WikiTheology: But it’s a different culture…

Here is an explanation of WikiTheology. For similar posts, see why we have armswhy we don’t eat snowy owlswhy Hell might not be what you think, maybe Jesus just being overly dramatic, and why your stomach still growls.

Question: The culture that Jesus lived in is so different than ours. How can we know that everything he said then is culturally relevant for today?

Text where it stems from: The sermon on the mount (Matthew 5-7)

Me: Are there some commands that Jesus gave to his disciples that are not relevant for us? Yes! For example, he told the disciples to not go to certain cities. He told individuals to not tell others about him. He told people to pay their taxes to Cesar. He told his disciples to meet him in Galilee. None of those things are relevant to us. But does that mean that nothing is relevant for us? I think we would all say “No. There is much that is relevant for us!”

But how do we know the difference between what is relevant to us in the 21st century and what was only relevant to those standing beside Jesus in the 1st century, or even those who were listening to Moses in the 15th century before Christ, and what is relevant for us today? This question is part of what we call Hermeneutics, or “the discipline that studies theories of interpretation” (Arthur G. Patzia and Anthony J. Petrotta, Pocket Dictionary of Biblical Studies (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2002, 56).

The Bible is a collection of 66 books written over the span of more than 1500 years by 40 authors. We also recognize that this collection we “Scripture” is inspired by God, or given to us by God himself through human authors (2 Tim 3:16). We must take into account both the diversity and unity of authorship. Because of the nature of this revelation we must as well acknowledge its time-bound and timeless nature. This is distinct from other faiths such as Islam.

Given the nature of the Bible, when we come to a certain text we must come to it as though we were three different audiences. We ask ourselves, “How would I have understood this if I were the original audience?” Then we ask, “What does this reveal in a timeless way about God and mankind throughout all history?” And finally we can ask, “How does this apply to me as part of the present audience?”

[This mashup of the COMA questions and the Flow of Bible study did not originate with us. See One to One Bible Reading by Helm and also this post by Michael Patton]

You may think, but that sounds like a lot of work! Yes. Yes it is. The Bible is a big book, and if we don’t take our reading of it seriously we could arrive at the point of where we are sacrificing goats and chickens, or rejecting the whole book outright. For example, you may have heard statements such as, “If you are going to say that a certain sexual behavior is wrong, you can’t eat pork either because Leviticus says you can’t!” Given what you have read, how would you respond?

So, was the culture of Jesus different than ours? Certainly. Does this mean that nothing is relevant for us? Absolutely not. The words of Jesus, and all of Scripture as the revelation of God, are essential to our life and godliness (2 Peter 1), and although they are difficult to understand at times (2 Peter 3), they are the words of life (John 6).

Si la cultura de Jesús fue tan diferente de la nuestra ¿cómo sabemos que sus palabras son relevantes para nosotros?

¿Hay algunos mandatos que Jesús dio a sus discípulos que no son relevantes para nosotros? ¡Sí! Por ejemplo, dijo a sus discípulos no ir a algunas ciudades. Dijo a algunos no hablar de él a otros. Dijo que todos deben pagar sus impuestos al Cesar. Mandó que sus discípulos fuesen a Galilea para reunirse con él. Ninguno de estos son “relevantes” para nosotros. ¿Pero significa que no hay nada relevante para nosotros? Creo que todos de nosotros diríamos “No. Hay mucho que es relevante para nosotros.”

Pero nos lleva a otra pregunta. ¿Cómo sabemos la diferencia entre lo que es relevante para nosotros en el siglo XXI y lo que fue relevante solo para ellos de pie al lado de Jesús en el siglo I, o incluso a ellos escuchando a Moises en el siglo XV antes de Cristo? Esta pregunta es parte de lo que llamas Hermenéutica, o, “la disciplina que estudia las teorías de interpretación” (Arthur G. Patzia and Anthony J. Petrotta, Pocket Dictionary of Biblical Studies (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2002, 56).

