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What is Biblical Preaching?

BIBLICAL PREACHING

Preaching open Bible image

By Phil A. Newton

George Barna, the guru of statistics among evangelicals, seems to be influencing today’s pulpit more than the apostles Peter and Paul. Barna, whose popularity began with his book Marketing the Church, has assumed the position of telling preachers how they are to preach in order to “reach” certain segments of society. His basic thesis of “marketing the church” continues in his profusion of books. While no one can doubt the importance of Barna’s statistical data to the strategies of evangelicals, it seems that he continues to cross the line of offering data to pontificating changes that ignore God’s Word.

In a recent article in Preaching titled “The Pulpit-meis-ter: Preaching to the New Majority,” Barna departs from his role as a sociologist and assumes the role of professor of preaching. He does state that “the core of our message must never be compromised,” but the paradigm he proposes can lead only to compromise. He suggests that “the new majority,” the group of so-called Boomers and Busters (those born from 1946 to 1964 and 1965 to 1983, respectively), have certain characteristics which prevent them from being attentive to typical, traditional preaching (George Barna, “The Pulpit-meister: Preaching to the New Majority,” Preaching [January/February], 11).

I recognize that preachers must develop their individ- ual styles and that preaching in certain parts of the world may vary due to particular cultural influences. But when the preacher must change his use of language to purge it of any hint of the theological or judgmental, he finds himself positioned to be more of an inspirational speaker than a preacher of God’s Word. When he must keep his sermons under twenty minutes, filling them with stories, avoiding “moral absolutes,” and going light on scriptural references, he has no hope to teach and explain the doctrines of the Word. Barna goes so far as to state, “Increasingly we find that the entire approach of ‘talking at the audience’ is an ill fated form of communication.” He suggests that preaching in any kind of series will not work since the audience may change from week to week (The Pulpit-meister, 11-13).

The question Barna’s article raises for me is this, What are we trying to do in preaching? Are we trying to placate the self-centeredness of man? Or proclaim, “Thus saith the Lord”? Preachers must reckon with the biblical basis of preaching rather than the sociological observations of barn. Barna is fallible. God’s Word is not.

In His classic work Preaching and Preachers, Martyn Lloyd-Jones wrote, “The most urgent need in the Christian Church today is true preaching; and as it is the greatest and most urgent need in the Church, it is obviously the greatest need in the world also.” (Martyn Lloyd-Jones, Preaching and Preachers [Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan, 1971], 9). Assuredly, Lloyd-Jones did not have drama, entertainment, or pulpit chats in mind when he pressed the need for “true preaching.” In his mind, true preaching was nothing less than the exposition of God’s Word in the power of the Holy Spirit. “What is preaching?” Lloyd-Jones queried:

Logic on fire! Eloquent reason! Are these contradictions? Of course not. Reason concerning this Truth ought to be mightily eloquent, as you see in the case of the Apostle Paul and others. It is theology on fire. And a theology which does not take fire, I maintain, is a defective theology; or at least the man’s understanding of it is defective. Preaching is theology coming through a man who is on fire (Preaching and Preachers, 97).

The issue in preaching is proclaiming faithfully, accurately, and clearly the Word of God, so that the truth of the Word penetrates the mind to affect the heart, rather than the cleverness of the preacher impressing the hearers. At the core of all a preacher does is to dig deeply into a given text of Scripture, seeking to understand it grammatically, historically, and doctrinally. He must then apply himself, in the power of the Spirit, to let the text speak through him. J.I. Packer explained what true preaching is when he wrote:

The true idea of preaching is that the preacher should become a mouthpiece for his text, opening it up and applying as a word from God to his hearers, talking only in order that the text may speak itself and be heard, making each point from his text in such a manner “that the hearers may discern how God teacheth if from thence (J.I. Packer, God Has Spoken [Grand Rapids, Michagan: Baker, 1979], 28; Packer quote from Westminster Directory, 1645).

With much grief, I listened recently to a man who filled the pulpit with jokes, clever stories, and talk-show one-liners. But he never proclaimed God’s Word. He read a text and even referred to it, albeit eisegetically. Yet the truths of the Word were never expounded for the congregation to be confronted with the living God and his truth. That is entertainment. it is not preaching in a biblical sense. I fear that such pulpit-abuse (or perhaps I should say, congregation abuse) is all too common.

We must consider what we are attempting to do in the pulpit. It seems that some preachers have a goal to be enjoyed by the hearers rather than to help the hearers understand God’s Word, and, consequently, come to know God in truth. Surely the shallowness in the pew is primarily due to the neglect in the pulpit. I agree with James Montgomery Boice: “The church has to rediscover who God is, come to know him, and fellowship with him. The avenue for that has always been Bible exposition and teaching. There’s no shortcut.”(Quoted by Donald S. Whitney, Spiritual Disciplines Within the Church [Chicago: Moody, 1996], 59). Yet the popular methods of the day fall short of “Bible exposition and teaching.”

What does the Bible have to say about all this? There’s no more forceful nor clear passage addressing the subject of preaching than that which Paul wrote to Timothy in his last epistle:

I solemnly charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who is to judge the living and the dead, and by his appearing and kingdom; preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort with great patience and instruction. For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but wanting to have their ears tickled, they will accumulate for themselves teachers in accordance to their own desires; and will turn their ears from the truth, and will turn aside to myths. But you, be sober in all things, endure hardship, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry  (2 Timothy 4:1-5 [Scripture references are from the New American Standard Bible]).

Whatever the preacher is to be doing in the pulpit, at the very minimum he ought to be dictated by the teaching of God’s Word. Anything less than this is a compromise of his ministry and calling. The example and exhortation of the Bible points back to the priority of preaching. Don Whitney expresses it well:

Regardless of how inefficient some may think preaching is in our technological, mass media society, regardless of how much more exciting or entertaining or even successful other methods may appear, the most effective way of communicating the gospel of Jesus Christ is still through the means God was pleased to choose—preaching (Spiritual Disciplines, 64).

With these things in mind, I offer some of the chief issues raised by the apostle Paul in his exhortation to Timothy.

BIBLICAL PREACHING IS A SOLEMN RESPONSIBILITY

The apostle Paul was nearing the end of his life as he penned these words to Timothy. We can call them “Final Instructions,” for the apostle knew the pressures of the ministry which his young disciple faced. He understood that nothing short of biblical preaching in the power of the Holy Spirit will have the needed effect upon his congregation. So we see him reminding Timothy of the gravity facing him in the discharge of his responsibilities. For Paul, being a preacher was not a matter of fun or popularity. It was a divine calling that must be fulfilled in a God-ordained fashion.

We see that biblical preaching is a solemn responsibility…

Because of the Audience. I solemnly charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus,” he begins. Paul wanted Timothy to understand that while he had a congregation who listened to his preaching, they were not his chief audience. Instead, God and Christ Jesus were.

This is a shocking thought to consider: The God of heaven listens in on the preaching of the pastor! There is no more important thing for me to remember when standing at the pulpit than the fact that the ears of heaven are attuned to every word I speak. The Greek of the prepositional phrase, “in the presence of,” literally means “in the face of” (Gk. enopion). The solemn charge to preach and the discharging of the duty is given “in the face of” God and the Redeemer.

When I first spoke this truth to my own congregation there were a few people who were repulsed at the thought. They argued against such a proposition that God himself is the primary audience in preaching, while the congregation is secondary. Yet this is exactly what Paul spoke to the church at Corinth: “Have you been thinking all along that we have been defending ourselves before you? We are speaking in Christ before God. Everything we do beloved, is for the sake of building you up (2 Corinthians 12:19). The solemnity of preaching demands that the preacher realize that he is speaking “in the sight of God,” yet for the “upbuilding” of the congregation.

Because of the Accountability. The reminder that the Lord Jesus Christ is “to judge the living and the dead” should stem the endless jokes and cute stories that pollute the pulpit as a substitute for preaching. Those seated before the preacher will one day face a Judge who executes his judgement in righteousness. In light of this, can the preacher be trivial in the pulpit? If he truly loves those under his charge, can he neglect to expound the Word of God which addresses the “real need” of sinners rather than offering up sermonic ditties for the “felt needs” of his hearers?

Because of the Appearing. The imminence and gravity of Christ’s return is held before Timothy as he is charged with preaching the Word of God. The preacher of the Word must keep in mind that we do not await clever timetables for Christ to return. He can end this life in a moment. The preacher must so live and so preach as if today is the day of Christ’s appearing. The urgency of the messenger delivering the right message to his hearers is pressed upon us by this charge.

Because of the Authority. The mention of Christ’s kingdom reminds Timothy of the sovereign rule of Jesus Christ over him and the affairs of his King. His duty is to his King. His energies are to be expended for his King. When he stands before a people to deliver the Word of God, he must keep in mind that he stands as a representative of his King. And he is confronting his hearers with the lordship of Christ over their lives as well. His message must not be muddled by a blend of self-help and psychobable. As Paul expressed it: “For we do not proclaim ourselves; we proclaim Jesus Christ as Lord and ourselves as your slaves for Jesus’ sake” (2 Corinthians 4:5).

BIBLICAL PREACHING IS A SPECIFIC RESPONSIBILITY

The three key words of our text, “Preach the word,” drive home to us the specific nature of the preaching task. The preacher must expound the Word of God or else he has failed in his calling. He may be a wonderful administrator, a winsome personal worker, an effective leader. But if he fails to expound the Word of God, he is a failure to his calling to “preach the Word.”

Before considering the specific elements involved in biblical preaching, I offer some observations on the trends that seem to be affecting the hearing of the Word in our congregations. These trends have an impact upon preaching and hearing.

Observations

First, there has been a popularizing and Americanizing of the Word to make it more palatable and acceptable to the masses. Rather than seeking to understand a text as God gave it, the preacher seems to be more intent on appealing to people. Often the goal is to increase church membership. But if that membership is gained at the expense of a genuine work of God through biblical preaching, can it really be worthwhile?

Neither Jesus nor the apostles sought to make the truth of God more palatable to their hearers. They laid the truth out with force and clarity. Paul assessed that his preaching of the cross was “a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to the Gentiles, but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God.” (1 Corinthians 1:23-24). They preached the truth and depended upon the power of God to drive it home to the hearers’ minds and hearts.

Perhaps one of the problems that has necessitated a watering down of truth in the pulpit is a shallow theology of the Holy Spirit. Rather than believing the Spirit of God can penetrate calloused minds with the Word of God, preachers have sought to use clever devices and techniques to persuade hearers. A failure to understand the biblical doctrine of regeneration has led to untold harm in the name of evangelism, all because preachers do not trust the Holy Spirit to do his work.

When we try to use the latest methods of communication we may have a ready audience, but they pay more attention to our cleverness than to the cross. They are impressed with the speaker, not the Savior (1 Corinthians 1:17). While a seminary student, I had two different professors for preaching. One taught biblical exposition. The other encouraged preachers to offer fifteen-to-twenty-minute dramatic presentations to their congregations. One method communicates divine truth. The other draws attention to the preacher.

Second, the attention given to the “electronic preacher” has shortened the attention spans and changed the appetites of congregations. I am thankful for the many wonderful media broadcasts that faithfully proclaim the Word of God. But I am appalled at the equally large number which claim everything but biblical truth. Some media preachers water down truth in order to be popular and secure good ratings. They know what sells. Marketing has driven them to change their content to appeal to the masses in order to gain a larger following.

Another effect of media preachers is that even those who faithfully preach the Word have their messages edited to fit a twenty-five-minute broadcast format. certainly this is understandable with the cost of airtime. But when you add to this the lack of hunger for the purity of the Word and the typical church member’s shortened attention span, you find complaints about Sunday sermons that last longer than thirty minutes.

I have been preaching since 1970. Since I started preaching exposition ally, about 1974, I have found that I will normally spend forty to forty-five minutes for each sermon. I’ve tried to shorten my outlines and change my notes, but nothing seems to have a real effect on my sermon length. And rightly so! The goal should never be just to get through. It should be to expound the text of God’s Word.

A few years ago I found myself facing some disgruntled people who wanted shorter sermons. They really did not care what I preached as long as it was shorter! But I took time to explain, that in my understanding, I could not adequately deal with a text of Scripture in less than forty to forty-five minutes. I found a kindred mind in this with John MacArthur. He wrote:

If you are going to be a Bible expositor, forget the twenty and thirty-minute sermons. You are looking at forty or fifty minutes. In any less than that, you can’t exposit the Scripture. The purpose is not to get it over, but rather to explain the Word of God. My goal is not accomplished because I am brief. My goal is accomplished when I am clear and I have exposited the Word of God (John MacArthur, Jr., Rediscovering Expository Preaching [Dallas, Texas: Word, 1992], 339-40).

Third, proclamation has been replaced by a “talk-show-host” mentality. Because of a fear of offending or due to an audience’s appetite, the “herald” no longer is concerned with speaking “thus saith the Lord,” but “Whatever you want, I’ve got” and “Listen to me and feel good.”

Don Whitney offers a personal vignette that illustrates this problem:

Your soul will only be fed from the Word of God. Without it, you will be undernourished and suffer spiritual marasmus. That’s what happened to a man I’ll call whom I spoke with not long ago. When I talked with Chris he had been in seminary for a few months and was working for a para-church ministry that specializes in teaching the Bible and theology. Prior to enrolling in seminary, he had for several years been associate pastor in charge of drama and music at a church a couple of miles from me where the pulpit ministry was based on topical preaching aimed at people’s felt needs. The church had grown from very few to hundreds in a short time. 

Chris had plenty of budget money and many talented actors, singers, musicians, and other workers as resources for his ministry. Afterward, however, he said to me, “I didn’t know it when I resigned, but the following Sunday I realized that my soul was as dry and withered and empty as it could be. I had been running on the spiritual fumes of the pressure of preparation for each Sunday’s drama and music. I was so busy that I hadn’t realized I had dried up spiritually. It was because I was not hearing faithful, biblical exposition, but topical sermons aimed at felt needs. Everything was based upon marketing strategy. Only when I got away from all that did I realize that I was all be dead spiritually.” (Spiritual Disciplines, 66-67).

I visited a church in Atlanta during a vacation and listened to a sermon that was really more of a “talk.” It could easily have been given at a Kiwanis Club. My children quickly recognized that we had not heard the Word preached, but only a preacher trying to impress his hearers.

My family and I took a relative with us to another church in a southern metropolitan area. The church has a great reputation and has recently constructed a large facility to accommodate its rapid growth. When the service was over I asked the relative, who rarely attends church, what she thought. Without any kind of prompting from me, she said, “I got the feeling that they were trying to entertain me.” I thought that such a comment spoke volumes, especially coming from one is unfamiliar with “felt-needs” or mega-church thinking. The evangelical pulpit has shrunk into the mire of entertainment, thinking that it has to compete on the same level as the world, while hungry hearts are waiting to hear a word from God.

Fourth, we’ve lost our appetite fro truth, and instead would rather appeal to people’s interests or felt needs in our preaching. Rather than longing for truth to set us free or truth to reprove, rebuke, and exhort, or truth to expose the thoughts and intents of the heart, we want something to make us feel better about ourselves. We want something that does not make radical demands or us, something that does not disturb the way we’re living our lives, something that won’t challenge what we want to think or believe the truth to be. This is precisely what the apostle warned:

For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but wanting to have their ears tickled, they will accumulate for themselves teachers in accordance to their own desires; and will turn away their ears from the truth, and will turn aside to myths (2 Timothy 4:3-4).

On one occasion a man came up to me after a service and stated, “I’ve had everything figured out in a neat box, and your preaching challenges it. I don’t like it, but I need it.” The unfortunate thing is that his box kept getting challenged and he ran away from what he admitted that he needed. Biblical preaching will apply the truth of God’s Word so that it judges “the thoughts and intentions of the heart” (Hebrews 4:12). Unless the Spirit of God is working in a person he will have difficulty sitting under a steady diet of biblical exposition (Cf. 1 Corinthians 2:6-16 for the biblical basis of this statement).

Too many fail to have interest in the content of sermons. They want only an appealing delivery so they can feel good about themselves. In contrast to this, Don Whitney has written, “And no matter how enthusiastic or passionate the presentation, it is still the content, not the physical force of delivery that determines faithfulness to the message” (Spiritual Disciplines, 65).

John Piper, who is known for books with superb content, wrote in the introduction of his book, Future Grace, one of the best statements on the need for content rather than mere appeal to itching ears. His statement concerns reading, but it is equally true of preaching:

Every book worth reading beckons with the words, “Think over what I say.” I do not believe that what I have written is hard to understand—if a person is willing to think it over. When my sons complain that a good book is hard to read, I say, “Raking is easy, but all you get is leaves; digging is hard, but you might find diamonds.”

I have tried to write as I preach [and I believe he has succeeded] with a view to instructing the mind and moving the heart… [After giving the example of John Owen’s writings being difficult to grasp, yet for 300 years his twenty-three volumes are still in print and still feeding hungry souls] The lesson is that biblical substance feeds the church, not simplicity (John Piper, Future Grace [Sisters, Oregon: Multnomah, 1995], 16-17).

Fifth, we want the truth to be popular with everyone, enjoyed by sinner and saint alike. Yet this is foreign to both Old and New Testament teaching regarding the truth. Just look at the prophets, apostles, and teachers captured in God’s Word. Was Jeremiah’s preaching popular? Did Paul seek to “win friends and influence people” through his preaching? Did the multitudes persevere with our Lord in His declaration of truth? Paul expressed it well, “For the message about the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God” (1 Corinthians 1:18).

Explanation:

Perhaps a bit of amplification on precisely what is involved in biblical exposition will be helpful. It begins with understanding the text which the preacher desires to expound. I believe that the best approach on selecting a text begins with preaching consecutively through books of the Bible. That way a preacher is forced to deal with the “whole counsel of God,” and his congregation will be exposed to the breadth of biblical truth. The preacher may also deal with topics or themes, but he should always be expository in his approach; that is, he should be a mouthpiece for the text (Rediscovering Expository Preaching, 255ff.)

The preacher must diligently study the text he selects in its contextual setting. This involves a thorough study of the language and grammar used, the historical purpose of the text, the cultural factors that bear weight upon its meaning, and its connection to the balance of Scripture. Reading and meditating upon the text allows the preacher to consider its implications and truths, as well as feeding his own mind and soul with its life-giving truth. Depending upon the illuminating power of the Spirit in the study is essential. He will find that prayer must accompany his study or else he will be engaging in mere academics. He must seek to rightly explain “the word of truth” (2 Timothy 2:15), so that he arrives at a proper interpretation. The use of research tools such as word studies, commentaries, theologies, and sermons can be helpful aids to the preacher in grasping the message of the text.

