Tuesday, November 6, 2007

My top ten verses of scripture, part 2

(Continued from the previous post.)
  1. "And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes and be careful to obey my rules." (Ez. 36:26-27)

    I could never figure out why this verse isn't quoted in the New Testament. Anyway, it says several significant things:  (1) That we're a disobedient people in need of cleansing and regeneration; (2) That God isn't going to forsake us in our corrupt state — God is going to provide a solution for what ails us; and (3) That the solution necessarily involves the indwelling of God's Holy Spirit.

  2. … whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith. This was to show God's righteousness … so that he might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus. (Ro. 3:25-26)

    We are near to the heart of the Gospel here.

    Why was it necessary for Jesus to die? This question takes us into deep theological waters. Rather than supply a final answer to the question, I am content simply to point to Paul's language here:  Jesus died so that God could justify us without committing an injustice.

    God was determined to have mercy upon us; and yet it would have been unjust of God to "clear the guilty" without providing some sort of propitiation for sin. It may confound human understanding, but Jesus Christ is the solution to that otherwise insoluble dilemma.

  3. "The Lord has risen indeed, and has appeared to Simon!" (Luke 24:34)

    The testimony of the Eleven to Cleopas and another, anonymous disciple.

    It isn't easy to select a single verse about the resurrection (raised for our justification? if Christ is not raised, we have believed in vain? Christ, the firstborn from among the dead?). But I love the resounding confidence of the assertion, "The Lord is risen indeed!"

    Sin, death, and the devil do not have the last word in scripture. Christ's resurrection provides sufficient ground for Christians to persist in hope — even in the face of terrible tragedy, if it comes to that.

  4. He [Christ] is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature. (Heb. 1:3a)

    And here is the other great achievement of Jesus Christ:  he makes an otherwise dimly perceived God known to us.

    Jesus is God's Son in a unique sense. When we contemplate his words and deeds we gain insights into God's nature that are otherwise unavailable to us.

  5. "There is nothing outside a person that by going into him can defile him, but the things that come out of a person are what defile him." (Mark 7:15)

    This verse is perhaps an odd choice to make it into my top ten. However, the importance of the issue touched on here — whether Christians are obliged to be circumcised, abstain from pork, and observe other elements of the Law of Moses — is obvious from the trouble it stirred up in the early Church.

    The saying quoted above was interpreted expansively by Mark ("Thus he declared all foods clean," 7:19) and restrictively by Matthew ("To eat with unwashed hands does not defile anyone", Mt. 15:20).

    It was the determination of this issue that set Jews and Christians on divergent paths. It opened up the church to Gentiles without requiring that they first convert to Judaism. This development made it possible for Christianity to be, at least in principle, a universal religion.

  6. He has shown strength with his arm;
          he has scattered the proud in the thoughts of
          their hearts;
    he has brought down the mighty from their thrones
          and exalted those of humble estate;
    he has filled the hungry with good things,
          and the rich he has sent away empty.
    (Luke 1:51-53)

    This survey would not be complete without a reference to the social justice element of Jesus' ministry (in continuity with the prophets before him). Jesus befriended not only the poor, but those who were marginalized for whatever reason:  lepers, the demon-possessed, Samaritans, women, even those who were considered slack in their observance of the Law. Jesus joined them at the dinner table in an anticipation of the eschatological feast, which will take place when the kingdom of God is consummated.

    Note:  God not only exalts the humble, God also humbles the exalted. The finished work of Christ is the great leveler of society.

    But the completion of Christ's work awaits the arrival of the eschaton. Maranatha! — our Lord, come!
OK, I ended up with eleven verses in my "top ten"! Consider it a symbol of God's grace:  your cup has been filled to overflowing.

I can't help thinking of other verses I've left off my list. The Great Commandment, for example; and the Lord's prayer, and the words of institution of the Eucharist. Moreover, I'm aware that different verses could be substituted for the ones I have chosen, perhaps to better effect.

However, this survey represents the sweep of biblical teaching, from my perspective. I'll be curious to hear what essential pieces others think I've left out.

I think I'll tag James McGrath at Exploring Our Matrix to do this meme. It seems to me it's his sort of thing.

Finally:  for a very thought-provoking approach to this challenge, see John Hobbins's ten paradigmatic questions from the Bible.

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1Unless otherwise indicated, scripture is quoted from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version.


John said...


that was a joy to read. Thank you.


Doug Chaplin said...

Stephen, thanks. I've added links to these posts to the original meme-starter. But please please tell me, what sort of Q are you: a mythical text, a Trekkie superbieng from another continuum, or a 007 gadget supremo? (Or none of the above)

James F. McGrath said...

Wow, it looks like I did what I often do (I'm not sure where I picked up the habit) and read everything but the last few lines. I missed that you tagged me! Don't worry - I am aware of the meme and will revel in my infectedness!

Cliff Martin said...

Thank you, Stephen. Your ten (give or take) selected texts get right to the heart of our faith! Alas, they are so not the ones I would expect from most evangelicals.

Bridgett said...

Oh, number 11 is so worth it.