‘Biblical theology in discipleship’ by Nancy Guthrie’

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In her article, Biblical theology in discipleship, Nancy Guthrie writes, “A number of years ago I was teaching a study of Genesis in my church when one of the discussion group leaders, an older godly woman, came and sat down by me. “How come I’ve never been taught this before?” she said with tears in her eyes. She was beginning to recognize that, as many years as she had spent studying the Bible, she had never seen how the story of the Bible fit together in a way that is centered on the person and work of Christ from Genesis to Revelation.”

Guthrie comments: “I’ve been on a mission not only to understand the Bible this way myself but also to introduce and infiltrate Bible studies —especially women’s Bible studies in the local church—with biblical theology. I often look at church websites to see what studies are being offered to the women of the church or in adult Sunday School classes. And I am often disheartened to discover studies that are felt-needs driven, studies with little biblical or theological rigor, and studies oriented around self-improvement. I am thrilled when I see studies of particular books of the Bible, as that indicates an expectation that what we need most is God’s Word and that we can expect it will speak to us. But sometimes even these studies can be oriented to jumping too quickly from what the text says to personal application, untethered to the larger story the Bible is telling that is centered on Christ.”

In her article, which you can read HERE, Guthrie gives five reasons why she believes that biblical theology should be woven into the fabric of discipleship in the local church.

In her new book, Even Better than Eden: Nine Ways the Bible’s Story Changes Everything About Your Story, Guthrie traces nine themes as they develop through the Bible. The next post will give more information about this new book (you can read the publisher’s description HERE).

The Friday Briefing 15 (5 October 2018)

Every story casts His shadow Watch this brief video and see how the whole Old Testament points to Jesus Christ. It is inspirational.

From beelines to plotlines: typology that follows the covenantal topography of Scripture Dr David Schrock writes, “Perhaps you have heard or repeated Charles Spurgeon’s famous axiom, “I take my text and make a beeline to the cross.” The trouble is Charles Spurgeon probably never said it. Worse, the simplistic axiom fails to account for the textual shape and biblical contours of the Bible, not to mention the infelicitous way it misjudges the course of honeybees.” Focusing on the office of priesthood as an example, Dr Schrock guides us to a better understanding of how the types found in the Bible story point us to Jesus and His Church.

What did Jesus have against goats? Ian Paul throws some clear Biblical light on the well-known but often misunderstood illustration of the sheep and the goats (Matthew 25.31-46)

A society without Psalms Mark Loughridge comments: “. . . the loss of biblical literacy is not merely an issue for the church and for our proclamation of the gospel, but is a felt absence by our world, a void which our culture must sense and will try to fill. This stirred my own thinking about a society without Psalms, . . . .”

At What Price Awakening? Examining the Theology and Practice of the Bethel Movement Stephen Tan calls attention to grave errors in the theology and their practices of the hyper-charismatic ‘Signs and Wonders’ movement with its epicentre at Bethel Church in Redding, California, and concerns about The Passion Translation of the Bible , which Bill Johnson, leader of the Bethel Church, enthusiastically endorses.

Every story casts His shadow.

Watch this brief video (a trailer for The Gospel Project) and see how the Old Testament points to Jesus Christ. Trevin Wax comments: “I get chills every time I watch this . . . .” From the video’s narrator: “Sixty six books. Dozens of authors. A holy canon thousands of years in the making. Consider the works…accounts of history and law. Prophecy and poetry. Verses of wisdom and letters from friends. Now. Look again. What do you see? . . . . Every story casts His shadow. Every word, every verse, bears His testimony — the Holy Messiah. Jesus Christ. Eternal King.”

The video is a trailer for The Gospel Project, published by LifeWay. The Gospel Project, provides, in their own words, “a chronological, Christ-centered Bible study plan for every age group in your church: preschoolers through adults. These studies are age-appropriate, easy to teach, and aligned by Scripture to help your entire church grow in the gospel together.” The Gospel Project’s home page is HERE.

Details of their upcoming 3-year study plan (from Fall 2021 to Summer 2024 is available for download HERE.

Read Trevin Wax’s article HERE.

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From beelines to plotlines: typology that follows the covenantal topography of Scripture.

Dr David Schrock comments, “Perhaps you have heard or repeated Charles Spurgeon’s famous axiom, “I take my text and make a beeline to the cross.” The trouble is Charles Spurgeon probably never said it. Worse, the simplistic axiom fails to account for the textual shape and biblical contours of the Bible, not to mention the infelicitous way it misjudges the course of honeybees.”

