Biblical Studies

Summary of John's Gospel

Yesterday I finished preaching through the Gospel of John at New Song Fellowship. We spent seven and a half months on the gospel and I wanted to wrap up with a summary of what we had seen in John's gospel over that time. Here's the summary I wrote and read as a part of yesterday's message.

Summary of John’s Gospel
by Brent Hobbs

In chapter 1, Jesus is the Word, who was with God and was God, the light of the world, who darkness could not overcome. The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us.

In chapter 2, Jesus changes water into wine — a sign that his kingdom is not about dead ceremonial washings, but a living, joyful celebration of God’s kingdom. Then he clears the temple courts and claims to be, himself, the greater temple – God’s very presence on earth.

In chapter 3, Jesus talks with Nicodemus, telling him he must be born again to see God’s kingdom, and we learn that God loved the world by sending his only Son, so that all those believing in him would not perish, but have eternal life.

In chapter 4, Jesus meets a Samaritan woman at the well and proves he’s the promised Messiah. The woman and many Samaritans in her village believe because of the words Jesus speaks to them.

In chapter 5, Jesus shows he has the power to heal and possesses the very authority of the Father.

In chapter 6, Jesus feeds the 5,000 and walks across the lake, but many desert him when he claims that he himself is the bread of life, greater than the manna God gave through Moses.

In chapter 7, Jesus goes to Jerusalem for the Feast of Tabernacles and uses the water and lantern ceremonies as object lessons. He teaches that he, himself, is the true fountain of living water and the light of the world.

In chapter 8, Jesus lets us know that all of us who sin are slaves to sin, but that there’s hope for us and true freedom can be found— because if the Son sets us free, we are free indeed.

In chapter 9, Jesus heals a man who had been blind his whole life, and offers to give sight to the physically seeing but spiritually blind Pharisees.

In chapter 10, Jesus is the good shepherd who lays down his life for his sheep. He’s come so that they might have life, and have it in full abundance.

In chapter 11, Jesus waits for his friend to die, then arrives at his funeral to call him out of his grave. The Pharisees and chief priests decide that since Lazarus lives, Jesus must die.

In chapter 12, Jesus arrives in Jerusalem on a donkey, to a king’s welcome. But he knows that the path to his throne leads also to a brutal cross.

In chapter 13, Jesus takes his disciples to the upper room. He washes their feet and serves them as if he were their slave, to give an example that we all should follow.

In chapter 14, after predicting Judas’ betrayal, Peter’s denial, and his own death, Jesus tell his disciples, “Do not let your hearts be troubled” because he is the way to the Father, the truth, and the life – and because he is sending the Holy Spirit to be their advocate.

In chapter 15, Jesus is the vine and we are the branches. We must remain in him.

In chapter 16, Jesus tells the disciple there will be weeping for a night, but afterward their weeping would turn to joy.

In chapter 17, just before his arrest & trial, Jesus prays for his disciples and for us: that we would live lives of unity and love.

When chapter 18 arrives, Jesus turns himself over to the Jewish leaders and Roman soldiers, because he came to earth to be lifted up and reveal the Father to the world.

In chapter 19, Pilate condemns an innocent man to die. Jesus is beaten, whipped, and nailed to a cross. The King of the Jews humiliated and tortured, fulfilling God’s perfectly designed plan, down to the lots cast for his clothing. Jesus bows his head and gives up his spirit with the cry, “It is finished!”

Jesus’ lifeless body is laid in a tomb and it seems like darkness reigns.

But the sun dawns on Sunday morning, and chapter 20 tells us about an empty tomb, a savior who comforts us by name, and Jesus appearing to his disciples. The light of the world lives! And Thomas proclaims, “My Lord, and My God!”

In chapter 21, the story is nearly over, but Jesus appears again. He continues to reveal his character and grace as he cooks breakfast for his disciples and forgives the one who denied him.

When the Word was made flesh, light invaded the darkness, and the darkness could not hold back God’s mission – what he meant to accomplish in Christ. And now what’s left is for you to believe this good news: Jesus reigns.


New Song Fellowship Spiritual Gifts Study

We just completed a Wednesday night series on spiritual gifts at New Song Fellowship. Here's a list of resources and the handout materials we used during the study.

Handout Materials
This document includes the study summary, spiritual gifts chart, and study questions for the three major spiritual gift passages, Romans 12, Ephesians 4, and 1 Corinthians 12-14. I've also included the spiritual gifts inventory test and the Juan Sanchez articles, both listed below.

Spiritual Gifts Translation Comparison
Compares the NIV, ESV, and NASB translations of the various spiritual gifts. There's a surprising amount of continuity among all three translations, but there are some minor differences. This two-page color-coded worksheet makes the differences easy to spot.


The Resurgence on Spiritual Gifts
This is an excellent study by The Resurgence, and available at their website. The download is reformatted to fit each gift on a separate page. It includes definitions, Bible passages, and questions that help identify if you have that particular gift.
Original Source Materials

How Do I Find My Spiritual Gifts? Juan Sanchez article at The Gospel Coalition
This is a one-page article I really appreciate. It discusses the drawbacks of spiritual gift inventories and provides a more biblical way of thinking about and discovering how the Holy Spirit would use us on our churches. I formatted this article to fit on one page.
PDF (Note: This is also included in the "Handout Materials" download listed above.)

