The Place of the Bible in the Life of the Christian
The purpose of this section is to trace through the Old and New Testaments the idea of the place of the Bible (i.e., verbal revelation now preserved for us in Scripture) in the lives of the people of God. We will see that as God’s revelation it was intended to shape all aspects of their existence.
1B. The Example of God’s People in the Old Testament
1C. Their Founding Was according to God’s Word
1D. Genesis 12:1-3
The LORD had said to Abram, “Leave your country, your people and your father’s household and go to the land I will show you.
2 “I will make you into a great nation and I will bless you;
I will make your name great, and you will be a blessing.
3 I will bless those who bless you, and whoever curses you I will curse; and all peoples on earth will be blessed through you.”
The first eleven chapters of Genesis record the creation and fall of man (1-3), his subsequent wickedness and judgment in the flood (6-9) and his universal rebellion as evidenced at the Tower of Babel (10-11:9). It is instructive that the narrative describing Abraham’s call is placed immediately after the dispersion of the nations in 11:1-10. Such positioning of the text highlights the amazing grace of God, that though we do not seek him, he seeks us. He reached down in the midst of judgment and plucked out an idolatrous man (cf. Joshua 24:3, 15). He called Abraham to his side and gave him “great and precious” promises—promises concerning the entire globe, the founding of the Israelite nation from which the Messiah was to come (Gen 49:10), and all of human history.1 By his word, just as we saw in Genesis 1-2, God brought new realities into existence and shaped not only Abraham’s life, but also the course of human history.
The point I wish to make is that God saw fit to speak redemptively into our darkness, lest we be lost forever. Just as we needed his word before the Fall (Gen 1:28-30; 2:15-16, 3:8), so also we are in desperate need of his word after the Fall. The revelation given to Abraham was recorded for our benefit and instruction (Rom 15:4; 2 Tim 3:16-17). It became central in the hope of OT saints and was regarded as the word of God to nurture the souls of hundreds of later generations of Israelites (Deut 1:8; 34:4; 1 Chron 16:16; .Psalm 105:9; Matt 1:1, 17; 3:9). It was the basis for messianic hope in Israel (e.g. Luke 1:46-56) and the mission of the early Jewish church to the Gentiles (Acts 1:8; 3:25). It is designed to shape our faith and life as well.
2C. Their Identity and Mission Was Understood from God’s Word
1D. Exodus 19: 5-6
19:5 Now if you obey me fully and keep my covenant, then out of all nations you will be my treasured possession. Although the whole earth is mine, 19:6 you will be for me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.’ These are the words you are to speak to the Israelites.”
2D. Leviticus 26:11-12
11 I will put my dwelling place among you, and I will not abhor you. 12 I will walk among you and be your God, and you will be my people.
3D. Isaiah 49:6 (Isaiah 11:10)
“It is too small a thing for you to be my servant to restore the tribes of Jacob and bring back those of Israel I have kept. I will also make you a light for the Gentiles, that you may bring my salvation to the ends of the earth.”2
Not only did God’s word of promise give birth to the nation of Israel—that is, the nation owes its existence to the gracious promise of God—it also shaped and molded the nation’s identity and mission. God not only called them by his word, he shaped and molded them by his word as well. As Exodus 19:5 says, they were to regard their new identity, corporately, as God’s treasured possession. This speaks to their privilege and joy, especially since the whole earth is the Lord’s. Leviticus 26:11-12 speaks to their privilege as well; they were a nation in which God dwelt in a special way: He walked among them and they were to regard themselves as his people.3 They were no longer Hebrew slaves crushed under the weight of Egyptian dominance and servitude, but were free now and could hold their heads up high under Yahweh their redeemer (Lev 26:13). Thus their self consciousness and corporate identity—who they were and how they thought about themselves—was to be shaped by God’s word to that end.
But along with God’s “word of privilege” indicating their phenomenal place in God’s plan to save the world, comes also his word of responsibility. The Israelites, as those who knew God, were to be a kingdom of priests4 and a holy nation. The former speaks to their ministry to a world largely ignorant of God and his ways, and the latter speaks to their imitation of his pure and good character. They were to act like he acted, obeying his commandments which he spoke to Moses and the prophets (Lev 26; Deut 28-30).5 They were chosen for certain reasons, and by God’s word they came to understand their new identity and the mission to which they had been called.
