“You study the Scriptures diligently because you think that in them you have eternal life. These are the very Scriptures that testify about me, yet you refuse to come to me to have life.” (John 5:39-40)
Far too often, believers center their study of Scripture solely on the New Testament, viewing the Old Testament as something of a by-gone era. This approach is unfortunate as all of Scripture is inspired by God and perhaps more importantly, a full understanding of Jesus and the scarlet thread of redemption that runs throughout Scripture can only be truly obtained by reading the front of the book. The gospel message is one established before the foundation of the world thus a proper study of salvation contained in the gospel message has to begin where the story of God’s interaction with humanity begins, namely in the Old Testament corpus.
Dr. D. A. Carson has edited a book containing the transcript of eight addresses from the plenary session of the 2011 The Gospel Coalition Conference. In these addresses, a number of theological leaders address the importance of understanding Jesus from the pages of the Old Testament in order to more fully grasp the events and message contained in the New Testament. Men such as Dr. Albert Mohler, Dr. Tim Keller, Dr. Alistair Begg, Dr. James McDonald, Conrad Mbewe, Matt Chandler, Mike Bullmore, and Dr. D. A. Carson, engage this topic with great elucidation and theological insight helping the reader more fully understand the Messianic patterns and statements found throughout the Old Testament. While every chapter in this book is excellent and well worth reading, I will focus on the addresses of Dr. Mohler, Dr. Keller, and Dr. Carson for purposes of this review.
In his address, Dr. Mohler aptly sums up a reason why many young people are leaving the church noting “The absence of biblical, gospel preaching explains how we have created in our churches a generation of moralizing, therapeutic, practical deists.” The rejection of the meta-narrative of Scripture by the liberal establishment should cause concern. Far too often, the Old Testament is referred to as the Hebrew Bible or Hebrew Scriptures as if its content was only intended for the Jews. Furthermore, some have taken the opposite extreme claiming the Old Testament can be read without any need to engage the New Testament. Additionally, the dispensationalist approach to Scripture often wrongly bifurcate Scripture seemingly denying the flow of the biblical message.
Mohler aptly outlines how the great theologians of church history clearly noted the vital importance of the Old Testament. Men such as Martin Luther and John Calvin argued for the gospel to be understood from the pages of the Old Testament in order to clearly comprehend how it is fully revealed in the New Testament. More importantly, the book of Hebrews uses the Old Testament as the springboard by which to proclaim Jesus as being the perfect fulfillment of the Old Testament promises. A lack of engagement or understanding of those Old Testament promises will only result in a diminished understanding of Christ. Mohler concludes with the salient statement “We must preach Christ from all the Scriptures and find Christ in the gospel of the Old Testament as well as in the New.”
Dr. Tim Keller provides some excellent insight into the concept of redemption, rooting his discussion in the Old Testament story of the Israelites deliverance from bondage in Egypt. This is an excellent place by which to begin a discussion of the concept of redemption and salvation given the numerous references to this event and its overall importance in the life of not only the Israelites, but all generations of believers. Keller rightly notes, “Salvation is about getting us out of bondage. That’s what the word redemption means.” He then proceeds to outline four areas believers have been given deliverance, namely freedom from bondage to the law, deliverance from works-righteousness, deliverance from our sin nature, and deliverance from bondage to idols. Only by understanding the purpose of the law, that of pointing us to the need for the Redeemer, can we truly understand the salvation we obtain from the curse of the law. It is not that we are no longer required to follow God’s commands as it is not the law itself that is the issue. Conversely, it is humanity that was incapable of living up to God’s perfect standard. Christ came in part to be the perfect Lamb of God, the One who followed God’s law perfectly.
Furthermore, we are no longer slaves to sin as we serve a new Master. This does not mean we will never sin again, however, it does mean we have a new desire that swells within us to love God and love one another born out of the Holy Spirit working in our lives. Just as Israel crossed over the Red Sea to the land of promise, believers also cross over from bondage to life. Through God’s grace, we have obtained redemption and deliverance from bondage to sin. We will still struggle; however, Keller rightly notes “you are not saved because of the quality of your faith. You are saved because of the object of your faith: the Redeemer, the God who is fighting for you.”
In his plenary address, Dr. D. A. Carson address the subject of that rather enigmatic Old Testament character, Melchizedek. Psalm 110, the most quoted Old Testament chapter in the New Testament mentions Melchizedek, specifically in relation to the promised Messiah being “in the order of Melchizedek.” So one may rightly ask, what is there to be excited about, especially since there are so few mentions of Melchizedek in Scripture and he just seems to appear out of nowhere in Genesis 14 only to disappear again into the pages of history. Carson rightly begins his discussion with who wrote Psalm 110, a necessary beginning for this discussion given the Psalms important content and the One whom it focuses on. In Psalm 110, David declares “The Lord said to my Lord…” a statement referred to by Jesus in Mark 12:35-37 as evidence that David was speaking of the Messiah. Jesus used David’s statement to affirm not just his lineage from David, but to also affirm that He is the Messiah spoken of by David.
Carson also notes some interesting elements of prophetic prose that can be found in Psalm 110. The phrase “The Lord says to my lord” is indicative of other prophetic declarations thus David was relaying an important prophecy about the coming Messiah. Carson notes six vital theological inferences that can be found from the small phrase “Sit at my right hand”, references that also point to Jesus being the promised Messiah. Based on this foundation, Carson then engages Melchizedek providing an excellent exposition of this individual to include the events found in Genesis 14 that provide background as to who Melchizedek just might be and why we should care. Carson saliently outlines the typical interpretations of Melchizedek throughout church history, one being a “pre-incarnate visitation of Jesus”. This approach is overwhelmingly rejected by Carson for a number of valid reasons, in particular the manner in which Melchizedek is described and compared to the Messiah affirming that Melchizedek is a model, a proto-type of the Messiah and not a divine figure in an of himself. Carson also notes the argument from silence that is used in Scripture, namely the lack of historical background given for Melchizedek, specifically the lack of any personal or genealogical information. Normally an argument from silence would be considered a very weak theological approach; however, Carson states “an argument from silence is very strong if you are expecting noise.” The lack of information about Melchizedek in Genesis 14 or elsewhere in Scripture was to provide a means to compare the Messiah to this character, not to make them to be equal. The very sequence provided by the author of Hebrews was established to note the manner in which Jesus exceeded any Old Testament type to include Melchizedek. The Messiah is the fullness of God’s promises found throughout the Old Testament to include that of Melchizedek.
The Scriptures Testify About Me is an excellent resource for those wanting to dig further into the Old Testament or Scripture in general, specifically those who desire to understand the importance of starting from the beginning to understand the end. Replete with theological insight and thorough exegesis, this collection of plenary addresses is well worth the read. While theological substantive, it is not beyond the reach of the average laymen. I highly recommend this book for pastors, scholars, and laymen alike.
I received this for free from Crossway for this review. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”