Category Archives: Bible Study

The Old Testament – Messianic?

Last week I finished up my seminary Hermeneutics class, which is largely why I haven’t posted recently.  The course caused me to really reflect on the Scriptures, particularly its Christ-centered nature.  In my reflection, there were some things brought out from the course that I felt deserved some additional thought, one of which was the New Testament use of the Old Testament.  Coming from a background where most of the churches I’ve attended have been dispensational, who largely dismiss the Old Testament as Jewish Scripture with little, if any value for the New Testament Christian, it’s interesting to think through how the NT uses the OT.  I‘ve never really felt comfortable with the dispensational view because of its tendency to drive a wedge between the continuity of God’s Word.  For the dispensationalist, what are we to do with all of the New Testament references to the Old?  What about when the New Testament makes explicit references to the Gospel and the person and work of Jesus Christ from the Old Testament?  To answer these questions, and others, I’d like to make a proposition, as stated by Jim Hamilton: “The Old Testament is a messianic document, written from a messianic perspective, to sustain a messianic hope.”[1]  In this way, the New Testament interprets the Old Testament and the Old Testament is always pointing forward to Christ.  Here is a brief collection of some passages I pulled together which seem to support this or at least cause a deeper reflection:

Matthew 21:42 (quoting Psalm 118:22-23) “Jesus said to them, “Have you never read in the Scriptures: “‘The stone that the builders rejected has become the cornerstone; this was the Lord’s doing, and it is marvelous in our eyes’?

Matthew 22:29-33 “But Jesus answered them, “You are wrong, because you know neither the Scriptures nor the power of God. 30 For in the resurrection they neither marry nor are given in marriage, but are like angels in heaven. 31 And as for the resurrection of the dead, have you not read what was said to you by God: 32 ‘I am the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob’? He is not God of the dead, but of the living.” 33 And when the crowd heard it, they were astonished at his teaching.”

Matthew 22:34-40 “34 But when the Pharisees heard that he had silenced the Sadducees, they gathered together. 35 And one of them, a lawyer, asked him a question to test him. 36 “Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?” 37 And he said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. 38 This is the great and first commandment. 39 And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. 40 On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.”

Matthew 26:54 (Jesus at His Betrayal in the Garden) “But how then should the Scriptures be fulfilled, that it must be so?”

Mark 14:49  (Jesus speaking) “Day after day I was with you in the temple teaching, and you did not seize me. But let the Scriptures be fulfilled.”

Luke 24:25-27;44-47 “Some of those who were with us went to the tomb and found it just as the women had said, but him they did not see.” 25 And he said to them, “O foolish ones, and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken! 26 Was it not necessary that the Christ should suffer these things and enter into his glory?” 27 And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he interpreted to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning himself.”

Luke 24:44-49 “Then he said to them, “These are my words that I spoke to you while I was still with you, that everything written about me in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms must be fulfilled.” 45 Then he opened their minds to understand the Scriptures, 46 and said to them, “Thus it is written, that the Christ should suffer and on the third day rise from the dead, 47 and that repentance and forgiveness of sins should be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem. 48 You are witnesses of these things. 49 And behold, I am sending the promise of my Father upon you. But stay in the city until you are clothed with power from on high.”

Luke 1:67-71 “67 And his father Zechariah was filled with the Holy Spirit and prophesied, saying, 68“Blessed be the Lord God of Israel, for he has visited and redeemed his people 69 and has raised up a horn of salvation for us in the house of his servant David, 70as he spoke by the mouth of his holy prophets from of old, 71that we should be saved from our enemies and from the hand of all who hate us;

John 5:39-40 “39 You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; and it is they that bear witness about me, 40 yet you refuse to come to me that you may have life. “

Acts 2:25-31 “25 For David says concerning him, “‘I saw the Lord always before me,  for he is at my right hand that I may not be shaken: 26therefore my heart was glad, and my tongue rejoiced; my flesh also will dwell in hope. 27For you will not abandon my soul to Hades, or let your Holy One see corruption. 28You have made known to me the paths of life; you will make me full of gladness with your presence.’”

