Suggestions For Bible Students (Part 4)

Wayne Jackson opined, “In my judgment the greatest problem in the church today (in any age, in fact is) a lack of Bible knowledge.   This is the tap-root of all other problems which plague the Kingdom of Christ” (Jackson, A Study Guide to Greater Bible Knowledge, Introduction).  Whether one agrees with his opinion or not, a lack of knowledge is a serious matter (Hosea 4:6; Matthew 22:29; 2 Peter 3:16).

The purpose of this series is to help us be better Bible students.  Here are some principles which may help with interpretation.

17.  Interpreting Sentences

(1) Always interpret a sentence according to the known purpose of the author.

(2) Interpret the sentence in light of its immediate context.

Sentences and words may have different meanings when expressed in different situations.  For example, consider the phrase, “He hit the cat” in the following situations: (a) A man driving a car down the road; (b) A child playing with a kitten; (c) A man hunting a jaguar; (d) Two men fighting (This illustration provided in Roy H. Deaver’s Brown Trail class notes on Hermeneutics).

(3) Interpret the sentence in light of the fact that the Bible must always harmonize with itself when understood correctly.

(4) Interpret the sentence in light of other statements by the same author on the same subject.

(5) Interpret the sentence in light of statements of other writers of equal authority on the same subject.

18.  Interpreting words

(1) All words are to be understood in their literal sense, unless the evident meaning of the context forbids.

Figurative language is the exception, literal language is the rule; hence, we are not to regard anything as figurative until we feel compelled to do so by the evident import of the passage.

(2) Commands generally are to be understood in a literal sense.

This is a general truth. However, there are some commands given, and declarative statements made with the similar force of a command, in figurative language, in the scriptures (Matthew 5:16; John 3:3).

(3) It is wise to give consideration to how those addressed understood the word (though, there are cases where the hearers misunderstood  cf.  Matthew 16:5-12).

(4) Bible words are best defined by the Bible.

The Bible sometimes uses words in a unique way (e.g. apostle, elder, deacon, the breaking of bread, brethren).  The Bible can be used as its own dictionary.  Consider how the Bible uses the term.

(5) Words of definite action can have but one meaning.

(6) The writer’s explanation is the best definition that can be found [e.g. Immanuel = God with us (Matthew 1:23); Rabbi = Teacher (John 1:38)].

(7) Always keep the author’s known purpose in mind.

(8) The meaning of the word is frequently known by the words used in construction with it.

(9) Watch for possible synonyms and antonyms (or near synonyms and near antonyms).  These may be extremely helpful in understanding words or phrases.

The Bible contains parallelism.  Some parallels are synonymous parallels (e.g. Psalm 8:4; 24:1; 91:13).  Others are antithetic parallels (e.g. Proverbs 15:1; 29:15).  Look for parallels and other restatements of a point, or related words.  This may help one discern meaning.

(10)  Illustrations or parables may give the peculiar sense in which a word is to be understood [e.g. neighbor (Luke 10:25-37)].

(11) Etymological construction will many times tell the meaning of the word.

D.R. Dungan explains, “Nearly all the names of the ancients had meanings, and when, they are constructed of  more than one syllable, the meaning of the several syllables will give the meaning of the whole word or name.  Beersheba, from beer, wells, and Sebiah, seven would be seven wells; Bethel, house of God – are specimens of the meaning attached to the names of places” (Dungan, Hermeneutics, p. 191).

He also cautions, “It should be confessed, however, the rule does not always work, and some words have changed their meanings entirely since they were first made” (ibid).

(12) A study of the history of a word is sometimes necessary in order to get its meaning at a particular time.

Consider this illustration:  “The name board, another form of the word broad, was originally applied to a piece of timber, hewed or sawed, so as to form a wide, thin plank.  It was also applied to the table on which food was placed, and it became common to speak of gathering around a festive board.  By a similar association, the word was also applied to a body of men who were wont to gather around a table to transact business, and hence we have board of trustees, board of commissioners.  The word is also used for the deck of a vessel; hence the terms on board, overboard…” (Dungan, p. 192).

The use of a word can evolve over time.  The aim is to identify what a word meant at a time and place.  “‘Let’ once meant to hinder; ‘prevent’ once meant to come before” (ibid).  “Boot” means one thing in England and another thing in America.

(13) The proper definition of a word may be used in place of a word.

This is a great test of how you define a word.  Remove the word and supply your definition.  Does it fit?

(14) Try to use primary meanings when defining words.

