Bible Stories are More Than Stories

Let’s not overreact.

When the Bible’s glorious message of grace penetrates the hearts of Christ-loving people born or bred in legalistic communities, the temptation to overreact looms large. Such folks draw attention away from rule-keeping and toward faith and mercy. They notice the largely narrative makeup of Scripture, and they revel in this greatest of all stories. They delight in the overarching narrative of God’s plan to rescue his people through the person and work of Jesus Christ. They bask in God’s redemption, and they get the shakes around too many precepts, moralisms, or “Be good like Bible character X” sermons.

Emily Raw (2008), Creative Commons

Emily Raw (2008), Creative Commons

And they should do all these things. But please, let’s not overreact.

I’m guilty; I’ve done it. I’ve encouraged others to do it. And it’s dangerous, because something about this particular overreaction feels right.

For example, Sally Lloyd-Jones, who did the world a tremendous service by writing The Jesus Storybook Bibleoverstates her case in an article entitled “Teach Children the Bible is Not About Them“:

When we drill a Bible story down into a moral lesson, we make it all about us. But the Bible isn’t mainly about us, and what we are supposed to be doing — it’s about God, and what he has done!

When we tie up the story in a nice neat, little package, and answer all the questions, we leave no room for mystery. Or discovery. We leave no room for the child. No room for God.

When we say, “Now what that story is all about is…”, or “The point of that story is…” we are in fact totally missing the point. The power of the story isn’t in summing it up, or drilling it down, or reducing it into an abstract idea.

Because the power of the story isn’t in the lesson.

The power of the story is the story.

It’s funny, because just a few paragraphs later, Ms. Lloyd-Jones states that she wrote The Jesus Storybook Bible in part so children would know “that — in spite of everything, no matter what, whatever it cost him — God won’t ever stop loving his children… with a wonderful, Never Stopping, Never Giving Up, Unbreaking, Always and Forever Love.” I’m not sure how that’s any different from saying, “The point of that story is…” Lloyd-Jones has a great story to tell, and she teaches an essential lesson from that story.

The simple truth is this: Bible stories have a point. Biblical authors had pastoral reasons for including some stories and excluding others from their narratives. They had educational reasons for including certain details and excluding others. (For a case study, see my analysis of the four feeding of the 5,000 accounts.) When it comes to interpreting the point of a story, we could be right or wrong, but we can’t say there is no point. We’re misreading the Bible unless we remember that “all Scripture is … profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work” (2 Tim 3:16-17). Even when we keep Jesus at the center, where he belongs, these stories still have lessons, principles, and role models for modern readers young and old.

Everything written was meant to teach us, that we might be encouraged to have hope (Rom 15:4). Biblical narratives offer both examples and warnings to us (1 Cor 10:6, 11). Of course, these stories are about what God has done. But that doesn’t mean they’re not also about what God wants for us, through us, in us, or around us.

We can and should look for the author’s main point in each story, and we can do so without falling into the errors of legalism or self-righteous moralism.

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If you’re looking to buy an amazing storybook Bible for children and you click the Amazon link above, you’ll support this blog at no extra cost to yourself. This is not a legalistic disclaimer; just free grace coming from you to us so we can keep blogging about Bible study.

Bruised Reeds and our Inclination to Presume

Sometimes we don’t observe well because we’re too familiar with a passage. Then we presume the meaning of a text and stifle ongoing curiosity. In the end, things stay the same, and inertia prevents vibrant application.

Sure, we can see the problem in others. Jehovah’s Witnesses miss the point of John 1:1. Theological liberals miss the mark on John 14:6. Many presume upon Romans 1:26-27 and mistakenly consider it irrelevant to the contemporary same-sex marriage movement.

But can we see the problem in ourselves? We, who claim to love God’s knowable word and who work to study it and submit to it? The deadening progression from familiarity to presumption to inertia is subtle enough that we usually can’t see it, even when we’re aware of the danger.

That’s why I decided to tackle one of evangelicalism’s most hallowed mottos: “Jesus didn’t break a bruised reed.”

