Where did the chapter and verse divisions in our Bibles come from?
When Scripture was originally written, there were no chapter and verse divisions. These man-made additions to our Bibles came much later. It was Stephen Langton, an Archbishop of Canterbury in England, who added chapter divisions into the Latin Vulgate around A.D. 1227. A Jewish rabbi by the name of Nathan divided the Hebrew Bible (what we as Christians call the Old Testament) into verses in 1448. Then, Robert Estienne (also known as Stephanus) divided the chapters into verses in his Greek New Testament in 1551. The first English translation to make use of his verse divisions was the Geneva Bible of 1560.
That is something of the history behind the chapter and verse divisions. The question becomes “Was this development a good thing?”
My answer would be yes and no. It is fair to say there are pros and cons in this matter.
The designations are helpful in that they allow us to find a verse or passage in a short time. We can find a verse easily without the need to read an entire book of the Bible. The numbering system allows us to go straight to a verse or passage we wish to locate. This is a wonderful, practical benefit. Imagine if there were no chapter/verse divisions and a preacher asked the congregation to find the section of Isaiah dealing with the Suffering Servant of the Lord. How many people would find the passage? Not many, and certainly, not very many in a swift manner. However, if the preacher says, “Let’s turn to Isaiah chapter 53,” anyone in the audience with a Bible in hand can find the passage in just a few seconds. In this way, then, chapter and verse divisions are helpful and convenient when it comes to finding references and quotations.
But there is a downside—a major downside. These divisions make it especially easy for us to look at a verse in isolation, with no reference to its context. Many pages could be filled with examples. Just one is Philippians 4:13, where we read, “I can do all things through him who strengthens me.” This verse, in isolation, could be interpreted (falsely) to mean that Christ strengthens us to achieve any human endeavor, the “all things” referring to any conceivable task. An athlete might apply this by thinking the verse means Christ will strengthen him to win every race he enters—that this in fact is God’s promise to him. An author might use the verse as a promise that whatever he writes will be a best seller, and the Christian salesman might believe that he will be number 1 in company sales because of his relationship with Christ. Christ strengthens us to accomplish anything we set out to do.
But here’s the problem. The verse teaches nothing of the kind. The “all things” Christ does strengthen us to do refers to the things Paul wrote about in the previous sentences (vv. 10–12):
I rejoiced in the Lord greatly that now at length you have revived your concern for me. You were indeed concerned for me, but you had no opportunity. Not that I am speaking of being in need, for I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need.
Verse 13, “I can do all things through him who strengthens me,” has a context which, if ignored, leads to a false interpretation. The correct one is this: Whatever the situation, whatever the circumstance, whether in hardship or in much provision and abundance, whether there is plenty or whether we experience hunger and great need, God’s grace is more than abundant for us in Christ. He will strengthen us to endure whatever it is we have to face. That was true for Paul, and it is also true for all who trust in Christ. We can go through any event in life, whether it is a very good or a very hard thing, because the Lord Jesus Christ will strengthen us to do so. That is the meaning of Philippians 4:13.
The word arbitrary refers to something based on a random choice or personal whim, rather than reason or a sound logical system. Some of the chapter divisions in our Bibles are especially arbitrary. And this is another downside.
Just above, I mentioned Isaiah 53 and its reference to God’s Suffering Servant. Yet if we look at the words in their context, the passage starts speaking of this Servant in Isaiah 52:13, not Isaiah 53:1. Rather than Isaiah 53 starting where it does, a much better place for the insertion of a new chapter would have been at Isaiah 52, between verses 12 and 13. This would then allow us to see the entire passage in one section in our Bibles, rather than this unnecessary breaking up of the passage in a way that defies all logic and reason. And it is more than all right to say this, because in doing so, I am not being critical of God’s Word in any way. God’s Word is flawless, inerrant, and inspired. I am critical here only of what man has added to God’s inspired text in our Bibles. The chapter division here in Isaiah 53 is not helpful at all. Quite the opposite!
In summary, I think it is a good thing for us to have chapter and verse divisions in our Bibles, for the sake of convenience. However, it is important that we never forget that context is a key factor in forming a correct understanding of Scripture. When we forget context, misinterpretation is inevitable, and this is something we should always be vigilant to avoid.
As guest host on this Dividing Line broadcast, Pastor John was able to walk through numerous New Testament texts which only make sense in the light of formal Church membership.
Hour 2 – The Blessing of Church Membership:
Having previously established that formal Church Membership is a biblical mandate and requirement, Pastor John then discussed what it entails as God’s intended blessing for disciples of Christ.
