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Lessons in Context

Martin Luther described the Bible as the cradle that holds Christ. Christians read the whole of Scripture and find meaning through Christ.

From the Old Testament: The Prophets

The Book of Isaiah

The name Isaiah means "The Lord saves," a fitting description of the contents of the Old Testament Book of Isaiah, which deals with God's sovereignty, judgment and restoration of Israel and the world. It is named after Isaiah, son of Amoz, or Isaiah of Jerusalem, a prophet who lived in the late 8th century B.C.E., and to whom the first thirty-nine chapters are attributed. Most scholars believe that the book of Isaiah was composed and edited over three or four major periods over several hundred years. All of the various authors attempt to persuade their readers to repent and choose justice and righteousness. As proclaimed throughout the book, the Lord's desire is not punishment but restoration. Chapters 1-33 contain warnings of judgments, but promise restoration. Chapters 34-66 are written as though judgment has taken place and restoration is imminent. The book of Isaiah has been referred to as a "fifth gospel," because of it's promise of a Messiah who comes as a suffering servant, laying down his life for his people. Isaiah is quoted many times in the Christian scriptures, which proclaim that the Messiah is realized in Jesus.

The Book of Isaiah contains what are known as the four Servant Songs. They are found in Isaiah 42:1-9; Isaiah 49:1-13; Isaiah 50:4-11; and Isaiah 52:13-53:12. Christians tend to identify the servant as Jesus, but taken in context, the servant refers to Israel; however, the Messiah, whom Christians believe to be Jesus of Nazareth, as an Israelite, could certainly represent his people, who had not lived up to God's call. As Christians, we believe that Jesus was the One who restored the relationship between God and his creation on the cross.

From the New Testament: Letters of Paul

The Book of Romans

Paul wrote his letter to the Romans in about 56-57 C.E. Jewish-Christians were the leaders of the early church throughout the empire, including Rome. The emperor Claudius tolerated other religions, and could even be said to have treated the Jews generously; however, he hated proselytizing. In 49 C.E., he expelled all Jews, including Jewish-Christians, from Rome because some Jews were causing disturbances in the city at the instigation of "Chrestus". Many scholars believe that this refers to the efforts of the Jewish-Christians, inspired by their faith in the risen Christ, to convert others. By the time Jews were allowed to return to Rome, the Gentile-Christians had taken over leadership of the Roman church. Tensions arose between the two groups of believers, prompting Paul's letter. Throughout Romans, Paul appeals to his readers to embrace holy living, especially admonishing his Gentile-Christian readers, who were tempted to look down on their persecuted Jewish-Christian brethren, that they were all brothers and sisters in Christ and belonged to the Lord.

From the New Testament: The Gospels 

The Gospel According to St. Matthew

The Book of Matthew, written by an unknown Christian about 90 C.E., declares the advent of the Kingdom of God. (The author says, “Kingdom of heaven,” which may be because Jews did not use the name of God. Even today they will write G-d.) God has drawn near to dwell with God’s people, the church, breaking into the world in the person of Jesus, and in his authority to teach, to cast out demons, heal, and to forgive sins. (Matthew 1:23; 16:16; 28:20). The author tells the story of the life, ministry, and suffering and death of Jesus. Matthew is structured in three parts and includes five important speeches of Jesus: The Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5:1-7:29); The missionary discourse (9:35-10:42); The discourse in parables (13:1-52); The ecclesiological (theological doctrine relating to the church) discourse (17:24-18:35); The eschatological (the part of theology concerned with death, judgment, and the final destiny of the soul and of humankind; i.e., the end of ordinary reality and reunion with the Divine) discourse (24:1-25:46). Matthew stresses forgiveness and the need to forgive.