The metaphor seems self-evident. “Bruised reeds are people who are broken and needy, people worn out and tired and exhausted with life’s circumstances, people neglected by the world, but accepted by Jesus.” We casually toss the phrase out like a trump-suit ace impervious to counter-play. No need to explain; just assert: “Jesus never broke a bruised reed.”

But have you considered why the reed doesn’t get broken? Look at the text carefully, and you might find you’ve become a little too familiar with this biblical phrase and perhaps have missed a profound point. In fact, hastily assuming the “what” may have obscured your insight into the “why.”

My point is not that we shouldn’t have compassion on needy people (of course we should). My point is that this biblical phrase means something other than what we’ve come to presume.

Check out the full article at Desiring God.

Don’t be a Commentary Junkie

Darren Larson (2006), Creative Commons License

Darren Larson (2006), Creative Commons License

Let’s be honest: a good Bible commentary is awesome. A scholar spends years studying a book of the Bible, gathering wisdom both from centuries of Christian history and from his own encounters with God in his Word. Then you get a chance to peek over his shoulder! Commentaries can be a great blessing from God.

While they can be terrific as a reference, commentaries are a poor substitute for studying the Bible yourself. I understand the temptation to rely on commentaries. The research! The analysis! The footnotes! But when we become enamored with the work of a Bible scholar, we miss out on the beauty of the Bible’s author.

The Lure of the Instant Fix

In this era of the smart phone, we’re used to getting everything quickly, from weather forecasts to bank transactions to pizza delivery. We think waiting five seconds for our email to load is an eternity. So if we feel stuck or lost when studying the Bible, we naturally want immediate aid. Study Bibles appeal to this desire by printing explanations and commentary on the same page as the Bible text. Just shift your eyes three inches for your answer.

But this need for instant gratification can short-circuit our Bible learning. You’d be troubled if your eight-year-old completed her math homework with the answer guide next to her, right? We’re not that much different from the math cheat if we camp out in a Bible commentary without poring over the Bible itself first.

Answers are not the Ultimate Goal

Part of interpreting the Bible is asking questions of the text. And, as much as the text allows, we should try to answer those questions.

But we need to be careful here. An obsession with answering interpretive questions can reveal a misplaced goal. Why are you studying the Bible? If you want to figure everything out, solve tricky theological puzzles, and generally become a Bible genius, you’re pointed in the wrong direction.

The aim of Bible study is love—love for God through his son Jesus, and love for others made in God’s image. Jesus said that all the Law and Prophets hang on these two commandments. (Matt 22:35–40) If you’re not growing in love as a result of studying the Bible, you’re doing it wrong.

If you skip right to the commentary, you might acquire some temporary knowledge. But if you take a shot at the interpretation first, you are more likely to internalize the author’s main point. This will lead to deeper, Spirit-fueled application.

Five Suggestions

Used in the right way, Bible commentaries can be tremendously valuable. We’ve published two excellent posts which caution against the misuse of commentaries and study Bibles. Let me offer five additional suggestions.

  • Don’t treat a commentary as an infallible expert. Bible commentaries are written by imperfect sinners like you and me. Always weigh the commentary against the Bible.
  • Watch out for speculation. A good number of Bible commentators seem prone to this error.
  • Take advantage of the strengths. Commentaries are usually helpful in developing a book overview and in answering interpretation questions. On the whole, they tend to be less helpful in the realms of observation and application. (Though there are exceptions!)
  • Recognize the weaknesses. Commentators often have different priorities than you. Don’t be frustrated when a commentary doesn’t address your entire list of unanswered questions.
  • Choose good commentaries. Though the most trustworthy recommendations come from friends, I’ve found Best Commentaries to be a helpful resource.