D.R. Dungan explains, “‘To eat’ means literally to chew and swallow… ‘To eat’ means secondarily to corrode, to consume, …to wear away by degrees, to prey upon… ‘to consume’ means to waste away slowly, to be exhausted, to squander” (Dungan, p. 193).  If one skips to secondary meanings without need to do so ‘To eat’ becomes defined to mean ‘to squander.’  Therefore, “The man eats his sandwich” becomes “the man squanders his sandwich.”  Obviously, this is not what is meant.  However, this is the type of mistake which happens, when one skips to secondary meanings without need.

*I claim no originality for the information in this article.  These points were gleaned from D.R. Dungan’s Hermeneutics; Clint Lockhart’s Principles of Interpretation; and Roy H. Deaver’s Brown Trail class notes on Hermeneutics
























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Suggestions for Bible Students (Part 3)

Wayne Jackson has written, “It is the epitome of folly to ignore the labors of countless Bible scholars across the centuries who have made available, by means of the printed page, the results of their research.  One of the wonders of the human mind is that it can build upon the knowledge of previous generations, and this is no less true of sacred knowledge.  Every Christian needs to build a personal religious library of good tools that will enhance his understanding of the scriptures and his ability to convey that information to others” (Jackson, A Study Guide to Greater Bible Knowledge, p. 83).

One could spend a fortune on books, software, and other tools.  “Of making many books there is no end” (Ecclesiastes 12:12).  I am not suggesting that every Bible student should spend a great deal of money to acquire a large library of books, software, and other tools.  However, a few basic tools would be helpful to Bible study.  In this article, I will make a few suggestions.

8.  A Good Translation

There are two basic approaches to translation.  (1) One approach is referred to as Formal Equivalence (aka Modified Literal).  This approach “attempts to translate the words and nuances of the original as literal as possible provided that clarity is conveyed in English” (Jackson, The Bible Translation Controversy, p. 5).  (2) The other approach is referred to as Dynamic Equivalence (aka Functional Equivalence).  This approach “attempts to convey the meaning of the text in free idiomatic English without much regard for the exact wording of the original” (ibid).

One’s primary Bible for reading and studying should be a Formal Equivalent translation.  Some major translations which used this philosophy include: the King James Version; the American Standard Bible; the New American Standard Bible; the New King James Version; the English Standard Version. I am fond of the New King James Version.

Dynamic Equivalent translations may have value.  However, the translator “becomes more of a commentator than a translator” (ibid). Some translations which used this philosophy include: the New International Version; the New Living Translation; the Contemporary English Version.

Readability is also important.  The King James Version is written on a 12th grade reading level.  The American Standard’s reading level, I could not find, but it also is probably on a similar reading level.  The New American Standard Bible is written on an 11th grade reading level.  The New King James version is written on a 9th grade reading level.  The English Standard Version is written on an 8th grade reading level. For comparison, the New International Version is on a 7.8 grade reading level (Source: Bible Comparison Guide by Zondervan).

There is also the matter of textual family. Some translations use the Byzantine Family of manuscripts. These include the King James Version and the New King James Version. Others use the Alexandrian Family of manuscripts, or an Eclectic text. These include the American Standard Version, the New International Version, the New American Standard Bible,  the English Standard Version. There are textual differences between these two families of manuscripts. However, I do not think that these differences are nearly as important as translation philosophy. The preface to the New Open Bible reads, “Bible readers may be assure that most important differences in the English New Testaments of today are due, not to manuscript divergence, but to the way in which the translators viewed the task of translation.” Geisler and Nix have concluded, “Actually, the variant readings which significantly affect the sense of a passage are less than ten percent of the New Testament, and none of these affect any basic doctrine of the Christian faith” (Geisler and Nix, A General Introduction To The Bible, p. 489). Again, they write, “Westcott and Hort estimated that only one-eighth of all the variants had any weight, as most of them are merely mechanical matters such as spelling or style. Of the whole, then, only about one-sixtieth rise above ‘trivialities,’ or can in any sense be called ‘substantial’ variations. Mathematically that would compute to a text that is 99.33 percent pure whether the critic adopts the Textus Receptus, Majority Text, Nestle-Aland Text, or some eclectic text of the New Testament” (ibid, p. 474). Neil Lightfoot concluded, ” Textual variants are of different types and degrees of importance. Most variants are obvious slips made by a scribe and present no problem. ..Some represent substantial variation, but in this number no unique Biblical teaching or divine command is involved” (Lightfoot, How We Got The Bible, p. 96). Roderick Ross has stated “The vast majority of the manuscripts of New Testament agree with one another almost letter for letter. It has been estimated that these comprise 95-96% of the manuscripts extant” ( ed. Terry Hightower, A Handbook On Bible Translations, p.380).

