When I started work I was an "office boy," now known as a P.A., personal assistant. I picked up the mail at the post office in the morning, and in those days most of the letters were addressed to "The Manager." In the vast majority of cases those letters addressed to the manager were of great interest to others. Yet many managers got quite upset if someone else read the letters before they did. Nowadays, even though my wife Vivien and I have joint accounts, privacy laws insist we each have to receive a statement in a separate envelope, one addressed to me and one to Vivien.

It is, in fact, against the law to open another person's mail. So look at the address on the envelope. Does it have your name on the outside? If it does, then what it says is specifically for you. If your name is not on the envelope, it is not specifically for you but you may learn some things from its contents if it is shown to you. Often the only way you can resolve an apparent contradiction in the Bible is to apply this filter.

old mail and postcardsNot all of the 66 books of the Bible have your name on them, but you can learn something from all of them. Miles Cloverdale, in his 1535 English translation of the New Testament, wrote about studying the Bible: "It shall greatly help ye to understand Scripture, if thou mark not only what is spoken or written, but of whom, and to whom..." and seven other rules. These wise words have helped Christians for nearly 500 years. The "to whom" is of interest to us at this point.  Read More 

In our quest to enjoy the Bible, I have quoted the saying, "The Bible is not enjoyed because it is not understood" (E.W. Bullinger). And to understand the Bible we'll need to jettison some false concepts that have come to us through lyrics of choruses and song, as well as those from bad teachings, and even from the way the English Bible is laid out.

In the second church we pastored in Western Australia, the start of the Sunday evening service was usually comprised of singing choruses from the yellow Elim Choruses words-only edition. One I remember was No. 636: "Every promise in the Book is mine, Every chapter, every verse, every line, All the blessings of His love divine, Every promise in the Book is mine." And in our ignorance we'd sing it with vigor.

A group studying BibleJust because you sing or hear a song doesn't make it truth for you! Take this promise: "Every place that the sole of your foot will tread upon I have given to you" (Joshua 1:3 ESV). Look out Warren Buffett and Bill Gates! I'm passing your net worth at rocket speed! Just because someone prayed "search me, O God" in Psalm 139:33 doesn't mean we now have to sing the prayer "Search me, O God, and know my heart today." God already knows you heart! "You, Lord, who know the hearts of all" (Acts 1:24). The chorus cannot be true because God made many promises to individuals and nations in the Old Testament that were specific to them and not to you and me.

To understand the Bible, we should first consider what it is. We see it as one book because that is how our translation is bound. In reality it is a collection of 66 books, 39 in the Old Testament and 27 in the New Testament. It was penned by some 33+ writers over a period of around 1,500 years. It is conveniently divided into two parts: the "Old Covenant," later known as the "Old Testament," which was primarily written in Hebrew, and the New Testament, primarily written in Greek.

Shane Morris

New Testament title page KJV

Between the two testaments was a period when no books were penned, probably around 350 years or so. For our convenience, there is a title page placed between the two testaments yet totally without divine inspiration, and it is the most confusing page of the whole Bible! It reads: "The New Testament of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ."

"For where a will is involved, the death of the one who made it must be established. For a will takes effect only at death, since it is not in force as long as the one who made it is alive" (Hebrews 9:16-17). Yes, it will be shock to many to discover that the New Testament, Will, or Covenant (all the same Greek word) does not start at Matthew 1:1. It can only start at the death of Jesus!

"First, the New Testament doesn't actually begin in Matthew 1. In fact, it doesn’t begin at any page in the Bible. It begins at the point in history when Jesus’ blood was shed. No blood was shed in the first chapter of Matthew, and no sacrificial death was carried out in the manger. It was not our Savior’s birth that changed everything. It was his death that inspired the apostles to declare the message of 'out with the old, and in with the new'" (Andrew Farley, The Naked Gospel, 2008, page 80).

He goes on to observe, "When we attempt to mix Old with New, we end up with a contradictory covenant of our own invention. This is where I lived for years. Since there were a few elements of the New in my imaginary covenant, it didn't kill me right away. Instead, it afforded me a slower death. I had adopted a belief system that was essentially a balance of Old and New. I neither suffered under the stringency of the entire law nor enjoyed the bliss of unconditional favor."

So the Past must not be read into the Present, the Present is not to be read into the Past, and the Future is not to be read into the Present, as E.W. Bullinger details in 60+ pages of his book "How to Enjoy the Bible." I have often said that our ministry is for "generic New Testament Christians." "Generic" means not specific or having no brand name, and "New Testament" because in reality that is the only kind of Christians that exist! "The New is in the Old concealed; the Old is in the New revealed" (one of the few quotes from St. Augustine that I agree with!). So there is value in the Old, but we're living in the New, in Acts 29 territory (since the church age didn't end with Acts 28:31, the last narrative section of the New Testament).