Dr. Schrock explains: “. . . this essay will argue for a thicker reading of Scripture. It will argue that standing underneath any legitimate type is a covenantal topography, a biblical terrain that rises and falls throughout Israel’s covenant history, which all types follow in their own unique way as they run toward Christ and his Church. Therefore, in addition to the standard ‘tests’ for valid types, I will demonstrate how biblical types follow this covenantal topography from historical prototype, through covenantal ectypes, to their intended antitype — namely, the person and work of Christ. From there, by union with Christ, typology experiences a new birth, as supratypes share covenantal attributes with and carry out the offices assigned by Jesus Christ. . . . . Typology, therefore, must be understood in relationship to the biblical covenants that unify and organize the Bible. But biblical types must also, as I will argue, be seen in relationship with creation, fall, and process of redemption found in God’s covenant history.”

In demonstrating his understanding of Biblical typology, Dr Schrock takes one concrete example – that of the priesthood. He writes, “. . . in what follows, I will show how the priesthood follows this covenantal topography moving from Adam to Christ through the peaks and valleys of Israel’s history. By following this one concrete example, my hope is to demonstrate a covenantal topography that all types follow as they move from the shadows of the old covenant to the substance of the new.”

Dr Schrock first present the Biblical texts and then shows the priestly office develops through the different periods of Bible history. He explains, “To give a sense of where we are going, I will first present in chart-form the biblical texts that serve as milestones for the priestly type. These priestly milestones will be accompanied by two other lines of personal milestones for the biblical offices of prophet and king. . . . . Second, I will provide hermeneutical commentary on each phase of covenant history that helps explain how the priestly office develops across the canon. These stages of development are: (1) Creation, (2) Patriarchs, (3) Law, (4) Prophets including (a) historical formation, (b) covenant-breaking deformation and (c) eschatological reformation, (5) Christ, and (6) the Church. It is the formation, deformation, and reformation in the period of the Prophets that I believe is most original to this article.”

Read the whole article HERE.

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What did Jesus have against goats?.

Ian Paul brings fresh insight into Jesus’s illustration of the sheep and the goats (Matthew 25.31-46), in which he describes the Last Judgment. He writes, “The most common interpretation of the narrative allocates the people groups in the following way. The ‘least of these’ are the poor in general; the sheep are those (probably followers of Jesus, obeying his teaching here) who care for the poor rather than just having a theoretical faith; and the goats are those who neglect Jesus’ teaching. Thus this becomes a general argument of the importance of caring for the poor. But this interpretation has only been around since around 1850 (which raises issues about how we should response to ‘novel’ interpretations…) and in fact has some serious obstacles to it.”

Dr Paul lights up our understanding of the illustration of the sheep and the goats. He does this especially by taking us back to the Biblical art of shepherding that he recently heard explained by Richard Goode, of Newman University in Birmingham, at the British New Testament Conference. Dr Goode’s paper was entitled, What did Jesus have against goats? Setting Matthew 25:32-33 within the context of caprid husbandry of Roman Palestine. (You can see an abstract of this paper HERE – it’s the third paper of session 1; just click the  View abstract  button to see it.)

Read the whole article HERE.

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A society without Psalms.

Mark Loughridge writes, “When contemporary poet Edward Clarke turned 40, he set himself the task of reading through the Authorised Version of the Bible in one year . . . . As Clarke spent time in the Bible he shared that ‘one does feel enthralled to something greater’, and that while he is not a regular church goer, there was an element of spiritual catharsis in trying to think and write from the space the Scriptures provide. This, however, was no mere exercise in subjectivity, but the outcome of convictions which Clarke has developed about the 21st century and biblical literature.”

Loughridge comments: “. . . the loss of biblical literacy is not merely an issue for the church and for our proclamation of the gospel, but is a felt absence by our world, a void which our culture must sense and will try to fill. This stirred my own thinking about a society without Psalms, what our secular nation will look like without the bedrock of biblical categories through which to see the world, understand themselves, and articulate the things which most matter.”

Read the whole article HERE.

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At What Price Awakening? Examining the Theology and Practice of the Bethel Movement.

