My first class at Asbury Theological Seminary this fall is an Introduction to the New Testament. For those who have asked, this is my required reading list:
The King Jesus Gospel by Scot McKnight
The Shadow of the Galilean by Gerd Theissen
Who Chose the Gospels: Probing the Great Gospel Conspiracy by CE Hill
Recovering the Full Mission of God: A Biblical Perspective on Being, Doing, and Telling by Dean Fleming
What Saint Paul Really Said by NT Wright
Honor, Patronage, Kinship, & Purity: Unlocking New Testament Culture by David deSilva
There must be one hundred different ways to design a syllabus for a class like this, I’ve compared a few and they can be very different! My professor is a retired missionary from Kenya, and I’m excited for the cultural aspects he appears to be bringing to the class.
There are also many different ways to be a distance-learner. This class is a full semester (Sept-Dec) with weekly reading assignments, discussions, and video lectures. We meet in person mid-semester at Asbury’s extension campus in Orlando for 3 days in late October… that makes it a “hybrid” class. As an extrovert I actually hate having to study by myself and interact online… but that’s just the best I can do for this phase of life!
If you’re a Facebook user, follow this blog here and I promise to at least offer up random bits for discussion as I go along!
On June 27 we begin reading the book of Luke. Luke probably did not know Jesus personally and he was not one of the 12 disciples. Luke was a well-educated doctor and an early convert, who became very dedicated to the cause of the gospel and accompanied the apostle Paul on several missionary trips. Luke set out to compile a very detailed account of the life of Jesus and he interviewed many eyewitnesses before compiling this compelling and thoughtful summary.
Luke’s gospel is sometimes called a “gospel of relationships” as he provides many excellent character descriptions. As you read through Luke this month, make a note of all the different people Jesus encounters – consider their gender and their ethnic, religious, economic, and social groups. Luke chooses to highlight the poor and outcast, and he introduces thirteen women mentioned in no other gospel. He also shows delight and appreciation for children. The gospel helps us see value in people that society often rejects, and to bridge socio-cultural gaps – consider Jesus’ interaction with people as you read and study Luke.
“It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.” – Jesus, Luke 5:31-32
On June 26 we will read Philemon – you’ll find it tucked away right before Hebrews. Philemon is a one page letter, Paul’s personal request for a favor from a friend. It’s a big favor – the life of an individual hangs in the balance. Philemon owned a slave, Onesimus, who had run away. In Rome Onesimus meets Paul and becomes a Christian, perhaps they even shared a jail cell together. Onesimus’ conversion to Christ greatly complicated his future – he knew he could not keep running from his responsibilities forever, but if he returned to his master he risked immediate execution or (if the owner was merciful) branding as a runaway. Paul writes a persuasive letter, using all his influence to persuade Philemon to welcome his runaway slave back and to treat him well.
Imagine an estranged relationship you know, or another awkward social situation where an offense has been committed, or there is a socially imposed distance… How can you play the role of a reconciler? How does Paul use his best diplomatic skills to bring two people together? What does he appeal to?
On June 20 we started Colossians, the apostle Paul’s letter to the church in Colossae. Like the other letters of Paul we have been reading, it is relatively short and succinctly addresses both doctrinal and lifestyle issues.
When I think of the book of Colossians, several things stand out to me. In chapters 1-2 you will find one of the most powerful passages in the whole of scripture on the identity of Christ. In the margin of my Bible I have Colossians 1-2 tied to Ephesians 1-2 because in those four chapters you will find a very complete “Christology” (the doctrine of who Jesus Christ is).
Secondly, in the book of Colossians you will find a very good summary of what it means to be converted. There are important themes of alienation and reconciliation, our transfer from the kingdom of darkness to the kingdom of Christ (1:13), what it means to live a life worthy of the Lord (1:9-12), how we were dead in our sins but are now made alive in Christ (2:9-15), the putting off of the old self and putting on the new self (ch. 3), and how being a believer affects our relationships (ch. 3).
