Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John: Reading Each Evangelist on Their Own Terms and Seeing How Each Reads the Old Testament

arc.jpegAny alert reader of Matthew’s Gospel will notice the tax collector-turned-evangelist is regularly quoting from the Old Testament. To him, the events of Jesus birth, life, death, and resurrection “fulfill” the prophecies of the Old Testament. What may be less evident is that the other Gospel writers who are less explicit in their citations are equally informed and shaped by the Old Testament.

In a previous post, I suggested interpreters of the Bible should keep in mind that the authors of Scripture demonstrated various approaches to reading the Old Testament. Today, I want to catalog a few of those approaches, drawing again from the exegetical insights of Richard Hays’ and his careful study of the four Gospels, Echoes of Scripture in the Gospels. (A larger study of approaches would include Paul and Peter’s use of the Old Testament. We must save that for another day).

Reading the Gospels on Their Own Termsgospels

In the introduction to Echoes of Scripture in the Gospels, Richard Hays rightly observes:

Jesus and his followers were Jews whose symbolic world was shaped by Israel’s Scripture: their ways of interpreting the world and their hopes for God’s saving action were fundamentally conditioned by the biblical stories of God’s dealings with the people Israel. Therefore, it is not surprising that as the earliest Christian communities began to tell and retell stories about Jesus, they interpreted his life, death, and resurrection in relation to those biblical stories (i.e., the texts that Christians later came to call the Old Testament). (5)

Contesting the “unconscious Marcionite bias” of many modern readers, Hays writes his book to “offer an account of the narrative representation [read: re-presentation] of Israel, Jesus, and the church in the canonical Gospels, with particular attention to the ways in which the four Evangelists reread Israel’s Scriptures—as well as the ways in which Israel’s Scriptures prefigures and illuminates the central character in the Gospel stories” (7).

I believe he hits his mark, helps students better see what each biblical author is doing with the Old Testament, and proves why it is necessary for us to understand intertextuality, in general, and how each author employs various methods of intertextuality to show how Jesus fulfills the Old Testament storyline of Israel and thus sheds light backwards on the Hebrew Scriptures and forward to Christians who worship to God of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and Jesus.

What follows, then, is a brief—well, it’s not as long as Hays volume—summary of points concerning each Gospel writer. Continue reading

Our Long-Awaited Hope: Seeing God’s *Son* Through the Scriptures

hope

From where does hope come? And why does it take so long to get here? 

In our microwave age of instant information and Siri solutions, we don’t wait well. Yet, Christianity is a religion of patient endurance, long-suffering, and waiting—pure and simple waiting. Throughout the Old Testament, the people of God are told to wait. After the Exodus, Israel is forced to wait forty years because of their sinful unbelief, and at the other end of the Old Testament, Israel is left waiting for their messiah to bring a new exodus. Just the same in the New Testament, Hebrews 6:12 instructs, be “imitators of those who through faith and patience inherit the promises.”

We should probably take it as axiomatic, then, that God wants his people to wait. Anyone who has ever prayed knows that the waiting is where God does his working. Saints are not matured in a day; they are formed in periods of years, decades, and generations. Hence, in this season of Christmas when we reenact Israel’s waiting of the Christ’s birth, we do well to think about the way that God promised his Son, so that in our waiting, hope would flourish.

From Genesis 3:15 to Jesus (to Revelation 12 too), the promise of a child-savior runs through the Bible. During Advent, we remember most explicitly the details related to the Angelic host, the Magi, and the Bethlehem Star, but God’s inspired apostles also send us back into the Old Testament to remember all that led up to Christ’s birth. Thus, in keeping with the pattern of waiting and watching in Scripture, it is worth observing just how and how often and how long God prepared the way for Jesus to come through a myriad of promises and prototypes leading up to the birth of Immanuel, God with us. (Fittingly, what follows is not short. But how could it be? The arrival of Christ’s birth took millennia.)

