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Book Review ~ The King In His Beauty, by Thomas R. Schreiner

I had this book on my wish list the year before it came out. 

For the following reasons. First, Dr. Thomas Schreiner is one of my favorite scholars. I read through his prestigious commentary on Romans, and developed a deep appreciation for his scholarly writing voice, and well as the sheer width of his focus. Second, Biblical Theologies are a favorite area of study for me—at least for the last year. It is often entrenched in complexity, so Graeme Goldsworthy’s definition will serve the purpose of this blog post well: Biblical Theology is “the study of how every text in the Bible relates to every other text in the Bible” (Christ-Centered Biblical Theology, 40). To boil it down further, it’s the unifying storyline of Scripture, which I address more in this blog postThird, the name alone is awesome: The King in His Beauty. This just makes me want to pick it up and swim in glorious truth!

Now that I’m done with this hefty book (700+ pages), I’ve provided a not-brief summary of what it’s about, some reasons for reading it, potential drawbacks, and a few concluding remarks. Let’s go for a swim!

SUMMARY

The King in His Beauty is foremost a Biblical Theology of the Old and New Testaments. Biblical Theology (BT) may sound confusing if you’ve never heard the term before, because we sometimes use the word “biblical” when referring to something correct or orthodox; so it may sound like we are talking about a theology that is orthodox. But that’s not what we are talking about (although it assumes the theology is correct!). BT is an area of study, dealing primarily with the story of Scripture, a search for the “center” to that story, and the process of how God reveals that story. Think of it as a view of the Bible from 30,000 feet: you are taking it all in at once.

Schreiner’s intent with writing a BT is simple: to focus on a prominent Biblical theme as it is unfolding so that the average, non-academic reader can understand and enjoy. As Schreiner moves through Scripture, he does so in segments which I’ve found very helpful in following both his train of thought, and the storyline of Scripture. The segments are as follows:

  • Creation to the Edge of Canaan (Genesis-Deuteronomy)
  • The Story of Possession, Exile, and Return (Joshua-Esther)
  • Israel’s Songs of Wisdom (Job-Song of Songs)
  • Judgment and Salvation in the Prophets (Isaiah-the Twelve)
  • The Kingdom in Matthew, Mark, and Luke-Acts (Matthew-Acts)
  • Eternal Life in the Gospel and the Epistles of John (John, John’s letters)
  • The End of the Ages Has Come according to the Apostle Paul (Paul’s 13 letters)
  • Living in the Last Day’s according to the General Epistles (Hebrews, James, 1&2 Peter-Jude)
  • The Kingdom Will Come (Revelation)

As Schreiner moves through these segments of Scripture, he shows them all anchored in the prominent theme of the Kingdom of God, or as he refers to it, The King in His Beauty. He argues that the Kingdom of God, defined as the rule of God spanning the cosmos, including human beings, by means of covenant, and expressed in judgment, “thematically captures the message of Scripture” (xiii-xv).

The book was not written for scholars, but is scholarly (the footnotes are a feast!). So as he teases out the theme of God’s Kingdom in the Bible, he stays out-of-the-way, yet within close distance to the events as they happen, speaking with a depth of clarity and simplicity even in such seemingly abstract books as Amos or the Psalms. It is this simple clarity on complex topics that makes Schreiner magical. Here are a few other delicacies in the book… Read the rest of this entry

Read through the New Testament in 2013

We have gone through the Bible over the years as a church, with different reading plans that all had as their main purpose a desire to expose the Christian to the whole counsel of God in one year. Each of these has been so enriching!

What we want to do this year is to focus, not on the entire Biblical canon, but on the entire New Testament, as well as the Psalms and Proverbs. We’ve chosen a reading plan, called Project 345+, which accomplishes this in an exceptional way:

  • the weekdays are devoted to reading through the New Testament,
  • the weekends are for Psalms and Proverbs.

You’ll notice that the way this plan navigates through the New Testament is by moving through one of the Gospels (John), before branching off into the Acts of the Apostles and Romans. After a round of that…it does another Gospel (Luke), followed by a few more epistles, and the pattern continues, so that a steady diet of the New Testament is processed throughout the year. In this way, you’re getting the full realm of the New Testament throughout the year.

