We are currently going over steps to form a better understanding of the Bible, the central text of the Christian faith. Last week I wanted us to remember Four Basic Things When Reading Old Testament Prophets and in the final article I want to touch on Understanding The Bible As An Unfolding Historical Story Of Salvation. This is article eleven of a thirteen part series. (Here are the past articles in the series: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12)
Sure, the Bible IS the Word of God. But HOW is the Bible the word of God? That’s the real question. When we take the how question and apply it to our understanding of Scripture we arrive unapologetically at what theologian Michael Bird calls the “loop of authority”. It goes like this… A. Because I believe the Gospel. B. I believe in the Bible. A. Because I believe in the Bible I believe the Gospel. All of this of course falls under our strong belief that the Bible we as Christians are called to interpret is inspired by the Holy Spirit. Because of our relationship to the Bible as Christ followers it’s only normal that some would consider us people of the Book and this is unfortunate. We are actually people of The Message. This is what the term “Biblical” means. This is what the term “Biblical” should mean. We are people who love the book of course but not the book in and of itself. We love the Bible because of its message.
As I bring this thirteen part series to a close with this last article I want to touch on two questions we need to ask ourselves when we approach the Bible for understanding. If we truly want to be Biblical Christians we must understand the story, the big picture and grand themes of the Bible not just a couple of memorized verses.
1. “How does this passage fit into the history of salvation?”
The Bible in its entirety is a historical story of God’s plan of redemption. Its the unfolding epoch of salvation. It actually unfolds in a progressive way historically. Theologian Graeme Goldsworthy breaks down the major developments in God’s story of Salvation into 16 periods as God unpacks his promise of salvation throughout history. 1. Creation by Word (Genesis 1 and 2); 2. The Fall (Genesis 3); 3. First Revelation of Redemption (Genesis 4–11); 4. Abraham Our Father (Genesis 12–50); 5. Exodus: Our Pattern of Redemption (Exodus 1–15); 6. New Life: Gift and Task (Exodus 16–40; Leviticus); 7. The Temptation in the Wilderness (Numbers; Deuteronomy); 8. Into the Good Land (Joshua; Judges; Ruth); 9. God’s Rule in God’s Land (1 and 2 Samuel; 1 Kings 1–10; 1 Chronicles; 2 Chronicles 1–9); 10. The Fading Shadow (1 Kings 11–22; 2 Kings); 11. There Is a New Creation (Jeremiah; Ezekiel; Daniel; Esther); 12. The Second Exodus (Ezra; Nehemiah; Haggai); 13. The New Creation for Us (Matthew; Mark; Luke; John); 14. The New Creation in Us Initiated (Acts); 15. The New Creation in Us Now (New Testament Epistles); 16. The New Creation Consummated (The New Testament).
Any Bible passage must be interpreted carefully in relation to it’s place within Gods redemptive or salvation story in order to make sense of it. When we look at the Old Testament we should see God as a promise making God to an unfaithful people(Israel). In the New Testament we should see that God is a promise keeping God to an unfaithful world.
2. “How is this passage concealing or revealing the person and work of Jesus?”
Old school theologian Augustine of Hippo wisely said “The New Testament lies hidden in the Old, and the Old Testament is unveiled in the New.” When we read something from the Old Testament (the promisemade) in the Bible we must work to see how Christ is veiled in the story. When we read something from the New Testament (The Promise Kept) we must work to see how
Christ is being unveiled from the Old Testament. This is why I encourage Christians to read the New Testament first before reading the old testament. I really want them to see Christ in the Old Testament. The New Testament sheds light on the Old T testament.
Here is a great example to close with. In Numbers 20:8-12 we find this story… “Take the staff, and assemble the congregation, you and Aaron your brother, and tell the rock before their eyes to yield its water. So you shall bring water out of the rock for them and give drink to the congregation and their cattle.” 9 And Moses took the staff from before the Lord, as he commanded him. 10 Then Moses and Aaron gathered the assembly together before the rock, and he said to them, “Hear now, you rebels: shall we bring water for you out of this rock?” 11 And Moses lifted up his hand and struck the rock with his staff twice, and water came out abundantly, and the congregation drank, and their livestock. 12 And the Lord said to Moses and Aaron, “Because you did not believe in me, to uphold me as holy in the eyes of the people of Israel, therefore you shall not bring this assembly into the land that I have given them.” Can you see Jesus hidden in this passage?
The New Testament shows us Jesus in this passage when the Apostle Paul writes to the Church in the city of Corinth. “For I do not want you to be unaware, brothers, that our fathers were all under the cloud, and all passed through the sea, and all were baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea, and all ate the same spiritual food, and all drank the same spiritual drink. For they drank from the spiritual Rock that followed them, and the Rock was Christ.” (1 Corinthians 10:1–4)
Now as you go and read the Bible let me just say that the New Testament sheds enough “Jesus light” on the dark mystery of the Old Testament for you so don’t go adding to this by trying to shed your own “Jesus light” on the text. So tonight sit down with a nice glass of wine or a good beer and enjoy the light John 1:1-18 sheds on Genesis 1:1 to unveil Jesus. We are so blessed by Gods loving-kindness.