Shelf Life Book Review: Entrusted with the Gospel

Clifford B. Kvidahl

Entrusted with the Gospel: Paul’s Theology in the Pastoral Epistles
B&H Academic, 2010

This book is a collection of essays addressing themes in 1–2 Timothy and Titus—the pastoral epistles. In this volume, edited by Andreas J. Köstenberger and Terry L. Wilder, scholars respond to questions about the theology, structure and authorship of these writings.

The introductory essay, by Köstenberger, discusses issues surrounding the pastoral letters—from Paul’s theology to current scholarship. Many of the contributing scholars have done extensive work in the pastoral letters. Some of the highlights include an essay on authorship by Terry L. Wilder, an essay on the structure of the letters by Ray Van Neste, and I. Howard Marshall’s concluding remarks on recent scholarship.

If you want to explore some of the crucial issues in pastoral epistle scholarship, this book is an excellent resource.

Article courtesy of Bible Study Magazine published by Faithlife Corporation. Originally published in print, Vol. 3 No. 3

Tough Love

Michael S. Heiser

It’s a common myth that God will always bring us back to repentance. This myth is debunked in the first letter of John. While John writes that “if we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9), 1 he also tells us that sometimes God never gives us another chance to confess our sins and be forgiven.

In 1 John 5:16–17, the apostle gives us the other side of the sin-confession-forgiveness coin:


If anyone sees his brother committing a sin not leading to death, he shall ask, and God will give him life—to those who commit sins that do not lead to death. There is sin that leads to death; I do not say that one should pray for that. All wrongdoing is sin, but there is sin that does not lead to death.

Put simply, there are sins that Christians commit that don’t lead to death—but there are some that do. Is John talking about a divine law of cause and effect, where a specific sin irrevocably results in death? Not exactly.

We can be certain that John has no specific sin in mind because he never names a sin in this passage. John is saying there may come a time when God has had enough of our sin, and then our time on earth is up. We cannot know when such a time might come—so we shouldn’t be in the habit of sinning with impunity.

John had actually seen this happen. In Acts 5:1–11, Luke relates the incident of Ananias and Sapphira, who lied to Peter (and to God) about the proceeds from a piece of property they had sold. They were under no obligation to give any of it to the church, but pretended that they had given all the money to the Lord’s work. When confronted by Peter, both of them collapsed and died on the spot. Luke writes that “great fear came upon the whole church and upon all who heard of these things” (Acts 5:11). No kidding.

No doubt this incident left an imprint on John’s mind. But John would have also known that there was Old Testament precedent for “sin unto death” as well. In Numbers 11, in response to the latest wave of complaining about their circumstances, the LORD sent the people of Israel meat to eat in the form of quails. “While the meat was yet between their teeth, before it was consumed, the anger of the LORD was kindled against the people, and the LORD struck down the people with a very great plague” (Num 11:33). John’s message to believers wasn’t: “God doesn’t judge like that today.” Rather, it was: “Stop sinning, because there is a sin that leads to death.”

Lest we think God is horrible and negative, we would do well to remember that it was John who penned “God is love”—in this same letter (1 John 4:8). As with Ananias and Sapphira, removing a sinning believer from the church was (very) tough love. But the fledgling church was all the stronger and more committed for it.

Article courtesy of Bible Study Magazine published by Faithlife Corporation. Originally published in print, Vol. 3 No. 3

1. All biblical references are from the English Standard Version (ESV).

The Power of Language

Eli T. Evans

Third-century church leader Dionysius of Alexandria said that the Apostle John’s “dialect and language are not accurate Greek, but … he uses barbarous idioms, and, in some places, solecisms.” 1 Since then, commentators have noted that John is neither as eloquent a wordsmith as Luke, nor as polished a debater as Paul. He speaks slowly and uses small words—with a thick accent.

Yet John is a genre-buster. Matthew, Mark and Luke wrote only historical narratives; Peter, Paul, James and Jude wrote only epistles; the author of Hebrews wrote only, well, Hebrews. John, despite his “barbarous idioms,” quirky grammar, and limited vocabulary, managed to produce not only a gospel but three epistles and an apocalypse. Mastering one literary genre is impressive enough, but John’s body of work spans three. And he wrote all of this in his non-native tongue.

Ironically, the power of language is a major theme in John’s writing. He is very careful about stating his intent. “Now Jesus did many other signs … which are not written in this book; but these are written so that you may believe” (John 20:30–31). 2 John also states his intent in 1 John 1:8–10, naming each part of his audience and his reasons for writing to them. The Revelation is written “to show his servants the things that must soon take place” so that they can “keep what is written in it, for the time is near” (Rev 1:1, 3). John knows his words will affect his audience, and he wants them to have the right effect.

In John’s gospel, speech is often associated with “bearing witness” that leads to either belief or unbelief (1:7, 2:22; 3:12). Unlike Nicodemus, who struggles with Jesus’ words (3:11–12), the Samaritan woman at the well believes because of what Jesus tells her, and her town in turn believes because of what she tells them (4:29, 42). Later, the crowds abandon Jesus—not because of anything he has done, but because of his “hard saying” (6:60). Peter, in contrast, refuses to leave because Jesus has “the words of eternal life” (6:68).

