Hermeneutics - Do We Read The Bible Wrong?
Dr. Chip Bennett:
Before we get started, why don’t we have a word of prayer, and then we’ll get started.
Dear Heavenly Father, we thank You so much for the opportunity to be able to gather here as Your people, to study Your Word, to learn more about You and to hopefully grow in our relationship with You. Lord, as I always pray, especially when we’re looking at academic type of situations, I pray that this would not be just some intellectual exercise, but that this would also be an exercise where we learn to grow in our relationship with You, and learn to appreciate our relationship more with You.
So Lord, I pray tonight, that as we try to look at reading the Bible, Lord, that’s a daunting task in an hour and fifteen or so minutes. But Lord, I pray that You would lead guide and direct both Warren and I to say the things that are encouraging to Your people. And I pray, God, that everybody would leave here with at least something they can take with them in their reading and study of the Bible itself. So Lord, we give you tonight. We ask, Lord, ultimately that you would be our teacher, and we thank You for it in Jesus’ name. And everybody said, Amen.
Well, good evening to everyone. You’ve come to the first of three academic series’ that we’re going to hold here at Grace Community Church. And these academic series’ that we’re going to do, we’re going to talk about hermeneutics tonight, and we’re going to talk about philosophy next month. And the following month we’re going to talk about apologetics. The aim of these academic series’ here is to inform you. It is not to indoctrinate you. These are educational in nature. They’re not polemical. They’re not intended to create any type of discord, but we’re doing this to create discussion.
Each lecture, and there will be three different ones that join me for these three different series, are my friends. And some of them are really close friends, like Dr. Gage. We do have areas of disagreement, you know, amongst us. But what unites us is the common concern for the subject matter that we’re doing and to educate the church. I personally myself both teach systematic theology and hermeneutics. And I never ever as a teacher try to teach my students in a way to believe the way I believe, or to read the bible the way I read. I want them to be educated well enough so that they can work out their own theology, and their own relationship with God well.
My name is Chip Bennett and I am the pastor of Grace Community Church. I am a professor at Knox Theological Seminary, and I’m also a professor at Southeastern University. And I’m joined tonight by a close personal friend, and a distinguished man himself, Dr. Warren Gage. Warren has a Theological Masters in Hebrew. He is a Hebrew scholar. He has a Juris Doctorate from South Methodist University. So, he is a lawyer. And he also has a PhD in Philosophy and Literature from the University of Dallas. And he’s also your humble servant.
Between the both of us, there’s quite a bit of education scholarship in real world practicality. And while we don’t agree on every theological point, and quite honestly I wouldn’t want any of my friends to agree with me on everything, Warren and I are incredibly close friends. Warren was actually my doctoral advisor for my Doctorate of Ministry. But, we agree massively that there is a better way to read the Bible.
Now, I’m keenly aware that when I make a statement like that that there is a strong possibility to be misunderstood. Am I somehow implying that we’re right, and everyone else is wrong. Am I saying that we’ve cornered the lot on biblical interpretation. Am I saying something that I just now revealed some inner pride and arrogance. I think those would fair questions to ask if you were thinking them. So, I want to do my best to answer them.
Neither Warren or myself are under some delusion that we are some sort of bastions of God’s truth. Neither Warren or I will speak tonight from a prideful or arrogant stance. We truly believe there are great Godly men and women that see things differently than us, and we respect that. What we want to do tonight is offer you a particular vantage point on reading your Bible, and we feel it should garner at least some serious consideration from you. And if you don’t agree when you leave that’s fine with us. The spirit nature of Grace Community Church is that we lift up Jesus. We don’t lift up doctrine, but these academic forums by nature are not here for indoctrinations. They’re really intended to bring academic research to the local church so that we can be thoughtful and we can be people who think through the issues.
So, all of that being said, let me get down to some fundamentals of what we’re going to do tonight, and what our agenda is. And the reason I say that is because unfortunately whether you’re aware of this or not, and many of you will be aware of this, the Bible is a very polarized book in today’s society. There are those that hunker down and would consider themselves to be very, by nature, literalist who hold to interpretations that Warren and I both would say might do some damage to some of the biblical texts themselves. Because it’s obvious that not everything in the Bible is taken literally. When David says about God that He covers him with His wings, obviously all of us know that God is not a cosmic chicken. I think all of us know that.
On the flip side is that there are critics who tear the Bible apart. They will do anything they can to get away from what they consider to be this literal camp that they feel has so many issues that plague is. Sad to say, there doesn’t seem to be a lot of wiggle room between the two camps.
So, you find yourself either hunkered down and defending things, or you find yourself in a group of people that are sort of tearing things apart through textual criticism and things of that nature.
So, how do we read the Bible then? What do we do in today’s world? Do we hide at every attempt at scholarship to show inconsistencies within the text, do we give heed to the critics and just let them tear away, or is there maybe a better approach? Is there something, maybe, that we’re missing?
The reality is this: The vast majority of people, vast majority of you, are probably not going to go to college or get a seminary degree in any type of biblical studies. Most people are not going to study original languages. And most people are not going to spend hundreds, or even thousands of dollars buying the latest commentaries.
So, what can we do as people who teach, professors, what can we do to help you? The real question is this: What can we do in an hour and a half that will help you read and study the Bible better, because that’s tough. I think all of us would say and agree, there’s no way in the world that in an hour, hour and fifteen minutes, hour and a half, that we can cover everything that you need to give you the tools that you need for your hermeneutical tool box. And when I use the term hermeneutics or hermeneutical, it's simply the study of biblical interpretation.
So, let me lay out a couple of things that we intend to do this evening, and we’re only going to try to do two major things. There’s a temptation to want to do a bunch of stuff when you have a class like this, but we really want to give you something that you can walk out of here and read your Bible better. And I think you came here tonight because you want to read your Bible better. We want to give you those tools.
So, there’s a couple of positive commitments. If you’re a note taker or you like to write things down, these would be things you might want to write down, because these are our positive commitments that we’re going to try to explain this evening.
The first one is this: we feel that there is a divine thread that is revealed in certain themes throughout Scripture that bespeak of more than human authorship. We believe that the Bible, as the Apostle Paul says in 2 Timothy 3:16, is theopneustos. That’s a compound word in the Greek: God-breathed. We believe that there is truly a divine thread in the Bible, and if we could find that thread and those themes as we read through the Bible we might be able to connect certain things. We believe that that is there in the Bible. We plan on discussing some of those things with you tonight.
Secondly, we believe that there is a tremendous need when we are reading the bible for what we would call genre calibration. Now, whereas when you’re reading the Bible and in the particular books you may be looking at how they unfold in a literary way, or in the type of literature that you’re reading, we think that there is an overarching genre of Scripture. That when you’re reading Scripture there is an overarching theme, and overarching genre that goes throughout the entire book. So, let me try to unpack a little bit of these commitments.
The first one’s really big to Warren and I both. We believe that the Bible is not just a book, or a group of books. There’s a strong tendency in the professional world of scholarship today to tear the Bible apart. To reduce each book to a standalone effort by a human author. There are many books right now that you can go by and get and read and many of you may have looked at them that subtly create doubt in Christians about the veracity of Scripture.
