Tag Archives: Bible

Love Is the Greatest Command

The Most Important Thing in the Bible Is Love

Though the Bible has many commands, love is the greatest command of them all. Check it out:The greatest of these is love.

The Old Testament Law

In the first five books of the Bible, sometimes called the Torah or Pentateuch, God gives instructions to Moses. The people refer to this as the law. These rules, or guidelines, are numerous. In fact, there are 613. Though I once considered counting them myself, I decided not to. Plenty of Jewish scholars already have, and they come up with 613. I’m fine with that.

Bible students divide these 613 instructions into two categories: things we should do and things we shouldn’t do. Some people call these positive commands and negative commands. In case you’re wondering, yes, there are more things we shouldn’t do than things we should do. Furthermore, some Bible academics group these 613 commands by topic, such as worshiping God, making vows, offering sacrifices, and so forth. Even with these divisions and categorizations, the number of instructions is still unwieldy. Besides there’s not too many people I know—okay there’s no one I know—who follows all 613 rules.

The Ten Commandments

In the middle of the 613 instructions, we find the Ten Commandments. Ten is much more manageable than 613. Most people I know affirm the Ten Commandments—even if they can’t list all ten. (Though I can come close, I can’t either. But this doesn’t trouble me because different faith traditions can’t agree on what the ten are anyway.)

Again, scholars divide this list. The first four commandments relate to our relationship with God, and the last six relate to our relationship with others. Also, if you’re keeping track, the majority of the Ten Commandments tell us what not to do, only a few tell us what we should do.

Jesus Summarizes the Law

Someone asks Jesus to identify the greatest commandment. But he doesn’t give one answer. He gives two. The first is to love God fully and completely. The second is similar, to love others as much as we love ourselves. Then Jesus adds that the Law and writings of the prophets all hinge on these two commandments (Matthew 22:36–40).

Though Jesus gives two answers, they have a common theme. The theme is love. Love is the greatest command. Love is the greatest commandment. Click To Tweet

Paul Writes about Love

In the first letter Paul writes to the church in Corinth, he devotes a whole section to love. He tells them how important love is and gives them a description of how love behaves. Then he says that love never ends, even though prophecies—and other things people think are important—will cease. He concludes this famous passage with a succinct phrase, “The greatest of these is love” (1 Corinthians 13).

Love Is the Greatest

So, we start with 613 instructions, focus on the ten big ones, and then Jesus narrows it down to two, which have a common theme of love. Paul confirms that love trumps everything.

Instead of focusing on what we should and shouldn’t do—following a list of requirements with religious fervor—we should instead turn our attention to the greatest commandment: love.

Love God, and love others.

If we do this everything else should fall into place.

What Does the Bible Mean When It Says, “All Scripture?”

All scripture can teach us about God and instruct us in his ways

What Does the Bible Mean When It Says, “All Scripture?”One verse I heard often at a particular church I attended was 2 Timothy 3:16. It says, “All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness,” (KJV). This verse was cited to remind us of the holiness and practical applicability of the Bible to inform our daily lives. According to this preacher, “all scripture” referred to the KJV, the only version he accepted.

However, let’s consider the phrase all scripture. When Paul wrote these words to Timothy, the New Testament didn’t exist. So Paul couldn’t have been referring to that text. Yes, there were various portions of what later became the New Testament being circulated among the followers of Jesus, but they also shared other texts that didn’t make it into today’s Bible. Therefore, Paul couldn’t have meant for all scripture to encompass the New Testament.

From his perspective, when he said, “all scripture,” he envisioned the texts that were available to the Jewish people. That would certainly include the Old Testament) and may have included other supporting religious documents).

The version of the Bible in use in Paul’s time was the Septuagint, a Greek translation of the Old Testament. The Septuagint included the thirty-nine books we have in our Old Testament, but it also included more.

The Septuagint used during the lifetime of Jesus and Paul, also included the books we now call the Apocrypha. So these books of the Apocrypha would fall under Paul’s umbrella term of all scripture. (And for my preacher friend who insisted on reading the Bible in the KJV, I must point out that the original version of the KJV included the Apocrypha.)

That’s something to think about.

