Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Book: NIV Zondervan Study Bible


The NIV Zondervan Study Bible, the hardcover of which looks like the picture, is a replacement product for the NIV Study Bible that I had in college. At the moment, it’s available in hardcover. For those who aren’t interested in reading it as a Bible, it therefore works well to break your toes when you drop it. This thing is heavy—nearly 3000 pages.
Without dwelling on the New International Version as a translation (I’m not a big fan of the 2011 revision of the NIV), let us take the features under consideration first. On the surface, an obvious helpful feature is full-color printing throughout the Study Bible. This not only allows pictures throughout, which is a great, but allows something else nice. The “study note” section is shaded in light tan while the Biblical text is on white paper.
The inspired text is therefore clearly separated from the ideas of the note writers. I like that. A lot. The note authors—a smorgasbord of evangelical scholars from the US and the UK—generally hold to a high view of Scripture. They come from a range of the evangelical world, from Baptists to Presbyterians and a few more.
I will not claim to have evaluated every note throughout the text, but I have yet to find one that is problematic. Passages that have major theological disputes about them (like Hebrews 6) follow the normal Study Bible pattern of providing most of the main views. That’s not a bad thing.
Further, each book is given a full introduction, addressing authorship, date, etc., the basics that are typically covered in an “Intro” type class. Overall, the information helps one study the Scriptures better.
If you are in the market for a study Bible, this one would make a good purchase. I’d prefer the notes and content coupled with the New American Standard, but the notes are worth it as a reference Bible. And, it is too bulky for taking it everywhere—I’d go for it on the shelf.
The purchase of the hardcover does gain free digital access through the Olive Tree Bible App. I’m still getting used to the app, so I won’t comment on how well it works. It’s better than nothing, but there’s always a learning curve with such things.

I did receive a free Bible for my review.\

Edited: Zondervan's website states that the older NIV Study Bible remains in print, so this isn't quite a replacement in their catalog. 

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Wavering Back: Hebrews 6

In Summary:

One cannot come to Hebrews 6 without taking a look into the question of "falling away" that is raised in Hebrews 6:4-6. This is not the only content of Hebrews 6, however, and we would do well to not make it more than it is. Further, remember that we understand Scripture by placing it into its proper context, which includes not only the culture of writing but the overall context of the revealed Word of God. That is to say that one section fits within the whole, not contradicts it.

Before we return to those verses, though, let us look at the rest of this chapter. Noteworthy for our understanding is the overall thrust here--the need for maturity in the lives of believers. The first few verses address this need, as do the closing sections. We see a continued emphasis by the author of Hebrews that walking with Jesus is not something to be taken overly lightly.

In Focus:

Let us put the "falling away" passage in focus for now. Consider what is being said: that if one turns from the Gospel after having held it, there is no return. Early in the life of the church, this was understood to mean that one who willfully sinned after salvation was lost--coupled with a mistaken understanding of baptism as bringing salvation, practically speaking this led to a belief that one should not sin too much after being baptized. (For this reason, for example, it appears the Emperor Constantine delayed his baptism until he was near death.)

We see, though, in John 6, Romans 11, Philippians 1, Ephesians 2, 1 Peter, and many other places that believers are held by the power of God through the seal of the Holy Spirit. This precludes understanding Hebrews 6 as teaching that true believers can lose their salvation. Further, it is worth noting that if this is the teaching of Hebrews 6, then there is no return--once out, always out would become the refrain rather than the Baptist view of once saved, always saved. Further, this places a strange premium on sins committed after belief--the grace of God mediated through the Cross and the blood of Jesus is enough to save the vilest murderer but not the wretched backslider?

It is possible that the author of Hebrews is here addressing a singular group of individuals. Consider the era and Acts 19--there are people who are nearer to the Kingdom than others, but still not all the way in. Is it possible that there was a unique group of Hebrews who were, for lack of a better term, "one-foot-in, one-foot-out?" These would have not been truly saved but were wavering between two opinions. That would not be unique in Hebrew history, considering Elijah's challenge on Mt. Carmel.

Further, Hebrews as a whole addresses the need for the people to commit themselves, finally and fully, to the Gospel of Jesus Christ. It is clear that the audience should grasp the nettle, take the bull by the horns, and go forward rather than halting about, waiting to see whether or not God is faithful.

After all, the key here is not what we can do, but Hebrews 6:19, that God is the author of the hope that we can anchor our souls to.

In Practice:

The first practical step is this: stop wavering. We have a temptation in the current era of the life of the church, and that is to hold on to the old ways of doing church and hope it's good enough for God. It's not, and never really was. The living faith of our fathers was what built their relationship. Not their architecture, budgetary prowess, or organizational structures. Not even holding services at 11:00. Instead, we need to go full out to being obedient to God rather than man. Even really spiritual men.

The second practical step is this: move forward, sure in your salvation. There is a time for introspection, asking "Am I truly of Christ?" There is also a time to take the Word of God and act upon it. If you have been a believer for years, the time is now for the latter, not constantly ruminating on the former. Get to work.

In Nerdiness:


Note the idea of "swearing" in Hebrews 6:13. Consider this: the idea is that one swears by a greater power than oneself, because that greater power will hold you to your oath. God swore by Himself, because He knew He could be trusted. Yet we rarely swear, honestly, by anything that has the power to hold us to our promises. Our word should be our bond, because we are honoring the One who swore to protect us. 

Monday, August 31, 2015

Sermon Recap for August 30

Yesterday, we celebrated the 79th Anniversary of East End Baptist Church. I’m grateful for the heritage of faith we have as a part of the body of Christ.

Morning Sermon: For the Sake of the Future Joshua 22 (audio)

August 30 Homecoming Joshua 22 

Text: Joshua 22:10-29

Date & Place:

Title: For the Sake of the Future: Joshua 22

Primary Theological Point: What should we learn? It takes deliberate effort to honor the past, live in the present, and equip the future.

Primary Practical Point: What should we do? Make the effort.

Take Home Action: Write your testimony and share it.

Textual Points:

  1. Setting: Israel after the conquest.
  2. Events: building of an altar, not for sacrifice but for teaching
  3. Connections

Preach Points:

  1. Church: do we honor the past or live in it? Are we equipping the future that we do not even know? Assume the better about your fellow church members and their motives.
  2. Salvation: Why an altar as a reminder? Because sacrifice is necessary for salvation....
  3. Mission: Are we thinking about future generations or not?
  4. Families: Set strange habits.