IN THE HISTORY OF MY LIFETIME, I haven’t come across many preachers worth listening to. At least not during their sermons.
At one point in my life I just came to the conclusion that they talked too much.
That they were called on to speak so often that they ran out of engaging, thoughtful things to say.
I’ve since met several exceptions to the rule. One exception is the lead pastor at the church I attend. He is Adam Hamilton, pastor of the largest United Methodist church in the country. I attend one of his outlying campus churches. We get his sermons by video.
He recently finished a series called “Wrestling with the Bible.” He dealt with some pretty tough topics, stirring a hornet’s nest a sermon or two. Especially the sermon on sexuality and the Bible…the hot button there was homosexuality. It got a few of my friends worked up a good one.
Adam’s final sermon in the series talked about the reliability of the New Testament. His main point, it seems to me, was this: we Christians take our cue from Jesus.
When something Paul or any other Bible writer says seems out of sync with what Jesus taught and practiced, we go with Jesus. We can put Paul on hold and try to figure him out later. But if it’s clear what Jesus taught, then that’s our model to follow.
Thank you for the wonderful resource of Pastor Adam Hamilton; I was happy that his approach to the reliability of the New Testament was historical. I was expecting the worst (after being inundated with “progressive” ideas and theories) and Pastor Hamilton gave a thoughtful and balanced sermon — again, my friend, you are blessed to have such a wonderful Pastor-teacher!
Stephen, in your introduction to the book of Luke in your “Complete Guide to the Bible,” you made a remark that it was possible that “Theophilus” could have been a Roman official and that Luke and Acts were written to present the facts of Christianity for Paul’s defense. I think Luke is a much earlier gospel than many Bible experts think — since it had to be compiled before Paul’s execution in 64 AD. You got me curious that I had to delve into this more!
Dr. Christopher R. Smith did a monumental task when he introduced “The Books of the Bible” – he removed all the chapters and verses and organized
the books in a more logical and chronological order. Now stay with me – there is going to be a very important point to all this! He organized the New
Testament in a different order, putting the books in a chronological order around the four gospels and
creating a Bible that is for oral presentation and community. The first book of the New Testament is
Luke-Acts (it was actually one book with two parts) and then he organized all of Paul’s letters in chronological order. Luke-Acts actually makes up
one-third of the New Testament. One reason this gospel was read in the Churches and accepted as
genuine was because Luke, a Gentile doctor, was the close companion of Paul and recorder of his life.
Both of these books are addressed to this mystery man named Theophilus. Bible scholars have no idea who this man is – the theory that has often been
accepted was that Theophilus was a Christian who hired Luke to research the start of Christianity – to get it in writing before anyone dies who was part of
this story. Recently a new theory has arisen – which I believe, if proven, could radically give us more appreciation for God’s chosen Apostle Paul! This
other theory suggests that Theophilus was a Roman official in charge of Paul’s trial in Rome, and that Luke documented the start of Christianity and Paul’s life for Paul’s defense before Caesar. Three
clues suggest this – Luke addresses Theophilus as “my most excellent Theophilus,” which is a greeting for a Roman official; Luke says he is presenting “an orderly account” about Jesus and his followers; and finally the book of Acts ends abruptly with Paul awaiting his trial in Rome, with
no word about the outcome of the trial! Now here is the point to all this: Luke-Acts makes up one-third of the New Testament, written by Paul’s close
companion and documenting evidence of
Christianity; and with the 13 letters written by Paul and maybe even Hebrews – which even the early Apostolic Fathers were uncertain about – more than
three-fourths of the New Testament has Pauline influence! There are no actual words of Jesus in the Bible (get rid of those red-letter Bibles – please); they are the gospel accounts of Matthew,
Mark, Luke and John – inspired gospel accounts that present the teachings of Christ and his sayings Paul, as well as Peter, James, and John, help define
the four gospels with more insights. But it is Paul’s letters and his teachings that make clearer the way of salvation through Jesus Christ. My point for all this is to say is that every aspect of the New Testament is the Gospel — the 4 gospels gives us the history of what Jesus did; Acts gives the message of what the Apostles preached; and the apostolic writings give us the theology of what salvation is. There are many subjects that Jesus did not teach on — that Paul expands on! The doctrine of Adoption is strictly a Pauline doctrine.
Anyway, love this blog and looking forward to review your next book coming out in October — I never read the first one. God Bless!