Even in churches in which men and women are getting a regular diet of biblical theology and redemptive history from the pulpit, what is being offered in small-group Bible study is often driven by felt needs, has little biblical or theological rigor, or is oriented around self-improvement. But when biblical theology infiltrates Bible study, it puts the emphasis on what Christ has done rather than on what we must do. It helps participants put the various parts of the Bible together so they begin to make sense. And it makes being united to Christ by faith urgent and necessary.
In this workshop, recorded live at The Gospel Coalition 2021 National Conference, Nancy Guthrie works through seven ways biblical theology transforms Bible study, as well as ways teachers can develop a deeper grasp of biblical theology.
Recommended in this podcast:
- Name Above All Names by Sinclair Ferguson and Alistair Begg
- God’s Big Picture by Vaughan Roberts
- The Unfolding Mystery by Edmund P. Clowney
- The Goldsworthy Trilogy by Graeme Goldsworthy
- God Dwells Among Us by G. K. Beale and Mitchell Kim
- Remaking a Broken World by Christopher Ash
- The Story Retold by G. K. Beale and Benjamin Gladd
- Even Better than Eden by Nancy Guthrie
The following is an uncorrected transcript generated by a transcription service. Before quoting in print, please check the corresponding audio for accuracy.
Nancy Guthrie: My friends, welcome. Welcome to this workshop called, “It’s not about you: How Biblical Theology Transforms Bible Study.” I wanna welcome all of those of you who are in the room here in Indianapolis this afternoon. I especially wanna welcome all who are joining us virtually. I am so glad you’re with us. I want to thank Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary who is sponsoring this session this afternoon. I spent a day at Southeastern this last year presenting a biblical theology workshop for women and had the best time with a packed-out chapel there. And so I’m really grateful for their support then and now to help make this session possible. And you can learn more about Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary by visiting their booth in the exhibit hall or online at sebtes.edu. So thank you Southeastern.
So biblical theology, it’s not about you. A number of years ago, I was teaching a study of Genesis at my church when one of the discussion leaders came to me. This was an older godly woman, and she came down and sat down by me and she said to me, “How come I’ve never been taught this before?” And she had tears in her eyes because she was beginning to recognize that as many years as she had spent studying the Bible, she had never seen how the story of the Bible fits together and how it’s all centered on the person and work of Christ. And so as we were doing this study of Genesis for the first time, she was seeing and adoring Christ in new ways, because there in Genesis, she was seeing Jesus as the light of creation, the light who was in the world before there was a sun or a moon. And she was seeing Jesus as the offspring of the woman who would crush the head of the serpent. And in the story of Noah and the flood, she was seeing that the ark shows us a picture of who Jesus is. And as we hide in Him, we find safety from the judgment of God.
As we looked at that story of Abraham marching his son, Isaac, up that mountain to offer Him as a burnt sacrifice, she saw in shadow form how the father’s most precious son would be walked up a hill and be offered as the once for all perfect sacrifice. And in the story of Joseph, how this man, Joseph, became the one person in the whole world that people must come to to find bread, in a sense, was the savior of the world in his day, and how that pictured the person and work of Jesus Christ. Her tears were for all of the lost years of studying the Bible in lesser ways. And when she said it to me, I could totally relate to her because as someone who grew up… I was one of those people who grew up in church. I was there Sunday morning, Sunday night, Wednesday night, vacation Bible school, you know, all of it. And I always had all the answers in Sunday school. And then I went to college and studied Bible. And then I got a job in Christian publishing. And then I was sat on the front row of BSF for eight years. And I’m so grateful for not being taught the Bible in that way, and yet as an adult to begin to hear preaching and teaching that was centered on the person and work of Christ, no matter where they were in the Scriptures. And as I began to understand how every part of the Bible fits into the larger story that the Bible is telling, I began to realize, “You know what? I need to go back to kindergarten on how to read the Bible.” Because it all sounded new to me in so many ways.
I just realized I’ve never understood the Bible in this way before. And I really wanted to understand. When I really took in the words of Jesus in that scene when He’s on the road to Emmaus, and He appears to those two disappointed followers of His that are so dismayed by the fact that Jesus has suffered and died in Jerusalem and Jesus says to them, “Oh, you slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken. Should you not have known? Was it not necessary that the Christ would suffer before being glorified?” So He’s saying if you had really read and understood your Bibles, you would have known that. And then it says then beginning with Moses and the prophets, He explained all things concerning Himself. And when that really began to settle in on me, what that means, not only did I really wish I could hear that whole sermon because that’s like all we get in the end of the book of Luke, we wanted more, right?
