Tag: Study

Five Point Calvinism?? An Answer and an Apologetic (Guest Post)

Five Point Calvinism?? An Answer and an Apologetic (Guest Post)

That which is referred to as Calvinism, generally, and “5-point Calvinism,” specifically, is much misunderstood and maligned even moreso by those who mean well but lack a proper understanding of what we believe. To help us with that we are, once again, blessed to have received instruction from that dear friend and eminent theologian, James Quiggle. What folllows is his instrucion…

Every now and then I am asked if I am a “5-point Calvinist,” or a “4-point Calvinist,” or “Just what kind of Calvinist are you?!?”

Those questions reflect a misapprehension about Calvinism, even among Calvinists. The misapprehension is that Calvinism is a neither more nor less than a system of soteriology (doctrine of salvation). That, of course, is not true.

Calvinism was a revival of Augustinianism (Augustine of Hippo, d. AD 430). You are affirming the Calvinistic system of doctrine if you believe in the inspiration of the Scriptures, saved by grace through faith, the sovereignty of God, the three offices of the Christ (prophet, priest, king), the deity of Jesus Christ, and the deity, personality, and ministries of the Holy Spirit (conviction, salvation, teacher, administrator of the NT church, etc.). Calvin is, in fact, the person who defined for the NT church the person and work of the Holy Spirit as we understand that doctrine today.

But I digress.

Unfortunately, the entire Calvinistic system of theology has become defined by an acronym, the TULIP (explained below), developed from the Cannons of the Synod of Dort to express a Calvinistic view of soteriology. The Synod of Dort was a year-long examination of the soteriology of Jacobus Arminius. Both Arminius (1560–1609) and Calvin (1509–1564) were dead by the time of the Synod (1618–1619), so the theological conflict was debated by the followers of both systems of theology using the Bible and their respective writings. The decision of the Synod was published in a document known as the Canons of the Synod of Dort (available at many web sites). The Arminian view of soteriology was declared false, the biblical arguments of Calvinism were declared the true understanding of biblical soteriology.

But the TULIP does not accurately reflect Calvinistic soteriology as defined by the Canons of the Synod of Dort. Let us first examine the TULIP, albeit briefly. These may not be the definitions you have heard or read.

T — Total Depravity. This means every aspect of human nature—physical, moral, spiritual—is negatively affected by the sin attribute in human nature, with the result an unsaved human being is always in rebellion against God. The effect of the sin attribute on the spiritual aspect of human nature is to make the soul’s faculty of spiritual perception grossly dulled, to the extent the sinner is unable to comprehend spiritual matters, but instead rejects them, and as a result is unable to initiate saving faith.

U — Unconditional Election. This means God chose (election, Ephesians 1:4; 2 Thessalonians 2:13; 1 Peter 1:2), for reasons not stated and therefore unknown, to give some human beings his gift of grace-faith-salvation (Ephesians 2:8), in order to redeem them from their sinful state of existence. And it means God chose to take no action, positive or negative, toward human beings he had not elected. God’s choices were not based on any intrinsic or foreseen merit in those whom he chose to elect to salvation, for when the decree of election was given, God saw all human beings as sinners, all completely undeserving of redemption.

L — I will explain this below.

I — Irresistible Grace. This means the grace God gives to an individual sinner through his gift of grace-faith-salvation (Ephesians 2:8) will enliven the sinner’s faculty of spiritual perception, so that the sinner who has received God’s gift will comprehend the spiritual issues of sin, the Savior, and salvation, with the result the sinner willingly chooses to exercise saving faith in God’s testimony as to the way/means of salvation. God’s gift of grace and faith always results in salvation.

P — Perseverance of the Saved. This means the saved person will continue in the faith by faith all the way through life and death, when (after death) he/she will receive the grace of indefectibility. Perseverance is often mischaracterized by another acronym, OSAS, Once Saved Always Saved, resulting in silly hypothetical questions from skeptics. Perseverance is not OSAS. Perseverance is both the continuance of faith and the continued practice of the faith. God gives the grace of perseverance to the believer, and the believer uses the grace of perseverance to mold his/her life of faith to continue in the faith by means of faith all the way through life and death.

Looking now to the 5-point/4-point issue. The “L” in the TULIP represents “Limited Atonement.” This is where the TULIP strays from the Canons of Dort. Limited atonement refers to Christ’s act of propitiation on the cross and his subsequent resurrection. It will be helpful to define Christ’s atonement-propitiation.

Propitiation. The satisfaction Christ made to God for sin by dying on the cross as the sin-bearer, 2 Corinthians 5:21; Romans 3:25; Hebrews 2:17; 1 John 2:2; 4:10, for the crime of sin committed by human beings, suffering in their place and on their behalf. Christ’s propitiation fully satisfied God’s holiness and justice for the crime of sin. Christ’s propitiation was of infinite merit, because his Person is of infinite worth. Christ accomplished the propitiation of God for sin by enduring spiritual and physical death on the cross. Christ endured spiritual death when he was separated from fellowship with God (“My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”), and physical death when he separated his soul from his body (“[B]owing his head, he gave up his spirit.”)

But in the TULIP acronym, Christ’s propitiation, the “L,” has different meaning: Christ’s death on the cross to redeem the elect. This is often stated in the question, “For whom, did Christ die?” The TULIP answer is, only for the elect. But that is a significant departure from the Canons of Dort on which the TULIP is based.

The divines of the Synod of Dort were of two camps on the issue of Christ’s propitiation. Some believed in limited efficacy (only the elect are redeemed) and some believed in unlimited sufficiency (all the sins of the whole word are paid for). The Synod resolved this issue, as they did with all the issues, biblically. Both sides recognized the Scripture teaches both views. The Synod therefore taught both the universal sufficiency of the propitiation (atonement) and the limited effectiveness of the propitiation to save only the elect.

