biblical theology

The Core of the Gospel

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Culture has an amazing impact upon people. It subtly shapes their worldview of everything in life, from birth through adulthood.

This impact is strong and resistant to change, but it will change given sufficient cause. The change can be either good or bad depending on one’s worldview, values, or beliefs.

For example, the enslavement of Africans, abducted and traded as if they were cattle, was culturally acceptable in European countries and America. Now, it is illegal and immoral. But that change did not come easily.

A major culture change

A British Member of Parliament named William Wilberforce challenged his prevailing culture in the late eighteenth century. He proposed legislative measures at great cost to his reputation, wealth, and health for more than forty years.

But change came in 1833 when slavery was made illegal in England. It had a ripple effect felt across the oceans of the world, which included the newly established United States of America, the former colonial territory of Great Britain. [1]

Religion and culture

In many countries around the world, religious conviction is tied to the intrinsic culture.

The Philippines is predominantly Roman Catholic, with a strong contingent of Evangelical (Protestant) Christianity, a significant Muslim minority, and ancient folk traditions.

Many Filipinos struggle with becoming born again, [2] because of the strong influence of Roman Catholicism—it’s rituals, traditions, and longevity.

Thailand is primarily Buddhist. Many Thais find it difficult to distinguish their national identity from their religion.

Likewise in Indonesia and Malaysia, where the world’s largest population of Muslims reside. In many countries, it is illegal to proselytize someone of Islamic faith towards another faith.

The impact of culture

In the early 2000's, our Bible school in the Philippines sent out two young Filipinas as missionaries to Thailand.

MJ and Ruchell learned the Thai language quickly and made friendships with ease. They lived out their Christianity with genuineness and simplicity and were well received by their neighbors, including the landlord of the simple apartment they rented in Chiang Mai.

As they built relationships, they offered prayer for their new friends. Prayer was accepted with gratefulness. But when it came to accepting the Gospel and Jesus, who was unknown to them, there was resistance.

They were Thai. They were Buddhists. They were afraid of changing their religion and no longer being true Thais.

American culture and Christianity

America’s culture is known for its respect for individual rights. As a result, Christianity in America is often self-focused and personalized.

Based on versions of the gospel, as given by popular preachers, many people regard Jesus as their best friend, someone personally interested in them, but not as their sovereign Lord. It is such a prevalent view it’s been categorized as a religious belief of its own—Moralistic Therapeutic Deism. [3]

A popular worship song about the Lord’s death on the cross goes,

“You took the fall and thought of me, above all....” [4]

The Father’s purpose for Jesus going to the Cross was, indeed, to bring redemption for all people. But a self-focused bias is not reflected in the biblical version of the gospel but is in a plethora of popular songs, teachings, and various Christian self-help books.

Culture bias

This cultural bias is exported around the world, reflecting an American, self-absorbed view of Jesus and the Gospel, which adulterates the gospel message. This has a crippling, often tragic effect.

The Gospel can be minimized and reduced into brief terms. When this happens, its importance and significance are overlooked. Biblical truth may be talked about and discussed without being passed on to those who need to hear it.

Ministries in America can focus more on getting people into the church than caring for the physical and spiritual needs of the people. Worship services can be more focused on presentation and performance than the Lord Himself, whom it is all intended to exalt.

A distorted focus

Are believers in churches being discipled unto the Lord Himself, or trained for doing certain tasks? The need to accomplish a list of spiritual activities can take the place of spending personal and intimate time with the Lord.

Things like spending time in prayer, devotions, reading the Scripture, serving in various ministries, and so on, are good things, but not an end in themselves.

The Lord desires His people to give themselves to Him.

These people draw near to Me with their mouth, and honor Me with their lips, but their heart is far from Me. And in vain they worship Me, teaching as doctrines the commandments of men. (Matthew 15:8-9 NKJV)

I want you to be merciful; I don't want your sacrifices. I want you to know God; that's more important than burnt offerings. (Hosea 6:6 NLT)

It's all about Him, not us

Christian activity can look past what is most important—the personal element. The Christian life is far more than the sum of all Christian activities to be done.

What the Lord considers most important is revealed in the story of Matthew 16:13–28. It’s not complicated or theoretical, but simple and essential.

It is the core of the Essential Gospel and the Christian life. It runs counter to the culture of the day—the culture then and now.

