Book Review: Understanding the Big Picture of the Bible

Reading the Bible well can be a daunting task for many Christians, seasoned or young. That is why it is important to get the foundations of how the whole Bible fits together, how to read the different genres or kinds of Scripture, and how Jesus relates to it all.

Understanding the Big Picture of the Bible: A Guide to Reading the Bible Well is a short, helpful new book published recently by Crossway that aims to help in this task.

To be sure, this book is a compilation of articles that would help readers in reading and interpreting the Bible. The individual chapter authors are renown biblical scholars.

Thankfully, the editors (Wayne Grudem, C. John Collins, and Thomas R. Schreiner) have compiled one very cohesive and concise book to address all the basic kinds of hermeneutical issues. Part 1 of the book is on the Old Testament, part 2 is on the Background to the New Testament, and part 3 is on the New Testament itself.

Helpful Time Lines

I found the last section of the book, Part 4, very helpful. These last few pages of the book contain Time Lines, and it gave me a really insightful look at the chronological history of the forefathers of the Jewish faith, the United Monarchy of the kings of Israel, the Divided Monarchy and exilic times, and the generations returning from exile.

Furthermore, the intertestamental events time line is a great resource for those Bible readers who did not know of the various historical and cultural events that predated the Bible, circumstances that affected the context of the New Testament. Consequently, the included New Testament Time Line is certainly an important chart to learn and be familiar with. When we understand the time of Jesus better, the more we can appreciate the significance of his atoning sacrifice for us and for our salvation.

Biblical Backgrounds

Similarly, Part 2: Background to the New Testament is the most meaty and dense section of this book, and yet a section the seasoned Christian should consider studying carefully. The time between the testaments and the so-called “four hundred years of silence” is an era of Christian history that needs to be studied.

While in seminary at SBTS, I recall that this content was lectured and discussed in the first week weeks of my introductory New Testament class. I remember being very confused as to who the Sadducees were, and what the Esssenes were all about. Such historical facts were completely foreign to me, cultural artifacts that were never mentioned in my Christian life in the church. This is why every Christian will be aided in their understanding of Biblical history. When we develop greater perspective that the Holy Scriptures of our Christian faith came out of true, historical time periods and cultures, we get a better understanding of how amazing Jesus is. We will in turn discover why God’s redemptive plan for all mankind is so amazing: Jesus is the fulfillment of the whole Scripture.

Highly Recommended

I heartily recommend this small book to every Christian, young and old. If you are reading the Bible for the first time, or if you are reading through the Bible for the 40th time, you’ll be sure to find that this book is an excellent assistant to your biblical interpretation.

 

Buy this book in Paperback or Kindle ebook!

The Difference between False Teachers and Scoffers

In 2 Peter, what are the differences between false teachers (2:1-3; 10-22) and scoffers (3:1-4), both in content and function?

False Teachers

Alongside authentic prophets and after a passage that has asserted the reliability of prophecies regarding Christ, (1:20-21), Peter now describes that there have always been false prophets who receive God???s judgment. His use of the future tense in 2:1-3 (i.e. ???there will be???) does not imply that false prophets had not yet come, but it alludes to Jesus??? prediction that false teachers would arise (cf. Matt 24:11, 24; Acts 20:29-31).?? The false teachers who had arisen fulfilled that very prediction.

Content and Function

The false teachers parade themselves as Christian pastors, teachers, and evangelists (cf. Jude 4) who secretly bring in destructive heresies. Such self-designed religious lies lead to division and faction (cf. 1 Cor 11:19; Gal 5:20) in churches that make a virtue out of tolerating unscriptural teachings and ideas in the name of love and unity.?? Continue reading

The Unique Role of Elders

Continuing my series on 1 Peter, let us examine The Unique Role of Elders from 1 Peter 4:12-5:14.

