New Testament Musings

I’m reading through the New Testament in conjunction with the New Testament Challenge. It’s been really interesting. The idea is to read through the entire New Testament in a short period of time. This helps us see the “big picture” and resists the temptation to put too much emphasis on specific verses or issues. I’ve really enjoyed reading the Bible in this way because some of the major themes start to jump off the page. Things like the gospel, faith and love are present in almost every reading. These themes are often discussed in modern Christian circles as well. However, there are a few themes that are prevalent in the ancient writings but not quite as prevalent today. For example…

Sin. The New Testament has a lot to say about sin. The teachings of Jesus and Paul contain constant exhortations to avoid sin and live righteously. Yet, many believers today don’t like to use the “s” word. I think that’s partly due to recent history. Many of them grew up with a good dose of teaching on sin (along with extra helpings of guilt, shame and fear). The assumption being that fear was proper motivation for obedience and that guilt and shame produce righteousness. They didn’t. The New Testament uses a different motivation for avoiding sin. The gospel. As I read through Paul’s letters I was struck by how he usually began with the gospel and ended with encouragement to live morally upright lives. The gospel is our motivation for obedience and the love of Christ produces righteousness. Sometimes in the past we’ve gotten that backwards. The New Testament sets things straight.

The Resurrection of the Dead. We hardly ever talk about this one. As I matter of fact, I know of no modern Christians (aside one) who regularly use this language when describing eternity. Yet, if you read the New Testament this phrase keeps coming up. It’s also present in many of the earliest creeds of the Christian faith. The Bible teaches that the dead in Christ we will be resurrected at the second coming. What does this mean? I’m not exactly sure, but I take it to mean that the dead will be resurrected in much the same way that Jesus was resurrected! That’s a powerful thought but you won’t hear it preached in many churches today. We tend to think of eternity more in terms of formless souls floating above the clouds. I’m not so sure of that anymore. Read 1st Corinthians and 1st Thessalonians and see what you think.

The Second Coming. We don’t mention this one much either. Of course, I’m excluding all those who mention it in a pre-tribulation rapture sort of way. They talk about it a lot, but that’s mostly because of the Left Behind series. I’m simply talking about the fact that Jesus is coming back and our time on earth is limited. We don’t know when its going to happen or exactly how its going to happen, but we do know that its going to happen. The teaching of Scripture is clear in this regard. Jesus is coming back so you better get ready! Repent and prepare for the Day of Lord! I don’t think you hear that as much in the 21st century church as you would have in the 1st century church. Maybe its just that too many years have passed and he hasn’t come back yet. Of course, he has a good reason. God is patient and wants everyone to to come to repentance (2nd Peter). But his delay is no reason for silence. If anything it’s all the more reason to emphasize this important teaching.

That’s a few of my observations thus far and I’m only halfway through. More later.

6 thoughts on “New Testament Musings

  1. Russ,I am enjoying the challenge as well. Here is something interesting that I have found:Phil 1:61 Thes 5:23-242 Thes 3:3Jude 1:24I have never bought in to the once saved – always saved theology, but there is an interesting overriding theme in these verses and many others that suggest God can and will save us – in spite of us. Just a thought.Gary 🙂

  2. Russ,If you are enjoying your New Testament challenge, I think you would like the Bible in 90 Days program. http://www.biblein90days.org/I did this personally and am now doing it with a group at church on Wednesday nights. The goal is to read the Bible cover to cover in 90 days. There is a study guide and a set of DVD's that are available. I have enjoyed this for the same reason you describe in the NT Challenge. The amount of reading forces you to take in large chunks of scripture at once. You really get a glimpse at the big picture and you don't have time to worry about trivial details. Reading the entire Bible in such a short period also helps you make connections across the Bible that we would otherwise miss.It is definitely a challenge, though. In the Bible they sell, each day of reading is 12 pages (full pages…no comments, study thoughts, footnotes, etc.). It takes about an hour a day and you cover a lot of material. For example, the plan takes you all the way through Exodus in the first week.Anyway, I have really enjoyed it. You should check it out.

  3. Brian,I actually have the 90 Days DVDs on my desk right now. I haven't watched them yet, but one of our members dropped them by. I did attempt the 90 Day readings a couple of years back and made it all the way to Psalms before fizzling out. I agree with the stuff about making connections easier. One other observation about the NT Challenge…the New Testament makes a lot more sense if you've read the OT. Maybe that's the next challenge! Thanks.

  4. Gary, Before buying into the 'once saved always saved" theology, try doing a search for the word "repent." If it is true that we are always saved why does this word occur so often in the pages of the New Testament.

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