Christ in All the Scriptures (Acts 8:34)

“Christ is Announced by the Prophets”

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“So the eunuch answered Philip and said, ‘I ask you, of whom does the prophet say this, of himself or of some other man?’” (Acts 8:34 NKJV)

During the time of the Apostles, this important official of the Ethiopian government had made the long journey from Africa to come Jerusalem to worship God. As he rode in his chariot on the trip back home he was reading a prophecy about the crucifixion of Christ from the book of Isaiah in the Scriptures (found in chapter 53). Seven centuries before, Isaiah had prophesied about the death and resurrection of Christ, and the significance of those events for our salvation. Some of these prophecies had recently been fulfilled around the time of the official’s visit to Jerusalem. But he had not understood the text he was reading, and the Holy Spirit sent Philip the Evangelist to intercept the official so he could explain the Scriptures to him. The official asks Philip this key question: “of whom does the prophet say this, of himself or of some other man?” The answer is that Isaiah the prophet was not speaking of himself, but of Christ. Philip proceeds to teach the official all about Christ, beginning with this prophecy.

This story illustrates an important principle for understanding the Scriptures. Christ is the central person referred to in these writings. He is the main character not only of the prophecies of the Old Testament but of the Scriptures as a whole, and of all of its parts. In Genesis 1:1, the Creator of the universe is Christ (according to John 1:1-5). The last two verses of the Scriptures, Revelation 22:20 and 21, contain Christ’s own promise to return, and an appeal by the author of Revelation that Christ would indeed fulfill His promise to return. The Scriptures conclude with a blessing for the readers in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ. From beginning to end, the Scriptures speak of Christ. We should not be surprised then to discover that the story of Adam and Eve ends up teaching us about Christ, the New Adam, also known as the Last Adam. Or that some of David’s words in the Psalms turn out to refer, not principally to David as it might appear on the surface, but to a descendant of his, Christ Himself (Acts 2:29-31). Or that the Old Testament covenant of Moses, since the time it was instituted, already looked forward to a New Covenant (Deut 30:6) to be established by the coming Redeemer King who would give His people God’s Spirit as the means by which God’s promises to His people would be fulfilled. Or that Joseph, betrayed by his brothers but raised up by God to save his family from death, can teach us a lot about Christ and the Gospel, as was probably the intention of the author of the story of Joseph. The story of Philip and the Ethiopian official reminds us to keep our eyes open for Christ as we read the passages of the Scriptures.

Of course a word of caution is in order. The expectation that we might find Christ in almost any passage of Scripture does not give us license for flights of fancy. Not just any far-fetched interpretation will do. We must remain firmly grounded in the text. On the other hand, this expectation does lead us to search broadly across the Scriptures, reading each passage in its fullest context, in light of the Scriptures’ inherent structural and thematic unity. We certainly will need to use our imaginations as we study this rich body of divinely inspired literature. We will need to dig deeply into each passage, taking into consideration the whole story of the Scriptures, and learn to trace its seemingly limitless literary themes, to make sure we have not missed what is most important: Christ and His Gospel.

Christ in the New Testament (Acts 4:12)

“Christ Is the Promised Name that Saves Us”

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Nor is there salvation in any other, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.” (Acts 4:12 NKJV)

Christ had recently been crucified, and reports were circulating widely that He had risen from the dead and had returned to heaven, where He had come from. The Apostle Peter had been an eye witness of these events, and was now explaining what they meant for people of his time, and what they mean for all of us today. Peter, along with the Apostle John, had just healed a lame man. The religious leaders were demanding an explanation of how this had happened. Peter explains that the lame man has been made well, that is, “saved” (Acts 4:9), because Christ was operating from heaven through Peter and John. In fact, this man who had been lame since birth was now able to walk and leap and praise God. My reading of the text is that Peter intentionally uses “saved” as a play on words to associate the physical healing of the lame man with the spiritual salvation by which Christ “heals” us. The miracle of the lame man illustrates for us the practical significance of Jesus’ death and resurrection. Each of us, apart from Christ is spiritually lame since birth. Spiritually, we can do nothing more than drag ourselves around in the dust and beg for charity. We are completely helpless to find God’s presence or to restore ourselves to Him. Peter explains in this verse that the good news of the Gospel of Christ is that because Jesus died and rose again, we are saved, made healthy, made whole. This is the healing miracle Christ performs in us.

