Results tagged “Old Testament” from Reformation21 Blog

Read Like an Apostle


The early disciples gave evidence of the concept of Christ as the target of the Old Testament; but, should we read the Old Testament like they did? That is an ever pressing hermeneutical question. I want to suggest that the answer is a resounding "yes!" Consider John 2:13-22 as a case study:

"The Passover of the Jews was near, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem. And He found in the temple those who were selling oxen and sheep and doves, and the money changers seated at their tables. And He made a scourge of cords, and drove them all out of the temple, with the sheep and the oxen; and He poured out the coins of the money changers and overturned their tables; and to those who were selling the doves He said, "Take these things away; stop making My Father's house a place of business." His disciples remembered that it was written, "ZEAL FOR YOUR HOUSE WILL CONSUME ME." The Jews then said to Him, "What sign do You show us as your authority for doing these things?" Jesus answered them, "Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up." The Jews then said, "It took forty-six years to build this temple, and will You raise it up in three days?" But He was speaking of the temple of His body. So when He was raised from the dead, His disciples remembered that He said this; and they believed the Scripture and the word which Jesus had spoken."

John 2:17 begins, "His disciples remembered that it was written..." This is John's commentary on the thought process of some of Christ's disciples in the first century prior to the writing of the New Testament. The words "it was written" refer to what was already written at that time. John tells us what "was written" and what Old Testament text these disciples were thinking about by quoting Psalm 69:9, "ZEAL FOR YOUR HOUSE WILL CONSUME ME" (see John 15:25 and 19:28 where Jesus applies this Psalm to himself). The disciples were interpreting the Old Testament (independent of the New Testament) during the life of our Lord. John's comment informs us that they started connecting the dots from the Psalms to Jesus while our Lord was on the earth. In other words, their minds were making hermeneutical moves while Christ's zeal for God's temple, his Father's house, was being manifested. As the Word who became flesh manifested himself among men, those who believed in him began to interpret Scripture in light of him (or him in light of Scripture!).

In John 2:22 we read, "So when He was raised from the dead, His disciples remembered that He said this; and they believed the Scripture and the word which Jesus had spoken." Note first the time when "His disciples remembered that He said this," that is, "when He was raised from the dead..." The resurrection, among other things, triggered the memories of these disciples. Note second what "this" of "He said this" refers to. It refers to what Jesus said as recorded in verse 19, where we read, "Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up." Note third John's comment about what Jesus said. "But He was speaking of the temple of His body" (John 2:21). Note fourth that "they believed the Scripture and the word which Jesus had spoken" (John 2:22). The "Scripture and the word which Jesus had spoken" are not the same thing. The "word which Jesus had spoken" is recorded in John 2:19. The Scripture must refer to the Old Testament. The disciples were interpreting the Old Testament (not only during the ministry of our Lord, but also after his resurrection and prior to the writing of the New Testament, and surely during and after its writing). The resurrection became an interpretive event through which the early disciples "believed the Scripture and the word which Jesus had spoken." Just as they began connecting the dots during our Lord's life-unto-death sufferings (John 2:17), so they continued to connect the dots when he entered into his glory, his resurrection (John 2:22; see John 12:16 for the same phenomenon with reference to connecting the dots between our Lord and the book of Zechariah).

Though it is true that we interpret the Bible in our day, it is also true that the early Christians interpreted the Bible of their day-i.e., the Old Testament. Some of their interpretations made it into the New Testament, as illustrated above. Though this does not mean that all of their personal interpretations of the Old Testament reflected the divine intention of the ancient text, it does mean that their interpretations recorded in the New Testament and affirmed by the authors of the New Testament (e.g., John) are infallible interpretations (This is not the same as claiming they were infallible interpreters.), reflecting the intention of God who first gave the text. This is so because "All Scripture [i.e., Old and New Testament] is inspired by God" (2 Tim. 3:16) and inspiration implies infallibility.

