Jesus is the Standard: Part Five of “How I Read the Bible, And So Can You!”


When you do something all the time your approach becomes second nature and largely unconscious, so a few weeks ago I decided to examine what I do when I interpret the Bible and share those steps with you.

I’ve written about how I:

  1. try to suspend my assumptions about the Bible and it’s inspiration;
  2. try to move beyond what I’ve been taught which might preclude me from seeing something new;
  3. try to let each biblical writer say what they want to say even if (or especially when) they disagree with one another; and
  4. try to look beyond what a writer is saying to see what they are trying to accomplish.

I come now to the most important interpretive move, and it’s so important that I’m going to explore it over the next two posts, though I could probably spend several posts doing it.

So here it is: after determining what the writer is saying and trying to accomplish, I compare it to what Jesus said, what Jesus did, and was Jesus was trying to accomplish.

I’m judging everything against Jesus. He is the bellwether, the standard, the measuring rod.

If there is something anywhere in the rest of the Bible that doesn’t line up with what Jesus said, did, and sought to accomplish, I don’t change my understanding of Jesus to bring it in line with this other passage, I seek to understand this other passage in light of the revelation of the person of Jesus.

Jesus is “the originator and finisher of our faith” (Hebrews 12:2), not Abraham, Moses, Isaiah, or Paul. Everything in the Old Testament is (one way or another) leading up to him, and everything in the New Testament is written in reaction to and in explanation of him.

In fact, much of the New Testament is a re-interpretation of Israel’s history in light of the revelation of Jesus. Therefore in keeping with the New Testament writers, we too need to read all Scripture in light of Jesus.

It is a good and necessary step to read an Old Testament passage in both its historical context—what it is saying to it’s original readers—and its literary context—how it fits into the rest of the book—but its authority for our lives doesn’t come from there; it’s authority comes from the degree to which it does or does not square with the person and teaching of Jesus.

When we read, therefore, that in the conquest of Canaan God told the Israelites to kill every man, woman, child, and even the livestock of a Canaanite village, we don’t take that as the final word about the nature of God.

For that matter, we shouldn’t take it as a word at all about the nature of God, because the fullest revelation of the nature of God is revealed in Jesus, full stop. Not “Jesus + Joshua 8.” Just Jesus, who would never order such a thing.

I recently read a guy who said, “Jesus was against ____ because the Old Testament was against _____.”

His formula is clearly “revelation of God in the Old Testament + revelaton of God in Jesus = full revelation of the nature of God.”

That’s not only bad math, it’s bad theology.

It’s bad Bible-reading.

It’s wrong.

Jesus alone is the full revelation of God. “He is the image of the invisible God…in him the fullness of God was pleased to dwell.” (Colossians 1:15,19)

That writer probably said this because he couldn’t imagine Jesus contradicting anything in the Old Testament, but he needs to enlarge his imagination.

Jesus sometimes expanded Old Testament concepts, he sometimes took them in new, unexpected directions, and he sometimes held them up as full-blown examples of the nature of God—but he sometimes flat-out contradicted them.

“No, no, no—that is not how my Father is! That might have been how some of our ancestors thought he was, or even wished he was because it furthered their agendas. But that’s not how he is. That’s not who he is. Change your thinking. Renew your minds. Envision a completely different God.”

Indeed we must. If in the Old Testament we see a God who commands his people to pick up their swords, we must envision him in a completely different way, one that is in keeping with a Jesus who commanded his followers to put down their swords and pick up their crosses.

Some might say—indeed some have said—that the only way we know Jesus is in Scripture, and all Scripture is inspired, which means that some Scripture, even the parts about Jesus, cannot be more inspired than others, so I must have a faulty view of Scripture.

I don’t think I do, and I’ll tackle that in the next post.

(For the rest of the series, click here: Part 6.Part 7.)

Photo Credit: © Can Stock Photo / kevron2001

Don't Buy My Book!!!
I agree to have my personal information transfered to MailChimp ( more information )
My eBook "The Essence of Jesus: A Fresh Look at the Beatitudes" sells on Amazon for $3.99, but you can get it FREE by subscribing to my blog!
I hate spam. Your email address will not be sold or shared with anyone else.