Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Bible Study Law of first mention

Acts 11:25-26 And he left for Tarsus to look for Saul; 26and when he had found him, he brought him to Antioch. And for an entire year they met with the church and taught considerable numbers; and the disciples were first called Christians in Antioch.

Yesterday we listed five laws or principles for tracing the Bible's main themes and ideas.  The aim was to give you a tool that would aid you in your study of the scripture.  Today we want to begin looking closer at this tool and using it to explore some of the Bible's major themes.  This first law or principle of Bible study is what we call: The law of First Mention.

Seeing the Bible's mention of first mention
As you can see in the above text, Luke makes the point that the Disciples of Jesus were "first called" Christians at Antioch. Whenever we see anything mentioned for the first time, that idea or topic is revealed in its "seed form", meaning most of the main traits of that teaching that will unfold thoughout scripture are latent in that first mention.  So when we see the term "Christian" first mentioned in Acts 11:26, the wider context of Acts 11 gives us the context out of which this term developed. 

We know that the early church was going from being primarily Jewish to Gentile.  We know that Peter's ministry was going into the background and the then new figure, Saul (who was converted and renamed Paul) was coming into the foreground.  So we see a huge missions emphasis - something of which is central to what it means to be a Christian.  We know these people were "called" Christians.  The idea of calling is so central to being a follower of Christ.  One must be "called" by Christ in order to come to Christ. (compare Luke 5:27; 9:23-24; John 1:12-13; 6:44)  Just noting traits like this enables you to mark down chief traits to look for as you trace the given theme throughout the scripture.

Seeing some significant first mentions in the Bible
Below are some significant first mentions that we find in the Bible. 

1. The word "love" is first mentioned in Genesis 22:2  Its not that we don't see God expressing His favor or love towards other people prior to Abraham.  Rather the actual word "love" first appears.  This tells us that what was implied by God in terms of His dealings with people is made more explicit, since He wants to reveal more of His Person, and not just His work.  Note the context of Genesis 22 - it is where Abraham is told to offer up his son Isaac.  This text gives a wonderful picture of what God would do in the giving of His Only Begotten Son, whom He loved, on the cross. (John 3:16)

2. God first speaks in Genesis 1:3    First words and last words of people make for an interesting study in the Bible.  God is introduced in the Bible as the God of Revelation.  He is speaking forth into being all things visible and invisible.  The Apostle John gives us the significance of Genesis 1:3 in John 1:1-18. 

3. The name "The Lord" is first mentioned in Genesis 4:26  Following the fall of Adam and Eve in the Garden, as well as the first murder by Cain of His brother, the dark clouds of man's fallen condition hang over the sky of redemptive history.  But then Divine Grace intervenes in Adam and Eve's bloodline and Seth is born. Seth then has a son, named Enosh, and according to Genesis 4:26 - "men began to call upon the name of the Lord". 

Now note the "seeds" of thought present at this first mention:
1. The repetition of the word "call".  This "calling" was done by men who were made aware of their own sinful condition.  Adam "called" his son "Seth" in Genesis 5:26, meaning in the original language "appointed one".  Seth in turn "called" the name of his son "Enosh", whose name can be translated "incurable wound". The "calling" upon the Lord tells us that these people did not find the remedy for their sin in themselves, but in the Lord.  Later on in the Bible, we understand that whosoever calls upon the name of the Lord will be saved. (Joel 2:32; Acts 16:31; Romans 10:9).  Salvation truly is of the Lord alone. (Isaiah 43:10-11; Jonah 2:9-10; Acts 4:12) 

2. They called upon "the name". That term "name" refers to God's quality, character and authority.  Divine grace was initiating in the hearts of these early pre-flood patriarchs.  The name of God - the Lord (Yahweh) is His personal name.  Thus we see these men personally identifying by grace through faith with this God who alone can save.

3. The first move of God ever recorded.  In the history of God's people, whenever God has moved upon masses of people in a way to make plain His redemptive and Kingdom purposes, we have termed that "revival".  God moved in a mighty way here to set the stage for the next 1656 years of time in Genesis 5.  From Adam to Noah would be ten generations.  God was thus threading the scarlet thread of redemption through what took place in Genesis 4:25-26.  Through the bloodline running from Adam to Noah would be preserved the plan of salvation, the promise of salvation and ultimately the seed through which would come the Person of salvation - Jesus Christ. 

May you be blessed today as you dig deeper into His word.