• Hermeneutics,  New Testament,  Old Testament,  Scripture

    Fulfillment of Scripture is More than Prophecy

    We see the use of “fulfillment” terminology all over the New Testament. For example, in reference to Isaiah 61:1-2, Jesus says, “Today this Scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing” (Luke 4:21). Elsewhere John says that the events of the crucifixion happened “that Scripture might be fulfilled” (John 19:36). These are just two of the numerous examples in the New Testament where a fulfillment formula is used. The question is, what does it mean? Fulfillment as Prediction and Actualization of Prophecy The most common understanding of the fulfillment formula is that of prediction-actualization. The Old Testament prophets predicted certain things, and the actualization of that prophecy comes to pass (i.e., it was fulfilled). For example, in Isaiah 7:14 we see a prophecy concerning a virgin giving birth. In Matthew 1:22–23 we see that this prophecy is actually realized (fulfilled) in the virgin birth of the Messiah, Jesus. Similarly, there are…

  • Hermeneutics,  Scripture

    Reading Bible Stories the Wrong Way

    Everyone loves stories. And we all enjoy stories in a variety of ways. We watch movies, read books, or simply tell stories to each other about our daily lives. Although some stories are more epic than others, stories are an essential part of us. We cannot escape them. The majority of the Bible is written in story form. This means that when you read the Bible, you have the highest probability that you will be reading a narrative of some kind. Because we are surrounded by stories all the time, one would think we would understand the Bible better—if for no other reason than our familiarity with stories. However, we often struggle in the Bible’s narrative texts because we are not sure what the application is for our own life. This often leads to reading Bible stories in the wrong way. Reading Yourself into the Bible Story The most common…

  • Hermeneutics,  Scripture

    The Cross Reference Curse: A Warning on How We Wrongly Use the Cross Reference

    We cross reference all the time when we study the Bible. A cross reference is simply using one text of Scripture to help understand another text. But is it always good to cross reference? While it can be very helpful, the idea of cross referencing also can also lead us to mistakes in our biblical interpretation. Consider the following situation. Let’s say a friend or neighbor comes up to you and says, “The Bible is clear that baptism is necessary for salvation.” Now, you may be immediately put off by such a suggestion, but what if he goes on to quote Acts 2:38? Peter said to them, “Repent, and each of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins; and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.” How would you respond to such a statement? Perhaps you would respond by saying,…

  • Hermeneutics,  New Testament,  Old Testament,  Theology

    Should We Expect a Future Kingdom for National Israel?

    It is becoming increasingly popular to discount a future kingdom for geopolitical Israel. But both Old and New Testaments speak of a time when Israel will be restored as a national kingdom, with the Messiah ruling from Jerusalem. Passages such as Psalm 72:1–20, Isaiah 2:1–3, 11:1–9, 65:17–25, Zech 8:4–5, 14:16–19 are but a few of the passages which teach a future kingdom for Israel that is distinct from the eternal state. Although the Old Testament is very clear when speaking of a future kingdom for Israel, some biblical interpreters believe that the New Testament tempers our expectation for a future kingdom for Israel. Yet, there is no reason to deviate from what is clearly laid out in the Old Testament. The General New Testament Expectation of a Kingdom for Israel Rather than adjusting the expectation of a future kingdom for Israel, the New Testament confirms what the Old Testament told…

  • Apologetics,  Christian Living,  Hermeneutics,  New Testament,  Theology

    Starting with Jesus is Terrible for Your Theology

    It is good that we recognize Jesus as the sovereign Lord. But is it justifiable to start with Jesus when it comes to forming theology? Many Christians assume that is the place to start. For example, I was once listening to a podcast and the subject was raised about how we formulate our theology. One speaker said something like, “We must get our theology from the life and person of Jesus who is God incarnate. If your theology does not match with who he is, then go back to him and start over.” This is such a popular idea, there is even a book available that is entitled, Let’s Start with Jesus: A New Way of Doing Theology. In the previously mentioned podcast, one of the reasons this particular individual wanted to start with Jesus was to circumvent the validity of other parts of Scripture that seem to be quite…

