Sunday, December 06, 2009

Discovering a Biblical Theology of an Idea, Word, or Theme

by Laura Springer, M.Div., Th.M.

Biblical theology traces an idea, word, or theme in a biblical book, author, genre, testament, or the entire Bible. While the process can be long and involved and requires careful thought, the steps are quite simple.

  1. Determine the idea, word, or theme to be studied. In this example, I will use the word "heart" (Gk. kardia) in Matthew's Gospel. You can use the search tool at I used it, chose "interlinear" in the sidebar, and clicked "kardia" to fine all the uses of kardia in Matthew.
  2. Next, read each verse in its paragraph (!!!) and determine what this particular verse says about the idea, word, or theme. Make brief notes.
    • Matthew 5:8 can be pure; related to the perception of God
    • Matthew 5:28 can sin
    • Matthew 6:21 intention revealed in use of treasure
    • Matthew 9:4 related to response; ca do evel/good
    • Matthew 11:29 can be humble
    • Matthew 12:34 source of speech content; evidence of character
    • Matthew 12:40 interior
    • Matthew 13:15 related to understanding
    • Matthew 13:19 can have content stolen by evil one
    • Matthew 15:8 can be communal (had by a community); determines intention
    • Matthew 15:18-19 source of speech content/behavior
    • Matthew 18:35 location of true forgiveness of others
    • Matthew 22:37 able to love
    • Matthew 24:48 source of decisions/behavior
  3. Spend time reading over your notes. Look for the structure of the concepts, write the key concepts in bullet form, and cite the appropriate passages.
    • moral component, 5:8; 5:28; 9:4; 11:29
    • cognitive component, 5:8; 13:15
    • volitive component, 6:21; 9:4; 15:8; 15:18-19; 18:35; 22:37; 24:48
    • character component, 12:34-35; 15:18-19
    • vulnerable to evil, 13:19
  4. Read through the passages in their groupings and create a full sentence outline of the biblical theology.
    • The heart is the location of our moral decision-making (5:8; 5:28; 9:4; 11:29).
    • The heart is the gatekeeper and ultimate means of understanding (5:8; 13:15).
    • The heart decides our thoughts, motivations, and behaviors (6:21; 9:4; 15:8; 15:18-19; 18:35; 22:37; 24:48).
    • The heart is the reservoir of character (12:34-35; 15:18-19).
    • The heart is vulnerable to evil attack (13:19).
  5. You now have a biblical theology of the idea, word, or theme you have studied.
  6. Now, venture out on your own and trace heart in Mark's Gospel. If you would like, post your results in the comments.

Tuesday, December 01, 2009

The Passionate Pursuit of Christ Produces Spiritual Growth

by Laura Springer, M.Div., Th.M.

Claim: Spiritual growth is the fruit of our passionate pursuit of Christ.

Note the following verses (emphasis mine).

I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing. (John 15:5 ESV)

Likewise, my brothers, you also have died to the law through the body of Christ, so that you may belong to another, to him who has been raised from the dead, in order that we may bear fruit for God. (Rom 7:4 ESV)

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. (Gal 5:22-24 ESV)

And so, from the day we heard, we have not ceased to pray for you, asking that you may be filled with the knowledge of his will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding, so as to walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to him, bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God. (Col 1:9-10 ESV)

In each case, fruit results from connection with Christ. This is not to say we sit idle while Jesus does all the work, for this is not the case. As Paul says in Philippians 2:12, we are to work out the salvation that God has put in. But, working out our salvation--producing fruit--cannot occur by our own effort alone:, for as Jesus said, “apart from me you can do nothing.”

Our motto for this past year has been, "Passionately pursuing spiritual growth in Christ." It is a very good motto and the programs flowing from that motto have encouraged many at TFB to begin bible reading and reflection they may not have practiced regularly before.

As we prepare for 2010, might I suggest we think about the true means to spiritual growth? You see, bible reading and reflection is good and necessary, but it is not enough. If we read the Bible and reflect on it regularly, but do so to "make ourselves holy" or "fulfill duty" then we have missed the point. The point of Bible reading and reflection is connecting with, trusting, and obeying Jesus.

In 2010, let us gather in small groups and large, thinking and praying together, figuring out how to pursue Christ, and deciding to trust and obey him with passion and persistence.

The fruit will, I am certain, astound us.