But not only that, I just began to think to myself, “So in the books of Genesis, and Exodus, and Leviticus, what might Jesus on the road that day have pointed to and said, ‘that’s most profoundly about me and here’s how it is about me.'” And so I just realized, I got to go back to kindergarten and kind of relearn how to understand the Bible in this way. And since then, I’ve been on a mission. I’ve been on a mission to reeducate myself and then to hopefully share this passion. Here’s my mission. I’m on a mission to introduce and infiltrate Bible study in the local church with biblical theology. And I’ve just got to say, I’m really glad that you’re all here helping me fulfill my mission today because I hope to convince you and maybe even equip you a little bit to take this back into your church situations, into your personal Bible study. I hope it changes some of that, and also, any kind of small group Bible study that you are in, in the local church.
So in the short time that we have together, I’m going to address basically three questions. I’m gonna answer the question, what is biblical theology? I’m gonna spend most of my time on how does biblical theology transform personal Bible study as well as small group study in the church. And then, thirdly, how can we as leaders in our churches encourage a greater understanding and facility of biblical theology in our small group times or in our Sunday school classes? So, first, what do I mean by biblical theology? Because it gets defined in lots of different, very appropriate ways, but here’s how I’m going to define biblical theology. I’m gonna define it as a way of understanding the Bible that recognizes that even though the Bible is made up of various kinds of literature that was written over centuries by over 40 human authors, it is really telling one cohesive story about what God is doing in the world through Christ. Biblical theology recognizes that the Bible has a number of central themes. Every good book does. And the divine author has written into his book a number of central themes that actually span the Bible from Genesis to revelation, and they serve to communicate a coherent message about the person and work of Christ. And when I talk about central themes of the Bible, like what? Well, like king and kingdom, like sacrifice, like garden and wilderness, like clean and unclean, like light and darkness, like offspring, like blessing, curse. And my contention is that when we are familiar with these themes, that then wherever we are in the Bible and we see one of those themes within kind of underneath, maybe even featured in whatever text we are wherever in the Bible, that that really then helps us to guide us into the Holy Spirit intended meaning of the text.
Now, for those of you, the idea of biblical theology is new. And in some ways, like when I first heard the term, I thought biblical theology must mean good theology as opposed to unbiblical theology, but it’s a little bit more technical than that. But I also think that a helpful way to begin to grasp what it is is to see it in light of its companion. It’s a very important companion of systematic theology. You see, in systematic theology, we’re asking the question, what does the Bible, the whole of the Bible, no matter where it is, have to say about a particular topic? And we kind of collect and put together to create a coherent summary of the Bible’s message about a topic, and that would be systematic theology. Biblical theology is different because biblical theology sees how a particular theme works its way through various books of the Bible, various literature types of the Bible, but here’s the most important distinction, how this theme in this story develops. An important word. You can write it down. How the theme develops from where we are at the beginning of the Bible, in the Garden of Eden, and through the historical books and through the prophets and in the incarnation, the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus. Because it develops and there’s a crisis at the beginning, which the crisis is pretty much all the same place, Genesis 3, right? And it develops over the Old Testament. And then it comes to a climax. And the climax, no matter what theme of the Bible we’re talking about always comes at the same place in the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. And the theme always resolves in the same place, in the new creation, the consummation, the new heavens, and the new earth.
So question number two, how does biblical theology transform personal Bible study as well as small group Bible study in the church? Well, when I originally created my talk, I had a top 10 list because if you’re gonna do a list, you should probably do 10, right? And then the day before I came, I got an email that my talk was not 60 minutes, but 40 minutes, so you only get 7. You’re kind of getting cheated, but we’re gonna go with seven, okay? And I’m gonna try to fit it in my time. Here’s number one. Biblical theology makes Bible study Christ-centered, not me-centered. We don’t wanna study the Bible in a way that’s merely an intellectual pursuit of information that never intersects with real lives, and especially the areas of our lives that need to be reshaped and sanctified. But neither do we want to approach the Bible, making the jump too quickly to, how do I see myself in this passage? Which I think is what so much Bible study that we’re used to has kind of trained us to do. So many ways of studying the Bible move quickly, in fact, I would say too quickly to how am I going to apply this to my life? Now, that’s a very important question.
