Live Quietly and Eat Your Own Bread

By | July 27, 2023

Some people refuse to work and are intentionally lazy and idle. They know better but disobey the instruction of God and refuse to follow the example of hard-working Christians. They busy themselves in the lives of others, and burden others with their needs. What does Paul say to these people?

In 1 Thessalonians 4:9–12, Paul urges Christians to show love and, in doing so, live quietly, mind their own affairs, and work. These actions make for a good, Christian testimony to unbelievers and a life of independence, not unduly burdening others.

In 2 Thessalonians 3:6–15, Paul instructs believers what to do with someone who persistently refuses to work—avoid such a person while admonishing him to work. Such a person is disobedient to God, turns into a busybody, and is an unnecessary burden. In 2 Thessalonians 3:12, Paul directly addresses the lazy person—live quietly and eat your own bread (i.e., work to meet your own needs).

What might the Proverbs add to Paul’s command to live quietly and eat one’s own bread?

Live Quietly 

The command to eat one’s own bread implies that these lazy people were eating the bread of others. In frequenting the houses of others to find food, this lazy person would avail himself to the affairs of others, be a busybody, and thus live anything but quietly.

Visiting a neighbor is like eating candy—it’s something fun, but one can have too much of a good thing. Proverbs 25:16 warns us not to indulge with honey lest we eat too much and vomit. Similarly, Proverbs 25:17 (the very next verse) warns our feet not to be too frequent in our neighbor’s house lest his welcome turn to hatred. A guest who stays too long or visits too frequently quickly wears out his welcome.

If a lazy person frequents his neighbor’s house and starts to mind his neighbor’s affairs, he robs himself and his neighbor of the quietness that Paul commands. Constant conversation may lead to sinful words (Prov 10:19; cf. 17:27), unnecessary opinions (Prov 18:2) and needless quarrels (Prov 20:3; 26:17; 29:9). It is better to cast out this lazy fool for one’s quietness than to work twice as hard to keep his company (Ecc 4:6). He is fuel for the fires of strife, and his departure will quench his quarrels (Prov 26:20–21).

Work for Your Own Bread 

An industrious person does not eat the bread of idleness but works his land and does not senselessly follow worthless pursuits (Prov 12:11; 28:19; 31:27). It would not be fitting him to live luxuriously at his neighbor’s expense (Prov 19:10a). His love for pleasure would leave him poor as a result (Prov 21:17). Instead, he sleeps as necessary, wakes up, works hard, and satisfies himself with bread (Prov 20:13). These actions obey the Word of God, and the natural result is that he minds his own affairs and avoids becoming a busybody and burden to others.

What Does It Mean to Be a Busybody?

By | July 20, 2023

Three verses in the New Testament refer to a busybody—2 Thessalonians 3:11, 1 Timothy 5:13, and 1 Peter 4:15. The following briefly explores the meaning of busybody in each verse.

2 Thessalonians 3:11

For we hear that there are some which walk among you disorderly, working not at all, but are busybodies.

“Busybodies” in this verse stems from periergazomai, a verb meaning “to be intrusively busy” (BDAG). Broken into parts, this verb literally means “to work around” (peri, “around”;  ergazomai, “to work”). One commentator puts it this way: “the scornful characterization is produced by the preposition peri, ‘around,’ prefixed to the second participle, ‘working around,’ giving it a bad sense, since that which encircles anything does not belong to the thing itself, but lies outside and beyond it, going beyond its proper limits.”1 In other words, a busybody is someone who busies himself with what does not belong to himself. He goes beyond the proper limits of his own matters to busy himself with the matters of others.

In the context of 2 Thessalonians 3:6–15, Paul’s remedy for this person is simple—this person can either work quietly and earn his own living or not eat (2 Thessalonians 3:10, 12). Diligent work leaves little time for minding the affairs of others. For everyone else, they should avoid this lazy busybody or admonish him to live as he ought (2 Thessalonians 3:6, 13–15).

1 Timothy 5:13

And withal they learn to be idle, wandering about from house to house; and not only idle, but tattlers also and busybodies, speaking things which they ought not.

“Busybodies” in this verse stems from periergos, a noun related to the verb periergazomai above. Recalling the explanation above, this term refers to someone who neglects his own life to invade the lives of others.

In the context of 1 Timothy 5:3–16, Paul instructs the church how to care for widows. Addressing the church about younger widows in particular (1 Timothy 5:11–15), he prohibits the church from providing for their long-term welfare. Without work, similar to the busybodies of 2 Thessalonians 3:11, younger widows might meddle in the affairs of others. They could fall prey to their passions, learn to be idle, busy themselves with gossip, and bring reproach upon the Savior. Paul’s remedy here is for these widows to remarry, bear children, and manage their own households as God is gracious (1 Timothy 5:14; cf. Titus 2:4–5).