Acts 8:29-35 “29 And the Spirit said to Philip, “Go over and join this chariot.” 30 So Philip ran to him and heard him reading Isaiah the prophet and asked, “Do you understand what you are reading?” 31 And he said, “How can I, unless someone guides me?” And he invited Philip to come up and sit with him. 32 Now the passage of the Scripture that he was reading was this: “Like a sheep he was led to the slaughter and like a lamb before its shearer is silent, so he opens not his mouth. 33In his humiliation justice was denied him. Who can describe his generation? For his life is taken away from the earth.” 34And the eunuch said to Philip, “About whom, I ask you, does the prophet say this, about himself or about someone else?” 35 Then Philip opened his mouth, and beginning with this Scripture he told him the good news about Jesus.

Acts 10:43 “To him all the prophets bear witness that everyone who believes in him receives forgiveness of sins through his name.”

Acts 17:2-3 “2 And Paul went in, as was his custom, and on three Sabbath days he reasoned with them from the Scriptures, 3 explaining and proving that it was necessary for the Christ to suffer and to rise from the dead, and saying, “This Jesus, whom I proclaim to you, is the Christ.”

Acts 18:24-28 “24 Now a Jew named Apollos, a native of Alexandria, came to Ephesus. He was an eloquent man, competent in the Scriptures. 25 He had been instructed in the way of the Lord. And being fervent in spirit,he spoke and taught accurately the things concerning Jesus, though he knew only the baptism of John. 26 He began to speak boldly in the synagogue, but when Priscilla and Aquila heard him, they took him aside and explained to him the way of God more accurately. 27 And when he wished to cross to Achaia, the brothers encouraged him and wrote to the disciples to welcome him. When he arrived, he greatly helped those who through grace had believed, 28 for he powerfully refuted the Jews in public, showing by the Scriptures that the Christ was Jesus.”

Acts 26:22-23 “22 To this day I have had the help that comes from God, and so I stand here testifying both to small and great, saying nothing but what the prophets and Moses said would come to pass: 23 that the Christ must suffer and that, by being the first to rise from the dead, he would proclaim light both to our people and to the Gentiles.”

Romans 1:1-3 “1 Paul, a servantof Christ Jesus, called to be an apostle, set apart for the gospel of God, 2 which he promised beforehand through his prophets in the holy Scriptures, 3 concerning his Son, who was descended from Davidaccording to the flesh”

Romans 3:21-22 “21 But now the righteousness of God has been manifested apart from the law, although the Law and the Prophets bear witness to it— 22 the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe. For there is no distinction”

Romans 15:4 “For whatever was written in former days was written for our instruction, that through endurance and through the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope.”

Romans 16:25-27 “25 Now to him who is able to strengthen you according to my gospel and the preaching of Jesus Christ, according to the revelation of the mystery that was kept secret for long ages 26 but has now been disclosed and through the prophetic writings has been made known to all nations, according to the command of the eternal God, to bring about the obedience of faith— 27 to the only wise God be glory forevermore through Jesus Christ! Amen.”

1 Corinthians 15:3-4 “3 For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, 4 that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures”

2 Timothy 3:15-16 “15 and how from childhood you have been acquainted with the sacred writings, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. 16 All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness,17 that the man of Godmay be complete, equipped for every good work.”

 

In Hamilton’s work from which the above proposition was cited, he proves his thesis by working from the Old Testament forward, beginning with the proto evangelion in Genesis 3:15 progressing through the rest of the Bible.  He concludes, “The Old Testament is a messianic document, written from a messianic perspective, to sustain a messianic hope.  I believe the messianic thrust of the OT was the whole reason the books of the Hebrew Bible were written.  In other words, the Hebrew Bible was not written as the national literature of Israel.  It probably also was not written to the nation of Israel as such.  It was rather written, in my opinion, as the expression of the deep-seated messianic hope of a small group of faithful prophets and their followers.”  I concur with Hamilton’s conclusion.

The Old Testament is referenced or alluded to in all of the New Testament books except Philemon and 2 & 3 John.  The above is just a sampling of the more explicit references to the Old Testament by the New Testament, but I think they equally prove this massive proposition.  Interestingly enough, Trevin Wax[2] has consolidated 7 example categories for Christ centered preaching based on Sidney Griedanus’ book Preaching Christ from Genesis. They are as follows:

  1. Redemptive-Historical Progression  (For more information on the redemptive-historical hermeneutic see Dennis Johnson’s excellent book Him We Proclaim.)
  2. Promise-Fulfillment   (This is what Hamilton does with Genesis 3:15)
  3. Typology (I’ve pointed out some examples of typology here: Jesus Calms the Storm here: Preaching Christ from the Old Testament and here: Every Story Whispers His Name )
  4. Analogy (See Matthew 24:37-41; also the parallels between God and Israel and Christ and the Church)
  5. Longitudinal Themes (from Wax, “Examples of these themes would be God’s kingdom (brought ultimately by Jesus Christ the King), God’s presence (foreshadowed in the Temple but fulfilled in Christ’s incarnation), and God’s judgment (seen in God’s actions against sin, but also His willingness to bring salvation through judgment)”).
  6. New Testament References (This is what I’ve attempted to show above)
  7. Contrast (This would be what is commonly referred to as “discontinuity”, whereas the majority of those above would be focused primarily on the the continuity between the Old and New Testaments)

God has always had one plan of redemption for one people through His Son Jesus Christ and all Scripture, both Old and New point to that reality.  You can clearly reach that conclusion from either direction.  The question remains, given the Christ-centered focus of Scripture, why would anyone be content preaching stories from the Old Testament or morality from the New Testament. Preach Christ!

 



[1]James Hamilton, “The Skull Crushing Seed of the Woman: Inner-Biblical Interpretation of Genesis 3:15,” The Southern Baptist Journal of Theology 10.2 (2006), 44, n.5. Readers may find this online in its entirety at: http://jimhamilton.files.wordpress.com/2008/04/hamilton_sbjt_10-2.pdf

[2] Trevin Wax: http://thegospelcoalition.org/blogs/trevinwax/2013/06/04/7-ways-of-preaching-christ-from-the-old-testament/

 

 

Christian Incompatibility with Sin

 

1 Corinthians 6:9-11 9 Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality,10 nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. 11 And such were some of you. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.”

With the news this week that active NBA player Jason Collins revealed his homosexuality, a largely celebrated decision (link), an important note that cannot go overlooked is that Mr. Collins claims to be a Christian and sees no incompatibility with his homosexual sin.  Largely, this is what drew the excellent response by ESPN analyst Chris Broussard (link again).

This clinging to sin while simultaneously claiming the name of Christ as Savior is not isolated to homosexuality.  Just recently I watched a video of a street preacher involved in a discussion with a TV reality star, who despite her continued animosity, foul language, unrepentant sinful behaviors, and likely inebriation, continued to cling to her profession of faith in Christ, citing God’s love as evidence for it. (see post on God’s Love here).  It seems like only a few years ago that the world labeled Christians most often as hypocritical because the behaviors of those who profess faith in Christ did not match the lifestyle that the Bible outlines for believers (or the worldly expectation that believers are perfect).

Now there has been a paradigm shift.  Professing Christians can live any lifestyle they wish, including open homosexuality, without any fear of the hypocritical label, but are simply free to live how they want.  The pendulum swing from legalism to license is nothing really new, but it is certainly something that the Church needs to address more and more.

In the verses above, the Apostle Paul, writing to the Church at Corinth, provides a series of contrasts beginning with the contrast of heaven and the unrighteous who will not enter there.  Continuing his thoughts from the previous verses, Paul asks the rhetorical question, “Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God?”  Kingdom of God here is a reference to the kingdom which Christ has ushered in and for the sake of simplicity we can refer to it as eternal life, or heaven.  So there are those who are unrighteous who will not enter heaven.  The word “unrighteous” used here is the Greek word adikos (unjust, unrighteous, wicked) which we will look at again later, but for now we’ll leave it as an adjective describing a particular group of people.

The immediate question might be, “So Paul, who are these unrighteous people that will not get into heaven?”  Isn’t that the ultimate question on most peoples minds, am I going to heaven?  It’s almost as if Paul perceived that there are many who assume they are going to heaven, in fact most everyone you talk to will affirm that they are going to heaven.  Not on the basis of Christ’s righteousness, but on their basic understanding of being “good”.  It is to that line of argumentation that Paul says, “do not be deceived”.  Paul then begins to color inside the lines of the picture he’s outlined for us when he used the term “unrighteous”.  Here he tells us that the neither the: sexually immoral, idolaters, adulterers, men who practice homosexuality,thieves, greedy, drunkards, revilers, and swindlers will enter heaven.  If there were any doubt that this list referred to the unrighteous who would not enter heaven, Paul began his statement in the negative “neither”, listed the people, and concluded with “will inherit the kingdom of heaven”, thus closing what Charles Spurgeon calls the “black list”.  This ends the first contrast of heaven with those who will not enter.