Once he understands the essential message of his text, the preacher will need to organize the message of the text into salient parts for proclamation. The starting point will be development of a theme, which has been called “the essence of the sermon in a sentence,” or “the proposition,” or “the dominating theme.”At this point I have found it helpful to develop an outline, complete with points and subpoints, all of which help to amplify the dominating theme of the text. This gives structure to the sermon so that the preacher is not guilty of offering an incoherent collection of random thoughts on a text. Some preachers have the mistaken notion that if they can have a nice outline, perhaps fully alliterated, then they have done an exposition until the doctrines and principles of the text are expounded (I have been greatly helped in biblical exposition by numerous books and preachers. My thoughts in this section will reflect their influence, though it would be difficult to footnote every detail. I mention a few: Drs. Stephen and David Olford maintain ongoing, short-term preaching institutes through Encounter Ministries Biblical Preaching Institute in Memphis, Tennessee, (800) 843-2241; they have coauthored a book on expository preaching, Anointed Expository Preaching [Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1998]. John MacArthur’s book, Rediscovering Expository Preaching, is a superb course in sermon-building and the exercise of preaching. Bryan Chappell’s book, Christ-Centered Preaching [Grand Rapids, Michigan: Baker, 1994], offers a thorough self-study approach in preaching).

The preacher’s goal should never be to impress a congregation with his great outlines! He should seek to explain and apply the text to his congregation. He will need to develop supporting thoughts that assist him in the exposition. He should use Scripture that show the relation of the theme and integrating thoughts to the whole of God’s Word. He will need to illustrate certain truths to help with the understanding process, being careful not to allow the illustration to become the sermon (I disagree strongly with my former preaching professor who taught me biblical exposition. He has changed his thinking, even to the point of implying that “illustrations are no longer just the ‘window’ to the sermon, they are becoming the ‘truth’ of the sermon…’They are being used to tell the story…Sermon points are being related to the illustration’” [Facts & Trends, vol. 39, no. 8,4]. While illustrations can be used effectively, preachers will do well to spend more time studying the text instead of trying to find the latest, clever illustration). By all means he will give attention to explaining the doctrines found in the text (Martyn Lloyd-Jones stated in many sermons that unless a preacher deals with doctrines in a text he has not dealt with the text! It is interesting that many Puritans and writers of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries typically highlighted the doctrines found in their expositions. The unfortunate lack of doctrinal preaching in our day has given rise to the weakened state of the Christian church throughout the world. We do well to heed the need to deal thoroughly with doctrine. I commend Lloyd-Jones’ Preaching and Preachers and John Piper’s The Supremacy of God in Preaching [Grand Rapids, Michigan: Baker, 1990], as two volumes to stimulate your thinking on doctrinal preaching).

The task of proclaiming the truths of the text will demand all of the spiritual, emotional, mental, and physical energies the preacher can give to this work. He must approach the proclamation of the Word prayerfully, pleading for the fulness of the Spirit to endue him with power, recognizing that apart from divine power he will flounder in the waters of his own weakness. Tony Sargent has rightly stated, “The most humbling and wonderful experience for any preacher as he enters the pulpit is to know that God is with him. The most frightening for him is to be in the pulpit and feel he is on his own” (Tony Sargent, The Sacred Anointing: The Preaching of Dr. Martyn Lloyd-Jones [Wheaton, Illinois: Crossway, 1994] 79.

Martyn Lloyd-Jones exhorts the preacher to seek the power of the Spirit for preaching God’s Word. “Seek this power, expect this power, yearn for this power; and when this power comes, yield to him. Do not resist. Forget all about your sermon if necessary. Let him loose you, let him manifest his power in you and through you” (The Sacred Anointing, 57).

The Greek word for “to preach” (kerussein) referred to the responsibility given to a herald. He may have been in the service of an ancient king, serving as a herald to deliver the king’s word to the people. His chief responsibility was to faithfully proclaim the words of the one who sent him. He heralded the king’s message with authority. To deny the herald’s message was to deny the king who sent him. It is with this background that we see Paul exhorting the preacher to “herald the word” faithfully and authoritatively as one sent by the King. He must do so with clarity and passion for the message he is delivering. He must not take liberties with the King’s message, but deliver it as the King intends. This is the preacher’s job in the act of proclamation (I again commend Lloyd-Jones’ Preaching and Preachers to address this subject. This book will help remind the preacher of the God-given privilege he has and how he is to carry out his role with holy passion).

BIBLICAL PREACHING IS A SERIOUS RESPONSIBILITY

The apostle gives imperative counsel for the one who preaches the Word. He is to be constant in duty, “be ready in season and out of season.” A preacher cannot let his guard down or neglect his spiritual life. He must live with a constant sense of readiness to deliver the message of God to waiting ears. Many preachers have negated their pulpit ministries by their personal lives. Their love of the world, materialism, flirtatious looks, neglected family life, and laziness have discredited the message they seek to preach. He must exercise discipline of mind and spirit to be constant in his work. Be ready in the pulpit and out of the pulpit!

The preacher must not fear being confrontational in his ministry. He will need to “reprove, rebuke, exhort” as he proclaims God’s Word and as he deals with individuals. An unbelieving woman who had come from a cult background visited our church. She approached me after a sermon on “The Bread of Life” from John 6, with some striking comments. She told me she did not understand why she kept coming back, but she felt compelled. Then she commented, “You don’t give any options.” By that she meant that the preaching has a solitary impact of demand, not a take-it-or-leave-it approach. It confronted her and gave only one option: God’s.

Confrontation is especially needed in a day when people are craving for pre-digested “applications” on the sermon that will make it “relevant” to every day life. What most people mean by “applications” is, “Give me some options so that I can pick and choose what I want to do and not feel bad about what I don’t want to do.” We need not worry about going to extremes on applications. The Holy Spirit is adequate to apply the Word to the hearts of sinners and saints alike!

The preacher has the task of delivering God’s Word “with great patience.” He is to be consistent with his exposition, faithfully delivering God’s Word week-by-week to his people. All will not appreciate the Word, nor will all respond immediately to the challenges applied by the Word proclaimed. Some may even get angry and leave. Yet the preacher is to be patient with his flock, realizing that their spiritual ears must be opened by the Holy Spirit. Some will be dealing with deep-seated sins. Others will feel mired in traditions. Still others will have a poor appetite for spiritual truth, the appetite that must be slowly cultivated. Short pastorates normally do not allow a preacher the time to develop a patient pulpit ministry.

A sermon worth listening to must have content. Content does not mean that the preacher has plenty of stories and interesting quotes. Rather, it means that the sermon deals with doctrine. The word for “instruction” in the NASB translation of 2 Timothy 4:2 is that common New Testament term didache. It is elsewhere translated as “teaching” or “doctrine.” Doctrine must never be confused with impossible-to-understand discussions by intellectuals. Good doctrine is the life of the church; it is the heart of the sermon. It is simply the “teachings” of God’s Word understood in relation to the balance of Scripture. John MacArthur wrote:

A true expository message sets forth the principles or doctrines supported in the passage. True expository preaching is doctrinal preaching (Rediscovering Expository Preaching, 288).

Charles Haddon Spurgeon, the great nineteenth-century Baptist preacher in London, wrote in his Lectures to My Students:

Sermons should have real teaching in them, and their doctrine should be solid, substantial, and abundant. We do not enter the pulpit to talk for talk’s sake; we have instructions to convey important to the last degree, and we cannot afford to utter pretty nothings. Our range of subjects is all but boundless, and we cannot, therefore, be excused if our discourses are threadbare and devoid of substance…[T]he true minister of Christ knows that the true value of a sermon must lie, not in its fashion and manner, but in the truth which it contains. Nothing can compensate for the absence of teaching; all rhetoric in the world is but as chaff to the wheat in contrast to the gospel of our salvation. However beautiful the sower’s basket it is a miserable mockery if it be without seed (Charles Haddon Spurgeon, Lectures to My Students [Pasadena, Texas: Pilgrim Publications, 1990, reprint of the 1881 Passmore and Alabastor edition), 72.

After giving such clear instruction on preaching Paul warns Timothy that everyone will not want such biblical exposition:

For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but wanting to have their ears tickled, they will accumulate for themselves in accordance to their own desires; and will turn away their ears from the truth, and will turn aside to myths (2 Timothy 4:3-4).

When this happens, does the preacher simply give people what they want? This is precisely the error of the current trend of “felt-need” preaching. The unfortunate thing is that many evangelical preachers of good standing have fallen into the trap of delivering cute sermons, warm fuzzes, feel-good messages rather than proclaiming truth. We must be conscientious of the calling of God to herald the truth, so that we do not get pulled into the vortex of congregations wanting to have their “felt-needs” met.

The preacher is not to take an opinion poll on what he should preach. While there are some exceptions, most congregations do not have enough spiritual understanding and discernment to know what they need. They will point to the direction of “felt-needs” every time, simply because they can be comfortable with that kind of preaching instead of having to deal with their own sin and the God-centeredness in true, doctrinal preaching. The problem of which Paul warns is that of falling prey to the “desire” (epithumia) of those who have no desire for enduring sound doctrine.

What is a preacher to do if the congregation cries for “felt-need” preaching? Stand firm. Remember your calling. Remember your Audience. Herald the truth. And seek to patiently instruct people in sound doctrine.

CONCLUSION

Biblical preaching is demanding work. The preacher will find himself expended int he study as he labors over the biblical texts and all the works which address them. He must recognize the adversary’s subtle temptations to neglect the study, water down the message, and appeal to the desires of unregenerate people. he faces a constant warfare, both in the pulpit and out of the pulpit. He will be stretched, challenged, criticized and attacked, while at the same time loved and appreciated by those who hunger for the truth. He must live in dependence upon the power of the Holy Spirit to enable him to “preach the word” and “to be ready in season and out of season.”

Ron Owens has written a song particularly for preachers. I believe its message and refrain are a fitting conclusion:

We’ve a gospel to preach, we’ve a message to share—

The eternal Truth is what we declare.

It’s the power to save, it’s the Spirit sword,

It’s the heart of God, it’s the Living Word.

We must study to learn and not be ashamed

To proclaim God’s truth in the Savior’s name.

With no compromise, but consistently

We must PREACH THE WORD with integrity.

What is made by man will one day be gone,

But God’s Holy Word marches on and on.

Though the flower will fade and grass will die,

The Eternal Word ever will abide.

We must pay the price, we must take our stand

With a heart on fire and God’s Word in hand.

On the brightest day, in the darkest  hour

We must PREACH THE TRUTH in the Spirit’s power.

PREACH THE WORD! PREACH THE WORD!

Won’t you purpose in your hearts to preach the Word?

PREACH THE WORD! PREACH THE WORD!

Won’t you purpose in your heart to PREACH THE WORD?

It’s our call as His disciples to pass on what we’ve received.

Make up your mind and take the time to PREACH THE WORD!

Author: Dr. Phil A. Newton is the Senior Pastor, South Woods Baptist Church, Memphis, Tennessee. He is the author of Elders in the Life of the Church: Rediscovering the Biblical Model for Church Leadership; Elders in Congregational Life: Rediscovering the Biblical Model for Church Lunch; The Way of Faith; and Conduct Gospel-Centered Funerals: Applying the Gospel at the Unique Challenges of Death.

Source: Adapted from Reformation & Revival: A Quarterly Journal for Church Leadership, Volume 9, Number 1, Winter 2000.

 

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BOOK REVIEW: John MacArthur’s “The Truth About the Lordship of Christ”

Jesus is Lord of All, Or He’s Not Lord At All

The Lordship of Christ MacArthur

Book Review By David P. Craig

One of the most troubling aspects of Christianity at the end of the twentieth century on into the twenty-first century has been the bifurcation of God’s sovereignty and man’s free will. There has been a tendency among modern Christians to view God as some sort of “Cosmic Genie” who grants us all our wishes – if we have enough faith. However, the Bible presents a different picture of God. He is a God who cannot be manipulated or controlled by Satan – let alone puny little human beings. God’s soverein nature and character needs to be heeded if we are to take the Scriptures and the Christian life seriously.

In this short book (five chapters) John MacArthur makes a clear case for God’s sovereignty and clearly articulates what that means for our salvation and sanctification. In this book you will get a clear picture of the holiness of God and how His greatness. There is no juxtaposition between His holiness and justice. Because God demands and requires righteousness from His subjects he shows the necessity of Christ’s life, death, and resurrection on our behalf as the sole reason for our salvation.

Personal salvation demands repentance and faith in a sovereign and Holy God who requires nothing less than our submission to His Lordship in all of life. MacArthur clearly articulates who God is, who we are, and how salvation and sanctification manifest themselves biblically in our lives. I recommend this book especially for new Christians who haven’t read a lot of theology or have the time to commit to lengthier treatments on God’s sovereignty, His salvation, or how we can live the Christian life (sanctification).

*This book was given to me free of charge by the Booksneeze Program and I was not required to write a positive review.

 

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An Excellent Defense of The Rapture by Dr. John MacArthur

But we do not want you to be uninformed, brethren, about those who are asleep, so that you will not grieve as do the rest who have no hope. For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so God will bring with Him those who have fallen asleep in Jesus. For this we say to you by the word of the Lord, that we who are alive and remain until the coming of the Lord, will not precede those who have fallen asleep. For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive and remain will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we shall always be with the Lord. Therefore comfort one another with these words.(1 Thessalonians 4:13–18, NASB)

The study of the end times is the consuming passion of many in the church today. Sensational best-selling authors argue that current events fulfill their often dubious interpretations of biblical prophecy. Some claim to have figured out the secret that even Jesus in His Incarnation did not know—the time of the Second Coming (cf. Matt. 24:36). Tragically, some people get so caught up in the study of eschatology that they neglect the basic principles of spiritual growth and evangelism that the Second Coming is designed to motivate.

Of all the end-time events, the Rapture of the church seems to generate the most interest and discussion. The young church at Thessalonica also had questions about that event, so Paul addressed their concerns in this passage. But unlike most modern-day treatises on the subject, Paul’s concern was not just doctrinal, but pastoral. His intent was not to give a detailed description of the Rapture, but to comfort the Thessalonians. The intent of the other two passages in the New Testament that discuss the Rapture (John 14:1–3; 1 Cor. 15:51–58) is also to provide comfort and encouragement for believers, not to fuel their prophetic speculations.

When Paul penned this epistle, the Thessalonians had been in Christ only for a few months. The apostle had taught them about end-time events, such as Christ’s return to gather believers to Himself (e.g., 1:9–10; 2:19; 3:13). They also knew about the Day of the Lord (5:1–3), a time of coming judgment on the ungodly. But some issues about the details of their gathering to Christ troubled them. First, they seem to have been afraid that they had missed the Rapture, since the persecution they were suffering (3:3–4) caused some to fear they were in the Day of the Lord, which they obviously had not expected to experience (2 Thess. 2:1–2). Furthering that misconception were some false teachers, about whom Paul warned in 2 Thessalonians 2:2, “[Do] not be quickly shaken from your composure or be disturbed either by a spirit or a message or a letter as if from us, to the effect that the day of the Lord has come.” But the persecution they were experiencing was not that associated with the Tribulation or the Day of the Lord. It was merely the persecution that all believers can expect (2 Tim. 3:12) and that Paul had warned the Thessalonians about (3:3–4).

The Thessalonians’ fears that they were in the Day of the Lord and thus had missed the Rapture imply that the Rapture precedes the Tribulation. If the Thessalonians knew that the Rapture came at the end of the Tribulation, persecution would not have caused them to fear they had missed it. Instead, that persecution would have been a cause for joy, not concern. If the Day of the Lord had arrived, and the Rapture was after the Tribulation, then that blessed event would have been drawing near.

But of gravest concern to the Thessalonians were those of their number who had died. Would they receive their resurrection bodies at the Rapture, or would they have to wait until after the Tribulation? Would they miss the Rapture altogether? Would they therefore be second-class citizens in heaven? Were their deaths chastisement for their sins (cf. 1 Cor. 11:30)? They loved each other so deeply (cf. 4:9–10) that those thoughts greatly disturbed them. Their concern for those who had died shows that the Thessalonians believed the return of Christ was imminent and could happen in their lifetime. Otherwise, there would have been no reason for their concern. The Thessalonians’ fear that their fellow believers who had died might miss the Rapture also implies that they believed in a pretribulational Rapture. If the Rapture precedes the Tribulation, they might have wondered when believers who died would receive their resurrection bodies. But there would have been no such confusion if the Rapture follows the Tribulation; all believers would then receive their resurrection bodies at the same time. Further, if they had been taught that they would go through the Tribulation, they would not have grieved for those who died, but rather would have been glad to see them spared from that horrible time.

Paul wrote this section of his epistle to alleviate the Thessalonians’ grief and confusion. He was concerned that they not … be uninformed … about those who are asleep and thus grieve as do the rest who have no hope. Since their grief was based on ignorance, Paul comforted them by giving them knowledge.

The phrase we do not want you to be uninformed or its equivalent frequently introduces a new topic in Paul’s epistles (cf. Rom. 1:13; 1 Cor. 10:1; 11:3; 12:1; 2 Cor. 1:8; Phil. 1:12; Col. 2:1). The conjunction but and the affectionate term brethren (cf. (vv. 1, 10; 1:4; 2:1, 9, 14, 17; 3:7; 5:1, 4, 12, 14, 25) emphasize the change in subject and call attention to the new topic’s importance. In this case, Paul introduced not only a new subject but also new revelation he had received “by the word of the Lord” (v. 15).

Since it was their primary concern, Paul first addressed the question of those who are asleep. While koimaō (asleep) can be used of normal sleep (Matt. 28:13; Luke 22:45; Acts 12:6), it more often refers to believers who have died (vv. 13–15; Matt. 27:52; John 11:11; Acts 7:60; 13:36; 1 Cor. 11:30; 15:6, 18, 20, 51; 2 Peter 3:4). In verse 14 those who are asleep are identified as “the dead in Christ.” The present tense participle koimōmenōn (v. 13) refers to those who are continually falling asleep as a regular course of life in the church. They had grown increasingly concerned as their fellow believers continued to die.

It is important to remember that in the New Testament “sleep” applies only to the body, never to the soul. “Soul sleep,” the false teaching that the souls of the dead are in a state of unconscious existence in the afterlife, is foreign to Scripture. In 2 Corinthians 5:8 Paul wrote that he “prefer[red] rather to be absent from the body and to be at home with the Lord,” while in Philippians 1:23 he expressed his “desire to depart and be with Christ, for that is very much better.” Those statements teach that believers go consciously into the Lord’s presence at death, for how could unconsciousness be “very much better” than conscious communion with Jesus Christ in this life? Jesus promised the repentant thief on the cross, “Truly I say to you, today you shall be with Me in Paradise [heaven; cf. 2 Cor. 12:4; Rev. 2:7]” (Luke 23:43). Moses’ and Elijah’s souls were not asleep, since they appeared with Jesus at the Transfiguration (Matt. 17:3), nor are those of the Tribulation martyrs in Revelation 6:9–11, who will be awake and able to speak to God. After death the redeemed go consciously into the presence of the Lord, while the unsaved go into conscious punishment (Luke 16:19–31).