Many of you may have read some of those books. You might be here tonight because you question some things about Scripture. And I believe that in questioning everything about Scripture, I wonder if the questions we’re asking are even questions that apply to the Bible in the first place. And although I would readily concede as a scholarship that some of these books do raise legitimate issues and point out some needed material that needs to be responded to, they offer at times some cogent points. They’re just, in my opinion, approaching things wrong. The Bible is not a Frankenstein. The empirical rationalism of the day has made us approach the Bible in ways that it was never intended to be approached.
We’ve taken scientific inquiry and we’ve placed it above Scriptural authority. Reason has pushed aside revelation. The need to defend against the culture of the day has not led the church to a renaissance of the primacy of Scripture, but we’ve tended to want to pull Scripture down to our level. The mind of man may desperately want to understand control, but God cannot be tamed by us mere mortals.
So, I would like to submit to you that if we do not have revelation from God in the Scriptures, if they’re just 66 human books, if they’re just well written stories or admonitions to local churches, then the church really has no claim to authority and everything that we preach is ultimately in vein.
So, whereas I don’t put my head in the sand and sort of hide from some of the stiff opposition that’s there, to some of the things and, you know, the sufficiency of Scripture, and the God-breathed nature of Scripture, I don’t believe that I have to take the position of trying to rationalize and reason my way to making Scripture fit my world, or fit the culture that we live in.
So, rather than dissecting the whole, maybe there really is divine authorship to this book. The Bible says that about itself. Historical Christianity has testified to that. And I would ask you, what if there were threads, what if there were themes that ran throughout the entire 66 books of the Bible? What if over 1,500 years, over 40-some odd different writers that lived in different places and times, somehow tracked on some of the same threads and themes?
I think that speaks, we think that speaks, of a greater voice. And so, what we would like to do here first is try to discuss some of these themes that you will find as you read through your Bible that will help you understand what you’re reading as you go through. And for that, I’m going to turn it over to Doctor Gage to let him teach us a little bit here about some of the threads and themes that are found in Scripture. Warren take it away.
Dr. Warren Gage:
Well thank you, Chip, and let me say it’s wonderful to be back with you and see the amazing growth. The way the sanctuary is being pushed back to accommodate new guests, and the way it’s all been designed and reworked. It’s just wonderful. And I realized, I listen to all the sermons here so I feel a part of this community, and I realize the growth is not just physical. It’s spiritual, too.
One of the things I take delight in with regard to your pastor, when I think of Chip I’m reminded of what Paul encourages Timothy in one of the epistles. He tells Timothy make sure that your progress is known to all, that everyone can see that you’re making progress. I take that to be both spiritual and personal. And, Chip, I think that’s evident. I think your people see you growing in grace. We are to grow. We’re in a community of faith. We grow in our love and understanding of the Lord and of His Word. Because I don’t make it here every Sunday, because I come every month, or several months, I can see, I can quantify that growth. And it’s a marvel and a wonderful thing to see. So, I hope you’re encouraged with that good word.
And I love your commitment to Scripture, too. And what Chip is saying, basically, if I could summarize it, is nobody sat down and wrote the Bible like Harper Lee wrote To Kill a Mockingbird. Nobody sat down and composed the Bible. Even the most liberal of critics would have to acknowledge that it was written over many centuries by different authors. And the fact that it comes together as one work, and can be actually interpreted as though there was one organizing mind with themes that run right from beginning to end, as we’ll talk about with symbols, there is a consistency to it that would never happen in the natural world.
If we took over a same number of centuries, for example, if we took medical works from Galen in the second and third century up to the present day, look at how medicine has developed. You couldn’t put a library or books together like the Bible and make any sense out of it. It’s just, that would be impossible. I think we’d all understand that.
If we went to the library and pulled down 66 books just randomly off the shelf, there wouldn’t be any coherence. We wouldn’t even think to read the Bible looking for that coherence that when we come to Holy Scripture, actually, we can see. And I want to show you that tonight. I want to show you the large scope of Scripture. What is the story all about? And I want to be very specific with some of the symbols, and show you how that works.
I think that tonight could be really quite exciting for you. It’s very evident that the Bible has human authors, but the Holy Spirit, we believe, was superintending the writing of all of these 66 books that we call our Bible. And He was inspiring human authors who were fallible, but in such a way to keep all error out. It is infallible. It is inerrant. I personally believe it is fully inspired of God, who cannot lie. So, it must be a perfect book, as we will see.
And I think that the way we’re going to approach it will show you that this is not a human book. Perhaps the greatest argument for inspiration, apart from the personal understanding that a Christian has about how this book transforms us and renews our mind and regenerates us and leads us from darkness to light and gives us a hope, apart from all of that the scripture does, there is a story going from beginning to end.
Now, let me talk for just a brief minute about what we would expect if the Bible has one author. And I’m not looking at the human level right now. I’m looking at the divine, the evidence of the divine author that I can explore it like I would a book that had a single author.
If you approach any piece of mimetic art, any kind of literature, poetry, a play, a novel, anything that is written, it has to have, I mean Aristotle was the first one to articulate this principle, it will have a beginning, middle, and an end. Any story will have a beginning, a middle, and an end. You will have ideas that are introduced in the beginning, and, if it’s a good book, all of the ideas, the drama, the tension that’s introduced at the very beginning of the book will be resolved by the time you get to the end. Does that make sense?
All of the themes will be tied up so that it is a complete work. And generally, the story will have a beginning and a middle and an ending. A Shakespeare tragedy, for example, is always five acts, and the first act introduces the tension. The last act is the resolution. The third act is always the great crisis. You follow? There is a battle, and something happens in that battle in the middle. And so, I want to look at the Bible. I want to identify it. The beginning and ending is easy, but I want to identify what the middle battle is all about. And then tie all of that together as a story so you’ll see how it coheres.
So, the first thing I want to do is I want to look at the very beginning of the Bible. Now, I’m not going to be expositing individual texts, because we’re looking at the whole thing tonight and I think most of the time I’m going to spend is going to be in familiar passages to you. The first three chapters of Genesis and the last three chapters of Revelation. The beginning and the ending of the Bible. And when we look at the beginning and the ending of the Bible we find some similarities.
The Bible begins with a wedding in a garden paradise, and it ends with a wedding in a garden paradise. Isn’t that true? And there are four things that we find in common that introduce the themes that are developed and resolved.
The first is, both of them, there’s a garden paradise. There is a bridal couple. Of course, Adam and Eve in the garden of Eden. There’s the serpent story in both of them, and there’s the tree of life. Now, if we look more carefully we can see that what is said about these four elements is not the same. For example, in the first, in Eden, we have a couple, we have a garden paradise. When we come to the end of Revelation there is the River of Life, the Tree of Life and all of that that reminds us of Eden, but we have there a city. A garden city. That’s different.
Remember in Eden, Adam names Eve the mother of all living, because all of us, wherever we are in time and space in this world, descend from Adam and Eve. Isn’t that right? So, potentially she’s the mother of all living, but when we come to the end of Revelation, that potentiality has become actuality and we see all of the Godly from all the ages in a garden city. So, that’s different. And the differences are important, too, along with the similarities.
In the first garden, in Eden, we have a bridal couple. We have Adam and his bride, Eve. But in the last paradise, at the end of the Bible, that couple, we still have a bridal couple, but not it’s identified to us as Christ, who is the bridegroom, and the church, the community of faith. That is the bride. It’s the same in a sense of having a bride and a bridegroom, but it is different in that we are not looking at Adam and Eve anymore. Now we are looking at Jesus and the church.