If the Apocrypha is part of what Paul meant when he said, “all scripture,” then the Apocrypha is also “useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness.” When Paul writes that all scripture is profitable, I take him seriously. Click To Tweet

The books of the Apocrypha included in the Septuagint are:

See why Christians Should Consider the Entire Bible.

When Paul writes that all scripture is profitable, I take him seriously. And I encourage you to as well.

The Bible Unveils Rich Literature to Us

The Bible contains epic stories, profound poetry, and a compelling narrative

In my continuing series of why I love the Bible, here’s reason number 10. The Bible is classic literature, that transcends the ages. The Bible has withstood the onslaught of time and the attacks of its detractors, who have sought to destroy its existence.The Bible is the Word of God, as well as classic literature.

A big portion of the Bible reveals history to us. These grand accounts tell us the story of people, with their faith and their faults propelling them forward. We see great accomplishments in the face of pressure and formidable odds, things that seem beyond our abilities. We also see some epic failures, of people making terrible decisions under questionable motives, mistakes that we would certainly never do ourselves.

These accounts teach us, warn us, and entertain us.

Consider some of the tales that virtually everyone knows, even those who have never picked up a Bible:

  • Adam and Eve, along with the serpent
  • Cain and Abel
  • Noah and the ark
  • Moses and the Ten Commandments
  • Samson and Delilah
  • Father Abraham
  • Lot and his wife at Sodom and Gomorrah
  • Queen Esther and the king
  • David and Goliath
  • Jesus, the star of the show, with his teaching, his followers, and his crucifixion
  • Armageddon, the end of the world

Most everyone knows of these tales and can recite key elements. Movies bring these stories to life, with bold color, amazing special effects, and a grand musical score. These accounts permeate our culture and our awareness.

The Bible also contains wisdom literature, an ancient poetry that teaches us what is true and wise. We read these sections for guidance and encouragement. These principles are also scattered throughout our reality, sometimes as pithy one-liners.

The Bible also contains some forward-looking sections, prophecies of what will come, some of which have since occurred and some of which we still anticipate. These accounts captivate our mind with intrigue and wonder. These other-worldly allusions send our imaginations soaring and fill us with awe. Some people study the Bible as the Word of God, and others read it as literature. Click To Tweet

The Bible contains so much great literature, well worth our time to explore it.

Some people study the Bible as the Word of God, and other people read the Bible as literature. Both approaches have value. Read the Bible. Start today.

The Bible Offers Us Hope for the Future

Because of God we can anticipate a better tomorrow

The Bible gives us hope.There are many reasons why I love the Bible, in fact I list thirteen. One of those reasons is hope (Psalm 119:74). The Bible is filled with hope. It’s mentioned 180 times in both the Old and New Testaments.

Hope in the Old Testament: The word hope appears ninety-seven times in the Old Testament, in sixteen of the thirty-nine books. Interestingly, the word hope isn’t found in the first seven books of the Bible. Psalms, however, is filled with hope, thirty-four times (such as Psalm 9:18). Job comes in second place with eighteen mentions (Job 13:15, for example). Much of the hope that appears in the Old Testament occurs in the writings of the prophets, who look forward in hopeful expectation to a better future (consider Isaiah 40:31).

Hope in the New Testament: Hope appears eighty-three times in the New Testament and pops up in twenty-four of the twenty-seven books (consider Romans 5:2). Interestingly, in the five books written by John—who writes extensively about love—hope only pops up once, in his gospel. The final book of the Bible, Revelation, doesn’t mention hope directly. However, the book winds down looking at a glorious future with a new heaven and a new earth (Revelation 21:1). That’s something to hope for.The book of Revelation ends looking at a glorious future with a new heaven and a new earth. Click To Tweet

Hope in Our Present World: Some of the times hope is mentioned in the Bible, it anticipates a better tomorrow in our physical world: a hope for provision, a hope for deliverance, and a hope for protection, to name a few (check out Psalm 37:9). When we place our trust in God, we can be filled with hope that he will take care of us throughout our life.

Hope in Our Future Reality: In other places when the Bible mentions hope, it’s a perspective that transcends our physical realm (such as Acts 23:6). It’s hope in a spiritual eternity with God; it’s the hope of heaven. This anticipates an existence with no pain, sorrow, or disappointment. Some might call it paradise and others, Eden reborn. In this future reality, we will commune with God. We will worship him, serve him, and just hang out.

