Ask Your Preacher
5 minutes a day 5 days a week All the New Testament in a year
My Bible knowledge is pretty good when it comes to the timeline of events and stories, but I feel as though I don't have as good of a hold on just subject-based studies… like remembering what verses to turn to if I'm looking for what the Bible says on a specific topic. How could I beef up my Bible study to better round out my knowledge? And what are some good verses to have memorized?
Sincerely, The Subject Student
Dear The Subject Student,
Topical studies are always trickier than book studies because all the verses are not in one place. You have to hunt all over to find everything that pertains to any given subject. Therefore, the very first verse you should memorize is:
“The sum of Thy Word is truth…” (Ps 119:160)
It is impossible to understand a given subject without looking at everything God says on it. This is exactly why people get into trouble when studying what it takes to be saved (see this post for more details) and what the church should look like (see this post). If you want to understand a topic, take all the verses on it, add them together, and you will see the sum of God’s teaching on that subject.
Another great verse to memorize is:
“For I am not ashamed of the gospel for it is the power of God for salvation…” (Rom 1:16)
If we always remember that God’s Word is the guidebook to life, we will never forget to turn to it for our answers because in the Bible you can find the answers to all things that pertain to life (2 Pet 1:3).
The single most important tool for topical Bible study is a good concordance. A concordance allows you to look up a word and see every time it is used in the Bible. You can also find some bookstores that will sell topical concordances – these are concordances that group verses by topic, even if the same words aren’t necessarily present in each verse. This, too, can be especially helpful. And last, but not least, I recommend (just as a personal preference) the International Standard Bible Encyclopedia (ISBE). ISBE is an encyclopedia that gives short synopses on every topic that the Bible addresses. ISBE is four volumes and a little pricier than the other two, so you will have to decide whether it is worth owning your own copy.
After that, it is just a matter of looking up the topics you are interested in and combing through the verses. Happy hunting!
5 minutes a day 5 days a week All the New Testament in a year
I have always had confusion about how we are forgiven for our sins and the sequence in which this occurs. This is my understanding/confusion: I understand that after baptism by immersion as a young adult or as an adult capable of making this decision for the reasons outlined in the Bible, we are cleansed of our previous sins and are reborn as christians. Assuming we are attending church and taking communion each Sunday as commanded by Jesus, we are cleansed of our sins weekly (and perhaps when we pray for forgiveness of our sins, too - daily, hourly, or however often). What happens if we leave church, trip over a curb and curse, thus sinning and are tragically killed later that day in an accident? We then die without seeking forgiveness for our sins? I don't think that God would condemn us for this, assuming we are living an otherwise godly life, but I have never had clarity on this issue. Any insight you can provide would be much appreciated.
Time To Forgive
Dear Time To Forgive,
Your confusion is a common one because the Bible never explicitly states what happens to the sins that we didn’t specifically ask for forgiveness for. There is no specific verse that deals with this issue; instead, we must look at some of the concepts that are scattered throughout the Scriptures.
- Jesus is our Advocate (1 Jhn 2:1-3). Jesus is our High Priest, and He mediates between us and God (1 Tim 2:5). Jesus wants to intercede for your sins, and He desires to help you get into heaven.
- God doesn’t desire anyone to be separated from Him (2 Pet 3:9). No one will ever accidentally go to hell, and no one will accidently miss out on heaven because they didn’t have an opportunity to pray for forgiveness right before they died. God is ready and willing to forgive (Ps. 86:5).
- God expects our obedience, and all forgiveness is dependent upon our willingness to draw near to Him with obedient hearts (1 Pet 1:14). The Bible says that our obedience to Him purifies our souls. God forgives the faithful and obedient servant (Heb 10:38).
- John paints a beautiful picture for us in 1 Jhn 1:7 by saying, “If we walk in the light, as He is in the light, we have fellowship one with another and the blood of Jesus His Son cleanses us from all sin.” The word ‘walk’ means ‘to live continually’, and whenever we have that relationship but we accidentally sin, the blood of Jesus continually cleanses us of our sins.
When you consider all of these concepts, the truth on the subject becomes evident; we are forgiven as we ask for forgiveness, and God gives grace in those times when we are unable or ignorant to ask for it. So continue to ask and pray for forgiveness, but you can also have peace that God’s grace will protect your soul as you do your best to live faithfully.
In answer to a previous question, you said: "The church’s work should be simple. The church of the first century wasn’t involved in every community and political arena. Their work was focused on three things – caring for needy christians (Acts 4:34), preaching to the lost, and teaching the saved (Acts 15:35)."
My church wants to sponsor a speaker to speak (it’s a lecture, not preaching) inside of our church building. We would charge an entrance fee (or ask for a certain donation) and would pay the speaker for his time, accommodations, and travel expenses. My conscious is deeply violated by this idea, and I believe it is unethical to have this forum in the church building itself - I don't mind if it is in a convention center or hotel or other location. I will not be attending this lecture, but I feel like if my church does host this speaker, I can't go there and support them without violating my conscience. What are your thoughts on this?
Sincerely, Conscientious Objector
Dear Conscientious Objector,
A church doing this doesn’t just violate your conscience; it violates God’s laws. The church of the first century wasn’t interested in the things of this world, nor was it involved in furthering secular education and studies. Jesus even said that His kingdom, the church, was not of this world (Jhn 18:36). The church and any teaching it does should impart spiritual guidance to people (Rom 15:27). This trend of congregations getting wrapped up in earthly knowledge, politics, etc. is indeed unethical.
Furthermore, the congregation is using this speaker as a fundraiser! The Bible only provides one way for the church to garner funds – with a collection made every Sunday from amongst its own members (1 Cor 16:1). Bake sales, entrance fees, garage sales, etc. are not Biblical ways for the church to acquire money. Far too often, churches have gotten so wrapped up in how to bring in more money that they are perpetually holding their hand out, begging, demanding, and selling themselves to increase their finances. “Mega-churches” and televangelists are just an extreme form of the epidemic that is sweeping through religion. Instead of giving the gospel away for free, they are selling it to the highest bidder! Simon was swiftly rebuked for this attitude (Acts 8:20), and any church today that tries to “drum up” funds rather than trust the faithful contribution of its members each Lord’s day should be rebuked just as harshly.
This congregation has a serious problem and has made an obvious decision to disregard some of the most basic teachings on the church; you are right to be upset with them. AskYourPreacher recommends that you ask your preacher where he gets the authority for the choices they are making and then swiftly leave unless they change their ways (see “Finding A Church” for help where to go if things don’t improve).