Blessed be God – In Praise of Grammar Awareness

The Apostle Paul sometimes gets a bad rap for his grammar skillz, especially when he gets excited about something. Ephesians 1 happens to be one of those places.

Many remark on the fact that Ephesians 1:3-14 is a single run-on sentence in the original Greek. And the finest English translations do little to make the passage any easier for us. Paul piles on clause after clause after clause, traipsing his way through a maze of ideas, tying history and eternity up in knots, modifying, subordinating, and prepositioning his way to glory. “My high school English teacher would never let me get away with a sentence like that,” says one preacher. And eyewitnesses of Paul’s rhetoric have long been known to suggest that his letters have “some things in them that are hard to understand” (2 Pet 3:16).

Molly Steenson (2008), Creative Commons

Molly Steenson (2008), Creative Commons

But please let’s be fair. Sure, Paul is excited. Of course he goes too long between one inhale and the next. But he couldn’t have been any more clear about his sentence’s main idea.

Blessed be (the) God.

If we take a deep breath and condense the run-on sentence down to its essential components—subject and verb—we’ll have no trouble seeing what we should get out of it. Blessed be God.

The main verb of the entire sentence is the verb “be.” The subject of the verb is “God.” And since “be” is a verb of being (not a verb of action), it functions like an equals sign. It does no good without the other side of the equation. God = blessed. God is blessed. Or with more artistry, “Blessed be God.”

Paul’s main idea here is not what God does but who God is. God is a blessed God. Not like Artemis of the Ephesians, whose “greatness” drove her fan boys to bellow insanely for hours on end (Acts 19:34). The truly blessed God is not just any god; he is “the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ” (Eph 1:3). Blessed be this God.

Of course, this God is blessed because of what he does. The loping clauses that follow unravel the deep mysteries of this blessed God who lavishly blesses. Blessed be the God who has blessed us in Christ.

But please don’t lose focus. Paul’s main idea is not how blessed we are for knowing God. His driving point is not that we are so well off (though, of course, we are—if we believe). Paul’s main idea is that this God who blesses is himself blessed. He is worth knowing. He is worthy of adoration. He deserves to be spoken of highly. Blessed be God.

Paul’s syntax may be more convoluted than that found in a Supreme Court ruling, but the Apostle keeps our focus on his main idea with periodic reminders: “to the praise of his glorious grace…to the praise of his glory…to the praise of his glory.” Blessed be God.

If your Bible study starts sinking in a swamp of words, grab this rope and don’t let go: Observe the grammar. Blessed be God.

The Coming Fizzle

Erik Raymond has another insightful article this week about how to prevent a gospel-centered fizzle out. He’s concerned for the next generation of Christian pastors and Bible teachers, and he’s wondering whether we’ll be able to replicate the great teaching we’ve been hearing for a generation. Will we learn not only how to repeat what we’ve been told, but also to draw new conclusions from the same old texts on our own?

It’s one thing to have been able to say you have been to the restaurant and eaten a meal, but, if you don’t know how to get there yourself then you’ll never be able to eat that food again, much less take someone else out to enjoy the same experiences. My concern is that too many have been piling into Sproul’s theological minivan to go eat a feast but never learned how to actually find their way to the meal.

He writes of how important it is for us to learn to read, interpret, and rightly apply the Bible on our own. I couldn’t agree more.

Check it out!

Teach Your Child to Have Devotions

As a Christian parent, one of my chief desires is for my children to come to faith in Jesus Christ. I pray frequently and fervently for God to give them new life, for without his Spirit their hearts will not change. (John 6:44, Rom 8:9)

Salvation Through the Word

Romans 10:17 teaches that there is no salvation apart from the Word of God. So as soon as your child can respond to sound, he should hear the Bible. Scripture songs, Bible stories, family worship, testimonies—let the rich story and good news of God’s salvation be the soundtrack of your home.

A child may begin the journey to faith by imitating his parents, but he must eventually confess Jesus as Lord with his own lips. Now God is sovereign over everything, including salvation, so there is no sure-fire formula. But on a human level, we can take this step of obedience: when your child is old enough to read, give him a Bible and train him to use it.