We have a serpent story in the first garden. The serpent introduces sin and death into the story, and you all understand how he does that. By deceiving the women, and then by Adam ratifying that wicked choice of Eve. And so, all of human tragedy and the suffering and everything that we know that is evil in the world that unleashes a dynamic that is deadly and destructive. Sin and death are its consequences.
When we come to the last garden, however, the serpent has been cast out. The serpent has been defeated which is John’s way of telling us that there is nothing to disturb the everlasting happiness of the new bridegroom, Christ, and His bride. See, we’re seeing similarities, but we’re seeing differences.
The Tree of Life. The gift of immortality. There’s a Tree of Life in the Garden of Eden, but, because of our sin, we are forbidden of partaking the Tree of Life. Isn’t that right? So, the garden says we can’t have the Tree of Life. And we are exiled from the garden from the Eastern Gate, and cherubim angels are put there with fiery swords to bar our entry, lest we partake of the Tree of Life in the state of sin and death. God exiles us from the garden.
And so, right there, that’s anticipating. The story of redemption is how do we get back in to the garden? Can we get back in to the garden, because the goal from the very beginning of the Bible in chapter three is how do we partake of Tree of Life? That’s the tension. If we partake of the Tree of Life, then all things have been made right.
So, the Tree of Life is forbidden to us in the Garden of Eden, but when we come to the last garden it’s said very specifically, twice in Revelation, Jesus says, “to him who overcomes, I will (what?) give to eat of the fruit of the tree that is in the midst of the garden.” So, when we come to the end of the book we see that, once again, we have entrance and access to the Tree of Life. It’s the promise of everlasting life which is the Gospel itself. We’re not perishing anymore. Rather, we who believe now have everlasting life.
Now, if I compare the beginning and the ending, these two bookends of Scripture, you can see that they’re similar ideas, but all the ideas have been rounded out and completed when I come to the end. The whole tale has been told. There is large development. How is it that we now have a city when we only had a garden at the beginning? How is that we have Christ and the church? Where did that come from? A new Adam. Jesus is called a new Adam. So, how did Jesus take the place of Adam, and what does that teach us? And then the serpent, how did the serpent come to be defeated when he seems to be so triumphant in the first garden and the Tree of Life? How is it that we gained access once again to the Tree of Life? Weren’t those angels set there to prevent our taking of the Tree?
So, the differences, the story of the Bible is how do we get from this garden, with these images and this state, to the last garden. There is a large amount of Scripture, obviously, between the first three chapters and the last three chapters. Do you follow that? You see the logic of it?
So, we’ve identified the beginning and the ending. That’s the largest frame of Scripture, and that is raising certain questions that we should have in mind. When you approach any work of literature you would expect to see that kind of a story development. The beginning and the ending are very critical, and when you get to the end everything is worked out. But there is a crisis in the middle, too. We need to identify what is that crisis.
So, we want to know where is the middle of the Bible? What constitutes the middle? Where’s that change of direction? We saw that the dynamic coming out of Eden was pretty tragic. Where is that reversed?
Now, when we are in the garden story, I want you to listen with me to the story. I want to retell it. It should be familiar, I think, to most of you. Most of us will know, even if we’ve only be of faith a short while we know Genesis one to three. And there’s some remarkable things that indicate the large theme of Scripture that we’re given from the very beginning. God makes man, He says, in His own image. An image of God He made them. And how did He make them? Male and female. It takes both male and female to adequately reflect the image of God. So, He makes the male and the female, the sexual terms, that become, of course, Adam and Eve.
Now, what is it that we learn about that? What you want to notice anytime you read something is that when something happens that’s unexpected and something happens right away that very unexpected, and that is that with all the animals God makes the male with his female. He just brings them up out of the ground, we’re told. All the animals. The male and his companion. And God the blesses the animals and says what? Be fruitful and multiply throughout the earth. And we can understand the logic of that, because we understand that the animals are sexual beings. So, here is the animal with his mate, and we understand now how God can work out that process. But God doesn’t do that with man. In fact, God makes Adam alone, and we’re wondering, that’s unusual. Why would God do that? Why would you have the male and not have a female? What is the purpose and the logic of that? God’s going to command Adam be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth, but it’s very obvious from the very beginning that man can’t accomplish what God has commanded.
And so, you read through the Genesis narrative of creation, you’ve all read it. You know it says, “God spoke and it was good. God said something else and it was good.” Ten times God speaks and it’s good and then at the end it’s very good. All of the creation is made and it’s perfect, but one thing is not good. And that is, it is not good for the man to be alone.
Now, it’s not like God is just figuring that out, okay? There is a logic that’s prompting to think about it. This is a significant clue to the theme of the whole Bible. God makes Adam alone. In fact, when he says that it’s like Moses is pointing this out. This is the only defect. When this defect is cured, the creation will be perfect and very good. So, God says, “It’s not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper suitable for him.” And, I mean, it’s a magnificent verse, but after that verse you would expect to read what? About the creation of the women. Isn’t that right? That’s what you would expect to read, but you don’t.
And again, that arrests our attention. The text is drawing our attention to that. Why does God not make the women at that point? He says, “I’m going to make a women suitable for him, a bride suitable for him.” But he doesn’t do that. Instead He brings the animals to Adam. He brings them to Adam for Adam to name, and Adam names all of the animals. And I think that’s a taxonomic classification, frankly. I think that he’s looking at a very fine distinction. He’s learning about his God in doing that.
Go to the zoo. Look at the magnificent imagination of God who created all of these creatures. And so, Adam is given the joy of naming them all, but God brings them, just like He does to Noah later, He brings them in their pairs. The male and the female. The male and the female. And in doing that, Adam is learning what? That he is male and he has no companion. And so it’s very evident that God is teaching the man that he needs the woman. And Adam is learning of his loneliness. He’s learning of his incapacity to accomplish what God has designed him to do. To be fruitful and multiply. He can’t do it. And when God has created that heart in this bridegroom, that’s when He makes the women. Only when he prepares the heart of the man.
So, the Bible, right from the beginning, is teaching us, is instructing us what God will supply what needs we have. We become aware of them. God is a good God. He gives that which He’s created the desire in us for.
Now, listen to how God does that, because again this surprises you. You would think, having read this account, that we know that Adam was made of what? He was made of the dust of the ground. The clay of the earth. Isn’t that right? God fashioned his physical body out of the dust of the ground. So, you would expect that God would simply take some more of the dust of the ground, the clay of the earth, to make the woman. But He doesn’t. And there again that’s to attract our attention. Something significant is happening here. This is how God creates the bride.
Listen to me for a minute. Here is Adam in the full perfection of his manhood, in the full, capacious mind that he has, unclouded by sin. He’s filled with the vitality of life, and God brings upon Him a deep sleep, very unusual words, a sleep like a coma. So, this Adam, who is so full of life, is laid out on the ground in front of us. He looks like a dead man, and we’re startled by that. Imagine the scene. That will help you interpreting the Bible. Imagine that you’re the angels looking down at this scene and you think, “What is God doing? This one who is so filled with life now looks like he’s a corpse.”
