Wednesday, March 28, 2018

THE SPIRITUAL AND CHRISTOLOGICAL INTERPRETATION OF THE BIBLE




Biblical interpretation is complicated business. While a computer can beat a chess master, there is no way to throw a verse into its metal jaws and have it spit out a reliable interpretation.

Why not? There are many reasons for this. For one thing, to understand any one verse, we need the commentary from the rest of the Bible. For another thing, its meaning is spiritually discerned:

·       Now we have received not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, that we might understand the things freely given us by God. And we impart this in words not taught by human wisdom but taught by the Spirit, interpreting spiritual truths to those who are spiritual. (1 Corinthians 2:12-13 ESV)

Without the Spirit, we can only interpret Scripture superficially. Consequently, before the Spirit was given, Jesus had to open the minds of His faithless Apostles so that they could understand what they had previously failed to understand:

·       Then he said to them, “These are my words that 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. (Luke 24:44-45)

This means that we are dependent upon our Lord in order to understand Scripture. Therefore, it is more important to be down on our knees than to earn a PHD in Biblical Interpretation.

This also suggests that in order to understand Scripture, we must first know Scripture, meditating on it both day and night (Psalm 1; Joshua 1:7-8). The key to Scripture is Scripture itself.

We also have to understand Scripture Christologically. For years, I had balked at this idea. It seemed unjustifiably dogmatic to me. However, I began to see that there are compelling Scriptural reasons for this. Jesus insisted that even the Hebrew Scriptures were about Him:

·       You [Pharisees] search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; and it is they that bear witness about me, yet you refuse to come to me that you may have life. (John 5:39-40)

According to Jesus, even Abraham had been aware of Him:

·       Your father Abraham rejoiced at the thought of seeing my day; he saw it and was glad." (John 8:56; Galatians 3:8)

Peter preached that “all the prophets” of Israel had foretold Jesus, even if only cryptically:

  • Yes, and all the prophets, from Samuel and those who follow, as many as have spoken, have also foretold these days. (Acts 3:24)

  • To Him all the prophets witness that, through His name, whoever believes in Him will receive remission of sins." (Acts 10:43)

·       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)

Israel heard the Gospel, even if they didn’t have the ears to hear:

·       For we also have had the gospel preached to us, just as they [Israel] did; but the message they heard was of no value to them, because those who heard did not combine it with faith. (Hebrews 4:2)

The Law was a shadow or representation of the Gospel:

·          The law is only a shadow of the good things that are coming--not the realities themselves. For this reason it can never, by the same sacrifices repeated endlessly year after year, make perfect those who draw near to worship. (Hebrews 10:1)

Paul claimed that Christ had fulfilled all the OT promises:

·       For all the promises of God in Him are Yes, and in Him Amen, to the glory of God through us. (2 Cor. 1:20)

·       So let no one judge you in food or in drink, or regarding a festival or a new moon or sabbaths, which are a shadow [symbol] of things to come, but the substance is of Christ. (Col. 2:16-17)

Bearing these verses in mind, we have every duty to read the OT Christologically. However, this is also a great pleasure and a tremendous support for our faith. How? It reveals the grand and unified design of God, a design not humanly possible in view of the many authors who contributed to the Bible in their distinctive languages, cultures, and worldviews.

Joyfully, this subject is so extensive that I can only scratch the surface. Isaiah wrote that the “Angel [or “messenger”] of His Presence” had “saved” and “redeemed” Israel, something that only God could do:

·       In all their affliction He was afflicted, and the Angel of His Presence saved them; in His love and in His pity He redeemed them; and He bore them and carried them all the days of old. (Isaiah 63:9)

Isaiah equated this Angel with God. The Angel had also appeared to Moses in the midst of the burning bush in the middle of the desert:

·       And the angel of the LORD appeared to him in a flame of fire out of the midst of a bush. He looked, and behold, the bush was burning, yet it was not consumed. And Moses said, “I will turn aside to see this great sight, why the bush is not burned.” When the LORD saw that he turned aside to see, God called to him out of the bush, “Moses, Moses!” And he said, “Here I am.” (Exodus 3:2-4)

Notice that this Angel is also called “LORD” [“Yahweh”] and “God.” All of these appearances provide us with evidence that God or “Yahweh” is not the single Person that the rabbis claim about the God. All of these references should also put to rest the rabbinic claim that God does not take on human form. Instead, these appearances of a Messianic figure provide us with evidence for the Trinity.

The Angel continually appears throughout the Pentateuch. As strange as it may seem, He was the One who brought Israel out of Egypt:

·       When we [Israel] cried out to the Lord, He heard our voice and sent the Angel and brought us up out of Egypt. (Numbers 20:16)

However, other verses claim that it was God who brought Israel out of Egypt.

·       And the LORD went before them by day in a pillar of cloud to lead them along the way, and by night in a pillar of fire to give them light, that they might travel by day and by night. (Exodus 13:21)

·       “The LORD has said to me [Moses], ‘You shall not go over this Jordan.’ The LORD your God himself will go over before you. He will destroy these nations before you, so that you shall dispossess them, and Joshua will go over at your head, as the LORD has spoken… (Deuteronomy 31:2-3)

Well, did God accompany Israel or didn’t He? How do we resolve this apparent contradiction? Again, it seems that the Angel Himself is God, but also a distinct Person.

Elsewhere, God distinguishes Himself from His Angel:

·       "Behold, I send an Angel before you to keep you in the way and to bring you into the place which I have prepared. Beware of Him and obey His voice; do not provoke Him, for He will not pardon your transgressions; for My name is in Him… For My Angel will go before you… and I will cut them off.” (Exodus 23:20-23)

If God’s “name” is in Him, this is the same as saying that “My essence or nature is in Him” (Mat. 28:18-19). Elsewhere, God the Father again makes a sharp distinction between Himself and the Divine Angel (or “Messenger” – an alternate meaning of the same word, “malach”):

·       “And I will send My Angel before you, and I will drive out the Canaanite and the Amorite and the Hittite and the Perizzite and the Hivite and the Jebusite. Go up to a land flowing with milk and honey; for I will not go up in your midst, lest I consume you on the way, for you are a stiff-necked people." (Exodus 33:2-3)

This is only a very small sampling of how we should interpret the Bible Christologically.

1 comment:

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    Thanks

    ReplyDelete