Reading Scripture Holistically and Christo-centrically
The Bible is a big book, written over a long period of time by many authors with various genres, settings, and contexts. For example, the Pauline epistles read very differently than the books of Moses, and both are very different from the prophetic writings we see in Isaiah, Jeremiah, and the minor Prophets. Reading the psalms and proverbs can seem very removed from reading books like Revelation, Hebrews, or even one of the gospels. How are we to make sense of this? How can we profit from, or even understand, a book of this magnitude? The answer lies in that while there is great diversity to be found in the Bible, there is also the presence of a divine unity all throughout the scriptures. What I mean by a divine unity is simply this, the Bible is God’s story. God has written it, inspired it, even breathed it out. 2 Tim 3:16-17 declares “All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work”. All scripture is ultimately from God and therefore is singular in its purpose. This means there is a storyline to be found amongst the diversity in the Bible. There is a goal being pursued by scripture, and every book plays its part to achieve that end. The goal is simple, to reveal to us God’s program of redemptive history and also how he accomplishes his own glory (See Phil 2:5-11). In other words, to show us how God has provided salvation for his people through the person and work of Jesus Christ. Christ himself teaches us that this is what the scriptures are all about (see Luke 24:13-35).
If the above is true, then it has enormous implications. This means that every portion of scripture, from Genesis to Revelation, is truly about Christ. By this I mean that every part of scripture somehow points to, foreshadows, hopes for, reveals, or expounds what Jesus has done (is doing, and will do) and why it matters for you and me. With this hermeneutic in place, we will be better equipped to understanding the full counsel of God in his word. Jesus wants you and I to read scripture in this light. In fact, this is how the apostles read and interpreted the Bible. In their preaching, they were adamant that the Old Testament witnessed to Christ and his saving work (see Acts 2 and 7). Not only that, but in every work of the New Testament, the authors are consciously aware that their teaching is a continuation of the Old Testament and its revelation of Christ. (See Heb 1:1; 2 Pt 1:16-21; Rom 1:1-6)
How do you read your Bible? Do you see various parts without a central purpose? Or maybe you see it as a book of collected writings that inspire, teach, or give guidance, but do not have an overarching goal? If so, I encourage you to look a bit closer, to see the fingerprints of God and his work in every book of the Bible, and to be amazed by what has been happening since the very beginning.
For more help on reading the scripture Christo-centrically, see The Unfolding Mystery by Edmund Clowney; What is the Bible by Guy Waters; God’s Big Picture by Vaughan Roberts.