Then, God does something even more startling. He pierces the side. He creates a deep and a bloody wound. What is He doing? Destroying this perfect creature that He’s made. What has Adam does to deserve this? Adam is innocent. And yet even in his innocence he’s being wounded, deeply wounded, and God takes out of the side of the man that substance with which you will create the bride. Then, God heals Adam of his wounding, and awakens him in a garden and this is God’s heart. Father God, His delight is to bring together the bride and the groom.
From the very beginning we see that. He is the Father of the groom, and He is the Father of the bride. He brings them together. That’s the joy of Father God. And Adam sees the wife, recognizes that she’s the one who makes him able to accomplish what God has commanded. “Be fruitful and multiply. Have dominion over the beasts.” She’s the one that will enable him to do that, and the first time he speaks is in poetry. It’s in song. It’s beautiful. It’s wonderful.
They’re in perfect harmony. They’re in a garden. It’s glorious. That’s the way that we learn, from the very beginning, that the love that Father God desires between the husband and the wife can only come from a very deep and profound wounding.
Now, what is that story telling us? Think about that. An innocent man, in all of his perfection, in the sleep of death, the side opened in a wounding, the wife for the bride extracted from the side, the side heals, and awakened in the garden to see his bride. Don’t you see that that story in Genesis 2 anticipates another story. It’s like the angels can see this happening, this is the pattern that God desires for this love story, but what happens He’s looking to His Son, who is destined to become a man. “Son, it’s not good for Adam to be alone. Son, it’s not good for you to rule alone. I will make a bride suitable for you.”
And how will He do that? John is the one that tells you. Doesn’t he? Christ comes as a new Adam. He’s perfect, full of life, but God brings upon Him, upon the cross, the sleep of death. And He knows when He bows His head in death, and gives His spirit up to the Father, He knows that His side too will be opened by a spear, and out will come the water and the blood. The blood for the bride’s purchase. The water for her purification. And He will be laid into the womb of Adam, the earth, and then Father God will heal His wounding and awaken Him in a garden. And he will bring to Him one who will represent the bride.
She’s not the Bride. She represents the bride. It’s Mary Magdalene. And Resurrection Morning here is the one chosen to represent the Bride. And He calls her woman. And He says, “Why are you weeping?” Here is God wiping away the tears. There is no reason for tears. He’s restored the garden. She mistakenly thinks He’s the gardener.
Well, the reality is He is the gardener. He’s returned the garden to us. He’s given us the promise of intimacy with the Father. All of that. That is gesturing toward the middle battle. So, now we can identify where is the middle battle.
Now, what are the sides of that battle? And how is that set up? The battle is anticipated for us after the Fall, when God speaks to serpent and announces the Gospel. It’s Genesis 3:15. It’s when God says to the serpent, “You will have the seed, and the woman will have the seed. And the destiny of this conflict of redemption that’s going to go all the way through the Bible is the enmity that God will put between these two seed. The result of that will be a battle where the serpent will sting the heal, but that heal will crush the head of the serpent.
That prophesy is what drives the whole of the Old Testament, and into the New Testament. That drives the story. That quarrel between the two seed. So, when we come to the time of Jesus, which we’ve already identified, the religious leaders will go out to John the Baptist, and John the Baptist will see them coming. And in the spirit of prophesy what does he say? “You brood of vipers. Who warned you to flee from the wrath to come?” Remember that? That’s not just some kind of oriental insult. In the spirit of prophesy what is he saying? “You are the seed of the serpent.” And they are the ones who will what? Attack the seed of the woman. The virgin-born Christ. That’s where the battle takes place.
Now, how is it that the Gospel writers describe that battle? I need you to follow with me in this, because the way that they battle in the middle is the cross work of Jesus, but also the open tomb. You’ve got to have both. You’ve got to have both of them in order to have your Gospel. You’ve got to have the cross of Jesus, but you’ve also got to have the resurrection message the open tomb.
So, what the Gospel writers are doing is showing us how Jesus reverses the fall. He undoes all of the fall between the cross and the open tomb. Now, how does He do that? Well, think with me for a minute, we’re back in Genesis 3, we’ve been cast out of the garden, we’re in the Eastern Gate, we’re cast out to the east. The cherubim angels are there to bar our way – right? – back to the Tree of Life. We have to make it back to the Tree of Life. We have the hope that God will send the seed of the woman who will somehow make it possible for us to go through those angels who bar our way. Somehow they must be passed.
Then, we must come to the Tree of Knowledge that we have partaken of, both from Adam and Eve, and in our own sin as we’ve ratified their wicked choice. We owe a debt at the Tree of Knowledge, and that debt is our death. And then, we want to partake of the Tree of Life. So, how is all of that going to happen? And the Gospel writers so characterize this battle that we can see how that is exactly what Christ is doing. Christ is the hero of the Scriptures.
So, how does that take place? Well, the way that Matthew portrays this, I’m going to begin with Matthew. Matthew, understanding, of course, that the body of Jesus is a temple, John teaches us that. He spoke of, “Destroy this Temple and in three days I will raise it up.” He spoke of the temple of His body. There are two temples in Jerusalem at this battle. There is the temple of Christ’s body that is being crucified on the cross, but there is also the temple of Herod.
Now, tabernacle and temple is a large set of images that go right through the Scriptures. The essence of that is that the Holy of Holies, and the tabernacle, and the temple. The Holy of Holies represents Eden. It represents the Garden of Eden. It’s cuboidal. It’s squared to the four points of the compass like Eden. That’s where God dwells. And there is a veil. The only opening is through the east. And there is a veil that guards that Holy of Holies. Do you understand? You can’t go back there. You will die. Only the high priest once a year under special circumstances can dare to go behind that veil. Because on that veil Moses commanded that the images of the cherubim angels be woven onto that veil. You see, they represent what? That we are outside of the garden. Don’t they? The images of the cherubim, the angels that bar our way are woven onto that veil.
When Christ’s body is torn in his crucifixion, the author of Hebrews says that His flesh was the veil. When His flesh is torn, God takes that veil in the temple and does what? Remember? He tears it in two from top to bottom. What is He doing? He is dismissing those angels, emblematically, that had barred our way back into the pleasant garden. He’s dismissing those angels from their duty. He is inviting us to come, like the author of Hebrews says, “When the veil of His flesh, Jesus, was torn, He opened up a new and living way for us.” That is, we can now go into the garden. We can approach the Tree of Life. That’s our goal. We want to approach the Tree of Life.
So, that first impediment, Matthew tells us, when that veil is torn the angels are dismissed. That goes all the way back to the very end of Genesis 3. That first impediment is taken away by the sacrifice of Jesus.
Now, the second thing, this is what Mark and Luke together do, is how Jesus reverses the work of Satan. They frame the cross and the open tomb between two suppers. There is the Last Supper, before Jesus suffers, and there is the Emmaus Supper. Remember? The road to Emmaus on the day of resurrection? Jesus goes to that supper with His disciples. So, Mark and Luke are putting the redemptive work of Jesus, the battle between two suppers.
Now, why suppers? Well, how did we fall? How is it that we fell? It was by eating. Isn’t that right? We partook of the Tree of Knowledge, which was elicit. And then, we were forbidden from eating the Tree of Life. And then, we were excluded. Everything has to do with eating. Eating the wrong tree and then not being permitted to eat the Tree of Eternal Life.