3C. Their Material and Spiritual Blessing Was Understood from God’s Word
The origin of the nation is to be found in the word of God. They came to understand their identity and mission through the word of God. They also came to understand their relationship with God through his word which explained blessing for obedience and cursing for disobedience.
1D. Deuteronomy 32:44-47
44 Moses came with Joshua son of Nun and spoke all the words of this song in the hearing of the people. 45 When Moses finished reciting all these words to all Israel, 46 he said to them, “Take to heart all the words I have solemnly declared to you this day, so that you may command your children to obey carefully all the words of this law. 47 They are not just idle words for you—they are your life. By them you will live long in the land you are crossing the Jordan to possess.”
2D. Joshua 1:8
8 Do not let this Book of the Law depart from your mouth; meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do everything written in it. Then you will be prosperous and successful.
3D. Isaiah 66:2b
This is the one I esteem: he who is humble and contrite in spirit, and trembles at my word.
Israel was given the task of walking in obedience to Yahweh, worshipping him properly, witnessing to the nations, and taking possession of the promised land, but she was only able to fulfill this high calling able when present and future generations knew and obeyed the word of God given through Moses (cf. Exod 4:12-16). The word of God, when understood and obeyed by faith, led to Israel’s victory in the promised land. When disobeyed, as in the case of the commands concerning Sabbath rest and the prohibition against idols, she was exiled to Assyria and Babylon. In short, and we ought to take this to heart, Moses said that God’s promise of blessings for obedience and curses for disobedience was not an “idle word” for Israel; it was her life. Isaiah said that God takes note, as it were, of the one who is humble in heart and trembles at his word! We are responsible to obey his word, which presupposes we’re reading and meditating on it, and God is responsible for blessing. Israel’s day to day life was regulated by her obedience to God’s revealed word. So must ours.
4C. Their Destiny Was Understood from God’s Word
1D. Genesis 12:3
12:3 I will bless those who bless you, and whoever curses you I will curse; and all peoples on earth will be blessed through you.”
2D. Isaiah 2; 11; Micah 4; Matt 8:11
The Genesis 12 text shows the scope of Israel’s destiny in that it includes blessing to the entire world. The passages from Isaiah, Micah, and Matthew show that Israel could expect a time of universal blessing unprecedented in world history (through her messiah). The point is that if she had never spent the time in God’s revealed word she would not have been able to understand all that He had for her.
2B. The Example of Jesus Christ
Jesus Christ is the quintessential example in the Bible of a man who patterned his whole life and teaching on Scripture. While he did not worship the Bible as such, he recognized God’s voice in Moses’ words and in those of the Prophets and he rightly gave heed to what was written. Thus he taught others as well. Let’s have a look.
1C. In His Life in General
1D. Matthew and his “Fulfillment Formula”
The virgin birth (1:22; Isaiah 7:14), Jesus’ call out of Egypt (2:15; Hosea 11:1), Herod’s attempt to kill Jesus (2:17; Jer 31:15), Jesus’ return to Nazareth (2:23; prophets) and the subsequent move to Capernaum (4:14; Isa 9:1-2), his ministry of healing (8:17; Isa 53:4), ministry to the Gentiles (12:17; Isa 42:1-4), teaching in parables (13:35; Psalm 78:2), triumphal entry (21:4; Zech 9:9), betrayal leading to crucifixion (26:56; prophets), and the issue of thirty pieces of silver (27:9; cf. Zech 12:11-12; Jer 18:1-4; 19:1-3) are all portrayed by Matthew as fulfillments of OT prophecy. As such Jesus’ whole life is anticipated in the OT according to God’s revealed word.
2D. Jesus as “The Son of Man”
1E. Daniel 7:13-14
7:13 “I kept watching in the night visions, and there was coming with the clouds of heaven one like a Son of Man. He came up to the Ancient of Days and was presented before Him. 7:14 He was given dominion, glory and a kingdom so that all the peoples, nations, and languages might serve him. His dominion is an everlasting dominion that will not pass away and his kingdom will never be destroyed.
2E. Mark 8:31; 9:31; 10:33
8:31 Then he began to teach them that it was necessary for the Son of Man to suffer greatly, and to be rejected by the elders, the chief priests, and the scribes, and to be killed, and after three days to rise.