9.  An exhaustive concordance

A concordance is a verbal index to the Bible. Many Bibles contain a brief concordance in the back, after the New Testament.  However, An English language exhaustive concordance lists every word which appears in an English Bible in alphabetical order.  Strong’s and Young’s are based on the King James Version.

I recommend the Strong’s Concordance.  It has assigned a number to each word in the original language.  These words can be looked up in the Hebrew dictionary and the Greek dictionary in the back of the book.  Other tools have also adopted this same numbering system (e.g. Thayer’s Greek – English Lexicon; Vine’s Expository Dictionary, etc.).  If I were going to have only one book in addition to the Bible, this would be it.

10.  A topical Bible

A topical Bible might be thought of as a topical concordance.  Nave’s Topical Bible is good.  It contains Biblical references to over 20,000 topics.

11.  An atlas

An atlas is a book of maps.  Some Bibles contain good maps within them.  A good atlas will contain more. Baker’s Bible Atlas is good. It provides much information on places mentioned in the Bible.

12.  Dictionary/lexicon

It is valuable to be able to look up the meaning of words, the words of the original languages.  If you have little or no familiarity of the original languages, I recommend Vine’s Expository Dictionary of Biblical Words.  Thayer’s Greek-English Lexicon can also be used without any familiarity with Greek, if you also have a Strong’s concordance.  It is coded with Strong’s numbers.

Caution: Using an English dictionary, such as Webster, to look up the meaning of Biblical words can be a problem.  For instance, if you look up “baptism” in an English dictionary, it may give the following definition, or something near to it: “The application of water to a person, as a sacrament or religious ceremony by which he is initiated into the visible church of Christ.  This is usually performed by sprinkling, pouring, or immersion, the act varying with the tenet of various churches.”  The dictionary is not defining the meaning of the original word or telling you how the Bible uses the word.  Instead, the dictionary is telling you how the word is used today.  The Bible sometimes uses words very differently than how they are used today.  Moreover, behind the English word in your English Bible is an original word (Greek, Hebrew, Aramaic).  It is the original word and its usage in the Bible, and especially the context of the passage that is important.

13.  Bible dictionaries/encyclopedias

These are helpful to researching people, places, and things.  The International Standard Bible Encyclopedia is helpful, but somewhat pricey.  More affordable is The Zondervan Pictorial Bible Dictionary.

14.  Survey of books of the Bible

There are books which help survey the books of the Bible.  Here are three helpful books: Halley’s Bible Handbook by H.H. Halley; A Survey of Old Testament Introduction by Gleason Archer Jr.; New Testament Introduction by Donald Guthrie.

15.  Commentaries/Study Bibles

Wayne Jackson warns, “It is exceedingly difficult to find Bible commentaries that do not reflect sectarian bias.  In using a commentary, therefore, it is quite important to know the religious persuasion of the author.  In the majority of commentaries on the religious market today, information concerning God’s plan of salvation, the church, New Testament worship, etc., will be erroneous.  If this fact is recognized, many of these works can be used to great profit in others areas of biblical knowledge” (A Study Guide to Greater Bible Knowledge, p. 90).

Here are some recommendations: Gospel Advocate Commentaries; Coffman’s Commentaries; Gospel Light Commentaries; B.W. Johnson commentary; Truth for Today’s Commentaries; J.W. McGarvey Commentaries, especially his original commentary on Acts; Homer Hailey Commentaries; Roy Deaver’s commentary on Romans; R.L. Whiteside’s commentary on Romans; Ray Summers’ commentary on Revelation; Wayne Jackson Commentaries; Robert Taylor Jr. Commentaries; Tom Wacaster Commentaries; Denton lectureship books; Shertz lectureship books; Spiritual Sword lectureship books; Memphis School of Preaching lectureship books; Southwest School of Bible Studies lectureship books; Power lectureship books; Adam Clark commentaries; Barnes’ Notes.

Which study Bible contain helpful notes? The New Open Bible, and The English Standard Study Bible contain some helpful notes. Old favorites are the Thompson Chain Reference Bible, and  the Dickson Study Bible. Remember these notes are the comments of uninspired men.

Note: This should not be viewed as a total endorsement of all that are written in these books, and study notes.

16.  Technology

I am a dinosaur, when it comes to technology.  Others could better write on this point.

