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Home School of Biblical Theology Doing Biblical Theology - Hearing God's Word to His World - Talk 2

Doing Biblical Theology - Hearing God's Word to His World - Talk 2

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Biblical Theology - Hearing God's Word to His World

Talk 2

I would like to speak to you as a pastor speaking to fellow pastors, and knowing that being a pastor is always hard work.

There are always more things to do and people to help than I have time and energy for. And as our church family in Australia grows, the problem gets worse. As a result my biggest problem is making sure that, as a pastor, I am doing what is important rather than just being busy.

So, I would like to begin by asking all you pastors to think the same question I ask myself regularly: What is your main task, and how should you go about it?

A builder builds houses; a truck driver drives trucks; a baker bakes bread; but what is a pastor supposed to do?

Sadly, many pastors don’t appear to know. They are really busy doing lots of things, perhaps the things the people in their church expects them to do, but not what they should be doing, not what is most important.

As pastors, you will all be familiar with 2 Timothy 3:14-16 . These verses tell us what we our main task is.

First: A pastor is to know God’s word thoroughly so that you grow into a mature Christian yourself. It is a very simple rule: You can’t teach others what you have not experienced yourself.

Second: A pastor is to use all Scripture - both the Old and New Testament. The whole Bible is your tool of trade in seeing others saved AND thoroughly equipped for mature Christian living.

It is not good enough to teach or preach from a favourite verse or passage from some parts of the bible, and ignore the rest of God’s word. It is not enough just to use the New Testament because it speaks about Jesus and ignore the Old Testament.

Imagine reading a book on the history of Australia and ignoring completely the first half of it, or only reading a sentence here or there. Almost certainly your understanding of the whole story would be wrong. Almost certainly you would form wrong conclusions based on the bits you did read.

Therefore you need to know the Bible from the very first verse to the very last verse; you need to know how to use the bible properly so that the whole story of God’s plan for his world is accurately conveyed to those people God has given you responsibility for as pastor.

The process of understanding the story of the Bible as a whole is called Biblical Theology, and I hope to show you how Biblical Theology works in practice through studying Genesis 1-11 . Hopefully our first session was a helpful example of how this process works.

But in this session I want to pause before we move onto Genesis 2 in order to do two things.

First: I want to show you how to use the Bible so that we can be sure we are hearing God’s word, and teaching it as he intended us to.

Second: I want to give you some background to Genesis 1-11 as the first unit or section of God’s word so that we might see how it fits into the whole Bible.

1. Doing Biblical Theology (or How to interpret the Bible properly).

The starting point for interpreting the Bible properly is that the Bible is the words of God written in men’s words. ‘All scripture is God-breathed’. God speaks into his world through words. But God’s words are written down by real people in real situations with different backgrounds.

What Moses writes is what God said. What Isaiah wrote and prophesied is what God said. What Matthew wrote is what God said. What Paul wrote is what God said.

Since the Bible is God’s word and written in men’s words, and since all words have meaning, then our task is to get the correct meaning that the author and God intended. And this requires some hard work on our part, together with the work of God’s Holy Spirit, whose job is to help us understand God’s word.

But we want to do more than simply understand God’s word? Romans 12:1-2 suggests our desire in reading the Bible is that we will be transformed by God‘s word.

So we work hard to understand God’s word so that our thinking, attitudes, desires, and actions are brought into line with what God wants.

Reading and teaching God’s word is really re-programming or re-training – changing the way we think about God, ourselves and other people, the world as a whole, and the situations or circumstances we experience.

So, how does this work in Genesis 1 ? Allow me to show you the steps I take.

Begin by remembering there are many differences between you and the bible writer, such as language and culture. It is like a gap you have to bridge before you can understand fully what is written.

For example, a Burmese person writing to another Burmese person will more easily understand each other than if I was writing to you – between us there is the gap of language, culture, relationship.

To bridge the gap you need to ask:-

1. What is the plain meaning or sense of the words – Read the words of Genesis 1 like any other book.

2. What did the original readers understand by what was written? Genesis 1 : If I was one of the original readers how would the passage challenge or change my way of thinking, acting and feeling? What would it tell me about God, the world, myself and other people, the situations which I face?

3. Look for links from this passage to the bible as a whole

- How does Genesis 1 link to or fit with the bigger section of Genesis 1-11 ?

- How does it fit with the whole book of Genesis?

- How does it link to or fit with all that was written by Moses (The Pentateuch)?

- How does it link to or fit with the Old Testament as a whole?

- How does it link to or fit with Jesus (All God’s promises and purposes are fulfilled in


It is important to know what sort of links we are looking for and how to identify them. The following ideas or relationships should be considered.

[a] How does it fit into the continuous history of God’s people and the picture of God’s dealings with mankind? – Genesis 1 : it is God’s world and people are created to live under God’s authority, our world is based in the supernatural

[b] Are there ideas, or concepts that are quoted or referred to in another part of the bible? – Genesis 1 : the idea of the image bearer, and rest, and sexuality of maleness and femaleness

[c] Are there common theological terms? – Genesis 1 : God, creation; difference in the creation.

