Gerald Bray on biblical genealogies

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The genealogies of the Bible may be found in such books as Genesis, Numbers, Ruth, 1 Chronicles, Ezra, Nehemiah, and the two Gospels of Matthew and Luke. If we would be honest, many of us often find these passages of Scripture rather boring or unprofitable, and often only glance over them in our reading. The only two significant things many of us usually associate with biblical genealogies are the verification of Jesus as a descendant of David and stemming from the tribe of Judah (as prophesied in the Old Testament), as well as Ruth, a Moabite woman, forming part of Jesus’ bloodline, foreshadowing the inclusion of the Gentiles under the covenant of grace. Gerald Bray briefly offers some insights into biblical genealogies in his book God Is Love: A Biblical and Systematic Theology, p. 59:

“What do the genealogies reveal about God? They tell us that He is a faithful Lord, who keeps His covenant from one generation to another. Whoever we are and however far we may have descended from the source of our human life in Adam, we are still part of God’s plan. Over the centuries we have developed differently, we have lost contact with one another, and we have even turned on each other in hostility, but in spite of all that, we are still related and interconnected in ways that go beyond our immediate understanding or experience. 

Secondly, what do the genealogies say about us? They say that from the world’s point of view, most of us are nobodies. We live and die in a long chain of humanity, but there is not much that anyone will remember about us as individuals. Yet without us, future generations will not be born and the legacy of the past will not be preserved. We are part of a great cloud of witnesses, a long chain of faithful people who have lived for God in the place where he put them. Even if we know little about our ancestors, we owe them a great debt of gratitude for their loyalty and perseverance, when they had little or nothing to gain from it or to show for it.

Finally, what do the genealogies say about God’s dealings with us? They tell us that we are called to be obedient and to keep the faith we have inherited, passing it on undiminished to the next generation. They remind us that there is a purpose in our calling that goes beyond ourselves. Even if we are not celebrated by future generations and leave little for posterity to remember us by, we shall nevertheless have made an indispensable contribution to the purpose of God in history. So the genealogies bring us a message from God, even if they appear on the surface to be barren and unprofitable. All we have to do is ask the right questions, and their meaning will be quickly opened to us.”

Gerald Bray: The love of a shepherd for his sheep

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“God is love. Everything we know about him teaches us that, and every encounter we have with him expresses it. God’s love for us is deep and all- embracing, but it is not the warmhearted sentimentality that often goes by the name of love today. The love God has for us is like the love of a shepherd for his sheep, as the Bible often reminds us. Sometimes the shepherd can guide his sheep simply by speaking to them and, ideally, that is all that should be needed. But sheep are often slow to respond, and then the shepherd has to nudge them along with his staff. Sometimes he has to grapple with them forcibly and insist that they follow him when they would rather go their own erratic way. But however hard it is for the shepherd to keep his flocks in order, he never abandons them. As the psalmist put it, ‘You are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me.’ The rod and the staff are the shepherd’s instruments of discipline. The sheep may resent them and try to resist their force, but they know that in the end they must go where their shepherd is leading them. As Jesus said, ‘The sheep hear his voice, and he calls his own sheep by name and leads them out.’ He is the Good Shepherd, who loved his sheep so much that he gave his life for them. However many have gone astray, we have his assurance that not one of them will be lost.”

– Gerald Bray, God is Love: A Biblical and Systematic Theology, p. 17

Gerald Bray on true theologians

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Another gem from Gerald Bray. Very timely as well, as I am writing New Testament exam tomorrow and often in the midst of academics we theological students tend to lose sight of our true task. This has meant much to me tonight:

“True theologians are sheep who hear their Shepherd’s voice and interpret his words for the benefit of the rest of the flock. In this task, theology will continue until the time comes when it will no longer be needed. When that happens we shall know all things, and be enfolded forever in the unchanging and all-encompassing love of God.”

– Gerald Bray, God is Love: A Biblical and Systematic Theology, p. 27

Gerald Bray: The treasure we have received is not for hoarding but for sharing

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“When we are dealing with people who think differently from us we cannot put the gospel of Christ to one side. Our faith in God is not just a philosophical belief in a supreme being; it is a life-changing experience of the one who has made us what we are. Everything we think, say, and do bears witness to this, and there is no aspect of our lives that is not affected by it. Other people need to under- stand the all-embracing depth of our convictions, even if they do not share them. Because we love them as we believe God loves them, we have a duty to tell them that what has happened to us can and ought to happen to them too. The treasure we have received is not for hoarding but for sharing, and it is our duty to go out and find those whom God has called to be his sheep.”

– Gerald Bray, God is Love: A Biblical and Systematic Theology, p.19

Gerald Bray: The Truth has found us

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Gerald Bray is a British theologian and a prominent scholar of Church History and Historical Theology. To my regret, I only discovered this last night. God does indeed “move in a mysterious way”, as the old hymn-writer William Cowper wrote in 1773, and last night, in the early morning hours, it just so happened by God’s providence that I struck up a brief conversation with Prof Bray on Facebook, totally out of the blue. At the time I did not know who he was, but we chatted briefly about classical studies and historical theology, before I found out about his new book God has Spoken: A History of Christian Theology, which is due to be published by Crossway in October 2014. It did not take me long afterwards to realize that I was in fact conversing with a major figure in the exact field of inquiry which I take most interest in: historical theology and church history. I am therefore very thankful to God that He has ordained our “incidental” conversation by His providence. Prof Bray was very kind and generous to me and blessed me with a transcript of this book, which I can’t wait to get into, though I am also waiting in anticipation for the hard copy to be released this time next year. I would advise the readers of this blog to look out for this book when it finally comes out from Crossway publishers – I have only had time so far to browse through the index and from the little that I’ve seen it looks extremely promising!

But now I turn to another book by Prof Bray which was released quite recently: God is Love: A Biblical and Systematic Theology (2012). See how he relates the conversion of Saul of Tarsus (the Apostle Paul) to the fact that “Truth has found us”. These are choice words:

“The conversion of Saul of Tarsus remains a model for Christians, because although most of us have not had an experience of God as dramatic as his, we can see in it a pattern of knowing God that is as true for us as it was for him. It does not matter what we were in the past—whether we were looking for truth, indifferent to it, or confident that we knew it already. What matters is that now we have found the truth, not because we have stumbled across it or worked our way into it, but because the Truth has found us and made us over into new men and women. As Saul (also known as Paul) was to say in his letter to the Galatians, ‘I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me’… The man who told his disciples, ‘I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me,’ had met Saul on the road to Damascus, because he loved him. Jesus had given himself up to death so that Saul could live a new life in union with him. When he fell to the ground, Saul died to his old self, and when he got up again it was as if he had been raised from the dead. Everything that followed was an explanation of that experience, a working out of what it meant for his life and for the life of the world.”

– Gerald Bray, God is Love: A Biblical and Systematic Theology, p. 21