jesus in and through His Word.

What are you doing to cultivate Bible engagement? If you have some practical suggestions, please comment. Your input could make all the difference!

© Scripture Union Canada 2019

2 Corinthians 4:5


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Preach the Word

In many local churches today the preaching mainly emphasizes what’s positive, encouraging and inspiring. Heart-warming messages are the order of the day. Helping people deal with their felt needs is part of the regular Sunday diet. And enticing seekers to come and hear next week’s message is a big objective.

When uplifting messages are the mainstay of preaching; conviction, rebuke or correction are eliminated or downplayed. When rebuke or correction are absent from sermons, preachers have strayed from God’s command to challenge, warn or tell people they’re not living in obedience to God’s Word

Consider this instruction: “In the presence of God and of Christ Jesus … I give you this charge: Preach the word; be prepared in season and out of season; correct, rebuke and encourage – with great patience and careful instruction. For the time will come when people will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear. They will turn their ears away from the truth and turn aside to myths” 2 Timothy 4:1-4 (NIV).

Note the phrase “I give you this charge.” The Greek word for “charge” is diamarturomai. It was used when an official called on someone entering public office to work responsibly and seriously. Paul’s use of the word reminds us that God is watching what we do and listening to what we say. It also indicates that when we’re told to “preach the word,” it’s command language. It’s not optional. Every preacher, in favourable and unfavourable conditions, whether it’s convenient or inconvenient, whether it’s received or rejected, must show people in what ways their lives are wrong (cf. the Amplified Bible).

There are numerous preachers who are ignorant concerning God’s “charge.” Their ignorance is evident through how they limit their preaching to selected texts and specific themes. It’s a wretched state of affairs. Many preachers “have forsaken the right way and gone astray … they speak great swelling words of emptiness” 2 Peter 2:15,18 (NKJV).

Hollow words are commonplace. Critically review the content of the average sermon today and it’s evident that serious teaching is sadly lacking. Most preaching is light and fluffy – designed for consumers wired for the quick and easy. Where are the preachers with a backbone? Where are the modern-day Isaiah’s intensely proclaiming woe and judgement? Where are today’s Jonah’s preaching against wickedness? (cf. Jonah 1:2). Who, like Paul, are commanding people to repent (cf. Acts 17:30). While evil increasingly abounds, the courage to confront and expose depravity is unusual.

“Woe to those who call evil good and good evil, who put darkness for light and light for darkness, who put bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter” Isaiah 5:20 (NIV). Are the prophet’s words true for today? I think they are. Some congregations never hear a message about Hell. Yet Jesus spoke about Hell more than He spoke about Heaven!

Preachers, are you proclaiming sin and judgement? Are you teaching people to fear God and live holy lives? If not, by omission you’re a false teacher enticing people to follow a fictitious Jesus.

Not speaking about negative things is an unspoken rule in some local churches and denominations. Yet all of God’s Word must be preached – even the parts of the Bible that are offensive to society at large.

Tragically, as the voices of the LGBTQ+ community grow louder, the voices of some preachers grow quieter. Why is the pulpit silent on matters of purity? The Bible isn’t ambiguous concerning homosexuality. Romans 1:18-32 clearly condemns perversion and warns of God’s wrath as a penalty for everyone who exchanges natural relations for unnatural ones.

The sexual confusion, abuse and defilement we see around us today may be due in part to preachers not preaching the Word. Are preachers scared? Do they feel intimidated by popular culture? Why are most preachers virtually inaudible on sexual purity despite the fact that pornography and lust are epidemics?

Preachers, preach the Word. It should be anathema to feed people spiritual junk food and catchy ideas that tickle their ears (cf. 2 Timothy 4:3-4). But that’s what’s happening.

Renewal and restoration is desperately needed. Up until the mid 20th Century most Evangelical preachers confidently confronted and exposed sin. Holiness went hand in hand with being a Christian. And luke-warm Christians were uncomfortable because messages were firm and convicting.