Stephen Tan, pastor of Regeneration Church, a new church in Clayton, Melbourne, Australia, writes: “”Australia for Jesus” is the motto of Awakening Australia, an event that seeks to unite every denomination under one mission: to bring revival to Australia. . . . . While revival, unity and nationwide prayer are good goals for Christians to have, I am unable to support Awakening Australia. . . . . My main contention with Awakening Australia is that it is part of a hyper-charismatic ‘Signs and Wonders’ movement with its epicentre at Bethel Church in Redding, California. In fact, the leader of Bethel Church, Bill Johnson, is the main speaker at Awakening Australia.”

Pastor Tan tells us: “If you log onto Bethel’s website (bethelredding.com), their mission is clear: to bring revival to Redding and to the whole world. They see themselves as having “a global impact” as “a revival resource and equipping centre”. They run “revival” conferences and rallies all over the world. Kingdom Invasion in Singapore draws thousands, as will Awakening Australia later this year. Bethel also runs their own ‘Bethel School of Supernatural Ministry (BSSM)’ which teaches people to perform miracles and bring revival. BSSM spawns hundreds of similar schools around the world, including in Melbourne and in other cities in Australia. But what exactly does Bethel mean by revival?”

Pastor Tan calls attention to grave errors in their theology and their practices. He also voices his concerns about the Passion Translation, which Bill Johnson enthusiastically endorses. Tan comments: “What makes the Bethel movement dangerous is that their reach is extended through their music ministry. Jesus Culture and Bethel Music have created a brand of worship music that can genuinely compete with Hillsong. . . . . I fear Jesus Culture serves as a gateway drug that draws young and inexperienced Christians into a world of false teaching, unbiblical practices and spiritual disaster.”

He comments, “I am concerned that the upcoming ‘Awakening Australia’ event also fits the description and has the potential to cause much confusion and spiritual damage to thousands of unsuspecting Australians. To those who are supporting this event in the name of revival, may I ask this question: “At what price, awakening?” Is it worth pursuing awakening if it means that the gospel is compromised and that false teaching is promoted?”

Read the whole article HERE.

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‘Clarifying the Bible’ by Mitch Maher

In this YouTube video, entitled Clarifying the Bible with Mitch Maher, Mitch Maher, Lead Pastor at Redeemer Community Church in Katy, Texas, takes use right through the Bible story. Clarifying the Bible summarises, clearly and concisely, the basic structure and storyline of the Bible. I recommend it to you.

View Clarifying the Bible’s website HERE. Here’s what the website tells us: “You long for clarity and confidence when it comes to the Bible, but its complexity often leaves you confused and uncertain. Mitch Maher’s Clarifying the Bible can help. . . . . The material is presented in a passionate, compelling fashion, and in the end delivers on its promise to help people see the Bible with more clarity than every before. You’ll engage the Scriptures with confidence, and feel well-equipped to help others dive into the Scriptures for themselves.”

The video is accompanied by a workbook that you can purchase from Amazon.com or other retailers. Section I of the workbook contains visual aids to accompany the presentation and space for note taking as you watch the video. Section II gives more information for further study. The video is around 2 hours 10 minutes long, but you can view it in sections, at your own pace.

Dr. Robert Lewis, author and founder of Men’s Fraternity, writes, “The more you understand the whole of something, the better you understand its parts. That’s particularly true when it comes to understanding the Bible, and few people offer a better ‘Big Picture’ understanding of Scripture than Mitch Maher in Clarifying the Bible. I would highly recommend it to anyone wanting a firmer grasp on life’s most important book.”

The Bible story captured in stained glass

Peninsula Bible Church, Cupertino, in California, USA, installed the stained glass window, shown below, in 2007. It is 23 feet high, and dominates the auditorium of the church. This window is not only a breathtaking piece of art. It’s also a wonderful teaching tool, telling the Bible story in a series of images through the window. At the centre, and dominating the window, is a cross. Another striking element is the rainbow that flows around the top of the cross, from the first vertical panel on the left, right through and into the final vertical panel on the right. The window was designed by Bernard Bell, a pastor of that church, who called it The Big Picture. He hopes that the window will form and shape an understanding of the great story told in the Bible in both adults and children.

Shortly after its installation, Bernard Bell preached a sermon explaining the window. He said, “Our service today is shaped around our new window. You’ve had a couple of weeks to look at this window, to figure out what is in it. It has been fun to watch you reading the window, especially to see you reading it with your kids. This window is indeed designed to be read, just like the stained glass windows of the old cathedrals in Europe. The Bible is a story, the great story of God’s involvement with the world and of human response to him. This window tells that story pictorially; it is to be read as a story. The window is structurally designed in four vertical bays, but thematically designed as five acts with a prelude. The prelude is God himself. The five acts are the five major stages in his dealings with the world: creation, Israel, Christ, church, and consummation.” Click HERE to read the rest of this sermon; it’s also available as a PDF HERE.