Paul related this information to the Thessalonians so that they would not grieve. There is a normal sorrow that accompanies the death of a loved one, caused by the pain of separation and loneliness. Jesus grieved over the death of Lazarus (John 11:33, 35), and Paul exhorted the Romans to “weep with those who weep” (Rom. 12:15). However, the apostle did not have that kind of grief in mind here, but grief like the rest who have no hope. In Ephesians 2:12 Paul described unbelievers as “having no hope and without God in the world.” There is an awful, terrifying, hopeless finality for unbelievers when a loved one dies, a sorrow unmitigated by any hope of reunion. Commenting on the hopeless despair of unbelievers in the ancient world, William Barclay writes,

In the face of death the pagan world stood in despair. They met it with grim resignation and bleak hopelessness. Aeschylus wrote, “Once a man dies there is no resurrection.” Theocritus wrote, “There is hope for those who are alive, but those who have died are without hope.” Catullus wrote, “When once our brief light sets, there is one perpetual night through which we must sleep.” On their tombstones grim epitaphs were carved. “I was not; I became; I am not; I care not.” (The Letters to the Philippians, Colossians, and Thessalonians, rev. ed. [Louisville: Westminster, 1975], 203)

Even those pagans who believed in life after death did not have that hope confirmed by the Holy Spirit; they merely clung to it without affirmation from God. But Christians do not experience the hopeless grief of nonbelievers, for whom death marks the permanent severing of relationships. Unlike them, Christians never say a final farewell to each other; there will be a “gathering together [of all believers] to Him” (2 Thess. 2:1). Partings in this life are only temporary.

The Thessalonians’ ignorance about the Rapture caused them to grieve. It was to give them hope and to comfort them that Paul discussed that momentous event, giving a fourfold description of it: its pillars, participants, plan, and profit.

The Pillars of the Rapture

For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so God will bring with Him those who have fallen asleep in Jesus. For this we say to you by the word of the Lord,(4:14–15a)

The blessed hope of the Rapture is not based on the shifting sands of philosophical speculation. Nor is it religious mythology, a fable concocted by well-meaning people to comfort those who grieve. The marvelous truth that the Lord Jesus Christ will return to gather believers to Himself is based on three unshakeable pillars: the death of Christ, the resurrection of Christ, and the revelation of Christ.

The Death of Christ

For if we believe that Jesus died(4:14a)

Ifdoes not suggest uncertainty or doubt, but rather logical sequence. Paul says “since,” or “based on the fact that” we believe that Jesus died certain things logically follow. The apostle’s simple statement summarizes all the richness of Christ’s atoning work, which provides the necessary foundation for the gathering of the church. His death satisfied the demands of God’s righteousness, holiness, and justice by paying in full the penalty for believers’ sins. By virtue of Christ’s substitutionary death, when God “made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him” (2 Cor. 5:21), Christians have been made acceptable to God and thus fit to be gathered into His presence.

Significantly, Paul did not use the metaphor of sleep to refer to Jesus, but says that He died. Jesus experienced the full fury of death in all its dimensions as He “bore our sins in His body on the cross, so that we might die to sin and live to righteousness” (1 Peter 2:24). His death transformed death into sleep for believers. T. E. Wilson notes, “Death has been changed to sleep by the work of Christ. It is an apt metaphor in which the whole concept of death is transformed. ‘Christ made it the name for death in the dialect of the church (Acts 7:60) (Findlay)’ ” (What the Bible Teaches: 1 and 2 Thessalonians [Kilmarnock, Scotland: John Ritchie Ltd., 1983], 45). When believers die, their spirit goes immediately into conscious fellowship with the Lord, while their bodies temporarily sleep in the grave, awaiting the Rapture.

The Resurrection of Christ

and rose again, even so God will bring with Him those who have fallen asleep in Jesus.(4:14b)

The resurrection of Christ indicates that the Father accepted His sacrifice, enabling Him to “be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus” (Rom. 3:26). Paul taught that truth to the Romans when he wrote that “[Christ] was raised because of our justification” (Rom. 4:25). Christ’s resurrection proves that He conquered sin and death, and became the source of resurrection life for every Christian. I. Howard Marshall writes, “The death of believers does not take place apart from Jesus, and hence Paul can conclude that God will raise them up and bring them into the presence of Jesus at the parousia. God will treat those who died trusting in Jesus in the same way He treated Jesus Himself, namely by resurrecting them” (1 and 2 Thessalonians, The New Century Bible Commentary [Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1983], 124).

The phrase even solinks believers’ resurrections inextricably to the resurrection of Christ. In John 14:19 Jesus said, “Because I live, you will live also.” In the most detailed passage on the resurrection in Scripture, Paul wrote that “Christ [is] the first fruits, after that those who are Christ’s at His coming” (1 Cor. 15:23). Earlier in that same epistle, he stated plainly, “Now God has not only raised the Lord, but will also raise us up through His power” (1 Cor. 6:14). In his second inspired letter to the Corinthians, Paul wrote, “He who raised the Lord Jesus will raise us also with Jesus” (2 Cor. 4:14).

To further assuage their fears, Paul reassured believers that God will bring with Him [Jesus] those who have fallen asleep in Jesus. Their fellow believers who died will not miss out on the Rapture but will return with Christ in glory. Some interpret the phrase God will bring to mean that the spirits of dead believers will come from heaven with Christ to meet their resurrected bodies. Others see in it the truth that at the Rapture, God will bring all believers, living and dead, back to heaven with Christ. While the first view is certainly true, the second one seems to be the emphasis of this passage.

What the passage does not teach is that the spirits of dead believers immediately return to earth with Christ for the establishing of the millennial kingdom. That view places the Rapture at the end of the Tribulation and essentially equates it with the Second Coming. It trivializes the Rapture into a meaningless sideshow that serves no purpose. Commenting on the pointlessness of a posttribulational Rapture, Thomas R. Edgar asks,

What can be the purpose for keeping a remnant alive through the tribulation so that some of the church survive and then take them out of their situation and make them the same as those who did not survive? Why keep them for this? [The] explanation that they provide an escort for Jesus does not hold up. Raptured living saints will be exactly the same as resurrected dead saints. Why cannot the dead believers fulfill this purpose? Why keep a remnant alive [through the Tribulation], then Rapture them and accomplish no more than by letting them die? There is no purpose or accomplishment in [such] a Rapture ….

With all the saints of all the ages past and the armies [of angels] in heaven available as escorts and the fact that [raptured] saints provide no different escort than if they had been killed, why permit the church to suffer immensely, most believers [to] be killed, and spare a few for a Rapture which has no apparent purpose, immediately before the [Tribulation] period ends?… Is this the promise? You will suffer, be killed, but I will keep a few alive, and take them out just before the good times come. Such reasoning, of course, calls for some explanation of the apparent lack of purpose for a posttribulational Rapture of any sort.

We can Note the Following:

(1) An unusual, portentous, one-time event such as the Rapture must have a specific purpose. God has purposes for his actions. This purpose must be one that can be accomplished only by such an unusual event as a Rapture of living saints.

(2) This purpose must agree with God’s general principles of operation.

(3) There is little or no apparent reason to Rapture believers when the Lord returns and just prior to setting up the long-awaited kingdom with all of its joyful prospects.

(4) There is good reason to deliver all who are already believers from the tribulation, where they would be special targets of persecution.

(5) To deliver from a period of universal trial and physical destruction such as the tribulation requires a removal from the earth by death or Rapture. Death is not appropriate as a promise in Rev. 3:10.

(6) Deliverance from the tribulation before it starts agrees with God’s previous dealings with Noah and Lot and is directly stated as a principle of God’s action toward believers in 2 Pet. 2:9. (“Robert H. Gundry and Revelation 3:10, ” Grace Theological Journal 3 [Spring 1982], 43–44)

The view that the raptured saints return to earth with Christ also contradicts John 14:1–3:

Do not let your heart be troubled; believe in God, believe also in Me. In My Father’s house are many dwelling places; if it were not so, I would have told you; for I go to prepare a place for you. If I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself, that where I am, there you may be also.

The phrases “My Father’s house” and “where I am” clearly refer to heaven (cf. John 7:34). Jesus promised to take believers back to heaven with Him when He returns to gather His people. There has to be a time interval, then, between Christ’s return to gather His people (the Rapture) and His return to earth to establish the millennial kingdom (the Second Coming). During that interval between the Rapture and the Second Coming, the believers’ judgment takes place (1 Cor. 3:11–15; 2 Cor. 5:10); a posttribulational Rapture would leave no time for that event.

The phrase in Jesus is best understood as describing the circumstances in which the departed saints fell asleep. They died in the condition of being related to Jesus Christ. Paul used essentially the same phrase in 1 Corinthians 15:18 when he wrote of those “who have fallen asleep in Christ.”

By demonstrating God’s acceptance of His atoning sacrifice, the resurrection of Christ buttresses the first pillar on which the Rapture is based, the death of Christ.

The Revelation of Christ

For this we say to you by the word of the Lord, (4:15a)

Paul’s teaching on the Rapture was not his own speculation but direct revelation from God. The phrase this we say to you by the word of the Lord has the authoritative tone of an inspired writer revealing what God has disclosed to him. Some argue that the word of the Lord was something Jesus said while He was here on earth. But there are no close parallels to the present passage in any of the Gospels. Nor is there any specific teaching in the Gospels to which Paul could be alluding. Although the Lord talked in the Gospels about a trumpet and the gathering of the elect, the differences between those passages and the present one outweigh the similarities, as Robert L. Thomas notes:

Similarities between this passage in 1 Thessalonians and the gospel accounts include a trumpet (Matt. 24:31), a resurrection (John 11:25, 26), and a gathering of the elect (Matt. 24:31) …. Yet dissimilarities between it and the canonical sayings of Christ far outweigh the resemblances …. Some of the differences between Matthew 24:30, 31 and 1 Thessalonians 4:15–17 are as follows: (1) In Matthew the Son of Man is coming on the clouds, … in 1 Thessalonians ascending believers are in them. (2) In the former the angels gather, in the latter the Son does so personally. (3) In the former nothing is said about resurrection, while in the latter this is the main theme. (4) Matthew records nothing about the order of ascent, which is the principal lesson in Thessalonians. (“1 & 2 Thessalonians,” in Frank E. Gaebelein, ed. The Expositor’s Bible Commentary,vol. 11 [Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1979], 276–77)

Nor is it likely that Paul is referring to a saying of Jesus not recorded in the Gospels (cf. Acts 20:35); he does not state or imply that he is directly quoting Christ’s words. Further, in 1 Corinthians 15:51 Paul referred to the Rapture as a mystery; that is, a truth formerly hidden but now revealed. That indicates that Jesus did not disclose the details of the Rapture during His earthly ministry. (He referred to the Rapture in John 14:1–3 in a general, nonspecific sense.) Paul’s teaching on the Rapture was new revelation, possibly given by God through a prophet (such as Agabus; Acts 21:11) but more likely directly to Paul himself. The Thessalonians had apparently been informed about the Day of the Lord judgment (5:1–2), but not about the preceding event—the Rapture of the church—until the Holy Spirit through Paul revealed it to them. This was new revelation, unveiled mystery.

The Rapture, then, does not rest on the shaky foundation of whimsical theological speculation, but on the sure foundation of the death, resurrection, and revelation of the Lord Jesus Christ.

The Participants of the Rapture

we who are alive and remain until the coming of the Lord, will not precede those who have fallen asleep.(4:15b)

Two groups of people will participate in the Rapture: those who are alive at the coming of the Lord and those who have fallen asleep. That Paul used the plural pronoun we indicates that he believed the Rapture could happen in his lifetime. He had a proper anticipation of and expectation for the Lord’s return, though unlike many throughout church history, the apostle did not predict a specific time for it. He accepted Christ’s words in Matthew 24:36, “But of that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but the Father alone,” and Acts 1:7, “It is not for you to know times or epochs which the Father has fixed by His own authority.” At the same time, Paul understood the parable of the wise and foolish virgins, which illustrates the foolishness of not being constantly prepared for the Lord’s return (Matt. 25:1–13). The Lord expressed the point of that parable when He declared, “Be on the alert then, for you do not know the day nor the hour” (Matt. 25:13; cf. 24:45–51). Paul thus avoided both common errors regarding Christ’s return; he neither got involved in date setting, nor did he push the return of Christ into the distant, nebulous future.

Several other passages express Paul’s fervent hope and expectation that he himself might be among those who are alive and remain until the coming of the Lord. In Romans 13:11 he wrote, “Do this, knowing the time, that it is already the hour for you to awaken from sleep; for now salvation is nearer to us than when we believed.” The salvation of which he wrote was the redemption of the body (Rom. 8:23) that takes place when Christ returns. In verse 12 Paul added, “The night [of man’s sin and Satan’s rule] is almost gone, and the day [of Christ’s return] is near.” He wrote to the Corinthians, “Now these things happened to them as an example, and they were written for our instruction, upon whom the ends of the ages have come” (1 Cor. 10:11). Paul knew he was in the messianic age, the period between Christ’s first and second comings, the last days of human history. He likely had no idea that they would last as long as they have. Later in that epistle, Paul, as he does here in 1 Thessalonians, includes himself among those who might still be alive at the Rapture: “Behold, I tell you a mystery; we will not all sleep, but we will all be changed, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet; for the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed” (1 Cor. 15:51–52). As he concluded that letter Paul wrote, “If anyone does not love the Lord, he is to be accursed. Maranatha” (1 Cor. 16:22). Maranatha comes from two Aramaic words that mean “Oh Lord, come!” and expresses Paul’s strong hope that the Lord would return soon. Earlier in this epistle, he commended the Thessalonians for waiting “for His Son from heaven” (1:10). He expressed his desire for them that God “may establish [their] hearts without blame in holiness before our God and Father at the coming of our Lord Jesus with all His saints” (3:13). Pronouncing a final benediction as he concluded this letter, Paul wrote, “Now may the God of peace Himself sanctify you entirely; and may your spirit and soul and body be preserved complete, without blame at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ” (5:23). The apostle wrote to Titus that he was “looking for the blessed hope and the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior, Christ Jesus” (Titus 2:13).

On the other hand, Paul fully realized that he might die before the Rapture. In 1 Corinthians 6:14 he acknowledged that he might be among those resurrected at the Rapture: “Now God has not only raised the Lord, but will also raise us up through His power.” He affirmed to the Philippians his desire that “Christ will even now, as always, be exalted in my body, whether by life or by death” (Phil. 1:20). At the end of his life, sensing his imminent death, he wrote to Timothy, “For I am already being poured out as a drink offering, and the time of my departure has come. I have fought the good fight, I have finished the course, I have kept the faith” (2 Tim. 4:6–7). While acknowledging both possibilities, Paul used we because when he wrote, it was still possible for the Lord to return in his lifetime. By so doing, he conveyed to the Thessalonians his own longing for Christ’s imminent return.

Paul lived in constant expectation of Christ’s return. But the apostle nevertheless reassured the Thessalonians that those of their number who had died would not miss the Rapture, which will also include those who have fallen asleep. Moreover, the living will not precede the dead. They will not take precedence over them or gain an advantage over them. Those who die before the Rapture will in no sense be inferior to those who are alive. All Christians will participate in the Rapture.

The Plan of the Rapture

For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive and remain will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we shall always be with the Lord.(4:16–17)

Having reassured the Thessalonians that their departed loved ones will not miss out on the Rapture, Paul gave a step-by-step description of that event.

First, the Lord Himself will return for His church. He will not send angels for it, in contrast to the gathering of the elect that takes place at the Second Coming (Mark 13:26–27).

Second, Jesus will descend from heaven, where He has been since His ascension (Acts 1:9–11). Earlier in this epistle, Paul commended the Thessalonians because they were waiting “for His Son from heaven, whom He raised from the dead, that is Jesus” (1:10). At his trial before the Sanhedrin, Stephen cried out, “Behold, I see the heavens opened up and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God” (Acts 7:56). The writer of Hebrews said of Christ, “When He had made purification of sins, He sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high” (Heb. 1:3).

Third, when Jesus comes down from heaven, He will do so with a shout. Keleusma(command) has a military ring to it, as if the Commander is calling His troops to fall in. The dead saints in their resurrected bodies will join the raptured living believers in the ranks. The Lord’s shout of command will be similar to His raising of Lazarus, when “He cried out with a loud voice, ‘Lazarus, come forth’” (John 11:43). This is the hour “when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God, and those who hear will live” (John 5:25). The righteous dead of the church age will be the first to rise—a truth that must have greatly comforted the anxious Thessalonians.

Fourth, the voice of the archangel will sound. There is no definite article in the Greek text, which literally reads, “an archangel.” In Jude 9, the only other passage in Scripture that mentions an archangel, the archangel is Michael. Scripture does not say whether or not he is the only archangel (there were seven archangels according to Jewish tradition). Thus, it is impossible to say who the archangel whose voice will be heard at that Rapture is. Whoever he is, he adds his voice to the Lord’s shout of command.

Fifth, to the Lord’s command and the archangel’s voice will be added the sounding of the trumpet of God (cf. 1 Cor. 15:52). Trumpets were used in Scripture for many reasons. They sounded at Israel’s feasts (Num. 10:10), celebrations (2 Sam. 6:15), and convocations (Lev. 23:24), to sound an alarm in time of war (Num. 10:9) or for any other reason it was necessary to gather a crowd (Num. 10:2; Judg. 6:34) or make an announcement (1 Sam. 13:3; 2 Sam. 15:10; 20:1; 1 Kings 1:34, 39, 41). The trumpet at the Rapture has no connection to the trumpets of judgment in Revelation 8–11. It seems to have a twofold purpose: to assemble God’s people (cf. Ex. 19:16–19) and to signal His deliverance of them (cf. Zech. 1:16; 9:14–16).

Sixth, the dead in Christ will rise first. As noted above, the dead saints will in no way be inferior to those alive at the Rapture. In fact, they will rise first, their glorified bodies joining with their glorified spirits to make them into the image of Christ, as the apostle John wrote: “We know that when He appears, we will be like Him, because we will see Him just as He is” (1 John 3:2). Those who were in Christ in life will be so in death; death cannot separate believers from God (Rom. 8:38): “therefore whether we live or die, we are the Lord’s” (Rom. 14:8).

Finally, those believers who are alive and remain will be caught up together with the dead saints in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we shall always be with the Lord. Harpazō (caught up) refers to a strong, irresistible, even violent act. In Matthew 11:12 it describes the taking of the kingdom of heaven by force. In John 10:12 it describes a wolf snatching sheep; in John 10:28–29 it speaks of the impossibility of anyone’s snatching believers out of the hands of Jesus Christ and God the Father; in Acts 8:39 it speaks of Philip’s being snatched away from the Ethiopian eunuch; and in 2 Corinthians 12:2, 4 it describes Paul’s being caught up into the third heaven. It is when living believers are caught up that they are transformed and receive their glorified bodies (Phil. 3:21). “In a moment, in the twinkling of an eye” believers “will be changed” (1 Cor. 15:52), rescued from the grasp of Satan, the fallen flesh, the evil world system, and the coming wrath of God.

The time of the Rapture cannot be discerned from this passage alone. But when it is read with other Rapture texts (John 14:3; Rev. 3:10; cf. 1 Cor. 15:51–52; Phil. 3:2–21), and compared to judgment texts (Matt. 13:34–50; 24:29–44; Rev. 19:11–21), it is clear that there is no mention of judgment at all in the Rapture passages, whereas the others major on judgment. It is therefore necessary to conclude that the Rapture occurs at a time other than the judgment.

