John Wesley’s “Rules for Band-Societies”

Gary’s Introduction: this concept of Band-Societies was a small group dynamic, in which believers would volunteer to be accountable to one another. It has inspired similar meetings for almost three centuries. By the way, this was not simply a “lowest-common-denominator” group to share your feelings and that was that! These same men also gathered for two hours, four evenings a week, for rigorous study of the Greek New Testament and prayer.

Wesley’s Rules for Band-Societies, Drawn up December 25, 1738.

The design of our meeting is, to obey that command of God, “Confess your faults one to another, and pray one for another, that ye may be healed.”

To this end, we intend.

  1. To meet once a week, at the least.
  2. To come punctually at the hour appointed, without some extraordinary reason.
  3. To begin (those of us who are present) exactly at the hour, with singing or prayer.
  4. To speak each of us in order, freely and plainly, the true state of our souls, with the faults we have committed in thought, word, or deed, and the temptations we have felt, since our last meeting.
  5. To end every meeting with prayer, suited to the state of each person present.
  6. To desire some person among us to speak his own state first, and then to ask the rest, in order, as many and as searching questions as may be, concerning their state, sins, and temptations.

Some of the questions proposed to every one before he is admitted among us may he to this effect.

  1. Have you the forgiveness of your sins.
  2. Have you peace with God, through our Lord Jesus Christ.
  3. Have you the witness of God’s Spirit with your spirit, that you are a child of God.
  4. Is the love of God shed abroad in your heart.
  5. Has no sin, inward or outward, dominion over you.
  6. Do you desire to be told of your faults.
  7. Do you desire to be told of all your faults, and that plain and home.
  8. Do you desire that every one of us should tell you, from time to time, whatsoever is in his heart concerning you.
  9. Consider! Do you desire we should tell you whatsoever we think, whatsoever we fear, whatsoever we hear, concerning you.
  10. Do you desire that, in doing this, we should come as close as possible, that we should cut to the quick, and search your heart to the bottom.
  11. Is it your desire and design to be on this, and all other occasions, entirely open, so as to speak everything that is in your heart without exception, without disguise, and without reserve.

Any of the preceding questions may be asked as often as occasion others; the four following at every meeting.

  1. What known sins have you committed since our last meeting.
  2. What temptations have you met with.
  3. How were you delivered.
  4. What have you thought, said, or done, of which you doubt whether it be sin or not.

‘John Wesley’s “Rules for Band-Societies,”‘ by Gary S. Shogren, Professor of New Testament, Seminario ESEPA, San José, Costa Rica



Is There Prophecy Today? John Piper, along with John MacArthur, John Wesley, John Calvin, and John/Joan Q. Christian

Download a pdf version here: Prophecy and John Piper

Is the New Testament gift of prophecy operative in the church today? Many say Yes; [1] many, No, famously John MacArthur in 2014, in his Strange Fire conference and book. [2]

There is third response, a Yes, but viewpoint which has been popular among some non-charismatic evangelicals, and affirmed in recent times by John Piper: the gift of prophecy is a special experience that befalls a preacher while in the act. In an essay that synthesizes and defends Piper’s view:

 “I pray for the gift of prophecy almost as often as I pray for anything, before I stand up to speak.” This prayer for prophecy is a desire to preach under an anointing, in order to “say things agreeable to the Scriptures, and subject to the Scripture, that are not in my manuscript or in my head as I walk into the pulpit, nor thought of ahead of time, which would come to my mind, which would pierce in an extraordinary way, so that 1 Corinthians 14:24-25 happens.” [3]

The Corinthians text is he refers to is:

But if all prophesy, an unbeliever or outsider who enters is reproved by all and called to account by all. After the secrets of the unbeliever’s heart are disclosed, that person will bow down before God and worship him, declaring, “God is really among you.”

imagesThe difficulty here is the fact that in the New Testament the sine qua non of prophetic utterance is that the prophets passes along information from God which is not knowable from mere human observation or reasoning. [4] (more…)

Persecution is NOT good for what ails the church (Part Two)

Spiritual growth comes through Spirit-power and direction, applied from the inside out as God rewrites our heart, soul and mind to conform to his righteousness. Revivals of history have come as the result of prayer and the Spirit’s power; most are absent of any persecution as a proximate cause: the Reformation, Great Awakening, the Wesleyan Revival, the Second Great Awakening, the Korean Revival, the Welsh Revival.