But here’s the first question we should be asking. What was the intended message to the original audience? That’s got to be the first question. So in the books of Moses, what was the original message to those people in the wilderness and who had first entered the Promised Land as they read Moses, we’ve got to come to that answer first. And then the second most important question is, what difference does the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ make in how I understand this passage? Especially in the Old Testament but not exclusively in the Old Testament. And we have to answer those two questions rightly and well until we get to trying to answer the question, what difference does this make in my life? How could I apply this to my life and to those I might be talking through this passage with, or teaching this passage to?
And you see, I think it’s biblical theology that helps us in this effort because as we learn these major themes in the Bible and see them arise in whatever passage we’re in, it’s what helps us, especially for that question, how does it connect to the life, death, and what difference does the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus make? Biblical themes help us to do that. You see, there’s a huge difference between men and women leaving your Bible study time weighed down by what they must do. There’s a huge difference between that and them leaving with a sense of wonder over what Christ has done, and therefore, the difference that makes in their life. The wonder of what Christ has done, hopefully, what they leave mostly with is the urgency to be joined to Him by faith so that His record of obedience as well as His power for obedience will flow into them.
All right. Number two. Biblical theology teaches us the larger story of the Bible, not just a collection of disconnected stories. I’m afraid that was me for most of my life. And could I just see some hands in this room if you can relate to that, a lot of disconnected stories that you didn’t know how to put it together? And I’ve been given the technical ability to see you raising your hands who are there online, so just go ahead and raise them, but I’ll see them. Okay. That was exactly me. And I would kind of be embarrassed for you to know actually how old I was, and not only how much Bible study I had done, but how much teaching the Bible I had been doing, before I really grasped and could have been able to articulate the basic storyline of the Old Testament. And by that, I mean, the line of the patriarchs, Abraham whose son was Isaac, and then it goes through not Jacob and Esau, but Jacob, and then Jacob’s 12 sons. So that storyline of the patriarchs to their slavery in Egypt and their redemption out of Egypt into first the wilderness and eventually the Promised Land under Joshua. And then the establishment of the kingdom first under Saul and then under David and then his son Solomon. And for me, that’s where it all fell apart. Some of you, can you relate to that too? I mean, that’s where it really falls apart, right?
Maybe you remember Rehoboam, but then that whole divided kingdom thing, like that was really fuzzy. And then there’s these exiles, right? To be able articulate, “Okay, there’s the 10 Northern tribes and they go into exile under Assyria. And it’s 150 years later that these two southern tribes, Judah and Benjamin are taken into exile by Babylon and then they eventually returned to the land.” I mean, that’s the basic storyline of the Bible. And I couldn’t have done that for you, even that simple thing for most of my life. I just had this mishmash of battles and people, and I didn’t know how they fit together. So I think what happens is when we study or present stories of the Bible that are disconnected from the larger story, I think one thing that happens is that historical narratives become little lessons on how to either try real hard to be like the person in the story if we think that they’re good. And oftentimes we make them only good and not like a mix of motives like all of us are, or try real hard not to be like someone that we deem to be, you know, an anti-hero who does the wrong things. What we do, if we’ve got just a mish-mash is we’re trying to draw like little life or life lessons or faith lessons, and often imposing our ideas about what is good or bad, right or wrong into the story.
But something changes dramatically when we approach the stories of the Bible, both Old Testament and New Testament narrative with biblical theology. So, for example, when we read about Adam’s disobedience of the garden, when we read it in light of the second Adam’s obedience in the wilderness and later in the garden of Gethsemane, everything changes. When we study the story of Joseph and we look at him being raised in one day from the pit of prison to the right hand of the Pharaoh, and we consider what that has to show us about Jesus being raised from the grave to sit at the right hand of God the Father, everything changes. When we look at Moses in light of the greater prophet whom he said would come, or Joshua in light of the greater Joshua who will lead his people into a greater rest, a far greater Promised Land, these stories become connected to the larger story that once again is going to climax in the life, death, resurrection, and ascension of Jesus, which is the gospel announcement.