1 Peter 4:15

But let none of you suffer as a murderer, or as a thief, or as an evildoer, or as a busybody in other men’s matters.

“Busybody” in this verse stems from allotriepiskopos, referring to “one who meddles in things that do not concern the person.2 It combines two words, allotrios (“pertaining to what belongs to another”)3 and episkopos (“overseer”). It thus refers to a person who intrudes to oversee matters that belong to someone else. Because this term is found next to “murderer,” “thief,” and “evildoer,” some suggest the term takes on a criminal nature, referring to one who intentionally causes trouble (e.g., a social or government activist) or possibly someone who oversees stolen property or even acts as a spy. Whatever the meaning, the context suggests that this meddlesome behavior is more than being merely a gossip as it could lead to the same kind of punishment given to a murderer, thief, or evildoer.

In the context of 1 Peter 4:12–19, Peter instructs the church not to be surprised but to rejoice when suffering comes. We are blessed to suffer as Christians for the name of Christ, but Peter clarifies in 1 Peter 4:15 that we should not suffer punishment for significant sin, including being an aggressive busybody, leading to legal punishment. Peter’s command and caution for Christians here is to trust God if suffering comes and to suffer only for God’s will (1 Peter 4:15, 19).


Whether at the workplace or in the home, God gives men and women noble work to do. Without anything to do, we could learn to become busybodies and be unduly drawn into the affairs of others, perhaps even criminal in nature. May God help us to mind our own affairs, diligently do what He commands, and, if we suffer, suffer not for sin but for Him alone.

  1. D. Edmond Hiebert, 1 & 2 Thessalonians (revised edition; Winona Lake, IN: BMH Books, 1996), 375. []
  2. BDAG, s.v., “ἀλλοτριεπίσκοπος.” []
  3. BDAG, s.v., “ἀλλότριος.” []

Working Hard or Hardly Working?

By | July 19, 2023

Paul addresses the matter of working to make a living in both 1 and 2 Thessalonians. In the first letter, he urged his readers to work to meet their own needs as part of their testimony for Christ (1 Thess 4:10–12). In the second letter, Paul commanded his readers to distance themselves from the persistently lazy, repeated his command to work, and reminded his readers of his example in this matter (2 Thess 3:6–15).

Paul: An Example of Working Hard

Focusing on Paul’s example, we remember that his entire life was worth imitating because he imitated Christ (1 Cor 4:16; 11:1; Phil 3:17; 2 Tim 3:10, 14). An exemplary life is required of every spiritual leader (1 Tim 3:3, 8; Titus 1:7; 1 Pet 5:2).

Part of Paul’s godly life was his excellent ethic for work. A tentmaker by trade (Acts 18:3), Paul regularly worked to support his needs as he traveled on his missionary endeavors (Acts 20:34; 1 Cor 4:12). More than that, he intentionally chose not to ask for compensation for his missionary labors. He could have asked for compensation to meet his basic needs, but he did not want anyone to think that he was peddling the gospel for personal gain (1 Cor 9:3–14; cf. 1 Tim 5:17–18).

Sometimes voluntary donations supplemented his income (2 Cor 11:9; Phil 4:15–16), but his regular practice was to forego finances from converts so that he could point them all the better to Christ (2 Cor 12:13–19). By working hard, he helped the weak and knew the blessing of giving to others (Acts 20:33–35). 

Lazy People: Working Hard at Hardly Working

As for the lazy in 1 and 2 Thessalonians, what are we to think of them?

At the least, we see that they were not acting like their God. God’s nature is to rule, and God created man in His image to imitate who He is. As God rules over all things, man is to rule the earth and work (Gen 1:26–28; 2:15). After man’s fall into sin, work became difficult, but man was to work nonetheless (Gen 3:17–19), sharing with others in need (Eph 4:28).

At the most, we could conclude that the persistently lazy do not know their God. As thorns overtake an unkept path, problems overtake his unkept life (Prov 15:19). Due to his inordinate love of sleep, his property is full of thorns, its walls are crumbling down, and his house is in need of repair—sudden poverty is his end (Prov 6:6–11; 10:4; 24:30–34; 26:14; Ecc 10:18). He is so lazy that he will not even feed himself (Prov 19:24; 26:15), let alone pick up a plow at harvest (Prov 20:4). It is no wonder he suffers from hunger (Prov 19:15; 20:13). As a result, though the lazy man wants the blessings of hard work, he has nothing to enjoy (Prov 13:4). This desire contradicts his actions and makes misery for his soul (Prov 21:25–26).

