The Way To Do Bible Class

Stick to the schedule.

Different congregations take different approaches to Bible class. Some use study books. Some do topical studies. I once heard an elder from another congregation boast that they had been  studying Revelation for three years and were only in chapter six. For many years the elders at Tolar have seen the importance of staying with a schedule which moves us through the New Testament regularly. In order to give attention to the whole New Testament, we must stick with the schedule. Teachers should not take it upon themselves to move at a slower pace. And if there is too much discussion in class it is the teacher’s responsibility to pick up the pace. Bible class is not enjoyable to most people when the class moves along at a snail’s pace and every word or phrase is parsed and debated. Teachers are given a schedule to teach a particular text of Scripture on Sunday morning and Wednesday night Bible classes. If you agree to teach a Bible class, it is your responsibility to keep that schedule and completely cover that portion of text each week.

 

Stick to the Bible

Bible class is no place for political posturing and pontificating. Whether you are Republican, Democrat or something else, leave it at home. Do not hijack the discussion so you can air a grievance you have against some office holder or political party. I have a copy of the United States Constitution in my bookcase at home. If we want to have a civics class, I’ll bring it. If we are having a Bible class, I’ll bring my Bible.

 Brad Fry

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Published in: on February 1, 2017 at 4:05 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Reading & Thinking

The seventeenth century philosopher, John Locke wrote, “Reading furnishes the mind only with materials of knowledge; it is thinking that makes what we read ours.”

Perhaps the reason some people get very little out of reading is that is all they are doing—just reading without thinking, processing and applying. Many have complained, “I can’t read the Bible for very long.” Some say, “I can’t understand the Bible”. Maybe they could if they took the time and thought through what they were reading.

Paul wrote, “When you read this, you can perceive my insight into the mystery of Christ, (Ephesians 3:4), But, to be sure, the man who reads glibly or who surrounds himself by distractions, will not perceive Paul’s insight. He is making no real effort to perceive.

The eunuch from Ethiopia was “reading the prophet Isaiah” (Acts 8:30), but needed help to understand what he was reading. That’s normal because some writings, like some of Paul’s, are “hard to understand” (2 Peter 3:16). So when you’ve hit a wall, even after you’ve struggled with the text on your own for a while, get some help if you’re still unclear as to what the text means and/or how it applies. But wrestle with it on your own before you tap out and tag a partner.

Prayerfully reading, thinking and ruminating are intellectual and spiritual pleasures. But the sluggard will think them too hard.

Do yourself a favor and accept God’s invitation to think. “Come now, let us reason together, says the Lord: though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red like crimson, they shall become like wool.” (Isaiah 1:18) Sounds like a pretty good payoff, don’t you think?
Brad Fry

Published in: on November 30, 2016 at 2:45 pm  Leave a Comment  

Why the ESV?

The reason for this article is to address questions and comments some have offered and asked as to why I use the ESV. In November of 2003 I began to use the English Standard Version for my personal study and for teaching and preaching. Prior to that I had used the New American Standard Version since 1985.

         Almost since first becoming a Christian in 1980 I had impressed upon me the importance of using the most accurate translation of the Bible I could get my hands on. So for a few years I used the American Standard Version of 1901. It is regarded by many biblical scholars as the most accurate English translation of the Bible in history. After a while I began to see the importance of clear communication being high on the list as well. For some reason the translators of the ASV chose to retain much of the archaic verbiage of the KJV of 1611. The sentence construction, though mostly following closely the original languages, was, in my opinion, stiff and not as readable as it could have been. The New American Standard, though using more of a modern vocabulary, had the inexplicable policy of using “Thee” and “Thou” when addressing deity. At least in the days when the KJV was translated that was the vernacular. Though not the vernacular of the ASV they were at least consistent in that they used the old English personal pronouns more consistently, regardless of who was being addressed. Apparently the NAS translators believed that one showed God more reverence by using “Thee” and “Thou” instead of “You” and “Your”. Finally in their 1995 update they updated their pronouns. But still the sentence structure didn’t flow well. And it never had, in my opinion, the classic and majestic beauty of the KJV or even of the ASV. Then in 2003 I was introduced to the English Standard Version. After reading samples and critiques of it I ordered one for myself. I was hooked and have been using it ever since.

         The ESV, in my opinion is the best English version of the Bible in print. It has the proper combination of accuracy, classical beauty of phraseology and readability that a Bible should have. It avoids the approach of many modern versions to attempt to interpret the passage instead of translating the words. Its translation is based on the best manuscript evidence available, an approach that should be the standard of any translation at any time.

         You may have noticed in this article that I often mentioned “my opinion”. Well that’s what this is. Contrary to the fact that many write and talk about what version to use with a lot of bluster and dogmatism, their conclusions are still a matter of opinion and preference. There is no perfect translation of the Bible because translations are the products of men. That doesn’t mean there are not reliable translations of the Bible. The ESV, NAS, ASV, KJV and some others are reliable translations. None of them are the gold standard by which all others must be measured. Only the best manuscripts of the Hebrew, Greek and Aramaic can give us that. So unless you have a working knowledge of those languages, you like most people, are dependent upon those who do. But that’s nothing to fret over. Take any one of the above translations, learn it and live it and you’ll be fine with God.

