Scriptures: Deut 6:4-9 John 5:30-47
INTRODUCTIONWhy is it that only 20% of professing Australian Christians regularly read their Bibles? Clearly, most of the Church does not experience “the word of God (as) living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit…discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart.” (Heb 4:12 cf. Jer 23:29; Acts 20:32; 1 Thess. 2:13), When Jesus expounded the scriptures after his resurrection his disciples remarked to one another, ““Did not our hearts burn within us…while he opened to us the Scriptures?”” (Luke 24:32). This is something of the power of God speaking through the Bible.
The Chinese government has just banned Bible purchases online, because they rightly grasp it’s a document far more revolutionary than the communist manifesto. The experience of any of us who’ve been on a mission trip to the Third World will testify to the incredible hunger of believers to be taught from the scriptures.
Contrary to well meaning illustrations the Bible is not your maker’s handbook, a manual of morality or God’s “how to” book.
The Bible draws its power solely from its relationship with Jesus. It exists to call, convert and conform us to the life of the one who fulfils all the promises of God through his suffering and glorification.
The scriptures were breathed out by the Spirit of God (2 Tim 3:16) for the sole purpose of imparting to men and women a Jesus-shaped life marked by death to self and rising in the resurrection power (2 Corinthians 4:10; Phil 3:10).
The Bible is attractive, wise, knowledgeable, charming and so on because it communicates these properties of Jesus as Lord. But the Bible itself must not be our focus. When James compares hearing and obeying the word of God to looking at your image in a mirror he had no intention of encouraging us to examine the properties of the mirror (James 1:22-25).
The Bible is of crucial significance to being a servant of God because in an undistorted way it holds up to us the image of Christ.
OLD TESTAMENT AS PROPHECY (see Appendix 1)
The Hebrew Bible had 3 main divisions, the Law, Prophets and Psalms. So when Jesus said to his disciples, “everything written about me in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms must be fulfilled.” (Luke 24:44) he testified that the whole Old Testament was written to point to his coming.
The writers of the New Testament also saw their scriptures in this light.
Peter says, vs.10 “the prophets who prophesied about the grace that was to be yours searched and inquired carefully, vs.11 inquiring what person or time the Spirit of Christ in them was indicating when he predicted the sufferings of Christ and the subsequent glories.” (1Pet 1:10- 11).
Jude sees Christ actively at work in the history of Israel, “Now I want to remind you…that Jesus, who saved a people out of the land of Egypt, afterward destroyed those who did not believe.” (Jude 1:5 cf. 1 Cor 10:1-4; Rom 4:23).
That the substance of the entire Bible is its witness to Christ is perfectly clear from his own testimony.
JESUS AS THE TESTIMONY OF GOD
Jesus quotes from 24 books of our Old Testament, and always in a way that indicates he was submissive to its authority.
When tempted in the wilderness by Satan he always replies by quoting scripture with the preface “it is written”, meaning it must be obeyed (Matt 4:4, 7, 10).
Christ was devoted to the scriptures not because they were a source of information about his future but because they revealed and empowered the shape of his life-identity as Son of God.
Therefore in launching his public ministry he read from the scroll of the prophet Isaiah and said, ““Today this Scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.”” (Luke 4:21).
When his Jewish opponents moved to stone him to death his chief defence was, “Scripture cannot be broken” (John 10:35).
On the eve of betrayal and death he strengthened his disciples with the words, “I tell you that this Scripture must be fulfilled in me: ‘And he was numbered with the transgressors.’” (Luke 22:37; cf. John 13:18; 17:12).
It was impossible for the scripture to fail in its witness to the Messiah’s identity. How deeply the fulfilment of scripture is internalised in Jesus’ life is expressed in his dialogue with his enemies in John 5: 30-47.
As the living Truth of God (John 1:14, 17; 14:6; 1 John 5:20) the life of Christ is encompassed in a cloud of witnesses which he lists on his behalf; he “himself” witnesses (5:31; cf. 8:13–14, 18, 54; 18:21), as does John the Baptist (5:33-35), the Father and his works (5:31, 36), the voice and form of the Father (5:37), he says “the scriptures… bear witness about me” (5:39), Moses’ writings are about him (5:45-47).
By resisting these weighty witnesses the Jews brought about their fulfilment; as Jesus said, “the word that is written in their Law must be fulfilled: ‘They hated me without a cause.’” (John 15:25).
The unlimited sufficiency of the scriptures to bear witness to the shape of his life was pronounced by the resurrected Jesus to his unbelieving disciples, “ “O foolish ones, and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken! Was it not necessary that the Christ should suffer these things and enter into his glory?” And…he interpreted to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning himself….” (Luke 24:25-27, 44).