Nowadays people are rarely pierced by the preacher’s message. At the conclusion of a service, they smile and say, “Thank you for the message Pastor” or “I enjoyed the sermon” or “I’m looking forward to what you’re going to say next week.”

I know when I’ve preached the Word. It’s when someone says, “I felt convicted” or “You made me feel uncomfortable,” or “Your message was negative!”

A woman recently approached me after a service and said, “May I make a comment?” Of course,” I replied. “I notice your message didn’t use inclusive language,” she said. “What do you mean?” I asked. With some intensity, she continued, “Well you spoke about men and women in a way that made no provision for other sexual identities and relationships. Everyone is part of God’s family and their sexuality should be embraced and accepted.” After a brief pause, I said, “Thank you for sharing your opinion. I appreciate you taking the time to speak to me. But the Bible clearly teaches us that there are only two genders – male and female.” The discussion continued for another five minutes, and then her parting shot, “You’re wrong. You should be more sensitive and understanding …”

That’s what happens when we preach the Word. People can and will take offence. In fact to those who are perishing “we are the smell of death” 2 Corinthians 2:15 (NIV). I didn’t know that being “the smell of death” was part of the job description when I started preaching. But it will be if we’re faithfully preaching the whole canon of Scripture!

Another thing I didn’t know when I started preaching is that two of the three commands in 2 Timothy 4:2 concerning preaching, are negative. Timothy was exhorted to elegcho (convict, prove wrong and thus shame a person) and to epitimao (charge, rebuke). In other words, preachers must major on corrective preaching, and as they do they should temper it with parakaleo (encourage and comfort).

Sugar-coated preaching is dangerous. As someone once said, “It is better to speak the truth that hurts and then heals, than falsehood that comforts and then kills.”

So live up to God’s charge to boldly correct, rebuke and encourage people to abstain from sinful desires and live righteously. Because when we don’t preach the Word (all of the Word) the outcome is want and spiritual poverty (cf. Proverbs 11:24).

© Scripture Union Canada 2019

2 Corinthians 4:5


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Re-reading the Bible

Once, while doing some street outreach, I asked a lady if she read the Bible. “Yes,” she said, “Many years ago, I read it from cover to cover.” “Do you still read it?” I asked. With a face registering surprise she said, “Why would I do that? I’ve read it once and that’s enough!”

The lady asked a great question. Why, having read the Bible, should anyone read it again? Surely once is enough? Or is it?

I’ve read through the Bible dozens of times. Each time I read it, I’m changed. So when I re-read it, I’m not the same person as when I last read it. That is, each time I re-read the Bible I’m reading it from a new perspective.

Have you read through the Bible? If you have, you need to continue re-reading it.

Remarkably, because the Bible “is alive and active” (cf. Hebrews 4:12), every time it’s read, the reading is never quite the same as the previous reading. That’s because the Bible is like an onion. When we re-read it, we peel back a layer. Then, as we peel back a layer, new insights are discovered, new depths are plumbed, and new vistas revealed.

“It is the glory of God that hides the word, and the glory of the King that seeks for the word” Proverbs 25:2 (Aramaic Bible in Plain English).

Reading the Bible once is not enough. Nor is it enough to read it seven times or seventy-seven times. I know from first-hand experience. It’s only when we re-read the Word again and again that it opens up to us. In fact, the Bible reveals its secrets only to those committed to a lifetime of re-reading.

There are other reasons for re-reading the Bible …

  • Faith needs to be constantly strengthened by the Word (cf. Romans 10:17)
  • Understanding needs to be continually cultivated through reflection on the Word (cf. Psalm 119:130)
  • Spiritual maturity mainly comes through a life-time of interacting with the Word (cf. Hebrews 5:13-14)
  • Fruitfulness flows out of ongoing engagement with the Word (cf. Psalm 1:2-3)
  • Growth in reverence and obedience requires reading and reflection on the Word throughout one’s life (cf. Deuteronomy 17:19)

While these are all good reasons for re-reading the Bible, the main reason for re-reading the Bible should be to connect and stay connected, with Jesus. For re-reading the Bible is an out-and-out necessity for the ongoing health and growth of our relationships with Him.