What I am looking forward to most in 2013, is the chance, not simply for exposure, but for marination and maturation. Going through the New Testament will allow us to take our time, and even go back and study portions of Scripture that we read.

As a church, we want to slow down during 2013, and enjoy Jesus through His Word!

Below, you’ll find a link that will provide for you all the resources necessary for starting this years reading! If you are on twitter, the official hashtag is #1YearBible. Feel free to post, give spiritual insights, ask questions, or just browse other people’s tweets.

Enjoy Jesus! http://www.realitysb.com/one-year-bible/

A firm theology of Law and Gospel

Our church has been delving into the nature and implications of theology, Bible translations, and the importance of the Apostolic message (released next week), and our ever-present 1-year-Bible readings. By God’s great mercy, many of us feel a renewed draw towards the Word of God, expecting that He will speak to us when we open the pages. But this post is redirect our attention to the full range of Scripture.

It’s easy to romanticize the Bible as a giant reference tool full of verses to make us feel better about ourselves. Or as God’s answer book, loaded with sound-bytes for everything that triggers our curiosity, including where to apply for our dream job. Even worse, God’s little love note to us…I digress.

My understanding of the Bible changed when I realized that it was not written about me, but God. Rather than looking for a divine psychologist to fix my problems, my gaze realigned onto a transcendent Other, as my universe began to revolve around the glories of who God is. After this, the Bible made my heart come alive. Years later, I still have to keep two things ever before me…

I have to read the Scriptures as Law and Gospel.

Every word you read in the Bible, from Genesis to Revelation, the Psalms, the Chronicles, and even the apocalyptic literature, all fits warmly under these two headings: you are either reading Law, or you are reading Gospel. A Law-demanding life is hopeless without the power of the Gospel, yet the good news of the Gospel is nonsensical without the Law. Simply put, the Scriptures are truncated unless both Law and Gospel are in it together.

Let’s talk about the Law.

The Law first pointed to the Ten Commandments (called the moral law), and was later expanded to include the entire Torah–which included a total of 613 commands. Jesus summarized the Law of God with these two,

He said to him, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the greatest and most important command. The second is like it: Love your neighbor as yourself. All the Law and the Prophets depend on these two commands. (Matthew 22:37-40, HCSB)

We (Christians) sometimes make a couple of mistakes when we think of the Law. First, it’s a temptation to think of the Law as an anachronism relegated to the world of the “Old Testament.” Yes, there are many imperatives in the Old Testament, but there are also many imperatives in the New Testament. We should think of the Law as all of God’s commandments in Scripture. The second mistake we make is to denigrate the Law as legalism, per se, which is non-binding on believers from the New Testament. But Paul said, “the law is holy, and the commandment is holy and just and good” (Rom. 7:12, HCSB).

Let’s talk about the Gospel.

When we fail to keep the commands of God and are rightly condemned as a result, it is the Gospel that declares us justified before God, by grace, through faith in Christ alone (Rom. 5:18). Justification is more than mere forgiveness. When your debt is forgiven, you can still be left broke, though without outstanding debts. But when a person is justified, they experience a credit. In this case, we are given the wealth of Christ’s righteousness (2 Cor. 8:9)! But where did He get it from? You say, “Well, He’s God, so he was already righteous.” That’s true…in His divinity. But in the doctrine of the incarnation, something buck-wild occurs. The sinless Christ learned obedience (Heb. 5:8, ESV), lived His life as a Spirit-filled man (Mark 1:9-13), and  though we failed to obey God since the time of Adam (Rom. 5:14), Christ adhered to His Father’s Law perfectly (Rom. 5:19-21). Jesus becomes the propitiation for our sins (Rom. 3:25), and the justification for sinners who are graciously enabled to turn to Him (24). Justification, then, means we end up with the righteous resume of Christ!

How should this effect your reading of Scripture?

The Law is God’s holy command. The Gospel is His enabling power.