One of my pastors at my church, Ben Griffith, he recently said in a sermon, he said, “We live out of the story we believe is true about ourselves.” Think about that a second. So let me ask you this. How can we, as those who are leading teaching live out of the story of God’s work in history to present a bride to His son if we don’t know the story, how can we, or those we are leading, teach…how can they live out of that story if they don’t know of the story? And the thing is, according to Jesus, the kingdom of God is the story. We need to understand the kingdom as it once was, the kingdom as it once was in Eden where Adam and Eve served as his Royal representatives and were given dominion. The kingdom of God as it was in the Promised Land under this Davidic King. The kingdom of God, as it was later, even in the exile and return. What it means that Jesus came and what He was talking about when He said His first words in the gospel of Mark, “The kingdom of God is at hand. Repent and believe.” And that helps us to then understand the kingdom of God as it is now, as we are living in it, as the kingdom of God is spreading to every people, tribe, and nation, and then the kingdom of God as it will be when our King comes again. And the kingdom of God won’t be just at hand, the kingdom of God will be established forever. He will be our God and we will be His people. The kingdoms of this world will have become the kingdoms of our Lord and of His Christ, and He will reign forever and ever.
You see, I don’t think a verse like that means very much unless you can trace the whole story of how long we’ve been waiting for this king and this kingdom. So how will we and how will those who are participating in the studies and classes at our churches ever live out of this story that the Bible is telling us, if they can’t articulate the story for themselves? They just can’t. If the Bible tells one overarching story and we miss it, we miss the point of the whole of the Bible as well the point of all of its parts, which leads me to number three, my number three reason. Biblical theology helps us to make sense of the whole Bible and not just parts of it. You see, I think that as teachers and leaders, if we aren’t grasping this historical timeline, we tend to focus on the highlights…and you’ll get what I mean, that can preach. Maybe the parts that seem really practical. We might lean into the parts of the Bible that are filled with imperatives, but most significantly we’re likely to ignore parts, books, chunks of the Bible that we don’t know what to do with because they don’t seem practical or relevant to the people we’re teaching. I think this especially comes into play in terms of the latter historical books, but especially the Major and Minor Prophets, because without biblical theology, we don’t know what to do with those.
Now, if you’re like me, here’s what I used to do with them. I basically kind of looked through them for a part that like worked for me, especially if it said something really hopeful or helpful or enabled me to say something I wanted to say, so you pick a little part out of there and maybe ignore the rest. But just think about that, if the whole of the Bible is God speaking to us, why would we ever settle for there being parts of the Bible that we write off as indiscernible, irrelevant, not applicable? We want everything that God has to say to us. We want to see Christ from every angle, and the different parts of the Bible show us Christ from differing angles. If we believe that the Bible is God speaking to us and that we live by every word that comes out of the mouth of God, why would we ever settle for having parts that we simply don’t study? Well, we won’t. So biblical theology, I think opens up the whole of the Bible to us even as it trains us how every part of the Bible reveals something significant about Christ and how he’s bringing His kingdom into the world.
Number four way that biblical theology transforms Bible study, biblical theology leads us to what we need most to know, not simply what we want most to know. A while ago I was speaking at a church. I was doing a Q&A session. This one woman raised her hand and she said, “How do I find things in the Bible that I want to know about? Like what it says about anger and jealousy?” And I really struggled to answer her question and yet isn’t that the way many, many, many people approach the Bible? They see it as a guidebook for life, collected good advice. And they go to the Bible. They’re looking at the Bible for insight on the issues of the things that are really important to them, they’re not so interested in the stuff that they think is somehow not applicable or certainly not of interest to them.
The Bible though, the Bible answers questions that you and I don’t know enough to ask. I’m gonna say that again because I think that’s big. Okay? The Bible answers questions that you and I simply do not know enough to ask. They’re the questions we most need the answers to but we didn’t know enough to ask the questions. And how does it answer these questions? Through various genres, through historical narrative, through wisdom sayings, through prophecy, through discourse, through poetry, through apocalyptic. And, you know, in some ways, wouldn’t it be nice if the Bible was just a guide to life and it was also straightforward and answered all of our questions exactly in the way we want to? But the Bible requires a little more from us, doesn’t it? It doesn’t just hand over its wisdom and insight. It requires something of us to get its message. We have to have ears to hear. We don’t set the agenda for the Bible. The Bible sets the agenda and biblical theology helps us to get that agenda.
