The God-Centered Perspective (1)

January 19, 1997 / No. 2819

Do you read and understand the Bible biblically?

Understand my question. I am not asking you if you read the Bible. If you do not read the Bible, you should. And if you confess today to be a believer in Jesus Christ and do not read the Bible, shame ought to cover your face.

I am not asking you if you read the Bible. Nor am I merely asking you the question, “Do you understand the Bible? That is, do you come to some awareness of its message through your reading of the Bible?” My question is this: “Do you read and understand the Bible biblically; that is, does your reading and understanding of the Bible fit within the framework of the Bible itself?”

The Bible is not a collection of scattered divine truths and words and verses thrown together any old way. The Bible is not a collection of history and facts and wise sayings just thrown together some way or other so that you must come to the Bible and begin to choose your own unifying principle, so to speak, try to put all the pieces together according to your own system. No, the Bible has its own system. The Bible has its own unifying principle. The Bible has its one starting point around which all the other truths are to be arranged. You may think of it as a wheel having a hub in the middle and spokes going out. The Bible has a design.

So, my question is this: Do you read and understand the Bible within the framework of the Bible itself?

I assume that most to whom I speak today understand the Bible or at least know what the Bible is. And I assume also that perhaps you have no question regarding the authority of the Bible. By the grace of God, the Reformed Witness Hour is committed to this truth that the Scriptures are the authoritative and inspired Word of God. We mean by that this: The history in the Bible is accurate. When the Scriptures give to us the history of creation we believe that it came to pass exactly that way: God spoke and it was done; God did this in six twenty-four hour days as He plainly says in His Word. When we say that the history of the Bible is accurate we mean that there was a Red Sea and the Lord parted the Red Sea and the people of Israel walked through on dry ground. And when Pharaoh and his army attempted to follow they were drowned by God in the Red Sea. That actually, literally happened. That is accurate history. There were the walls of Jericho which fell down, not because of an earthquake, but because God toppled them down after Joshua and Israel walked around them. That is accurate history. So, when we say that the Bible is the authoritative, inspired Word of God we mean its history is accurate.

We mean, further, its promises are trustworthy. All that is promised in the Bible will come to pass. All in which we hope, as the Bible gives us that hope, will never make us ashamed. Still more, we believe that the commands of the Bible are binding. Those commands cannot be broken. They cannot be drained of their force. And finally, we believe that the doctrines of the Bible are true. Its teachings are not simply a slant on the truth. The teachings of the Bible are not simply valuable insights that we ought to share together. No, the doctrines of the Bible are the absolute truth. Anything which denies those doctrines is the lie, and the teaching of the Bible alone is true.

I assume that, by the grace of God, you can make that confession today. That is the truth. And that is what we mean when we say that the Scriptures are the authoritative and inspired Word of God.

But that is not my question.

I am not asking you today if you believe that the history of the Bible is accurate, that the promises of the Bible are trustworthy, that the commands of the Bible are binding, that the doctrines of the Bible are true. Those are not my questions. But my question is this: Do you read the history of the Bible, the promises, the commands, and the doctrines of the Bible in the framework of the Bible itself, from the unifying principle which the Bible itself gives?

I ask that question because it is very well possible to hold to the accuracy of the history of the Bible, the trustworthiness of the promises of the Bible, the binding, commanding, and absolute truths of the Bible – and yet miss the whole message of the Bible completely. One’s starting point, the principle from which one reads the Bible, is absolutely crucial. I will give an illustration of this.

The car that you drive and own is a collection of many parts. But all of those parts have been put together according to the design and the purpose of the engineer. The engineer began with a purpose: to give a means of transportation. That design and purpose ran through all of the planning of the automobile, down to every department of the car manufacturing company, so that it is all assembled according to that design and purpose. You have in your car many parts. You have the engine block. You have the frame. You have the panels in the inside, the wires, the seats, the upholstery, the lights. But all of these parts are arranged around one unifying principle designed by the engineer.

Now, suppose we would take your automobile all apart, all of the different parts. We would find a shed and would take all of those parts and would not lose one single part of that automobile. We would keep every ingredient. We would lay them all out on the floor of that shed. We would not misplace one screw that went into that automobile. But then we would re-arrange it. Let us say, for instance, we had never seen an automobile before. We had just, perhaps as a aborigine, arrived from Australia and had never seen an automobile. Here are all of these parts. And we begin to put them together according to our own design and our own principles. We take the fan and weld it to the roof. We take the bumpers and weld them under the frame. We bolt the wheels to the hood. We paste the upholstery over the outside. And we end up with some type of flying chariot or whatever.

Now, we have not thrown away one part. We have not denied the truth of one part. But what have we done? We have completely destroyed the original intention of the designer. We have made this into something totally else. The design and purpose is lost. You have the parts of the car. I suppose that you could say that you have the car. Yet, you do not have the car at all.

Tragically, that can be done with the Bible. Almighty God has not merely given us inspired history, truthful promises, binding commands, wonderful doctrines for us to put together any old way, according to our own thinking. No, God, in the Bible, has given the design around which all must be fit. He has given the design in all that He has unfolded in His Word. He has given a unifying principle. He has given an indispensable starting point which is absolutely crucial if you are going to read and understand the Bible biblically. And I know of no other text which sets forth that framework better than the one which we find in Romans 11:36. That unifying principle around which you must read and understand the Bible is the glory of God. You must approach the Bible from a God-centered perspective. If you do not, you are going to end up with the example of the car – putting things together according to your own design, but missing entirely the purpose.

Romans 11:36 says, “For of him, and through him, and to him, are all things: to whom be glory for ever. Amen.” The Bible is a God-centered book. You must learn to read the Bible from a God-centered perspective.

