September 14, 2019 • Life for Leaders
Here is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance: Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners—of whom I am the worst.
Have you ever had trouble understanding the Bible? Have passages puzzled you? Have you gotten lost in the list of Israel’s kings, or the genealogies in Matthew, or those labyrinthine arguments that Paul makes in some of his letters? (I have been known to refer to them in sermons as “oh no, another of Paul’s giant algebra problems”).
The Bible is important for Christians to understand, but it’s not always easy to understand. The great news is that we don’t have to start from scratch. We can read trusted commentaries and speak to wise friends. We can listen to sermons that break open the Word so we can grasp its applicability to our lives. For those receiving these Life for Leaders devotions, we can have Mark Roberts explain Paul’s labyrinthine arguments to us.
But besides all these external helps, there is another piece of good news as we seek to search the Scriptures. The lists of kings and the genealogies and the theological arguments are best understood in the context of the larger story the Bible is telling. Now, by story I don’t mean that it’s not true—it is! What I mean is that there is a broad narrative running through the entire Bible—a story of creation, fall, and redemption. God created and loved the world; when we rejected that love, he came to redeem us, now and at the end of the age.
When we come to understand that, we can begin to see how each of the smaller pieces fit in. Kings? They are part of the story of Israel’s often failed attempts to follow God. Genealogies? They show how Jesus Christ came from the line of David and fulfilled prophecy. Paul’s algebra problems and other dense theological passages? They explain how Christ saves, and why, and who (spoiler alert: check out John 3:16 and 17.)
All of that brings me to today’s Scripture. When I write these devotions from time to time, I’ll be taking my featured Scripture readings from the Revised Common Lectionary, which is used in many Christian denominations—including mine—to govern which Scriptures are read and preached from on Sundays. And this week, the chosen reading from Paul’s letters reminds us about the middle part of that big story: the fall part. We have all sinned and fallen short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23). Paul’s words remind us that none of us can do this alone—whether this refers to work, parenting, marriage, our devotional life, mission, evangelizing, or anything else. We all depend on the grace of God every day and every moment.
I’ll have more to say about the good news of God’s grace tomorrow. For now, think about these questions.
Something to Think About:
What parts of the Bible do you enjoy reading?
Where do you get lost? Where are you puzzled?
If you think of the Bible as a grand story of creation, fall, and redemption, does this framework help with any of the confusing and puzzling passages?
Something to Do:
Ponder one of the passages that puzzles you in the Bible. Think about how it might fit into the story of God’s love for his creation.
Lord, help us to understand your great love for us. Help us to read your Scriptures with new eyes so that we can see how every page speaks of that love. Give us wise counsel and an open, discerning heart as we read. Amen.
Explore more at the Theology of Work Project online
Conclusions from Genesis 1-11
Jennifer Woodruff Tait (PhD, Duke University) is the editor of and frequent contributor to Life for Leaders. She is also the managing editor of Christian History magazine and web editor for the Theology of Work Project. She is a priest in the Episcopal Church and an adjunct faculty member at Asbury Theological Seminary. She has written a book of poetry, Histories of Us. Jennifer lives in Berea, Kentucky, with her husband, Edwin, and their two daughters.
Click here to view Jennifer’s profile.