Have you ever asked the question how the New Testament and Old Testament fit together?
The narratives of the four gospels, Acts and Revelation can give us a pretty clear picture.
What stood out to me in this week’s reading was how the fourfold gospel gives a complete picture of Christ’s life, teaching, and identity. Their shape and position in the canon clearly direct a canon-conscious reader to the conclusion that these four books are the apex of the grand storyline of the Bible. In fact, more casual readers would even pick up on this, if in no other way than sub-consciously.
The Gospel of Matthew starts with a narrative of Jesus’ birth, including a genealogy. This genealogy, by going through the generations of Abraham to David, David to exile, and exile to Christ emphasizes Jesus’ identity as the long-awaited Messiah from the line of David. Going through this genealogy summarizes the covenants, which Jesus came to fulfill in the New Covenant. From a structural standpoint, this genealogy echoes the beginning of the Hebrew Bible—Genesis—and the end of the Hebrew Bible—Chronicles. This moment in history is what all the Hebrew Scriptures have been pointing to.
While the textbook pointed out how the Gospel of Mark portrays Jesus as the Son of God, I was struck by the aspect of Jesus’ kingship. At the beginning of Mark, Jesus says, “The time is fulfilled and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel” (Mark 1:15). The kingdom of God is “at hand” because the KING is here! Of note is the fact that Mark slows down his narrative a couple times to emphasize this kingdom, such as the parables in Mark 4 and the discourse about the end of days in 13:1-37.
The Gospel of John also emphasizes the kingship of Jesus, particularly as it relates to His deity. John emphasizes the deity of Jesus, starting with his role in creation: “In the beginning was the Word…in Him was life and that life was the light of men…but men loved the darkness..” The end of the narrative also emphasizes life in Christ, “…these things are written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name” (John 20:30-31). John is constantly bringing his readers to a choice—obey and believe in this king or not. Though John is not as explicit in his reference, he uses OT texts to point out Jesus as the “better David” (pg 193). Throughout his narrative, John references the Psalms, perhaps most notably Psalm 22 in the crucifixion account. John’s use of the Davidic psalms portays Jesus as the Davidic Messiah—both as a shepherd and a king—which connects to Matthews emphasis on Jesus being the “Son of David.” The Gospels are thus bookended by the truth that Jesus was in fact the Davidic Messiah.
The Gospel of Luke, as our textbook outlines, portrays the “journey toward Jerusalem,” culminating in Jesus’ suffering on the cross, resurrection and ascension. “The words of the resurrected Christ [in Luke 24:48-49] shape our understanding of the task of discipleship, the mission of the churches, the nature of the gospel, the Trinitarian character of God's action in the world, and the flow of redemptive history” (pg 193). Jesus’ last words to His disciples before the ascension was that the Father’s promise of the Holy Spirit would come upon them so they would be empowered to proclaim the gospel to the whole world, making disciples as they go. This promise of the Holy Spirit is seen in the book of Acts.
The journey toward Jerusalem is complemented—even continued—by the journey away from Jerusalem in the book of Acts, Luke’s second account. As the narrative of the early church unfolds certain speeches given at crucial times serve as an interpretive guide. They connect Jesus’ death and resurrection to the grand storyline of the Bible. As the textbook says, “The gospel message will continue across geographic, ethnic, and temporal boundaries” (pg 214). The first speech is in Acts 2. Peter cites Joel 2:28-32—presence of the Spirit “in the last days.” He then references the Davidic covenant with Psalm 16:8-11. This is a clear transition from the Old covenant to the New covenant. This was a fitting way for Peter to explain the gospel, as he was speaking to a Jewish audience. The next speech was given by Stephen in Acts 6-7, right before he is martyred—the first Christian martyr. The point Stephen makes is that the Mosaic covenant is no longer binding. this includes the temple worship. He points out how God appeared to Abraham in Mesopotamia; Joseph in Egypt; Moses at Mount Sinai; Solomon in the temple, yet “God does not dwell in temples made with hands.” The New Covenant is now that God would dwell IN His people through the Holy Spirit. Stephen further points out how his Jewish listeners’ “fathers” were disobedient to God and now they are just the same, having crucified their messiah. The next speech happens at the Council in Jerusalem in Acts 15. Here, there is emphasis on how the Gentiles can now turn to God in faith. Paul connects Acts 10-11 to Acts 2-3. The Gentiles believed and received just the same as Jewish believers. James points out Amos 9:11-12 which prophesies of the coming messiah, including all mankind in God’s plan for salvation. The Council in Jerusalem demonstrates the grand storyline of the Law, Prophets, Writings and Gospels. The next speech is given by Paul in chapter 20. As Paul anticipates his arrest, he affirms that the gospel of Jesus Christ will stay with them by the power of the Holy Spirit, who will keep them even after Paul departs. This serves as an indication of continuity from the Apostolic age and the post-apostolic age, much like continuity between Old Covenant and New Covenant. In other words, God’s Spirit is holding everything together. Paul’s final speech happens in Acts 28. He emphasizes how salvation has now come to Gentiles. Any Jews who disbelieve this resist God’s purposes. They will not come to salvation but see it come to another group of people, as Isaiah 6:9-10 foretold.
The gospels bring the Old Testament into clearer focus, Acts serves as the narrative context of Paul’s letters and the Catholic letters, and Revelation brings the narrative of Scripture to a close. However, the one reading from a devotional hermeneutic should be looking forward to the second advent of Christ. The story is not over yet! Revelation, while mysterious in a lot of ways, is clearly a bookend of the whole biblical canon bringing a lot of the elements introduced even in Genesis to a close. In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth. In Revelation 21-22, John gets a vision of God creating a new heavens and earth. In this new creation, proper worship of the Creator will take place, which Adam and Eve failed at. The “work” they were to do in the Garden of Eden was an act of worship, as the Hebrew vocabulary would imply. The imagery of the scene itself also echoes the Garden of Eden. There will be a river and tree of life in a place with no more sin. There is also a renewal of God’s Promise. The LAMB is the one who accomplishes redemption. He is also “the Lion that is from the tribe of Judah, the Root of David” (Revelation 5:5). Jesus says in Revelation 22:16, “I am the root and the descendent of David, the bright morning star.” “Lion of Judah” alludes to Genesis 49:9 and “root of David” comes from Isaiah 11:1, 10. Everything from the Hebrew Bible and the New Testament come to complete consummation here.
Kimble, Jeremy M. and Spellman, Ched. Invitation to Biblical Theology: Exploring the Shape, Storyline, and Themes of Scripture. Kregel Academic, 2020.
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This is the blog of Tyler Shepard, the Associate Pastor for Centre Union Church in Yeagertown, PA.
I hope you are encouraged and challenged to walk more closely with Jesus Christ!