Gospel-Driven Quote of the Week

June 15, 2009

“A message that merely advocates morality and compassion remains sub-Christian even if the preacher can prove that the Bible demands such behaviors. By ignoring the sinfulness of man that makes even our best works tainted before God and by neglecting the grace of God that make obedience possible and acceptable, such messages necessarily subvert the Christian message. Christian preachers often do not recognize this impact of their words because they are simply recounting a behavior clearly specified in the text in front of them. But a message that even inadvertently teaches others that their works win God’s acceptance inevitably leads people away from the gospel.

Moral maxims and advocacy of ethical conduct fall short of the requirements of biblical preaching…

A textually accurate discussion of biblical commands does not guarantee Christian orthodoxy. Exhortations for moral behavior apart from the work of the Savior degenerate into mere pharisaism even if preachers advocate the actions with biblical evidence and good intent.”

Bryan Chapell, Christ-Centered Preaching, pp. 268-269


A Gospel Presupposition and the Bible

November 3, 2008

Whether a person consciously or unconsciously realizes, no one reads or studies the Bible without presuppositions. Presuppositions shape one’s overall understanding of the Bible.

For example, some believe that the Old Testament must be literally fulfilled (i.e., an exact correspondence between what is promised and what is fulfilled) in the New Testament. If this is the case, then one’s reading and study of the Bible leads to the conclusion that God’s promise to Abraham of many descendants along with the land of Canaan will ultimately be fulfilled by the return of Israel to palestine and a rebuilt temple in a restored Jerusalem with the reinstitution of animal sacrifices.

However, the problem with such a presupposition is that it fails to take into account Christ’s place in Scripture. As Grame Goldsworthy has pointed out, the problem with rigid literalism is that Christ is nowhere to be found in the promises. As a former Dispensationalist, this was certainly true in my understanding of the Bible.

Formerly, the starting point (i.e., presuppositions) for all of my Bible reading and study was not Christo-centric (i.e., Christ-centered). Thus, my understanding of the Bible was at best faulty (dare I say unChristian?).

So, the question of presuppositions in relation to one’s Bible reading and study is crucial. Grame Goldsworthy helped me tremendously by instilling into me a “gospel presupposition.”

According to Goldsworthy, the key presupposition that unlocks the message of the Bible is this:

    Every word in Scripture points to Jesus and finds its meaning in him, (According to Plan, p. 60).

Like the two disciples on the Emmaus Road (Lk. 24), this presupposition opened my eyes to the reality of Christ in all of Scripture.

Goldsworthy goes on to say,

    “The significance of this is worth repeating: Jesus Christ in his life, death and resurrection is the fixed point of reference for the understanding of the whole of reality. We must apply this fact to our doing of biblical theology. The gospel is the fixed point of reference for understanding the meaning of the whole range of biblical revelation. Thus, in order to do biblical theology we must start with a dogmatic basis, a presupposition or set of presuppositions that come to us from revelation,” (According to Plan, p. 60).

As Christians, our starting point for understanding the Bible (i.e., presupposition) is the gospel. The gospel takes precedence because it is through Christ that one comes to understand the overall message of the Bible (Lk. 24:25-27).

“…the key presupposition that unlocks the message of the Bible is this: Every word in Scripture points to Jesus and finds its meaning in him…”

Thus, the New Testament interprets the Old Testament. This doesn’t make the Old Testament worthless for the Christian. On the contrary, it enables the believer to have a proper framework in which to understand the progressive unveiling of the message of the Bible.

Thus, Goldsworthy writes,

    “As Christians, we must return to the principles of Old Testament interpretation dictated by the New Testament. When Jesus says that he gives the Old Testament its meaning, he is also saying that we need the Old Testament to understand what he says about himself. Jesus drives us back to the Old Testament to examine it through Christian eyes, teaching that it leads us back to him. In doing biblical theology as Christians, we do not start at Genesis 1 and work our way forward until we discover where it is all leading. Rather we first come to Christ, and he directs us to study the Old Testament in the light of the gospel. The gospel will interpret the Old Testament by showing us its goal and meaning. The Old Testament will increase our understanding of the gospel by showing us what Christ fulfills,” (According to Plan, p. 55).

The Gospel, Worship and Bible Study

October 23, 2008

In Galatians 1:1-5, Paul sets forth a powerful gospel greeting, which not only exposes the grievous sin of the Galatians but also manifests the marvelous glory of God in redemption.

Thus, deeply moved by the reality of the truths of the gospel, Paul concludes his greeting with a spontaneous affirmation of praise to God, “to whom [belongs] the glory forever and ever. Amen,” (v. 5).

Paul’s explosion in his soul has some profound implications in regards to how and why we should study the Bible.

“Why?”

First, Bible study is not simply to increase one’s knowledge but rather to increase one’s affection for God!

Paul’s spontaneous doxology in Galatians 1:5 demonstrates that the gospel was not just a theological idea. Paul was profoundly aware that he was a sinner for whom Christ died (cf. 1 Tim. 1:15). He understood firsthand what it was like to be held in bondage to sin and the shackles of legalism (cf. Philip. 3:4-6). This is why he affectionately speaks of Christ in Galatians 2:20 as one “who loved me and gave himself for me.”