What follows is a thread of verses that trace how God prepared the way for Jesus. It begins with God’s promise of son in Genesis 3:15 and continues to see how this theme is expanded and developed through the history of Israel. It’s not a short journey, but neither was the voyage the Magi took to worship Jesus (approx. 500 miles in around two months time). In this age of fast-paced consumerism, may God give us grace to look long and longingly at the Messiah whose arrival took millennia to achieve, and may God produce fresh hope in us for the second advent of God’s Son. Continue reading

Gospel-Motivated Giving

givingThe Lord said to Moses,  “Speak to the people of Israel, that they take for me a contribution. From every man whose heart moves him you shall receive the contribution for me.
— Exodus 25:1–2 —

But who am I, and what is my people, that we should be able thus to offer willingly? For all things come from you, and of your own have we given you.
— 1 Chronicles 29:14 —

Old Covenant Giving: A Legal Requirement in the Land

From the opening pages of Scripture God has called his saints to give. Providing the first sacrifice when he made skins to clothe Adam and Eve (Genesis 3:21), God modeled for his children the kind of animal sacrifice that would please him. Abel followed in faith (Genesis 4:4; Hebrews 11:4), as did Noah (Genesis 8:20–22), Abraham (22:16–18), Moses (24:4–5; 40:29), and the priests of Levi (when they kept the Law). Throughout the Old Testament, God’s people were called to give.

Echoed in every other world religion, giving is a necessary part of worship. In Israel, tithes, offerings, and sacrifices—atoning and festive—were a normal part of worship. Likewise, the Old Testament testifies that every demon-inspired deity demanded gifts and every culture offered sacrifices—sometimes even giving up their children to the flames of Molech (Leviticus 18:21; Jeremiah 32:35). In short, from a cursory reading of Scripture or a survey of the world, mankind is people who worship, and giving is a necessary part of that worship. Still, in that worship there are right and wrong ways to worship, which means there are right ways and wrong ways to give.

Continue reading

Books on Biblical Theology: A Brief Annotated Bibliography

biblical theologyYesterday evening I taught on ‘Seeing Christ in All the Scripture‘ in our Sunday evening service. As we emphasize the discipline of biblical theology this summer at our church, I put together a handout showing how the New Testament teaches us to read the Old Testament and how the Old Testament demonstrates a series of pattern which culminate in Christ. You can see the front of that handout here. Below is the back side, which lists and introduces books on biblical theology for children, beginners, and beyond.

Children

  1. The Big Picture Story Bible by David Helm – Perfect for ages 3–103, David Helm traces the idea of God’s People in God’s Place under God’s Rule. He teaches young children how to read the Bible with Christ at the center.
  2. Jesus Story Book Bible by Sally Lloyd-Jones – Suitable for ages 5–105, Martyn Lloyd-Jones daughter goes into greater depths than Helm. She too shows how the types, shadows, and patterns in the Old Testament find their fulfillment in Christ. At points, her story Bible is quite funny as it considers the stories of Scripture.
  3. The Gospel Story Bible by Marty Machowski – Ideal for ages 7–107, Machowski’s book takes the story of Christ even further. It includes a couple questions about the story on each page, as well.

Together, each of these illustrated children’s Bibles contain slightly more content as they teach young ones (and older ones) how Christ is the pinnacle and linchpin of the whole Bible.

Beginner

  1. According to Plan: An Introduction to Biblical Theology by Graeme Goldsworthy – In my estimation, this is the introduction to biblical theology. It gives a short ‘how-to’ and a readable overview of the whole Bible through the gospel of the kingdom. He has also written a more comprehensive biblical thelogy: Christ-centered Biblical Theology that gives even more explanation of his method and approach.
  2. God’s Big Picture by Vaughn Roberts – A short, eight-fold explanation of redemptive history centered on the kingdom of God.
  3. Reading the Bible Through the Jesus Lens by Michael William – It gives a short, Christ-centered interpretation of every book in the Bible. Any teacher doing a BT overview should have this book.
  4. The Drama of Scripture: Finding Our Place in the Biblical Storyline by Craig Bartholomew and Michael Goheen – Speaks of the Bible as a five act drama, where the analogy of drama is effectively used to explain redemptive history.
  5. The Unfolding Mystery: Discovering Christ in the Old Testament by Edmund Clowney – Any student of Biblical Theology should know Clowney, and this worship-inducing book is the best introduction. Preachers should also commit to reading his short book Preaching and Biblical Theology.

Intermediate

  1. The Goldsworthy Trilogy by Graeme Goldsworthy – Three-Books-in-One: Goldsworthy applies his ‘gospel-centered’ approach to the whole Bible, Wisdom literature, and the book of Revelation. For those tired of reading Revelation in light of shifting current events, Goldsworthy shows how Revelation is a book about Jesus.
  2. Dominion and Dynasty: A Biblical Theology of the Hebrew Bible by Stephen Dempster – Picking up the royal themes of people and place, Dempster beautifully shows the unity of the Old Testament.
  3. Magnifying God in Christ: A Summary of New Testament Theology by Thomas Schreiner – This abbreviation of his outstanding New Testament Theology gives a rich overview of NT Theology. He also has a large, but very readable Biblical Theology, The King in his Beauty.
  4. From Eden to the New Jerusalem by T. D. Alexander – Tracing six crucial themes (e.g., temple, sacrifice, sovereignty, etc.), this book shows how to move from Genesis to Revelation.
  5. New Dictionary of Biblical Theology – Although large, this is the one-stop shop for biblical theology. In three sections, a bevy of evangelical scholars (1) give instruction on how to approach biblical theology, (2) introduce every book of the Bible, and (3) summarize many important Biblical Theological themes. Every serious Bible teacher should have this reference work.

