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- Who rules the world?
- What does it mean to be human?
- Are perfect relationships possible?
- How should we view money and things?
- How does the Holy Spirit work in our world and our lives?
- What is God's plan for the world?
How can sixty-six books of the Bible have a single message for us today? What unites the vastly different accounts of God's work in the world? How do various genres of the Bible work together?
Vaughan Roberts believes that the Bible tells a single story for all time. He draws out the Bible's message of Jesus Christ, and God's redemption through him, in six big questions.
This companion volume to God's Big Picture will not only help you to answer the questions listed above, but will give you tools to transform your own Bible study in the light of the whole story of God.
Extent: 192 pages
Publication Date: 16/03/2012
Published by: IVP
1. The once and future King - Who rules the world?
Bible study: Psalm2
2. Naked ape or divine image? - Who am I?
Bible study: Psalm 8 and Hebrews 2:5–18
3. God’s marriage - Is a perfect relationship possible?
Bible study: Ezekiel 16
4. Wealth and possessions - Your money or your life?
Bible study: 1 Timothy 6:6–19
5. The Holy Spirit - What is his work?
Bible study: The Spirit in John’s Gospel
6. God and the nations - What is God’s plan for the world?
Bible study: Isaiah 66:18–24
‘You can make the Bible say whatever you want’
An article in a university’s Student Union newspaper recently attacked Christian Union members for their approach to the Bible:
These people plunder the pages in search of sound bites: phrases to fit specific dilemmas, sentences to condemn the ungodly . . . The funniest thing, though, is that I am sure I can find a quotation saying the exact opposite to anyone who bashes me with biblical curses. This book is not a whole. It was not all written 2,000 years ago by a biblical Jackie Collins.
There are different texts by different authors, in very different contexts: to treat them as a whole is a downright travesty.
It is a familiar charge: ‘You can make the Bible say whatever you want,’ we are told. Of course, that is right; you can. In the arguments over whether Jesus is the only way to God, or the morality of homosexual sex, both sides quote Scripture. Is that because there is contradictory teaching in the Bible, so that it supports both positions in different places? Or is it because one of the groups, at least, is misinterpreting it?
The answer depends on the nature of the Bible. The student writer has focused on the key issue: is it a single book, a whole, a unity or not? If not, we cannot expect it to speak with one voice. There will be different strands of teaching that often contradict each other; so we will be free to pick and choose whichever parts suit us. But if the Bible is a whole, that approach will not be open to us. Instead, we will need to work hard to see how the different parts fit together.
The Bible is one book
The Bible certainly contains a diverse collection of writings: sixty-six books written by about forty different human authors over a considerable period of time. But it still holds together as a unity. Fundamentally, it is just one book written by one author with one main subject. The author is God. The apostle Paul wrote: ‘All Scripture is God-breathed’ (2 Timothy 3:16). What the human authors wrote still bears the marks of their different personalities, situations and writing styles, but it is not simply their message; it is God’s Word. He ensured by his Spirit that they wrote exactly what he wanted them to write. As a result, they combine to present a united message that focuses on one main subject: Jesus Christ and the salvation God achieves through him. Jesus said, speaking of the Old Testament: ‘These are the Scriptures that testify about me’ (John 5:39). The Old Testament points forward to him as the coming Saviour. The New Testament proclaims him to be that Saviour and calls on all people to believe and obey him.
The unity of the Bible should have significant implications for the way in which we read it. We should be aware not just of the immediate context of a text (the chapter or book in which it is found), but of the overall context (how it fits in the Bible as a whole). We need to have a sense of the framework of the Bible to help us to work out how an individual text fits within it. That is the aim of my previous book, God’s Big Picture. It seeks to give a chronological overview of the Bible’s story-line, starting at Genesis and ending in Revelation. That should equip readers to navigate their way around the Scriptures.
If God’s Big Picture provides a map of the Bible, Life’s Big Questions aims to help readers know how to use it. I will take six different themes and see how each unfolds through Scripture. I have deliberately chosen a wide range of subjects: our identity as humans, money and possessions, sex and marriage, mission and the Holy Spirit. I hope that this will give the reader confidence to begin to apply the same methodology to other themes.
It will help if you have read God’s Big Picture first, but that is not essential. The first chapter of this book looks at the theme of God’s king in the Bible. It will cover ground familiar to readers of the previous book, showing how the Bible focuses on Christ. This should provide a bridge between the two books, repeating the framework of God’s Big Picture, which will also undergird the following chapters.
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