The lazy man is ridiculous for his reasoning—he believes that any work might kill him (Prov 22:13; 26:13) and thinks his excuses for laziness outdo the wisdom of many men (Prov 26:15). If he does any work at all, it is forced upon him (Prov 12:24), and even then, he is repugnant to anyone who would be his master (Prov 10:26). His name is marked by shame (Prov 10:5).

If he finds sleep itself a bore, he busies himself with the lives of others, becoming a nuisance and a burden (2 Thess 3:11; cf. 1 Tim 5:13; 1 Pet 4:15). He is destructive to himself and others and gravitates to company like himself (Prov 18:9; cf. 28:24). If he refuses to fend for others in his care, he denies the Christian faith and is worse than an unbeliever (1 Tim 5:8).

Working Hard to Please Jesus Christ

The Bible clearly commands and encourages us to work quietly, earn our own living, and mind our own affairs. We should share and generously meet the needs of others as we are able. In short, we should work hard instead of hardly working. What Paul said to others long ago still stands for us today: “Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the inheritance as your reward. You are serving the Lord Christ” (Col 3:23–24).

Photo by Filip Urban on Unsplash

Encouragement for the Heart

By | July 13, 2023

Paul prays that Jesus and the Father would “comfort your hearts and establish them in every good work and word” (2 Thess 2:16–17) and “direct your hearts to the love of God and to the steadfastness of Christ” (2 Thess 3:5).

From these prayers, we see that God desires our hearts to increase in comfort, strength, love, and endurance. How does that happen?

We at least know that it begins when we become Christians. Whereas our hearts are not right before God but yield all sorts of sins (Matt 15:18–19; Acts 8:21), God can open our hearts with which we believe the gospel to be saved (Acts 16:14; Rom 10:9–10). He cleanses the heart and indwells it through Christ by faith and pours His Holy Spirit therein (Acts 15:9; Rom 5:5; Eph 3:16–17).

As we have become obedient to His teaching from the heart, the heart better understands our Christian calling in time (Rom 6:17; Eph 1:18). We share and encourage one another’s hearts in Christian love (2 Cor 2:4; 6:11; 7:3; 1 Tim 1:5). As our hearts undergo sorrow, trial, and weakness (Pss 13:2; 25:17; 73:26), we must not let them harden, go astray, or fall to evil unbelief (Heb 3:8, 10, 12, 15; 4:7). Instead, we continue to love the Lord our God with all our heart (Deut 6:5; cf. Matt 22:37–40; Mark 12:30–31; Luke 10:27–28). The Spirit in our hearts and the hope of glorification gives us gladness of heart, whatever we may face (Ps 16:9; 2 Cor 1:22).

The Bible abounds with examples of believers with a transformed heart:

  • David was a man after God’s own heart, faithfully obeying God, unlike Saul (1 Sam 13:14; Acts 13:22). Though not tall and imposing like Saul, God looked beyond his outward appearance and saw his obedient heart (1 Sam 16:7; cf. 2 Cor 5:12).
  • Solomon was charged to serve God with a whole heart, knowing God would search it (1 Chron 28:9). His heart showed itself through his faithfulness in worship, building the temple of God.
  • Josiah reformed the nation according to the Law of Moses because he turned to the Lord with all his heart (2 Kgs 23:25).
  • When Paul likewise saw the sins of the Corinthians, he responded to them out of much affliction and anguish of heart (2 Cor 2:4).
  • Nehemiah had a heart to listen to what God put into it from time to time—building the walls of Jerusalem and keeping track of the details pertaining thereto (Neh 2:12; 7:5).
  • Matthias was chosen for the Twelve by Christ who knew his heart (Acts 1:24).
  • Titus had a heart that was zealous to care for his fellow Christian (2 Cor 8:16).

We could say more and find more examples of how God changes our hearts to live out our love for Him. But, at least from this simple survey, we better understand and see examples for how our hearts can increase in comfort, strength, love, and endurance.

Be encouraged in your heart today!

Photo by Tengyart on Unsplash

Are You Pugnacious?

By | July 1, 2023

Not many use the term pugnacious today. Looking at just the word itself, if I didn’t know any better, I’d guess it referred to possessing a tenacious love for the dog breed pug (pug + tenacious = pugnacious).

