Basics of Biblical Greek

To properly understand the Bible, knowledge of the original language is helpful to gaining the proper meaning of the text. While I am no Greek scholar, I post this here for quick reference.

Number and Person: Before discussing tense, voice, and mood, it is first necessary to have an understanding of person and number.

  1. Person: This is what determines whether
    1. The subject is the speaker (first person)
    2. The subject s being spoken to (second person)
    3. The subject is being spoken about (third person)
  2. Number: This is what determines whether a verb is singular or plural.












He, She, It


Tense: Tense plays a very crucial role in the study of New Testament exegesis. Dana and Mantey understood its significance in saying that “no element of the Greek language is of more importance to the student of the New Testament than the matter of tense” Tense deals both with time and kind of action. Ancient Greek focused more on kind of action; however, time does play a role in verb tense when the mood is indicative.

The aspect of a verb correlates with the kind of action. It determines whether the verb’s action is punctiliar, linear or perfected. These are described in the following table.

Punctiliar:   The action relates to a specific point in time.


The action is in the progress of occurring.


The action is both punctiliar and linear in that it refers to action relating to a point in time, yet has results that are in the progress of occurring.
  1. The Present Tense: The present tense usually denotes continuous kind of action. It shows ‘action in progress’ or ‘a state of persistence.’ When used in the indicative mood, the present tense denotes action taking place or going on in the present time. The continuous present is usually translated as “I am following” while the undefined is best translated as “I follow.” Another example: “In Whom you also are being built together into a dwelling place of God in spirit.” (Ephesians 2:22) or “Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together.” (Hebrews 10:25).
  2. The Imperfect Tense: The imperfect tense shows continuous or linear action just like the present tense. It always indicates an action continually or repeatedly happening in past time. It portrays the action as going on for some extended period of time in the past. This is best translated as “I was following.” Another example: “For you were once darkness, but now light in the Lord.” (Ephesians 5:8).
  3.  The Aorist Tense: This tense is hardly a tense at all. The aorist is said to be “simple occurrence” or “summary occurrence,” without regard for the amount of time taken to accomplish the action. This tense is also often referred to as the “punctiliar” tense. Punctiliar in this sense means “viewed as a single, collective whole,” a “one-point-in-time” action, although it may actually take place over a period of time. The word aoristos derives from an alpha privative (ie. negation) and the verb horizô (meaning “to bound”) thus meaning “without boundaries.” With the indicative mood it is often best translated as a simple past: “I follow.” Another example: “God…made us alive together with Christ.” (Ephesians 2:5) or “He who has begun a good work in you will complete it until the day of Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 1:6).
  4. The Future Tense: This tense generally denotes action that will occur in the future. This is best translated as “I will follow.” Another example: “We know that if he is manifested, we will be like Him, for we will see Him even as He is.” (1 John 3:2).
  5. The Perfect Tense: The basic thought of the perfect tense is that the progress of an action has been completed and the results of the action are continuing on, in full effect. In other words, the progress of the action has reached its culmination and the finished results are now in existence. Unlike the English perfect, which indicates a completed past action, the Greek perfect tense indicates the continuation and present state of a completed past action. The perfect is often translated as “I have followed.” Another example, Galatians 2:20 should be translated, “I am in a present state of having been crucified with Christ,” indicating that not only was I crucified with Christ in the past, but I am existing now in that present condition, or “…having been rooted and grounded in love,” (Ephesians 3:17).
  6. The Pluperfect Tense: The pluperfect (‘past perfect’) shows action that is complete and existed at some time in the past, (the past time being indicated by the context). This tense is only found in the indicative mood and is rarely used in the New Testament. Both the completed action and the results of that action occur in the past. The usual translation for the pluperfect is “I had followed.” Or another example: “…and they beat against that house; and it did not fall, for it was founded on the rock.” (Matthew 7:25).
  7. The Future Perfect: There is also a future perfect tense in Greek which is very rare in the New Testament. It is only formed by periphrasis in the New Testament is much like the past perfect, only the completed state will exist at some time in the future rather than in the past.