So rather than coming to the Bible and picking at it to find the answers to the questions that we think are urgent, instead, we come to the Bible in humility, seeking to grasp the message the divine author has written into His book that He really wants us to know. And how do begin to grasp that message? Well, we do something that we would do with any piece of literature that we would want to deeply grasp. We ask, what are the themes that the author has written into this book? Secondly, we ask, how does He develop them? Thirdly, toward what end? And then fourthly, what message does that communicate? Let me give you an example of what we mean. When you think about how much ink in your Bible, especially like if you read through the Bible in a year and you start in Genesis and you get to Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, think about how much ink is given to the tabernacle.
And you get in the history books, how much ink is given then to the temple? What’s gonna happen in it? What shouldn’t happen in it? Well, you know, the materials it’s made of, its building process, the problems that go on it. And when you’re reading through the Bible, if you’re like me, I mean, some of it can seem so foreign and like so much detail like I really didn’t need all that detail. And it can seem like ancient formality and we might be just tempted to skip over it, but here’s what we do instead. We begin to think, “Well, it seems really important to the author of this book. He must be trying to communicate something to me. What’s he trying to communicate to me?” And as we look in Genesis there in Genesis 1 and 2, and begin to see that this is actually the…that the garden of Eden was the first sanctuary and that Adam was put there as a priest to work it and keep it just like the priests were instructed later in Numbers to work and keep the temple.
And at the end of Exodus, we witness the visible, tangible, fiery glory of God come down to infiltrate the most holy place of the tabernacle. And then later in 1 Kings, this fiery glory then come down to dwell in the most holy place of the temple. We hold our breath through the 400 years of silence from God, prophetic silence even as we await for what’s…we’re told at the end of Malachi that the Lord will come suddenly to His temple. And then we turn the page to the gospels and we read John where he says that the Word became flesh and dwelt or tabernacled among us. We turn to the book of Acts and we read that fire comes down again, this fire comes down, not into the most Holy place of the tabernacle or the temple, fire comes down on individual believers gathered at Pentecost and we’re seeing… Do you remember that word I told you is important, development? Are you seeing the development in this story? It’s developing. Now it’s not in a building that nobody can get close to except the high priest once a year. Now the dwelling place of God is in believers. And then we get to the epistles and we hear both Peter and Paul write about the church as being a spiritual house that we are living stones being built into a temple in which God wants to dwell.
And then we get to Revelation 21 and we read that there’s a loud voice from the throne and it says, “Now the dwelling place of God is with man and He will be their God and they will be His people and He will wipe away every tear from their eyes.” And at that point, we’re like, “Now I get it. Now I see why that tabernacle was so significant because God was wanting me to see how important it is to Him to dwell among His people, and that all of history from Genesis all the way to Revelation 1, God has been working out His plan to bring that about again.” And so then the next year, reading through the Bible, when we get to Exodus, we read it differently. And it matters to us because we can see how this story is being developed. Here I think is the best part. We find ourselves as we study the Bible increasingly longing for where this story is headed. And as this happens, we begin to realize, you know, I was coming to the Bible with my small-minded questions about how I wanted to find something here to navigate life in this world, and instead, the Bible is presenting me with the reality of the world to come in such a way that some of these questions just don’t seem to matter so much anymore and my heart is filled with wonder, which leads me to number five.
Number five, ways biblical theology transforms Bible study is that biblical theology focuses us on the consummation, not merely going to heaven when we die. You know, for most of my life, my understanding of what the Christian life was all about was that I should make a decision for Christ and try really hard to live well for Him over my lifetime, and then I would go to heaven when I die. Anybody relate to that? Grew up with that kind of understanding what the Christian life was all about? And it’s not that those things aren’t true. It’s just that it’s so diminished from the reality of what we really enter into when we are joined to Christ by faith. A disembodied existence somewhere away from this world is not what God has saved us for. That vision of the Christian life simply doesn’t fit with the story that the whole Bible is telling because the story of the Bible is headed toward consummation, toward glory. Not a spirit with nobody’s existence somewhere away from this earth.
And I remember when this hit me. I realized that actually I had never really thought through how my life in heaven when I die will be different after the return of Christ and the resurrection of my body. I had never fully considered what it means to be away from the body at home with the Lord, but then later to be in His presence, body resurrected, glorious body like the body Jesus has now, body and soul living with Him forever in a resurrected renewed earth. And this is not just meaningless spiritualism or meaningless theology. This has such practical implications for believers, does it not? Especially as they face death. Especially as they face the death of someone they love. You see, most people that you minister to, they haven’t thought it through either. And that’s one reason that they like to talk about their loved ones who have died in terms of that they’re golfing on that big golf course in heaven, or riding their skateboard on the sidewalks of heaven because they don’t really understand that the body of the person they love is in the grave awaiting the resurrection call of Jesus when He returns and their soul has gone to be with Christ to be reunited with that resurrection body, fit for living forever on a renewed resurrected earth and life forever in the new heaven and the new earth. So again, how could we ever expect those we serve to live out of this story if they don’t know this story?