Devotions for Children

Erik Schepers (2015), Creative Commons License

Erik Schepers (2015), Creative Commons License

My oldest daughter (eight) reads ravenously. This is a gift from God, yet my wife and I joke that we are in a small company who must discipline for too much reading. (Otherwise, her teeth might never get clean, you see.) I long to channel her love of reading toward God’s Word and to help her build a habit of private devotions, including time for both prayer and Bible study.

At Knowable Word, we maintain that personal Bible study is most profitable using the Observation-Interpretation-Application (OIA) method. But children this age may not be ready for all the OIA terms and worksheets. For my daughter, I simply want her to read and think about the Bible. So, I designed this devotions sheet for her, and I am excited to share it with you.

Explanation

The document is intentionally simple. My daughter should be able to meet with God in a meaningful way without feeling overwhelmed. Though it depends on the child, it could be used by most children between ages 6 and 10.

During “Bible Time,” my daughter reads one passage and writes down one observation and one question. She should pray about something that springs from her reading.

The “Prayer Time” portion of the sheet is also uncomplicated. The prompts follow the easy-to-remember ACTS (Adoration, Confession, Thanksgiving, Supplication) model of prayer.

The writing space is important. Writing stimulates our thinking and focus, and when my daughter records her thoughts it helps me care for her. I know she’s completed her devotions, and I can follow up in response to her answers, if needed.

Let me leave you with some advice about helping your child begin a devotional life.

  • Don’t be too ambitious — Whether or not you adopt this document, use something your child can complete without difficulty. Don’t pile on a heavy burden, and don’t try to impress anyone.
  • Use something helpful — This sheet may work for some children and not for others. Think about age-appropriate devotions, but don’t fuss too much about the tools. As your child grows in age and spiritual maturity, his devotional tools will likely change too.
  • Interact with your child — Don’t tuck a devotional plan between your child’s arms and expect him to scamper into the end zone. Your child needs love and guidance. Talk about the Bible with your child; teach him how to pray. Look over his responses on the sheet and pray for opportunities for heart-level conversations.
  • There is no magic formula — This bears repeating: salvation is of the Lord. As you press forward in faith, pray for your merciful God to be merciful to your children.

Link to Devotions Sheet (Currently a PDF, but an editable Google doc is on its way. Check back soon!)

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Recommended Commentaries that Model Good Bible Study

A good commentary is like gasoline. If you possess a working engine, it will get you where you want to go. But if you’re prone to drinking it straight, you’re better off labeling it as poison.

Alin S (2013), Creative Commons

Alin S (2013), Creative Commons

This is why I and others warn against common but dangerous mistakes when using commentaries. We urge you not to awaken or arouse your study Bibles until the time is right. We’re committed to helping you break the addiction. We’d like to see our generation less dependent on so many Bible curricula and discipleship materials. We’re delighted when others promote the same cause.

However, please don’t think I’m against commentaries. Sure, I occasionally use strong language, but it’s because I care about you. I blog to help you build a good Bible study engine, and I want to help you see the connection between your unquenchable thirst and your choice of beverage. Don’t drink the gasoline!

I devour commentaries. I read them for the same reason I attend Bible studies: I can’t do this by myself, and I need the Christian community to help me know God better. The right commentaries stimulate me, provoking a fanatical compulsion to investigate the text.

The wrong commentaries make me feel like my 6-year-old daughter, who, on a 3-mile bike ride around town, despaired at every uphill stretch. Before long, she was calling down imprecations on herself and all she held dear: “I wish I didn’t even have a bike!” Substitute “a bike” with “this volume,” and you’ve got my sense when I spend good money on something that offers little more than word histories, cross references, and catalogues of debates between older commentators.

An excellent commentary, who can find? She is far more precious than jewels. And many websites and book lists and blog series exist to help you pluck the gems from the sediment. But it’s still hard to find a good match without consistent criteria to help you decide.

