READ the BIBLE
Some approach the Bible simply as an advice book. Others approach it only as ancient history, using it as a piece of evidence in answering archaeological or sociological questions about the ancient world. Other scholars try to reconstruct the thought of a book or author without considering how God’s Word impacts us today.
In response to this trend, a large number of scholars advocate a "theological interpretation of Scripture."
They encourage us to read the Bible as God's instrument
of self-revelation and salvation revelation. This way of reading moves us toward knowing God and being
formed as Christ's disciples through Scripture.
There are two common approaches to reading the Bible. Some readers start with a blueprint of what the
Bible says, then read individual passages of Scripture
as if they were the concrete building blocks to fit
into the blueprint.
Others prefer a cafeteria approach. Imagine a huge cafeteria loaded with food of many kinds for many tastes. In this approach, the Bible becomes the answer book for our personal needs and perspectives.
With both the blueprint and cafeteria approaches,
we end up using Scripture for our own purposes.
We are in control. The Bible may be viewed as authoritative, but it provides either confirmation
of our preconceived ideas or divine advice for our unanswered questions.
A theological reading takes the best of both of these approaches. Instead of providing a detailed blueprint,
a theological reading brings a map for a journey. The
map does not give all the answers about a particular text.
Instead, our reading sends us on a journey in which
God in Scripture encounters us again and again, both
with comforting signs of his presence and surprises
that challenge us; with the possibility of discovering
Reading the Bible is not about solving puzzles but discerning a mystery; maturing in our relationship with God; and growing in our fellowship with each other. One extreme every Christian should be careful to avoid is interpreting the Bible alone. Without the help of others. No need for commentaries. No concern for
scholarly input or educated insights.
Where do I begin?
1) Read the Gospel of John
2) Read Ephesians
3) Read Genesis
4) Read the Gospel of Mark
5) Read Proverbs
Change of attitude or relationship. Paul speaks of Jews
and Gentiles becoming reconciled to each other in
being reconciled to God (Eph. 2:14-22), and the
alienated, divisive elements of a fragmented
universe brought together again under one head
(Christ) (Eph. 1:10; Col. 1:20).
His illustrations include those far off made nigh, strangers made fellow citizens of the household, and dividing walls removed. His testimony to reconciliation's results dwells especially upon peace with God (Rom. 5:1; Eph. 2:14; Col. 1:20); access to God's presence (Rom. 5:2; Eph. 2:18; 3:12; see Col. 1:22) in place of estrangement; joy in God replacing the dread of "wrath" (Rom. 5:9, 11); and assurance that God is for us, not against us (Rom. 8:31). Since a right relationship with God is the heart of all religion, reconciliation, which makes access welcome and fellowship possible, may be regarded as the central concept of Christianity.
Our sense of estrangement from God witnesses to a barrier on God's side, precluding fellowship - not, certainly, any reluctance in God's mind, that Jesus must change, but
a moral, even judicial, barrier that requires the death of Jesus, not merely his message or example, to remove.
In the New Testament the basis of reconciliation is
the death of Christ on the cross (Rom. 5:10; Eph. 2:16;
Col. 1:20, 22), who became sin for us (2 Cor. 5:19),
an accomplished fact that we are urged to accept.
"We have now receiced reconciliation" (Rom. 5:11).
As Christ is our peace; as we are reconciled by his death;
as God presented Christ as an atoning sacrifice
(Rom. 3:25); and as the sin that separated is ours,
not God's - only God could reconcile.
The action of God by which he declares persons as
righteous (i.e., in true and right relationship to himself).
The basic fact of biblical religion is that God pardons and accepts believing sinners (Luke 7:47-48; Act 10:43).
As stated by Paul (most fully in Romans and Galatians, although see also 2 Cor. 5:14-15; Eph. 2:1-7; Phil. 3:4-11),
the doctrine of justification determines the whole
character of Christianity as a religion of grace and faith.
It defines the saving significance of Christ's life and death
by relating both to God's law.
It displays God's justice in condemning and punishing sin, his mercy in pardoning and accepting sinners, and his wisdom in exercising both attributes harmoniously together through Christ (Rom. 3:23-34).
It makes clear what faith is—belief in Christ's atoning
death and justifying resurrection, and trust
in him alone for forgiveness. It makes clear what
Christian morality is—keeping the law out of gratitude
to the Savior whose gift of righteousness made keeping
the law needless for acceptance (Rom. 7:1-6; 12:1-2).
