This sponsored post was prepared by Dennis Johnson.
You may have heard passionate advocates and ardent critics debate “Christ-centered biblical interpretation” and wondered what the fuss is about. Why is it important to read the Bible as a unified story of God’s one redemptive plan, climaxing in Christ and his mission? Why should we read every page with our spiritual senses on high alert, watching for Christ?
1. Jesus Taught People to See Him in All the Scriptures
Jesus taught his apostles to read the Bible this way. On the very day of his resurrection, he showed two of his downcast, clueless disciples on the road to Emmaus that the Old Testament scriptures foretold his suffering and resurrected glory. He did the same for a larger circle in Jerusalem that same night (Luke 24). Since “the Spirit of Christ” foretold the Messiah’s sufferings and glories (1 Peter 1:11 ESV), could there be a more authoritative interpreter of the Bible than Jesus himself?
2. Seeing Jesus in All the Scriptures Makes Us Marvel
Tracing the golden thread of God’s single salvation strategy through Scripture moves us to marvel. We watch God work through flawed people to provide previews of Jesus, the flawless Offspring of the Woman. Who but the sovereign God could weave such a tapestry in real individuals and events, interspersed throughout the history of Israel? Again and again God injected mercy into human rebellion and life into human ruin, climaxing in Christ’s cross and resurrection.
3. Seeing Jesus in All the Scriptures Changes Us
In 2 Corinthians 3:12–18 Paul contrasts two approaches to reading the Old Testament. One approach, taken by many of Paul’s Jewish contemporaries, was to read “the old covenant” with a veil over one’s hardened mind, unable to glimpse its true purpose. The second was to turn to the Lord, and so to find the veil removed (v. 16). At Sinai Moses’ face radiated the glory of his Law-giving Lord. That radiance faded, showing that the Law would give way to a greater, growing glory—the beauty of Jesus now illumining and changing the hearts of all who see him in his Word: “And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another” (v. 18 ESV).
As a set of instructions, the Law defines what we should be, say, and do. But as commandment the Law cannot make us people who are, say, and do what pleases God (Romans 7). Yet there is hope outside the Law’s demands, in Jesus: “For God has done what the law, weakened by the flesh, could not do. By sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin, he condemned sin in the flesh, in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit” (Rom. 8:3–4 ESV).
Don’t Leave Jesus Behind When You Open Your Bible—Walk with Him through His Word
I wrote Walking with Jesus through His Word from the conviction that beholding his glory wherever we turn in the Bible deepens our trust in him not only to justify us (make us right with God) but also to sanctify us (conform us to God’s holy love). Jesus is our Justifier and our Sanctifier, our Comforter and our Commander. He is the Lord who creates, provides, protects, commands, and judges us. He is also the Servant who obeyed and endured wrath in our place, and who transforms us through his Spirit—inch by inch, day by day—into faithful covenant servants.
Focusing on the Bible’s legal demands apart from Jesus’ forgiveness and his obedience in our place will leave us guilt-laden and impotent. Focusing on the Gospel’s assurance of God’s welcome apart from Jesus’ call to follow him in grateful obedience by the Spirit’s power will leave us complacent in our sin. Seeing Jesus throughout his Word ignites our grateful love for him, the Lord who loved us and gave himself for us. Such glimpses of his glory transform us into his image.
Dennis E. Johnson (ThM, Westminster Theological Seminary; PhD, Fuller Theological Seminary) is professor of practical theology at Westminster Seminary California. He is also an ordained minister in the Presbyterian Church in America and author of Walking with Jesus through His Word, Him We Proclaim, Triumph of the Lamb, Let’s Study Acts, and other books.