So I’ve created a page on the resources section of this site, recommending commentaries that model good Bible study. By “good Bible study,” I mean the following:

  • observing the text carefully (not merely telling us what others have said about the text)
  • taking note of literary devices
  • making interpretive decisions primarily from the text and not merely by scholarly consensus
  • showing, not merely telling, their conclusions
  • spelling out the author’s train of thought (focusing on logic and meaning instead of on words, etymology, or cross references)
  • focusing on the author’s main points (without getting distracted by every possible debate on isolated words or phrases)
  • showing a conviction that the text will change our lives, both individually and corporately

Not every commentary I recommend will do all 7 things well, but I’ll look for a preponderance of evidence. And I award bonus points when the gospel of Jesus Christ takes center stage.

Now, before you click the button, please promise me you won’t misuse the list. Commit yourself to studying the text yourself. After you have guessed at the author’s main point and attempted to apply it, your engine will be thirsty and ready for a refill. You’ll get far more out of these commentaries if you don’t rely on them to do the work for you.

Are you ready? Do you promise?         Take me to the page!

Why We Don’t Read the Bible

Erik Raymond proposes 5 reasons why many of us don’t read our Bibles:

  1. It makes us uncomfortable
  2. It’s too hard
  3. We are undisciplined
  4. We think it is stale and lifeless
  5. We have a dysfunctional relationship with God

Did you notice what’s missing from the list? “We’re too busy.” Raymond doesn’t buy that for a moment, and I think he’s right. We always have time for what we value the most.

Raymond’s conclusion:

Let’s be honest: if you don’t read your Bible it is because you don’t want to read your Bible. And to bottom line this further, this is indicative or your relationship with God. We cannot separate a love for the Word of God and the God of the Word.

Do you want to read your Bible? If not, why not?

Raymond’s article explains each of the reasons with helpful action steps of repentance. Check it out!

3 Tips for Bad Bible Study, Part 3

Today we conclude our series helping you avoid the troublesome effects of good Bible study. If you’ve been following along, you may have already observed first-hand how assuming you already know what the text says shields you from unsettling new ideas. Hopefully you’ve also understood how dangerously exposed you are to the life-changing truths of the Word if you fail to find your own meaning.

Having mastered these tips, you’re ready to complete the trifecta of biblical impotency:

3. Protect Your Heart

If your aim is to stay in control of your life and not have to change course every time some pesky fact or bothersome truth comes along, this tip is the ace you can always keep up your sleeve. After all, human nature is what it is and occasionally you’ll let down your guard against learning something from the Bible. Sometimes, despite your best efforts, you’ll find yourself having clearly understood a truth from God’s Word which you had never understood before.

When you find yourself in this situation, don’t give up. It’s not too late to render harmless even the most disruptive truth. All you need to do is prevent it from penetrating your heart. Protect your heart, and you’ll never have to worry about your life being shaken up by the Bible. I don’t care how profound the truth is. If you can keep it segregated from your motivations, hopes, and treasures, you’ll be no more affected by it than if you’d never understood it at all.

To accomplish this, work from the inside out. Identify the things that are most important to you, the things closest to your heart. These might be achievements you want to attain, affections you want to win, or objects you’d like to own. If you’re not sure, try completing this sentence: “I would be satisfied with my life if only _________.”

Now here’s the key step: once you’ve identified the desires of your heart, build a wall around them. Never allow what you read in the Bible to question their intrinsic value or their ability to satisfy you. If you want to be secure in your plans and preferences, your heart’s desires need a wall to protect them from examination. Think of it as granting them a certificate of exemption from scrutiny. This is how you protect your heart.

It’s hard to overstate the power of this technique. People who diligently apply themselves to protecting their hearts can build up a shield that is all but impenetrable. In fact, some people’s hearts are so well-armored that they can flagrantly disregard my first two tips for bad Bible study yet still be in no danger of having their plans disrupted by the Word.