Voice: Biblical Greek has three voices which indicate whether the subject is the performer of the action or the recipient of the action, active, middle, and passive:

  1. The Active Voice: This occurs when the action of the verb is being performed by the subject. If the subject of the sentence is executing the action, then the verb is referred to as being in the active voice. For example: “Jesus was baptizing the people” (paraphrase of John 3:22; 4:1,2). “Jesus” is the subject of the sentence and is the one that is performing the action of the verb; therefore the verb is said to be in the “Active Voice.”
  2. The Middle Voice: When the subject of the verb does action unto itself, or for its own benefit, the middle voice is used.  In overly simplistic terms, sometimes the middle form of the verb could be translated as “the performer of the action actually acting upon himself” (reflexive action). For example: “I am washing myself.” “I” is the subject of the sentence (performing the action of the verb) and yet “I” am also receiving the action of the verb. Many instances in the Greek are not this obvious and cannot be translated this literally.
  3. The Passive Voice: The passive represents the action of the verb being done unto the subject but not by the subject. If the subject of the sentence is being acted upon, then the verb is referred to as being in the passive voice. For example: “Jesus … was baptized by John in the Jordan” (Mark 1:9). “Jesus” is the subject of the sentence, but in this case He is being acted upon (i.e. He is the recipient of the action), therefore the verb is said to be in the “Passive Voice.”

Mood: There are four moods in Greek. They demonstrate the relationship between the action of the verb and reality. They denote whether the action is factual, potential, wishful, or a command.

  1. The Indicative Mood: The indicative mood is a statement of fact or an actual occurrence from the writer’s or speaker’s perspective. Even if the writer is lying, he may state the action as if it is a fact, and thus the verb would be in the indicative mood. It may be action occurring in past, present, or future time. This “statement of fact” can even be made with a negative adverb modifying the verb. This is the mood of assertion or presentation of certainty. The indicative mood is the only one to give designation concerning time (past, present, and future). The majority of all verbs used in the New Testament occur in the indicative mood. The writer/speaker may desire or ask for the action to take place. For example: “And they overcame him by the blood of the Lamb.” (Revelation 12:11) or “God is not mocked.” (Galatians 6:7)
  2. The Subjunctive Mood: The subjunctive mood indicates probability, desirability, or objective possibility. The action of the verb will possibly happen, depending on certain objective factors or circumstances. It is oftentimes used in conditional statements (like, “If… then…” clauses) or in purpose clauses. But if the subjunctive mood is used in a purpose or result clause, then the action should not be thought of as a possible result, but should be viewed as a definite outcome that will happen as a result of another stated action. For example: “Let us come forward to the Holy of Holies with a true heart in full assurance of faith.” (Hebrews 10:23) or “In order that now the manifold wisdom of God might be made known through the church…” (Ephesians 3:10)
  3. The Optative Mood: The optative is the mood of possibility and has relatively few appearances in the New Testament because (by the time the New Testament was written, the subjunctive has taken over some of the classical usages of it). Some of its usages include, a wish/prayer or a potential statement. The optative is two steps away from reality whereas the subjunctive is only one step away. For example: “And the very God of peace sanctify you wholly; and I pray God your whole spirit and soul and body be preserved blameless unto the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.” (1 Thessalonians 5:23)
  4. The Imperative Mood: The imperative mood is a command or instruction given to the hearer, charging the hearer to carry out or perform a certain action. For example: “Flee youthful lusts.” (2 Timothy 2:22)

Infinitive: An infinitive is a verb that can be used to function as a noun and is therefore referred to as a “verbal noun.” An example may be, “to follow.” Neither person nor number is found in the infinitive and it does not have mood designation. The Greek infinitive is the form of the verb that is usually translated into English with the word “to” attached to it, often used to complement another verb. For instance, “For to me to live is Christ” (Philippians 1:21), the words “to live” are an infinitive in Greek and are functioning as the subject of the sentence (a noun).

Participle: A participle is considered a “verbal adjective.” It is often a word that ends with an “-ing” in English (such as “following,” “speaking,” “going,” or “seeing”). It can be used as an adjective, in that it can modify a noun (or substitute as a noun), or it can be used as an adverb and further explain or define the action of a verb. For example:
In an adjectival use: “The coming One will come and will not delay.” (Hebrews 10:37) or in an adverbial use: “But speaking truth in love, we may grow up into Him in all things.” (Ephesians 4:15).