Hop Aboard the Train of Thought

When I write an article, I want to make a point. To make that point stick, I follow a series of steps. First, I try to capture your attention with the first sentence or two. Second, I introduce my thesis early. Third, I explain the thesis and apply it. Finally, I land the article with a strong sense of arrival (or liftoff, if I want to inspire you with a certain Bible study practice). Along the way, I pepper my writing with salty metaphors, everyday illustrations—like the time I explained how Bible study was like teeball—and clear conclusions. Therefore, I have something to say, and I want to set you up to hear it.

Nonfiction works this way: An author has something to say, but that author must bring the readers along for the ride. From the beginning of the work to the end, a journey of discovery unfolds. We call this journey the author’s train of thought.

The Bible works similarly, and our Bible study hits pay dirt when we hop aboard the author’s train of thought.

Why it Matters

Leon Rice-Whetton (2009), Creative Commons

Leon Rice-Whetton (2009), Creative Commons

The author’s train of thought outlines his main ideas. And his main ideas are, well, his main ideas. If you’d like to grow at fighting for the main point and reading passages in context, you’ll want to grow your ability to follow a train of thought. The tracks have been laid. Will you walk along them?

Example #1: Romans 4

Look at how Paul’s argument unfolds, and hop aboard for the ride:

  • Rom 4:1: What did Abraham gain in this matter [How did he get the righteousness of God (Rom 3:21)?]?
  • Rom 4:2-8: He didn’t get it by works.
  • Rom 4:9-12: He didn’t get it through circumcision.
  • Rom 4:13-15: He didn’t get it by law.
  • Rom 4:16-17: Therefore, he got it by faith!
  • Rom 4:18-22: Abraham’s faith = despite outward circumstances, being fully convinced God is able to do what he promises.
  • Rom 4:23-25: Our faith works the same way (believing God’s promise despite our circumstances) and achieves the same result (the righteousness of God).

What’s at stake for Paul in this chapter? How Jews can be made right with God. How it’s always been this way for them. How it’s no different now for non-Jews.

Looking at the immediate context, we see that Paul addresses key questions asked by the Jewish members of his Roman audience.

  • What about good works? (Rom 3:27-28)
  • What about circumcision? (Rom 3:29-30)
  • What about the law? (Rom 3:31)

And for Jew and Gentile alike, God’s righteousness remains available—not through good deeds, religious rituals, or law-keeping, but by believing him who raised Jesus from the dead (Rom 4:24).

Example #2: Hebrews 1-5

Hebrews hits us between the eyes with its train of thought. I can think of no other book that announces each point this clearly before explaining it. The announcements come as transitions from one major section to the next.

  1. Big idea: God has spoken by his Son who sat down (Heb 1:1-4).
  2. First point: Jesus became “as much superior to angels as the name he has inherited is more excellent than theirs” (Heb 1:4).
    • Jesus’ more excellent name (Heb 1:5-14)
    • Jesus’ superiority to angels (Heb 2:5-18)
  3. Second point: Jesus had to “become a merciful and faithful high priest in the service of God” (Heb 2:17-18).
    • Jesus the faithful high priest (Heb 3:1-4:14).
    • Jesus the merciful high priest (Heb 4:15-5:10).

The rest of the book continues in the same way, announcing the points before explaining them. The author scatters sections of application between major points. The main idea comes alive with each point: Jesus accomplished the work of salvation God sent for him to do. Therefore, he is “more” and “better” than the things God used to communicate salvation in the Old Testament. Hop aboard the train of thought when you study Hebrews, and you’ll find buckets of gold at the end of each rainbow.

Example #3: Job 4-5

It works for poetry as well. Look at the first speech given by one of Job’s friends, and track the thinking stanza by stanza.

  1. Can I remind you of where your confidence should be (Job 4:1-6)?
  2. You are guilty (Job 4:7-11).
  3. You are mortal (Job 4:12-21).
  4. You’re a fool (Job 5:1-7).
  5. Seek your confidence not in yourself, but in God (Job 5:8-16).
  6. Accept the Almighty’s discipline (Job 5:17-27).