Some people follow God for the hope he gives them for a better tomorrow in this world. And that may be enough. Other people pursue God for the hope he gives them for a better tomorrow in the afterlife. And that is another reward.

The Bible is filled with hope, and it fills us with hope: hope in God for tomorrow and beyond.

The Bible Tells Us Good Things Are Coming: Are You Ready?

The Bible isn’t the point, it’s the God revealed in the Bible

Hebrews chapter 10 opens with a line worthy of contemplation.

It says, that the Law—that is the Old Testament—merely hints at what we have to look forward to, of the good things God has in store for us. The law shouldn’t be our focus. Instead we should give our attention to the real things that the law points to. That would be God (Hebrews 10:1).

Though we are right to reverence the Bible and hold it in high esteem, the Bible isn’t the point. The purpose of the Bible is to direct us to God. He is who we should reverence. He is who we should stand in awe of. He is who we should worship, not the Bible or the words in it.

But the verse doesn’t stop there. It goes on to say that the Law—the Old Testament—isn’t enough. Following its rules is insufficient to perfect us as we try to draw near to God. Though the context of this verse is about the sacrifices offered every year, we can expand this thought to encompass all the rules we read about in the Old Testament.

What we see in the Old Testament isn’t enough to make us right with God. In theory, if we followed every rule perfectly every time, that would be sufficient. But no one can do that. It’s humanly impossible. We falter and fall short.The Bible isn’t a set of rules to bind us. The Bible points to the God who frees us. Click To Tweet

We must keep this in perspective. The Bible isn’t a book of laws we must follow. It’s not a set of rules to bind us. Instead, the Bible points to the God who frees us.

May it be so. May we find freedom through Jesus and shake off the slavery of legalism.

God is the point, not the Bible.

[Read through the New Testament of the Bible this year. Today’s reading is Hebrews 10, and today’s post is on Hebrews 10:1.]

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The Bible Can Provide Direction for Our Lives

We can receive focus for life decisions from the Word of God

The Bible Can Provide Direction for Our LivesThe Bible offers much for us, assuming we bother to tap into its treasure-trove of knowledge. One of the Bible’s uses is to provide direction for our lives.

To realize the Bible’s insight as applicable to our lives, however, we need to read it, study it, and discern it. Looking for quick answers usually doesn’t work out so well.

Be wary of these ill-advised shortcuts and follow the one reliable technique:

Random Verse Selection: You’ve likely heard of a person, desperate for answers, who holds up their Bible and demands, “God speak to me.” Then they open the Word of God to a random page and read the first verse they see.

Sometimes they actually receive an applicable verse that offers comfort, confirmation, or instruction. However, the selected verse often provides confusion or a laughable text, given their situation. This is an especially dangerous method when making critical life decisions.

Asking God to direct us to a random passage and faithfully expecting him to do so is not something we should avoid, but we should exercise great care if we do this. And it should never be a regular practice.

Word Studies: Looking up verses in the Bible that contain a certain word or phrase can provide an incredible amount of insight. I do this often and am amazed to see how words connect throughout the Bible, with one verse illuminating another.

Yet, we need to be careful with word studies. When used wrongly or indiscriminately, this in-depth analysis can lead us to bad theology or unwarranted conclusions.

For example, assume we’re doing a word study on marriage. Some scholars place extra emphasis on a word’s first appearance in the Bible, claiming it should guide our understanding of subsequent appearances.

The first mention of a form of the word marriage in the Bible occurs in Genesis 4:19, as in, “Lamech married two women.” The implication equates marriage with polygamy, hardly a worthy conclusion. Be careful of word studies, especially when the goal is to use the results to make a decision.

Proof Texting: An extension of word studies is proof texting. Proof texting involves taking various verses from different sections of the Bible and linking them together to form a conclusion, often a predetermined one. It uses the Bible to justify an agenda.

The problem when doing this is the likelihood of taking verses out of context to prove a point. This may result in applying a verse literally, when the context is figurative or even rhetorical. It could involve looking at the words of an ancient work and forcing them into a modern context they were never meant to address.

