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Pentecost: The Holy Spirit Arrives

This Sunday is Pentecost Sunday, when we commemorate the remarkable event that kickstarted the early Christian church. At Pentecost, the Holy Spirit descended on a gathering of Christians and vividly demonstrated that the Gospel of Jesus Christ was meant for all people, regardless of nationality or ethnicity.

The full account is found in Acts 2:1-31. Here’s the key part of the passage:

When the day of Pentecost arrived, they were all together in one place. And suddenly there came from heaven a sound like a mighty rushing wind, and it filled the entire house where they were sitting. And divided tongues as of fire appeared to them and rested on each one of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit gave them utterance.

Now there were dwelling in Jerusalem Jews, devout men from every nation under heaven. And at this sound the multitude came together, and they were bewildered, because each one was hearing them speak in his own language. And they were amazed and astonished, saying, “Are not all these who are speaking Galileans? And how is it that we hear, each of us in his own native language? Parthians and Medes and Elamites and residents of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the parts of Libya belonging to Cyrene, and visitors from Rome, both Jews and proselytes, Cretans and Arabians—we hear them telling in our own tongues the mighty works of God.” Read the rest of the Pentecost story.

The Pentecost account is one of the core passages upon which the Christian vision for missions and evangelism is built. God was doing something extraordinary in opening his offer of salvation to the entire world.

Take a few minutes this weekend to read the Pentecost story and give thanks that God’s grace isn’t limited by linguistic, geographic, or ethnic boundaries!

Genesis: History, Fiction, or Neither?

Click to buy your copy of Genesis: History, Fiction, or Neither? in the Bible Gateway StoreIn recent years the nature of the Genesis narrative has sparked much debate among Christians. The book Genesis: History, Fiction, or Neither? (Zondervan, 2015), in the Counterpoints book series, introduces three predominant interpretive genres and their implications for biblical understanding. In point/counterpoint arguments, each contributor identifies and defends his position on the genre of Genesis 1-11, addressing why it is appropriate to the text, and contributes examples of its application to a variety of passages.

The contributors and views are:

  • James K. Hoffmeier: Theological History. James HoffmeierDr. Hoffmeier (PhD, University of Toronto) is professor of Old Testament and Near Eastern archaeology at Trinity International University Divinity School in Deerfield, Illinois. He is the author of Ancient Israel in Sinai and Israel in Egypt, and co-author of Faith, Tradition and History.
  • Gordon J. Wenham: Proto-History. Dr. Wenham (PhD, University of London) is tutor in Old Testament at Trinity College, Bristol, England, and professor emeritus of Old Testament at the University of Gloucestershire. He is the author or editor of numerous books, including Story as Torah and commentaries on Genesis, Leviticus, and Numbers.Gordon Wehnham
  • Kenton K. Sparks: Ancient Historiography. Dr. Sparks (Ph.D., University of North Carolina) is professor of biblical studies and vice president for enrollment management at Eastern University. He is the author of several books, including Ancient Texts for the Study of the Hebrew Bible, God’s Word in Human Words, and Sacred Word, Broken Word.Kenton Sparks

Charles Halton (PhD, Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion) is assistant professor in theology at Houston Baptist University. He has contributed to the The IVP Dictionary of the Old Testament: Prophets and Reading Akkadian Prayers and Hymns: An Introduction. He is the co-author of The First Female Authors: An Anthology of Women’s Writing in Mesopotamia. He virtually resides at and his physical residence is in Louisville, Kentucky.

In the reader-friendly Counterpoints format, this book helps you reflect on the strengths and weaknesses of each view and draw informed conclusions in this much-debated topic.Charles Halton

In the following book excerpt, general editor and Old Testament scholar Dr. Halton explains the importance of genre. He provides historical insight and helpful summaries of each position:

We are thousands of years removed from the origins of the book of Genesis. We live in a world that has sent people to the moon and back, that uses magnets to map the inside of human bodies; we work and sleep in climate controlled buildings, travel in air-conditioned cars, fly in pressurized planes, and send text messages through pieces of metal and glass small enough to slip into the pockets of our pants. The world of Genesis was dusty and barely literate. The people of its time were preoccupied with satiating hunger and securing physical safety. They consulted shamans for toothaches, thought that the gods spoke through birth defects and markings on sheep livers, and they defecated into ditches. Reading Genesis is like traveling from downtown Dublin to rural Angola. The contexts of author and reader could hardly be more different.