Bernard preached two other sermons relating to this window. A sermon entitled A Window on Advent is available in audio and written formats (including a PDF version) HERE. A sermon entitled Stories and the Story is available in audio and written formats (including a PDF version) HERE.

The window was featured in the local newspaper, the Cupertino Courier. Read the journal’s article HERE.

The Friday Briefing 1 (9 March 2018)

Welcome to the first issue of The Friday Briefing. The aim of this new weekly briefing is to introduce a wide range of books, articles, and audio and video resources helpful for studying the Bible, for Biblical thinking and understanding, and for Christian discipleship. It will also include quotations that I’ve found thought-provoking and significant. There’ll also be alerts to material uploaded on this site.

I hope that some of the resources highlighted in this briefing will prove helpful. Paul prayed for the church in Colossae: “that you may be filled with the knowledge of his will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding, so as to walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to him: bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God; being strengthened with all power, according to his glorious might, for all endurance and patience with joy; giving thanks to the Father, . . . .” (Colossians 1.9-12). That is my own prayer, too.

”All the Law and the Prophets…” in a piece of fruit

Exodus Themes in Luke 9.10-50

What Tolkien did so well, what we do so poorly

Why you want [adult] Sunday school

Book review – Bound Together by Chris Brauns

Creation Sings, a hymn by Keith and Kristyn Getty and Stuart Townend

“All the Law and the Prophets…” in a piece of fruit

Jared Totten writes, “We’re all familiar with the story. In fact, if you grew up in the church, you’re probably so familiar with the story that there’s no surprise, no suspense left in it. But Genesis 3 is an epic drama. The fate of the entire human race hanging in the balance as good and evil are paraded across this cosmic stage. . . . . And at the center of it all: fruit. Yep, skin and pulp and juice. . . . . “What’s the big deal with the fruit?!!”

Read the whole article HERE

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Exodus Themes in Luke 9.10-50

Alastair Roberts (who is always worth reading) finds New Exodus themes in Luke’s Gospel chapter 9. He writes, “In my church’s midweek Bible study groups last night, we were going through Luke 9:10-50. It struck me that there are a number of interesting potential Exodus themes in there. Here are a few that jumped out at me. . . . .”

In a reply to a comment on his post, Dr. Roberts writes: “The accounts of Jesus’ ministry are not just collections of various miracle, teaching, and healing stories, but are unified narratives driving in a specific direction. Recognizing Exodus and other patterns helps us to relate various individual gospel narratives to a single Gospel Narrative and, beyond that, to see an underlying unity in the entire biblical story, something that I am trying to show in my 40 Days of Exodus series. When Jesus models his ministry after that of Moses, or Elijah and Elisha (for instance, compare Luke 4:4-24-27 and Luke 7:1-17), we can have a sense of where things are going, of the meaning of his actions, and of Jesus’ perception of his mission. When related to the larger framework, certain events take on a new significance. For instance, the feeding of the four thousand might seem superfluous, merely repeating an earlier miracle on a smaller scale. However, once we recognize the underlying patterns and relations, it becomes a very important event in its own right, not a mere unnecessary repetition. With this approach, we can recognize that Jesus’ life and ministry serves a salvation purpose, not merely his death and resurrection.”

Read the whole article HERE

The Exodus is a foundational theme in the Bible. God delivered His people Israel from Egypt through an Exodus. Jesus, too, saves people through a new Exodus. This new Exodus is prophesied in a number of places (for example Isaiah 11.10-16 and Isaiah 43.14-21). God was going to rescue people from a slavemaster far worse than the Egyptians. He was going to rescue them from bondage to sin and Satan. That Exodus would be accomplished by the Messiah, Jesus Christ. The Messiah would deliver people from sin and Satan through His death, resurrection and ascension to His Father in heaven. Click HERE for an outline study that compares the first Exodus from Egypt and the second and greater Exodus that Jesus the Messiah accomplished.

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What Tolkien did so well, what we do so poorly.

