Category Archives: Hermeneutics

Seeing Christ in the Old Testament

  • Preaching Christ from the Old Testament (An interview with Sidney Greidanus)

The best advice I have for preachers who want to preach the gospel from the OT comes from Spurgeon’s Lectures to My Students, which I read while on sabbatical in England. Spurgeon said:

Don’t you know, young man, that from every town and every village and every hamlet in England, wherever it may be, there is a road to London? So from every text of Scripture there is a road to Christ. And my dear brother, your business is, when you get to a text, to say, now, what is the road to Christ? I have never found a text that had not got a road to Christ in it, and if ever I do find one, I will go over hedge and ditch but I would get at my Master, for the sermon cannot do any good unless there is a savor of Christ in it.

Not only is there a road to London from every village in England, there are usually several roads one can take. So it is with the ways in which preachers can move from the periphery of the Bible to its center, Jesus Christ. (Click here to read the rest of the article for some helpful principles in preaching Christ from the Old Testament.)

  • “Getting Out”: Seeing the Gospel in Exodus 14 (A sermon by Tim Keller, the Gospel Coalition 2011)

If you would like to see a superb handling of an Old Testament text and how you might preach the gospel from it, then take the time to listen to Keller’s sermon here. Keep in mind that Keller has been doing this for a number of years and has been greatly gifted by God. We should not seek to imitate his preaching style as much as his method of getting to Christ from the Old Testament.

  • A Year-Long Guide for Seeing Jesus in the Old Testament

Nancy Guthrie has written a helpful devotional that guides the reader through a one-page devotional of seeing Christ in the OT each and everyday. It’s easy-to-read and understand, and covers the four major genres of the Old Testament. You can find the book here for under $10.

  • Getting the Most Out of the Text

You will also find the following guide helpful in asking questions of every text, that will unearth the gospel in it. The guide is written by Dr. Matthew S. Harmon of Grace Theological Seminary. You can find other valuable resources here as well.

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Carson on Proper Exegesis

R.C. Sproul interviews D.A. Carson, leading evangelical scholar, on proper biblical exegesis. While you may not be an “academic” the interview will be helpful in considering how we understand Scripture in its proper levels of context.

Thanks, Matt Harmon for posting the video on Biblical Theology.

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Seeing the Gospel in Every Text: Part 4

Seeing Christ in Every Text:

(Previous posts: Part 1: The Gospel in Every Text and Part 2: God in Every Text and Part 3: Mankind in Every Text)

While every passage of Scripture reveals the person of God and instructs us about the character of man, the ultimate meaning of every text is the redemptive work of  Christ. After His resurrection, Jesus encountered some travelers on the road to Emmaus and explained to them all that Moses and the Prophets had spoken concerning Him (Luke 24:24-27). Later on, Jesus further explained to His disciples the things concerning Himself in the Law of Moses, the Psalms, and the Prophets. He explained from the entire Old Testament how He would suffer and die and rise from the dead on the third day, and that repentance and forgiveness from sin should be proclaimed in His name to all nations (Luke 24:44-47).

In John 5:39-40, Jesus rebuked the Pharisees for reading the Old Testament Scriptures in an arrogant way and supposing that they had eternal life due to their knowledge and legalistic obedience to it. He informed them that they search the Scriptures for eternal life, and yet miss the whole point because eternal life is found only in Him. They had made an idol of the Scriptures and their strict obedience to it. Yet, they missed the very One who gave life to all who might worship Him.  Once again, Jesus reveals that the entire Old Testament has a central theme: to testify about the person and work of Jesus Christ. In Acts 8:34-35, Philip used the Old Testament book of Isaiah to tell the eunuch about the good news of God’s saving grace in Jesus Christ. Later in the book of Acts, Paul tells King Agrippa about his conversion experience. He refers to all that Moses and the Prophets had said as being ultimately that Christ would suffer, die, and rise from the dead before proclaiming light to both Jews and Gentiles (Acts 26:22-23).

Furthermore, the apostle Peter wrote a letter to a number of suffering churches. In this letter, he remarked that the prophets of the Old Testament wrote the message of the gospel for their benefit (1 Peter 1:10-12). He said the prophets who wrote about the salvation (“the grace that was to be yours”) searched and inquired carefully as to what person or time the Spirit of Christ in them was indicating when they predicted the sufferings of Christ and the subsequent glories. Peter emphasizes that the Old Testament prophets’ message was the same gospel message that had been preached to these struggling churches.

