Is there unity in the Bible?
July 27, 2019 (Transcript)
In recent months, there’s been movement towards downplaying the usefulness of reading the Old Testament. Some teachers seem to be parroting the early church heretic, Marcion, who argued the god of the Old Testament was different from the New Testament god. Marcion strove to eject the Old Testament from Christian living and practice by undermining the unity of the Bible. Other teachers today have gone on record to argue something akin to “we only need Jesus.” We only need Jesus and his sermon on the mount for Christian life and practice. Today’s debate over human sexuality—same-sex behavior & transgenderism—has led many professing Christians to drive a wedge between the Old Testament and New Testament. So, is the Bible unified from Genesis to Revelation? I believe the clear answer of Scripture is a resounding “yes,” so I want to spend a couple of minutes briefly unpacking why the Bible is unified and how it’s unified.
The church has always held that Scripture, read on its own terms and in its own categories, affirms its unity from beginning to end. On the road to Emmaus after his resurrection in Luke 24, Jesus rebukes 2 disciples for their unbelief saying, “‘O foolish ones, and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken! Was it not necessary that the Christ should suffer these things and enter into his glory?’ And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he interpreted to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning himself.” Jesus affirms what the rest of the NT teaches—all of the Old Testament, from Genesis to Malachi, points to and finds its fulfillment in Jesus Christ. How can this idea be true with such a diversity of human authors across hundreds of years and dozens of books in the Bible? Scripture teaches that every Bible passage has two authors: the human author and the divine author. 2 Timothy 3:15–17 & 2 Peter 1:19–21, along with a host of other passages, teach that God, by the Spirit, breathed out His Word by inspiring and carrying along the human authors to write exactly that which God intended without violating their freedom or personality. The New Testament authors cite a wide variety of Old Testament texts to argue that Christ has fulfilled them because, while there are many human authors across the biblical canon, there’s one divine author, God, who’s writing a unified story from Genesis to Revelation. So, the unity of the Bible is ultimately grounded in an orthodox doctrine of God. God is consistent and doesn’t change.
When Christians approach difficult biblical texts or ones that seem to contradict other passages, the answer isn’t simply to throw our hands up and say, “well, there’s an error here or the Old Testament is really offensive, so we’ll just stick with Jesus and the New Testament.” If you assume there’s no unity in the Bible, then you’ll assume there’s a contradiction. This reflects a low view of God and the consistency He brings as the one divine author inspiring all of it. Rather, we must first recognize that we’re sinners and our minds have been distorted by sin so that we don’t always see or think rightly—postmodern philosophy has confirmed that biblical truth. Since the problem is with us and not the text, we must understand and interpret the Bible as one unified canon with one consistent redemptive story and one divine author. So, it shouldn’t surprise us that the Bible opens with a perfect garden in Genesis and closes with a perfect garden in Revelation. They’re book-ends. God is showing us how He’s taking us from the old creation to the new creation. Everything between those bookends is telling us how God is accomplishing that in Christ. We see sin and death in Genesis 3 work themselves out throughout the rest of the Bible story. More importantly, we see the promise of God to save His people and undo sin and death begin in Genesis 3:15. It moves along the storyline through Abraham and his offspring, Israel, and get picked up with King David and his future offspring. And then this promise ultimately finds its fulfillment in the Son of God, Jesus Christ. So when you read the genealogies of Jesus in Matthew and Luke, those family lines aren’t placed there accidentally. God is showing you that He has kept His promises to His people from the beginning of Scripture all the way to the end. When we see the unity of Scripture rightly, we see the beauty and glory of our promise-keeping God, who will never leave us nor forsake us.