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"...if anyone makes the assistance of grace depend on the humility or obedience of man and does not agree that it is a gift of grace itself that we are obedient and humble, he contradicts the Apostle who says, "What have you that you did not receive?" (1 Cor. 4:7), and, "But by the grace of God I am what I am" (1 Cor. 15:10). (Council of Orange: Canon 6)

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  • « When the Perfect Comes (part 2) | Main | Passion Week Meditations: "Hosannas and High Expectations"- John 12 »

    Jesus Christ: The Interpretive Key to the Scripture

    Jesus Christ: The Interpretive Key to the Scripture
    With Four Examples of Doctrinal Errors that Arise When this Key is not Used.

    "You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; it is these that testify about Me; and you are unwilling to come to Me so that you may have life." (John 5:39, 40)

    "For there is one God, and there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus" - (1 Tim 2:5)

    "The Scriptures should be read with the aim of finding Christ in them. Whoever turns aside from this object, even though he wears himself out all his life in learning, he will never reach the knowledge of the truth." - John Calvin

    I have recently had the privilege of reading a phenomenal book that I highly recommend to all teachers of the Word. That book was Gospel-Centered Hermeneutics by Graeme Goldsworthy. Its thesis is simple: the Gospel (or, Jesus Christ) is the Key to all Christian Hermeneutics. During the course of reading, his focus got me to thinking about its antithesis which would be that almost all errors and inconsistencies in our understanding of Bible texts occur when our interpretation is less than Christ-centered. This is foundational. Unless our study, however diligent, leads us to see that all Scripture points to Jesus Christ, our study is in vain. The importance of the Bible (OT & NT) is that it testifies about Jesus Christ (John 1:43-45, Acts 3:18, Acts 17:2-3, 2 Tim 3:14-15,1 Pet 1:10-12, Rom 1:1-3, 16:25-27, Luke 24:25-27 & 44-46).

    Jesus never condemned a Pharisee for taking Moses too seriously. They take him far less seriously than they should. For Jesus says, "If you believed Moses, you would believe Me, for He write of Me. But if you don't believe His writings, how will you believe My words. Your accuser is Moses." (John 5:46). So to understand Moses is to come to know Christ when He is revealed. Likewise, Abraham saw Jesus’ day and was glad, the Bible testifies. And "...foreseeing that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, preached the gospel beforehand to Abraham, saying, "ALL THE NATIONS WILL BE BLESSED IN YOU." (Gal)

    But now, let's shift gears by getting specific about doctrinal errors that fail to take into account the above biblical principles ... These are produced by an interpretitive grid or presupposition that arises from Christless or less-than-Christocentric views of Scripture. In the following, I wish to give 3-4 examples of current popular, but erroneous, interpretations, that err simply because they fail to see the centrality of Jesus Christ in their understanding:

    1) The False Assertion that Salvation can be Lost

    The claim by some that a Christian can actually lose his or her salvation is a prime example of reading Christ out of the text, because the focus becomes your own moral ability rather than Christ. Some erroneously believe that a Christian, after being saved by Christ, can make certain choices that will lead to the loss of their adoption and justification, and thus, their salvation in Christ. In other words, they must, by their own effort, or with the Spirit's help, maintain their just standing before God. With such a view, Christ is not sufficient to save completely. Such a doctrine should immediately make us think of Paul's warning in Galatians: "Are you so foolish? Having begun by the Spirit, are you now being perfected by the flesh?" (Gal 3:3) But why is Paul so stern as to call them foolish? Because they have forgotten that Christ and Christ alone has saved them. To think that we can add to Christ's perfect work is to utterly misapprehend the Gospel at its core. For, we ask, is it Jesus or something else which is sufficient to carry you to the end? Any addition to Jesus Christ is to believe that justification is found in something else has forgotten about the centrality of Christ.

    So we ask in relation to this doctrine, is it Christ who saves us, or does He merely assist us so we may save ourselves? The warning passages in Hebrews actually warn against this very error. They start by pointing out that Jesus is superior to the angels, to Moses and to the Sacrificial System. The warnings of falling away are actually warnings about going back to something inferior to Christ, like the sacrificial system which only pointed to Christ. To read that a particular sin can make us lose our salvation, is thus, to utterly forget what the context of the Text in Hebrews itself is. So the assertion that a Christian can lose salvation is the first error that we have spotted that arises because Christ was seen as the ultimate interpretive presupposition, and thus, left out of the interpretation. Some other ultimate presupposition guided our exposition.

