Biblical Theology 101

Biblical Theology 101

Introduction
Early in the 21st century, a British police officer went to visit a primary school, where he was asked to tell a story. He began by asking: “Who knocked down the walls of Jericho?”

There was a long silence as the children shuffled nervously on their seats. Eventually, a little lad put up his hand and said: “Please sir, my name is Bruce Jones. I don’t know who did it but it wasn’t me.”

The police officer thought that reply to be cheeky, so he reported the incident to the head master. After a pause, the head master replied: “I know Bruce Jones. He is an honest boy. If he said he didn’t do it, he didn’t.”

The police officer was exasperated. The head master was either rude or very ignorant. The police officer wrote to the School Board to complain and received this response. “Dear Sir. We are sorry to hear about the walls of Jericho and that nobody has admitted causing the damage. If you send us an estimate, we will see what we can do about the cost.”

It is a silly story but it does make a point. A few decades ago everyone would have known about Joshua and the walls of Jericho. Today, the average non-Christian is almost completely ignorant of the contents of the Bible. Unfortunately, the knowledge of Christians is often not much better! We may know of many of the major stories and even key doctrines, but we do not understand how to use the Scriptures.

This morning we will consider the Scriptures from 50,000 feet while explaining what Biblical Theology is and its usefulness.

 

The Scriptures
The Bible is a diverse collection of different writings. It contains sixty-six books, written by about forty human authors, over nearly 2,000 years. It has two main sections (the Old Testament and the New Testament), is written in two main languages (Hebrew and Greek), includes a mixture of literature types.

The Scriptures do not tell the story of how God decided to send Jesus to earth only after his first plan had failed (e.g., Adam, Israel). The Scriptures are not a book of quotations. Neither are the Scriptures a collection of books.

The Scriptures must be understood and read as one book, written by one author (God), with one main subject (God’s plan of salvation through His Son Jesus Christ).
Biblical Theology
Biblical theology is, in effect, the study of the unity of the message of the Bible. Biblical theology:

• shows the relationship of all parts of the Scriptures to the person and work of Jesus Christ. In effect, it shows the Scriptures to be Christo-centric.
• shows the process by which God has chosen to reveal Himself to mankind. In effect, shows how that revelation is progressively revealed and progressively develops over the course of history.
• shows the Scriptures to be more than a story. It’s a story that starts at the beginning of history and ends at the end of history. In effect, it is a metanarrative; a story that explains everything and so provides us with a worldview [1]

Biblical theology differs from Systematic Theology. Biblical theology is the attempt to tell the whole story of the whole Bible as Christian Scripture. Systematic theology is the attempt to summarize in an orderly and comprehensive manner what the whole bible has to say about any given topic. It then organizes those topics into precise and accurate doctrines that define the boundary between truth and error, between orthodoxy (right belief) and heresy. [1]
Unifying Themes
If we are understand a text of Scripture, we need to understand the words, sentences, and paragraphs through the grammatical-historical method. But we also ask the question, what covenant, dispensation, or epoch (the three major evangelical theories) governs God’s people and His progressive revelation at this point.

1. Covenants
Covenantal theologians view God’s progressive revelation in terms of covenants (covenants of works and covenants of grace). They divide the Scriptures into seven covenants — Creation, Redemption, Noahic, Abrahamic, Mosaic, Davidic, and New.

2. Dispensations
Dispensationalists view God’s progressive revelation in terms of dispensations. They divide the Scriptures into seven dispensations — innocence (prior to Adam’s fall; Gen 1:1–3:7), conscience (from Adam to Noah; Gen 3:8–8:22), government (from Noah to Abraham; Gen 9:1–11:32), patriarchal rule (from Abraham to Moses; Gen 12:1–Exod 19:25), Mosaic Law (from Moses to Christ; Exod 20:1–Acts 2:4), grace (the current church age; Acts 2:4–Rev 20:3), and the Millennial Kingdom that has yet to come (Rev 20:4–20:6).

3. Epochs
Epochists (if such a term exists) view God’s progressive revelation in terms of epochs. they divide the Scriptures into epochs — creation, fall, promise, Israel, etc.
Discussion Questions
In an attempt to show how the Scriptures are Christo-centric, progressive in their revelation, and involve a metanarrative, how would you answer the following questions:

• There are how many “peoples of God”?
• Jonah is a picture of who in the Old Testament? The New Testament?
• Why was it important for Christ to go to Egypt?

• How were people in the Old Testament saved?
• How does Abigail point us to Christ?
• Abraham was a ________ (nationality)?

• If the Scriptures address a single subject, what is that subject?
• Who is the “second” Adam? Where is this discussed?
• Why were there 12 disciples?
Answers to Discussion Questions
The answers to these discussion questions will differ (somewhat) on which unifying theme you use to approach the Scriptures. Assuming that you approach the Scriptures from a Covenantal or Epochal approach, the answers are as follows:

• There are how many “peoples of God”?
One. From eternity past (Eph. 1:4) God chose a people to worship and honor Him. From inception, there was one people, one tree (Romans 11:11-24).

