The Careful Bible Study

To study the Bible is not a choice that a Christian can decide to do or not to do, but it is the duty of all Christians to study the word of God. When studying the word of God Christians must be careful in their approach in order to get the most of of their time spent in the Bible. Here are three simple tips that are crucial for studying the Bible.

1. The first Tip is to approach Bible study through prayer. Do not simply jump into reading a passage of scripture without first going to the Lord in prayer. The way to approach your Bible study is to ask the Holy Spirit to be your guide, to open up the word of God for you and to assist you in understanding.

2. Do not skip around in the Bible. Pick one book and read all the way through that book before moving on to other areas in the Bible. I would suggest if you are a new Christian to read all four Gospel accounts before moving on to any other area of scripture. When we read books we do not simply open a book and read a paragraph here and there and then the next time we open the book and randomly start reading some other portion. The Bible should be approach the same way in order to understand what we are reading we must allow the Bible to present its content fully.

3. The third tip for Bible study is to highlight or take notes of what you’re reading. By highlighting or taking notes it will help you absorb and memorize more of the Bible then you would otherwise if you was just reading through it.

The word of God is our means as Christians to understanding God. Frequent Bible study is crucial for growing our faith. By approaching Bible study in prayer and by reading the Bible in proper order and highlighting or taking notes are three simple tips that allows a Christian to grasp the word of God more fully.

Did Paul Practice Jewish Sacrifice After His Conversion?

Did Paul sacrifice animals and hold to Jewish law when he was in the temple after his conversion? This is a question that arises from the book of Acts. Two specific examples are the following two verses.

“So Paul went to the Temple the next day with the other men. They had already started the purification ritual, so he publicly announced the date when their vows would end and sacrifices would be offered for each of them.”
‭‭Acts of the Apostles‬ ‭21:26‬ ‭NLT

“After several years away, I returned to Jerusalem with money to aid my people and to offer sacrifices to God.”
‭‭Acts of the Apostles‬ ‭24:17‬ ‭NLT‬‬

There are a difference of opinion concerning this question from the book of Acts. The issue at stake concerns a possible hypocrisy of Paul or an inconsistency of his theology. Elsewhere, in the writings of Paul he is clear the Jewish law is no longer sufficient but it is Jesus Christ crucified and his resurrection that provide the means of forgiveness.

Starting with Acts 21:26 we see direct textual evidence that Paul participated in the ritual cleansing before entering the Temple. This behavior is surprising given the teachings of Paul that justification is from Christ alone.

“But now God has shown us a way to be made right with him without keeping the requirements of the law, as was promised in the writings of Moses and the prophets long ago. We are made right with God by placing our faith in Jesus Christ. And this is true for everyone who believes, no matter who we are. For everyone has sinned; we all fall short of God’s glorious standard. Yet God, in his grace, freely makes us right in his sight. He did this through Christ Jesus when he freed us from the penalty for our sins. For God presented Jesus as the sacrifice for sin. People are made right with God when they believe that Jesus sacrificed his life, shedding his blood. This sacrifice shows that God was being fair when he held back and did not punish those who sinned in times past, for he was looking ahead and including them in what he would do in this present time. God did this to demonstrate his righteousness, for he himself is fair and just, and he makes sinners right in his sight when they believe in Jesus. Can we boast, then, that we have done anything to be accepted by God? No, because our acquittal is not based on obeying the law. It is based on faith. So we are made right with God through faith and not by obeying the law.”
‭‭Romans‬ ‭3:21-28‬ ‭NLT‬‬

So one could ask the question, why did Paul observe the ritual cleaning before entering the temple? The Bible does not provide a direct answer to this question. However, one can venture to say that Paul was acting in accordance to Jewish custom in order to stay innocent of any possible accusations that he was disregarding Jewish law. To disregard the law held true criminal penalties. Therefore, the ritual cleansing while a surprise would not necessarily fall into sin. Perhaps another reason for Paul participating in the ritual cleansing was his desire to reach others with the Gospel.