The Synod stated, Second Head of Doctrine, Article III, “The death of the Son of God is the only and most perfect sacrifice and satisfaction for sin, and is of infinite worth and value, abundantly sufficient to expiate the sins of the whole world.” Thus, the gospel is offered “to all persons promiscuously [indiscriminately] and without distinction” (Article V). That many die unsaved is not due to “any defect or insufficiency in the sacrifice offered by Christ upon the cross, but is wholly to be imputed to themselves.” Thus, an Unlimited Atonement/Propitiation.

The Synod then stated, Second Head of Doctrine, Article VIII, “For this was the sovereign counsel, and most gracious will and purpose of God the Father, that the quickening and saving efficacy of the most precious death of His Son should extend to all the elect, for bestowing upon them alone the gift of justifying faith, thereby to bring them infallibly to salvation: that is, it was the will of God, that Christ by the blood of the cross, whereby He confirmed the new covenant, should effectually redeem out of every people, tribe, nation, and language, all those, and those only, who were from eternity chosen to salvation and given to Him by the Father; that He should confer upon them faith, which together with all the other saving gifts of the Holy Spirit, He purchased for them by His death; should purge them from all sin, both original and actual, whether committed before or after believing; and having faithfully preserved them even to the end, should at last bring them free from every spot and blemish to the enjoyment of glory in His own presence forever.” Thus, a Limited Redemption, sometimes known as Particular Redemption.

The “L” in the TULIP should have been “Limited Redemption,” not “Limited Atonement. Why did those who created the TULIP (not the divines of Dort) distort the teachings of the Synod? Because of a peculiar habit of the Puritans, perpetuated by Reformed Theology.

The Puritans had a bad habit of replacing the cause with the effect. The difference between election and predestination gives an example. The Puritans, and Reformed theology, always name election as predestination. But these are different decrees of God with different effects. Definitions.

Election. The choice of a sovereign God (Ephesians 1:4), 1) to give the gift of grace-faith-salvation to effect the salvation of some sinners (Ephesians 2:8), and 2) to take no action, positive or negative, to either effect or deny salvation to other sinners (Romans 10:13; Revelation 22:17). The decree of election includes all means necessary to effectuate salvation in those elected.

Predestination. God’s decree to conform the believer to be like Christ according to certain aspects of Christ’s spiritual character and physical form (Romans 8:29–30; 1 John 3:2), and to place the believer in the legal position of God’s son and heir (Ephesians 1:5, 11), so that the believer has an inheritance from God and is God’s heritage.

More simply, election is a decree concerning sinners, predestination is a decree concerning the saved. Election is the cause, predestination the effect. Election-salvation is the cause of the effect predestination: to be like Christ. But the Reformed theology goes straight to the effect and names election as predestination.

So too Christ’s propitiation and the sinner’s redemption. Christ’s propitiation completely satisfied God’s justice for the crime of human sin. Then, God’s justice having been satisfied, the infinite merit of the propitiation is applied by God according to his decree of election via his gift of grace-faith-salvation. Propitiation is the cause, redemption the effect. But the Reformed theology goes straight to the effect and names Christ’s propitiation/atonement as redemption. Thus the confusion caused by the TULIP, and Reformed soteriology.

When the Canons of Dort are faithfully expressed, then one’s soteriology must acknowledge unlimited atonement/propitiation and limited redemption. But because Reformed theology distorts the atonement/propitiation to be redemption, they reject unlimited atonement, calling it universal salvation.

Unlimited Atonement (propitiation), is not universal salvation, because the direct purpose of the atonement was not redemption but judicial satisfaction toward God for the crime of sin.

For an atonement (propitiation) to be redemptive it must be applied by faith to the sinner’s demerit (his or her sin). That is clear from every Old Testament sacrifice for sin. On the first Passover in Egypt, the merit of the lamb’s blood was sufficient for every household, but must be applied to each household to be effective for that particular household, Exodus 12:13. The blood of the sin offering, collected at the moment the animal was killed, was sufficient to atone for sin, but must be applied, Leviticus 5:5–7, to be efficient for forgiveness. The blood on the day of atonement was sufficient for all, but must be applied to the Ark of the Covenant to be efficient to forgive sins.

The direct purpose of Christ’s atonement-propitiation was toward God. The merit of Christ’s propitiation of God for the sins of the whole world, 1 John 2:2, is sufficient for all, so that the call of the gospel and the duty to believe may be legitimately offered to all and required of all.

The effect or result of the propitiation is the application of its merit toward sinners. That merit is specifically applied via God’s gift of grace-faith-salvation (the salvation principle, “saved by grace through faith”) as determined by God’s decree of election, in order to effect the redemption (salvation) of those whom God has chosen to salvation. Without application there is no redemption.

The unlimited merit of Christ’s propitiation could be applied save any non-elect person: “whoever believes,” as the Scripture states. God takes no action, pro or con, toward the non-elect, but leaves them in their sinful state. The non-elect are unable to initiate saving faith because unable without God’s gift to overcome the rebellion and disobedience engendered by the sin attribute in human nature. If they could believe, God would act savingly toward them, but they always choose to disbelieve, because that is the nature of the sinner.

Unlimited Atonement (Propitiation), Synod of Dort, Canon 2, Article 3, does not teach universal salvation: the merit of the propitiation must be individually applied through faith. Canon 2, Article 8, Limited Redemption, does not teach Christ died only for a particular group, but that the merit of his propitiation is applied only to the elect.

Thus: Unlimited Atonement/Propitiation, Limited (Particular) Redemption.

Returning now to the original question, “What is a 5-point Calvinist?” To be a five point Calvinist one must affirm all five points of the T, U, L, I, P. A four point Calvinist is someone who does not agree with Limited Atonement/Propitiation. A 4-pointer affirms T, U, I, P.

But, and it is a BIG objection, the 5-pointer, as discussed above, rejects the statement of the Canons of Dort concerning the unlimited sufficiency of the atonement, focusing only on the redemptive effect of the propitiation, not the limitless merit of the propitiation. This is, in part, due to Reformed theology’s definition of the purpose of God in the world: to redeem sinners. If God’s purpose in the world is redemption, then one must devise a theology that accounts for so many sinners not being redeemed. The Reformed theology solution is to limit the sufficiency of Christ’s propitiation to the redemption of the elect alone.

