We have seen that the Scriptures are unified, both in structure and in story, around Jesus Christ. But how do I begin to see that? This is the topic we will be looking at this post. My goal is that you will be better able to look at the Scriptures, see the unifying story around Christ, and then see why you ought to locate the specific story within the broader scope of Scripture (find the tree in the midst of the forest). The result would be that you could better see, understand, interpret, and explain the overarching story of Scriptures in light of Christ.
Big Idea: God has given structured Scriptures in order to tell a unified story, revolving around Christ, and understood through appropriate reading.
So, How do I do this?
- Recognize what you are reading – Scriptures
Let’s go back to our view of Scriptures. The Scriptures are:
- Inspired (from God)
- Inerrant (without error)
- Authoritative (demanding obedience)
We will be using Psalm 13 as a practice board. Knowing that the Scriptures are inspired, how does that influence the way I read the Psalm? Well, because this is inspired I know that this isn’t just another poem on a piece of scratch paper. God wanted us to hear it. I have to deal with what it says. It is important.
2. Recognize where you are reading in the Scriptures
The Scriptures are a story, and you are reading somewhere in that story
Back to Ps 13. This Psalm reflects a worshipper of God trying to survive in a fallen world. He is part of God’s chosen people to be a light to the world.
We also need to recognize that the Scriptures are structured. Therefore you are reading somewhere in that structure.
- Covenant History
- Covenant Life
The Psalms are part of the Covenant Life portion of the structure. This makes sense because we can see that the Psalmist was trying to live a life of faith based on the revelation given to him up to that point. But it was hard. Maybe you have been there before, maybe not. Have you ever felt as though the LORD had forgotten you or hid his face? Did you ever feel as though it were too hard to continue on? You may have known what God expected of you, but living that out was way too hard! Your days could have been categorized as “sorrowful.” Maybe you have desperately waited for the LORD to make his appearance.
Another note to consider is this author writing before of after Christ? Are the original hearers waiting for the first coming of the Messiah, or following his commands and waiting his second coming? That will drastically change the way we read the Scriptures.
Also, what revelation had been given to them up to this point?
With the progress of time, more revelation was given. Abraham had more revelation than Noah, Moses had more than Abraham. By the time we get to John, Paul, and Peter, they have much more revelation than those before them. This helps us to sort out some of those “contradictions” that PBS loves to bring up every year around Christmas and Easter. “How could parts of the Bible say that there is no clear future for the dead (Ecclesiastes) and others say that there is (NT Epistles)?” Progressive revelation.
We often view Scripture in a flat way, as if the whole canon was dropped from the sky at the same time. It is not like one of those inflatable children’s play place. Instead we should think of it more like an archaeological tell where we locate an object in its corresponding layer of strata. If we don’t put the object in the right level it will be a complete mystery.
3. Recognize who you are reading about.
This is primarily a story about Christ. That means in order to best apply it to our lives, we have to see how it connects to Him.
Again in Psalm 13 – as man, Jesus understands what the Psalmist feels. As God, Jesus is the one who calls believers to share these feelings with him. Why can we pray as the Psalmist? Because Jesus has been there. He understands, and he can do something about it.
There is popular, and not all together wrong, view of Scripture.You may have heard of the Bible as “God’s Love Letter to you.” Is that completely wrong? No. The Bible is ultimately about God’s glory magnified by his creation through his redemptive plan. Is that loving? Absolutely. However, is that designation completely right? Well, I would say it can be misleading. Is the Bible ultimately about us? No. It can’t be. It has to be about someone greater than us. If the universe exists for God’s glory, wouldn’t that mean something about the Scriptures explaining the universe to us? Do we play the leading role in the narrative? No. Our role is actually that of the betrayer, the usurper, the miscreant.
One of my favorite series is C. S. Lewis’ Chronicles of Narnia. What are the Chronicles of Narnia about? Are they about four siblings? They appear in the story, but not all the stories. Is it about the kingdom of Narnia? It is important, but not the center. It is Aslan who appears in every story. He is the one who shows up and makes things right. The story is ultimately about him.
When you are reading a novel or watching a movie, generally you associate yourself with the protagonist. Books and movies are a way to live out an adventure through someone else without actually putting your neck on the line. When I read Scripture I have to understand who is the protagonist – Christ. Then I associate myself with him, not by taking his spot, but by seeing myself as “in Him” (the NT references to being “in Christ”).
In reference to Narnia, I am Edmond the betrayer. I am Eustice the vain. I am Puddleglum the depressed. I am not the protagonist. I desperately need the Lion as my substitute, my sanctifier, my rescuer.
4. Recognize who is reading (your own rootedness)
- We are reading as sinners
- We are reading post cross
- We are reading as temples of the Spirit
- We are reading as part of the Church
Ps 13 – this Psalm is Ancient Near Eastern poetry. The author has limited revelation but is one of God’s chosen people. I am a white male of the millennial generation who has grown up with computers, air travel and toothpaste. We are different. However, if I recognize that I am reading with a particular slant, it helps me be more objective. I can never read anything with preconceived ideas, but I can recognize what they are are compensate for them.
So What? Reading Scriptures appropriately should result in:
- A Complete reading of Scripture
- A Thoughtful reading of Scripture
- Chapell, Bryan. “What Is the Progressive Principle in Biblical Theology?” BiblicalTraining.org.
- Ortlund, Dane. “Transform Your Bible Reading.” Theresurgence.com.