It is best, then, to separate the two events. That initiates the case for the Rapture to occur imminently, before the elements of judgment described in Scripture as leading up to the Second Coming in judgment.

Again, no solitary text of Scripture makes the entire case for the pretribulation Rapture. However, when one considers all the New Testament evidence, a very compelling case for the pretribulational position emerges, which answers more questions and solves more problems than any other Rapture position. The following arguments present a strong case in favor of the pretribulation Rapture.

First, the earthly kingdom of Christ promised in Revelation 6–18 does not mention the church as being on earth. Because Revelation 1–3 uses the Greek word for church nineteen times, one would reasonably assume that if the church were on earth rather than in heaven in chapters 6–18, they would use “church” with similar frequency, but such is not the case. Therefore, one can assume that the church is not present on the earth during the period of tribulation described in Revelation 6–18 and that therefore the Lord has removed it from the earth and relocated it to heaven by means of the Rapture.

Second, Revelation 19 does not mention a Rapture even though that is where a posttribulational Rapture (if true) would logically occur. Thus, one can conclude that the Rapture will have already occurred.

Third, a posttribulational Rapture renders the Rapture concept itself inconsequential. If God preserves the church during the Tribulation, as posttribulationists assert, then why have a Rapture at all? It makes no sense to Rapture believers from earth to heaven for no apparent purpose other than to return them immediately with Christ to earth. Further, a posttribulational Rapture makes the unique separation of the sheep (believers) from the goats (unbelievers) at the return of Christ in judgment redundant because a posttribulational Rapture would have already accomplished that.

Fourth, if God raptures and glorifies all believers just prior to the inauguration of the millennial kingdom (as a posttribulational Rapture demands), no one would be left to populate and propagate the earthly kingdom of Christ promised to Israel. It is not within the Lord’s plan and purpose to use glorified individuals to propagate the earth during the Millennium. Therefore, the Rapture needs to occur earlier so that after God has raptured all believers, He can save more souls—including Israel’s remnant—during the seven-year Tribulation. Those people can then enter the millennial kingdom in earthly form. The most reasonable possibility for this scenario is the pretribulational Rapture.

Fifth, the New Testament does not warn of an impending tribulation, such as is experienced during Daniel’s seventieth week, for church-age believers. It does warn of error and false prophets (Acts 20:29–30; 2 Peter 2:1; 1 John 4:1–3), against ungodly living (Eph. 4:25–5:7; 1 Thess. 4:3–8; Heb. 12:1), and of present tribulation (1 Thess. 2:14–16; 2 Thess. 1:4; all of 2 Peter). Thus it is incongruous that the New Testament would be silent concerning such a traumatic change as Daniel’s seventieth week if posttribulationism were true.

Sixth, Paul’s instructions here to the Thessalonians demand a pretribulational Rapture because, if Paul were teaching them posttribulationism, one would expect them to rejoice that loved ones were home with the Lord and spared the horrors of the Tribulation. But, in actuality, the Thessalonians grieved. In addition, with a posttribulational teaching one would expect them to sorrow over their own impending trial and inquire about their future doom; however, they expressed no such dread or questioning. Further, one might expect Paul to instruct and exhort them concerning such a supreme test as the Tribulation, but Paul wrote only about the hope of the Rapture.

Seventh, the sequence of events at Christ’s coming following the Tribulation demands a pretribulational Rapture. A comparing and contrasting of Rapture passages with Second Coming passages yields strong indicators that the Rapture could not be posttribulational.

For example:

(a) at the Rapture, Christ gathers His own (vv. 16–17 of the present passage), but at the Second Coming, angels gather the elect (Matt. 24:31);

(b) at the Rapture, resurrection is prominent (vv. 15–16 of the present passage), but regarding the Second Coming, Scripture does not mention the resurrection;

(c) at the Rapture, Christ comes to reward believers (v. 17 of the present passage), but at the Second Coming, Christ comes to judge the earth (Matt. 25:31–46);

(d) at the Rapture, the Lord snatches away true believers from the earth (vv. 15–17 of the present passage), but at the Second Coming, He takes away unbelievers (Matt. 24:37–41);

(e) at the Rapture, unbelievers remain on the earth, whereas at the Second Coming, believers remain on the earth;

(f) concerning the Rapture, Scripture does not mention the establishment of Christ’s kingdom, but at His second coming, Christ sets up His kingdom; and

(g) at the Rapture, believers will receive glorified bodies, whereas at the Second Coming, no one will receive glorified bodies.

Eighth, certain of Jesus’ teachings demand a pretribulational Rapture. For instance, the parable of the wheat and the tares (Matt. 13:24–30) portrays the reapers (angels) removing the tares (unbelievers) from among the wheat (believers) in order to judge the tares, which demonstrates that at the Second Coming, the Lord has unbelievers removed from among believers. However, at the Rapture, He takes believers from among unbelievers. This is also true in the parable of the dragnet (Matt. 13:47–50) and in the discussion of the days of Noah and the description of the nations’ judgment, both in the Olivet Discourse (Matt. 24–25).

Ninth, Revelation 3:10 teaches that the Lord will remove the church prior to the Tribulation. In the Greek, the phrase “I also will keep you from” can mean nothing other than “I will prevent you from entering into.” Jesus Christ will honor the church by preventing it from entering the hour of testing, namely Daniel’s seventieth week, which is about to come upon the entire world. Only a pretribulational Rapture can explain how this will happen.

Thus, the Rapture (being caught up) must be pretribulational, before the wrath of God described in the Tribulation (Rev. 6–19). At the Rapture, living believers will be caught up together with the believers raised from the dead as the church triumphant joins the church militant to become the church glorified. Clouds are often associated in Scripture with divine appearances. When God appeared at Mount Sinai, “The glory of the Lord rested on Mount Sinai, and the cloud covered it for six days” (Ex. 24:16). Clouds marked God’s presence in the tabernacle (Ex. 40:34), the temple (1 Kings 8:10), and at Christ’s transfiguration (Matt. 17:5). At His ascension Christ “was lifted up while they were looking on, and a cloud received Him out of their sight” (Acts 1:9).

Some argue that the word meet suggests meeting a dignitary, king, or famous person and escorting him back to his city. They then argue that after the meeting described in this passage, believers will return to earth with Christ. But such an analogy is arbitrary and assumes a technical meaning for meetnot required by either the word or the context. As noted earlier in this chapter, that explanation also renders the Rapture pointless; why have believers meet Christ in the air and immediately return to earth? Why should they not just meet Him when He gets here? Gleason L. Archer comments, “The most that can be said of such a ‘Rapture’ is that it is a rather secondary sideshow of minimal importance” (Gleason L. Archer, Jr., Paul D. Feinberg, Douglas J. Moo, and Richard Reiter, The Rapture: Pre-, Mid-, or Post-Tribulational? [Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1984], 215). As was also noted earlier in this chapter, a posttribulational Rapture contradicts the teaching of Christ in John 14:1–3 that He will return to take believers to heaven, not immediately back to earth.

The final step in the plan of the Rapture is the blessed, comforting truth that after Christ returns to gather us (believers) to Himself, we shall always be with the Lord.

The Profit of the Rapture

Therefore comfort one another with these words.(4:18)

The benefit of understanding the Rapture is not to fill the gaps in one’s eschatological scheme. As noted at the beginning of this chapter, Paul’s goal in teaching the Thessalonians about the Rapture was to comfort them. The “God of all comfort” (2 Cor. 1:3) grants to all believers the encouraging comfort of knowing that Christ will one day return for them. At that monumental event, the dead in Christ will be raised, join with the living saints in experiencing a complete transformation of body and soul, and be with God forever. Therefore, there was no need for the Thessalonians to grieve or sorrow over their fellow believers who had died. No wonder Paul calls the return of Christ “the blessed hope” (Titus 2:13).

Article above adapted from the commentary by John MacArthur. 1 & 2 Thessalonians. Chicago: Moody Press, 2002, 123-138.

About the Author: Dr.John MacArthur is the pastor-teacher of Grace Community Church in Sun Valley, California. Grace Church has grown from 450 members in 1969, when MacArthur accepted the pastorate, to over 12,000 today. He is also the president of The Master’s College and Seminary in Newhall, California, a prolific author of more than two dozen books, and the speaker on the worldwide radio broadcast, Grace to You, heard over 700 times daily–every half hour, day and night, somewhere around the world. 

The primary emphasis of MacArthur’s ministry has always been the expository preaching and teaching of God’s Word through a verse-by-verse exposition of the Scripture. His studies pay particular attention to the historical and grammatical aspects of each biblical passage. MacArthur’s recently published book, How to Get the Most from God’s Word, released in conjunction with The MacArthur Study Bible, is designed to fill what he sees as “an increased hunger for the meat of the Word.” He assures the reader that the Bible is trustworthy and that an understanding of Scripture is available to everyone. He then provides guidance on how to study the Bible and how to discern the meaning of Scripture for oneself. Dr. MacArthur explains that the book and the Study Bible have been “in the works for 30 years…the product of 32 hours a week, 52 weeks a year…dedicated to the study of God’s Word.” He asserts that “God’s Word is the only thing that satisfies my appetite, but it also arouses an even deeper hunger for more.”

Among MacArthur’s other books are The MacArthur New Testament Commentary series, The Gospel According to Jesus, The Master’s Plan for the Church, Saved Without a Doubt, The Glory of Heaven, Lord Teach Me to Pray, Unleashing God’s Word in Your Life, Safe in the Arms of God, The Second Coming, Why One Way?, and Truth for Today, and Slave: The Hidden Truth About Your Identity in Christ. His books have been translated into Chinese, Czechoslovakian, French, Finnish, Hungarian, Korean, Polish, Romanian, Spanish, and several Indian languages. Though occasionally viewed by some groups as a controversial figure for strong critiques of freudian psychology, trends in the modern charismatic movement as well as the self-esteem movement, John MacArthur is seen by many as a champion of correcting many of the ills of evangelical Christianity. He is also a champion of helping believers grow stronger in their relationship with God through the committed study of the Word and personal commitment to the local church.
MacArthur spent his first two years of college at Bob Jones University, completed his undergraduate work at Los Angeles Pacific College, and studied for the ministry at Talbot Theological Seminary. John and his wife, Patricia, live in Southern California. They have four grown children — Matt, Marcy, Mark, and Melinda–and eight grandchildren.

 

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John MacArthur’s Recommended First 750 Books For an Expositor of God’s Word

The First 750 Books for an Expositor’s Library

After the previous discussion of the importance of a solid library for an expository preacher, it seems appropriate to include a suggested list of materials and thereby identify a model library for one who has this goal. The works listed here are only suggestions. Each person will need to adapt the list to fit his own needs. “Books are like clothes: what fits one person’s needs and style may not fit another person’s at all.” Also, this list is limited to a basic collection in the fields of biblical studies and theology, and does not identify other items that an expositor may wish to acquire. The expositor should acquire a number of important items on current biblical and theological issues to assist him in his study and keep himself current. The purpose of this list is to assist a new generation of aspiring expository preachers in gathering a collection of tools for this worthy task. It includes books which have or will stand the test of time and tries to avoid items based on current theological speculation.

The list has a wider purpose, however. It is for a wide spectrum of readers who are seeking to assemble a well-rounded library. Serious expositors should consider the entire list as a model library. A reasonable goal is to acquire the 750 volumes in ten years. The first items to purchase have been marked with an asterisk (*). These same ones can serve as a basic list for a serious layman or devoted pastor who wishes to accumulate fewer than the proposed 750 for assistance in Bible study. The following are clarifications regarding the list:

1.   Some of the volumes listed under individual commentaries are parts of sets that are also included in the list. They have not been counted twice.

2.   When entire sets are recommended, it is understood that individual volumes within each set are of uneven quality because of a variety of authors. The expositor should sometimes buy selectively from sets with this in mind. In other cases, he should own entire sets so that he has resources on the whole Bible.

3.   The expositor may choose to wait to purchase commentaries on individual books of the Bible until he needs them. He should remember, however, that books are in and out of print and that he may not always have the time or be in the right place to secure good materials. The key to building a good library is a good “want list” carefully pursued over a period of time. Books tend to show up when least expected and often cannot be found when needed! They are often cheaper when the need for them is not so urgent.

4.   The list can also be used as a study guide for those with access to a theological library. It can also be modified and made suitable as a basis for a church library in biblical studies.

I. Bibliographic Tools

Badke, William B. The Survivor’s Guide to Library Research. Zondervan, 1990.

*Barber, Cyril J. The Minister’s Library. Moody, 1985–. 2 vols. plus supplements.

*Barker, Kenneth L., Bruce K. Waltke, Roy B. Zuck. Bibliography for Old Testament Exegesis and Exposition. Dallas Theological Seminary, 1979.

Bollier, John A. The Literature of Theology: A Guide for Students and Pastors. Westminster, 1979.

*Carson, D. A. New Testament Commentary Survey. Baker, 1986.

Childs, Brevard S. Old Testament Books for Pastor and Teacher. Westminster, 1977.

Kiehl, Erich H. Building Your Biblical Studies Library. Concordia, 1988.

Martin, Ralph P. New Testament Books for Pastor and Teacher. Westminster, 1984.

*Rosscup, James E. Commentaries for Biblical Expositors. Author, 1983.

Spurgeon, Charles H. Commenting and Commentaries. Banner of Truth, 1969.

*Wiersbe, Warren W. A Basic Library for Bible Students. Baker, 1981.

II. Bibles

American Standard Version. Nelson, 1901.

The Amplified Bible. Zondervan, 1965.

*King James Version (or Authorized Version). Various publishers.

The Living Bible, Paraphrased. Tyndale, 1971.

*New American Standard Bible. Lockman, 1977.

New English Bible. Oxford/Cambridge, 1970.

*New International Version. Zondervan, 1978.

New King James Version. Nelson, 1982.

New Century Version. Word, 1991.

The New Scofield Reference Bible. Oxford, 1967.

The New Testament in Modern English. Macmillan, 1973.

The NIV Study Bible. Zondervan, 1985.

*Ryrie Study Bible. Moody, 1978.

The Scofield Reference Bible. Oxford, 1917.

III. Biblical Texts

*Aland, Kurt. The Greek New Testament. 3d ed. UBS, 1983.

———. The Text of the New Testament. Eerdmans, 1987.

*Biblia Hebraica Stuttgartensia. Ed. by Karl Elliger and Wilhelm Rudolph; Deutsche Biblestiftung, 1984.

*Bruce, F. F. The Books and the Parchments. Revell, 1984.

*———. The Canon of the Scripture. InterVarsity, 1988.

———. History of the English Bible in English. 3d ed. Revell, 1978.

Greenlee, J. Harold. Introduction to New Testament Textual Criticism. Eerdmans, 1964.

*Harris, R. Laird. Inspiration and Canonicity of the Bible. Zondervan, 1969.

Lewis, Jack P. The English Bible From KJV to NIV, A History of Evaluation. Baker, 1982.

Metzger, Bruce M. The Canon of the New Testament. Oxford, 1987.

———. The Text of the New Testament: Its Transmission, Corruption, and Restoration. Oxford, 1968.

*———. A Textual Commentary on the Greek New Testament. UBS, 1971.

*Nestle-Aland. Novum Testamentum Graece. 26th ed. Deutsche Bibelstiftung, 1979.

*Rahlfs, Alfred. Septuaginta. Wuerttembergische, 1962.

Roberts, B. J. The Old Testament Text and Versions. Wales, 1951.

Swete, Henry B. An Introduction to the Old Testament in Greek. KTAV, 1968.

Wurthwein, Ernst. The Text of the Old Testament. Eerdmans, 1979.

IV. Old Testament Tools

*Armstrong, Terry A., Douglas L. Busby, and Cyril F. Carr. A Reader’s Hebrew and English Lexicon of the Old Testament. Zondervan, 1989.

Botterweck, G. Johannes, and Helmer Ringgren, eds. Theological Dictionary of the Old Testament. Vols. 1–. Eerdmans, 1974–.

*Brown, Francis, Samuel R. Driver, and Charles A. Briggs. A Hebrew and English Lexicon of the Old Testament. Oxford, 1907.

Einspahr, Bruce. Index to Brown, Driver, and Briggs Hebrew Lexicon. Moody, 1977.

*The Englishmen’s Hebrew and Chaldee Concordance of the Old Testament. Zondervan, 1970.

*Even-Shoshan, Abraham. A New Concordance of the Old Testament. Baker, 1989.

Girdlestone, Robert Baker. Synonyms of The Old Testament. Eerdmans.

*Harris, R. Laird, Gleason L. Archer, and Bruce K. Waltke, eds. Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament. 2 vols. Moody, 1980.

Hatch, Edwin, and Henry A. Redpath. A Concordance to the Septuagint and the Other Greek Versions of the Old Testament. 2 vols. Akademische, 1955.

*Holladay, William. A Concise Hebrew and Aramaic Lexicon of the Old Testament. Eerdmans, 1971.

Koehler, Ludwig, and Walter Baumgartner. Lexicon in Verteris Testament Libros. 2 vols. Brill, 1958.

Liddell, Henry G., and Robert Scott. A Greek English Lexicon. 9th ed., rev. by. H. S. Jones and R. McKenzie. Oxford, 1968.

*Owens, John Joseph. Analytical Key to the Old Testament. 4 vols. Baker, 1989–.

Seow, C. L. A Grammar for Biblical Hebrew. Abingdon, 1987.

Unger, Merrill F., and William White. Nelson’s Expository Dictionary of the Old Testament. Nelson, 1980.

Waltke, Bruce K. An Intermediate Hebrew Grammar. Eisenbrauns, 1984.

Waltke, Bruce K., and M. O’Connor. An Introduction to Biblical Hebrew Syntax. Eisenbrauns, 1990.

*Weingreen, Jacob. Practical Grammar for Classical Hebrew. Oxford, 1959.

Wilson, William. Old Testament Word Studies. Kregel, 1978.

V. New Testament Tools

*Abbot-Smith, George. A Manual Greek Lexicon of the New Testament. T. & T. Clark, 1936.

Alsop, John R., ed. An Index to the Revised Bauer-Arndt-Gingrich Greek Lexicon. 2d ed. by F. Wilbur Gingrich and Frederick W. Danker. Zondervan, 1981.

Balz, Horst, and Gerhard Schneider, eds. Exegetical Dictionary of the New Testament. Eerdmans, 1978.

Barclay, William. New Testament Words. Westminster, 1974.

*Bauer, Walter, W. F. Arndt, F. W. Gingrich, and F. W. Danker. A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature. 2d ed. University of Chicago, 1979.

Blass, F. W., A. Debrunner, and Robert W. Funk. A Grammar of New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature. University of Chicago, 1961.

Bromiley, Geoffrey. Theological Dictionary of the New Testament. Ed. by Gerhard Kittel and Gerhard Friedrich. Trans. by Geoffrey W. Bromiley. Abridged in 1 vol. Eerdmans, 1985.

*Brown, Colin, ed. The New International Dictionary of New Testament Theology. 4 vols. Zondervan, 1975–86.

Burton, Ernest DeWitt. Syntax of the Moods and Tenses in New Testament Greek. T. & T. Clark, 1898.