It is obvious that interpreters of Scripture today have an advantage over the first-century interpreters mentioned above. We have God's own interpretation of the historical sufferings and glory of Christ-our New Testaments. But I think there is a good lesson for us to learn from the discussion above. When our Lord Jesus was on this earth, the Spirit of God was causing the disciples of Christ to recall texts of Scripture due to the presence and ministry of Christ. What their musings on the Old Testament contained in the New Testament show us is that the Old Testament points to Christ. The early disciples saw this more and more as they contemplated our Lord and the Old Testament. The inspired documents of the New Testament confirm that they were right. Not only was Jesus Christ the promised One, he was that to which the Old Testament pointed (e.g., Luke 24:44ff.). The early disciples did not reinterpret the Old Testament in light of Christ; they interpreted it as pointing to Christ. And our New Testament is God's confirmation that they were right to do so. If it was right for them to do so, then it is right for us to do the same. The Old Testament is not about Christ simply because the New Testament says so. It is about Christ because that was God's intention from the beginning. This is how the early Christians (and our Lord) read the Old Testament. This is how we ought to as well.

The disciples were interpreting the Old Testament as their Lord did (e.g., John 5:39, 45-47). The entire New Testament is based on Jesus' view of himself in relation to the Old Testament. The sinless Son of God saw the Old Testament as that which pointed to him. The authors of the books of the New Testament not only agreed with this assessment, they wrote in light of it. And since the writings of the New Testament are inspired documents, this is also the divine view of Jesus and the Old Testament. In other words, the New Testament is the infallible interpretation of Jesus in relation to the Old Testament. This is no small matter, indeed! Jesus understood the Old Testament to be the Word of God and he understood it as pointing to him. Jesus' view of the Old Testament became the view of the writers of the New Testament. It seems to follow that Christian interpreters ought to follow the lead of Jesus and the authors of the New Testament. Unfortunately, not all agree. But the conclusion seems inescapable. If Jesus viewed the Old Testament as a witness to himself and the authors of the New Testament did as well (utilizing the same hermeneutic as Jesus), then all Christian interpreters ought to follow them.


Richard C. Barcellos, is pastor of Grace Reformed Baptist Church, Palmdale, CA, and Associate Professor of Exegetical Theology at IRBS Theological Seminary. He is the author of Getting the Garden Right: Adam's Work and God's Rest in Light of Christ and The Covenant of Works: Its Confessional and Scriptural Basis.

A Word from an Alliance Board Member


Thomas Martin, member of the Alliance of Confessing Evangelicals board of directors, reflects on the legacy of R.C. Sproul and his relationship with the Alliance:

When James Boice died of liver cancer in June of 2000, his close friend R. C. Sproul was asked to speak at the memorial service. As Sproul rose to the pulpit, he reminded the crowd (as he often did) of a historic parallel. Philip Melanchthon, at Martin Luther's funeral in 1546, compared the death of Luther to the heavenly ascension of Elijah (the prophet whose very name meant "Yahweh is God!"). Melanchthon quoted  Elisha's lament at the loss of his dear friend and mentor: 

"And it came to pass, as they still went on, and talked, that, behold, there appeared a chariot of fire, and horses of fire, and parted them both asunder; and Elijah went up by a whirlwind into heaven.

"And Elisha saw it, and he cried, 'My father, my father, the chariot of Israel, and the horsemen thereof.' And he saw him no more: and he took hold of his own clothes, and rent them in two pieces.

"He took up also the mantle of Elijah that fell from him, and went back, and stood by the bank of Jordan;

"And he took the mantle of Elijah that fell from him, and smote the waters, and said, 'Where is the Lord God of Elijah?' and when he also had smitten the waters, they parted hither and thither: and Elisha went over" (2 Kings 2:11-14). 

It took a few hours for the death of R.C. Sproul to sink into my soul. R.C. was a giant, and a true Christian. Imperfect, to be sure, yet a man with a genuine heart and love for Jesus. He exemplified the work of the Alliance of Confessing Evangelicals. In a real sense, I had the feeling that the Alliance came about because Jim Boice wanted others to know R.C. Sproul as he did: a man catholic in spirit, but unbending in the truth of the holy Scriptures.

Now both are gone. Others must carry on, and we shrink from the reality that we no longer have R.C. to share in the work of the Kingdom of God. We want to cry out "My father! My father!" Yet we see him no more. 

We must recall that even in his sorrow, Elisha "took up also the mantle of Elijah that fell from him." The power of God is not diminished by the loss of God's saints. As John Wesley wrote: "God buries His workers and carries on His work." May the God of Elijah, the God of Jim Boice, and the God of R.C. Sproul carry on His work until Jesus comes again.

-Thomas Martin 

The Alliance is offering free R.C. Sproul MP3 downloads from Alliance conferences spanning over 30 years. Head to for your free download. 



