As we enter 2019, perhaps we are considering our Bible reading plans for the year ahead. But how should we read our Bibles? This article by Alastair Roberts offers some basic guidelines. He writes that the Bible “is a book that we can never truly have read: we remain students of it for the entirety of our lives. We may have been reading for decades, yet, when it comes to reading our Bibles, we are all very much beginners.” He then offers seven fundamental principles for our reading of Scripture.
His first principle is to practice attention. He explains: ”As we seek to be faithful to Scripture, we must learn truly to hear its voice, rather than just hearing what we expect, want, or are primed to hear. [Roberts’ emphasis.] This requires us to develop the discipline of attention to the text. We may need to suspend our questions (and our answers) and learn how to listen. . . . . Attentiveness is a skill, the sharpening of our senses as readers or hearers of Scripture, which will become more developed in us the more deliberately and consistently we practice it.”
Another principle is to recognise that Scripture is our story. He writes, ”One of the most startling passages in the writings of the Apostle Paul is found in 1 Corinthians 10, when he retells the story of the Exodus and relates it to the life of the Corinthian church. . . . . The striking thing about these statements is the way that Paul stresses the fact that, when we are reading the story of the Exodus—and other stories in the Scripture—we are reading our story, a story that is both for and about us. Whether we are Jewish or Gentile Christians today, we need to see the children of Israel who escaped from Egypt as ‘our fathers’! Likewise, in the story of the Exodus we see the same patterns playing out in Christ’s forming of the Church today. The music continues, and we are being caught up into it! When we read our Bibles, we can easily become accustomed to reading it as a series of accounts of things that happened to them back then. But God has given us the Scripture so that we might hear its music continuing in what is happening to us right now.”
The Garden of Eden: a Biblical-theological framework Dr David Schrock writes, “. . . in any study of Genesis and in any study of the Bible, we must understand the way in which Eden is more than an ancient garden. It is the place where God put his royal priests to cultivate and keep the earth he gave them to subdue and rule. Though framed in ancient language and imagery, it is vital modern Christians understand these original designs—for they have impact on the way we conceive of God, the world, and mankind’s place in the world.”
Exodus in 1 Kings Dr Alastair Roberts explores how the narrative of Solomon and the division of the kingdom is linked to Adam in the Garden of Eden and to the Exodus.
Old Testament word studies: ‘Abba’, “Father” Dr Allen Ross comments, “This Aramaic word ’Abba’,”Father,” has always been a significant word in the spiritual life of believers. It was used in the Old Testament to describe the spiritual relationship between believers and God; but it became more pronounced in the New Testament in the light of Jesus’ instructions on prayer and the apostolic teachings. But today there is little clear understanding of what the description means; moreover, it is being defined and used in a way that was not intended. The word, then, calls for closer scrutiny.”
David Schrock writes, “God’s people dwelling in God’s place under God’s rule: This tripartite division, outlined by Graeme Goldsworthy in his book According to Plan, well articulates the relationship of Adam and Eve to God in the Garden. Yet, often when Christians read the creation account in Genesis 1–2 they miss the royal and priestly themes in those two chapters. . . . . So, in what follows, I hope to provide a brief summary of the biblical evidence for seeing the first image-bearers (imago Dei) as royal priests commissioned by God to have priestly dominion over the earth—a commission later restored in type to Israel (see Exodus 19:5–6), fulfilled in Christ (see, e.g., Hebrews 5), and shared with all those who are in Christ (see 1 Peter 2:5, 9–10). In these sections, we will focus on the temple and by extension to the purpose and work of mankind in that original garden-sanctuary.”
He then explores the theme of the garden in the Bible, focusing on the garden’s role as a priestly and a royal sanctuary. He notes how the Garden is clearly seen as a sacred temple when comparing it to Moses’ tabernacle and Solomon’s temple.
He concludes,“Therefore, in any study of Genesis and in any study of the Bible, we must understand the way in which Eden is more than an ancient garden. It is the place where God put his royal priests to cultivate and keep the earth he gave them to subdue and rule. Though framed in ancient language and imagery, it is vital modern Christians understand these original designs—for they have impact on the way we conceive of God, the world, and mankind’s place in the world.”
To help show the biblical basis for this approach to Eden, Dr Schrock very helpfully lists a number of Bible passages relating to the theme of the garden.