Hour 3 – The Protection of Church Discipline:
The third teaching in a series on the Church, dealing with the often neglected subject of discipline. A Church failing to exercise discipline among its members is an unloving Church, walking in disobedience to Christ.
Hour 4: The Guardrail of the Creeds:
While never rising to the same authority as sacred Scripture (which alone is the word of God), the ancient creeds and confessions of the Church have served the people of God through the ages as concise and precise summaries of what the Bible teaches on very vital matters. These include, among others, the doctrine of God, the person and work of Christ, how a man is justified in God’s sight as well as the doctrine of last things (eschatology). On this Dividing Line, Pastor John taught on the practical value of the ancient Creeds and Confessions of the Church.
PARENTS AND CHILDREN ON THE LORD’S DAY – TOGETHER ON PURPOSE
We believe it is a great privilege for a child to grow up in a Christian home and for the entire family to worship together, week in and week out in the Sunday morning worship service. Over time, this teaches the child much in the way of what a normal life as a Christian is to look like as well as the necessary connection each of us is to have with the local church. Here at King’s Church, we believe parents should keep their children with them throughout the entire service.
Let me say this again (in different words) – rather than children or teens attending their own meetings separate from their parents, we believe that the Biblical pattern is for families to worship together. The only exception we see to this (both now and in the future) is to provide a safe place for the under-threes in a nursery. However, we do not wish to segregate older children and teens from the rest of the congregation – sending them off to different rooms or buildings. Instead, on earth, as it is in heaven, young and old together, with one voice in unity, we the gathered people of God worship Him together.
We also believe that there are times when it is entirely appropriate for specialized ministry to take place (outside of the Lord’s Day morning service). One Biblical example of this is that older women are exhorted to teach the younger women (Titus 2:3-5), which presumably means that men are excluded from such a gathering.
While in no way wishing to be divisive or suggest that we are the only church in town obeying God, we practice “Family Integrated Worship” because of certain convictions we have. As we examine the Biblical data, we find that throughout the centuries this has been the normal way in which the people of God have gathered. This is clear from both the Old and New Testaments.
Deuteronomy 31:11-13 reads, “When all Israel comes to appear before the LORD your God at the place that he will choose, you shall read this law before all Israel in their hearing. Assemble the people, men, women, and little ones, and the sojourner within your towns, that they may hear and learn to fear the LORD your God, and be careful to do all the words of this law, and that their children, who have not known it, may hear and learn to fear the LORD your God, as long as you live in the land that you are going over the Jordan to possess.”
Joshua 8:35 says, “There was not a word of all that Moses commanded that Joshua did not read before all the assembly of Israel, and the women, and the little ones, and the sojourners who lived among them.”
Ezra 10:1 – “While Ezra prayed and made confession, weeping and casting himself down before the house of God, a very great assembly of men, women, and children, gathered to him out of Israel, for the people wept bitterly.”
These and other scriptures testify to the fact that when God’s people assembled, it was normal for children to be included.
In the New Testament, children were present during Christ’s preaching and teaching ministry (Matthew 14:13-21).
When Paul wrote to the Church at Ephesus, he included a message for the children (Eph. 6:1-3). In doing so, a clear assumption was in his mind; that when his letter was read to the gathered Church, children would be present in the service to hear it. The same assumption can be found in Colossians 3:20, where we read, “Children, obey your parents in everything, for this pleases the Lord.”
In recent decades, many have practiced a very different model for doing Church, something called “age-segregated worship” where the family is split up, fragmented, and isolated from each other in the service. We have now had a great deal of time to assess the long-term effects and fruit of such a ministry. The results are in and what we have observed has not been good. While church growth did occur, at least initially in the short term, when teens become adults we see a severe lack of participation in the life of the local church. The percentage of teens in youth ministry who make the transition to regular, ongoing participation in the local Church as adults, is alarmingly low. That is tragic and heartbreaking!
In the light of this, we need to ask an important question: Could it be that the model we have used may be a big factor in this?
We believe so. While the age segregation model was adopted in hopes of it being a blessing to children and youth, the unintended consequence of this is a thoroughly ingrained notion in our kids that to do church, a person must be with people of a similar age. Sadly, in a very real way, this is what we have taught them.
THE SHEPHERD AND THE FLOCK
When a person, raised in an age-segregated model Church leaves their teenage years behind, they might have gone through the entire course of childhood and never been with adults, couples, and seniors in corporate worship. Let that sink in for a moment. They might even have been in the same local Church all that time and never known the pastor and elders. The pastor is an irrelevant figure in their lives. The child’s parents may know him but not the children. Oh, they might have perhaps seen the pastor’s photo a few times on a Church brochure. Maybe…. But they have had no personal interaction with him. They may never have (or very rarely) heard him speak. Given that the pastors/elders’ role is to shepherd the entire flock (Acts 20:28; 1 Peter 5:2), this is a very sad state of affairs and one that we contend is thoroughly unbiblical.