Next, it needs to be noted that Paul is not listing sins.  He’s not rattling off a list of do’s or don’ts.  He has personalized this list to the individual level.  Those persons who fornicate, or have sex outside of marriage, are sexually immoral and will not enter heaven.  Those persons who have idols in their lives, whether it be food, entertainment, family, alcohol, drugs, name it, are idolaters and will not enter heaven.  The person who has an adulterous affair is an adulterer and will not enter heaven.  Men who practice homosexuality, note again it is personalized from more than just deed or actions, but it is the “men” who do the acts. (Please note: this is not excluding lesbianism from sin, see Romans 1:26-27)  And so on down the list.  Why is this so important to notice?  Because it has to be understood that sin is something more than just what a person does or doesn’t do.  If it were just a matter of cleaning up your act and “being good” then the person with the strongest willpower would win.  But that is not the case.  Sin is intrinsic to the nature of humans, i.e. it is a part of who we are, because we were born with a sinful nature.  That is why Paul identifies a person on the basis of their sin.

This leads to the next contrast from the passage, “and such were some of you”.  Here Paul has taken great aims to describe, while not exhaustively it is certainly representative, a black list of those who will not enter heaven.  But in this particular sentence he contrasts the “those that will not enter” list with a phrase addressed to his audience and subsequently future readers, “and such were some of you”.  The use of “were” here is the turning point.  Paul points to the past of his audience in Corinth to remind them that even some of those Christians among them were once on this same “black list” that he has just described.  Perhaps even some of you today who are reading this passage would be considered among the “such were some of you”.  Consider how it is that God would save you from the black list of sinners.  Perhaps some of you reading would still be on that list mentioned above.  Consider how it is that you could get off of that list.  Which begs the next question, if Paul hasn’t listed individual sins, or do’s and don’ts, then how is a person supposed to get off of the black list and into the group “and such were some of you”?  How does someone make that change if it can’t be something that they just stop doing and then start being good?  Well, the answer is that there is nothing a person can do to change their identity of being associated with the sin they’ve committed as a result of their very nature.  But there is One who can make that change for them and His name is Jesus Christ.

The next contrast that we see is again the list of sinners and their identity with sin now contrasted fully with the “and such were some of you” and how they’ve obtained their new identity.  “But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.”  Three particular actions were performed on behalf of those who used to be among the homosexual, adulterers, thieves, drunkards, etc. – washed, sanctified, and justified.  While not particularly in chronological order, nevertheless, the list is significant.  To this washing, Charles Hodge writes, “to wash means to purify, and is frequently used in Scripture to express moral or spiritual purification.”  John Gill comments on the meaning of washing to refer to that

“which is not to be understood of external washing, of corporeal ablution, or of their being baptized in water; so they might be, and yet not be cleansed from their filthiness, either by original or actual transgressions; nor of the washing of regeneration, which more properly comes under the next head; but of their being washed from their sins by the blood of Christ, through the application of it to them, for the remission of them”

While there may be some debate on the application of washing in this passage, there is absolutely no reason here to assume the physical method of baptism, instead it should refer either to the “washing of regeneration” or the “washing by the blood of Christ” and I tend to take the reading of Matthew Henry who writes, “The wickedness of men before conversion is no bar to their regeneration and reconciliation to God. The blood of Christ, and the washing of regeneration, can purge away all guilt and defilement.”  Here we see that both applications (though the latter will be spoken of next as Gill pointed out) of washing are necessary to purge the sin and guilt of believers.  (see also 1 John 1:7, Rev. 7:14, Ephesians 5:26, Ezekiel 36:22-32)

Next, those who were formerly marked as the guilty sinners from Paul’s list have been sanctified.  Again, it’s important to realize that this mention of washed, sanctified, and justified is not a chronological list, but is provided to point out the absoluteness of the work of God in the life of a believer.  Sanctified always refers to being made holy or set apart.  So those among the “such were some of you” in contrast to their prior sinful defilement, have been sanctified.  This is a work of the Holy Spirit in the life of a believer and it occurs at regeneration, the moment the Holy Spirit takes out the heart of stone and gives the heart of flesh, or what is commonly referred to as being born again.  In this sense sanctification is complete although the process of progressive sanctification (or being made holy unto perfection) is an ongoing work by the Spirit in the life of a believer and is not completed this side of heaven.