As strong a defense as this is, though, remember that it is your last defense. If you’ve allowed yourself to open your mind to the Bible, and if you’ve acknowledged that it speaks an objectively true message to you, then the wall around your heart is all that’s left between your comfortable status quo and the earth-shaking effects of God’s Word. If one well-placed arrow finds a single gap in your wall, your heart will be pierced and your plans will go out the window. The comfort of empty ritual will be gone, replaced by whatever it is that God intends for your life.

If that happens to you, don’t say I didn’t warn you.

3 Tips for Bad Bible Study, Part 2

In the first post of this series we looked at a tried-and-true method for achieving bland, ineffective Bible study. Today we’ll add a second method to our arsenal:

2. Find Your Own Meaning

The Bible calls itself a “sharp double-edged sword.” That sounds awfully dangerous, doesn’t it? No need to worry; you can keep that sword safely in its sheath by looking for a private, personal meaning for every text you read. Just come up with a summary of the text which you can claim is true for you (and not necessarily true for anyone else), and you’ll be safe from being pricked by the Word.

You need to know this tip because there are people out there who still hold to the idea that a text has an objective meaning. They would say that an author has a single main point in mind while writing which he or she wants to communicate to readers. The problem with this is that you’re left dangerously exposed to any number of ideas which might upset the serene status quo of your own thinking!

Here’s a quick example: John 3:16. Ask one of those objective types what this verse means, and he’ll start yammering on about “context,” being “born again,” etc, etc. What’s worse, he’ll probably land on a rather unsettling conclusion involving sin, death, faith, and the need for repentance. So much for safe, empty ritual! A much simpler and safer approach would be to say, “I’m so glad God loves the world. That means He loves me. That makes me happy.” Why go further than that?

So instead of asking, “What does this text mean?”, ask, “What does this text mean for me?” See the difference those two little words make? They’re all you need to protect yourself from annoying life-changing truths!

Here’s a few particular suggestions for applying this tip:

  • Remember to apply our first tip for bad Bible study: assume you already know what the text says. You’ll be much better positioned to make up your own meaning if you start with what you think the text says rather than what it actually says.
  • Avoid thinking about the fact that the text you’re reading was written by a particular person (in a particular place at a particular time). Instead, imagine the words floating ethereally. This makes it easier for you to attach your own meaning to them.
  • Similarly, try not to think about the fact that the text was written to a particular audience. If you start thinking about other people who have read the same words you’re reading, it’s harder to make up your own private meaning.
  • In Bible study meetings, keep the discussion centered on feelings. If you have to say something about the text itself, stick with vaguely spiritual statements like, “Wow, it’s just amazing that it says such-and-such.”

Give it a try! Apply this tip in your Bible reading, and I guarantee you’ll stay safe from stinging conviction, tumultuous encouragement, and lofty joy. Instead, you’ll stay in control and you’ll know just what to expect: nothing much at all.

One word of caution: Finding your own meaning will help you read the Bible without danger of learning anything, but be careful not to apply the strategy too generally. There are times when it’s a good idea to consider what the author intended to say. For example, I would not recommend finding your own meaning in the following types of writing:

  • Emails from your boss
  • Instructions for operating power tools
  • Anything written by the IRS

3 Tips for Bad Bible Study, Part 1

Has your time in the Word been too powerful lately? Want to get rid of that nagging feeling of peace you get when you trust the God you encounter in the Scriptures? If so, you need to make some adjustments to your approach to the Bible. In this brief series of posts we’ll consider three surefire ways to make Bible reading boring and irrelevant again. Today we’ll cover tip #1:

1. Assume you already know what the text says.

This is a tip you can put into practice in your very next Bible study meeting or quiet time. It’s all about your attitude. If you sit down with a heart attitude that says, “I need to hear what God has to say to me today,” then your efforts toward making Bible study an empty ritual will go right down the drain.

Instead, begin by congratulating yourself for what you already know about the particular text in front of you. If you’ve actually read the text before, you’re golden. Doesn’t matter how long ago you read it. Just take whatever you happen to remember about it as proof that all you need is a quick refresher rather than the full experience of diving into the text.

