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The Bible for Grown-Ups Part 4 | "For The World"

The Bible did not create Christianity. That means peace with God is possible even when we don’t have peace with everything in the Bible.

  1. Do you find yourself getting hung up on Old Testament ideas or applications? What expectations and standards can you let go of because of Jesus’ new covenant?
  2. Andy mentioned we should read the Old Testament for inspiration and motivation, but not application. Do you agree? Why or why not?
  3. Based on Jesus’ new covenant command, what should be the primary focus of Christians’ lives?
  4. What makes the idea of “loving one another as Christ loved us” difficult to embrace? How do Christians fall short in this area?
  5. Jesus’ early followers based their faith on his extraordinary resurrection. What would happen if you were to revisit or begin your faith there, too?

NOTE: The following content is a raw transcript and has not been edited for grammar, punctuation, or word usage.

Hey, we’re wrapping up this series today called The Bible for Grown-Ups, and I’ve been so excited about planning for this series, and I’m so excited to land the plane today. And the reason we did this, and we said this every week, is that most of us grew up knowing, or hearing Bible stories. If you grew up in church, you grew up with Bible stories, even if you didn’t grow up in church, you’ve heard some Bible stories. In fact, some of you grew up in church and heard the Bible stories, and then as you got older, you walked away from the Bible because the stories just didn’t add up, they just didn’t make sense anymore, they didn’t connect with real life, they didn’t connect with science, they didn’t connect with what you learned in a university or graduate school setting. And the problem for many of us is even though we know a lot of Bible stories, most people don’t know the story of the Bible.

And the big challenge for us, and this is what we’ve talked about in these weeks together, is that the way that you received your Bible and the way we got our Bibles is not the way the world got the Bible. And the story or really the journey of how this book came to be is almost as important as what’s in the book itself.

We said on week one that the story of this book actually doesn’t begin in Genesis, the story of this book begins on Easter. The story of the Bible, the reason we have the Bible is because Jesus’ followers discovered that his tomb was empty, and they assumed initially that someone had stolen the body, nobody assumed a resurrection. But later that same day, the women and his closest male followers saw Jesus and suddenly there were Jesus sightings all around Jerusalem, the very city in which he had been arrested and tried and eventually crucified. 

But when it was discovered that Jesus had risen from the dead, suddenly there was interest in the life of Jesus and Luke, a 1st century doctor, as we saw in week one, Luke said that many people, many people actually set out to give a documented account or to account for the life of Jesus and the four documents that include the life of Jesus that made it through antiquity, that we have today are Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. And in week one, we talked about these four documents. 

And then as the story continues, we discovered that before long Gentiles, non-Jewish people outside the area of Judea and Galilee, began to embrace the message of Jesus and this was the transition in the story, when Gentiles, when non-Jewish people, became enamored with Jesus, they became enamored with the sacred text that told of his coming. We would call it or they would call it the Hebrew Bible, or we would call it the Old Testament, but they called it the Law and the Prophets.

And so the early church got really interested in this book, not because they were interested in Judaism, but because they were interested in Jesus, and this was the back story to his story. So they eventually embraced this as sacred Scripture, but they didn’t embrace it as Jewish Scripture. The 1st century and 2nd century church, and especially the 3rd century church, eventually embraced it as Christian Scripture. And by the middle or actually the beginning of the 2nd century, the Hebrew Bible or the Law and the Prophets was being used in Christian worship. And then they eventually gave it a new name, they called it the Old Covenant or as it has come down to us because of the Latin term, the Old Testament. But still, and this is important as we conclude this series, still there’s no Bible, there’s a Hebrew text that’s now considered a Christian text by the Church, which of course was very, very offensive to the Jewish communities around the world.

And there were these documents that hadn’t been titled yet, but they were the accounts of Jesus’ life, we know them as Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. And then in addition to that, there was a famous church planter who began writing letters to the churches and the people in the churches that he had planted and it’s to him we now turn our attention. We know him as the Apostle Paul, but the Apostle Paul stepped onto the pages of history actually as Saul of Tarsus, and the reason he has two names is because this was his given Hebrew name, Saul. But he was also a Roman citizen, so he had a Roman name, Paul. But when he transitioned from the role of Pharisee to becoming a church planter to the Gentile world he began using his Roman name, Paul.

Now, the Apostle Paul is so famous. In fact, it is not an exaggeration, nobody argues with this in academic circles, it is not an exaggeration to say the letters of the Apostle Paul have shaped western civilization. 