3E. Matthew 24:30
And then the sign of the Son of Man will appear in heaven and all the tribes of the earth will mourn. And they will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of heaven with power and great glory.
Jesus came to be known by many titles (cf. John 1), but the particular one that he chose as a self designation was “the Son of Man.” It was used only by Jesus of himself and never by anyone else in the early church (as recorded in Acts and the epistles) to refer to him (cf. Acts 7:56). The designation comes from Daniel 7:13-14 and enjoyed limited use among Jews in Jesus’ day (cf. 1 Enoch; 4 Ezra). This accounts for why he chose it over “Christos” (Messiah) which carried many different ideas, some of which were overtly political. Jesus was able to pour into this title both the suffering servant motif of Isaiah (Isa 53) and the regal idea of Daniel 7:13-14. In this way he could capture both his present advent (Mark 8:31) as well as his second advent under one reference (Matt 24:30).6 The point is, for our purposes, he looked to Scripture to understand his identity and mission.
2C. In His Ministry
1D. Christ’s View of Scripture7
1E. John 10:34-35
10:34 Jesus answered them, “Is it not written in your Law, ‘I have said you are gods’? 10:35 If he called them ‘gods,’ to whom the word of God came—and the Scripture cannot be broken—
The point Jesus is making through Psalm 82:6 is that if God referred to other mortals or angels as “gods,”8 why, if the Scripture is incapable of being turned back or annulled, are the Jews accusing him of blasphemy when he refers to himself specially as God’s son. After all he had been set apart by God, sent into the world, and bears a special filial relationship to the Father. The point for our purposes here is to recognize and appreciate Jesus’ high view of Scripture’s trustworthiness. For him, it could not be “broken.”
2D. The Goal of His Ministry
1E. Matthew 5:17-20
5:17 Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets. I have not come to abolish, but to fulfill. 5:18 For truly I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not one jot or one tittle will pass away from the law, until everything comes to pass. 5:19 Therefore, if someone breaks one of the least of these commandments and teaches others to do the same, he will be called least in the kingdom of heaven. But whoever practices [them] and teaches others likewise will be called great in the kingdom of heaven. 5:20 For I tell you that unless your righteousness exceeds that of the Scribes and Pharisees you will in no way enter the kingdom of heaven.
There are many interesting questions surrounding the interpretation of this passage as it relates to the book of Matthew, the ministry of Jesus as a whole, and the relationship of the Old and New Testaments. We cannot entertain those questions here, but perhaps the best way to regard these verses is as follows: (1) v. 17 refers to Jesus’ teachings and deeds which fulfill the law and the prophets where “law and prophets” are to be understood in their forward looking essence. That is, Jesus fulfilled them as the Messiah to whom they pointed. The entire passage is colored by the use of “fulfill” which has significant eschatological and kingdom associations in Matthew9; (2) v. 18 presents other problems. It seems to heighten, by way of hyperbole, Jesus’ comments in v. 17 and to indicate for Matthew that the Law as interpreted and fulfilled by Jesus will remain in effect, in some sense, throughout the entire age; (3) v. 19 refers to the commandments of the OT law and prophets as interpreted and applied by Jesus, and (4) v. 20 refers to the perfect demands of the law as set forth, for example, in 5:21-48.
For our purposes, we note Jesus’ incredibly high view of Scripture in these passages. He regards his entire ministry as inextricably connected to God’s word in the OT and to its fulfillment. In this sense, he is consistent with other OT saints who held God’s word in the highest regard.
3D. The Defense of His Ministry
1E. John 5:37-40
5:37 And the Father who sent me has himself testified concerning me. You have never heard his voice nor seen his form, 5:38 nor does his word dwell in you, for you do not believe the one he sent. 5:39 You diligently study the Scriptures because you think that by them you possess eternal life. These are the Scriptures that testify about me, 5:40 yet you refuse to come to me to have life.
John 5:31-47 reads much like a trial scene from the OT, such as we might have in Isaiah 43:8-13. Jesus offers several lines of evidence in defense of his claims. These include: (1) the witness of the Father (vv. 32, 37) who verifies the following witnesses: (2) John the Baptist (vv. 33-35); (3) the works of Jesus which the Father has given him to complete (v. 36); (4) the Scriptures (vv. 37-40), and Moses himself (vv. 45-47). Again, Jesus is here saying that his life and ministry are testified to by Scripture and that Scripture points to him and those that read it properly come to him for life. For Jesus, Scripture read with a view to knowing him, is essential to the Christian life.