Is it any wonder then that with no specially marked room for those in their young twenties to go to during the Sunday worship service, they feel very out of place when, perhaps for the very first time, they are now having to worship alongside people of a different age? This is entirely new to them. They have never had to do this before. It is very difficult for them to find any sort of connection with the gathered church because we have taught them to be disconnected.
Because of this, you will see the absence of age-graded ministries at King’s Church. This is intentional on our part. While there may be times for children to be gathered together in order to be taught; similarly to teens, there are no specifically segregated youth or children’s ministries here as we do not find such terms as “children’s minister” or “youth minister” in the Bible. The very concept is extra-biblical.
It has been well said that parents who are relieved of their discipleship duties tend to become dependent on those who have taken over the job. Instead, the Bible clearly teaches that Christian parents (rather than the Church) have the responsibility of providing their children with a solid foundation in the things of God. Parents (especially fathers) are to discipline and train their children.
SPEAKING OF FATHERS
In Psalm 78:5-7 we read, “He established a testimony in Jacob and appointed a law in Israel, which he commanded our fathers to teach to their children, that the next generation might know them, the children yet unborn, and arise and tell them to their children, so that they should set their hope in God and not forget the works of God, but keep his commandments.”
Ephesians 6:4 says, “Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.”
RAISING FAMILY SHEPHERDS
We wish to be clear here. Church ministry provides a vital role for the family. Yet it is a specific one in serving the family by training parents to bring up their children in the things of God. Churches should teach fathers how to be family shepherds. Rather than placing the burden of children’s and youth ministry on a few “paid professionals,” churches are to equip parents to teach, train, disciple, and evangelize their children. The parents’ responsibility in discipling their children is a 24 hours a day, 7 days a week assignment from the Lord. It is an entire way of life.
Speaking to parents, Deuteronomy 6 says, “You shall teach them (God’s words) diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise.”
PARENTS AND CHILDREN
I am convinced that the best thing parents can do to facilitate their children worshiping God is to model this themselves. Children cannot fail to notice parents singing hymns to God with their whole hearts, the bowing of heads in reverence while in prayer, the earnestness involved in the reciting of a historic creed of the church, as well as the very close attention given to the hearing of the word of God as it is read and when it is preached. Children also know the difference between an act of duty and an act of delight, even if they are not able to articulate the difference themselves. Joy in God is contagious. God can do much in the heart of a child when true worship is modeled before them.
The American family is fragmented enough. With the demands of life in a fast lane kind of society, it is often hard for families to even sit down for a meal together each evening. Life is hectic and chaotic and don’t we know it? My point is, that the church should not be adding to the problem. Instead, we gather together and on purpose to worship God as a family. In fact, the gathering of the people to worship is families joining other families in the worship of our triune God.
As a parent, while very conscious of my many flaws, I am jealous to be the model of worship for my kids. I want them to see a man after God’s own heart, not merely in the pages of a book, but right in front of them. I don’t want to hand over this amazing God-given opportunity and responsibility to someone else whom I do not know.
God made me the father of my kids and He wants me to lead them to Him through the means of what they observe in my life. I want them to be in awe of God as I am, and I am eager to model this for my children. No pretense… nothing artificial… but authentic worship flowing out from a heart captured by the God he loves. If this is in any way real in my life, I am convinced that children can sense this, to a far greater degree than we might think.
Parents can also ask questions of their children after the service is over, and explain anything that was unclear or not understood. It can become an amazing opportunity to teach the great doctrines of the faith, on a level the child can absorb, in spite of the fact that many things went over the child’s head in the service. Parents can ask “what were you thinking when we did this in the service?” and by their answer, find out immediately the perceptions of the child. Then the parent can explain things and point to the Bible as to why we did what we did in the service. Great learning can occur in such moments, especially when this kind of parental/child interaction becomes a regular habit in this way.
Both the historic and more modern hymns of our time are often filled with theological words and concepts beyond the grasp of a young child. However, it will inevitably begin to make sense to a child as he grows in understanding. The fact that he does not understand everything now is not a problem. The words, and the concepts behind them, will become more and more familiar over time, and that is a very exciting prospect.
Think of this: If a child is present as the word is being preached in earnest, and all around are caught up in awe of God as His word is heralded… do you really think a child can have no perception of this? I think the answer is obvious. A child can indeed grasp this.