But when the Apostle Paul talked about himself, he talked about himself in very, very different terms. Here’s what he actually says about himself, he says, “I am the least of the apostles, of all Jesus’ closest followers.” He said no, “I am the least of them. And I don’t even deserve to be called an apostle.” Well, why Paul? You wrote so much, you created so much theology, you explained the relationship between the old and new. Why don’t you deserve some credit? And he says, “Let me tell you why. Because when I first stepped on to the pages of history, I did not step into the pages of history as an apostle or a follower of Jesus, quite the opposite. I actually stepped into history as one persecuting the church of God.”

That the amazing thing about the Apostle Paul is that he was first known as the person that decided he was going to put the church out of business. 

So, for his entire life, the Apostle Paul carried the weight of the guilt of having been one who actually persecuted the church. And then in this strange twist of events, that only God knows why and how this happened, your heavenly Father and mine decided to recruit Saul of Tarsus to become the person that would take the message of Jesus to basically the entire known Gentile world and the Roman Empire. He was the one. And why God chose him, we don’t know but I’ll tell you this. Regardless of what you’ve done, and regardless of where you’ve been, and regardless of what you have done to other people, there is room in the kingdom for you.

Because regardless of your story, I have a feeling, if you were to hold it up beside the Apostle Paul, your sin, and your guilt, and your shame would pale in significance and in comparison to what he claimed to have done to people in the name of God. And yet the Apostle Paul plays an extraordinary role in the story of the Bible. In fact, there are three things that he’s done to cause him to be a primary character in the story of the Bible. And I wanna talk about these three. To begin with, he wrote some of it. The Apostle Paul wrote a lot of letters to these churches that he had planted around the Mediterranean basin, and 13 of these letters survived antiquity, several of them were to churches, some were to individuals, and then one, he wrote a letter, a long letter, a famous letter, to Christians living in Rome. 

But anyway, his letters were circulated, and copied and circulated, and they were considered so valuable that the church meticulously copied his letters and over time and eventually, they were considered sacred Scripture. So when the Apostle Paul was writing these letters, he was just writing letters to friends, and letters to Christians living in Rome, and letters to Timothy, and a letter to Titus. But he wasn’t writing the Bible.

The second reason he’s so important to the story is this: The Apostle Paul explains the relationship between the parts of the Bible. He explains how Christians should view and how Christians should use the Old Testament. And he should know because he was an expert in the law, he was an expert in this book, he was an extraordinary Pharisee, he knew it inside out. So the Apostle Paul had extraordinary, extraordinary, extraordinary clarity about the relationship between the Jewish Scriptures and what would eventually be called the New Testament.

In fact, so much so that I think if the Apostle Paul had been there the day that you first received your Bible and I received my first Bible, I think he would have given us two bits of instruction. I think he would have looked at you as a child or as an adult whenever you received your first Bible, and I think he would have said this: First of all, read the Old Testament for inspiration and motivation, but not application. And the reason I say that is because of something he wrote in this letter to Christians living in Corinth, in 1 Corinthians 10:6 and 11, he makes this case or he makes his point, 1 Corinthians 10:6 and 11 and in other places. He would say, “Read the Old Testament for inspiration, God’s people struggled and God came through. Read it for motivation, that God is faithful, that when God’s people cry out to him, he responds. The stories of the Old Testament are the backstory that lead to the coming of Jesus so read it that way.”

But remember this: The entire Jewish Bible, the entire Jewish Bible is organized around a covenant or a contract between God and an ancient people, his ancient people Israel, to which Paul would have said, of which I am one, I’m from the tribe of the 12 tribes, I’m from the tribe of Benjamin and I understand what this is. But with the coming of Jesus, there is a brand new contract. There is a brand new covenant, and you as Gentile, modern Christians, even Jewish modern Christians, you are a part of a brand new covenant. And it is a better covenant with better promises.

His second piece of advice to us I think would be this: You should take your application cues from Jesus’ new covenant command, that when it comes to application, you get inspiration and motivation here and the stories are fascinating, and it points in the direction of Jesus. But when it comes to knowing how to live your life, how to manage your money, how to manage your marriage and your relationships, the Apostle Paul clearly teaches that we should take our application cues from Jesus’ new covenant command. And what was Jesus’ new covenant command? At the end of his ministry, before he was crucified, when he gathered with his apostles in the upper room for their last Passover meal together, he said this, he said, “A new command I am giving you,” to which they thought, “Wait a minute, only God can give commands.” And then they probably thought, “Yeah, but only God can heal the blind and only God can raise the dead so we’re kind of getting used to this. Okay, so what’s the new command?” Only God can give command. He said, “Here’s the new command and it’s not a command to add to the other commands. This is the command. This is the preeminent command. This is the North Star command. He said, “Guys, here is a new command. As I have loved you, you are to love one another. In fact by that unique kind of love, the entire world will know that you are my follower.” 