Read more from William D. Mounce and Blue Letter Bible and

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Who Are You in Christ?

Many Christians are not exactly sure who they are in Christ, so here are a few things the Bible tells us about being in Christ:

  1. Salt and Light – Matthew 5:13-16
  2. Child of God, part of his family – John 1:12, Romans 8:16
  3. Child of God – Romans 8:14, 15, Galatians 3:26, 4:6
  4. Part of the true vine – John 15:1, 5
  5. Christ’s friend – John 15:15
  6. Chosen and appointed by Christ to bear fruit – John 15:16
  7. A witness for Christ – Acts 1:8
  8. A slave of righteousness – Romans 6:18
  9. Joint heir with Christ – Romans 8:17
  10. The temple of God – 1 Corinthians 3:16, 6:19
  11. Joined to the Lord – 1 Corinthians 6:17
  12. Member of Christ’s body – 1 Corinthians 12:27, Ephesians 5:30
  13. Reconciled to God and a minister of reconciliation – 2 Corinthians 5:18-19
  14. A son of God and one in Christ – Galatians 3:26, 28
  15. A saint – Ephesians 1:1, 1 Corinthians 1:2, Philippians 1:1, Colossians 1:2
  16. God’s workmanship – Ephesians 2:10
  17. Fellow citizen with the rest of God’s people – Ephesians 2:19
  18. Prisoner of Christ – Ephesians 3:1, 4:1
  19. Righteous and holy – Ephesians 4:24
  20. Citizen of heaven, seated with Christ in heaven – Philippians 3:20, Ephesians 2:6
  21. Hidden with Christ in God – Colossians 3:3
  22. An expression of the life of Christ – Colossians 3:4
  23. Chosen by and dearly loved of God – Colossians 3:12, 1 Thessalonians 1:4
  24. A son of light – 1 Thessalonians 5:5
  25. A holy brother, partaker of a heavenly calling – Hebrews 3:1
  26. A partaker of Christ – Hebrews 3:14
  27. One of God’s living stones – 1 Peter 2:5
  28. A Chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation – 1 Peter 2:9-10
  29. An alien and stranger in this world – 1 Peter 2:11
  30. An enemy of the devil – 1 Peter 5:8
  31. Now a child of God – 1 John 3:1-2
  32. Born of God and the evil one can’t touch you – 1 John 5:18
  33. A sheep of his pasture with everything you need – Psalm 23, Psalm 100

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Daily Bible Study Form

In order to get the most out of personal Bible study, try using a form like this one, a Chapter A Day / Verse A Day. Read a whole chapter but focus on one verse in this chapter that really speaks to you today:

Chapter Study Form

God wants the Word of Christ to richly dwell in us (Colossians 3:16) and his Word change our lives. Many times we don’t know where to begin… start in Genesis? Matthew? John? Revelation? Some say to read for content, doctrine, or instruction and rules, while others say to read the Bible devotionally. With this method you can study the Bible for APPLICATION. The emphasis is on what the Bible says, and also on what God is saying to YOU.

Where to start? How about in the gospels in order to meet Jesus fresh each day at the very beginning? John, Mark, Luke, then Matthew. You can mix up your chapters by reading from the Old Testament some weeks and then back to the New Testament.

This is not about checking off these chapters in your “read the Bible through in a year” plan, it is about seeking the God of the Bible. The idea is to meet with God daily (Luke 9:23).

This is an adaptation of CAD/VAD, 1989, College Park Ministries, Carmel IN

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How is the Bible God’s Word?

How does one convince a nonbeliever that the Bible is the Word of God?

Before I try to answer that question directly, let me make a distinction that is important at the outset. There’s a difference between objective proof and the persuasion or conviction that follows. John Calvin argued that the Bible carries both persuasion and conviction in terms of its internal testimony—the marks of truth that could be found just by an examination of the book itself—as well as external evidences that would corroborate that substantial evidence to give solid proof for its being the Word of God.