The 5-point Calvinist is a distortion of Scripture, and the 4-point Calvinist is a straw-man designed to support the untenable 5-point position. The dual perspective of Christ’s propitiation as “sufficient for all, efficient for the elect” is the true Calvinist soteriology. This is the perspective of the Scripture. The dual perspective accounts for the universal call to believe, Romans 10:13, “whoever calls upon the name of the Lord will be saved,” and “Revelation 22:17, “Whoever desires let him take of the water of life freely.” The dual perspective accounts for the limited redemption effected by God’s choice. Ephesians 1:4, “God chose us in Christ before the creation of the universe,” and 2 Thessalonians 2:13, “God from the beginning chose you for salvation,” and 1 Peter 1:2, “elect according to the foreknowledge of God the Father.”

The “L” in the TULIP is too entrenched by centuries of false teaching to be changed. But if I could change it, that “L” would represent “Limited Redemption,” in agreement with the Canons of the Synod of Dort.

CSB Ultimate Bible Guide

CSB Ultimate Bible Guide

The publishing juggernaut, Holman/B&H Publishing continue to put out resources on the Bible not only at breathtaking speed but also in a variety of formats designed to help disciples at all levels of maturity. Today we are reviewing one of their handbooks, the Ultimate Bible Guide featuring the Christian Standard Bible translation. If you are not familiar, a handbook is a beginners level resource for understanding the Bible.

Note: I purchased this book on my own. B&H was not involved in the decision to review. My opinions are my own.

Translation:

Most Bible Handbooks feature either NIV or KJV but this features the Christian Standard Bible (CSB). I have to say that I am quite pleased to see this. CSB is an excellent translation, the third iteration of Holman Christian Standard Bible, and, a rising star in Christian circles.

CSB is an Optimal Equivalence or Mediating Translation. It endeavors to provide a balance between a form based (essentially literal) and a meaning based translation. I would put it on the level of the 1984 Edition of the New International Version and, probably, a notch or two above the 2011. It is a very faithful translation of the Bible into English. I have used it in ministry in quite a few different ways. While my main translation is not CSB that has less to do with the translation and more to do with habit. It is a trustworthy translation that deserves consideration for your studies.

Content

Key Text

This is the central verse for each book of the Bible. If there was one verse that you should know for each book, the Key Text would be the verse that you would know.

Key Term

This is your watch word for the book of the Bible.  For example there is a call out on the word wilderness in the Book of Numbers. The call out points out that wilderness is referenced more than 40 times in Numbers

One Sentence Summary

As its name suggests, the One Sentence Summary, sums up each particular book of the Bible in a single sentence.

God’s Message

The God’s Message section covers the purpose in writing the book, Christian worldview themes, what the book teaches about God, what the book teaches us about humanity, and what the book teaches us about Salvation. All in all this section is very helpful in seeing how the story of redemption comes together in the Bible.

Christ In

We all know that that Bible is the story of Jesus. Now in the Christ In section, we can see how each book points to Jesus and how that portrait fits into the scope of Redemptive History.

Background Information

This encompasses many of the usual sections that we would encounter in a study Bible. We find information about the author, date & time of writing, cultural background. We are also told about the original audience which helps us to understand how to interpret the Scripture as we are seeking out Authorial Intent.

Literary Features

We often forget that the Bible is multiple genres of literature in a single volume and the Literary Features Section gives us a look at the type of literature comprising each book of the Bible. Helpful hint: knowing the type of literature presented is integral to a proper interpretation of the Scripture.

Themes

Simply put, this is a paragraph about the main thesis/theme of each book. 

Cover and Binding

The book itself is hardcover made out of fairly sturdy book board. To my surprise this little gem has a sewn binding. You don’t normally see a sewn binding in a mass market edition and especially at this price point. Since the binding is sewn this should last for quite a few years.

Buying the Book

I recommend keeping the book on hand for giving to new disciples. It will provide a solid overview of the Bible. Youth pastors should also keep the Ultimate Bible Guide on hand for students who are either new to Bible Study or want a rapid reference for on the go use.

Final Thoughts

I was rather surprised by how much content you get in this little book. To give you an idea of the size, it is comparable in footprint to the Cambridge Cameo Reference Bible, so fairly pocket sized. I recommend it highly, if for no other reason than it is a highly useful companion to the Christian Standard Bible.

 

 

 

Oxford NRSV Text Edition

Oxford NRSV Text Edition

Order from Christian Book Distributors 

 

This being the 30th Anniversary of the New Revised Standard Version, it seemed like a good idea to review another one. (This Bible was acquired at my own expense and the review was not solicited by Oxford University Press.)

I am reviewing Oxford’s Standard Text Edition in black genuine leather with two ribbon markers.

Translation

The New Revised Standard Version is one of the two commercially available updates to the Revised Standard Version, the other being the English Standard Version. NRSV is a more ecumenical text offering the Protestant Canon, Protestant Canon with Apocrypha, and the Catholic Canonical Edition. The NRSV Translation Committee boasts members of the Evangelical, Jewish, Mainline Protestant, Catholic, and Orthodox Communities. Having Jewish Rabbi’s on the Committee, NRSV offers one of the most accurate English Renderings of the Old Testament (In most NRSV this is listed as “The Hebrew Scriptures commonly called the Old Testament). NRSV is the translation that powers the top three Academic/General Reference Bibles: New Oxford Annotated Bible, New Interpreter’s Bible, and the Harper Collins Study Bible and it is the standard English translation at Mainline Protestant Seminaries.

There is some measure of controversy regarding gender language in the NRSV; I do have an opinion on this issue but this is not the forum to discuss that. As a general rule, I find the NRSV to be a good general use translation, it features heavily in my Old Testament Studies. I leave you, dear reader, to draw your own conclusion as to the translation itself, though I assume that if you are reading this, you are amenable enough to the translation to be interested in editions that are available.