Identifying with Elders

Peter ends his second epistle with final exhortations to elders (5:1-4), to younger men (5:5), and to the church as a whole (5:5-11).?? He explains that elders (5:1) have a unique role in the function of the church. Writing in the plural (elders), Peter indicated that it was usual to have a plurality of godly leaders who oversaw and fed the flock.?? Elders were the spiritual leaders of the early churches (cf. Acts 14:23; 20:17; 1 Tim 5:17-19; Titus 1:5; James 5:14).?? By calling himself a fellow elder, Peter identifies with them in their responsibilities and with the charge that he gives them, for he is able to give relevant exhortation to the spiritual leaders as ???one of them.???Furthermore, by noting that he had been an eyewitness of Christ???s suffering, Peter was affirming his apostleship and authority in giving this motivational exhortation (cf. Luke 24:48; Acts 1:21-22).?? The fact that Christian leaders will one day receive from the hand of Christ a reward for their service should be stimulant to faithful duty.?? The basis of this anticipation was Peter???s experience in observing the Transfiguration of Christ (cf. Matt 17:1-8; 2 Pet 1:16).?? For at that momentous event, he did partake of the Lord???s glory. Continue reading

The New Life and Our Duty in a Hostile World

Continuing my series on 1 Peter, let us examine The New Life and Our Duty in a Hostile World from 1 Peter 1:13-25 and 1 Peter 2:13-3:12.

Holiness: The New Way of Life

In 1 Peter 1:13-21, Peter commends to his readers that their future inheritance should be an incentive to holiness.?? He exhorts his readers to godly living (1:13-2:3), commending them towards moral and spiritual actions that constitute a life of loyalty to Christ. The inheritance promised to followers of Christ (1:13-16) should motivate them to set their hope entirely on their future reward.?? More than that, Christians are called to live in fear of the God who redeemed them at the cost of his own son (1:17-21).

Respect: The Christian???s Duty in a Hostile World

Henceforth, those who hope in the grace of Christ???s revelation and fear God’s discipline and fatherly displeasure will consequently glorify God by behaving respectfully in the world they live. Through the familiar paraenesis of New Testament epistles, Peter now turns to a list of dutiful commands for Christians (2:11-3:12).?? His instructions primarily address how we must relate to others ??? how we as believers should live as exiles in the midst of a world that rejects our message.?? We are to bear witness to the gospel when we live in a way that pleases God, testifying to the Gospel in the way we order ourselves in society.Peter exhorts Christians to goodness as citizens (2:13-17), slaves (2:18-25), wives (3:1-6), and husbands (3:7). The section is summed up in 1 Peter 3:8-12: those who imitate Christ and pursue goodness will receive an eternal reward. Continue reading

The Responsibilities of God’s People through Sin and Suffering

After a long break, I continue my series on the Epistle of 1 Peter with a discussion on 1 Peter 2:11-4:11 concerning to the Responsibilities of God’s People through Sin and Suffering.

The Responsibilities of God???s People

The second half of 1 Peter includes a paraenesis ??? a list moral virtues and vices, or collections of moral commands to practice specific virtues and avoid specific vices.?? Peter gives specific moral instruction and exhortation for the believers??? relationship with the surrounding culture, the state, and fellow believers.?? Appropriately gospel-centered, Peter grounds his exhortations in believer???s identity in Christ (2:4???10) ??? namely, that they are an elect people who have been markedly saved and set apart for gospel praise and proclamation (1 Pet 2:5, 9).?? Henceforth, this gospel is the motivation for fulfilling our duties and roles as believers.

Role of Believers to the World

Toward the surrounding unbelieving culture (2:11???12).?? In this section, Peter calls his readers to live a righteous life as exiles (cf. 1:1, 17) in a hostile world that rejects their message.?? In order to bear witness to the gospel whey they live in a way that pleases God, they must abstain from fleshly lusts.?? In order to have any impact in the world for God, believers should be disciplined in their private, inward lives by avoiding the desires of their depraved and fallen natures (cf. Gal 5:19-21).?? The pleasures of the world are tempting and enticing, hence there is a great internal struggle and powerful spiritual warfare against such desires. Believers must abstain from sinful passions, for they wage war against your soul: holding on to sinful desires brings spiritual harm.?? The notion here has a connotation of a military campaign in which fleshly lusts are personified as if they were an army of rebels or guerrillas who incessantly search out and try to destroy the Christian???s joy, peace, and usefulness (cf. 4:2, 3). Continue reading