So, the two evangelists, Mark and Luke, have two suppers, and in order to understand what they’re doing by portraying those suppers, you have to recall how we fell. Eve, when she saw that the fruit was good for food, a delight to the eyes, desirable to make one wise, what does Moses tell you? She took of its fruit. She ate, and she gave to her husband with her and he ate. It seems so simple. Doesn’t it? But that is the great place of decision. That is disobedience against the good and omnipotent God.
She took of its fruit and ate and gave to her husband with her. And just those three verbs, all of the human sorrow and tragedy that comes is introduced with just these three little words. She took, and ate, and gave.
Now, what is the significance of that? Well, then we’re told, when Adam partakes of it as well, what? Their eyes are opened and they know their nakedness. They had been naked, but without shame. Now, they are aware of their nakedness shamefully. Distance comes. All the relationships are destroyed between God, between the man and the wife. Everything happens there. But that’s the way we fell. She took of its fruit and ate, and gave to her husband with her, and their eyes were opened and they knew they were naked.
Mark tells us about the Last Supper. The memorial supper before He suffers. Jesus, anticipating His death, says what? This is my body, which is broken for you. Listen to me. Take and eat. And He gives it to them. You see what He’s doing? Take. Eat. And give. He takes the verbs of our Fall, and makes them the verbs of our restoration.
He is undoing the work of the enemy. He is setting loose a counter dynamic of redemption to what Eve sets loose when she disobeys. By His obedient death He is enabling us to be restored. That’s before He suffers. The battle takes place. After the battle is done and He is resurrected He meets His Emmaus Disciples. He expounds the Old Testament to them. They don’t know. Their eyes are hindered. They don’t know who He is. They invite Him into supper. He goes into the supper and He blesses the bread. And when He breaks the bread they recognize Him. Do you follow me? Luke says, then their eyes were opened and they knew Him. See the difference?
Paul says that Jesus is the covering of our shame. So, the whole Fall has been undone in the way that that has been presented, the way that Mark and Luke present it.
Dr. Chip Bennett:
Can I jump in for just a second here?
Dr. Warren Gage:
Dr. Chip Bennett:
I hope that you all are seeing that there’s some connectedness here to the stories. What we’re trying to do here is to help you see that what starts off in the beginning is also finished in the end, and in the middle there’s all kinds of stuff going on. So, when you’re reading your Bible, you know, and you see the stories of David and Goliath, and you see that Goliath come out in scale armor, those words should mean something. You know what have scales. Serpents have scales.
And how does David kill Goliath? With a stone to his head. He crushes the head. As you’re reading the Bible you’re going to see these certain things go through, and they sort of pan all the way. So, you’re asking, “How do we read our Bible?” Understanding these themes are absolutely important to understanding the whole trajectory of Scripture.
Which leads to our second point which we want to talk about which is genre calibration. One of the most tried and true hermeneutical positions is that we need to understand the literature of Scripture that we are reading. You can’t read a narrative like you would poetry. You don’t read a Dr. Seuss like you read a science textbook, correct? Whereas, I would say that understanding the literary nature of Scripture needs to take place from book to book, there is also an overarching genre of Scripture.
So, we’ve laid out. You see these weddings. You see the end of the weddings. You see the eyes open. You see eyes open. All of this stuff is moving all throughout the Bible. These are the threads and themes, but there is a genre that any book you read in the Bible, the Bible has. I don’t know if you know what a skeleton key is. It sort of opens up stuff. It unlocks things for you and me. It tells you what to look for, this genre calibration. You start to go, “You know what, I know where this is going, because I know what I’m reading.” And so, understanding the themes and threads and the genre of Scripture is what will help us when we read our Bible.
Now, I would call the majority of Scripture, when we look at this from a genre standpoint, I would call it Gospel. The problem is that you and I, when we think of Gospel, unfortunately what we think of is an alter call. We think of somebody’s preached the Gospel. Somebody’s having an alter call. Somebody’s coming to accept Jesus. That’s what we think of when we think of Gospel. The term itself means “good news.” So, I would like for you to think of the Bible, the overarching genre, whatever you’re book you’re reading, is you’re reading something that is telling you good news. It may not look like good news right now, but it’s telling you about good news.
God is reconciling the world to Himself. He is restoring that which has been broken and damaged. He’s taking the wounded and He is healing them. Listen to some of the metaphors that are used in the Bible. Even if you’ve read it just a little bit you’ll know this is in there. Darkness will be followed by light. The barren will be made fruitful. The captives will be set free. Wrath will be propitiated by mercy. The curse will be changed into blessing. Infirmities will be made whole. Poverty will be turned into riches. The downcast will be what? Raised up. Judgement will yield to comfort. The exile will be returned. Bitter will be made sweet. Death will yield to life.
This whole genre runs throughout the entire Bible, and I think everyone of us gets this. We see it. We know it’s there, but since the term gospel has so many different nuances, I would like to suggest for a moment, bear with me, that we look at the Bible through a different lens of genre. And that genre, we’re going to call comedy.
And the reason I say that is because if you understand classical comedy you will understand what the writers of the Bible are doing. We unfortunately think of comedy as sitcoms. Something I laugh at. Ha ha. McCurdy’s Comedy Theatre. But classical comedy was one of the two most fundamental genres of stories. They encapsulate the whole human condition. We know this idea of gospel genre calibration when we see these masks. They encapsulate the whole of humanity. The sadness and the laughing. The hurt and the lifting up.
So let’s look at this for a little bit here, contrasting, sort of, how Adam and Christ are through this genre. In comedy, there is a trajectory to go from low to high, but in tragedy you go from high to low. So, let’s look at this, classical tragedy begins high and ends low. Its trajectory is what we call gravity. Gravitas. Adam begins high. He’s created in the image of God. But what does he do? He falls. It’s sudden and complete. He returns to the dust from which he came. Comedy on the other hand, though it begins low and ends high, and it ends with a happily ever after. It ends with levity. Levitas.
So, let’s look at Christ. He’s the last Adam. How’s He born? High of low? He’s born lowly, okay? He’s placed in a grave. Dead. But He’s raised from the grave, and He ascends into heaven. And when He’s seated on the throne He’s given dominion over all things, Paul says in 1 Corinthians 15:21-28. If you look at classical comedy in the middle of a comic narrative, guess what? There is a battle, and the battle is always won. In tragedy, the battle’s lost. Take Adam again. Adam’s battle was lost. The serpent deceives Eve. She partakes the fruit. Adam follows her in to sin. God intended for man to have dominion over the beasts, but instead the beast has dominion over the man. But in comedy the battle’s won.
So, let’s look at Jesus here as contrast. He defeats the serpent. He brings and end to sin and death. He raises from the grave, and then Paul taunts the serpent by saying, “O Death, where is your sting?” Where is your sting? Comedy ends, as a general rule, in a wedding supper. So, tragedy ends with social disintegration in the community in death of the protagonist. Adam.
Adam’s fall ends in a broken relationship with his wife and God. His story ultimately ends with his death and the death of all of his descendants. Because of Adam, death comes to all. But in contrast, Jesus, His resurrection brings in the community of God and man. His story ends with a wedding supper where sinners and outcasts are restored to the community. He ushers in the restoration of all things. He brings life to all.
And Jesus summarizes this in his walk to Emmaus that Warren was talking about in Luke 24:26. He summarizes it, moving from suffering to glory. Jesus claims, when He’s talking with these disciples in Luke 24, that He shows them out of Moses, the Law, the Prophets, Psalms, all of those books, He says everything from suffering to glory. And that is the trajectory of classical comedy. It’s the trajectory of Gospel.