General Format

This Bible would fall into the hand-sized category. It measures 8.75 X 6.0 X 1.25 inches. It is a quarter of an inch smaller than the medium or standard size bible (6 x 9 x 1.25). It most certainly fits into to the thin-line category and is very briefcase friendly. By and large, I find this format to be very practical but you do have to be careful of font size as some hand size Bibles can have a font size that is rather small.

Font, Layout, Paper

The font is 8.0 but it is one of the more readable 8-point fonts that are available. This is a black letter text, as most NRSV Bibles are, and the black is a deep rich ebony, which is crisp and uniform throughout. Translation notes are also in black, and they are plentiful. They are in a 6-point font so there is a potential of difficulty for near sighted people like me.

The Scripture is laid out in a double column paragraph format. I do prefer a verse-by-verse format but Oxford executes the Biblical layout very well. Verse numbers are a little smallish but this Bible does something interesting with subject headings; they are actually in the footer.

The paper is not listed as India Paper, but it feels very similar to the India Paper that Cambridge uses and it is not entirely illogical to think that this is India Paper. It is very soft, thin but not annoyingly so, and a fairly crisp white gold gilding on the edges. There are tiny instances of show through, especially in the poetry books, but it is very minimal.

Cover, Binding, Ribbons

The cover is black pigskin (Standard as genuine leather). The cover is full grain and very pleasing to the touch, The liner is paste down, which annoys me; I think only bonded leather should include a paste down liner. Genuine leather is the baseline for deluxe/premium Bibles and really ought to include an edge-to-edge leather liner.

Naturally, Oxford has sewn the binding. This Bible is very clearly intended as a daily use Bible and the sewn binding ensures that it will last a lifetime. As it happens, the cover will need to be replaced long before the binding gives out. The binding is sewn very tightly and will require a couple of weeks of use before it will lay flat in Genesis or Revelation, but after a couple weeks of continuous use, it will lay flat in any scripture portion.

There are two yellow silk ribbons provided.  One will mark your Old Testament readings and your New Testament Readings. Clearly it will not be enough if you use this Bible for preaching or teaching, but you can have additional ribbons added by a competent re-binder.

Helps

There are not very many helps; I do not really find that to be a problem. Oxford provides what they refer to as a Select Concordance; it is abbreviated but not inadequate. You will find more than enough subjects for lesson prep.

There are also a few thousand translator’s footnotes. These include textual variants and alternate English readings. I really enjoy translator’s footnotes as they tend to give you an insight into the minds of the committee members.

For Preaching and Carry

The compact size of this Bible makes it ideal for every day carry. It is certainly light enough to prevent you from getting tired arms if using in for one handed carry.

As a preaching Bible, your results will vary. For me, I cannot leave it rest on the pulpit while I preach, I have to hold it. I have a tendency to be peripatetic while I am teaching and the size definitely lends itself to walking and talking. The layout is very well suited to preaching and teaching. I wish the margins were large enough to make some annotations but I won’t quibble over petty details.

Who Should Buy

The NRSV is best suited to those in seminary or to those in mainline protestant denominations (I frequently find NRSV in United Methodist Churches and Lutheran Churches.) This particular edition of the NRSV is very well suited to the teacher on the go.

 

 

 

 

New Disciples Day 30: Promise for Eternity

New Disciples Day 30: Promise for Eternity

Revelation 21:1-4  (NLT)

21 Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the old heaven and the old earth had disappeared. And the sea was also gone. And I saw the holy city, the new Jerusalem, coming down from God out of heaven like a bride beautifully dressed for her husband.

I heard a loud shout from the throne, saying, “Look, God’s home is now among his people! He will live with them, and they will be his people. God himself will be with them.[a] He will wipe every tear from their eyes, and there will be no more death or sorrow or crying or pain. All these things are gone forever.”

Footnotes:

  1. 21:3 Some manuscripts read God himself will be with them, their God.

 

Revelation 22:1-5 (NLT)

22 Then the angel showed me a river with the water of life, clear as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb. It flowed down the center of the main street. On each side of the river grew a tree of life, bearing twelve crops of fruit,[a] with a fresh crop each month. The leaves were used for medicine to heal the nations.

No longer will there be a curse upon anything. For the throne of God and of the Lamb will be there, and his servants will worship him. And they will see his face, and his name will be written on their foreheads. And there will be no night there—no need for lamps or sun—for the Lord God will shine on them. And they will reign forever and ever.

Footnotes:

  1. 22:2 Or twelve kinds of fruit.
New Disciples 29: Love for One Another

New Disciples 29: Love for One Another

1 John 3:11-24 (NLT)

Love One Another

11 This is the message you have heard from the beginning: We should love one another. 12 We must not be like Cain, who belonged to the evil one and killed his brother. And why did he kill him? Because Cain had been doing what was evil, and his brother had been doing what was righteous. 13 So don’t be surprised, dear brothers and sisters,[a] if the world hates you.

14 If we love our brothers and sisters who are believers,[b] it proves that we have passed from death to life. But a person who has no love is still dead. 15 Anyone who hates another brother or sister[c] is really a murderer at heart. And you know that murderers don’t have eternal life within them.

16 We know what real love is because Jesus gave up his life for us. So we also ought to give up our lives for our brothers and sisters. 17 If someone has enough money to live well and sees a brother or sister[d] in need but shows no compassion—how can God’s love be in that person?

18 Dear children, let’s not merely say that we love each other; let us show the truth by our actions. 19 Our actions will show that we belong to the truth, so we will be confident when we stand before God. 20 Even if we feel guilty, God is greater than our feelings, and he knows everything.

21 Dear friends, if we don’t feel guilty, we can come to God with bold confidence.22 And we will receive from him whatever we ask because we obey him and do the things that please him.

23 And this is his commandment: We must believe in the name of his Son, Jesus Christ, and love one another, just as he commanded us. 24 Those who obey God’s commandments remain in fellowship with him, and he with them. And we know he lives in us because the Spirit he gave us lives in us.

Footnotes:

  1. 3:13 Greek brothers.
  2. 3:14 Greek the brothers; similarly in 3:16.
  3. 3:15 Greek hates his brother.
  4. 3:17 Greek sees his brother.
New Testament Overview*

New Testament Overview*

Matthew: Written to a Jewish audience, this Gospel links the Old and New Testaments. It presents Jesus as the Messiah and King promised in the Old Testament. Matthew emphasizes Jesus’ authority and power.