In case you missed it last week, contributor David Murray gives us 5 Reasons to Study Old Testament History. 

by David Murray

Shakespeare wrote that each person's history is "a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing." The Christian view of personal and world history is quite a contrast; we believe God ordained it, organizes it, and moves it towards a meaningful, definite, and certain purpose.

Many Christians, however, entertain a negative view of Old Testament History; of its usefulness and even of its accuracy. It is often regarded as "far away" and "distant" chronologically, geographically, socially, and theologically. "What can it do for me?" and "Why study it?" are common questions. Here are five reasons to study it and benefit from it:

1. OT History is True History
Israel's neighbors expressed their beliefs through fantastic, elaborate, "out-of-this-world" myths. In contrast, Old Testament narratives about Israel describe real events in real time involving real people and a real God. The reality of Israel's faith rested on the reality of Israel's history.
Similarly, if we lose or give up the truthfulness of the Biblical record, we lose and give up the Truth. We also lose our Christian faith because it is founded not on detached philosophical speculations but on God's acts in human history.

Approaching Old Testament narratives with unshakeable confidence in their accuracy and truthfulness will build up unshakeable faith.

2. OT History is Selective History
No matter how much they deny it, every historian has an agenda. Though often unspoken, that agenda can often be deduced by analyzing his selection, arrangement, and editing of events. Old Testament writers also had an agenda that guided the selection, arrangement, and editing of their accounts. The only difference, and it's a major difference, is that their selectivity was divinely inspired and, therefore, in no ways diminishes their truthfulness.

Therefore, when reading Old Testament history, ask yourself why the author selected these events and that particular angle on them. It will get you much closer to the message he intended to convey to his original audience.

3. OT History is Relevant History
Old Testament preaching often faces the charge of seeming irrelevance. There are vast differences between the world of the Old Testament and the modern world. However, this "relevance gap" cannot be bridged by forgetting Old Testament history. Attempting this may make the sermon relevant but it makes the Scriptures irrelevant.

Rather, a right understanding of Old Testament history enables us to understand the original message to the original audience at the original time and place; and that having done this, the bridge to the present message is far easier and safer to construct.

4. OT History is Purposeful History
Many history books simply relate the what, when, where, and how of each event. Not many attempt to answer the "Why?" question, and those that do usually prove laughably unreliable.
In contrast, biblical history has a clear purpose: it is a progressive revelation of the mind and heart of God for the benefit of needy sinners. God is the subject and the hero of the Bible. Therefore, when we read an Old Testament narrative, we ask three questions:
What does this story reveal about God?
How is this intended to help needy sinners?
What role does this story play in the larger and longer biblical story?

The last question will help prevent us reading the chapters as disconnected dots and unrelated atoms.

5. OT History is Redemptive History
The Old Testament is redemptive history. God actively directs human history for the purpose of redeeming sinners to Himself. The Holy Spirit inspired the writers of the Old Testament to record what would graciously reveal that redemptive purpose, and even the Redeemer Himself (Luke 24:27). The Biblical history, then, is not just facts to teach us theology. These historical facts serve to bring in God's elect. What greater motive do we need to study it than that these Scriptures are able to make us wise unto salvation (2 Tim. 3:15).

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The Old Testament's Message to Our Culture

What can the Old Testament possibly say to our culture? It seems a million miles and sometimes a million years away from our time, our generation, and our problems. How can something so old address all the new challenges of globalization, sex-trafficking, the digital revolution, etc.

There's no question that the Old Testament is a challenging read; it doesn't yield its wisdom quite as easily as fortune cookies. However, it does repay disciplined and prayerful reading and research. Remember it was the Old Testament Paul was referring to when he said: "All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: that the man of God may be perfect, thoroughly furnished unto all good works" (2 Tim. 3:16-17).

So let me give you five ways the Old Testament speaks profitably to our times:

1. The Old Testament explains our culture. 

If you enter a play at the half-time interval you wouldn't expect to understand the second half of the drama. You'd be left scratching your head at much of what followed, and make numerous false conclusions and judgments as well.

Similarly, if we only read the New Testament, we are coming in half way through the third of four acts, and can't really have a hope of grasping where the story has been and is going.

