Most of us now have to do professional development in our careers, life long learning is the name of the game. It’s the same for pastors. I try and keep up with what is being written in a couple of areas of interest related to being a pastor, church leader, preacher etc. Recently, I realised that I hadn’t really spent much time reading in the area of biblical studies over the last two years. If I am honest that was probably because books in the field tend to be a bit more academic and technical and so, take a bit more work to read. I got a few books and started reading and I have to say that what I read really challenged and encouraged me. Sometimes we think scholarship is dry and very cerebral but actually these books by some outstanding Biblical scholars really enriched my understanding of some key ideas in the Bible.
I thought I would share a couple of “takeaways” from these books that are helping to enrich my reading of God’s Word and challenging me in how I think about following Jesus in the hope they might do the same for you.
So here they are a couple of ways of reading some key concepts from the New Testament that could help deepen your faith
WHEN YOU SEE “CHRIST” THINK “KING”
Growing up going to Sunday School I think I came to think of “Christ” as being sort of Jesus’ surname. Of course, I now know Christ means Messiah but reading some of these biblical studies books has reminded me of the implications of what it means to see Jesus as the Messiah.
I have been thinking about the importance of Jesus being the Messiah through reading books like THE KING JESUS GOSPEL by Scot McKnight and HOW JESUS BECAME KING by NT Wright.
The idea of Messiah, the word we translate as “Christ” was an expectation of a king in the family line of ancient Israel’s King David, who would arise and bring about God’s reign of justice and peace on earth. What that means is that every time I say, JESUS CHRIST or better JESUS MESSIAH I am saying that Jesus is the climax of the story of God’s people, the way God’s Kingdom comes into the world and the rightful ruler of the world as well as being my rightful Lord.
Here is one of my favourite quotes from McKnight’s book which explains why its important to realise that Jesus is the Messiah, our King.
“The idea of King and a kingdom are connected to the original creation. God wanted the Eikons, (those made in the image of God) Adam and Eve, to rule in this world. They failed, so God sent his Son to rule. As its King and Messiah and Lord, the Son commissions the Church to bear witness to the world of the redemption in Jesus Christ, the true King, and to embody the kingdom as the people of God.”
Why not give it a try, when you are reading the NT when you see JESUS CHRIST, think or say JESUS THE KING and then think about how that changes how you understand what you are reading
WHEN YOU SEE “FAITH” THINK “ALLEGIANCE”
One of our problems is that our way of thinking about faith is very shaped by Greek philosophy which has come to us by way of what is called the Enlightenment. Without going into details one of the problems with this is that it has reduced faith to a purely intellectual thing, its about propositional statements and beliefs that are not verifiable by science.
This can easily make us think that faith is bit like a long password, just know the right words and it gets you into the Kingdom of God. When we come to Scripture, we discover that the language of “faith” is much more than just “believing the right things about the right things.” James reminds us that that kind of “faith” on its own is “dead,” “barren,” “unable to save.” Yet all too often that can be what we as Christians mean by “faith.”
I have been reading a book called SALVATION BY ALLIEGANCE ALONE by Matthew Bates. In that book he argues that in the Bible the language of “faith” and “believing” is much more personal than propositional. It’s about believing certain things certainly but also about trusting in God through all things and being devoted to God in all our ways. It is really about allegiance: “faith” is a commitment to God and God’s ways as revealed in Jesus. We don’t really have faith in the Biblical sense unless as well as believing the right things about Jesus as a result we are also trusting Jesus and have given Him our allegiance as our King. You can see how this fits well with realising that Jesus is our Messiah, our rightful ruler.
Here are a couple of my favourite quotes form Bates book
“The purpose of the gospel proclamation is to cultivate obedient allegiance to Jesus the king among the nations” ( and in our lives )
“The gospel of Jesus resonates within, yet subverts, its Roman imperial context. When citizens of the Roman Empire hear Paul’s message about Jesus the heavenly king, they are changing allegiance by repenting of their former sinful ways of life, joining the Spirit-filled community, and proceeding to live new lives as citizens under the rule of King Jesus.”
Give this one a try too. When you see the word, FAITH think ALLEGIANCE to Jesus. Remind yourself that faith isn’t just believing the right things about Jesus ( we are reminded the Devil also believes the right things about Jesus) it is about trusting Him, obeying Him, serving Him as your King. As a Scottish police officer I had to pledge allegiance to the Queen, those of you who are from the USA pledge allegiance to your flag, at a much deeper and more significant level all of us who are followers of Jesus are saying we have pledged our allegiance to Jesus when we put our faith in Him. Every time we read FAITH we should be reminding ourselves of where our primary allegiance lies, with Jesus our King