Peter Krol

The Shocking Secret to Jesus’ Ministry Success

The problem with the old covenant was not primarily with the covenant but with the covenant’s people. They were sinners who kept on sinning. They had ways to deal with their sin, but only in copies and shadows. Never the real deal. In short, God made promises to and about these people in the old covenant. But one thing he never promised was to produce any true knowledge of himself within them. How are the promises of the new covenant any better? Well, in addition to having a means for true (and not merely foreshadowed) forgiveness (Heb 8:12), God actually promised to make his new people into the sort of people he requires them to be (Heb 8:10-11).

There can be no dispute: The main point of the middle section of Hebrews (roughly chapters 3-10) is that, in Jesus, we have a great high priest:
Now the point in what we are saying is this: we have such a high priest, one who is seated at the right hand of the throne of the Majesty in heaven, a minister in the holy places, in the true tent that the Lord set up, not man.
Hebrews 8:1-2
Here is one of the rare places in the Bible where the author tells us straight out what is his main point. We don’t have to guess, read between the lines, or check an expositor’s work. Make sure to savor this moment.
The Ministry They Copy
Having savored that moment, we ought to notice that this high priest, who serves the Father in heaven, rules all things. His ministry is more effective than any other. He’s been tremendously successful at what he does.
And don’t fail to observe the precise wording of Heb 8:1 — that priest is the one we have. As long as we rely on him to get us through (Heb 4:14).
He is not like all those other priests on earth, who are merely copycat priests serving God in a copycat place (Heb 8:3-6). Those Jewish priests under the old covenant were crucial components of God’s revelation of himself and his relationship with his people. But that’s primarily because they were copying the priesthood of Jesus.
And now that the bona fide original has appeared, there’s no further need for copycats.
Imagine if your church started a ministry of Elvis impersonation. You could dress in bright sequined leather, wearing bushy wigs and sunglasses. You could help children memorize Bible verses to the tune of “Love Me Tender,” and really connect with older generations as well.
But now imagine that Elvis himself presented himself alive and showed up at your ministry of impersonation. Would you let him join the troupe?
Of course you wouldn’t! First off, he’d show everyone up. And second: it would turn the whole thing into a mockery. The point of impersonation is that you’re trying to be like someone or something else. It would ruin the whole point of it if you’ve got the original present. You can’t impersonate yourself.
Read More
Related Posts:

Follow Your Heart: Is it in the Bible?

When one fears God, not only their Godward morality—but also their Godward hobbies, vocation, and delights—are unlocked to enjoy to the fullest. As long, of course, as one never forgets that the Lord remains the judge of our hearts’ delights, such that we might walk in the fear of him.

Yes, it is.
Rejoice, O young man, in your youth, and let your heart cheer you in the days of your youth. Walk in the ways of your heart and the sight of your eyes. But know that for all these things God will bring you into judgment.
Ecclesiastes 11:9
Mitch Chase wonders what this could mean, in light of all that Jesus, Moses, the prophets, and sages of Israel had to say about not following one’s own heart.
Chase makes excellent use of correlation with other wisdom texts as well as the context of the argument within the book of Ecclesiastes to answer the question. And he arrives at a great place.
Read More
Related Posts:

Jesus is the Best Thing for Your Conscience

He provides an eternal redemption, and he promises an eternal inheritance.‌ If Jesus is your priest, nobody can take these things away. Your redemption. Your inheritance. And these two things will have a profoundly cleansing effect on your conscience.

A person’s conscience is a funny thing.
‌My earliest memory of what I would consider my “conscience” involves a little orange newt I found when I was 6 or 7 years old. I picked it up and thought it would be fun to throw it as hard as I could into a brick wall at point blank range.
‌Far from being fun, it made me feel sick to my stomach.
‌A little voice in my head informed me that I was a poor excuse for a human being. And that voice was right.
‌I tried to cover my tracks, so nobody would know of my dark deeds. But I still just couldn’t stand the time spent waiting for others to return to my location, and potentially catch me red-handed.
‌What about you? What sort of run-ins have you had with your conscience?
Read More
Related Posts:

Can You Focus on the Bible Too Much?

Jesus accused the Bible-focusers of not hearing God’s voice. They didn’t see his form. He had already borne witness to the Messiah in his word, but that word hadn’t landed in their hearts. They read the Bible. They studied it and memorized it. But they didn’t believe in Jesus, its principal subject. Jesus goes on to say, “I do not receive glory from people…How can you believe, when you receive glory from one another and do not seek the glory that comes from the only God” (John 5:41-44)? They loved the Bible because it gave them glory.