Tim Challies writes, “Over the past few weeks I have been reading through The Lord of the Rings, slowly meandering my way through Middle Earth for the umpteenth time. . . . . Tolkien did not simply write a story, he created a world. . . . . One of the great strengths of Tolkien’s work is its grounding in history. One of the great weaknesses of the contemporary church is its detachment from its own history. Few of today’s Christians have a clear sense of how the church came to be. They know of Acts and Reformation and Billy Graham, but the rest is a blur. There are many reasons we ought to teach believers their history.”

Read the whole article HERE

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Why you want [adult] Sunday school

In many American churches, there has been a tradition of teaching adults (as well as children) in Sunday School. This would be in addition to any evening and/or midweek gatherings. In these scenarios, then, an adult would have opportunity for Bible teaching, often in a setting that facilitated group discussion, as well a sermon during the worship time.

But British churches, by and large, do not run adult Sunday school, or regular Bible classes of any kind. Jonathan Pennington writes: “During my graduate studies in Scotland, I noticed that many churches didn’t have Sunday school, and there seemed to be a correlation between the lack of adult Sunday School and the generally lower biblical literacy among the congregation. I’m sure that there are other factors involved, and that there are many churches in the United Kingdom that are exemplary in both biblical literacy and adult education. But the experience . . . cast the value of Sunday school in a new light.”

They comment: “If you don’t have Sunday school, where are you going to teach people how to study the Bible? Where are you going to give them a thorough grounding in systematic theology? Where are you going to discuss the ins and outs of parenting, or dating and marriage, or evangelism? I’m afraid that when churches abandon Sunday school, some of these things are simply no longer being taught to the congregation as a whole. And churches are thereby missing a significant opportunity to equip their people with biblical building blocks for faithful discipleship.”

Read the whole article HERE

The magazine in which this article was published contains a number of articles about adult Sunday school. Read them all HERE

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Book review – Bound Together by Chris Brauns

I’ve recently added a review of this book HERE. Michael Horton, J. Gresham Machen Professor of Systematic Theology and Apologetics at Westminster Seminary California writes: “In Bound Together, Chris Brauns cleverly unpacks two key theological concepts—union with Christ, and original sin—and manages to explain them in a way that any reader can understand. Highly recommended.”

Click here to go back to table of contents

Creation Sings – sung by Stuart Townend; words and music by Keith and Kristyn Getty and Stuart Townend

I love this hymn!

Click here to go back to table of contents

Unless otherwise indicated, all Scripture quotations are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version, published by HarperCollins Publishers. © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a division of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

Read Scripture videos by The Bible Project – a great resource for teaching the Bible

The Bible Project has produced (among many other resources) a series of 71 short videos, named Read Scripture, that take you right through the Bible. They’re are a wonderful tool for teaching the Bible story – snappy, engaging, visually impacting, and theologically astute. And they’re all free – as is everything produced by The Bible Project.

These Read Scripture videos are suitable for teenagers as well as adults. They’re a great introduction to the Bible story that you could use with your family, your small group, or your whole church. I first encountered one of these videos at a church service where the preacher used the video to introduce a sermon series on the Book of Numbers. It was a brilliant way to begin that series.

Here’s the Read Scripture video on Genesis chapters 1 to11:

Other resources related to this video on Genesis 1-11 from The Bible Project are available HERE

The full set of Read Scripture videos for the Old Testament are available HERE.

Here’s the Read Scripture video on Matthew chapters 1 to 13:

Other resources related to this video on Matthew 1-13 from The Bible Project are available HERE

The full set of videos for the New Testament are available HERE.

The Bible Project is a non-profit animation studio that produces short, animated videos, podcasts, and study guides that explore the Bible’s unified story. They focus on the Bible’s overarching themes and each book’s literary design, and they are committed to understanding the Bible in its historical context. To find out more about The Bible Project, click HERE.

New series of videos: ‘The Journey’. Video 10: ‘Immanuel, God With Us’

The Journey is a series of 16 videos (of around 25-30 minutes each) that will take us through the Bible story. The YouTube video above is number 10 in this series. Entitled Immanuel, God With Us, it begins the New Testament story by looking at Jesus’s birth and life, and His ministry and teaching until He enters Jerusalem shortly before His crucifixion. And we’ll see how each of the four Gospels gives us a unique view of Jesus’s life and character and ministry.

This video series can be used for group study (in fact, it’s currently being used in the author’s home church in the United Kingdom for group study). Each video is accompanied by a two-page Leader’s Guide, in PDF format. These give a few questions for group discussion, and provide guidance for the leader in helping the group to answer the questions. Click on the PDF icon below to download this.

