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 new horizons.
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 received 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.
From a theological perspective the characteristic of mercy is rooted in God and experienced in relation to God, from whom it may be acquired as a Christian virtue and exercised in relation
to fellow human beings. In the Bible a variety of Hebrew and Greek works are used that fall within the general semantic
range of the English word "mercy." They include such terms as "lovingkindness" (Heb. hesed), "to be merciful" (Heb. hanan),
"seat of compassion" (Heb. raham), and "grace" (Gd. charis).
In the Old Testament mercy (in the sense of lovingkindness) is a central theme; the very existence of the covenant between God and Israel is an example of mercy, being granted to Israel freely and without prior obligation on the part of God. With the new covenant the mercy of God is seen in the death of Jesus Christ; Jesus' sacrificial death is in itself a merciful act, demonstrating the diving compassion and making possible the forgiveness of sins.
From this fundamental gospel there follows the requirement
for all Christians, who are by definition the recipients of mercy,
to exercise mercy and compassion toward fellow human beings (Matthew 5:17; James 2:13). Throughout Christian history the awareness of the continuing human need for divine mercy has remained as a central part of Christian worship. The kyrie eleison ("Lord have mercy") of the ancient church has continued to
be used in many liturgical forms of worship.
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 exclusivity (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, son-ship, 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 Christ-likeness, final glory).
3) By distinguishing salvation's various aspects: religious (acceptance with God, forgiveness, reconciliation, son-ship, 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.