Mark: Mark probably had pragmatic Roman readers in mind. His Gospel stresses action and gives a straightforward, blow-by-blow account of Jesus’ work on earth.

Luke: A doctor, Luke was also a fine writer. His Gospel provides many details of human interest, especially in Jesus’ treatment of the poor and needy. A joyful tone characterizes Luke’s book.

John: John has a different, more reflective style than the other Gospels. Its author selected seven signs that pointed to Jesus as the Son of God and wove together everything else to underscore that point.

Acts: Acts tells what happened to Jesus’ followers after he left them. Peter and Paul soon emerged as leaders of the rapidly spreading church.

Romans: Written for a sophisticated audience, Romans sets forth theology in a logical, organized form.

1 Corinthians: A very practical book, 1 Corinthians takes up the problems of a tumultuous church in Corinth: marriage, factions, immorality, public worship and lawsuits.

2 Corinthians: Paul wrote this follow-up letter to defend himself against a rebellion led by certain false apostles.

Galatians: A short version of the message of Romans, this book addresses legalism. It shows how Christ came to bring freedom, not bondage to a set of laws.

Ephesians: Although written in jail, this letter is Paul’s most optimistic and encouraging. It tells of the advantages a believer has in Christ.

Philippians: The church at Philippi ranked among Paul’s favorites. This friendly letter stresses that joy can be found in any situation.

Colossians: Written to oppose certain cults, Colossians tells how faith in Christ is complete. Nothing needs to be added to what Christ did.

1 Thessalonians: Composed early in Paul’s ministry, this letter gives a capsule history of one church, as well as Paul’s direct advice about specific problems.

2 Thessalonians: Stronger in tone than his first letter to the Thessalonians, the sequel goes over the same topics, especially the church’s questions about Christ’s second coming.

1 Timothy: As Paul neared the end of his life, he chose young men such as Timothy to carry on his work. His two letters to Timothy form a leadership manual for a young pastor.

2 Timothy: Written just before Paul’s death, 2 Timothy offers Paul’s final words to his young assistant.

Titus: Titus was left in Crete, a notoriously difficult place to nurture a church. Paul’s letter gave practical advice on how to go about it.

Philemon: Paul urged Philemon, owner of a runaway slave, Onesimus, to forgive his slave and accept him back as a brother in Christ.

Hebrews: No one knows who wrote Hebrews, but it probably first went to Christians in danger of slipping back into their old, rule-bound religion. It interprets the Old Testament, explaining many Jewish practices as symbols that prepared the way for Christ.

James: James, a man of action, emphasized the right kind of behavior for a believer. Someone who calls himself or herself a Christian ought to act like it, James believed, and his letter spells out the specifics.

1 Peter: Early Christians often met violent opposition, and Peter’s letter comforted and encouraged Christians who were being persecuted for their faith.

2 Peter: In contrast to Peter’s first letter, this one focused on problems that sprang up from the inside. It warns against false teachers.

1 John: John could fill simple words, such as light, love and life, with deep meaning, and in this letter he elegantly explains basic truths about the Christian life.

2 John: Warning against false teachers, John counseled churches on how to respond to them.

3 John: Balancing 2 John, this companion letter mentions the need to be hospitable to true teachers.

Jude: Jude gave a brief but fiery exposé of heretics.

Revelation: A book of visions and symbols, Revelation is the only New Testament book that concentrates on prophecy. It completes the story, begun in Genesis, of the cosmic battle between good and evil being waged on earth. It ends with a picture of a new heaven and new earth.

 

*This overview is from

The NRSV Student Bible

c.1994, 1996 by Zondervan

used by permission

NLT Reflections Journaling Bible Review

NLT Reflections Journaling Bible Review

 

 

Initial Thoughts on the NLT Reflections Bible

It’s no secret that I love a wide margin Bible and in the case of the NLT Reflections Bible, these are the widest margins I have, personally, seen in a Bible, 2.25 inches. Tyndale made the margins ruled which eliminates a huge problem for me; for some reason I cannot write in a straight line on un-ruled paper, so giving me ruled margins made me exceedingly happy.

There are 3 covers available, all with sewn bindings so they will lay flat. Tyndale sent me all three (free of charge in exchange for an honest review; my opinions are my own): Ocean Blue (actually more of a teal) cloth over board, Sketchbook (The cover feels very similar to a Moleskine notebook and is the same shade of black), and Mahogany Bonded Leather over board. Of the 3, the mahogany will be the one I carry most. I cannot explain why, but it seems to be the most “pastoral” and since it will be used in a church plant, it seems the natural choice.

From the publisher

Product Description

NLT Reflections is a handsome single-column, wide-margin New Living Translation Bible. Extra-wide 2.25″ lightly ruled margins make this Bible great for note-taking, journaling, recording prayers, doodling, drawing, and other forms of creative expression.

Special features include

  • A line-matching setting that’s designed to prevent text show-through
  • A durable sewn lay-flat binding
  • Matching ribbon marker
  • Elegant spine hubs
  • Presentation page
  • One-year Bible reading plan
  • 8-point text size
  • 75″ X 6.75″ x 1.50″

Product Information

Format: Hardcover
Number of Pages: 1704
Vendor: Tyndale House
Publication Date: 2016
Dimensions: 8.50 X 6.38 X 1.00 (inches)
ISBN: 1496418042
ISBN-13: 9781496418043
Text Layout: Single Column|Wide Margin

 

Text Color: Black Letter
Text Size: 8 Point
Thumb Index: No
Ribbon Marker: Yes
Spine: Sewn
Page Gilding: None
Page Edges: White

The Paper & Font

The paper is a crisp white, not quite so bright that it would be difficult to read in the sunlight but not an off-white either; I guess that eggshell would be the best descriptor. Tyndale lists an 8-point font which I would have to say is the most readable 8-point font I have seen in a while. It is not the same font family as my KJV Concord Reference Bible but it is just as readable. Since I am planning to preach from the Reflections Bible, the font is the biggest factor for me; I am pleased to say that I have experienced no eyestrain when reading from this Bible.