In a recent conversation, a respectable gentleman accused me of coming dangerously close to “bibliolatry.” Bibliolatry means “worshiping the book,” and the term usually refers to the practice of revering the Bible too highly. According to Wikipedia (that never-ending fount of contemporary insight), the term may characterize “either extreme devotion to the Bible or the doctrine of biblical inerrancy.”
I’ve heard such comments before, particularly from young people who want to follow God but who don’t want to study the Bible. The thinking goes like this: “The Bible is good, but you shouldn’t focus on it too much.”
Now the argument isn’t always sophomoric. Some time ago, the evangelical philosopher J.P. Moreland delivered a paper to the Evangelical Theological Society, arguing against “the idea that the Bible is the sole source of knowledge of God, morality, and a host of related important items.” He’s concerned with Christians who take the Bible to be “the sole source of authority for faith and practice. Applied to inerrancy, the notion is that the Bible is the sole source of such knowledge and authority.” Moreland clearly believes the Bible to be both inerrant and final in its authority. But, he says, if Christians consider it to be the only authority for faith and practice—that is, for the Christian life—they are “over-committed” to it.
So is it possible (and unhelpful) to focus too much on the Bible?
The Easy Answer
Of course it’s possible.
Jesus often clashed with other teachers who focused too much on the Bible.
Read More
Related Posts:

The Most Difficult Kind of Bible Application

The thing is: Heart application requires a grasp of both human nature and the Lord’s process for rebooting that nature in Christ. That takes hard work. If you want your Bible application to be quick and dirty, the sphere of the heart will nearly always become a neglected stepchild.

Of the three spheres of application, I believe the most difficult one for most people is the heart sphere. For that reason, my series of posts on leading small groups has one specifically on how to encourage heart-oriented application. Most people tend to find head and hands application more natural.
Why do you think that is?
Unless they have an extraordinary aversion to theological debate, most people have no resistance to head application. What we must believe about God, the world, ourselves, sin, and redemption—these things are glorious truths, and clarity on such things from the Scripture is precious.
And as I wrote last week, we tend to have such an affinity for “doing” (hands application) that the concept of application itself is often reduced to little more than what we do in light of the Bible’s teachings. The challenge is to help folks understand that application involves more than doing.
Read More
Related Posts:

More Than Doing

Application is not only about the hands but also about the head and the heart. All three spheres can be considered legitimate ways to apply the Scripture. One of them (hands) involves doing. But that’s not the only thing application involves.

How do you know when you’ve successfully applied the Bible to your life?
Of course, obedience is a life-long practice, which we’ll never be finished with. But when you are studying a passage of Scripture, how do you know when you have arrived at appropriate application? At what point can you say you’ve done enough study? You now know what you must go and do, and you’re ready to go and do it.
I think it depends on your definition of “doing.”
The Definition of “Doing”
In my experience leading Bible studies, one of the most common conceptions I find people have is that application = doing. As in, until you have something concrete and particular to add to your schedule or task list, you haven’t yet done application. And if a teacher doesn’t give you specific actions for your schedule or task list, that teacher hasn’t yet helped you with application.
So I find it crucial to remind people that application involves more than doing. Yes, the Bible often calls us to do something. But sometimes it calls us believe something. And sometimes it calls us to love or value something. All such calls could be properly labeled “application.”
To put it another way, application is not only about the hands but also about the head and the heart.
Read More
Related Posts:

The Wisdom of Avoiding Strife

So in the end, the way of wisdom is to avoid strife whenever possible. Beware of hot tempers, quarrelsome behaviors, insolent attitudes, and backbiting tongues. ‌This really feels like death, doesn’t it, to avoid strife, when the world shouts that we’re cowards unless we defend our own honor? Yet to fight like a Christian means avoiding the fight whenever possible.