The New Testament Scriptures teach us that if we are to be saved at all, it “must” be through Christ. This “Name” which God the Father has given us to save us is actually a person, a certain very special Person, our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. The man Jesus, who is the divine Son of God, and who lived, died, and rose again, has become our Savior. He saves us from sin and death and every other kind of evil. He lifts us up on our feet, spiritually, to walk with Him. The Old Testament Scriptures had recorded all of God the Father’s promises to humanity to bless us in every way possible, and to give us the kind of life He has always intended to give us. Most importantly, His blessing is that we are to be with Him forever. This is in fact what heaven is, being with God forever. With the resurrection of Christ, it became perfectly clear that God has given us His own Son as the means to fulfill of all of His promises to us. God had always promised to redeem His people at the proper time. Now Peter explains that all the Father’s redemptive promises are fulfilled in Christ, through His death and resurrection. This is the consistent witness of the Apostles in the New Testament writings. Christ is the fulfillment of everything. The Father’s gift to us turns out to be Himself, in the Person of His own Son through His Spirit, bringing us forgiveness of sin and reconciliation with Himself. Now we truly will be with God forever. Forever with the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit in His eternal kingdom established in the New Creation, in the new heavens and the new earth.

The Bible is Christ’s book. He wrote it. It’s all about Him and what He means to us. My own identity and significance are related precisely to who He is and what He has done for me. We are His sheep that He has saved by giving His own life on the cross. We belong to a community of people grazing safely and contentedly in His pastures. The Scriptures are the story of our redemption in Christ, from beginning to end, from Genesis to Revelation. Every passage of Scripture contributes to this grandest of epic stories, the true history of humanity. The Scriptures from beginning to end call us to follow Christ as His disciples. The message of the Scriptures as a whole and in all of their parts is the Gospel. The Scriptures, rightly interpreted, are the Gospel and the Gospel is the Scriptures. Every time we see Christ in the Scriptures and hear the Gospel in them, they invite us to know Him ever more deeply. Every page, every passage, every verse, properly understood, points us to Him. The Old Testament continually prepares my heart for Christ’s coming to me, so He can sink in ever deeper into my heart. Through the New Testament, Christ continually comes to my heart, as I wait for Him to come again to me when He returns from heaven. Every single passage of the Scriptures has the potential to be a sacred place for me to be with Christ through His Spirit in the most intimate of relationships humanly possible. Eternal life is not just about living forever. It is about knowing Christ forever, being with Him forever, starting today and continuing every day. The Scriptures give us a taste of Paradise, a taste of heaven on earth. My Lord with His beloved. Me with my Beloved.

Christ in the Old Testament (Luke 24:44-45)

“Christ is the Key that Unlocks the Scriptures.”

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“Then He said to them, ‘These are the words which I spoke to you while I was still with you, that all things must be fulfilled which were written in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms concerning Me.’ And He opened their understanding, that they might comprehend the Scriptures.” (Luke 24:44-45 NKJV)

After His death and resurrection, Christ appeared to His disciples. He spoke with them at length before returning to heaven. In the Gospel of Luke, after making it clear to His disciples that it really was Him come back to life again, His top priority was to make them understand that everything that had just happened was foretold in the Scriptures (referring in particular to the Old Testament, also known as the Hebrew Scriptures). Christ boldly announces that all three major divisions of the Old Testament speak of His death and resurrection: the Law (or Pentateuch, the five books of Moses), the Prophets (which are divided into the Former Prophets and the Latter Prophets), and the Psalms (or Writings, which include the book of Psalms and the rest of the books of the Old Testament). The text goes on to say that Christ opened the disciples’ minds so they could understand the Scriptures. This claim comes as quite a surprise, given that the disciples surely thought they already understood the Scriptures just fine. In fact, the entire Old Testament is about Christ, His death and resurrection. This truth was overwhelming, life changing, for these disciples of Christ, whose lives had been intertwined with the Scriptures since birth. Yet, according to Christ, it turns out they had never truly understood them! This truth may also seem hard to accept at first for some of us who have some knowledge of the content of the Old Testament. But if we are to take these words seriously, we have not really begun to understand the Scriptures, until we realize that they are speaking about Him, from beginning to end, from Genesis to Revelation. The primary purpose of the Old Testament is to teach us the meaning of the cross of Christ. As we go ever deeper in our understanding of the significance of the cross we come to know Christ Himself better. As I have gone back and studied the Old Testament with this in mind (as did those first disciples, also called the Apostles), I have become convinced that we have not adequately understood any passage of the Old Testament, unless we see what it is telling us about Christ and the Gospel. All the stories of the great heroes and villains of the Bible, the laws and sacrifices, the Psalms, all the prophecies and poetic passages, the Major and Minor Prophets, the wisdom literature, and even the genealogies, all point to Christ and the redemption He brings us.

Christ is the Key that Unlocks the Scriptures.