The next video in this series will cover Jesus’s trials and crucifixion, and His resurrection and ascension into Heaven. It will be uploaded on Thursday 23rd March. As we approach Good Friday and Easter, these two videos, and their accompanying Leaders’ Guides, might provide a suitable study for your church or Bible study group at this season when we remember Jesus’s crucifixion and resurrection.

The writer Dorothy Sayers pronounced the Christian faith to be “the most exciting drama that ever staggered the imagination of man . . .” It’s helpful to step back and view this drama in one great panorama – a kind of large-scale map from Genesis to journey’s end in glory.

This series of videos (supplemented with the written studies entitled The Big Journey provided on this website) aims to be that map. It’s a panorama of the Bible narrative from creation through redemption to new creation. We explore the Old Testament story, Jesus’s life, death and resurrection, and the story of the Church from the Day of Pentecost to the present day. Finally, we’ll look at what happens at the end of this age, Jesus’s Second Coming, and the New Heaven and Earth. In particular, we’ll see how Jesus’s life, death, resurrection and ascension is the focus of all history, and the key to God’s plan for us and our world.

Along the way, the series introduces some of the foundational doctrines of the Christian faith at appropriate points in the narrative (for example, the Incarnation is explained in the video above, which tells about Jesus’ birth and life).

Small Group Studies – now revised

Bible Overview Bible Survey

Small Group Studies

The Big Journey’s Small Group studies have now been revised. There are 16 in the series. This series takes you right through the Bible from Genesis to Revelation. They will be uploaded here at regular intervals. Though written with small groups in view, they would also, of course, be useable for individual study.

Each study could comfortably be completed in a week’s study. At this pace, in just 4 months your group would go right through the Bible, getting to grips with its big picture and learning about some key themes and doctrines.

Each study consists of:

BAn introduction followed by Bible passages to read and around half a dozen questions to think about. The questions in this series of studies are designed primarily to help you learn about the Bible’s big picture and some key Bible doctrines.

BA Leader’s Guide – this gives guidance in answering each of the questions.

BA study guide, which goes more deeply into the subject area covered by the introduction.

The first Small Group Study follows. This introduces the whole Bible story. This study is also available in PDF form HERE. The Leader’s Guide is available HERE as a PDF document. The accompanying full study guide (it’s 12 pages long and goes into more detail) is available HERE as a PDF document.

3092670031_5de39d143b_b (640 px wide)

Image ¸ gigi 62 ~ Flickr.com (CC BY- 3.0)

Why this course?

BFirstly, we hope it will make the Bible story clearer. Many things in the Bible seem rather haphazard and obscure – especially in the Old Testament. But when we see them in the context of the whole story that the Bible tells, we see their true significance.

BWe hope it will help you to understand the Bible in a new way. We want to teach more than simply the Bible’s storyline. We hope that this course opens up a larger, richer understanding of the Bible – and of God, of ourselves as His people, and of the Universe He created.

BWe hope it will help you to explain to others what you believe and why you believe it – the Bible makes sense of life, the Universe and everything!

BWe hope it will help you in your personal walk with God. The stories of our own individual lives are part of God’s big story – the story that the Bible tells. So our lives only really make sense in the context of that story. From conception to dying moment and beyond, God has a purpose for us. God’s plans for His creation involve us, His people! And when we see how faithfully and purposefully God has dealt with His people through history, we can trust Him to do the same for each of us.

The Bible is, at its heart, a story. Its 66 books were written by around 40 authors over 1,500 years. It includes all kinds of literature – history and biographies, genealogies, legal codes and moral guidelines, songs and poems, prophecies and letters. But through them all runs a single story – a story that begins at Creation and continues into the New Creation.

And you’ve never heard a story like the one the Bible tells. Dorothy Sayers pronounced the Christian faith to be “the most exciting drama that ever staggered the imagination of man . . . .” It’s a drama played out on a cosmic stage, a drama that spans all eternity.

A Hindu scholar captured the wonder of the Bible’s message when he commented to the Christian missionary Lesslie Newbigin: “I can’t understand why you missionaries present the Bible to us in India as a book of religion. It is not a book of religion – and anyway we have plenty of books of religion in India. We don’t need any more! I find in your Bible a unique interpretation of universal history, the history of the whole of creation and the history of the human race. And therefore a unique interpretation of the human person as a responsible actor in history. That is unique. There is nothing else in the whole religious literature of the world to put alongside it.”