Think about how Eliphaz moves from one thought to the next, and we can discover his underlying point: “Hardship is always a sign of God’s corrective discipline; therefore, Job, you’re despising God’s redemptive work in your life.” Of course, the larger context of Job makes it clear that Eliphaz is wrong (Job 42:7-8). But that doesn’t stop Paul from turning Eliphaz upside down to see if he can shake some treasure out of his pockets (1 Cor 3:18-19).

Conclusion

Of course, some passages won’t have much train of thought (think Proverbs 10-29). And narratives look a little different. But don’t miss this train, or your Bible study might not get where you’d like it to go.

Bible Study Isn’t Just for Yourself

Jonathan Parnell’s beautiful piece reminds us that we don’t read the Bible for ourselves alone. We read and study for our children, for the watching world, and for future generations.

The goal of Christian maturity is not merely that I might get along better in life, but that I might, being glad in the glory of Jesus, love more like Jesus did. The aim behind Bible-reading, after all, is not some kind of black-hole holiness — that theoretical moralism that envisions character in isolation from others — but rather, that we might learn how to roll up our sleeves for the people God has placed in our lives. In other words, we don’t just read the Bible to read, we read it to walk.

Check it out!

Teach Bible Study to an 8-Year-Old

Last week, I asked my class what God had taught them so far this year through our study of Romans. Here’s what I got:

I’ve learned that I can’t please God by keeping the law, doing good deeds, or through church rituals.

I learned that Abraham was justified by faith.

Everyone is sinful and needs righteousness from Jesus.

I learned what circumcision means.

No joke. These four remarks came from a group of 3rd-to-5th grade boys in our local AWANA club class. My friend Jeff and I have had the honor of teaching these boys since the beginning of September. The AWANA program focuses on Scripture memory, and our 30-minute teaching time gave us the opportunity to develop the boys with the skills not only to memorize verses but also to read and study larger passages.

Third grade classWhen I asked them what they’ve learned so far, I honestly had low expectations about what they’d say—and shame on me. Their answers delightfully shocked me and showed me evidence of God’s powerful work through his word.

And here’s what I’ve learned in the process.

1. Read the Bible

These kids can handle more than we brilliant adults usually think they can handle. So Jeff and I decided not to use a specialized curriculum to drive our class. We’d simply read the book of Romans and talk about it with the kids. We started at Romans 1:1. We’d read a verse, ask some questions, read the next verse, and continue week after week. It’s tempting to think these children need pre-packaged guidance from experts who have never met them. But we wanted them to get used to hearing the voice of their God who knitted them in the womb.

On the first week of class, I told the boys we’d have a special visitor with us every week. “He’s an old, old teacher. His voice breaks the oak trees in Park Forest, and he moves Mount Nittany out of his way to get here. He will speak to us in this very classroom. You can’t see him, but a silly thing like that won’t stop us from hearing him.”

Wide-eyed, they took a minute to figure out who this teacher would be. But once they realized it, they were ready to hear him. From time to time, I could quiet rowdy chatter by asking one of them to read the next verse to the class. I’d then project my voice and say, “Quiet! God is about to speak to you through [reader’s name]. You’ll want to hear this.”

2. Know the main point

Classes went well when we came prepared with a clear main point to focus on. And by “main point,” I mean the main point of the passage and not the main point of whatever we decided the children needed to hear that day. The lessons that stuck (see the first three quotes above) were the ones where they could see the main point right from the text. It made those lessons clear and memorable, and it gave the boys something to return to every time they read Romans from here on out.

3. Observe the structure

The structure of the passage gives them a summary of key lessons. The children struggled in classes when we didn’t have a clear structure, because a long verse-by-verse stream of consciousness wouldn’t hold their attention. But when we could show them, paragraph by paragraph, what Paul was saying—breaking down the argument into simple chunks—they were much more engaged.

4. Make them observe the text

The children loved to answer questions. And they loved to shout out whatever answers came to mind. But we refused to accept any answer that didn’t have a verse number attached to it. Week after week, we had to remind them that the answer to every question was right in the passage we had just read. Now that the year’s almost over, they’ve gotten it. Most questions produce a corporate nose-dive effect, where most heads in the room bow down to examine the text.

