Heart of the Bible

Friday, April 23, 2009

Once in a while I encounter a passage of Scripture that seems to capture the message of the whole thing.  And while I recognize that this can be a tricky thing–summarizing the whole canon–I have a couple of candidates to put forward, one for the Old Testament and one for the New Testament.

The heart of the Old Testament:

“I shall show you what is right and good: to revere the LORD and worship him faithfully with all your heart; for consider what great things he has done for you.” 1 Samuel 12:23b-24 REB

Here, the prophet Samuel teaches Israel to follow their God wholeheartedly, based on his mighty acts in the past (e.g., the exodus, the promised land).  It’s all there.

And the heart of the New Testament:

“Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit who gives life has set you free from the law of sin and death. For what the law was powerless to do because it was weakened by the sinful nature, God did by sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful humanity to be a sin offering.” Romans 8:1-3 TNIV

In this passage, the Christian message is summarized: In Christ, God dealt with sin permanently, so his people could be free from condemnation.

What do you think?  What do you observe the heart of the Bible to be?  Or at least the respective testaments?  Please share your thoughts in the comment section.

Hint: John 3:16 is too obvious; dig deeper!


5 thoughts on “Heart of the Bible

  1. Good topic! John 13:34-35 seems a likely candidate:

    “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.

    It speaks to our behavior, God’s nature and our relationship to the world as a whole. The rest of Bible only expands on these concepts.

  2. How about from the perspective of the Kingdom of God (keeping in mind the idea of “visitation of the God who saves”):


    Judges 8:22-23 Then the men of Israel said to Gideon, “Rule over us, both you and your son, also your son’s son, for you have delivered us from the hand of Midian.” But Gideon said to them, “I will not rule over you, nor shall my son rule over you; the LORD shall rule over you.”


    Matthew 12:28 [Jesus said] “But if I cast out demons by the Spirit of God, then the kingdom of God has come upon you.”

  3. Thanks for weighing in! This kind of question is provocative, and it reminds me of how massive and complex the Bible is. Granted: the message(s) are perspicuous, but it’s as though God wanted to keep us busy in the in-between time.

    Which theme do you pick to summarize the Bible, and hence, the Faith?

    kingdom -> Kingdom
    Israel -> Church
    old covenant -> New Covenant
    sacrifices -> Sacrifice
    promises made -> promises fulfilled
    creation -> re-creation
    Spirit of God -> Spirit of God
    fallen -> glorified
    anointed -> Anointed

    And really, if you look at some of those biblical themes, you can start to identify some of the traditions within Christianity that adhere to one or another. Interesting…

  4. Hmmmm. It took me a while to respond on this one, Ray. Lots of thoughts going through my head.

    I am torn because I feel the scripture that is at the heart of the Bible isn’t in the New Testament, and then I worry that might define my theology to those who don’t know me…but you know me, Ray, so here it is:

    “He has shown you, O man, what is good. And what does the Lord require of you but to seek justice, love mercy and walk humbly with your God.” Micah 6:8

    “He has shown you, O man, what is good.” Creation shows us what God believes is good…everything. Everything God created was good…except for man, who was “very good”. And God has shown us that…revealed it to us, time and time again, and in the person of Jesus Christ he revealed (re-created) His goodness. So, we have seen what is good (everything) and we, like Adam and Eve, are in charge of a creation…our fellow man/woman.

    “And what does the Lord require of you?” Responsibilities. Because we can respond to others, as we:

    “Seek justice”–justice isn’t making things better, it is making things RIGHT. Social justice is making the playing field even, not spotting people points on the board. Social justice is creating a system where people can start over and have a fair shot at success. We are ‘justified by faith’…made to feel ‘just as if I’d’ never sinned.

    “Love mercy”–some translations say “love kindness” which I like better, because it reminds me of that little lyric, “Thy loving kindness is better than life…” Loving kindness is FORGIVENESS, and we probably have done a poor job of forgiving people and letting people know of the forgiveness of God. If we do a better job, well, churches probably would be filled on Sundays (and Mondays, and Tuesdays…). Your title of this strand, “Heart of the Bible” has me humming “Heart of the Matter” by Don Henley, and the essence is probably one in the same: “It’s time to get down to the heart of the matter, cause the will gets weak and my thoughts seem to scatter but I think it’s about forgiveness, forgiveness, even if…even if…you don’t love me anymore.”

    “Walk humbly with your God”: I’ve come to the conclusion (finally) that we as humans are going to be humbled and we are going to be exalted: exalted on earth and humbled in Heaven, or humbled on earth and exalted in Heaven. What a great thing it is…we get to choose the order! Taking our cues from lots of God’s chosen in the Bible, or from the people in Jesus’ parables, or from the Master himself (humbled himself on the cross, was raised from the dead and is exalted in Heaven), it sure appears people who are getting their pats on the back on earth are going to get their due in heaven. Just my interpretation. Guess as we walk (ie., try to follow along, occassionally think we are leading, fall down on our face, fall far behind, run and catch up) with God, we learn faithfullness through discipleship. It’s a process.

    So, Micah 6:8 it is for me. Simple four-part faith. “It’s good. Make it right. Forgive others. Be humble”

    That’s about all I can handle anyway. (Well, I haven’t mastered it yet, so I probably shouldn’t say I can handle it.)

    It’s my four-part challenge, then.

  5. Nice work, Dave. Good application.
    Although Micah 6:8 is a great verse in the Bible, I hesitate to lift it up too often, because, honestly, it has been misused and misapplied by many liberals to advocate the idea that the entire Bible can be summed up in a couple of social-justice directives while saying next to nothing of God’s character or saving activity through Christ. You know, if you think the church should be all about working for the oppressed without too much God-talk, then this is the right justification for your program budgets. And if we push the envelop on this passage, it makes it too much about us and what we do, and not about God and what he has done and continues to do.
    But maybe I’m just jaded and suspicious…It is Monday morning, after all.
    Thanks for weighing in.

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