Cremer, Hermann. Biblico-Theological Lexicon of New Testament Greek. 4th ed. T. & T. Clark, 1962.

Dana, H. E., and Julius R. Mantey. A Manual Grammar of the Greek New Testament. Macmillan, 1955.

Gingrich, F. W. A Shorter Lexicon of the Greek Testament. 2d ed. Rev. by Frederick W. Danker. University of Chicago, 1983.

Hanna, Robert. A Grammatical Aid to the Greek New Testament. Baker, 1983.

Kittel, Gerhard, and Gerhard Friedrich. The Theological Dictionary of the New Testament. Trans. by Geoffrey Bromiley. 10 vols. Eerdmans, 1964–76.

Liddell, H. G., and R. Scott, A Greek-English Lexicon. 8th ed. Clarendon, 1897.

*Machen, J. Gresham. New Testament Greek for Beginners. Macmillan, 1923.

Moule, C. F. D. An Idiom Book of the New Testament Greek. Cambridge, 1963.

Moulton, James Hope. A Grammar of New Testament Greek. 4 vols. T. & T. Clark, 1908–.

——— and George Milligan. The Vocabulary of the Greek New Testament Illustrated from the Papyri and Other Non-Literary Sources. Hodder and Stoughton, 1952.

Moulton, William, and A. S. Geden. A Concordance to the Greek Testament. 5th ed. Rev. by H. K. Moulton. T. & T. Clark, 1978.

Richards, Lawrence O. Expository Dictionary of Bible Words. Zondervan, 1985.

*Rienecker, Fritz. A Linguistic Key to the Greek New Testament. Zondervan, 1980.

Robertson, A. T. A Grammar of the Greek New Testament in the Light of Historical Research. Broadman, 1923.

Smith, J. B. Greek-English Concordance to the New Testament. Herald, 1955.

*Thayer, Joseph H. Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament. Zondervan, 1962.

Trench, Richard Chenevix. Synonyms of the New Testament. Eerdmans, 1953.

Turner, Nigel. Christian Words. Nelson, 1981.

———. Grammatical Insights into the New Testament. T. & T. Clark, 1977.

*Vine, W. E., Merrill F. Unger, and William White. An Expository Dictionary of Biblical Words. Nelson, 1984.

*Wingram, George V. The Englishman’s Greek Concordance of the New Testament. 9th ed. Zondervan, 1970.

Zerwick, Max, and Mary Grosvenor. A Grammatical Analysis of the Greek New Testament. Biblical Institute, 1981.

VI. Hermeneutics and Exegesis

Ferguson, Duncan S. Biblical Hermeneutics, an Introduction. John Knox, 1986.

Kaiser, Walter C., Jr. Toward an Exegetical Theology. Baker, 1981.

Mickelsen, A. Berkeley. Interpreting the Bible. Eerdmans, 1963.

*Ramm, Bernard. Protestant Biblical Interpretation. Baker, 1970.

Sproul, R. C. Knowing Scripture. InterVarsity, 1977.

*Tan, Paul Lee. The Interpretation of Prophecy. BMH, 1974.

*Terry, Milton S. Biblical Hermeneutics. Zondervan, 1974.

*Thomas, Robert L. Introduction to Exegesis. Author, 1987.

Traina, Robert A. Methodical Bible Study. Author, 1952.

Virkler, Henry A. Hermeneutics, Principles and Processes of Biblical Interpretation. Baker, 1981

VII. General Reference Works

*Bromiley, Geoffrey W., ed. The International Standard Bible Encyclopedia. 4 vols. Eerdmans, 1979–88.

Buttrick, George A., and K. Crim, eds. The Interpreter’s Dictionary of the Bible. 5 vols. Abingdon, 1962–76.

Douglas, J. D., ed. The New Bible Dictionary. 2nd ed. Tyndale, 1982.

——— and E. E. Cairns, eds. The New International Dictionary of the Christian Church. Zondervan, 1978.

———, ed. New 20th-Century Encyclopedia of Religious Knowledge. Baker, 1990.

Elwell, Walter A., ed. Encyclopedia of the Bible. 2 vols. Baker, 1988.

*———, ed. Evangelical Dictionary of Theology. Baker, 1984.

Ferguson, Sinclair B., David F. Wright, and J. I. Packer. New Dictionary of Theology. InterVarsity, 1988.

Harrison, R. K. Encyclopedia of Biblical and Christian Ethics. Nelson, 1987.

Hastings, James, ed. Dictionary of the Apostolic Church. 2 vols. T. & T. Clark, 1915.

———. Dictionary of the Bible. 5 vols. T. & T. Clark, 1898.

———. Dictionary of Christ and the Gospels. T. & T. Clark, 1906.

McClintock, John, and James Strong, eds. Cyclopedia of Biblical Theological, and Ecclesiastical Literature. 12 vols. Baker, 1981.

*Orr, James, ed. International Standard Bible Encyclopedia. 5 vols. Eerdmans, 1939.

Reid, Daniel G. Dictionary of Christianity in America. InterVarsity, 1990.

*Tenney, Merrill C., ed. The Zondervan Pictorial Encyclopedia of the Bible. 5 vols. 1975.

*Unger, Merrill F. The New Unger’s Bible Dictionary. Rev. and updated edition. Ed. by R. K. Harrison. Moody, 1988.

VIII. Concordances

Anderson, Ken. The Contemporary Concordance of Bible Topics. Victor, 1984.

Elder, F., ed. Concordance to the New English Bible: New Testament. Zondervan, 1964.

Goodrick, Edward, and John Kohlenberger III. The NIV Complete Concordance. Zondervan, 1981.

———. The NIV Exhaustive Concordance. Zondervan, 1990.

Hill, Andrew E., comp. Baker’s Handbook of Bible Lists. Baker, 1981.

*Monser, Harold E. Topical Index and Digest of the Bible. Baker, 1983.

*Nave, Orville J., ed. Nave’s Topical Bible. Nelson, 1979.

The Phrase Concordance of the Bible. Nelson, 1986.

*Strong, James. Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible. Abingdon, 1980.

*Thomas, Robert L., ed. New American Standard Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible. Holman, 1981.

*Torrey, R. A. The Treasury of Scripture Knowledge. Bagster, n.d.

*———. The New Topical Textbook. Revell, n.d.

*Young, Robert., ed. Analytial Concordance to the Bible. Rev. ed. Nelson, 1980.

IX. Works on Archaeology, Geography, and History

Aharoni, Yohanan. The Land of the Bible: A Historical Geography of the Bible. Westminster, 1979.

*———. The Macmillan Bible Atlas. Macmillan, 1977.

Baly, Denis. The Geography of the Bible. New and rev. ed. Harper, 1974.

Barrett, C. K. The New Testament Background: Selected Documents. S.P.C.K., 1958.

Beitzel, Barry J. The Moody Atlas of Bible Lands. Moody, 1985.

Blaiklock, E. M., and R. K. Harrison, eds. The New International Dictionary of Biblical Archaeology. Zondervan, 1983.

Bouquet, A. C. Everyday Life in New Testament Times. Scribner, 1953.

Bruce, F. F. Israel and the Nations. Eerdmans, 1963.

*———. New Testament History. Doubleday, 1971.

*Edersheim, Alfred. Bible History. 2 vols. Eerdmans, 1954.

*———. The Life and Times of Jesus the Messiah. 2 vols. Eerdmans, 1954.

*Gower, Ralph. The New Manners and Customs of Bible Times. Moody, 1987.

Harrison, Roland K., ed. Major Cities of the Biblical World. Nelson, 1985.

*———. Old Testament Times. Eerdmans, 1990.

Heaton, E. W. Everyday Life in Old Testament Times. Scribner’s, 1956.

Jeremias, Joachim. Jerusalem in the Times of Jesus. Fortress, 1969.

Josephus, Flavius. Complete Works. Kregel, 1960.

Lohse, Eduard. The New Testament Environment. Abingdon, 1976.

Merrill, Eugene H. Kingdom of Priests. Baker, 1987.

Metzger, Bruce Manning. The New Testament, Its Background, Growth, and Content. Abingdon, 1965.

Miller, Madeleine S., and J. Lane. Harper’s Encyclopedia of Bible Life. Rev. by Boyce M. Bennett and David Scott. Harper, 1978.

*Pfeiffer, Charles F. The Biblical World. Baker, 1966.

*———. Old Testament History. Baker, 1973.

*——— and Howard F. Vos. The Wycliffe Historical Geography of Bible Lands. Moody, 1967.

Reicke, Bo. The New Testament Era. Fortress, 1968.

Schultz, Samuel J. The Old Testament Speaks. 3d ed. Harper, 1980.

*Tenney, Merrill C. New Testament Times. Eerdmans, 1965.

Thompson, J. A. The Bible and Archaeology. Eerdmans, 1972.

*———. Handbook of Life in Bible Times. InterVarsity, 1986.

Vos, Howard F. Archaeology in Biblical Lands. Moody, 1987.

Wood, Leon. Israel’s United Monarchy. Baker, 1979.

———. The Prophets of Israel. Baker, 1979.

*———. A Survey of Israel’s History. Rev. by David O’Brien. Zondervan, 1986.

Yamauchi, Edwin M. Pre-Christian Gnosticism. 2d ed. Baker, 1983.

X. Survey and Introduction

*Alexander, David, and Pat Alexander. Eerdman’s Handbook to the Bible. Eerdmans, 1973.

Andrews, Samuel J. The Life of Our Lord Upon the Earth. Zondervan, 1954.

*Archer, Gleason L. A Survey of Old Testament Introduction. Rev. ed. Moody, 1974.

*Bruce, A. B. The Training of the Twelve. Zondervan, 1963.

Bruce, F. F. The Letters of Paul and Expanded Paraphrase. Eerdmans, 1965.

———. Paul: Apostle of the Heart Set Free. Eerdmans, 1977.

Bullock, C. Hassell. An Introduction to the Old Testament Poetic Books. Moody, 1988.

Conybeare, W. J., and J. S. Howsen. The Life and Epistles of Saint Paul. Eerdmans, 1954.

Craigie, Peter C. The Old Testament, Its Background, Growth, and Content. Abingdon, 1986.

*Culver, Robert D. The Life of Christ. Baker, 1976.

Farrar, Frederic W. The Life of Christ. 2 vols. Cassell, 1874.

———. The Life and Work of St. Paul. 2 vols. Cassell, 1879.

Foakes Jackson, F. J., and Kirsopp Lake. The Beginnings of Christianity. 5 vols. Macmillan, 1920.

*Freeman, Hobart E. An Introduction to the Old Testament Prophets. Moody, 1968.

*Gromacki, Robert. New Testament Survey. Baker, 1974.

*Gundry, Robert H. A Survey of the New Testament. Zondervan, 1981.

Guthrie, Donald. The Apostles. Zondervan, 1975.

———. Jesus the Messiah. Zondervan, 1972.

*———. New Testament Introduction. Rev. ed. InterVarsity, 1990.

*Harrison, Everett F. Introduction to the New Testament. Eerdmans, 1964.

Harrison, Roland K. Introduction to the Old Testament. Eerdmans, 1969.

*Hiebert, D. Edmond. An Introduction to the New Testament. 3 vols. Moody, 1975–77.

Kaiser, Walter C. Classical Evangelical Essays in Old Testament Interpretation. Baker, 1972.

Kidner, Derek. An Introduction to Wisdom Literature, The Wisdom of Proverbs, Job, and Ecclesiastes. InterVarsity, 1985.

Kistemaker, Simon. The Parables of Jesus. Baker, 1980.

*LaSor, William Sanford, David Hubbard, and Frederic Bush. Old Testament Survey. Eerdmans, 1982.

Morgan, G. Campell. The Crises of the Christ. Revell, n.d.

———. The Parables and Metaphors of Our Lord. Revell, n.d.

———. The Teaching of Christ. Revell, n.d.

Pentecost, J. Dwight. The Words and Works of Jesus Christ. Zondervan, 1981.

Ramsay, William. The Church in the Roman Empire. Baker, 1954.

———. The Cities of Saint Paul. Baker, 1960.

———. Saint Paul the Traveler and Roman Citizen. Baker, 1949.

Robertson, A. T. A Harmony of the Gospels for Students of the Life of Christ. Harper, 1950.

Schultz, Samuel J. The Old Testament Speaks. Harper, 1970.

Scroggie, William Graham. A Guide to the Gospels. Revell, 1948.

*———. Know Your Bible. Pickering, 1940.

———. The Unfolding Drama of Redemption. Zondervan, 1970.

Shepard, J. W. The Life and Letter of Saint Paul. Eerdmans, 1950.

*Tenney, Merrill C. New Testament Survey. Rev. by Walter M. Dunnett. Eerdmans, 1985.

*Thomas, Robert L., and Stanley N. Gundry. A Harmony of the Gospels with Explanations and Essays. Harper, 1978.

———. The NIV Harmony of the Gospels. Harper, 1988.

Trench, R. C. Notes on the Parables. Pickering, 1953.

Unger, Merrill F. Introductory Guide to the Old Testament. Zondervan, 1951.

*———. Unger’s Guide to the Bible. Tyndale, 1974.

Young, Edward J. An Introduction to the Old Testament. Eerdmans, 1960.

XI. Theological Works

*Berkhof, L. Systematic Theology. Eerdmans, 1941.

Bruce, F. F. New Testament Development of Old Testament Themes. Eerdmans, 1968.

Buswell, James Oliver. A Systematic Theology of the Christian Religion. Zondervan, 1962.

Chafer, Lewis Sperry. Systematic Theology. 8 vols. Dallas Seminary, 1947.

*Erickson, Millard J. Christian Theology. 3 vols. Baker, 1983–85.

Feinberg, Charles L. Millennialism: The Two Major Views. 3d ed. Moody, 1980.

Gill, John. Body of Divinity. Lassetter, 1965.

Guthrie, Donald. New Testament Theology. InterVarsity, 1981.

Hodge, Charles. Systematic Theology. 3 vols. Clarke, 1960.

*Kaiser, Walter C. Toward an Exegetical Theology: Biblical Exegesis for Preaching and Teaching. Baker, 1981.

———. Old Testament Theology. Zondervan, 1978.

*McClain, Alva J. The Greatness of the Kingdom. Moody, 1959.

Murray, John. Collected Writings of John Murray. 4 vols. Banner of Truth, 1976–82.

Oehler, Gustav Friedrich. Theology of the Old Testament. Funk and Wagnalls, 1884.

Packer, J. I., ed. The Best in Theology. Vol. 1 of multi-volume series. Christianity Today, 1987–.

Payne, J. Barton. Encyclopedia of Biblical Prophecy. Harper, 1973.

*Pentecost, J. Dwight. Things to Come: A Study in Biblical Eschatology. Zondervan, 1958.

Ridderbos, Herman. Paul: An Outline of His Theology. Eerdmans, 1975.

Ryrie, Charles C. Biblical Theology of the New Testament. Moody, 1959.

Shedd, William G. T. Dogmatic Theology. 3 vols. Zondervan, (reprint) n.d..

Vos, Gerhardus. Biblical Theology. Eerdmans, 1948.

Warfield, Benjamin B. Biblical and Theological Studies. Presbyterian and Reformed, 1968.

———. Selected Shorter Writings of Benjamin B. Warfield. 2 vols. Presbyterian and Reformed, 1970.

XII. One-Volume Commentaries

Guthrie, Donald, J. A. Motyer, A. M. Stibbs, and D. J. Wiseman, eds. The New Bible Commentary: Revised. 3d ed. Eerdmans, 1970.

*Harrison, E. F., and Charles F. Pfeiffer. The Wycliffe Bible Commentary. Moody, 1962.

XIII. Commentary Sets

*Alford, Henry. The Greek Testament. 4 vols. Moody, 1958.

Barclay, William F. The Daily Bible Series. Rev. ed. 18 vols. Westminster, 1975.

Barker, Kenneth L. The Wycliffe Exegetical Commentary. 56 vols. when complete. Moody, 1988–.

Bruce, F. F., ed. New International Commentary on the New Testament. 20 vols. so far. Eerdmans.

Calvin, John. Calvin’s Commentaries. 22 vols. Baker, 1981.

*Gaebelein, Frank E., general ed. The Expositor’s Bible Commentary. 12 vols. when complete. Zondervan, 1978–.

Harrison, R. K., ed. New International Commentary on the Old Testament. 15 vols. so far. Eerdmans.

*Hendriksen, William, and Simon J. Kistemaker. New Testament Commentary. 12 vols. so far. Baker, 1954–.

*Henry, Matthew. Matthew Henry’s Commentary on the Whole Bible. 6 vols. Revell, n.d.

Hubbard, David, and Glenn W. Barker. Word Biblical Commentary. 52 vols. when complete. Word.

*Keil, C. F., and F. Delitzsch. Biblical Commentary on the Old Testament. 11 vols. Eerdmans, 1968.

Lange, John Peter. Commentary on the Holy Scriptures, Critical, Doctrinal and Homiletical. 12 vols. Zondervan, 1960.

Lenski, R. C. H. Interpretation of the New Testament. 12 vols. Augsburg, 1943.

*MacArthur, John. The MacArthur New Testament Commentary. Moody, 1983–.

Meyer, H. A. W. Critical and Exegetical Handbook to the New Testament. 11 vols. Funk and Wagnalls, 1884.

*Morris, Leon, ed. Tyndale New Testament Commentaries. Various eds. 20 vols. InterVarsity.

*Nicoll, William Robertson. The Expositor’s Greek New Testament. 5 vols. Eerdmans, 1970.

Perowne, J. J. S., gen ed. Cambridge Bible for Schools and Colleges. 60 vols. Cambridge, 1880–.

*Robertson, A. T. Word Pictures in the New Testament. 6 vols. Broadman, 1930.

Vincent, Marvin R. Word Studies in the New Testament. 4 vols. Eerdmans, 1946.

*Walvoord, John F., and Roy B. Zuck. The Bible Knowledge Commentary. 2 vols. Victor, 1983.

*Wiseman, D. J., ed. The Tyndale Old Testament Commentaries. 21 vols. so far. InterVarsity.

Wuest, Kenneth S. Wuest’s Word Studies From the Greek New Testament. 3 vols. Eerdmans, 1973.

XIV. Individual Book Commentaries

Genesis

*Davis, John J. Paradise to Prison. Baker, 1976.

Leupold, H. C. Exposition of Genesis. Baker, 1963.

Stigers, Harold G. A Commentary on Genesis. Zondervan, 1976.

Exodus

Bush, George. Notes, Critical and Practical on the Book of Exodus. 2 vols. Klock and Klock, 1976.

Childs, Brevard. The Book of Exodus: A Critical, Theological Commentary. Westminster, 1974.

*Davis, John J. Moses and the Gods of Egypt. 2d ed. Baker, 1986.

Leviticus

Bonar, Andrew. A Commentary on the Book of Leviticus. Zondervan, 1959.

Bush, George. Notes, Critical and Practical on the Book of Leviticus. Klock and Klock, 1976.

*Wenham, Gordon J. The Book of Leviticus. New International Commentary on the Old Testament. Eerdmans, 1979.