Apart from my own nonsense, pugnacious is indeed a biblical term. “Pugnacious” is the NASB’s translation of plēktēs in 1 Timothy 3:3 and Titus 1:7. Other translations use the adjective “violent” (ESV, NET Bible, NKJV, NIV) or go for a noun, “a bully” (HCSB) or “striker” (KJV). When plēktēs is taken as a noun, it refers to “a person who is pugnacious and demanding.”1 Plēktēs stems from the verb plēssō, meaning “to strike with force”2 and could refer to both verbal and physical abuse.3

Whatever the translation, it is a negative character trait that must not be true of a pastor, let alone be the title for someone so described by this trait (“a bully”). In fact, as a pastor must be an example for all (1 Pet 5:3), no one should be pugnacious, especially Christians who are called to love all people and certainly one another (John 13:34–35).

So, what should we be instead?

A character trait that comes immediately after “pugnacious” in 1 Timothy 3:3 indicates what we should be instead: gentle. The word behind “gentle” is epieikēs and is introduced with the strong adversative “but” (alla), showing a direct contrast pugnacious and gentle.4 Other instances of epieikēs are translated “gentle” and are contrasted with being “unjust” (1 Pet 2:18) or “quarrelsome” (Titus 3:2), the latter of which immediately follows “gentle” in 1 Tim 3:3. A contrast may be intended here as well.5 Being “gentle” is an expression of godly wisdom alongside being “peaceable… open to reason, fully of mercy and good fruits, impartial and sincere” (James 3:17). Rather than being pugnacious, we should be gentle instead. 

It’s one thing to be gentle and not demand our way. But what if someone else pushes first? How can we be gentle, even in conflict?

Perhaps we could learn from how the apostle Paul handled pugnaciousness in 2 Corinthians 10–13. Paul upheld his apostolic ministry against the “super-apostles” who were criticizing him and pugnaciously pushing the Corinthians around (cf. 2 Cor 11:5, 13; 12:11–12). Paul rebuked the Corinthians for putting up with this pushy behavior, thinking pugnaciousness was good: “For you bear it if someone makes slaves of you, or devours you, or takes advantage of you, or puts on airs, or strikes you in the face” (2 Cor 11:20). To this, Paul sarcastically replied, “To my shame, I must say, we were too weak for that!” (2 Cor 11:21).

This whole section of 2 Corinthians 10–13, rebuke included, was to “entreat” the Corinthians “by the meekness and gentleness of Christ” (2 Cor 10:1). “Gentleness” here is epieikeia, a relative of epieikēs, the word translated “gentle” in our discussion above. Paul could speak strongly and even sarcastically to grip their attention, but only to deal with sin and uphold the truth. Ultimately, his strong rebuke (which included no violence) was so he could be gentle when they saw each other again (2 Cor 13:8–10). Even when we are opposed, we can speak truth firmly but lovingly to others.

Are you pugnacious? Christ calls us to a better way. Speak firmly as you are convinced of the truth, and be meek and gentle like our Lord.

Photo by Icons8 Team on Unsplash

  1. Louw and Nida, s.v., “πλήκτης.” []
  2. BDAG, s.v., “πλήσσω.” []
  3. John F. MacArthur, Jr. Titus (MacArthur New Testament Commentary; Chicago: Moody Press, 1996), 38–39. []
  4. Ibid., 176. []
  5. Ibid.; George W. Knight, The Pastoral Epistles (New International Greek Testament Commentary. Grand Rapids, MI; Eerdmans, 1992), 160. []

Provoking One Another to Love and Good Works: Advice or Admonishment?

By | June 30, 2023

In My Honest Opinion Image by WOKANDAPIX

Some friends and I were discussing the idea of provoking one another to love and good works within the local church. We all have opinions, suggestions, and advice, but are they all necessary to be given? Is there a point in which it becomes my Christian duty to advise strongly? Where do we draw the line between friendly advice and admonishment to love and good works?

The primary passage that probably comes to all of our minds on this topic is Hebrews 10:23–25:

Let us hold fast the profession of our faith without wavering; (for he is faithful that promised;) And let us consider one another to provoke unto love and to good works: Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is; but exhorting one another: and so much the more, as ye see the day approaching.

The word provoke is a strong word, used to refer to a sharp disagreement. The other time the word is used in the New Testament is to refer to the sharp disagreement that occurred between Paul and Barnabas, causing them to separate. I think the nature of the word provoke gives us a clue as to the substance and purpose of these interactions.

This provoking to love and good works does not seem to merely be advice based on my observations and my opinions of those observations, as well-intentioned and true as they may be. For example, perhaps I notice that someone was very disorganized or cluttered. If we had a good relationship, maybe I could give a friendly suggestion that she read a book on organization. But that would not be my Christian duty to give that advice, and I certainly would not give that advice strongly as an admonishment for the sake of her perseverance.