If it’s your first time reading the text, don’t give up yet. There are many other sources of knowledge you might draw on: sermons you’ve heard, Sunday school stories, VeggieTales episodes, etc. Any of these provides a sufficient centerpiece for your expertise. If you’re in a group and others seem to doubt the profundity of what you’re saying, just talk louder and wave your hands more.

If it turns out that you truly know nothing about the text, then it must be an obscure chapter that nobody really cares about anyway, right?

No matter what you do, don’t read the text the way you would a book that contains vital truth addressing your greatest needs and desires. Don’t let yourself start looking for details or ideas in the text which you haven’t considered before. Remember, you don’t need to look because you already know it. Keep assuming you know it, and you’ll find that before long your Bible reading will be as bland and ineffective as you could ever want.

Sharpen Your Axe: Prepare for Your Small Group

A woodsman was once asked, “What would you do if you had just five minutes to chop down a tree?” He answered, “I would spend the first two and a half minutes sharpening my axe.”1

JJMustang_79 (2008), Creative Commons License

JJMustang_79 (2008), Creative Commons License

Preparing to Move

I recently helped a young couple move. When the truck arrived, we loaded their boxes and furniture in almost no time. We made such quick work of the job that we called off the reinforcements who were coming later!

What made the move so easy? My friends had packed and organized everything. They told us what needed to go, and we jumped right in.

In short, they were prepared.

If it’s Important, We Prepare

While you might not need extensive plans to brush your hair, you wouldn’t take the same approach to a career change. It’s simple: we prepare for events and tasks in proportion to their importance.

So, how important is your small group Bible study? On the one hand, this gathering should be a low-stress get-together. This is no job interview, first date, or keynote speech.

But a casual event can still be significant. When we study God’s word, we should expect him to reveal himself. He will teach us how to love and obey him through his son, Jesus. Can you think of a more monumental activity?

You lay the groundwork for God’s work in your midst when you prepare for your gathering. Some planning may appear ordinary, but it is all vital to the success of your Bible study group.

Physical Preparations

If the physical aspects of your meeting are in order, you won’t notice. They will blend into the background like jazz at a coffee shop. But if a detail is overlooked, it will stand out like a gong.

  • Host — Every group needs a place to meet. Could you provide a comfortable place for your friends?
  • Organize the practical details — Some groups rotate child care and/or food duties among group members. If your group has such a need, consider arranging these schedules.
  • Lead the communication — Between gatherings, build your group’s sense of community. Keep everyone in touch using email, Facebook, phone calls, or text messages. Remind the group of the next meeting’s details and, if everyone signs on, consider a weekly distribution of prayer requests.
  • Invite others — If your small group welcomes visitors, prayerfully seek people to invite. This is especially encouraging in groups designed to introduce unbelievers to the claims of Jesus.
  • Build anticipation for the meeting — Talk to other group members, rejoice at God’s work, and express your excitement for the next get-together. What applications of the Bible are you working to implement that came up at the last meeting?

Spiritual Preparations

When the physical arrangements are made, the soil is tilled for a spiritual crop. Here are some ways to plant seeds and prepare for the harvest.

  • Study the passage — Your small group leader may prompt the group with questions ahead of time. Even without prompting, you will contribute more to and learn more from the discussion if you study the Bible passage in advance. While God can (and does) give in-the-moment insight, think of all the observations, interpretations, and applications you will bring if you work ahead!
  • Pray for the leader — Your small group leader’s job is difficult. Ask God to reveal the main point of the passage and how to guide the group there. Pray that your leader would allow the message to change him/her before teaching.2
  • Pray for the group — Pray for the individuals in the group, not just for their recent requests, but also for their growing trust in and love for Christ. (Consider praying Ephesians 3:16–19 for them.) Ask God to give the group understanding into his word through their interaction at the next meeting.
  • Pray for yourself — In small groups, you have the opportunity both to bless and be blessed. Pray for openness to the ideas and suggestions of others. Think of someone in your group with whom you haven’t connected recently; pray for an opportunity to encourage them.