When the apostle Paul wrote in the book of Romans those words: “For of him, and through him, and to him, are all things: to whom be glory for ever. Amen,” what was the context in which he was speaking? Those words “of him, and through him, and to him are all things” were the conclusion of all that Paul had been saying in Romans 11 and in the entire epistle up to that point – and not merely a conclusion in the sense of an unemotional summary of the things that he has been saying. But the apostle Paul, contemplating all the truths which have been revealed from Romans 1 up to the last part of Romans 11, and seeing God’s wisdom and power in all of these things, is swept off his feet in a doxology of praise and says, “Of God, through God, and to God are all things: to whom be glory for ever.” These words, then, are the conclusion of the closely reasoned gospel of Jesus Christ which Paul has set forth in the epistle to the Romans.

Now, if you have read the book of Romans (and if you have not, I challenge you and call you to read it today), then I want you to recall from your knowledge of that book that Paul says that he had never been to Rome. But he says, in the first chapter, that he wanted to come there and to preach the gospel to them. The apostle already had planned at that point that his stay in Rome would not be long. But he says to them in chapter 15:24 that he wants to stop in Rome on the way to Spain. Therefore, realizing that he would not be spending a long time in Rome, according to his own plans, he is led by the Spirit of God to write this book which sets forth the doctrines of the gospel. Realizing that his stay, if he gets to Rome at all, is going to be a brief stay he puts in writing all that he would teach as an apostle of God if his stay would be a long one. Therefore, the book of Romans is the summary of Christian doctrine, the blessed doctrinal book.

He begins in chapter 1:16 and 17 with the statement that “I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation.” From that point on he develops the gospel, the good news of Jesus Christ. How does he do it? Read it for yourself in chapter 1 and following. He begins by showing the guilt in mankind. He will reveal the gospel of God’s grace against the black background of human depravity and human sinfulness. He shows the darkness of the Gentile world, that is, of the world in Old Testament times which did not have the Word of God. He shows in chapter 1 that they knew God from the creation and yet were not thankful and made idols and therefore stand without excuse before God.

He goes on in chapters 2 and 3 to apply this guilt to the Jews who had the Old Testament Scriptures. They had circumcision; yet they, too, stood guilty in their sins before God. He comes to a conclusion in chapter 3 that the whole world is guilty before God in their sins and cannot save themselves. Then in chapter 3, beginning at verse 21, he opens the mystery of the gospel of justification, namely, that God has made His people in Jesus Christ righteous and innocent in the work of Jesus Christ. God, in Jesus Christ, has shown the way whereby God might be just and holy and yet might justify or save those in Jesus Christ. He explains the truth of justification, that the work of Jesus Christ done in behalf of believers who are elected of the Father makes them righteous.

Then he proceeds to the truth of sanctification in chapter 6, that is, the truth of a holy, Christian life. He goes on in chapter 7 to speak of a Christian’s experience in his struggle against sin. Chapter 8, he speaks of the assurance of the believer. Chapter 9 he speaks of divine election and reprobation, that God has chosen from eternity those who would be saved and that God has determined also in eternity the vessels of wrath, fitted unto destruction.

Then, in chapters 10 and 11, he demonstrates how God in the Old Testament dealt primarily with the nation of Israel, but now has set that aside so that the gospel might go to the Gentiles. He shows how the Jews have stumbled and rejected Jesus Christ, which has become the occasion for the gospel to go beyond the Jews and to come to the Gentiles. When the gospel now comes to the Gentiles, the Jews are provoked to jealously, with the result that some of them also are saved. And all of this has been happening according to God’s eternal purpose of grace.

Now, he brings it to its conclusion. He brings it all together. Overviewing all of those Christian truths, overviewing the book of Romans that he has been writing – the reality of human sin and guilt, the reality of God’s judgment upon sin, the sin of man, the coming of the Son of God in our flesh, God’s work of justification, the giving of Jesus Christ in order to make us righteous, God’s work of sanctification, the Holy Spirit working in our hearts new desires of obedience to God, God’s predestination, that is, God’s pre-determining of those who shall be saved and of those who shall be lost, the rejection of Christ by the Jews and the inclusion of the Gentiles, speaking of the mysteries of Jesus Christ, that when Christ died we died, when He arose we arose – after all of these wonderful sweeping themes of Christian doctrine which he has been covering, he comes now to the conclusion. Looking back over it all, Paul concludes, in a triumphant doxology: “For of him, through him, and unto him are all things: to whom be glory for ever. Amen.”

What are the “all things,” then? All things are all things. All things revealed in the Word of God come down to this: the glory of God. That is the uniting principle, from the entrance of sin into the world, the judgments of God, the holiness of God, the power of the gospel, to be risen with Christ, to be assured of salvation in Jesus Christ – all of these things are united in one point: the glory of God. Paul says, “I see that it all fits in one perspective: a God-centered perspective. That there is one unifying, one controlling theme of all the gospel, of all the Bible. You know what that uniting theme is? For of Him, and through Him, and to Him are all things: to whom be glory for ever.

Do you read the Bible biblically? Do you read the Bible from the God-centered perspective? Do you read the Bible fitting all things that you read in the Bible around this one theme: that God is glorious, that all things are controlled by Him, and all things must end in His glory? Do you read the Bible around this theme: that He is the only God, the glorious God, the mighty God? That is the theme of the Bible. That is the uniting principle. That is the hub, the design. And when you take up any part of the Bible, if you do not understand it in light of that theme, you have not understood it.

Once again. Do you read the Bible biblically? Do you read it from a God-centered perspective?

Let us pray.

Our Father in heaven, we pray that Thou wilt bless this word to our hearts. As we take the Bible up in our hands may we read it from its own theme and perspective, namely, Thy glory in and through all things. Amen.