Phillips explores Love in New Testament Christianity. He says, "God Is Love," was a new concept for the people of this era. The passage," ...the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts."(Romans 5:5) was "...stimulated and developed by accepting the love of God as shown in Christ." (pg. 61) Phillips says, "I am quite sure that a great deal of the joyful experience and invincible courage of the Young Church is due simply to the fact that the early Christians believed these words to be literally true." (pg 62) The love of the God of the New Testament transformed lives.
The young church was convinced, he says, despite difficult times, that nothing could ever separate them from the love of God. Phillips explores how we are tempted by that which isn't Love and ends the chapter saying. Ponder "the paramount importance" and "permanence" of Love.
If love is God's nature, ponder how Christ Jesus expressed it and how the early church expressed it. How do we express it? How do we teach children that love is most important and the love of God, the love of God shed abroad in our hearts will outlast everything else? Is the love I share with the people around me, something that will last forever?
What qualities or choices fight with our call to love God and our neighbor, as adults and as children? I seem to remember my kids getting into arguments and saying, "It's not about who's right or who's wrong, it's how you treat each other. If you treat each other badly, you're both wrong." You may feel differently.
I was going to link to a bio for J.B. Phillips. Some circles consider him a heretic yet, apparently the Reverend Billy Graham thanked him for his work.
But this isn't about the translator. This isn't about the man. Every non-original language translation has been given into the hands of men and women in order to make the Living Word of God more accessible to more people. If five people look at the same sunset, which only God can make happen, do they see the same thing? The sunset is beautiful. (I think). You can talk about the science of the sunset but that doesn't mean that God didn't create it. You can write prose or poetry about it. You can photograph or paint it. But we don't change the sunset. And it doesn't wait for us.
Definitely read the intro (Explanation) in the beginning of the book as the writer talks of the scriptures of the New Testament as a Living book like no other.
Trying to look at the New Testament through the eyes, history, and culture of the early Christians just adds another dimension. God's Word is intended to stand generation after generation. As human beings we will always be very Me-centered. God isn't.
Much of what the author is doing is looking at those first Christians who didn't have all of the religious baggage that we have and the themes he saw repeating as he translated. He observing: these are qualities that made the Early Church alive, vibrant, life-changing, world-changing, drawing men and women to God. These qualities are within the grasp of every generation. Why do we focus on other things?
I disagree that we don't really need to read the whole of scripture (Old Testament, too). God gave us all of it for the reasons the scriptures say in I Timothy 3:16. You can pick which version you want to read it in. I think Phillip's point is that if your time is limited, focus on the gospels because they tell of Jesus, who He was, what He did, how He loved God and man - his faith, his hope, his love, how He maintained his connection with the Father, How He served. Read the New Testament because it tells you of those who knew God in the flesh and how they lived after Jesus left His Spirit to dwell in us and continue what He began.