Yet the last thing people would want is a book telling them they are in desperate need of repentance and of a changed life and of bowing in humility before Christ. We don’t want that book to be the truth. Calvin claimed that there is a tremendous bias and prejudice built into the human heart that only the influence of God the Holy Spirit can overcome. Calvin distinguished between what he called the undicia—those objective evidences for the trustworthiness of Scripture—and what he called the internal testimony of the Holy Spirit, which is necessary to cause us to surrender to the evidence and acknowledge that it is the Word of God.

But I think this is a critical issue upon which so much of the Christian faith depends. The Bible makes the claim that it is the unvarnished Word of God, that it is the truth of God, that it comes from him. God is its ultimate author and source, though indeed he used human authors to communicate that message.

In speaking with people about this, we have to go through the laborious process of showing first of all that the Bible as a collection of historical documents is basically reliable. The same tests that we would apply to Herodotus or Suetonius or any other ancient historian would have to be applied to the biblical records. The Christian should not be afraid to apply those kinds of historical standards of credibility to the Scriptures, because they have withstood a tremendous amount of criticism from that standpoint, and their credibility remains intact.

On the basis of that, we come to an idea. If the book is basically reliable, it doesn’t have to be inerrent or infallible; it gives us a basically reliable portrait of Jesus of Nazareth and what he taught.

We move from there in linear fashion. If we can on the basis of general reliability come to the conclusion that Jesus Christ did the things that history claims he did, it would indicate that Jesus is more than an ordinary human being and that his testimony would be compelling.

I would move first to a study of the person of Jesus and then ask the question, what did Jesus teach about Scripture? For me, in the final analysis, our doctrine of Scripture is drawn from the teaching of Jesus and from our understanding of who he is.

From That’s a Good Question! Copyright © 1996 by R. C. Sproul.

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Leading a Small Group

I thought I would post a few practical suggestions for small group leaders on how to lead a small group. While it is implied that one would lead the group, how can one lead more effectively?

Commitment: Here are a couple verse to emphasize this point, “In all that he did in the service of the Temple of God and in his efforts to follow God’s laws and commands, Hezekiah sought his God wholeheartedly. As a result, he was very successful” (2 Chronicles 31:21) and “Work willingly at whatever you do, as though you were working for the Lord rather than for people” (Colossians 3:23). The truth is that a leader is committed.

  1. Keep in touch with your attitude.
  2. Set the example for the group.
  3. Study the Bible before coming to the meeting.
  4. Practice patience with yourself and your people.
  5. Practice and model godliness.

Creativity: “for through him God created everything in the heavenly realms and on earth. He made the things we can see and the things we can’t see—such as thrones, kingdoms, rulers, and authorities in the unseen world. Everything was created through him and for him (Colossians 1:16). The principle at work is that a leader is creative, which God will grant to the leader when asked.

  1. Plan your study with an aim or purpose.
  2. Plan the timing and the place for the study.
  3. Introduce new ideas in creative ways.
  4. Lead with suggestions to help others discover truths for themselves.

Confidence: “And I am certain that God, who began the good work within you, will continue his work until it is finally finished on the day when Christ Jesus returns” (Philippians 1:6). “And because of my imprisonment, most of the believers here have gained confidence and boldly speak God’s message without fear” (Philippians 1:14). “Wait patiently for the Lord. Be brave and courageous. Yes, wait patiently for the Lord” (Psalm 27:14). “And God will generously provide all you need. Then you will always have everything you need and plenty left over to share with others” (2 Corinthians 9:8). The spiritual principle is that a leader is confident.

  1. Confidence comes from good preparation.
  2. Confidence comes in answer to prayer.
  3. Confidence comes through practice.

Perseverance: “Then he said to me, “This is what the Lord says to Zerubbabel: It is not by force nor by strength, but by my Spirit, says the Lord of Heaven’s Armies” (Zechariah 4:6). The principle is that leaders are developed over time.

  1. Pray for patience.
  2. Pray for persistence.
  3. Pray for power.

Here are a Few Tips for Leading a Small Group:

  1. Before the Class: be the first to arrive, arrange the room that way you need it, and bring all the materials and tools you plan to use.
  2. During the Class: begin on time, incorporate new people into the group, encourage discussion, practice how you might respond to different situations.
    1. Long and drawn out answers.
    2. Problem areas and people.
    3. Controversial topics.
    4. Aggressive or disruptive group members.
  3. After the Class: Learn from your mistakes (leaders need to be FAT… faithful, available and teachable), welcome suggestions for improvement, ask yourself and a trusted friend or mentor some tough questions, and keep your eyes focused on Jesus Christ and you goal in leading the group.