Read Part I:

And now, Part Two:

Therefore I propose Viewpoint B:

  • Tribulation is not a “good” but an evil, albeit one that can be turned to good use in the one who is faithful.
  • Therefore, Christians should not pray that persecution would come, hoping for a “bank shot” which will lead to revival.
  • If revival is what we want, we should pray for revival.
  • And finally: we should pray that persecution will NOT come; and that if it does come, that it will abate.

Here are some key Bible texts: (more…)

Persecution is NOT good for what ails the church (Part One)

Is persecution good for what ails the church? Here’s the word on the street:

Viewpoint A: Everyone knows that persecution purifies the church –

  • Therefore, if revival is to come, it will be through suffering.
  • Therefore, persecution is a good, a benefit.
  • Therefore, the committed Christian should pray for persecution to fall on their country.

Now, I know of no verse where Christians should hope for or pray for persecution. Nor is there a passage that says, “If you pray for revival, you’d better duck, God will send you tribulation.” These viewpoints strikes me as two of these Bible interpretations which are, to use the British phrase, “too clever by half.” It’s similar to the one I’ve heard people say, that we shouldn’t pray for patience – after all, if we do, God will send trials on us! I’m stymied, how a Christian could balk at praying for a fruit of the Spirit, or imagine that God will use our sincere prayer in order to play a trick on us!

The Bible is clear, and 2000 years of history give the same message –

  • Revival comes with or without persecution.
  • That is, revival and persecution do not follow a strict cause and effect. Nor are they typically correlated.
  • If there is correlation, it’s the question of the chicken and the egg – sometimes persecution comes because the church is growing and lively.
  • Persecution does not necessarily result in purification or vitality.
  • Persecution may be an impediment to church growth as much as it is a spur to growth.
  • People who pray for, seek or volunteer for persecution are on thin ice.


The evidence: (more…)

1 Corinthians and Thessalonians: My New Commentaries now available!


The English version of my Thessalonian commentary is available from Amazon!

It is also available as a book on Logos.

And the English version of my 1 Corinthians is available on Logos software –

Spanish versions to come in the future!

Blessings! Gary

Published in: on August 2, 2012 at 12:22 pm  Comments (2)  
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‘Dad, are you my priest?’ The role of the father in the Christian home

They keep telling me that the Christian father is the priest of the family. On the other hand, I search the Scriptures and I can’t find any command for him to be a priest; any indication that the father performs the essential duties of a priest; any hint that Dad is a priest in some way that Mom is not. Preachers and bloggers have a few verses to back up the Father-as-Priest teaching, but when I look them up, the doctrine strikes me as imported into the Scripture.

Here are a few blogs, chosen at random:

The most important role of a husband or a father, one that predominated in ancient days and is neglected today, is that of family priest. In Ephesians 6:25-29 [sic; it’s Eph 5], we are told that the husband, is to the wife what Christ is to the Church. [One] important role is that of the priest. A husband becomes the priest of the home…There is no doubt about the priestly role of the wife in a family (specially for the children), but the husband becomes the ‘Chief Priest’ (or High Priest as Christ was).

Now, I’ve read Ephesians 5, and see no reference to any priest. While the husband in some ways is like Christ to his wife, the parallel is by no means absolute: he does not give her salvation, forgive her sins, fill her with the Spirit, or a host of other roles that belong to Jesus only – including, mediating between her and the Father. (more…)

FREE Commentary on 1 Corinthians! by Gary Shogren

The epistle was sent to a church stationed deep within pagan territory. In Corinth as in no other place to that date, the God of Jesus Christ was pitted against the god of this world. The church sprang up in a soil that was saturated with idolatry, philosophical posturing and social stratification, all driven by a service economy that provided opportunities for the clever and made many rich off the sweat of slaves and the poor. Here Christianity could show in stark relief how it might transform the arrogant, the oppressed, the hopeless, the corrupted and the dissipated.

