Now That God Has Sent His Son
It is essential that we know Christ and not merely the Bible that describes him.
The blueprint of a building is not the same as the building itself. The blueprint encodes the architect’s vision of the building, but until the building is actually constructed, the blueprint is just a design corresponding to that vision.
The design can be shared with others, who then can share the architect’s vision. When the building is completed everyone can see concretely what was intended by the design.
The pattern for a dress or suit is not the same as a dress or suit made according to that pattern. The pattern creates an image of what the dress or suit will be like once it’s made. This image can be shared by the seamstress or tailor and the future wearer of the dress or suit.
A picture of an apple is not the same as an actual apple. You can eat an apple, but not a picture of an apple. Of course, if you have never seen an apple, then a picture can prepare you to recognize an apple when you finally see one. The same goes for a verbal description of an apple.
Similarly, the shadow of a tree is not the same as the tree itself, but it can help you “see” some aspects of the tree, even if the details aren’t too precise. As soon as you’ve seen the tree, you can’t learn much more about it from its shadow.
Each of these examples is easy for us to comprehend. In each case, it is clear that a blueprint, or pattern, or picture, or verbal description, or shadow of an object is not the same as the object itself. Further, once the object becomes available, the earlier representation is no longer the best representation of that object. The object itself is much better.
The Relationship Between the Old Testament and Christ
The Bible uses these concepts to describe the relationship between the Old Testament and our Lord Jesus Christ. Jesus came to fulfill the Law and the Prophets. In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus declared: “Think not that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets: I am not come to destroy, but to fulfil.” (Matt 5:17).
After his resurrection, Jesus explained that the Scriptures spoke of him, first to the two disciples on the road to Emmaus, then to the eleven in Galilee:
He opened their eyes to who he was in two ways: first, by expounding the Old Testament, and, second, by re-enacting the last supper:
The Scriptures testify of Jesus, through whom is life eternal. In a heated debate with the Jewish leaders, Jesus admonishes them:
The Scriptures testify of Christ: it is he who is the reality through whom eternal life comes. Eugene Peterson captures the essence of Jesus’s rebuke:
It is essential that we know Christ and not merely the Bible that describes him.
The Gospel of Jesus in Isaiah and the Psalms.
Philip preached the gospel concerning the Kingdom of God and the name of Jesus Christ in Samaria (Acts 8:5-12). Then he preached the gospel of Jesus to the Ethiopian eunuch (Acts 8:27-40). The eunuch was reading from Isaiah. In particular, he had questions about Isaiah 53:7-8. “Then Philip opened his mouth, and began at the same scripture, and preached unto him Jesus.” (Acts 8:35).
The prophet Isaiah taught essentially all aspects of the gospel, as indicated by the following New Testament quotations from his book:
- The virgin birth (Matt 1:23; Isa 7:14)
- The preaching of John the Baptist (Matt 3:3; Isa 40:2-4)
- Jesus’s preaching in Galilee (Matt 4:15-16; Isa 9:1-2)
- Jesus’s healing of the sick (Matt 8:16; Isa 54:4)
- Jesus’s answer to John the Baptist’s asking if he was the one (Matt 11:5- 6; Isa 35:5-6; 61:1; 28:16)
- Jesus, God’s servant (Matt 12:18-21; Isa 42:1-4)
- Why parables? (Matt 13:14-15; Isa 6:9-10)
- Traditions of men (Matt 15: 8-9; Isa 29:13)
- Cleansing the temple (Matt 21:13; Isa 56:7)
- Jesus’s willing sacrifice (1Pet 2; Isa 53)
- Preaching to the Gentiles (Isa 49:1 cf. Gal 1:11-16; Isa 49:6 cf. Acts 13:47; Isa 52:7 cf. Rom 10:11-15; Isa 54:1-3 cf. Gal 4:22- 5:1; Isa 54:13 cf. John 6:44-45; Isa 56:7).
- Pictures of the kingdom (Isa 25:6-8; 26:19; 35:10; 51:11; 60:1-22; 65:17- 25; cf. Rev 7; 21).
- Similarly, the Psalms are like a fifth gospel, providing insights into the life and thoughts of Jesus, even including intimate communications between him and his Father. Here is a small sample:
- Why do the heathen rage, and the people imagine a vain thing? The kings of the earth set themselves, and the rulers take counsel together, against the LORD, and against his anointed. (Psa 2:1-2).
- I will declare the decree: the LORD hath said unto me, Thou art my Son; this day have I begotten thee. (Psa 2:7).
- What is man, that thou art mindful of him? and the son of man, that thou visitest him? For thou hast made him a little lower than the angels, and hast crowned him with glory and honour.Thou madest him to have dominion over the works of thy hands; thou hast put all things under his feet. (Psa 8:4-6).
