The Reformation Study Bible (ESV): A Comparison of Study Notes

After my post yesterday on the ESV Study Bible notes and the Eternal Subordination of the Son, several people asked me about how other study Bibles compare. In particular, I was asked about the study notes in the Reformation Study Bible (ESV). Below are the same Bible passages as in the previous article followed by the study notes from the Reformation Study Bible. Quotes and page numbers are from the 2015 edition.

The Reformation Study Bible was edited by Dr. R.C. Sproul. Dr. Wayne Grudem was one of the New Testament contributors. While I have not read all of the study notes in this edition, from what I’ve seen, the study notes appear much better than those in the ESV Study Bible.

Matthew 11:27: All things have been handed over to me by my Father, and no one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and anyone to whom the Son chooses to reveal him.

Jesus makes extraordinary claims. He claims that God’s sovereign disposition of all things has beeen committed to him. As in Dan. 7, the Son of Man has received all power and dominion (anticipating Matt. 28:18). He alone knows the Father and can reveal the Father to others (John 14:6). The Father alone knows Him, so Peter’s later confession that Jesus is the Christ can only be through the Father’s revelation of the Son (Matt. 16:16-17). Jesus’ knowledge is equal to the Father’s, and His sonship is unique. (1691, emphasis added)

Matthew 28:18: And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.

Jesus now has “all authority.” The Son of Man has come before the Ancient of Days and has received everlasting dominion over “all peoples, nations, and languages” (Dan. 7:13, 14). The last stage of history has begun, as will soon be seen and  heard when Jesus pours out the Holy Spirit from His heavenly throne (Acts 2:32, 33, 26:64 note). It will not be completed until Christ comes again in glory (Rev. 1:7). (1726, emphasis added)

Mark 10: 40: but to sit at my right hand or at my left is not mine to grant, but it is for those for whom it has been prepared

Jesus recognizes areas where only the Father has authority (13:32). His humble submission is a rebuke to His disciples self-centered ambition. (1757, emphasis added)

John 1:3: All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made.

This verse also emphasizes the deity of the Word, since creation belongs to God alone. See also v. 10; Col. 1:16, Heb. 1:2. (1851, emphasis added)

John 3:35: The Father loves the Son and has given all things into his hand.

The “all things” that the Father has entrusted to the Son whom He loves (5:20) include the power to give life (5:21, 25, 26) and to judge (5:22, 27-29). (1859)

John 5:18-19: This was why the Jews were seeking all the more to kill him, because not only was he breaking the Sabbath, but he was even calling God his own Father, making himself equal with God.

Jesus represents Himself as One who has the same authority over the Sabbath as the author of the Sabbath (Luke 6:5), which authority goes back to the creation order itself.

This does not express personal inability, but emphasizes the complete unity of purpose among the persons of the Trinity (1862, emphasis added)

John 12:49: For I have not spoken on my own authority, but the Father who sent me has himself given me a commandment—what to say and what to speak.

The close relationship of Jesus with the Father (cf. 17:21-23) is stressed in three respects: to beleive in Christ is to believe in the Father; to see Christ is to see the Father (v. 45); to hear Christ is to hear the Father (v. 50). On the other hand, rejection of Christ and His words is also a rejection of the Father and His words (Luke 10:16). This rejection results in judgment, although the leading purpose of Christ’s incarnation is the salvation of His own and not the condemnation of those who do not believe. (1882, the note is on John 12:44, there is no note for vs. 49 specifically)

John 14:28: You heard me say to you, ‘I am going away, and I will come to you.’ If you loved me, you would have rejoiced, because I am going to the Father, for the Father is greater than I.

This statement must be understood in light of the witness of this gospel to the full deity of the Son and His equality and oneness with the Father (v. 9; cf. 1:1; 10:30). While equal in substance, the three persons of the Trinity have different roles in God’s works of creation, providence, and redemption (the “economic” distinctions among the divine persons). The Father purposes, the Son accomplishes, and the Spirit applies. Hence, the Son came to do the Father’s will (6:38) and, as the God-man, voluntarily veiled His divine glory to follow the way of humble obedience (Phil. 2:6-11). (1886, emphasis added)

Acts 1:7: He said to them, “It is not for you to know times or seasons that the Father has fixed by his own authority.

The specific years or dates (which some in all ages try to predict) of the second coming of Christ (cf. 1 Thess. 5:2). Jesus made the same point before His death (Mark 13:32). Here Jesus shows how wrong their assumption is that they could pinpoint that the end-time completion of the kingdom is imminent. Rather, only the Father knows the timing of such things. Furthermore, the following context reveals an “already and not yet” eschatology, the idea that the last days have already been inaugurated (Acts 2:17-21 note), but not yet brought to their consummation or final end. (1910)

Acts 2:33: Being therefore exalted at the right hand of God, and having received from the Father the promise of the Holy Spirit, he has poured out this that you yourselves are seeing and hearing.

God’s plan goes beyond the resurrection of His Son, who must be exalted to a position of sovereign authority at the right hand of God (cf. Ps. 110:1). The Son is now glorified with a glory He had before the world existed (John 17:5).

The doctrine of the Trinity is implied. Peter shows how the Father (vv. 32, 33) worked in the life, death, resurrection, and exultation of Jesus, His Son, and the Holy Spirit produced the miracle of causing His servants to speak in tongues. Thus, Pentecost constitutes the fulfillment of John the Baptist’s announcement that Jesus would baptize people with the Holy Spirit (1:5; Luke 3:16). (1915, emphasis added)

Ephesians 1:4: even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him.

Paul rejoices that God chooses people for a relationship with Himself. Som suggest that “in him” means God foresaw who would have faith in Christ and on that basis elected them. Not only does this suggestion add a thought that is not in the text, but elsewhere Pul teaches that the very state of being “in Christ” is something to which one is elected (1 Cor. 1:26-31). Paul says explicitly that the sole ground of God’s predestinating love is His own good pleasure, not anything the elect have done or will do. “In him” means that God’s choice always had had in view a fallen people in union with their Redeemer. (2091)

1 Corinthians 11:3: But I want you to understand that the head of every man is Christ, the head of a wife is her husband, and the head of Christ is God.

The significance of this metaphor has long been debated by scholars – it may indicate leadership and authority, or source and origin. The two ideas should probably not be regarded as excluding each other. In two other contexts where Paul speaks of Christ as head (Eph. 4:15; Col. 2:19), the notion of “source” may be present (cf. v. 8). Elsewhere, Paul uses the metaphor with explicit reference to authority or submission (Eph. 1:22 5:23, 24; Col. 1:18, 2:10). Here the stress probably falls on authority rather than source (cf. v. 10). (2031)

1 Corinthians 15:28: When all things are subjected to him, then the Son himself will also be subjected to him who put all things in subjection under him, that God may be all in all.

Paul’s statement that the Son “will also be subjected” to the Father (v. 28) does not mean that the Son is inferior in dignity and being. Rather, in His messianic work, the Son subjects Himself to the will of the Father “when he delivers the kingdom to God the Father” (v. 24). The climax of Christ’s submissive, messianic work is this total conquest over His enemies, “that God may be all in all,” when His absolute rule is universally acknowledged. (2040, emphasis added)

2 thoughts on “The Reformation Study Bible (ESV): A Comparison of Study Notes

  1. MarkO says:

    Good comparison. I have also been wondering on a practical level how ESS negatively impacts church life and even worldview applications. It seems to me that making much of submission and hierarchy can force some unhelpful attitudes and habits on a subculture.

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