  • Hermeneutics,  New Testament,  Theology

    Does Baptism Save You? Looking at Acts 2:38

    There are a few texts that seem to indicate that baptism saves an individual. A few churches even teach that baptism is the timing and place one receives God’s grace, meaning that without baptism, one cannot be saved. However, Christians recognize Ephesians 2:8-9 and that salvation is not dependent on works. This puts us in a bit of a quandry. Does baptism actually save us? Does everyone need to be saved to be baptized? In order to work through the apparent contradiction in Scripture, many will cross reference other texts to explain away the passages which speak of the link between baptism and salvation. Although a noble effort, I have mentioned in the past that we need to be careful reading one passage over another. There is potential danger in cross-referencing. It can be helpful and should be utilized. But the key to understanding Scripture is identifying authorial intent. The…

  • Church,  Culture,  Hermeneutics,  Theology

    The Postmillennial Vendetta Against Dispensationalism

    Many postmillennialists spurn dispensationalism because they view dispensationalism as standing in the way of cultural reformation. As a case in point, here is a recent comment that up-and-coming postmillennialist, Joel Webbon, posted about the need for Christian involvement in artificial intelligence. Although the tweet was about Christians leading in innovation, Webbon somehow managed to work in his dislike for dispensationalism. If you are confused about Webbon’s logic, you are not alone. Many of the comments also indicated confusion as to why the defeat of dispensationalism was key to the success of Christian innovation. But Webbon is not alone in his reasoning. Others have blamed dispensationalism for the degeneration of culture. Andrew Sandlin has also promoted a similar anti-dispensationalism in a variety of comments. For example: This negativity toward dispensationalism among the postmillennial crowd is well-documented but little understood. Why do many postmillennialists have a vendetta against dispensationalism? Christian Reconstructionism as…

  • Hermeneutics,  Review,  Theology

    Dispensational Hermeneutics by Mike Vlach

    Note: Information on entering the book giveaway is at the bottom of this post. It is a sad reality that whenever someone searches for dispensationalism, the first results they find are often strawman critiques of the system. Dispensationalists are often misrepresented in their beliefs. For example, dispensationalists are said to teach multiple ways of salvation, or embrace antinomianism, etc. Although there are certainly non-negotiable beliefs that are a part of dispensationalism, the real issue has always been how dispensationalists arrive at their beliefs. Dispensational Hermeneutics Enter Mike Vlach’s new book, Dispensational Hermeneutics: Interpretation Principles that Guide Dispensationalism’s Understanding of the Bible’s Storyline (available for purchase here). In this book, Vlach provides a go-to resource for those trying to understand why dispensationalists believe what they believe. The purpose of the book is best defined in Vlach’s own words: “Our goal is to present the key hermeneutical principles that influence Dispensationalism’s view…

  • Hermeneutics,  New Testament,  Scripture

    Are the Red Letters Special in the Bible?

    When it comes to the red letters of the Bible, as Christians we often revere and cherish those portions of the text more highly than others. After all, the red letters are the words of Jesus! Why shouldn’t we value what Jesus says higher than other parts of the Bible? It is certainly popular to value what Jesus says over and above other parts of Scripture. In fact, there is a whole group called, Red Letter Christians, who exist “to take Jesus seriously by endeavoring to live out His radical, counter-cultural teachings as set forth in Scripture, and especially embracing the lifestyle prescribed in the Sermon on the Mount” (quote from their stated purpose). Perhaps you are not a card-carrying member of the Red Letter Christians. But, I imagine you gravitate to the person of Jesus. I bet that you value him above anyone else who is mentioned in the…

  • Church,  Hermeneutics,  New Testament

    Is the Book of Acts a Template for the Church?

    Many readers struggle with the book of Acts because they assume that it has to be a model for us to follow. Reading through the book of Acts we might wonder why we don’t speak in tongues, perform miracles, or exercise control over demons. But even on the more practical level, some read the book of Acts as a pattern for church growth. Similarly, I once heard a well-known Christian speaker say that he was in the process of rethinking how his church operated because when he compared his church with the church of Acts, he didn’t see enough similarities. The problem with this view is that the book of Acts was not written to be a template for the church to follow. Rather, the book of Acts is a historical record of how the church developed. The Connection between Acts and Luke One of the ways we can tell…