Numbers

Bush, George. Notes, Critical and Practical on the Book of Numbers. Klock and Klock, 1976.

Gray, George G. A Critical and Exegetical Commentary on Numbers. International Critical Commentary. T. & T. Clark, 1912.

*Harrison, R. K. The Wycliffe Exegetical Commentary: Numbers. Moody, 1990.

Deuteronomy

*Craigie, Peter C. The Book of Deuteronomy. New International Critical Commentary on the Old Testament. Eerdmans, 1976.

Driver, S. R. A Critical and Exegetical Commentary on Deuteronomy. International Critical Commentary. T. & T. Clark, 1902.

Reider, Joseph. The Holy Scriptures: Deuteronomy. Jewish Publication Society, 1937.

Joshua

Davis, John J. Conquest and Crisis. Baker, 1969.

Pink, Arthur. Gleanings in Joshua. Moody, 1964.

*Woudstra, Marten H. The Book of Joshua. New International Commentary on the Old Testament. Eerdmans, 1981.

Judges

Bush, George. Notes, Critical and Practical on the Book of Judges. Klock and Klock, 1976.

Moore, George F. A Critical and Exegetical Commentary on Judges. International Critical Commentary. T. & T. Clark, 1901.

*Wood, Leon J. Distressing Days of the Judges. Zondervan, 1975.

Ruth

Atkinson, David. The Message of Ruth. InterVarsity, 1983.

Barber, Cyril J. Ruth: An Expositional Commentary. Moody, 1983.

*Hubbard, Robert L. The Book of Ruth. New International Commentary on the Old Testament. Eerdmans, 1988.

Morris, Leon. Ruth, an Introduction and Commentary. Tyndale Old Testament Commentaries. InterVarsity, 1968.

1 & 2 Samuel

Anderson, A. A. Word Biblical Commentary: II Samuel. Word, 1989.

*Davis, John J., and John C. Whitcomb. A History of Israel: From Conquest to Exile. Baker, 1980.

Gordon, Robert P. I & II Samuel: A Commentary. Zondervan, 1986.

Keil, C. F., and F. Delitzsch. Biblical Commentary on the Books of Samuel. Eerdmans, 1971.

Klein, Ralph W. Word Biblical Commentary: I Samuel. Word, 1983.

1 & 2 Kings

DeVries, Simon J. Word Biblical Commentary: I Kings. Word, 1985.

Hobbs, T. R. Word Biblical Commentary: II Kings. Word, 1985.

*Keil, C. F. Biblical Commentary on the Old Testament: The Books of the Kings. Eerdmans, 1971.

Montgomery, James A. The Book of Kings. International Critical Commentary; T. & T. Clark, 1951.

Newsome, James D., ed. A Synoptic Harmony of Samuel, Kings and Chronicles. Baker, 1986.

1 & 2 Chronicles

Braun, Roddy. Word Biblical Commentary: I Chronicles. Word, 1986.

Dillard, Raymond B. Word Biblical Commentary: II Chronicles. Word, 1987.

*Keil, C. F. Biblical Commentary on the Old Testament: The Book of the Chronicles. Eerdmans, 1971.

Wilcock, Michael. The Message of Chronicles. InterVarsity, 1987.

Ezra, Nehemiah, and Esther

Barber, Cyril J. Nehemiah and the Dynamics of Effective Leadership. Loizeaux, 1976.

Cassel, Paulus. An Explanatory Commentary on Esther. Edinburg, 1881.

Keil, C. F. The Books of Ezra, Nehemiah, and Esther. Eerdmans, 1970.

*Kidner, Derek. Ezra and Nehemiah, An Introduction and Commentary. Tyndale Old Testament Commentaries; InterVarsity, 1979.

*Whitcomb, John C. Esther: Triumph of God’s Sovereignty. Moody, 1979.

Williamson, H. G. M. Word Biblical Commentary: Ezra, Nehemiah. Word, 1985.

Job

*Anderson, Francis I. Job. Tyndale Old Testament Commentaries; InterVarsity, 1976.

Delitzsch, Franz. Biblical Commentary on the Book of Job. 2 vols. Eerdmans, 1970.

Dhorme, Edouard. A Commentary on the Book of Job. Nelson, 1967.

Psalms

Alexander, J. A. The Psalms Translated and Explained. Zondervan, n.d.

Leupold, H. C. Exposition on the Psalms. Baker, 1969.

Scroggie, W. Graham. The Psalms. Pickering, 1965.

*Spurgeon, C. H. The Treasury of David. 3 vols. Zondervan, 1966.

Proverbs

*Alden, Robert L. Proverbs. Baker, 1983.

Bridges, Charles. A Commentary on Proverbs. Banner of Truth, 1968.

Delitzsch, Franz. Biblical Commentary on the Proverbs of Solomon. 2 vols. Eerdmans, 1970.

McKane, William. Proverbs. Old Testament Library; Westminster, 1970.

Ecclesiastes

Eaton, Michael. Ecclesiastes: An Introduction and Commentary. InterVarsity, 1983.

*Kaiser, Walter C. Ecclesiastes: Total Life. Moody, 1979.

Leupold, H. C. Exposition of Ecclesiastes. Baker, 1952.

Song of Solomon

Burrowes, George. A Commentrary on The Song of Solomon. Banner of Truth, 1973.

*Carr, G. Lloyd. The Song of Solomon. InterVarsity, 1984.

Durham, James. The Song of Solomon. Banner of Truth, 1982.

Isaiah

Alexander, Joseph A. Isaiah, Translated and Explained. Zondervan, 1974.

Morgan, G. Campbell. The Prophecy of Isaiah. The Analyzed Bible. 2 vols. Hodder and Stoughton, 1910.

*Young, Edward J. The Book of Isaiah. 3 vols. Eerdmans, 1965–72.

Jeremiah

*Feinberg, Charles L. Jeremiah, A Commentary. Zondervan, 1982.

Laetsch, Theodore. Jeremiah. Concordia, 1952.

Morgan, G. Campbell. Studies in the Prophecy of Jeremiah. Revell, 1969.

Lamentations

*Harrison, R. K. Jeremiah and Lamentations. Tyndale Old Testament Commentaries; InterVarsity, 1973.

Jensen, Irving L. Jeremiah and Lamentations. Moody, 1974.

Kaiser, Walter C., Jr. A Biblical Approach to Personal Suffering. Moody, 1982.

Ezekiel

*Feinberg, Charles L. The Prophecy of Ezekiel. Moody, 1969.

Keil, Carl Friedrich. Biblical Commentary on the Prophecies of Ezekiel. 2 vols. Eerdmans, 1970.

Taylor, John B. Ezekiel, An Introduction and Commentary. Tyndale Old Testament Commentaries; InterVarsity, 1969.

Daniel

*Walvoord, John F. Daniel, The Key to Prophetic Revelation. Moody, 1971.

Wood, Leon J. Commentary on Daniel. Zondervan, 1972.

Young, Edward J. The Messianic Prophecies of Daniel. Eerdmans, 1954.

Minor Prophets

*Feinberg, Charles L. The Minor Prophets. Moody, 1976.

Keil, C. F., and Franz Delitzsch. The Twelve Minor Prophets. 2 vols. Eerdmans, 1961.

Laetsch, Theodore. The Minor Prophets. Concordia, 1956.

Pusey, E. B. The Minor Prophets, a Commentary. Baker, 1956.

Matthew

Broadus, John A. Commentary on the Gospel of Matthew. American Baptist, 1886.

Hendriksen, William. The Gospel of Matthew. Baker, 1973.

MacArthur, John F., Jr. The MacArthur New Testament Commentary: Matthew. 4 vols. Moody, 1985–89.

Morgan, G. Campbell. The Gospel According to Matthew. Revell, n.d.

*Toussaint, Stanley D. Behold the King, A Study of Matthew. Multnomah, 1980.

Mark

Hendriksen, William. The Gospel of Mark. Baker, 1975.

*Hiebert, D. Edmond. Mark, A Portrait of the Servant. Moody, 1974.

Morgan, G. C. The Gospel According to Mark. Revell, n.d.

Swete, Henry Barclay. The Gospel According to Saint Mark. Eerdmans, 1952.

Luke

Hendriksen, William. The Gospel of Luke. Baker, 1978.

Morgan, G. Campbell. The Gospel According to Luke. Revell, n.d.

*Morris, Leon. The Gospel According to St. Luke. Tyndale New Testament Commentaries; Eerdmans, 1974.

Plummer, Alfred. A Critical and Exegetical Commentary on the Gospel According to St. Luke. International Critical Commentary; T. & T. Clark, 1922.

John

Hendriksen, William. Exposition of the Gospel According to John. Baker, 1961.

Morgan, G. Campell. The Gospel According to John. Revell, n.d..

*Morris, Leon. Commentary on the Gospel of John. New International Commentary on the New Testament; Eerdmans, 1970.

Westcott, B. F. The Gospel According to Saint John. Eerdmans, 1950.

Acts

Bruce, F. F. The Book of Acts. New International Commentary on the New Testament; Eerdmans, 1956.

*Harrison, Everett F. Acts: The Expanding Church. Moody, 1976.

Kistemaker, Simon J. New Testament Commentary, Exposition of the Acts of the Apostles. Baker, 1990.

Morgan, G. Campbell. The Acts of the Apostles. Revell, n.d.

Romans

*Cranfield, C. E. B. A Critical and Exegetical Commentary on the Epistle to the Romans. 2 vols. International Critical Commentary; T. & T. Clark, 1975–77.

Lloyd-Jones, D. Martyn. Romans. 6 vols. Zondervan, 1971–76.

MacArthur, John F., Jr. The MacArthur New Testament Commentary: Romans. Multi-volume. Moody, 1991–.

McClain, Alva J. Romans, the Gospel of God’s Grace. Moody, 1973.

Murray, John. The Epistle to the Romans. New International Commentary on the New Testament; Eerdmans, 1968.

1 Corinthians

*Fee, Gordon D. The First Epistle to the Corinthians. New International Commentary on the New Testament; Eerdmans, 1987.

Godet, Franz. Commentary on the First Epistle to the Corinthians. Zondervan, 1957.

MacArthur, John F., Jr. The MacArthur New Testament Commentary: 1 Corinthians. Moody, 1984.

Robertson, Archibald, and A. Plummer. A Critical and Exegetical Commentary on the First Epistle to the Corinthians. International Critical Commentary; T. & T. Clark, 1914.

2 Corinthians

*Hughes, Philip E. Commentary on the Second Epistle to the Corinthians. New International Commentary on the New Testament; Eerdmans, 1962.

Kent, Homer A. A Heart Opened Wide: Studies in II Corinthians. Baker, 1982.

Plummer, Alfred. A Critical and Exegetical Commentary on the Second Epistle to the Corinthians. International Critical Commentary; T. & T. Clark, 1915.

Galatians

Bruce, F. F. The Epistle to the Galatians, A Commentary on the Greek Text. Eerdmans, 1982.

*Kent, Homer A., Jr. The Freedom of God’s Sons: Studies in Galatians. Baker, 1976.

Lightfoot, Joseph Barber. The Epistle of St. Paul to the Galatians. Zondervan, 1966.

MacArthur, John F., Jr. The MacArthur New Testament Commentary: Galatians. Moody, 1987.

Ephesians

*Bruce, F. F. The Epistles to the Colossians, to Philemon, and to the Ephesians. New International Commentary on the New Testament; Eerdmans, 1984.

Hendriksen, William. Epistle to the Ephesians. Baker, 1966.

Lloyd-Jones, D. Martyn. Expositions on Ephesians. 8 vols. Baker, 1972–82.

MacArthur, John F., Jr. The MacArthur New Testament Commentary: Ephesians. Moody, 1986.

Salmond, S. D. F. “The Epistle to the Ephesians.” Vol 3. in Expositor’s Greek Testament. Eerdmans, 1970.

Philippians

Hendriksen, William. A Commentary on the Epistle to the Philippians. Baker, 1962.

*Lightfoot, Joseph B. Commentary on the Epistle of St. Paul Philippians. Zondervan, 1953.

Vincent, Marvin R. A Critical and Exegetical Commentary on the Epistles to the Philippians and to Philemon. International Critical Commentary; T. & T. Clark, 1897.

Colossians

*Bruce, F. F. The Epistles to the Colossians, to Philemon, and to the Ephesians. New International Commentary on the New Testament; Eerdmans, 1984.

Hendriksen, William. Exposition of Colossians and Philemon. Baker, 1964.

Lightfoot, Joseph Barber. St. Paul’s Epistles to the Colossians and to Philemon. Zondervan, 1959.

Philemon

See Philippians and Colossians listings, above.

1 & 2 Thessalonians

Hendriksen, William. Exposition of I and II Thessalonians. Baker, 1955.

Hiebert, D. Edmond. The Thessalonian Epistles. Moody, 1971.

Morris, Leon. The First and Second Epistles to the Thessalonians. New International Commentary on the New Testament; Eerdmans, 1959.

*Thomas, Robert L. “1, 2 Thessalonians.” Vol. 11 in Expositor’s Bible Commentary. Zondervan, 1978.

1 & 2 Timothy, Titus

Fairbairn, Patrick. Commentary on the Pastoral Epistles. Zondervan, 1956.

Hendriksen, William. Exposition of The Pastoral Epistles. Baker, 1957.

*Kent, Homer A. The Pastoral Epistles. Moody, 1982.

Simpson, E. K. The Pastoral Epistles. Tyndale, 1954.

Hebrews

Bruce, F. F. The Epistles to the Hebrews. New International Commentary on the New Testament. Rev. ed. Eerdmans, 1990.

Hughes, Philip Edgcumbe. A Commentary on the Epistle to the Hebrews. Eerdmans, 1977.

*Kent, Homer A. The Epistle to the Hebrews. Baker, 1972.

MacArthur, John F., Jr. The MacArthur New Testament Commentary: Hebrews. Moody, 1983.

Westcott, Brooke Foss. The Epistle to the Hebrews. Eerdmans, 1970.

James

Adamson, James B. The Epistle of James. New International Commentary on the New Testament; Eerdmans, 1976.

———. James, the Man and His Message. Eerdmans, 1989.

*Hiebert, D. Edmond. The Epistle of James, Tests of a Living Faith. Moody, 1979.

Mayor, Joseph Bickersteth. The Epistle of St. James. Zondervan, 1954.

1 Peter

*Hiebert, David Edmond. First Peter. Moody, 1984.

Kistemaker, Simon J. Exposition of the Epistles of Peter and of the Epistle of Jude. Baker, 1987.

Selwin, Edward Gordon. First Epistle of Saint Peter. Macmillan, 1961.

2 Peter, Jude

*Hiebert, David Edmond. Second Peter and Jude. Unusual Publications, 1989.

Kistemaker, Simon J. Exposition of the Epistles of Peter and of the Epistle of Jude. Baker, 1987.

Lawlor, George Lawrence. The Epistle of Jude, a Translation and Exposition. Presbyterian and Reformed, 1972.

Mayor, James B. The Epistle of St. Jude and the Second Epistle of St. Peter. Macmillan, 1907.

1, 2, 3 John

Candlish, Robert Smith. The First Epistle of John. Zondervan, n.d.

Findlay, George G. Fellowship in the Life Eternal. Eerdmans, 1955.

*Kistemaker, Simon J. Exposition of the Epistle of James and the Epistles of John. Baker, 1986.

Westcott, Brooke Foss. The Epistles of Saint John. Eerdmans, 1966.

Revelation

Beckwith, Isbon T. The Apocalypse of John. Macmillan, 1919.

*Swete, Henry Barclay. The Apocalypse of St. John. Eerdmans.

Thomas, Robert L. Revelation 1–7, An Exegetical Commentary. Vol. 1 of 2 vols. Moody, 1992.

Walvoord, John F. The Revelation of Jesus Christ. Moody, 1966.

The Book recommendations above from John MacArthur. Rediscovering Expository Preaching. Dallas: Word, 1997, 108-208.

About the Author: Dr. John MacArthur is the pastor-teacher of Grace Community Church in Sun Valley, California. Grace Church has grown from 450 members in 1969, when MacArthur accepted the pastorate, to over 12,000 today. He is also the president of The Master’s College and Seminary in Newhall, California, a prolific author of more than two dozen books, and the speaker on the worldwide radio broadcast, Grace to You, heard over 700 times daily–every half hour, day and night, somewhere around the world. 

The primary emphasis of MacArthur’s ministry has always been the expository preaching and teaching of God’s Word through a verse-by-verse exposition of the Scripture. His studies pay particular attention to the historical and grammatical aspects of each biblical passage. MacArthur’s recently published book, How to Get the Most from God’s Word, released in conjunction with The MacArthur Study Bible, is designed to fill what he sees as “an increased hunger for the meat of the Word.” He assures the reader that the Bible is trustworthy and that an understanding of Scripture is available to everyone. He then provides guidance on how to study the Bible and how to discern the meaning of Scripture for oneself. Dr. MacArthur explains that the book and the Study Bible have been “in the works for 30 years…the product of 32 hours a week, 52 weeks a year…dedicated to the study of God’s Word.” He asserts that “God’s Word is the only thing that satisfies my appetite, but it also arouses an even deeper hunger for more.”

Among MacArthur’s other books are The MacArthur New Testament Commentary seriesThe Gospel According to JesusThe Master’s Plan for the ChurchSaved Without a DoubtThe Glory of HeavenLord Teach Me to PrayUnleashing God’s Word in Your LifeSafe in the Arms of GodThe Second ComingWhy One Way?, and Truth for Today, and Slave: The Hidden Truth About Your Identity in Christ. His books have been translated into Chinese, Czechoslovakian, French, Finnish, Hungarian, Korean, Polish, Romanian, Spanish, and several Indian languages. Though occasionally viewed by some groups as a controversial figure for strong critiques of freudian psychology, trends in the modern charismatic movement as well as the self-esteem movement, John MacArthur is seen by many as a champion of correcting many of the ills of evangelical Christianity. He is also a champion of helping believers grow stronger in their relationship with God through the committed study of the Word and personal commitment to the local church.
MacArthur spent his first two years of college at Bob Jones University, completed his undergraduate work at Los Angeles Pacific College, and studied for the ministry at Talbot Theological Seminary. John and his wife, Patricia, live in Southern California. They have four grown children — Matt, Marcy, Mark, and Melinda–and eight grandchildren.

 

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Can a Person Who Has Committed Suicide Be Saved? By Massimo Lorenzini

One of the most difficult issues I have had to deal with as a pastor is the pain, grief, guilt, and the questions raised by the loved ones left behind in the wake of a suicide. Words to those affected by a suicide close to the loved ones are shallow and typically not very helpful. I hope that Junior Seau’s loved ones have loving and caring shepherding Christians to be there for them, listen to them, and love on them during a very dark time of grief and loss. Massimo Lorenzini (and John MacArthur) has done a good job in the article below addressing one of the most important questions that can be asked about suicide and death. Massimo recounts how he addressed the question above with a mother whose son had committed suicide. I hope that what the Bible has to say about salvation and will be clarifying, and comforting to those who are considering Junior Seau’s tragic death, and their own preparation for life now, and the afterlife. My condolences, prayers, and thoughts are with the Seau family, teammates, coaches, friends, and thousands of appreciative fans. I will never forget Junior’s passion for the game and outstanding skills as one of the best linebacker’s I’ve ever seen.  – Dr. David P. Craig

Can a person who has committed suicide be saved? Below is my response to a woman whose son committed suicide. She said that he professed faith in Christ but allowed depression to overwhelm him and he finally took his own life.

