What the Bible Is All About

 

What is its primary purpose
in writing and its leading theme?

 
We find the answer to our question when we examine the beginning and the end of Scripture. At the beginning God creates the world and all that is in it. We may be sure that he did this for his own glory, for this is his purpose in all he does. His creation is designed to reflect his glory. Humanity in particular was created for God’s glory, and this is our whole reason for being – to glorify God.
But we have fallen from our created purpose.
With the entrance of sin through our father Adam (Genesis 3), humanity and all the created order has fallen under a divine curse. The whole created order is out of sorts – there is pain and suffering and injustice and death. And there is sin, rebellion against our creator. The curse of God upon the human race is evident in each broadcast of the evening news and in the experiences of our own lives. Through sin we are out of sorts with our creator, and as a result our world has been plunged into chaos and misery of every kind.
But at the entrance of sin God not only spoke in judgment. He also spoke in grace and in promise. He promised that a champion would come to defeat the tempter and reconcile us to God. The root problem – our sin – would be corrected, and all of creation would be restored to its created purpose. All this we find at the beginning of our Bible.
The end of our Bible (the book of Revelation) records the end of the story.
History climaxes in a new heaven and a new earth, a new world in which God dwells with his people and his people bask in the glorious presence of God their creator. This blessedness is secured for us, we read, by that promised champion, who by now we know is the Lord Jesus Christ. From beginning to end, he is the theme.
Reading our Bible from the perspective of the beginning and the end enables us to gain a right perspective of the whole and all its parts. Throughout the Old Testament the redeemer is anticipated. The promise given and expanded. At the same time the world at large and God’s people in particular (Israel) demonstrate continuously their need for this redeemer. Kings, princes, the people at large, and even prophets fail. Humanity is so given over to its sin that it cannot stop. There is universal abandonment to sin and universal enmity with God. And no king is powerful enough or faithful enough to bring even God’s people – let alone the world at large – to cease from their sinning or into fellowship with God. So the promise is that God will send his servant to fix the entire mess.
The whole, overall theme of the first half of the Bible is this – “He is coming!”
Over and again the promise is reiterated – “He is coming! God has promised a redeemer! In fact, God has promised that he will himself come to our rescue!” And the Old Testament ends with the promise outstanding. The need for a redeemer remains, but the promise is left unfulfilled – “He is coming!”
The New Testament, in turn, makes the happy announcement, “He is here!” – from promise to fulfillment. Matthew and the other Evangelists (the Gospel writers, Matthew-John), introduce Jesus Christ to us as the redeemer whom God had long promised. And so they tell us about his arrival and his life and teachings and miracles, but they tell us particularly of his death and resurrection. They are careful to tell us that Jesus Christ died as the redeemer in place of sinners and has for his people exhausted the curse of God against their sin. Accordingly, he was raised from the dead in triumph and in glory. He has successfully accomplished his assigned saving work. In Acts this message is taken to the world, and the epistles spell out the significance of all this for us in more detail. And in Revelation, as we have seen, it all comes to climax in Christ’s glorious return as judge and as savior, when his redeeming work is brought to final completion and all his people stand in glory with him in the presence of the Triune God.
And so in the end, creation reaches its original design – the glory of God the creator. Humanity is saved, and with it the whole created order is rescued from the divine curse against sin and restored to fellowship with God. The divine purpose is accomplished, and all the redeemed will be gathered to sing his eternal praise. God our redeemer has come and will come again to complete his promised saving work in Jesus Christ – this is the whole centerpiece and theme of the Bible.
~ Fred
 
Fred Zaspel
Pastor Zaspel holds a Ph.D. in historical theology from the Free University of Amsterdam. He is currently a pastor at the Reformed Baptist Church of Franconia, PA. He is also Adjunct Professor of Systematic Theology at Calvary Baptist Seminary in Lansdale, PA. He is the author of The Theology of B.B. Warfield: A Systematic Summary (Crossway, 2010) and Warfield on the Christian Life: Living in Light of the Gospel (Crossway, 2012).
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Heros of the Faith: Athanasius