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Instant Bible Studies

Sometimes we are way too dependent on curriculum, as if people can’t study the Bible unless they have a quarterly in had and the teacher’s book. Let me submit to you that Jesus would not expect us to do something that the early church could not do. Small communities of faith can get together, open the Word of God and discuss what the Bible says, means, and how it applies to life.

First Off, the SCRIPTURE Needs to be Read: out loud in the group. If time permits, read it a second time, with all members of the group reading along. Don’t go a commentary or teaching guide first.

After that, discuss what the passage is about, naming facts of the basic content of the passage. Who is mentioned in the passage? What is happening? Who? What? When? Where? are all good questions at this point. Try to summarize what this passage is about in your own words.

Second, Discuss What we Learn from this Passage of Scripture:

Years ago I was a part of a group called MasterLife where we studied the Bible very seriously over the course of one year.

Here is a Useful Tool for Meditating on Scripture: praying for wisdom and surrendering to the Holy Spirit so that you make the Word come alive in your heart.

  1. Perimeter the verse: read what comes before and after the verse on which you are meditating.
  2. Paraphrase the verse: summarize and put it into your own words.
  3. Pulverize the verse:
    1. Emphasize each word by exclamation.
    2. Pick two or three words that represent God’s message.
    3. Ask about the words – who? what? when? where? why? how?
  4. Personalize the verse: Put yourself and God directly into the verse on which you are meditating.
  5. Pray the verse back to God: sighting adoration, confession, thanksgiving and supplication.
  6. Parallel the verse: locate any verses that are on the same theme as the one on which you are meditating.
  7. Problems in the verse: of doctrine, reproof, correction and training in righteousness which need to be addressed.
  8. Possibilities of helping others through the verse: through prayer, word or deed.

Other Questions Worth Asking Are:

  1. What warning, command or promise do we find?
  2. What is the example to follow or to avoid?
  3. What is the main truth of this Scripture?
  4. What is the universal lesson or truth we find in this passage?
  5. Why is this passage in the Bible? Why is it in this section of the Bible?
  6. What does this Scripture tell us about the character of God or how he relates to people?
  7. How does this passage point to the person and/or work of Christ?
  8. How can we pray this verse back to God?
  9. What is a new thought or teaching I have discovered in this passage?

Now Comes the Difficult Part: how to make this passage real in your life. Observation and interpretation are not enough here, we MUST move on to application.

  1. What is an example in your life where this passage applies (home, family, work, character)
  2. Ask yourself questions that demand action: like, “How will I life this passage in my life?” not “”Will I live this out in my life?”
  3. Write out a specific action plan to accomplish what you sense God telling you to do. We can make plans and have good intentions, but unless we write these down, they will be forgotten in less than a week.
  4. Write a prayer asking God to help you live this out and accomplish all he wants to do in your life.
  5. Then, just do it! Trust God to help you accomplish these goals. Remember that we are not looking for good stuff to do for God, he is the one who desires to work through you to accomplish his purposes.

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The Power of Forgiveness

I always heard this quote but only recently discovered it’s origin: “To err is human; to forgive, divine.” It is almost given Scripture status although it does not come from the Bible… it comes from Alexander Pope, 1711. He is also the guy who said, “Fools rush in where angels fear to tread.” So, let’s look at forgiveness.

  1. What is the world’s opinion about forgiveness?
  2. How does that differ from scriptural teaching?
  3. What do you find most difficult, to seek forgiveness, to receive forgiveness or to offer forgiveness?
  4. Describe the last time you needed forgiveness.
  5. Describe a time when someone need forgiveness from you.

Video Questions:

  1. Would forgiveness be an automatic response, a delayed reaction or a withheld virtue for you in a similar situation?
  2. Do you feel that you have the power to choose to forgive?
  3. Hatred is a burden we don’t need to carry, and freedom is found only in forgiveness. How can you relate to the difficulty of forgiving others?
  4. Based on your own experiences, is the previous statement comforting or challenging?