However, there are many amazing tools available for your phone or computer.  Our church website contains links to Vine’s Expository Dictionary and which contains over 100 commentaries.  This is free to access.

One should also consider downloading the Blue Letter Bible app.  It contains concordances, Bible translations, lexicons, cross references and other study tools.  It is free.

 Logos Bible Software is an amazing digital library of information.  There are different packages.  Cost varies by package.  It is expensive.  It is worth investigating if you are a serious Bible student.











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Suggestions for Bible Students (Part 2)

Each of us should be a student, a diligent student, of God’s word.  Goebel Music has wisely said, “It is my honest conviction that nothing in life is more important than a thorough knowledge of the Bible.  Regardless of the extent of a man’s education, he is uneducated who does not have a basic understanding of the Bible.  A knowledge of the Bible is more important than a college education – as it relates not only to the timely, but also to the timeless.  This firm persuasion and fixed belief stems from the fact that there is life after death, a judgment to face, an account to be given and an absolute infallible book, the Bible, as the standard of judgment” (source not found).

4.  Time/Effort

If one truly wants to learn God’s word, one should be willing to invest time and effort.  “My son, if you receive my words, and treasure my commands within you,  so that you incline your ear to wisdom, and apply your heart to understanding; yes if you cry out for discernment, and lift up your voice for understanding, if you seek her as silver, and search for her as for hidden treasures; then you will understand the fear of the LORD, and find the knowledge of God” (Proverb 2:1-5).  How much effort do men make to find silver and hidden treasures? Have much effort are you making to learn God’s word?

One should value God’s word enough to invest the time and effort.  Job said, “I have treasured the words of His mouth more than my necessary food” (Job 23:12).  David said, “More to be desired are they than gold, yea, than much fine gold; sweeter also than honey and the honeycomb” (Psalm 19:10).  A Psalmist said, “I rejoice at Your word, as one who finds great treasure” (Psalm 119:162).  Jesus taught, “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be filled” (Matthew 5:6).  Peter instructed, “as newborn babes, desire the pure milk of the word, that you may grow thereby” (1 Peter 2:2).  God has revealed His will in such a way that one must invest time and effort.  Paul wrote, “Be diligent to present yourself approved to God, a worker who does not need to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth” (2 Timothy 2:15).

The whole of God’s word should be studied.  The psalmist said, “The sum of your word is truth” (Psalm 119:160).  Scripture must be considered in light of other scriptures (Matthew 4:5-7).

5.  Studying A Book

Try this: First, find a quiet place, free from distractions, and read the entire book.  Read it, if possible, in one sitting.  Think about the big picture. Take no notes at this point.

Second, reread the book.  This time, try to answer some basic questions from the text, things like – who wrote the book?  To whom was it written?  When was it written?  Where was the writer?  Where was the recipient(s)?  Why was it written?  What did the writer want the reader(s) to do or to learn?  How was the thing(s) to be done? Write down your answers.

Third, reread the book.  This time, notice reoccurring words and phrases. Take notes. This may help one discover natural themes and outlines in the book.

Fourth, reread the book.  This time, develop a basic skeletal outline.  It is important to grasp the overall flow of the book, how it is laid out, and where things are located. Briefly summarize the book in your own words.

Fifth, do research.  Familiarize yourself with the people and places mentioned (Bible dictionaries, and encyclopedias, concordances, and topical Bibles, maps and atlases may be helpful; many tools are available for free on the web). Familiarize yourself with the meaning of words and phrases which are used (Bible dictionaries, and lexicons, concordances, word study books, and other translations may be helpful; many products are available for free on the web).

Sixth, reread the book.  This time, consider relationships mentioned in the book.  This includes: God and man; the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit; man and man; brother and brother; the church and the world; the writer and the recipient(s), and other relationships which may be in the book.  Think on these things as they are presented in the book.  No doubt you will have already noticed these relationships in previous readings.  However, study these things more deeply at the point. Take notes.

Seventh, reread the book.  This time, consider major Bible theme/subjects.  This includes God (Theology); Christ (Christology); the Holy Spirit (Pneumatology);  angels and spirit beings (Angelology/ Demonology); man (Anthropology); sin (Hamartiology); salvation (Soteriology); church (Ecclesiology); end times (Eschatology); and the Bible (Bibliology). Take notes.

Eighth, you may consult commentaries at this point.  Only do so after you have done your readings, and your own personal research.  Use commentaries for the evidence they provide, not as popes to set doctrine.  Commentators are uninspired.  Moreover, The notes in your study Bible are also, comments by uninspired people.