Thus, Philip, Paul, and Peter all acknowledge Jesus’ assertion that the entire corpus of Old Testament Scripture has one central message: the gospel work of Jesus Christ. The good news of God’s saving love is most fully embodied in the person and work of Christ, who is the central theme of the entire Old Testament. Therefore, if we are to read the Old Testament (and the entire Bible for that matter) without seeing Christ, then we fail to read it rightly.  So, it is crucial that we read Scripture with eyes to see the work of redemption (i.e., “the gospel solution”) that reveals God’s activity of rescuing His people by solving their pervasive fallen condition.

Some helpful questions to ask when discovering how the text reveals redemption are:

1.  What does this passage reveal about the nature of salvation?

2.  What is the “gospel solution” to the “fallen condition” that this passage states, describes, or implies?

3.  In what specific ways has Jesus obeyed in the areas where you have failed?

An example from Ephesians 2:1-10:

1.  Nature of Salvation: Salvation is a result of God’s mercy and love (v.4). God brought life to dead sinners–while they were still lifeless, He resurrected them by initiating regeneration (v.5). Salvation is by God’s grace (v.5). Salvation resulted in union with Christ in that believers are raised with Him and seated with Him in the heavenly places, with the purpose being to reveal the immeasurable riches of his grace and kindness toward them (vv. 6-7). This salvation through grace comes by means of man’s faith in Christ. Yet, this faith is a gift from God (vv. 8-9). The product of saving faith is a lifestyle adorned by good works (v.10).

2. Gospel Solution: Mankind was dead in sin and walked according to this world. Yet, God mercifully brought sinners to new life in Christ (vv. 4-5). While mankind was living according to this world and working out disobedience by following the passions of the flesh (and deserved God’s wrath as a result), were saved by God’s grace and raised to a place of honor before God with Christ (vv. 5-6). While mankind was entirely sinful and deserved the consequence of such depravity, God desired to save them in order to show them the depths of his grace and kindness through Christ (v.7). Since mankind could not save himself, God offered salvation by grace through faith. This was a provision of His love toward sinful rebels (vv. 8-9). As a result of God’s saving/transforming grace, initiated through Christ and planned in advance, believers no longer walk according to their formal sinful, self-centered ways but instead do good works that reflect the love and grace of God (v.10).

3.  Jesus’ Obedience: Jesus became the curse for us (Gal. 3:13). While we were dead in our trespasses and sins, He is/was “the way the truth and the life” (John 14:6). While we followed the course of this world and the prince of the power of the air, Christ remained entirely committed to the Father’s will. He completely obeyed the Father and fended off the temptation of Satan (Matt. 4:1-11; Luke 22:42; John 17:4; Heb. 4:15).  Instead of living by a disobedient spirit, Jesus walked according to the Holy Spirit (Matt. 4). He obeyed in the very situations that mankind failed. As a result of Christ’s obedient life and sacrificial death, God made us alive together with Christ (Eph. 2:5) and raised us to be seated with Him (2:6). God showed us that kindness of His grace through Christ (2:7) and created us in Christ (2:10) so that we might be trophies of His grace which reflect the beauty of His glory.

These are just a few examples of how we see the gospel solution displayed in this passage. In the next post, we’ll consider how we ought to respond to God’s saving grace by confessing our sin and celebrating the person of Christ by means of praising God and living in obedience to His person.

{1} See Bryan Chapell, Christ-Centered Preaching for more information on fallen condition focus and redemptive solution.

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Seeing the Gospel in Every Text (Part 3)

Seeing Man in Every Text:

(Previous posts: Part 1: The Gospel in Every Text and Part 2: God in Every Text)

While every text is ultimately about God’s character, activity, and concerns, every text is also about mankind. Second Timothy 3:16-17 says, “All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be competent, equipped for every good work.” The inspired word, therefore, is given for the purpose of equipping God’s children to carry out the work that He has given them to do. Ephesians 2:8-9 informs us that God saved us by His grace, through faith in Jesus Christ, so that we might do good works. It is this knowledge of Him that gives us everything that we need for this pursuit of life and godliness (2 Pet. 1:3). Psalm 119 provides an incredible list of the ways that God sufficiently provides for us through His word.