Spiritual Gifts Inventory Test - Evangelical Lutheran Church of America
I know I just mentioned an article that discussed the drawbacks of spiritual gift inventories. That said, I think they can be useful if used with the proper disclaimers. So you can take this one online or I made a four-page printout version for in-class usage.
PDF (Note: This is also included in the "Handout Materials" download listed above.)


Three Amazing, Free Bible Study Resources

Here are three excellent resources for studying your Bible. All three are available in print as Study Bibles and are worth owning in that format. But the great news is they are available for free online. (ESV Study Bible is only free this month.)

The ESV Study Bible Online (free in November, normally costs $22.50)
The ESV Study Bible is the king of study Bibles. The book introductions and articles on various topics are a tremendous resource, and that's all in addition to the textual notes you normally think of as the meat of a study Bible. Jump on the opportunity to get this resource for free. You'll create an account at and then add the web app to your account.

The NET Bible (always free)
The NET Bible is a translation and study Bible together published by scholars at Dallas Theological Seminary. The notes here are in-depth and often more technical than what you find in general study Bibles. They often deal more with translation and interpretive questions than with the theology of the text. I don't know of another free resource where you can get this kind of quality information. And if your question touches on some of these textual and translation areas, other study Bibles may not even address the issues.

The Holman Christian Standard Study Bible (always free)
The HCSB Study Bible is a quality general study Bible. The website has a number of other free tools integrated with the study Bible as well as modules you can add by purchasing. I don't think the interface is as polished as the other two and the resource itself is a solid second choice for general study Bible behind the excellent ESV Study Bible.


Visual Illustration of Acrostic Psalm 119

Ps 119 copy

A little while back I preached
a series through some selected Psalms. Psalm 119 was one of the Psalms I chose to preach. I made this image as a way to demonstrate the acrostic nature of the Psalm. Click on the image for a full-sized rendering of the first 72 verses of the longest Psalm in our Bibles. (Note: The image is quite large, so your web browser may resize it to show the full image. You may need to click the image or take other steps to see it in full resolution.)

The 22 stanzas of Psalm 119 are made up of 8 lines each, each of them beginning with successive letters of the Hebrew alphabet. Another feature of Psalm 119 is that almost every line (4 exceptions*) contains one of the eight terms used as synonyms for "Torah", often translated "law" but probably better understood as "instruction" or "teaching." The eight terms used throughout the Psalm: Torah (instruction), ordinances, decrees, word, statutes, precepts, commands, and promise. The translation of those terms may vary slightly deepening on which Bible translation you're using.

Psalm 119 is clearly a well-thought out, well-ordered piece of literature. Note the repetition of the eight terms but the variety of ways the psalmist expresses honor for the word of God. The sermon I preached on Psalm 119
is available here.

*The four exceptions: Verses 3 and 37 have "ways", verse 15 has "paths", and verse 90 has "faithfulness". Each in context is virtually synonymous with "instruction".


Carson on the Sermon on the Mount

D. A. Carson from his EBC Commentary on Matthew 7:28-29:

The central point is this: Jesus' entire approach in the Sermon on the Mount is not only ethical but messianic—i.e., christological and eschatological. Jesus is not an ordinary prophet who says, "Thus says the Lord!" Rather, he speaks in the first person and claims that his teaching fulfills the Old Testament; that he determines who enters the messianic kingdom; that as the Divine Judge he pronounces banishment; that the true heirs of the kingdom would be persecuted for their allegiance to him; and that he alone fully knows the will of his Father.


Spiritual Gifts Resources

We're working through a series on spiritual gifts at our church. I had a hard time finding resources I was happy with so made a few of my own. I also reformatted some resources I was happy with for printing and wanted to make those available for anyone who'd like to use them.

The Resurgence on Spiritual Gifts
This was the most helpful material I found. However, it was spread out across 20 different articles and the images and formatting caused most of the articles to print on two pages. So it just didn't make for good handout material. I went through, and worked on the formatting and took out almost all of the images so that each article fits on its own page and the gifts are now in alphabetical order. This makes a 10-page (front and back) handout.

Juan Sanchez Article at The Gospel Coalition
This is a one-page article I really appreciate. It discusses the drawbacks of spiritual gift inventories and provides a more biblical way of thinking about and discovering how the Holy Spirit would use us on our churches. I formatted this article to fit on one page.

Evangelical Lutheran Church of America—Spiritual Gifts Inventory
I know I just mentioned an article that discussed the drawbacks of spiritual gift inventories. That said, I think they can be useful if used with the proper disclaimers. So you can take this one online or I made a four-page printout version for in-class usage.
PDF | Pages File (if you'd like to make changes/edit)

Spiritual Gifts by Scripture Passage
There are numerous versions of this kind of thing out there. It's going to depend on some different factors as to how all of these get named and categorized. I couldn't find one I was completely happy with, so I made my own version. The names of the gifts are mostly taken from the NIV.
PDF | Pages File (if you'd like to make changes/edit)

In my reformatting, I've tried to give full credit to the original sources. My only goal is to get this in a format that's easy to use for a classroom setting. I hope it will be helpful to others as well.