Life in Christ & the Motif of Priesthood in Our Character and Function

Life in Christ & the Motif of Priesthood in Our Character and Function from 1 Peter 1-2:10In 1 Peter 2:4, we find that we are made into living stones, from and by him who is a living stone ??? the living stone, Jesus Christ. This transition from the previous imperative section (1:13-2:3) now leads into an indicative section that affirms God???s gracious work in Christ. From this we see that all of Peters commands to Christians are rooted in and dependent upon God???s grace. We are not alive for no good reason, but for a very specific purpose. When we are made alive to God and dead to sin, God???s purpose is for us is to be a ???holy priesthood??? (2:5,9). Just as they are living stones, as a spiritual house, God is thus building believers so that they are now a spiritual house and a holy priesthood (2:5). As God???s priests who are animated by the Holy Spirit, they are enabled to offer sacrifices that are acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.The ???spiritual house??? alludes back to the temple, which is often called a ???house??? in the Old Testament (cf. 2 Sam 7:13; 1 King 3; Matt 21:13; John 2:16-17). It is a ???spiritual??? house specifically because it is animated and indwelt by the Holy Spirit ??? both communally and its individual members. Henceforth, Peter indentifies the church as God???s new temple here. Since the physical temple of the Old Testament pointed forward to and anticipated God???s new temple, the old is thus now superfluous and unnecessary, for the new temple has arrived through Christ in the church.Like the Old Testament priests, the New Testament Christians as the ???holy priesthood??? share a number of characteristics. First, the priesthood is a privilege of the elect (Ex 28:1; John 15:16); second, priests are cleansed of sins (Lev 8:6-36; Titus 2:14); third, priests are clothed for service (1 Pet 5:5; Ex 28:42); fourth, they are anointed for service (Lev 8:12, 30; 1 John 2:20, 27); fifth, they are prepared for service (Lev 8:33; Gal 1:16); sixth, priests are ordained to obedience (1 Pet 2:4; Lev 10:1ff); seventh, they are to honor God???s word (1 Pet 1:2); eighth, they are to walk with God (Mal 2:6; Gal 5:16,25); ninth, they are to impact sinners (Mal 2:6; Gal 6:1); and last but not least, priests are to be messengers of God (Mal 2:7; Matt 28:19, 20).In this manner, those who have been united with Christ by faith in regeneration are both the temple and the priests that minister in that temple. Such may seem contradictory at first, but since Peter does not call believers the literal, physical temple and priests but a spiritual one, this should not cause too much theological insecurities. As the faithful in Christ, we are God???s dwelling place by the Holy Spirit (cf. 1 Cor 3:16-17) and his new priesthood.Sacrifices can only be acceptable to God through Christ, who is our Mediator. For our sacrifices and offerings can never be acceptable to God due to our radically inability (total depravity) in and of ourselves. Christ was the High Priest who was the only one able to offer a sacrifice that was perfectly acceptable God ??? once for all ??? the sacrifice of Jesus himself on the cross in our place for our sins. Spiritual sacrifices entail God-honoring works done because of Christ under the direction of the Holy Spirit and the guidance of the Word of God. While the Levitical sacrifices of the Old Testament cultus is certainly no longer necessary, Peter???s call to ???spiritual sacrifices??? entail sacrifices offered by virtue of the work of the Holy Spirit.Such spiritual sacrifices generally include offering the strength of one???s body to God (Rom 12:1, 2); praising God (Heb 13:15; 1 Pet 2:9); doing good (Heb 13:16); sharing one???s resources (Heb 13:16); bringing people to Christ (Rom 15:16); sacrificing one???s desires for the good of others (Eph 5:2); as well as praying (Rev 8:3). Specifically, Peter affirms to us in 2:9 that the purpose of this new people of God is to proclaim his praises and wonders. All these things considered, Peter spoke generally and comprehensively of all that the believers do by the power of the Holy Spirit.The concept of royal or kingly priesthood from 1 Peter 2:9 finds its root in Exodus 19:6. Israel temporarily forfeited this privilege because of its apostasy and because its wicked leaders executed the Messiah. At the present time, the church is a royal priesthood united with the royal priest, Jesus Christ. A royal priesthood is not only a priesthood that belongs to and serves the king, but is also a priesthood that exercises rulership and kingly reign. This will ultimately be fulfilled in Christ???s future kingdom (1 Cor 6:1-4; Rev 5:10; 20:6). Both Israel as a whole and the church of Jesus Christ are identified as a ???royal priesthood??? (cf. Rev 1:6) ??? a priesthood that is corporate in nature yet with individuals who serve priestly functions.The reference here in 2:9 harkens back to the offering of spiritual sacrifices in 2:4. Peter commends that this royal priesthood is to proclaim ??? that is, to tell forth, to tell something not otherwise known ??? namely, the praises (Isa 43:7), excellencies, virtues and eminent qualities of Jesus Christ who has redeemed, ransomed and delivered us from darkness into his marvelous light (cf. Acts 26:18; Eph 5:8; Col 1:13). This is certainly a description of the Petrine audience???s conversion, utilizing language from Genesis 1:3-5. What did the Son of God do, except the greatest and most excellent and praiseworthy thing ever accomplished by a man: he called us out of darkness into his marvelous light; he redeemed us from being enslaved to our flesh, to its sinful desires and temptations, and through his atoning sacrifice on the cross Jesus has thus freed us from that very darkness and brought us into the light of righteousness (2 Cor 4:6). Having said this, we must understand the calling of God that effects conversion as effectual (effectual calling) ??? the Word of God that creates light is the very Word that effectively creates faith. Since the phrase ???as you come to him??? can be seen as conversion, so also we see God???s work in the past in calling (???called???) his people as effective ??? for those whom God calls he also justifies. (Rom 8:30).