Let’s take my disorganized friend a step further, however. Let’s say that she was so disorganized that she was constantly messing up her child’s medication for a serious illness. Or perhaps my friend was rarely able to get the kids out the door to be able to get to church. Whereas earlier I may or may not give friendly organizational advice to my friend, I now am aware of a situation in which a child could be harmed or God’s command to meet together is regularly not obeyed. Now I have commands in Scripture upon which I could give not my advice but a strong admonishment based on Scripture: Love your child (by giving them their medication); Do not forsake the assembling of yourselves together. (And I imagine some practical organizational help along the way would be helpful as well.)

Another clue in Hebrews 10:23–25 is the immediate context surrounding the command to provoke one another to love and good works. We are commanded in verse 23 to hold fast to the profession of our faith without wavering. And then in verse 25, tied to the main command, we are told not to neglect assembling together as some have done. Rather, we are to meet with each other for the purpose of positively provoking each other and encouraging one another, especially in light of the nearness of the Day of the Lord.

Earlier, the author of Hebrews had warned his readers not to fall away from God. Instead, they were to persevere in their faith by exhorting each other daily so they wouldn’t be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin.

Take care, brothers, lest there be in any of you an evil, unbelieving heart, leading you to fall away from the living God. But exhort one another every day, as long as it is called “today,” that none of you may be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin. For we have come to share in Christ, if indeed we hold our original confidence firm to the end (Hebrews 3:12–14).

Hold fast to your faith. Do not neglect assembling together. Do not be deceived by sin. Christ is coming soon, and we share that fellowship in him, so persevere to the end. This is the kind of good works to which we should be strongly stirring our brothers and sisters.

Besides this positive provocation, there should also be the regular “teaching of good” done by the older women within a church. Their age, holy behavior, godly speech, and self-control qualify them to train, encourage, and advise the younger women in the church for the purpose of not reviling the word of God.

Older women likewise are to be reverent in behavior, not slanderers or slaves to much wine. They are to teach what is good,  and so train the young women to love their husbands and children,  to be self-controlled, pure, working at home, kind, and submissive to their own husbands, that the word of God may not be reviled (Titus 2:3–5).

Perhaps this passage is where we could fit the “friendly advice”—the practical tips for marriage, child-rearing, and homemaking from an older woman. But even here the goal of the teaching is that the word of God may not be reviled, and at some point the training may have to turn to provocation. Friendly advice on how one could love husband and children might be considered, but it can be set aside in light of one’s own personal considerations. The commands to love one’s husband and children cannot be ignored; the failure to consistently do so should lead to a strong exhortation.

I may have an opinion for others and their various parenting styles, marriage relationships, personal lifestyle choices, and habits. I could give advice (and may if asked), but I prefer to defer to Scripture’s commands. If I have a friend consistently failing or blinded by a sin keeping her from persevering in her faith, then I can strongly (and lovingly) admonish her to love and good works. So, the line between advice and admonishment is the difference between what I myself may deem best (even if based upon biblical principles) and what God has clearly delineated in his word.

Contending Without Being Contentious

By | June 29, 2023

We must contend for the faith. Jude commands us, “Contend for the faith that was once for all delivered to the saints” (Jude 3).

But we must not be contentious. Speaking on head coverings, Paul gave a prohibition against contentiousness that applies to any situation: “If anyone is inclined to be contentious, we have no such practice, nor do the churches of God” (1 Cor 11:16).

What does it meant to contend? What does mean to be contentious? And how can we contend while not being contentious? By reviewing the meaning of contend and considering the meaning of contentious, I’ll attempt to answer these questions below.

Defining the Term Contend

In a previous post, we examined the word contend:

The word translated “contend” has the idea of expending intense effort and energy. It comes from epagōnizomai, a relative of agōnizomai, from which we receive our English word agonize. Jude’s form of the word is used only here, but its relative refers elsewhere to fighting (John 18:36) or to participating in an athletic contest (Heb 12:1). Whether as a verb or noun, the New Testament repeatedly uses this word as a metaphor for aspects of the Christian life: salvation (Luke 13:24), perseverance (Heb 12:1), self-control (1 Cor 9:25), prayer (Col 4:12), suffering persecution (1 Thess 2:2), and the gospel ministry in general (Phil 1:30; Col 1:29; 2:1; 1 Tim 6:12; 2 Tim 4:7).

Following Christ, controlling ourselves, praying, suffering, and ministering to others—all of these activities require intense efforts on our part, a struggle made possible by the power of Christ (cf. Col 1:29). Opposing false teachers and their teaching, contending, is one of these struggles, and Jude urges us to contend for the faith. 

So, here in Jude, contending is intensely opposing heretics and their heresies that have crept into God’s church.

For this post, I thought it would be helpful to add some thoughts on contending without being contentious. 