So, with this being the case, how does God’s word reveal information about mankind? Well, we find that it does so through revealing our origin and original innocence as those created in the image of God, it reveals our utter depravity and rebellion as a result of the fall (i.e., our fallen condition), and it reveals our remaining sinful tendencies (i.e., sinful heart conditions and idolatry) that continue to plague us this side of glory. God’s word is intended to make us what we cannot be on our own, since we are spiritually incomplete apart from Christ (Eph. 2:1-10; Col. 1:28-2:15). Every text has a central burden of God providing the solution to man’s fallen condition. For the very purpose of God’s word is to reveal Himself as the ultimate solution to our sinful predicament.

The Holy Spirit inspired each passage of Scripture so that God would be “more properly glorified through His people,” and the best way for us to determine the Holy Spirit’s intended purpose is to consider what was the universally-sinful human condition that necessitated it. Bryan Chapell in Christ Centered Preaching (Baker Academic: 2005, 51) defines the Fallen Condition Focus as “the mutual human condition that contemporary believers share with those to or about whom the text was written that requires the grace of the passage for God’s people to glorify and enjoy him.” God’s word provides the grace for us to deal with human brokenness that has been a barrier to the full experience and expression of His glory in and through us.

Some helpful questions to ask when discovering how the text reveals mankind are:

1.  What aspects of the image of God (longings, desires, interests, values) are reflected in this passage?

2.  What fallen conditions (desires, attitudes, actions, beliefs, etc) are stated, described, or implied in the passage?

3.  What struggles, challenges, temptations, and realities to walking with God are stated, described, or implied in this passage?

 

An example from Ephesians 2:1-10:

1.  Aspects of Mankind in the Image of God: God has given mankind appetites/desires, and a capacity for worship (though sin has distorted both).  God has given us a longing for purpose and a desire to work.  God has given us an interest in exerting our passions, energies, and strength toward that which brings satisfaction (though once again, sin has distorted the object of our satisfaction). God has given us eternal value, and as a result, He won’t leave every one of us entirely dead for all of eternity.

2. Man’s Fallen Condition: Sin has caused us to be spiritually dead (v.1) as a result of transgressing God’s law. Our tendency is to walk according to the ways of this world, following in the footsteps of Satan, and living in open disobedience.  We are unable to do otherwise, except that God intervene (v.4).  While created as sons and daughters of God, we became sons and daughters of disobedience (v.2). We live satisfy the perverted passions of our flesh by carrying out the selfish desires of our minds and bodies.  Like all of sinful humanity, God’s wrath was being stored up for us (v.3). Apart from grace, we tend to boast in ourselves and our works (v.9), and we tend to serve ourselves rather than the good that God prepared for us to do (v.10).

3.  Man’s Struggles & Tendencies: We struggle, at times, with the futile patterns of our former ignorance (cf. 1 Peter 1:14-23) by pursuing the passions of our flesh despite the fact that we’ve been redeemed by the blood of Christ. There is a tendency toward idolatry–seeking satisfaction outside of intimacy with God. We tend to boast in ourselves rather than giving full glory to God for our salvation, sanctification, and the good work of our hands that He alone provides (v.6-10).

These are just a few examples of how we see our fallen condition displayed in the passage. In the next post, we’ll consider how God’s grace provides the “gospel solution” to our fallen condition. He provides the very power and deliverance that we need to overcome our greatest degrees of sinfulness.

Upon reflection of our sinful condition apart from grace, might we praise Him that He did not leave us there for eternity.

 

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Seeing the Gospel in Every Text (Part 2)

Seeing God in Every Text:

(See Previous Post: Seeing the Gospel in Every Text: Part 1)

Scripture is God’s revelation of Himself. It is ultimately about His character and activity as a self-sufficient, self-satisfied, infinite being. His word informs creation about it’s existence, purpose, and the experiences of both the fall and redemption. God has revealed Himself in two particular ways: through creation (Psalm 19:1-6; Romans 1:18-32) and through His word–both written (Psalm 19:7-14) and incarnate (John 1:1-14; Col. 1:15-23). Jesus Christ, the living Word, is the exact representation of God’s person and the embodiment of all of His glorious attributes. Every characteristic described in Psalm 19:7-14 regarding the word of God is most fully displayed in the person of Jesus Christ.