Yes, this is a lot of reading.  However, doing this will help you learn a book on a much deeper level.

6.  Studying A Chapter(s) or A Verse(s)

The things suggested in the previous point apply here, as well.  Review the list.

Let us add, it is extremely important to study a text in its context.  Verses and chapters should be considered in light of the total context.  The total context includes: (a) The immediate context (relevant surrounding material, verses and chapters); (b) The remote context (relevant material in the book, the covenant, and the totality of the Bible).  The total context should be considered, even in the study of a book.  However, it is especially easy to misuse a chapter or a verse by neglecting to consider the total context.

7.  Studying A Character or a Topic.

Sometimes one wants to study a character (e.g. David, Peter, Paul or the Holy Spirit) or a topic (e.g. prayer, faith, money, or the temple).  This type of study may involve many passages, spread through many books.

It is important to gather all of the relevant material needed for your study.  There are tools which may help you in gathering the relevant material.  These tools include: concordances, topical Bibles, Bible dictionaries and encyclopedias (many tool are available for free on the web).

Here are some difficulties to keep in mind when doing a character or a topical study.  (1) There may be more than one name for a person, place or thing.  Peter is also called Simon and Cephas.  Paul is also called Saul.  Looking up “money” in a concordance will not locate all relevant material for your study, because money has many names in the Bible (e.g. drachma, denarius, talent, etc.)  A topical Bible may help here.  (2) There may be more than one person, place or thing by the same name or title.  There are multiple men named Joseph, multitude women named Mary, multiple Pharaohs, and multiple Herods.  The ark of Noah and the ark of the covenant are not the same thing.  Make sure the same person, place or thing is under consideration.  (3) One word in English may be from different original words.  Hell, in the King James Version, may be from Gehenna or Hades. A good concordance may be helpful here (e.g. Strong’s, Young’s).  (4) More than one English word may come from the same original word.  Agape is translated “love” and “charity.”  A good concordance in English (e.g. Strong’s), or a concordance of the original languages (e.g. Wigram’s) may be helpful here (free tools may be available on the web).









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Suggestions for Bible Students (Part 1)

Each one of us should be a student, a careful student, of God’s word.  Numerous passages emphasize this point (e.g. Psalm 1:1-3; 119:104; Hosea 4:6; Matthew 7:21-23; 22:29; John 12:48; Acts 17:11; 1 Thessalonians 5:21; 2 Timothy 2:15; 3:15-17; Hebrews 5:12-14; 2 Peter 1:3; 3:14-18).  Roy Deaver wisely mused, “If there is a life after this life – and there is; and if there is a judgment to come – and there is; and if every accountable person shall stand in judgment before the Christ – and each shall; and if this life is given us that we may prepare for the life to come – and this is the case; and If the Bible is our only and all-sufficient guide in making preparation for the judgment, and for the life to come – and it is; then, it has to be the case that a knowledge of the Bible is the most important factor in the education of an individual” (Deaver, How to Study the Bible, p. ix).

1.   Read

It is amazing, how few, who claim to be Christians, have actually read the whole Bible, cover to cover.  This is my observation from my years as a preacher. Guy Woods wrote in 1992, “A typical survey has shown that nearly two-thirds of members of the churches of Christ have never read the Bible through; well over half of them have no regular plan for daily study ..” (Woods, How To Study The New Testament Effectively, p.14). I suspect that things have not improved since he wrote these words.

It is important to read.  Paul told the saints at Ephesus, “When you read, you may understand my knowledge in the mystery of Christ” (Ephesians 3:4).  He placed reading as a means to their understanding.

Make it your aim to spend time reading God’s word.  Take 15 or 20 minutes a day to read.  This should be sufficient to read the Bible, completely through, in a year.  The average reader can read through the Bible each year, by reading 11-12 minutes per day.

If you have never read through the entire Bible, do so.  Begin today! Do not get side-tracked “chasing rabbits.”  Do not get “bogged down” on things you do not fully understand.  Keep a notepad with you, as you read.  Make a note that you want to later, return  to this point for more study.  However, keep reading.  It is possible that your question(s) may be answered if you’ll just keep reading.

It is important that you find time for this.  Likely, you will not have to change much in your schedule.  However, if you do, it will be worth it (cf. Psalm 119:147-148; Mark 1:35).

A word of caution: Do not read only your favorite sections of scripture.  If you truly want to learn the Bible, read all of it.  Moreover, read it in context.  Do not randomly skip around.  Imagine trying to understand a Tom Clancy or John Grisham with this  approach of randomly skipping around.