Defining the Term Contentious

Paul concluded his instruction on head coverings with a prohibition against being contentious: “If anyone is inclined to be contentious, we have no such practice, nor do the churches of God” (1 Cor 11:16).

“Contentious” stems from philoneikos, used only here in the New Testament. If broken into its parts, this word literally means “a lover of victory.” Someone who has an inordinate love for victory has to be right in every dispute. And the sad thing is this—sometimes this love for being right is so blinding that a contentious person thinks he is right in his love for being right. People like this are contrarian, quarrelsome, and contentious.

Another Greek word translated “contentious” is eritheia, found seven times in the New Testament (e.g., Rom 2:8 KJV, “unto them that are contentious”). It most often shows up as “selfish ambition” (Phil 1:17; 2:3; James 3:14, 16) and is also translated as “hostility” (2 Cor 12:20) or “rivalries” (Gal 5:20).

Whatever the translation, every instance of this term refers to something sinful. These passages list related sins: “unrighteousness” (Rom 2:8), “quarreling, jealousy, anger… slander, gossip, conceit, and disorder” (2 Cor 12:20), “enmity, jealousy, fits of anger… dissensions, divisions, envy (Gal 5:20–21), “conceit” (Phil 2:3), “bitter jealousy… jealousy” (James 3:14, 16). Whatever contentious is in these passages, it is something selfish and goes hand-in-hand with being sinfully quarrelsome and divisive.

Perhaps we could borrow the ideas from both words to say that someone contentious is one whose selfishness drives them to be quarrelsome and to achieve victory in every disagreement. Interestingly, this description fits pretty well with the definition for the entry “contentious” in the eleventh edition of the Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary: “exhibiting an often perverse and wearisome tendency to quarrels and disputes.”

Whether one chooses philoneikos, eritheia, or the entry from Merriam-Webster, no Christian should be contentious.

With a definition of contentious in hand, here are two further thoughts on contending without being contentious.

Contend While Showing the Virtues of the Faith to Unbelievers

Instead of being quarrelsome, we must contend while being kind, patient, and gentle (2 Tim 2:24–26). When defending our Christian hope and even when being wronged by those who listen, we must do good while being respectful (1 Pet 3:15–17). Unlike others who preach truth for spiteful reasons, we should humbly count others as more significant than ourselves (Phil 1:17; 2:3). Following the example of Peter when he firmly but lovingly rebuked Simon the Sorcerer for trying buy the power of the Spirit, we should not necessarily seek to be right but seek for our listeners would be right with God (Acts 8:18–24; cf. 2 Tim 2:25).

Contend While Showing the Virtues of the Faith to Fellow Believers

Jude has unbelievers in mind as those with whom we must contend for the faith. Perhaps we could quickly remind ourselves as Christians how to handle our disagreements between one another. Christians obviously disagree, individually or corporately, over many matters—distinctive beliefs, ministerial philosophy, practical applications, etc. But disagreement is not necessarily the same as persistent disobedience or unbelief. If possible, we should enjoy what levels of fellowship we can have and handle disagreements as charitably as possible. God is glorified when we welcome one another as much as we are able and seek peace and harmony for His glory (Rom 14:19; 15:2, 5, 7). Even for any Christians affected by significant error, Jude reminds us to be merciful and save whomever we can (Jude 22–23). Christians can contend for the faith and disagree over lesser matters while not being contentious towards one another.

Contending Without Being Contentious

As Jude commands, yes, contend for the faith, but contend without being contentious. Whether saving a Christian from error or an unbeliever from unbelief, proclaim and uphold the faith in a Christlike manner.

Transforming My View of Scripture Through Old Testament Bible Study (OT Studies Included)

By | June 14, 2023

Have you ever started a Bible reading plan? Have you ever quit a Bible reading plan, say, in the middle of Exodus or Leviticus? 🙂

Many Bible reading plans start at the beginning, in Genesis, which is really quite interesting to dig into. Exodus starts off pretty exciting too, but starts to decrease in the excitement factor as details of the tabernacle and priestly garments get described. . . and described again. Leviticus and Numbers especially are challenging to get through with all the many laws, and the few narratives (stories) in Numbers feel like a breath of fresh air. And then Deuteronomy. . . well, it kind of says much of what Exodus-Numbers already said.

A while back I wrote and led a study on Genesis for the ladies in our church. I was incredibly intimidated to study not only such a huge book in the Bible (50 chapters!), but a book in the Old Testament. But I absolutely loved it. And I couldn’t stop. It was like reading the first book in a series and then stopping (which, in truth, is exactly what it is).