How Did God "So" Love the World?

For our Christmas Eve service this year, I'm planning to give the message from John 3:16. We were in the majestic John 1:1-13 this past Sunday and will continue in verses 14-18 this coming Sunday, so I thought John 3 would be a great compliment to those passages.

In studying John 3:16, I took some time to research a question that I've wanted to examine for some time now. We all know the traditional translation of the verse says, "...God so loved the world..." The question I've wondered about is how to translate "so" (houtos in Greek). A Greek dictionary will give you a definition something like this: "so, thus, in this way."

That means, depending on which definition is meant by houtos in 3:16, we could get two different senses from the verse. Here are the two options:

1. For God loved the world so much...
2. For God loved the world in this way...

The first option means that houtos indicates "a high degree" whereas the second means something like "in this manner". I believe most people assume option #1 when they read John 3:16 because that's the most natural way to understand the phrase "God so loved".

The word houtos (so, thus, in this way) occurs 208 times in the Greek New Testament—a fairly common word. I went through all 208 times and counted how many times it was used in each of these ways. It is only used to indicate "a high degree" in four of those 208 occurrences. There is one more where I'd say it's 50/50 and could mean one or the other. And there are two other places it's used and is possible, but I think unlikely that it means "a high degree". So, at most 7 out of 208 uses of houtos coincide with option #1. The rest all indicate a meaning like option #2.

In only 2-3% of times this word is used does it mean option #1. (See * list below)
In 97-98% of times
houtos is used, it means something like "in this way."

As I looked through the 208 occurrences, here are some of the ways houtos is translated:

in this way like this as follows
exactly in this manner and so it happened
this way just as in the same way

We know that understanding the Bible must take into account considerations besides lexical meaning. But there seems to be a pretty heavy weight just from the lexical data that we should be leaning toward meaning #2 when we get to John 3:16. I believe the context fits more appropriately with meaning #2 as well. The focus is not on the degree or intensity of God's love, but on the giving of the one and only Son.

This is why I believe John 3:16 would be better translated: "For God loved this world in this way, he gave his one and only Son..." The Holman Christian Standard Bible and the Net Bible are the only two translations I know of that use that translation. Most others use the traditional "God so loved..." (NIV, TNIV, ESV, NASB, RSV, NRSV, KJV, NKJV). And one (eek!) actually uses "God loved the world so much..." (NLT).

*Instances of houtos that indicate degree: Definitely: Gal. 1:6; Gal. 3:3; Heb. 12:21 (houto); and Rev. 16:18 (houto). May or may not (50/50 chance): 1 Thess. 2:8. Possible, but doubtful: Mark 7:18 and 1 John 4:11.

Luther on Romans 1:17

Our church will celebrate Reformation Day this coming Sunday, October 31st. I'll be preaching on Romans 1:16-17 as a part of our new series on the book of Romans, God's Grace to Sinners Like Us. Here's Martin Luther's famous quote on 'the righteousness of God' in 1:17 and how God gave Luther eyes to see this biblical truth.

The quote is from Luther's work known as his Autobiographical Fragment, written in 1545. I've merged a couple of different translations in the interest of clarity since I plan on reading it aloud as part of my message on Sunday.

… For I hated the phrase ‘the righteousness of God’, which according to the use and custom of all the doctors, I had been taught to understand philosophically, in the sense of the formal or active righteousness by which God is just and punishes unrighteous sinners.

Although I lived an irreproachable life as a monk, I felt that I was a sinner with an uneasy conscience before God; nor could I believe that I had pleased him by the satisfaction I could offer. I did not love—nay, in fact, I hated this righteous God who punished sinners, and if not with silent blasphemy, then certainly with great murmuring. I was angry with God, saying, “As if it were not enough that miserable sinners should be eternally condemned by original sin, with all kinds of misfortunes laid upon them through the Old Testament law, and yet God adds sorrow to sorrow through the Gospel, and even brings his righteousness and wrath to bear on us through it!” Thus I drove myself mad, with a desperate and disturbed conscience; persistently pounding upon Paul in this passage, with a parched and burning desire to know what he could mean.

At last, God being merciful, as I meditated day and night on the connection of the words, namely—‘The righteousness of God is revealed in it, as it is written: the righteous shall live by faith’—and there I began to understand the ‘righteousness of God’ as that by which the righteous man lives by the gift of God, namely by faith. And this sentence, “the righteousness is revealed,” to refer to a passive righteousness, by which the merciful God justifies us through faith, as it is written, ‘The righteous shall live by faith.’ At this I felt myself straightway born again and to have entered through the open gates into paradise itself. From that moment the whole face of Scripture was changed…

And now, in the same degree as I had formerly hated the word ‘righteousness of God’, even so did I begin to love and extol it as the sweetest word of all. Thus was this place in St. Paul to me the very gate of paradise…

After Sunday, you can find the audio of this message, along with many others, on the 'Sermons' page at our church website.