When approaching any text, we should determine what it reveals about the character and activity of God.  The following questions may be helpful in “getting the most out of the text” (as Matt Harmon likes to say it)!  The extent to which any text will include these three categories will vary, but every text will reveal at least a few things about God’s character, whether by explicit citation or implicit inference.

1.  What aspect of God’s character do we see in the passage?

2.  What activities do we see God doing in this passage?

3.  What things, events, people, and situations is God concerned about?

 

An example from Ephesians 2:1-10:

1. God’s Character: Merciful (v.4), Loving (v.4), Life-giving (v.5), Gracious (vv.5, 7), Redemptive (vv.5, 8), Powerful (v.6), Ageless/Eternal (v.7), Revelatory (v.7), Kind (v.7), Author of Salvation (v.8), Creator (v.10), Good (v.10), Sovereign (v.10).  There are undoubtedly more, but these should whet your appetite.

2.  God’s Activity: God, because of His mercy, loved us (v.4); God made us alive together with Christ (v.5); God, by His grace, saved us (v.5, 8); God raised us up and seated us with Himself in the heavenly places (v.6); God has chosen to one day show the immeasurable riches of His grace in kindness toward us in Christ (v.7); God created us in Christ Jesus so that we might one day bear the fruit of good works (v.10).

3.  God’s Concerns: God is concerned for wretched sinners and is merciful in that He does not leave them all that way (vv. 1-4); God is concerned with bringing salvation and new life to the spiritually dead (vv. 5-6); God is concerned with enabling His children to share in Christ’s exaltation (v.6); God is concerned with displaying the riches of His glory and grace (v.7); God is concerned that He alone receive honor for the work of salvation (v.9); and God is concerned that His children reflect His glory by bearing the fruit of good works (v.10).  God has a great concern for reversing the curse of the fall and bringing new life to a fallen creation.

As you study God’s word, may you see more of Him in it. His word, first and foremost, is intended so that all of creation might know WHO He is and WHAT He has done.  May we praise Him for the revelation of Himself to us!!

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Seeing the Gospel in Every Text: (Part 1)

Over the next several posts, we’ll be looking at how the gospel is revealed in every text of Scripture, and then we’ll consider how we can properly respond to such revelation.  However, before we examine these beautiful realities, it would be best to give a clear definition the gospel.


What is the gospel?

In short, the gospel is the good news of God’s saving grace toward sinners.

God created the world to be a trophy-case of His glory, to show off the beauty of His incredible greatness. Since God’s character must express itself, He created the world to experience the fullness of Himself. For example, in order to love someone, there must be an object upon which to express your love. God, being immeasurably glorious, created objects upon which He might extend the expression of His glory. And for their enjoyment, those creatures would have the unique privilege of reflecting His glory back to Him.  You see, God was fully self-satisfied without creating mankind, and yet the glorious joy of His character compelled Him to express that in an overflowing manner so that His glorious joy might be enjoyed by others. Thus, God created all the world to reflect the beauty of His glory, and mankind was the pinnacle of God’s creation. It was precisely in this embodiment of God’s glory that mankind experienced ultimate joy and purpose.

Mankind was created in the image of God as a tangible, finite representation of His infinite glory. Mankind was given the amazing privilege of being the caretaker of creation, as a vice-regent of the Cosmic King.  In caring for the Garden of Eden as God specified, mankind would experience perpetual intimacy with God; they being the recipients of His love and satisfaction and He being the object of their worship. Yet, as we all know, mankind rebelled against God by ignoring His counsel and serving themselves. Mankind was not content to worship and obey God, but instead sought to exalt themselves and lean on their own understanding.  As a result of their sin, mankind experienced separation from the Holy Creator and experienced the pending wrath of a Righteous Judge. The sin that alienated man from God brought fallen-ness and death upon the entire created world. Mankind no longer had the essence of life and had no ability to restore all that had been lost. That same reality that plagued mankind from the earliest days of sin has continued to each one of us who have followed-suit by living self-centered lives of our own.

Christ, the eternal Son of God, took on human flesh to live in our fallen world amongst fallen people. He came in the world, not to condemn the world but to save it. While being tempted in every way that we are, He overcame sin. He lived a life of perfect obedience and was without sin, and died a sinner’s death, becoming the curse for us. He lived the life that we should have lived and died the death that we deserved. He bore the weight of our sin and endured the Father’s wrath that we so aptly deserved, and offered to us deliverance from sin and death through our faith in Him.