Then, let me ask you: do you think they would capture this in children’s church to the same degree? Once again, I think the answer is obvious. It is not very likely. And as a parent, I would never wish my children to miss this taste of the majesty of God for all the world.
The formative years of a child are when patterns of behavior are instilled by the parents. Part of that training involves the family in worship together on the Lord’s Day. Sunday morning is different. It is sacred in fact. It is the time set aside when all in the family engage in the worship of God, along with the rest of the gathered saints and therefore, it is the task of parents to be teaching this to their children, both by precept and example.
Pastor Nick Batzig writes, “Our young children may not know and understand all that is being said from the pulpit, but they will forever have the example of sitting under sound biblical preaching.
My friend, John Larson, once told me how he had grown up in a church with a faithful pastor who preached God’s word expositionally every Lord’s Day. He said that while he didn’t remember much of what that minister said from the pulpit, he remembers the example that man set by faithfully getting up before the congregation week in and week out – to open and expound the Scriptures to the people of God. The example of a man who gives himself to a diligent study of God’s word in order to preach it to the people of God every week will impact our children for life. If we dismiss our children immediately before the sermon we are essentially taking that example away from them. Keeping your children in the service sets before them the model of God’s minister doing what is most important. This is why we should keep them in.”
He continues, “Every Christian family is (or should be) trying to figure out how to bring their children up in the training and admonition of the Lord. Every Christian family fails at points and feels the burden of their failures. It is a great encouragement when families are sitting side by side with other families in the worship service. It is a great encouragement to see young children singing hymns in the service. It is a great encouragement to see fathers leaning over and gently helping their children understand what is going on and how they can focus better. This is lost when we simply shuffle our children off to ‘children’s church’ until they are teenagers. This is yet another reason why we should keep them in.
Though I have – many, many times – felt my own insufficiency and failings as a father, I have also been encouraged by what the Lord is doing in the lives of my sons – especially during the worship service. The other day, I looked out over the congregation as we were singing and I saw my 8, 6, and 5 years olds trying to sing from the hymnal.
I, (as a pastor) unlike so many fathers in our church, do not have the privilege of training my children during worship times. I try to train them during our times of family worship. That sight of my sons participating was a joy and delight to my heart. That evening, friends of ours visited our church.
After the service, the husband came up and said, ‘It was so encouraging to see your sons singing There is a Fountain Filled with Blood without a hymnal.’
This was an enormous encouragement to me – in light of all of the failings and shortcomings that I am so painfully aware of regarding the shepherding of my family.
Likewise, when parents keep their children in the service for months and years, they will begin to see these sorts of encouragements. As their children hear the same hymns sung repeatedly, as they tell their parents something that they heard in the sermon, or ask a question about some part of the service, this is a great encouragement to the parents to continue to pursue training their children in the Lord. It makes us want to foster that growth that we begin to observe.”
As a church adapts to children being present throughout the worship service all of us are in training. The congregation needs to grasp the fact that children are not perfect, nor will they be. Congregational awareness is a vitally important component in all of this. And yet, on the other hand, parents need to be sensitive also, if not more so. Parents should make sure that an entire service is not disrupted by the noise of a child.
Concerning this, once again Pastor Batzig writes, “I wholeheartedly agree that the whimpering cry of a baby can be precious; but, more often than not, the crying of infants and whining or talking of toddlers is disruptive to the minister(s) and congregants. It is selfish when parents insist on keeping their crying baby in the service. If a congregant was constantly coughing or sneezing, the loving thing for that individual to do was to dismiss himself or herself from the service until their cough subsided. So too, parents ought to lay aside their right to have their child in every second of the worship service and care for the other members of the congregation who are seeking to listen to what is being said.”
With all this being understood, let us remember that our children are not merely the church of tomorrow, but the church of today. They are very precious to the Lord and to us. As we gather together on the Lord’s Day, may we worship God according to how He commands, not according to what may be popular in a particular culture and time.
May we stand in the tradition of Reformation faith and practice, gathering with God’s people each Lord’s Day to exult in God’s truth, thrill over His mercies and graces, and worship His magnificence out loud! As we do, may the Word of God be read, preached, prayed, sung, and seen (in the ordinances of baptism and the Lord’s Supper), for the edification of all of Christ’s precious sheep – young and old, men and women, parents and children, visibly, publicly, together.
John James serves at King’s Church as an elder and periodically leads the congregation in the reading of Scripture, creeds and catechism in the worship service. He is also in charge of providing supplemental materials for children to help them focus on the pastoral teaching during the service. He is the husband of his college sweetheart, Wendy, and they have four children and twelve grandchildren, all residing here in the Phoenix area.