The Old Testament looks forward to the coming of Christ. The books of the Old Testament present Him as God’s solution, quite literally, to everything that is wrong with the world: suffering, injustice, war, death, sin, evil, Satan and his demons, disease, accidents, natural disasters, alienation, despair, all of my own problems and failings, and most importantly, my being at odds with God Himself. (In fact, sin can be understood as being at odds with God.) After centuries of God’s people waiting for Christ to come in keeping with God’s ancient promises given in the Scriptures, the Four Gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke and John) record that Christ finally arrived. Christ laid the foundation for restoring the entire universe – including even me – by living a perfect life, dying on the cross, and coming to life again after three days. The Old Testament Scriptures consume a great deal of ink describing Christ and explaining how His life and death are the foundation for fixing everything, especially by providing eternal life for us. First and foremost, because of Christ, we are reconciled with God through faith, and saved from sin and death. With Christ, our lives are rebuilt, even as we continue to live in this broken world. Finally, the Scriptures explain that Christ will return to complete the restoration He began at His first coming. Life now is about building on the foundation that He laid, even as we wait for the consummation of all things. Eternal life means that Christ is with me now, and that later I will be with Him forever in His new perfect world. Hope is not having a positive attitude or wishful thinking, but knowing for certain that Christ has done these things, and will do these things until the end, just as the Scriptures tell me. Faith means that I am tuned in to what God is doing with me and with the world.

Christ in the Scriptures (John 5:39)

“Christ Is Eternal Life.”

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“You search the Scriptures, for in them you think you have eternal life; and these are they which testify of Me.” (John 5:39 NKJV)

Those particular individuals Jesus spoke with that day, the same ones who wanted to kill Him for claiming to be equal with God the Father, got one thing right. They were correct to believe that eternal life is to be found in the Scriptures (the Bible). The problem is that they themselves had not actually found eternal life there (or anywhere, for that matter). Why not? Because they had rejected the Person the Scriptures point to. In rejecting Jesus, they wound up rejecting the Scriptures as well. These very religious people had unknowingly rejected the very Scriptures they thought they knew so well, and thought they loved so much, and thought they so meticulously obeyed. They failed to grasp that the Scriptures, from beginning to end, speak of Christ, the very same person who was speaking to them, Jesus, the Son of God. In fact, the reason the Scriptures exist, their primary purpose, is to present Christ to us. Christ is claiming that He Himself brings us eternal life, through the Scriptures. They allow us to know Him, since we can’t see or hear Him directly with our physical senses. We may not be able to see Him here and now with our eyes or touch Him with our hands, but the Scriptures make it possible for us to be with Him, actually in His presence. Through these encounters with Him, Christ gives us eternal life.

Christ’s words to those particular individuals so long ago could not be more relevant to us, living now. What He said to them that day, He says to all of us, to anyone who will listen: that to understand and believe the Scriptures is to have faith in Him. It goes the other way as well. To have faith in Christ is to understand and believe the Scriptures. This is so, because there is a profound connection between Christ, who is the Word of God in the form of a Person, and the Scriptures, which are the written “word of God”. How are we to understand this connection between the “Word” and the “word”? How do the Scriptures allow us to actually be with Christ? The answer is, the Holy Spirit. The Gospel of John doesn’t say it exactly in those words, but I believe it’s one of the foundational messages it tries to communicate to us about the Son of God and His Spirit. The Holy Spirit uses the Scriptures to teach us about Christ. As we read about Christ in the pages of the Scriptures, the Spirit of Christ reveals Christ to us, personally and relationally. He brings us into Christ’s presence, spiritually, that is, Holy “Spiritually”. He makes it possible for me, in reality, to be with Christ, here and now, wherever and whenever.

Through the hearing, reading and preaching of Christ in the Scriptures, the Holy Spirit does things in my heart. He touches my soul, my inner self, and introduces me to the Son. Not just once, but many times. Potentially, every day. And the Son introduces me to His Father, God the Father. The Son of the Living God takes up the cross, giving His own life for us, to bring us forgiveness of sin and reconciliation with the Father. Then the Son takes up His life again, to give us eternal life. This is the teaching of the Scriptures. This is the Gospel. The immediate purpose of the Scriptures is to let me know Christ, person to person, face to face, and be saved by that encounter, and continue to be saved by those encounters. So that He and I can be together, and so that I can come to know Him more deeply, because He already knows me completely. The Scriptures have been Divinely inspired so that I can welcome Christ into my life as my Lord and my God, to love Him and worship Him as the Son of God who gave Himself on the cross to save me from sin and death. This is what it means to experience eternal life. Eternal life is to know relationally, the Father through the Son in the Spirit. Eternal life is to know Christ now, and to be with Him forever.

Christ Is Eternal Life.