Advanced

  1. Biblical Theology by Geerhardus Vos – The classic work on Biblical Theology. This book is hard-going at times, because it contains a great deal of interaction with higher-criticism (the academic viewpoint that takes the Bible as as compilation of man-made books, not a unified revelation, inspired by God). However, if you can wade through the chaff, you’ll benefit immensely from this Princeton Giant—not to mention, you will gain an appreciation for what it took for the modern genesis of evangelical biblical theology to emerge.
  2. God’s Kingdom Through God’s Covenants by Stephen Wellum and Peter Gentry – Contrasting Covenant Theology and Dispensationalism, these two Baptist scholars argue for a series of covenants (progressive covenantalism) as the “backbone” of the Bible. This book abbreviates and gives some response to objection to their earlier book, Kingdom through Covenant.
  3. Progressive Dispensationalism by Craig Blaising and Darrell Bock – A well-researched and irenic book which updates older models of Dispensationalism. Dispensationalist and non-dispensationalists alike would benefit from this well-argued book.
  4. The Temple and the Church’s Mission by G.K. Beale – Long, but worth the read. If you ever want to see how exegesis flows into Biblical Theology for the sake of the church, this is your book. At the same time, this book makes a whole-Bible argument for why Christians should not expect a future reconstruction of the temple.
  5. God’s Glory in Salvation through Judgment by Jim Hamilton – Hamilton shows how salvation and judgment redound the praise of God in every book of the Bible. Hamilton’s forte is showing the literary structure of each book and how each book contributes to theme of God’s glory.

There are countless other books that could be added to this list, and thankfully more continue to be published each year. If there are others that should be mentioned, feel free to suggest them in the comments. For now, I will commend these books to you, with one additional series: New Studies in Biblical Theology. Recognizable by its silver covers, this series edited by D.A. Carson holds nearly 40 individual studies on Biblical Theology from a wide array of evangelical scholars. These studies are fantastic for tracing themes throughout both testaments. (And to make these books even more accessible for pastors and teachers, Andy Naselli has served the church well by writing up a Scripture index for these volumes).

In sum, few areas of study have been more encouraging to my soul than biblical theology. Gaining an understanding of the Bible as a whole is something Jesus taught his disciples (Luke 24:27, 44–49) and it is something we should give great attention.

May the Spirit of truth illumine our eyes to behold Christ in all of Scripture, and may these resources serve in that study.

Soli Deo Gloria, ds

 

Looking at the Old Testament on Good Friday

 

isaacAlthough the centerpiece of the Bible—Christ’s cross—is revealed in the New Testament, we cannot understand its meaning without the Old Testament. Indeed, Paul says Christ’s death and resurrection happened “according to the Scriptures” (1 Corinthians 15:3, 4), which means according to the Old Testament Scriptures. Similarly, Peter says the prophets were led by the Spirit of Christ to “predict the sufferings of Christ and the subsequent glories.” He writes more fully,

Concerning this salvation, the prophets who prophesied about the grace that was to be yours searched and inquired carefully, inquiring what person or time the Spirit of Christ in them was indicating when he predicted the sufferings of Christ and the subsequent glories.  It was revealed to them that they were serving not themselves but you, in the things that have now been announced to you through those who preached the good news to you by the Holy Spirit sent from heaven, things into which angels long to look. (1 Peter 1:10–12)

Peter says something even more radical about the cross of Christ a few verses later:

With the precious blood of Christ, like that of a lamb without blemish or spot. He was foreknown before the foundation of the world but was made manifest in the last times for the sake of you. (v. 20)

The cross wasn’t the tragic conclusion of a series of unexpected events. It was God’s predestined plan to put Jesus to death. Continue reading

Putting the Psalter Together: How the Superscriptions Tell the Story

bibleIn canonical studies on the Psalms (i.e., studies that read the Psalter as one unified book, intentionally arranged to communicate a message of messianic hope), Jim Hamilton has provided a helpful reading of the Psalter by paying attention to the superscriptions of the Psalms. Because this Sunday’s message will depend heavily on the superscription in Psalm 20 (“to/for/about David”), I have asked Jim if I could share a large section of his explanation of the Superscriptions and how they relate to the whole of the Psalms.