Number six. Biblical theology urges us toward union with Christ, not merely imitating or following Jesus. The language the Bible repeatedly uses is that of being in Christ, that of going from being spiritually dead to spiritually alive. When Jesus says to Nicodemus, “You must be born again,” He isn’t telling Nicodemus he has to do something. He’s speaking of a reality that must happen in Nicodemus’ life by the power of the Holy Spirit by being united to Christ. How do these things happen? How does a spiritually dead person become spiritually alive? How does a person with a heart of stone given a heart of flesh? How does someone experience the new birth? It all centers around union with Christ. His death becomes ours. His life becomes ours. And once again, for most of my life, somehow I missed this understanding of union with Christ as being at the center of the Scriptures, the very essence of the Christian of life. And when it isn’t at the center of our study and teaching, we’re often missing the point. We’re missing the sense of urgency to become united to Christ. And I think the way that happens is for people to see it again and again through biblical theology.
A couple of quick examples, Old Testament narratives in which the crisis of sin and uncleanness is unresolved. And so we let people feel that desperation, how is that going to get solved, where it gets solved through a once for all sacrifice for sin in the person of Christ. Or we read Old Testament wisdom and we see it has limitations. Old Testament wisdom will only take you so far. What’s needed is wisdom incarnate and to be joined to wisdom incarnate so that the wisdom of Christ begins to flow into us, displacing our natural foolishness. We hear the Old Testament prophets, their desperation for the people of God to have power to obey God’s law, and we realize that’s only going to come when the only person who ever obeyed perfectly both transfers His perfect record of righteousness to us as well as seals us with the Holy Spirit who empowers us for obedience. Or when we get to the New Testament in which Jesus feeds 5,000 with bread, we realize it’s not bread we need from Jesus, we need Jesus as bread. We need to feed on Him. And apart from feeding on His atoning death, we will starve to death in this world. So as biblical theology helps us get to Christ wherever we are in the Bible, it serves to show us in every passage, the beauty, the sufficiency, and the necessity of union with Christ.
Number seven, I’ve saved the best for last, biblical theology stirs up affection for Christ and a greater longing for His return, which my contention is the most practical thing Bible study can do. These days, people want practical, don’t they? And pragmatism is woven into our DNA as the modern evangelical church and as our culture’s orientation towards self-help and oversimplification, have infiltrated the church, rather than looking for Christ in all the Scriptures, somewhere along the way, we developed the tendency to come to the Bible, looking for how to become better people and how to solve our problems. We want simple, manageable consumer-friendly tidbits about God that we can employ for more positive outcomes in our faith walk. Rather than the Bible being presented as a revelation of God’s redemptive work past, present, and future, it gets used as a guidebook. Now, I get wanting to offer something practical, but I have to tell you what I think is the most practical thing that can happen as we study the Bible on our own or in groups, and that is that it would cause us to love Christ more and to long more for His return. Nothing will undergird obedience more than loving Christ more and longing more for His return.
All right. I only have a minute and a half. I’m gonna stretch just a little bit a minute for my third part of this, which is how do we do it? And I know some of you want some of that. How can a person, a teacher, a church develop a deeper grasp of biblical theology? Well, number one, you’re gonna read good books. That probably shouldn’t surprise you. So read. And I don’t think it’s… Yes, books about biblical theology are good. I don’t necessarily think that that’s the place to start. I think that approaching this Bible this way is better absorbed than instructed, or having just the mechanics explained. So I’m gonna mention a few books that I think are great places to start. If you like me needed some help just kind of reorienting how you work through the Scriptures to see the Bible in this way, I love the book, “Name Above All Names” by Sinclair Ferguson and Alistair Begg. I love the book, “The Big Picture” by Vaughan Roberts. I love “The Unfolding Mystery” by Ed Clowney. “The Goldworthy Trilogy” by Graeme Goldsworthy blew my mind. “God Dwells Among Us” by G. K. Beale. “Remaking a Broken World” by Christopher Ash. “The Story Retold” really helps with plot making, even the gospels in the New Testament, Christ-centered. Or maybe even this little book called “Even Better than Eden” by Nancy Guthrie. Okay.
