Over the past few posts, we’ve been discussing various aspects of the Bible’s authority. We talked about the God-breathed nature of the book, reasons why we can trust it, and about what to do with aspects that look erroneous. In this post, let’s consider the point of the Scriptures.
When we miss this central purpose of the Bible, that’s when we misunderstand what’s being said.
Jesus chastised many religious people of his day who knew their Bible well but did not accept him as the full disclosure of God and thus the centerpiece of Scripture. “You search the scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life,” he said. But “it is they that testify on my behalf” (Jn 5:39). Hence Jesus rebuked them because they refused to “come to [him] to have life” (Jn 5:40). The purpose of Scripture, Jesus was teaching, is to bring people to him. The words of Scripture do not have eternal life in and of themselves. They are vehicles to bring people to eternal life only insofar as they point people to the One who is eternal life. Indeed, Jesus went on to tell these people that they did not truly believe in Scripture unless they believed in him. “If you believed Moses you would believe me, for he wrote about me” (Jn 5:46).
A similar point is driven home by the author of Hebrews when he writes:
Long ago God spoke to our ancestors in many and various ways by the prophets, but in these last days he has spoken to us by a Son, whom he appointed heir of all things, through whom he also created the worlds. He is the reflection of God’s glory and the exact imprint of God’s very being, and he sustains all things by his powerful word (Heb 1:1-3).
All previous revelations, mediated through words, were merely anticipations of the revelation of God mediated through his own Son “in these last days.” The revelation of God in his Son is the pinnacle of God’s revelation throughout history. He surpasses all previous revelations in that he alone is the perfect reflection of God’s glory and exact imprint of God’s very being. He is the one true God directly revealed as his one true Word. As in John, the author of Hebrews connects the unsurpassable revelatory nature of the Son to the fact that he is the Creator and sustainer of the world as well as the one for whom the creation exists. He is the source of all things and “heir of all things.” In Jesus, all of creation finds its ultimate explanation and fulfillment.
Hence, we must never think of the revelation of God in Christ as merely part of God’s total revelation, as though (say) the book of Leviticus possessed the same revelatory authority as Jesus.
Rather, everything before Christ must be read in the light of Christ. All previous revelations are authoritative for the post-Christ believer insofar as they anticipate and point to God’s definitive revelation in Christ.
In contrast to all previous revelations, Jesus is the full revelation of God’s wisdom, a wisdom that had been hidden throughout the ages (I Cor 1:24; 2:7; Eph 3:9-11; Col 2:3). Moreover, in sharp contrast to all previous revelations, in Christ the “whole fullness of deity dwells bodily” (Col 2:9, cf. 1:19). All that makes God God — the whole fullness of his deity — took on bodily form in Christ. All previous revelations of God were partial, but in Christ God is revealed fully. All previous revelations were mediated through writing, but in Christ God is revealed in bodily form. Hence, the point of the Scriptures is to see God’s Son as he is the climactic revelation of Scripture. In this light, Christ interprets all previous revelations, as he is the key to unlocking the meaning of Scripture. If we understand this about the Bible, we will read it according to the purpose for which it was written.