2.  Attitude/Will

It is essential that one approach scripture, genuinely desiring to know and do God’s will.  Do you hunger and thirst for righteousness?  (Matthew 5:6).  Do you will to do His will?

Many people want to be religious, on their own terms.  Their interpretation of scripture is distorted by what they want (cf. 2 Chronicles 18; 2 Thessalonians 2:10-12; 2 Timothy 4:3-4; 2 Peter 2:18).  D.R. Dungan observed, “Many things are believed because men wish them to be true, while others are disbelieved for a like reason” (Dungan, Hermeneutics, p. 8).

All need to be on guard.  Let us soberly ask: “Is this what God meant?  Or, is this only what I want Him to mean?”

Moreover, try not to read the Bible through the lens of others. Read it fresh, for yourself. Alexander Campbell wrote, “I have endeavored to read the scriptures as though no one had read them before me; and I am as much on guard against reading them today, through the medium of my views yesterday, or a week ago, as I am against being influenced by any foreign name, authority or system whatever” (West, The Search for the Ancient Order, Vol. 1, p. 56).

3.  Expect

Some shy away from trying to understand the Bible, because they do not believe that they can.  They may believe that one must be a scholar to understand it.  They may believe that the Bible is a book of contradictions which cannot possibly be understood.

Read the Bible expecting to understand it.  (1) God desires that all men come to the knowledge of the truth (1 Timothy 2:4).  It is reasonable to believe that He gave us a book which mankind is able to understand.  (2) It does not seem to require scholarship or special intellect to understand.  The common people heard Jesus gladly (Mark 12:37).  Timothy knew the Holy Scriptures from childhood (2 Timothy 3:15).  He understood at least some things from scriptures, at even a young age.  (3) There is an expectation of understanding implied in the scriptures.  Ezra believed that he could understand the law well enough to do it and to teach it (Ezra 7:10).  Jesus taught, “If you abide in My word… you shall know the truth and the truth shall make you free” (John 8:31-32).  Paul wrote to the saints at Ephesus, “When you read, you may understand My knowledge in the mystery of Christ” (Ephesians 3:3-4).  We are commanded to “grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ” (2 Peter 3:18).  The command implies that knowledge is attainable.








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What Constitutes A God-Approved Marriage (Part 2)

In this writing, let us consider a couple of things which do not, in and of themselves, constitute a God-approved marriage.  Let us notice…

(1) Sexual union does not constitute marriage.  (a) The sexual union of Dinah and Shechem did not make them married (Genesis 34:1-12).  This was pre-marital sex.  This appears to have been rape.  It did not constitute marriage.  (b) The sexual union of David and Bathsheba did not make them married (2 Samuel 11:1-27).  This was extra-marital sex, adultery.  It did not constitute marriage.  (c) The sexual union of Tamar and Amnon did not make them married (2 Samuel 13:1-22).  This was rape.  There was no marriage formed from this.  (d) Mary was considered Joseph’s wife, long before there was sexual union (Matthew 1:24-25).  Sexual union did not make them married.

Some have thought that sexual union constitutes marriage, due to two passages.  Genesis 2:24 reads, “Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and they shall become one flesh.”  1 Corinthians 6:16 reads, “Or do you not know that he who is joined to a harlot is one body with her?  For ‘the two,’ He says, ‘Shall become one flesh.'”  Some infer that what is being said is that one becomes married to a harlot, when he has sexual union with her.