Bible Study: Matthew 18:21-35

  1. How often are we to forgive someone? (Matthew 18:21-22)
  2. What is significant about the forgiveness the king offered compared to that which the slave withheld?
  3. Do you ever feel the weight of sin from which you have been forgiven?
  4. When we withhold forgiveness, what do you understand about the consequences? (Matthew 18:35)

Peter, wishing to appear especially forgiving and benevolent, asked Jesus if forgiveness was to be offered seven times. The Jewish rabbis at the time taught that forgiving someone more than three times was unnecessary, citing Amos 1:3-13 where God forgave Israel’s enemies three times, then punished them. By offering forgiveness more than double that of the Old Testament example, Peter perhaps expected extra commendation from the Lord. When Jesus responded that forgiveness should be offered 490 times, far beyond that which Peter was proposing, it must have stunned the disciples who were listening. Although they had been with Jesus for some time, they were still thinking in the limited terms of the law, rather than in the unlimited terms of grace.

By saying we are to forgive those who sin against us seventy times seven, Jesus was not limiting forgiveness to 490 times, a number that is, for all practical purposes, beyond counting. Christians with forgiving hearts not only don’t limit the number of times they forgive; they continue to forgive with as much grace the thousandth time as they do the first time. Christians are only capable of this type of forgiving spirit because the Spirit of God lives within us, and it is He who provides the ability to offer forgiveness over and over, just as God forgives us over and over.

Jesus answered that we must forgive as many times as necessary. His illustration is about a man who, although forgiven by his master of an overwhelming debt, refused to forgive another for a meager debt. When this man’s master heard about his ingratitude and injustice, he was outraged and had him thrown to the tormentors. “This is how My heavenly Father will treat each one of you, unless you forgive your brother from your heart” (Matthew 18:35).

Surely, by receiving such a massive pardon, we should not be so mean-spirited as to withhold forgiveness from others. Rather, we should emulate the example of Jesus. In truth, offering forgiveness is an act of will, and failure to acknowledge this will only encourage us to justify our own disobedience. Forgiveness is not a fruit that needs time to grow in our lives. It is not a result of some special encounter with God. Jesus makes that clear in Luke 17:4 when He commands that if someone sins against another seven times in one day and repents as many times, that person should be forgiven. Forgiving someone for the same offense several times in one year would be a major test of sanctification, so seven times in one day drives Jesus’ point home.

Bible Study: Luke 6:37-38

  1. What do these verses teach about forgiveness?
  2. How often have we granted forgiveness only because we feel we will one day seek forgiveness?
  3. If we refuse to forgive, we must take a look at our own heart, have we received the forgiveness from God?

Bible Study: Colossians 3:12-13

This letter is a warning against heresy and false teaching that had become a threat to the believers. They are to abandon certain things (listed in chapter 2) and then a list of how they were to conduct themselves. This verse on forgiveness is listed within the foundational teaching of the church.

Pray that God will help you live in Christ to the fullest, like this…

Since God chose you to be the holy people he loves, you must clothe yourselves with tenderhearted mercy, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience. 13 Make allowance for each other’s faults, and forgive anyone who offends you. Remember, the Lord forgave you, so you must forgive others.

Why Forgive?

There is something strangely sweet about holding a grudge. The ability to withhold forgiveness and indulge in self-righteous feelings is a sense of power. God is the God of justice. Wrongs should be righted. And we deserve to feel contempt for those who hurt us. Except that it’s all a lie.

Refusing to forgive doesn’t grant us power, it enslaves us to sin. And feeling contempt for others very rarely makes a significant difference in their lives. Absolutely no good whatsoever comes from refusing to forgive. This is why Jesus said we are to forgive one another seventy times seven (Matthew 18:22). We should forgive so much that it becomes second nature—our automatic response to offenses.

God gives us two very good reasons in Scripture for why we should forgive.

  1. God commands us to forgive others. God forgave us while we were His enemies (Romans 5:10), and we should do likewise with one another.
  2. Those who forgive others indicate that they themselves have not been forgiven because a truly regenerated heart is a forgiving heart (Matthew 6:14-15). If we are filled with resentment and bitterness, we are exhibiting the “works of the flesh,” not the fruit of the Spirit which is evidence of true salvation (Galatians 5:19-23).