 

Exiled for his Faith

 
Hero of the faithA while back we spoke of Athanasius as one of the heroes of the faith.  As bishop of Alexandria, Egypt, (328-373) he was sent into exile by various Roman emperors five times, so that of his 45 years in office he was away more than he was at home.  Still he wrote boldly in defense of the orthodox views of the Trinity despite intense Arian opposition.
The dispute was stirred, in part, by sermons on the Trinity offered by Athanasius.  Arius, a Libyan priest, rejected his views, arguing that because the Son was born of God it only followed that “there was a time when the Son was not.”  According to Arius the Son was, indeed, the creator of the universe but he himself had first been created by God.
The controversy spread so that throughout the Roman empire Arian Christians could be heard singing a lively tune: “There was a time when the Son was not.” In every city, wrote one historian, “bishop was contending against bishop, and the people were contending against one another, like swarms of gnats fighting in the air.”
While the Arian views gained traction Athanasius dismissed their claims with scorn.  For him it was a matter of salvation: the Son must be wholly God and wholly man because only a fully human being can atone for human sin; and only a wholly divine being is big enough to swallow death.  To build his case against Arius Athanasius also pointed to the baptismal references to the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit in Matthew 28:19 that treated the Triune equality as a core conviction of the New Testament church.  He scolded the Arians, too, for returning to a form of polytheism by making Christ out to be a second-tier deity.  There were other arguments as well, brought to bear with unique energy throughout his lifetime.
Others soon followed, including the three Cappadocian Fathers, and the Arian movement eventually declined to insignificance.  We still have a residue presence of modern day Arians knocking on doors around the world but the main work of meeting and dismissing their views was completed in the 4th and 5th centuries.
Today we have new challenges to confront and dismiss, and some of them have as much traction among Christians as the Arian views did in their heyday.  Readers may think of some of these.  Perhaps the myth of progress that treats nature as virtually divine.  Or an existentialism that seeks unrestrained sensual and mental stimulation as ends in themselves.
What concerns me most, however, is the portrayal of God as a disaffected and distant deity: an offspring of the unmoved-mover of Aristotle.  This power-centric God is presented among too many Christians through anthropopathic themes.  That is, in such circles God has only the appearance of human love, and his disaffected “love” is what he uses to shape human conduct by manipulating our human hunger for affection.  So, in this view, any presumptions that God is a real lover are distortions because divine vulnerability to us—the stuff of love—is excluded by logical necessity.
There have been some rallies against this movement but they offer solutions as destructive as the disease they seek to cure.  Both Process Theology and its more conservative cousin, the Openness of God effort, reduced God’s being in order to have room for the dynamic give-and-take of love.  But these are not answers supported by Scriptures.
Instead we find the Bible portraying the Triune communion as having embraced the human freedom of response to God’s love—to love or not to love him in return—as part of God’s eternal and creative plan for the creation: i.e. “he chose us in him before the foundation of the world” (Ephesians 1:4) as a function of divine love.  We may not be able to analyze the particulars but we are at least assured that the love of the Godhead is real and our love is birthed by his prior love for us.
We should, as a final note, comment on a common thread between the disaffected version of God in a gospel commonly promoted today and the God of Arius: both elevate God as a monad or singularity rather than the eternally relational Triune God of the Bible.  Christ, in turn, is reduced to an instrumental figure, used by God to do his will.
Both versions of God are literally dead ends.  Let us resist their claims, even if we may have to face a few years of social exile.  It is worth any disruptions we might face in order to get things right.
Thoughts? You are invited to comment on Ron’s article at Cor Deo
~ Ron
 
Dr. Ron Frost
Ron served on faculty for more than 20 years at Multnomah Bible College and Biblical Seminary. At the seminary, from 1995-2007, he was professor of historical theology and ethics. He earned his PhD at King’s College of the University of London. His research featured Richard Sibbes (1577-1635). He now teaches internationally while serving as a pastoral care consultant to missionaries with Barnabas International. Ron authored Discover the Power of the Bible and writes on spreadinggoodness.org [See “Resources”].
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