Just as with word studies, the concept behind proof texting can produce valuable results. However, if we don’t exercise extreme care, the more likely outcome is manipulating the Bible to say what we want it to say.The better solution is to follow a regular Bible reading plan. Click To Tweet

An Intentional Study Plan: As an alternative to the three above approaches, the better solution is to follow a regular Bible reading plan. This might involve reading the Bible through in one year. Another option is spending an extended time studying the words in one book of the Bible or the writings of one author, such as Luke, John, or Paul.

As we read and study the Bible, God will speak to us. He will reveal truth. And since we’re following a preconceived plan, we protect ourselves from interjecting our own agenda into what we select to read, which can easily happen when we don’t have a plan and follow our own whims on a haphazard basis.

The Bible can give us valuable direction for making life decisions but only when we read it wisely and don’t try to use it to meet our own agenda.

Get your copy of Women of the Bible, available from Amazon.

Christians Should Consider the Entire Bible

Many streams of Christianity include the books of the Apocrypha as part of their canon of scripture

Christians Should Consider the Entire BibleThe book of Revelation ends with a severe threat to anyone who would add to it, that God will afflict that person with the plagues mentioned therein.

Though the warning clearly applies to the book of Revelation—“the words of the prophecy of this scroll”—some people, even preachers who should know better, wrongly apply this omen to the words of the entire Bible instead of just Revelation.

Adding to their error, they proceed to criticize the Roman Catholic Church (as well as other streams of Christianity) for “adding to the Bible.” Shame on these preachers; they don’t know their history. It was Protestants who removed content from the Bible, but this didn’t happen five hundred years ago during the beginning of the Protestant Reformation but more recently: about two centuries ago. Until then the books of the Apocrypha were part of the King James Version, the venerable KJV.

Yes, you may be shocked to know the original King James Version of the Bible (1611) included the Apocrypha. About two hundred years later the books of the Apocrypha were removed from the KJV. (This officially started in 1796 but took until the mid-1800s to effectively occur). This news stunned me and angered me that people had removed part of the Bible, lessening my ability to more fully comprehend God in the process.

Fundamentalists call the four hundred year gap in their Bible, between the Old and New Testaments, “the silent years” because they believe God had nothing to say or do. In reality, the Apocrypha clearly shows God at work during this time, but these fundamentalists don’t know this truth because they’re unwilling to consider what God had to say.

I’ve read and appreciate the seven books, along with additional text for two others, that Catholics have in their Bible and Protestants don’t. I wish I had encountered these amazing words much sooner. The books of the Apocrypha were part of the original KJV Bible. Click To Tweet

I recently received a copy of the text removed from the KJV Bible (Apocrypha, Authorized King James Version). I expected it to include seven books. Instead there were fourteen. Now I’m twice as mad about what was taken away from today’s Protestant Bible and its sixty-six books.

But that’s not all. The canon of the Ethiopia Bible (The Apocrypha: Including Books from the Ethiopic Bible) contains even more. This Bible has eighty-one books in all, fifteen more than the Protestant’s sixty-six. I’m currently reading these books of the greater Bible. This will help me better understand God, just as other parts of the greater church of Jesus are able to do.

(There are also other historical writings, contemporary to the contents of the Bible, but since no stream of Christianity has included them in their canon of scripture, I’m content to follow their lead. Though I’m a bit curious about what these nonbiblical texts have to say, I’ll ignore them and hide only God’s word in my heart, Psalm 119:11.)

The Bible provides the foundation of my faith. As a Christian, part of the universal church of Jesus, I contend we should consider all of the words any part of Christianity includes in their canon of scripture. As I do this, I don’t expect my core theology to change, but I do expect it to expand into a more holistic comprehension of God.

Don’t dismiss the words of the Apocrypha. If you’re a serious student of the Bible, then you need to consider the whole Bible.

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Is Studying and Memorizing the Bible Important?

When Satan tempts Jesus, Jesus responds by quoting scripture

Is Studying and Memorizing the Bible Important?Satan was unsuccessful in preventing Jesus’s birth and he was unsuccessful in causing Jesus to die prematurely before he could start his mission. For the enemy’s next ploy to thwart God’s plan to reconcile us to him, Satan tries to tempt Jesus into taking a shortcut: an easy button, if you will.

