Systematic Theology

This session was taught at the Christ Church Manchester School of Theology on Saturday 25th January 2020. The CCM School of Theology was set up to serve local churches in Manchester and beyond.

Topic: Bible Overview

In this session, we look at the Doctrine of Scripture.

Speaker: Liam Thatcher

Liam is the Teaching Pastor at Christ Church London.




The Doctrine of Scripture

Our Story

How should God’s story shape our story? In this second session, we will consider what we mean by ‘the authority of Scripture’ and look at some of the tools required to apply God’s word to our lives.

How does God’s story shape our story?

‘All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking,correcting and training in righteousness, so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.’ (2 Tim 3:16-17)

‘Everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock.’ (Matt 7:24)

Question: What do we mean by the Authority of Scripture?

God’s Story

  • Act 1 – Creation
  • Act 2 – The Fall
  • Act 3 – Israel
  • Act 4 – Jesus

‘The NT would form the first scene in the fifth act, giving hints as well of how the play is supposed to end. The church would live under the ‘authority’ of the extant story, being required to offer something between an improvisation and an actual performance of the final act.’ (N.T. Wright)

Do you practice the following at your church?

Teach that murder is wrong Y/N

Wash one another’s feet Y/N

Offer animal sacrifices Y/N

Celebrate communion Y/N

Practice circumcision Y/N

Encourage people to lift hands in worship Y/N

Forbid women to have elaborate hairstyles or wear jewellery and fine clothes Y/N

Greet one another with a holy kiss Y/N

The Interpretive Journey

Step 1
Grasp the text in their world. What did it mean to the original audience?

Step 2
Measure the width of the river to cross. What are the differences between the biblical audience and us?

Step 3a
Cross the principalising bridge. What is the theological principle in this text?

Step 3b (for OT texts)
Cross into the New Testament. Does the NT teaching modify or qualify this principle? If so, how?

Step 4
Grasp the text in our world. How should individual Christians today apply the theological principle?


God’s word to them

Careful study to discover original intended meaning.

Asking the right questions, to do with the context and the content.


God’s word to us

Broadly, hermeneutics has to do with the whole field of interpretation. More narrowly, it is to do with seeking the contemporary relevance of ancient texts.

Good hermeneutics needs to be controlled by good exegesis. A text cannot mean what it never meant.

When we share comparable particulars with the first hearers, God’s word to us is the same as His word to them.

The Interpretive Journey, summarised.


God’s Word to Them



God’s Word to Us

Step 1: Grasp the text in their world Step 2: Measure the width of the river to cross Step 3: Crossing the principalising bnridge Step 4: Grasp the text in our world
Context Context What are the differences between our worlds? What theological principles bridge the gap? How can I apply the principles in my world?

Historical Context:

Who, what, why, where, when?
– Literary Context: What is the genre? What is the context of the
passage in its section, book, author’s work, all
of Scripture?

What do I notice about the sentence,
paragraph, discourse?
– What is the author saying?
– Why is he saying it in this way?

– Language
– Time
– Situation
– Covenant / place in


Redemptive History
– How big is the gap?

What are the similarities between the worlds?
– Principles should be
present in the passage, timeless, not culturally bound, consistent with the rest of Scripture
How did the principles address the original situation? List key
– Find parallel situations that contain all of those
key elements.
– What would it look like to apply the principles in these parallel
situations? Be specific, think about how as well
as what.

Use a mixture of internal evidence and external sources

(commentaries, study Bibles etc)

Summarise the passage in a sentence (past tense) Write out the principle(s).
(Present tense)

Crossing the Bridge

The Good Samaritan (Luke 10:29-37)
What was God’s word to them? How wide is the river to cross? What principle bridges the gap? How can I apply the principle?
Jesus told his hearer that the Law is summed up in loving God and your neighbour, showing mercy to them. Your neighbour includes Samaritans. Different place in Salvation History
Jews vs Samaritans
Laws Different culture – bandits, inns, etc
Love God and your neighbour.
Your neighbour includes those who you usually distance yourself from.
Different for everyone: but are there people I am tempted to stay distant from, because they are
from different groups – social status, religion, ethnicity etc.
  • Look at the following passages and apply the questions below:-

What was God’s word to them?

How wide is the river to cross?

What principle bridges the gap?

How can I apply the principle?

Washing Feet (John 13:1-17)

The Holy Kiss (2 Cor 13:11-14)

Hairstyles, jewellery and fine clothes (2 Peter 3:1-6)

 The Parable of the Sower (Matthew 13:1-23)

Jesus’ teaching about worry (Matthew 6:25-34)

Paul’s instructions about head coverings (1 Cor 11:1-16)

  • Do you find the idea of Scripture being acts 1-4 of a 5 act play helpful? How might it affect your approach to reading the Bible? (1,000 words)

Recommended resources

General Resources

A lot of the material from this session has been adapted from two books, which I would highly recommend:
– How to Read the Bible for all its Worth – Gordon Fee and Douglas Stuart
– Grasping God’s Word – J. Scott Duvall and J. Daniel Hays


Choosing a good commentary can be tricky, but is a great place to look for reviews and recommendations. If you want to study a book in depth you may want to choose a selection of commentaries; some technical and some more devotional. But if you want to read in a devotional way, then a lighter, less technical commentary might be best. Here are some general recommendations:

– The Tyndale and Bible Speaks Today series is generally reliable and fairly accessible, though not as in depth as you may like.
– The New International Commentary on the Old Testament (NICOT) and New International Commentary on the New Testament (NICNT) series are more in depth, but also more technical.
– The Word Biblical Commentary series is very technical. Full of Greek/Hebrew. Only recommended if you want something really detailed!
– The Pillar New Testament Commentary series and Apollos Old Testament Commentary series are great. They are towards the technical end of the spectrum, but strike a good balance between being in-depth and accessible.
– Tom Wright’s For Everyone series are great little commentaries on the New Testament. They are more devotional, and not very in depth, but are great for helping with personal reflection
– Phil Moore’s Straight to the Heart series contains 60 bite-sized reflections. As a result, they don’t cover every passage, but are great for personal reflection.




To see more theology training from Christ Church Manchester, you can visit our School of Theology, or why not consider subscribing to our theology podcast on iTunes.