The following excerpt is taken from his excellent survey of the Bible, God’s Glory in Salvation through Judgment: A Biblical Theology. (You can find more about his book here, with ideas for incorporating it into your Bible reading). Continue reading

Four Reasons You Should Read and Preach the Old Testament

ot“Long ago, at many time and in many ways,
God spoke to our father by the prophets,
but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son,
whom he appointed the heir of all things,
through who also he created the world.
He is the radiance of the glory of God
and the exact imprint of his nature,
and he upholds the universe by the word of his power.
After making purification for sins,
he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high,
having become as much superior to angels
as the name he has inherited is more excellent than theirs.”
— Hebrews 1:1–3 —

If it is true that in these last days, God has spoken by his Son as Hebrews 1 says, why should pastors preach from the Old Testament? If we have the full revelation of God in the substance of Christ, what interest should New Testament Christians have with Old Testament shadows? Surely, it is good to know history and to learn lessons from the past, but do we really need lengthy sermon series of Exodus or to read 1–2 Kings and 1–2 Chronicles?

Without committing the Marcion heresy of denying the inspiration and authority of the Old Testament, some self-identified “New Testament” preachers have stressed the New Testament so much they have lead their flocks to miss (or deemphasize) more than two-thirds of the Bible. In the language of Galatians 3:8, they miss the gospel preached beforehand and hence minimize the full riches of the gospel contained in both testaments.

If you have heard or imbibed such thinking, you might ask whether regular portions of the Old Testament are necessary for reading and preaching for New Testament discipleship. I believe it is, for at least four reasons. Continue reading

Typology: What It Is and Why We Need It

 

typologyWhat is typology?  

In yesterday’s sermon on Numbers 20, we ran into something known as typology. As it has been variously defined in church history, typology occurs in the Bible when an historical person, event, or institution—in this case a water-giving rock—foreshadows the coming Son of God. As with Exodus 17, this life-giving, water-streaming rock is a type of Christ, at least according to the apostle Paul.

Writing in 1 Corinthians 10, Paul recounts a number of events in Israel’s history (see vv. 1–13), including this rock. He writes, “All were baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea, and all ate the same spiritual food, and all drank the same spiritual drink. For they drank from the spiritual Rock that followed them, and the Rock was Christ” (vv. 3–4). In these words, Paul makes the stunning claim that the Rock was to be identified with the Lord, and since Christ is the Lord (cf. 1 Cor 8:6), the Rock is to be identified with Christ.

Two verses later, he adds, “Now these things took place as examples (typoi) for us, that we might not desire evil as they did” (v. 6). Most versions rightly translate typoi as “examples” but you can see from the Greek word that the examples Paul has in mind were types, a word he uses elsewhere to relate Adam and Christ (Rom 5:14), a word Peter uses to speak of Noah’s baptism (1 Pet 3:21), and a word used in Hebrews to relate the tabernacle on earth with the one in heaven (Heb 8:5).

On the basis of passages like these, Christians going back to the early church have rightly seen (and looked for) ‘types’ of Christ in the Old Testament. But at the same time, questions have arisen to ask: What is a type?

That is the question I want to answer today in broad and simple strokes. I recognize that large tomes and complex articles have been written on the subject, but for those just getting acquainted with the idea, I want to introduce typology as simply as I can.

Continue reading

Preaching Larger Sections of Scripture

bibleIn creation, God put beauty and design into the largest galaxy and the tiniest cell. Accordingly, we have, for centuries, used different instruments to behold the glory of God in creation: the microscope enables us to see God’s miniscule  handiwork; the telescope opens our eyes to heavenly vistas. From both ends of the spectrum, we benefit from considering God’s micro-creation and macro-creation.

Something similar takes place in the Bible. When we read Scripture, we can find gospel truth in a word (propitiation), a phrase (‘it is finished’), a verse (John 3:16), a story (Job’s suffering and restoration), or a series of songs (the Psalter). Indeed, from every angle, we behold God’s wisdom and goodness in his word. Yet, unless we are intentional, it is easy to focus on the smaller parts of the Bible and to miss the larger ones.