Even in the ministry of Jesus there are contradictory statements that are only understood by noting when they were spoken. In Luke 9:3 when sending out the twelve disciples to minister, "And he said to them, Take nothing for your journey, no staff, nor bag, nor bread, nor money; and do not have two tunics." Yet just before Jesus died he said to them, "'When I sent you out with no moneybag or knapsack or sandals, did you lack anything?' They said, 'Nothing.' He said to them, 'But now let the one who has a moneybag take it, and likewise a knapsack. And let the one who has no sword sell his cloak and buy one'" (Luke 22:35b-36). Notice the "But now..." So the new command cancels the old. And many Old Testament promises and commands are replaced by New Testament commands and promises.

Is there an answer to this situation that you can understand without a university degree? Yes, there is, and space means I'll have to share it with you in our next post. (But if you can't wait, order the book God's Principles and Your Potential and read chapter 4.) -- Peter Wade.

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As you are reading your Bible at home you might see something about the words that strike you as interesting, or you are listening to a teaching and as you follow it in your Bible something catches your attention. This is the Spirit of God pointing to something He wants you to understand. “No one comprehends the thoughts of God except the Spirit of God. Now we have received not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, that we might understand the things freely given us by God” (I Corinthians 2:11b-12 ESV).

Now be honest, will you remember what is was that caught your attention a day later? Will you remember where in the Word it was? D.L. Moody, the “Billy Graham” of the late 1800s, wrote in his book Golden Counsels (1899), “Unless you have an uncommon memory, you cannot retain the good things you hear. If you trust to your ear alone, they will escape you in a day or two; but, if you mark your Bible, and enlist the aid of your eye, you will never lose them.”

marked-ephesiansSo let’s talk about Bible marking, a common practice in Moody’s day but rarely mentioned now. Today in many churches the scripture texts are placed on a screen, enhancing the “spectator” attitude to the service and giving the impression that you don’t need a Bible; “come just as you are!” As a young Christian, I saw many fellow believers write in their Bibles.

In 2004 I was privileged to inspect the KJV Bible used by E.W. Kenyon, and it was well marked. Moody wisely wrote, “Do not buy a Bible that you are unwilling to mark and use.”

My own KJV Bible that I’ve used for about 50 years is marked, particularly in books like Ephesians where the pages are grubby and ready to fall out. I notice that I used fine ballpoint pens (not gel ink), red, green, and blue in color, to contrast with the black type, and also some pencil marks, 2B or 3B. A large-print Bible, say 9.1/4″ x 6″, is best as you can write words between the lines. You can also buy wide-margin Bibles.

I have mentioned before that for study a “literal” translation is best, such as the ESV or KJV, while a paraphrase or mixture of both has value for illustrative purposes. I’m not a “King James Only” teacher, but it does have the most reference works published on any version.

It’s time for some examples. I’m concentrating on the words in the Word, not on topics. There are many suggested systems that assign a color to a topic. The problem is your Bible will start to look like a rainbow and it is hard to remember which topic goes with a specific color. I suggest you give topics a miss for a while and read the books of the Bible as they were written, chapter by chapter.

Suppose you decide to read through Ephesians in the ESV, so you start with chapter one verse one. You notice the two “in” prepositions and you wonder why. The saints are both “in Ephesus” and “in Christ Jesus;” in two positions or locations at the one time (see page 168, Completely Satisfied in Christ by Peter Wade). You could perhaps underline the two “in’s” or circle them. Of course, some have digital versions and you’ll have to work out for yourself how to mark the text, perhaps highlighting or underlining. So that example is a repetition of words in the same verse.

Later you read verses 18-19 of chapter 1, “Having the eyes of your hearts enlightened, that you may know…” (ESV). There are two “what” words in the rest of the verse and another one in verse 19. Each usage signifies the start of an indirect question, so you could place the numbers 1, 2, and 3 in front of each “what” respectively. You can know in reality these three great truths. In fact, your heart (the seat of your personal life in your brain) has been enlightened so you can know these things. That’s an example of a list, but it is not clearly seen in the way the type is set in your Bible until you mark it. There’s another list in chapter 2, verses 5 and 6.

mark_bible-02Another technique is called a “railway connection,” a thin line underlining one statement and then connected the start of the underline of a second statement. In KJV chapter 2, verse 2, “in time past;” verse 3, “in times past;” verse 11, “in time past;” and then verse 13, “But now…” See another way of doing this in the illustration, circling the phrase and joining the two usages (from NLT).

Try out these suggested methods, read Moody’s full article online at WholesomeWords.org, which has other good examples, and retain all the revelation God gives you as you read His word and listen to His promptings.