Most importantly, when we disobey one of God’s commands, such as the command to forgive, we sin against Him. In refusing to forgive another person, we sin against that person, but also against God. Considering that God puts our transgressions as far from Him as the east is from the west (Psalm 103:12), He expects us to extend this same grace to others. Our sin against God is infinitely more egregious than anything another person can do to us. Jesus’ parable of the unforgiving servant (Matthew 18:23-35) illustrates this truth. The servant had been forgiven a massive debt—symbolic of the debt of sin we owe to God—then refused to forgive a minor debt of a friend. The lesson of the parable is that if God’s forgiveness toward us is limitless, so should ours be limitless toward others (Luke 17:3-4).

Withholding Forgiveness:

The Bible teaches us that God withholds forgiveness towards people who are not repentant (2 Kings 24:4 and Lamentations 3:42). God is able to do this because of His very nature: He is sinless. He is perfect. He is holy. He simply will not tolerate sin. Paul warns those who choose to transgress God’s law in Romans 2:5, “But because of your stubbornness and your unrepentant heart, you are storing up wrath against yourself for the day of God’s wrath, when his righteous judgment will be revealed.”

As Christians we are certainly obligated to forgive others who sin against us when they are repentant if we are to expect God to forgive us when we sin against Him (Matthew 6:14-15, 18:23-35; Mark 11:25, Luke 17:3-4, Ephesians 4:31-32, Colossians 3:13). This holds true even if someone sins against us repeatedly (Matthew 18:21-22). However, this does not give us license to withhold forgiveness in the same way. The key to remember is this: God can judge a person’s intentions because He knows what’s in a person’s heart (1 Samuel 16:7; Hebrews 4:12-13), whereas we don’t. We are not God. We are not the Judge. For us to play God by refusing to offer forgiveness is an act of judgment on our part, and Jesus tells us that God will judge us according to the way we’ve judged others (Matthew 7:2).

What if There is No Indication of Repentance?

The law given to ancient Israel is similar to the New Testament teaching: “Do not hate your brother in your heart. Rebuke your neighbor frankly so you will not share in his guilt. Do not seek revenge or bear a grudge against one of your people, but love your neighbor as yourself. I am the Lord” (Leviticus 19:17-18). An unforgiving spirit leads to bitterness, anger, and seething resentment against another. Such a heart attitude cannot have true fellowship with God. Not holding grudges allows a state of mind that is ready and willing to forgive. Reconciliation is the goal, and if there cannot be reconciliation, an attitude of willingness to forgive must be maintained. There can be no excuse for withholding a forgiving spirit towards others (Matthew 5:22–24).

What About Forgive and Forget?

The phrase “forgive and forget” is not found in the Bible. However, there are numerous Scriptures commanding us to “forgive one another” (Matthew 6:14; Ephesians 4:32). A Christian who does not forgive can reap bitterness and the loss of eternal rewards (Hebrews 12:14-15; 2 John 1:8). Forgiveness is a decision of the will. Since God commands us to forgive, we must make a conscious choice to forgive. This frees the forgiving one from the past. The offender may not desire forgiveness and may not change (Matthew 5:44). Ideally, the offender will seek reconciliation, but if not, the one wronged should still make known his decision to forgive.

In one sense, it is impossible to truly forget sins that have been committed against us. We cannot selectively “delete” events from our memory. The Bible states that God does not “remember” our wickedness (Hebrews 8:12). Since God is all-knowing, he knows that we have “sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23). However, having forgiven us, He treats us as if the sin had not occurred. If we belong to Him through faith in Christ, God does not hold our sins against us. In that sense we must “forgive and forget.” If we forgive someone, we must act as if that sin had never occurred. We remember the sin, but we live as if we did not remember it. Ephesians 4:32 tells us, “Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.”


Human forgiveness and God’s forgiveness have differences. The Lord’s Prayer teaches that we are to ask for God’s forgiveness regularly, just as we are regularly to forgive others who have sinned against us. But human nature fights against this. As Paul said, “So I find this law at work: When I want to do good, evil is right there with me” (Romans 7:21). Like Paul, we must know that we are powerless in our own strength to do the right thing. But as Christians who possess the Holy Spirit, we can do all things through Christ who strengthens us (Philippians 4:13).