There are many reasons for that—lack of time, lack of understanding (what is Revelation about?), lack of interest (why do I need to read the minor prophets?). In our fast-paced world, it is easy to overlook the Bible’s big picture, and often pastors have not helped their people “put the Bible together.” Still, I am convinced that if we are to have minds renewed by the Scriptures, we must not simply have a collection of unrelated memory verses free-floating in our heads; we must also understand the larger framework(s) of the Bible. For that reason, I want to suggest five reasons why I preach larger sections of Scripture. Continue reading

The Need for Expositional Preaching (pt. 2): A Biblical Defense

pulpit

I recently shared this article with our deacons. This post which focuses on the practice of preaching in the Old Testament is part two of four.

The simple answer for why expositional preaching is necessary is that the health of the church depends on the regular reading of God’s word and the full explanation of the whole counsel of God. This claim can be supported by church history (as seen yesterday), but it can also be seen in Scripture. And in Scripture, expositional preaching is supported by both the doctrine of God’s word and the practice of God’s people. Today we will consider the doctrine of Scripture and the practice in the Old Testament; tomorrow and Friday we will consider the practice of Jesus himself and the apostles.

A Short Doctrine of Scripture

First, as to doctrine, the belief that God’s word is powerful is seen in the way that God’s created the light by his word (Gen 1:3); he upholds the universe with his word (Heb 1:3); and he raises the dead to life  with his word (Ezekiel 37; John 11). Understanding the power of God’s Word, preachers who are unashamed of the Word must labor to expound God’s word and not arrange Bible verses around their own words, ideas, or outlines.

The power of preaching is not in the preaching of the Word; it is the Word preached. A short list of verses can illustrate this point.

  • The prophets of old never spoke for themselves; they always began their messages, “Thus says the Lord.” For these messengers of God; the power of their ‘preaching’ was in God’s oracle; not in there rhetorical giftedness.
  • Accordingly Isaiah says that God’s word never returns void and always accomplishes what God purposes. (55:10-11)
  • In Jesus’ parable of the four soils, the seed was the word of God; and the seed had power to create life when it landed on the good soil. (Matthew 13).
  • In another parable of the kingdom, Jesus spoke of the word growing when the farmer slept. (Mark 4; 1 Corinthians 3).
  • God’s word is living and active and sharper than any double-edged sword; thus, only the word has the power to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart. (Heb 4:12)
  • After hearing the voice of God on the Mount of Transfiguration, Peter writes that there is more certainty in Old Testament Scriptures than in his own personal encounter with God. In other words, the Bible is more reliable and authoritative than our subjective experiences. (2 Pet 1:19-21)

In short, expositional preaching can only be seen as effective when the doctrine of God’s word informs our theology. A high view of God’s word will enable us to preach the word in season and our of season; a low view of God’s word exposes us to the temptation of looking for something with more immediate flash and less eternal impact. For these reasons, expositional preaching is the method of preaching which best conveys the form and substance of God’s word.

In the Old Testament

Still there is another reason why expositional preaching is necessary—it is modeled by God’s people. In the Old Testament, a kind of expositional preaching occurred when the Levites gave the sense of the text to the nation of Israel on a feast day that commemorated their return to the land. Listen to Nehemiah 8:5-8.

And Ezra opened the book in the sight of all the people, for he was above all the people, and as he opened it all the people stood. And Ezra blessed the Lord, the great God, and all the people answered, “Amen, Amen,” lifting up their hands. And they bowed their heads and worshiped the Lord with their faces to the ground. Also Jeshua, Bani, Sherebiah, Jamin, Akkub, Shabbethai, Hodiah, Maaseiah, Kelita, Azariah, Jozabad, Hanan, Pelaiah, the Levites, helped the people to understand the Law, while the people remained in their places. They read from the book, from the Law of God, clearly, and they gave the sense, so that the people understood the reading.

Carrying out their priestly duties (cf. Lev 10:11; Deut 33:10-11; Mal 2:1-9), these servants of the Word enabled the righteous remnant to understand what God expected of them. Tragically, the nation of Israel suffered greatly when the priests failed to instruct the people with the Law (Mal 2:1-9). When the Old Testament “pastors” failed to feed God’s people from the book of Moses, the people starved spiritually and went in search for other deities.

Summary

Applied to today, could it not be the case that one reason why expositional preachers pack stadiums today is because there is a hunger for the Word of God among God’s people (cf. Amos 8:3)? True believers hunger and thirst for God’s word and they are willing to go anywhere to feast on his Word. As a preacher, who also hungers for the word of God, I know of no better way to ensure that God’s people hear God’s voice than by regularly preaching the Word as it was inspired, praying that God would illuminate eyes and captivate hearts as the Scriptures are explained and applied, verse-by-verse, week-after-week.

Tomorrow, we’ll pick up the biblical argument for expositional preaching in the New Testament.

Soli Deo Gloria, dss