To be sure, we don’t share the cultural context of the authors of Genesis but we do hold in common the experience of being human—joy at childbirth and mourning at death. We relish a good story just as much as they did. We have unfulfilled dreams, we take pride in accomplishment, and we experience interpersonal strife, just like they did. At the same time as there are vast differences between us, we share with the biblical writers some of life’s most fundamental elements. How much of this shared experience translates into our understanding of the literary genres that they used? How big are the gaps in our knowledge?

Is Genesis 1-11 similar to the genres of our culture? If so, what genre is it? Is it factual history, fictional fable, or somewhere in between? And how does its overall genre affect our interpretation of individual passages? After two thousand years of study, these questions remain a matter of debate. This book is intended to reflect this debate as well as to help individuals and congregations have a more informed and focused discussion on the topic. The book itself will not arrive at any particular conclusion, although each author advocates for the position that he believes is most beneficial.

The contributors—James Hoffmeier, Gordon Wenham, and Kenton Sparks—were asked to respond to four elements with their essays:

  1. identify the genre of Genesis 1-11
  2. explain why this is the genre of Genesis 1-11
  3. explore the implications of this genre designation for biblical interpretation
  4. apply their approach to the interpretation of three specific passages: the story of the Nephilim (6:1-4), Noah and the ark (6:9-9:26), and the Tower of Babel (11:1-9).

In his essay, “Genesis 1-11 as History and Theology,” James Hoffmeier argues that the Genesis narrative relates historical facts; real events that happened in space and time. Hoffmeier points to features within Genesis, such as geographical clues and literary elements, that signaled to ancient readers that these stories were to be understood as historical.

Gordon Wenham agrees with this to a point. In his essay, “Genesis 1-11 as Protohistory,” Wenham sees an undercurrent of history beneath the Genesis account but he likens it to viewing an abstract painting; the picture is there but the details are fuzzy. Wenham believes that Genesis is protohistory, a form of writing that has links to the past but interprets history for the sake of the present.

Kenton Sparks explains that the authors of Genesis wrote in typically ancient ways which did not intend to produce history as we know it. In his essay, “Genesis 1-11 as Ancient Historiography,” Sparks argues that many of the events recounted in Genesis did not happen as the narrative states. Each author was also asked to provide a brief response to the other.

While the dialog may get spirited at times, its purpose is to expose the strengths and weaknesses of each position. In the spirit of Galileo, all of the contributors agree that competent interpretation of Scripture requires sensitivity to genre. They disagree, however, over the precise nature of the genre of Genesis 1-11 and its implications.

To a large extent, competent reading involves getting to know ourselves as much as it does understanding an author. Christopher Wall observes, “Though reading is a close collaboration between a reader and text, it can only start when you notice the difference between what you see and what you want to see.” We hope that this conversation helps our readers more deeply understand themselves and the expectations—what you want to see—that they bring as they assume a certain genre for Genesis 1-11. As Calvin said, “Without knowledge of self there is no knowledge of God,” and so it is with Scripture. Unless we know what we want from the Bible, we cannot begin to understand its authors.

The above excerpt is from Genesis: History, Fiction, or Neither? Copyright © 2015 by Charles Halton, James K. Hoffmeier, Gordon J. Wenham, Kenton L. Sparks, Zondervan. Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved. Taken from pp. 19-21.

What Is the Most Natural Way to Read the Bible?


This is part of Mel Lawrenz’ “How to Understand the Bible” series. This and the following six installments of “How to Understand the Bible” address the all-important subject of how to interpret Scripture. If you know someone or a group who would like to follow along on this journey through Scripture, they can get more info and sign up to receive these essays via email here.