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Wrong Ways to Read the Bible

We always encourage people to read the Bible but how often do people get bogged down in some of the chapters that appear to have nothing to do with real life?

Because the point of the special revelation of the Bible is to illuminate God’s plan for redemption of the world and to glorify Christ, this means there are ways we ought NOT to read the Bible. Here are a few bad ways of reading the Scriptures:

  • Treating its stories as morality tales, where we rush to apply the stories of God’s people to ourselves as if WE were the heroes in God’s story of redemption, not Jesus.
  • Taking parts of the Bible out of their narrative contexts.
  • Reducing the epic story of the gospel of Jesus Christ to a disjointed list of statements, propositions, principles or practical tips.
  • Treating the Bible like it is Bartlett’s Familiar Quotations, or worse, a bag of fortune cookies.

Also, because the point of the Bible is to glorify Jesus and to capture our hearts in worship of Him, we need to be careful we don’t worship the Bible itself. We are to honor God’s Word, trust God’s Word, treasure God’s Word, and believe God’s Word, but we are called to worship God. This means the only Word we ought to worship is Jesus the Word.

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The Seven Realities

Here are the seven realities of experiencing God:

  1. God is always at work around you.
  2. God pursues a continuing love relationship with you that is real and personal.
  3. God invites you to become involved with him in his work.
  4. God speaks by the Holy Spirit through the Bible, prayer, circumstances, and the church to reveal himself, his purposes and his ways.
  5. God’s invitations for you to work with him always leads you to a crisis of belief that requires faith and action.
  6. You must make major adjustments in your life to join God in what he is doing.
  7. You came to know God by experience as you obey him and accomplish his work.

We tend to ask questions trying to determine whether we really heard from God…

  1. How can I know it is God speaking to me?
  2. How do I know where God is at work?
  3. What kind of adjustments will I have to make to be obedient?
  4. What is the difference between adjustment and obedience?

Here are three similarities in the lives of biblical servants through whom God worked:

  1. When God spoke, they knew it was from God.
  2. They knew what God was saying.
  3. They knew what they were to do in response.

Let’s look at the seven realities of Experiencing God in the life of Moses:

  1. God is always at work around you. The people groaned in slavery, cried out to God, and he heard them, he looked on and was concerned (Exodus 2:23-25) .
  2. God pursues a continuing love relationship with you that is real and personal. Moses came up to the mountain of God and talked with him, and told Moses of his plans for deliverance (Exodus 24:12, 15-16, 18).
  3. God invites you to become involved with him in his work. God said he was sending Moses (Exodus 3:8, 10) to do the work of God.
  4. God speaks by the Holy Spirit through the Bible, prayer, circumstances, and the church to reveal himself, his purposes and his ways. The lord appeared in the flames of the bush, and later while Moses would visit God face to face (Exodus 3:2-8, Numbers 12:6-8).
  5. God’s invitations for you to work with him always leads you to a crisis of belief that requires faith and action. Moses gave five excuses why God could have picked a better person for this job (Exodus 3:11, 13, 4:1, 10, 13).
  6. You must make major adjustments in your life to join God in what he is doing. God said GO and Moses started back to Egypt (Exodus 4:19-20).
  7. You came to know God by experience as you obey him and accomplish his work. Moses came to know God more intimately through his obedience (Exodus 14:15-17, 21-23, 26-27, 29-31).

When God is about to do something, he reveals to a person or to his people what he is about to do. Points to remember are that God sees, hears, cares, acts and has a plan for this people. When God reveals what he is about to do, that revelation becomes an invitation for us to join him. The great part is that God is already at work in the place he is going to send us!

God uses ordinary people to accomplish his purposes. We often think of Elijah as an extraordinary person of faith, but the Bible actually tells us he was ordinary (James 5:18-19). Peter and John were nothing special to the rest of the world (Acts 4:13) but were used in a mighty way by God. This is God’s pattern to use the weak to accomplish mighty things (1 Corinthians 1:26-31). When people don’t measure up to human standards, God is still at work in their lives.

When you believe that nothing significant can happen through you, you have said more about your belief in God than you have said about yourself. – D. L. Moody

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