The Old Testament unfolds the drama of a perfectly good and beautiful creation in Act 1 followed by humanity's tragic fall into sin in Act 2. Act 3, which opens in Genesis 3, begins the story of redemption, and gives us hope of a climactic final Act 4 when all things will be made new for those who follow the story and don't walk out to write their own ending.

We'll never understand or be able to explain our culture without watching the whole drama from the beginning.

2. The Old Testament supplies moral standards for our culture.

Although there is much debate about which Old Testament laws apply in our own day, it's not as difficult as it is sometimes made out to be.

God gave three kinds of law in the Old Testament. First, He gave ceremonial laws which focused on the kinds of sacrifices and worship Israel was to give to God. The New Testament makes clear that these were temporary laws which pictured and pointed to the coming Messiah, Jesus Christ, and expired with His coming. To hang on to these laws is to embrace the shadow of a person when he's standing right in front of you.

Second, He gave civil laws, which were tailor made to fit the unique historical situation that Israel was facing and to preserve that nation in the face of multiple hostile threats from within and without. While there are some permanent principles of justice at the core of these laws, the particular application and penalties were limited to the ancient state of Israel until its destruction at the hands of the Romans in 70AD.

Third, God gave his permanent and unchangeable moral law, summarized for us in the Ten Commandments., and confirmed for us in the New Testament. Again, there are culture-specific applications of these ten principles in the Old Testament, but it's a relatively easy task to extract the principles and apply them to our own day which so much needs objectively true and reliable moral standards to drive away the fog of moral confusion and relativism.

3. The Old Testament gives hope for our culture.

While God gives us His law by which to order our lives and our culture, we fail again and again in implementing and obeying them, resulting in serious national, personal, economic, military, social, moral, and spiritual consequences, just as it did for Israel.

On numerous occasions, we find the world in general, and Israel in particular in the depths of depression and degradation. Think of Noah's time, the Tower of Babel, Israel in Egyptian slavery, the times of the Judges, most of the Kings, Israel in Babylonian exile, etc.

The Old Testament paints a dark, dark picture of sin and its awful effects. And yet the Lord, in mercy, came again and again to raise up godly leaders, to revive His church, and to renew and re-create the culture. The darkest days often preceded the brightest dawn. What hope of renewal this grand historical narrative gives us in the midst of our own downward spiral.

4. The Old Testament points our culture to Jesus Christ.

The Old Testament contains somewhere between 300-400 prophecies of Jesus Christ. Of these, approximately 40-60 are startlingly specific. From Genesis 3:15 onwards, the hope of Israel and of the world was in a Promised Messiah, a coming Savior who would defeat evil and deliver those caught in its snares.

Jesus said that the Old Testament was all about Him (Luke 24: 27,44). When Jesus was encouraging the Pharisees to read the Old Testament, the reason He gave was, "They testify of me" (John 5:39). These books were speaking about Him, telling people about Him, drawing people to put faith in Him, even before He was born! "Moses wrote of me" said Jesus (Jn. 5:46). That's almost 1500 years before Bethlehem! Traveling even further back to 2000 BC, Abraham "saw" Christ's day way down the road of faith and rejoiced (John 8:56). Jesus Christ is God's message of hope and renewal to the world. Always has been and always will be. Our task is to use both Testaments to shine the spotlight attention on Him as the only way to God and the only Savior from sin.

5. The Old Testament calls us to evangelize our culture.

In some ways, the Old Testament seems very narrow. God appears to be focused exclusively on the tiny little nation of Israel and let all other countries perish. However, that's to completely miss the point. It's true that God chose Abraham and Israel through whom to fulfill His plan, but His ultimate purpose for Abraham was that through His descendants "all the families of the earth would be blessed." And though Israel was blessed with unique favor and revelation from God, it was called to be "a kingdom of priests" through whom God would mediate His Word of salvation to the nations.

Although Israel often failed in this mission through its nationalistic pride (Jonah being the prime example of this), God continued to hold out the vision of a multi-national, multi-racial, multi-ethnic church in the prophets and Psalms, an emphasis confirmed by Jesus' great re-commission to go out into all the world and preach the Gospel to every creature.

I hope you can see that though God gave the Old Testament to a particular people at a particular time in a particular way, that He wrote it in such a way that it is still powerfully relevant to us and our culture in 2016.