Everything you read in the Scriptures show one of these, because the Bible is Law and Gospel. When you read one while ignoring the other, you truncate the whole council of God’s Word, and substitute something more palpable (and impotent) in its stead. For example, if you were to only read the imperative truths of Scripture that exhorted you to some type of obedience, you would either despair, or become legalistic and self-righteous. You must read imperatives (Law) along with the indicatives (Gospel). But if you only care about Gospel passages that proclaim your true your identity in Christ to make you feel good about yourself, yet do not acclimate to that truth by responding in loving obedience, you become antinomian and relativistic. You still need the Law! You need it to give you rails by which you can respond in your loving worship to a holy God, who calls us to love him wholeheartedly, and our neighbor as ourselves. This is the whole council of Scripture–it’s everything God must say to us in this moment in history. If you are discouraged by a bland reading of Scripture, I suggest you read MORE Scripture, and you read it while looking for these two themes. You will constantly be hearing how God has purposed you, how you have failed, and how He, in His lovingkindness, has made a way.

Unless you have some type of reading plan, such as a yearly Bible reading, or a schedule, you may find yourself gravitating towards the same books of the Bible. Perhaps it’s because the passages you go back to regularly stroke your self-esteem! Or it’s because you love to beat your self up with commandments. But you need the full meal of God’s Word. Read the whole council of God. Ask the Holy Spirit to open your heart to it. Be humbled to the dust by His transcendence. Be elated to the skies by His lavish mercy.

1 Year Bible!

Our church is going through the Bible in a year starting in January. I don’t use exclamation points in my writing often, but last night at Adorn (college/young adults), I asked if anyone was going through the 1 Year Bible reading, and a couple hundred people responded! Gahhh, I can’t wait!!

There is something riveting about reading Scripture in community. I think Paul had this in mind when he exhorts to “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom; teaching and admonishing one another” (Col. 3:16). I can gladly imagine so many of us digging into the Word of God, mining the depth of his thoughts, and retrieving treasure beyond comparison to speak about to one another.

Of course, the Bible is a big book, and there are some difficult areas to navigate. I say this, because if you are unaware of how or what to navigate, this journey can quickly grow tedious. We will have to keep consistent, frequent conversation with one another about the readings, including questions, dialog, insights, prophetic, etc. I want to extend the invitation to read through Scripture to any of you who do not attend Adorn, to be bound together with us by the Word of Christ instead of proximity.

Let’s start the conversation now, shall we? Below is a short outline of the Bible, Old Testament first, followed by the New Testament. These are compartments of Scripture that will help us to digest the whole…

Old Testament

  • Pentateuch (1st five books of the Old Testament, aka O.T.)
  • History of Israel (1&2 Samuel, 1&2 Chronicles, 1&2 Kings, etc)
  • Major Prophets (Isaiah, Jeremiah, Daniel, Ezekiel)
  • Minor Prophets (The twelve short books at the end of the OT)
  • Poetry (Psalms, Songs, Lament)
  • Wisdom Literature (Proverbs, Eccless, etc)

New Testament

  • Gospels (The first five accounts of Jesus’ life in the New Testament)
  • History of the church (The book of Acts, chronicling the beginnings of a worldwide movement)
  • Letters to the church (epistles by Paul, Peter, James, and John)
  • Apocalypse (John’s vision, also known as Revelation)

When you see these soaring themes, what comes to mind? What do you think about? What do you struggle with? What are you excited about? What are you most looking forward to? What are you most apprehensive of? What do think about all of this? Are you excited? Just talk! I want to talk to people about the Word of God!

There are bad things that come in life, and there are good. This is one of the good things. Let’s soak it up together, and in it, encounter Jesus.

Your turn.

How the read the Bible, by N.T. Wright

Last weekend, I taught on the importance of obeying God’s word, then posted a follow-up on the devotional beauty of reading through Scripture for fun. But we should also remember that the Scriptures are more than fun. They are alive (Heb. 4:12). They are inspired (2 Tim. 3:16). They sanctify (Jn. 17:17). They renew (Rom. 12:2). They transform (2 Tim. 3:17). So we want more than mere pleasure; we want the power of God revealed through them.

But where do we start? And what do we do with it?

Below is a brilliant, six-minute explanation by N.T. Wright on how to read the Bible.

Is the New Testament reliable?

This podcast is the backstory behind today’s blog post:

How can we trust the Bible when we don’t have the original copies??

We can work from what we do we have: Manuscript copies (MSS)

In order to do so… Read the rest of this entry

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