Finally, we see Paul saying that the “such were some of you” have been justified.  This is the Greek word dikaioo and it is the positive counterpart to the word for unrighteous, adikos, used earlier in the passage, providing again another contrast.  Justified is a legal term referring to the believer’s positional standing with God the Father and it is only through the Lord Jesus Christ that it can happen, “you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ”.  Because of Christ’s perfect righteousness, those who have repented and placed their faith in Him can stand before God with confidence that they have been made righteous, or justified, on behalf of the Lord Jesus Christ.  A person, regardless of their sinful past can be washed, sanctified, and justified by repenting of their sin and placing their faith in the Lord Jesus Christ.

From this short passage, we can see the Lord makes absolutely clear that for the believer in Christ, identification with a sinful behavior is simply incompatible.  For those who do will not enter heaven.  That doesn’t mean that the believer will be sin-free, but it does mean they can no longer be identified on the basis of their old sinful nature.  As it relates to homosexuality, even in the case of Jason Collins, it is incompatible to claim Christ as Savior, to have been washed, sanctified, and justified and still be identified as one from the “black list”.  What a glorious gospel truth that Christ saves the vilest of sinners such that we can claim, “and such was I”, because I have been washed by the blood of Christ and the water of purification, sanctified by the Holy Spirit, and justified by the Lord Jesus Christ.

Thinking through John 1:15-34

A continuation of a study through the Gospel of John. See John 1:1-14 here

15 John bore witness of Him and cried out, saying, “This was He of whom I said, ‘He who comes after me is preferred before me, for He was before me.’”

A witness to the eternality of Christ; Despite John being ~6 months older, he recognizes that Christ was “before him”

16 And of His fullness we have all received, and grace for grace. 17 For the law was given through Moses, but grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. 18 No one has seen God at any time. The only begotten Son, who is in the bosom of the Father, He has declared Him.

Why do you think John contrast Moses and the law with Jesus and grace and truth?  Read Matthew 5:17-20

A Voice in the Wilderness

19 Now this is the testimony of John, when the Jews sent priests and Levites from Jerusalem to ask him, “Who are you?”

20 He confessed, and did not deny, but confessed, “I am not the Christ.”

21 And they asked him, “What then? Are you Elijah?”

He said, “I am not.”

“Are you the Prophet?”

And he answered, “No.”

22 Then they said to him, “Who are you, that we may give an answer to those who sent us? What do you say about yourself?”

23 He said: “I am

‘The voice of one crying in the wilderness:
“Make straight the way of the Lord,”’

as the prophet Isaiah said.”

24 Now those who were sent were from the Pharisees. 25 And they asked him, saying, “Why then do you baptize if you are not the Christ, nor Elijah, nor the Prophet?”

26 John answered them, saying, “I baptize with water, but there stands One among you whom you do not know. 27 It is He who, coming after me, is preferred before me, whose sandal strap I am not worthy to loose.”

28 These things were done in Bethabara beyond the Jordan, where John was baptizing.

This section of the passage has a remarkable way of connecting the Old Testament to this New Testament context.  

  • Why are the questions being asked of John significant?  
  • Given the context and expectation of the coming Messiah, is it easy to see why the people were confused over who John was? Read also Mark 1:2-3 ; Isaiah 40:3; Malachi 4:5
  • Read Deuteronomy 18:15-18: What does this announcement say about the coming Messiah?

The Lamb of God

29 The next day John saw Jesus coming toward him, and said, “Behold! The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world! 30 This is He of whom I said, ‘After me comes a Man who is preferred before me, for He was before me.’ 31 I did not know Him; but that He should be revealed to Israel, therefore I came baptizing with water.”

The Apostle John’s language here is intentional to bring our minds back to a specific reference in the Old Testament of the Israelite captivity in Egypt.  See: Exodus 12:1-13 In this way, the Passover Lamb is a type for the coming sacrifice of Christ, who Himself becomes the lamb slain.  For additional references on Christ as the Lamb see: 1 Corinthians 5:7; 1 Peter 1:19; Revelation 7:14, 12:11

32 And John bore witness, saying, “I saw the Spirit descending from heaven like a dove, and He remained upon Him. 33 I did not know Him, but He who sent me to baptize with water said to me, ‘Upon whom you see the Spirit descending, and remaining on Him, this is He who baptizes with the Holy Spirit.’ 34 And I have seen and testified that this is the Son of God.”

Review the synoptic accounts of Jesus’ baptism: Matthew 3:13-17; Mark 1:9-11; Luke 3:21-22