So, listen to this. Just listen to this as we work through some of the books of the Bible. In Genesis we’re taught that Adam and Eve, having fallen under the judgement of death, will nevertheless become parents of all the living, and they’re given the promise that life will ultimately overcome death itself.
Exodus teaches us that we are brought from slavery to liberty. Leviticus teaches that the wrath of God will be propitiated by mercy. Numbers teaches us through the Balaam story that God will turn a curse into a blessing. Deuteronomy assures us that even though we may go into the wilderness, we will be brought out to a land flowing with milk and honey.
See, are you’re reading these books there is an overall genre. There’s the threads and themes that there’s a genre. Let’s look at the Prophets. The Prophets always talk about God’s judgement, but they don’t stop there. When they get done with God’s judgement, they offer comfort and hope. Isaiah says it this way. He says, “‘Comfort my people’, says your God. ‘Speak tenderly to Jerusalem, and cry to her that her warfare is ended and her iniquity is pardoned.’” Isaiah 40:1-2.
They offer reassurance to people going through trials. Jeremiah says, in Jeremiah 29:11, To those who are captive in Babylon he says, “I know the purposes I have for you. They’re plans for wholeness. They’re not plans for evil. To give a future and a hope.”
Isaiah tells us that the blind will see, the deaf will hear, the mute will sing for joy. And the lame will not only walk, but they leap for joy. He says the wilderness and the desert will be glad. The dry ground will blossom like the rose. Sorrow and sighing will flee away. Pilgrims from all of the Earth will come to Zion.
Ezekiel tells us that the scorched land will become pools of water. Dried bones will take on flesh, and be animated once again with spirit.
Jeremiah says that God will turn His peoples mourning into joy. The scattered will be gathered again to be restored to God with shouts of joy.
Hosea tells us that the torn will be healed and broken, and will be bound up.
Joel tells us that the judgement of God will pass. The hills will drip with sweet wine, and mountains will flow with milk.
Amos says a day is coming when justice will roll down like waters, and righteousness like and ever-flowing stream.
Micah says that swords will be hammered into plowshares, and spears into pruning hooks. Nation will not lift up sword against nation. Neither will they learn war anymore.
Zephaniah tells us that God will sing over His people as He restores their joy.
So, when you’re reading the Bible, when you’re looking at these books, when you’re seeing what you’re reading, you now have a great genre or filter to read. And I would call it ultimately Gospel, but seeing through the lens of comedy will help you to understand. So, when you’re reading the Bible and you’re bogged down in some of the stuff, when you’re trying to understand what’s going on in the Old Testament, if you will continue to read you will see these patterns that move through all of Scripture. God is taking you and me from suffering to glory. And as you see that overall genre, and you tie that in to these threads and themes as you start reading the Bible, it starts to make a little bit more sense.
Do you have anything you want to add on the comedic life, or living a life of comedy?
Dr. Warren Gage:
Paul says that there are three pure virtues: faith, hope, and love. We talk a lot, in Protestantism particularly, about faith. We’re justified by faith alone. Is that right? So, we focus on faith and the content of our faith, and all that. It’s given a lot of attention. We talk about love. Don’t we? I mean, love is the essence of the nature of God. It’s the example of Christ. God is love. We give due attention to love. But often what’s left out, I think, is hope. And understanding the trajectory of the Bible, the way the Bible is put together, I think that’s the message of great hope.
God has ordained that this life will have suffering, but He says, “After suffering will come glory.” And that glory that’s set before us enables us to persevere through the trials of this life. The Psalmist gives us the promise. He says, “Sorrow will come and will lodge for an evening, but joy comes in the morning.” Never does that happen more than on the morning of resurrection. Isn’t that right? From the very beginning we’re told that there’s darkness and then comes the light. We are given a hope of what God intends to do with us. The whole theme of this is that God is espousing us to Christ, our Bridegroom. The Lord Jesus has a bridegroom love for you. You’re the one that He dreamed of when He hung His head in death.
The author of Hebrews says, “For the joy that was set before Him.” He focused on the hope that was set before Him. He despised the shame of the cross. He was able to endure the cross because of hope. You’ve got to have hope to persevere through the sorrows and the trials of this life. Recognizing that God is good and He has ordained our suffering in order to draw our heart to Christ, our bridegroom, and to have us focused on it. Just like He prepared the heart of Adam for his bride, so He is preparing the hearts of the Bride for the Groom. I think that’s the way that God seems to have ordained all things, and suffering is a great part of the story. But we’re being given the tools to learn how to live with the expectancy of hope.
This message, the whole Bible, is like that. I tried to summarize it the best I can. I think the summary of this whole story of the Bible is something like this: The story of the Bible begins with the Fall in Eden, but ends in the Wedding of Christ and the Church. This cosmic struggle of the seed of the woman against the serpent on the cross is the turning point in the middle of the story. All of redemptive history, which began in the Garden of Eden, is resolved in the events that occur between the Garden of Gethsemane and the Garden of the tomb.
There’s two gardens, and all of our redemption is worked out between those two gardens with the tree in midst. That’s the tree of the Cross. It’s the tree of death where Christ knows the penalty of sin. But that tree bears fruit and that is the blood and the bread. That is the fruit of that tree, and the Cross, you see, for Jesus it’s the tree of knowledge where He knows the weight of our sin. But for us, that tree becomes the Tree of Life. And if anyone in faith partakes in sincerity in this fruit of that tree, that is the blood and the body of our precious Lord who was the sacrifice for us. If anyone in faith partakes of that, you have partaken, already, of the Tree of Life. And that dynamic principle is already at work in you.
The Bridegroom, God, has heroically overcome sin and death by crushing the serpent. And He ensures that one day He will receive His Bride in the garden city of the New Jerusalem. Where He will give Her the fruit of the Tree of Life.
The message of the Bible is there for one of hope and victory. That’s the Gospel. It’s hope and victory. The story of the Bible gives the assurance that the serpent will be defeated, and God’s purposes established so that Christ can be united with His Bride.
So, this is not just simply understanding how we approach the Bible in terms of literature, it’s giving us a philosophy of understanding how to live. And how to live in hope of all that God has given to us. And our Gospel of the love of the Bridegroom for you. That’s the story of the Bible.
Dr. Chip Bennett:
And that explains when you’re reading in the Bible and you see some of the things where they talk about suffering, they talk about going through stuff, you can understand why these writers, in the middle of prison, in the middle of being beaten and bloodied, at midnight can start singing. Because they understand what they have.
Paul says in Romans 15:4, “Whatever was written in former days was written for our instruction.”
I mean, I want you to think about that for a second. Everything that was written before, Paul tells the church at Rome that is was written for their instruction. Just focus on that for a minute. Everything that has happen happened so that you could be instructed. Those are incredible words that Paul has penned. “Whatever was written in former days was written for our instruction. So that by steadfastness and by encouragement by the Scriptures we might have hope.”
When you’re reading the Bible, you should constantly be reading the Bible and seeing the hope that these stories are talking about. One of the problems we have when we read our Bible, if we’re going to be honest, is we read it devotionally. And I don’t want to say that you can’t do that, but I want to say that when you’re reading the Bible devotionally, you’re not getting the full tilt of, maybe, a story. And when you don’t get the full tilt of the story, you’re likely to misinterpret the story.
