How Jesus Radically Shapes Our Bible Reading

A notorious problem that faces much of Christian preaching, Bible study and reading is that it is often no more Christian than the moral encouragements of the local Synagogue or Mormon gathering. There is much talking but very little life. This is so because Jesus is little more than a tag line for most sermons. But when we want to understand the Bible we cannot do so without Christ – and whatever we do understand is to have Christ at its center. This is true because Jesus and the Gospel radically alter the way we are to understand God’s word. Here is how Graeme Goldsworthy says it in his valuable book Gospel-Centered Hermeneutics:

The fact that Jesus is the one mediator between God and people has enormous hermeneutical implications (1 Tim. 2:5). The Christology of mediation brings the major dimensions of communication into contact so that they operate in a way that human sin had rendered inoperable. thus the communicator (God), the message (God’s word) and the receiver (humanity) are all united in the God/Man who is himself the message. If we are united to Christ we are true receivers of the message. To receive a message so that it is not garbled or meaningless or misleading, we must at the same time interpret it aright. Our confusion and our sinfulness conspire to lead us always towards a Christless interpretation. As living a faithful Christian life involves a conscious decision to work at it, so also interpreting the Bible by the gospel involves a conscious decision to work at the relationships of all parts of the Bible to the gospel.

If Jesus is the one mediator between God and man, then he must mediate the meaning of the whole of God’s communication to us. Our understanding  of this mediatorial role comes from the unpacking by the New Testament writers of the gospel event and how it works for our salvation. This raises the question of the significance of all the parts of Scripture that are not explicitly expositions of the gospel. We can say that, while not all Scripture is the gospel, all Scripture is related to the gospel that is at its centre…

The Bible makes a very radical idea inescapable: not only is the gospel the interpretative norm for the whole Bible, but there is an important sense in which Jesus Christ is the mediator of the meaning of everything that exists. In other words, the gospel is the hermeneutical norm for the whole reality. All reality was created by Christ, through Christ, and for Christ (Col. 1:15-16). God’s plan is to sum up all things in Christ (Eph. 1:9-10). In him are all the treasures of wisdom and understanding (Col. 2:2-3). As a consequence, the ultimate significance of all non-biblical literature can be summed up in biblical-gospel terms. Only through the gospel can we know what it means for humans to be sinful and for cultures to be godless. The atoning work of Christ has redemptive ramifications for the whole universe. It is God’s means of renewing the universe to be the perfect new creation that was foreshadowed by the perfection of creation before the fall. Hence the ultimate interpretation of the meaning of everything is found only in Christ. This includes every text of the Bible. Eschatology (the doctrine of the end times) and hermeneutics are inseperable.

For the student of the Bible, the gospel becomes the norm by which the whole Old Testament and all the exhortations and other non-gospel aspects of the New Testament are to be understood. To put it another way, Christian conversion should lead to sanctified thinking about reality. While alien philosophies may seek to seduce us into thinking otherwise, we should reckon every fact and event in the universe to be what they in truth are: eloquent of the living God and interpreted by him.

You may purchase the book here.

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