Bible in a Nutshell Part 2: Foundations in Genesis

Continuing on with the series and keeping the overview in part 1 in mind, the significance of Genesis is that it lays the foundation for what God is establishing with respect to his creation. The beginning explains the how and why God started everything. To reiterate what I said in the overview, God is revealing to us who he is and his expectations for his creation. Also, it’s important to remember that when I reference creation that means all of it, humanity and the earth.

A couple of points are noteworthy here. One, Genesis was written by Moses to the children of Israel while they were wandering through the wilderness. Now think for a minute what was going on with them. They had been called as a people of God’s own possession, delivered as a people from the hand of oppression and delivered with promises of a land where they’re position would thrive as a light to all nations. But for the time being, they were slogging through a seeming nothingness and feeling forsaken. The Genesis account informs Israel of how and why they were formed in accordance with the God of creation.

And this leads to the second noteworthy point. The creation account unfortunately gets bogged down with dissections about the earth’s age. In my opinion, this is a distraction from the purpose of the text. Moses is not revealing to Israel the creation account as some sort of scientific treatise about the genesis of the earth, but to tell them THAT God created everything, out of nothing and had a plan for his creation. His plan was that man (man and woman working together) being made in the image of God was to subdue the earth, to reflect his glory. What God intended for humanity cannot be dismissed for what would happen in Genesis 3 but bear important implications for how his people would work together for the sake of his kingdom.

Another significant aspect of Genesis 1-2 is that it demonstrates that we cannot divorce the spiritual aspect of reconciliation to the Father with what he desires for creation. He said ‘it is good’ which means that the physicality of creation is important. Continue reading

The Bible in a Nutshell Part 1: Overview

Before we can talk about the parts of the Bible, it helps to know what the Bible is. For much of my Christian life I’ve heard references such as the God’s instruction manual for Christian living. While I think there is some truth to that description, it does not adequately describe what the richness of these 66 books. Moreover, if we reduce the Bible down to a user manual or book of propositions, our tendency will be to miss the larger story of redemption.

While the Bible is comprised of many books that were written by 40 different authors over the span of 1,500 years, the Bible is one book. It is God revealing himself to us. But we have to see how he is doing this in consideration of his intersection with time and history. As I mentioned in my last post, we want to look at the Bible from a 20,000 foot angle, so to speak. It’s easy to get lost in the trees of particular passages but lose sight of the forest. But with this series I’m hoping to give a snapshot of each section to show the beauty of the forest by providing points to consider concerning how the pieces of these 66 books fit together. There are three aspects to the Bible I think are important to bear in mind.

1. The Bible is a divine book

If you have a red letter Bible, you might be tempted to think of the words of Jesus as more important or spiritual the rest of the Bible. But this would be a mistake. All Scripture is breathed out by God,

All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work. (2 Tim. 3:16-17)

God moved through men as the Holy Spirit influenced their pen so that they would write in their own words the thoughts, will and intention of God. As I’ll note later, men wrote in their own styles but were guided by the Holy Spirit in accordance of what was happening. And just a side note: this means the Bible itself is spiritual, not just words on a piece of paper we make spiritual. Continue reading

New series in 2018: the Bible in a Nutshell

I want to announce a series that I’ll be starting soon called The Bible in a Nutshell. It’s not a Bible study in the sense that I’ll be going through a book or portion of a book. Rather, it’s taking what I call the 20,000 foot view and considering how the Bible tells one cohesive story from Genesis to Revelation. For now, I plan on 8 segments outlined at the end,  in which I hope to provide some insight into how each section of the Bible fits into the overarching narrative of Scripture.  I don’t subscribe to be any kind of authority on Bible reading but I do want to pass on some lessons I’ve learned in my many years of studying Scripture and pitfalls to avoid.

If you’re like me, you started off your Christian journey with a Bible in hand and eager to dive in. After all, you heard that it is God’s word. That was me! I had a desire to read the Bible for I  instinctively knew it was God’s word. I needed to learn about this Christian faith and what God has said about who he is and what his expectations are. It didn’t take long for that enthusiasm to be met with some confusion and even frustration. It’s not just one book, my many books! How does this all make sense together?

Naturally, the way we make sense of it in the beginning is to listen to the experienced voices, or at least those who claim to be. It doesn’t take much for whatever these leaders to espouse for us to then impose that on the text to derive our meaning.