Satan makes three attempts to stop Jesus and to each one, Jesus counters by quoting the Bible. Jesus doesn’t try to ignore Satan. He doesn’t tell him to go away. And he doesn’t simply say “No” (all things I have tried). Jesus responds to each of Satan’s attacks by throwing the words of God back at the devil. Touché.

This may be the biggest and best reason to study and memorize the Bible, to hide God’s word in our heart so that we can avoid sin. But don’t take my word for it. The Bible says it, too: Psalm 119:11.

However, there’s another significant lesson we can learn from this passage. In his third try, Satan uses the Bible to attack Jesus. Though Satan’s application is arguably misapplied, the fact that the devil quotes the Bible gives his attack an unexpected credibility.If Satan uses the Bible to oppose Jesus, he’ll certainly try the same trick with us. Click To Tweet

If Satan uses the Bible to oppose Jesus, he’ll certainly try the same trick with us. The only way we will prevail is if we know the Bible, too, and can point out his error. When misapplied the Bible can mislead us. Not everyone or every spirit quoting scripture does so with integrity. We must know the Bible as well as, or even better than, our enemy.

[Read through the New Testament of the Bible with us this year. Today’s reading is Luke 4, and today’s post is on Luke 4:3-12.]

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Read the New Testament in 2017

Learn more about Jesus and his church as you read through the New Testament this year

Read the New Testament in 2017The New Testament of the Bible is a great part of the Bible to read. It starts with a focus on the life of Jesus and moves on to cover his followers after he dies, rises from the dead, and returns to heaven. Whether you are familiar with the Bible or just starting out, the New Testament unveils most of the essentials, and it provides the foundation for Christianity as it informs how we should live as Jesus’s disciples.

By reading only one chapter a day, Monday through Friday, we can read the entire New Testament in one year. For the average reader this only takes three to four minutes each day.

Can you commit to that?Invest 3 to 4 minutes a day, Monday through Friday, to read the New Testament this year. Click To Tweet

Download our 2017 New Testament reading plan to follow along with us. And then look for posts each Wednesday about that day’s reading.

Join us as we read through the New Testament in 2017. You’ll be glad you did.

(If you prefer, we also have an Old Testament reading plan and monthly guides as well. All this and much more is found at ABibleADay.com)

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4 Things Christians Need to Avoid

Paul warns Titus to stay away from unprofitable and useless things

4 Things Christians Need to AvoidPaul, the superstar missionary, writes to his protégé Titus, who Paul left on the island of Crete to wrap up the work he started. As Paul’s letters go, it’s a short one. But he packs it with practical information that any pastor could use. Since we all should effectively function as pastors to one another, these words apply to us all. We will do well to heed them.

In one short verse, Paul warns Titus to avoid four things, and they’re not what you might expect. Paul tells Titus to stay away from:

1) Foolish Controversies: This might include which translation of the Bible to use. Then there are churches still neck deep in the issue of women in leadership. Seriously, folks? At one time, the issue of the day was slavery. Yes, churches do fight about such things.

But let me dive into the heart of controversy. Another one is . . . wait for it . . . baptism: when to do it, how to do it, and what it means. If these details were all that important to God, you’d think he’d have provided more clarity on the matter. Yet his followers have killed each other over this controversy. Jesus didn’t say that people would know we are his followers by our great doctrine, but by our love (John 13:35).

2) Genealogies: Though I don’t see too many people tracing their lineage for generations in order to claim some special appointment or consideration, I do see people throwing around their heritage, as in “My grandparents started this church,” to “My daddy’s on the church board,” to “My family has been a member of this church for seven generations.”

3) Arguments: This might include the pews versus chairs debate, what color to paint the sanctuary, if drums are allowed in worship, a dress code, what to pay the pastor, and so forth. Use your imagination. At some time, someone has likely argued about it. Shame on them.We like people who agree with us and call everyone else a heretic. We need to stop that. Click To Tweet

4) Quarrels About the Law: Sorry to say, but I see this a lot. It’s fighting about what the Bible says and how we apply it. We like people who agree with us and call everyone else a heretic. According to Paul, we need to stop it.

As I see it, these four things cover about every source of conflict that churches and church members face today. Paul labels these four tendencies as unprofitable and useless. I agree and will do my part to avoid them. I hope you will, too.

[Read through the Bible with us this year. Today’s reading is Titus 1-3, and today’s post is on Titus 3:9.]

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