Category Archives: bible study

Grow in Maturity: Digging Deep Into God’s Word

You can’t be a disciple of Jesus Christ unless you are a student of his Word!

This week I want you to share with you some excellent online resources that will help you in your own study of the Bible.  Over the next four weeks, I will use the online video instruction on the Saddleback website as the background of what I’ll share:

Basic Bible Interpretation:  Good Bible study has three key components…

  1. Observation—What does it say?
  2. Interpretation—What does it mean?
  3. Application—How do I apply it to my life?

Basic observation begins with basic questions about the passage:

  1. Who Wrote It
  2. To Whom Was It Written
  3. Purpose of the Book
  4. What Type of Literature

Answers to these basic questions can be found in the following resources:

  • Reading the Text—Read your text in a variety of Bible translations … English AND other languages
  • Study Bibles—If you have a study Bible answers to these questions are provided in an introduction
  • Bible Commentary—The internet has available MANY Bible study resources.  However, there’s a LOT of junk out there.  I recommend the following:

The Free Bible Commentary – I can’t over emphasize how GOOD this resource is!  It’s available online ( and is designed to focus on the text.  There are THOUSANDS of pages devoted to explaining words, phrases, and contexts that give you an opportunity to OBSERVE and INTERPRET the Bible for yourself. Please, USE THIS RESOURCE and encourage your groups to do the same.

YouVersion Bible – This free online and APP version of the Bible ( is a great way to read the Bible.  Download the APP to your smart phone and you can highlight/make notes to share insights with your “friends.” (Follow me at ibcbscott.)  You will also be able to follow upcoming “LIVE” events during worship.

Blue Letter Bible (See the video) and Bible Gateway are other trusted online resources.

Developing the “holy habit” of personal Bible study is indispensible for your spiritual growth.  Take the time and trouble to keep yourself spiritually fit by “digging deep into God’s Word.”  Better yet, share that experience in a small group committed to studying the Bible!

What are your favorite online Bible study resources?

Dig Deeper — Conversion, the Spirit, Laying on of Hands, and Tongues

Our approach to worship on Sundays is primarily “inspirational” and “devotional” instead of “instructional.”  Our music, testimonies, prayers, and my preaching focus on providing worshippers an inspirational challenge that encourages participants to experience and live the “disciple-life.”

Though my “inspirational” preaching — at least I hope so — is “textual” and “instructional,” I often skip over textual content that leads those of you interested in “deeper” study to ask questions.  As a result, I want to start addressing at least one “deeper”study instruction in a weekly blog intended to give my perspective on a textual issue from Sunday’s sermon.

My recent sermon on Acts 8:1-25  on Philip’s ministry in Samaria skipped over vss. 15-17 and the issue of conversion, the Spirit, the laying on of hand,  and tongues:

Acts 8:15-17 (ANIV)
15  When they arrived, they prayed for them that they might receive the Holy Spirit,  16  because the Holy Spirit had not yet come upon any of them; they had simply been baptised into the name of the Lord Jesus.  17  Then Peter and John placed their hands on them, and they received the Holy Spirit.

In this account, conversion is separated from receiving the Holy Spirit which is received only after Peter and John lay their hands on these Samaritan converts.  Some see this as a biblical warrant for the separation between baptism and confirmation; others see in this a justification for a “second grace” experience of being “baptized by the Holy Spirit.”  I, too, see in this an important theological truth, but one that has nothing to do with conversion and the Holy Spirit.  The textual evidence doesn’t support these claims.

