Which Came First? (February 6, 2012)

…Opening To…

The book to read is not the one which thinks for you, but the one which makes you think. No book in the world equals the Bible for that. (Harper Lee)

…Listening In…

When I came to you, brothers and sisters, I didn’t come preaching God’s secrets to you like I was an expert in speech or wisdom. I had made up my mind not to think about anything while I was with you except Jesus Christ, and to preach him as crucified. (1 Corinthians 2:1-2; context)

…Filling Up…

Last week we talked about the Hebrew Scriptures (also known as the “Old” Testament”). This week, we are going to talk about the other part of the Christian Bible – the New Testament. I tend to refer to the first testament as the Hebrew Scriptures and the second as the New Testament. I know that’s not very parallel of me, but that’s what I’ve got, so there we are. If you have a more parallel name for the New Testament, let me know! I don’t think the name falls into the same traps as the “Old” Testament does, so it works much better.

Anyway, this week we are going to talk about five things in the New Testament. First, the people who laid out the New Testament did not put the texts in the order they were written. They put the Gospel first because without the Gospel, the rest doesn’t really make sense. But the four accounts of the Gospel were written after Paul wrote his letters (well, most of them – Mark might have overlapped Paul a bit).

Why is this important? Well, for starters, when I read Paul’s letters I like to imagine myself never having read the Gospel. Perhaps, I’ve heard about Jesus. Perhaps, some of his sayings have floated around or people have told stories. But I’ve never heard anyone read or perform the Gospel according to Matthew. Maybe I live in Corinth, Greece, and Paul comes to my town and talks about Jesus. I wonder who this fellow is that Paul’s talking about. Well, I can’t go read about him in the Gospel because the texts don’t exist yet.

Paul helped till the earth that became hungry for the Gospel. As he and other first century missionaries spread out, they took the story of the Gospel – not in the texts we have, but in their personal witness – with them. Several decades, maybe even a century later, an account of the Gospel may have followed, depending on how far away you lived from Jerusalem.

Taking my mind back into this place helps me read Paul with a fresh set of eyes. Perhaps, you will try this exercise the next time you pick up Corinthians.

…Praying For…

Dear God, you sent your son to make yourself known in a new way to your people. Help me to make him known in my life, to be a living member of his body that preaches his good news to all people. In Jesus Christ’s name I pray. Amen.

…Sending Out…

I leave this moment with you, God, having faith that you have touched my life with your Word, knowing that I can read it in my heart and speak it on my lips.

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