In other words, I want you to treat people that you meet, I want you to treat people in your family, I want you to treat people at school and at work and at play,, I want you to treat them in light of the way that your heavenly Father treated you through me.” And then the next day, Jesus would put on a demonstration of love that would take their breath away because it took his breath away.

And the Apostle Paul would say, “That is your guiding light when it comes to your behavior.” His letters are filled with applications of Jesus’ new covenant command. In fact, you should know this, when you read Paul’s letters and he says do this and don’t do that and do this and don’t do that, he’s not giving you new commands, he is simply giving you applications of what it means to live your life in light of the fact that God through Christ has done so much for you.

So let me give you a few examples of this. Here’s what he says in his letter to Christians living in Philippi, he says, “In your relationships with one another… ” You just have the same mindset as Christ Jesus.” It’s like, “What?” “Yeah, you just have the same mindset as Christ Jesus who took on the form of a servant, who never powered up, In fact, he goes on and on in this same passage, and Paul says, “If you wanna know how to be a good husband, a good wife, a good father, a good mother, a good son, a good employer, a good employee, you just have the same mindset as Christ Jesus, that’s all you need. You don’t need 10, you don’t need nine, you don’t need eight commandments. You just set that as the guiding light and you will know what to do. It’s terrifyingly clear.

In another letter, he says this to Christians, he says, “Submit to one another.” Well, why would I wanna submit to somebody who’s not worth submitting to? Well, that’s the point, you’re to submit not out of reverence to them and you’re not to submit out of reverence for yourself, you’re to submit out of reverence for Christ. That just as Christ came and got up under your burden, just as Christ did for you what you could not do for yourself, you are to do the same for every single person you meet when you have the opportunity.

In his letter to Christians living at Ephesus, he says this, “Be kind and compassionate to one another, and forgive each other.” Well, why? ‘Cause she’s not worth forgiving. I mean, forgive him? Do you know what he did to me? Do you know what he refused to do for me? Paul says, “Wait, wait, wait you’re missing the point, that’s the Golden Rule, we’re beyond that. This is Jesus’ new covenant command. You’re to be kind and compassionate to one another, and forgive each other just as in Christ God forgave you.” And there it is again, “You are to do unto others as God in Christ has done unto you.” And then he says, “You’re not your own. “You have been bought at a price so therefore, here’s what you should do. Here’s the application of that. Honor God with your bodies. Your bodies don’t belong to you, your bodies belong to your heavenly Father. He bought you and He purchased you. The reason you should honor God with your body, with what you do with your body, with where you take your body, with how you allow your body to behave, where you take your cue is not in a list of commandments. You take your cue for how you exercise and how you use your body and how your body impacts other bodies from what God in Christ has done for you. He says, “You belong to me. Now your body, your behavior should manifest the fact that you belong to me. Honor me with your body. Honor God with your body.” 

So, we could go on and on and on and on, the Apostle Paul was so clear, the Apostle Paul was, “Hey, the Old Testament pointed toward Jesus, the Old Testament is full of inspirational stories but when it comes to behavior, you take your behavioral cues from what God through Christ has done for you.” That’s what Paul would tell us, I think, when we received our first Bible.

But there’s a third reason that Paul is so important to the story of the Bible. He wrote some of it, he explains the relationship between parts of it, and then this third part is a bit academic, but you’re above average people so I know you’re gonna be able to follow this. And this may be the most important part of this final message in this series. In fact, if you walked away from faith, if you walked away from faith because of something in the Bible or something about the Bible, I want you to especially pay attention to what I’m about to explain. The Apostle Paul authenticates the most important event recorded in this book. The Apostle Paul authenticates in a way that no one else does the most important event in the Bible, because the most important event in the Bible is the reason we have the Bible, it’s the resurrection. Again, if there were no resurrection of Jesus, there would be no Bible. 

Now, here’s why Paul is so important to that line of thinking. Perhaps you in college, or maybe high school, or in graduate school, or maybe you read a book that made a case that the authorship of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John is disputed; that the dates that those gospels were written were disputed. And that these gospels were written actually by the Christian community many, many, many years after the eye-witnesses of some supposed resurrection had died and that the myth of the resurrection of Jesus grew up over time and was eventually embraced by the Christian community, and it became a stake in the ground for the Christian community.

