If you want to wrap your mind around church you can’t just stick with Paul, you have to go to Jesus. If you want to wrap your mind around Jesus you can’t just go to the Gospels, you have to go to the Old Testament. The story of Scripture from cover to cover is amazing in how it connects so many dots over thousands of years. The more you read the entire Bible to more you realize the continuity between the Testaments and the more the New Testament makes sense in light of the Old.
Some want to understand the church in light of Paul rather than in light of Jesus. Paul is certainly a help (inspired words and authoritative teaching, no doubt) and we cannot have a full view of what church is all about without his writings but we do know that the church sprang out of the story of Jesus, not the letters of Paul. Paul wrote all of his letters back to people who had started off on the Jesus story and who needed some help along the way. You cannot have church without the story of Jesus. You can certainly have church without Ephesians or even Romans. Remember, the early Christians were Christians before these letters were written and even after they were written, few had access to them for quite some time…and yet Christianity flourished. That doesn’t mean we are to neglect them. By no means! It just means we put first things first and what comes first is Jesus. Then you fit Paul around that. It is hard to understand Paul without understanding Jesus and it is hard to understand Jesus without understanding the Old Testament.
Start with Jesus. You can’t go wrong with that. From there we dive into Paul and the Old Testament…then our picture of what God is up to and who we are as Christians and what church is all about as the people of God becomes a fuller and more vibrant picture. What I don’t want you to hear me saying here is to neglect the rest of the New Testament. Instead, what I am advocating is a renewed focus on the Gospels in our Christian walk and that from there we go to Acts, Paul and the Old Testament in order to gain a fuller understanding of Jesus and the church.
“And so it was with me, brothers and sisters. When I came to you, I did not come with eloquence or human wisdom as I proclaimed to you the testimony about God. For I resolved to know nothing while I was with you except Jesus Christ and him crucified. I came to you in weakness with great fear and trembling. My message and my preaching were not with wise and persuasive words, but with a demonstration of the Spirit’s power, so that your faith might not rest on human wisdom, but on God’s power.” – 1 Cor 2:1-5
He is the Author and Finisher / Perfecter of our faith. There is a tendency among most missioners in our faith heritage (churches of Christ) to present / project the Plan of Salvation and the church Jesus built to the utter neglect of presenting the Savior and Head of the church. The whole Bible points to Jesus. It is He who washes, saves, clothes, nourishes, protects, and cares for the church [His people]. He is our Good Shepherd, Great High Priest, King, and Mediator. Let us fall down and worship Him. [Let us not worship the church, Paul, or even the Bible!] Let us worship God! Let us seek our LORD “beyond the sacred page” and be satisfied.
We need to realize this saying of Jesus, “…you will know that I am in My Father, and you in Me, and I in you.” John 14:20. It has to be that intimate.
Historically the cofC did not preach on Jesus. They did not discuss Mary and the magnificat. John wasn’t mentioned very often at all. I never remember hearing the portions of the prophets that foretold the Messiah. I had to hope that I would get to hear them somewhere. I’m glad you are mentioning that Jesus comes first. Why was proof texting allowed to become the whole method of cofC preaching?
Matt, We would love to see your great articles on http://www.CollectiveFaith.com. Please join and share with our Christian Social Network.
Matt, you’ve nailed it! Proclaim Jesus first and foremost. Find him in the Old Testament Torah, Prophets, Psalms (Writings). Read Acts, the Epistles, and Apocalypse with Jesus in view. Get to know him first in the Gospels so you come to know his heart, which is also the heart of God.
Then you will never go far astray!