Wednesday, November 8

Sunday School with J. I. Packer, Part 5

These are notes from the third hour-long Learner's Exchange lesson on the Internal Unity of Scripture given by J. I. Packer at St. John's (Shaughnessy) Anglican Church. I posted notes on the first and second lessons previously.This last lesson starts with a review of the previous two lessons, and then moves to two ponting out two things that give the Bible unity.

The Bible’s Unity of Function: Knowing God
This is something so obvious that is only has to be stated for its truth to appear, but very often it isn’t stated, and people forget the truth that I’m just going to set before you. Every book of the Bible, however much they differ among themselves, was written in order to help people, one way or another, into a closer relationship with the God of grace--a God whom the human writer knew as his God, and whom he wanted everyone else to know as their God. Every book of scripture, Old Testament and New Testament, is rooted in God’s revelation; and in some shape or form is a celebrating of that revelation, and a response to that revelation. But as I say, the thrust of the book, in every case, is not simply to honor God and thank him for revelation, although that’s a big theme in many of the books; but the basic reason why each book was composed is the pastoral reason: that the writer wants others to come into the blessing of knowing God, which he himself enjoys.
Then Packer mentions a corollary to this truth:
. . . as a corollary of what I’m saying, I charge you, brothers and sisters: every time you read the Bible (and I hope you read it daily), pray that God the Holy Spirit will keep your mind on the purpose of what you’re reading, and enable you to receive the invitations that the Bible--the direction that the Bible--is setting before you. That’s the word from the Lord to you and me, to all Christians, and you can’t say it too often or too strongly.
The Bible’s Unity of Focus: Christ
. . . [W]hat you have in the Bible is the unity of a single story--the story of the Creator becoming Redeemer, a story which reaches it’s climax in Christ, and looks forward to Christ’s return to complete the work of salvation that he came to begin for the world and for his people. Not, I mean, to make atonement for sin all over again, but to bring the bodies to match our renewed hearts--the bodies which are promised for resurrection day. . . .[T]he Bible is telling us that one story, and that’s it’s uniting theme. We may now say the Bible, which has this unity of function and unity of story, has a unity of focus all the way through, and the focus is, precisely, our Lord Jesus Christ himself. Here, I may quote what he himself said in one of his long debates with the self-styled religious authorities of Israel, “You search the scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; and it is they that bear witness about me, yet you refuse to come to me that you may have life. (John 5:39-40)” You can’t have life through the scriptures without coming to Christ for it. The scriptures send you to Christ. The scriptures testify to Christ.

. . .The New Testament books specifically, we may fairly say, were written by people whom the Lord Jesus Christ--crucified, risen, ascended, and now enthroned--fills the whole horizon of their life. Everything that their life involves is seen, thought through, and lived out in terms of its relationship to Christ and Christ’s relationship to it. When I say he fills the horizon, I mean that! I mean that the writers of the New Testament don’t see any part of life, or live any part of life, apart from its relation to him, and apart from his will in our handling of it, and apart from his help in our handling of it. “Christ is all, and in all” for these New Testament teachers, and the books that they’ve left us--all twenty-seven books of the New Testament: four gospels, the Acts, which are the history books; all the epistles; and then the visionary book of Revelation--all of these book express that same perspective, and all of them seek to draw us, the readers, into embracing and enjoining that perspective as the rule of our own lives.

Here we are, part of the church of Christ today, in 2006, and we’re to think of ourselves the way that the Lord Jesus from his throne is presented in the book of Revelation as inspecting, watching over, helping, admonishing, guiding and encouraging his church everywhere--the seven churches of the Revelation, you see. You have the acting Lord of the seven churches in the book of Revelation chapters 2 and 3, and the same Lord acts as Lord in all these respects in relation to St. John’s congregation and every other represented here, and indeed, every other congregation throughout the world. Nothing changes there. The New Testament tells us how it is, as well as telling us how it was. The relation of the Lord Jesus to his people is exactly the same today as it was in the first century A.D. Already, following the ascension, the people of God were learning to live in fellowship with Jesus as his disciples, the way that his disciples did when he was on earth. The difference is, of course, that we don’t see him, don’t feel him. The physical dimension of living with Jesus is not reality for us.

. . .[T]he Holy Spirit makes Christ real to us, present with us, and the one who fills out the horizon of our thinking and our living in the way that I’m trying to describe. And that’s Christian existence; that’s Christian experience; that’s the real thing. That’s what all the twenty-seven books of the New Testament are written directly to induce and sustain. That’s actually what the thirty-nine books of the Old Testament are pointing to, and the beginning of fellowship with God in personal life is already there, and in some cases there in great fullness for those who have eyes to see. Yes, this is what it’s all about. The focus of the Bible for Christian readers is the Lord Jesus Christ and the reality the life of fellowship with him.
I'll finish off this last lesson in one more post. Transcriptions of all the lessons are now available in pdf format for personal use to anyone who asks.
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