Now, there are so many problems with that way of thinking, not to mention the fact, why in the world would somebody in the 1st century abandon their religion to embrace a Jewish sect, lose your job, be ostracized by your family, and be persecuted for the rest of your life, and be forced to worship not a new God, not one of the gods you grew up worshipping but worship the Jewish God when the Jewish people themselves were against the sect that you had joined. It’s very difficult to make a case for this case against the gospels, but let’s leave that aside. The problem with that argument is not what we find in Matthew, Mark, Luke, or John. The problem with that argument is something that the Apostle Paul says, that the Christian community, the Christian community that supposedly developed all of these myths about Jesus later, that whole argument ignores 1 Corinthians, Paul’s letter, Paul’s letter to Christians living in Corinth, Paul’s letter to Corinthian believers is indisputable evidence that Jesus’ resurrection was accepted immediately, immediately after it supposedly happened, not eventually. 

Now, to make this case, I have to show you a timeline and this is gonna feel a little bit like school and some of you are gonna glaze over. But we are gonna do a little history. And again, for any of you who’ve lost confidence in the Bible or lost confidence and faith because of something in or about the Bible, this is so important. 

Nobody disputes that the Apostle Paul was a historical character and nobody disputes that he wrote the document that we call 1 Corinthians and nobody disputes the fact that he wrote it around the year 55 to a church that he had planted about three years earlier in the year 52, after visiting Jesus’ apostles in Jerusalem around 49 and around 40, which was only three years after his conversion in 37 and some very, very secular scholars. In fact, one in particular is pretty famous who’s an atheist argues that the Apostle Paul probably became a Jesus follower in the year 35, which is only two, three, maybe five years after Jesus was actually crucified.

So, the reason this is important is simply this, and for many of you, you see why it’s important immediately. If the Christian community created and fabricated the life and the message of Jesus and if they fabricated the story of the resurrection, then how in the world did the Apostle Paul know about it so close to the time of the resurrection? In his letter to Christians living in Corinth, he said, “There are… ” he writes to them, he says, “There are currently hundreds, hundreds of people in the city of Jerusalem that saw Jesus alive from the dead.” So again, belief in the resurrection was immediate, not eventual.

Here are his actual words in his letter to Christians living in Corinth, he says this, he says, “Now, brothers and sisters, I wanna remind you of the gospel or the good news that I preached to you three years ago when I was physically with you. For what I received, in other words what I was told, I passed on to you, As of first importance that Christ died for our sins and nobody disputes the fact that Christ died and nobody disputes the fact that He was crucified, but very early on, the Christian community had embraced this idea that Christ’s death was meaningful for individuals, that Christ was the final sacrifice for sin. This was not an idea that the church created many, many, many years later.

The Apostle Paul says, “When I was with you, I was already preaching this to you, and the reason I was able to preach it to you is because when I was in Jerusalem, this is what people in Jerusalem close to the action actually believed. So, I’m simply passing on to you what the Christian community in Jerusalem already believed, that He died for our sins according to the Scripture and that he was buried because that’s what you do when someone dies. And, and that that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures and that he appeared to Cephas. Cephas is the Apostle Peter… Wait, wait, wait, Paul. Paul, Paul, wait, wait. How do you know Jesus appeared to Peter? Paul, how do you know that? And Paul would say, “Cause I was just in Jerusalem and I talked to him, and he told me.” And then he appeared to the 12. Okay, okay. Paul, how do you know that? “I just told you. I was just in Jerusalem. I’ve been to Jerusalem twice since I wrote this letter, and they told me.”

And that, get this, and that he appeared to more than 500 of the brothers and sisters at the syn… Again, he’s writing this to a group of people he’s already been with, he’d been to Jerusalem he’s like, “Hey, I just want you to know, the people who saw Jesus rise from the dead there are hundreds of them. Not a hundred years later or a hundred miles away, during the period of time this happened in the city where it happened. There are brothers and sisters at the same time, most of whom are still living, in other words, fact check me, just get yourself a boat ticket, and just go to Jerusalem. I’d be happy to introduce you to some of these people, I can write letters of connection. I can connect you with Peter, and James, and John. These people are alive and well in Jerusalem. That’s why the church in Jerusalem has just blown up, it’s exploded. Thousands of people in this area have embraced Christianity.

