Finished Three Year Plan

I finally finished my three year plan. It took me 5 1/2 years. That’s because I took two years out to spend on the Old Testament, which was only going to be one year, but there was surgery in the middle and too many books to read.

This post sounds a little arrogant to me. If it does to you, I apologize. This is what God has been doing in me. I didn’t start this on my own initiative. I hope you can be thankful with me.

I’ve written about this before, but nobody would remember with all of the blogs out there, so I will again. If you get bored, please move on to the Three Year Plan below or to something more important. Don’t worry that I start with my testimony (the world’s shortest).

I became a Christian by reading the book of John. Over two weeks, the Holy Spirit came in and opened my eyes and I believed. (That was it–if you blinked, go back.) I was part of the Navigators on campus and got a great start with spiritual disciplines. I memorized Scripture like crazy and was absolutely “on fire”, whatever that means. Everything came, and still does come easy.

But I languished for quite a few years and did my “verse a day (devotional) to keep the devil away” or however that saying goes, along with praying, and reviewing memorized Scripture. I had spurts of book and more extensive Bible reading, was almost always part of a group study, cared very much about my relationship with God, but didn’t really get very far.

Group study with evangelicals sometimes has a lot of cliches and ‘teachings’ that may or may not be Biblical, of which I was as much a part of as any, which partly started to lead me to want to check these things out.

As I spent more time on the Internet, I decided I should be spending some of this time on Christian stuff. At the same time, my mental and physical health started going downhill very fast. I got interested in reading more. I read widely, partly because I didn’t know who to read. Contrary to what it looks like on this blog–because I became a Calvinist soon after I started it–I’m always writing about Calvinists. But beforehand, I read people like N.T. Wright, Philip Yancey, Watchman Nee, Henri Nouwen, Dallas Willard (cuckoo), Catholic scholars (very good) and many others–mostly library books, and later on, commentaries by Pentecostals like Fee and Keener. I read a lot about the (real) historical Jesus, one of my favorite subjects, and the Gospels.

Now it was time to get serious. By now I desperately wanted and needed to get to know God better. I started a small book budget. As suffering increased and motivation for other things I usually enjoyed decreased, wanting to know God and live a godly life increased an amazing amount. I wish it didn’t work exactly this way, but God works through suffering.

The Three Year Plan

I decided I wanted to comb through the New Testament along with reading through a whole commentary for each book and see both what “teachings” are biblical and if there are any passages where I have gross, obvious misinterpretations. I also became like a Berean and looked up everything I heard and read about, outside of trusted people backing up what they teach. If people would just quote the Bible appropriately, there wouldn’t be so much of a problem, but nowadays most Christians are Biblically illiterate and don’t have the ability except for the cliches and sayings.

I read a book of the Bible, starting with Romans because I had spent so much time on the Gospels with library books, then the commentary, then the book of the Bible again. So I was getting each one three times, usually with the commentator’s unique translation. Then I would read a ‘regular’ book in-between on something basic like suffering, prayer, the cross, intro to Calvinism etc. I planned on this all taking about three years.

This may not be the best way to catechize myself, but it was more valuable than I thought it would be. When I started out, I was Arminian, although I didn’t know the term, and sometime soon after Romans I was Calvinist/Reformed already. I had never really looked into it or known what it was. Most of the people I was with are Arminian/Semi-Pelagian Evangelicals and that’s all I knew. When I first read about Reformed theology in Thomas Schreiner’s commentary on Romans, it was rather shocking. It didn’t seem fair or logical. My sense of logic and fairness isn’t God’s. But then over time I started seeing that extent of God’s sovereignty in all things all over Scripture, not just the usual proof texts. I then looked into Arminianism again just to make sure I got both sides basically correct and understand my Arminian friends better.

I found things like how the Philippians gave generously “out of their need” and how Paul praised them for that. God would then meet their needs (Phil. 4:19). But there is no command in the NT to “tithe” out of our poverty as some pastors would have us think.

One highlight was reading Keener’s explanation of Revelation 3:15-17 in The NIV Application Commentary: Revelation as was the whole commentary. It was perfect for me. Another highlight was Cole’s concise but detailed commentary on Mark, which is fitting for that Gospel.

Just about every commentary was a winner. The two that I can remember that I didn’t like were Longenecker’s commentary on Galatians, which was too technical and tedious for me, and Bock’s on Acts, which was like a commentary on commentaries, with so much quoting. I should have just read one of the ones he quoted a lot, like Bruce’s or even Witherington’s. The last one was the only one where I skimmed parts of it, mainly the narrative parts, where he pretty much narrated the narratives. Otherwise I very carefully read all of them, including the 800-900+ page ones like Matthew, Luke, Romans and both Corinthians. Obviously I was mainly reading, not really studying for the most part, but trying to get a good overview for later. I wish I would have taken more time to blog on a lot of it like I did earlier on, but that would have taken time away from reading. A Catch-22.

Now I will relax a little and read a bunch of ‘regular’ books. I also need to do what I probably should have done before reading the commentaries, which is reading very basic books like D.A. Carson’s The God Who Is There. I realize that I will forget most of what I read in the commentaries, and that’s not how they’re normally used, but I learned a lot in addition to worshiping as I read. Then later on this year or next year I have to read Calvin’s Institutes. Later on after that I want to study Colossians as thoroughly as I know how and have the energy for. If possible, I’d like to write a Bible study for it. I’m also thinking about another reading plan for the whole Bible. I started to make my own but it’s too hard for what I wanted to do.

I’m still plodding along with Greek too. I’m using the more inductive Dodson, which is great, after getting a good base with Black.

This post is too long already. Maybe someday I’ll list all of the commentaries or create an Amazon store (so I can get my Affiliate commission of course), but Goodreads basically shows them along with the OT commentaries. Thanks for reading. Thank God for what he does for us.

John 17:3
This is eternal life: to know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you sent.

revelation-commentary

3 Responses to “Finished Three Year Plan”


  1. 1 Craig Bennett

    Interesting. I became an Arminian through reading Romans on my own, having been saved in a Reformed movement.

  2. 2 Scripture Zealot

    Funny how that happens.
    Jeff

  3. 3 Alan

    Much of what is taught today is not actually Arminianism, in the strictest sense, but Sandemanianism.

    I was once a free willer till I read the Bible. OOPS!

    I had to be honest with the statements that the Bible made. So ended up wonderfully believing in election, which is marvellous, gives a whole new aspect to what scripture has to say. Before I could not get things to fit, and would not push matters because it would have been dishonest.

    Then I began to read Matthew Henry. The dye was cast. What a tremendous writer and minister this brother was, and is.

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