I shudder to think how close I came to giving up on the Bible. Like many people, I tried for years to read Scripture in ways that were doomed to fail. My way of reading made the Bible hard to understand, and it made me think this book was perhaps too inscrutable or too out of date for me to pay attention to it. Yes, it was convenient when other people picked out the good bits and made juicy quotes just perfect for a bumper sticker: “The Lord is my shepherd” (Ps. 23:1), “Do not worry about tomorrow” (Matt. 6:34), “Take delight in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart” (Ps. 37:4).

And then there is, “God helps those who help themselves.” Oops! That’s not actually in the Bible. But like many biblically illiterate people, I thought it was.


This was dangerous. I was missing the word of God. Worst, I was misinterpreting the word of God because when we quote a verse out of context, we usually twist its true meaning and use it to reinforce our preconceptions. The solution is to read Scripture on its own terms. To read it widely and repeatedly. To accept the fact that these are ancient documents written in a time and place far removed, and so it takes patience and work to understand. But as any gold miner knows, it is worth as much time and effort as it takes to get gold out of the mine.

What is the most natural way to read the Bible?

1. We need to learn the context of the particular biblical book we are reading. We read Jeremiah differently than we read Ephesians or Revelation. These are all the word of God, but given to us through the words of three very different men in different circumstances. If you have a good study Bible, all you need to do is carefully read the introduction at the start of the book, where the biblical scholars will outline the author, circumstances, and content. Look up the biblical book in a Bible dictionary or encyclopedia, and you will get much more information—and more yet if you read the introduction in a commentary.

[NOTE: One of the most helpful books on reading Scripture is How to Read the Bible for All Its Worth by Gordon Fee and Douglas Stuart.]

2. Read the translation that you can understand and that motivates you to keep reading. Remember, the best translation for you is the one you’ll actually read. There have been times in my life when reading a thought-by-thought translation was the best thing to do (see chapter 4 on translations), and other times reading a word-for-word translation. It is best to settle into one version you’ll typically read and reread.

3. Read at a reasonable pace and try to ignore the chapter and verse numbers. We would all understand the Bible much better if we read it freely and naturally, rather than like a step-by-step instruction manual. When you get a letter from a friend or relative, you just sit down and read it through because that is the best way to understand his or her message. No one watches movies in five-minute installments, and no one would say that after viewing still photos of a movie, you have seen that movie. Yet reading a “verse of the day” is very popular. If you take 20 minutes instead of 5 to read a biblical book, you will get through Romans in three sittings, Genesis in about six sittings, and many biblical books, like the epistles, in single sittings. Reading for comprehension is all about synthesis—connecting all the small ideas with the large controlling ideas. The payoff is enormous.

[Check out The Story: The Bible as One Continuing Story of God and His People.]

4. Follow a reading plan. No one wants to open the Bible randomly each day and read what is there. There are many excellent reading plans that organize a comprehensive reading of Scripture. Some go from Genesis to Revelation, but many help the reader by moving about the Bible, going back and forth in the Old and New Testaments, for instance. Many offer a way to read the whole Bible in a year. This is not too difficult. It takes only 15 minutes a day.

However, this is the key: Don’t get bogged down when you’re doing that 15 minutes of reading and you are having a hard time understanding it. This is why most people give up. Just keep reading. Read if you understand and read if you’re in a passage you do not understand. If you are reading the word of God as a lifestyle, you’ll come back to that passage again and again. It may be that you’ll understand it the fourth time you read it, or you’ll understand it when you get to the end of the book. If you have doubts you’ll be able to be committed to reading 15 minutes a day, then choose a two-year reading plan, which takes just seven minutes a day.

[Check out Bible Gateway’s Bible reading plans.]

Look at it this way: God is there for you for your whole life. On good days and bad days. And the word of God is there for you for your whole life. Just read. Just read. Just read.

Get the whole book version of How to Understand the Bible here. Not yet signed up to receive “How to Understand the Bible” via email? You can follow along here at the blog, but we recommend signing up for email updates here. “How to Understand the Bible” is available as a print book at

Mel Lawrenz is Director of The Brook Network and creator of The Influence Project. He’s the author of thirteen books, most recently Spiritual Influence: the Hidden Power Behind Leadership.