John was born and raised in Youngstown, Ohio. By the sovereignty and providence of God, his older brother Tom was led to Christ and discipled by RC Sproul. This occurred while Tom was a student in Sproul’s philosophy class at Westminster Seminary in Pennsylvania. This encounter with RC brought Reformed theology into the James home.
John’s ministry interests lie in serving the church body, the sharing of Scriptural truth, and the visitation of the saints in their homes- personally shepherding the flock of God. John is also involved with evangelism as part of our church outreach into the surrounding communities. Another passion of his is to encourage the individual members of the church on Sundays and on the phone throughout the week. He loves talking about reformed theology.
John retired from teaching after 32 years in Christian education and also served in prison ministry for 12 years. He also meets weekly with his grandchildren on a 1 on 1 basis to teach them the book of Proverbs.
Andrew Boozer serves at King’s Church as an elder and occasionally preaches in the Sunday morning service. He is a husband to his high-school sweetheart and they have two children. Andrew has a passion for family worship, Biblical truth, preaching, serving the saints, and Reformed theology. He desires to see sinners saved and saints living more faithfully unto King Jesus. Andrew completed his undergraduate and graduate studies at Grand Canyon University and is currently an operations director at a San Francisco startup.
Andrew was born and raised in sunny Phoenix, Arizona, and from an early age was taught socially progressive and Roman Catholic-Universalist ideas. Although reared in theological error, he was privileged to attend a Reformed Presbyterian grade school and a Christian high school that taught Biblical truth.
Andrew was formerly a worship leader at a church associated with the New Apostolic Reformation. His ambition was to become one of the worship leaders at Bethel Church in Redding, CA. By God’s gracious will and providence, Andrew eventually left the movement and began serving at a church connected with Calvary Chapel. While at this church, God gave Andrew a new nature, and he was eventually placed under consideration to become the next Youth Pastor. Around this time he was introduced to a book by C.H. Spurgeon and the preaching and teaching of Mr. Paul Washer and Dr. Steven Lawson. By the lovingkindness of God, Andrew has been growing in sovereign grace and knowledge ever since!
John Samson is the founding pastor-teacher of King’s Church in Peoria, Arizona, as well as an author and conference speaker. He has a passion for the local Church and for the free offer of the gospel to be proclaimed far and wide. Inspired by a deep desire to proclaim the truth of the Bible without compromise, John is known for his simple, down-to-earth, verse-by-verse, expositional preaching. His passion is to proclaim God as He really is, and the Gospel as it really is, believing that it is impossible to have one without the other. In light of this, he is happy to affirm historic creeds and confessions of the Church as well as the Five Solas of the Reformation and the Doctrines of Grace.
John was born and raised in the historic city of Chester, England, situated around 20 miles south of Liverpool. Chester was originally founded as a Roman fort under the name Deva Victrix in the year 79 AD during the reign of Emperor Vespasian. Desiring to become a professional football player (football is known as “soccer” in the USA), he was chosen for the Chester Under 19 side while still only 16 years of age. However, the Lord had a different and more exciting path, calling him into the ministry!
Graduating from the Regents Theological College in England in 1987, John began his ministry as the Associate of the late Harry Greenwood. (Below is a photo of John and Harry together, taken in November 1987, in Kerala, India). For many years John hosted a live 2-hour Christian television program on the Trinity Broadcasting Network as well as a 30-minute daily Bible teaching radio broadcast, “the Spirit of Faith,” covering central Arizona. Since then, the Lord in His great kindness has brought John out of much theological error and deception.
June 2023 marks 36 years in Christian ministry for John. During this time he has pastored churches in both England and the USA and has included ministry trips to Europe, Australia, New Zealand, India, and Mongolia, in Churches, Camps, Conferences, and Gospel outreach.
Sensing God’s call to live and serve in the USA is very much a long-term assignment, John became a full USA citizen in February 2003.
John is the author of two books published by Solid Ground Christian Books:
Twelve What Abouts – Answering Common Objections Concerning God’s Sovereignty in Election has been widely distributed, helping many come to a new and fresh understanding of the grace of God. It is available for purchase in paperback here and in e-book here. It is also now available in the Italian language.
The Five Solas – Standing Together, Alone can be purchased in paperback at this link as well as in eBook and audio-book version here.
Spanish Edition Update – The Five Solas book has now been published in a Spanish version entitled Las Cinco Solas – Estando Juntas, Solas available from Solid Ground Christian Books at this link.
Pastor John’s blog is effectualgrace.com where many of his audio and video teachings are available.