When Having a GPS Makes All the Difference
A few months ago, our family traveled to Chicago. Somewhere near Indianapolis, we learned that there was a major accident on the highway in front of us. Fortunately, we had the information ahead of time and were able to get off the interstate in time to miss the heavy traffic. Or so we thought.
Misjudging the exits, we got caught with all the other cars and trucks on a side road. Nevertheless, we still had our GPS. With our global positioning device we were able once again to get off the side road and find our way on a dirt road back to the highway.
Certainly when we set out for Chicago, we did not expect ourselves to be traveling on a dust-covered dirt road in the middle of an Indiana cornfield. And yet that was exactly where we were. It was a place that was totally unfamiliar to us, and one that without the GPS we would have no idea where we were.
I think this is often how we feel when we open up the Bible. Seeking to get to the City of God, namely Jesus Christ, books that contain instructions for bodily discharges (Leviticus 15) and chapters that describing flying scrolls (Zechariah 4) can seem as out of place as the road we found in Northern Indiana.
What we need when we get into the more “remote” places in the Bible is what we have in the car. We need a positioning device that will help explain how to get from our current location–Exodus 31, Leviticus 15, or Judged 19 to Christ. What we need is a Gospel-Positioning System. Anyone know where to find one of those?
I didn’t. But this week, I have attempted to put something together that may function like that. It has six steps, and it serves as a general rule of thumb for getting from obscure OT laws all the way to Christ. It’s aim is to avoid the traps of hasty application and mere moralizing. It’s goal is to find Christ in all Scripture, but not by making strange leaps and speculative links. Rather, its aim is to follow the flow of redemptive history and present a gospel-patterened schematic (another GPS), that can benefit any reader of Scripture.
Redemptive Roadmap: Gospel-Positioning System
1. Law. In the law, you find instructions for living in ancient Israel. These rules and commands were part of the covenant framework of Israel. They were given so that people could live in God’s presence. They were also given, so that the people with sinful hearts would learn that they needed something greater. In both cases, they were designed to point people to God–to his holiness and his mercy. They list the standard expectations of God, and they point out our failures. (Romans 3:20; 5:20; Gal 3:21)
2A. Prophets (1). Next, when Israel broke the law, God sent prophets to warn and later condemn Israel. The purpose of the prophets was to incite repentance, but knowing the hearts of the people, God also sent his prophets to pronounce judgment (Jeremiah 25:4-5; 26:4-6).
2B. Prophets (2). At the same time that he sent prophets to proclaim judgment, he also sent prophets with a message of hope and salvation. These prophets were given to Israel to point them to the Messiah who was to come (1 Pet 1:10-12).
Together, the prophets proclaim a message of salvation through judgment. But this is only takes us to the end of the Old Testament. These first three steps are what Mark Dever calls Promises Made. What comes next are Promises Kept.
3. Christ. God’s word of hope is always fulfilled in Christ. He is the end of the law, and he is the one who fulfills all the predictions of the prophets. He is the long awaited Messiah, and all the promises of God are yes and amen in him. Thus he is the center of all the Bible. (2 Corinthians 1:20).
4. The Gospel. Finding Christ in Scripture brings you to the door of the gospel. The only question that remains is what will you do when you come to Christ? Will you simply try to imitate his life and work? Or will you humble yourself, repent of your sin, and believe that his obedient life and substitutionary death have effected your good standing before God? If the latter, you have followed the Gospel-Positioning System to the right address. You have found rest in Christ.
This is so vital, because so often we can miss Christ and the gospel, especially when we begin in the OT. Too many Bible-believing Christians and preachers miss Christ and settle for moral lessons and spiritual examples in the Old Testament . But to do this ignores the way the way Christ intended for us to read Scripture (John 5:39; Luke 24:27, 45-49).
How does this kind of reading differ? Well, a GPS reading of the Old Testament moves from the text, through redemptive history, to Jesus Christ. Call it Christotelic if you like. A GPS reading also sees how the Law is fulfilled (Rom 10:4) and the Prophets realized in Jesus Christ (Rom 15:4), and makes us all wise unto salvation (2 Tim 3:14-16). It does not take the short-cut to Jesus, but it follows the long road through the Scriptures until it comes to faith and repentance in Christ. And then from there it calls us to action.
5. Christian Application. Once we have rested our heart, soul, mind, and strength in the completed work Christ has done for us, then we are ready for action. This is what Paul calls “Faith working itself out in love” (Gal 5:6). It always flows out of the gospel, and it is also energized by the gospel. It is filled with love and good works, but they are works that do not justify. They are works that testify to the grace of God and the love of his Son.
A Final Caveat
Now let me say it: This is cheesy. Any time you devise a system for reading the Bible, you are in danger of draining its spiritual power. Any time the Spirit who leads us into all truth is replaced by a systematic method, something of the life of the reading experience is lost. I get that.
Nevertheless, I am willing to take a risk, because for too long, too many people have read “by the Spirit” and have totally missed Christ, or just treated parts of the OT like ancietn ancestors. They may be necessary for my existence, but I don’t know or care anything about them.
With that real danger in place, I think that memorizing this 5-fold pattern can make you and I far better readers of Scripture. By seeing how the law was given to increase our trespass (1), to heighten our condemnation and our need (2A), to point to a later, greater hope (2B), to finally culminate in Christ (3), to trust in him and his work (4), and to live according to the gospel he proclaims (5), that I believe, will not have a spiritually-stultifying effect. Rather, it will help our minds better understand the long history of the redemptive history, and how to get from places like Exodus 31 and Leviticus 15 all the way to Christ.
Tell me what you think! Is this is a helpful tool? What would you add? Edit? What else needs to be said?
Soli Deo Gloria, dss