Timothy George writes,

    “To contemplate who God is and what he has done in Jesus Christ is to fall on our knees in worship, thanksgiving, and praise. We study the Bible and the great doctrines of the Christian faith not out of vain curiosity, nor merely to increase our intellectual acumen and historical knowledge but rather that we might come more fully to love and enjoy the gracious God who delights in our praise. As Calvin put it so well, ‘So glorious is his redemption that it should ravish us with wonder,’” (Galatians, p. 88).

“How?”

The first question one should ask when studying the Bible is, “What does this tell me about God?”

In the quest for “relevance,” and “application”, I often hear believers insist on asking questions such as, “What is this passage saying to me?” “How does this passage apply to my daily life?” “How can it help me in my daily walk?” “What does it mean to me as I seek to apply it to my life?”

Me, me, me, my, my, my! Quite frankly, this oft repeated refrain becomes quite wearisome. It fails to recognize the profound God/Christ-centered focus of the Gospel and the Scriptures.

In Luke 24:27, Luke writes, “…beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he interpreted to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning himself,” (emphasis mine).

A gospel-driven life begins to reorient one’s approach to Bible study. Instead of coming to the Scriptures with a self-centered focus, seeking to find out how the Bible “applies to me,” one should approach the Bible with a God/Christ-centered focus, seeking first to discover what the Bible tells him about God.

Vaughan Roberts writes, “Sometimes we miss the point by asking too quickly, ‘What is it saying to me?’ A good first question to ask whenever we look at a passage is, ‘What does this tell me about God?’ Very often the application for us will then be obvious. The Bible is, above all, a book about God,” (God’s Big Picture, p. 65).

Vaughan, with a God/Christ-centered focus in view, concludes his book with the following three propositions, which help govern the how and why of Bible study:

  • Knowing Christ in all the Scriptures.– All the Scriptures contribute and point to Jesus Christ and God’s plan to establish His kingdom through Him.
  • Teaching Christ from all the Scriptures. With the “big picture” of Scripture in view, one should point people to Christ from any part of it, rather than just a few favorite passages.
  • Loving Christ through all the Scriptures. “It would be a terrible thing if a deeper knowledge of the Bible affected only our heads and not our hearts. The Bible is a relational book, which the Holy Spirit uses to help us grow in the knowledge and love of God through Jesus Christ,” (pp. 153-154).

  • Beyond a Veggie Tales Gospel: Why We Must Preach Christ from Every Text

    June 2, 2008

    Russel Moore has written an excellent piece at the Henry Institute regarding why we must preach Christ from every text:

    Beyond a Veggie Tales Gospel: Why We Must Preach Christ from Every Text

    See also here for a related article: What the Bible is All About

    HT: Already Not Yet


    What’s the Big Idea?

    February 7, 2008

    The other night during family Bible study, my kids asked me, “Daddy, what’s the Bible about?” That is a great question and the answer to it is quite often missed.

    In brief, the Bible is essentially a witness to a person, Jesus Christ. Christ stands at the center of the Scriptures.

    To say that Scripture is essentially a witness to Christ is not to impose an a priori (formed or conceived beforehand) idea upon Scripture (deductive reasoning). Rather, it is an a posteriori (derived by reasoning from observed facts) conclusion that one comes to learn from an inductive study of the Scriptures. As Jesus walked and talked with the two disciples on the road to Emmaus, Luke writes, “Then beginning with Moses and with all the prophets, He explained to them the things concerning Himself in all the Scriptures,” (Lk. 24:27).

    Christ, as James Hog (one of the Marrow Men involved in the Marrow Controversy) stated, is “… the Marrow of the Word, the Substance of all that’s revealed in it, whether Doctrines, Types, Prophecies, or Promises.”

    When we come to read and study the Scriptures, we must come with the express design of finding Christ. “Whoever,” John Calvin writes, “shall turn aside from this object, though he may weary himself throughout his whole life in learning, will never attain the knowledge of the truth…,” (Commentary on the Gospel According to John, p. 218).

    For additional reading on this see, What the Bible is all About.


    Psalm 19 Revisited

    October 24, 2007

    Psalm 19:1-6 speaks of general revelation and vv. 7-14 speak of special revelation (i.e., the perfection of God’s law), right? What do butterflies have to do with lessons concerning justification and obedience?

    Brannan over at Creed or Chaos has written a helpful piece on Psalm 19. Here again is a great reminder of how important it is to bring a gospel/Christ-centered perspective to our Bible reading.


    Christ for Us: A Gospel-Driven Hermeneutic

    October 5, 2007

    I just read an excellent article by Brannan (Creed) over at Creed or Chaos entitled, Christ for Us: Reading the Bible through the Gospel.

    It is a great reminder of how we must read the Scriptures with a Christological focus, unlike the Pharisees to whom Christ said, “You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; and it is they that bear witness about me…,” (John 5:39).