The Living and the Written Word
Christ and the Bible – the Living Word and the written word – are sometimes placed in opposition to one another. The Living Word is (rightly) magnified, but (wrongly) at the expense of the proper honour that is due to the written word. In fact, the very high view that we should have of the inspiration and authority of the Holy Scriptures is inculcated by Christ himself.
John Stott reminds us that we should not think of Christ, the living Word, and Scripture, the written word, apart, for they witness to one another:-
Our Christian conviction is that the Bible has both authority and relevance—to a degree quite extraordinary in so ancient a book—and that the secret of both is in Jesus Christ. Indeed, we should never think of Christ and the Bible apart. ‘The Scriptures…bear witness to me,’ he said, (Jn 5:39) and in so saying also bore his witness to them. This reciprocal testimony between the living Word and the written Word is the clue to our Christian understanding of the Bible. For his testimony to it assures us of its authority, and its testimony to him of its relevance. The authority and the relevance are his.
Stott, Authentic Christianity, p 104.
Similarly, Donald Macleod refers to John 10:35 (Christ’s assertion that “Scripture cannot be broken”), and comments:-
We evangelicals are often accused of what’s called ‘bibliolatry’, that is, the worship of a book. ‘Ah, you worship the book, this dead book,’ they say. ‘You have a paper Pope. You are bibliolaters.’ Well, I say, It’s not bibliolatry. It’s Christolatry! It’s the worship of Christ. Christ has said this Book is infallible. He has attested it as the unbreakable Word of God, and it is because of His testimony, given through the apostles and given in His own words before us here, that I personally believe in the full, final, infallible authority of scripture. I cannot see how one can be loyal to Christ and yet defy him on something as fundamental as His view of the status of the Bible.
A Faith to Live By
Christ in all the Scriptures
J.I. Packer quotes the Puritan Isaac Ambrose:-
Keep still Jesus Christ in your eye, in the perusal of the Scriptures, as the end, scope and substance thereof: what are the whole Scriptures, but as it were the spiritual swaddling clothes of the holy child Jesus?
1. Christ is the truth and substance of all the types and shadows.
2. Christ is the substance and matter of the Covenant of Grace, and all administrations thereof; under the Old Testament Christ is veiled, under the New Covenant revealed.
3. Christ is the centre and meeting place of all the promises for in him the promises of God are yea and Amen.
4. Christ is the thing signified, sealed and exhibited in the Sacraments of the Old and New Testament.
5. Scripture genealogies are to discover to us the times and seasons of Christ.
7. Scripture-laws are our schoolmasters to bring us to Christ, the moral by correcting, the ceremonial by directing.
8. Scripture-gospel is Christ’s light, whereby we are drawn into sweet union and communion with him; yea it is the very power of God unto salvation unto all them that believe in Christ Jesus; and therefore think of Christ as the very substance, marrow, soul and scope of the whole Scriptures.
Among God’s Giants, 135f.
Christ and the Old Testament
More specifically, Christ:-
1. confirmed the doctrines of the OT. When tempted by the devil, for example, his response was an emphatic, ‘It is written’(on 18 different occasions), and, ‘It is also written,’ Mt 4:4-11.
2. fulfilled the predictions of the OT, Mk 1:15, ‘The time has come’; Jn 5:39, ‘The Scriptures … testify about me’; Lk 24:25 ff, ‘”How foolish you are, and how slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken! Did not the Christ have to suffer these things and then enter into his glory?” And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he explained to them what was said in all the Scriptures concerning himself.’
3. set his seal on the ethical demands of the OT, Mt 5:17ff.
None of this can be dismissed as mere ‘accommodation’:-
Critics often say that when Christ defended the Old Testament, he was simply accommodating himself to prevailing religious opinion. But such a hypothesis offends the most patent evidence in the Gospels. Whenever religious tradition was inharmonious with the claims of the Old Testament, Christ defended the Old Testament … Christ neither denies the existence of spirits in order to conciliate the Sadducees; nor does he instruct the woman of Samaria in doctrines which opposed before the Jews … In a word, we find Christ quoting Moses and the prophets to friend and to foe; in the desert and in the Temple; at the commencement of his ministry and at its close; in exposition by acts, and exposition by doctrine combining, on all occasions, the Old Testament with the new revelation as being conveyed by the same Spirit.
(E.J. Carnell, The Case For Orthodox Theology, 38, quoting William Lee)
Strange, isn’t it, that those OT scriptures which sometimes offend us never seemed to have offended our Lord:-
I find it most interesting and not a little odd that although the Old Testament on occasion offends our Christian feelings, it did not apparently offend Christ’s “Christian feelings!” Could it really be that we are ethically and religiously more sensitive that he? Or is it perhaps that we do not view the Old Testament – and its God – as he did? The very fact that the Old Testament was normative Scripture to Jesus, from which he understood both his God and (however we interpret his self-consciousness) himself, means that it must in some way be normative Scripture for us too – unless we wish to understand Jesus in some other way than he himself did and the New Testament did.
(John Bright, Q in L. Morris, I Believe in Revelation, 57)
R.T. France finds sixty-four certain or virtually certain quotations of the Old Testament or allusions to it in the words attributed to Jesus in the Synoptic Gospels. (Q in Morris, I Believe in Revelation, 59)
And even a scholar as radical as Rudolph Bultmann was honest enough to acknowledge that:-
Jesus agreed always with the scribes of his time in accepting without question the authority of the [OT] Law … Jesus did not attack the Law but assumed its authority and interpreted it.
(Jesus and the Word, 61)