It explains all hints, prophecies, and instances of
salvation in the Old Testament (Rom. 1:17; 3:21; 4:1-3).
It overthrows Jewish exclusivism (Gal. 2:15-16) and provides the basis on which Christianity is built upon.
It is the heart of the gospel.
The word sanctification is related to the word saint;
both words have to do with holiness. To sanctify
something is to set it apart for special use; to
sanctify a person is to make them holy.
Jesus had a lot to say about sanctification in John 17.
In verse 16 the Lord says, “They are not of the world,
even as I am not of it,” and this is before His request:
“Sanctify them by the truth; your word is truth” (verse 17).
In Christian theology, sanctification is a state of
separation unto God; all believers enter into this state when they are born of God: “You are in Christ Jesus,
who became to us wisdom from God, righteousness
and sanctification and redemption” (1 Corinthians 1:30). The sanctification mentioned in this verse is a once-for-ever separation of believers unto God. It is a work God performs, an intricate part of our salvation and our connection with Christ (Hebrews 10:10).
The turning away of wrath by an offering. While God's wrath is not mentioned as frequently in the New Testament as the Old Testament, it is there. Human sin receives its due reward, not because of some impersonal retribution, but because God's wrath is directed against
it (Rom. 1:18, 24, 26, 28). The whole of the argument
of the opening part of Romans is that all people, Gentiles and Jews alike, are sinners, and that they come under the wrath and condemnation of God.
When Paul turns to salvation, he thinks of Christ's death as hilasterion (Rom. 3:25), a means of removing the divine wrath. The paradox of the Old Testament is repeated in
the New Testament that God himself
provides the means of removing his own wrath.
The love of the Father is shown in that he "sent his
Son as an atoning sacrifice [a propitiation] for our sins"
(1 John 4:10). The purpose of Christ's becoming "a merciful and faithful high priest" was to "make atonement [propitiation] for the sins of the people" (Heb. 2:17).
His propitiation is adequate for all (1 John 2:2).
Redemption from the power and effects of sin. The comprehensiveness of salvation may be shown:
1) By what we are saved from. We are saved from sin
and death; guilt and estrangement; ignorance of truth; bondage of vices; fear of demons, of death, of life, of God, of hell; despair of self; alienation from others; pressures of the world; a meaningless life. Paul's own testimony is almost wholly positive: salvation brings peace with God, access to God's favor and presence, hope of regaining the glory, endurance in suffering, steadfast character, an optimistic mind, inner motivations of divine love and power of the Spirit, ongoing experience of the risen Christ, and joy in God (Rom. 5:1-11). Salvation extends also to society, aiming at realizing the kingdom of God; to nature, ending its bondage futility (Rom. 8: 19-20); and to the universe, attaining final reconciliation of a fragmented cosmos (Eph. 1:10; Col. 1:20).
2) By noting that salvation is past (Rom. 8:24; Eph. 2:5, 8; Titus 3:5-8), present (1 Cor. 1:18; 15:2; 2 Cor. 2:15; 6:2; 1 Pet. 1:9; 3:21), and future (Rom. 5:9-10; 13:11; 1 Cor. 5:5; Phil. 1:5-6; 2:12; 1 Thess. 5:8; Heb. 1:14; 9:28; 1 Pet. 2:2). Salvation includes that which is given, freely and finally,
by God's grace (forgiveness-called in one epistle justification , friendship; or reconciliation, atonement, sonship, and new birth); that which is continually imparted (sanctification [growing emancipation from all evil, growing enrichment in all good], the enjoyment of eternal life, experience of the Spirit's power, liberty, joy, advancing maturity in conformity to Christ); and that still to
be attained (redemption of the body, perfect Christlikeness, final glory).
3) By distinguishing salvation's various aspects: religious (acceptance with God, forgiveness, reconciliation, sonship, reception of the Spirit, immortality); emotional (assurance, peace, courage, hopefulness, joy); practical (prayer, guidance, discipline, dedication, service); ethical (new moral dynamic for new moral aims, freedom, victory); personal (new thoughts, convictions, horizons, motives, satisfactions, self-fulfillment); social (new sense of community with Christians, of compassion toward all, overriding impulse to love as Jesus has loved.