Begin response…

I was very sad to learn of your son’s tragedy. You asked me if you should be worried about his act.

First, this, as you know, is a very difficult question to answer with certainty. In fact, I don’t think it can be answered with absolute certainty. So, though we can make some attempts to determine a person’s spiritual condition, ultimately God is the final judge of a person’s soul.

Second, let me say that I do not believe suicide is the unpardonable sin.

Third, though I don’t believe suicide is the unpardonable sin, I still believe that it is sin. I believe that God is the author of life and it is not within our rights to take any life, even our own.

With regard to your son, I’m not very clear on the nature of your son’s Christian testimony. Let me share with you the marks of genuine saving faith.

 Here are 7 Evidences that neither prove nor disprove one’s faith:

(1) Visible moralityAnd behold, a man came up to him, saying, “Teacher, what good deed must I do to have eternal life?” And he said to him, “Why do you ask me about what is good? There is only one who is good. If you would enter life, keep the commandments.” He said to him, “Which ones?” And Jesus said, “You shall not murder, You shall not commit adultery, You shall not steal, You shall not bear false witness, Honor your father and mother, and, You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” The young man said to him, “All these I have kept. What do I still lack?” Jesus said to him, “If you would be perfect, go, sell what you possess and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me… “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed tombs, which outwardly appear beautiful, but within are full of dead people’s bones and all uncleanness” (Matthew 19:16-21; 23:27).

(2) Intellectual knowledge“For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened… They show that the work of the law is written on their hearts, while their conscience also bears witness, and their conflicting thoughts accuse or even excuse them on that day when, according to my gospel, God judges the secrets of men by Christ Jesus. But if you call yourself a Jew and rely on the law and boast in God…But a Jew is one inwardly, and circumcision is a matter of the heart, by the Spirit, not by the letter. His praise is not from man but from God” (Romans 1:21; 2:15-17, 29).

(3) Religious involvement“Then the kingdom of heaven will be like ten virgins who took their lamps and went to meet the bridegroom. Five of them were foolish, and five were wise. For when the foolish took their lamps, they took no oil with them, but the wise took flasks of oil with their lamps. As the bridegroom was delayed, they all became drowsy and slept. But at midnight there was a cry, ‘Here is the bridegroom! Come out to meet him.’ Then all those virgins rose and trimmed their lamps. And the foolish said to the wise, ‘Give us some of your oil, for our lamps are going out.’ But the wise answered, saying, ‘Since there will not be enough for us and for you, go rather to the dealers and buy for yourselves.’ And while they were going to buy, the bridegroom came, and those who were ready went in with him to the marriage feast, and the door was shut” (Matthew 25:1-10).

(4) Active Ministry“Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’ And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.’ “Everyone then who hears these words of mine and does them will be like a wise man who built his house on the rock” (Matthew 7:21-24).

(5) Conviction of sin“And as he reasoned about righteousness and self-control and the coming judgment, Felix was alarmed and said, “Go away for the present. When I get an opportunity I will summon you.” (Acts 24:25).

(6) Assurance “I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God that you may know that you have eternal life. (1 John 5:13; See entirety of Matthew 23).

(7) Time of Decision“And the ones on the rock are those who, when they hear the word, receive it with joy. But these have no root; they believe for a while, and in time of testing fall away. And as for what fell among the thorns, they are those who hear, but as they go on their way they are choked by the cares and riches and pleasures of life, and their fruit does not mature” (Luke 8:13-14).

Now, here are 9 Proofs of Authentic Faith:

(1) Love for God –  “As a deer pants for flowing streams, so pants my soul for you, O God… And he answered, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind, and your neighbor as yourself… For the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God, for it does not submit to God’s law; indeed, it cannot” (Psalm 42:1; Luke 10:27; Romans 8:7).

(2) Repentance from sin“I acknowledged my sin to you, and I did not cover my iniquity; I said, ‘I will confess my transgressions to the Lord,’ and you forgave the iniquity of my sin… Whoever conceals his transgressions will not prosper, but he who confesses and forsakes them will obtain mercy… For we know that the law is spiritual, but I am of the flesh, sold under sin…For godly grief produces a repentance that leads to salvation without regret, whereas worldly grief produces death…If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. If we say we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us” (Psalm 32:5; Proverbs 28:13; Romans 7:14; 2 Corinthians 7:10; 1 John 1:8-10).

(3) Genuine Humility“The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise… Seeing the crowds, he went up on the mountain, and when he sat down, his disciples came to him. And he opened his mouth and taught them, saying: ‘Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted. Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth. Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied. Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy. Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God. Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God. Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you… But he gives more grace. Therefore it says, ‘God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble’” (Psalm 51:17; Matthew 5:1-12; James 4:6).

(4) Devotion to God’s glory“Glory in his holy name; let the hearts of those who seek the Lord rejoice!… Not to us, O Lord, not to us, but to your name give glory, for the sake of your steadfast love and your faithfulness!… everyone who is called by my name, whom I created for my glory, whom I formed and made… Behold, I have refined you, but not as silver; I have tried you in the furnace of affliction. For my own sake, for my own sake, I do it, for how should my name be profaned? My glory I will not give to another… Thus says the Lord: “Let not the wise man boast in his wisdom, let not the mighty man boast in his might, let not the rich man boast in his riches, but let him who boasts boast in this, that he understands and knows me, that I am the Lord who practices steadfast love, justice, and righteousness in the earth. For in these things I delight, declares the Lord…So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God” (Psalm 105:3; 115:1; Isaiah 43:7; 48:10-11; Jeremiah 9:23-24; 1 Corinthians 10:31).

(5) Continual prayer“And he told them a parable to the effect that they ought always to pray and not lose heart… praying at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication. To that end keep alert with all perseverance, making supplication for all the saints… do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God…First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people, for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way. This is good, and it is pleasing in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth…Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working. Elijah was a man with a nature like ours, and he prayed fervently that it might not rain, and for three years and six months it did not rain on the earth. Then he prayed again, and heaven gave rain, and the earth bore its fruit” (Luke 18:1; Ephesians 6:18; Philippians 4:6; 1 Timothy 2:1-4; James 5:16-18).

(6) Selfless love“Whoever says he is in the light and hates his brother is still in darkness… We know that we have passed out of death into life, because we love the brothers. Whoever does not love abides in death… Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God… A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another” (1John 2:9; 3:14; 4:7; John 13:34-35).

(7) Separation from the world“Now we have received not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, that we might understand the things freely given us by God…You adulterous people! Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Therefore whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God…Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world—the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and pride of life—is not from the Father but is from the world. And the world is passing away along with its desires, but whoever does the will of God abides forever. Children, it is the last hour, and as you have heard that antichrist is coming, so now many antichrists have come. Therefore we know that it is the last hour. They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would have continued with us. But they went out, that it might become plain that they all are not of us…Who is it that overcomes the world except the one who believes that Jesus is the Son of God?” (1Corinthians 2:12; James 4:4; 1 John 2:15-19; 5:5)

 (8) Spiritual growth“As for that in the good soil, they are those who, hearing the word, hold it fast in an honest and good heart, and bear fruit with patience… “I am the true vine, and my Father is the vinedresser. Every branch in me that does not bear fruit he takes away, and every branch that does bear fruit he prunes, that it may bear more fruit. Already you are clean because of the word that I have spoken to you. Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me. I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing. If anyone does not abide in me he is thrown away like a branch and withers; and the branches are gathered, thrown into the fire, and burned… to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ, so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes. Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love” (Luke 8:15; John 15:1-6; Ephesians 4:12-16).

(9) Obedient living“Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven…You are my friends if you do what I command you… but has now been disclosed and through the prophetic writings has been made known to all nations, according to the command of the eternal God, to bring about the obedience of faith… according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, in the sanctification of the Spirit, for obedience to Jesus Christ and for sprinkling with his blood: May grace and peace be multiplied to you… Having purified your souls by your obedience to the truth for a sincere brotherly love, love one another earnestly from a pure heart, since you have been born again, not of perishable seed but of imperishable, through the living and abiding word of God…And by this we know that we have come to know him, if we keep his commandments. Whoever says “I know him” but does not keep his commandments is a liar, and the truth is not in him, but whoever keeps his word, in him truly the love of God is perfected. By this we may know that we are in him” (Matthew 7:21; John 15:14; Romans 16:26; 1 Peter 1:2,22-23; 1 John 2:3-5).

If the first list is true of a person and the second list is false, there is cause to question the validity of a profession of faith. Yet if the second list is true, then the first list will be also.

Now, since I don’t know your son’s testimony I am not in any position to say whether he was a Christian or not. You will have to look at his testimony in light of God’s Word as I have shared with you and attempt to discern this as difficult as it may be.

After doing this, if you believe he possessed genuine faith, then it may be that he made the decision to take his own life in a moment of confusion without really thinking about it. In that case it’s possible that the act does not necessarily show that he was not a true believer. On the other hand, it may be that though your son claimed to be a believer, this final act of suicide demonstrated his true character; that he in fact was not a true believer all along. The act may represent a final act of unbelief and a surrender to despair and hopelessness rather than a confidence in the living God.

Here is how John MacArthur, a very respected Bible teacher today, answers the question: Can one who commits suicide be saved?

Suicide is a grave sin equivalent to murder (Exodus 20:13; 21:23), but it can be forgiven like any other sin. And Scripture says clearly that those redeemed by God have been forgiven for all their sins–past, present, and future (Colossians 2:13-14). Paul says in Romans 8:38-39 that nothing can separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus.

So if a true Christian would commit suicide in a time of extreme weakness, he or she would be received into heaven (Jude 24). But we question the faith of those who take their lives or even consider it seriously–it may well be that they have never been truly saved.

I say that because God’s children are defined repeatedly in Scripture as those who have hope (Acts 24:15; Romans 5:2-5, 8:24; 2 Corinthians 1:10, etc.) and purpose in life (Luke 9:23-25; Romans 8:28; Colossians 1:29). And those who think of committing suicide do so because they have neither hope nor purpose in their lives. Furthermore, one who repeatedly considers suicide is practicing sin in his heart (Proverbs 23:7), and 1 John 3:9 says that “no one who is born of God practices sin.” And finally, suicide is often the ultimate evidence of a heart that rejects the lordship of Jesus Christ, because it is an act where the sinner is taking his life into his own hands completely rather than submitting to God’s will for it. Surely many of those who have taken their lives will hear those horrifying words from the Lord Jesus at the judgment–“I never knew you; Depart from me, you who practice lawlessness” (Matthew 7:23).

So though it may be possible for a true believer to commit suicide, we believe that is an unusual occurrence. Someone considering suicide should be challenged above all to examine himself to see whether he is in the faith (2 Corinthians 13:5). [End of MacArthur's quote]

So, to answer your question, you need to determine as best you can, by God’s Word, as to whether he was a true Christian or merely a counterfeit. This will not be easy, I know. If you are convinced, by God’s Word and not your emotions or any other standard, that he was a true Christian then you may hope to see your son again in Heaven. Let your confidence rest in God and His Word and once you’ve made your determination about your son’s condition, do not allow yourself to be swayed by your emotions or the reaction of others. But in the end, our judgment concerning a person being saved or not is limited and not final. Though, we may have assurance of our own salvation (1 John 5:13), only God can make that final determination on another person’s soul.

“As for you, may the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit, be with you” (2 Cor. 13:14).

Article adapted from Pastor Massimo Lorenzini’s article from http://www.frontlinemin.org/suicide.asp. I have included all Scripture references from the English Standard Version (ESV).

 

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What Are the Basics of Bible Study? By John MacArthur

There is nothing more important for the Christian than to seek Jesus, hear from Him, obey Him, and proclaim Him daily. Few people that I know of have been more faithful in doing these four things than Pastor John MacArthur in our generation. Therefore, who better to write about on how to study the Bible than someone who has been doing it with great passion and great effectiveness for over fifty years. Enjoy this article by Pastor John MacArthur. – Dr. David P. Craig

Personal Bible study, in precept, is simple. I want to share with you 5 steps to Bible study which will give you a pattern to follow:

STEP 1—Reading. Read a passage of Scripture repeatedly until you understand its theme, meaning the main truth of the passage. Isaiah said, “Whom will he teach knowledge? And whom will he make to understand the message? Those just weaned from milk? Those just drawn from the breasts? For precept must be upon precept, precept upon precept, line upon line, here a little, there a little” (Is. 28:9,10).

Develop a plan on how you will approach reading through the Bible. Unlike most books, you will probably not read it straight through from cover to cover. There are many good Bible reading plans available, but here is one that I have found helpful.

Read through the Old Testament at least once a year. As you read, note in the margins any truths you particularly want to remember, and write down separately anything you do not immediately understand. Often as you read you will find that many questions are answered by the text itself. The questions to which you cannot find answers become the starting points for more in-depth study using commentaries or other reference tools.

Follow a different plan for reading the New Testament. Read one book at a time repetitiously for a month or more. This will help you to retain what is in the New Testament and not always have to depend on a concordance to find things.

If you want to try this, begin with a short book, such as 1 John, and read it through in one sitting every day for 30 days. At the end of that time, you will know what is in the book. Write on index cards the major theme of each chapter. By referring to the cards as you do your daily reading, you will begin to remember the content of each chapter. In fact, you will develop a visual perception of the book in your mind.

Divide longer books into short sections and read each section daily for 30 days. For example, the gospel of John contains 21 chapters. Divide it into 3 sections of 7 chapters. At the end of 90 days, you will finish John. For variety, alternate short and long books, and in less than 3 years you will have finished the entire New Testament—as you will really know it!

STEP 2—Interpreting. In Acts 8:30, Philip asked the Ethiopian eunuch, “Do you understand what you are reading?” Or put another way, “What does the Bible mean by what it says?” It is not enough to read the text and jump directly to the application; we must first determine what it means, otherwise the application may be incorrect.

As you read Scripture, always keep in mind one simple question: “What does this mean?” To answer that question requires the use of the most basic principle of interpretation, called the analogy of faith, which tells the reader to “interpret the Bible with the Bible.” Letting the Holy Spirit be your teacher (1 John 2:27), search the Scripture He has authored, using cross-references, comparative passages, concordances, indexes, and other helps. For those passages that yet remain unclear, consult your pastor or godly men who have written in that particular area.

Errors to Avoid – As you interpret Scripture, several common errors should be avoided.

Do not draw any conclusions at the price of proper interpretation. That is, do not make the Bible say what you want it to say, but rather let it say what God intended when He wrote it.

Avoid superficial interpretation. You have heard people say, “To me, this passage means,” or “I feel it is saying. . . .” The first step in interpreting the Bible is to recognize the four gaps we have to bridge: language, culture, geography, and history (see below).

Do not spiritualize the passage. Interpret and understand the passage in its normal, literal, historical, grammatical sense, just like you would understand any other piece of literature you were reading today.

Gaps to Bridge – The books of the Bible were written many centuries ago.

For us to understand today what God was communicating then, there are several gaps that need to be bridged: the language gap, the cultural gap, the geographical gap, and the historical gap. Proper interpretation, therefore, takes time and disciplined effort.

Language. The Bible was originally written in Greek, Hebrew, and Aramaic. Often, understanding the meaning of a word or phrase in the original language can be the key to correctly interpreting a passage of Scripture.

Culture. The culture gap can be tricky. Some people try to use cultural differences to explain away the more difficult biblical commands. Realize that Scripture must first be viewed in the context of the culture in which it was written. Without an understanding of first-century Jewish culture, it is difficult to understand the gospel. Acts and the epistles must be read in light of the Greek and Roman cultures.

Geography. A third gap that needs to be closed is the geography gap. Biblical geography make the Bible come alive. A good Bible atlas is an invaluable reference tool that can help you comprehend the geography of the Holy Land.

History. We must also bridge the history gap. Unlike the scriptures of most other world religions, the Bible contains the records of actual historical persons and events. An understanding of Bible history will help us place the people and events in it in their proper historical perspective. A good Bible dictionary or Bible encyclopedia is useful here, as are basic historical studies.

Principles to Understand

Four principles should guide us as we interpret the Bible: literal, historical, grammatical, and synthesis.

The Literal Principle. Scripture should be understood in its literal, normal, and natural sense. While the Bible does contain figures of speech and symbols, they were intended to convey literal truth. In general, however, the Bible speaks in literal terms, and we must allow it to speak for itself.

The Historical Principle. This means that we interpret in its historical context. We must ask what the text meant to the people to whom it was first written. In this way we can develop a proper contextual understanding of the original intent of Scripture.

The Grammatical Principle. This requires that we understand the basic grammatical structure of each sentence in the original language. To whom do the pronouns refer? What is the tense of the main verb? You will find that when you ask some simple questions like those, the meaning of the text immediately becomes clearer.

The Synthesis Principle. This is what the Reformers called the analogia scriptura. It means that the Bible does not contradict itself. If we arrive at an interpretation of a passage that contradicts a truth taught elsewhere in the Scriptures, our interpretation cannot be correct. Scripture must be compared with Scripture to discover its full meaning.

STEP 3—Evaluating. You have been reading and asking the question, “What does the Bible say?” Then you have interpreted, asking the question, “What does the Bible mean?” Now it is time to consult others to insure that you have the proper interpretation. Remember, the Bible will never contradict itself.

Read Bible introductions, commentaries, and background books which will enrich your thinking through that illumination which God has given to other men and to you through their books. In your evaluation, be a true seeker. Be one who accepts the truth of God’s Word even though it may cause you to change what you always have believed, or cause you to alter your life pattern.

STEP 4—Applying. The next question is: “How does God’s truth penetrate and change my own life?” Studying Scripture without allowing it to penetrate to the depths of your soul would be like preparing a banquet without eating it. The bottom-line question to ask is, “How do the divine truths and principles contained in any passage apply to me in terms of my attitude and actions?”

Jesus made this promise to those who would carry their personal Bible study through to this point: “If you know these things, blessed are you if you do them” (John 13:17).

Having read and interpreted the Bible, you should have a basic understanding of what the Bible says, and what it means by what it says. But studying the Bible does not stop there. The ultimate goal should be to let it speak to you and enable you to grow spiritually. That requires personal application.

Bible study is not complete until we ask ourselves, “What does this mean for my life and how can I practically apply it?” We must take the knowledge we have gained from our reading and interpretation and draw out the practical principles that apply to our personal lives.

If there is a command to be obeyed, we obey it. If there is a promise to be embraced, we claim it. If there is a warning to be followed, we heed it. This is the ultimate step: we submit to Scripture and let it transform our lives. If you skip this step, you will never enjoy your Bible study and the Bible will never change your life.

