The OT storyline that I posit as the basis for the NT storyline is this: The Old Testament is the story of God, who progressively reestablishes his new-creational kingdom out of chaos over a sinful people by his word and Spirit through promise, covenant, and redemption, resulting in worldwide commission to the faithful to advance this kingdom and judgment (defeat or exile) for the unfaithful, unto his glory.
The NT transformation of the storyline of the OT that I propose is this: Jesus’s life, trials, death for sinners, and especially resurrection by the Spirit have launched the fulfillment of the eschatological already-not yet new-creational reign, bestowed by grace through faith and resulting in worldwide commission to the faithful to advance this new-creational reign and resulting in judgment for the unbelieving, unto the triune God’s glory.
G.K Beale, A New Testament Biblical Theology (pg. 16).
There is no point in trying to hide the fact that the Bible has been used by Americans to justify both race-based, demeaning slavery and its abolition. Mark Noll’s book God and Race in American Politics: A Short History clarifies this painful confession. With an eye for concrete (incarnational) stories and meticulous historical detail, Noll is above all a seer of the both-and. Or call it paradox. Or historical conundrum. There are no simple explanations.
The thesis of Noll’s book is: “Together, race and religion make up, not only the nation’s deepest and most enduring moral problem, but also its broadest and most enduring political influence.” That is provocative enough. But his working out of how race and religion are interwoven is where the puzzles come. For example, “Before the Civil War, religion drove abolitionist assaults upon slavery even as it under-girded influential defenses of slavery in both the North and the South.” Agonizingly both-and, not comfortably either-or….
It is fitting that we frankly confess that Christians—we Christians—have often used our Bible to justify sinful attitudes and actions. We have done it in our personal lives, and we have done it in the larger structural dimensions of life.
John Piper, Bloodlines (pg. 228).
Without Jesus willingly living the prayer that he taught all of us to pray, the angels would have had nothing to sing about, those tombs would’ve never opened, sin and death would have never been conquered, and we would be the dead walking. Without Jesus living in the same surrender to which he now calls us, there would be no hope of the defeat of sin and no reality of eternal life for all who believe. It is true and valuable to remember that the gospel of Jesus Christ teaches us that the most wonderful things in life come to us not as the result of demand and control, but through sacrifice and surrender. Blessings that you could never achieve on your own come when you humbly and willing pray, “Your kingdom come, your will be done, right here, right now as it is in heaven.” Aren’t you glad that Jesus willingly did on earth what he taught us to do in this prayer?
Paul David Tripp, Come Let Us Adore Him (pg. 65).
If you think legalism is simply too much emphasis on the law, then you will think the antidote is to talk less about obedience and more about acceptance and forgiveness. If you think that antinomianism is simply too loose an attitude toward morality and law, you will assume the remedy is to talk less about mercy and acceptance and more about God’s righteousness and holy commands. In short, you will try to cure one with a dose of the other. That will be a disaster, because both of them have the same root cause. Both come from the belief that God does not really love us or will our joy, and from a failure to see that “both the law and the gospel are expressions of God’s grace.” For both the legalist and the antinomian, obedience to the law is simply the way to get things from God, not a way to get God, not a way to resemble, know, delight, and love him for his sake.
Tim Keller, Preaching (pgs. 54-55).
In his book, Love in Hard Places, Don Carson tells us, “Ideally… the church itself is not made up of natural ‘friends.’ It is made up of natural enemies. What binds us together is not common education, common race, common income levels, common politic, common ancestry, common accents, common jobs, or anything else of that sort….In this light, they are a band of natural enemies who love one another for Jesus’ sake.”
A church composed of natural friends says little about the power of the gospel. Yet the gospel-revealing community of natural enemies will require sacrifices of every aspect of our life together.
Jamie Dunlop and Mark Dever, The Compelling Community (pgs. 80-81).
I have often sat down with wonder and delight, and admired how God made the very schemes which his enemies contrived, in order to hinder, become the most effectual means to propagate his gospel… The seed of the woman shall bruise the serpent’s head. Fear not men. Be not too much cast down at the deceitfulness of your hearts. Fear not devils; you shall get victory even over them. The Lord has engaged to make you more than conquerors over all.