5. Define terms

We didn’t use children’s Bibles or work books. We wanted to give each child the confidence to open, read, and understand his own Bible. Most of them had the NIV, so that’s the version we taught from.

This means we had to deal with “atonement,” “righteousness,” “justification,” “Gentiles,” “reconciliation,” and “circumcision.” We had great fun on the day we dealt with that last term, which is why it showed up in quote #4 above. Though some boys won’t stop giggling at the term, most have learned from it how earthy and relevant the Bible is.

6. Illustrate everything

I need to work on this one more. Our application time had some rough spots. But one highlight came when we discussed Romans 6:15-18, and we talked about the start of soccer season. Sin is like your coach from last year. Jesus is like your new coach this year. Choosing to sin is like scoring goals on your own net just because the opposing team is led by the coach you played for last year.

 

We didn’t complete the book of Romans, as I had expected. We’d cover 2-3 verses per week at first, but now we’re up to 10-15. I hope we can cook through chapter 7 in these next few classes and land on Romans 8:1 in the last week. But it was worth it to adjust my expectations to give the boys time to really get it.

And we haven’t discussed OIA principles at all; we’ve merely practiced them every week. Our intention has been to inspire them with confidence to read and study the Bible on their own. We can give them helpful terminology for the process another time.

It’s great fun to see them learning to study the Bible. Next year, Jeff and I might get to teach the girls’ class, and we’ll have to reconsider how to handle “circumcision” then… Suggestions are welcome.

Making Use of the Sermon to Teach Bible Study to Kids

Parents, you have a weekly opportunity to train your children to study the Bible. It’s taken me some time to realize it. Perhaps this nudge will help you take advantage of it as well.

Erik Raymond writes about “Helping Children Benefit from the Sermon.” He offers tips for both parents and pastors. Parents, have you considered:

  • Reading the sermon text before church?
  • Asking the children questions about the text?
  • Praying together for the preacher?
  • Asking and expecting your children to take notes or draw pictures about the sermon?
  • Reviewing the children’s notes after church?
  • Praying together for what God taught you?

Raymond’s ideas challenged and encouraged me. I encourage you to check it out.

When Bible Study Meets Real Life

If you’ve been reading this blog for any length of time, you’ve observed that we advocate for a specific method of personal Bible study. (We call it the OIA method—Observe, Interpret, Apply—though it goes by other names elsewhere.) You may have interpreted our repetition to mean we think you should adopt this practice. At this point, I hope the application is clear.

But bringing OIA Bible study into your life might sound difficult, especially if you haven’t done much personal Bible study before. This approach to God’s Word is deliberate and thorough, so studying a portion of Scripture will take time, especially if the passage is lengthy.

But who has extra time?

Your schedule is already full. Your calendar might resemble an old wineskin containing new wine, set to burst (Matt 9:17). How can you find time for personal Bible study if this method demands so much time?

Bible Intake

Instead of an exclusive focus on Bible study, I suggest you think in terms of Bible intake. With this term I include all the ways we interact with the Bible: reading, studying, memorizing, meditating, and hearing the Bible preached. The lines between these activities can be fuzzy, since starting with one practice might overlap with or lead into another. But all of these categories are important.

Think of Bible intake like the food you eat. The U.S. government urges a balanced diet consisting of foods from five groups, and your Bible intake should also be varied. Your bones might weaken if you ignore dairy, and you may show a spiritual deficiency if you neglect (for example) Bible memorization.

So you should be studying the Bible, because that’s part of a healthy diet of Bible intake. But this doesn’t mean you need to break out the OIA worksheets during every devotional opportunity. Some mornings you could read longer passages of Scripture and meditate on specific truths or promises. Other times you might work on Bible memorization.

What Might This Look Like?

Your devotional life will likely be different than mine. My own practices happen with far less frequency and passion than I would like, but I record them here in case they are helpful.