La Biblia es una colección de 66 libros escritos durante más de 1500 años por 40 autores. También sabemos que esta colección que llamamos “Las Escrituras” es inspirada por Dios, dada por Dios mismo por medio de autores humanos (2 Timoteo 3:16). Tenemos que reconocer la diversidad y la unidad de la autoría. Por causa de la naturaleza de esta revelación también tenemos que reconocer su naturaleza como eterna y, a la misma vez, temporal. Esta declaración distingue Cristianismo de muchas religiones, como Islam.

Dada la naturaleza de la Biblia, cuando leemos un texto tenemos que pensar como si fuésemos tres diferentes audiencias. Nos preguntamos, “¿Cómo lo hubiera entendido si yo hubiese sido la audiencia original?” Después, nos preguntamos, ¿Qué nos revela, en su aspecto intemporal, de Dios y la humanidad a lo largo de la historia?” Y finalmente, nos preguntamos, “¿Cómo se aplica a mi este pasaje, siendo yo como la audiencia presente?”

[Estas preguntas y “audiencias” no tienen su origin con nosotros. Puedes consultar “One to One Bible Reading” por Helm y también este blog]

Probablemente piensas, “¡Me parece mucho trabajo!” Sí. Lo es. La Biblia es un libro grande e importante, y si no lo tomamos en serio, podríamos llegar a un momento en el que sacrificaríamos cabras y gallinas, o rechazaríamos el libro por completo.

¿Has escuchado declaraciones como, “Si vas a decir que este tipo de acto sexual es malo, tampoco puedes comer jamón porque Levítico dice que no!” Según lo que has leído, ¿cómo responderías?

A ver, ¿la cultura de Jesús fue diferente que la nuestra? Claro. ¿Significa que no hay nada relevante para nosotros? De ninguna manera. Las palabras de Jesús, y de todas las Escrituras como la revelación de Dios, son esenciales para nuestra vida y piedad (2 Pedro 1), y aunque son difíciles de entender a veces (2 Pedro 3), son palabras de vida (Juan 6).

The promise fulfilled

We just finished our four week series in the Panoramic Picture of the Bible. The promises fulfilled in Christ give us hope that the promises of Christ will be fulfilled as well.

“Your heart must not be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in Me. In My Father’s house are many dwelling places; if not, I would have told you. I am going away to prepare a place for you. If I go away and prepare a place for you, I will come back and receive you to Myself, so that where I am you may be also.  You know the way to where I am going.”

John 14:1–4 (HCSB)

Psalm 42-43

This past Sunday we studied Psalm 42-43 in our Sunday study. It was a great encouragement to remember that we can, and we must, hope in God, even when “all your breakers and your waves have gone over me” (42:7).



Taking God at His Word

Book: DeYoung, Kevin. Taking God At His Word: Why the Bible Is Knowable, Necessary, and Enough, and What That Means for You and Me. Crossway, 2014.

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Point: If we would recognize God’s Word for what it is we would value it like Jesus did.

Path: DeYoung lays out an accessible introduction and valuable meditation on the accessibility, necessity, and sufficiency of Scripture. He begins with the end by taking a look at Psalm 119 and how we ought to view Scripture. He then compares Scripture with subjective approaches to knowing God. Chapters 3-6 deal with the sufficiency, clarity, finality, and necessity of God’s Word. Chapter 7 addresses Christ’s view of Scriptures, and then chapter 8 is a challenge to value God’s Word for what it is. He ends with an annotated bibliography on bibliology.


Favorite Quote: “We need the revelation of God to know God, and the only sure, saving, final, perfect revelation of God is found in Scripture.” (Kindle 1103)

For a full review, follow the link above


The Gospel and Children

On Wednesay night, during the adult Bible study at First Baptist we looked at the topic of “The Gospel and Children.” I thought I would post some of my notes in order to help anyone who was looking for clarification, or would like to ask other questions.

The Gospel and Children

If you cannot explain the gospel you probably don’t believe it.
That statement is both a rebuke to those of us who don’t think about it often, and an encouragement because the gospel can be be understood by a child.

What are some popular ways to share the gospel?