4D. The Foundation of His Spiritual and Ethical Teaching: The OT Shema
1E. Mark 12:29-31
12:29 “The most important one,” answered Jesus, “is this: ‘Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is one. 12:30 Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ 12:31 The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no commandment greater than these.”
The foundation of Jesus’ ethical teaching comes from the OT scriptures, as rightly understood and explained by him. In response to the question from the teacher of the law, Jesus gave him two commandments and not just one. These commandments come from Deuteronomy 6:4-5 and Leviticus 19:18. They are known, along with Numbers 15:37-41 as the Shema in Hebrew liturgy. Shema is the Hebrew imperative meaning “listen” or “hear” and thus the name is taken from the first word in Deuteronomy 6:4. Again, Jesus understands our life to be guided by these OT texts.
3C. In His Temptation and Spiritual Warfare
1D. Matthew 4:1-11
4:1 Then Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. 4:2 He fasted forty days and forty nights, and afterwards he was famished. 4:3 The tempter came and said to him, “If you are the Son of God, command these stones to become loaves of bread.” 4:4 But he answered, “It is written, ‘Man does not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.’ ” 4:5 Then the devil took him to the holy city and placed him on the pinnacle of the temple, 4:6 saying to him, “If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down; for it is written, ‘He will command his angels concerning you,’ and ‘On their hands they will bear you up, so that you will not dash your foot against a stone.’ ” 4:7 Jesus said to him, “Again it is written, ‘Do not put the Lord your God to the test.’ ” 4:8 Again, the devil took him to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their splendor; 4:9 and he said to him, “All these I will give you, if you will fall down and worship me.” 4:10 Jesus said to him, “Away with you, Satan! for it is written, ‘Worship the Lord your God, and serve only him.’ ” 4:11 Then the devil left him, and suddenly angels came and waited on him.
Jesus experience of fasting and temptation parallels that of Israel in her wilderness wanderings (cf. Deuteronomy 8). But whereas she failed in her test, Jesus succeeded. The first temptation to command stones to become bread (4:4) is a temptation for Jesus to use his sonship in a way outside the purview of his God-ordained mission. As such he quotes Deuteronomy 8:3 saying that man does not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God. In the second temptation (4:6), Satan quotes Psalm 91:11-12 (a promise of God’s care) and misapplies it, turning it into an occasion to put God to the test. Again, Jesus responds by properly citing Deuteronomy 6:16: “you shall not put the Lord your God to the test.” The third and final temptation involves Satan urging Jesus to usurp his role as Davidic messiah apart from his role as suffering-servant—the very portrait of him a few verses earlier in 3:17. He was to bow down and worship Satan and Satan for his part promised him all the kingdoms of the world. Again, Jesus cites Scripture. This time, Deuteronomy 6:13: “Worship the Lord your God and serve him only.” The kingdoms of the world were not to be an idol for Jesus, the new Davidic messiah. He would be given them in due time, when he had fulfilled God’s mission of suffering. Jesus, then, gives us a model in many respects of the importance of knowing and believing God’s word so that we too, as those connected to Christ, might take captive every thought to the obedience of Christ and enjoy a measure of victory in our fight against the forces of darkness (cf. 2 Cor 10: 5; Eph 6:17).
4C. In His Death, Resurrection, and the Preaching of the Gospel
1D. Luke 24:44-46
24:44 Then he said to them, “These are my words that I spoke to you while I was still with you—that everything written about me in the law of Moses, the prophets, and the psalms must be fulfilled.” 24:45 Then he opened their minds to understand the scriptures, 24:46and he said to them, “Thus it is written, that the Messiah is to suffer and to rise from the dead on the third day, 24:47 and that repentance and forgiveness of sins is to be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem.
In these verses Jesus states that his suffering and resurrection, and the preaching of the gospel to all nations, is outlined in the OT. And since it is God’s word in the Old Testament, and not just man’s thoughts about God, it “must” be fulfilled.
5C. His Future Return, Judgment, and Reign
1D. Matthew 24:30; 25:31-32
24:30 Then the sign of the Son of Man will appear in heaven, and then all the tribes of the earth will mourn, and they will see ‘the Son of Man coming on the clouds of heaven’ with power and great glory…25:31 “When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit on the throne of his glory. 25:32 All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats, etc.