  • During the two weeks each month when my small group meets, I study the Bible in the morning using the OIA method. I don’t separate my learning from my teaching. I shoot for 30 minutes at a time.
  • In other weeks, I read other parts of the Bible. I follow along with my pastor’s preaching texts or dive into another section of Scripture.
  • Whenever I have devotions, I spend 10 minutes on Bible memorization. I cycle through a review of the chapters I’ve memorized and work on new verses at the end.

Make some time to think seriously about your own devotional practices. What are your priorities? Have you been ignoring any aspect of Bible intake? It’s one thing to read a blog about Bible study, but it’s far more important to make appointments in your life to meet with, learn from, and worship God in his Word.

Strive for Bible intake as often as possible. Make sure not to neglect Bible study. When you study the Bible, I suggest using the OIA method.

Three Final Pieces of Advice

First, remember that there is no Scriptural command to read through the Bible every year. I’m not against reading great quantities of the Bible (or doing so quickly), but I’ve found this goal tends to dominate many Christians’ devotional practices. It produces guilt and crowds out other forms of Bible intake.

Second, our weeks are far more similar to each other than our days are. Establishing weekly devotional rhythms (including devotions-free days) can be more helpful than setting high daily expectations.

Finally, remember the gospel in your devotional life. Consistent devotions do not endear you to God, and inconsistent devotions do not turn the Father away. If you are his child, God’s love for you is full and perfect—he cannot love you any more or less than he does right now. The perfect life and death of Jesus—not any obedience of your own—has secured this for you once and for all.

How to See Clearly When Looking for Jesus in the Old Testament

James Demetrie (2010), Creative Commons

James Demetrie (2010), Creative Commons

When you read the Old Testament, I hope you’re looking for Jesus. Otherwise, you’re in danger of sucking from the fountain without first pushing the button to get the water flowing (John 5:39-40).

But many are afraid of getting it wrong, and for good reason. We see no lack of grumpy scholars waiting eagerly to dispense demerits to the simple, uneducated folk who draw superficial conclusions and chase christological apparitions through the pages of Hebrew Scripture. We outgrew the Alexandrians long ago, and we’re tired of hearing about the blood of Jesus—I mean Rahab’s scarlet cord—every time a newbie gets a hankering to Jesusify his devotional life.

I’ll confess I’ve served my time as one of the grumps. And I’ve been known to chase an apparition or two. Is help available?

Help!

I recently came across a valuable quote about the nature of biblical typology. Before I give you the quote, however, let me define a few terms. Trust me; it’ll be worth it.

  • Typology is the technical term for what we’re talking about. It’s the process of recognizing specific pictures or shadows of Jesus (or his attributes) in the Old Testament.
  • Types are the Old Testament pictures or shadows. Something is typical if it serves as a type.
  • Antitypes are the New Testament realities pictured by the types.
  • To typify is to purposefully put those pictures or shadows there, intending to communicate a deeper reality of something to come.
Len Matthews (2014), Creative Commons

Len Matthews (2014), Creative Commons

So, when Paul says “the Rock was Christ” (1 Cor 10:4), he recognizes typology. The rock from which Moses drew water was a type that pictured Christ the antitype who gives living water. Paul suggests that Moses wrote of this typical Rock in order to typify what Jesus would later do.

Now that you have the lingo, you’re ready for the quote:

A type can never be a type independently of its being first a symbol. The gateway to the house of typology is at the farther end of the house of symbolism.

This is the fundamental rule to be observed in ascertaining what elements in the Old Testament are typical, and wherein the things corresponding to them as antitypes consist. Only after having discovered what a thing symbolizes, can we legitimately proceed to put the question what it typifies, for the latter can never be aught else than the former lifted to a higher plane. The bond that holds type and antitype together must be a bond of vital continuity in the progress of redemption. Where this is ignored, and in the place of this bond are put accidental resemblances, void of inherent spiritual significance, all sorts of absurdities will result, such as must bring the whole subject of typology into disrepute. Examples of this are: the scarlet cord of Rahab prefigures the blood of Christ; the four lepers at Samaria, the four Evangelists. (Geerhardus Vos, Biblical Theology, Carlisle, PA: Banner of Truth, 1948, pp. 145-6)

Vos goes on to use the example of the tabernacle in Exodus. The tabernacle clearly symbolized God’s presence among his people, and this symbol was clear to the original audience of Exodus. We can take that symbol (God dwelling with his people) and look to the New Testament for its development and fulfillment. Jesus is the new tabernacle, the Word become flesh who dwells among us (John 1:14). His body is the new temple (John 2:19-22). He is Emmanuel, God with us (Matt 1:22-23). He is with us to the end of the age (Matt 28:20).