Though there are two exceptions in Acts — Ch 8 & 19 — the usual pattern is receiving the Holy Spirit at conversion (see Ch 10).  On these same two occasions, receiving the Spirit is mediated by the laying on of hands.  On only four occasions in Acts is receiving the Spirit accompanied by speaking in tongues — Ch 2, 8 (implied), 10, 19.  No clear pattern emerges from these four passages relating conversion, receiving the Spirit, laying on of hands, and speaking in tongues.  Therefore, no doctrine/teaching relating these can be concluded.  A chart might help illustrate the point:

Passage Spirit Separate from Conversion Laying on Hands Tongues

Acts 2

? No Yes

Acts 8

Yes Yes

? (implied)

Acts 10

No No


Acts 19 ? Yes


In my opinion, the passage is NOT about the Holy Spirit, the laying on of hands, or tongues.  Instead, this story emphasizes the truth that the Gospel of Jesus Christ is for everyone.  No one is outside the reach of the Gospel; every believer — of every tribe, tongue, and nation — belongs in the Church!  Acts is an historical book about a unique time of transition in God’s global salvation plan — life/death/resurrection of Jesus, the sending of the Spirit, and the empowering of the church — a plan that was never intended just for the Jews but for the whole world.  The book is of “the Gospel going global” beginning in Jerusalem (Acts 1:8) in an “unhindered” manner  — the last Greek word in the book.

So, on these unique occassions receiving the Spirit accompanied by speaking in tongues was God’s means of saying:  “The Gospel is for everyone…not just Jews!” and “No one is excluded from the church!”  So…

  • At conversion one receives and is “baptized by the Spirit.”
  • The laying on of hands is NOT necessary for receiving the Spirit.
  • Speaking in tongues in NOT a universal sign of being baptized by … or filled with … the Spirit.
Passage Occasion Persons Purpose
Acts 2 Pentecost – Sending of the Holy Spirit Apostles and Disciples (Jews)
  • Power for witnessing to Jews in Jerusalem
Acts 8 Philip’s Samaritan Ministry ½ Jews
  • Gospel for Judea and Samaria
  • Included in the church
Acts 10 Peter and Cornelius God-fearing Gentiles
  • Gospel for Gentiles
  • Included in the church
Acts 19 Paul in Ephesus Disciples of John the Baptist
  • Gospel for Whole World
  • Included in the church




God’s Sovereignty and His Will

The Jerusalem Church gathered to pray upon the occasion of Peter and John’s release from prison and subsequent trial (Acts 4:23-31) acknowledging that our Creator God is sovereign — in other words, God is supreme and has absolute power.  They noted that even in the unthinkable tragedy of Jesus’ arrest and crucifixion God was sovereignly at work to accomplish his eternal purpose.
I’m often asked by people about God’s sovereignty and his will, especially in the way that it intersects with their life.  I find it helpful to note that the Bible speaks of God’s will in at least two primary ways — God’s perfect (purposeful) will andGod’s permissive will.  Here’s what these two mean and how they relate to each other.
God’s perfect will is seen in Romans 12:2 — “Be transformed by the renewing of your mind so that you may prove what the will of God is that which is good, well-pleasing, and perfect.” Paul is challenging us to submit our whole beings to the on-going, life-changing process of being completely conformed to God’s will in all its fullness.  This is, of course, God’s purpose and intention in salvation so this is sometimes called God’s purposeful will.
God’s permissive will is seen in Romans 8:28-29 — “And we know that in all things God works for the good  of those who love him, who have been called  according to his purpose.  For those God foreknew  he also predestined  to be conformed to the image of his Son,  that he might be the firstborn among many brothers and sisters.”  Paul is encouraging us to cooperate with God’s work in our lives during life’s difficult circumstances — in this instance, suffering.  Even in the bad things that happen — what God permits even though it is bad — God works to accomplish his purpose and intention in salvation…his perfect will — namely, to make us more like Jesus Christ.
God’s purpose of salvation — his perfect will — is being and will be accomplished.  What God allows — his permissive will— is a servant of his perfect will.  God is sovereignly at work in and through all things to accomplish his purpose in our lives and in his world.
As Paul reminds us, we are to present ourselves to God and surrender ourselves to the work of his Spirit so that we might become more like Jesus Christ.  That is his good, well-pleasing, and perfect will that is being accomplished through all things.