If you don’t see, from the very beginning, that Luke Skywalker comes from Tatooine and ends up eventually overthrowing all of the powers of evil. If you only caught the middle of the story where he falls down after Vader has taken off his arm, and that’s all you saw, you would interpret that story differently.
Without understanding these themes and these threads, and understanding the nature of Scripture, we’re likely to misinterpret it, and we’re likely to bog down in minutia that we don’t need to bog down. The Christian Church is known for something. Listen to me, this is really important. We’re known for something. We’re known for being a fearful lot. We’re known for people that are fearful. We post is on our Facebook all the time. What’s going on in the world? How come things are so bad? I can’t believe that’s going on. Whatever. We should be the people of hope. We’re not to be the people of fear. And yet, in our reading of Scripture, we bog down in the negative parts without completing the story to the positive parts.
You read Joseph getting to sold to slavery and you miss out on the fact that he is raised to the right hand of Pharaoh. You’ve missed the story. If you only see Jesus getting beaten, but you don’t see the resurrection, you’ve missed the story. If you don’t see Jonah but in the whale, if you don’t see him getting spit out, you’ve missed the story. There’s so many things that you miss along the way if you don’t see the story.
And that’s why we feel in giving you two particular things tonight: Understanding the themes and the threads. There’s wedding. There’s heroes. There’s serpents. There’s all of these things that go through. But then there’s an overarching genre that says, “Hey, even though it may look bad, it’s going to be okay. Even though it may be tears at night, it’s going to be joy in the morning.” If you and I truly read the Bible for the way the Bible was written, we would be people of great hope, because we would know how the story ends.
We know that God never ever ever allows His people to finish off in suffering. Even the Book of Revelation teaches us that even though people who are dying at that time, physically, are whisked into the heavenlies, and are reigning with God. Suffering always gives way to glory.
Now, I’d like to leave you a couple of more tools, and if you are taking notes these are some things that will help you practically in your reading of the Bible. If you take notes, please write these down.
People speak and write in the conventions of their time.
This is a really important understanding here. When people wrote Scripture, they wrote in the time that they wrote. And this is important here. If a passage means something to you that is could not have meant to the original audience, you probably have a bad interpretation. I.E. If you’re finding apache helicopters in the Book of Revelation, you probably are wrong. They would not have understood at that time. So, don’t somehow think that you have corner lot knowledge on something. It could not have meant that to them. There’s no way that it could mean that. And here’s the deal, and this is tough for us because we struggle with this, the Bible was not written to you and me. It was written for you and me, not to you and me.
So, we have to understand that there were conventions, there were statements, there were idioms, there were things that when we read the Bible we’re going to have to spend some time understanding. The Bible also, and this is the second point that I would make, it employs high communication. This is important for us to understand. It was written to specific people at specific times that understood the terms. We sometimes don’t.
I’ve said this before in this church and I’ll say it again. If I were to say, “Hey, the Cowboys are headed north to play on the frozen tundra against the Cheeseheads,” many of you all would go, “I understand that.” Some of you would go, “I have no idea what you’re talking about.” But if I said, “Hey, I’m talking about the Dallas Cowboys in the NFL Football league going up to Green Bay to play the Green Bay Packers, who are called the Cheeseheads,” now all of a sudden you go, “I get it.”
The Bible doesn’t go into explaining that detail. It is written to people at a time in high communication, and for us to truly get it, some of these things that we’re reading, we’re going to have to spend some time understanding what’s being said. We sort of recoil at that because we just want to open up the Bible and have it speak to us, and unfortunately we may be reading it wrong and out of context, and out of historical settings just because we’re treating it like a magic book.
Thirdly, the Bible has, in my opinion, some very self-directed interpretive clues on how to read it. The Bible says certain things to you and me that tell us how to read it. Paul says in 1 Corinthians 15:3-4, “I delivered to you as of first importance…” – when I hear first importance, I go, “That’s importance. First importance.” That sounds like that’s pretty important, right? So, I’m delivering to you as of first importance. Not third. Not eighth. First Importance. Get this. Focus in. Pay attention. The way I would say it is Paul is saying, “Lean in.” Okay? – “…Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures.” That means the Bible, because he’s talking about the Old Testament here in 1 Corinthians 15. He’s telling you that the Old Testament tells you that Christ is going to die for your sins.
When you read the Old Testament do you find Christ dying for your sins? If you don’t, you might not be employing a good biblical hermeneutic. I fight all the time with some of my other professor friends who have a historical, grammatical hermeneutic. There’s nothing wrong with that. I appreciate that. But the Bible has some interpretive clues. Paul says, “First importance. Jesus died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures.” In other words, “Something in the Scriptures said He was going to die for our sins.”
He also says that He was buried and raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures. That’s incredible. “Third day” stuff in Scripture. And it’s interesting, if you go back into the concordance and look up “third day” you’ll find there’s a lot of “third day” references in the Old Testament. And when you start reading those “third day” references in the Old Testament, you’ll find God does crazy things on the third day. Like, He starts delivering people and doing stuff, and you start going, “Whoa, there might be a pattern here. There might be something going on.” Third day of creation. What happens? Life happens for the first time.
So, is that just coincidence? Is it coincidence that when Abraham takes his son up on the mountain that’s going eventually be where the temple’s at. Is it just happenstance that it says that on the third day Abraham took his one and only son? It’s what it says. Did that just happen? Third day. One and only son. What’s he say then? It says he laid the wood on him as he carried the wood up the hill. Anybody else carry wood up a hill for you and me? He says, “Daddy, where’s the lamb?” He says, “Don’t worry. God will provide it.” And as his son is bound, and as he gets ready to take his sons life, his one and only son, all of a sudden in a thicket bush, you’d be expecting if you’re reading the story right, there should be a lamb. But there’s not. There’s a ram.
Is it telling us that there’s a lamb yet to come? Is it bespeaking of something more? Paul says, “First importance.” The Bible says Jesus is going to die for your sins and is going to raise on the third day, and that’s in the Old Testament. When Paul went into the synagogues what did he preach to them? He preached Jesus to them. If you can’t find Jesus in the Old Testament, your hermeneutics wrong.
And you go, “Well He’s in Isaiah 53. I know He’s there. That’s where He’s at.” He’s all through the passages. I mean, Warren gave you a great example of the puncturing of Adam and the taking out of Adam’s side. All of these things form stuff in the Bible that really teach us. Daniel, when he’s lowered in to the lion’s den, there is a rock that is put over the tomb, and the king seals it with his sign. Anybody else go into a tomb, and have a rock rolled over, and sealing on the rock? You know when Daniel was lifted up, right? On the third day. Wow. Come on, man. Rock’s rolled away. Third day. That’s crazy stuff, right? Maybe it’s not crazy stuff. Maybe there’s a lot of stuff going on.
Jonathan tells David on third day, “I’m going to shoot arrows, and if I shoot the far or shoot them short you’ll know the cue. On the third day you’ll be delivered.” On the third they find the waters of Marah, and God turns it into sweet waters. On the third day. And how does He do it? With a tree. Any other tree turn your waters that were bitter into sweet? Maybe there’s more going on here. Maybe we need to spend time looking at this.