From a sermon from George Whitfield
Quoted in The Lamb Wins, by Richard Bewes (pg. 82).
But on day, as I was passing in the field, and that too with some dashes on my conscience, fearing lest yet all was not right, suddenly this sentence fell upon my soul, ‘Thy righteousness is in heaven’; and methought withal, I saw, with the eyes of my soul, Jesus Christ at God’s right hand; there, I say, is my righteousness; so that wherever I was, or whatever I was a-doing, God could not say of me, ‘He wants my righteousness,’ for that was just before Him. I also saw, moreover, that it was not my good frame of heart that made my righteousness better, nor yet my bad frame that made my righteousness worse; for my righteousness was Jesus Christ Himself, the same yesterday, today, and forever (Heb. 13:8). Now did my chains fall off my legs indeed, I was loosed from my afflictions and irons, my temptations had fled away; so that, from that time, those dreadful Scriptures of God left off to trouble me now; now went I also home rejoicing, for the grace and love of God.
John Bunyan, quoted in The Unquenchable Flame by Michael Reeves (pg. 175).
A gloomy view of culture leads to meanness. If we believe we are on the losing side of history, we slide into the rage of those who know their time is short. We have no reason to be fearful or sullen or mean. We’re not the losers of history. We are not slouching toward Gomorrah; we are marching to Zion. The worst thing that can possibly happen to us has already happened: we’re dead. We were crucified at Skull Place, under the wrath of God. And the best thing that could happen to us has already happened; we’re alive, in Christ, and our future is seated at the right hand of God, and he’s feeling just fine. Jesus is marching onward, with us or without us, and if the gates of hell cannot hold him back, why on earth would he be panicked by Hollywood or Capitol Hill? Times may grow dark indeed, but times have always been dark, since the insurrection of Eden. Nonetheless, the light shines in the darkness and the darkness has not, the darkness will not, the darkness cannot overcome it. The arc of history is long, but it bends toward Jesus.
Russell Moore, Onward (pgs. 203-204).
Outside of heaven, the power of God in its highest density is found inside the gospel. This must be so, for the Bible twice describes the gospel as “the power of God.” Nothing else in all of Scripture is ever described in this way, except for the Person of Jesus Christ. Such a description indicates that the gospel is not only powerful, but that it is the ultimate entity in which God’s power resides and does its greatest work. Indeed, God’s power is seen in erupting volcanos, in the unimaginably hot boil of our massive sun, and in the lightning speed of a recently discovered star seen streaking through the heavens at 1.5 million miles per hour. Yet in Scripture such wonders are never labeled “the power of God.” How powerful, then, must the gospel be that it would merit such a title! And how great is the salvation it could accomplish in my life, if I would only embrace it by faith and give it a central place in my thoughts each day.
Milton Vincent, A Gospel Primer (pgs. 14-15).
The state may tolerate a vague, generic, nonthreatening religion, but there is, as one Revolution-era preacher put it, “nothing more obnoxious to an established religion than the gospel of Jesus Christ.” In the fullness of time, a spiritually-empowered Caesar will decide that gospel preaching shouldn’t happen, if it disturbs the commerce of the silversmiths of Artemis (Acts 19:21-41), and it always does. The kind of religion the state, any state, will support will always be a “God and country” civil religion that supports the agenda of the politicians. That’s true if we hand over the power to outlaw religious convictions and practices or if we expect the government to write prayers for our schools. Do we really believe that unregenerate people can approach God, without a Mediator, to pray? If not, why would we ask the government to force people to pretend to do so?
This sort of agenda can only exist in the illusion of an America that is itself born-again, through and through. That illusion is over, and happily so. Once a religion has become a means to an end, of national unity or public morality or anything else, it is no longer a supernatural encounter with God and is just another program. That’s why we ought to always be wary of government seeking to “bless” us with state-written “nondenominational” prayers or with direct funding for our religious initiatives (which inevitably cut out the gospel-centered heart of these initiatives). A Christless civil religion of ceremonial Deism freezes the witness of the church into something useless at best, pagan at best. Government-run doxology cannot regenerate a soul, or resurrect a corpse.
Russell Moore, Onward (pg. 149-150).