Take heart, “All over the world this gospel is bearing fruit and growing”! (1:6)
Dear 5x5x5 Readers,
This week we will finish reading the book of Acts, and we will start reading Hebrews. In Acts you discovered the historical framework for the spread of the gospel and the birth of churches throughout the Roman empire. Also, now you know that new converts to Christianity were being thrown out of synagogues, tossed in jail, and even tortured. Was faith in Jesus Christ worth the risk?
Hebrews was written to give those who had heard the gospel, especially Jews, a compelling reason why they should choose Christianity over the familiar and politically-safe routines of Judaism. For the sake of Jewish readers, the author painstakingly cites Old Testament passages (more than 80 times!) to develop the case for Christ like a lawyer. Point by point, the author of Hebrews shows how Christ improved on the traditional old-covenant Judaism.
As you read, watch for words like in the past/former and better/superior and you will see how Jesus Christ brought a new and better covenant to replace many of the laws of the old covenant.
Here is a link to a digital copy of Matthew Henry’s concise commentary, which might be helpful in Hebrews. http://www.biblestudytools.com/commentaries/matthew-henry-concise/hebrews/
Keep up the good reading! – Mindy
Dear 5x5x5 Readers,
Congratulations, you made it through the book of Mark! Studies show that it takes three weeks to establish a new habit, so I hope that by now you have a regular time and place for your reading and prayer time! Personally, I sit in a big chair in my bedroom at 6 AM every morning, sipping on my coffee and taking a moment to read and pour out my heart to the Lord.
We start the book of Acts today. Acts gives us the transition from the life of Christ to the new church. It introduces Paul and explains how a minority religion crossed the sea to Rome, the capital of the ruling empire. The reader of Acts will visit key cities sprinkled throughout the Mediterranean, meet the principle leaders of a new movement, and get a taste of the types of problems the will preoccupy early churches.
The book opens in Jerusalem, during the Pentecost holiday. Jesus’ last recorded words on earth are in Acts 1:8 “You will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” Acts faithfully follows this outline: The first seven chapters show the church in Jerusalem, the next five chapters are in Judea and Samaria, and the remainder of the book follows the spread of the gospel to the outposts of the Roman empire.
In Acts you will meet Peter and Paul, read a series of 18 speeches, and encounter all kinds of exciting events like riots, prison breaks, and shipwrecks. It reads like a novel, wherever the disciples went the action swirled. If you can, try to link visits to each city with later letters written to the church in that city. It’s interesting!
As you read Acts, try to create a character profile of the new church… What is it like? What do its people do? How are they strong? Weak? How are they like (or unlike) our church today?
[originally posted Jan 9, 2017]
Dear 5x5x5 Bible Readers,
Wow! 300+ people from our church body have committed to reading through the New Testament this year using the Discipleship Journal 5x5x5 plan. (Also available on the You Version app.) I am so excited to take this challenge together, you’ll have many people to talk to about what you’re reading!
Our reading plan starts in the gospel of Mark. Mark was written to a non-Jewish audience and was a book for people who were not acquainted with Jesus or Christianity. Mark’s goal is to introduce you to Jesus and the book is loosely chronological and reads easily like a newspaper. Mark doesn’t quote the Old Testament much, never mentions the Law, and doesn’t record many speeches or parables. Mark is more like a concisely edited documentary film script… It is full of action verbs like “at once” and “immediately” (42 times)… Mark’s characters are “amazed”, “astonished”, and “terrified”… He would have written in all caps with lots of exclamation points today!
I’d like to encourage you to Read regularly – but also to Reflect, Record, Respond, & Repeat (all the good R words from Sunday’s sermon!).
Sometimes it helps to read with a question in mind – In the book of Mark I am asking, “Who is Jesus? What can I learn about his character, his power, his mission, and how he interacts with people?”
Five minutes a day – let the Word change your life! Make a new habit! Courage to you all.