For John, the faith of those who believe the words of Jesus is stronger than those who demand tangible proof. “Unless you see signs and wonders you will not believe” (John 4:48; compare 7:31; 14:10–11). This point is illustrated by Thomas’ doubt (John 20:24–29). The Jewish authorities, however, did not believe even after hearing and seeing (10:25–26).

In Revelation, words that are both written and spoken manifest power and authority. The first scene is set by the letters to the seven churches of Asia Minor (Rev 1–3), and later, the indictment against the world is ceremoniously read from a scroll (Rev 5). No one is a believer whose name is not written in the Lamb’s book of life (3:5; 13:8). Both the triumphant Christ and the lady of Babylon are inscribed with names on their bodies and clothes (17:3; 19:16).

John’s words may or may not be “accurate” according to the pedantic grammarian, but the ideas expressed by them are among the most profound and earth-shaking ever written. His equation of Jesus of Nazareth with the Logos (λόγος; “word”) is the ultimate statement about the power of language: Jesus doesn’t just use words—He is the Word (John 1:1–14, 18).

Say what you will about John as a writer of Greek, but as a writer of Scripture, he is unsurpassed.


Solecisms are mistakes in the use of language.

It comes from the Greek word σόλοικος (soloikos), meaning “speaking incorrectly, using broken Greek.” 3

Genres divide literature into categories with common conventions that set audience expectations.

Broadly speaking, the genres of the New Testament are: gospel/history (Matthew-Acts) epistle (Romans-3 John), and apocalypse (Revelation).

Article courtesy of Bible Study Magazine published by Faithlife Corporation . Originally published in print, Vol. 3 No. 3

1. Dionysius of Alexandria (died 264 AD), quoted in Eusebius, Church History 7.25.26.

2. All biblical references are from the English Standard Version (ESV).

3. Henry George Liddell and Robert Scott, A Greek English Lexicon (New York: Oxford University Press, 1996).

Jesus Christ (Meant to Be) the Superstar

John D. Barry

Numbers 10:1–36; John 17:1–26; Psalm 10:1–18

Andrew Lloyd Webber’s musical, Jesus Christ Superstar, is certainly incorrect (and rather heretical) in its portrayal of history, but it got one thing right: Jesus is meant to be the celebrity. He—no one else—is the Savior, the Christ, the Lord.

And that’s why the celebrity pastor movement is quite frightening. I don’t say this as a cynic, and it’s not that I’m primarily concerned with how these teachers are marketed (although that, too, can be scary at times); I’m worried about the way they’re received.

Certainly there are people who can be trusted more than others, and popularity is by no means a measurement of trustworthiness. But automatically agreeing with everything a teacher says puts the disciple in a bad position with the God they worship. It also puts the teacher in a position similar to an idol. Teachers who truly follow Christ would never desire such glory for themselves.

In the Gospel of John, we see Jesus glorified by the Father. Jesus was obedient to the Father, even to death, which is why He alone is worthy of our worship. “I have glorified you on earth by completing the work that you have given me to do. And now, Father, you glorify me at your side with the glory that I had at your side before the world existed” (John 17:4–5).

True teachers of the gospel want commitment—not to themselves, but to Christ and His cause. Jesus prayed: “Righteous Father, although the world does not know you, yet I have known you, and these men have come to know that you sent me. And I made known to them your name, and will make it known, in order that the love with which you loved me may be in them, and I may be in them” (John 17:26).

In what parts of your life is God asking you to make a statement similar to Paul’s? What teachers are you adoring too much?

This article was originally posted in Connect the Testaments: A One-Year Daily Devotional with Bible Reading Plan .

John D. Barry is the CEO and founder of Jesus’ Economy, a nonprofit dedicated to creating jobs and churches in the developing world. To empower the extreme poor, Jesus’ Economy also has an online fair trade shop. John is also the general editor of Faithlife Study Bible and the former editor-in-chief of Bible Study Magazine. Learn more about John’s work with Jesus’ Economy at

Shelf Life Book Review: Magnifying God in Christ

Magnifying God in Christ: A Summary of New Testament Theology
Baker Academic, 2010

According to Thomas R. Schreiner, the central theme of the New Testament is the glorification of God through Jesus Christ and His ministry. The author investigates a series of New Testament themes and ties them together to form a unified tapestry. Schreiner spends an entire chapter reminding readers that the New Testament must be understood in light of Old Testament promises and the “present and not yet” nature of the kingdom of God.

Schreiner reviews themes related to each person of the Trinity, the effect of Christ’s victory over sin and death, and the end-times sayings. In each discussion, Schreiner carefully evaluates the biblical evidence from both the Old and New Testaments. While he doesn’t avoid controversial passages, he also does not allow them to detract from the literary thrust of Scripture.

Bible students will appreciate the scriptural and subject indices, and pastors will be challenged by the reflections at the end of each chapter.

Article courtesy of Bible Study Magazine published by Faithlife Corporation. Originally published in print, Vol. 3 No. 3