The story line of divine promise, faithful suffering and glorious fulfilment shapes the Bible, Jesus own life and God’s kingly rule on earth. The Bible has power and authority because it reveals this order of death and resurrection as the true way of God.
This is why the prophetic ability of the Bible to speak God’s Word to us is most concentrated in its witness to the cross. The Old Testament as a mouth piece of God is perfected in its intimacy with Jesus’ own words when the bearing of the burden of our sin (Rom 8:3; 2 Cor 5:21) Jesus speaks out Psalm 22:1. “ “Eloi, Eloi, lema sabachthani?” which means, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”” (Mark 15:34).
It is when life’s circumstances appear to threaten the fulfilment of God’s promise to save the world that there is a perfect unity between the written words of scripture, the eternal Word made flesh in Christ, and the lost state of fallen humanity (Heb 2:10; 5:8).
This is a perfection which will be completed for us in the resurrection and glorification of Jesus and made manifest in the gospel witness of the New Testament (cf. Heb 11:40). To suggest that there’s any deformity in the Bible implies imperfection in the life of Christ.
Our problem with the Bible isn’t that its outdated or complex, its that it calls for our obedience to Christ in the gospel (Rom 10:16; 2 Thess 1:8 cf. Mark 14:36; Phil 2:8; Heb 5:8-9). It is far easier for us to search for and listen to witnesses other than Jesus (2 Tim 4:3-5).
OTHER (ALIEN) WITNESSES
Sin always seeks false witness to justify itself. In his dialogue with his religious opponents in John 5 Christ said, “you do not have…(the Father’s)…word abiding in you, for you do not believe the one whom he has sent” (John 5:38 cf. v.43).
Then said, “How can you believe, when you receive glory from one another and do not seek the glory that comes from the only God?” (John 5:44).
Human beings prefer the witness of other sinful human beings because their testimony is always more in conformity to our pride than the message of God’s death and resurrection in Jesus.
The Bible is avoided today because being intimate with Jesus involves strength through suffering (2 Cor 12:10).
The proper use of scripture is made clear through Jesus own words.
LIVING THE WITNESS
““If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples… If you abide in me, and my words abide in you…. you will abide in my love’” (John 8:31; 15:7, 10).
This abiding is much greater than an individualistic thing; as we heard last week about what it means to belong to the people of God; “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs…” (Col 3:16).
We abide in Christ and become more intensely united to him as we receive his Word into our hearts by faith (Eph 3:17).
The truth of the Bible supernaturally shines through our lives as Christ lives out his life through us (Rev 1:1-2 cf. v.9). The naturally supernatural state of Christians is to be powerfully bonded to the scriptures because we are called to conform to that of which they so clearly, Jesus!
Where then is the great challenge?
When we look at the life of Christ all becomes clear.
Only in becoming the Word of God made flesh (John 1:14), only in becoming weak and subject to temptation like us (Heb 4:15), did Jesus need the Word of God written to become “complete, equipped for every good work” (2 Tim 3:17).
Christians receive revelation from the Bible and are empowered by it to do God’s will only as in ignorance, weakness we struggle against the world, the flesh and the devil and seek the triumphant life of Christ. Receiving the victorious humanity of the Son of God is what moved all the authors of the Bible to speak as witnesses and it is what will move us too (cf. 2 Pet 1:21).
This is the essential mystery and stumbling block of what we Christians call our holy scriptures (Rom 1:2). Unlike Jews for whom the notion of a suffering Word is a scandal, unlike Muslims who believe the Koran is eternal with Allah, unlike Mormons who believe their book was written on golden plates, the power of the testimony of the Bible to convert men and women is directly related to the weakness and suffering humanity of God’s own Son and his servants.
The Bible has a central place in the life of the Church because it is the primary medium through which the Spirit communicates the heart, soul, mind and strength of Jesus.
The falling away from reading and obeying scripture is a tragedy because it means a falling away from conformity to the life of Christ.
This sets up a vicious cycle.
The neglect of scripture is a serious sign that we have become confused over Christ’s identity and the more we leave off reading and hearing the Lord through the Bible the deeper this confusion becomes. In the book of Amos God threatens to send a terrible judgement on the land, “a famine…of the hearing of the words of the LORD” (Amos 8:11).
This possibility, which is presently an actuality in Australia, should strike our hearts with godly fear.
But it is a fear with a remedy in Christ himself.
Since Jesus bore the terror of not being able to hear God speak to him on the cross (Mark 15:34) but was then raised from the dead by his Father we know God wants to speak to us and will do so again and again through the Bible; as we come to him with our struggles, temptations, tribulation, distress and persecution (Rom 8:35 cf. Rev).