  • Romans Road
  • Wordless Book
  • Four Spiritual Laws (Campus Crusade)
  • Bridge to Life (Navigators)
  • Steps to peace with God (Billy Graham)
  • Bridge Tract
  • Two Ways to Live

These plans are helpful, but my goal is not to teach you a new plan, a secret tool, or a special key to success in evangelism.

There is no one-size-fits-all presentation, but there is only one gospel.

“We must be careful that we do not modify the gospel to suit various age groups. There is no such thing as a special gospel for the young, a special gospel for the middle-aged, and a special gospel for the aged. There is only one gospel, and we must always be careful not to tamper and tinker with the gospel as a result of recognizing these age distinctions. At the same time, there is a difference in applying this one and only gospel to the different age groups; but it is a difference which has reference only to method and procedure.”  (from Martyn Lloyd-Jones, knowing the times [Edinburgh: Banner of Truth, 1989], 2) HT John Macarthur.

The order and presentation are not set here. There are some parts that need to be understood before others, but not everyone starts on the same page. Each individual has a different background and understanding. So my goal is not to teach you a presentation, but to remind you of the ingredients, so as you talk with someone they all are put into the bowl.

So, what is the Gospel?

  • God – Holy
  • Man – Sinful
  • Christ – Sufficient
  • Response – Repentance and Faith are necessary
  • [Shared because of the Urgency of Eternity]

These components can be explained through:

  • The Big Story of Scripture: Creation – Rebellion – Redemption – Restoration
  • A Passage: Eph 2:1-10
  • Or even a single verse: John 3:16
  • Etc.

How does this match with what we normally say and do?

  • How does some of the phraseology we regularly use fall short? “Ask Jesus into your heart.” “Accepted Jesus.” Etc.
  • How do some of our methods fall short? “Pray this prayer.”
  • Why do they fall short? What is the fundamental difference between the essential components of the gospel and how we often speak and act? I would say the difference lies in the fact that we often consider faith as a prayer we pray instead of a posture we assume.
  • What problems does this present later? “Did I say it right?” “Did I really mean it?” “Do I remember it?” How are we supposed to test ourselves (2 Cor 13:5)?


Considerations for adults

  1. If we are focused on a prayer as faith, then we will probably ask a suspected unbeliever something to the effect of “has there ever been a time when you prayed and asked Jesus to come into your heart/forgive you of your sin/save you?” If they say no, we encourage them to say a prayer. If they say “I can’t remember,” we respond, “Would you like to make sure now?”
  2. However, if we see salvation as a gift from God through faith, we will want to ask about an individual’s posture before Christ. Instead of asking if they have ever said a prayer, we will want to ask questions revolving around the essential components of the gospel:
  • “How would you describe your relationship with God?”
  • “How do you think sin has affected humanity as a whole? How about you personally?”
  • “Who do you understand Jesus to be? How did you come to that conclusion?”
  • “Why do you think the cross was necessary?”
  • “What do you think Jesus expects of people today?”
  • “Are you confident in where you will go after you die? Why or why not?”
  • Etc.

3.  Encourage people to “test yourselves, to see if you are in the faith” (2 Cor 13:5). You don’t do this by trying to remember a prayer, but by seeing if there if fruit of repentance and faith.
As one of our college professors explained, a farmer doesn’t check his fields by digging up the seeds everyday in order to see if there is life in the seeds. He waits and watches for growth. Don’t dig up your prayer – look for life.
Consideration for Children

  • Recognize that we are trying to point them to Jesus, not get them to say a prayer.
  • Be sensitive. Your bedtime stories should end with “Jesus is the answer!” not the words “fiery hell.”
  • If they do make a profession:
  • Do not assure them in their prayer (“Now that you have prayed and asked Jesus in your heart you will go to heaven no matter what!”).
  • Instead assure them that Jesus is faithful (“When we trust in Jesus, he will always keep us!”).

From David Platt

  • Maximize Interaction: Ask questions; Encourage conversation; Ask open ended questions
  • Utilize Illustrations: Pictures; Concrete examples
  • Use Repetition: Constantly emphasize the threads of the gospel; Prioritize this teaching; Encourage a posture of repentance and faith

I would encourage you to read J. D. Greear, Stop Asking Jesus into Your Heart. Especially pages 47-50.