“Even though I am a free man with no master, I have become a slave to all people to bring many to Christ. When I was with the Jews, I lived like a Jew to bring the Jews to Christ. When I was with those who follow the Jewish law, I too lived under that law. Even though I am not subject to the law, I did this so I could bring to Christ those who are under the law. When I am with the Gentiles who do not follow the Jewish law, I too live apart from that law so I can bring them to Christ. But I do not ignore the law of God; I obey the law of Christ. When I am with those who are weak, I share their weakness, for I want to bring the weak to Christ. Yes, I try to find common ground with everyone, doing everything I can to save some.”
‭‭1 Corinthians‬ ‭9:19-22‬ ‭NLT‬‬

Paul admits in 1 Cor 9:19-22 that he was willing to become whatever he needed to become in order to preach Jesus. This tactic is used by missionaries today across the globe. Therefore, if Paul washed himself in order to preach Jesus then so be it as long as he avoided sin.

This leaves the second and more potent question. Did Paul provide an animal for sacrifice in the temple. Translations interpret this verse in different ways. In fact several translations do not render in English the wording “sacrifices to God”. Here are a few other popular translations and their handling of this verse.

“After an absence of several years, I came to Jerusalem to bring my people gifts for the poor and to present offerings.”
‭‭Acts‬ ‭24:17‬ ‭NIV‬‬

“After many years, I came to bring charitable gifts and offerings to my nation,”
‭‭Acts‬ ‭24:17‬ ‭HCSB

“Now after many years I came to bring alms to my nation, and offerings.”
‭‭Acts‬ ‭24:17‬ ‭KJV‬‬

Comparing these translations it can appear to provide two different verses. With the NLT being an outsider with the rendering of “sacrifices to God”.

I chose the NIV, and HCSB as they are both a dynamic translation philosophy, which is the same as the NLT. A dynamic translation philosophy means the scholars behind the translation did not render the translation word for word. In a dynamic philosophy the interpreters concentrate more on thought for thought with the idea of reader comprehension in mind. The KJV is a formal translation that is more concerned with word for word and less with readability. But even the KJV uses some thought for thought as the Greek into English does not transfer word for word.

The truth is biblical interpretation is both an art and a science. If we return to the original language it is clear the NLT rendering and the other translations are faithful to the original language.

Here is the verse in Greek from the manuscript used by the NLT interpreters “δι᾽ἐτῶν δὲ πλειόνων , ἐλεημοσύναςποιήσων εἰς τὸ ἔθνος μουπαρεγενόμην καὶ προσφοράς” . With προσφοράς being the word that provides the translation “to offer sacrifices to God”. Elsewhere the NLT translation for this term is
“an offering, an offering, offering, offerings, sacrifices”

Each time this term is used for offering, it is in more the traditional sense.

“I am a special messenger from Christ Jesus to you Gentiles. I bring you the Good News so that I might present you as an acceptable offering to God, made holy by the Holy Spirit.”
‭‭Romans‬ ‭15:16‬ ‭NLT‬‬
The rendering offering to God is the word προσφορὰ.

“Live a life filled with love, following the example of Christ. He loved us and offered himself as a sacrifice for us, a pleasing aroma to God.”
‭‭Ephesians‬ ‭5:2‬ ‭NLT‬‬
Notice in this verse we have the terms offering and sacrifice. Interesting enough the term standing behind sacrifice in this verse is θυσίαν and not προσφορὰ which is standing behind the English word “offering”.

θυσίαν means
[a] sacrifice, an offering, offerings, sacrifice, sacrifices. But what is interesting here is the other verses that use this word for sacrifices.

“And I know it is important to love him with all my heart and all my understanding and all my strength, and to love my neighbor as myself. This is more important than to offer all of the burnt offerings and sacrifices required in the law.””
‭‭Mark‬ ‭12:33‬ ‭NLT‬‬

“So they offered the sacrifice required in the law of the Lord—“either a pair of turtledoves or two young pigeons.””
‭‭Luke‬ ‭2:24‬ ‭NLT‬‬

“Live a life filled with love, following the example of Christ. He loved us and offered himself as a sacrifice for us, a pleasing aroma to God.”
‭‭Ephesians‬ ‭5:2‬ ‭NLT‬‬

Notice when this term is used it is used in direct relation to temple sacrifice. The previous term we explored is used more in offerings.

Putting it all together I fully believe Acts 24:17 is best understood as a offering of money. A sacrifice in the sense that Paul was giving something up for God. Therefore, it can be concluded based on the textual evidence from the original Greek manuscript that was used for the NLT translation that Paul did not sacrifice an animal in the temple.