Jesus Himself says in John 5:39, “You searched the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life. And it is they that bear witness of me.”
The Pharisees are reading the Old Testament and Jesus says, “What you’re reading there speaks of me.” If we’re not reading the Bible understanding that the Bible has themes and threads that run through. If we’re not reading the Bible understanding the overall genre of what Scripture is. If we’re not understanding that the Bible employs certain ways of communication to people at a specific time. If we’re not understanding some of the interpretive clues that the Bible is giving us about what the Bible is really about.
A lot of people us the Bible to beat people over the head with doctrine. You ever met some of those people? The Bible’s not for that. The Bible is to show us about someone who came to redeem you and me, and to forgive us of our sins, and to bring us in to be His Church, and to be His Bride. And I would submit that we might be reading the Bible wrong, not because we’re bad people or because we’re trying to read it wrong, but we might just not be reading it right. And I hope that, as we’ve talked about here, you can see that.
Warren wants to close out with something here. It’s a picture of the Last Supper, and I love when Warren talks about this. I think this’ll minister to your heart. Pay attention here to the screen and let Warren talk about this a little bit.
Dr. Warren Gage:
What we’re trying to say is that there’s a focus. Jesus gives us the focus. He says it all speaks about Him. Isn’t that right? That was John 5:39. He says Moses and all the prophets, later the Psalms, they’re all speaking about Him. The suffering and glory of Christ. So, there’s a central focus.
This is a very famous picture, I’m sure all of you have seen it many times, by Leonardo da Vinci. It’s the way he imagined the Last Supper. I was staring at this many many years ago, looking at this picture, and noticed something about it. And that is, if you look at the line from the tapestries they describe a trajectory. Do you see how that works? The line goes to Jesus. Do you see the beams in the ceiling? You see how they all trace to a center. The floor, the way that this is all set up, all the lines in this picture focus on the center. That’s Jesus.
It’s just beautiful. It’s his way of saying. Even the posture of the disciples. The dramatic moment here da Vinci is capturing is when Jesus says, “One of you will betray me.” They’re all shocked, and they’re falling back, and they’re startled. “Is it me, Lord.” You can see, who is He talking about? “Is it me, Lord?” They’re all startled at that announcement, but every eye, even, is looking to the center. So, it’s the artist’s way of bringing everything. It’s a composition. There is one organizing mind, that’s da Vinci, that conceived of this scene and what it would have looked like. And he has so composed it that everything brings your eye to the very center, which is Jesus.
And I think that that’s the largest argument, I think, we can make for inspiration. The Bible is just like that. Every piece of it, every story, is telling you the Gospel. Everything, you see Christ, His fingerprints all over. Not just the Bible, you see it all over creation once you understand how the Bible interprets creation. So, it all comes together in Him. And that’s your joy. He is your eternal companion. He is your eternal bridegroom. It’s His love that saved us. His love created us and His love saved us. We’re doubly bound to Him. And that’s the joy that’s set before you. That gives you hope in your own time of suffering.
Dr. Chip Bennett:
So, hopefully, you know, this evening, and I want to, before we close us here, say a couple of things. Warren has been working on a story of the Bible, and honestly, if we were being candidly honest, we’ve probably gave you about two pages out of a 90-page work that’s ongoing. If there would be some interest in a Saturday session, we’d be willing to do that. We would need to take more time. I hope you can understand in an hour and fifteen minutes, and hour and a half, it is just very very difficult to be able.
For us to start trying to pull passages out and run through passages with you would be tough. I mean, a hermeneutics class usually goes at a minimum of eight weeks and there’s at least five to six hours of lecture each week that goes along with that. So, it’s a lot more in depth. If you have some interest in that we would like to know. And you can let us know that at the end here, because we’re going to hang out for a while.
But I hope that you walk out of here going, “You know what? I can open up my Bible and, even if I’m struggling through some of it I can start to see some themes and some threads that I’ll find if I just keep reading. I’ll also be able to look at each book and realize that if I’m reading that seems negative at that particular moment, it’s probably going to give way to something positive, because that’s the way that God works. And I would instruct you, as you read your Bible, to adopt that lifestyle in your life.
What a testimony we would have if we lived a life of the Gospel. If people would see in you and me a major difference in our lives, in the way we lived, the way we acted, the way we talked about other people, and all of those good things. And what I want to do here is I want to just read you something that Peter wrote to his church in closing.
He says, “Put in your hearts. Well, do not fear what they fear. Do not be intimidated, but in your hearts sanctify Christ as Lord. And always be ready to make your defense to anyone who demands from you an accounting for the hope that is in you.”
He says people are going to be fearing things, and you should not be fearing the same things they’re fearing. And when they see you and they see the hope that’s in you, you need to be able to explain to them why you have the hope that you have. And if there’s anything we can learn from reading the Bible is that at the end of the book, no matter how bad it was, at the end of the book God’s people win. And no matter all of the stuff in between here. And no matter all of the stuff that may be difficult to understand. there’s still plenty of stuff I don’t understand at all when I read the Scriptures. I mean, I read the book of Ezekiel and I have no idea what’s going on. I just want to stand on my head. I have no idea sometimes
So, embracing that is okay. It’s not who knows everything so perfectly. It’s understanding the trajectory. So, I hope that we said something. I know that was our prayer, that we would say something that would benefit you tonight as you pursue your reading of the Bible. Warren and I are going to stay after. We will answer any questions that you may have at all. We’re going to stay up here as long as you want. So, please feel free to come up. We’ll talk to you. We’ll be as personal as we need to be with you.
And then the last thing I’d like to do is, very quickly, if tonight meant anything at all, if you got anything out of this, please understand, we’re going to take up an offering. And the way the offering is going to work is, what we take up we’re going to give to Warren for coming up from Fort Lauderdale to bless him. To bless his ministry. If you enjoy Warren and you want to bless him, you can go to the Alexandrian forum online. You could give to that group.
Warren is doing a lot of great things in Fort Lauderdale and other places, teaching this stuff. And I think it’s a worthy cause, because I know Warren’s heart and I know who he is. He’s a very very good man. So, if you’ve enjoyed tonight, this is not going to Grace Community Church. This is going to Warren. We will give the offering to Warren. If you would give to that I would really appreciate it, because we want him to be blessed for coming up.
And then, as soon as we take up the offering, if the ushers want to go ahead and start. You can pass it now. I will say a prayer over it. We will dismiss everybody. You’re welcome to take off at that point, and then we’re going to stay up here and we’ll field as many questions as you possibly want. Just come us. Talk to us, and we’ll stay here at least until nine o’clock or something. I don’t know. I’ll stay later. Warren may need to get home.
So, let’s pray.
Dear Heavenly Father,
I pray that You’d take this offering and bless it, Lord, and increase it. Multiply it. Lord, I pray that as we take of this offering and give it to Warren and his ministry, I just play that he will be so richly blessed. Lord, he’s a good man. He loves You with all of his heart. It’s so evident that he appreciates your word. And I just pray, God, that as a church we could bless him as he goes back to Fort Lauderdale. Lord, I pray that as we also leave here tonight that You would take everybody safely. And I pray that You’d bring us all back. If we go to Grace for church services this weekend, if we go to other churches, God, I pray that You would bless them as well. God, bless all the churches in this area. Lord, we love You and thank You for it in Jesus name, and everybody said, “Amen.”