Bible News Roundup – Week of May 17, 2015

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Stornoway Gazette (Scotland) Columnist Tweets the Books of the Bible in Four Words
Stornoway Gazette

Apollo 13 “Lunar Bible” Up for Auction
CBS News
Also see “First Liquid Poured on the Moon

One of the Earliest Known Copies of the Ten Commandments Sees the Light of Day
The Washington Post

Protestant Reformer Martin Luther’s 16th Century Notes Found
BBC News

Cuba Lifts Ban on Bible; 250,000 Delivered
The Joplin Globe

Bibles Were at Ireland Polling Stations. Here’s Why.

Students Attempt to Ban Bible from Aberystwyth University Halls in Wales
Christian Concern

Plains Cree Bible Translation Underway in Saskatoon Canada
CBC News

Now the Bible Can be Read in Chhattisgarhi Dialect in India
The Times of India

Italian Man Spends 10 Years Illustrating and Handwriting the Bible
Visual News

A German Bible Museum (Almost) Without Bibles
dpa international

Crumpled Remains of Bible Among Items in Lost Climber’s Pack Discovered 30 Years After an Avalanche

Jewish Theo Seminary to Auction 1455 Edition of the Book of Esther from Gutenberg Bible

5th Annual Bible Reading Marathon Recap
Hartford House of Prayer

World’s Largest Bible Weighs Over Half a Ton and Was Printed One Letter at a Time
Against the Grain

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Ascension Day 2015: Meaning, Context, Bible Verses, and Why It’s Important for Christians

[Editor’s note: The following article by Leah Marieann Klett is re-published by permission of The Gospel Herald (@TheGospelHerald).]

The ascension of Jesus Christ is one of the most significant events recorded in the New Testament. In the Christian tradition, Ascension Day marks the 40th day of Easter, and commemorates Jesus Christ’s ascension into heaven following his death and resurrection, as recorded in the passages found in Luke 24:50-51 and Acts 1:8-11.

According to the biblical account of the ascension, Jesus appears to the disciples in His glorified state after rising from the dead. Jesus then encourages His disciples that they will “receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you.” He tells them that they must serve as His “witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”

Immediately after these words are spoken, the ascension takes place: “He was taken up before their very eyes, and a cloud hid him from their sight. They were looking intently up into the sky as He was going, when suddenly two men dressed in white stood beside them. ‘Men of Galilee,’ they said, ‘why do you stand here looking into the sky? This same Jesus, who has been taken from you into heaven, will come back in the same way you have seen him go into heaven.'”

Christ’s ascension into Heaven marked the crowning event of His exaltation, and served as a necessary precursor to His continuing work through the Spirit and the church.

Having paid the ultimate price for the sin of humanity—death on the cross—Jesus Christ is now risen and exalted, and applies the salvation He has won by granting the gifts of repentance and forgiveness of sins. Thus, Ascension Day is significant because it provides believers with the hope of Christ’s return and proclaims the hope and glory held out to all who are in Christ.

Here are some verses to ponder as you observe this Ascension Day and thank God for the finished work of His son, the Holy Spirit’s presence in our lives, and the promise of Christ’s return.

Having been raised from the dead, Christ is now glorified and seated at the right hand of God

Mark 16:19 — “After the Lord Jesus had spoken to them, he was taken up into heaven and he sat at the right hand of God.”

Luke 22:69 — “But from now on, the Son of Man will be seated at the right hand of the mighty God.”

John 20:17 — “Jesus said, ‘Do not hold on to me, for I have not yet ascended to the Father. Go instead to my brothers and tell them, “I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.”‘”

Hebrews 1:3 — “The Son is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of his being, sustaining all things by his powerful word. After he had provided purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty in heaven.”

Hebrews 12:2 — “Fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.”

Now in His glorified state, Christ continually intercedes on our behalf to God the Father

Romans 8:34 — “Who is to condemn? Christ Jesus is the one who died—more than that, who was raised—who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us.”