The passage is based on Daniel 7:13-14 and thus Jesus understood his return, prerogative in judgment, and kingly reign in light of Daniel’s prophecy regarding “one like a Son of Man.” Again, we find him using Scripture to define both his career and the way in which we as his followers are to think about him.
3B. The Example of the Early Church in Acts
1C. Their Founding and Identity
1D. Acts 2:17-21
2:17 ‘In the last days it will be, God declares, that I will pour out my Spirit upon all flesh, and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, and your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams. 2:18 Even upon my slaves, both men and women, in those days I will pour out my Spirit; and they shall prophesy. 2:19 And I will show portents in the heaven above and signs on the earth below, blood, and fire, and smoky mist. 2:20 The sun shall be turned to darkness and the moon to blood, before the coming of the Lord’s great and glorious day. 2:21 Then everyone who calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved.’
Peter’s citation of Joel 2:28-32 demonstrates that he understood the origin and identity of the church according to an OT text. For him, it was a community formed by the coming and variegated working of the promised gift of the Holy Spirit. It involved a marvelous distribution of the gift of prophecy, not just to certain spokespeople within the newly constituted people of God, but indeed to men and women, slave and free alike. All will enjoy this gift, Peter says, and many will receive visions and dreams as well. This new work of God was, in Peter’s mind, to be associated with the day of the Lord and evidenced a time when anyone who called on the name of the Lord would be saved.
2C. Their Fellowship and Blessing (Acts 2:42; 17:11)
1D. Acts 2:42
They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayers.
The early church maintained an unswerving commitment to the teaching of the apostles, and naturally so, for these men had been with Jesus and had since Pentecost given evidence of the powerful working of the Spirit. Their fellowship with one another was characterized by a focus on apostolic teaching. It defined for them who they were. Undoubtedly the “apostles’ teaching” included traditions about the origin, ministry, death, resurrection and exaltation of Jesus of Nazareth, as well as what this meant for salvation and living to please God. We too must devote ourselves to the teaching of the apostles, now set down for us in Scripture.
3C. Their Mission
1D. Acts 3:25
3:25 You are the descendants of the prophets and of the covenant that God gave to your ancestors, saying to Abraham, ‘And in your descendants all the families of the earth shall be blessed.’
Peter, as representative of the early church, understood their mission in keeping with Genesis 12:3; 22:18, and 26:4 and the covenant God instituted with Abraham. While I don’t think Peter at this time really grasped the significance of the universal offer of the gospel (see Acts 10-11), he nonetheless took his cue about the church’s mission from these prominent OT texts. See also his use of Deuteronomy 18:15, 18-19 in Acts 3:22.
4C. Their Destiny
1D. Acts 3:20-22
3:19 Repent therefore, and turn to God so that your sins may be wiped out, 3:20 so that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord, and that he may send the Messiah appointed for you, that is, Jesus, 3:21 who must remain in heaven until the time of the restoration of all things which God announced long ago through his holy prophets.
The return of Christ, the destiny of the church, and the consummation of all things is referred to here corporately as the restoration of all things. The language of “restoration” is reminiscent of the prophets and the eschatological salvation of Israel (see Acts 1:6; Jer 15:19; 16:15; 24:6; 50:19; Ezek 16:55; Hos 11:11). In order to paint a picture of the future, Peter draws on scripture, which he refers to here as from God’s holy prophets.
5C. The Example of the Bereans
1D. Acts 17:11
Now the Jews of Berea were of more noble character than those in Thessalonica, for they welcomed the message with great eagerness and examined the scriptures every day to see whether these things were so.
The Jews in Berea are placed in a highly favorable light by Luke. They are an example of noble-mindedness for they listened to Paul and welcomed his message with great eagerness, but then they went and checked it against OT scriptures. If we are to be noble-minded per se and follow their example we would do well to test everything by the Word of God.
4B. The Example of the Apostles and Their Churches
1C. The Apostles’ Authority
1D. 1 Cor 14:37-38/2 Peter 3:16/Ephesians 2:20
14:37 Anyone who claims to be a prophet, or to have spiritual powers, must acknowledge that what I am writing to you is a command of the Lord. 14:38 Anyone who does not recognize this is not to be recognized.