In exchange for this free commentary, I would ask that you sign up for an Email Subscription, on the right side of this page (your email is safe with me). If after a day or two you don’t enjoy the blog, feel free to unsubscribe.

For a free pdf file click here – Shogren_1_Corinthians

It is also available on Logos Bible Software; it is fully integrated with other books and Bibles –

I also have a commentary that came out from Zondervan in 2012; you can order it here –

How does one choose a Bible commentary?

“When you’re deciding which commentary to add to your library, what are the most important things to consider?” So asked Logos Bible Software on Facebook? To summarize my response:

1. Careful attention to the text, not an “agenda” (I see too many famous “exegetes” who merely reiterate what they already “know to be true”). I’m Reformed, but also thoroughly enjoy Wesley, the Greek and Latin Fathers, Catholics, Pentecostals, so long as they’re really dealing with the text. An ability to see the Big Picture. A commitment to theology and praxis. Open to seriously consider new ways of looking at the text.

2. Date. I read a lot of ancient works; for my 1 Corinthian commentary, I was constantly in 1 Clement, Tertullian, Origen, John Chrysostom, Theodoret of Cyr and others. Nevertheless it’s hit-and-miss with the “classic” commentaries. Logos just put out a large group of century-old commentaries on 1 Corinthians for $40 – a great price, but I’ve used Goudge et my own studies, and would have rather spent that same money on a single book, such as Fee, Thiselton or Witherington. Books are usually cheap for a reason – their copyright is expired. You will get what you pay for.

Look for value, not a bargain

There is a myth that “older is better,” but this simply is not so: older writers worked with much less reliable data than do modern writers; they were not necessarily more sound in their theology nor spiritually deeper. I could not imagine recommending, for example, the Pulpit Commentary.

3. Grasp of the Original Languages. A commentary is not reliable just because it refers to the Greek and Hebrew. There are plenty of works, especially those published before the 1960s, where the author shows a poor grasp of semantics. I found Ernest Best’s commentary on 1-2 Thessalonians to be very useful; nevertheless, it is sprinkled with misunderstandings about the meaning of the Greek verb system. I won’t list other commentators, but there are very popular preachers and writers who apparently have just a couple of years of seminary Greek, and it shows.

4. Doctrine of the Spirit’s Illumination. The more I study and write, always hoping I’m using a sound hermeneutic, the more I discard the idea of “don’t look to the Spirit for a true interpretation.” I was taught to read the Bible like I would read a newspaper, but now that idea is repellant to me. When I read a paper, I have no prior commitment to accept it’s spin on the news; if I don’t like an editorial, I feel free to shrug if off or to write a letter to the editor. When I read the Bible, I’ve already decided to believe it, AND obey it, AND share it with others. None of this is possible without the Spirit’s direct help. One of the reasons I like authors like, for example, Gordon Fee or J. I. Packer or the late John Stott, is that without flaunting their spirituality, they give the impression of, “Here is a believer who seeks the Spirit in his research.” Bible study is a science, but not purely a science. Click HERE for an article on prayer and preaching.

5. I also would add that there is usually excellent help in Tremper Longman’s Old Testament Commentary Survey; and D.A. Carson’s New Testament Commentary Survey. Both are regularly updated.

What books have I used to write a commentary on 1-2 Thessalonians? [Studies in 1 Thessalonians]

Note: In November 2012 I published a commentary of 1-2 Thessalonians for Zondervan (click HERE). The advice given below is applicable to all preaching and writing projects.


I used to do business at a local office building. On the wall was an engraved map of the New World from the 1600s. It was a real work of art, but of course it was also grossly inaccurate. Florida was too stubby. Much of the area north and west of the Mississippi was missing. Many of the lands were out of proportion. Antarctica and Greenland were freakish. A modern sailor would love to have a map like this on his wall, but who today would attempt to navigate Tierra del Fuego or the Hudson Bay with that information? (more…)