Holy Habits is about practising doing holy things until they become instinctive. In this booklet, we explore the habit of the early Christians in which ‘they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching’.
The opening chapters of Acts present a continuum of ministry from Jesus through the apostles. Jesus had a teaching ministry which was rooted in the Hebrew scriptures (the Old Testament of the Christian Bible). This is continued through those who were first identified as his disciples – the apostles in Luke’s narrative. James Dunn argues that:
The apostles are the medium and the guarantors of the teaching focused on fresh interpretations of the scriptures and beginning to order the memories of Jesus’ teaching and ministry into forms suitable for instruction, worship and proclamation.
James D.G. Dunn, The Acts of the Apostles (Epworth, 1996), p. 35
So the teaching is biblical teaching, drawing on the Hebrew scriptures, out of which Jesus taught, and Jesus’ own teaching, much of which went on to be recorded in the New Testament. For us, biblical teaching includes also the letters and Revelation, which were written after the events in Acts 2.
With this habit, it is particularly important to both explore it and live it. The four words ‘they devoted themselves to’ are important. In exploring this holy habit, it is hoped that you will not just discover more of what the Bible says, but renew your devotion to applying biblical teaching so as to grow in grace and holiness and thereby help to transform the world to reflect the kingdom values we discover in the scriptures.
We can explore biblical teaching on our own, and even better together. We need to engage imaginatively, critically, prayerfully and contextually. Your exploration of this holy habit can provide the opportunity to engage with biblical teaching in different ways and then to live out the insights you gain.
We develop a holy habit of ‘devoting ourselves to the apostles’ teaching’ by paying loving attention to the whole of the Bible, wrestling even with the parts we do not like or find difficult. We listen, read, reflect and respond. We pray and put it into action. We deliberately practise doing all that until it becomes completely instinctive.
This habit is called Biblical Teaching, but that does not mean that that there is only one way to understand a particular passage, or to apply it to our lives. In the gospels, Jesus makes points and states morals. However, he also speaks enigmatically or in parables, telling stories that go beyond making a particular point; they stimulate our imaginations, confound our expectations and lead us to see in new ways God’s love and grace working in the world and in our lives.
Biblical scholarship is helpful, but the holy habit starts with ordinary people who tell their story and look to connect it with the stories in the Bible; or who read the Bible and look to connect it with their own experience. When practised together, the Holy Habit of Biblical Teaching is perhaps best described as ‘the people of God, gathering around the word of God, sharing their insights into the gospel in order to discover the Holy Spirit’s insights among the people’. So we move from reading or listening to passages of the Bible to hearing God speaking to us in and through them.
As you discover more of what the Bible says and how it can guide your living, we pray that you will develop a passion for biblical teaching that will change your life, and the world through you.