Luke 18: Humble Repentance

Greetings,

In Luke 18 we are taught the importance of humble repentance. We are given an example of a Pharisee who is praying a prayer that is exalting his obedience to the law and giving thanks that he is not like other sinners. The other individual praying is a tax collector who has recognized his sin and has come to God in prayer to simply ask for mercy and forgiveness. The prayer of the Pharisee is prideful and receives no response, but the humble prayer of the tax collector receives an answer, he walks away with mercy. Let us approach the throne of grace humbly. Let us dig deep in our hearts and ask God to forgive our sins. If we do, our relationship with God will grow and we will become transformed.

God Bless

Luke 17: 1 out of 10

Greetings,

Luke 17 gives an account of 10 people with leprosy who asked Christ for healing. They were told to present themselves to the priest and they were cleansed. However, only 1 of the 10 returned to give glory and praise to God. We are told that the one individual who did return to give thanks was a foreigner and because of his faith was saved. The other 9 received healing but scripture does not state they received salvation. The man who came back bowed down to Christ and recognized he owed his restoration to Christ. He accepted Christ as the source of his salvation. While the others were cleansed and witnessed the power of Christ firsthand their hearts remained hardened. Today, things are not so different. People are confronted by Jesus Christ, and they witness his power firsthand. Unfortunately, they leave their encounter with Christ to never return to him, they will never hear the words, your faith has saved you.

God Bless

Luke 14: It Will Cost You Everything

Greetings,

In Luke 14 we are given a warning, following Christ comes with a cost. A person must be willing to place Christ first in their life, even above their own family and above themselves. A person who wants to follow Christ should be willing to pick up their cross and follow Jesus. To pick up their cross is a symbolic statement that to follow Christ is a life of sacrifice. We sacrifice our own self interest for the cause of the Kingdom.The person who wants to follow Christ should look inward and decide if they are willing to truly commit themselves fully to the cause of Christ. The cost is not cheap.

God Bless

Luke 14: Humbleness

Greetings,

In Luke 14, we are taught, a person who humbles themselves will be exalted but one who exalts themselves will be humbled. We have no righteousness apart from Jesus Christ. Therefore, we should remain humble. Being humble as a Christian is recognizing there is nothing special about us apart from Christ. God did not provide salvation to any Christian because they did good works. Salvation comes through the atoning work of Jesus Christ. We are to be humble because we understand that apart from a Jesus Christ we have nothing. We owe everything to Jesus Christ!

God Bless

Luke 13: A Growing Faith

Greetings,

In Luke 13 we read about a tiny mustard seed growing into a tree that provides rest for the birds. We read of a little leaven mixing with flour and making the whole batch of flour leaven. The theme of these parables are clear a little can become a lot. A little faith can change you completely. A little faith can change those around you. A little faith can change the world because a little faith becomes a complete faith.

God Bless

Luke 13: Parable Of A Vineyard

Greetings,

In Luke 13, Jesus tells a parable about a vineyard owner who gives an order to cut down a fig tree that failed to produce any fruit for 3 years. However, a vineyard worker pleads with the owner of the vineyard to give the tree 1 more year and he will do everything within his power to see if the tree will bare fruit. In this parable the vineyard owner is God. The fig tree is symbolic for Israel, and the 3 years represents that Israel has had ample time to produce fruit. Therefore, the vineyard worker who extends the fig tree chances by another year is the ministry of Jesus Christ. This parable is a good analytical tool for Christians. Are we the type of fig tree that is of value to the vineyard owner or are we producing no fruit. The scripture is clear if we know Christ we will produce good fruit. This is evidence of our faith walk.

God Bless

Luke 12: Stewardship

Greetings,

The definition of stewardship according to Merriam Webster is “the conducting, supervising, or managing of something: especially the careful and responsible management of something entrusted to one’s care”. As a Christian we are to be good stewards of the responsibilities that God has entrusted to us. We are to represent Christ in our day to day actions and manage ourselves in a manner that is consistent with scripture. As Christians we have been entrusted with the gospel, and I pray we are good stewards, looking and praying for opportunities to share the good news with the world.

God Bless