Margins and their use

The margins, as I said earlier, are 2.25 inches and they are ruled for easy writing. I think there is one Bible with larger margins but it is only in KJV, if memory serves. In my case, the margins will be used for main points of sermons and word studies.

For writing your annotations, I recommend Papermate’s Better Retractable (shown in photo below) and I recommend Accu-gel Hi Glider for color coded marking. I have the six color pack and I am using the following color coding:

  • Green: Fruit of the Spirit/Christian Life/Discipleship
  • Purple: Kingdom of God/Eschatological Kingdom
  • Blue: the Godhead
  • Yellow: Prophecies of Christ, His Advents, & Ministry
  • Pink: Salvation
  • Orange: Ecclesiology

 

Naturally, your color coding may vary. There are many important topics that are worth color coding; in my case I chose the topics I believe are most important to a brand new church. How you color code is not as important as actually doing the color code. Color coding is one of several memory triggers that you can use to recall information quickly.

Actually Writing in the Bible

Typically, my annotations are word studies although, on occasion, I have been known to add some topical references. In the example shown in the photos, I have provided markings from the Gospel of Matthew Chapter 5. Because the Beatitudes fall into the category of Christian Life, I have marked them with the green accu-gel highlighter pen. You will notice that the coloring is noticeable but it is not so bright as to distract from the text. In the margin, there are some brief comments on the word makarios which we translate as blessed. The word to be studied is in red with the definition and references to Strong’s and Thayer’s in blue and my summary remarks in black.

I have also provided a picture of the opposite side of the page from where I made the markings. You can see the slightest hint of a shadow where I wrote but you cannot make out individual letters and the green highlighting barely shows any shadowing.

For Carry/Daily Use

For daily carry and use, this Bible is a great choice. The format lends itself to reading large amounts of text in a single sitting. Of course, the exquisite margins provide the perfect canvas to record your thoughts as you read devotionally or your study notes while you prepare your lessons. In the case of my wife, who has claimed the Ocean Blue, that point you want to remember from the Sunday Sermon fits here nicely as well. The overall size and weight of the Bible lends itself to one handed use without worrying if the Bible will fall out of your hand while reading. I am very peripatetic (walk while talking) and I have not noticed any issues with that habit and this Bible.

Overall Thoughts

I’m really enjoying the NLT Reflections Bible. It works out nicely for my purposes in using it as a pastoral tool. My only suggestion would be to add two more ribbons so that you can study the Old Testament, Psalms and Proverbs, and the New Testament simultaneously. I hope that, after reading this, you will get an NLT Reflections Journaling Bible and that you will customize your own study/devotional Bible.

 

 

Spurgeon Study Bible Review

Spurgeon Study Bible Review

Charles Spurgeon…The words are often spoken with reverence as if the words themselves define what it means to be a pastor. Spurgeon is often called the Prince of Preachers and deservedly so. However, there has always been one disadvantage…you cannot have Spurgeon in your living room teaching the Bible. Holman Bible Publishers and Allistair Begg have been able to remedy that with the Spurgeon Study Bible.

I was asked, by a friend, for a one sentence reaction to the Spurgeon Study Bible and here it is, “I liked the Spurgeon Study Bible review copy so much that I procured a goatskin one so that I will be able to use it till Jesus returns.”  (NOTE: The Hardcover in the pictures was sent free of charge in exchange for an honest review; the goatskin was not. My opinions are my own.)

Features include:

  • Introductory Biography of Charles Spurgeon
  • Study notes crafted from Spurgeon sermons
  • Spurgeon’s sermon illustrations placed on the same page as the associated biblical text
  • Sermon notes and outlines in Spurgeon’s own handwriting
  • “Spurgeon Quotables” inserted throughout the Bible
  • Book introductions with book overviews in Spurgeon’s own words
  • Two-column text
  • Concordance
  • Smyth-sewn binding
  • Presentation Page
  • Full-color maps

About the Translation

The Spurgeon Study Bible is published in Holman’s own translation, the Christian Standard Bible (CSB). CSB is an Optimal Equivalency or Mediating Translation; it does not swing too far on the thought-for-thought end of the translation spectrum nor does it swing too far toward the word-for-word end of the spectrum. I find it to be fairly in the middle.

The CSB is an excellent choice for teaching and study and, in fact, is one of the translations I use daily alongside NASB, NLT, and NIV. Several ministers that I know, personally, have switched to CSB and, frankly, the only reason I have not is because most of my audience was already using NLT before they became my audience and I felt it would be easier to use the Bible they already have rather than have them try to switch to what I’m using. I feel confident in recommending the CSB to you for your daily use.

To be a little more specific on the translation, it is like the perfect combination of the NIV and the NASB. It is very readable though a little more challenging than the NLT but the translation is easily readable enough for students of any age. I always recommend using two translations in a study session and my favorite pairings for CSB are these: CSB/NLT for devotional readings and CSB/NASB for lesson prep and academic study.

The Introductions

The Introductions are 1-page each. They provide an overview of each book in Spurgeon’s own words as well as how the book contributes to the Bible. There is also some information about the structure of the book and the circumstances of writing.

You won’t find any outlines in the Spurgeon Study Bible. Normally this would annoy me, but in the case of this particular Bible, it actually makes sense. Spurgeon focused more on pastoral understanding of the Scripture as opposed to academic theology.

The Notes

The notes provided aren’t commentary in the traditional sense that you find in most study Bibles. These notes come from Spurgeon’s sermons. While they do not cover every single verse of the Bible, and I would not want them to, they provide an excellent understanding of how God spoke through the man who is arguably the greatest preacher since the Apostle Paul.

Translation Notes

The Translation Notes have been reduced in quantity to allow for the other notes on the Bible. They can usually be found in a green box under a column of text.

