One of the most enriching but also intractable challenges when it comes to interpreting the Bible is how the New Testament and the Old Testament are to relate. I think one of the geniuses of the Reformed tradition is letting the Bible’s own way of interpreting itself guide us in how we’re going to interpret the Bible.
One of the great starting points with that is when Paul says to the church at Corinth that all of the promises of God are “yes” and “amen” in Christ. You can ask yourself the question: “How many of God’s promises are ‘yes’?” Well, they’re all “yes”. “How are all of God’s promises ‘yes’?” Well, they’re all “yes” in Christ. “How many of God’s promises are ‘yes’ not in Christ?” None of them.Reformed tradition lets the Bible’s way of interpreting itself guide us in how we interpret the Bible.
The Bible offers us, among other important principles, a christocentric or Christ-centered interpretive method. You see this in Luke 24 when Jesus, after he’s resurrected from the dead, is walking on the road to Emmaus and the two disciples don’t recognize him. It says that beginning with Moses and all the prophets, he explained to them how it was necessary that the Son of Man should suffer and die and rise again on the third day.
The hermeneutical center of Scripture is Christ himself, but we’re also told that Christ is the historical center. Paul in Galatians 4 says, “In the fullness of time God sent forth his Son, born of a woman, born of the law, that he might redeem those who are under its curse.” So, Jesus is not just simply the center and the key to understanding Scripture; he is the center and the key to understanding history, or redemptive history, rather.Jesus is the center and the key to understanding Scripture and redemptive history.
We also pay a lot of attention to what we call a “progressive revelation character.” Hebrews 1:1-2 tell us that at different times and through different means, God spoke to us, but in these final days he has spoken to us by his Son. That teaches us that God’s revelation has been progressive since the beginning. Often the analogy is made between the oak tree as an acorn and the oak tree as a full-grown plant. It’s one and the same genetically, yet the end is so much greater than the beginning. That is another hermeneutical principle we use.
We look at the New Testament as the full revelation of what the Old Testament anticipated. We interpret the Old Testament in light of the New, but we also interpret the New Testament against the background of the Old Testament. They inform each other and shed light on one another because these things I mention tell us that the Bible is about one story and about one plan of God and ultimately about one people of God. The hermeneutic that the Bible supplies leads us not only to that conclusion, but also to that methodology.