Hebrews 7:25 — “Therefore He is able to save completely those who come to God through Him, because he always lives to intercede for them.”

Romans 8:27 — “And he who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for God’s people in accordance with the will of God.”

As Jesus promised during His ascension, we are now indwelt with the Holy Spirit

John 7:39 — “By this he meant the Spirit, whom those who believed in him were later to receive. Up to that time the Spirit had not been given, since Jesus had not yet been glorified.”

Acts 2:33 — “Exalted to the right hand of God, he has received from the Father the promised Holy Spirit and has poured out what you now see and hear.”

Acts 7:55 — “But Stephen, full of the Holy Spirit, looked up to heaven and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing at the right hand of God.”

John 14:26 — “But the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you.”

Christ will someday return to earth

Acts 3:19-21 — “Repent, then, and turn to God, so that your sins may be wiped out, that times of refreshing may come from the Lord, and that he may send the Christ, who has been appointed for you – even Jesus. He must remain in heaven until the time comes for God to restore everything, as he promised long ago through his holy prophets.”

Acts 17:31 — “For he has set a day when he will judge the world with justice by the man he has appointed. He has given proof of this to everyone by raising him from the dead.”

1 Corinthians 1:7 — “Therefore you do not lack any spiritual gift as you eagerly wait for our Lord Jesus Christ to be revealed.”

1 Corinthians 4:5 — “Therefore judge nothing before the appointed time; wait till the Lord comes. He will bring to light what is hidden in darkness and will expose the motives of men’s hearts. At that time each will receive his praise from God.”

The Oak Ridge Boys: An Interview with Joe Bonsall

Joe Bonsall
For more than 40 years, the legendary Oak Ridge Boys (41 million records sold) have been on the road entertaining sold-out audiences with their classic hit songs like Elvira, Bobbie Sue, Thank God for Kids, and many others. As their fans will testify, an Oak Ridge Boys concert is an unforgettable experience.

Bible Gateway interviewed Joe Bonsall (@joebonsall) about his book, On the Road with the Oak Ridge Boys: Forty Years of Untold Stories and Adventures (Harvest House Publishers, 2015).

Click to buy your copy of On the Road with the Oak Ridge Boys in the Bible Gateway Store

For those who may not know, briefly explain who The Oak Ridge Boys are, their style of music, the scope of their popularity, and your part in it all.

Joe Bonsall: The Oak Ridge Boys are an American music group whose roots date back to World War II. The present members have been singing together for almost 42 years. With a start in southern gospel the Oaks have maintained a lengthy and award-winning career spanning decades of hit songs with 41 million albums sold. We were recently inducted into The Country Music Hall of Fame. Me? I’m just a spoke in the wheel.

How did you come to believe what the Bible says about Jesus?

Joe Bonsall: I was heavily influenced by Christian kids in my neighborhood in Philadelphia that never gave up on me. But mostly… it was my mother who taught me about Jesus and the Bible!

On your website, you say the Bible is your favorite book. Why?

Joe Bonsall: Because it is God’s holy Word and a road map for my life. No other book can match that and besides… the stories are wonderful!

Do you have a favorite verse, passage, story, or book of the Bible? If so, why do you single that out from others?

Joe Bonsall: I have no absolute favorite verse. It is the cross and our risen savior that sticks out to me.

Do the other members of The Boys have Bible favorites and what are they?

Joe Bonsall: Everyone’s faith is their own private matter. I do know, however, that all of my singing partners are Bible believing Christians.

Describe the difficulty of maintaining a strong Bible-based faith in the professional music world.

Joe Bonsall: I have never found it difficult to be a light for Christ. I don’t think it’s any more difficult then doing anything else with your life. There are always temptations and Satan is everywhere. The battle between doing what is right or slipping away is everyone’s personal decision, no matter what their vocation.

Would you say that, of all popular music genres, country music is more accepting of the message of the Bible? If so, why do you think that is?

Joe Bonsall: I have no answer to this. I think that if people are brought up right and their decisions are made in a Christ-like fashion, then they shine their light. Many pop musicians started by singing in church and I think those memories and experiences affect your life no matter what your preferred genre of music may be.

