• 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…

  • Old Testament

    What Color was Joseph’s “Coat of Many Colors”?

    I still remember learning the story of Joseph and his brothers in Sunday School growing up. I remember watching the story played out on a flannelgraph where the main character, Joseph, was displayed in his brightly colored “rainbow” coat. I also remember going to a local theater to watch the musical, “Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dream Coat.” These were landmark times in my life. But, were these teachings mistaken? It is no surprise that most people think Joseph was the object of jealousy of his brothers because of his coat of many colors. Consider the following translations of Gen 37:3. ESV Now Israel loved Joseph more than any other of his sons, because he was the son of his old age. And he made him a robe of many colors.   NASB Now Israel loved Joseph more than all his sons, because he was the son of his old…

  • Church,  Hermeneutics,  Theology

    7 Beliefs that Don’t Define Dispensationalism

    Readers of this blog may be curious as to what makes someone a dispensationalist. Simply put, dispensationalism is a set of doctrinal beliefs that deal with hermeneutics (how to read Scripture), ecclesiology (how the church operates), and eschatology (what the end times look like). Hence, a dispensationalist holds a distinctive set of beliefs about understanding Scripture, the role and function of the church, and about the end times. I have written elsewhere about how one can define dispensationalism, but in this post I want to highlight seven fundamentally errant beliefs that are sometimes associated with dispensationalism. These are charges that are often leveled against dispensationalism in a variety of circles. I have listed them in their accusatory forms. Dispensationalism teaches multiple ways of salvation. Unfortunately, this myth is often repeated, but has no basis in reality. Some people accuse dispensationalists of believing OT saints were saved by keeping the Law…

  • Hermeneutics,  Theology

    How do You Define Dispensationalism?

    I have written previously on the beliefs that are often linked with a dispensationalism, yet should not be associated with the theological system itself. Those beliefs are not inherent to the system of dispensationalism, and therefore are not essential to a dispensationalist. Today we turn the page and look at which beliefs define dispensationalism. We can define dispensationalism as a set of doctrinal beliefs that deal with hermeneutics, ecclesiology, and eschatology. This means that within those three spheres, a dispensationalist must hold to a specific set of beliefs concerning how one understands Scripture, the role and function of the church, and the end times. Thus, what follows are the four beliefs which each dispensationalist must hold to. Dispensationalism teaches that the Old Testament must be interpreted within its own context. This is, in my opinion, the most important belief of a dispensationalist because it leads to the rest. The core…

  • Hermeneutics,  New Testament,  Old Testament,  Scripture

    Does Your Theology Start with Jesus? I Hope Not.

    Jesus is to be recognized as sovereign Lord in the church. But, is it justified to start with Jesus when it comes to forming theology? Many Christians affirm just that. 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.” In the above podcast, one of the reasons this particular individual wanted to start with Jesus was to deny the validity of other parts of Scripture that seem to be quite clear. For example, this individual rejected places in the OT where God commands Israel to eliminate other nations, including children (e.g., 1 Sam 15). His reasoning was, “I cannot imagine…

  • Hermeneutics,  New Testament,  Old Testament

    What Does it Mean: Scripture was Fulfilled?

    We see the use of this terminology all over the New Testament. For example, 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. The question is, what does it mean? The most common understanding of the “fulfilled” language 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. Although this is a valid understanding of “fulfilled” language, it is important to understand that it is not sufficient to explain…

  • Hermeneutics,  Scripture

    The Danger of a Bible Cross Reference

    We cross reference all the time. A cross reference is simply using one text of Scripture to understand another text. But is it always good to cross reference? 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, “We know that baptism is not necessary for salvation because of Ephesians 2:8-9.” Many will default to answering these issues with a cross reference like this. Although common,…

  • Hermeneutics,  Old Testament

    Is Jeremiah 29:11 a Promise for Christians?

    It is that time of year—graduations left and right! This time of year often brings about encouraging notes and cards. Sometimes, well-meaning Christians will pencil in Jeremiah 29:11 with a note that says, “I know God has great things in store for you!” This message is not limited to graduations. Growing up, I knew many people who memorized Jeremiah 29:11 as a promise for themselves that God would bless them and give them good things: For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope. I do not want to play the role of Debbie Downer, but I do want to point out how we are often guilty of misusing verses like this. The first thing I want to point out is that this verse was written specifically to the nation of Israel. Although it may…