Spurgeon’s Sermon Outlines, Quotes and Illustrations

There are 20 one page outlines from Spurgeon. They’re from The Lost Sermons of C.H. Spurgeon: His Earliest Outlines and Sermons Between 1851 and 1854, Volume 1 from B&H Academic.  They take two pages – one page is a facsimile of the hand-written sermon and the opposite page, you will find the sermon outline typed out.

You will also find quotes on particular passages of Scripture and sermon illustrations sprinkled throughout the text.

The Paper and Font

The paper here is fairly opaque. I would put it between 28 and 32 gsms. 2k/Denmark provided the design layout in their Bible Serif font. If you have ever seen a 2k/Denmark layout, they are incredibly easy to read. I did have a couple challenges but those challenges resulted from deficiencies in my own eyes and not anything to do with the font. The fact that this Bible is a black letter text is very useful when it comes to being able to read it.

My goatskin leather edition also includes tabbed indexing. These are small rectangular tabs cut into the text block as opposed to the rounded thumb-index type. Many of my colleagues have mixed feelings about indexing tabs but they can be useful. If you have not memorized the order of the books of the Bible, or if you are like me and sometimes need rapid reference to a particular section of Scripture, they can be most helpful.

Cover Options

There are 4 Cover Options available, Cloth Over Board, Black & Brown LeatherTouch, Burgundy & Marble Leather Touch, Black Genuine Leather (Actually goatskin). The cloth over board is very nice and sturdy and would be well suited for daily carry, especially for students. For taking into the pulpit, the goatskin is phenomenal. It is vinyl lined so it is a little stiffer than a leather lined Bible but this is in no way a negative as it will still lay flat due to its sewn binding.

What Holman is doing with their Bible covers is absolutely amazing. The LeatherTouch (imitation leather) is incredibly realistic and, I think, is even more convincing than what Crossway offers. The true surprise, though, is goatskin with tabbed-indexing for $99.99 which is normally what you would pay for a pigskin genuine leather.

I am not sure who the source of the leather is, or the bindery house, but it is very well done. The skin is very soft and smooth, almost like it was ironed goatskin but there is the tiniest bit of grain that you can feel as you run your fingers, slowly, over the leather.

Is Anything Missing

There are two features that are noticeably absent but their absence does not detract from this Bible: Book Outlines (mentioned earlier) and Center Column Cross References. The CSB Spurgeon Study Bible is not intended as an academic aid like most other study Bibles are; it is much more pastoral in nature. To me, it feels like you really do have Spurgeon in your living room mentoring you.

Final Thoughts

Spurgeon was, perhaps, the greatest pastor since the Apostle Paul and, in the Spurgeon Study Bible, you get to see the heart of the pastor and you get to be mentored by Spurgeon. I would rate the Spurgeon Study Bible a perfect 10.

 

NASB Side Column Reference Bible (2017) Review

NASB Side Column Reference Bible (2017) Review

 

Since at least 1973, the Side Column Reference Bible (SCR) has been a mainstay of the New American Standard Bible. It is the “workhorse” Bible for many a pastor, student, missionary, or at-home Christian who wants to know God better. It is the one Bible that I keep going back to, irrespective of which translation that I try to use. Why, though? What is it that makes the SCR the ideal choice in a Bible? I hope to answer that in this review…

 

Disclaimer: Today’s review Bible, the NASB Side Column Reference Bible in black calfskin was provided by the Lockman Foundation at no charge in exchange for an honest review. I was not asked for a positive review, simply an honest one.

 

Product Details from Lockman

A one inch outside margin and over 95,000 cross-references will enhance your daily reading and study. This Bible features a single column of Bible text making reading smooth and steady.

Features

  • 1″ Wide margin
  • Concordance
  • Maps
  • Side-column cross references and text notes
  • Single column, verse format layout
  • Presentation Page
  • Family record section
  • Black Letter
  • 2 Ribbon markers
  • Gold page edges
  • 10-point text size
  • 75″ x 7.00″ x 1.50″

 

To the question of what makes this Bible the ideal choice…

As I have mentioned before, most people have only one Bible that they use on a daily basis; it is an uncommon event for them to purchase a new one and so choosing a new Bible can be a very momentous event (and from what I have been able to participate in at local bookstores, a very emotional one as well). Hopefully this review helps you to make your decision…

 

Translation Choice:

It is no secret that I love the NASB and there is perhaps no choice more important that which English translation that you use. New American Standard Bible is absolutely uncontested as the most literal translation that you can invest your resources in; a sentiment backed up by a number of college professors and pastors that I know. Almost every pastor I know, regardless of what they teach from, owns an NASB and uses it for comparative study. NASB, being the update of the 1901 ASV, well lives up to its tagline that the most literal is now more readable. Some have said that the NASB sounds “wooden/stiff;” I disagree. After 21 years of use, I find the NASB to be as familiar as talking to an old friend.

The Margins

I love wide margin bibles and this is no exception. Margins are 1-inch wide and while I have seen as large as 1.25 in times past, this seems to be the standard size. Every page has these luxurious margins for your notes and personal cross references. In fact, it is this feature alone that makes this your personal bible. No one else will ever put the same content into their Bible.

 

Let’s digress for a moment. There are two brands of pens that I would recommend for writing in your margins and I will link them below.

http://pilotpen.us/categories/ball-point-pens/better-retractable/

F-301 Ballpoint Retractable Pen 0.7mm Assorted 9pk

 

Both of these pen series will provide rich color with little to no bleed through. I have tried a number of different pens and highlighters in various Bibles and I have found that I like the Pilot Better Retractable and the Zebra F-301 the best for writing notes and underlining. Your results may vary. As far as highlighters go, I still have not yet arrived at a product that I like well enough to recommend. 

What do I recommend to write in the margins of your SCR Bible? There really isn’t one specific answer. In some Bibles I like to write key points from a sermon I am listening to. In other Bibles I like to do topical reference lists. With my NASB, I always have at least one that has word studies in it.

 

Notes and References

95,000 references guide you through virtually every possibility of Scripture interpreting Scripture. There are one or two Bibles that offer more references such as the Westminster but, for most pastors, this Bible will go far beyond your daily needs Accompanying the references are translators notes, showing alternate translations as well as what variant Greek manuscripts may or may not have in the text.

