Biblical theology asks questions of the Bible—what does it teach or say about a topic, what is the significance of a repeated theme or event—and then carefully studies the text in context to find answers from the Bible itself. Here are 10 questions you might have found yourself asking, along with answers drawn from editor D.A. Carson’s New Studies in Biblical Theology series.
1. What does the New Testament say about sanctification and holiness?
In 2 Corinthians 3:18, the Apostle Paul says, “We all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image.” But how exactly does this transformation take place? David Peterson sets out to answer that question in Possessed by God: A New Testament Theology of Sanctification and Holiness. Peterson suggests that undue focus on sanctification as a process leads to detrimental effects on the Christian life—especially when the bulk of responsibility for this transformation falls upon the individual.
Peterson aims to show that the New Testament emphasizes sanctification as a definitive event, “God’s way of taking possession of us in Christ, setting us apart to belong to him and to fulfill his purpose for us.” Get NSBT: Possessed by God now.
2. What is the biblical significance of spiritual adultery?
It is a sadly familiar scenario: a couple torn apart by marital infidelity. Throughout Scripture, the prophets draw on this devastating image, at times with explicit detail, as they condemn God’s people for worshipping false gods.
In God’s Unfaithful Wife: A Biblical Theology of Spiritual Adultery, Pastor and professor Raymond C. Ortlund unpacks this rich metaphor. From Genesis through Revelation, follow the theme of God’s marriage to his people in a book that D.A. Carson says “simultaneously discloses the profoundly personal nature of God’s covenanted love, exposes the odium of spiritual adultery, and conversely, enriches our view of marriage.” Get NSBT: God’s Unfaithful Wife now.
3. What does the Bible say about possessions and wealth?
In the wealthiest nations, many Christians are blessed with material prosperity even as they are daily confronted with the plight of the poor, whether the homeless on their own city streets or images of starving children online and in the news. What action should we take on behalf of the poor?
In Neither Poverty nor Riches: A Biblical Theology of Possessions, Dr. Craig Blomberg carefully examines the themes of possessions and wealth throughout the Old Testament, the intertestamental period, and the whole of the New Testament. The result is a comprehensive, challenging biblical theology ripe with conclusions and applications relevant to our contemporary world. Get NSBT: Neither Poverty nor Riches now.
4. What does the Bible say about mission?
Mission is linked inextricably to humanity’s sinfulness and need for redemption, and to God’s provision of salvation in the person and work of Jesus Christ. Yet surprisingly, this significant theme has rarely been given due attention in biblical theology. Motivated by their passion to see God’s mission carried out in today’s world, professors and authors Andreas Köstenberger and Peter O’Brien perform a rigorous examination in Salvation to the Ends of the Earth: A Biblical Theology of Mission.
They explore the entire sweep of Biblical history, including the Old Testament, the Second Temple period, each New Testament Gospel, Paul and his writings, the General Epistles, and Revelation. With this book, you’ll find answers to some of the most pressing questions concerning the Bible and mission:
- Was Old Testament Israel called to mission?
- Should Second Temple Judaism be characterized as a missionary religion?
- Did Jesus limit his earthly mission to Israel or did he also embark on a Gentile mission?
- Is there continuity between the missions of Israel and the missions of Jesus and the early church?
5. What is the biblical significance of the temple?
Sacrifices? Showbread? The Bronze Sea? For modern-day Christians, the significance of the Jewish temple can be hard to grasp.
In his book The Temple and the Church’s Mission: A Biblical Theology of the Dwelling Place of God, professor and prolific author G.K. Beale doesn’t only bring clarity to the mystery of the temple, he traces the theme across the Bible’s story line to show that God’s plans for the tabernacle and temple points to his master plan for the cosmos: an entire universe flooded with the glorious presence of its creator—a cosmos that is also a temple of the living God. Get NSBT: The Temple and the Church’s Mission now.
