Wednesday, July 21, 2010
THE WORD INTERPRETS THE WORD
When we speak of Scripture interpreting Scripture we mean that those difficult to understand portions of Scripture are to be understood in light of those easier to understand portions that address the same subject.
Jesus Christ is the Word of God become also flesh. He is the eternal Word of God incarnate, and as such, is our key to truly understanding the Word of God inscripturated. Says Alan Cairns,
"The key to Scripture is Christ (Luke 24:27, 44; Acts 10:43). He is the great subject of the Biblical revelation, from Genesis to Revelation. The written word witnesses to the incarnate Word and vice versa."
The Bible remains very much a locked-bag to both the Jewish and Islamic ‘theologian’ because of their denial of the triune nature of God and thus the deity of Christ. In short they both deny what Christ had come to do on earth. Christ came to reconcile fallen man with a God who is angry with us because of our sin (Psalm 7:11; John 3:36).
It is our sin that separates us from God. At the eternal Word’s incarnation God the Son united Himself with humanity by becoming also a Man. In this we see the beginning of true and everlasting reconciliation. Christ the God-man is the only Mediator bringing God and man together. Christ is the nexus between God and man. Says Herman Bavinck,
"In a word, the Trinity makes possible the existence of a mediator who himself participates both in the divine and human nature and thus unites God and humans. God’s Trinitarian essence is the presupposition and condition of the incarnation."
Let us note that when the Word became flesh man could now relate to God in a far more personal level than anything previous. To have a Man on earth saying and doing everything exactly the way God wanted man to behave gives man a true picture of the way God had created us in the beginning, i.e., before the whole of mankind had become corrupted.
The Ten Commandments are the expression of the character of God who created us in His own image. Jesus Christ, if you will, is the Ten Commandments with arms and legs, and a heart, soul, and mind. Jesus thought, said, and did everything perfectly in accordance with the Commandments. Thus even in the flesh the Son is the true mirror of the Father.
Jesus refers to God’s Word as truth (John 17:17) and refers to Himself as the truth (John 14:6). Thus with Jesus we have the truth incarnate interpreting truth inscripturated: the Word interprets the Word. Therefore the Christian uses Christ to interpret Scripture. Or, to put it another way, the Christian interprets Scripture in the light of Christ and His work of redemption.
To be sure the Bible teaches us things about God, creation, angels, and man, but all of these are understood in relation to Christ. Scripture is redemptive-historical. This means that every passage of Scripture, indeed the whole of Scripture, was written with Christ in God’s mind. Bryan Chapell speaks of this in the context of Christian preaching,
"A passage retains its Christocentric focus, and a sermon becomes Christ-centred, not because the preacher finds a slick way of wedging a reference to Jesus’ person or work into the message but because the sermon identifies a function this particular text legitimately serves in the great drama of the Son’s crusade against the serpent."
The late Edmund P Clowney was lamenting the low use of the Old Testament Scriptures in some preaching when he wrote the following,
"If we are going to carry Bibles and not simply pocket Testaments, we should surely be using the Old Testament more than we do. The missionary Bible of the apostolic church was the Old Testament Scripture. Our Lord in the synagogue of Nazareth (Luke 4), Peter at Pentecost (Acts 2), Paul in the synagogues of Asia Minor and Greece – these all preached the gospel from the Old Testament. During the time which the apostolic witness to Christ was still being recorded, the Old Testament was the Scripture from which the church preached Christ."