    2) Synergism

    Synergism is the error that affirms that the natural man can cooperate with God in the regeneration process (the new birth) ...that an unregenerate person has the moral capacity to embrace the Gospel apart from the work of the Spirit changing the heart.

    Again, remember what our interpretive Key to the Bible is? Jesus Christ. So, in relation to regeneration and conversion, when the gospel is preached, what makes people to differ in their response to it? Does Jesus Christ make us differ or does something else? This “something else” may take various forms; it may be something native to the human constitution (i.e. Pelagianism) or something alien yet universal (i.e. Arminianism)? In either case, the point is that it is not Christ that makes the difference. Anyone who claims that the difference arises from one of these something-else’s has failed to see first our hopelessness as fallen creatures apart from Christ and second the exclusive sufficiency of Christ’s saving work. If I am different than my neighbor because of something other than Jesus Christ, then Christ, whatever role he may play, cannot be central to my understanding of salvation. He is only partly responsible for it. It is the grace we have in Christ that saves, and nothing in addition to it.

    3) Four-Point Calvinism

    Four-point Calvinism fails the test of Christ-centered interpretation because this view tends to see the TULIP as an abstraction. But the TULIP only works when we see Christ at its center. Consider the TULIP as a chiasm with the "L" at the top of the pyramid. It is Jesus Christ which makes sense of all the doctrines of grace. Four-point Calvinists who reject Limited Atonement but embrace irresistible grace must consider this: Irresistible grace is not some abstract doctrine but must be seen in relation to Jesus Christ, specially in relation to the grace purchased by Christ upon the cross. The Spirit of Christ illuminates, regenerates and effectually brings to faith his elect. And this enabling, effectual grace is, from first to last, Christ-centered. It does not come out of a void, nor from some hidden source of grace in God the Father. Therefore Christ must have died for the elect so as to purchase that grace in a way – a redemptive way – that he did not die for the non-elect. That is why we often call it particular redemption. Irresistible grace is one of the redemptive benefits purchased by Jesus Christ ... and it was never granted to the non-elect nor intended for them. I believe that until Jesus Christ is seen as central to the TULIP then four-pointers will continue to reject what is plain.

    4) Purgatory

    Roman Catholics believe in Purgatory, which again accents their belief that Christ is not sufficient to save completely. Rather then, we must work off our sins after death for 1000's of years until it is paid. Where is Christ in all this? Was His work insufficient to cover their sins completely and once for all?

    Each of these errors occurs when the our hermeneutic - our ultimate presupposition - is not Jesus Christ.

    J.W. Hendryx

    Posted by John on March 27, 2007 07:09 PM

    Comments

    John,

    Thanks so much for the vital reminders. May the Spirit be gracious to lead us to our Savior as we seek him in all the scriptures!

    Nathan

    I would also like to add John 20:31 to the list of verses that show that the all scriptures point to Christ. Thank you for the article.

    How blasphemous it is to remove God's centerpiece to His holy Word, especially so that we may "preach" how one may "improve" his life without being born again by th grace of God.

    Wonderful article! Thank you for this great reminder that all scripture points to Christ.

    Thanks for the article,I have the Gosple-Centered Hermeneutics and looking forward to read it.The church today has forgotten the mane point of scripture which is Christ. They want to preach self help and all that other stuff We need to get back to the basic of Christ and Him alone.

    Realizing this is an old post does not deter me from at least exclaiming that until we are willing & able to see with our spiritual eyes just how wretched we truly are, that ALL our "brownie-points"(righteousnesses) are as filthy as, pardon the expression...menstrual rags, all of which requires Christ, Christ and nothing but Christ, none of us has any chance whatsoever to even consider Heaven, much less an eternity w/Him.
    Respectfully, HIServant & Yours, D.V.Garrett

    Indeed,Christ is the explanation of all things,yea the very mind of God to us.heb1:1-2,john1:1,col1:26-27.Hence,in wanting to understand the scriptures one must read it only in the light of Christ as is evident in the Pauline prayers;ephe1:16-19;3:14-19,php1:9-11,col1:9-11,philemon4-6 and even that of Apostle Peter in 2pet3:18.Thanks for the article,I pray more people will come to see this light.Amen

    In either case, what is more important is that the situation isn’t hopeless for those who have a sincere desire to repent.

    Support for purgatory in Scripture is virtually non-existent, and the passages that are called upon are not even nearly enough to develop any substantial doctrine from whatsoever.

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