Dr. David Mur­ray is Professor of Old Testament and Practical Theology at Puritan Reformed Theological Seminary. He is also pastor of Grand Rapids Free Reformed Church. He is the author of Christians Get Depressed TooHow Sermons Work and Jesus on Every Page. David blogs at HeadHeartHand. You can follow him on Twitter @davidpmurray

Christ in all the Scriptures and Jesus on every page

I was grateful to be offered an early glimpse of David Murray's latest book, Jesus On Every Page (Thomas Nelson, 2013) (see below for a giveaway and special launch offer). It did not disappoint.

Imagine, if you will, an art gallery devoted to portraits of one particular person by one particular artist. A significant part of it is well-illuminated, clearly open to the public, and the beauty of its displays is fairly readily evident. However, there are substantial portions of the gallery which, though belonging to the whole, showing works by the same artist and portraits of the same subject, and contributing to the whole effect, are being overlooked. Over time, it has been suggested that the early works of the artist are perhaps not his best efforts, and do not show his subject to best effect, if indeed that subject is properly discernible. Such discouragements led to visitors being steered away from that part. Experts, some of them well-meaning, set up barriers to keep the plebs away. When the bulbs went out, no-one bothered replacing them; when rooms fell into disrepair, no one worked to restore them. Over time more than half of the gallery, with the exception of a few well-maintained and often-visited spots here and there, became shrouded in dust and cobwebs, entered only by an intrepid few, peering through the gloom at dimly-seen and barely-appreciated works of art.

Such is the Old Testament to many readers of the Bible, even those who are persuaded in principle that the whole of the book and all its books declare the Lord Christ in some way. I remember hearing of a Westminster Seminary professor who would examine the Bibles of his students, assessing the wear of the gold leaf on the edges of the pages to see if they had been neglecting to read and to study their Old Testaments, and who was often moved to deliver something of a reproof to his acolytes.

But what if some determined soul made it his project to expose the grandeur of that overlooked portion of the gallery, persuaded that the artist was no less skilful in his early phase than in his latter, but rather had deliberately developed a technique over time, making plain his intentions by degrees, and that the subject of his works was of such excellence and beauty that the merest glimpses of his person were worthy of attention? That determined soul begins to move aside the barriers, sweep away the cobwebs, clean the windows, relay the wiring, replace the bulbs, and so brings the neglected rooms and their works back into public view. In certain rooms, in order to emphasize the necessity and profit of his work and to reinforce its value, he sets up special displays to bring into particular prominence certain aspects of the artist's work in highlighting his subject.

That is David Murray's intention in this book. He leaves all the apparatus of his restoration work well out of sight, allowing us simply to enjoy its fruits. After a brief survey of the problem and how it is addressed by our Lord himself and three of the most significant New Testament authors, he sets out to give us "spiritual heartburn" by reviewing (in the style to which he has made us accustomed) Christ's planet, people, presence, precepts, past, prophets, pictures, promises, proverbs and poets, well realising his aim to give us a properly popular and accessible introduction to the topic. Indeed, as the reader works through the book, there will be moments in which you particularly appreciate the precise way in which he has angled the lighting, even as you gape in delight at the portraits which, so lit, reveal something of the beauty and majesty of the Lord Jesus. Perhaps best of all, preachers will, I hope, see a range of exciting possibilities open up at the prospect of giving their own guided tours of the Old Testament.

To be sure, some will have their own particular works that they might like to have seen featured, and different approaches or nuances in the matter of covenant theology in particular might move some to suggest a different arrangement of that particular display, but the point of the whole is to re-introduce us to the riches of the Old Testament and to begin equipping us to delve beyond the masterpieces that the author has brought to immediate prominence. It is appetite-whetting stuff.

So may I encourage you to take David Murray's Emmaus Tour of the Old Testament? I am sure it will richly repay your investment, pointing you in the right direction to begin exploring the Redeemer's person and work as you discover Christ in all the Scriptures and Jesus On Every Page.

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You can order David's book through the usual sources (for example, / or direct from the publisher. The book has its own website (, and there is also a very generous launch offer of $100 worth of Old Testament resources.

In addition, I have two copies of the book to give away, but - naturally - not without a little effort. So, the first two people to track me down on Twitter @peregrinus75 and tell me (#EveryPage, if possible) which Old Testament portrait of Christ they most appreciate and - if there is space - why, will get a free copy. Others will earn gratitude and appreciation.