© Scripture Union Canada 2019

2 Corinthians 4:5


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Hand-Copying Scripture

“Apply yourself totally to the text; apply the text totally to yourself” – Motto in the 1734 edition of the Greek New Testament.

One of God’s special requirements for the kings of Israel was that they would hand-copy Scripture.

When he takes the throne of his kingdom, he is to write for himself on a scroll a copy of this law, taken from that of the Levitical priests. It is to be with him, and he is to read it all the days of his life so that he may learn to revere the Lord his God and follow carefully all the words of this law and these decrees and not consider himself better than his fellow Israelites and turn from the law to the right or to the left. Then he and his descendants will reign a long time over his kingdom in Israel. Deuteronomy 17:18-20.

Why did God want the kings to make copies of His Word? So it would be repeatedly read, continuously learned, and carefully obeyed.

It wasn’t only kings who hand-copied the Word. For the bigger chunk of human history, hand-copying Scripture was the way the Bible was passed on from generation to generation by literate people. Today the Scriptures are available in printed or electronic forms. So hand-copying Scripture isn’t usually done to pass the Bible on in a written form. But it is done to help us draw closer to Jesus.

The method for hand-copying Scripture is straightforward:

  • Begin with prayer, asking the Holy Spirit to speak to you through the Word
  • Select a text, preferably a whole book that’s copied over several days or weeks
  • Write slowly and carefully. Check and double-check each word or phrase before writing it down
  • Savour every word as you write it. Aim not to get the writing done, but to connect with Jesus
  • Remember that you’re copying the living Word
  • Read what you’ve written, and listen to hear from God
  • Pray back to God, word for word, thought by thought, or thematically, the Scriptures that you’ve written down

When a king hand-copied Scripture he benefitted through growth in humility and reverence, hearing the Holy Spirit speak to him through the Word, enjoying good health (cf. Proverbs 4:20-22) and long life, renewing of his mind, and drawing closer to God.

The same benefits are available to us when we hand-copy Scripture.

Other advantages to hand-copying Scripture include:

  • Fosters a deeper appreciation for God’s Word
  • Quietens the mind and soul
  • Enables one to slow down and reflect on the Word
  • Facilitates a deeper contemplation of the Word
  • Connects us to the desires of the heart
  • Aids in memorization of the Word
  • Creates opportunities for inspiration
  • Invites responsibility and accountability
  • Provides occasions for creative penmanship and calligraphy
  • Helps us not become proud or arrogant
  • Personalizes the Word
  • Brings details and nuances to light that are often missed when the Scriptures are only read
  • Reminds us that while the Word has a physical beginning and end, spiritually it has no boundaries

It’s interesting to note that the Reticular Activating System (RAS) in the brain is engaged by handwriting. The benefit of engaging the RAS is that this part of the brain helps us pay attention and retain information.

When we interact and invest ourselves in the Word through hand-copying Scripture, it has life-changing and lasting significance. In a world that seems to be more and more frenetic; hand-copying Scripture helps us be still and know that God is God (cf. Psalm 46:10), deepens our faith, and enables us to leave a legacy for generations to come.

If hand-copying Scripture was good for kings, it’s good for us. That’s because we’re kings too (Revelation 1:6)! So as we reign with Jesus (cf. Romans 5:17), let’s copy the Scriptures and thereby make sure we’re repeatedly reading, continuously learning, and carefully obeying the Word.

[Check out The Saint John’s Bible – a handwritten illuminated Bible]

© Scripture Union Canada 2019

2 Corinthians 4:5