If we see the Bible in this way, as the indispensible means to share in the life of Jesus, we will not fail to abide in Christ and in so abiding hear him speaking again and again effectively equipping us to serve him in this world(2 Tim 3:16)..
OLD TESTAMENT TYPES FULFILLED IN CHRIST
|Theme||Old Testament||New Testament|
|ELECTION||Gen 12:1- 2||Eph 1:4|
|Deut 7:7 -8||1 Peter 1:20|
|COVENANT||Gen 15:17||Matt 26:26- 28|
|Ex 19:5 -6||Heb 12:24; 13:20|
|2 Sam 7:14|
|Jer 31:31 -34|
|DESCENDANTS||Gen 12:2||Matt 1:1|
|Gen 13:16||Acts 3:25 -26|
|Gen 15:5||Gal 3:16|
|Gen 16:10||Heb 2:10|
|Gen 18:18||Rev 5:9 -10|
|LAND||Gen 12:7||Heb 11:16|
|Gen 13:14 – 15||Rev 21:1- 5|
|Gen 15:18- 21|
|Gen 17: 8||Luke 9:31|
|EXODUS||Ex 12:1 – 15:27||1 Cor 5:7|
|Ps 78:1-72||Col 1:13|
|Isa 40:3- 4|
|Jer 16:14- 15|
|ISRAEL/SONSHIP||Ex 4:22 -23||Matt 2:15|
|Isa 43:6||Mark 1:1|
|Hos 11:1||John 1:18|
|Luke 3:22 -38|
|LAW||Ex 20:1-26||Matt 5:17 -18|
|SABBATH||Gen 2:2||Mk 2:28|
|Ex 20:8 -11||Rev 1:10|
|Deut 5:12 -15|
|TEMPLE||Ex 25:1 – 31:38||John 1:14|
|1 Ki 5:1 – 8:66||John 2:19 -21|
|SACRIFICE||Gen 4:2- 4||John 1:29|
|Ex 12:1-51; Ex 29:1 -30:38||Rom 8:3|
|Lev 16:1-34||1 Cor 5:7|
|1 Sam 5:22||Heb 9:1 – 10:39|
|Ps 50:5||Rev 5:6- 10|
|PROPHET||Gen 20:7||Luke 4:16 -21, 24|
|Deut 18:15 – 19||Luke 13:33|
|Amos 3:7||John 4:19|
|Amos 7:14 -15||Acts 3:22 -23|
|PRIEST||Lev 1:7- 17||Mark 10:45|
|Lev 13:1 – 14:57||John 10:11|
|Num 1:47 -54||Rom 8:34|
|Heb 4:14 – 15|
|KING||1 Sam 8:4- 18||John 1:49|
|2 Sam 7:14 -16||Mark 15:32|
|Ps 89:1-52; 132:1-18||Acts 2:29- 33|
|Isa 9:6 -7||Acts 13:23, 32 -34|
|Ezek 34:20 – 24||1 Cor 15:24 -28|
|KINGDOM OF GOD||Ps 22:28||Mark 1:15|
|Ps 24:1-10||Acts 14:22|
|Dan 2:44||Acts 28:31|
|Dan 4:3||Rom 14:17|
|Dan 7:13 – 14||Col 1:13|
|SON OF DAVID||2 Sam 7:14||Matt 1:17 -20|
|Matt 20:29 -31|
|Luke 1:30 -33|
|SON OF MAN||Ezek 2:1||Mark 7:38|
|Dan 7:13- 14||Mark 8:31|
|Mark 13:26 -27|
|ANOINTED ONE (MESSIAH)||Ps 2:2||Matt 16:16|
|Isa 61:1||Mark 1:1|
|Dan 9:26 -27||Acts 10:38|
|SHEPHERD||Ps 23:1||John 10:11|
|Isa 40:11||1 Pet 2:25|
|Ezek 34:23||1 Pet 5:4|
|WISDOM||1 Ki 3:6- 9||Luke 2:46- 52|
|1 Ki 4:20 – 34||Luke 11:31|
|Isa 9:6; 11:2||1 Cor 1:20 – 2:16|
|Col 2:2- 3|
|KNOWLEDGE||Prov 1:7||1 Cor 2:16|
|Isa 11:2||Col 2:2- 3|
|CAPTIVITY/EXILE||Gen 15:13||John 1:14|
|Jer 1:15 -16||Rom 8:3|
|Jer 20:4 -6||2 Cor 8:9|
|RESTORATION||Isa 1:26||Matt 19:28|
|Isa 49:6||Acts 3:21|
MESSAGE DELIVERED: 8th April, 2018 | Alive@5
Author: Dr. John Yates
MESSAGE YouTube or PODCAST: This is a single sermon which is recorded in two parts because of a slight technical problem.
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