- For thou wilt not leave my soul in hell; neither wilt thou suffer thine Holy One to see corruption. (Psa 16:10).
- My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?… They part my garments among them, and cast lots upon my vesture… I will declare thy name unto my brethren: in the midst of the congregation will I praise thee. (Psa 22:1, 18, 22).
- Sacrifice and offering thou didst not desire; mine ears hast thou opened: burnt offering and sin offering hast thou not required. Then said I, Lo, I come: in the volume of the book it is written of me, I delight to do thy will, O my God: yea, thy law is within my heart. (Psa 40:6-8).
- Thy throne, O God, is for ever and ever: the sceptre of thy kingdom is a right scepter. Thou lovest righteousness, and hatest wickedness: therefore God, thy God, hath anointed thee with the oil of gladness above thy fellows. (Psa 45:6-7).
- The LORD said unto my Lord, Sit thou at my right hand, until I make thine enemies thy footstool… The Lord hath sworn, and will not repent, Thou art a priest for ever after the order of Melchizedek. (Psa 110:1, 4).
Christ is the Goal of the Law.
Paul argues that Christ was the fulfillment of the ultimate purpose and intent of the Law, as the various translations of Romans 10:4 indicate:
- For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to every one that believeth. (KJV).
- Christ is the culmination of the law so that there may be righteousness for everyone who believes. (NIV).
- The Messiah, you see, is the goal of the law, so that covenant membership may be available for all who believe. (New Testament for Everyone, N.T. Wright).
- The earlier revelation was intended simply to get us ready for the Messiah, who then puts everything right for those who trust him to do it. (The Message, Eugene Peterson).
The context of this verse within Romans 9-11 and the whole Letter to the Romans demonstrates Paul’s point that Christ is the means by which God fulfills His promise to Abraham; that is, God blesses all believers, from all nations, Jews and Gentiles, through His Son Jesus.1
According to the Scriptures
The gospel preached by Paul, by which we are saved, was according to the Scriptures:
The Old Testament was a shadow of Christ, who is the reality. Paul says the Old Testament laws were a shadow of Christ who was to come:
In other English versions, the Greek word here translated “body” (KJV, RV, YLT, Jewish NT) is translated “substance” (NKJV, NASB, RSV, NRSV, ESV, Message), and “reality” (JB Phillips, TEV, REV, NIV, Jerusalem Bible).
Like the shadow of a tree, the Old Testament laws were merely a shadow of things to come. Like the tree itself, Christ is the body, substance, reality that projected that shadow.
Before and After Christ Came
So Christ fulfilled the Law, the Prophets, and the Psalms. But he did even more than that. Paul describes the fundamental transition that occurred when God sent His Son. Through Christ, and his faithfulness, and our baptism into him, we have gone from being children under the discipline of the Law to being adopted children of God our Father, and therefore heirs with Christ of the promises to Abraham:
As the Son of God, Christ Reveals His Father
There is no mirror like a child. A regular mirror can reflect the outside image of a person, but a child can reflect the inward character of a person. Similarly, Christ reveals the character of His Father. Whatever we might be able to learn about God from the Scriptures, we can learn so much more about Him from His Son.
Christ was the fulfillment of the ultimate purpose and intent of the Law
The Old Testament describes Yahweh’s interactions with His people Israel. It also provides blueprints, patterns, word pictures, and shadows of His plan and its fulfillment through the one who would come. And when the time was right, God sent His Son to fulfill His purpose. In particular, as the only begotten Son of the Father, Christ has revealed and will reveal the invisible God, our heavenly Father:
Long ago God spoke to our ancestors in many and various ways by the prophets, but in these last days he has spoken to us by a Son, whom he appointed heir of all things, through whom he also created the worlds. He is the reflection of God’s glory and the exact imprint of God’s very being, and he sustains all things by his powerful word.
When he had made purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high, having become as much superior to angels as the name he has inherited is more excellent than theirs. (Heb 1:1-4 NRSV).
The Letter to the Hebrews goes on to show that Christ, the Son of God, is greater than the angels, than Moses, than Joshua, than the Levitical priesthood, than the old covenant, than the animal sacrifices. Christ is even greater than the Scriptures.
The Old Testament describes God in various ways, but Christ is “the reflection of God’s glory and the exact imprint of God’s very being.”2
Austin Leander Ecclesia, TX
1 See, Joe Hill, “Everyone, Including Gentiles,” Tidings, May, 2010, pp. 178-179 (tidings.org/wpcontent/uploads/2020/04/2010_05_May.pdf).
2 For a similar discussion of this topic, see Bro. Nat Ritmeyer, “Jesus vs. the Bible,” Living Faith (living-faith.org/2018/10/05/jesus-vs-the-bible/).