The only saving response is to run to Christ for salvation. Jesus called sinners to repent and believe. He told them to turn from their sin and the horrible consequences that it so rightly deserved, and to instead turn to Him for salvation by putting complete trust in Him to save them. Instead of trusting in their own imperfect works or clinging to the things of this world, they are to put their trust in Him as their only source of hope, security, and satisfaction. He, as the Son of God, is the only adequate object of our affection. Through loving Him as our greatest treasure, God has promised eternal life and unending satisfaction in the life to come. The heart longs for something more, something greater, something lasting… Jesus Christ is the only person in whom our greatest longings may be fulfilled.  He is the only person by which we might escape the coming justice due us because of our trespasses against our Creator’s law. He offers us an opportunity to find amnesty through our union with Him. The King shows mercy to those who honor His Son, and welcomes to His table those who otherwise had no entrance to the feast. Those who refuse to respond to God’s offer of salvation will experience an eternity of His wrath. And the rest of creation will once again be restored to a beautiful reflection of His beauty and glory.

May you recognize God as the cosmic authority, yourself as a great sinner, Christ as a great Savior, and your need to turn from your sin and put your trust entirely in Christ to save you. By those means alone, will you experience salvation from sin and death as God saves you and changes your heart to be more reflective of His.

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A GRACIOUS READING OF SCRIPTURE

Studying Scripture is hard work. Obeying Scripture is, perhaps, an even harder work. In reading Scripture, it is easy to think that our obedience depends on our own careful efforts. Yet, even our diligence can disappoint us at times. We are prone to distraction and sin. Thankfully, our sanctification is not dependent on our own efforts any more than our justification was. Without the grace of God, we could never have been declared righteous before God. The same is true of our sanctification. Without the grace of God, we will neither be conformed to His image nor spend eternity offering our worship to Him.


When we read our Bibles we ought to see God’s grace as foundational. It is present from beginning to end, and is central to a proper understanding of Scripture. What God has done for an undeserving creation has always preceded what He has expected from it. In other words, the indicative (God’s grace) always precedes the imperative (God’s command). There is a progression in Scripture that evidences the gracious activity of God as coming before the expression of His expectations to man. Five examples will serve the purpose of illustration:

  • First, God’s creative work recorded in the early chapters of Genesis precedes His command for man and woman to “be fruitful and multiply” and to “cultivate and keep the garden.” What God prepared for them and how He designed them enabled them to fulfill His commands to them.
  • Second, the giving of the Law in Exodus 20 illustrates how God’s deliverance preceded God’s law. Before issuing the Ten Commandments, God reminds the people of Israel who He is and what He has done: “I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery” (20:2).
  • Third, in the first eleven chapters of Paul’s letter to Rome, he describes how God has provided salvation for sinful man. In the last five chapters, he describes how man ought to live in response. Romans 12:1-2 marks the transition, “therefore… in view of God’s mercy, present your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and blameless for this is your spiritual act of worship…”
  • Fourth, in the first three chapters of his letter to Ephesus, Paul explains what God has done for sinful man. Being dead in his sin and unable to save himself, God provided to man the only possible solution—salvation by grace through faith in the saving work of Jesus Christ. The proceeding chapters provide the explanation of how the believer is to live in response.
  • Fifth, in Philippians the command to “have the mind of Christ” as one living in imitation of Him (2:5) is made possible through the gracious work of Christ who humbled Himself by taking on flesh and endured the Cross. Through His obedience to the Father and His death on our behalf, the Father highly exalted Him and delivered us from the power of sin.  The “Christ hymn” in Philippians 2 describes the activity of God’s grace.

What God has done for us always comes before what He demands of us (even though it’s not always to be found in the immediate context or preceding passage). His greatest display of grace was through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ through whom our obedience has been made possible. Enjoying God’s grace without obeying His commands leads to license. Attempting to obey God’s commands without realizing our dependence on His grace leads to legalism. When reading God’s commands to us, we must remind ourselves how God has already provided, through Christ, all that we need in order to live in obedience. Discovering this tension in Scripture, our responsibility and God’s provision, will guard us from a man-centered reading of Scripture and guide us toward a gracious reading of it.

Blessings in Christ, Gabe

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