The Joy of Being Reformed (5): You Get Law & Gospel in All the Bible

After Jesus rose from the dead, he spent time with two disciples on their way to Emmaus. You can read about it in Luke 24. They didn’t recognize him for a long while, but as he walked and talked with them, he taught them about himself from the Scriptures. What Scriptures? Luke 24:27 says, “And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he interpreted to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning himself.” The New Testament hadn’t been written yet. Jesus used the Old Testament to teach his beloved disciples about himself, about the gospel.

Later, after they recognized Jesus, and he vanished from their sight, they said to each other, “Did not our hearts burn within us while he talked to us on the road, while he opened to us the Scriptures” (v. 32)? What made their hearts burn interest and excitement? Christ in the Old Testament!

Those two disciples went into Jerusalem and found the eleven gathered with some other people. They shared stories, and as they were talking, “Jesus himself stood among them” (v. 36). After giving proof of his bodily resurrection, Jesus then said to this group of believers, “These are my words that I spoke to you while I was still with you, that everything written about me in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms must be fulfilled” (v. 44). He then “opened their minds to understand the Scriptures” and said, “Thus it is written, that the Christ should suffer and on the third day rise from the dead, and that repentance for the forgiveness of sins should be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem” (vv. 46-47). Think about that carefully. Jesus took the Law of Moses, the Prophets, and the Psalms, in other words, the Old Testament, and taught them about himself. He used the Old Testament to teach about his identity as the Christ, his suffering, his resurrection from the dead, and that repentance for the forgiveness of sins should be preached to the nations. Jesus did that from the Old Testament. Remember, the New Testament hadn’t been written yet. And when the Apostles eventually went out preaching and teaching, they preached Christ from the Old Testament.

Some Christians today effectively base their Christian faith on 27 books and not 66 books and in some cases only on portions of the 27 books. Sure, they might affirm that all 66 books of the Bible are inspired by God, but they prioritize the New Testament to such great an extent that it’s almost as if 39 books are no longer important or relevant. How could the Old Testament be irrelevant when it speaks of Christ and God’s law with such tantalizing truth and relevance?

How often do you read from the Old Testament? How often does your pastor preach from the Old Testament? Is your church’s theology shaped by the Old and New Testaments alike? It should be. Don’t get me wrong, the New Testament adds stunning clarity to the Old Testament by presenting the life and works of Jesus of Nazareth as the fulfillment of God’s Old Testament gospel promises, yet we must remember that each of the 66 books of the Bible works with the others to tell the redemptive story of Jesus Christ God’s Son. Every book is necessary, relevant, and helpful in shaping our Christian life. Certainly, there are discontinuities between the 39 and 27, but there are also glorious continuities. My point is that we need both Testaments to inform our faith today.

Article four of the Belgic Confession clarifies that the Holy Scriptures are indeed 66. Article four states:

We believe that the Holy Scriptures consist of two parts, namely, the Old and the New Testament, which are canonical, against which nothing can be alleged. These books are listed in the church of God as follows: [1]

It goes on to list 66. The Belgic Confession is even clearer about Biblical authority when it rejects the apocryphal books as part of the Scriptures—which Romanists include in the Bible—and denies their divine authority and power. Article six states:

We distinguish these holy books from the apocryphal, namely, 3 and 4 Esdras, Tobit, Judith, Wisdom, Ecclesiasticus, Baruch, additions to Esther, the Prayer of Azariah and the Song of the Three Young Men in the Furnace, Susannah, Bel and the Dragon, the Prayer of Manasseh, and 1 and 2 Maccabees. The church may read and take instruction from these so far as they agree with the canonical books. They are, however, far from having such power and authority that we may confirm from their testimony any point of faith or of the Christian religion; much less may they be used to detract from the authority of the holy books. [2]

In other words, the apocryphal books may be good reads, but they’re not part of God’s inspired and authoritative Word.

When we have questions like—

  • How can I hear God’s voice?
  • How can I know God?
  • What has Jesus Christ done for me and what difference does it make in my life?
  • What is God’s law and how does it apply to my life today?
  • How can I have a God-glorifying marriage?
  • How does God want me to raise my children?
  • What does it mean to be a good employee?
  • How can I acquire knowledge and wisdom?
  • What should I do about my anxiety and depression?

—we need God’s law and gospel from both Testaments to give us the answers. We need all 66 to inform our beliefs about Christ and living the Christian life.

Boys in the Boat is an excellent book by Daniel James Brown. There are four parts to the book. Imagine jumping to the fourth part. You’d miss many significant and exciting details of the gripping story. You’d learn much less.

God has given you a precious gift: His holy Word. He speaks to you today through 66 books of the Old and New Testaments. All Scripture is God-breathed. All Scripture is living and active. All Scripture encourages, nourishes, strengthens, and refreshes the soul. And when you hear the Scriptures read and preached, when you meditate upon them, the entire redemptive story of Christ meets you where you are and gives you hope in the power of God for salvation to all who believe. Receive all of the Scriptures as your rule of faith and life given you authoritatively and lovingly from your Father in heaven.



Scripture quotations are from the ESV® Bible (The Holy Bible, English Standard Version®), copyright © 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved. May not copy or download more than 500 consecutive verses of the ESV Bible or more than one-half of any book of the ESV Bible.

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Jonathan Shirk

Welcome to the online home of Jonathan Shirk, family man, Reformed pastor, author, podcaster, and small town theologian. Whether you're from a small town or big city, may this website help you find deeper comfort and joy in the gospel.

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