All right. So you’re gonna read good books, but you’re also gonna recommend books. Are you as a leader recommending good books to your teachers and leaders? But don’t just recommend them set a time to get together to talk about them. Because when something is transforming how you’ve approached the Bible your whole life, you need to talk about it to get those things kind of sealed in. Have a session with the teachers and leaders in your church and simply take turns articulating the story of the Bible. People will stumble, they might be embarrassed, let the next person get up and see how they do it. And if you don’t wanna do it verbally at first, maybe the first session, you just have a timeline and you ask everybody to try to put on a timeline the story of the Bible and see where the gaps are that need to be filled in for people to be able to articulate the story. I think it’s this, you know, official recommending of books on your website or in person, especially with your teachers and leaders is important. I think the informal recommendations of books are even more important. And can I talk just a moment to those of you who are pastors? When was the last time you had a conversation with the women who are teaching and leading in your church, asking them what they are reading or recommending a book to them to read? Really important. Show them that you want to treat them like they have theological minds because they do, and your recommendation and your willingness to engage, to share, to maybe read something that they are reading, that will go a long way.
Then thirdly… So we said, read, recommend, rehearse. Demonstrate biblical theology outside of the pulpit. Maybe you’re frustrated at the way the Bible is taught in the children’s Sunday school at your church. That it’s always, you know, little lessons, and it isn’t Christ-centered and you get frustrated. Well, have you ever demonstrated for them how to do it? We don’t know this instinctively. At least I didn’t because I didn’t grow up knowing how to read, understand, and teach the Bible this way. And so we’ve got deeply ingrained grooves, at least I have, that have had to be like retrained for how to present and teach the Bible. So demonstrate for them to do it. Get them together and practice together, how are we going to tell some of these stories or present some of these passages in a way that is Christ-centered? Don’t just assume that if you can tell them once they need to do it and they will actually know how to do it, recommend some resources for them.
Third, listen. So not only read capable biblical theologians, listen. Listen to how they do it. We’re so blessed to have so many audio resources available to us in this day, aren’t we? So listen to how capable biblical theologians get to Christ. For five years I did this podcast for TGC, “Help Me Teach The Bible.” If you’re wondering, who are some people who really do biblical theology? Almost every person I had on that podcast, it was because they were good biblical theologians. There are some good names if you wanna look at the “Help Me Teach The Bible” list of people I interviewed. Also, I’m about to close here, I’ve been offering biblical theology workshops for women over the past couple of years ,and one session is dedicated to taking a biblical theme and demonstrating how to tell the story of the Bible according to that theme.
And as I’ve done that, I’ve been convinced in that workshop, hearing me do it is actually more effective than me telling them how to do it. It’s something we absorb and learn by hearing people do it. I’ve got 17 more of those workshops over the coming year. In fact, I’ve got a bunch of cards with me. My husband is here and so these two exits over here, they’re gonna be giving out cards. If you’re interested in knowing where I’ll be doing these workshops, I would love for any of you to come because maybe you think, “Yeah, I get biblical theology, but I don’t really know how to teach it to my Sunday school teachers or small group leaders.” You might like to come just to see how I’m trying to do my best to train. So we’re gonna give those cards who are here. If you’re watching online, you can go to nancyguthrie.com and see all of the cities and dates for those biblical theology workshops for women coming up.
Well, I’m gonna close just by saying, I started by telling you about that woman at my church who tearfully came to me mourning over a lifetime of studying the Bible that somehow she had missed seeing the beauty of the Bible centered on Christ. And I have to tell you, as I’ve traveled the country doing these biblical theology workshops, I’m still having women come up to me in tears but they’re not tears of sorrow. They’re tears of joy because this is what I think is the biggest impact of biblical theology. If you love Christ and you love the Bible and then you begin to see how the whole of the Bible is showing you picture after picture, after picture of the beauty and necessity and sufficiency of Christ, it fills you with so much joy you think you’re going to explode. So I am commissioning you to be joy spreaders, right? Joy spreaders by the means of growing yourself in these skills and sharing them and teaching biblical theology.
Thank you so much for joining us for this session. I’m gonna be down here. I would love to talk with you. I hope you’ll pick up one of those cards on the way out. And thanks again for joining us. It’s been great to be with you. Thank you.