Paul, in his rather contentious ministry with the Corinthians, had more than one occasion to remind them of the authority which God had given him and to which they were to submit. If they denied Paul’s authoritative teaching, they too would be denied. If we deny his teaching, we too may be denied by the Lord himself.10 On the contrary, those who claim to be spiritually gifted, as the apostles says, will recognize his [Paul’s] God-given authority; he was God’s spokesperson to the Corinthians (2 Cor 5:20), a recipient of new revelation (cf. Eph 3:5), and God’s spokesperson to us as well. His teachings are now rightly regarded by the church as the very word of God.
2C. Their Emphasis on the Word of God
1D. Romans 15:4
For whatever was written in past time was written for our instruction so that through the perseverance and encouragement of scripture we might have hope.
2D. 1 Thessalonians 2:13
And we also thank God continually because, when you received the word of God, which you heard from us, you accepted it not as the word of men, but as it actually is, the word of God, which is at work in you who believe.
3D. 2 Tim 3:14-17
3:14 But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have become convinced of, because you know those from whom you learned it, 3:15 and how from infancy you have known the holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. 3:16 All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, 3:17 so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work (cf. Acts 20:32).
4D. James 1:21-25
1:21 Therefore rid yourselves of all moral filth and the evil that is so prevalent, and accept the word planted in you which has the power to save your souls. 1:22 But be doers of the word, and not merely hearers who deceive themselves. 1:23 For if any are hearers of the word and not doers, they are like those who look at themselves in a mirror; 1:24 for they look at themselves and, on going away, immediately forget what they were like. 1:25 But those who look into the perfect law, the law of liberty, and persevere, being not hearers who forget but doers who act—they will be blessed in their doing.
5D. 1 Peter 2:1-3
2:1 Therefore, rid yourselves of all malice and all deceit, hypocrisy, envy, and slander of every kind. 2:2 Like newborn babies, crave pure spiritual milk, so that by it you may grow up in your salvation, 2:3 now that you have tasted that the Lord is good.
There are numerous other texts that we could have chosen here. These, however, are sufficient to show that the Scripture is designed to give us power, perseverance, and hope (Rom 15:4). God’s truth works in us who believe and enables us to imitate godly character under persecution (1 Thess 2:13). Also, God’s word is able to save us, train us in righteousness, and prepare us for the entirety of our service to God. In other words, the word of God is that which sanctifies us, just like it did Israel, and equips us for service (2 Tim 3:14-17). James also says that it saves our souls and must be obeyed lest we fall into spiritual darkness and deception. But if obeyed it leads to blessing (James 1:21-25). Finally, though Peter’s statement is somewhat metaphorical and enigmatic, he seems to be saying that God’s message communicates to us the very life of God. This, of course, seemed to be what Jesus himself thought (John 6:63; 17:17).
5B. The Examples of the Martyrs in Revelation
1C. Revelation 1:2, 9; 6:9, 20:4
When he opened the fifth seal, I saw under the altar the souls of those who had been slaughtered for the word of God and for the testimony they had given (6:9). The reader is encouraged to look up the other verses listed here to see the pattern John was painting for his readers.
2C. Rev 3:8, 10
“I know your works. Look, I have set before you an open door, which no one is able to shut. I know that you have but little power, and yet you have kept my word and have not denied my name.
The basic point in all these verses is that Christians can expect opposition to the keeping of God’s word, i.e., holding to a Biblical gospel and a lifestyle that is pleasing to Him. In many cases this opposition will culminate in death, as John makes clear. On the other hand, the Lord commended the church in Philadelphia for keeping the Word of God, that is, holding tightly to the gospel and not denying Christ.
6B. Summary of Biblical Teaching
What can we say about the place of the Word of God in the life of the Christian from this brief survey? Several things: It explains our salvation and how we became Christians. It orients us to our identity in Christ and the mission God has for us. It lays out the blessings God has planned for us and communicates to us our latter end. It provides power, endurance, and hope in the Christian life and fits us for service in the kingdom.
