Themes in the Scriptures

Read Hebrews 10:1-10 …

Different disciplines have different words for the same concept. In mathematics the thought might be expressed using the term trajectory. In the field of music, the idea is motif. In literature the term theme. In each case, and surely in other disciplines too, what is being described is an identifiable recurring object or idea that moves along a sequential path. It would be beneficial in the current discussion of biblical interpretation and determining authority to look at some of these trajectories, motifs or themes.

One of the most commented on themes that runs through the Scriptures is the idea of “temple.” At its basic level a temple is the meeting place between God and humanity. Consider the places thru the Scriptures where this meeting has occurred. It was in the Garden where God walked and interacted with Adam and Eve (Gen. 3:8). Further along Moses became a focal point of God meeting mankind: first in the burning bush and then upon Mt. Sinai. Even more to the point is the eventual construction of the Tabernacle under the watch of Moses which in turn led to the construction of the Temple in Jerusalem by Solomon.

If there was a pinnacle, epitome, or apex of the temple motif surely that was expressed in the Messiah. One of the names prophesied by Isaiah for the Messiah was to be Emmanuel (Isa. 7:14), or “which translated means ‘God with us” (Matt. 1:23). It is in the very person of Jesus that God was evident, as Jesus said, “He who has seen me has seen the Father” (John 14:9). Jesus was the perfect meeting place between humanity and the God of Heaven and Earth. Now Jesus has ascended to the Father’s right hand, a position of power, and acts as the perfect mediator (1 Tim. 2:5). Jesus is the place that humanity and God can meet in reconciliation.

The trajectory of the temple idea continues into the NT Scriptures being assigned also to those that are Christians. In the letter to the Corinthians Paul develops this temple motif to look at the purity of those Christians. Paul says, “or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit” (1 Cor. 6:19). Peter follows a similar idea when he notes that we “as living stones, are being built up as a spiritual house for a holy priesthood” (1 Pet. 2:5). The Christian, by the action of the Holy Spirit, has become a living breathing meeting place between God and mankind; so much so, that when we sin we are defiling something that has been dedicated and bought “in the name of the Father, and the Son and the Holy Spirit” (Matt. 28:19).

Of course, this is the briefest of overviews of the temple theme that is rich in depth and symbolism, but the temple motif is also just one of the many trajectories that flow thru the pages of the Scriptures. The idea of sacrifice is present in the Garden (Gen. 3:21), is developed during the time of the patriarchs (Job 1:5; Gen. 22), becomes a central feature in the Jewish corporate worship (Lev. 1-7), reaches a zenith in the life of the Messiah (John 1:29; Matt. 26:28), and then becomes a recurrent theme that describes the response of the Christian to God (Luke 9:23; Phil. 4:18; Heb. 13:15; Titus 2:12).

Themes such as love, family, sanctification, redemption, praise, new birth, purity, and so many more help inform us of the grand thoughts that God is trying to convey to sinful mankind. These grand themes act as a backdrop for what is said and done in the Scriptures, and when passages are lifted and divorced from these wonderful themes, they become empty thoughts and sometimes even weapons.

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