The Bible tells us how things came into being. It explains what’s gone wrong with this world, and how God is going to put it all right. The Bible shows me who I really am, why I am here, and where I am going.

Bernard Bell comments: “Psychologists know that a sense of purpose is essential to emotional and psychological health. We look for . . . an overarching story that makes sense of all of the little stories of our lives.” In the Bible I discover that my life has meaning and purpose and significance beyond what I could ever dream of. We can only really make sense of the stories of our individual lives in the context of God?s great Story, the Story we read in the Bible.

A map for the journey

GI Dad plans the route  [92741960_3683631655_o] (640px wide)

gi dad plans the route ¸ nick farnhill on Flickr.com (CC BY-SA 2.0)

Planning the route.

A party of tourists arrives in Britain for the very first time. They decide to travel throughout the island from Land’s End to John O’Groats. What kind of map do they need to plan their journey? The standard-scale maps aren’t much use to begin with. What they need first of all is a map covering the whole of Britain – showing where they’re starting from and their destination in the far north of Scotland.

Genesis to Revelation is a very long journey. Like that tourist, we need a map that shows the whole journey from beginning to end. This series of studies aims to be that map. We’ll view the whole Bible story in one great panorama – taking us the whole way from creation to the glorious new creation.

In the preface to his series Unlocking the Bible pastor and writer David Pawson said this: “I suppose this all started in Arabia, in 1957. I was then a chaplain in the Royal Air Force, . . . . . . . How could I get these men interested in the Christian faith and then committed to it? Something (I would now say: Someone) prompted me to announce that I would give a series of talks over a few months, which would take us right through the Bible . . . . It was to prove a voyage of discovery for all of us. The Bible became a new book when seen as a whole. To use a well-worn clich‚, we had failed to see the wood for the trees. Now God’s plan and purpose were unfolding in a fresh way. The men were getting something big enough to sink their teeth into. . . . . . . . the results surpassed my expectations and set the course for the rest of my life and ministry.” To travel through the whole Bible was a voyage of discovery for David Pawson and his hearers. We hope that you, too, will catch the thrill of this great adventure as we journey from creation to New Creation!

Along the way, we’ll trace some of the Bible’s key themes, such as the covenants and the Messiah. We’ll see how these themes fit together and lead to God?s ultimate purpose – the establishment of His perfect Kingdom on Earth.

And as we travel, we’ll pause from time to time to look at some basic Christian doctrines. For example, what does it really mean that we’re made in God’s image? What really happened on the Cross when Jesus died? And what happens when Jesus returns to Earth? Such questions are too important to hurry by, and we’ll take a little time to look more deeply at them.

Learning for life

On our journey through the Bible, what will we learn?

We’ll learn about God

A.W. Tozer said, “What comes into our minds when we think about God is the most important thing about us.” What we believe shapes our destiny. At the beginning of human history, Satan tempted Adam and Eve to believe lies about God. They believed those lies – with catastrophic consequences for themselves, for us, and for this world.

But God continued to reveal Himself to mankind – His love, His burning holiness, His omniscience and limitless power. Then, one day, God Himself came to earth in the Person of His Son. He revealed Himself in flesh and blood. Jesus Christ is “the image of the invisible God” (Colossians 1.15) and “the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature” (Hebrews 1.3). He declared: “Whoever has seen me has seen the Father” (John 14.9). Jesus shows us what God is really like.

And as we travel through the Bible, we’ll see God’s purposefulness, wisdom and faithfulness – and His sovereignty, too – as He works out His master plan for the Universe.

We’ll learn about creation

Secondly, we’ll learn about the universe we live in. We’ll discover how – and why – God created Earth and sun and moon and stars. And we’ll glimpse something of the glorious destiny He has in store for creation.

We’ll discover, too, that Earth and the heavens we see around us are only part of a much bigger created realm. There are heavenly places, too, that we cannot see. What happens in these heavenly places affects us in ways of which we are only dimly aware. And what happens here in our visible world impacts that unseen world, too.

We’ll learn about ourselves

David the psalmist himself asked: “what is man that you are mindful of him, and the son of man that you care for him?” (Psalm 8.4). We’re all eager to know who we really are, where we come from and what has made us the way we are. Alex Haley’s best-selling book Roots, and the TV series Who Do You Think You Are? are testament to that.