During some weeks, the busyness of your life may keep you from preparing for your small group. Go to the meeting anyway. These are probably the times you need to go more than ever!

But if you’re able to prepare, you will be a blessing to your group. And you just might find that God teaches you in the process.


  1. A version of this quote is commonly attributed to Abraham Lincoln, but it appears that is not true.  
  2. This series of posts is focused on those who attend small group Bible studies; if you lead such a study, we have lots of resources for you.  

Main Points for all 66 Books of the Bible

NIV Proclamation BibleLast week’s review of the NIV Proclamation Bible got me excited about its concise main points for every book of the Bible. I couldn’t resist listing them here for your reference. I don’t agree with every one. For example, the proposals for Joshua and Nahum are summaries and not main points, and the proposal for Job misses the centrality of the fear of the Lord. But they all are worth considering.

You’ll have to buy the Bible to see a 2-4 paragraph defense for each main point.

Books of Moses
Genesis: The Creator God is faithful to his covenant promises and redeems humanity through the promised line, despite their sin and rebellion.
Exodus: Trust, obey and worship the redeeming, covenant-making God who is with us.
Leviticus: The holy God makes his people holy, calls them to be holy, and provides atonement through blood when they are not.
Numbers: God has saved us and, as we travel through the wilderness of this world, we need to go on exercising faith to enter the inheritance Christ has secured for us.
Deuteronomy: God’s people are called to respond to God’s salvation with love and loyalty, worshiping the one true God in the midst of surrounding cultural idolatries and living in the midst of the nations as a community shaped at every level of life by God’s character of grace, justice, purity, compassion, and generosity.

 

Historical Books
Joshua: God gave the land he promised and Israel took it (Josh 11:23, 21:43-45, NIV).
Judges: The book of Judges demonstrates that if the Israelites survive the dark days of Canaanization under the judges it is entirely to the Lord’s credit.
Ruth: The Lord is committed to his people even in the darkest days, and will preserve his plan of salvation through a godly king, for both Jews and Gentiles.
1 and 2 Samuel: Even the best human leaders fail us, but God is faithful to his people and promised a king who would be powerful, wise, righteous and faithful.
1 and 2 Kings: Ruling justly and wisely depends on obeying God’s word, and disobeying has serious consequences.
1 and 2 Chronicles: Restore the people, raise up the king and renew the temple; then God will pour out his blessings.
Ezra-Nehemiah: In response to God fulfilling his promises, his people should repent, reform and “follow the Law of God,” or literally, “walk in the Law of God” (Neh 10:29, NIV).
Esther: God fulfils his redemptive promises through his divine providence.

 

Wisdom Books
Job: The obedient suffering of a believer brings glory to God.
Psalms: Praise the Lord: meditate on his circumstance-defying covenant love in the Messiah!
Proverbs: Proverbs recognizes the difficulties of living in God’s complex world and offers wise words to live by.
Ecclesiastes: Death and judgment are the only fixed realities in life, and everything else is uncertain and often subject to frustration and sorrow.
Song of Songs: Desire wisdom, desire your husband or wife, and above all desire Christ.

 