I believe that this is a wrong conclusion.  First, the passages mentioned earlier indicate that sexual union does not constitute marriage.  Second, I do not believe “one flesh” is the equivalent of marriage, remember the previous point.  It refers to a closeness which should exist in marriage.  While sexual union may not be the only thing included in the wording, certainly, it is a big part of this closeness, for: (a) this “added language” is only to be expressed in marriage (cf. Hebrews 13:4); (b) it is connected here by implication with sexual union. When one is sexual joined with a harlot, he is behaving as if he has this special closeness with her. He is speaking the “added language” which should only be spoken in marriage. This is contrary to the teachings of Scripture. In context, Christians are to be one with Christ (1 Corinthians 6:15-17 cf. Ephesians 5:22-33; 2 Corinthians 11:2).  When we join ourselves to harlots, we are being spiritually unfaithful to Him.  It is an illustration from marriage. Matthew Henry comments, “Now shall one in so close a union with Christ as to be one spirit with him yet be so united to a harlot as to become one flesh with her? … Can any thing be more inconsistent with our profession or relationship?” (Matthew Henry’s Commentary On the Whole Bible vol. 6, p. 431) (2) Civil law and/or a marriage ceremony does not, in and of itself, constitute a God-approved marriage.  (a) Herod Antipas married Herodias, his brother Philip’s wife (Mark 6:17).  However, John the Baptist spoke against such, saying, “It is not lawful for you to have your brother’s wife” (Mark 6:18).  God must do the joining for it to be a God-approved marriage (cf. Matthew 19:6b).  (b) Jesus taught, “Whoever divorces his wife, except for sexual immorality, and marries another, commits adultery; and whoever marries her who is divorced commits adultery” (Matthew 19:9).  If God approves of every marriage, then this passage makes no sense.  Remember that one must be eligible to marry, to marry with God’s approval.  Moreover, one must also marry one who is also eligible to marry, to marry with God’s approval.  (c) Paul taught, “For the wife who has a husband is bound by the law to her husband as long as he lives… So then if, while her husband lives, she marries another man, she will be called an adulteress” (Romans 7:2-3).  Again, “A wife is bound by law as long as her husband lives; but if her husband dies, she is at liberty to be married to who she wishes, only in the Lord” (1 Corinthians 7:39).  Not everyone is eligible to marry.   (d)  A woman married a snake in 2006, in Orissa, India. The Hindu wedding was witnessed by over 2,000 who attended (  Surely, a ceremony alone does not make a God-approved marriage.






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What Constitutes A God-Approved Marriage? (Part 1)

Jesus taught, “from the beginning of the creation, God ‘made them male and female.’  ‘For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh’; so then they are no more two, but one flesh.  Therefore what God has joined together, let not man separate” (Mark 10:6-9).

Let us notice: (1) Marriage, in God’s plan, involves a man and a woman.  Jesus said, “God made them male and female.  For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife…” (Mark 10:6-7).  He was referencing Genesis 1:27 (Mark 10:6) and Genesis 2:24 (Mark 10:7).  (2) Maturity seems to be implied, “God made them make and female” (Mark 10:6 cf. Genesis 1:27).  Adam and Eve were not infants, or small children which depended on an earthly father and mother.  Adam was to “tend and keep” the Garden (Genesis 2:15).  Eve was “a helper comparable to him” (Genesis 2:18).  Furthermore, it says, “a man shall leave his father and mother” (Mark 10:7 cf. Genesis 2:24).  This implies maturity.  This does not necessarily refer to physically leaving [Noah and his wife, and their three sons and their wives lived together, temporarily, on the ark (Genesis 7-8).  Jacob lived near and worked for his father–in-law for 20 years (Genesis 29-31, esp. 31:38, 41).  Moses lived near and worked for his father-in-law for 40 years (Exodus 2:15; 3:1 cf. Acts 7:29-30)].  However, there is to be a leaving in the sense that a new family unit is to be formed, with all of the responsibilities which goes along with such.  This implies maturity.  Marriage does not consist of 3-year-old children.  (3) Intent is implied.  “For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh; so then they are no longer two, but one flesh” (Mark 10:7-8 cf. Genesis 2:24).  He is to leave to be “joined to his wife” and “become one flesh.”  William W. Grasham comments, “The idea of being ‘joined’ so as to ‘become one flesh’ indicates that a husband and his wife share in a covenant relationship that involves a pledge of fidelity and permanency that supersedes all other family commitment” (Truth for Today Commentary, Genesis 1-22, p. 198).  The word “joined” (NKJV), “cleave” (KJV), or “hold fast” (ESV) means “‘to join fast together, to glue, cement’ is primarily said of metals and other materials” (Vine’s).  This is speaking of forming more than a weak, temporary, for the moment union.  God’s ideal for marriage is a life-time commitment (Romans 7:2-3; 1 Corinthians 7:39).  The intent of the man is implied (Mark 10:7-8).  The woman should also have a say in forming this marriage (Genesis 24:57-58).