What songs might there be that The Oak Ridge Boys sing that have as a foundation to their message a connection to biblical principles?

Joe Bonsall: We are always on the lookout for positive music. We are just not very good at not being positive. Big hits like Everyday, Dig In The Well, Touch A Hand, and so many more are positive in nature. But where the light really shines is when we sing gospel songs; for instance, we just recorded a hymns album—a very cool project called Rock Of Ages. It’s fun to sing about “the old story” in four-part harmony.

What do you hope readers of this book will experience?

Joe Bonsall: I think this book is a fun and very insightful look into the world of an American music act that has endured over decades of song. I try to take readers into our world and make them a fly on the wall. This is how we do it; this is how we have done it. And along the way I do my best to be a strong witness for Jesus Christ and give him the constant praise and glory. If you’re a fan of The Boys you’ll love it. If you’re a music student of some sort… this is a road map. If you need a laugh and a blessing here and there? It’s all here in On the Road with the Oak Ridge Boys.

Bio: Joseph S. Bonsall is an avid writer, songwriter, and 40-plus year member of the legendary American music group The Oak Ridge Boys. His previous books include G.I. Joe & Lillie Remembering a Life of Love & Loyalty and several children’s books. For relaxation, Joe retreats to his 350-acre farm on the Tennessee-Kentucky state line with his wife, Mary, and their seven cats. He also plays the banjo.

The Reformation Study Bible: An Interview with Dr. R.C. Sproul

[Editor’s Note: Click to buy your copy of the Reformation Study Bible (2015) in the Bible Gateway StoreReformation 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.”

Bible passage search result page exampleThe 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.]

Dr. R.C. SproulThe 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.

Bible Gateway interviewed Dr. R.C. Sproul (@rcsproul) about The Reformation Study Bible (2015) (Reformation Trust Publishing, 2015).

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.

Explain the Reformed tradition of the original Geneva Bible and how the Reformation Study Bible stands in that tradition.

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: Dr. R.C. Sproul is co-pastor of Saint Andrew’s Chapel in Sanford, Fla., and the founder and chairman of Ligonier Ministries. A theologian, he’s 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.

Bible News Roundup – Week of May 10, 2015

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Big Drop in Share of Americans Calling Themselves Christian
The New York Times

Pew: Evangelicals Stay Strong as Christianity Crumbles in America
Christianity Today

Christianity Is Not Dying; Reports Pointing to Decline of Church Are Skewing Data, Say Baylor University Scholars
The Christian Post

Nominals to Nones: 3 Key Takeaways From Pew’s Religious Landscape Survey
Ed Stetzer

Vanderbilt Poll: Majority of Tennesseans Support Making the Bible the Official State Book
The Tennessean

Senegal Bible Translation Project Coming to a Satisfying Close
Mission Network News

25-year Project by the Christian Reformed Churches in the Netherlands to Translate the Bible to a Sesarwa Dialect is Nearing Completion

Bible Translation Workshop Focuses on First Nations Languages
Anglican Church of Canada

Why You Can Trust Your Bible
The Gospel Coalition | Arizona

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Four Biblical Mothers to Remember on Mother’s Day

hannahMother’s Day is just a few days away! We hope you’ll take some time this weekend to pay respects to your mother—or if that isn’t possible, to somebody in your life who embodies the grace and wisdom we associate with godly mothers.

The Bible speaks highly of mothers who raise children and guide their families in a righteous manner; in the oft-quoted Proverbs 31, the “wife of noble character” is honored by her husband and children for her virtues.

Motherhood wasn’t a requirement for godly women in Bible times—and just as today, not every woman who wanted children was granted her wish. But the mothers and matriarchs of the Bible exhibit qualities that all of us, male or female, parent or not, should strive to emulate. Here are a few of the famous mothers of the Bible, with links to their stories:

1. Mary, the Mother of Jesus

Perhaps no more famous mother exists than Mary, who at a young age learned from an angel that she would give birth to the long-awaited Messiah. Her song of praise in response, and the well-known events of Christ’s birth, are what usually spring to mind when we think of Mary. But her role as mother brought her grief as well as joy; we can only imagine what it must have been like for her to witness Jesus’ crucifixion. Read her story in John 19.

