NKJV Apply the Word Study Bible (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson, 2016), 1,632 Pps., $34.99.
This edition of the bible is all about application – hence its pointed name. We have to respond to the message within the text, act upon it that is, in order for it to truly have meaning in our lives. Moreover, we have to apply it personally. In order to attain such an end, the Apply the Word Study Bible aims to do four things; first, it provides a reliable biblical text: the New King James Version. Second, by means of an extensive set of notes and articles, scripture is explained with reference to their biblical background and in the context of the whole of the Bible. These notes include manifold amounts of commentary, maps, tables and charts. The purpose of these items within the text is to give emphasis to passages of special interest in understanding God’s message to modern humanity.
This leads to the third aim of the Apply the Word Study Bible, which is that the commentary is practical in orientation. As such, the information provided is not merely presented as facts about the bible – it is applicable to our lives. Thereby, we discover that in many respects, the biblical era was not starkly different from our era. People still deal with the same situations, problems, and concerns as people in the bible did. The notes of the Apply the Word Study Bible are written with the focus of making our bible study relevant to life. Fourth, the notes invite one to get “personal” with the biblical text. The freedom we have as Christians is to open ourselves to the challenges that make our faith stronger and that deepen our convictions about God and his work of salvation for us. Seen as such, the goal of bible study is to become more like Jesus Christ. The Apply the Word Study Bible is designed just for that purpose.
Upon expositing the opening text of the Old Testament, this bible notes that Genesis sets the stage for everything that follows by taking us back to the beginning—the very beginning—of everything. It further points out that the very word genesis means “origin,” a title that is closely related to the first words in the book: “In the beginning” (Gen. 1:1). Origination is a major theme of Genesis. It narrates the start of: The universe, people, evil and sin, and salvation and redemption. Moving forward in the text of the bible, we note based on a reading of story of David and the other kings of Israel that the Christian faith rests on actual events that happened to real people whose experiences are recorded in a reliable document: the Bible. The books of 1 and 2 Samuel relate a crucial development in this history as Israel transitioned into a kingdom and God installed David as his choice for the nation’s king. Indeed, they demonstrate that God reigns over the events of human existence, and as such, history is neither totally random nor are actual events irrelevant.
The prayer book of Israel – that is, the book of Psalms – invites us into a passionate and personal experience with God. Therein, we find expression of every conceivable human emotion: hope and remorse, joy and sorrow, confidence and fear, humility and anger, certainty and anxiety. It is therefore little wonder that it has been the hymnal and prayer book for generations of God’s people, continuing to the modern day. The editors of this text point out that it is a guidebook for life, as it was intended as a source of both wisdom and insight. The psalms have the potential to lead us through specific life situations, giving instruction on how to deal with fundamental issues such as the nature of evil, the meaning of life, and the human struggle to understand God’s ways. Notably, in their discussion of the book of Ecclesiastes, the editors contend that the harsh truth is that life in a fallen world is fleeting, often painful, and puzzling, a situation that holds true for the believer and for the unbeliever alike. Yet, because of God, we can respond to life with wisdom, and in that, we can enjoy meaning and goodness.
Skipping ahead into the New Testament, the editors argue that the Book of Romans was written to explain the core tenets of the Christian faith. Whereas the first five books of the New Testament tell Jesus’ story, Romans explores his message. The apostle Paul therein shows that the gospel is more than good deeds or lofty moral sentiments – it is truth, with substantial intellectual content; it challenges how people think and imparts new insight into their daily lives. Paul reminds us in Romans that the gospel is big enough to deal with all of the weighty concerns of the world. With regard to Paul’s letters to the Corinthians, the editors note that discipleship is a process, a lifelong journey that requires both patience and perseverance. So then, when our own attitudes and actions seem – perhaps substantially – less than Christ-like, we can take comfort in knowing that the preceded us on the same path. But in spite of their shortcomings, the Corinthians held a special place in the heart of him who knew them best and who had established their faith. Indeed, Paul addressed the issues that embroiled the Corinthians compassionately but firmly, with the goal of to correcting the Corinthians’ errors and helping them redirect the course of their lives. Like many (post-)modern believers, the Corinthians struggled with manifold temptations that are a natural part of living in an immoral society – a situation much like our post-Christendom situation in the West.
The various editors note that as the first century drew to a close, many Christians began drifting from the faith once delivered to the saints. Founders of the church, for example, began to die off, and thus believers were losing touch with individuals who had known Jesus in the flesh. Many believers were also being seduced by competing doctrines, notably forms of early gnosticism. Second- and third-generation Christians had grown cold. The three general epistles of John were written in response to this trend. The beginnings of creedal statements and catechisms, which package truth in a memorable way for the purpose of instruction, begin to take shape in these letters. John writes to the churches that there is a core truth one must believe in for a genuine form of Christianity: that Jesus has come in the flesh, and that the practice of love and righteousness is the test of whether we truly know him.
In sum, in many ways this bible highlights the fact that the lives of many modern-day Christians are alike to those that we find in the biblical text. They had prospered to a better life, in part through their faithfully living out the tenets of Christianity. But we must not forget those who still struggle. Throughout this Apply the Word Study Bible, the editors urge us to grasp a fundamental truth taught by Jesus – that is, “A tree is known by its fruit” (Matt. 12:33).