Let us further notice: (4) Marriage should be made known to others. God joined Adam and Eve in the very first marriage. There were no human witnesses. There were no other humans. However, since then, marriages, typically, have had some form of public announcement or ceremony before witnesses (Consider: Genesis 29:21-22; Ruth 4:9-11; John 2:1-2; Matthew 22:1-14; 25:1-13).  William Grashem writes, “Marriage is not just one’s own private business.  Rather, two individuals (a male and a female) declare to their families, their friends, and their society that they are uniting in this most intimate way to form a new family unit” (ibid).  (5) There is the matter of eligibility.  God’s word should be the standard in determining such.  I believe that there are 3 classes of people, who may marry with God’s approval: (a) Those who have never married another (Genesis 1:27-28; 2:22-25); (b) Those whose mates have died (Romans 7:2-3; 1 Corinthians 7:39; 1 Timothy 5:14); (c) Those who have put away their mates, because of their mate’s fornication (Matthew 19:9).  (6) There should be compliance with civil law, if any exists (Romans 13:1-2; Titus 3:1-2; 1 Peter 2:13-17).  There are two exceptions: (a) When the government orders us to do what God does not want us to do; (b) When the government forbids us to do what God wants us to do (Acts 4:19; 5:29). A word of caution: Texas law makes it very easy to claim common law marriage.  Familiarize yourself with the law.












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In The News: Hurricane Harvey

Hurricane Harvey, a category 4 hurricane, came ashore in Rockport, Texas on August 26.  It is the wettest tropical cyclone on record in the continuous United States (Wikipedia).  Some areas have received nearly 52” of rain (  No part of Harris County has received less than 20” of rain (  It had rained an estimated 24.5 trillion gallons of water, as of the morning of August 30 (  [The Chesapeake Bay contains about 18 trillion gallons (ibid).  If 20 trillion gallons were piled over the District of Columbia the height of the water would be 1,410 feet, almost the height of the Empire State Building (ibid).]  It is forecast to continue to rain through August 31.  Some 779,000 Texans have been ordered to evacuate their homes and another 980,000 have fled on their own (  My aunt and uncle, who had been stranded in their flooded home in Orange, Texas, were rescued today, August 31, by some kind souls from Oklahoma, who had come down to help.

Here are a few thoughts that I have from Harvey…

1.  There are kind people in this world.

If one listen only to the 24-hour cable news channels, one likely, will have a very negative outlook.  Rarely, is anything good reported. It is all about wrongs, and divisions. The country is racially divided.  It is politically divided.  It is about to erupt in anarchy, civil war, or violence at any moment.

It is true that there is much evil in this world.  It is true that sin reigns in this world.

However, it is also true that there are kind souls in this world.  Kind people from Oklahoma, Louisiana, and as far away as New York came to help.

God wants us to help, as we have opportunity, those in need.  We are to be as the Good Samaritan (Luke 10:25-37).  “Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all, especially to those who are of the household of faith” (Galatians 6:10).

2.  Kindness alone is not enough.

Cornelius was a kind man.  He “gave alms generously to the people” (Acts 10:2).  Yet, he was told “send men to Joppa, and call for Simon whose surname is Peter, who will tell you words by which you and all your household will be saved” (Acts 11:13-14); “He will tell you what you must do” (Acts 10:6).  Simon commanded them to be baptized in the name of the Lord” (Acts 10:48).

The following things should not be overlooked. Every spiritual blessing is in Christ (Ephesians 1:3, 7; 1 John 5:11).  One gets into Christ by baptism (Galatians 3:26-27; Romans 6:3).  “Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God” (John 3:5).

3.  We should be zealous soul winners.

While listening to the news, I heard one reporter ask a man from another state why he was there, in Texas.  He said that he was trying to help rescue as many as he could.

Are we?  Do we care as much about spiritual salvation, as this man did about physical salvation?  “Rescue the perishing, care for they dying, snatch them in pity from sin and the grave; weep o’er the erring one, lift up the fallen, tell them of Jesus the mighty to save.  Rescue the perishing, care for the dying; Jesus is merciful, Jesus will save” (Song: Rescue the Perishing by Fanny Crosby).  The early church “went everywhere preaching the word” (Acts 8:4).  Shouldn’t we?

4.  News reports are not always accurate.

In Abu Dhabi (U.A.E.) airport, I heard a CNN report which said that the storm had come ashore pounding Rockport, Texas and Port Arkansas.  This was said several times.  Moreover, the news reader seemed to think that it was Port, Arkansas.  In truth, it was Port Aransas, Texas.  It is easy to understand how this mistake may have been made (misreading or mistyping).

However, there is a point to learn here, facts should be checked.  This is true in everyday life.  Too many repeat things that they’ve heard without fact-checking.  This is true when it comes to the Biblical matters, and in the spiritual realm.  Too many repeat things that they’ve heard without fact-checking.  May we be as careful and caring as the Bereans, who “searched the Scriptures daily to find out whether these things were so” (Acts 17:11). May we, “Test all things; hold fast what is good” (1 Thessalonians 5:21).

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