2. Elizabeth

Mary’s was not the only miraculous birth recorded in the New Testament. Elizabeth was a godly woman who was “righteous in the sight of God, observing all the Lord’s commands and decrees blamelessly”—and yet she and her husband were unable to conceive a child. God answered her prayers late in her life and she gave birth to John the Baptist, but is perhaps best known for her prophetic encouragement of the young (and perhaps frightened) Mary: “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the child you will bear! But why am I so favored, that the mother of my Lord should come to me? As soon as the sound of your greeting reached my ears, the baby in my womb leaped for joy. Blessed is she who has believed that the Lord would fulfill his promises to her!” Read her story in Luke 1.

3. Hannah

Hannah is one of the most inspiring mothers in the Bible, although her story is less well-known. Despite years of patience and prayer, she remained unable to have a child. One day “in her deep anguish Hannah prayed to the LORD, weeping bitterly”—and God answered her prayer at last. But Hannah’s character truly shone when, in gratitude to God, she dedicated her newborn son to His service. Her son would one day become one of Israel’s greatest prophets. Read her story in 1 Samuel 1.

4. Sarah, the Wife of Abraham

Sarah is one of the great matriarchs of the Bible—yet she didn’t become a mother until very late in life. In fact, her reaction to God’s promise that she would have a son was to laugh, as memorably recorded in Genesis 18. Nevertheless she did give birth to a son, and her lineage would include Jesus Christ himself. Read her story in Genesis 18.

There are many more famous mothers described in the Bible; many of them righteous, some not so much, but all used by God to bring about His design. This weekend, as we give thanks for the mothers in our lives, consider how you can embody the traits that define a godly mother—patience, kindheartedness, faithfulness—and consider how you can encourage the mothers in your community, young and old, as they work to meet that same standard.

While Mother’s Day is on your mind, here are a few Mother’s Day devotionals worth checking out (or passing along to mom):

Happy Mother’s Day to you and to the mother figure in your life!

Five Biblical Prayers for the National Day of Prayer

Today is the National Day of Prayer in the United States (#dayofprayer)—a day when people are encouraged to spend time in prayer and meditation. This year’s event is themed around 1 Kings 8:28:

…give attention to your servant’s prayer and his plea for mercy, Lord my God. Hear the cry and the prayer that your servant is praying in your presence this day.

Are you planning to participate in any way? To mark today’s special focus on prayer, we’ve gathered five of the most interesting and memorable prayers in the Bible. Use these as inspiration as you spend time in prayer today!

#5: David’s Prayer of Repentance (Psalm 51)

Convicted of a terrible sin, the Israelite King David cried out to God with one of the most moving confessions and pleas for forgiveness in all of the Bible.

Have mercy on me, O God,
because of your unfailing love.
Because of your great compassion,
blot out the stain of my sins.
Wash me clean from my guilt.
Purify me from my sin.
For I recognize my rebellion;
it haunts me day and night.
Against you, and you alone, have I sinned;
I have done what is evil in your sight.
You will be proved right in what you say,
and your judgment against me is just.
For I was born a sinner—
yes, from the moment my mother conceived me.
But you desire honesty from the womb,
teaching me wisdom even there.
Purify me from my sins, and I will be clean;
wash me, and I will be whiter than snow.
Oh, give me back my joy again;
you have broken me—
now let me rejoice.
Don’t keep looking at my sins.
Remove the stain of my guilt.
Create in me a clean heart, O God.
Renew a loyal spirit within me.
Do not banish me from your presence,
and don’t take your Holy Spirit from me.
Restore to me the joy of your salvation,
and make me willing to obey you. — from Psalm 51 (NLT)

#4: The Early Church Prays for Courage (Acts 4)

Continually harassed for their beliefs and activities—even for a miraculous healing!—the early church gathered to thank God for delivering them from prison or worse.