That’s great if these experienced voices have taken great care to look at the Bible holistically. Meaning, they’ve studied how all the pieces fit together and handle the Bible reverently, not imposing their own philosophies on the text. Continue reading

What is covenant theology? And why the question can be misleading

Today, a friend asked me to explain what is covenant theology. I get the question and it’s one I would have asked years ago at the mere mention of the name. In fact, when I first heard the term several years ago, my immediate frame of thinking was this: it is a system of thought imposed on Scripture especially when terms like covenant of works and covenant of grace are used to describe it. Unfortunately, unless you’re immersed in Reformed and particularly Presbyterian circles, this idea of imposition can cause a spurning of sorts as if somehow this is contrasted with the just reading the Bible. In simple terms, covenant theology can be rejected because of an erroneous belief that it is doctrine imposed on Scripture and wholly separate from a biblical theology derived from simply reading Scripture.

In reality, covenant theology is not an imposition on Scripture at all but rather an extraction from Scripture. In other words, covenant theology is essentially derived from a holistic rendering of Scripture and considers the anchor that holds the 66 books together: that is God’s gracious actions towards his creation based on covenant which is embedded throughout the biblical narrative. Covenant theology looks at the whole picture and asks ‘what is God doing?’ from Genesis to Revelation. So terms like covenant of works (or more appropriately life-the foundation for his creation) and covenant of grace (his rescue of a fallen creation from the kernel promise of Gen. 3:15) are essentially capturing God’s redemptive action towards his creation based on this whole picture.

Through my many years as a Christian, I have found the way the Bible is approached leads to a segmentation and bifurcation of it’s parts and hinder a consideration of the big picture. But when you steps back and takes a 20,000 foot view of sorts, you can’t help but see the beauty of the interlocking parts culminated in God’s redemption through his Son. In his Intro to Covenant Theology, J.I. Packer says this; Continue reading

Reading Revelation with fresh eyes: why I’m excited about my latest book arrival

Beale_Revelation commentary coverI just received this commentary in the mail having ordered it about a week ago. I normally wouldn’t write a post about how excited I am about my latest book purchase. But this one is a bit special because it fits with the particularly trajectory I’ve been on regarding how I understand the 66 books of the Bible fit together in terms of God’s outworking of his redemptive history.

In a separate post, I’m writing about my departure from dispensationalism a couple of years ago. Now, if you’re not familiar with the term but have spent a significant amount of time in non-denominational churches with baptistic, pentacostal or charismatic leanings, my guess is that you are a dispensationalist and probably don’t realize it. Dispensationalism is a system of seeing the Bible as segmented into separate and distinct dispensations in which God is outworking his purpose with his creation. Dispensationalism considers that Bible prophecies are fulfilled in a literal, historic way such there is a distinction between Israel and the Church. A natural consequence of this distinction is viewing the book of Revelation in exclusively futurist terms in which God will bring certain events to pass in order to save Israel before Jesus’ final return but not before taking the church out of the way through the Rapture. If that is how you read the book of Revelation and believe that God is bringing about a separate plan for Israel than the church, congratulations, you are a dispensationalist.

Now this is a very brief and generalized sketch since dispensational theology has evolved since it’s formal articulation with John Nelson Darby in the latter 19th century. Following Darby’s work, earlier articulations treated God’s distinct treatment of the Israel vs the church in such disparate ways that it left Bible students and scholars thereafter to continually pursue how these distinctions related to God’s redemptive plan through Christ. Earlier articulations, such as under C.I. Schofield and Lewis Sperry Chafer (founder of Dallas Theological Seminary) considered the church as an interruption (or intercalation as Chafer proclaimed) of God’s plan for Israel such that the kingdom of God was deferred until the millennium reign from Jerusalem since it was at that time Jesus would fulfill the Davidic covenant (Rev. 20–interpreting of course that Rev. 20 refers to a literal 1,000 earthly reign). It’s easy to see the charged of two-ways of salvation, especially with Chafer’s dual covenantalism (the reference of new covenant in the NT as something different than the reference in the OT). Revised dispensationalists, such as Charles Ryrie brought some correction to the unnatural dualistic nature of God’s outworking but still considered a future for the millennial kingdom in which God would bring salvation for Israel. Continue reading