STEP 5—Correlating. This last stage connects the doctrine you have learned in a particular passage or book with divine truths and principles taught elsewhere in the Bible to form the big picture. Always keep in mind that the Bible is one book in 66 parts, and it contains a number of truths and principles, taught over and over again in a variety of ways and circumstances. By correlating and cross-referencing, you will begin to build a sound doctrinal foundation by which to live.

What Now?

The psalmist said, “Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the ungodly, nor stands in the path of sinners, nor sits in the seat of the scornful; But his delight is in the law of the Lord, and in His law he meditates day and night” (Ps. 1:1,2).

It is not enough just to study the Bible. We must meditate upon it. In a very real sense we are giving our brain a bath; we are washing it in the purifying solution of God’s Word.

“This Book of the Law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate in it day and night, that you may observe to do according to all that is written in it. For then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have good success” (Joshua 1:8).

Here is the spring where waters flow,

To quench our heat of sin:

Here is the tree where truth doth grow,

To lead our lives therein:

Here is the judge that stints the strife,

When men’s devices fail:

Here is the bread that feeds the life,

That death cannot assail.

The tidings of salvation dear,

Comes to our ears from hence:

The fortress of our faith is here,

And shield of our defense.

Then be not like the swine that hath

A pearl at his desire,

And takes more pleasure from the trough

And wallowing in the mire.

Read not this book in any case,

But with a single eye:

Read not but first desire God’s grace,

To understand thereby.

Pray still in faith with this respect,

To bear good fruit therein,

That knowledge may bring this effect,

To mortify thy sin.

Then happy you shall be in all your life,

What so to you befalls:

Yes, double happy you shall be,

When God by death you calls.

(From the first Bible printed in Scotland—1576)

Adapted from the “Introduction” to John MacArthur. ESV MacArthur Study Bible. Wheaton: Crossway Books, 2010.

About the Author: Dr. John MacArthur is the pastor-teacher of Grace Community Church in Sun Valley, California. Grace Church has grown from 450 members in 1969, when MacArthur accepted the pastorate, to over 12,000 today. He is also the president of The Master’s College and Seminary in Newhall, California, a prolific author of more than two dozen books, and the speaker on the worldwide radio broadcast, Grace to You, heard over 700 times daily–every half hour, day and night, somewhere around the world. 

The primary emphasis of MacArthur’s ministry has always been the expository preaching and teaching of God’s Word through a verse-by-verse exposition of the Scripture. His studies pay particular attention to the historical and grammatical aspects of each biblical passage. MacArthur’s recently published book, How to Get the Most from God’s Word, released in conjunction with The MacArthur Study Bible, is designed to fill what he sees as “an increased hunger for the meat of the Word.” He assures the reader that the Bible is trustworthy and that an understanding of Scripture is available to everyone. He then provides guidance on how to study the Bible and how to discern the meaning of Scripture for oneself. Dr. MacArthur explains that the book and the Study Bible have been “in the works for 30 years…the product of 32 hours a week, 52 weeks a year…dedicated to the study of God’s Word.” He asserts that “God’s Word is the only thing that satisfies my appetite, but it also arouses an even deeper hunger for more.”

Among MacArthur’s other books are The MacArthur New Testament Commentary series, The Gospel According to Jesus, The Master’s Plan for the Church, Saved Without a Doubt, The Glory of Heaven, Lord Teach Me to Pray, Unleashing God’s Word in Your Life, Safe in the Arms of God, The Second Coming, Why One Way?, and Truth for Today, and Slave: The Hidden Truth About Your Identity in Christ. His books have been translated into Chinese, Czechoslovakian, French, Finnish, Hungarian, Korean, Polish, Romanian, Spanish, and several Indian languages. Though occasionally viewed by some groups as a controversial figure for strong critiques of freudian psychology, trends in the modern charismatic movement as well as the self-esteem movement, John MacArthur is seen by many as a champion of correcting many of the ills of evangelical Christianity. He is also a champion of helping believers grow stronger in their relationship with God through the committed study of the Word and personal commitment to the local church.
MacArthur spent his first two years of college at Bob Jones University, completed his undergraduate work at Los Angeles Pacific College, and studied for the ministry at Talbot Theological Seminary. John and his wife, Patricia, live in Southern California. They have four grown children — Matt, Marcy, Mark, and Melinda–and eight grandchildren.

 

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World Renowned Classical Guitarist Shares How Christ Changed His Life

Christopher Parkening: Life Story and Christian Testimony  


For over a quarter century, I have been known in the classical music world as a concert guitarist, following the tradition of the great Spanish guitarist Andrés Segovia. However, there was a time in my life when I stopped concertizing and recording, and even gave up practicing the instrument. Apart from a small amount of teaching at Montana State University, I quit the guitar completely. This is the story of why I decided to perform once again.

Growing Up in Los Angeles

I grew up in Los Angeles and started playing the guitar at the age of 11, inspired by my cousin, Jack Marshall, who was staff guitarist at MGM Studios. I loved the way he played the guitar, and I asked him about studying the instrument. He recommended that I learn classical technique first to establish solid technical skills. He also suggested I purchase the recordings of Andrés Segovia, the greatest guitarist in the world. I was so impressed with Segovia’s playing that I started classical, loved it, and stayed with it.

Even before I began playing the guitar, I had a great love of the outdoors, in particular, fly-fishing for trout. My dad taught me the art of dry fly-fishing when I was six years old. The most enjoyable times of my life were spent on a trout stream in the High Sierras of Northern California. My goal in life was to some day own my own ranch with my own private trout stream.

As I grew up, I became convinced that my aim should be to make a lot of money, retire early and enjoy the good life. Since my father had retired at 47, I decided that 30 would be a good retirement age for me. And as I became more proficient with the guitar, I wondered if my musical ability might somehow help me achieve that goal.

Working Toward Early Retirement

I grew up in a home that taught me the value of hard work and discipline. With my father’s encouragement, I would get up at 5:00 a.m. and practice for an hour and a half before school and again in the afternoon. You can imagine what a conflict that created for a young man with a keen interest in sports.

However, with the support of my parents, the hard work began to pay off. Four years later, at age 15, I was invited to attend Andrés Segovia’s first United States master class held at the University of California at Berkeley. It was a great honor to play for the man who had inspired me for so many years. He told me I had the potential for a wonderful career with the classical guitar and encouraged me to work “very hard.” It was my good fortune to continue private study with Segovia and later, when I attended the University of Southern California, to study musical interpretation with the world renowned cellist Gregor Piatigorsky.

At age 19, I signed with Capitol Records for a series of six albums, and was asked to start a guitar department at the University of Southern California. The following year I signed with Columbia Artists Management for a rigorous concert schedule touring the United States, Canada, Europe, and Asia, eventually performing over 90 concerts a year!

Needless to say, as I added a grueling concert schedule to my teaching and recording obligations, my life became ever more stressful. Frankly, I was miserable on tour. I hated the hotel rooms, the airplanes, the monotony of one concert after the next. But, I thought, There will come a day when I will be happy. I’ll have my own ranch with my own trout stream and I can retire. I can do what I want to do, go where I want to go, and be content. And that was the goal I pursued.

At 30, I achieved my goal. I stopped playing the guitar, I found a ranch with a beautiful trout stream in Montana, and I moved there from Southern California. I called Capitol Records, USC, and Columbia Artists Management to thank them, and to let them know that I wouldn’t be playing the guitar anymore. I had achieved my life’s dream.

For the next four years I was doing everything I wanted to do. I was fishing to my heart’s content, learning every trout stream in the area, and going back to Southern California in the winter to escape the snow and cold weather. I was living the good life—or so I thought.

 

Searching for Truth

There’s an old proverb: “Be careful what you wish for, you might get it.” Well, that was the case with me. Soon after retirement, I became bored with my life and began to feel empty inside. It was like Solomon said in the Bible, “Vanity of vanities! All is vanity” (Ecclesiastes 1:1). My “ideal” life was turning out to be not so ideal after all. I needed something more, something to provide the fulfillment my success wasn’t giving me.

During one of my winter visits to Southern California a neighbor leaned over the backyard fence and invited me to Grace Community Church. I decided to go. John MacArthur preached a sermon entitled “Examine Yourself Whether You Be in the Faith,” and he read this passage from the Bible:

Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven. Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? and in thy name have cast out devils? and in thy name done many wonderful works? And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity (Matthew 7:21-23).

Now, when I was a young child my parents took me to Sunday school every week and even had me baptized. I had read the Bible occasionally during my boyhood and had been lead to believe I was a Christian. I was convinced that because I knew the “facts” about Jesus Christ, I would get into heaven one day. But, as I listened to the words that Pastor MacArthur was reading I felt something cutting deep into my heart. “That’s me!” I thought, “I would be one of those who would say, ‘Lord, Lord, I believe who You are. I went to Sunday school. My parents even had me baptized!’” In my heart I knew that Jesus would answer me, “You never cared to glorify Me with your life or with your music. All you cared about were your ranches and your trout streams. Depart from Me, I never knew you!” It was in that sudden, terrible moment I realized that I was not a Christian. I thought I had faith and yet my lifestyle had been characterized by total selfishness and disobedience. (I supposed I had wanted a Savior to save me from hell, but I had never wanted a Lord of my life whom I should follow, trust, and obey.)

That night I lay awake, broken over my sins. I realized that my life was a total washout. I had lived very selfishly and it had not made me happy. Knowing I was a sinner before God, I prayed and asked Him to forgive me. It was then that I asked Jesus Christ to come into my life, to be my Lord and Savior. For the first time, I remember telling Him, “Whatever You want me to do with my life, Lord, I’ll do it.”

 

Performing for God’s Glory

My new commitment to Christ gave me a great desire to read the Bible and learn more about the Word of God. One day I read a passage from 1 Corinthians which said, “Whatsoever ye do, do all to the glory of God” (1 Corinthians 10:31). Well, there were only two things I knew how to do: one was fly-fishing for trout, and the other was playing the guitar. The latter seemed the better option to pursue. The great composer J.S. Bach said, “The aim and final reason of all music is none else but the glory of God.” Bach signed many of his compositions with the initials S.D.G., which stands for Soli Deo Gloria (to God alone the glory). I thought, If Bach could use his great ability for that purpose, that would be the least I could do with whatever ability or talent the Lord had given me. It became evident that the Lord wanted me to return to playing the guitar again, but this time with a different purpose—to honor and glorify my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

Shortly after making my decision to return to playing, I sold my ranch in Montana and returned to California. Initially, I had a rude awakening when I contacted my former manager in New York. He told me flatly that I had thrown away a very valuable career and that it would be extremely difficult, if not impossible, to return to the concert stage after a four year absence. I knew that all things are according to God’s will and that it would be only by His grace that I would be able to return to a professional music career. The Lord has been gracious! Since my return to the music world I have played with every major orchestra in the nation, traveled the world on countless concert tours and have even played for the President of the United States at the White House!

Andrés Segovia was my musical inspiration growing up, and I still desire to follow with excellence the musical tradition he left us. However, my true goal in life now is to be a good and faithful servant of the Lord Jesus Christ. My career is only a means to an end, and that end is to glorify the Lord with my life and with the music that I play. Pursuing that goal gives me great joy and contentment; the fulfillment which eluded me so many years ago has at last been found and the emptiness I once felt has gone forever.

 

Sharing the Good News

One day I had the opportunity to share with my 11-year-old niece, Christi, what it means to be a Christian. I said, “Christi, if you were to die tonight and stand before God and He were to say to you, ‘Why should I let you into My heaven?’ what would you say?”

“Well,” she replied, “I would say ‘Because I’ve been a good girl.’”

“How good have you been?,” I asked, “Have you been perfect?”

“No,” she admitted, “I haven’t been perfect.”

“That’s true,” I said, “No, no one is perfect. In fact, the Bible says, ‘For all have sinned and come short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23).’ But God requires us to be perfect (James 2:10), and who can be perfect? Nobody, right? Nobody can be perfect.”

I told her that salvation is a free gift received by faith. Ephesians 2:8-9 says, “For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast.” I said, “You’re not saved by your good deeds; you are saved by grace, and grace means God is freely giving you something you don’t deserve.”

I also told her the Bible says that God is holy and just. Hebrews 10:31 says, “It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.” And Exodus 34:7 says that God “will by no means clear the guilty.” Since God is just, He will judge those who sin. 1 Peter 1:16 says, “Be ye holy; for I am holy.”

I went on to say that God is also a loving God. That famous Bible verse, John 3:16, says, “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” God judges those who sin, but in love He gave His Son to die on a cross to bear our sin and judgment.

How can God judge sinners and yet love them? To illustrate the answer, I told her a story about a king who was a wise and just ruler of his people:

Someone was embezzling from the king’s treasury, so the king issued an edict throughout all the land, saying, “Whoever is guilty, come forward and receive a just punishment of 10 public lashings.” But no one came forward.

The second week someone was continuing to steal from the king’s treasury, so the king set the punishment at 20 public lashings. But still no one came forward.

The third and fourth weeks went by and the thievery continued. On the fifth week the king set the punishment at 50 public lashings.

Finally, the guilty person was discovered. The one embezzling from the king’s treasury turned out to be the king’s own mother! The whole kingdom turned out to see what the king was going to do because they knew he was in a real dilemma: On the one hand he loved his mother, yet he knew that 50 lashes would very likely kill her. On the other hand he had a reputation for being a just king who would certainly punish the crime.

On the day for sentencing to be carried out, his mother was tied to a stake and a big man was ready to flog her with a whip. Then the king gave his order: “Render the punishment!” Just as he spoke, he took off his own robe, baring his own back, and putting his arms around his mother, he then took the lashes that she deserved, thereby satisfying the demand for justice.

The Bible says:

But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed. All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way; and the Lord hath laid on him the iniquity of us all (Isaiah 53:5-6). Who his own self bare the sins in his own body on the tree, that we, being dead to sins, should live unto righteousness: by whose stripes ye were healed (1 Peter 2:24).

As I told little Christi, that’s exactly what Jesus Christ did for us. Jesus Christ, by His death and physical resurrection, paid for our sins and purchased a place in heaven for us, which He offers as a gift that may be received by faith. I told her, “You have a choice in this life: You can stand before God when you die and say, ‘I’ve been a good girl,’ but you will fall short. You could say, ‘The good I’ve done outweighs the bad,’ but you will still fall short. You can even invent your own standard for heaven and achieve that, but God’s standard is perfect righteousness! Or, you can humble yourself and receive the gift that God has described in the Bible: ‘Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved’ (Acts 4:12). Jesus said, ‘I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me’ (John 14:6).

“Apart from the death of Christ on the cross for your sins, no one has access to the Father, no one has access to heaven. That’s what the Bible says. True saving faith, then, is trusting in Jesus Christ alone for your salvation—and the response to true faith will be an overwhelming desire to be obedient to the Lord. Jesus said in Luke 6:46, ‘And why call ye me, Lord, Lord, and do not the things which I say?’ That’s what it means to make Him ‘Lord and Savior.’”

In conclusion, I’m very thankful I had the opportunity that day to share with Christi what the Bible says about true salvation. But what about you? Are you willing to humble yourself before God and confess to Him that you are a sinner? Are you willing to repent, turn from your sins and receive Christ as your Savior and Lord? If so, you might wish to pray the following prayer from your heart:

Lord Jesus, I know that I’m a sinner. I’ve been trusting in my own good deeds to save me, but now I’m putting my trust in You. I accept You as my personal Savior. I believe You died for me. I receive You as Lord and Master over my life. Help me to turn from my sins and follow You. In Jesus’ name I pray. Amen.

I hope that you will make this prayer your own so that you can join with me in living life for God’s glory. If you have any questions, I hope you will contact a Bible teaching church in your area or write to me at:

Christopher Parkening

PO Box 2067, Malibu, CA 90265-7067

Website: http://www.parkening.com/

 
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Posted by on March 29, 2012 in Christian Testimonies

 

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Book Review – Found: God’s Will by John MacArthur

Good Biblical Foundation For Understanding the Topic of God’s Will For Your Life

I am currently reading a handful of books on decision making. I figured I would start out with the shortest of them, and work my way to the longest (from the simple to the complex). John Macarthur’s greatest strength is that you can count on him staying close to what the Bible says and not giving any speculation as to what it doesn’t say. He doesn’t delve into the emotional or philosophical realm, but sticks like glue to what the Bible clearly articulates concerning what God’s will is for humanity.

In the first chapter John clearly spells out what he wants to do in this little booklet: “Let’s begin with a simple assumption. Since God has a will for us, He must want us to know it. If so, then we could expect Him to communicate it to us in the most obvious way. How would that be? Through the Bible, His revelation. Therefore, I believe that what one needs to know about the will of God is clearly revealed in the pages of the Word of God. God’s will is, in fact, very explicit in Scripture.”

Therefore, MacArthur proceeds to deal only with what the Bible states explicitly about the Word of God. He gleans six principles from six (actually more – but for the purposes of this review I will only give the key texts he uses) key passages of Scripture.

1)    The first thing about God’s will is that He wants all kinds of people (economic classes, high positions, low positions and all ethnicities) to be saved based on 1 Timothy 2:3,4 – “This is good, and it is pleasing in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all people to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth.” (Referencing verses1 & 2 where Paul says “First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people, for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way”).

2)    It is God’s will that we are Spirit-filled (numerous verses). The key verses used in the chapter is Ephesians 5:15-18 where the Apostle Paul says, “Look carefully how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, making the best use of the time, because the days are evil. Therefore, do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is. And do not get drunk with wine, for that is debauchery, but be filled with the Spirit.” According to MacArthur the Spirit-filled life is “being saturated with the things of Christ with His Word, His Person.”

3)    It is God’s will for us to be sanctified. The key verses here are in 1 Thessalonians 4:3-7, “For this is the will of God, your sanctification: that you abstain from sexual immorality; that each of you know how to control his own body in holiness and honor, not in passionate lust like the Gentiles who do not know God; that no one transgress and wrong his brother in this matter, because the Lord is an avenger in all these things, as we told you beforehand and solemnly warned you. For God has not called us for impurity, but in holiness.”

4)    It is God’s will that we be a submissive and obedient people. Colossians 3; Ephesians 5 & 6; and 1 Peter 2:3-15 all talk about the roles of submission that every believer has with ultimate submission to the Lordship of Jesus over our lives.

5)    It is God’s will that we mature in Christ through suffering. 1 Peter 4:19 & 5:10 specify, “Therefore let those who suffer according to God’s will entrust their souls to a faithful Creator while doing good…And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you.”

6)    It is God’s will that in all things we give thanks and delight in Him. In Psalm 37:4 David reminds us to “delight yourself in the LORD, and he will give you the desires of your heart.” And the Apostle Paul tells us in 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18, “Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.”

In the final analysis if you are saved through the righteousness of Christ imputed to your account in exchange for your sin, and thus Spirit-filled, seeking to be sanctified, are submissive to Christ’s leadership in your life, endure suffering, and are continually giving thanks in all things – then according to MacArthur, and I agree – it doesn’t matter what you do. The foundation for all your decisions has already been established, and now you have great freedom within the parameters of God’s protective boundaries delineated in the Bible.

This book is by no means exhaustive, but is recommended because it lays a solid foundation for what the Bible does say about “finding God’s will for your life.”

 

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