Thus the whole revelation of the Old Testament converges upon Christ,
not upon a new law, or doctrine, or institution, but upon the person of Christ.
— Herman Bavinck —
As Herman Bavinck closes out a section on special revelation in Our Reasonable Faith, he reminds us that the goal of Scripture is not a law, nor a religious belief or practice, nor even a gospel, as in an impersonal message of good news. Rather, the unified goal of Scripture is a single person—Jesus Christ, the Son of God.
In recent years (and for all of church history), there has been debate about how much Christ we can find in the Old Testament. This sort of thinking, one that sets limits on how much of Jesus we can see in the Old Testament, seems fundamentally at odds with the tenor of Scripture. Yes, we cannot turn every word, object, or event into a mystical revelation of Christ. But as Christ and his church is the mystery once hidden now revealed, the canon of Scripture leads us to see how every parcel of the Old Testament belongs to Christ and brings us to Christ.
For Bavinck, this is exactly how he sums up the Bible, as he states, “in the Old Testament everything led up to Christ,” and “in the New Testament everything is derived from Him.” Truly this is what is at stake when we, a priori, set limits on seeing Christ in all the Scriptures. Here’s the full text of Bavinck’s conclusion,
The whole revelation of the Old Testament converges upon Christ, not upon a new law, or doctrine, or institution, but upon the person of Christ. A person is the completed revelation of God; the Son of Man is the one and only-begotten Son of God. The relationship of the Old and New Testament is not like that of law and gospel. It is rather that of promise and fulfillment (Acts 13:12 and Rom. 1:2), of shadow and body (Col. 2:17), of image and reality (Heb. 10:1), of shaken and unshaken things (Heb. 12:27), of bondage and freedom (Rom. 8:15 and Gal. 4). And since Christ was the real content of the Old Testament revelation (John 5:39; 1 Peter 1:11; and Rev. 19:10), He is in the dispensation of the new covenant also its capstone and crown. He is the fulfillment of the law, of all righteousness (Matt. 3:15 and 5:17), of all promises, which in Him are yea and amen (2 Cor. 1:20), of the new covenant which is now established in His blood (Matt. 26:28). The people of Israel itself, with all its history, its offices and institutions, its temple and its altar, its sacrifices and ceremonies, its prophecy, psalmody, and wisdom teaching, achieves its goal and purpose in Him. Christ is the fulfillment of all that, first of all in His person and appearance, then in His words and works, in His birth and life, in His death and resurrection, in His ascension and sitting at the right hand of God.
If, then, He has appeared, and has finished His work, the revelation of God cannot be amplified or increased. It can only be clarified by the apostolic witness, and be preached to all nations. Since the revelation is complete, the time is now come in which its content is made the property of mankind. Whereas in the Old Testament everything led up to Christ, in the New Testament everything is derived from Him. Christ is the turning point of times. The promise, made to Abraham, now comes to all nations. The Jerusalem which was below gives way to the Jerusalem which is above and is the mother of us all (Gal. 4:26). Israel is supplanted by the church out of all tongues and peoples. This is the dispensation of the fulness of times, in which the middle wall ot partition is broken down, in which Jew and Gentile is made a new man, and in which all is gathered together under one head, namely, Christ (Eph. 1:10 and 2:14-15).
And this dispensation continues until the fulness of the Gentiles is come and Israel is saved. When Christ has gathered His church, prepared His bride, accomplished His kingdom, He will give it to the Father in order that God may be all in all (1 Cor. 15:28). I will be thy God, and ye shall be my people: that was the content of the promise. This promise is brought to its perfect fulfillment in the new Jerusalem in Christ, through Him who was and who is and who is to come (Rev. 21:3). (Our Reasonable Faith, 93–94)
What a thought! Christ is not only a character in the Bible; he is the “character” for whom the whole Bible was written and is written about. Once we grasp this, it will change the way we approach Scripture and it has the power to change us, for every page of Scripture becomes an invitation to know Christ, by whom we come to know the Father by means of the Holy Spirit.
To that end may we continue to read the Bible this day and every day!
Soli Deo Gloria, ds
Photo by Enoc Valenzuela on Unsplash
4 thoughts on “Seeing Christ in All of Scripture: A Few Words from Herman Bavinck”
David, thanks for articulating how Christology affects our hermeneutical approach to Scripture. In Matthew 5:17, Jesus said: “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets. I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them.”
How would you interpret this Scripture verse in light of the hermeneutical approach you gave? While I agree promise and fulfillment, type and anti-type are clearly expressed in Scripture, how far do we go with it? It sounds like Bavinck places a high emphasis on analogical interpretation. Thanks for your feedback. Blessings!
And I wanted to add one more thought. If we view Scripture solely through Christ, does our Biblical theology, the meta-narrative by which we desire to emphasize Christology, become more/less important than the perspicuity of Scripture? Trust me, I am all for emphasizing the second person of the Trinity, but I am not sure if this is the mode of interpretation by which we should express the entirety of Scripture. Thanks again.
I’ll try to answer more specifically soon, but I wonder if this threefold approach might be helpful:
Superficial connections between OT passages and Christ that fly from Genesis (lets say) to Jesus without seeing how Genesis unfolds in the Law and the Prophets is *not* what I’m advocating. I don’t think Bavinck would either. Some calls for Christological exegesis can make it sound this way. But that is not a faithful approach to the unity of Scripture and its unfolding narrative.
However, I’ve found that going from text, to epoch/covenant, to canon is a sure way to make good intra-biblical connections. Let me know what you think. I’ll add a few more thoughts soon.
Southern Seminary is my Alma Mater as well! I will definitely take a look at the post you gave and do agree with what you just stated thus far. Thanks and have a blessed day!
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