Read the whole article HERE. Much of the research behind this article stems from Dr. Schrock’s dissertation, A Biblical-Theological Investigation of Christ’s Priesthood and Covenant Mediation with respect to the Extent of the Atonement, which can be downloaded free of charge HERE.
Dr Alastair Roberts writes, “In the four hundred and eightieth year after the Exodus, Solomon began to build the temple of the Lord in Jerusalem. That the author of Kings should date the start of the building of the temple from the Exodus is noteworthy. . . . . The building of the temple on the mountain in Jerusalem is, in many respects, the climax and the completion of the process begun in the Exodus. . . . . Since its construction, the tabernacle had functioned as a sort of portable Mount Sinai, an architectural extension of the theophany that occurred there. It was also a new Eden and microcosmic representation of the wider creation . . . . Solomon’s Temple introduces a new stage of history and, once again, there are echoes of the original creation and of Eden.”
And, as Dr Roberts tells us, “Within this world, Solomon is like a glorious new Adam. He is the wise ruler of the world, who is able to name the trees and the animals (4:29-34). Indeed, when the Queen of Sheba comes to him, it is akin to Eve being brought to Adam, the moment when the story of the first creation arrived at its zenith of glory. Unfortunately, just as in the account of the original creation, it is at this point that things all start to crumble. The rest of the story of Solomon is a tragic story of the fall of the new Adam and of being removed from the peace and rest of the new Eden.”
Dr Roberts traces the sorry story of Solomon’s fall through the division of the kingdom to the day when Ahijah the prophet prophesied the doom of the northern kingdom of Israel in 1 Kings 14.7-16. In Dr Roberts’ words, “There would be a great reversal of the Exodus as Israel once again found itself in captivity. The Red Sea Crossing would be undone, as Israel would find itself cast on the far side of the great River.”
Read the whole of this fascinating exposition HERE.
Dr Allen Ross comments, “This Aramaic word ’Abba’, “Father,” has always been a significant word in the spiritual life of believers. It was used in the Old Testament to describe the spiritual relationship between believers and God; but it became more pronounced in the New Testament in the light of Jesus’ instructions on prayer and the apostolic teachings. But today there is little clear understanding of what the description means; moreover, it is being defined and used in a way that was not intended.”
Dr Ross then explores the origin and meaning of the word, and the significance of calling God “Father”. He concludes, ”What, then, does the term “Father” for God mean for use? First, to call God Father is to speak of him as the absolutely sovereign God of creation. . . . . Second, to call God “Father” is to use covenant language. In all of God’s covenants, the people are “sons” or “children” by their adoption into the covenant. . . . . Third, for us to call God “Father” is indeed to acknowledge a close personal relationship with him; it is after all a family term. It is fair to say that in Jesus’ time the word was colloquial but respectful, even in human families; but it was not a childish expression like “daddy”. To call God “Father” is to affirm that we have been born into the family of God, . . . . But he is still the sovereign and holy Lord God; and the significance of the word “Father” is one of a reverent, respectful and solemn adult address of God.”
A friend of mine, Nicky Andrews, tells of a remarkable turning to Christ among Iranian refugees in Serbia. She writes, “The OM field leader of the Balkan region, Volker Sachse, doesn’t cry easily. But in the past three or four years, he has often been moved to tears by the plight of refugees he has met in Serbia; OM has played a significant humanitarian role in one of the government-run camps there since the ‘refugee crisis’ in Europe escalated in 2015. Today, however, it is tears of joy that brighten Volker’s eyes, as he describes how many refugees from Iran are turning to Jesus during a worldwide move of God amongst Iranians. “It’s a privilege for me to witness the Lord touching so many Iranians in Serbia, including in the camp where OM works,” he shares.”
There is now a need to disciple these new believers. Nicky writes, “[Volker] shares, though, that there is ongoing need to nurture the young believers towards greater maturity. “So, I’m very excited by the possibility of running an intensive discipleship training course for up to eight Iranian believers over five days, which would then be repeated for a second group of eight.” says Volker. . . . . The training would be aimed at equipping Christians to launch a church plant in the camp.”
More information about how to be involved, including how to contribute financially to the discipleship programme, is available HERE.
”Speak, O Lord” – a hymn by Keith Getty and Stuart Townend
The words and music of this superb hymn are by Keith Getty and Stuart Townend. This particular recording is part of an album recorded live from the 2012 Together for the Gospel Conference in Louisville, Kentucky.
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.
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?!!”
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.”
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.
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.”
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.”
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.”