Whether the culture is primitive or sophisticated, the Gospel and the call to follow Jesus is not “...all about me,” nor any individual. It’s all about Jesus.

Do you see your own culture's influence in how you view Christianity?


This is an excerpt from my book, The Mystery of the Gospel, Unraveling God's Story

Footnotes for this excerpt are below—

[1] Reference for William Wilberforce— William Wilberforce

[2] Born again is a term Jesus used in John 3:3-8 when talking to Nicodemus, a Jewish Pharisee. It has become synonymous with a personal faith conversion to orthodox Christianity, especially within evangelical circles.

[3] Here are a couple links to articles about Moralistic Therapeutic Deism (MTD)—

http://goo.gl/RvllH | https://goo.gl/fxIwRm

[4] The lyrics are from the song, “Above All,” by Lenny LeBlanc

Sola Scriptura–A Simple View

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How important is the Bible? How important is it to you and, in general, for all humanity? It depends on your view of it.

As you can imagine, personal opinions abound when it comes to the value of the Bible, within the church and outside of it.

People can get pretty emotional in their opinions both for and against the Bible. But, I've found the Bible doesn't need anyone to defend it.

The Scriptures speak for themselves

When I say the Bible doesn't need anyone to defend it, I have two things in mind—

  1. The Bible has stood the test of time. It is the most well-read, sold, and translated book in the world. Many may reject the Bible as authoritative, but, by and large, it is well-respected and loved throughout the world.
  2. The Bible speaks for itself within its own pages, along with the testimonies of those who know its value.

The Bible has several titles it's known by and here are three of the most common—the Bible, the Scriptures, the Word of God. The first two are often preceded with Holy (sacred).

The word Bible comes from the Greek word for book or papyrus, since the original written form of the Scriptures was on papyrus scrolls. We get the Scriptures from the Latin for writings.

Sola Scriptura

The Latin phrase Sola Scriptura literally means (by) Scripture alone. It is the beginning point and bedrock of why the Protestant Reformation (PR) movement developed.

As mentioned before, the PR started as a movement to reform the Roman Catholic Church and return to a biblical foundation for the Christian faith.

The heart of this first Sola is summarized here—

  • The Scriptures (Bible) are the only and final authority in matters of faith, life and conduct, and church practice
  • The teachings and traditions of the church and its leadership must be measured by what is written in the Scriptures
  • The Bible is the sole reliable source of divine revelation above any other forms of human inspiration or direction

The Word of God

The Word of God has a testimony all its own. It declares the writings in this collection of 66 books is God's personal revelation of Himself and truth to humanity.

Here are a few of its declarations—

  • Jesus instructed His closest followers after His resurrection from the Old Testament Law, the Prophets, and Psalms (Luke 24:25-26; 44-45)
  • The Law exhorts us to be sustained by God's Word (Deut 8:3) and speaks of Jesus (the human Word of God) coming (Deut 18:15, 18)
  • The Messianic prophet Isaiah declares the Word of God stands forever (Isaiah 40:8) and prophesied the coming of Jesus the Messiah (Isa 44:6-8; 45:21-23)
  • The Psalms declare that God's Word is a sure foundation and a light that guides us (Pss 119:89, 105) and testifies of the Son of God coming to earth (Ps 40:7)
  • Peter, one of three apostles closest to Jesus, reminds us that the writers of the Scriptures were carried along by the Holy Spirit (2 Peter 1:20-21)
  • The apostle Paul told his protegé Timothy that the Scriptures were God-breathed and the foundation for faith and training believers (2 Tim 3:16-17 NIV)

Some final thoughts

As the title of this post indicates, this is a simple view of Sola Scriptura. Whole books are written on the authority and origin of the Scriptures categorized as Bibliology—the study of the Bible.

A few books are listed below if you want to look further into this topic.

Because of Sola Scriptura, I prefer biblical theology over systematic theology. Why?

Biblical theology gives us a unifying narrative of the Scriptures. It's also what I see within the Bible when Jesus quotes and explains Old Testament Scriptures, and later as the apostles Peter and Paul do.

The Bible is an essential foundation of faith. It's been so in my life from the beginning, including my decision to follow Jesus.

How about you?

How has the Bible impacted your life and faith?

Books on Bibliology—

Books on Biblical Theology— (I've included one recommended book for systematic theology)


Here are 2 previous posts that are related—

Why Do You Believe That?

God Won't Fit In a Box, Nor Will I