…they raised their voices together to God and said, “Sovereign Lord, who made the heaven and the earth, the sea, and everything in them, it is you who said by the Holy Spirit through our ancestor David, your servant:

‘Why did the Gentiles rage,
and the peoples imagine vain things?
The kings of the earth took their stand,
and the rulers have gathered together
against the Lord and against his Messiah.’

For in this city, in fact, both Herod and Pontius Pilate, with the Gentiles and the peoples of Israel, gathered together against your holy servant Jesus, whom you anointed, to do whatever your hand and your plan had predestined to take place. And now, Lord, look at their threats, and grant to your servants to speak your word with all boldness, while you stretch out your hand to heal, and signs and wonders are performed through the name of your holy servant Jesus.” When they had prayed, the place in which they were gathered together was shaken; and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and spoke the word of God with boldness. — Acts 4:24-31 (NRSV)

#3: Solomon Prays for Wisdom (1 Kings 3)

If God offered to give you whatever you wanted, what would you ask for? The Israelite king Solomon was presented with just such an offer—but he didn’t ask for any of the things you might expect.

At Gibeon the Lord appeared to Solomon during the night in a dream, and God said, “Ask for whatever you want me to give you.”

Solomon answered, “You have shown great kindness to your servant, my father David, because he was faithful to you and righteous and upright in heart. You have continued this great kindness to him and have given him a son to sit on his throne this very day.

“Now, Lord my God, you have made your servant king in place of my father David. But I am only a little child and do not know how to carry out my duties. Your servant is here among the people you have chosen, a great people, too numerous to count or number. So give your servant a discerning heart to govern your people and to distinguish between right and wrong. For who is able to govern this great people of yours?”

The Lord was pleased that Solomon had asked for this. So God said to him, “Since you have asked for this and not for long life or wealth for yourself, nor have asked for the death of your enemies but for discernment in administering justice, I will do what you have asked. I will give you a wise and discerning heart, so that there will never have been anyone like you, nor will there ever be. Moreover, I will give you what you have not asked for—both wealth and honor—so that in your lifetime you will have no equal among kings. And if you walk in obedience to me and keep my decrees and commands as David your father did, I will give you a long life.” — 1 Kings 3 (NIV)

#2: Jehoshaphat Prays for Deliverance (2 Chronicles 20:5-12)

Faced by an overwhelming force of enemies bent on his destruction, the king Jehoshaphat called out to God with a prayer that acknowledged his own powerlessness, and entreated God to intervene.

And Jehoshaphat stood in the assembly of Judah and Jerusalem, in the house of the Lord, before the new court, and said, “O Lord, God of our fathers, are you not God in heaven? You rule over all the kingdoms of the nations. In your hand are power and might, so that none is able to withstand you. Did you not, our God, drive out the inhabitants of this land before your people Israel, and give it forever to the descendants of Abraham your friend? And they have lived in it and have built for you in it a sanctuary for your name, saying, ‘If disaster comes upon us, the sword, judgment, or pestilence, or famine, we will stand before this house and before you—for your name is in this house—and cry out to you in our affliction, and you will hear and save.’ And now behold, the men of Ammon and Moab and Mount Seir, whom you would not let Israel invade when they came from the land of Egypt, and whom they avoided and did not destroy— behold, they reward us by coming to drive us out of your possession, which you have given us to inherit. O our God, will you not execute judgment on them? For we are powerless against this great horde that is coming against us. We do not know what to do, but our eyes are on you.” — 2 Chronicles 20:5-12 (ESV)

#1: The Lord’s Prayer (Matthew 6:9-13)

Jesus’ own prayer is certainly the most famous prayer in the Bible—and it’s noteworthy for being short and to-the-point. Asked to demonstrate for his disciples how to pray, here’s how Jesus responded.

You, therefore, pray like this:

Pray, then, in this way:

‘Our Father who is in heaven,
Hallowed be Your name.
Your kingdom come.
Your will be done,
On earth as it is in heaven.
Give us this day [a]our daily bread.
And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors.
‘And do not lead us into temptation, but deliver us from evil. For Yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever. Amen.’ — Matthew 6:9-13 (NASB)