 How sweet are your words to my taste, sweeter than honey to my mouth! (Psalm 119:103)

Brad Fry

Published in: on March 31, 2011 at 9:18 am  Leave a Comment  
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In Defense of Proper Proof Texting

In his book, “Toward An Exegetical Theology” Walter C. Kaiser Jr. laments the practice of proof texting which he defines as, “the isolation and use of verses apart from their immediate or sectional context,” which Kaiser says “is reprehensible and should be discontinued immediately.” Well that depends on what kind of proof texting one is doing, doesn’t it? For there is proper proof texting and improper proof texting, just as there is proper judging (John 7:24 ) and improper judging (Matthew 7:1 ). Other people have latched on to Mr. Kaiser’s condemnation of proof texting treating it with scorn whenever it is used against their position, especially when they are losing an argument. Some are discerning enough to make a distinction between proper proof texting and ripping a verse out of context, forcing it into service for one’s agenda and doing violence to the author’s original meaning. And of course that is very wrong. But let’s call that what it is—misusing the text, which is always wrong.

         However I suspect that some would prefer to condemn “proof-texting” because of their distaste for having their positions proven wrong when someone shows them a passage of Scripture that contradicts what they believe. Here are some examples. Some say that one is justified by faith only. James 2:24 says one is not justified by faith only. Some say baptism follows salvation. Mark 16:16 says baptism comes before salvation. Some say a Christian can’t fall from grace. Galatians 5:4 says he can. Some say that worship is limited to 5 acts on Sunday. Romans 12:1 says our bodies are to be presented as living sacrifices, “which is your spiritual worship”. Some say Jesus is not God. John 1:1-14 says he certainly is God. Get the picture? Proof-texting is only wrong when it is done wrong.

         So, wrong proof texting is clearly bad. But how do we know any proof texting is proper? Glad you asked. Peter did it (Acts 1:20; 2:17-21,24-28,34,35, etc.). Stephen did it (Acts 7:42-50). Paul did it (Acts 13:33-41). James did it (Acts 15:15-17). John did it (John 12:15,39,40). And last, but not least, Jesus did it (Matthew 4:1-11; 21:16,17,42, etc). Every time you find a writer or speaker in the Bible appealing to the Old Testament to prove the truth of what he is saying or writing, he is proof texting. By the way, was that proof texting for me to show you that Jesus and others proof texted? Oh well, I’m in good company.

         Friends, not only is proper proof texting right, it is the only kind of proof that should carry any authority whatsoever when we are talking about biblical issues. What do people think phrases like “it is written” (used 80 times in the Bible) and “thus says the Lord” (used over 400 times in the Bible) mean? They mean that the only proof worth anything and the only proof that men may be rightly bound to is what is in the Bible, the text. Luke writes that Apollos, who was “mighty in the Scriptures” (Acts 18:24), “powerfully refuted the Jews in public, demonstrating by the Scriptures that Jesus was the Christ” (Acts 18:28). Sounds like proof texting to me.

         If you and I disagree on a matter I’m not going to tell you how I feel, what the Holy Spirit said to me, what God laid on my heart or how I believe God is leading me to this, that or another conclusion. We have a responsibility to prove our positions. How? By the text, by a proper proof text.

Brad Fry

Published in: on February 10, 2011 at 8:23 am  Leave a Comment  
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What Do You Know?

When someone says, “I don’t know nearly as much as I thought I did when I was younger”, what does that mean? Those who hear and misunderstand this idea may conclude that the speaker lacks convictions or that he is a moderate, sits on a fence or otherwise doesn’t have the intestinal fortitude to take a position. But, at least in my case, nothing could be further from the truth.

         I am convinced that when God gave us the Bible, he gave us all he intended for us to know with absolute certainty. What he didn’t address or the blanks in our understanding he didn’t fill in are not eternally important. A Christian errs when, after filling in those blanks with his personal opinions, he imposes those opinions upon others, makes them tests of faithfulness and fellowship and, as did Diotrephes, “refuses to welcome the brothers” and “puts them out of the church” (3 John 9,10), at least the one that exists in his own mind and imagination.

         As Christians we must be content with the fact that there are some things that are outside our realm of understanding and outside our right to deliver a verdict. As Moses taught Israel of old “The secret things belong to the Lord our God, but the things that are revealed belong to us and to our children forever, that we may do all the words of this law” (Deuteronomy 29:29). But there are other things that are not “secret things”. They are “the things that are revealed”. They are the things for which we can produce book, chapter and verse for the position we hold and teach. They are the things of which we can say, “I know this is true because the Book says so.”

         The apostle Paul reminded Timothy that “the sacred writings…are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus” (2 Timothy 3:15). The “sacred writings”, the Bible—it alone possesses that ability. Everything else is a matter of opinion.

Brad Fry

Published in: on January 20, 2011 at 4:14 pm  Leave a Comment  
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