" July 2014 "

Four New Books You Have to Know About

[This is a guest post by Mark Ward, who received his Ph.D. in New Testament from Bob Jones University Seminary in 2012 and serves as part of the Bible Integration Team at BJU Press. Mark also has a ministry providing churches with beautiful and affordable websites.]

“New” in American culture means “good,” or at least “better.” It’s a moniker marketers never tire of using, because it works—and as long as it does, Tide detergent will reliably produce “new” formulations every so often.

But “new” is relative. The four brand new books I advertised in my title are startlingly new, but in at least two senses, they’re also quite old.

It’s time you were jolted typographically awake by four very new books rooted in very old traditions. I’m speaking of Bibliotheca, a Kickstarter (“crowdfunded“) project to produce a four-volume printing of the Bible in an innovative old way.

Designer Adam Greene, a young man steeped in the history of typography, is the force behind the project. The best way to communicate to you what’s new and old about his work is to show it to you.

First the outside:

outside

Now the inside:

spread

And again:

spread2

What do you see in this Bible? Or, rather, what do you not see?

You don’t see all the accoutrements you’ve come to view as normal, standard in a printing of the Bible. That’s what’s so new about Greene’s project.

c902_SCOclassic_inside2__4And that’s what’s so old—you see, we all have historical myopia when it comes to Bible editions. We are accustomed to a two-column format in which every verse is a separate paragraph and in which each page is packed with verse numbers and multiple systems of superscript footnoting1 and2 cross-referencing.a b We forget, however, that things were not always so. Verse numbers are a comparatively recent addition to the Bible text. If the Bible were a 65-year-old man, verse numbers were added when he was 56 ½. They’ve been around for about a tenth of the Bible’s history.

What does the standard two-column layout do to meaning? Arguably, it does something very bad: it not-so-subtly leads readers to view the “verse,” whatever that is, as the fundamental unit of Bible statement. (Whenever they’re not viewing the word that way—see Barr quote here.) Making every verse a paragraph is an invitation to atomistic exegesis. It doesn’t help you read with sensitivity to the context.

You simply must try reading a Bible with no chapter and verse numbers at all. It is a beautiful and helpful experience—if initially jarring. I began creating this experience for myself using a Microsoft Word macro about ten years ago. And, providentially, a slow trickle of Bible editions began coming out which made that experience available in codex form. My favorite of the lot is the also-new ESV Reader’s Bible from Crossway (the ESV website also has this functionality), but the Bibliotheca project is even better—it just uses a translation I’m less excited about, the 1901 ASV. (And it would cost me 15 months of my recently reduced book budget…=)

If you’re not sold yet, watch the video. It’s brand new!

The Priority of Personal Evangelism

In October of last year I preached a short and simple Bible message in our university chapel on the priority of personal evangelism from II Corinthians 3:18-4:7.

In this passage Paul presents the calling of believers.

  1. God Calls Believers to Be Christlike. God calls us to be like Jesus Christ, which includes developing a compassionate heart for the lost like His (II Cor. 3:18). (John 4 is a striking illustration of Jesus’ compassion.)
  2. God Calls Believers to Be Courageous. God calls us to not faint, to not lose heart, in our lives and ministry, so we must draw upon God’s unfailing strength (4:1, 16-18).
  3. God Calls Believers to Be Clear. God calls us to reject all false teaching, false “gospels,” and man-centered manipulation (4:2; cf. 2:17) and be clear and in our presentation of the gospel.
  4. God Calls Believers to Be Confident. God calls us to understand the difficulty of our challenge (4:3-4). God calls to have confidence in the supernatural power of Christ to save others, just as He has saved us. We preach Christ! (4:5-7).

The week after I preached that message I flew to Seattle to speak in some youth leadership conferences. I was praying that God would allow me to lead someone to Himself. On the flight from Detroit to Seattle I was seated in the middle seat of three seats. To my right was a young mother. She liked to travel and showed me some photos of her travels. I showed her some photos on my iPad from a trip my wife and I took to Israel, especially a photo of us at Gordon’s Calvary from the Garden Tomb area.   The woman had been reading a Bible her cousin gave her, and the Lord was preparing her heart for our conversation. She listened carefully as I took much time to explain the gospel thoroughly to her.

She asked why Jews do not receive Jesus as their Messiah. I took her back to II Corinthians 3 and 4 and explained the blindness of unbelief that veils the Jewish, and for that matter, the Gentile heart. It occurred to me as I explained this passage to her that God was opening her eyes to the gospel as I spoke. I asked her, “Do you believe that God is drawing you to Himself?” She answered “yes.”   I said, “Would you like to receive Christ now?” She said “I would.” She prayed aloud (her choice) as I led in the sinner’s prayer. I talked further with her, gave her follow-up material, and recommended a church for her, whose pastor is seeking to help her.   I called my wife right after getting off of the plane to share the great news with her.

Sometimes we complicate the simplicity of personal evangelism. I like what one of our missionary graduates says about reaching others: “Pray, meet people, tell them about Jesus.” It’s just that simple.

Bob Jones University was founded by evangelist, Dr. Bob Jones, Sr., who said, “It takes evangelistic unction to make orthodoxy function.” Today we are still trying to instill an evangelistic spirit in our students. Dr. Bob Jones III reminds our students on a regular basis that “the most sobering reality in the world today is that people are dying and going to hell today.”

What is evangelism? Evangelism is the proclaiming of the good news that the Lord Jesus Christ died on the cross and rose again to pay fully and finally the penalty of sin (1 Cor. 15:3, 4). Evangelism applies His saving work to the sin­ner’s need of forgiveness and escape from the awful, eternal wrath of God in the lake of fire. The sinner is urged to repent (Luke 13:3; 24:47; Acts 2:38; 3:19; 20:21) and believe (Acts 16:31). The Holy Spirit convicts the sinner of his need (John 16:7-11). The sinner calls on the Lord to save him from sin’s penalty in hell unto salvation and its sure promise of eternal life in heaven. He experienc­es the new birth and obtains new life (John 3:3-8). Salvation results in a thor­ough change of life which will affect every area of life (2 Cor. 5:17).

The New Testament not only emphasizes evangelism but also discipleship. Discipleship is the process of teaching the believer Bible truth, with an emphasis upon both sound doctrine and living. Acts 16:5 captures the spirit of evangelism and discipleship: “And so were the churches established in the faith and increased in number daily.”

Good evangelism produces new disciples, and good discipleship produces vibrant evangelism.