So then, we studied Exodus. Even then, I felt like I couldn’t stop. So, I did a study for myself on Leviticus, Numbers, and today I finished Deuteronomy. As I studied, I really tried to focus on the big picture. Today, we are not under the law, yet still God tells us that ALL Scripture is profitable.

“All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work” (2 Timothy 3:16-17 ESV).

So, what profit is there in studying Genesis through Deuteronomy? How can I be trained for righteousness, completed, and equipped for every good work by studying these books?

I learned much about the character of God throughout all five of these books. I learned about how needy mankind is. I learned about God’s purposes and plans in early history. I learned much about the sacrificial system and priesthood, which is the basis for understanding Jesus’ sacrifice and his position as my priest. I learned about the background for the entire rest of the Old Testament, in which psalmists sing of God’s redemption, kings–good and bad–point to the need for a righteous ruler, and prophets plead for a return to worship of God alone. I learned about the background for the Gospels and the importance of a son of Judah to come as Savior.

I have loved my studies, and I am hoping to whet your appetite to study these books too. You can simply study these on your own, but I have written a study (not professional or perfect by any means) for each of these books if you are interested. Genesis is a 12-week study (I am currently in the process of writing a version for kids). Exodus is a 10-week study. Leviticus is a 2-week study. Numbers is a 6-week study. Deuteronomy is a 4-week study. As you can see Leviticus – Deuteronomy are much shorter studies, with the focus being the big picture of the books, rather than being bogged down in deep study of individual laws or ceremonies (although these are touched on).

{This article was originally posted here on September 3, 2020. Listed below are pdfs for each study. In addition I’ve completed studies through 1 Samuel. I will include them below; please use them only for personal study. Feel free to contact me with any typos or questions. They are unedited as they were only intended for my personal study.}

Genesis Bible Study, Exodus Bible Study, Leviticus Bible Study, Numbers Bible Study, Deuteronomy Bible Study, Joshua_God’s Unfailing Promises_Complete 3 Week StudyJudges Bible Study (5-week), Ruth Bible Study (2-week), 1 Samuel Bible Study (6-week)    


Image by StockSnap from Pixabay

Three Difficult Matters of Interpretation in 2 Thessalonians 2:1–12

By | June 10, 2023

Referring to Paul’s writings on the patience of the Lord and the coming day of God, Peter stated, “Paul also wrote to you according to the wisdom given him, as he does in all his letters when he speaks in them of these matters. There are some things in them that are hard to understand” (2 Pet 3:15–16; 2 Pet 3:1–13). Here is a brief summary of positions on three difficult matters concerning the end times described in 2 Thessalonians 2.

The Timing of the Rapture

In 2 Thessalonians 2, good Christians agree on the certainty of “the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ” but disagree over the timing of the rapture, “our being gathered together to him” (2 Thess 2:1; cf. 1 Cor 15:51–58; 1 Thess 4:13–18). Many see this gathering take place along with the final descent of Christ when He destroys the Antichrist (2 Thess 2:8; cf. Rev 19:11–21). Others (such as our church) believe that “we who are alive, who are left, will be caught up together with them [the dead in Christ] in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air” (1 Thess 4:17) before the Antichrist is revealed (2 Thess 2:3, 6, 8) and before a period of wrath that ends this present age. “Jesus… delivers us from the wrath to come” (1 Thess 1:9) because “God has not destined us for wrath, but to obtain salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ… so that… we might live with him” (1 Thess 5:9). Jesus Himself promises all the churches, “I will keep you from the hour of trial that is coming on the whole world” (Rev 3:10; cf. 3:13).

The Activity and Identity of the Restrainer

Another difficult matter in 2 Thessalonians 2 is the identity and activity of the restrainer (2 Thess 2:6–7). “The mystery of lawlessness is already at work,” but “the man of lawlessness” is yet to “be revealed in his time” (2 Thess 2:3, 6). We explained “what is restraining him” as the activity of God, He Himself being “he who now restrains.” This restraint could be through the Spirit, the presence of the church, the government, or any agency God so chooses. However God restrains the Antichrist, He does so “until he is out of the way” not by removing Himself (an impossibility for our omnipresent God) but by removing His restraint that keeps the Antichrist from coming to power and deceiving the world that he is God (2 Thess 2:3–4).

