Scripture and the Word of God

When any of the authors of the New Testament mention the Scriptures, they are referring to what Christians today think of as “the Old Testament.”  That was the only Scripture for the Christians of the New Testament times.  The New Testament as a collection of writings did not exist during the time of the apostles

The early Christians saw their Scriptures because they revealed Christ to the world.   The centrality of the Torah and the Temple had been replaced by the Incarnate Messiah as the sign of God’s presence with His people.   God’s Word became flesh in Jesus Christ and this incarnation of God revealed the purpose of the Scriptures.

“When John declares that ‘in the beginning was the word,’ he does not reach a climax with ‘and the word was written down’ but ‘and the word became flesh.’ The letter to the Hebrews speaks glowingly of God speaking through scripture in time past, but insists that now, at last, God has spoken through his own son (1:1–2). Since these are themselves ‘scriptural’ statements, that means that scripture itself points—authoritatively, if it does indeed possess authority!—away from itself and to the fact that final and true authority belongs to God himself, now delegated to Jesus Christ. It is Jesus, according to John 8:39–40, who speaks the truth which he has heard from God.”   (N.T. Wright, Scripture and the Authority of God: How to Read the Bible Today, Kindle Loc. 407-12)

It is the person of Jesus Christ, not a book, who speaks the truth from God.  The book – the bible – bears witness to Him.  As Jesus Himself said to His fellow Jews:

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

Christ Himself said that Moses, who is credited with writing Torah, wrote about Christ.  The purpose of the Scriptures is to lead us to Christ.

“If you believed Moses, you would believe me, for he wrote of me. But if you do not believe his writings, how will you believe my words?”  (John 5:46-47)

In Jesus’ own reading of the Old Testament,  He interprets the text of the Torah, including the Genesis creation story which Moses wrote, not mostly to be history but even more so a witness to Christ, a prophecy of  Christ, and a testimony about Christ.  This is how we should read these Old Testament Scriptures as well.

We encounter the same idea in Luke’s Gospel in the account of how on the day of Christ’s resurrection, two of His disciples are walking to Emmaus troubled by the execution of Jesus on the cross and mystified by reports from the women that Jesus had risen from the dead.  They don’t know what to believe.  As they are walking, Jesus joins them, yet for unknown reasons they don’t recognize their Master.   Jesus listens to their sad tale of woe and then,

“… beginning with Moses and all the prophets, he interpreted to them in all the scriptures the things concerning himself.”  (Luke 24:27)

Jesus explains to them what Moses and the other prophets wrote about the Christ.  So, too, when we read the Old Testament we should be reading with a mind toward recognizing Christ.  If we read Genesis mostly to learn about creation science, we miss the most important aspect of Moses’ writing, namely that he was writing about Jesus!  The Torah is most significant to us not as a scientific text, nor even as a historical text, but because it bears witness to Christ and we too can come to Him through these Scriptures.  Moses didn’t write to confound modern science, he wrote to bear witness to Christ.  And how did the disciples react to these revelations about Moses and the Jewish Scriptures?

“They said to each other, ‘Did not our hearts burn within us while he talked to us on the road, while he opened to us the scriptures?’” (Luke 24:32)

Their hearts were opened to the truth about Scriptures and to Jesus as well.  The Scriptures of the Jews and of the first Christians, that part of our Bible which we now call the Old Testament, contains laws, history, poetry, narrative, theology, wisdom, prophecy and inspiration.  Christ sees its importance not at all in its literal reading, but in how it bears witness to Him.   Again, following His resurrection Jesus said to His disciples:

“’These are my words which 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.’” Then he opened their minds to understand the scriptures, and said to them, ‘Thus it is written, that the Christ should suffer and on the third day rise from the dead, and that repentance and forgiveness of sins should be preached in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem. You are witnesses of these things.’”  (Luke 24:44-48)

We need Christ to open our minds to the understanding of the scriptures, to discover in them what Moses, the prophets and Psalms had to say about Christ.  This is what Christ wanted His disciples, including us, to understand from Torah and the entire Old Testament.

“… the Bible itself declares that all authority belongs to the one true God and that this is now embodied in Jesus himself. The risen Jesus, at the end of Matthew’s gospel, does not say, ‘All authority in heaven and on earth is given to the books you are all going to write,’ but ‘All authority in heaven and on earth is given to me.’ This ought to tell us, precisely if we are taking the Bible itself as seriously as we should, that we need to think carefully what it might mean to think that the authority of Jesus is somehow exercised through the Bible.”  (N.T. Wright, Scripture and the Authority of God: How to Read the Bible Today,  Kindle Loc. 78-82)

Jesus is the fullness of the revelation of God, not the Scriptures.  The Scriptures bear witness to Christ.  The Bible alone cannot give us the full revelation of God.  Only Christ can do that, and only He fully and rightfully interprets the Scriptures and reveals to us their meaning as well.  The Evangelist John tells us that Jesus did many other things not written in the Gospel (John 20:30, 21:35).   The Scriptures alone are not the full revelation and do not tell us everything that can be known about Christ Jesus the Son of God.  The Scriptures however bear witness to Christ, and if we believe in Him, listen to Him and follow Him as disciples, He will reveal their full meaning to us.   The significance of the Scriptures for us, as it was for those disciples on the road to Emmaus is that in them we find Christ and our way to recognize Him.  Those original disciples have not advantage over us.  Even walking with Christ didn’t help them recognize Him – He was revealed to them through the correct interpretation of the Scriptures and in the breaking of the bread.

3 thoughts on “Scripture and the Word of God

  1. It is not the incarnation of a person, but the fulfilment of “the Word”. The Plan of God becoming into existence and becoming in fulfilment. Jesus came onto the earth to reveal his father and to bring us the Good Tidings or Good News of the Kingdom of God.

  2. Pingback: Jesus begotten Son of God #4 Promised Prophet and Saviour « Christadelphian Ecclesia

  3. Pingback: 120213–George Hach’s Journal–Monday | George Hach's Blog

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