Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Hermeneutics: Jesus Maybe, but Can Others?

As we've been tracing through the beginning process of hermeneutics, I hope I have laid out a case that a Biblical sermon must be a Christ centered sermon. As I begin to make my case for this, it was my desire to show Jesus believed the Bible should be approached with Him in view. He also taught this form to his disciples. Jesus both modeled and taught that the Old Testament Scriptures were about Him.

Of course, when we appealed to His authority over the Scriptures, so may push back against that. "Well sure," they may say, "Jesus could teach about Him from the Old Testament because He is perfect and flawless. Certainly with my ignorance and sin, I should not think that I can do likewise. It's best to leave that method to Jesus and cling to some other hermeneutic."

While Jesus may have pointed to Himself from the Old Testament, do we really have a right to? Perhaps we'll mess things up. Is there any indication that the apostles and church fathers employed a Jesus hermeneutic?


Acts 2--As Peter preaches the first sermon of the church, notice how he handles the Scriptures. Peter quotes from Joel, Psalms and 2 Samuel 7:12, seeing each of those in reference to God's working through Christ on the earth. He does not flinch to take passages--like the Psalms--which Jesus taught the disciples were about HIm, but blends that with other passages which we do not have a written account that Jesus taught him how to read these passages. It seems that at the inception of the church, Peter was not afraid to employ a Jesus hermeneutic.

Acts 7--Stephen's sermon is an interesting one to follow. In some ways, we may wonder why Stephen was tracing through the Jewish history to a bunch of men who knew these details. He was not filibustering...simply trying to preach long enough that his persecutors will tire and leave him alone. No, Stephen is rehearsing the Jewish history with one purpose--to show that the nation's history was such that it pointed the nation in a direction to reject Christ. The entire point of all of the history is to point--like Jesus--to the fact that these men who claim to love Moses do not even listen to Moses, nor love God. This is most visible in the fact that they crucified God's Son.

Acts 13--Paul preaches a sermon very similar to Stephen's. Though this sermon is preached to Jews who know the Law and history, Paul still finds it necessary to preach these things to them. In this sermon, Paul clearly refers to Psalm 2:7, Isaiah 55:3, Psalm 16:10, Habakkuk 1:5 and Isaiah 49:6. Each of these passages he reads in light of the Risen Savior on our behalf.

Epistles of Paul--Paul does this numerous times in his epistles as well. According to Paul, Adam was a type of Christ (Romans 5:12-17). It is not just that Jesus came to reverse the actions of Adam, but that Adam was also intended to typify Jesus. In Galatians 4:21-31, Paul does the amazing where he teaches that Sarah/Isaac and Hagar/Ishmael teach truths about the gospel. Freedom is found in the promise, slavery is in the works of man. Paul sees the very real story of Ishamael and Hagar as teaching principles that point us directly to the gospel. Even when we read Ephesians 5:22-33 carefully, we see that marriage was designed to point people to Jesus Christ. Paul's language here illustrates that he is not adapting some new teaching, or changing the referent of an illustration. By the divine working of the Holy Spirit as Paul pens these words, he is saying to us that the original intent of these accounts were for us to see Jesus more clearly.

Hebrews 7--The author of Hebrews points us to the life of Melchizedek (Genesis 14:17-20). Though we know very little about the priest/king, the author of Hebrews reminds us that it was God's intent to direct us toward Jesus Christ from this passage. Who is our Great High Priest and King of Kings? Is it not Jesus Christ. We even see that if Abraham tithed to this priest/king certainly the children are also under his authority. Who is the Priest/King who reigns over Abraham and all his children? Is it not Jesus Christ.

These are just a handful of passages and examples. Take a look at the list of Old Testament passages that Matthew very clearly points to applying to Jesus Christ, in their original form. This is not simply Matthew saying, "Oh wow. We could say the same thing about Jesus." This is Matthew triumphantly declaring, "__________________ had to happen so the prophecy would be fulfilled..." Here are some of the passages Matthew illumines are about Jesus (corresponding verse in Matthew in parenthesis):

Numbers 27:17 (9:36)
2 Samuel 5:2 (2:6)
2 Chronicles 18:16 (9:36)
Isaiah 6:9 (13:14)
Isaiah 40:3 (3:3)
Isaiah 53:4 (8:17)
Hosea 11:1 (2:15)
Zechariah 11:13 (27:9)
Psalm 78:2 (13:15)
Isaiah 9:1-2 (4:15-16)
Isaiah 42:1-4 (12:18)
Jeremiah 31:15 (2:18)
Micah 5:2-4 (2:6)
Malachi 3:1 (11:10)

These are just a few, and all the gospels do this. Even Mark, who begins with the account of John the Baptist does so to show that Malachi and Isaiah are fulfilled by the work of John the Baptist because he was the forerunner to Christ. They find their completion not because of the ministry of John, but ultimately because of the work of Jesus Christ!!!

The truth of the matter is, if you examine every book of the New Testament you will see the only way an Old Testament reference makes any sense is if you read it through a Jesus Hermeneutic. The New Testament authors reveal that every passage finds it's original intent in pointing to Christ.

Still you may be thinking, "Yes Jesus did it. Yes, his disciples did it. But when we read about this in the Scriptures, God was "moving those authors" as they were writing. Their hermeneutic was carried uniquely by the Holy Spirit as they recorded the word of God. I'm not to do that too, am I?...stay tuned.


Brad said...

Of course you realize, after your next post I'm going to object, "All right then, if the Christo-centric hermeneutic of the apostles is for us to use, why should we not also use their non-sequential method of delivery?"

But I haven't read you next post so, I'm really not objecting quite yet.

Darby Livingston said...

I can hardly wait.

David Mohler said...

This continues to be very edifiying, and a helpful study.