[d] Are there any major theological themes? – Genesis 1 : Trinity; creation from nothing by God’s word; people as image bearers; ‘God declared it to be good’.

[e] Are there promises or predictions or fulfilments? – Genesis 1 : the aim of creation was rest; mankind made to rule the world under God’s authority.

[f] What does it tell us about the progress of God’s saving history as displayed in Jesus? Genesis 1 : Shows us what God’s original intention for his world was before sin. Shows how good the good life with God is, and how much has been lost because of sin. Jesus is creator before he is saviour.

[g] How would the message of the bible be less complete if this passage did not exist? And how does it add to what I already know about God and his purpose in the world?

4 Check that your understanding has taken you to the true centre of the bible – the person and work of Jesus. (This was Jesus’ own understanding – Luke 24:44-47 ; Hebrews 1:1-4 ; Galatians 3:16 ; John 5:39-40

Therefore, the Old Testament will generally look forward to and explain the need for Jesus. The New Testament will generally make clear how God’s promises in the Old Testament have been fulfilled. Therefore the New Testament is a commentary on the Old Testament.

But the Old Testament must be allowed to speak for itself. Beware of minimising the Old Testament and beware of reading too much into the Old Testament so that it becomes an end in itself. For example – too much emphasis can be given to ‘seven days’ in creation story.

Second, I now want to have a closer look at the theology of Genesis 1-11 to help us see how it fits into the big picture of the whole bible.

In the Bible God has given all the information of the past necessary to understand the present and provide hope for the future.

Genesis 1- 11takes us back to the beginning of our world and give us the information we need to understand it and our place in it. The word ‘Genesis’ means beginnings or origins.

Genesis is part of a five-volume work written by Moses, for God’s people after they came out of Egypt where, as a nation, they had been living for many generations, and probably were influenced by the world-view or belief system of the Egyptians.

A world-view is like a pair of glasses through which you view the world. Every person has a world-view, whether they are aware of it or not.

Every person carries in their head a mental model of the world. And this mental model is like a giant filing cabinet with files in which we process and store information to do with our ideas and beliefs about God; our world and how it operates; ourselves and others and how we should live in the world; and our understanding of history.

So, in part, Genesis was designed to give them God’s world-view, a very different world-view to that which they would have experienced in Egypt.

Genesis was God’s glasses by which his people were to understand God; their world; how to live in the world; and God’s purpose in bringing the whole nation out of Egypt.

‘In the beginning was God’. He has always been there and the most important being who exists (ultimate reality). He is a single unity, not three gods, and he is personal. All this is totally different to the impersonal polytheism found everywhere in Ancient Near Eastern cultures, including Egypt.

God is not weak and impotent, bad-tempered or unpredictable as the ancients cultures believed. Rather God presents himself as powerful. He does what he wants, creating from nothing. He is just and steady with a clear purpose in mind and always working towards that purpose.

The sun, moon, stars, sea monsters, land animals, trees, mountains – all things that were thought to be powerful gods, were in fact only objects or creatures created by the one true God.

‘God created the heavens and the earth’. Physical matter did not always exist, but was made and ordered by the one true God.

‘Mankind’ – not created as an afterthought by the gods to bring them food, but created as the most important part of creation and made for relationship with God in which God provides food for mankind, and a place for them to live securely.

‘Image bearers’ were different to the other animals. They had something of God in them and were to show that in relationship with God - living under God’s authority and thereby enjoying the ‘God’s good life’. This was to share in God’s rest - God’s intention and purpose for his creation.

Ancient Near eastern cultures all believed that mankind started in a really primitive way, but was rescued by a god and given wisdom. From this point in time mankind improved and got better with each generation.

But God’s world view is totally different. Humankind were created with wisdom and enjoyed the best of life, but rebelled with the result that things got worse – evil and bad things in our world is the product of rebellion.

So Genesis 1-11 is like the introduction to an essay or a novel because it introduces all the important themes we need to know to understand God; ourselves; our world; and the importance of the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ.

Genesis 1-11 is God’s introduction to the story of his world, and his involvement in his world, and his ultimate purpose for his people and his world.

One writer has said that after Genesis 12 verse 3 there are no new themes in the Bible, just more details of the themes established in these first chapters of God’s word.

The fact that only eleven chapters of the whole Bible are taken up with the early history of the world, shows that the most important message of the bible is not the circumstances that resulted in such a terrible mess in the world, but God’s plan and promise to fix the mess and restore things to how they were, or even better than how they were.

Look at table one. The Bible starts with the whole world in focus. It is God’s world, but people have messed it up badly. God’s purpose was to undo the mess, and he did that through the nation of Israel. But the end point is Jesus and the whole world, which is where we end up in God’s word.

It is through Jesus that God’s world is finally restored and God’s people are finally able to be what they were created to be – those who live under God’s authority and bring him glory. There the end point of the Bible is that God is seen for who he truly is and worshipped and glorified as he ought to be – creator and Lord.

Go to talk 3

Last Updated on Tuesday, 18 January 2011 15:05  

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