Prophets
Isaiah: God will rescue and renew a faithful, obedient people for himself, out of the ashes of Israel’s failure and exile, through the coming of his Servant King (the Messiah).
Jeremiah: “Therefore that he may raise, the Lord throws down” (John Donne).
Lamentations: “In your righteous wrath, O Lord, remember mercy!”
Ezekiel: Align yourselves with the God who has acted in judgment on Judah, and with the Israel that God is restoring.
Daniel: God always remains the true God, so stay faithful to him despite pressure to compromise.
Hosea: “Go, show your love to your wife again, though she is loved by another man and is an adulteress. Love her as the Lord loves the Israelites, though they turn to other gods and love the sacred raisin cakes” (Hos 3:1, NIV).
Joel: Judgment day is approaching, so sincerely repent, call on the name of the Lord, and you will be blessed.
Amos: The sovereign Lord will not tolerate a proud and complacent people, but will judge all human evil with perfect justice so that his kingdom may come.
Obadiah: Divine sovereignty is the audacious theme of Obadiah, seen in the impending role reversal of Edom and Judah on the day of the Lord.
Jonah: “Salvation comes from the Lord” (Jonah 2:9, NIV), who is the Creator and Lord of the nations.
Micah: “He has shown you, O mortal, what is good. And what does the Lord require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God” (Micah 6:8, NIV).
Nahum: The Lord will bring inescapable and deserved judgment on mighty Assyria, and this is good news for God’s people, Judah.
Habakkuk: Be joyful and secure in an unjust world, by trusting in the God who promises to deliver his people and defeat evil.
Zephaniah: God will judge the sin and rebellion of the world, but there is hope because of the character and promises of God.
Haggai: The rebuilding of the Lord’s temple will bring about an even greater glory.
Zechariah: In a time of economic and spiritual crisis, the prophet Zechariah challenges a new generation to become participants, not spectators, in the plans the Lord Almighty has for the restoration of temple, city and society, and to welcome the Lord, the King of Jerusalem and the King of the whole earth.
Malachi: “‘I have loved you,’ says the Lord” (Mal 1:2, NIV).

 

New Testament Narratives
Matthew: Become disciples of Jesus, so that you may participate in the kingdom of the heavens, and make further disciples in all the nations.
Mark: Jesus, God’s Son, King, and Servant, has come, died and risen that we may know, confess and serve him.
Luke: You can be confident that Jesus, in his life, death, resurrection and ascension, heralds the fulfillment of all God’s promises in the Old Testament.
John: Believe that Jesus is the Son who came from the Father to reveal him, and has returned to the Father to open up the way to life for his people.
Acts: The ascended Lord Jesus continues to draw people from every nation to himself, growing his church through the preaching of the word and the ministry of his Spirit.

 

Epistles
Romans: God is glorified in a united missionary Church humbled together under grace.
1 Corinthians: All believers in Christ are God’s holy temple and should live in keeping with that holy status by becoming unified, shunning pagan vices and glorifying God under the lordship of Christ.
2 Corinthians: Be confident in the “weak” but authentic ministry of gospel proclamation.
Galatians: The grace of God in the gospel and the promised Spirit are sufficient both for salvation and the Christian life.
Ephesians: You are one in Christ now, so be united and stand firm in him.
Philippians: Live joyfully as citizens of God’s kingdom in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ.
Colossians: “Just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live your lives in him” (Col 2:6, NIV).
1 Thessalonians: Be reassured of the truth of the gospel and press on in living it out, despite opposition, until Jesus returns.
2 Thessalonians: While waiting expectantly for Christ’s glorious return, live lives of faithful perseverance, patient vigilance and obedient service.
1 Timothy: Local churches need gospel-driven leaders to guard their conformity to gospel truth.
2 Timothy: Guard for future generations the precious deposit of God’s glorious, life-giving gospel, despite opposition.
Titus: Change in belief by the power of the gospel leads to changed lives, so straighten out those deceived by false teachers.
Philemon: The gospel is powerful to reconcile deeply (and understandably) estranged people.
Hebrews: Because Jesus is utterly supreme, Christians should stick with him alone whatever happens.
James: Christians need to be entirely focused on God in all that they do.
1 Peter: God’s chosen people should live God-glorifying, Christlike lives amidst suffering and persecution, assured of ultimate glory themselves.
2 Peter: Those who are truly known by God, and know him in Christ, are those who resist the theological and moral laxities of godless preachers and remain robustly tied to the apostolic message.
1 John: You can know you are Christians because you believe Jesus is the Christ, you recognize your sin and you love fellow Christians.
2 John: The one who knows the truth loves God, through obeying his commandments, loving his people and not being hospitable to the false teacher.
3 John: The one who walks in the truth will be in partnership with Christians, and not reject them.
Jude: Contend for the faith in the face of godless denial and immorality.
Revelation: Willingness to suffer for faith in and worship of the sovereign God and his Christ is the path to ultimate victory and the triune God’s glory in the new creation.

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