All this can be summarized under four important words: First, we can say that the Word of God is authoritative in matters of faith and practice. These are God’s words to us to show us how to live in fellowship with him and please him in our lives. To fail to recognize this leads to judgment. Second, we can say that the Word of God is sufficient for our sanctification and service to the Lord (2 Tim 3:14-17). Third, we can say that the Word of God is necessary for our salvation, sanctification, and glorification. It is necessary for all that we think and do and without it we are left to wander in darkness (Psalm 119:105). Fourth, we can say that while there are some difficulties in interpretation, the Word of God as it communicates God’s saving acts in Christ and our need for repentance and faith is clear. Our response, then, to the idea of authority, sufficiency, necessity, and clarity, ought to be to read, study, meditate, and pray through God’s word. Our ultimate goal is to know him through his word and obey what he commands, though we can expect opposition from the world, the flesh, and the Devil in this regard.
1 The theme of God’s grace is evident in the choosing, calling, and saving of Abraham. Indeed, sovereign (and free) mercy, grace, and blessing is a major theme in Genesis as evidenced, for example, in God’s provision of a sacrificial substitute for man (Gen 3:21) and the saving of Noah and his family. There are many similarities between the call of Noah and Abraham’s call—similarities which highlight the grace of God and the preeminence of his Word in their lives. In both cases God’s call came in the midst of judgment and involved God speaking to these men (8:15; 12:1) and calling them out of their situation (8:16; 12:1). In response both worship by building arks (8:20; 12:7) and the blessing comes through the spoken word, now recorded for us (9:1, 9; 12:1-3).
2 This passage can be taken collectively to refer to the nation as a whole or singularly to refer to the Servant-Messiah. Both are in some sense in view. In terms of the ministry of light to the Gentiles, that too was Israel’s responsibility—a responsibility which only Jesus, as a Jew, fulfilled in its fullest sense (Luke 2:32) and which Paul recognizes and picks up on as his own mandate (Acts 13:46-47). Whoever has the knowledge of God is supposed to share it, not hide it (Matt 5:14-16).
3 The “walking” imagery picks up the idea of relationship seen in the patriarchal narratives. Enoch, Noah and Abraham all walked with God (Gen 5:22; 6:9; 17:1). Here, however, it is said that the Lord walks among his people. One can only think of the exalted Christ walking among the lampstands or his churches in Revelation 2-3.
4 The precise interpretation of “kingdom of priests” is fraught with difficulty since this is the only place in the OT where the expression occurs (see 1 Peter 2:9). It does not appear to mean the same thing as “treasured possession,” however, which speaks to God’s estimate of the nation’s worth to him. Further, it does not seem to mean the same thing as “holy nation” which speaks to Israel’s moral and religious distinctiveness in contrast to the nations around her (vis a vis her relationship with Yahweh). “Kingdom of priests” seems to speak of her special place of service and witness to the nations around her. Thus, as a nation in special relationship to the Yahweh and, therefore, holy, she could function as a vehicle through which God communicated his purity and grace to the peoples everywhere. She had the royal function of representing God before other peoples and was to be a blessing to the ends of the earth as envisioned in the Abrahamic covenant (Gen 12:1-3). Note: The regal and priestly functions of the king coalesce in Psalm 110:1-4 as well (cf. 2 Sam 6:13-14).
5 Leviticus 26 can be outlined as (1) blessings (26:3-13); (2) “seven-times-over” curses (26:14-39), and the hope of restoration (26:40-45). The blessings include rain, good land and growing conditions, peace, material and spiritual prosperity, peace, and God’s covenanted presence among them. The curses include poor crops, plagues, defeat in battle, wild animals, war, pestilence, famine, and ultimately exile.
6 For a brief discussion of the designation “son of man,” consult, I. H. Marshall, “Son of Man,” in Dictionary of Jesus and the Gospels, ed. Joel B. Green, Scot McKnight, and I. Howard Marshall (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity, 1996), 775-81.
7 For an extended discussion of Christ’s high view of Scripture, see John W. Wenham, “Christ’s View of Scripture,” in Inerrancy, ed. Norman L. Geisler (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1980), 1-36.
8 The precise identification of the “gods” is difficult to nail down with certainty. But whether it refers to Israel’s judges, angels, the people of Israel at the giving of the Law, or whatever, is to some degree not pertinent to our discussion. As we indicate above, our point is to show Jesus’ high view of Scripture.
9 See our discussion under IA. 2B. 1C.. 1D
10 In 14:38 Paul probably meant that those who ignored his authority would themselves be ignored by Paul, members in the Corinthian church, other churches, and even the Lord.