1 Peter: Introduction – Reflections on the Commentary

This article is copyright ?? 2008 by Alex S. Leung. All rights reserved.

Authorship

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It is very interesting to consider the arguments for and against Peter???s ability to write in the way he does in 1 Peter???a language that seems very advanced in its Greek, with good rhetoric and prose.?? Could Peter, a lowly fisherman, have known and used Greek in such an advanced fashion??? Is it possible that Peter wrote such beautiful Greek as a Galilean??? The reference to Acts 4:13 is baffling: ???Now when they saw the boldness of Peter and John, and perceived that they were uneducated, common men, they were astonished.????? Recalling this verse, it is surprising that Peter could possibly write in the way he does in 1 Peter.?? How did his language get to the way it was in 1 Peter??? For the people of the Pentecost who saw and heard the preaching of Peter knew that he was unschooled and uneducated.???? Schreiner???s commentary and footnoted sources calls us to conclude that yes, it was very likely that Peter was able to speak and write in koine Greek, in a manner that showed that he was well versed in the language of Hellenistic Galilee.?? Peter being ???uneducated??? is a matter of interpretation ??? he was certainly not intimately known by the synagogue and untrained rabbinically.?? Schreiner argues for this interpretation and I believe he is correct here.?? Just because Peter was not trained as a Rabbit does not necessarily mean that he was not trained in the common language of the area of that time ??? Greek.?? Because he was a fisherman by trade, it was a requirement and a bonus for him to be able to know his Greek well. His success as a businessman required that he be able to communicate effectively with other fisherman, traders, and customers.?? Thus, it should be no wonder that Peter was well versed in his Greek and in his rhetorical ability; such was a great aid to him as a preacher of God???s word and the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

Pauline Theology

It is certainly peculiar that 1 Peter has many themes that is common to Paul???s writings: salvation and the last things; the suffering of Christians for their faith; the need for disciples to live holy lives; the centrality of Christ as God???s cornerstone; submission to government; the relationship of wives to husbands (and vice versa); the superiority of Christ over all things; the nearness of the eschaton.?? But despite the commonality of these topics in both the writings of Paul and Peter, we ought to recall the disagreement in Galatians 2 between the two men.?? Schreiner rightly calls to attention that the behavior of Peter (Cephas) was due to his fearful and hypocritical inclination and not his convicted beliefs.?? In the simplest of the sense, Peter just reacted and didn???t think twice when the circumcision party confronted him.So in spite of the disagreement in Galatians between Paul and Peter, the Pauline character of Peter???s writings should not refute him as the author.?? On the contrary, we ought to see a Petrine interpretation of these popular New Testament topics and seek to understand the uniqueness of Peter???s contribution to the Bible.?? His care and concern for the Jewish community is something to learn from, especially in terms of relating the Jewish dispersion to Gentiles who have not experienced the same physical exile.?? In this sense, Peter brings to the Christian community a unique kind of inter-ethnic unity that Gentile Christians and Jews that Paul did not express.

Persecution

Discrimination, mistreatment and verbal abuse from former colleagues and friends are specific examples of persecution in 1 Peter, and a reminder of the similar trials that Christians face today.?? Back in the day of Peter, Christians were attacked because of their exclusivism, and so we are today: we suffer persecution from within and outside of the church for our belief in such fundamentals: that Christ is the one and only way to salvation, that it was only through the atoning work of Christ that we could be saved and persevere in this evil age.?? Such is certainly where any and all division within and without the church should exist ??? on the primary issues of the gospel.