6. What is the biblical significance of Jesus eating with “sinners”?
During his time on earth, Jesus did many things that flabbergasted and infuriated the religious leaders. One of his most outrageous actions might seem innocuous to us: he attended some dinner parties, and ate and drank alongside unrepentant Jews, Greeks, Romans, and other “sinners.” Why was his participation in these meals so inflammatory, and what implications does this have for Christians today?
In Contagious Holiness: Jesus’ Meals with Sinners, Dr. Craig Blomberg shows that in sharing food and drink with his companions, Jesus invited them to share in the grace of God; he revealed his redemptive mission while eating with sinners, repentant and unrepentant alike. Get NSBT: Contagious Holiness now.
7. What does the Bible say about the Trinity?
Throughout church history, John’s Gospel has been a major source for the church’s knowledge, doctrine, and worship of the triune God. In Father, Son and Spirit: The Trinity and John’s Gospel, Andreas Köstenberger teams up with professor and scholar Scott R. Swain to provide a fresh examination of John’s Trinitarian vision, situating John’s teaching within the context of Second Temple Jewish monotheism. Köstenberger and Swain perform a rigorous and careful analysis of the biblical theology of the Holy Spirit. Get NSBT: Father, Son, and Spirit now.
8. How does the book of Acts fit into the larger narrative of the Bible?
When the book of Acts is mentioned, a cluster of issues spring to mind, including speaking in tongues and baptism with the Holy Spirit, church government and practice, and missionary methods and strategies. But how does this chronicle of the early church relate to the rest of Scripture?
In The Acts of the Risen Lord Jesus: Luke’s Account of God’s Unfolding Plan, professor Alan J. Thompson argues that Luke’s history is an account of the “continuing story” of God’s saving purposes. He brings a biblical-theological framework to Acts, drawing out Luke’s major themes as they relate to the book as a whole. According to Thompson, Acts should be read in light of the Old Testament promises and the continuing reign of Christ in the inaugurated kingdom. When read as a snapshot of God’s dynamic, unfolding kingdom, the book of Acts regains the deep relevance it had in the first century. Get NSBT: The Acts of the Risen Lord Jesus now.
9. What does the Bible say about Paul and the Law?
The apostle Paul’s relationship to the Law of Moses is notoriously complex. Difficulties begin with questions of definition (of the extent of Paul’s corpus and the meanings of “the Law”) and are exacerbated by numerous problems of interpretation of the key texts. Even scholars and theologians disagree on how to interpret and understand Paul!
Enter professor and author Brian Rosner, and his pivotal work Paul and the Law: Keeping the Commandments of God. Rosner recognizes that Paul’s view of the law is inextricably linked to his teaching concerning salvation history, Israel, the church, anthropology, ethics, and eschatology. Rosner provides a clear understanding of Paul’s theology of the Law and answers the perennial question: what is the relationship between the grace of God in the gift of salvation and the demand of God in the call for holy living? Get NSBT: Paul and the Law now.
10. What does the Bible say about repentance?
The first of Luther’s famous 95 theses states that “the entire life of believers should be one of repentance.” But what does that look like practically? How can we make sense of the recent debate over “lordship salvation” and “hypergrace”? And what can biblical theology teach us about repentance?
In ‘Return to Me: A Biblical Theology of Repentance, Old Testament scholar Mark J. Boda offers a comprehensive theological overview of the Bible’s treatment of the theme of repentance. He contends that the key to understanding repentance is not simply to be found in word studies of “repentance,” but also in the broader meaning of entire texts. According to Boda, repentance is fundamentally a return to intimate fellowship with the Triune God, our creator and redeemer. This relational return arises from the human heart, and impacts attitudes, words, and actions. Get NSBT: ‘Return to Me’ now.
Start exploring biblical theology
The New Studies in Biblical Theology volumes are a perfect union of rigorous scholarship and approachable English, and provide comprehensive and fascinating perspectives on the Bible’s teaching and what it means for each Christian’s journey. Choose your favorites from among 35 individual volumes, or get these 10 and dive into biblical theology with some of today’s top scholars.
What biblical theology questions do you have ? Let us know in comments!
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