Defining Strife
By “conflict,” I’m referring not to everyday disagreements, but to the sort of disagreements that look like knock-down, drag-em-out fights, that turn people into enemies of one another. The book of Proverbs refers to such situations as “strife.”
These are situations with neighbors or coworkers who find every opportunity to ridicule your Christian faith and try to make you angry so you slip up. Or classmates who act respectfully in public, but in private their mouths pour forth repulsive profanity and epithets in your direction. Or extended family members who point out your every flaw, claim they know you but they really don’t, and wield their expectations and gossip like hot pokers to manipulate you into doing what they want.
Responses to Strife
Sometimes Christians think God wants them to become punching bags. And at other times, perhaps in rejection of the punching-bag approach, Christians harden themselves to the point of arrogance and condescension toward their opponents.
But what does it mean to fight like a Christian in situations of strife?
Make no mistake: Enemies are real, and God wants his people not to fall before enemies but to overcome them. And the way we fight is what makes the difference.
What God Deems Honorable
Sometimes we get this crazy idea that protecting one’s honor means not turning aside from a threat or a fight. And to back down from a fight is cowardly.
But such notions are contrary to the Lord’s definition of honor. They are nothing but schoolyard foolishness.
It is an honor for a man to keep aloof from strife, but every fool will be quarreling.
Proverbs 20:3
The Lord values and honors the person mature enough to keep aloof from strife. Those who enjoy, initiate, or perpetuate quarrels are fools. They’re after their own self-respect and self-image, and are therefore to be avoided whenever possible. Even if it feels like you are giving up quite a bit, or suffering in the shadow of death, to do so.
The Time and Place to Fight
Now there is a time and place for protecting the innocent and standing up for the rights of the oppressed.
If you faint in the day of adversity, your strength is small. Rescue those who are being taken away to death; hold back those who are stumbling to the slaughter. If you say, “Behold, we did not know this,” does not he who weighs the heart perceive it? Does not he who keeps watch over your soul know it, and will he not repay man according to his work?
Proverbs 24:10-12
So the Lord certainly calls his people to fight at the right time and for the right reasons: When the innocent or naive are under threat. When the good and safety of others is at stake.
But not merely to defend one’s own honor.
So it is wise to be aware of those situations when strife is likely to break out, so that, whenever possible, you can avoid them. And when are those times?
Read More
Related Posts:

5 Misconceptions about Wealth

Some people have no wealth because they’ve devoured it for selfish ends (Prov 21:20). But when a person wisely sees their wealth as not “mine” but the Lord’s, there is a strong motivation to collect more of it and put it to good use in service of others. The Bible does not lay a guilt trip on such people, and neither should we. When a believer is faithful with a little responsibility, the Lord’s reward is to give them even more such responsibility (Matt 25:21, 23).

The book of Proverbs covers many topics and gets intensely practical. One of the topics on which Proverbs has quite a lot to say is wealth.
The struggle for many Christians is that our thinking about wealth is often shaped by influences outside the Bible. Sometimes we’re shaped by materialism. Sometimes we react against materialism in a way that seems spiritual but demonstrates the sort of asceticism labeled by New Testament authors as “irreverent, silly myths” (1 Tim 4:7) and the “teachings of demons” (1 Tim 4:1). And at other times, we simply allow rank fear and unbelief to lead us away from our hope in God and reception of his wisdom.
Here are five misconceptions about wealth that must go if we are to believe and receive the wisdom of God.
1. It will make all my problems go away.
This is frankly the lie I am most tempted to believe. Am I earning enough? Am I saving enough? How will I cover the costs of a growing family with all this inflation? How will we pay for college or medical needs? What we really need is a generous benefactor or a sudden windfall. Because if we had more wealth, all our problems would disappear, right?
Riches do not profit in the day of wrath, but righteousness delivers from death
Proverbs 11:4
According to the Bible, there is a problem we all have that is far greater than we imagine: our impending death. And God’s wrath against sin is real. My kids’ college tuition and my retirement package just can’t pay for such things. Only one thing can deliver us from death, or profit us in the day of wrath. Righteousness. And the entire Bible shows us how to get it (e.g. 2 Cor 5:21, Phil 3:8-11).
So wealth will never make your problems go away (see also Prov 11:28). But the amazing thing is that it just might help make other people’s problems go away. Wealth and people are both realities in this fallen world. But which one will serve, and which will be served? Use people to serve your wealth, and you’re in grave danger (James 5:1-6, 1 Tim 6:17). But use wealth to serve people, and the Lord himself says he is now in your debt (Prov 19:17, Matt 25:40).
2. I can tell who has it and who doesn’t.
We tend to think we can tell the rich from the poor by looking. And this is great, because then we know whom to ask for favors (Prov 19:6). But appearances are deceiving.
One pretends to be rich, yet has nothing; another pretends to be poor, yet has great wealth.
Proverbs 13:7
Those who appear to be rich often appear that way for a reason: They’re good at holding onto their stuff for themselves. And it would knock your socks off to find out which of your acquaintances are the most generous with their wealth. Because they are so generous, they tend to keep very little for themselves to flaunt.
One gives freely, yet grows all the richer; another withholds what he should give, and only suffers want.
Proverbs 11:24
I have been a support-raising missionary for nearly a quarter of a century, and I don’t know why I’m still surprised, but I am. Those whom I think could give generously to support the mission often do not. Sometimes, they look like they can because they have lots of stuff. Yet often, those whom I am afraid to ask—because they don’t look like they can afford it—are those who write checks in the thousands or tens of thousands of dollars.
Read More
Related Posts:

What to Do When the New Testament Quotes the Old

When a NT author quotes the OT, he believes the OT passage has an argument to make that he now commandeers for his own use. The quotes are not window dressing, with the real argument coming before or after the quote. No, the quotes are a fundamental part of the argument. The quotes contain the premises upon which the conclusion stands. We might misunderstand the conclusion if we haven’t identified the premises (in their original context).

“Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall call his name Immanuel.” (Matt 1:23)
“My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” (Matt 27:46)
“Not one of his bones will be broken.” (John 19:36)
“You are my Son, today I have begotten you.” (Heb 5:5)
Since the Bible had no verse divisions until the 16th century AD, we ought to consider what this implies about how to read and study the Bible. Ancient readers had no map or reference system to pinpoint particular statements. They could not speak with precision about a textual location such as Isaiah chapter 7 verse 14.
Instead, they referenced Scriptures by broad indicators such as:

“…in the book of Moses, in the passage about the bush…” (Mark 12:26)
“…the scroll of the prophet Isaiah…He found the place where it was written…” (Luke 4:17)
“the word spoken by the prophet Isaiah…” (John 12:38)
“he has somewhere spoken of the seventh day in this way…” (Heb 4:4)

They did not quote things the way we do. They did not have MLA- or APA-style citations, word-perfect precision, or bibliographical indices.
In fact, most people didn’t read their own copies of the Scripture. Most of what they knew about Scripture came through oral delivery, repetition, and memorization.
So if we read our Bibles only like 21st century students at institutions of higher education, we will not be reading them like 1st century commoners, or even nobility, receiving these remarkable works of literature from the hands of Jesus’ first followers.
What does this mean?
1. NT quotes of the OT are referencing passages, not verses.
Often there’s a verbal connection to the exact verses being quoted. For example, when Peter wants to make a point about being “living stones” (1 Pet 2:5) he grabs a few key statements with the word “stone” in them (1 Pet 2:6-8). But his goal is not to produce sound bytes fitting for a radio interview, or back-cover blurbs promoting a book.
Read More
Related Posts:

Why it Matters that the Bible was Written to Specific People at a Specific Time

The historical context is an important piece of the puzzle we call Bible study. By placing yourself in the shoes of the original audience, you are more likely to grasp the intended message for them in their day. And when you have done so, you will unsurprisingly find the Bible becoming even more — not less — relevant to our lives today.

While the Bible was written for us (1 Cor 10:11), it was not written to us. When we read the Bible, we are reading someone else’s mail.
This is why context matters. It is not appropriate to isolate sentences and sentiments and use them to our own ends. We must grasp the author’s main point to his original audience. We must consider how that main point either looks forward to Christ or reflects back upon him. And only when we have done those things are we in a position to consider how the text ought to produce change in anyone’s life today.
Historical Context Defined
We’ve spent much space on this blog giving examples of how the literary context matters. But that is not the only kind of context.
One other such context is the historical context. How does the historical situation of this text affect the way we read it? And by “historical situation,” I’m not referring to cultural practices or artifacts within the text. I’m talking about the real-life situation of the author and audience of the text. What was going in the lives of the author and audience that caused this person to write this text to these people at this time?
We cannot answer that question with certainty—or even high probability—for every book of the Bible. But whenever we can answer it, we ought to make sure that answer guides us whenever we seek to understand a text.
An Example
Have you ever noticed the difference between how the books of Kings and Chronicles describe the moral character of King Abijah (Abijam) of Judah?
In the eighteenth year of King Jeroboam… Abijam began to reign over Judah… He walked in all the sins that his father did before him, and his heart was not wholly true to Yahweh his God, as the heart of David his father. Nevertheless, for David’s sake Yahweh his God gave him a lamp in Jerusalem. (1 Kings 15:1-4)
The Abijah stood up…and said… “But as for us, Yahweh is our God, and we have not forsaken him… Behold, God is with us at our head, and his priests with their battle trumpets to sound the call to battle against you. O sons of Israel, do not fight against Yahweh, the God of your fathers, for you cannot succeed.” (2 Chron 13:4-12)
Both Kings and Chronicles go out of their way to label each king of Judah as doing either what is right or what is evil in God’s eyes.
Read More
Related Posts:

Scroll to top