And with his Spirit in us, we are also God’s new tabernacle/temple, both individually (1 Cor 6:19) and corporately (Eph 2:21-22, 1 Tim 3:15). So the Old Testament tabernacle is a type of both Christ and his body, and the pathway to recognizing the type is to first recognize the original symbol.

How do we do this?

Vos is on to something here, but I think he overstates it a bit. He goes too far to require a type to first be a symbol in the Old Testament passage. By his definition, Paul would be wrong about the Rock in 1 Cor 10:4 (since it doesn’t clearly symbolize anything in the book of Exodus).

However, Vos uncovers useful boundaries that prevent us from befriending the deep end of typological interpretation.

  1. Consider the history. OT characters really existed, and OT events really happened. Our interpretation of the OT will go wrong if it treats the history as irrelevant.
  2. Consider the original context. Always ask what the OT passage meant to the original audience. If your interpretation takes you to Christ in a manner wholly divorced from the original meaning, you’re out of bounds.
  3. Fight for the main point. When the main point of the OT passage leads you to Christ, many of the details are sure to follow. But when you lead with the details, you might leave the point behind. And when you find Jesus, he’ll send you back where you came from with his trademark “Have you never read…?” (Matt 12:3, 5; 19:4; 21:16, 42; 22:31; Mark 2:25, 12:10, 26; Luke 6:3).

 

Don’t Neglect the Lesser-Known Commands of God

I spend most of my time on this blog focusing on the main points of passages. I’ve said we should fight for them and move our study groups toward them. I’ve even promised to follow this practice on point #2 of this welcome page. But in the interest of balance and completeness, I must take some time this day to highlight some of the lesser-known commands of God.

These commands are no less inspired than the biggies. Of course we should love God and love our neighbor; nobody denies this. But that’s not all God wants us to do! The problem with most churches today is that we’ve lost our commitment to God’s word, and we run afoul of God’s explicit will for our lives. And not only do we practice such things, but we also give hearty approval to those who flout these plain imperatives with a high hand. I’m speaking of all those supposed “Christians,” “pastors,” and “disciples” who ignore the clear and plain sense of commands such as:

  • “Thus says the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel: ‘Drink, be drunk and vomit, fall and rise no more'” (Jer 25:27).
  • “Thus says the Lord God: ‘Set on the pot, set it on'” (Ezek 24:3).
  • “Go, take to yourself a wife of whoredom and have children of whoredom” (Hos 1:2).
  • “Come to Bethel, and transgress; to Gilgal, and multiply transgression” (Amos 4:4).
  • “You are to entice him, and you shall succeed; go out and do so” (1 Kings 22:22).

I mean, who really does these things? I wish I could join a truly faithful church, but I have yet to find one. And we can’t simply claim ignorance of the prophets, either. Jesus was just as clear:

  • “Leave the dead to bury their own dead” (Luke 9:60).
  • “Why were you looking for me?” (Luke 2:49).
  • “Go to the sea and cast a hook and take the first fish that comes up” (Matt 17:27).
  • “Take nothing for your journey” (Luke 9:3).

The Bible is full of imperatives that couldn’t be any clearer. I’d love to hear what other commands have impacted you over the years, so we can encourage one another to greater faithfulness.

And may this first day of April inspire a new season of fruitful Bible study for those among the chosen remnant. “If the Lord of hosts had not left us offspring, we would have been like Sodom and become like Gomorrah” (Rom 9:29).