 

If you are unfamiliar with a Bible from Foundation Publications (Lockman’s publishing brand) it is somewhat difficult to explain why I think the references are a big deal. There are some other Bibles with excellent references, Concord, ESV Classic, and others but Foundation Publications Reference Bibles stand in a class by themselves, ok maybe Westminster joins them. I always advise people to choose a Bible as if it were going to be the only tool you have to study the Bible ever again and in choosing the SCR you will be sufficiently supplied with tools to study and to teach others. We will talk about additional tools in another section.

 

Size and Portability

This is considered a full size Bible with dimensions of 9.75x7x1.50 inches. To look at it, you would not think it would be easily portable. For a book of its size, I expected it to be a little heavier. I am very parapatetic (I like to walk and talk) and I am also very Italian (I talk with my hands and in both cases there was no issue. While I am not as hard on my Bibles as Dr. Stanley, I do put them through their paces and I am confident that this will hold up nicely.

It was a little big for the pocket I normally use in my laptop bag but easily fits in the main pocket. If you are curious as to which Bibles work well with which briefcases, I have found that Solo and Swiss Gear do nicely. When you are traveling, this Bible should fit in most luggage or laptop bags easily.

Cover & Binding

As would be expected, the SCR uses a smythe sewn binding. In regular English, that means that it is sewn together so that you do not have to worry about chunks of the Bible falling out (I live in Arizona and have made the mistake of leaving a glued Bible in the car. That is not a cleaning bill I plan to get again). It also means it will lay flat, ready for study, no matter which book you open to. This particular method would allow, if you were so inclined and I am not, for folding your Bible in half. I am not inclined to do that because eventually it will damage the spine.

The calfskin for the cover is very soft and limp. It does not rival the venerable 2002 edition but I do not really see anything to complain about; it is what I expect from an ironed calfskin cover. The calfskin SCR is leather lined for an even softer more supple feel.

 

Caring for your calfskin

For some of you, this may be your first calfksin Bible and I want to add a little note. The most important advice I can give you is to use it. Your skin has natural oils that will keep the leather soft and supple. Do not use household oils. If you need a particular product, I recommend you contact Leonards Books and they can give you several ideas.

 

How long should this SCR last? That will depend on you, the user. With proper care, I could see 20 years of use before a rebind would be needed; here in the desert that might be closer to 10. The block itself could last 50 years.

 

The Paper

At last we come to it, the major concern of those buying Bibles today, the paper…

How you view the paper is largely dependent upon your experience with other Bibles. I would classify this as a semi-premium Bible because of its price point. I have 4 versions of the SCR, 1973, 2002, 2013, and 2017. The 2002 has the best paper of the three. That being said…

I like the paper. There isn’t really see through like there was on the 2013 edition. Comparatively speaking, the 2013 SCR was no where near as bad as some of the garbage other publishers try to pass off as a quality Bible. Some people are super particular and if they see any shadow, at all, they don’t like the book. Those folk will not like this edition. Others, like myself, are more realistic and will note that even though you see a little shadowing, you cannot read the text on the opposite side of the page like you can in other Bibles.

I want to write in this Bible, what will happen? Earlier, I mentioned two series of pens that I recommend; if you use these, you will be fine. You should not experience bleed through. I cannot speak to any liquid highlighters as I do not plan to try them. The gel and dry-liners should not have any issue either.

Here is some official information from Lockman:

“New:

30 gsm, 1520 pages per inch

Whiteness ~84

Opacity ~83

 

Past/current paper:

28 gsm, PPI 1350

Whiteness ~87

Opacity ~77

 

The new paper is a brighter color which provides better contrast with the print. It’s smoother and more consistent in opacity across the page. It’s more thin reducing the thickness.

 

It will take a while for the new editions to filter into distribution depending on binding and there will be a mix of edition for quite a while. There is not a way to tell when purchasing, so the new ones will get out over time and I don’t know how long that will take.”

 

I am pleased with the paper overall.

 

Tools

The other tools that are available are the NASB Concordance, Book Introductions and Maps. These are fairly uniform across Foundation Publications products so there is not much needing to be said.

Final Thoughs

This is an excellent Bible. I give it a 9.5/10. I am only taking half a point off for lack of goatskin as a cover option. While we wait for the new update, I commend this Bible to you for your daily study and ministry needs.

 

**Additional/better pictures to follow**

 

Professor Grant Horner’s Reading Plan (the Plan I will use in 2017)

Professor Grant Horner’s Reading Plan (the Plan I will use in 2017)

Professor Grant Horner’s Bible Reading System & Bookmarks

Horner Plan

I have, recently, shared a couple of reading plans with you and, now, I want to share, with you, the plan that I will be using in 2017, Professor Grant Horner’s Reading Plan. This will be an especially ambitious plan for me because, even though, I read my Bible every day, I do not usually consume this level of content on a daily basis. If you follow this plan you will read ten chapters of the Bible per day. Yes, you read that correctly, 3650 chapters of the Bible in a year. There area 1189 chapters in the Bible which means that you will read the Bible 3.06 times in a year. Since you will go through different sections each day, you will get a better idea of how the Bible relates to itself and how to better interpret it.

Which Bible goes best with the Horner Plan?

There are three Bibles that I recommend with this plan: The Crossway ESV Single Column Legacy Bible, the Tyndale Select NLT Reference Bible or the Cambridge Clarion (ESV, NAS, KJV, NKJV, NIV). I will be using the ESV first and then the Select NLT for the 2nd time through. I will decide on which Bible to use for the 3rd time through when I get there.

If you only have 1 Bible, do not feel bad. Study with what you have. If you are going to buy a new Bible for this plan, here is what I would recommend:

  • Get an easy to read translation. Here is where NIV and NLT really shine
  • Buy a single column paragraph format Bible. I love verse by verse for preaching and study but to get this in depth, you will want as few distractions as possible.
  • Lastly, get a set of colored pens and use them for your notes while you read the Bible