• Jonah is a picture of who in the Old Testament? The New Testament?
Jonah typified the stubborn rebellion of God’s people, Israel. Just as Jonah disobeyed God’s order, Israel disobeyed God’s law. Just as Jonah refused to carry out his task of preaching to the Gentiles, so did the nation Israel. Just as Jonah called on God for deliverance, yet without genuine repentance, so did Israel. Just as Jonah had the outward trappings of righteousness, the right forms and the right terms, but lacked genuine righteousness, so did Israel. Just as Jonah chaffed at the thought of the repentance and forgiveness of the Assyrians, so the self-righteous scribes and Pharisees bristled at the repentance of the “prodigal son,” as reflected by the older brother (Luke 15:11-32). And just as Jonah smugly saw himself as righteous, while the pagan was a sinner (Jonah 2:8-9), so the elder brother looked down his spiritual nose at his younger brother. Jonah portrays Israel in the Old Testament and the Elder Brother in the New Testament.

• Why was it important for Christ to go to Egypt?
Jesus is the true Israel — Using a quotation from Hosea, Matthew deliberately identifies Jesus with Israel: “Out of Egypt I called my son” (Matthew 2:15). But this Jesus is different. He too is tempted, as the Israelites were in the wilderness, but He does not fall (Matthew 4:1-11).

• How were people in the Old Testament saved?
In that there was a single plan of salvation, all (Old Testament or New Testament) are saved by grace through faith (Habbakuk 2:4; Eph. 2:8-9; Hebrews 11:8-12).

• How does Abigail point us to Christ?
True submission is best seen in Philippians 2:1-8. True biblical submission is the active pursuit of moral truth and the best interests of another, by the subordination of our own personal interests. This is clearly seen here in Philippians 2. Here Christ actively pursues God’s need for justice (sin must be punished) and the best interests of the elect (the best interests of another), by the subordination of His own personal interest (“who although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant….”). This is true biblical submission. Likewise Abigail (1 Sam. 25:23-31) actively pursues moral truth (she indirectly reminds him that the Old Testament Law of Moses sets down the principle of justice: an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth — see Exodus 21:24; Leviticus 24:20; Deuteronomy 19:21), actively pursues the best interests of another (she pleads with him not to take her husband Nabal seriously for he is a fool and she protects David future reputation as a King), and she subordinates her own personal interests (she places her life in danger and would have been better served to allow David to kill the fool Nabal).

• Abraham was a ________ (nationality)?
Abraham was a Chaldean (Genesis 11:28). Thus, all promises made to Abraham do not need to be filled by the Jews since Abraham is the father of both Gentiles (Ishmael) and Jews (Isaac). And these promises were made prior to the creation of the nation of Israel.

• If the Scriptures address a single subject, what is that subject?
God’s glory in salvation through judgment. [1] Or, God’s plan of salvation through His Son Jesus Christ. [2]

• Who is the “second” Adam? Where is this discussed?
Jesus is the true Adam — He is descended from Adam (Luke 3:23-38). He identifies with Adam’s race in His baptism (Luke 3:21-22). But unlike the first Adam, when He is tempted He does not sin (Rom. 5:18-19).

• Why were there 12 disciples?
The disciples are a new Israel — Jesus calls His first disciples. His choice of twelve is no coincidence; it is a deliberate statement. He is calling together a new Israel, with twelve disciples as the foundation, rather than twelve tribes (Matthew 4:18-22). The kingdom of God is to be taken away from the Jews and given to a people who will produce its fruit (Matthew 21:43). The new Israel is made up of Abraham’s offspring — not only those who are of the law (i.e., Jews) but also those who are of the faith of Abraham (who was not a Jew — Rom. 4:16).
Kingdom of God
As one example of an Epoch-centric structure, an overview of Biblical Theology can follow Vaughan Roberts’ model. He believes that there is a unifying theme that binds the whole Bible together — the Kingdom of God.

What is the kingdom of God? He defines the kingdom of God as: “God’s people in God’s place under God’s rule and blessing.”

His Epoch-centric approach divides the Bible into eight sections which are the main epochs in God’s unfolding plan to restore His kingdom — The Pattern of the Kingdom (Genesis 1-2), The Perished Kingdom (Genesis 3), The Promised Kingdom (Genesis 12 – Exodus 18), The Partial Kingdom (Exodus 19 – 2 Chronicles), The Prophesied Kingdom (Ezra – Malachi), The Present Kingdom (Gospels), The Proclaimed Kingdom (Acts – Revelation 19), and The Perfected Kingdom (Revelation 20+).
Conclusion
Biblical theology is, in effect, the study of the unity of the message of the Bible. Biblical theology teaches us that the Scriptures must be understood and read as one book, written by one author (God), with one main subject (God’s plan of salvation through His Son Jesus Christ). Biblical Theology shows us that the Scriptures are:
• Christo-centric,
• progressive in its revelation, and
• a story that explains everything and so provides us with a worldview.

 

Endnotes
[1] Michael Lawrence, “Biblical Theology in the Life of the Church”
[2] Vaughan Roberts, “The Big Picture”
[3] Robert Deffinbaugh, “Dear Abby”

For a transcript of this lesson go to: www.markastonetx.com and click on the Community Group link.

Biblical Theology Diagrams

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