[Editor’s Note: Reformation Trust, the publishing ministry of Ligonier, has thoroughly revised the Reformation Study Bible (2015) with more than 20,000 study notes and commentary by 75 scholars under the leadership of Dr. R.C. Sproul, who says, “By presenting a modern restatement of biblical, Reformation truth in its comments and theological notes, the Reformation Study Bible (2015) aims to carry on the legacy of the Geneva Bible in shining forth the light of biblical Christianity, which was recovered in the Reformation.”
The Reformation Study Bible (2015) study notes are available on Bible Gateway by tapping the “STUDY THIS” blue box on the Bible passage search result pages.]
The Reformation Study Bible represents centuries of ongoing theological study and biblical reflection. Its study notes and articles are built and influenced from the best theological insights from pastors and theologians throughout church history, including the latest archaeological discoveries and reflection from pastors and theologians today. Its topical articles introduce you to various important subjects, including church history, textual criticism, and more.
[See the Bible Gateway Blog post, How to Boost Your Bible Study with the Reformation Study Bible for Free on Bible Gateway]
How has God used awakenings throughout history to strengthen his church and are we in one now?
Dr. Sproul: It’s difficult to give a full answer to this question because the examples of how the church has been strengthened through awakenings are almost innumerable. We could look at the doctrine of the priesthood of all believers recovered in the Reformation that says that lawful vocations have value and so church members should use their talents actively in service to the church. The First Great Awakening brought a renewed zeal for evangelism and missions to the church.
I can’t tell you with certainty whether or not we are in an awakening today. That will be for future generations of the church to decide as they look back on God’s providence. It does seem, however, that the hunger for biblical truth in the developing world, as well as a renewed commitment to the doctrines of grace in our country, do result from some kind of fresh work of the Lord’s Spirit in His world.
How is the Reformation Study Bible unique from other study Bibles?
Dr. Sproul: Its uniqueness lies in its unashamed advocacy for the biblical truths of the Reformation. These truths, derived from concentrated study of Scripture, help provide a framework to show us the unified message of the Bible. I believe the sustained emphasis on God’s sovereign grace in the study notes of the Reformation Study Bible remind us that God alone is the author of salvation in a way that other study Bibles do not.
What are a few of the key Christian doctrines and why is it important for readers to understand them?
Dr. Sproul: The key Christian doctrines would include the doctrine of the Trinity and the person and work of Christ. If we do not know who God is, we cannot know our need or what we were made for, and if we are unclear on the identity of Christ, we can’t understand the greatness of our salvation or what He came to do. Justification by faith alone is also absolutely essential; if we have a wrong understanding of the gospel and try to mix our own works with the work of Christ as the basis of our salvation, we end up denying the gospel and put our own salvation in jeopardy. I could list many other doctrines, but I have to also emphasize the inspiration and authority of Scripture. It is the God-breathed revelation of our triune Creator and alone can reveal the depth of His character and His plan of salvation.
What do you mean when you say the Bible is the “norm of norms and without norm”?
Dr. Sproul: The point of this phrase is to underscore the fact that the Bible corrects our theology and not the other way around. We are not to force our views onto Scripture; rather, we are to derive our beliefs from Scripture. The phrase also points to the fact that the church cannot propose anything as normative for salvation unless it is taught in Scripture.
How does the Reformation Study Bible reflect the watchword “sola Scriptura”?
Dr. Sproul: In several ways. First, we consciously designed the Bible so that the biblical text is visually emphasized on every page via a wide single column of text and a larger font size than the notes. We believe the notes are useful, but the Bible has to be the final judge of the notes, and our design was chosen to help make that point. The sheer size of the work, I think, also reflects the concept of sola Scriptura. If the Bible is God’s revelation, then it demands our most careful reflection and willingness to understand and apply the text. By providing so many in-depth notes, we are calling people to pay attention to Scripture and to believe it.
Finally, although we have used the best scholarship to help us understand the Scriptures better, we have also sought tirelessly not to teach anything regarding the Christian faith that is novel. To put it another way, we are not interested in exploring the latest fads in liberal scholarship; rather, we want the time-tested and time-honored teaching of Scripture to shine forth on every page. Our goal is to teach in fresh ways the same biblical truth that earlier generations confessed, truth that does not change because it comes directly from God’s Word itself. We are not interested in discovering novel doctrines but in faithfully transmitting the infallible teachings of the Bible itself.
Dr. Sproul: The 16th-century Geneva Bible was the first Bible to contain study notes alongside the biblical text, and these notes came from many of the leading figures of the Protestant Reformation. Thus, they teach biblical Reformed doctrine. That’s exactly what the notes in the Reformation Study Bible do for our generation.
How does the new Reformation Study Bible (2015) present the light of the Reformation in a fresh way?
Dr. Sproul: In seeking to present the biblical truths the church has confessed throughout history, we’ve been aware also of the need to apply this truth to the unique challenges of our day. Where appropriate, the study notes and other helps deal with issues that are of special importance today. We’ve also sought to make the Bible as universally accessible as possible, knowing that this will be an important tool for discipling people around the world.
Do you have anything else you’d like to say?
Dr. Sproul: Two things. First, I am thankful beyond words for the many friends of Ligonier who have made it possible, in God’s providence, to bring this project to fruition through their prayers and gifts.
Second, I want to emphasize that this Bible is one of the most important resources we’ve ever produced. We hope that people will not only acquire the Bible but actually use it. We have to dig deep into God’s Word to grow in our faith and become mature disciples. Lord willing, this Bible can help us do just that.
Bio: The late Dr. R.C. Sproul was co-pastor of Saint Andrew’s Chapel in Sanford, Fla., and the founder and chairman of Ligonier Ministries. A theologian, he was the executive editor of Tabletalk and chancellor of Reformation Bible College. He’s the author of numerous books, including Everyone’s a Theologian: An Introduction to Systematic Theology, How Then Shall We Worship? Biblical Principles to Guide Us Today, and The Promises of God: Discovering the One Who Keeps His Word.