Who are we? Oswald Chambers once pointed out, “the most marvellous thing in the whole of creation” is not the heavens, the moon and the stars – it is ourselves. God created us in His own image and likeness. We’re not actually divine, of course. But we are as like God as it is possible for any created being to be. God has crowned mankind “with glory and honour” (Psalm 8.5). The Psalmist sang: “For you formed my inward parts; you knitted me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works; my soul knows it very well.” (Psalm 139.13-14).

Sin, of course, has scarred us. But in our essential nature, we still bear God’s image (see Genesis 9.6, James 3.9). And God is now restoring us, His people, to bear His image perfectly. Our pattern is Jesus. In His selfless love, His unpretentious dignity and calm authority, His penetrating insight, His cloudless fellowship with His Father and His simple unquestioning obedience to Him, we see what God wants us all to be. One day, we shall be like Him! And one day we’ll rule all creation with Him. What an astonishing destiny!

So along our journey, we plan to stop for a while to explore what it really means to be human.

We’ll learn about Satan

Finally, we’ll learn about our enemy, Satan, and his dark kingdom. Neil Cole, in his book Organic Church relates a scene from the film The Two Towers, the second of the trilogy The Lord of the Rings. The nation of Rohan finds itself facing the wicked army of Goblins. When Theoden, king of Rohan, realises the Goblins are determined to wipe out his kingdom, he resolves to avoid war in order to shelter his people from danger. He declares: “I’ll not risk open war with my people”. But Aragorn the warrior warns him: “Open war is upon you whether you would risk it or not”.

Open war is upon us, too. We cannot avoid it. In the heavenly places, as Paul explains, there is a terrific spiritual battle going on between Satan and his forces and Jesus Christ and His people. And we’re involved in this cosmic battle! We’re called to be soldiers. We need to learn how to wage war.

And to wage war, we must know our enemy. Every military commander must understand his enemy – how he thinks, what his strategy is, his strengths and weaknesses. It’s the same for us. In the Bible, God teaches us about our enemy. He reveals Satan’s aims and strategies, and exposes his lies.

pickup crosses mountain road winding in twilight

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Reading and reflecting

Read Genesis 1.1-3.24, Revelation 20.7-22.5.

O?BWhat links are there between these passages in Genesis and in Revelation?

O?BWhat do you find in the new creation described in Revelation 21 and 22 that you don’t find in Genesis chapters 1 to 2?

O?BWhy do you think New Jerusalem is pictured as a Bride (Revelation 21.2, 21.9)?

O?BDorothy Sayers said, “the most exciting drama that ever staggered the imagination of man . . . .” What is a drama? In what way is the Bible a drama?

O?BHow does seeing the Bible as a single story help us in evangelism?

O?BIf a non-Christian friend of yours asked you to tell them what the Bible was about in just a couple of minutes, how would you reply?

O?BWhat do these passages in Genesis and Revelation teach us about God?

CREDITS ◆ Text copyright © Robert Gordom Betts. ◆ Scripture quotations are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version™ (ESV™), © 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

‘The Epic of Eden: a Christian Entry into the Old Testament’ by Sandra Richter

Cover for Richter S L  'The Epic of Eden'

The Epic of Eden’, by Sandra L. Richter.  Published by  IVP Academic, an imprint of InterVarsity Press, Downers Grove, Illinois.  First published in 2008.  ISBN 978-0-8308-2577-6. 263 pages.

This book is quite simply, brilliant.  Dr Richter guides the reader clearly, lucidly, and with insight through the Old Testament story.  This is the book that I recommend to anyone who needs someone to take them by the hand and lead them through the often unfamiliar culture, geography, history and characters of the Old Testament. There’s much here to enrich the understanding of beginner and seasoned Bible student alike.

The author unlocks ancient Biblical culture for us, and guides us through to the beating heart of the Old Testament – the ideas of redemption and covenant.   She unfolds the Bible story through Noah, Abraham, Moses and the Tabernacle, David and the monarchy and the promise of the new covenant and Jesus’s coming.  And we see the Old Testament story in the context of the whole Biblical drama – from the Garden of Eden to New Jerusalem.

View the publisher’s description page HERE.  And you can download the ten audio files of her series of lectures on the Epic of Eden, plus the series outlines, HERE.

Dr Sandra L. Richter is currently Professor of Old Testament at Wesley Biblical Seminary.  She regularly speaks and lectures in church, para-church, and university settings.