And the Apostle Paul writing very early says, everybody in Jerusalem knows something has happened and there are hundreds of believers who saw Jesus right after he rose from the dead. And their family members and friends are so convinced that thousands of people have embraced the message of Christianity. But Paul’s not done, he says then after Cephas and after the 12, and after all this, then he appeared to James, and this is James, the brother of Jesus And James, James becomes the leader of the church in Jerusalem. Why? Because he didn’t have anything else to do? No. Because he loved being persecuted by the temple leaders? No. James becomes a follower of his brother. When he dies, he believes his brother is his Lord. Why? Because of something he read? Because of something someone told him? No. Because James saw his brother alive from the dead, and Peter… The Apostle Paul and James met, and James told the Apostle Paul this story.

Now, it gets even better than that. Even more convincing than that. In this letter to the church in Corinth, the Apostle Paul actually quotes a creed that already existed. Now, if you didn’t grow up with creedal Christianity, a creed is basically a carefully crafted statement that’s used to ensure that something is accurately transmitted from generation to generation, to generation. Most people, most people could not read or write, and had access to nothing to read, even if they could read, there was not very much that they can read. So consequently, the early community and the Jewish community did the same thing. 

And here is that creed, just about every scholar agrees that the Apostle Paul didn’t create this, he was actually quoting this. And even in English, it has a little bit of a rhythm to it. Christ died for our sin and was buried, He rose from the dead and was seen. Christ died for our sin and was buried, he rose from the dead and was seen. Christ died for our sin and was buried, he rose from the dead and was seen. Very early, the Christian community in Jerusalem had already embraced this as absolute truth. The resurrection was so widely known, they had already written a song or a poem or a creed.

So, the Apostle Paul is extremely important when it comes to the story of the Bible. To begin with, he wrote some of it. That makes you important, right? He explains the relationship between the parts of it and he authenticates the most important event recorded in it: The resurrection of Jesus. Now, while the gospels were being written: Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John; and while the Apostle Paul was writing, other writers were writing as well. James, the brother of Jesus, actually wrote an epistle or a letter that survived antiquity and was included in the New Testament documents. The Apostle Peter dictated at least two letters, probably more, but two of them survived. The Apostle John, in addition to the Gospel of Matthew, Mark, Luke, John, he also wrote several letters, three of those survived, we call it 1, 2 and 3 John. And other documents were written during the same time, and they were collected, and they were protected, and they were considered valuable not because any of those people were writing the Bible, they were considered valuable because of who was writing and what they wrote. They were collected and they were protected, and then something fabulous happened. In the 4th century, Constantine lifted the ban, lifted the ban on all, just about all religions, including Christianity. And for the first time, for the first time in history, in the 4th century, scholars could come out of the shadows and begin to work openly on these incredible documents. And the empire, this is amazing, the empire responsible for crucifying Jesus funded, funded the collection of these documents and the copying of these documents and somewhere toward the late 4th century, a copy of the Jewish Scripture and a copy of Christian text were combined together and was eventually called ta Biblia or the Bible.

And together, when these were bound together, and it was an extraordinarily large book, an extraordinarily expensive book, and there was only one of them probably for a very long time. And that book would eventually shape western civilization, shape western culture. But more personally, that book would shape my life. And perhaps, it has shaped yours as well. And that’s why I read it every single day. But, here’s what I want you to remember from this whole series: The Bible, as fabulous as it is, did not create Christianity. The Bible did not create Christianity. Christianity, the Christian faith is the result of an event that launched or created a movement, that produced texts that were collected and protected and bound into a book. Christianity is the result of an event, the resurrection. That created a movement, the church; that produced text, Matthew, Mark, Luke, John, the Epistles of Paul and Peter and others, that were collected through the years and protected through the years because they were considered so valuable, and then eventually bound together into a book, that we call the Bible.

If there had been no resurrection, there would be no Bible. Because the story of Jesus would not have been worth telling. And the reason his story is worth telling is because it is a story for every generation, and it is a story for you. It’s a story that’s personal, it’s a story that’s personal, because, well the 1st century church said it best. Because Christ died for our sin, Christ died for your sin and was buried, he was raised from the dead and he was seen. So, the story of the Bible, and this is so important, The story of the Bible reminds us that the most important question is not, Are you at peace with everything in the Bible? 

The story of the Bible reminds us that the most important question is this: Are you at peace with the God who sent his Son into this world, to die and to pay for your sins, so that you could have what Jesus promised, eternal life, and a relationship with your Father in heaven? Because that’s where the story of the Bible intersects with your story, and that is the story of the Bible.