The Fate of Those Who Rejected the Gospel Before the Antichrist Comes

A final difficult matter in 2 Thessalonians 2 is the fate of those who have heard the gospel before the Antichrist rises to power. If they rejected the gospel before the Antichrist comes, some hold that this knowledgeable and persistent unbelief renders them unable to believe during the Antichrist’s reign. God Himself “sends them a strong delusion, so that they may believe what is false” and “be condemned” (2 Thess 2:9–12). However, several groups are saved after the Antichrist rises to power, groups with so many people that it seems unlikely that all of them would have never heard the gospel before. These groups include 144,000 Israelites (Rev 7:1–8; 14:1–5), “a great multitude” that consists of “the ones coming out of the great tribulation” (Rev 7:9, 14), several nations (Isa 19:23–25; Rev 21:24, 26; 22:2), and the remnant of Israel (Rom 11:25).

The Gospel in the Gardens

By | June 1, 2023

I recently gave a challenge in which I was asked to give the gospel. I was working in my garden as I thought about how I would present it, and I thought about the connections between the gardens in the Bible and the gospel.

The Garden of Eden and an off-limit tree

In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth. He created a man and a woman and he created a beautiful garden that he placed them in.

And the Lord God planted a garden in Eden, in the east, and there he put the man whom he had formed. And out of the ground the Lord God made to spring up every tree that is pleasant to the sight and good for food. The tree of life was in the midst of the garden, and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil (Gen 2:8–9).

In that garden that they were tending, they were allowed to eat of any fruit but that of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. Eve, hoping she could be like God, was tempted by the serpent, and both she and Adam gave into the temptation and chose to disobey God. They sinned, and they knew it. They were ashamed and tried to hide from the God who walked in the garden fellowshipping with them.

And they heard the sound of the Lord God walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and the man and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the Lord God among the trees of the garden (Gen 3:8).

Adam and Eve were punished and sent from the garden, from that fellowship that they had with God. From that time, we have all been born with a bent to sin. We have the same struggle to not want anyone—especially the one who created us—to be in charge and tell us what to do. And we are born with a broken fellowship with God (cf. Rom 3:9–18).

But also from that time—and even in eternity past before that first garden and that first sin—God had a plan to fix the problem of sin and to renew his fellowship with the people he made (cf. Eph 1:3–14).

Man had been trying to obey the law and still tries to be good enough for God, but all have failed. So God sent his Son Jesus who never failed. He lived a life perfectly fulfilling every demand God has for holiness. Jesus fulfilled every demand that Adam and Eve failed to fulfill in that first garden and every demand that we also fail to fulfill (cf. Phil 3:9).

The Garden of Gethsemane

This brings us to another garden called Gethsemane. There Jesus prayed to his Father, asking to avoid the agony that he knew he would face. If he couldn’t avoid it, he gave himself into the hands and will of his Father (cf. Matt 26:36-39). In that garden, Jesus was betrayed by his friend and given to the ones who sought his death (cf. John 18:1-11).

Another “Tree”

Jesus endured an unjust trial and was mocked and beaten. Then he was placed on a tree. This tree was “planted” in an ugly place—Golgotha—a hill that looked like a skull (Matt 27:33), a place where only death could flourish.

He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. By his wounds you have been healed (1 Pet 2:24).

Jesus’ death paid the price for our sins. His perfectly lived life counts for our imperfect ones. His death on that tree heals us from the sin that began in that first garden.

A Burial Garden

Now in the place where he was crucified there was a garden, and in the garden a new tomb in which no one had yet been laid. So because of the Jewish day of Preparation, since the tomb was close at hand, they laid Jesus there (John 19:41).

Jesus was buried, but because he had lived a sinless life, death had no power over him. God vindicated his Son and raised him up (cf. 1 Tim 3:16). We have a living Savior!

A Final Tree

We must admit that God is in charge and that we are not. We must confess the sins with which we daily struggle. We must accept God’s gift of Jesus’ righteousness. We must recognize that only his death pays the penalty for our sins. Then we too can have fellowship with Jesus (cf. 1 John 1:3). We may not walk with him in the garden like Adam and Eve did, but we can have the peace that God gives because we finally have a right relationship with God (cf. Col 1:19). And one day, we really will walk together with God in a place that has another tree.

Then the angel showed me the river of the water of life, bright as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb through the middle of the street of the city; also, on either side of the river, the tree of life with its twelve kinds of fruit, yielding its fruit each month. The leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations. No longer will there be anything accursed, but the throne of God and of the Lamb will be in it, and his servants will worship him. They will see his face, and his name will be on their foreheads. And night will be no more. They will need no light of lamp or sun, for the Lord God will be their light, and they will reign forever and ever” (Rev 22:1–5).

If you do not have peace in your heart because you are not at peace with God, I pray that you would seek someone out to understand from Scripture how you can have fellowship with your Creator now and forever in heaven. And for those who do have peace with God now because of Jesus, we can look forward to seeing God face to face forever as we fellowship together by the tree of life.

Photo by Stacey Franco on Unsplash